GDC 2015 Recap

Written by ESandra Hollman

The dust has settled from the whirlwind of a week that is the Game Developers Conference and the few from AtomJack that were able to attend are looking back at the highlights and takeaways.

Photo source: Official GDC (edited)

Photo source: Official GDC (edited)

While the rest of our team was holding down the fort and working hard on our pre-production prototype, Kari (Producer), Kieran (Character Artist), Allen (Executive Producer), and I represented AtomJack by learning from our peers and connecting with some of the game industry's brightest. After taking some time to let this year’s GDC soak in, the AtomJack away crew collected our thoughts on what we agreed was time well spent.

Here is Kari's recap:

I always look forward to GDC because I get the chance to hear from other teams about their processes and learnings. It’s also a great place to reconnect with industry friends and make new connections. I attended a lot of great talks this year! My favorites were: "Revealing the Gaming Habits of Teenage Girls" (Ashly Burch, Rosalind Wiseman), "The Vertical Slice Challenge" (Greg Donovan from Volition), and the "#1ReasonToBe" panel (Brenda Romero, Leigh Alexander, Constance Steinkuehler, Elizabeth LaPensee, Adriel Wallick, Sela Davis, Katherine Cross, Amy Hennig). You’re also pretty likely to run into industry veterans at GDC, and while fangirl moments are rare for me these days, I happened to run into the co-creator of one of my favorite childhood games, Toejam & Earl. Shoutout to Greg Johnson who didn’t run away in terror when I approached him to proclaim my undying love for his game. His team at Humanature Studios is currently running a Kickstarter for their new Toejam & Earl game here.

I had a great time exploring the city and attending talks with my team members from AtomJack. We also found the most delicious boba tea on Earth.

When the first person in the group receives his refreshing Boba Guys tea, those still waiting are stricken with boba envy.

When the first person in the group receives his refreshing Boba Guys tea, those still waiting are stricken with boba envy.

And Kieran’s recap:

This was only my third GDC, but each time I attend I’m reminded why this is my favorite game industry related conference. It was great catching up with friends I hadn’t seen in a while, and the more I see of San Francisco the more I enjoy the city, but the panels are always what excite me the most. A few of my favorites involved developers talking about their processes: James Benson gave a great talk reviewing his animation process on Ori and the Blind Forest; Jane Ng showed off some of her beautiful environment art for the upcoming Firewatch, and explained some of the tools used to achieve their look; Ray Crook reviewed some of the challenges he faced with animating 2D characters in 3D for Double Fine’s Broken Age, and how they were able to solve those problems. I also really enjoyed another session - affectionately titled the “Failure Workshop” - in which three indie developers spoke of times in which they had missed the mark and what they learned from their failings. My favorite presentation of the three, Ben Esposito, touched on cultural appropriation and the moral obligation to let people tell their own stories. I appreciated the overall core principles of the session, as well - the notion that failure is a natural part of the process, and how we often learn more from failure than success.

Campo Santo created an immersive environment for their Firewatch Demo Day.

Campo Santo created an immersive environment for their Firewatch Demo Day.

As for me, this was actually my first GDC. From a first timer's perspective, it was every bit as inspiring and exhausting as I anticipated. Two major pieces of advice I heeded and will gladly pass on is to wear comfortable shoes and bring a battery backup for your mobile devices. Conference highlights include the Community Management Summit on Monday, along with the slew of other great talks I attended, plus the cool new games and tech I was able to try.

As Community Manager, naturally my entire first day was spent here.

As Community Manager, naturally my entire first day was spent here.

The Community Management Summit in particular made my week. The talks were very informative with specific tips and tools up for grabs: "Strategic Community Communication: Managing your Channels Without Running Aground" by Maurice Tan (Deep Silver) gave a practical breakdown of the different social channels and how/when they should be used; "Steal These Templates - Creating a Community Plan the Easy Way" by Stephanie Bayer (Insomniac Games) lived up to its name and provided templates to determine your community goals and jump start your strategy; "Straight Talk About Community Manager Tenure" by Nova Barlow (University of Washington), Troy Hewitt (Motiga), Jorg Koonen (Bigpoint GmbH), and Jennifer Paige (Microsoft) thoroughly outlined the Community Management career track, expressing the importance of Community Managers paving a two-way street between internal and external communities. Other helpful presentations I attended throughout the week were: "Everything You Need to Know about YouTubers But Were Afraid to Ask" by Alex “Baer”Larrabee (YouTube Personality, Twitch Broadcaster), "Office Spaces: Do’s and Don’ts of Game Development Workplace Design" by Demetri Detsaridis (The Leisure Committee), and "How Youbers and Twitch Streamers Can Help Sell Your Games" by Mike Rose (tinyBuild Games). Thank goodness for the GDC Vault, because I definitely want to be able to reference these again, not to mention all the other presentations that I wish I could have attended.

Aside from absorbing copious amounts of information, we were able to do other fun activities like demo games. I even seized the opportunity to try VR for the first time at the Oculus/Women in Games International GDC Party.

Considering my susceptibility to motion sickness, VR was actually way more enjoyable than I expected!

Considering my susceptibility to motion sickness, VR was actually way more enjoyable than I expected!

Oh, and Allen? Well when he wasn't in meetings, he was catching up with the rest of us to have artisinal toast and coffee.

It was nice to step away from bustle of the conference to regroup over a coffee break at Blue Bottle.

It was nice to step away from bustle of the conference to regroup over a coffee break at Blue Bottle.

That was our GDC 2015 experience in a nutshell. Until next year!