MCV ISSUE 947
THE BUSINESS OF VIDEO GAMES
Dream big. Work wonders.
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WOMEN IN GAMES AWARDS
JUDGES SPEAK OUT
on education, imposter syndrome, pay gap, mentoring, promoting women and more...
■ DEVELOP:BRIGHTON’S WOMEN-LED SESSIONS 01 MCV947 Cover_V5 FINAL (NO SPINE).indd 1
■ WHEN WE MADE... SEA OF THIEVES
■ SUPERMASSIVE’S ■ UNITY’S SHINY BRITISH HORROR STORY NEW PIPELINE 29/05/2019 18:08
REWARDING AND RECOGNISING THE CONTRIBUTION OF WOMEN IN THE UK GAMES INDUSTRY
FRIDAY 28TH JUNE 2019 FACEBOOK UK, 1 RATHBONE SQUARE, LONDON
VISIT THE WEBSITE FOR MORE DETAILS: WWW.WOMENINGAMESAWARDS.COM Sponsored by
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07 The editor
Quotes from power
08 Critical Path
The key dates this month
10 E3 Preview
Get your juicy rumours here!
An industry under (further) scrutiny
Real life events from the industry
18 Industry Voices
Our platform for the industry
20 A wind of change
The issues facing women in games
30 Ins and Outs
And all our recruitment advice
20 36 Woman’s hour
Develop:Brighton’s women-led sessions
46 What’s in the pipeline
Natalya Tatarchuk on Unity’s HDRP
50 A British horror story
Supermassive talks The Dark Pictures
54 The German connection
Already thinking about Gamescom...
56 When We Made...
Sea of Thieves
60 The Sounds of...
63 Creatives Assemble!
It’s not just about selling the game
64 Casting the Runes
A passion to create safe worlds
66 The Final Boss
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MCV-JUN19-SPLASH DAMAGE:MCV-JUN19-SPLASH DAMAGE 29/05/2019 12:52 Page 1
“If you want something said, ask a man; if you want something done, ask a woman.”
TheEditor Quotes from power For us at MCV, this June is all about our annual Women in Games Awards, where we recognise and celebrate the achievements of women across the industry. To that end you’ll find this month’s magazine packed with women talking about their work. It’s also timely then, in a converse manner, that the UK’s second-ever female Prime Minister is leaving office in the same month. And with just two women and 13 men in the current monarch’s reign alone, being a woman at the (very) top is still something of note. Now, Theresa May’s short time in office sits in stark contrast to that of her only female predecessor. Margaret Thatcher, love her or loathe her, was among the most notable and influential of our post-war politicians. Despite their differences in fortune, we can certainly say that neither of their political legacies will be defined by their gender. Whether that’s good or bad is a tricky question, and one that extends to the games industry as well. Certainly no one should be expected to create games that are more appealing for women just because they are a woman. And a similar argument can be made for both PMs regarding their work, or paucity of it, for gender equality. Feminist credentials aside, though, we can draw insight from both women’s words – although it occurs to me that I never thought I’d quote one Tory PM here, let alone two! Thatcher once noted: “You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.” And that’s likely a reality that our Women in Games Awards judges will relate to, as they discuss the perennial issues that define the struggle facing women in the industry today. And while many’s motives in that struggle are noble, some may agree with May’s somewhat more cynical take on gender representation: “A lot of men in politics suddenly woke up to the issue of women in politics when they realised: hey, there are votes in this!” Which could equally be applied to the games industry, with cash instead of votes. Thatcher too criticised men with her line: “If you want something said, ask a man; if you want something done, ask a woman.” And of course it remains a cruel fact that asking a woman to do something largely remains cheaper than asking a man to do it. To which this May quote seems apt: “You can’t solve a problem as complex as inequality in one legal clause.” Something that has certainly proven true with gender paygap figures, with the gap actually rising this year, instead of shrinking. The gender divide in games looks set to be one struggle that will run and run then. On which we could take a line from Thatcher, who once quipped: “I am extraordinarily patient, provided I get my own way in the end.” We’re trying to do our little bit and so we’re looking forward to seeing all our awards finalists later this month at the Facebook offices. Whether you’re in attendance or not, please join us in supporting them all and congratulating the winners on the day. Seth Barton email@example.com June 2019 MCV 947 | 07
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Here are the key upcoming events and releases to mark in your calendar...
MotoGP 19 The latest entry in the MotoGP franchise will release in early June, with this 2019 edition focusing on the community, with Milestone announcing a wealth of new features based on players’ feedback, such as neural AI, dedicated servers, race director mode and historical challenges. MotoGP 19 is launching first on PS4, Xbox One and PC, with the Switch version releasing later this June.
Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled Activision is back at it – following up on the incredible success of the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy in 2017, the publisher will release its remaster of Crash Team Racing towards the end of June. Developed by Beenox, the studio behind several Skylanders titles plus Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered, Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled will be available on PS4, Xbox One and Switch.
E3 2019 Convention Center, Los Angeles E3 takes place from June 11th to June 13th this year and, once again, we should expect exclusive announcements from the biggest names in the games industry. Sony won’t be attending the show this year, as announced back in November, while Microsoft and Nintendo have confirmed their attendance. Bethesda, Devolver Digital, Ubisoft and Square Enix will also be holding their traditional E3 press conferences. EA will again focus on community-facing events, with EA Play taking place from Saturday June 8h until June 9th, featuring a selection of live streaming events to showcase its upcoming titles. Netflix will be present at E3 for the first time, holding a panel named Developing Netflix Originals into Video Games. For more details on E3 2019, turn the page
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MCV Women in Games Awards 2019 Facebook, London This June, we’ll once again be celebrating the priceless contribution women make to the UK games industry as our annual Women in Games Awards returns on Friday, June 28th. The afternoon ceremony will be held in partnership with Facebook at their HQ off Oxford Street and we’re looking forward to seeing you there! This is now the fifth annual outing for the awards, with MCV committed to recognising the huge impact made by women in the games industry every single year. Last year’s event was a heartwarming success and we’re looking forward to this year’s event being even better still. As in previous years, the event remains free to attend for all those on the shortlists plus their guests. Due to the venue capacity, additional tickets will be by invitation only. For more information on how your company can get involved in this year’s event please contact MCV’s Alex Boucher: firstname.lastname@example.org. Big thanks to our headline sponsor Rare and to our partners Amiqus, Gamescom, Hangar 13, OPM Jobs, Ukie and Women in Games! You can hear from this year’s judges on page 20
F1 2019 The 2019 edition of the F1 games franchise will hit shelves at the end of June, with this year being the tenth anniversary of the series from Codemasters’ Birmingham Studio. Several pre-orders bonuses are available as a celebration for fans who purchase the F1 2019 Anniversary Edition. Once again published by Koch Media, it’ll be out on PS4, Xbox One and PC.
Super Mario Maker 2 The sequel Super Mario Maker fans have been dreaming of for years will soon be upon us, making its debut on Nintendo’s Switch at the end of the month, four years after its predecessor. Featuring a new Super Mario 3D World theme, Super Mario Maker 2 also promises hundreds of new enemies, tools and items including the infamous slopes that players have been demanding for years.
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PREVIEW E3 2019 is taking place from Tuesday, June 11th to Thursday, June 13th, with the traditional press conferences happening across the previous days. Here’s our handy guide to all of them and what we expect from the show this year
What? EA Play Where? Hollywood Palladium When? June 8th and June 9th, with all live streaming events taking place on June 8th
What? Bethesda E3 Showcase Where? Shrine Auditorium When? 5.30pm PDT / 1:30am BST (June 10th)
What? Devolver Digital E3 Press Conference Where? Devolver Digital’s Twitch channel When? 7pm PDT / 3am BST (June 10th)
What? Xbox E3 Briefing Where? Microsoft Theater When? 1pm PDT / 9pm BST
Saturday, June 8th
Sunday, June 9th
Rumours! Get your juicy rumours here... BETHESDA Bethesda has already stated that it will not be showing Elder Scrolls VI or Starfield. Still here? Well the company does love to spring surprises on its fans, so we might still see (or hear) something on these. Holding the fort, or throwing it into a hellmouth rather, will be Doom Eternal, though with a big chunk of gameplay footage already released, further details and a release date that’s already set for 2019 are hardly flagpoles. Bethesda then must have a genuinely big surprise to fill out its offering here. Which makes a nice change. EA No press conference, just a bunch of streams and a lot of hands-on for public and press alike. EA is looking to influencers, and social media buzz in general, to do its work. That may suggest that there isn’t that much to show, but with Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, Dragon Age 4 and possible projects from DICE as well, that doesn’t seem to be the case. To what extent EA uses the event to push Apex Legends, both onstream and in its EA Play venue, will also be intriguing – can a big live game like that one benefit from activity around a big event like E3 or is there too much new and shiny?
MICROSOFT How much will we see of Microsoft’s next-generation hardware at this year’s E3? Current rumours point to a 2020 release for new console hardware, so we’d expect more along the lines of a teaser, rather than trying to pack in a full blow-by-blow launch of the two rumoured devices – Anaconda and Lockhart – that make up Project Scarlett. Away from that, we expect Microsoft to shout from the rafters about Xbox Game Pass and to launch the service onto PC. It’s also likely to announce what some of last year’s new acquisitions are working on – most notably Ninja Theory. We might also see an early teaser for Playground Games’ Fable reboot. Other likely first-party titles include Gears of War 5 or possibly even Halo Infinite. But those, and a new Forza title, may wait to debut on new hardware early next year. With no Sony press conference, Microsoft will have the pick of the crop from elsewhere too. Finally, we come around to xCloud. Microsoft is undoubtedly capable of a great streaming service, one that also works in a hybrid system with local hardware for the best of both worlds. It needs to start talking about this at E3 to steal the initiative back from Google.
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What? Ubisoft E3 2019 Conference Where? Orpheum Theatre (TBC at the time of writing) When? 1pm PDT / 9pm BST
What? Square Enix Live E3 2019 Where? Los Angeles Convention Center When? 6pm PDT / 2am BST (June 11th)
What? PC Gaming Show 2019 Where? The Mayan When? 10am PDT / 6pm BST
Monday, June 10th
What? Nintendo Direct: E3 2019 Where? Nintendo’s video channels When? 9pm PDT / 5pm BST
Tuesday, June 11th
Still hungry for rumours! Fill your boots! NINTENDO Nintendo already announced that we won’t see the new Switch hardware in its E3 Direct, which will focus on 2019 software. So that should be Pokémon Sword and Shield, the remake of Link’s Awakening and Animal Crossing. Plus there might be more on Luigi’s Mansion 3 or Metroid Prime 4, which should be more than enough to keep Nintendo fans stuck to their Switch consoles and shift a load more hardware to boot. Beyond that, one intriguing part of Nintendo’s E3 is the introduction of Warp Pipe Pass. This allows attendees to book slots for demos in advance and so reduce queuing time. It’s another important step towards E3’s conversion into a consumer show. SQUARE ENIX Square Enix could win E3 by unleashing the first proper appearance of The Avengers Project. It’s impossible to know the scope of the game to date, but anything beyond another teaser would be huge postEndgame. Alternatively, with no Sony press conference, it will be down to Square Enix itself to reveal more on the Final Fantasy 7 remake. Prepare for some serious whooping if they pull that out of the bag.
UBISOFT A new Splinter Cell title looks to be the big story over at Ubisoft. It will be intriguing to see how its been reinvented since 2013’s Blacklist. Then there’s a new Assassin’s Creed to unveil, which is said to be based around Vikings – another year and no ninjas! – plus potentially Watch Dogs 3. Then of course there’s the ongoing development of Beyond Good and Evil 2, which is due a major update from the team. Based on previous years we’d expect some kind of tie-up with Nintendo for a future title, as the two companies seem to greatly enjoy each other’s work at present, though the collaborations have met with mixed success. ELSEWHERE BUT JUST AS BIG Cyberpunk 2077 leads the pack, and new footage could turn up at the Xbox press conference. Whack a release date at the end, say March 2020, and you’ll have a very happy studio and platform holder. Rocksteady’s next game might make an appearance – tenuous rumours point to a Justice League title – this could easily come out of nowhere to steal the show. And speaking of Warner Bros, there’s rumours that WB Montreal is developing a new Batman game.
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Editor: Seth Barton email@example.com +44 (0)203 143 8785 Senior Staff Writer: Marie Dealessandri firstname.lastname@example.org +44 (0)203 143 8786 Designer: Mandie Johnson email@example.com Production Manager: Claire Noe firstname.lastname@example.org
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Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime has returned since my five-year old mustered enough concentration and coordination to be permitted to play – by his sister that is, I have no such power of veto. He’s a capable gunner but can’t be fully trusted driving – a ruling that extends beyond the game to bikes and scooters.
I’m not sure what I was playing in April 2018 when God of War launched but I know it wasn’t God of War and from there it’s never been God of War. Up until this month. Now that I’m actually playing God of War, I’m wondering why I wasn’t playing it all this time?! Only took over a year and five BAFTAs to convince me. Marie Dealessandri, Senior Staff Writer
I’ve been spending time with Bethesda’s deliciously unapologetic Rage 2. Stuffed with attitude and anarchy, it’s delivered some of the most satisfying shooting I’ve played all year. It’s a shame the openworld features aren’t quite as polished, but who needs anger management when we’ve got Rage 2, eh? Vikki Blake, News Writer
Seth Barton, Editor
Paws the game Adorable pet sim Little Friends: Dogs & Cats is out now on Nintendo Switch™! What better way to celebrate than to go “aww” over the industry’s furry little friends? Send yours to email@example.com
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Pet: Mochi Owner: Melaine Brou Owner job’s: Product marketing manager for Japanese IP, Sega Europe Meet Mochi: a big fluffball that fetches ball, sleeps in the weirdest positions and is constantly asking for food!
Pet: Clara Owner: Lana Zgombic Owner’s job: Producer, Bossa Studios
Pet: Marley Owner: Jake Smith Owner’s job: Editor, Nerdy Bird Games
Eight years old Clara is primarily known for having no table-side manners. She also likes rocks, swimming, naps and cheese.
Marley loves watching video games and doing circuits around the living room. She is slightly clumsy though and scared of socks.
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MCV-JUN19-TANDEM EVENTS 1:MCV-JUN19-TANDEM EVENTS 1 29/05/2019 15:07 Page 1
An industry under (further) scrutiny Ukie’s policy team on the multiple challenges facing the sector (and how to face up to them)
Pictured right, from left to right: Revolution’s Noirin Carmody, Margot James, Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries, Ukie’s Dr Jo Twist OBE and Special Effect’s Tom Donegan AS the games industry matures, increased responsibility – and the scrutiny of policy makers – comes with it. Ukie is at the forefront of games policy – developing the narrative, responding to the challenges and guiding industry good practice that continues to shape our sector. This has never been more important for the industry because a number of significant challenges have emerged at once. First, a number of individuals and game development companies have appeared before the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s (DCMS) Immersive and Addictive Technologies select committee. During these sessions, MPs have grilled industry individuals about the way business models work, the ethics behind the design of games, artificial intelligence and what the industry is doing to increase inclusion and diversity. The industry has been responding to a number of government consultations and white papers on a range of issues related to the sector.
From an exploration into the use (and specifically abuse) of R&D tax credits, to what exactly we mean by age appropriate design through to how the industry prevents online harms, our sector has had to provide significant insight to policy makers this year. This doesn’t just strengthen their evidence base and ensure our industry has its say, it also demonstrates a positive and proactive approach from our sector towards scrutiny. Finally, we’ve also been engaging with other international trade bodies across the world to play our role in leading and coordinating the global policy debate. By working hand in hand with partners across the world, we’re able to educate, inform and clear up misconceptions amongst policy makers. This ensures we can contribute constructively to debates around terms like ‘gaming disorder’ and regulation of certain monetisation mechanics – encouraging the creation of better policy globally for our international industry.
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Save the date! Ukie Member’s Day – September 4th
UKIE is hosting its first ever member’s day on Wednesday, September 4th and all members are invited to attend. Hosted at The Barbican in Central London, the member’s day will feature our annual general meeting, a number of inspiring talks, the convening of our sub-groups and an exhibition area. We will also be hosting an exclusive gala dinner to celebrate Ukie’s 30th birthday as part of our 30 Years
While this does present challenges for our industry, we should – on the whole – consider this a positive development. For the most part, the interest from policy makers represents an appreciation of the value and impact of our industry. It shows that the government is taking our sector seriously and that it is asking the kinds of questions a mature, responsible industry would expect. But it does mean we need to work together to effectively make our case and ensure the UK continues to be the best place to make, sell and play games across the world. This means that we need your help to contribute to the on-going policy debate to ensure we can put our best foot forward in front of policy makers. If you’d like to contact Ukie to discuss policy matters, please email our head of policy, Tim Scott, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
of Play campaign, a charity auction to raise money for a worthy cause and a special video game themed pub quiz with a historical twist. If you’re a Ukie member and would like to find out more about getting involved, you can email our membership lead Leon Cliff on email@example.com for more information. And if you’d like to join Ukie so that you can take part in all the fun – or would like to buy a table at our gala dinner – contact Sam Collins at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Member of the month Payload Studios The Ukie Member of the Month is Payload Studios, who has just opened up the Tentacle Zone cohabiting workspace in their new building, centrally located near Farringdon. If you’re a start-up team that need office space to get going, why not work in a friendly creative environment surrounded by likeminded developers? For more details head to tentacle.zone/workspace.
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Real Life Events from the industry
STAND UP FOR GAMESAID GamesAid’s annual night of stand up comedy, hosted once again by Imran Yusuf, returned to The Comedy Store last month. This year’s line-up included Josh Widdicombe, Yuriko Kotani, Alex Kealy, John Moloney and Shoot From The Hip (pictured above), with all profits going to GamesAid charities of course. The event was sponsored by Bossa Studios, Polystream and PR agency Indigo Pearl. Jake Mackey from GamesAidsupported charity Autistica commented: “This year’s Stand up for GamesAid comedians were absolutely hilarious! All different and diverse but all had me laughing. Here’s to the next one!”
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NORDIC GAME 2019
Nordic Game 2019 returned to Slagthuset in MalmĂś, Sweden, for a three-day conference, with over 2,000 industry professionals in attendance. Speakers included Otherside Entertainmentâ€™s Warren Spector and Adrian Cuevas from Nomada Studio, plus Ste Curran from One Life Left (1). The main conference tracks were accompanied by the Nordic Game Awards. A Way Out from Hazelight Studios was winner of Best Nordic Game and also picked up the Best Game Design award. Congratulations to all the winners (2)! The awards were accompanied by a dinner and a party, with live music from the game turned concept album Of Bird and Cage (3).
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Anisa Sanusi, Limit Break
MCV gives the industry a platform for its own views in its own words. Do you have a burning hot take for the world of games? Get in touch!
AT my first games job, there were only four women in a company of about 30 people. In my second job, my company was 300 strong, yet I can still list each woman by memory. At my current job, women make up 18 per cent of the company. This coincidentally closely reflects the larger UK games industry where 19 per cent of the industry workforce are women, compared to the UK average of 45 per cent (Creative Skillset, 2016). While I’m content with my workplace, there is still a lack of women representing senior or leadership roles. Why is this important? I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase ‘representation matters’. Just like how superhero movies inspire children to do good, women role models inspire fresh faces to achieve dream careers. Sure, within our industry we have women with celebrity levels of fame such as Brenda Romero and Amy Henning, but what about closer to home? What about someone you can feasibly reach out to? Outside of technical skills and abilities you’d usually have in your CV, a huge part of climbing the career ladder rests on personal development. There are other skills that we learn while on the job, and if we’re lucky, through a mentor. Skills like communication, negotiation, leadership and networking. In a male-dominated industry like video games, marginalised genders tend to have limited support. If you are among this demographic, the pool of people similar to you is so small to begin with, much less those with experience. I, for one, have gone through some rough days at work, unsure if I was in the wrong, or if management took it too far. I’ve felt alone, not good enough, like I was not doing
enough. I needed someone to give me advice, or guidance. With the advent of social media, it’s easy to scout people you admire but never in your right mind would you commit a social faux pas like sliding into their DMs. There is a hunger from entry and mid-level developers for this network of support. Fogged by imposter syndrome, I sat back and hoped for someone to start something like it. I wished so badly for a bridge between me and a person who could empathise, a person who could help. It took a lot of encouragement from my peers but eventually I went for it. Wishing for a bridge to appear isn’t enough. I’m building that damn bridge and I want people to use it. I named it Limit Break, a mentorship program for underrepresented genders in the games industry. What I’m championing isn’t just diversity, but inclusivity. Mentorship shouldn’t be reserved just for those breaking into the industry. In fact I’d argue those already in the workforce would make the most out of it. Imagine an industry where retention of the gender diverse wasn’t an issue – imagine the kinds of games, stories and experiences we collectively could produce. The world of video games would be a richer one, with games reflecting the layers of all the different audiences we serve. Most of all, it would be a safer industry for those who make it unique and wonderful. Anisa Sanusi is a UI/UX designer at Hutch Games, based in Shoreditch, London. She also runs Limit Break, a mentorship program aimed at entry and mid-level developers of underrepresented genders in the games industry.
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How to achieve global gaming success with localisation Dr Miguel Á. Bernal-Merino, University of Roehampton
A brave new world of game developers has risen from China, South Korea, Germany, Russia, Brazil and Poland. They are not only creating new opportunities and fans, but also disrupting old commercial flows. As growth stagnates in historically strong regions for the gaming industry due to high competition, game publishers seeking to expand their market share need to broaden their horizons and look to untapped areas of the globe, before competitors claim their crown. Only the most agile are likely to survive this battle royale for the $135bn (£105bn) global market. When trying to sell games in other countries, the most enduring approach for companies has been to translate only the marketing and packaging of games. This is cheap and fast but not adequate. The next step up is partial localisation where only in-game text is translated. However, this does not take into consideration culture, politics, religion and historical references. Using full localisation, which adds voiceover dubbing into the receiving locales (a language can have several locales such as US or UK English, Latin American or Castilian Spanish, and so on), games developers can be one step closer to enhancing players’ experiences. However, many companies, big and small, have had bad experiences implementing full localisation, which is often expensive and delayed because developers did not internationalise their design and programming. Companies instead need to decide during pre-production which locales they are going to target and internationalise their engine from the start. Only this will guarantee an easier localisation process. Last is glocalisation. This is not just a question of bridging basic linguistic gaps and avoiding legal challenges due to cultural offences, it involves adapting creative designs for regional
audiences by providing some country-specific characters, teams, cars, items, storylines, cultural references, music, and so on. Working with developers, localisation experts can help to co-create localised versions of games that are more in-tune with regional tastes and legislation. This is even more important given the global simultaneous shipment of games to minimise grey and black market impact on sales. Many games have faced localisation challenges which have all originated from the simplistic view that people around the world think the same no matter where they are from. The interactive nature of video games means that players are protagonists, primordial agents within the game world, and as such they are more sensitive to nuances than they would be when reading a book or watching a film. This is why what is acceptable, appropriate and enjoyable can vastly vary depending on players’ cultural identity. It is not only the representation of violence, distasteful verbal exuberance, sexual themes or glamourising criminal activities. It is a question of bearing in mind players’ origins as this can increase ROI significantly. For US companies capitalising on English as a global language, localisation brings 75 per cent of the gross profits, while for companies in other countries it may add as much as 95 per cent to their bottom-line given that the majority of their sales are abroad. The global market is not a digital treasure island but the bounty is real for those who know how to navigate the localisation seas. Dr Miguel Á. Bernal-Merino is a lecturer at the University of Roehampton in London. He co-created the GDC Localization Summit, the IGDA Localization SIG, the Game Localization Round Table and Game Global.
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‘When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression’ Marie Dealessandri talks to the MCV Women in Games Awards 2019 judges about the issues facing women in the games industry, from imposter syndrome to the lack of promotions, gender pay gap and more, and asks them what games firms can do better. Spoiler alert: they can do a lot
have been in the industry for over three years now – not a long time by any standard but long enough to see things evolve and change in all kinds of ways. The games we produce, the platforms we prefer, the technology we seek. Things in the games industry move at such a fast pace, it’s difficult to keep track sometimes. Most things I have written in MCV’s pages three years ago probably wouldn’t apply to today’s market. Except for one. Almost exactly three years ago today, I published a feature about women in the games industry in these very pages. After highlighting the crucial role of education, I then wrote: “Having games actually showing multiculturalism, depicting gender and racial diversity, or simply telling the story of a character who is not a white man in his thirties would also be a tremendous help.” And you know what the sad thing is? I once again could see myself writing this sentence word for word in these pages today. Maybe that sounds a bit harsh or unfair, as things have actually improved in some respects, with game studios now more prone to advocate for gender diversity. But we also live in a world where the UK games industry gender pay gap has widened by 3.5 per cent in 2018, hitting 18.8 per cent (against 9.6 per cent nationally). “Well, that’s depressing news!” Indigo Pearl’s founder Caroline Miller says earnestly when we start discussing the topic. “I’ve had lots of conversations around this issue with developers and publishers and the overwhelming feedback is that companies are trying to do better but
finding it very hard to turn this around quickly. I’m an optimist at heart so the fact that this is seen as a problem that needs fixing is really encouraging. Where there is a will there is a way after all.” Jodie Azhar, CEO and game director at Teazelcat, reckons that game companies could be doing (much) better at addressing this concerning gender pay gap. “Many companies are trying to look like they’re addressing issues – shining a light on female employees and posting on social media asking for diverse applicants to their jobs. However, they aren’t taking effective action to create appealing and supportive workplaces,” she says. “The short answer is to pay women equally now! Companies need to train managers to identify how different skills and qualities create valuable team members and stop making excuses such as lack of experience or missing a skill in an area that isn’t actually essential to them being effective at their job. There’s a combination of unconscious bias and undervaluing of skills and traits more commonly found in women that’s holding women back. Companies need to value the skills and contributions of their female employees and remunerate them fairly for the work they’re already doing. “These mandates also need to come from the top and be actively enforced. A studio’s culture is created from everyone who works there, so all employees need to buy into this, understand why it’s a problem and why they should care. Everyone suffers from unconscious bias and training needs to be provided to everyone in a way that doesn’t treat this as only a problem for women to sort out or that men are causing. Reaching gender parity
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is more than just acknowledging that there’s a problem, it’s building a better workplace culture and nurturing an environment where the right skills are valued and everyone can reach their potential.” There you have it. Now that’s been said, on to detailing some of these problems and how to fix them. THE 50 PER CENT One of the first things highlighted by our respondents, the MCV Women in Games Awards 2019 judges, is the need for a proper conversation around these issues, between industry and academia, but also within games
or with other industries. Rebecca Sampson, studio operations manager at Hangar 13, sums it up: “More work is needed to communicate the opportunities available and create them where needed to help women reach senior level positions, as well as introduce more women and girls to the prospect that there is a career in games. The all-important theme for this year in my eyes, for diversity and equality, is creating those connections between the games industry and other key industries and organisations.” In a few single sentences she highlights many of the most important topics to champion gender diversity in
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Pictured above, from top: Facebook’s Catalina Lou speaking at last year’s awards and host Dr Jo Twist of Ukie with Kim Parker Adcock from OPM
the industry: making sure young girls are aware that games is a career path, the desperate need for the industry to promote women in leadership positions, and how more connections should be created within the industry but also outside of it to show women in other industries that their skills are transferable. We’ll start with the first point as this one is theoretically an easy one to address, if only more people would take the time to go to schools. “We all can be ambassadors for the industry,” opines chief people officer at Dovetail Games Gemma JohnsonBrown, also ambassador director at not-for-profit organisation Women in Games. “There are so many different career options and we need to proactively showcase them. Studios can link up with local schools, invite them in, do studio tours or work with the local council, local community and get involved with career fairs. The issues are perpetually linked and for change to make an impact we do need action not words.” Rebecca Sampson touches upon organisations such as Girls Make Games and Ukie’s Digital Schoolhouse, instrumental tools to “help introduce a career in games at a young age and reduce any misconceptions.” Ukie’s very own CEO Dr Jo Twist OBE, who returns to host the MCV Women in Games Awards this year, adds that there’s a very simple way to show young girls
that gaming is not a boys’ club: “Really promoting the kinds of titles and diversity of games across platforms and genres that already exist is critical,” she says. “We are all in this education piece together and celebrating how BAFTA does this in games, especially through the Game Beyond Entertainment Award, raising the profile of games made by all kinds of different people through its Breakthrough Brits programme, and explaining the motivations people have which drive what games they play and why, is key. “Pointing people to the work of BAFTA Young Game Designer and the ways in which all kinds of different young people are using games to understand themselves and the world around them raises the conversation around diversity too. But simply, they just need to believe the global statistics!” Said statistics show that, in the UK, 48 per cent of the online population that play mobile games at least once a month are women. For PC games, it decreases to 26 per cent and for console games it decreases further to 22 per cent, according to Newzoo’s 2018 Global Games Market Report. It still shows that gaming overall is very far from being a boys’ club – but clichés die hard, it seems. The breadth of titles available also means means there’s no necessity for companies to actively make their titles more appealing to women, Twist continues. “Not all women are the same and not all players are the same but find the gap in what different people want from games, making sure you are confident in how you might reach them. There is no such thing as ‘TV documentaries for women’,” she rightly points out. “There are just great stories, moving stories, interesting mechanics, different kinds of game play and huge swathes of untapped players out there.” Sampson agrees with Twist, but adds that devs should keep gender inequality in mind when creating. “I think companies should continue making great games for the audiences they have chosen. If it turns out to be women, then great,” she says. “Companies should, however, always be mindful of the issues we currently face with gender equality and inclusivity, ensuring there is a large emphasis on these areas when designing games.” On the other hand, Kim Parker Adcock, managing director at OPM Jobs, believes that “there are genres of games that are naturally more appealing to women and we need more of them.” She continues: “I think it’s improved enormously in the last five years with the rapid expansion of social games. The average age and sex of a games player varies more than ever and that’s excellent news. Keep it up! We’re all playing games now.”
MCV Women in Games Awards sponsored by:
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When facing the same question of whether or not companies should actively be making games more appealing to women, Gemma Johnson-Brown simply responds: “Yes, why would you not? According to a Bloomberg article in 2018, women account for 70 to 80 per cent of consumer purchasing through a combination of buying, power and influence. Why would companies not want to appeal to approximately 50 per cent of the population?” ASK, BELIEVE, COMPETE We’ve talked quite often about how education is a key step in inspiring girls to follow a path in games – and it’s always worth reinforcing that point. But what about women in other industries such as tech who may have transferable skills but don’t see games as a career option? “Many people are unaware of what job roles exist in the games industry and how their skills can transfer to a rewarding job,” Jodie Azhar agrees. “Showing women in other industries how both their technical and artistic skills can result in something creative that can inspire and entertain millions of people across the world is a strong way of selling our industry to them.” Caroline Miller adds that there’s another crucial aspect for this shift to happen: “I think representation is the key here. We need to look like an industry that welcomes women and where females will thrive and that means platforming the amazing women that we already do have. To be able to visualise yourself in a career is really important. Look at something seemingly silly like all the superhero films lately that have shown us different types of people, people that don’t normally get to wear the cape and kick ass. “Films like Black Panther, Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel are so joyful because for the first time women and people of color are the heroes up on the screen and that’s empowering. Now think about the huge hissy backlash in the games industry against female journalists, game devs and even female games characters becoming more realistic. We raised our voices and were met with a huge wave of hate and anger from the likes of the gamergate crowd. That’s because when you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression. So as hard as it is we need to really make female leaders seen.” This brings us to the very heart of the subject: the lack of women in leadership positions. Annoyingly there’s no recent figures on women in senior roles in the industry, with the most recent one being the 2015 Creative Skillset Employment Survey, showing that 19 per cent of the games industry workforce is female and that women
represent 27 per cent of strategic management or executive roles. We’re very (very) far from parity here. And when asking our respondents about what can be done to fix the fact we’re lacking women in senior roles, the shortest answer is by far the best answer: “Promote women, it’s not that fucking hard,” says Anisa Sanusi, UI/UX designer at Hutch Games. Kim Parker Adcock expands on the reasons why women have not yet reached as many leadership positions as men: “It takes time for careers to reach the more senior roles. If we started with fewer women it’s simply a matter of time before the cream rises to the top. Women must put themselves out there and apply for these jobs, ask for pay rises, get recognised, believe and compete. I would never expect a company to promote somebody based on ‘it’s good for diversity’. Nice for PR but not sustainable and frankly insulting.” Jodie Azhar highlights a deeper problem in the way we think about what a senior employee should look like, heavily influenced by traditional masculine traits, and how we should be working to change that perception. “Many studio cultures have been formed around majority male teams,” she starts explaining . “This has resulted in the dominant traits found in those teams being seen as what makes them effective while traits more commonly found in women aren’t valued as highly.
“Equality doesn’t mean treating everyone the same. We need to address that women often have to work harder for the same opportunities as men.” “Different people respond to different leadership styles and we need a diverse range of skills and qualities to bring out the best from these teams. We all need to address our unconscious bias and learn to identify how different traits affect a team and the results of what they can achieve, rather than having a cookie cutter idea of what a senior or lead employee should look like.” Dovetail’s Johnson-Brown echoes Azhar concerning the type of personalities we traditionally see as leaders and offers further solutions. “This issue has two parts – a longer term strategic plan concentrates on education, legislation, policy and the workplace,” she says. “In the short term, businesses
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can make proactive changes by partnering with organisations like Women in Games and investing in leadership development programs, identifying skills gaps and developing their current people. Progressive recruitment that focuses on mind-set and behaviours, rather than years’ experience and qualifications, will open the talent pool, adjusting policies and investing in training for parents returning to the world of work as well as an older generation looking to continue working. “In my experience considering the personality types of your people, especially for leadership, is beneficial and can help identify strengths and development areas. I believe extroverts are believed to be better leaders – it’s a social bias. There’s nothing wrong with this perception, however it is limiting the leadership pool. Leadership ability does not depend on being an introvert or extrovert – each have advantages and having a balance which includes introverted leaders can really help bring out the best in your people.” The bad news is, even when women do reach leadership positions, things don’t necessarily become easier, as Azhar highlights. “There is a problem of women who reach senior level being fatigued due to having had to deal with issues throughout their career that haven’t been identified or acknowledged by their managers,” she says. “Men may find it easier to gain knowledge through casual work conversations, where women can be hesitant to ask questions out of a fear of being seen as less knowledgeable because of their gender. Recent research by LeanIn.org also suggests that 60 per cent of male managers are uncomfortable participating in activities such as mentoring or socialising with a woman. “Equality doesn’t mean treating everyone the same. We need to address that women often have to work harder for the same opportunities as men, even to have got a job in the industry in the first place, and offer them support and mentorship so that they can reach their potential and in turn they’ll be an even bigger benefit to the company.” FIND EACH OTHER Seeking out role models and mentors can be an effective way to feel more at ease in the games industry. But that’s easier said than done. “Actively researching inspirational individuals within the industry and matching your skillset and experience with where you want your career to go is a good start when seeking a mentor,” Sampson advises. “Likewise, advertising on a social media profile as an available mentor might be all that’s needed to give someone the confidence to connect.”
She also recommends to seek out the mentorship platforms that are out there, such as Limit Break, created earlier this year by Anisa Sanusi. The latter highlights the difficulty to make connections in the industry. “The problem with the games industry, is that it has very visible superstars – think people with games shipped under their names, such as Hideo Kojima,” she starts explaining. “But co-existing in that space are lesser-known names who are the backbone of entire studios, or the wizards and witches behind the most intriguing games. They have the same qualities many other more visible developers have. What the industry hungers for is a connection between those who seek mentorship and those who can mentor. “The talent has always been there, they just need a way to find each other. These platforms exist in the form of grassroots communities who do their best to reach out and connect people together. I think that’s the best way, is to find initiatives and groups that advocate for mentorship and put your name in the hat. If there isn’t one, start one.” And that’s literally what she did (you can read more about this on page 18).
“Promote women, it’s not that fucking hard.” Games industry veteran Rose Buahin agrees that “women should absolutely seek mentors in the industry.” She continues: “I’m a big advocate for nurturing the next generation’s talent and I currently mentor a few individuals of different genders. I think it’s important to have a mentor who has a good empathy of the challenges faced by women in games and is able to provide guidance at every step – but this doesn’t necessarily have to be a woman. I know many brilliant men in the industry who are positive equality activists and they can easily adopt this role.” Louise O’Connor, executive producer at Rare, believes it’s important “that women have industry role models” and gives some very insightful advice about mentorship based on her experience. “At Rare we actively encourage mentorship, and I have personally been mentored by incredible people during my 20-year career. My advice to those who feel they would
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benefit from mentorship is don’t be afraid to ask,” she says. “Look for mentorship from someone who you look up to, identify things that you want to learn from that individual. Seek someone who has something to offer you and your needs in terms of growth and learning. Tell them why you would like them to mentor you, what you would like to learn from them and ask them for help.” Jo Twist on the other hand doesn’t necessarily believe it’s for everyone as we should be careful with labels that would indicate there’s only one way to succeed. “I think everyone should be sharing their problems but I personally don’t think it has to have a name. I think formality sometimes doesn’t suit people and can put people off being available when people need advice or a sounding board. We must avoid making people think that there will be a barrier to success or progress unless they get ‘mentoring’. People are all different no matter what gender you identify with and they all have different skills and experiences. What’s important is finding the people with the right experience or support to offer depending on what you need. And those needs will evolve!” Jodie Azhar shares that she personally found what she needed in mentorship: “Having female mentors helped me gain confidence as I felt their belief in me came from someone who I could identify with and who understood challenges I’d faced. This especially helped me overcome imposter syndrome when taking on a leadership role.” SHOULD I…? Imposter syndrome is well known from women in the games industry (you can read more about this on page 34), though it’s obviously not a gender-specific issue, as Twist points out: “Every single human being experiences this and it’s OK to feel this. But don’t let it get in your way: seek support from friends who will tell you how awesome you really are.”
Anisa Sanusi agrees, but points out that there’s a downside to that approach: “Imposter syndrome is something most people will feel, especially the more visible you get. You’d think the antidote would be to surround yourself with people who would shower you with compliments to get that ego boost, but that would make it worse as you will start training yourself to disbelief any good feedback thinking that’s what friends are supposed to say to you. “Imposter syndrome stems from an assumption that you do not deserve recognition. To combat this you need to ground yourself with proof. Prove your assumptions wrong. Look back at your CV, and look at all the work you’ve done, the games you’ve released, and the problems you solved. These aren’t just bullet points on a paper, this is your legacy and you have worked hard for it, and tangible experiences that brought you to where you are now. You are not an imposter, you were meant to be here.” The problem with imposter syndrome is that it doesn’t seem to go away easily. Rose Buahin has been in the industry for 15 years, working for big names such as Sony, Warner Bros and Curve Digital. And despite that... “I have battled imposter syndrome throughout my career,” she tells us. “It’s that perpetual self-doubt that creeps in from time to time, questioning your worth and contribution to the business. We are inevitably compared with our male peers as we’re so under-represented and often judged by dated male stereotypes, that we start to second guess ourselves as a result: should I speak louder, be more aggressive, stay for one more pint, work late again...? “The imposter syndrome also makes you feel like you just don’t fit in and that’s another challenge. After a lifetime in this industry, I still haven’t worked with many people that look like me. With equal representation and diversity, it would be understood that for example, some women can be more reflective when making decisions – so silence in the boardroom is not a sign of ignorance or weakness but rather a strategic battle plan to kick some serious ass in the discussed project. I find that the best way to handle this is to build an armoury of self-belief and confidence backed up with continuous learning. It never really goes away but at least you’ll be able to tackle your critics and haters with ease.” Most of our respondents have described how they have battled imposter syndrome one way or another
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Take it from the pros - practical tips for gender diversity We asked our Women in Games Awards judges to give one practical tip to UK companies to address their gender diversity issues, whether that’s related to recruitment, retention or pay gap. Here’s what those who answered had to say. Gemma Johnson-Brown: “Partner with the experts in these areas, such as Women in Games. It truly does start from the top. Diversity needs to be a priority for business leaders across all disciplines, not just HR. Businesses need to act, assign budget and resource otherwise change is going to be reactive and slow.” Anisa Sanusi: “Hire more women, have women or people of colour to check that the wording you use in your recruitment deck reads well to everyone and not just men. Think carefully about what your company culture is like, and if it’s appealing to applicants who are parents, or people who don’t drink. Ping pong tables and beer isn’t gonna lure talent. Flexible hours, opportunities for career progression, remote work options, work from home days, healthcare – that’s what any modern working woman would look for. Oh, and fucking promote women.” Louise O’Connor: “Invest in training. We train our managers about inclusive hiring and managing diverse teams. Ensure there is an opportunity for a minority group to form a network, like a women in game initiative in your business, but also, encourage and support
with Johnson-Brown for example saying she’s told herself many times: “Fake it until you make it!” And despite having reached her personal goal to be a director before 35, there’s still a sneaky voice that sometimes whispers: “One day they will find out!” Communication is the key to resolve and reduce imposter syndrome, Louise O’Connor believes, saying that you need to ensure you talk about it. “Imposter syndrome makes you doubt yourself and feel out of place, so find a group of people to help remind you why you belong. We have the Rare Women’s group in the studio, and this is a great way to discuss things like imposter syndrome and how each of us manage it. “Women can feel like they don’t fulfil all the ‘desired traits’ expected in a role and as a result don’t feel like they are good enough. Job specs are there for guidance, at Rare we like to encourage people to think about how they can evolve their roles to fit around their skills. Don’t just tick boxes on a list of expectations, make it your own and forge your own destiny. “It’s great to have a long term goal, but don’t put yourself under pressure to get there too soon. It’s important to take time to experience the journey, to use that time to learn and grow, the more you learn, the more experience you gain, the less imposter syndrome strikes!” OVER TO YOU The cultural transformation the industry needs to reach gender balance and equal pay will take time and resources. “I don’t think there is just one solution for this problem that is after all deeply ingrained across all of
it. Everyone is a diversity champion. We empower our teams to be inclusive, to identify non-inclusive behaviour and provide feedback for improvement. Encourage and support STEM and outreach activities. At Rare we are very passionate about connecting with schools and unis to encourage women to choose games as a future career. We ensure there is time given to those ambassadors to evangelise the industry.” Rose Buahin: “Build a work environment that represents today’s gamer and that’s the personnel you will attract; UK games companies should be a tapestry of cultural diversity and gender equality. Get this right and you will deliver the right content for your audience. Female employees do not need special allowances, appearance judgements or unreasonable extra pressure to prove competency, we just want a level playing field of respect so we can illustrate what we can do.” Kim Parker Adcock: “Awareness is key. Recognise that most discrimination is subconscious and create measures in your recruitment and appraisal processes that prevent it. If you need guidance go to an HR expert/consultancy to get some help.” Rebecca Sampson: “Companies should be actively engaged with local schools and the community, raising awareness of the issues faced and supporting existing talent with mentorship, training and entrusting responsibility to help with progress in their careers.”
society, but a mixture of approaches can help,” Caroline Miller points out. “Firstly you need to identify it in your own company, now if you employ more than 250 people your hand has been forced to do this by law, but if you are smaller, it’s still a worthwhile exercise. Look at your current workforce: have you been fair with pay or have you suffered from unconscious bias and paid men doing the same work as women more? Or have you fallen foul of the squeaky wheel because men are four times more likely to ask for a raise than women? “Closing the gender pay gap starts with determining who is underpaid and how that happened. The next obvious step is a recruitment policy that ensures your workplace has adopted women-friendly and familyfriendly policies. Working a 100 hour week at crunch time is not conducive to having kids at home. Even simple messages such as having women on your website on your printed materials and visible when interviews are conducted can really help women see themselves working for you.” While working on this feature, I was very much hoping to feel optimistic by the end of it. But having already answered my questions, one of the respondents felt she had to actually go back and audit her responses, as she feared they would backfire and some men in the industry would react badly to what she had to say. So I will only feel optimistic when no one feels this way anymore. The ball is in your court games industry, you can make change happen.
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Ins and Outs: Industry hires and moves 1
JOHN NEJADY (1) has officially joined Coconut Lizard as technical producer after previously being an associate producer at Sumo Digital Newcastle (previously CCP Newcastle, where he worked on Eve: Valkyrie). Managing editor Robert Troughton commented: “These are exciting times for Coconut Lizard as we look to expand our team to around 30 people over the next 12 months.” German games industry association Game has appointed CHRISTIAN BAUR (2) as its new head of Gamescom and events. He joined from Smilegate, where he was head of marketing, and previously worked at Gameforge for over two years. Game’s managing director Felix Falk said: “Christian can contribute a wealth of expertise in the games industry from his years as a marketing expert and brand manager. He is therefore the perfect fit for what we need. He will focus in
particular on the further strategic development of Gamescom together with our members and our partner, Koelnmesse.” To hear more about Christian Baur’s plan for Gamescom, head to page 52
Marketing agency Heaven Media has made two new hires. Twitch broadcaster CAIT MAXWELL (3) has been appointed influencer manager, while BRIAN JOYCE (4) is the firm’s new global accounts director, having previous experiences at Alienware and Dell.
Tech and lifestyle PR agency Ranieri has created a gaming-focused
European branch: Ranieri Gaming. The new agency will have teams based in Munich and Krefeld in Germany, as well as in London and Paris. Heading up the agency in the UK is MARK ALLEN (5), a PR veteran with stints at Eidos, Activision, Sony, 505 Games and Kalypso Media. He takes on the role of director of games, UK. The German arm will be run by MICHAEL TRIER (6) as director of games, Germany. He spent 15 years at magazine GameStar as editor-inchief, director of content services and chief editor of hardware. Leading the agency across Europe as director games international and strategy is GEORG RECKENTHÄLER (7), who was once PR director at THQ for the Germanspeaking countries, and more recently founded and run Wildcard Communications, which was acquired by Ranieri back in 2017. Trier commented: “With a new focus and the resources we now have at our disposal, we’re in the best possible position to create and deliver impactful campaigns for our partners.”
Hutch has announced the addition of two new members to its London studio. MICHELLE OLSEN (8) has been hired as QA embedded tester, having previously worked at Splash Damage and Rocksteady. Meanwhile, ANDREEA VATAMANU (9) is Hutch’s new QA project lead, and has experience from Gameloft, King and GSN Games.
The Entertainment Software Association has appointed acting CEO STANLEY PIERRE-LOUIS (10) permanently into the post. Pierre-Louis moved temporarily into the position last year when then-ESA president and CEO, Michael Gallagher, stepped down.
Legend of Solgard developer Snowprint Studios has announced that JOHN HARGELID (11) has been appointed COO, at the firm’s Stockholm office, to lead the strategic growth of the company’s portfolio. Prior to joining, Hargelid was CIO of Paradox Interactive, where he helped the company grow from 30 to more than 450 employees during his tenure. Before that, he held leadership roles at EA and DICE, before joining Accenture as a business intelligence consultant. Snowprint’s CEO Alexander Ekvall said: “John’s proven track record and deep experience in the games industry make him the ideal person to drive Snowprint’s growth strategy. He brings with him a breadth of experience that complements our goal of mastering our turn-based battles niche in the mobile landscape.” Former Develop editor and MCV content editor JEM ALEXANDER (12) has joined PlayStation as UX writer. He formerly worked at Greenlit Content as senior editor, and has experience from stints at Square Enix, Six to Start and Riot Games.
“With a new focus and the resources we now have at our disposal, we’re in the best possible position to create and deliver impactful campaigns for our partners.” Michael Trier, Ranieri Gaming
Got an appointment you’d like to share with us? Email Marie Dealessandri at email@example.com 30 | MCV 947 June 2019
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Every month, we pick the brain of an up-and-coming talent
Anderona Cole, policy and public affairs manager, Ukie What is your proudest achievement so far? My proudest achievement so far stems around my involvement in Ukie’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion subgroup. I have been making the case to select certain initiatives via presentations to diversity and human resource professionals in the video games industry. Right now, we are working on a pledge, a survey and a range of other exciting industrywide initiatives. I can see things moving in the right direction and it’s truly heartening to see. What’s been your biggest challenge to date? My biggest challenge has been processing a policy shift from the tech sector to the games sector. Even though the games industry is relatively young, there has been so much done already, in terms of self-regulation. I am learning new things all the time and it’s incredibly refreshing.
How did you break into games? I have always been fascinated by games and, having seen games demonstrated in my working environment in the tech sector, I have harboured a deep desire to work in such a young, dynamic and thriving industry. When I saw that Ukie was looking for someone with my set of skills, I couldn’t believe my luck. I stepped into the office for my interview and had butterflies in the pit of my stomach. It just felt like the right fit and here I am today – living the dream as Ukie’s policy and public affairs manager.
What do you enjoy most about your job? I really enjoy the parliamentary engagement side of my role. I have always loved establishing professional relationships with people from a variety of political backgrounds. I feel incredibly lucky that Ukie has an excellent reputation within Westminster and that I’m able to contribute to its efforts to demonstrate our industry’s immensely positive contribution to culture, society and the economy at large to policy makers. What’s your big ambition in games? My big ambition in games is to spearhead a policy transformation that ushers in a sea change in the industry. Policy achievements
“For Ukie’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion subgroup, we are working on a pledge, a survey and other exciting industry-wide initiatives. I can see things moving in the right direction and it’s truly heartening to see.” such as the introduction of PEGI age ratings, video game tax relief and efforts to secure funding for the London Games Festival have helped change the industry for the better. I want to achieve something as significant as that to help support our mission to make the UK be the best place to make, sell and play games across the world. What advice would you give to someone moving from another industry to join the games industry? Don’t be afraid to just turn up at events and get chatting to people. Games people are so open and friendly. So make sure that you always push yourself to start a conversation; you never know where it might take you!
If there’s a rising star at your company, contact Marie Dealessandri at firstname.lastname@example.org June 2019 MCV 947 | 31
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Cherry picked advice to help you reach the next level in your career
Lily Zhu, lead artist at Splash Damage and one of our 30 Under 30 this year, tells us why lead artist doesn’t mean best artist and the importance of cultivating leadership skills tasks and I have numerous conversations with other discipline leads to ensure that the art team have the information they need. I normally spend the end of my day reviewing the work submitted by the team and preparing for the next day’s feedback session. What qualifications and/or experience do you need to land this job? The role of lead artist is not necessarily something you land, instead I tend to think it’s something you grow into. I graduated with a BA in Interactive Animation and spent the last decade working in the industry, levelling up my skills in both art and production. What is your job role and how would you describe your typical day at work? I’m a lead artist at Splash Damage where we work on numerous titles for PC and consoles, including the Gears of War franchise. My current project sees me working directly with the VP of art and a team of artists to create visuals. My job stretches across numerous disciplines, including character art, environment art, VFX, UI art and lighting. Additionally, I work with the leadership team to oversee the execution of our project goals and I represent my art team in strategic conversations. The benefit of working in the games industry is that there’s always something new to do. Problems are rarely the same and tasks are rarely routine. As a team, we scrum up in a circle every morning to discuss yesterday’s achievements, today’s agenda and any blockers. The rest of my day is spent completing art reviews. These and feedback sessions ensure that the team can move quickly and avoid reworking. I also prepare briefs and documents on upcoming
“The role of lead artist is not something you land, it’s something you grow into.” The common misconception is that the lead artist is the best artist, but this isn’t always the case. Within our organisation, the lead is more focused on smooth production and team efficiency. This year I took part in Splash Damage’s bespoke Leadership Development Programme where we study leadership fundamentals, team motivations, coaching methods and strategic thinking. These skills have helped me immensely at being a better leader, and I was very proud to see this being recognised in MCV’s 30 Under 30 list this year. Technical knowledge is the bread and butter of this industry, and I think an in-depth
engine knowledge, understanding of different workflows and pipelines is a must. Of course, as an artist, a solid art background in both traditional and digital art is critical. If you were interviewing someone for your team, what would you look for? In additional to the skills needed to execute the job, I look for personalities. In the end, I work with people not machines. I like creative people who can think outside of the box when solving problems. I also value professionalism and the ability to communicate concisely. There’s rarely a part of any game that’s created by one single person or a solution from a single individual, so every member of the team should be a strong team player. Collaboration is key and because Splash Damage has cultivated a friendly culture that we’re all incredibly protective of, it’s important for us to find candidates that share our values. What opportunities are there for career progression? The position of art director is normally the next step on from lead artist. However, in my current position, I’m focused on levelling up my team. The fact that I can use my experience and knowledge to support others and help them grow is a very gratifying part of my job. Alongside this, I think being in the games industry leaves room for progression and adding value in so many areas outside of my discipline. And I’m interested in advocating for diversity in our industry in general. I have the pleasure to work with a very diverse team, and I want to do more to support diversity initiatives in the wider game’s community.
Want to talk about your career and inspire people to follow the same path? Contact Marie Dealessandri at email@example.com
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28 DAYS LATER Taking a new opportunity in the industry can open a door to the job of your dreams. We catch up with a recent career mover at the start of their exciting new role through recruitment specialist Amiqus Can you give us some background on your career to date? During university I was lucky to get an internship at a small games studio in New York working on Nintendo DS games. And thanks to that experience I joined Mind Candy, where I did development for a bunch of their mini games in the Moshi universe. Then some of the guys I worked with at Mind Candy asked if I wanted to join their mobile startup Gumbug as a technical producer – which meant I was half producer, half front-end Unity developer. After working there for four years, I’m now at Loveshark working on social games for teens. What inspired you to join Loveshark? What was it about the company that attracted you? As someone who had little to no perspective of the AR market outside of Pokémon Go, Loveshark really impressed me with their passion towards the medium and a more applicable approach to AR. Loveshark is pretty in touch with their market and so are able to create fresh and adventurous products that I couldn’t have pictured before. What is the culture like at Loveshark and what has your experience been like in terms of fitting in? There are currently only four of us at Loveshark, so the culture changes with each new addition! It’s pretty laid back and friendly, made all the easier by daily chats, team lunches and weekly one-to-ones. What are you most excited about bringing to the role? As it’s a small company, I get the opportunity to get my hands on nearly everything. It’s great to create something you’ve had an active hand in from the ground up. What do you think working at Loveshark will do for your career? I think at this point in my career I’m looking at learning as much as I can from smaller companies before I start off on my own creative venture. Being at a company of this size means you’ve got a front-row seat to everything that’s going on so I’ll attempt to learn as much as I can. What advice would you give to anyone looking to forge a career in games? Set out to do something specific and focus on that path. If no doors are opening up for you then you’ve got to open them up yourself. One of my summers at uni I had absolutely zero luck of getting an internship so spent the summer teaching myself C# and XNA, and then blogged about it – I ended up getting hardly any followers but one of them ended up being a producer for that small studio I would eventually get the internship at.
Name: Kate Morris Studio: Loveshark Job Title: Game developer Education: University of St Andrews, Bsc Computer Science and Management
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Iterating for Better This month, MCV discusses the many faces of imposter syndrome and how to deal with it IMPOSTER syndrome is a topic that comes up frequently during women in games events. “I worry I’m not good enough”, “I don’t think I’m ready to apply for the job/promotion”, etc. And according to the International Journal of Behavioural Science, 70 per cent of people will suffer from it during their career. They might just not know that it has a name. As the condition suggests, imposter syndrome is an affliction where the person doubts their achievements – and fears being exposed as a ‘fraud’. It can affect the most (seemingly) confident individuals, and can hinder their career progression as they question their abilities, even in the face of success. It’s important for managers and business owners to recognise and address the issue, too. If their staff are suffering from imposter syndrome, it can have a detrimental effect on the workplace and business in general. As a starting point, it’s worth recognising the symptoms. Dr Valerie Young, an expert on imposter syndrome and author of the award-winning book The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women, claims that there are five different forms of the condition: • The Perfectionist: they focus on ‘how’ something is done, and how it turns out. And if just one thing is wrong, it means failure for them. • The Expert: the knowledge version of the Perfectionist, according to Young. This person will focus on ‘what’ and ‘how much’ she knows or can do. Even a minor lack of knowledge denotes failure and shame. • The Soloist: cares mostly about ‘who’ completes the task, ie it has to be them managing the entire project. Needing help is a sign of failure. • The Natural Genius: also cares about ‘how’ and ‘when’ accomplishments happen. But this person will fret about how quickly the job can be done, and how much effort they need to put in. • The Superwoman/Superman: this will resonate with many women as it’s about how many roles they can juggle – employee, parent, partner, friend – and if they can’t manage it all easily and without fuss, they feel shame. Recognising the condition – and allowing yourself and your staff to discuss their insecurities – will go a long way to combating imposter syndrome. We asked two women, at different stages of their careers in games, for their experiences and tips...
Georgina Felce Studio operations manager, Big Pixel Studios My experiences with imposter syndrome have always stemmed from the question: ‘Am I good enough?’ And I’ve found no amount of reassurance or praise can dampen my doubts. Obviously such thoughts can really damage your confidence in the workplace so when I was going through a particularly difficult time I sought guidance from a peer, a fellow woman in the studio. While the initial reaching out was tough, it was a relief to finally talk to someone about it. And surprising to hear that she had experienced the same feelings in her career journey too! I have three nuggets of advice: first, find your ally. In or out of work, this industry is full of amazingly thoughtful and emotionally intelligent people. You don’t have to do it alone. Second, look after yourself. Find time for the things you like doing and the activities that help you switch off. Third, remember you’re here because your company recognised your achievements and saw your potential, they chose you.
Ann Hurley Head of business development games, Testronic In my early years and sometimes even now I ask: ‘Am I smart enough? Am I good enough?’ Particularly when faced with a new challenge. I had an amazing mentor who showed me that self-doubt can make you stronger by advising that I was always prepared for anything that presented itself. 30 years later I’m still loving the games industry. Today if those thoughts surface I go back to basics, ensuring I know as much as I can before a meeting, actively listening to ensure I really understand what the end result needs to be, then working through the steps that need to be taken to achieve that end result. I mentor a couple of young women within Testronic. Our conversations are about how they feel, how to grow in confidence and how to step outside of their comfort zone. They are also mentors in turn, offering the same support and advice. We see this as a great way to keep building a confident and tight knit team. Putting The G Into Gaming is a pro bono initiative founded by and in association with recruitment specialist Amiqus. To find out more email G-IntoGaming@amiqus.com or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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MCV-JUN19-TANDEM EVENTS 2:MCV-JUN19-TANDEM EVENTS 2 29/05/2019 15:08 Page 1
Woman’s hour This month we’re highlightng every woman-led session at this year’s Develop:Brighton conference, demonstrating the increasing breadth and strength of the line-up of women speakers. From accessibility to art pipelines, studio management to charting on Steam, production tips to diversity, stage magic to prototyping, character design to public perception, pitching to audio systems – there’s a head-spinning array of topics on offer from women at this year’s seaside conference. All of these sessions, and more, will provide applicable knowledge and techniques for a huge number of disciplines across the industry. So get out of the bar this July and listen to some of the industry’s brightest and best share their knowledge across these 20 sessions.
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TUESDAY JULY 9TH Successful Crowdfunding: A Kickstarter Post-Mortem
CARI WATTERTON, UX designer, Puny Astronaut Tuesday – 11.00 to 11.45 – Room 2 Cari Watterton is one of three women vying for your attention in the first session slot of Develop:Brighton this year – helping kickstart the event with her session about Kickstarter. Watterton single-handedly ran a successful Kickstarter to fund her university’s honours year project – by the time the campaign ended she had reached over 200 per cent funded. This post-mortem of her campaign will provide an overview of what she learnt, good and bad. She gives practical advice on how to plan and fund your campaign in a way
Accessibility and the Importance of Including the Disabled in the Development Process
FELICIA PREHN, production manager, Nopia Oy
that’s easy to follow and great for people new to crowdfunding. The UX designer at Puny Astronaut, who previously worked on Minecraft: Console Edition, tells MCV: “I’m always looking for ways to develop myself and I love sharing knowledge. I saw a great post-mortem talk at EGX last year with a really relatable and down to earth format, and I was inspired to do something similar with my Kickstarter experience. “It’s a goal of mine to speak at GDC’s UX Summit and so applying to speak at Develop was a natural step. I’m a first-time speaker and was assured by a good friend of mine that they were really welcoming and that the conference would be a great place to start.”
“I decided to use my story in a way that would hopefully make games better for everyone.”
Tuesday – 11.00 to 11.45 – Room 6 Felicia Prehn’s personal experience makes her more qualified than most to speak on accessibility in video games. “I’m almost completely blind and somewhere around 2017 I realised that the discussion of the topic had very few actual disabled people in it. I decided it would be important and useful to use my story and my experiences in a way that would hopefully make games better for everyone,” she tells us. The session will cover how accessibility and inclusion in games aren’t trends, but rather a necessity in a world where hundreds of millions of people are disabled. How can developers and companies find disabled gamers to help them in their work? Prehn will also discuss her perspective as a blind woman working in the game industry. A regular speaker at conferences in the Nordics and Baltics, Prehn explains that even talking at a conference is different for the visually-impaired: “The most difficult part about giving presentations is that almost all of my viewers aren’t visually-impaired, and thus want a visual presentation. It’s difficult for me to think about visuals and making things look ‘clean’ when I myself can’t see my slides during my presentation,” she explains to MCV.
Art Pipelines in Hold the World
LAURA DODDS, senior artist, The Chinese Room Tuesday – 11.00 to 11.45 – Room 5 For those working in the intersection of art and technology we recommend Laura Dodds session on creating Hold the World, a VR experience starring David Attenborough set in the Natural History Museum. Before joining The Chinese Room, Dodds was head of art at VR outfit Dream Reality Interactive. Dodds outlines the talk for us: “We were working with lots of interesting technologies including volumetric video capture, photogrammetry and scanned specimens from the museum collection. I’ll be stepping through what our art processes were and what I learnt along the way. “The session will cover several key findings that arose from working with and combining these different technologies in engine. This includes how various lighting techniques and colour grading methods were employed to ensure that assets with highly varying properties and produced from disparate sources were implemented in Unity to cohere into a believable scene. “I’ve been to Develop for the last four years and I’ve had a great time each year, this year I’m really interested in Lottie Bevan’s talk on the first year of an indie studio and Leanne Loombe’s session on pitching,” Dodds tells us. “As well as going to lots of talks, I make sure to load up on cakes, ice cream and go for at least one swim even if it’s raining!”
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TUESDAY JULY 9TH Fun, Safety, Profit: Year 1 of a Successful Indie Studio
LOTTIE BEVAN, co-founder, Weather Factory Tuesday – 12.00 to 12.45 – Room 4 Lottie Bevan is co-founder of indie studio Weather Factory, best known for Cultist Simulator. In its first year, the studio has already proved to be one of the most open around, providing hugely useful details on how it’s run via regular blog posts. This talk brings together much of that insight, all of which helped Cultist Simulator gross nearly $2m (£1.57m) in sales in its first year. Bevan will cover the studio’s strategy, how Weather Factory worked it out, and how Cultist Simulator fit into it, as well as their first year’s numbers and how they stacked up against expectation. Bevan promises to “share sales figures, studio costs, business strategies, publisher stories, and of course hard-learnt lessons.” Bevan is one of the youngest female founders in the industry, a current BAFTA Breakthrough Brit and founder of Coven Club, a women in games support network. She previously worked on Fallen London, Sunless Sea and Sunless Skies as producer at Failbetter Games.
How to Grow a Studio in 365 Days... And Counting
GEORGINA FELCE, studio operations manager, Big Pixel Studios Tuesday – 12.00 to 12.45 – Room 5
How do you define a company culture when you’re still growing? How do you recruit a diverse team when time constraints mean you needed the position filled yesterday? How do biscuits promote inclusion?
Almost everyone wants to grow, but a six-fold growth in the space of a single year isn’t most people’s idea of fun. Georgina Felce details just that scenario, though, when Big Pixel was acquired by WarnerMedia and its headcount rocketed up from just four staff. This session tackles the tough questions: how do you define a company culture when you’re still growing? How do you recruit a diverse team when time constraints mean you needed the position filled yesterday? And more cryptically: how do biscuits promote inclusion? This session offers insights on a measurable framework for encouraging thoughtful studio expansion. Felce oversees the day to day operational running of the studio, heading up recruitment and championing the studios core values and culture. Speaking on her decision to talk this year, she says: “Being involved with the gaming community has been incredibly beneficial to my career development and I’ve been in a really fortunate position with Big Pixel – we’ve had quite a journey in the past year! I believe I have some valuable experiences and lessons to share.”
Everything We Did to Chart on Steam
HANNAH FLYNN, communications director, Failbetter Games Tuesday –14.00 to 14.45 – Room 4 Failbetter’s Hannah Flynn likes Brighton so much, she recently moved there. Her talk at the conference reflects that it’s “been a big year for Failbetter from a marketing standpoint. We launched the #loveindies event last summer and did another one this year, and we ran a huge (by indie standards) marketing campaign for the launch of our game Sunless Skies.” Flynn promises to break down everything she and the Failbetter Games team did to launch Sunless Skies, with the pros, cons and outcomes for each. That will include overall strategy, how to make a splash leaving early access, media and streamer
outreach, press and consumer events, advertising, store placement, merchansing, and more… Phew. Flynn explains her choice to speak this year: “I came back from maternity leave since the last Develop, so I’ve been getting back into industry life, and I felt I’d put out quite a lot of work that others might find helpful!” And while she loves “the festival and the fringe, the amusements, fancy ice cream, sunshine and the sea,” she notes that one year a man actually explained to her how to use a big pair of tongs to pick up a tiny dessert after she made a joke about “the wrong tools for the job.” She adds: “This sums up what it’s like to be a woman in these spaces, honestly.”
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Video Games to Tackle Today’s Biggest Scientific Challenges
CLAIRE BAERT, founder, Think Crowd Tuesday – 14.00 to 14.45 – Room 5 A lot of science underpins creating games but what about games that actually solve scientific problems? Now that’s clever. Claire Baert is talking about this strand of games “in which players work on real scientific problems and produce data for research. “People might have played Sea Hero Quest, which allows scientists to detect people who are at genetic risk of Alzheimer’s based on how they play specific levels of game. I’ll be discussing this, as well as some others that tackle quantum, biodiversity and ecology issues, plus I’ll be covering topics such as design challenges and players’ motivations.
Transfer of Gaming Experiences: Considering the Impact of Game Design Beyond Gameplay
ANGELICA B. ORTIZ DE GORTARI, researcher, University of Liège Tuesday – 16.00 to 16.45 – Room 2 How do video games change how we “perceive, interpret and interact” with the world? That’s the question that Angelica B. Ortiz de Gortari is tackling in her talk on Game Transfer Phenomena (GTP). “Some have referred to Game Transfer Phenomena as the ‘original AR’ or ‘consensus hallucinations’, since gamers have reported seeing images overlaying physical objects such as seeing power bars above people’s heads, or menus or maps in the corner of their eyes,” Ortiz de Gortari explains. “The main goal of my research is to inform and demystify GTP to avoid wrong and negative interpretation, as well as to raise awareness on the potential impact and applications of GTP. I’m a passionate researcher on the impact of interactive technology, and I love new technology. I admire the geniality and creativity that give origin to video games as contemporary pieces of art and potential pedagogic tools.” She continues: “Most of the time, my conferences are directed at academics, but I’m interested in spreading the results of my research among those that can directly obtain benefit from it. There is usually a divide between academia and the industry and it is my intention with my talk to build a bridge between these worlds.”
Today, most of the citizen science games are puzzle or simulation games but exploring new genres could help reach a broader audience. “Talking at the Develop:Brighton conference is an opportunity to spread the word about citizen science to the games industry and to encourage more collaboration between scientists and game designers and developers,” she explains as her key motivations. “Develop:Brighton is also building bridges between academia and games with the new Develop:Research track, opened last year. The thematic for 2019 is ‘Games for Good’ and participants will look at different questions, including how games can promote innovation to health, social engagement and education. I’m looking forward to finding out more about the program and speakers!”
Marshalling the troops Susan Marshall, content director of Develop:Brighton, tells us about the conference’s efforts and successes in recruiting more women speakers How do you find women speakers? We source female speakers from our usual channels: via speaker submissions, my own research and our female board members. We’ve recently made a conscious effort to increase the number of women on the advisory board and we’ve seen a significant increase in the number of women submitting talks in the past couple of years which is really encouraging. There are also more female students volunteering at the conference than ever before, which I think shows that there are more young women coming into the industry. So it’s all moving in the right direction, just slowly. Are there still difficulties in getting women to come forward and speak? Yes, I believe there are. We once asked all our speakers to submit a two-minute video so we could see what they were like at public speaking. An advisory board member told me afterwards that they’d been told by a handful of women that they didn’t want to submit a video because they feared being judged for their looks and not their knowledge. Do you have a target for women speakers? We aim to have at least 25 per cent of the sessions from women speakers. The industry percentage of women vs men is around 20 per cent so this is in keeping with this number. We’ve done some interesting blog posts with women this year; we hope by spotlighting these we might attract more women to speak and attend. There needs to be positive role models out there influencing young women to work in any technology sector. I hope that we can inspire more women to speak which will hopefully draw yet more women into our industry. Are the number of women speakers going up? The numbers have gone up incrementally each year, as we’ve seen the numbers slowly tick up in the industry for women in games. This year we have 30 per cent more women speaking than in 2018. Ultimately we’d love for it to be 50 per cent of the content, so we work really hard to increase that number each year.
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WEDNESDAY JULY 10TH From Student to Start-up
VICKY POTTS, co-founder, Whitepot Studios Wednesday – 11.00 to 11.45 – Room 4 One of our 2018 Women in Games Awards winners takes the stage on Wednesday morning to discuss how she bridged that tricky gap from student to creating her company. Now 27, she is co-founder of Whitepot Studios – which won NI Game Of The Year for its title Tubocity. Potts will explain how she wound up setting up two companies already, and about the pitfalls and upsides of transitioning directly from student to start-up – including skills required, realistic expectations, lessons learnt, and more. From making websites at the age of 11, it felt pretty inevitable Potts would end up in tech. She went on to graduate from Queen’s University Belfast in 2015 straight into her first business, a bluetooth beacon solution for museums and other venues. Adept with C# and Unity, she has utilised her tech background to transition to a business and production role in games.
Practical Production Tips for Studios Without a Producer
LUCIE PRUNIER, producer, Preloaded Wednesday – 15.00 to 15.45 – Room 2 Are you an indie developer who feels there’s just not enough hours in the day? Then Lucie Prunier is here to help with a talk centering on time management, people management and problem solving methods. “Indie and micro studio leads often need to wear many hats in development, but also handle all the organisation and problem-solving side of the business themselves,” she explains. “This talk is intended for those who struggle to pause and catch their breath for their business: it features actionable tips to help them smooth their process, alleviate the pains of production and avoid meltdowns of budgets, quality or developers!” Speaking about Develop she tells us: ”I find it to be the perfect balance between a must-go industry conference, with valuable networking opportunities and knowledge to be shared, and a humansized event. It’s always a pleasure to go to and never a chore.” On gender diversity she tells us: “I once saw a panel, with two men and two women, on working conditions. Upon being asked whether they thought gender diversity impacted on crunch at a studio, both women instantly said ‘Yes’ while both men said ‘No’. A short embarrassed silence ensued. To me, this was one of the most telling examples of why we need more diversity in the industry: it opens everyone to different perspectives they never considered, and challenges the status quo.”
“I’m hoping to be part of this next wave of change in the industry – to get it to be more open, welcoming and inclusive for everyone.” Women in Games Roundtable
CINZIA MUSIO, associate live ops manager, Splash Damage Wednesday – 11.00 to 11.45 – Room 7
Traditional sessions are great, but a roundtable discussion has many benefits too. Cinzia Musio is hosting this year’s table on women in games, which will discuss “how far we’ve come in the industry and what we still need to do to become truly inclusive.” Musio is well qualified to lead the discussion too: “Having personally ran several unconscious bias workshops at Splash Damage, there are a lot of actions that we can decide to take as an industry to help bring in and retain women,” she explains. Musio also sits on the diversity board at the studio, where she focuses on inclusivity training initiatives within
the studio. She feels the roundtable format should be beneficial: “I feel that doing a roundtable is a good way to get more voices heard on this very important topic. “I’m hoping to be part of this next wave of change in the industry – to get it to be more open, welcoming and inclusive for everyone. I thought that getting people to talk about women in games at Develop would be a great place to start, as it already has a level of visibility.” She also notes that the table is open to all: “This roundtable was made to be open to everyone, so that we can widen the conversation, as diversity of thoughts will get us to think about new ways to help the industry as a whole!”
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Managers Have Feelings, Too
LISA KRETSCHMER, development manager, EA Ghost Games Wednesday – 15.00 to 15.45 – Room 7 EA’s Lisa Kretschmer is taking her Devcom talk from last year and opening it up for discussion at this year’s Develop:Brighton as a roundtable discussion. And if you’ve had a tough time leading your team of late, this could be just the support group you need to gain some perspective. Kretschmer explains: “Being a manager, or team lead, with responsibility for a project and individual careers comes with many challenges and sometimes we can face emotionally stressful situations. Do we have to be a rock for the team or is it OK to struggle at times? Let’s sit together and discuss how
Why Game Designers Should Study Stage Magic
SHRINGI KUMARI, PHD student, University of York Wednesday – 16.00 to 16.45 – Room 2 “For millennia, magicians have mastered crafting believable and engaging illusions. This talk provides a window into this untapped wealth of design knowledge and insight for game designers,” Shringi Kumari explains to us. The seasoned game designer has nine years experience making casual games but turned researcher three years ago, to figure out how game designers can take inspiration from other creative fields. In this case how stage magic can be translated to games, for creating believable illusions and moments of surprise. “As game designers, I feel we can do with as many thinking tools as possible, to help express ourselves through mechanics. I believe magicians and game designers often work with similar problem statements – creating engaging puzzles, choreography of a game session, creating a believable world and providing an illusion of control within that world’s limits. “One of the main aims of a magician’s deception, is just that: to make the spectator’s illusion more and more ‘real’ no matter how impossible the act is. This talk elaborates on magicians’ principles of perceived causality to help designers not only erect a structurally sound game illusion but build features which allow for surprise and suspense.” It’s an intriguing and utterly unique approach, and one that we’re in some suspense to hear more about.
people cope in stressful situations and discuss learnings that emerged from difficult situations. I’m very happy to host a panel on this topic to get an open conversation going to exchange experiences, thoughts and insights with a wider group.” And Kretschmer is very happy to be back in Brighton again for a second year. “Last year was the first year I attended Develop! The weather was perfect, we attended some interesting talks, met some new people as well as old friends. I like the location as it offers individual rooms for talks, the expo hall as well as the hotel bar for networking – with a view! It’s all combined in a space that doesn’t feel too big and empty, which I really like.”
“I believe magicians and game designers often work with similar problem statements.” Working Together for Smarter Prototyping
ANASTASIIA TSAPLII, game developer, Bossa Studios Wednesday – 16.00 to 16.45 – Room 1 Mobile came with a whole new approach to games development, differences that Anastasiia Tsaplii looks to leverage in this talk comparing the different approaches to prototyping on PC and mobile – exploring how the platforms shape ideas and production methods. “Every project starts with an idea, which becomes a prototype if you’re lucky. This talk is about how different studios establish prototyping processes and make their ideas a reality,” explains Tsaplii, adding: “We will look into multiple prototype stages and ways of getting feedback, and how we as developers can improve visibility through data analysis and analytics during playtesting.” The session will cover creating an extended toolkit for rapid prototyping, establishing an archive of codebase and mechanics which can be reused and built on by successive projects, using prototype development to identify technical constraints and applying data analysis as a part of extended prototyping. Tsaplii works on the World’s Adrift team at Bossa and previously led a prototyping team at Goodgame Studios in Hamburg, where she was responsible for a small team working on mobile multiplayer titles, creating network solutions for multiple free-to-play competitive titles and exploring alternative solutions for peer-to-peer games.
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THURSDAY JULY 11TH Body Positivity in Character Design
LOUKIA KYRIAKIDOU, freelance artist Thursday – 11.15 to 12.00 – Room 4 Representation in games remains a key topic, so Loukia Kyriakidou session on characters will be useful for anyone involved in their design and depiction. It will “recognise emerging platforms in character design, explore why we need to change how we create characters, and help designers break away from default choices and stereotypes,” Kyriakidou tells us. “With games reaching an increasingly wide and diverse audience, it is important to represent all groups of people in the characters that inhabit them,” she points out. Using her own journey of recognising patterns in her work, across over 20 titles to date, Lucy Kyriakidou will explain how we project our own ideals into the characters we create and offer ways to overcome this and expand our reference pool. On her choice of Develop:Brighton as a platform, she remarks: “Develop brings so much of the UK industry together so I feel it is the place to raise issues to encourage change in games. While I still get nervous doing talks, body positivity is a subject I am very passionate about and this year I thought I would challenge myself and speak at the conference, hoping to inspire some of that change, no matter how small.”
“Develop brings so much of the UK industry together so I feel it is the place to raise issues to encourage change.” Help! Games Under Attack!
DR JO TWIST OBE, CEO, Ukie Thursday – 11.15 to 12.00 – Room 2 No one does a rousing defence of the industry speech quite as well as Dr Jo Twist. The Ukie CEO, and also host of our upcoming MCV Women in Games Awards, will here be adding insight and advice alongside her fire and passion, as she looks back over what has been a tumultuous recent period for the industry as a whole. “It’s been a hell of an 18 months and I think it is time the community had a bit of a session to contextualise the World Health Organisation’s ‘gaming disorder’, loot boxes, the blurring of lines between games and gambling, Brexit, and what the hell is next,” Twist tells us. “There is a lot of uncertainty, but a lot of misreporting of what is actually going on, and what the potential future looks like for games, for our industry, for us as creators, innovators and businesses,” she continues. The session looks to arm those businesses and creators “with myth busting truths,” giving them some ideas as to what they need to look out for. And finally, you should come away “comforted that it’s all OK and these are just our cultural birthing pains.”
What Investors Really Look For
ELLA ROMANOS, director, Ella Romanos Ltd Thursday – 12.15 to 13.00 – Room 3 The key to pitching your project successfully is to understand what potential investors are looking for from you. “Put yourself in their shoes,” advises Ella Romanos, who in a decade has founded three studios and now provides strategic support to others. There are many questions to consider here: “How do investors really assess your pitch? What are they looking for, and what are they thinking? What is the internal review process that they go through to assess a project?”
Romanos asks. And she very much aims to provide some of the answers. “This talk will explain how investment funds assess companies and projects, from the point of view of the investor. By explaining how an investment fund’s green light process works, from personal experience designing and implementing these processes, attendees will gain insight into how investors think and what they are looking for.” This session is then accompanied by a ‘pitch review’ from 15.00 to 15.45 on the same afternoon. Here Romanos will be joined by other experts to provide an “opportunity for you to get honest direct feedback,” in small groups.
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The Big Why: How to Present Ideas and Get Buy In
LEANNE LOOMBE, head of Riot Labs, Riot Games Thursday – 15.00 to 15.45 – Room 4 Riot’s Leanne Loombe is here to help you get your ideas off the ground when it comes to pitching, “with a focus on the internal development side,” she tells us. “There are so many ways to pitch an idea, some good, some that could be better and I think this is a really key part of making game. I’ll be talking through some frameworks you can use as a producer or designer trying to get your game, feature or product green lit. I’m looking forward to sharing some of my tips and hope that it can help some people as
The Xbox Adaptive Controller Story
TARA VOELKER, program manager, Xbox and Mixer Thursday – 12.15 to 13.00 – Room 2 To see a company the size of Microsoft bring its resources to bear to help solve issues around accessibility in games was one of our highlights of last year. The Xbox Adaptive Controller was a huge step-forward by the platform, both in recognising and helping to practically solve the problems faced by disabled gamers. Now, one year on, Microsoft’s Tara Voelker, the gaming and disability community lead at Xbox, as part of the Gaming for Everyone program, will provide a broad update on what’s been learnt and what’s next. “It has been an amazing year since we announced the Xbox Adaptive Controller, and the response has overwhelmed the team. We’ll tell stories that haven’t been told, disclose things we have learned, and ask for help on where we should head next,” she explains. And the session has a practical core too, she tells us: ”We’ll also go through guidance that we give developers about creating games for folks with limited mobility.” Voelker is a program manager at Mixer, working on new features as well as heading up its accessibility efforts. She’s previously spent over seven years in triple-A game dev at Irrational games, Ready at Dawn and Turtle Rock Studios, among others.
they are formulating their ideas,” Loombe expands. In the session, she will discuss her approach to crafting pitches, which she has utilised on franchises such as Need for Speed and League of Legends. And Develop:Brighton is a bit special for Loombe: “I live in LA but I am from the UK and I started my games career in the South of England. Develop was the very first games conference I ever attended as a professional in the industry so it has a great nostalgic feeling for me. It brings together so much local talent around the UK and provides a really great way to connect with other people in the industry.”
“We’ll go through guidance that we give developers about creating games for folks with limited mobility.”
Code Ahoy – Finding Hidden Treasure In Creating Your Own Audio Systems
KATIE TARRANT, sound designer, Rare Thursday – 15.00 to 15.45 – Room 6
Rare’s Katie Tarrant is speaking alongside other members of the studio’s audio team, where she will demonstrate “some key audio systems from [Sea of Thieves] which show just what hidden treasure awaits the technically adventurous sound designer.” The team will share some of the “creative and technical decisions we made when crafting the soundscape for Sea of Thieves, and share some insight in to our audio systems. “We love to experiment and we have a wonderful freedom in our team to explore and be creative. We’ve achieved some unique and extremely cool things on this project, and it’ll be nice to shine some light on what’s going on behind the scenes,” Tarrant expands. “Sea of Thieves means so much to us – it’s a project we invest all of our passion and curiosities in to.” She adds: “I think there can be an additional pressure for female speakers. There is sometimes a subconscious worry about proving yourself and feeling valued amongst the rest, but fortunately I’ve always been supported by incredible people in the industry and so I’ve rarely felt like I have act differently because of my gender.”
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Pictured: Abe, the star of Oddworld: Soulstorm, showed off the character rendering prowess of Unity’s HDRP at GDC this year
WHAT’S IN THE
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Unity’s move from mobile and indie titles to graphically-intense console games has begun. Seth Barton talks to Natalya Tatarchuk about the company’s new graphics pipeline and the big-name games it’s powering
hat do System Shock 3, Oddworld: Soulstorm and Harold Halibut have in common? Well, all of these incredible-looking upcoming titles are built on Unity, and more specifically will utilise Unity’s upcoming High Definition Render Pipeline or HDRP for short. HDRP is the core graphics tech that’s bringing Unity out of the mobile and indie space and into the area of high-end PC and console releases, which adds huge potential to the innumerable studios and developers with Unity experience around the world. That process is being led by Natalya Tatarchuk, VP graphics at Unity, whose previous experience includes an eight year stint at Bungie, during which she designed and lead on Destiny’s renderer architecture, and time spent at ATI/ AMD as a graphics software architect. As with any major new feature, HDRP has been circulating for a while; most notably in Unity-created demos such as Book of the Dead, with its stunningly lifelike forest environment. And at GDC this year, the Unity’s demo team wowed us with The Heretic, which combined a lifelike human with a dynamic environment, incredible VFX and lighting effects. “This pipeline offers a huge leap in graphical realism and ease of use and will be production ready for all developers in 2019,” enthuses Tatarchuk. “It is designed to benefit games shipping on current generation consoles and modern PC hardware, and we see ambitious high-end titles adopting it as it offers tremendous visual fidelity and power of performance. It benefits games today, and games in the future that will use it.” HERETIC OR PROPHET? Tatarchuk is rightly bullish on what Unity has achieved with its new graphics workflow. She demonstrates The Heretic to me in the editor, where she’s able to edit and iterate at the final render quality, even with all the effects that are packed into the demo. “For us it’s so ingrained that we could just do this in the editor, we forget to emphasise it
enough. Putting my triple-A developer hat on, we were never able to do final frame quality operations in the editor.” And that power translates directly into better final results: “[The demo team] is iterating on that high-fidelity content with all the final assets in editor, they’re seeing exactly what the final frame will be while the editor’s running. They’re moving everything around, that’s why they could get to this result... They don’t have to spend hours baking.” That means they don’t have to spend time pre-rendering any of these effects before they can tweak them. “HDRP is allowing game creation teams to do some incredible work that would have been much harder – or even impossible – before. HD lights are physically-based, with real-world units, which lets artists use their real-world experience to guide light setup. You know light bulbs, the sun, and you don’t need to translate exposure into arcane units. It just works! “So they’re able to work directly on the final triple-A quality,” she pauses and adds: “Triple-A plus plus in fact – because nobody in triple-A ships at this quality yet. I’ve worked in that and they’re not doing it yet. And that’s why this team can do these types of things.” The workflows are undoubtedly there then, the results speak for themselves, but demos are one thing and actual games are another. So it’s heartening to see the very first instances of titles using HDRP coming from studios.
“HDRP is allowing game creation teams to do some incredible work that would have been much harder – or even impossible – before.”
BUILD IT AND THEY WILL COME HDRP is still in development and will not be considered fully production-ready until the 2019.3 release of Unity later this year. Despite that, some studios are already in production using the pipeline. “We are getting to the point of maturity with HD pipeline that you can be producing actual shipping projects on it. That was the core point of ensuring that performance is tiptop, ensuring the content creation flow is natural, intuitive and convenient, that it’s efficient, that we’re able to give a gamut of rich features to developers.”
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Pictured above: Natalya Tatarchuk, VP graphics at Unity
Pictured below: Otherside Entertainment’s System Shock 3 is one of the titles to be shipped using Unity’s HDRP
Tatarchuk won’t tell us just how many such projects there are, only saying: “We’re certainly working with a number of creators to ship games on HDRP. And we are supporting them in full force to prioritise and ensure that those titles are in a happy place.” One likely such Unity-based title is Campo Santo’s In the Valley of Gods. Tatarchuk agrees with our assertion that we should see finished titles based on the technology over the next year or two, and that they’re doing their utmost to ensure the quality of that first wave: “It’s like a good console launch, right? You make sure to invest in developers who put their trust in you.” The GDC keynote showcased two such titles, both with huge fanbases. Otherside Entertainment’s System Shock 3 sees the return of the franchise after twenty years (though numerous spiritual successors have helped to bridge that gulf), while original protagonist Abe returns in Oddworld: Soulstorm from developer Oddworld Inhabitants. The visuals on both titles were impressive, and those results were doubly impactful for Unity itself, with team members on stage showing their work in progress live in the editor. More impressive still was how the teams are already finding creative ways to utilise the toolset to generate specific effects for their titles. “I am forever rejoicing by the variety of ways that creators are using our features,” Tatarchuk enthuses. “As someone who used to write algorithms for a living. That was the most fulfilling element, where somebody would
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take an algorithm or a feature we put together and then they come up with an outrageously different way to think about it. We’re not attached to specific uses, we’re creating a tool to give a baseline for people to do whatever they wish. And personally for me that is the most fulfilling thing to see. It’s all about the end result replicating whatever is in their head, their vision, their world.” Of course, not everything comes straight out of the tools Unity provides, with developers building on top of what Unity ships both in C#, Unity’s chosen programming language going forward, and by writing custom shaders. “Moon Studios, on Ori and the Will of the Wisps, is an example where they’re taking the C# and shaders, and creating a drastically different look. They’re doing 60fps rendering with a completely rethought approach. They’re getting tremendous performance,” Tatarchuk tells us of the platformer scheduled for next year. Then there’s more unusual projects, such as the stop-motion animation of Harold Halibut by Slow Bros. “Harold Halibut is another one, those guys [are using] the new post-processing stack. It really gives a state of the art, Pixar look, like cinematic frames. And that’s a good example where they took HDRP and made it their own, made it really special,” she says. Between what we’ve seen from Unity’s own demo team, and the early efforts of a handful of developers, things are looking very bright for HDRP, and all at a time when we’re about to see another huge leap forward in graphics horsepower for the industry. LIGHT YEARS AHEAD Google’s Stadia has already announced that it’s wielding a massive ten teraflops of graphical muscle per server blade – a big jump up from the current top dog, the six teraflop Xbox One X – and it seems almost certain that Sony and Microsoft’s next consoles will be in the same ballpark in terms of performance. So what kind of advances might we see in games with such power on offer? “What I’m excited about it is you can really do dynamic worlds at that compute, you can get a lot more interactivity,” Tatarchuk says. “I think ten teraflops can let you be a lot more creative in your usage. That’s that’s
a really exciting point for developers because then if you combine it for example with all of the tools, like the Visual Effect Graph [the new GPU-powered particle system launched with Unity 2018.3].” Referring back to The Heretic demo, she tells us: “This is the example of what people are going to able to accomplish – that’s exactly it. You get the scope of the richness of the scene. And then you can really really amp up, you saw everything was moving. There’s lots of things, lots of wires. The world is becoming dynamic. That’s a good way to spend teraflops, from my point of view.” We ask whether we’ll also see real-time, ray-traced lighting, which has been much-hyped by both Unity and Unreal over the last year, on this kind of next-generation hardware: “That’s up to the creator ultimately,” she answers. “Certainly you could do some really amazing ray tracing.” She goes onto explain that you could take Unity’s ray tracing tech and drop it into The Heretic today, because it all runs on HDRP: “And then you [can] put in some really amazing refraction and transparency,” she adds. Though at ten teraflops she also notes that “you would still have to be mindful about the complexity of the scene.” Making the landmark moment of real-time ray tracing a reality is as much a testament to the flexibility of modern hardware and software as it’s to its sheer power. “Fundamentally the reason we have reached this landmark is because there is now performant hardware under the hood that allows us to have really fine-grained execution change between rasterisation and ray tracing. One of the challenges for ray tracing was you were locked into one or another. And that made it really difficult to actually take performant advantage of it.” So it’s the ability to switch between high-speed and high-quality solutions that will allow ray tracing to be used, where needed, to improve the appearance of the scene. But control over those decisions must then be easily available in the editor. “That’s actually one of the key things that we build in our solution. Say I want to render this super complicated
transparent glass with refraction and water, “ she points at glass of water on the table between us. “I will send that through to ray tracing. Now this object is opaque [picks up a phone speaker], so I don’t care, I’m going to send it to rasterisation, but its shadow will go to ray tracing. Fantastic! Best quality shadows, really high resolution, super detail and best performance,” she smiles. “That’s one of the things that we focused on, the content creation story for enabling ray tracing… And that’s what’s gonna take it out from the cute demo, where I have to spend 50 grand on a rig, to a practical thing that people can actually ship. And that’s always our focus, how we enable people to ship.”
Pictured above: The Heretic, Unity’s demo at GDC this year, combined a lifelike human with a dynamic environment, incredible VFX and lighting effects
ENGINE ROOM Rebuilding the graphics engine at the heart of Unity over the last few year is only the beginning though for the team: “We’ve certainly come to the maturation of this stage. But we’re very far from thinking that we’re at the end of the process. Our creative juices and imagination have just started flowing… it’s just the beginning of our real evolution,” Tatarchuk says. “With my team, there’s a roadmap for the next five years worth of effort. [At the lower end] there’s a tremendous amount of work we’re doing to get even more performance both on GPU and CPU so that we can continue to expand the complexity of the worlds that one can render.” And the team is working with Unity Labs, the in-house research team, to bring new shader technologies to Unity. “It’s a higher fidelity material representation. So you can do much more rich surfaces with that. Current consoles would have a bit of a challenging time with performance, but upcoming generations will be able to take advantage of it.” With graphics about to take centre stage again as a new generation of hardware is launched over the next year or so, Unity has timed the launch of HDRP well. By bringing such high-end console graphics to the platform, it can empower legions of Unity developers.
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Marie Dealessandri talks to Supermassive CEO Pete Samuels about how Until Dawn shaped The Dark Pictures Anthology and how to deal with crunch when you plan to release a game every six months
t’s an exciting time for narrative-driven games, with more and more studios set up with one specific goal in mind: tell stories. An extension of the triple-A fatigue syndrome we’ve discussed at length in these pages, some developers are just tired of creating pointless shooters and soulless adventures. Creating a world and populating it with meaningful narrative is what they want. And if the success of God of War shows us one thing, it’s what the audience wants too. That also means that developers whose specialty has always been narrative-driven titles are in a privileged
position at the moment as the market is now more ready than ever for the stories they have to tell. Supermassive is one of them – and the studio very much intends to seize this extraordinary momentum with its bold narrative ambitions. The Dark Pictures Anthology is set to be one of the most fascinating narrative experiences in a long time, with each entry exploring a subgenre of horror – think American Horror Story meets Black Mirror. Starting with Man of Medan, releasing on August 30th, each entry in the anthology will be an individual story, a unique game.
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The Guildford-based studio started working on The Dark Pictures Anthology one year after Until Dawn. Praised for its world building and branching narrative, the 2015 hit is very much at the forefront of our discussion with Supermassive’s CEO Pete Samuels, who is also series director and executive producer of The Dark Pictures Anthology. He starts by explaining that after the success of Until Dawn, Supermassive was keen to try VR and see what could be learnt from this emerging platform. With the studio having always been in an exclusivity partnership with PlayStation, it made sense for the team to explore PSVR, with some great successes such as Until Dawn’s VR spin-off Rush of Blood. But during all that time, Supermassive was working on what Samuels calls “this great dream”: an anthology of horror stories – and a multiplatform one too. “We took a lot of learnings from Until Dawn. Not just in how we developed it – we always felt we could do better no matter what the reception was,” Samuels says. “The reception was great, but we thought we could take those learnings and do many more games rather than just one in three or four years.” Until Dawn’s strengths (and flaws) shaped The Dark Pictures from the very beginning, starting with the importance of having a game that can be streamed and replayed. Samuels mentions the incredible way “people gathered around [Until Dawn] as a community” and even years later you can feel the pride in his voice. “There’s something like a billion views on YouTube of Until Dawn videos which is phenomenal! My sense is that many more people enjoyed it than actually bought it and played it which I have no issue with,” he laughs.
“It’s great that we can get that kind of followers and that kind of buzz. So we were keen to keep that at the forefront of our minds as we were creating the concepts for The Dark Pictures and developing those games and their features,” he continues. Concerning replayability, a shatterproof story with many (many) different outcomes is what a studio needs to inspire players to go back to it – that was the greatest strength of Until Dawn after all, Samuels reckons, adding that one of the most important lessons he learnt from the title is “how much people got into the story.” He continues: “It was important to make sure that before we even go into production [for The Dark Pictures] we are very confident in the stories that we’re going to tell and that we have confidence that they’re going to resonate and people are going to enjoy the characters, that we have interesting relationships that people can mould. So there’s a lot more of that in Man of Medan. “The amount of times that people replayed Until Dawn was astonishing. For many games the completion rates are surprisingly low and with Until Dawn, we were told at the time it released that it [had] the highest completion rate of any game on Sony’s platform, which was absolutely fabulous. And then we got reports of people who were on the 13th, 14th or 15th playthrough, which is phenomenal! So we put a lot of time, effort and thought into how to make [The Dark Pictures] more replayable – slightly shorter, running at four and a half hours rather than Until Dawn’s eight or nine hours, but massively more branching. Man of Medan is by far the most branching game narrative that we’ve ever attempted.” HOME INVASION AT SEA To bring Man of Medan’s complex narrative branching to life, Supermassive built a tool to sift the wheat from the chaff in its story. “One of the other learnings from Until Dawn was how much we threw away,” Samuels exclaims. “In some respects it’s like a filmmaking process – it’s definitely game development and driven by technology and interactivity but a lot of our quality comes in the edit. Our content is expensive, so every bit that we don’t use is money that we could have spent on making what ultimately goes out. “So we’ve built a tool whereby we can play our entire game and all its branches and feel the mood and playtest it with people to see if they follow the story and the characters, way before we go into production. And even before we’ve had the script written, we used that to write the screenplay. And that’s all played in 2D with a gamepad. “A group of us sit in a big room in the studio and we play through it and make sure that the characters are coming across in 2D the way that you want them to. Because we’ve learnt that if it doesn’t work in 2D, no matter how much money you throw out there it ain’t going to work in 3D! So we have to get it right at that stage. So when we go into production we have much more confidence in the story we’re telling and the characters we’re portraying, and the pacing is what we wanted.” While the concept and its content pretty much stayed the same throughout development, the pacing did take a while to nail, Samuels continues. “Four years ago on paper, they were actually going to be much shorter games,” he says. “They were going to be one and a half to
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Pictured above: The Dark Pictures Anthology will explore numerous horror genres, so expect a lot more than traditional horror tropes than this
two hours and they were going to be more frequent – four games a year. So that evolved to less frequently, as we’re looking to do two games every year, but a more significant size for the map. I think we just found that two hours wasn’t long enough for us in this medium to tell stories with the depth that we wanted and to have enough characters that you could get to relate to, understand and empathise with. “So it was during some early tests with our tool that we realised they were all a bit rushed and a bit shallow if we tried to do them in two hours – and depth is important. So that’s probably the biggest evolution. But much has stayed the same, with our aim to reflect different subgenres of horror.” The first genre to be explored is actually two genres in one, with Man of Medan set to start with a “very paranormal tone and feel, and then move into something that people will recognise as more of a home invasion genre,” Samuels says, before joking that it’s more a “home invasion at sea” really, as the game is set on a boat, with parts of the story inspired by the very real (and ill fated) SS Ourang Medan (we’ll let you google it as there’s much debate around the so-called ghost ship). But apart from this, Samuels won’t give us more details about Man of Medan’s horror influences. “It moves into something else which I won’t discuss cause I’d rather people found out for themselves. I think one of the things about Until Dawn that worked well was the element of surprise; with what it was really about hidden prior to release. Some people loved that. A few people didn’t. You can’t please everybody,” he grins. “But largely the surprise was very well received – and how that stood solidly in that narrative. We’re very careful not to just go off on a tangent and suddenly turn it into something else for no apparent reason. As with Until Dawn, one thing that we aim for is that when
people play it through for a second time they actually see things that they feel they should have realised the first time they played it through, but didn’t. “We’re very adamant that we never lie to the player, we are careful with misdirection and there are no huge coincidences. We are very strict on ourselves and our stories about that – everything needs to have a reason and be justified. And if any of us think that something happens that’s too much of a coincidence – even like two people arriving at the same place at the same time – we’ll challenge that. So why has that person arrived exactly at the same time as you? Unless there’s a justification for it, they arrive at a certain time of the day, they don’t arrive at the same time as you. So we try to keep a lot of truth in what we do in the narrative.” THE REAL FEAR Having a truthful narrative is a rule that Supermassive intends to apply to every Dark Pictures’ entry going forward – and there’s a lot of them. The second game is “well into production” Samuels tells us. The third is coming to the end of its design and about to go into production. The fourth is about to go into design, as is the fifth. The team has concepts for the sixth, seventh and eight entries. It may seem like a lot at once but for Supermassive it’s crucial to see the big picture. “The sequence of the stories that we tell is important not because they’re linked but because we want to surprise people every time,” Samuels says. “We want each one to feel fresh: in the atmosphere, in the characters, in the subgenres that we’re dealing with and what the threat of horror is. So that’s important. “There is a character that you have seen in the trailers called The Curator that bridges them together and gives a commentary. His is the arc that develops across the anthology. They are in the same universe so there are
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links between some of them. One thing we’re doing is putting little hints in each game about what the next ones might be about. So it’s important for us to have that plan laid out so that we can do that. People who play Man of Medan will discover things that initially may seem almost irrelevant but then in later games they’ll see that they’re very deliberately there to give a hint as to some of the stories that are to come.” Despite this very interesting foreshadowing in each title, Samuels is keen to remind that all the Dark Pictures games are individual entries though. “It’s important to us that people can play this at any time and not be disadvantaged,” he says. “So you don’t have to play the first game at all to get the same amount of enjoyment out of the second or the third. We’re very keen that if people join the anthology six months or 12 months after we start, and enjoy it, that they know that there are other games already out there that are part of that series, that aren’t spoiled by what they’ve played.” The Dark Pictures Anthology sounds like a Herculean project that will keep Supermassive busy for years to come. That brought crunch back to the forefront of the studio’s worries, which Samuels says is “the challenge of developing an anthology,” with the studio also working on “two [other] significant projects,” he adds. “I think that’s one thing that we recognised really early on, if we were going to be releasing significant games using the same team…” he impresses on us. “And that’s important: it’s a Dark Pictures team here. Different game directors for each game but transferring knowledge, experience and skills from game to game is important,” he pauses – and reassuringly we feel he’s been thinking long and hard about the potential problems here. “We have a fear of constant crunch. But we recognised that quite early in the process, that there was the potential for that to happen if we didn’t manage things differently than we would on a four-year project, when crunch can only happen every four years. “We didn’t want it to happen every three to six months. So we’ve completely redeveloped our planning systems and methodology to get more confidence in our plans and schedules. It’s always hard work. The guys always want it to be the best that they can make it and there is always something else they can think of to make it better. But that was probably one of the significant challenges and I think we’ve done a better than reasonably good job with that for the first one and it’s looking good for the future, in terms of how we manage.” KEEP ON KEEPING ON To give itself the resources to fulfil its ambitions (and further avoid any crunch), Supermassive will be scaling up in the next year, Samuels says: “We’re at 180 people in the studio in Guilford, with partners supporting us all
over the world – and we need to grow both of those over the next 12 months. We’re constantly on the lookout for great talent across all disciplines and great talent is hard to find. Generally we’re looking for people who have a passion for creating games with a strong narrative, bleeding-edge graphics and our kind of in-house cinematic look and sound. We’re looking to hire across engineers, cinematic artists and lighting and camera, and technical artists, managers, sound designers...” Cinematic is one of the keywords here as Samuels adds he’s “looking to bring more people in from film and TV” to strengthen Supermassive’s approach to development, which borrows a lot from movie tropes. “In terms of storytelling, conveying emotion and surprising the player, that’s where the cinematic style I think really suits what we do,” he says. “We are actively hiring from film school and also experienced people with camera and CG lighting experience in film because we actually want to do that better. “So if we want to get a specific emotion from a specific character across, then how we light that and how we position the camera is really important as is the audio that goes with it. Also, because it’s horror, it really helps to have control of what is on camera and what is off camera to get that feeling, like you would in a movie, of not being quite sure what else is in the room with you and so building that suspense.” The Dark Pictures Anthology is easily the most ambitious narrative project we’ve heard about in a long time and as the frontier between games, TV and film gets narrower and narrower every day, we can’t wait to see more of what Supermassive is cooking. “Things change so quickly,” Samuels says as we conclude our chat, looking back at over ten years of Supermassive and dreaming about the next decade. “We did some good things in VR that we’re very proud of and that market hasn’t gone the way that we hoped but it hasn’t negatively affected us. In fact it’s only positively affected us. Rush of Blood is still in the PSN charts for VR and it released three years ago. “I’m looking at the future as having a greater breadth of platforms. And probably each with their own unique advantages, both for consumers and for developers like us. Some genres of games are much more mainstream than they were five years ago certainly. “Everybody loves a good story with great characters and interesting relationships and because that’s what we do I think we’re well positioned for a changing market that broadens the audience. So that’s what I see, certainly for as far forward as I can predict, which isn’t very far forward,” he laughs. “We think that the technology, the channels and the growing market is perfect for us and what we do. So we have no plans to change what we do, just evolve it and make it better.”
Pictured above: Pete Samuels, Supermassive CEO
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Christian, you recently joined Game as head of Gamescom – what appealed to you about this position? Christian Baur: I’ve been aware of Gamescom for many years and from many different perspectives – that’s why I know all too well how unique it is. As head of Gamescom at Game, I’ll be working on the further development of this unique event, carefully leaving my marks over time. What could be more exciting? I can’t think of anything!
The German connection While everyone is getting hyped at E3, we’re already thinking about Gamescom here at MCV, as we will be delivering our daily issues at the show once again. Two months from the 2019 edition, we talk to the new head of Gamescom and events at German trade body Game, Christian Baur, and Gamescom’s director at organiser Koelnmesse Tim Endres to see what we should expect this year
Pictured above top to bottom: Christian Baur and Tim Endres
Which projects would you like to tackle around the event? Baur: The strength of Gamescom is that there are exciting opportunities for every target group: the entertainment area with its thousands of gaming stations, various places such as the popular cosplay or indie village as well as the merchandise area make Gamescom the place to be for all gamers. The business area is Europe’s largest and most important business platform for the games industry. For developers there is Devcom, where some innovations will be showcased this year. As head of Gamescom, I will concentrate particularly on the digitalisation of the entertainment experience, the further internationalisation and, of course, management and development of Gamescom as a brand. Can you tell us more about your relationship with Koelnmesse and how you work together? Baur: Although I’ve been working for Game for just a few weeks, I was able to quickly establish a good relationship with many different colleagues at Koelnmesse. Part of the great success story of Gamescom as the world’s largest games event is the unique partnership between Game and Koelnmesse. That is why this relationship is crucial and extremely important in my daily work on the future of Gamescom. What changes can we expect at this year? Tim Endres: For one thing, we’ll have a spectacular start! Gamescom 2019 begins on August 19th at 8pm, with the new Gamescom: Opening Night Live show, which we are launching together with Geoff Keighley, host and producer of the Game Awards. Gamescom 2019 will also differ from the 2018 event due to innovations in the halls with conceptually visible areas of thematic focus. Indies are thereby a theme that will be even more prominently represented at this year’s event. Esports will also be further strengthened and will occupy a prominent place.
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What’s the added value of the new Opening Night Live? Baur: It’s a fantastic addition to the entire Gamescom concept. There is so much to discover and experience during a visit of Gamescom, that it is becoming increasingly difficult for visitors to gain a complete overview. Opening Night Live is just the thing to solve that. On Monday evening when the week starts, all gamers worldwide will get a first glimpse of the highlights of the upcoming week. This includes announcements about new games and content, as well as short interviews with stars of the games industry and their activities during the Gamescom week. Endres: The opening night is real added value for us. For one thing, this event is a perfect start, a highlight prior to the official opening. With the charisma of this show, thanks to exciting content and our host Geoff Keighley, we will further expand our international range and strengthen Gamescom before all else as a platform for innovations. What would you say will be Gamescom’s other strengths this year? Endres: It is the diversity around the theme of gaming, with the strong exhibitors and the event’s character, that will this year once again ensure unforgettable experiences for visitors. In combination with innovations such as the Opening Night Live or the further optimisation of developer conference Devcom, the added value for gaming fans and trade visitors will be clearly tangible. How has Gamescom evolved in recent years and where do you want to take it? Endres: Since its relaunch in Cologne in 2009, Gamescom has written an impressive success story: a 126 per cent increase in exhibitors, 51 per cent more visitors and a 68 per cent increase with regards to exhibition space. In terms of international impact, Gamescom has also gone through a remarkable development. One of our mediumterm goals is to make the experience accessible to gaming fans or trade visitors who can’t come to Gamescom. The idea here is to “experience Gamescom digitally.” A further development of the internationalisation strategy is also one of the
themes on our agenda. Ultimately, due to the diverse, innovative and dynamic nature of gaming, another key goal will be to engage related industries with Gamescom. In March you announced that Gamescom’s early bird bookings were up eight per cent on 2018 – what are the reasons behind this success? Endres: In summary, it is the combination of the strong development of Gamescom over the last ten years, its continuing development and adaptation to the requirements of the industry, its unique concept and its present positioning as Europe’s leading platform of the games industry that characterises its success. What are the challenges, and advantages, of running industry and consumer events side by side? Endres: The challenge has generally been and still is to address the individual needs of the varied target groups and to provide the best basic conditions for their trade fair success. This can mean certain requirements for trade fair presence in the business area or a high level of trade visitor quality. For consumers, aspects like testing new games, an attractive event programme and quality of stay are central points. In the process, there are points each year that we can adjust and optimise in order to offer all trade fair participants a successful experience. The advantage of Gamescom lies in its unique concept: it reaches nearly all participants along the value creation chain of the games industry. Where is the German games market headed and how is Gamescom reflecting those changes? Baur: The German games market is developing very positively. Last year, total sales grew by nine per cent up to €4.4bn (£3.8bn). The individual market segments have developed very differently. In particular, in-game purchases and online services grew strongly. This shows the great dynamics with which the games market is changing rapidly in Germany and worldwide. Gamescom must consider these developments. That’s why we keep on improving the Gamescom concept every year.
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When We Made... Sea of Thieves
Marie Dealessandriactually takes behind the lookaatlook you. And even with that little bit of scenes at the development Sea ofanimation Thieves. work, with theof help of the and really smart designers and engineers, everybody working Rare’s senior designer Shelley Prestonwith explains together, you could tell from the very beginning that that it wasn’t always intended to be a pirate she was a character that people would really gravitate game and howtoward.” to build a game that is as watchable and shareable as ita is Quill really becomes fullyplayable fleshed out character with
Pictured above: Shelley Preston, Rare
the help of the game’s strong world-building. As an interloper in Quill’s world, the player experiences it not through her eyes, but as an observer watching as she MYher favourite thing about Sea ofIt’s Thieves is not intimate playing lives life in her familiar setting. a strangely it. I know odd statement don’t get me wrong: feeling, and it’s oneanwhich gives way and to joint apprehension do really love playing Seaenter of Thieves. But reading asI both the player and Quill new, unfamiliar areas. about adventures in the game, “Whenpeople’s you go through Mousetown and seeing you seehow Quill using it as a canvas, they’re it their runthey’re through there and you see how that she hasmaking a hometown, how strengthening friendships goinginon theown, feeling ofthey’re her leaving it, of that town maybeorbeing incredible with strangers is (almost) danger, givesadventures you more of a bond,” Alderson says.as“Ifgood aspart playing itself. that wasthe leftgame out, you wouldn’t feel like there was seen a game that players such muchI’ve to rarely fight for. Everything thatprovides we’ve done, thewith mood an avenue for Quill discovery and area exploration. There areletting other settings, taking from one to the next and games thattake do that of course, plenty ofIt’s others. But Sea of you rest and in this environment… all supposed feelsand special to me because I’ve that seenyou’re its positive to Thieves exaggerate accentuate that mood impactIt on people’s health me. Also,with pirates feeling. all ties back mental into how you around are connecting areand awesome. Sea of Thieves is not only a game to play, Quill her world.” it’s somewhere you can go to forget about real life’s problems. And that’s very much SAME QUESTION EIGHT WAYSwhat Rare set out to do , when it first started on its new IP five years ago. Collaboration was keyworking during the development of Moss not just within the butof with the help external “Ultimately theteam ideaitself, for Sea Thieves canofbe distilled playtesters. People were often brought in players to feedback on into a simple terminology that we use: creating stories together,” senior designer Shelley Preston starts explaining. One thing that is abundantly clear as soon as we start our chat is Preston’s sheer passion for the game. Only a few minutes talking to her and you too would want to quit your job to go and create piratey things at Rare. She joined the studio 13 years ago as a tester, then climbed the ladder to designer and has now been senior designer for nearly six years. She’s
the game and asked questions about their experience – even if most of these questions were actually very similar. “External playtests were mostly about ‘Okay, how do people feel when they play? Do they like it or not like it?’,” Alderson explains. “At the end of playtest we would ask the same question eight different ways. The question is really ‘What didn’t you like?’, but we would ask it differently: ‘What pulled you out of the experience? What took you out of the headset? If there’s one thing you could change what would it be? If you had two weeks to finish the game, what would be of theThieves thing that you’d witnessed the inception of Sea from the fix?’ “Those help bring a playtester into their comfort zone, very beginning. because one wants to playatsomething that people “It wasno inspired by looking this emerging trend put a lot ofthere care and and then turnofaround say where werelove lotsinto of videos online peopleand playing ‘This is in what I didn’t like using aboutthe it’. So it takes a little games unique ways, game almost as awhile to get the to playtester comfortable, andSowegames foundlike that backdrop have their own stories. findingor different ways where to ask all thethese samereally question means Day-Z Eve Online, interesting, you eventually get the really good stuffPreston after thecontinues. fourth or unique encounters were happening,” fifth time you about ask it. how we could create a game “We thought “I don’t thinkcould anyone in our studio everinmade where players make their ownhas stories a a game like this,environment. so I think it’s important that you trust the shared social process. You at trust sure that you “And then theplaytesting same timeand we you weremake obviously allow yourself andand freedom to try something looking aheadsome to thetime future thinking about and then keep going. something and branch out, streaming. At the timeTry it was on thatnew trajectory towards but also from that you’ve being as use big your as it experience is today and we games were thinking about madeperfect beforestreaming and you’ll be fine.be Asfor long as you’re how would a game like having this and fun too! enjoyed how we We could makeplaying a gameMoss where it was as the watchable throughout entire and shareable as it that wasreally playable. process and I think helps.” “So really the context was making a game where players could create stories together that could be shared socially, so pirates didn’t actually come into it originally. It was just the concept and then we thought of lots of different ideas that we could put around that. And pirates was one of those ideas that just made a lot of sense – we all have a soft spot for pirates here and we just thought it would be perfect for bringing players together as there’s a lot of almost unspoken knowledge
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Pictured left: Sea of Thieves was announced at E3 way back in 2015 but it’s only been a year since it actually set sail
of pirates. If you put people in a pirate outfit they know what to do already. So that breaks the ice and gives people something to start roleplaying with and start creating the rules of their world.” Preston can’t remember all the options Rare threw around apart from one that “might’ve been vampires or something,” she laughs. “It was ages ago and there were so many ideas! It was just different ideas that we could wrap around the same [concept], but none of them made as much sense as pirates.” If it wasn’t for pirates being so universally cool then, we would all be trying to steal each other’s blood bags as vampires right now. This also highlights the importance of having a solid concept to start with when developing a game, as a strong vision will help shape the title, its mechanics and features. “Players creating stories together is the pillar that binds everything that we do in Sea of Thieves,” Preston continues, adding that Rare goes by the saying of ‘tools, not rules’ when it comes to creating mechanics. “So when we’re thinking about putting a feature in, say for example the treasure maps that players can hold in their hands, we will think about what you can do with that and will lay a very simple action that players can do. They can look at the map but because it’s about players creating stories together and it’s a social
experience, they can show the map to other people. By showing the map, it doesn’t inherently do anything but it’s an action that you can do and that means that players can use that in so many different ways; they can use it functionally to actually show people where they need to dig for treasure, they can almost use it sarcastically if somebody’s gone to the wrong island, they can use it in a humorous way. So it’s about giving players tools and ways to have their own creative freedom. So that was a huge pillar for us.” She gives another example of decisions made during development that were motivated by the purpose of building a community and bringing players together. “Every feature that we worked on we put through that lens and the ship is probably the easiest way to communicate how this thinking impacted every facet of our design. So when we were building the ship, rather than having what a traditional game would have with a vehicle that you can control – so one person presses the button and gets control of the ship and they can do everything – we deliberately broke up the controls so that you need to work together to raise the anchor. You can do it alone but it’s faster together. “We deliberately made it so that the person on the wheel has their view obscured by a sail so that you need to communicate with your crew. We put the map down below decks so that it is easier for you to
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communicate as a crew back and forth. And I think everything we built goes through that lens of: how can we make this social? How can we make this bring players together? How can we make this motivate players to cooperate and strengthen that bond as a crew?” Not only did Sea of Thieves’ mechanics need to serve the greater purpose of the game, but they also needed to work and make sense in a shared environment, Preston continues. “When we’re bringing in features, we have to think about: how can we make something that impacts the wider social experience? So when we were looking at putting in treasure, which is obviously an amazing pirate trope, we went through many iterations of what that was.” Having considered other options, such as being able to take items out of the treasure chests, Rare struck upon on the idea of digging up boxes of treasure – but not being able to open them. “It’s then a physical item that you carry back to your ship,” Preston explains. “So not only does that bond you together as a crew, because you’re all protecting this item, but for other crews it’s a physical item that they come and try to steal from you and be piratey but they also can use it to trade or to be friendly. So it’s just about thinking about how we make our mechanics in a way that drives as many different social experiences as possible.” SOLO SAILING However, Rare did have to take one small detail into account: some people would want to play on their own. “We always believed right from the start that the crew experience is the strength of Sea of Thieves. But we knew as we developed the game that not everyone wants to play that way and not everyone necessarily can either,” Preston says. “And the
galleon was obviously very difficult for those players. So we specifically made the sloop to be handled by one player. We made it really fast and easy to use, but we also made it low and small in the water so you get a bit more chance of going unnoticed. You’re very nimble so you can get out of situations.” Playing Sea of Thieves on your own brings its fair share of challenges, but the studio felt that giving a slightly more difficult solo experience was better than no single player alternative at all. “Ultimately we know that, in some cases, playing alone is going to be more difficult than playing with a crew,” Preston says. “But we felt like it was more important to give players that option. It was important to us to break down that barrier and allow them to have that. So everything we do obviously goes through the lens of ensuring that it works for a solo person. We don’t have things that don’t work if you play on your own but we’re treading the line of understanding that it is more difficult on your own. And I think that players understand that as well.” The single player experience wasn’t always on the table though, Preston adds. “You’re always talking about and considering everything but initially we were focusing on the galleon and the crew experience,” she explains. “But the initial conversations of ‘should we do a solo ship? Does it suit our world?’ just grew and grew and as we gained more players in our Insider Programme and as we got more community feedback it just became really obvious that it was something that players would really want. Whereas I think initially it was more: ‘we may want to do this or we may not’. So it wasn’t right from the beginning a ‘we are 100 per cent like categorically going to do a solo ship’, it just kind of grew out of experience and feedback.” This highlights the importance of players’ feedback in Sea of Thieves’ development, even before the game officially launched and even more so now that it’s out and constantly updated. “Having the community and having player feedback has been one of the most phenomenal things that we’ve had on Sea of Thieves, and that’s something that I’m personally very proud of. Because it really does feel like we built the game with the community,” Preston enthuses.
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Processing community feedback can be tricky though, she adds, incidentally giving some precious advice about the flexibility required to develop a live service game. “There’s almost a decoding of it. We have to look at it and we have to figure out what is missing from the experience that is causing that feedback. Sometimes that just means things we were already going to add might get prioritised ahead of other things. Sometimes it’s things we haven’t thought of or didn’t know were going to be an issue, so sometimes it’s very reactive, sometimes it’s things like player behaviour.” She mentions Sea of Thieves’ brig mechanic, which was introduced as a way to deal with unruly, uncooperative crew members but she adds that this is an aspect that was difficult to figure out before launch. “You don’t know the extent of such things until the game is actually live and being played. So things like that are definitely built alongside the community. It’s a kind of partnership – we have our vision, we know where the game is going to go, we have our road map and our features, but we’re also always ready to react and jump on things. We’ve built in a bit of flexibility because we know that things come out of community.” ALWAYS LEARNING ‘Believable but not realistic’ was another key pillar during Sea of Thieves’ development, Preston says: “Everything acts as you would expect it to and it’s believable but it’s not necessarily physically perfectly realistic.” That brought the challenge of having to find the right art style to support that approach, which also needed to support the game’s pillars and core gameplay loops, under the direction of art director Ryan Stevenson. “The art style is timeless,” Preston says. “If you’re creating a world that you want to be a place to go and escape – get away from everything and completely immerse yourself in it – having a timeless art style is really important, especially as it’s a game-as-a-service that we want to keep servicing for years to come. “Then there’s also obviously the sheer beauty of it. I mean it makes you want to jump in and explore it, it makes you want to look in every cave and island because it’s just a beautiful place to explore,” she smiles. Looking back at the whole development, there are a few things the team would probably do differently if they could go back in time, for instance an engine switch at the very beginning of the cycle, Preston says. “When we first started developing Sea of Thieves, we had an awesome prototype which we built in Unity, that was really cool because we basically built the game in a prototype form and we were able to iterate so quickly. But then when we moved into production, we moved
into Unreal. So we had to kind of rebuild everything from scratch and things like the physics of the ship and the way it’s [moving] took a lot of time to recreate,” she says. “I also think the way that we prototype now…” she pauses to think, then compares Rare’s current approach to the way Sea of Thieves was prototyped in its early days. “When we create new features like the fishing that we’ve just done for example or The Devil’s Roar island, we prototyped those but we did it in our production branch and although it was fast and iterative it was more like halfway between prototype and production. We had an eye on the production code. At the time we couldn’t have gone back and done that but I think for a future learning: definitely prototyping in a very fast and iterative way, but with one eye on the production version of that.” As we keep chatting about the different challenges met and overcome by Rare while developing Sea of Thieves, Preston explains that the biggest one was actually to have enough confidence to sail into unknown territories. “As a studio this is our first online shared world adventure game,” she reminds us. “And you know you have all the live services aspect, it’s a brand new IP, we’ve entered this new era of building the community and learning how to be open and transparent. Although I think we most definitely rose to the challenge, it was undoubtedly a challenge both before launch and after launch. We had some issues when we first launched around scale because it far exceeded anything that we’d seen before. And we have to keep growing and learning from that. But although building a new IP and a new online shared world adventure game is a challenge, it’s a great challenge to be a part of, that’s for sure!” If Sea of Thieves’ launch was a bit rocky, one year down the line it’s all distant memories as the title has become the incredible adventure it’s always meant to be – one that should remain afloat for many years to come. “I think it doesn’t matter how new to the industry you are, what size your studio is, what type of game you’re making. Every game developer is doing the same thing which is creating an experience for players,” Preston concludes. “My advice is always to focus on your players and just don’t forget the magic that games can bring to them.”
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The Sounds of... Alyssa Menes
Every month, we discuss the unique process of making games for video games. This month, Marie Dealessandri dives into the musical universe of Alyssa Menes, who’s behind the soundtrack of Just Cause 4, Doomwheel and many more indie titles
How early in a game’s development process do you usually start working on the score? This can vary from project to project. Most of the time, I am brought on board fairly early in development. Often this produces the best result musically. I can work closely with the developers and really be able to create a living, breathing soundscape that helps define the game’s world, rather than slapping some half-hearted music on top of it. Do you work closely with the sound designer(s) of the game, to ensure there’s cohesion between the score and the sound effects? For many projects I’ve worked on, I’ve done both the music and the sound effects. For a project like Just Cause 4, myself and the other composers had to work around the sound effects and avoid using instrumental sounds that emphasised the same frequency range as a lot of the gunshots, to ensure that the music and the gunshots existed together and both were heard clearly. What are the typical challenges of writing for games as opposed to more linear narrative forms? You have to structure your music differently. Often times, music has to loop. You also never know where the player is going to go and what they’re going to do in your game, so your music needs to be able to seamlessly adapt to the player’s actions. For example, the player could be spending a few minutes exploring a peaceful area, only to move to another area, be spotted by enemies, and then be plunged into combat. The music needs to be able to switch on the fly to accommodate for that sudden change. But thanks to musical middleware technology,
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to work a lot more intimately with the game’s hardware in order to make sound. Nowadays, some composers work with audio middleware to fully realise their music and how it dynamically shifts in the game, which is the closest thing I can equate to working with the hardware back in the 80s and 90s. But when I worked on Just Cause 4, myself and the composers at YouTooCanWoo strictly just made the music, and the team members at Avalanche’s audio department were the ones working on integrating the music with the game. So I would say that nowadays, composers can simply just make the music, and someone else on the team implements it within the game, at least in the realm of triple-A gaming. Indie gaming still often has composers both creating and working with audio middleware in order to help integrate the music into the game.
things like that are fairly easy to implement. But you have to structure your music so it all fits together cohesively, and that such musical shifts make sense no matter what part of the cue you depart from. Does your approach differ between writing for a big triple-A title vs indie games? Absolutely. With indie games, I work with the developer directly. In triple-A, there are so many people down the pipeline, from the publisher, to the development studio. The music for Just Cause 4 was outsourced to YouTooCanWoo, a studio in Brooklyn. And then I was subcontracted through that studio. So I worked for the lead composer (Zach Abramson) who worked for the music studio, who worked for Avalanche, etc, etc. The main difference between indie game music and triple-A music is that you need to write so much more music for a big triple-A game.
Pictured above: In Just Cause 4, Alyssa Menes used many South American instruments in order to create a unique soundscape to match the locale
What was the most inspiring game world you worked on, which aspects did you most want to bring into your score and how did you reflect that? Definitely Just Cause 4. I wasn’t the lead composer, but the idea behind the score was to combine heavy electronic sounds, layers of pounding drums, lots of low brass and strings, and a lot of South American instruments in order to create a unique soundscape for the game. We got really creative with sampling old synthesizers, experimented a lot with unique modulation effects to create interesting sonic textures (we called it “ear candy” at the studio), and we even recorded dozens of live instrumentalists (including percussionists playing buckets, a flute player, a guitar group, and a horn player). The overall soundscape has these really massive, driving moments that get the blood pumping during battle, but it also has a lot of quiet, meditative moments as well. We must have used hundreds of instrumental sounds! Do you have any tips on how developers can best help composers to make music for their game? Listen to your composers. Value and trust their input. Don’t micromanage them or tell them how to write their music. Focus on developing your game and trust your composer to be able to help bring your game’s world to life. Also, find a composer who understands narrative. They can really help you tell the story behind your game, because the music has to work with the visuals and dialogue in order to tell a story. You need all of it.
How has the role of the composer evolved in games over the past years in your experience? I can’t speak directly from experience, because I’ve only been working on games for about five years or so. But in the past, way back in the 80s and 90s, composers had
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The incredible women of Virtuos Gilles Langourieux, CEO of Virtuos, explains how the company is moving forward on diversity and introduces three of the women that make up 30 per cent of the company’s global team
HERE at Virtuos, we’re driving towards a more diverse and inclusive workforce in our 11 studios and offices globally. We fervently believe that not only is gender equality in games development morally right, it positively enriches business. I often like to think of our studios as a forest. Ultimately, which is the better environment: one where we have just the same trees over and over again, or one where there is all manner of flora and fauna? If we can hire the best talent regardless of gender, we can be armed with the best teams for our clients who aim to satisfy a diverse audience. Diversity benefits all stakeholders and steers our industry forward. We recognise that, like much of the rest of the industry, we have further to go as we strive towards 50 per cent women in our workforce. Our group currently comprises of 30 per cent women worldwide, and crucially this extends throughout all levels, with 28 per cent of our management currently made up of women. We have built a safe workplace that stands firmly on gender equality, with zero tolerance for bias or harassment. But enough from me. Let’s hear some of our team members describe their experiences working in the games industry. WANG DAN – ASSISTANT ART DIRECTOR Wang Dan (pictured above left) joined Virtuos in 2008 as an environment artist. With 11 years of experience, she has since risen to the role of assistant art director. During this time, she led teams across big global franchises, including the wildly popular Rainbow Six Siege. What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome to get to where you are today? There have been times when I’ve faced projects and tasks that were very new to me. I’ve found that by being fearless and by working hard, you will make it through tougher times. Whenever I felt self-critical,
I pushed myself to act confidently, take risks and keep learning, in order to tackle these tasks head-on. ZHU JIE – PROJECT MANAGEMENT OFFICER Zhu Jie (pictured above middle) joined Virtuos as an entry-level game tester in 2005. She has risen through the ranks and is now a project management officer, overseeing titles across multiple platforms. A career highlight was when the mobile version of XCOM: Enemy Unknown, which she helped produce, won a coveted Golden Joystick Award. What is your favourite game that you’ve worked on? Virtuos has given many women like myself the chance to build an amazing career and to work on many such amazing projects, but if I had to choose one, it would be Batman: Return to Arkham. It was the first PS4 project that we worked on, using the latest UE4 engine at the time, so it was all very exciting and new. It was a big challenge that required a team of 100 people from various departments. The project was a fantastic experience and I still today refer to the lessons learnt then. TANG MENGJIA – SENIOR GAME PRODUCER Tang Mengjia (pictured above right) joined Virtuos in 2011 as a game producer across PC, console and mobile, with games including NBA 2K in her portfolio. Mengjia has worked on several new Nintendo Switch development projects, including the acclaimed Dark Souls: Remastered. How can the industry become more diverse and inclusive? I personally want to see more women joining the ranks of producers. Producers have to be very detail-oriented and good at identifying and solving problems. I would say that many women take to efficient multitasking very naturally, so the more women producers, the better! Learn more about Virtuos’ mission to shape the future of game creation at www.virtuosgames.com.
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COMMUNITY management and social media is something that differs from studio to studio, but the general principle remains the same – the community or social media manager is there to provide a link between the players and the developers, and to allow a two-way conversation to happen on the right terms. It is also a discipline that changes frequently – as from quarter to quarter the platform with the audience most relevant to your game can differ. It can be difficult to pinpoint these trends as it’s all very fluid. However, Facebook groups, expectations of transparency and Stories across platforms are all getting big.
“Transparency is something that has growing value within the game industry. Being honest with your players, even when you’re delivering bad news, is something that benefits both of you.”
The team at Creative Assembly debunks some common dev role myths. This month, Grace Carroll, lead community & social media manager, explains how it’s about two-way communication and not just selling the game
Transparency, in particular, is something that has growing value within the game industry. It’s important not just to sell your product but to keep in mind that your players are your community – you don’t just want them to buy the game, you want them to enjoy the game, to value the things that your developers have worked hard on and to feel an affinity with one another. We’re in an industry where the player has a voice, through Steam reviews, Reddit posts and Twitter hashtags, and they won’t hesitate to speak out if there’s something that they’re unhappy with. Being honest with your players, even when you’re delivering bad news, is something that benefits both of you. This is something we’ve done previously when we have had to announce a delay for the Three Kingdoms release date or when the launch of Norsca ended up running into unplanned difficulties. My advice is to be able to build a strategy based on honesty and engagement, but also be adaptable to change depending on the players’ needs and the needs of each individual game. For example, with Total War: Warhammer I and II or Total War: Rome II, a knowledge of the setting’s history is widely available to the primarily Western audience. There’s a foundation which we can build on with assumed knowledge. With Total War: Three Kingdoms, the approach had to change – instead of simply showcasing the game, the community team’s goal was first and foremost to inform and educate the community on the history of the Three Kingdoms time period, so they’d be able to enjoy and fully immerse themselves. Ultimately, community management and social media is an important role and an exciting one to be in. It certainly requires a deep knowledge of the online landscape as a whole, as well as experience more specific to the game industry. It is still changing and evolving day to day with the introduction of new platforms such as TikTok and the potential decline of others. Player expectations also change depending on the climate within the industry, the genre of your game, and your previous responses to community feedback.
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Casting the Runes
A long time ago in a bedroom far, far away, I told a friend that I would buy their PlayStation 2. This decision marked the official start of my journey into game development. My brother used to play quite a bit on the PSOne – lots of Command & Conquer, Tomb Raider and Doom. I would sit and watch him for hours on end. I mostly treated games like films, enjoying what was happening in front of me but not really interacting with anything. It wasn’t until I saw an advert for Kingdom Hearts 2 that I actually started wanting to play myself. There was little chance of saving Disney
Jagex’s developers visit us from Runescape’s Gielinor to talk about their latest adventures. This month Emma Hall, senior technical developer, talks about her path into games and how that kindled a passion to create safe worlds
princesses vicariously through my brother, so there was really only one option: I bought a PlayStation 2 and my very first game. I was immediately hooked. I’d always been a big reader and wanted to be an author when I grew up, and this was just a thousand times better than any of that. Instead of reading about my favourite characters saving the world and the damsel in distress, I was doing it myself! My game library expanded quickly. Getting into gaming also coincided with years where I was being systematically bullied by the people I called my best friends. It wasn’t an easy time, but gaming’s epic stories were an escape. It was not long after I started playing games that I began thinking about applying for university. I wanted to help people in the same way that I’d been helped. I wanted to create safe worlds for others. I was told I wouldn’t make any money and that I wouldn’t have any career prospects. But that didn’t matter… I wanted to help people. And it turned out I wasn’t too bad at programming. Well, guess what? You can make a career out of it, and they even pay you. I haven’t really worked a single day in my life since I started making games; I’ve just been living my dream. As senior technical developer, my day job is creating game content for RuneScape. The projects are typically quite technically challenging, as is helping to maintain code that has existed since the dawn of time. My team (known internally as the Valkyries) works on a high-pressure schedule of rolling game updates. These updates are designed to bring the RuneScape community together. This means not just planning ahead, but also making sure we hit those deadlines – all while being creative and staying true to the game’s frivolous tone. But seeing communities interact in the playgrounds we build for them makes it all worth it. I also have a role as a ‘wellbeing champion’, trained in mental health first aid, so I can help and support colleagues in times of need. I’ve committed myself to be involved with the company’s diversity group, celebrating and raising awareness of women and minority groups within the industry. I really do think the industry can and will be a better place, but it will take work – we can’t take this progress for granted.
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Pictured: Jagex celebrated International Women’s Day with a Reddit AMA back in March, to inspire more women to join the industry
It’s with all this in mind that I’ve been trying to increase awareness of the games industry. Too many people remain unaware that a future career is there for the taking. It’s a totally viable industry to work within, and there’s room for so many different people, demographics and passions. If you excel at something, no doubt there will be a need for it. I hope and believe that over time the currently minority demographics, such as women, will prosper. The importance of women in the media industry grows every day, and the world is starting to recognise that talented, hard working people from every corner of life can find a home in video games. It’s our duty to spread this aspiration to younger generations.
“Too many people remain unaware that a future career is there for the taking. It’s a totally viable industry to work within, and there’s room for so many different people, demographics and passions. If you excel at something, no doubt there will be a need for it.”
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The Final Boss Every month an industry leader wraps up MCV with their unique insight
How did you start working with the games industry? By chance! Different strands of creative interests and educational expertise collided. In the 1990s, I was working as an artist/educator and bringing up my son as a single mother. We spent a lot of time together and his enjoyment of games engaged me with them so I taught myself the history of video games and the development processes of making them. What’s been the most ludicrous single moment of your career to date? In a serious business meeting with a senior male figure, having the conversation suddenly stopped and being told I had interesting eyebrows... What do you say to that! You have directed BA and MA programmes, and continue to be an academic consultant on educational and research project – what’s it like to see the next generation of artists and designers passing through? It is quite wonderful to see the progression of the next generation and to know somewhere you are a part of that. I recently met up with Rosie Ball, Chucklefish’s brand designer, at GDC. I have always introduced her as one of my graduates, but now I introduce her as my friend – a friend who now teaches me new things! What are the biggest hurdles still facing the games industry and academia relationship? I think there is definitely a will to get over the hurdles but it’s complicated. And having straddled the fence, what I see are very different types of organisations with distinct hierarchies, different challenges, and some different processes and purposes. Like in any meaningful relationship, making time and space for frank and purposeful discussion would go a long way towards overcoming misunderstandings and forging a fruitful future. How has Women In Games evolved over the years? Back in 2009 when Women in Games was founded, a US Gallup poll had already indicated that approximately half of all players were women. But the Creative Skillset UK Games Workforce Survey of the same year revealed that only four per cent of the UK games industry was female. So, a decade ago, women were enthusiastically playing games, but very few were making them. It is from this imbalance that Women in Games emerges. Founded by David Smith as ‘Women in Games Jobs’, it was a platform where women could connect with each other, share job opportunities, offer support and discuss issues.
Marie-Claire Isaaman CEO, Women in Games “In a serious business meeting, the conversation suddenly stopped and he told me I had interesting eyebrows... What do you say to that!”
Since them, what has been achieved? What has proven more difficult than you ever expected? This year, Women in Games is celebrating its tenth anniversary. We still host and support community platforms, with a professional network of 12,000 women and interested allies connected across social media. We host two major public events each year: our Women in Games Lunch at Develop:Brighton each July and the European Women in Games Conference & Awards in September. In the service of gender equality, we work with multiple partners across industry and educational sector. While we have recently garnered organisational support from some progressive studios we need more engagement to develop our action-based programmes. Who continues to impress you in the industry? Women who support each other in the sector through action – such as Liz Prince from Amiqus, with the G into Gaming campaign. There is an emergent group of sassy young women getting their creative and professional voices heard, forging creative pathways, setting up studios, diversity groups, networks, encouraging the younger generation… Their passion and resilience is really impressing me: Pixels & Prosecco, Limit Break Mentorship, PoC, GirlsMakeGames…
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