GDC Day One

A question first – Who plans to use Unity 5.0 Personal Edition?

Monday of GDC is usually the lightest day, before everyone arrives, but not so this year. I was not the only dev who found day one as intense as other days usually are. After a day of meetings, sessions and meals, I called it after just one party. Let’s hope I do better tonight.

Some thoughts:

1. The Google sessions were packed. Lots of interest in their tools, and most people expect that 2015 is the year the Android store has more sales than the iOS store. For mobile devs, however, iOS will probably still account for more of their revenue. By the way, if anyone incorporates Google Player Analytics, please let me know how that works out.

2. The summits used to offer what the Computer Game Developers Conference use to provide – lots of discussions and idea sharing. I see them doing less of that this year. The sessions are quick and very much presentation focused, with limited opportunity to talk to the presenter. GDC has set up side rooms for that purpose, but not all speakers are using them. The presentations are all right, but I have always found developers talking to developers to be the best educational opportunities.

3. I understand that many companies are paying for slots and want to send their marketing people, but nothing beats developers who actually use the tools talking about them.

4. Why is the convention wireless so overloaded on Day One, when no one is here? This does not bode well.

The best session I saw was Tom Blind from Backflip Studios talking about prototyping. Nothing new, but his nine rules for prototyping made up a nice, consist list. He was the presenter I saw use the abbreviated nature of the summit sessions to best effect.

1. Know what the prototype should accomplish. (I say a prototype should have one main goal – proof of technology, show that specific game play elements work or are fun, or get an investor to put in resources).

2. Anything can be a prototype – card games, spread sheets, etc.

3. Go for breadth, not depth. He recommends trying out a number of different approaches.

4. Always kill your babies – throw away the prototypes when they have served their purposes. Do not attempt to turn them into your game. I have seen prototypes that have gone onto become a full, good game, but usually this is a good principle

5. Prototype in parallel with game development. Many small studios do not have the resources to do both, but generally I agree.

6. Do not polish. Focus on gameplay, not art. Unless you are doing an art prototype or making something to show investors, this is a good point. Good art can mask game flaws.

7. Get anyone you can to playtest. He recommended, which I have not used.

8. There is no fail, only try. This is a very good point, but many small studios do not have the resources to fail repeatedly.

9. Give inexperienced people a chance. Let new hires prototype. I agree with this, but make sure you have the rights firm before you do so. Blind also recommended having daily meetings to test prototypes. Again, this may not be within a small studio’s budget, but real deadlines should be in place for getting prototypes done.


Another session that is always excellent is Mike Rose’s presentation on indie game sales. I’ll be glad to share his numbers in another post if people want, but his contention that PS4 will become a better platform this year for indie games was an interesting one.

This was also the first year they had a Community Management Summit, and I enjoyed dropping into those sessions and meeting the speakers. I found the summit a little light on specific recommendations, but I think it was a good addition.

Finally, it was interesting hearing how many indies are using ads to pay for their development. I am watching the Unity announcements right now, and Unity ads are one of their big pushes at this show.




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