Design

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.

Design sessions

There's Always Been a Metaverse

Tuesday 12th July: 14.00 - 14.45 :

The term "Metaverse" seems to be a pretty common buzzword these days. But what does it really mean? And why are people so obsessed with metaverses, what makes them so good at whipping up frenzied fandoms? In this presentation, futurist and senior producer Sarah Brin demonstrates some of the historic lineages of expansive story worlds, and distills some key design principles for creative technology practice, world-building, and meaningful connections with audiences.

Takeaway:

  • Historical precedents for metaverses. Why reinvent the wheel?
  • Drawing distinctions between what's over-hyped nonsense and actual potential use cases for new technology
  • Practical design tips for designing fun, social, and emergent player behaviors

Manifesto of a Sustainable Web 3 Game Economy Design

Tuesday 12th July: 15.00 - 15.45 :

Machinations have worked with hundreds of game designers to stress test their game economy design. During this time Machinations have developed the Manifesto of a sustainable Web 3 Game Economy Design. This Manifesto includes the core pillars that any Web3 game must achieve to create a sustainable economy along with some best practices that you can put into practice to prepare your own game economy.

Takeaway:

  • The Core Pillars of sustainable game economy design
  • Best practices that every game economy should have
  • Learn how to identify the basics of a Game Economy

Design Sensibilities for a Collaborative Culture

Tuesday 12th July: 16.00 - 16.45 :

One of the main challenges that faces a designer is aligning the team towards a common goal. This talk will introduce numerous approaches to aid with this, in order to empower others and maximise collaboration. Supported by development anecdotes, it will account for a variety of disciplines and typical scenarios throughout various stages of development.

Takeaways:

  • Propose methods of communicating effectively whilst empowering other members of the team
  • How to apply suggested approaches to tackle typical collaborative challenges which face designers
  • Supporting advice for dealing with a wide range of development scenarios in a constructive manner
  • Illustrates a tangible cheat sheet and recommended additional references for fostering a creative culture

Why Designing Inclusive Player Experiences Should Be Everyone's Priority

Tuesday 12th July: 17.00 - 17.45 :

The session will go over Electronic Art's approach to inclusive design through our Inclusive Design Playbook. Inclusive Design is about designing for as diverse a range of people and abilities as possible. It is a philosophy that encourages us to consider how gender, age, sexuality, ethnicity, socio-economic background, culture and customs, body shapes and sizes, religious beliefs and other characteristics shape the way we interact with the world. We believe that games have the power to transcend society as the characters we create and the stories we tell can positively impact the world around us. By involving diverse perspectives, amplifying the voices of all players, and ultimately helping to build muscle memory with game teams, we make sure everyone in our communities feels welcome. This talk will emphasize why we need to recognize that every action carries an impact on the wider community, and we’ll keep pushing ourselves to improve in this area for our players.

Takeaway:

  • Attendees will be equipped with ideas and real-world examples of how we can portray characters with diverse backgrounds authentically and how we can avoid unconscious bias during the creative process
  • Have a better overview of inclusion in video games and how they can reduce toxic behaviour within gaming communities
  • Have a good overview through specific examples of how EA is applying inclusive design in their games
  • Learn about lessons learned ad adjustments we have made since we first started with this work, based on product reception and employee feedback

Keynote: DEATHLOOP: Looking Inside a Design Loop

Wednesday 13th July: 9.45 - 10.45 :

In this fireside chat, members of the Award-winning Arkane Lyon studio team, including this year’s Develop Star Award recipient Dinga Bakaba, discuss some of the development challenges and successes they had during production of DEATHLOOP.

Discussion topics will include:

  • Creating a first-person action game in a brand new world, while preserving the Dishonored heritage. 
  • Analyzing the challenges of developing an immersive sim with the added complexity of multiplayer components. 
  • How the studio focused on the personal skills they had to develop during DEATHLOOP's development. 
  • The creative team will share their choices on the design of the characters, environments, and weapons design.

This panel will change how you look at making your next game.

Designing `DEATHLOOP`s First Hours at the Eleventh Hour

Wednesday 13th July: 11.00 - 11.45 :

This is the story of how user research led to the creation of the opening hours of “DEATHLOOP” during the last months of the game’s development, and how those hours, and eventually the entire game, were reshaped a piece at a time by continued research. It is told by Arkane Lyon’s Campaign Director, a developer who stands at the nexus between level design and narrative design, who had to level up her competency in user experience design overnight to meet the challenges the game faced. In this lecture she will walk you through this harrowing process, where dramatic changes to the game were equal parts overwhelming successes, and revelations of dreadful new issues.

Takeaway:

  • User experience design is not a straight line. A smart fix to a big issue can reveal problems elsewhere. This is a good thing
  • The obvious solution to a user experience issue can be the wrong one. User research specialists can uncover the problem hidden in the data. Treat the cause of the problem, not the symptoms
  • Dana Nightingale’s design process, and how it’s similar to the type of user experience she tries to create

The Future of Fashion in Games

Wednesday 13th July: 12.00 - 12.45 :

Despite being two industries focused on creativity, new technology and playfulness, fashion and games were two worlds that, for a long time, were totally separate. This changed rapidly as we moved our lives online in the pandemic, and created a surge of interest from the fashion world in what games could mean for their brands and collections. From Balenciaga's FW/21 runway show existing within Unreal Engine, to designers partnering with Animal Crossing creators to bring their collections to life in game, the fashion industry has never been more interested in games as a medium. Many game developers are stepping into this world, through partnerships, metaverse experience design or simply through more considered approaches to the fashion in their games.

Takeaway:

  • Fashion and the games industry have incredible opportunities to collaborate, in ways that are both beneficial to your players and to your revenue!
  • Players are incredibly engaged in avatar customisation, which is becoming even more relevant in our increasingly digital world. Virtual influencers, Vtubers and trends in social media imply we are moving to a blended reality of representation. This is all the more important for GenZ & Alpha.
  • Digital fashion and the NFT industry are closely linked to digital representation, but their eventual use and popularity is still to be proven. The fashion and games industry have different attitudes to this- we can learn from each other!
  • The fashion industry are ready and willing to collaborate with your game. This can be done on a large scale (international luxury brand partnerships) or smaller scale (working with individual designers to make representative, realistic (or fantastical!) clothing with your character designs). Think about what approach could work for your project.

The Dark Pictures Anthology: Crafting Interactive Narrative Games

Wednesday 13th July: 14.00 - 14.45 :

This lecture explores the processes that Supermassive Games employs to craft branching narrative adventures, and examines techniques for creating horror in the Dark Pictures Anthology. This talk contains some mature content.

Takeaway:

  • Learn techniques for crafting branching narratives
  • Learn best practices for creating choices in games
  • Learn useful techniques for bringing horror into your game

Betterverse

Wednesday 13th July: 15.00 - 15.45 :

The world we live in, both physical and digital, is built on cultural and societal considerations. These considerations shape the meta verse and the possibility space of what it can become. In this talk, Brenda Romero asks who determines what those considerations are? What gets left out, and what gets brought in? Our metaverses are mirrors of their creators. This time time, let’s do it right.

Takeaway:

  • Examine the history of the metaverse, what we’ve left out and what we brought in
  • Consider how inclusivity has impacted both the design and the audience of our previous metaverse attempts
  • Explore the ways in which we might do it differently to expand its audience.

Accessible Accessibility and Designing for Dyslexic Players

Wednesday 13th July: 16.00 - 16.45 :

Part 1 - Accessible Accessibility: Where do you start?
Presented by Cari Watterton, Rebellion
Accessibility can be intimidating if you don’t know where to start – but whatever stage of development you’re in, you’ll be able to get something out of this talk. We will cover why Accessibility is important, how to get started with designing and implementing features, user testing, and building a culture of accessibility across a whole studio. From her experience working in indie startups to large scale game development teams, Cari demonstrates an accessible process for getting started with Accessibility.

Part 2 - Designing for Dyslexic Players
Presented by Alastair Low, Lowtek Games
Ally will talk about his experiences while playing games as a dyslexic player and the troubles the disability can cause. Some are obvious but others area little less so. We will look at current trends towards game accessibility with examples of where its has been done well and where it hasn't. What might games accessibility ;look like in 5 years, will platform holders or middleware solutions make the change thats nessasery for wider adoption? Text to speech is one of the most usefull tools at a dyslexic persons disposal and its great seeing this show up in some of the blockbuster titles. The talk will touch on general good practices for game accessibility but with a strong emphasis on the dyslexic player.

Takeaway:
Part 1

  • Quick-start process for designing accessibility features for your game, no matter your stage in development
  • Practical advice for testing your game and features with gamers who experience disabilities
  • Low-cost examples to build an accessibility-focused mindset at your studio

Part 2

  • More empathy for the large amount of dyslexic players out there 
  • Informed ideas on what to do to be more inclusive
  • Informed ideas on what not to do to be more inclusive

Vehicle Sound Design for Farming Simulator

Wednesday 13th July: 16.00 - 16.45 :

Kris is showcasing the audio pipeline for recording and implementing vehicles into the Farming Simulator series. 

He discusses his audio teams’ approach to recording tractors, detailing the equipment, techniques and conditions that are used to capture the sound of these complex machines.

Next, he demonstrates how audio recordings are edited and processed to make high quality audio assets. This includes effective processing, semi-automated editing using custom actions within Reaper and some tricks & tips on how to create perfect seamless loops.

After this, the real-time processing of Farming Simulator vehicle audio is explored in detail. He demonstrates methods for analyzing on/offload audio recordings to extract useable EQ profiles, which can be used as a basis for real-time processing to create a dynamic load sound. 

Finally, he details the implementation process for vehicles, covering the use of in-game parameter changes and sound modifiers. This brings the recordings and audio assets to life, creating a sense of dynamism and interactivity in-line with real world tractors.

Takeaway:

  • Approaches and techniques for effective vehicle recording.
  • Sound processing techniques and approaches to creating seamless loop-able audio assets.
  • Workflow improvements for repetitive asset creation.
  • Methods of creating a dynamic ‘load’ sound for vehicles.  
  • Implementation ideas for increasing interactivity between vehicle sound layers

ADHD City - Weird Things That Help for the Creative (but noisy) Brain

Wednesday 13th July: 17.00 - 17.45 :

In this session, I'll be going through hints, tips, and weird things that help to manage ADHD and distraction, especially in these pandemic-infused times. Through my journey with diagnosis, I'll go over how I have maximised my hyper-focusing tendencies for a career in Game Art and Art Direction, as well as giving you some tools to structure your approach to game development and art more successfully.

Takeaway:

  • Dig into ADHD and how it can present within the games industry
  • Learn strategies for coping with distraction and brain noise whilst working on video games
  • Improve your artistic workflow through these processes

Keynote: Wolfenstein 3D Postmortem

Thursday 14th July: 10.00 - 11.00 :

In early 1992, id Software had just shipped their latest 2D platform games and were ready for something different. Having released the first texture-mapped 3D shooter, Catacomb 3D, just a couple months earlier, they were planning what their next project would be. Wolfenstein 3D was an ambitious design for an MS-DOS PC in 1992. There were no GPUs, most games were 320x200 pixels, a lot of memory was 4GB, and mice were rarely used. Follow the journey that the four founders of id Software took to create a watershed moment in gaming history that showed the world that the PC could play a new kind of game that no other machine could replicate. Game designer, programmer, and id Software co-founder, John Romero, will take the audience through this short seven month timeline and show you just how much happened during Wolfenstein 3D's development rollercoaster ride.

Keeping it Simple: Creating a Tutorial for a Grand Strategy Behemoth

Thursday 14th July: 11.15 - 12.00 :

Total War is a franchise with a 25-year-old history, with layers and layers of complexity and depth, accompanied with a complicated set of rules. This could be quite intimidating for someone to try for the first time. With Total War: WARHAMMER III we set out to create a campaign specifically for people to learn the game. This was the birth of the Prologue campaign. The challenge was to create something that would appeal to our hardcore audience but also provide a platform for those new to the franchise. This requires the team to understand the audience experience; a challenge for a team who knows the game in and out. In this talk we’ll go through the process and exploration in creating the Prologue campaign; bringing different people from different teams together to delve into the challenges and to try different approaches. It was important for us to hear from everyone, recognising that a good idea or approach could come from anywhere – that diversity of perspective was essential when looking at different audience experiences. We considered the different ways individuals learn, how we could teach to adapt to these learning styles and enhance the tutorial overall. We’ll look at how we worked with User Research experts to test the tutorial and gain invaluable feedback, focusing on clarity of information balanced with immersion in the experience. Overall, this talk will delve into the different iterations of the prologue that we explored, the different challenges and considerations, and how we finally landed on the end experience.

 

Takeaway:

  • The importance of hearing/including everyone and gaining diverse perspectives
  • How to teach something complicated by keeping it simple
  • The importance and role of UX testing

Evolving Storytelling in Returnal: How to Tell a Haunting Story

Thursday 14th July: 14.00 - 14.45 :

In this talk, Eevi Korhonen discusses the storytelling techniques used in Returnal and how they were utilized to craft its haunting story. The talk journeys through the challenges of telling a story in a game with fast-paced action gameplay and a roguelite structure all the way to how the team managed to combine elements from various genres to create the strange cocktail that makes up Returnal.

Takeaway:

  • Learn how Returnal's story was put together
  • Learn how you can fit together story and fast-paced action gameplay
  • Learn techniques to craft mysterious and ambiguous stories

Performance Art: Capturing the Best of Human Drama in South of the Circle

Thursday 14th July: 15.00 - 15.45 :

We're used to bad acting and dialogue in games; they're usually just cut scenes in between the action. But when believable human conversations are a central part of a game's experience, how do you make sure you get authentic performances? How do you create conversations that flow like real human interactions? And how do you make sure that translates in-engine? In this talk Director Luke Whittaker and Creative Producer John Lau discuss create immersive, human-feeling conversations at the heart of State of Play's interactive drama South of The Circle, and how they tried to avoid the pitfalls of modern video game performances. From casting, to rehearsal, performance capture, and the development of a unique conversation mechanic, Luke and John discuss the things their team had to learn in order to ensure that South of The Circle's animation and interactions did justice to its incredible cast, including actors from Bohemian Rhapsody, Game of Thrones and Downton Abbey.

Takeaway:

  • Treat your actors as co-creators 
  • Experiment before it gets expensive 
  • Design in a way which is sympathetic to the performance

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