GDC 2019 Previews

GDC is coming up, and I will be there! If you’d like to speak, please do get in touch. (And if you’re interested in learning more about Character Engine from me or one of the rest of the Spirit team, please drop me a line about that too.)

Also, if you’re an IF person coming to GDC for the first time, I’ve written previously about GDC survival strategies (scroll down), and most of the advice there still holds. This year, there is also a GDC 101 event for people who are attending their first conference.

I am one of the advisors for the AI summit this year, so I’ll be in that room pretty constantly Monday/Tuesday, and especially: participating in the Ethics panel and the AI Devs Rant session, as well as MCing the Experimental AI Workshop. I’m very excited about that session, as we’re bringing together some exciting projects from several different corners.

Below the fold I’ve pulled out my picks of things that might interest readers of this blog. As usual, there are too many talks I wish I could go to, many of them scheduled opposite one another, so I’m going to have to rely on the Vault for a few things…


10 AM

Tender Claws on incorporating live action actors into immersive VR experiences.

The generally excellent Narrative Innovation Showcase, a sequence of short talks from people who are doing something new and interesting in the narrative design space, and generally quite grounded in practice. This year with Tanya X. Short (Captain, Kitfox Games), Mark Backler (Founder, Sketchbook Games), Whitney “Strix” Beltran (Lead Narrative Designer, E-Line Media), Dave Gilbert (Founder, Wadjet Eye), Allen Turner (Designer/Owner, Council Of Fools, LLC).


Jennifer Hazel on presenting mental illness in games. Not an easy topic, and it deserves more careful handling than it sometimes gets.

Magic Leap on character AI for several of their projects.

Kevin and Priscilla Snow among others on personal experiences as games. (Kevin and Priscilla may be familiar to readers of this blog from Where the Water Tastes Like Wine, some Failbetter freelancing, Southern Monsters, Beneath Floes, and… well, quite a few things, really.)

Teaching Puzzle Design with several fine people including Naomi Clark, one of the people I would most trust to do this well.


Nicole Lazarro on narrative AI for deep emotions, a topic at the joint between storytelling, design, and tech.


Rob Morgan on creating immersive AR narratives.


James Coltrain on a historian’s guide to writing a historical game. I’m not familiar with this speaker, but the topic is a really interesting one.


Gautier Boeda on characters in VR who respond to spoken natural language input.

Jeb Havens on teaching escape room design. Here again I’m not acquainted with the speaker, but escape rooms share such a lot of overlap with other forms of narrative puzzle game, yet with their own peculiar constraints, and I find this fascinating.


AI game devs rant, featuring me among other people, talking about rant-worthy topics in our field.


10 AM

Dave Grossman on creating audio interactive stories for Alexa with Earplay. Interactive audio has emerged as its own variant of interactive fiction, with different possibilities and affordances, and I’m looking forward to hearing what they’ve been up to… even though I probably can’t attend this session myself. (Vault!)


Ethics in Artificial Intelligence. Timoni West, Luke Dicken, Celia Hodent, Aleissia Laidacker, and me. This one is a panel session.


Technical Tools for Authoring Branching Dialogue from Obsidian, sharing information about what works in their proprietary in-house system.


Experimental AI for Games. This is a series of short talks and demos from people working in a range of areas (including but definitely not limited to procedural approaches to narrative). I’m MCing this one and am really, really looking forward to it.


9 AM

Though listed as an audio talk, this talk on AI-supported dialogue in the Frostbite system looks potentially interesting to narrative folks as well; I’m not sure from the description how technical it’s likely to be.


A talk on using techniques from compiler design to check your narrative. Sounds like an interesting angle on creating verifiable functionality in branching dialogue (and maybe, if we’re lucky, also dialogue that does more than branch?). That’s a topic that I spend a lot of time thinking about, so I’m curious to hear other people’s angles on the problem.

Marie Foulston on how she curated the AMAZING videogames exhibition at the V&A. The exhibit was so good, and the work that went into it so very thoughtful.


The excellent Olivia Wood on the challenge of keeping up a steady stream new material for Fallen London.

David Dunham on the design of Six Ages as a storytelling strategy game.


IGDA roundtable on the future of narrative design and game writing.


GDC Microtalks — generally an intense, fascinating session.


10:00 AM

Narrative Nuances on Free-to-Play Mobile Games (Jam City). May not be for everyone who reads this blog, but this sounds like a talk that digs into the particular challenges of writing for a very specific game format, and I almost always find that kind of thing interesting.


A talk on Reigns: Game of Thrones, which is cool — the Reigns franchise is intriguing, though I haven’t gotten to the Game of Thrones edition — but this talk looks like it’s business/marketing focused rather than story or design focused, for what that’s worth.


From Victoria Tran (Kitfox), a talk on fashion in games, and why it matters. Not a narrative talk, but it sounds fun.


Cursed Problems in Game Design from Alex Jaffe at Riot: coverage of game design challenges that serially stump designer after designer. This is also not particularly narrative, but again, the sort of thing I love to hear about.


A series of microtalks on designing intimacy and romance in games, from speakers including Michelle Clough, Christine Love, Naomi Clark and Robert Yang.


1:30 PM

The Experimental Gameplay Workshop is always wildly fun; if you go in person, be sure to line up in plenty of time because it’s usually full.


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