Staffs Uni visits Develop 2014 – Day 1 Evolve

Over the new few days, I will be posting about what myself and Paul Roberts got up to at Develop in Brighton earlier in July. Sorry it’s taken so long to get this out there! Below you will find what we did on day 1 and brief explanations of what happened in each of the sessions with any relevant links that we have. If you have any questions or want to know more about any of the session, please drop me an e-mail.

University vs Industry – Ironing out the BUGS

Presented by Jon Hare and Steven Goodwin
Attended by Paul Boocock and Paul Roberts

Our first talk for Develop and it was one of the most relevant to University. Jon Hare (of Sensible Soccer fame) with the help for Steven Goodwin introduced us to B.U.G.S. which is a system to help students get into contact with development teams and also development teams to get in contact by students. There were two key parts to this:

  1. Students could upload their work with links to their CVs and e-mail which development teams can then see.
  2. Development teams can upload available jobs that students can then apply for.

Universities have to be registered for this and luckily we already are as the Games Design team have already registered us and a group of students already have a live piece of work on the website. We were a little surprised that we hadn’t seen this before, especially as teams are ideally multi-disciplined however the service is still reasonably new and we know about it now. It appears to have a good amount of traction in Universities and Industry and is certainly something we will be looking to using and promoting to students in the near future (Especially Level 6 students). You can find much more information at the website http://bugsnet.org/. If you have any work you think would fit the bill and would like to apply, then let myself or Paul Roberts know.

Using Psychology in an Applied Way in Game Development – and a Glimpse into the Future of Psychology in Gaming

Presented by Berni Good
Attended by Paul Boocock and Paul Roberts

Berni introduced us to ideas from the field of Psychology that can be applied to games. This talk was very interesting and looked at a field I had little experience or knowledge of. As it turns out there is a vast amount of research and ideas in psychology that can be directly applied to games and the field of Cyber-psychology that Berni specialises in.

Unfortunately, there is far too much to mention in a single post as this talk was packed full of references and data that I wasn’t able to collect. I’m hoping to get the slides from Berni shortly and I will update this with any key pieces of work that would be worth a read.

You can find out much more about the field of Cyber-Psychology at: http://www.cyberpsychologist.co.uk/.

The Ten Year IP: Managing a Franchise Successfully Over Time and Across Formats

Presented by Matthew Roberts and Fred St-Amour
Attended by Paul Boocock

This talk opened with discussion around Zoo Tycoon, a game that was first released in 2001 and have subsequent versions over the next decade up to Zoo Tycoon on the Xbox One and 360 late last year. Matthew talked about how their key features weren’t necessarily what they were expecting when they launched, it became less about making money and being a management sim and more about people wanting to emote with the animals. The first version lacked in allowing the player the be close with their animals but feedback suggested that wanted this so future version of Zoo Tycoon have built on this.

This was followed by a new Zoo Tycoon Friends game being announced for mobile platforms. In this game they discussed how animal happiness and conservation were their main gameplay focuses, not the tycoon part! They took the core game and minimised the routine play to better suit mobile platforms and their pick up and go style of content. The game is very much content driven and the goal was for every action the player makes to have some form of reward and make the Zoo more successful. They designed the entire game around 4 Pillars – CARE (They acknowledged the cheesy-ness). Connected, Accessible, Rewarding, And Emotional.

Discussion then moved onto the pricing model and Zoo Tycoon Friends had always been designed to be free as this gives the game the broadest reach. Microsoft has had previous games where advertising has performed very well for them when designed well into the game and they also made the decision early in development to add In App Purchases. It was very clear to see that his game had been designed with this in mind, love it or hate it Free-to-Play games are definitely here to stay.

Technical details were quite light during this talk but we were promised that talks later in the week would delve into this in more detail. The only technical titbit we got from this talk was that it had been developed in Unity and uses a Microsoft Azure backend, allowing both C# to be used on the Client and Server sides.

PlayStation #4TheDevs – Looking back to look forwards

Presented by Agostino Simonetta, Michael Torode and Tom Hegarty
Attended by Paul Roberts

During this talk, Sony discussed their relationship with developers and both Team 17 and Roll7 taking to the stage to discuss working with Sony. It turns out that whilst working on one of the main consoles is certainly a good thing, it isn’t without challenges and isn’t always smooth sailing. They also took a look at how the PlayStation 4 launch went (read: Well) and discussed the success they have had getting indie titles onto the PS4 at or just following the launch.

However, the main announcement during this talk was a new funding opportunity for Indie developers through a new GameLab Campus incubator. This was particularly interesting for us, as this funding from Sony was specifically targeted for non-south England projects. Sony announced they would be offering up to £50,000 in funding for new titles (they actually called them ‘new experiences’) to be brought to their platforms PS4, PS3 and PS Vita. This will also include Dev Kits as well as both business and technical support. This is in partnership with Creative England, who already offer funding to start up game studios http://gameslab.creativeengland.co.uk/. It all sounds rather good, but there are some limitations to consider – it’s not an unlimited pot of money. Sony have allocated £250,000 for five game studios.

You can find various pieces of news dotted around the internet on this but the Creative England piece probably sums it all up the best: http://www.creativeengland.co.uk/story/creative-england-teams-up-with-playstation-on-accelerator-programme

The Gamification of Learning

Presented by Ian Livingstone
Attended by Paul Boocock and Paul Roberts

This was one of the talks we were looking forward the most on Tuesday (especially Paul R, who was definitely geeking out!). Ian Livingstone, Co-founder of Fighting Fantasy books and Games Workshop, discussed how we should be applying many of the ideas we use in games and applying similar principles to learning. He made some very interesting points on how Game Skills = Life Skills and more people need to realise this.

We also went on a little bit of a nostalgia trip, with Ian discussing his history from Games Workshop to the Fighting Fantasy books. We got a rather amusing look into what his life was like when publishing the, at times controversial, Fighting Fantasy books.

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Ian also discussed the NESTA Charity. This is a charity that helpers to support people that have exceptional ideas by helping them with funding. There’s various ways to get funding and these opportunities are constantly changing, you can find out more here: http://www.nesta.org.uk/get-funding

ID@Xbox: State of the Union

Presented by Chris Charla
Attended by Paul Boocock and Paul Roberts

This re-introduced ID@Xbox and although nothing particularly new was announced it was interesting to hear it from Chris Charla, Director of ID@Xbox. So to recap ID@Xbox:

  • Open to any developer
  • You receive two Xbox One Dev Kits
  • You also receive Unity Pro Xbox Edition licenses that allow you to deploy to Xbox One.

One interesting thing to note was how open the whole process seems now and how easy Microsoft is trying to make delivering your games on Xbox One without going down the whole self-publishing route. The only real barrier to entry that was discussed was that Microsoft needed to be confident that game could be launched eventually, to have confidence in the idea and the competence of the developers. However even if your application is denied initially, you can continue to update it with new information and information as you continue working on your game in the hope that Microsoft eventually see the potential and except it and offer you Dev Kits.

Putting Lipstick on the Venus de Milo

Presented by Dave Raynard and Will Freeman
Attended by Paul Boocock and Paul Roberts

This was the final session of the day and had Will Freeman, freelance journalist, questioning Dave Raynard of Sony about how disruptive he believes Virtual Reality will be to the gaming industry. He considered how there is some resistance to the idea, much like how there was when sound was added to movies in the 1930. This is where the title of the session comes from, to quote the Develop website:

‘Back in the 1930s the movie industry was hit by an earthquake – not a real earthquake, just the talkies! Mary Pickford, co-founder of united artists famously said:

“Adding sound to movies would be like putting lipstick on the Venus de Milo”

There was resistance to sound in movies and many people had vested interests in keeping the status quo.

“We do not want now and we shall never want the human voice with our films” D.W. Griffiths (silent movie pioneer)

We all know what happened next; silent movies became a thing of history.’

There was also some discussion around Project Morpheus, which we tried earlier in the day and was pleasantly surprised at the difference higher resolution makes in VR but that’s another discussion. Dave spent much of the session, discussing the demonstrations that have been made for Project Morpheus that SCE London Studio were involved in making in particular the Streetluge demonstration.

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