The Best Game Design Talks / by Abhay Ramakrishnan

GDCVault is one of the best learning resources for those who want to make games. Each GDCVault video session is between 30 minutes to 1 hour long. The speakers are game development industry leaders who've most probably worked on a game that you love. In these sessions, they share fascinating insights into why they made their games the way they did, the mistakes they made, how you can avoid making them too and advice for aspiring game makers.

GDCVault Homepage

GDCVault Homepage

But this treasure trove of knowledge is kind of useless, unless you commit to keeping time aside to absorb the information packed into each talk. That's why I started the 'GDCVault Game Design Screening' sessions in Zynga Studio-I. Every Monday, at 6 PM sharp I screen one or two talks. During and after each talk all the attending designers and PMs have a discussion as to how we can incorporate the learnings from each session into the design of our games.

My interests are inclined towards the ‘Design’ track. This includes primarily Narrative, Design, Game Design, System Design, Indie Development and Free to Play talks.

Some talks are free, while others are ‘Members Only’. To access ‘Members Only’ sessions, you need to purchase a one year subscription to the GDCVault. Though the “Members Only’ videos are behind a paywall, all sessions' presentations are always free on the GDCVault website. Use the search field on the top right to find a 'Members Only' session link's presentation link.

Recently, they’ve also been uploading popular talks directly onto their YouTube channel. Do subscribe to that too -

Here are my tips for getting the most out of these talks –

  1. Schedule and keep time aside for watching these talks

  2. Always bring a notepad and keep taking notes

  3. Try watching with a group and discuss

  4. After a few months, go back and review the notes you took during a past session

Here are the links of the 31 video sessions I recommend Game Designers see -

  1. Session Name - AI-driven Dynamic Dialog through Fuzzy Pattern Matching. Empower Your Writers!
    Speaker - Elan Ruskin
    Company Name - Valve Corporation

  2. Session Name - Darkest Dungeon: A Design Postmortem
    Speaker - Tyler Sigman
    Company Name - Red Hook Studios

  3. Session Name - Skill, Matchmaking, and Ranking Systems Design
    Speaker - Josh Menke
    Company Name - Activision Publishing

  4. Session Name - Twenty Years, Twenty Lessons
    Speaker - Mark Rosewater
    Company Name - Wizards of the Coast

  5. Session Name - Rami Ismail to indie startups: You Don't Stand a Chance
    Speaker - Rami Ismail
    Company Name – Vlambeer

  6. Session Name - "Luck in Games" talk at ITU Copenhagen
    Speaker - Richard Garfield

  7. Session Name - Storytime with Jonathan Blow at PAX East 2016
    Speaker - Jonathan Blow

  8. Session Name - Idle Chatter: What We Can Learn From Self-Playing Games
    Speaker - Anthony Pecorella
    Company Name - Kongregate

  9. Session Name - Conference Keynote: Shigeru Miyamoto
    Speaker - Shigeru Miyamoto
    Company Name - Nintendo Co. Ltd.

  10. Session Name - “Method”: Mark Cerny
    Speaker – Mark Cerny

  11. Session Name - Overwatch - The Elusive Goal: Play by Sound
    Speakers - Scott Lawlor, Tomas Neumann
    Company Name - Blizzard Entertainment

  12. Session Name - Forget Protagonists: Writing NPCs with Agency for '80 Days' and Beyond
    Speaker - Meg Jayanth

  13. Session Name - FRAMED: A Recipe for Critical Success
    Speaker - Joshua Boggs
    Company Name - Loveshack

  14. Session Name - Design by Constraints: Hitman GO Design Postmortem
    Speaker - Daniel Lutz
    Company Name - Square Enix Montreal

  15. Session Name - A Course About Game Balance
    Speaker - Ian Schreiber
    Company Name - Rochester Institute of Technology

  16. Session Name - King of Thieves': Designing a F2P Game that's Different
    Speaker - Eugene Yailenko
    Company Name - ZeptoLab

  17. Session Name - Balancing Your Game: A Formula-Driven Approach
    Speaker - Brian Davis
    Company Name - Wooga GmbH

  18. Session Name - Be Spiky: A Decade of New Ideas
    Speaker - Jamie Cheng
    Company Name - Klei Entertainment

  19. Session Name - Narrative Legos
    Speaker - Ken Levine
    Company Name - Irrational Games

  20. Session Name - Choice, Consequence and Complicity
    Speaker - Alexis Kennedy
    Company Name - Failbetter Games

  21. Session Name - Dynamic Stories for Dynamic Games: Six Ways to Give Each Player a Unique Narrative
    Speaker - Richard Rouse III
    Company Name - Paranoid Productions

  22. Session Name - Making Moves: Designing Spartan Abilities for 'Halo 5: Guardians'
    Speaker - Ryan Darcey
    Company Name - 343 Industries

  23. Session Name Change and Constant: Breaking Conventions with 'The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild'
    Speakers - Takuhiro Dohta, Hidemaro Fujibayashi, Satoru Takizawa
    Company Name – Nintendo

  24. Session Name Quest for the Healthy Metagame: Balancing Cards in 'Clash Royale'
    Speaker - Stefan Engblom
    Company Name - Supercell

  25. Session Name Classic Game Postmortem: 'Sid Meier's Civilization'
    Speakers - Sid Meier, Bruce Shelley
    Company Name - Firaxis Games, Independent

  26. Session Name Playtesting: Avoiding Evil Data
    Speaker - Adriaan de Jongh

  27. Session Name - 'Mini Metro': When Less is More
    Speaker - Jamie Churchman

  28. Session Name - Rewards in Video Games
    Speaker - Travis Day
    Company Name - Blizzard Entertainment

  29. Session Name - Absolutely No Pressure: Continuing a Successful Game Series with 'Civilization VI'
    Speaker - Ed Beach
    Company Name - Firaxis Games

  30. Session Name - Systems Make Statements: Simulations and Intentional Design
    Speaker - Elizabeth Sampat
    Company Name - PopCap Games

  31. Session Name Interviewing for Game Design
    Speaker - Richard Carrillo
    Company Name - Ubisoft Toronto

I also post which talks we will be watching in Zynga on Twitter. So, if you want to find stay up to date with which sessions we are seeing, just follow me @abhayram!

A few months later, I will be following up on this post with a part 2.

Happy learning!