INTERNATIONAL EDITION SUMMER 2014
NEW F2P RULES: FREE-TO-APPLY? A NEW BRAND OF VIRTUAL REALITY FOCUS ON EDUCATION
BIRTH OF A GENRE?
ec t uthte nretherlah nds
Control CONFERENCE 25
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CONTROL CONFERENCE 2014 the 2013 speakers roster was impressive: bungie, 343 industries, cd projekt red, guerrilla games, vlambeer, larian studios and many more. the 2014 line up is shaping up to be even stronger! we welcome you again as our sponsor, speaker or attendee. CONTROL CONFERENCE 2014: DEVELOPER FOCUSED, 500 TO 750 ATTENDEES On November 25th the Control Conference and Dutch Game Awards Industry Dinner will be held at TivoliVredenburg in Utrecht, the Netherlands. Control Conference is the developer focused game conference of North West Europe. This year marks the second edition, after a very successful first run in 2013.We expect to host between 500 and 750 visitors. Up to five simultaneous tracks will be presented with both international keynotes
as well as in-depth workshops. There will be a large meeting space for sponsor exhibition booths which will be integrated with the catering. The conference will support a job market and for a limited number of businesses private meeting space. The conference language is English.
DUTCH GAME AWARDS 2014: THE NETWORK EVENT FOR THE DUTCH GAMESINDUSTRY Right after the Control Conference, we’ll be hosting the 7th edition of the Dutch Game Awards. The 12 awards will be presented in between courses during a seated industry dinner. The event presents an excellent opportunity to network with the top of the Dutch games industry.
and Abbey Games. The event will host between 270 – 300 people for the seated dinner, and will also accommodate about 50-100 people for a balcony view. Last year the Dutch Game Awards were featured on the national News broadcast and in national newspapers.
The Awards are supported by both industry veterans such as Guerrilla Games and Spil Games as well as newcomers like Vlambeer
The event is regarded by many as the prime networking opportunity within the Dutch gamesindustry.
CONTROL CONFERENCE 2013 Number of attendees: 420 Professionals: 270 Students: 150 Exhibitors: 12 companies & universities Number of sessions: 28 sessions Sold out three weeks in advance. Speakers from these studios: Bungie, 343 Industries, CD Projekt RED, Guerrilla Games, Vlambeer, Larian Studios, Blendo Games, Ronimo Games, Kloonigames, Grapefunkt, Abbey Games and more.
DUTCH GAME AWARDS 2013 The Dutch Game Award is a handcrafted Owl representing craftsmanship, creativity and the willingness to take a leap. Entry is open to every developer in the Netherlands who has released a game in the past year. Nominees and winners are chosen by a jury of professionals. However, the winner of the Control Industry Award is chosen by the industry members themselves. Some numbers: 100 entries • 36 nominations • 12 Awards 240 attendees • (Sold out one month in advance) The Awards were featured on national TV as a news item and in a gaming special. Also several national newspaper covered the event.
DUTCH GAME AWARDS 2014
VENUE: BRAND NEW TIVOLI VREDENBURG, AMSTERDAM AREA The conference will be held in the brand new venue TivoliVredenburg. This fabulous new location offers a modern housing with a grand view of the city at 20 meters above ground floor. It is located in Utrecht, which is part of
the Amsterdam Area, at less than 30 minutes traveling time from Amsterdam city center or Schiphol International airport. The venue is a five minute walk form Utrecht Central Station and is located in the center of Utrecht.
BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES: EXPOSURE, MATCHMAKING, TALENT Control Conference and the Dutch Game Awards offer and excellent opportunity to present yourself to the Dutch developer community. There are over 450 game companies and 15 universities in the Netherlands, providing an interesting partner network and a large pool of skilled professionals. We will also provide matchmaking between developers and businesses outside of the Netherlands.
The event offers opportunities to present your company on site, in the conference booklet, as a speaker, at our public meeting areas or at a private meeting space. We can provide matchmaking services if required. But there is more, Control Magazine can connect you both online and in print with the Dutch developer community. So you can create more awareness prior to the conference or help trigger further follow-up after the conference.
CONTROL MAGAZINE & IMPROVIVE - CONTACT INFO ImproVive founded the Dutch Game Awards as part of an annual two day game event Game in the City it organized for the City of Amersfoort. For the past 7 years ImproVive has been helping professional companies to connect with developers through events and professional consultancy.
For business opportunities and sponsoring: Roger ter Heide â€“ ImproVive tel. +31- 641 57 5706 mail: email@example.com
Control Magazine is the leading game industry news source in the Netherlands. Control provides both an online and print edition, a daily blog, weekly newsletter and special editions for events like Gamescom. Control Magazine is official mediapartner of GDC San Francisco and GDC Europe.
For speaking opportunities: Matthijs Dierckx â€“ Control Magazine mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
WHERE CREATIVITY BECOMES STANDARD
S T U D I O
INFO@ARTKINGSTUDIO.COM 0031 620743644
CONCEPT ROMANO MOLENAAR COLORING RENS VERSPAGEN ARTDIRECTION NIEL VREDEVELDT
EMPATHY & GAMES Eric Bartelson Editor-in-Chief and co-founder Control Magazine
Matthijs Dierckx Publisher and co-founder Control Magazine
A growing number of developers feel games are much more than entertainment. For instance, games are a powerful storytelling tool. And not just the unicorn, zombie, space marine, dragon slaying power fantasy, but much more real human stories, with heart. Stories that have found their way into other forms of media for decades, centuries even, but felt strangely out of place in that odd interactive medium we all love. But games have matured. We have matured as players and we have matured as developers. And if games are the medium you as a designer are most comfortable with, it’s just a matter of time you start using it to tell your own story. Personal stories about depression, alcoholism, bullying, terminal illness or suicide. Not ‘fun’ games, but games that make you think, make you feel, make you empathize. Now empathy in games is nothing new. It’s what makes you care about the characters. It’s what made you cry when Aries died by the sword of Sephiroth. Or what broke your heart when you had to say goodbye to Lee in The Walking Dead. Or at the end of Left Behind. But this new breed of empathy games, like That Dragon, Cancer, This War of Mine and Papo & Yo, make you care not only for the characters, but for the makers of the game as well. You as a player feel their pain and suffering. Or share in their hope and joy. And in the end you might feel enlightened. Or broken. Or angry. But you feel something that goes beyond being just entertained.
Editor-in-chief / Eric Bartelson email@example.com
Editor / Alessandra van Otterlo firstname.lastname@example.org
Manager Operations / Arno Landsbergen
Super Game Jam Games for Diversity
New EU F2P Rules Free to Apply?
A Better You than You
25 Turn to page 16 to read our coverstory
An increasing number of developers is creating games with a focus on empathy. Is this the birth of a new genre? Starting at page 16
Are there such things as Empathy Games?
Eric Bartelson & Matthijs Dierckx Founders Control Magazine
Publisher / Matthijs Dierckx
EMPATHY GAMES, FIGHTING TEARS
Control Magazine is proud media partner of: • GDC San Francisco • GDC Europe • Dutch Games Association
Nothing in this magazine may be reproduced in whole or part without the written permission of the publisher. This magazine
is fully independent and not affiliated in any way with the companies mentioned herein.
If you have any questions regarding this publications, please let us know. E-mail us at email@example.com. Copyright © 2014 Control Mag.
How to progress Virtual Reality
MICROSOFT DEVELOPER DIARY
Working on Windows Phone 8
15 • Hanze UAS 21 • Amsterdam UAS 22 • GLR Creative College of R’dam 24 • HKU School of the Arts 27 • Saxion UAS 28 • Mediacollege Amsterdam
“It’s a documentary made for enthusiasts and developers”
super game jam DOCUMENTARY SERIES
FIRST THREE EPISODE FOR SALE ON STEAM
Two indie developers make a game in one weekend. That game and a documentary about that weekend, together make an episode. Super Game Jam is a unique and intriguing project. The creators describe it as an engaging new documentary series following some of the world’s most talented indie game developers doing what they do best. Filmed in five cities over a six month time period, each episode pairs two indie developers together for 48 hours and challenges them to create a game based on a theme
suggested by their peers. The series examines the creative process, technical skill, and friendships that form through a game jam event on a more personal and intimate level. The whole project is published by Devolver Digital and the first three episodes -- including their accompanying games! -- have launched on Steam. We hooked up with Bram Ruiter, one of the creators (the other being Daniel Oliveira Carneiro) to get an update on Super Game Jam. “SGJ is a hard sell. It’s a documentary made for enthusiasts and developers, which in theory could work really well, but we’ve noticed that people are confused on what it actually is. For instance, the game-press is not the film-press and vice versa. It falls into this weird limbo between both media. Which is totally understandable. There has not been anything like it. It’s a new thing for everyone, including us. I saw Joystiq
describing Super Game Jam as an experimental documentary and it truly feels like that. Everyone kinda needs to get used to the idea of Super Game Jam’s existence and that’s fine. It needs to find its place. It could blow up when all the episodes are out. It could become a cult hit. It could slumber into obscurity. But the main thing is it exists. People can look at it if they want to.” “The chance alone of doing this has been a total blessing. We’ve grown as filmmakers. Everyone involved is more prepared for future projects. And to be honest, we’re super proud of what we’ve put out so far. Again, this thing we conceived now exists and that is amazing all by itself.” “That said, the general response has been the best. Even though it’s a new thing, there seems to be a daily buzz of at least one person finding out about it and congratulating us on what we’ve done. People are telling us they wanna jam on a videogame because of our documentary and that’s just rad.” •
Games 4 Diversity
“Stop yammering, Start Jamming” DIVERSITY
Women, people with different ethnic backgrounds and other minorities seldom see themselves portrayed in games in a non-stereotypical manner. Therefore, it was time for change felt Menno Deen, PhD student and game researcher, but change in a positive way. Deen: “Instead of focusing on the lack of diversity in games, I wanted to find a way to make a positive contribution. So, stop yammering! START JAMMING!” The Games [4Diversity] Jam was born. The first Games [4Diversity] Jam was held in March this year. Theme: LGBTQ. Teams, consisting of game developers, researchers, students and journalists, in both Amsterdam
and San Francisco worked on games that improve the way we include gays, queers, bi-sexuals and transgenders. These games were presented and played at major events such as GaymerX (San Francisco), Serious Play Conference (Los Angeles), Lyst Summit (Copenhagen), CHI2014 (Toronto) and Night of the Nerds (Eindhoven), so even more people could see that things can be done differently. The Games [4Diversity] Jam 2015 is themed colorful. It will explore how ethnic backgrounds can incite new and innovative games. Jams will be held in Amsterdam, Los Angeles and Melbourne (and more locations coming!). All in March & April, but never on
the same date. The events will kick off with keynotes by international advocates for diversity in games. “We hope that the colorful theme will result in even more great games, but most of all we want people to use the process to broaden their views on diversity. As a bonus we get great games that we can use to educate the rest of the world.” Do you want to participate in one of the jams, showcase the games at your event or do you want to organize you own Games [4Diversity] Jam? Go to www.gamesjam.nl for more information.
NEW F2P EU RULES FREE-TO-APPLY? TEXT:ALESSANDRA VAN OTTERLO
New rules concerning in-app purchases take all responsibility out of consumers hands and place it firmly with developers of free-to-play games. Rightly so? THE NEW RULES
Games advertised as “free” should not mislead consumers about the true costs involved;
Games should not contain direct exhortation to children to buy items in a game or to persuade an adult to buy items for them;
Consumers should be adequately informed about the payment arrangements for purchases and should not be debited through default settings without consumers’ explicit consent;
Traders should provide an email address so that consumers can contact them in case of queries or complaints.
GOOGLE AND APPLE In response to the
EC statement, Google has confirmed that it is working on some changes to make the Play store compliant with the new rules by the end of September. At the time of writing of this article, Apple hasn’t announced any change to their App Store.
ollowing a ‘large number’ of complaints in EU countries concerning in-app purchases, the European Commission joined forces with national authorities and studied the free-to-play business. On July 18, they released a statement with their findings, including a number of new rules. EU Commissioner for Consumer Policy Neven Mimica calls the outcome of the study “significant for consumers”. Vice President responsible for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes states the Commission’s support for the innovation in the app sector and confirms that in-app purchases are a legitimate business model, “but developers need to respect EU law.” Control Magazine asked various people that are involved in free-toplay how they feel about the findings of the Commission. REDUNDANT Eric Diepeveen, co-founder of Stolen Couch Games, currently working on free-to-play title Castaway Paradise, finds the new rules unclear or even redundant: “Why make platform holders or developers responsible for the consumer’s ignorance. By user demand, Google and Apple offer settings to make purchases easier, but there are also easy-to-apply 8
options to block or limit in-app purchases. If users are too lazy to find or use these options and hand over their unprotected smartphone or tablet to children, they only have themselves to blame if things go wrong. Moreover, app stores clearly indicate if games are fully free or require extra spending to play.” CEO and founder of leading mobile gaming company flaregames, Klaas Kersting, shares a similar view: “Mobile games will probably be in the textbooks of future business science studies as the hardcore example for a buyer’s market: games are not a necessary good, they are available in abundance, they are free or available for less the cost of an espresso. That said, I know that games attract kids, yes, but to keep kids from buying virtual goods is very easy. Don’t tell them your iTunes password. That’s all. Why in this market, where the consumer holds all the trump cards, further regulation is needed, is beyond me.” SEPARATE GOOD FROM BAD But there are also developers welcoming the new rules. One of them is Alex Kentie, cofounder of Gamistry, developer of free-toplay hit titles Gold Digger and Scrap Tank. He says: “Free-to-play is an honest business
Unique Symphonic Soundtracks
BART DELISSEN Composer BARTDELISSEN.COM model, but some games abuse their player base by making games that are designed to coerce players to spend money, without giving back something of equal value. A stricter legislation against ‘bad practices’ is important for both the consumer as well as the industry.” Niels Monshouwer, CEO and co-founder of WeirdBeard Games agrees with Kentie but he emphasizes that these bad practices are an exception. He adds: “It might help educate players in finding the right content and weed out the crack games to make the market more interesting for quality game developers.” CONSEQUENCES None of the developers see any necessary changes for their own games. Kersting: “We don’t target kids at all. Royal Revolt 2 was positioned even darker and grittier then Royal Revolt. In fact, more than 90% of the players of Royal Revolt 2 are 18 years and older.” Same goes for Gamistry. Kentie: “We haven’t implemented any mechanics targeted specifically at children or their parents to make an in-app purchase.” WeirdBeard abandoned the free-to-play model for their latest release 99 Bricks Wizard Academy, but that wasn’t due to any regulations. Monshouwer: “During soft-launch, we were very consciously trying to find an honest way of free-to-play. That didn’t monetize and the only way we found to make it monetize was by becoming less nice. That’s why we chose to go premium and drop free-to-play.” SUGGESTIONS ANYONE? The European Commission has invited the industry to reflect on concrete measures to address the issues. Kersting doesn’t see much fault on the developer side: “We cater to a
mature audience in a very competitive buyer’s market, we use a valid business model. For the protection of kids, it might be a good compromise to set the age ratings higher. Apple rated Royal Revolt 2 with 9+, we could certainly live with with 16+. If the EU wants to take measures and Apple/Google want to help, this might be a good tool — and it’s already in place.” Gamistry’s Kentie comes up with a different rating solution: “Stores should implement a way for players to see what kind of in-app purchases a free-to-play game has. Do they alter gameplay experience, give competitive advantages, offer extra game content or disable ads. By adding those indications, the player has more clarity on expected costs.”
SELECTION OF OSTS:
To Monshouwer preventing whaling might be a solution: “People spending thousands of dollars on a game isn’t normal. As a developer you can easily put a cap on spending in a game. For instance, when you’ve spent a hundred euros – still much more than a console title – the rest of all the content is free.” WE’VE ONLY JUST BEGUN Even though the European Commission came up with rules, this is probably only the start of the discussion, because said rules aren’t always clear. Especially the one on exhortation to children. “Although I understand that the protection of kids is a clear priority,” says Kersting, “We also need reliable rules for that. Is the claim ‘Gems are available in the Gem store’ exhortation? Can we offer rebates? Can we use time-limited offers? All of those are common practices with many other industries.” Time will tell. • 9
MUSIC & SOUNDS
A BETTER YOU THAN YOU What if we let go of the Panzer commanders and just be… ourselves?
COLUMN BY: ERNST-JAN VAN MELLE
skills we use in games are the same we use to avoid being run over by cars and prevent ourselves from eating dubious food. The game thrives on and expects us to use these experiences to engage with the system. But ‘our selves’ are built up from more than that. Each human being has a different self that evolved from a unique mass of experiences, incidents, opinions and mistakes. There is no ‘Gamer’, only a host of very strange, very different individuals that all possess the same motor skills, more or less. And that is what most games count on. A brain for a body to move about, but rarely a mind that is not the one designed for the task.
n most games (disregarding for the moment the ones where we stack blocks on top of one another) we are compelled to inhabit the role of a character other than ourselves. We consider this fun, because very few of us are in fact real life knights, space marines or Panzer commanders. Through video games, we have an excuse to do the exact same thing we did playing outside when we were children, but today through the slightly less confronting means of a machine with a screen.
SOMETING STRANGER Very rarely are we ‘ourselves’ inside the game. Not a manifestation of our self or a character that makes decisions that you agree with, but our actual selves. Long ago, David Cage attempted this in Omikron: The Nomad Soul. In the first minute of the game, a character addresses the player directly through the screen and explains that he will transport your ‘soul’ into the game to directly inhabit one of the avatars in the game. Later on, a demon tells you he knows you are only a player inhabiting an avatar in a game, and directly threatens you: The player playing the game, not the game character played by you. It is a unique and strangely reflective moment, and although it was not perfectly executed, it makes one wonder what could be achieved when it is. If designers incorporate the infinitely strange variables of actual people, it will stop being Escapism, and become something stranger.
Besides the inherent fun in assuming the role of a fictional character, there is the irresistible opportunity to be less complicated and more exciting than ourselves. For a moment, we can forget mundane annoyances and earthly troubles and simply focus on being knights, space marines or Panzer commanders. A ‘you’ that is more fun and less hassle than the actual you. DUBIOUS FOOD And yet, we do not simply stop being ourselves when we play. We willingly suspend our disbelief to accommodate the game’s compact alternative to reality, but we are still people staring at screens. People use thought processes and experiences that were honed in time away from said screens. The
Therapy, perhaps. 10
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students co-founding strong studios
STRAIGHT OUT OF UNIVERSITY SUCCESS
Student teams that turn into successful studios could be considered a testament to the quality of their education. focus on
education part I
THROUGHOUT THIS ISSUE YOU’LL FIND ARTICLES THAT FOCUS ON GAME EDUCATION. PART OF THESE ARTICLES ARE SPONSORED BY THE EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTES THAT ARE FEATURED IN THE PROFILES.
ow ‘ready’ are students straight out of university? What’s the more appropriate description: “They have a lot to learn”, or “They have learned a lot”? Obviously it’s a bit of both, but for some – it’s very much the latter. We’re talking teams launching a studio straight out of university and finding artistic or commercial success – these may very well be the most compelling argument for the quality of their alma maters and game education in general. Perhaps the most famous example is thatgamecompany. Founders Jenova Chen and Kellee Santiago met at the famous USC School of Cinematic Arts where they were among the first game design graduates. The USC funded the development of their Cloud, an a-typical game about the dreams of a sick boy. Cloud went on to win the IGF Student award and proved thatgamecompany’s ticket to a three-game Sony contract that ultimately led to Journey, one of the most acclaimed games of all time. 13
Another example is Ronimo Games, creators of the million selling MOBA Awesomenauts. As students at the HKU University of the Arts, the team created the original De Blob, then sold that IP to THQ and used the money to found their studio. We asked Ronimo’s Co-founder and Lead Programmer Joost van Dongen if the thinks these studios are inherently different compared to other, non student-team studios? “The benefit of having studied together is that you all work from the same background. Everyone at Ronimo places gameplay central because we all studied game design. I recently met with another studio where it seemed like everyone placed technology central, and indeed they all came from a programming school.” Should universities facilitate the creation of studios? Or don’t you consider such a thing being the responsibility of the universities? Van Dongen: “Yes, all schools should place emphasis on this, even universities. Entrepreneurship is super important for the local games industry and
“The university allowed us to replace the regular school project to work on Westerado as the company Ostrich Banditos”
the economy in general. The fastest way to grow the games industry is by starting more companies. Schools are a big part in getting people into this mindset.” About Ronimo’s alma mater: “The HKU University of the Arts is an excellent example of this: they somehow manage to have an extraordinarily large amount of students set up companies, so now, many of the successes in the Dutch games industry are from their former students.” “Schools can do this in many ways, like asking professionals to talk about starting your own studio, teaching business and management topics, and letting students do lots of group projects where they act as a temporary mini-company.” However, according to Ronimo’s tech lead there’s one thing schools should never do: “Schools should not start companies themselves. That is cheating the competition, no matter how fancy schools like to explain that it isn’t. It also teaches students that if they are not good enough, they can always get a job at their school. Schools should teach students to excel. Giving graduates a job at a university run company generally achieves the exact opposite of that. The best students rarely join those kinds of companies, while the mediocre ones do.”
Upcoming studio Ostrich Banditos - publisher Adult Swim is about to launch their Westerado: Double Barrelled on Steam - is just another example of a student team turned studio. Co-founder Wytze Kamp: “I think having five people from the same university definitely helped shape the identity of Ostrich Banditos. We’ve all been educated with the same mindset: creatively solving problems to create an innovative product. Each of the Banditos has his own way of accomplishing this goal, but we’re 14
all trying to make games that set stand apart from other games.” Their university helped kickstart the studio. “We told them that we’d like to start a business together. After a couple of meetings and a business plan, the university allowed us to replace the regular school project to work on Westerado as the company Ostrich Banditos. We were still in for some small setbacks, because the school system wasn’t used to grading students on running a business. The project turned out to be a success: we founded Ostrich Banditos and released Westerado. Since then, the school has started a pre-incubation programme to allow more students to start a business and develop a passion project of their own.”
a giant ‘no!’
Not everyone seems to believe universities should help students to kickstart their company – Adriaan Jansen for example. With a couple of fellow programming students he co-founded Abbey Games that debuted with the million selling god game Reus – in which the player controls not the inhabitants of a planet, but a couple of terraforming giants. “I have mixed feelings regarding universities facilitating student studios. On one hand it’s always nice to have a little bit of extra attention on your point of interest. However, academic students are so great because they learn how to think, not how to do. They’re often criticized on how they’re not enough “hands on”, but that’s an experience issue that will eventually solve itself. The level of thinking you get from an academic student is very good, and hardly learned through experience. That’s why in the end, I think universities should stick to doing what they do best; learn people how to think, also in regard to games.” •
HANZE UNIVERSITY OF APPLIED SCIENCES • GRONINGEN focus on
education part II
Training students for the international games industry The fully English-taught major Game Design & Development of the study programme Communication systems at Hanze University of Applied Sciences trains students for the international games industry.
We adopt a hands-on, experiential approach by working with real-life cases within the curriculum and put an emphasis on serious games. For example, students worked together with the local academic hospital on a custom iPad game or explored game prototypes with the Oculus Rift. While every student receives a basic training in all main areas, we encourage further specialisation as a game designer, game artist, game developer or game evaluator. We provide a solid grounding in theory and processes established from best practices, while putting this knowledge to use with skill-trainings in digital painting, 3D modelling, programming and project management. Hanze UAS-graduates in Game Design & Development will enter the games industry with a filled portfolio, a budding network of professionals and a solid set of skills with the knowledge to back it up.
Eelco Braad, MSc programme coordinator/senior lecturer game design & development firstname.lastname@example.org School of Communication, Media & IT Zernikeplein 11, Groningen (The Netherlands) SPONSORED BY HANZE UAS
project HealthCity Fitness chain HealthCity asked students to create a game that could train their employees for the new job position of All-round Fitness Consultant.
project Games of Balance Physiotherapy equals repetitive exercises, repetitiveness equals being bored, being bored equals no exercises. Enter Games of Balance, a serious gaming solution for clients of physiotherapists who want to add some fun to their rehabilitation. Games of Balance uses hardware effectively by wirelessly connecting a monitor with an iPad that is placed in a custom-made balance board. Using the motion of the balance board as controller, the player can navigate through a maze where he meets nasty challenges and treasures. Adding a gaming element to their exercise attempts to motivate them to finish their routine. The game received positive feedback from clients in a professional physiotherapy clinic. Instead of discussing with clients how to maintain their exercise rate each week, clients were asked to watch out for over-exercising. 15
project Flippin’ Phones Flippin’ Phones is a fastpaced, (no-) nonsense action PC-game that’s suitable to play in short sessions. Flip as many phones as possible, rescue humanity, and avoid those pesky cops who are too ignorant to see that you’re trying to save the world! This game was created during the Indie Gameleon 2014 game jam located in Groningen, the Netherlands. Inspired by M.C. Escher’s work “Relativity”, which depicts people that all look the same but do not acknowledge each other’s presence, the team decided to use the current universal ‘screen addiction’ as a theme. In the game the player has to alert NPC’s about impending doom by slapping the phones out of their hands and bringing them to safety. The more phones you slap, the higher the score. Addiction guaranteed!
The result is a unique turnbased time-management game that trains the player in all required aspects of the job. In a 2D overview of the fitness club, the player is challenged to perform tasks that are necessary as a fitness consultant. Text balloons and items popup over gym customers, who request various tasks from the player. Within a set time limit (eight hour work day) the player has to fulfill these requests which are similar to the actual work. This trains the player in socialising, instructing, sales, cleaning, organising and reading. After completing a level, the player receives a score and feedback on how to do better next time on the various subjects.
“We treat empathy as a ‘skill’ of the player. I think this is the one skill that is most important for the overall experience.” – Kacper Kwiatkowski 11Bit Studios This War of Mine
An increasing number of developers is creating games with a focus on empathy. Is this the birth of a new genre?
AUTHOR: ERIC BARTELSON
new generation of games is confronting players with real human issues. Things like depression, alcoholism, bullying, terminal illness or suicide. Often very personal stories that have touched and shaped the life of the designer. Some have labeled these games -or experiences- ‘empathy games’. Maybe for lack of a better classification, or maybe because that’s exactly what they are. Empathy is the experience of understanding another person’s condition from their perspective. You place yourself in their shoes and feel what they are feeling. Now it might be impossible for you to fully understand and feel what it means to lose a child to an illness that’s beyond your control, but you sure can imagnine the pain and heartbreak that parents go through when it happens.
“I think it makes a difference if there’s a piece of the creator’s heart encoded in the game for you to discover.” – Ryan Green
That Dragon, Cancer
Ryan Green is the creator of That Dragon, Cancer, a game about a young boy suffering from terminal cancer. The boy, Joel, is Green’s son. He was 1 year old when he was diagnosed. News that obviously had a huge impact on the family. Joel was in and out the hospital on a regular basis for treatment. It was around that time that Ryan Green started development on That Dragon, Cancer as a way to cope with the situation. ‘A game of hope in the face of death’, it reads on the website. A couple of months ago, after three years of fighting that dragon, cancer, Joel died. Green now sees his game as a way of actively mourn the death of his son. “This project has become a gift to me”, he says. “Remembering him well has become my occupation. It is painful but he changed my world and he’s worth memorializing. I get to look at him and listen to his voice and remember what it was like to hold him on my lap and to make him laugh, or comfort him when he didn’t feel well. It is important to remember that we started this project in the midst of the fight. At the time, the end of Joel’s story hadn’t been written. Now, the game has become a way to encode pieces of who Joel was and to examine our family’s hope that remains in the shadow of death.” When That Dragon, Cancer is finished it will go on to comfort those who are in the same situation as the Greens were, to give them reassurance that they are not alone in their struggle. But it will also reach a much larger audience that has never experienced this. “I find the title ‘Empathy Games’ to be very descriptive and appropriate for what we’re doing”, says Green. “I believe we can benefit as humans by taking time to ‘sit in the ashes’ with someone. Often people just need love. 18
They need you to sit, to be quiet, to give them a hug and to listen to them and to cry with them. I think empathy games can offer the opportunity to practice this kind of care.”
CLOSURE Vander Caballero is the creator of Papo & Yo, a story about a young boy and his monster. They get along fine most of the times until the monster eats poisonous frogs. He then becomes hostile and goes after the boy. The game is a metaphor for Caballero’s real-life experience as a survivor of an alcoholic father. During an emotional talk at GDC 2013 several members of the audience came up and thanked him for making a game that so closely resonated with their own experiences. Caballero knows why Papo & Yo was so relatable to so many people. “We do that by making our characters vulnerable. By creating vulnerable, relatable characters, instead of superhuman ones, we set a different kind of expectation. When you are vulnerable, the first step to a problem’s solution is to empathize.” The game designer feels a responsibility for a younger generation. “I want games to become tools that can help us cope with human tragedy, like good books and films can, because younger people spend more time playing video games than reading books.” That’s why Vander Caballero embraces the term Empathy Games. According to him it helps people to identify what kind of game they are about to play. “What we need now, is the recognition of empathy games as a game genre. The phrase ‘indie games’ puts games like Flappy Bird and Papo & Yo un-
der the same label, though they couldn’t be more different from one another. Our games inspire other developers to take risks by exploring topics that were unthinkable to cover in games five years ago. Today, many other games like Papers, Please and Gone Home are part of a growing movement towards empathy games.” His reward comes in personal encounters with people finding closure by playing his games. “We receive beautiful encouraging letters from these fans, and our Twitter and Facebook accounts show many testimonials about how our games touch people on an emotional level. This is the kind of thing that is hard to come by when you work at bigger companies.”
SURVIVAL In Warsaw, Poland, indie developer 11Bit Studios is working on a war game very different to the many militaristic shooters that top the charts during the holidays. The tagline of the game is In War Not Everyone is a Soldier. In This War of Mine gamers get to play survivors in a city torn by a raging conflict. Cut off from the outside world they have no other option than to make the best of the situation by keeping their heads down and try to stay alive any way they can. That means trading items for food or medicine and keeping out of harm’s way of gangs looting houses and roaming the streets at night. Packal Kwiatkowski, designer and writer on This War of Mine feels strongly about the subject matter of the game. “Fortunately no one on the team has ever been in a war situation, however we believe war is something
that concerns us all as human beings.” He says that the whole team feels the importance of the project and the responsibility that comes with it. “When you spend your days researching survivor’s horrifying stories and think of ways of telling these stories in your game, you can’t just switch off in the evening.” He pauses for a moment, then adds: “This is the most important thing I have ever been involved in. Definitely going beyond just doing my job.” In order to understand what it means to survive a hostile world where resources are scarce and danger lurks behind every corner, the team at 11Bit Studios has done extensive research by reading personal accounts and talking to survivors and veterans alike. They have captured the despair and urgency of such a dire situation in a tough game, which they call ‘not fun’. But not all games have to be fun. “So far the thematic spectrum of the games is still much narrower than in other modern media, such as film or even comics. But I’m glad to see that it’s changing, I think partially due to the literal maturation of the audience. The interactivity of the games is a potent tool for telling serious stories in ways unavailable to other media.” Kwiatkowski says that This War of Mine may be considered an Empathy Game and he’s fine with that, although he doesn’t consider empathy a genre, rather a ‘player skill’. “Where other games require, for instance, quick reflexes, good spatial perception or high precision, we encourage you to understand the characters and make adequate decisions on their behalf ”, he says. “Among other skills we rely on, I think empathy is the one that is most important for the overall experience. Recently more and more games are using it as the principal part of the experience. I really hope that it is a 19
“The phrase ‘indie games’ puts games like Flappy Bird and Papo & Yo under the same label, though they couldn’t be more different from one another.” – Vander Caballero Minority Media inc Papo & Yo / Silent Enemy
“I don’t really like the codification of the term Empathy Games. I believe it acts as a scapegoat for mainstream games.” – Mattie Brice Mainichi
movement indeed, and a movement that will only gain importance.”
DIFFERENT Game critic and developer Mattie Brice feels strongly against the label ‘Empathy Games’ although most of her work is cast in that category. “I believe it acts as a scapegoat for mainstream games to not have to worry about its own problems with human connection and shove it all into a tiny, underserved, under supported corner. I think all games are an exercise in empathy, so ‘empathy games’ is kind of redundant. Rather, most games don’t really give meaningful contexts for players to empathize with. I think we should be skeptical of how the term is being used, especially when we consider this sort of work has a more diverse representation of people than mainstream design.” In her game Mainichi you get to play a character that takes abuse from the outside world no matter how she presents herself. In the end it’s all about the choice of facing discrimination or avoid all human contact by secluding yourself. Mainichi is based on Brice’s personal experiences. “I wanted for people to leave with a new perspective, and a better understanding of how to live life balancing a whole bunch of different perspectives that aren’t your own. I think play has the power to create new contexts for players that allow them to work through real life issues. Games aren’t just about fun!”
EMPATHY So that brings us to the question whether empathy is a genre or rather a game mechanic. There is no easy answer to this one. As long as the creators don’t agree on this, it’s at least 20
a classification on what to expect of these personal games. Vander Caballero describes empathy games like this: “In my opinion, an empathy game is simple to define: it’s a game in which conflict resolution is not achieved through power-up mechanics.” He found a group of like-minded people that share his passion to create ‘meaningful games’. “The folks at Minority understand the power and influence of video games on society and, as a result, they care about the kind of experiences they create. In return for the responsibility they take on, they are rewarded with the deeply emotional appreciation of fans worldwide.” Kacper Kwiatkowski of 11Bit Studios believes in the power of games to tell personal, touching stories. “I think we are maturing. And we’ve just started to understand the power of what we have at our disposal. Games are capable of so much more than they’re mostly used for and I’m sure that there are some great things coming from the sheer realization of that fact.” Ryan Green agrees that games are a powerful storytelling tool. “Players who grew up speaking the language of video games now desire to use that language to tell their own stories. Games have been waiting for us to grow up into them. But now we’re faced with having to develop new words for new experiences, and I think that will be messy. The elegance of storytelling and mechanics and context and richness will come as more voices learn and contribute their own words to the language.” He feels empathy to be a feature more than a genre. “Video games offer the ability to inhabit another person’s perspective. It makes a difference to know that the character you inhabit as a player has a real story, a real struggle, just like you. I think it makes a difference if there’s a piece of the creator’s heart encoded in the game for you to discover.” •
AMSTERDAM UNIVERSITY OF APPLIED SCIENCES Within the department of Information Technology & Computer Science, students can sign up for the game development program.
project Game Technology
The semester preceding the final internship, is the last step in preparing students to work in the games industry. During this semester students are confronted with a challenging assignment which they must complete in small scrum teams. Teams collaborate by working on the codebase of an open source 3D engine and are required to proactively solve any coding problems . This particular team elected to add a feature to the engine, producing an application that allows game designers to add particles to their game. They added several classes in C++ and hereby produced an application, which is freely available, that allows level designers to customize particles. The exported XML file can be used in the open source engine. To demonstrate its possibilities the students also produced a showcase game.
Students in this track create games using different libraries, engines and tools to create interesting and complex gameplay and games. The focus is on iteration, research, gameplay testing and a strong player centric approach to games.
Students in this track create the technology behind games, such as game- and physics engines, level editors and multiplayer networking software. The emphasis here is on math and physics as well as low-level programming languages including C++.
Game Development Contact Dop Terlingen MA Manager Ext. Relations Game Development A’dam University of Applied Sciences Building Kroonjuweel • Room E2.18 Duivendrechtsekade 36-38 1096 AH Amsterdam, The Netherlands T. +31 (0)20 595 4622 M. d.terlingen@HVA.nl W. www.hva.nl Contact Internships Drs. Mieke Bierbooms
project Game Design
The final project in this track centers around design research. This is where students identify design problems that occur within the industry, which they then investigate. One team chose to research the human capacity for pattern recognition within games. They wondered: “How many different kinds of shapes and colors can a player recognize before becoming overwhelmed or confused?” The team produced three prototype games with identical gameplay but different player-identifiers: based on use of color, use of shape and a combination of color and shape. To collect data from the prototypes the team used a range of techniques: collecting data on time spent, on location and progress using heat maps and player feedback interviews. Although the results are inconclusive, the way the research was executed and verified, shows these students are able to validate assumptions based on player behavior.
Figure 9. Loser’s movement level 6; Plotted out the movement of the players that died in the level As seen in t he m ovement l ines 6.3.1.VIII Stage 8o f the players there is a clear indication that the middle of the objectives seem to be the preferred course for the players. They do tend to deviate a little to the side they are coming from. The line from one objective to the other barely reaches near the edges of the game world, which shows that the players tend to have a margin b6.3.1.VIII etween them the 8e dges. and Stage Also a clear indication is that just above the middle is the area which is most visited by players when moving from one side of the screen to the other. While the same options are available in the lower section of the screen to go through the moving wall they are far less utilised. As the walls appear on the right side of the screen, the margin between the edge and the player is larger and they tend to pull more towards the middle. The left side of the screen has a more direct line from the upper and lower section, showing that the players do try to take the most direct route. The players estimate the danger and might take a slightly longer route if that is considered safer for the players thought pattern. Same goal as the previous level, but with a different safe path. 6.3.1.IX
Same goal as the previous level, but with a different safe path. 6.3.1.IX
44 Same goal again but with a different safe path. Same goal again but with a different safe path.
SPONSORED BY AMSTERDAM UAS
School of Design & Communication
In the first two years of this program the foundation is laid for strong comprehension of math, simulation and physics, gameplay and user interaction. Students analyze, design and build games with emphasis on working in projects as a team. After completing their first internship, students choose to follow one of two tracks as part of their bachelor’s degree in ICT:
Due to the project based approach and an internship as part of their graduation project, all students from both tracks are well prepared to work in the games industry.
education part IV
game art & game development
GLR CREATIVE COLLEGE OF ROTTERDAM Game Art students create their own proposal for their graduation project. They’re allowed to turn it into a coorperation, or go at it alone. They can add code, hire a coder or just develop the art assets. The prime goal is: the projects need to look fantastic in their portfolio. Of course, the materials they developed during the concept and realisation phase are taken into account as well. The graduation project needs to be finished within 14 weeks.
The GLR Creative College of Rotterdam offers courses in Game Art and in Game Development. Artists and Programmers are different people, so we believe it’s essential the courses aren’t integrated. But of course, students will work together on many projects. To keep the curriculum as current as possible, many studios are involved. The Game Art course is really focused on 2D and 3D art, with Gameplay being a minor component. The Game Development course focusses on Flash and Unity, with some attention to XNA and HTML.
project Lux Caeli attention to detail Perfectionism is a prerequisite for success. There’s always room for improvement. Sjors de Laat very much realises this. He developed an environment in the CryEngine in which he pored over even the tiniest detail. Every individual blade of grass got way too much attention and every stone went through at
project Thorpe Starting a studio Three friends decided to use their graduation projects as a launch platform for their own studio. They went the extra mile and recorded over 100 different animations using the motion capture suit, they created all art and written all code themselves and even managed to create an impressive intro animation. You can read more about their Settlers-inspired game, Thorpe, on their website: www.wolfdoginteractive.com.
Grafisch Lyceum Rotterdam e. email@example.com w. www.glr.nl t. +31 (0)88 200 15 00 Heer Bokelweg 255 (Visiting Address) 3032 AD Rotterdam, The Netherlands PO Box 1680 (Mail address) 3000 BR ROTTERDAM, The Netherlands 22
least ten iterations. And then Sjors had to build his monumental sci-fi tower. His realtime-fly-throughanimation is nothing short of impressive. However, there’s always room for improvement. So, Sjors is continuing to study and starts at the NHTV University of Applied Sciences next year.
project Art Block Job first, degree second The popularity of Japanse art styles is remarkable, but even more so is the lack of graduates applying these styles to their projects. Talking about a lack of something, the number of female game students is a bit worrisome. Bianca Moor makes up for both. She created 2D art assets and animations for a game she dreamed up. A classmate helped her out with coding. And although all characters are key frame animated and hand drawn, she wanted top quality shading, which she managed to achieve by creating her own production pipeline. Her talents are rare, thus Bianca was hired even before she received her degree. SPONSORED BY GLR
COLUMN ARE THERE SUCH THINGS AS ‘EMPATHY GAMES’?
Writer Dennis Scimeca doesn’t like the label ‘Empathy Games’. Here’s why. Trying to assign a genre label like “empathy games” to experiences as individualistic and expressive as Gone Home, Depression Quest, and That Dragon, Cancer, takes something away from all of them. It doesn’t feel like the phrase ‘empathy games’ has caught on quite yet, but it’s on the tip of too many peoples’ tongues. I had a stark reminder of this during Vander Caballero’s keynote speech at the 2014 Games for Health conference in Boston, Massachusetts. Caballero, the creative director of Minority Media was introducing the audience to Papo & Yo, which is a metaphor for his experience growing up with an alcoholic father. He also talked about Silent Enemy, a game Minority is currently developing about the bullying suffered by the game’s creative director, Ruben Farrus and Ernest Webb, Caballero’s partner. Caballero went so far as to say that Minority Media makes ‘empathy games’.
use to show her how video games have changed compared to what she watched me play as a kid. And that’s what I suspect the idea of ‘empathy games’ is actually about. It sure does feel like another nod at the reflexive desire to legitimize video games, to whomever that conversation is still appropriate. The idea of ‘empathy games’ feels like an appellation meant for outsiders, to encourage them to talk about video games at all. Isn’t it enough just to say that the games we’re talking about here are sensitive? Or expressive? Or trying to do something more than just entertain? It’s entirely possible that I’m taking all of this too personally. I suffer from a mood disorder, which includes a history of severe depression. I struggle with the idea that Depression Quest can express any more than a sliver of that experience, or one particular aspect of its expression. I know I’d be angry if someone had the unmitigated gall to play Depression Quest, and then turn to me and say “I understand you better, now, Dennis.” No, they wouldn’t. Someone might develop a sense of sympathy for the game’s developer, but Depression Quest doesn’t speak to my experience, even though I suffer from depression.
“I struggle with the idea that Depression Quest can express any more than a sliver of that experience”
I am glad that games like Papo & Yo exist, to serve as tools for players to help understand themselves and their experiences. For people who have lived under the thumb of an alcoholic parent, like my mother did, I imagine that playing Papo & Yo is cathartic. I have to say “I imagine” because I can’t share in that experience. I cannot by definition have empathy for my mother and what she went through growing up, because I don’t have the same experience. Empathy is the ability to understand and share someone else’s feelings. When I hear talk about ‘empathy games’, however, I don’t interpret the conversations as talking about games that will resonate only with select members of the audience, owing to shared experience. I hear people talking about empathy games as though they are meant to be widely-accessible games through which players can share the experiences of their creators. Which, of course, they cannot. Were we to call games like Gone Home and Depression Quest ‘sympathy games’, that might be more accurate, but I also suspect many would consider that a downgrade, or even disrespectful. We can sympathize with the sister in Gone Home who is coming to terms with her sexualty, if we’ve been confused about or ostracized by any intrinsic part of our identity growing up. We can’t empathize with her, however. It would be insulting to walk up to someone who may have faced physical harm for being gay, and to then suggest we can empathize with their experience because we read comic books growing up, and so people beat us up because we were a geek. Even sympathy might be a stretch, in that case.
I mostly dislike the idea of ‘empathy games’ because I can think of one game which might deserve the label, and it’s unlike any of the other games we’ve talked about here. Do you remember the first time you started up a game of Journey, and had no idea what the hell was going on, or where you were supposed to go, or what you ought to do? Then another player showed up, and helped teach you the ropes. They did so because that other player remembered what it was like to be in your shoes, trying to make sense of Journey for the first time. Those other players who served as our guides, they had real empathy for our situation. But I wouldn’t call Journey an ‘empathy game’. I think I’d be taking something away from Journey, if I did. •
I wish my mother played video games. She grew up with two alcoholic parents. Papo & Yo might serve as the most effective tool I could ever 23
education part V
HKU GAMES AND INTERACTION
Experimentation, creation and innovation Games, apps, social media. They are changing our society: what we do in our spare time, how we communicate, learn and work together. Technology has long since ceased to be nerd domain; it’s become an indispensible part of the creative and social work field for entertainment companies, publishers, schools, governments, museums and start-ups. HKU Games en Interaction lets you discover the possibilities of these technologies and how they can be employed to make people and the world better and happier. You will explore the conceptual and research aspects, but also the practical experience of creating innovative digital products, such as installations, games, platforms and apps. You will learn to develop a hands-on, entrepreneurial attitude, master research methods, and gain the technical and creative skills required to work in this field later on. HKU Games and Interaction is part of HKU University of the Arts and offers the following courses: Game Art, Game Design, Game Development and Interaction Design. HKU University of the Arts Utrecht is the largest educational institution for arts, culture and media in the Netherlands and offers innovative education and research trajectories. HKU Games and Interaction is located in Hilversum. The art of HKU - new practices, new solutions.
project Lumini Speelbaars - 4th year A team of fourth year students called Speelbaars developed the Lumini. Lumini is a flow adventure game where the player is responsible for the survival of a species, in a world full of things that are out to get you. You can split your swarm and control both sides separately and breed new and better Lumini to replace the ones you’ve lost. Bring your swarm to safety! The game project will focus on the further development of non-stop flow game play where players do not stop or pause but move in one continuous flow through the game. Team Speelbaars describes this as: “Our game guides the player elegantly in a continuous flow of movement. The player is immersed in a both tranquil and exciting adventure.” Team Speelbaars consist of: Luc Veiga da Palma, Niels Koopmans (game design and development), Steven Honders (level designer), Michiel van Tienhoven, Olof Moleman, Brenda van Vugt, Rogier Stam (game art), Gijs Driesenaar (sound design).
t. +31 (0)35 6836464 e. firstname.lastname@example.org w. www.hku.nl Location: Oude Amersfoortsteweg 131 1212 AA Hilversum, The Netherlands
project Tribal & Error Grotman - 3rd year Tribal & Error is a game in which the primary goal is to learn a new unknown language through which the player is able to communicate with cavemen and help them to survive the ice age. The core mechanic of the game is language learning by trial and error problem solving. Hence, the name Tribal & Error that cleverly references to the prehistoric theme and at the same time summarizes the game dynamics. The group of third year game design students studied the Paleolithic age. This period defined for the large part human technological prehistory. “We studied the characteristic elements of this prehistoric age that we could use in the game such as cave paintings, prehistoric animals and areas which we used as levels”. From this research the ideas were developed for the game play and the structure of the in-game menu. The student group consists of Oskar Moleman (concept creator and game designer), Joel Sjouke (game designer), Mathijs Wiermans (sound designer), Tim Haerkens (developer) and Moniek Schilder (artist).
Postal address: PO Box 2471 1200 CL Hilversum, The Netherlands
project Hands On HKU Studiolab - in collaboration with Roessingh Research & Development (RRD) Hands on is an applied game created for children from 7 to 12 years with cerebral paresis, aimed at stimulating their rehabilitation process. In the game, a video camera observes the hand movements of the player, who has to move and rotate objects to score points. This trains hand and arm movements, such as reaching for objects, turning objects in the hand and picking up and letting go of objects.
The theme of the game is Aliens and Farm Animals, with the player playing the Aliens, who have to defend a crashed spaceship from farm animals that are trying to destroy it. The object of the game is to position blocks on the farm animals to hold them back. In addition to the game, there is a backend for the physiotherapist, who can customise the game for the individual child, so that the play corresponds with the rehabilitation. 24
SPONSORED BY HKU UNIVERSITY OF THE ARTS
HOW TO PROGRESS
VIRTUAL REALITY V
The hardware has caught up with the ideal, but the design tenets have yet to do so. Should we look at theatre for inspiration?
TEXT: ERNST-JAN VAN MELLE
After decades of not-so-stellar films and special Star Trek episodes, we appear to be catching up with our science fiction aspirations. The not-too distant release of the consumer Oculus Rift, together with the Morpheus, GameFace and various other Head Mounted Displays, means that we could well be enjoying a new paradigm of gaming within the year. However, there are as of yet very few dedicated games in development, and it won’t be a simple case of adding Rift integration to existing types of games. Since the very first cutscene in a video game (Pac-Man in 1980), video games have closely emulated the visual language of film. As film was the most accomplished, popular and dynamic way of storytelling thus far, this was completely understandable. Since then, video games have consistently drawn from and were transformed by these design tenets. We are rarely disturbed by editorial jump-cuts in our games, multiple camera viewpoints do not alarm us and non-diegetic storytelling techniques such as voice-over narration never make us wonder where this disembodied voice is coming from. However, in most forms of virtual reality, we are the player. We’re not controlling the actions of the player character, the player character is us. It moves as you do, and therefore it is you. The games we play will feel much closer to home, as we don’t have a screen to look away from. We are in there (something that will undoubtedly spawn a horde of hor25
ror games). Jump-cuts will become jarring and disorienting, as would any jump-cut in real life. Multiple camera viewpoints will be problematic. Interior voices might still work but in VR they will have to come from somewhere. Many of these film techniques will have to be revised, or even completely abandoned. ILLUSION Daniël Ernst, creator of the popular Shoebox Diorama virtual reality experiences, has given quite a bit of thought to this. Virtual reality, he says, is just a step above what we know, something he terms an ‘omni-composition’. “Film in turn was inspired by illusionists and artists who in turn descend from painted walls in caves. The core remains unchanged but virtual reality offers far more freedom than earlier media. For example, I like to integrate the illusion into the story and the interaction. In my diorama Der Grosse Gottlieb, an acrobat attempts to reach the stars by stacking an enormous tower of chairs. Whenever the player looks down while climbing, he will hear a live audio stream of his surroundings. When he looks up, towards the stars, this stream fades away, enhancing the effect of searching for ultimate peace among the stars.” STARRY NIGHT “The stars, would be two-dimensional in most game engines, but here, I made them three-dimensional, and very tiny. They have a palpable presence this way and compel the
“The superior immersion of VR may lead to some tricky questions about morality” player to reach out and try to grab them, in which he can never succeed, which again feeds back into the core concept of the diorama, that of trying to reach something that is impossible to reach.” His creations represent some of the more advanced steps being taken in the medium. On altered design specifics generated by the unique characteristics of the medium, he adds: “Walking up some stairs is a mundane action in a normal, screen-based FPS, something you don’t think twice about. In VR, however, the stairs become a thing with mass and height, and walking up becomes exciting. Another example: Running past a cluttered desk in a game rarely piques your interest – barring Gone Home and maybe Rage, but in VR, the clutter becomes a thing of wonder that you can inspect very closely.” WANDER FREE Virtual Reality seems ideally suited to be tackled with nothing less than theatrical techniques. Consider location-based theatre, which often features unframed performances that the audience has to physically follow to experience. Spactators are invited to wander through this theatrical space. Sounds familiar. For some years British theatre company Punchdrunk has staged the play ‘Sleep no More’ in, among others, New York and London. ‘Sleep no More’ is usually set in a large hotel, where audiences are locked up but free to wander, to discover various tableaus, encounters and setpieces around the hotel. They are free to interact with the actors and join in, always influencing the play itself, becoming part of it. This is what video games do, or ought to do, and with the advent of Virtual Reality, this relationship becomes even more necessary. Virtual reality needs real-time, immersive experiences, and theatre by nature is a real-time, immersive experience, far more so than film has ever been. Before we descend into a full-blown theatrical cesspool, however, there are as of yet, some limiting factors to this ideal. Unsurprisingly, hardware considerations is one of them. The Rift and its cousins are hooked up to your computer with a thick cable, which somewhat limits your freedom of movement. Also, excepting enormous contraptions like the Virtuix Omni for the moment, there really is no way of moving around virtual space except through a controller, which again breaks the immersion. Oculus VR themselves have acknowledged this problem, and have an-
nounced they will, for the moment, focus on ‘seated experiences’, best exemplified in EVE Valkyrie: The space combat simulator already has you in a chair in virtual space, which makes immersion easy as you will probably play the game sitting in a similar chair. SIT DOWN Though the prospect of designing games where you sit in chairs a lot may seem limited in scope, it may be precisely this limitation that will coax designers into considering virtual space in new and interesting ways. Daniël Ernst weighs in, adding “All my dioramas and games are seated experiences. Walkabout VR games make me nauseous. Half-Life 2 made me go cross-eyed. Also, the seated experience affords greater control over the composition and a more relaxed environment for the audience to absorb the experience. Decades-old Point & Click adventures are still far more immersive to me than any current triple-A blockbuster game. They allow you the time to comfortable settle into the experience and suspend your disbelief, which usually happens after five minutes. Around that time, most people won’t even notice the low-resolution of the Oculus Rift DK1.” MORALITY Lastly, the superior immersion of VR may lead to some tricky questions about morality. Video games, after all, are a medium in which we spend a disproportionate amount of time murdering a lot of things. While this may all be fine and dandy with the dissociating barrier of a screen between the us in the here and the us in the screen, virtual reality may bring these practices uncomfortably close. We will be the ones doing the killing. Daniël Ernst: “The army uses shooters as marketing tools, but not as training implements. VR simulations are used for that. If walking up stairs can be a realistic and exciting experience, imagine what a horror game or an ultraviolent game can do to a person. A classmate of mine graduated with a VR simulation designed to desensitize butchers against the shooting of cows. I’m not saying the responsibility for this type of consideration lies with Oculus or the developers. That’s what parents and people themselves are for. But it is nonetheless an interesting problem that should be discussed and dealt with in a rational and neutral fashion. From a design perspective as well. VR may be an era where wonderment could outsell extreme violence, and I hope people will choose the former.” • 26
LAWNMOWER MAN In 1992, Computer Gaming World predicted ‘affordable VR by 1994’. It was also the year that saw the release of The Lawnmower Man, one of the first movies to explore Virtual Reality (spoiler: it all goes horribly wrong). The results were Nintendo’s Virtual Boy and a bloated system of pods and exo-skeletal gloves called Virtuality, which none theless boasted 42 million plays across 17 countries. After that, interest fizzled and VR was again consigned to one-off episodes of Star Trek.
PIGEON MAN The Shoebox Diorama is a collection of dioramas for the Oculus Rift created by Daniël Ernst. The first one, Blocked In, is one of the most downloaded Oculus demos. The next addition to the series is a four part episodic ‘look & shake’ adventure game: The Pigeon Man. The story is about the once majestic pigeon post office that got lost amidst the towers of glass and steel. It’s an illustrative adventure game in which the player engages in conversations with weird and wonderful characters and explores fantastical environments. The player interacts with the characters by shaking his head and looking around.
SAXION UNIVERSITY OF APPLIED SCIENCES International gaming studies Gamification is everywhere! It is expanding like never before. The call for skilled and expert game designers and engineers is therefore a fact. With the international Gaming studies, students will become the next game designer or game engineer.
education part VI
Contact Saxion University of Applied Sciences Patrick Huitema t: +31 (0)6 105 368 06 e: email@example.com w: www.saxion.edu
project Oculus Drift DEVELOPED by 4 students in 8 weeks
Game Design & Production and Game Engineering, both studies at Saxion University of Applied Sciences, are connecting technology, creativity, innovation and human science. New technology creates opportunities to explore. Educational games, mobile games and games for advertisement or museums have an increasing role in our society.
Game Design & Production
These students are educated to become a game designer and producer by specializing in creating concepts and visuals. They learn all about the creative and visual elements that makes it a successful game. This creative point of view will be of great use to the game engineers. Developing skills of game art and design, 2D and 3D and tools like Photoshop, Maya and Unity3D and more. Students are also introduced to the basics of marketing, producing and - for example - digital sculping.
Students of Game Engineering are educated to develop the technology behind the game and to optimize the gamer-experience. During the course they will learn about the programming of game-assets engines, the workflow of software creation and how to perfect the game. The game engineers will be working really closely with students from Game Design to make functional and attractive games. Other than programming (C#, C++), the students will learn about game physics and Vector maths. SPONSORED BY SAXION UAS
project Terra Lumina DEVELOPED by 7 students in 16 weeks Terra Lumina, a game that students originally developed for a technical museum (â€˜t Heim in Hengelo, Netherlands). Microsoft Netherlands selected this project to be released on Windows 8 in October 2014. As a player of the game, you have to help a small rover reach its Mother Ship. Collecting and shooting magic seeds enables a bouncy mushroom to reach even higher areas. A flashlight will scare cavesnails. Movement of the rover consumes power; placing solar panels in a light beam will recharge your battery. A great adventure!
Turn your world into a racing track by using Oculus Rift, the 3D virtual reality headset. The game Oculus Drift challenges players with a functional limitation to compete with other players. The main goals are physical endurance, concentration and responsiveness. The adaptive AI ensures a balanced game for each type of player. Saxion gaming students developed this game especially for players with a functional limitation. Steer your car by turning your head left or right. Colliding with colored objects will surprise you! Speed boosts, jumps or new tracks. A great racing experience for everyone: and at the same time you are training your neck muscles. The Dutch King could not resist this challenge and actually played the game in April 2014.
project Block World DEVELOPED by 6 students in 8 weeks Block World enables children with learning and behavioral problems to experience the power of cooperation. This Microsoft Kinect-driven game is a journey towards floating islands. Two players work together to combine the colors, numbers or alphabetical 27
objects. For example: a purple door can be opened by combining red, green or blue colored keys. Originally, the game was developed for Fun-ie-fit (Almelo, Netherlands). This game is extended into a real commercial Windows version.
education part VII
Projects Starting in the second grade we plan for multi-disciplinary teams, combining the game artists and the game programmers in project teams. Three times a year we also have ‘vertical’ game jams (first grade up to the fourth graduation year. Programmers and artists.) We’ve noticed that the experiences achieved in these teams are perceived as invaluable by our students.
MEDIACOLLEGE AMSTERDAM There has been quite a discussion about the connection between education and industry. So, to clear the air, let’s please let us give an introduction about us, here at Ma (Mediacollege Amsterdam) and the way we work. The Mediacollege Amsterdam is a four year courses vocational school. We are a specialized school, and we offer solely courses in media(design), communications and entertainment. (There are four of these dedicated institutes in the Netherlands). As a vocational school, we set up our educational program in consultation with the industry, providing a junction between the industry’s needs and our educational obligations. We find that our efforts in meeting the needs of the industry is rewarded by a strong positive opinion of the industry of our organization and of our students. Around 2008, the Gaming program was launched in these four vocational schools, at that time with huge start up hick-ups. All in collaboration with, at that time, the Industry Organization BGIn (nowadays Dutch Games Association) and different companies in the gaming industry. The gaming industry is still in the curriculum. Already in their first year students have an early contact with the industry with guest lectures. This builds up in later Mediacollege Amsterdam Contactweg 36 1014 AN Amsterdam, The Netherlands Ron Hartman t. +31 (0)20 850 95 00 m. firstname.lastname@example.org w. www.ma-web.nl
years with more guest lectures and visiting events, culminating after two and half years in two periods of specialized internships for five months each and an exam in which the industry plays an important role. In addition, we plan several times a year bilateral meetings with the industry. For both courses: Game-artists and Game-programmers. The industry’s feedback is taken into consideration when we decide upon the curriculum for the next period. For our students, we plan in the third year a portfolio pitch with the industry. This proves to be an eye-opener and a great stimulus for a lot of our students! To ensure the lasting connection between our curriculum and the industry’s, we are employing tutors who are working in the industry as well. They bring in the latest developments. Currently, we focus on casual and applied games and we don’t want to see any Anime, Manga and/or fan-art. More specific, we do focus on (in game) 2D/3D art, animation, painting and a little concept art, prototyping and just small levels of game play and mechanics. We do not provide courses aimed at game- or level design course solely. For us, that’s just an integrated part of the course we do provide. We focus on to placing the created content that works within the code and shows skills that can be used as ‘hands on’ in the industry. 28
Furthermore, one of the projects, halfway the second grade is ‘Myth’. A multidisciplinary team, combined of artists and developers has to choose a myth, and is tasked to produce a game. The game must be designed for a target audience of children aged 10-12. After eight weeks they have to publish it at the Google Play store (search for Mediacollege Amsterdam!) and present the game to a delegation of industry professionals. Of course these games did not have the time to be completely finished and polished or 36 levels. We plan this project to allow our students to get acquainted with the production process and the workflow of a team production process. For example, you might want to look at the work of Iktami and Merlin. As part of their final exam we have introduced a project in which students have eight weeks to make a (applied)game for an organization that treats mentally and physically abused children aged 12-18. The gameplay is designed as a short introduction game for therapy sessions and can be played alone, but also forces the players to collaborate in taking obstacles to get a better score and thus develop trust in your fellow player. If you are interested, a nice game within this project is Bounce Buddies (also on the Google Play store). A project that just has been finished is our Game Lab project. Students have eight weeks to make a game for devices as Leap Motion, Oculus Rift, PlayStation Vita and Neurosky. Worth mentioning is a mazegame made for the Oculus Rift, still in progress. To be finished and released soon. Bottom line, we educate, train and let our students evolve and be evolved by our lectures, by their project experience and by the internships they will go through, turning them from students into professionals.
SPONSORED BY MEDIACOLLEGE AMSTERDAM
SUMICO the numbers game playsumico.com • @sumicogame • email@example.com REVIEW COPIES AVAILABLE • INTERVIEW OPPORTUNITIES AT GDC EUROPE & GAMESCOM: mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
directory of relevant schools & universities • HKU UNIVERSITY OF THE ARTS Games & interaction Location: Oude Amersfoortsteweg 131 1212 AA Hilversum, The Netherlands Postal address: PO Box 2471 1200 CL Hilversum, The Netherlands t. +31 (0)35 6836464 e. email@example.com w. www.hku.nl • GRAFISCH LYCEUM ROTTERDAM Heer Bokelweg 255 (Visiting Address) 3032 AD Rotterdam, The Netherlands PO Box 1680 (Mail address) 3000 BR ROTTERDAM, The Netherlands e. firstname.lastname@example.org w. www.glr.nl t. +31 (0)88 200 15 00 • HANZE UNIVERSITY OF APPLIED SCIENCES School of Communication, Media & IT Zernikeplein 11, Groningen The Netherlands Eelco Braad, MSc programme coordinator/senior lecturer game design & development email@example.com
• MEDIACOLLEGE AMSTERDAM Contactweg 36 1014AN Amsterdam, The Netherlands Ron Hartman t. +31 (0)20 850 95 00 m. firstname.lastname@example.org w. www.ma-web.nl • AMSTERDAM UNIVERSITY OF APPLIED SCIENCES Building Kroonjuweel • Room E2.18 Duivendrechtsekade 36-38 1096 AH Amsterdam, The Netherlands Game Development Dop Terlingen MA Manager Ext. Relations Game Development M. d.terlingen@HVA.nl W. www.hva.nl T. +31 (0)20 595 4622 Contact Internships: Drs. Mieke Bierbooms • SAXION UNIVERSITY OF APPLIED SCIENCES Patrick Huitema t: +31 (0)6 105 368 06 e: email@example.com w: www.saxion.edu
game industry jobs & internships jobs.controlmagazine.net internships.controlmagazine.net The most popular game industry jobs and internships websites for North West Europe. Job ads starting at €25 for two months.
developer diaries POST MORTEMS
WINDOWS PHONE 8 DEVELOPMENT
Stories on development and porting of games for Windows Phone 8.
NIELS MONSHOUWER WEIRDBEARD CEO
RICK VAN BEEM LUNA GAMES MARKETING MANAGER
Weirbeard talks performance
99 Bricks fall into place
eirdbeard co-founder and CEO Niels Monshouwer sees a great opportunity on Windows Phone 8 for their mobile hit 99 Bricks Wizard Academy. “99 Bricks has been a constant in our six and a half year existence and we still love the simple concept of stacking bricks while defying gravity. The game can be most easily described as a mix between Tetris and Jenga. Though that basic premise has remained the same in all different iterations of the game, each edition offers a new experience. 99 Bricks Wizard Academy (released last June on iOS and Android) is developed in Unity, which makes it easy to release multi-platform. We are proud of what we created and want to get as many people as possible to play our game. Therefore, bringing it to Windows Phone is the next logical step for us. Although the Windows Phone platform isn’t nearly as big as iOS or Android in number of devices, the Store isn’t nearly as crowded and focuses more on quality content, which creates a great opportunity for us to be noticed.
THE INITIAL SETUP WAS EASY, we needed a week to get
it running in the emulator. Some things you have to keep in mind 30
CASE: 99 BRICKS: WIZARD ACADEMY
when developing for Windows Phone: it uses subset of .net. This means that not all classes that are available in Unity work on WP. Things like encryption, file IO and some collections like ArrayList and HashTables will not work. We found easy solutions online for Hashtable wrappers and encryption. Also the C# implementation is more strict than on IOS and Android, for instance on the use of private and protected functions. After the setup we received a mid-end device from Microsoft. Getting it to run on the device and implement WP specific stuff like Live Tiles and Share Charm was easy. It’s a pity Microsoft doesn’t offer a standard solution for leaderboards or cloud saving, that could be a win for the future. All and all this took about four days.
NEXT CAME THE MAJOR ISSUE OF PERFORMANCE, the FPS was
much lower than on Android devices with the same specs (about half the framerate). One of the big problems is in the physics heavy nature of our game. It seems Windows Phone has a much harder time handling the physics than other platforms. Also the higher resolution of the device requires more performance. The phone had to work so hard that we had to cool it with an iced water bottle or the colors would become all screwed because of overheating. Luckily for us the profiling of Unity works very well and we were able to push out more performance (which is also useful for other platforms) and boost the FPS to between 22 and 28. We aren’t done yet but expect to get it above 30 FPS within the next week and release the game mid August.”
Lunagames scores big
2 million downloads on Windows Phone
ick van Beem, Marketing Manager at Lunagames explains why porting the existing portfolio to Windows Phone was a smart move: “As a developer/publisher of apps and videogames Lunagames is always interested in exploring new and upcoming markets. On mobile we believe that scalability and a multiplatform approach are key to success. We are already active on iOS and several Android-based platforms and after some initial successful tests we have added Windows Phone into the fold.
CURRENTLY Windows Phone has a global market share of approximately 3.9 percent (source IDC). Absolute figures however show a large market that is hungry for apps and games. More importantly, today it is the fastest growing smart phone platform out there, with a predicted market share of 7 percent by 2018. Add the fact that the Windows Phone Store isn’t a competitive warzone like the Google Play and Apple App Stores. Discoverability is less of a problem and healthy download numbers are much easier to achieve. LUNAGAMES STARTED publishing on Windows Phone in May of this year and we have achieved over 2 million downloads in just 3 months. Lunagames Studios uses Unity 3D which
CASE: SOCCER TEAM BUS BATTLE 2014
support our target platforms, including Windows Phone. This combined with in-house developed technology has been the main reason why we were able to scale so quickly.
TESTCASE: SOCCER TEAM BUS BATTLE 2014
Our company mission is to give mobile users a “daily feel good moment”. To achieve this we are making apps and games that follow trends and are easy to play and use. We wanted to piggyback on this year’s World Cup and build a recognisable viral game. We decided to go for a racing game where national team busses battle it out on the sunny streets of Rio de Janeiro. From concept to launch it only took us one month to get the game into the Windows Phone Store. This launch marked our first major multiplatform release where we were able to launch on five platforms near simultaneously (iOS, Android, Amazon and Nokia X) and we were right in time for the World Cup hype to heat up. Soccer Team Bus Battle has since achieved over 325.000 downloads on the Windows Phone alone. Even after the end of the World Cup, we still had healthy daily download figures on this title.
SO HOW DID WE DO IT? In terms of marketing we focussed on PR and creating attention grabbing in-store assets and text. We focussed on mobile gaming blogs and our own social media channels to kickstart awareness for the title. We have put a lot of effort in icon and visual design to stand out in the store and we localised some of the the store text to cater to 31
important football nations. Relative low competition on Windows Phone helps the chance of succeeding and personal support from Windows’ evangelist team has proved particularly helpful. The succes of Soccer Team Bus Battle on Windows Phone has now spawned our first PC release on Windows 8 and we are currently testing that platform.”
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G D C N E X T. C O M
Published on Aug 8, 2014
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