We speak to GDC Europe's event director to find out more about its return

Interview: Frank Sliwka

Since last year’s event, how is GDC Europe evolving as an event and adapting to the changing industry?

Frank Sliwka: What we did was recongise with our other events like in San Francisco and Austin – as well as Europe – is that we have to address some other topics. What we did for the first time in this year for GDC Europe is to have summits on the most important topics for the games industry. So we have the Social Games Summit, Smartphone and Tablet Games Summit and the Community Management Summit.

There are two really important points for us that we would like to address. Those summits are one point; the other is that we go towards more topics from the new economy in our conference programme, and have keynotes like the one from Wooga coming from Jens Begemann. Wooga is one of the biggest social games companies around Europe.

But there will still be a focus on the more traditional gaming industry as well?
Yes absolutely. What we want to do is to deliver on the most important topics in the games development cycle starting from the initial idea to the final product. For this, mostly prominent European speakers are coming to say something about these special topics. For example the Supercell guys have something really good. We figured out the most important topics and then presented by European speakers who have the experience.

It’s obvious why you have an event in San Francisco and China, but why is it important to host a GDC in Europe?
It’s really important that we have something like GDC Europe and pitch developer topics. I think doing so last year, GDC Europe did a great job for the whole of Europe. It’s about the UK, its Sweden, its Germany, its Spain. In Europe have a lot of really great companies, mostly from the middleware space, an example being Crytek. We also have a lot of really big companies in the social games area.

I think it’s a winner for GDC Europe to show the world the important developments coming from Europe. I think that’s the main task, to show the world. For this we need to attract people from other regions and cities to come and see the speakers and developments happening in Europe.

That’s why we have one big keynote coming from Europe and the other ones coming from other areas around the world.

Why should a developer attend GDC Europe?
Theres a lot of reasons. He can learn and share experiences and ideas for further development and that’s one reason for the event; to educate. The next is networking, so you can meet other people and share experiences.

The third point is business. You can try to get people with money to support you and your games. The last thing is to see new products like we have Intel AppUp lab or the Unity Developer Day where people can learn about the upcoming technologies, mostly from the middlewear side.

And the very last reason is to have fun.

There are now so many events, so many developer conferences around the world.

Some people may argue that there are too many. That considered, how do you make sure GDC Europe stands out from the other events? How do you make sure it remains important?

This is not a very simple question. But you’re right. There are a lot of events around the world. In every country’s event, the focus is on the regional development and that’s fine. But if you have too much of an international focus at an event then it will be a little bit difficult. But what we did with GDC Europe, we wanted it to be a showcase for the entirety of Europe.
We are in Cologne in Germany but we are not a German event.

We are a European event and so we invite people from all over Europe to attend the show. We can do what other events can’t do. We have strong PR and marketing relationships and experience together with our other events, so we can really communicate a European idea – the European product – and that’s what the difference is. And in terms of what we can do, we can bring over a lot of really good speakers from the venture, a lot of developers with an international viewpoint.

A lot of people going to GDC won’t have much time, so if they could only go to three things, what would they be?
This is the most difficult question because I don’t like to highlight one or two. If you ask me about my personal choice, the keynote by Richard Garriott is a must for everyone. My other personal favourite is the talk from EA about FIFA 11. And then theres Jason VandenBerghe of Ubisoft. His talk has a really good topic, and the guy’s a really good presenter. It’s an amazing talk, a great topic and great entertainment. It’s fun and you learn a lot.

Finally, the talk from Paul Martin from Slant Six Games. Its another really, really interesting talk about how you can organise a company, development teams and production.

You have been to a lot of events and have a lot of experience.

Have you got one or two tips for people attending their first GDC event?
Take a chance. Attend as much as you can. If you have any questions, after the talk go to the speaker and ask them. They have time to see you and are happy to take questions. I often feel that people are not too brave to go to them and ask them. Do it and if they are famous like Richard Garriott, and do it because they’ll want to give answers. That’s one recommendation. We have really good talks and you can learn a lot of things, and afterwards, we have a lot of events at night. Go there and have fun.

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