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GDC 2012 debuts notable new Production, Business Track talks

In this latest update for the 2012 Game Developers Conference, the show's organizers have debuted new and notable talks within the Production and Business, Marketing, & Management tracks, detailing new sessions on Words With Friends, frustration management at IO Interactive, The Witcher 2, and the Indie Summer Uprising.

The Production and Business, Marketing, & Management tracks are but two of the seven full-featured tracks at the upcoming San Francisco show, covering the industry's most important management trends and its emerging business strategies, respectively.

The following are the latest sessions to be highlighted for these two Main Conference tracks, taking place on the Wednesday to Friday, March 7th-9th, of GDC 2012:

Production

- In "Words With Friends: Building and Growing a Game on the Top of the Charts," Zynga With Friends CTO Vijay Thakkar will discuss how the studio's popular word-scramble game grew from a modest, small scale title into one of the top juggernauts of mobile gaming.

Thakkar will further detail the technical challenges developers can expect to face when managing any project that grows to encompass multi-platform, or even cross-team development.

- Elsewhere, Square Enix and IO Interactive's user research manager, Janus Rau Sorensen, will offer advice to help weed out overly frustrating bottlenecks from a game's design. Throughout his talk, "Arrrgghh!!! - Blending Quantitative and Qualitative Methods to Detect Player Frustration," Sorensen will delve into a computational model that helps identify patterns of frustration, helping developers quantitatively assess which parts of their game need extra attention. Sorensen's presentation was co-written by Dr. Alessandro Canossa of Information Technology University of Copenhagen.

In addition to these talks, GDC organizers have previously detailed Production track sessions covering BioWare's approach to product ownership with the Dragon Age franchise, and Naughty Dog's internal approach to remaining detail-oriented while still shipping on time.

Business, Marketing, & Management

- Using examples from the critically-acclaimed The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, CD Projekt RED joint CEO Marcin Iwinski will outline show studios can develop blockbuster franchises while operating on a modest budget. His talk, dubbed "Witcher 2: How CD Projekt RED Sold Over a Million Copies of its Exclusive PC Game And How You Can Too," will go over the conception, development, and eventual sales of the Witcher franchise, providing an inside look at the business of this fantasy role-playing series.

2012 Independent Games Festival Announces Main Competition Finalists

The Independent Games Festival (IGF) juries have announced their Main Competition finalists for the 14th annual presentation of its awards, celebrating the brightest creatives and the most influential game designs to come out of the independent community in the past year.
This year's finalists for the most prestigious indie game awards, each picked by a discipline-specific set of expert juries after recommendations from almost 200 top independent game experts, are led by multiple nominations for several standout titles.
These include thechineseroom's experimental first person game Dear Esther -- picking up nominations for Visual Art and Audio, as well as the Nuovo Award and Seumas McNally Grand Prize -- and Mossmouth's procedurally generated platformer Spelunky, which was nominated for the Design and Technical Awards on top of a nod for the Grand Prize.
Other multiple-nominated titles include Polytron's highly anticipated puzzle adventure Fez, Mode 7's turn based tactical shooter Frozen Synapse, and Die Gute Fabrik's digitally-enabled folk game Johann Sebastian Joust, all of which saw nominations for the Seumas McNally Grand Prize on top of nominations for Technical Excellence, Excellence in Design, and the Nuovo Award, respectively.
The Nuovo Award, once again honoring 'abstract, shortform, and unconventional game development' of all kinds, also saw some standout games in addition to some of the above titles among its eight nominees for the $5,000 prize. These include Bennett Foddy's fiendish climbing game GIRP, Daniel Benmergui's evocative title Storyteller, and Terry Cavanagh's two-player puzzle title At A Distance.
Now in its second year fully integrated into the IGF Main Competition, the Best Mobile Game Award saw nominations for Tiger Style's sci-fi action gardening game Waking Mars -- also up for an Excellence in Audio award -- Simogo's rhythm-stealth game Beat Sneak Bandit, Steph Thirion's constellation-crafter Faraway, Powerhead's color-puzzler ASYNC Corp, and Vlambeer's fishing/shooter Ridiculous Fishing.
All finalist games will be playable at the IGF Pavilion on the Game Developers Conference 2012 Expo floor from March 7-9, 2012, at San Francisco's Moscone Center, as part of a week of independent game-related content that also includes the Independent Games Summit (March 5th-6th), and the IGF Awards ceremony itself.
The IGF Awards, where this year's IGF winners will be unveiled, will be held on the evening of March 7, alongside the Game Developers Choice Awards. IGF award recipients will receive $60,000 of prizes in various categories, including the $30,000 Seumas McNally Grand Prize.
The full list of finalists for the 2012 Independent Games Festival, with jury-picked "honorable mentions" to those top-quality games that didn't quite make it to finalist status, is as follows:

GDC 2012 unveils Molyneux, Bleszinski, Meier 'Forgotten Tales' panel

This week, organizers of the 2012 Game Developers Conference have detailed three new Main Conference talks, including a panel of industry legends looking at lessons from the past, a lecture on the death of game consoles, and Bastion's Greg Kasavin on creating atmosphere in games.

The 26th GDC show will take place Monday, March 5 through Friday, March 9 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, and the Main Conference (March 7th-9th) offers six tracks covering key disciplines in the games industry, including Audio, Business, Marketing & Management, Game Design, Production, Programming, and Visual Arts.

The following lectures are the newest highlights for GDC 2012's Main Conference:

- In the Game Design track, notable developers and industry leaders such as Lionhead's Peter Molyneux, Doom creator John Romero, Epic's Cliff Bleszinski, and Firaxis' Sid Meier (Civilization) will host "Forgotten Tales Remembered: The Games that Inspired Leading Innovators", moderated by Director of the International Center for the History of Electronic Games, JP Dyson.

During this panel, the creators will take some time to look back on their careers and present the games that inspired them most, offering insight into the lessons we can still pull from these titles today. Along the way, the will examine how technological growth causes some design elements to lose their luster, while others will forever stand the test of time.

- Over in the Business, Marketing, & Management track, highly rated speaker Ben Cousins of Ngmoco Sweden (formerly general manager of EA's free-to-play-focused Battlefield Heroes home Easy Studios) will discuss the future and potential demise of the traditional video game console.

His lecture, "When the Consoles Die - What Comes Next?," will examine the ever-expanding range of game-enabled devices, detailing how these new platforms could threaten the existence of the console market as we know it, and how developers can prepare for this paradigm shift.

GDC 2012 details new AI Summit highlights

Organizers of the 2012 Game Developers Conference have debuted a trio of new talks in the show's Artificial Intelligence Summit, spanning games from Thief 4 through Double Fine's Happy Action Theater to Hitman: Absolution and beyond.

The talks are part of a new set of AI Summit announcements featuring a look at some esoteric AI techniques, some examples of animation-driven locomotion, and how developers are making virtual characters more socially engaging.

The GDC Summits will take place Monday, March 5 through Tuesday, March 6, at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, and will offer specialized looks into emerging or otherwise influential sectors of the games industry.

This year, GDC will feature a total of eight Summits, with topics including AI, Localization, Education, Independent Games, Smartphone & Tablet Games, and Social & Online Games -- new to the show this year are the Game IT Summit and Games for Change @ GDC.

The latest sessions to be added to the event's AI Summit, held on the Monday and Tuesday of the show, include the following:

- More often than not, we think of AI as a series of tools that help virtual characters take action. In "Off the Beaten Path: Non-Traditional Uses of AI," however, developers will explain how they leverage AI in some unusual, yet beneficial ways.

During this session, Michael Robbins of Gas Powered Games will explain how he used neural networks to drive tactical decision making in Supreme Commander 2, Double Fine's Chris Jurney will detail some vision-based tricks for the studio's Kinect-based Happy Action Theater (pictured), and Havok's Ben Sunshine-Hill will outline how AI can help adjust level of detail to best suit a player's needs.

- With games becoming more and more visually detailed, even the simplest animations need to become more nuanced and complex. "Animation Driven Locomotion for Smoother Navigation" will help address this issue by detailing how developers can use animation as a tool for more realistic pathfinding.

Using examples from games like Hitman: Absolution, Thief 4, and Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, IO Interactive's Bobby Anguelov, Eidos Montreal's Gabriel Leblanc, and Big Huge Games' Shawn Harris will show off methods for using animation to improve the way game characters navigate virtual space.

Portal 2, Skyrim, Bastion lead finalists for 12th annual Game Developers Choice Awards

Organizers have revealed the finalists for the 12th annual Game Developers Choice Awards, the leading peer-based video game industry event celebrating the industry's top games and developers.

Nominations this year are led by three studios and their games, each of which received five Choice Award nods, including Bethesda Game Studios' long awaited open-world fantasy RPG The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and Valve's cunning, charming sci-fi puzzle action title Portal 2.

Also nominated five times was newcomer Supergiant Games and its acclaimed downloadable action RPG Bastion, which saw nominations in four categories, plus one for the studio itself, for Best Debut.

Both Portal 2 and Skyrim were nominated for Game Of The Year as one of their nods. The other Game Of The Year nominees are Rocksteady Studios's dark superhero game sequel Batman: Arkham City, From Software's immersive hardcore RPG Dark Souls, and Eidos Montreal's acclaimed franchise update Deus Ex: Human Revolution, also all multiple award-nominated.

Other titles with multiple nominations include Naughty Dog's action adventure Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception, and Team Bondi's detective title L.A. Noire. A diverse set of overall nominees include titles with digital-physical crossover (Toys for Bob's Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure - for Innovation), free-to-play elements to the fore (NimbleBit's Tiny Tower - for Best Handheld/Mobile Game), and even no visual display at all (Die Gute Fabrik's Johann Sebastian Joust - for Innovation).

Overall, the Game Developers Choice Awards are open to any video game, with no restrictions or payment for game submission, with open nominations from a plethora of game professionals helping to choose this year's finalists. Winners will now be selected by the Game Developers Choice Awards-specific International Choice Awards Network (ICAN), which is an invitation-only group comprised of 500 leading game creators from all parts of the video game industry.

GDC 2012 debuts Sweeney, Notch, Mechner 'Return of Indie' panel

This week, Game Developers Conference 2012 has announced three new Main Conference talks, featuring a panel on the indie renaissance, a look at emerging technology trends, and a breakdown of the tech pipeline for Assassin's Creed.

The 26th GDC show will take place Monday, March 5 through Friday, March 9 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, and the Main Conference (March 7th-9th) offers six tracks covering key disciplines in the games industry, including Audio, Business, Marketing & Management, Game Design, Production, Programming, and Visual Arts.

The following lectures are the newest highlights for GDC 2012's Main Conference:

- The Business, Marketing & Management track is revealing a signature panel, "Back to the Garage: The Return of Indie Development," featuring industry notables including Epic founder Tim Sweeney, Prince of Persia creator Jordan Mechner, Canabalt developer Adam Saltsman, Mojang's Markus "Notch" Persson, with moderator, UCSC's associate director of the Center for Games and Playable Media, Jane Pinckard.

Drawing from their varied and prolific careers in the game industry, these panelists will examine the explosive growth of small-scale and indie game development. Each of them will use their prodigious experience to discuss key indie opportunities and risks, "while offering advice on how to make the most of digital distribution, new platforms, and much more."

- Elsewhere, in a key talk in the show's Programming track, Square Enix's global CTO Julien Merceron will host "Designing a Technology Strategy for a Large Publisher." Merceron, drawing from his experience working at Ubisoft, Eidos, and now Square Enix, will explain how developers need to tailor their technology to support the varying needs, strengths, and weaknesses of major publishers.

Merceron, who oversees technology across the entire merged entity of Square Enix and Eidos, including franchises from Final Fantasy through Tomb Raider and Deus Ex, will outline how a company's technology alters its approach to internal development, and will point to emerging trends developers should be aware of.

GDC 2012 adds HTML5, physics, Scrum, usability tutorials

Organizers of Game Developers Conference 2012 have debuted the latest batch of tutorials for the March event in San Francisco, featuring full-day sessions on HTML5, physics simulation, Scrum, and game usability.

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 who select the tutorial during the registration process, 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:

- In the in-depth "HTML5 Tutorial Day," Google software developer Rachel Blum and Bocoup programmer Darius Kazemi will share their experience and offer advice on creating games in HTML5. The full-day tutorial will open with a detailed overview on what game developers need to know about HTML5, followed by a series of lectures on art APIs, WebGL programming, brief postmortems of HTML5 games, and much more.

This session is targeted primarily at experienced game programmers, and will ensure that even developers with no prior knowledge of HTML5 will leave with a solid understanding of what it takes to build games for the web.

- Physics simulation has become an increasingly important aspect of game development, and the "Physics for Games Programmers" tutorial will return to GDC to focus on the tools and techniques developers should know when implementing physics in their games. A panel of speakers from Nvidia, AMD, Sony, Blizzard, and more will go over the various aspects of the simulation pipeline and demonstrate how common problems can be solved with standard mathematics and engineering know-how.

- Industry veteran and consultant Clinton Keith will host the "Scrum Essentials Tutorial," providing an in-depth overview of how Scrum works and what it means for game development. Keith has been actively employing Scrum development for more than eight years, and will leverage this experience to show how it can be used in studios of all sizes and for any type of game.

GDC 2012 Adds Valve, Double Fine, Arkham City Sessions

This week, GDC 2012 has revealed three notable Main Conference sessions, featuring Valve on dynamic dialog systems, Double Fine on kid-friendly design, and Rocksteady on the soundtrack for Batman: Arkham City.

The 26th GDC show will take place Monday, March 5 through Friday, March 9 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, and the Main Conference (March 7th-9th) offers six tracks covering key disciplines in the games industry, including Audio, Business, Marketing & Management, Game Design, Production, Programming, and Visual Arts.

The following lectures are the newest highlights for GDC 2012's Main Conference:

- In the Programming track, Valve's Elan Ruskin will break down the process the studio uses to create dynamic and responsive dialog systems in games like Left 4 Dead. The talk, dubbed, "AI-driven Dynamic Dialog through Fuzzy Pattern Matching. Empower Your Writers!", will delve into the mechanisms used to track thousands of possible scenarios and ensure that in-game characters always react appropriately.

Ruskin will also detail how this system allows writers to easily edit and add new lines of dialog without putting a heavy burden on the studio's programmers.

- Over in the Design track, Double Fine project lead Nathan Martz will host "Fun for Everyone: Lessons in Accessible Design from Sesame Street: Once Upon A Monster." Looking back on the studio's recent Kinect-based children's game, Martz will explore how to best introduce mechanics and teach players about a game, even if it's the first one they've ever played.

- Finally, the Audio track will feature a Rocksteady-led lecture on composing the score for the studio's highly-acclaimed Batman sequel. In the talk, "Composition Process in Batman: Arkham City," audio director and composer Nick Arundel will offer some tips for composing a score that remains cohesive and fresh, even over the course of a 20 hour game. In addition, Arundel will look beyond Arkham City to examine whether formal musical development has a place within the game industry at large.

In addition to the above sessions, GDC organizers recently added new Main Conference talks covering the visual effects in Gears of War 3, a breakdown of our psychological need to play, and Ninja Theory's approach to motion capture. Show organizers have also announced new Summit talks featuring a look at the localization of StarCraft II, a talk from Triple Town creator Daniel Cook, and a series of mini AI lectures.

GDC 2012 Debuts 200+ Sessions, Including Gears 3, Ninja Theory Talks

Game Developers Conference 2012 organizers have debuted 200+ GDC sessions in its Schedule Builder, with new highlights featuring a behind the scenes look at Gears of War 3, a breakdown of our psychological need to play, and Ninja Theory's approach to motion capture.

The 26th GDC show will take place Monday, March 5 through Friday, March 9 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, and the Main Conference (March 7th-9th) offers six tracks covering key disciplines in the games industry, including Audio, Business, Marketing & Management, Game Design, Production, Programming, and Visual Arts.

The following lectures are the newest highlights for GDC 2012's Main Conference:

- In the Visual Arts track, Epic Games artist Francois Antoine will detail how a very small art team managed to create all of the effects for the studio's big-budget shooter, Gears of War 3 (pictured).

The talk, dubbed, "Production Culture: How Two and a Half Artists Completed the FX for Gears of War 3," will provide an inside look at Epic's approach to game production, exploring how it affects nearly all elements of the game development process, from hiring, to tool development and beyond.

- In the Game Design track, the always enthusiastic Jason VandenBerghe (creative director at Ubisoft on Far Cry 3) will host "The 5 Domains of Play: Applying Psychology's Big 5 Motivation Domains to Games."

Drawing from research and scientific evidence, VandenBerghe will examine the five psychological traits linked to motivation, and explore the ways developers can use this information to improve their approach to game design, playtesting, and reaching out to new audiences.

- In this week's second Visual Arts lecture highlight, Ninja Theory chief creative officer Tameem Antoniades will pick apart the motion capture process his studio uses to create believable in-game cinematics in titles like Enslaved and the upcoming Devil May Cry.

The talk, "Performance Capture: A Creative Primer," will detail the procedure from beginning to end, offering tips on how to best work with mocap actors, direct virtual scenes, and more.

GDC 2012 Adds StarCraft II, AI Postmortem, Triple Town Creator Sessions

GDC 2012 organizers have announced a trio of new Summit talks for the upcoming show, examining the localization of StarCraft II, new online game genres, and the AI in titles like Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, The Darkness II, and Skulls of the Shogun.

The GDC Summits will take place Monday, March 5 through Tuesday, March 6, at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, and will offer specialized looks into emerging or otherwise influential sectors of the games industry.

The latest sessions and lectures to be featured at the GDC 2012 Summits include the following:

- As a lead talk in the Localization Summit, Blizzard's senior manager of platform services, William Barnes, will host "StarCraft II - Carte Blanche Localization," offering a detailed overview of how Blizzard brought its newest RTS to a global audience.

Barnes will point to a number of anecdotes from "the amazing roller coaster ride that was the localization of StarCraft II" (pictured) to explain why comprehensive localization went a long way toward helping the game achieve worldwide success.

- Over in the packed multi-track Social & Online Games Summit, Triple Town co-creator Daniel Cook of Panda Poet developer Spry Fox will provocatively detail what it takes to carve out a new genre with an online game.

The talk, dubbed "Create New Genres (and Stop Wasting Your Life in the Clone Factories)," will encourage developers to seek out new and unexplored realms of persistent online game design, while simultaneously offering advice to protect new ideas from copycats and 'fast followers'.

- Finally, the Artificial Intelligence (AI) Summit has announced its first sessions, starting with "AI Postmortems: Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, The Darkness II and Skulls of the Shogun" -- featuring a trio of industry veterans as they reflect on the challenges and lessons learned during the development of three soon-to-be-released games.

Here, 38 Studios' Michael Dawe, Digital Extremes' Daniel Brewer, and Haunted Temple's Borut Pfeifer will each pick apart their respective titles, and offer insight on some modern challenges AI programmers should be aware of.

GDC 2012 Announces Jan. 6th Early Reg For GDC Play Game, Biz Matching Showcase

Organizers of Game Developers Conference 2012 have announced a January 6th, 2012 early registration deadline for the show's GDC Play showcase, which allows emerging game creators to showcase and business match at dedicated individual kiosks on site at the Moscone Center.

GDC Play -- which will take place March 6-7 during GDC 2012 -- is a brand new, dedicated program that will give emerging game developers 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, which takes the place of Game Connection as the event's official showcase for emerging developers, will take place in a dedicated hall with areas themed around emerging games markets, all within the same buildings as all GDC lectures and keynotes.

These will give developers in all areas -- from
indie through social to mobile and beyond -- a local, easy to access
venue to display their work and get in touch with the press, other
industry professionals and potential business partners.

As part of the showcase for GDC 2012, show organizers are offering to all exhibitors (including GDC Play participants) 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, former 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 2012 Adds Dragon Age, Space Invaders Infinity Gene, Journey Talks

This week, Game Developers Conferece 2012 is revealing a trio of notable new sessions, including the first Western appearance of Space Invaders Infinity Gene and Groove Coaster's creator, product ownership as it relates to Dragon Age, and the music behind Journey and Monaco.

The 26th GDC show will take place Monday, March 5 through Friday, March 9 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, and the Main Conference (March 7th-9th) offers six tracks covering key disciplines in the games industry, including Audio, Business, Marketing & Management, Game Design, Production, Programming, and Visual Arts.

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

- In a Game Design track talk simultaneously translated from Japanese, Taito chief game designer Reisuke Ishida will make his first ever Western speaking appearance, discussing his two recent signature titles in a lecture called "Five Techniques for Making an Unforgettable Game, Illustrated in Space Invaders Infinity Gene and Groove Coaster."

Using the examples of Space Invaders Infinity Gene a stylish, well-received 30th anniversary update of the classic game, and Groove Coaster a popular iOS exclusive music title, Ishida will explore the best ways to make a game stand out, even in the overcrowded market.

- Also added in the Production track is a talk dubbed "Ownership - Dragon Age Style," in which BioWare's Adriana Lopez will explain what "ownership" means, organizationally, in the context of handling a major video game franchise.

Using BioWare's acclaimed Dragon Age role-playing game franchise as an example, Lopez will detail the responsibilities of product owners and how they can leverage their control over a franchise to better manage their projects and maintain a fully-engaged team.

- Finally, in the Audio track session "Journey vs Monaco: Music is Storytelling," composer Austin Wintory will contrast two different video game scores he wrote in 2011, for both thatgamecompany's Journey and Pocketwatch Games' IGF-winning Monaco.

Wintory will detail the ways these two games use music to create narrative arcs and reconcile adaptivity, while also going over the audio production processes for both titles. Near the end of the talk, thatgamecompany's Jenova Chen and Pocketwatch Games' Andy Schatz will join the session for an audience Q&A on the construction of the games' audio.

Nominations Open For 12th Annual Game Developers Choice Awards

Organizers of the Game Developers Conference 2012 have opened nominations for the 12th annual Game Developers Choice Awards through January 4, 2012, with all Gamasutra account-holding industry professionals able to nominate.

Taking place the evening of March 7, during GDC 2012 in San Francisco, these awards will encompass 13 categories for games that launched to retail or debuted online during the 2011 calendar year, and will honor the creativity, artistry and technical genius of leading industry professionals.

The ceremony will also include three special awards -- Lifetime Achievement, the Pioneer Award and the Ambassador Award -- which are open to anyone not previously recognized. Previous winners include luminaries such as Peter Molyneux, Yu Suzuki, Richard Garriott, John Carmack, and many more.

Nominations can now be submitted by any worldwide game professional registered with a Gamasutra account, simply by voting via the Game Developers Choice Awards website.

Winners will be selected by the Game Developers Choice Awards' International Choice Awards Network (ICAN), which is a handpicked group comprised of 500 leading game creators from across of the video game industry.

Special Award winners are selected by the Game Developers Choice Awards Advisory Committee, which includes notable industry veterans from Valve, PopCap, ngmoco, BioWare, Zynga and more.

The award categories open for nominations until January 4th are as follows:

Regular Awards

- Best Audio
- Best Debut Game
- Best Downloadable Game
- Best Handheld/Mobile Game
- Best Game Design
- Best Narrative
- Best Technology
- Best Visual Arts
- Innovation Award
- Game of the Year

Special Awards

- Lifetime Achievement
- Pioneer Award
- Ambassador Award

GDC 2012 Reveals Playdom, Bozek, Ponycorn Adventure Summit Talks

Game Developers Conference 2012 organizers have revealed the first Summit sessions for the San Francisco show, with highlights including Playdom on the lack of iconic social game characters, SingStar co-creator Paulina Bozek on changing player behavior, and indie studio Untold Entertainment on Ponycorn Adventure's viral success.

The GDC Summits will take place Monday, March 5 through Tuesday, March 6, at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, and will offer specialized looks into emerging or otherwise influential sectors of the games industry.

This year, GDC will feature a total of eight Summits, with topics including AI, Localization, Education, Independent Games, Smartphone & Tablet Games, and Social & Online Games -- new to the show this year are the Game IT Summit and Games for Change @ GDC.

The initial sessions and lectures featured at the GDC 2012 Summits include the following:

- In the Social & Online Games Summit, Playdom VP and studio head Kenny Shea Dinkin will host "Character Assassination," a talk examining the (lack of) iconic characters in social gaming.

Dinkin will argue that while social games attract millions of users, there aren't many memorable characters in this space, especially compared to more traditional platforms. With this in mind, he will examine the narrative possibilities that exist within social games, and explore what it would take to make a beloved social game character.

- Over in the Game IT Summit, Paulina Bozek, SingStar co-creator and CEO of Inensu, will take a close look at how her company's fashion app modifies player behavior by encouraging them to embrace their own style over buying into the latest trends. The talk, dubbed, "Applying Game and Social Mechanics to Sustainable Fashion: Closet Swap Case Study," will examine the ways in which the social app Closet Swap works toward positive behavioral change while still creating an experience that is rewarding and fun.

- Finally, Ryan Henson Creighton, president of Untold Entertainment, will host the Independent Games Summit talk, "Ponycorns: Catching Lightning in a Jar." Reflecting on his studio's Sissy's Magical Ponycorn Adventure (pictured), Creighton will outline how the game -- which was co-developed by his five year old daughter -- found viral success, noting the ways in which the team sustained excitement for the game via merchandising, contests, press outreach, and more.

Using this experience, he will teach other developers how to generate excitement for upcoming projects, maintain existing success, and turn surprise hits into powerful brands.

GDC 2012 Reveals Plants Vs. Zombies, Naughty Dog, Saints Row Sessions

GDC 2012 organizers have revealed a tranche of new talks for March's show, including George Fan on the accessibility of the seminal Plants Vs. Zombies, Naughty Dog's approach to ensuring quality releases, and the over-the-top art direction for Volition's Saints Row: The Third.

The upcoming conference will take place Monday, March 5 through Friday, March 9 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, and the Main Conference (March 7th-9th) offers six tracks covering key disciplines in the games industry, including Audio, Business, Marketing & Management, Game Design, Production, Programming, and Visual Arts.

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

- In the Game Design track, PopCap senior game designer and Plants Vs. Zombies creator George Fan will present a rare talk breaking down the essentials of appealing to hardcore and brand-new players alike.

His lecture, dubbed "How I Got My Mom to Play Through Plants vs. Zombies," will provide 10 techniques he uses to better teach game mechanics to players, drawing specific examples from PopCap's smash hit undead/floral-themed strategy game.

- Over in the conference's Production track, Naughty Dog senior game designer Benson Russell will host, "The Last 10, Going From Good To Awesome."

Here, Russell will examine how the acclaimed Uncharted studio ensures its games release as polished as possible, going over the team's approach to development schedules, the level of detail developers should shoot for, and how to make a high-quality game while still shipping on time.

- Elsewhere, in the Visual Arts track, Volition project art director Frank Marquart will host "The Art Direction of Saints Row: The Third," offering a look at the eccentric art style in the studio's most recent open-world action game.

This lecture will examine how the newest Saints Row game deviates in style from previous entries in the series, and will break down the game's seven art pillars, which helped Volition develop a cohesive, meaningful aesthetic.

 

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