Conference time: Develop 2009

06 July 2009

Next week is Develop in Brighton, the UK’s premiere games industry conference, and I’m going to be involved in two sessions there.

The first session is part of “Evolve“, a single day before the conference proper combining their old online and mobile tracks into something more focused on the edges of the games industry – so now including social and casual gaming as well.

With a panel of industry experts, I’ll be asking the question “What Do Social Networking Sites Have To Offer The Games Industry“:

Facebook and Myspace each have over 100m unique users. The users of these sites are not only coordinating their leisure time through them, but spending their leisure time on them, and even playing games on them. What does that mean for the games industry? How can traditional games and game companies engage with the social networks – their users, their platforms, and the core gamers already using them? Are Facebookers casual-gamers-in-waiting? This panel invites representatives from top social networks to explain what gaming means for their products, and how they can support your efforts as games developers.

Hopefully, given the panel’s strengths and expertise, we can come up with some wide-ranging – and interesting – answers.

In addition to that, as part of the conference proper, I’m going to be talking about Games As A Service: what service design is, what it means for games and products of the future, and how some of the territory Schulze & Webb has been exploring when it comes to unproduct might apply to games. It’s called Never Mind The Box: Games As A Service:

The effort and finances needed to build full retail games is growing unsustainable. But what if you weren’t making a product? What would Games As A Service look like? Services encourage loyalty; they turn products into platforms; they empower users; they play well with others and connect to existing services; and at the large scale, they wrap other products and become super-products. Using examples from inside and outside the games industry – from tiny, open-source Davids to console-licensed Goliaths – Tom Armitage examines already successful notions of service design and explores what it will mean for your games, big or small.

So that’s next week, then. Better start writing them. And if you’re going to be at Develop next week – do come say hello!

  • "I'm sorry to say that Demiforce is canceling plans for Onyx." This is a real shame, because I was somewhat excited that Demiforce wasn't just ramping up for "another game", and was instead building something that might benefit the platform. As it is: oh well. Those Apple T&Cs are killer, it seems.
  • "I was reading about arcades and how you'd have to queue to play popular games as well as follow rules like no throwing in fighting game or the others wouldn't let you play. This seems rather strange. The money cost must have gotten expensive pretty quickly as well. I'm not old enough to have been to them when they were around so I'm curious about what they were like." And then, 18 pages of wonderful gaming oral history; you'll be smelling the aircon and the chewing gum by the time you're through with this thread.
  • "The aim, then, is to explore what makes a good children's game, to consider how this oft-maligned market can sometimes reveal bad game design habits that we've been conditioned to tolerate, and to offer a guide to the best games for kids available now by looking at the four design areas that I believe are key to making a successful game for children." Dan Whitehead's roundup of games for children is really very good: some strong thinking, good comparative analysis, and best of all, parental insight. More like this, please, EG.
  • Wonderful interview with Marty Stratton and John Carmack on Quake Live; there's some really smart insight on development and business in here, and also some tidbits of Carmack talking code. Definitely one to mull over.
  • "In the 14 months since [TeamFortress 2] shipped, the PC version of the game has seen 63 updates – “that’s the frequency you want to be providing updates to your customers,” [Newell] adds. “You want to say, ‘We’ll get back to you every week. The degree to which you can engage your customer base in creating value for your other players” is key, says Newell. “When people say interesting or intelligent things about your product, it will translate directly into incremental revenue for the content provider.”" Great write-up from Chris Remo of Gabe Newell's DICE talk.
  • "This is a sort of thorough, empirical, sociological study of art students at two British art schools at a very interesting moment, the late 1960s (a moment when, as the book says, anti-art became the approved art, bringing all sorts of paradoxes to the fore). I find it fascinating that such a subjective thing as developing an art practice can be studied so objectively, but then I find it amazing that art can be taught at all. The book shows the tutors and students circling each other with wariness, coolness, misunderstanding, despair, appreciation." Some great anecdotes and observation.
  • "Busker Du (dial-up) is a recording service for buskers through the telephone (preferably public payphones hidden in subway stations). Audio recorded will be posted to this audio-blog and made available to all who cherish lo-fi original music. Try it out at your favorite subway station or street corner." Dial-A-Song comes full circle.
  • "Poole – HAL 9000 is a fictional chess game in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. In the movie, the astronaut Frank Poole is seen playing chess with the HAL 9000 supercomputer… The director Stanley Kubrick was a passionate chess player, so unlike many chess scenes shown in other films, the position and analysis actually makes sense. The actual game seems to come from Roesch – Schlage, Hamburg 1910, a tournament game between two lesser-known masters."
  • Lovely demo – some interesting interfaces that feel quicker than current alternatives, as well as experimental ones that, whilst slower and clumsier, represent information a bit better. I mainly like the form-factor, though – but what's the unit cost? These things get a lot better the more you have.
  • "Something like: Trying to create a reading list that gives the best introduction to everything. This may change." Phil is trying to collect the Good Books in many fields. It's an interesting project, for sure; it'll also be interesting to see how it pans out.
  • I was a little excited from the ongoing Offworld love in, but Oli Welsh's review suddenly makes me insanely excited about Keita Takahashi's new plaything. Why is it that all the reasons for me wanting a £300 PS3 are £3 PSN titles?
  • "…the biggest consequence [of a universal micro-USB adaptor] will be the ease of transferring data/content from street service provider to consumer, and consumer to consumer… There is a place at the edges of the internet where the level of friction makes content and data grind to a halt. It's largely unregulated. And it just got seriously lubed."
  • "30 Second Hero is an action RPG which consists of really short battles that require no interaction, as players race against the clock to save the kingdom from an evil wizard's wrath. As indicated by the title, you only have thirty seconds to level up your character sufficiently for the final battle, although additional time can be bought from the castle at the cost of a hundred gold pieces per increment of ten seconds." Hectic; the entire early JRPG genre (FF1, et al) condensed into a minute-long rush. Grinding as poetry.
  • "I was convinced that it was a spoof. As if there’d be a genre called Donk. Everything is wrong about the video. The knowing subtitles over subtle Northern Accents. The presenter’s slight grin when he’s chatting to folk. The funnily named shops. Everything. There’s no way I’m falling for a prank like that. It reminds me heavily of the episode of Brass Eye where they whang on about Cake (the made up drug). And all the characters and the interviews look like they could be setups or clever edits." But no, it's real. Iain Tait discovers Donk.
  • "…with that sad note from Sarinee Achavanuntakul, one of the most enduring (if illegal) tributes to gaming history came to an end." Home of the Underdogs is no more; just gone, like that. It wasn't that it had the best games or the worst games, or that they were illegal, or free; it was history, and childhood, and the smell of cardboard and boot disks, all wrapped up in one giant cathedral to Good Old Games. Most things I played on my old DOS machine were there. A shame; I hope they're elsewhere. This is why we need proper game archives.
  • Tweaking a game five months after launch to make it both more playable, and also more realistic; understanding that realism is key to NHL09 fans, and delivering on that as an ongoing promise.
  • "Warcraft’s success has always been substantially due to the extraordinary physicality of Azeroth, to the real sense of land transversed, of caves discovered, and of secrets shared. Players old and new bemoan the endless trudging that low-level travel requires, but it’s crucial for binding you to the world." Yes. Despite QuestHelper, I'm always in awe of the new areas. I just wish more people were playing the game as slowly and badly as me. Another beautiful One More Go, and one that resonates a lot right now.