Game Developers Conference 2019 – new & fun content!

So, with Game Developers Conference 2019 rapidly approaching (it’s March 18th to 22nd, date fans!), I thought it would be good to highlight some of the interesting new conference content we’ve rolled out this year.

I’m not the person who runs the show (that’s Katie Stern, the GM, fact fans!) But I lurk in the management marshland, helping out & contributing elements to the conference, and the program in general.

In this particular blog, I wanted to highlight some of the content that I think is particularly interesting this year (some of which I was involved with a lot, and some only in passing!):

  • Game Discoverability Day: brand new, & like the description says: “One of the trickiest things about the video game industry in 2019 is simply – you’ve made your game, and it may be great, but is anybody going to notice?” Lots of smart folks (from Boyfriend Dungeon, Radiangames, Neo Cab & more) pitch in with practical case studies and strategies for PC, console and mobile game developers.
  • Machine Learning Tutorial: how are large-scale devs using machine learning/AI to improve their games? This new tutorial day shows a bunch of practical examples – finding ‘wallhacks’ in an FPS, going beyond motion matching in animation to ‘motion synthesis’. Definitely hardcore technical content, but definitely interesting.
  • Vision Track: we’ve been compiling these special featured talks that go ‘beyond’ the normal GDC technical talk for a couple of years now. This year, the 6 lectures span the Xbox Adaptive Controller, Niantic on AR gaming, the Harvard Desirability Lab (!), Disney Imagineering, Valve on brain-computer interfaces, experiential design lessons from HBO x SXSW’s Westworld installation.
  • Classic Game Postmortems: you know these are a perennial favorite, and we’re delighted with this year’s talks, featuring an original creator talking about the making of a seminal game. This time out: Atari arcade classic Paperboy, quirky puzzler Lemmings, seminal RTS Command & Conquer, Sega’s wonderful Panzer Dragoon series, and ‘swinging with Spider-Man’ – on the design of traversal mechanics from 2004’s Spider-Man 2!

Finally, if you check out the GDC 2019 news page you’ll see a whole bunch more recommendations for talks of all shapes and sizes – as well as for the community spaces with lots of playable games, the awards, and plenty of other fun stuff.

Hope to see you in San Francisco next month to watch ALL of the above!

The MIDI Tiki Show: a new YouTube channel for your pleasure

So here’s an announcement – I’ve started a new YouTube channel, called ‘The MIDI Tiki Show’, that showcases high quality hardware-played MIDI files in a tiki room setting. Uh… wha? Why? Maybe I’d better explain…

The Inspiration

This all started when I checked out the excellent YouTube channel Techmoan‘s video on ‘the floppy disk boombox’, which showcased the Roland MT-80s music tutor.

This device is designed for piano/instrument tutoring & karaoke, and plays back MIDI music files on floppy 3.5 inch disks, including files that use Roland’s GS standard. Which actually sounds pretty darn good, if you can find the correct MIDI files. (More on this later!)  Continue reading

Longread: The ‘lost’ Alan Moore interview (The Telegraph Wire, 1985)

[Poking around at a Bay Area antiques fair, I came across a copy of local comic book store zine Telegraph Wire. And in it, there’s a great longform Wendi Lee interview from SDCC 1985 with Alan Moore, who was known for his Swamp Thing work & V For Vendetta at the time, and in the process of writing the seminal Watchmen!

Turns out that the Internet Archive has a copy of the zine, but nobody had cleaned up the OCR & fully republished online – so here we go! It’s a great early-ish piece on both Moore’s working style & motivation, and also his reasons for creating Watchmen.]

There’s very little need to introduce a writer like Alan Moore – already his name has become familiar to SWAMP THING fans as well as collectors of Britain’s WARRIOR, which has featured MARVELMAN (reprinted by Eclipse as MIRACLEMAN) and V FOR VENDETTA.

Alan Moore has not only proved his writing is prolific and profound, but also versatile. Since his inception of SWAMP THING, Alan has written for AMERICAN FLAGG!, MR. MONSTER and has many projects in the offing.

I was fortunate to catch Mr. Moore at the San Diego Comic-Con last August and he talked about his work on SWAMP THING as well as a very exciting project he’s working on with Dave Gibbons called WATCHMEN. Although there’s no set date, keep watching DC for more information.

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Preserving digital music – why Netlabel Archive matters.

netlabelsIt’s fascinating that the early Internet era (digital) data can sometimes be trickier to preserve & access than pre-Internet (analog) data. A prime example is the amazing work of the Netlabel Archive, which I wanted to both laud and highlight as ‘digital archiving done right’.

Created in 2016 by the amazing Zach Bridier, the Netlabel Archive has preserved the catalogs of 11 early ‘netlabels’ and counting, a number of which involve music that was either completely unavailable online, or difficult to listen to online. Continue reading

Monotonik: the re-distribution (& musings on platforms)


[EDIT: Just so you’re aware, the Netlabel Archive crew ended up swooping in and putting ALL Mono/Monotonik releases onto YouTube and the Internet Archive – amazing work! So I didn’t have to do it all myself!]

So, firstly, the announcement – if you haven’t spotted it already on my social media feeds.

I’ve just kicked off a multi-year project (!) to resurface _all_ of the music ever released on Monotonik (aka Mono/Mono211), the free electronica net.label that I ran from 1996 to 2009, on modern distribution platforms.

What I mean by ‘modern distribution platforms’ is a brand new YouTube channel (streaming) and a SoundCloud page (streaming/downloadable), making it even easier to listen to all the music.

Uploads are going up regularly – about 30+ so far, all early MP3 releases. But will take a VERY long time – possibly a year or two – to complete due to the massive number of releases. Continue reading

How To Not Have Horrible Conference Sessions, Hopefully?

gdctalk[Through our company’s London office, I was asked by the Chartered Institute Of Marketing to write something on how events might pick good speakers for events. An edited version – because I got a bit overenthusiastic with word count – is available now on CIM’s website – and here’s the full version I originally wrote, hurray.]

One of the most infuriating experiences when attending a conference is to sit through half an hour – or an hour – of a tedious, scattershot panel, or a barely prepared, droning lecture with no takeaway. This experience is universal no matter what industry you’re in – bad content is bad content.

But it doesn’t need to happen on your watch! Some of UBM Tech’s notable shows in the United States (particularly Game Developers Conference – about video game development, and Black Hat – about information security) are known for the non-horrid quality of their conference talks. (You can see some of our top talks on GDC’s YouTube channel, if you’re interested.)

We’re not claiming we have it right – or anywhere close to perfect. But we have thought a lot about how we approach content. This is particularly because our shows are largely paid conferences where people are shelling out a fair amount of money to learn and be inspired. So here’s some of the things we’ve discovered along the way: Continue reading

Why game discovery is vital – introducing Games We Care About.

games_we_careEvery few months, I get an urge to try something new as a side project, related to a problem. This time – though I make no claims it will FIX EVERYTHING – it’s intended to address this simple issue:

“I like playing video games, but there are so many damn video games nowadays. How do I find out about video games I might want to play?”

Obviously, the discovery issue isn’t new – though it’s been getting much worse of late. Video game discovery woes extend past mobile to PC and even console, as my indie dev friends are bemoaning. As someone who spends a LOT of time reading about video games, I’m dazzled and very overwhelmed by the sheer amount of beautiful pictures, videos and playables of games made by small and medium-sized teams all over the globe.

Our experience? You see a great-looking game, you see 10, you see 100 – after a point, you can’t situate them all in your brain. (Especially if you have to worry about other things, like making rent or having a pleasant social life or talking to your family.) And many of these titles you read about you can’t actually _play_ yet – you have to file your positive vibes away for when that game is available – and actually spot that it came out.

So where do you go to find out what you might want to play right now? The video game platform holders (iOS App Store, Google Play, Steam, etc) certainly have front pages where you can see a whole bunch of games. But there’s two main barriers to you finding what you want: Continue reading

Video Game Storybundle 3.0 – the best yet?


Back in May 2013, I teamed up with Jason Chen at Storybundle to curate the first Video Game Storybundle – a veritable cornucopia of great DRM-free video game eBooks, from Ralph Baer to Jordan Mechner and beyond – and it was a success.

Last November we did it again, with Video Game Storybundle 2.0 – another palpable hit, again available for a limited time only, this time including a bonus game (Ian Bogost’s ‘A Slow Year’), and a whole bunch of other high-quality tomes.

After another few months, we’re back – with the spectacular Video Game Storybundle 3.0 – once again beamable directly to your Kindle or available in multiple DRM-free ways, and available in Storybundle’s customary ‘pay what you want’ stylee.

I honestly think this may be the best Video Game Storybundle yet – and we’ve gone beyond books again too, with specially commissioned interactive fiction from Ryan Veeder & the Steam key for Geoff Keighley’s excellent ‘The Last Hours Of Portal 2’.

And then you get basically the _entire_ set of Ray Barnholt’s amazing SCROLL zine, the Ghosts In The Machine comp, Atari and Sega histories, another Bogost barnbuster… the list goes on! Go grab it for the next 3 weeks only – and the full announce is below:

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Video Game Storybundle 2.0 – the return of the words!


Back in May, I teamed up with Jason Chen at Storybundle to curate the first Video Game Storybundle – a veritable cornucopia of great DRM-free video game eBooks, from Ralph Baer to Jordan Mechner and beyond – and it was a hit.

Now, six months and much curating later, I’m extremely delighted to announce Video Game Storybundle 2.0, another 9 topnotch eBooks and magazines (and even a game!) curated by me, and available in Storybundle’s customary ‘pay what you want’ stylee. There are too many highlights to mention – and that’s what the below announcement is for. But here’s a couple of things I’m particularly proud of re: this spare-time project:

– We’re featuring some topnotch analysis of the history of games, including Tristan Donovan’s seminal history of games book ‘Replay‘ and a gigantic ‘Guide To Graphic Adventures‘ tome compiled by Kurt Kalata. (And Zoya Street’s ‘Dreamcast Worlds‘, of course!)

– A special 10th anniversary edition for one of my favorite game-related books, Seth Barkan’s ‘Blue Wizard Is About To Die!‘, and the first time the poetry collection has _ever_ been available in digital form.

– Another digital first, and it’s a game _and_ a book – Ian Bogost’s IGF-nominated, Indiecade-winning ‘A Slow Year‘ and its accompanying book of analysis/haiku is available for PC/Mac download for the first time ever in this Storybundle.

– And then there’s Anna Anthropy’s spectacularly good ‘Rise Of The Videogame Zinesters‘, two more Killscreen magazines, including the first-ever and the latest, Richard Dansky’s spooky ‘Vaporware‘ and… I could go on.

If you enjoy reading about video games, consider picking up the bundle now (it’ll be around for just a couple of weeks). And thanks to _all_ the authors/publishers for taking part! Here’s the official announce (below):

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XOXO 2013: Wot I wrote to my colleagues

[For anyone who doesn’t know, I help oversee some big tech-related events – Game Developers Conference and Black Hat among them. So it was a joy to visit XOXO in Portland last weekend, not least because I can enjoy it without worrying about also running it! But also because the history of _other_ things I’ve been or am involved with – IGF, IndieRoyale, StoryBundle, BundleDragon – are about helping independent creators get noticed – a big theme of XOXO.

Normally, I send out an email internally within our company (UBM) to discuss a trip I went on, and what I learned. In this case, I realized that what I’d written would be good to share externally as well, because, well – transparency is good (minus one thing about an upcoming event I had to snip, sorry!), and maybe other people would get some useful takeaway from my brief comments. So I’ve shared it below.]


So I just wanted to send some notes out on my Fri-Sun trip to XOXO – – which is an ‘independent digital arts’ (including some games!) festival in Portland, Oregon – funded and created by two individuals (Andy Baio, Andy McMillan) who are technologists, but also run an event – a rare skill, given making events is _HARD_, as we know.

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