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Hard choice
by Byron AtkinsonJones on 01/11/13 09:01:00 am   Expert Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


GDC is coming around again and yet again I’m faced with the choice of going or not. I’ve never been and I’ve always wanted to and I get insanely jealous when I see the tweet from those at GDC extolling about what a fantastic experience it is. There are also the inevitable post-GDC meet-ups where those who went tell me that I should have gone as it was un-believable.

Thing is, it’s incredibly expensive for an indie developer to go to GDC and while I would love nothing to put the money down and just do it, that money could be spent finishing the game I’m currently working on.

So how much would it cost me? Today I did a daily search to find out how much it costs for flights from the UK to San Francisco and hotels for the week. The cheapest flight is non-direct, taking 15 hours in total and costs £660. A hotel in 7th street (which a friend informs me is ‘Crackville’) is going to set me back £470 brining the total up to £1130 or $1821 at today’s exchange rate. On top of that I would need to add in the cost of the GDC pass. Which pass to go for? I’ve never been, so do I go for the full pass, main pass or just the expo? Just going to the Expo seems like it would be boring after just one day so I’d like the option of seeing some of the lectures etc so add $995 in for the main pass. This brings the total up to $2816 or £1747. It doesn’t stop there though, I would need to find food and entertainment (drinks) which for 7 days would probably be at least another $100 a day or $700 taking the total up to $3516 or £2181.

I’ve been told that there things such as UKTI that could help fund companies from the UK to get over to trade show events in the US. The reality is that UKTI is regional and the region I am in is London which is huge and you can bet such funding got snapped up ages ago by larger companies – in fact I did try last time and pretty much got the brush-off by them.


I’ve been working on my next title ‘Cyberstream Fugitive’ since October and it’s being released on iPhone, iPad, PC and Mac and at the moment £2181 means I could work for another two months on it before I have to go out and get a contract. It also means that I can pay the amazing Gavin Harrison for the incredible music he’s been composing for it, like this one: It some point I need to hire an artist to make the game look good rather than just use the coder art that’s in there. If I instead spend the £2181 to go to GDC it means that I have to find contract work a lot sooner and the game gets delayed or I only work on it part time.

Cyberstream Fugitive 

However that’s my business head thinking that. Somebody I used to work with at Lionhead Studios Tadhg Kelly tried to convince me to see GDC as something else, to see it more as a business opportunity and just jump in and book the tickets, in fact he blogged about it here:

What would I really get out of GDC though? I’m trying to finish a game rather than take on contract work at the moment so things like networking while fun aren’t actually going to help me to make the game and taking on a contract is going to delay the release of the game. I could use it as an opportunity to promote the game but I get the impression that competition for attention at GDC will be huge.

What I would get is an opportunity to catch up with everyone I know and those I’ve met on twitter. I have to be honest that appeals to me a lot as those people would be the ones helping me to promote the game when it comes out on channels like twitter and Facebook, just as I do with their games. It’s all too easy to become a reclusive developer while working on a game yourself.  It’s important to remember that there’s a wider world out there and a global game development community that I am a part of and can contribute to.

It’s a hard choice.


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Sean Monica
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Regret nothing and miss no wished opportunity. Sounds like if you really want to market yourself go for it and head out.

Curtiss Murphy
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It's a real dilemma, with real consequences. The first few times I went, I had almost exactly the same experience. At first, I was inspired - blown away by the world of possibilities. And then I was humbled, and then, all of a sudden, I'd find myself coming out of a talk, standing in the hall-way, realizing that I'm just the tiny-est insect, living in a world of giants. That part could be from exhaustion, but, fortunately, it passes. So, inevitably, by the end, I'd find myself tired, thinking about some new friends, and on my way home, I'd realize that in fact, all the world is still possible, but it's going to take a LOT of work.

And, that's what you may miss if you don't go, at least once. But, will it drastically improve your odds of success? That's a tougher question. You can't survive without money, and there's no getting around that fact. But, all is not lost. Consider this. I have in fact benefited from my visits to GDC, but in truth, most of my real growth happens elsewhere. Particularly from thinking outside the box, reading books like: the Art of Game Design, Mindset, Paradox of Choice, and Flow. And by finishing a product and shipping it - customer reaction is a humbling learning experience.

If you go to GDC, you may learn new ideas and features you could add to your game. Heck, it took me years to become tenacious enough, but if you're really good at networking, you might even make some marketing connections. But, in reality GDC puts your schedule at risk and as Joel Spolsky said, 'Shipping is a feature. A really important feature. Your product must have it.'

GDC or ship ... that's the dilemma.

Jonathan Jennings
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That is a hard decision pushing further development for a title you believe in or going to GDC. I went to GDC last year and it was the time of my life i networked, made plenty of friends, and it was awesome to have streets full of developers from all over the world. i had the opportunity to talk to a voice actor for bioshock 2 and attend parties with people who developed a few of my favorite titles it was a blast.

still If i had a game that I could potentially finish or further the development on with the same money i spent on GDC I might consider just going next year and planning ahead. it's not a cheap trip at all. i am a california native and still spent about $700 with a cheap pass and rooming with 5 friends. i don't envy you Byron however your game does look sweet and good luck with your decision!

Lex Allen
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I ask myself this question every year, and every year I decide that going just isn't worth it.

Senad Hrnjadovic
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A good compromise would be to go to GDC Europe in Cologne. And instead of the hotel you can couch surf, which is much more fun anyway. :)