In the next few months I will be attending my sixth Develop Conference, sixth! It feels like only yesterday when I went to my first one back in 2010 just after having finished University, with a prototype of Q.U.B.E. to show around. I left the event hugely inspired and ready to embark on a journey as an indie developer, not knowing what the future would hold but immensely confident that I would turn the prototype into a full game, whatever the cost. And for the record, I did just that.
There are many positive takeaways to get from conferences and yes, you may leave feeling a bit worse for wear and would have taken time out of game development but it’s so worth it. For one, you get to mingle with other like-minded developers and compare notes on game dev, funding, PR, time management and many other things. That in itself is valuable as there’s no default way to make games so it’s nice to find out how others work and apply new techniques to your own workflow.
The lectures are a great way to learn about broader topics and gain insights into how other developers handle things, what worked for them and what didn't. Talks can be majorly inspiring and motivational. You can learn about all sorts of things from level design, game art, development best practices and how to fund and market your game.
If you’re looking to secure new business or even land a job, conferences are great for making new connections. I've done several deals in the past from purely being at a conference and meeting people. If you’re a skilled graduate looking for your first job, an employer is more likely to choose a familiar face that they bonded with over a drink at a conference than CV 524 that came in via email.
Another thing a lot of conferences offer is the opportunity to showcase your latest game and enter it into an awards ceremony. Not only is this great exposure for your game and studio, it’s also a good way to get constructive feedback on the title from established game developers.
One of the best parts of going to conferences is that you get to travel a great deal and a lot of the time, travel abroad to some of the most prestigious industry events such as GDC: San Francisco.
It’s not all pure business either. Many fun activities happen outside of conference hours such as poker tournaments, football matches, networking (aka not-working) and hanging out on the beach.
And once you've become comfortable with the above and gained sufficient experience, you can start giving your own talks at these conferences as a way to give back to the developer community and generally get your name out there.
If you’re heading to Develop Conference this year, come along to my talk where I look back on five years of being an indie developer and observe how much has changed since I started out. And if you’re not going, why not!? I look forward to meeting some of you there.
Dan Da Rocha
Director at Fiddlesticks/Toxic Games