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This Developer's Life: DICE

Week 2 of This Developer's Life, where I cover DICE and talk about pitching your game at conventions.

James Portnow, Blogger

March 13, 2009

7 Min Read

This Developer's Life: D.I.C.E.

Dear Reader:

Red_RockWelcome back to This Developer’s life.   This week we’ll be talking about the Design Innovate Communicate Summit in Las Vegas.  Why?  Because that’s where I spent a recent week... and because it’s one of the lesser known, but most important, industry events.   In this article I’ll let you know what D.I.C.E.  is, what one does there (or at least what I do there) and wrap up with some gossip about the fabulous people I met.

So first off, what is D.I.C.E.?  D.I.C.E.  is the games industry’s executive conference.  It’s sort of like GDC, only really expensive and with better swag (seriously about the swag…I mean where else do you get a portable Rock Band drum kit just for walking in the door?).  

So yeah, it’s exactly like GDC except for the swag… oh, that and the fact that pretty much everyone there has a V or a C in their title.  D.I.C.E.  is also the home of the Interactive Achievement Awards, which is sort of our version of the Oscars.

So what does one do at this conference?  Network!  The entire thing is set up to be a networking event.  I think it’s best illustrated by the conference schedule:

 Tuesday’s Schedule
7pm- 12am Poker Tournament
…that’s it

Wednesday’s Schedule
 9am – 3pm Golf Tournament
6pm – 7pm  Keynote
7pm – 11pm Cocktail Hour

 Thursday and Friday were a little more packed, but you get the idea.

And now a little bit of insight into the games industry as I understand it:

**I will try and tell you about my experience at D.I.C.E.  to the limit of my ability.  Unfortunately exigencies of business force me to be vague.  Someday I’ll truly tell all, but at the moment my first loyalty is to my company and its partners, so you’ll have to forgive me for being abstract.**

D.I.C.E.  is a good place to hunt down a publisher or troll for publishing prospects.  The ratio on both sides of the equation is astronomically better than at someplace like GDC.

As many of you know, Divide by Zero is has begun talks with several publishers (to those publishers we haven’t had a conversation with: I’m sorry!  We love you!  I only have so many hours in the day…you’ll be hearing from us soon!), so we spent almost all of our time setting up meetings and pitching publishers.   I will do a whole article about pitching publishers one of these weeks, but for right now, let’s talk about it in the context of a convention. 

Three rules of thumb:

    •     Introductions are key.  Every newb and his brother wants to get a publishing deal, so don’t corner the publishing guy, find someone they know and get that person to introduce you.  They’re a lot more likely to listen, or at least give you a real meeting that way.

    •    In this setting your elevator pitch better be killer.  Everyone has ten thousand things to do and about a tenth that many minutes to do them in.  Most of the time you’ll have about a minute to hook someone and then, if you get a sit down meeting, you’ll only get about 15 minutes before they decide whether they want to cut things short or invest some time in you.

    •    Don’t panic.  Things you never thought about will go horribly wrong and there’s always an answer. 
(I want to give a special shout out to Geoffrey Zatkin at EEDAR for letting us emergency use their ever-so-well-furnished lounge when the hotel staff stole all the tables from our meeting room)

Now for the glamour and the gossip!

mes_Portnow_-_Chris_Remo_-_Brandon_SheffieldD.I.C.E. is out in Vegas.  Every meal’s a feast and every bar is open (and everywhere there’s a bar).  Absolutely everything’s done to the 9s - I remember walking through the after party for the Interactive Achievement Awards and overhearing a conversation that went like this:

“What are you drinking?”

“Whatever’s flowing through the ice statue.”



“Which one?”

As far as people go, I ran into Richard Garriott - who recently was good enough to contribute a few passages to a chapter of a book on invented languages I’ve been asked to pen - he mentioned he’d been in space. 

I met Michael Pachter for the first time: he’s a remarkably approachable (sorry Michael if this means more people bug you).  I think I thoroughly underwhelmed Geoff Keighley with my “Hi, I’m cool enough to lean up against this wall looking cool like you” approach to meeting him.

Though perhaps not as famous, here a few of my partners in crime for this convention:

Frenchy, aka Hubert (pronounced sexy like u-bair) Thieblot – CEO and founder of Curse.com
Rarely am I jealous of the capabilities of other men, but Frenchy is a man most singular.  He is 24 years of age, runs Curse (which at this point is a multimillion dollar company), is frighteningly intelligent, dashingly handsome (in a uniquely French Resistance sort of way) and could out drink a moose.  For those female gamers in the audience…he’s single.

Aaron Loeb – King Amongst Men (also the CEO of Planet Moon Studios)
 I have never found a more genial, more jovial, or, in general, kind-hearted man at a business convention.  Not only did he introduce me to everyone (often by way of me bogarting conversations he was in the middle of) but he is also out there fighting the good (and thankless) fight of keeping a lot of people employed in these hard times.  If you see him at GDC, thank him for helping keep independent development alive.

The lovely and charming Lindsay Muse – Mistress of SXSW
 Lindsay is one of the principle forces behind ScreenBurn, the games side of South by South West.  She is one of those helping earn legitimacy for our industry.  We’ll be catching up to her in a few weeks when I go to judge the casual game design competition at ScreenBurn.

Brandon Sheffield – Lord of Game Developer Magazine and owner of the World’s Sexiest Emover,
Brandon brings the cool to the games industry.  If you ever see a man who is way too hip to be at a game convention, it’s probably Mr. Sheffield.  Without him we’d we be at a loss for what I consider the games industry’s most valuable trade publication: Game Developer.  If you’re reading this article and you haven’t already, you should go here and subscribe.

Gabe_Speech_1Other Things of Note:

The Interactive Achievement Awards were fantastic.  They were hosted by Jay Mohr.  Alex Evans, one of the principles at Media Molecule, also spent most of the night on stage, bringing home eight awards for Little Big Planet.  I hope the sales numbers match their critical success.  Cheers MM!

Gabe Newell of Valve gave the keynote this year.  He brought ye monstrous charts to finally demonstrate (dare I say prove) the advantages of viewing games as a service rather than a product.  This writer at least is convinced.  This is a mindset we as an industry will have to adopt; those who don’t will disappear over the next decade.

Best overheard exchange at D.I.C.E:

“Hi Mike, what do you do at Blizzard”


[Tune in next week (or simply go to www.gameculture.com right now) for the trials and tribulations of speaking at industry events and, as always, if there’s anything you want to hear about, you can reach me at [email protected].]

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