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GDC 2014 + Yobonja Update

It's another year, time for another Tobiah at GDC update!

We have not updated the Yobonja blog in a while, so let me first tell you what Angelo, Yekta and I have been up to.

Angelo and Yekta, along with Lita and Michaela formed a new company called "Yazar Media Group LLC"

They've worked on a couple games now, and currently finishing up their next game "Candy Cave".

I started my own company, PlayPerro, but only made a few prototypes before starting a new job at Microsoft. I am now a "Game Evangelist", my job is to promote and teach developers about Microsoft technologies and/or help them release on platforms. You can read my new blog focused on game development at

We are still Yobonja, and plan to do stuff in the future (especially related to Blast Monkeys) when time permits. We've just been busy with our other endeavors, so updates have been slow.

But back to the point, since I started a new blog I wrote my day by day summary OF GDC 2014 over there. In case you weren't aware of it, here are the links to my GDC posts:

I'd recommend reading the final summary first and going back if you're interested.

I hope you enjoy reading them.

Have a blast!



GDC 2013 - Final Day

Last day of GDC!

It's been a busy week. Met a lot of cool people, and it was nice to hang out with old friends I haven't seen in a while, even if I didn't get a chance to met up/hang out with as many of them as I'd like.

I started my day early today. I had to wake up at 5:45am to make my train ride over to hear "Dark Days: a journey through capy's secret gameography" where Kris goes over the history Capybara games. I learned of them after Critter Crunch, and until today I didn't know their full history of all their cellphone games way back in the day before the iPhone/smartphone revolution. Very inspiring how they were able to keep at it and eventually make their dream games.

Afterwards was a talk about guidelines for great mobile kids games. It went over how children develop and how to design with that in mind. What is normal for a 3 year old could be far too advanced for a 2 year old and boring/remedial for a 4 year old. The advice was pretty good, one of the better children's game talks I've attended.

Then there was another rant session called "Mad as Hell" where more developers get a few minutes each to rant and any subject they want. They don't need to be long or polished to be a good talk, the short rants are full of excitement and passion about their subjects, and usually full of humor too.

After lunch with friends I had one last chance to wonder the show floor. Friday isn't the best day for the expo, but there are lots of people giving out last minute swag, so that's always a plus. I did get to see a few booths I hadn't had a chance to check out the last two days.

The last talk of GDC I went to is always the most unique, the experimental gameplay workshop! Games that do something totally new or unique are selected to be shown off and demoed in this session. The experiments shown off here expand designers minds as to what kinds of games we can create. Some of them never see the light of day, and others become the next major indie hits. Either way the session is totally worth it to check out those unique games.

Well, GDC just ended, now it's time for one last dinner with friends before I go home and catch up on my sleep.

Thank you to everybody I met/talked with this year. GDC is a wonderful place and just hanging out so many other cool people and developers makes me feel so inspired to get back to work and make some amazing games.

See you at GDC 2014!


GDC 2013 - Day Four

Day two of the main conference! I stayed up pretty late last night so I was a little tired this morning, like many other people I'm sure.

The first talk I went to today was "The Planning Fallacy", about project planning and why we so often under estimate how long things will take.

Right after was the final game design challenge. The game design challenge was one of my favorite talks at GDC. The formula was every year 3 designers would be given a challenge to design a game with a crazy restriction. Such as multiplayer with other species, needle and thread interface, or a game that features actual real life death. This year was different, this was the 10th and grand final challenge. 6 of the 8 previous game design challenge winners were brought back to compete one last time.

The task this year to make "The last game of humanity", and what that means exactly was left up to the designers. The pitches were varied and fascinating. I think Jason Rohrer's was by far the best, and the people agreed. The details of his game probably warrants a whole blog post in itself that isn't typed on a phone. Maybe I'll write my opinions later.

After the challenge I wanted to attend some more talks in areas I am less familiar with. I went to a talk about Japanese visual novels, which turned out to be very cool. Visual novels are sort of like adventure games, which have had a bit of a resurgence in the last few years. Only in visual novels the games are distilled down to the dialogue choices.

Then I went to a talk about Gambling in games, and the legal issues involved. There are many games of chance, and with free to play games converting money to digital currency to redeem "prizes" (usually virtual) it starts to ride a fine legal line between gaming and gambling.

To end the day I went to a talk about mobile app discovery. It's hard I get noticed on the app stores as more and more apps are being developed every day. It was mostly about paying for users, which we don't really do ourselves. They did share some hard numbers of costs which people normally don't do, so I appreciated that.

Tonight I am off to have some dinner with friends and go to a party or two. But I will try not to stay out too late as I want to make sure I'll be awake for tomorrows talks.

One more day to go!



GDC 2013 - Day Three

The summits are over, today was the first day of the main conference. The expo floor is open in addition to all the lectures.

There are a lot more people here compared to Monday and Tuesday, many more lecture halls being used and harder to fight the crowds to get from point A to point B.

During the day I mostly focused on going to lectures rather than fully exploring the expo. The first lecture I went to was about IP licensing. Licensed titles used to almost always suck, but now more and more are starting to develop better quality games thanks to the feasibility of smaller scale dev cycles in the web and mobile space rather than trying to copy/paste existing AAA console game designs with half the time and budget.

The next talk I went to was a panel on team motivation. We don't have to deal with trying to keep 100+ people motived on a single project for over a year ourselves, but there was some good points discussed.

Then I attended the achievements micro talks. Like the indie soapbox yesterday, it was a collection of smaller talks about how to design good and compelling achievements in your games. This was my favorite talk of the day. Each designers idea of achievements was different, and hearing their thoughts side by side gave good contrast to all the different way you can reward players in your game.

In between all the talks I was able to get a chance to look around the expo hall a little bit. Lots of companies showing off their platforms and SDKs. I didn't have time to talk to many of them but I was able to talk to a few.

Tonight is the awards shows. The independent games festival, and the game developers choice awards. These are always fun to attend. The independent games festival is full of unique games that are worth recognizing, and the game developers choice awards honor the best AAA titles of the previous year.

The show is about to start, so I better turn off my phone!


GDC 2013 - Day Two

Time for the second day of summits at GDC.

Today, I started with the free to play summit. It's funny how different the group of people are in the free to play summits vs. the indie summits, even though there is some overlap in people like us. Everything is focused on the business aspect in the free to play, and games are judged by revenue more than anything else. Where as there is a strong sense that the business side is secondary (or just less relevant/important) in the indie community.

Then I wet back to the mobile summit for a couple of talks about kids apps. First was about the duel customer in children's game, appealing to both the parent and the kid, and the second on what makes a great kids game. It's quite a design challenge to make a game fun for kids when the difference between a 3 year old and a 8 year old is as much as an 8 year old and a 20 year old.

Then I headed back to the free to play summit for two talks about Publishing and Paid apps. Yobonja is 100% indie, no venture capitol or publishers, so it was cool to see another perspective in the industry on how to run companies. The next talk studied how paid apps work in a market flooded with free titles. We've been working mostly in the free space, but paid apps are alive and well even if they aren't topping the revenue charts.

To end the day I went to The Indie Soapbox rants at the Indie summit. This talk is a cool collection of developers who have something they want to get off their chest and gives them a stage and attention of their peers to rant about it. Sometimes the rants suck, sometimes the rants rock, the fun is the variety of people, opinions and outlooks. There were some great rant this year, one of the better collections.

Right now, I am off to the DNA lounge for the Pow Pow concert. Good times!

Tomorrow, the main conference starts.