GDC Online opens call for submissions, debuts new advisors, summits

GDC Online_simple logo.gifOrganizers of the 10th annual GDC Online have announced that the call for submissions for this October’s show is now open through midnight PT on May 2. As in previous years, the show is looking to coordinate lectures, panels, tutorials, and roundtables that cover pressing topics relating to online game creation and beyond.

GDC Online, which will take place October 9-11, 2012 at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, TX, focuses on development of connected games, including social network titles, free-to-play web games, kid-friendly online titles, and large-scale MMOs.

Submissions should address the most pertinent development challenges for online and connected games with submissions related to the following tracks: Business & Marketing, Design, Customer Experience, Production and Programming.

In addition, GDC Online welcomes new members to its advisory board this year. Bill Dalton, technical director at Zenimax Online, community expert Valerie Massey, iWin vice president Laralyn McWilliams and Zynga principal software engineer Robert Zubek will all join the event’s board for 2012.

The call for submissions is also open for the standalone summits at GDC Online 2012, which this year includes the return of the ever-popular Game Narrative Summit and the Smartphone & Tablet Games Summit, alongside two new summits: the Game Dev Start-Up Summit and the Gamification Day.

The new Game Dev Start-Up Summit presents a comprehensive step-by-step look at the issues, challenges, and realities of a new game studio as it forms and gets off the ground. The growth of social, online, free to play, and other niches and genres have created unprecedented opportunity for entrepreneurs. This one-day program will identify the challenges and arm attendees with knowledge that can, together with creativity and passion, help new ventures succeed.

Attorney Jim Charne will serve as the advisor for the Game Dev Start-Up Summit. Charne has provided legal representation for clients in all phases of the computer software and video game industry since the mid-1980s, and has been chair of the Legal and Business tutorial at the Game Developers Conference since 1998.

The new Gamification Day at GDC Online will discuss the debatable and sometimes problematic process of building game-like incentives into non-game applications, to address issues like productivity, health, marketing, and customer engagement. The day-long program will bring fresh discussions about the integration points between games and technology and highlight inspired, successful case studies from today’s forward-thinking businesses.

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The 25 Most Memorable Quotes From GDC Online 2011

gdco11.jpg[Here, Gamasutra news editor Frank Cifaldi looks back on last week’s GDC Online and presents some of the most notable quotes from the Austin-based show.]

Last week’s record-breaking GDC Online conference in Austin, Texas saw so much insight, knowledge, advice, and discussion that even the most ardent attendee missed a wealth of valuable information.

While we couldn’t have possibly given proper attention to all 145 lectures, Gamasutra’s extensive coverage is a valuable resource for those who couldn’t make it out to the show last week.

We’ve rounded up a few of our favorite quotes from the show — part of the UBM TechWeb Game Network. Our 25 favorites are presented below, in no particular order.

“A few Kotaku articles and IGN front pages do not make a hit game.”

-BioWare San Francisco’s Ethan Levy, from an insightful and open talk about how the studio’s social game Dragon Age Legends attracted a lot of temporary Facebook likes, yet wasn’t a big hit.

“That’s bullshit. Are we going to start hiring 10 year old kids to make games for 10 year old kids?”

-Veteran MMO developer and former Free Realms creative lead Laralyn McWilliams (who recently joined iWin) discusses the flaw in thinking the only path to attracting more female gamers is to hire more female developers. Instead, she says, stop making games for yourself and learn to give your audience what it needs.

“What they’re doing looks a lot more like e-commerce than game design.”

-EA Playfish’s Tom Mapham on how analysts and product managers are running usability tests and market research on over a terabyte of daily data generated by players of The Sims Social.

“We like living here because we’re wizards!”

-Veteran MMO developer and current Playdom VP of creative design Raph Koster describing game development is like a fairytale. His Thursday talk encouraged the game dev wizards in attendance to embrace their powers and take back control instead of constantly trying to keep up with the real world.

“A community is not a customer.”

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GDC Online 2011 Confirms Record Attendance, Return In 2012

gdco2011.jpgOrganizers of the 2011 Game Developers Conference Online, which concluded on Thursday, October 13 in Austin, Texas, have announced confirmed attendance numbers of 3,350, growth of 12 percent over last year’s event and an all-time high.

This year’s GDC Online, organized by the UBM TechWeb Game Network (which also owns sister site Gamasutra) featured more than 145 lectures, panels, keynotes and roundtable discussions presented by over 225 speakers, and a bustling expo floor with over 100 exhibitors and sponsors.

Gamasutra has been covering the event in full this week, including a keynote from PopCap co-founder John Vechey, as well as signature Main Conference talks from design veteran Raph Koster and from Laralyn McWilliams.

In addition, the show’s Summits included a well-attended Virtual Items Summit, a Smartphone & Tablet Gaming Summit, and the much appreciated Game Narrative Summit, which featured a keynote Q&A with notable game-influenced author Neal Stephenson.

Pictures of the event are available at the official Game Developers Conference Flickr page, with lecture slides and video from GDC Online set to debut on the GDC Vault website in the weeks following the show, in both free and member-based tiers.

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GDC Online, Web Wise Kids Team For Game Promoting Online Child Safety

As the Game Developers Conference Online
event kicks off in Austin, TX this week, the event’s parent
organization, the UBM TechWeb Game Network
debuts a browser-based game commissioned for Web Wise Kids (WWK), a non-profit company for the benefit of child safety.

The free title is called Passing The Ball and is created by notable indie game creator Gregory Weir (The Majesty Of Colors). It’s an action game that follows a parent and their child as they learn an important lesson about working together.

Using generative music and randomized opponents, the game is currently available on the official GDC Online website, and will be available on multiple worldwide online game sites in the near future.

The message conveyed by Passing The Ball is pertinent to many of
the online game creators attending this week’s leading online game show
in Texas. These developers consider the best ways to encourage child
safety for younger players of their immensely popular games.

The title is also designed to be played by parents and children who may
be mindful of their role in protection from injurious online content,
and how Web Wise Kids might help them with this.

Passing The Ball includes a donation link
to Web Wise Kids, and marks the first advocacy game commissioned by the
UBM TechWeb Game Network, as it recognizes the importance of video
games in promulgating social messages.

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GDC Online Speaker Spotlight: BioWare’s Levy Talks Dragon Age: Legends

Ravi.jpgBioWare San Francisco producer Ethan Levy recently looked back on the Google+ and Facebook-based Dragon Age Legends, noting that brand recognition, core-focused gameplay, and some key marketing tactics helped the game find a dedicated audience on social platforms.

The game launched this March alongside Dragon Age II, and serves as a turn-based spinoff of the mainline Dragon Age series. As of this writing, Dragon Age Legends sees more than 220,000 monthly active users, according to AppData.

Levy played a key role in the game’s creation from day one, and in fact was the first employee to join the BioWare San Francisco studio (formerly known as EA2D). Previously, he served as lead producer on the game’s predecessor, Flash game Dragon Age Journeys, and has experience working at casual game poublishers like PlayFirst and iWin.

At next week’s GDC Online in Austin, Texas, Levy will host a metrics-heavy talk titled, “Dragon Age Legends‘ Road to 100k Likes,” which will go over the successes and lessons learned for the game’s pre and post launch marketing strategy.

In this interview, Levy speaks out on some of the other key factors that contributed to Dragon Age Legends‘ success, and discusses the ways in which social games can reach out to core players.

What factors do you think most contributed to Dragon Age Legends‘ success?

I would cite two key factors in contributing to Dragon Age Legends‘ success. The first is being tied to a big brand in Dragon Age, and having strong support from the core franchise owners in BioWare’s Edmonton studio. Being closely tied to the HD game’s release and having custom items players could earn in Dragon Age II by playing Dragon Age Legends was a key part of our early momentum, and being part of the Dragon Age brand meant we received a lot more notice from fans and press then if we were just some startup releasing “Dragon Puncher” on Facebook.

The second factor I would cite is the game’s core gameplay loop. At the time we released Legends, and still to this date, few social network games feature what a core gamer would recognize as gameplay. Many social network games more closely resemble activities or addiction machines in the eyes of gamers. By having a strong gameplay loop with fun and meaningful combat, we were able to create a game that was accepted by BioWare and Dragon Age fans as authentic.

What were some of the marketing tactics you employed for Dragon Age Legends? Which ones did you find most useful?

Pre-launch, we employed some tried and true tactics from the console marketing world. This included press releases, a cinematic trailer, a closed beta program with beta key programs on major enthusiast outlets, email marketing and cross promotion with other EA games and communication channels.

Of these, we were especially happy with the results of the closed beta program, which helped drive a lot of excitement and awareness of Legends. The cross-promotional and email marketing efforts driven by EA’s Play4Free publishing group have also been a bright spot for Legends, as they have allowed us to derive a lot of value from EA’s existing player base.

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Reminder: GDC Online Offers Free Expo Passes To Students, Professionals

gdco11.jpgWith the Austin-based GDC Online just days away, event organizers have issued a reminder that the show is offering free Expo Passes to students as well as professionals and job seekers in the games and tech industries.

This offer comes as part of GDC Online’s new outreach programs to the local Austin and Texas community, whether it be to larger tech companies in Austin and elsewhere, or local students interested in getting into the video game industry.

These programs are open to students and game & tech professionals/jobseekers, respectively, and interested parties can apply online via the Student Outreach and Games & Tech pages on the official GDC website.

For those interested in applying for a free GDC Online Expo Pass, here are some of the notable events you will be able check out at the show:

– Perhaps most significantly, Expo Pass holders gain access to GDC Online’s Expo Floor on Tuesday and Wednesday, October 11th and 12th, which will host a number of the most influential companies from all realms of the industry.

The Expo Floor is a great place to make new connections and learn more about the latest tools and techniques used in game development. For a full list of Expo Floor exhibitors, check out the official GDC Online website.

– Expo Pass holders can also visit the Expo Networking Lounge — located on the show floor itself — or attend the GDC Online Opening Party and the GDC Online Happy Hour, all of which are great opportunities to rub elbows with indies, social game devs, and traditional game developers.

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GDC Online Reveals Sims Social, Ankama Talks, Reminds On Deadline

wakfu.jpgWith less than a week to go before GDC Online, show organizers added a talk for the breakout Sims Social from EA, also highlighting Dofus creator Ankama and one day to go until the pre-show registration deadline.

GDC Online will take place next week, from Monday, October 10 through Thursday, October 13 at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, Texas, and these talks come from throughout the show’s various tracks and Summits, with nearly 150 sessions and 230 speakers on tap.

Show organizers would also like to point out that attendees can save up to 25 percent on a show pass by pre-registering before midnight EDT on October 7. In addition, students and industry professionals can receive free Expo Passes to the show through GDC Online’s Student Outreach and Games & Tech programs.

Here are the newest sessions to be revealed for the show:

– As part of the GDC Virtual Items Summit, EA Playfish executive producer Tom Mapham will host, “The Sims Social: Deepening Interaction with the World’s Most Unpredictable Social Game.” Here, he will discuss the game’s highly-engaged user base, and will outline the monetization techniques and design decisions that helped encourage early adoption.

– In the Main Conference’s Customer Experience track, David Calvo of Ankama will discuss key transmedia strategies in, “Chaos in Motion: Transmedia as a Living Community Experience.” Using examples from Ankama’s own transmedia properties like Wakfu and Dofus, Calvo will point to the company’s successes and lessons learned, noting the importance of entertainment that extends beyond video games.

– Finally, new details on the sponsored “Building Iconic Online Games Tutorial Day” from GameSpy have been revealed. The event will open with a preview of Warm Gun from Emotional Robots and Dungeon Defenders: Second Wave from Trendy Entertainment, both of which use GameSpy Technologies for their online features on smartphones.

Following the event’s opening session is a talk with author Ernest Cline on his new novel, Ready Player One, which is set within the an MMO and provides a unique perspective on the structure and implications of online entertainment.

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GDC Online Debuts Bissell, Broken Sword, Co-Op Talks In Game Narrative Summit

BrokenSword.jpgWith GDC Online just a week away, show organizers have debuted several new lectures in the show’s Game Narrative Summit, featuring talks on the 10 commandments of game writing, top industry reporters on innovation in interactive storytelling, tips on writing co-op campaigns, and much more.

Now in its sixth year, the Game Narrative Summit will return to the Austin-based conference with a broad range of sessions on the art of game writing, with lectures from experienced writers, panels with industry professionals, and in-depth interactive workshops for developers of all skill levels.

The Game Narrative Summit will run alongside GDC Online’s Main Conference for the first two days of the four-day conference, from Monday, October 11 through Tuesday, October 12 at the Austin Convention Center.

Here are the latest sessions to be announced for the Game Narrative Summit:

– In “The Ten Commandments of Good Video-game Storytelling,” Tom Bissell, author of Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter, and Immaterial co-founder and consultant Rob Auten will go over the key principals for effective game writing, all modeled on the biblical ten commandments.

– Elsewhere, Carbine Studios senior writer Cory Herndon will host “TweetQuest: Telling Stories in 140-Character Chunks,” which will outline how Carbine’s upcoming MMO WildStar uses art, design, audio, and a 140 character text limit to convey key story details to the player.

– In “Microtalks: 6 Critics’ Views on Great Gamewriting,” six top games reporters will talk about what they look for in game narratives, and where they anticipate innovation in the future. Speakers include Hit Detection’s N’Gai Croal, CBS Interactive’s John Davison, Gamasutra’s own Leigh Alexander, among others.

Broken Sword creator and Revolution Software co-founder Charles Cecil will host a session dubbed “Blurring Fact and Fiction: Adventures in Writing Games that Draw on Historical Themes,” in which he will examine how writers can draw from historical events to create interesting stories and gameplay opportunities.

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GDC Speaker Spotlight: Telltale’s Dave Grossman On Authorial Control

DGman.jpgTelltale Games’ director of design and adventure game veteran Dave Grossman recently shared his thoughts on player choice in game design, noting that designers need to strike a balance between complete player autonomy and complete authorial control.

Grossman has more than 22 years of experience writing, designing, and directing story-centric games, including classic LucasArts titles such as The Secret of Monkey Island and Day of the Tentacle, and is well-practiced in telling stories through games.

At next month’s GDC Online, Grossman will host a lecture in the Game Narrative Summit dubbed, “The Hand of Fate: Authorial Voice in Game Design,” in which he will discuss the relationship between the developer and player when crafting interactive stories.

In anticipation of his talk, Grossman spoke out on the importance of balancing player freedom and creative control, and what implications this balance can have on game design.

What sort of tactics to you use to convey a story when players have control over the pacing and flow of a game experience?

Dave Grossman: Writers in other media use pacing and sequence of events to great effect, and it can be kind of disorienting to work in games, where a lot of control over those things is given to the player. Fortunately, there are plenty of other tools one can apply to create drama, tension, and story, including things you’d find in film like sound design, lighting, and camera work, and some elements that are particular to games, like play mechanics and the overall structure of challenge and reward.

Also, it’s worth noting that players don’t generally have absolute control over pacing and flow — the game can exert influence on those as well, maybe a little, maybe a lot, and how a designer arranges that is part of what I mean when I’m talking about authorial voice.

How do you balance the control of the authorial voice with player autonomy?

DG: Carefully, I hope. We’re talking about interactive media, so both the author and the player (or players) need to take control of some aspects of the experience. The challenge for the designer is to figure out which things to control strongly, and which not to. Some of the tools available are inherently subtle, some are not, but all are useful in various contexts.

The balance is probably not unlike being a parent, where you typically want to establish some clear rules, provide opportunities and context, and intervene where necessary, but if you try to manage your child’s actions too closely, you’ll both go nuts.

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GDC Online Reveals New Combat Arms, Firefall, Playdom, Rift Sessions

firefall.jpgWith GDC Online just around the corner, event organizers have debuted eight new lectures for the October show, with session topics ranging from monetization strategies in Firefall and Combat Arms, to breaking into Asian mobile markets, to the capabilities of Sony’s PlayStation Vita.

GDC Online will take place next month, from October 10 through October 13 at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, Texas, and these talks come from throughout GDC Online’s numerous tracks and Summits, with nearly 150 sessions and 230 speakers on tap.

Many of these new talks fall within the show’s Main Conference, which features tracks covering Business & Marketing, Customer Experience, Design, Production, and Programming, as well as a sponsored track on Monetization.

The show also includes three dedicated Summits, which offer specialized talks covering Smartphone & Tablet Games, Virtual Items, and Game Narrative.

Here are the newest sessions to be revealed for the show:

– In the GDC Virtual Items Summit, Mark Kern (Blizzard veteran and founder and CEO of Red 5 Studios) will host “Firefall – Free2Play Reborn,” a session that examines the monetization techniques Kern’s studio will use for its upcoming persistent online shooter (pictured).

– Another lecture in the GDC Virtual Items Summit, “Combat Arms Postmortem: The Art of Selling Guns,” will feature Nexon America managing producer Jungsoo Lee, as he explains how the company completely re-vamped the monetization model for its popular shooter Combat Arms when bringing the title to the U.S.

– As part of the Smartphone & Tablet Games Summit, a panel of family-focused industry experts will host, “Kids, Tablets and Family: Social Gameplay at Home,” which will look at the ways in which tablets and other mobile devices are changing the ways families play and enjoy media together.

– The Business & Marketing track will feature “Rift: Surviving and Thriving in Today’s MMO Climate,” in which Trion Worlds executive producer Scott Hartsman will look back on the studio’s experience with Rift to offer tips on creating a successful MMO in today’s competitive market.

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