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How can indie games developers make the most out of GDC?

How can indie games developers make the most out of GDC?

GDC is right around the corner and with that comes a whole host of in-depth sessions from the sector's greatest minds, opportunities to show off your game and network with thousands of industry professionals.

With 28,000 people set to attend the event in San Francisco it can be overwhelming coming in as an indie developer.

Over five days, anyone attending will want to make sure they get their money’s worth, yet there’s so much to do in so little time.

As ever with the most insightful thoughts we thought we better reach out to the experts. So we asked our Indie Mavens:

What advice would you give to an indie developer who is looking to make the most out of GDC?

 

Astrid Refstrup CEO Triple Topping Games

For GDC as an indie/first-timer my advice is: Plan in good time before you go (I start in December) and ask yourself what you want to achieve.

Is it a publisher, to showcase, get feedback, talk to the press or third-party providers? Maybe you are in the ‘Meet To Match’ booking system (this gives you access to book meetings without a GDC ticket), but you will need to know what you are looking for, so you don't end up wasting your own and other people's time.

Have a good deck/build/GIF that you can send to the person you want to meet with, so they can see beforehand if it's worthy that you take a meeting. It also sparks a better conversation.

GDC offers good opportunities for networking, whether that's in the conference halls, nearby hotels and bars or at the after-show parties

When you have a meeting, text people about 30 minutes before so you are sure to find each other. Also, sometimes people will cancel or not show up, but if you message them on WhatsApp beforehand you limit this or can reschedule.

I suggest you buy the Indie Summit Pass for GDC. It's not that expensive and it gives you access to create curated talks. Schedule lunch with good friends if time allows it and make sure you have time to eat. 

Aaron Fothergill Co-founder Strange Flavour

Mine’s more of a general one for conferences as I’ve not actually done GDC yet. Most should still apply though.

One problem if you’re a small indie team is quite literally the lack of people you have to go to sessions. If you’re lucky enough to have multiple team members there, you’re probably still not going to have enough coders to attend all the coding sessions you’re interested in, artists for the art ones, etcetera.

So, assuming the session tracks are published beforehand, work out as a team just what you want to see and take notes on.

Teaming up with other indies you know and splitting the sessions can be very handy.
Aaron Fothergil

Plan for the specialists to go to the particularly technical sessions but also consider anyone spare going to less technical or specialist sessions to take notes. Your QA guy coming back from a shader session with “oh wow, they did this really great effect” may just be the inspiration your team needs.

Also, most conferences have the sessions available for download by the time you get back, so you can still get the technical details back at base.

The other twist on this problem is that for a small indie, it may be that you can only send one person to the event. In this case, teaming up with other indies you know and splitting the sessions can be very handy.

If you’re planning to meet people, make sure you all know where the meeting location is beforehand (recommend Find My Friends). It’s also worth doing a very quick recon of the event first thing if it doesn’t start with sessions or meetings. If you’re familiar with where most stuff is, you’ll save a lot of time and might also spot something interesting.

Take some business cards (something I always forget). They’re still a very quick way to swap contact info with other people you meet. They don’t have to be flashy but having a couple of dozen can lead to a useful connection.

Diane Landais Co-founder / Programmer Accidental Queens

You're here, you took a couple of days to sit down and listen to your peers sharing their experiences and knowledge, you're going to have sore feet and a handful of business cards at the end of the day. But most importantly: the speakers are here, too.

You're not watching a YouTube video or reading their notes after the fact. This is the right moment to ask questions. Most talks at GDC will have dedicated time for Q&A, but the speakers are usually around before or after their talk as well. Use this time to ask things in person - that's what makes this kind of event worth the trip.

Plan ahead by reading the schedule, try to identify talks that you can take something out of, but don't dismiss talks that seem irrelevant or way out of your league. You might be surprised! Keep an open mind, that's what you're here for. Try to prioritise talks where possible.

If you're working on a game, whether it's too early to say anything or just released, try to prepare a good pitch.

Diane Landais says you should prepare a good pitch, as it can be a great conversation starter

You're here, you took a couple of days to sit down and listen to your peers sharing their experiences and knowledge, you're going to have sore feet and a handful of business cards at the end of the day.

But most importantly: the speakers are here, too. You're not watching a Youtube video or reading their notes after the fact. This is the right moment to ask questions. Most talks at GDC will have dedicated time for Q&A, but the speakers are usually around before or after their talk as well, so use that time to ask things in person, that's what makes this kind of event worth the trip!

Plan ahead by reading the schedule, try to identify talks that you can take something out of, but don't dismiss talks that seem irrelevant or way out of your league. You might be surprised. Keep an open mind, that's what you're here for.

Too much to see? Try to prioritise talks where possible. Q&A or follow-up questions with the speaker will bring you something more; you can always catch up with the ones you missed after the event (even if there's no video recording, you can try getting in touch with the speaker directly).

Trying to pack your day with as many talks as possible is probably not going to go well. Keep some free time for follow up, casual meetings, or even a nap.
Diane Landais

"I'm going to see the first half of this, and the second half of that" is usually not a good idea. You'll miss most of the first talk, bump into your friend you haven't seen since last year in the hallways, and finally arrive to the second talk at the moment everyone claps their hands.

Similarly, trying to pack your day with as many talks as possible is probably not going to go well. Keep some free time for follow up, casual meetings, or even a nap.

You're back in your hotel room after a long day. Got 15 minutes to spare and an achy back? Fire up some stretching or gentle yoga video on your laptop/tablet, hop into something comfy and take those 15 minutes to relax just a tiny bit. You need that more than 15 more minutes of sleep.

If you're working on a game, whether it's too early to say anything, or just released, try to prepare a good pitch. You may not be here for business but being able to quickly explain what you're working on will be a great conversation starter. A useful memo for people to remember you (not just a name/face), is a possible door-opener for opportunities you may not be aware of yet.

Need a time off from the crowd or the noise? If the event has a ‘quiet room’, please use it. If not, simply getting some fresh air, or grabbing a drink at a nearby coffee shop can already work wonders. Taking a step back may help you make the best of the rest of the day, it can really be worth it to ‘lose’ those 30 minutes for cooling down.

Most events will (should!) have clear guidelines against harassment or problematic behaviour. Staff members will (should!) know about them and be able to keep you safe.

Feeling safe already? Try your best to extend that feeling for those around you. Don't be the kind of person that makes extensive anti-harassment guidelines a necessity. Those limits aren't here to be tested.

Nathan Fouts Founder Mommy's Best Games

For those that don't want to spend so much, in the past I've got a lot of use out of a basic Expo pass.

I love walking the Expo floor and playing games. You can meet lots of great developers this way.
Nathan Fouts

I love walking the Expo floor and playing games. You can meet lots of great developers this way, just by playing their games, and talking up people whose work you enjoyed. Who knows, maybe a good business relationship could come from it.

I’ve also walked the show floor and directly pitched a new project to publishers here. This takes some work and ideally you've previously contacted a publisher instead of cold-approaching them.

However, with some luck you might find the right person at the right time. Even if they don't play your game right then, try to get the name or email of the ‘best’ person for your game at that company.

Remember: persistence, patience and politeness go a long way.

Looking to network at the show? Check out the Pocket Gamer GDC Party Guide here.

Staff Writer

Matthew Forde is a freelance writer from Yorkshire, who's work has been published for Tech Radar, Nintendo Life, Kotaku UK, Digital Spy and more. He regularly attends Comic-Cons and Smash Bros. tournaments, while trying to keep up-to-date on everything pop culture related.

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