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Come with me to GDC

GDC for curious minds


A few days ago I sat down to plan my schedule for next week's Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. Then my head exploded. This year's event features 474 unique sessions, keynotes, roundtables, and tutorials separated into various tracks (e.g. Game Design, Programming, Visual Arts, etc.) 

With such a mind-boggling array of possibilities and a short amount of time to to squeeze them all in, which events shouldn't be missed?

I'm not a game developer. I'm a critic and a teacher, so I attend GDC to learn as much as I can about how games are built and the people who build them. I attend GDC with a curious mind, eager to deepen my understanding of games as art; games as the result of creative team-based development; games as an industry.

If you happen to be like me - or if you're not attending GDC, but keen to know what's on offer this year - I've culled the massive schedule of events and extracted a list of sessions that look especially interesting to me. It's still an unwieldy list, and it's impossible to attend them all, but it's definitely more manageable than the monster list.

I've divided my list into three thematic parts: 1) How We Did It. 2) Big Ideas. 3) Where Do We Go From Here? You'll find some crossover sessions on my list - some "big ideas" also address where games are headed next - but in general I think these three categories separate the sessions effectively. So here goes. I hope you'll find this useful.


Classic Game Postmortem: PRINCE OF PERSIA
SPEAKER/S: Jordan Mechner 
DAY / TIME / LOCATION: Wednesday 10:30-11:30 Room 3014, West Hall 3rd Fl.
DESCRIPTION: Decades before it was a Hollywood film with millions of dollars and hundreds of workers supporting its production, PRINCE OF PERSIA was mostly the project of a single man. Jordan Mechner, who also created KARATEKA and later went on to work in the film industry, rotoscoped the game's fluid and realistic character animations, designed its difficult puzzles, crafted its thrilling sword-fighting combat, and penned its captivating story. He will present a postmortem discussion on the landmark cinematic platformer that would go on to influence not just a whole series of 3D PRINCE OF PERSIA games, but also titles like FLASHBACK, TOMBRAIDER, and LIMBO.

DEAD SPACE 2: Musical Postmortem
SPEAKER/S: Jason Graves (Jason Graves Music, Inc.) 
DAY / TIME / LOCATION: Wednesday 10:30-11:30 Room 3010, West Hall 3rd Fl.
DESCRIPTION: Composer Jason Graves will highlight the challenges and opportunities that presented themselves while scoring DEAD SPACE 2. The sequel builds on the same music as sound design approach of the original game, while extending and altering it for further dramatic effect. This panel will discuss living up to the hype of the original, how the score mirrors the plot and action of the sequel, and detail the many different orchestral recording sessions that occurred over the space of twelve months.

SPEAKER/S: Tom Chilton (Blizzard Entertainment) 
DAY / TIME / LOCATION: Wednesday 1:30- 2:30 Room 3014, West Hall 3rd Fl.DESCRIPTION: In creating the CATACLYSM expansion for WORLD OF WARCRAFT, we endeavored to re-create the existing core game world in addition to providing new content for fans of the game. We felt the time had come to rejuvenate aging parts of the game world for existing, former, and new players while at the same time preserving and even enhancing what made the game world special from the start. Many difficult decisions had to be made while going down this path, so we'd like to share our approach to navigating those challenges in terms of design philosophy and execution.

Beyond Horror: Art Directing DEAD SPACE 2
SPEAKER/S: Ian Milham (Electronic Arts Redwood Shores) 
DAY / TIME / LOCATION: Wednesday 3:00- 4:00 Room 303, South Hall
DESCRIPTION: Art directors and game artists today are faced with an every more hit-driven market, where big budgets demand mass appeal. In this lecture, Ian Milham, Art Director on the DEAD SPACE franchise, will illustrate how the franchise's art was evolved to deliver broader appeal and higher production values, and address the lessons learned from the first title.

Creating an Emotional Rollercoaster in HEAVY RAIN
SPEAKER/S: David Cage (Quantic Dream) 
DAY / TIME / LOCATION: Wednesday 4:30- 5:30 Room 3007, West Hall 3rd Fl.
DESCRIPTION: In creating HEAVY RAIN, we tried to build an experience entirely based on interactive storytelling, emotional involvement and contextual actions. This new approach forced us to reconsider many traditional paradigms of video games often considered as set in stone. Through the analysis of concrete examples from HEAVY RAIN, we will show how key scenes were conceived, what emotional impact was expected and how the game used visuals, narrative and game play to achieve emotional involvement. Through comparisons with traditional game design, we will try to discover why video games in general struggle to tell compelling stories and what solutions can be found.

Designing LIMBO's Puzzles
SPEAKER/S: Jeppe Carlsen (Playdead) 
DAY / TIME / LOCATION: Wednesday 4:30- 5:30 Room 308, South Hall
DESCRIPTION: LIMBO is a physics based puzzle platformer. The game has a minimalistic control scheme, but even though minimalism is in focus, the game is gameplay focused and very challenging. How these challenges came to be, is the focus of this presentation. Using concrete gameplay, Jeppe presents LIMBO's puzzle design principles and the creative, iterative process of going from early puzzle idea to a polished puzzle in the shipped game. Following the introduction into the principles and development process, Jeppe fires up LIMBO's custom made editor for a live, carefully commented creation of a rudimentary puzzle. Hopefully the demonstration will convince some in the audience that the tools and choices we made, which enabled us to prototype and test gameplay ideas in a short loop, was instrumental to the creative process and, consequently, the end result.

SPEAKER/S: Eric Chahi (Ubisoft) 
DAY / TIME / LOCATION: Thursday 9:00-10:00 Room 3014, West Hall 3rd Fl.
DESCRIPTION: Released across more than a dozen platforms since its 1991 debut, OUT OF THIS WORLD (a.k.a. ANOTHER WORLD) has long been a favorite among critics and sophisticated gamers alike for its cinematic cutscenes and atmospheric presentation. The platformer's distinctive visual style, minimal but effective use of music and sound effects, and ability to convey its story and emotions without any words captured the imaginations of countless players, as well as those of future luminaries like Fumito Ueda (ICO) and Hideo Kojima (METAL GEAR SOLID). OUT OF THIS WORLDs creator Eric Chahi will reveal his process developing the innovative game and building its memorable scenes.

Interactive Music Scoring Methods for MASS EFFECT 2
SPEAKER/S: Jack Wall (Wall of Sound, Inc.) and Brian DiDomenico (Wall of Sound) 
DAY / TIME / LOCATION: Thursday 9:00-10:00 Room 3010, West Hall 3rd Fl.
DESCRIPTION: Making music for video games involves more than simply composing and producing great music. It has to follow the story and the action in a way where it's not in the way. The award-winning music from the 2nd installment of the groundbreaking MASS EFFECT series was conceived and composed with interactivity in mind from the music design phase to the final note written for the game. This session explores the design, development and implementation of the interactive score as well as the pitfalls and successes in doing so. With over 750 unique assets, particular focus is paid to communicating as a team and asset management.

Biofeedback in Gameplay: How Valve Measures Physiology to Enhance Gaming Experience
SPEAKER/S: Mike Ambinder (Valve Software) 
DAY / TIME / LOCATION: Thursday 10:30-11:30 Room 3002, West Hall 3rd Fl.
DESCRIPTION: This presentation discusses how Valve is making use of biofeedback - the measurement, display, analysis, modification, manipulation, and response of physiological signals - to both explore new avenues of gameplay and to improve in-house playtesting processes. Current control schemes - mouse and keyboard, gamepad, gestural remote - rely on the transformation of physical manipulations - button presses, hand and arm motions, etc. - into onscreen representations of player intent. These schemes are limited in the sense of providing input about a player's desired actions in-game while providing little information about player sentiment. The addition of physiological signals allows for a new dimension of transformation - using estimates of a players emotional state to tailor a more immersive, dynamic, and calibrated game experience; these signals enable the inclusion of a heretofore ignored aspect of player experience into a viable component of gameplay. 

Classic Game Postmortem - DOOM
SPEAKER/S: Tom Hall (Loot Drop) and John Romero (Loot Drop) 
DAY / TIME / LOCATION: Thursday 3:00- 4:00 Room 3014, West Hall 3rd Fl.
DESCRIPTION: Few games can match the ubiquity and legacy of DOOM, the seminal first-person shooter that ushered in thousands of mods, clones, and successors. Nearly every significant FPS, from RESISTANCE to HALF-LIFE, CALL OF DUTY to HALO, owes its success in part to the Id Software game. Programmer, Game Designer, Level Designer and DOOM II final boss, John Romero, will deliver a postmortem on the game showing never-before-seen material, memorializing its immersive but nerve-wracking 3D environments, networked multiplayer deathmatches, Satanic imagery and themes, Barney WADs, exploding barrels, and BFG 9000. Romero was a co-founder of id Software, among other companies, and also worked on other significant shooters like WOLFENSTEIN 3D and QUAKE.

The Environment is the Orchestra: Soundscape Composition in LIMBO
SPEAKER/S: Martin Stig Andersen (Playdead) 
DAY / TIME / LOCATION: Thursday 3:00- 4:00 Room 3010, West Hall 3rd Fl.
DESCRIPTION: The session highlights the potentials of electroacoustic music and soundscape composition in the context of games. By dismissing the traditional dividing line between music and sound effects, a new range of possibilities in audiovisual design emerges. Putting Playdeads LIMBO on display, composer and sound designer Martin Stig Andersen demonstrates how the games award winning audio was created, focusing on how sound effects and ambient noises were adapted to carry out functions traditionally assigned to conventional music. The session also features examples of core integration between game and audio design, eventually giving way to a kind of game-play music.

Classic Game Postmortem - MANIAC MANSION
SPEAKER/S: Ron Gilbert (Double Fine Productions) 
DAY / TIME / LOCATION: Friday 11:00-12:00 Room 3014, West Hall 3rd Fl.
DESCRIPTION: Cherished by adventure game fans and reviled by hamsters everywhere, MANIAC MANSION was the first adventure game LucasArts developed on its SCUMM (Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion) platform -- the beloved scripting engine powering and enabling ports for subsequent classics like SAM & MAX, LOOM, FULL THROTTLE, DAY OF THE TENTACLE, and the MONKEY ISLAND series. Ron Gilbert, famous for his contributions at LucasArts and now working at Double Fine Productions, will talk about his work on MANIAC MANSION, touching on the game's multiple endings, point-and-click interface and it's oddball cast of characters.

The Story of CAVE STORY
SPEAKER/S: Daisuke 'Pixel' Amaya (Independent) 
DAY / TIME / LOCATION: Friday 11:00-12:00 Room 135, North Hall
DESCRIPTION: In his first-ever public speech and Western appearance regarding his much-beloved 2D indie title CAVE STORY, Japanese 'dojin' game developer Daisuke 'Pixel' Amaya will discuss his creative process in making the PC freeware title that debuted in 2004. The evocative retro-themed game, which took 5 years to complete, has been praised by many, localized into English, and is an Independent Games Festival finalist this year in its enhanced WiiWare and DSiWare version. As a 2D platform adventure with genuine emotion, depth, and an intriguing story, the title has been praised for its attention to detail and endearing characters. In this postmortem of both the original title and the versions that followed, Amaya will talk about what went both right and wrong in creating a game that turned out completely unlike what he initially had in mind, and what all game creators can learn from his inspiring story of bedroom programmer whose acclaimed work reached millions.

ONE FALLS FOR EACH OF US: The Prototyping of Tragedy
SPEAKER/S: Brenda Brathwaite (Lolapps) 
DAY / TIME / LOCATION: Thursday 4:30- 5:30 Room 135, North Hall
DESCRIPTION: Incorporating 50,000 wooden figurines, each painted by hand, Brenda Brathwaites latest game is ONE FALLS FOR EACH of US. It is the fourth game in the Mechanic is the Message series, takes up an entire room, is intentionally inconvenient to set up and chronicles the experience of the Native Americans as they walked and died upon the Trail of Tears. Like the other games in the series, Brathwaite uses the medium of the game mechanic much like traditional artists use paint to capture and express difficult events. It is a form of historical system design which provokes both player and designer to look and interact more deeply than they otherwise might. Influenced by the works of Jackson Pollock, Richard Serra, Marcel Duchamp and Gerhard Richter, Brathwaites works push games in directions not yet considered. From the games initial conception through to its current state, Brathwaite discusses the inspirations for ONE FALLS FOR EACH of US and the series, recent iterations and expands upon the prototyping of tragedy and offers direction on how our own real world experiences can serve as needed catharsis and inspiration in any type of game.


Dynamics: The State of the Art
SPEAKER/S: Clint Hocking (LucasArts) 
DAY / TIME / LOCATION: Wednesday 10:30-11:30 Room 134, North Hall
DESCRIPTION: In 2009, Chris Hecker fielded the question, 'How do games mean?' Crucially distinct from the question of what a specific game might mean, this question lies at the heart of what games are and why they matter as art, entertainment and culture. Obviously, games mean via their dynamics. But in what ways do dynamics yield meaning? What is the difference between meaning embedded in mechanics and true dynamical meaning? What is the variable breadth of meaning in a dynamic system or system of systems? What is the role of the author and of the interactor, and how do they share in the generation of meaning? How do specific games, from GO to MINECRAFT to RED DEAD REDEMPTION generate meaning?What specifically do these successful games mean, and to what extent is their ability to generate meaning a component of their success? This talk dives deeply into these questions in an attempt to lay the groundwork for a rigorous understanding of dynamics.

GDC Microtalks 2011: One Hour, Ten Speakers, Hundreds of Fun New Ideas
SPEAKER/S: Jamin Brophy-Warren (Kill Screen Magazine), Jason Rohrer (Independent), Colleen Macklin (Parsons the New School for Design), Naomi Clark (Fresh Planet), Brandon Boyer (Independent Games Festival), David Jaffe (Eat Sleep Play), Michael John (Electronic Arts), Richard Lemarchand (Naughty Dog), Brenda Brathwaite (Lolapps) and Asi Burak (Games for Change) DAY / TIME / LOCATION: Wednesday 12:00- 1:00 Room 3014, West Hall 3rd Fl.DESCRIPTION: The fast-moving talk format with fans all around the world returns to GDC for another hour of lightning-fast lectures, visual punch and innovative ideas. The concept is simple: MC Richard Lemarchand invites nine experts from different game design-related fields to give a short talk on a subject related to this years theme, 'Say How You Play' - a discussion of new contexts for play and games. Each speaker gets 20 slides, each of which will be displayed for exactly 16 seconds before automatically advancing, giving the speaker five minutes and 20 seconds to deliver their fresh game design perspectives.

Life and Death and Middle Pair: Go, Poker and the Sublime
SPEAKER/S: Frank Lantz (Area/Code/Zynga) 
DAY / TIME / LOCATION: Wednesday 1:30- 2:30 Room 303, South Hall
DESCRIPTION: This session is an in-depth exploration of two important games, Go, the ancient abstract strategy game, and Poker, the gambling card game. Go and Poker are epic, world-changing games, they have spanned generations, and absorbed entire lifetimes of passionate study and play. They change how we see the world and have affected the course of human history. Mixing personal experience, historical exposition, technical analysis, and philosophical reflection, this talk will seek to understand how a handful of black and white stones and a deck of cards can demonstrate the immense scope and sublime power of games.

Seven Ways a Video Game Can Be Moral
SPEAKER/S: Richard Rouse III (Ubisoft Montreal) 
DAY / TIME / LOCATION: Wednesday 3:00- 4:00 Room 3007, West Hall 3rd Fl.
DESCRIPTION: What does it mean for a story to be moral? Many developers see the honest exploration of morality as part of the great potential of video games. Though games such as Ultima IV, Fallout 3, Alpha Centauri and The Sims have dipped their toes into moral waters, other media have been exploring morality for centuries and have done so much more effectively than games. This fast-paced follow-up to the popular GDC 2010 talk, Five Ways a Video Game Can Make You Cry, examines moral storytelling from a variety of mediums to see what structures and techniques have worked. We then look at how these techniques can be transformed to work with gameplay, using interactivity to deliver moral storytelling in an entirely new way.

The Failure Workshop
SPEAKER/S: Brad Wardell (Stardock), Chris Hecker (definition six, inc.), Kyle Gabler (2D Boy), Matthew Wegner (Flashbang Studios), Kyle Gray (Tomorrow Corporation) and George Fan (PopCap Games) 
DAY / TIME / LOCATION: Wednesday 3:00- 4:00 Room 134, North Hall
DESCRIPTION: A series of rapid-fire presentations by successful developers on their less-than-successful projects, the Failure Workshop focuses on the glorious failures we all have, and the successful games that emerged as a result. Each speaker will have less than 12 minutes to showcase a game or feature that has never seen the light of day and explain: 1) why they thought it was a good idea 2) why it failed3) what they gained from the whole experience

From MYTH to HALO: Marty O'Donnell's Adventures with Adaptive Audio, Creative Collaboration and Geese!
SPEAKER/S: Marty O'Donnell (Bungie) 
DAY / TIME / LOCATION: Thursday 10:30-11:30 Room 3010, West Hall 3rd Fl.
DESCRIPTION: What is my definition of Adaptive Audio and how has it evolved over the past 15 years? What is my approach to composing music for games? What is my approach to implementing music in games? What are my thoughts about the purpose of collaborating with other creative people when writing music or directing audio for a game? What are my thoughts about the future of the music business in relation to game publishing? What are geese doing in the title of this talk? I'll attempt to answer all these questions but no one should expect complete clarity.

In Days of Yore
SPEAKER/S: Chris Crawford (Storytron) 
DAY / TIME / LOCATION: Thursday 10:30-11:30 Room 135, North Hall
DESCRIPTION: The earliest days of computer games were times of technological swashbuckling, shoestring budgets, amateur designers, amateurish products, and wild experimentation. Just getting things to move around on the screen was a huge technical challenge. Nobody knew what the hell they were doing, but everybody knew that we were creating a new medium and a new industry. Come back to the Wild West days of game design, when games were created by individuals and sold in zip-loc bags. You'll be amazed by the differences -- and stunned by the similarities.

No Freaking Respect! Social Game Developers Rant Back
SPEAKER/S: Chris Hecker (definition six, inc.), Eric Zimmerman (Independent), Trip Hawkins (Digital Chocolate), Brenda Brathwaite (Lolapps), Ian Bogost (The Georgia Institute of Technology), Brian Reynolds (Zynga), Jason Della Rocca (Perimeter Partners), Steve Meretzky (Playdom) and Scott Jon Siegel (Playdom) 
DAY / TIME / LOCATION: Thursday 12:00- 1:00 Room 3014, West Hall 3rd Fl.
DESCRIPTION: For the last six years at the GDC rant session, game developers have made themselves heard. They have trashed their publishers, shocked players and fans, and expressed heartfelt passion about the industry that we all love to hate. Last year, we heard from developers that had recently lost their companies and their jobs. This year, its time for the underclass to get even. At the GDC 2011 rant session, we have invited the people who everyone is blaming with ruining the industry: social network game developers. At least since last years GDC, when social game talks were met with boos and catcalls, they have been taking your abuse. At the rant session, well give social game developers a chance to strike back. What exactly does burn them up? They may well rail against common criticsms of social games, but THEY choose the topics of their rants, so be prepared for the unexpected. Cutting through the clutter of polite industry chit-chat, the rant session takes on the issues that matter to developers in a no-holds-barred format. Fasten your seat belts and prepare for strong opinions from some of the game industry's most distinguished and dissatisfied game developers. The invited panelists from scarred veteran to hothead youngster - will be given free reign. You have been warned. 

The Secret (Art) History of Games
SPEAKER/S: John Sharp (Savannah College of Art and Design-Atlanta) 
DAY / TIME / LOCATION: Thursday 1:30- 2:30 Room 304, South Hall
DESCRIPTION: What connects Renaissance parlor games, 18th century French swing sets, Go, Spacewar!, pinball, Chess and Wolfenstein 3D? This session looks at the often obscured connections and relationships between art and games as forms of expression and experience, and the ways the two reflect something substantial about their time and place. Sometimes, games were praised, and other times, they were despised. But in all cases, a common thread is the degree to which the games were woven into the culture.

An Apology for Roger Ebert
SPEAKER/S: Brian Moriarty (Worcester Polytechnic Institute) 
DAY / TIME / LOCATION: Friday 2:00- 3:00 Room 135, North Hall
DESCRIPTION: In November of 2005, internationally renowned film critic Roger Ebert unleashed a firestorm of criticism with a blog entry claiming that the nature of the medium [video games] prevents it from moving beyond craftsmanship to the stature of art. 4+ years and thousands of angry comments later, Ebert wearily admits that he was a fool for ever mentioning video games in the first place, but will not retract his opinion that games can never be art. Who is this Roger Ebert guy? Is he right? Does his opinion matter? Why should we even care whether or not games are art? Just what is this art thing, anyway? Professor Brian Moriarty, 29-year gaming veteran and renowned lecturer and teacher, was the first (in a 1998 GDC address) to hail computer games as the defining art form of the 21st century. He has pondered long and hard on these questions, and finds himself reluctantly siding with ... Ebert! In this ill-advised lecture, he foolishly dares to enter the belly of the beast, offering a passionate defense of the beleaguered film critic at the game industrys most prestigious event. He will reveal his own eye-opening definition of art, explain why current game designs dont aspire to it, and argue that its both practically and spiritually essential to pursue it anyway. Has the Professor finally lost his mind? Will you bring tomatoes, or rotten eggs? Prepare to have your mind bent and your soul seared in one of the Professors legendary presentations, his first GDC appearance since 2002.


Designing Games for the "43-Year-Old Woman"
SPEAKER/S: Chris Trottier (Zynga) 
DAY / TIME / LOCATION: Wednesday 3:00- 4:00 Room 308, South Hall
DESCRIPTION: Chris will pull from her experience working on games like The Sims and FarmVille to explore what factors make a game take the leap from approachable to mass market phenomenon. This session is not about all women or female game developers. It is about your cousin's wife who's obsessed with collecting FarmVille animals or Sims custom content: what her day is like, when and why she turns to entertainment, and how you can best engage her when she does.

Player-Driven Stories: How Do We Get There?
SPEAKER/S: Kent Hudson (LucasArts) 
DAY / TIME / LOCATION: Wednesday 4:30- 5:30 Room 3006, West Hall 3rd Fl.
DESCRIPTION: Do you wish your actions as a player mattered more in the game worlds you explore? Are you tired of the game industry copying Hollywood and spending more and more money on elaborate cutscenes for linear stories? Do you want to explore ways in which games can harness interactivity and take advantage of what's unique to our medium? If you answered yes to any of those questions, then this talk is for you! It will describe values and techniques with which you can put the player in charge of his or her own narrative.

Keep it Together: Encouraging Cooperative Behavior During Co-op Play
SPEAKER/S: Patrick Redding (Ubisoft Toronto) 
DAY / TIME / LOCATION: Thursday 9:00-10:00 Room 303, South Hall
DESCRIPTION: Cooperative games pose a unique challenge for designers. How do they deliver coherent, meaningful play while permitting two or more players to take independent action in the same space? Ubisoft game director Patrick Redding (Splinter Cell: Conviction) reviews a range of practical tools for encouraging co-op players to work together. Drawing on a variety of recent games, including the lessons of Convictions own co-op campaign, he looks at how players seek out meaningful cooperation as a basis for social interaction. Redding examines level design, game dynamics, presentation and feedback, communication and metagame strategies for enabling collective action.

No Explanation Necessary: Minimizing Exposition in Games
SPEAKER/S: Jeremy Bernstein (Electric Entertainment) 
DAY / TIME / LOCATION: Thursday 10:30-11:30 Room 130, North Hall
DESCRIPTION: Exposition is a critical component of a game's narrative experience, giving the player the background and context necessary to follow what's going on. But exposition can also suck. Hard. This talk examines why exposition is necessary, discusses why and how we tend to overdo it, and provides concrete techniques for minimizing and streamlining exposition so that it benefits the game instead of slowing it down. These approaches are not just writing-centric, but can also be applied at multiple levels and all stages of game production. Case studies involve Halo and Dead Space 2. Don't press 'A' to skip this one!

Experimental Gameplay Sessions
SPEAKER/S: Michael Brough (Independent), Nicolai Troshinsky (Independent), Mihir Sheth (University of Southern California), Chris Bell (Carnegie Mellon ETC), Agustin Perez Fernandez (Independent), Frank Lantz (Area/Code/Zynga), Robin Hunicke (thatgamecompany), Richard Lemarchand (Naughty Dog), Daniel Benmergui (Independent), Jonathan Blow (Number None, Inc.), Andy Schatz (Pocketwatch Games), Asher Vollmer (University of Southern California), Jason Rohrer (Independent) and Hanford Lemoore (Independent) 
DAY / TIME / LOCATION: Thursday 1:30- 3:30 Room 303, South Hall
DESCRIPTION: The 9th annual Experimental Gameplay Sessions invites developers of experimental gameplay to demonstrate and discuss their games and prototypes. In a series of short presentations, this session focuses on the exploration of new frontiers in game design. Independent games, academic projects, and AAA mainstream games that break new ground are all represented.

Industry Lessons Learned and Applying Them to the Road Ahead
SPEAKER/S: Cliff Bleszinski (Epic Games) 
DAY / TIME / LOCATION: Thursday 1:30- 2:30 Room 3014, West Hall 3rd Fl.
DESCRIPTION: Cliff Bleszinski has not done a public lecture in years and has a lot to say. First, the seminar will focus on how understanding marketing and PR are not only important to a game's promotion but to its actual design and implementation. The talk then continues on into talking about branding - not only an IP but also characters and even and one's self as a developer. The lecture will continue to then discuss the importance of story and context, the fact that a genre can live or die based on its camera, as well as fun tips such as how to use the seven deadly sins to make a better game. Finally, the current state of the industry and the future will also be discussed with Bleszinski's thoughts on AAA gaming, social gaming, and the connected future, as well as general observations about the manner in which the gaming industry is run.

The Player-Shaped Hole: Allowing for Both Narrative and Story
SPEAKER/S: Richard Dansky (Red Storm) 
DAY / TIME / LOCATION: Thursday 3:00- 4:00 Room 134, North Hall
DESCRIPTION: Game developers want to tell compelling stories. Game players want to experience them. Those would seem to be congruent desires. And yet, the conflict between narrative intent and player freedom can produce almost insurmountable narrative challenges. This session is intended as a look at that conflict, the underlying assumptions and misapprehensions that produce it, and ways that it can be reduced, avoided or eliminated - all by remembering the need for the player-shaped hole in the middle of the narrative.

Strategy Games: The Next Move
SPEAKER/S: Ian Fischer (Robot Entertainment), Soren Johnson (EA2D), Dustin Browder (Blizzard Entertainment), Jon Shafer (Stardock) and Tom Chick (Quarter to Three) 
DAY / TIME / LOCATION: Friday 11:00-12:00 Room 134, North Hall
DESCRIPTION: Strategy games have one of the longest traditions within the industry, including two of last year's biggest games, STARCRAFT II AND CIVILIZATION V. In what direction is the genre heading? What are some of most important, and possibly overlooked, gameplay innovations of the last few years? How has the growth on online, persistent play affected the way strategy games are developed? Has the rapidly expanding mainstream audience changed how strategy games are targeted, or is the genre at risk of turning into a ghetto? As the market moves towards free-to-play, micro-transaction-based gaming, how will strategy gaming adapt while maintaining fairness of play? Is there still room for traditional, boxed strategy games?