GDC Vault Opens: Hundreds Of Talks To Watch For Free

Every year the Game Developers Conference hosts hundreds of fascinating talks across all aspects of game design, technology, and gaming, but most people will never see them. It’s all the way over in San Francisco and tickets cost a bomb, for starters. Thankfully, they record them all, each year set a fair chunk free for everyone to see.

This year’s GDC Vault has opened up with hundreds of free sessions, and we’ve got a few recommendations for you, covering topics from Loom to lessons learned in failure.

I was at GDC myself but only saw two talks, as I was there with my Wild Rumpus crew and spent most my time in a big metal leaf, so I’m quite keen to catch up on some of these. These here recommendations are only from Graham and John, who were both present and paying attention:

Leigh Alexander, Katherine Cross, Sela Davis, Amy Hennig, Elizabeth LaPensee, Brenda Romero, Constance Steinkuehler, Adriel Wallick

“Inspired by the #1ReasonWhy and #1ReasonToBe hashtag discussion, join us for a rapid, fun microtalk-style celebration and exploration of what it means to be a woman in games. Each panelist will share their experience, its highs and lows, and explore a vision for a future industry that is inclusive for all. Hosted by Brenda Romero and Leigh Alexander, panelists include Constance Steinkuehler, (Professor at Universty of Madison Wisconsin), Elizabeth LaPensee, (Game Designer at Odaminowin Studio), Adriel Wallick, (Programmer at MsMinotaur), Sela Davis, (Software Engineer at Microsoft), Amy Hennig (Creative Director at EA) and Katherine Davis (PhD candidate at CUNY).”

Classic Game Postmortem: Loom
Brian Moriarty

“Brian Moriarty, the trailblazing author of influential Infocom games like Trinity and Beyond Zork, will be delivering a Classic Game Postmortem on the groundbreaking 1990 graphic adventure game Loom at GDC 2015. Moriarty currently serves as a Professor of Practice in Game Design at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts, and his lengthy game development career spans stints at Infocom, Lucasfilm Games (later LucasArts), Rocket Science, Mpath/HearMe, and other ventures. Now he’s coming to GDC in March to speak at length about the development of Loom, a remarkably mature fantasy with an innovative musical interface, and a flexible, beginner-friendly design that was the first to embody what would become the LucasArts philosophy: that players should never have to deal with dead ends, accidental deaths or forced restarts. His lecture will survey the entire history of the project, from conception to shipping, together with amusing production anecdotes, little-known facts, and rare artifacts from his personal collection of Lucasfilm memorabilia.”

Classic Game Postmortem: Star Control
Paul Reiche III, Fred Ford, Rob Dubbin

“Fred Ford and Paul Reiche III, the game design duo who cofounded the venerable Toys For Bob 25 years ago, will be delivering a Classic Game Postmortem on the influential 1990 space adventure series Star Control at GDC 2015. As one of the first games to place players in command a starship and allow them to chart their own course — either alone or with a friend — in a remarkably well-realized virtual galaxy, Star Control and its many sequels blazed a trail that game developers still follow today. In the more than two decades since the game’s release, Ford and Reiche III have gone on to launch a string of titles across a variety of genres, most recently finding great success with Toys For Bob’s Skylanders series of games. Now they’re coming to GDC in March to speak at length about their work creating the both the original Star Control as well as the critically acclaimed Star Control II, the influences that inspired their design and the challenges they faced during development.”

Experimental Gameplay Workshop
Robin Arnott, Robin Baumgarten, Martzi Campos, Nicky Case, Christopher Cinq-Mars Jarvis, Marc Flury, Brian Gibson, Chaim Gingold, Ryan Green, Vi Hart, Erin Houston, Robin Hunicke, Alexander Krasij, Josh Larson, Eddie Lee, Jonas Maaloe, Kevin Regamey, Justin Sabo, Ivan Safrin, Jimin Song, Yuting Su, Thu Tran, Goksu Ugur, Chris Walker, Austin Wintory, Halay Young

“The Experimental Gameplay Session, which debuted games like Katamari, Damacy, flOw, Braid, Portal and Storyteller, is back for its 13th year at GDC! In this fast-paced, game-packed session we will showcase a selection of surprising and intriguing prototypes made by innovation-minded game developers from all over the world. By demonstrating games that defy conventions and traditions in search for of new genres and ideas, this session aims to ignite the imagination of all game makers. Come see what’s happening on in the world of Experimental Gameplay – and be inspired!”

Failure Workshop
Steve Swink, Ben Esposito, Adam Saltsman, Will Stallwood

“At public conferences like GDC there is a strong success bias. Many times, failure can be more instructive than success. In the Failure Workshop, experienced developers will speak candidly about those times when development didn’t go well, when things didn’t work out, and will share the hard won lessons from their painful misadventures.”

Gaming Against Violence: Effectiveness of Video Games for Abuse Prevention
Drew Crecente

“Although video games are often blamed for a number of societal ills, in this session you will learn that video games are arguably the most effective pedagological approach to violence prevention. The session is from the perspective of a founder of a nonprofit organization who has been working to prevent teen dating violence since 2006 and since 2008 has done so through the use of video games. Session attendees will learn of the evidence-based research which demonstrates the effectiveness of video games for teens, parents, and teachers in preventing teen dating violence. They will also learn what it is about video games that provides a distinct advantage over traditional methods. Attendees will also receive an overview of key games which are being used to combat a variety of topics affecting the mental health and wellness of teenagers, including issues like bullying, suicide, teen pregnancy, and alcohol and drug abuse.”

GDC Microtalks 2015: One Hour, Ten Speakers, Games and Play, and Us
Richard Lemarchand, Lisa Brown, Tim Rogers, Matt Boch, Holly Gramazio, Rami Ismail, Cara Ellison, Naomi Clark, Emily Short, Celia Pearce

“The GDC Microtalks returns with ten short talks about the philosophy, history and futures of the design, art and culture of games and play, all packed into a single hour. The concept is simple: each speaker gets 20 slides, each of which will be displayed for exactly 16 seconds before automatically advancing, giving the speaker exactly five minutes and 20 seconds to make their point. Join our nine amazing speakers along with curator and MC Richard Lemarchand, to receive a rapid-fire mind-blast of original, inspirational, challenging and entertaining takes on the state of the art in games and play.”

How to Make Your Game Just Completely Hilarious: The Stanley Parable
William Pugh

“William Pugh (The Stanley Parable) takes you into a world outside of GDC to a land bereft of seriousness and ethical considerations. He hates how games do comedy and he also hates writing descriptions in the third person. How can we escape this awful trend of procedural humour simulators and get back to the way things were always supposed to be: Writers writing jokes for other video game writers. Octodad and Surgeon Simulator reign supreme in the court of youtube celebrities. Let’s work together to usurp them and replace them with ourselves. Watch William Pugh desperately attempt to deconstruct The Stanely Parable to find an excuse for its success. Be amazed as he lists pre-prepared top tips for making your game funny. Leave in awe at his complementary speaker pass.”

Still Gaming After All These Years
David Mullich, William Volk, Mike Sellers, Jill Miller, Mary-Margaret Walker, Laura Buddine

“According to the Entertainment Software Rating Board, 26% of gamers are over the age of 50, and yet the 2014 IGDA Developer Satisfaction Survey finds that only 1% of game developers are aged 50 and above. In fact, many veteran game developers report that they want to continue to make games but have found job opportunities limited upon reaching the age of 50 and above. Is this due to ageism in game industry hiring practices? This panel, comprised of a veteran game industry executive, game producer, human resources manager, executive recruiter, and developer of games for seniors will present their own experiences as over-50 gaming professionals, examine the myth versus the reality of the contributions of over-50 workers, and provide advice for those over 50 about keeping their skills current and finding opportunities to apply them.”

If you were at GDC, heard about a neat-o talk or GDC, or have found something poking around the Vault yourself, do recommend it for us all to watch, won’t you?


  1. Arren says:

    Reiche and Ford on Star Control? Squee-worthy!

    • Reapy says:

      Simply awesome, it makes me nostalgic for another time in my life. SC2 really embodied a lot of ‘lost’ game design, always trying to be more and show more than was possible with the tech at the time.

      It might not even be possible now since we can actually do a lot of this volume of content for real now, and the expectations for them are through the roof.

      The one thing that struck me was their design of the world has that well thought out, engineer minded lore. What makes sense and is kinda sorta cool and a bit nerdy. A lot of the lore and story now just misses that feel of two clever guys coming up with fun stuff. It might be why most of the world building that appeals to me is based in some part on old pen and paper campaigns (Malazan etc).

      As usual when SC2 comes up, I always say check out starsector if you have not, it’s kind of like mech warrior 2 combat mapped to star control ships with an in work mount & blade like campaign map being built for it. Slow development, but quality stuff. It doesn’t quite have the lore burst that is star control 2, but then again, not many things do.

  2. vorador says:

    I’m so watching the Loom postmortem. I loved that game when i was a kid, and i still tear up a bit when i hear the intro music.

    • Emeraude says:

      Beautiful examples of game design that one had. For sure.

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      Just watched it. It’s pretty great, but then again I did and still do like Loom a great deal.

    • BTA says:

      I’m a student at WPI (though my involvement with game design is a minor, so sadly I haven’t had a class with Moriarty yet); he gave a slightly modified version of the talk here last night and even as someone who hadn’t played Loom it was really interesting and entertaining as well. You’ll probably get way more out of it than I did but it’s definitely worth watching for anyone even slightly interested.

    • Reapy says:

      I know this story is well off the front page but have to say it anyway. This presentation was great. It brought me right back to my childhoold. I was probably 10 when I played through loom and I loved it. The presentation here is really great and was quite moving to watch.

      Even better is the lesson learned on the way game design evolved over the years when you examine the reaction people had towards it. It also was the game that always let me be smugly critical of how ocarina of time’s interface wasn’t original at all.

      “Loom.” I’d say. “Huh?” they would reply.

      Their loss.

  3. emptyskin says:

    Oh, I love how GDC edited a joke about Steam out of William Pugh’s lecture about humor. I hate PR.

    • JackMultiple says:

      Are you talking about the sudden audio dropout about 1:34? It might’ve been an edit, but if you listen to the audio quality after that point, I believe they were switching between two different microphones. I noticed the audio beyond that point has much less bass, like they were switching between a lavalier and a podium mic. I thought it sounded more like a technical gaff than an intentional edit… although I agree the coincidence is unfortunate.

  4. Muzman says:

    This is but one arm of the UBM octopus that means to take over gaming! The feminist Bilderberg cabal acting a stalking horse for World Socialist Government. Through games!
    All right thinking people will guard their minds carefully when absorbing any words from its many mouthed font of lies.

    • BryanTrysers says:

      Wow, these bots are getting weirder.

      • Muzman says:

        I couldn’t believe it when I saw the cheque, but all I had to do was type feminist stuff on twitter and they send me money!

        No…wait. Seriously though, that’s the one aspect of GGs excesses I haven’t seen truly delved into yet. At least in so far as I’ve looked. Seems like the obvious choice given their obsessions (ie. the IGF, GDC and Gamasutra are all owned by the same company). Still, these days they go to some lengths to say that GG had nothing to do with…well, GG. So who knows. Maybe if UMB merges with Gawker then there’ll be some good conspiracy action.

    • Premium User Badge

      Ninja Dodo says:

      Looks like a GG drone frothing about their boogeyman du jour, currently UBM, though it’s true their gibberish is hard to distinguish from spambots at this point.

  5. The Dark One says:

    And RockPaperShotgun’s own Cara Ellison appears on this one: link to :D

  6. Premium User Badge

    Ninja Dodo says:

    Cool stuff! I wish the Vault subscription for full access to all GDC talks was a little more affordable, or available per month or per individual lecture (since you probably don’t need to watch these all year round) , but it’s great that they put a lot of the best ones on the site for free.

    Another good one, Art of Firewatch: link to

  7. Melody says:

    Will probably link more as I watch. For now:
    The great and always funny Todd Harper on fat characters in video games
    link to

    as usual, I will never not link to a piece by Liz Ryerson. On abstract, experimental, non-realistic, weird game design, and how they can convey ideas, concepts and sensations better than the common wisdom of AAA and mainstream-indie game development
    link to

  8. Melody says:

    2 conferences on player behaviour, and general online behaviour.
    The more interesting one was already mentioned by Pip, it’s by Jeffrey “RiotLyte” Lin, and it’s a follow up to his 2013 talk.
    link to

    and a longer, still informative lecture by Ben Lewis Evans on the same topic.
    link to

  9. Shadrach says:

    Jason Scott on how video game history can be saved, Jason’s talks are always fun and interesting:
    link to

    And probably the only speaker wearing a top hat!

  10. KenTWOu says:

    Building Fear in Alien: Isolation – Alistair Hope tells how they made the game. Can’t say that it’s a very interesting design talk, because it’s not ‘what went wrong’ and ‘what went right’ post mortem, but he shows their early tech demo (03:43) and their early third person view prototype (16:05). The latter is definitely worth watching.