GDC Diary (Part 1)

Well, how did that happen? It seemed like it was only yesterday we’d finished writing last year’s GDC Diaries. But when you’re constantly working against the clock to make games, months pass in the blink of an eye. A cough could be all that separates GDC in March from E3 in June. One major sneeze and suddenly it’s Thanksgiving. Fart and it’s Christmas…..OK, OK, you get the point, right? No wonder studios find it so hard to estimate when games will be finished. Game development years are way shorter than normal years. That’s a fact. Now the year had turned full circle and it was time to head off to San Francisco yet again for that electronic love-fest they call the Game Developers Conference.

Wednesday March 7th – Sony, Nintendo & the Awesome Brawsome

The first morning of the main conference. We grabbed our passes and had a quick chat with our friends from Gaijin Games, the makers of the BIT.TRIP series and the eagerly anticipated Runner 2. We’re delighted with their success with the BIT.TRIP series and can’t wait to see the final outcome of their Runner 2 project. It looks great so far, that’s for sure. We agreed to meet up again during the week if we could but everyone is running around so much at GDC we never had a chance to catch up with them again. Perhaps we’ll see them at E3 in June.

Ooh, that's a nice white carpet!

The first presentation of the week was a talk from Sony about self-publishing and getting a title released on the PlayStation Network across all regions. They also discussed Sony’s PubFund which gives indie developers a back-end guarantee against future royalties in exchange for limited exclusivity. We have recently been approved as a developer for the PlayStation Vita and have been impressed by Sony’s proactive and co-operative approach to the indie developer scene. It’s still early days, but we’re really excited to be developing for this new platform. We briefly introduced ourselves to one of the presenters at the end of their presentation. We really believe in face to face contact with everyone we do business with. It really helps to cement a relationship and can prove invaluable, particularly if the commercial waters get a little choppy.

From meeting our newest business partner, it was now time to visit our oldest. Yes, we had managed to arrange a meeting with Nintendo of America, a feat more difficult than finding a positive fan comment about the end of Mass Effect 3. Nintendo are unbelievably busy at GDC so even a 15 minute slot with them is like gold dust. We went in, armed with our latest builds of escapeVektor and Spirit Hunters Inc, and came out an hour later! We think it’s safe to say they were impressed with what they saw.

Nic checks out Kid Icarus at the Nintendo stand

Another highlight of the first day was a talk by Andrew Goulding, owner of Australian based developer Brawsome. Andrew was speaking about “How Steam Worked for an Indie” and as Steam is a platform we’re seriously considering, we were keen to hear what he had to say. Andrew presented hard sales numbers on a month-by-month basis for Brawsome’s first commercial game, Jolly Rover. The clear message from the talk? Get your game into an indie bundle. It significantly reduces your average revenue per copy but overall revenues increase hugely. This was definitely a presentation worth seeing. Nice work Andrew!

Every night at GDC there are parties kicking off everywhere. Many people wander nomadically from venue to venue in search of the best party in town on any given night. We’d rather find a decent bar and settle down with some friends to chat about the day’s events. Maybe we’re getting old. Or perhaps we just like to hear what everyone is saying without having to shout over some pumped up speaker system in a crowded and dimly lit venue. OK, that just proved we ARE getting old!

GDC Play

We caught up with Andrew from Brawsome, his business partner Ben and Ben’s mate Alastair for burgers and beers at a bar close to the huge Moscone Center which was hosting GDC. The conference was full-on for these boys this year. As well as Andrew’s talk, the guys had hired some space at GDC Play, a part of the Moscone Center dedicated to indie developers who were keen to show their games off to other GDC attendees, and, of course, the press. They were showcasing their latest game, MacGuffin’s Curse, a puzzle adventure game for Steam and the App store. There’s no $3.3m Kickstarter fund backing this adventure game though. Andrew and Ben are bootstrapping their own project like so many indies by doing work for hire and from a modest amount of government grants. Keep an eye out for this great game, due out on Steam on April 19th and on the App store soon after.

Coming in part 2 – Nintendo considers “Tall Mario” and Vektor gets videoed.

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