Learning from the Game Developers Conference, past and present


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The Game Developers Conference (GDC) is the world’s largest professional games industry event. Over a five day period, each event sees in excess of 26,000 attendees, hundreds of talks and many opportunities for networking and deal making. For small and indie developers, it’s a fantastic place to learn something new that you can later put to use in your own games.

However, as big as the GDC is, it can be difficult to find the time and money to attend. The previous event, held at the end of February this year, was held at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. You can therefore understand that a trip isn’t always within the budget of the smaller developers, depending on location.

Fortunately the majority of talks are recorded, and they’ve been making their way to the official GDC YouTube account. If you’re a game developer, it’s absolutely worth subscribing and keeping an eye out for topics relevant to your area. If you’re feeling a little indecisive, here’s a selection of talks that I’ve picked out!

The Design in Narrative Design

In this 2015 GDC session, designer Jurie Horneman presents a framework showing how systems design and narrative design are two sides of the same coin, and why the narrative side of game is important even in games that do not ostensibly have a story.

The Spelunky HD Postmortem

In this 2011 GDC postmortem, Spelunky creators Derek Yu and Andy Hull tell the story of how Spelunky grew from a popular freeware PC game into a version that would be ported onto Xbox Live Arcade, and eventually on to many other consoles.

Building Worlds in No Man’s Sky Using Math(s)

No Man’s Sky is a science fiction game set in a near infinite procedurally generated universe. In this 2017 GDC talk, Hello Games’ Sean Murray describes some of the most important technologies and interesting challenges behind generating both realistic and alien terrains without artistic input, using mathematics.

Small Teams, Big Dreams: How to Build a Small Team to Do Great Things

In this 2015 GDC talk, HandCircus’ Simon Oliver delivers practical advice on how smaller game development teams can make the most with limited resources to make the best games possible.

The Future of Art Production in Games

In this 2017 GDC talk, Naughty Dog’s Andrew Maximov discusses what a video game art production will most likely look like 10 years from now and most importantly, how it will affect game company art departments in that timespan.

What We Can Learn from “Classic” Game Music

In this 2015 GDC talk, Monkey Island and Full Throttle composer Peter McConnell, explains key lessons from the ’90s Adventure Game era of video game scores, showcasing how technical limitations and other creative restrictions helped game composers create some of the most iconic sounds of video game history.

Automated Level of Detail Generation for Halo Reach

In this 2011 GDC talk, Bungie’s Xi Wang explains the automated detail generation system for Halo Reach’s game models.

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