25 GDC sessions you mustn't, mustn't, mustn't miss

25 GDC sessions you mustn't, mustn't, mustn't miss

By Rob Crossley

February 21st 2011 at 9:00AM

The Game Developers Conference is just days away - here's Develop's guide to the best lectures, keynotes and roundtables on offer

Next week the global games industry will come to San Francisco in its thousands for the historic twenty-fifth annual Game Developers Conference.

Here’s the thing; the number of speakers already booked could comfortably fill a month-long conference. You, dear passholder, only have five days to get the most out of everything.

Fret not. Develop has listed the top 25 sessions to attend. Take a look below.

Double booked? Diary looking impossible? Develop will be out in force at the event, and will cover key issues from the conference for you to read through in those brief pockets of spare time. Use our freeiPhone App and be linked to the event while on the go.

See you next week!

MONDAY – FEB 28TH

10:00 – 11:00

Mobile Augmented Reality – What’s Possible
Speaker: Jay Wright (Qualcomm)
Room 120, North Hall
Why you should be there: Learn what type of experiences are possible with augmented reality (AR) technology. See examples of mobile AR games, applications, services and learn best practices for engaging new adopters.
Eligible Passes:  Audio Pass, Main Conference Pass, Summits and Tutorials Pass, All Access Pass

11:15 – 12:15

AI Pr0n: Maximum Exposure of Your Debug Info!
Speakers: Brian Schwab (Blizzard Entertainment), Michael Dawe (38 Studios) and Rez Graham (Electronic Arts Sims Division)
Room 3002, West Hall 3rd Fl.
Why you should be there: Debugging complex AI is a very difficult task. In this session, several developers will discuss the creative and unique approaches they used to visualize the complexity of their AI for debugging and development.
Eligible Passes:  Summits and Tutorials Pass, All Access Pass

13:45 – 14:45

Click Zen: Zynga's Evolution from Farmville to Cityville
Speakers: Mark Skaggs (Zynga)
Room 134, North Hall
Why you should be there: Veteran game maker Mark Skaggs discusses how Zynga changed its product development process in the 18 months between the two launches due to the rapid maturation of the industry, including new metrics processes. Come hear what worked and what didn't work, key questions to ask when developing social games and how to create success in social games going forward.
Eligible Passes:  All Access Pass

15:00-16:00

Effective Marketing of the Freemium Model Across Platforms
Speakers: Mike Breslin (Glu Mobile)
Room 303, South Hall
Why you should be there: This session will look at utilizing social integration and word of mouth marketing to effectively promote the freemium gaming model across platforms. Attendees will discover how the merging of mobile and social gaming mechanics will increase engagement and expand a developer’s consumer reach.
Eligible Passes:  Summits and Tutorials Pass, All Access Pass


16:15 – 17:15

Games on Smart TVs: Lessons Learned from the Development of GoogleTV
Speakers: Ian Ni-Lewis (Google) and Andres Ferrate (Google)
Room 134, North Hall
Why you should be there: For well over a decade technologists have been heralding the coming of the converged living room experience with little to show for it. Today, convergence isn't coming, it’s here. In this session, you will hear lessons learned in developing Google's Smart TV platform, GoogleTV.
Eligible Passes:  Summits and Tutorials Pass, All Access Pass

17:25 – 18:00

Turing Tantrums: AI Developers Rant!
Speakers: Dave Mark (Intrinsic Algorithm), Brian Schwab (Blizzard Entertainment), Richard Evans (Little Text People), Kevin Dill (Lockheed Martin) and Mike Lewis (Egosoft)
Room 3002, West Hall 3rd Fl.
Why you should be there: Sometimes things just need to be said. Saying them out loud in a room filled with (hopefully) like-minded people just makes it all the more interesting and cathartic. Five AI developers from all corners of the industry will deliver quick, to-the-point rants about what's on their mind.
Eligible Passes:  Summits and Tutorials Pass, All Access Pass

TUESDAY – MARCH 1ST

 

10:00 – 11:00

Changing the Way We Make Games: Lessons Learned in the Transition from AAA to Mobile Development
Speaker: Vijay Thakkar (Zynga With Friends)
Room 305, South Hall
Why you should be there: Mobile and social gaming is a space that is rapidly leading the industry to look at games in a very differently light. Zynga With Friends’ Technical Director, Vijay Thakkar, will provide takeaways and lessons learned from growing new development practices with a foundation of experienced AAA game developers. He will discuss what works, what doesn't, and ideas for how you can enhance your own iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch game development.
Eligible Passes:  Summits and Tutorials Pass, All Access Pass

11:15 – 12:15

INFINITY BLADE: How We Made a Hit, What We Learned, and Why You Can Do it Too!
Speaker: Donald Mustard (Chair Entertainment Group)
Room 305, South Hall
Why you should be there: The design and implementation of the acclaimed Infinity Blade helped set a new benchmark for what can be expected of a mobile game. In this session, we will share the methodologies we have learned that are unique to the process of creating a critically and commercially successful mobile title. We will discuss how to take the limitations of the platform and turn them to your advantage, how to quickly and successfully find the fun in your title, and most importantly, how to make your game stand out from the crowd and shine!
Eligible Passes:  Summits and Tutorials Pass, All Access Pass

13:45 -14:45

IP and Brands: 4 Postmortems
Speakers: Steve Meretzky (Playdom), Peter Negulescu (iWin), Robert Ollett (Bigpoint) and Robert Tomkinson (Playfish)
Room 134, North Hall
Why you should be there: Join four industry luminaries as they present business-focused mini-postmortems that will describe lessons learned and success tips when developing games for well-known and established IP.
Eligible Passes:  Summits and Tutorials Pass, All Access Pass

15:00 – 16:00

Intuition vs Metrics: How Social Game Design Has Evolved
Speakers: Brenda Brathwaite (Lolapps) and Laralyn McWilliams (Sony Online Entertainment)
Room 134, North Hall
Why you should be there: Traditional game design meant placing your bets: create a game you think will be successful, then see what happens after launch. Designing a social or online game means you have almost instant access to player data, and you can make quick changes. Veteran game designers Brenda Brathwaite and Laralyn McWilliams discuss how their designs have changed after both had transitioned from traditional to online games. Using real-world examples, they discuss (and debate) when to go with your gut, and when to look at the numbers.
Eligible Passes:  All Access Pass, Summits and Tutorials Pass

16:15 – 17:15

The Great Gamification Debate!
Speakers: Eric Marcoullier (One True Fan), Ross Smith (Microsoft), Margaret Wallace (Playmatics), Jesse Schell (Schell Games), Jane McGonigal (Social Chocolate), Ian Bogost (The Georgia Institute of Technology), Noah Falstein (The Inspiracy) and Margaret Robertson (Hide&Seek)
Room 308, South Hall
Why you should be there: Because Jesse Schell, Ian Bogost and Margaret Robertson will very likely be engaged in a full-flow debate. Plus, Margaret hates the term gamification.
Eligible Passes:  Summits and Tutorials Pass, All Access Pass

17:25 – 18:00

AI Unplugged: How Experienced Devs Think Through AI
Speakers: Dave Mark (Intrinsic Algorithm), Brian Schwab (Blizzard Entertainment), Borut Pfeifer (Independent), Chris Jurney (Double Fine Productions) and Brett Laming (Rockstar Leeds)
Room 3002, West Hall 3rd Fl.
Why you should be there: Sometimes the hardest part of constructing game AI is not writing the code, tweaking the formulas, or even deciding on which technological framework to use. Often, designing good AI depends upon analyzing the specific behaviour or problem that needs to be addressed and decomposing it in such a way that it can be dealt with in the first place. In this panel, we present experienced game AI designers and programmers with examples of typical (or odd!) game behaviors and watch as they walk through the process of tackling the problem -- long before the programming suite is ever opened.
Eligible Passes:  Summits and Tutorials Pass, All Access Pass

WEDNESDAY – MARCH 2ND

09:00 - 10:00

Video Games Turn 25: A Historical Perspective and Vision for the Future
Speaker: Satoru Iwata (Nintendo)
North Hall D, Lower Level
Why you should be there: It’s Satoru Iwata.
Eligible Passes:  Main Conference Pass, All Access Pass

10:30 – 11:30

Yu Suzuki's Gameworks: A Career Retrospective
Speakers: Mark Cerny (Cerny Games) and Yu Suzuki (SEGA)
Room 135, North Hall
Description: It's Yu Suzuki.
Eligible Passes:
 Main Conference Pass, All Access Pass

12:00 – 13:00

Diversity - Wait, what happened?
Speaker:
Sheri Graner Ray (Schell Games)
Room 308, South Hall
Why you should be there: 10 years ago the cry went up for diversity within the game industry. Conferences were held, talks were given and the industry seemed set for change. Now, 10 years later, diversity is considered old news, diversity conference attendance is dropping, diversity talks at conferences are almost nonexistent and yet minorities still occupy less than 10% of our workforce. What happened? This talk will deal with the history of the diversity movement within the games industry and where it got off track. We will discuss strategies for reframing the diversity message so as to re-establish a productive and profitable relationship between diversity and business.
Eligible Passes:  Main Conference Pass, All Access Pass

13:30 – 14:30

Development Process of Nintendo 3DS
Speaker: Hideki Konno (Nintendo)
Room 135, North Hall
Why you should be there: For many years Hideki Konno has produced, and been involved with, a number of Nintendo’s games, including the Mario Kart Nintendogs series. Recently, for the first time in his career, he was assigned the role of overall producer for new Nintendo hardware: the Nintendo 3DS system. Mr. Konno will discuss how he has dealt with the challenges of developing the successor to Nintendo DS while, at the same time, being deeply involved in the software creation process of Nintendogs and Cats as the game’s producer.
Eligible Passes:  Main Conference Pass, All Access Pass

15:00 – 16:00

Designing Games for the ‘43-Year-Old Woman’
Speaker: Chris Trottier (Zynga)
Room 308, South Hall
Why you should be there: Chris will pull from her experience working on games like The Sims and FarmVille to explore what factors make a game take the leap from approachable to mass market phenomenon. This session is not about all women or female game developers. It is about your cousin's wife who's obsessed with collecting FarmVille animals or Sims custom content: what her day is like, when and why she turns to entertainment, and how you can best engage her when she does.
Eligible Passes:  All Access Pass, Main Conference Pass

16:30 – 17:30

Monetizing Your Music: Negotiating a Better Game Composing Deal
Speakers: Jim Charne (Law Offices James I Charne) and others
Room 112, North Hall
Why you should be there: A round table discussion covering all aspects of value that can be wrung out of music. Game composers are all too often asked to accept a flat fee buyout for their work. But music can have an afterlife, earn money, beyond the game. Learn the lessons that movie composers have applied in their deals that enable them to share in income from ancillary sources. This program will cover, step by step, all aspects of music and money it can generate.
Eligible Passes:  All Access Pass, Main Conference Pass, Audio Pass

THURSDAY – MARCH 3RD

 

09:00 – 10:00

Inside Kinect: Skeletal Tracking Deep Dive
Speaker: Zsolt Mathe (Microsoft)
Room 123, North Hall
Why you should be there: What exactly is the magic behind Kinect? Find out the inner workings of the Kinect sensor, the skeletal tracking software, gesturing, and how games are using the provided data. Real-world API usage is discussed along with typical game pipelines. Finally, we dive deep into advanced topics such as predictive and probabilistic filtering and depth mapbased techniques.
Eligible Passes:  Audio Pass, Main Conference Pass, Summits and Tutorials Pass, All Access Pass

10:30 – 11:30

Classic Game Postmortem - Bejeweled
Speaker: Jason Kapalka (PopCap Games)
Room 134, North Hall
Why you should be there: The man behind the addictive match-three game, PopCap co-founder and chief creative officer, Jason Kapalka , will deliver a postmortem talk about designing the franchise that's seen more than 150 million downloads and sold over 25 million copies.
Eligible Passes:  All Access Pass, Main Conference Pass

13:30 – 14:30

Industry Lessons Learned and Applying Them to the Road Ahead
Speaker: Cliff Bleszinski (Epic Games)
Room 3014, West Hall 3rd Fl.
Why you should be there: Cliff Bleszinski has not done a public lecture in years and has a lot to say. First, the seminar will focus on how understanding marketing and PR are not only important to a game's promotion but to its actual design and implementation. The talk then continues on into talking about branding - not only an IP but also characters and even and one's self as a developer. The lecture will continue to then discuss the importance of story and context, the fact that a genre can live or die based on its camera, as well as fun tips such as how to use the seven deadly sins to make a better game. Finally, the current state of the industry and the future will also be discussed with Bleszinski's thoughts on AAA gaming, social gaming, and the connected future, as well as general observations about the manner in which the gaming industry is run.
Eligible Passes:  Main Conference Pass, All Access Pass

15:00 – 16:00

The Environment is the Orchestra: Soundscape Composition in Limbo
Speaker: Martin Stig Andersen (Playdead)
Room 3010, West Hall 3rd Fl.
Why you should be there: The session highlights the potentials of electroacoustic music and soundscape composition in the context of games. Putting Playdead’s Limbo on display, composer and sound designer Martin Stig Andersen demonstrates how the game’s award winning audio was created, focusing on how sound effects and ambient noises were adapted to carry out functions traditionally assigned to conventional music.
Eligible Passes:  Main Conference Pass, Audio Pass, All Access Pass

16:30 – 17:30

Data Analysis on Player Behavior in Eve Online
Speaker: Eyjolfur Gudmundsson (CCP)
Room 3020, West Hall 3rd Fl.
Why you should be there: This lecture will showcase best practices and offer viable solutions based on real case studies from CCP's extensive data analysis experience with Eve Online. Highlights include exploration into CCP's Unholy Rage project, an initiative to combat real money trading, how data mining is used to discover and address exploits, and why we feel it's important to communicate detailed data analysis findings to our player base. A special focus will be on our use of quick turnaround data analysis in agile development processes and how to create a cost effective data analysis structure that specifically tailored to the needs of a video game company. Finally the importance of data logging will be discussed and why more focus should be put into logging behavioral data.
Eligible Passes:  Main Conference Pass, All Access Pass

FRIDAY – MARCH 4th

 

10:05 – 10:30

Halo: Reach Effects Tech
Speaker: Chris Tchou (Bungie LLC)
Room 3002, West Hall 3rd Fl.
Why you should be there: The goal of effects in Halo Reach was to provide a more atmospheric, dense and visceral experience. Attendees will learn some practical, effective and cheap methods for enhancing effects on the Xbox 360 platform, including cheap colliding GPU particles, low-res sorted transparents and depth-sourced shading effects.
Eligible Passes:  Main Conference Pass, All Access Pass

11:00 – 12:00

Game Writers' Roundtable: Tips, Tricks, and Techniques
Speaker: Richard Dansky (Red Storm)
Room 122, North Hall
Why you should be there: While the role of writers within game development is constantly evolving, the role of writer remains largely a solitary one. Few companies have multiple writers on staff, and most game writers are not in a position to work with professional peers on a regular basis. As such, this roundtable is intended to be a place where members of the game writing community, and those interested in, working with, or interested in working with game writers can come together to share issues, concerns, knowledge and experience.
Eligible Passes:  Main Conference Pass, All Access Pass

14:00 – 15:00

An Apology for Roger Ebert
Speaker: Brian Moriarty (Worcester Polytechnic Institute)
Room 135, North Hall
Why you should be there: In November of 2005, internationally renowned film critic Roger Ebert unleashed a firestorm of criticism with a blog entry claiming that the nature of the medium [video games] prevents it from moving beyond craftsmanship to the stature of art. 4+ years and thousands of angry comments later, Ebert wearily admits that he was a fool for ever mentioning video games in the first place, but will not retract his opinion that games can never be art. Who is this Roger Ebert guy? Is he right? Does his opinion matter? Why should we even care whether or not games are art? Just what is this art thing, anyway? Professor Brian Moriarty, 29-year gaming veteran and renowned lecturer and teacher, was the first (in a 1998 GDC address) to hail computer games as the defining art form of the 21st century. He has pondered long and hard on these questions, and finds himself reluctantly siding with ... Ebert!
Eligible Passes:  Main Conference Pass, All Access Pass

16:10 – 17:00

Breaking into AAA Game development: Ask the Pros
Speakers: Robin Hunicke (That Game Company), Clint Hocking (LucasArts), Brian Reynolds (Zynga), Chris Charla (Microsoft Game Studios) and Cliff Bleszinski (Epic Games)
Room 303, South Hall
Why you should be there: There have been many panels about what the big studios are looking for in the past, but they tend to only represent the views of hiring managers and recruiters. But when was the last time a recruiter gave you a ring as a student? This panel asks what it takes to break into the big game companies, gathering advice from the people who actually decide whether you're coming on-board: the creatives. We've chosen luminaries from different studios and company types, because after all, thats who you really want to impress!
Eligible Passes:  Expo Pass, Main Conference Pass, Audio Pass, Summits and Tutorials Pass, All Access Pass