Melbourne’s Games Week was one of the best times of my life. I wanted to reflect on many of the talks and events I attended, the event really helped me learn and share ideas with other developers. I will definitely aim to attend in 2017.
What Makes a Giant?
A proper breakdown of what truly makes a giant. Ken Wong explains that the greatest artists steal from those that came before. As such, games like Monument Valley come together from so many originating sources that – as Wong puts it – Giants are really just massive towers of dwarves standing atop each other.
The Importance of Coherence in Long-Term Engagement
Mattew Lee discusses the importance of a coherent marketing and communication strategy in maintaining player engagement long-term. The talk covered aspects of player disillusionment that occurs when inter-franchise games sometimes veer too far from their roots. Players can be confused, but that doesn’t mean developers shouldn’t try new things. Instead, keeping open communication with players about these changes can keep players’ eye on your game, and helps them to visualise and understand the evolutions your game undergoes through development.
GCAP Game Design Challenge
This session was all about 5 developers and their approach to a singular game design problem – ‘Civilisation Over’. 5 developers pitched projects that approach the theme in a variety of ways. The takeaway from this session was that there are so many different approaches to one game design theme, and it was interesting to see how each of the approaches related to it. My personal favourite was Luke Muscat’s solution, where you play as Mother Nature, preventing human civilisation from warming the planet up to extinction by introducing society to disasters to control the population. I thought it was a very interesting and effective approach by breaking down the systems at play in human evolution and making the player prevent the end of civilisation, instead of causing it.
The Art of Making Thing Not Look Terrible
This was an inspiring talk by Jacob Janerka and Simon Boxer, going into the fundamentals of creating better art. They looked at compositional techniques, colour breakdowns, as well as the importance of reference imagery (including making your own). All of these have tangible benefits to their own games. As someone who draws for a hobby, returning to the fundamentals is a really helpful way to break apart my own misconceptions about doing art. For example: For some reason, I wore off using reference imagery to no avail. I find that in 100% of situations, reference imagery actually helped me create better art. Janerka went through how he created weird and hilarious walking animations by performing them himself, including faces and expressions by photographing him making them.
When I spoke to Janerka afterwards, he recommended that I use Photoshop for my own art. Currently, I prefer to use Clip Studio Paint, which works the best on my Windows tablet. Photoshop’s feature sets and breadth of effects make it preferable in Industry, and as such Photoshop should be on my radar as I do more art.
During their talk, he and Boxer touched on art ‘burnout’. For me, burning out is easily the hardest aspect of making art; it’s too easy to let a bad experience put me off art for a while. His suggestion was to take a break and refresh myself, but not to give up on my work.
Advocating for the Story: Narrative Design and Communication Skills
This talk was easily my favourite. Brooke Maggs discusses her approach to storytelling as a writing graduate going into the Industry. She began her work by writing lengthy prose about the world and characters but found herself stuck in the limitation that the game could have no speech or text. After wrestling for a while, she realised that the best way to create a story was:
- Talk to each of the team members to establish the limitations of the storytelling
- Create a story that – from the beginning – works within the limitation of the team and project (such as: not having an animator limited the ability to create cutscenes)
- Involve the team in the production of the story
- Pitch a story to the team, which includes imagery from the game to get everyone on the same page and to let them know how their work fits into the story as a whole
- Taking advantage of the environment, colour and thematic devices in order to establish subtext (especially when these are your only storytelling mediums
- Understand how you can use your limitations to your advantage
Innes McKendrick, a programmer at Hello Games, delivered a very inspiring speech at the conclusion of GCAP. He talked about our ideas of Giants – the theme of 2016’s GCAP. Treating Giants as these out-of-this-world people is disingenuous to them; they’re people too. We need to allow our Giants the ability to make mistakes, to help them succeed, to consider them as people. As Ken Wong said, Giants aren’t really Giants, every idea builds from another and as such, we should consider them Dwarves on Dwarves. Every Giant builds themselves on the shoulders of another, and we all need each other to cultivate ideas and find success.
GCAP’s networking parties were some of the most memorable evenings of the trip. I was able to meet and talk to so many people from so many disciplines. I met a few students from AIE in Canberra, a few students from New Zealand, some ex-SAE students and lecturers, and people from all over. These people had some amazing ideas. One person I spoke to was working on a game dealing with emotional coping strategies. Another is working on the educational applications of VR. I had some great conversations with some of the event’s speakers, such as Rami Ismail, Brooke Maggs, Ken Wong, Innes McKendrick and many others.
GCAP was unforgettable, and I cannot wait to attend in 2017, to meet and share progress with all of those I met last year, and make new friends for the future.