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GDC Europe Speaker Spotlight: VandenBerghe On Embracing Established IP

In the latest in a series of interviews with speakers from this August's GDC Europe, Ubisoft creative director Jason VandenBerghe discussed how he maintains his creative drive when working on someone else's game concept, noting why all developers should "become a fan" of their IP to stay passionate about their work.

VandenBerghe has been in game development for over 16 years, and much of his career has been spent making games based on popular movie licenses including James Bond (007: Everything Or Nothing), Lord of the Rings (Lord Of The Rings: The Third Age), and X-Men.

During his time working on these well-known franchises, VandenBerghe (Red Steel 2) learned to stay passionate and enthusiastic about his projects, even when a powerful brand offered his team little control over a game's creative direction.

With GDC Europe almost upon us, VandenBerghe teased his upcoming talk, "The Magic Gun: Surviving IP Development Through Embracing Your Constraints," diving in to his approach on IP-based development, and providing tips for making games based on popular licenses.

What do you do to maintain your creative drive when working on an established franchise?

For me, it came easy. I grew up sitting around with my D&D buddies talking about what our own Alien film would be like, or playing through a Traveller campaign based on The Terminator, and even in these early experiments, we were nailing the tone of our beloved franchises.

It was only later, when I came into the industry, that I realized that this was something that was even an issue for people. Working on the James Bond franchise, I was stunned by how many people wanted to utterly change the very nature of that character, simply to suit their personal creative tastes. While I could understand the drive to create, doesn't James Bond deserve to be James Bond?

So, I developed the "Magic Gun": a way of thinking about what I think of as "other people's ideas" that could help my teams re-orient their thinking. It's easy to learn... but extraordinarily difficult to master.

The Magic Gun is this: Learn your constraints, and then embrace them. Simple -- yet so hard to do.

Learning is actually the easiest part: I find experts on the IP I am working on, and I interrogate them mercilessly. It's the embracing part that is truly hard. To succeed as a designer, I must learn to love my IP for the same reasons that the fans of that IP do. Truly, unreservedly, I must become a fan. Then, the real work can begin.

What are some titles you've worked on that most challenged your creative control? Why were these titles particularly challenging to work on?

Few franchises can rival the Bond franchise for challenges related to creative control. James Bond is a $3 billion+ annual industry without the games, and if you think that those guys are going to let you kill the golden goose by incorrectly re-interpreting their character, you got another thing coming.

Strangely, though, the fans of James Bond are almost harder to deal with. Not individually, mind you, but as a group. Ask yourself this: have you ever met anyone in your life who doesn't have an opinion about James Bond?

Chances are, you haven't. That applies to your team as well. And everyone's vision of Bond is just a little bit different.

Getting everyone to see the same creative vision is hard enough. Getting everyone to see the same creative vision when that vision is different from the strongly held, personal vision in their mind? Nearly impossible.

GDC 2012: Perry, Castle, Yu On Business Trends To Watch For

To help inspire submissions for the GDC 2012 call for papers, the event's advisory board members for the Business & Marketing track spoke out on the rising business trends in the industry, outlining what they hope to see discussed at the upcoming San Francisco-based show.

Seasoned industry professionals such as Gaikai's David Perry, independent developer Adam Saltsman, Zynga's Louis Castle, Gazillion's Dan Fiden, and Ngmoco's Alan Yu all discussed the most pertinent business strategies of the last few years, as part of their drive to inspire submission ideas for the GDC 2012 Main Conference.

These GDC advisory board members oversee the show's Business, Marketing & Management track, and ensure that each of its sessions remain relevant and hold up the high bar of quality that GDC attendees have come to expect.

The call for papers for GDC 2012 will close on September 6, with a list of business and marketing-specific topics available on the official website. In the following interview, the advisory board members discuss key business issues they'd like to see addressed at next March's show.

How do you all think downloadable and free-to-play titles have affected the business strategies for traditional, boxed retail games?

David Perry: At the start, there was a lot of resistance to free-to-play. I put a lot of energy into trying to be the first free-to-play console game and was met with enormous resistance. I even remember comments saying not to interview me anymore, as this entire concept is horrible. In reality, times have moved on, Zynga is worth billions of dollars, free-to-play is no longer just an Asian phenomenon, and publishers are open to all business models.

Looking around, it's as if the video game industry, including mobile, is driven by three things in this order: Convenience, low price (Free to try), and high quality -- if you have all three you have a slam dunk. The X factor is how easy you make it to share. Boxed retail games fail on two out of three key drivers -- convenience and low price -- therefore they are ticking time bombs.

Adam Saltsman: Free-to-play is a kind of a marketing coup. The name, I mean, not the actual concept. The main difference between "free for the first month" and "free for five minutes a day" is the latter is proven to make scads of money for social games.

Part of me is worried that box games are in the process of getting renamed and re-monetized the same way: "super deluxe special edition tin box with army helmet and real gun, only $250!" But the other part of me is really happy, because I know there will always be a free demo for the next big AAA game that I can download and check out, instead of having to take the big $60 (or $250!) gamble every time.

And there is a happy possible future where games are simply priced based on how you engage them. If you just want to play through the first chapter of a game and see what the controls and graphics are like, that will have one price (maybe free). If you want to pore over the whole game for 200 hours, then that can be a different price. This makes sense for people and for bandwidth I think, but there are a lot of opportunities for the system to be manipulated to work against the audience. This is going to be an interesting few years for any industry that used to sell chunks of data in a box.

Louis Castle: All digital entertainment is trending toward three things: sharable, free-to-sample, and pay for consumption. Boxed games are struggling with the same market forces that have been thrust upon the music industry and now film. There may be some long-term market for physical goods, but it is unlikely to be the primary market it is today.

How soon this industry will be forced to accept the change will depend on how long console makers will hold on to the current model. The market forces have little to no effect if you are one of the major franchises, but everyone else is already having to deal with the difficulties of getting players to pay when free options are readily available.

Game Developers Choice Online Awards Honor Kesmai Founders, SOE's EverQuest

Organizers of GDC Online have revealed that the 2011 Online Game Legend Award at the second annual Game Developers Choice Online Awards will go to John Taylor and Kelton Flinn, the founders of Kesmai Corporation, and the creators of seminal, inspirational early online games including Island of Kesmai and Air Warrior.

In addition, the second persistent online game to be inducted into the Choice Online Awards Hall of Fame will be Sony Online Entertainment's beloved fantasy game EverQuest, a still-operating title which was one of the most important early 3D MMO titles. Both recipients will be honored during the Choice Online Awards ceremony, taking place October 12, 2011 at GDC Online in Austin.

The special awards are a celebration of the iconic developers and games that have had terrific influence in shaping the now massive online games category. Honorees were selected through open nominations from the online game community and the distinguished GDC Online Advisory Board.

The board includes game industry veterans, leaders and luminaries such as Zynga Austin's John Blakely, Blizzard Entertainment's J. Allen Brack, BioWare Mythic's Eugene Evans, Playdom's Raph Koster, Nexon's Min Kim, and Riot Games' Brandon Beck.

This year's Online Game Legend award will be presented to the creators of Island of Kesmai, John Taylor and Kelton Flinn. The GDC Online organizers chose these two recipients in recognition of their achievements as game creators who have made a permanent impact on the craft of developing online games -- and for having provided a launch pad for many other accomplished developers' careers for nearly 20 years.

Flinn started writing multiplayer games while a college student, competing then collaborating with Taylor. This work was characterized by the CompuServe-hosted MUD Island of Kesmai, which they wrote following graduate school in the early 1980s. In the ASCII-based world of Island of Kesmai, real-time text communication between players -- while solving dungeon quests and participating in combat -- was a major influence on many of the online games to come.

GDC Europe 2011 Highlights Driver, Publisher Panel, Supercell Talks

GDC Europe 2011 is highlighting three new talks, including a look at how Driver: San Francisco balances art and tech, a panel on what publishers really want, and a lecture from Supercell (Gunshine) on browser-based games.

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.

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 panel, "Ask the Decision Makers: Find Out What Publishers Want and How to Get What You Want," representatives from some of the industry's top publishers will discuss what they look for when evaluating a potential product or development partner.

Speakers in this panel include Chris Charla of Microsoft Game Studios, Christian Svensson of Capcom, and Jeff Hilbert of the talent agency Digital Development Management, as well as Martin De Ronde of Vanguard Games (Gatling Gears).

Each of the industry veterans will outline their company's philosophies on game development, teaching attendees what needs to happen before a publisher decides to support a game.

- Also in the Business & Marketing track, CEO Ilkka Paananen of web developer Supercell (Gunshine) will host, "Next Generation of Online Games: Accessible yet Deep and Immersive - and Truly Social via Real-Time Multi-Player!," a talk focused on the overlooked potential of browser-based online games.

Paananen's talk, referencing the Finnish firm's popular browser MMO, will discuss how browser-based games can combine the benefits of social networks with the appeal of hardcore games, simultaneously offering both accessibility and depth. Paananen will also note the obstacles that come with developing for a browser, and his talk will outline "a lot of challenges that must be addressed."

GDC 2012 Announces Call For Papers, Advisory Board Additions

GDC 2012 organizers have announced that the call for papers for the upcoming show is open from now until September 6, and prospective speakers are encouraged to submit their ideas 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 will be open September 29 through October 31, 2011.)

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.

Alongside the call for papers, event organizers have announced several new additions to the GDC 2012 advisory board, all of whom will actively assist in managing the content for the upcoming show, reviewing and rating all the submissions.

In particular, these new board members include Chris Charla, the portfolio director for XBLA at Microsoft Game Studios, Rod Fergusson, executive producer at Epic Games, Lee Petty, senior art director and project lead at Double Fine, Justin Thavirat, senior art director at Blizzard, and Ru Weerasuriya, co-founder and art and creative director at God of War: Ghost of Sparta developer Ready at Dawn.

GDC Europe Speaker Spotlight: B.U.T.T.O.N.'s Douglas Wilson On Breaking The Rules

In the latest in a series of interviews with speakers from this August's GDC Europe, Douglas Wilson, developer of the IGF-finalist B.U.T.T.O.N., discusses how to design multiplayer games that don't adhere to strict rules.

In 2009, Wilson (pictured, right) co-founded the Copenhagen Game Collective, a non-profit game design group in Copenhagen, Denmark He is also a Ph.D. candidate at IT University of Copenhagen's Center for Computer Games Research, where he teaches and researches game design. In addition, his upcoming dissertation will discuss intentionally abusive, unbalanced, or broken game design.

Next month at GDC Europe, Wilson will host a talk as part of the Independent Game Summit titled, "Intentionally Broken Game Design and the Art of "Deputizing" Players," where he will examine "traditional folk games, design research, and precedents in other media forms" to explain how players tend to enforce game rules without strict systems in place.

With GDC Europe just weeks away, Wilson discussed the concept of his upcoming talk, outlining the core design of his unusual multiplayer title B.U.T.T.O.N., as well as the benefits of creating games with lenient rules.

Your recent multiplayer title B.U.T.T.O.N. used a very minimalist approach, omitting some of the traditional systems and rules most often seem in multiplayer games. What inspired you to take such an atypical approach?

One of the core ideas behind B.U.T.T.O.N. is that modifying and negotiating the rules is sometimes the most enjoyable game of all. I feel like this is a lesson that we computer game designer sometimes forget. The system itself is never what comprises the game. Rather, it's what the human players do with that system. Just think about the kind of improvisational play that underlie kids' playground games, or the "house rules" that inevitably crop around boardgames and pickup sports.

Some game design theorists have argued that these ambiguities are a "problem" that computer technology can fix. How dull! As I see it, the key is to actively embrace these ambiguities in a way that feels intentional and fun. To this end, we conceptualized B.U.T.T.O.N. not as a "computer game," but rather as a game that just happens to use a computer. I do admit that all games -- even the most traditional and "closed-system" games -- are subject to these kinds of negotiations and house rules. What we tried to do with B.U.T.T.O.N. was to actively call attention to the ambiguities of gameplay, in attempt to convince players to revel in and enjoy them.

Your talk description says you examined "traditional folk games, design research, and precedents in other media forms" when looking at alternative methods of multiplayer games. Can you describe what this research entailed and what you learned from it?

For my Ph.D. dissertation I've spent a lot of time studying folk games and sports, from old Danish children's games to the American New Games movement of the 1970s. One of my favorite examples is the traditional Inuit game of Iqiruktuk, also known as Mouth Pull. In Mouth Pull, two players stand side-by-side, placing their arms over each other's shoulders and hooking their thumb into their opponent's mouth. When the game begins, both players start tugging away at each other's mouth! The first player to surrender loses.

GDC Vault Debuts 2011's 'Game Design Challenge' Session Video

This week, the GDC Vault has debuted a free video of GDC 2011's Game Design Challenge, which saw the rise of the unorthodox multiplayer title Chain World.

This session, officially dubbed, "The Game Design Challenge 2011: Bigger than Jesus," tasked developers with creating a game that also served a religion, and this premise spawned some very interesting results.

The August 2011 issue of Wired magazine recently ran an in-depth feature discussing the challenge, titled 'Chain World Videogame Was Supposed to be a Religion - Not a Holy War.' The article, which is also available online, offers a fascinating look at this standout session from GDC 2011, and provides a look at what happened afterward.

As author Jason Fagone explains in the introduction, independent game designer and IGF Nuovo award winner Jason Rohrer (Between, Passage) created an unusual game based on a USB memory stick and Mojang's hit indie game Minecraft.

Fagone writes, "According to a set of rules defined by Rohrer, only one person on earth could play the game at a time. The player would modify the game's environment as they moved through it. Then, after the player died in the game, they would pass the memory stick to the next person, who would play in the digital terrain altered by their predecessor -- and on and on for years, decades, generations, epochs.

In Rohrer's mind, his game would share many qualities with religion -- a holy ark, a set of commandments, a sense of secrecy and mortality and mystical anticipation. This was the idea, anyway, before things started to get weird. Before Chain World, like religion itself, mutated out of control."

GDC Online 2011 Reveals Riot Games, EverQuest II, Gamification Talks

GDC Online has debuted a new batch of lectures for the October show in Austin, featuring speakers from Riot Games on iterative tool creation, SOE on introducing streaming to EverQuest II, and Bunchball on the essence of gamification.

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 show's Programming track, Riot Games' senior gameplay engineer Andy Woo and senior producer Travis George will host "Putting the Plane Together Midair," a talk detailing the ongoing development process behind the studio's smash hit League of Legends.

Woo and George will go over the studio's process for iteratively developing their tools, while simultaneously using those tools to ship projects and support an active online game.

- Also in the Programming track is a lecture dubbed, "EverQuest II Extended: Streaming a Non-Streaming Game," in which Joshua Kriegshauser, technical director at Sony Online Entertainment, will explain how EverQuest II adopted an online streaming system for a game originally designed for a standard, file-based install.

Noting SOE's assumptions and lessons learned when retroactively implementing this streaming system, Kriegshauser will teach attendees the ins and outs of implementing an online streaming system in games designed without that infrastructure in mind.

GDC China Registration Now Open, First Talks Revealed

GDC China organizers are proud to announce that registration is now live for the 2011 show, and the first batch of announced sessions includes speakers from the show's Social and Indie Games Summits, on topics spanning Western-focused development and essential indie dev tools.

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, GDC China will feature tracks on Online Game Development & Business, Global Game Development, and Social Games, with notable summits on Independent Games and Mobile Games. In addition, the show will boast a two-floor exhibition hall, and will once again host the Independent Games Festival China for the third year running.

All of the sessions at GDC China will be simultaneously translated between English and Chinese during the event, and the following talks are the first among many to be revealed for this year's show:

- As part of the Social Games Summit, Ubisoft Chengdu project manager Xiaojuan He will host a talk dubbed, "Project Managing a Social Game for the Western Market," revealing how the China-based Ubisoft branch developed the Facebook title Castle & Co. for western markets.

He's lecture will focus particularly on her role as project manager throughout the game's development, outlining the team's approach to designing a Western-focused game, the problems encountered during production, handling team morale, post-launch support, and more.

- Over in the Independent Games Summit, Ye Feng, co-founder and CTO of independent iOS developer Coconut Island Studio (Finger Balance, iDragPaper) will discuss indie dev tools in, "Brewing Your Own Game Engine - The Pros & Cons of Using Open Source Software to Rapidly Develop Cross-Platform Indie Games and Tools."

In this lecture, Feng will weigh the pros and cons of using homebrewed tools versus middleware, and will show attendees how his studio used custom tools to its advantage to streamline and improve their development pipeline. In addition, he will suggest a number of tools that make indie development easier.

Reminder: 24 Hours Left To Early Register For GDC Europe 2011

With just a day left until early registration ends on July 20 at Midnight UTC, GDC Europe 2011 organizers have chosen to reveal information on the show's Expo Floor and its gamescom-based Business Lounge, and recap some of the show's most notable lectures and panels.

GDC Europe's Expo Floor, located within the Cologne Congress-Centrum Ost, in Cologne, Germany, will once again showcase the most cutting-edge technologies from the industry's biggest and most influential companies.

Unity Technologies, Crytek, Epic Games, Onlive, and Glu Mobile are but a few of the notable exhibitors at the show this year -- please visit the GDC Europe website for the complete list of the show's 35+ exhibitors.

The Expo Floor is open to all GDC Europe pass holders, and provides attendees with numerous opportunities to learn about upcoming products, interact with developers and publishers, and establish business relationships with some of the industry's top professionals.

In addition to the show's Expo Floor, GDC Europe attendees will also receive a 3-day pass to the major gamescom trade show, which takes place just after GDC Europe. As in previous years, gamescom will feature a specialized business-centric area for game industry professionals, also open to GDC Europe attendees.

In this dedicated area, GDC Europe will host its very own Business Lounge, providing gamescom attendees with a perfect venue for networking, gaining exposure, and more, even after GDC Europe proper officially concludes - with meeting rooms from many of GDC Europe's major exhibitors.

GDC Europe 2011 Reveals Keynote From Epic President Mike Capps

GDC Europe organizers have announced that Epic Games president Dr. Michael Capps will give a keynote at next month's GDC Europe, revealing secrets behind the studio's major releases, from big-budget shooters such as Gears of War to mobile titles like Infinity Blade.

Capps will join Ultima creator Richard Garriott and Wooga founder Jens Begemann as the third keynote speaker to be announced for the 2011 Game Developers Conference Europe, which will take place August 15-17, and is located in Cologne, Germany alongside gamescom, the leading European trade and consumer show.

The keynote, titled "Size Doesn't Matter: How Epic Brings AAA Attitude to Every Game, from Gears of War 3 to Infinity Blade", will delve into Epic's development process for its various games, which range from AAA console titles to mobile releases and classic PC shooters.

Dr. Capps will discuss the key development similarities that pervade all of Epic's projects, even when team sizes and budgets differ wildly. He will also cite specific examples of how the studio benefits from its shared staff and infrastructure, using examples from the upcoming Gears of War 3.

In addition to serving as Epic's president, Dr. Capps is also an advisory board member for the Game Developers Conference, and holds a seat on the boards for the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences and the Entertainment Software Association.

Before entering the game industry, Dr. Capps worked as a professor at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, specializing in defense and entertainment collaboration, virtual reality, and computer graphics. He holds degrees in computer science and electrical engineering from the University of North Carolina and MIT, and a doctorate in computer science from the Naval Postgraduate School.

GDC Europe Reveals Mark Cerny, Age of Empires, Bigpoint Talks

GDC Europe has revealed a new batch of lectures for the upcoming August show, featuring industry legend Mark Cerny on the future of the industry, Age of Empires and Titan Quest veteran Brian Sullivan on level design, and Battlestar Galactica Online developer Bigpoint on handling large IP.

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:

- Industry veteran Mark Cerny, whose career spans titles such as Marble Madness, Crash Bandicoot, and Resistance, will host a high-profile talk in the show's Design track titled, "The Long View," which will examine the last forty years of video game history, as well as provide a look into the future.

Cerny notes that "2009 and 2010 have now shown some erosion in console video game sales," and his talk will discuss what this trend could mean for the industry, and why developers might have to adapt to considerable changes in their creative process.

- In a retrospective Design track lecture, "Level Design: Lessons Learned from Age of Empires and Titan Quest," Northeastern University instructor Brian Sullivan will provide attendees with a look back at lessons learned from two popular isometric PC titles he was a part of.

Sullivan, who worked with Ensemble on the Age of Empires series and founded Titan Quest developer Iron Lore Entertainment, will go over the level design processes for these games, offering developers "insight into how to design their levels with respect to gameplay, play style, topic, story, quests, pacing, performance, tech, art, budget, schedule, and fun."

GDC Online Debuts Zynga, CCP, Threat Modeling Talks

GDC Online has revealed a new batch of lectures for the October show in Austin, featuring speakers from Zynga on 'how metrics are ruining your game', veteran Stephen Beeman on online security threats, and CCP on crisis management.

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 seen in the event's Schedule Builder, the following lectures are early highlights from this year's Main Conference:

- Over in the Design track is a lecture dubbed, "How Metrics Are Ruining Your Game; Common Pitfalls and Uncommon Solutions," in which Zynga product manager Ian Wang will explain the pros and cons of using metrics to influence game design.

"This talk takes a practical look at how metrics are being used, how they should be used, and how to avoid having well-intentioned data lead to wrong decisions," says Wang.

- In a Customer Experience track lecture, "Threat Modeling for Game Developers,"
veteran MMO and social game consultant and expert Stephen Beeman will
outline security risks that threaten users' personal information, and
what developers can do to avoid them. Beeman, an alumnus of Origin,
Electronic Arts and Gazillion Entertainment, says, "Using real-world
examples, this lecture will teach you the threat modeling process and
how to use it to make your apps more secure."

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.

 

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