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GDC 2023 Session Guide for Programmers

Programmers from all over the world come to the Game Developers Conference to learn the latest tools, tips, and methods for developing incredible games. This Session Guide and Walkthrough will help you make the most of your GDC 2023

In our Programming track, learn the latest tools, middleware, and technical skills to develop games across platforms and solve difficult development problems.

The track includes sessions from:

Sign Up For GDC 2023 Now—Prices Increase Jan. 27!

The 2023 Game Developers Conference features hundreds of sessions—covering nearly every discipline, topic, and focus that matters to game developers today. It can be hard to choose! That's why we've created this helpful guide. Head here to view all previous GDC 2023 session guides.

It features some standout sessions, panels, and events dedicated to helping your career and company growth efforts. In addition, we've got tips on making the most of your GDC, and links to GDC Vault videos and Game Developer articles that will help you get pumped for GDC 2023.

Be sure to visit our Session Viewer for a full list of Programming talks at GDC 2023 and get started on prepping that schedule. For those wanting the option to experience every programming session at GDC 2023, be sure to register for an All-Access Pass

Core Session Picks for: Programming

Preparing AI Systems for 'God of War: Ragnarök'
Göksu Uğur (AI Lead, Sony Santa Monica Studio)

Location: Room 303, South Hall
Date: Wednesday, March 22
Time: 9:00 am - 10:00 am

Pass Type: All Access Pass, Core Pass
Description: "This talk goes into multiple AI systems that were either implemented from scratch or improved massively based on the needs of the new game."

Fixing the Unfixable: Techniques that Improved Stability for 'Elder Scrolls Online'
Péter Barabás (Senior Programmer, Nemesys Games)

Location: Room 2005, West Hall
Date: Wednesday, March 22
Time: 10:30 am - 11:00 am

Pass Type: All Access Pass, Core Pass
Description: "The goal of this presentation is to share the techniques used to fix a number of exceptionally difficult bugs, so attendees might better approach and solve their own issues and achieve similarly high levels of stability for their players."

Scaling Tools for Millions of Assets for 'Horizon Forbidden West'
David Marcelis (Senior Tools Programmer, Guerrilla)

Location: Room 2002, West Hall
Date: Wednesday, March 22
Time: 11:30 am - 12:30 pm

Pass Type: All Access Pass, Core Pass
Description: "Gain an insight in some of the tools and data pipelines at a AAA studio that enable the team to efficiently work on ever-larger projects with a growing number of developers."

Case Study: Creating Realistic Facial Motion for 'The Quarry'
Aruna Inversin (Creative Director & VFX Supervisor, Digital Domain)
Peter Rabel (Pipeline Supervisor, Digital Domain)
Rickey Cloudsdale (Facial Rigging Supervisor, Digital Domain)

Location: Room 3016, West Hall
Date: Thursday, March 23
Time: 10:00 am - 11:00 am

Pass Type: All Access Pass, Core Pass
Description: "This deep dive into the Digital Domain facial pipeline will entice developers to think about new approaches to solving human performances onto digital puppets."

Picking A Good Spot: Naughty Dog's Post System
Ming-Lun "Allen" Chou (Game Programmer, Naughty Dog)

Location: Room 303, South Hall
Date: Thursday, March 23
Time: 10:00 am - 11:00 am

Pass Type: All Access Pass, Core Pass
Description: "Game Programmer Ming-Lun 'Allen' Chou will present Naughty Dog's post system and its evolution over time."

Summits Session Picks for: Programming

Advanced Graphics Summit: Realistic Real-Time Sky Dome Rendering in 'Gran Turismo 7'
Kentaro Suzuki (Lead Graphics Programmer, Polyphony Digital Inc.)
Kenichiro Yasutomi (Technical Artist, Polyphony Digital Inc.)
Pass Type: All Access Pass, Summits Pass

Location: Room 301, South Hall
Date: Monday, March 20
Time: 10:50 am - 11:50 am

Description: "Through this session, attendees will gain insight into a method for rendering the sky dome based on a higher quality atmospheric model—compared to conventional methods and its use for real-time rendering."

Tools Summit: Designers Making Tools: How 'Fortnite' Used Blueprints To Make Quest Tools
Eric Carter (Principal Technical Designer, Epic Games)

Location: Room 3004, West Hall
Date: Monday, March 20
Time: 10:50 am - 11:50 am

Pass Type: All Access Pass, Summits Pass
Description: "This talk will explain the benefits of this designer-centric methodology, as well as how anyone who can create UI in Unreal has the skills to create powerful asset editing and management tools and solve inefficiencies in their own workflows."

Online Game Technology Summit: Hallucinations: Baiting Cheaters Into Self-Identifying by Reversing Detection
David Durst (PhD Candidate, Stanford University)
Carly Taylor (Senior Manager, Security Strategy, Activision Publishing, Inc.)

Location: Room 3005, West Hall
Date: Monday, March 20
Time: 4:40 pm - 5:10 pm

Pass Type: All Access Pass, Summits Pass
Description: "This talk will discuss a complementary anti-cheat technique, hallucinations, that baits cheating players into identifying themselves."

Math in Game Development Summit: Heat Is Magic
Squirrel Eiserloh (Professor of Practice, SMU Guildhall)

Location: Room 2006, West Hall
Date: Tuesday, March 21
Time: 9:30 am - 10:30 am

Pass Type: All Access Pass, Summits Pass
Description: "In this talk, Squirrel Eiserloh, Professor of Practice at SMU Guildhall, will explore a variety of different types and applications of heat maps, including (signed) distance fields, flow fields, and several other types of spatial metadata."

Machine Learning Summit: Natural Language Generation for Games Writing
Ben Swanson (Research Scientist, Ubisoft)

Location: Room 2010, West Hall
Date: Tuesday, March 21
Time: 10:50 am - 11:50 am

Pass Type: All Access Pass, Summits Pass
Description: "In this session, Ben Swanson, Research Scientist at Ubisoft, will present a system that allows the narrative designer to seed their designs with first draft text that can then be accepted, edited, or regenerated by writers at the click of a button."

Open Source Game Development Summit: Agones and Quilkin: OSS Multiplayer Game Server Service Mesh on Kubernetes
Mark Mandel (Developer Advocate, Google Cloud)

Location: Room 201, South Hall
Date: Tuesday, March 21
Time: 2:10 pm - 2:40 pm

Pass Type: All Access Pass, Summits Pass
Description: "In this talk, Mark Mandel, Developer Advocate at Google Cloud, will look at how anyone can utilize Quilkin's native Agones integration to provide a turnkey solution for proxying UDP traffic to game servers."

AI Summit: AI for Testing at EA: From 'Star Wars' to 'Apex' and Beyond
Jonas Gillberg (Senior AI Engineer, Electronic Arts)

Location: Room 2002, West Hall
Date: Tuesday, March 21
Time: 4:10 pm - 5:10 pm

Pass Type: All Access Pass, Summits Pass
Description: "Jonas will describe those test bots and their evolution over the following years. He will talk about how the technology has matured and expanded across titles and studios at EA by showing examples from several of the projects where the bots have been applied."

5 Tips for Making the Most of Your GDC

1. Join a roundtable: Our talks and panels are amazing, but be sure to bookmark at least one roundtable during your time at GDC. They're a great way to get hands-on with a topic of interest, as well as network with your industry colleagues. Programming-adjacent roundtables include: AI Roundtable, Technical Artist Roundtable, Tools Roundtable, and Automated Testing Roundtable

2. Plan your Expo Floor tour: The GDC 2023 Expo Floor features hundreds of booths and exhibitors, and many of them are seeking to grow their talent pools (or are promoting their services). Be sure to visit our interactive Floor Plan so you can map out the spots you want to visit, and make sure to reach out to the exhibitors on Swapcard (once available) to request meetings at their booths. 

3. Network in our community spaces: It's time to rejoice: Community spaces are returning to GDC 2023! Not only are they a place to unwind during the day, they're also the perfect spot to network with industry colleages and prospective employers. Head to our Floor Plan to see our community spaces throughout the Expo Floor, including interactive spaces for certain disciplines and the GDC Play Lounge. 

4. Search the #Programming hashtag: Many GDC attendees network and connected on social media using the #Programming hashtag (in conjunction with #GDC23)—especially on Twitter, Instagram, Mastodon, and TikTok. Head there to find your peers, as well as suggestions for industry-specific Discord groups to join. 

5. Check out alt.ctrl.GDC: If you're wanting to see the latest innovations in game programming and alternative controllers, look no further than alt.ctrl.GDC on the Expo Floor. Several developers have brought their groundbreaking (and often unexpected) games and controllers to showcase at GDC. Attendees of all pass levels can play them for free, and chat with the devs. 

Watch and Read

VIDEO: Architecting Jolt Physics for 'Horizon Forbidden West': Jorrit Rouwe (GDC 2022)

VIDEO: Never The Same Twice: Procedural World Handling in 'Returnal': Ethan Watson (GDC 2022)

ARTICLE: Using AI bots as game development tools, not replacements with Carli Velocci

ARTICLE: Breaking the cycle of cheating in The Cycle: Frontier (Bryant Francis)

Watch more Programming talks on GDC Vault here

This is the latest in our series of Session Guides for GDC 2023, with recommendations for sessions, events, networking opportunities, and more. Head here to view all previous GDC 2023 session guides.

Of course, the only way to see these sessions, and so much more, is to sign up for GDC! 

Register for GDC 2023 Here

We can’t wait to see you at GDC 2023, taking place March 20-24, 2023 at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco, California. Head here for information on booking a hotel and other travel inquiries, and follow the #GDC23 hashtag for the latest news and updates for this year’s exciting event.

GDC returns to San Francisco this March 20-24, 2023, and registration is now open! For more information, be sure to visit our website and follow the #GDC23 hashtag on social media.

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