Technically you’re supposed to discover all of this through play and I mostly did myself, except when I looked up info on the Treeguard just because. If you’re wondering what the heck Don’t Starve is, here’s their site http://www.dontstarvegame.com/ the game is also available on Steam.

Spend the first 3-5 days locating the Beefalo herd for manure, and a mine area to get the 7 nuggets needed for the alchemy & science machines.

The best place for your main base is in savannah next to a few rabbit locations and near the Beefalo herd, as a bonus you’ll have access to a large number of grass tufts to make traps with.

Plant 20 or so saplings near your base so you have a ready made source of twigs for making equipment and traps with.

When walling off your base have a backdoor in case something very big follows you in one of the entrances.

You don’t need to bait the traps with food, just place them directly on top of the rabbit holes and when they spawn out of them the trap falls on the heads of rabbits.

Before winter (Starts around day 20), get the shovel and place as many of the berry bushes as you can in clumps around the base, replanted berry bushes and grass tufts require manure to get them going again, and don’t forget to build a lightning rod otherwise there’s a risk a lightning bolt will land on your berry farm and wipe it out.

Filling the Crock pot with 1-3 rabbits & 1-3 berries (Total of 4) is a great way of refilling about 40% of your food bar. Making jerky on drying racks even with just rabbit morsels is a great way of restoring your health & keep sanity from dropping too far. You’ll need charcoal for those two items, the trick is to find a place to plant some trees, let them grow to the first stage of growth then make a torch and use it to set one of the trees on fire. The fire will then leap from tree to tree and afterwards a single axe hit turns each tree into a charcoal brick.

Spiders are a good source of healing items, get the glands they drop, put a stack of combustible items on the ground (Logs or grass) and torch them for a stack of ash to make the healing salve. I’ve got 16 healing salves in reserve at the moment for nasty encounters thanks to wiping out a few spider colonies.

When winter comes I’ve found I can usually do just fine for cold protection only carrying the Heat stone, as long as I have supplies to throw down a quick camp fire if I get caught out taking too long to get to or from somewhere (for instance stopping to kill some wandering spiders).

Combat:
It is worth making the spear as a basic weapon as it does enough damage more than an axe or pick to make it worth the upgrade, that one less hit on a spider can make the difference.

When you find touchstones, use them, they’re basically a resurrection stone. You should probably place some winter (freezing) survival gear near it in case you die during winter.
Also note the big heads on sticks you see near the touchstones can be smashed with a hammer as an easy way to get a few pig skins, useful for making football helmets to increase your combat survivability.

Have a second pit fire placed near the Beefalo herd (but not too close), so that if anything nasty comes you can relocate to B Base even at night with a torch and draw them in near the Beefalo in the hopes they’ll go after the Beefalo (Especially useful with larger hound packs as they change to nearest target after they stop to bark at you for a moment).

You can always carry log armour in a backpack and switch away to armour for combat, then when you pick the backpack up afterwards you can just place the log armour back into the pack.

Treeguards chasing after you can be made to sleep by planting pinecones, always try to keep a reserve of 10 in your inventory when chopping trees down.

Spider Queens upgrade from tier 3 spider dens, the best response is to avoid them and wait until they resettle as a tier 1 colony then go in and wipe out both the new spider den and the (probably tier 2 again) original colony.

Advertisements

Slow Trains

October 29, 2012

(For the short version, skip to the point 3 and the two images below it)
Katie Melua is one of my favourite musicians, not for her looks of course (though she is a pretty lady (and married, btw)) but for her innate singing ability and her learned song writing talent. One of the songs in her repertoire goes like this “So I stopped one day to figure it out, I quit my job without a shadow of a doubt, to sing the blues that I know about, my life is just a slow train, crawling up a hill.”

(Note how I’ve chosen a video that doesn’t show the music video)

For the past few months I’ve been working at Amazon, building up a decent cash reserve so that I can quit my job (without a shadow of a doubt) and spend some time learning to drive (Makes getting other jobs a bit easier) and do the things that I know about. I’m in a state of transition – where my patience with the job (which has a rota that jumps from 5:30AM-1:30PM to 1:30PM-9:30PM and back each week, often leaving me exhausted, as if I haven’t had a good nights sleep in months) is running thin and I need to get out.

I’m going to hold on just a few more weeks, get some more cash reserves in the bank, until Desert Bus for Hope comes along, which I missed last year. You see, Amazon has a holiday embargo at this time, so getting to see that is as good a reason as any to choose a particular week to take a chance and go back to what my heart is calling me to do… Assuming of course that I’ve learned certain key lessons:

1. Stay the hell away from making 3D games. I don’t like doing art enough for that, also, implementing things in code should be easier (depending on what that thing is of course) because I’m only coding for 2 dimensions instead of 3, less need to mess about with camera implementations.

2. Certain key changes to the design of my main project have to be made. Previously the project (which is about setting up a colony on a new extra-terrestrial world) was just too focused on numbers, became too much about managing production levels in a spreadsheet style. I’ve since had an epiphany whilst playing a little game called colonization – Make the game more about managing people by moving them from building to building and allowing them to pick up specialisations.

3. Since I want to move away from 3D and I want to make a big shift in the design, this is a perfect opportunity to do both by switching from Torque 3D to Torque 2D (I’ve already bought the 2D license) and begin afresh with the code. Making that switch in game engines will make it easier for me to write off the loss of all the code and art I’ve done on the old design in the old game engine.

So the next iteration in the design will be less like this:

On Second Thoughts

On second thoughts, maybe that wasn’t the best approach…

And more like this (With certain adjustments I’ll go into at another time):

Perhaps something more like this

I was really hoping to continue working on stuff whilst I was working at Amazon, but sometimes things don’t work out the way you want them to, so it’s time to make some changes. Heck, I might eventually opt for a part time job, 20 hours a week kind of thing so I still have money coming in but also have plenty of time and energy to make things, time will tell, I didn’t do so well on the part time job search last winter but that was a year ago.

If at first you don’t succeed…

In this house, I have a small A6 notebook, in that notebook there are around 100 pages chock full of notes.

Notes for what? For an MMOFPS of course, like Planetside 1, but reducing its weaknesses whilst building on its strengths, something written over the course of months, picking the game apart and rebuilding it piece by piece.

Image

If you’re a Planetside 2 developer who happens to be reading this (I see it as unlikely though to be honest), sorry in advance, I think there’s an element of truth to what I saw Total Biscuit saying earlier about the biggest fans being the harshest critics.

So, I guess you could say I’m rather passionate about Planetside and that I’d have high hopes for a sequel, something that would take what the original did and build on it. Rumblings of a sequel being in the works emerged and I was excited, however I quickly became VERY concerned when those rumblings gave significant mention to Battlefield and Call of Duty/Modern Warfare. Despite that I hoped that it was just talk, a marketing message intended to draw in the players of those games to something bigger and something different.

You see, Planetside and the squad shooters of Battlefield and Modern Warfare are very different games, with very different mechanics and gameplay goals and so on. If you make Planetside 2 too much like those games, you risk losing much of what made the original great. Sure, Planetside had its issues, but these could be addressed in a sequel, you could build on the original… Or you could throw out everything and make a different game. Seems the latter choice was followed, did the developers simply not like the original? Sometimes I have to wonder. Anyway…

They decided to go with a class system instead of the certification system of old (That allowed you to custom build your character to your personal preferences), making it like pretty much EVERY current multiplayer shooter on the market right now. That just pisses me off so much, because I liked the very different experience of custom built soldiers. So what if there were popular builds, there are still going to be popular class choices as well – whatever seems most effective or dominant – but at least I got to combat and use oddball weapon loadouts too, people who used the supressor or rocklet rifle instead of the obvious main rifle or heavy assault weapon, this kept the game fresh. The developers took the easy route out to avoid certain design challenges and I think that’s a waste in this homogenised shooter market. They’ve made their choice though and will be sticking to it, so I guess that’s that.

Much has been made of the behemoth that is World of Warcraft in the MMORPG market, how people kept trying to copy it, how foolhardy this was because if people wanted to play a game like World of Warcraft, they’d just play World of Warcraft. Now we have Planetside 2 coming along and I fear they’ve done something akin to copying World of Warcraft in the MMORPG market, but its CoD/BF in the MMOFPS market and I am concerned that many people will try it but in the end retreat back to the two games that PS2 feels like it’s aping. I’ll admit they ARE listening to feedback and many elements/mechanics have moved back in the direction of Planetside but sadly I think this shouldn’t have been necessary in the first place. Well, that, and I didn’t want an MMORPG Call of Duty. I wanted Planetside 2, I wanted something different to the current crop of shooters.

I’m going to take this opportunity to address many of the bugbears I’m having with the sequel, some of it is just personal taste stuff I admit, others that I think are genuine issues.

Catering to a single player mindset

Let’s take a look at the tanks. In Planetside 1 a tank would require two crew members to be effective (Let’s not get into a debate about the Prowler now), you’d have a driver and a gunner, the driver wouldn’t actually have much in the way of a gun though the MagRider did get one that you could use to scare off aircraft and maybe score some infantry kills with if you were good. Additionally, to pull one you’d have to spend some refundable certification points to get access to it and these were a limited resource. You’d also need access to a Technology Plant or go back to the empire sanctuary to pull one.

In Planetside 2, there’s a resource cost for a main tank, the main gun is actually the driver gun and until upgraded with a replacement the gunner gun almost seems pointless (especially when you can’t aim it up sufficient to hit an air unit nose down firing missile pods at maximum angle). I think that despite the resource cost, the tanks are too popular because they are considered an easy way to score/farm kills and they are often used just to spam a base or spawns with shells rather than as a push between bases.

I’ve found myself missing just being the driver for a good gunner, worrying only about positioning myself correctly and letting my gunner do the rest, but if I want to do that in the sequel I’d have to spend a fortune in (*non-refundable*) certification points. If I screw up the choice of purchase (and I did exactly that today with the guns for the Flash) then I’m sod out of luck.

Tanks need to be rarer, and they need to be used more for tank battles and less for farming infantry (an issue in the level design, I’ll get to this later). Tank groups in Planetside 1 were rare enough that they were a joy to behold before you went scurrying for cover because of the teamwork requirement of gunner-driver, now I usually see tank zergs instead on a daily basis, disorganised and not that much fun to fight with because often everyone goes off in random directions instead of working as a unit. Conversely, tanks can die a little too quickly, in Planetside I could stand a chance of anticipating that I was overextending with my tank but in the sequel I don’t. I feel Planetside 1 had this right, Planetside 2 does not.

Weapons

I can’t help but feel the weapons kill too quickly and I dislike the use of bullet drop. Yes, I’m sure conceptually it’s realistic and requires uber skill (etc) but I hate the way I so often have to aim above my target and the shots often feel so random. I’d really like to shoot where I aim, if it’s a distant target then there’s enough difficulty there in the challenge of shooting a smaller dot in the distance, in my mind I just don’t see it as necessary to artificially beef up the difficulty by putting in bullet drop.

Camera shake also winds me up, every little explosion nearby sends my confidence in my aim to hell and back and the visuals for explosions are often over large/imposing, obscuring my ability to see if I actually hit my target or not with a tank round (I’m looking at you default gun on the lightning.)… Oh how I’d love the Planetside 2 Lightning to be mechanically more like the Planetside 1 lightning, you had a cannon for hitting vehicles and anything hiding at the edge of cover but also had an alternate machine gun for scaring off aircraft or beating back infantry. The way the shells drop on the lightning in PS2 I find it hard to land a decent shot almost ever.

Lastly, in Planetside 1 you had a shooting range/virtual reality area so you could try out all the weapons/unlocks. Planetside 2 has non-refundable certs yet I have nowhere to go and see if that thing I’m about to spend 240 points on is worth the points or not.

Visuals

In addition to explosions being too big and obscuring what I’m shooting at, I’m having issues with the way soldiers seem to just blend into the world, I’m never quite sure if I’m looking at friend or foe at a glance, certainly not like I could in the original, leading to lots of snap shot ‘oops sorry’ moments, or holding your fire often when you really shouldn’t be (In my experience anyway). I can’t help but think the environments are visually very noisy which exacerbates the blending into background issues, especially with snipers firing on you from a distance.

Infiltrators

I’m having real issues with the way I’m fighting someone with a rifle who can disappear at a moments notice and there’s not a damn thing I can do about it. I can’t help but wish that when choosing equipment for the infiltrator the ability to cloak was something you placed into the rifle slot, so either you had the scouting and hacking abilities of your class with a rifle, or you sacrificed that rifle so you could cloak and have to use the pistol instead. I see it as more balanced than getting the drop on someone, having him/her vanish then move behind me and shoot me in the back (Or from a safe distance) with such ease, it’s doubly annoying when it happens to be an NC with a sniper rifle than can one shot you.

Lack of Strategizing

In Planetside, you could take an outfit behind enemy lines and knock out and hold a key generator to deny the enemy on the frontlines the ability to do something (or several things depending on lattice layouts) like pull the main battle tanks and heavier aircraft. Planetside 2 has nothing like that at the moment. I’m really missing having a reason to go do something else, the idea of cutting an empire off from some of its resources just doesn’t seem to be cutting it (Plus there’s a whole feedback loop of its own that can make pushing back onto a continent a horrific endeavour for an empire).

World and Base Layout – Galaxies

Planetside 1 got so much right. One way in which it got things right in my view is the towers. They were small 1 building spawn points. When you jumped out of a galaxy you knew which building you had to drop on and what to expect when you got inside. We’ve done trials with gal drops in Planetside 2 and several issues have become clear, one is that it’s difficult to know pre-drop when you’re looking at the map to place a drop waypoint what is where. Does that building contain the spawn room? Is that the capture point? The maps for bases in Planetside had little hints that indicated where a backdoor was (this was helped by the uniform design of bases). We’ve given up on using Galaxies for the most part because the not knowing where exactly to aim the drop of the squad caused us to get split up too much. Better to arrive in a mixed force of vehicles and a Sunderer AMS.

Not only is it hard to guide a Galaxy into the right drop position, but Galaxies were a great way to drop troops behind enemy lines, but at the moment I see no reason for why we’d want to drop a squad behind enemy lines in Planetside 2.

World and Base Layout – Tanks and Infantry Movement

Due to the distributed nature of the base buildings it’s very easy for a liberator or tank or three to go into a base and prevent infantry moving from one critical part of the base to another. My experience with the bases in Planetside 1 told me there was only one key weakness – the use of very long corridors made those places too strong as kill zones. Otherwise, the fact that you could have infantry battles inside the bases meant you always had a place where you could take a break from the possibility of being farmed by vehicles and aircraft. Not so in Planetside 2, with the exception of the Biolab. I would recommend making it impossible to move a tank into any of the smaller bases and make it hard to just shell the bases, especially the areas near spawns.

Also, where are the forests, and by forests I mean thick dense forests, the kind that driving a vehicle into is risky because of the amount of directions a missile could fly at you from. Similarly, Esamir was supposed to have trenches, trenches are man made, but what I found when I got to the continent myself was less trenches and more just undulations in the landscape. No bunkers connecting them either. I was regrettably underwhelmed.

World and Base Layout – Naval Warfare

I know the developers have plans to do this later, but they should have laid the groundwork during beta so that when they actually go for this, the continents are ready made to support it. Huge missed opportunity here to at least have a single boat type at launch to demonstrate you’re really going for that this time. Now the continents in game so far have no indication of being able to support naval warfare at all so for those continents naval vessels will only be pulled rarely, because what’s the point if you can’t get a boat even remotely close to the fights in the interior of the continents. Also, enough with the square continents, a hex layout is used as a territory spacing mechanic, work with that and make the coasts more rounded and interesting.

Bouncing Balance

There seems to be a temptation in some design circles to over nerf or over buff something or to make several changes together that affect the same thing. Rather than making one change to anti-air, three changes go to anti-air and one to aircraft themselves, all nerfs to aircraft, all hitting together in the same patch. How can a designer evaluate one change accurately if the results are muddied by 3 other changes?

Release

Overall and lastly, I’m deeply concerned about the choice of release date, not only is it competing with too many major winter quarter releases but it suggests SOE are about to put the developers through a hell month. Right now I think those developers need a week to stop, rest and think about what they’re trying to do with Planetside 2. Evaluate, prototype, experiment, have regular good nights sleep and time at home with family/friends. Pushing for a November release seems very unhealthy for the game and its developers and that has me especially concerned. Even if I ignore many of my design choice issues with the game, a month still seems like a very short time in which to polish things up, we haven’t even gotten strong indications of what the interaction between outfits is intended to be in game mechanic terms. A lot has changed and time should be given to let things settle and get good test data back. Also, I still haven’t had one afternoon session of play without at least 2 client crashes, this too concerns me.

Notes will be shorter this time because some of the sessions were more panel based and it’s not as easy to catch good notes without text on screen, in fact I decided to sit back and take it easy for the last few sessions, so there won’t be any notes for those.

All sessions (Aside from the opening keynote) were from the indie games dev track.

Thursday 12th July 2012
———- SESSION 1 ———- 10AM
Johnny Minkley interviews:
Patrick Buckland and Neil Barnden (Co-founders of Stainless Games)

mention of BBFC/news media free publicity
Originally wanted to do a mad max game but couldn’t get the license
decided to just go for it.

Were only able to buy back IP after Square took over Eidos.
Had to set up a corporation and use someones American bank account to use Kickstarter in the UK.

They’d blacked out a room in the company for about a month, almost no one even within the company new the room was being used to prepare the GDC announcement of them having the rights back for Carmageddon. Aim was to prevent news leaking out via someones facebook post or something.

Some people were reluctant to use kickstarter because the amazon payment system, this is one reason why they’ve since offered the paypal method since completing the kickstarter run.

“Bless the daily mail” “most controversial game of all time”

“The comedy is what saves Carma from being a nasty splatter-fest.”

In Brazil they announced the game was going to be banned “in one weeks time” which was fantastic for sales.

Kickstarter fitted in very well with their aim to connect more with the players/consumers.

Advice: Planning, they thought they had but were still semi-caught out by the amount of attention the kickstarter campaign brought in.

They loved how Tim Schafers campaign was up front and said it *could* be a complete failure but at least there’ll be video records of it.

It’s always going to be terrifying to start a game company, doesn’t matter when you start it.
———- SESSION 2 ———- 11:15AM
Indie Exposure: Tackling the Challenges
Alistair Aitcheson, founder Alistair Aitcheson Games

Why is exposure so difficult to get and the ways we can fix this

-Exposure is tough – 50% of time and effort
-Growing competition
-Harder to stumble upon new games
-New gatekeepers

USP
Capitalise on your unique selling point
-Multiplayer & stealing
-Easy to explain
-Memorable at events
-Award-winning

Be Remarkable, not just have a high quality product
-Sell in a sentence
-Encourage discussion
-Target enthusiasts

-Indies can/must take risks

Personal Touch (Uniquely indie)
-We don’t have to keep secrets or time announcements

Getting personal
-Expos, events, talks

-Long term connections
-Press, players, developers, tastemakers
-Involvement motivates

Working with the press
-Press wants to talk about indies
-Offer something that interests their readers
-Convey your cause

Pricing and business model
Offer something for nothing
-Validate quality before payment
-Easy to recommend (virality)

Free does not equal exposure
-Eyeball space qually competitive in free
-Featured/Top 100 still king

-Incentivise viral spread?
-Open web?

Strategies for exposure (recap)
-Leverage your identity/personality
-Smart use of platforms and free
-Offer something worth talking about

 

———- SESSION 3 ———- 11:45AM
Indie Essentials – Getting Support for your Game
James Marsden, founder of FuturLab

BECOMING A STORYTELLER
-Write your own success story
-Games press are the gate keepers
-Empathy wins when contacting the press
-Bank anything noteworthy
-Be useful
-Everything leads to everything else
When screenshots were first posted the game was slated, but when it went on to be shown on sites like Kotaku there were folks willing to defend it.

Showed a video of a chaps 31 attempts at a level in a game.

By luck they had a meeting with EA the next day and the virality of that video fed into the by chance meeting. Hired coconut dodge without even asking about sales on PSN.

Start promoting early
-More Time to build an audience
-More time for good ideas

Squeaky wheel gets the oil
-Try not to talk about when you’re struggling, talk about when you’ve done good things.
-Stay on peoples radar
-Be cheeky if necessary, can show confidence

Everything you do matters
-Be proactively nice

(Story about how sending out some free stickers to go on your console were sent out to folks who helped on the first game. Later, someone at one of the console companies was super super helpful because they were hoping to score a sticker for the new game being made)

 

———- SESSION 4 ———- 12:45
Beat the Post-Launch Blue: Your Game is Out, What Now?
Rob Davis, founder of Playniac

So your game is out, what now?
“Too late, you needed to think about this much sooner, it starts with your games name”

Think of what you own?
-Less than you think, ideas/mechanics cannot be owned
Mention of Sol LeWitt (1928-2007), who made images using algorithms but not in computers
-You own your IP, including the name, buy domains early on & appropriate account names like those for twitter, facebook, etc.

Possible platforms:
-Web/games portals
-Mobile
-PC
-Cloud
-Console
-Piracy is a platform, as long as you’re not selling units

Sales
-Paid
-Free with adverts
-Free with in-app purchases
-Subscription

Lunching on Kongregate
-Good ratings early on
-Trible attitude in response to comments on the game. People would read a comment about the game, agree with it and then put a rating on the game with that comment in mind.

Discussion of making the game know when it’s pirated and making small changes to behaviour as a result, such as being more persistent in encouraging the user to buy in-app
objects.

Analytics
-Good at capturing events
(Google analytics apparently just stops recording more events after the 500th, presumably because it’s designed for websites instead of games, which have fewer events per
play/usage session)
Selection of analytics tools:
-Google Analytics
-Mochibot
-Flurry
-Testflight
-Chartboost

36% of players return
42% minutes average playtime session
56% >10 minutes play per session
28% >30 minutes play per session

Promotion – it’s a busy room
-Be persistent with the press, make sure you send the right (and appropriate) information (to the right sites, don’t send stuff on a mobile game to a PC gaming only site like
rock paper shotgun)
-Online advertising
-Awards
-Showcases
-Cross promotion between apps?
-Social media
-Merchandise

Publishers – The big question
-They can sell it
-They can distribute it
-They can market it
-They can fund it
If you’re doing all/most of these yourself there’s no point. Need to be sure a publishing partner won’t be half heart in their support.

(Story about how sending out some free stickers to go on your console were sent out to folks who helped on the first game. Later, someone at one of the console companies was
super super helpful because they were hoping to score a sticker for the new game being made)

 

———- SESSION 5 ———- 13:30
Trials of a Graduate Start-Up Studio: The Challenges of Going it Alone as a Fresh Faced Developer and How to Combat Them
Me: (Who is ‘Them’?)

Split into 5 parts
Development, Team Communication, Finance, Marketing and Starting a Business

Development
-Approach other developers (can give you everything from moral support to advice, to more practical help)
-Plan ahead
-Don’t give up
-Less documentation, more iteration

Team Communication
Team had some issues with members not being around when needed or in do-not-disturb mode
-Organise regular meetups
-Use digital filing systems
-Structured tasks (Basically a bit of project management)
-Consider house sharing, no need for an office then

Finance
-Self fund to get started
-Apply for as much funding as possible (Worst they can do is say no)
-Prepare yourself to pitch
-Plan how much money you need and your business model

Marketing
“50% of my time is spent on marketing”
Social media, events like Develop, Game City
-Use all the social media channels you can
-Be open & talk about you, your game, your journey
-Events
-Involve with local dev community
-Don’t be afraid to talk to the games press

Starting a business
-Reach out for advice
-Make sure you have a clear business plan
-Put thought into your company name and logo
-Consider where you aim to go long term

Is this the right choice for your career?
Can you commit to see this through?
Do you possess the skills to make a game AND run a business?

 

———- SESSION 6 ———- 2PM
Pricing In-App Items and Currency: A Practical Guide
Kalvin Lyle, Full Moon Game Studios

FMGS kept changing monetization strategies due to conflicting stories about how to monetize.

Find the foundation
-Solid facts or requirements that cannot be changed and on which other decisions can be based.

Competing games (Reason for being noteworthy)
Temple Run (Free to play)
Jetpack Joyride (Well implemented store)
Draw Something (Err, missed why this was noteworthy)
Monster Island (Mechanics and skipping of hard parts)

Some ways of examing your game
-Minutes saved per dollar spent
-Minutes to purchase all items in the game
-Dollars to purchase all items

Very few appear to do shop design well
Button to store on end level screens (Commented on how one game was calling its story a “stash” and hadn’t realised for some time that it was an actual button you could press to go to a store)
Some markets are quite similar to America but have smaller user bases and could be used to test for problems in the design/monetization, or for player drop offs on (for example) level 4 and level 7.
If you release paid you can always go free to play later.

———-

The last sessions I don’t write any notes for (but I’ve tried doing recordings on my MP3 player, haven’t looked to see how they came out yet though), for clarity, these were.

 

———- SESSION 7 ———- 2:30
Ways to Fund your Indie Game
Panel:
Daniel Da Rocha (Toxic Games)
Adam Green (Assyria Games)
Dan Pinchbeck (Creative Director thechineseroom)
Henry Hoffman (Angry Mango Games)

———- SESSION 8 ———-
One Hour Tower
Panel: (Actually a session where the people below try to make a game in one hour, with Andrew Smith providing commentary and being a general entertainer by, for instance, fielding questions or managing to get a contact lens to pop out during the session, hehe)
Andrew Smith (Founder, Spilt Milk Studios Ltd)
Byron Atkinson-Jones (Xiotex Studios)
Gavin Harrison (Gavin Harrison Sounds)
James Harkins (Art Director, Big Pixel Studios)

As promised on Twitter, here lies my notes from today’s sessions at Develop Brighton. May they rest in pieces… Or, maybe characters.

Sessions:
1. A Survivors Guide: 30 years in Video Gaming
2. The Raspberry Pi, The Story So Far, David Braben
3. From Dungeons to Downing Street – A Life in Games, Ian Livingstone
4. Lessons from the ’80s, Andrew Oliver
5. Can Linear TV Ever Be Interactive? We say yes!
(Or What would happen if you could speak to the television and it could answer?)
6. Standing on the shoulders of Giant Nerds, Mary Hamilton
7. Designing for Emptiness: Dear Esther and Player Experience

Wednesday 11th July 2012
———- SESSION 1 ———- 9:30AM
A Survivors Guide: 30 years in Video Gaming
Eugene Evans
GM – Bioware Mythic (EA)

Store in early 80’s that was one of the first (of a few) to sell computer books and fairly cheap computers, so a development community could form around this shop. Lots of cloning. Got the attention of Atari who cease and desisted them, pushed them towards the idea of making original games.
1984 – A couple of people got together, formed a company, became huge and went bust in the space of about 18 months.
They sent a replacement copy with a fixed bug on level 5 for one company to first 35k mail ordered copies, helped cement reputation for good customer service.

“Hype is part of being in the entertainment industry.
The problem is when you start to believe it.”

(Discussion of tape copying)
(Discussion of how magazine cover game tapes pushed quality down)

(Our attention is drawn to a comical similarity between ‘Bermuda Project’ & ‘Uncharted 3’ box covers)

ImageImage

Iconsoft

Another proliferation of systems that support computer gaming, another period of having to port to multiple systems.

Microsoft CD conference in ’91.
Let’s see if we can make games for this, lots of shovelware.
Dracula Unleashed, Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective.
Another proliferation of machines with CD drives.
(Paraphrasing) Emergence of bundling games with tech.

Viacom purchases the company as Viacom New Media.
“The media companies have rarely driven the games business forward. They come and go too quickly.” “They all took a run at the games business and they all bailed from it having spent lots of money.”
“Any games company that appears on the cover of wired is probably going to be in a lot of trouble. – I don’t know why.”

Emergence of rental games (£3 for a few days, could discover if games were good or not without buying it full price), beginning of move towards free to play, the lower the price the better your product needs to be.

America Online, Walled Garden, buying up content exclusively. Went in search of people who could claim they’d produced an online game, got most of them in order to produce games for AOL’s walled garden to get a big safe cheque, not having to worry about sales of units. A time when online game was pay per hour (I sort of remember this).

Viacom got shut down (not producing money at a critical time when the parent company were looking to a buy/sell of a company).

1996 – Infinite (something?)
Gameboy colour ports, the right content was available to move to a new platform

!? – Think we’ve jumped forward a few years here

Porting games to smart phones (early smart phones?)
Discovering games already very difficult, 1000’s of variations of phones, 50 versions of a game.

“There really is such a thing as being too soon to market.”

Zipper Interactive (SOCOM games)
2001
Mythic Entertainment (Went from client to employee).
250k subs for Dark Age of Camelot, solution to piracy (grey shard servers only come close)
Distribution deal with vivendi, free client.

Re-iterates: Lower the price the better the product needs to be.

2006 EA Acquires Mythic, felt inevitable.
Got handed Ultima Online and became ‘the online guys’.

Merge with Bioware.
Wrath of Heroes. Their first FTP game.

Connected communities
cross platform
mobile, always on
anytime & anywhere
free to play
deep, engaging content

———- SESSION 2 ———- 11AM
The Raspberry Pi, The Story So Far, David Braben

Co founding trustee of the Rapberry Pi Foundation

Where did it all start?

Missing Applicants
-In around 2005 fronter were expanding
getting fewer programmers applying for jobs
-At first we thought it was something we were doing wrong…
Missing graduates
-Admissions tutors for computer science courses had the same problem
-After 2001 there was a steep drop off in university computer science admissions

By 2006 the drop off was about 50%.

“Boring ICT” in schools
SWo why did so many fewer people apply to do computer science
-anecdotal evidence that kids found ICT really dull
-after 2001 the first people to have studied ICT were applying to Univeristy. Office skills being taught not programming.

Introduction of ICT into national curricululm in 98-99
-Effectively stopped computer science in schools
-Replaced it with study of office skills
-Killed any interest kids had in compters stone dead
-Government proclaimed it as making teching computers universial.
-But behind the scenes government did not understand or care.

Taught by teachers who often don’t have much technology experience/knowledge, ICT seen as a subject anyone can teach.
Now we have at least a ten year gap in computer science education…

HOW DID IT WORK BEFORE THE GAP?

We had computer science in schools
– BASIC, Logo, Prolog, languages, and engagement in schools
– We had computer science GCSE and ‘A’Levels
– We had classrooms full of BBC Micros
We had the ability to self-teach
– It was possible to learn programming solo
– Using only what came in the computer boox (Esp BBC Micro)
We had a positive environment
– Programmers were seen as “whizz kids” by the ‘red-top’ press
(and wouldn’t be seen so positively in press these days)
– Programming was aspirational
– American hate words like ‘nerd’ had not yet caught hold

SO WHAT DID WE NEED?

A quick, reliable way of setting up a classroom with the same software
– BBC Micro used ‘Econet’ to do this, deploying from a single computer in seconds
– Is tantament to a virus so hard to do safely on a PC
Something cheap enough to deploy en-masse
– Initially this suggested a software platform… but deployment is still a problem.
Something a kid would see as aspirational (school computers seen as flaky or rubbish, people more excited about ‘writing apps’ than ‘programming’, yes the descriptors used are important)
– ‘apps’ = good, ‘programming’ = bad…!
– Something they could take home would be ideal…

WHO ARE WE?

We is the raspberry Pie foundation (reg charity)
-Eben upton alan mycroft, robert mullins, pete lomas, kjacj lang and myselfsupported by many others.
Came together with the same common interest to address this problem
-From cambridge uni and industry
-How hard could it be to design and build a new computer platform? (heh)
Have relationships with others that also care about the problem

THE BBC NANO
In discussion with the BBC since late 3009 about making a new BBC Micro
-BBC were supportive
– ware of supportin one manufacturer over another
-talks went nowhere
First prototype production hardware in early 2010

RASPBERRY PI PROTOTYPE
Rory Cellan Jones filmed me for his blog
-uploaded via youtube
Got 250k views in only a few days
-Now stands at 850k
-amount of traffic to http://www.reaspberrypi.org went bananas
Got interest from schools, charities around the world
-African charities wanted analogue outpuit for older TVs
The flood gates were open

FROM PROTOTYPE TO PRODUCTION
Ordered components for 10k units in 2011
– Funded by the founders
– Developer version to build software base
Production started late 2011
– Coverage on TV, radio, internet
– We saw a tidal wave of demand
– Hundreds of thousands of people expressed interest
– So we did a deal with Premiere Farnell and RS Electronics
– CE mark blockage caused a delay of a few weeks, but was already in progress.
(Thought they didn’t need a CE mark, but did)

700Mh\ ARM 11
Overclocked to 800
256 system RAM, SD Storage
-256 used for GPU and CPU
-Tested with up to 32 Gb SDs
Videocore 4GPU
1Gpixels/s, 1.5 Gtexel/s, or 24 GFLOPS
-Open GLES

<MISSED SLIDE INFO>

Launched on 29th February at 6AM GMT
10k sold out in a few seconds then site went down.

WINDING FORWARDS TO TODAY
Hundreds of thousands of developer Raspberry Pis are now in use
-Made in Shenzhen but ambition to bring manu to UK
Educational release planned for Q4 this year
– With case, manual
Many now in use as a cheap media centre
-Fine by us as each unit brings money into charity
-Running XBMC at 1920×1080 with 5.1 digi audio
Many are already being used to learn…
-Here are some examples…

Boreatton Scouts
Wonderful technically literate scout group
– Led by Alan Herbert
Building a ‘mind controlled’ robot!
One of their number Biz designed a Lego case
– Now available as a Lego kit!

ANDROID TRANSPORTER
-Tool used to display Android content on big screen

BBC vid from a classroom where 7-9 year olds were being shown simple programming on the Pi.

WHAT NEXT?
Have already succeeded in widening the debate
– We have competitors! That is a good thing
– Raspberry Pi is going into schools already
Education release
– Planned for Q4 2012
– Will have a case and instructions
Competition for under 18s begins this week
– Open to under 18s in full time education worldwide
– $1000 first prize and 5 $200 runner up prizes
– See http://www.raspberrypi.org for more details

Q&A
runs on under 5 volts, so they figured they wouldn’t need a case, they’ve had lots of offers they’re considering, delighted the don’t NEED a case for CE mark because seeing the internals is part of the percieved coolness of the tech.

There’s an import duty if they make it in the UK because of components, yet no import duty if they make it in China. Practical problems involving scale, they haven’t given up hope.

Luck that it fits into a rig built from lego

Are we going to have a visual language? Yes. Scratch, a drag & drop programming language. Online resource to facilitate collaborating.

———- SESSION 3 ———- 12PM

From Dungeons to Downing Street – A Life in Games
Ian Livingstone, Life President, Eidos

Founded Games Workshop, just initially doing what everyone else is doing, but this was short term.
Sent out a mailing (resquesting games?), recieved dungeons & dragons from Gary Gygax and they thought it was aspirational, got 6 copies and a distribution deal for Europe. Started selling D&D mail order. Selling at little trade shows as well.

Used to see people milling around on the street looking for games workshop, got kicked out of their flat, payphone on the ground floor by landlord kept getting called and landlord would always get there first (and be a bit of a jerk).

Lived in a van, openned a shop, other retailers wouldn’t stock D&D because they didn’t understand it and its use of supplements (etc).

Site of first shop now the Boznia & Herzegovinia advice centre.

Went from one to multiple shops and a warehouse.
White Dwarf.
Citadel Miniatures.
Warhammer.
Said no to a merger with TSR, suddenly felt vulnerable as they were no longer solely in charge of D&D. Built their own IP through Warhammer.
“To build real value in your company you need to retain ownership of your IP.”

Miniatures moved from metals to plastics.

Wanted to make games more accessible, began Fighting Fantasy.
17m copies in 28 languages.
59 in original series. LOL at Deathtrap Dungeon Japanese cover.
Blood of the Zombies, new book on its way. August 2012. (Also available on Android, iPad).

D0MARK
Eureka (£25k prize attached to it)
DoMARK became Eidos, then bought by Square Enix.
SE didn’t just want to take their content back to Japan, global content to global audiences, hedging their bets.

Discussion of losing track of keeping the game idea simple, Pong description avoid missing ball for high score.

Magnavox
Atari VC5 (etc) 1977
Video of lots of old games progressing forward through time. (Mostly an excuse to stop for a drink)

Second Golden Age of games going on now.
Indie, creativity, originality
Indie Innovation
MMO’s for kids eg Moshi Monsters, Club Penguin.
All sorts of games accessible on lots of different platforms.

Smart Phones, discovery is the challenge.
Angry Birds 900 million downloads (but remember its their 52nd game).
Content is King.
Tension of gameplay, accessibility key.

CHANGING BUSINESS MODELS
premium to freemium

Long winded discussion of Lara Croft mostly focusing on the changing look of her over time including different women who played her. Other brands attaching to her.

SO WHATS HAPPENING IN THE UK?
Creativity. Thriving UK dev industry (?)
Slipped from 3rd to 6th though.

Perception – Talking about the good of games.
Pipes – Accessibility issue.
Property – Lets hang on to our IP.
Pounds – Production tax credits, that those with money understand the value of our content whilst also making our developers investable. Adopting a product portfolio.
People – Investing in people.

Speaking with one voice (ukie & tiga)

Next Gen report with NESTA http://www.nesta.org.uk

New World of Manufacturing (in code, not physical product)

Getting computer science back into the national curriculum.

Q&A
Trying to change the aspiration model, cottage industry mentality, control of everything by companies, temptation to sell out early as opposed to competing on a global scale.

———- SESSION 4 ———- 2PM
ANDREW OLIVER
LESSONS FROM THE ’80s

Constraints
Big borders on screen so a moving world requires less system resources
Constraints meant you didn’t need a big budget to do a comparable or original/unusual good game. Think of Minecraft & angry birds – Worms didn’t quite work on iPhone but a similar yet simpler game like angry birds can work.
Choose your middleware
Be realistic – Couldn’t do much on Spectrum as you’d run out of memory.
Make sure you ship it – If your first 5 levels suck why would people care about the next 45?

What remains constant?
Have an interesting theme (or have something that might come up in generalised searches, lots of people might search ‘football’)
Ensure it has intuitive controls
Objectives must be obvious
Consider your audience
It must be entertaining. Must… Not… Write… D’uh.

Hobby or Business?
Most of us started as hobbyists.
Can you take the risk?
Take business seriously
(Teachers suggested the Oliver twins be allowed a year out to make games with more of a business emphasis, Thatcher was running some kind of £20 a week scheme going on (with business plan requirements etc)).

THEN
3 second rule
Does the name & imagery grab the attention of someone browsing around a shop
3 minutes – back of box and screens
3 hours – playing and enjoying
3 days going back to play
3 weeks – clearly a very happy customer
3 months – standout classic
3 years – you’ve made history

NOW
0.3 seconds now to see something eye catching, then 3 seconds to possibly hit a buy button.

The big companies cheat by cross promoting other games within those games.

———- SESSION 5 ———- 3:30PM
Can Linear TV Ever Be Interactive? We say yes! (So does the man from del monte)
Josh Atkins, Soho Productions
Who what when where why of blending games dev with interactive TV.
What would happen if you could speak to the television and it could answer?

augmented reality (elmos world)
layered interactive video
Narrative ‘glue’ (couldn’t demonstrate it as it’s not to be revealed atm)
Everything is optional, child can just sit down and watch the show if they want
Instant reward (especially important for quick response for young children)
Easy, a child can’t easily learn complicated things such as

Throwing
Jumping
Pointing
Clapping
Waving
Speaking
Standing still

Film/tv business is extremely production oriented, you can’t wing it so what you’re going to do has to be prepped in advance, eg storyboarding, rigorous scripting such as how many lines are spoken from each angle, etc.

———- SESSION 6 ———- 4PM
Standing on the shoulders of Giant Nerds
Mary Hamilton (@newsmary), slides Grant Howitt(gshowitt)

Design and make games that use nerf guns (often with zombies)

Session about stealing from other creations more intelligently.

What dungeons & dragons can teach us about story
-1 Told, the GM’s Story
-2 Experienced, what actually happens (including loading screens, Mirrors Edge is a game about a woman who keeps falling off tall buildings).
-3 Interpreted, can be anything from reading too much into it to not understanding it at all.
-4 Emergent, story unplanned for, emerges from rules

What Dogs in the Vineyard can teach us about Ludo-Narrative Dissonance
Dogs in the vineyard about risks, a back and forth and betting. The game encourages you to raise the stakes on the outcome
(Discussion of several games that are broken by, eg being a mass murderer and not mentioned in cut scenes etc)

Death of ‘Mage’ – The players missed the signs of Dagon emerging from the seas, the writers wrote a game over, the players felt offended and hurt that their characters had been

(YAY OBLIGATORY MENTION OF THE FUCK UP WITH MASS EFFECT 3)

Fear Itself
Horror game
Consent, you can put a stop to something in a game, the relationship with the medium is different….

In this anaology, hats are an anology for a concept that you’re uncomfortable with…
Oh my characters wearing a hat.
“so? look , if you don’t like hats, you don’t have to play it.
I’ts just a game it’s not a real world”

Think of the fade-to-black for scene that are unsuitable for an audience.

The goal being having the most awesome story to tell.

Note there’s a difference between the person experiencing something and the person remembering it.

It’s difficult writing a meaningful relationship in a game when one of the characters is a blank slate.

———- SESSION 7 ———- 4:45PM
Designing for Emptiness: Dear Esther and Player Experience

Disliked the use of slides, just images with no text to help keep the reader on track over which point is currently being made, at times I got very lost over what was being said.

It’s irrelevant what the mechanics is doing, the focus should be on what the player is doing. It’s about how we design the player experience. (Focus on experience not mechanics)

You have to respond constantly for a good experience, with Dear Esther the requirement is less physically a requirement for response, the response requirement is more emotional.

“If we add a biblical metaphor to the experience how does that change it?”

“Emotional sandboxing”

It’s hard to be focusing on an emotional sequence when the mechanical elements of a game are pushing themselves onto the player.

“Biggest metric of fun was in the expectation”

Not pushing the requirement of lots of action that needs to be responded to creates tension.

Looking at information density in each scene, just from the environment alone. Also accounting for how having to react or act in the scene will reduce the amount of attention available for the scene/location itself.

Place two trivial objects into a scene, their importance or significance will be greater if there aren’t other objects also cluttering the scene.

Ambiguity – People deal with ambiguity constantly, ?
People waste a lot of time trying to fit together things that don’t (think conspiracy theories)
Leave something ambiguous so the player can spend time trying to fit things together.

Usually games that are nonsense only really break down when they try to explain the things that don’t make sense or draw too much attention to the broken-ness.

“You can tell people what to do or what to think, if you try telling people how to feel you’ve blown it.”
They put a lot of effort into preventing one interpretation from becoming the primary one from one of possible four types that could trigger at each voice trigger.

The Alert Guard

February 9, 2012

So, I was just reading this article on how the perception of game audio quality (with regards to dialogue)  is being influenced by how used people are to the way the dialogue has been written as necessary to suit film as a form of media. Whilst I was reading this, the following paragraph gave me pause:

You’ve all been here: you are sneaking past 
a guard in a stealth game. You accidentally drop down off of a crate and make too much noise on your landing. The guard leaves his patrol and looks toward the crates in the shadows and
 barks: “Is someone hiding over there?”

The idea that someone has to say something, has to give audio feedback with the guards voice seemed like an assumption, a big assumption.

How else could we approach this problem? The player drops down off a crate (Does it really have to be a crate? Also, do we need a ‘time to crate‘ metric for game articles now?) and makes too much noise, how can we feedback to the player that the guard knows something is up?

1. The guards body language changes. First he/she was standing somewhat relaxed, now, the guard has unclipped the holster for the gun and is reaching for a torch to search dark areas (NB, IF there are no darkened areas nearby THEN the guard doesn’t grab the torch). – Visual feedback.

2. The guard starts moving towards the position of the unexpected sound. – Visual Feedback.

3. Other nearby guards see the first guards reaction, one of them (randomise it?) might ask “what’s up?” or one of several varieties on this. The first guard may then ask 1+ to come with him and the others to hold position whilst he/she checks out the noise. – This is a mix of visual and audio feedback, but it’s one that makes more sense in terms of how the guards interact with each-other and the player character.

Also, whilst we’re talking about guards that are more human in behaviour, if the player does a good enough job of hiding then any nearby fellow guards really ought to tease the original guard for jumping at shadows. These guys have to stand around all day with little to distract themselves so any opportunity for banter would certainly be seized upon.

There’s just one problem with the above, if the guard is alone, how can we feedback to the player without these odd rhetorical statements?

1. Perhaps the guard has a modern piece of technology called a walky-talky and actually says into it “This is (name) I’m just checking something out…”

Alternatively, we could give other audio stimuli to the player that has nothing to do with the guard speaking.

2. We dial up the volume/intensity of the guards footsteps as he gets closer to the player characters position.

3. We add in audio so that the player character can hear him/her self breathing as the fear and adrenalin kick in.

4. We can use that old favourite, hearing the player characters heart beat, changing the pace of the beating heart depending on the proximity/discovery-chance of the guard. Though, I think this one might be brute force and should only be used for the most dangerous of searching opponents like a tank, mech, or really ugly lookin’ monster.

5. Also, what about the absence of sound. If a guard is patrolling and footsteps are already accentuated, we’ll know the guard has paused his patrol route by the mere absence of his footsteps tromping along that patrol route.

So, there we have it, options that can eliminate the need for a guard to say “Who’s there?” which many people can’t help but feel is just wrong somehow, assuming they’re paying attention at the time.

Additional comments:

I dislike the way guards in games often don’t have decent equipment to communicate with other guards. We could have a base where the alert level actually matters. The exterior of a base is often patrolled regularly, but the interior guards are fully patrolling only if they’ve been put on alert because the player alerted the exterior guards. It means the player can be rewarded for being sneaky outside.

The guards ability to hear the player should be influenced by other conflicting sound sources. You won’t hear a player dropping off a crate if it happens in a noisy factory.

If the guard spots the player character, his/her reaction should be appropriate to the state of the player character. If no weapons are visible (concealed, no sniper rifle hanging off a shoulder or what have you), then the guard should tell you to come out hands up (animation/control ‘hmm’ there), if you happen to have that sniper rifle out or hanging off your shoulder the reaction (especially in high security facilities) would be more along the lines of the guard shouting “armed intruder!” – Something that is intended to get across to fellow guards as quickly as possible that they’re all in danger.

A Bit of Alright

February 6, 2012

On Friday the 3rd of February 2012 I want to indie game development conference Bit of Alright and since it’s been far too long since I last put something on the old blog (Yes, that’s a word now, quit your whining people who don’t want the English language to change ever ever) this seems like a good opportunity for a resurrection spell or… something…

You can find a full list of people involved in BOA2012 here https://twitter.com/#!/alrightthere/bit-of-alright-2012/members

And now, on to the sessions………

Ian Willey: Baroque Band
mynotegames.com
https://twitter.com/#!/Ian_Willey

Ian is making an app called ‘My Note Games!’ which aims to make learning musical notation easier.

Ian spends this session demonstrating the application, having left a number of (educational quality) recorders distributed in the first few rows.

This is where it quickly sinks in that this is going to be an unusual games design/development conference. The first session and already I’m sat listening to people playing recorders and attempting to meet the note requirements for the app. As the day progresses, the area behind me will be used for a variety of real world games, and a corridor to the left frequently has zombie LARPing (Live Action Role-Playing) going on as well.

Richard Perrin: Interactive Fiction
http://www.lockeddoorpuzzle.com/
https://twitter.com/#!/PerrinAshcroft

Richard uses this session to discuss a number of works of Interactive Fiction that do interesting things with
narrative, he attempts to make it clear that interactive fiction authors appear to be the only group of people
collectively doing interesting things in the area of game story telling. He goes on to mention:

(SPOILER WARNING)
-9:05. You wake up with a hangover, realise you’re late for work and hurry in to give the boss a file mentioned
in an answer phone message. Has a surprise ending where it’s revealed your character had murdered the person
whose house you woke up in intending to take over his life. The game omits key information, and as a result the
expectations of the player are fooled.
-Vespers. The description of the environment changes based on the emotional state of the player character.
(Amnesia the dark descent does this in places too, paintings on some walls appear different depending on the
player characters emotional state, but players only tend to notice either a normal painting or a ghastly
painting, not the emotional state dependency)
-Slouching Towards Bedlam. Player interaction has unforeseen consequences, it’s revealed that the player is
spreading an infection to anyone he/she meets.
-Spider and Web. Uses the unreliable narrator concept.
-The Baron. Casts you as some unpleasant creatures/people, attempts to make you imagine what it’s like to be a
monster. (And in the game, teehee)

Grethe Mitchell: Playground Games
http://bit-of-alright.com/?p=415
(Twitter account unknown, further contact/website unknown)

Grethe is a researcher, currently focused on childrens playground games and playground culture. Mentions a few
pointers:
Play is fundamental to childhood development.
They have a low boredom threshold and are therefor always reinventing things, coming up with alternate ways of playing the game (Rules adjustments).
They don’t re-enact or copy things directly, for instance the content from a film will be filtered by childrens imagination.
They favour fairness, games are short and don’t tend to have outright winners.
Many games go somewhat unchanged, but might be updated to reflect modern times, like a game that involves chanting celebrities, betty boop would be superceded by Britney Spears, etc.

Holly Gramazio: Deadly Serious Games
http://severalbees.com/
https://twitter.com/#!/severalbees

The session was a discussion of a variety of games in fiction which turn deadly (Only 14% of these, at time of speech) are video/computer games. Some of these fictional games have influenced game design, The Last of Shiela inspired The Game, in San Francisco which inspired the film Midnight Madness (Writers note: I could have the order of what inspired what wrong, the point is real world inspires fiction, inspires real world, etc.).

The information on the games in fiction appears to be crowd sourced and can be found here:
https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0At7mag0_WELmdGo5bnN0Z25Cbl80OGJSblh1aEp3cXc#gid=0

There are a variety of different approaches to how these games can manifest themselves in fiction, such as the Last Starfighter, where the best player could save the universe (so all that time playing games wasn’t a waste afterall!). Sometimes the books are intended to be commentary on people, or are about designers. Several common themes:
-Sports from the future
-Fight to the death
-It’s Chess, but…
-What if the crystal Maze was deadly?
-The Game is Omnipresent

61% of the fictional works have one or more characters dying, whilst 42% of all the fictional works games are intended to be deadly.

Ricky Haggett: Asks Game Designers Questions
Ricky Haggett, https://twitter.com/#!/KommanderKlobb
Michael Brough, http://www.smestorp.com/   https://twitter.com/#!/smestorp
Ed Key,  http://www.visitproteus.com/index.html   https://twitter.com/#!/edclef

A collection of games were shown for the first of two designers, including Glitch Tank. Sometimes the game would be competitive but the players were expected to figure out how to play the game (rather than just having the instructions just handed to them) and leave the players to decide if they want to inform opponents of techniques they’ve noticed. The room is really densely packed so I found it hard to take meaningful notes so I’ll instead recommend you go to http://www.smestorp.com/

For the second designer we were shown Proteus. It features procedural music and terrain generation, and the music varies based on the surrounding terrain in such a way so as to mix together in different ways depending on how terrain elements combine together.
You can chase after a little frog, which is adorable and very minimal, or you might encounter an owl which if you’re very lucky, will fly across the moon as it goes from one tree to another.
Sign posting/pathing is kept minimal and subtle so that the player is gently guided towards the objective standing stones that cause seasons to change, rather than your typical mystical floating waypoint in the sky that can be particularly immersion breaking.
The player will automatically start running when bees approach, but you don’t have a run/sprint button as this would raise the question “sprint to where?”

Willow Tryrer and Anders Mellbratt: Wake-Up Grandpa
http://www.aw-so.me/
https://twitter.com/#!/vvillovv (Not aware of a twitter account for Anders)

The duo admit that they’re still searching for what they are (I always like it when people are honest like that, makes me feel less self concious about similar feelings of uncertainty) and go on to demonstrate three projects they’ve worked on.
1. Nobel Nightcap, Nobel award winners (and companions) were able to visit a variety of rooms at an event. For some of these rooms (There were some unrelated rooms, such as an oxygen room where you could get high on oxygen, another where you could go get drinks). Participants were given a little acrylic brain with an RFID tag and the brain could be used in some rooms to different effects, such as causing the display of quotes from Nobel winners, or would cause other projections to show. The movement around the rooms would contribute to a visualisation that bears similarities to a neural net. They had some problems with the wireless system not having the bandwidth or reach for all the rooms and they were recoding parts of it during the event. Oops.
2. Naked Baby Water Racing, A Wii hack, players would compete with eachother, running on little paddles on the floor in an attempt to win the race.
3. Wake Up Grandpa, a game where you have to shout at a microphone to get the character to jump and reach beers or avoid grandmas. It was a little buggy as you could get boxed in by a platform above and in front of you.

Cliff Harris: How to get out of bed and finish a complex indie game
http://www.positech.co.uk/
https://twitter.com/#!/cliffski

I knew as soon as I saw the title that this would be a talk that hits close to home for me personally. My getting out of bed has drifted further and further into the afternoon during the past few weeks…

Cliff explained how your job (That is, games development or office work) is not hard – Hard is being a soldier, building bridges, these jobs have major risks to life and limb, unlike working in a home or office. You’re not competing with just the UK, you’re competing with India and China, any place where poverty (or, paraphrasing, variances in currency values & exchange rates) is a problem which gives those people the drive to push harder than those in richer nations.

“To make indie games for a living you have to be in the top 1%.”

Several productivity tips were given:
-Keep a daily log – Keep writing down each thing you’ve done as you do it, if you get interrupted it’s easier to see where you are and where to continue
-Mental Cache
-Immediate Start next day
-Motivating
-Instant Check-in, bonus points you can copy and paste things from daily log and other notes into source control software

Try to think from the players perspective, don’t use programmer excuses for not doing things. The player doesn’t care how many times you’ve re-written the engine code.
Will it make the game better?

Gratuitous Space Battle versus Industrial Light & Magic, not GSB versus games.
“If you must compare to games, compare to games 2 years from now.”
Customer doesn’t care about budgets.

More tips:
-Noise Cancelling Headphones to block noise distractions
-Egg Timer for blocks of productivity where looking at the Internet, twitter, etc is off limits.

Cliff sees himself as competing with studios which have really poor efficiency, devs not starting a working day until 10AM, wasting time playing games as ‘research’. He also gave several additional technological/programming tips:

Use a stable platform (Do you really need to use the latest release of DirectX… REALLY?)
Only change one major tech per game.
Do not pointlessly rewrite.
Always skip a tech generation.
If it isn’t broke…

Then followed up with some more productivity tips:

You can learn to get out of bed early.
Do not think about it (just do it)
Don’t delay, make it automatic
NLP – Neuro Linguistic Programming (which cliff describes as hardcore)
He gave a name for us to research – Steve Pavlina

Have a dedicated office space, especially if you have kids/cats.

Make sure you have good equipment, more than one monitor, a good office chair…
…Described it this way, if a chair lasts for 5 years and you get £40k a year, 1% of 200k is 2k. Not that he was saying spend 2 grand on an office chair, rather he was making a point about how you can think about it.

If a pricey piece of software saves you time and/or effort, it’s probably worth the expense.

You still need 1 to 2 years to make a big polished indie game.
Yes it is worth it to make bigger games, 2 times the effort can equate to 10 times the sales.
Yes it’s hard, but not as hard as being a soldier.

95% of people reading this will not do it (And that’s ok but…).

Alastair Lindsay: Psychological effects of audio
https://sites.google.com/site/alistairlindsayaudio/
https://twitter.com/#!/AlistairLindsay

Alastair is currently working on Introversions Prison Architect.

Alastair starts by showing us what happens to water subjected to a 111Hz Sine Wave then goes on to mention some techniques he uses.
(Note, my numbering for 3 may be iffy, I think I lost track of a slide somewhere, somehow)

1. Adding Mood and Adjusting Consequence
Alastair showed us how the execution room in Prison Architect will have an additional ghostly growl added to it after you’ve used the execution room for the first time. Something to really set you on edge and make you think about the consequences of your decisions/actions in the game.
2. Sound to reinforce a mood or set a mood
Possible choices for button noises were discussed, such as bleeps, bloops, ticks and tocks. With the question of what to use for different purposes, for selection of sub menus and action buttons (like placing buildings) the sound of rustling papers was chosen as if it suggest that the prison architect is reaching for a form or planning document for any possible action. It comes with the interesting consequence that, if you’re panicking
and the mouse cursor is flying around the interface across various buttons, it sounds as though the architect is also panicking, as pieces of paper fly around the room – “Where did I put that form”, etc.
3. Subtracting/Adding Humanity
The decision was made to attempt to humanise the prisoners whilst dehumanising the guards. For the guards, walkie talky ‘tch’ noises were being mixed with other elements (Like bleeps and bloops) to try and make the guards sound more like robots than people. There was a sense of uncertainty in Alastair with how well the demonstrated audio was working, I got the impression that was one audio element that was due to go through a few more iterations yet.
4. Stimulus and Response, which sound represents intent to murder
Alastair showed a cut scene like sequence in which the intent to murder of one soon-to-be-convict was represented by the sound of cocking a gun. This was soon followed up by a sequence where the is-now-a-convict is about to be executed leading to another moment of intent to kill, Alastair put forward the notion of using the same cocking a gun sound not for pulling the execution lever but rather to use the sound when reaching for the
lever.

With the last session concluded, I finished off by spending a couple hours at Paddington train station, wondering why the heck I booked a late train home despite knowing far too well that I’m too introverted to just go to a pub and sit there for a while like billy no-mates, which is probably what would have happened had I been around to hear which pub folks were heading on to.