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IGF 2013 highlights initial Design, Technical Award jurors

Organizers of the 2013 Independent Games Festival are pleased to announce the latest additions to its discipline-specific jury panels that will determine the finalists and winner of its various awards.

The jury announcements for this year are beginning with some of the industry professionals, independent game notables and former IGF award winners that will make up its Excellence in Design and Technical Achievement Awards, as well as high-profile additions to its Nuovo and Narrative awards, the first members of which were recently announced.

Former Journey producer and designer and current Funomena co-founder Robin Hunicke will be joining both the Nuovo and Narrative juries. Also joining the Narrative jury is Telltale writer and designer Sean Vanaman, notable for his work co-writing the recent award-winning Walking Dead adventure series. And the Nuovo Award jury will also see the inclusion of designer,
curator and Kokoromi art collective co-founder Heather Kelley and Lea
Schoenfelder, creator of former IGF finalist Ulitsa Dimitrova.

While the juries continue to be assembled in advance of the kick-off of our next phase of the finalist selection process, we're happy to announce the following confirmed jurists.

The Excellence in Design Award

The Excellence in Design award is a category which seeks to highlight the innovation and quality of the underlying blueprint of each entered game -- component parts like its mechanic design, level design, and difficulty balancing.

Prior finalists and winners of the IGF Excellence in Design Award have included 2D Boy's cartoon construction puzzler World of Goo, Pocketwatch Games' abstracted multiplayer heist game Monaco, QCF's rogue-like puzzler Desktop Dungeons and procedurally-generated platformer Spelunky.

The confirmed jury to date consists of the following:

GDC 2013 reveals League Of Legends, Infinity Blade: Dungeons Summit talks

Organizers of next March's Game Developers Conference 2013 are highlighting the first summit talks behind some of the industry's biggest games in the free-to-play, smartphone and tablet, and indie arenas.

Firstly, Epic's upcoming Infinity Blade: Dungeons will serve as an example of how to design touch-based controls for both hardcore and casual markets. Exploring the free to play market in China, Tencent will discuss its best business and design practices for handling the multiple Game Developers Choice Online Awards winner League of Legends. And Indie Fund co-owner Aaron Isaksen will examine in-app purchases for indies 'without shame' in the Independent Games Summit.

For the Smartphone & Tablet Games Summit, Nick Cooper will share Epic Games' design process in 'The Iterative Touch: Crafting the Controls for Infinity Blade: Dungeons'. Epic aimed for touch-based input that appealed to casual and hardcore gamers for its action-RPG/dungeon crawler. Here, Cooper will discuss the design and implementation of Infinity Blade: Dungeons' touchscreen input, along with the iterative process by which it was developed.

For the Free to Play Design & Business Summit, Tencent's Jim Feng will discuss bringing Riot Games' League of Legends to China in his 'Operating Western Games in China' talk. Feng will highlight best practices for the operation and development of games for the massive Chinese market and will illuminate processes of working with Chinese game operators.

IGF 2013 debuts initial Nuovo, Narrative Award jurors

Organizers of the 2013 Independent Games Festival are pleased to announce the first discipline-specific jury panels that will determine the finalists and winner of its various awards.

The jury announcements for this year are beginning with some of the industry professionals, independent game notables and former IGF award winners that make up its Nuovo award, as well as its first ever Excellence in Narrative Award.

While the juries are still being assembled in advance of the kick-off of our next phase of the finalist selection process, we're happy to announce the following confirmed jurists.

The Excellence in Narrative Award

The following jurists are among those chosen to lead the IGF's debut Excellence in Narrative award, which is intended to recognize innovation, quality, and impressiveness of storytelling in a game, including, but not limited to, scenario, plot construction, story, and dialogue.

The Excellence in Narrative jury will include the following:

GDC 2013 reveals talks from Amnesia's Grip, Epic's Mielke

The organizers behind March's Game Developers Conference 2013 have highlighted the next batch of Main Conference lectures, which feature industry leaders from Epic, Frictional Games, and Microsoft. They collectively offer cutting-edge discussions in the areas of visual arts, design, production, and audio.

Gears of War creator Epic Games will analyze how it overcame the challenges of outsourcing art for its leading IPs. Amnesia: The Dark Descent developer Frictional Games will examine a new way of designing games, based around creating a sense of presence that stimulates players' imaginations.

Finally, Microsoft's Advanced Technology Group will dissect several audio innovations - while laying out ways to make audio more a part of the game itself rather than being merely ancillary to it.

The full details on these new lectures are as follows:

- In Building Epic Worlds through the Strengths of Artsourcing, Epic Games producer Chris Mielke will share the secrets to outsourcing the art talent behind the Gears of War, Infinity Blade, and Fortnite universes. Mielke will highlight some of the obstacles Epic overcame in production, while explaining how outsourcer integration can go smoothly across console, PC, and mobile platforms.

- Frictional Games' creative director Thomas Grip will explore The Self, Presence and Story-Telling in his game design lecture. As an alternative to traditional game mechanics, Grip will argue that a game should create a sense of presence and allow players' imagination do the work, much how the company's own Penumbra and Amnesia: The Dark Descent (pictured) evoked strong and often terrifying emotions.

GDC 2013 debuts 'Schedule Builder', highlights new roundtables

With planning for March's GDC 2013 in San Francisco now underway, the show's organizers have debuted more than 20 sessions via the initial Schedule Builder, with hundreds more due over the next few weeks.

As always, prospective GDC speakers are working closely with the advisory board, who are individually mentoring talks through multiple submissions stages and into the official program.

As part of this process, GDC 2013's very first announced talks are now available online via its official Schedule Builder - with highlights to be further explored soon including a 'poster session' on Metacritic scoring, plus talks from Double Fine, Frictional Games and Microsoft.

Alongside the Schedule Builder, GDC organizers have also added this week a pair of roundtable talks focusing on managing art teams and incorporating designers into your production processes.

Unlike GDC's standard lectures and panels, these roundtable sessions allow attendees to sit down with the host to engage in face-to-face discussions, share their personal experiences, and learn from their fellow developers.

First, Keith Self-Ballard, an art director at Blizzard Entertainment on the company's unannounced next-gen MMO, will host the "Art Director and Lead Artist Roundtable," which will provide an open forum for artists and art directors to exchange ideas regarding how studios should manage, lead, and direct their art teams.

This session will address the most pressing issues facing today's game artists, and attendees will walk away with a better understanding of how to overcome these challenges.

In the second new roundtable, storied developer and University of Advancing Technology professor David Wessman (TIE Fighter, The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay, Saints Row) will help attendees look at how designers should interact with developers from other disciplines.

His roundtable, dubbed "Whose Design Is It Anyway? Game Designers and Development Teams," will help designers and other developers understand each other's roles, improve cross-studio communication, and create a more collaborative atmosphere across their entire studio.

IGF China 2012 winners led by CubeTractor, Fish

The Independent Games Festival China has revealed the Main Competition and Student winners for its 2012 award ceremony, which celebrates the most creative indie games from throughout the Pan-Pacific area.

The GDC China co-located event is now in its fourth year, and the victors were led by Best Game winner, retro-inspired puzzler Cubetractor, and abstract action Best Student Game winner Fish.

Drawing from a prize pool totaling 45,000 RMB (roughly $7,150), IGF China's Main Competition gave away awards covering Excellence in Audio, Design, Technology, and Visual Arts, as well as the Best Mobile Game and Best Game awards.

Three awards -- for Best Student Game and Excellent Student Winners -- offered 13,000 RMB (roughly $2,050) in cash prizes, and the winners were revealed in a ceremony in Shanghai during GDC China - which is the subject of extensive live coverage at sister website Gamasutra.

Here are the winners for this year's IGF China:

SpellTower's Zach Gage to discuss tactile touch controls at GDC China

While touch controls are a fantastic way to attract a wider and more diverse audience, developers need to be careful to get things right, as poor touch controls will often make a game fall flat on its face.

Indie developer Zach Gage (SpellTower, Bit Pilot) has spent the last few years honing his skills making touch-based iOS games, and this Sunday at GDC China, he'll host an in-depth session to help other developers learn from his experience.

During his session, Gage will examine both classic and emerging control schemes, noting whether they succeed and discussing the lessons developers can draw from them. He'll also take a moment to look at a number of different touch-based games to pick apart their triumphs and failures.

Although the session is focused primarily on touch-screen games, attendees will be able to use Gage's lessons learned when moving to any type of new game hardware.

His session, titled "Controls You Can Feel: Putting Tactility Back Into Touch Controls," will take place as part of GDC China's Smartphone & Tablet Games Summit, and will be open to GDC China's All Access and Summits & Tutorials pass holders. Online registration is now open on the GDC China website, and the show itself will take place November 17-19 at the Shanghai Convention Center in Shanghai, China.

In addition to the above presentation, GDC China organizers have also added the following talks to the Smartphone & Tablet Games Summit:

- In "From Japan to the World -- the Status and Future of Mobile Social Card Games," D2C Inc.'s Xiaolei Zhang will take a close look at the growing popularity of mobile card games. These titles are already a phenomenon in Japan, and Zhang believes the craze will soon expand into the rest of the world. He'll pick apart D2C's own card games like The Sekigahara Kingdoms and Pirate Fantasy to help other developers understand why these games are so popular.

- Elsewhere, Game Insight's Darya Trushkina will explain how Chinese developers can succeed in North America during a session titled "How Chinese Mobile Can Win the West. Drawing from Game Insight's international publishing experience, Trushkina will compare the Eastern and Western game markets, while offering tips to help Chinese developers expand their reach into brand new territories.

Become a better writer, programmer with GDC 2013's specialized tutorials

Whether you're an experienced industry veteran or an upstart hobbyist developer, it's always a good idea to take some time to brush up on your game-making fundamentals.

No one can make a truly great game without first understanding the basics of development, which is why next year's Game Developers Conference in San Francisco will feature a number of robust tutorials to help attendees sharpen their essential skills.

This week, GDC 2013's organizers have debuted a pair of tutorials to help developers create better narrative content, and understand the mathematic principles behind modern game programming.

In the first tutorial, LucasArts lead narrative designer Evan Skolnick will return to GDC to host "Game Writing Fundamentals in a Day." During this session, he'll provide a comprehensive primer for game writers, covering the basics of good story structure, character development, and dialogue writing.

Of course, developers in other disciplines will benefit from this tutorial as well, as they will learn how to bridge the gap between game writers and the rest of the development team.

This week's second tutorial is another GDC favorite aimed at helping developers understand the foundation of modern game programming. The session, titled "Math for Games Programmers," will bring together a host of programming experts to cover everything from basic mathematic principles to the complex topics every programmer should master.

Confirmed speakers for this session include Jim Van Verth (Insomniac Games), Manny Ko (Imaginations Technologies), Gino van den Bergen (Dtecta), Stan Melax (Intel), Squirrel Eiserloh (The Guildhall at SMU), Robin Green (Microsoft), and Graham Rhodes (Applied Research Assoc., Inc.).

Both of the above sessions will take place as part of GDC 2013's Main Conference, which is open to All Access and Main Conference pass holders (a special Audio-specific pass is also available). Discounted Early Bird registration is now open on the show's official website, and GDC 2013 itself will take place March 25-29 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco.

Learn to break into the Korean mobile market at GDC China

While mobile game developers often earn much of their revenue from North America, regions like China, Japan, and Korea are still extremely valuable.

The Korean market in particular has plenty of opportunities for mobile developers, and at next week's GDC China in Shanghai, attendees will learn the ins and out of breaking into this lucrative market.

During the show, Neowiz China's Eliot Shin will take an in-depth look at the Korean mobile market, detailing how it differs from other regions and why it's so appealing to developers around the world.

Korean mobile games often have an extremely high average revenue per user, but Shin believes it can take a fair bit of trail and error to really capitalize on that potential. While his talk primarily focuses on helping Chinese developers, Shin will offer plenty of insight to help both Western and Asian studios launch successful mobile games in the Korean market.

His talk, "Korean Mobile Market and Penetration Strategy for Chinese Developers," is part of GDC China's Smartphone & Tablet Games Summit, and will be open to All Access and Summits & Tutorials pass holders. Online registration is now open on the GDC China website, and the show itself will take place November 17-19 at the Shanghai Convention Center in Shanghai, China.

In addition to the above presentation, GDC China organizers have also added the following talks to the show's Smartphone & Tablet Games Summit:

- In "The Battle Royale of Mobile Social: Friends or Players?," Applifier CEO Jussi Laakkonen will pick apart the increasingly competitive mobile social market. He'll examine heavyweights like Gree, DeNA, Tencent, and more, noting how developers can make mobile games that have better global appeal.

- Elsewhere, Appy Entertainment brand director Paul O'Connor will discuss how his studio converted two premium apps to a free-to-play model, and saw a large boost in revenue in the process. His talk, "Premium to Freemium: Pivoting Monetization Method for Best-Selling Apps," will offer specific advice for other developers looking to make a similar shift.

GDC Vault adds classic Ron Moore keynote on Battlestar Galactica

[GDC organizers have digitized and made available new, free talks on the GDC Vault, including a visionary keynote on Battlestar Galactica, a talk on breaking into the mass-market, and more.]

This latest "Tales from the Vault", making classic GDC talks available online for the first time, featuring Jon Bentley's programming tricks of the trade and the second GamExecutive video at the 2000 conference, along with a visionary Battlestar Galactica keynote from 2006.

The first lecture reminds everyone that much like the game industry, Hollywood is no stranger to sequels and reboots of famous franchises. Creator and producer of the newer Battlestar Galactica TV series Ronald Moore (pictured) offers his take on rebooting in the "Vision track" keynote for GDC 2006, entitled "Building a Better Battlestar."

He discusses the process of developing and adapting the original series to the new series, injecting realism and drama into the sci-fi setting rather than veering toward the fantastic. Much like game developers, he wrestles with appealing to a new and larger audience unfamiliar with the original show while keeping long-time fans happy. [GDC Vault free video]

In the second GamExecutive conference video, the focus shifts from managing risk to appealing to the mass market. The session starts with Hasbro Interactive president Tom Dusenberry discussing his company's efforts to provide something for everyone, using the success surrounding the new IP of Rollercoaster Tycoon and a revitalized Frogger as examples.

Just as the industry laments the flooding of the app market now, Dusenberry speaks of a "glut of product" over a decade ago, which oddly foreshadows the company's selling in 2001. Dusenberry's attempt to solve the issue involves reducing product releases by 30 percent to focus on marketing.

A panel follows that also addresses internet age and mass-market penetration. The speakers include Tom Reed of Interplay, Thom Ackerman Maslow of Mattel Interactive, Alison Locke of THQ, and Douglas Littlejohns of Red Storm Entertainment. [GDC Vault free video]

Last up this week is the "Tricks of the Programming Trade" lecture by Bell Labs' Jon Bentley. In a rather invigorating discussion, Bentley asks the audience not to take notes and instead call out the steps and solutions to problems from randomizing experiments to calculating how much water flows from the Mississippi River.

Some of the tips he promotes for both real-world and program debugging include defining the right problem, determining how to check a possible solution, and encouraging multiple, quick calculations after design and before implementation. [GDC Vault free video]

GDC 2013's debut sessions feature Assassin's Creed III, Magic: The Gathering creator

The build-up to next March's Game Developers Conference in San Francisco has officially begun. The show's organizers are now working hard to craft the event's robust session lineup, and today they announced the first three talks that have made the cut.

The first talk to join the GDC 2013 roster is "Rendering Assassin's Creed III," a Programming track lecture that will offer a detailed look at the game's weather system, lighting solution, and much more. Speaker and Ubisoft lead graphics programmer Jean-Francois St-Amour will also share some of Ubisoft's tricks for improving current-generation titles when porting them to DX11 PC hardware.

The other two debut talks come from GDC 2013's Business, Marketing, and Management track. In "The Beauty and Challenge of Mixing Physical and Digital Games," a robust panel of industry veterans will take a moment to examine the blurring line between physical and digital titles.

During this session, speakers including Eric Hautemont (Days of Wonder), Soren Johnson (Zynga), Magic: The Gathering creator Richard Garfield (Three Donkeys), Joel Goodman (Playdek), and moderator Tom Chick (Quarter to Three) will detail how developers can benefit from straddling the line between video games and board games.

The third GDC session, also in the Business track, is a roundtable examining the intricacies of microtransaction-based business models. You can attend "Free to Play, Pay for Stuff: Virtual Goods Win" and join Three Rings CEO Daniel James (Spiral Knights) and Iron Realms chairman Matt Mihaly as they discuss the dangers, opportunities, and ongoing trends in the free-to-play and virtual markets. This will be the ninth successive year of this popular roundtable.

More talks will debut in the near future, and all of the above sessions will take place as part of GDC 2013's Main Conference, which is open to All Access and Main Conference pass holders (a special Audio-specific pass is also available). Discounted Early Bird registration is now open on the show's official website, and GDC 2013 itself will take place March 25-29 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco.

Discover Gree's secrets for mobile game success at GDC China

In global social market, few companies are as prominent as the Japanese game firm Gree. Its social mobile games are some of the most lucrative in the industry, and at this month's GDC China in Shanghai, the company will reveal just a few of the tricks it uses to launch and maintain its successful free to play titles.

Gree Beijing VP Dr. Shumian He will take a close look at the company's first mobile social game, Fishing Star (Tsuri-Sta, pictured), noting how it attracted a large base of loyal players and has maintained a high level of revenue since its launch in 2007.

Using this title as a case study for Gree's business at large, He will discuss how the international company drives in-app purchases, and how it uses its proprietary Gree Platform to sustain and grow its burgeoning game catalog.

His talk, "Unveiling the Secrets of Mobile Social Game Operation," is part of GDC China's Business & Marketing track, and will be open to All Access and Main Conference pass holders. Online registration is now open on the GDC China website, and the show itself will take place November 17-19 at the Shanghai Convention Center in Shanghai, China.

In addition to the above presentation, GDC China organizers have also added the following talks to the show's lineup:

- As part of the Game Design track, Carla Fisher of children's game design studio No Crusts Interactive will explain how developers can leverage developmental psychology to create better games for kids. Her talk, "Little Hands, Foul Moods, and Runny Noses: Developmental Research Meets Emerging Technologies," will equip developers with the knowledge they need to craft better UIs, cooperative mechanics, and storytelling systems for kids on a wide variety of platforms.

- Elsewhere in the Game Design track, Henric Suuronen of NonStop Games (Dollar Isle, Paint Stars) will focus on emerging multiplatform technologies in "Making Games for Gamers in HTML5." Here, Suuronen will examine the current trends on smartphones and tablets, noting that developers might want to focus on more on hardcore players if they wish to create a successful game in HTML5.

IGF 2013 sees record entries for its Student Competition

The organizers of the 15th annual Independent Games Festival -- the longest-running and largest festival relating to independent games worldwide -- are proud to announce another year of record entry numbers for IGF 2013's Student Competition.

In total, this year's Student Competition took in more than 300 game entries across all platforms -- PC, console and mobile -- from a wide diversity of the most prestigious universities and games programs from around the world.

Together with the record Main Competition entries, this year's IGF has taken in nearly 900 total entries -- the largest number in the festival's history across the Main and Student competitions.

This year's Student Competition includes entries such as the DigiPen-developed Perspective, which combines 2D platforming with 3D first-person navigation, and Nevermind, an experimental horror title that uses biofeedback to manage player stress and change difficulty on the fly.

Other entries include the physics-based tower defense title The White Laboratory, the stealth horror game Blackwell's Asylum, and the experimental narrative title Snowfall.

The above are just a small selection of the games now available for browsing via IGF.com, where you'll find more information, screenshots and video for each of the IGF Student Competition entries.

The festival's organizers have added an official Student Competition JSON feed, added to the existing Main Competition feed, updated every 30 minutes from live back end data. Teams can update info on their games and have the official entry page change, and third parties are welcome to use this feed to make their own custom IGF entry lists and pages.

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