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ARK: Survival Evolved
One of the best, most successful open world, multi-platform survival games out there, also coming soon to Nintendo Switch. Beginning with the PS4 version and without the luxury of Early Access or Game Preview we managed to enhance, optimise and have our version fully Our involvement: • Autonomously envisioned, designed and implemented a brand new UI for all versions, including PC. • Developed the 2nd cross-platform DLC called “Aberration” after “Scorched Earth”. • Continue to maintain ALL console versions, keeping them up to date with Studio Wildcard’s PC version. • We continue to merge our ad-hoc console improvements back into Wildcard’s PC version. Studio Wildcard is one of our biggest clients and along with other clients they completely trust the expertise, skill and work ethos of the Abstraction Team. They entrust their IP to us on a variety of platforms so they can focus on creating new content and generating great ideas. After delivering a robust and spectacular looking Pre-Alpha in time for GDC 2018, our Nintendo Switch version of ARK SE is nearing public shipment.
We are honoured to be working with such a visionary company. After the successful delivery to Spike Chunsoft of Danganronpa 1 & 2 on PC/Steam, SNK became our second Japanese client. This means a lot to us as Japanese companies tend to partner with organisations within their own country. First we delivered the successful King of Fighters XIV for PC and now, based on SNK’s original PS4 version, we’re both PC/Steam and Nintendo Switch. Characteristics of the work detail needs to run smoothly on the Nintendo Switch’s restricted graphical
horse power compared with other console hardware. • Retaining the precise control and expert timing expected of any respected beat ‘em up is paramount. • The ‘feel’ and game play MUST remain • The game must behave as expected across the Switch’s peripherals and plentiful play modes. • All characters have expressive movement, animation and visual materials on clothing and skin. We devised a system that transformed the between shader models and retain 100% accuracy with the original design. • After The King of Fighters XIV, Heroines
We are already at the frontier of gaming technology Warren Spector,and committed to continued Brian Fargo, innovation and adapting Anderson and this Rayna into our work.
other legends review
We have a dedicated team working influential games on innovative in-house technology based on the latest state of the art How to get a job in graphics rendering and advanced the industry audioin generation. AfterPlus! spending years on creating Seamany of Thieves, and perfecting our in-house loot boxes, God of War, cross-platform technology called esports, Fortnite and “Silverware”, we’ve moved our focusloads to the more… latest in hardware Ray Tracing technology, powered by NVIDIA and Microsoft to prepare for a near future where this technology is going to be mainstream.
We don’t believe in hierarchy, our organisation is driven by the talent, insights and passion of the collective. Our Netherlands HQ is home to 38+ Abstraction people but we also work with contributors and collaborators from all over the world. We encourage an open and collaborative atmosphere. We surround ourselves with incredibly talented people who naturally promote a culture of discovery and innovation. Individuals are free to express themselves in a relaxed, open and happy environment. We invite people to work alongside us based on our recognition of their passion and capability to create and contribute proactively toward a common goal. For this reason our robust processes and company structure are adhered to without the need to make them apparent. Everyone is free to put an idea forward and everyone else is free to help realise or challenge those ideas.
The Secret Guide to E3
“We love our work, we love where we work and we love working with the people who help us to achieve our respected high standards.”
Practice makes perfect – and we’re proud to be celebrating 20 years of providing QA and localisation support to our friends in the Games and Entertainment industry. That’s two decades of eliminating bugs and perfecting chart-topping games for territories around the world. Experience matters when it comes to Quality. …And Quality matters to us. It has for over 20 years.
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It’s show time! There’s no event quite like E3. Sure, it’s not as relaxed or informative as GDC. Nor is it as smoothly run and inclusive as Gamescom. But for pure spectacle and excitement, it’s unmatched. This is the week we show each other and the world just how exciting video games can be. Even during the quiet years, as we await the reveal of new hardware, there’s nothing quite like the buzz created by an E3 conference. GamesIndustry.biz is showing off a bit at E3, too. You’ve got in your hands our second GamesIndustry.biz Magazine, created specifically for this week. We published our first one last year during the London Games Festival. We were really proud of it. We were also really proud of the Investment Summit we ran, our new awards event - The Best Places To Work Awards - and our multiple Career Fairs. We did a lot of cool things last year, but most of it was confined to the UK. Indeed, although we have a full North American team and a large audience over here, we don’t do a great deal outside of our website, newsletters and podcasts. That is about to change. We were always planning to do more in North America (indeed, our first standalone event - Best Places To Work Awards Canada - is scheduled for November), but earlier this year we were acquired by ReedPOP - the company that operates the PAX events alongside a number of Comic Cons. Therefore, those in the US can expect to see a lot, lot more of GamesIndustry.biz in the months ahead. So this magazine, in some ways, is a taste of things to come. We’ve got our clever guide to E3, exclusive data on games industry careers, interviews with Epic Games, Rare, Hazelight and many more, plus articles penned by industry legends - such as Brian Fargo and Warren Spector - discussing the titles that most influenced them. So whether you’re reading this on the flight home, in the queue for Smash Bros or after a long day dashing around the halls of the LACC, I hope you enjoy it. And we’ll see you again very soon.
Christopher Dring, Publisher GamesIndustry.biz
The Secret Guide To E3
Watching Over The Overwatch Pros
Uncharted Territory For Rare
How To Get A Job In Games
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P49 Why I Love: Game developers discuss the titles that changed their worlds
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E3 is not all blockbuster action shooters and celebrity haunts. If you take a closer look, you might unearth some future best-sellers and cool places to hang out. Hereâ€™s our guide to the not-so-obvious things to do and play while in LA
THE HIDDEN GEMS E3 is all about the big names. The likes of Call of Duty, Battlefield, Spider-Man, Tomb Raider and Smash Bros will be commanding the column inches during and after the show. But every year there’s a game or two that slips under the radar, only to surface to wide acclaim and commercial success a few months later. And there are often a few more sizeable games, too, that show up but just can’t quite rise above the noise. So we’ve picked out a handful of this year’s smaller titles that you should check out.
Ghost Town Games/Team17
What is it? The original BAFTA-award winning Overcooked was made by three people in the spare room of their house, and won plaudits for its local multiplayer mania. Now it’s back, supported by Team17’s internal dev team (the original creators remain on board as creative directors and writer), and even enjoyed a slot during Nintendo’s E3 presentation. Where?
What is it? The first-person stealth horror game is heading to PSVR, with players having to prevent a research vessel (the Persistence) heading to disaster. Think Dead Space in VR. It’s due out in July and is one of the more promising new IP coming to Sony’s headset. Where?
PlayStation booth (VR segment)
Mobile, PC, PS4
What is it? This physics-based puzzler is by Ben Esposito, who is famous for the award winning The Unfinished Swan. It’s a game where you control a bottomless pit that you move around to collect things. The more you collect, the wider the hole becomes and the bigger the objects you can capture. It’s a bit like Katamari Damacy. Speaking of which, while you’re checking out Donut County, make sure to play Wattam, the ‘friendship’ game by Katamari Damacy creator Keita Takahashi. You’ll find it on the same booth. Where?
West Hall Meeting Room 4044
5. 4. Format PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC Daedalic Entertainment
What is it? State of Mind is a stylistic dystopian thriller which is described as ‘Blade Runner meets the Matrix’. The game boasts a low poly art style combined with more edgy character models, which gives it a unique flavour, and several media have billed this as one to watch. Concourse Hall, Booth #8505
PC, Xbox One, PS4
What is it? This Left4Dead-style co-op survival shooter has already debuted in Steam Early Access to positive buzz. It’s about four players fighting an alien menace, using weapons, barricades and both modern and futuristic tech. The developer says the game has been completely revamped ahead of its imminent full launch, so make sure you see what they’ve done with it. Where?
PC, Xbox One
What is it? This challenging action RPG was first unveiled in 2014 as an ID@Xbox game, but has since evolved into a AAA-style RPG project. The game tells the simple story of ‘a wanderer in search of a place to call home’, and is set in an open world without sunlight. It features some unique, passive multiplayer elements, too. Where?
West Hall Meeting Room 4044
Secret Guide To E3
Los Angeles, Convention Center, CA 90015, USA
E3: SURVIVAL TIPS
The most experience E3 veterans share their advice on how to get the most out of the LA showcase
Heather Steele, Head of Communications, Ubisoft Toronto “Stock up on water, gum, mints and protein bars at the corner store at Pico and Flower before heading into the Convention Center. It saves loads of time in lines and money. Speaking of protein bars, always have one on you as it can be impossible to find time for lunch. Rent a car/limo and driver if you are with a large group to take you to and from the show. It’s much cheaper than getting a bunch of cabs and you can score a deal if you lock one down for the week. “Thursday after the show, head to the Hotel Figueroa for poolside drinks – always a favourite moment, and the best way to wrap up another successful E3 show.”
Harvey Eagle, UK Category Director, Xbox “Given that my E3 is spent in all day meetings, my hidden gems are linked to fave places to escape the E3 madness. If you find yourself in West Hollywood in need of some outside air and a view over the city, there’s a lovely 20 minute walk up Runyon Canyon. Start at the top of Fuller Avenue (north of the junction of Hollywood) and you will see the entrance. “For delicious ‘shaved’ ice-cream, try Blockheads in West LA. And for a decent British-style curry, try Flavor of India on Santa Monica Boulevard. If you fancy trying a quirky but small cocktail bar, The Roger Room in La Cienega is it. Alternatively for a posh cocktail overlooking a secluded part of Santa Monica beach, Shutters on The Beach is laidback luxury at its finest.”
Cat Channon, Director of International Integrated Communications, Warner Bros “Check out the Turtle Racing on Thursday nights at the Irish Bar in Marina del Rey [Brennan’s]. They race actual turtles. Get an Air BNB apartment rather than a hotel, you’ll eat much better for it and save a shedload of cash in the process.”
Alan Lewis, Vice President Corporate Communications & Public Affairs, Take-Two “Breakfast is not just the most important meal of the day – at E3, it might be your only meal of the day. Take the time to fuel up in the morning with something healthy. There is a Ralph’s supermarket on W 9th Street (similar to Whole Foods) that has great options. Also, you will do much better trying to catch a cab or Uber on Lebanon Street or Flower Street than S. Figueroa or W Pico Boulevard with the masses.”
Robert Brown, CEO, Stride PR “If you want to play games and avoid the lines, check out the IndieCade booth. They always spotlight a bunch of indie games that go on to massive critical acclaim and commercial success, before anyone hears about them.”
Secret Guide To E3
Los Angeles, Convention Center, CA 90015, USA
E3: SURVIVAL TIPS
These E3 veterans share their secret tips on how to get through the busiest week of the year
Caroline Miller, Managing Director, Indigo Pearl
“A lot of meetings have moved to the Marriott in recent years, so if you don’t have to be on the show floor this is a nice alternative. And if you have time for a fancy lunch I’d recommend the Palm on Flower – it’s only two blocks away with a great menu and lovely chilled white Californian wine. “Remember it’s not as hot as you think it is, so have a cardigan or light jacket, especially in the evening or at the beach. But do wear sunscreen. And it pains me to say this, but it looks like the Saddle Ranch will be as popular as ever this year for UK people, so my tip is not to act cool and say you’re not going because you totally are, so just embrace it and get up on that mechanical bull and smile – you’re in La La Land after all.”
Susan Cummings, Producer, Tiny Rebel Games “A great secret that surprisingly few take advantage of is that there’s an immaculately clean, never used, simple subway system that takes you from E3 directly to the W Hotel in like 10 mins. It puts you right in the middle of Hollywood, with more interesting hotel options than downtown. And close to some great Hollywood pubs and restaurants too – head over to Stout on N. Cahuenega (walking distance) and you’ll be surrounded by great places to hang out. Or walk over to the Roosevelt for great bars (Library Bar or poolside for a more casual environment).”
Michael French, Head of Games, Games London “Don’t go to the show itself – hang out in the Marriott bar and if you can, make meetings come to you. Never even consider the Starbucks near there though because you’ll never get to the front of the queue. Skip the parties, and meet people in the venues next door to them. If a party charges for entry, it’s not a party. “Do your gift shopping on the day you get there, if you’re that way inclined. And if you stay in the Hollywood vicinity, and are into calorific delicious cliche breakfasts, there’s actually a pretty quiet Mel’s Diner there, on Hollywood & Highland.”
Veronique Lallier, Global VP of Marketing, Hi-Rez Studios “My three favourite places to eat are: “Mel’s West Hollywood is great for a celebrity spot and 24/7 meal. It’s a fabulous after party place, actually. “Sushi Roku on 3rd Street is my favorite sushi place ever. Amazing sushi with a bit of a California twist, but you can still get the classics as well. “And then for lunch and dinner in Downtown, head to Au Lac. Amazing fresh Vietnamese cuisine, I recommend with one of their fresh juice cocktails (Hawaiian blend is my favourite) or some organic wine. I love it in the warm weather.”
Page Title DID YOU KNOW
It takes 3,000 people to make E3 happen, including almost 50 on-site network engineers. The amount of bandwidth that the show uses over the three days is more than most US cities require in a year. If you printed all the data moved over the internet during the show onto 8.5 X 11 paper and stacked it, it would be taller than the Empire State Building. The show uses 10 miles of extensions cords and around five miles of duct tape to secure said cords to the floor. Each year there are around 35,000 video monitors and 6,000 pieces of furniture. And two tons of ethernet cables.
DID YOU KNOW
Guitar Hero made its debut at E3 2005 away from the main show in “the basement”, according to creator Charles Huang. Just a handful of journalists and retailers came to play it, but two stores (Electronics Boutique and Best Buy) did agree to stock a couple of units. Two years later the brand was worth over $1 billion.
DID YOU KNOW
DID YOU KNOW
The shortest speech in E3 history took place at the very first show in 1995. Sony’s Steve Race took to the stage to announce the price of the first PlayStation. “299”, he said, before walking off stage. It undercut Sega Saturn by $100. Today we’d call that a mic drop.
DID YOU KNOW
The most viewed E3 game on YouTube is Spider-Man, which attracted 85 million eyeballs in 2017 (including 29 million for one gameplay video posted on Marvel’s channel). Assassin’s Creed Origins has had the most E3 videos, with 500 posted during last year’s show. Assassin’s Creed Origins also wins the award for the highest number of Facebook posts, with over 1,500 separate posts during E3 2017. The reveal of Death Stranding at E3 2016 generated 42,000 tweets – the most ever for a new IP. Since 2015, Nintendo is the most successful E3 publisher with over 250,000 Twitter shares. Kingdom Hearts III generated the most Facebook shares at E3 2015. We’re sure it’ll come out soon.
HOW E3 WAS BORN 1995 was the first E3 and one of the most dramatic in the event’s long history. It was Sega Saturn vs PlayStation. Sega tried to steal a lead on Sony by releasing its Saturn machine that week – a surprise announcement designed to spoil PlayStation’s planned September launch. Yet Sony had a surprise of its own. It would undercut the Saturn by $100, and with barely any Saturn units ready to ship to retail, it would prove to be Sega’s undoing and Sony’s rise to gaming power in the West.
Back in 1990, Sega appointed Tom Kalinske (right) as the head of the firm’s American division. Sega was a small company at the time, but over the next three years – driven by Sonic and some aggressive marketing – the business was worth $1.5 billion. Kalinske had fast become one of the US’s most influential video games executives. He was instrumental in the creation of the US games trade body (the Interactive Digital Software Association), he helped introduce the first age ratings system, and he was there at the birth of the Electronics Entertainment Expo. “Back in the early 1990s we went to CES in Las Vegas to show our stuff,” Kalinske explains. “Video games were there with all the other tech, speakers, computers, TVs, and all that.” He continues: “But CES used to stick us in the back. In 1991 they put us in a tent, and you had to walk past all the porn vendors to find us, and Nintendo, and everyone else. “I remember that it was pouring with rain that year, and water leaked over our Genesis systems. I was furious. I, and a few others, felt we were a more important industry than they were giving us credit for. So I decided to get the hell out of CES.” The next year, Sega launched its own independent showcase. The platform holder invited third party publishers to the Silverado Country Club to present games to retailers. It proved successful so Sega went bigger the following year, and invited even more companies. The platform holder even invited their arch nemesis Nintendo along: “But we were so competitive back then that they didn’t show,” laughs Kalinske. As this was going on, a far bigger battle was being fought with the US Government. The industry had become embroiled in a loud debate over violent video games. Driven by the controversial Mortal Kombat, the US Senate called for an age ratings system to be introduced on games. Now Sega, as it happened, already had its own age rating system. “It was very much like the ESRB one we have today,” he says. “And I said that we need an industry-wide system and an industry association to police it.
It was like that 2013 Xbox One vs PS4 E3 showdown, only more brutal.
“A group of us back then were part of the software publishers association, which wasn’t doing an adequate job. They were more concerned about PC software than games. After a lot of back and forth, we agreed to start the IDSA. The next step was to adapt an industry rating system. And then to create an industry show – because we were important enough to have one for ourselves.”
Yet the journey that led to the birth of E3 was a long one, and it was Sega that helped instigate its formation.
Sega and Nintendo then lent the IDSA [today known as the ESA] $600,000 between them. “We financed the association, the ratings system and we financed the first E3.”
THE ULTIMATE GAMES MEDIA TEAM-UP To find out what ReedPOP X Gamer Network means for you, contact Rupert Loman: email@example.com
Hooked on loot boxes The industry’s push for engagement at all costs is ready to backfire as it misunderstands the concern over a controversial mechanic
So it makes some sense that when faced with critics railing about the corrupting influence North American Editor of games on children, Vance and the ESRB would move to address the fears of parents. But as they discovered, parents don’t really care In February, ESRB president Patricia Vance about loot boxes; they barely know they even announced a new “in-game purchases” label to exist. So rather than do something that could be placed on physical copies of games that allow possibly curtail the revenues of ESA members, users to spend money from within the game. the ESRB figured the next step was to placate Although the label will be placed on games some related concern. featuring everything from subscription models The problem here is that in the past when the ESRB has found itself in the political to downloadable songs, it was essentially a move discussion, it has mostly been for video game in response to recent uproar - and threats of legislation - over loot boxes. violence. And in those cases, the root of the “I’m sure you’re all asking why we aren’t complaints were coming from parents. It was doing something more specific to loot boxes,” easy for them to see the gameplay, plot synopsis, Vance told a conference call of journalists. tone and marketing of a Grand Theft Auto “And I’ll tell you we’ve done a lot of research game and think it didn’t belong in a hobby over the past several months, particularly among they believed was “just for kids.” But this time around, the people pushing parents. What we learned is that a large majority for a crackdown on loot boxes aren’t just poorly of parents don’t know what a loot box is, and even those who informed outsiders. Many of the calls for claim they do don’t “The people pushing for a the industry to check really understand what a loot box is. itself are coming crackdown on loot boxes from inside the house. So it’s very important aren’t just poorly informed It was angry players for us to not harp on outsiders. Many of the calls for about loot boxes, who made Star Wars: the industry to check itself are but to make sure Battlefront II loot boxes we’re capturing a national news story coming from inside the house” loot boxes but also and prompted EA to other in-game rethink its plans. It was transactions.” a lifelong gamer in Hawaii State Representative Chris Lee who introduced legislation to curb THE PARENT TRAP “predatory mechanisms” in games. And it’s a significant group of influencers, gaming This seems like history repeating. After all, journalists, and developers who have been it was originally the threat of legislation that vocally calling for loot boxes to be reined in or caused the Entertainment Software Association abandoned entirely, because we know exactly (then the Interactive Digital Software what they are, and we know where this is going. Association) trade group to create the ESRB in the first place. And the board’s minimal ENGAGE, ENGAGE, ENGAGE concession to a problem here is similarly in keeping with its history. From the beginning, Loot boxes are a side effect of a larger trend in its purpose has been to regulate the industry gaming, the push for engagement. In the gamesjust enough to take the teeth out of any calls as-a-service era, companies only make money off for the government to step in, and no further. players by keeping them around. As an infinitely
repeatable activity with randomized results, loot boxes are simply an effective way to continuously monetize people who stick around. If one were to sell cosmetic items or characters directly, even the most engaged players would probably just buy what interests them and call it a day. But with loot boxes, publishers are pushing the upper boundary of what players can spend in their game. As a result, publishers are aggressively pushing engagement metrics, both internally and externally. Speaking at the NASDAQ 37th Investor Program in December, Electronic Arts CFO Blake Jorgensen proudly discussed the value the company’s sports games and their Ultimate Team modes bring to users. “If you go to a movie today, it can cost you $20 to get in, which is fun. It’s great, I love it,” Jorgensen deadpanned. “But at the same time, a $60 video game that people are playing for three, four, five thousand hours… that’s a lot of value for your money.
And even if you spend some money on top of that, you’re typically spending it on increasing the fun and excitement of the game. So we’re just trying to give the consumers what they really want, and more of it, versus trying to build another game or do something different.” 5,000 hours is a lot of time, especially in the span of a year, which (leap years aside) only consists of 8,760 hours. 5,000 hours is enough time to work two full-time jobs for an entire year, with eight hours of overtime per job, per week. If you’re playing a game for 5,000 hours a year and getting a full night’s sleep, that leaves you less than two-and-a-half hours per day for eating, bathing, school, work, family time, or any other non-game-related activity one would expect of a well-rounded human being. No weekends, no days off. When I asked EA about that figure, I was told not to read too much into Jorgensen’s statement. But even so, the point remains that he spoke about this hypothetical 5,000-hour player as an example of tremendous success.
FIFA Ultimate Team is worth close to a $1bn in revenue for Electronic Arts
14 Hooked On Loot Boxes
Hooked On Loot Boxes
Middle-Earth: Shadow of War has abandoned loot boxes following fan disapproval
TRUST ISSUES This is where the outrage over loot boxes is coming from. This time it’s not rooted in ignorance and a fear of the unknown. It’s rooted in the knowledge that the publishers of the world don’t want to make games for players to consume so much as they want to make games that consume their players. It’s in the knowledge that EA has researched matchmaking techniques not for fair games, but to feed people the sequence of wins and losses most likely to keep them from putting the controller down and walking away. It’s in the knowledge that Activision has patented a way to skew matchmaking in its games to benefit those who made in-game purchases and encourage more such spending. It’s in the knowledge that even when a government imposes the mildest of restrictions – like when China required you tell players what the distribution of various items is in the loot boxes they’re buying – publishers like Activision Blizzard willfully circumvent the law in bad faith, charging players for in-game currency and throwing in loot boxes as a supposed freebie. The ESRB originally responded to concerns about loot boxes by comparing them to collectible card games. And to a certain extent, it’s a fair comparison. The difference is that when I go to buy a pack of Magic: The Gathering cards, Wizards of the Coast doesn’t necessarily
“The publishers of the world don’t want to make games for players to consume so much as they want to make games that consume their players” know it’s me buying them. Wizards of the Coast can’t tie the purchase to my Xbox Live Gamertag or PlayStation Network account. It can’t look back on years of my spending behavior on collectible card games. It can’t make an educated guess as to which kind of cards I like to use, and how frequently I need to see those cards
show up in packs to keep me buying more. It can’t intentionally withhold those cards from me if it suspects I’m determined to go for them at any cost. When I buy a pack of Magic cards, I can be assured that the contents of that pack are the same for me as they would be for anyone else. That is absolutely not the case with loot boxes. The industry’s publishers are tracking every aspect of player behavior, no matter how obscure, and examining it for hidden patterns and links. They are relentlessly pushing engagement, with no thought given to the consequences that can have on their players. They have embraced virtual currency mechanics that obfuscate the value proposition of their offerings, and shown a contempt for transparency and disclosure with their customers. I do not for one second trust these companies to apply what they learn from the careful and constant monitoring of their player bases with any ethical grounding. CREATE RESPONSIBLY It doesn’t matter if loot boxes are technically gambling. When your game employs the same principles of gambling to engage people in the hopes they funnel unlimited amounts of money your way, I’m not going to be won over when you tell me, “But it’s all ok because there’s no way they’ll ever get a penny of their money back.” It doesn’t matter if gaming addiction is a diagnosable disorder. We have more than enough stories of players dying during marathon sessions. Designing games specifically as bottomless pits for people like this to fall into is a dubious way to turn a profit. I don’t want to see laws passed governing the implementation of loot boxes in games, but if the companies and trade groups that run the industry can’t take these concerns seriously, I’m not sure I see this ending any other way. And if those laws are too restrictive, unforgiving, and detrimental to people trying to innovate in good faith, we shouldn’t be too surprised. Between Activision Blizzard’s flaunting of the mildest of legal requirements and the ESRB dragging its heels on doing anything substantive, there’s no reason to think this industry is capable of tackling concerns about loot boxes on its own.
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A Way forward The creator of A Way Out, Josef Fares, discusses taking risks, earning publisher trust and why EA isn’t the villain
James Batchelor UK Editor
While surreal adventure Fe was the first release from EA Originals – the publisher’s initiative to fund and launch indie games – A Way Out was arguably more significant. Released in March, it was the debut title of Hazelight, the Swedish studio formed by director Josef Fares and featuring many of the team he worked with on the acclaimed Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. It tells the story of two reluctant companions as they plan a jailbreak and try to avoid the authorities as they can return to their families. Some of the many unusual aspects of this release are the fact that it’s only playable as a co-op game, and for every copy sold, gamers are able to gift a free one to a friend. The innovation continues right down to the game’s design, with the action frequently changing from vertical to horizontal split-screen, same screen co-op sections, and even one chapter that gives players a full screen perspective as the action (and control) jumps from one character to another. Speaking to GamesIndustry.biz, the director told us his dream is that A Way Out will encourage more innovation from the increasingly stagnant franchises that currently lead the market. “I hope this inspires more AAA titles to improve their writing and the gameplay,” he says. “I hope we show that yes, you can take risks and you can do well. I mean we’ll probably do less well because we give one copy away for free [per player], but that doesn’t really matter.
At the end of the day, it is a good way of testing stuff.” He continues: “I love taking risks. Like the fact this is co-op only – from the beginning, people were like, ‘Isn’t that risky? Won’t you sell less?’ I don’t care. That’s the vision, so I will follow it.” GAMBLE RESPONSIBLY It’s not just the publishers’ responsibility to take a punt on unusual ideas. Fares stresses that studios need to prove they can be trusted to step outside the comfort zones and that there is a clear motivation behind the risks they take. “There are two sides to the coin here,” he says, returning to the topic of risk. “If you just let developers do whatever the hell they want, it will cost a lot of money. Something that’s been missing, but is becoming more and more common, is to have a very clear vision from the beginning. Games are expensive, so you can’t have an attitude of ‘yeah, let’s fuck shit up’. I take my job very seriously. If you’re giving someone $100 million, you want to know that what you get back is actually good. There has to be an understanding and a trust from both sides. “I would use Sony and Naughty Dog as a good example of that relationship. Big publisher, really big budget games, but Naughty Dog still takes risks – The Last of Us was a risk because it was a new IP, but there was a respect and understanding from Sony. It believed the team could pull it off. That’s a relationship I would love to have, and I think that’s a relationship that would be healthy for everyone. “I’m not blaming anyone, I just think we all have responsibilities in this. Publishers, developers, journalists, players, everybody
18 A Way Forward – we all need to work together to push towards a better gaming community. Isn’t that what we all want: better games?” His admiration for Naughty Dog evidently shows in some of the gameplay design in A Way Out, something media and playtesters have picked up on. With the might of Electronic Arts behind Hazelight, Fares is conscious that it may have escalated expectations somewhat – yet this hasn’t discouraged him from trying to meet them. “The good and the bad thing about this is people have been comparing this to AAA,” he says. “I’ve even heard people saying it’s like an Uncharted for two players. But you have to understand that their budget… I sometimes joke that we have [the equivalent of ] the coffee budget for an Uncharted game. Of course they’re going to have better animations and so on. But that doesn’t stop us. We’re a small team with high ambition. That’s how I work. Whoever I work with in the future, however big the game I make is, that’s how I work, because I need to feel the passion about what I do. “EA has only been supportive. And no, I’m not getting paid to say this – that is my honest opinion. I’m not scripted, I say what I want to say. I could show you the contract. There are no tricks, nothing weird about it. I know that’s hard for people to understand, but that’s the way it is.” IN DEFENCE OF EA His defence for his publisher is an ongoing narrative for Fares. When interviewed at The Game Awards before Christmas - in the wake of the Star Wars Battlefront II loot box controversy – the director observed that “all publishers fuck up sometimes”. Several months later, he believes the vitriol towards Electronic Arts was somewhat disproportionate. “EA obviously have this reputation of being hated, but I haven’t had any problem with them at all,” Fares tells us. “They sure have fucked up at some point – like with the latest loot box thing – but so do all other publishers. “What people have to understand “We have [the equivalent of] is when you’re running the coffee budget for an a large publisher with Uncharted game. But that shareholders and all doesn’t stop us.” that, there are a lot Josef Fares, Hazelight of responsibilities. I’d never want a responsibility like that. But they have to find ways to make money, so of course bad decisions will be made but that goes for everybody in a similar situation.”
He adds that pleasing shareholders is not the only thing that puts him off the idea of going AAA: “I can be super creative and very risky with a game like A Way Out because it’s very cheap, it’s an indie production. If I were AAA, I would still make something risky but I would have to understand there’s an economical aspect to it – games are very expensive today. You couldn’t just take $100 million and go ‘right, I’m going to do this my way, fuck everyone else’ – it just doesn’t work that way.” Interestingly, it very nearly wasn’t Electronic Arts that got to publish A Way Out. Fares tells us the game was almost an Xbox exclusive. “I was actually quite close to signing with Microsoft, I was super close,” he says. “After Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, I got more opportunities but Patrick [Soderlund, EVP for EA’s Worldwide Studios business] came, and his team were based in Sweden – so that worked better for me, and that’s how it all got started.” He was also won over by the promise that, as with any EA Original, the publisher will have no creative control, no input and after it has recouped its costs – won’t even earn a single dollar out of each release. In light of this, did Fares still feel a need to show the firm what he was working on?
A Way Out is one of two new IPs published by EA Originals this year
A Way Forward “Yeah, of course,” he explains. “It’s a normal discussion. When they have a question, I answer. If they have an idea I don’t like, I say no. Not a single detail in A Way Out has been decided if I don’t say yes to it.” EARN THE TRUST This is another crucial aspect to building a relationship that allows companies to take more risks in games: trust. And that trust is best forged by developers delivering what they promise. “That’s important,” Fares stresses. “That’s what we do: we’ve delivered every milestone, and publishers see that we’re not just bullshitting, our game is actually happening. I’m not going to talk about actual budget, but what we have done for that money “A guy like me is very scary is record-breaking. for shareholders, but if We’ve done everything you truly believe in this ourselves, no outsourcing creative industry like I do, or anything like that, risk is essential” and it still looks good. It’s not AAA, but it Josef Fares, Hazelight still looks good.” Hazelight had an advantage given the positive reception to Brothers. The team already had a strong reputation. But Fares is confident other developers can achieve that same level of
faith, as long as they deliver on their promises Hazelight founder and have a clear vision of what they’re Josef Fares trying to accomplish. “Have an understanding of what kind of risks you are able to take,” he advises. “It’s about communicating, talking, trying to understand what you want to make and also daring to take risks. This industry… is in need of different kinds of AAA titles and we need to push the creative boundaries forward. We can’t do that without any risk. “There should be more risk [in AAA], and it can be done. Naughty Dog is a good example. You don’t have to go all the way, A second player just a little bit at a time. A guy like me is very can join A Way scary for shareholders, but if you truly believe Out for free in this creative industry like I do, risk is essential.”
Watching over Overwatch pros Talent agent Ryan Morrison on the incredible growth of the esports scene, and how players have changed along with it
North American Editor
Ryan Morrison represents around 90 professional Overwatch players, a group that he estimates comprises about 60% of competitors in Blizzard’s Overwatch League, and around 70% of all Overwatch pros. Four years ago, Overwatch hadn’t even been announced, and Morrison was building a career not as an esports talent agent but as The Video Game Attorney. “When I got out of law school, I saw a big group of people and indie developers that weren’t getting helped, and were kinda getting bullied into a bunch of different terrible legal pitfalls,” Morrison tells GamesIndustry.biz. For example, he pointed to King, the mobile outfit behind Candy Crush Saga, protecting (perhaps over-aggressively) trademark claims over the words “Candy” and “Saga,” threatening legal action against developers who might not have had the wherewithal to fight back. Spotting a good cause and an equally good marketing opportunity, Morrison began frequenting Reddit as the user “VideoGameAttorney,” holding weekly Q&As with indies where he would help them for free. At the same time, he was building The Video Game Attorney brand on Twitter, where he amassed about 58,000 followers. “Two years into it, esports players started reaching out saying: ‘Hey I haven’t been paid in three months. Can you help?’ And I did, and it kind of spread like wildfire among that community,” Morrison says. LAWYER TO ESPORTS HERO It didn’t seem to matter to them that Morrison wasn’t a talent agent. He was a lawyer who understood the games industry, and that was enough for them. “Before you knew it, I had 200 esports players I was doing contracts for, 99% of which I was doing for free because they didn’t have
money. But now another two years later, they’re starting to make substantial money, and we opened a talent agency.” That outfit, Evolved Talent Agency, negotiates contracts, sponsorships leases, and whatever else for esports pros, taking 5% in exchange. (They also represent content creators on platforms like YouTube and Twitch.) When demand for their services increased
beyond their ability to handle things in-house, they hired or bought out smaller agencies to grow apace. Clearly there was demand for esports talent representation, so why did existing talent agents leave all that business for a tangentially related lawyer to scoop up? “The traditional sports agents, the real powerhouses out there, they didn’t want anything to do with it because there just wasn’t enough money in it,” Morrison says. “People that were up-andcoming in the sports agent world tried to reach out, but they didn’t understand the space.
Watching Over Overwatch Pros These players are super timid. They don’t check their email, they don’t answer their cell phone. You kind of have to know how to get to them. “The thing that helped the most with the Video Game Attorney was I got 60,000 followers out of it, and a lot of those followers were the players. So I could DM them in a way other sports agents couldn’t, and that gave me a huge head start.” ESPORTS MATURITY Morrison admits he wasn’t prepared for what he found when he started representing esports players. Not because the work was beyond his abilities, but at how sketchy everything was. “The biggest thing I had to do when I went to esports was take a breath, because there were no contracts,” Morrison recalls. “And the contracts [they did have] were so criminally written, it was terrible. So we were able to do a lot of change very easily and quickly in esports. Some of the huge problems players thought were never going to be fixed, we fixed with a phone call… To actually learn the law and make this the way it should be was a much longer and tougher conversation.” As one would expect with the influx of investment in esports from every corner of the gaming industry and beyond, things have become more professional (and more lucrative) in a hurry. “We have players making more than their salary in sponsorships, and the salaries are shooting up,” Morrison says. “A couple of years ago, an average salary was $50,000. Now it’s three times that, if not five times, and we’re seeing it go up and up. We have players making $1 million before their Twitch earnings, before their sponsors, before a lot of things, but we’re also seeing your more average player making $150,000 to $200,000.” But of course, with a larger overall pie, there’s going to be more friction between the league, the teams, and the players fighting over how it gets carved up, which is where people like Morrison come in. “Years ago, it was more akin to a high school band getting a record deal,” Morrison says of players’ attitudes to teams and leagues, “like they were playing this game their whole life and now they’d finally made it and had an opportunity to be a star. On the flip side, now it’s a lot more like a LeBron James leaving college and considering what offer he wants to take. There’s no draft, either, so they have a lot more leverage to figure out where they want to go.
And I think that’s what we’re going to see keep growing and growing.” MONEY TALKS As for what players mostly want Morrison to bring back for them in any negotiation, the answer is, unsurprisingly, money. “Salary is always going to be a player’s main focus,” Morrison explains, “but it’s our job to make them care about all the other clauses in that 40-page agreement, too, everything from housing to how much they can get fined, to sponsorship money, etc. It all matters, but the thing they certainly live and die by is the salary number.” Interestingly, stability is less of a concern, despite the short track record of many esports and relative uncertainty surrounding the business. Morrison said players are going for twoyear contracts on average, wanting to constantly test the market. Team owners, on the other hand, are all “Every player should over the place, he says. have a lawyer, an agent, Some prefer one-year and an accountant, deals, while others are and I think a lot of players looking to lock up talent don’t know that yet” for the next decade. Of course, given the Ryan Morrison, Evolved Talent Agency comments above about skyrocketing player salaries, that too makes sense from a certain perspective. Esports in general, and the Overwatch League specifically, are so new that there simply isn’t a playbook of success for everyone to pull from. This is evident in the composition of the Overwatch League teams themselves. The Florida Mayhem has just six players on the roster. The London Spitfire and the Philadelphia Fusion have 12, and there are teams at every roster size in between. This is likely to be a temporary issue, not just because whatever works will be widely emulated as in any other sport, but because esports are inherently set up in a way that lends themselves to standardization. “This isn’t football where the football is the Talent agent football,” Morrison says. “This is football where Ryan Morrison someone owns the football. The teams and
22 Watching Over Overwatch Pros Overwatch League have to do what Blizzard says and Blizzard gets to make the rules. League of Legends does what Riot says, and Riot makes the rules. Blizzard “The biggest thing I had to and Riot make rules. do when I went to esports “The other two popular games are was take a breath, because Counter-Strike: there were no contracts. Global Offensive And the contracts [they did and DOTA, and have] were so criminally they’re owned by written, it was terrible” Valve. And Valve notoriously doesn’t Ryan Morrison, Evolved Talent Agency do anything. They’re a completely run-it-yourself organization, and we see a lot less standards in those games as a result.” SETTING THE STANDARDS
Esports is attracting bigger sponsores, such as Gillette
While the lack of standards could be a hindrance to esports’ success in the short-term, Morrison sees them more as growing pains than anything that could seriously hamper the field’s ultimate potential. “It’s a hurdle just like traditional sports saw. We’re going to see players unions sooner than later. We’re going to see collective bargaining sooner than later, and I think a lot of those standards problems are going to fix themselves. There’s just too much money and too many viewers here to not do this the right way. I think the owners that were doing things the wrong way to make a quick buck are largely out of the league.
“And in a big way, we played a role in that. We helped get rid of the teams that were utter garbage or criminals, at least in North America. If you look at Asia or Europe, they’re five years behind where America is in contracts, and I think a big part of that is because they don’t have the right attorneys helping the teams there, and they don’t have really any attorneys helping the players.” The arrival of players’ unions to esports is particularly interesting because it’s not always the players pushing for their formation. “In League of Legends, the players don’t care,” Morrison says. “Riot is actually making them form a union because they need a union so Riot can do a draft and a salary cap. In Overwatch, it’s the complete opposite, those players are starting a union themselves and they’re passionate about it.” Each game is different and has its own distinct player culture, Morrison said, but none exist in a vacuum. League of Legends has been around for the better part of a decade now, long enough for a certain attitude and way of doing things to become entrenched. “They’ve been around for a decade doing things a certain way, and all the veterans on the team get their contract, don’t read it and sign, so the younger guys feel bad asking to have things negotiated,” Morrison explains. “But there are horror stories all the time out of that community. So now you see Overwatch esports starting way later with a brand new group who’ve heard all those stories. And there is no veteran in the room just signing it.” Morrison estimates that 90% of Overwatch pro players have an agent, compared to just 30% of League of Legends pros. He’d like to see both those numbers increase. “Every player should have a lawyer, an agent, and an accountant, and I think a lot of players don’t know that.” He also wants to make sure players are seeking out properly licensed agents, something he believes is considerably easier with assistance from the publishers and (eventually) unions. Riot and Blizzard have been on point with that effort, Morrison tells us,
The London Spitfires boasts 12 Overwatch players
but he’d like to see Valve step up its game in that department. Even though he represents a considerable chunk of the Overwatch pro player base, Morrison doesn’t see himself representing them in the form of a player’s union as it would be a conflict of interest. That said, he’s been speaking with people who are interested in setting up those unions. “I’d love to see it,” Morrison said of an Overwatch player’s union. “It’s absolutely something that’s overdue, and it would be great
to see the players taking their careers seriously and unifying in that capacity. A player’s union is always going to be worse for the top few names but great for everyone else, and I think the top few names in these games have seen a lot of benefits and they’re going to be OK with it. “I want what’s best for these guys. That’s been evident in everything we’ve done – we have the players’ interest first. Hopefully we’ve proven that and we will continue to show that with this union.”
Uncharted waters Rare discusses the birth of its ambitious new IP Sea of Thieves and managing its first service-based game
Haydn Taylor Staff Writer
Emblazoned on the wall of reception at Rare's UK studio is a Sea of Thieves mural with the words "Players creating stories together". These four words have become the mantra around which Rare's world revolves, and the entire philosophy behind its pirate adventure. Sea of Thieves is the dawn of a new era for Rare, not only as its first new property since 2010's Kinect Sports, but also as the studio's first foray into the games-as-a-service model. It’s had a challenging start, with the inevitable server issues causing some initial strife. But its opening sales are strong - it’s already the fastest selling Rare game ever (in the US) and it was the No.2 game of March (behind Far Cry 5, which has been the biggest game launch of the year). For Rare, this journey has marked a culture shift at the heart of the company. It's moved away from its clandestine past to actively include thousands of fans in the development process via its Insider Program. "Rare as a studio has notoriously been quite secretive," studio head Craig Duncan tells GamesIndustry.biz. "We'd pop a game out every few years like Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory. "We opened the doors now to what we were building and how we were building it. We were very open and transparent and very communicative on everything we were trying to do and why. I think genuinely gamers appreciate that and they want to be part of something." OPEN SEAS This approach is important to Rare not just because of the nature of the game – the success of which could depend on how well Rare has been able to facilitate and encourage the emergent story and gameplay moments on which it relies – but also because Sea of Thieves is a completely new IP. "One of the things we did very early on in this project was that we knew we'd need to build a new fanbase, a new community," says executive producer Joe Neate. "Yeah, we're Rare and some people are fans of Rare, but some people are just fans of Banjo, Conker, or Viva Pinata… you don't automatically bring those fans with you
when you create something new, and Rare has always done very different things throughout its history. Sea of Thieves is a new IP, a new type of game, you need to earn the right to have fans for that. "So as we came towards the launch of the game and awareness grew… we already had this very engaged group of people. They already understood the game, they understood the thinking behind it, they've watched all the videos and listened to all the podcasts; they help us educate everyone else who's coming in about what Sea of Thieves is, and they help people behave in that positive way. "That was a strategy for us, to bring a new IP to market, we wanted to have all of the cards in our favor and so the Insider Programme gave us that. It means you're coming into the launch of a new IP almost with the community of a sequel."
Sea of Thieves is all about fans creating stories
“Rare as a studio has notoriously been quite secretive. We’d pop a game out every few years like Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory” Craig Duncan, Rare
SEA OF VIEWERS This is where Sea of Thieves is uniquely placed to capitalise on the growing user-base of Twitch and YouTube. When the game first began production in 2014, the video streaming platforms didn't hold the same influence as today. From the outset though, Rare wanted to make a game that was fun to watch as it was to play. "By making a game that's fun and emergent, and by giving people control over their journeys and experiences, you also encouraging creativity and imagination among players. It makes a game that's watchable and it makes a game that's really fun," Neate says. "They dovetail so nicely together. "It's about what could we do to bring what's special about that type of stuff to a game that
Rare would make... it's that magic, creating something that has great stories in it will automatically make it watchable and have players asking themselves what they can do in that world." It's a strategy that’s how some promise. Ahead of launch and during the closed beta, Sea of Thieves found itself among the most viewed games on Twitch, surpassing with ease the top-spot titles like Dota 2, League of Legends, and PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds. That's an incredible amount of attention generated in a way that's markedly more impactful than any traditional advertising channels, but it's also only one piece of the puzzle. According to Duncan, along with the full implementation of cross-platform play between the Xbox and PC, the Xbox Game Pass has played a role in securing new gamers for Sea of Thieves. Describing it as "an incredible customer promise", he adopts the view that the more people with access to Sea of Thieves, the better, especially given its position as a new property. "More players playing Sea of Thieves is a good thing. I think particularly with a new IP as well... that's really hard. Just getting people to understand it, for it to resonate, for it to cut through against established franchises. New IPs are super hard, if it was easy then everyone would do it." PLOTTING THE COURSE The game has been available for a few months now, and it’s sold well initially. But its success will be defined by how it performs long-term. Some players are demanding more content, and there are multiple big updates planned for 2018. However, design lead Ted Timmins says that Rare has a road-map that stretches through into 2020. "It's about us putting content in that will create player stories… We know, broadly speaking, what kind of big features we want to hit,” he says. “But we also know it's hard to plan that far ahead, and we may find
Rare studio head Craig Duncan
26 Page Title
the community take to some things more than others, so we'll be relying on the data side of things quite heavily. "We already have new things here at E3, and we know what we want to show at Gamescom, and what we want to deliver for the holiday period. “If you’re buying something That's something in Sea of Thieves, you will we have to plan now.”
know what you’re going to be buying, so it’s not going to be loot boxes” Joe Neate, Rare
Rare’s executive producer Joe Neate
QUEST FOR BOOTY
When we think of games-as-a-service, we typically veer towards mobile titles like Clash of Clans, or free-to-play games like League of Legends, or even subscription-based MMOs such as World of Warcraft. When it comes to the model within a full price AAA game, the situation is a bit trickier. We’ve already witnessed how fans felt about the proposed commercial model for Star Wars Battlefront II. With this in mind, Rare has considered its approach to long-term support and monetisation with care, ensuring to keep the community invested and involved throughout. "Obviously we're going to carry on what we've been doing to-date, which is working super closely with our community and being very honest and transparent about our plans, and being very genuine with our intentions because that's where it all starts," says Duncan. "Community and the people who play our games are the most important people to us and you've always got
to remember that, whatever business you're in, whatever you do. "We have obviously been selling the base game. Then really as far as launch was concerned, as a new IP, the number one goal was to have a great launch experience… Beyond that, during the first couple of months we’ve been in listening mode, and reactionary mode, because with every large open-world, service-based game, there have been some issues.” For Rare, monetising Sea of Thieves in a responsible way is a genuine concern. As a game with entirely horizontal progression, the typical microtransactions in exchange for better in-game loot isn't really an option. Sea of Thieves is, first and foremost, a social game. It's even described by members of its community as a "friendship driving tool" so giving players an edge, even the ones willing to pay for it, is anathema to Rare's goals. "We will add optional purchases at some point when adding a major update to the game," says Neate. "We've thought long and hard about what's right for Sea of Thieves. For us, it's things that strengthen the fun and social side, so it's not things that affect power, it's not things that affect progression. Also if you're buying something in Sea of Thieves, you know what you're going to be buying, so it's not going to be loot boxes. "Someone can buy it and they can bring it to the ship and the crew, but it adds fun for everyone. It doesn't have a mechanical value, it has an emotional value, and it just adds to the social nature of the game… it just feels like the right approach for us."
Rare’s PC lead Ted Timmins
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The barrier between Xbox and PlayStation “will inevitably come down” Epic’s Tim Sweeney on making games accessible across every device possible
Matthew Handrahan Editor-In-Chief
Fortnite is one of a number of products establishing a new model for the games industry, according to Epic CEO Tim Sweeney, one in which barriers between platforms will no longer exist. During a talk at GDC in March, Sweeney described the boom in mobile games over the past ten years as one of the most exciting things to happen to the games industry. However, what was once an exciting new market has changed over time. “For a while, this mobile industry has been stagnating,” he said at the event. “There are over 100,000 games released every year on the app stores. A lot of them are ad-driven games, a lot of them have sketchy monetisation models. The industry has really been in need of revitalisation.” However, a new trend has been playing out in Asian markets, one that challenges the assumption that the mobile market is dominated by casual “Kids in school have their games. Speaking to friends, and do you expect GamesIndustry.biz, this platform schism to divide Sweeney described them into two separate groups the trend as, “the most that can’t play together? No” exciting thing for [Epic] in the industry Tim Sweeney, Epic Games right now.” “We’re seeing the movement of mobile games away from being primarily casual, to being primarily real games for gamers,” Sweeney said. “This has happened in Korea and in China over the last couple of years, with games like Lineage II: Revolution, an open-world MMO for mobile devices. And now, in a lot of the world, these real games for gamers are number one in revenue, number one in playtime, and they’re really changing the shape of the games industry.” BREAKING THE PLATFORM BARRIER Epic believes that the same process is starting to happen in markets like the US and Europe,
thanks in no small part to refinements and improvements made to the firm’s Unreal Engine. During Epic’s State of Unreal GDC talk, Studio Wildcard’s co-founders Doug Kennedy and Jesse Rapczak came onstage to talk about Ark: Survival Evolved on mobile, and announced that it was being ported for Nintendo Switch. Sweeney also mentioned the mobile version of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, which was first announced in November last year. Another example is, of course, Epic’s own Fortnite, which Sweeney believes is “unique” even within the context of the larger trend; principally because the work Epic has done to make it possible will benefit anyone that uses the Unreal Engine. “So that they can do the same thing as we have,” Sweeney adds. “And that is build one unified game that runs on all platforms, that is the same experience everywhere, and is a social experience that you can play with friends across all of the different platforms. “What we have is this one engine that’s supporting AAA production values and game sizes and content bases that runs everywhere. This is going to be a great setup for the industry, because it means that now you don’t have a divide between casual mobile games and high-end PC and console games.” ANDROID TO XBOX Mobile has remained a casual-dominated platform partly because of the technical challenges involved in making content that will satisfy more traditional gamers – and convince them to spend money in the way they so readily do on console and PC. Sweeney emphasises that Fortnite for mobile is the full game, with the same 8km square map, which is now as accessible on a smartphone as it has been on PC and console. “It’s been an enormous amount of work,” Sweeney tells us. “But the good thing is that everyone that builds Unreal games will have all of these features available to them.” The Android version of Fortnite has yet to be released, but when it does Epic’s new template for making and releasing games will be established; the product that runs on every major platform, with the same shared experience
Epic Games Interview
at its core. According to Sweeney, this will be an essential aspect of how the games industry continues to grow. “The audience is everyone,” he says. “Who do you know who doesn’t have access to a computing device – iOS, Android, PlayStation, Xbox, PC, Mac? Very few people in the developed world. The audience is everyone, and that’s a huge opportunity.
Epic Games’ Tim Sweeney
“I can’t imagine anything better for console industry growth than having this new generation of kids, growing up with hand-me-down Android and iOS devices and learning to play games there, getting into Fortnite and having a fun experience [on mobile] but wanting to play on their TV with more precise controls and better visual experience, and so upgrading to PlayStations and Xboxes.”
ALL TOGETHER NOW Of course, the idea of PlayStation and Xbox owners playing together is topical, with Fortnite just one in a growing number of games that cannot be played across both platforms – with Microsoft a much more vocal advocate of the need for cross-play than Sony. For his part, Sweeney is an advocate for open platforms in general, but he is careful to point out the unprecedented nature of Fortnite being fully interoperable across mobile, PC, Mac and console. “If you buy a Fortnite item in the iOS store, Sony and Microsoft honour it in their stores,” he says. “That’s a great breakthrough.” However, the current stalemate will not last for much longer. In Sweeney’s view, the dissolution of all barriers between gaming platforms will be “one of the best things to ever happen to the console industry.” At GDC, he referred to Metcalfe’s Law, which states that the value of any connected experience for a given user is directly proportional to the number of people they can connect to in the real world. In simple terms, Sony allowing PlayStation users to play with Xbox users is “the next logical step”, and one that will yield benefits for everybody. “I think it’s inevitable,” he says. “Games have become social experiences in the same way that Facebook or Twitter have, and these experiences only really make sense if gamers can communicate with all of their friends. “For Sony and Microsoft to support their customers well they have to be open to all their customers’ friends – their real world friends – otherwise they’re breaking up real-world social groups. Like kids in school have their friends, and do you expect this platform schism to divide them into two separate groups that can’t play together? No. It’s got to come together now. “That one remaining barrier will inevitably come down.”
Fortnite is cross-platform between PC and mobile
God of games: Sony’s single-player winning streak The success of the PS4’s excellent first-party experiences belie the commercial challenges single-player titles still face
Contributing Editor Like many of you, I imagine, I experienced a strange and unexpected new feeling recently; there was a new God of War game coming out and is this... could this be… excitement? While I’d enjoyed Kratos’ early outings as much as the next man, it felt like a franchise I’d distinctly outgrown; it’s an immense pleasure to discover that it, too, has grown, and the rapturous (and often somewhat surprised sounding) critical response made it hard to escape feeling genuinely excited about the prospect of getting stuck into the game. Sony Santa Monica “Sony can lavish resources has crafted something and attention on these truly special, one of products because it those rare and wonderful recognises them as single-player games that pillars holding up the elevates itself to the level of being something you console business” experience rather than just something you play. I say “rare”, but actually, that’s rather the point; while this kind of single-player game is indeed rare, there’s one company that seems to knock them out on a pretty regular basis, and that’s Sony. THE STREAK God of War comes on the tails of last year’s stunning Horizon: Zero Dawn, which itself followed both the fantastic latest instalment in the Uncharted series and the long-awaited Last Guardian. With Insomnaic’s Spider-Man on its way later in the year, and looking set to do for the web-slinger what the Arkham series did for the dark knight, Sony is really cementing itself in a position of knocking out a couple of these enormous, heavy-hitting and largely superb single-player experiences every year, interspersed with a handful of more niche or experimental titles (which have a lower hit-rate, but when they’re good can also be very, very good indeed).
The ascension of Sony as a developer and publisher is a story that’s taken a back seat to the commercial and creative triumph of the PS4 overall, but it’s an important and fascinating one. While Sony has always had major titles from partners and internal studios, it’s never dominated or defined its own platforms in the way Nintendo does, or even really had the kind of headline, instantly identifiable core title that Microsoft once had with Halo. Sony’s focus on its own games began to build up in the PS3 era, perhaps due to a recognition that the platform’s unexpected second-fiddle role to Xbox meant that it could no longer rely on third-party publishers pushing out PlayStation exclusives. But the real payoff has come on PS4, where the firm has built up a roster of first-party games that stand among the finest any company has ever enjoyed. It’s how Sony has done that – and what it tells us about the status of the rest of the industry – that’s really interesting. One of the criticisms often made of Nintendo’s first-party approach, by the industry rather than by consumers, is that it can serve to steamroller third-parties who want to make headway on Nintendo platforms. That’s largely not Nintendo’s fault – consumers buy Nintendo platforms to play Nintendo games, for the most part – but for a third-party publisher who wants to carve out a niche on Switch or 3DS, the prospect of being steamrollered by a first-party launch is very real and very frustrating. SINGLE MINDED Sony, however, has largely avoided directly competing with third parties on PS4, despite launching some of the biggest games for its own platform; and it’s done so simply by becoming effectively the only major player in a field that many of its third-party partners have, through preference or necessity, chosen to leave behind. Sony’s big games are tied together by a single clear thread: they are extremely polished, expensively developed titles that stick to a concept of the single-player experience with something that borders on ideological purity.
Sony’s Winning Streak
They’re straight down the line traditional console titles. They might almost be crafted as a direct answer to consumers who complain about no longer getting the complete experience when you buy a game, as they pointedly feature no new business models, no microtransactions, no season passes. There isn’t even any multiplayer in most of Sony’s titles; you pay a fixed amount of money for a fantastic single-player experience with magnificent production values, and that’s it. Where DLC exists, it hews to an equally traditional set of values; Horizon’s Frozen Wilds DLC was very much a standalone, add-on experience, and certainly not the kind of ‘here’s the actual ending to the story’ DLC some companies have taken to releasing in recent years. It’s hard to say how many companies find themselves in a position where making games like this is even within their reach any more. There are, of course, superb single-player
games coming from many different places at the moment – Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, for example, is an excellent single-player experience and for all intents and purposes an indie title – but practically none of them can match the sort of investment that’s going into titles like God of War or Horizon. PLATFORM ECONOMICS The gap between what Sony can do with single-player games and what others – including quite big publishers in some cases – can do is opening up to the point where it starts to resemble the difference between Hollywood and indie film-making. Truly great things can come from both sides, but the polish, spectacle and star power of a Hollywood blockbuster is tough to match. The reason for this expanding gulf is, simply put, that Sony’s economic incentives are different. Sony’s blockbuster single-player games
God of War sold three million units in three days
32 Page Title kind of game entirely. Sony, by merit of being a platform holder, can rise above that fray, and has done so to great effect in recent years. A FALSE HOPE
Horizon: Zero Dawn has sold nearly eight million units so far
are both commercial products in themselves, and incredibly powerful marketing tools for PlayStation. Their existence is justified not just by their sales, but by the halo effect they create for the platform as a whole. Horizon, God of War, The Last of Us, Uncharted, The Last Guardian; these aren’t just great games, they’re intrinsic parts of what PlayStation is to consumers and to Sony itself. The company can lavish resources, time and attention on these products because it recognises them as pillars holding up the console business – itself the pillar which holds up Sony Corporation. For any other publisher or developer thinking of creating a game on the same scale, with the same level of resourcing, polish and focus, the commercial calculation is far tougher to square away. The sheer level of investment required to create something so technologically and artistically impressive may be impossible to justify without loading the dice somewhat by adding season passes, microtransactions and lord knows what else to the equation. Most publishers have been backing away from this kind of ‘pure’ single-player experience for precisely that reason. They fear that the audience hasn’t grown as fast as the development budgets required for this sort of game, but they’re also aware that microtransactions, DLC and season passes have a bad rap and can limit the audience even further. This Catch-22 has led many firms to tap out of making this
The consumer, of course, doesn’t care that Sony can only make these games because it’s playing a different commercial ball-game to other game creators. They only care that the PS4 has had arguably one of the finest streaks of high-profile exclusive titles of any console in history. It’s worth considering the tough situation of other firms working on single-player titles, however; the success of Horizon, Uncharted 4 or God of War doesn’t necessarily stand as proof, as some might claim, that pure single-player titles are just as commercially viable as ever. Rather, they’re proof only that the appeal of these titles is still powerful; that as showcases and system-sellers, they are almost unrivalled, but that’s not the same thing as being commercially attractive to a third-party who doesn’t have a vested financial interest in system sales. That very logic means Sony is presently operating on a level that’s simply out of reach to most third parties. It’s great news for Sony and its studios; but for those wishing that the commercial logic of single-player games will find a healthy balance, Sony’s blockbusters are a false hope.
The Uncharted series has sold 41.7 million units as of December 2017
OUR STORY SO FARâ€¦ 2007
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2010 localizing over 60 million words of gaming content in over 40 languages worldwide with its amazing team of 100+ translators. MoGiâ€™s dedicated player support teams also solve over 4.2 million tickets annually. Meet MoGi Group. Your video games services partner. For more information about MoGi Group, or WR Æ¬QG RXW PRUH DERXW LWV EHVSRNH VHUYLFH packages, visit www.mogi-translations.com.
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How to get a job in video games There have never been more opportunities to find a career in the games industry. We asked veterans and experts for their tips on getting into some of the most coveted positions
Brian Fargo, CEO, InXile Entertainment
Meg Jayanth, Writer of 80 Days
Get any games job and work your way up to producer. This is only part of the equation. It’s important you’re noticed and that can come from two ways. The first being discovered from within a company, and the second by showing off a working product with an impressive feature or angle. You need to convey product knowledge in a genre that’s so deep that the company is afraid you’ll end up at the competition.
SOUND DESIGNER Charles Pateman, Sound Designer, Creative Assembly This job is 50% creative and 50% technical. You need to tackle middleware and have at least some insight into how games work under the hood to be able to mix, so download a game engine and use it. Don’t expect to get your first gig and learn everything on-the-job; this is a competitive industry so invest in yourself and improve your offering. There’s a wealth of resources out there and the audio community is friendly and happy to share.
GAMEPLAY ENGINEER John Barker, Lead Gameplay Engineer, Playground Games Make a few demo projects. These don’t have to be beautiful end-to-end experiences, but can be a core mechanic you’re trying out. It’s great practice and shows you’re genuinely interested. Almost all gameplay problems have some mathematical component to it, and having a deep understanding of maths will empower you to make the right decisions for the task at hand.
COMMUNICATIONS Brian Rubin, Vice President, Fortyseven Communications Make sure you understand the differences between marketing, PR, social or community management. PR tends to be the arm that manages communications with the press, which also includes content creators, streamers and, at times, social media. It requires strategic thinking, strong writing and organizational skills, creativity,passion, the ability to collaborate and a decent threshold for frustration and stress.
Develop your craft by making games – playing is no substitute if you want to be a writer. Don’t try and be like anyone else. Bring your own voice and experience. Write from a place of passion and intent. Look outside of games for inspiration – your own work and the industry will be better for it.
ARTIST Charlie Bloomer, Art Director, InXile Entertainment You don’t need a job with a developer before you can make game art. It’s easy to learn about the tools used, and you can even access them at reduced cost for personal use. Coupled with YouTube videos and forums, these become your best opportunities to show your skills. Don’t worry about which application to learn – the knowledge translates between them. And always remember, your portfolio is only as strong as your weakest piece.
PROGRAMMER Guy Davidson, Principal Coding Manager, Creative Assembly For programmers in AAA development, you’ll need good C++ skills and should specialise early on in your career. Figure out what interests you, whether graphics, audio, AI, gameplay or tools, and build a portfolio that really highlights those skills. No matter how good you are, the learning is never over.
COMPOSER Grant Kirkhope, Composer of Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle Writing great music and sticking it on YouTube won’t get you anywhere. Go to events where game makers will be. Your network of contacts is where work will come from. When you get the job, don’t argue with the creative director – you’ll get fired. Remember that you’re being hired by someone who wants you to do what they want – if you don’t do it they’ll hire someone else. If you want to write music where you’re totally in control go and write a symphony or a song. Finally, giving up is easy, keeping going is the hard part.
34 How To Get A Job In Games
Rob Pardo, CEO, Bonfire Studios
Elyse Gymer, Animator, Creative Assembly
Just start designing games. Nowadays there is virtually no barrier to entry for inexperienced designers. You can make maps and mods for Minecraft, Call of Duty, etc. With some technical experience, you can design games in Unity. Or start with board games. Fundamentally you just need to start building something that people can play, so that you can learn what is fun and how to iterate. Only apply to companies which make games you are passionate and knowledgeable about – don’t apply to Riot if you’ve never played League of Legends. Make sure to submit your game design portfolio with your resume, it will really make you stand out. Don’t include full games, but instead easy-to-watch videos with a summary of what you did. Hiring managers don’t have time to learn how to install your software and play your game.
JOURNALIST Kat Bailey, Editor-in-Chief, USGamer Start by opening a blog and writing articles you think will get an editor’s attention. Use open platforms like Medium. Make videos. Once you are in a rhythm, reach out to editors and send a few pitches. Make sure that they’re sufficiently detailed and have a clear, definitive angle. If they’re accepted, make sure you’re quick, reliable, and able to take instruction from your editor. Word will get around that you’re a useful writer. From there, you have a solid shot at breaking intoa publication. If you have the will and the aptitude, you will eventually make it.
VOICE ACTOR Alix Wilton Regan, Voice of Assassin Creed: Origins’ Aya You need to be an actor first and a voice second. Take your acting training seriously: drama school, weekend classes, evening classes, whatever works for you. Learn to characterise a performance with your breath and body – both can be picked up by the mic and add layers of detail. Finally, be bold. Bring huge energy into the booth with you - your clients will love you for it. Even if it the wrong choice for the story, they can always refine it with a little polishing from the director. And keep going. Hard work, persistence and honing your craft will eventually get you noticed.
The skills you need are not so much the aspects of learning a program or various tools, but on building an ‘artist’s eye’ to discern good from bad. This can only be achieved by working hard and always aiming to better your craft. Whether you’re interested in animation, modelling, concept or another art form, you have to go through a lot of failed pieces, critique and continued learning before you will have the skill to do so professionally. But anyone who is willing to put the time and effort into this craft can make it.
COMPOSER Olivier Deriviere, Composer of Get Even and Remember Me Download the latest audio tools and play with them – whatever music style you want to explore, there will be a game for it. Don’t be shy about your own ideas. Try to capture the player’s experience beyond the gameplay and story – music gives the game another dimension.
QA TESTER Liam Ross, QA Operations Manager, PTW Glasgow Your role as a games tester is to work as part of the production team, intelligently investigating games to ensure an excellent product is released. The role is paramount to the quality of the end product – not just about playing games. If you can demonstrate your understanding of what it means to be a games tester, as well as how your skills and experience meet the requirements, then you will be giving yourself the best possible start.
COMPOSER Austin Wintory, Composer of Journey and Abzu Don’t worry about alienating people with your sound or approach to music. It is instinct to follow trends, but careers are rarely borne from that. Own all that has made you you, and let your music course with that.
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36 Sponsored Article
Putting the G into Gaming A new campaign designed to accelerate gender diversity in games has arrived. How does it differ and what does it want to achieve? We ask Amiqus Business Manager Liz Prince
What is ‘Putting the G into Gaming’? This is a campaign we’ve launched to focus on accelerating gender diversity in games. Only 19% of the games workforce is female, and of those even fewer are involved directly in developing games. These figures lag way behind the national averages and also other creative industries. Games is such a fantastic, progressive place – but this situation needs to change. What are you hoping G into Gaming can do? We wanted to create a campaign with a personality that could drive actionable steps; steps that we can all get behind and make sure that gender balance is top of the board agenda in games firms. The campaign has three main aims – First, to champion women working in games – sharing advice, support, guidance and a platform to network and speak out. Then, to promote diverse thinking, working directly with studios to share our community feedback – offering them tools to attract a diverse workforce and create a gender neutral working environment that’s welcoming. And finally, to attract female talent working outside of the industry to encourage them to see games as a career. Why do you think this is needed? There are some amazing initiatives across the industry but we kept feeling that, even with this good work going on, gender imbalance is still a huge issue and change is slow. There is a need for a campaign to accelerate gender diversity, so that’s what we’ve set out to do. Is this initiative run by and for women? Not at all. Research shows that companies with more diverse workforces are more productive and commercially successful environments, benefitting both women and men. Inclusion creates a win-win situation and we wanted to focus specifically on gender – not because wider diversity isn’t important, but because we felt it was right for us to focus fully on one thing. Why don’t studios just hire more women? Hiring for diversity is a positive decision and takes focus and effort. There is a clear need to make games a go-to career choice for women, and there is work to be done on making the
environment attractive for both genders. I believe that companies who are serious about having a balanced work force will make sure they’re ready to invite women in. Don’t men and women want the same things in a job - creative culture, top tech and great games? Men and women are equal but we can’t assume their needs and motivations are exactly the same. The experience of men and women in the same workplace can be very different and each gender requires different things from team interactions and studio environment. For example, one of the big themes to come out of our research so far is that other females working in a business is one of the most important features for women when choosing an employer. Women in senior roles were an engaging feature, but even just another woman present at an interview can have an enormous bearing on how the candidate could see herself fitting in. Other practical things such as flexible working and a desire to make a working environment family friendly are key. Existing challenges
“Even just another woman present at a job interview can have an enormous bearing on how the candidate could see herself fitting in.” Liz Prince
associated with having children still persist, with research telling us that women currently in their 20s are likely to experience pay inequality once they become parents mainly due to a lack of flexible jobs and particularly a lack of flexibility in key technical or senior positions. According to research by Working Families, six out of ten women will consider childcare
Putting The G Into Gaming founder Liz Prince
responsibilities before applying for a promotion or new job. Truly flexible working arrangements and the improvement of parental benefits can help to attract and retain women and men into parenthood and beyond. If women wanted to work in games there’s nothing to stop them applying. Could it be women just aren’t that interested in games? There’s lots to do in the way we advertise roles to attract women, to acknowledge and accept that we’re different to men and generally driven by different language. Women are more likely to be interested in a position if the language used in a job advertisement is gender neutral. This is exacerbated by the fact that women won’t always respond to a job opening they don’t 100% qualify for, unlike their male counterparts who will apply if they fulfil around 60% of the criteria. A small proportion of women feel that they wouldn’t be able to do the job, but in the main, women don’t apply because they don’t feel that they will be chosen and would be wasting everyone’s time. We also believe there’s a lack of awareness of games as a career path for women and men who don’t see themselves as gamers, and maybe have a perception that they wouldn’t fit in. Shouldn’t studios pick the best person for the job without worrying about quotas? Of course, but my point is that if we’re not even seeing 50% of the talent community, how can we be sure that the best person for the job is on the shortlist or would even apply at all? We need a choice of candidates and we need to consider how we select people for a role. It’s good for all of us to be aware of and to challenge our own cognitive bias. Business leaders have the responsibility to establish processes to ensure there is input and decision making that makes for truly diverse hiring. This is the only path to genuinely finding the best person for the job. You’re in recruitment. Is G-into Gaming part of the Amiqus business? As a specialist games recruitment agency we take our responsibility for inclusion seriously, but I want to be clear – this is an industry mission, not a business venture. G Into Gaming is a platform open for everyone to contribute positively and become a hub for real ideas, actions and change. I’m a woman in the games industry, this means a lot to me personally and those who know me will be absolutely assured that this is about giving back and playing my part in making a difference. You’ve been quoted as saying you’ve specifically decided not to build a forum for the sharing of bad experiences. Why?
I know there are women who have experienced or are experiencing injustices in the workplace. We’re not closing our eyes or ears to that, I just want to focus on supporting games in harnessing the best talent by helping create a gender neutral platform welcoming for all. Hopefully there will be cause and effect through doing this. How’s it going so far? We’ve kicked things off by asking women who are working in games about how they got here and what they would like to change – that feedback informed our mission objectives We’ve focussed initially on the third pillar of the campaign, reaching out to 21,000 women who are not working in the industry but have development skills that studios need. We’re encouraging them to join our creative community and fast-track their careers in one of the UK’s most inspirational industries. We’re offering a taster day with studios across the UK to let women outside of the industry experience a studio for themselves and to see how they can fit in to a career where they may have thought it was all about the boys. Just to be clear though – this isn’t a monetised offering from Amiqus; it’s a support structure for the industry. We’re looking to attract women in – the rest is down to the studios to impress. So what comes next? This is just the start. The recent gender pay gap reporting has heightened awareness of the need for change so we hope to be able to help and bring some ideas to the table. The more people who join in the better. To take part we’re online at www.g-intogaming.com, please also join the Facebook group at www.g-intogaming.com/ facebookgroup. If you want to talk to me directly I’m at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Putting The G Into Gaming hopes to attract women from outside games
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The GamesIndustry.biz Careers Survey 2018: Lower pay but less crunch We break down the results of our second annual study on the games jobs market, which shows an industry improving its conditions and increasing its efforts in equality METHODOLOGY We more than doubled the participants for our 2018 survey. with almost 700 responses. However, 18.7% were female, which is down slightly from the 21.4% we achieved last year (although broadly in-line with the predicted industry averages). We attempted to gather as global a sample as possible, although certain markets do have greater representation. 35.9% of participants were from the UK (less than last year’s 47.2%), while 24.8% were from the USA. The next biggest regions were Western Europe (including France, Spain and Germany) at 13.7% and Canada at 9.4%. This continues to be a relatively young industry, with the vast majority of participants (86.4%) aged under 40.
Following our inaugural research last year, GamesIndustry.biz recently conducted an extensive survey into how well the games market supports and rewards its staff. With the promise of anonymity, we invited developers, publishers and more to share their thoughts on pay, diversity, working conditions and more. Given the recent calls for unionization and ongoing concerns about crunch across the industry, you would think this would paint a bleak picture of the industry but our participants remain remarkably optimistic. Only one in four (24.9%) complained about crunch, overtime or poor working conditions in their comments - a massive drop compared to the 73% we recorded last year. Only 3.3% referred to the need for unions. 84.2% of participants said they worked between 30 and 50 hours a week, which is roughly in line with the 82.3% we saw last year. Most of these (43%) work between 41 and 50 hours, again in keeping with 2017’s figures. More than a tenth of the industry (12.3%, up from 11.5% last year) work more than 50 hours. 3.7% work more than 60, and fortunately only five work over 80 hours per per week. Happily, this seems to be partly down to employee discretion: 83.4% reported they have flexible working hours - a 10% increase on the amount of people with this option last year. However, it’s impossible to ignore the reliance on overtime. Only 14.2% of respondents claimed they are never expected to work beyond their contracted hours. More than a third are expected to do so regularly, with 24.7% saying they are ‘Often’ called to work extra and 11.4% saying ‘Very Often’. On a lighter note, this figures are ever-so-slightly down from the 26.1% and 16.2% recorded in 2017. The amount of people that work within their employer’s office remained relatively flat at 88.3% – although one of the common positive comments was the option to work at home, even on short notice. The number of remote workers operating in different
Those between 31 and 40 took a slight lead, making up 43.3% of the panel, with 42.5% aged between 21 and 30. 76% of respondents identified as developers (only 1% of which specifically identified themselves as indies), while the next largest group was publishers, making up 10% of our participants. The rest was a mix of service and tools providers, media, PR agencies, educators, consultants, research firms and more. When calculating average salaries, we discounted any below $14,000 as these are most often contractors earning a few thousand per year. We also cut anything above $100,000, which are executive salaries that skew overall figures.
countries to their employer also stayed roughly the same at 13.5%. Once again, the majority of industry workers appear to work in large companies of 200 or more staff - 36.5% of respondents, up from 37.8%. A quarter work at places with 51 to 200 staff, while there was a slight drop in the number of people working at microstudios (between two and ten staff): down from 15% to 11.9%. The industry appears to be optimistic about growth, with 68.4% of participants predicting their company’s headcount would rise in 2018 (up from 61.6%) last year. Similarly, 65.9% report their teams have expanded since last year. The number of companies that have shrunk over the past twelve months seems to be roughly the same - 13.4% this year vs 13.9% – while only 4.5% expect further job cuts in the year to come. Fuelling the expected growth, 68.4% of companies offer internships and work experience. The number of firms with established ties to local universities, schools and colleges has risen 5% to 58.5%. Hopefully these efforts to find new talent will help improve the industry’s diversity because once again the figures aren’t as promising as you would hope. Only 15.5% believe the range of people employed at their firm to be ‘Very Good’, and that’s down from 22% last year. Meanwhile, those who would rate it as ‘Not Good’ rose from 31.4% to 39.9%. One in three respondents expect this to improve over the course of the year. Fortunatley, only 1.9% complained about sexist attitudes and behaviour. Efforts to protect employees from such behaviour and other forms of harassment appear to be on the rise. Almost half of respondents (48.7%, up from 44.1%) report there is a system in place at their firm to deal with such issues, while those who claim no system exists has dropped slightly from 23.2% to 22.7%.
Games Industry Careers Survey Results HOW LIKELY ARE YOU TO STAY WITHIN THE GAMES INDUSTRY FOR THE NEXT FIVE YEARS?
Very Unlikely Unlikely
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE DIVERSITY OF STAFF AT YOUR COMPANY (E.G. GENDER, ETHNICITY)?
OVER THE PREVIOUS YEAR, DID YOUR COMPANY HEADCOUNT…
OVER THE NEXT YEAR, IS YOUR COMPANY HEADCOUNT EXPECTED TO…
Stay The Same?
Stay The Same?
Very good: 15.5% Good: 44.7% Not good: 39.9%
DO YOU EXPECT THIS TO IMPROVE IN 2018? (684 responses)
Yes: 33.6% Maybe: 42.5% No: 23.8%
DOES YOUR COMPANY HAVE SYSTEMS OR PROCESSES IN PLACE TO HANDLE INTERNAL ABUSE OR HARASSMENT?
Yes: 48.7% I dont know: 28.7% No: 22.7%
DO YOU BELIEVE YOUR SKILLSET COULD SECURE YOU BETTER WAGES, CONDITIONS, WORK/LIFE BALANCE AND SO ON IN ANOTHER INDUSTRY?
Yes: 54.8% Maybe: 30.2% No: 15%
Yes: 38.7% No: 61.3%
DOES YOUR COMPANY OFFER SKILLS AND TRAINING?
DO YOU HAVE A SECOND/ NON- GAMES INDUSTRY JOB?
AS AND WHEN YOU CHANGE JOBS, ARE YOU TEMPTED TO WORK OVERSEAS?
No: 92.7% Yes: 7.3%
Yes: 57.9% No: 42.1%
DOES YOUR COMPANY OFFER OTHER FORMS OF SUPPORT, SUCH AS BONUSES OR OTHER PERKS?
DOES YOUR COMPANY OFFER FLEXIBLE WORKING HOURS?
Yes: 83.4% No: 16.6%
Yes: 71.9% No: 28.1%
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Games Industry Careers Survey Results It’s perhaps to be expected that more than half (57.2%) are unaware how often these HOW OFTEN DOES YOUR systems are users, but sadly the COMPANY EXPECT STAFF amount of participants who TO WORK BEYOND say they are never required has CONTRACTED HOURS? dropped from 25% to 21.7%. As with last year, 5% say these systems are required ‘Often’ or ‘Very Often’, so there is still plenty of improvement needed across the industry. Very often: 11.4% What has improved is the Often: 24.7% disparity between pay between Not often: 49.8% men and women. While there Never: 14.2% remains a lack of the latter in senior positions, the number of high earning female games professionals appears to be on the rise. 15.6% of our female respondents earn over $80,000 – that’s up on the 11% recorded last year. This still pales in comparison to high-earning males, with 28.6% of men who filled in our survey earning over $80,000 - up from 20% in 2017. There also remains a gap in average pay across the two genders. The mean average salary for our female respondents came in at $46,701 – a slight but welcome increase over the $45,171 recorded last year. Meanwhile, the mean average for men is $51,754 (down from $55,554 in 2017), reducing the gender pay gap from over $10,000 last year to roughly $6,500. When you look at the median, the average woman’s salary actually dropped from $40,750 last year to $39,112. The male median also declined from $47,532 to $45,000, which means the median gender pay gap also drops from over $6,500 to just shy of $5,900. Overall, average salaries dipped slightly. The mean for our entire survey dropped from $52,685 last year to $50,542, while the median fell from $51,619 to $50,000. However, things are looking up for our largest group - developers - where the mean average has risen from $51,864 to $55,970. Despite the overall declines, most participants remain optimistic about their pay. 65.6% expect their salary to rise in 2018, while 31.2% expect it to stay the same. Even better, 67% of respondents report they received a pay rise in the last year (up from 56.3%). The number
DOES YOUR COMPANY PAY STAFF OVERTIME?
Yes: 22% No: 55.2% No, but we get time Off in Lieu (TOIL): 22.8%
of people who saw their salary trimmed remained roughly flat at 5.6%. More than half (54.8%) believe their skills and experience would grant them better pay and nicer working conditions in other industries, and yet few have plans to leave the games industry. In fact, just shy of 90% said it was ‘Likely’ or ‘Very Likely’ they would continue working in games for at least the next five years, an uptick on last year’s 85%. Well over half (61.3%) said it was ‘Very Likely’. This is in part thanks to the efforts employers are putting into caring for staff and their careers. The amount of people who have access to skills and training through their employer has risen from 52.3% to 57.9%, while 33.7% are offered higher than the standard maternity or paternity pay (up from 28%). An impressive 71.9% confirm they are entitled to bonuses and other perks at work – up from 63.2% – with examples ranging from extra pay, share schemes and profit shares to private medical care, gym memberships, massages and personal trainers, and even simple things like free candy and drinks. The amount of employees encouraged to work on personal projects is also up slightly to 46.5%, as is the proportion offered the chance to take part in game jams (both internal and external), which came in at 51.7%. Disappointingly, less than half (48.8%) said their employers claim no ownership of such projects. Regardless, it appears the majority of games professionals are comfortable in their current position. Only 22.3% said it was likely they would change jobs in 2018 – a marked decrease from the 40.1% of jobseekers reported last year. A further 23% said they may search for new employment within two years. 17% said they had no interest in moving at all – almost double the 8.7% that said this last year. Unsurprisingly, the most common motivator for a change of job was salary, followed by an interest in working in a new location. 61.3% said they were tempted by the idea of working overseas. When asked for the highlights of working in the games industry, the answers varied greatly. Common comments included the great people and camaraderie between teams. Others valued the flexible hours, the chance to express their creativity and the opportunity to engage in their hobby professionally.
IN THE NEXT YEAR, DO YOU EXPECT YOUR SALARY TO…
HOW LONG HAVE YOU WORKED IN YOUR CURRENT JOB?
Rise? 65.6% Stay the same? 32.1% Fall? 2.3%
Less than a year: 25.1% 1 to 5 years: 51.4% 5 to 10 years: 17% 11 to 20 years: 6.1% 21 to 30 years: 0.3% 31+: 0.1%
WHEN ARE YOU LIKELY TO CHANGE JOBS?
Within the next year: 22.3% Within the next 2 years: 23% Within the next 5 years: 31.4% Within the next 10 years: 6.4% Not at all: 17%
44 Games Industry Careers Survey Results
AVERAGE HOURS WORKED PER WEEK
Less than 20
21 to 30
31 to 40
41 to 50
51 to 60
61 to 70
71 to 80
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Your next career move For industry members in need of a new challenge, we spoke to leading recruitment agencies about where the biggest opportunities can be found
T.J. SUMMERS, PRESIDENT & FOUNDER, DIGITAL ARTIST MANAGEMENT The demand for programmers and engineers will continue to remain extremely high across all segments of the market – console, online, mobile, AR/VR. Employers prefer candidates with a traditional four-year degree in computer science, math or physics. Engineers will benefit from having proficiency in Unreal Engine 4 and Unity. Technical art and animation play a critical role in the current and future of game development as they are responsible for creating high visual quality art/animation as well as aligning the pipeline for other departments: modeling, game design, animation, and VFX. Community management is in very high demand as developers and publishers are looking to engage players to play longer and encourage viral marketing.
STIG STRAND, HEAD OF RECRUITMENT, AMIQUS There is still a huge demand for highly skilled software engineers across the board. The need for software engineers of all specialities continues to grow – as video games become more advanced and the industry adopts more complex hardware, this trend will continue. The mobile market continues to grow and we’ve seen an increased demand for roles in areas like monetisation and free-to-play analytics. There have been many success stories that highlight the importance of getting monetisation right, from Fortnite to the continued success of League of Legends. To begin with, having a broad range of skills under one of the core disciplines is a wise move, whether that be in art, design or programming. Be wary of being too generalist across all disciplines however; whilst it’s useful to have a knowledge and understanding of the other areas, it’s better to know your strengths than to spread yourself too thinly. As you learn your craft and, more importantly, learn what you’re best at and enjoy doing, it’s okay to start to specialise in a particular area – free-toplay design vs combat design, or character art vs environment art for example.
KIM PARKER ADCOCK, MANAGING DIRECTOR, OPM JOBS Globally there is a rise in hiring, and there are more active vacancies than ever before. This trend doesn’t ook like stopping any time soon so we expect even more opportunities for job seekers in the coming year. More specifically, however, we have personally seen an increase in the need for programmers with low level skills or Unreal Engine experience. UI artists and audio designers are also in very high demand. There aren’t any jobs that we’re seeing much less of a demand for, but some roles seem to be merging. For example, most big companies would have a development manager overseeing the production of a project, and a product manager for the commercial aspects. However, in recent years smaller companies have been merging these two. It’s not necessarily that there is less demand for these people, it’s that the jobs are evolving. For a lot of people, specialising is the only option if you want to work on the big AAA titles. However, if you prefer working within smaller teams in the indie scene, it’s well worth having at least two areas you can be a specialist in, such as animation and modelling or frontend and backend programming.
SIMON HOPE, DIRECTOR & LEAD RECRUITER, AARDVARK SWIFT Studios are always looking for hard-to-find candidates like VFX artists, technical artists and programmers, and I can’t see that changing. If anything, there’s more variety in the studios looking to hire and more options for candidates. There are interesting developments in VR, especially as companies are now diversifying with immersive experiences for film and automotive clients. VR is opening up avenues for companies who were focused solely on games to expand and diversify their portfolio. With lots of companies now running games as a service, there are less opportunities arising for manual QA testers thanks to automation testing. You now see a greater proportion of SDET or QA testers with specific automation expertise being hired. Teams need to adapt, or learn new skills on the software test side (C++ and C#) to make sure they stay ahead of the curve for the next few years. Whether you want to be in animation, VFX, programming or analytics, you will find success, fulfilment and progression as a specialist. If you’re studying art at the moment, hone skills in particle effects, Python scripting or low-level C# coding. This will give you a much better chance of finding a role and being successful.
GILES FENWICK, GAMES MANAGER, SKILLSEARCH While developers have remained in high demand, there are new skills that companies are now looking out for. The biggest trend is within the expansion of esports and the skills required for these teams. Companies that may have previously had marketing and events for esports handled externally now have entire teams focused purely on growing this market. As we move into the second half of 2018, it is evident that companies still have a shortage of available talent to hire. An increasing number of people are relocating for positions and happy to look at a variety of locations worldwide. Outside of the gaming hubs of the UK, we have seen a real increase of people looking to move to Scandinavia and Canada in particular, as well as new locations such as the Balkan States, where highly successful studios are attracting talent from the rest of Europe. I believe that there will be an influx of games studios looking for people with blockchain and machine learning experience, but this will still be alongside the positions that always remain in high demand such as server developers, graphics programmers and technical artists. For me, the message for anyone looking to change job is that the opportunities are out there.
STEFAN ANTON, TRAINING MANAGER, DATASCOPE As we move to digital, trade roles in physical sales are in decline and forms of advertising are moving away from print. There is a decline in traditional roles and a rising demand in specialist roles such as esports managers, influencers and community managers. PR is shifting more towards informal channels, and there has recently been a huge increase in demand for data scientists and data analysts. Skilled character artists, concept artists and animators are always in demand. Technical animators and artists are invaluable to any AAA company. There is an increasing demand for VFX artists, whilst the demand for 2D artists is in decline. In order to get into the video games industry as an artist you’ll have to be creating ‘industry standard material’ with an accessible portfolio such as on ArtStation. Roles on the rise in terms of programmers include graphics, render, server and backend, AI and engine programmers. Whilst many mobile game developers prefer generalist programmers, generalist roles in consoles and many AAA studios are now in decline. If you’re in this space, specialise. Learn a core language like C++ or C# and start taking part in game jams.
Leading video game creators recall the titles that changed everything for them
Loom Eidos Montreal’s Rayna Anderson tells us why LucasFilm’s game means so much to her
Suikoden Legendary games developer Warren Spector on the JRPG that inspired his future works
Inside InXile’s Brian Fargo ponders the design and elegance of Playdead’s tense platformer
Portal 2 Former LEGO game creator Steven Thornton discusses Valve’s masterpiece puzzle adventure
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds Fullbright co-founder Steve Gaynor shares his love for the hit survival shooter
Magic: The Gathering Voyageur developer Bruno Dias explains what video games can learn from this card game
World of Warcraft Artist Ana Steiner reveals how WoW opened her eyes to a career in video games
50 Why I Love: Suikoden
Suikoden changed my life Industry legend Warren Spector on why the PSOne classic stands apart from the other dull JRPGs
Warren Spector Studio Director, Otherside Entertainment Austin PREVIOUS ROLES Executive Producer, Origin • General Manager, Looking Glass • Studio Director/Creative Director, Ion Storm • Founder/President/Creative Director, Junction Point Studios • VP/General Manager/ Creative Director, Disney Interactive Studios • Program Director, University of Texas
SELECTED WORKS UltimaVI • Wing Commander •Wing Commander II • Ultima VII • System Shock • Thief: The Dark Project • Deus Ex • Deus Ex: Invisible War • Thief: Deadly Shadows • Epic Mickey • Epic Mickey 2
I don’t like JRPGs. I find them kind of dull. When I think of them, I think of contrived, non-interactive semi-cinematic story elements intercut with random combat encounters, introduced to relieve the tedium of traversing an empty, uninteresting landscape. I think of partybuilding and positioning for maximum efficiency in slow-paced, turn-based combat encounters that feel totally artificial and, for want of a better term, “gamey.” I think of weapon and spell creation systems that take forever and require excruciating attention to detail on par with doing your taxes. That’s what I think of when I think about JRPGs (which isn’t very often). Clearly, I just don’t get ‘em. And yet, I want to write about one – one that inspires me to this day, one that informed and continues to inform my own work, different though it may appear. I’m talking about Konami’s Suikoden, directed by Yoshitaka Murayama. Not the entire series – I confess I’ve never been able to complete the second or subsequent games.
But I did complete the first Suikoden game. Oh, did I. And that experience literally changed my life. Ultima IV was probably the game that influenced me the most – there’s another whole essay there – but Suikoden may be number two on the list. How and why, you ask? There are four things, four moments and/or ideas that blew my mind and set Suikoden apart from other JRPGs – other games, really. They are The Dragon Fight, The Little Guy Who Saves You, the Ever-Changing Base and the Father Fight. THE DRAGON FIGHT First, there was the opening scene where you and your party fight a way too big, way too fierce dragon. It seems like a hopeless fight. And it is. You lose. But you survive, and it’s because the littlest, lamest, most annoying character in your party (who, you’re told, is your dearest friend) jumps to the front and saves you. There was more characterization in that moment
Why I Love: Suikoden
– I cared more about that little guy – than I had ever experienced in a game. An NPC had done something heroic. I loved it. “THE DO YOU LEAVE HIM BEHIND?” MOMENT
You can recruit characters to your base to help you
“I don’t like JRPGs. I find them basically kind of dull” Warren Spector, Otherside
And your little friend wasn’t done. A short while later, you’re at an inn where the little annoying guy is recuperating from wounds he got in the dragon fight. He seems like he’s at death’s door. Suddenly, a pack of bad guys shows up. What are you going to do? You’re badly outmatched and if you stay and fight, you’re sure to lose. As you contemplate your options, the little annoying guy appears. He’s dragged himself off his deathbed and, basically, says, “You go (cough! cough!). You (cough! cough!) have important things to do. I’ll hold them off.” What do you do? Do you stand by his side and fight what’s probably a losing battle? Or do you leave him to his fate and run away so you can save the world? It’s an awesome moment, a real dilemma, the kind of choice we are all asked to make in the real world at times, but are almost never asked to make in games. Powerful, powerful stuff. The kind of stuff only a game can do.
you go into big army battles that are a big part of the game. Some offer tactical advice that you can take or ignore. Some provide armor and such you can take into small-scale, but still important duels. All of them give you something, and who’s there changes the look and feel of your base. It’s your unique base, unlike every other player’s base. As I remember it, sometimes the characters don’t play nice and refuse to live together. So you can’t have them all. And your base becomes an extension of your “self.” It’s awesome. I’ve written a customizable base into every design document I’ve worked on since I played Suikoden, but for some reason, it’s always the first thing cut, the first thing scoped out of existence. It just never seems to fit. But someday. Wait and see. Someday. And now you’ll know the idea was stolen right from my memories of Suikoden.
THE EVER-CHANGING BASE
THE “DO YOU FIGHT YOUR FATHER?” MOMENT
And then there was the base. Ah, the base… Once you’ve experienced a bit of the world, you get a base – a big, empty pillar of rock. Nothing much going on there. But it doesn’t stay that way. See, there are over 100 characters who can be saved or recruited. And when you save them, they show up in your base, giving you the benefit of their knowledge and/or skills. Some of them are generals who command armies, helpful when
SPOILER ALERT! Finally, there’s a point near the end where you realize that one of the worst bad guys in the game is your father! That revelation was genuinely shocking. But even more shocking was your father challenges you. And you had to choose whether to fight him or not! Fight your father to save the world. But he’s family. But he’s a bad guy. But he’s your dad! That was a put-the-controller-down moment for me. I don’t think I had ever been asked to make a choice like that in a game before. Leaving your little annoying buddy behind was easy. Deciding who to recruit? Piece of cake. Do you fight your father?… That was a big emotional deal. Or maybe it just reflects something about my own family. But even if that’s “all” it is – a personal dilemma born of my own childhood – well,
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Suikoden was the first game where Spector cared for an NPC
HOW COOL IS THAT? A game forcing you to think about your real life? Powerful, powerful stuff. So that’s it. Those were the moments and ideas that rocked me pretty hard. Frankly, I have an abysmal memory and I’ve often wondered if they actually happened or if they’re just a result of my fevered imagination. If it’s the latter, don’t tell me – let me have my little fantasies, my glorious memories of the game I remember playing even if it isn’t the one I actually played… If it’s the latter, take this little essay as an exercise in flawed imagination and wishful thinking… This is how I remember the game and how I want to remember the game. So don’t burst my bubble, all you quibblers out there, okay? Anyway, here’s the kicker: As I remember it, most of the choices you made in Suikoden were fake. You didn’t really have a choice - you had to leave your buddy behind and you had to fight your father. The game channeled you back to the option it wanted you to pick. But, conceptually, the idea that a game could give you that kind of soul-searching choice – the kind of choice
that says something about the person playing the game… That’s what games can do that no other medium can. I was blown away by that, in Suikoden. And I told myself that that kind of choice, ladled on top of the ethical dilemmas posed by Ultima IV, that “Major life choices was something I wanted to ladled on top of ethical do in my own work. dilemmas became kind Major life choices ladled on top of ethical dilemmas of a grail for me. And I became kind of a grail for me. owe it all to a JRPG” And I owe it all to a JRPG, an Warren Spector, Otherside example of a genre I basically don’t like. Go figure. The only bad thing about Suikoden, for me, is how damn expensive it is to buy it these days. You see, I foolishly loaned my copy to someone. Can’t remember who. And I never got it back. I like to think my copy’s been passed on from one gamer to another, inspiring each of them the way it inspired me. But if you have my old copy of Suikoden, do me a favor and give it back to me, okay? I miss it.
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Thinking outside the cube Sperasoft’s Steven Thornton says Portal 2 is a fresh and brave sequel that outshone its predecessor
Steven Thornton Lead Game Designer, Sperasoft PREVIOUS ROLES Game Director, TT Fusion • Lead Level Designer, TT Fusion • Artist/Design, GobiGames
SELECTED WORKS Rainbow Six Siege • LEGO Marvel’s Avengers • LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens • The LEGO Movie Videogame • Rubble Muddle
In the high-pressure plate spinning of game development, the seamless cohesion of a game’s individual parts is the greatest of accomplishments. Portal 2 is not only a masterclass in game direction that features living examples of almost every design principle I personally hold dear, it also holds tight to that most prized of holy grails: a perfect marriage of its parts. Aesthetic, narrative, gameplay, art and music, all individually laudable yet overlapping and complimenting each other at every turn. Beloved games designer and soundbite-savvy industry icon Shigeru Miyamoto once said that a good idea doesn’t just solve one problem, it solves multiple problems at the same time. Nothing in Portal 2’s design does only one thing, and at the nucleus of this marriage is Portal’s most central premise and most ingeniously efficient contrivance: The Aperture Science laboratory. EXTRA DIMENSIONS In case you’ve been living under a moon rock, the Portal series is set in a vast laboratory, and the lab’s safety briefings, product labels
and warning signs function as world building, non-intrusive diegetic tutorial messages, environmental artwork, and gags all at once. The constraints of our player character – the tenacious overalls-clad mute Chell – trapped in a series of controlled lab tests allows Valve to throw up the limitations necessary to reign in what could easily be a confusing library of unwieldly mechanics while simultaneously providing them the catered, hand-crafted space they need to thrive. It also lets their designers easily plug up any loopholes or technical hangs no questions asked, such as instantly replacing any valuable cubes you accidentally drop into a vat of acid. The original Portal sees the player solving/ surviving a series of these contained test rooms until a literal and metaphorical backstage escape into the spaces behind the lab. It’s at this point the game’s character, story and gameplay are set loose from the limitations of the test chambers; we slip through the panels and girders of the facility, needing only our portal gun and a sliver of white tile in the distance to wriggle free of the lab’s mechanical claws again. Chell feels empowered and slippery smart, utilising everything she’s learned from
Why I Love: Portal 2 the game’s puzzles in a newly organic way. Clocking in at just over three hours, the first Portal is celebrated for its brevity and focus as much as its wit and brains. STILL ALIVE
Portal 2 does not rely on old ideas
It would be very easy for a sequel to stretch a winning formula like that too far, pulling open gaps where the charm and soul leak out. But Portal 2 is a true expansion of the original that doesn’t rely on old ideas or call-backs to cakes and companion cubes. It’s fresh and brave, it adds where most would take, and by the end it leaves the brilliant, self-standing, critically acclaimed masterpiece that is the original Portal looking like a Kickstarter demo for Portal 2. From the very beginning when Wheatley accidentally shreds the walls of your Relaxation Pod to reveal the vast cryogenic compound beyond, Portal 2 promises that things are bigger this time, and that the lab’s walls cannot hold Chell for long. There are actually a few chapters early in the game where Chell is seemingly trapped once again at the mercy of passive-aggressive AI GLaDOS, in another long queue of her increasingly demanding test rooms. By its end, this section seems to be trying to deliberately demoralise the player with the very formula that defined the beloved original, or at least to quickly recap the potent contrast of containment with the rush of the breakout.
But in Portal 2 the breakout doesn’t happen in the 11th hour: it kicks off before the halfway mark, leaving the majority of the game primed to reach far beyond the scope of the original. Just as Aperture’s thousands of tiny mechanical arms strip and shift the laboratory tiles, Portal 2 starts to show that it’s much more complex than a polished cube. In fact, Chell’s second escape doesn’t just leave her and the game diving into new territory, it also initiates a potent reversal of fortunes for both the game’s AI cores, blowing the plot open wider than a facility explosion and marking the start of a brilliantly written transformative journey for GLaDO S herself. By knocking GLaDOS from her throne, Portal 2 allows itself to be defined by new narrators and voices, as well as breathing exciting new life into its already infamous villain.
Portal 1 was praised for its focus
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FULL OF CHARACTER The cast is stellar; I can barely express the admiration I have for the blinding, shining talent that JK Simmons, Stephen Merchant and Ellen McLain put on show for this game. All three deliver joyful, enthusiastic performances that fill Aperture’s lonely corridors and yawning spaces with energy and charisma. Accompanying these new voices are new environments; the shattered and overgrown test rooms from the start “The sign of a good of the game are only the beginning of yet mechanic is often that another escape from they’re terrifyingly the franchise’s iconic unpredictable and difficult white tiles. to design for, a category Vast underground that both the portal gun tunnels and twisted scaffolding, abandoned and gels definitely fit” retro office buildings Steven Thornton, Sperasoft and archaic testing labs reskin all the familiar mechanics in period dress. And as the player advances through these different iterations of the Aperture complex, the loading screen evolves through a variety of new logos and themes. As we dig deeper underneath the facility to discover its origin story, there’s even a brief glimpse of humanity there, tragically lost beneath the decades of insanity that built the place. A truly impressive feat of writing within this mad universe of nihilistic, senile machinery and corporate callousness that’s explicitly crafted
to be milked for macabre laughs. Yet here I am, feeling pangs of sympathy for a killer robot who promises fake cakes and fat-shames my avatar… the feeling I get when I tip one of the game’s chirpy soft-spoken turrets off a ledge writ large. GUN PLAY I’ve gotten this far without even mentioning the mind-bending genius of the portal gun itself, a conceptual and visual spectacle that turns any traditional approach to level design upside down, literally. If the most valuable commodity in game mechanics is versatility, then the handheld portal device is worth the weight of an entire production line of Weighted Companion Cubes in gold. Portal 2 also boasts a considerably expanded range of supporting mechanics, near all of which can be deftly weaponised by the portal gun, transforming the player’s paired portals into globular gel hoses, laser cannons, sucking vacuums and hard light bridge projectors. The sign of a good mechanic is often that they’re terrifyingly unpredictable and difficult to design for, a category that both the portal gun and gels definitely fit. I applaud the bravery and thoughtfulness required to wrestle these mechanics to heel, even under the tactical limitations of the laboratory setting. Towards the end of the game Valve even throws those limits out the window by introducing the ‘conversion gel’, allowing the player to splash portal-friendly paint anywhere that their chunky droplets can reach.
Portal 2 adds new visual depth to the franchise
Why I Love: Portal 2
THE EUREKA MOMENT Both Portal games are routinely celebrated for their tightly balanced puzzles, but the eureka “oh, I get it!” moments that punctuate the player’s every success are no accident. There is a near-mystical clarity and confidence to Portal 2’s level design rarely seen outside the hallowed halls of Nintendo. The testing chambers are ruthlessly efficient, no red herrings to mislead the player. Every aspect of the room from the placement of the Portal-friendly walls to a raised or sloped platform is both a jigsaw piece to fiddle into place and a clue of what picture you’re meant to be making. New mechanics and ideas are carefully introduced, practiced, evolved and combined over several chambers, gradually building an intuitive arsenal of techniques and visual relationships that the player can apply with increasing ease. As the tests become more daunting and the player’s arsenal grows, solutions evolve from compressing buttons to the choreographing of physics-defying daredevil ballets. An admirable subtlety is the chiptune melodies that swell under Chell’s feet as she slides over gel or catapults from faith plates, composed into full song by the most complex Portal parkour. Stretches of the game are consciously themed to a specific mechanic or twist, ensuring that Valve get to wring out every good idea and opportunity from every feature, and branding these sections with a memorable personality. It also allows each puzzle to layer on the premise of the last, yet surprise the player with new variables that block their previous solutions. This leaves Valve to predict and funnel the player through distinct steps of discovery, each a new chance for them to spin yet more of their meticulous invisible web and plant those eureka moments like landmines. PUZZLED PLOTTING Even outside the lab and away from the safety net of its contrivances, strokes of white paint stand out against the dark of Aperture’s industrial bowels and cavernous machinery. The player is able to traverse newly expansive environments by hopping from distant white island to distant white island, and navigation becomes a new type of puzzle for Valve to play with.
Although the game will continue finding good reasons to dip back into test environments to showcase its new mechanics in the comfortable abstraction of a hand-crafted room, it will forever more mix in sections focused on traversal, exploration and adrenaline-fuelled improvisational set pieces. Valve is constantly laundering the game’s narration, tone, look and gameplay. The game ultimately ends with a triumphant high-stakes final chapter that dials up the comedy and conflict to fever pitch, blending the same rush of organic problem solving and slippery smartness with sharp wit, sharp twists and sharp spikes. As if it wasn’t all gift enough already, Valve spoils us with a nail-biting double bluff of a finish, an unexpected operatic flourish, a comic-timing perfect cameo and the impossible feat of a fresh ear-worm from the lovely Jonathan
“By the end it leaves the brilliant, self-standing, critically acclaimed masterpiece that is the original Portal looking like a Kickstarter demo for Portal 2” Steven Thornton, Sperasoft
Coulton that’s actually able to stand beside his pop-culture smashing original for charm… and carrying a lot more emotional punch. All this leads the story into the co-operative multiplayer mode revolving around a mechanical Laurel and Hardy taking over from Chell as Aperture’s lead lab rats – and that’s full of even MORE clever ideas, allowing two players to juggle the benefits of two bodies and two Portal guns with the added complexities of teamwork, the thing that makes Portal 2 so impressive in the first place. Eschewing the auteur, Valve prefer to present themselves as an amorphous alphabetical blob of brains and talent, making it unclear where to send the wine and roses. So thank you, Michael Abrash. Thank you, Torsten Zabka. And everyone in between. It just so happens, we’re at the time of writing fast approaching the 7th anniversary of Portal 2’s release. Hope you got a cake, for real.
Magic: The Gathering is Sesame Street Voyageur developer Bruno Dias says that the collectible card game is transitioning from a popular product to a cultural fixture
Bruno Dias Game and Narrative Designer, and Freelance Writer SELECTED WORKS Voyageur (in partnership with Failbetter Games) • Where The Water Tastes Like Wine • Neo Cab
Magic cards from 1993 are still used
When I signed up for this, I didn’t realize how hard it would be; this article has been kicking my ass for a week. It turns out that writing about something with unambiguous positivity is difficult and fraught; there’s a vulnerability in being a fan of something that isn’t there, thankfully, in being a critic. Magic: The Gathering seems to be talked about in two modes: With a layer of ironic detachment, or in the devotional tones of an enthusiast. The former, to me, wouldn’t be honest. But the latter wouldn’t be truthful either; I don’t really play Magic any more, even though I keep up with the game. Of course, I straddle the line between critic and developer and that just makes it all the more uncomfortable. Still, this is why those kinds of pieces seem necessary to me; because we’re living with this discourse that prizes detachment and punishes vulnerability. I bury my lede and say all this so I can be clear about how difficult this unambiguity is: I love Magic: The Gathering. I really do.
And like all loves it’s complicated; it’s not a single, easily explained thing. Explaining your love for something doesn’t lend itself easily to writing, because love doesn’t have a throughline, or much of a point. It just is. So I have to pull this thing out of myself and turn it this way and that so you can see all the angles and facets of it. I won’t look cool while doing it. Here goes. THE WAR ON COMPLEXITY I love Magic’s unabashed complexity. Most tabletop games run on common sense; Magic is too big, too ancient, for common sense. Its rules have been honed to a degree of sharpness and precision that is impossible for other games to achieve. The time it takes to become a fully qualified Magic judge is longer than the lifespan of most games. Mark Rosewater, Magic’s head designer, likens the complexity in Magic to a raging fire that Wizards of the Coast works to keep under control. And as a designer I fully empathize; I know how bad complexity is, how easily people disengage the moment they don’t understand something. I know what a difficult task it is to balance deep strategy against mechanical clarity. And yet, as a player, I want it to be complicated. I want the minutiae, I want those baroque rules. I couldn’t bear more than a few hours of Hearthstone because I felt like I understood everything and all that was left to discover was a laborious climb up Mount Metagame. I’ve been playing Magic on and off since 1999 and I still don’t understand how the most terrifying corners of the rules interact. Magic will happily let you have Opalescence and Humility – two enchantments that read “every enchantment
Why I Love: Magic: The Gathering is a creature with power equal to its mana cost” and “every creature has 1 power” – next to each other on the table. I can look up judge rulings online to see what happens under those circumstances, but it would take about an hour to explain why. Any sane designer would call this a problem, a rough edge, an unfortunate artifact of Magic’s complexity, and less-than-rigorous rules in its earlier “Most tabletop games days. But I cannot run on common sense; help loving it; Magic contains Magic is too big, too ancient, genuine mysteries, for common sense” in the original, Bruno Dias religious sense of the word. People had to sit down, presumably in a conference room somewhere in Renton, WA, and figure out how Opalescence and Humility interact. Maybe several times over the years. To me, that’s perversely fascinating. Magic constantly threatens to go off the rails and to explode with unexpected possibilities. This past season, players were up in arms over an oppressive deck that won by attacking with an arbitrarily large number of cats. There are decks that win by playing 10 or 20 cards in a single turn, chewing through their deck with free mana and card draw until they reach their payload, a card with the Storm ability that causes their effect to scale with the number of spells cast on the same turn. There are decks that do nothing on their first turn so they can discard a card at the end of the turn Magic’s (Magic enforces a maximum hand size of seven), complexity is because they play the game from their discard its strength pile and not their hand.
This kind of weirdness isn’t the norm, but it’s present. Magic entices with the possibility that the system can be broken, that the game can be tricked into doing things that were never intended. MAGIC REGENERATION I love Magic’s engine for defining identity and character. Magic’s colors are not factions or character classes, they are collections of themes, mechanics, philosophical principles. Blue isn’t a collective of ice wizards, it’s an overarching idea that humanity is perfectible, that progress is possible. The open-ended identities of the colors allow them to reinvent and realign themselves with every new world Magic visits as its hops across its multiverse. They allow players a degree of unabashed identification that would be distant and mediated otherwise. Magic’s escapist fantasy is amplified a thousand times by being grounded in concepts that relate to the audience’s own lives and experiences; something that most fantasy games would do well to think about. The colors are constants that act as a stable foundation for the ever-changing world of Magic. Magic balances on this razor’s edge between change and constancy, between comfort and novelty, between complexity and accessibility. Sometimes it totters this way or that; 25 years of refinement have gone into keeping this up. Imagine what an avid, omnivorous gamer might have gotten in 1993: A Monstrous Manual for AD&D 2nd Edition; a copy of Myst on CD-ROM; Star Fox for the Super Nintendo; a few packs of first-edition Magic: The Gathering cards. The Magic cards are
62 Why I Love: Magic: The Gathering
the only thing that would not only still be usable today, but still be actively supported by the company that made them. Magic is Sesame Street; it has always been here and, gods willing, will always be here. We are reaching the point where players who
Magic is 25 years old
grew up with Magic will be teaching it to their kids. We are reaching the point where Magic transcends being a product and becomes a cultural fixture on the level of chess. But the ultimate reason I care so much about Magic: The Gathering, a card game that I just can’t find the time (or money) to play any more, is the radical transparency Wizards has developed as their way of talking to their dedicated audience. On Wizards’ own website, Mark Rosewater has been writing weekly about the minutiae of designing Magic card sets since 2002. And he writes about it explicitly for his own audience, not for other game designers. A lot of people in this industry can trace their careers to the moment where they realized that people work in games and that making games is something they could do. How many people got this from Rosewater’s column? ON TIME, EVERY TIME If they weren’t a regular thing when Rosewater started, development diaries are commonplace now. But the particularities of Magic make his column different. Magic operates on a fixed release schedule, putting out four sets of new cards every year. In all its existence, it has never missed a release date. Rosewater writes from the perspective of someone who has spent 20 years honing a
very specific craft. The workflow, methodology, scheduling, and terminology of Magic design is something that people who follow that game closely have become conversant in. As a working game designer, not a lot of what Rosewater talks about is directly applicable to my own work. But the most important thing that he brings is a certain point of view and attitude that I find invaluable. He’s willing to let himself be a fan of his own product without believing his own hype; Rosewater will willingly talk about the times Magic has failed. He’s willing to take that position of authority over his own work without it curdling into arrogance. His bouncy, hyper public persona is an oddly good complement to the inherent pulpy silliness of Magic itself. It contrasts against an industry that, at its worst, can be obsessed with cool at the expense of warmth, andmore concerned with appearing smart than with understanding others. There are game design texts that are more useful, or theoreticall rigorous. And of course the “We are reaching the point role of Rosewater’s where Magic transcends articles is as much to excite the being a product and audience about becomes a cultural fixture upcoming sets, on the level of chess” and thus sell booster Bruno Dias packs. But they were a way into understanding how to think about games for me. And I still try to read most of them; like the game itself, it’s still going. There are always cards to talk about, of course, but more than that: the way Magic gets made is also constantly evolving along with the game. Magic is an ancient thing that survives by making itself anew every few months; by constantly shedding its skin, it allows itself to grow. This is the paradox at the heart of that game: Magic’s continued existence and popularity are one of the few constants in the games industry, but it achieves that by changing constantly.
The magic of Loom Eidos Montreal’s Rayna Anderson explores how the LucasFilm Games “felt like a conversation with the creators”
Rayna Anderson Senior Narrative Coordinator, Eidos Montreal PREVIOUS ROLES Senior Narrative Designer, Eidos Montreal • Game Designer/Writer, Gameloft • Product Specialist, Gameloft
SELECTED WORKS Dungeon Hunter 3 • Modern Combat 2: Black Pegasus • CSI: The Mobile Game • CSI Miami: The Mobile Game • Deus Ex: Mankind Divided • Deus Ex GO
Loom was more about the experience than the challenge
If you’ve ever asked me what my favourite game is, you’ve probably gotten many answers over the years. But lately, 1990’s Loom has risen to the top and I have finally figured out why my appreciation of the design of this simple pointand-click adventure continues to grow. The game opens by welcoming you into the world. The kind, grandmotherly narration is set over the soothing orchestration of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. This opening isn’t foreboding or intended to set your nerves on edge like other games that came before it. Instead, it tells you to relax, settle in, that everything is ok. The mission you’re given isn’t to destroy something or kill someone, but to amass knowledge, help others, and rejoin your family. While the mystery of what’s happening in this world feels large, your motivation to move forward remains personal.
The critically adored Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
And with that, you’re released into this unique world where magic does ordinary things for ordinary people. I still appreciate the story’s brand of magic, which doesn’t involve fairies, or elves, or wizards. Magic is musical, woven into the very fabric of life. There aren’t ancient, forbidden tomes to learn this magic from. You learn it by observing it in the natural world and the actions of its inhabitants. In Loom, rewards are received for passively watching life unfold. The game also rewards you for being clever with how you use the magic you’ve learned. Each problem has several solutions and you’re never punished for experimenting. Unlike many adventure “Reaching the end of Loom games from this era, was an experience that Loom has no dead brought with it a new feeling ends, no unsolvable that I’d never felt playing a puzzles. What the game before: resolution” game expects you to do is always clear and Rayna Anderson, Eidos Montreal the puzzle solutions are always logical. In fact, I was surprised when, just a few hours later, it was done. I didn’t die or hit a dead end; I completed the game. No way had I ever gotten anywhere
Why I Love: Loom
close to finishing Maniac Mansion! We’re talking very early ‘90s here. There was no internet, no walkthroughs. If you got stuck on a game, the best you could hope for was another nerd friend with “lateral thinking” abilities. Reaching the end of Loom was an experience that brought with it a new feeling that I’d never felt playing a game before: resolution. This was not the satisfaction of having ‘won’, but the feeling that Bobbin’s story was over and his inevitable ending earned. I walked away from it enriched by the experience.
to participate in the transformation of Bobbin and his world. Their game presented nothing to block me from consuming it whole.
THE FULL EXPERIENCE Since then, other favourites have come and gone, those that are innovative, exciting, or compelling. But my love for Loom has continued to grow over the decades. As a player and designer I think about it often, and I finally understand why I enjoyed it. The majority of games, especially back in the ‘80s, are confrontational. They tend to be a challenge between the designer and player to see who can be smarter. They got harder and harder until you ran out of quarters, died, or glitched out. Or, if you did get to the end before your mom unplugged your console, you got a single title card congratulating you for conquering the toughest challenge yet. Then, unceremoniously, your quest was over. Finished. Complete. And you, the developer assumed, should be pleased with that accomplishment alone. Loom was the first game that I experienced in its entirety. And it’s stayed that way in my memory: a complete experience. In an age of confrontational games, Loom was the first to invite me to experience its entire vision, from start to finish. It felt like a conversation with the game’s creators. I wasn’t taunted to prove myself with memorization or motor-skills. Loom encouraged me to see their story,
This is why I’ve been so enamoured with the recent boom of walking sims. I don’t need endless hours of trying to outwit the devs to see what the meaning of the game is. Walking sims don’t want you to experience the first hour, with some sections on repeat until you can master them. They want you to play through the whole game so you can understand the creator’s intent. It’s the journey that’s the message, and without reaching the end, the message is incomplete. Loom may be a short experience, but what I continue to learn from it will last me a lifetime.
Loom wanted you to finish the game
It’s what’s Inside that counts InXile’s Brian Fargo discusses the design, elegance and impact of Playdead’s acclaimed platformer
Brian Fargo Founder and CEO, InXile PREVIOUS ROLES Advisor, Fig • Advisor, Robot Cache • Founder and CEO, Interplay Entertainment SELECTED WORKS Wasteland • Mario Teaches Typing • ClayFighter • Fallout • Star Trek: Starfleet Academy • The Bard’s Tale • Hunted: The Demon’s Forge • Wasteland 2 • Torment: Tides of Numenera
It’s not often that I find the time and passion to finish a game but Inside was one of those rare gems that I had to see through to completion. I play a tremendous amount of games to stay on top of what is state of the art, to experience new UI approaches and to understand why people are enjoying it. One might assume that I only play RPGs, but every genre has lessons to be learned from and playing games in my own genre is often more “I’ve always felt that homework than play. attention to subtle detail When I was a kid will be appreciated by the (in my early Interplay players even if at some days) I used to go to small animated movie festivals subconscious level. And it to watch experimental is through the subtle detail and crazed short films. in which the soul of a Inside reminded me of game is felt” the strangeness of those Brian Fargo, InXile experiences. In fact, I remember first seeing Pixar’s Luxo Jr. back in the late ‘80s at just one of those events. One of the most difficult things to do in games is to set a strong sense of mood. Games like Hellblade and the original Fallout series did a wonderful job of striking the right tone and Inside does the same with its muted colors and subtle sound design. Ultimately our goal as game creators is to evoke a range of emotions (besides frustration)
from our players. Strong mood aids immersion, which in turn gets the player’s head in the space to emotionally react. CREATING TENSION The game is simple in its implementation on the core mechanics of most every platformer: running, jumping, pushing, pulling etc. But Inside created a tension with its clever use of lighting, sound and timing. A simple flashlight became a terrifying moment that would result in an instant death if caught in its glow. Death was brutal and unceremonious with minimal sound effects to add to the bleakness of it all. Enemies simply stood over your dead body or strangled you silently. The lighting approach permeated the game as I was constantly avoiding headlights from cars and any number of strange machinery. It was a simple, effective and powerful. Especially well done was the tension that the developers infused in the game, and with a special highlight on the dogs. Audio foreshadowing is a proven technique and the ramp up of the dogs barking as they approach always got my heart racing. Again, a simple maneuver but highly effective in the timing required to outrun them. I especially appreciated the small
Why I Love: Inside
windows of time that would have me just barely leap from their jaws into the safety of the next scene. I loved it every time. There was a constant sense of foreboding as the strange adults were busy having conversations out of ear shot and turning knobs in some bizarre experiment that you could never get a handle on. My curiosity was piqued at all times. PUZZLE QUEST
Inside created tension through lighting and sound
The hallmark of good puzzle design is when I blame myself for not thinking of the solution should I fail at solving it, which is always a tight rope to walk. There were times when my desire to move forward outweighed my patience and I would find a walkthrough on YouTube and each time the answer was revealed I would know that I should have concluded it myself. Puzzles slowly cascaded up in difficulty and complexity but never to the point of feeling too rote. And again, the simplicity in thinking to solve them was always there. In one scene, the wonderfully terrifying dog chased me down to the edge of a lake, I jumped in to swim away only to find out he could pursue me in water and make his kill as I attempted my aquatic getaway. I felt like a
champ when I realized I had to lure him into the water, quickly swim underneath him and then make my escape. Additionally, I found the overall pacing quite nice in that each room did not require me to solve a puzzle, sometimes I could run freely for some time before encountering another block. This freedom made the world more organic; putting a puzzle in every room can make the world feel overly gamey. TAKING CONTROL A special nod also goes out to the bizarre scenes in which you brain control a mob of ghouls to do your bidding to solve a series of clever puzzles. It was both inventive and broke up the flow of the game by having me play with different mechanics. In fact, Inside gave me the opportunity to play with different mechanics of movement several times throughout the game, a technique that Iâ€™ve always been a big fan of. Iâ€™ve always felt that attention to subtle detail will be noticed or appreciated by the players even if at some subconscious level. And it is through the subtle detail in which the charm or soul of a game is felt. There were a number of techniques that I noted during gameplay that paid off this concept. Often when my character was running he would glance behind his shoulder to further the sense of being hunted. I also noted that the camera was in pretty tight during most of the game so that when it pulled out for the long shot I felt the sense of vast space. Inside is a game that when played in retrospect might look like it was easy to design but that is only because it is so tight in its implementation. Pulling off the kind of gameplay they did takes a tremendous amount of effort and focus on the power of iteration. This was not a game you simply designed on paper but a celebration of the long process of tinkering. Using the sound with just the right tone and frequency, creating tension with tight moments and the natural feeling of the puzzles into the environment and the cascading of puzzle elements was something that takes hundreds of hours to hone. Inside represented all that is artistic in creating video games.
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds: Failure as fun Fullbright co-founder Steve Gaynor shares what he sees in Bluehole’s smash hit survival shooter
Steve Gaynor Co-Founder, Fullbright PREVIOUS ROLE Lead Designer, 2K Marin SELECTED WORKS BioShock 2 (DLC) • Gone Home • Tacoma
I am driving in a buggy and I intend to flip it. My friend is on the back, perched in the baby seat, and I am telling them that this buggy is going to flip. I hit the lip of the ditch while boosting full speed, I turn sharply as we hit the edge, and we are spinning, upside down, flying through the air. Maybe we roll and come back up on wheels, keep driving, into the zone; maybe we touch down with wheels in the air, buggy on its back like a stranded tortoise, we ditch the screwed vehicle and now our challenge is to make it to the zone on foot. Or maybe someone was scoping in on us from a nearby tower, sees us ruin our ride for no reason, and snipes us both as we scramble for cover. Who cares? We are laughing and shouting, this is PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, and whatever the outcome, we had a good time. FINDING YOUR WAY If you know of PUBG, you probably know: it is an outgrowth of a multiplayer shooter mod based on the rules of the movie Battle Royale; each round is 100 players parachuting onto an island and fighting it out until only one survives; and it is a massive hit on Steam, having gained over 40 million players across all platforms, much of that momentum due to its highly shareable, streamable nature. It is janky, it is fiddly, and it is a great game. On its face, PUBG’s design is extremely inaccessible. Encounters are highly lethal, meaning that especially early in their careers, players can experience matches as long
droughts of quietude ending with sudden, inexplicable death. The player’s inputs are highly granular and not immediately clear: multiple movement postures exist between proning, crouching, sprinting, crouch-sprinting, slow walking, leaning, aiming from the hip vs tightened aiming from the hip vs aim down sights (along with holding your breath while aiming down sights) and all of these in either first- or third-person; multiple ammo types, multiple healing types with different durations and effects, various attachments that only snap to certain kinds of guns; armor with durability, vehicles that require gas tank management to keep running, hotkeys for switching seats in a car or the firing mode on a rifle… The list goes on, and none of it is tutorialized during play. But don’t worry, your friends will tell you how it works, or you can watch one of hundreds of YouTube videos on the subject, so that’s covered. Oh, right, and because the premise of the game is “100 people parachute onto the island and only one survives,” you are effectively guaranteed to lose, practically every round. In fact, after dozens of hours of play, I’ve still never won. INEVITABLE DEFEAT But that last point, I think, is at the heart of PUBG’s success as a design. I’m not much of a competitive gamer. I don’t
Why I Love: PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds
PUBG has sold over 40m copies across all platforms
generally get excited about match-based play, or wining a round of a fast-paced shooter or complex MOBA. For me, I tend to appreciate the mechanics or the design of these games in the abstract, but the drive to be at the top of the leaderboard for a round of CS:GO or Call of Duty or to climb to A Rank in Street Fighter competitive matches just isn’t there. I’m not the worst at these games, but I’m never going to approach the pro brackets either, or even maintain a respectable K/D ratio. But the central idea behind PUBG is that you ARE going to lose. Almost no one is going to win in a 100-person match-there’s 99 losers, and only one winner. And that’s OK. In fact, that’s better than OK – it’s the whole idea. If you play a round and you get a couple of kills along the way and then make it to the top 10 left alive, that’s pretty awesome. Or if you’re the first person to die because somebody got a Jeep early and ramped it over a hill and landed on top of you while you were trying to run to find your first gun, that’s a hilarious story to take with you, and you can roll up a new round quickly and give it another go. And if you DO manage to get that sweet, sweet Chicken Dinner, well, that’s freaking amazing, that’s a rush, and nice work, maybe you’ll get it again sometime – but winning is the exception, and losing can be fun, and anything in
between is an adventure, which sets PUBG apart entirely – and in a meaningful way – from almost any other competitive multiplayer game I’ve encountered. It’s a design that’s deeply rooted in a complex set of internally consistent rules that lead to the kinds of emergent moments we love to share, in a high-stakes context where death can come quickly if you’re not careful, lending weight to your decisions and encouraging
“Winning is the exception, and losing can be fun, and anything in between is an adventure” Steve Gaynor, Fullbright
thoughtfulness and recklessness in equal measure. And, almost always, it’s a game about failing, and about that promise of failure giving you permission to just have a good time. If you don’t win this round, there’s always the next one, and there are stories to be told. So get in that buggy, hit that ramp, and fly. (Editor’s note: The author wishes it to be known that since the original writing of this piece, he has in fact won a round and partaken of the victor’s customary chicken dinner.)
World of inspiration Lightseekers senior designer Ana Steiner traces her history with World of Warcraft, and how it convinced her to pursue a career in video games
Ana Steiner Senior Designer, PlayFusion PREVIOUS ROLE Lead Developer, Jagex SELECTED WORKS Runescape • Lightseekers
Steiner still engages with the WoW stories
In preparation for this article, I spent a lot of time thinking about what I should write about. I considered what I was currently playing, the first games I played, and which games I think are particularly well designed. As someone working in the industry, I felt I should choose an obscure game. But in the back of my mind I knew I was just circling around the game I really wanted to write about, the one that has had the biggest influence on me: World of Warcraft. I was a late starter to WoW; by the time I was introduced to the game it had already been on the market for over four years. I had played other games, of course, mainly platformers or FPS games but nothing which came close to the scale of World of Warcraft. I knew very little about it, and at the time, no one I knew was playing it. However, I had seen ‘Make Love, Not Warcraft’, the episode of South Park that parodied the game, and I thought it looked fun.
I also loved fantasy worlds. At home I would spend hours dreaming up my own characters and stories; then making them come to life by drawing them or writing about them. I dreamt of becoming an illustrator or a writer, having little to no idea that fields like concept art or games design existed. Finally, a friend started playing WoW and persuaded me to join. Don’t judge me, but I made an Alliance character. I blame my friend. I even came up with a backstory for her; she was a lowly human farmer who had decided to become a Paladin. She was brave and good, but not very bright (we even expanded on this later on; in our raid progression screenshots, my character would always be facing the wrong way). Many years on, I would eventually see the light (or perhaps the dark) and my human farmer would join the Horde to become a Blood Elf Paladin. THE WOW MOMENT One of my first, and fondest, memories of WoW was getting on a gryphon for the first time and flying across the different zones. Just seeing the openness and expanse of the world captured my imagination; gazing down at areas that looked so interesting, glimpsing monsters I couldn’t yet fight, and seeing actual, real people running around so far beneath me. I just remember being completely in awe, and so excited about what was to come next. This feeling of awe stayed with me throughout my first levelling experience, with many notable moments along the way: crossing the grand bridge into Stormwind for the first time, being trampled by Stitches in Duskwood,
Why I Love: World of Warcraft
and seeing the immense home of the Lich King in Icecrown, just to name a few. Every turn seemed to hold something new and exciting, even if that was just discovering that the Stormwind guards would wave back to you if you emoted at them! Of course the “Whilst I’ve enjoyed lots of initial excitement other games, none have given eventually wore off, me the same feeling of awe I but by that time there were other remember from when I first things that kept started playing WoW” me interested. Ana Steiner, PlayFusion I loved being part of a small, friendly raiding guild. There were also endless opportunities for collecting, be it mounts, pets or achievements. I must have spent hours tracking Little Timmy around Stormwind to buy his white kittens, or defeating dragonkin to get my Crimson Whelpling.
Steiner’s early World of Warcraft fan art
STORY TIME Then there was the story. I was completely enthralled by the story of Arthas and his transformation into the Lich King. I loved seeing his character develop, for example in the Culling of Stratholme dungeon and the Death Knight starter quests. Alongside that, I really enjoyed the theming in the different areas; the giant dragons in Dragonblight, the adorable Oracles in Sholazar Basin, and the snowy mountains of Storm Peaks. Blizzard’s storytelling remains strong today. I still return to each new expansion to play through the main storyline. Legion, in particular, has hooked me once again on the developing story and characters (and I’ll even admit one particular moment of the Legion storyline had me in tears). However, the way I play these days is very different. Many of my WoW friends have moved on, so I tend to play by myself at
a more casual and relaxed pace. But this is still enjoyable. I’m still immersed in the world, and I can take more time to really absorb the story and characters. There is perhaps one downside to all this. Whilst I’ve enjoyed lots of other games since, none have given me quite the same feeling of awe and wonder I remember from when I started playing WoW. I can’t help but speculate as to whether I will ever get it again. For me, WoW is a game filled with nostalgia. Perhaps in a few years I will feel the same way about the games I am currently playing too, but as the title that really showed me what I wanted to do as a career, WoW will be pretty hard to beat.
A WHOLE NEW LIGHT Today, I enjoy creating my own worlds, stories and characters for other players, using inspiration from what I love about WoW. While Lightseekers is a very different game to World of Warcraft, I want players to feel the same sense of awe when exploring this new fantasy world. I want them to have the same excitement that there’s so much to explore. When writing storylines I always try and imagine how the player will feel in the moment, what emotions I want them to be experiencing, and I love to write varied characters that I hope can be interesting and memorable. World of Warcraft is definitely a huge inspiration for me when doing this. It was the first game that really showed me that people out there actually got paid for all the things I was doing in my spare time. It helped me to discover I could have a job where I was making characters, worlds and stories. Without World of Warcraft, I wouldn’t be working in the games industry doing what I love.
Steiner’s designs for Lightseekers
Event horizon |
ARK: Survival Evolved
Here are the major Gamer Network and ReedPOP events to pay attention to before the end of 2018
One of the best, most successful open world, multi-platform survival games out there, also coming soon TH to Nintendo Switch. JULY 11 SEPTEMBER 8TH - 9TH
Beginning with the PS4 version and GamesIndustry.biz GGXP: Good Game without the luxuryParty of Early Access or Experience Summer Game Preview weUK managed to enhance, Brighton, Marina Bay Sands, optimise and have our version fully Singapore The annual summer party for the UK games A games event that Our involvement: scene returns to Patterns is co-located with the • Autonomously envisioned, on Brighton’s seafront.designedSingapore Toy, Game and implemented a brand new UI forand Comic Convention. TH - 29TH PC. JULY 28 all versions, including Singapore Toy, Game & • Developed 2nd cross-platform Comic Convention, MCM the Comic Con DLC called “Aberration” Marina Bay Sands, Manchester, UK after “Scorched Earth”. Singapore AUGUST 3RD - 5THALL console • Continue to maintain TH TH versions, keeping them up to date SEPTEMBER 14 - 16 Seoul Comic Con with Studio Wildcard’s PC version. Keystone Comic Con Seoul, Korea • We continue to merge our ad-hoc Philadelphia, US console improvements back into AUGUST 28TH - 29TH Comic Con Africa Wildcard’s PC version. PAX Dev Johannesburg, South Africa Studio Wildcard is one of our biggest Seattle, US clients and along with other clients they SEPTEMBER 20TH completely trust the expertise, skill and work ethos of the Abstraction Team. The GamesIndustry.biz Summit They entrust their IP to us on a varietyInvestment of Birmingham, UK platforms so they can focus on creating new content and generating great ideas.
SEPTEMBER 22ND - 23RD
OCTOBER 26TH - 28TH
OZ Comic-Con Brisbane Brisbane, Australia
PAX AUS Melbourne, Australia
MCM Scotland Glasgow, Scotland SEPTEMBER 28TH - 30TH EGX Berlin Berlin, Germany The UK’s biggest games event is coming to Berlin. Including presentations by game designers, esports areas, plus meet and greet opportunities.
PAX returns to Melbourne, and continues to be a celebration of all things gaming. Featuring publisher booths, retro gaming, panels, unreleased games and more. MCM Comic Con London London, UK Comic Con Paris Paris, France OCTOBER 27TH - 28TH
SEPTEMBER 29TH - 30TH OZ Comic-Con: Sydney Sydney, Australia
Indonesia Comic Con Jakarta, Indonesia NOVEMBER 12TH - 13TH
PAX Dev is one of thespectacular After delivering a robust and Best Places To Work industry’s leading looking Pre-Alpha in time events for GDC 2018, OCTOBER 4TH - 7TH Awards Canada for game makers to hone our Nintendo Switch version of ARK SE Montreal, Canada their skills, providing a is nearing public shipment. New York Comic Con nurturing space for industry The UK’s premiere games The Best Places concept New York, US investment event, featuring professionals to learn, comes to Canada, talks, a networking lunch share and interact. with a ceremony at TH OCTOBER 12 and a meeting system where horseMontreal power compared with other International SNK Heroines 200 indies can meet with AUGUST 31ST console hardware. Games Summit. Best Places To Work UK publishers SEPTEMBER 3RD Weand are investors. honoured to beLondon, workingUK with • Retaining the precise control and NOVEMBER 17TH - 18ofTHany such a visionary company. After the expert timing expected TH RD SEPTEMBER 20 - 23 PAX West successful delivery to Spike Chunsoft of respected ‘em up isCon paramount. Seattle, US VIECCbeat Vienna Comic Danganronpa 1 & 2 on PC/Steam, SNK EGX 2018 • The ‘feel’ and game play MUST remain Vienna, Austria became Birmingham, UKour second Japanese client. This means a lot to us as Japanese NOVEMBER 24TH - 25TH • The game must behave as expected companies tend to partner with acrossMCM the Birmingham Switch’s peripherals and organisations within their own country. plentiful play modes. First we delivered the successful King Birmingham, UK Returning for its second of Fighters XIV for PC and now, based • All characters have expressive year, the GamesIndustry.biz Unreleased games, big DECEMBER on SNK’s original PS4 version, we’re movement, animation and visual Best Places To Work Awards booths, compelling panels, materials on clothing and skin. We celebrates the greatest GamesIndustry.biz game music concerts, both PC/Steam and Nintendo Switch. devised a system that transformed the employers in the UK. The UK’s biggest Christmas Party the gaming community and games expo, featuring Characteristics of the work London, UK industry support puts PAX between shader models and retain the most anticipated far above any other show 100% accuracy with the original design. games, presentations and detail needs to run smoothly on the on the planet. • After The King of Fighters XIV, Heroines tournaments. Also the Nintendo Switch’s restricted graphical GamesInustry.biz Career Fair.
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