Reality is a Game

Game thinking from Adam Clare

Tag: GDC(Page 1 of 3)

Know How To Pitch Your Game

For any entertainment property knowing how to pitch it is integral to getting funding, backers, and sales.

A few weeks back, Paradox did an hour long stream on how to pitch to them. If you’re thinking of pitching to Paradox then you really need to watch it – or any other studio for that matter. They go into brand building, familiarity with consumers, and they reveal that game studios propose non-strategy games (90% of all pitches get rejected!). Be sure to know what a publisher actually publishes before pitching them!

Paradox takes board games pitches on based on their intellectual property, and of course the best way to do that is to send them a copy of the game. For more on board game pitches check out the panel we did with Bamboozle Brothers at Board Game Jam.

Never just pitch an idea – show something that reveals it!

You have to be really short and concise with you pitch! Panelists on the Pitching Secrets Revealed session at GDC 2013 all agree that you should use the minimum amount of time you need to describe your game, then use any remaining time to go into more details. For example, if you have a 15 minute pitch session you should use the first 5 to deliver your pitch and the rest of the time to answer questions.

Pitch for a card game

Pitch for a card game

Similarly, at GDC Europe in 2014 Rami Ismail (from Vlambeer) gave a talk about how to sell and why it’s important to be able to do pitch well. Basically, if you don’t know how to talk about your game then you can’t sell it. And if you can’t pitch it then you can’t sell it. If you can keep the summary of your game in one sentence then that’s even better.

You can watch his talk on the GDC Vault, he starts talking about pitching at the 14 minute mark.

For creating a good pitch deck (AKA PowerPoint) see this early post about Bubble Gum Interactive’s template.

Practicing Good Level Design

Level design is a key part of game design because it forms what the player has to do and the environment in which the player performs. The look and the feel of a level can change how a player plays and how immersed the player feels, because of this level design ought to be consciously thought through with intent.

If any of the material below gets you more interested in level design you can keep on researching. There are links below to good GDC Vault presentations. Another great resource for level designers is

Conceptual approaches to level design:

“Spaces like identities are constructed.” Is the summation of the this video and it’s worth watching!

Level Design Histories and Futures
Robert Yang examines how level design tools and techniques have evolved over the years. Towards the end he argues that we ought to use architecture terms to talk about levels (I agree!). The talk finishes at the end looking into possible futures of level designs.

Tips from level designers:

AAA Level Design in a Day Bootcamp

Gain deep insights into the level design process for our industry’s biggest games, including Gears of War, Bioshock, and Skyrim in this intense day-long tutorial, moderated by Coray Seifert. The most respected voices in level design weigh in on all aspects of their craft, engage with attendees via numerous Q&A sessions, and offer a once-in-a-career opportunity: a mock interview with a panel of the most veteran level designers in the business.

Don’t Juice It or Lose It

Gradients on limited palettes, dust clouds kicked up in places where there is no dust, bouncy tweens on hard rocks — through the idea that adding polish makes a game feel more alive, we’re actually losing a level of immersion. There has been such a tremendous focus on putting eye candy in our games that the context doesn’t get considered.

Galak-Z: Forever: Building Space-Dungeons Organically

While there exists a myriad of well-documented algorithms for generating procedural content, the combination and usage of these techniques is far more of an art than a science, and one that’s inherently unique to each game project. In this talk, lead engineer Zach Aikman will discuss a few different failed approaches before presenting a detailed breakdown of Galak-Z’s dungeon generator, including its usage of some unorthodox math, and his thoughts on the proper balance between hand-crafted and procedural content.

Jobye Carmaker works at Ubisoft and has made a ton of levels. On his blog he reflects on some key things that he takes into consideration when making levels. He tries to use assets in creative ways to ensure a playable experience while adding texture, narrative, and more to each level.

Imperfection – This is a tenant I’ve carried with me ever since our very first high-level Art Direction meeting with Scott Lee. One of the art pillars of Splinter Cell: Blacklist was Imperfection. That’s something that applies whether you’re making something for a war-torn map, an abandoned warehouse or a perfectly pristine government facility or private estate. Nothing in life is ever really perfect. There’s always some sort of imperfection whether it be in its placement, its shape, its material quality (this is where you get a lot of your imperfections for ‘clean’ environments), etc.

Multiplayer level design:

Community Level Design for Competitive CS:GO

This talk will focus on the subtle aspects of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive level design which have proven critical to creating a successful, popular, and well-designed experience for professional players and those aspiring to become professional players. Designing levels for Counter-Strike: GO is illustrative of broader challenges in multiplayer game design. For instance, Counter-Strike levels should always reward players and teams for skillful play, while at the same time providing ample opportunities for individual and team creativity.

Ben Burkart reveals eight secrets of multiplayer maps over at 80 Level. It’s good series of tips to keep in mind when making multiplayer experiences.

It is always important to have a goal and purpose for your level, deciding this early on should influence how you make decisions regarding layout/visuals/balancing through every step of your levels creation. When preparing to design your level you should have a clear indication as to what kind of visual theme you are going for as it should influence your layout as well as allow you to get the right assets together or to get a better idea of what kind of assets you are going to need.

Just for fun:

A fast level design exercise making a medieval inn:

GDC Presentations On Free To Play Strategies

Big Fish Money


Presentations from GDC 2014 have started to be put online at the GDC Vault. The first ones I came across were related to free to play (F2P) games which is sort of fitting since I recently posted about F2P “whales”.

Here’s a roundup from the GDC Vault on F2P strategies:

Planning to Enter the IGF?

A student project from George Brown is looking to enter the IGF which got me thinking about their chances. Here’s the result of my research into entering the IGF for those who are interested.

What is the IGF?

The Independent Gaming Festival (IGF) has been running for over 15 years in parallel with the Games Developer Conference (GDC). The goal of the IGF is to celebrate and promote games made by independent studios by rewarding the best games. What makes a studio independent isn’t clear but here’s what the regulations say:

Independently Created: The Nominating Committee must be confident that the submitted game was created in the ‘indie spirit’ by an independent game developer, fulfilling the question asked on the entry form. The Nominating Committee reserves the right to refuse any game at its sole discretion.


  • Submissions are open towards the end of summer.
  • Deliver game builds in October.
  • Festival and awards handed out in March.
FTL was a winner

FTL was a winner

Awards and Game Categories

  • Seumas McNally Grand Prize
  • Excellence In Visual Art
  • Excellence In Audio
  • Excellence in Design
  • Excellence in Narrative
  • Nuovo Award
  • Audience Award
  • Best Student Game


There is no guaranteed way to win the IGF (if there was the whole thing would be pointless) so the best thing to do is try your hardest to make your game stand out. Obviously you’ll want to focus on one of the categories above like best art or something.

THere is a ton of competition every year with the quality and number of submitted games increasing. Here’s a complete list of games submitted for 2012’s competition.

The team over at Cipher Prime studios did a rather intense analysis of who wins the IGF competition and it’s a long but informative read.

We found that IGF winners were characterized, with very few outliers, by:

  • Some type of prior “notoriety”, which might come from the developer’s previous games, a pre-existing version of the game itself, a large or growing fan base, or other factors discussed below.
  • Development times averaging out at over two years.
  • Having at least two people involved in the development process.
  • Being more than just “feature complete” (one of the requirements for an IGF submission). By the time IGF winners are announced in March, the majority of them are highly polished, and are often already commercially releasable games.
  • A widely varying amount of information available in developer blogs. Winning developers differed greatly in their posting frequency and blog content, although most of the winners made sure to at least announce, “I’m making this thing!”
  • Awesome trailers.
  • Diverse geographic location, if “diverse” includes only Europe and former British colonies.
  • Many different game engines, some commercial and some custom-built.
  • Varying amounts of press, ranging from zero to boatloads.

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