ECGC 2023

The Largest Conference for Game Developers on the East Coast

Sessions

Listen. Ask. Learn. Grow.

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Keynote

Jason McGuigan - 2023 ECGC speaker

Everything. Everywhere. Everyone. Our collective, virtual, future.

Jason will discuss how Beat Saber, Walmart employee training, The Mandalorian, and the dashboard of a Hummer have more in common than you might think.

He will cover a comprehensive look at virtual reality – where we are, where we’re going, and how the underlying technology that runs it is already all around us.

Most importantly, he will discuss that as we begin revealing the layers of what a converged digital and physical future might look like- we quickly see how gamers and game designers are at the center of it all.

Keisha-Howard - 2023 ECGC speaker

The Future is in Our Hands: How Gamers Can Save the World

In this keynote, we explore the unique strengths that gamers bring to the table and how they can use these qualities to shape emerging technology in a way that is accessible, inclusive, and human-centric. I discuss the challenges that the gaming community must overcome and offer practical steps that gamers can take to have a positive impact on the world. The keynote concludes with a call to action, encouraging gamers to join forces and work together to create a brighter future for humanity and the technology we use.

Speakers

Joshua Hilton - 2023 ECGC speaker

How To Become an Esports Coach

More people are playing video games than ever before, with an estimated 3 out of 4 households in the United States containing at least one gamer. As the audience grows, so does the demand for coaches. While there are many free resources for getting better at most games, people often prefer to have another person help them improve in a one-on-one setting (e.g. a personal trainer at the gym or a golf instructor at a driving range). With platforms like Gamer Sensei, Metafy, and even Fiverr expanding the market, now is a great time to launch your video game coaching career. Learn how to get started with Joshua Hilton, former CEO of Gamer Sensei and founder of Coachify.GG.

Ian Russell - 2023 ECGC speaker

Casting Voice Actors for Games

So you decided to add voice to your game … but … you don’t know where to start, how to manage the process, how to budget, after all you’ve never cast before. Or perhaps you have and found that the process eats time. Or that the avenue you used flooded you with submissions with no quality control. In this session, Ian will venture outside the booth and provide useful tips and tricks that can help you get great talent submissions, manage them efficiently and control both the quality and the budget. Key Takeaways include:

  • At what point in development should I cast my talent
  • Where should I look to find talent
  • What should I include in my casting brief
  • When preparing a funding application, how much should I include for voice acting
  • How much time should I allow for casting
Josh Ether - 2023 ECGC speaker

Flow: Friend or Foe

Have you ever been so focused on a task that your mind seems unconcerned with anything else except what you’re doing. There are no roaming thoughts. There is almost no time to even contemplate action, your energy seems to just flow.

The term Flow was coined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi author of the book “Flow — The Psychology of Optimal Experience” where in: “people typically experience deep enjoyment, creativity, and a total involvement with life.”

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows however, quoting from the book of Flow again: “a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience is so enjoyable that people will continue to do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it”
– Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Between the lines of positivity there lurks a negative we need to be aware of : “will continue to do it even at great cost”. The risk in flow is enjoying the feeling so much that we don’t want it to end..

David Morris - 2023 ECGC speaker

Photogrammetry: The Secret Sauce for Digital & Physical Convergence

Are you laser-focused on developing a sound strategy for digital-physical convergence?

Join this session to learn how photogrammetry can help you build a powerful foundation for digital-physical convergence and your overall web3 strategy. Experiential Consultant David Morris from NYCAP3D will share how this technology can support valuable customer data collection and retention, drive more strategic marketing campaigns, elevate ambassador and influencer strategies, and optimize omnichannel experience design.

Heather Cole - 2023 ECGC speaker

Preparing Early Career Game Makers through an Indie Studio Experience

In this talk, Cole will go through the creation, direction, and management of the new MonRiverGames, a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit indie game studio whose goal is to provide affordable professional experiences in game design. This talk will highlight growing pains as well as tips for success in creating and guiding similar studio experiences. Cole will also go through specific projects and detail methods she employed to help create a cohesive team for each session. More information about monrivergames can be found at https://www.monrivergames.com/.

Randy Nash - 2023 ECGC speaker

Unreal: Beyond Editor Utility Widgets with Python

In Unreal, Editor Utility Widgets and Editor Utility Scripts can do a lot to improve the lives of the team without the need to modify native code, but what should be used when the problem is too complex to realistically implement in Blueprint? Python has the potential to bridge the Blueprint / C++ gap while presenting interesting opportunities not possible in either solution. This talk will shed some light on the pros, cons, and unique things possible when using Python in Unreal Editor so attendees can utilize the right tool for their problem.

Randy Nash - 2023 ECGC speaker

The Tech Designer Shaped Hole in Tech Art

Technical Designers often shape themselves to the ever changing needs of a project but one thing we don’t always have is art skills. Thankfully, the world of Tech Art isn’t as far away as it sometimes appears. This talk seeks to give an extremely high level overview on a wide range of topics including Maya and Houdini scripting, art pipeline basics, and performance analysis. By the end, the world of Tech Art should be a little less scary the next time you hear “can you help out the tech art team for a couple weeks?”

Amber Johnson - 2023 ECGC speaker

Text to Pixels: Turning Colossal Cave Adventure into 3D

Colossal Cave is a parser game from 1976 which has the distinction of being the first adventure game. How do you honor one of the most influential video games made and adapt it to modern game visuals and design? This talk discusses the design process that Roberta William and Amber Johnson went through with designing the levels as well as the art direction the art team took with this project.

Stefan Hall - 2023 ECGC speaker

Expressing Narrative Design through Level Design

Continued advances in video game technology have allocated more resources (memory, storage, graphic processing) to both narrative design and level design. As many video games have become increasingly narrative in orientation, how might designers use elements in their levels to orchestrate player experience so that the players understand more about a game’s world without having to rely on heavy exposition, extended cutscenes, and interactive dialogue? By examining the diegetic elements present in a variety of levels from indie and AAA titles, this talk will focus on ways to create immersive game worlds by layering visual cues and representational shortcuts to suggest broader narrative possibilities for players. Genre conventions, mise-en-scène components, and graphical aesthetics will be evaluated for their useful deployment in enhancing game narrative.

Rachel Presser - 2023 ECGC speaker

Overcoming Business and Legal Challenges of Non-US Team Members

Indie teams today are no longer limited by talent and business opportunities in their backyards. Unfortunately, our legal system has not yet caught up to this reality. What happens if you have international team members? What if you are not from the US, but want to sell your game in US markets? Inversely, what if you want to reach foreign markets as a developer?

With over 10 years of experience in international tax matters and advising indie teams of all types, plus the speaker having had a foreign business partner and able to speak from firsthand experience, this talk will teach attendees how to navigate some of the inevitable headaches that come with working with international team members. Here are key topics that will be covered so attendees with foreign team members can be better prepared:

  • ITINs and tax treaties
  • State-level legal challenges
  • Forming a stateside vs. a foreign company
  • When is it worth working with a foreign or US publisher?
  • and much more!
Glen Swan - 2023 ECGC speaker

Changing The Esports Model

Esports is a hot topic right now and many new entrepreneurs and brands are looking to break into the market. This talk will outline how Bad Machines, the first esports bar in North Carolina, is breaking into the esports market with a innovative and unique approach that is likely to disrupt the model. Glen (Owner), will cover costs to entry, challenges of starting a business in esports, and how he is positioning Bad Machines to be something unique that aims to support the players over the brands.

Mostafa Haque - 2023 ECGC speaker

Life Experience to Puzzle Pipeline

The speaker talks about how any life experiences can be used as a basis for puzzle creation. The speaker will cover specific examples from three published puzzle titles they worked on to demonstrate the principles in practice: -Adventure Escape Mysteries: Picture Perfect -Adventure Escape Mysteries: The Sultan’s Inventor -Adventure Escape Mysteries: Lost Ruins – Revenge on Atlantis.

Branden Moore - 2023 ECGC speaker

I Don’t Know What I Don’t Know – Demystifying the Laws of Making a Video Game

As attorneys, we constantly have clients meet us and say “I don’t know what I need, I just know I need something.” This talk is to help answer that question for developers, programmers, artists, or any other medium of video game creation. For new companies starting, this begins with creating your business, all of the legal processes having to take place to own your LLC, your trademark, and begin hiring employees with contracts that protect you. Then, looking for incentives your state may offer and other things, such as handling independent contractor contracts to guarantee your IP is yours and does not leak.

For others, it’s about how to protect what YOU are doing for a company or yourself. What to look for in contracts (and what to put in your own) to make sure you are protecting your valuable intellectual property. Branden will go through these steps with you and help you walk away with a clear roadmap for where to head next.

Justin Achilli - 2023 ECGC speaker

From the Controller to Infinity: Developing Games-First Transmedia

Games are the a powerful first step into brands that keep players and audiences entertained for as long as you can keep their attention. But how do you do that when they have millions of hours of other entertainment to choose from? This talk showcases toolbox techniques for turning ideas from “It would be cool if…” into practical games and other transmedia expressions.

Max Litvinov - 2023 ECGC speaker

Into The Fray: Dissecting the Game Programming Technical Interview

It can already be a daunting task to land an interview as a gameplay engineer in the industry. What about the actual interview process itself and its technical aspects? Over my gameplay engineering career I’ve gone through a large number of interviews, and I’d like to share what I learned along the way. This session will cover the ins and outs of technical interviews for gameplay engineering candidates.

Caleb Smith - 2023 ECGC speaker

Revolutionizing Esports through Education and Youth Development

I will talk about how esports was a growing trend in 2019 and it got hit hard in 2020 and is still on a decline. During the decline I have been able to successfully build a business that is in the industry by focusing on education and youth development. Esports and video games get kids excited about technology. They will want to learn about how technology works, how to make games, etc. which will lead them to pursue careers in video game design, cyber security, etc. We also teach the soft skills such as being punctual, teamwork, integrity and more. I will educate the audience on how schools, parks & rec, nonprofits, and other organizations can benefit from the industry.

David Klingler - 2023 ECGC speaker

Games of Expression vs Escapism

Making games is supposed to be fun. Playing games is supposed to be fun. Why does it feel like games aren’t as fun as they used to be? Why does it feel like making games isn’t as fun as it used to be? Why is it so complicated? Sometimes you just want to get away from it all. Where do we turn? This talk is about examining why you play games in the first place, why you will play games in the future, and using that information to influence how you make games, talk about games, think about games, and play. Afterwards, you will be able to see the path to make games in a positive way that are positive for other people. This is the way we can all win.

Paxton Galvanek - 2023 ECGC speaker

Getting a Job in Video Game Development … Tips, Tricks & Hints!

Paxton will discuss how to get hired in game development, how to create a brand for yourself, how to navigate HR/hiring at different game dev 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 at ECGC over the years and will be returning plus adding to his successful presentation. Hopefully, participants will walk away with some “tips, tricks & hints”. Paxton recently founded Studio Hermitage an Amplifier/Embracer Group company where he is staffing up and developing a new video game and various multi-media projects. Prior to this, Paxton built the team at Funcom over 5+ years, not only in Raleigh but also internationally at their locations including Norway, Portugal, Romania, Stockholm & more. Before that, he built game dev teams for Activision, Firaxis, Tripwire, and many others.

Ben Prunty - 2023 ECGC speaker

A Decade of Vibes: Lessons Learned Scoring FTL, Into the Breach, Subnautica: Below Zero and Others

After making music professionally for a decade and working on a dozen games, I’ve learned a lot of lessons about game music that I haven’t seen discussed elsewhere. In this talk, I’ll share many of these concepts. Some examples: – Silence: How a lack of music can enhance a game’s soundtrack. – Vibes > Genre: Genre is merely a tool you use to achieve a vibe, rather than a rigid guideline. – Punching mudcrabs – How implementation is just as important as the music itself, as demonstrated by the ludicrously epic battle music that plays when fighting a low-level mudcrab in The Elder Scrolls: Morrowind. – The 30 second battle track – Learning exactly where and how long a player spends their time in the game will help inform you where to spend YOUR time as a composer. I have several of these lessons, and each is presented as a sort of microtalk.

Eli Harris - 2023 ECGC speaker

The Veteran VO Narrative

We will be discussing the basic overview of veterans in gaming, focused on proper representation and education while our experiences bring value to the development process. The unique perspective of what we bring to the table and the importance of implementing VO in the beginning stages.

Michael Schmitt - 2023 ECGC speaker

6 Reasons to Track Your Work Hours on Indie Side-Projects

In the field of game development, side-projects can quickly evolve from a fun creative outlet into something that feels like a heavy burden. Whether you’re working on a solo project or with a team, keeping a log of your work hours can help you turn this “overwhelmed” feeling into one of intentionality and accomplishment. In this talk, I’ll share 6 reasons why you should be tracking your work hours when you decide to take a commitment to your side-project (and personal well-being) more seriously. For a lot of my life, I struggled with keeping motivation and momentum going on side-projects outside of work. It wasn’t until I started tracking my hours and setting small time-based milestones (rather than progress-based milestones) that I truly learned about my rhythms for creative work/rest. I’ll share my tips, tricks, and spreadsheets that helped me move my side-project from a production nightmare back into a fun creative outlet.

Ryan Hoss - 2023 ECGC speaker

Generating Responsive Open World VFX for Saints Row (2022)

An open-world game like Saints Row (2022) challenges players to embrace the unpredictable. This talk breaks down the creative solutions Volition’s VFX team fostered through interdepartmental collaboration to add life to the “living world” of the game so it comes across as a dynamic and satisfying part of the player experience. Learn how the team took data from gameplay materials to drive numerous systems such as weapon impacts, specialist enemy combat, vehicle skids and explosions, cinematics, weather events, and destructible objects. Finally, discover how leaning into this engine feature produced some unexpected wins and areas of improvement for future titles.

Dylan Ascencio - 2023 ECGC speaker

On the Wind’s Breath: Tales from Modding a Twenty-Year-Old Game

In this talk, I will discuss my experiences with video game modding, focusing on the 2002 Nintendo GameCube game The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. I will go over how I got into it, what technical challenges are involved with working with a 20-year-old game engine, and what I’ve noticed about how they designed the game as I have worked with it – how they implemented gameplay objects, cutscenes, text data, etc. I will also highlight some of the modding tools I have created and talk about some of the problems I have had to solve while writing them, including both backend hurdles and issues of UI design. Finally, I will reflect on how this hobby has affected my life and how it has helped me grow as a programmer and as a game design enthusiast.

Jeff Rodgers - 2023 ECGC speaker

Teaching Gamers like Games Do: Iterative Experiences Aren’t Just for Tutorials, Any More!

Gamification was a great buzzword for a while, but games have gone far beyond token systems and basic leveling. Modern games are more than a distraction, they are a human experience. To create a truly meaningful moment, game developers have to understand how to meet a player where they are. Games teach players exactly what they are ready for by giving them real experiences and plenty of room to explore. By using game theory and player psychology, we can create immersive, experiential learning in the classroom and in the game to make real connections and learn real skills.
Jeff Rodgers will discuss real-world tutorials and the crossover between game theory and education. Students at multiple stages in the Game Art & Design program at Atkins High School will discuss their experience with iterative, first-person curriculum.

Jesse Scoble - 2023 ECGC speaker

Narrative Dreams & Living Nightmares

Writing is easy, right? It’s just words! (Heck, even an AI can do it now). Listen to stories of breaking in, lessons learned, and woe and hardship from veteran writers of the video game industry. We’ll talk about projects that went right, some that went wrong, and how to recognize and course correct where possible! ——- Panelists: Heather Albano – Senior Narrative Designer at Deep Silver Volition (previously the author of A Study in Steampunk and other Choice of Games titles; Jurassic Work Revealed; Wildermyth) Justin Hellstrom – Junior Narrative Designer at Crytek (Previously creator audio drama podcast: The Great Chameleon War)

Hunter Nance - 2023 ECGC speaker

Releasing a Complete Game as a Hobbyist (Atama)

Releasing a game is extremely hard, and it is even harder when you are working a full-time job and have other hobbies. In this talk, I will go through the release of Atama (an indie horror stealth and puzzle game where you look through the eyes of monsters to help solve puzzles and avoid them) and discuss how this was achievable and give advice from what I learned through the process to successfully complete a game project as a hobbyist.

Saritdikhun Somasa - 2023 ECGC speaker

3D Digital Human Facial Construction

The presentation focuses on 3D human facial modeling and sculpting techniques and includes digital sculpting and modeling workflow in Maya and Zbrush. The lecture consists of the following topics. – Adapting the traditional sculpting techniques for digital sculpting in ZBrush – The concept of human facial construction for digital sculpting in ZBrush includes a skull structure, primary forms, landmarks, and the eye-nose-ear-mouth-neck structures. – Retopology surface model in Maya 3D to produce a clean mesh for animated ready-for-game or film models. – Basic mesh layout for a facial structure to support the flow of facial expression – Mesh uniformity and spacing – Quads and triangles – Discussion about UDIM and traditional UV.

Seth Hudson - 2023 ECGC speaker

Before the Monomyth: Motifs and Why They Matter

Joseph’s Campbell’s Monomyth is old; Hollywood’s Hero’s Journey grows more tiresome year by year. While game storytellers can still find value in understanding these basic concepts, a deeper look at what inspired Campbell, and decades of Western popular story as a result, can shed new (more) light on how to advance narrative in games. This talk presents an accessible overview of the Jungian concepts that ground the Hero’s Journey. Using examples from classic and current games, the speaker offers a series of comparisons to illustrate how the use of archetypal motifs—birth, death, mothers, fathers, apocalypse, deluge, etc.—can guide small decisions to make an impact. Additionally, the speaker argues for the potential of motif-informed decision making to increase sophistication and inclusion in game storytelling by focusing on shared human emotions rather than formulaic structures.

Patrick Messenger - 2023 ECGC speaker

The Battle Royale of IP

Game Developers regularly leverage real world concepts, ideas, music, brands and people to provide commentary on real world events or to build a more realistic world for gamers to explore. In order to incorporate intellectual property owned by a third party, game developers must have an understanding of the permissions or approvals necessary to do so or alternatively, the legal defenses to claims of unauthorized use to enable them to avoid litigation and liability. By incorporating real-world examples from a number of lawsuits and our own first-hand experience, this session will provide an overview of (a) copyright and trademark concepts relevant for game developers, (b) the legal steps necessary to incorporate third-party content into games, (c) when a use may be a “fair use,” (d) and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) and how it can be critical for a company that permits users to create worlds and add content to their game play.

Jesse O'Brien - 2023 ECGC speaker

The 3D Art Production Pipeline for ‘That Damn Goat’

This talk will be an overview of the 3D art production pipeline used to create That Damn Goat, a game being developed by MAGIC Spell Studios. MAGIC is a professional game development studio owned by the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), and housed on the RIT campus. We will walk through all the tools and techniques that made up our pipeline, and will show the evolution of props and characters as they were worked through the pipeline. We used several different software packages throughout our pipeline, we will explain how we used them. MAGIC employed a hybrid professional/educational development model. This is a game project being led by faculty, but predominantly being developed by paid student workers. This talk is written for educators that may want to adapt these pipeline processes into their own educational context. The talk is also for students and recent graduates who will see a professional 3D art pipeline developed for student workers.

Matt Dondelinger - 2023 ECGC speaker

Building A Live Game That Endures

Designing a live game is a challenging endeavor. You and your team need to have a compelling game, ability to survive in the short term, and flexibility to plan for the future. When done correctly, a game can be successful for years and years. However, even games with massive budgets will fail if they don’t focus on the fundamentals of live game design. Matt will use his years of experience in live game development and working with Unity to show key principles of live game development. This presentation will cover some history of live games, how to build a solid foundation at launch, and what you need to plan for future success. The target audience would be indie and smaller development teams who are looking to make a live game for the first time. Attendees will leave with an understanding of what live games are, what is required to launch a new live game, what support is needed for the game’s life, and some useful tips/tricks.

Stephen Weese - 2023 ECGC speaker

My Journey: From Voice Actor, to Director, Writer and Game Dev

Originally driven by a passion for acting, Stephen Weese moved to Los Angeles to begin his adventure. In his first month, he was in the Hellsing Ultimate anime and the Samurai Heroes game for the Wii. Then someone asked him to write a story, then someone else. Along the way Stephen met big voice actors like Richard Epcar from Mortal Kombat and Cristina Valenzuela who is Miraculous Ladybug. He learned to direct, and started casting and directing, eventually working on a SEGA game. He made his own feature film, Altered Spirits, staring Richard and Cristina. Then he decided… “I want to make my own games!” Since he also has a computer science degree, he was able to get started and using his new skills and put together Letters From the Moon, which was released on Steam through his company, Marvelous Spiral Studios. He now has several games he has written and is looking for partners to create. Join him on the crazy journey and the exciting future ideas of someone who loves working on video games — in every way!

Jedidjah Noomen - 2023 ECGC speaker

So You (Don’t) Want to Write for Mobile Games

Writing for mobile games is often dismissed by budding gamewriters as a non-viable or uninteresting option – just like experience in mobile is often not taken seriously by companies that develop for console. But is that fair? In this talk I will focus on the skills needed to write for (big) mobile games, as well as the skills you gain from it that can be used outside of the mobile realm.

Suzanne Peterson-Warr - 2023 ECGC speaker

I’m Stressed, You’re Stressed, the Cat’s Stressed, Too: Understanding What Your Player Really Wants

Using my background as a published author of traditional books and as a developmental editor of national bestselling novels, I’ll share a few tricks and secrets from the other side of the entertainment industry. We’ll explore the relationship between pain and stress, and the approach a game or narrative designer can use to make sure that a player gets what they’re looking for from a game. This will include tips for how to increase the player’s sensory immersion in game’s you make and ways to honor the unwritten emotional contract you’ve extended to your player.

Jesse Henning - 2023 ECGC speaker

Level Up Your Art Skills by Leveraging Your Limitations

Limitations are and always will be a part of life as an artist, no matter how developed your skills may be. If we learn to embrace our limitations in the way we practice our craft, we can actually find more freedom to create. Through this practice we can achieve a greater ability to focus on direction, work faster, work more efficiently and actually increase our value to the companies that hire us. Having every tool available at your disposal and being given the freedom to make whatever you want sounds appealing, but it can often be crippling, leaving you with too many options to choose from. Limitations can help free you, by narrowing those options in order to move forward in creating the art you enjoy, to explore new areas of your craft and grow in skills that you might not normally focus on without having certain crutches removed. In this talk I will demonstrate how I have practiced and had to navigate limitations in both professional and personal projects.

Michelle Clough - 2023 ECGC speaker

Coins, Card Towers, and Casinos: Modelling Attraction and Chemistry Through Narrative Design

Relationships aren’t about “say and do nice things until you’re rewarded with love or sex.” Yet the dominant romance model in games – the infamous “kindness coins” – often unintentionally does just that. This talk explores how to evolve (or subvert!) that model by shifting focus onto attraction and personal chemistry, and how to tell hotter, sweeter stories through EVERY system of the game, not only dialogue and text. We’ll cover: -the “kindness coin” model and its pros and cons. -chemistry as a more nuanced alternative to generic “kindness” -how chemistry can be expressed through different game systems, from conversation to character creation to combat. -how to mentally reframe kindness coins as the “chemistry card tower,” trading transactional dynamics for building up inter-personal chemistry -how to use things like RNG and narrative sleight-of-hand to keep chemistry and romance unpredictable, mysterious, and suspenseful – the “chemistry casino” (NOTE: expanded from my GDC talk!)

Austin Caskie - 2023 ECGC speaker

Tying Knots in Virtual Reality

The talk will be a discussion of the technical execution of my thesis project programming an interactive-knot tying simulation for virtual reality, which includes a custom and robust rope simulation. I will cover topics including Position Based Dynamics, soft-body physics, procedural meshes, and designing a dexterous control system for rope manipulation in virtual reality. I will also discuss the learning process and how to maintain enthusiasm through difficult projects.

Jesse Scoble - 2023 ECGC speaker

Tilting at Windmills: The Quest for Better Quest Design

You COULD be the chosen one, destined to save us from certain ruin. But before I can tell you how to find the Golden MacGuffin, I need you to prove yourself…by killing ten rats. Quest design has come a long way, or has it? A panel of veteran writers & narrative designers discusses what’s right and wrong with current day quest design and offer ways we might improve it, with a particular focus on storytelling and narrative design. What tools do we have to make our quests more engaging? How can we get more out of them with no additional development cost? What can we do to get our players to care about more than just the rewards they offer? Find out at The Quest for Better Quest Design.

Katie Stokes - 2023 ECGC speaker

Rapid Prototyping and Communication Strategies: Working with Subject Matter Experts

The purpose of this talk will be to highlight tools and communication strategies to facilitate efficient collaboration between subject matter experts, specifically, healthcare professionals, and game developers. Some technologies that Katie is using in her research include recording streams, video annotation software, virtual editors, common graphics software and websites. What are you using? Katie would love to have a conversation to empower both parties to partner more effectively and help bridge the communication gaps that often exist between these individuals.

Barret Vasilchik - 2023 ECGC speaker

Forming the Perfect Indie Team: Finding True Collaborators

As an indie game developer, one of the biggest challenges is finding the right people to work with on your project. Whether you’re a solo developer looking for a team or a small team looking to expand, building a team of passionate, skilled, and aligned individuals is crucial to the success of your project. In this talk, we’ll explore the different ways you can find the perfect collaborators for your indie game development project. We’ll discuss how to leverage platforms like Fiverr, Discord, and Twitter to find like-minded individuals who share your vision and passion for the project. We’ll also discuss the importance of finding people who are aligned with your vision and how to make sure everyone is on the same page. Lastly, we’ll discuss the importance of treating your team as true collaborators and not just contractors or workers.

Mary Holtschneider - 2023 ECGC speaker

Maximize Your Wellbeing: Easy Pilates Exercises To Help You Move More Efficiently

When we discuss physical fitness practices as a society, we often do not differentiate among the many disciplines that are available to us. Sometimes we revert back to the statement, “Just get out and walk.” Though walking can be a good cardiovascular practice, it can cause muscular imbalances and movement inefficiencies that develop over time and lead to joint pain, balance issues, and other ailments if it is not done intentionally. This session will focus on how other physical fitness practices, specifically Pilates, can help build core strength, improve posture, and increase efficient and effective movement patterns. We will discuss how our current work environments, centered around sitting for prolonged periods at a computer screen, lead to a multitude of issues that affect our physical, mental, and emotional health. We will also practice some basic, fully accessible moves that everyone can do on their own to help maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Joshua Perry - 2023 ECGC speaker

Designing Content Agnostic Serious Games

Many Serious Games are often topic specific. If one applies the concept of a “platform” that uses a universal game mechanic, Serious Game content can be delivered with less over head and greater flexibility than developing a different game for each subject matter area. This presentation will explore this idea using a ECU project, S-Chat, as a case study.

Adam Flores - 2023 ECGC speaker

Diegetic Telegraphing: Getting the Complexity off the Player and into the World.”

In this talk, I will go over a team collaboration/production strategy that when followed results in games with substantially more approachability. Mostly, this outlines how designers and artists can develop shared values and a shared Lexicon to collaborate more effectively.

Garrett Swanson - 2023 ECGC speaker

Motivation Isn’t a Stat, It’s a Class

In western society, motivation is considered a binary thing that you either have or don’t on a given day, week, or even project. I’ve found motivation is more like a body type, or a class in a video game. Motivation is complex and everyone is different. In this talk, we’ll go over the video-gamified versions of the 3 big motivational types (Doshas) from Ayurveda, a school of thought and medicine from over 5000 years ago. There are the Wind (Dynamic), Fire (Driven), and Earth (Resilient) types, and each have vastly different pitfalls and techniques to excel in motivation. You don’t cast a fireball when you’re classed as a barbarian, so stop listening to motivational speakers that tell everyone “Just try to use Fireball more often.”

Bonnie Mauldin - 2023 ECGC speaker

Developing Mobile App Games With Purpose (And A Marketing Plan To Distribute!)

Bonnie Mauldin will use her leadership and expertise as an award-winning author, investor, entrepreneur and game developer to talk about her new game – FAST DOT, the development and marketing process, and share tips with anyone interested in developing games that improve cognitive function while being visually stunning, engaging and fun.

Allen Oliver - 2023 ECGC speaker

Optimization and Porting: Fitting Large Games in Small Packages

This talk will go over the broad process of taking a project and porting to another platform. Then after that is established, I go over the publishing process. I will break down key areas developers can optimize and save resources on in-game assets, as well as some core code and shader optimizations. The talk is intended to be engine-agnostic and should be useful for any developer looking to optimize or port to a new platform.

Chris Alvarez-Russell - ECGC speaker

DLSS, Frame Generation and Generative AI Models for Games and Content Creation Pipelines

Deep learning and AI continue to excite and amaze both gamers and developers alike. Attend to hear the latest on generative workflows, language models and interesting AI for games and game development. The session also takes a deep dive into DLSS; in particular the latest DLSS Frame Generation and how to use the Streamline frame work to integrate DLSS (DLSS Super Resolution, DLSS Frame Generation and NVIDIA Reflex) into games and rendering engines.

Ken Hubbell - 2023 ECGC speaker

Humans and NLP – How to ask the right questions!

Key Objectives: What is NLP? What can it do for you? How to ask the right question(s) Try this at home There is a new role in many companies, and game development is no different. Using generative AI, specifically Natural Language Processing, it is now possible to have AI draft complex narratives, branching logic for games, and even write code to help in development. The trick is knowing how to ask the right questions to get the results you desire. In this talk, I will cover the fundamentals of asking the right questions and understanding how best to use the results to help your game and your production go well from beginning to end. Save days of writing and planning by adding AI to your design and development team.

Ashley Hopkins - 2023 ECGC speaker

The Influence of Digitally Native Creators in the Metaverse

Digitally native creators are deeply influential within the online communities they inhabit. They make a significant impact when it comes to the success of not only virtual brands, but any brand looking to activate in the metaverse. Since these creators are fully immersed in digital culture, they have a keen understanding of the importance of community-building as well as the power of UGC (user-generated content) in the gaming world. Working with creators who are authentic to and knowledgeable on the metaverse empowers brands to connect with digital audiences in a more genuine way, ultimately building legitimacy and credibility in the space. House of Blueberry (HoB) is uniquely positioned to speak about this topic, as the company was built by digitally native creators and continues to recruit this type of talent—a strategy that has proven to be highly effective.

Steph Briles - 2023 ECGC speaker

Find Your People: An Open Discussion Panel about Local Community and How to Find Us

Let’s talk about the importance of local community and what I’ve learned about building one. During this panel, we can have an open dialogue about community building, networking and connecting with other devs and gamers in your local scene. Potential subjects we can cover: Discord communities Social Media presence Finding sponsors Sending intimidating emails The anxiety of it all Hot spots to spot game developers.

Saritdikhun Somasa - 2023 ECGC speaker

Panel Discussion: Figurative Digital Sculpting for 3d Printing

At ETSU, we offer 3D Fundamental and 3D Design classes for students in Visualization concentration. In Visualization, students do conceptual sculpting more than asset production modeling that can be animated in a game or animated film. The goals of these classes are: • Introduce 3D digital sculpting to students interested in something other than 3D digital modeling for video games or animation assets. • Focus on character concept sculpting. • Introduce students to toy art and collectible art using a 3D printer. The discussion contains class structures, timelines, materials, target goals, and outcomes. Moreover, the panel will discuss the direction of the collectible figurine, toy-art, or toy design market. The presentation also features three former students who took this class, and all three speakers will present their figurative 3D printed models from the 3D Design class at ETSU. They will discuss issues, solutions, their experiences, and their next step after classes.

Nick Cooper - 2023 ECGC speaker

Hitting the Right Notes: Tying Gameplay to Music in ‘Soundfall’

Soundfall is a rhythmic top-down looter shooter where the entire world moves in time with the music, and each level is procedurally generated from a song – including support for player-imported tracks. This session will will cover how everything in the game was synced to the beat – animations, SFX, VFX, enemy behaviors, input, abilities, and more; how this worked across a wide range of BPMs and even through mid-song tempo changes; and the tricks behind getting this all feeling smooth and seamless in online co-op. It will also go into the procedural generation of levels based on audio analysis of songs, and how the resulting data was leveraged in biome selection, level generation, encounter generation, enemy generation, and the loot system. Finally, this session will discuss ideas for expanding on these concepts in future games and experiences.

Tara Powell - 2023 ECGC speaker

Game on with Minecraft Education

Seventy First Classical Middle School offers Coding in Minecraft to 6th and 7th grade students. 6th grade introductory and 7th grade intermediate. Based on the success with this year’s retention and engagement 8th graders will be offered advanced Coding with credential opportunities next school year. Implementing a relevant resource such as Minecraft is key teaching coding (Makecode, Javascript, and Python). The value of computer science can establish a coding skill set and build confidence for students to achieve credentials in 8th grade to follow them into high school and beyond.

Oliver Carson - 2023 ECGC speaker

How To Deliver Real-Time Features That Maximize Game Engagement

Every online game needs social features to help build communities that allow players to connect to one another in real time. Players should be able to chat with others, add new friends, invite players to lobbies, compete with leaderboard updates, manage inventories, and trade items. However, building the infrastructure, integrating the features into your game, and maintaining secure connections all in real time is time-consuming and by no means an easy task. In this session, you’ll learn about the different social features you can implement to improve your players’ online social experiences, as well as the solutions to make this integration and infrastructure setup as easy as possible.

Gabriel Aufort - 2023 ECGC speaker

Hard Currencies, a Technology Perspective.

In these times of in-game battle passes & stores, studios are drawn to leverage micro-transactions to monetize their development efforts. At the entry point of such a strategy, lays an unavoidable technical hurdle: hard currency purchases. Commercial engines help us achieve this goal, but handling player’s hard earned money safely is not trivial. Code needs to interact with multiple online systems, while the whole production is involved: from programmers to QA, customer support, release management or even metrics teams. All of this requires a significant amount of work and time to mature. This talk focuses on real-money transactions seen from a technology perspective, but is meant to speak to non-programmers as well. We’ll cover aspects of code & architecture, a few bits of Unreal & platforms. Finally we’ll present an approach to automating chargebacks. We’ll share feedback from our own experience, obstacles we faced along the way, and where we ended up.

Nick Klingensmith - 2023 ECGC speaker

Code-first XR with .NET

StereoKit is a lightweight open-source XR engine built on the shoulders of OpenXR. It prioritizes fast iteration, good documentation, and a friendly, pleasant-to-use API specifically for XR! This presentation is an overview of StereoKit, and why you should seriously consider it for your next XR project.

Toiya Kristen Finley - 2023 ECGC speaker

Choices and Branching: Designing and Writing Meaningful Stories Part 1

“My choices don’t matter” is a common and unfortunate sentiment many players feel. Since more and more games are featuring choices (both with detailed stories and with little to no stories), it’s important that 1) we design choices that feel impactful and/or allow players to express themselves and 2) write narratives for those choices that are rewarding. In this tutorial, our first session will cover different types of choices, what makes them fun or interesting for players, and what makes them frustrating or non-choices. Then we’ll look at how to develop branches off of choices and make sure that each branch feels balanced and fulfilling plot- and character-wise. In the second session, we’ll discuss how to keep all of your ideas and information organized as you’re plotting and how to communicate them to your teammates or clients. We’ll also cover what tools you can use, like flowcharts and spreadsheets, for documentation.

Michelle Clough - 2023 ECGC speaker

Choices and Branching: Designing and Writing Meaningful Stories Part 2

“My choices don’t matter” is a common and unfortunate sentiment many players feel. Since more and more games are featuring choices (both with detailed stories and with little to no stories), it’s important that 1) we design choices that feel impactful and/or allow players to express themselves and 2) write narratives for those choices that are rewarding. In this tutorial, our first session will cover different types of choices, what makes them fun or interesting for players, and what makes them frustrating or non-choices. Then we’ll look at how to develop branches off of choices and make sure that each branch feels balanced and fulfilling plot- and character-wise. In the second session, we’ll discuss how to keep all of your ideas and information organized as you’re plotting and how to communicate them to your teammates or clients. We’ll also cover what tools you can use, like flowcharts and spreadsheets, for documentation.

Jay Powell - 2023 ECGC speaker

Pitch Deck Review Sessions

Similar to the portfolio and resume reviews. This session would focus on looking at pitch decks from developers at the event and give them live, actionable feedback. Knowing how to create a solid pitch deck for publishers and investors is absolutely key to landing these deals in the real world. Several of us in the industry do these informally at other conferences around the world and we do a virtual version on our Discord each week that has been very popular.

Matthew Weise - 2023 ECGC speaker

Why John Carpenter Hates Cutscenes

Cutscenes have gotten a bad rap over the years. Most game designers see them as a necessary evil they have to employ to tell their stories when more interactive means fail, become too expensive, or cannot be completed in time. But what would it mean to see cutscenes as a more organic part of narrative design, a necessary component that can exist organically with interactivity, accentuating it, making it feel *more* interactive? This talk is about just that: when to use cutscenes, why to use cutscenes, when employing them in just the right way endears you to players, and how to avoid alienating players through their misuse. They *can* be a great tool if deployed with a deft understanding of their cinematic origins and the natural boundaries with interactivity they afford, which we will thoroughly cover by the end.

Gregory Marlowe - 2023 ECGC speaker

Idle, Run, Jump, and Attack: What Animators can Learn from Common Gameplay Animations.

There is no one-size-fits-all animation set. Animation needs vary drastically from game to game. However, Idle, Run, Jump, and Attack are four common animations for player and non-player characters. In this talk, Greg Marlow, animator for Civilization V, Civilization VI, XCOM, Battleborn, The Pathless, and Marvel Midnight Suns, will discuss the lessons these four animations can teach us about bringing characters to life.

Jakub Kasztalski - 2023 ECGC speaker

Prototype Everything

Almost 11 thousand games were released on Steam last year alone. Among all this creative potential, how do you find the fun that will stand out? How do you know your game idea is actually good? And equally important, how do you know your banner will catch a player’s eye, your marketing videos will be watched, your press emails read? In this talk, I will discuss my creative process of not just finding, but also guiding ideas in the right direction. I will draw on real-world examples from my own games and experiences, and show you how I apply this approach to other aspects of running my company. As the founder and creative director of the award-winning Unbound Creations game studio, I worked on 10 commercial titles, including both successes and failures alike. I have gone through countless brainstorms and prototypes at different levels of production. I’m excited to share the many lessons I learned with you.

Garrett Williams - 2023 ECGC speaker

The Versatile Game Developer: Understanding Your Value as a Generalist

Are you someone who loves to make art, code, and anything that goes into a game? Congratulations, you’re probably a generalist like me. But as someone early in his career I question myself: Do I really bring value in having no niche? I’ll talk about my experience and how being a generalist game developer can be beneficial as an indie, a student, and on a small team. Being a generalist is engaging, challenging, and exciting, though staying organized and productive is tough. While I’m still early in my career, I have a few tips to share that have helped me control the chaos and continue growing as a game developer.

Brandon Crews - 2023 ECGC speaker

Game Education and Research Showcase

This session highlights undergraduate and graduate student projects that use games or game technology. These projects cover a wide variety of topics from research to game prototypes. Each presenter will discuss their project in a showcase style presentation. Students from William Peace University, Duke University, North Carolina State University, and Wake Technical Community College will discuss topics such as tools for game developers, virtual reality simulations, immersive art installations, and game prototyping. Other professor presenters will be Augustus Wendell from Duke University, Justin Johnson from North Carolina State University, and Amber Johnson from Wake Tech Community College.

Matt Schembari - 2023 ECGC speaker

Open Salaries: Ensuring Equitable Pay through Pay Transparency

What would happen if someone leaked your company’s full compensation information to your entire company? A growing number of companies—both in and out of games—are choosing to intentionally do just this. Pay transparency has been shown to reduce gender wage gaps, fight against structural inequalities, reduce recruiting costs, increase retention, and is better aligned with workplace expectations for the Millennial and Gen Z generations. In short, it’s better for both the employee and the employer, and it can play an important role in creating a more equitable and diverse industry. In this talk, Matt Schembari, CEO at Lightforge Games, will share the research on open salaries along with the current state of the open salary movement, and he’ll provide concrete benefits and challenges from Lightforge’s experience practicing open salaries over the past three years.

Gary Reif - 2023 ECGC speaker

Unreal Engine 5 Mass: Learning the Hard Way

I spent the last year learning how to use Epic’s new Mass system in Unreal Engine 5, so you don’t have to! This talk will briefly cover the major aspects of the entity component system in UE5 called Mass. We’ll start with a quick look at the benefit of using Mass in a project. Then we’ll go over how the system works, using visual diagrams for ease-of-understanding. Finally we’ll briefly run through the different supporting systems available for things like entity visualization, replication, AI, actor communication, multithreading, and more. While researching Mass on my own I realized I could have saved a lot of time if I had some sort of top-down view of the systems or a list of the available features and where to find them. The goal of this talk is to act as a sort of reference for people who want to learn about the Mass ECS in Unreal Engine 5 without having to parse through lots of engine code.

Samya Potlapalli - 2023 ECGC speaker

The Evolution of Commerce

Commerce has undergone significant transformation from real to e-commerce and now v-commerce. In real commerce, transactions are conducted in physical stores where people experience the vibrant atmosphere and beautiful displays. E-commerce allowed for online transactions, making shopping more accessible and convenient, but less of an experience. V-commerce, using virtual reality, takes the shopping experience to the next level, providing an immersive and interactive experience, revolutionizing how we shop. As technology advances, v-commerce has the potential to provide more accessible and personalized experiences, ultimately changing how we shop and consume goods and services. After onboarding customers onto ZROverse’s directory, I’ve seen the demand and interest for V-commerce because companies get the freedom to present products the way they wish while customers get the shopping experience. The fact that is can be done in 15 minutes max also brings in the efficiency of E-commerce.

Farhad Javidi - 2023 ECGC speaker

Unlocking the Benefits of IGDA Membership: Insights and Opportunities for Game Developer

Dr. Farhad Javidi and Evy Kollstrand, the chair and treasurer of IGDA Charlotte, and David Braz, chair of IGDA Triangle, will provide insights into the benefits and opportunities that the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) offers to its members. This panel will discuss how to become a member, get involved with local chapters and SIGs, and how IGDA can improve game developers’ careers. With over 150 chapters and SIGs, IGDA offers numerous opportunities for game developers to enhance their skills and careers. The panelists will also share examples of how IGDA has helped game developers in their careers and the benefits offered by various membership levels. Participants can ask questions about membership benefits, joining IGDA, getting involved with local chapters, and more. Additionally, participants will receive a discount on their IGDA membership, making this panel an excellent opportunity to take advantage of the organization’s valuable resources.

Shaun Peoples - 2023 ECGC speaker

An Introduction to Performance Analysis for Unity Projects

Learn how to look at your Unity project to find additional performance as we discuss using the tools included in Unity to assist in your investigation. In this talk, we will cover how to use the Unity Profiler, Frame Debugger, and Memory Profiler as well as common project settings that contribute to performance.

David Smith - 2023 ECGC speaker

Inventing the Future: The Future History of Computer Games

Games have evolved tremendously since I created the first realtime adventure/shooter in 1987. We are on the threshold of something very new – something that will not just transform gaming, but society and even humanity itself. Games are always the first media to take advantage of and explore the depths of new technologies and have defined the vector for future innovation. Modern computers evolved in service to the needs of digital games. And gaming will be at the center of the next transformation. There are three powerful forces that are about to transform the world – machine learning, decentralized web3 and a revolution in multi-player. Together they will not just shape our industry, but will shape how we communicate, how we create, how we think, but most importantly, it will shape what we are. Humanity is facing its greatest challenge as a species, and its greatest opportunity. Games fueled by these forces will take over the world – and redefine us and our role in the univers

Tobe Sexton - 2023 ECGC speaker

Localization: Getting your game ready for the world.

Have fun while learning or reviewing what it takes to get yourself and your game ready for international markets. Localization is more than just “Translating” words on a page. Here you will learn the nuts–and–bolts of what’s really involved and how to make the right decisions for you, your fans & your pocketbook. Will review the History of localization and why it’s important to gaming culture. Then go over the services and all that is involved to achieve AAA Localization no matter your platform or budget. This is for those that want to learn more about translation, localization, and how to improve workflow communication to save time and make money. Takeaway Insight into mitigating expectations while structuring better collaborations with your inside Localization & Testing departments and/or third-party loc vendors. Intended Audience Publishers, Producers & Indies… Anyone that deals with localization, translation, testing or culturaliztion for development, marketing or publishing.

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