STORYTIME! (and a download!) - 2004 Game Developers Conference


Been quite a while but I thought I would pop in here and share a story with you all.

This year is Sun Microsystem’s 10th anniversary since selling the company to Oracle. As such, there is a reunion that will be happening and I found myself going through a bunch of Sun memorabilia when I happened to find this:

So, a little background is in order.

Back when we started focusing on video games at Sun in 1999, it was, quite literally, just me trying to push the company into taking the space seriously. Then, in 2000, I was able to solicit the help of Jeff Kesselman, and 2 other engineers and we started the march through the company to get others to join the effort. But, we were never able to grow beyond 4-5 people, until the Project Darkstar days.

During this time, we had to do everything. I stood up the original site, which ran on a cobbled together PC that Jeff and I stashed in a corner of our lab space, punched a hole in the firewall so we could have public access, and that’s where it lived. I am not exaggerating when I say that JGO balanced, precariously, on a dodgy PC. I remember one time when the server went down it was because the fan on the CPU heatsink just burned out. One trip to Fry’s to get a $5 fan and JGO was back up and running.

I had never stood up a web based forum before, so it was all highly experimental and I was learning on the fly. (Which, by the way, is why many early JGO users had to suffer though long delays, which was due to my just learning how to do everything myself while not letting on that it was just me and 1-2 other people doing everything to stand up a proper effort at Sun).

Internal proselytizing, business development, media activities, building demos, soliciting support for JSR submissions, signing contracts, running JGO, etc. was all being done by an incredibly small team. So, how does this play into this GDC CD?

The showings at GDC were all built by us as well. I would have to go to several different groups to try and have them kick in funding for the booth fees. This was typically getting 2-3 groups to kick in $20-30k each. Then, for demo systems, I would purchase all of the parts, have them shipped to my house, and I built 8 - 10 systems which would be cheaper than renting them for the week, and then people would have dev units to use after the show. I would write all of the press materials, design the graphics and presentation templates, and, in this case, design a whole CD package that included code, demos, 3rd party software, and build an HTML menu for all of it. This was something that, once again, I had never done before. I was a novice at ALL of this.

At the show, we would all assemble to build the booth, hand carry in systems from our cars to save money on union labor, stage the systems, load all demos, etc. Then we all worked the booth from open to close. I remember that the longest stretch I stayed up was for more than 60 hours straight.

Anyway, I decided to make a game developer pack that included code, demos, music, and caffeine to hand out at GDC 2004.

Being a fan of PM5K, I wanted to find music that was similar that I could license for next to nothing. I found Arockalypse and the Amazing Transmetropolitans through a friend and contacted the lead there. He agreed to let me add his album to the CD for free. Cool!

Then, I needed drinks to hand out. At the time, there was a new energy drink called Bawls (which was pretty gross) and I convinced them to give me 1000 bottles to give away. Again, cool!

Lastly, I needed to get a cool character for the front cover and contacted Darick Robertson and Warren Ellis and asked their permission to use Spider Jerusalem from the “Transmetropolitan” comic book series. They said yes, and I now had what I needed to put this thing together.

(NOTE: The binary over the graphic actually spells out “Java Gaming Rocks” or something like that. Can’t remember exactly what I put in there. If you take the time to decipher, please post your result!)

So, in honor of this crazy ass attempt to create something that I had never done before, convinced other companies to contribute, and convinced Sun to let me just do, here is a link to the .iso for the CD so you can burn your own:

Oh, one last bit. I received a call from the CD fabrication facility about 3 weeks before GDC, wanting to discuss an issue they had. Apparently, they had pressed a bunch of Dell recovery CDs with my GDC image and wanted to make sure we wouldn’t sue. Imagine the surprise that a Dell customer would have when they try to restore drivers for their PC only to be greeted with Spider Jerusalem, Arockalypse, and Java games?!?

I told them it was fine but that they should send us a copy of the misprinted CD for our archive. I still have it :slight_smile: