In the ten years between the console generations, creativity in game art blossomed. The emergence of casual, mobile, and tablet gaming with their inevitable hardware constraints put photo-realism back in its place. Changes to business models made a difference, too – with free-to-play there's often no money to spend on blockbuster art from day one and catching attention is more important than total immersion. As hardware hit a plateau and the audience broadened still further, space also opened up for more diverse graphics in mainstream games. Indeed it's hard to remember how dull things had got by the early 2000s. Do we risk a relapse? Is the indie scene enough to keep creativity alive, and will the big publishers demand a return to graphical realism for the new consoles? And if so, then how can you best deliver it?
Game audio may never command the attention – or budget – of art and design, and yet players still demand the best. Nothing ruins a good game as quickly as annoying music or inferior sound effects. Getting the basics right remains a high hurdle, and then there's the latest challenges, from generative interactive scores and novel formats like mobile to real-time dynamic mixing and true 3D audio. Innovation will always lead in video games. It's true there are nowadays fewer technical challenges to creating, processing, and outputting high quality sound in our medium, but new technologies and techniques will be required to cross the 'uncanny valley of audio', which is just as daunting as that facing artists. And with game scores being nominated for Grammys, let's not forget the eternal quest to write music that strikes an emotional chord, too.
While the old video games establishment picks sides in the latest full-blown console war, the new generation – indie developers, veterans gone back-to-basics, free-to-play and online specialists, and app-focused start-ups – continue to capture territory on all fronts. Is there room for all these models to survive in the 21st Century, and how do you best place your bets while we find out? From new revenue streams and payment methods to KickStarter and other crowd-sourced funding, today's commercial landscape makes the boxed copy world of yesteryear seem totally outdated. Yet some things are the same: Great talent is expensive and hard to recruit, outsourcing is difficult to get right, and games are as hit-driven as ever. We'll navigate these conundrums and more at Develop, with the aid of some of the smartest cookies in the business.
New hardware means new possibilities, but those games don't just write themselves. As some of the industry's biggest brains strive to coax the greatest wow factor from Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo's latest marvels, others look to master mobile devices, online, connected and streaming games, the PC and its Steam Machine cousins, and that Holy Grail – true cross-platform gaming that runs across all formats. And that's before we even think about the second coming of VR and the new problems posed by augmented reality games. Throw big data and analytics into the mix – and the need to master perennial bugbears such as A.I. and realistic physics – and game coding is still the most testing sector for a programmer to go to work in. At Brighton we'll show you exactly how others are rising to the challenges.
Creative game design has undergone a renaissance. Indie developers, new formats, smaller budgets, and non-traditional distribution channels have all rekindled a willingness to experiment. Mainstream innovations such as PlayStation Move and Xbox Kinect – as well as the ongoing Internet-ification of all video games – has played a part, too. Yet in some respects game designers have found their roles curtailed. What place for creative flair in the face of hardcore analytics data or the need to push the right buttons in just the right spot in free-to-play games? How do you balance a game that features a plethora of in-app purchase options? And has the tyranny of the sequel given way to the never-ending trudge of software as a service when once we aspired to create interactive art? We'll invite the brightest thinkers in game design to help us see the path forward.
Video games don't stop changing, and we wouldn't have it any other way. Everything from the latest smartphones and tablets to handheld innovations like the 3DS ensured that development's early adopters have not been short of kicks in recent years. PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are now ushering in fresh possibilities, just like old times. But competing for attention today are the new-era VR headsets of Oculus Rift, Valve's Steam Machines, and an ever-updated cohort of mobile devices. Add in hardware agnostic experiences like location-based or browser-based gaming – not to mention the prospect of playing augmented reality games on your living room floor with Google Glass – and things have never been so exciting. Evolve is the place to share ideas about how we will create new game experiences for the next decade.
The production department has long housed the unsung heroes of video game development, but with the gathering shift from boxed copies to online software-as-a-service models of subscription and free-to-play, their mission today seems near impossible. That's before you even consider the profusion of platforms and a sometimes unrealistic desire to target them all. How do you schedule projects that never end? Where are the milestones for games in a state of perma-beta, and where are the lines of responsibility drawn when you hook up with external services and app stores, web sites and second and third screen experiences?
Indie Dev Day
Indie games development is going strong, with fresh opportunities coming as fast as the competition and (more helpfully) the tools and services that can turn your ambitions into reality. No wonder thousands of developers have gone independent over the past few years, while hundreds of newcomers to the games industry have skipped the old traditional route altogether and set-up for themselves from day one. To help you become one of the winners, the Indie Developer's Day brings together the community to share hints, tips, lessons, and dreams. Indie networking events and our Indie Showcase of independently developed titles make this a must-attend event.
In a world of free-to-play monetisation and crowded app stores, customer acquisition and gameplay has become entwined. Appointment mechanics are a way to bring people back to your game and in this new democratic and fickle landscape, a truly sustainable audience can't be bought. Today's developers soon learn that marketing is core to anything other than a fluke success, but what are the rules, and which can be broken? How do you engage with the millions of potential game reviewers on the App stores, and the tens of thousands of DIY bloggers? How can you send your game viral, without destroying its soul?