The 2015 Game Developers Conference starts on Monday, and as everyone prepares for the big show we'd like to take a moment to highlight some of the most interesting can't-miss Summit sessions at this year's conference.
These sessions will be part of the eight GDC Summits that will take place Monday, March 2nd and Tuesday, March 3rd at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, CA during the first two days of the conference.
- During the Indie Games Summit don't miss "Making Kitty Powers' Matchmaker - Adventures of a Video Game Drag Queen." In this inspirational and practical talk, develope Richard Franke charts the development of hilarious drag queen-hosted mobile dating sim Kitty Powers' Matchmaker (pictured). This was Franke's first indie title after almost 20 years making "big" console games at places like Criterion Games, and in a very personal story, Franke (a "close personal friend" of Kitty Powers herself!) covers how he dealt with inclusiveness, making comedy work in a game, designing a compelling dating game, and how to keep your wig on when all around are losing theirs.
- At the GDC AI Summit Intrinsic Algorithm president Dave Mark and ArenaNet lead gameplay programmer Mike Lewis will run down how Guild Wars 2 uses a one-two combo of a modular AI system and a powerful influence map engine to field large numbers of intelligent creatures at once in an online game environment. Check out their AI Summit talk, "Building A Better Centaur: AI at Massive Scale," for some ideas on how you can better craft your own large-scale system of robust, dynamic AI behavior.
- Developers Raph Koster, Richard Vogel and Gordon Walton have all worked on multiple online games (Star Wars Galaxies, Ultima Online, The Old Republic) and during their GDC Community Management Summit talk, "Managing Game Communities Within the Culture Wars", they'll share concrete community management practices for dealing with audiences of varying passion and commitment levels that you can immediately apply to your own projects. These veterans of online communities will discuss not only what has both worked and failed in existing communities, but also discuss what else could and should be tried to protect the fun games can provide without losing player passion.
- As game design evolves, contemporary developers are grappling with the creative implications of a world in which gameplay and monetization are intimately intertwined. Seasoned F2P game design consultant Ethan Levy believes the key to ethical monetization lies in how you first approach your game's design, and he'll be running down some concrete methods for doing so in his F2P Summit talk "New Approaches to F2P Game Design."
- This year we're also excited to have experienced game designer and educator Brenda Romero speaking about "How A Group of Academics Came Together to Improve Ireland's Institutions & Industry" as part of the GDC Education Summit. Drawing on her own experience as a Fulbright scholar in Ireland, Romero hopes to offer attendees new ideas to improve their curriculum, improve industry and academic partnerships, and a clear understanding of how the Fulbright program can provide grant opportunities to game education institutions both inside and outside of the US.
- Also, MIT Game Lab research scientist Philip Tan will join Blizzard Entertainment developer Ryan Schutter during the eSports Summit to give a talk detailing how they worked together with community modders to rapidly iterate on the observer experience of Starcraft II as an eSport. In their talk, "Starcraft II and GameHeart: Evolving eSports Interfaces with Modders," the pair will retrace their experiences and best practices in the project, examining how communication between game developers, content-creating fans, and tournament organizers can push further experimentation with the live presentation of competitive digital games.
- As part of the Game Narrative Summit, former Gearbox writer Anthony Burch will analyze rough sales figures and critical response to Borderlands 2's DLC; in exploring the process of the DLC's creation, Burch will try to convince you to lean on character and charm rather than plot and lore when you write for games in his talk, Plot is Dumb, Character is Cool: Writing for DLC.
- Finally, the "Epic Fail Microtalks: Four Mobile Games, Four Flops and Tons of Lessons Learned" panel during the Smartphone & Tablet Games Summit will see four successful game developers each talking about one of their failed games. From game design to production to launch to post-launch marketing, each of these games followed different roads to failure. Check it out to hear real talk and real numbers about real games that failed, and the lessons you can learn from them.
Of course, there's also a bunch of other great talks available for your perusal via the online GDC 2015 Session Scheduler. There you can start planning your conference schedule and export it to the up-to-the-minute GDC Mobile App to get the most from your GDC experience.