Fireside Talk with John Romero
Speaker: John Romero
Join us for this fireside chat with John Romero. He will discuss his experiences as a lifelong game developer – programmer, designer, artist and company founder — his history with the first-person shooter genre, his plans for the future and take audience questions.
esports – Where next?
Speaker: Wim Stocks
Wim Stocks will discuss emerging elevation and importance of localization and regionalization of esports in building the largely absent amateur structures, funnels, and organization. Also a key part of this localized strategy and development is accessibility and inclusivity, certainly good messages for our times both in and out of esports.
ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT: Growing Up the Games Industry
Speaker: Tom Abernathy
The field of video game development is over 40 years old, yet in many ways conducts itself as anything but a mature industry. From content to leadership to representation, we resist learning from or even acknowledging dysfunction and toxic behaviors that make life as a game dev harrowing, unstable, even PTSD-inducing, often driving good talent out of the business entirely. But it doesn’t have to be that way. This session will explore some concrete efforts we as an industry can make to grow up, to give players a more satisfying range of experiences, to provide a work environment in which devs can not just survive but thrive–if only we choose to do so.
Agile, Waterfall & The Trip to The Moon
Speaker: Tobias Heussner
In the past decades of professional game development, different project management approaches were adapted from other software development areas, often without considering the environment and restrictions in which they were developed and focused more on following a trend or a personal preference than on the tasks to be completed.
This session will discuss the various approaches currently operating in the game industry. It will analyze their strengths and weaknesses, prompting a discussion of how to improve as an industry in project management, selecting the best approach for our teams and cultures without falling into the trap of following the latest trend. Team management in a creative environment, task management, control loops, and feature ownership will be discussed.
The session hopes to provide an overview of the different methods instead of a one-fits-all process. The goal is to equip professionals and discuss how we can pick the best approach for our studios.
Improve your Gamedev Experience Externalising Teams
Speaker: Juan Escudero Gómez
Trends in the way we work are changing. Remote work and new vias for team interacting are offering new opportunities and we embrace them with the same structures as before. That brings us insecurity and lack of confidence in our projects. In this conference I would love to talk about how new ways of work needs new organization, how this can be done based on experience and how beneficial it is for your IP.
Is Your Game Built To Scale?
Speaker: Ethan Levy
In the crowded market for free-to-play and service-based games, success is far from guaranteed. In almost all instances except the very rare, truly viral sensation, hit games are driven by the combination of a great game that is built for scale, and a world class marketing effort to bring the right players to that game. Throwing money away on marketing a game is easy, but profitably scaling a game to hit status is incredibly difficult, and only works when a game has the right fundamentals.
Based on his experience working on successful games like Legendary: Game of Heroes, Tetris, War Dragons, Family Guy and more, Ethan will walk you through the various considerations that go into building a game with true scaling potential. From attracting, to hooking, to retaining and monetizing, this talk will explain what it takes to build a game that is not just fun to play, but can also become a massive business.
On Origins of Juicy
Speaker: John Corn
Juicy games feel good. A well-juiced game is responsive to a game’s action, giving the player feedback in a way that further conveys information. Sometimes called polish, or game feel, juice creates a system that aligns feedback with the intent of the game.
Where does juice come from? When is it added and where? Why do some kinds of juicing feel right and others seem out of place?
In this talk, we’ll examine how to spot rough edges in your gameplay and what kinds of feedback should be added. We’ll go over actionable steps attendees can take and apply to make their games as juicy as possible.
Make Work Look Like Play
Speakers: Michael Everett, Ben McDougal
This is a special collaboration with free giveaways for all attendees! Join Michael Everett (Carolina Games Summit) and Ben McDougal (Jet Set Studio) to explore how entrepreneurship, community building and event development can unlock your own version of career nirvana.
Introduction to Unreal Engine
Speaker: Alexander Paschall
Unreal Engine 4 is being used by more studios than ever before and is showing up as a requirement on more and more resumes. In this talk we’ll be going over the things you need to know to get yourself up and running with UE4. Menus, tools, features and asset creation pipelines will all be covered in this extensive exploration of cutting edge technology. If you’ve ever been curious about trying Unreal, but didn’t know where to start, this is the talk for you!
There are 100 Stories in the Naked City – Storytelling in Battle Royales
Speaker: Jesse Scoble
100 players. One survivor. Is that one story or a million stories? The lead writer of Ubisoft’s HYPER SCAPE will talk about the behind-the-scenes planning and execution that went into the game’s first few seasons, and broadly discuss the importance of narrative for battle royales.
Although the focus will be on the world and characters of HYPER SCAPE, we’ll compare and contrast with other battle royales to try to determine if story matters.
Irrigating The River of Content: Make Workflows That Work
Speaker: Ryan Kline
Programmers on teams of all sizes are often tasked with making tools for the team to use in authoring content. In this talk, we will explore the process of designing and building these tools, the communication that happens around them, and come away with some best practices for building better workflows for everyone.
Encouraging Users Through Gamification: A Case Study of the mPACT App
Speaker: Charles O'Brien
When many designers/developers think of gamification, they limit the scope to points and leaderboards. Gamification has a much broader definition related to the incentives for playing games. Some of the more extensive motivation factors include self determination, community, and education (e.g. wanting to learn more about a disease). The mPACT App aims to increase neural plasticity in patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). MCI is one of the preliminary indicators for Dementia and Alzheimer’s. We are developing the app to help slow the onset of these diseases. Using gamification in our app design will further encourage the users to continue training.
GREAT EXPECTATIONS – Breaking into the Modern Day Game Industry
Speaker: Max Litvinov
The game industry is trending upward with more and more concurrent worldwide players and new studios forming every year. I know that many developers aspire to be a part of this upward trend by working on commercial video games or are just interested in learning about a developer’s experience with other game studios.
The session will cover my journey interviewing with and trying to get the attention of game studios as well as real-world resources and steps I used along the way to help me break into gaming. This session will include three case studies describing a real-world scenario where my resources and advice have been put to use.
The session is not centered around any specific discipline (engineering, art, design etc.) and covers general topics related to all disciplines in game development.
Using Competitive Analysis to Improve Your Marketing Strategy
Speaker: Logan Williams
In a competitive market, indie game developers are fighting an uphill battle to earn adequate attention and as a result, conversions. Lack of budget, small team size, and erratic timelines are just a few reasons why executing an impactful marketing strategy can be challenging. The internet is full of valuable information on how to market video games. However, this can lead to developers becoming overwhelmed. Sometimes, this results in their marketing efforts yielding less than stellar results.
This presentation will focus on what I believe to be an incredibly underrated part of creating a successful marketing strategy: competitive analysis. More specifically how to effectively utilize data from the endless amount of competition to improve the results of your marketing efforts.
Animate Smarter: Tools, Tips, and Tricks for Faster and Better Animation Production
Speaker: Gregory Marlow
Not every game production can have a large team of dedicated animators. But before you Google “free motion capture,” check out this talk. Greg Marlow, animator for Civilization V, Civilization VI, XCom, Battleborn, and The Pathless, will show you techniques and shortcuts you can implement into your animation workflow to save time and increase the quality and quantity of custom animations you create for your own games.
Trust, Lust and UST – Writing Effective Romance in Games
Speaker: Amanda Gardner
In this talk, Amanda draws from her experience as a multi-published romance author (don’t ask her about her alter ego), about how to bring the heat to your games. She will go into detail about how she’s tackling relationships in her upcoming game, Romancelvania, and the tenets of just what makes the audience lean in and swoon for your characters. Ultimately, it’s a balance of trust, lust, and the all important UST. Come to the talk to find out what that last secret ingredient really means!
How to Start Building Your Game Portfolio, Even with No Experience
Speaker: Dorothy Phoenix
If you want to get into game development, but are not sure where to start and have no experience, this talk will help you figure out your first steps for getting into the game industry and building a portfolio, whether you want to land a job at a studio, or have a dream game of your own that you want to create.
- Overview of possible roles in game development
- What skills are required to make a game, as well as recommended classes that students can take in school
- Tips for writing out a game idea
- Choosing a realistic scope for a game idea
- Suggestions for beginner-friendly game development software
- What you can do RIGHT NOW to move forward with first game
The Art and Science of Guiding Gameplay (How to Eliminate Player Pain Before it Happens)
Speaker: Alexander Brazie
I will describe five essential steps to examining your game’s design on paper and in engine that will improve your game designs. Exploring the nature of human perception and interaction can seem intimidating, but most player pain can be focused into a few major areas – confusion, boredom, frustration, ennui and disgust. Understanding what questions to ask to avoid these reactions is the essential core of game design and I will cover exactly these. (Coding is not necessary to understand this)
Why NFT’s are just the Start with Blockchain Gaming
Speaker: Adam Kling
I would like to talk about how blockchain gaming will change how gaming operates, creates new economies for players, adds real money, brings game transparency, integrity, and how the metaverse could happen.
Breaking into the Video Game Industry & Getting Hired
Speaker: Paxton Galvanek
Paxton will discuss how to get hired, how people can brand themselves, how to navigate different studios, what to expect during the interview process, how to get your foot in the door, how a resume should look, some tools/resources to get interviews, etc. Paxton spoke over the years and will be returning and adding to his successful presentation. Paxton has built the team at Funcom over the past 3 1/2 years here in Raleigh & Internationally and will be talking about the exciting things at Funcom.
Creating Your Own Game Design Pattern Language
Speaker: Christopher Barney
Pattern Theory has been applied to many fields. This talk demonstrates a new process that shows that the patterns that will serve YOU the best are the ones that YOU discover. Learn how to examine the games you know and love to uncover the patterns that make them great. Connect your patterns together to form a Pattern Language that will help you to solve your particular design problems in new and innovative ways and to organize your understanding of game design with a framework that you create!
Making Game Music: Beginners On a Tight Budget
Speaker: Matthew Hodge
My talk will discuss the crucial importance that music has on games and how to begin approaching the process of making music if you are a beginner (composer or game designer) and on a tight budget. This talk aims to offer helpful discussions and strategies for both indie game designers wanting to make their own music and beginning composers new to the gaming world.
The Business of Building a Business in Gaming
Speakers: Heather Ouida, Laura Deutsch, Verta Maloney, Rebecca Dixon
Moderated by CEO Heather Ouida, this informal, highly interactive panel will bring together members of the*gameHERs team to discuss such things as: how they started the company, how they grew their community, the roles in the company, how we partner with brands, how our first annual gameHERs awards went viral, why the founders try to be the 4 least important people in the room, how we went about raising money when less than 3% of women founded companies receive outside funding and more!
We want the audience to learn more about all the awesome women in our community, all the incredible organizations we work with who have paved the way for women in gaming, we’d love to inspire women who may be listening and most of all answer any questions the audience may have for us or for any of our teammates who may also be on the
Massively Multi-writer Games
Speaker: Beth LaPensee
Narrative games with large writing teams dedicated to mostly individualized contributions require tailored design as well as strategies for development. They need to be designed with flexibility for individual writing styles, yet still be able to fuse together unique contributions, all while managing a massive team of writers with their own schedules and career trajectories. This is especially important for games such as When Rivers Were Trails, where 100 character-oriented scenarios by 30 writers were interwoven through gameplay involving additional writing in the form of collectable stories and random happenings.
This talk appeals to writers as well as anyone who may work with a community of writers, building from experiences including being creative director for When Rivers Were Trails and a writer for Where the Water Tastes Like Wine and Dialect. These award-winning models provide insights for design decisions and development processes for future “massively multi-writer games.”
Focusing on Player Fantasy: What it Means and How to Use It
Speaker: Richard Rouse III
What is a player fantasy? Why is it so important? And how should you use one to shape the gameplay and narrative of your project? This talk goes step by step through a number of core player fantasies that make people want to play games, analyzing popular games and what fantasies they fulfill. Next we’ll suggest how designers and writers can figure out the fantasies of their own games. Then we’ll go through several steps that show how your fantasy can drive your gameplay systems and be melded with world design and narrative design – all in support of creating satisfying and enriching experiences for players.
Video Games for Mental Well-being: A Rallying Cry
Speaker: Gabriel Pappalardo
Our country is in the midst of a mental health crisis. ADHD, Anxiety, and Depression are all rising, with suicides and overdose are at an all-time high. Fortunately, there are forces in and alongside the videogame industry that are taking action.
This talk will highlight recent initiatives from around the world that have recognized the opportunity to use games as a medium to enhance mental well-being. We’ll explore industry movements and organizations such as Take This, Guardians Mental Health, and The Insight Project that work to reduce stigma and provide mental health resources to gamers. We’ll look at examples of games where mental health narratives have resonated strongly with gamer audiences such as Celeste and Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. Finally, we’ll discuss the victories and challenges we’ve experienced in developing our own mental-health focused game, Amaru: The Self-care Virtual Pet and highlight other indies operating at a new crossroads of games and digital health.
Monetize the Modscene – UGC as a Live Service
Speaker: Danny Silvers
Games today are more than the Day 1 experience. They have lifespans that can last years, if not decades, thanks to Live Service models that keep players coming back. This, however, is not a new phenomenon, and the traditional model of using USER generated content – as opposed to developer generated content – to retain player bases is also still alive and well. But do games need to be dependent on only one or the other?
In this talk from indie game developer Danny Silvers, we’ll look at the ways the Live Service Cycle can be used to encourage both player engagement and user generated content, bringing these two, seemingly opposite business models together to create a structure that both maximizes player creativity AND studio income.
Failure Is Not The End
Speaker: Josh Fairhurst
This talk explores how a series of failures and near closures lead a company from the brink of bankruptcy to being one of the most successful and fastest growing companies in the United States. Every company is going to fail, but that doesn’t mean failure has to be the end.
From Developer to Publisher – 5 Steps for a Smooth Transition
Speaker: Anya Stoyanova
The topic will reveal how Imperia Online has covered both sides of the coin. Anya Stoyanova, Senior Marketing and BizDev Manager, will be taking you step by step through the transition from a Developer to a Publisher. Is this the new trend? How actually Imperia Online has decided after 14 years being a game developer to become a publisher? The presentation will be sharing insightful information about the pros and cons of being a developer and a publisher.
How to Make Real-time Music-Driven Games
Speaker: David Klingler
“What if the gameplay was based on live music?”
You can make games that take a live audio signal, process that information, and apply that data to your gameplay in realtime. This is how to do it, the present and future of this type of game design, and the relatable story of the first game that did it.
Expected takeaways: how to take a live audio signal and get relevant information to use for gameplay in realtime, how to apply musical concepts that you can perceive to game mechanics that your players can perceive, and a living story about why these games are special in terms of the business of independent games.
Helping you Navigate Through the Legal Video Game Jungle
Speakers: Annette Stavenow Eriksson, Tommy Persson
Welcome to a talk about other game developers’ mistakes within IP rights, music collaboration and other easy deals that have the potential to make your future revenues disappear. Or worse, loose your company!!!
The law firm´s CEO Annette, and Tommy, the most experienced video game lawyer in Sweden, will tell you stories from real life and explain the advantages of taking the legal parts seriously when making games.
Questions you may have now that will be answered during this session:
When and why do you need to use external lawyering help? Is it important to have a lawyer specialized in videogames or will any lawyer be OK? Is this nice to have or need to have? Why is it necessary to have proper contracts? What can happen if you don’t? How do I make a smart negotiation?
Digital Drawing Dos and Don’ts
Speakers: Pat Fitzgerald, Ryan Grady, Marc Russo
“Digital Drawing Dos and Don’ts” is a digital drawing and illustration roundtable focusing on techniques and topics relative to 2D Art in the game industry. The roundtable is made up of a panel of digital artists and breaks away from the traditional session format; the artists will share their screen and draw based on prompts during the discussion. The audience is encouraged to participate, not only by asking questions, but also by drawing along with the panelists. This is made possible due to the virtual nature of the session and Discord’s capability to share multiple screens. Topics discussed will primarily be guided by the audience but will include creative processes and practices, personal and professional development, analog & digital sketchbook practices, what it means to work digitally, and the power of experimentation.
Messy Characters and Breadcrumb Trails: Developing a Revelatory Language for Players
Speaker: Toiya Kristen Finley
Designing great hints is about more than leaving cool things for players to find or hear in the environment. When players connect to characters on some level, they’re more likely to be invested in finding clues that engage their imaginations and show them things about the world, characters, and plot. Finding these clues deepens their commitment to the story. They’re the kind of hints that players are excited to find and share as they theorize about what’s going to happen to a character or the world. In order to deepen the players’ commitment and investment, narrative designers can work with their teams to develop “messy” characters players will care about and a holistic narrative design that takes all facets of the game into account. In effect, developers create a “revelatory” breadcrumb language to signal where players can look for clues. This talk will discuss designing “messy” characters and developing a game’s narrative design by using illustrations from games and other media.
Speaker: Kenneth Hubbell
Courtesy of Alexa, Google Home and platforms like JovoTech and Inform 7, creating conversational interactive serious games is an exciting new opportunity for game designers. You will hear these technologies in action as you learn about how these tools can help you bring a new level of engagement to your learning experiences.
Intergenerational Game Design: The Evolving Older Adult Gamer
Speaker: Robin Koman
In this session, game designer and educator Robin Koman will offer design guidelines to support engaging gameplay for players impacted by the physiological, cognitive, and social changes that come with age. Learning how to design for older players has the potential to broaden current markets, and will also help the industry to support the existing player base as they age. With the oldest Gen-Xers nearing 60, and the oldest Millennials turning 40, understanding aging is more important than ever.
How Indie Developers Can Navigate Small Business Administration Resources & COVID Aid
Speaker: Rachel Presser
With the passage of the CARES Act in 2020, there was a great deal of confusion concerning what types of businesses were eligible for the Paycheck Protection Program, Economic Injury Disaster Loans, and standardized SBA programs that were in place prior to the pandemic. But many game developers were actually eligible for these programs—and there’s still time to submit EIDL applications!
The SBA has a wealth of under-discussed resources that indie game developers can benefit from, such as lender matching and grant programs. The following topics will be discussed:
- How to find SBA grants in your area
- Understanding grants vs. government contracts
- How to submit an EIDL application and loan increase request
- How to apply for PPP and loan forgiveness
- 7(a) and microloan processing and approval for indie developers
- How to prepare for loan and grant applications
- And more!
Now What? – Graduating into the Game Industry During a Pandemic
Speakers: Julie Demyanovich, Sergio Conti, Alexander Goldberg
This talk unveils the path of an indie developer in a world where graduation was a PowerPoint slide, GDC was cancelled, and breaking into the game industry was a giant question mark. Here we investigate the steps I took to make the most out of 2020 and succeed.
Light Communications in the 21st Century
Speaker: John Parsons
Light Communications in the 21st century. History, current state of affairs and future. Light waves versus traditional radio frequency waves. Where is light communications headed and why is it needed in high speed communications. How does security and safety factor into LiFi?