An illustration of a gaming controller, next to a picture of Bit the Raccoon.

The Game Developers Conference (GDC) is the world’s largest professional games industry event. Over a five day period, each event sees tens of thousands of attendees, hundreds of talks and many opportunities for networking and deal making. For small and indie developers, it’s a fantastic place to learn from the best, and acquire new skills to use in your own games.

The 2021 iteration marks the second year of GDC’s move to an online event, due to ongoing uncertainty and travel restrictions relating to the global pandemic. It’s adapted well to the change, however, with many people attending as usual, just from the comfort of their own homes. This year’s event is upcoming, kicking off July 19th and running until the 23rd.

As always, the majority of talks are recorded and make their way to the official GDC YouTube account. If you’re a game developer, it’s absolutely worth subscribing and keeping an eye out for topics relevant to your area. Plus, if you’re feeling a little indecisive about whether to attend, here’s a selection of talks from previous years that will give you an idea of what you can expect on July 19th.


The Design in Narrative Design

In this 2015 GDC session, designer Jurie Horneman presents a framework showing how systems design and narrative design are two sides of the same coin, and why the narrative side of game is important even in games that do not ostensibly have a story.


The Forest Paths Method for Accessible Narrative Design

In this 2020 GDC Virtual Talk, Alexander Swords presents The Forest Paths method: a workflow for game developers to develop their game narrative in tandem with their design components.


Building Worlds in No Man’s Sky Using Math(s)

No Man’s Sky is a science fiction game set in a near infinite procedurally generated universe. In this 2017 GDC talk, Hello Games’ Sean Murray describes some of the most important technologies and interesting challenges behind generating both realistic and alien terrains without artistic input, using mathematics.


Small Teams, Big Dreams: How to Build a Small Team to Do Great Things

In this 2015 GDC talk, HandCircus’ Simon Oliver delivers practical advice on how smaller game development teams can make the most with limited resources to make the best games possible.


Successfully Use Deep Reinforcement Learning in Testing and NPC Development

In this 2020 GDC Virtual Talk, Unity’s Jeffrey Shih explains how deep reinforcement and imitation learning can be used for scaling playtesting and NPC creation in games.


Forgiveness Mechanics: Reading Minds for Responsive Gameplay

In this 2020 GDC Virtual Talk, Butterscotch Shenanigans’ Seth Coster lifts the veil around Forgiveness Mechanics; game systems that allow the player to be “off” in their inputs, but still get the results they want.


Crash Course in Online Features for Programmers

In this 2017 GDC talk, Sony’s Claire Blackshaw introduces a wide range of online features, highlighting easy features most platforms provide for the benefit of game programmers.


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