GDC 2012 Postmortem
This year Weekend Game Studio (the gaming part of Plain Concepts, the company where I work now), decided to have a booth and give a sponsored talk in GDC 2012. Even if I had joined the company just a month earlier, I was lucky enough to get to go also to GDC (and be one of the two speakers of the conference, which was a little stressful to say the least :p).
The idea of the GDC was to showcase our two first games, the tower defense ByeByeBrain and the web game The Cure. We also wanted to talk about our own internal game engine, Wave Engine, and show how the same code could run in WP7, iOS, Android, web, and PC.
So this is a postmortem from my point of view of things that went right and things that went wrong.
What went right
Weekend Game Studio, and the Seattle office of Plain Concepts have just born a little more than a year ago, and they are in the process of getting firmly established. So going to GDC, giving a sponsored talk,… was a huge expense for us. We also decided to go to GDC pretty late, so in the end, we could only get a booth on one of the corners of the expo pavilion. We also could not get huge plasma TVs, have a ton of goodies to give away,... as our budget was pretty limited.
In general, it looked like our booth was going to be pretty “gray/boring”, as we didn’t have the money to just make it stand out. So we decided to go other route. The artist of ByeByeBrain had the idea of making the booth seem like a zombie refuge, and have us disguised as zombies. Even if we weren’t very sure at the start of the idea, it was a huge success. Everyone noticed us immediately while walking around, and a lot of people stopped to talk just to say that they loved the booth, which in turn allowed us to just ask about them and keep the conversation going.
I am sure that without the thematic booth we would have had quite a few visitors (the expo floor was very busy specially the first day), but the great decoration, the disguises,… made GDC much more of a success and allowed us to meet much more people (from students to very high profile execs).
Another thing that went right, and it may seem a little obvious, was the decision of going to GDC. We were not sure if we would be able to recoup the costs of it, but in the end I think it was more than justified. We had business meetings for projects all day long, from very small projects, to really big opportunities.
We also got a lot of portfolios from professionals searching for a company to join or for freelancing work. Right now Plain Concepts has a lot of programmers and web designers, but we lack severely in other areas important for games, like 3D artists, game designers, composers, sound engineers,… We have built thanks to GDC a nice pool of people we can contact in the future for work and collaborations, and it is way nicer to have met and talked with that person face to face than just by email.
And we also got a lot of portfolios from students interested in internships, which took us totally by surprise. I had given classes in university before, and while it had its ups and downs, it was something I enjoyed a lot. I think having interns working with us, and the experience of guiding them and teaching them would be quite interesting.
What went wrong
Sadly, not everything went great, there are a few things that we will take into account for next editions to avoid doing the same mistakes.
First, we had a problem with our booth, as the booth we received was not the booth we were expecting (we were missing some lateral walls where we were going to hang part of our decoration). The GDC organization was very unhelpful, as they said it was a mistake on our part for misunderstanding the booths and their emails (which honestly could have been written much clearly, and we asked very specific questions in most of them). Even after talking with them for a while they basically told us that there was nothing they could do. But hopefully, the company building the booths itself, was able to help us (for a price, everything has a price down there :p), and we were able to have some supports to hang our booth decoration. Even if we had to pay, the attitude of the company building the booths was very helpful and friendly, so it is appreciated.
Our second mistake was not been really prepared for GDC. It was our first time and we didn’t know what to expect. First day we came to the booth with not many business cards, and we had run out of them in less than two hours :S The booth was full of people most of the time (in general, the first day the whole expo was full of people), and we were a little overwhelmed by how many questions and interests we got that day. For example, we started getting business cards, and the first day we failed to take notes on most of them (if it was someone searching for job, freelancer, a future partner, a distributor,…). On the next days we carried many more cards and we took notes of everyone, which helped a lot to organize things.
Another example of how badly prepared we were was when we got students asking for internships in Weekend. We are a company founded by Spanish people (and pretty young in the states), so we had no idea of what paperwork (if any) was needed to have an intern working with us. Now we think it is funny that we had not even thought of that before going to GDC, but we could have never imagined that students would be interested in doing an internship with us.
I also think that something that went “wrong”, although it’s much more subjective, is that we could not leave the stand and check the rest of the GDC. We were only three people on the stand, and David was quite often out on meetings, so Anton and I had to stay pretty much all the time there chatting with people and showcasing ByeByeBrain, the Cure, and Wave Engine. I would have liked though to see some of the conferences, and the other pavilions.
What I have no idea how it went
And, even after all of that, there is one thing I have no idea if went right or not, and that was my sponsored talk about Wave Engine. One one side, we had forty people there, that was much more than we were expecting (and more given how many things were happening at the same time we gave the talk). But on the other side I had no questions in the end (publicly, I had a few of them privately), and I can’t stop thinking that probably people were expecting a much more technical talk. I think most talks in GDC are very heavy on the technical side as the general public of GDC has a high degree of knowledge, but ours wasn’t very deep. I put some basic code examples that explained the engine philosophy, but I didn’t enter in all the gory details of making the adapters for each platform and so on.
Nevertheless it seems the GDC organization sends the evaluations to the speakers, so I really want to read them and see what things can be improved if I repeat the experience. Getting evaluations after a talk can be harsh sometimes, but they are great tools for improving. I remember the evaluation of my first talk ever (a talk for Microsoft University Tour in Spain), that was a total disaster, but it contained lots of very useful comments, so it was a welcomed thing.
So that’s all more or less for GDC 2012. After the Expo when we returned to Seattle we spend the next week organizing all the business cards, sending emails, checking portfolios, samples, and demo reels,… It was an interesting week, and I have to say that I saw lots of impressive portfolios out there.
Btw, I would like to add that we were lucky to have the people of Trioviz as one of our neighbors, they were super fun people, and their 3D technology was simply awesome. I tried Arkham City for a while and the 3D effect was truly nice. And they gave us some 3D Glasses :) We had also some very nice neighbors just in front of us, that offered us every day tea and other refreshments, but I sadly don’t remember their name (and I can’t seem to find the 2012 GDC Expo floor map).
I really hope we repeat next year, it was a great personal experience, and we did a lot of business so it was also worth for the company (I guess, I don’t know how much did it cost us exactly to go there, but I think the visibility and contacts we gained does offset the costs).