GDC Austin, AMODA Present Indie Game, Pinball Docs At Alamo Drafthouse

The organizers of GDC Austin 2009 have announced a partnership with the Austin Museum of Digital Art to show two notable video game-related documentaries at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema during next week’s Game Developers Conference in Austin — one of them a U.S. cinema premiere.
To coincide with the first day of the Independent Games Summit at GDC Austin, the famous Alamo Drafthouse independent theater in downtown Austin will be showing ‘Into The Night with Chris Crawford & Jason Rohrer’ on Tuesday, September 15th, 2009 at 10.15pm.
This documentary, originally shot for a European TV series featuring meetings between notable creators, and being shown in cinemas in the U.S. for the first time, “follows an extended conversation between the indie game designer Jason Rohrer and legendary game designer Chris Crawford. Filmed over the course of a day during GDC 2009, Crawford and Rohrer play and discuss various indie titles at the conference, show their games to one another, and talk about the past and future of game design.” Selected indie game-related short films will also be shown before the main feature presentation.
Also playing during GDC Austin at a special AMODA and Alamo Drafthouse one-off showing at is the pinball-related doc, ‘TILT: the Battle to Save Pinball’, on Thursday, September 17th at 10.20pm. This Greg Maletic-directed documentary “tells the story behind one of entertainment’s most mysterious failures” – the Pinball 2000 series of Williams pinball machines which twinned video game and pinball technology.
Plenty of behind-the-scenes interviews and footage illustrate the battle over Pinball 2000 at Williams, as “soon after its successful and highly-profitable launch, Williams pulled the plug, leaving behind unanswered questions and abandoning one of the world’s great design organizations.” The documentary tries to answer some of these questions by speaking to many of the principals involved. Selected short films will also play before this special GDC Austin screening.
More information on the screenings, which are open to the public and GDC Austin attendees alike at a standard admission fee, are available on the Alamo Drafthouse cinema homepage. (AMODA, an Austin-based organization that “engages the public and artists in the creation, understanding, and appreciation of digital art”, is the facilitator of both showings.)

GDC Austin 2009 Adds Final Online, Summit-Centric Lectures

The Game Developers Conference Austin (GDC Austin) features lectures, panels and roundtables for developers looking to release successful titles in the burgeoning connected gaming space, and this year’s conference has added final sessions from notable game developers at Nexon, Bioware Austin, 2D Boy, Zynga, CCP Games and many others.
Presented by Think Services, GDC Austin returns with three days of main conference content focused on connected games, online games, virtual worlds, and social networking game play and four two-day summits — the Game Writers, Game Audio, iPhone Games and Independent Games Summits. The event takes place at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, Texas September 15-18, 2009. Conference goers wanting to take advantage of pre-registration discounts should register online by September 11.
This year’s GDC Austin features three visionary keynotes from industry pioneers at Sony Online Entertainment, Blizzard Entertainment, and successful newcomer Playfish that address the technical knowledge and business advice necessary to create successful virtual worlds, massively multiplayer online (MMO) titles, and social networking games.
Four days of deep-dive sessions cover topics including designing games for non-traditional gamers, developing secure and profitable monetization systems, and leveraging the strengths of social networking platforms to make innovative games. Featured new sessions include:
The Cat and Mouse Game of Fraud – Speaker: Arthur Chu (Fraud Manager, Nexon), Einar Hreidarsson (Team Lead-Customer Support, CCP Games)
Twist, Touch & Travel: Harnessing the iPhone’s Unique Features – Speaker: Glenda Adams (President & Lead Programmer, Maverick Software)
Beyond the Finish Line of Shipping an Indie Game – Speaker: Ron Carmel (Co-Founder, 2D Boy)
Wizard101 – Lions and Tigers and Ninja Pigs, Oh My! – Speaker: J. Todd Coleman (Creative Director, KingsIsle Entertainment)
Going from Free to Pay in Free-to-Play – Speaker: Min Kim (Vice President, Nexon America Inc.)
The Loner – Speaker: Damion Schubert (Lead Combat Designer, Bioware Austin)
The Social Gaming Tipping Point – Speaker: Brian Reynolds (Chief Designer, Zynga)
Facebook: Is the Cake a Lie? – Speaker: Blake Commagere (Independent Game Developer)
“With the number of connected game developers, titles, and players continuing to grow, attending GDC Austin is more important than ever,” says Izora de Lillard, event director at Think Services Game Group. “The sessions will provide key insights into current and future business opportunities in games ranging from free-to-play casual games, viral Facebook apps, epic MMO adventures and those we haven’t imagined yet in this evolving category of games.”

2009 GDC Austin Adds Keynote From Playfish’s De Halleux

2009 GDC Austin organizers have announced its final keynote, with Playfish co-founder Sebastien de Halleux (Pet Society) talking about Facebook and social network gaming at the September 15th-18th conference.
London-headquartered Playfish is one of the world’s largest and fastest growing social games companies, with hit microtransaction-powered titles such as Who Has The Biggest Brain? and Crazy Planets on Facebook and other networks.
By examining the inherent strengths of the community on social networks, de Halleux’s keynote will “provide insight on how these platforms can be used to create engaging games, and why developers should be looking at social networks as a burgeoning area of video game design and business development.”
Playfish itself has a verified base of more than 100 million game installations across nine titles, reached only 18 months after the company’s launch in late 2007, and de Halleux was recently interviewed about social gaming trends on GDC’s sister website Gamasutra.
This keynote joins two others — by Sony Online Entertainment head John Smedley on the company’s move into a wider market, and by a notable Blizzard duo on ‘The Universe Of World Of Warcraft‘, as well as over 90 other lectures at the event, which has three days of main conference content focused on connected games, online games, virtual worlds, and social networking game play.
GDC Austin also has four two-day summits including the Game Writers, Game Audio, iPhone Games and Independent Games Summits, takes place at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, Texas September 15-18, 2009. More information is available on the official event website.

2009 GDC Austin Adds Lectures As August 13th Reg Deadline Nears

2009 GDC Austin organizers have announced a raft of new lectures as the August 13th early registration deadline nears, with Metaplace’s Raph Koster and Zynga’s Brandon Barber joining keynotes from Blizzard and SOE at the September 15th-18th conference.
As organizers note, the many notable sessions taking place at GDC Austin include BioWare technical director Bill Dalton’s talk on the tech complexities and struggles of developing MMO titles and Cartoon Network’s Richard Weil’s co-presented session on the financial and regulatory complications of online games for younger children. Also added is best practices for creating ‘sticky’ game designs from Zynga’s Brandon Barber.
Other topics include viral growth tactics, harnessing community feedback to improve game design, micro-transaction security, and developing recognizable IP that appeals to all generations of gamers.
Some of the other highlights of newly announced or existing 2009 GDC Austin lectures include:
– Talking in ‘Challenges In Designing A Casual MMO’, Sony Online Entertainment’s Laralyn McWilliams will address the creation of Free Realms, presenting “a discussion of the user-driven design process the team followed, and a frank look at what worked for the team and for players…and what didn’t.”
– Metaplace’s Raph Koster is discussing ‘Games are Math: 10 Core Mechanics That Drive Compelling Gameplay’, with the intriguing lecture positing: “Games fundamentally model systems – and that’s a topic that mathematicians wrestle with for a living! Are there particular math problems that make for great game mechanics?”
– An interesting core MMO-centric panel called ‘Making the Grade: What Gaming’s Premier Guilds Really Think About You’ spans Meridian 59 to Age of Conan and “will assemble five Guild Masters from gaming’s premier player organizations to discuss the state of MMO gaming from top to bottom — why they choose some games and quit others, how they approach beta testing, what they love (and hate) about our games, and what they still hope to see.”
– In ‘Why We Need Heroes And Villains In Games’, some of the key creators of the upcoming DC Universe Online MMO, including SOE Austin’s Chris Cao and Jens Andersen, alongside DC Comics writer Marv Wolfman, discuss “why… tension between good and evil is so critical — not only for telling a good story, but for making a video game.”
These lectures join confirmed keynotes by Sony Online Entertainment head John Smedley on the company’s move into a wider market, and by a notable Blizzard duo on ‘The Universe Of World Of Warcraft‘, as well as over 90 other lectures at the event, which has three days of main conference content focused on connected games, online games, virtual worlds, and social networking game play.
“One of the unique challenges of GDC Austin is staying ahead of the next trend in the ever changing online gaming space. We have seen the industry expand and morph from MMOs to virtual worlds to online social networked free-to-play casual MMOs,” says Izora De Lillard, event director at Think Services Game Group. “This September, we are proud to present a program focused on the lessons you need to harness current opportunities and the inspiration to develop the next breakthrough.”
GDC Austin also has four two-day summits including the Game Writers, Game Audio, iPhone Games and Independent Games Summits, takes place at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, Texas September 15-18, 2009. More information is available on the official event website, and early registration discounts of up to 25% will end on Thursday, August 13.

GDC Austin Adds Smedley Keynote On SOE’s Free Realms

2009 GDC Austin organizers have announced that Sony Online Entertainment president John Smedley will keynote next month’s event, discussing the success and lessons learned from the firm’s recently launched, family-friendly free to play MMO Free Realms.
Smedley, who heads up the long-time online game publisher/developer and creator of EverQuest and EverQuest II, will present a keynote entitled: “From Dragons and Daggers to Kart Racing, Cooking and Concerts … It’s a Whole New MMO World”.
He will discuss how the critically-acclaimed freely available tween and teen title Free Realms, originally announced during GDC Austin 2007, has worked to expand the base of players engaging together in online worlds.
The online game, launched in April 2009 and monetizing via item sales and optional membership, saw 1 million registered accounts in the first ten days, and has already seen users reach nearly 5 million, according to a Comic-Con panel.
According to the announcement, Smedley “will inform attendees about the challenges and lessons learned when creating a full-blown MMO for younger audiences”, with empirical research and insights.
The keynote will “speak to the challenges and boundless opportunity of connected games, and will also describe how to re-educate development teams to move away from stagnant MMO designs towards mass market success.”
The SOE executive’s talk joins an already-confirmed Blizzard keynote on ‘The Universe Of World Of Warcraft‘, as well as a number of major online game-centric sessions at the event, which has three days of main conference content focused on connected games, online games, virtual worlds, and social networking game play.
GDC Austin also has four two-day summits including the Game Writers, Game Audio, iPhone Games and Independent Games Summits, takes place at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, Texas September 15-18, 2009. More information is available on the official event website, and early registration discounts will end on August 13.

2009 GDC Austin Reveals Writers Summit Line-Up

Organizers of this September’s Game Writers Summit at GDC Austin have revealed the full session line-up, including Valve’s writers teaming up to discuss Portal and Half-Life 2, and the notable writers behind Overlord, Deus Ex 3 and more.
Full information about the September 15th-16th Summit, a separate part of the wider, ‘connected game’-focused Austin-based event, is available on the GDC Austin website.
The two-day Writers Summit is dedicated to the art and craft of game writing, game narrative and interactive storytelling, and, as the developer-led advisory board explains: “This is the premier event in the world for discourse on, and learning about, the subject of video game writing.”
Details on the Game Writers Summit at GDC Austin include specifics on the first lectures and panels for the long-running GDC Austin standout event, and the highlights include:
– A special panel called ‘Having Your Cake and Eating It Too: A Conversation with the Writers of Valve’ brings together for the first time three of the Half-Life, Left 4 Dead and Portal creator’s writers – Marc Laidlaw, Erik Wolpaw and Chet Faliszek. They “will take the stage together to discuss the process that has made Valve games a gold standard of writing in games.”
– In ‘What’s a Writer to Do? Redefining Our Role in Crafting Player Driven Narratives’, Mary Le Merle, who is lead writer on Eidos Montreal’s upcoming Deus Ex 3, discusses whether we will ever “succeed in engrossing players in rich, story-driven narratives, while simultaneously allowing them to define their own paths — and their own stories” — a particularly relevant issue for the update of Warren Spector’s cyberpunk title.
– Presenting a pertinent lecture to GDC Austin’s main online-centric content, ZeniMax Online’s Tracy Seamster and 38 Studios’ Steve Danuser discuss ‘Writing for MMOs: You’re Doing It Wrong’, explaining of the genre: “Rather than thinking of our job as ‘writing for MMOs,’ we should consider ourselves MMO storytellers.”
– In the panel ‘Clash Of The Titans: Debating Gameplay vs. Story’, major game writing notables including Chris Avellone (Fallout 2, Alpha Protocol), Rhianna Pratchett (Overlord series, Heavenly Sword), Christian Allen (Ghost Recon), and Andrew Walsh (Prince of Persia, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince) discuss conflicts between gameplay and storytelling, and how to resolve them.
– In ‘Thinking Inside the Box: Finding Creative Space in Your Franchise’, Red Storm’s Jay Posey discusses why “finding ways to bring fresh and innovative ideas to [existing major franchises] can be a challenge for developers of all stripes, but writers in particular may be especially daunted by the sometimes rigorous constraints imposed by legacy titles.”
Other Summits taking place at GDC Austin this year — also available to access for those with an Austin GDC Summits Pass or All-Access Pass — include brand-new Independent Games and iPhone Game Summits and the noted, long-running Audio Summit.
Further information on 2009’s Game Writers Summit at GDC Austin, including registration details and other specifics, is available at the official Summit website. Early Bird registration for the event, which brings significant savings with it, ends on August 13th.

Reminder – GDC Austin Alumni Deadline Is July 30th

GDC Austin organizers are reminding 2008 Alumni that they can save up to 40% on All Access and Main Conference passes by registering by midnight on July 30th.
For those who previously attended the online gaming-centric event, the Main Conference pass is available at a major discount until midnight tonight.
GDC Austin, to be held September 15th-18th, 2009 at the Austin Convention Center in Texas, now includes six online-centric ‘tracks’ for the Main Conference, which takes place Wednesday 16th to Friday 18th. More than 120 sessions will be available covering online games, MMOs and social networking games, from business through technical to design and beyond.
In addition, access to the major GDC Austin Indie, iPhone, Writing, and Audio Summits — which take place on Tuesday 15th and Wednesday 16th — are also available for those alumni wanting to purchase All-Access passes or Summits & Tutorials passes.
More information on the overall 2009 GDC Austin event — which recently added a Blizzard duo discussing World Of Warcraft as a keynote, and is still to announce a number of major lectures and roundtables — is available on the official GDC Austin homepage.

2009 GDC Austin Gets Blizzard Keynote On ‘The Universe Of WoW

GDC Austin organizers have confirmed the first of the Sept. 15-18 event’s keynotes, with Blizzard co-founder Frank Pearce and World Of Warcraft production director J. Allen Brack discussing operating challenges and lessons in “The Universe Of World Of Warcraft“.
In the joint keynote, Pearce, executive vice president of product development and co-founder of Blizzard Entertainment, and J. Allen Brack, the production director on Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft, will talk about the ongoing challenges involved with operating one of the world’s most popular subscription-based MMORPGs.
After more than four years in development, World of Warcraft was released in 2004 and since that time has grown into a global phenomenon, in addition to garnering critical praise from reviewers and gamers worldwide.
Pearce is well-placed to discuss the game, being one of the original co-founders of Blizzard in 1991, and having worked on classic Blizzard Entertainment titles including Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness, Diablo, StarCraft, Diablo II and Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos. He’s also overseeing Starcraft II‘s production.
Brack is responsible “for coordinating the efforts of the game’s development team as it creates new content to keep the experience fresh and exciting for the global audience of World of Warcraft players, and previously worked at Sony Online on Star Wars Galaxies and at Origin on the Wing Commander franchise. At Blizzard, he helped created WoW expansion pack The Burning Crusade, and currently manages the production of patches and expansions from their initial conception through their release.
Pearce and Brack’s joint keynote address will “specifically discuss the steps taken to create this online world, and the hard work and team coordination necessary to keep that world engaging and rewarding over its lifetime.”
World of Warcraft continues to attract more and more subscribers year after year and has changed perceptions of what online gaming can achieve,” says Izora De Lillard, event director at Think Services Game Group. “An exploration of Blizzard Entertainment’s enduring success in the online gaming space offers important lessons for all connected game developers interested in developing the next great MMO, casual game, or virtual world.”
Presented by Think Services (also owner of Gamasutra), GDC Austin returns with three days of main conference content focused on connected games, including online games, virtual worlds, and social networking game play; and four two-day summits, including the Game Writers, Game Audio, iPhone Games and Independent Games Summits.
The event takes place at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, Texas September 15-18, 2009, and early registration deadlines end soon – more information is available on the official GDC Austin website.

GDC Austin’s iPhone Games Summit Reveals First Speakers

Organizers of this September’s iPhone Games Summit at GDC Austin have announced first speakers, with the developers of titles like Enigmo and Flower Garden join Looking Glass alum Randy Smith to discuss the business and tech behind working on Apple’s device.
Initial information about the September 15th-16th Summit, a separate part of the wider, ‘connected game’-focused Austin-based event, is available on the GDC Austin website.
The two-day iPhone Summit is divided in half, with one day dealing with the business and marketing realities behind making games for Apple’s phone, and the other going in-depth on technical hurdles and tips for iPhone developers.
Other Summits taking place at GDC Austin this year — also available to access for those with an Austin GDC Summits Pass or All-Access Pass — include a brand-new Independent Games Summit and the notable, long-running Writing and Audio Summits.
Details on the iPhone Games Summit at GDC Austin include specifics on the first lectures and panels for the first-ever Austin edition of the popular main GDC event, and the highlights include:
– In ‘Pangea’s Road To Success: Launching & Marketing an iPhone App’, the local Austin company’s founder Brian Greenstone (Enigmo, Bugdom 2) explains why “the hardest part about being an iPhone app developer is figuring out how to get your app seen by the consumer”, suggesting concrete solutions from a successful practitioner.
– Snappy Touch (Flower Garden for iPhone) founder and Game Developer magazine programming columnist Noel Llopis will present ‘Squeezing Every Drop Of Performance Out Of The iPhone’, which will “describe the iPhone performance optimization lessons learned through many hours of tuning”, with lots of practical tips and tricks.
– In ‘From AAA to iPhone: Tiger Style and the making of Spider, Looking Glass and EA LA veteran Randy Smith is joining colleague David Kalina to discuss their move from high-budget console to iPhone games, promising a look at the business and design behind making an iPhone game, and “how it all impacted the quality of the product and the sales numbers.”
– Presenting a more technical lecture, Elecorn’s Michael Smith will speak on ‘iPort: How To Bring Any C++ Game To The iPhone’, which presents techniques used to faithfully port a 3rd person shooter to iPhone, and discusses “general platform porting methods and principles”, as well as game play and user interface design differences to consider.
– Finally, in ‘Bringing Game Brands to the iPhone: A Business Approach’, PlayFirst’s Chris Williams (Diner Dash, asks an interesting question: “What do you do when Diner Dash proves to be a Top 100 Paid Application for over 9 months? You make 49 more ports… Or maybe you don’t.” Approaches and lessons learned will be covered, with quandaries such as balancing the promise of an increase in sales with the cost of adding iPhone-specific features to existing games.
With more lectures to be announced in the near future, further information on 2009’s iPhone Games Summit at Austin GDC, including registration details and other specifics, is available at the official Summit @ Austin GDCs website.

Independent Games Summit @ GDC Austin Reveals First Speakers

Organizers of this September’s Independent Games Summit at GDC Austin have announced first speakers, with the indies behind titles like Bit.Trip Beat, Age Of Booty, Fantastic Contraption, and DeathSpank speaking on a multitude of notable topics.
Initial information about the September 15th-16th Summit, a separate part of the wider, ‘connected game’-focused Austin-based event, is available on the GDC Austin website. Other Summits taking place at GDC Austin this year include a brand-new iPhone Games Summit and the notable, long-running Writing and Audio Summits..
Details on the Independent Games Summit at GDC Austin include specifics on the first five lectures and panels for the first-ever Austin edition of the popular main GDC event, and the highlights include:
– In ‘The Bit.Trip Series: Holistic Indie Console Game Design’, Gaijin Games’ Alex Neuse will speak on “how the small team created the retro-infused [game] series, giving tips on standing out on WiiWare and how to intelligently mine classic gaming for a unique look.”
– Speaking in ‘Business Managing Your Indie Developer Through The Downturn’, Jennifer Bullard of local Texas independent developer Certain Affinity, which has done contract work for big AAA console titles (Left 4 Dead, Call Of Duty: World At War) and developed significant original IP (downloadable title Age Of Booty) will discuss running your indie as a business, and how a small company intelligently juggles work for hire and original IP.
– In a lecture called ‘Postmortem: The Design & Business Behind Fantastic Contraption, Colin Northway will explain how the Flash-based physics sandbox webgame — which has been played by millions of people, and brought in six-figure profits for its single developer — was designed, monetized and marketed itself, based on an initially free title with paid upgrades.
– Wolfire COO John Graham (co-creator of the upcoming Overgrowth) will discuss ‘Effective Marketing For Indie Game Developers’, explaining how you use your own website, social networking channels, independent editorial content, and even pre-release versions of your tools to build a robust community around your game before it even ships.
– Finally, in ‘The Indie Business Rant’, notables including Hothead’s Joel DeYoung (DeathSpank, Penny Arcade Adventures), Klei’s Jamie Cheng (Shank), and IGS advisory board members Matthew Wegner (Blurst.com, Crane Wars) and Adam Saltsman (Fathom) will “each give short 5-10 minute presentations on aspects of indie business that irk, disgust, or nauseate them, hopefully also including some panaceas for the indie business pain that sickens them.”
More information on 2009’s Independent Games Summit at Austin GDC, including registration details and other specifics, is available at the official IGS @ Austin GDC website.