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.
Meaningful choice is one of the staples of good and compelling game design, but as a concept it's still poorly understood and rarely explored in detail, especially through the lens of level design.
s part of the GDC 2014 "Level Design In A Day" series of talks, 2K Games' Matthias Worch (former lead designer of the cancelled Star Wars 1313) took a deeper look at choice in games: why it is important, how it ties into the psychological underpinnings of why we play games, and how it connects to other fundamental concepts of game design like the space of possibility, motivation, player agency and the actual level design of a game.
The talk, 'Decisions That Matter - Meaningful Choice in Game and Level Design' is available to watch here on the GDC Vault.
Eugene Jarvis, the influential game designer best known for his work creating seminal arcade titles like Defender and Smash TV, delivered an upbeat classic game postmortem of his work on Robotron: 2084 at GDC 2014.
Jarvis, who currently serves as president and cofounder of the Raw Thrills arcade game studio, spoke at length about the creation of the arcade classic and revealed some interesting insight into the play mechanics, hardware, software, enemy dynamics and sound synthesis of Robotron.
His talk, 'Classic Game Postmortem: Robotron: 2084' is available to watch here on the GDC Vault.
NYU Game Center director Frank Lantz sees a deep schism in the contemporary world between rationality and emotion, reason and intuition, logic and feeling.
Games can actually offer us deep insight into this conflict, and at GDC 2014 Lantz spoke at length about how developers can study and create games that explore the gap.
The talk, 'Hearts and Minds' is available to watch here on the GDC Vault.
As more and more games are free-to-play or released to the public in alpha status, it's more important than ever for game makers to nurture long-lasting communities around their work so they can continue to thrive long after release.
Professional eSports broadcaster Sean "Day" Plott has managed to build a thriving audience for his work over the last five years, and at GDC 2014 he gave an excellent business-minded talk guiding developers through the principles he uses to stay connected and relevant to his audience.
The talk, 'Keeping a Community for Five Years: The Story of DayTV' is available to watch here on the GDC Vault.
The critical and commercial success of Bioshock Infinite owes much to the work Irrational Games did in modeling, animating and scripting the companion character Elizabeth.
Shawn Robertson served as animation director on the project, and at GDC 2014 he took the stage to explain in remarkable detail how the character design of Elizabeth evolved throughout the game's development and ultimately involved someone from every department of Irrational.
The talk, 'Creating Bioshock Infinite's Elizabeth' is available to watch here on the GDC Vault.
Game designer and GDC speaker Raph Koster hustled indie developers Adam Saltsman (Canabalt), Rami Ismail (Luftrausers) and Zach Gage (SpellTower) into a room at GDC Next earlier this year to ask them a series of questions about a central concern: how can a contemporary indie game maker stand out and get their games noticed in a market that grows more crowded by the day?
Their recommendations span the gamut, from adopting an eclectic style to taking advantage of indie-focused real-world events and subverting traditional grassroots marketing tactics.
The talk, 'Indie Grassroots Marketing' is available to watch here on the GDC Vault.
The story of how Ubisoft Montreal discovered Child of Light's iconic look is convoluted, and during a GDC talk earlier this year creative director Patrick Plourde walked through it from concept art to final product.
Using artwork, concept art and behind-the-scenes footage, Plourde goes through the various steps the team took to achieve its unique watercolor art style, covering the various successes and failures faced throughout the process.
His talk, 'The Art of Child of Light' is available to watch here on the GDC Vault.
Super Time Force, Capy Games' time-bending 2D puzzle-shooter, tackles several unusual design challenges that are probably familiar to you if you've ever worked on a game with time travel.
Capy Games' Kenneth Yeung addressed these issues and offered a first-hand look at the development of Super Time Force during a talk on the topic at the GDC 2014 Independent Games Summit.
His talk, 'Super Time Force: Solving the Time Travel Paradox' is available to watch here on the GDC Vault.
Rockstar North's Alastair MacGregor gave an excellent talk at GDC earlier this year that offered some fascinating insight into the audio design of Grand Theft Auto V, one of the most high-profile and heavily-produced games of 2013.
MacGregor ran down the audio production technologies and processes used by Rockstar North's audio team to replicate a realistic city environment, explaining how the techniques used to acoustically model Grand Theft Auto V's Liberty City evolved from the studio's earlier work on Red Dead Redemption and other Rockstar titles.
His talk, 'The Sound of Grand Theft Auto V' is available to watch here on the GDC Vault.
Nightclubs, libraries, art festivals -- these aren't typically places you'll find video games, but London-based Wild Rumpus organizer Marie Foulston believes they should be, and she explained why as part of a GDC 2014 panel on curating culture through video game events featuring a number of cutting-edge game event organizers.
It's worth watching, as these events are potentially bringing your games to new audiences, helping to build a more diverse, playful culture and community, and furthering the dialogue around games as an artistic medium.
The talk, 'Curating Video Game Culture: The New Wave of Video Game Events' is available to watch here on the GDC Vault.
In recent years, accessibility has exploded for the more than 20 percent of game enthusiasts with disabilities alongside the establishment of new design patterns for disabled players, rising awareness of the issue and a and broader customer base for developers who make accessible games.
But we're not perfect, and there are some common pitfalls in developing games for disabled players that all game makers should understand.
Expert Ian Hamilton spoke about the topic at GDC 2014 earlier this year, sharing lessons learned from when accessible game development hasn't gone well, and examples of success stories - both human benefit stories and examples of business cases.
His talk, 'Accessibility: Lessons Learned from Designing for Gamers with Disabilities' is available to watch here on the GDC Vault.
Ten days before launching SteamWorld Dig last August, Brjann Sigurgeirsson and his team at Image & Form thought they had a great game -- but only vague ideas on how to market it.
SteamWorld Dig went on to become an indie hit, and a year later Sigurgeirsson took the stage during the 2014 GDC Europe Independent Games Summit to deliver a postmortem on how it happened.
Watch "SteamWorld Dig Postmortem: How to Fail and Still Succeed at Launching an Indie Sensation" here on the GDC Vault.
Developers, how do you find the perfect art style for your game? Does the art serve the gameplay, or vice versa?
Veteran 3D game artist Luis Antonio believes it's important to think about your art direction only after you nail down the core mechanics and goal of your game. Doing so allows you to zero in on exactly what you need to show the player to best accentuate the experience of playing your game.
As part of a behind-the-scenes look at his role in the art creation process for Jonathan Blow's upcoming puzzle game The Witness, Antonio spoke at GDC 2014 about how important it is for developers to pare down the "noise" in their games and develop art styles that are clear, readable and subservient to the player experience.
Watch "The Art of The Witness" here on the GDC Vault.
Earlier this year, game industry veteran Ste Curran gave an impassioned presentation about the seemingly unending litany of fatal threats to the game industry as part of the Independent Games Summit at GDC Europe 2014.
There's no simple way to succintly sum up Curran's talk, but it's worth watching in full by anyone who works in development and seeks some small measure of catharsis.
Watch "Killing the Games Industry [Abridged]" here on the GDC Vault.
From Mario to Gone Home, video games have explored the concept of love in many different ways. But what happens when love is on the other side of the screen?
By drawing on experiences and examples of partnership in life and the creative industry, Claudia Molinari and Matteo Pozzi of We Are Muesli (Cave! Cave! Deus Videt) gave a talk at the GDC Europe 2014 Independent Games Summit about why and how love can impact independent game development in terms of workflow, project management, design choices and reciprocal inspiration.
Watch "All You Need Is L.O.V.E. - Indie Couples in Game Development" here on the GDC Vault.
Two years ago, independent developers Martin Jonasson and Petri Purho (Jesus vs. Dinosaurs), argued that one of the the best ways to make a satisfying game is to make it "juicy" -- the "juicier" your game is, the more fun it will be to play, as they explained in their "Juice It Or Lose It" talk at GDC Europe 2012.
Sets and Settings developer Folmer Kelly thinks that approach has value, but also significant weaknesses. He gave a talk at the GDC Europe Independent Games Summit this year in which he countered the "Juice It Or Lose It" philosophy of design by suggesting that while adding polish makes a game feel more alive, we're actually losing a level of immersion.
Watch "Don't Juice It Or Lose It" here on the GDC Vault.
This year marked the debut of the GDC Europe Innovative Games Showcase, a curated exhibition of innovative or experimental games, with 10 micropresentations from indie developers about diverse and new ways to demonstrate gameplay, art style, play style or anything in between.
Coordinating and MC-ing the showcase was game designer Jonatan Van Hove, who was part of a panel of judges that selected games like Metrico, Bounden, Perfect Woman, Gang Beasts and more to be featured in the inaugural showcase session.
Speakers in this hour-long GDC Europe 2014 panel include: Thijmen Bink, James Brown, Michael Brown, Adriaan de Jongh, Sherida Halatoe, Eliott Johnson, Eline Muijres, Geert Nellen, Leonard Ritter, Sylvia Ritter, Lea Schoenfelder, Luke Spierewka, Jonatan Van Hove, Matthew Warshaw, and Andreas Zecher.
Watch "The 2014 European Innovative Games Showcase" here on the GDC Vault.
Indie developer, Train Jam organizer and former satellite engineer Adriel Wallick gave herself a simple challenge: make a game a week, every week, in order to stay motivated and learn as much as possible by trying -- and often failing -- to make many games.
As part of the Independent Games Summit at GDC Europe 2014, Wallick spoke about what inspired her to embark on the project and what she learned from the experience. To hear her tell it, making a game a week taught her valuable lessons about both the technical side of making games and the emotional impact of releasing creations.
Watch "Game a Week: How to Succeed, Fail and Learn" here on the GDC Vault.
Ubisoft designer James Everett says he faced some tricky challenges when he started work on Splinter Cell: Blacklist, chief among them the problem of making players feel like they're a modern military professional.
Series protagonist Sam Fisher is a weapons expert with decades of experience under fire; for players, Everett believes this should translate to gunplay which feels precise, crisp and almost surgical -- so long as they can keep their cool. Focusing on the research and design for Splinter Cell: Blacklist, Everett game a thoughtful GDC 2014 talk exploing low-level gunplay mechanics in third-person action adventure games.
Watch "Modernizing Splinter Cell's Gunplay" here on the GDC Vault.
In this talk from GDC 2014, game industry consultant Ben Cousins examines the morality of all past and present games industry business models and tries to answer three questions: Is free-to-play inherently more unethical than other business models? Are there any changes we need to make as an industry to avoid unwanted government meddling? Is there a template we can apply to a game while it is in development to make sure that it doesn't cross any unwanted ethical boundaries?
Watch "Is Your Business Model Evil? The Moral Maze of the New Games Business" here on the GDC Vault.
Developers, how do you make your next project stand out in an increasingly crowded mobile game market?
One solution might be to make your game as little like a "traditional" mobile game as possible. Speaking at GDC Europe 2014, Monument Valley lead designer Ken Wong reveals how the impossible art of M.C. Escher and being embedded in a UX studio led ustwo games to create a unique, highly successful mobile game in which every screen was a piece of art.
Watch "Designing Monument Valley: Less Game, More Experience" here on the GDC Vault.
In today's market, many companies are trying to find success by emulating the ideas and methods of others; but Paradox Interactive CEO Fredrik Wester believes the path to true success lies in daring to stand out, following your craziest ideas, and incorporating those ideas into every facet of your game.
Speaking at GDC Europe 2014, Wester explained the business advantages of originality, how to find and express your vision, why passion is unclonable, and the power of community -- based on his experiences leading Paradox (Europa Universalis IV, Magicka) through a decade of independent success.
Watch "Clash of Clones: The Importance of Standing Out" here on the GDC Vault.
Charles Cecil, the influential British game designer best known for his work creating seminal adventure games like the Broken Sword franchise and Beneath A Steel Sky, recently delivered an engaging Classic Game Postmortem talk on seminal '90s adventure game Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars at GDC Europe 2014.
If you're not familiar with the name, know that Cecil is a game industry veteran who has released a string of award-winning adventure titles and earning a number of top honors, including an appointment to Member of the Order of the British Empire in 2011. Cecil currently serves as the managing director of Revolution Software, the venerable U.K. game development studio he co-founded in 1990.
During his presentation, Cecil speaks about his work writing and directing Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars, the award-winning 1996 adventure game that developers at studios like Telltale Games (The Walking Dead) cite as a
Watch "Classic Game Postmortem: Broken Sword" here on the GDC Vault.
Early access is fast becoming a dominant force in video game development.
From independent studios to huge, publisher-backed AAA titles, opening up a game to players ahead of its official launch provides real benefits across design, QA, marketing and more. However, these rewards come at a cost.
Using a range of examples from the development of Arma 3 -- from its public alpha to its beta, final release, and post-launch support -- Bohemia Interactive creative director James Crowe examines the failures and successes of his studio's early access strategy in this GDC Europe 2014 talk. Crowe also suggests some techniques that can be used by other developers to perfect their own plans.
Watch "A Great Disturbance in Development: The Dark Side of Early Access" here on the GDC Vault.
The ever-popular #1ReasonToBe GDC panel, inspired by the #1ReasonWhy and #1ReasonToBe hashtagged discussions that erupted across social media in 2013, is a rapid, fun microtalk-style celebration and exploration of how the game industry treats with gender and why alternative voices matter.
The panel made its European debut at GDC Europe earlier this year, where it was hosted by industry veterans Brenda Romero and Leigh Alexander. Panelists included European industry members like Annakaisa Kultima, Auriea Harvey, Zuraida Buter, Henrike (aka Riker Lode) and Siobhan Reddy. Each panelist shared their experience, its highs and lows, and explored their vision for a future industry that is inclusive for all..
Watch "#1ReasonToBe: A Celebration of Diversity in the Industry" here on the GDC Vault.
"If you don't have YouTube videos with people showing off optimal layouts of their city or restaurant, then you don't have smart depth. The best example of having smart depth is people starting to share a picture of 'Hey, take a look at how smart I was.'"
Speaking as part of the Social Games Summit at GDC Europe 2011, Wooga studio head Henric Suuronen shared some interesting insight into how developers can create engaging game loops in games that are meant to be social.
Watch "Killer Game Loops in Social Games" here on the GDC Vault.
"The future of games is emotions, of course, but it's also meaning. Can we create games that have something to say?"
In this presentation from GDC Europe 2013, Quantic Dream director David Cage explains the visual art techniques used to create his last tech demo, The Dark Sorcerer, and his most recent title, Beyond: Two Souls.
Watch "The Dark Sorcerer and Beyond: Shooting, Directing and Filming Virtual Actors" here on the GDC Vault.
"Whenever revolution cools into evolution, then both technology and culture turn up the burner to try and bring things back to a boil."
Ubisoft's Steven Masters delivers a design-centric GDC Europe 2013 presentation on a simple topic: how do you approach the practical challenges of designing an Assassin's Creed game?
Watch "This Time It's Different: Treasures and Traps in the Next Gen Transition" here on the GDC Vault.
"You do need to have a curator, but to ignore the creative power of your team is just nuts."
Ubisoft's Steven Masters delivers a design-centric GDC Europe 2013 presentation on a simple topic: how do you approach the practical challenges of designing an Assassin's Creed game?
Watch "Designing Assassin's Creed III" here on the GDC Vault.
"To reproduce the real world, you need to study the real world."
In this talk, Hideo Kojima and the Kojima Productions staff took the stage at GDC 2013 to spend nearly 90 minutes demonstrating and explaining the workflow and development process of Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes on the Fox Engine.
Watch "Photorealism Through the Eyes of a FOX: The Core of Metal Gear Solid Ground Zeroes" here on the GDC Vault.
"Talk to other people. Don't just have your one lesbian friend that you base everything off of."
Drawing on the expertise of game designers, writers, critics and scholars, this GDC 2014 panel offers suggestions on how developers can, in a number of small and easy ways, work LGBTQ characters and themes into their work. Each panelist -- Samantha Allen, Mattie Brice, Todd Harper, Christine Love and Zoe Quinn -- offers their own practical advice to developers looking to make their games more inclusive and more representative of the world at large.
Watch "How to Subversively Queer Your Work" here on the GDC Vault.
"There is no person who needs to learn business more than the most passionate, artistic, sensitive game designer -- because they're the ones I really want to see running things."
In this GDC 2013 IGDA-sponsored talk the 'EA_Spouse' herself, Erin Hoffman, looks back on how conversations about work-life balance in the game industry since 2004, and what it all might mean for the future.
Watch "The Right Side of the Ocean: EA_Spouse Then and Now" here on the GDC Vault.
"Our games are creating a rich, productive, happy world -- but only for players who know what they're doing."
In this GDC 2013 IGDA-sponsored talk, author and game designer Jane McGonigal reminds developers that their games really do affect the lives of their players and gives design advice to ensure those effects are positive.
Watch "There Is No Escape: Designing Games for Maximum Real-life Impact" here on the GDC Vault.
"The reality is that what we need is a way to reframe the uses and understandings of games so that [attacking them] doesn't work anymore."
In this GDC 2013 IGDA-sponsored panel discussion, Georgia Institute of Technology professor Ian Bogost joined ex-Epic Games executive Mike Capps and IGDA representative Daniel Greenberg to argue against public misconceptions about games -- and what we in the industry can do to counter them.
Watch "Scapegoats No More: Improving the Public Image of Games" here on the GDC Vault.
"Trying to fix a complex system by adding more complexity is going to kick your ass. It's a bad approach."
In this GDC 2014 talk, CCP Games' Matt Woodward explores how "Crimewatch," EVE Online's policing and aggression management system, got into such a bad state that an unofficial moratorium was placed on further development -- and how his team went about redesigning it.
Watch "Crimewatch 2.0: Redesigning EVE Online's Player Policing System" here on the GDC Vault.
"Forcing people to control what they can't see felt like the ultimate taboo in game development."
In this GDC 2014 session, director Yuki Ikeda runs through every aspect of Rain's production, covering everything from the initial planning phases, the selection of the Unity engine and the art production style, to the issues they faced with narrative and game design, as well as the results of their unique marketing efforts.
"Okay, let's get right to the core: Let's analyze why Final Fantasy XIV failed."
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is a game worth studying, if only for the fact that it's proven to be a markedly successful relaunch of the Final Fantasy XIV MMORPG Square Enix debuted in 2010 to disastrous critical and commercial response.
Director Naoki Yoshida spoke at length about the experience this year during GDC 2014, analyzing the causes of the game's initial failure and disclosing some of the behind-the-scenes decisions that led Square Enix to take the game down and relaunch it in 2013. Yoshida also delved into the practical dangers of hubris, the challenges of developing a contemporary PC/console MMORPG in a relatively short timeframe, and the rapidly-shifting landscape of online game business models.
"If you raise your ARPU too high, players will not last very long. When the ARPU is high, we intentionally give away items so it's not too high -- and I don't think this is something other publishers were doing."
Puzzle & Dragons has reaped remarkable profits for developer GungHo Online, and during GDC 2014 the game's executive producer (and GungHo CEO) Kazuki Morishita took the stage to give a polite, measured look back at how the game was designed to entice players while generating sustainable profit.
Morishita led his audience through the game's early development, explaining how GungHo Online found success in the Japanese mobile market several years ago and then capitalized on that success to stoke the average revenue per Puzzle & Dragons player without burning them out -- a delicate balancing act, as it turns out. Morishita also looked ahead to the future of the Puzzle & Dragons franchise, and the company's approach to game development in the wake of F2P gaining traction in the West. at the beginning of the game's development and its exciting journey up until now.
"If you decide against sexualizing your male characters, be very honest about what's going on with your female characters."
The sexualization of female characters is a controversial topic in the game industry, but their counterparts, sexualized male characters are rarely discussed, and even more rarely created. Writer Michelle Clough gave an excellent talk addressing the subject during the GDC 2014 Narrative Summit in which she examines desirable men in video games, how they contrast with current trends in male character design, and how they can create a more welcoming atmosphere for straight women, gay men and others.
Clough also delved into non-Western cultural standards and shared practical advice on how developers can move beyond "male gaze" when writing male characters while avoiding "equal objectification" in an effort to better equip writers and designers to make exciting, evocative games.
Watch "Fewer Tifas, or More Sephiroths? Male Sexualization in Games " here on the GDC Vault.
"This was a way of saying 'we know what you're doing. We're playing back with you, not by AI dodging when you shoot a bullet, but by winking and nodding at you.'"
During GDC 2014 The Fullbright Company's Steve Gaynor gave a great talk addressing questions -- raised in part by the success of Gone Home -- of what makes a game, how interactivity and player agency provide meaning, and what design philosophy and specific techniques the Fullbright Company used to create an interactive experience that resonated deeply with players and critics alike.
Gaynor also spoke to how classical definitions of games and play inform modern video game design, how the design philosophy of immersive simulations can be broadly applied across genres to foster player engagement, and how a focus on accessibility can bring their games to new and vital audiences. Watch the free video of "Why Is Gone Home A Game?" here on the GDC Vault.
"Ugly drawings have the best personality. The goal of the drawing is to communicate, not to look pretty."
To hear Drinkbox Studios' Augusto Quijano tell it, the process of coming up with an art style that uniquely communicates a whole country's rich culture can be daunting. But that's exactly what Drinkbox set out to do with Guacamelee, a vibrant 2D platformer that attempted to build a world out of a country's cultural heritage.
Quijano is responsible for the art design of the game, and in his GDC 2014 talk he tried to give insight into the development process and how Drinkbox tried created a Mexico that feels authentic. However, this process is never done in a straight line, so the talk will show some of those
It's a good talk, one that covers some of the wrong turns and "not-so-pretty winding paths" that Drinkbox during development of Guacamelee and is therefore worth watching for artists and anyone who seeks to make a visually distinctive game. Watch "The Art of Making Guacamelee! -- From Folklore to Finish" for free here on the GDC Vault.
"How many artists find themselves modeling basically the same pair of boots ten times during the course of a project?"
With the increasing complexity and fidelity of character design, generating high-quality assets that players can use to customize their characters seems to be a growing challenge facing many game developers.
Destiny art lead Scott Shepeherd gave an excellent talk at GDC 2014 that focuses on the tools and process Bungie built to create a large variety of complex character content for Destiny. Shepherd details the creation of a customization system that makes the most out of the art created, allows for continued growth and expandability over the lifetime of the franchise, and gives artists the ability to make strong visual impacts quickly and easily.
"Building customizable characters for Destiny" is available to watch for free here on the GDC Vault.
"We live in a time when a young black child can envisage becoming the president of the United States or a CEO of a Fortune 500 company, but not a game developer. Even the indie scene has a huge problem with diversity."
One of the most popular sessions of the annual GDC Independent Games Summit is often the Indie Soapbox, in which ten speakers take the stage one after another to present a six-minute microtalk about an issue they're passionate about that affects indie development. The speaker lineup typically features a diverse array of industry professionals, and this year was no exception: the Indie Soapbox at GDC 2014 featured excellent microtalks from Robin Hunicke, Leigh Alexander, Zoe Quinn, Ryan Clark, Shawn Alexander Allen, Zach Gage and more on everything from challenging the status quo of the game industry to meeting the challenge of remaining creative as a new parent.
If you missed it during the show, the entire session is now available for everyone to watch -- free of charge -- on the Vault.
"[Our] group of players really surpassed all expectation in getting something deep and meaningful out of a 80 by 60 resolution video game."
Game developer and educator Pippin Barr gave a thought-provoking talk earlier this year about what game makers can learn from collaborating with artists in other fields, citing examples drawn from Barr's own experience creating a game -- Digital Marina Abramovic Institute -- as a virtual facsimile of the real Marina Abramovic Institute performance art space.
Barr took time to walk attendees through the ways in which he tried to replicate the body and the spirit of performance artist Abramovic's work in a game, and how that experience helped him better understand himself and his own work, in a 15-minute presentation given during the GDC 2014 Independent Games Summit as part of an hour-long session titled "Creatrilogy: Three Talks Exploring Indie Game Creativity."
You can see Barr's 15-minute talk, "The Game Designer is Present: Collaborating with Mariana Abramovic," free on the GDC Vault.
"If the buddy could jump out of cover and give you away, you could see the YouTubers saying 'fuck you, Ellie.' At that point, we'd broken the relationship between Ellie and the player, and that's something we never wanted to do."
Max Dyckhoff is part of the Naughty Dog engineering team that brought Ellie to life in The Last Of Us, and as part of the GDC 2014 Programming track he took the stage to explain how his team pulled it off. During his talk, Dyckhoff ran down the systems that make Ellie act the way she does and explained why the team chose them -- as well as when they chose to break them to make the game more fun to play. Dyckhoff also took time to highlight some of Ellie's AI shortcomings in very plain, non-specialized language in an effort to ensure that developers all disciplines could walk away with a better understanding of how buddy AI in The Last Of Us ticks.
Check out the free video of "Ellie: Buddy AI in The Last Of Us" here on the GDC Vault.
"Think about how comfortable you are taking money from people, knowing you may never give them anything in return. What would it be like if that money came from your family?"
SCALE creator Steve Swink gave a fantastic talk during the Independent Games Summit at GDC 2014 about the challenges of navigating the ethical quandaries that developers often face while trying to run successful crowdfunding campaigns.
Swink speaks from experience. The 2013 Kickstarter campaign for his game SCALE began on October 18 and was successfully funded November 16, days before the deadline. During his talk, Swink looks back on the campaign and attempts to explain how and why SCALE was funded, the hellish journey he went through to make it happen, and the complex ethical questions he himself encountered while trying to fund his game via Kickstarter.
You can watch "SCALE and the Ethics of Kickstarter" for free here on the GDC Vault.
"Every time we turned around, someone would come up with an idea. Everything we came up with made more work for us!"
Infocom co-founder and Zork creator Dave Lebling gave an excellent hour-long talk at GDC 2014 explaining, among other things, the creation of both the mainframe and microcomputer versions of Zork, the trials and tribulations of coding a cutting-edge text parser, and what it was like to experiment with self-publishing at a time when most PC games were sold in hand-packed plastic bags.
It's well worth watching for anyone with even a passing interest in classic game design; "Classic Game Postmortem: Zork" is now available for free on the GDC Vault.
"Metaphor is so crucial -- it helps [players] connect to your story, and not be afraid of it."
Papa & Yo creator Vander Caballero gave an impassioned hour-long presentation during the Game Narrative Summit at GDC 2014 earlier this year about the state of empathy games -- titles like Gone Home, That Dragon, Cancer, Beyond: Two Souls and Papa & Yo that are designed explicitly to challenge the player on an emotional level.
During his talk Caballero laments the industry's tendency to group these games into broad categories like "indie" that diminish the value of empathetic games, offers suggestions and advice earned from his own experience making Papa & Yo to other empathetic game developers, and expounds upon the value of exploring how games can evoke emotions beyond satisfaction, fear and excitement. The free video of "Empathetic Games Are Here to Stay! What's Next?" can be viewed here on the GDC Vault.
"We really need animation and code to work more closely together, so we can use the code to help offload repetitive tasks from the animators."
David Rosen gave a great talk earlier this year about how indie developers can use simple procedural techniques to achieve interactive and fluid animations using very few key frames, with examples drawn from Rosen's experience creating indie games like Overgrowth, Receiver and Black Shades. Rosen also answers common game animation questions, like "what exactly is the difference between a playable character and a vehicle?" in the 30-minute presentation, which was given during the GDC 2014 Animation Bootcamp.
You can watch "An Indie Approach to Procedural Animation" for free on the GDC Vault.
"Games are, at their core, a connection. Use them to connect to something worthwhile."- Elizabeth Sampat closes out the GDC 2014 Microtalks session with a call for developers to create personal games.
The GDC 2014 Microtalks session is now free for everyone to view on the GDC Vault, and it's worth watching if you missed it during the show. Every year, ten speakers from across the world of games and play come together at GDC to give ten brief microtalks inside of a single hour about their philosophies, their view of our past, present and possible futures, and anything else that they're burning to discuss. The session has a game-like constraint: each speaker gets twenty slides, each of which is displayed for sixteen seconds before automatically advancing, giving each speaker exactly five minutes and twenty seconds to make their case.
This year, the GDC Microtalks session included inspirational microtalks from notable voices in the industry, including Tadhg Kelly, Emily Greer, Austin Wintory, and Elizabeth Sampat. "Microtalks 2014: One Hour, Ten Speakers, A Panoply of Game Thinking!" is available to watch now for free on the GDC Vault.
"AAA companies are starting to wise up, and have realized YouTubers aren't going anywhere. That doesn't mean if you're indie you can't compete, but you should know your competition."
Video game commentators on YouTube and streaming services like Twitch.tv are rapidly becoming some of the most influential personalities in the industry when it comes to educating, informing and entertaining game enthusiasts. Professional YouTuber Ryan "NorthernLion" Letourneau gave a talk at GDC 2014 about how to easily find and contact hundreds of these content creators, and communicate with them as effectively (and efficiently) as possible to hopefully persuade them to cover your game.
The talk was recorded by GDC staff, and now it's freely available to watch here on the GDC Vault.
"Making games is hard. This was the hardest thing I've ever done, and it absolutely destroyed me."
As part of the GDC 2014 Independent Games Summit, Antichamber creator Alexander Bruce spoke very candidly about how -- and, more importantly, why -- he went about developing his IGF Award-winning game, the price he paid to make it, and what other developers should learn from his experience.
It was a powerfully affecting presentation, and a video recording of the talk is now freely available for anyone to watch via the GDC Vault.
The ever-popular #1ReasonToBe GDC panel, inspired by the #1ReasonWhy and #1ReasonToBe hashtagged discussions that erupted across social media in 2013, is a rapid, fun microtalk-style celebration and exploration of how the game industry treats with gender and why alternative voices matter.
The panel returned to GDC 2014 earlier this year, where each panelist shared their experience, its highs and lows, and explored their vision for a future industry that is inclusive for all. The panel was hosted by industry veterans Brenda Romero and Leigh Alexander, and panelists include Anna Kipnis, Colleen Macklin, Deirdra "Squinky" Kiai, Laralyn McWilliams and Lauren Scott.
The free video of '#1ReasonToBe: A Celebration of Diversity in the Industry' is now available to watch here on the GDC Vault.