Hacking the Conference

Psychochild asks:

What goes into a good conference, and what would make a conference useful for game developers (particularly online developers)?

I answer:

  1. Small size — This is the biggest thing that DICE and AGC have going for them over GDC. You can actually run into people you want to talk to.
  2. No students allowed — It’s rude to say this, I’m sure, but I don’t give a rat’s ass what some 20 year old going to Digipen or Full Sail has to say. If I’m going to sit down with a bunch of random people at lunch I want most of them to have shipped a game.
  3. Constrained subject matter — “Games” is too big for one conference as GDC shows us over and over. I don’t care to dig through piles of talks on BREW or the cell processor (or even graphics in general) to get to the talk on object databases or asset streaming over slow networks.
  4. Shorter is ok — AGC is up to three days now, which is fine… I don’t mind a three day conference. A one day conference with a laser focus on talks I really care about would be better, however.
  5. Talks about things people have actually tried in a real, shipping game — Half the talks at GDC are about pie in the sky new algorithms or high level design or art philosophies. Some of this is fine, but most talks should be about experiences, not theories.
  6. Advanced talks on topics other than graphics and physics — I care just enough about physics and graphics (and let’s put sound in there while we’re at it) to hire somebody else to deal with them. Unfortunately those are the only topics that have advanced topics, probably because they’re also the most popular topics. I want advanced talks on databases, data-driven design, software engineering, networking, object persistence models, and load distribution.
  7. More focus on failures — I want to know what happened with Horizons, Shadowbane, Asheron’s Call 2, Auto Assault, Matrix Online and D&D Online that caused these games to not meet expectations. I mean what REALLY happened.
  8. Mandatory speaker preparation — Maybe there should be a required dress rehearsal of each lecture a week before the conference. I’m sick of going to lectures where a word document full of typos is what passes for slides.

The Online Game Development Conference is trying to do some of this. They require a peer review of every paper submitted to the conference (8). They are aiming at a more experienced audience (2, 6). They are in their first year so there are a couple of freebies on the list (1, 4). The conference is about internet games: (From their website)

The Online Game Development Conference is the first conference with a razor-sharp focus on the technology, art, design, production, and business of games delivered over the internet.

Will it work out? Will OGDC turn into the new AGC? Do we even need a new AGC? It’s not clear that the CMP purchase of that show is actually going to hurt it, after all. Well the jury hasn’t even begun deliberations on OGDC yet. The first one takes place on May 10-11 here in Seattle.

Hopefully we can get some of items 5 and 7 from talks like these: (I’m particularly interested in the second two since I hear that first speaker doesn’t know what he’s talking about. :) )

Here’s hoping it works out of OGDC. It would be nice to have a local conference.

~Joe


3 Responses to “Hacking the Conference”

  1. Darius K. wrote on :

    I’m doing a talk at OGDC as well:

    http://ogdc2007.com/session.php?id=40

    I’m planning to make it a pretty advanced talk. I’ll try and catch your session.

  2. Steve Chiavelli said on :

    Speaking as a former DigiPen student, I don’t think what you say in #2 is all that rude. Many students (especially at DP) think that making student games puts them on equal footing with professionals. It is unfortunate.

    However, I think being at this type of event can be beneficial to a student as long as he/she understands to keep quiet dusing sessions/panels and just *learn*.

    Hell, I am a year out of school with a soon-to-be-shipped game right around the corner, and I’m still planning on just being a sponge at OGDC =)

    Here’s hoping that OGDC will be a success and beneficial to everyone involved.

  3. Joe commented on :

    Hey, once you ship that game you’ll have shipped exactly the same number as me. And I’ve been in the industry for nearly 9 years. :)

    (MMOs take too long.)

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