GDC 2017 is just around the corner! Game Developers Conference is an annual event in which game industry experts gather to host events spanning from lectures to panel discussions. GDC had its 30th anniversary last year at GDC 2016, which also set the biggest record of over 27,000 attendees. Prior to the series of articles from our GDC coverage coming next week, we decided to give you a glimpse of some of the events we are planning to cover this year. There is much to discover, from a reflection and recap of last year's VR industry to Independent Games Festival that brings together indie developers from all over the world.
VR/AR events with broader spectrum and depth
Last year was a busy year for the VR industry, as numerous companies strived to make improvements on many different aspects. With VR hardware, we saw a computer that was made as a backpack so that people could enjoy VR more comfortably, and other efforts taken to lower VR's barrier to entry and make it more accessible to the public. While there is not yet a significant killer app in VR when it comes to software, VR games such as Raw Data and Job Simulator drew much attention, while major VR titles are preparing for takeoff this year.
VRDC, the VR and AR specific conference that debuted this year, is returning with a greater amount of events, featuring over 50 different sessions to attend. With the number of VR events increased more than twofold, GDC 2017 aims to look back at the year in VR and see what important lessons can be learned from the rapid growth and competition that happened in 2016. It is also important to keep in mind that VR games are not the only ones we are looking at in this year's GDC, because other forms of VR entertainment such as VR cinema will also be on the spotlight.
VR and AR sessions fall largely into two categories: Game VR/AR and Entertainment VR/AR. Featured events range from postmortems on VR games that did well last year to guidance for VR startups on business and marketing. Some of the VR/AR sessions we will cover include a postmortem on Job Simulator, a microtalk looking back at the year in VR, a session covering Pokemon Go, and Ultima Online's lead designer Raph Koster's lecture on what VR and AR should learn from MMOs. VR and AR sessions at GDC 2017 will tell us what we can learn from the events that happened in the VR and AR industry last year, and will also give us a chance to revisit the year in VR from a developer's perspective.
Efforts to build a more successful and healthy ecosystem for eSports
This year's GDC also comes with its own eSports Day, complete with a series of sessions that discuss eSports and competitive gaming culture. "Building eSports" featured by Twitch is definitely something you should have a look at if you are interested in eSports. Renowned figures in the industry, including Twitch's eSports Director of Operations Nick Allen, will talk about their efforts to establish a competitive scene in Rocket League and H1Z1: King of the Kill.
There are also stories about failures, as they often teach us the greatest lessons. Iron Galaxy, developer of Killer Instinct, shares the story on how they failed to establish a competitive game and, most importantly, what lessons they learned from such a failure.
Evolution Championship Series' founder Tom Cannon will discuss how competitive gaming influences player culture and values. He will expand on how competitive culture in arcades was formed among fighter game players, and how we can apply such findings to eSports.
Cygames, developer of Shadowverse, offers their advice on parts of Asian culture that are important for you to know when hosting eSports events in Asia. Cygames' executive director Yuito Kimura will introduce Asian competitive culture and how you can apply such knowledge to better promote eSports events in Asia.
Tips on how to keep your game running after initial release
GDC offers much insight on game design, sound engineering, and programming, as the event covers multiple aspects of creating and running games. This also means that there are sessions that tell you how to manage your game and its community. Troubleshooting and customer service are among the most important things that game companies should not neglect, which EA's Firemonkeys will talk about in its lecture on community crisis management. In this session, Emma Siu will reflect on her personal experience in managing a game's community and handling customer service. Firemonkeys did run into some bumps during their history of publishing and servicing games, like when enraged NFS: No Limits players complained about the game's bugs and in-app purchases. We are hoping to hear some of these stories, and also what we can learn from them.
Among the most controversial games from last year is No Man's Sky. If you have ever been curious about how No Man's Sky could generate so much hype and popularity prior to its release, you may want have a look at our coverage of ICO Partners' tips for successful PR. Thomas Reisenegger will discuss how to get more media coverage for your games, with insights drawn from online dating, praying, and No Man's Sky.
Greg Street of Riot Games will discuss how League of Legends balances its Champions for every player "from Bronze to Bengi." Tweaking hero stats and skills with such a broad player-base in mind is certainly not an easy thing to do. In GDC 2017, we will have a chance to take a deeper look at Riot's balance team, what philosophy they operate under, and how the team is structured. Street will also talk about how the team gathers data and responds to player feedback to better conduct their work.
Choice Awards and Independent Games Festival
While panel discussions and sessions are the core takeaways from GDC, there are also events like Game Developers Choice Awards and Independent Games Festival, along with networking sites and exhibitions that feature all of game culture's colorful spectrum. GDCA announces winners in multiple fields, but the biggest prize is of course the Game of the Year award. This year's finalists include Uncharted 4, Overwatch, Inside, Dishonored 2, and Firewatch. Winners will be announced on March 1st when GDCA kicks off early in the evening.
Among the many shops and exhibitions there will also be Independent Games Festival, where indie developers can have discussions and see who wins the annual IGF Awards. First established in 1998 to "encourage innovation in game development," IGF will introduce many inspiring and successful indie game developers along with the many bright ideas that they bring.
Our reports from GDC 2017 will feature session coverages along with interviews and photos baked fresh from our on-site cameras. Stay tuned with us to see what this year's Game Developers Conference has to offer.