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GDC Online 2011 Reveals First Talks, Including League Of Legends, Playdom

Organizers of Game Developers Conference Online 2011 have debuted the first sessions from the October show in Austin, TX, including League Of Legends's design director and major talks from Loot Drop and Playdom on social gaming's evolution.

Taking place Monday through Thursday, October 10-13, 2011 at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, Texas, GDC Online continues as the leading worldwide event to solely discuss the development and business trends surrounding connected games -- including casual titles, MMOs, virtual worlds, and social networking games.

This year's Main Conference will include tracks on Business & Marketing, Customer Experience, Design, Production, and Programming, as well as a sponsored track on Monetization.

As the event's Schedule Builder reveals the first set of lectures, the following are some highlights from this year's Main Conference:

- In "Designers are Human Too - Causes of Poor Design Decisions," Riot Games' Tom Cadwell, design director of major hit League of Legends, will discuss poor decision-making in game design, outlining why talented teams don't always act in their own best interest.

Cadwell, a former Blizzard designer and architect of the multiplayer online game smash, will examine the root causes of a number of common design mistakes, and will offer advice on how to avoid them.

- In another signature lecture, Playdom's Steve Meretzky and Dave Rohrl will look back at the recent developments in the growing social space in "The Year in Social Games 2010-2011." In this talk, the veteran pair will examine the emerging trends, standout games, and business innovations that have emerged in the social game market over the last 12 months, and will point out the developments to look for in the coming year.

GDC Europe 2011 Adds Playdom Talk, Unity Day

GDC Europe organizers have revealed new Main Conference talks in the show's Game Design, Visual Arts, and Programming tracks, featuring Playdom on the aesthetics of social games, and a full day of Unity lectures and tutorials.

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

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

- In "Gardens of Time: Art and Iteration," Playdom's Eric Todd will examine the company's hit hidden object Facebook game Gardens of Time, detailing the challenges of balancing aesthetic design, game design and technical constraints when creating a free-to-play social title.

- Notable game engine creator Unity Technologies will present its very own sponsored "Unity Track Day" during the show, which will feature a series of lectures and tutorials focusing on the technical and business aspects of using the Unity toolkit. The company promises to help attendees understand the basics of developing with Unity, as well as how to make their game stand out in today's increasingly digital market. Dates and times for these sponsored Unity-focused sessions will be announced soon.

GDC Vault Debuts Free Playdom, AI Rant, Humble Bundle Sessions

The GDC Vault service
has debuted several free videos from the Game Developers Conference
2011, featuring Playdom's Raph Koster on whether social games are truly
social, a rant on game AI, and a retrospective look at the forces behind
the successful Humble Indie Bundle.

These talks join recently-debuted free videos from GDC founder Chris Crawford, Bungie's David Aldridge, and Maxis veteran Stone Librande, as well as the much-watched classic postmortem series as part of GDC 2011's 'free recordings' section on GDC Vault.

The following free lectures include highlights from the conference's
notable Summits, which covered topics such as social and online games,
AI, independent games, and more.

The first talk offered for free is a lecture from Playdom's Raph Koster dubbed, "Social Mechanics for Social Games." In this session, Koster picks apart the interpersonal interactions that take place within online social titles.

As he notes in his talk, "Many have accused social games of not
really being social. But they are underpinned by many classic social
mechanics that drive interaction and community-building. Some of these
have been proven to work in other genres such as MMOs and are beginning
to filter into the social games market; others are easily visible and
quite familiar in real life, but have yet to be seen in the design of
social games."

Ultima Creator Garriott To Keynote GDC Europe 2011

GDC Europe organizers have announced that Ultima
creator, space explorer, and social game developer Richard Garriott
will give a keynote at the conference examining the future of social
games and their impact on the industry.

Garriott will join Wooga founder Jens Begemann as the second keynote speaker to be announced for the 2011 Game Developers Conference Europe, which will take place August 15-17, and is located in Cologne, Germany alongside Gamescom, the leading European trade and consumer show.

Garriott's talk, dubbed, "The Three Eras of Gaming and Why This One
is a Game Changer," will provide "special insight into the current era
of social and casual games, and will discuss whether or not traditional
development can and should make that transition to this new mode of
interactive entertainment."

While perhaps best known for his legacy as the creator of the Ultima series and as one of the pioneers for the MMO genre with Ultima Online, Garriott recently delved into the realm of social and casual games and founded Portalarium, a social game company that this month secured $3.6 million in funding for its forthcoming projects.

Over the course of his career, Garriott has won numerous awards for his
contributions to the game development community, including a Lifetime
Achievement Award at the Game Developers Choice Awards in 2006. He also
made national headlines in 2008 and realized his lifelong dream of
space travel, when he launched aboard the Russian Soyuz TMA-13
spacecraft to the International Space Station.

GDC Europe Details Indie Games Summit Talks, Pass

GDC Europe organizers have detailed the 2011 show's Independent Games Summit, which includes lectures from Amnesia's Thomas Grip, B.U.T.T.O.N. developer Douglas Wilson, and many more.

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

New to the conference this year is the Independent Games Summit,
which will feature lectures and panels from the most influential
figures from the indie games space on topics covering game design,
business strategies, marketing, and more.

The notable sessions, panels, and lectures featured in the Independent Games Summit include the following:

- In "Beyond Fun: Perspectives on Video Games as Expressive Experiences," a panel of indie developers will argue that video games, just like
literature or film, can provide audiences with complex and satisfying
emotions in addition to the shallow "fun" offered by competitive games.

Speakers at the panel will include Tale of Tales' Michael Samyn (The Path), Stout Games' Jeroen D. Stout (Dinner Date), Moboid's Heather Kelley (GAMMA), thechineseroom's Dan Pinchbeck (Dear Esther), and Frictional Games' Thomas Grip (Amnesia: The Dark Descent).

- In addition to speaking in the previous panel, Thomas Grip will also give a lecture dubbed "Evoking Emotions and Achieving Success by Breaking All the Rules,"
in which he will outline the unconventional design decisions his team
made when creating the company's popular indie horror title Amnesia: The Dark Descent.

The game abandons fail states and other horror game staples, and Grip will explain why these omissions made Amnesia
more enjoyable to play. Moving beyond the context of his own game,
Grip will also discuss how these sorts of unusual design choices can
benefit games of other genres.

GDC Europe 2011 Debuts New Dance Central, Adams, Battlefield 3 Lectures

GDC Europe 2011 has debuted new main conference talks in its Game Design and Programming tracks, including Ernest Adams on the problems with MMOs, a postmortem of Dance Central, and the lighting system used in DICE's Battlefield 3.

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 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 the following:

- Harmonix's Matt Boch and Dean Tate will reflect on the development of the Kinect launch title Dance Central in "Break It Down! How Harmonix and Kinect Taught the World to Dance; The Design Process and Philosophy of Dance Central." In this talk, the two will discuss how the studio built the game from scratch in just one year, while still adapting to a completely new motion control interface.

- In the conference's Game Design Track, industry veteran Ernest Adams will examine the problems with online persistence in "Making MMOGs More Storylike." In this talk, he will explain why modern online games prevent players from meaningfully affecting the game world, and will offer solutions that could grant players more control over their online environment.

- As part of the conference's Programming track, DICE's Christina Coffin will give a lecture dubbed "SPU-based Deferred Shading in Battlefield 3 for PlayStation 3," in which she will outline the SPU based lighting system in the studio's own Frostbite 2 engine. Coffin will discuss the performance benefits that SPU based shading offers, and will explain how it influences the visuals of DICE's flagship shooter, Battlefield 3.

GDC Europe 2011 Reveals Keynote From Wooga Founder Begemann

GDC Europe organizers have announced that wooga founder and CEO Jens Begemann will give a keynote for the conference's Business & Marketing track, offering insight into the development of free-to-play, browser based social games.

This keynote is the first to be announced for the 2011 Game Developers Conference Europe, which will take place August 15-17, and is located in Cologne, Germany alongside gamescom, the leading European trade and consumer show.

Begemann will examine the methods and design principles that go into the creation of the most popular free-to-play titles on social networks, such as Wooga's own Diamond Dash and Happy Hospital.

The Berlin, Germany-headquartered firm, which just received $24 million in funding, currently holds the third largest number of active game users on Facebook worldwide, with almost 30 million monthly unique players.

"Wooga's success is a testament to Europe's pervasive social and browser games economy, and Jens' insight as a keynote presenter for the Business & Marketing track will prove to be incredibly valuable and timely," said Frank Sliwka, Vice President of European Business Development and Event Director of GDC Europe.

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.

5759464811_eb126f9251_m.jpg 5759534163_631d01764d_m.jpg

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.

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