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Game Developers Choice Online Awards honor Raph Koster, World of Warcraft

GDC Online organizers have revealed that Raph Koster, a key industry veteran behind the prodigious MMORPGs Ultima Online and Star Wars Galaxies, will be honored with the Online Game Legend Award at the third annual Game Developers Choice Online Awards.

In addition, Blizzard Entertainment's influential World of Warcraft will be inducted into the Choice Online Awards Hall of Fame during the ceremony, taking place Wednesday, October 10 at GDC Online in Austin, Texas.

These special awards categories recognize developers and titles that have had significant impact in the world of online games. Honorees were selected through open nominations from the online game community and the distinguished GDC Online Advisory Board.

Raph Koster, this year's Online Game Legend Award winner, has led a prolific career. As the lead designer on Ultima Online and the creative director on Star Wars Galaxies, his contributions helped lay the foundation for the many massively multiplayer games that followed. Koster's professional credits span nearly every facet of game development, including writing, art, soundtrack music, programming and design.

Raph Koster is considered a thought leader, as he is a frequent lecturer and published author on topics of game design, community management, storytelling and ethics in game development. His A Theory of Fun, published in 2004, is considered seminal by educators and members of the art game movement, as well as being one of the most popular books ever written about games.

In his youth, Koster taught himself programming on an Atari 8-bit computer that he used to create the first game he ever sold (It was purchased by a fellow classmate). His early professional years include work on the award-winning multi-user dungeon LegendMUD, which he later parlayed into a position as lead designer on the seminal MMO Ultima Online. Koster's varied interests in writing, art and graphic design served him well when he joined Sony Online Entertainment in the role of creative director on Star Wars Galaxies, a game praised for its lush graphics, authentic movie-based soundtrack, expansive in-game world, customization options and sophisticated gameplay mechanics.

After serving as chief creative officer at Sony Online Entertainment, Koster established his own firm, Metaplace, a software platform developer for social worlds and the company behind popular Facebook games Island Life and My Vineyard. In 2010, Metaplace was acquired by Disney Interactive Media Group's online social development arm, Playdom, where Koster currently serves as vice president of creative design.

Voting opens for the Game Developers Choice Online Audience Award

With GDC Online's Game Developers Choice Online Awards quickly approaching, event organizers have opened voting for the ceremony's popular Audience Award, and are encouraging developers and gamers alike to vote for their favorite persistent online game from now until September 14.

Typically, winners at the Game Developers Choice Online Awards are chosen by the online body of the event's International Choice Award Network (ICAN), but the Audience Award allows the public to choose the best currently operating persistent online game, whether it be a traditional MMO, a free-to-play web game title, a social network game, or anything else.

To vote, users can simply enter the name of their selected game and a valid email address at the Game Developers Choice Online Awards website. After making a selection, all users must verify their vote via email.

With hundreds of thousands of votes cast in the past, the Audience Award is one of the most hotly contested of the show, with previous winners including KingsIsle's Wizard101 and Riot Games' League Of Legends.

The winner of the Audience Award will be revealed alongside the other award winners at the third annual Game Developers Choice Online Awards, which will run alongside GDC Online in Austin, Texas on the evening of Wednesday, October 10.

GDC Online adds Kabam, King.com talks, reminds on early reg deadline

With just one day until Early Bird registration ends for October's GDC Online event, show organizers have added talks from Kabam and King.com, plus a lecture on how female developers can help broaden the industry's reach and diversity.

These new talks all fall within GDC Online's Main Conference, which offers some of the world's leading content on persistent and online games. The event will be held Tuesday, October 9 to Thursday, October 11 at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, Texas.

The full details on GDC Online's newly announced sessions are as follows:

- As part of the Production track, Riccardo Zacconi, CEO and co-founder of major social game developer King.com, will discuss his philosophy for multi-platform game development in "Building a Multi-Platform Game Business out of Facebook and onto Mobile."

Zacconi will look back on major King.com titles like Bubble Witch Saga to present his strategy for creating games that offer a smooth user experience, achieve high ratings, and successfully integrate cross-platform gameplay.

- Over in the Design track, Kabam art lead Josh Viers and general manager Justin Lambros will discuss how they leveraged their art and design talents to improve engagement and monetization in Kabam's latest social strategy game, Trojan War.

Their session, "Enhancing Engagement with Art and Design in Hardcore Social Games," will offer a behind the scenes look at Kabam's design process for games that exist across Facebook and the web.

- Finally, Jill Schneiderman, the VP of games at SGN (Bingo Blingo), will host "For Women, by... Men?" -- a Design track lecture examining the implications of gender imbalance in the game industry.

As Schneiderman will explain, women make up a large portion of the video game-playing audience across social, mobile, and other platforms, yet only a small fraction of the people making these games are female. She'll examine the state of the industry and outline the key insights that women can bring to the development process.

GDC Online highlights top speakers, reminds on early reg deadline

GDC Online 2012, organized by the UBM TechWeb Game Network, is just a few short months away, and will host a robust schedule of more than 100 lectures, panels, keynotes, and roundtable discussions led by notables in the connected, mobile, and social game development sectors.

The annual event returns to Austin on October 9 through October 11, and Early Bird registration for GDC Online is still open through Friday, August 24.

Mobile and social games will have an increased prominence this year, reflecting developments across the games landscape. Vijay Thakkar, Zynga technical director, will lecture on the importance of searching for and developing new IP while Kabam general manager Justin Lambros and art lead Josh Viers give a joint session to offer attendees a behind-the-scenes review of the design development decisions they made while creating the studio's hardcore social-strategy game, Trojan War.

Gary Gattis, CEO of Austin-based mobile and social MMO developer Spacetime Studios, will also be on hands to detail his applied "engagement and respect" philosophy at Spacetime, which has retained more than 90 percent of its employees for several years.

GDC Online will also continue to adhere to its core focus on online games. Damien Schubert, principal lead systems designer at BioWare Austin, and one of the minds behind Star Wars: The Old Republic, and John Smedley, president of Sony Online Entertainment, will both offer lessons from their experiences developing and launching big-budget, large-scale MMO titles.

As a special treat, attendees will have the opportunity to learn about the challenges of developing, launching and maintaining a landmark MMORPG title during the Ultima Online classic game postmortem. Rich Vogel, Raph Koster and Starr M. Long, three chief members of the original Ultima Online team, will be on-hand to discuss the challenges they faced during the creation of the seminal game.

Introduced at the 2011 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, classic game postmortems provide a forum for the game creators behind legacy titles to deconstruct what they learned during the process of development.

Other key 2012 GDC Online speakers and sessions include:

- Electronic Arts' EVP of digital, Kristian Segerstrale, discussing the best approach to creating fully immersive game ecosystems that create an emotional connection with consumers.

- Zynga CTOs Jason Pearlman (mobile) and Allan Leinwand (infrastructure engineering) offering tips to game developers and engineers on how to cope with the infrastructure demands of modern online games.

GDC Europe sees record 2012 attendance, reveals dates for 2013

The 2012 Game Developers Conference Europe (GDC Europe) saw more than 2,100 game industry professionals through its doors last week, breaking the event's previous attendance record.

Running from August 13-15, GDC Europe saw keynotes from industry leaders like Ubisoft Montreal's creative director Alex Hutchinson, CEO of Wargaming.net Victor Kislyi, and Epic Games senior engine programmer Niklas Smedberg.

IGF China seeking indie game submissions for 2012 event

The Independent Games Festival China - which will take place alongside this November's GDC China in Shanghai - has opened its call for submissions and is accepting indie game entries from the pan-Pacific area from now through September 10.

Following its success from previous years, GDC China will once again host all three main elements of IGF China, including the IGF Summit, the IGF Pavilion, and the prestigious IGF Awards.

Now in its fourth year, the IGF Summit at GDC China will feature sessions from some of the world's top developers, while the IGF Pavilion will showcase some of the region's best independent and student games.

And of course the IGF Awards - which are split into both Main and Student competitions - will honor the many talented developers in the pan-Pacific area.

The 2012 IGF China Main Competition will give out awards and cash prizes in five categories, including:

- Best Game (RMB20,000 ~ $3,150 USD)
- Best Mobile Game (RMB10,000 ~ $1,570 USD)
- Excellence in Audio (RMB5,000 ~ $780 USD)
- Excellence in Technology (RMB5,000 ~ $780 USD)
- Excellence in Visual Arts (RMB5,000 ~ $780 USD)

The Student Competition, meanwhile, will offer two awards, for Best Student Game (RMB10, 000 ~ $1,570 USD, 1 Winner) and Excellent Student Winner (RMB3, 000 ~$470 USD, 2 Winners).

Finalists -- who will receive two All Access passes to attend GDC China and the IGF awards ceremony on November 18, 2012 -- will be chosen by a panel of expert jurors including Kevin Li (CEO, TipCat Interactive); Monte Singman (Founder/CEO, Radiance Digital Entertainment); Xubo Yang (Director of Digital Art Lab and Assistant Professor; Shanghai Jiaotong University's School of Software), Haipeng Yu (Producer, Tencent Shanghai), and jury chairman Simon Carless, IGF Chairman Emeritus and EVP of the GDC shows, Gamasutra, and Game Developer magazine.

Check out the origin of Ultima Online at GDC Online 2012

GDC Online's robust session lineup continues to grow this week, as show organizers have debuted new sessions including a 'classic postmortem' on the groundbreaking MMO Ultima Online, as well as in-depth sessions on Zynga and the ethics of modern game development.

These new talks all fall within GDC Online's Main Conference, which offers some of the world's leading content on persistent and online games. The event will be held Tuesday, October 9 to Thursday, October 11 at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, Texas.

The full details on these newly announced sessions are as follows:

- Over in the Design track, attendees will get a behind the scenes look at the creation of Ultima Online, which was not only one of the first graphical MMOs, it also helped set the standard for player versus player combat and sandbox gameplay for years after its launch. Even today, it's remembered as one of the greatest online games of all time.

And at this October's GDC Online, three of the game's creators -- Raph Koster (Playdom), Rich Vogel (ex-BioWare), and Starr Long (Disney) -- will reflect on the ambition, struggles, and "idealistic cluelessness" that fueled the development of this influential title.

- Also in the Design track, Zynga's SVP of product development, Mark Skaggs, will host "The Lessons I Learned from Making FarmVille and CityVille," shedding some light on the latest trends in the social game space.

Looking at Zynga's titles in particular, Skaggs will explain how social games have changed over the past few years, how developers can overcome the challenges of making data-driven decisions, and what studios should be planning for as the market continues to evolve.

- Finally, GDC Online attendees will have the opportunity to check out what promises to be a lively panel on the ethical challenges developers face in the modern game industry.

The session, dubbed "Ahead of the Game - Ethics of Modern Game Development," will feature speakers including Amazon.com senior game producer Nikolaus Davidson, Bobber Interactive COO Scott Dodson, and moderator, Immersyve president, and game motivation and psychology expert Scott Rigby, all of whom have plenty to say about the most pressing issues facing today's developers.

GDC Online adds CastleVille, CCP design talks

The lineup for this October's GDC Online continues to grow this week, as show organizers have added a trio of new design-focused sessions featuring a postmortem of Zynga's CastleVille, EVE Online developer CCP on sandbox game design, and a look at how to enhance your franchise with complementary companion games.

These new talks all fall within GDC Online's Design track as part of the show's Main Conference, which offers come of the world's leading content on persistent and online games. The event will be held Tuesday, October 9 to Thursday, October 11 at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, Texas.

The full details on these newly-announced sessions are as follows:

- In "CastleVille Postmortem: What Went Right and Wrong," Zynga designers William Lemons and Bruce Shelley will peel back the curtain on one of the social game giant's newest and most popular Facebook titles.

Zynga Dallas, the studio behind CastleVille (and formerly known as Bonfire Studios) was founded by a number of veterans from the popular Age of Empires franchise, and in this session Lemons and Shelley will explain how the team leveraged its experience working on RTS games while meeting the demands of modern social game design.

- Elsewhere, Matthew Woodward of EVE Online developer CCP Games will share his thoughts on the design theory behind sandbox online games.

His session, dubbed "The Other White Meat: Design Architecture for Sandbox Games," will pick the genre apart piece by piece, analyzing the importance of social networks, emergent gameplay, and self-sustaining systems. Woodward will also discuss a number of practical design lessons developers can apply to their own sandbox titles.

- Finally, Ben Miller and Matt Griswald, two of the lead developers behind the Resistance 3 companion web-based strategy game Global Resistance, will discuss what it takes to make a robust and successful complementary title that benefits a larger, AAA release.

Their session, "Take Your Companion Game to the Next Level," will examine the design of Global Resistance, demonstrating how the game's design, format, and online community helped draw attention to its AAA big brother on PlayStation 3.

2013 Independent Games Festival submissions now open

Organizers are now officially opening submissions for the 2013 Independent Games Festival, to be held at GDC 2013 in San Francisco next March.

The longest-running and highest-profile independent video game festival, summit and showcase is now accepting entries to the 15th annual Festival, with deadlines in the Main and Student Showcase categories by October 17th and October 31st respectively, and finalists to be announced on January 2013.

Following over 850 entries to IGF 2012, the Festival has expanded each existing category to six finalists, all of which will be available in playable form at a larger, expanded IGF Pavilion on the GDC show floor, and will compete for nearly $60,000 in prizes.

These include the $5,000 Nuovo Award, honoring 'abstract, shortform, and unconventional' games, as well as the Excellence in Art, Audio, Design, Technology, Student Game and Audience Award prizes, each worth $3,000, and the crowning $30,000 Seumas McNally Grand Prize.

Notable former Independent Games Festival winners over the previous 15 years include Spelunky, Fez, Minecraft, Limbo, World of Goo, Braid, Castle Crashers, Everyday Shooter and many more of the game industry's breakthrough independent titles.

Winners will be announced on stage at the high-profile Independent Games Festival Awards on Wednesday, March 27, 2013, at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, with the IGF Pavilion open from March 27-29, and the sister Independent Games Summit event taking place on March 25 and 26.

All of the Independent Games Festival events take place as part of the 2013 Game Developers Conference, which is held March 25th - March 29th, 2013 in San Francisco, and the IGF continues as the most vital showcase of independent game talent across the wide spectrum of artistically- and commercially-aimed development.

"All of us here at the IGF are eager to see this year's selection of games. Each year, the community manages to outpace itself in innovation and artistry, and we expect nothing less for this 15th anniversary Festival," said IGF Chairman Brandon Boyer.

GDC Europe 2012 details the top sessions for next week's show

It's been many months in the making, but GDC Europe 2012 is starting this coming Monday in Cologne, Germany, and will feature a slew of exciting, must-see sessions for the European game development community.

Over the past several months, GDC organizers have announced major keynotes, panels, and presentations from the best and brightest in the game industry, and with so many talks lined up, this year's GDC Europe promises to be the most robust and varied yet.

And even though we're just days away from the event, GDC organizers are highlighting two recent additions to the show's lineup:

- The first talk comes from independent developers Martin Jonasson (Jesus vs. Dinosaurs) and Petri Purho (Crayon Physics), who will demonstrate some tricks that can help make your games more interesting to play. During the Independent Games Summit session closing out the show on Wednesday, the pair will spruce up a game live on stage, showing attendees exactly how these tips can benefit or enhance game design.

- In addition, Harald Riegler, CEO of the Australian studio Sproing (Silent Hunter Online, Panzer Tactics DS) will discuss the importance of company culture in his Business Track talk, offering tips on handling leadership, managing team dynamics, and creating a studio that works effectively as a single unit.

Of course, these new sessions are just two of the more recent additions to GDC Europe's extensive lineup. Here are some of the other notable talks to be held at next week's show:

Business, Marketing and Management Track

- Track Keynote: World of Free-to-Play - AAA by Wargaming.net (Victor Kislyi, Wargaming.net)
- Leveling Up Your AAA Game - BioWare's Post Release Content Insights (Fernando Melo, Bioware)
- Financing Options for Smaller Games (Nicholas Lovell, GAMESbrief; Patrick O'Luanaiagh, nDreams; Ciaran O'Leary, Earlybird; Jonathan Newth, Tenshi Ventures)

Production Track

- Passion for Entertainment: 10 years of Battlefield/20 Years of DICE (Karl Magnus Troedsson, DICE)
- Mafia II Postmortem (Jarek Kolar, 2K Czech)
- The Long Journey (Robin Hunicke, formerly of thatgamecompany)

Game Design Track

- Track Keynote: Assassin's Creed: Maintaining Momentum on a Blockbuster Franchise (Alex Hutchinson, Ubisoft Montreal)
- Ambiguity and Abstraction in Game Writing: Lessons from Dear Esther (Dan Pinchbeck, thechineseroom)
- Classic Postmortem: GoldenEye 007 (Martin Hollis, Zoomani)

GDC Europe details Dead Trigger, Gree talks, reminds on online registration

With just one day to go before online registration closes for GDC Europe, show organizers have revealed new details on a trio of upcoming sessions, featuring a behind the scenes look at Madfinger's Dead Trigger (pictured), a postmortem on Gree's Animal Days, and a panel covering the ins and outs of critical writing and reporting in the game industry.

These talks all fall within GDC Europe's Main Conference, which takes place Monday through Wednesday, August 13-15, 2012 at the Congress-Centrum Ost Koelnmesse in Cologne, Germany.

Those looking to attend the show should act soon, as lower-cost online registration will close tomorrow, August 7 -- after that date, passes will only be available for purchase on-site.

And without further ado, here are the full details on the latest sessions to be announced for GDC Europe:

- As part of the Programming track, Madfinger Games CEO Marek Rabas and senior programmer Petr Benysek will host "Bringing Dead Trigger into Life," offering an inside look at how the team created its visually stunning mobile shooter. The pair will provide a step-by-step look at the game's production, detailing everything from AI behaviors, design decisions, performance optimization, and much more.

- Over in the Game Design track, Gree development manager Hiroyuki Haga will discuss some key mobile development lessons in "Animal Days Post-Mortem: Developing a City-Building Game That's Ready for Quick Content-Iteration." Using the just-released city-building mobile game as a reference, Haga will explain how Gree quickly generates game content, and maximizes the performance of all of its new releases.

- Also in the Game Design track is "How Gaming News Works: A Guided Tour," giving attendees a chance to learn about the past, present and future of critical writing and reporting in the game industry. While the session was first revealed earlier this year, the panel is now confirmed to consist of news writers including Alexander Sliwinski (Joystiq), Ben Gilbert (Joystiq), Pat Garratt (VG247), and Oliver Menne (Eurogamer).

GDC Europe 2012 reveals full Smartphone & Tablet Games Summit lineup

With GDC Europe nearly upon us, show organizers have revealed the entire lineup for the event's Smartphone & Tablet Games Summit, including new Galaxy On Fire, Flurry, and Game Insight (Paradise Island) talks.

The Summit will take place Tuesday, August 14 at the Congress-Centrum Ost Koelnmesse in Cologne, Germany alongside Gamescom, and will feature some of the best and brightest in the mobile space discussing the future of the business on both smartphones and tablets.

The newest sessions to be announced for the event include a look at Fishlabs' Galaxy on Fire 2 (pictured), a breakdown of mobile game data from analytics firm Flurry, and a presentation from Russian studio Game Insight on making successful multiplatform games.

The full details on these new sessions are as follows:

- In "Galaxy on Fire 2 - from AAA Premium on iOS to Freemium on Android," Fishlabs CEO and co-founder Michael Schade will discuss how the studio's popular mobile title went from premium to freemium for its Android debut. The game sustained a $9.99 price tag for more than 18 months on iOS, but as Schade will explain, that model just wouldn't work for its Android release. During this session, he'll explain how and why the Android version needed such a massive overhaul.

- Elsewhere, Flurry managing director Richard Firminger will share the firm's latest data on the mobile market, shedding light on some important trends developers will want to keep track of. His session, "Mobile Application Analytics & Consumer Insight: The Biggest Content Revolution of Our Lifetime," will give attendees a better understanding of mobile game development, and drive home the long-term value of detailed data analysis.

- In addition, Game Insight's vice president of business development, Darya Trushkina, will explain why developers should always be looking to get their games on as many platforms as possible. In "Cross-Platform Mobile Game Development: What, Why, and How Much?," Trushkina will reference Game Insight titles like Mystery Manor and Paradise Island to demonstrate the best (and worst) ways to ensure your game will work across multiple platforms.

Of course, these new talks join a number of other sessions featured in the Smartphone & Tablet Games Summit. Other talks at the show include a detailed examination of mobile game audio, a session from Beat Sneak Bandit's Simogo on breaking away from industry trends, a postmortem on Wooga's popular Diamond Dash for iOS, and a sponsored session on why mobile devs should keep an eye on the Blackberry platform.

GDC Europe 2012 details Expo Floor, sponsored session highlights

GDC Europe is just a few short weeks away, and this year's show is certainly shaping up to be the biggest and most robust thus far. Show organizers have already revealed a slew of exciting sessions, lectures, and panels, and today they've debuted new details for the show's Expo Floor and its numerous sponsored presentations.

As in years past, GDC Europe will offer a full exhibition hall, where attendees can talk directly to some of the industry's leading developers and game companies, making it a great opportunity to network and reach out to some of the biggest names in the game business.

This year's Expo Floor will host major game companies including CCP (EVE Online), Crytek, EA, and Wooga, as well as notable software firms like Perforce and Havok. For a full list of exhibitors, check out the official GDC Europe website or download the show's floor plan [PDF].

In addition to the packed Expo Floor, GDC Europe will also feature a number of informative sponsored sessions from these and other influential companies.

Here are just a few of the numerous sponsored sessions at this month's show:

- Major middleware provider Autodesk will showcase its Gameware technology, detailing how the studio's software promises to improve production pipelines and streamline common snags in the game development process.

- Elsewhere, Intel will discuss the importance of developing games than can run smoothly on mainstream PC hardware. Attendees will learn a handful of useful techniques to optimize their games and create products that can reach a larger consumer base.

- Management software firm Perforce will host its own session to discuss how its software versioning solution can help small teams better manage their production cycles and chart the development of their current projects -- all at no cost to their studio.

- In a mobile-focused session, Blackberry developer Research in Motion will show off its new Blackberry10 platform, arguing why it could help mobile studios monetize their games and focus on cross-platform development.

- In addition, middleware firm Havok will outline how developers can use the company's Vision Engine and other game development tools to create detailed and dynamic games that can exist across multiple platforms.

GDC Online 2012 reveals first details of Game Dev Start-Up Summit

Starting your own game studio is a great way to pursue your independence and enjoy complete creative freedom, but as it turns out, building a new business requires a lot of hard work. There are plenty of factors to manage and keep in mind.

With that in mind, the inaugural Game Dev Start-Up Summit at this year's GDC Online in Austin promises to offer plenty of help for developers looking to strike out on their own.

This one-day Summit, put together by GDC Online organizers and veteran game industry lawyer Jim Charne, will include a host of sessions that provide a step-by-step look at the issues, challenges, and realities of getting a new game company off the ground.

The Summit will take place alongside the rest of GDC Online, which will be held Tuesday, October 9 to Thursday, October 11 at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, Texas, and will be open to all Summits & Tutorials and All-Access Pass holders.

And now, GDC Online organizers have revealed the first three talk themes in the upcoming Game Dev Start-Up Summit. The full details on these newly announced sessions are as follows:

- To kick things off, the Summit speakers will host "Pre-launch - Preparing to Take the Plunge," a robust discussion of the concrete steps developers need to take to move from their previous employment to their brand-new startup.

- Next, multiple speakers will discuss how to put all the pieces of your company together in "Formation: Legal and Accounting Issues." The speakers will give attendees the insight they need to find and lease an office, to select a good bookkeeper and lawyer, to establish a useful employee handbook, and much more.

- In the Summit's third session, the speakers will host "Finance: Sources and Timing," covering perhaps the most important resource to a fledgling business: Money. The session will cover everything from bootstrapping, venture capital, bank loans, and many other resources that a new company will have to keep in mind.

Confirmed speakers for the Game Dev Start-Up Summit thus far include notable game developers, businesspeople and legal counsel including Don Daglow (Daglow Entertainment), James Niesewand (Illyriad Games), Rob Shillingsburg (Jetbolt Games), Dan Offner (Loeb & Loeb), David Rosenbaum (Law Offices of David S Rosenbaum), David Baszucki (Roblox), Bill Graner (Crater House), and Gary Gattis (Spacetime Studios).

 

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