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'Tales from the GDC Vault': Carmack Lays it Out

[Continuing his new 'Tales from the GDC Vault' series, digital historian Jason Scott reveals his first full-length digitized video from the Game Developers Conference archives - John Carmack's fascinating keynote from GDC 2004.]

It took a lot longer and was more involved than I'd expected, but the first of the GDC presentations stored on BetaSP tapes and not available for a lot of years is now online over at GDC Vault's free section: John Carmack's 2004 Game Developers Conference keynote presentation.

For what are no doubt the usual reasons of opportunity, scheduling, and bad luck, this was the very first time he gave a speech at GDC, even if the work he'd done (including Commander Keen, Doom and Quake) had been the topic of discussion and mention for the previous decade.

Describing in deep technical detail the issues I had building the workflow of transfer from Betacam SP tapes to .flv files is probably not the best use of your time, so let me quickly go over the high-level version of it.

GDC Europe 2011 Debuts Notable Smartphone Summit, Design Talks

GDC Europe organizers have announced new lectures for the August show, including Smartphone & Tablet Games Summit talks on topics including Android game development, Catan's tablet gaming push, and a Main Conference talk on blending existing IP with creative design.

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

New to the conference this year is the Smartphone & Tablet Games Summit, which will feature panels and lectures from some of the most influential figures in the mobile space - on topics including the emerging business trends and successful design strategies for platforms such as iOS, Android and more.

As part of the Smartphone & Tablet Games Summit, Fishlabs Entertainment's Marc Hehmeyer will discuss how to best move an iOS title to Android devices in his talk, "From iOS to Android - Galaxy on Fire 2 Does the Green Robot."

Using the German studio's own hit space simulator Galaxy on Fire 2 as an example, the Fishlabs CTO will outline the challenges and intricacies involved with porting mobile games to the Android platform, with many practical examples.

The Summit will also feature Exozet Games' head of mobile development Matthias Hellmund -- the studio behind Catan and Carcassone's smartphone and tablet versions -- in a talk on how to bring popular board game titles to mobile platforms.

Hellmund's lecture, entitled "Board Game Mobilization - What's Now, What's Next," will go over the company's work and other successful examples of mobile board games -- outlining how they take advantage of the accessibility, technology, and form factor offered by a number of popular mobile devices.

Elsewhere, in the GDC Europe 2011 Main Conference's Game Design track, Ubisoft creative director Jason VandenBergh -- whose highest-rated GDC Europe 2010 talk on Red Steel 2 is available to view for free on GDC Vault -- will outline how to satisfy your creative itch when working within the constraints of an existing IP.

GDC China 2011 Calls For Lecture Submissions

The organizers of the fourth Game Developers Conference China (GDC China), to be held in Shanghai this November, are calling for lecture submissions through May 21st from Western and Asian developers.

This call for content for the November 12th to 14th event comes as organizers announce the striking new larger venue of the Shanghai Exhibition Center (formerly the Palace Of Sino-Soviet Friendship) in the West Nanjing Road area, in the center of the major Chinese city.

Organizers are looking for submissions in tracks including Global Game Development/Outsourcing, Online Game Development & Business, and the extremely popular Social, Mobile, and Independent Games tracks - with all lectures to be simultaneously translated between English and Chinese during the event.

This year's GDC China will also play host to the third annual Independent Games Festival China, honoring top independent games from all over Asia and Australasia.

The show is the only game developer conference officially endorsed by the Ministry of Culture of the People's Republic of China.

GDC Europe 2011 Debuts Playfish, Mortal Kombat, Playdom Talks

GDC Europe organizers have announced new lectures for the August show, including Social Games Summit talks by Playdom and Playfish, and NetherRealm on creating Mortal Kombat's cinematics.

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

New to the conference this year is the Social Games Summit, which will feature panels and lectures from some of the most influential figures in the social space, on topics including Facebook games, persistent MMOs, web-based online titles, and much more.

As part of the Social Games Summit, Playdom's VP of global distribution Paul LaFontaine will host a talk dubbed "Social Gaming is no Long Just Facebook," during which he will help developers prioritize which platforms to develop for among the ever-growing sea of regional and specialized social networks like Odnaklassniki.ru and QQ.com.

The Summit will also feature Playfish UK's general manager John Earner in a talk on how social game development should adapt to the ever-increasing demand for high production values on Facebook and other social platforms.

The lecture from the Electronic Arts-owned firm's executive, titled "Evolution of the Development Process in Social Gaming," will help put the evolution of social games in context by comparing the budding industry with previous gaming platforms.

Elsewhere, in the main conference's Visual Arts track, NetherRealm Studios' cinematic director Dominic Cianciolo will discuss the studio's approach to the development and execution of the cinematics in the recently released Mortal Kombat title.

'Tales from the GDC Vault': A Portal to Better Labeling

[Continuing his new 'Tales from the GDC Vault' series, digital historian Jason Scott showcases his work on building the GDC multimedia archives, presenting a video of Portal co-creator Kim Swift from IGS 2007 and audio ephemera from a decade previous.]

Having gone through dozens of tapes, I figured I'd take a moment to send a message to anyone running cameras at any event that has lots of sessions and recordings associated with it: labeling is awesome. I say that having picked up a pile of tapes in some crazy format, and finding them labeled "PART 1: CONTENT" up through "PART 8: CONTENT". Not to mention the label that said "GDC 2000."

Luckily, most have something useful like "FRIDAY - 03-10-00 2:30p - STORYTELLING BATES" (i.e. Bob Bates of Legend Entertainment speaking on Storytelling at GDC 2000, on Friday at 2:30pm).

But with so many of these going through my various tape players, it's usually a surprise about what comes out the other side. And then there's the ones that confuse me without meaning to. One audio tape had the year of GDC - in this case 1997 - and the name "Impromptu Ai Nak."

I figured he was some designer from faraway lands giving an impromptu talk in a conference hall - but in fact, it was an impromptu AI discussion between various developers about issues in artificial intelligence. Can anyone recognize the speakers? (And check out the other digitized audiotapes of GDC 1997 sessions we've put up on Vault.)

And finally... one of the audio tapes had the title, and then "chose not to be recorded" typed on the label. "Oh ho," I thought, "glad to see things were preserved regardless of the whims of the speaker back then." Popping the tape in, I heard some people chatting informally in a room, followed by the speaker requesting that he not be recorded. And that's where it ended. Does what it says on the tin!

GDC Online 2011 Reminds On May 5th Talk Submission Deadline

The organizers of Game Developers Conference Online 2011 are reminding that the event is accepting submissions through midnight PT on Thursday, May 5th to present lectures, roundtables, and panel sessions at GDC Online 2011.

The Austin, Texas-based conference and expo to be held this October - the leading worldwide event for social and online game developers - focuses on social network titles, free-to-play web games, kid-friendly online titles, large-scale MMOs, and all types of connected and cloud-centric games.

Main Conference submissions should address the most pressing development challenges for online and connected games, targeting the following tracks: Business and Marketing, Design, Production, Programming, and the new Customer Experience track.

Evolving from last year's Live track, GDC Online's notable new Customer Experience track will feature successful strategies to attract, retain and effectively monetize players.

Industry experts are encouraged to submit a proposal in areas such as increasing player satisfaction and engagement through metrics-driven post-launch development, design patterns for expansion content, building and managing communities and more.

GDC Online 2011 show management is also requesting submissions for its standalone summits, which this year include the Game Narrative Summit, the Smartphone & Tablet Games Summit and the GDC Virtual Items Summit.

GDC Europe 2011 Debuts Mass Effect 3, Slant Six, IMVU Talks

GDC Europe organizers have announced new lectures for the August show, including BioWare on Mass Effect 3's creatures, IMVU on "continuous deployment", and Slant Six (Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City) on production pipelines.

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

Following the first set of announced Main Conference sessions, including Brink, Blue Fang and Crysis 2 talks, a major new lecture compares the radically different creature creation pipelines used on Mass Effect 2 and the upcoming Mass Effect 3.

Why, if you've just released a game that got a 96 score on Metacritic, would you completely change the process used to develop all of the creatures of the game?

Answering this question, Scylla Costa and Brenon Holmes of BioWare will present a Production track talk "From Boxes to Life! How to Prototype and Develop Creatures: Mass Effect 2 and 3 Case Study".

Elsewhere, GDC Europe attendees will learn how releasing updates to customers 20+ times per day is possible in the Programming track talk "Using Continuous Deployment to Move Fast and Release without Pain".

Tales from the GDC Vault: On Betamax, Black & White, A Talk Under Siege

[Continuing his new 'Tales from the GDC Vault' series, digital historian Jason Scott showcases his work on the the GDC multimedia archives, presenting a Betamax video rundown and talks or excerpts featuring Peter Molyneux (Black & White) and Chris Taylor (Dungeon Siege).]
Jason Scott, GDC Historian here. I'm here to talk about the future. I'm here to talk, in other words, about the Betamax format.
For people of a certain age, Betamax is kind of a joke. For others who are younger, it's barely a word, something you might have heard in passing in an unrelated discussion about video. But what it is, in fact, is a video format that never quite died, and which still sees some amount of activity in the present day.
It was a contemporary format to VHS, first introduced in the 1970s, as one of the standards intended to be used in all sorts of consumer-grade hardware for videotape. It had some positive features, but a crushing grip by Sony meant that the format was shoved aside for its not-so-great-but-cheaper competitor, from JVC. Not one to just kill the format,
Sony instead tweaked it: the professional reworking of that consumer-grade video technology into Betacam meant that it had a lot of use in the professional sector going forward. Granted, that activity has decreased intensely with the advent of digital recording and high-definition requirements, but you can be assured that there are more Betamax players and recorders out there than the initial guess of "zero". One of them, I am happy to say, is in my house.
Check out this svelte monstrosity:

GDC Europe 2011 Reveals Brink, Blue Fang, Crysis 2 Talks

GDC Europe organizers have announced first lectures for the show, including Splash Damage on Brink's design, Blue Fang (Oregon Trail) on its move to social, and Crytek on Crysis 2's multiplayer.

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

As part of the first announced Main Conference sessions, attendees can learn how to preserve ambitious design goals through managing practical implementation solutions in the game design track session "You Say You Want a Shooter R(evolution)".

In the talk, British studio Splash Damage's Neil Alphonso will discuss how his team tackled these design challenges during the development of much-awaited shooter Brink (pictured).

With Blue Fang Games (Zoo Tycoon, The Oregon Trail) as the case study, discover what it takes to transition from the traditional games space into the social realm in Hank Howie's business track talk "From Console to Facebook: Blue Fang Games and the Big Pivot".

Finally, two studios and over 100 programmers contributed to the development of the multiplayer component of Crysis 2. Crytek's Peter Hall will speak in depth about the development process, and how to manage challenges that arise with working with large programming teams in his programming track session "Crysis 2 Multiplayer: A Programmer's Postmortem."

GDC Vault Adds Free 'GDC 25' Videos From McGonigal, Schatz, Siegel

The GDC Vault service has debuted free video talks from Game Developers Conference 2011's Summits, including Jane McGonigal on "no stinkin' badges", Monaco's Andy Schatz on winning the IGF, and Playdom's Scott Jon Siegel on making City Of Wonder.

These talks add to acclaimed lectures from Frank Lantz and Charlie Cleveland, as well as the much-watched classic game postmortem series as part of GDC 2011's 'free recordings' section.

The following lectures from GDC 2011's wide range of emerging market Summits -- which were some of the highlights of this year's February 28th-March 4th show in San Francisco -- are being made free at this time:

In the first newly available GDC Vault video, Social Chocolate's Jane McGonigal presents a Serious Games Summit keynote named 'We Don't Need No Stinkin' Badges: How to Re-invent Reality Without Gamification'.

The talk from the ARG designer and author of 'Reality Is Broken' suggests: "Plenty of game developers think gamification sounds cynical and opportunistic -- a way to motivate gamers to do something they' ordinarily avoid... What we need now is a more holistic and whole-hearted approach to using game design to transform reality."

Another highly rated talk being made available for free in video form on GDC Vault is 'How to Win the IGF in 15 Weeks or Less', Andy Schatz's heartfelt explanation of how he entered heist game Monaco into the 2010 Independent Games Festival after just 6 weeks of one-person work -- and unexpectedly came out with the Grand Prize.

Using his Facebook status updates and explaining his state of mind, longtime indie Schatz explains "how design-by-brownian-motion can not only lead to a better finished product, but a faster schedule as well," with a spontaneous playtest of his acclaimed title jammed into the end of his Independent Games Summit lecture.

GDC Europe 2011 Reveals Summit Advisory Boards, Main Board Additions

The organizers of this August's Game Developers Conference Europe 2011 have revealed the notable line-up for the brand-new Summit advisory boards, as well as an addition to the main GDC Europe board.

The industry luminaries joining the advisory boards represent companies including Playfish, Sony Online Entertainment, THQ, Copenhagen Game Collective, DDM and more, and will be responsible for helping craft the content of the event, which now includes four major Summits and five Main Conference Tracks.

For the first year, the 2011 GDC Europe advisory boards are split into Summit-specific boards and a Main Conference board, with the following announcements made:

- Johan Sjoberg, the Swedish-based lead agent at game representation agency DDM, is joining GDC Europe's main advisory board. Sjoberg works closely with the agency's game developer clients -- including firms like Ninja Theory and Vatra Games -- on business development and corporate strategy, and his connections within the European game industry should prove invaluable to the event.

- The inaugural Social Games Summit has announced board members from the forefront of the European social games scene. These include UK-based Playfish/Electronic Arts VP and co-founder Kristian Segerstrale, as well as the Finnish founder of Rocket Pack, Jiri Kupiainen - whose social game company was recently acquired by Disney.

- The first-ever Smartphone & Tablet Summit at GDC Europe has
added as a board member Germany-based Fishlabs CEO and co-founder
Michael Schade, whose Galaxy On Fire series has found success on
multiple mobile platforms. Other confirmed advisors include Secret
Exit's Jetro Lauha - the Finnish firm's Zen Bound 2 and Stair Dismount have seen multiple millions of downloads.

- The Independent Games Summit at GDC now includes advisors such as
Copenhagen Game Collective co-founder Lau Korsgaard, whose Danish
collective is behind innovative indie party game B.U.T.T.O.N.,
recently showcased at this year's Independent Games Festival at GDC
2011. Also added is Remote Control Productions' Hendrik Lesser, whose
firm works with notable European independent creators such as Brightside
Games (Zeit2).

- Finally, the Community Management Summit has added to its core
co-organizer, German-based Two Pi Team CEO Thomas Lagemann, with the
appointment of Linda Carlson, director of global community relations for
Sony Online Entertainment, as well as THQ's director of community
management Chris Mancil, a veteran of studios including Trion Worlds and
Vivendi Games.

'Tales from the GDC Vault': Cow Clicking and A Little Extra

[Continuing his new 'Tales from the GDC Vault' series, digital historian Jason Scott showcases his digitizing and contextualizing work for Game Developers Conference content for the GDC multimedia archives, showcasing Ian Bogost's newly-free Cow Clicker talk and a new GDC 2000 press reel.]

Jason Scott, GDC Historian and Archivist here. Great news for you, if you've been hearing a lot about this "GDC" thing and want to know what you're missing.

Game Developers Conference has not just been freeing up older, classic talks like the ones I've been digitizing from over a decade ago - they've also released a variety of just-recorded talks from recent GDCs. All of these are recorded using the digitally speaking mechanism, where you can watch the speaker and slides, just the slides, just the audience, or whatever works for you.

There's a growing pile of these present-day presentations that you'll get your hands on, and I'll be pointing out some of the ones that really grabbed me, looking over them.

So here's a great talk to check out from this just-past GDC, one of the more surreal and meta-referential talks that was on the lineup: "Making a Mockery: Ruminations on Cow Clicker" by Ian Bogost, originally given at GDC Online 2010 in Austin in October 2010.

GDC Online 2011 Announces Call For Papers, Summit Line-Up

UBM TechWeb Game Network, organizer of Game Developers Conference Online 2011, has announced its Main Conference track line-up and new Summits for the October show, the leading worldwide event discussing the business and art of online games.

Following a successful call for August's GDC Europe, with more than 200 submissions, organizers are now accepting submissions through midnight PT on Thursday, May 5th to present lectures, roundtables, and panel sessions at GDC Online 2011.

The Austin, Texas-based show to be held this Fall focuses on social network titles, free-to-play web games, kid-friendly online titles, large-scale MMOs, and all types of connected games.

Main Conference submissions should address the most pressing development challenges for online and connected games, targeting the following tracks: Business and Marketing, Design, Production, Programming, and the new Customer Experience track.

Evolving from last year's Live track, GDC Online's notable new Customer Experience track will feature successful strategies to attract, retain and effectively monetize players.

Industry experts are encouraged to submit a proposal in areas such as increasing player satisfaction and engagement through metrics-driven post-launch development, design patterns for expansion content, building and managing communities and more.

GDC Online 2011 show management is also requesting submissions for its standalone summits, which this year include the Game Narrative Summit, the Smartphone & Tablet Games Summit and the GDC Virtual Items Summit.

'Tales from the GDC Vault': It's GDC Vault Madness!

[In the first of his new 'Tales from the GDC Vault' series, digital historian Jason Scott updates on his continued task, digitizing and contextualizing Game Developers Conference content for the GDC multimedia archives, highlighting two of the just-posted classic postmortems for scrutiny.]

Jason Scott, GDC historian and archivist here. I'm still around! After the end of my historically-themed work for 'GDC 25', it was not 100% clear that GDC would want to continue the process of rescuing/archiving their own past for presentation on the Vault. Well, the word came down and here I am. So let's dive back in.

I'm really glad they made this choice, because a service like the GDC Vault holds a lot of value, whether for game scholars studying trends and events in the industry, or to give newer developers insight into what practices have been in place and maybe even why those practices came about.

To that end, I hope to turn this room of videotape, audiotape and artifacts into a nicely boxed, digitized pile that you can enjoy - most of which will be made available in the free section of GDC Vault.

One part of being the GDC historian is you get to go to GDC. I had a great time, took a lot of photos, and talked to a good number of people. And I got to attend the newest crop of presentations, instead of hearing them off audio and videotape.

Like a certain percentage of GDC attendees, I was really impressed and looking forward to the Classic Postmortems... but I was also keeping my expectations tempered. After all, in some cases the developers were being asked to hearken 10 to 20 years ago, and talk about events that might have fallen by the wayside in terms of memory.

I figured most might go in somewhat nostalgic directions, glossing over harshness or not giving much larger context, in favor of reminiscing about the whole project as being worth all the now-forgotten trouble.

I had little to worry about. The postmortems were amazing. Let me highlight a couple you should check out if you haven't already.

cerny2.png

Mark Cerny, who has had a long career in video games with companies including Crystal Dynamics, Sega, Insomniac, Sony, and Naughty Dog, got his big break working for Atari back in 1982.

From this early time came a very unique, very visually arresting game called Marble Madness. For his classic postmortem, Cerny breaks down the choices and process that lead to Marble Madness, and then what work went into the design/hardware of the game itself.

Gamasutra covered this nicely, but I want to additionally point out how effectively Cerny gives a feeling for working at Atari at the time. In particular, he covers the time and iteration issues that hardware/software developers within the company had to deal with, and the amount of design work that was changed or thrown out along the way. His notes and early drawings from that time are excellent, and he shows what decisions he made and why.

 

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