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Previewing GDC 2009: Inside The Production Track

[In the fifth of a series picking out the most notable Game Developers Conference 2009 lectures, sister site Gamasutra examines the Production Track, featuring talks from the Spore, Crysis Warhead and Fable II creators, as well as production analyses from BioWare Austin, Microsoft Game Studios, and Bungie.]
Game Developers Conference 2009 (organized by Gamasutra parent company Think Services) is set to take place in San Francisco's Moscone Center from March 23 to 27, 2009 - with the important early registration deadline now imminent, and set for February 12.
With nearly 390 sessions now confirmed for GDC 2009, we'll be taking a track by track look at the conference's line-up over the next few weeks.
Fifth on the list is GDC's Production Track, which will look at "the game development process from the standpoint of running project nuances" and will offer "proven strategies for effective game production."
Notable highlights thus far announced for this track are as follows:

- Covering Spore's online Share features, Maxis producer Caryl Shaw will talk about the multi-genre game's unique challenges that the studio encountered with its social networking and content delivery systems during development and after shipping. In "Spore: Fulfilling the Massively-Single Player Promise - How'd We Do?", she'll also give the audience a window into that evolution and the successes and shortfalls of creating this new type of online game.
- Undoubtably a massive project, Fable II was in production for over four years and credited over 500 people to its creation. Developer Lionhead Studios' Louise Cople and Microsoft's Jonathan Taylor will present a lecture on "Producing Fable II," looking into the "timeline, production methodology, team structure and organization of the project, revealing what went well and what were their biggest challenges."
- Microsoft Game Studios' lead software development engineer Joe Djorgee will provide a useful 20-minute "Overview of Video Games Testing within Microsoft Game Studios" in which he'll talk about "how test teams are structured, staffed, and trained; the approach taken to test various projects; the use of test documentation; the different types of testing; the philosophy on directed testing versus ad hoc testing; as well as the use of bug databases." He'll also cover what kind of person makes a good tester and recommend helpful resources.
- In "Failure is NOT an Option - Basic Survival Techniques for any Producer/Designer", BioWare Austin's co-studio director Rich Vogel will discuss techniques he's picked up from 18 years in the game business on how to keep a team from failing. Targeting producers, project managers, and designers, the lecture will give valuable insight on "how to avoid failure and fix broken projects."
- Producer Allen Murray will highlight production case studies from Halo 3 and provide a brutally honest look at "the evolution of production at Bungie from Halo 1 to 3 and share the failures and successes of the production staff" in this session titled "Building Your Airplane While Flying: Production at Bungie." Producers will especially benefit from discussions on the studio's approach with solving difficult challenges, as they compare and contrast with how their own studio operates.
- Crytek's Bernd Diemer will provide an in-depth look at the production process behind Crysis Warhead, including "the development methods and processes used for developing a franchise title with a new team, in two studios in parallel." He'll talk about using fast prototyping to validate initial designs and to build up team confidence, how creative ownership can be used to improve quality, and more in "Crysis Warhead Postmortem: Blowing Up Stuff".
- Electronic Arts Redwood Shores senior producer Chuck Beaver will deliver "Dead Space: How We Launched the Scariest New IP," a lecture relevant to anyone producing a horror-genre title, as he will detail "the trials, tribulations, practices and philosophies that led Dead Space to getting green lit as a new IP," as well as "tactics and examples of how to make the scariest game ever."
- In "He Who Ships, Wins: Producing Gears of War 2", Epic Games senior producer Rod Fergusson will talk about his team's best practices with shipping a major holiday release within 24 months, discussing pre-production scoping, handling crunch and managing the endgame. He'll reflect upon "specific philosophies, methodologies and techniques to see how they were applied to the production of Gears of War 2 and to what benefit."
- Media Molecule's Siobhan Reddy and Kareem Ettouney will talk about "The LittleBigPlanet Jam," sharing with attendees the different methods they used to "build a small team of talented people and fostered the idea of jamming in the creation of LittleBigPlanet." They'll not talk about how the "jamming style" applies from a production and creative angle, but also how it evolved during their title's production.
The full Production Track line-up to date includes many more notable lectures and roundtables, including discussions on prototyping, iterative development for Mass Effect 2, veteran creator Mark Cerny on production methodology, and more.


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