Xbox celebrates GDC by inviting game developers to discover innovative tools, fresh strategies, and new ways to succeed

Onsite and online sessions spotlight how Microsoft makes it easier to onboard into the Xbox ecosystem, accelerate development and scale to reach & retain more players.

March 01, 2023
Hero image for GDC announcement post

As the industry comes together for the annual Game Developers Conference, Xbox is welcoming creators onsite and online to discover 33 tools, strategies and programs that accelerate development, engagement, and growth. From March 22 - 24, the Xbox Lounge in the Moscone Center South Lobby is the perfect starting point for anyone to learn about publishing their next game with ID@Xbox and growing with ID@Azure. For everyone online, 11 tech talks will go live exclusively on the official Microsoft Game Dev GDC 2023 page on March 22 at 8am PT, showcasing real-world scenarios from the makers of Halo InfiniteLast StopLet’s Build a ZooMinecraft, Sea of Thieves, Valheim, and more. See all the conference programming and online tech talks below.

Have a great show, everyone!

Onboarding into the Xbox Ecosystem

Cloud Solutions for Single Player Story-driven Games: Variable State talks Getting Started with ID@Azure (Online Exclusive)
Variable State is the developer of innovative narrative-led games like Virginia and Last Stop. In this conversation you’ll hear from director and co-founder Jonathan Burroughs on how his team has been working with cloud technology powered by Azure to improve their development process and work more effectively as a fully remote team. In addition, Jonathan explains how ID@Azure and Microsoft for Startups Founders Hub have helped Variable State get access to powerful tools and technologies at no cost, empowering them to trial and embrace cloud technology risk-free as they develop their largest, most ambitious project yet. 

Empowering Underrepresented Creators (Online Exclusive)
Join ID@Xbox Business Development Manager James Lewis as he explains how underrepresented creators around the world are empowered to bring their creativity, innovation, and originality to Xbox. 

From Application to Approval: Joining Xbox in Less than 30 Days through the new Onboarding Hub (Online Exclusive)
Welcome to the new ID@Xbox Onboarding Hub! In this demo, Nick Hegge from ID@Xbox goes through the step-by-step process that will take creators from application to approval in less than 30 days. Learn insider tips and best practices to ensure your application is set up for success when applying to bring your game to the program. 

Growing a Healthy Culture through Management Excellence at Xbox (In-person)
Team culture can make or break a game’s success. Being creative, delivering innovative features, launching on time and at quality are all dependent on everyone on the team feeling like they’re doing their best work. At Xbox Game Studios, we are on a journey of developing management excellence, continually putting our learning and understanding into action. We believe managers are key to unlocking success for teams and, ultimately, for games. Whether you're a manager, an aspiring manager, or an individual contributor wanting to help shape your workplace culture, we invite you to join our panel for a candid conversation around the opportunities to grow and improve culture through management.

Leading with Empathy to Become the Best Publishing Partner in the Industry (In-person)
Xbox Game Studios Publishing partners with world-class independent developers to create innovative franchises on Xbox. In this fireside chat, attendees will get a behind-the-scenes look at how Xbox Game Studios Publishing helps developers put their games in players’ hands with a goal of creating long-lasting impact. Peter Wyse, General Manager of Publishing, and Crystin Cox, Director of Business Strategy, will discuss how they take a custom, inclusive, and empathetic approach to game development partnerships and meet developers where they are. Attendees will walk away with an understanding of how to foster an environment where teams can create their best work.

Leaders Working at The Heart of The Team In 2023 (In-person)
Project management methodologies and processes in the video game industry have been analyzed ad nauseam, often sold as production cure-alls. While these mechanics of game production are important, there's another critical facet that has been explored far less: The emotional and elusive feel of being a great leader, producer, and/or project manager. Once processes are in place, in order to maintain the health of a project the leader must have their finger firmly on the pulse of the team, and be able to diagnose situations that often call for drastically different solutions. In this session, we will investigate facets of soft skills and share specific situations that we have encountered throughout our careers, and how soft skills have saved the team and shipped awesome games. Topics include: bringing your whole self as a leader to the table, building, sustaining and repairing trust within our teams, compassionate leadership, production and leadership from the producers' perspective, and accepting that mistakes will be made.

Mentorship Cheat Code: Raising Diverse Talent in The Games Industry (In-person)
The impact of mentorship on young game developers can be vital to long-term career growth. In fact, a study published by The National Mentoring Partnership reports young adults with mentors are 55% more likely to enroll in college and 130% more likely to hold leadership positions. In this panel, a diverse group of industry professionals will share their experiences with mentorship, whether as mentor or mentee, on how it has helped shape their career in the games industry—as well as how mentorship can be an important factor to create a more diverse space. The games industry still has room to grow with representing voices from all backgrounds and walks of life, and panelists will share their opinions on how mentorship can inspire the next generation of game developers, while being a viable path for underrepresented voices to be heard.

Reimagining Game Industry Education: Boosting Talent Pipeline and Career Opportunities (In-person)
Join experts from Microsoft, USC, Urban Arts and the NYC Mayor's Office in a vibrant discussion about how the growth of cloud, streaming, AI and ML are challenging game development and pushing the industry to reinvent what it means to get a cutting-edge game education. With these innovations ahead, it has never been more critical for the industry to build a thriving talent pipeline. Hear how higher education, government, non-profits and platforms are coming together to design the skills, competencies and certifications that will set up the next generation of developers to succeed.

The Importance of Responsible AI in the Game Industry (In-person)
Today we sit at the precipice of a new era where AI is becoming a defining technology of our time. It has long been a core element of game design, and with new natural language models, we will soon see the emergence of more intelligent and dynamic NPCs. But that’s just the beginning. Imagine the creative possibilities that could be unlocked as we leverage AI automation. Increased accessibility for players, safer player communities, greater production velocity, dynamic player onboarding, supercharged UGC... AI could be transformative. It could also introduce serious risk and must be handled carefully. Navigating this transition requires a responsible approach to ensure players, processes, and people are protected and set up to thrive. This panel will dive into the role that AI has played in game development historically and examine Microsoft’s notion of responsible AI. Join Haiyan Zhang, GM of Gaming AI at Microsoft, and panelists as they discuss innovations made possible by AI today and peek into the future of what tomorrow holds.

The Professional Closet: On Being "Out" in the Game Industry (In-person)
Join Matt Turnbull, Executive Producer at Xbox Game Studios Publishing and Co-Lead for the Team Xbox LGBTQIA+ Community, as he walks through his personal story of "coming out" professionally as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, shares anecdotes and stories from others on their positive and less positive experiences doing so, and gives practical advice on how to build the kind of environment that empowers people to bring their whole selves to work and the benefits this can bring both for the individual and the organization.

Accelerate Development

Seven Steps that Made Halo Infinite More Energy Efficient and How Your Studio Can Do It Too (Online Exclusive)
In August 2022, 343 Industries officially kicked off their Sustainability initiative. In this talk, we are offering a roadmap for developers who want to get started on Gaming Sustainability with their studio. From obtaining the appropriate approvals, to getting a team together and developing your first Sustainable feature – this talk will walk the audience through the 7 steps game developers need to take and the pitfalls they’ll need to avoid on the way to reducing their Carbon footprint.

Accessible and Inclusive Developer Tools: How Xbox Empowers More Creators with New GDK Features (Online Exclusive)
Around the world, Xbox has been recognized for making more games more accessible to players with disabilities. Similarly, Xbox development tools are becoming more accessible to welcome more creators into gaming. In this talk, learn about the new accessibility features in the Microsoft GDK and Xbox Manager including improved keyboard controls, narrator/screen reader support, app scaling and high contrast modes. Guided by the Microsoft Accessibility Standards, these features help empower more creators of differing abilities to make their game development dreams come true.  

Art Optimization in the 40th Millenium: How FatShark Constructed Their Central Asset Pipeline with Simplygon (In-person)
Rendering high resolution art is the single biggest tax on any game, making art optimization a critical path to performance. While making Warhammer 40K: Darktide, Stockholm-based developer FatShark partnered with Simplygon to resolve a range of common art optimization issues. Using real examples from Darktide, FatShark will share detailed challenges and Simplygon will demonstrate a specific part of the toolset designed to solve. In this talk, you’ll learn how to go from optimizing small assets like characters to large assets like entire levels and walk away with not only a broad understanding of art optimization, but also specific solutions made possible by the Simplygon toolsets.

Climate Crisis Workshop: Use Your Game Developer Superpowers to Fight (In-person)
After debuting at GDC 2022, this full-day interactive workshop returns streamlined and improved to teach teams and individuals how to integrate climate change and climate resilience messaging into their games. Through expert lectures and hands-on design activities, participants will both better understand the climate crisis and unlock their own superpowers as game developers, immediately applying new theory and practice to develop an original game pitch by the end of the day. Join us and become equipped to impact gamers and ultimately change the world with actionable design approaches.

Co-Designing a Climate Resilient Video Game Industry: Game Devs, Researchers, and Indigenous Communities (Presented by the IGDA) (In-person)
The climate crisis and its impacts to our industry are real—and the ability to forge a clear path toward an inclusive and climate resilient industry is possible. There are two vibrant, growing communities you can leverage to do so today. In this second annual joint roundtable, the IGDA Climate Special Interest Group and the newly formed IGDA Indigenous Advocacy and Awareness SIG are working together to create a safe space for action: to share experiences, ask questions, and give support for organizations and individuals who want to develop trusted and sustainable relationships with Indigenous peoples. We need your honest perspective, collaboration, and partnership—not only on what is most useful, but also on what we are missing, and what we, as a global community, need to do next to support you on your journey.

Experimental Game Workshop (In-person)
Experimentation has always been an essential part of game design. This year, the Experimental Game Workshop Showcase is back for its 21st year at GDC building on its legacy of featuring games like Baba Is You, Braid, Untitled Goose Game, and Card Shark. In this fast-paced, game-packed session, Azure Cloud Advocate Emilia Lazer-Walker joins panelists who 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.

Futureproof your Game with Game Creator Services (2-part session) (In-person)
In-game revenue grew 32% in the last year and 9 of 10 game studios build player engagement services into their titles. Building and operating games is becoming increasingly complex as developers respond to more real-time community needs, more player insights, and growing expectations of personalization and customization. Join Xbox Publishing, Game Creator Services and Minecraft leaders as they break down some of the biggest challenges facing devs today and opportunities to unlock greater engagement tomorrow. In part one (Wednesday, March 22nd) we will identify the problem areas and talk about common solutions that make your game futureproof, and in part two (Thursday, March 23rd) we will open the panel to the floor for an “ask me anything” Q&A session.

Game Developers Building a Climate Resilient Industry Roundtable (Presented by the IDGA) (In-person)
Game developers have real power to tackle the climate crisis. The IGDA Climate SIG serves to establish grassroots climate councils on every major game company and ensure meaningful climate change is actionable and accessible for everyone who makes and play games. Change is happening - and game developers are leading the conversation. Join Xbox Game Studios Publishing UX strategist, Paula Escuadra to learn what the IGDA SIG has created and learned to date. Your collaboration and input is needed as IGDA works across the industry to ensure we can all keep making and playing games we love on this little blue dot.

Game Production as Craft: How Producers Drive Development at Xbox Game Studios (In-person)
Peek into the world of game production at Xbox Game Studios, where each team has a tailored approach to making games. Our multi-studio panel of producers will share how they are empowered to influence Xbox tech, ecosystem, and culture, while developing world-class game titles. They will also provide their tricks of the production trade and unique perspectives on making greater impact as a producer at studios like 343 Industries, The Coalition, Turn 10 Studios, and Xbox Game Studios Publishing.

How Xbox, 343i, Ubisoft and Epic are Utilizing Eco-friendly Code Without Impacting Gameplay Fidelity (In-person)
With growing environmental concerns and rising energy prices, game creators play a pivotal role in building energy-efficient game development practices into their culture. Xbox will be announcing innovative new tools, techniques, and research to help game studios achieve this at no cost to gameplay fidelity or the player experience. Join the teams at Xbox, 343 Industries, Epic, and Ubisoft, as we unveil how we're collaborating, including new tooling, data, case studies, and inspiration for what game studios of any size can do today.

Narrative Moments on a Budget: Stretching Storytelling "Dollars" Across the Moments That Matter (In-person)
How do studios tell great stories on a budget? When everything is important but time is limited, how can teams empower developers with the support they need to approach the complex decisions of where to invest the narrative bandwidth? This talk provides a foundational framework of how to spend one's narrative "dollars" across the stories being developed, and how the simple act of making these models focuses decision-making in productive, empowering, and informed ways.

Production Essentials Summit: Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable (In-person)
Uncertainty can cause a high degree of discomfort which can sabotage a team’s success. Producers cannot eliminate uncertainty altogether, but clear and detailed schedules, plans, budgets, and processes can go a long way towards giving the team a sense of control and confidence. Producers of all skill levels are invited to join Mikey Soden, Lead Producer at Turn 10 Studios in a session focused on the production artifacts that can help teams cope with uncertainty, manage ambiguity and deliver success.

Raytracing and the Future of Game Graphics for Xbox in Unity (In-person)
This technical session will dive into the Unity High-Definition Render Pipeline, advances in DirectX12, and the latest ray tracing features implemented for Xbox game development.

Technical Artist Summit: "Non-Destructible Workflows": Re-Inventing Content Production for the 'Forza Motorsports' Franchise (In-person)
Traditional content creation for computer games is a time-consuming and expensive process, and current techniques for authoring content are often limited to a linear pipeline. Teams can address many daily challenges by leveraging non-destructible procedural techniques. The most significant challenge lies in how such techniques are introduced to an established business, franchise, and product, to generate mass adoption by the content creators and generate impact. Production cannot be stopped, existing pipelines/workflows investments cannot be thrown away, and impact must be seen as fast as possible to create confidence at the executive level. In this session, Diego Garzon, Procedural Content Director at Microsoft, describes how to introduce non-destructible workflows using procedural techniques to a traditionally linear pipeline for an established AAA franchise—discussing the approach, successes, and, most importantly, failures, and how they were leveraged to generate mass adoption of the tools.

Tips from Rare for Easier Debugging of Unreal Engine 5 Games Using Visual Studio (Online Exclusive)
The ongoing development of Rare’s games are currently benefiting from continued integrations with Unreal Engine in Visual Studio 2022. In this talk, you will hear how game developers from Rare used Visual Studio native visualizers (natvis) to debug their games, learn advanced tips & tricks for the Visual Studio watch window and hear about the blazing fast new search experience.

Valheim Case Study: Piktiv Shares Learnings from Integrating Azure PlayFab Multiplayer Services (Online Exclusive)
Azure is the world’s most trusted cloud, but can it deliver the unique multiplayer services that game developers need across platforms? In a word: YES. Learn about three unique Multiplayer Services in Azure PlayFab that deliver impeccable cross-platform multiplayer experiences on any game including PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, iOS, Android, Linux, macOS, PC, and Xbox. In this case study, Microsoft presents an overview of PlayFab Party, Matchmaking, and Lobby with real-time notifications, followed by Piktiv who share tips, tricks and insights from their cross-play enablement work on Valheim that will help you get the most out of Azure PlayFab.

Reach & Retain More Players

Accessibility Roundtable: Proven Techniques and Healthy Navigations (Presented by the IGDA) (In-person)
Accessibility continues to make important gains across the video games industry–from AAA studios to indie developers. Each step forward brings with it new opportunities for further accommodations that will enhance experiences, generate appeal, and include a larger number of gamers. Whether making first accessibility efforts for a game, or augmenting and refining existing procedures, this discussion will focus on what works, what doesn’t, and shed light on the sometimes-confusing spaces in-between.

Diverse Business Models Fueling Growth Across the Games Industry (In-person)
Developers of all sizes continue to find success across a diverse set of business models. In this panel, we’ll discuss how differing business models, including traditional sales, free-to-play and subscriptions – can positively impact a game's performance and help developers reach new fans around the world. Featuring Jen MacLean, GM Creator Partnerships at Xbox and other representatives from across the industry, the panel will share their experiences, key takeaways, challenges and successes to help developers navigate an ever-changing landscape.

How Minecraft's Need for Scalable LiveOps Led to the Improved Capability of Azure PlayFab Economy v2 (Online Exclusive)
With over 100 million monthly players, Minecraft is one of the most influential games in history. One of the ways it has achieved success is by running powerful LiveOps tools to boost player engagement and retention. Come see how Minecraft engineers use PlayFab at scale to support its players across the world, and hear about off-the-shelf features that could suit your game too.

It Takes a Village: Building a Gaming and Disability Program (In-person)
Creating an accessible product can't be done by one person, it takes a village. In this talk, Tara Voelker and Brannon Zahand will describe how Xbox Game Studios runs their accessibility team, the different roles that partner to support Xbox Game Studios, and the importance of inclusion of disabled gamers during the process. They'll also go through a variety of platform-agnostic accessibility resources offered by Microsoft and others, explaining how and when to utilize each in your game development lifecycle. They will also go into best practices on engaging the Gaming & Disability Community, as well as how to turn accessibility-related information about your own products into fantastic resources for gamers with disabilities and others.

Manage and Grow Your In-game Economy with the Expanded Feature Set of PlayFab Economy v2 (Online Exclusive)
Whether you're just getting started on your next title or want to grow your existing catalog, each feature of PlayFab Economy v2 is designed to help you easily manage and scale your in-game economies. Join Wes from the PlayFab Monetization team as he walks through 5 exciting features in 5 minutes that will help you unlock more possibilities than ever before. See how to use the new Draft and Published item states, parse through large catalogs with intuitive Search, get creative with pricing, stacks and collections, and more.

Stop Losing Players! Engage and Retain Players with Content They'll Love Using Azure PlayFab ML-Powered Churn Prediction (Online Exclusive)
Learn how AI/ML-powered features can help create personalized gameplay experiences with the click of a button. Enabled by PlayFab data schema and built on top of the tooling customers are already familiar with, Azure PlayFab Churn Prediction helps reduce attrition and retain players for any title regardless of its platform or maturity stage.

Why I Chose Game Pass: No More Robots Talks About Growing their Audience for Let's Build a Zoo (Online Exclusive)
Publisher No More Robots has launched numerous titles to Game Pass, including DescendersHypnospace Outlaw and Yes, Your Grace. In this talk, No More Robots co-founder Mike Rose discusses the journey of bringing their latest title Let's Build a Zoo to Game Pass, from initial goals to results achieved.

Hope to see you there. Have a great show!