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GDC Online Awards Opens Nominations For Top Social, Free-To-Play, MMO Titles

The Game Developers Conference Online (GDC Online, formerly GDC Austin) in Austin, Texas has opened nominations for the second annual Game Developers Choice Online Awards through June 30, 2011.

The Game Developers Choice Online Awards are produced by the UBM TechWeb Game Network and recognize the rich history, technical excellence, and continued innovation in the accomplished arena of online games. The awards ceremony takes place the evening of October 12, during the four-day conference in Austin, Texas.

The awards ceremony honors the achievements of the creators and operators of online video games -- from large-scale MMOs and free-to-play titles to growing social network games -- that launched between June 1st, 2010 and May 31st, 2011 in North America.

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

The inaugural Awards, held in Austin at GDC Online 2010, saw Riot's standout "multiplayer online battle arena" title League of Legends lead the winners with five awards, including Best New Online Game -- full video of the ceremony is available via GDC Vault.

Other recipients from last year included CCP, which received the Best Live Game award for EVE Online, MUD co-creator Richard Bartle as the Online Game Legend recipient, and Origin and Electronic Arts' seminal MMO title Ultima Online as the first Hall of Fame inductee.

'Tales from the GDC Vault': A Good Cover Story

[Continuing his new 'Tales from the GDC Vault' series, digital historian Jason Scott looks at the evolution of GDC's programs and print advertisements, as well as some of the show's eclectic video reels from the 1990s.]

I suppose I could have entitled this entry "Judging a Book by its Cover," but even I have to draw the line somewhere. Welcome again to another entry of Tales from the GDC Vault, as I bring to you some highlights from GDC history that I am adding to the archives.

I've been capturing tapes like crazy, focusing on the "interesting" stuff, which really means I am essentially judging books by their cover -- I have to go by the tape labels, and if they mention keynotes and premieres, I put those at the top of the to-do list, while tapes that simply list the room number and session time have to wait for another time. Good thing I have some reference material to compare the times and dates to!

Along with the hundreds of video and audio tapes I received in the mail was a three foot stack of documents, mostly made of programs, proceedings and stray advertisements from various GDCs over the last 15 years. I've mostly been using them as reference material, as I type in the descriptions for talks that I'm digitizing. But these documents serve another purpose; they become visual manifestations of what attendees saw in their swag bag when they picked up their badges. Let's check them out.

(By the way, I put scanned images and photographs from GDC Vault work on the Official GDC Flickr account.)

The earliest two covers I have, from 1993 and 1994 respectively, show black and white, almost science-fiction-like drawings, including one of a robot playing chess, which is about as retro as you can get. As pure trivia, and possibly coincidence, the first game software sold for microcomputers was a chess game.

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GDC Vault Adds Free Crawford, Halo: Reach, Maxis Lectures

The GDC Vault service has debuted free video talks from Game Developers Conference 2011, including Chris Crawford's much-acclaimed 'In Days Of Yore' talk, plus a 2-hour Halo: Reach tech talk and Maxis' Stone Librande on board games for his kids.

These talks add to recent free videos from Jane McGonigal, Monaco's Andy Schatz on winning the IGF, and Playdom's Scott Jon Siegel, 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 acclaimed Main Conference -- 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:

The talk 'In Days of Yore' sees original CGDC founder and legendary game designer Chris Crawford (Balance Of Power) present a powerful talk on the earliest days of making games, "times of technological swashbuckling, shoestring budgets, amateur designers, amateurish products, and wild experimentation."

As Crawford (pictured) notes for this special 'GDC 25' talk: "Just getting things to move around on the screen was a huge technical challenge. Nobody knew what the hell they were doing, but everybody knew that we were creating a new medium and a new industry... You'll be amazed by the differences -- and stunned by the similarities."

IGF China 2011 Opens Call For Submissions

Organizers of the Independent Games Festival China, which runs in conjunction with the Game Developers Conference China, have officially announced a call for indie game submissions from the pan-Pacific area now through Thursday, September 1.

Following on its success in past years, GDC China will continue to host the three main elements of IGF China, including the Independent Games Summit, which provides valuable conference sessions specializing in the challenges of independent game development.

These include the Independent Games Festival Pavilion, an onsite exhibition of the very best in local indie games, and the Independent Games Festival Awards, which honors the work of the talented pool of local independent game developers.

The 2011 IGF China Main Competition will give out awards and cash prizes in five categories, including:

- Best Game (RMB20,000 ~ $3,060 USD)
- Mobile Best Game (RMB10, 000 ~ $1,530 USD)
- Excellence In Audio (RMB5,000 ~ $760 USD)
- Excellence In Technology (RMB5,000 ~ $760 USD)
- Excellence In Visual Arts (RMB5,000 ~ $760 USD)

Finalists -- who will receive VIP and expo passes to attend GDC China and the IGF awards ceremony on November 12, 2011 -- will be chosen by a panel of expert jurors including Kevin Li (CEO, TipCat Interactive); Monte Singman (CEO, Radiance Digital Entertainment); Xubo Yang (Director of Digital Art Lab and Assistant Professor; Shanghai Jiaotong University's School of Software), and jury chairman Simon Carless, IGF Chairman Emeritus and EVP of the GDC shows and Gamasutra.

GDC Europe 2011 Adds Silent Hill, Zynga, Bulletstorm Talks To Program

GDC Europe 2011 organizers have debuted fresh talks for August's show, with online game-centric talks from Zynga's Mark Skaggs and The Settlers Online's Teut Weidemann, plus AAA lectures on the creation of Bulletstorm and the upcoming Silent Hill: Downpour.

Taking place Monday through Wednesday, August 15-17, 2011 at the Cologne Congress-Centrum Ost ahead of the major gamescom trade show, GDC Europe 2011 has now revealed more than 60 sessions in the event's just-launched Schedule Builder.

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

- Zynga's Mark Skaggs is giving a lecture called 'Designing Successful Social Games' as part of the Game Design Track, discussing "the design frameworks he uses when creating social games, including the popular global sensations FarmVille and CityVille."

- In 'Silent Hill: Past, Present & Future', Czech studio Vatra Games' Matthew Seymour and Brian Gomez, working on this year's much-awaited Silent Hill: Downpour, "provide a survey of this seminal survival horror series, describing the challenges of disempowering players and creating a sense of dread when mainstream titles are empowering players like never before."

- Also in the Main Conference, German game development veteran Teut Weidemann (Turrican, X-Out) is talking on 'F2P Online Games: The Game Is Not Enough', focusing on The Settlers Online and 'out of client' learnings for the popular European online game around "web presence, support, payment systems, community management, and e-marketing."

- A high-profile talk debut at GDC Europe is 'The Triforce of Courage: Bulletstorm's Key Learnings on Global Distributed Development', with Epic's Tanya Jessen discussing the popular console title, which was developed in Poland but produced by Epic in the U.S. -- focusing on the "challenges and lessons learned from developing AAA in a global distributed way."

GDC China 2011 Reminds On May 25th Lecture Submission Deadline

The organizers of the fourth Game Developers Conference China (GDC China), to be held in Shanghai this November, are reminding on the May 25th deadline for lecture submissions 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 Online Adds Riot, PopCap, Playdom, Blizzard Veterans To Advisory Board

UBM TechWeb Game Network, organizers of the Game Developers Conference Online are revealing the latest game industry leaders from the worlds of social and connected gaming, serving on both the Main Conference and Summit-specific advisory boards for this October's Austin-based event.

These industry luminaries, each of whom have rated, commented on and discussed the more than 340 lecture submissions for GDC Online 2011, represent companies including Zynga, ngmoco, PopCap, Playdom, CCP, Blizzard and Riot Games.

GDC Online - 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.

New members of the GDC Online 2011 Main Conference advisory board, who met in person in Austin, TX to choose lectures last week, include:

- John Blakely, a former vice president at Sony Online Entertainment, and now acting general manager at the Austin operations of Zynga, the company behind major games such as Farmville, Frontierville and Cityville.

- J. Allen Brack, an industry veteran in the online gaming space, and current production director at Blizzard Entertainment, where he is responsible for the incredibly popular World of Warcraft MMO franchise.

- Brandon Beck, co-founder and CEO of Riot Games, creators of flagship online game League of Legends (pictured). The popular multiplayer title won five 2010 Game Developers Choice Online Awards, including Best Online Game Design, Best Online Visual Arts, Best Online Technology, and Best New Online Game, as well as the Audience Award.

'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:

 

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