GDC Canada 2009: The Event Round-Up

May 12th-13th saw the just concluded, successful first annual Game Developers Conference Canada, held at the new Vancouver Convention Center by Think Services in conjunction with Reboot Communications.
There was a general focus on higher-budget games for the first GDC Canada — reflecting the output of many Vancouver-area developers like EA Canada, Relic Entertainment, Next Level Games, and Radical Entertainment, all of whom had representatives at the show.
2009 GDC Canada’s relatively small size gave it an intimate feel, although the keynotes by Don Mattrick of Microsoft and Drs. Greg Zeschuk and Ray Muzyka of BioWare saw fully-packed rooms.
Think Services-owned editorial site Gamasutra had extensive session coverage from the two days of GDC Canada, including both keynote addresses – here’s the highlights:
Microsoft’s Mattrick Talks Distinctive Days, Pioneer Spirit
“In the first of GDC Canada’s two keynotes, former Electronic Arts and current Microsoft executive Don Mattrick spoke with Victor Lucas about his history in the games industry, from Distinctive Software to Xbox. There was particular relevance to the assembled crowd — after all, Mattrick can arguably credited with having sown the seeds for the now-thriving Vancouver-area game development scene.”
BioWare Bosses Talk The Future Of Storytelling
“BioWare co-founders and medical doctors Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk never have any shortage of things to say about interactive narrative, and that held true in the second GDC Canada keynote. The good doctors conveyed their studio’s mentality towards game storytelling, from different player character perspectives to internal versus external narrative, to character archetypes.”


Next Level’s Tronsgard On The Anti-Crunch Manifesto
“With all the recent discussion about the necessity of crunch in video game development, this triumphant talk by Next Level Games CEO Douglas Tronsgard provides much-needed reassurance: it is possible to develop high-quality video games without crunching. Tronsgard explains that his studio was explicitly founded to achieve that goal, and its “intentional culture” of rooting out the causes of crunch has allowed the studio to maintain its standards with few slip-ups.”
Rogers On Determining Studio Value To Publishers
“The games industry is notoriously secretive about its own financial affairs, which makes Dan Lee Rogers’ comprehensive analysis of high-profile video game studio acquisitions like Rare, BioWare, and Shiny particularly fascinating. Rogers, a longtime acquisition negotiator on behalf of studios, drills down into what publishers actually want out of their developer purchases, and what they did get (or didn’t) out of some of the priciest ones.”
EA Montreal’s Schneider Gets Disruptive On Army Of Two
“EA Montreal producer Reid Schneider’s current project is Army of Two: The 40th Day, but in this postmortem he focused on that game’s predecessor — and through the experience of developing that game, the team ‘built a studio, learned a ton, and created a franchise.’ Learn why “they” shouldn’t be telling you how to make your game, why execution can trump disruption, and why you should listen to Gore Verbinski.”
What Game Developers Should Know About Windows 7
“In one of the conference’s more ‘brass tacks’ talks, Microsoft senior software design engineer Chuck Walbourn laid out many of the changes coming to the anticipated Windows 7, with a particular focus on games. In particular, he touched on 7’s successive relationship to Vista, concluding with, ‘If you have any issues with Vista, fix them now. They’re not going to go away. If you’re a developer, you should be using Windows Vista 64-bit or Windows 7.'”
Researcher Chandler Talks Creating Emotion, Belief
“Did you know scary games can kill you? Here, researcher Clive Chandler explains how games with prolonged frights can cause a harmful buildup of the stress hormone cortisol. On a less medical note, Chandler also broadly discusses emotion in games, including the importance of building player trust and providing an appropriately varied emotional roller coaster.”
More information on this year’s just-concluded GDC Canada event is available at the official Game Developers Canada website.