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Tales from the GDC Vault: Nintendecade

[Continuing his 'Tales from the Vault' series, official GDC historian Jason Scott debuts complete free video of two seminal Nintendo keynotes at GDC -- Shigeru Miyamoto in 1999 and Satoru Iwata in 2005.]

The videotapes are starting to pile up in the "done" box and the process of turning the resulting video files into more lightweight video streaming files is now well underway, and I'll be adding these talks at a good clip for the coming months.

Since Nintendo gave the main keynote for the 2011 GDC [GDC Vault free video], I thought it might be fun to bring out two other Nintendo keynotes given across the last ten years plus: a Shigeru Miyamoto presentation from GDC 1999, and Nintendo's 2005 GDC keynote that introduced the Nintendo DS in depth to the world.

So we're debuting these talks for the first time online, free via GDC Vault. Firstly, Miyamoto's appearance and keynote at the 1999 Game Developers Conference [GDC Vault free video] is a big deal -- a real big deal.

Even if you didn't know who he was, the introductions and palpable excitement from the presenters shows that having the legendary Mario game designer was a huge win for the conference.

To his great credit, Miyamoto provides a presentation about his ideas on game design, the history of Nintendo's entry into the console game market, and a call to innovation, and it's filled with ideas both specific and universal. In other words, he makes it worth the trip.

miyamoto.pngHis speech, coming via a BetaSP archive we've digitized, starts in English. But then he announces he'll continue in Japanese, which he does, with a translator providing the rhythmic back-and-forth between the two languages.

And the core message, as I hear it, is that he thinks story and gameplay, with a good dash of artistry, is what brings the games from being mere shoot-em-ups and twitchfests to being something more, something that will stay with people a long time.

Perhaps that might seem obvious, but his consistent vision from the days of Donkey Kong up through to what he hints at (the Wii) gives these games a sense of weight and thoughtfulness, and his wish in the speech is for many others to do the same.

As an unbroken, long-form presentation of evidence that Miyamoto deserves his high regard and hall of fame designer status, this speech is perfect. It lives up to all the promises of any great speech, and is well worth enjoying, even a decade plus later.

GDC Europe Speaker Spotlight: Bluebyte's Weidemann On Community Management

In the latest in a series of interviews with speakers from this August's GDC Europe, online specialist Teut Weidemann of Ubisoft's Bluebyte Germany (The Settlers Online) discusses the essentials of community management on social networks.

Weidemann has worked in the industry for over 25 years, and began his career as a producer and development director for Amiga titles such as Turrican. He later founded Panzer Elite developer Wings Simulations, and in 2005 served as CTO of Panzer Tactics DS publisher CDV Software Entertainment.

In 2007 Weidemann entered the online games market, consulting with various companies before finally landing at Ubisoft's Bluebyte to work on the acclaimed browser based title The Settlers Online.

Drawing from his experience working in online games, Weidemann will host two talks at this year's GDC Europe: A Production track lecture on supporting free-to-play games dubbed, "f2p Online Games: The Game Is Not Enough," and a Community Management Summit talk titled, "Community Management in The Settlers Online."

With GDC Europe just over a month away, Weidemann particularly discussed his upcoming Community Management Summit talk, and outlined the importance of regular developer-to-player interaction, as well as the differences between Facebook and other social channels.

In your experience, what are the best ways to foster the growth of an online game community?

The most important thing is service. If your community perceives that you care about them, they stay. Players love the attention, and they'll recommend the service to their friends. It's the best way to grow a game because it's free. Marketing is growing the community fastest, but that growth is meaningless if you don't manage to keep the new users.

Did you or your team learn any hard lessons when managing the community for The Settlers Online?

We are still learning. We approached the community for the game with years of experience in community management, and we still had problems satisfying players' needs.

We established an open communication strategy, but we underestimated the frequency of interaction the users demanded. The internet is moving faster than ever, which means that we need community managers constantly online and talking to users.

GDC Europe 2011 Debuts Thatgamecompany, Glu, Digital Chocolate Talks

GDC Europe 2011 has revealed a selection of new lectures from the show's Summits, including thatgamecompany on reaching out to new audiences, Glu Mobile on freemium viability, and Digital Chocolate on making social games with hardcore gameplay.

This year, the gamescom co-located mid-August show in Cologne, Germany will host Summits on Social Games, Independent Games, Smartphone & Tablet Games, and Community Management.

Some near-final new highlights from these Summits, which have largely rounded out their line-ups, include the following:

- In the keynote for Monday's Independent Games Summit, president and co-founder of thatgamecompany Kellee Santiago will discuss how to reach out to new demographics in "Developing New Audiences: When the Past Can't Predict Your Future."

Drawing from her experience working on flOw, Flower, and Journey, Santiago will explain "how to make effective decisions based on little data to create commercially successful titles that, in the beginning (and maybe right up until you ship), no one will think you can sell."

- In the Smartphone & Tablet Games Summit, Mike Breslin, VP of global marketing at mobile publisher Glu Mobile (Gun Bros.), will host a talk titled "From Free-to-Play to Freemium: Emerging Category in Mobile Gaming."

GDC Europe 2011 Adds Quantic Dream, Gameforge, Jon Blow Talks

GDC Europe 2011 organizers have revealed new sessions for next month's show in Cologne, featuring talks from Braid
creator Jonathan Blow on truth in game design, free-to-play game leader
Gameforge on virtual goods success, Quantic Dream's co-CEO on flawed
game rating systems, and more.

Taking place Monday through Wednesday, August 15-17, 2011 at the
Cologne Congress-Centrum Ost, alongside the major gamescom trade show, GDC Europe will again provide the essential pan-European perspective of game development and business trends.

Some of the new highlights from the Main Conference, which features tracks on Business & Marketing, Game Design, Production, Programming and Visual Arts, include the following:

- Renowned game designer and Braid/The Witness creator Jonathan Blow will host a talk in the show's Design track titled, "Truth in Game Design,"
which Blow says will "illustrate that games, being algorithmic systems
implemented on computers, are biased toward revealing truth, so long as
we do not quash the truth in order to force our own high-level wishes
into the design."

Blow's cerebral talk will also seek to explain how "we use games as
instruments, like telescopes or electron microscopes, to observe aspects
of the universe that we would not normally have access to."

GDC Vault Debuts Free Indie Summit Talks On Osmos, Depression, Super Meat Boy

This week, the GDC Vault has released free lecture videos from multiple Independent Games Summits, featuring the making of Osmos, a talk on 'turning depression into inspiration', and a rambunctious Super Meat Boy postmortem.

These talks join the many other free talks available on the GDC Vault, which include recently-released talks from Valve Software, GDC 2011's classic postmortem series, and a slew of other sessions from throughout the history of the Game Developers Conference.

The following free video lectures, newly available, are highlights from GDC's Independent Game Summits from 2010 and 2011.

- Firstly, Hemisphere Games' Andy Nealen and Eddy Boxerman host a 2010 Independent Games Summit talk dubbed, "Minimalist Game Design: Growing Osmos." Reflecting on the development of the ambient, physics based IGF finalist puzzle game, the two explain the evolution of Osmos' core mechanics, and the how the team discovered the benefits of minimalist game design.

- In an acclaimed Independent Games Summit 2011 talk "Turning Depression into Inspiration," game developer Michael Todd from Spyeart.com explains how developers can cope with the immense pressure of game development, and successfully "design and develop games while depressed." Drawing from his own experience, Todd outlines a number of ways to manage stress and use depression as a source of creative inspiration.

GDC Online 2011 Debuts First Sessions For Game Narrative Summit

GDC Online organizers have revealed the initial lineup for the show's Game Narrative Summit, which features speakers from Eidos on Deus Ex: Human Revolution's branching narrative, Microsoft on creating transmedia giants, MIT on crafting education-based ARGs, and more.

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

Now in its sixth year, the Game Narrative Summit - formerly the Game Writers Conference - once again returns to GDC Online to showcase leading speakers on the many facets of interactive storytelling, with sessions ranging from roundtable discussions to postmortems and more.

The initial sessions and lectures featured in the two-day Game Narrative Summit currently include the following:

- In "Building the Story-driven Experience of Deus Ex: Human Revolution," Eidos Montreal's lead writer and narrative game designer Mary De Marle will present an in-depth look at the story-building process behind the upcoming Deus Ex title. De Marle will outline how the creative team crafted the game's numerous story branches and player choices, while still maintaining a coherent and satisfying experience.

- Elsewhere, Geoffrey Long, producer of narrative design at Microsoft, will note what it takes to build an IP into a powerhouse franchise in "From Story to Universe: 10 Best Practices for Transmedia Franchise Design." Long will look at franchises outside of games, including Lost, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Star Wars, to explain why these IPs became some of the most popular in the world, and how game developers can build their IP to do the same.

GDC Europe Speaker Spotlight: CCP's David Press On Automated MMO Testing

In the latest in a series of interviews with speakers from this August's GDC Europe, David Press, technical director at EVE Online
developer CCP Games, discusses the importance of automated testing in
MMOs, and why implementing such a system became a "now-or-never
decision" for the company.

Before joining CCP, Press worked at EA Chicago as a graphics programmer on Def Jam: ICON
and an unreleased fighting title. In 2007, he left for Atlanta, Georgia
to work at CCP as a graphics programmer, and then moved on to become a
systems programmer, and later a technical director.

In anticipation of his GDC Europe talk, "Orchestrator: A Postmortem on an Automated MMO Testing Framework,"
Press explains the various game elements an automated testing system
should or should not test, and how CCP implemented such a system for its
World of Darkness MMO.

What are some of the advantages of automated MMO testing?

Most MMOs are very large projects with numerous interacting game
systems, and it is simply infeasible to have manual testers constantly
testing every nook and cranny of the game. Automated tests allow
developers to get wide test coverage before they even check in their
changes and they can be run on a changelist-by-changelist basis so that
narrowing down bugs is trivial.

At what point did CCP realize that automated testing was necessary? What were the driving actors behind the decision?

For the World of Darkness project, we started unit testing
within the first year of active development, and system testing came in
during the next year. We knew that it is nigh impossible to bolt
automated testing onto code that wasn't written with it in mind, so it
was a now-or-never decision.

2012 Independent Games Festival Opens Submissions

Organizers have officially opened submissions for the 2012 Independent Games Festival, being held at the Game Developers Conference 2012 in San Francisco next March 5-9.

The Independent Games Festival is
the longest-running and highest-profile independent video game festival,
summit, and showcase, and is now accepting entries to its 14th annual
edition, with deadlines in the Main and Student Showcase categories by
October 17 and October 31 respectively, and finalists to be announced in
January 2012.

All games selected as finalists will be available in playable form at
the IGF Pavilion on the GDC show floor from March 7-9, 2012, and will
compete for nearly $60,000 in prizes, a significant increase from last
year.

This includes the high-profile $5,000 Nuovo Award, honoring abstract,
short-form, and unconventional video game development, and previously
won by designers including Jason Rohrer (Between) and Messhof (Nidhogg).

In addition, awards for Excellence in Visual Art, Audio, and Design,
Technical Excellence, Best Mobile Game, the Best Student Game, and the
Audience Award each now receive a $3,000 prize, and the signature Seumas
McNally Grand Prize for the independent game of the year (won by
Mojang's Minecraft in 2011) has been increased by 50 percent to a record $30,000.

Winners will be announced on stage at the high-profile Independent
Games Festival Awards on Wednesday, March 7, 2012, at the Moscone Center
in San Francisco. The Independent Games Festival Awards are held
immediately before the wider Game Developers Choice Awards.

Letter From The Chairman: Welcome Back For IGF 2012

[Following
the announcement of the 2012 Independent Games Festival competition,
IGF Chairman Brandon Boyer goes in-depth on the changes made for this year's Festival, examining the ethos for the competition and the shifts in policy and rules for this year's 14th annual IGF experience.]

Well, we made it unscathed through that lucky-13th, and here we are
again, back where we started, with the opening of the 14th year of the
Independent Games Festival. Last year's festival was a landmark one on a
number of levels.

It was the first that folded the IGF Mobile into the main
competition, the first where one of the entrants (and the eventual Grand
Prize winner) surprised everyone (the developers included!) by selling
several hundred thousand copies of their game before judging had even
begun, our first with a new two-tier judge and jury system, and,
obviously, my first year as chairman.

I learned a lot about the festival and how it operates and how it
could better be improved over the past year. So I'm here now to outline
some of the changes we'll be implementing this year, as the IGF, its
role in the community, and the community itself grows and evolves. But
we'll start with one aspect of the festival that we won't be changing:

The IGF will continue to utilize its two-tier judge and jury system.

2011juries.jpgFrom
the conversations I've had over the past several months, nearly
everyone involved -- from the judges and jurors themselves to the
individual entrants to those of us organizing the festival -- felt like
the change to this system was an incredibly important and positive
change.

The two-tier system - with our 150-200 judges recommending games in
certain categories, and discipline-specific juries of 8-10 subject
matter experts assigned to each award, ensured that all games in the
festival got an equal chance at making it into the finalist round.

With more eyes than ever on each entry, and each jurist chosen for their specific professional merits for each category (our list of 2011 jurors is available here), experts were able to make a strong case for any game, whether it gathered an initial popular vote or not.

It also meant that our finalist and winner selection was less of a
binary process, and more of a conversation about the deeper merits of
the games and their place and legacy in the independent game community.
Those intimate conversations were a passionate, productive, valuable
look at the pulse of professional indie developers, as you can read in
our Nuovo jury comments and Main Competition jury statements, and we're looking forward to those conversations again this year.

GDC Europe 2011 Unveils Obsidian, GameStop, PlayStation Vita Talks

GDC Europe 2011 continues to debut talks for the August event opposite gamescom in Cologne, including Obsidian's J.E. Sawyer on RPG mechanics, GameStop on expanding into the digital market, and Sony on the PlayStation Vita.

Taking place Monday through Wednesday, August 15-17, 2011 at the Cologne Congress-Centrum Ost, alongside the major gamescom trade show, GDC Europe will again provide the essential pan-European perspective of game development and business trends.

Some of the new highlights from the Main Conference, which features tracks on Business & Marketing, Game Design, Production, Programming and Visual Arts, include the following:

- In the Business & Marketing track, Steve Nix, divisional vice president and general manager of digital distribution for video game retail giant GameStop, will host a talk dubbed, "GameStop's Digital Strategy: Bringing Immersive Gaming to a Digital Audience."

As the traditionally retail-heavy GameStop reaches into the digital space by acquiring Stardock's Impulse download service along with streaming technology company Spawn Labs, Nix will examine the growth and evolution of the digital space and how his company plans to work with publishers and developers to shift beyond the traditional console market.

GDC Vault Adds Free Valve Biofeedback, Counter-Strike, Half-Life 2 Talks

This week, the GDC Vault has debuted a special selection of free lectures from Portal and Half-Life creator Valve Software, with topics including the studio's use of biofeedback, a look at Left 4 Dead's development, and the design philosophy behind Half-Life 2.

These talks join the recently released free videos on the GDC Vault, which include the GDC 2011's classic postmortem series, as well as lectures and panels from speakers such as Playdom's Raph Koster, GDC founder Chris Crawford, and more.

The following free lectures include video, audio and slide-based highlights from Valve Software's sessions at a handful of different Game Developers Conferences, with talks dating from 2011 back to 2004.

The first lecture offered for free in video form is a GDC 2011 session from Valve veteran and experimental psychologist Mike Ambinder, titled, "Biofeedback in Gameplay: How Valve Measures Physiology to Enhance Gaming Experience." This session examines how information regarding a player's physiological states can help developers "explore new avenues of gameplay and to improve in-house playtesting processes."

Using Valve's own Portal 2, Left 4 Dead 2, and Alien Swarm as examples, Ambinder explains how the studio measured players' skin conductance response, heart rate, and eye movements to design titles that effectively toy with player's psychological limits.

Next, a newly free GDC 2009 talk video, "From Counter-Strike to Left 4 Dead: Creating Replayable Cooperative Experiences" features Turtle Rock founder and Valve designer Michael Booth on the high-level design of the studio's cooperative zombie shooter.

Booth provides some background on the game, and explains "how it evolved from Counter-Strike, and the importance of procedural systems such as the AI Director in creating replayable and compelling cooperative experiences."

GDC Online 2011 Debuts Cityville, Nexon, Old Republic Talks

GDC Online has debuted a new batch of lectures for the October show, featuring talks from Zynga on its megahit CityVille, Nexon on handling online game disasters, and BioWare on iterating Star Wars: The Old Republic.

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

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

As the event's Schedule Builder reveals the first set of lectures, the following are some fresh highlights from this year's Main Conference:

- BioWare Austin principal designer Georg Zoeller will host "Rapid MMO Content Iteration and Validation with Spatial Analysis in Star Wars: The Old Republic,"
a talk that will look at "how spatial analysis can be used to support a
rapid content iteration process during the late stages of MMO
development."

The session will also demonstrate how the studio's own
"HoloProjector" spatial visualization toolkit helps contextualize user
behavior and metrics for the developers of the long awaited Star Wars-themed MMO from BioWare and EA.

- Elsewhere, in "Engineering CityVille," Zynga's Robert Zubek will outline the server-side engineering techniques that allowed the company's hit Facebook title CityVille
to expand quickly after its successful launch, as well the gameplay
engineering strategies that enabled rapid content generation.

GDC Europe Speaker Spotlight: Ernest Adams On Storylike MMOs

In the latest of a series of interviews with speakers from this August's GDC Europe, game designer Ernest Adams discusses why "in most persistent worlds, the player cannot change the world permanently" -- and why that needs to change.

Adams has worked in the game industry since 1989, and has worked as a
game developer, professor, and more. He previously served as an audio
and video producer on the Madden NFL franchise for Electronic Arts, and later worked at Bullfrog Productions as a lead producer on the Dungeon Keeper series.

In addition, Adams has written several books on game development, and is the founder of the International Game Developers' Association.

With his GDC Europe talk, "Making MMOGs More Storylike"
drawing ever closer, Adams discussed the flaws of modern online games,
and explained how they should change to make the game world more
dramatic and believable.

With MMOs and similar online games, players share a single,
persistent world. How does this sort of design hinder a developer's
ability to tell a story?

All stories are about change. Either the protagonist changes the
world, or the world changes the protagonist, or both. But in most
persistent worlds, the player cannot change the world permanently. Any
creature you kill respawns in a few minutes, leaving you wondering why
you bothered. This impairs the dramatic impact of events in the world,
because nothing really changes.

How do you suggest online games change to better accommodate an in-game story?

To feel as if they are really part of a story, players need to be
able to make permanent, meaningful changes to the world they inhabit. I
also feel that they need to drop the "Hero's Journey" story form. It
works well for adventure games and single-player RPGs, but it's a bit
ridiculous when hundreds of thousands of people are all trying to have
the same heroic experience.

Game Developers Choice Online Awards Remind On Call For Nominations

Organizers of this year's GDC Online would like to remind that nominations for the show's Game Developers Choice Online Awards will remain open only until Thursday, June 30th.

The second annual awards ceremony, held during GDC Online, will honor the achievements of the creators and operators of online video games that launched within the last 12 months in North America, covering large-scale MMOs, free-to-play titles, growing social network games and more.

The awards recognize achievement in online games across 12 categories, including excellence in visual arts, online game design, live games, technology, audio and community.

The inaugural Awards, held in Austin at GDC Online 2010, honored Riot's standout online combat title League of Legends with five awards, including Best New Online Game.

Other recipients included CCP's EVE Online for Best Live Game, MUD co-creator Richard Bartle for the Online Game Legend award, and Origin and Electronic Arts' classic MMO title Ultima Online as the first Hall of Fame inductee. Full video of the ceremony is now available via GDC Vault.

Nominations for the Choice Online Awards are now open, and all game professionals with a free Gamasutra user account are welcome to submit their picks for the awards. Additional information, as well as the nomination submission page, is available at the official Choice Online Awards website.

 

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