A first-timer for the conference offers up his diary of the show so far

Will Luton’s GDC 2012: Day One

Biggie Smalls once spat that he was going back to Cali “strictly for the weather, women and the weed”. I, on the other hand, enjoy the clement weather, yes, but drugs and girls are less my taste than mobile billing provider networking buffet.

Game Developers Conference is the dream ticket for a conference humper like me, so when Develop offered a press pass in return for my perspective from the Moscone floor, I couldn’t say no.

So now I’m duty bound for the next three days to blog in full salaciousness all I that see, as jet lag and free bars rips through my mind.

I arrived yesterday on a flight so splattered with UK games talent, had it crashed Develop’s circulation would be halved. Me and IndieGames.com writer Lewie Proctor horsed off a breakfast in departures with dumpy, blunted security knives. Lewie also runs bargains site SavyGamer.com, so he’s a savant wing man for a duty free HMV, able to reel off the cheapest price for almost any title.

My man Paul Virapen, Big Pixel Studio’s MD, and I checked in to our rooms in the Prescott Kimpton. A fine place for rest. Then we hoofed it over to the Gold Dust Bar for delicious nectar then a meat meet up at a rib shack on Mission. Develop demands full cover, so why not?

It’s my first time in the States and this morning has been the perfect San Francisco experience: Woken at just after 4am by a 4.3 Richter earthquake that shook the windows of my room and sent shockwaves through Twitter.

Then me and a press-and-dev ensemble queued for some breakfast whilst watching a fella take a hit from a crack pipe.

Let’s Conference

Inside the conference my first session of the day is Bennet Foddy’s Learning to Qwoperate.

Bennet, current academic game maker and previous Cut Copy bassist, talked on griefing players through game goals and control schemes which are analogous to actions. If you’ve played his games, you’ll know these are subject he’s qualified on.

Foddy’s games are a good antithesis to the current slew of hand-holding goal-driven Flash games that social networks are drowning in. The take away for me is that gameplay or goal expectation can be used to subvert player expectation, something I’ve experimented with in my own hobby games.

He then shifted to talk about the most divisive topic in indie games: Money. Foddy extols the virtues of self-publishing and the need for network effect, backed up with a tidy graph of how site traffic rose with each game added.

This is something that’s becoming really clear in mobile as those that won out in the early gold rush are consolidating their lead by shifting users out of established successes to new IP.

Foddy’s advice was to build your own networking, but had a sales pitch for an unannounced solution he’s working on that is aimed at those unwilling to face hurdles alone.

Ian Bogost’s talk featured the first public Zynga-bashing of the conference, albeit, in a wry cheeky demonstration of Game-O-Matic, his issue-specific news games tool. Bogost has also been pushing “Don’t Clone My Indie Game Bro” badges to hook up under passes.

Whilst once the darlings of everyone wanting to be vindicated on free-to-play or social gaming, I predict that hating on the bulldog is going to be a theme of the conference.

A brilliant day. San Francisco is an incredible city for this gig. There’s a real bustle, character and optimism that reflects our industry. Fast changing and always fresh.

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