Pixel-Lab / Games:EDU / Matt Southern / Graduating Games


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"The film industry was just a century of preparation for what we do", said Matt Southern of game developers while talking about development practices at Evolution Studios and the future of video games.

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  • Pixel-Lab / Games:EDU / Matt Southern / Graduating Games

    1. 1. Graduating Evolution Studios, Games:EDU, Brighton, July 2007 Suggestions for game courses and graduates Matt Southern Games
    2. 2. Contents <ul><li>Evolution Studios </li></ul><ul><li>ICDC / MA Digital Games </li></ul><ul><li>Growing industry breadth </li></ul><ul><li>Technology, graphics, gameplay </li></ul><ul><li>Design skills </li></ul><ul><li>Production skills </li></ul><ul><li>Current / Future trends </li></ul><ul><li>Movie Convergence </li></ul><ul><li>Conclusions </li></ul>
    3. 4. 1: Evolution Studios <ul><li>Founded: 1999 </li></ul><ul><li>5 World Rally Championship games </li></ul><ul><li>100% independent </li></ul><ul><li>Reputation for realistic off-road racing </li></ul><ul><li>“ WRC Rally Evolved is more than just the best rally game on the PS2, it joins Burnout Revenge and GT4 as one of the most thrilling drives, period” OPSM </li></ul><ul><li>MotorStorm for PS3 </li></ul><ul><li>Bigbig Studios </li></ul><ul><li>These opinions are mine  </li></ul>
    4. 5. My Background <ul><li>International Centre for Digital Content - 2000 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Liverpool John Moores University </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>MA Digital Games </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Business Support </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>R&D </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The general idea that both worlds don’t get on is a myth </li></ul><ul><li>Joined Evo – 2004 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Assistant Producer WRC4 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Producer WRC: Rally Evolved </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Concept Team: New IP </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>MotorStorm™ Product Manager </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>MotorStorm™ DLC </li></ul></ul>
    5. 6. 2. MA Digital Games <ul><li>Art-focused </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Some Design </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Some Production </li></ul></ul><ul><li>10 graduates at Evo </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Creative Lead </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Art Managers </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Designers </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>World Builders </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Object Builders </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>SCEE, </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Bizarre, </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Juice, </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Rockstar, </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Media Molecule </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Canned – 2006 </li></ul><ul><li>Returning – 2007 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Bursaries </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Tuition </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>R&D </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Guest Visits </li></ul></ul>
    6. 7. 3. Breadth is the Issue <ul><li>Games are becoming more accessible at the same time as others grow more complex </li></ul><ul><li>Appealing both to mainstream and ‘hardcore’ players </li></ul><ul><li>Games students are often hardcore gamers </li></ul><ul><li>So an age-old problem still exists </li></ul>
    7. 8. Breadth and ‘AAA’ Development <ul><li>More people needed </li></ul><ul><li>Team size on a game in 1980: 2 </li></ul><ul><li>Team size on our last PS2 game: 45 </li></ul><ul><li>Team size on our first PS3 game: 200 , including stacks of outsource </li></ul><ul><li>Crucially, different people are also needed for more mainstream games </li></ul><ul><li>More breadth needed </li></ul>
    8. 9. New and Different Roles <ul><li>The Traditional: </li></ul><ul><li>Artists Programmers Designers Testers Producers </li></ul>The Contemporary: Scriptwriters Copywriters World Builders Object Builders Network technicians Vehicle dynamics experts Geologists Community managers Legal experts Outsource managers Set designers Aerospace engineers Simulation technicians Matte painters Concept teams HR experts Marketeers Project managers
    9. 10. 4. AAA Games: Moores Law <ul><li>Pop culture driven by technological change </li></ul><ul><li>Often decried by both worlds </li></ul><ul><li>Why? </li></ul><ul><li>The focus on highly seductive Graphics tech </li></ul><ul><ul><li>‘ good graphics = value for money’ </li></ul></ul>
    10. 12. Graphics: Two Reservations <ul><li>“ Really challenging to teach, and to keep up” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Graphics aren’t really what makes great games great” </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t bother unless you absolutely can </li></ul><ul><li>Agreed. We’ve never actually needed photorealism to make our medium engaging </li></ul>
    11. 13. 1. Don’t bother…unless you can <ul><ul><li>If you can… </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>3d modelling and layout Maya, Max, XSI </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>3d detailing Zbrush, MudBox </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Animation Maya, Max, XSI, Motionbuilder </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>2d texturing and concept art Photoshop, Painter </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>2d video After Effects, Premiere </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Revision control Perforce / AlienBrain </li></ul></ul><ul><li>If you can’t… </li></ul><ul><ul><li>composition, sketching, timing </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Creativity, conceptualisation </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Logical, structured, methodical thinking </li></ul><ul><li>Planning months ahead </li></ul><ul><li>Self-management </li></ul><ul><li>Teamworking </li></ul><ul><li>Rapid, iterative prototyping: Vital for the ‘polish’ phase </li></ul>
    12. 14. Art disciplines
    13. 15. 2. Don’t Be Ashamed of Change <ul><li>We don’t quite have a ‘canon' </li></ul><ul><ul><li>No ‘Citizen Kane’ </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Should we be ashamed of this? </li></ul><ul><li>Or should we celebrate our constant reinvention </li></ul><ul><li>and teach what doesn’t change… </li></ul><ul><li>The rules of good gameplay last for millennia </li></ul><ul><li>Pre-dating art, culture, narrative, civilisation </li></ul><ul><li>Yet we still don’t fully know what they are… </li></ul>
    14. 16. The Mantra of Gameplay <ul><li>‘ When people ask me what are the three most important things in a computer game, I say “gameplay, gameplay, gameplay”’ </li></ul><ul><li>Ian Livingstone </li></ul><ul><ul><li>‘ It’s not about graphics’ </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>‘ These aren’t movies, they are games’ </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>‘ I like old-skool gameplay’ </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>‘ Cut-scenes suck’ </li></ul></ul>
    15. 17. A Nuclear Approach to Gameplay <ul><li>Looking for the ‘nucleus’ is often pointless but lets try anyway… </li></ul><ul><li>Increased verisimilitude is important, but not central or intrinsic to successful game experiences </li></ul><ul><ul><li>‘ Borrowed’ conventions are also not intrinsic. This is critical with narrative , the big bully </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>it isn’t the intrinsic value of movies either </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Teach them…but don’t be in awe of them </li></ul><ul><li>Play is the intrinsic value of all games, digital or not. </li></ul><ul><li>We need help to understand and disseminate this approach </li></ul><ul><li>It’s game design we need the most help with </li></ul>
    16. 18. A Stab at Ludology… <ul><li>“ [a game is]…An exercise of voluntary control systems in which there is an opposition between forces, confined by a procedure and rules in order to produce a disequilibrial outcome” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Elliott Avedon and Brian Sutton Smith – The Study of Games </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Voluntary – it isn’t work </li></ul><ul><li>Disequilibrial – otherwise it’s a toy </li></ul><ul><li>Rules – the thing that humans add </li></ul><ul><li>Control – a specific form of interaction </li></ul>
    17. 19. ‘ Play’ is not ‘Interaction’ <ul><li>Being ‘interactive’ is not what makes games unique </li></ul><ul><li>Games are about a particular type of interaction: control </li></ul><ul><li>Much more satisfying than the usual “movies are passive, but games are interactive” </li></ul><ul><li>“ With Jaws people started to talk back to the screen and applaud shadows....That was a new experience. Audience participation. The new word is interactive I guess.&quot; </li></ul><ul><li>Movies aren’t interactive, but nor are they passive. The women in them are. </li></ul><ul><li>” Successful games usually have a very compelling form of interaction, where control is given to and then removed from the player at various stages, sometimes hundreds of times” </li></ul>
    18. 20. Risk/Reward <ul><ul><li>Or as we liked to put it: 3 underlying, intrinsic elements </li></ul></ul><ul><li>incentive </li></ul><ul><li>frustration </li></ul><ul><li>reward </li></ul><ul><li>“ there must by definition be something that compels one to continue playing - the incentive to move onward, whether it be the retrieval of an object or person, or ‘completion’ of the game - and in turn one must be rewarded for taking the risks involved…” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Edge Magazine </li></ul></ul>
    19. 21. Incentive / Frustration / Reward <ul><li>This can be applied to: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The overall structure of the game </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The reward of completion, closure </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Intense, moment-to-moment rewards </li></ul><ul><ul><li>‘ Arcade’, kinaesthetic </li></ul></ul><ul><li>A complex of overlapping ‘mini’ incentives </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Power-ups, hidden cars, new transfers </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Requires balancing – a core game design skill </li></ul><ul><li>If the incentive is too small, or if risk is too high, or if the reward is too big for the effort, then there is imbalance </li></ul><ul><li>People love to be flattered </li></ul><ul><li>Frustrating the player is actually positive – provided they don’t switch off </li></ul>
    20. 22. Two Key Psychological Terms <ul><li>Reinforcement - </li></ul><ul><li>“ Any behaviour that is rewarded will be repeated in anticipation of more reward” (Steven Poole) </li></ul><ul><li>“ Whether applied to the game as a whole, or to any activity within it, you must always feel that it is worth your while carrying on… A game should make you confident that higher risks will result in higher rewards” </li></ul><ul><li>(Edge Magazine) </li></ul><ul><li>Event Horizons </li></ul><ul><li>Key to providing an incentive </li></ul>
    21. 23. 5. Design Skills <ul><li>Communication – of the right kind </li></ul><ul><li>Writing skills </li></ul><ul><li>Presentation and marketing skills </li></ul><ul><li>Inspiration, leadership and positivity </li></ul><ul><li>Hands-on with custom-made tools </li></ul><ul><li>Liaison across groups </li></ul><ul><li>Market research and study </li></ul><ul><li>Specialist areas: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Handling </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>AI </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Difficulty curve </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Accessibility </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Localisation </li></ul></ul>
    22. 24. 6. Production Skills <ul><ul><li>1: Like a movie Producer : </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Resource </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Scheduling </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Budgets </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Timescale </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Removing impediments </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Microsoft Excel / Project </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>2: Like a movie Director : </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Liaising with the Board / Customer </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Driving the overall vision </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Motivating </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Clearly communicating ideas </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Understanding all aspects of development </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Maintaining brand integrity </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Doing PR </li></ul></ul>‘ Producer’ means different things in different places:
    23. 25. SCRUM <ul><li>Pre-existing software development methodology </li></ul><ul><li>Product Owner / Development Manager </li></ul><ul><li>Sprints </li></ul><ul><li>Scrums </li></ul><ul><li>Self-management </li></ul><ul><li>No imposed deadlines </li></ul><ul><li>Lo-Fi materials </li></ul><ul><li>Honesty </li></ul>
    24. 26. 7. What’s in Store? <ul><li>As stated, the major issue for us is breadth </li></ul><ul><li>The hardcore gamer is still a profitable demographic </li></ul><ul><li>AND he drives the casuals </li></ul><ul><li>DLC will initially be hardcore </li></ul><ul><li>But games can do to film what film did to theatre </li></ul><ul><li>If people stop making them just for themselves </li></ul><ul><li>Casual Gaming is the new buzz term </li></ul>
    25. 27. Types of ‘Casual’ Interaction <ul><li>1: A general growth of new types of player </li></ul><ul><li>69% of American heads of households play computer or video games </li></ul><ul><li>The average gameplayer age is 33 </li></ul><ul><li>25% of gamers were over 50 in 2005 </li></ul><ul><li>Women aged 18 or older represent a significantly greater proportion of the game-playing population (30%) than boys aged 17 or younger (23%) </li></ul><ul><li>35% of American parents say they play computer and video games </li></ul><ul><li>The typical gamer parent is 37 years old </li></ul><ul><li>47% of gamer parents are women </li></ul><ul><li>Among gamer parents, 80% report that they play video games with their children, and 66% feel that playing games has brought their families closer together. </li></ul><ul><li>http://www.theesa.com/facts/top_10_facts.php </li></ul><ul><li>2: One game as a hobby: </li></ul><ul><li>“ Our age ranges…go way up; there are a lot of 40 and 50 year olds playing The Sims. I think that a lot of our players are people who don't play many computer games -- if any.” </li></ul><ul><li>Will Wright </li></ul>
    26. 28. Types of ‘Casual’ Interaction <ul><li>3: iTV – Fairly Crude Interaction </li></ul><ul><li>Press the Red Button </li></ul><ul><li>Text to vote </li></ul><ul><li>Select cameras </li></ul><ul><li>Call to interact: </li></ul><ul><li>Saving TV from dwindling ad revenue </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Currently fixing the major hurdle </li></ul></ul>
    27. 29. <ul><li>4: Casual Console Gaming </li></ul><ul><li>Being led by: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>SCEE </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Nintendo DS and Wii </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Live Arcade, other DLC </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Often using new, simpler peripherals </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Stuff your Gran could use </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Building on the success of dance mats etc </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Tiny learning curves </li></ul><ul><li>The Christmas day boardgame </li></ul><ul><li>The myth of ‘post-pub’ </li></ul>Types of ‘Casual’ Interaction
    28. 30. <ul><li>4. MMO </li></ul><ul><li>“ The [MMOG] player pool is mostly boys and young men. And the medium has genre limitations: Don't look for MMOGs based on Brokeback Mountain or Walk the Line anytime soon. </li></ul><ul><li>http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/06_07/b3971073.htm?chan=tc” </li></ul><ul><li>Incredible shared adventures and experiences </li></ul><ul><li>Like TV used to be – ‘we all saw the coronation’ </li></ul><ul><li>Auctions, in-game economies </li></ul><ul><li>Or just chatting </li></ul><ul><li>‘ The Queen Vic Online’ – seriously </li></ul><ul><li>A Service , Not a Product </li></ul>Types of ‘Casual’ Interaction
    29. 31. Personalisation <ul><li>Increasingly common and popular </li></ul><ul><li>Being driven by EA / ‘Gameface’ </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The Godfather </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Def Jam </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Fight Night </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Tiger Woods </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Also the Mii, Home etc </li></ul><ul><li>Likely to ‘cross-pollinate’ soon </li></ul><ul><li>Always better when ‘developer talk’ is hidden </li></ul><ul><li>Interesting to see how people are ‘liberated’ from regular identities. </li></ul>
    30. 32. 8. Movie Convergence <ul><li>The most clichéd and obvious point…after MMO </li></ul><ul><li>But it is now happening in industrial terms </li></ul><ul><li>scriptwriters, voice actors, agents, CGI houses… </li></ul><ul><li>Massive emphasis on pre-production </li></ul><ul><li>Making movies to pitch games </li></ul><ul><li>However, we usually miss the point in aesthetic terms </li></ul><ul><li>Interactive storytelling is a red herring </li></ul>
    31. 33. Them and Us… <ul><li>We are usually in awe of movies </li></ul><ul><li>“ I think they look at our movies and they see how we set up shots, how we do things. And I think they mimic that” </li></ul><ul><li>Make it cinematic </li></ul><ul><li>We aren’t friends, We are rivals </li></ul><ul><li>They patronise us </li></ul><ul><li>“ Video games are another way for a studio to cover their costs and make a little profit.” </li></ul><ul><li>Jerry Bruckheimer </li></ul><ul><li>So let’s patronise them… </li></ul>
    32. 34. A Century of Preparation… <ul><li>Movies are a toolbox for game developers beyond plagiarism </li></ul><ul><li>Using psychology to make ‘scary’ become ‘terrifying’. Hitchcock [Freud] </li></ul><ul><li>Audio: off-screen space, the acousmetre, counterpoint. Chion </li></ul><ul><li>Genre – reflecting the times </li></ul><ul><li>Representation of women </li></ul><ul><li>Politics and Ideology </li></ul><ul><li>National/ world cinema </li></ul><ul><li>Non-narrative / avant-garde cinema </li></ul><ul><li>Documentary and realism, not photorealism </li></ul>
    33. 35. After All… <ul><li>… if you see comics only in terms of cinema, then all it can be is a kind of cinema that doesn’t move. They can only ever be a poor cousin to cinema if all they utilize is cinematic techniques. This is why in my work, from Watchmen onwards, I’ve consciously tried to come up with things that comics can do that could not be achieved in any other medium. </li></ul><ul><li>Alan Moore </li></ul>
    34. 36. What we tell our staff… <ul><li>Safe is risky </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Take risks, stick your neck out </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Don’t be afraid to make mistakes </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Don’t repeat them </li></ul></ul><ul><li>We’re all in marketing </li></ul><ul><ul><li>It’s too important to be left to that dept </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Be remarkable </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Stand out like a Purple Cow </li></ul></ul>
    35. 37. 9. We Need Fresh Talent <ul><li>Experience is all well and good but… </li></ul><ul><li>“ Trust me son, I’ve been in this game for 25 years…movies will always be silent” </li></ul><ul><li>Let’s allow our Chaplin's and Griffiths’ to retire with a big thank you  </li></ul><ul><li>Let’s march inexorably towards the Holodeck. </li></ul>
    36. 38. Thanks <ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul>