David, Nicholas, Mr. Dykstra and I were down in San Francisco for the annual Game Developers Conference (as you may have noticed from our impressively slapped together post from last week), and we thought it might be cool to give you guys a little bit of an idea what that’s like, why we were there, and what happened.


Daniel: Got in late in the afternoon, haggered after attempting to move myself to Vancouver (unsuccessfully) in 2 days by cramming everything in a minivan.  Bought the most expensive public transit pass of my life for a 1-way trip to downtown ($9!  thanks Bart).  Found hotel, collapsed in a heap until the other guys arrived, then we went to eat dinner at the restaurant that David dubbed “Fleshy’s Steakhouse.”

Nicholas: Went for dinner – to the steakhouse in the hotel lobby, which was good and featured a great deal of bourbon. David watching me eat steak tartare, with a mixture of fascination and revulsion, will haunt me for about the next two weeks.

Vowed to put Fleshy’s Steakhouse in Clockwork Empires.

A Yellow Obleskian Monolithic terrifies the conference attendees.


Daniel: Watched some talks given by indies and AI teams doing squad shooters trying to get some ideas for squad tactics in CE.  Some neat stuff there, and if we ever get back to Dredmor development the XCOM AI system would work very neatly there.

Ran into Tomislav Uzelac of Unity of Command – awesome guy!  We had lunch, griped about troubles with distribution and getting funding for games.  I believe this is the point where I drenched myself in steaming hot coffee and seriously scalded my left hand.  The coffee shop would later be dubbed “The Burning Hand”, and for some strange reason, I kept going back.

Nicholas: Watched more AI talks. In particular, the “future of AI” talk was interesting; the first half of the AI talk was about our message-passing system (well, somebody else’s version of it) and the second half of the AI talk was about our utility function system. The animation talk for the new Hitman game was both invigorating and terrifying, because we don’t have an animation controller yet.

Snuck into the Sony PS3 indie event. I was going to go crash another party (the IGN one) but I collapsed, in a heap, with mysterious chills.

I woke up later, trying to find somebody for dinner, at 10 PM. My good friend Avery, formerly of Popcap and now at, uh, Z2? – was up for it. Dinner, however, turned into “Drinks.” Drinks turned into “Drinks at the Goth Club. And dancing.” So that happened at “Death Guild” at the DNA Lounge. It was good. We ended up going for pancakes at 4 in the morning, and talking about the secrets of life and death.

Chris Dykstra, our business manager, found a note on his door when he arrived at the hotel: “Gone networking at goth club. Please wake for breakfast.”

David next to a statue of Transdimensional Zombie Reagan.


Daniel: Met Jurie Horneman!  We talked about how weird it is trying to find a job title that makes sense in an indie studio.  Had a salad, sat in a great park near the conference with Jurie, Tomislav, Nicholas, David, and some new friends and talked about transmitting mechanical force over distances.

At this point I think we sneaked into a major “Announce Party” from a gigantic game publisher and drank as much of their beer as we could before we hurried out to a gathering of game developers at a weirdly awesome bar.  We left when the people dressed as lobsters got on stage.

Nicholas: Somewhere in here we also went to the Spacechem talk, which was awesome. Zach probably has worse tutorials than we do. Another networking event took us back to the DNA Lounge, where we would spend three nights in a row out of a possible five. David ate vegan pizza at the DNA lounge’s attached pizza shop, and felt good about it.

The pizza was named after Morrisey. Or possibly Sting.

Daniel: Oh yeah, Zach!  That guy is awesome, you should buy Spacechem.


Daniel: Meetings day!  We had the opportunity to meet our assigned Valve human for the first time!  Very weird to have some great working relationships with some great people that are crucial to your business and never to have met them in person (this is a recurring theme across indie game development).  That was really cool.  Met our new (awesome) PR person for the first time too! We had a lot to drink in a hotel lounge that has windows like the Death Star.

Nicholas: Went to a very strange Indie Party. It was, frankly, kind of dead, so then we went to the Valve party and invited various people as our +1s. Our new PR person successfully bonded with the company, through alcohol. The Valve party was fantastic. After it died down, I went *back* to the Indie Party and caught the tail end of a DJ set by Phil Fish, who is… surprisingly nice and totally unlike his Twitter feed in person. A mystery wrapped in an enigma, like all good Canadians. At this point my very good friend James showed up, gave me a 12 year old Scotch in a shot glass, and we ended up going out for pancakes at about 4 in the morning and talking about the secrets of life and death.

David, dancing at the Valve party.


Nicholas: Breakfast, at 8:30 AM, with Alex Evans, the Technical Director of Media Molecule. He was, apparently, “impressed by my hangover control.” Alex and I talked about the joys of technical directorship and mainly just wanting to be left alone, and hashed out a cool thing for Clockwork Empires which you will see… later. Thanks, Alex, for supplying the missing piece!

Then: Meetings! First with AMD, then with NVIDIA. People want us to do things for them, and I got a handful of technical contacts for CE.

At some point, Chris Dykstra burned his hand at the Coffee Shop of the Burning Hand. Cue chanting – “one of us! one of us!”, etc.

Did not go to any of the night’s party invitations. We had a choice between either Skrillex, or Humpty Hump. I was going to choose Humpty Hump, and was disappointed that this was not something I could do due to Exhaustion.

Daniel: Received tiny bottles of artisanal Texan vodka from a guy named Eric.  Thanks Eric!

Daniel assumes the Despair Position prior to our meeting with NVIDIA.



Seriously dogmatic tea drinking.  Sat next to the Path of Exile dev team talking about their upcoming features (which I can’t talk about, game developers / tea drinkers code and all that).  Talked to Evan from PC Gamer about how the project is going, which we will tell you guys more about soon!


David burned his hand at the Coffee Shop of the Burning Hand. “One of us! One of us! Burning Hand! etc.” I think the coffee shop staff were quite terrified of us by then.

We also showed Clockwork Empires to the first people outside of the office to have seen it – Matthew Steele, our composer; our new PR person, Stephanie Schopp; and Ash Matheson, a long-time friend of mine who is currently serving time at EA Bioware as a lead for a team of people doing some stuff. The reactions were exceedingly positive, and made us feel better.

Stephanie, in particular, went from “This game looks cuter than I imagined it looking when you described it” to “OH MY GOD THAT THING IS THE STUFF OF MY NIGHTMARES” in about 30 seconds. Well done, everybody.

Random encounters with Andrew Dice at Carpe Fulgar and Rob Zeboyd at Zeboyd (makers/porters of Recettear and the upcoming Penny Arcade game, respectively.) In the end, we staggered back to our hotel, and were too tired to do anything but get food at the restaurant that looked, in my words, “like somewhere my father would eat and where we should absolutely never go.” Terrifyingly efficient service ensued, in a fine and somewhat European tradition of being scowled at by a 70-year old woman while you eat.


Daniel: Went back home, cleaned entire apartment.

Nicholas: Played board games with editorial staff of PC Gamer, then stopped downtown to drop a stuffed Diggle off for a long-time Gaslamp supporter. In the process of doing this, I discovered that I was Very Late for my flight checkin at SFO and desperately hailed a cab. The cab driver, a calmly mustachioed man, told me that, quote, “on his honour, and on the honour of San Francisco, I would make it to my flight.” He then asked me if I like Zamfir. Why yes, yes I do.

Cue fifteen minutes of the cab driver yelling and navigating his way through traffic back at the hotel, listening to passive-aggressive pan flute music. At one point he pulled into my hotel’s taxi line up and yelled, “Bellboy! Get this man his baggage! The honour of San Francisco depends on it!” The Bellboy did so, and we pulled out into San Francisco traffic at approximately one hundred and fifty miles per hour.

I did, indeed, get to my flight. My one regret is that I did not burn my hand at the coffee shop. Now I will never know what it is to fear the night.

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16 Responses to “GDC!”

  1. Darkmere says:

    This sounds a lot like the parts of Dragon*Con that I can remember. Too much to do, too much to see, WAY too much to drink, and no time for sleep. Fond memories!

    You guys are hilariawsome, which I just made up.

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  2. HomerGunther says:

    This has finally proven my standing hypothesis that Game Birthing is indubitably an act of Magick, there for requiring ubiquitous and constant ingestion of Mana Elixirs for the Ancient Creation-Rituals to be fully and completely fulfilled and enacted. Well done Good Sirs, you have furthered the field of Science!

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  3. Samuel Marston says:

    Please don’t go Sony exclusive! Wheel and deal all you want, but please remember us open platform plebes!

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    • Not planning on it 🙂

      Edit: Or.. erm. Not planning on going Sony exclusive, and we have no plans whatsoever to stop supporting open platforms. Seriously, open platforms are very important to us!

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      • Samuel Marston says:

        Glad to hear it! I just found out the new Vanillaware game is going Sony exclusive when it looks like something the PC crowd would buy en masse.
        <3 you guys.

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  4. Null says:

    All I have to say is, having only seen his name here
    Chris Dykstra should learn to program than create an algorithm marginally related to connected graphs.

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  5. Detritus says:

    So you’re putting it out on consoles?! Blasphemy!

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  6. Bluerps says:

    This sounds like I always imagined an event like that. Man, sometimes I wish I were a games developer. Scientific conferences can be so boring (and there is way less booze).

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  7. Pertusaria says:

    Really enjoyed that, thank you. It sounds a lot like my local games convention, except with actual business deals (and probably better food / booze).

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  8. Godwin says:

    Full of mana, heehee 🙂

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  9. Robert Tseng says:

    “The Burning Hand” will be in the game in some form or fashion yes? Whether as a steam powered plebian beverage distribution center, or some sort of cult of hand burning artifact miners (kinda like the benedictine monks i guess, but with coffee), or maybe some sort of coffee-steam powered weapon?

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  10. tentacled-godqueen says:

    Out of curiosity do you know if those talks on squad AI are available online anywhere, either as summaries/writeups or videos?

    Also on another point, any game that can go from “omg cute!” to nightmares in 30 seconds has to win something XP

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    • They do upload all of the videos to, but they don’t make all of them freely accessible and it’s not cheap, sadly.

      There are SOME I think freely available, but none of the 2013 talks are up anywhere just yet. Still, worth checking out.

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      • tentacled-godqueen says:

        Yeah as one of those ‘funding game development with her disability checks’ developers I’m… probably not able to afford access to anything like that.

        I’ll look around though/keep a look out to see if I can find any free coverage of it.

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