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Session Guide for 2023 IGF Awards and GDCA-Nominated Games

Dozens of incredible indie and AAA studios are featured as finalists and honorable mentions in the 2023 Independent Games Festival and Game Developers Choice Awards—and many of them are speaking at the Game Developers Conference. Head here for a list of some of the amazing sessions featuring top picks from IGF and GDCA. 

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 IGF and GDCA Nominees sessions guide—the latest in our series of Session Guides for GDC 2023, with recommendations for sessions, events, networking opportunities, and more. 

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This IGF and GDCA Nominees guide features some of the talks, panels, and roundtables featuring developers behind some of this year's finalists and honorable mentions games, including God of War Ragnarök, TUNIC, IMMORTALITY, and more. Find out how some of these games created their award-nominated sights, sounds, and experiences—as well as how they got them in the hands of players around the world. 

We've also included links to recommended GDC Vault videos and Game Developer articles featuring some of the winners from last year's GDCA and IGF Awards. 

Session Picks on IGF and GDCA-Nominated Games

Independent Games Summit: Gorillaz, Monkees, K/DA, and OFK: Creating Virtual Identity (GDCA and IGF Awards)
Teddy Dief (Creative Director & Vocalist, OFK)

Location: Room 2005, West Hall
Date: Monday, March 20
Time: 9:30 am - 10:30 am

Pass Type: All Access Pass, Summits Pass, Independent Games Summit Pass
Topic: Independent Games
Description: "The director of the OFK project, and lead singer of OFK, will walk through how virtual identity has progressed since the 1960s across television, music, games, and VTubers. Then they will dive into the meat of how OFK was conceived and constructed: the design pillars, techniques, and social priorities of Team OFK as it operated during the creation of the We Are OFK game, and how it continues to operate as a band."
More We Are OFK sessions here

Preparing for 'God of War Ragnarök' (GDCA Finalist)
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
Topic: Programming
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. Specific topics include the challenges and problems solved during while migrating engineering and design teams to using behavior trees instead of Lua scripting, systems implemented to give AI more awareness about their surroundings and the new enhanced movement in vertical combat spaces."
More God of War Ragnarök sessions here

A Narrative Multiverse: The Branching Structure of 'As Dusk Falls' (GDCA)
Brad Kane (Narrative Director, Interior Night)

Location: Room 301, South Hall
Date: Wednesday, March 22
Time: 11:30 am - 12:30 pm

Pass Type: All Access Pass, Core Pass
Topic: Design
Description: "In this talk, Brad Kane, Narrative Director at INTERIOR/NIGHT, explores the principles that went into bringing a prestige interactive drama to life, and how interactive writer-designers can use both halves of the brain to navigate a "narrative multiverse." He'll dive into into how, when designing an interactive story, it's important to think in terms of a complex story tree made of meaningful and elegant narrative structures."

An 'IMMORTALITY' Project: Creating the Ultimate Interactive Movie (GDCA and IGF Awards)
Sam Barlow (Game Director, Drowning a Mermaid Productions, Inc.)

Location: Room 2005, West Hall
Date: Thursday, March 23
Time: 10:00 am - 11:00 am

Pass Type: All Access Pass, Core Pass
Topic: Design
Description: "Learn about the design processes and prototypes that allowed the team to explore the game ideas and structure. How the ambitious and layered story was outlined and researched, and how the team collaborated with notable screenwriters to tap into authenticity. How game design learning translates into the production and directing of the three movies worth of footage. Finally, what learnings other teams can take from this ambitious and boundary pushing title to apply to their own genres and game ideas."

The Cinematics of 'Horizon Forbidden West' (GDCA)
Ismaël Auray (Cinematics Director, Guerrilla)

Location: Room 3016, West Hall
Date: Thursday, March 23
Time: 11:30 am - 12:30 pm

Pass Type: All Access Pass, Core Pass
Topic: Design, Visual Arts
Description: "Horizon Forbidden West is one of the few games that showcases a colossal 22 hours of cinematic content across an open-world game. This presentation proposes an exclusive breakdown of key scenes, principles and tools the project uses to sustain a high visual fidelity across the experience."
More Horizon Forbidden West sessions here

Realizing 'TUNIC's' Design Goals Through Audio World-Building (GDCA and IGF Awards)
Kevin Regamey (Creative Director, Power Up Audio)

Location: Room 3002, West Hall
Date: Thursday, March 23
Time: 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Pass Type: All Access Pass, Core Pass, Audio Pass
Topic: Audio
Description: "This talk will cover establishing creative direction early, using game design to inform audio decisions, methods used in sound effects design, and overcoming challenges in technical implementation. Kevin will break down and demonstrate how these methods could be used directly (or as inspiration) in your own game projects to further engage your players."
More TUNIC sessions here

The Production Secrets of 'Return to Monkey Island' (GDCA)
Jenn Sandercock (Producer, Inquisiment & Terrible Toybox)

Location: Room 2005, West Hall
Date: Thursday, March 23
Time: 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Pass Type: All Access Pass, Core Pass
Topic: Production & Team Leadership
Description: "Gain production insights from Return to Monkey Island's lead producer, Jenn Sandercock, about the two-year development cycle, working with an iconic IP, and building a no-crunch, fully remote team of 25 in absolute secrecy. Learn the skills that allowed Return to Monkey Island to be completely playable within the first 4 months of development and the iterative process that followed."
More Return to Monkey Island sessions here

Extending In-Game Textures Using CDNs for 'Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2' (GDCA)
Chris Fowler (Principal Engineer, Sledgehammer Games)

Location: Room 2010, West Hall
Date: Friday, March 24
Time: 10:00 am - 11:00 am

Pass Type: All Access Pass, Core Pass
Topic: Programming
Description: "This session presents an overview of On-Demand Texture streaming technology for Call of Duty, up to and including 2022's Modern Warfare 2. This system significantly reduces the install size of a Call of Duty title while retaining high-quality image quality and low latency multiplayer experience."

Session Picks Featuring Devs from IGF and GDCA-Nominated Games

Independent Games Summit: Here There Be Dragons: Demystifying Content Warning Systems (feat. I Was A Teenage Exocolonist; GDCA and IGF Awards)
Claris Cyarron (Creative Director & Co-Founder, Silverstring Media)
Lindsay Ishihiro (Writer & Narrative Designer, Independent)

Location: Room 2009, West Hall
Date: Tuesday, March 21
Time: 9:30 am - 10:30 am

Pass Type: All Access Pass, Summits Pass, Independent Games Summit Pass
Topic: Independent Games
Description: "Claris Cyarron (Glitchhikers: The Spaces Between) and Lindsay Ishihiro (I Was A Teenage Exocolonist) spent the last few years building two beautiful digital worlds with unique perils. Giving their audiences a heads-up on the darker parts of the experience ahead, and different ways through, was top of mind throughout the development process. What emerged were two completely different systems for consumer consent and content warnings that allow players to navigate the game in ways that suit their individual needs and preferences."

Occupational Burnout in Games: Causes, Impact, and Solutions (feat. Metal: Hellsinger, GDCA)
Raffael Boccamazzo (Clincial Director, Take This)
Alicia Fortier (Lead Game Designer, Spry Fox)
Osama Dorias (Lead Content Designer, Blizzard Entertainment)
Anna Brandberg (Lead UX Designer, The Outsiders (Funcom))

Location: Room 215, South Hall
Date: Thursday, March 23
Time: 11:30 am - 12:30 pm

Pass Type: All Access Pass, Core Pass, Summits Pass, Expo Pass, Audio Pass, Independent Games Summit Pass
Topic: Advocacy, Business & Marketing
Description: "This series of microtalks will offer attendees a foundational understanding of what burnout is and its causal factors before discussing the long-term impact via personal experiences. Recognizing that systemic solutions must be implemented to tackle the issue, this series will offer individuals resources and implementable steps to bolster their resilience against burnout."

The Golden Rule of Game Promotion: No One Cares About Your Game (feat. Vampire Survivors, GDCA)
Thomas Reisenegger (Co-founder & CEO, Future Friends Games)

Location: Room 2001, West Hall
Date: Thursday, March 23
Time: 2:00 pm - 2:30 pm

Pass Type: All Access Pass, Core Pass
Topic: Business & Marketing
Description: "Based on helping market hundreds of indie games—like Vampire Survivors, Exo One, art of rally, and What the Golf?—the golden rule of indie game marketing has emerged! In this talk, the 'no one cares about your game' mindset gets explained and shows how this simple marketing philosophy can help teams laser focus their social media posts, keep their trailers to-the-point, write better emails, and shape a wider PR campaign mindest."

Experimental Game Workshop (feat. Time Bandit, IGF Awards)

Location: Room 303, South Hall
Date: Friday, March 24
Time: 1:30 pm - 3:30 pm

Pass Type: All Access Pass, Core Pass
Topic: Design
Description: "The Experimental Game Workshop Showcase, which featured games like ‘Baba Is You’, ‘The Longing', ‘Braid', ‘Untitled Goose Game’ and ‘Katamari Damacy’, is back for its 21st year at GDC! In this fast-paced, game-packed session, panelists will showcase a selection of surprising and intriguing prototypes made by innovation-minded game developers from all over the world. By demonstrating games that defy conventions and traditions in search of new genres and ideas, this session aims to ignite the imagination of all game makers. Come see what's happening in the world of Experimental Games, and be inspired!"

Be sure to visit our Session Viewer for a full list of sessions, talks, and events, and get started on prepping that schedule (we will update with dates and times as they become available). 

Watch and Read

VIDEO: Independent Games Summit: Sacrifices Were Made: The 'Inscryption' Post-Mortem: Daniel Mullins (2022 IGF Awards and GDCA winner)

VIDEO: Shifts and Rifts: Dimensional Tech in 'Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart': Peter Kao (2022 GDCA winner)

ARTICLE: Road to the IGF: Telling a story through someone's belongings in 'Unpacking': Joel Couture (2022 GDCA winner and IGF Awards nominee)

ARTICLE: Road to the IGF: Experiencing the creative process in Memory Card: Joel Couture (2022 IGF Awards winner)

Watch more GDC 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. 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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