Creativity in games has recently undergone a renaissance due to Indie developers, new formats, smaller budgets and online distribution channels as well as mainstream innovations. So contemporary game design is a challenging mix of cutting edge tech versus old school techniques like storytelling and game play. Come and be inspired by some of the world's most innovative and successful game designers offering their own top tips, and insight. The Design Track is sponsored by V&A South Kensington.

Design sessions

Putting Your Borg Hat On: A Procedural Approach to Game Design

Thursday 12th July: 11.15 - 12.00 : Room 2

How does a designer know that an idea is going to work? Our ideas are always going to be coloured by personal biases, which can help or hinder our concepts. In this talk, Thomas and Mata discuss the limits of human creativity and how a generative method can help us overcome our biases. The talk contains a practical example of game concept generation through simple tools that are available to all. These generative approaches won’t replace human skills of imagination and artistic expression, but they will have an impact on the future of game design roles. By embracing them now, we can learn to use them to enhance our games and stay competitive in our skill sets.

Game designers will assimilate a practical technique, including simple tools, for creating new game designs through procedural concept development.

So You Have a Great Idea. What Next?

Wednesday 11th July: 12.00 - 12.45 : Room 2

After the initial excitement that a great idea brings, the next phase can be daunting. Does this game have any chance of commercial success? Is the space too crowded? Is it feasible for our team to build it? This talk will provide a number of techniques that you can apply at various points in the game’s lifecycle to help you make better-informed decisions and improve the chances of your game’s success - whether you are looking to validate the initial idea or refine the game during production or even post-launch.


  • Learn the basics of Product Management
  • Learn how to validate your game idea
  • Learn how to identify risks with your game and how to minimise them

Life in the Fastlane – Taking Creative Risks in Game Design

Tuesday 10th July: 16.00 - 16.45 : Room 4

After launching several successful build-and-battle games, Space Ape set its sights on making the next genre defining hit game on mobile. The team decided it was time to break away from what was safe and inject a dose of innovation and adrenaline into every aspect of its latest release, Fastlane: Road to Revenge. From taking creative risks with game design, to implementing a first-of-its-kind influencer campaign that drove hundreds of thousands of installs and creating a holistic new approach to ad monetization and UA that has tripled revenue and DAU, it’s safe to say that the developer’s innovations have found success and helped them push the boundaries of game design. In this talk, Space Ape’s COO Simon Hade will pull back the curtains on the entire development process, breaking down key learnings from this new approach and demonstrating how they will have a lasting impact on the company’s strategies moving forward.

Block-Chain Gaming - A Question of Design

Thursday 12th July: 12.15 - 13.00 : Room 3

The latest phenomena impacting Games is the rise of the use of Block-Chain techniques and Crypto-Currencies. Building on his experience working on the design and monetization strategy for Reality Clash (; Oscar will explore the design questions that every games developer considering working an ICO, and block-chain secured assets or platforms. This will explore the following: * Impact of Crypto-Currency on Game Funding * Use of Block-Chain technologies in Games * Adding gameplay through secured transactions * Common Design Problems.

You will learn to:

  • Be careful with the commitments in your ICO whitepaper
  • Treat your block-chain currency/tokens as an economy
  • Future proof your design choices

VR Evolution: Learnings and Strategies for Designing AAA VR Games

Tuesday 10th July: 11.00 - 11.45 : Room 6

In this session, Michael will share his experience gained from years of designing on AAA VR titles like: PlayStation VR Worlds, and Blood & Truth.

* The Challenges of Designing for a New Medium 

* Popular trends in the first generation of VR games since VR's rebirth 

* The Future of VR Software and the possibilities for emerging genres

* 10 things every VR Developer needs to know. 

* Feature development and how development priorities need to change when developing in VR.


- How a Game Designer's approach has to change when designing in VR

- Traditional Player Expectations Vs. Player Expectations in VR

- Strategies for opening up your game to new players, audiences, and VR veterans



Everyone Can: Techniques and Tricks for Building More Inclusive Games

Thursday 12th July: 16.00 - 16.45 : Room 5

As developers, we want to engage with the largest audience as possible.  But how often are the challenges, current approaches and solutions to inclusive play considered?  This talk will begin by discussing methods that are currently employed that allow players of varying abilities to enjoy games that are currently in the wild, including what hardware, software and any modifications are needed to simplify input and maximize enjoyment.  We will then offer tips and tricks when considering inclusive play, providing attendees with several techniques they can implement in their own titles.


  • What modifications are being employed, right now, to support inclusive play.
  • What games have great inclusive techniques, and how we can learn from them.
  • What are the simplest concepts that our games can look to implement, to maximize inclusive play.
  • What impact does inclusive play options have on those players it more directly affects.

Videogames: Design/Play/Disrupt - A Behind the Scenes Preview

Thursday 12th July: 13.30 - 14.00 : Room 1

Videogames: Design/Play/Disrupt is a ground-breaking exhibition exploring contemporary videogame design and culture opening this September at the V&A. The exhibition’s lead curator Marie Foulston joins us to provide an exclusive behind the scenes preview of this landmark show. She will provide unique insights into the exhibition’s design and curation and discuss just what it takes to bring videogames into the world’s leading museum of art and design.

The show explores the medium from the mid-2000s, when major technological advancements profoundly changed the way videogames are designed, discussed and played. Rarely seen design materials from the desks and hard drives of world leading designers sit alongside brand new large-scale immersive installations to take visitors into the heart of the design and culture of videogames like never before.   


Leveraging Culturalisation for Building Better Game Worlds

Tuesday 10th July: 14.00 - 14.45 : Room 2

With over 25 years’ experience in the video game industry as a geographer and culturalization strategist, Kate Edwards has been involved in the world-building process for many, many game titles, from major franchises such as Halo, Fable, Age of Empires, Mass Effect, Call of Duty, and Tomb Raider to an assortment of various indie games. She has truly seen it all when it comes to geopolitical and cultural issues that can negatively affect the ability of a game to be distributed and enjoyed by a wide range of players across diverse geographies and cultures. She has also seen game designers miss key opportunities to create more robust worlds that engage players by leveraging more of their local cultures. Come hear about the little-known field of content culturalization and how it assists game creators with building better worlds that account for a wider range of cultural, geopolitical, and environmental aspects.


  • The audience will learn about how the often-overlooked cultural expectations of the "real world" can interact and impact the perception of - and ultimately the success of - a game's creative vision.

Design Workshop: Advanced Paper Prototyping

Wednesday 11th July: 16.00 - 17.45 : Room 6

In this 2 hour workshop, attendees will make a paper prototype of an action-based combat game. After a short introduction, they will develop their own twist on an urban zombie shooter. Their prototype will allow them to balance movement and combat rule-sets, as well as gain insight into potential AI behaviours and weapon systems, all without a single line of code. Ideas will be shared for prototyping time-sensitive reactions, tracking statistics, and other fast methods of finding the fun in a concept.


Game designers will learn practical methods for rapid prototyping of game systems. These will help you improve your designs, and increase your ability to communicate them to your team.

Storytelling with Cameras

Wednesday 11th July: 11.00 - 11.45 : Room 6

Learn about the development of the art of cinematography; the tricks used in movies to subconsciously communicate emotion to the audience. Explore how and when these can be applied to games to create more effective interactive experiences. Learn a potted history of cinematography, and how it can be applied to interactive games to engage players' emotions.

Anyone with a stake in their game's presentation. Camera tools programmers, level designers, cutscene animators, game directors.

What Players Want: Understanding Player Diversity

Tuesday 10th July: 17.00 - 17.45 : Room 4

Everyone who makes games is in the business of designing for an audience, but understanding what players want has become increasingly difficult the broader and more diverse the audience for videogames has become. Combining cutting edge psychological research with practical game design techniques, this How To talk puts player enjoyment into a more concrete perspective by answering three questions. 

What do players want? The ten psychological motives players have for enjoying games, from the victory motive to the narrative motive, provide every possible reason for players liking the emotional experiences of games. The most common mistake game designers make is assuming they are a typical player: they’re not, and neither is anyone else.

Does my game have what players want? The most reliable way of tracking audience preferences is to look at what players are already playing. Here, marketing and game design have to learn to work together to find the all-important balance between the familiar and the original.

Could my game appeal to a wider audience? You can make changes to a game to help it appeal to a wider audience – but you have to be certain you aren’t destroying the core experience just to go fishing for the mass market. Commercial videogames today have to court and keep an audience, and to do that you need to know which player motives your game can deliver, and which other motives are compatible with it.

Don’t guess at your audience: understand them, and yourself, and learn to make better games.



  • Understand the Ten Player Motives, and how to design games that satisfy these needs.
  • Estimate your game’s potential sales by recognising how to relate your design to games already in the marketplace
  • Maximise your audience appeal without destroying your core experience through careful design tweaking

They'll Remember That: Writing Choices in Games

Wednesday 11th July: 14.00 - 14.45 : Room 4

Games offer something no other medium can: an immediate dialogue with its audience. To play a game is to make decisions about where to go, what to do, and how to do it. But how does one personalize those choices, so they become memorable, powerful experiences? Cash DeCuir offers a practical framework for examining stories and maximizing their impact in an interactive medium.


  • A practical framework for breaking down narrative choices into four distinct components: Questions, or what the player is being asked to consider; Information, or the beats which informs the player's opinion; Opportunities, or the moments where the players may express their opinion; and Feedback, when the game recognizes the player's response.
  • An understanding of how to intertwine the four components of narrative choices with mechanical and narrative design, creating new layers of immersion for players to delve into. 
  • An understanding of how to troubleshoot their narratives using this framework.
  • A guideline for measuring the aptitude of narrative choices, before spending time developing them: are choices respectful of the player and their time?

Relatable Characters, Depth and Agency: How to Make Players Care About Your Story?

Wednesday 11th July: 15.00 - 15.45 : Room 6

Do you want players to care deeply about your story? Then you need great characters that grow and change like Walter White or Daenerys Targaryen. Your story can only ever be as strong as your protagonist is memorable.

But how do you write meaningful character arcs that aren't destroyed on a whim by player's agency? How can you preserve your story's integrity when players are in control of the character's fate? Some people say it's impossible and,indeed in most games, characters don't change. This session will show you that it's not only possible, it's essential to engage players on a deep personal level.

Join 'Heavy Rain' Lead Game Designer Caroline Marchal and BBC Drama Producer John Yorke to understand how to create characters that empower players for maximum emotional impact. 


  • Attendees will understand how to develop successful three-dimensional characters that work for any game genre. They will learn design and narrative techniques to give players true control over their character's fate through choice and create the most compelling, immersive and memorable experience.

Creating the Characters of Mafia III

Thursday 12th July: 14.00 - 14.45 : Room 4

Join Bill Harms, Narrative Director at Hangar 13, for a discussion and presentation on how he and the team at Hangar 13 created the primary characters in Mafia III, including their motivations and political beliefs, with never-before-seen deleted scenes from the game and casting footage. The discussion will also cover how the characters evolved during development and how elements outside of narrative, including design and the actors themselves, helped shape what you see in the game.

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