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'Tales from the GDC Vault' debuts lost Halo, MMO design talks

As part of the continuing "Tales from the GDC Vault" series, the Game Developers Conference presents a new batch of classic lectures from the show's past.

GDC Europe and GDC Online have come and gone, but there can never be too much GDC content, so "Tales from the GDC Vault" returns with three new free talks from roughly a decade ago.

These lectures include a look at the development of Halo: Combat Evolved, lessons on building MMO worlds such as Ultima Online and Star Wars Galaxies, and a keynote on the shifting importance of computer graphics pioneers at the turn of the millennium.

First, Marty O'Donnell, Jaime Griesemer, and Mat Noguchi from Bungie speak at GDC 2003 in 'Halo: Development Evolved' about how experimentation and communication were key to designing, engineering and scoring the first Halo. The members describe how they rapidly concepted and prototyped level, character, and gameplay designs to figure out which direction they wanted to go.

The team even touches on some development lore, discussing how Halo was a real-time strategy game and third-person title before it finally became a first-person shooter. [GDC Vault free video]

Going further back in time to GDC 2001, Raph Koster and Rich Vogel (both of whose credits include Ultima Online and Star Wars Galaxies) give an advanced lecture in 'Design Patterns for Massively Multiplayer Environments'. According to their recipe, online worlds need a spatial environment of a virtual world (not just a gaming lobby), some kind of persona or avatar, and a sense of persistence.

The pair also explores classic models for such games. These included the scavenger model (derived from Zork and seen in Pokemon) which requires players to gather objects and return them somewhere, the impositional model (D&D style) based on earning points from dominating the environment, and the expressive model (seen in many PvP games) where players determine social hierarchy. [GDC Vault free video]

Going even further back to GDC 2000, Silicon Graphics, Incorporated (SGI) co-founder Kurt Akeley delivers the programming keynote ''New Pioneers at the Graphics Frontier'. Here he examines how the shifting importance of computer graphics pioneers, along with corporations and the open-source community, affects the evolution of the graphics industry. He also describes some of SGI's experiments, and lack of success, with programmable hardware and microcode. [GDC Vault free video]

Double Fine to discuss striking UI design at GDC China

When a player first boots up your game, the first thing they're going to see is your main menu. This is a great early opportunity to create an emotional bond with the player, yet most games don't do enough in those precious first moments.

But at next month's GDC China in Shanghai, Double Fine user interface designer Joe Kowalski will host an in-depth presentation on how developers can make their UIs more interesting and memorable for their audience.

Kowalski helped create the striking record-inspired main menu for Double Fine's Brutal Legend, and even worked on the UI for Harmonix's Guitar Hero titles, and in his session, dubbed "Working the Crowd: Engaging Players through the User Interface," he'll explain why these and other interfaces can play a very important role in the player's overall experience.

This talk is part of GDC China's Game Design track, and will be open to All Access and Main Conference pass holders. Early bird registration is now open on the GDC China website, and the show itself will take place November 17-19 at the Shanghai Convention Center in Shanghai, China.

In addition to the above presentation, GDC China organizers have also added the following talks to the show's growing lineup:

- As part of the Business track, former Game Developer magazine editor-in-chief and Necrosoft Games founder Brandon Sheffield will discuss the major trends in the Western game market in a session titled "Fastest Game in the West." Drawing from his experience working on Game Developer magazine and speaking with developers around the world, Sheffield will provide a detailed overview of the Western game industry and explain how it differs from Eastern markets.

- Also in the Business track, ZeptoLab's chief revenue officer Diana Moldavsky will examine the studio's hit mobile game Cut the Rope in "Building a Global Brand: Capitalizing on an Icon." Moldavsky will explain how this cute puzzle game became an instant hit around the world, and allowed ZeptoLab to create a brand that extended far beyond the game itself.

One week to go for 2013 IGF's Main Competition entries

Organizers are reminding that submissions for the 2013 Independent Games Festival Main Competition, which reveals winners at GDC 2013 in San Francisco next March, will close in just 7 days.

The longest-running and highest-profile independent video game festival, summit and showcase continues to accept entries to the 15th annual Festival, with deadlines in the Main and Student Showcase categories in one week (October 17th) and three weeks (October 31st) respectively, with finalists to be announced on January 2013.

Following over 850 entries to IGF 2012, the Festival has expanded each existing category to six finalists, all of which will be available in playable form at a larger, expanded IGF Pavilion on the GDC show floor, and will compete for nearly $60,000 in prizes.

These include the $5,000 Nuovo Award, honoring 'abstract, shortform, and unconventional' games, as well as the Excellence in Art, Audio, Design, Technology, Student Game and Audience Award prizes, each worth $3,000, and the crowning $30,000 Seumas McNally Grand Prize.

Notable former Independent Games Festival winners over the previous 15 years include Spelunky, Fez, Minecraft, Limbo, World of Goo, Braid, Castle Crashers, Everyday Shooter and many more of the game industry's breakthrough independent titles.

Winners will be announced on stage at the high-profile Independent Games Festival Awards on Wednesday, March 27, 2013, at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, with the IGF Pavilion open from March 27-29, and the sister Independent Games Summit event taking place on March 25 and 26.

All of the Independent Games Festival events take place as part of the 2013 Game Developers Conference, which is held March 25th - March 29th, 2013 in San Francisco, and the IGF continues as the most vital showcase of independent game talent across the wide spectrum of artistically- and commercially-aimed development.

Sponsored Post: Meet the people at GDC Online's GDC Play showcase, Pt.2

At this year's Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, the GDC Play showcase introduced the industry to some of the top independent and emerging game companies in the business.

It marked a great opportunity for GDC attendees to check out upcoming and undiscovered projects, and this week industry professionals will get a chance to experience the showcase all over again when it makes its Austin debut at GDC Online.

This time, a brand-new batch of exhibitors will be on site to demonstrate their latest games, discuss new business opportunities, and network with the GDC Online attendees. We recently got in touch with these companies to learn who they are and what makes them tick. You can check out our first set of GDC Play interviews here.

The showcase itself will take place during the first two days of GDC Online, which will run Tuesay, October 9 through Thursday, October 11 at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, Texas -- but until then, here are some of the major exhibitor's at next month's GDC Play:

Blazing Soft

Blazing Soft is an independent iOS developer located in Barranquilla, Colombia. The studio has already released a mobile platformer known as CrossWolf and is currently working on a new iOS game dubbed Fluffy Cloud.

"Our company was started in January of 2011 by three good friends who met playing online games. Our discussions regarding how we'd improve the games we played eventually led us towards making games ourselves.

"We have made a couple games in the past for universities and innovation conventions which managed to grab us a spot in a national newspaper. Currently, we are working on a game called Fluffy Cloud.

"The games we will showcase at the GDC are CrossWolf, a 2D platform runner, and also the beta version of Fluffy Cloud. We wish to gain more exposure in the mobile app community and to share our products and games. It would be even better if we can build some partnerships with other like-minded companies."

- Fouad Hayoun, Blazing Soft co-founder


The small indie team at Bytebin is looking to follow in the footsteps of Minecraft and Terraria with a new multiplayer (and multiplatform) world-building game known as Deepworld. The game is now available for Mac, and will soon debut on both iOS and PC.

"We are Bytebin, a three-person startup working on our first online game. Between us we've developed a number of iOS and Flash games, along with a wide variety of other applications, but this is our biggest and most exciting project to date.

Wing Commander's Chris Roberts marks his return to games at GDC Online

Chris Roberts, the veteran game designer behind the 1990s classics Wing Commander and Privateer, has stayed away from game development for the past 10 years, but at next week's GDC Online, Roberts will peel back the curtain on a brand new project that marks his long-awaited return to the industry.

During a press event sponsored by his own Roberts Space Industries, the renowned PC game designer will demo a prototype of his new game, which promises to one again allow players to jump into the cockpit of a high-tech space fighter.

In a letter on his official website, Roberts notes that he's excited to return to the industry and to make the most out of today's modern technology.

"I grew up making video games. I sold my first game at the age of 13 and created Wing Commander when I was 21. But 10 years ago, at the height of my career I took a break. Not because I stopped loving or playing games but because I had become frustrated with the limits of the technology at the time to realize my vision," he said.

"I always said the moment I became interested in making games again was when I was going to come back. With the power of today's computers and the reach of the internet I finally feel I have the tools to build the connected experience that I always dreamed of."

Next week's press event will take place at GDC Online in Austin Texas on Wednesday, October 10 at 9AM Central Daylight Time (or as Roberts puts it, "10AM Eastern Standard Time on the 10th day of the 10th month of this year").

All GDC pass holders are welcome to attend, as well as those who picked up special 'golden tickets' directly from Roberts Space Industries, and the event will also be livestreamed on

Discover Linden Lab's approach to multiplayer narrative games at GDC Online

Creating an interactive game narrative can be a complex, nuanced, and difficult process, and at next week's GDC Online, writer and Linden Lab developer Emily Short will take a moment to explore how developers can create choice-driven games for multiple players.

During her session, "Choice and Character: Lessons from Writing Multiplayer Narrative Games," Short will draw from her experience working on Linden Lab's new interactive storytelling platform to discuss various types of player choice, and how designers can create dynamic and emotionally satisfying experiences.

For example, she'll explain how developers can pay off significant player choices by "designing character crises that can be triggered automatically at dramatically appropriate moments." This talk will offer plenty of useful insight for developers working on story-driven games, or those interested in simulating complex, nuanced characters.

Short is particularly well-equipped to discuss complex character simulation, as she is one of the co-founders of the experimental game studio Little Text People, a small company dedicated to exploring the possibilities of interactive fiction (the studio was acquired by Second Life creator Linden Lab earlier this year).

As part of GDC Online's Game Narrative Summit, this talk will be open to All Access pass holders. The show itself will take place October 9-11 at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, Texas.

In addition to the above presentation, GDC Online recently added the following talks to the show's Game Narrative Summit:

- Playdom designer Martha Sapeta will share the complex backstory of one of the studio's major hidden object titles in "Playdom's Blackwood & Bell Mysteries: The Nutshell Narrative Case." Unlike most social games, Blackwood & Bell Mysteries put a distinct emphasis on story, and during this session Sapeta will discuss how her team found a way to introduce an actual narrative into the typically minimalist Facebook space.

- Elsewhere, Zynga designers Steven Williams and Jonathon Myers will discuss their approach to telling stories on Facebook in "Indiana Jones Adventure World: Narrative for Social Games." Using examples from this popular Facebook game, the pair will discuss how developers can draw inspiration from serialized storytelling techniques and traditional Sunday comic strips to create new, weekly online stories.

GDC Mobile App now available for GDC Online

With just days to go until GDC Online opens its doors, event organizers have added new functionality to the GDC Mobile App to help attendees get the most out of next week's Austin-based conference.

The recently-launched GDC Mobile App - available on iOS, Android, and mobile web platforms -- now includes full support for GDC Online, and offers a number of scheduling and business tools for all GDC Online attendees.

The app allows users to view GDC Online's full session roster, create and export customized schedules, locate exhibitors on the Expo Floor, and directly request meetings with exhibitors via the app's 'Exhibitors' section.

This has been made possible in association with the GDC business matchmaking, also available via a Web version, through which users can identify, contact, and request and schedule meetings with exhibitors. This new mobile resource will make it even easier to connect with the numerous other industry professionals at the show.

In addition to these scheduling and business matchmaking features, the app will also let users view event photos, check-in to specific sessions and locations, and more.

GDC Online will be held next week, from October 9-11 at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, Texas, and those interested in attending the final Austin-based conference can secure their pass by registering on the GDC Online website.

ArenaNet details the tech powering Guild Wars 2 at GDC Online

Creating a modern MMO requires an enormous range of technical expertise. From the server backend, to the client graphics engine, to the web hosting infrastructure, studios need to be prepared to tackle a lot of challenges to get their game running smoothly.

ArenaNet's recently launched Guild Wars 2 is of course no exception, and at this month's GDC Online, the studio's technical director, Cameron Dunn, will outline the various technical challenges the team had to overcome when crafting this large-scale online RPG.

During his session, "Guild Wars 2: Programming the Next Generation Online World," Dunn will discuss the tech that powers Guild Wars 2's combat system, its World vs. World PvP arenas, and much more. He'll also pull back the curtain on the game's patching system, which allows ArenaNet "to roll out new builds in a matter of minutes without requiring downtime."

Attendees at this talk will walk away with a better understanding of what it takes to create and launch a game like Guild Wars 2, and they'll also learn how the tools used to create these major MMOs can also benefit other types of online games.

As part of GDC Online's Programming track, this talk will be open to All Access pass holders. The show itself will take place October 9-11 at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, Texas.

In addition to the above presentation, GDC Online recently added the following talks to the show's Main Conference:

- As part of the show's Programming track, Electrotank's RJ Lorimer and Versant Corporation's Robert Greene will examine how to maximize online game performance in "Lag Sucks: Making Online Gaming Faster with NoSQL, and without Breaking the Bank." During this session, the pair will discuss "how Electrotank used their existing, Java-standard based skills to migrate their database to a NoSQL solution," and created a codebase that could more easily support online games.

IGF China 2012 unveils Main Competition, Student finalists

The Independent Games Festival China has revealed the Main Competition and Student finalists for its 2012 award ceremony, which celebrates the most creative indie games from throughout the Pan-Pacific area,

The GDC China co-located event is now in its fourth year, and this time around the finalists include indie games such as the action-platformer Dustforce, the retro-inspired puzzler Cubetractor, the mobile action game Flying Daggers, and more.

Drawing from a prize pool totaling 45,000 RMB (roughly $7,150), IGF China's Main Competition will give away five distinguished awards, covering Excellence in Audio, Design, Technology, and Visual Arts, as well as the Best Mobile Game and Best Game awards. In addition to the prestige and prizes, winners will also receive two All-Access Passes for the upcoming GDC 2013 in San Francisco.

Alongside IGF China's Main Competition, the ceremony will also host the Student Competition, which honors six of the top regional student games, with teams this year hailing from Mainland China, Singapore, and Taiwan.

This part of the competition includes two awards -- for Best Student Game and Excellent Student Winners -- and offers roughly 13,000 RMB (roughly $2,050) in cash prizes.

Winners in both competitions will be chosen by a panel of expert jurors including Kevin Li (CEO, TipCat Interactive); Monte Singman (Founder/CEO, Radiance Digital Entertainment); Xubo Yang (Director of Digital Art Lab and Assistant Professor; Shanghai Jiaotong University's School of Software), Haipeng Yu (Producer, Tencent Shanghai), and jury chairman Simon Carless, IGF Chairman Emeritus and EVP of the GDC shows, Gamasutra, and Game Developer magazine.

This year's awards ceremony will take place the evening of November 18, and will run alongside the rest of GDC China, which will be held November 17-19 at the Shanghai Convention Center in Shanghai, China.

Here are the finalists for this year's IGF China.

Main Competition

Army and Strategy: The Crusades, by Pied Pipers Entertainment, South Korea [Website, Video]

Cubetractor, by Ludochip, Singapore [Website, Video]

Diggin' Dogs, by Soap Creative, Australia [Website, Video]

Deus Ex, Fallout notables talk 'the art of the reboot' at GDC Online

In today's market of follow-ups, reboots, and trilogies, developers need to understand what it takes to make a good video game sequel.

There are plenty of challenges that come with working on a beloved or classic IP, but at next month's GDC Online conference in Austin, Texas, a panel of experienced industry pros will share their advice for getting the most out of your next major sequel or reboot.

The session, titled "In the Shadow of Greatness - Sequels and Reboots Deconstructed," will feature seasoned designers and writers including Mary DeMarle (Eidos Montreal), Tom Abernathy (Microsoft Studios), Chris Avellone (Obsidian Entertainment), Raphael Van Lierop (HELM Studio) and Ivan Mulkeen (Eidos Montreal).

These speakers have worked on some of the most notable sequels and follow-ups recent memory, with credits spanning Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Halo: Reach, Knights of the Old Republic II, Fallout: New Vegas, Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine, and much more.

During this talk, these developers will discuss the major considerations studios will need to make when creating a follow-up to a successful game. Along the way, they'll also touch on some common misconceptions about working on a sequel, how DLC can fit into your narrative structure, and the future prospects of new IP.

As part of GDC Online's Game Narrative Summit, this talk will be open to All Access and Summits & Tutorials pass holders. The show itself will take place October 9-11 at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, Texas.

GDC Online highlights Travian, YouTube, new business talks

With just two weeks to go until this year's GDC Online, the Austin show's organizers have debuted several new business-focused talks examining how YouTube's plans for game integration, Travian on how existing companies can adopt metrics driven design, and more.

These talks all fall within the Business & Marketing track in GDC Online's Main Conference, which will take place take place Tuesday, October 9 to Thursday, October 11 at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, Texas.

The full details on these new Business & Marketing track sessions are as follows:

- First, Lars Janssen of the German browser game company Travian Games (Travian, Miramagia) will explain why companies should use special procedures and tools to analyze player behavior if they hope to grow their games in today's market. In his talk, "Moving a Games Company from Gut Feeling to Metrics," he'll discuss how developers can overcome the challenges of introducing metrics to their existing design processes.

- Elsewhere, YouTube developer advocate Jarek Wilkiewicz and content partnerships manager Cliff Samaniego will present "Start Playing the Mobile Distribution Game on YouTube." Video games have become one of the top categories on the popular video streaming site, and during this session the pair will explain how you can convert those millions of viewers into actual players by integrating YouTube into your next mobile game.

Wilkiewicz and Samaniego will highlight some top examples of games that have benefitted from YouTube integration, and will cover the best practices for using these videos from a technical and business perspective. And of course, they'll take a moment to share some of their favorite gameplay videos with GDC attendees.

- Have you ever wanted to host your own session at one of these GDC events? If so, you're in luck, as Playdom developers and GDC advisory board members Steve Meretzky and Gordon Walton will help you do just that in "How to be Accepted to Speak at GDC." During this talk, Meretzky and Walton will detail how the GDC board reviews and selects the talks that make it to these shows. Along the way, attendees will learn how to make their submissions stand out, and how they can craft a solid presentation.

GDC China 2012 adds Bejeweled Blitz, Zombie Gunship smartphone talks

The growing session lineup for this November's GDC China in Shanghai is quickly gaining steam, and today the show's organizers have revealed three new talks in the Smartphone & Tablet Games Summit.

This time, these new sessions include an examination of PopCap's Bejeweled Blitz, a case study from Limbic Software on the challenges of mobile game growth, and Appy Entertainment on pivoting from 'premium to freemium' in the smartphone space.

As part of the Smartphone & Tablet Games Summit, these sessions will run alongside the rest of GDC China from November 17-19 at the Shanghai Convention Center in Shanghai, China, and will offer specialized content covering the ins and outs of mobile game development.

The full details on these new Summit sessions are as follows:

- In "Bejeweled Blitz: One Year in the Life of a Top-Grossing Mobile Game," PopCap's Giordano Bruno Contestabile will discuss how Bejeweled Blitz made the jump from Facebook to iOS, and became one of the platform's most long-lasting success stories. Along the way, he'll explain how other cross-platform social game developers can emulate that success by combining smart game design, data analysis, and more.

- Elsewhere, Limbic Software co-founder Iman Mostafavi will host "Getting out of the Garage: Managing Teams, Customer Relationships, Cloud Servers and 97 Other Things to Handle Growth." During this session, Mostafavi will examine Limbic titles like TowerMadness, Nuts!, and Zombie Gunship, and will detail the technical and operational challenges the studio faced as its games began to grow. It'll be a great chance to learn from Limbic's experience and gain a better understanding of how to deal with rapid changes in scale.

- Finally, Appy Entertainment brand director Paul O'Connor (SpellCraft School of Magic, Trucks & Skulls) will present "Premium to Freemium: Pivoting Monetization Method for Best-Selling Apps," detailing how his studio "converted two best-selling premium apps to freemium monetization and increased their audience, grew their revenue and made the games better in the process."

GDC Online debuts Age of Empires Online, community management talks

With GDC Online's final event in Austin less than a month away, show organizers have revealed a handful of new talks in the show's Customer Experience track, spanning a presentation on Microsoft's Age of Empires Online, a panel on modern community management, and more.

These talks all fall within GDC Online's Customer Experience track, which will feature numerous sessions to help developers better attract, retain, and monetize their players. Like the rest of GDC Online, these sessions will take place Tuesday, October 9 to Thursday, October 11 at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, Texas.

The full details on these new Customer Experience track sessions are as follows:

- First, Microsoft executive producer Kevin Perry will discuss the importance of transparent community management in "Age of Empires Online: Radical Transparency Clearly Works." Age of Empires Online had an extremely rough launch when it debuted in 2011, and as developers worked to fix its issues, the community team made sure to keep fans in the loop by giving them frequent updates about the game's process. During this talk, Perry will discuss how this open approach benefitted the game, and drastically changed the mood and behavior of the game's once-irate community.

- Elsewhere, former BioWare developer Jason Livingston will outline how he created a strong user support system in "Building a Successful Online Customer Support Program From Scratch." While working at BioWare, Livingston helped craft the customer support solution behind Star Wars: The Old Republic, and in this talk he'll discuss the best practices for building or improving a customer support organization on any budget.

- Finally, GDC Online's Customer Experience track will feature a robust panel titled "Community Relations Management Across the Board," in which speakers from all over the industry will discuss their approach to community management. Featuring speakers such as Meghan Jenks (Rebel Entertainment), Richard Weil (Metaverse Mod Squad), Linda Carlson (Sony Online Entertainment) and Alex Von Minden (Spacetime Studios), this panel will give attendees the change to learn more about how developers are approaching community management across a wide variety of platforms.

GDC China 2012 adds talks from Naughty Dog, Volition, more

The lineup for November's GDC China in Shanghai continues to grow today, adding some of the creators of key titles like Saints Row: The Third, Uncharted 3, and more.

These three newly announced sessions -- along with the rest of GDC China -- will take place November 17-19 at the Shanghai International Convention Center in Shanghai, China, and will bring together the world's leading developers to share knowledge and ideas that will benefit the Asian game industry and beyond.

The full details on GDC China's newest sessions are as follows:

- As part of the Production track, Volition player experience researcher Jordan Lynn will examine the best practices for making satisfying games in "Playtesting and Metrics: Getting the Most Out of Your Usability Testing." Drawing examples from games like Saints Row: The Third and Red Faction: Armageddon, Lynn will explain "how to integrate back-end telemetry into an existing playtest program," noting how it can help developers gather valuable information and ultimately make better games.

- Over in the conference's Game Design 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 studio behind Uncharted and The Last of Us ensures its games launch as polished as possible. He'll discuss the team's approach to managing development schedules, the level of detail developers should shoot for, and how to make a high-quality game while still shipping on time.

- Finally, Ubisoft Shanghai's Xu Wang will present the Game Design track lecture "From Console to Mobile: the Best Practices to Build Multi-Platform Games." During this session, Wang will discuss how developers can use some principles from console game development to make their mobile projects go much more smoothly. Looking at everything from development pipelines, technology and communication, Wang will examine the ways in which console expertise can benefit nearly all forms of multiplatform development.

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