Game Developers Conference 2016 – Reasons To Be Cheerful

gdc30thSo, it’s 2016 already, and the 30th (how did that happen?!) edition of Game Developers Conference is almost upon us, rolling towards us pleasantly, imposingly, but inexorably.

GDC 2016, which I help to organize, takes place in San Francisco next week (March 14th-18th). It features dedicated Summits and Bootcamps on Monday and Tuesday, with the Expo running Wednesday to Friday alongside the Main Conference, as per usual.

You’ve probably already had plenty of people (maybe including us!) social media-ing or emailing you with a whole BUNCH of things to see and do at the show. I wanted to take some time to highlight some of the things I’m excited to see at this year’s GDC, as follows:

Conference Sessions…

ilmxlab-star-wars– Earlier in the week, we have a whole bunch of Summits, going in-depth with key markets/sectors like eSports, game education, AI, and more.

But new this year alongside Summits on Mon/Tue is the Virtual Reality Developers Conference. Its virtual reality game/entertainment tracks have a killer line-up, including ILM (Star Wars VR?!), Fantastic Contraption, Sony London, Oculus Story Studio, and lots more. Please get there early (and ideally have a VRDC pass to help ensure entry) – it’s gonna be packed, and we have an overflow room at the ready.

– Apparently, it’s the 10th year of the Indie Games Summit at GDC – wow, where does time go? I’ve helped (in various ways) with this Summit for all of the last decade-ish, and this year’s line-up – spread across two rooms – looks top-tier. Featured games/topics include Downwell, SOMA, Dwarf Fortress, Superhot, ‘indiepocalypse’, Keep Talking & Nobody Explodes, plus the traditional Tech Toolbox & Indie Soapbox microtalks, & since we’re double-tracked, there’s more niche content than before, yay.

ManifoldGarden_Screenshot_06– Also worth looking at closely are some of the ‘Bootcamps’ on Mon/Tue that are continually expanding into Summit size and quality events.

In particular, check out the Animation Bootcamp (Overwatch! EA UFC!), the Level Design In A Day Bootcamp (Firewatch! Manifold Garden!), Producer Bootcamp (Gearbox! Oculus!), and other neat things like the Producer & Audio Bootcamps and the Game Design Workshop.

– Instead of the ‘Flash Forward’ talk sneak peek we’ve done for the last couple of years (YouTube), we’re holding ‘Flash Backward: 30 Years Of Making Games‘ as an opening ‘keynote’-ish thing on the Wednesday of GDC. It’s microtalks, starting with (C)GDC’s founder Chris Crawford, and including sessions from Raph Koster (MMOs), Seth Killian (eSports), Palmer Luckey (VR), & lots more. S’neat!

– Classic Postmortems are in full effect again this year as part of the Main Conference. You can watch all previous years on GDC Vault & many on our YouTube channel, and this time, we’ve got another stellar line-up. The full list is Tetsuya Mizuguchi on the making of Rez, Steve Golson on how bootleg turned legit classic Ms. Pac-Man got created, and David Brevik on how Diablo got made.

mark-rosewater_scsxtk– Then there’s the Main Conference itself, which continues to meticulously program useful, high takeaway talks of all kinds, smartly mentored by our Board. There’s everything under the sun in here in design, art, programming, production, and business tracks.

These span a design talk from Magic: The Gathering’s lead designer to talks on Rocket League, cheating in Day-Z, and the fascinating ‘Game Outcomes Project’, to name but a few. Just browse the whole thing, start at Wednesday, and check some out for yourself.

– Finally, the Advocacy Track continues to surface some interesting & important social/community topics, including talks on using Minecraft for education, designing games for a much older audience, some practical takeaways from women-in-games initiatives, the perils and opportunities of game emulation and preservation, and lots more.

[REMINDER: the Advocacy Track is open to _all_ passholders, including Expo Passes, so please rush it with your utmost enthusiasm.]

Expo Areas…

16719557505_c5e6e6d4e0_zObviously, GDC has two (increasingly large!) expo spaces in Moscone South and North – here’s the exhibitor list and here’s the expo diagram for Moscone South (main expo!) and another for Moscone North (GDC Play, business center, the moved IGF Pavilion and alt.ctrl.GDC!)

The great thing about GDC’s Expo nowadays is that some of the big platform companies and government pavilions bring in their partners to exhibit. So you’re not just browsing a monolithic booth, you’re getting entire ecosystems of cool game tools, platforms, and projects to check out. (Plus our Career Center Theater, Developer Meetups, and other misc. goodness.)

And then – partly on the Expo Floor, but mainly in reception/foyer areas, you have exhibits picked & part-funded by the GDC organizers themselves, specifically:

Interactive Spaces…

altctrlgdc2– First off, we’re back again for the third year of alt.ctrl.GDC, the alternative controller exhibit curated by Humble’s John Polson (& a teensy bit by me), and this year’s line-up is out of control good.

There’s games using 1920s telephone switchboards, avatar hat puppets, vacuum cleaners, a quilting machine, and all _kinds_ of other amazing physical objects. alt.ctrl.GDC is in Moscone South’s Expo in an expanded space from Wed to Fri, & there’s creator interviews here.

– New this year, and so happy we added it, is a special GDC version of Day Of The Devs,  Double Fine & iam8bit’s indie developer showcase. Our version features some spectacular games that bridge the gap between micro-indie and creative mainstream games, including Media Molecule’s Dreams, PlayStation VR trance-fest Rez Infinite, Return Of The Obra Dinn, from Papers Please creator Lucas Pope, & lots more.

iwantmygdc_173x98Also in this area (at the bottom of the stairs leading down from GDC main registration!) will be iam8bit’s specially retro for our 30th anniversary ‘I Want My GDC’, a “really cool Photo Playset that looks like a retro living room”. It’s a pseudo-sequel to the ‘Class of GDC’ photobooth we collaborated on in 2013, and will be unspeakably silly, in a good way.

– I could go on at some length about the other ‘interactive spaces’ that Sandesh, Meggan and myself have put together, and you’ll see them listed on the handy GDC events page, but let’s just put it like this – Wild Rumpus’ Mild Rumpus! Indie MEGABOOTH! GDC VR Lounge! Shut Up & Sit Down board game showcase! Train Jam game demo area! IGF Pavilion! These are all so good! That’s enough exclamation marks!

– Don’t forget the Independent Games Festival and Game Developers Choice Awards on Wednesday evening – starting at 6.30, streaming live on Twitch, but really one of the more enjoyable awards to attend in person(TM). We have Nathan Vella (Capy, for IGF) and Robin Hunicke (Funomena, for Choice) presenting, special awards being given to Tracy Fullerton, Notch & Bethesda’s Todd Howard, some cute skits, wonderful tributes, and a surprise or two along the way, so please consider it.

It’s nice to have things to do at the show besides conference and (regular vendor) expo space, even though we like the former things, too…

In conclusion…

Finally, a lot of the best things that happen at GDC happen ‘around’ GDC – whether it be the mixers, parties, game showcases, and evening events, the impromptu meetups, the serendipitous conversations, and so on. Heck, there’s even GDC Run if you’re a more fit person than me!

We understand that not everyone can get a full GDC Conference Pass (for money or time management reasons). But we’re loading up the Expo Pass with all kinds of goodness (interactive spaces, Advocacy Track talks, Career/Career Seminar sessions), and San Francisco itself is a pretty fun place to hang out with a bunch of devs, regardless.

And that’s what I’m excited about for the show. Hope you can come, and have some fun!

[Credits sequence: I’m a background lurker on GDC. The folks who do the ACTUAL work are headed by longterm GDC GM Meggan Scavio, and include Colleen Mickey, Victoria Petersen & team (content), Sandesh Nicol (awards/interactive spaces), Liz Wakefield/Joey Yazzolino (marketing), Aaron Murawski/Malik Watson (sales), Tom Amaral/Jessica Horst (operations), Kyle Glasner/Erin Davidson (sales ops), Rafael Robles (reg), Alex Wawro/Bryant Francis (news/social media), FortySeven Communcations (PR), the GDC Conference Associates, our Advisory Boards, and literally hundreds of others, hurray.]

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