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GDC 2013: Thursday

Session Notes from Thursday

Building a Studio on a Budget - Chris Charla, Jake Kazdal, Mike Mika and Nathan Vella

Chris Charla is a porfolio manager at Microsoft. He moved to the bay area and lived in an abandoned bus shelter to get his start in video games.

17-Bit's Jake Kazdal is the CEO and Creative Director, and is friends with the lady who did Ulala's voice in Space Channel 5. 

Mike Mika is Donkey Kong Dad. Also, he runs Other Ocean.

Capy Games President and Co-Founder Nathan Vella's wife teaches Yoga. Nathan also likes Yoga.

The session was Q&A style, with panelists answering questions from the audience.

  • 17 bit and other ocean make food at the office instead of buying all the time. 
  • Capy has little food in office, and only good stuff
  • "Why don't you go produce me a pizza"
  • Capy big on giving ownership, game jams help
  • Time "lost" to game jams comes back in improved output and productivity. 
  • Taking breaks more effective later in development, when creativity is replaced by implementation. 
  • Titles are a bad idea in a small studio. 
  • Org charts shouldn't be hierarchy charts. 
  • Inexperience can be a virtue to building culture at a small studio
  • Be willing to fire toxic people. Early. 
  • Crunch happens, but you can't just power through forever. Send people home. 
  • Producers and management need to be there during crunch
  • Better to slip a milestone, than burn people out and probably still miss it, or the next one. 
  • Having a mission statement or goals for a project is very valuable 
  • Small gift card bonuses, a night out or a video game, can feel much more rewarding than cash. 
  • A lot of culture and bonds come out of crunch and the very needed downtime in crunch
  • Be generous with time off and adjusted schedules as long as people still perform. 
  • Pay and Compensation aren't necessarily the same. What's it worth to wear shorts and a T-shirt?
  • Let people have passion projects on the side, but have clear rules for what's expected, and have them disclose up front 

 5 Key Plot Points to Creating a Great Story - Matthew Luhn

An animation vet, Matthew Luhan has been making movies for more than 2 decades, and been with Pixar since the original Toy Story.

  • Great stories help anything creative, movies, games, toys
  • Start with a premise, what if idea, not story
  • Turn premise into Controlling Idea
  • One sentence that tells who character is at beginning, who he becomes, and a hint of the world. 
  • "The top scaring monster learns children aren't evil, and risks his status in confronting the establishment. "
  • Inciting incident - first act break - midpoint - second act break - 3rd act twist
  • Plot points keep the story moving along. 
  • Introduction first. 
  • Establish character and setting
  • Establish relationships
  • Give backstory
  • Establish characters expectations for future
  • Then we watched Finding Nemo
  • Set up flaws and passions
  • Inciting incident is when what main character wants most is taken. 
  • Tries to change back easiest way possible. 
  • First act break is when they commit to going to the unknown to get back what they lost. 
  • Obstacles get harder and harder during act II
  • At the Midpoint, new goals are introduced, and existing goals evolve. 
  • Having new goal lets us change the character realistically. 
  • Second act break character has changed. Crisis moment. Here we challenge them to act on the ways they've changed. 
  • It's about choosing to change
  • You need to change to be able to best the bad guy. 
  • Climax: hero's view changes.
  • Change in view changes desires
  • 3rd act twist - final, most challenging test of character's change. Proves desires have changed. 
  • They can still care about the same thing, but in a different way. 
  • Your character's changes should express a theme. 
  • You should know what that theme is, clearly. 

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