With more than 400 sessions to choose from, we've highlighted the must-see talks on offer at next week's event

Guide to GDC 2014: Develop’s session picks

We’ll be continuing our guide to GDC throughout the week. You can view our first part covering the key facts, information and dates here.

Monday, March 17th

Unity crash course for iOS games
36peas founder Gareth Jenkins offers advice on not only building iOS games but leveraging experience from other platforms to improve them, as well as giving an overview of Unity.
10am to 11am, Room 3002, West Hall
Programming track

Social whales: Understanding and leveraging a new kind of player
Exploring the effect ‘social whales’ can have on other players, Ninja Metrics CEO Dmitri Williams discusses best practices for acquiring, leveraging and retaining these increasingly valuable users.
10am to 11am, Room 2020, West Hall
Free-to-play summit

Using user research to improve narratives
Microsoft Studios’ user research group has developed a way to test a game’s story early on in production, allowing players to help shape it ahead of release. User researcher Deborah Hendersen reveals more.
11.15am to 11.40am, Room 3016, West Hall
Game Narrative summit

Turing tantrums: AI devs rant!
AI developers from Harmonix, Maxis, Blizzard, Havok and more deliver quick tirades on AI development and the challenges it presents.
4.30pm to 5.30pm, Room 3007, West Hall
AI summit

Tuesday, March 18th

Bringing BioShock Infinite’s Elizabeth to life: An AI development post-mortem
Elizabeth was the face of one of 2013’s most talked about games, and Irrational Games’ lead programmer John Abercrombie is on hand to examine how the character was created and infused with her own personality.
10am to 11am, Room 2007, West Hall
AI summit

Lessons from launching Plants vs Zombies 2 in China
Kun Lui, GM of PopCap China, reveals why the casual games giant chose to launch Plants vs Zombies 2 in the East first – despite the fact that the original struggled in the territory.
10am to 11am, Room 2016, West Hall
Free-to-play summit

From Indie to AAA to Indie: Rebirth of Design
Industry veteran and founder of 22Cans Peter Molneux reveals why game design needs more danger and disruptive thinking, particularly when it comes to re-inventing a classic genre.
1.45pm to 2.10pm, Room 2005, West Hall
Independent Games summit

Level design in a day: The importance of everything – analytics of map design
Epic Games’ senior designer Jim Brown talks through the successes and failures of level design analytics, and shows how they can be used to improve developers’ design processes.
1.45 to 2.45pm, Room 303, South Hall
Design, Production tracks

Wednesday, March 19th

Keynote: 10 questions to ask about the future of games
GamesBeat’s lead writer Dean Takahashi tries his hand at predicting where the industry is heading in an era of free-to-play, download games and widely varied company valuations.
9am to 10am, Room 3022, West Hall

Monetisation track
How to turn a New Leaf at the Animal Crossing
Katsuya Eghuchi and Aya Kyogoko of Nintendo’s EAD studio discuss how they took advantage of an increasingly connected world to make an Animal Crossing that appeals to both young gamers and fans of the original.
11am to 12pm, Room 135, North Hall
Design track

Enhancing Sportsmanship in Online Games
League of Legends leads the way in online gaming, and lead designer of social systems Jeffrey Lin reveals how Riot Games drew from psychology and social dynamics to make it easy for players to be sportsmanlike.
5pm to 6pm, Room 2001, West Hall
Design track

Thursday, March 20th

Why is Gone Home a game?
Steve Gaynor, founder of Gone Home-creator The Fullbright Company, debates how classical definitions of ‘games’ and ‘play’ are informing the design of modern video games.
10am to 11am, Room 2001, West Hall
Design track

Classic Studio Postmortem: Lucasfilm Games
Former employees of the iconic studio – including Steve Arnold, Noah Falstein, David Fox, Peter Langston, Chip Morningstar and Ron Gilbert – are reunited to discuss whether a company like Lucasfilm Games could be replicated today.
10am to 11am, Room 135, North Hall
Design track

How to depression-proof your studio culture
Take This founder Russ Pitts suggests ways in which devs can improve the quality of their workplace and their team’s mental wellness.
4pm to 5pm, Room 304, South Hall
Advocacy track

Ellie: Buddy AI in The Last of Us
Naughty Dog’s engineer Max Dyckhoff reveals how developers can generate a believable ‘buddy’ character.
4pm to 5pm, Room 2020, West Hall
Design, Programming tracks

Friday, March 21st

Building customisable characters for Destiny
Bungie technial 3D art lead Scott Shepherd discusses the challenges of creating a highly customisable player system for Destiny.
10am to 11am, Room 2016, West Hall
Visual Arts track

The Infamous: Second Son particle system
Sucker Punch coder Bill Rockenbeck explains the components used to create particle effects in Infamous: Second Son.
10am to 11am, Room 2020, West Hall
Programming, Visual Arts tracks

Hearthstone: 10 bits of design wisdom
Blizzard’s lead designer Eric Dodds shares ten design ideas that helped the Hearthstone team create the WoW-themed collectible card games.
11.30am to 12.30pm, Room 303, South Hall
Design track

Narrative LEGOs
BioShock creator Ken Levine ponders how to make game narratives more interactive by breaking them down to elements that can be recombined in an infinite number of ways.
11.30am to 12.30pm, Room 2001, West Hall
Design track

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