MCV ISSUE 935 THE BUSINESS OF VIDEO GAMES
BE NICE HOW CAROLINE MILLER ROSE TO THE TOP OF UK GAMES PR
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Register your interest at www.esportsproawards.com An
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05 The editor
Women are the future
06 Critical path
The key dates this month
16 The big interview Indigo Pearl’s Caroline Miller
22 Gender pay gap
There’s still plenty of work to be done
26 QA & localisation Think global, act local
30 Ins and outs
And all our recruitment advice
40 Industry voices
Our platform for the industry
42 Victory royale
Epic’s Tim Sweeney talks Fortnite
46 Culture club
Keza MacDonald on games as culture
50 Success with ID@Xbox Making developers’ lives easier
54 Arte’s odyssey
Making the leap to publishing
Bringing game design to the masses
62 DayZ resurrected
Bringing the game back to life
71 New or improved
RICO, A Way Out, Disco Elysium
74 Fresh meat
We chat to VR studio Maze Theory
e t ei
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Paladone’s Assassin’s Creed range
80 Mechanically sound Making parkour feel right in Brink
Ukie’s CEO Jo Twist
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“By creating games that tell stories that everyone can relate to, we are in control.”
Women are the future This time last year the full-time MCV editorial team was two-thirds women. I was the only man in the o ce and I have to say I felt pretty good about that. A year later, having brought all our gaming brands together, sadly we’re just another predominantly male team, as you’ll find across the vast majority of the games industry today. This month we have our Women in Games Awards, which is the flagpole of our efforts to support and applaud the successes of women in the industry, as well as those organisations that are trying hard to agitate for change – both internally and via broader industry and even societal change. It’s the sheer range of ways that the industry can deploy in order to help solve the problem which has really intrigued me this month, after three different women in this month’s maga ine, Caroline Miller, Ke a MacDonald and Rosa Carbo-Mascarell, all spoke of this in different respects. The industry’s greatest power is its product. By creating games that tell stories that everyone can relate to, and which provide a wide range of protagonists so everyone has someone to empathise with, we are in control. Not only of our own destiny but as a massive force for good across society as a whole. However, creating the best such games requires us to have the broadest possible range of talent available, coming from every possible gender, race, age, faith, sexuality and many more. It’s a bit chicken and egg in that respect; build it and they will come, but to build it we need them to be here. That’s why it’s going to be an uphill struggle, but this is an industry that has never shirked from a challenge. An industry that literally creates challenges for fun, and though this is no game, I’m sure we can succeed. Finally, as you may have heard, NewBay Media which publishes MCV has been acquired in its entirety by Future Publishing which co-incidentally means we now have a woman CEO in illah Byng-Maddick . To date there are no changes to report, MCV both in print and online continues as usual, as do all our events. But as a team we’re happy to have joined a company with so much experience in the games industry. Seth Barton email@example.com
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Women in Games Awards 2018
CriticalPath Here are the key upcoming events and releases to mark in your calendar...
Facebook UK, London
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze Donkey Kong will be making his Switch debut this year, with Wii U’s title Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze releasing on Switch on May 4th. Original developer Retro Studios developed this port as well.
Detroit: Become Human
The Women in Games Awards are back! Join us as we celebrate amazing talent in the UK games industry for a fourth year running. With new categories for 2018 it’s set to be a truly inspirational and rewarding afternoon. Three categories are debuting this year: ournalist of the Year, Influencer of the Year and Games Campaigner of the Year. The 2018 ceremony is being held at Facebook’s London o ces, with the company being our headline sponsor for the afternoon. Also sponsoring the event are Fourth Floor, OPM, Splash Damage, Riot Games, Sumo Digital, Amiqus and Ukie. Good luck to all our nominees and we’ll see you all on May 11th.
May 22nd State of Decay 2 Announced at E3 2016, State of Decay 2 hits shelves at the end of the month. Developed by Undead Labs on Unreal Engine 4, this sequel to 2013’s State of Decay will launch simultaneously on Xbox Game Pass for free.
Quantic Dream’s Detroit: Become Human is finally releasing this month, as a PS4 exclusive published by Sony. The action-adventure title written by David Cage focuses on the story of three androids, and is told from their point of view.
Dark Souls Remastered Having been delayed on Switch until ‘late summer’, Dark Souls Remastered is still coming to PS4, Xbox One and PC this month. Bandai Namco and FromSoftware’s beloved masterpiece, distributed by Advantage, features updated visuals and quality-of-life improvements.
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Games Media Brit List
Stand Up for GamesAid
Rich Mix, London
The Comedy Store, London
The first Games Media Brit List ceremony is taking place this May, with the aim to “recognise excellence in games reporting and commentary, celebrating journalists, podcasters, vloggers, media brands and more, in a who’s who of the UK games media talent pool.” There will be ten awards up for grabs at the ceremony, being held at Rich Mix, in Shoreditch. The event is free to attend for the finalists.
Stand Up for GamesAid is coming back for a sixth year of stand-up comedy hosted by former games tester Imran Yusuf at The Comedy Store in London. All profits of the evening go to GamesAid and the line-up this year includes Geoff Norcott, Abandoman, Milton ones, Evelyn Mok, Scummy Mummies and Jason Patterson, with more guests to be announced.
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CONTENT Editor: Seth Barton firstname.lastname@example.org, +44 (0)203 871 7388 Content editor - development: Jem Alexander email@example.com, +44 (0)203 871 7379 Content editor - business and esports: Jake Tucker firstname.lastname@example.org, +44 (0)207 354 6009 e io taff ite a ie eale a i email@example.com, +44 (0)203 889 4910 o t ib to
Content Director: James McKeown firstname.lastname@example.org, +44 (0)207 354 6015 Designer: Sam Richwood email@example.com Digital Director: Diane Oliver firstname.lastname@example.org, +44 (0)207 354 6019 Production Executive: James Marinos email@example.com, +44 (0)203 889 4907
ADVERTISING SALES Sales Manager: Sophia Jaques firstname.lastname@example.org +44 207 354 6025 Account Executive: Ashleigh Sadler email@example.com +44 207 354 6000
I was dead-set on playing God of War by now, but a weekend by the seaside (PS4 in my bag) denied me. Nowhere sold new releases and the broadband was so farcically slow a digital download was out of the question. I was angrier than Kratos.
The Room: Old Sins is ﬁnally out on Android so I’ve been spending time in that creepy dollhouse. I also started about a bazillion games I will never ﬁnish, including Bastion and Night in the Woods. But I did ﬁnish A Way Out, so I got that going for me, which is nice. Marie Dealessandri, e io taff ite
I moved ﬂat this month, so there wasn’t a lot of time for anything outside of playing real-life Tetris with all of my possessions (the only way to win is not to play.) I put a few hours into God of War, and throwing axes sure is satisfying. My Dark Souls journey is over. It was a fantastic ride, but I’m very happy to be playing God of War. A game with Naughty Dog quality narrative, set in a Norse mythology theme park is something that speaks to me on every level. Ten hours in and it just keeps getting better.
Jake Tucker, Content editor business and esports
Jem Alexander, Content editor
Seth Barton, Editor
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Pet name: Russell Owner’s name: Graham Day Owner’s job: Head of social and community at Jellymedia
Pet name: Oscar Owner’s name: Matthew Pellett Owner’s job: Media influencer consultant at Dead Good Media
Pet name: Roxy Owner’s name: Simon Marshall Owner’s job: Marketing manager at Kinetic Atom LTD
Just to clarify, Russell is the one on the left. Named after the hero from Up!, he’s known for his adventures but always returns to save the day. Or to snuggle.
After some confusion over what breed of dog Oscar might be, it see s t t s its e st rat friend! An avid football fan, his f o ite sn c is s nflo e see s
Roxy is a 7-year-old who still gets mistaken for a puppy and ID’d in bars. Her hearing is still sharp and on hearing a crisp packet rustle she’ll rush to make a new friend.
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Real life events from the industry EGX Rezzed 2018 - April 13th to 15th Rounding off the London Games Festival was Gamer Networkâ€™s annual love letter to the indie scene. Held once again at the brilliant Tobacco Docks, it was packed with exciting upcoming titles, providing fantastic public access to games and developers. For the industry it was hard to move two feet without stopping for a chat, making seeing all the games and attending any sessions a practical impossibility, of the good variety. We eagerly await next year.
Pictured left: Double Fineâ€™s Tim Schafer was the highlight of the developer sessions
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by Jake Tucker
Bigger than punk rock Esport’s punk rock attitude is landing it in hot water
ANOTHER month, another string of esports players and talent who have damaged their careers, and in some cases their lives, with their out-of-game behaviour. At this point something akin to compassion fatigue, where people become desensitised to shocking things by repeated exposure – like the Trump presidency – has set in and those in esports have started to treat it with a sort of joviality. This just happens here, it’s esports. Hundreds of fans turned out to defend Matthew ‘Sadokist’ Trivett after he dropped a racist slur during his own special heated gamer moment. While after Jonathan ‘DreamKazper’ Sanchez (pictured below) was fired from his Overwatch League team after allegations of sexual misconduct with a minor, esports commentator Duncan ‘Thorin’ Shields tweeted it was “sad to think his OW career might be over already.” Which, regardless of how innocuously Shields may have meant it, reads like a suggestion that we should ignore the allegations to focus instead on the player’s in-game skills. Now, it isn’t like regular sports players don’t also cause a ruckus: the tabloids do a good trade in the antics and opinions of some footballers. However, that sport was well-funded many years before the paparazzi and kiss-and-tell stories came along. By comparison, social media and streaming platforms are making esports stars essentially celebrities-as-a-service: the world is watching 24/7 and that puts huge pressure on what is often very young talent. At the moment, some of the more public incidences of unsavoury behaviour are broadcast live simply because many people in esports need to stream to earn. And that means being in the public eye to a degree no well-funded football club would allow in the modern media era.
increasingly needed as production values and salaries grow. Organisations in esports are moving forward with building these partnerships outside of the space, but controversy, especially involving racism and sexual misconduct, are an anathema to big brands, and hurt the clean image that esports must now enforce on its stages and streams. GUERILLA TV Behind the scenes, esports is still held together with sticking tape and the phenomenal efforts of passionate people, across the industry. The counterculture can-do atmosphere that enabled the scene to grow from LAN events is still essential for its survival. But the esports bubble isn’t a bubble anymore, and players, talent and anyone involved in making these events need to be aware of what they’re doing, and the impact that it has on the world around them. Esports must clean up its act, at least in this regard. People arguing about the right to drop racist slurs are going to find themselves left behind. Mass commercialisation isn’t the answer, and esports thrives on the diverse and interesting backgrounds of those inside it, but sponsors aren’t going to stand for this sort of behaviour, and god knows it’d be nice to have a couple of weeks without the implosion of a high profile figure in esports.
CELEBRITIES-AS-A-SERVICE While there’s only so much cleaning up you can do when so many popular esports involve killing your enemy’s digital avatars with firearms, many companies are making big strides towards turning esports into a TV-friendly package. Right now, non-endemic brands are hovering with bags of money to give to the right’ outfit – money that’s becoming
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The esports cartographer THIS month, the best of the best in the Halo 5 scene descended on the CenturyLink Field Event Center in Seattle to duke it out for their share of a $1m prize pool. Tahir ‘Tashi’ Hasandjekic, 343 Industries’ lead esports producer, talked to MCV about the event. And he brought good news: it’s been a great year for Halo competitive play, with unique viewership for Halo 5: Guardians more than doubling since last year’s event. 343 has also sold more tickets for 2018’s Halo World Championship Finals than the last two events combined. The team is also seeing a growing chunk of competitors in its FFA tournaments, with matches taking place at 82 Microsoft stores across North America and Australia. Solo FPS as an esport was a massive draw in the era of Quake and its ilk, and it seems Halo is coming close to recapturing that audience. Halo is an esport on the rise and Hasandjekic said it’s all about bringing the fanbase together: “Since we’ve been doing Halo 5 open events we’ve seen the fans, audience and players are really taking to them. We’re managing to bring the community together in one room, which is fantastic for Halo 5 esports.”
the big events Epicenter XL May 4th-6th Moscow, Russia May is a busy month for Dota 2, and it kicks off here, with this event in Moscow, the first ever Russian-hosted esports tournament to hold Dota 2 Major status. Valve will provide support for the event, and there will be a $1m prize pool, with the winning teams also earning qualification points towards The International 2018, Dota 2’s annual world championship event.
League of Legends, MSI Knockout Stage May 18th-20th Paris, France The Mid-Season Invitational tournament is the first global event in the League calendar, and a great chance to see what shape teams around the world are in. The scene around the game is up in the air right now as new teams make names for themselves, making it an exciting time to watch.
Dreamhack Austin June 1st-3rd Austin, United States
ESL One Birmingham May 25th-27th Birmingham, UK ESL One Birmingham is the UK’s first Dota 2 Major, and it seems ESL UK is pulling out all of the stops to make it memorable. The UK has long punched above its weight when it comes to Dota 2 talent, and there’s a hope that by bringing some of the finest players in the world together for a UK audience, it might inspire our homegrown talent to up their game.
Dreamhack returns for its third American visit, visiting the Texas city of Austin for a long weekend of esports, cosplay and a massive LAN party. Over the last few years Dreamhack events have become an essential destination for one-off esports tournaments and there’s often a really great bu as fans of several different titles float from stage to stage soaking up the best gaming esports has to offer.
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Up in Steam
IncomeStream The numbers, stats and market stories that matter and why they do
A change to Steam’s privacy settings last month delivered a fatal blow to key analytics service SteamSpy. In early April Valve rolled out a change to Steam’s profile privacy settings which saw an extensive rework to the way the system’s privacy settings work. One change that wasn’t flagged up was that Steam has made everyone’s gaming library hidden by default, a setting that SteamSpy developer Sergey Galyonkin relied upon to get analytics data. SteamSpy was an essential tool for many in the industry and those of us who report upon it. It provided data on the ownership of Steam titles that gave developers and publishers some idea of what games were big, what genres were growing, and a rough idea of how much a certain game might sell. Without it, the biggest PC platform in the world goes largely dark, much like the console-specific digital stores, in terms of the information that most in the industry can glean from it. We will regain some sales data on the biggest titles, from only some of the largest publishers, when the new ISFE digital data starts in January. But that data won’t be of any help to smaller publishers looking to find out how their competitors are faring on the biggest PC marketplace in the world. In what is likely to be its last annual roundup, SteamSpy estimates that the platform was up $800m (£565m) yearon-year in 2017 with sales revenue hitting a massive $4.3bn (£3bn). That’s more than the value of the entire UK games industry on a single platform. And that’s only for full game sales, with no DLC or microtransactions included. That revenue is heavily top-loaded. Around half of 2017’s revenues were generated by only 100 of the 21,000 games that are currently available on Steam’s marketplace. That means that 0.5 per cent of the games available on Steam generated 50 per cent of the revenue. Most titles simply never get off the ground saleswise, with 7,696 titles released in 2017. Prices for indie games are still dropping, with the median price for a new indie game hitting just $2.99 (£2.14) in the same year. Unsurprisingly, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, which raked in $600m (£430m) from over 28m owners was the biggest earner by a long way, with the second place game being Valve’s own o nte t i e ob ensi e with $120m (£86m), while Grand Theft Auto V took third with $83m (£59.5m). Again, all well-educated guesses rather than cast-iron facts. Farewell SteamSpy, you will be sorely missed. e ot
PRE ORDER TOP 5 TW
01 02 03 04 05
Red Dead Redemption 2 (PS4) Detroit: Become Human (PS4) Spider-Man (PS4) Days Gone (PS4) The Last of Us: Part II (PS4)
i b e on te
t tt s
Publisher Rockstar Sony Sony Sony Sony
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UK PHYSICAL RETAIL MARCH (UNITS)
01 TM LM 02 02 03 04 04 NEW 05 07 06 RE 07 10 08 NE 09 08 10 RE
FAR CRY 5 PUBLISHER: UBISOFT
Title FIFA 18 Grand Theft Auto V Sea of Thieves Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Call of Duty: WWII Super Mario Odyssey Burnout Paradise Remastered PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds EA Sports UFC 3
Publisher EA Rockstar Microsoft Nintendo Activision Nintendo EA Microsoft EA
Source: UKIE/GfK, Period: February 25th to March 31st
Italian Market This month we received the annual figures from the Italian market. The numbers were intriguing as they included digital sales figures from the GSD and the ISFE as part of a brand new methodology for 2017. The market as a whole hit €1.477bn (£1.286bn) and to the right are the biggestselling digital console titles, by units, for the year. We can see that growing gamesas-a-service titles such as Rainbow Six Siege and highly respected, discounted games such as Shadow of Mordor are mixed with the expected big hitters.
ITALY’S BIGGEST CONSOLE DOWNLOADS
TOM CLANCY’S RAINBOW SIX SIEGE Ubisoft
FIFA 18 EA
GRAND THEFT AUTO V Rockstar
CALL OF DUTY: WWII Activision
CRASH BANDICOOT N SANE TRILOGY Activision
FIFA 17 EA
HORIZON ZERO DAWN Sony
DESTINY 2 Activision
SHADOW OF MORDOR Warner Bros
BATTLEFIELD 1 EA
The trials of Kratos God of War – Sony
Where to start with God of War? After an extensive marketing campaign, and great reviews, the game looked set to rule supreme at retail. And while it hit the No.1 spot, sales were short of what we’d expected, shifting only 84 per cent of what Horizon Zero Dawn did roughly a year before. That could be taken as a compliment to Horizon, but as an established franchise, which didn’t have to compete with the Switch-Zelda launch frenzy, we expected more. There are mitigating factors. Sony and Amazon appear to be having some kind of spat, with the title (and many others) being listed as unavailable in the week before launch – something that’s still unexplained by either party. And then there was the weather, with glorious sunshine likely taking a few more units off Kratos’ new frostier reboot. It should do well in the longer-term but that will be cold comfort to Sony today.
The American dream Far Cry 5 – Ubisoft
Far Cry 5 had a storming launch at retail, being the bestselling title in the franchise to date, and the biggest lauch this year. A title it’s now near-certain to hold right up to FIFA 19’s release in the early Autumn. Bizarrely, it sold almost exactly the same number of units as its direct numbered predecessor – though that’s merely a curio when you consider the differences between the games. Far Cry 4 was launched back in 2014, so that’s a lot of digital shift to account for, it was launched in November, so more potential sales but more competition too, and it was launched across four consoles. Much has changed then over the years, but what hasn’t is the franchise continuing to perform excellently for Ubisoft.
(Data GSD, GameTrack and AESVI)
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Since founding Indigo Pearl in February 2000, Caroline Miller has been at the beating heart of the UK games industry. She tells Jake Tucker about how the PR business has changed in the last twenty years, and why the industry needs to do better at being diverse
ork hard. Be nice. These are the first words you see on Indigo Pearl’s website, and they’re scrawled in a small font across the top of the veteran PR company’s logo. If the company has values, it’s these, and they’re personified by the company’s co-founder and managing director, Caroline Miller. We sit down to speak to Miller at EGX Rezzed, the three-day games convention at the Tobacco Dock that caps off the London Games Festival, with Indigo Pearl as the main press contact. The firm has a wide range of other clients, including Square Enix, Blizzard, Devolver and many more. Our interview is interrupted three times by people with urgent questions that no one but Miller can handle, and she’s spent the entire weekend working, bouncing from place to place, in order to ensure everything runs smoothly. Here, with all the plates spinning, she’s in her element. But she hadn’t originally planned to get into the PR business. FOUNDING INDIGO PEARL “I got into the games industry when I started working at Virgin Interactive, back in the early 90s, in the days when [former international president] Tim Chaney and [former COO] Sean Brennan were in charge,” says Miller. “I basically started as somebody’s PA because I sort of lied about my typing skills and that was a really wonderful company to work in and it was a bit mad, but there was lots of very talented people there.” Miller says that all of her peers who worked there went on to have successful jobs across the entertainment industry, describing the atmosphere as “something kind of magic.” She adds that the office being quite casual meant staff were allowed to think outside the box and
experiment. Having made connections at the firm, she moved into export sales, where she took the lead a few years later. From there, she was headhunted by Crave. When the games firm later pulled out of Europe, Miller couldn’t help but wonder what was next. “I was left looking at jobs and to be honest with you, I didn’t really fancy going to Wimbledon or Woking every day,” she explains. “So, the opportunity came up to start Indigo Pearl, and I went for it. I’d had a kid by then, so it was one of those lifestyle choices you have to make when you’ve got a family.” Miller says that it was something born out of convenience rather than massive ambition, but describes this as a near constant problem for women in games: “A lot of times for women, we do have to make those decisions about what’s convenient, and what’s good for your family. “That’s a really important thing that I think women always have to consider, and men not so much. Men just kind of take the job that’s good for them, women have a lot of other people to consider when they’re making those choices. “International sales involved a lot of travel and could be quite hard, the bigger companies that were interested in me were all quite far away, all of those things. Plus the worry of if I could pick my kid up from nursery on time, they all compounded.” Miller says that starting Indigo Pearl in 2000 was a “brilliant and amazing” decision, even though it was a product of “motherhood and convenience.” THE MORE THINGS CHANGE... Regardless of the reasons, Miller has been in the games industry a long time and she’s seen it diversify. “The games PR world has changed massively in some ways, but in others, not at all,” she says.
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“IF YOU’RE A GIRL LOOKING AT BECOMING A JOURNALIST YOU WOULD THINK ‘WHY SHOULD I BOTHER?’ WE NEED TO RISE UP AND DROWN OUT THOSE VOICES THAT TRY TO TAKE WOMEN DOWN.” “When we started, we were talking to magazines, we were talking about games that went on shelves, we were talking to a mainly male demographic. None of that is the case anymore. “When we started out, even the lads mags were really hard to talk to about gaming, which was ridiculous. They would talk about FIFA and that was it, which felt crazy to those of us in PR at the time because it was like ‘this is what your readers are definitely doing in their spare time’.” Now, Miller asserts, gaming is just another form of entertainment for people to keep themselves busy with. “It’s weird to describe people as gamers even now, really,” she says. “What does that mean? If you like films, are you a filmer?” While it’s all change in terms of who the team now reaches out to, the way the team works hasn’t changed at all. “You still have to look at the game, think about what makes it special and take it to people who will be interested in it,” Miller explains. “Sure, they might be an influencer, someone on Instagram, a website or a magazine but the essence of communications is really important and has remained the same.” At the core of Miller’s PR mindset is to be honest. Honest to clients, honest to the press and honest to the people that you have to work with every day in the world of video games, she continues:
“If you go in there and you’re very dishonest and bullshitty they will feel that. I know it’s unusual and I know people don’t think PR people are honest but actually you really do have to be very honest on all sides.” Thinking to the future, Miller admits she’s not “a five-year-plan kinda gal,” but hopes she and her team at Indigo Pearl are still working hard and enjoying themselves. “You’re at work for a long time, so it’s nice to be at work with people that you like working with, on projects that you like, with clients that you love. We’ve managed to do all that and while a lot of it has been by luck, I’m glad we’re here.” THE DIVERSITY FACTOR “As a woman who owns a business, I think a lot has changed and a lot hasn’t changed,” Miller says. “I think women are still very mindful. Especially if they are mums with a family and their time and their commitments and it’s a bit stressful. That sort of hasn’t gone away.” She goes on to say that the 24-hour culture, longer days and the fact that people are expected to be constantly on top of their emails have contributed to a world where there’s more pressure to be ‘present’. But primarily, the mindset both of women and towards women has totally changed regarding their role in the workplace.
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Pictured above: Caroline Miller and the Indigo Pearl team
“Things that five or ten years ago might have gone over my head or I might have laughed at, I think I’m a little bit more bristly about now,” says Miller. “I think that’s changed for everybody and that’s a really good thing that behaviour like this is on our radar, and that we stop and think ‘you know that’s kind of offensive’ or ‘a little bit unnecessary’.” Tackling diversity is “quite a hard question,” she adds. “I don’t think we can just allow diversity to fix itself organically,” she says, suggesting that people need to come together and work hard to encourage women to get into the industry. “We need to be proactive at a university level to encourage women and people of colour to get into our industry, and make sure everyone knows that games is for them, but also for everyone else.” This effort is important, because for those looking in, “the industry doesn’t look or feel welcoming,” Miller says. “As women, we need to put ourselves out there more. I notice in PR that the willingness of men to put themselves out there, and do interviews, is far greater than women – so I have to push my female clients a little bit harder. “I get it, there are people out there who are probably quite sick of being interviewed about being a woman in the games industry. But you know what, you sort of have to do it and you just have to keep saying it, and saying it, and saying it, and trying to push these boundaries. “As an industry we probably should be doing more to protect our women online. Because when I talk about myself in the games industry I’ve had a fairly cushy
ride,” she continues. “But when I look at my journalistic contacts, people like Keza [MacDonald, games editor for The Guardian, interviewed on page 41] or Julia [Hardy, freelance presenter and writer] and Aoife [Wilson, a writer, presenter and video editor at Eurogamer] all of these women have come in for disgusting, relentless, atrocious abuse online and I think we have to do something about that. “If you’re a girl looking at becoming a journalist you would look at that and think ‘why should I bother?’. I think, as an entire industry, we need to rise up and drown out those voices that try to take women down.” Miller says the culture of online hate and abuse is a “serious” problem, and indeed many of us remember women writers leaving the industry after weeks of sustained abuse. She suggests most people in the industry could and should be doing a better job at looking after the women brave enough to put themselves forward in a hostile environment. Miller adds there are a lot more women in the room now, which is a plus, but there needs to be “an awful lot more.” And as an industry, we need to stop striving just toward an equal gender balance, but to remember women of colour too. “No matter how I might look at my lot in life, I have to remember that it’s a lot harder for other women, so we need to make sure that we take everybody with us,” says Miller. “If it’s not inclusive for everybody, there’s no point to it.”
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The gender pay gap data shows thereâ€™s still plenty of work to be done. Jake Tucker reports
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he much-awaited first deadline for the government’s gender pay gap database came on April 4th, making it a legal requirement for all UK companies with over 250 employees to declare the difference between men and women’s aggregate salaries. Many of the biggest games and media companies in the UK have complied, while some big names are notably absent, often due to the way these companies are structured as either part of much larger firms or separated into multiple sub-250 person businesses. The data shows the difference in salaries using both mean and median averages. The comparison doesn’t necessarily indicate that a given company is paying women less for the same job — which has been illegal since 1970’s Equal Pay Act — but it shines a light on the endemic problems in the industry that need to be resolved. For example, that there are few women reaching senior positions. To demonstrate that, the data shows how many employees in each quartile of the workforce – ranked by salary – are women. The top quartile is the top quarter of earners at the company, while the bottom quartile makes up the lowest earners (see next page for the data). Some of the more startling variances in the gender pay gap database belonged to Rockstar North and Sumo Digital. Rockstar has by far the biggest disparity between mean salaries, at 64 per cent. So women at the company earn just 36 pence for every £1 earnt by a man. Sumo Digital, which has a high 33.7 per cent difference in mean salaries, also struggles in other areas, with only 2.5 per cent of the toppaid half of the company consisting of women. Karen McLoughlin, the group director of HR at Sumo Digital, talks about the company’s gender imbalance head on: “We’ve been working on internal initiatives to support recruitment, retention, career development and mentoring for some time which, alongside our graduate programmes, will help address the gap in the long term.
“In the short to medium term, we are taking a more proactive approach in our search for candidates to address the imbalance. I do see positive progress at Sumo, and across the industry, for the future.” And for long-established studios with a vast preponderance of longserving male staff, who are happy to remain with the firm, progress is bound to be slow shifting those figures. GAME, perhaps by strength of the number of employees it has in fixed pay bands at retail locations around the country, has just a 1.9 per cent difference in mean salary per hour. That said, only 20 per cent of those in the top quarter of earners are women. It’s harder to judge the figures of the platform holders and publishers as many either don’t have enough UK staff to qualify or they are part of larger organisations, such as Xbox at Microsoft. BROAD REPRESENTATION Many of the problems highlighted by the gender pay gap database are the results of broader social issues, but that doesn’t mean the industry can’t be a leader in this area, both to make improvements within games companies and to help along that wider societal change through the medium of games. Hannah Flynn, the communications director for Failbetter Games, says that the firm tries to improve the diversity of its workforce at every stage. The London-based narrative games outfit takes work experience people from local schools, trying to enable 14 and 15 yearold’s from underrepresented backgrounds through to internships. Failbetter specifically targets those from different backgrounds in the way it advertises its job offers, in addition to putting them on websites like Autostraddle and using traditional recruitment channels. “We make active use of consultations and freelancers to broaden the representation of different voices in our writing,” adds Flynn. “In the end, it’s the games we make that do the most to show people who aren’t commonly represented by games that they have a place here.” This is a laudable effort, and is part of the reason that five of the studio’s 13 employees are women. However, a large part of the problem isn’t just getting women into the industry, but making sure they have an equal chance to get the top jobs. So just how much can the industry do to fix the problem? SOCIETAL CHANGE We speak to Keza MacDonald (see full interview on page 46), The Guardian’s games editor, who says the games industry can only do so much to address this problem until society itself takes steps towards equality. “Until we have affordable state-funded childcare and equal parental leave, until those things are achieved, we’re always going to have a gender pay gap because the burden of childcare is always going to fall
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on women,” says MacDonald, pointing out that while equalities exist in law, that’s a long way off it being the cultural norm. Having to carry the brunt of the burden on childcare, as MacDonald mentions, means women are dropping out of the workforce to take career breaks or moving to less demanding roles. Therefore, they’re not ending up in senior positions that pay better and which they deserve. “I don’t think that late stage capitalism and equality go together,” MacDonald continues. “You are always going to have people who are disadvantaged and who never manage to make up for it.” To arrest the pay gap, she says things have to change or we’ll have the problem forever: “We need to get to the point where as many men as women choose to take time off to look after their children, which we’re getting close to in Sweden and Finland, so it’s possible but it would require an enormous change in the entire outlook of our entire society in the UK for that to happen.” MacDonald adds she’s fortunate that her role with The Guardian has given her a lot of flexibility, but she was lucky enough to already be at a senior position in her career at the time: “Many women in their late twenties or
GENDER PAY GAP DATA HERE’S the data from the largest UK games companies and some of those with large gaming segments (such as Microsoft and Warner Bros) For those struggling to remember their school maths lessons: mean is all the wages (of men or women) added together and divided by the number of people to create an average wage. The
two mean figures are then compared to create the precentage figure below. Median is simply the wage of the person who would stand in the middle if we made all the women (or men) in the company stand in a line based on how much they earned. The figure compares the median man’s wage to the median woman’s wage.
early thirties aren’t at a point in their career where they can dictate terms. This disadvantage then lasts the rest of their careers.” As the summer approaches, our industry once again prepares to send its best and brightest all over the globe in the service of video games. And when you’re at E3 or Gamescom have a think about how many women you see there and remember how difficult this industry can be. Childcare isn’t the only issue, but it’s something that clearly requires a big change – and where that change requires clear funding. The endemic gender inequality in society, and by extension the games industry, can’t be solved with any such single change but a diverse range of perspectives are absolutely essential so that the industry can move forward. NUMBERS GAME We have a big pool of data now to backup what everyone largely knew already – that the games industry needs both more women and more senior women. It’s true that the wider games industry doesn’t fare badly compared to its closest siblings such as the music or film industries – though that’s no reason for celebration of course. The national average is 18.4 per cent, so even putting societal factors aside, many games companies can do better. It’s time to think about how we can all work together to ensure women are getting the success they rightfully deserve in the games industry. So let us champion your initiatives and successes. Get in touch with your targets and strategies to make change happen. Tell us how you will get more of the best and brightest women into your company and how you can help them progress once there. And also how you are helping encourage broader societal change through your work to demand equality for all. Just email Seth Barton at email@example.com.
Mean hourly rate %
Median hourly rate %
SUMO DIGITAL LTD.
FRONTIER DEVELOPMENTS PLC
THE CREATIVE ASSEMBLY LIMITED
ELECTRONIC ARTS LIMITED
GAME RETAIL LIMITED
SONY INTERACTIVE ENTERTAINMENT EUROPE LTD
TRAVELLERS TALES (UK) LIMITED
CODEMASTERS SOFTWARE COMPANY LIMITED (THE) 22.2
MIDASPLAYER.COM LTD. (KING)
NAMCO UK LIMITED
WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT UK LIMITED
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Think global, act local Localisation isnâ€™t a new business, but itâ€™s growing in new ways thanks to the increased globalisation of the games industry. With large-scale localisation difficult to do in house, how can agencies help developers deliver the best experiences to players, and what does the future hold for localisation? Jem Alexander investigates
Pictured clockwise from above: Edward Buffery, Lily Gavin-Allen, Tim Horton, Michael Souto, Erik Hittenhausen and Fabio Minazzi
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s barriers between regions continue to break down and we stride towards a truly global games market, nothing becomes more important to that process than localisation. Being able to give players all over the world a genuine, authentic experience is key to taking advantage of emerging markets. In its most basic form localisation is translation, but there’s a clear and important difference: players increasingly expect a native experience, taking full advantage of cultural differences, slang and local knowledge. Something that can be very difficult to perform in-house. Localisation agencies offer the expertise and the experience, plus the wealth of resources, to localise even large-scale projects. It’s big business, because the world of games continues to grow, and it benefits everyone involved to take advantage of their services. Including the players. “Universally Speaking is a game-centric localisation provider,” says Tim Horton, the business development manager at the company. “Gaming is our passion and our only focus. With over 15 years in the global gaming sector we have the experience and the knowledge to truly understand the processes and workflows that are integral to effective international localisation of gaming titles.” We spoke to several localisation providers in the industry for this feature, in order to figure out the state of the sector and any upcoming trends. Every one of them asserted that a passion for games and a respect for gamers are key selling points for their services. ‘Translation factories’, these are not. “One of the key selling points at LocalizeDirect is our extensive network of game-specific translators,” business development director Mike Souto says. “Terminology in games is quite specific and to choose a translator who may not be experienced in games can lead to errors and subpar – and irksome – translation. “Our diligence and care is also a key selling point. Many of the founders have a vast development background and understand game development. As a company, we pride ourselves on trying to provide the translators with as much information on the game as we can get hold of from the developers. This helps us to provide the best translation possible.” And even for studios with a vast development background, localising in-house is incredibly costly and challenging. “Development teams are located in a number of places in the world, not necessarily where the best linguists
are,” says Fabio Minazzi, director of localisation services at Keywords Studios. “Setting up a team of internal translators, reviewers, localisation engineers and managers is a major and expensive task. Keeping and managing them over the course of years can be a daunting effort. Adding new languages can be simply impractical. If the developer is successful, nowadays 25 languages are the norm, and a minimum team of two per language means 50 translators to start with, plus editors, management to deal with contracts, visas, accommodation, space, career development, not to mention IT and localisation engineers to address the ever changing translation technologies and methods. An in-house team quickly becomes a very costly setup to maintain.” PLAYER FOCUSED With their eyes focused on localisation and nothing else, agencies can assure that they are offering the best experience for gamers and, overwhelmingly, the feeling seems to be that service is directly for the players. “Consistency and quality are key,” says Lily Gavin-Allen, the head of business development in Asia at Testronic. “Most developers are unaware that style and consistency are important to players. Using termbases [a database of terms], style guides and a translation memory help to keep the consistency. For example, one linguist could use the word ‘potion’ and later in the game we find the word ‘elixir’ used. Things like this confuse the players. “Like anything in advertising, if you are targeting a market in another language, quality is key and consideration of the target market is highly important. If we see bad advertising in English, we automatically discredit that brand and this goes for other languages. The gamer doesn’t feel appreciated.” Gavin-Allen’s colleague at Testronic, Edward Buffery, the head of localisation QA based in the Croydon office, believes this is easily solved by a strong show of intent. “Knowing in advance that a game has been localised can make gamers feel appreciated before they have even begun playing, and a high quality localisation will improve the user experience in many ways,” he says. “Following conventional gaming terms for the description of controls and game mechanics allows players to pick up a new game quickly and seamlessly, lowering the barrier to entry. Well-localised story text and character dialogue are also essential to ensuring that players in different languages can experience the same level of immersion and emotional investment as players of the developers’ source language. With large pools of native speakers in
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many languages, staff working for a large and dedicated localisation agency can easily consult with each other to reach a group consensus, which can be difficult for the smaller, single project teams sometimes hired directly by a developer or publisher.” It’s fascinating to see this player-centric focus from large agencies, already one-level removed from the communities and IPs on which they are working. Localisation means releasing in more regions, which means more money for studios and publishers, but there’s an underlying human element to the service which belies a purer purpose. “For me, as the business manager, the obvious answer [to how localisation improves a game’s sales or critical reception] is that effective localisation allows a title to be distributed to more regions which, in theory, equates to a higher level of sales,” says Universally Speaking’s Horton. “But, the real benefits come from the player’s immersion and how accessible the game is to the player-base. “Many of the most memorable games in history have notoriety because players felt emotionally invested in the game – through a narrative that draws the players into the game. “Look at the critically acclaimed, now BAFTA winning, title, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, for example. Players across the globe were able to connect to a character dealing with serious issues surrounding mental health. They felt connected to the world and the emotional toils of such a topic. Effective localisation was vital here, as not only are you dealing with complex storylines and characters but issues that are seriously tough to broach effectively in society.”
“If we see bad advertising in English, we automatically discredit that brand and this goes for other languages. The gamer doesn’t feel appreciated.”
For developers looking to localise their games with the help of an agency, Horton has some key advice: “A few key points to make regarding the decision-making process: do not go for the cheapest option. Research your providers, check if they have worked on similar projects to yours, read their testimonials – industry referral is a huge indicator of a quality provider. Does their website reflect your industry? Do they work with linguists that are experts in your sector? Are they responsive? “All these considerations must be taken into account. You get what you pay for in localisation, do your research and take into account the variables, not just the lowest number on a quote, because you will save money in the long run by doing it right the first time.” MADE IN CHINA One area of the industry that is seeing huge growth lately is the number of developers and publishers pushing their way into the Chinese market. Likewise, many Chinese companies are looking to bring their games to the west. With such different cultures, there’s a lot to consider for everyone involved. “There is more awareness, not only of the opportunity presented by the Chinese market, but also of what it takes to get the game accepted, both by the authorities and by the players,” says Keywords Studios’ Minazzi. “With time, western developers are learning what works best in China and how to partner with the Chinese publishers, for example by retaining the ownership of the localisation process while the local publisher takes care of promotion and distribution. There is still much to learn but there is more collaboration and communication happening across the board.” Agencies across the industry are happily growing alongside this new trend: “We’ve had to recruit more Chinese translators to cope with the increased demand,” says LocalizeDirect’s Souto. “It’s simply a huge market and Chinese – simple and traditional – is absolutely vital. Developers are also regularly surprised about how massive Steam is in China. They should however always investigate the technical requirements, ensuring that Chinese characters can be displayed properly.” Technical issues like these are the sort of thing that could blindside developers which don’t have any experience with non-roman letters in their games. “With literally thousands of different kanji [Chinese letters], choice of fonts can be a major decision, especially for games utilising a broad vocabulary,” says Testronic’s director of QA in Warsaw, Erik Hittenhausen. “Legibility, maximum character length, and the way that icons and variables are concatenated into longer strings may result in additional localisation QA hours if not planned for in advance.”
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Other hurdles include the Chinese government, which can review games before they are allowed to be sold in the country. There are some cultural quirks which manifest as strict rules during this process. Skeletons, for example, are something that can’t be portrayed in China for religious reasons. They’re also common enemies in a lot of RPGs. “Games published in China can also be subjected to governmental review, and their content could be inspected to ensure it does not violate constitutional policies on permissable content,” explains Testronic’s Hittenhausen. “Should such content be present in the source material, elements such as overtly sexual behaviour or suggestiveness, course language or excessive violence may require further consideration and adjustment for a Chinese release version. Based on examples of games that have been banned in China, military-themed games which include representations of contemporary or modern China are clearly disadvantaged.” Agencies are happy to discuss with clients the rammifications of attempting to enter the Chinese market, and give advice. Universally Speaking’s Horton has a couple of key things to think about for anyone looking to do so: “The formula is similar for most regions when it comes to localisation but for the Chinese market some of the bigger things to focus on are advising clients on dialect choice (regional variant) or whether to be generic and localise into the main language only. Whether to go traditional or simplified, determine whether your product and its content are even suitable for the Chinese market – skeletons, for example, are a no go. It must be determined if sufficient consideration has been made on the culturalisation of the source content, rather than direct translation. “These are all things we discuss with our clients before kicking off any project destined for the Chinese market. But, though that list is extensive, this is just a slice of what must be considered.” SERVICE INDUSTRY Another expanding area of the localisation business is keeping up with the explosion of games-as-a-service. These require regular, specialist localisation staff that are practically embedded in the community and the games. “The games industry as a whole is facing the huge challenge of continuous content generation to support the games-as-a-service model,” says Keywords Studios’ Minazzi. “If you don’t keep providing fresh content, players eventually leave the game and the cost of getting them back is very high. This challenge is multiplied across all the languages and the challenge of dealing
“Do not go for the cheapest option. Research your providers, check if they have worked on similar projects to yours, read their testimonials.” with vastly differing volumes across daily, weekly, monthly, or quarterly content updates makes it very difficult to remain cost efficient while ensuring the best and most experienced talent is ready to transform and deliver the localised content for the game no matter what the quantity of each content drop is. “Specialised localisation companies like Keywords aggregate volumes across multiple games and can therefore provide guaranteed availability, next day turnaround and at a world-leading quality standard. The key word here is flexibility. While in the past games localisation was about rendering the contents of the game and possibly the marketing materials associated with it, now the paradigm of localisation is to support an experience. “We’ve built the capacity to support that with local offices, with a group-wide infrastructure to ensure interoperability, and with a broad range of services which we combine in new and creative ways to fulfil each game’s specific needs as they evolve during the course of their lifetime.” Testronic’s Hittenhausen is in full agreement and the agency is also spinning up bespoke teams for live games. “Games-as-a-service require ongoing commitment and continuous improvement,” he says. “Building and retaining dedicated core teams with meaningful working knowledge of the product allows efficiency gains to keep up with the continuously growing scope and content of the product. Specialising people and embedding expertise allows you to capitalise on experience and effective planning.”
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Ins and outs: Industry hires and moves 1
UK games industry charity GamesAid has appointed two new trustees to the board, GINA JACKSON (1) and BYRON ATKINSON-JONES (2). Jackson is a veteran of the games industry, starting as a producer in 1992 and now the head of games at Imaginarium, Andy Serkis’ production company. AtkinsonJones is an indie game designer and developer, who has worked with EA, Rebellion, Lionhead, Sports Interactive and Mediatonic.
Hutch continued its recruitment push, hiring three new starters in its London o ce. JAMES BRUCK (3) joined as UI
designer from Mediatonic, having also worked at Mind Candy. KANEEZ ABBAS (4) and PETE SCOTT (5) have both joined as marketing graphic designers. Abbas has recently completed a Master’s in Digital Games: Game Theory & Design and won the Accessibility Award for the 2017 Ukie Student Game Jam. Scott previously worked for digital creative agency This is Tommy for clients including Paramount, Sony, Warner Bros and Amazon.
HTC has hired DAVE HAYNES (6) as the director of Vive X in Europe. The newly created role comes alongside HTC Vive’s expansion of its global VR/AR accelerator program. It will be opening its sixth location in London, with the aim to act as a hub for companies in Europe.
“I am pleased to be able to share my expertise in drawing on Focus’ licences to take the company to a new stage in its development.” Jürgen Goeldner, Focus Home Interactive
Sumo Digital has appointed HOLLY YOUDAN (7) as talent acquisition manager. Based in She eld, she will head up recruitment across the developer’s four studios. Youdan commented: “I realised quite quickly that Sumo Digital is a place that cares about its employees. With an open way of communicating with each other, the culture is one of collaboration, accountability and a desire to keep getting better at everything.” Former Green Man Gaming’s EVP publishing GARY ROWE (8) has joined Curve Digital to become the firm’s first executive producer. Rowe will be responsible for Human: Fall Flat as well as the recently-revealed Narcos title. Rowe has also previously worked for companies such as Sega and Codemasters.
Bethesda has also hired DAVID EVANS (10) as senior European licensing and merchandising manager, joining from PlayStation. At Bethesda, he will oversee licensing for the firm’s entire portfolio and work on the expansion of its European online merchandise store.
Industry veterans GEOFF HEATH (11) and MARK HARDY (12) have banded together to found new VRfocused company Maze Theory, based in London. Co-founder Geoff Heath OBE has over 40 years experience in the industry, having founded and run Activision as European MD. Mark Hardy has spent years at PlayStation as marketing director, where he helped launch the PS3 and PlayStation Network.
Bethesda Softworks has announced a new UK managing director, ROY CAMPBELL (9), who will be joining the publisher’s London o ce, overseeing the UK and Irish markets. With 30 years of experience in the video game industry, Campbell has been consulting with Bethesda for the last year and is best known for roles with THQ, Rage, Virgin, Infogrames UK and City Interactive.
Former Eidos COO JÜRGEN GOELDNER (13) has become chairman of Focus Home Interactive’s management board, following the resignation
of president and chairman Cédric Lagarrigue. Goeldner said: “Focus has several licences that offer great potential and I am pleased to be joining this talented team and to be able to share my expertise in drawing on these licences to take the company to a new stage in its development.” Head of Microsoft Studios Matt Booty has announced the appointment of DARRELL GALLAGHER (14). Joining from Activision, he will be part of the executive leadership team, with more to be revealed at E3. He previously worked for the likes of Sony, Rockstar, THQ and Crystal Dynamics, where he was instrumental in the making of the Tomb Raider reboot. Frontier’s associate PR manager DANIELA PIETROSANU (15) has moved to Square Enix Europe as senior PR executive. She commented: “I am thrilled to join Square Enix at such an exciting time! I look forward to working alongside the amazing team that has delivered so many great campaigns.” PQube’s product manager MATTHEW PELLETT (16) has joined Dead Good PR as media and influencer consultant. He spent ten years at Future Publishing, in senior editorial roles at OPM, GamesMaster and Xbox World 360.
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Top of the class S ea ing ith educators to nd out hat s im ortant for the next generation of game ma ers
UKIE’S Digital Schoolhouse programme is the trade body’s answer to the UK skills gap, aiming to teach children about computing and video games by bringing industry expertise together with teachers to reach children at a young age. This means Laura Martin, a programme development executive working at Ukie on Digital Schoolhouse, has a more unusual role in education than the university lecturers we usually feature, but she has a unique insight into the problems with computing education across the country, and how they can be solved. BUILDING FOR THE FUTURE “Our aim is to bridge the gap between industry and education to help the digital skills deficit and prepare the next generation for jobs in the future,” says Martin. “The programme aims to engage students and teachers through the computing curriculum.” The UK is a video games powerhouse, but our computing education at a primary level still isn’t where it needs to be to take care of the skills deficit in video game and programming jobs in the country. So why games? Martin answers: “We use games because a lot of students, and people in general, have a basic instinct to play.
It’s diverse, because games appeal to all genders, ethnicities and backgrounds. It engages with all students equally.” The Digital Schoolhouse programme puts teachers into classrooms to talk about and experiment with play. The world of technology moves so quickly that the programme could even be preparing students for jobs that don’t even exist yet. Meaning that the Digital Schoolhouse has to think about how to futureproof students when the concepts being taught don’t exist. “With our workshops, rather than teaching a student programming on a computer first, we do an unplugged activity that doesn’t involve technology, which establishes the concepts, and then hopefully they can adapt those lessons to whatever happens in the future.” Digital Schoolhouse isn’t just trying to futureproof students. It’s looking to grow itself, too. Martin hopes that the project could go international in the next 18 to 24 months: “As more and more schools join the programme, the more our brand is recognised. “Word-of-mouth from local schools helps us grow. They’re great ambassadors for the programme and as soon as they tell their colleagues and other schools in the area about us, they want to get involved too.”
“Some of the children I’d met when I lead a Digital Schoolhouse workshop at their primary school remember the fun they had by the time I teach them in secondary school. Every primary school should have access to Digital Schoolhouse, otherwise no change within the technology sector can be seen en masse.” Mark Ward, head of Computer Science, St. John Fisher Catholic Voluntary Academy
Laura Martin Ukie Laura Martin is the programme development executive for Ukie’s Digital Schoolhouse programme, focusing on closing the digital skills gap between education and industry. She is new to the video games industry but with a background in events and training for notfor-profit organisations, including Hope For Children. Improving education for the better is a common goal in her career to date. Most recently, Martin has delivered the National Esports Tournament 2018 and was listed in The GamesIndustry.biz 100 Future Talent (UK).
“We use games because a lot of students, and people in general, have a basic instinct to play.” “Talks from companies such as Teacher Gaming, SEGA and the Esports Tournament have provided a wealth of information and student opportunities.”
Chris Baker, course leader – Games Development, Cambridge Regional College & Rizing Games
If you work at a university and would like to be featured here, get in touch with Jake Tucker at firstname.lastname@example.org May 2018 MCV 935 | 31
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Hannah Jacob, junior publicist, Warner Bros Home Entertainment Group
What is your proudest achievement so far? Probably successfully managing my first PR campaigns for a selection of predominantly kids-focused releases, including The LEGO Ninjago Movie Videogame and Cars 3: Driven to Win. By using the halo effect of the games’ corresponding theatrical campaigns, as well as the well-established IPs, and by hosting engaging press events (including a ninja bootcamp!) coverage landed across key target media and both campaigns were a success. What’s been your biggest challenge? I work across film, TV and games, so my biggest challenge is working on many different projects at once. When it comes to working on the home entertainment campaigns for Tomb Raider, Ready Player One and Rampage however, being able to apply my knowledge of the games industry will certainly not be a challenge, but a great advantage. What do you enjoy most about your job? It’s clich , but the fact that no two days are ever the same. Due to the fast-paced nature of the PR and games industry, the days fly by. I’m also fortunate enough to work alongside some of the best in the business – colleagues who have amazing experience and expertise, so I really enjoy being able to learn from them.
HANNAH JACOB joined Warner Bros in February 2017 and since then has worked tirelessly to promote a variety of its titles at a host of different events. acob is most likely the only video game PR that has arranged a ninja bootcamp, after all. How did you break into games? I fell into the games industry in 2013 while studying for a degree in Geography and Business Management at Loughborough University. I secured a yearlong PR internship at Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment, despite admitting in my interview that the only consoles I owned were a Wii U and a Gameboy Advance!
“I’d like to inspire others, who might not have previously considered working in games, to get into the industry.”
What’s your biggest ambition in games? I’d like to inspire others, who might not have previously considered working in games, to get into the industry. There’s no specific type of person who can work in video games, so I’d like to encourage people to try, particularly as it is such an exciting time to be in the business. Seeing how the rapid developments in VR and AR affects and enhances the future of entertainment is going to be fascinating. What advice would you give someone trying to get into games marketing? Having a knowledge of the industry helps, but you don’t need to know everything about gaming. It’s about being willing to learn, and being able to be a swan – you have to paddle hard beneath the surface to get everything done, while remaining calm and composed up top.
If there’s a rising star at your company, contact Jake Tucker at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we might feature them here 34 | MCV 935 May 2018
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“A lot of people are passionate about games so you need to have determination and always be improving.” Name: Ashley Riza
Studio: Kuato Studios Job Title: 3D Artist Education:
BSc Digital Arts, MSc 3D Computer Animation
28 DAYS LATER
Taking a new opportunity in the industry can open a door to the job of your dreams. We catch up with a recent career mover at the start of their exciting new role through recruitment specialist Amiqus Congratulations on the amazing new job! What inspired you about Kuato to join the company? Kuato creates educational games for children, which is a huge interest of mine. ha e been or ing on similar rojects on and oﬀ the ast e years. The art style of its games resonated with me and after meeting future colleagues at my inter ie ne it ould be a great t. What’s the culture like at Kuato and what’s your experience bee li e tti i It’s very inclusive here so it has been easy to enjoy the fun and social side of the studio as well as the work. It’s a friendly environment but at the same time a hard-working one. You can tell people here enjoy their jobs and are passionate about what we are creating. What are you most excited about bringing to the role? I’m excited to bring a female perspective as well as collaborative and artistic skills to make awesome-looking games!
What will working at Kuato do for your career? Being freelance for so long I was usually the sole artist on the team. There are so many incredible artists here. Being able to share knowledge and techniques with them is riceless and has already im ro ed my art and or o just a fe weeks in. Not to mention the amazing projects I am getting to be a part of and add to my portfolio. What would you like to say to anyone thinking about or undertaking a job move in games? You need to be resilient, passionate and persistent. The industry is challenging but so much fun to be a part of. A lot of people are passionate about games so you need to have that determination and initiative and always be improving. It’s amazing to say you love your job, so I would recommend it to anyone who has a love for the industry.
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Cherry picked advice to help you reach the next level in your career
Head of games business development Ann Hurley looks back at her 32-year long career, explains why you need to be a great listener to get in sales and tells us a bit more about Testronic’s 50% initiative What is your job role and how would you describe your typical day at work? As head of games business development, my day starts at different times during the week dependent upon my client requirements. So for example I was working from 4am this morning, introducing some of our Asian clients to my colleague out in Bangkok, Lily Gavin-Allen, who heads up our new o ce over there. The main cut and thrust of my day is to bring in new projects and to ensure my clients are being cared for. Skype calls, emails and the occasional cup of tea (when I remember): my day goes super-fast and is never the same. I love the fact that after 30 years within the games industry there is always something new to learn! I am lucky enough to work with a team of talented people who feel very strongly about delivering the best service within the QA sector, so internal team discussions happen twice a week to ensure we are delivering a bespoke quality service to all of our clients. at ali catio a o e e ie ce o yo ee i o e to land this job? English and maths is a great help and to have an understanding of the development and publishing process is an advantage. When I first joined the industry in 1986 I had no gaming experience, I came from the advertising sector. This didn’t prevent me from having a great career, which has taken me all over the world working with and for some inspirational people. My first role was as the telesales manager for a large games distributor in Birmingham, I then went on to run sales teams within US Gold, Ocean Software and Gremlin. The experience I garnered in distribution and publishing has all contributed to my move into the QA sector. I think the key quality you need for business development is to have a real interest in people, it is vital to be able to connect and build a rapport with clients in order to create long lasting business relationships. If you were interviewing someone for your team, what would you look for? Someone who has drive, passion, and wants to be a part of a team that is always moving forward! As a member of the business development team we are basically ambassadors for Testronic. We have the responsibility of connecting with clients. Through intelligent
“I love the fact that after 30 years within the games industry there is always something new to learn.” questioning we are able to understand their needs and then to ensure we are supplying the best solution to answer those needs. It always amazes me that good sales people are supposed to be great talkers. We are in fact great listeners! So give me a person who can listen and is able to create a good rapport (which is sometimes underrated) and I would be happy to have that person on our team. People prefer to do business with people they like – simple but true. What opportunities are there for career progression for Testronic employees? The team at Testronic is growing, so many opportunities exist. We actively look to promote from within, talent is acknowledged and rewarded. It is really important to us to retain a strong team of people. Also I would like to add that we recently launched our 50% initiative – which means the HR and management team are working to ensure we are looking at ways of encouraging more women to join us within all departments of Testronic.
Want to talk about your career and inspire people to follow the same path? Contact Marie Dealessandri at email@example.com 36 | MCV 935 May 2018
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This week’s question: What can studios do to attract a more diverse workforce? Charu Desodt, Production Director, Interior Night
Tracey McGarrigan, CMO, Bossa Studios & W.IN Coordinator at London Games Festival
Tamsin O’Luanaigh, Company Secretary & Talent Director, nDreams
Let everyone know that you value diversity and an inclusive studio culture. Spend time seeking out diverse candidates by, for example, posting on minority social groups. Be aware of ‘the two in the pool effect’ when shortlisting. The odds of hiring a female are 79 times greater if there are at least two female candidates on the shortlist (194 times greater for ethnic minorities; Harvard Business Review, 2016 . Think beyond the specific role you are recruiting for and value differences and the new perspectives people can bring to the whole project and studio.
Think about how you appear to job seekers: does your studio look welcoming to a diverse range of applicants? Find ways to make women in your existing team visible by adding their voices to industry publications, networking and speaking opportunities. Raising their profile will support their career and attract more women. If women are not seeking out roles with you, consider different entry points to your studio and go to meet at the places where they meet. Take time to understand what applicants are looking for beyond a job spec.
In the short term it’s about being inclusive: creating an environment that attracts as diverse a pool of applicants as possible flexible working hours that are family focused, avoiding crunch . Then, reach out to groups such as Women In Games and BAME. Our longer-term strategy: encourage diversity in the industry by sending female or BAME speakers to key events, promoting our Corporate Ambassadorship for Women In Games, reaching out into colleges and universities. It’s something we’re hugely passionate about.
Kirsty Rigden, Development Director, FuturLab
The language in job adverts matters, it reflects internal culture. Ambitious’, driven’, rockstar’, all imply a sense of competition which is off putting to women. Make sure you use gender neutral wording and never use gender pronouns in job adverts. Champion the diverse team members you have and encourage them to put themselves out there as a role model. Get involved with schools and colleges to promote careers in the industry. Ensure that you have a healthy and inclusive culture and then advertise this to the wider world.
“Champion the diverse team members you have and encourage them to put themselves out there as a role model.”
Liz Prince, Business Manager, Amiqus & G-Into Gaming campaigner
There are lots of things we can do to increase diversity but one thing I’d like to see the industry think about is the promotion of flexible working options. Working flexibly is not only for women with families or for non-development roles. Regardless of age, gender or seniority, individuals are seeking to work in a way which fits with their wider lifestyle and commitments. Employers who fail to respond to this risk missing out on not only skills and experience but also the enhanced financial performance that goes with talent diversity.
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INDUSTRY VOICES MCV gives the industry a platform for its own views in its own words. Do you have a burning hot take for the world of games? Get in touch!
“We asked our developers what interview advice they would give to candidates before they walk through the studio doors.” Craig Pearn , talent acquisition manager, Ubisoft Reflections
DO YOUR RESEARCH It goes without saying that before an interview you should find out some interesting facts about the company you intend on being your future employer. You will 100 per cent get asked a question on your motivations to join the company in some way, shape or form. Research the company’s history, the back catalogue, play any recent games and make notes about what you found interesting and what you’d do differently. Check out key people on LinkedIn and what games they have worked on. It can be a lot of information to remember, so feel free to bring notes with you, it also tells us that you’ve done some research.
something where you’ll be judged, but instead treat it as an opportunity to discuss games and game development with people in the industry. Make the most of it and enjoy the experience. It is absolutely fine to admit when you don’t know an answer. It actually shows that you are honest and you can take the opportunity to ask interviewers more about that topic. Every interview is a good experience so you’ll always be making progress no matter what the result is. It’s okay to have a personality as at the end of the day you will spend a large percentage of your time at work beside lots of other personalities so it’s important you’re comfortable being you.
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT Having an attractive and ready-made portfolio that shows off your talents is likely to be one of the reasons you have made it to an interview but once you’re onsite you’re likely to be asked to talk in detail about your work. If you don’t get asked then you should make it your job to bring it up, after all you’ve put the effort in to create it so you should want to showcase it. Practice makes perfect so run through this with friends, colleagues and lecturers before interviews. If you know your subject and can talk critically about your work, you’re in a good position.
“SO, DO YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS?” Come to the interview prepared to ask questions. When you’re preparing for your interview it’s important that you think carefully about what questions you would like to ask. Planned questions at the end of an interview are part and parcel of a standard interview, however we prefer to make interviews a two way process so don’t be afraid to ask questions if something isn’t clear! Once the interviewers have wrapped up all their questions don’t feel like you have to rush and make a swift exit. This is now another opportunity for you to shine; you should be using this time to gather information that maybe wasn’t clear during the interview but more importantly setting yourself up to promote your skills and abilities or to tell us about your motivations and your inquisitiveness. Whatever you do, don’t look blank faced when you’re asked “So do you have any questions?”
WE’VE ALL BEEN IN YOUR SHOES Nerves are expected but remember that your interviewers are just normal people who like games, and they have been in same position as you at some point. Don’t think of the interview as
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“Why do some people in the games industry still doubt their ability to affect change?” Rosa Carbo-Mascarell, co-founder, Games for the Many
ART has historically had an impact on political and social movements. The Situationists, in the lead up to the 1968 French student uprising, were using play in the streets and subversive art to try to take down capitalism. Muralismo Mexicano made politics accessible to everyone through the medium of a paintbrush. The Futurists, Dada, Surrealists: the examples are countless. So why do some people in the games industry still doubt their ability to affect change? Games for the Many is a project of Digital Liberties. We are a games studio made up of political activists and game developers using play for positive political and social impact. You might know us because of CorbynRun, a campaign game developed and released during 2017’s general election. It was a short mobile game commissioned by the Labour Party to teach people about its manifesto. The game went viral and was downloaded 150,000 times in one week. It is currently being showcased at the Design Museum’s Hope to Nope exhibition on how “graphic design and technology have played a pivotal role in dictating and reacting to the major political moments of our times.” We are now designing a board game for Nesta, the innovation foundation, about innovation policy and an as of yet unannounced video game around social integration. Underpinning all our projects is an understanding that culture defines politics. In 2017, Brightrock Games joined Digital for Good, an initiative by the games industry charity GamesAid. The studio released a comedy skin, The Cynical Imp, as DLC
alongside some previously exclusive Kickstarter themes for their game, War For The Overworld, with all proceeds going to the charity. It has made £34,000 for disadvantaged and disabled children across the UK to date. Initiatives like this, alongside the £446,000 raised by Special Effect’s One Special Day and the countless millions raised by Humble Bundle, are a shining example of our industry taking on social responsibility. Games today can provide perhaps the most elaborate and advanced forms of escapism ever created. But to reduce them solely to that escapism is to deny their historic power and place as art. Charlie Chaplin understood the profound potential of his medium. Even in the middle of World War II he shot and released The Great Dictator, a satirical film condemning fascism and antisemitism. It drew in millions to the cinema despite wartime. We need to stop doubting our power. The games industry is larger than film, TV, and music combined – it is the most predominant of all the creative industries. 2.6 billion people around the globe play games, from teenage boys to middleaged women. Our games carry incredible cultural weight. In tumultuous political climates there is no time to rest on laurels. Let’s stop dreaming about dystopian power fantasies and start dreaming about the world we want to see. Let’s challenge ourselves and challenge our players to imagine a better future. We, the games industry, have far-reaching influence. Let’s use this power for good.
“In tumultuous political climates there is no time to rest on laurels. Let’s stop dreaming about dystopian power fantasies and start dreaming about the world we want to see.”
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Epic has long balanced engine licensing with game development, but the success of Fortnite has catapulted the company into the spotlight like never before. Tim Sweeney explains to Seth Barton why developers should think about shiny Stormtroopers and why games aren’t vacuum cleaners
ortnite, Fortnite, Fortnite… The colourful battle royale title is omnipresent as the first game since Pokémon Go to seriously pique the interest of the mainstream press. It’s been growing for some time, though in the shadow of its grittier rival PUBG. But it was the combination of a free-to-play mode, influencercelebrity antics and a crossplay-capable smartphone version that pushed it into the limelight. And while Fortnite soars (like its own Battle Bus), Epic is perfectlyplaced to benefit not just from that game, but many more like it, CEO Tim Sweeney believes. With the company recently announcing a powerful in-engine camera system, it enables influencers to create slick and varied content from any Unreal Engine title that chooses to utilise it. In addition, the engine’s multi-platform support and crossplay capabilities are ideal for unifying players into a single addressable community – such as in Sea of Thieves. Epic may have more competition now, but it really feels like the company is riding the zeitgeist of games development today. A FORTNITE BREAK Fortnite on mobile is already among the top grossing on the App Store, with an Android launch coming in the next few months. Seeing a shooter like this at the top of the pile is unusual though, with a control system far more complex than the usual swipes and taps that the biggest mobile games have largely limited themselves to in recent years. So is Fortnite special or is something fundamental changing? “You know, these things go in waves,” Sweeney answers. “So back in the 1980s when arcade machines came out, for about two years, everyone was a gamer. Men and women, kids of all ages, boys and girls. But over time, people got tired of that and they either moved up or moved out. The same thing has happened with smartphones. “When smartphones came out, everybody started playing casual games like Angry Birds, but over the years, most people have gotten bored of those experiences, and they’re no longer casual gamers. They’ve either migrated to not being gamers at all, or come up to
being core gamers. And the core gamers now expect bigger and more engaging experiences.” And there’s precedence for the change, he continues: “This whole transition actually happened in Korea about three years ago. Since then, the majority of the mobile game industry is serious games for gamers – casual is a small minority. This happened as people’s tastes changed.” It’s an intriguing proposition, that mobile games are losing their mass market appeal and players are either stopping playing, or moving onto more complex titles – which means more opportunities for cross-platform development. “These are games with PC and console heritage at the top of the mobile charts and these will go up and down for the next few months as things are tuned. But by the end of the year you’re gonna see predominantly major games for serious gamers being at the top of the charts and staying there forever. I think this is the future of mobile and it’s not going to change.” And Sweeney isn’t concerned about touchscreen controls limiting their popularity. Once again he feels like we’ve been here before. “A new generation of gamers is growing up with different expectations,” he says. “If you remember Halo, the first really big shooter on console, all the old PC gamers like me looked at it and said ‘Oh, that controller’s not as good as a mouse and keyboard’. In truth, if you’re growing up and learning that, it’s just natural.” He also sees different devices appealing to different kinds of gamers at different times: “You’re gonna have casual gamers who play Fortnite because their friends play Fortnite, and they might stay on mobile. You’re gonna have serious gamers who will play on the best device available to them at that specific moment: on the subway that’s their iPhone, at home it will be their PlayStation. And we’ll see the full spectrum, because you can inter-operate between all these platforms and play with your friends, you can mix and match them.” Crossplay was once seen as a technical flourish, but as games see themselves more as services than products it’s now a key technology and a political battleground.
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“I think people now are just starting to realise that games, especially multiplayer games, are social experiences and people’s habits resembles a social network,” Sweeney says. After all, you wouldn’t expect to have different Facebook friends on different devices. “Imagine kids in middle school, they might have a group of ten friends. If that group of ten friends has to split up into three different sub groups to play a game and they can’t play together, that ruins the whole experience for everyone. I think that’s the key realisation, this isn’t about market share and competitive tactics between Sony and Microsoft, this is about people and we’ve got to do our best to connect them.” And it looks to be Sony that’s currently standing in the way, with Microsoft publicly stating that it was happy to enable crossplay between Xbox and PlayStation players of Fortnite. Sony’s last comment on the matter was that it wanted to avoid “exposing, what in many cases are children, to external influences we have no ability to manage or look after.” Though given that PlayStation players can now play PC players, that’s somewhat moot.
to the benefit of its numerous users. And we certainly can’t see anyone moving away from Unreal because the company is having huge success on the platform itself – in fact quite the opposite. A VIEW TO A KILL A key reason for the massive success of Fortnite is that, like other games in the battle royale genre, it’s a brilliant game for influencers – thanks to making a win a big deal, varied pacing to the action and lots of unexpected outcomes. So is Fortnite bigger because of influencers, or are influencers bigger because of Fortnite? “It is circular, but this is how communities form. And there’s some kind of magical nature to it, and I think this is really helping all game developers understand the new nature of gaming. This is a new phenomena, it happened on a small scale previously, but Fortnite streamers like Ninja [with Drake] are setting Twitch records far and above previous records,” Sweeney tells us proudly. “That’s not just a Fortnite phenomena, that’s gonna be an opportunity for all game developers and all games in the future. These guys are entertainers and they’re awesome. They have their personalities and people are giving gamers life advice and it’s wonderful to see that. It is a new entertainment medium that’s different to any that have come before.” With Twitch being so dominant in the space though, we wonder if Epic feels that owner Amazon is playing fair, with regards to Twitch integrations with its own Lumberyard engine. But Sweeney is emphatic about the company’s relationship. “Amazon has been a great partner, we’re a huge consumer of Amazon web services for our Fortnite and gaming engine back-end services, and we’re a partner of Twitch. There are parts of Amazon that are competitors to us, such as Lumberyard, but that’s the case with any companies over a certain size – you’re part competitors and part partners.” It’s a fair point, so we mention that the Apple phones on which Fortnite now runs use numerous Samsungfabricated parts in their construction: “Responsible, mature companies can maintain professional relationships despite being competitors,” he agrees.
“The work we’ve done on ortnite has beneﬁtted PUBG and a huge array of other games.”
BATTLE OF THE ROYALES While PUBG was last year’s breakthrough hit, it looks as though Fortnite’s free-to-play model and platform ubiquity has put it in pole position for 2018. The interesting point to note is that both games run on Unreal Engine. So how does Sweeney feel about being in competition with his own customers? “The thing about games is that they’re not like vacuum cleaners, right?” he begins. “You buy one brand of vacuum cleaner, you’re not going to buy another one, because you only need one. But with games, if they’re two great games, people will play both,” he explains. “We see a lot of streamers on Twitch who will switch back and forth between Fortnite and PUBG, and you know, today they’re in Sea of Thieves. And that’s the natural ebb and flow of people’s playing habits and moods. “So I don’t feel like products in the same genre are cut-throat competitors at all, I think they’re very complimentary and the work that we’ve done on Fortnite has benefitted PUBG and a huge array of other games. Namely the optimisation that got us to 60fps on all console platforms, making the game work on mobile, all the streaming improvements and everything else required to support a game of this scale, it’s benefiting everyone,” Sweeney claims. It certainly makes logical sense that Epic’s own gamesmaking experience feeds back positively into the engine
NEXT-GEN SHINY Moving from competitors to partners, Epic had a host of chums involved when it created the outstanding graphics demo of this year’s GDC – ray-traced Stormtroopers.
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Working with Industrial Light and Magic’s ILMxLab – which is responsible for the Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire VR experience – and using Nvidia’s RTX technology, it created a showcase for real-time ray-traced lighting that provides a cinema-quality finish to scenes. Something that’s only just becoming possible in realtime thanks to more powerful GPUs. “It turns out that at around 25 teraflops operations per second, ray tracing becomes the best way to produce realistic looking pixels,” Sweeney says. He then explains that the film industry fully transferred from the “the traditional rendering techniques that we use in real-time gaming” over to ray tracing ten years ago because “it’s the best way to produce completely photorealistic pixels” and that realtime graphics would inevitably follow suit. “The demo we showed in partnership with ILMxLab is the first step in that direction. Part of the scene is rendered and part is ray traced, all the shadows and reflections come from ray tracing, and like movies, game engines are going to adopt this.” With the demo running on four of Nvidia’s workstation-grade Volta GPUs, this isn’t a consumergrade technology today. However, it can be phased in slowly, Sweeney says: “You’re going to see more and more ray-traced elements in our scenes, and I think ten years from now you might find nothing but ray tracing in our engines.” In practical terms though, ray tracing is a technology high-end developers can’t ignore today. “Everybody who’s starting a triple-A project, they all should be thinking about ray tracing,” Sweeney advises.
Which makes ray tracing a possible selling point for next-gen console hardware. “It’s not coming to your smartphone anytime soon,” he admits. “But GPUs move fast. You might find within two years that you have that amount of computing power in a single GPU. And suddenly it becomes possible at highend,” he expands.
Pictured above: Epic created raytraced Stormtroopers, which provides a cinema- uality nish to scenes
ENGINE-IOUS Epic isn’t the only engine in town of course. Unity has engaged a huge number of games developers and looks to moving towards Epic’s traditional territory with high-end graphics and a performance-based approach to code. So does Sweeney feel that competition is a good thing? “Yes, you’re constantly pushing each other to achieve better things, and a lot of creativity arises out of that because it’s not like everybody’s only trying to improve one particular kind of effect, there’s a lot innovation in a lot of different areas,” he says. “Unity’s big achievement has been fueling the indie developer revolution which has brought in more than a million new developers into the industry. And it’s a cool compliment towards what we do with Unreal, which is provide technology to power high-end games and there’s a lot of overlap now between them. I think the whole industry is better because of it.” That said, Unity doesn’t have its own game the size of Fortnite, which arguably is taking money away from more traditional Unity-developed mobile games. That’s round one to Epic and, like vaccuum cleaners, no one wants to pay for two engines.
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Keza MacDonald, The Guardian’s new video games editor, talks to Seth Barton about games as culture, the changing relationship between the media and publishers and how discoverability impacts the press too
hile it’s not a universal choice, the UK’s games journalists tend to lean to the left, politically speaking, making The Guardian a cultural touchstone for many games writers. And that preference is likely to be reinforced by the newspaper’s recent hire of Keza MacDonald to lead its games coverage. MacDonald is arguably the journalist’s journalist – literally so after she won a peer-voted award of that very name in 2016 – being held in high regard by her industry peers, with stints at both IGN and Kotaku UK establishing her in the top tier of games writers. Even as the perfect woman for the job, the move to the paper is a big one, with MacDonald adjusting to a broader audience and the paper shifting its games coverage. CULTURE VULTURE The big change at The Guardian is games being moved from the technology section to the culture section, where it sits alongside other arts coverage such as “architecture, the visual arts, opera” MacDonald tells us, adding with a smile: “I sit next to the folk music critic!” “Nobody on my desk has ever heard of a video game, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. “Being on the culture desk is important, it sees games as a holistic part of our cultural diet, rather than a specific thing that you’re into.”
That means MacDonald has to decide if a game isn’t just a great title but whether it warrants a reader’s time over and above a TV series or a film, for example. That also means adapting to the culture section’s scoring system where three stars isn’t a bad score – publishers and PRs be warned. “It’s a real honour to work somewhere like The Guardian,” she adds. “I had to fill out a form for press accreditation the other week, and it asked how long has your outlet been in business... I typed 197 years.” STRAFING LEFT The long-running publication also comes with a heavyweight cultural and political agenda. “The Guardian certainly isn’t shy about expressing its political agenda. We don’t politicise everything about video games but when something comes up that is easy to talk about in the frame of liberal or progressive values then it’s really important for us to tackle – diversity is obviously a big focus of The Guardian’s output.” As well as tackling the difficult issues, we hope MacDonald can use her huge experience to help improve the broader perception of the industry – which often gets a rough ride from the mainstream press. In practice though, with today’s 24-hour news cycle, that’s trickier than it might sound.
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“The idea is that I’m a focal point for gaming for the whole organisation, part of my job is to advocate for games within that building, not just to readers,” MacDonald explains. “So if anyone has anything on the comment desk or news desk, they can come to me, but I don’t have control over what other desks publish – there will always be articles coming out that I didn’t commission and do not agree with… And that’s fine, that’s how a newspaper works. I’d never presume to dictate what The Guardian publishes globally on video games, that would be ridiculous. Though I’d like to get to the point where people come to me more often than not.” And MacDonald isn’t planning on exclusively championing games either: “It’s very important to note that not everything we publish about games is going to be glowing, there’s a lot of very troubling stuff about games that I don’t think we should shy away from: working practices, developer practices, some of the negative cultural impact it can have.” She’s also keen to get back into the kind of investigative work that Kotaku is known for. “But it would need to be the right subject as it’s very expensive to do that kind of thing,” she accepts. And then there’s always the possibility of the broader news agenda scuppering the best laid plans of the arts desk: “You’re like ‘right there’s the release of Far Cry 5’ and then a mass shooting might happen. The actual news takes so much precedence over what you do, but it’s actually quite useful for somebody who’s been working in specialist press for so long to have that sense of perspective. The whole news is happening! And your tiny section is important but it’s not the be all and end all.” THE AUTHORITY With over a decade of experience under her belt, MacDonald is acutely aware of the huge changes that have affected games journalism. “When I started writing for magazines in 2005-2006, journalists were the main conduit for information between the publisher and their audience. But that hasn’t been the case now for many years… because of fan culture, because of Twitter, Twitch, YouTube, there is no need anymore for an intermediary. “Generally the way the games media organisations have adapted is instead of being deliverers of information, they are now the deliverers of authority,” providing deeper information and analysis, she explains. “So what we need from publishers has changed, we no longer need straight information. What we need instead is interviews, what we need is access to people, to developers, to products.
“That transition was difficult – Kotaku was at the forefront of that, we don’t need your code, we don’t necessarily need preview events, we just want to concentrate on the stuff only we think we can offer. And that was a hugely successful strategy for Kotaku from an audience and perception point of view. “What you’re covering isn’t so much the game [as a product], it’s the experience of play. It’s the culture of playing. You’re not so much reviewing a video game and its features now, you’re reviewing the experience of playing it, and that involves other people, and a bunch of stuff that isn’t just the code on the disk. “When you’re writing features, and writing about video game culture, you’re writing about people and players as much as the product.” VOYAGE OF DISCOVERY Journalists may be writing less copy that simply informs readers about products, but in fact there are far more products out there to be discovered. “Journalists aren’t the frontline for discovery, that’s influencers and YouTubers,” states MacDonald. “The many thousands of people whose job it is to play games all day. “As a journalist now, your team is half the size it used to be, you have to cover the big events before you can even start thinking about anything else, so the time you have available to do discovery-based stuff is limited. I get probably 10 to 15 people sending me review codes for games every week – I can play one of those. “It’s a really big problem. A problem for us because we want to be showcasing the games that people should be playing, but it’s as difficult for us to find out as it is for everyone else. And then we have all these obligations, things that are big, things that are important for our publication for other reasons.” Despite the rise of social media, email remains the workhorse of journalists. “I think email is the only way [to reach me]. But I get 150 emails a day, if I reply to them all that would be my whole job, so I have to be very selective. I’m sorry to everybody I’ve not replied to – my inbox is a disaster and I know for a fact that every other editor has the same problem. “If you have an unknown game I’m not saying it’s a waste of time to email [specialist outlets], but it probably is a waste of time to email The Guardian. More success comes when the effort is concentrated into influencers. If something starts getting big on Twitch and YouTube that’s when the press take notice. “Things bubble up through a layer of players, just regular players, and then it gets to the press. Instead of press taking things to the players, we now respond to what players do.”
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Both publishers and PRs will be pleased to hear that MacDonald still holds them in high regard as a way to cut through some of those discovery issues. “Curation is an immensely useful role of publishers, given the immense mass of content today,” she tells us. “I know it’s not always the sweetest deal for a developer, but if the publisher genuinely can offer added value in terms of marketing, that’s now so valuable. If I were an independent developer I would very seriously consider sharing my pie with a publisher instead of trying to crack it by myself.” Though not all publishers are equal of course, with Devolver’s model being a great example in MacDonald’s eyes: “I like a publisher who has people in charge with taste, who pick up games they think are good, and then put those out. I know that if something’s being published by Devolver for instance, that it will arrive in my inbox and I’ll know about it, and it’s quite likely to be interesting.” And if a publisher is a step too far for a studio wanting to keep control of its own destiny then there are other options for indies looking for support: “If not with a publisher, then with a well-known PR firm.” MRS MOTIVATOR MacDonald has plenty to say on the topic of women in the games industry (you can read some of that on page 22). Despite the issues, though, she actually sees her gender as a motivation to stay in games: “One of my reasons for sticking around is that there’s not really anyone else doing the kind of work I do. Of course there are lots of other female journalists, but I feel like I’m the only one I’m aware of with my level of experience. I want to stick around to be the proof that you can. I would feel like if I quit, I’d be letting women down. “I think it’s important to have visible women in the games industry and if I’m one of those that’s great, and I hope it helps somehow. That’s something I hope to have had some tiny influence over during my time in this job. I hope that some women have thought ‘If she can call herself a gamer then I can’. I really hope that someone somewhere has thought that.”
“Being on the culture desk is important, it sees games as a holistic part of our cultural diet, rather than a specific thing that you’re into.”
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FINDING SUCCESS WITH
As ID@Xbox celebrates another successful year, Jem Alexander speaks to European regional lead Agostino Simonetta about making developersâ€™ lives easier and how to find your own success
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he ID@Xbox self-publishing platform continues to go from strength to strength. More games, more developers and, perhaps most importantly, more success for everyone involved. At a presentation in central London, the European regional lead for the platform, Agostino Simonetta, walked through a lot of big numbers which continue to increase at an exponential rate. If numbers aren’t your bag, don’t fret. Simonetta also had plenty to say about the role of independent developers, alongside some advice for those looking to get the most out of the platform. “This has been another year of growth for ID@Xbox,” Simonetta says. “We’ve talked about the nearly 800 games launching from 477 partners in the program today. Last year at Gamescom we were talking about 600 games, so there’s been a growth of titles. And also in terms of customer engagement, I just revealed that 450,000 years have been spent playing games on Xbox by players. At Gamescom 2017, we announced that we broke $500m (£358m) of revenue lifetime to date. At GDC we announced $1bn of revenue. That’s been an exponential growth for the program and, most importantly, for our partners.” Delving deeper into the numbers, it’s clear that this success isn’t just for the top one per cent. Partners across the board are experiencing better sales and income than last year. “When we compare the performance of the titles of the Top 20 this financial year to the same period in the previous year there is a massive growth,” Simonetta explains. “All the titles from No. 1 to No. 20 have been outperforming the titles that where there last year. We’re comparing apples and pears in the sense that the titles are not the same, but we’re still comparing the Top 20 best performing titles. “When we analyse data we have packets of performances. So we look at how many titles have generated half a million in a single financial year, how many titles have done one million and how many titles have done one to five million, and so on. In some of those categories, we have seen an over 300 per cent increase in the number of games. What it means is that there are more titles making substantial amounts of money year-on-year. More and more, we are learning that there is a very, very long tail. So even if your title
doesn’t launch in the Top 20 there is a big opportunity to keep the game selling through discounts, platform initiatives and DLC releases for a long time.” MAKING LIFE EASIER The success of ID@Xbox titles comes not just from the strength of the games themselves, but the way Xbox can make development smoother, both when it comes to promoting the games but also assisting during the development process. “In general our focus is always ‘how can we make developers’ lives easier’,” Simonetta says. “That’s one of our pillars. How we can help our partners promote their games? “We always say to everybody ‘You are the publisher, ultimately you will do your marketing, you’ll do your PR, but what can we do as Xbox to help you guys?’ So now there are various things that we can do.” “We run monthly promotions, highlighting ID@Xbox content on the store. It’s also events. At GDC we had 50 games. We were at PAX. We are doing this event here today. In Europe we’re going to do about seven or eight of these events, PR events, to showcase to ID@ Xbox products between now and Gamescom. We are also actively working on E3, where a large ID@Xbox presence can be expected. “We run things in a very democratic way. Before the big events we email everybody that is an ID partner and say ‘Are you interested in being part of these events with us?’. And this goes to everybody. Then we ask them to send a video, we make a shortlist and then we get demos in and we select the final demos. We want to make sure that we give everybody an opportunity to take part. “We get hundreds of applications, we can’t have hundreds of titles on the show floor but we try to support as many partners as we can. When you look at the European events there is always a local slant. So in the UK you might see a few more local developers. When we go to Italy we are going to bring some of the titles that we know the press or influencers want to play. There are headline titles but we always want to support the local development community. “We host the events and they just need to show up. Effectively we leverage our resources to help them, and our gamers get very, very excited because they have all these games that are coming out. Being a platform,
“When you’re doing your PR and you want to go to events, ﬁrst try to spend somebody else’s money.”
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“Indie as a term was very useful at a specific time and place. ‘Independent developers’ gives a better picture of what those guys are. They come from leftfield. They don’t respond to shareholders. They’re not afraid to innovate.” having a bit more financial resource, we can make those resources available to the developers. They pay their travel and accommodations, but we make all the rest of it. “I always say ‘When you’re doing your PR and you want to go to events, first try to spend somebody else’s money’.” THE DEATH OF ‘INDIE’ When asked about the role of ‘indie’ games in the industry today, Simonetta recoils slightly. “We like to call them independent games. ‘Indie’ as a term was very useful at a specific time and place, but I think now it also has some negative connotations sometimes? ‘Independent developers’ gives a better picture of what those guys are. I think the role they play, call them what you like, is the same role they always play. They come from leftfield. They don’t respond to shareholders. They’re not afraid to innovate. So a lot of the breakthrough changes in the industry, in games or the monetisation models come from independent developers. “They have been in the forefront of the free-to-play model. Xbox Game Preview, or Early Access on Steam: independent developers have opened the door and sometimes the bigger players, or what used to be called bigger players, learn and adapt some of the learning into a triple-A or retail model.” For aspiring independent developers, or those looking to get involved with ID@Xbox, Simonetta has some valuable words of advice about what ‘success’ looks like. “You need to define what your success is,” he says. “Success could be commercial. If your title needs to be
a massive seller, that’s fine. But your success might be actually one man making a salary working in a shop, but wanting to make games. Or your success could be completely personal success: ‘I always wanted to create this experience.’ And then it could be critical success. That’s very very important because that will dictate the way you approach your development, the funding, the publishing model, the platform you approach... That is the first thing developers need to decide. “If you need to be commercially successful because you’re investing a lot of money and you really believe in your project, then you need to think seriously about your PR and marketing and finding investors. “If your success is critical success, maybe you don’t care, maybe you’re doing it in your spare time. For some people it might be absolutely fine to do a thousand downloads if they always wanted to create that experience. “Look at how many people write music or books, their success is actually printing copies of their books for their family. We are creative animals. “The moment that the barriers for digital distribution, creation of content – Unity and GameMaker and Unreal – became very accessible and free, as creative animals, we wanted to create interactive experiences. Same as we write music or write poems or books. That’s the way we live now. People can write a book or they can create a game. “And as a lot of people are happy writing a book that only the family will read, maybe some developers will be happy to just do that.”
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ARTE’S ODYSSEY FROM TV TO VIDEO GAMES European ‘cultural digital network’ Arte is making the leap to games publishing, having co-produced indie gem Bury Me My Love. Marie Dealessandri talks to video games project manager Adrien Larouzée about supporting the multicultural background of Europe with the firm’s latest projects
sk anyone about Arte in the UK, and you’ll probably be met with a puzzled look. While the name has been synonymous with excellence in art and culture on TV for 25 years in France and Germany, the company is fairly unknown on this side of the Channel. Since 2013 Arte has been investing in video games as co-producer, starting with multiplatform title Type:Rider, which was downloaded over 1.7m times, and most recently with indie mobile hit Bury Me My Love, which tackles the topic of civil war in Syria. Arte, partly funded by the European Union, is now making the leap into publishing, hoping to finally get its name outside of its original territories. “Arte is firstly a Franco-German TV channel and it became a European cultural digital network,” Adrien Larouzée, project manager on video games at Arte France, tells MCV. “And for a decade now we’ve been exploring new ways of storytelling with web documentaries, web series, interactive fiction, VR, augmented reality and so on. Video gaming is one way we can support that new style of storytelling and support the multicultural background of Europe, and young creators. All that creativity in Europe, we want to support it the same way we support documentaries, films, shorts or anything.” With its video games productions, Arte wants to target both “mainstream players and indie game lovers” with a portfolio of “quality works, carrying an aesthetic and
narrative ambition,” Gilles Freissinier, digital director at Arte France, explained in an announcement for the firm’s latest games, Vandals and Homo Machina (pictured left). For the first time, Arte is wearing the publisher’s hat for these titles. “We are historically co-producers and this is the first time we are publishing games,” Larouzee continues. “The first game we co-produced was Cosmografik’s Type:Rider, a platformer telling the history of typography. It convinced us that video games were a way to tell great stories. And then we moved on to several games like Californium or S.E.N.S VR. And the last one was the multi-awarded Bury Me My Love, and we are really proud of this one.” The goal with taking the leap into publishing is also to “contribute to the diversity of the industry” and “show Europe’s ambition on the global stage,” Freissinier said in the firm’s announcement. Talking about Vandals and Homo Machina, he added these two titles “work towards the channel’s ambition to widen its audience, taking into account the evolution of practices, at the crossroads between games, literature, visual arts and animation.” EXPRESS YOURSELF Arte’s first published game is mobile and PC title Vandals, developed by Cosmografik and which released on April 12th, the day before we meet Larouzée at EGX Rezzed. “It’s a turn-based infiltration game with a street art twist,” he explains. “So you play as a vandal and you are
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Pictured above: Adrien Larouzée, project manager on video games at Arte France
Pictured below: Vandals, developed by osmo ra k
trying to solve puzzles. There are 60 of them in five major cities of street art history – Paris, New York, Berlin, Tokyo and Sao Paulo. And it tells you the story – or at least one story – of street art.” He continues: “Every city is set in a different period of time. For example Paris is in 1968 [a period of student and worker rebellion which led to historic general strikes and occupations across the country] and Berlin is set during the War. These are landmarks of street art history. As a turn-based game, you will need to infiltrate, sneak past the police, the guards, the cameras, the lasers, the dogs and so on, to make your way to a wall where you can express yourself. The game then switches to a new mode where you can paint whatever you want. Once you’ve made your masterpiece you can actually see your drawing on the level design. Then you need to escape.” Players will literally be able to draw what they want and share it online on every social network. For its first published game, Arte decided to avoid free-to-play and go with the premium model, which was already the case for all its previous co-productions. “At this point this is almost a philosophical standpoint,” Larouzée smiles when asked about the reason why Arte is fending off free-to-play. “We really wanted to support those creators, those studios and we think that premium is the best business model to handle that. But as we are also public funded, we really had to make the game available for the widest audience
possible. And so this is why we often go to mobile because this is the first console you have in your pocket. This is also why on the website you can find a demo. The first chapter, which is Paris, you can play for free.” DATE NIGHT WITH DR. KAHN Arte’s next project, Homo Machina, has already benefited from a good word-of-mouth due to its gorgeous art. “Homo Machina will be released in May,” Larouzée says. “It’s a mobile game and it’s a tribute to Fritz Kahn, a German doctor from the very beginning of the 20th century who dedicated his life to his masterpieces.” Dr. Kahn is widely known as a pioneer in infographics and popularisation of science, combining the two to explain biology with his famous medical illustrations. “He thought that the best way to explain how the body works was to make a comparison between organs and factories because the early 20th century was the new industrial era,” Larouzée further explains. “And there are those really famous drawings from him and his team. You can see for example how the brain works and you can see tiny workers operating machines. When you see that, as a game designer, you really want to make a game out of it. You want to play with those tiny workers.” Developer Darjeeling also wanted to make sure the game was accessible to a wide audience, including kids who might learn a thing or two in the process. But the art direction and the story behind the gameplay is also there to appeal to adults. “Homo Machina is a narrative puzzle, I like to say,” Larouzée continues. “You spend a day in that amazing factory that is your body and you will have to operate those different organs and figure out how to make the body work. And this is a really special day because this is date night. So the director, he’s anxious, he’s a bit clumsy and somehow maybe a coward too. You will have to motivate him and make that factory work.” Homo Machina is a lovely idea with superb art, which could well become the poster child for Arte’s video games ambitions. “We are always looking for great projects. If a game looks beautiful, promising, then it’s definitely something we’d like to have a look at,” Larouzée says, going on to explain what the publisher looks for in games: “We work on games the same way we work on every interactive digital project, or films, or documentaries. Which means that studios, at the very beginning of their projects, bring us prototypes or maybe just a pitch. What we are looking for is obviously a beautiful art direction, maybe great storytelling – maybe it’s not always obvious storytelling but it is always a way to explain or tell something. Right now, we’re working with tiny studios and if it fits our editorial direction we are looking forward to helping those projects.”
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V&A BRINGING GAME DESIGN TO THE MASSES
With its upcoming exhibition Videogames: Design/Play/ Disrupt, the V&A wants to educate on the diversity of design processes in games. Marie Dealessandri has a chat with the exhibition’s curator Marie Foulston
n paper, family-friendly shooter Splatoon, controversial satirical game Phone Story, survival horror blockbuster The Last of Us and indie darling Journey don’t necessarily have a lot in common. But when you scratch below the surface, they actually all have (at least) one similarity: they pushed the boundaries of game design and redefined what video games can be. And that’s why they’re all part of the V&A’s upcoming exhibition, Videogames: Design/Play/ Disrupt, which will be the museum’s headline exhibition next autumn and was announced as part of the London Games Festival festivities. Celebrating and exploring groundbreaking design in video games since the mid-2000s, the exhibition will feature original prototypes, early character designs, notebooks and much more from games that
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Pictured, clockwise from above: Games of Thrones’ Winterfell created by Minecraft community WesterosCraft, indie title How do you Do it?, Vox the Dog (fan art inspired by Overwatch, courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment), Cardboard Computer’s Kentucky Route Zero and one of its inspirations, Le Blanc Seing, painted by René Magritte in 1965. All of this work (and more) will be part of the V&A’s exhibition, Videogames: Design/Play/Disrupt.
challenged the conventions of game design. It will also delve into how video games explore “complex and sensitive subject matters such as representation, race, sexuality and geopolitics.” Taking over the North Court of the V&A from September 8th 2018 to February 24th 2019, the exhibition has been years in the making, with the V&A’s curator for video games Marie Foulston working with research curator Kristian Volsing. “I was brought in a few years ago and the V&A already knew at that time that it wanted to create an exhibition around video games,” Foulston explains. “It was actually our previous department keeper, Kieran Long, who was incredibly interested in video game design, who championed and pushed for the institution to undertake this project. So it was a huge privilege for me to be able to come into an institution that was so willing to engage with this subject matter and to be able to bring in new ideas.” There have been other exhibitions dedicated to video games in the past, but Design/Play/Disrupt takes a new approach, choosing to focus on a selection of groundbreaking items from a specific period of recent time instead of going down the historical path. “We obviously felt very fortunate to work with studios willing to open up their art books and their hard drives to show us some work that is rarely seen. But for us, this is not a canon of video games from the mid-2000s to the present day. Not every important game will be featured, not every game that everybody knows and loves will be here, because there are just too many. But what was important for us was finding an eclectic selection of games which showed the real range from big triple-A blockbusters down to smaller independent games to show different genres, different modes of creation and creativity, different design processes. “We have works such as No Man’s Sky which was created through procedural generation, which is a radically different design process from, say, the way the game Journey was created. It’s that diversity that was important to us, to show what unites everything in this exhibition is that it is all groundbreaking. It all pushes people’s expectations and the boundaries of the medium in very exciting ways.” Foulston and the V&A also thought the time was finally right to offer this exhibition, with video games being increasingly recognised on a par with other industries such as film and TV. “For us what’s important about ‘now’ is I feel like we’re at a cultural tipping point with more institutions engaging with this medium and extending its value,” Foulston says. “Obviously this
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Home is where the art is
ALONGSIDE the Videogames: Design/Play/Disrupt exhibition, the V&A also announced that applications are now open for a new video games residency at the museum, from October 15th 2018 to June 15th 2019. “The resident will be a UK-based artist, designer or maker involved in the video games scene who wishes to develop their practice through working with the V&A’s curators and learning team to develop new work and engage with the public,” the announcement said. Sophia George, now working at studio Frontier Developments, was the first game design resident at the V&A, in 2013-2014. “The residency was in two parts, so I spent six months at the V&A researching and I was meant to make a game based on something in the [V&A’s] British Galleries. Then I spent three months in development,” she tells MCV. “I had a small team up at Abertay University which was a mixture of professionals and students to create [iPad title] Strawberry Thief, which is based on William Morris’ pattern.” The V&A residency is a great opportunity for game designers to learn and work with professionals on
new projects, push the boundaries of game design and explore the links between games and classic forms of art. But for George, it was also a way to be a voice to bring more diversity to the industry: “I learnt that I really wanted to inspire other people to get into games,” she says. “As you can imagine when I was in my [university] courses, there was a very low percentage of women and what I really like about the residency is that it wasn’t all development, but also engagement. I did so much stuff with schools and I remember being on BBC News and someone emailed me saying: ‘Oh my daughter was going to get into being a nurse but now she wants to be a computer scientist’. I love to make that kind of a difference and help get more diversity in the industry. Also the kind of media exposure I got from it was really amazing.” To anyone thinking of applying for the residency, George has some advice: “I would say to come with fresh new ideas. I feel like the residency is targeted at people who love to share their work, who work with children and who love to engage with people. So try and just be as open as you can.”
is not the first major exhibition on video games, this is built on the legacy of other institutions and other works such as Game On by the Barbican, or institutions such as the MOMA or the Smithsonian. But for us this is looking at the period from the mid-2000s to present day that’s been a really important and interesting time in video games design particularly. “There’s a whole host of technological catalysts from the mid-2000s, such as the price of broadband, to smartphones, to democratisation of design tools and all of that had a radical impact on design as a whole and life as a whole. Video games being a digital design medium, that obviously impacted it quite radically, so for us it’s a period of immense creativity and work.” What’s also interesting about Design/Play/Disrupt is that the V&A has chosen not only to present works from established studios but also to highlight the work of game communities. “For us it’s incredibly important to tell a full story of design but also to represent the players and the communities – work that, for one, is important, but two is also just incredibly captivating,” Foulston says, with the Minecraft community being fairly represented in the exhibition. “You cannot tell a full story of video game design by just looking at the more conventional conception of what we understand to be a designer. A lot of the design stories in video games actually sit in the hands of those players and those creative communities. It’s a dizzying sort of creative chaos. We want to bring these really amazing things that those communities create to the audience.” OPERAS MADE OF BRIDGES With Design/Play/Disrupt, the V&A hopes to attract an audience of both gamers and non-gamers. “There’s a whole host of different audiences that we want to reach,” Foulston says. “This is an exhibition that is seeking to appeal to people who are literate in games. There is not one homogenous audience of game players and there are a whole host of games but there will be something in here for everybody who likes games. For those audiences we wanted to make sure that we’re providing insights into some of the works that they know and love and the designers that they hold dear. To be able to show them something unique such as the pencil sketches from their favourite designer or a prototype that they’ve never seen of one of their favourite games.” She continues: “But we do want to speak to other audiences, who play games more casually, don’t consider themselves to be hardcore gamers, and hopefully people who perhaps have never picked up a controller. Perhaps their only knowledge is what their kids are doing on Minecraft and it’s challenging to reach those audiences.”
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Which is why the games on show are placed in a context, showing the wide range of inspirations that get into the making of video games, from a Magritte painting to a cat video. “We wanted to make sure that there were works across the whole range of the exhibition which appeal to those different audiences. The first object we approved for the exhibition was a Magritte painting. And that should definitely get a few audiences in,” Foulston smiles. “For us, it’s trying to reach those audiences to show them ‘hey look video games are connected to broader visual culture, they are connected to the stories that you love in other disciplines’. The ambition when people leave this exhibition is not to necessarily convert them into thinking that they’re going to become a designer – although that would be amazing to be able to do so – it’s not even to necessarily have everybody leave thinking that they’re going to go home and start playing games. But we do hope that everybody who leaves this exhibition has a newfound respect for the design work and the creativity of both the designers and the player communities. And that for us is what is important; it’s educating people about video game design.”
She continues, emphasising the importance of placing games next to other pieces of art or pop culture elements: “It was important for us to have a range of different materials that honestly show the range of sources that people get inspiration from. So yes, on one end of the spectrum that’s a Magritte painting, and on the other end it’s a viral YouTube cat video. “It’s being honest to the range of inspirations and design material. We don’t need to force that connection, it is there.” Foulston then refers to a quote from Frank Lantz, director of the NYU Game Center, that was used as the opening quote for the exhibition’s press presentation: “Making a game combines everything that’s hard about building a bridge with everything that’s hard about composing an opera. Games are basically operas made out of bridges.” And that’s exactly what the team at the V&A wants to show with Design/Play/Disrupt, Foulston concludes: “Games are operas made of bridges: that’s what’s important for us to educate people about, and what is so fascinating and complex about the design discipline.”
Pictured above: Marie Foulston, the V&A’s curator for video games
Pictured top: Character sketch of The Last of Us, developed by Naughty Dog, published by Sony
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DayZ resurrected Zombie survival game DayZ will finally be making its return this year, with a new engine and an up-to-date experience. Jem Alexander investigates the necromancy involved with bringing the game back to life and how it will fit into a battle royale dominated market
hings have been quiet around DayZ for a while now. After it was announced in 2015 that an Xbox One version was in the works, Bohemia Interactive has been in a period of almost radio silence. As development continued, the world kept turning and the industry moved on from the incredibly popular survival game. Nowadays, games like Fortnite and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds have taken over its mindshare and popularity. Which is ironic, since without DayZ – itself a mod, originally, for Arma 2 – Brendan ‘PlayerUnknown’ Greene wouldn’t have created DayZ: Battle Royale, and therefore we’d have no PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. Which means no Fortnite Battle Royale either. Essentially, DayZ is the granddaddy of today’s big games. Even though Dean Hall joined Bohemia to officially work on Arma 2: DayZ Mod and eventually release it in February 2013 (with a standalone version launching in December of the same year), the industry has shifted enough that it all feels like ancient history. So it’s fascinating to see DayZ preparing for a return to a market dominated by its offspring’s offspring. Despite this, lead producer at Bohemia Interactive, Eugen Harton, feels the difference in game styles means there’s plenty of space for them all to carve a niche. Even if, as with Fortnite, that niche is more like a yawning chasm at this point. “We are friends with both those guys [PUBG and Fortnite] and I am happy to see the success happen,” says Harton. “I think that there is a niche for every one of them. You’ll see more arcade gameplay, like shorter
gameplay loops, such as the building in Fortnite. People see PUBG on the verge of realism and it’s more of a simulation than Fortnite. It’s definitely a different game, it has longer gameplay loops. And then you have DayZ, which is a persistent experience, so there’s a big difference there. We definitely have a different market.” That doesn’t mean that DayZ won’t ever feature a battle royale mode again, however. It’s something that’s on the developer’s extensive roadmap. But not before the new version of DayZ, built with a new engine, fully updated visuals and full console multiplayer, is released. “Bohemia brought in the survival games brand with DayZ, that originally started the whole battle royale thing, together with Brendan [Greene],” says Harton. “It’s something that we want to look at this year, definitely. We’re thinking about how we can shape the experience around that. But the vanilla DayZ is something that’s very important to the whole community aspect of Bohemia.” FEEDBACK LOOP Being an ID@Xbox partner gives Bohemia better access to press, community and developer events, which not only allows the studio to show the reinvigorated title to the gaming community, but also to hardcore gamers within the industry. With several years of quiet development under its belt, resurfacing and seeing the reaction can be scary. “It’s quite interesting because a lot of our core players are hardcore – you see them in journalists and you see them in developers,” Harton says. “So even at GDC or here [at a London press event], a lot of people are coming
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Pictured above: Eugen Harton, lead producer at Bohemia Interactive
to me and talking DayZ because they played it before. That immediate feedback is very important to me and to the team, because that’s our audience. Those are the players that we’re going to be playing with on both Xbox and PC. And you don’t get that everywhere. “It’s hard to get that kind of immediate feedback from a hardcore player, especially when I do community events. It’s very different. You’ll see a different kind of player there. So these gamers who played DayZ maybe three years ago are now seeing how it controls and how it feels. That’s what I’m looking for. Did we make a difference with the technology that puts people off immediately? Or are they like ‘woah, I want to try this’? “I’m very happy with the feedback so far. The first time we showed the new version was at Gamescom last summer. We did a couple smaller community events where we showed the PC version because that’s getting near and hopefully in two or three weeks the PC guys will be playing the new version with the new engine. It’s been amazing so far. It’s been positive, it’s been encouraging. I feel like we’re doing something right and that’s very comforting after four years of almost radio silence.” A good response from the community is vital for a game like DayZ, but not just because it relies heavily on online play. Bohemia wants to continue the legacy of Arma and the original DayZ release, with players creating their own new experiences. In this way, DayZ will be differentiated even further from other games on the market. “There’s so much space to succeed and we we want to put that in the hands of the community,” Harton explains. “We want DayZ to be heavily moddable. We want people to create games from our platform. That’s been very important to us. I don’t think it’s something that PUBG aims for or Fortnite aims for. Maybe they’ll do it down the road, but it’s something that has been very strong for us. We have the know-how from Arma and DayZ. Maybe we’ll see something that will be the new battle royale, created by the community. We’ll see new ideas, new things happen and that’s what we’re excited about. “We want to empower those people. Even now for the DayZ release with the new engine, our lead map designer is originally a modder. So not only does it recruit people for us, it gives us new ideas to work on. We can put those people in place, give them the resources to make their dreams become reality. We’re going to be putting these things out together with those modders to expand on
the community. I think you can play DayZ for years. We’ve seen that – people have played it for years already, especially the core community. But how many people can we bring in if we get all these options in and people start creating their own stuff? There’s going to be this variability that people can build upon. “I do believe that when you look at games-as-a-service and what’s available right now, for example through Steamworks with sharing mods, building our platforms to empower these features is definitely a big focus for us.” ID@XBOX Another benefit of being an ID@Xbox partner (a full interview with the European regional lead, Agostino Simonetta, can be found on page 50) is the wealth of experience and help that the Xbox team can offer. Technical support and development nous can help developers with the trickier parts of making games on consoles. “We’ve been heavily PC centric for years now,” Harton says. “So going to consoles with the new technology, with a large multiplayer project is definitely a challenge and the guys at ID@Xbox have been very helpful on a consultancy side – helping us with some of the the technological challenges or just offering help with UI, controls, whatever. It has been a very pleasant experience so far. “Xbox is a large brand that definitely has a lot of interest in DayZ and there is still a niche that we can offer that I think still isn’t available on the market. Agostino Simonetta has been very helpful in that regard. We’ve been discussing the DayZ thing for years now. We took a long time and they’re very happy to see it running properly in 4K and full HD. Finally we got the performance right and everything is in there.” For developers thinking of getting involved with ID@Xbox with their own projects, Harton has some advice that may sound simple, but is definitely worth considering. Especially for devs who are used to working on their own and having few external aids to go to when the going gets tough. “Don’t be afraid to ask for help,” Harton says. “That’s the most important part. I know that there’s a certain pride to being a game developer, but understanding that you haven’t done everything in this world is important. If you haven’t released a lot of games on consoles, you will probably need help with controls and UI. If you haven’t had a large scale audience play your game, you probably will need help with scaling. So asking for help is probably the thing that you should focus on.”
“I feel like we’re doing something right and that’s comforting after four years of almost radio silence.”
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UK leads the charge to Cologne With the weather warming up it’s time to look forward to Gamescom again. Seth Barton asks what’s hot at this year’s show
amescom continues to be the European must-attend event for the whole industry. As of last year it’s still growing in terms of space and attendance, plus it’s diversifying from its consumer show roots with developer and esports events both returning this year as part of an expanded Gamescom. It’s a show where the UK makes itself at home too, as we make up the largest single contingent of overseas exhibitors. As part of that MCV will be out in full force this year, with our MCV@gamescom being distributed daily to trade visitors, plus we have our allnew Esports Pro Awards premiering on August 21st in Cologne. We talk to Tim Endres (pictured right), director of Gamescom, about the 2018 edition of the show and what exhibitors and trade visitors can expect from this crucial date in the gaming calendar. Congratulations on your 10th anniversary! How much has the show grown since it began? Thanks! Gamescom can look back on an impressive success story. Between 2009 and 2017, the number of exhibitors increased from 458 to 919, and the number of visitors from 245,193 to around 355,000 last August. The show has also developed positively in terms of international standing: while 201 foreign exhibitors presented new products in the premiere year, this number increased to 661 companies in 2017. Half of all trade visitors to Gamescom come from abroad. We are very pleased at this wonderful development. It is the result of our continuing work and cooperation with Game, the German Games Industry Association, and with the committees participating in Gamescom. The clear focus on the requirements of the various visitor target groups and its unique concept have made
Gamescom what it is today: the leading business platform for the games industry and the highlight of the year for gaming fans from around the world. We are optimistic that the journey isn’t even close to its end, and that we can further expand upon this success. Have its strategic goals changed much in that time frame? Trade fairs reflect markets, and this is also the case with Gamescom. One USP of the show is that we have always represented gaming in all of its facets, and across all platforms. Console gaming, mobile, online, PC, virtual reality, esports – all of these themes have their place at Gamescom. You won’t find that anywhere else, and we will remain committed to this. Two examples of the continuing strategic development of Gamescom are the SPOBIS Gaming & Media and Devcom events. Both premiered last year as part of Gamescom Week. SPOBIS is organised by Sponsors, one of the leading organisers of congresses on sports marketing. We were then able to network the top decision makers of the advertising industry, media companies and professional sports with those in the gaming world. It returns this year on August 20th. And then we have Devcom, a high-quality developer event during Gamescom Week, which will take place again from August 19th to 23rd. Have you increased capacity in terms of floor area this year – are there any corners of the Koelnmesse left unused? We started in 2009 with an exhibition space of 120,000 square metres, and last year we were once again able to expand the exhibition space, covering 201,000 square metres.
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For this year, no expansion of the area is planned – however, this may change depending on exhibitor demand. The Cologne fairgrounds encompass 284,000 square metres of hall area, as well as 100,000 of outdoor space. That makes them the third largest in Germany and among the top ten in the world. So, there is further potential. Some parts of the show are bustling, others less so; is it possible to try and balance this out? The gap between highly and less highly frequented areas has not been so pronounced at Gamescom for quite some time now. It’s true that the stands of the big exhibitors are of course the big attractions, but there are also extremely attractive exhibitors in other halls, for example in Hall 10, which can’t complain about lack of attention. We also have events and actions planned at different locations on the Gamescom grounds, which attract the public and thus ensure the good distribution of visitors. The social media stage, family and friends or the cosplay village are only three examples that, in addition to the high quality exhibitors, also result in good occupancy beyond the major exhibitor presences. The pound has weakened against the euro recently – has that affected the number of UK companies exhibiting?
No, we haven’t been able to determine any negative effect as of yet. On the contrary, in terms of exhibitors, the UK is traditionally one of the strongest participants at Gamescom. Does the esports sector continue to be a growth part of the event? Yes, esports is one of the top themes of the industry and will occupy an even more prominent position at Gamescom 2018 than in previous years: esports providers like All Esports, ESL/Turtle Entertainment, Gamer Legion and Webedia Gaming have already confirmed their participation and will be in Cologne. What else is new at this year’s event? We are currently working on a variety of projects and are coordinating with different partners. Unfortunately this means I can’t provide you with any more detailed information at the present time. However, I am optimistic that we will soon be able to publish the first news. Perhaps I can tell you this much: innovations are being discussed both for trade and private visitors. And because we are also celebrating ten years of Gamescom, we will surely have a few little surprises for our guests…
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LARGE AS LIFE
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Matthias Muckle and his team create life-sized models of the biggest characters (quite literally at times) for games and movies
n an increasingly digital world, there’s something all the more impressive about something with a huge physical presence. And in terms of marketing, things don’t get much bigger than the Hulkbuster armour pictured opposite. Standing an awe-inspiring four metres tall, the model is the biggest to date from German firm Muckle Mannequins. The firm has created life-sized figures across both Marvel and DC film franchises in recent years, but has also worked on games franchises such as Zelda, Bioshock, Tomb Raider and many more over a 20-year span. It’s also a company MCV has quite an attachment to, as one of Muckle’s 2003 Tomb Raider models still greets every visitor to our London office today. As well as creating life-sized figures for point-of-sale, Muckle can work on a smaller scale too, designing models that can be packaged with special editions of games, for instance. We catch up with Matthias Muckle to talk about the business and the opportunities for games publishers and retailers in such models. How did you get into creating life-sized game characters? Around 20 years ago I visited an exhibition of software developers in Cologne. I saw a life-size game figure there of Lara Croft and wondered if it made sense to replicate it as an eye-catcher for point-ofsale locations. I discovered the figure had been built as just one single part, which would make shipping replicas in high quantities very expensive. However, it was agreed that I could use the game character as a prototype to create casting molds. So I packed the figure after the fair and set about producing it in large numbers. How many figures have you designed since then and how do you imagine the creation of a new figure? Before production we need to clarify how the character ultimately has to look, in close consultation with the client. What stance should it have? Should it have any special accessories? Which colours need to be used? Which surface texture should it have? Sometimes we even have to wait for the approval from the actor portraying the character. When this step is done, and the prototype approved, it can then be replicated. Again, extreme precision and artistic talent are required when it comes to the painting. This is mainly done by hand and requires specialist talent. Has the decline in physical sales impacted the demand for point-of-sale figures? Our figures have actually become more and more important in the point-of-sale activity of many markets, since they attract the attention of clients.
We have also built figures ranging from just keychain-sized right up to the Hulkbuster. We produce mainly life-size figures which are needed for movie releases or are used at exhibitions, but there’s also a huge market in small figurines for limited editions [such as the Mad Max: Fury Road Collector’s Edition below]. In the past few years, 3D printing has brought about big changes, and we are always striving to pick up on and implement innovations. Now it is no problem for us now to produce individual figures at short notice and small editions for trade fairs. With over 20 years to draw on, which figures have stood out for you? You develop a special bond with each figure after such a long development period. You take care on every detail and you start thinking about the role of this character. Therefore it is hard for me to have a favourite figure. That said, our first Lara Croft figure is very special to me because it was the one that made it possible for us to start in this business. One of the most popular figures is the Joker from The Dark Knight. The expression of this character – portrayed by legendary actor Heath Ledger – is astonishing. One of our largest figures is Hulkbuster, which is so large that we have problems to assemble it in our showroom. In order to use Hulkbuster, we always have to disassemble the roof light in our studio! Last year, we created a type of Spider-Man which hangs down from the roof. This model is an absolute eye-catcher which can go up and down with the help of a motor. The Justice League figures were a big challenge as we had to both produce a complete set of seven figures and deliver all of them worldwide on time, for the movie release. Such projects require you to cooperate with your licensors and logistics partners very closely.
For further details see www.mucklevision.com or contact Aziz Mir at firstname.lastname@example.org or on +49 (0)621/8281395
This advertorial feature was created in association with Muckle’s Mannequins
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totaldiscrepair.co.uk Call: 01202 489 500
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NEW OR IMPROVED The most fascinating facets of the latest games, focusing on how developers continue to innovate and push the boundaries of the medium
RICO Jake Tucker talks about how Ground Shatter’s shooter is all iller no ller
RICO plays like a greatest hits compilation of every video game shootout you’ve ever had. Named after the real American Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, RICO’s name is the most realistic thing about a title that, at its heart, is just an arcade game. Your chosen super-cop and potentially a co-op partner move through a procedurally generated collection of rooms, kicking in doors and raking out criminals. It may not be the standard way to execute a high-risk warrant, but it’s a blast to play, echoing Rainbow Six Vegas’ high energy breaches or a memorable slow-motion sequence in Modern Warfare 2’s Gulag level. The difference here is that instead of these moments being the pay-off to a set piece, players rarely go 30 seconds without emptying a magazine or kicking in another door. Indeed, if they slow down too much, enemy reinforcements will appear, clad in tactical gear and clutching military grade firepower to give you a kick in the behind. Speaking to James Parker, the founder of Ground Shatter and the game’s director, he says that he wants people to be able to pick up the game or join in with a friend and immediately start enjoying themselves. When I first sat
down to play RICO, he told me the button to kick doors down and left me to it. Parker lists the Rainbow Six series among his influences, but also the feel of classic arcade light-gun shooters Virtua Cop and Time Crisis. “In terms of other inspirations, our mood board consists solely of a quote from Rock Paper Shotgun about F.E.A.R’s weapon feel,” says Parker. “And a load of screengrabs from Bad Boys II – the Citizen Kane of action films.” Bad Boys II, and Michael Bay’s other bombastic entries to the history of cinema, are clear references and Ground Shatter’s commitment to environment destruction, flailing bodies and excessive firefights should serve it well. That RICO also offers procedurally generated environments (a different area to blast your way through every time) and cooperative play (to drag a friend along either online or locally) gives it replayability. Many games in the realistic shooting genre require intense dedication and a competitive streak, which makes RICO refreshingly different. It’s an independent title seeking to provide the thrills of a triple-A shooter but with only a small footprint on player’s time and so should find its own niche.
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A WAY OUT Marie Dealessandri explores co-op adventure A Way Out’s greatest strengths, and they may not be in the areas you expect
WHEN A Way Out was announced at E3 2017, as part of EA Originals’ roster, developer Hazelight promised co-op like you’ve never seen it, with a branching narrative and decisions that have a deep impact on the story. So let’s get this out the way immediately: this is not what A Way Out excels at. Ultimately the choices of your actions don’t seem to impact the story deeply, except in the end sequence, and while the title’s couch co-op is very enjoyable and innovates in many ways, it’s not groundbreaking. What A Way Out does excel at is in allowing the players to create a bond with its characters in a way I’ve never seen in any other game. In this prison break title, split-screen co-op is mandatory as the story of Vincent and Leo unravels, with each of the two players controlling one of the two lead characters. The narrative is an archetypal gangster story, with nods to classics of the genre, from The Shawshank Redemption to Scarface to Oldboy’s corridor fight scene. Calm and cerebral Vincent has been incarcerated for murder, while Leo is a short-tempered crook who’s been there for quite a while already. Together, they plan their escape, but it almost doesn’t matter why they want to break free. What matters is, as you play, you build a friendship between them and as they bond, you bond with the game.
You get the option to choose your character at the start of every gameplay session, however it never occured to me to switch. I was Leo. I tried (and sometimes failed) to play the entire game with Leo leading the duo, it felt like it was important for me to be true my character. But apparently pointing a gun at old people to steal their van is not something you should do, so sometimes I had to yield to Vincent’s (admittedly smarter) way. Caring for your character is not exactly new in video games, but the way co-op is built in A Way Out really gives substance to the fragile friendship you’re building between the two main characters. The game gives you relaxing moments to enjoy this nascent friendship, from playing the piano or the banjo, to playing baseball and basketball, to playing an arcade game in an airport hangar. A Way Out gives you plenty of down time to forget about the great escape and what’s at stake and just enjoy being free, together. This feeling is amplified by the fact you can also put your own personality into these characters. You can interact with pretty much everything around you, which means my partner spent way too much time doing pull-ups in prison or trying to pet farm animals once outside, while I spent way too much time rummaging through houses trying to steal things. As I played I quickly realised that, in order to survive, I needed this friendship and I needed to protect both my interests and the other character’s interests. And the more I progressed, the more I worried about it. This approach to character carries the fairly generic gameplay and elevates the story. A Way Out tries to be many genres at the same: puzzler, shooter, action-adventure, but in the end it’s in its character building that it shines. That made the ending one of the most powerful I’ve experienced for quite a while, and is well worth playing the game to experience. There is no good ending in A Way Out, neither for the characters nor for the players. Whatever the player does, they will feel like they’ve lost. But you never feel robbed as a player. It all makes sense and it clicks perfectly.
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DISCO ELYSIUM Seth Barton discovers how a con icted syche can get layers really role-playing
DISCO ELYSIUM isn’t a game that’s easy to ignore. It hits immediately with an unusual art style, a beautiful, near-impressionistic hand-painted joy, but which depicts a somewhat grotty world, all trash, decay and corruption. Then there’s the unnamed protagonist, who seems to have issues with finding his pants – or maybe that was just me. While the game’s art might be grabbing attention, and fairly so, it’s the conversations and the options therein which are making this upcoming indie darling so intriguing. The amnesiac protagonist is as old as games, or at least as old as games with any significant narrative. The blank slate usually performs one of three key jobs, providing the player a space to project their own personality onto, generating narrative tension in the discovery of the character’s identity and allowing the character to develop (or recall) increasingly powerful abilities as the game progresses. And before you think your own memory is playing tricks, yes, Disco Elysium
was once called No Truce with the Furies, but developer ZA/UM decided the funkier title would help it stand out from the crowd – as if it needed help. Back to our protagonist though, he appears to be a hardbitten police lieutenant, waking from the mother of all benders. And he’s got a lot going on in his head. ZA/UM is letting the player define their own lieutenant with a wide range of skills, which then give additional options in dialogues - but these aren’t exactly the usual charm, persuade or threaten options you might see in a classic Bioware adventure. For example, under the Intellect skills label there’s Logic and Rhetoric among others. Logic can work as a lie detector, uncovering inconsistencies in other’s stories, however it also loves a puzzle and loves being right, so it can be fooled by NPC’s deploying intellectual flattery. Rhetoric on the other hand lets the player win debates and political squabbles, however while they might win the row, they’re unlikely to change anyone’s deep-held beliefs, making enemies as often as creating allies. The skills aren’t just mental either, with Psyche and Intellect being joined by Physique and Motorics (motor skills). In short, investing points in each skill doesn’t simply buy abilities. It actually defines the character by selecting possible responses to any given situation, with both ups and downs depending on the strength of the skills and the challenge before you. And that’s real role-playing, creating a character and then playing that role, for better or worse. It’s an ambitious system but in early play it looks as though ZA/UM has the wit to pull it off.
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Fresh Meat BY JEM ALEXANDER
Every month in Fresh Meat we check in with a new and upcoming developer. This month we chat to Maze Theory’s Ian Hambleton and Mark Hardy about the VR market, ‘evolutional storytelling’ and the formation of the studio
YOU don’t see many new virtual reality studios popping up nowadays, so it was refreshing to see the recent announcement of Maze Theory, established by industry veterans from publishing giants Sony and Activision. Mark Hardy (pictured right), ex-marketing director at PlayStation, and Geoff Heath, ex-European managing director at Activision, have set up the company in an attempt to explore the storytelling potential of VR games. The pair have partnered with creative business collective Output Group, with which Hardy has worked in the past on projects for PlayStation, specifically its creative marketing outlet Studio Output. Ian Hambleton (pictured top right) was a founding member of Studio Output and is now working on launching Maze Theory, which has spun out from the agency. This organic growth built on established relationships within the industry can only be a good thing for the studio. “The team at Output Group has had an active interest in the gaming and VR space since 2013, leading major development projects for big brands like Pernod Ricard, Havana Club and BBC,” say Hardy and Hambleton in a joint statement. “In early 2017 we started to explore concept development of our own IP led by the passion of our creative director, Marcus Moresby. “The team at Output Group have 15 years of experience producing high-quality content and
have been working within film, animation and realtime with Unity 3D for many years. At the centre of this, Marcus Moresby had found VR as the intersection of his interests: immersive theatre, interactive gaming and high-quality animation production. We have built out Maze Theory’s position around ‘evolutionary storytelling’ – a proposition that will guide all creative, experience and marketing for the company.” This quest for ‘evolutionary storytelling’ is something we’re seeing mirrored throughout the industry, with new studios commonly putting emphasis on narrative. That Maze Theory sees the evolution of storytelling taking place in virtual reality, specifically, is interesting to see. Especially with the creative director’s interest in immersive theatre as a cornerstone. “With ‘evolutionary storytelling’ as our starting point, we are focused on building a distinctive niche in the market at the intersection of cinematic film, digital theatre and gaming,” Hardy and Hambleton say. “We will be creating narrative experiences that combine improvisation, theatrics, characterisation and active participation. This will allow us to really push the boundaries of the VR experience. When entering one of our games, a user will start a journey through a narrative maze. This is how we decided upon our name. “Appreciating the creative team’s passion for the VR space, high production quality capabilities and passion for immersive
“With ‘evolutionary storytelling’ as our starting point, we are focused on building a distinctive niche in the market at the intersection of cinematic ﬁlm, digital theatre and gaming.”
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Pictured left: Screenshots from Maze Theory s rst title, The Vanishing Act Pictured below: Geoff Heath, Maze Theory’s co-founder
experiences Output Group recommended that we set up a separate indie studio. We all feel the tipping point for wider adoption of VR is on the horizon and wanted to put together a team that could maximise on this.” Betting the farm on VR is something that many developers are reticent to do. Maze Theory seems fearless as it enters the market, however, and the founders feel confident that there’s success to be found there. “It’s no secret that sales of VR headsets are behind what was expected, but in the last 12 months both Geoff and Mark felt they were starting to see positive indicators in the market,” Hardy and Hambleton say. “Numerous new hardware products have been launched at a more accessible price point, software advancements have improved user experience and reviews with positive gamer ratings are now more commonplace. “While mainstream adoption of VR has been slow, we feel the fundamental user experience is incredible. It’s quite possibly the
“Virtual reality is quite possibly the most transformational entertainment technology in the market right now.”
most transformational entertainment technology in the market right now. We know the emotional impact on the user can be profound and any user that tries VR for the first time is always blown away. “We know the industry is still in its infancy but in recent months we have seen major innovations that will drive adoption. Multiplayer is now more commonplace, headsets are becoming more portable and a more accessible price point is opening up the market. This in turn is igniting interest from investors and games companies to ensure they are ahead of the curve to take on the opportunity. “We want to find a clear lane for the studio and ensure our products not only stand out in the market but also push the immersive capabilities of VR technology to the limit.” The studio’s first title, The Vanishing Act, is already fairly deep in development, from the sounds of it. In keeping with the company’s ‘evolutionary storytelling’ mantra, it asks the player to solve a series of narrative challenges within the mind of a dead scientist. Though Maze Theory intends to stay small for the time being, the studio is looking for colleagues experienced in VR as it ramps up the project, finds further funding and begins to think about possible sequels. “We think there is some incredible talent in the UK from a technical development, animation and production perspective,” Hardy and Hambleton explain. “But solid experience in VR can be thin on the ground for obvious reasons. As the market matures, we know this will become less of a problem. “The challenge for us will be finding staff that can balance the art and science of ‘evolutionary storytelling’: slick production quality, innovative VR interactivity and narrative atmospherics. This is our sweet-spot. “Early code for The Vanishing Act reviewed very well. We have started our first round of investment to support the commercial release of the title and subsequent sequel releases. This will ensure the studio is secure as the market matures over the next three years. “We have the advantage of being able to innovate, be nimble and experimental like a start-up but with the experience and support of the broader Output teams and their specialist resources: design, video, project management, operations... This is a fantastic position to be in.”
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by Marie Dealessandri
ery month nder the n uence sho cases in uencer talent. This month e tal to outuber ‘CodeNamePizza’ o er subscribers ho discusses or ing ith cti ision on all of uty content and ho he s mo ing a ay from ombies and rst erson shooters ith his second channel
How did you get into content creation? Well this is a really easy question for me to answer because I feel like I’ve been doing it my entire life. As far back as I can remember I’ve been playing video games and I’ve also been editing home movies. So that would either be me playing video games on my Super Nintendo, PlayStation 1, N64, all the way up to where we are now with the PS4 and Xbox One. When I was younger, I used to do animations and funny skits. But then, back in 2012, I decided that I was going to put my two hobbies together and finally create my YouTube channel,
CodeNamePizza, which is based around video production and also playing video games. What games are you most looking forward to in the next 12 months? Aside from the obvious ones like Red Dead Redemption 2 that I feel like everyone is excited about, my main YouTube channel focuses on ombie content and first person shooters. So the next iteration of Call of Duty, Black Ops 4, is going to do wonders for that channel and that’s what I’m mainly going to be focusing on with CodeNamePizza over the next 12 months. But I’ve also dedicated a lot of time to my brand new channel CodeNamePi a2, where I’m now focusing on different genres of games and also different games in general. So RPGs, third persons, any type of game out there I’m willing to play on that second channel and that’s really what I’m most excited about over the next 12 months. Growing that channel from where it is today, which is around 25,000 subscribers to maybe something around 100,000 to 200,000 subscribers by the end of 2018. What type of sponsored content have you done in the past and how do you approach that line of work? If it’s advertising a video game by showing early gameplay on my channel or it’s actually advertising a product on my channel, I always stand by the
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exact same rules. I’m always making sure that I like the product or like the video game. If I am not happy with whatever I’m working with, I won’t post it. Simple as that. I make sure I like it because if I don’t like it and post it, my audience will know. I don’t want to be known as the person who lies to the audience. So I always want to make sure that I like the product first, if I’m going to do a paid promotion on my YouTube channel. Do you communicate with the publishers of the games you play? Yes, I work really closely with Activision mainly because my main YouTube channel focuses on Call of Duty content. So I’m able to travel around the entire globe playing Call of Duty maps and games early, to feature that content on my channel. I have also worked with Activision on other things like Crash Bandicoot and also had the opportunity to go down to the UK headquarters of Nintendo and I actually worked pretty closely with them as well. How do you plan to expand your YouTube channel from a business point of view? As soon as October comes around, my main YouTube channel is going to be focusing on Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, and I can’t wait for that. But that’s the reason I created my second channel CodeNamePizza2. It gives me the opportunity to play other games, other genres that you would never see on my normal main YouTube channel. So I’m going to be focusing a lot on that second channel and bringing new games and new genres to the table for my subscribers to enjoy.
“I’m excited about growing my second channel to maybe something around 100,000 to 200,000 subscribers by the end of 2018.”
CodeNamePizza’s YouTube channel is managed by Hype Management. For business enquiries, you can get in touch via email at CNP@hypemanagement.co.uk
With his second channel CodeNamePizza2, the content creator is focusing on other genres and games, with a recent video being dedicated to A Way Out, for example
CodeNamePizza’s most popular video is a tutorial to upgrade every bow in Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 zombies map Der Eisendrache. It’s been viewed almost 2m times
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BrandFlakes by Seth Barton
Even assassins need to kick back and relax sometimes, which explains Ubisoft’s and Paladone’s range of stylish items for the home
ssassin’s reed n nity Light . , for anyone who can never get enough of the brand
FOR its latest licensing deal, Ubisoft is taking a broader view to its Assassin’s Creed games. Instead of concentrating on the latest release, the company has worked with Paladone to create a range of stylish everyday lifestyle items focused around the longrunning franchise’s highly-recognised logo. The new range features an Assassin’s Creed Infinity Light mirror, a set of coasters, a notebook and a multitool, as well as three beverage options in the Gauntlet Mug, Travel Mug and Chrome Mug. We talked to Jason Hall, licensing manager at Ubisoft, about the new range and how it signals a shift away from the kind of merchandise we typically see from a big core gaming brand. The new range isn’t the usual fan-pleasing fodder, what kickstarted the change? Assassin’s Creed has become more of a lifestyle brand in recent years, with an even greater number of fans living and breathing the universe that our studios have created. Following the success of the Assassin’s Creed video games, novels, movie and other related consumer products, more retail channels and partners are now recognising the franchise’s true potential and are looking at new ways to engage with our brands. We really wanted to create a stylish, seamless Assassin’s Creed range that not only subtly touched on the design and themes of the franchise, which would be instantly recognisable to the core fan base, but would also have a much wider appeal.
Assassin’s Creed Travel ug . for the cultured killer on the move
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These designs are very subtle, did you take into account fans’ desires? The designs have been heavily steered by the demands of the fans, in regard to the style and subtlety of a number of the items in the range. Many consumers want to invest further into the brands that they love, but these days they don’t simply want logos printed on a cup. Alongside some of the leading merchandise designers, such as our partners over at Paladone, we’re able to fully visualise these designs and take our brands further. We’ve had excellent consumer feedback for the latest Assassin’s Creed range, and we will continue to listen to our fans in order to ensure that we’re developing the style and items that they’re looking for when it comes to all future concepts. Are they aimed at broadening the demographic of fans that buy merchandise? Our main goal with this new range was to ensure that we were servicing our existing fans – giving them as many options as possible and furthering ways to engage with the brand that they love. The style of the design is certainly one that isn’t over branded, which will hopefully prove a great gifting item – whether you’re a fan of the franchise or simply an aspiring one.
ason Hall. licensing manager at bisoft
o t o t e ite a e t tie to a eci c title y i t at The Assassin’s Creed crest is one of the most iconic and instantly recognisable logos from across the entertainment and gaming segment. The seamless branding enables us to create innovative products with an even broader evergreen appeal – 365 days a year. The design team hasn’t focused directly on any specific entry in the franchise, but rather taken inspiration from across the vast Assassin’s Creed universe. This approach gave the team endless possibilities, which is always a wonderful position in which to start. Do you intend to expand the range of home goods if these are successful? Our partners are beavering away in the background as we speak, developing many new designs and exciting categories – so you’ll have to just watch this space. Assassin’s Creed is for life and not just for Christmas.
Assassin’s Creed hrome ug . for that relaxing post hit cuppa
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MechanicallySound by Jake Tucker
Aubrey Hesselgren, a technical designer on shooter Brink, talks about overcoming the six foot jump problem and making parkour feel right in the rst erson shooter
REGARDLESS of how you might feel about 2011’s Brink, a team-based shooter developed by Splash Damage, it’s hard to deny that its parkour-inspired movement has had a massive impact on online shooters. Brink wasn’t the game to introduce parkour to games. While a few games had attempted it, Mirror’s Edge was renowned for being ‘The Parkour Game’. But while that game presented an environment as a puzzle you had to solve with the judicious application of freerunning, Brink’s movement system was closer in feel to an extreme sports game. A tool for expression that let players chain together a series of movements. While killing each other. We speak to Aubrey Hesselgren, a technical game designer on Brink, a role he describes as the translator between a designer and a programmer. Hesselgren, who at the time had been spending a lot of time doing parkour, had previously worked on the movement for the mod Matrix Quake 2 that involved lots of running up walls and diving around corners, so he put himself forward to work on the game’s traversal. FIRST-PERSON MOVER “I had a lot of ideas about how movement should be done in a first-
person game,” Hesselgren says. “Very particular ideas, so I wanted to be on top of it.” Hesselgren’s career before and after Brink has largely focused on movement. More particularly, he describes it as wanting “to enable designers to have their characters do what they’d like, without ejecting the player’s control in the process.” Early on, the animators had video footage showing some “very nice animations” of characters vaulting over barriers. Hesselgren says that although it looked ama ing in first person, playing the animation would mean that players lost control of their weapon momentarily. Considering how often players were planning to be in various traversal states, that could create problems. “It was pure animation and I thought, ‘that won’t go down well’ because players in a first-person action game don’t see why they’ve lost control, because they’re not looking at their body most of the time,” Hesselgren says. “My priority was to make sure that any movement didn’t interrupt what you were doing as a player.” So the system was reworked. At the time, a responsive parkour system was (and still is) a substantial amount of work, and a significant technical challenge.
“Our audience expects more and more realistic games. It means we need more and more plausible reasons you can get up and over things, like a human can, as opposed to taking a shortcut with a six foot jump.” Pictured above right: Illustration by Sam Richwood
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Eventually, a system involving holding down the sprint button was created, a smart button that allows you to get over objects without effort by charging toward them. Hesselgren explains that for skilled players, you could eke out extra movement speed by eschewing the button and doing the actions manually, giving the game a high skill ceiling for players able to spend time mastering it. “People were really concerned we would be removing a skill ceiling with movement,” he says. “And I was like, ‘no, no, no, I have to do whatever I can to knock that perception on its ass’.” THE KNOWLEDGE Hesselgren says that one issue with
the system was that multiplayer maps were being created for the game while designers were working out the system. As a result, one of the biggest issues with the implementation in the game was that when a map was finished, or even close to done, it was hard to layer a fully responsive movement system over the top. If there ever was a Brink sequel that Hesselgren was involved with, he’d have wanted to nail down the complete movement system ahead of level creation, taking advantage of the team’s experience here. As it was, there simply wasn’t time to refit all of the different maps for the system. “When I was playing it to test, I could do things like set up a multi-storey car park with staggered levels,” says Hesselgren, indicating different steps with extravagant hand movements. “It was a good test, and on the controller I was able to jump up, mantle there, interrupt the mantle, spin and jump before climbing again. Play the entire thing without touching the ground. And we didn’t really have the level designs for that, because we needed to learn to facilitate the
movement and you can’t do that until you know what the system is capable of.” The push for a more realistic movement system came as games sought to be more grounded. Brink may have taken place in a futuristic dystopia, but at least people moved properly. “Here’s the problem. We’ve got a game we want to be a bit more realistic than say... Halo. We don’t wanna have six foot jumps, which solve everything.” Before this point, classics of the multiplayer shooter genre had giant leaps, while several even added the ability to rocket jump, with players using a rocket fired at their feet to propel them into the air. Brink was one of the first to introduce a more physical style of movement, which became a core characteristic of modern multiplayer shooters. Brink wasn’t hugely successful at launch and attracted a lot of criticism, but you can feel its influence everywhere. Hesselgren describes Titanfall 2 as a game that achieved everything that Brink was trying to work with, and while it might give you jetpacks and giant robots, it’s hard not to see Brink’s influence in every wall run, or the athletic way a character bounces up the back of a robot to lever its battery loose. “The march of fidelity means that our audience expects more and more realistic games,” says Hesselgren. “It means we need more and more plausible reasons you can get up and over things, like a human can, as opposed to taking a shortcut with a six foot jump. Not just for us, for every other company doing a first-person game as everything was getting more realistic. “So we had to tackle it. And I think we did some good things in terms of game feel with respect to your momentum. So, if you run into something with a certain speed, it’ll maintain that speed as it’s going into the animation. It doesn’t give you control during the animation, but it allows you to break out of the animation, which is good, but looked bad, because you’re just interrupting an animation. But the player feels more in control, and that’s absolutely the key to get it to feel right.”
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What are the biggest challenges facing the UK games industry in 2018? We are going from strength to strength as a sector. We are recognised economically and culturally and supported now by government (local and national) as an industry which is at the cutting edge of innovation and creativity, who export to the world, with a growing and increasingly demanding domestic consumer market. We cannot be complacent however, and need to be able to not only attract more diversity of people into the industry across all job roles, but also retain the excellent talent we already have. What should games businesses be doing to ensure diversity in the industry? There is plenty of guidance about how to recruit to reach more diverse candidates, which all businesses should adopt. We need to continue to build those bridges between education and the industry, ensuring that we have diverse role models talking about the wide range of rewarding jobs in the industry and giving the right skills, careers advice and confidence to all kinds of young people at an early age. As part of the London Games Festival we had the grand final of the Digital Schoolhouse Esports Tournament. What was so incredible to see was how much interest there was from the pupils about the different jobs in the industry – and competitive games are a great vehicle to build all sorts of soft and hard skills as well as to inspire the next generation. We also encourage businesses to look at other good practice in studios around mental health and the workplace and to adopt the new anti-bullying and harassment guidelines that BAFTA and BFI published at the start of the year. Companies like Media Molecule, SpaceApe and Jagex are just some fantastic examples of how to take workplace culture seriously, and how to give the support staff might need in demanding, creative jobs. The Digital Schoolhouse programme powered by PlayStation is also working hard to demystify computational thinking and games are generally excellent at growing critical thinking skills. We need these skills to navigate an increasingly data rich, algorithmic society.
The Final Boss Jo Twist, CEO, Ukie
“Games as interactive art have the power to help us understand ourselves”
How will Brexit impact the industry? The industry’s three main concerns that we have fed into numerous government fora are around the ability to have a flexible, frictionfree immigration system so that we can bring the best talent in the world to the UK, as well as maintaining market access and ensuring the free flow of data across borders. We also believe it is now the time to look at how more experimental, risky games can be supported through cultural funding. Games as interactive art have the power to help us understand ourselves, others, our place in the world, and to express some seriously deep themes. Games such as these need to be made. What is Ukie doing to help with these concerns? Ukie is actively lobbying to put in place the right conditions needed to make the UK the best place to make and sell games. We are vocal members of organisations such as the Creative Industries Council, working alongside members of the wider creative industries to ensure opportunities like the government’s recent industrial strategy sector deal are fully taken advantage of. We work hard to represent our members and the wider games sector through engagement with Ministers, Members of Parliament and government o cials and we never miss the opportunity to promote our sector’s interests in responding to consultations, enquiries and papers. We are also part of an active global coalition sharing intelligence, best practice and initiatives to promote the sector.
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Wednesday 11th July 2018, Hilton Brighton Metropole ENTER TODAY: WWW.DEVELOPAWARDS.COM. Entry deadline: Wednesday 9th May
Rewarding and recognising the achievements of game developers
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