GDC China 2011 Closes With Record Attendance

gdc_china.jpgOrganizers of the fourth annual GDC China, which concluded Monday, November 14 in Shanghai, have announced that more than 3,000 international attendees were present over the three-day event, marking an all-time high for this branch of the Game Developers Conference.

This year, GDC China hosted over 70 international speakers, over 45 sponsors and exhibitors, as well as the third annual Independent Games Festival China, and once again gave game developers in Asia a chance to meet other industry professionals, gain practical experience, and share valuable ideas with their peers.

GDC China’s Main Conference featured four tracks, covering Global Game Development, Online Game Development and Business and Social Gaming, alongside two specialized Summits focusing on Indie Games and Mobile Games.

Gamasutra covered the event in-depth throughout the show, with featured talks including a keynote from Interplay veteran and inXile founder Brian Fargo, who examined the history of role-playing games and offered his take on the most important elements of the genre.

Other standout talks from the show include Independent Game Summit talks with Capy co-founder Nathan Vella on the importance of creative risk, and Canabalt creator Adam Saltsman on key opportunities for indie developers.

In addition, the show featured notable talks from DeNA’s Kenji Kobayashi on the (lack of) competition in the smartphone market, Amir Rao of Bastion dev Supergiant Games on leveraging new IP, and Microsoft’s Brian Prince on the current trajectory of cloud gaming, among many others.

The show also played host to the third annual Independent Games Festival China, which showcased some of the best independent games developed in Asia and other surrounding regions. Winners included Feng Li’s Pixel May Cry, Ant Hive Game’s The Line HD, and more.

In the weeks following the show, lectures and slides from the show’s numerous sessions are set to debut on the GDC Vault website, in both free and member-based tiers.

GDC China took place from Saturday, November 12 to Monday, November 14 at the Shanghai Exhibition Center in Shanghai, and is currently the only official developer event supported by the Ministry of Culture of the People’s Republic of China.

2011 Independent Games Festival China Winners Announced

pixelmaycry.jpgOrganizers
of the third annual Independent Games Festival China have announced the
winners for this weekend’s indie showcase in Shanghai, with Feng Li’s
2D action beat-em-up Pixel May Cry (pictured) taking home the prize for Best Game, in addition to a host of other notable winners.

Following the announcement of the IGF China finalists in September, the selected teams attended a special awards show at the Shanghai Exhibition Center during GDC China
on Saturday night, where the winners took home a prestigious IGF award,
and a cash prize ranging from RMB3,000 ($450 USD) to RMB20,000 ($3,060
USD).

Guest presenters from the independent games community on hand to help
give out awards included GDC China Independent Games Summit speakers
such as Amir Rao (Bastion), Baiyon (PixelJunk Eden/4am) and Jenova Chen (Flower/Journey).

Winners announced at the show include aBit Games’ rhythm counting game Super Sheep Tap, WitOne Games’ fantasy RPG Pocket Warriors, and Ant Hive Games’ The Line HD, which took home the award for Best Mobile Game.

The full lineup of winners at the 2011 IGF China is as follows:

Main Competition

Best Game: Pixel May Cry, by Feng Li, China [RMB20,000 ~ $3,060 USD]
Best Mobile Game: The Line HD, by Ant Hive Games, China [RMB10,000 ~ $1,530 USD]
Excellence In Audio: Super Sheep Tap, by aBit Games, China [RMB5,000 ~ $760 USD]
Excellence In Technology: Void, by DigiPen Institute of Technology, Singapore [RMB5,000 ~ $760 USD]
Excellence In Visual Arts: Pocket Warriors, by WitOne Games, China [RMB5,000 ~ $760 USD]

Student Competition

IGF China Best Student Game: Void, by DigiPen Institute of Technology, Singapore [RMB10,000 ~ $1,530 USD]
IGF China Excellent Student Winner: Pixi, by DigiPen Institute of Technology, Singapore [RMB3,000 ~$450 USD]
IGF China Excellent Student Winner: Robotany, by Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab, Singapore [RMB3,000 ~$450 USD]

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GDC China Reveals Online Game Sessions From BioWare Austin, Carbine, Bigpoint

drakensang.jpgWith less than a week left before GDC China, show organizers have revealed three new sessions in the Online Games track, featuring speakers from BioWare Austin on merging casual and hardcore, WildStar developer Carbine on MMO production, and Bigpoint on its 3D web game Drakensang Online (pictured).

Taking place November 12-14 at the Shanghai Exhibition Center in Shanghai, the event will once again serve as the premier game industry event in China, bringing together influential developers from around the world to share ideas, network, and inspire each other to further the game industry in the region.

This year, the show’s Main Conference will feature three primary tracks, covering Online Game Development & Business, Global Game Development, and Social Games, and two Summits on Indie Games and Mobile Games, respectively.

Here are the latest talks to be revealed for the show:

– BioWare Austin’s Damion Schubert will host “Double-Coding: Making Online Games for Both the Casual and the Hardcore,” which will examine how developers can straddle the line between two very different player demographics. Schubert will discuss the values held by both types of users, and will go over some strategies to convert casual players into online devotees.

– The second new talk in the Online Games track is “Massively Multiplayer Game Production: From Tiny Teams to Giant Projects,” featuring Turbine founder Jeremy Gaffney, now of WildStar developer Carbine Studios. Drawing from his extensive experience producing large-scale MMOs, Gaffney will detail the essential qualities of a good producer, and will offer numerous production tips related to online game development.

– Rounding out this week’s new sessions is Bigpoint chief games officer Philip Reisberger in “Trends and Challenges Facing the Next-gen 3D Web Games Like Drakensang Online.” Reisberger will pick apart the studio’s browser-based action RPG to offer insight on how to craft a robust 3D game on the web.

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GDC China Speaker Spotlight: Halfbrick’s Phil Larsen Ponders The Evolution Of Fruit Ninja

PhilLarsen2.jpgHalfbrick chief marketing officer Phil Larsen recently reflected on the astounding success of the studio’s Fruit Ninja over the last year and a half, attributing a large portion of the game’s growth to the fact that its premise “requires no explanation.”

Since its iOS debut in 2010, the game has maintained a high position on the App Store charts, and has expanded to encompass new platforms like Android, Windows Phone 7, and even new interfaces like Microsoft’s Kinect. Of late, Halfbrick has turned it attention to China, where it expects the game to see an additional 70 million downloads.

At this month’s GDC China, Larsen will dive even further into the series’ growth in a session dubbed, “The Rise and Rise of Fruit Ninja: Developing, Marketing and Supporting a Hit Mobile Game,” which will cover the game’s initial development and the tactics the studio used to evolve the game over the last 18 months.

In anticipation of his talk, Larsen reflected on Fruit Ninja‘s success, and offered some insight into how Halfbrick grew the game from a small-scale mobile project into the company’s most valuable brand.

What would you say have been the key factors to Fruit Ninja‘s success?

Simplicity, satisfaction, theme and marketing! It was abundantly clear that the game is so simple to play that it requires no explanation. Only a tiny fraction of developers have managed to achieve this in the mobile market. From there, the input and feedback from the game’s squishy fruit means that it’s satisfying to simply slice over and over, let alone compete and aim for high scores.

When you have a game with clear value and rewards to the player, then it makes an even stronger message when communicating the game through marketing channels. Talking with platform holders, meeting with the media, chatting to fans online – everything runs smoother when the game lends itself so well to fueling discussion.

What tactics have you used to maintain the game’s success since its original debut?

We’ve definitely worked hard to keep the momentum going after launch, and the consistent sales have been proof of our success. After launch we focused on both updates to the game, continued PR support and building the Fruit Ninja brand. For example, we listened to customer feedback and were able to continually add new fruit, new blades, new online features and even new game modes. It’s this kind of support that keeps fans playing and keeps them talking about Fruit Ninja.

We support every major update and milestone with targeted PR, and further build on the success by increasing brand awareness. Merchandise, TV, social networking and expanding the universe of Fruit Ninja is an ongoing task for us and our chance to ensure that the mainstream audiences are aware of how massive mobile gaming is in a global entertainment market.

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GDC China Reveals Cloud Gaming, Smurfs, KingsIsle Sessions

smurfs.jpgThis week, GDC China has debuted new lectures featuring Microsoft on the present and future of cloud gaming, a look at Ubisoft’s Smurfs & Co Facebook game, and Wizard101 developer KingsIsle on the ins and outs of RPG math.

Taking place November 12-14 at the Shanghai Exhibition Center in Shanghai, China, the event will once again serve as the premier game industry event in China, bringing together influential developers from around the world to share ideas, network, and inspire each other to further the game industry in this region.

This year, the show’s Main Conference will feature three primary tracks, covering Online Game Development & Business, Global Game Development, and Social Games, and two Summits on Indie Games and Mobile Games, respectively.

Here are the latest talks to be revealed for the show:

– As part of the Global Game Development track, Microsoft’s Brian price will host “Gaming and the Cloud: Present and the Future.” Here, he will explain how game developers could benefit from using a cloud-based service, detailing cloud gaming’s current capabilities and where he expects the technology to go in the years to come.

– In the Social Games track, Richard Tsao of Ubisoft Chengdu will examine the publisher’s popular Facebook game based on the classic Smurfs franchise. In “The Smurfs & Co – How to Develop a Successful Facebook Game in China,” Tsao will look back on the game’s development, detailing the factors that helped the title become one of Ubisoft’s most successful social ventures.

– Finally, Sara Jensen Schubert, design lead at Wizard 101 developer KingsIsle Entertainment, will look dive into role-playing statistics in “Fundamental Multiplayer RPG Math.” In this lecture, Schubert will explain how to draft the essential framework for basic RPG systems, from experience curves to character attributes, emphasizing how data-driven spreadsheets can streamline the ways in which these systems take shape.

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GDC China Speaker Spotlight: Bastion‘s Rao: ‘You Don’t Have To Quit Your Day Jobs’ To Go Indie

Amir-001.jpgEarlier this year, Supergiant Games made its indie debut with the XBLA and PC hit Bastion, which received warm reception from critics and players alike. Now that the team has its first title under its belt, studio director Amir Rao says the team’s “initial fears have subsided.”

Rao notes that while several key members of Supergiant left traditional development at EA to move away from the risks and restrictions of big-budget development, going indie came with its own set of worries.

At next month’s GDC China, Rao will outline the benefits and hardships of indie development in a session titled “Maximizing Risk: The Building of Bastion.” During this lecture, he will detail the origins and development of the studio’s debut game, and offer advice to other developers looking to pursue their independence.

In anticipation of his talk, Rao reflects on the driving forces behind Supergiant’s inception, and points out some tips for making it in the indie space.

How and why did you and the team of other EA vets decide to go indie and make Supergiant Games?

Supergiant Games was started by Gavin Simon and me — both of us worked at EALA on Command & Conquer 3 and Red Alert 3. We were inspired by the success stories of people like The Behemoth, 2D Boy and Jonathon Blow. We left EA to create games that were more personal to us. It was a decision born out of ambition and passion to try to make the kind of game we could never have made on a large team at a big company.

What was it like to adjust to indie development considering your previous job at a traditional game studio?

We are significantly faster and more nimble than we ever were at EA because we have no production or management overhead. A large team has to manage a complex schedule and deal with lot of risk; they need to plan on paper months ahead. We never do anything on paper. Good ideas get into the game in hours and are iterated on immediately.

What was the hardest part about going indie?

There is a lot of worry in being independent. First, you worry if the game is going to be good, then you worry if anyone will like it, then you worry if it will ever come out, then you worry if something bigger will come out right on top of it, then when it’s finally out, you worry if it will sell well enough to let you do a second one. Thankfully, Bastion has done that for us and lot of the initial fears have subsided. I’m looking forward to worrying about something new.

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GDC China Reveals Brian Fargo Keynote, Trio Of New Sessions

Brian-Fargo-1.jpgThis week, GDC China has revealed a new keynote from industry veteran and Interplay founder Brian Fargo, as well as a trio of new talks featuring CrowdStar, Flurry, and PapayaMobile.

Fargo’s keynote, titled “Making RPGs That Stand the Test of Time,” will examine the last three decades of role-playing games, detailing the ways in which story, character development, balance, and production must work in unison to create games that players remember for the rest of their lives.

Fargo himself has a storied history in RPG development, and played a key role in classic Interplay titles such as The Bard’s Tale, Wasteland, Baldur’s Gate, and Fallout. Currently, he leads the California-based inXile Entertainment, which is working on the upcoming multiplatform action title Hunted: The Demon’s Forge.

In addition to this keynote, GDC China has debuted the following lectures from the show’s Main Conference and Summits:

– In the Social Games track, CrowdStar director of business development Randy Lee will host, “The Importance of Multiplatform for Social Gaming,” offering a look at how the It Girl and Wasteland Empires developer uses multiplatform games to expand its reach into global territories.

– Over in the Mobile Games Summit, Jeferson Valadares of the mobile analytics firm Flurry will delve into what it takes to develop a hit game for both the U.S. and China. His talk, “Win in the World’s Top Two Mobile Gaming Markets: The U.S. & China,” will use data from over 120,000 apps to illustrate key differences between these markets, and will outline some key tactics for approaching user behavior, game design, and business models.

– Also in the Mobile Games Summit is a talk dubbed, “Domestic Small Teams Design, Develop and Operate Games for European Markets,” featuring Liang Zhang, founder of PapayaMobile. Here, Zhang will draw from the company’s experience operating a developer incubation program to help small teams make it big in European and American markets.

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GDC China Speaker Spotlight: Double Fine And The Kinect ‘Melting Pot Of Ideas’

drewskillman.jpgFollowing Double Fine’s recent announcement of the Kinect-exclusive Happy Action Theater, lead technical artist and upcoming GDC China speaker Drew Skillman discussed the studio’s experience working with Microsoft’s depth-sensing hardware, noting that it required the studio to re-think its approach to game design.

In particular, Skillman notes that it takes a lot of experimentation with Kinect to get things working as intended, and Double Fine had to take some unusual measures to reliably test its latest title.

At next month’s GDC China, Skillman will delve further into the implications of working with Kinect in a session titled, “Rapid Prototyping Techniques for Kinect Game Development,” which will focus on the studio’s process for creating its motion-controlled games.

In anticipation of the talk, Skillman discusses the challenges of working with the Kinect’s depth-sensing technology, offering tips on how to best make use of the hardware’s strengths, and to design games around its weaknesses.

Considering Double Fine’s history of making games with traditional gamepad controls, what has it been like for the studio to work with the Kinect hardware? Are there any particular challenges you or the team have encountered?

The biggest challenge has been adapting to the different types of input you get from the Kinect. A gamepad controller is quite literally a handful of very precise inputs, but the Kinect is a continuous stream of video and depth data. Even after processing that data into player joints and segmentation IDs, you will still never be able to pinpoint the exact frame when a character is supposed to jump, for example.

That difference has informed our designs at the deepest levels. We want to leverage this new technology for the amazing new interactions it allows, and not just try and use it as a calorie burning substitute for a gamepad.

What tips would you offer developers looking to start working with Kinect or other motion control hardware?

One great way to start is to check out all the phenomenal Kinect hacks that are flooding the web right now. If you do a Google search for “Kinect Hack,” you will see a massive number of inspirational and creative applications, many of which are already in game form, or translate to games naturally. One reason for this rampant experimentation is that programming languages like Processing and Open Frameworks make the hardware accessible to everyone with a computer. This open source approach gives it traction in disciplines like science, education, interactive design, student games, etc. Kinect is definitely a melting pot of ideas right now.

Also, consider investing in life size, cardboard cutouts of your favorite characters. A member of our team made a genius purchase early in the project, and as a result cardboard cutouts of Dumbledore, Darth Vader, and Elvis have been invaluable testers throughout development. The Kinect detects them as very patient players. Another late arrival to our “test team” was actually a Yoga ball, which the Kinect recognizes as well.

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GDC China Debuts Trio Of Social Talks From Zynga, DeNA, AdParlor

zyngachina.jpgThis week, GDC China has debuted a trio of lectures in the show’s Social Games track, featuring talks from Zynga China on localization, DeNA on top monetization strategies, and AdParlor on the current state of social game ads.

Taking place November 12-14 at the Shanghai Exhibition Center in Shanghai, China, the event will once again serve as the premier game industry event in China, bringing together influential developers from around the world to share ideas, network, and inspire each other to further the game industry in this region.

This year, the show’s Main Conference will feature three primary tracks, covering Online Game Development & Business, Global Game Development, and Social Games, and two Summits on Indie Games and Mobile Games, respectively.

Here are the latest talks to be revealed for the show’s Social Games track:

– Zynga China general manager Andy Tian will break down the essentials of social game localization in “Developing a Localized Social Game Experience for China.” Here, Tian will cover the dos and don’ts of effectively bringing a Western-developed social game to the Chinese market. In addition, he will go over several common mistakes designers make post-launch, and will offer tips on how to avoid them.

– Elsewhere, DeNA director Kenji Kobayashi will host “Monetizing Social Games: DeNA’s Secrets for Success,” outlining the company’s core strategy for making money off of its social games. In this behind-the-scenes session, Kobayashi will provide an inside look at how the company develops and operates its titles to maximize sales, and maintain them as long-term services.

– Finally, “Everything You Need to Know about Facebook Ads: How Much do I Need to Pay to Get 1 Million Players to My Game?” will feature AdParlor CEO Hussein Fazal on the current state of the Facebook ad market. As one of the major players in the Facebook advertising industry, Hussein will help developers understand the key metrics they should keep an eye on to help them attract more players with their advertising dollars.

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GDC China 2011 Reveals Paul Barnett Keynote, Reminds On Early Reg

Paul-Barnett-and-his-painting.jpgToday, GDC China
organizers announced that outspoken industry veteran and BioWare Mythic
senior creative director Paul Barnett will host a keynote for the
show’s Online Game Development and Business track.

Barnett’s keynote, dubbed “Global Reach and Local Limits – Paul’s
Personal Truths about Online Game Development,” will examine now online
play has affected game design, focusing particularly on geographic
proximity, how culture matters, and “lessons from the old British
Empire.”

Barnett’s experience working with online games extends back to the 1990s, when he helped create the AOL-based MUD Legends of Terris. He later moved to Mythic Entertainment (which eventually became BioWare Mythic) to help design EA’s hardcore MMO Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning.

In addition to Barnett’s keynote, GDC China would like to point out
that the Early Registration deadline for the show is roughly 24 hours
away. Register for the show by October 19, 2011 to receive special
discounts on the various GDC China pass options.

GDC China will take place in just a few weeks, from November 12-14 at the Shanghai Exhibition Center, so make sure to register soon!

Over the last few weeks, GDC China has unveiled other exciting talks
from some of the industry’s top professionals, including talks from Canabalt‘s Adam Saltsman and mobile developer Booyah, sessions from Square Enix and Kabam, in-depth looks at Fruit Ninja and Doodle Jump, and much more.

For more details on the current lineup for the show, please check out GDC China’s official website.

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