John’s GDC Talk Hit List

Make sure you hit the talk that the EVE Online guys are giving Thursday at 4:30. It’s always great.

Also, I hear that John Shedletsky guy has some interesting stuff to say about Tracking Player Engagement and Radically Improving Monetization. That’s at 3 PM on Wednesday.

February 28 – March 4, 2011
San Francisco, CA
Moscone Convention Center

 

Session

Speaker(s)

Day

Start

End

Room

Applifier Postmortem: From Zero to 55M Users in 100 Days [SOGS Business]

Speaker/s: Jussi Laakkonen

Mon

10:00 AM

11:00 AM

Room 130, North Hall

The story of Applifier is the story of being late to the social gaming gold rush, dying a thousand times by complexity, only to be saved by a simple idea of sharing players with other game developers.
In less than a 100 days Applifier transformed from a game developer to a cross-promotion network reaching over 55 million monthly active users. Applifier’s CEO and founder Jussi Laakkonen looks at why this happened and what’s going on in the rapidly maturing social games market.
Jussi will share tactics on what developers can do to find and retain players on Facebook and offer a personal take on social games and reveal some spectacularly ambitious failures on the road to overnight success.

Creating Your Building Blocks: Modular Component AI Systems

Speaker/s: Alex Champandard, Brett Laming and Joel McGinnis

Mon

10:00 AM

11:00 AM

Room 3002, West Hall 3rd Fl.

A thirst for detail and realism sees gamers demand more AI depth than ever before. With production costs rising and gameplay teams expanding, AI programmers need to provide a safe, adaptable playground that remains under their control. Smart objects and component systems may oil this idea, but it’s the design principles behind them that provide the key. The secret is to create modular AI systems that can be assembled and reconfigured together. The session will show how a rigorous approach to compartmentalization helps AI remain flexible and ensures that authoring of behaviors is more accessible to designers and programmers alike.

New Challenges in MMO Localization: The GUILD WARS Franchise Revealed

Speaker/s: Adam Vance

Mon

10:00 AM

11:00 AM

Room 302, South Hall

This lecture will present the takeaways and challenges encountered by the ArenaNet International Product Team in localizing the MMO GUILD WARS and looking ahead to its sequel GUILD WARS 2. GUILD WARS is currently localized into nine European and Asian languages, making it one of the most widely localized MMOs. As MMOs grow larger and content volumes increase, standard game localization practices are evolving to meet the challenges of simultaneous releases across multiple languages. This requires localization teams to work closely with design and development in order to meet tight schedule milestones, and to manage growing complexities and dependencies in game development and multi-lingual support. Some of the areas we will focus on are internationalization in game development, the text and voice-over localization pipeline, customization for international markets and international product management, as well as! the intersection of content localization and managing international player communities.
[This session will only be audio recorded.]

Using Your Friends: Identifying the Top Interaction Mechanics in Current Social Games & Media [SOGS Essentials]

Speaker/s: Mia Consalvo

Mon

10:00 AM

11:00 AM

Room 132, North Hall

New social games are released daily, yet many of the most popular games offer very limited forms of interaction between players. This presentation answers the question: how social are social games?
It does so through analysis of 80 games, identifying the major types of interactions employed, and highlighting games offering unusual social mechanics.
The second part of the lecture explores how social media applications are using interaction in novel ways, such as Nike’s new running app, which invites users to broadcast the start of their run, turning friends’ responses into real-time cheering.
In closing, the lecture identifies the range of social functions offered by social games, and points to other types of interactions enabled via social media, to encourage game designers to think beyond the boundaries of game design.

AI Pr0n: Maximum Exposure of Your Debug Info!

Speaker/s: Brian Schwab, Michael Dawe and Rez Graham

Mon

11:15 AM

12:15 PM

Room 3002, West Hall 3rd Fl.

Debugging complex AI is a very difficult task. Often the best approach involves visualizing the data and the relationships instead of staring at code. It can be challenging to find that balance between constructive information and simply visual clutter. In this session, several developers will discuss the creative and unique approaches they used to visualize the complexity of their AI for debugging and development.

Care and Feeding of Your Independent Game Studio

Speaker/s: Arthur Humphrey

Mon

11:15 AM

11:40 AM

Room 135, North Hall

This talk will focus on nurturing a successful IP-based independent game studio in the current market environment. Using Last Day of Work (creator of numerous hits on multiple platforms, primarily casual PC/Mac and iTunes) as an example we will discuss strategies in developing effective new game designs, ways to make IP difficult to copy/clone, protecting your IP, leveraging your designs, growing your company without growing it (contract, licensing), pitfalls and secrets. We will also discuss recent forays into social and virtual goods.
Last Day of Work has been growing since 2003 without taking one red cent of outside funding ever. With numerous hit games on a multitude of platforms and in more than 7 languages, LDW is happy to be the Cinderella-story among indies, and an inspiration for those who want to create a studio, keep it, and lovingly grow it.

Hakkar’s Corrupted Blood Plague: How an Outbreak in WoW is Helping Epidemiologists Create Better Disease Models [SGS Health]

Speaker/s: Nina H. Fefferman

Mon

11:15 AM

11:40 AM

Room 308, South Hall

In 2005, designers and programmers at Blizzard created new game content for their mega-hit WORLD OF WARCRAFT that inadvertently unleashed an in-game epidemic: the Corrupted Blood Outbreak. This virtual plague was well covered in game and technical press but little else about this event and what insights it might offer to epidemiologists has been presented. While this was not the first epidemiological event in a game or virtual world, the Corrupted Blood Outbreak is one of the most famous and interesting to date and provides an outline of the roles games can play in improving our understanding and possible responses to such events in the future. In this lecture, computational epidemiologist, Nina Fefferman of Rutger’s University will present her work looking into the Corrupted Blood Outbreak as an epidemiological event. The talk will cover how the plague unfolded within the virtual world and how insights from it are shaping current and future studies. Further, she will discuss how those original insights from WORLD OF WARCRAFT have led to new studies in other virtual spaces, and present some questions currently under investigation.

LEAGUE OF LEGENDS Postmortem — Beta, Launch and Beyond [SOGS Design]

Speaker/s: Tom Cadwell and Steve Snow

Mon

11:15 AM

12:15 PM

Room 134, North Hall

League of Legends has been a pioneer in providing a core gaming experience under a free to play business model in the west But like all pioneers, it has had a number of hurdles throughout its development. In this talk, Riot Games will discuss the three major areas that were particularly challenging: Recruiting a team without a reputation or a product, interacting with an existing audience with large expectations, and organizing teams to be successful amidst the distractions of a live game.

AI Navigation: It’s Not a Solved Problem – Yet

Speaker/s: James Anhalt, Alexander Kring and Nathan Sturtevant

Mon

1:45 PM

2:45 PM

Room 3002, West Hall 3rd Fl.

Every so often, we hear the question asking whether pathfinding in games is a solved problem, and yet there is a continuous stream of new techniques to help improve it or address a particularly knotty problem. This session will demonstrate and explain some new techniques used in three different games. These include how STARCRAFT 2 handled massive numbers of simultaneous units (think hundreds of zerglings), how DRAGON’S AGE: ORIGINS gained increased navigation efficiency by abstracting their paths, and the myriad benefits that hierarchical navmeshes provided in the upcoming PS3 title, HEROES ON THE MOVE.

Click Zen: Zynga’s Evolution from FARMVILLE to CITYVILLE [SOGS Business]

Speaker/s: Mark Skaggs

Mon

1:45 PM

2:45 PM

Room 134, North Hall

Veteran game maker Mark Skaggs discusses how CITYVILLE represents a fundamental shift in how Zynga makes games, highlighted by the similarities and differences between CITYVILLE and FARMVILLE. Learn how Zynga changed its product development process in the 18 months between the two launches due to the rapid maturation of the industry, including new metrics processes. Come hear what worked and what didn’t work, key questions to ask when developing social games and how to create success in social games going forward.

Teaching Children to Program Games

Speaker/s: Jill Denner

Mon

1:45 PM

2:10 PM

Room 301, South Hall

An increasing number of gaming environments are available for children to design and program their own computer games. However, educators who want to use these tools in their classrooms have little information about the benefits or limitations, or the learning outcomes associated with each. This lecture will draw on eight years of teaching middle school students to program games using four different programming environments. The speaker will describe a teaching method and what the students learn. She will also talk about the challenges and strategies for engaging girls and underrepresented minorities in computer game programming, including suggestions for new game authoring tools.
[This session will only be audio recorded.]

Top 7 Social Metrics for 2011 [SOGS Essentials]

Speaker/s: Albert Lai

Mon

1:45 PM

2:10 PM

Room 130, North Hall

The presentation will revolve around a simple 3-step framework: User Acquisition, Retention and Monetization. Acquisition: How have game studios changed their user acquisition strategies given changes in the ecosystem? Engagement: How are game developers optimizing engagement events to increase viral messaging? Monetization: How have virtual goods and FB credits affected user monetization? How are game studios measuring the success of their virtual economies? To this end, we will deliver social metric benchmark ranges in our industry that fit within this framework. More importantly, reasons behind why the metrics are so important to a social games lifecycle development will be outlined.

Turning Data Into Better Social Games [SOGS Essentials]

Speaker/s: David Stern

Mon

2:20 PM

2:45 PM

Room 130, North Hall

As a leader in social gaming, Playfish relies heavily on data to understand game play behavior and ultimately create meaningful and lasting social experiences for players. In this talk, David Stern, Playfish’s director of analytics and strategy, will discuss how Playfish turns data into insights that help optimize the player experience.

Community Management: Efficiencies and Economies of Scale [SOGS Essentials]

Speaker/s: Richard Weil

Mon

3:00 PM

4:00 PM

Room 130, North Hall

Customer interaction is happening across more platforms and systems than ever before. At the same time, customer service and community relations continue in static and, in some cases, divergent courses. But does fracturing this effort across these disciplines help or hinder the objective of building a positive image and serving customers?
By consolidating and broadening both customer support and community relations, companies that depend on online communities can streamline and improve their entire customer relations effort.

Effective Marketing of the Freemium Model Across Platforms

Speaker/s: Mike Breslin

Mon

3:00 PM

4:00 PM

Room 303, South Hall

Making mobile games social is the key to successfully marketing freemium titles. By activating an existing players social channels and social graph, developers can increase DAUs and RPU from a more attractive, more fun and more competitive freemium game.

Localization and Development: A Love Story…That Leads to Great Business!

Speaker/s: Gordon Walton and Ian Mitchell

Mon

3:00 PM

4:00 PM

Room 302, South Hall

There is no doubting it, localization has become an essential part of the business of making games today. Our games have become more complex and our development cycles have become more aggressive so how do we ensure that localization gets the attention it deserves, without disrupting the development process? In this keynote, the value of a proper localization process will be discussed as an opportunity to align business and development goals. The rationale and methodologies for success in localizing modern AAA games will be covered and BioWare will present some ideas to help developers build a more effective and sustainable localization processes.
[This session will only be audio recorded.]

Monetizing International Audiences: Asia & Latin America [SOGS Business]

Speaker/s: James Gwertzman and Esteban Sosnik

Mon

3:00 PM

4:00 PM

Room 132, North Hall

This hour of lectures will provide essential monetization strategies for any social game company looking to grow outside of North America.
The session begins with James Gwertzman, Vice President of the Asia/Pacific operations for PopCap Games. He will discuss how the Social Network wars are effectively over, and Facebook is the clear victor – except in Asia, where local social networks are still putting up a fight. This is especially true in Japan and China where large audiences (400M+ users on QQ Zone in China) and large ARPUs (>10x Facebook on Mobage in Japan) make local networks unusually attractive. He will provide a survey of the social networks in Asia that matter, describe how they are different from Facebook, rate their policies and openness to third parties, and deliver an in-depth analysis of the top games on each network and how they differ from comparable games on Facebook.
The second half of the hour will feature Esteban Sosnik, co-founder and CEO of Atakama Labs. He will describe how Latin America is starting to be a real market for both game development and consumption. In the last few years, local studios started getting acquired by global publishers and new start-ups are capitalizing on the demand for social games in one of the fastest growing markets in the digital world. He will reveal opportunities in the region and how are Latin Americans playing and paying for social games.

Social Mechanics for Social Games [SOGS Design]

Speaker/s: Raph Koster

Mon

3:00 PM

4:00 PM

Room 134, North Hall

Many have accused social games of not really being social. But they are underpinned by many classic social mechanics that drive interaction and community-building. Some of these have been proven to work in other genres such as MMOs and are beginning to filter into the social games market; others are easily visible and quite familiar in real life, but have yet to be seen in the design of social games. In this talk we will draw from both proven game design and from anthropology and sociology and explore the social potential of social games.

Beyond Language: Localization for the Next Generation of Online Games

Speaker/s: Susan Choe, Kevin Xu, Alan Chen, Richard Honeywood and Phillip Reisberger

Mon

4:15 PM

5:15 PM

Room 302, South Hall

With video games, content is still king. With free-to-play titles, however, the total number of players is a close second. The ability to attract and retain high numbers of users requires a globally strategy from the onset. In recent years, the quality of online games has increased dramatically. In tandem, localization requirements have evolved significantly beyond simply translating in-game text. This session will explore the strategy studios should consider when setting out to build a game for a global audience. Key focus areas include global game design, language and culture adaptation, distribution and hosting services, and payment and support integration.
[This session will only be audio recorded.]

MILLIONAIRE CITY – The Story Behind the Numbers [SOGS Design]

Speaker/s: Jason Loia

Mon

4:15 PM

5:15 PM

Room 132, North Hall

MILLIONAIRE CITY was one of the fastest growing games on Facebook in 2010, drawing in millions of daily active players, defying DAU gravity month and after month and ultimately going on to become the longest-running city-building hit on Facebook and iPhone. But despite the seemingly effortless growth, behind the scenes, Digital Chocolate wrestled with many complex design decisions, technical choices, and business variables. This session describes several of the most important ‘critical junctions’ in the making and the life of MILLIONAIRE CITY, and reveals key insights and lessons learned into areas from design directions to platform and business decisions.

Turing Tantrums: AI Developers Rant!

Speaker/s: Dave Mark, Brian Schwab, Richard Evans, Kevin Dill and Mike Lewis

Mon

5:25 PM

6:00 PM

Room 3002, West Hall 3rd Fl.

Sometimes things just need to be said. Saying them out loud in a room filled with (hopefully) like-minded people just makes it all the more interesting and cathartic. Five AI developers from all corners of the industry will deliver quick, to-the-point rants about what’s on their mind.

Behavioral Economics and Social Games [SOGS Business]

Speaker/s: David Botkin and Elena Rykhlevskaia

Tue

10:00 AM

11:00 AM

Room 130, North Hall

What does the price of The Economist magazine have to do with virtual dresses? How are principles from social psychology and economics reflected in social games? Playdom’s VP of Intelligence, David Botkin, and Business Intelligence Analyst, Elena Rykhlevskaia, explore classic behavioral biases in decision making and how those biases impact the features game designers put into social games.

A Debate: Are Social Games Legitimate? [SOGS Vision]

Speaker/s: Daniel James, Ian Bogost, Curt Bererton, Margaret Robertson and Nabeel Hyatt

Tue

11:15 AM

12:15 PM

Room 134, North Hall

Social games are the hottest thing in gaming right now, and have come closer to achieving mass market appeal than anything the game industry has ever done. But they also have many detractors, who find them shallow and crass… or worse, manipulative and evil. Are social games the work of artists, or the spawn or soulless entrepreneurs interested in nothing besides the bottom line? Come watch the sparks fly as Nabeel Hyatt of Zynga and Curt Bererton of ZipZapPlay go head to head with Ian Bogost of the Georgia Institute of Technology and Daniel James of Three Rings. Moderated by Margaret Robertson of Hide & Seek.

Experimental Game AI: Live Demos of Innovation

Speaker/s: Michael Mateas, Trevor Sundberg, David Armstrong and James Trinklein

Tue

1:45 PM

2:45 PM

Room 3002, West Hall 3rd Fl.

Experimental game AI gives us a taste of what might be possible and a glimpse of what the future might hold. This session will feature several interesting and experimental game AI prototypes, all demoed live on stage. This promises to be a very inspirational and thought-provoking session with many presenters on-hand to show their creations and innovations.

AI Development Postmortems: Inside DARKSPORE and THE SIMS: MEDIEVAL

Speaker/s: Rez Graham, Lauren McHugh and Dan Kline

Tue

3:00 PM

4:00 PM

Room 3002, West Hall 3rd Fl.

This session looks into some of the unique challenges that were faced (and conquered!) in two upcoming titles. Dan Kline and Lauren McHugh show how DARKSPORE managed both scale and code-sharing for more than 100 different enemies and over 100 different powers — all while making each AI memorable and unique… and accomplishing it all in a short development time! Rez Graham will share how he started with the celebrated THE SIMS 3 codebase and made numerous improvements to fit the new challenges posed by THE SIMS: MEDIEVAL — including performance issues, the addition of quests, and even life-schedules for key NPCs.

Building Successful Freemium Games: Reducing Your Time To Money (Presented by AuroraFeint)

Speaker/s: Keith Katz

Tue

3:00 PM

4:00 PM

Room 120, North Hall

In this session Keith Katz will discuss how to build a successful freemium game. He will review and compare the available tools needed to create recurring revenue in freemium games. His discussion will focus on lessons learned from OpenFeints experience helping developers make freemium games with its toolkit, OFX. He will review games using this technology and discuss how the toolkit was used to create a successful freemium game.

Social Genetics: The Demographics and Affinities of Facebook Gamers [SOGS Business]

Speaker/s: Nick Berry

Tue

3:00 PM

4:00 PM

Room 130, North Hall

What do you really know about your social games customers? How old are they? What do they watch on TV? What brands do they follow? Who should you be chasing for sponsorship opportunities? Where should you be advertising? The more you understand about your customers, the more efficiently you can attract, retain and monetize them.
This presentation will describe the results obtained from the mining and analysis of millions of Facebook data points. Eye-opening findings around Facebook’s top consumer brands and top social games will be discussed. Discover intriguing user preferences, from the brand of trainers FARMVILLE players wear and the TV shows watched by BEJEWELED BLITZ players, to the brand of fast food enjoyed by COLLAPSE! players and the unique combination of games different users choose to play.

Flirting with the Dark Side: Scripting and AI

Speaker/s: Damian Isla and Mike Lewis

Tue

4:15 PM

5:15 PM

Room 3002, West Hall 3rd Fl.

According to the conventional wisdom, scripting is not real AIit’s faked, and fragile and contrary to the fundamental goals of real AI. This session will refute this conventional wisdom, and explode the false dichotomy between rich and dynamic AI versus static and fragile scripting. Additionally, the session will present tools and guidelines for building powerful and effective scripting systems to enable designers and programmers alike to craft highly engaging game characters and immersive gameplay experiences.

Zigging While Others Zag – KINGDOMS OF CAMELOT Postmortem [SOGS Design]

Speaker/s: Andrew Sheppard

Tue

4:15 PM

5:15 PM

Room 134, North Hall

Social gaming has come a long way in its short existence. To date, most popular social networking games trend towards simple game mechanics, asynchronous gameplay and an audience of casual gamers. While this simplicity has helped popularize the genre, it’s done so by sacrificing the depth and breadth of experience that traditional games facilitate. Kabam breaks from the pack by bringing the advantages of traditional massively multiplayer online gaming (strategy, RPG) to a social platform that has become flooded with clones of a simple formula. Chief Product Officer, Andrew Sheppard will explore how Kabam has combined strategy, analytics and creativity to create a winning formula with Facebook smash hit, KINGDOMS OF CAMELOT.

Social & Online Games Summit Mixer (Hosted by Adobe)

Speaker/s: Speaker N/A

Tue

5:30 PM

7:30 PM

Lower Lobby, North Hall

Design and Execute the Optimal Monetization Strategy by Game Profile (Presented by Digital River)

Speaker/s: John Hayase

Wed

10:30 AM

11:30 AM

Room 121, North Hall

Maximizing your game profit requires the expert application of market intelligence during the design and execution of monetization plans. Led by John Hayase, Senior Vice President of product development with Atari, this session will feature a panel of industry leading producers and revenue owners who will share their process for designing and executing the right monetization mix based on genre, target audience and lifecycle stage. This discussion will dissect live game monetization models. Intended for executives and designers responsible for monetization design, attendees will learn about the current options for monetizing games and strategies for applying them.

GDC Microtalks 2011: One Hour, Ten Speakers, Hundreds of Fun New Ideas

Speaker/s: David Jaffe, Michael John, Richard Lemarchand, Brenda Brathwaite, Asi Burak, Jamin Brophy-Warren, Jason Rohrer, Colleen Macklin, Naomi Clark and Brandon Boyer

Wed

12:00 PM

1:00 PM

Room 3014, West Hall 3rd Fl.

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.

Develop Blazingly Fast Games with Visual Studio 2010 (Presented by Microsoft)

Speaker/s: Amit Mohindra

Wed

1:30 PM

2:30 PM

Room 110, North Hall

Visual Studio 2010 introduces many exciting new features that help game developers rapidly generate high quality optimized code. Learn how to use C++0x features (auto, lambdas and r-value references), new allocator templates, concurrency runtime libraries, improved IntelliSense, parallel debugging and profiling to write the fastest games for Windows and Xbox.

Identifying New Talent in Turbulent Times

Speaker/s: Ian Livingstone, Mark Morris, Adam Russell, John Sear and Pete Hawley

Wed

1:30 PM

2:30 PM

Room 3020, West Hall 3rd Fl.

This session offers a world-class panel debating one of the key questions facing our industry – how can we judge the future effectiveness of new talent in the context of today’s turbulent market? Is experience of traditional large-scale production processes a reliable guide? If industry growth is largely coming from disruptive new business models and new design concepts, should those with big ideas avoid conventional wisdom? On the other hand, are today’s hotheaded indie kids simply reinventing the wheel and relearning past lessons the hard way? Our experienced panel will provide a vibrant mix of opinions on these issues.

MAXIS-mizing Darkspore Game Performance with Intel GPA 4.0! (Presentedy by Intel)

Speaker/s: Omar A Rodriguez and David Swenson

Wed

1:30 PM

2:30 PM

Room 309, South Hall

Come see an exclusive sneak peek of Maxis upcoming release Darkspore! Learn from the developers how they used the newly released Intel Graphics Performance Analyzers to MAXIS-mize game performance for the greatest possible user base, including Sandy Bridge Intel Core processors with 2nd generation HD Graphics. All developers need to identify and solve graphics bottlenecks. Whether you’re a veteran GPA user or you’ve never used it, you’ll come away from this session understanding just how easy it is to profile your own games performance using GPAs new in-game HUD with rich hardware metrics, and the deep analysis Frame Analyzer tool. A lucky attendee will walk away with a Intel Core i7-2600K processor to help them experiment with some of the content of the talk.

Recruit Profitable Players through Advanced Multi-Channel Marketing Methods (Presented by Digital River)

Speaker/s: Laura Naviaux

Wed

3:00 PM

4:00 PM

Room 121, North Hall

Recruiting players with the highest return on investment (ROI) requires strategic allocation of marketing budgets and effective execution. Join Laura Naviaux, global vice president of sales and marketing at Sony Online Entertainment, as she leads a panel of industry experts responsible for acquiring profitable players through established and developing channels. Discussion will emphasize constructing marketing plans based on target audience and distribution methods, including metrics, offer management, campaign tracking, new user experience flows and promotional channels. This panel will give you a firm understanding of the techniques and channels marketing leaders use to deliver profitable players.

Tracking Player Engagement and Radically Improving Monetization

Speaker/s: John Shedletsky

Wed

3:00 PM

4:00 PM

Room 130, North Hall

The traditional methodology for evaluating the efficacy of monetization in a virtual world or social game makes the tacit assumption that player spending follows a bell curve centered on an average paying user. In reality, this average user doesn’t exist. Rather, revenue follows a power law distribution relative to player engagement: the top 20% most engaged users end up generating 80% of revenue. At ROBLOX, our monetization strategy has focused on these MVPs, resulting in a more than 400% efficiency gain in the past two years. In this talk we will share specific numbers and attempt to generalize our lessons learned.

Navigation in Insomniac Engine

Speaker/s: Reddy Sambavaram

Thu

9:00 AM

10:00 AM

Room 3020, West Hall 3rd Fl.

Navigation of the level is increasingly becoming one of the necessary components for an immersive and fun AI. This talk tracks the evolution of Navigation at Insomniac by sharing our approach, implementation and experience. Among other things, the talk focuses on how we turned a navigation job in SPU shaders and ran it full frame deferred in our game. One of the key problems a nav mesh approach has is how to introduce custom (non-mesh) link semantics into the problem domain. We present our custom-links approach, with in game examples (e.g. jumps), and explain how it naturally blends into the nav mesh problem domain. We also present our approach to another vexing problem of how to allow a designer to custom tweak the nav mesh while still using an auto-generation tool. Finally, we end with sharing notes on our approach to dynamic nav mesh generation at run time.

Your Best Weapon Is Your Community! How to Create a Social Ecosystem Across Multiple Platforms

Speaker/s: Chris Bruce

Thu

9:00 AM

10:00 AM

Room 130, North Hall

Traditional AAAgames have a high purchase cost, and consumers rely on official websites, demos and press to aid purchasing decisions. In contrast, casual & mobile games increasingly leverage social networks and freemium business models to drive growth.
Every game creates user generated content which can be surfaced through varying channels, all of which have the potential to turn players into powerful advocates for your game.
This session explores how current & emerging social and casual gaming mechanisms can be exploited by game franchises on a range of platforms, utilizing social networks to drive repeat play and sales.

Free to Play, Pay for Stuff: The Virtual Goods Revolution Continues

Speaker/s: Daniel James and Matt Mihaly

Thu

10:30 AM

11:30 AM

Room 122, North Hall

Join us for a 7th year of no-holds-barred discussion in which well delve deep into the secrets of micro-transaction based business models for online games of all types.
Join a debate encompassing social games, MMOs, secondary markets, RMT, virtual currencies, alternate payment methods, and a variety of other audience-driven practical topics around microtransactions in online games. Topics range from the banal (‘What are best practices for revenue recognition of virtual goods sales?’) to the moral (‘Is there an ethical obligation to refund unused purchases when a game is shut down?’).
Virtual goods models took years to take root in the Western market but are well-established now, and are used in the most popular games in the world (Farmville, etc). Theres a wealth of knowledge and experience out there and as this is a roundtable we hope you’ll come share and learn with the other participants.
Arrive early this roundtable has to turn people away due to overcrowding every year.

The Future of the MMO in China

Speaker/s: Alan Tan

Thu

1:30 PM

2:30 PM

Room 134, North Hall

The MMORPG has been in the market for over a decade. Its business model proves to be very successful, especially in the East Asian market. However, after 10 years of continuous rapid growth, the Chinese online market is beginning to hit a roadblock due to oversaturation in the MMO space. Every year there are hundreds of MMORPGs coming out with a similar look and a similar gameplay. It is the time for a change, but besides enhancing graphics and adding more content, what other options do MMO developers have? Shanda Games is a leading online game publisher and developer in China and is one of the major forces driving MMO growth in Asia. In this speech, Shanda Games Chairman and CEO Alan Tan shares his views on the current situation, and more importantly discusses his plans moving forward.

Why the Freemium Model is Kicking A$$ (Presented by W3i)

Speaker/s: Robert Weber

Thu

3:00 PM

4:00 PM

Room 309, South Hall

The freemium model has taken the mobile game industry by storm, demonstrated by DeNAs recent $403 million acquisition of ngmoco. Learn how to cash in using the freemium model to monetize your mobile games. Leverage the power of free to grow a mass user base while monetizing engagement and usage5 out of 10 top grossing iPhone Apps use this model. AAA developers and indie developers share their secrets for acquiring users and driving revenue.

Data Analysis on Player Behavior in EVE ONLINE

Speaker/s: Eyjolfur Gudmundsson

Thu

4:30 PM

5:30 PM

Room 3020, West Hall 3rd Fl.

This lecture will showcase best practices and offer viable solutions based on real case studies from CCP’s extensive data analysis experience with EVE ONLINE. Highlights include exploration into CCP’s Unholy Rage project, an initiative to combat real money trading, how data mining is used to discover and address exploits, and why we feel it’s important to communicate detailed data analysis findings to our player base. A special focus will be on our use of quick turnaround data analysis in agile development processes and how to create a cost effective data analysis structure that specifically tailored to the needs of a video game company. Finally the importance of data logging will be discussed and why more focus should be put into logging behavioral data.

The Great Experiment: Finding the Right Mix of Payment Models (Presented by PayPal)

Speaker/s: Ketan Babaria

Thu

4:30 PM

5:30 PM

Room 121, North Hall

The right mix of payment models in games are integral to monetization and always evolving. PayPal works with the top gaming companies from MMOGs to Social Games to enable standard models and experiment with new ones. Come learn and ask PayPal product managers and some of our top gaming customers from mobile, casual, social to MMOG, how theyre approaching implementing payment models that work for converting the casual player to the whale.

The Game Design of STARCRAFT II: Designing an E-Sport

Speaker/s: Dustin Browder

Fri

9:30 AM

10:30 AM

Room 3014, West Hall 3rd Fl.

Designing an e-sport carries its own special challenges. The game has to be not only fun to play, but also fun to watch. The core design values of modern sports all feed into creating a game that can be played alone but can also be a live sporting event. Ultimately the decision to make an e-sport can have ripple effects that challenge developers on every aspect of the game from user-interface to the games story.

HTML5: The New UI Library for Games

Speaker/s: Chad Austin

Fri

11:00 AM

11:25 AM

Room 3002, West Hall 3rd Fl.

The downloadable IMVU clients interface is written primarily in web technologies, including HTML. Chad Austin, technical lead at IMVU, will show that HTML is a fantastic technology for building game UIs. He will share IMVUs evolution from a custom C++ framework to Flash to HTML, and why IMVU believes HTML will supplant all of the above in the near future. We will then discuss integrating HTML into your application, including efficiently rendering UI atop a 3D scene. Finally, Chad will demonstrate developing UI in IMVU and give case studies on how we used browser technology to save months of effort while improving overall product quality.

The Dynamics Behind Online Marketing for the Gaming Industry (Presented by Adotomi)

Speaker/s: Joe McCormack

Fri

11:00 AM

12:00 PM

Room 121, North Hall

Joe McCormanck will explain the main principles behind planning an effective online marketing strategy for your game. This will encompass the following ideas:
– Defining your player profiles
– Selecting the right marketing channels for your game
– Setting a budget for testing
– Monitoring and optimizing the players
The presentation will be followed by a Q + A in which Joe will answer questions from the audience.

The Story of CAVE STORY

Speaker/s: Daisuke ‘Pixel’ Amaya

Fri

11:00 AM

12:00 PM

Room 135, North Hall

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.

The Game Design Challenge 2011: Bigger than Jesus

Speaker/s: Eric Zimmerman, Jenova Chen, John Romero and Jason Rohrer

Fri

12:30 PM

1:30 PM

Room 3014, West Hall 3rd Fl.

Welcome back for another Game Design Challenge, where leading designers are handed a difficult design problem and must create an original game concept to solve it. This year, returning champion Jenova Chen faces two new competitors. In the past, designers have taken on a range of challenges, from creating a game using the poetry of Emily Dickenson to last year’s challenge of designing a game that incorporated real-world death. The design challenge this year? Each designer must create a game that is also in some way a religion – or a religion that is in some way a game. Every year the design challenge is an opportunity to address a wider issue around games and the larger culture. Increasingly, games are becoming part of players’ lives – through handheld and mobile devices as well as the lifestyle invasion of social network games. Religion can be seen as humanity’s oldest model for a social network, connecting people through time and space by way of community, philosophy, and social ritual. Is designing a game-as-religion really so far-fetched? Perhaps not. Many ancient rituals of divination and devotion, from the I-Ching to the Kabbalah, have extremely game-like elements. And some credit the birth of Scientology with the bet that a science-fiction author couldn’t create a new religion. How will our game designers cope with this holy hand grenade of a design challenge? You’ll just have to find out for yourself. At the session, the panelists will present a unique solution to this game design problem. And the audience plays an important role as well – by voting in the winner of the Game Design Challenge 2011. Expect a free-wheeling session of brave new game design ideas, along with unpredictable debate and dialog.

Hotspots, FLOPS, and uOps: To-The-Metal CPU Optimization (Presented by Intel)

Speaker/s: Stan Melax and Deepak Vembar

Fri

2:00 PM

3:00 PM

Room 123, North Hall

Ever been puzzled about performance or wondered if your code could be more efficient? To get the most out of the CPU, this session dives deep into Intel’s Sandy Bridge micro-architecture and explains how instructions, including the new Advanced Vector Extensions (AVX), are decoded and executed out-of-order on the x86 back-end. Using game relevant examples, this session shows effective programming patterns to overcome dependencies, data gathering and instruction latency in order to saturate execution ports and make full use of SIMD. Finally, a vTune walkthrough demonstrates a simple, yet effective, performance tuning workflow. No assembly required. A lucky attendee will walk away with a Intel Core i7-2600K processor to help them experiment with some of the content of the talk.

What Can Video Games Learn from CCG’s?

Speaker/s: Skaff Elias

Fri

2:00 PM

3:00 PM

Room 134, North Hall

We will discuss general lessons from CCG’s and how those might be applied to video game design, especially where objects are sold independently from the initial game, and over an extended time. It can be useful to treat objects in ways more similar to individual products rather than as extra content inside the game. Other lessons from CCG’s are the merit of long-term planning and the need to understand how community behavior can greatly affect an individuals purchases. Also discussed are how game and metagame tools such as randomness and tournament design can influence player engagement.

XBLIG Success Stories – How to Make the Best of Microsoft’s Self-publishing Service

Speaker/s: Brandon Sheffield, Nathan Fouts, Robert Boyd, Ian Stocker and James Silva

Fri

2:00 PM

2:50 PM

Room 303, South Hall

The Xbox Live Indie Games service represents the lowest barrier of entry to home console game development ever. If you can make your game on XNA, you can release it on the 360. It used to be that the service was a den of clones, bad platformers, and massage simulators, but more recently it has blossomed into an indie haven, with top-selling games actually providing a living to their makers. That’s great and all, but how do you get anyone to notice your game once you’ve done it? What should you watch out for? How much should you charge? These questions will always be tough, but our panel of successful XBLIG developers is here to share wisdom, and answer your questions.

Free to Play, Pay for Stuff: The Virtual Goods Revolution Continues

Speaker/s: Daniel James and Matt Mihaly

Fri

3:30 PM

4:30 PM

Room 122, North Hall

Join us for a 7th year of no-holds-barred discussion in which well delve deep into the secrets of micro-transaction based business models for online games of all types.
Join a debate encompassing social games, MMOs, secondary markets, RMT, virtual currencies, alternate payment methods, and a variety of other audience-driven practical topics around microtransactions in online games. Topics range from the banal (‘What are best practices for revenue recognition of virtual goods sales?’) to the moral (‘Is there an ethical obligation to refund unused purchases when a game is shut down?’).
Virtual goods models took years to take root in the Western market but are well-established now, and are used in the most popular games in the world (Farmville, etc). Theres a wealth of knowledge and experience out there and as this is a roundtable we hope you’ll come share and learn with the other participants.
Arrive early this roundtable has to turn people away due to overcrowding every year.

Performance Marketing and Social Gaming

Speaker/s: Rajeev Behera

Fri

3:30 PM

3:55 PM

Room 3002, West Hall 3rd Fl.

This session talks about the different marketing channels that can be used for a social game company to reach out to users, including Facebook Ads, Facebook Ad Networks, Viral Channels, Email and Cross Promotional channels. It will talk about the benefits and costs of each channel, as well as go over best practices in terms of campaign optimization. We will also talk about recent trends we are seeing in these channels, and how those trends may affect future acquisition strategies.

The Loner: Why Some People Play MMOs Alone

Speaker/s: Damion Schubert

Fri

3:30 PM

4:30 PM

Room 135, North Hall

One of the seeming paradoxes of MMO design is that there is a large contingent of players who would prefer to play these games alone. Gamers who want to play this way are often derided by other players and sometimes even designers for their playstyle, but it isn’t as odd or exotic as it seems. This talk discusses the rationale for this playstyle, the necessity to cater to this playstyle from a business point of view, and the design intricacies of providing solo play without invalidating the ‘massive’ parts of your game design.