GDC Online 2011 Reveals Game Career Seminar Sessions

gcs.jpgWith just two weeks to go until GDC Online, event organizers have detailed the show’s Game Career Seminar, a one day event targeted at students, graduates, and other individuals looking to build a career in the games industry.

Taking place Wednesday, October 12, the Game Career Seminar will allow attendees to network with industry professionals, and listen to HR representatives and top developers as they share their insights on what it takes to break into the games business.

This seminar will run as its own dedicated track alongside the Main Conference tracks at the show, which cover Business & Marketing, Customer Experience, Design, Production, and Programming, as well as a sponsored track on Monetization.

Unlike the other tracks at GDC Online, the Game Career Seminar is open to those who purchase the special one day reduced-price Game Career Seminar Pass, as well as All-Access Pass holders. Those who purchase Game Career Seminar passes will also gain access to a keynote from PopCap co-founder John Vechey. To register for a GDC Online pass, please visit the official GDC Online website.

Here are the all the sessions to be announced so far for GDC Online’s Game Career Seminar:

– As game education programs become more prevalent, it’s important that students understand the challenges and requirements these programs present. In “Surviving an Education at a Game School and Graduating Employable,” the Academy of Interactive Entertainment’s Christopher Erhardt will go over the essential facts on game education programs, covering the pros and cons of online versus brick-and-mortar classes, what employers look for in graduates, and more.

– As with most professional careers, creating a good resume is key to nailing your dream job in the games industry, and Obsidian Entertainment’s Jim Rivers will offer some useful tips and guidelines in, “What to Do Right on a Resume, Cover Letter and Website.” Rivers serves as Obsidian’s hiring manager — effectively making him one of the gatekeepers for new developers in the industry — and he will use his expertise to help attendees improve their resumes, cover letters, and websites.

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GDC Online Speaker Spotlight: BioWare’s Zoeller On Iterative MMO Content

georgz.jpgIn the latest in a series of interviews with notable speakers from this October’s GDC Online, BioWare Austin’s Georg Zoeller speaks out on the processes and tools his team uses to generate and tune MMO content in Star Wars: The Old Republic.

Originally hailing from Germany, Zoeller moved to Edmonton to join BioWare in 2003, and has since held a number of positions at the company, working on titles such as Neverwinter Nights, Jade Empire, Mass Effect, and Dragon Age: Origins. In 2009, Zoeller moved to BioWare Austin to serve as principal designer on The Old Republic.

Here, Zoeller provides an in-depth look at the BioWare’s production processes in anticipation of his talk, “Rapid MMO Content Iteration and Validation with Spatial Analysis in Star Wars: The Old Republic,” which will outline the various techniques the studio uses to test and validate the game’s content.

What would you say are the biggest challenges facing MMO content generation?

Achieving the required — and expected — volume of content without compromising quality. MMO players are pretty unforgiving when it comes to quality – you usually get one shot to get it right. Your launch sets the trajectory of where your game is headed and quality of content, even more than quantity is a major contributing factor to success of failure.

Content wise, these games are insanely large undertakings. For example, in Star Wars: The Old Republic, the Planet Alderaan, which is one of 17 planets in the game, holds more creatures than the entirety of Dragon Age: Origins, a game offering 60-80 hours in a single playthrough that took us almost than 5 years to create.

We have thousands of differently voiced characters in the game, all with dialogs and quests that not only need to be written, recorded, staged, scripted and animated, but also tested and validated — the most engaging quest isn’t going to keep a player around if it fails to work.

In order to make the creation and validation of that much content manageable, you not only need more people, you also need to be a lot smarter in your workflows and tools.

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GDC Online Adds Playdom, City Of Heroes, Cloud Gaming Talks

coh.jpgGDC Online has debuted several new sessions within the show’s Main Conference, featuring Playdom’s Raph Koster on the convergence of games and social media, NCsoft West on making City of Heroes free-to-play, and a panel of notable speakers on the future of cloud gaming.

Taking place Monday, October 10 through Thursday, October 13, 2011 at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, Texas, GDC Online continues as the leading worldwide event dedicated solely to discussing the development and business trends surrounding connected games — including casual titles, MMOs, virtual worlds, and social networking games.

This year’s Main Conference will include tracks on Business & Marketing, Customer Experience, Design, Production, and Programming, as well as a sponsored track on Monetization.

As seen in the event’s Schedule Builder, the following lectures are highlights from this year’s Main Conference:

– In the Customer Experience track, Playdom’s VP of creative design, Raph Koster, will host a lecture dubbed, “It’s All Games Now! How Games and Social Media are Converging.” Here, Koster will outline the “cross-pollination” between games and online services, explaining what this means for game developers and the future of connected gaming experiences.

– Also in the Customer Experience track, NCsoft’s Ross Borden details how the studio turned the subscription-based City of Heroes into a free-to-play game in, “From Spark to Success: How Customer Influence Revolutionized City of Heroes.” Along the way, Borden will detail the design and technical challenges involved with introducing a brand new business model to an existing online game.

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GDC Online Speaker Spotlight: Mary DeMarle On Storytelling In Deus Ex: HR

demarle.jpgIn the latest in a series of interviews with notable speakers from this October’s GDC Online, Eidos Montreal lead writer Mary DeMarle speaks out on the complexities and challenges she faced when working on the critically-acclaimed Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

DeMarle was responsible for the game’s storytelling and narrative, and was tasked with crafting a story that could play out in several ways based on a player’s actions.

Before joining Eidos Montreal, DeMarle worked on other titles such as Myst III: Exile, Myst IV: Revelation, Homeworld II, Dungeon Siege: Broken Sword, and the a number of titles in the Splinter Cell series.

Here, DeMarle offers a quick look into her writing process in anticipation of her GDC Online talk, “Building the Story-driven Experience of Deus Ex: Human Revolution,” which will provide an in-depth look at the robust, branching narrative of the recent cyberpunk shooter.

How did you ensure the game’s branching story paths would all coalesce into a cohesive narrative?

Creating a cohesive narrative in a game is never an easy task, especially when you decide to complicate it by enabling player decisions to result in multiple branching paths. The DX:HR production team was able to meet this challenge because of two crucial game design decisions that we made early on.

First, during our conception phase, the core creative team identified “story” as one of the important pillars in a Deus Ex experience. To ensure this pillar received the attention it needed, they then decided to create an in-house narrative design team as an integral part of the game design group. Writers were brought in during conception and present during preproduction to explain the story and cast light on specific story goals for all production departments. They didn’t dictate gameplay challenges, artistic or level designs, animations, or scripted events, but they worked with the people who did create these things on a daily basis, to ensure that every aspect of the game presented and/or reflected a cohesive narrative at all times.

The second decision made was to put choice and consequence front and center in the game’s design, meaning it had to infuse all aspects of Human Revolution, including its story line. This decision forced us to re-examine our pipelines and ultimately implement some kind of tool that could keep track of branching storylines. Both the tool and the processes we ended up using will be discussed more thoroughly during my GDC Online presentation.

How did you go about writing the game’s various story branches? Did you write all the paths first, did you look at player feedback for inspiration, etc?

My approach to writing a game story is to first plot it out conceptually in its entirety, and then break up the story details into varying layers of importance. To do this, I ask myself which details and/or story events are needed to understand the plot in its simplest form, and which details or events can be discovered optionally — through exploration or via alternate gameplay paths — to fill out the main plot and make the story richer. Once I know this, I can determine which story-telling vehicle needs to be used to convey each point; be it a forced dialog or cut scene, or a newspaper article or email. I then start writing the story in layers, dealing with all critical path pieces first.

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Neal Stephenson To Keynote GDC Online’s Game Narrative Summit

ns.jpgGDC Online 2011 organizers have announced that renowned writer Neal Stephenson will keynote the October show’s Game Narrative Summit, where he will take part in an on-stage Q&A with game journalist Geoff Keighley.

The keynote, titled “Music, Movies, Microcode, & High-Speed Pizza Delivery: A Conversation with Neal Stephenson,” will delve into a host of writing and game-related of topics, including Stephenson’s new novel REAMDE, which is set against the backdrop of the game industry. In addition to the keynote, Stephenson will host a special book signing elsewhere in the show (location and time to be determined).

Stephenson’s previous work includes novels such as Cryptonomicon, The Diamond Age, Zodiac, the three-volume The Baroque Cycle (Quicksilver, The Confusion, and The System of the World) and Snow Crash, which was TIME Magazine’s named one of the 100 all-time best English-language novels. He is known for exploring and redefining genres ranging from cyberpunk to the historical epic.

Keighley, who will host the Q&A, has spent more than half his life covering the video game business as a journalist, TV personality, and producer. Currently, he serves as host and executive producer of Spike TV’s Gametrailers TV, which is consistently the highest rated video games show on television. Keighley is also a freelance writer, whose work has appeared in publications such as Kotaku, Business 2.0, and Entertainment Weekly.

This keynote will take place within GDC Online’s ever-popular Game Narrative Summit, which includes numerous lectures, panels, and more from some of the industry’s most respected professionals — featuring speakers from Valve, BioWare Austin, Telltale Games, and more. In addition to the Game Narrative Summit, GDC Online will feature two additional Summits covering Smartphone & Tablet Games and Virtual Items, respectively.

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GDC Online 2011 Speaker Spotlight: Kabam’s Hitchens On Metrics-Driven Design

sh.jpgAs the first in a series of interviews with speakers from this October’s GDC Online in Austin, Kabam’s VP of product and platform services, Sheridan Hitchens, outlines the benefits of using metrics to guide design decisions for persistent online games.

By analyzing data gathered from its existing games and players, Hitchens says that Kabam can quickly and objectively identify problems and opportunities that arise, allowing the studio to update and develop its games more efficiently.

Prior to joining Kabam (developer of popular social games such as Kingdoms of Camelot and Edgeworld), Hitchens spent four years at casual game developer and publisher PlayFirst, where he oversaw the growth of the company’s community, multiplayer, and microtranscation platforms.

Before entering the game industry, he graduated from the University of Cambridge and earned an M.B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley – Walter A. Haas School of Business.

Here, Hitchens provides some insight into Kabam’s metrics-focused approach to game development, and offers a glimpse at the topics he will cover in his upcoming GDC Online session, “Data Driven: How Creating a Deeply Analytical Approach Drives Success.”

Why does Kabam embrace metrics so heavily? What benefits does this strategy offer?

I think as much as anything it’s a cultural norm that’s driven from the top; our CEO, COO, CMO, and Chief Product Officer all are very analytical. When you make a pitch, or provide a recommendation, you’re expected to have some level of data and analysis to back it up.

But there’s more at work than cultural or executive biases. In our view, metrics provide an objective view of performance across a range of functions. Carefully tracking a variety of metrics, enables us to establish measures of success, and alerts us to problems and opportunities quickly. Perhaps just as importantly, it reduces the amount of subjective, “I think/you think” debate that wastes time in meetings and in running a business.

What sort of data do you look at when making internal decisions at the company?

We tend to look at a wide range of data and not just the common acquisition, retention and monetization metrics from marketing and production. We’ll spend time looking at customer satisfaction data, ticket volume, even tech ops data to overlay onto our common game metrics to understand problems and identify opportunities.

We also conduct research to understand the continually shifting market; we survey our own players, survey the market, analyze market growth trends and so on.

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Voting Opens For Game Developers Choice Online Audience Award

gdconlineawards.jpgGame Developers Choice Online Awards organizers have announced that voting for the Game Developers Choice Online Audience Award is now open, encouraging online game fans to vote for their favorite persistent online game from now until 12:00 PT on September 22.

Typically, the winners at the Game Developers Choice Online Awards are chosen by the International Choice Award Network’s (ICAN) online division, a group comprised of 400 specially picked, leading game industry creators from the foremost online game companies.

The Audience Award, however, allows anyone to vote for their favorite currently-operating persistent online game, whether it be a subscription MMO, a free-to-play web game, a social network title, or anything else.

To vote, game players should simply enter the name of the game and a valid email address at the Game Developers Choice Online Awards website, and verify their vote via email.

The winner of the Audience Award will be revealed alongside the other award winners at the second annual Game Developers Choice Online Awards, which will run alongside GDC Online in Austin, Texas on the evening of Wednesday, October 12th.

Returning to host the Choice Online Awards this year is Mike Goslin of Mindspark Interactive Network, an online game veteran with experience working with popular virtual worlds including Zwinky.com, Toontown Online, and more.

In addition to the Audience Award, event organizers recently revealed the list of finalists for this year’s ceremony, honoring games such as Riot Games’ popular League of Legends, Zynga’s FrontierVille, and Mojang’s indie powerhouse Minecraft.

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GDC Online Debuts First Sessions For Smartphone & Tablet Games Summit

wwf.jpgGDC Online has revealed new sessions within the Austin show’s Smartphone & Tablet Games Summit, including a look at Zynga’s Words With Friends studio, a series of mini-lectures on breaking into Asian markets, and a dual postmortem on Limbic Software’s Nuts! and Zombie Gunship.

Taking place Monday, October 10 through Thursday, October 13, 2011 at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, Texas, GDC Online continues as the leading worldwide event dedicated solely to discussing the development and business trends surrounding connected games — including casual titles, MMOs, virtual worlds, and social networking games.

This year, the show will host three specialized Summits in addition to the traditional Main Conference, with topics covering Game Narrative, Virtual Items, and Smartphone & Tablet Games.

The following are among the first talks to be revealed within GDC Online’s Smartphone & Tablet Games Summit:

– In “Words With Friends: Building and Growing a Game on the Top of the Charts,” Vijay Thakkar of the Zynga subsidiary Zynga With Friends will outline the growth and evolution of the popular With Friends series (which includes Words With Friends, Hanging With Friends, and more). Thakkar will explain the inner workings of the studio’s tech, and will point out “the trials and tribulations of multi-platform, cross-team development.”

– Elsewhere, a handful of mobile company executives from ngmoco, Papaya Mobile, and Gamevil will discuss how to find success in Asian markets in “International Micro-Talks: Developing and Distributing Games for Japan, China and Korea.” In this series of micro-talks, the speakers will each reflect on their experience in the mobile space to help developers overcome the challenges that come with breaking into these ever-growing markets.

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GDC Online Reveals All-Day Blizzard, Google, Unity Tutorials

wowcata.jpgGDC Online organizers have revealed full-day sponsored events for the October show in Austin, including Google, Unity Technologies, and an unprecedented Blizzard writing/design showcase.

Taking place Monday, October 10 through Thursday, October 13, 2011 at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, Texas, GDC Online continues as the leading worldwide event dedicated solely to discussing the development and business trends surrounding connected games — including casual titles, MMOs, virtual worlds, and social networking games.

These full-day events will run alongside the show’s Main Conference, and will offer a comprehensive look at the design and programming philosophies of these three powerhouse companies.

As seen in the event’s Schedule Builder, the following are three sponsored events to be held at GDC Online 2011.

– As part of the Design track, World of Warcraft studio Blizzard Entertainment will host a GDC Online-exclusive special one-off tutorial aimed at designers and writers, “The War of Worldcraft: Developing Franchise Narrative in the Transmedia Age.”

The full day of content sees Blizzard Entertainment’s writers and story developers, “the creative minds behind Diablo, StarCraft, and Warcraft“, focusing on various elements of the company’s hit franchises, and kicked off by an introduction from the company’s VP of creative direction Chris Metzen.

Other sessions include a panel on the “developmental payoff of creating narrative content in ancillary and or/licensed media” from the company’s Micky Neilson & James Waugh, and a two-part design masterclass from World Of Warcraft‘s lead quest designer Dave Kosak.

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GDC Online Reveals Settlers Online, Mind Candy, Venture Capital Talks

Settlers.jpgGDC Online has unveiled notable new sessions for the upcoming October show, now featuring The Settlers Online, Mind Candy on the importance of daily content updates, and how to best raise venture capital.

Taking place Monday, October 10 through Thursday, October 13, 2011 at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, Texas, GDC Online continues as the leading worldwide event dedicated solely to discussing the development and business trends surrounding connected games — including casual titles, MMOs, virtual worlds, and social networking games.

This year’s Main Conference will include tracks on Business & Marketing, Customer Experience, Design, Production, and Programming, as well as a sponsored track on Monetization.

As seen in the event’s Schedule Builder, the following lectures are highlights from this year’s Main Conference:

– In the show’s Production track, Ubisoft Blue Byte’s head of production, Christopher Schmitz, and head of live operation, Benedikt Grindel, will look back at the development of The Settlers Online in a session titled, “Settlers Online: Moving a Traditional European Boxed Game to a Worldwide Free to Play MMO Experience.” Here, the pair will examine the challenges and lessons learned from taking producing and managing this popular European online game.

– Over in the Customer Experience track, community editor Megan Bell of Mind Candy will outline the benefits of delivering daily content updates to users in “Do the Math: True Value of Fresh Daily Content.” Drawing examples from Mind Candy’s own hit title Moshi Monsters, Bell will offer data that shows how regular updates benefit an online game.

– Elsewhere, in the Business and Marketing track, a panel of company executives will host a panel dubbed, “Raising Capital for Your New Venture,” offering tips and insight on how to attract investments for a new company or project. Speakers at the panel include Fred Schmidt (Portalarium), Chris Chung (Motiga), Tim Chang (Norwest Venture Partners) and Cindy Armstrong (Electric Bat Interactive), all of whom will offer their own thoughts on what it takes to start your own venture.

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