This time last month I had the opportunity to attend the New Zealand Game Developers Conference. It wasn’t as grand or populated as its American counterpart, but passionate developers came from all over the country to share what they know and what they’ve learned. Here are a few of the highlights.
How To Make A PlayStation Game In A Year
Rainbite Games, a group of young developers, discussed how they launched their very firs game, Reverie, earlier this year. They released Reverie, a title very similar to the original The Legend of Zelda but with a Kiwi twist, on PlayStation 4 and Vita. They chose Vita because of its hardcore and dedicated audience, hoping that with limited choice their game was more likely to be given a chance. For the same reason, they chose to avoid launching on Steam, fearing their game would be lost in the sea of daily releases. According to them, they realized that Steam has hundreds of new releases a week, PlayStation 4 has 10 – 20 and Vita only has 1 or 2. It’s for this reason that a month after release Reverie was still on the front page of the Vita store.
They also discussed the more business oriented checklist they followed to become a PlayStation partner.
- Register a company
- Aqquire a static I.P. address
- Submit your game to Sony with; screenshots, descriptions, a demo and providing a store description in a variety of languages.
Having developed and self-published the game in just a year, they observed that their biggest lessons came from time management. Stating that they wished that they contacted music producers, rating boards and designed trophies earlier on.
Encouraging Failure: Addressing Over-Tutorialization In Games
Bryan Cohen, a game developer for Weta Workshop, described what he learned about tutorials during his time working on series such as Guitar Hero, Skylanders and Madden. He viewed failure as an opportunity to learn. He criticized games like Assassin’s Creed 3 for taking too long to let the player actually ‘Play.’ “You need to get to the fun part within 10 minutes.” It was intriguing to hear him discuss the balance between not solving the puzzle for the player, and robbing them of self-gratification, and slowly giving them what they need to know in a way that isn’t overwhelming or lacking.
He urged us to give players tools, but allow them to make the discoveries, letting their knowledge of game conventions and general logic guide them.
Creating And Releasing In My Mind
Charlie Cassidy, a programmer for Mighty Games, shared his own story of struggle and creativity with us at GDC. In his spare time he turned his blog about his struggles with mental illness and queer/ trans issues into a video game. The game is told from the perspective of a pill in an apartment, is completely free and allowed Charlie to open up his thoughts to the world. He spoke of how it was terrifying revealing so much of himself publicly, but that he wanted to give media a representation of bipolar individuals that wasn’t related to mental hospitals or insanity obsessed horror tropes.
Types Of Immersion: Entangling The Player In Many Ways
This talk was especially interesting, as it delved into the different ways in which we can make players more engrossed in the worlds we build. Moana Minson, a narrative designer for Momomo Studio, the team behind The Dune, broke them down into the following.
- Observation and Participation: Making games that people want to follow on IGN or Gamespot. A game that someone might not buy, but watch a streamer play and then be interested enough to pick up your next game.
- Sensory Immersion: Making sure the sounds, sights and world of your game feel tangible enough to be lost within.
- Digital Embodiment: Creating a character or avatar that is real enough to allow the player to invest themselves in what happens to them within a digital world.
- Story Immersion: A reason to push on, characters to empathize with and twists that shock you.
- Sociability: The opportunity to communicate, collaborate and compete with other gamers.
- Agency and Choice: The opportunity for the player to go from a passive observer to an active participant in the world you’ve created.
Creating The Imperfect Design
There isn’t too much I can say about Rory Rackham’s talk on game design. Rory is a senior game designer for one of New Zealand’s biggest titles, Path of Exile. He discussed in great depth the difficulties of updating and constantly rebuilding a free-to-play, always evolving game. I don’t envy the work he does, but I must say that as a gamer once naive to the complexities of game design, I have to take my hat off to him. Adding one spell to a game like Path of Exile, means balancing hundreds of other elements that may be affected by it.