Develop Brighton 2012 Day One

July 11, 2012

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.

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