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GDC 2017 Takeaways

Thoughts on this year’s Game Developers Conference.

  • Steam Dev Days was supposedly ~2,500 developers whereas this was ~27,000. The difference was huge – split between 3 multi-floored buildings with massive amounts of space and I felt like I rarely saw the same person twice.
  • I didn’t come away quite so inspired about the direction of Unturned as SDD, but there were a few useful talks (and more to check out on the vault) that were helpful in areas I’d like to improve. Of particular note I liked the Overwatch first and third person animation, Watchdogs 2 vehicle networking and Uncharted 4×4 physics presentations.
  • Got to meet with Dean Hall several times and even check out his new games, one of the big highlights of the event for me!
  • Went to several parties/mixers across the spectrum from clubbing to quiet mingling. The trick to those seems to be knowing people who can then introduce you to more people, and then next time you know those other people too so the cycle repeats.
  • The big name interesting talks e.g. Overwatch were completely packed, best to pick a smaller talk and watch it online later.
  • The experienced/in-the-loop people just get expo passes and spend the week meeting people and attending events. Big thanks to Riley, who’s really good at this, as he gave me a lot of tips before the conference and hooked me up with a lot of people there.
  • Eating out for so many meals in a row I wasn’t drinking much normal water which was a bad idea, don’t do that.
  • Walked from fisherman’s wharf along the embarcadero to the end of the piers. Also visited ghirardelli square.
  • Went up to coit tower. Had to see it up close because it was visible everywhere along the pier. Nice view from there to the rest of the city.
  • Japantown/Chinatown were basically what you’d expect.
  • Walked across the Golden Gate Bridge and back. It was very windy.
  • The museum of modern art was right next to the convention center and an interesting visit, if a bit crazy.
  • Toured alcatraz. Most of the cool looking areas were locked off to the public unfortunately.
  • Took the train to/from the airport. It was neat riding it underground like the subway, but much dirtier than the train in Calgary.
  • My flight to Calgary had a connection to Seattle which got delayed long enough that they didn’t think I’d get home that night which was stressful, but as luck would have it the Calgary flight was slightly delayed too and the arrival gate was moved closer so I managed to get on board!

After SDD I saw the big focus was networking, and this event really hammered that home being spread out across a longer period with bigger gaps between sessions and so many more people. My advice would now be that if you’re an extrovert in the games industry you should get the expo pass and spend all week socializing/building connections, but otherwise just get the GDC vault pass and watch the sessions online. Personally I went for the experience, and I’m glad I did, but I’m not sure I’d go again.