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GDC Online 2011 Reveals Game Career Seminar Sessions

With just two weeks to go until GDC Online, event organizers have detailed the show's Game Career Seminar, a one day event targeted at students, graduates, and other individuals looking to build a career in the games industry.

Taking place Wednesday, October 12, the Game Career Seminar will allow attendees to network with industry professionals, and listen to HR representatives and top developers as they share their insights on what it takes to break into the games business.

This seminar will run as its own dedicated track alongside the Main Conference tracks at the show, which cover Business & Marketing, Customer Experience, Design, Production, and Programming, as well as a sponsored track on Monetization.

Unlike the other tracks at GDC Online, the Game Career Seminar is open to those who purchase the special one day reduced-price Game Career Seminar Pass, as well as All-Access Pass holders. Those who purchase Game Career Seminar passes will also gain access to a keynote from PopCap co-founder John Vechey. To register for a GDC Online pass, please visit the official GDC Online website.

Here are the all the sessions to be announced so far for GDC Online's Game Career Seminar:

- As game education programs become more prevalent, it's important that students understand the challenges and requirements these programs present. In "Surviving an Education at a Game School and Graduating Employable," the Academy of Interactive Entertainment's Christopher Erhardt will go over the essential facts on game education programs, covering the pros and cons of online versus brick-and-mortar classes, what employers look for in graduates, and more.

- As with most professional careers, creating a good resume is key to nailing your dream job in the games industry, and Obsidian Entertainment's Jim Rivers will offer some useful tips and guidelines in, "What to Do Right on a Resume, Cover Letter and Website." Rivers serves as Obsidian's hiring manager -- effectively making him one of the gatekeepers for new developers in the industry -- and he will use his expertise to help attendees improve their resumes, cover letters, and websites.

GDC Online Speaker Spotlight: BioWare's Zoeller On Iterative MMO Content

In the latest in a series of interviews with notable speakers from this October's GDC Online, BioWare Austin's Georg Zoeller speaks out on the processes and tools his team uses to generate and tune MMO content in Star Wars: The Old Republic.

Originally hailing from Germany, Zoeller moved to Edmonton to join BioWare in 2003, and has since held a number of positions at the company, working on titles such as Neverwinter Nights, Jade Empire, Mass Effect, and Dragon Age: Origins. In 2009, Zoeller moved to BioWare Austin to serve as principal designer on The Old Republic.

Here, Zoeller provides an in-depth look at the BioWare's production processes in anticipation of his talk, "Rapid MMO Content Iteration and Validation with Spatial Analysis in Star Wars: The Old Republic," which will outline the various techniques the studio uses to test and validate the game's content.

What would you say are the biggest challenges facing MMO content generation?

Achieving the required -- and expected -- volume of content without compromising quality. MMO players are pretty unforgiving when it comes to quality - you usually get one shot to get it right. Your launch sets the trajectory of where your game is headed and quality of content, even more than quantity is a major contributing factor to success of failure.

Content wise, these games are insanely large undertakings. For example, in Star Wars: The Old Republic, the Planet Alderaan, which is one of 17 planets in the game, holds more creatures than the entirety of Dragon Age: Origins, a game offering 60-80 hours in a single playthrough that took us almost than 5 years to create.

We have thousands of differently voiced characters in the game, all with dialogs and quests that not only need to be written, recorded, staged, scripted and animated, but also tested and validated -- the most engaging quest isn't going to keep a player around if it fails to work.

In order to make the creation and validation of that much content manageable, you not only need more people, you also need to be a lot smarter in your workflows and tools.

GDC China Reveals Mobile Talks On Doodle Jump, Gamevil, Fruit Ninja

This week, GDC China has debuted new talks within its Mobile Games Summit, featuring an in-depth look at Lima Sky's Doodle Jump, a breakdown of Gamevil's strategy for global success, and a glimpse at Halfbrick's plans to develop the Fruit Ninja IP.

Taking place November 12-14 at the Shanghai Exhibition Center in Shanghai, China, the event will once again serve as the premier game industry event in China, bringing together influential developers from around the world to share ideas, network, and inspire each other to further the game industry in this region.

This year, the show will feature two Summits in addition to the Main Conference, covering Independent Games and Mobile Games.

The following are the latest lectures to be announced for GDC China's Mobile Games Summit:

- Igor Puisenjak, creator of the iOS smash hit Doodle Jump, will offer an in-depth look at the game's development and success in, "Doodle Jump - the Story Behind the Legend."

Puisenjak will explain how he and his team at Lima Sky have used frequent updates, direct player communication, and a number of social networking tools to keep this arcade platformer near the top of the App Store charts.

- Elsewhere, Brian Oh of Korean mobile game publisher Gamevil (Air Penguin, Zenonia) will host a talk dubbed, " Sharing with Developers the Vision and Ideas to Achieve a Successful Global Mobile Game," in which he will address the company's approach to global game distribution. Oh will detail how Gamevil works with its developers to share ideas and ensure that each product can succeed in Korea as well as other global markets.

GDC Online Adds Playdom, City Of Heroes, Cloud Gaming Talks

GDC Online has debuted several new sessions within the show's Main Conference, featuring Playdom's Raph Koster on the convergence of games and social media, NCsoft West on making City of Heroes free-to-play, and a panel of notable speakers on the future of cloud gaming.

Taking place Monday, October 10 through Thursday, October 13, 2011 at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, Texas, GDC Online continues as the leading worldwide event dedicated solely to discussing 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 seen in the event's Schedule Builder, the following lectures are highlights from this year's Main Conference:

- In the Customer Experience track, Playdom's VP of creative design, Raph Koster, will host a lecture dubbed, "It's All Games Now! How Games and Social Media are Converging." Here, Koster will outline the "cross-pollination" between games and online services, explaining what this means for game developers and the future of connected gaming experiences.

- Also in the Customer Experience track, NCsoft's Ross Borden details how the studio turned the subscription-based City of Heroes into a free-to-play game in, "From Spark to Success: How Customer Influence Revolutionized City of Heroes." Along the way, Borden will detail the design and technical challenges involved with introducing a brand new business model to an existing online game.

GDC Vault Adds Free Jon Blow, Douglas Wilson, Zombie Lane Talks

The GDC Vault service has debuted its second group of free lectures from last month's GDC Europe, this time featuring Douglas Wilson on intentionally broken games, Digital Chocolate on Zombie Lane, and Braid creator Jonathan Blow on truth in game design.

In addition to these and other videos, slides for all of GDC Europe's sessions are now available for free, providing a glimpse into the wide range of notable topics discussed at the show.

GDC Vault also hosts videos from previous conferences, including the classic postmortem series from GDC 2011, and other recently-debuted free videos such as this trio of strategy game lectures from some of the industry's top developers.

The following are the newest free videos to make their debut on GDC Vault:

- As part of the show's Independent Games Summit, Copenhagen Game Collective co-founder Douglas Wilson hosted a lecture titled, "Intentionally Broken Game Design and the Art of 'Deputizing' Players," exploring how "incomplete" games can still be successful. Drawing from his experience working on the IGF finalist B.U.T.T.O.N. and titles like Johann Sebastian Joust, Wilson explains how games can encourage players to improvise their own rules.

- In the Social Games Summit, Digital Chocolate's Rob Unsworth provided an in-depth look at the development of the studio's hit Facebook title Zombie Lane. The session, dubbed, "The Evolution of Zombie Lane - How to Successfully Develop a Casual Social Game with a Hardcore theme," examines the studio's "rigorous end-user focused creative process," and how it helped the team create a game that appealed to seasoned and novice gamers alike.

GDC Online Speaker Spotlight: Mary DeMarle On Storytelling In Deus Ex: HR

In the latest in a series of interviews with notable speakers from this October's GDC Online, Eidos Montreal lead writer Mary DeMarle speaks out on the complexities and challenges she faced when working on the critically-acclaimed Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

DeMarle was responsible for the game's storytelling and narrative, and was tasked with crafting a story that could play out in several ways based on a player's actions.

Before joining Eidos Montreal, DeMarle worked on other titles such as Myst III: Exile, Myst IV: Revelation, Homeworld II, Dungeon Siege: Broken Sword, and the a number of titles in the Splinter Cell series.

Here, DeMarle offers a quick look into her writing process in anticipation of her GDC Online talk, "Building the Story-driven Experience of Deus Ex: Human Revolution," which will provide an in-depth look at the robust, branching narrative of the recent cyberpunk shooter.

How did you ensure the game's branching story paths would all coalesce into a cohesive narrative?

Creating a cohesive narrative in a game is never an easy task, especially when you decide to complicate it by enabling player decisions to result in multiple branching paths. The DX:HR production team was able to meet this challenge because of two crucial game design decisions that we made early on.

First, during our conception phase, the core creative team identified "story" as one of the important pillars in a Deus Ex experience. To ensure this pillar received the attention it needed, they then decided to create an in-house narrative design team as an integral part of the game design group. Writers were brought in during conception and present during preproduction to explain the story and cast light on specific story goals for all production departments. They didn't dictate gameplay challenges, artistic or level designs, animations, or scripted events, but they worked with the people who did create these things on a daily basis, to ensure that every aspect of the game presented and/or reflected a cohesive narrative at all times.

The second decision made was to put choice and consequence front and center in the game's design, meaning it had to infuse all aspects of Human Revolution, including its story line. This decision forced us to re-examine our pipelines and ultimately implement some kind of tool that could keep track of branching storylines. Both the tool and the processes we ended up using will be discussed more thoroughly during my GDC Online presentation.

How did you go about writing the game's various story branches? Did you write all the paths first, did you look at player feedback for inspiration, etc?

My approach to writing a game story is to first plot it out conceptually in its entirety, and then break up the story details into varying layers of importance. To do this, I ask myself which details and/or story events are needed to understand the plot in its simplest form, and which details or events can be discovered optionally -- through exploration or via alternate gameplay paths -- to fill out the main plot and make the story richer. Once I know this, I can determine which story-telling vehicle needs to be used to convey each point; be it a forced dialog or cut scene, or a newspaper article or email. I then start writing the story in layers, dealing with all critical path pieces first.

Neal Stephenson To Keynote GDC Online's Game Narrative Summit

GDC Online 2011 organizers have announced that renowned writer Neal Stephenson will keynote the October show's Game Narrative Summit, where he will take part in an on-stage Q&A with game journalist Geoff Keighley.

The keynote, titled "Music, Movies, Microcode, & High-Speed Pizza Delivery: A Conversation with Neal Stephenson," will delve into a host of writing and game-related of topics, including Stephenson's new novel REAMDE, which is set against the backdrop of the game industry. In addition to the keynote, Stephenson will host a special book signing elsewhere in the show (location and time to be determined).

Stephenson's previous work includes novels such as Cryptonomicon, The Diamond Age, Zodiac, the three-volume The Baroque Cycle (Quicksilver, The Confusion, and The System of the World) and Snow Crash, which was TIME Magazine's named one of the 100 all-time best English-language novels. He is known for exploring and redefining genres ranging from cyberpunk to the historical epic.

Keighley, who will host the Q&A, has spent more than half his life covering the video game business as a journalist, TV personality, and producer. Currently, he serves as host and executive producer of Spike TV's Gametrailers TV, which is consistently the highest rated video games show on television. Keighley is also a freelance writer, whose work has appeared in publications such as Kotaku, Business 2.0, and Entertainment Weekly.

This keynote will take place within GDC Online's ever-popular Game Narrative Summit, which includes numerous lectures, panels, and more from some of the industry's most respected professionals -- featuring speakers from Valve, BioWare Austin, Telltale Games, and more. In addition to the Game Narrative Summit, GDC Online will feature two additional Summits covering Smartphone & Tablet Games and Virtual Items, respectively.

GDC China Reveals Double Fine, Game Audio, Agile Development Talks

GDC China has revealed the first batch of talks within the show's Global Game Development track, featuring Double Fine's approach to working with Kinect, a quick guide to Agile/Scrum development, and veteran game composer Hitoshi Sakimoto on the business of game audio.

Taking place November 12-14 at the Shanghai Exhibition Center in Shanghai, China, the event will once again serve as the premier game industry event in China, bringing together influential developers from around the world to share ideas, network, and inspire each other to further the game industry in this region.

This year, the show's Main Conference will feature three primary tracks, covering Online Game Development & Business, Global Game Development, and Social Games.

Here are the first talks to be announced so far for the Global Game Development Track:

- In "Rapid Prototyping Techniques for Kinect Game Development," Double Fine Productions' lead technical artist, Drew Skillman, will provide an in-depth look at the studio's approach to implementing motion control in its Kinect-enabled titles. Along the way, Skillman will discuss the company's software setup for rapid prototyping, augmented reality, and some "shader based compositing tricks."

- Elsewhere, Maxwell Peng, senior producer at Taiwanese developer International Games System, will host a session dubbed, "How to Succeed in Game Development With Agile/Scrum," giving developers tips on how to improve and streamline their development pipeline. Peng will outline the challenges and solutions he encountered when using Agile/Scrum, helping developers better understand this approach to game development.

- Finally, Hitoshi Sakimoto, a game audio veteran best known for scoring Final Fantasy Tactics and Final Fantasy XII, will host, "The Business (and Importance!) of Game Audio." Here, Sakimoto will delve into what it takes to make effective game music and sound effects, outlining his experience working in the business of game audio to help developers understand why sound plays a key role in nearly all realms of game development.

GDC Online 2011 Speaker Spotlight: Kabam's Hitchens On Metrics-Driven Design

As the first in a series of interviews with speakers from this October's GDC Online in Austin, Kabam's VP of product and platform services, Sheridan Hitchens, outlines the benefits of using metrics to guide design decisions for persistent online games.

By analyzing data gathered from its existing games and players, Hitchens says that Kabam can quickly and objectively identify problems and opportunities that arise, allowing the studio to update and develop its games more efficiently.

Prior to joining Kabam (developer of popular social games such as Kingdoms of Camelot and Edgeworld), Hitchens spent four years at casual game developer and publisher PlayFirst, where he oversaw the growth of the company's community, multiplayer, and microtranscation platforms.

Before entering the game industry, he graduated from the University of Cambridge and earned an M.B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley - Walter A. Haas School of Business.

Here, Hitchens provides some insight into Kabam's metrics-focused approach to game development, and offers a glimpse at the topics he will cover in his upcoming GDC Online session, "Data Driven: How Creating a Deeply Analytical Approach Drives Success."

Why does Kabam embrace metrics so heavily? What benefits does this strategy offer?

I think as much as anything it's a cultural norm that's driven from the top; our CEO, COO, CMO, and Chief Product Officer all are very analytical. When you make a pitch, or provide a recommendation, you're expected to have some level of data and analysis to back it up.

But there's more at work than cultural or executive biases. In our view, metrics provide an objective view of performance across a range of functions. Carefully tracking a variety of metrics, enables us to establish measures of success, and alerts us to problems and opportunities quickly. Perhaps just as importantly, it reduces the amount of subjective, "I think/you think" debate that wastes time in meetings and in running a business.

What sort of data do you look at when making internal decisions at the company?

We tend to look at a wide range of data and not just the common acquisition, retention and monetization metrics from marketing and production. We'll spend time looking at customer satisfaction data, ticket volume, even tech ops data to overlay onto our common game metrics to understand problems and identify opportunities.

We also conduct research to understand the continually shifting market; we survey our own players, survey the market, analyze market growth trends and so on.

GDC China 2011 Debuts Jenova Chen, Sworcery, Bastion Indie Talks

GDC China has debuted the first group of lectures in the show's Independent Games Summit, featuring talks from thatgamecompany co-founder Jenova Chen, Capybara Games on Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP, and Supergiant Games on its indie hit Bastion.

Taking place November 12-14 at the Shanghai Exhibition Center in Shanghai, China, the event will once again serve as the premier game industry event in China, bringing together influential developers from around the world to share ideas, network, and inspire each other to further the game industry in this region.

This year, the show will feature two Summits in addition to the Main Conference, covering Independent Games and Mobile Games.

The following are the first lectures to be announced for GDC China's Indie Games Summit:

- While video games are undoubtedly a significant form of entertainment media, they are often treated more like software or technology than a valid means of expression.

In "Video Games as a Medium for Entertainment & Artistic Expression," Jenova Chen, co-founder of Flower and Journey developer thatgamecompany, will look at the medium from an artistic perspective, demonstrating how games can deliver substantial experiences, feelings, and messages.

- Occasionally, business and design decisions that look awful on paper can lead to surprising success. This certainly held true for Capybara Games' Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP (pictured), an eccentric iOS title that forced the team to take major risks with its design, business, and production processes.

In "Perhaps a Time of Miracles was at Hand: The Business & Development of #Sworcery," Capybara Games co-founder Nathan Vella will provide an in-depth look at how this unusual game grew into a critical and financial success.

Voting Opens For Game Developers Choice Online Audience Award

Game Developers Choice Online Awards organizers have announced that voting for the Game Developers Choice Online Audience Award is now open, encouraging online game fans to vote for their favorite persistent online game from now until 12:00 PT on September 22.

Typically, the winners at the Game Developers Choice Online Awards are chosen by the International Choice Award Network's (ICAN) online division, a group comprised of 400 specially picked, leading game industry creators from the foremost online game companies.

The Audience Award, however, allows anyone to vote for their favorite currently-operating persistent online game, whether it be a subscription MMO, a free-to-play web game, a social network title, or anything else.

To vote, game players should simply enter the name of the game and a valid email address at the Game Developers Choice Online Awards website, and verify their vote via email.

The winner of the Audience Award will be revealed alongside the other award winners at the second annual Game Developers Choice Online Awards, which will run alongside GDC Online in Austin, Texas on the evening of Wednesday, October 12th.

Returning to host the Choice Online Awards this year is Mike Goslin of Mindspark Interactive Network, an online game veteran with experience working with popular virtual worlds including Zwinky.com, Toontown Online, and more.

In addition to the Audience Award, event organizers recently revealed the list of finalists for this year's ceremony, honoring games such as Riot Games' popular League of Legends, Zynga's FrontierVille, and Mojang's indie powerhouse Minecraft.

GDC Online Debuts First Sessions For Smartphone & Tablet Games Summit

GDC Online has revealed new sessions within the Austin show's Smartphone & Tablet Games Summit, including a look at Zynga's Words With Friends studio, a series of mini-lectures on breaking into Asian markets, and a dual postmortem on Limbic Software's Nuts! and Zombie Gunship.

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

This year, the show will host three specialized Summits in addition to the traditional Main Conference, with topics covering Game Narrative, Virtual Items, and Smartphone & Tablet Games.

The following are among the first talks to be revealed within GDC Online's Smartphone & Tablet Games Summit:

- In "Words With Friends: Building and Growing a Game on the Top of the Charts," Vijay Thakkar of the Zynga subsidiary Zynga With Friends will outline the growth and evolution of the popular With Friends series (which includes Words With Friends, Hanging With Friends, and more). Thakkar will explain the inner workings of the studio's tech, and will point out "the trials and tribulations of multi-platform, cross-team development."

- Elsewhere, a handful of mobile company executives from ngmoco, Papaya Mobile, and Gamevil will discuss how to find success in Asian markets in "International Micro-Talks: Developing and Distributing Games for Japan, China and Korea." In this series of micro-talks, the speakers will each reflect on their experience in the mobile space to help developers overcome the challenges that come with breaking into these ever-growing markets.

Tales from the GDC Vault: The Flood Begins

[Continuing his 'Tales from the Vault' series, official GDC historian Jason Scott debuts landmark videos featuring computer pioneer Danny Hillis, the 2004 Game Design Challenge, AI legend Marvin Minsky, and Peter Molyneux, among many others.]

This has been a long time coming. The past few months of this GDC Vault digitization process have been incredibly slow, especially in regard to this column and giving you new things to check out.

It turns out that rescuing the video and audio from these old tapes has been quite intense, and prone to all sorts of unexpected thrill and chills as I both unearthed rarities and found frustrating dead ends, meaning days of lost work. No history has been lost, of course -- just time, lots of time.

Now, the whole chain of digitization, clean up, compression and prep for the web can be done on a single machine, using a variety of tools (most open-source), which I can push through pretty quickly. It still takes two to three times the length of a tape to prepare it for the web, but it's dependable, and that's what matters.

With a room full of tapes ready to go, I know how the next few months are going to be spent with this material. It's obvious there are gems aplenty in this pile, and filling the GDC archives is going to be a very rewarding project.

So let's drop some GDC history, right?

Not every keynote had to be all about the latest console or the best graphics, and GDC has peppered its lineups over the years with some intellectual heavy-hitters from the academic side, to give everyone another perspective on this things they make.

In 2000, the keynote was Dr. Daniel Hillis (called Danny Hillis in basically every documentation of the event I could find), who was a co-designer of parallel computing, co-founder of Thinking Machines, and a veteran of Walt Disney Imagineering.

His talk, presented here in full, is a one-hour rumination on the importance, nay, the critical aspect of play in scientific and intellectual discovery [GDC Vault free video]. Pulling from his years of interesting with amazing people, Hillis provides us with his thesis on how the games industry can play in the advancement of the human race.

GDC 2012 Reminds On Last Day For Main Conference Talk Submission

GDC 2012 organizers have reminded that the call for papers for the upcoming show is open only until 11.59pm PT on Tuesday, September 6th, and prospective speakers are must submit now for lectures, roundtables, and panels for the event's Main Conference.

The industry's flagship Game Developers Conference will take place at San Francisco's Moscone Center on March 5-9, 2012, and will once again serve as the premier industry event for developers to make connections, share ideas, and find inspiration.

This year, the GDC advisory board is seeking sessions in game-related tracks covering Business, Marketing & Management, Audio, Programming, Design, Production, and Visual Arts. Talks within these categories will all be showcased at the prestigious Main Conference of the Game Developers Conference 2012.

(Submissions for the GDC Summits, which will include submarkets in social, indie, and mobile games will be open September 29 through October 31, 2011, but these topics are also addressed in part in the Main Conference.)

This year, GDC organizers have introduced a cleaner, faster submission system, further streamlining the process for potential speakers.

To submit a proposal, speakers simply need to submit a brief session description along with any necessary supplemental materials and contact info. For more information on the submission process, please see the official FAQ.

 

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