It's hard enough to make someone laugh at a single joke. How do you keep them laughing throughout an entire game?
Game developer Zoe Quinn has spent time on stage working as a stand-up comedian, and as part of the GDC 2015 Narrative Summit she shared some interesting lessons learned from the experience about comedic timing -- and how it can be used to improve your game.
Citing comedic games like Jazzpunk, The Stanley Parable and her own project Camp's Not Dead, Quinn explored smart ways to tell jokes through game mechanics and ran down some of the unique challenges that plague comedy game developers. Playtesting, for example, gets really tricky when your game is full of jokes that might quickly fall flat when you play through them multiple times.
Insomniac Games' 2014 open-world game Sunset Overdrive encourages players to flip, skid and slide from building to building at breakneck speeds, which presented designers with a unique challenge: how do you design enemies that can keep up, and provoke high-flying combat encounters?
At GDC 2015, Insomniac's Adam Noonchester spoke frankly about how the team started out by applying techniques used in previous Insomniac games such as Resistance 3 and Fuse -- cover and flanking mechanics, swarm tactics, and the like.
But as development went on those techniques, which had worked so well in earlier games, became woefully ineffective. Noonchester described at length how the team rallied to find new solutions to some tough AI and enemy design problems, and shared lessons that other developers can learn from the experience.
It's important to have diverse characters in games, but making that happen sometimes requires developers to step outside their comfort zone when it comes designing and animating those characters.
At the GDC 2015 Animation Bootcamp this year a panel of game industry experts gathered to cheerfully debunk the specific misconception that women characters are "too hard to animate" or too expensive to include in games alongside male counterparts.
The discussion drew on the animation expertise of Lab Zero animator Mariel Cartwright and Naughty Dog animator Jonathan Cooper, as well as the game production and technical expertise of Giant Spacekat co-founder Brianna Wu.
The resulting discussion offered a good overview of how developers large and small can efficiently incorporate more diverse characters and imagery into their games, and is worth your time to watch for free over on the GDC Vault.
Bluffing and misdirection are commonly key game mechanics in physical tabletop games, yet in video games these mechanics are not quite so rampant. Why not?
In this session from GDC Europe 2015, TinyBuild talent scout (and erstwhile Gamasutra editor) Mike Rose explores how video games have tackled bluffing and feinting, with plenty of input from the game designers who have stormed the bluffing beaches.
Rose speaks to which elements have worked best in digital form, as well as what designers could learn and potentially steal from the most devious board and card games.
The presentation was practical, funny, and well worth your time to watch for free over on the GDC Vault.
At GDC Europe earlier this year ten indie game makers took to the stage for the second annual European Innovative Games Showcase, a curated exhibition of innovative or experimental games accompanied by presentations from their creators on game design, artistic expression, and more.
Coordinating and MC-ing the showcase were game designers Lea Schönfelder and Jonatan Van Hove, who were part of a panel of judges that selected games like We'll Meet Again, Aboard the Lookinglass and Kill Box for exhibition in the showcase.
The showcase is worth watching: it moves at a pretty brisk clip since it has so many different games to cover, and you'd be hard-pressed to find a greater concentration of diverse design ideas (one of the microtalks is on "alternative uses for hands") in a single hour-long GDC Europe talk.
Speakers in this hour-long GDC Europe 2015 panel include, in no particular order: Lea Schönfelder, Adam Vian, Matteo Pozzi, Ivan Notaros, Armel Gibson, Tom DeMajo, Malath Abbas, Trine Laier, Lise Saxtrup, Henry Hoffman, George Buckenham, Claudia Molinari, Joel Nystrom, Tim Garbos, Jonatan Van Hove and Tom Vian.
If you missed them in person, you can now watch the entire showcase for free via the GDC Vault.
"How do you hire women, and keep them in your team? It starts with company culture."
With those words Gameloft's Fiona Cherbak launched into a panel discussion at GDC Europe 20015 about how game developers can work together to encourage more women to make games, and some day correct the gender imbalance that still dogs the game industry.
While fielding questions from a live audience, Cherbak and a panel of women executives from across the game industry spoke frankly about the social and workplace challenges that face game developers who aren't men.
The panel tackled tough issues, spoke to the benefits of hiring and retaining valuable staff, and offered unique solutions for encouraging young female talent to join the game industry.
The presentation was practical, funny, and well worth your time to watch for free on the GDC Vault.
There are some things about game design you can only learn from watching groups of players dash around a room smashing red buttons and frantically shouting instructions at each other.
Few game makers know these lessons better than Alistair Aitcheson, an independent game developer who builds quirky multiplayer experiences (like Tap Happy Sabotage) about physical contact and social interaction.
At GDC Europe 2015 Aitcheson spoke at length about what he'd learned about game design and player experience from making games in physical spaces, as well as what unconventional interfaces reveal about how players embody themselves within UI.
He also shared techniques fellow game makers can use to create pace and surprise, expressive play, and unique stories for players to bring home with them.
It was the sort of talk you rarely hear, packed with unique insights and perspectives on the nature of game development. It's worth your time to watch, and you can do so right now (for free!) via the GDC Vault.
What's the most efficient way to make a huge game with a tiny team?
For Croatian indie developer Croteam, releasing their biggest game to date, The Talos Principle, was only possible thanks to a revamped production pipeline focused on quick iteration.
At GDC Europe 2015, Croteam CTO Alen Ladavec explained in detail how the studio built a suite of tools and services to help them work as efficiently as possible without having to sacrifice the quality of the final product.
Using examples from The Talos Principle's production, Ladavec offered advice on developing efficient build systems, content editing tools, bug reporting and automated testing on an indie studio budget.
His talk was thorough, informative and well worth watching for free on the GDC Vault.
Procedural generation can be supremely valuable when you need to build a big game with a tiny team, but developing games algorithmically runs the risk of obfuscating handcrafted details that make your game unique.
At GDC Europe 2015, indie game developer Mark Johnson took the stage to explore the difficult balance between handmade and algorithmic content in games that use both.
It was an informative talk that examines the benefits of each kind of content and how to balance them, focusing particularly on player-side questions of learning and game mastery, and developer-side questions of development time and effort.
Johnson went on to offer practical solutions for hiding the difference between algorithmic and handmade content (and whether this is desirable), and blending the two into a seamless whole.
"The 'unhackable game' is a myth."
With those words Bohemia Interactive's Eugen Harton, a security-minded associate producer on DayZ, launched into a talk at GDC Europe 2015 about some of the many ways players try to cheat the system, and how Bohemia effectively counters them.
This is an important talk, because developers are under constant pressure to make their games cheat-free. In today's world of early access, modding, free-to-play mechanics and multiplayer systems, this is no small feat!
In his talk, Harton examines DayZ's layers of protection, prevention and obfuscation from both angles, as well as the methods players have used to successfully circumvent Bohemia's safeguards.
His presentation offers examples to fellow developers of how to succeed in the rapidly-shifting security environment of contemporary game development, and now you can watch it for free on the GDC Vault.
"Interaction is turning out to be an essential part of VR, as a medium," stated Valve engineer Yasser Malaika during a presentation at GDC Europe 2015 earlier this year. "It is profoundly satisfying for users to interact with VR content."
In the course of his hour-long talk Malaika went on to explain what Valve has figured out about how to create VR experiences that are satisfying to interact with, noting some surprising lessons learned along the way. Overly realistic visual styles are often worse than believably abstract representations of real objects, for example, as is overly complex control schemes.
"In VR, you don't have a keyboard full of hotkeys," said Malaika. "The buttons on a controller are much more limited, so you have to think about how to provide the same number of choices...and manage the number of choices a user has."
Stellar sound design can make a game feel sublime, but it's not always easy to pin down a soundscape that complements your game's design and appearance.
During the GDC Europe 2015 Independent Games Summit, sound designer Joonas Turner (Nuclear Throne, Badland, Broforce) hopped up on stage to deliver a quick primer on what it takes to make your game sound fantastic. He pointed out that no individual backing track or sound effect will elevate your work -- you need to blend and combine sounds to create a unique aural "feel" for your game.
Turner went on to share some practical tips for designing the sound of your next game, and explained how chaining sound effects with visual effects (like crazy screen shake) could take your next project to new heights.
"Learning and helping them out, guiding them towards finding new features and learning more, that's how a game should reward the players," says Cities: Skylines designer Karoliina Korppoo. "It seems to be working quite nicely for us."
Released earlier this year, Cities: Skylines did indeed prove to be a notable success for developer Colossal Order. At GDC Europe 2015, Korppoo ran down how the studio designed the game to be a latter-day SimCity successor, explaining how it was possible with a small team and limited resources.
She also shared lessons learned about the value of positively reinforcing players' preferred play styles rather than punishing them for not achieving preset goals, and opened up about how a robust modding community has helped Colossal Order update and tune the game.
Her talk was frank, informative, and well worth watching for free on the GDC Vault.
How do you design a virtual reality game that won't make players feel like puking?
Simulation sickness, the feeling of nauea and disorientation that some people suffer when playing VR games, has recently received more attention due to the promotion of VR headsets in the game industry.
At GDC Europe in Cologne this year, researcher Ben Lewis-Evans shared some basic game design guidelines (based on meaningful research) that can be followed by developers to reduce the risk of simulation sickness, both in VR and as a general aid to making their game more accessible to a wide range of players.
Lewis-Evans' talk was practical, thorough and packed with useful takeaways for developers about a subject that's still being explored. If you missed it in person, you can now watch it for free on the GDC Vault.
CD Projekt Red's recently-released open-world game The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt has been praised for its complex in-game crafting system and its dynamic economy, and many developers can learn much from studying how the Polish studio made the two systems work together without breaking the game.
At GDC Europe 2015, CD Projekt Red senior gameplay designer Matthew Steinke said his dream in designing the economy of Wild Hunt was to create "a gameplay mechanism to bind the world together," but the reality of doing so proved difficult.
During his hour-long talk he outlined some of the challenges he faced, and explained how they were surmounted through canny use of (among other things) economic theory, durability mechanics, and spreadsheets. Lots and lots of spreadsheets.
Steinke's presentation was highly informative, and you can now watch the whole thing for free on the GDC Vault. It's well worth your time, especially if you love designing economic and crafting systems in games.
Let's talk about "game feel" for a moment.
It's a nebulous concept, to be sure, but at GDC Europe 2015 indie developer Nicolae Berbece tried to break it down as more than just "that thing that makes you say 'this game feels great, but I don't know why,'" and offer practical steps that you can follow to make your game feel great.
As an example, Berbece walks through an underwhelming interactive in-game death animation, asking members of the audience to play the game as he takes practical steps to amp up the "feel" of the animation.
From the first lines of code, to asset animations and sound effects creation up to screen shake, particles, displacement maps, composition and polish, Berbece offers a step-by-step guide to making your death animations (or any aspect of your game) "feel" more satisfying to the player.
Game Developers Conference officials are happy to announce that the many talks delivered by game industry experts at GDC Europe earlier this month in Cologne, Germany are now available to watch on the GDC Vault - with many videos and all slides available for free.
GDC Vault subscribers and GDC Europe 2015 passholders can watch all of the new talks over on the GDC Vault's new GDC Europe 2015 section.
Many of GDC Europe's sessions - including the entire Independent Games Summit & a number of other sessions - are also available for anyone to watch completely free, and many of these talks will be added to the official GDC YouTube channel in the months ahead.
(If you're not yet a GDC Vault subscriber and wish to become one in order to gain full access to the Vault's archives of video, audio and slides from nearly two decades' worth of GDC events, head over to the Vault subscription page.)
For more information and to stay abreast of what's new with the GDC Vault, check out the official website and follow us on Facebook and Twitter. If you're a Vault subscriber or GDC Europe 2015 passholder having consistent issues accessing these new videos, contact our support team via email.
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Writing great music for a video game is hard; crafting a compelling musical score that shifts and changes in response to a player's actions is even harder. Doing it on an indie budget? That's a bona fide feat.
To pull it off you need to learn from the experts, among them composer C. Andrew Rohrmann, who took to the stage during GDC 2015's Indie Games Summit to deconstruct his modular approach to music writing, production and implementation.
With an overview of his work creating the music for Galak-Z as an example, Rohrmann demonstrated how (with the aid of 17-Bit Games' Unity-based Audio17 music environment) composers can create multi-layered and hyper-adaptive musical elements that react to multiple gameplay variables, and combine to form an arrangement that is unique for each and every play session.
His presentation offered rare insight into the practical realities of designing a game with adaptive music, and its well worth watching for any indie developers and anyone who missed it in person. A full recording of his talk is now available to watch for free over on the GDC Vault.
What's the most effective way for a game developer to create something that elicits empathy from players?
In a quirky session at GDC 2015, game designer Hidetaka "Swery" Suehiro spoke earnestly about the development of his latest game, D4, and his attempts to empathetically connect to players using a game design philosophy he calls "sensory replication."
According to Swery, one of the core design goals in D4 was to engage players at an emotional level; another was to find a way to allow players who hate motion controls to enjoy the game using a Kinect.
The designers of D4 tried to connect the player to the moment-to-moment events on the screen at a visceral level using a variety of "sensory replication" design techniques, and in his talk Swery discussed the theory behind sensory replication and how building D4 forced him to reevaluate many of his preconceived notions about game design.
Sometimes a game design that looks great on paper and in early testing just doesn't hold up in the real world.
Some of the designers at Blizzard know that feeling. According to Diablo game director Joshua Mosqueira, the road from Diablo III to its big Reaper of Souls expansion was a long and difficult one for the development team.
At GDC 2015, Mosqueira spoke frankly about the hows and whys behind the seismic shifts in gameplay, core philosophy, itemization and rewards that Blizzard implemented to try and get Diablo III back on track.
If you missed his talk in person, you can now watch it for free over on the GDC Vault to learn about how the team managed to remove the controversial Auction House, about the evolution of randomness at the heart of the Diablo experience, and how the value of focusing on the fantasy guided this and other major decisions.
"Games. Have. Historical. Value. If you don't think games have historical value, everything I say is gonna be a guy talking about stuff you don't care about."
That was the opening salvo of Jason Scott's energetic talk at GDC 2015 earlier this year. Scott currently works as a curator and archivist at the Internet Archive, and during his talk he spoke out against the apathy and indifference that too often leads critical pieces of game history to be thrown away, destroyed or otherwise lost forever
To try and stem the tide, Scott offered a wide range of approaches to saving game history and discussed the Internet Archive's headline-grabbing in-browser emulation systems, which have allowed long-dead software to be experienced immediately and dependably for research, reference, and entertainment.
It was a very charming, frank talk on the contemporary challenges of preserving our industry's history, and anyone who missed it in person can now watch it for free over on the GDC Vault.
What do Nintendo and Pepsi-Co have in common? Find out by watching Satoru Iwata's GDC 2006 speech, where he spoke at length about how Nintendo found success by explicitly marketing its DS handheld consoles to people who didn't traditionally play games, then developing DS games (from Nintendogs to Zelda) that were designed to appeal to a diverse audience while taking advantage of the DS' unique hardware.
It was a great talk packed with insight into Nintendo's design practices circa 2006, as well as practical learnings for fellow game developers. If you missed seeing it in person you can now watch the recorded video version for free over on the GDC Vault.
"On my business card, I am a corporate president. In my mind, I am a game developer. But in my heart, I am a gamer."
- Nintendo president Satoru Iwata, delivering the keynote address at the 2005 Game Developers Conference.
With those words, veteran game developer and Nintendo executive Satoru Iwata launched into his classic "Heart of A Gamer" keynote speech at GDC 2005. At the time, Iwata was serving as president of Nintendo, which had launched the Nintendo DS and was working on the Wii under the "Revolution" codename.
During his hour-long speech, Iwata spoke at length about how he got his start in game development by programming number-based games for early pocket calculators, the way he and his friends came together to create HAL Laboratory and develop games for Nintendo consoles, and his own rise through the company to become president in 2002.
He also shared some of his thoughts on how the game industry is driven by the passion and enthusiasm of game developers, and how the industry as a whole could be a better and more welcoming place for people of all ages and backgrounds to play games. It was a seminal speech, and if you missed seeing it in person you can now watch the recorded video version for free over on the GDC Vault.
Inspired by the #1ReasonWhy and #1ReasonToBe hashtagged discussions that erupted across social media in 2013, the perennially popular and positive #1ReasonToBe panel discussion is a rapid, fun microtalk-style celebration and exploration of gender in the game industry and why alternative voices matter.
The panel returned to GDC 2015 earlier this year with a lineup of panelists who shared their experience, its highs and lows, and explored their vision for a future industry that is inclusive for all.
Hosted by industry veterans Brenda Romero and Leigh Alexander for the third year running, the #1ReasonToBe GDC 2015 panel featured notable speakers Sela Davis (Microsoft), Amy Hennig (Visceral Games), Katherine Cross (Gamasutra, City University of New York), Elizabeth LaPensee (Odaminowin Studio), Constance Steinkuehler (University of Madison Wisconsin professor) and Adriel Wallick (indie developer and Train Jam organizer.)
Writing for Gamasutra, Simon Parkin called the panel "a microtalk-style celebration and exploration of what it means to be a woman working in the video game medium and industry." If you missed seeing it in person, you can now watch the recorded video version for free over on the GDC Vault.
In addition to this presentation, the GDC Vault and its new YouTube channel offers numerous other free videos, audio recordings, and slides from many of the recent Game Developers Conference events, and the service offers even more members-only content for GDC Vault subscribers.
Those who purchased All Access passes to recent events like GDC, GDC Europe, and GDC Next already have full access to GDC Vault, and interested parties can apply for the individual subscription via a GDC Vault subscription page. Group subscriptions are also available: game-related schools and development studios who sign up for GDC Vault Studio Subscriptions can receive access for their entire office or company by contacting staff via the GDC Vault group subscription page. Finally, current subscribers with access issues can contact GDC Vault technical support.
Gamasutra and GDC are sibling organizations under parent UBM Tech
In the last few years, indie studio Inkle has been making increasingly complex narrative games like 80 Days that are built on a foundation of choice-based interactive text.
At GDC 2015, Inkle co-founder Jon Ingold explained how the outfit's design strategies evolved across the course of three games, with examples focused on how they make choices that matter, how they pace and coerce their narratives, and how Inkle integrates words into wider game design.
On a more practical note, Ingold also shared examples of how Inkle optimized its in-house scripting language to facilitate the rapid creation of large quantities of highly-contextual, high-quality text, and how it handles consistency and story logic in a massively-branching environment.
It was a very thorough talk on what it takes to successfully create interactive fiction games, and if you missed it in person you can now watch it for free over on the GDC Vault.
At GDC 2015 earlier this year, Civlization: Beyond Earth leads David McDonough and Will Miller explained how they were asked to take the perennially popular civilization-building game from its traditional, historical setting into a possible future for humanity on an alien planet.
"We should have been more audacious," admitted Miller. McDonough agreed; "In moving Civilization from a historical setting to a science fiction setting we had a real opportunity to do things differently," he said. "But we were too conservative."
The pair went on to detail the primary design challenges they faced in trying to maintain the essential elements of Civilization and apply them to a new setting in an unknown future. It's an instructive talk for game developers, and you can now watch it for free over on the GDC Vault.
Walt Disney Imagineering was one of the original VR pioneers in the late 1980s, and at GDC 2015 Imagineer Bei Yang told developers that WDI never really stopped playing and experimenting with crafting VR experiences.
He went on to share some of Disney's lessons learned about VR development with an audience of game developers, focusing on some of the basic learnings from the last 20 years and how they apply to modern head-mounted VR devices.
Yang also delved into Disney's design considerations, technical implementation details, and even some real-world examples of the Imagineering team's VR work.
It's a great that offers game makers a disparate but complementary perspective on the rapidly evolving field of VR design; now you can watch it for free via the GDC Vault.
If you're making games for modern consoles, you know that they sport heterogeneous, multi-core computation architectures that differ vastly in performance and memory characteristics.
As a result, veteran console developer Bungie has an engine team that's moved away from thread-level parallelism to use 'job systems' for fine-grained task and data parallelism. At GDC 2015, Bungie's Natalya Tatarchuk cracked open the renderer Bungie developed for its striking, open-world cross-platform shooter Destiny.
It was a highly technical, unique talk that offered rare insight into the architecture of a multithreaded renderer that delivers low-latency, efficient execution across multiple platforms, focusing on both the successes and challenges encountered.
If you missed it in person and want to go behind-the-scenes of how Destiny's worlds are rendered, you can do so by watching this talk for free over on the GDC Vault.
Here's a fun hypothetical challenge: Tasked with creating hundreds of character animations that would would blend seamlessly into a painted 2d world, but without any ability to illustrate, what technical and creative tricks could you employ to succeed?
For James Benson, the challenge was all too real: at GDC 2015, the Campo Santo developer and animator of Moon Studios' Ori & The Blind Forest gave a thirty-minute talk outlining his (ultimately successful!) attempt to create thousands of Ghibli-style frames of animation with limited time, people and personal skills.
Focusing almost exclusively on specific technical takeaways and the pros and cons of every decision that was made, Benson's talk is well worth your time watch. Luckily, a recording of his talk has been digitally preserved, and now you can watch it for yourself right here for free on the GDC Vault.
The rise of the indie developer in the past five or ten years has enticed a number of mid-range studios tired of working with publishers to strike out on their own, and few have been as successful at doing so as Dutch developer Larian Studios.
During the GDC 2015 Independent Games Summit, studio founder Swen Vencke took the stage and spoke to Larian's experience of successfully turning into an independent and self-publishing company after 15 years of working with different publishers.
The talk is worth watching because it's an example of how a studio can successfully set up its own PR, marketing, localization and distribution efforts, with learnings distilled into 10 simple, bite-sized pieces of advice for both aspiring and experienced developers.
If you missed it in person, now is your opportunity to watch it for free over on the GDC Vault.
Hipster Whale's "endless Frogger" mobile game Crossy Road proved to be a standout hit last year; at GDC 2015, developers Andy Sum and Matt Hall spoke at length about how it happened.
Sum offered deep insight into the development of Crossy Road and how the viral hit was developed in just 12 weeks as an experiment in free-to-play game design, while Hall "opened the books" on Crossy Road to show exactly how the studio made money by distributing the game as a free-to-play title with video ads and select in-app purchase opportunties.
Together they shed light on what it's like to succeed in the modern mobile market, and if you missed seeing them in person you can now watch the pair's hour-minute presentation for free via the GDC Vault.
Every game tells a story, but it's not always the one its creators hope to convey. Many developers struggle to not only tell an interesting story, but to do so through characters that are themselves intriguing, compelling people that players want to spend time with.
The Danganronpa series of games is known in Japan (and increasingly in the West) for its uniquely charming characters, to the point where each cast member has their own fan base; behind this eclectic cast is a well-defined and structured process used to create every man, woman, and sociopathic animatronic bear.
At GDC 2015, Danganronpa series writer/director Kazutaka Kodaka explained the methods and explored the principles used to craft memorable game characters and stories.
It was a remarkably frank look at how a game creator can mix-and-match personality characteristics, seemingly almost at random, and come up with striking, memorable characters. If you missed it in person, you can now watch it for free (and translated from Japanese to English) over on the GDC Vault.
Insomniac Games' high-flying Sunset Overdrive takes place in a huge city explicitly designed for speedy traversal, and at GDC 2015 designer Liz England revealed how the game's designers tried -- and failed, multiple times -- to build an open world that never leaves players feeling lost.
Over the course of making Sunset Overdrive, the team created and scrapped not one, but two different open world cities - before settling on the third.
As part of the GDC 2015 Level Design In A Day summit, England walked attendees through each of these worlds and showed how the changing vision of the game demanded major changes to the level design, focusing on the evolving role of traversal and the growing pains of building spaces for fast-paced open world gameplay.
Her thoughtful talk was packed with insight and advice on building big, beautiful worlds for your players to inhabit, and now you can watch it for free over on the GDC Vault.
Building a game that people play for years is no simple task and has no magic formula. However, at GDC 2015 Clash of Clans developer Jonas Collaros took a shot at deconstructing the hit game's development history and asking: what lessons can developers learn from Clash?
The mobile, free-to-play marketplace is rife with challenges, even for veteran developers, and Collaros believes the greatest challenge is maintaining a focus on the essentials.
A project's essential needs change again and again, especially over the span of years. In exploring the "three eras" of Clash development, Jonas revealed the specific needs, challenges, and pitfalls they encountered along the way.
It was a thoughtful, earnest talk that offered some useful insight into both Supercell's design process and the challenges of maintaining a popular mobile game throughout years of play. If you missed Collaros' talk at GDC back in March, you can now watch the whole thing for free over on the GDC Vault.
User interface design is often neglected until the final stages of game development, but giving the issue even a modicum of consideration at the outset of your project can pay big dividends down the road.
Blizzard's remarkably successful Hearthstone is a prime example; "our game is UI" exclaimed Hearthstone senior UI designer Derek Sakamoto at GDC 2015, where he took the stage to deliver a detailed breakdown of how the company went about designing, scrapping and redesigning the user interface for its breakout free-to-play digital card game.
It was a good talk, and the recorded version is worth watching for artists, designers and anyone who struggles with making their game more enjoyable to interact with. Now, you can watch it for free via the GDC Vault.
Oculus CTO and id Software co-founder John Carmack believes the dawn of widespread mobile VR technology is close. Many game developers agree, and they're scrambling to sort out how to design compelling games and experiences that take advantage of the unique advantages (and shortcomings) of contemporary VR headsets.
At GDC 2015, Carmack offered them some concrete advice by sitting down to chat about the technical details, techniques and strategies you should know to improve the quality of your VR games, applications, and experiences.
He also shared some thoughts on the future of VR, including what it means for the mobile ecosystem, and answered questions from the audience for as long as he could.
As usual, Carmack's talk was thorough, frank and done completely without notes. It was also quite lengthy, and if you missed seeing all 90 minutes of it in person you can now watch it for free over on the GDC Vault.
Procedural generation can be a lifesaver when you need to build a big game with a small team, but building tools that can quickly generate content which conforms to high standards of design is still tricky business.
While there exists a myriad of well-documented algorithms for generating procedural content, the combination and usage of these techniques is far more of an art than a science. At GDC 2015, 17-Bit engineer Zach Aikman explained that many approaches were considered when building procedural levels in the studio's '80s anime space-shooter Galak-Z, and almost as many were rejected.
Aikman discussed a few different failed approaches before presenting a detailed breakdown of Galak-Z's dungeon generator, including its usage of some unorthodox math, and his thoughts on the proper balance between hand-crafted and procedural content.
It was a very thorough, frank talk on the contemporary challenges of this approach to design, and if you missed it in person you can now watch it for free over on the GDC Vault.
How do you design a multiplayer level to support sustained play at a professional level? If you're Valve, you work directly with the people who are ultimately the biggest stakeholders: the players themselves.
As part of the GDC 2015 eSports Summit, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive community level designers Shawn Snelling and Salvatore Garozzo stepped up to speak frankly about the process of building CS:GO levels and how it can inform multiplayer game design at large.
To hear them tell it, modern level designers can learn much from reaching out to expert players and keeping tabs on whether environments are being designed to be functional first and visually appealing second, rather than the other way 'round.
It was an interesting talk, and developers who missed it can now watch it for free over on the GDC Vault.
If Fullbright's 2013 game Gone Home didn't pioneer the genre of first-person exploration games ("walking simulators"), it certainly popularized the term and inspired a host of developers to try their hands at crafting games with narratives that are found, rather than told.
At GDC 2015, Fullbright's Kate Craig and Steve Gaynor took the stage to discuss the techniques they used to breathe life into the lifeless 3D levels that make up Gone Home.
Together they shared approaches for connecting with player psychology and emotion via level layout, design, and decoration.
It was a good talk, rife with best practices for researching and constructing authentic, believable spaces for players to inhabit, and now you can watch it for free over on the GDC Vault.
Developing genuinely novel game mechanics means you often end up navigating more problems than you'd ever anticipated.
During the GDC 2015 Independent Games Summit, Klei designer James Lantz showcased how you might overcome those challenges while discussing the design of Invisible, Inc.'s procedural stealth, from its conception to its conclusion.
His talk covers how Klei approaches new mechanics, and presents examples of how you can fall into every single hidden pitfall, climb your way out, and come out on the other side with something fun.
It's a warm, insightful talk that's indie-focused but broadly applicable to all developers, no matter what you're working on. If you missed it, the video recording is now available to watch for free right here on the GDC Vault.
More than a year passed between the PlayStation 3 release of Naughty Dog's visual showcase The Last Of Us and its revamped PlayStation 4 version The Last Of Us Remastered.
Much of that time was spent getting the studio's engine tech up and running on Sony's new console, and at GDC 2015 Naughty Dog programmer Christian Gyrling gave a detailed walkthrough of the many modifications the team discovered and implemented along the way.
It's a good, deeply technical talk that covers the fiber-based job system Naughty Dog adopted for the game, the overall frame-centric engine design, the memory allocation patterns used in the title, and the studio's strategies for dealing with locks.
Now you can watch the recording of his talk, "Parallelizing the Naughty Dog Engine Using Fibers" right here for free on the GDC Vault.
The groundbreaking 1990 adventure game Loom helped pioneer what would become LucasArts' adventure game design philosophy: that players should never have to deal with dead ends, accidental deaths or forced restarts.
At GDC 2015 Loom designer Brian Moriarty, whose lengthy game development career spans stints at Infocom, Lucasfilm Games/LucasArts and other ventures, delivered an in-depth postmortem of Loom's intriguing development.
The game proved to be a remarkably mature fantasy adventure with an innovative musical interface and a flexible, beginner-friendly design, and Moriarty's talk spanned the entire history of the project, from conception to shipping, together with amusing production anecdotes, little-known facts, and rare artifacts from his personal collection of Lucasfilm memorabilia
It was an excellent talk, and now you can watch a recording of it for free over on the GDC Vault.
Game industry veteran Howard Scott Warshaw took the stage at GDC 2015 to deliver a Classic Game Postmortem of his very first game, the seminal Atari 2600 title Yars' Revenge, and in the process he shared some valuable insight into a pivotal period of game industry history.
Warshaw's efforts at Atari in the '80s helped advance the practice of game design; his work on Raiders of the Lost Ark is one of the earliest examples of highly successful licensed game development, while the unreasonable pressures put upon him to create a game with the E.T. license led to a financial failure that presaged the North American game industry crash of 1983.
He touched on all these topics during his GDC talk, which was predominantly focused on diving deep into his work designing and coding Yars' Revenge, widely believed to be one of the most popular Atari 2600 games.
It was a remarkable talk, and now you can watch a recording of it for free over on the GDC Vault.
Virtual reality game development is a hot button topic, and few studios have been experimenting with VR games longer than Valve.
The firm has been creating advanced prototype VR HMD's since mid-2013, and Valve engineer Alex Vlachos believes that experience has afforded him and his colleagues a ton of unique VR-specific rendering knowledge.
At GDC 2015, Vlachos took the stage to share that knowledge with VR-curious developers and deconstruct the unique rendering challenges that come with VR game development.
Beginning with the basic requirements of VR rendering, Vlachos walked his audience through topics like efficient stereo rendering, reducing rendering latency, constrained anisotropic lighting, and other practical tips and tricks relating directly to VR rendering performance and quality.
It's a fascinating talk that runs down a ton of technical insight in just over an hour, and now you can watch it for free over on the GDC Vault.
Designing and operating a massively multiplayer online game is a Herculean effort in itself -- but how do you rapidly pack it with enough stuff to do that your players don't get bored?
In a talk recorded at GDC Online 2011, BioWare's Georg Zoeller uses Star Wars: The Old Republic to explain how spatial analysis can be used to support a rapid content iteration process during the late stages of MMO development.
He reveals how BioWare's homegrown 'HoloProjector' spatial visualization toolkit is used in day to day development to surface user behavior metrics to The Old Republic's developers for decision making and content validation, then discusses lessons learned by the team and provides information on how to get started with the topic on your own game.
It's a thorough, informative talk that you can now watch for free over on the GDC Vault.
Here's a fun design challenge: How do you make a first-person game that tells a cogent story, while still allowing players to explore and make meaningful choices, without common FPS game mechanics like combat or player death?
Campo Santo aims to do just that with Firewatch, and at GDC 2015 developers Nels Anderson and Jake Rodkin spoke at length about how Firewatch is being built with those objectives in mind.
Level design is the primary focus of their talk, but they also cover world structure, goals and gating, "encounter" design and the technical tools used as they explain where the design of a non-combat exploration game mirrors other first-person games -- and where it differs.
It's a design-centric talk worth watching for all developers -- especially those working on first-person experiences -- and now you can do just that for free here on the GDC Vault.
Veteran programmer Michael Abrash currently serves as Chief Scientist at Oculus VR, but he didn't always work on virtual reality; from Valve to Microsoft to id to Rad Game Tools, Abrash's long career has spanned multiple corners of both the video game and computer graphics industry.
At GDC 2000, Abrash took the stage after a two-year sabbatical from games with a new appreciation for the beauty of game programming and new perspectives on some key areas.
He delivered a thoughtful talk on what he'd learned over nearly two decades of performance-oriented game and graphics programming, and how that time away from the field helped him understand what makes games programming such an exciting and idiosyncratic field.
The recording of his talk has been digitally preserved for posterity, and now you can watch it for yourself right here for free on the GDC Vault.
When Creative Assembly set out to make Alien: Isolation, creative director Alistair Hope claims the goal was to make "the Alien game we had always wanted to play" -- a game that emulated the original film's "mise-en-scène" of a haunted house in space, where just one enemy could be terrifying, and provide meaningful encounters to an underpowered and underprepared player.
At GDC 2015, Hope took the stage to discuss how the studio went about designing such a game and share the story of how Alien: Isolation's developers overcame their own fears and uncertainties during development.
He also plotted the journey from initial vision through the studio's practical design efforts, paying special attention to the design of the game's visual and aural landscapes and how they evoke dread.
If you missed it in person, Hope's "Building Fear in Alien: Isolation" talk is now available to watch for free via the GDC Vault.
Most people have great ideas for games -- how do you go about taking those ideas and turning them into a full-fledged release?
During the recent GDC 2015 Independent Games Summit, Ivy Games lead developer Erin Robinson shared her experiences developing her charming physics-based puzzler Gravity Ghost from a simple idea to a complete, critically-acclaimed game.
It was a good talk that provided developers a detailed breakdown of the many design decisions necessary for turning an experimental gravity mechanic into a full, well-rounded game. Robinson explained how she dealt with frequently abandoning ideas that didn't work, learning what to listen for when playtesting, and staying true to a central theme in every aspect of the art, design, and story.
The video of her talk is now available to watch for free via the GDC Vault.
At GDC last month Fred Ford and Paul Reiche III, the game design duo who cofounded the venerable Toys For Bob 25 years ago, delivered a classic postmortem on their influential 1990 space adventure series Star Control.
As one of the first games to place players in command a starship and allow them to chart their own course -- either alone or with a friend -- in a remarkably well-realized virtual galaxy, Star Control and its many sequels blazed a trail that many game developers still follow today.
Speaking onstage at GDC 2015 with writer/developer Rob Dubbin, the Star Control creators spoke at length about the influences that inspired their design and the challenges they faced during development. It was an insightful, candid talk, and now you can watch it for free via the GDC Vault.
80 Days writer Meg Jayanth believes a game-writer is often seen as a fixer, and the story as a tool to explain mechanics and motivation.
But as part of the GDC 2015 Independent Games Summit, Jayanth spoke about how stories can do much more for players, and for the games themselves.
Drawing on her experience as the writer of the critically-acclaimed 80 Days, she made an argument for the collaborative process she used in conjunction with Inkle Studios to build a machine for telling stories, and how indies in particular are ideally placed to create game stories which engage, surprise, discomfit and delight players.
It was a good talk, and now you can watch it for free via the GDC Vault.
Veteran programmer, designer and The Learning Company founder Warren Robinett took to the stage at GDC 2015 last month to deliver a thorough, engaging postmortem on the creation of his hit 1979 game Adventure for the Atari 2600 console.
If you're not familiar with the game, know that Adventure is particularly notable for (among other things) being one of the first graphical action-adventure games ever released.
Adventure also contained one of the earliest known "Easter eggs" ever hidden in a game by a designer -- in this case, a hidden screen revealing Atari employee Robinett's name and authorship at a time when Atari was unwilling to publicly credit game makers for their work.
Thus his efforts to create Adventure meaningfully advanced both the practice of game development and the fight for developers to be recognized for their work. His talk on the topic was excellent, and you can watch it right now for free via the GDC Vault.
Games often draw inspiration from big-budget summer blockbusters, but in the long history of film and theater there lies a wealth of other genres and techniques that developers can learn from.
For example, Cardboard Computer's Tamas Kemenczy took to the stage during the GDC 2014 Independent Games Summit to deliver an intriguing talk about the the environment design and cinematography of Kentucky Route Zero that delves into his studio's use of theatrical stagecraft and "slow cinema" in game design.
Borrowing the lens of scenography, Kemenczy runs down some notable set designs, architecture, and filmmakers that influenced Kentucky Route Zero's art direction, and how the game balances mood, realism and the mundane through its various set pieces.
Now you can watch his talk right here for free via the GDC Vault.
What's the best way to go about building all the in-game content you need to sell in a free-to-play game?
Speaking at GDC 2014, Valve's Bronwen Grimes says that the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive team faced two huge challenges in doing just that.
First, they needed to create enough content to satisfy over a million players with only two artists. Second, they had to figure out what their players valued -- and what they would pay for.
Her talk illuminated how Valve's CS:GO team reduced their content creation time so they could focus on design, and shed light on what makes a free-to-play game economy successful.
Watch it now for free via the GDC Vault.
What goes into making a cult hit?
At GDC 2014 Taro Yoko, director of games like Nier and the Drakengard series, talked about the process he uses to create worlds and stories that get noticed and foster dedicated fans.
Recounting his experiences on those games and others, Yoko explained his personal development methods, such as backwards scriptwriting (where the ending defines the entire setting), and what he calls "photo thinking" -- thinking photographically to maintain a cohesive setting.
His "Making Weird Games For Weird People" talk is worth watching, and you can do so right now for free (with live English translation) over on the GDC Vault.
Japanese speakers may also appreciate this untranslated version of Yoko's presentation.
Romantic relationships between lead characters are a staple of role-playing games, dating sims and other titles; for some players, they're the most memorable part of the story.
But veteran writer Chris Dahlen believes that developers have been exploring the most basic models of building affinity between characters for so long that the results are getting predictable.
During the GDC 2014 Narrative Summit, Dahlen took to the stage to explore new models that introduce more surprise, tension and challenge, taking lessons especially from romantic comedy films.
It's a talk worth watching for all developers intent on crafting compelling character relationships in their games, and you can do so right now for free on the GDC Vault.
Prior to launching Infinifactory this year, developer Zach Barth was perhaps best known for SpaceChem, a design-based puzzle game about fake science and cosmic horror.
At GDC 2013 Barth dug into the differences between SpaceChem and other puzzle games, offered advice on how to make your own design-based puzzles, and demonstrated how to build community features around them.
It's a good, timeless talk that also includes cautionary tales from the development of SpaceChem regarding appeal, difficulty, and tutorial design.
Barth also covers rapid-fire, post-launch insights and sales data, and now you can watch the video of his talk for free courtesy of the GDC Vault.
Game worlds with touch interfaces are everywhere, but is it possible to build a world you can feel with your fingertips?
With Tearaway, Media Molecule set out to build a digital papercraft adventure that you can hold in your hands, and interact with, in a uniquely tactile way on Playstation Vita.
At GDC 2013, Tearaway creative lead Rex Crowle described the challenges of designing and building a world that can flex, fold, tear and crumple under the fingertips of players.
He also explained in detail how the team designed digital tools to allow the game world to be built so realistically that it can be spooled out of any printer and remade in real paper as players progress on that journey.
It's a talk worth watching, and you can do so right now for free via the GDC Vault.
The art in SimCity has a big job to do.
According to EA's Ocean Quigley, it's providing the player with a toolkit for city creation, it's enabling the illusion of a living city, and it's showing the player what's going on in the underlying simulation.
At GDC 2013, Quigley spoke in detail about the motivations that drove SimCity's aesthetics and the methods that were developed to achieve them.
He also described the techniques that were used to make SimCity's dynamically composable world, and the techniques that were used for authoring the buildings, vehicles, networks, and Sims that populate it in his talk, "Building SimCity: Art in the Service of Simulation", which you can watch right now for free via the GDC Vault.
As part of the GDC 2014 Independent Games Summit, 22cans founder and industry veteran Peter Molyneux talked through his ideas of connecting millions of people together as a newly-independent developer who "grew up indie."
He shared some learnings gleaned from Curiosity: What's Inside the Cube?, the Steam early access debut of Godus, and how they fed into his attempt to re-invent the god game genre with Godus.
He also spoke a bit about why he chose to leave Microsoft and found 22cans in the first place, addressing the "creatively energizing" risks of being an indie developer.
Plus, Molyneux ruminated a bit on how the experience of working in big AAA teams shaped him into the (indie) designer that he is today during his talk, which you can watch right now for free here on the GDC Vault.
From Cave Story to Guacamelee! and Axiom Verge, the long-running "Metroidvania" genre of 2D action/adventure platformers continues to exert an undying allure upon both developers and players.
At GDC 2014, veteran designer Koji Igarashi examined the evolution of the Metroidvania genre through the lens of his own experience working on some of its most iconic games in a talk entitled "There and Back Again: Koji Igarashi's Metroidvania Tale."
Igarashi's talk spanned the genre's beginnings with 8-bit classics like Metroid, through its rebirth via Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and the many games that have since been released in the series, right up to the current generation of console hardware.
Igarashi also shared some of his own personal experiences and his game design methodology during the talk, which you can watch (translated into English) right now for free here on the GDC Vault.
China-based Reality Square Games has seen remarkably growth in the past three years, expanding from rural central China to modern Shanghai on the strength of its work as a game localizer and operator, and at GDC 2014 Reality Squared's Shaun Newcomer shared lessons learned along the way.
From gameplay to monetization, linguistics to UI/UX, Newcomer explained how foreign developers can tackle the challenges of Chinese game localization and shared an insider's perspective on the nature of China's game market.
His talk, "Journey to the West: A Chinese Game Localization Primer", is now available to watch for free via the GDC Vault.
At GDC 2014, a panel of Brazilian game makers offered insight into how the Brazilian indie game development scene operates, how you can nurture a game development culture in a region where it doesn't exist, and why it's important for the health of the industry to do so.
Their talk, "Emerging Communities: A Snapshot of the Brazilian Indie Game Development Scene", is now available to watch for free via the GDC Vault.
Over two decades ago, in the middle of a firestorm of criticism against video games caused by the release of Mortal Kombat, Ernest Adams asked several friends to help him set up a professional society for game developers.
He didn't want it to be a union or a trade association, and he knew it would be a tough sell to traditionally independent-minded game makers.
At GDC 2014, Adams took a wry and humorous look back over the 20-year history of the International Game Developers Association with reflections on what went wrong, what went right, how in some ways it has exceeded his wildest dreams, and why he sees it to be more valuable than ever as our industry continues to evolve.
"Herding Cats Doesn't Begin to Describe It: Reflections on 20 Years of the IGDA" proved to be an interesting talk, and now you can watch it right here for free on the GDC Vault.
Contemporary game development quality assurance tends to involve players predominantly in beta testing, with some productions getting players to test alpha builds as well.
That works well enough, but crowdsourcing researcher Jedrzej Czarnota believes far more beneficial applications of players' skills and ability can be found beyond the simple toolkit approach.
Based on extensive research on games like EVE Online, Czarnota detailed some advanced QA approaches as part of the GDC 2014 QA Summit, and offered developers practical advice on how and why to implement them.
Now you can watch his talk, "Harnessing Your Players as a QA Resource: Benefits and Practice", right here for free on the GDC Vault.
At GDC 2014's Localization Summit an indie developer and an experienced game localizer gave a great talk on localization using the indie game Expeditions: Conquistador as a case study.
Their brief talk offers key info that indie game developers should know about localization, like: how much does it cost? Will you recoup the investment of the localization? What's the best way to go about it?
Now you can watch their talk, "Indie Game Localization: Is It Worth It?" right here for free on the GDC Vault.
The game industry is evolving at a breakneck pace, and every aspect of game development needs to keep pace or risk being left behind.
Quality Assurance teams are no exception, and at GDC 2014 a panel of QA experts from across the industry (Blizzard, Riot, Microsoft, Sony and more) came together to share lessons learned and offer advice on how game developers can take their QA efforts to the next level.
Now you can watch it right here for free on the GDC Vault.
Designing, developing, distributing and publishing games is perhaps one of the riskiest businesses around.
But you don't have to be a finance droid to make a few effective changes to your operation that will give you a better chance of long-term sustainability, and therefore, more creative freedom.
At GDC Next 2014, SuperData CEO Joost van Dreunen identifed the major stumbling blocks that game companies face, and examined how others have either overcome or succumbed to them to help developers stay in business while pursuing their passions. You can watch it now right here for free on the GDC Vault
Developing in public via Kickstarter or Steam's Early Access service is a new challenge for many developers, but French indie developer Amplitude Studios has been actively courting input from its fans for years.
According to Amplitude's Jeff Spock, the studio now shipped three games (one of which, Endless Space, won the 2013 Unity Award) while keeping its community fully involved in design, balancing, development priorities and feature suggestions.
Real talk about financing options, development planning, community recruitment and marketing make his "Bringing the Community into the Dev Team - A Look into Open Development" talk worth watching (for free!) via the GDC Vault.
Making a game is hard enough, but how do you take your idea for a game and successfully take it from concept art to finished product?
Every developer's path is different, and each holds valuable learnings for the industry. At GDC Next 2014, Three One Zero founders Adam Orth, Omar Aziz and independent artist Hogarth de la Plante went in-depth on the unorthodox development process that took Three One Zero's current game project ADR1FT from a concept on paper to a unique game/VR prototype to a publishing deal with 505 Games in the span of five months.
"Ten Weeks, Three Guys, One Shot: Taking ADR1FT from Concept to Publishing Deal" is a good talk that clearly details how they set goals at the beginning of the process, how they achieved them, and everything they learned in-between. Watch it here for free on the GDC Vault.
To hear Drinkbox Studios' Chris McQuinn tell it, a key quandary facing all developers is: how can you best maximize your game's exposure while spending "X" marketing dollars?
Speaking at the 2014 Game Developers Conference, McQuinn sought to help answer that question by running down how Drinkbox went about trying to get the word out about its first game, Tales From Space: About A Blob, the lessons it learned from doing so, and how it went on to apply those lessons towards partnering with PR firms to market its second and third (more successful) games, Mutant Blobs Attack and Guacamelee!
The talk, 'Indie Game Public Relations: 5 Years of Painful Lessons' is available to watch here on the GDC Vault.