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GDC 2012 Debuts Hitman: Absolution, WB Games, Dear Esther Sessions

GDC 2012 has announced its second batch of lectures for the upcoming San Francisco show, featuring an examination of the crowd system in Hitman: Absolution, WB Games Seattle on maintaining the creative process, and mod creator Dan Pinchbeck on finding indie success.

The upcoming conference will take place Monday, March 5 through Friday, March 9 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, and will offer seven tracks covering key disciplines in the games industry, including Audio, Business, Marketing & Management, Game Design, Production, Programming, and Visual Arts, with a sponsored track on Monetization.

The following lectures are the newest additions to GDC 2012's Main Conference:

- In the Programming track, Kasper Fauerby of IO Interactive will explain how the studio designed and implemented Hitman: Absolution's crowd system.

In the aptly named "Crowds in Hitman: Absolution," Fauerby will discuss the system's design and implementation, giving attendees some insight into the benefits and complexities involved in creating believable and dynamic virtual crowds.

- Elsewhere, in the Production and Business, Marketing & Management tracks, WB Games VP and general manger Laura Fryer will host "Kinematics and Other Techniques for Managing the Creative Process."

Here, Fryer will explore the best ways to balance creative freedom with the business necessities of game development, using examples from games such as Microsoft and Zipper's Crimson Skies, Monolith's Gotham City Impostors, and more.

- Finally, mod developer and thechineseroom creative director Dan Pinchbeck will host a lecture in the Game Design track dubbed "Dear Esther: Making an Indie Success Out of an Experimental Mod."

Reflecting on his experience working his critically acclaimed Source engine mod (supported by Indie Fund and debuting in an upgraded Portal 2 engine-powered commercial version soon), Pinchbeck will pick apart the relationship between mechanics and the game world, pondering some of the less-explored realms of game design and interactive storytelling.

GDC 2012 Debuts Diablo III, Jetpack Joyride, Resident Evil Sessions

GDC 2012 organizers are excited to announce the first batch of lectures for the show's Main Conference, which includes a look at Diablo III's art, a postmortem of Halfbrick's Jetpack Joyride, and a breakdown of the visuals and animation in Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City.

The upcoming conference will take place Monday, March 5 through Friday, March 9 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, and will offer seven tracks covering key disciplines in the games industry, including Audio, Business & Management, Game Design, Production, Programming, and Visual Arts, with a sponsored track on Monetization.

The following lectures are the first to be announced for the GDC 2012's Main Conference:

- In the Visual Arts track, Blizzard Entertainment's Christian Lichtner will pick apart the art direction for the studio's much-anticipated Diablo III. The session, appropriately titled "The Art of Diablo III," will explain the creative process that led Blizzard to the game's painterly style, and Lichtner will point out the ways in which the game's art serves to benefit Diablo's gameplay and overall design.

- Over in the Game Design track, Halfbrick Studios designer Luke Muscat will look back at the development of the studio's most recent mobile title with a session dubbed, "Depth in Simplicity: The Making of Jetpack Joyride." Here, Muscat will outline the project's successes and shortcomings, and how it transformed from a small side-project into the studio's most ambitious title to date.

- As part of the Programming and Visual Arts track, Ben Hanke, software engineer at Slant Six Games will host "Rigging a Resident Evil - Inside the Bone Code of Operation Raccoon City," detailing the animation techniques used in the studio's upcoming third-person shooter. During this engineering-focused session, Hanke will explain and demonstrate "the practical application of expression-driven helper bones," and how it relates to Slant Six's game.

GDC 2012 Debuts Level Design, Writing, Startup, Tech Art Tutorials

Organizers of the 2012 Game Developers Conference have debuted initial full-day tutorials for the March event in San Francisco, featuring full-day sessions on game writing, level design, studio startups, and much more.

These first-come first-served tutorials will take place alongside the GDC Summits on Monday, March 5th and Tuesday, March 6th -- the first two days of the five-day San Francisco-based event.

The tutorials will be open to those with an All-Access Pass or Summits & Tutorials Pass, and those interested in learning more about either of these options can do so at the official GDC website's passes page.

The newly-announced tutorials for Game Developers Conference 2012, part of a growing selection, include the following:

- The historically well-received tutorial "Level Design in a Day: Best Practices from the Best in the Business" will return to GDC in 2012, offering an intense, full-day examination of the ins and outs of video game level creation.

Featuring speakers such as Bethesda Game Studios' Joel Burgess, EA's Seth Marinello, LucasArts' Mathias Worch, and Epic's Jim Brown, this tutorial will provide an inside look at the level design process for games and franchises such as Gears of War, Dead Space, and much more.

- LucasArts lead narrative designer Evan Skolnick will host the perennial, highly rated "Learn Better Game Writing In A Day" tutorial, which will offer a comprehensive primer for game writers, covering the basics of good story structure, character development, and dialogue writing.

Of course, developers in other disciplines will find a lot of useful information as well, as they will learn about a number of essential narrative concepts, including bridging the gap between game writers and the rest of the development team.

- In "The Game Dev Start-Up 2012: Issues and Practical Answers for the Rookie Studio," Hidden Variable Studios COO Amos Marvel, Loeb & Loeb partner Dan Offner, and attorneys Jim Charne and David Rosenbaum will go over the issues and complications that come with starting your own game studio. In addition, this session will cover pre-formation considerations all the way through the necessities of maintaining a successful business.

GDC China 2011 Closes With Record Attendance

Organizers of the fourth annual GDC China, which concluded Monday, November 14 in Shanghai, have announced that more than 3,000 international attendees were present over the three-day event, marking an all-time high for this branch of the Game Developers Conference.

2011 Independent Games Festival China Winners Announced

Organizers
of the third annual Independent Games Festival China have announced the
winners for this weekend's indie showcase in Shanghai, with Feng Li's
2D action beat-em-up Pixel May Cry (pictured) taking home the prize for Best Game, in addition to a host of other notable winners.

Following the announcement of the IGF China finalists in September, the selected teams attended a special awards show at the Shanghai Exhibition Center during GDC China
on Saturday night, where the winners took home a prestigious IGF award,
and a cash prize ranging from RMB3,000 ($450 USD) to RMB20,000 ($3,060
USD).

Guest presenters from the independent games community on hand to help
give out awards included GDC China Independent Games Summit speakers
such as Amir Rao (Bastion), Baiyon (PixelJunk Eden/4am) and Jenova Chen (Flower/Journey).

Winners announced at the show include aBit Games' rhythm counting game Super Sheep Tap, WitOne Games' fantasy RPG Pocket Warriors, and Ant Hive Games' The Line HD, which took home the award for Best Mobile Game.

The full lineup of winners at the 2011 IGF China is as follows:

Main Competition

Best Game: Pixel May Cry, by Feng Li, China [RMB20,000 ~ $3,060 USD]
Best Mobile Game: The Line HD, by Ant Hive Games, China [RMB10,000 ~ $1,530 USD]
Excellence In Audio: Super Sheep Tap, by aBit Games, China [RMB5,000 ~ $760 USD]
Excellence In Technology: Void, by DigiPen Institute of Technology, Singapore [RMB5,000 ~ $760 USD]
Excellence In Visual Arts: Pocket Warriors, by WitOne Games, China [RMB5,000 ~ $760 USD]

Student Competition

IGF China Best Student Game: Void, by DigiPen Institute of Technology, Singapore [RMB10,000 ~ $1,530 USD]
IGF China Excellent Student Winner: Pixi, by DigiPen Institute of Technology, Singapore [RMB3,000 ~$450 USD]
IGF China Excellent Student Winner: Robotany, by Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab, Singapore [RMB3,000 ~$450 USD]

GDC 2012 Adds Business Matching, Leading Industry Consultant To 'GDC Play' Showcase

Organizers of Game Developers Conference 2012 have announced new enhancements to the show's GDC Play showcase, including a new business software solution for exhibitors, and increased support from IGDA executive director and industry veteran Jason Della Rocca.

GDC Play -- which will take place March 6-7 during GDC 2012 -- is a dedicated program that will give exhibitors a chance to show off their games to a host of specially-invited industry decision makers, in addition to the 19,000-strong GDC attendee base.

The showcase itself will take place across several dedicated pavilions themed around emerging games markets, giving developers a venue to display their work and get in touch with other industry professionals and potential business partners.

As part of the showcase for GDC 2012, show organizers will now offer to exhibitors a full business matching software solution that will make it easy to request and coordinate meetings with key decision makers, as well as any All-Access Pass holders or other exhibitors attending the show.

In addition, GDC organizers are happy to announce that IGDA executive director Jason Della Rocca has signed on as a consultant to the GDC Play showcase, and will help ensure the attendance of key publishers, distributors, and investors.

Jason Della Rocca is a renowned consultant in the games industry, and has years of experience working with game studios and organizations worldwide. In 2009, Gamasutra sister publication Game Developer magazine named him among the publication's "Game Developer 50," which profiles the 50 most important contributors to the industry.

GDC China Reveals Online Game Sessions From BioWare Austin, Carbine, Bigpoint

With less than a week left before GDC China, show organizers have revealed three new sessions in the Online Games track, featuring speakers from BioWare Austin on merging casual and hardcore, WildStar developer Carbine on MMO production, and Bigpoint on its 3D web game Drakensang Online (pictured).

Taking place November 12-14 at the Shanghai Exhibition Center in Shanghai, 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 the region.

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

Here are the latest talks to be revealed for the show:

- BioWare Austin's Damion Schubert will host "Double-Coding: Making Online Games for Both the Casual and the Hardcore," which will examine how developers can straddle the line between two very different player demographics. Schubert will discuss the values held by both types of users, and will go over some strategies to convert casual players into online devotees.

- The second new talk in the Online Games track is "Massively Multiplayer Game Production: From Tiny Teams to Giant Projects," featuring Turbine founder Jeremy Gaffney, now of WildStar developer Carbine Studios. Drawing from his extensive experience producing large-scale MMOs, Gaffney will detail the essential qualities of a good producer, and will offer numerous production tips related to online game development.

- Rounding out this week's new sessions is Bigpoint chief games officer Philip Reisberger in "Trends and Challenges Facing the Next-gen 3D Web Games Like Drakensang Online." Reisberger will pick apart the studio's browser-based action RPG to offer insight on how to craft a robust 3D game on the web.

GDC China Speaker Spotlight: Halfbrick's Phil Larsen Ponders The Evolution Of Fruit Ninja

Halfbrick chief marketing officer Phil Larsen recently reflected on the astounding success of the studio's Fruit Ninja over the last year and a half, attributing a large portion of the game's growth to the fact that its premise "requires no explanation."

Since its iOS debut in 2010, the game has maintained a high position on the App Store charts, and has expanded to encompass new platforms like Android, Windows Phone 7, and even new interfaces like Microsoft's Kinect. Of late, Halfbrick has turned it attention to China, where it expects the game to see an additional 70 million downloads.

At this month's GDC China, Larsen will dive even further into the series' growth in a session dubbed, "The Rise and Rise of Fruit Ninja: Developing, Marketing and Supporting a Hit Mobile Game," which will cover the game's initial development and the tactics the studio used to evolve the game over the last 18 months.

In anticipation of his talk, Larsen reflected on Fruit Ninja's success, and offered some insight into how Halfbrick grew the game from a small-scale mobile project into the company's most valuable brand.

What would you say have been the key factors to Fruit Ninja's success?

Simplicity, satisfaction, theme and marketing! It was abundantly clear that the game is so simple to play that it requires no explanation. Only a tiny fraction of developers have managed to achieve this in the mobile market. From there, the input and feedback from the game's squishy fruit means that it's satisfying to simply slice over and over, let alone compete and aim for high scores.

When you have a game with clear value and rewards to the player, then it makes an even stronger message when communicating the game through marketing channels. Talking with platform holders, meeting with the media, chatting to fans online - everything runs smoother when the game lends itself so well to fueling discussion.

What tactics have you used to maintain the game's success since its original debut?

We've definitely worked hard to keep the momentum going after launch, and the consistent sales have been proof of our success. After launch we focused on both updates to the game, continued PR support and building the Fruit Ninja brand. For example, we listened to customer feedback and were able to continually add new fruit, new blades, new online features and even new game modes. It's this kind of support that keeps fans playing and keeps them talking about Fruit Ninja.

We support every major update and milestone with targeted PR, and further build on the success by increasing brand awareness. Merchandise, TV, social networking and expanding the universe of Fruit Ninja is an ongoing task for us and our chance to ensure that the mainstream audiences are aware of how massive mobile gaming is in a global entertainment market.

GDC Vault Debuts Raph Koster, Riot Games Videos, Free GDC Online Slides

The GDC Vault service is proud to announce that videos and slides for last month's GDC Online are now available, with free videos that include Playdom's Raph Koster on social media convergence, BioWare San Francisco on Dragon Age Legends, and Riot Games on poor design decisions.

Along with these free videos, slides for all of GDC Online's sessions are now available for free, providing a glimpse into the range of notable topics discussed at the recent show.

The full catalog of video for GDC Online is also now available to GDC Vault members, which now includes All-Access Pass holders from last month's show in Austin, Texas.

The following lectures are the first highlights to be made available for free from GDC Online 2011:

- Over in the show's Customer Experience track, Playdom's Raph Koster hosted "It's All Games Now! How Games and Social Media are Converging," a talk that notes the ways in which games and social media are becoming more alike, and examines what this means for game developers. Koster frames his talk with a fantastical allegory for game development, illustrating how the games industry exists in its own "magic circle."

- Next, the GDC Vault offers a Business track talk hosted by BioWare San Francisco's Ethan Levy. His talk, "Dragon Age: Legends' Road to 100K Likes," looks back on the development and promotion of Dragon Age's recent Facebook spinoff, pointing to the challenges that come with building momentum for an online social game. Along the way, Levy offers tips to help developers plan and promote their games for long-term success on social networks.

- The final talk to be made available for free is "Designers are Human Too - Causes of Poor Design Decisions," from Tom Cadwell of Riot Games. Here, Cadwell teaches developers to let go of design ideas if they won't work in the game. Drawing from a number of League of Legends anecdotes, he explains what happens when teams spend too much time on ideas that just don't work.

GDC China Reveals Cloud Gaming, Smurfs, KingsIsle Sessions

This week, GDC China has debuted new lectures featuring Microsoft on the present and future of cloud gaming, a look at Ubisoft's Smurfs & Co Facebook game, and Wizard101 developer KingsIsle on the ins and outs of RPG math.

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, and two Summits on Indie Games and Mobile Games, respectively.

Here are the latest talks to be revealed for the show:

- As part of the Global Game Development track, Microsoft's Brian price will host "Gaming and the Cloud: Present and the Future." Here, he will explain how game developers could benefit from using a cloud-based service, detailing cloud gaming's current capabilities and where he expects the technology to go in the years to come.

- In the Social Games track, Richard Tsao of Ubisoft Chengdu will examine the publisher's popular Facebook game based on the classic Smurfs franchise. In "The Smurfs & Co - How to Develop a Successful Facebook Game in China," Tsao will look back on the game's development, detailing the factors that helped the title become one of Ubisoft's most successful social ventures.

- Finally, Sara Jensen Schubert, design lead at Wizard 101 developer KingsIsle Entertainment, will look dive into role-playing statistics in "Fundamental Multiplayer RPG Math." In this lecture, Schubert will explain how to draft the essential framework for basic RPG systems, from experience curves to character attributes, emphasizing how data-driven spreadsheets can streamline the ways in which these systems take shape.

Reminder: 2012 IGF Student Competition Submissions Close Today

Organizers
are reminding that there are less than 24 hours until the Student
Competition deadline 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 the deadline for the IGF 2012 Student
Competition is Monday, October 31st at 11:59pm PT.

The IGF has already revealed
record numbers of entrants for the Main Competition, with nearly 570
games competing, a more than forty five percent jump over 2011's total
entries.

Student Competition finalists will be announced in January 2012, and
will be available in playable form at the IGF Pavilion on the GDC show
floor from March 7-9, 2012.

Notable former student game finalists include Narbacular Drop, the precursor to the acclaimed Portal, as well as Cloud from the embryonic Thatgamecompany team, recent cult hit Octodad, and more.

Newly submitted student titles will compete for $7,000 in prizes,
which includes prizes for eight Student Showcase Winners and one prize
for Best Student Game. 2012 Independent Games Festival prizes for both
Main and Student Competitions total more than $50,000.

As noted above, submissions to the Student Competition are still open to all student game developers,
with many entrants waiting until the last minute to polish versions of
their game for more than 150 IGF judges. A full list of student entrants
will be released on the IGF website in the days following the
submission deadline, as also happened with the Main Competition.

GDC China Speaker Spotlight: Bastion's Rao: 'You Don't Have To Quit Your Day Jobs' To Go Indie

Earlier this year, Supergiant Games made its indie debut with the XBLA and PC hit Bastion, which received warm reception from critics and players alike. Now that the team has its first title under its belt, studio director Amir Rao says the team's "initial fears have subsided."

Rao notes that while several key members of Supergiant left traditional development at EA to move away from the risks and restrictions of big-budget development, going indie came with its own set of worries.

At next month's GDC China, Rao will outline the benefits and hardships of indie development in a session titled "Maximizing Risk: The Building of Bastion." During this lecture, he will detail the origins and development of the studio's debut game, and offer advice to other developers looking to pursue their independence.

In anticipation of his talk, Rao reflects on the driving forces behind Supergiant's inception, and points out some tips for making it in the indie space.

How and why did you and the team of other EA vets decide to go indie and make Supergiant Games?

Supergiant Games was started by Gavin Simon and me -- both of us worked at EALA on Command & Conquer 3 and Red Alert 3. We were inspired by the success stories of people like The Behemoth, 2D Boy and Jonathon Blow. We left EA to create games that were more personal to us. It was a decision born out of ambition and passion to try to make the kind of game we could never have made on a large team at a big company.

What was it like to adjust to indie development considering your previous job at a traditional game studio?

We are significantly faster and more nimble than we ever were at EA because we have no production or management overhead. A large team has to manage a complex schedule and deal with lot of risk; they need to plan on paper months ahead. We never do anything on paper. Good ideas get into the game in hours and are iterated on immediately.

What was the hardest part about going indie?

There is a lot of worry in being independent. First, you worry if the game is going to be good, then you worry if anyone will like it, then you worry if it will ever come out, then you worry if something bigger will come out right on top of it, then when it's finally out, you worry if it will sell well enough to let you do a second one. Thankfully, Bastion has done that for us and lot of the initial fears have subsided. I'm looking forward to worrying about something new.

Reminder: GDC 2012 Call For Summits Ends October 31

GDC 2012 organizers have issued a reminder that the Summit call for submissions will close Monday, October 31, leaving just a few days to submit proposals for the San Francisco show submarket-specific events.

The Summits will kick-off Game Developers Conference 2012 during the first two days of the conference -- which runs March 5th-9th, 2012 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco -- and will cover pertinent topics in key sub-markets of the games industry, particularly focusing on broadening the scope of the medium to encompass new audiences, new platforms, and of course new gameplay ideas.

This year, the Summit lineup will cover topics such as AI, Education, Localization, Independent Games, Smartphone & Tablet Games, and Social & Online Games, all of which return from GDC 2011.

New to the show in 2012 are two new summits: Games For Change @ GDC and the Game IT Summit. As previously announced, Games For Change @ GDC is an event hosted in partnership with the Games for Change non-profit organization, which facilitates the creation and distribution of games that exist for humanitarian or educational purposes.

This new GDC event, which complements the annual Games for Change Festival in New York, will allow funders, educators, governmental agencies, and other organizations to interact with indie and commercial game developers to help leverage interactive entertainment for social good.

GDC China Reveals Brian Fargo Keynote, Trio Of New Sessions

This week, GDC China has revealed a new keynote from industry veteran and Interplay founder Brian Fargo, as well as a trio of new talks featuring CrowdStar, Flurry, and PapayaMobile.

Fargo's keynote, titled "Making RPGs That Stand the Test of Time," will examine the last three decades of role-playing games, detailing the ways in which story, character development, balance, and production must work in unison to create games that players remember for the rest of their lives.

Fargo himself has a storied history in RPG development, and played a key role in classic Interplay titles such as The Bard's Tale, Wasteland, Baldur's Gate, and Fallout. Currently, he leads the California-based inXile Entertainment, which is working on the upcoming multiplatform action title Hunted: The Demon's Forge.

In addition to this keynote, GDC China has debuted the following lectures from the show's Main Conference and Summits:

- In the Social Games track, CrowdStar director of business development Randy Lee will host, "The Importance of Multiplatform for Social Gaming," offering a look at how the It Girl and Wasteland Empires developer uses multiplatform games to expand its reach into global territories.

- Over in the Mobile Games Summit, Jeferson Valadares of the mobile analytics firm Flurry will delve into what it takes to develop a hit game for both the U.S. and China. His talk, "Win in the World's Top Two Mobile Gaming Markets: The U.S. & China," will use data from over 120,000 apps to illustrate key differences between these markets, and will outline some key tactics for approaching user behavior, game design, and business models.

- Also in the Mobile Games Summit is a talk dubbed, "Domestic Small Teams Design, Develop and Operate Games for European Markets," featuring Liang Zhang, founder of PapayaMobile. Here, Zhang will draw from the company's experience operating a developer incubation program to help small teams make it big in European and American markets.

 

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