Ten of the best: GDC Europe 2014's must-see sessions

Ten of the best: GDC Europe 2014's must-see sessions
James Batchelor

By James Batchelor

July 30th 2014 at 11:33AM

GDC events general manager Meggan Scavio selects the hottest sessions from this year's conference

GDC Europe 2014 is less than two weeks away, but it's never too early to plan how you'll spend your time there.

With all the networking opportunities, the expo and the new European Innovative Games Showcase, it's important not to forget the main conference, which is packed with interesting sessions from some of the leading names in games development.

Speakers this year include the likes of Oculus VR, Telltale Games, Ninja Theory, Bohemia Interactive, Capybara Games and more.

You can find the full schedule at the GDC Europe website, but to help you get started GDC's general manager Meggan Scavio has picked out ten of the best must-see sessions. 

Ten Questions: Am I Ready To Go Indie?

Don Daglow, Daglow Entertainment
Monday, August 11th – 10am to 11am

What really goes in to being indie? Is there a checklist that tells you what to do and when to do it? What do you give up and what do you gain? What are the perils that can turn that dream of building your own game into a long-term nightmare? Don Daglow has spent the last six years of his 40-year career working with small teams, and in this session he'll guide you through a feedback-rich dialogue with yourself about if, when and how you want to set sail on your own ship.

Click here for more info.

Designing Monument Valley: Less Game, More Experience

Ken Wong, Ustwo Games
Monday, August 11th – 11.30am to 12.30am

Monument Valley lead designer Ken Wong talks about how the impossible art of M.C. Escher and being embedded in a UX studio led ustwo games to create a chart-topping game in which every screen was a piece of art. He discusses how rethinking games as user experiences inspired the team to trade challenging puzzles for an aesthetic journey, and why keeping that journey short but sublime won the game new audiences.

Click here for more info.

The Isle: Creating A Space Worth Exploring

Kris Piotrowski, Capybara Games
Monday, August 11th – 2.45pm to 3.45pm

Below is a procedural terrarium filled with life, mystery and death. In this session, Capy creative director Kris Piotrowski will delve into the ongoing process of creating The Isle, the mysterious setting for Below. This talk will attempt to shed light on the process, and share some of challenges involved in attempting to create a game world that resonate with history, narrative and thematic meaning - all without relying on text or dialogue. Elements covered include the impact of art direction choices, the role of music & sound direction, and how research, references and personal inspirations have shaped the creation of Below's foreboding game world.

Click here for more info.

Classic Game Postmortem: Broken Sword

Charles Cecil, Revolution Software
Tuesday, August 12th – 11.30am to 12.30pm

Charles Cecil, the influential game designer best known for his work creating seminal adventure games like the Broken Sword franchise and Beneath A Steel Sky, will be delivering a Classic Game Postmortem about the groundbreaking Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars at GDC Europe 2014.Cecil currently serves as the managing director of Revolution Software, the venerable U.K. game development studio he co-founded in 1990. Over the past two and a half decades Cecil has repeatedly raised the bar for games as a storytelling medium, releasing a string of award-winning adventure titles and earning a number of top honors, including an appointment to the Order of the British Empire in 2011.Now he's coming to GDC Europe to speak at length about his work writing and directing "Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars", the award-winning 1996 adventure game that developers at studios like Telltale Games and the now-defunct LucasArts cite as a meaningful influence on their work.

Click here for more info.

A Great Disturbance in Development: The Dark Side of Early Access

Jay Crowe, Bohemia Interactive
Tuesday, August 12th – 11.30am to 12.30pm

Early access is fast becoming a dominant force in video game development. From independent studios to huge, publisher-backed AAA titles, opening up a game to players ahead of its official launch provides real benefits across design, QA, marketing and more. However, these rewards come at a cost. Using a range of examples from the development of Arma 3 -- from its public alpha to its beta, final release, and post-launch support -- the talk will examine the failures and successes of its early access strategy. It will also offer some techniques that can be used by other developers to perfect their own plans.

Click here for more info.

The Independent AAA Proposition

Tameem Antoniades, Ninja Theory
Tuesday, August 12th – 1.30pm to 2.30pm

The talk will detail the 14-year journey of Ninja Theory, including the sacrifices and concessions made to stay in the game. Footage of unreleased games, the reason why they didn't go to market, and the specific sales-related decisions that led to their demise will be detailed. It will include the unrealized sequel to Kung Fu Chaos, footage of an as-yet-undisclosed next generation game, and various other pitches that we had to put on ice or walk away from. With the next generation consoles arriving at the top end, just as mobile and indie games have taken hold at the bottom, perhaps there is room for a third way, to turn the "squeezed middle," where many a good studio has disappeared, into an opportunity to redefine gaming: the AAA indie game.

Click here for more info.

#1ReasonToBe

Leigh Alexander, Gamasutra; Zuraida Buter, zo-ii; Auriea Harvey, Tale of Tales; Annakaisa Kultima, University of Tampere; Henrike "Riker" Lode, Machineers; Siobhan Reddy, Media Molecule; Brenda Romera, Romero Games
Tuesday, August 12th – 4.15pm to 5.15pm

Inspired by the #1ReasonWhy and #1ReasonToBe hashtag discussion, join us for a rapid, fun microtalk-style celebration and exploration of what it means to be a woman in games, European style. Each panelist will share their experience, its highs and lows, and explore a vision for a future industry that is inclusive for all.

Click here for more info.

Unleashing the Wolf: Adapting Fables, Creating The Wolf Among Us

Chris Schroyer, Telltale Games
Tuesday, August 12th – 4.15pm to 5.15pm

This talk details the processes used by Telltale Games to adapt the award-winning DC Vertigo comic book series Fables into the episodic series The Wolf Among Us, following up on the successes of The Walking Dead. Touching on topics such as identifying key pillars of an intellectual property, finding opportunities for interactivity to expand an existing fiction canon, and crafting a narrative-based experience for IP aware and unaware audiences, this session dives deep into the elements that Telltale Games looks at when approaching a new series and bringing it to life.

Click here for more info.

Developing Virtual Reality Experiences with the Oculus Rift

Tom Forsyth, Oculus VR
Tuesday, August 12th – 5.30pm to 6.30pm

Virtual reality is significantly different from monitor-based games in many ways. Many choices that are merely stylistic for traditional games become incredibly important in VR, while others become irrelevant. At Oculus, we have collected together our own experiences working on VR titles, and those of other developers working on our platform; and it has taught us a lot of surprising things. Some of these lessons are obvious when looking at the shipped products, but there are many paths explored that ended in failure. There are subtleties that were highly complex and absolutely crucial to get right, but may not have been apparent when playing the games. In this talk, Tom will focus on a handful of the most important challenges that designers and developers should be considering when exploring virtual reality for the first time.

Click here for more info.

From Console to Mobile and Beyond!

Patrick Liu, Rovio
Tuesday, August 12th – 4.50pm to 5.15pm

Making the trip from a very traditional console/PC boxed experience to the current mobile market was a jarring experience, and produced a lot of learnings after two years. The challenge of this session is to figure out what the next steps should be based on accumulated knowledge from two different ends of the industry. How do you look beyond what works today and chart a direction toward new waters?

Click here for more info.