By xd_adminsummit | Knowledge | News

Introducing the XDS Table-Topics New for 2019 [UPDATED]

Each year attendees at XDS events enjoy vibrant presentations and panels, but they are always left wanting more. XDS 2019 introduces Table-Topics, an interactive learning format in which small groups of participants gather around tables to deep-dive on relevant and important topics. Table are moderated by Hosts who are passionate on the given topic, and facilitate an engaging discussion with their group.

XDS Table-Topics consist of a 1-hour session with 8 tables of 10 participants each, therefore there is a limit to the number of participants. An invitation will be sent to all attendees, and interested participants will be selected on a first come, first served basis (note if you did not receive an invitation, it may be because you registered for XDS after the invite was sent).

We are proud to announce the following topics and hosts for the Table-Topics at XDS 2019!

[UPDATED] Some topics below now include links to the outcomes published as articles.

Diversity & Inclusion within External Development

Hosted by: Nikki Roth, Sr Technical Animator, Google Daydream
Shiew Yeu Loh, Senior Artist, Electronic Arts

As a global and human industry, diversity & inclusion is a challenging but important topic within the external development community. From product inclusion to inclusive meetings, this Table-Topic will focus on topics around overcoming, improving, and raising awareness of D&I within studios and across partnerships. 

Interested in learning how to be an advocate? Already a champion and want to share your approach? This will be an opportunity to discuss and share initiatives that have worked, or not worked, at your studio and with your external partners. Whether you are facing communication challenges across different cultures, overwhelmed as a working parent, or feeling underrepresented, together we will take the time to unpack the many challenges faced day to day and how we can begin to implement the new norm within our communities to build healthy, high performing and inclusive teams.

Intended participants: All

Selling Your Services – Best Practices for Pitching Your Company

Hosted by: Ryan Faraji, Development Director, Electronic Arts

Have you wondered about the best approaches to pitching to different clients, and how to put your best foot forward when meeting with a company? This Table-Topic will be discussion points on what works and doesn’t work when selling your services to devs/publishers! Devs/publishers and service providers are welcome to help share their stories around what interests them or what works best.

Intended participants: All

** See the outcomes of this session in this LinkedIn Article

Career Progression in External Development

Hosted by: Carl Schmidt, Senior Director of External Development, Zynga

Carl Schmidt has presented Zynga’s ExDev career progression Job Family Architecture to the audience at XDS Ignite a few times as it has evolved over the years. Career progression in External Development has proven to be a hot topic with wide ranging interest from the XDS community. During this Table-Topic, Carl will lead an open discussion around the challenges of career development and growth with the goal to share how he and others are handling the topic and to generate ideas to approach and implement “buy-in” for true career progression within your company. The intended participants are developers/publishers (ie. buyers), from any discipline, who are interested in candidly discussing the topic.

Intended participants: Developers/Publishers

Five Time-Capsule Proclamations for XDS 2024

Hosted by: David Lam, Senior Producer, External Development, Xbox Games Studios

Building on a session from XDS Ignite earlier this year, we are looking for a broad range of participants from the client and vendor sides to join our Table-Topic in an attempt to forecast and project the next five years in external development.  We will discuss historical trends of what we ‘ve seen in the last ten years and where technology and the market are directing our future. Join us as we become external development futurists and set a top five predictions for 2024.

Intended participants: All

** See the outcomes of this session in this LinkedIn Article

Communication: Consistent Issues in the Most Critical Area of Distributed Development

Hosted by: Alex Stein, Lead Artist, Outsourcing Art Manager, Treyarch/Activision

Every year seems to bring more options for communication between remote teams. From email to chat clients to asset tracking software, we are offered a variety of competing and complementary methods for speaking to each other. While these can make our lives easier, they cannot overcome the inherent pitfalls of remote communication, from timeliness to tone. In this Table-Topic, we will explore what these issues are, how they can impact production and the health of our partnerships, and how we’ve resolved them.

Participants should expect to provide specific examples of communication breakdowns, the negative results these caused, and how they were corrected. We will use these examples to explore and illustrate best practices of imparting information, providing feedback, and keeping productions in sync. Building on Alex Stein’s presentation from XDS 2018, “Setting the Proper Tone,” we will examine why the way something is said can be more important than the content of a message, and how this is consistent regardless of the method used to communicate. Finally, we will compile a concise list of shared best practices gathered from our shared years of experience in the field of external development.

This session is open to developers and providers alike, and we’d like to have a strong representation from both.

Intended participants: All

Predicting the Future of Game Co-Development

Hosted by: Caroline Calaway, External Development Manager, Electronic Arts

Whether you’re a Developer or a Service Provider, I bet you hear the term “co-development” thrown around a lot. In a world of ever increasing demand for content, innovative experiences and cross platform support, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for Developers to internally scale to meet all of those needs. Developers are often turning to Service Providers to co-develop great games. 

If you’re a Producer, Project Manager, Technical Director or in another role that oversees development across multiple disciplines and with an external party, this is the Table-Topic discussion for you. In the first half of this Table-Topic discussion, Developers and Service Providers will share some of the biggest challenges they’ve experienced in co-developing games and how they’ve worked through those obstacles. In the last half, we will discuss what the future of co-development might look like, in a world of AI technology and virtual machines, consolidation of service providers and a more mature global talent pool.

Intended participants: All

Ready, Set, Go! Predictable and Effective Production Management for Sustainable Success

Hosted by: Lois Wang, Show Producer / Production Manager, Fogbank Entertainment

We often hope game production planning could be a straight path from point A to B. With constant change throughout production, how does a team course correct and get ahead of the wave without introducing a destructive crunch? What is the mentality a production team should prepare for? How do teams establish accountability, transparency and delegate effectively? We’ll discuss this and more to help your teams plan for success!

Intended participants: All

What the rise of Artificial Intelligence means for External Development

Hosted by: Curtis Cherrington, Sr. External Development Manager, Electronic Arts

In this Table-Topic we will discuss what the use of AI means for External Development and how we best position our industry to benefit from this opportunity. A few of the questions that we will look to answer:

  • Which AI technologies will have the greatest impact on our different roles whether it be Manager, Artist, Engineer or Business owner?
  • Which AI technologies will have the greatest impact on Game Development?
  • How can we as individuals working in External development prepare to utilize AI tools directly? 
  • What skill-sets do we need to develop to ensure that AI won’t jeopardize our roles in external development? 
  • How do we position ourselves to be most valuable to our organizations with AI?


In addition to looking to answer these questions we will attempt to provide a holistic view of the role of working in external development in the future.

Intended participants: All