Posts tagged conference
GDC 2018 wrap-up

By Jon Manning (@desplesda), co-founder of Secret Lab.

Alec Holowka accepting the Seumas McNally Grand Prize for Night in the Woods at the 2018 Independent Games Festival.

So, I’m back from GDC 2018.

We’ve been going to GDC for 9 years now. If we go next year, I’ll have been wandering in and out of the Moscone Centre for a decade.

We started going to GDC because we were living in California, and happened to have the spare resources and time to attend it. We were always attending from the viewpoint that it would be useful to have an idea of what the game dev community is like, and to try to do the thing that business types call “networking” and regular humans call “making friends”. We didn’t realise they were the same thing until our fifth year of going.

Like many attendees at GDC, we were going aspirationally. While we’ve always been game developers—our first ever release was a tiny little competitive puzzler called Culture, in 2008—we never felt like we were part of the larger conversation, and I’m pretty sure that that feeling I shared with most people I see who aren’t frequently seen in groups in the halls.

I don’t have any advice here for people who want to change that for themselves. All I have is that, around the time we started working on Night in the Woods, I had a group of friends who all work in the same field and never see each other except at international gatherings like GDC. While not all of these people are team members on the game we worked on, having a thing that serves as the anchor for a group that we’re part of made my experience significantly less lonely, and a lot more focused.

This is the second GDC that I’ve given a talk at. This year, I talked about Grabthar’s Hammer, the compression technique that we built for the iOS version of Night in the Woods. People liked the talk! I had a number of people with questions afterwards, and I think I answered them pretty well. They’ll have ended up on the recording. I’ll probably end up cringing hugely when I review the video. Worth it.

This is the first GDC in which a game we worked on was up for awards at either the Independent Games Festival or the Game Developers Choice Awards. Night in the Woods was up for three awards in each. People like the game, I think. That’s nice.

Night in the Woods won two awards, both of them in the Independent Games Festival. We won Excellence in Narrative, and the Seumas McNally Grand Prize, and it felt weird and good to be at the table and hear it. For each of the awards that we were nominated for, I’d picked out a game that wasn’t ours that we were rooting for, and at the moment of the announcement, I was crossing my fingers for them. For the awards that we didn’t win, my picks won about half the time; for the times we did win, it was a huge surprise. I think I remember loudly shouting “what the fuck” when the announcement for the Grand Prize was made.

We’d already met before the event, and talked about what our plans were if we won. We didn’t want to bore the audience with everyone having a chance to talk, so we decided to limit who was going to talk; Scott, as the primary face of the game, would speak, and if we won the grand prize, we’d take advantage of the fact that it was the end of the event to get others to say a few words.

I don’t remember much about the journey up to the stage. I do remember focusing on the fact that I was potentially on camera, so I had to maintain my stage face. I do remember noticing, for the first time, that you can’t hear what the person at the microphone is saying. I had to wait until I was back home and could watch the recording to hear what Scott, Alec, Bethany and Bekah had said.

After you’re done giving whatever remarks you have, you’re taken off stage, and led into an area with cameras and people who want to take pictures. I don’t remember much about this either, but I do remember being formed into a line and having pictures taken. There are selfies on my phone with Adam and Bekah that I only fuzzily remember.

We ended up leaving the awards shortly after the final award we were nominated for was announced. We walked down to Zero Zero, and ordered pizza. Adam proposed a toast. It was the same toast he’d given last year, less than a week after the game’s launch: “It shouldn’t have worked.”

People usually warn against putting people on pedestals. Having attended GDC and other community events as a face in the crowd, it’s hard to avoid doing that. This is the GDC in which a lot of my heroes came down off the pedestals, and I ended up just hanging out with them and making friends. I left GDC more emotionally fulfilled than when I came in. The indie games scene (which is a very specific thing, and is not the only group of people independently producing games) relies very much on personal networks of friends, and until you have that relationship, it can feel quite isolating.

Team Night in the Woods, on the last day of GDC 2018. From left to right: Jon Manning, Alec Holowka, Em Halberstadt, Adam Saltsman, Rebekah Saltsman, Bethany Hockenberry, Scott Benson. Photo taken by Felix Kramer.

We need to get back to work on Night in the Woods now! More from us soon...

Doing things the hard way

This year, we gave a talk at GDC called “Making Night in the Woods Better with Open Source”. In it, we talked about how Night in the Woods, which came out last month and you should totally go buy, used the open source process in its development.

Unlike most of our other talks, we did something a little ridiculous with this one - we built an entire presentation system, from scratch, into Night in the Woods. We’re actually pretty proud of this, and so we put together a video showing how it was done. Check it out!

The talk from GDC is also available online, and we've embedded it below:

Conferences in May 2016

It's May and we're off to a whole lot of conferences, all in the USA:

If you're at any of these events, come say hello, email us, or tweet us @thesecretlab!

Open Data + Video Games = Win

At 2016, in Geelong, we presented a talk on our experiences building video games at open data hackathons, such as GovHack. The video and slides are now available! The video is available on YouTube, and embedded below, and the slides are available on SpeakerDeck.

We had a great time preparing and delivering this talk! You can check out our GovHack entries from 2014 and 2015 online.

YOW! Connected 2015

We've been at YOW! Connected in Melbourne this week. It's been pretty awesome, and we've met lots of cool people doing awesome things with mobile and IoT. We gave two presentations!

The first was the latest update to our How Do I Game Design? session, covering just enough game design theory to make you dangerous. You can watch a video of this session from OSCON 2015:

The second was called Watch This Face, and covered the philosophical design differences between Android Wear and Apple's watchOS. You can grab the slides from Speaker Deck:

And, because apparently we can't get by without giving a plug for our books, don't forget to check out our new books; you can get them for 50% off with code WKIOS9.

iOS development conferences!

YOW! Connected

We just got back from speaking at the YOW! Connected mobile and Internet of Things conference in Melbourne – it was lots of fun (and a nice successor to Swipe Conference, which we spoke at both years that it ran).

We presented two, completely different, sessions:

  • How to build games for children – on the design and production of mobile games for younger children
  • Building iOS apps for IoT devices: a case study of the Holiday by MooresCloud

The slides from the IoT talk are available on SpeakerDeck now, and the games for children talk will be available soon.

We'll definitely be at YOW! Connected near year – it was awesome!


Up next for us is /dev/world/2014 – Australia's oldest iOS and Mac developer conference. We're helping to organise /dev/world this year, and it's shaping up to be bigger and better than ever! It's happening later this month: September 29 and 30, in Melbourne.

We've announced three great feature presentations:

We've also announced many fantastic speakers, including people from Google, CanvaAccessibilityOzAppbotReckoner, Fairfax, and Shiny Things, amongst many others!

There will be workshops on the use of Xcode for development, as well as one on Swift, Apple's new language (we're running that one!)

As we said in our previous blog post, Secret Lab wouldn't exist without /dev/world – we've been attending since 2008, and it's part of what helped us build a company and learnt to design and create great software. 

If you're in the developer community, and you're interested in iOS, Mac, Swift, or game or app development in general, you don't want to miss this conference.