Staffs Uni visits Develop 2014 – Day 2 Develop (Part 1 of 2)

Here is part 1 of 2 discussing our second day at Develop. This is the beginning of what is traditionally the 2 day Develop conference. Day 1 is now Evolve which is a reasonably new additional day and had far fewer people in attendance. This shouldn’t take away from some very good speakers during Evolve and for those wondering if Evolve is worth it for next year, my answer is definitely a yes.

DEVELOP OPENING KEYNOTE: 20 Years of PlayStation, 40 Years of Console Games, and 100 Years to Come

Presented by Andrew House, Mark Cerny and Michael French
Attended by Paul Boocock and Paul Roberts

Day 2 started with a Sony Keynote, looking back at the history of PlayStation and then a look into the future. This was a nice opening to Develop proper, with the same speakers who discussed the PS4 launch at E3. Maybe the biggest surprise was that its 20 years since the PS1 launched (In Japan at least)!

Whilst much was discussed, including what looks like an exciting future, it would probably be best if I left you with the actual keynote that you can watch yourself:

Bringing Substance and Deeper Experiences to Casual Gamers (or The Casual/Core Gamer Revolution)

Presented by Jack Attridge
Attended by Paul Boocock and Paul Roberts

Next up was the Godus development team however Peter Molyneux couldn’t make it due to being in America doing some important stuff apparently. Instead we got a great talk from Jack Attridge about GODUS and what 22cans have been working on in the run up to releasing GODUS. Specifically, Jack talked a lot about Curiosity – the game with the cube where people chiselled away at it to find what was inside of it.

Jack also discussed the Kickstarter for GODUS. A rather interesting slide showed that they had two peaks in their Kickstarter funding, one at the beginning and one at the end. The middle 20 days or so of their Kickstarter gained relatively few backers and had them very worried that they wouldn’t be backed!

GODUS also has changed focus heavily since the Kickstarter and has now become primarily a tablet game rather than a standard PC game. This was influenced by many aspects but the main driver was that the stay of game suited tablet play. I was quite surprised by some things Jack discussed such as making the move away from PC and what they originally promised in their Kickstarter – this was a brave move and Jack discussed how some backers were unhappy by this move.

Game AI Vs Real AI

Presented by Richard Evans
Attended by Paul Boocock and Paul Roberts

Talk about having my mind blown! This was a look at the AI behind a game on the iPad called VERSU. I actually wrote down a ton of notes during this session and I’ll try my best to explain it briefly here, however you should go and check it out on the App Store. You can also read numerous white papers that the developers have released on their website:

Basically, the idea is that each of the characters in the story have the idea of social practices that they know how to deal with in a variety of ways. These are generally repeatable events and describe what an agent should do in this social practice. These execute concurrently and an agent can have multiple social practices executing at the same time.

Based on all the social practices that the agent is currently partaking in, he then makes a choice based on his own desires – choosing a certain option then changes the state of the social practices. These social practices and beliefs are defined as a set of facts – not a traditional way such as an FSM. These desires allow for individual personalities for each character in the story, lots of unique desires for each character allow them to be very much individuals.

The VERSU team have created their own language to express this in, to allow them to develop these social practices quicker and in a more natural way called Praxis. As I mentioned earlier, check out the whitepapers and the game itself at the link above, this was truly interesting as a concept and the AI shown off during the demonstration showed a lot of complexity.

Being Mike Bithell – The Best Way to Develop Your PR alongside Your Game

Presented by Simon Byron
Attended by Paul Boocock

This wasn’t actually presented by Mike Bithell as the title may suggest but by Simon Byron, from Premier PR. Mike was in the audience however! Simon also co-presents the One Life Left radio show which certainly sounded like it was worth a listen.

Simon delved into the way Mike does his PR and how he generally does it right. He made many comparisons to Peter Molyneux and how maybe he doesn’t do it quite so right. He introduced us to three different tools that can help with seeing how you are doing on Social Media and News outlets. Sysomos, Topsy and Google Trends.

Simon then went on to teach us 6 lessons relating to things Mike does or has done that were good!

#1 Share it…shareshareshare

Pretty self-explanatory. Use Social Media and get word out there about what you are doing!

#2 Be opportunistic

Mike sent a letter to the press that was perfectly composed. Great opening that was friendly. Introduced himself and the reason for his e-mail clearly and concisely. Included a lazy link for the journalist and dropped a hint of exclusivity! The main lesson here was to be opportunistic, Mike sent this e-mail as a response to a post Simon made on twitter about needing someone for his Radio show.

#3 Be Prepared

Ensure you are ready for launch. A groundswell of coverage around launch is vital

#4 Create a personality

This is very important and something Mike has done well. However, its important that you personality doesn’t dominate. It should be your games in the news, not you. Simon drew comparisons with Peter Molyneus here where it is often Peter in the news rather than his games. He show how using the tools mentioned earlier you can compare yourself to your games. If you have opinions, be careful how you air them.

#5 Best time to release a press release

The theory is to release it when the press are active. So 9-5 on a weekday. However Mike released his trailer on a Sunday just before E3. It was gutsy and different and potentially the news was a little slow on that day so it got very good traction.

#6 Never ever give up!

It used to be about week 1 sales and traditional games have peak in sales when the news around the launch hits. Indie games often have a different model, consistency is key to indie games where sales are often the same or at least very similar all the way through.

Studio Start-ups from the Bedroom to Boardroom, With a Charity, Console and Funding

Presented by Fiona Stewart, James Brooksby and Simon Iwaniszak
Attended by Paul Roberts

This talk had three different speakers each looking at a slightly different angle based on their experiences. First up was Fiona from Former Droid, who looked at starting up a new indie and offered some great tips:

Next up were Born Ready Games who looked at the challenges of releasing on a console, many of these are what you would have expected working with the big platforms. Strike Suit Zero: Directors Cut was actually a game that made it through the ID@Xbox program and Born Ready we’re pretty open about how Microsoft worked well with them to deliver this game.

Lastly was Red Kit Games who have worked with GamesAid and Special Effect to release a game that can help support these charities. This was a novel idea where they donate 15% of the games revenue to these charities. Not only does it help the charities but also drives players to his game who want to both support the charities and here about it in the extra press they receive because of this.

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