Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

GDC thoughts from 2015

Ahhh…the indie life, so summed up by sitting here in the first class British Airways lounge at the airport eating unlimited free m&ms. (I don’t fly first class, but I looked very British, and there was no hot water for tea…so they bumped me up).

Another year, another GDC. Let me muse on what I have learned. Because of the way my mind works, lets put the lessons in list form…

1) GDC is big. Bigger than ever I suspect. There are a lot of developers out there. If ever you start to worry about all those releases of new games on steam, wait until you physically see all those developers in one city. There is a LOT of competition out there. A crazy amount. My personal theory is that at least 20% of the indie devs at the show are burning through savings and losing money. For ones doing mobile games, I’d guess 50%. There are too many games, not enough *paying* players, especially on mobile.

2) GDC and its ilk are still a bit of a stressful nightmare if you are shy and introverted or don’t know many other developers yet. By any objective standard I failed at networking. I met 2 journalists for interviews, that’s it. I didn’t hustle, I didn’t introduce myself to loads of people, I totally forgot peoples names, I didn’t tell anyone about my game. I did drink lots of wine and ate sushi, so that was good.

3) Giving talks is great, but you feel like jumping under a bus just before you speak. The good thing is people then know who you are and have something to say to you, which fixes 2) slightly.

4) Big companies have more money than they can count and are throwing it at attempts to hire new developers. This is strange, as to me it is the flipside of the struggling smaller devs. There seem to be huge companies earning crazy money, and lots of indies eating noodles, and maybe just a handful in-between the two. The phrase ‘get big or go home’ comes to mind, alongside ‘arggghhhhh’.

5) I am so behind on graphics tech. I went to some directx12 talks and Vulkan (GL) talks and didn’t understand half the terminology, let lone what was being revealed. I should probably jump from dx9 to 12, or to vulkan eventually. Still, I prefer being l33t at DX9 than a n00b at dx12. The talks really made me want to jump into optimizing and expanding on the GSB2 tech once it’s had its initial release.

6) There is a limit to how many m&ms a man can eat before feeling sick, and it really does sneak up on you.

7 thoughts on GDC thoughts from 2015

  1. I’m only familiar with the event through the free videos they sometimes put up. Couldn’t still help but notice few years ago that there’s new events, like GDC Europe, with decent num of session.

    I used to shift through a lot of new releases but now am considering a new strategy where I have a signaling system for interesting releases. Maybe I’ll miss out on a bunch of stuff now but it’s not like I have time to play that much.

    There’s been so much written about management/scheduling issues in the industry that even if I now felt like perhaps I could contribute something in a game company, it’s just like 15 years ago when Slashdot convinced me that I wouldn’t like it in IT work. It’s pretty easy to convince me to not like something – after all there’s a ton of things I’d like to do so I’d be dead before I couldn’t think of something to do. What I definitely don’t like is doing any one thing for more than two weeks. Is there any point to look for a job if the HR doesn’t like when you tell them the truth about everything? They’ll probably figure that if you get in, you’re going to tell the truth about the company to outsiders too. While playing in online I learned that I tended to end up near the top brass in the best clan or whatever but then things get really difficult for perfectionist as there’s no perfect or logical decision for everything and every decision takes a lot of time and stressing out. So that’s where my online games always end. The journey is the fun and the destination or endgame is where I quit. Perhaps this is why personality test suggests I’m a writer/musician type – in both I can change my mind a lot as the “perfect” is still in the process of being found. In music its really absolute – either it’s perfect or it sucks so once you find the perfection point, well there’s no need to do more. Atleast as long as I don’t listen to my own stuff another day … haha. Programming has a lot in common. It’s hard to stop coding until the piece of code I’m on has reached some sort of perfection – tends to lead to late nights and then long times of not coding…

  2. Haven’t seen anything on whether DX12 is coming to anything below Windows 10. The 10 previews so far have felt like about shoehorning the Metro to desktop and features that probably send everything you type to MS cloud. On top of that, the regressions that happened in 8 aren’t still completely resolved. If they could fix the regressions and have ability to disable the cloud stuff then I could see upgrading sooner.

  3. DX12 …. there’s that free upgrade deal they have for Win 10 – I have a newer system where some hw sort of needs Win 8+. If the upgrade is from 7 only then I’ll slap 7 where I have 8.1 now and upgrade that to 10 but I’ll keep my primary computer with 7. The task bar and start menu needs to be truly better or atleast the same as in Vista (7 taskbar is actually worse than in Vista for power users for two reasons that both relate to having lot of instances of one app open and opening new instances) for any immediate upgrade of the 7-system I have.

  4. @Cliffski
    Have you thought about turning your engine into a bespoke engine? The market for a 2D engine is there, judging by the fact that both Unity and Unreal Engine jammed a 3D system into their systems.

    This would allow you to continue to work on optimizing your engine, as you love to do, and allow a 2D centric engine for better performance.

    You could do as Epic has done, if you want to get indies involved in tuning performance. Also, it could give you some time to become an expert on, say Vulkan, and cut the cost of your ports due to reliance on DX9.

    This is all pie in the sky, but it could tie in nicely with your current work on becoming a publisher.

    Windows 10 will be available to any Windows version above Windows 7. So Win8 and Win8.1 are included.

    I am really excited about Vulkan, as opposed to DX12, thanks to its support in Windows version earlier than Windows 10.

    The group designing it said it could even run on Windows XP, God forbid.

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