This is the tsumea GDC 2012 Breakfast Club. No, they aren't a rag tag mix-match of high school students but a carefully selected team of the finest games developers that Australia and New Zealand has to offer. And whilst these guys weren't exactly confined to the local high school library, they were instead situated somewhere more chaotic and undoubtedly more stranger.
This year, a huge contingent of local games developers made the trek overseas for the Games Developer Conference in San Francisco. As they returned, tired and suffering from severe jet-lag and post-GDC flu, we thought it would be a great opportunity to grab them each for an introspective on this year's must-go conference for all games developers.
The Managing Director and co-founder: Mario Wynards, Sidhe
Co-founding and steering a company through the rapidly changing game development space ain't easy, but Mario does it for one of, if not the largest, game studios in all of Australasia.
The Video Game Investor: Brad Giblin, Film Victoria
If you're a Melbourne games developer, you will most definitely know Brad Giblin and Film Victoria who have been essential for the growth of the Melbourne games development sector.
The Art Director: Ty Carey (prev. Torus Games, now Divisive Media)
Ty fits the bill of "Art Director" to a tee, check out his incredible work to see for yourselves.
The Composer, Sound Designer, Audio Director: Mick Gordon
The man, the myth, the legend. He's the incredible audio force behind many triple A games including multiple Need for Speed and Marvel Super Heros titles.
The Programmer: Tony Albrecht, Overbyte
Tony is the programmer's programmer. You wanna hit the hardware in the most optimal way? He's the man to talk to.
The Game Designer: Luke Muscat, Halfbrick
Luke is the genius behind Halfbrick's major hits including Fruit Ninja and Jetpack Joyride. Enough said!
The Developer gone Indie: Andrew Goulding, Brawsome
Andrew made the move to indie-hood from the safe confines of a commercial games studio way before it was a common thing. Freeplay 2010 Award Winner in the Best Australian Game category for their Jolly Rover game.
The Indie developer: Alexander Bruce, Antichamber game
Alexander Bruce, winner of this year's GDC award for Technical Excellence for the incredible Antichamber.
The Upcoming indie: Rebecca Fernandez, Convict Interactive
Winner of the 2009 48 Hour Game Making Challenge in Brisbane and just recently successfully crowd-sourced their Triangle Man indie game, Convict Interactive is a rising indie studio worth keeping an eye out on.
How many times have you been to the GDC?
(The Managing Director, Mario Wynards): I've kind of lost count at this point. Somewhere around a dozen times.
(The Video Game Investor, Brad Giblin): Three
(The Community Manager, Sam Mayo): This year was my second year at GDC.
(The Art Director, Ty Carey): This is my second time. Last time was around 2007.
(The Composer, Sound Designer, Audio Director: Mick Gordon): This was my fifth GDC, my first was in 2006 (back when it was in San Jose!)
(The Programmer, Tony Albrecht): This was my 4th visit. My first was in 2003 and in San Jose - I find them just as inspiring now as I did back then.
(The Game Designer, Luke Muscat): Just the two, this year and last year.
(The Developer gone Indie, Andrew Goulding): 4.
(The Indie developer, Alexander Bruce): I've been to the GDC for the past 3 years, and will continue going to GDC every year that I can. About 2 days into the first GDC that I attended in 2010, I'd already decided I'd be back the next year. The cost of attending GDC is tiny compared to the benefits that you get out of it.
(The Upcoming indie, Rebecca Fernandez): This was my first year! I did go to E3 last year though, so I had some idea of what to expect.
What was your main purpose for going?
(The Managing Director, Mario Wynards): This year we had many reasons for going, so there wasn't actually a main reason as such. We got to cover off opportunities for recruitment, media coverage, publishing, development, licensing, and learning.
(The Video Game Investor, Brad Giblin): Film Victoria supports the Victorian companies in attendance (around 30 this year), we meet with companies and people looking to do business in Melbourne or relocate, catch up on industry trends and new business opportunities, and meet with governments and organisations from around the world to discuss the best industry support mechanisms for studios/indies.
(The Community Manager, Sam Mayo): Networking. Publishers are everywhere buying drinks for everyone, GDC is the perfect place to meet your game dev heroes and get drunk with them.
(The Art Director, Ty Carey): Educational purposes and networking. I've recently moved to mobile and social games development so these sessions were high on my list.
(The Composer, Sound Designer, Audio Director: Mick Gordon): I primarily go to GDC to catch up with all my friends at the same place! I work with people all around the world and everyone is often so busy for meet ups at any other time of year, so being able to spend a week with all these people at once is marvellous!
(The Programmer, Tony Albrecht): My main purpose was to network and try to drum up some contract work - and it seems to have been pretty successful too. The secondary goal was to physically meet a lot of the twitter friends I've made over the last few years (and the secondary goal supported the primary goal).
(The Game Designer, Luke Muscat): My main purpose was to actually do some talks. I enjoyed last year's GDC so much that I really wanted to be a part of it, and was lucky enough to have not one but two talks selected to be a part of the conference schedule!
Apart from that, my goals were to check out some of the other sessions, and generally network with some of the insanely talented and interesting developers who are always at GDC.
(The Developer gone Indie, Andrew Goulding): To market MacGuffin's Curse. And talk to publishers or investors about future projects that fit the kinds of games we're developing.
(The Indie developer, Alexander Bruce): I was speaking in two sessions at the Independent Games Summit at GDC this year, and also had my game Antichamber on the IGF Pavilion (where it ended up winning the award for Technical Excellence).
(The Upcoming indie, Rebecca Fernandez): My main purpose was to meet with distributors to work out a deal for our upcoming game, Triangle Man
Overall impressions of this years GDC?
(The Managing Director, Mario Wynards): GDC was pretty good this year with a real positive vibe. A stark turnaround from the sombre industry events of a few years ago.
(The Video Game Investor, Brad Giblin): The calibre of attendees and relevance for Victorian studios this year was really outstanding.
(The Community Manager, Sam Mayo): A hell of a lot of positivity.
(The Art Director, Ty Carey): I thought that the Australian presence was very healthy. Session wise, the art track was too light on - I'd have liked some deeper sessions here. I really enjoyed the Social Games Summit and felt it was well worth the trip to sit in on those talks.
(The Composer, Sound Designer, Audio Director: Mick Gordon): GDC this year was fantastic. There was so much buzz about the indie scene, monetization and alternative funding (eg: Kickstarter). People were positive and excited about the numerous changes and evolutions happening within the industry and the next 12 months look very exciting!
(The Programmer, Tony Albrecht): Lots of people, heaps of mobile stuff, being Indie is cool, really positive vibe, lots of hats.
(The Game Designer, Luke Muscat): In terms of sessions, this year was a little more low key when compared to the mega-star cast they pulled together for the 25th anniversary last year! The presence of mobile and indie developers was stronger than ever, which was great to see.
(The Developer gone Indie, Andrew Goulding): Seemed more distributed across the Moscone Center this year, which is kind of good, but I don't think everyone knew where some stuff was, like GDC Play. Feels like things are picking up after two years of decline/non-growth.
(The Indie developer, Alexander Bruce): Busy! Way busier than I'd have wanted, because I had quite a number of press meetings organised, had to prepare for the sessions I was speaking at, and was also at my booth exhibiting for the three expo days. I guess next year is the year that I can just kick back at sessions or hanging out with friends again.
(The Upcoming indie, Rebecca Fernandez): Very good! Everything ran very smoothly and was very professional. There was definitely something for everyone in the industry - from students to experts and from each aspect of development (programming, design, art, sound, business).
From your time at this year's GDC, what seems to be the current trend or popular thing for developers at the moment?
(The Managing Director, Mario Wynards): Indie development is definitely where it is at. The AAA console stuff is still there, and it is great to hear the stories and techniques behind it all. But it just isn't relevant to most people any more. The buzz was definitely around the indie scene.
(The Video Game Investor, Brad Giblin): The shift towards mobile and social seems to be continuing, but developers now have a greater understanding and appreciation of the pitfalls of those marketplaces.
Halfbrick also seem to be winning EVERYTHING, if that counts as a trend!
(The Community Manager, Sam Mayo): I think the newer business models and platforms are really maturing and are becoming more accepted in the development community. At last year’s GDC developers seemed genuinely scared of social and freemium games, but it felt like that was reversed at this year’s conference which is great for the progression of our industry.
(The Art Director, Ty Carey): Social games and the fremium model are high on everyone's agenda and were hotly debated and discussed.
(The Composer, Sound Designer, Audio Director: Mick Gordon): Indie, Indie, Indie! But, with regards to video game audio, there’s a real trend towards pushing the boundaries in style and artistic direction. Developers are moving away from the “big Hollywood Orchestra” sound and are more open to different sounds and textures, which was demonstrated in Battlefield 3 so well. Then, there’s games like Dear Esther and Bastion that have really shown that game audio is moving away from predictability and they have proven the importance of defining a clear stylistic direction.
(The Programmer, Tony Albrecht): The Indie scene is getting a lot of credibility now. The biggest crowd on the Expo floor had to be the IGF finalists' booths. One thing I hadn't seen before was the companies who's sole purpose it to monetise your product - my last GDC was in 2009 and even as recent as that, this was unheard of.
(The Game Designer, Luke Muscat): The rise of mobile, casual and free to play is impossible to ignore, and its effects on the industry could be seen everywhere.
(The Developer gone Indie, Andrew Goulding): Figuring out how to get their games out there without a publisher. Especially through Steam and other distribution services, and how to stand out on the App store.
(The Indie developer, Alexander Bruce): I have no idea. I didn't get to any sessions at all. See my previous answer!
(The Upcoming indie, Rebecca Fernandez): Definitely Indie games! It doesn't seem to be as widespread in the US, but that is changing. A lot of the talks involved multi-disciplines and catered to Indies.
What was the standout session or party you attended (and if it's a session, can you give us a brief summary of it)?
(The Managing Director, Mario Wynards): Well, unfortunately, I had back to back business meetings all the way through the week. My long list of talks I wanted to see gradually got whittled down to the point where I couldn't make any. I did make a few of the parties, and the likes of GREE put on great events with good atmosphere and great company. Hands down the best party of the conference was the Wargaming.net event, one of the best industry parties I have ever attended.
(The Video Game Investor, Brad Giblin): The Government Roundtable was incredibly valuable and well attended (up about 500% on our meeting last year). US states are jumping on board with incentives like tax breaks and project funding, and they’re learning from the 15 years of experience governments like Victoria have in the area. It was fascinating to hear from a Whitehouse representative how they’ve identified games as a tool to address national problems in education, policy and innovation.
Oh, and Indie Game: The Movie. It’s incredible.
(The Community Manager, Sam Mayo): Double Fine’s “Creative Panic: How Agility Turned Terror Into Triumph”. This was a fantastic look at how creating four smaller digital titles after a two week prototype session saved Double Fine. I attended this session with a colleague (SPY mouse lead programmer Josh Boggs), and we saw many similarities in how our studios operate.
(The Art Director, Ty Carey): The session "Good design, Bad design, Great design" by Raph Kosher (Playdom) was a very inspiring talk on fundamental design principles.
(The Composer, Sound Designer, Audio Director: Mick Gordon): One of the standouts for me was heading around to the Skywalker Ranch to check out the Tech Building with some groovy dudes from EA, DICE and Blizzard. I’d never been out there before and even though it strictly wasn’t a GDC thing, it was amazing to see the serene working environment that Star Wars built.
I always went to a Mass Effect 3 art gallery showing one night which was awesome. Another night we had an audio party in a bar with duelling piano players who would play any written request - I passed one of the player’s a note that said “Skrillex” and he just looked at me funny, so I settled on Kung Fu Fighting instead.
Bar hopping between the various parties is always a lot of fun and is great for bumping into people that you haven’t seen in a while. I dunno, the whole of GDC is a standout and it’s hard to explain if you’ve never been, but just being around 22,000 developers from around the world for a week in San Francisco is a hugely inspiring experience. You’re in sessions and meetings all day, then there’s dinner meetings, then there’s parties until 3am, then you’re at a breakfast meeting at 8am - it just goes non-stop!
(The Programmer, Tony Albrecht): The 4am Pixeljunk party was surprising. It was in a little store in Haight Ashbury and was packed full of developers. On the far wall was a projection of Q-Game's latest game, 4am with the music blasting though a good sound system. It just had this really good vibe.
(The Game Designer, Luke Muscat): The Game Design Challenge session was a huge highlight for me, watching 3 extremely accomplished designers attempted to tackle the task of designing a game that has a 'measurably positive impact on its players, and can be played in 60 seconds or less'. Very inspiring stuff!
(The Developer gone Indie, Andrew Goulding): Sessions and parties weren't really on my list this year. The Flash Forward was a pretty good idea, and a fun way to introduce many sessions people might not know about. I hear my talk about Steam sales of Jolly Rover went pretty well =0).
(The Indie developer, Alexander Bruce): A private party. Details shall remain secret.
(The Upcoming indie, Rebecca Fernandez): My favourite session by far was the "Pitching to Publishers" session which was run by a Sony representative. He bluntly and honestly outlined what game devs should and shouldn't do when pitching an idea to a publisher. These are the exact same things you should do when pitching to investors, so these tips were invaluable for any indie.
The most impressive thing you saw at the GDC?
(The Managing Director, Mario Wynards): To be honest, no one thing jumped out. There are a lot of great stories, games, and people out there right now. If anything, the thing that impressed me most was something a little more intangible, and that is that the camaraderie and creative joy has come back into the industry.
(The Video Game Investor, Brad Giblin): The Wargaming stand on the expo floor (makers of World of Tanks) was equal in size and position to the Sony Playstation stand. That should illustrate just how important and profitable free to play games are becoming, even in hardcore markets.
(The Community Manager, Sam Mayo): The Independent Games Festival section of the expo showfloor. Many of these indie titles were better than the stuff the console manufacturers were showing off…
(The Art Director, Ty Carey): David Cage's demonstration of Quantic Dream's Kara engine was quite impressive.
(The Composer, Sound Designer, Audio Director: Mick Gordon): The most impressive stuff is always under NDA! Mona Mur’s talk about her music on Kane & Lynch 2 was really interesting and she shared a lot of her methods on creating terror and depression through dissonant sounds. Dren McDonald’s talk on social game audio was also another standout - Facebook games have moved from 30 loops to full orchestra recordings in only 18 months!
(The Programmer, Tony Albrecht): The guy wearing 7 hats? Actually, no. On the Wednesday outside of Moscone West, on one street corner there were 3 girls giving out caffeinated soft drinks surrounded by lycra clad girls dancing while handing out invites to parties. On the next street corner was a guy shouting into a megaphone, demanding that we find god and repent. He was there, shouting, for at least 4 hours. That's impressive.
(The Game Designer, Luke Muscat): I was incredibly impressed with the level of originality, ingenuity and overall professionalism of a lot of smaller indie style development studios. There are so many new start ups with developers who have been in the industry for years, who are bringing all of their experience and knowledge to the table in new markets. I can't wait to see what the future holds for our industry!
(The Developer gone Indie, Andrew Goulding): The GDC Play area, it felt like the place where the best games were being shown!
(The Indie developer, Alexander Bruce): Standing on stage looking out at the crowd at the IGF ceremony. Very few people get to walk up there to accept an award, and the experience of actually doing that myself was certainly something I won't forget.
(The Upcoming indie, Rebecca Fernandez): I think the Indie Games Festival was fantastic. Getting to see all these indie and student games - and being able to talk to the developers was inspiring. The innovative ideas and game mechanics were a fresh change from the "blockbuster" titles.
And what was the oddest thing you saw?
(The Managing Director, Mario Wynards): A girl in a short pink dress and a Stormtrooper helmet handing out fliers. I'm sure there are photos floating around.
(The Video Game Investor, Brad Giblin): Tom Killen getting up at 6am every day? People surviving for 5 days on a diet of coffee, burgers and assorted cheese topped fried goods?
(The Community Manager, Sam Mayo): Well, the NOS tent blaring terrible music each day was pretty hard to grasp… but the oddest thing was definitely the guys holding up the ‘God hates game developers’ signs near the west hall.
(The Art Director, Ty Carey): Grown men drinking from a punch bowl with tea cups in a bar. Alright, it was us.
(The Composer, Sound Designer, Audio Director: Mick Gordon): GDC always comes with a few oddities. There was a girl outside Moscone West one afternoon dressed as a Ballerina, but she had a Stormtrooper helmet on. In the same area there was a guy with a big sign saying “God Hates Game Designers” (http://tinyurl.com/8xu5cvs).
At one audio party I walked into the Audio Director behind Battlefield 3 having a friendly argument with the Audio Director behind Modern Warfare 3 about gun sounds. That was a fascinating and hugely funny moment.
(The Programmer, Tony Albrecht): San Francisco is full of crazies. From homeless people talking to mail boxes, to loonies trying to convince you to ride with them on their UFO to visit Jesus. It's hard to pick the oddest thing that that much crazy around.
(The Game Designer, Luke Muscat): Probably a bunch of 'protestors' on the corner next to the convention centre holding up signs declaring 'God Hates Game Designers' and 'Thou Shalt Not Monetize'.
(The Developer gone Indie, Andrew Goulding): Gabe Newell's face on a pole.
(The Indie developer, Alexander Bruce): No idea. Can't give a decent answer to this at the moment.
(The Upcoming indie, Rebecca Fernandez): GDC booth babes. I really don't think they have a place at this conference. I can see why they appear at E3, but I don't think they are effective at GDC at all. One of them was a girl wearing only lingerie and a Storm-trooper helmet.
What's your take on the overall state of the global games industry from the conference?
(The Managing Director, Mario Wynards): We have bounced back as an industry from the devastation of a few years ago. It is tough as ever to make great games and break through the noise, but new platforms, distribution channels, and fresh consumers are creating new opportunities, especially for the small guys. It is the Wild West and the old rules have gone out the window.
(The Video Game Investor, Brad Giblin): The entire industry seems to be on the up. Several big console developers were hiring (Blizzard, Rockstar) and there are some incredible games being produced at all levels that are pushing the medium forward dramatically.
(The Community Manager, Sam Mayo): Game developers are incredible human beings. No matter the business model, platform, genre or whatever – there are developers out there working on amazing ideas.
(The Art Director, Ty Carey): It certainly feels healthy and a lot of people are excited about new ways to monetize their products.
(The Composer, Sound Designer, Audio Director: Mick Gordon): The Game Development industry is now in the hands of the people it should be - the game developers! There’s small teams making millions on indie smash-hits, well-known veterans being funded directly by fans, and more people are buying and playing games than ever before.
(The Programmer, Tony Albrecht): In spite of layoffs happening with painful regularity, there was still a positive vibe at this year's GDC. With some indies making it really big, there is this sense of hope. A trust that good games, creative games can still be written and you can make a living from it. Or, in some cases, get so filthy rich that you can buy your own island to live on and fill it full of robot monkey butlers.
(The Developer gone Indie, Andrew Goulding): Picking up after a few years of decline, we're moving forward as the indies that have managed to hold on and make a business of this are finding their feet and maturing.
(The Indie developer, Alexander Bruce): I don't really attend GDC to pay attention to the global games industry or trends. I go there to hang out with friends, to check out the games at the IGF pavilion and to keep advancing my own work.
(The Upcoming indie, Rebecca Fernandez): It is definitely in a state of change with the Indie uprising - but this year seems to be embracing that change rather than being confused by it. I think we'll see a lot more innovation and the big publishers changing the way they work with developers. Embracing casual games as "real games" seems to be more acceptable now too.
For those of us thinking about attending a GDC for the first time, could you tell us: how much would it cost overall to attend a GDC's? (travel, hotel, prices & expenses etc)
(The Managing Director, Mario Wynards): we expect to spend about NZ$5k on average per person we are sending over by the time you include flights and accommodation. It can be above or below that depending on what kind of pass you get, and how cheap you can get flights and accommodation.
(The Video Game Investor, Brad Giblin): The Victorian Government supports people to attend the market if they’re a registered company and have a clear export strategy. The funding available ($2,500 and up) can significantly offset the cost to attend the market. I’d estimate the minimum cost for the 5 days is around $3,500.
(The Community Manager, Sam Mayo): The exchange rate is great for Aussie tourists right now, but who knows what it’ll be like in a year. You can get a fairly decent hotel for around US$100 a night right in the middle of San Francisco through wotif.com. There are quite a few hostels around too, which are cheap… but you might not get a great night sleep. Food and alcohol are fairly affordable, though prices aren’t usually listed with tax – and don’t forget to tip. Probably a good idea to budget at least US$100 per day for food/shopping/transport etc.
(The Art Director, Ty Carey): I was lucky enough to have my trip paid for, but if you're in Melbourne and you have a legitimate business reason, Screen Victoria has a grant that really helps get you over. There's quite a financial difference between staying in a Hostel and Hotel - a hotel room around Union Square will cost you around $200 a night. A Hostel might cost about a quarter of this price. Food is quite reasonably priced - I got around with $400 in my pocket for seven days, and that included all of my expenses (taxis, late night drinking sessions, gifts, tips etc).
(The Composer, Sound Designer, Audio Director: Mick Gordon): The first bit of advice is to find a travel partner to share costs with. Splitting a hotel will save you a lot of money, and GDC is a lot more enjoyable when you’re sharing the experience with someone else. Hotels can be anywhere from $100 a night to $1,000 a night - just depends on how well you’re latest game is going I guess?
Flights to San Francisco range from $1,000 - $1,500 return, which is really quite good. On top of that you probably want around $50 - $100 a day for food and drinks. GDC usually costs me around $2,500, and if you’re operating as a business you can claim a lot of it against tax. There’s also various Government funding based on where you are which is definitely worth checking out too!
A lot of it comes down to how much you’re willing to spend and what you want out of GDC. If you’re just looking for some networking and to enjoy some sessions, your GDC pass for the week will be around $500 - $1,000. If you’re a developer and you want to show off your new project then you can do GDC Play or Game Connection, which can be a few thousands more. If you’re a smaller developer though, you can get a basic pass and simply cruise the halls showing your demo to anyone who is willing to check it out.
(The Programmer, Tony Albrecht): Flights from $1500 to $2000, accom around $800, registration $950, daily expenses ~$70
(The Developer gone Indie, Andrew Goulding): Travel and accommodation will set you back around $2,000, if you're sharing cheap accommodation and can find very cheap flights you may be able to scrape in for $1,500, but that's a very big *may*. Passes go for around $600 for Summits and Tutorials and a few hundred for an expo pass, the full passes are $1000+. If you can commit to going at least 3 months in advance you'll save hundreds of dollars on everything.
(The Indie developer, Alexander Bruce): This really depends on how you do it. Flights outside Australia always seem to be around $1600 or more every time I do it. For the passes, I'd recommend whatever is the cheapest way to cover the Independent Games Summit and the Expo floor. I only ever really go to the IGS and then hang out around the IGF Pavilion, so this year most people just bought the Independent Games Summit passes for like $325. For accommodation, there's Hostelling International Downtown San Francisco, which is where a whole bunch of indies stay. Gather a group of 4 friends and book a shared room there and you're set.
It's pretty easy to spend a bunch of money quickly at GDC on partying with friends and exploring San Francisco. It's not necessarily cheap, but it's the most useful event of the year, most of the good networking happens outside the conference itself (at parties / meals / drinks with friends), and the benefits of going far outweigh the costs of attending. It can be difficult to quantify the benefits of having attended GDC, as how much you get out of the event really depends on how much you put yourself out there and talk to people, but it has always been pretty invaluable to me.
(The Upcoming indie, Rebecca Fernandez): I bought an all access pass which set me back about $1300 (that was with an IGDA discount). My flights were about $1300 return (I recommend flying Delta - they are great). I stayed at a hostel which was less than $300 for the whole week. I probably spent about $500 on food, drinks and transport during my stay - you could definitely spend less if you didn't drink any alcohol.
What preparations and advice would you suggest for first timers wanting to attend a GDC?
(The Managing Director, Mario Wynards): It depends on what you want to achieve, but the best approach is to run a tight ship so you can get the most out of the show. Make sure you have a mobile phone and a way to check your email. Plan your meetings well in advance by reaching out to those you want to meet at least several weeks before the event, but bear in mind you may pick up a few meetings at the show so be flexible. Work out what talks you want to see before you go, not at the show, though don't be afraid to change around on the day. Print out your schedule and keep it with you. If you are meeting with people, make sure you have their phone numbers in case there is an issue, and send them your photo ahead of time if you have never met before and are meeting in some public area. You'll be tired, you'll get hungry, but push through to get the most out of it as you can always have a long sleep on the plane on the way back down under.
(The Video Game Investor, Brad Giblin): Relationships are everything. Try to meet with fellow local studios to determine your approach, and get a few solid meetings set up early in the week. Identify your five key targets (publishers, press, etc) and pursue them above all else. Talk to Film Victoria or Multimedia Victoria beforehand and we’ll help you get there and make the most use out of the market.
(The Community Manager, Sam Mayo): Arrive a few days early to adjust, take comfortable shoes, and enjoy your time in beautiful San Francisco! Oh and go to all of the parties, they’re great.
(The Art Director, Ty Carey): Orientate yourself as much as possible with the layout of the conference halls, and the immediate city before heading down there. Do some early thinking on what sessions you really want to attend - there's often some really hard choices. If you want to attend parties, look into these as early as possible as tickets become hard to find or expensive. Everyone's there to mingle - don't be afraid to approach and talk to people.
(The Composer, Sound Designer, Audio Director: Mick Gordon): Again, find a travel partner - someone to share costs with, and share GDC with! For networking purposes it’s a good idea to go with someone who works in a different field - if you’re an artist, go with a programmer. If you’re a designer, go with an audio engineer, etc. This will help you both with networking because you’ll be able to introduce each other to people who you may not necessary meet. Furthermore, two heads are better than one, especially when trying to search out the various “secret” parties that happen during GDC!
Secondly, make sure you’ve got your business cards, website and demos ready-to-go. You want to make sure people can easily contact you after GDC, and good self-promotional materials definitely help.
Lastly, go to make friends. Not to make clients, not to find business partners, not to find a job - go to make good friends. The game industry is incredibly tight-knit and people work with who they know - I’ve been working with the same people for years!
(The Programmer, Tony Albrecht): Work out why you are going, then plan everything around that. If you are pimping your game, make sure you have meetings set up with publishers and other people of importance. If you're going there to educate and inspire yourself, make sure you have all the sessions sorted out that you want to attend (and don't get so hammered at the parties that you fall asleep in the sessions). And in both cases, pick the parties that you want to attend and make sure you get invites. The parties are a fantastic place to meet people that you'd never bump into normally, giving you a great opportunity to chat with studio heads and swap business cards.
To me, GDC is about networking. Be polite, talk to lots people, don't get too drunk, have fun.
(The Game Designer, Luke Muscat): The more preparation you put in, the more you will get out of the week! Reach out to developers that you want to meet and get in touch with, you will be surprised how many of them will be at GDC and happy to meet up and chat. Figure out which sessions you want to see and which ones you simple cannot miss. There is always more to do at GDC than time allows, so being prepared and having your priorities straight will help you get the most out of an incredible week!
(The Developer gone Indie, Andrew Goulding): Start planning 3 months before the event, to start reaching out to people you'd like to meet over there, and follow up with those that are going to be the busiest regularly leading up to the conference. Make sure you have your passport and ESTA filled in. Make sure you have comfortable shoes, and cold and flu tablets and pain killers, because it can be a generally grueling experience if you're making the most of it. And I know it might sound silly, but double and triple check your dates and times! And if you're planning on a calendar, make sure it's on San Francisco time.
(The Indie developer, Alexander Bruce): Don't be shy. If you attend GDC and only go to sessions and then return to your hotel, you'll get next to nothing out of it. If you talk to as many people as you can and spend a lot of time being a friendly person, you'll meet a hell of a lot of interesting and incredibly useful people.
(The Upcoming indie, Rebecca Fernandez): Take lots of business cards!
Don't stand up during question time of a session just to tell the speaker how much you loved their game - there is time for this privately afterwards and someone behind you probably has a burning question that actually relates to the session topic.
Wear comfortable shoes - you will be doing lots of walking.
Don't acknowledge the homeless people. It sounds horrible but as soon as you give in to (or even look at) one, you will be swarmed by many of them.
If a developer is talking to the media then don't interrupt!
Smile and don't be scared to talk to people - everyone has a story to tell.
Australians are the best people to hang out with - take the opportunity of everyone being in one place to get to know your fellow countrymen!