Indie developers shine at GDC 2013

Game Developers Conference 2013 came to an end Friday after bringing video game industry affiliates together for a week of programming, discussion and marketing.

Now running for over two decades, GDC is an annual industry showcase to bring programmers, artists, producers, designers, and businesspeople together for hundreds of lectures, panels, tutorials and round tables on the state of interactive entertainment.

This year, the GDC provided an opportunity for independent game developers to showcase their work along tech giants like chip maker Intel and game developer Nintendo.

The expo show floor was busy with companies promoting the latest in game development technology and career opportunities.

A career pavilion allowed companies to publicize available jobs for students and industry professions. For example, Valve Software, a Seattle-based company known for its Steam digital game distribution system, was diligently reviewing artist portfolios and giving talks on the company’s unorthodox approach to game development structure.

Valve prefers to hire based on what individuals can contribute overall to the company as opposed to a more rigid managerial hierarchy with specific game development roles like programmers and designers.

Opposite the career pavilion, independent game developers showcased their games for attendees to see and play demos. One of the busiest booths was for trying out the Oculus Rift, a new 3D virtual reality headset providing a new kind of immersive gaming experience.

This year the GDC has been drawing more attention to independent game development in addition to the larger, most established development studios.

Justin Ma of Subset Games commented as he was showing off his recently finished title FTL: Faster Than Light at the Independent Games Festival Pavilion:

“There’s a lot more focus on indies.”

When the convention handed out its 13th Annual Game Developers Choice Awards, one-third of the nominee pool came from indie games. Ma’s Subset Games earned an award for Best Debut.

Subset launched a crowdsourcing campaign for FTL around the time San Francisco game developer Double Fine funded a game without the need for a traditional game publisher. Ma notes the arrangement was helpful in getting press attention for FTL and connections with members of the press and game developers.

Cloud computing was also a hot topic as companies showed off new streaming and virtual computing technologies in an expanding developer environment.

PR and eCommerce Director for cloud gaming firm OnLine Kevin Keating told SFBay:

“Clearly other people think this is the future as well.”

While OnLive avoided bankruptcy a few months ago with its sale to venture capitalist Gary Lauder, the company has been expanding its library of digital games to stream to customers using a PC or a set top box connected to a television set.

Keating is proud that the company’s commitment to the end users has allowed a feedback loop for the past three years to deliver what he called the best game streaming experience possible in the market.

OnLive offers support to independent games development in addition to blockbuster game titles and promises its subscribers a lag-free game experience without the need for potentially expensive hardware upgrades.

As GDC wrapped, the video game industry looks forward at challenges faced in development of titles from big budget releases to small mobile phone games.

The convention paves the way for more trade shows including the Electronic Entertainment Expo this July and GDC Europe in August.