GDC Spotlight Interviews: Unity, Unreal, and Imagination Technologies

| February 2016

In This Issue:

  • Unity – As Unity firms up their updates to Unity 5, we spoke with Head of Global Communications Marcos Sanchez, ahead of the company’s developer day and talks at the Game Developers Conference 2016.
  • Unreal – The Unreal house talks VR, new features, and increasing mobile support, as Epic gears up for their Developer Day and VRDC at the Game Developers Conference 2016.
  • Imagination Technologies – As the renowned PowerVR chipmaker Imagination Technologies readies itself for GDC, we spoke to Senior Marketing Communications Director David Harold about VR, Kickstarting hardware, and free software suites.

Unity Technologies
David Helgason
Marcos Sanchez
Head of Global Communications

As Unity firms up their updates to Unity 5, we spoke with Head of Global Communications Marcos Sanchez, ahead of the company’s developer day and talks at GDC.

Q: First off, give us a preview of your developer day! What subjects will you be covering?

Marcos Sanchez: The Unity Developer Day, held March 15 from 10:00am-5:00pm PT at Moscone West, will bring together hundreds of Unity developers, executives, and influencers to share best practices and learn how to get the most out of the Unity engine. The event will cover a broad range of topics and provide guidance on how to use various Unity tools and services, including building VR experiences, targeting WebGL, optimizing team work with Cloud Build, monetizing with Ads & IAP, among many others.

Q: Unity 5 has had a lot of significant upgrades, from improved shader rendering, to improved 2D support. What are some features that developers might not be as aware of?

Marcos Sanchez: Unity’s latest version, 5.3, has added a variety of new updates and features, ranging from new multi-scene editing tools and automated unit testing, to new VR improvements and samples. We are building a true game development platform and engine, and have made great strides to accommodate all types of games and experiences. And as this is a continuous pace of innovation, we will have much more in store in the coming months, such as new graphics rendering, WebGL improvements, and the integration of in-app purchases. More information on our upcoming tools and features can be found on the Unity roadmap.

Q: Now that AppleTV is supported, how many platforms does Unity deploy to? How important is ease of porting to multiple platforms to Unity’s success?

Marcos Sanchez: Unity now supports 24 platforms, including iOS, Android, Windows, Windows Phone 8, Windows Store Apps, Tizen, Mac, Linux/Steam OS, Web Player, WebGL, PS3, PS4, PSVita, XboxOne, Xbox360, WiiU, Android TV, Samsung SMART TV, Apple TV, Oculus Rift, Gear VR, Microsoft HoloLens, Playstation VR, Universal Windows Platform, and the New Nintendo 3DS.

Mulitplatform support is at the heart of Unity’s engine, and is a critical component of our success. On Unity, developers can easily create multiple builds and publish across platforms. Using Unity’s Cloud Build they can automate the process to create the build for multiple platforms, allowing them to save significant time and money and focus on developing the best game or experience possible.

Q: Unity 5 comes with a lot more animation tools than in the past. How do these make developers’ lives easier?

Marcos Sanchez: Unity 5 took game creation to a new level and includes more features than ever. Our mission is to democratize development and make it easier to make great content, and many of the features we’ve introduced in Unity 5 do just that. That includes new features – like Physically Based Shading and Global Illumination – that allow developers to create the visually enticing experiences consumer crave. A great example of what’s possible now is The Blacksmith, a recent demo developed by Unity that showcases the advanced graphics features that come with Unity 5. These tools allow developers to create impactful games and experiences faster and cheaper than ever before.

Q: How much has developer feedback affected Unity 5’s updates as it moves forward? Any examples?

Marcos Sanchez: Unity wouldn’t exist without the developer community, and we are always looking to improve our product, so dev feedback plays a large role in the tools and features we focus on.

Unity releases regular updates to respond quickly to user feedback. And the community participate via our forum and feedback site.

We have teams here at Unity that focus solely on engaging developers and responding to feedback, and we always make an effort to incorporate their thoughts into future updates. Our goal is to create a full suite of tools that serves all developer needs, so we encourage the community to reach out with any questions, thoughts or concerns.

Imagination Technologies

Nick Whiting
Nick Whiting
Technical Director
Ray Davis
Ray Davis
Studio Manager

The Unreal house talks VR, new features, and increasing mobile support, as Epic gears up for their Developer Day and VRDC at the Game Developers Conference 2016. We spoke with Technical Director Nick Whiting and Studio Manager Ray Davis to get the scoop.


Q:How is UE4 supporting VR?

Nick Whiting: UE4 has been in the VR space since 2013, when the first Oculus HD prototype set was unveiled with an interactive version of our Elemental demo at E3. Since then, we’ve evolved as the VR space has evolved, and support all the major platforms, like Oculus, HTC Vive, PlayStation VR, and Samsung Gear VR out of the box. VR is a technically challenging platform, and our primary goal is to worry about those technical issues, so that content creators can focus on solving the myriad design challenges of the first new medium to come along in a very long time. To do that, we make sure that using UE4 for VR is simple, and works the same across all of the platforms out there. Make your content once and use that same content on the different devices!

In order to get ready for what’s next in VR, we’ve been investing a lot of time in improving our rendering performance to further raise the bar for visuals. We’ve recently used Bullet Train to push the limits of what the engine can do in VR, and out of that came some huge performance gains in our renderer. We have even more in store, and are working hard with all of the VR platform creators and graphics card manufacturers in order to make sure that anyone can use UE4 to make great VR content.

Q: How have Blueprints evolved over the last few months? We’ve seen more new developers and non-technical designers using them to create experiences with less of a programmer ask.

Nick Whiting: Blueprints have come a long way recently. Originally when we were just starting out with UE4 and designing the Blueprint visual scripting system, we weren’t expecting people to make entire games with them! Today, all of Epic’s internal projects make heavy use of Blueprints. In fact, all of our VR content is entirely Blueprint-based! We do that so that engineers and designers have a common language to speak; when everyone can contribute to prototyping and implementation, games can be much more interactive and alive than previously possible. Because we’ve gone so broad with our usage of Blueprints, our efforts for the past few months have been focused on squeezing more and more performance out of them by converting them from script code into C++ code. That allows them to run super fast on all platforms, while maintaining the democratized workflow that’s become such a big part of our game making process.

Q: UE4 works great on the mobile platforms it supports – when will we see more phones supported by the engine?

Ray Davis: With each update to Unreal Engine comes improvements to mobile compatibility, performance, and additional features to continually broaden the set of devices that developers can target. In the last release of UE4 we added several scalability settings which allows developers to automatically scale down their content to still maintain great performance. This allows a project to run beautifully on a Galaxy S6 Edge alongside a much older device such as a Galaxy S3, for example. We’re also working closely with the teams driving the next generation of mobile graphics, primarily Apple’s efforts around Metal, as well as the OpenGL ES successor Vulkan for Android devices. This effort, along with close partnerships with mobile GPU manufacturers, will ensure that UE4 always supports the latest mobile platforms for quality game development.

Q: What do you want developers to take away from your Developer Day at GDC? What are the big points?

Nick Whiting: For VR, we strongly believe that sharing is the best way to make sure VR is truly the revolution that we want it to be. That’s why we’re so open with sharing not only our successes — which we roll right into UE4 for everyone to take advantage of — but also what didn’t work out. We are all invested in VR succeeding, and the best way to do that is to help others. Thanks to UE4’s open source model, it makes sharing our advancements much easier and quicker.


David Harold
David Harold, Senior Marketing Communications Director

As the renowned PowerVR chipmaker Imagination Technologies readies itself for GDC, we spoke to Senior Marketing Communications Director David Harold about VR, Kickstarting hardware, and free software suites.


Q: Imagination Technologies has a Developer Day at GDC. We know you primarily as a technology R&D house – what will the company be talking about during your Developer Day?

David Harold: Technology, sure. But crucially how it affects developers. From what you need to be prepared for, like ray tracing and the new Vulkan API from Khronos, through to how to code to get the best from the technology in new devices. For example we have a great session on SPIR-V, the intermediate Vulkan coding language. Plus, as ever, we’ll have some cools guests, including EPIC and Codeplay.

Imagination Technologies has a 20 year history in “making worlds better” by creating the revolutionary PowerVR GPU family, which has been used in many arcade, console, OTT, tablet and mobile gaming platforms.

Q: How does your hardware suite scale for developers who might want to create something more custom, like a VR headset or a kickstarted micro console?

David Harold: Well for VR we have everything you need in order to split the display and make sure the images work for the eyes with a decent refresh and low latency. That’s the fundamental bits you have to get right. We are in lots of VR helmets coming through in 2016, and because PowerVR can deliver good performance at low cost a lot of those will be very mainstream devices. You’ll be able to see some at our booth in the GDC Expo Hall.

For things like Kickstarter we actually have a part of our business now, IMG Systems, that can help those people get into production and make sure they have a solid product. The thing that kills Kickstarter companies isn’t getting up front interest, it’s when they’ve made the hardware and a couple of months later it all gets returned because the quality wasn’t there. Imagination, which has been doing high volume consumer grade manufacturing for decades, can really help there.

Q: You offer support for developers working on PowerVR-enabled mobile devices. Which are these, and how can you help?

David Harold: My gosh! The internet is big right so we have space to list them all?? PowerVR has shipped in billions of devices across iOS, Android, Windows, and more. We are in numerous handsets, tablets and OTT boxes today – as well as some TVs. Hundreds of devices shipping. In terms of how we help, we have a great team in-house who work very closely with the engine companies, so that for most developers the work of optimizing for PowerVR has already been done at the engine level.

However, we also have an amazing tool chain, which we give away for free. How can it be free? Well, we make our money from hardware sales, and we know there won’t be hardware sales without great content, so we do everything we can to enable that. Add to all that our education program which includes our IDC and online events, our forums, as well as in-house teaching for larger companies, and you have a really world class support program.

Q: Seriously, though, can we get a new PowerVR chip to make the Dreamcast 2?

David Harold: Okay, let’s be serious about it then. We have GPU IP that is highly scalable and would be ideal for a console. We’re in a current handheld console – PS Vita – as well as in the three top OTT boxes with gaming capabilities from the industry giants. So we have some play in the space. However, with our hybrid ray tracing technology we have what I believe is the technology that can set a bold console maker well ahead of the competition. So now we have the question: who is ready to be different? To have games which actually look different from the competition in real ways, not just a few frames faster or with less blur. And to have technology that sets artists free from a lot of the drudgery, and lets them focus on creativity. We’ll see, but I think there’s a decent chance that someone will have the nerve to make that step before too long.

GDC Spotlight Interviews: Amazon Apps & Services, Biba and PlayPower

| March 2015

In This Issue:

  • Amazon – Corey Badcock, head of developer evangelism at Amazon Apps & Services, reveals some of the highlights of Amazon’s overview of the Amazon Devices and Services for Game Developers talk at GDC SF 2015, and why the conference is such an important part of the company’s marketing strategy.
  • Biba – Matt Toner, president of Biba, chats about the process of blending digital games with real-world play, about how developers can get in touch to help create Biba games, and about the two talks the company will be giving at GDC SF 2015.

Unity Technologies
David Helgason
Corey Badcock, head of developer evangelism, Amazon Apps & Services

Corey Badcock, head of developer evangelism at Amazon Apps & Services, reveals some of the highlights of Amazon’s overview of the Amazon Devices and Services for Game Developers talk at GDC SF 2015, and why the conference is such an important part of the company’s marketing strategy.

Q: Corey, at GDC SF 2015 on Tuesday, March 3rd at 10 AM, Amazon is presenting “An Overview of the Amazon Devices and Services for Game Developers.” What do you expect will be the highlight of that talk by David Isbitski? What new information is he planning to unveil that developers may not be familiar with?

COREY BADCOCK: We’re excited to be hosting an Amazon Appstore Developer Day at GDC for the second year in a row. A lot has changed since last year — we introduced Fire TV last April, and it quickly became the best-selling streaming media box on Amazon. In June, we launched Fire Phone and announced that the Amazon Appstore would be preloaded on BlackBerry devices. Then, in September, we launched our next generation of Fire tablets, and in October, we introduced Fire TV Stick. If you add all of that together, it’s quite the expansion in less than a year. We’re excited to talk to developers about the new customers they can reach on these devices and in the Amazon Appstore.

Q: You have over 25 game-related jobs opportunities listed on your website. Summarize for me what sort of people you’re looking for and why should developers be interested in applying.

BADCOCK:  We want people who are passionate about games to come and work at Amazon, and I think we offer a diverse set of opportunities for candidates. We are always on the lookout for new talent to join our teams in multiple roles. All of Amazon’s open positions are available for candidates to apply at our Web site.

Q: Amazon is sponsoring a full Developer Day at GDC SF 2015. Why should developers want to attend and what will be some of the takeaways?

BADCOCK: I think there’s a little bit of something for everyone at our Amazon Appstore Developer Day. If you’ve already got a game and you’re looking for ways to reach new customers, we have a session that details how to easily optimize your existing Unity game for Fire TV. We’re also really excited to have Twitch join us to talk about how game developers can reach new customers with Twitch. With over 100 million visitors a month, Twitch is a great opportunity for developers. We’re also doing a session on how to evolve players into fans based on what we’ve learned from working with the Top 50 game developers in the world. With all this, if you have an existing game and you want to reach new customers, these will be great sessions.

For developers who are in the process of building a game, we’ve also got some great sessions lined up. The Amazon Web Services team is going to facilitate a session on how to build and deploy your mobile game with AWS, and a deep dive on how to use analytics to improve the performance of your game. And for developers who have an existing game that they’re trying to optimize, we have a session that describes how one of our own evangelists made his game “no fun” by blindly following best practices and what he learned in the process.

All of our sessions are going to offer practical tips, so whether you already have a game, you’re building your first game, or you’ve built many games, I think there’s a talk for you. The Amazon Appstore Developer Day is free, so developers should feel free to drop by and check it out.

Q: Why has GDC become such an important part of your marketing strategy? What do you believe you get out of being a supporter of the conference?

BADCOCK: GDC is one of the largest gatherings of developers in the world, so it’s a unique opportunity for us to connect with thousands of developers in one place. At our Developer Day on Tuesday, March 3rd, we’re going to meet hundreds of developers one-to-one. Of course it’s a great opportunity for us to tell them all about the Amazon platform, but the bigger opportunity is to get their feedback and learn how we can continue to improve opportunities on our platform.

Imagination Technologies

Bryce Johnstone
Matt Toner, president, Biba

Matt Toner, president of Biba, chats about the process of blending digital games with real-world play, about how developers can get in touch to help create Biba games, and about the two talks the company will be giving at GDC SF 2015.

Q: Matt, Biba and PlayPower recently announced a partnership aimed at blending digital games with real-world play. Why do you think it’s important to combine the two?

MATT TONER: We think it’s important to re-imagine play for children who are growing up using touchscreen devices from an early age. Most mobile games for kids tend to be screen-centric, sedentary activities. Together with PlayPower, we’re introducing a solution that blends the technology-driven world that modern kids expect with the health benefits and joy of active outdoor play. We’re bringing back the basic joy of games by creating a new category intended to change what screen time means, enticing kids back outside and turning playgrounds into the ultimate destination for healthy, active fun.

Q: You say that Biba games will work best with Biba-Activated playgrounds. Can you explain what being a Biba-Activated playground means?

TONER: Biba games will be optimized for use with “Biba-Activated” playgrounds from PlayPower where augmented reality markers will create deeper gameplay experiences. Biba apps will provide information about the gameplay experiences available at each playground, enabling families to search and find their favorite playground destinations. Some of the Biba games will work with playgrounds that aren’t Biba-Activated, since Biba games allow players to tag which types of playground equipment are available to them.

Q: You are currently developing your first Biba games internally, but from what I understand, you are also looking for other developers to get involved and create Biba games. Why do you want developers to work with you and how can they reach you?

TONER: Biba is an ongoing project that brings wacky and unexpectedly great games to life for kids. While we’re creating the first Biba games internally, we want to introduce more games by working with developers who are inspired by the potential of this new mode of play. Our first Biba games will be coming to mobile devices very shortly at the same time that Biba-Activated PlayPower playground equipment will begin populating city parks across the country.

Any developers interested in learning more can come by and see us at GDC SF 2015 during our session on Thursday, March 5 at 4 PM in West Hall, Room 2014.

Q: I know you’re an exhibitor at GDC this year. What do you have planned for the show?

We’re really excited to be coming back to GDC and can’t wait to share what we’ve been working on with the rest of the video game industry. We’ll be on the Expo Floor at booth #1702.

We’ll have an interactive Biba-Activated PlayPower swing set up so that attendees can experience Biba interacting with real-world playground equipment for themselves.

We’re also giving two talks during the show. Our first design-focused talk takes place 11:15 AM on Monday, March 2 during the Smartphone and Tablet Games Summit. Our product designer, Dr. Nis Bojin, will talk about the design process for our game and about design principles for kids’ games derived from our focus group and play-test sessions.

The second, moderated by Biba chairman and BioWare co-founder Greg Zeschuk, will be an open discussion with indie devs about the design philosophy for Smart Playground games, and that’s the session that will take place on Thursday, March 5 at 4 PM in West Hall, Room 2014

GDC Spotlight Interviews: Unity Technologies, Imagination Technologies, and npnf

| February 2015

In This Issue:

  • Unity Technologies – David Helgason, executive VP, Unity Technologies, talks about why he turned over his CEO post to former EA CEO John Riccitiello, what new directions that will mean for Unity, and why devs will want to visit the Unity booth at GDC SF 2015.
  • Imagination Technologies – Bryce Johnstone, senior manager, 3rd party alliances at Imagination Technologies, discusses optimizing games for mobile, and why devs will want to consider applying for any of the more than 120 job openings in locations as diverse as San Francisco, Sweden, and India.
  • npnf – Chris Y.J. Lee, CPO of npnf, chats about the high barrier of entry for Western developers in Korea, how devs can give their titles the right exposure in Asia, and why GDC SF 2015 is so important to his company’s marketing efforts.

Unity Technologies


David Helgason
David Helgason

David Helgason, executive VP, Unity Technologies, talks about why he turned over his CEO post to former EA CEO John Riccitiello, what new directions that will mean for Unity, and why devs will want to visit the Unity booth at GDC SF 2015.

Q: David, Unity recently took the gaming world by surprise by announcing that EA’s former CEO, John Riccitiello, would be replacing you as Unity’s CEO and that you would remain in the company as executive VP. What was the thought process behind that shift and give us some insight into what new directions that will mean for Unity.

David Helgason: Unity was founded on a simple idea — to democratize game development. As Unity grew over the years, we were always challenged to create the best possible technology, to make it support all the platforms that matter to developers (and that’s a lot), and to make it all really easy to use. This is a really hard project and we have worked on it for many, many years.

In early 2014, Unity moved into a new phase where we decided that just providing the engine was falling short of our mission — to be really successful, game developers need software tools to be able to connect their games with audiences and to optimize how their games engage with their audience once they’ve been released. To do that, we knew we’d have to think big and be creative. We grew the team a lot during that year, and have recently launched services like Unity Ads and Everyplay and have several more in beta testing like Cloud Build. The goal is ultimately to help developers of all sizes succeed with tools that help navigate through the entire process of building and operating awesome games. And we’re really far along that path.

With that in mind, it was time to bring someone in with a lot of experience running larger operations — and John Riccitiello is that guy. He believes in our mission, is very passionate both about the industry and Unity’s mission, and is helping to guide Unity where it needs to go.

Q: You’ve just released version 4.6 of the Unity engine which introduces a brand new user interface system and also the beta of Unity 5 is available for preorder. Tell me a little bit about what the two versions have to offer and whether developers should go for Unity 4.6 or wait for Unity 5?

Helgason: Anyone buying Unity 5 now gets both access to Unity 4.6 as well as the pre-release version of Unity 5.0, so most people don’t really have to worry about which they use.

Unity 4.6 was mainly about our new UI toolset and we’re extremely proud of what we’ve done with it. It really has to be experienced, as it’s a really fresh take on building UIs.

Unity 5, on the other hand, is truly a new beginning. We’ve gone deep and wide with Unity, rewritten and streamlined performance critical systems, and added incredible features on top.

Physically based shading and global illumination are probably two of things that end users of games will see most readily, but things like the 64-bit editor, new audio tools, WebGL deployment option, introduction of IL2CPP, physics updates, incremental asset bundles, and a load of other additions will be a big help to developers.

Thousands of projects are already being worked on with Unity 4.6, and many are fine as they are. However, with all the new power in Unity 5, we see tons of developers upgrading their projects.

Unity 5.0 is the first release to ship with our automated Script and Assembly Update capability (besides largely being backwards-compatible, we’re very careful about that), so with little or no work, developers can upgrade existing projects to make immediate use of the new features and performance improvements.

Q: Unity is sponsoring one of the Developer Days at GDC 2015. What will be some of the highlights that should attract a crowd?

Helgason: We’ll be going into a lot of detail about how to get the most out of Unity 5’s new features to create awesome games. We’ll also be diving into how to take advantage of services like Cloud Build to increase production efficiency, Analytics and Everyplay to connect with and understand audiences, and Ads to help generate revenue or find new players.

Q: As usual, you’ll have a booth at GDC 2015. Why should devs want to visit? What will be some of the takeaways?

Helgason: GDC is a great chance for us to meet developers new to Unity or looking to learn more about our tools and services as well as to reconnect with many of our old-time users and discuss their needs and thoughts about what we can do to help them be even more successful. So we designed our GDC booth with that in mind. We’ll have plenty of stations up to demonstrate all of the great new features in Unity and some coming down the line. We bring a lot of the development team to the show to make sure visitors to the booth have someone knowledgeable to talk to.

Our booth is also a great place to come and get inspired by those who are actively using Unity to create some amazing games. Unity can be used to create all manner of genres in a massive range of art styles across more platforms than any other engine, and the games pavilion is a great way to see all of that in action.

Finally, Unity is more than an engine, so we’ll also be able to chat about how we can help developers find success and connect with audiences using services like Everyplay, Unity Ads, and Unity Analytics.

Imagination Technologies

Bryce Johnstone
Bryce Johnstone

Bryce Johnstone, senior manager, 3rd party alliances at Imagination Technologies, discusses optimizing games for mobile, and why devs will want to consider applying for any of the more than 120 job openings in locations as diverse as San Francisco, Sweden, and India.

Q: Bryce, I’m told that at your GDC 2015 booth #1142 — you’re anxious to talk to hardware developers with multimedia requirements or developers working on titles for PowerVR-enabled mobile and embedded platforms. I know one of the subjects you plan to discuss is optimizing games for mobile. In a nutshell, what will you be telling devs who show up?

Bryce Johnstone: In terms of optimization, we are here to talk about our PowerVR Tools, utilities, and SDK, which is a free download from our various Web sites around the world. PowerVR has a long history of being a leader in mobile and embedded graphics so we will be able to show the power of the tools, such as PVRTune which pings the hardware registers of the actual device to give an incredibly detailed view of what the code is actually doing allowing the developer to rapidly get to the code that might be CPU, GPU, or Memory bandwidth-limited. The full suite of tools enables developers to get to the nub of performance issues and resolution in as short a space as possible.

Q: You’ll be sponsoring one of the Developer Days at GDC 2015. What are a few of the things visitors expect to see, hear, and experience if they attend?

Johnstone: This will be our third Developer Day at GDC. This time the focus is on more technical details about the PowerVR architecture, giving more insight into what can be done with it using some of the in-house demos as the vehicle for education and highlighting some of the suggested techniques to optimize for PowerVR. We will also be using demo examples that our internal teams have put together to illustrate good (and bad) techniques to use with the PowerVR architecture.

We will also be talking about ray-tracing technology and how much of a paradigm shift that will be for both engine and game developers. Ray tracing is the next logical point for mobile graphics to get to as it incorporates tech used in movies and TV. We are very excited about the possibilities of hybrid rendering engines and fully ray-traced solutions in the coming years.

There will also be presentations by some of our leading third parties to give their experiences of working with PowerVR graphics architecture and what results they achieved by using the full feature set and performance.

We will also have our annual panel where we will be collecting some of the great and good from Games World and will be subjecting them this year to the question from Console to Mobile. This is normally quite a lively debate between industry veterans so it is always an enjoyable experience. Developers can take the opportunity to pick the brains of this august group. Previous panelists have included the likes of Julien Merceron (then of Square Enix) and Aras Pankevicius of Unity.

Q: I was floored by how many job openings you list on your Web site  I count almost 120 in locations as diverse as San Francisco and Santa Clara to Sweden, India, Korea, and the UK. What’s behind all the growth and why should developers be interested in pursuing your company?

Johnstone: The growth is based on the requirements. We have a scalable architecture that spans from wearables all the way up to desktop levels of graphic (Teraflop range). There needs to be a tuned core for each key point in the roadmap. We are also addressing a larger range of market segments. Traditionally, we were focused on mobile but now we encompass anything from wearables, tablets, phones, set top boxes, IOT devices, automotive, health, and energy, to name but a few. As a company to work for, we do have some of the best companies in the world that we work with to deliver a range of iconic products. We are at the bleeding edge of mobile and embedded graphics and are pushing the bounds of GPU compute on devices to enhance OEM differentiation. We are a global company with key locations in the UK, Sweden, Poland, Australia, New Zealand, the Bay Area, India, China, Korea, and Japan.

We have grown rapidly in the last 10 years from 300 back then to nearly 1,700 people worldwide. We are always looking for talent who is looking to work in a challenging environment at the leading edge of technology.

Q: You’ve been a big supporter of GDC for the last couple of years. Why is the conference such an important part of your marketing strategy?

Johnstone: Simply, it talks to our DNA as a company that started out building graphics cards and technology embedded in devices such as the Sega Dreamcast in our Videologic days. The great thing about GDC is that we are a known entity and we can get right down and focus on what is important for developers with any preamble as to what we are.

We use GDC as a fantastic opportunity to get in front of all the key players and to find out what they are looking for in graphics platforms and to inform them of how we intend to intercept their requirements over the coming years. We can get three months of meetings in a few days at the show and get to meet the real movers and shakers from each of the main gaming and engine companies. For us, we get to build the Imagination (PowerVR) brand in both graphics and ray tracing, and let people who otherwise may not know of some of the other key bits of tech that we deliver, including the MIPS CPU family that is now fully supported natively in Android.


Chris Y.J. Lee
Chris Y.J. Lee

Chris Y.J. Lee, CPO of npnf, chats about the high barrier of entry for Western developers in Korea, how devs can give their titles the right exposure in Asia, and why GDC SF 2015 is so important to his company’s marketing efforts.

Q: Chris, for developers who aren’t familiar with npnf, can you summarize what services you offer?

Chris Y.J. Lee: We focus on three key areas in mobile gaming:

  • Casual core game development. First and foremost, we love building games. This year, our first party studio will release a host of new titles in the “casual core” space.
  • Korea Publishing. We offer a one-stop publishing shop for Western developers looking to expand their market to Korea. Our Seoul office specializes in localization, culturalization, marketing, event management, and player support.
  • Game Development Platform. We’ve written a set of flexible gaming modules that provide solutions to problems that just about every developer must solve when they build a game. Using our modules will shorten your development cycle immensely.

Q: I’ve heard that there’s a high barrier of entry for Western developers in Korea. What can you do for anyone who wants to get into Asia and needs help getting their titles the right exposure?

Lee: While Korea is one of the fastest-growing mobile gaming markets in the world, a strong publishing partner is an absolute must for any Western developer. Our partnership with SK Planet provides us with unparalleled distribution power. SK Planet’s T-Store is the second-largest Android marketplace in Korea with close to half the marketshare. It’s a really powerful user acquisition channel for our developers.

Q: You’ve said that “casual core” games are the new frontier in mobile gaming. What can these games achieve in terms of monetization that simple casual games cannot?

Lee: The success of Disney’s Tsum Tsum in the U.S. is a testament to the rise of casual core. While the primary gameplay is casual, there is plenty of complexity in the meta-game with power-ups, gacha collections, and special event-based content. The proper application of these mechanics is an extremely effective engagement and monetization driver. The Candy Crush Saga’s of the world will always have a place on the top grossing charts, but many users are now looking for more.

Q: Tell me about some of the strengths of your npnf platform, other than the fact that it’s advertised as letting developers build games quickly and efficiently.

Lee: Every game must create a user, which is an object in code that represents the player. If you implement the code yourself, you might start with a blank screen. You could utilize the user object from a BaaS (Backend as a Service) provider as a starting point. These user objects are stored in the Cloud and offer basic facilities for authorization and authentication. Our platform takes the user object a step further — a super user of sorts — that offer additional game-specific logic. When you create a user on the npnf platform, every user also gets a player inventory system, virtual currency, and an energy bar.

The main properties of our system are:

— Configurability. All of the attributes of these systems are set up in our Developer Portal. Support for change is built into our platform by separating configuration from implementation. You can set up your configs at design time, overhaul them during development, and live-tune them after launch — all with minimal impact. For example, you could set up a currency called Gold in our Developer Portal. Every user created will have a currency attribute called Gold. Later, you might decide to add a currency called Silver. Every user created so far will be retrofitted with this additional currency, and every new user created will have both currencies.

— Supportability. How do you support your players after your game goes live? If you use our Platform, you also automatically (no extra effort) get an admin portal that lets you manage all your players. For example, if a user e-mails and complains that all of his currency has mysteriously disappeared, you can log into our admin portal, look him up, and credit him with currency.

— Sources and sinks. As we build our own games, we add new modules that build on this basic foundation. For example, our gacha module lets you configure a system that consumes currency from a user, randomly selects a game object from a predefined pool of game objects, and adds the new object to a player’s inventory. We also have a Fusion/Evolution/Crafting module that lets you define recipes, where a recipe defines input requirements and outcomes. For example, a basic recipe might specify that a player must have one Gold coin and a twig to craft a magic wand. In our backend, we validate the input requirements, deduce one Gold coin from the user’s currency balance, remove the twig from his inventory, and add the magic wand to his inventory.

We built this system to help our own first-party studio build games faster. It helps us to get more games onto the app stores in a shorter time, and (hopefully) iterate to a successful title more quickly. Now we’re releasing it to the game development community, and we think they will find it useful, too.

GDC Spotlight Interviews: Google, Wargaming, and Oculus

| February 2015

In This Issue:

  • Google Play – Bob Meese, global head of games business development at Google Play, talks about his current strategy for games, about how developers can make their Android TV games successful, and about the best way devs can get Google’s attention.
  • Wargaming – Jay Cohen, general manager of Wargaming America, discusses what it takes to successfully move a game from one platform to another, where eSports is headed in 2015, and why becoming a GDC Diamond Partner has become an important part of his marketing strategy.
  • Oculus – Palmer Luckey, founder of Oculus, chats about why developers should be interested in the Oculus Rift Crescent Bay prototype technology, about the 50-plus open positions on the Oculus Web site, and about the sessions Oculus is sponsoring at GDC SF 2015.

Unity Technologies


David Helgason
Bob Meese

Bob Meese, global head of games business development at Google Play, talks about his current strategy for games, about how developers can make their Android TV games successful, and about the best way devs can get Google’s attention.

Q: Bob, what is Google’s current strategy for games?

Bob Meese: We have several gaming initiatives at Google, including projects within Android and Google Play, ads and analytics, and even within new projects like Cardboard and virtual reality.

I lead games business development for Android and Google Play, and we want to be the platform that connects the most people through gaming across device form factors — including phone, tablet and TV –and across geographies, with more than 1 billion people using Android devices every month globally.

We try to stay as focused as possible on game developer needs. For example, we created the Google Play beta testing program in response to developer suggestions to help developers get ready for launch by facilitating feedback from players. Developers have described player feedback from Google Play beta testing as “invaluable.” We offer other services like Google Play Game Services, including popular features like saving game progress across devices, and upcoming features like advanced analytics about player behavior.

We also want to enable developers to integrate Google services into their games as easily as possible. One example is the addition of the Google Mobile Ads SDK to Google Play Services so that developers don’t need to integrate a separate ads SDK. Also, plug-ins and extensions are available for many leading game engines to enable developers to more easily integrate Google Play Game Services into their games.

Q: What’s the latest on Android TV? Can you give me some updates?

Meese: We’re excited by the early progress with Android TV. More Android TV devices are coming to market this year, and we’re excited to see our Android TV partner, Razer, win “Best Gaming Product” at CES 2015 for its Forge TV.

We have a high-quality, well-rounded mix of titles now available to suit every type of gamer, and we’re actively adding more games to the catalog. Developers who are excited about getting their games onto TV are optimizing their titles for the living room. Infinite Dreams, for example, optimized Sky Force 2014 for the landscape orientation and added cooperative multiplayer controller support. We’re also particularly excited about Telltale’s The Walking Dead, Ubisoft’s award-winning Valiant Hearts, Disney’s Castle of Illusion, and Senri’s Leo’s Fortune.

We’re seeing developers experiment with different business models, and have a higher percentage of premium games on TV than we see in our smartphone and tablet gaming ecosystem. We offer developers plenty of information to make their Android TV game a success at

Q: If a developer wants to get Google’s attention, what is your best advice on doing that?

Meese: There are a lot of developers in this category, but it is possible for anyone to get through to us. First, it’s important that you really care about the product you’re developing. We can tell when developers are passionate about their games, and we want to see developers creating something new rather than taking too much inspiration from existing games.

Next, we look at how well you’ve already incorporated the best practices of Android and Google Play into your game. We provide many resources to help at, including best practices, checklists, and sample code to help make your game great. We’re looking for developers who are motivated to seek this information out themselves, but who may need some additional help with intermediate or advanced topics.

Finally, our team is growing, and we attend many industry events. Come find us at one of those events, or if you’re looking to connect by e-mail, it can help to get a mutual introduction from another developer who we both know. One of the best parts of my job is finding new developers making high-quality games, so please come out and see us at GDC.

Q: Speaking of which, what are you doing at GDC?

Meese: We’re hosting a Google Developer Day on Monday, Mar. 2 for developers, designers, and business decision makers focused on mobile game development. The Play team will be very well represented at this event, and we’ll have speakers and attendees from many different parts of Google.

During the event, you’ll learn about tools and best practices that help game developers make great games as well as build your businesses. We’ll show you what’s new for Android game developers. We’ll also have some cool code labs where we’ll help you build, for example, an actual cardboard VR game. If you want to speak with our team, our GDC developer day is the best opportunity all year. We’ll also be at our booth (#502), so come see us.

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Imagination Technologies

Bryce Johnstone
Jay Cohen

Jay Cohen, general manager of Wargaming America, discusses what it takes to successfully move a game from one platform to another, where eSports is headed in 2015, and why becoming a GDC Diamond Partner has become an important part of his marketing strategy.

Q: Jay, one of your recent successes was World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition which is a free-to-play title for console. Tell me a bit about the game’s success. Is that an area you intend to pursue with additional titles?

Jay Cohen: We launched World of Tanks for the Xbox 360 in February of 2014 and have seen massive success with over five million downloads to-date. It not only marked our first title on console, but also allowed to us to reach a new audience of gamers around the world. Expanding onto new platforms has always been a major focus for Wargaming. We did that for World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition and most recently with World of Tanks Blitz on mobile platforms. So the success we’ve found on console has been incredibly reassuring to us. I can’t say where we’ll be heading next, but we’ll always be keeping our eye on new opportunities.

Q: You’ve had a few multi-platform launches this year, including the game we just discussed as well as World of Tanks Blitz for iOS and Android. What does it take to successfully move a game from one platform to another? 
Cohen: We started out in 2014 on just one single platform (PC) and, in the last year, we’ve expanded onto three more, including mobile which was no easy task. With the launch of World of Tanks Blitz on iOS and Android, the team spent months extracting the raw elements that make the PC version so successful to deliver a triple-A quality game to mobile and tablet device users around the world.

From a development standpoint, the game is tailored to the needs of a mobile player who is used to much shorter game sessions, a more simplified user interface, and easy and intuitive controls. That’s why, in Blitz, we’ve implemented smaller maps and 7 vs. 7 battles up to seven minutes long (usually between 3-5 minutes on average).

There are very few mobile games on a similar scale of quality and complexity out there, so as far as our development approach was concerned, we tried to be bold and ready for experiments, adaptations, and newer mobile-specific features.

World of Tanks Blitz owes a lot to its predecessor for laying down the foundation that the team has built upon, and there’s still a lot more for our players to look forward to in the future.

Q: At the beginning of the year, Wargaming talked about investing $10 million in its eSports Leaguestrategy, up from $8 million last year. What is eSports all about and how is that working out for you? 
Cohen: We broke out in the eSports scene in 2012 with 30,000 players and skyrocketed to over 250,000 in 2014 with our community being the driving force in this growth. World of Tanks currently has over 100 million players, and with each update we now also focus on gameplay and balance as it relates to our eSports league. These changes allow for more engaging entertainment for both the players and spectators, and help in building the cultural phenomenon that is eSports today.

With our success, we are also aiming to create an ecosystem to cultivate professional development between our players and their teams. Not only do we want to support the advancement of the League, we also want to make sure that these athletes are given the tools and skills to find partners and brand sponsors for their teams.

We have big plans for 2015 and can’t wait to see how eSports continues to evolve within the industry.
Q: Wargaming is a Diamond Partner of GDC 2015. What does that achieve for Wargaming and why is that important to you? 
Cohen: As our portfolio of titles continues to grow, we must also focus on our own development as a company. Joining the GDC Diamond Partner program was a natural fit to combat those needs.

The benefits of the program give us the exposure we need to reach top talent through higher visibility on promotional materials, networking opportunities, and exclusive access to events.

But, most importantly, being a Diamond Partner is about supporting the gaming development industry as a whole. GDC is an invaluable event for sharing ideas, collaborating on new ones, and getting a deeper understanding of the roles we play in this truly exciting industry. Having Wargaming be a Diamond Partner, we hope, shows that we’re not just committed to delivering great games, but also in helping foster and grow this entire industry.


Chris Y.J. Lee
Palmer Luckey

Palmer Luckey, founder of Oculus, chats about why developers should be interested in the Oculus Rift Crescent Bay prototype technology, about the 50-plus open positions on the Oculus Web site, and about the sessions Oculus is sponsoring at GDC SF 2015.

Q: Palmer, at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show in January, Oculus showed off for the first time its Oculus Rift Crescent Bay prototype along with Gear VR Innovator Edition and mobile VR content. Tell me a bit about those technologies and why developers should be interested in them.

Palmer Luckey: Crescent Bay is largely representative of the technology that will be in the consumer Rift low-latency 6DOF tracking (critical for feeling present in a virtual space); 90-hz, low-persistence OLED displays (eliminating motion blur and greatly increased visual stability); and integrated audio hardware that is optimized to work with our 3D audio SDK.

At CES, we were also showing Gear VR Innovator Edition with the same 3D audio SDK, and spending a lot of time talking to devs about why 3D sound is so much more important for VR than traditional gaming. It’s never been possible to properly model audio response for head translation and position with traditional monitors, and we’re excited about the possibilities.

Q: I’m guessing you’ll have something new and different to show off at GDC SF 2015 with the Oculus Rift. Care to give us a hint?

Luckey: We’ll be showing a lot of different things in our booth (#1224) at the show. We have a couple of sponsored sessions as well where we’ll be sharing information about the Oculus Rift and the Samsung Gear VR Innovator Edition. All of the information about those sessions can be found on the GDC Web site.

Q: What are you plans on the mobile side with Samsung Gear VR at GDC? What can you share?

Luckey: No specifics to share just yet, but we’ve learned a lot from the launch of Innovator Edition, and we’ll be talking more about the future of mobile VR at GDC.

Q: Oculus has over 50 open positions on its Web site, mainly in software and hardware engineering and in content. What sort of people are you looking for and why should they beexcited about applying for a spot in either your Menlo Park, CA or your Seattle site?

Luckey: We’re always looking for the best and brightest, especially as we draw closer to the consumer launch of the Rift. In the past, we’ve been primarily focused on hiring hardware and software engineering, but now we’re hiring for almost every discipline required to launch an incredible consumer product. Come help us build the future!

GDC Spotlight Interviews: Intel, Epic and Sungame

| January 2015

In This Issue:

  • Intel – Christos Georgiopoulos, VP, Software & Services Group and GM, Developer Relations Div. at Intel, reveals the cool game technology it is delivering by working with the top game engine vendors, and what will be hot at Intel’s eight GDC 2015 sessions.
  • Epic – Ray Davis, general manager, Unreal Engine at Epic, talks about Unreal Engine 4’s new subscription model, the Unreal Engine Marketplace, and what visitors to Epic’s booth at GDC 2015 can expect to see.
  • Sungame – Guy Robert, COO of Sungame, talks about its World 3Developer Challenge and how GDC 2015 visitors will be able to try out and vote for the winning 3D games and apps, and also crowd-fund their own 3D programs.



Christos Georgiopoulos
Christos Georgiopoulos

Christos Georgiopoulos, VP, Software & Services Group and GM, Developer Relations Div. at Intel, reveals the cool game technology it is delivering by working with the top game engine vendors, and what will be hot at Intel’s eight GDC 2015 sessions.

Q: Christos, Intel seems to be doing some cool things now with the top game engines, meaning Unity and UE4. Can you give me some specific examples?

Christos Georgiopoulos: Yes! We are excited to be working closely with all of the game engine vendors, including Epic and Unity, to deliver some very cool game technology and performance improvements on x86 platforms powered by Intel processor graphics. By working with these game engine developers, we make the benefits of x86 and Intel processor graphics accessible to millions of game developers and consumers worldwide.

We’ve partnered with Unity on Windows x86 support for many years, and we are very excited to bring native x86 Android optimizations to the Unity game engine beginning with last November’s Unity 4.6 release. These optimizations are now available by default to all Unity developers for new projects and it’s trivial to re-export an existing project and add x86 support. Intel is now the largest supplier of Android tablet processors, so this enables Unity developers to reach a larger number of devices and consumers.

Some of the benefits game developers have already been achieving using the Unity game engine include dramatic improvements in their Android apps running on devices with Intel Architecture — faster performance, improved load times, and better power usage — all from simply ensuring x86 native support is selected and from exporting the project again. Jumpstart, for instance, achieved a 146% improvement in the frame rate for School of Dragons by enabling native x86 support (see the write up here plus a few case studies on our Web site here). In order to get the word out, Unity and Intel collaborated on a number of developer events and marketing opportunities in 2014. We are working on even more technical improvements and additional developer activities in 2015.

We are just as excited about the great, long-time partnership with Epic and how Intel and Epic engineers worked together to deliver a number of additional capabilities to Epic’s Unreal Engine 4. Android developers can easily build native x86 Android applications and PC developers can easily support tablet/touch user interfaces and clamshell/keyboard transition (aka 2-in-1 support), as well as further advances in significantly faster texture compression (BC6H and BC7) to increase the content productivity pipeline. Additional benefits for UE4 developers include state-of-the-art threading and memory allocation source code with Intel’s Threading Building Blocks, and additional instrumentation of UE4 to enable developers using Intel’s Graphics Performance Analyzers to more easily debug graphics issues and better understand the workings of their engine. More advancements are underway now, including DX12 and Intel compiler support, and we expect to continue our strong partnership throughout 2015.

Q: Intel is sponsoring eight different sessions at GDC. Which are the most exciting and what can devs look forward to learning from them?

Georgiopoulos: Our technical sessions are shaping up to be the best ones we’ve ever offered at GDC. Using a best practice we learned from the SIGGRAPH conference, a must-attend session is our leadoff Intel Fast Forward session where we cram the highlights of each and every Intel session, presentation, and demo at GDC 2015 into one short session. This is a great way to quickly get a taste of the breadth and depth of Intel’s offerings at GDC, enabling attendees to decide which of these talks and demos are of most interest to them.

Although we are still shaping the final slate of presentations, we are planning to showcase Intel optimization work done with notable ISV partners such as Blizzard and Square Enix. We work with many leading game developers to help them incorporate unique Intel features or bring out the full performance or power efficiency of systems built on our processors. At GDC, we plan to show other developers how we worked with Square Enix to add performance-boosting native x86 support to Hitman Go. With Blizzard as a co-presenter, we will be sharing how we used unique Intel graphics extensions to add post-processing effects to Blizzard’s World of Warcraft expansion Warlords of Draenor. These are exciting, practical techniques implemented by top game developers on their biggest titles and we are honored to share these so that other developers can use and benefit from them.

We are also expecting to present material that highlights the new features and capabilities of the latest versions of the graphics APIs, DirectX, and OpenGL/ES on our latest hardware. As you are likely aware, Intel partners with the game development community to ensure that these industry standards represent the developer needs for higher-quality graphics techniques, better performance, and battery utilization. Gone are the days when Intel was a laggard for API support. We are now showing that we are releasing drivers that support the newest API versions as soon as the specifications are ratified, and we will have talks that address power-efficient programming, OpenGL ES 3.1 and the Android Extension Pack, and Intel’s latest graphics extensions.

Q: Are you planning anything else for GDC that would interest our readers?

Georgiopoulos: If you want to see where games are heading, you should plan on attending the Intel University Games Showcase at GDC. We did this event for the first time last year and it was a huge success. We brought together student game developer teams from the leading academic programs and had them pitch their games to an all-star panel of judges and to a large crowd of people. Last year’s entries were amazingly engaging and high quality, and we’re expecting even better projects this year. The participants are expected to include USC, SMU, Digipen, Drexel, RIT, CMU, Drexel, University of Texas, University of Central Florida, University of Utah, and NYU, all of whom offer compelling graduate-level programs in game development.

We are trying a couple of new things this year, too. We’ll have an Intel Tech Lab at GDC. This is a great way for developers to get a little technical assistance from Intel engineers or to learn how to use our graphics performance analysis tools. If you’re a game developer who wants to know how to make your game run better on Intel platforms, all you need to do is stop by our main event location in South Hall lobby and make an appointment. Our engineers can help you try your game on our latest platforms, give you some tips on performance or power optimization, and answer your technical questions.

We’re also planning to have a variety of scheduled but informal meet-ups. We’ll be publicizing the list of topics and times, and people can just show up at the Intel meet-up area in South Hall lobby. We plan to offer meet-up sessions covering a wide variety of topics, including adding x86 support to Unity apps, volumetric rendering, power optimization, Q&A sessions with our technical session presenters, demo deep dives, UE4 and x86, and much, much more.

Q: Intel is always a big sponsor of GDC. Why is the conference such an important part of your marketing strategy?

Georgiopoulos: We want both game developers and game players to have the best experience on Intel platforms. We view game developers as critically important for Intel because games drive consumer demand and are always in the top three use cases for all platforms. There is no question that games can drive sales of consumer computing devices.

GDC is a unique conference that brings together the worldwide leaders in the game developer segment as well as thousands of practitioners. This audience is perfectly aligned with our game developer outreach efforts. Therefore GDC is a great place for us to meet with game developers, help them learn about the benefits of Intel tools and technology, and work with them to extract the full potential of Intel platforms for the games they create.


Ray Davis
Ray Davis

Ray Davis, general manager, Unreal Engine at Epic, talks about Unreal Engine 4’s new subscription model, the Unreal Engine Marketplace, and what visitors to Epic’s booth at GDC 2015 can expect to see.

Q: Ray, back at GDC 2014 in March, you released Unreal Engine 4 through a new subscription model. Anyone can now pay $19 a month plus 5% of gross revenue resulting from any commercial products built using UE4. That’s quite a change from Epic’s previous policy of charging AAA devs millions of dollars for the engine. How have devs reacted and what has the new subscription model accomplished?

Ray Davis: Offering Unreal Engine 4 through a subscription model has opened up the engine to a huge number of developers who have already built some impressive and creatively diverse projects. By also including the C++ source for the engine in the subscription, we’ve seen a large number of significant community contributions that we’ve been able to integrate for future releases. Overall, the journey over the last year has been fantastic and has presented great opportunities to grow a thriving UE4 development community.

Q: In September, you launched the Unreal Engine Marketplace. Tell me how that works and what it does for devs.

Davis: With the Unreal Engine Marketplace, we’re aiming for high-quality content for developers to share, sell, and purchase. We believe it’s more important to offer a curated selection of assets that are built with consistency and that are easy to integrate with any other assets offered on the Marketplace. As a game builder, it’s rare that you only need a single model in a style to successfully build your project, so we make sure every asset pack includes 5+ models, and that they’re built in a modular way so that you can easily combine them with other content. Already we’re seeing a lot of great progress in our efforts here, and we’ll be continuing to expand the Marketplace significantly in the coming months.

Q: I understand that, as part of your new education initiative, you’ve released UE4 to schools and universities for free. What’s the initiative all about … and how are schools utilizing UE4?

Davis: We’ve made the engine free to educators and students alike in the hopes of better integrating UE4 into their curriculum. Every day, there are more and more students interested in game development, and we think UE4 is one of the best tools to help students learn the skills they need to be successful game creators. Many other educational disciplines, such as architectural visualization, are also finding value in UE4’s photorealistic rendering capabilities, and we’re excited to continually find new ways to be involved in those efforts.

Q: As a GDC 2015 sponsor, you’ll be having quite a sizeable booth at the show. What can visitors to the booth expect to see — and learn? What will be some of the takeaways?

Davis: At the Unreal Engine booth, we’ll have a mix of developers showcasing content they’ve built with Unreal Engine 4 along with some content demos built by Epic. Our hope is that anyone visiting our booth will gain a good understanding of the wide diversity of projects that are possible with our technology — from hobbyist game development all the way to professional visualization. We also hope to have a surprise or two, that may or may not be related to VR.

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Guy Robert
Guy Robert

Guy Robert, COO of Sungame, talks about its World 3Developer Challenge and how GDC 2015 visitors will be able to try out and vote for the winning 3D games and apps, and also crowd-fund their own 3D programs.

Q: Guy, I know Sungame is the organization behind Freevi which has two distinct products the content management and discovery platform and the business directory service. For devs who aren’t familiar with Sungame or its products, can you give them a little insight into what’s hot at Sungame these days?

Guy Robert: Yes, as you say, Sungame is the organization behind Freevi, the manufacturer of the FlightDeck, the world’s most innovative 3D (stereoscopic) tablet. For developers, we are launching our 3D developer tools and SDK, and also announcing exclusive news at GDC about our new platform, an exciting new ecosystem that targets returns from the tablet via distribution and content creation. You can get more information on our Web site or follow us on all social media channels at @freevi3D #W3DC

Q: At GDC/Next in November, you invited devs to participate in a World 3Developer Challenge by submitting a product to your No-Glasses 3D tablet. Winners in 12 categories were awarded a total of $25,000. What did you hope to achieve with the Challenge and what was the outcome?

Robert: That’s correct! In November, we launched our World 3Developer Challenge at GDC/Next (see #W3DC and @freevi3D on Twitter) and the response was incredible. Our objective was to communicate #W3DC to all game developers attending, demonstrate the FlightDeck, and introduce the incredible ROI opportunities associated with submitting a proposal to create content for our team to review.

Naturally, we have had an incredible response to the challenge and are now working through the 100 accepted proposals from game developers looking to participate in our challenge by building or porting new or existing games and apps for submission to our FreeviNation community. We will be announcing the finalists of our World 3Developer Challenge at GDC 2015 and will be offering GDC visitors the opportunity to experience first-hand the finalists’ apps and games running on our tablet and then vote for their favorite game or app.

For those Unfunded Freevi-Nation Citizens who didn’t make the short list, there will also be an opportunity for each developer to crowd-fund within our ecosystem. As a result, everyone has a chance!

Q: Freevi is a Gold Sponsor of the Independent Games Festival (IGF) and a sponsor of its Choice Nominee Reception. Why is that important to you and what do you hope to achieve by being a sponsor?

Robert: Our goal is very simple. We are passionate about indie game development and about providing the tools, processes, simulators, hardware, distribution, and community to grow and pioneer stereoscopic 3D game development. We are here to communicate this opportunity to the people who matter most talented game developers!

Q: You�ll have booth space at GDC 2015. Why should devs want to visit you there? What can they hope to learn by showing up?

Robert: By coming to our booth, developers will have the opportunity to try the FlightDeck tablet first-hand and then experience some of the content already created by our #W3DC finalists. They will also be able to:

  • Discuss with our technical team how to get started on the platform by purchasing a tablet and understanding the revenue opportunities of joining our nation as a Citizen.
  • Learn how to crowd-fund their first 3D app or game.
  • Learn how to get started and create an application via Unity or OpenGL by accessing our SDK.
  • Test out the W3DC finalists’ submissions and vote for their favorite game or application via our Web site.

All I can say is we’re so excited!

GDC Spotlight Interviews: Microsoft and Havok

| December 2014

In This Issue:

  • Microsoft – Mark Seminatore, principal development manager, Xbox Advanced Technology Group at Microsoft, talks about DirectX 12, buying Mojang, and how the best coders can win prizes in the QuickStart Challenges at GDC.
  • Havok – Andrew Bowell, head of product management at Havok, discusses the assortment of job openings at Havok and what skills are most in demand, plus what will be his company’s main focus at GDC 2014.

Unity Technologies


Mark Seminatore
Mark Seminatore

Mark Seminatore, principal development manager, Xbox Advanced Technology Group at Microsoft, talks about DirectX 12, buying Mojang, and how the best coders can win prizes in the QuickStart Challenges at GDC.

Q: Mark, last year, at GDC 2014, you announced DirectX 12. Is that still scheduled to be released in the second half of next year? And what will be Microsoft’s big focus THIS year? What will you be talking about? Any hints?

Mark Seminatore: We’ve announced that Windows 10 will ship with DirectX 12 included, and for those of us familiar with DirectX 12, we are very excited. We love connecting with game developers, sharing ideas, seeing what’s new, and hearing about what they’re working on. We will share some new things about what’s in store for developing gaming experiences on Microsoft platforms. We will share additional details about what we’ll be talking about at GDC this year as we get closer to the conference. Stay tuned for more.

Q: Correct me if I’m wrong, but the latest big news out of Microsoft seems to be your buying Mojang, the creator of Minecraft, for $2.5 billion. What would you say is the importance of that move cultivating a younger demographic or having a property that plays well not only on desktop but also mobile? What’s the strategy here?

Seminatore: We couldn’t be happier about bringing in Mojang. Mojang was in search of a partner to help carry Minecraft forward, and the studio’s talent and passion are a perfect fit for our family of world-class developers.

Minecraft also aligns with our focus to grow our top franchises, diversify our portfolio of games, and reach new gamers across multiple platforms. We understand that gaming is a top driver of consumer usage across PC, mobile, and tablet. The value of Minecraft is that it’s currently the most used and one of the most loved gaming properties in the world. There’s a tremendous amount of engagement and loyalty from Minecraft players. We love Minecraft and we’re really excited to help grow the Minecraft community, nurture the franchise, and make Minecraft more accessible to more people on more devices.

Q: This year at GDC, I know Microsoft is sponsoring the Microsoft Lobby Bar where not only can attendees meet up with friends, grab a drink, and check out the latest Xbox One blockbusters, but I understand you can also learn about Windows Platform development tools and code for a chance to win at the Windows QuickStart Challenge. So what’s the Challenge all about and what do the best coders win?

Seminatore: QuickStart Challenges are fast-paced, bite-sized, hands-on exercises that enable game developers to roll up their sleeves and try out some of the most important development scenarios building games for phones, tablets, PCs, and consoles. Any participant who completes one or more challenges will have an opportunity to win one of a variety of prizes who knows, perhaps even a device.

Q: Microsoft is a long-time sponsor of GDC San Francisco. Why is the conference so important to your marketing strategy?

Seminatore: GDC provides an amazing opportunity for Microsoft and game developers to meet, discuss what’s working (and what’s not), and share information with one another. It’s a chance for us to hear directly from people making games for our consumers, and it lets us answer questions or find solutions to challenges they face. It also lets us share tools and services updates with the developers who live and breathe game development every day.

There are very few chances for us to have this kind of access to the creative people building amazing experiences across all of our platforms, something we value highly.


Andrew Bowell
Andrew Bowell

Andrew Bowell, head of product management at Havok, discusses the assortment of job openings at Havok and what skills are most in demand, plus what will be his company’s main focus at GDC 2014.

Q: Andrew, last year, at GDC 2014, Havok was talking about the issues of the next-gen hardware and where Havok fits for developers in what was then a transitional period. What will be Havok’s main focus one year later at GDC 2015?

Andrew Bowell: It has been an amazing year for Havok. Our support and engineering teams have been working closely with our customers on their next-gen titles and we are proud to see Havok-powered titles — such as Destiny, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, Alien: Isolation, DriveClub — prove out the capabilities of next-gen hardware.

As we enter this post-launch period, we can start to release tools and technology to address new themes for next-gen game development. At GDC 2015, we’ll be showing off both brand new technology and major enhancements to existing technology that will allow developers to create new gameplay experiences and be more productive than ever. Some of our new technology is still under wraps, but there are sneak peeks out there if you look closely. But we can definitely announce that we will be showing major enhancements to our toolsets for our bestselling Physics, Destruction, and Cloth products.

As ever, GDC is all about connecting with the industry and the middleware ecosystem, and we will be showcasing the latest integrations with some of our biggest partners.

Q: Havok seems to have plenty of job openings  not only in your Dublin headquarters but also in Germany, San Francisco, Seoul, and Tokyo. What sort of skills are you looking for these days and why should devs be interested in joining the Havok team?

Bowell: Havok continuously hires exceptionally talented engineers for both core development roles and developer relations engineer positions across a number of our offices. The advantage of our multiple offices is that Havok is a 24/7 company with a very international feel and constant energy and dynamism.

We recruit very bright, passionate C++ engineers with a strong knowledge of 3D mathematics. Havok developers work with teams like Bungie, Naughty Dog, and Insomniac, and alongside brilliant colleagues who are passionate about pushing the boundaries of cutting-edge technology for the games industry.

Q: I’ve heard you talk about there currently being a renaissance, not just for physics, but for the ideas and potential to impact gameplay, parallel game systems, and the creative method of environmental artists. Talk to me a bit about what you meant by that.

Bowell: When Havok shipped our re-architected Physics engine, it provided developers with a new basis for creating and populating their worlds with dynamic systems. Havok Physics is more performant, uses less memory, scales linearly over many cores. but most importantly is rock solid and robust from a stability standpoint. Today game developers can take it for granted that their setups and scenes will just work from a Physics standpoint. What we have found is that this has taken a while to sink in, and it’s now about game designers finding ways to add more Physics, create more interesting setups. and bring Physics-based gameplay back, front, and center. Now that this next-gen Physics core is in place, we can design new technology that both leverages and extends what Physics can do in-game. An example is our Havok Destruction product that lets developers architect brand new gameplay use cases from the brash and loud, smash and crash of explosives to the more subtle bending and deformation of metal under stress and strain. At GDC 2015, Havok will be showcasing a new product that enhances further the gameplay visuals offered by Physics and Destruction bringing an order of magnitude more fidelity to simulations .

Q: Havok has said that, with all of the power offered by the PS4, the Xbox One, and today’s modern PCs, there needs to be a new consideration that the smaller things dust, debris, particles, fire, etc. are as key to making next-gen scenes look immersive and real as do the traditional areas, such as polys, resolution, and frame-rates. What would you say to the devs out there to convince them of that?

Bowell: Exactly. Havok has always been about helping developers create that sense of immersion and suspension of disbelief. If you look at the movie and visual FX industry, the extent to which movies draw you in with atmospheric effects like smoke, mist, and fire, scare you with swarms of insects, and deafen you with earth-shattering explosions, the same is true for gaming. However, in the past, game developers focused on using purely visual effects to achieve this atmosphere. The next shift that Havok’s latest technology will enable is making purely visual effects fully interactive. At GDC 2015, Havok will be showcasing new technology to allow game developers to achieve this.

Q: Once again, Havok is sponsoring a booth actually a business suite at GDC 2015. Why has the conference become such an important part of Havok’s marketing strategy?

Bowell: This is our 15th year at GDC! We are also having our 15-year anniversary as a company! GDC has been an integral part of our company’s planning and execution. We launch new tech at GDC, we talk with key customers around the world about what technical challenges and needs they have, and we party at GDC! GDC is at the heart of things for us!

GDC Spotlight Interviews: Ukie, AdColony, Google Play, Tapjoy, Havok and Amazon

| March 2014

In This Issue:

  • Ukie – Jo Twist, CEO of UK Interactive Entertainment discusses the challenges facing the UK games industry, the organization’s new mentoring programme, and their plans for GDC
  • AdColony – SVP Monetization & Business Development Tim Steudler talks to us about the changing face of video advertising on mobile and discusses the company’s Platinum Sponsorship of GDC Mobile.
  • GooglePlay – Greg Hartrell, Lead Product Manager of Google Play chats about the remarkable growth of Google Play as a platform and how to connect with the company at GDC.
  • TapJoy– Christine Tao, SVP Developer Relations talks about the ways mobile advertisers can help ensure a positive user experience, and describes the new SDK the company will be launching at GDC.
  • Havok – Where does Havok fit for developers in this current transitional period? Andrew Bowell, Head of Product Management discusses the issues of the next gen and diverse hardware, before their appearance on the GDC Expo show floor.
  • Amazon – Hosting a developer day at GDC 2014, Amazon Apps & Games Head of Worldwide Evangelism and Marketing Rob Pulciani talks to us about Amazon’s plans for the conference, and how the company’s analytics and cloud technologies can help developers.

Unity Technologies


Jo Twist
Jo Twist

Jo Twist, CEO of UK Interactive Entertainment discusses the challenges facing the UK games industry, the organization’s new mentoring programme, and their plans for GDC.

Q: What do you view as the key challenges that are facing the UK Games Industry right now?

Jo Twist: The biggest challenge for the UK industry right now is creating a level playing field for games business to thrive with the right business environment to compete on a global stage. We are constantly striving to help companies access global marketplaces, diversify their audiences and increase demand to secure the future of the industry. The main areas that developers often have issues with are core business skills like coping with red tape, legal issues, as well as how to access finance, cash flow and investment opportunities. Ukie helps business to identify different avenues for funding as well as lobbying policy makers to ensure the right help is in place for financing. We run drop-in sessions where devs can come and meet industry professionals for free advice and we run “how to” networking and knowledge sharing events all around the country which cover topics like discoverability, IP and copyright and funding. We work closely with government to ensure that the games industry is always on the front foot to make sure the regulatory environment is friction free so that developers are acting responsibly but are not hindered by legislation. We are always promoting the industry in a positive light with positive stories. When the tax production credits for games are introduced, the UK will be the best place in the world to make and sell games and will allow us to compete at the highest level with the best creative talent, with the likes of Canada and America.

Q: You just launched a Game Mentoring programme, too?

Twist: Ukie have partnered with Nesta to create the Video Game Mentoring Network to advise and nurture games businesses with an appetite for growth by connecting them who have been through the business mill. This is done by pairing up mentors and mentees from different games businesses and running one-to-one meetings, workshops, attending events designed to network with people who can grow your business and coaching sessions. We are calling for both businesses of all sizes who are looking to scale to apply to be mentored and for potential mentors to express interest in being involved in the scheme by contacting

Q: What are UKIE’s plans for GDC?

Jo Twist: We are the UKTI accredited trade partner for GDC, which means that we run the UK industry business area on the expo floor. We help SMEs access the show by processing Government Trade Access grants for up to 2000 to enable businesses to show their games and do the right business deals for them. The best thing for us is the collective community spirit that is so obvious between the companies on the stand. When you exhibit on the stand as part of the UK industry, you become part of a British collective, flying the flag for the UK and showing what a diverse and creative nation we are. All developers are welcome to come and hang out in the UK industry pavilion and meet all the other British developers as well as some of the Ukie team. We are also holding a VIP drinks reception at the British Consulate with the UKTI for companies to come together and network, but most importantly, to show that the UK is open for business. If you want to attend, just pop over to the stand and have a chat with one of our on-site staff.


Tim Steudler
Tim Steudler

SVP Monetization & Business Development Tim Steudler talks to us about the changing face of video advertising on mobile and discusses the company’s Platinum Sponsorship of GDC Mobile.

Q: How have developers’ perceptions of mobile video advertising changed over the years?

Tim Steudler: Mobile video has evolved a long way since it was first introduced to the ecosystem about 3-4 years ago. The AdColony platform was actually created by app developers out of the desire to perfect mobile video and solve for the very pain points that were deterring developers from taking advantage of the medium. Our team created a proprietary ad technology called Instant-Play to power mobile video ads with crisp HD picture and no annoying load times, and we’ve seen top developers across the ecosystem embrace video as a key monetization and advertising vehicle.

Not only do we provide a higher quality experience for users, but we are also able to deliver more meaningful incremental revenue compared to a developer’s overall revenues. We know that even top grossing developers are fortunate if they’re able to successfully monetize more than 10% of their total users via in-app purchases, and the right ad strategy can unlock even greater revenue potential.

We work closely with game developers big and small to consult them on the most beneficial, high-impact video integrations for their apps. The best integrations take a productized approach to implementing non-IAP revenue. Creatively weaving advertising monetization hooks into the experience, similar to how you would design your game mechanics and merchandising around in-app purchases, is key. Developers who focus on fun first ultimately monetize the best.

Q: What do you see as the approaching trends in mobile games and advertising/ monetization?

Steudler: AdColony is fortunate to be situated right where the heat is. Mobile video represents the fastest growing advertising segment in mobile, with spending up 166% in 2013. We’re able to translate this huge advertiser interest in mobile video to our partners — AdColony publisher earnings increased more than 300% in 2013 versus 2012. The ad dollars are shifting to video, and as brands flock to the most effective medium where people are spending the bulk of their time (mobile), the publishers who embrace quality mobile video stand to benefit the most. We’re eager to help developers benefit from these trends. We’re seeing more and more publishers employ a diversified monetization strategy that encompasses both IAP and advertising. This is where a tactful, focused approach to advertising becomes so important.

Q: As a Platinum Sponsor of GDC Mobile, what excites you about the event?

Steudler: This must be about my 11th GDC or so, and I couldn’t be more excited. I came to AdColony from the console gaming world, most recently with Activision Blizzard, and to see the energy and experimentation in the mobile gaming space is really great. The conference has transformed from being dominated by traditional PC and console gaming in years past to focusing on mobile and social, which are absolutely the most dominant topics in the room now.

I think I’m most excited about seeing the next up-and-coming AAA potential titles that will crop up from the independent studios. I love having the opportunity to hear from the indies and learn from industry experts from across the ecosystem and around the world.

The AdColony monetization and user acquisition teams will be setting up shop on Monday and Tuesday at the Smartphone & Tablet Games Summit where we are sponsoring, and we’ll definitely be spending time with the Independent Games Summit too. I have the entire AdColony team attending to meet with existing partners and new potential partners in a more intimate face-to-face setting. If you want to meet up, ping us at And we’ll be sure to see you out at the parties, just look for the sea of AdColony rocketship T-shirts.

Google Play

Greg Hartrell
Greg Hartrell

Greg Hartrell, Lead Product Manager of Google Play chats about the remarkable growth of Google Play as a platform and how to connect with the company at GDC.

Q: Some recent research claims that revenues for game creators on Google Play is growing twice as fast as that on iOS

Greg Hartrell:Google Play Games is growing with tremendous speed, and we’ve been working hard over the last year to develop tools to game developers to help them build amazing game experiences. It’s a cross-platform game service and SDK on Android, iOS and the web that enables a rich set of in-game user experiences for cross screen gaming. By building off of what Google is good at–mobile and cloud services–these game services help power great gaming experiences for users so developers can focus on what they’re good at: creating compelling experiences for users. Developer who are taking advantage of these tools are seeing tremendous results and engaging with users in much more meaningful ways.

Q: How is developing games for the Asian market different from developing for the North American market?

Hartrell: Analytics are an important part of crafting a successful game and enjoyable user experience. Whether analytics are used to help dissect where players are dropping off or getting stuck in a game or used to analyze how in-app purchases can be tweaked to be more attractive to players, tools like these are important to create successful entertainment businesses.

Q: What future trends do you see on the horizon in the mobile game space?

Hartrell: Today, everyone is a gamer–and mobile is a huge opportunity for gamers. Take Android: three in every four users are playing games; with billions of activated Android devices, it has grown rapidly as a mobile gaming platform, allowing game developers to reach an unprecedented audience of players.

As we look at future trends, the mobile gaming ecosystem will continue its amazing growth, and it will do so across multiple screens. Most of use 2, if not 3, computing devices throughout our day- phone, tablet, laptop and more–and Google cares deeply about building seamless experiences across these devices. As Google continues helping game developers take their games to the next level, providing services that work across different platforms–like Google Play Games, which works for Android, iOS and the web–is going to be increasingly important.

Q: What are Google’s plans for GDC?

Hartrell: Google helps game developers take their games to the next level by giving them a platform with hundreds of millions of users, and giving them flexible monetization tools. At GDC, we’ll be hosting a Developer Day on Tuesday, March 18, where we’ll be talking with game developers to help them get the most with Google, including how to reach and engage with hundreds of millions of users on Google Play, build Games that scale in the cloud, grow in-game advertising businesses with AdMob, track revenue with Google Analytics as well as explore new gaming frontiers, like Glass.

If you can’t make any of the Google Developer Day sessions, don’t worry; all the talks will be livestreamed on YouTube. You can also meet the Play, AdMob, Analytics, and Cloud teams at the Google Education Center in the Moscone Center’s South Hall (booth 218) from March 19-21.


Christine Tao
Christine Tao

Christine Tao, SVP Developer Relations talks about the ways mobile advertisers can help ensure a positive user experience, and describes the new SDK the company will be launching at GDC.

Q: What would you say to a game developer who is exploring including in-game advertising to monetize?

Christine Tao: Developers are typically wary of advertising because they want to maintain a good user experience. That’s the main driving factor between integrating ads from Tapjoy vs. typical banner ads. We give the user something for engaging with the ad, whether that’s additional content, currency within the app, or the ability to further their game experience. It is not interruptive to the app, in fact it enhances the app experience. We integrate natively within the application – typically through their storefront or at the point where users access additional content or currency. The users also opt into this experience because they are looking for ways to deepen their experience within the application.

A cool example is when we initially launched with one of our large developer partners. They knew they had a big revenue opportunity with us, but they also wanted to work with us because their users had been asking for a way to get more content within the app by engaging with advertisements. So its a solution that their users were asking for. We’re continuing to deepen the experience in more ways, and in fact, we recently released a more customized look and feel to the Tapjoy offerwall where we include icons and assets from the game, so the experience looks even more native and in line with the in-app store.

Q: What do you see as the approaching trends in mobile games and advertising/monetization?

Tao: There are lot of new types of trendy ad units that are designed for the mobile devices we all play games on, but the real trend we see for app developers is the need to give consumers choice in when and how to engage with ads. That is a critical thing that the industry has overlooked while rushing to monetize mobile users, and in some cases has ruined the app experience. With our partners, we see time and time again that empowering the user for when and how to engage with ads is the most effective way to drive engagement and make money.

Q: What are Tapjoy’s plans for GDC?

Tao: GDC 2014 is a big one for Tapjoy. We are launching a new comprehensive suite of monetization and distribution services, all packed into one single SDK. It is an end-to-end solution that will drastically improve the way developers are able to monetize the 98% of users that don’t participate in IAP. You can learn all about it , as well as what else is new with Tapjoy, by coming by our booth (#1424). Or email us at


Andrew Bowell
Andrew Bowell

Where does Havok fit for developers in this current transitional period? Andrew Bowell, Head of Product Management discusses the issues of the next gen and diverse hardware, before their appearance on the GDC Expo show floor.

Q: We’re still in the transitional period between last-gen and “next-gen.” What does Havok offer developers looking to the future?

Andrew Bowell: Each new console cycle provides an opportunity for developers to take a fresh look at their technology stack and assess how they plan to make games for the next-generation. Havok invests heavily in R&D to ensure that our next-generation-ready products are taking advantage of every edge each new platform offers. If the platform a developer is targeting offers more compute, more connectivity, more immersion or more interaction, Havok’s technology can help developers realize new game features and hone new game experiences for the player.

Q: Of course, video game development is no longer just about consoles. How can–and does–Havok fit for developers working in the now very broad range of hardware on offer?

Bowell: Havok’s technology can fit in a number of different ways. At a core level Havok’s technology is built from the ground up to be cross-platform. This means that developers can code once and typically run on many varying platforms. Additionally, where a platform offers a unique feature or differing architecture they are able to rely on Havok being optimized for that platform and fully leveraged the platform’s architecture. As Havok provides some of the core building blocks for games with products such as Havok Physics and Havok AI, we place a lot of emphasis on designing powerful extensible APIs and toolkits that, along with source, provide developers the flexibility to use them in many different game genres. Havok’s technology is optimized for Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3, Windows 7, Windows 8, PlayStation Vita, Wii U, Android, iOS, Windows RT, Windows Phone 8, Apple Mac OS and Linux.

Q: What are you looking forward to at GDC?

Bowell: We are thrilled to be back on the show floor this year, front and center. We’ll be showcasing how some of the top studios have utilized Havok technology to deliver immersive features to games like Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, Skylanders: Swapforce, Dead Rising 3 among others. We’ll also be showcasing the latest features for our free end-to-end mobile game engine, Project Anarchy. GDC is an amazing opportunity to connect with our customers new and old. We always like to reserve space to bring customers through the latest technology roadmap and provide a preview of what we have got in store for 2014. To schedule a one-on-one meeting with Havok, please visit


Rob Pulciani
Rob Pulciani

Hosting a developer day at GDC 2014, Amazon Apps & Games Head of Worldwide Evangelism and Marketing Rob Pulciani talks to us about Amazon’s plans for the conference, and how the company’s analytics and cloud technologies can help developers

Q: Amazon is hosting a Developer Day at GDC. A lot of game developers probably don’t think “Amazon” when they think game development: how are you changing that?

Rob Pulciani: It all starts with the products and services we’re creating. We’ve got an end to end platform that supports game developers as they build games, engage customers, and then optimize and monetize their games. We hear from developers all the time that they wish they had more time to focus on the “fun stuff” story creation, character development, game design. Our services help developers do just that. For example, we recently launched AppStream which allows developers to deliver high-end PC style gaming visuals on almost any device by shifting much of the gaming computation to the cloud. This has allowed developers like CCP games (makers of Eve Online) to eliminate multi-gigabyte downloads and get users into their game faster, and on more devices. It’s more than just game streaming though; we provide a broad range of services for developers to run on. We provide services from Amazon Elastic Beanstalk that helped with the deployment of a PS4 launch title; to Amazon Elastic MapReduce which is used as the analytics engine behind Angry Birds. There’s DynamoDB which provides the NoSQL database behind Halfbrick studios (makers of Fruit Ninja and Jetpack Joyride) so they can get single digit millisecond latency to game information. Amazon Simple Notification Service helps Plumbee games engage with their customers though cross-platform push notifications. Plus we’re helping developers test in-app experiences via A/B Testing and understand more about their app performance with Analytics. All of these services allow developers to create better experiences within their games, allowing for more creativity, and improved monetization. They’re all available cross platform with Amazon doing most of the heavy-lifting so game developers don’t have to spend a ton of time creating the backend infrastructure. We want to get the word out to the developer community and that’s why we’re here at GDC, so we can tell game developers about these services and help them continue to build great games.

Q: Talks include one on game analytics. How can Amazon technology facilitate that, and why do analytics help developers?

Pulciani: The app business is a dynamic business with great new games coming out all the time but it’s not just about building great apps. There is a ton of competition, discoverability is an issue and it’s hard to know what you can do to improve your odds of success. So like any other business, it’s important to understand how customers are engaging with your app what’s working or not working. With apps, it can also be data overload there is so much possible data and it’s often difficult to know what data point is essential. So at Amazon, we’re trying to simplify it. Our Analytics service is free and cross platform across Amazon, iOS, and Android and helps developers focus on the data that matters. Our reports detail information on active devices so devs can understand stickiness of their apps, session info – how long customers are playing a game, retention, and revenues. And it’s all presented in a simple dashboard. Some organizations, like Supercell (makers of Hay Day and Clash of Clans) also use services like Amazon Kinesis to analyze every action a player takes in game, so they can make the most engaging experience possible for their players. To learn more, check out our free Analytics tool, or come to the Amazon Dev Day sessions on Tuesday starting at 10am.

Q: Amazon is heavily invested in cloud technologies, something that’s still new for game development. You’ll be discussing that too at the developer days, but what do you see as the future of the tech for game developers?

Pulciani: First class gaming has already arrived on mobile devices and with more services moving to the cloud, we will have more gaming by more people in more locations. The scalability of cloud computing is enabling developers to focus more on game design and less on infrastructure. We’re always amazed at the many ways that game developers are using our services to make really incredible apps and gaming experiences. We see companies like Nintendo using EC2 to power their Miiverse computational needs while NaughtyDog (makers of the Uncharted games) uses CloudFront to deliver their in-game content, and updates, to users around the world.

We continue to talk to game developers and are working to give them the services they are asking for. We launched the G2 instance last year which gives developers access to NVIDIA Cuda GPUs so they can do amazing things with high powered graphics capabilities. We built SNS mobile push to help our developers have one easy way to send push messages to their apps, regardless of platform. Right now, we’re excited to see how people will start using AppStream. We’ve already seen developers doing some really innovative stuff that when they’re freed from the constraints of any one specific device. As a platform company it’s a rewarding feeling when you see someone make an amazing game and know that Amazon technology is helping make that happen.

The gaming industry has changed so much over the years, and the changes are coming more quickly. The cloud is enabling more game developers get to market faster, gain users more quickly, and do it all while avoiding any upfront infrastructure costs or capacity planning.

When I was a kid, my mom used to tell me that I shouldn’t spend so much time playing “Raiders of the Lost Ark” on my Atari 2600. Now she’s obsessed with Candy Crush and Words with Friends. The devices and games are changing but so are the players and the business models. It’s an incredible time in the world of gaming and we can’t wait to help the next generation of game developers change the world the way the people who wrote games for the 2600 did for me 30 years ago. There are so many great technologies that can help game developers develop, engage, and monetize their games to create the best customer experiences; we’re excited to be able to show developers how they can use the technologies I’ve talked about here, and many more from Amazon, at our Developer Day on Tuesday.

GDC Spotlight Interviews: Unity Technologies, Wargaming, and Fun Plus

| February 2014

In This Issue:

  • Unity Technologies – David Helgason talks about where Unity is going, and what that means for indie developers the world over.
  • Wargaming – Jay Cohen discusses about how Wargaming is approaching mobile development and how the company works to ethically deploy a highly profitable free-to-play game.
  • FunPlus – Daniel Fiden chats about what the future holds for Fun Plus, and how he predicts the gaming market will change in the year ahead.

Unity Technologies


David Helgason
David Helgason

In 2004 David Helgason co-founded Unity Technologies, the progenitor of the incredibly popular Unity development toolset, and now he leads the company in its mission to democratize game development by offering the best technology, and tools to the best community: game makers. We caught up with Helgason to chat briefly about where Unity is going, and what that means for indie developers the world over.

Q: What’s next for Unity in 2014?

David Helgason: We’ve got a lot of big things brewing at Unity that we can’t wait to tell the world about just yet. Of the things that are already public knowledge, we’re very excited to release our PlayStation 4 and Xbox One tools this year, along with our Tizen tools. We’re also looking forward to the democratizing distribution of games powered by the Unity Cloud, something we’re all very excited to get started as it’s going to be a big benefit to the Unity developer community. Naturally we also have a boatload of technical improvements and new features coming down the line, including the new GUI system which is one of the most requested features by Unity developers.

Q: Now that Unity supports the Vita, are there any other platforms that you’d like to bring into the Unity family?

Helgason: We’re actually running out of new platforms at the moment! With PlayStation 4, PlayStation Now, Xbox One and Tizen all already in development, Unity developers are going to be able to deploy their games to all of the major platforms in 2014. We really want to provide as much freedom for developers to harness the opportunities in the rapidly evolving device ecosystem, and we’re proud to say that we’re meeting that goal admirably.

Q: Why design game makers, and not games?

David Helgason: We got into making tools after trying to make games ourselves, finding no tools that we were happy with, building our own, and then realizing that we were onto something really amazing. We believed that broadly available tools had the potential to change our industry, grow it larger and more diverse, and that a huge base of developers sharing the same tools could create an ecosystem with incredible economics of collaboration.

And I never looked back: taking part in democratizing our industry has been the most rewarding journey I could have wished for. Still is by the way, since there’s still so much to do!

Q: It’s arguably never been easier for someone to make a game, thanks in part to the widespread availability of tools like Unity. How do you feel about the state of the indie gaming scene right now, and where do you see it going?

Helgason: While it can be a bit overwhelming to get into the industry and compete against so many other developers, tools that allow for quicker iteration are enabling massive experimentation and risk taking. It’s inspiring great creativity across all facets of gameplay, style, and storytelling in the indie scene right now. Unity is on this infinite adventure with the developers, who take our tools into hardcore action titles, deeply thoughtful strategic experiences, quirky experimental games, and on and on and on. This really is a golden age for games and gamers!


Jay Cohen
Jay Cohen

Jay Cohen, a game industry veteran with more than 17 years served across Playnomics, Jerry Bruckheimer Games, and Ubisoft, recently joined up as General Manager of World of Tanks developer Wargaming America. We spoke with Cohen about how Wargaming is approaching mobile development and how the company works to ethically deploy a highly profitable free-to-play game.

Q: Wargaming recently launched a beta version of its flagship PC game World of Tanks for Xbox 360. How was the game received?

Jay Cohen: We announced World of Tanks for the Xbox 360 last June @ E3 and saw a tremendous amount of support from both our community and the industry as a whole. In North America specifically, the console market is a huge opportunity for us to reach a new demographic of players. We are thrilled to be partnering with Microsoft to deliver a true World of Tanks console experience for players around the world. It is a huge milestone for Wargaming to extend beyond PC only gaming.

Q: What challenges did you face in taking the game multi-platform, and what did you learn? When do you think it makes sense for a company to consider bringing their game to another platform?

Cohen: Taking the game from PC to console first required us to address the UI and control schemes, and really hone in on the expectations that Xbox 360 players have for their games. Denny Thorley and his team in Chicago quickly learned we would also need to adapt our development and deployment procedures to a more structured certification process that wasn’t previously designed for a frequently updated PC free-to-play MMO.

We were also able to max out the full performance of the Xbox 360 and actually enhance some of the tank physics and animations for the Xbox Edition of the game.

In the end, we have always strived to bring a level of authenticity to our titles, and as a result of a cross company, global team initiative, the same attention to detail is carried over in the Xbox 360 version.

Q: How does Wargaming plan to approach the mobile market?

Cohen: Mobile platforms are the fastest growing gaming market, and leveraging Wargaming’s offerings to reach new consumers and create a strong mobile presence is among the company’s strategic priorities.

At Wargaming we are passionate about creating games that will satisfy the mobile gamer’s desire for short core loops that attach to extensive upgrade options and deeper strategy.

Our goal with World of Tanks Blitz is to create a mobile gaming experience that would rival anything they could find on any other platform whether it be a PC or console.

Q: World of Tanks held a spot on SuperData’s recent top ten list of most profitable free-to-play games in 2013. How do you approach designing and running an ethical, profitable free-to-play title?

Cohen: We are a company delivering free-to-play online games with the purpose of giving our players experiences that are based on fair treatment, whether they spend money in-game or not. In the past, many free-to-play models allowed players to pay for advantages over other players, but Wargaming’s monetization system is different; everything depends on your skill and experience.

We call the experience “free-to-win” and believe that such an approach to monetization is the most important aspect of keeping our players happy.

Fun Plus

Daniel Fiden
Daniel Fiden

Daniel Fiden serves as chief strategy officer of Fun Plus, a social networking and mobile gaming company based in China and the United States, with offices in Asia, North America, and Europe. Fun Plus rose to prominence thanks in large part to its flagship Facebook game, Family Farm, which proved remarkably popular in Asian markets. We spoke briefly with Fiden about what the future holds for Fun Plus, and how he predicts the gaming market will change in the year ahead.

Q: What’s next for Fun Plus in 2014?

Daniel Fiden: Since the company was founded in 2010, revenue has more than doubled every year and we remain very profitable. For us, this year is about continuing to grow the company. We’re going to do that first by making sure our existing games continue to grow. We’ll accomplish that by investing in nurturing our community of passionate players. Second, we’re going to make great, engaging games that we love, and that we think our players will love. That’s possible by continuing to hire only the best people in North America and China.

Q: How is developing games for the Asian market different from developing for the North American market?

Fiden: Analytics are an important part of crafting a successful game and enjoyable user experience. Whether analytics are used to help dissect where players are dropping off or getting stuck in a game or used to analyze how in-app purchases can be tweaked to be more attractive to players, tools like these are important to create successful entertainment businesses.

Q: What challenges has Fun Plus faced in keeping players engaged with games like Family Farm, and how have you met those challenges?

Fiden: It’s always a challenge to keep a community engaged, but our secret is that we listen to our players. We know that they love the game as much as we do, and so we respect their opinions about how to evolve the game and the community. We also focus heavily on local operations. So while we’re a global company that makes games that we think appeal everywhere, we also respect that localization is only a piece of the puzzle to make your game relevant. We have operations teams specific to the territories in which our games are played for example, Italian players deal with Italian game managers and customer support, and those people are full-time employees of FunPlus. It’s unique, but we think that investment leads to long-term relationships with our players, which means long-lived games.

Q: What do you think the future holds for Facebook farming games?

Fiden: Regardless of the platform whether it’s Facebook, iOS or Playstation a genre like social simulation games can continue to be interesting and compelling to people when developers focus on innovating it. We weren’t the first farm game, but we added great depth and features to the genre that people hadn’t seen before. Games like Hay Day have built on that foundation and have added even more. When we decide to make a game, it’s because we think we can make it better, deeper, more engaging and more fun. I don’t think we’ve seen the final evolution of the farm game, just as I don’t think we’ve seen the final evolution of the Match-Three or the MOBA.

Q: Why did Fun Plus join the Game Network?

Fiden: We love games, the game industry and the people who work in it. We recognize that Gamasutra, GDC and the “Join the Game Network” are a big part of that.

GDC Spotlight Interviews: Tencent Games, ARM and Unity Technologies

| January 2014

In This Issue:

  • Tencent Games – Steve Gray, executive in charge of production at Tencent Games, gives tips for developers who want to pitch apps to Chinese operators, and a sneak peek at what to expect from the upcoming Developer Day event at GDC 2014.
  • ARM – Dennis Laudick, VP, partner marketing at ARM, discusses the purchase of game lighting specialist Geomerics, how to join the ARM Connected Community, and the GDC Smartphone & Tablet Summit.
  • Unity Technologies – David Helgason, CEO of Unity Technologies, talks about the importance of analytics tools, Unity’s courting of small developers, and the company’s plans to display new technology at GDC.

Tencent Games


Steve Gray
Steve Gray

Steve Gray, executive in charge of production at Tencent Games, gives tips for developers who want to pitch apps to Chinese operators, and a sneak peek at what to expect from the upcoming Developer Day event at GDC 2014.

Q: Steve, in a recent talk entitled “A Developer’s Guide To Pitching Games for the Chinese Market,” you explained some of the marketing design and technical requirements developers ought to be aware of when pitching apps to Chinese operators. What are some of the more important tips?

Steve Gray: I’ll give you three …

— Flexibility and customer focus. You could also think of this as “operations focused.” You need to be ready and clearly willing to listen to the users and mold your game to their preferences.

— Make sure you have a monetization system that is integrated into your game design. The monetization itself should contribute to the fun of the game. It needs to be part of the core risk/reward feeling of the game.

— Absolutely no pay gates! Ever! You should be able to play and win the entire game for free. It might be really hard and time-consuming to do, but it should be possible.

Q: Just nine years after going public, Tencent has said that it is now the third-largest Internet company in the world behind Google and Amazon. That’s pretty impressive. What do you believe are some of the secrets of your success?

Gray: I think it ties back to my first tip regarding success in the Chinese market. Tencent is very focused on customer satisfaction. We hold ourselves to extremely high standards in terms of responding to customer feedback and that means at all levels. It means keeping our servers running and stable, it means getting back to customers who have questions or complaints immediately, it means solving their problems, and it means our development teams are constantly trying to improve their products based on customer feedback.

Q: Tencent has announced plans to buy about 15% of Activision Blizzard which, of course, owns Call of Duty and World of Warcraft. Are those the sort of games that you see fueling Tencent’s growth in the near-term? Or can you discuss other plans on your drawing board?

Steve Gray: It’s no secret that Activision and Tencent are collaborating on Call Of Duty Online for the Chinese market. That project has unwavering support from top management on both sides, and has the best and brightest from both companies working hard to make it as amazing and market-leading an experience as Call Of Duty has been and continues to be in the West. However, outside of that, it’s really not Tencent’s policy to discuss our investment strategies or details of any investments. You can check our company reports or listen in to the investor conference calls if you want the latest on company results and strategies.

Q: As a sponsor of the Developer Day at GDC, what will the takeaways be for developers who attend the two-day event? Can you give me a sneak peek?

Gray: We have several types of experiences we plan to offer to attendees of our Developer Day event, including:

  • Presentations from various Tencent leaders on our plans in and outside of China. These include more information for developers who would like to partner with Tencent to create great mobile and free-to-play products.
  • An opportunity for developers to meet with representatives of our various Chinese operating groups to better understand how they can adapt and license their products into the Chinese market.
  • Presentations from and the opportunity to meet with companies Tencent has invested in and partnered with all over the world. Some of these are companies that support the game industry with either content or technology, and some are operating companies from around the world. Exact details on who will participate aren’t available yet.

At a high level, what we hope to accomplish is to raise awareness in the development community of all the things that Tencent has to offer. We also want people to understand that because our “genetics” are rooted in free-to-play and games as a service, the way we work with our developers and partners is fundamentally different than the way box product publishers have worked with their developers in the past. We think we can offer a better and more symbiotic relationship to the development community  and that community is very inclusive. It includes publishers, it includes big established game developers, and it includes indie developers  and those two friends in a garage in some city we’ve never heard of who are right now making the next massive breakout hit.

Q: Why is participation in GDC important to Tencent? What do you hope to gain from being there?

Gray: GDC is a key part of the game development and publishing ecosystem. We want to be a leader and a force for progress in that ecosystem. We want the members of the community to understand that.  And, of course, we want to find some great partners and products to get involved with.


Dennis Laudick
Dennis Laudick

Dennis Laudick, VP, partner marketing at ARM, discusses the purchase of game lighting specialist Geomerics, how to join the ARM Connected Community, and the GDC Smartphone & Tablet Summit.

Q: Dennis, ARM recently acquired the Finland-based startup Sensinode Oy which develops internet-of-things software. That is said to be further evidence that ARM is pressing ahead to develop for more than just mobile devices and is hoping to cover cars, appliances, and anything that needs to be connected. Talk to me about ARM’s strategy for the near future.

Dennis Laudick: It’s easy to look at ARM and think that what we are mostly about is ICs for mobile devices and certainly the size of the mobile market means that that’s where a lot of our technology ends up. However, the truth is that ARM’s success to-date is really about a large ecosystem of companies using ARM-based technology to build a very diverse array of products for a wide range of markets. Already today you can see ARM technology being used in not only gaming devices — like phones, tablets, TVs, and GameSticks — but also in a far wider range of devices — like sensors, wearables, appliances, cars, and enterprise applications. A wide array of applications that continues to expand as ARM partners find new and innovative ways of using our technology. It’s pretty exciting to see some of the devices our partners continue to come up with.

As the market continues to move forward, like any company, we are always on the lookout for complementary technologies which help us to provide better solutions. Many of our acquisitions are simply about that — ensuring that we are providing solutions for today and tomorrow’s markets and we are providing solutions to our partners and the right components that will continue to allow them to innovate in the market. Where those components then end up is down to the ARM ecosystem of partners, and it’s simply our job to ensure that the community has everything they need and are supported as much as possible.

Q: Talking about acquisitions, ARM just acquired Geomerics which is best known for creating the lighting in such games as Battlefield 4 and Eve Online. I’m told that you intend to accelerate the company’s mobile and console game development capabilities. What will that mean for developers?

Laudick: It’s important to note that ARM and Geomerics have actually been working together in partnership for a couple of years now. There have already been a number of activities that were overlapping or would be in the future. As ARM gets increasingly active in the gaming space and as we look to further accelerate the roadmap around our very successful ARM Mali GPUs, we could see how the technologies would become increasingly aligned down the road. In the end, the decision to acquire Geomerics was actually fairly obvious.

Looking at Geomerics, the technology and techniques they have developed around lighting are truly advanced and quite unique. As you mentioned, they are already seeing success in numerous popular titles today with more to come. What they are really doing is bringing lighting effects to today’s platforms that were not expected to be possible for another couple of generations. Not only that, but they are doing it in a way that allows developers to work intuitively and be more productive in the process. That’s something we don’t expect to change. Geomerics will continue to support the full array of platforms and GPUs available in the market.

From an ARM point-of-view, acquiring Geomerics provides ARM with increased access and understanding of the game developer community so that we can help ensure that we are providing the best platforms, tools, and support, now and in the future.

Q: Your new interactive online platform is billed as a hub where developers can collaborate and discuss ideas and challenges. How can developers join and why would they want to?

Laudick: It is very easy to join the ARM Connected Community which is designed to be a one-stop interactive platform for anyone working with the ARM architecture. It’s a place to have your questions answered not only by other developers, but also by experts in the ARM engineering teams. You can even find your next project partner by searching among the 900-plus companies from the ARM ecosystem already presenting their products and services.

Q: GDC will once again feature a Smartphone & Tablet Summit (on March 17 and 18) that will focus on the nuts and bolts of great game design and successful business strategies specifically tailored to popular smartphones and tablets. This year ARM is a Gold Sponsor. Specifically what will you be speaking about at the two-day program?

Laudick: We see the Smartphone and Tablet Summit as a great platform for connecting with the community and ecosystem around mobile devices. Our specific plans are still being finalized but people can rest assured that we are working hard to ensure that we provide the community with the latest information and insights into ARM technologies, such as ARM Mali GPUs, ARM big.LITTLE processing, ARMv7 and ARMv8 architecture, as well as the tricks and techniques for best use and tools to support them.

Q: What can visitors to the ARM booth at GDC expect to see? Will you be unveiling any new programs or technologies?

Laudick: GDC is one of the most exciting events of the year for us. It’s a great opportunity for us to engage with the community, get feedback, see what the industry is up to, and help ensure that people are getting everything they need from ARM.

This year will be no exception. We will have a strong presence at the show (booth #1616). This booth is the place to come to see some of the latest technology we have been working on both in-house and via our numerous partners. You can see prototypes of new applications not only in gaming but also game developer-oriented tools and some of the advanced activities taking place in the exciting area of GPU computing. Most importantly, this is where you can come and talk to the ARM developers, ecosystem team, and a wide range of partners. It’s a great place to see what’s going on, get engaged, and get your questions answered. As for specific announcements around the show, I wouldn’t want to spoil the fun.

It’s worth noting that, in addition to ARM, Geomerics will also be attending GDC and will also be available at the ARM booth.

Unity Technologies

David Helgason
David Helgason

David Helgason, CEO of Unity Technologies, talks about the importance of analytics tools, Unity’s courting of small developers, and the company’s plans to display new technology at GDC.

Q: David, you announced just recently a partnership with GameAnalytics to bring their tools into the Unity Asset Store Online Services Strategic Partner program. Tell me about the strategy behind that partnership.

David Helgason: Our Online Services Strategic Partner program was designed to be a way to get quality services by reputable providers, such as GameAnalytics, featured to our gigantic developer community via the Asset Store. Online services such as those provided by GameAnalytics are an important part of modern game development.

Q: A recent report says that developers can expect to see a number of third-party firms offering additional analytics tools to help them be more successful with Unity-based mobile games. If that’s true, what can developers hope to gain from this new trend?

Helgason: Analytics are an important part of crafting a successful game and enjoyable user experience. Whether analytics are used to help dissect where players are dropping off or getting stuck in a game or used to analyze how in-app purchases can be tweaked to be more attractive to players, tools like these are important to create successful entertainment businesses.

Q: Since you dropped all pricing for the basic levels of your services, I’m told that Unity has been actively courting smaller developers who could use your products to be more competitive. How is that strategy working out?

Helgason: Last May, we removed the cost of all of our fundamental mobile development tools. That means individual developers and startup studios can build and deploy games for iOS, Android, Windows Phone 8, and BlackBerry 10 without having to purchase a license. This is in addition to the desktop (Windows, Mac, and Linux) and Web publishing that were already free with the core Unity tools. These developers are the core of our awesome and very global developer community, and we’re as passionate about courting them as we’ve ever been. Many of the titles you see on our games list were created by indie studios. With over 2 million developers in our community — 520, 000 of whom are using Unity actively on a monthly basis — we’re certainly pleased that so many developers of all sizes are finding Unity to be an awesome development tool.

Q: What takeaways can developers expect to hear if they visit Unity’s booth at GDC?

Helgason: While we’re saving details for the show itself, we’ll have some fantastic new tech on display. We’ll also have members of our Asset Store, Unity Cloud, and Unity Games teams on hand, and will also have a variety of talks regarding our technology designed to help developers learn more about Unity and how it can be used best. Of course, we’ll also be displaying an awesome selection of games from our community at the booth, which is something we’re always excited about.

Q: Unity is a sponsor of the Developer Day at GDC. Why is that sponsorship an important part of your marketing strategy?

Helgason: The Dev Day program allows us to get deeper into our technology in front of a group of individuals invested in learning as much as possible. It’s a great place for us to showcase new technology and have the chance to dig into what makes Unity such an incredibly powerful tool for today’s developers.

Independent Games Festival’s 1999 finalists, then and now

The inaugural year for the Independent Games Festival (IGF) was over a decade ago. While over 1,000 entries exist for the 2014 competition, IGF was 10 times smaller in 1999, which may correlate to a time when it was more difficult to be financially successful and independent. Indie angel investors and incubators, console support, digital distribution channels, easy access to free tools and assistance, and online crowd funding initiatives were all but missing at the turn of the millenium.
Even if IGF recognized these innovative but incomplete games, there were more obstacles and fewer options for them to make it to retail. It should come as no surprise that some of the IGF 1999 games from smaller studios remain unfinished. Though not all the games earned success, the talent behind these games has persevered.
Master of remastering ceremonies Jason Scott has revisited some of the more widely known game talent from that year. To complement Jason’s excellent preservation of the finalist show reel, this piece will explore what has happened to as many of the first IGF finalists as possible. It looks at what IGF has done for these sometimes repeat finalists, what else they have worked on, and even what they feel could improve IGF.

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