ECGC 2022

The Largest Conference for Game Developers on the East Coast

Speaker submissions are now open!

Keynote

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Josh Fairhurst - 2022 ECGC speaker

Never Give Up: Success Could Be Right Around The Corner

You never know when success could strike. Josh Fairhurst discusses the near closure of his game development studio and how never giving up lead to the biggest success of his career.

Steve Reid - 2022 ECGC speaker

Positioning and Planning a Pitch

Projects start with a pitch. Equal parts creative and business. Regardless of new IP or a sequel to an established brand, each team needs to create a pitch that can communicate and align on scope, vision and risk. From market positioning to feature quality and quantity, the pitch needs to build the “promise” to both the partners and the customers. This talk will highlight business history, development challenges and design philosophy specific to the pitch process from the perspective of 20+ years as a studio manager.

Speakers

Garrett Swanson - 2022 ECGC speaker

How to Compete With the Roblox “Metaverse”

The difficulty of competing with Roblox – “Our platform is like Roblox but different” – The “chicken or egg deadlock” (UA = Developers = Content = UA) – The “company town” model Roblox uses What a metaverse means today, and how competition with Roblox’s would look – The metaverse isn’t just a real-time VR experience, this has been done many times – The metaverse is an audience share goal sought after by large companies (think Disneyland and all of their franchises, or Fortnite/Roblox and crossover events) – Do you join a metaverse, or make your own? What goes into making a sandbox game – The “cloud cost trap” (including developer payouts) – Knowledge of more than just game development (web, scaling, security, UA, retention, etc) How to advertise your competitor and what that has looked like in the past – Talk about CORE, Sandbox.game, and others.. what did they do right/wrong? – How did Roblox do it? How did they build an audience as the first “games as a service” sandbox?

Designing Token Economies

As a 20 year veteran game developer, I have played a part in designing digital economies for some of the biggest brands and most successful games in the world. In this talk, I will share concrete design methods and processes to help you architect your economy for long-term value and growth. How should you think about your revenue stack? How should you balance your token sinks and taps? How do you ensure your NFTs and tokens have provable, long term utility? Drawing on lessons from 14 years of specializing in free-to-play monetization, this talk will help you design the digital economy for your blockchain game.

Billy Le Voir - 2022 ECGC speaker

The Fan’s Journey – Understanding Fan Engagement and Needs

“With the changing tide of global adaptations that have impacted the world of competitive gaming and esports the last few years, the community of gamers and esports fans of all ages have taken on even more importance!” Billy Le Voir-Barry, President and Chief Gaming Visionary Officer of GENERATION Esports and Video Game Consulting, will explain how esports have captivated audiences through storytelling and connection to generate impressive fan engagement. He’ll also provide a glimpse behind these scenes, diving into the unique nature of esports broadcasting and event production. GENERATION also invites you to meet Kirk Yamatani, Chief Executive Officer and Business Strategist, after the conversation. Esports games are not an escapist distraction. They’re the world’s most participatory spectator sport. Billy will also discuss how esports are helping communities adopt the most advanced technologies, and they’re providing a pathway to STEM education and the best jobs of tomorrow.

Richard Dansky - TGI Narrative Lead; 2022 ECGC speaker

The Words Are The Same: Writing Games Versus Writing Fiction

Writing is a complicated business, and writing for different media even more so. In this talk, novelist and game writer Richard Dansky will examine the similarities and differences between fiction and games writing, looking at what lessons can be learned and applied from each, and where lines need to be drawn.

Alex Epstein - 2022 ECGC speaker

How to Take and Give Notes

In so many disciplines — design, art, animation, audio and narrative — giving and taking criticism are both big parts of the job. And both are fraught. It is easy to offend someone, especially a boss, by not taking their terrible note. It is even easier to offend people by giving them a perfectly brilliant criticism they don’t want to hear. How do you give notes to higher-ups? To your co-workers? How do you sugar-coat your ideas without making them mushy? How do you respond to a direction you think will make things worse? As someone who’s given notes well and also badly, who has sometimes persuaded people and sometimes pissed them off, I will propose an approach to giving and taking notes that seems to work for me, and may work for you, too. (Note: could also be a panel.)

Jonathan White - 2022 ECGC speaker

Content Mileage

The Content Mileage presentation covers the topic of re-using assets to create game content. The presentation will cover good and bad examples of content mileage in popular games as well as ways to think about content mileage from both a player and developer perspective. Time will be reserved for questions and conversation about the topic.

Eddy Webb - 2022 ECGC speaker

I Didn’t Catch That: Disability Representation

Accessibility has been a growing topic of discussion in the past few years, but it’s more than just making games more accessible to games with disabilities. There’s still a huge gulf in how people with disabilities are represented in our games and stories. Eddy Webb offers his perspective as both a narrative design consultant and someone with hearing loss about the complexity of representing disability on the screen.

Ken Hubbell - 2022 ECGC speaker

Are you serious? Better game design for learning!

Serious games, immersive learning, edutainment, and a variety of other names have been applied to experiences that result in the effective transfer of knowledge, skills and behaviors to the participant. During this session you will have the opportunity to hear how game design and instructional design go hand-in-hand to create activities that support the learning process. You will see how: 1. Instructional objectives and game dynamics work together 2. Abstraction allows participants to learn difficult concepts 3. Repetition leads to long term and “muscle” memory So, don’t put your educational programs in “Jeopardy.” Apply great game design and your students will be winners.

Zachariah Inks - 2022 ECGC speaker

Going Open-Source in Production and Education

This is a discussion of the pros and cons of open-source software in production and education. This talk will specifically highlight my transition from the use of popular closed-source software and tools in production and education, to fully embracing open-source software such as Blender, Krita, ArmorPaint, and the like. Please join me as I exemplify the virtues and pitfalls of open-source software in the production of simulation and games.

David Klingler - 2021, 2022 ECGC speaker

Beyond Escapism – Positive Games for Positive Mental Health

We work within a field that is increasingly being talked about by the general public for anti-consumer practices, unhealthy work hours, negative societal influence, and manipulation of players while wasting their time and money. Where is the gap between the love of playing games and the creation of games worth loving? How can we be better in our day-to-day decisions in the games business? How, concretely, can the games we make change gamers’ lives – and developers’ lives – for the better? In this talk I will introduce how to implement simple changes to your work that will have a positive effect on you and on your players, how to easily talk about the games industry in a positive light with people who “hate video games”, what needs to change on a wider scale in our industry, and why it needs to happen for the sake of the longevity and profitability of games as a medium.

Rachel Presser - 2022 ECGC speaker

How to Address Communications Challenges in Small Indie Teams

One of the biggest misconceptions about game development is that you’ll code all day, and that going indie isn’t any different except you’ve traded your home for the office. This couldn’t be more wrong! Poor communication can cause projects of any scale to go awry, whether it’s a low-budget sidescroller or the latest AAA blockbuster. But when it comes to independent development, communication can become more challenging based on your style, background, and other factors. You might also be unsure what to do if you’ve had one role most of your career but find it difficult to adjust to the many hats needed in indie games. Improving your communications skills and learning how to work with people in specific roles can level up your game in no time. Topics will include: -The basics of communication skills and why we need them -Handling the challenges of working with a remote team -How to define your studio’s and your game’s message -How to work with artists, composers, writers, and more!

Alex Loughran - 2022 ECGC speaker

Fun Sick: Questioning ‘Fun’ as an approach to Game Design

So, we all know what a Game Designer does. They make a game fun. Games after all, are all about the ‘fun’. Find the fun. Fail fast and follow the fun. We can’t release until it’s fun. Playtest it to check the fun.

This has led to the prevailing wisdom that to make an appealing game is to make a fun game. But how do you define fun? Can you actually prove fun? What about games with heavy grinding elements? What about games that mimic real-life work? What about games that require dozens of hours of practice to achieve a positive result?

Can we really use this one approach, “Is it fun”, for the entire modern games industry?

The purpose of this presentation is to look at our current, common approach to game design and question if it is still relevant; why, and why not. Then to discuss what alternatives to this approach look like. These alternatives will discuss psychology, the science of motivation, and behavioral economics; and what game designers can learn from these disciplines to make their games more appealing, and potentially, more fun.

Max Litvinov - 2022 ECGC speaker

PRACTICAL MAGIC – Life of a Gameplay Engineer

The game industry is trending upward with more and more concurrent worldwide players and new studios forming every year. Playing a video game may seem like it was created with magic but in reality large AAA video game titles are developed over many years with the help of many disciplines. One of those disciplines that help create this practical magic is a gameplay engineer. This session will cover what exactly a gameplay engineer is and will include four real-world case studies describing a type of feature or problem I have solved while working on a AAA game.

Suzanne Peterson-Warr - 2022 ECGC speaker

Humor–the Secret Ingredient Your Game Can’t Do Without!

Skillful use of humor in your game makes the player feel they identify on a personal level with your game and your brand. It can also make breadcrumbing more successful, and the tutorial section of a game a player’s favorite part. Most importantly, it amps up the enjoyment of your game. In this humor workshop we’ll take a look at how humor is used in successful indie and AAA games, peek at the science behind humor, and flex our humor muscles with a short hands-on exercise.

Using examples from serious as well as funny games, I will help the audience better understand the role of humor. As outlined on my website (http://suzannewarr.com/tips-for-humor-writing-plus-a-squid), humor is an amazing narrative tool which allows a game designer to share information with the player without being boring, as well as providing an opportunity to establish a connection and make the player-character relatable. I will go over basic comedic tools, which we’ll then practice.

Troy Maynard - 2022 ECGC speaker

Creating Indie MMOs with Core

In this talk I will cover the basics of how to get started with using the new Engine / Platform Core, specifically with a focus on creating Mini-MMORPG prototypes (Mini-MOS?). It is a UGC platform built from UE4 and makes creation of 3D multiplayer games easy and fast. I’ve spent the last 1.5 years creating an innovative Card Game MMORPG with it and have seen the engine rapidly improve and develop during that time. I’ll start with showing the fundamentals of the engine that translate from all other major ones, such as their equivalent of Colliders, Prefabs, UI navigation etc. Then move into explaining their easily accessible networking structures that are essentially a simplified version of UE4’s tools. Then show the latest methods for designing scalable, data driven frameworks in it for rapidly generating content. I’ll end the talk with showing the testing process, including how to utilize multiple branches for staging, and then finally publishing a live game!

Aris Bricker - 2022 ECGC speaker

Neurodiversity and Games

Following waves of diversity and inclusion efforts, neurodiversity is a new topic of discussion in media and the workplace. While neurodiverse people have always existed, they have often been depicted poorly in media and ignored at work. Hosted by a neurodiverse designer, this talk covers what it means to be neurodiverse, writing neurodiverse characters, designing for accessibility, and creating a neurodiverse-friendly workplace. Attendees can expect to come away with a greater understanding of neurodiversity, the intersection with games, and practical advice for game industry professionals.

Saritdikhun Somasa - 2022 ECGC speaker

Tips and tricks for Complex Hard Surface Modeling techniques

The discussion focuses on tricks and tips for 3D modeling complex hard surface 3D in Maya 3D. Explain the common issues and the workaround in polygon layout or edge flow, such as edge poles, pitching on curved surfaces, localized topology, Edge loop redirection, and UVs.

Ted Prawat - 2022 ECGC speaker

Inside Titanic’s Boiler Room to Teach STEM Big Ideas for Middle School Level Students.

This Titanic project is a serious game project I am currently developing to inspire an interest in STEAM career pathways for students at the middle school level through an interactive story; this will provide players with an opportunity to experience Titanic through the lens of the big ideas related to the science and engineering behind this once advanced technological marvel. The boiler room, I think, is an excellent place for middle school students to connect some of the most important big ideas in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) document (e.g., molecules, potential and kinetic energy) to important content questions (e.g., “How is it that the energy in water vapor and chunks of earth can drive a skyscraper-size passenger ship through the water at 23 knots?”). The goal is to test this in classrooms with students and develop a curriculum using cutting edge technology–3D virtual reality—that teaches “big ideas” as described in the NGSS Standards.

Todd Emma - 2022 ECGC speaker

Is graduate school for you?

Whether you’re about to finish your bachelor’s degree or looking for a career change, graduate school could be your next step. But how do you know if it’s right for you, how do you apply, and which degree will you need to reach your goals? Are you considering a career in higher education? Which degree is right for you and what is the difference between an MA, MS, MFA, and PHD? As a member of the review committee and the coordinator of the Digital Media MFA at East Tennessee State University, I would like to share my understanding of how to put a portfolio together, what reviewers are looking for in a personal essay, and how to find out if a program matches your interests.

Paxton Galvanek - 2022 ECGC speaker

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

(In the Career Lounge) 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, will be returning and adding to his successful presentation and hopefully, participants will walk away with some “tips, tricks & hints”. Paxton has built the team at Funcom over the past 4 1/2 years, not only in Raleigh but also internationally at his other studio locations including Norway, Portugal, Romania, Stockholm & more. Paxton will also be talking about the exciting things at Funcom including games projects such as DUNE, Metal: Hellsinger, Conan Chop Chop, and Conan Exiles.

Raymond Arifianto - 2022 ECGC speaker

Why Your Single Player Game Needs a Backend

A single player game, to many, also means “a game which is not online”. However the opposite is quite true these days. Games like Spelunky have daily challenges, Saints Row and Just Cause have leaderboards, XCOM 2 has a global stats page and GTA 5 and Red Dead 2, while not predominantly single player games, have companion apps which allows you to influence your single player game in a variety of ways. There are also quite a few good reasons to have your single player game have an online component, even if it exists under the hood out of sight of your players. This session will cover: Telemetry to learn what users like Severside game data User relationships An example of integration flow

Eric Patterson - 2022 ECGC speaker

Building a light sphere for production and research (and one that people can fit inside)

We built a custom, giant sphere of lights and cameras! It allows us to control the direction and pattern of light illuminating objects and take photos from multiple angles for several applications. We present this new full-sphere system, continuing work presented at ECGC 2018 on a joint effort with Ubisoft Red Storm for their photogrammetry and material-acquisition efforts for game development. The project involves building hardware and software over the course of years. We discuss design and use, involving controls, hundreds of RGBW lights, cameras, raw HDR imaging, polarizing filters, arrangement of components, blood, sweat, tears, etc. We cover examples of use for graphics production and research: (1) human-facial capture (involving geometry and texture-map acquisition), (2) material capture (gathering detailed scattering models used for rendering a variety of surface materials), and (3) prop and maquette photogrammetry (quickly acquiring assets for real-time applications).

Megan Smith - 2022 ECGC speaker

Lessons learned in VR training partnerships East Tennessee Children’s Hospital and ETSU

The Digital Media department has partnered with the East Tennessee Children’s Hospital to create multiple training scenarios from Crash Cart simulations to cutting-edge VR de-escalation training for the staff at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital. Working with Hospitals and remote partners creates unique challenges, in this discussion we talk about working with non-gamers as stakeholders and the pipeline for asset creation and deployment. As well as share some video from our current VR de-escalation training simulation.

Sarah Glova - 2022 ECGC speaker

Building a Secure New World: History, Risks, and Rewards of The Metaverse and Related AI Tools

As the metaverse moves from science-fiction to reality, the gaming industry isn’t the only industry paying attention. Everyone from JP Morgan to Hermes is staking out valuable property in this new frontier, for enterprises and consumers alike. As a cutting-edge expansion of the digital world, the metaverse leads us to questions about its potential impact on individuals and businesses—both positive and negative. From expert virtual agents to toxic language classifiers, this panel will riff on the possibilities of how responsibly curated AI and big data can help game publishers craft systemic, enterprise-scale approaches to sustain participation and experience satisfaction. Our panelists will also dive into the evolution of the metaverse from a video game world to a world of tremendous business potential across industries.

Andrew Shaver - 2022 ECGC speaker

Realizing in VR

The job of a realization director isn’t well known across the industry. It was new to me when I took it on! A year into the job I now understand the overlap of theatrical mise-en-scene and the staging of video game cinematics in Virtual Reality. I’d like to talk about the specific challenges shooting in VR pose, notably honouring player autonomy while working within the systemic limitations of the game engine, and how my experience as a theatre director has helped us overcome a number of them.

Jacy Richardson - 2022 ECGC speaker

Thinking Outside the “Box” for Games

Gaming goes beyond sitting on a couch and looking at a screen. This talk will cover how to approach creating content to build a fully immersive experience in a physical space. We are now seeing AR/VR/XR and interactives being implemented more and more in places such as museums, clothing stores, and events. So how do we create content outside of the VR headset or the tablet or even a 4k screen? When creating content for immersive or interactive gaming experiences, you have to think about the lead up, the main attraction, and the takeaways. We will cover topics such as taking physical and virtual scale into consideration, handling multiple players at once, and different technology available for immersive experiences.

Augustus Wendell - 2022 ECGC speaker

Game Education and Research Showcase, Part 1: Graduate

Part 1: Graduate – This session highlights graduate student research projects that use games or game technology as a critical part of their inquiry. Each presenter will discuss their project for around 10 minutes each. Students from North Carolina State University and Duke University will discuss research on topics such as: Ecosystem transformation from climate change, Vaikunth Raghavan, Master of Art + Design NCSU Climate change issues related to food, agriculture, and land use, Erin Willett, Master of Art + Design NCSU Prevention of falling into conspiracy theories, Lydia Granholm, Master of Art + Design NCSU A Virtual Museum of Architecture, Xinyue Qian, MA Computational Media Duke Reflective – a computational art installation on self-identity reflection, Sherly Fan, MFA Experimental/Documentary Arts Duke

Augustus Wendell - 2022 ECGC speaker

Game Education and Research Showcase, Part 2: Undergraduate

Part 2: Undergraduate – This session highlights undergraduate student projects that use games or game technology. These projects cover a wide range of topics from research to practical simulations. Each presenter will discuss their projects for around 10 minutes each. Students from Duke University, Wake Tech Community College, and William Peace University will discuss topics such as: Colonial Landscape AR in the Sarah Duke Gardens, Jeffery Hwang, Duke Title TBD, Noelle Garrick, Duke Applying game design and interaction to an educational subject, Nathan Lembo, WPU Genetics simulation, Aleece Harmon, WPU Culinary training simulation, Chapin Reil and Anthony Parisi, Wake Tech.

Amber Johnson - 2022 ECGC speaker

A Beginners Guide to Photogrammetry and Cross Polarization

Where do you go after you master the basics of a photogrammetry shoot? Cross polarizing your lighting will allow you to capture cleaner, more accurate photos of your subjects. This talk is meant for people who have been interested in this area but didn’t know where to start.

Jay Powell - 2022 ECGC speaker

Why You Need To Understand the Business Side Of Video Games

Very few people get into the game industry because they simply love business and video games. I just happened to be one of those people. Whether you are a coder, artist, designer, community manager or anything else, you need to understand the basics of business in our industry if you want to be successful. This session will cover why all this is important but then we will dive into the details of marketing, prospecting, writing proposals, contract negotiation, project management, getting paid, and securing endorsements. We’ll cover a lot and you’ll come away feeling much more confident about moving ahead in the game industry.

Gregory Grimsby - 2022 ECGC speaker

Elements of Style: Deconstructing and Understanding Art Styles in Games

As rendering technologies advance, art styles are virtually limitless. Visual design in digital games is limited more by team size and production than technology. Visual design in board games has grown and matured rapidly as well, as professional illustrators and graphic designers gravitate to the space as freelancers or on small teams. With so much visual design space, what drives art styles in games? This presentation explores the key factors that drive art style, such as audience and market differentiation. Each of the art elements are explored as we build an understanding of effective visual design. We’ll discuss the contrasty, limited colors of Inscryption. We’ll look at the clean, reducted aesthetic of smaller indie games like, Good Job, Monument Valley, and Mini-Motorways. Some top board games will also be analyzed as great examples of graphic design and art style supporting the mood and tone of a game while inspiring and attracting an audience.

Iris Cole - 2022 ECGC speaker

Telling Hard Stories in the Age of Sensationalism: Cross-Sector Collaboration is Key to Storytelling

Learn how Do Good Artist collaborated with survivors of human trafficking, experts in trafficking intervention and prevention, artists, and others to craft Unseen, a virtual reality experience designed to raise awareness of and move the needle on human trafficking. Like many complex issues, human trafficking is often sensationalized in media, which can do more harm than good. Learn how to identify sensationalized content, and how cross-sector collaboration can help ensure that stories are told accurately without unintentionally harming those you are trying to help.

Maripat Metcalf - 2022 ECGC speaker

Emotional Learning: Developing a Peer Support Training Program using 2D, 3D and headset VR

I’ll review lessons learned and key points for using simulation style serious game to help teach peer support skills and deal with emotional situations. We’ve created a simulation for medical students (who have been particularly challenged in the past 2 year), to help them deal with common challenges, and are testing 2D and 3D versions. The LIFT simulation lets users make various choices and receive feedback during a typical day as a medical student.  Players interact with peers, staff, and patients who may need some support or offer verbal challenges.   We prototyped using Adobe XD, and are now working in Unreal to create a more interactive version.  I’ll review early user feedback on the pros/cons of the visuals, story line, and interactive features, esp with respect to “emotional intelligence” topics.  Attendees using simulations and serious games for training or education will benefit from hearing about our mistakes and our successes.

Jesse Henning - 2022 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.

Travis Brown - 2022 ECGC speaker

From Idea to Prototype: A Student Journey

We will be going through the production of our student lead group project “Remembering Hue”. Two of the team members will discuss the process of designing and producing a video game prototype over the course of two semesters from the perspective of a student. Remembering Hue was entirely brainstormed, designed, and created by a small group of students using Unreal Engine. Join us to discuss different aspects of production including programming, modeling, and several areas of design, all from the perspective of a student.

Franci Dimitrovska - 2022 ECGC speaker

Making the Most of Mobile: How to Tell Diverse Stories on Tiny Screens

Mobile gaming is a tricky balancing game when it comes to designing content: players enjoy mobile games in bite-sized chunks or as second-screen experiences, teams are smaller, and market competition is fierce for limited attention. While short-form mobile game content doesn’t seem like an obvious platform for diverse stories, we can explore strategies that narrow down and identify the scope of narrative appropriate for a game that authentically connects with players. As a narrative designer on 3 mobile games varying in narrative intensity, I’ll go through my learnings, missteps, and redevelopment. We’ll explore lots of different mobile games that succeeded – and failed! – at using their limited resources to empower gamers from all backgrounds through small steps. From Marvel’s long-running match-three puzzler to Candy Crush to Episodes, we’ll break down what efforts feel genuine, impactful, and contribute to a wider, more inclusive world of gaming.

Stefan Hall- 2022 - ECGC speaker

Keep it classy?!? or madd skillz?!? – Teaching ttRPG Development

The impact of tabletop role-playing games (ttRPGs) on video game design is one of the fundamental paradigms that cuts across a wide range of genres. Yet, despite the recent resurgence of ttRPGs – particularly through Dungeons & Dragons 5e – many video game players as well as designers are unfamiliar with these systems and their dynamics. So, how do you teach game design students how to conceive of ttRPG systems when a lot of the computational components are typically handled under the hood (through software) from video game players? And how do issues ranging from genre to narrative design to cooperative play in a real-time environment where time is still fundamentally segmented, rewound, or sped up all contribute to crafting a compelling, cohesive, and (hopefully) somewhat innovative ttRPG? This talk will address these points and more all with an eye toward designing for fun.

Michael Schmitt - 2022 ECGC speaker

Independent Together: an Exploration of Indie Game Development Communities, Collectives, and Bundles

In this talk, we’ll discuss trends in independent game development communities. Through examining a broad swath of coworking collectives, game zines, and even meme bundles, we’ll glean information about what makes for effective and inspiring organizing for game developers and artists. We’ll begin with a few case studies of indie game development collectives (you might call them “scenes”). These location-based communities function with a multitude of different purposes, including creative support, resource-sharing, and community education. We’ll also discuss the wild happenings in the world of online organizing through indie game bundles. By pooling efforts together, these bundles can greatly benefit those who make weird alt-games, those on the margins, or people who are just beginning to get their creative footing. Finally, we’ll talk about the goals of the Triangle Interactive Arts Collective, which is always looking for more like-minded friends, artists, and weirdos in the area.

Justin Achilli - 2022 ECGC speaker

Building a Transmedia Brand from Interactive Experiences

Many of today’s most popular worlds originate with traditional “one-way” media such as movies, TV shows, books, or comics. Building a story-first transmedia brand requires a different approach when its primary identity is in games where the players’ stories take precedence over a traditional narrative. This talk demonstrates how such a brand can be built and thrive over time, and even grow to incorporate traditional media formats rather than be constrained by them.

Brad Swearingen - Game Art Committee

Stop Whining and Get A Job: How to Land Your First Job in the Game Dev Industry

You’ve spent countless hours learning software and researching industry techniques. You’ve earned your skillset. Done your time. Now you need to find the job that will firmly plant you in the game industry. Where do you start and what does it take to get noticed?

Mauricio Hollando - 2022 ECGC speaker

Rapid Iterations or Quick to Market? Can we have the cake and eat it too?

How can we build prototypes were ideas can be rapidly iterated and easily taken to market once they have been validated? This is a common problem I’ve come across multiple times and recently encountered again during my experience refactoring the codebase of our latest game, Adventure Chef. In this talk, I’ll be sharing some of the challenges we encountered while refactoring our project to get it ready for a worldwide launch and I will explain some of the strategies we chose for tackling big refactors such as introducing downloadable content, migrating parameters from prefabs to server stored data files, migrating persistent data from device to server and dealing with cross version migrations; all this while building tooling for designers and artists to keep their workflows undisrupted. Finally, I will share some thoughts on how we can better prepare our pipeline to handle both quick prototyping as well as getting ready for production.

Joseph Mora - 2022 ECGC speaker

Preparing a Kickstarter Campaign for your Indie Game

I will be presenting about how one can prepare a Kickstarter campaign for their indie game. Chiaroscuro is the first large-scale product I’ve developed, which made pursuing this campaign as a full-time college student an extraordinary learning experience in production and marketing. In the talk, I’ll go over my experience building an audience, determining a funding goal, preparing backer rewards, revising my Kickstarter presentation, and responding to feedback. In addition, I’d like to offer a few elements to consider before the launch of one’s Kickstarter and discuss a few strategies I applied to maintain retention throughout the campaign’s duration. For more information on Chiaroscuro, visit the game’s website here: https://www.blackberry-studio.com/chiaroscuro.

Past Sessions

Check out our sessions from ECGC 2021!

John Romero - 2021 ECGC speaker

Fireside Talk with 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.

Wim Stocks - 2021 ECGC speaker

esports – Where next?

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.

Tom Abernathy - 2021 ECGC speaker

ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT: Growing Up the Games Industry

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.

Tobias Heussner - 2021 ECGC speaker

Agile, Waterfall & The Trip to The Moon

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.

Juan Escudero Gómez - 2021 ECGC speaker

Improve your Gamedev Experience Externalising Teams

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.

Ethan Levy - 2021 ECGC speaker

Is Your Game Built To Scale?

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.

John Corn - 2021 ECGC speaker

On Origins of Juicy

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.

Ben McDougal - 2021 ECGC speaker

Make Work Look Like Play

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.

Alexander Paschall - 2021 ECGC speaker

Introduction to Unreal Engine

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!

Jesse Scoble - 2021 ECGC speaker

There are 100 Stories in the Naked City – Storytelling in Battle Royales

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.

Ryan Kline - 2021 ECGC speaker

Irrigating The River of Content: Make Workflows That Work

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.

Charles OBrien - 2021 ECGC speaker

Encouraging Users Through Gamification: A Case Study of the mPACT App

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.

Max Litvinov - 2021 ECGC speaker

GREAT EXPECTATIONS – Breaking into the Modern Day Game Industry

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.

Logan Williams - 2021 ECGC speaker

Using Competitive Analysis to Improve Your Marketing Strategy

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.

Gregory Marlow - 2021 ECGC speaker

Animate Smarter: Tools, Tips, and Tricks for Faster and Better Animation Production

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.

Amanda Gardner - 2021 ECGC speaker

Trust, Lust and UST – Writing Effective Romance in Games

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!

Dorothy Phoenix - 2021 ECGC speaker

How to Start Building Your Game Portfolio, Even with No Experience

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.

Highlights include:

  • 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
Alexander Brazie - 2021 ECGC speaker

The Art and Science of Guiding Gameplay (How to Eliminate Player Pain Before it Happens)

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)

Adam Kling - 2021 ECGC speaker

Why NFT’s are just the Start with Blockchain Gaming

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.

Paxton Galvanek - 2021 ECGC speaker

Breaking into the Video Game Industry & Getting Hired

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.

Christopher Barney - 2021 ECGC speaker

Creating Your Own Game Design Pattern Language

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!

Matthew Hodge - 2021 ECGC speaker

Making Game Music: Beginners On a Tight Budget

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*gameHERs logo

The Business of Building a Business in Gaming

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

Beth LaPensee - 2021 ECGC speaker

Massively Multi-writer Games

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.”

Richard Rouse - 2021 ECGC speaker

Focusing on Player Fantasy: What it Means and How to Use It

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.

Gabriel Pappalardo - 2021 ECGC speaker

Video Games for Mental Well-being: A Rallying Cry

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.

Danny Silvers - 2021 ECGC speaker

Monetize the Modscene – UGC as a Live Service

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.

Josh Fairhurst - 2021 ECGC speaker

Failure Is Not The End

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.

Anya Stoyanova - 2021 ECGC speaker

From Developer to Publisher – 5 Steps for a Smooth Transition

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.

David Klingler - 2021, 2022 ECGC speaker

How to Make Real-time Music-Driven Games

“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.

Annette Stavenow Eriksson & Tommy Persson - 2021 ECGC speakers

Helping you Navigate Through the Legal Video Game Jungle

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?

Pat Fitzgerald - 2021 ECGC speaker

Digital Drawing Dos and Don’ts

“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.

Toiya Kristen Finley - 2021 ECGC speaker

Messy Characters and Breadcrumb Trails: Developing a Revelatory Language for Players

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.

Kenneth Hubbell - 2021 ECGC speaker

Serious Fiction

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.

Robin-Koman - 2021 ECGC speaker

Intergenerational Game Design: The Evolving Older Adult Gamer

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.

Rachel Presser - 2022 ECGC speaker

How Indie Developers Can Navigate Small Business Administration Resources & COVID Aid

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!
Julie Demyanovich - 2021 ECGC speaker

Now What? – Graduating into the Game Industry During a Pandemic

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.

John Parsons - 2021 ECGC speaker

Light Communications in the 21st Century

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?