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

Why You Should Not Underestimate First User Experience and How to Improve It

Tuesday 26th October: 11.00 - 11.45 :

This session talks you through the First Time User Experience (FTUE) being a crucial part of almost any game made to increase user retention by minimising entry barriers and increasing the quality of experience and players’ enjoyment. 

Have you ever found yourself willing to skip a game tutorial? That could be driven by either finding little value of the suggested control instructions or the opposite: finding it never-ending and getting stuck halfway through? That is a clear sign of poor first-time user experience.

Nowadays your game competes with millions of other games coming out on all possible platforms for players' attention regardless of which type of game it is, whether you are going to use cutscenes or gameplay tutorial, the fundamental idea is quite universal and can form the best practice but at the same time introduce common mistakes as well.

As a Lead UX Designer, Kristina has been involved in resolving numerous challenges while creating FTUE for each game that she’s worked on. Despite (but also thanks to) different gaming designs and settings, finding universal techniques for making a good first player’s experience helps to avoid major mistakes.

Taking this to success, she initially was looking for an inspiration reviewing more than a hundred other games, getting feedback from the players in live ops, carefully analysing, resulting in total UX decomposition.


All Aboard: Tools and Tactics for Building Team Consensus

Tuesday 26th October: 12.00 - 12.45 :

On a game development team, a shared vision is crucial for success. If a team is having trouble seeing eye-to-eye, it can become a complicated problem to fix. In this talk, designers Jessica Fiorini and Marlena Abraham will walk the audience through a series of techniques that will help get their teams moving in the same direction. They will discuss the value of instilling interdisciplinary teams with the agency, ownership, trust, and most importantly, joy that will ultimately produce a better game. As Jessica and Marlena are at different stages of their careers, they’ll tackle this problem from two different perspectives: as a game industry veteran and as a designer whose responsibilities are still relatively new. From these vantage points, they’ll discuss communication tactics, documentation, software tools, and processes involved in building design consensus. They’ll explore how a combination of soft skills (e.g. how to receive and deliver feedback) and hard skills (e.g. documenting and testing assumptions) can produce a more engaging game. Using real projects as case studies, Jessica and Marlena will model the challenges a designer might face when building consensus, then use these examples to outline solutions ranging from playtesting and prototyping to new forms of communication. The audience will learn both the warning signs that stakeholders are facing disagreements and the ways to troubleshoot miscommunication. They’ll explore techniques that can solve issues that arise when leading or working with engineers, artists, sound designers, producers, and clients during various stages of game production.


  • Solutions to build consensus around design concepts at all stages of development
  • Warning signs that a team is not aligned and troubleshooting methods to right the course
  • Tested processes, software, documentation, and communication tactics

The Evolution of the Player Interface

Tuesday 26th October: 16.00 - 16.45 :


We’ll take you on a journey through the different user interfaces that has been used on video games throughout the years.  Praising the merits of the new possibilities the new interfaces promised us as game designers, but also discussing the downsides and difficulties each new technology has brought. Designers can learn about how an interface can change the way a game can be played and how the audience will perceive the different experiences of entertainment each interface brings.  We’ll look at all interfaces, whether that be the game-changing Wii-Mote, or the revolutionary but unfavoured Kinect. 





  • The User Interface has a massive impact on how to design games.
  • We’ll look at the next big advance in User Interfaces.

The Gallery - A Case Study on Interactive Storytelling in FMV Games

Tuesday 26th October: 17.00 - 17.45 :

The session will start with a short introduction from George Blagden, lead actor in the FMV Game "The Gallery" (subject to availability), this will be followed by a presentation of a 10-15 minute extract from "The Gallery" showing how the game works on screen. Paul will then speak for around 10 minutes on how he interactivated the script to ‘The Gallery’ from an original linear version, as well as how he wrote the interactive script for ‘5 Dates’ from scratch. Rupert Howe will then speak for around 10 minutes on the Stornaway "islands" concept of game design, how to build a project, and how the software works. He will also speak about how it integrates with different platforms - enabling creators to deliver out to YouTube, Unity, Unreal amongst others. Finally, there will be a Q&A with - Rupert Howe, - Paul Raschid, - hopefully George Blagden, - Kate Dimbleby (Co-CEO and - Neville Raschid (CEO- Aviary Studios).


  • The process of creating a FMV game from script to screen, either adapting a linear story or writing from scratch.
  • How to use flow charts to develop the game story.
  • How the “islands” map concept helps to create and edit a FMV Game.
  • How this “island” map concept integrates with other platforms.

Games User Research Throughout the Development Process and Beyond!

Wednesday 27th October: 12.00 - 12.45 :

A whistle-stop tour of some of the many opportunities available to developers throughout the development process and beyond to improve their game by getting the players to see, play, experience and most importantly feedback on their game. One-or-two person Indie studios, Publishers and AAA will be able to more fully appreciate key moments during the dev-cycle when they can leverage player opinion and experience to make their game a better product. We will look at opportunities from the idea stage all the way through to launch and even after the game is released, as well as some of the pitfalls that can occur in games user research and how to avoid them.


  • How to take the pulse of player opinion at any point in development
  • How doing research earlier can save you money, time and effort
  • How research is scalable and not just for big budgets
  • When to carry out game play research and what methods to use
  • How to avoid some of the pitfalls in games user research

What Great Level Design Really Takes: An Entire Studio

Wednesday 27th October: 12.00 - 12.45 :

Arkane Studios is known for great level design, and Dana Nightingale is known for the level design of Dishonored 2's Clockwork Mansion, neither of which would be possible without the support of the entire studio.  This talk will also highlight critical hurdles and pitfalls that can keep your project's level design from being as good as it could be.


  • How do you organize your leadership to promote great level design and what are a level designer's key partnerships?
  • How do you avoid deterministic design, cope with a massive pivot, and why is markup the greatest threat to great level design?
  • Wait, what about documentation?

Mind Your NPCs and Qs: What’s Next for Game AI?

Wednesday 27th October: 15.00 - 15.45 :

Game developers now have fantastic tools for building huge, complex, beautiful worlds but very often life remains absent, especially that of characters engaging with a player. Game AI has progressed slowly in the last decade, but we are now seeing signs of it picking up pace. This talk takes a look at the current state of the art in game AI, where we as an industry are still struggling, what is on the horizon and what possible solutions might look like for the as-yet-unsolved problems. Join Sandy MacPherson (an ex-Crytekker who worked on developing Crysis 1-3 and is now a Senior AI Systems Programmer at Kythera AI) and Rod Stafford, (a technology evangelist who once designed and delivered the UK’s largest real-time government crisis simulation) as they describe the challenges facing game developers who are looking to bring forward a new generation of AI for games as well as celebrating some of the great successes to date.

This talk will provide an educated view into the current climate of video game AI, providing attendees with a realistic understanding of what the unsolved problems are.

It aims to leave attendees brimming with ideas for things to take home and try, and inspired to be a part of the community and to help us achieve the future.

Avoiding the Pitfalls of Interactive Narrative

Wednesday 27th October: 16.00 - 16.45 :

Games are an interactive medium. Adding interactivity to the story is a great way to make them more compelling. Players want to feel like their decisions impact the game and the game world, but this often conflicts with the production constraints of game development. Even games with huge budgets offer choices to the player they can't follow through on, resulting in a disappointing experience. This is completely avoidable, and depends entirely on the choices that are offered. In this talk, Tim presents several examples of interactive stories, including Runescape, World of Warcraft and Mass Effect. He examines what they did right and wrong, the consequences of those design decisions, and specific examples of what could have been done differently. Finally he presents a set of more general principles that can be used to take this learning and apply it to any game.

  • Create choices which add compelling interactivity to your story.
  • Avoid choices which will inevitably lead to disappointment.
  • Choose the right number and scale of choices for the story you're telling.

Pandemic-Proof Play: Adapting local multiplayer games for post-Covid socialising

Thursday 28th October: 11.15 - 12.00 :

The world changed in 2020, but as we come out of the pandemic, things may have changed forever. Many people have gotten used to working from home, learning from home, and even socialising from home. As we return to our normal lives, some of these new routines will be here to stay, and while we start to meet up face-to-face again, we’ve discovered that socialising online can be easy, fun, and a cost-effective way to see our friends and family. But where does that leave local multiplayer games that, up until now, have relied on players physically being in the same room? At Snap Finger Click, we make local multiplayer games that can also be played together remotely. Last year, we discovered that we’d serendipitously made games that were perfect for a pandemic. With the option to play using your phone as a controller or play via the chat on Twitch, our local multiplayer games were selling 10x their normal amount as people searched for ways to socialise online. At this talk, you’ll learn how to make a local multiplayer game appeal to this new group of remote socialisers who want the party vibe of the living room in an online space. There are a number of ways to accommodate remote play without compromising the game design. Hear about all the things we got right, the things we got wrong, and what the future holds for this new way to play.


  • Having a traditional online mode isn’t a substitute for what can be achieved with a local multiplayer game. The practicalities, the accessibility to casual gamers, and the off-screen interaction all present a challenge. There needs to be a more social way.
  • Letting players use their phone as a controller means they can join from anywhere with a device they already know and are familiar with.
  • Twitch integration is a great way to introduce the game to a bigger audience. Allowing players to participate from any device that can browse the internet just by typing in commands makes the game accessible to anyone.
  • Features can be easily added to local multiplayer games to make them work remotely without taking anything away from the game design. Give the players the choice to play in the living room or socialise remotely and have just as much fun either way.

Active Listening – How Amazon’s New World Evolved into an MMO Success Story

Thursday 28th October: 11.15 - 12.00 :

Following the successful launch of open-world MMO New World in August, Senior Producer Katy Kaszynski will shed light on how Amazon takes a unique look at customer feedback and testing to create immersive worlds that retain players. Katy will provide examples and tips for engaging with players at an early stage of development and interpreting data, and describe how implementing changes based on player feedback has led to New World’s success.


  • How to engage players early in the development process
  • How to implement player & testing feedback effectively
  • How to best interprete data

It's Not Real Money, it's Robux: A Pan-European Exploration of Children's Attitudes Towards In-game Spending

Thursday 28th October: 12.15 - 13.00 :

Children today are spending more time online than ever before, and a huge part of that time is spent gaming. Headlines regularly shout about children spending hundreds of pounds on Fortnite skins or Robux – but what drives these decisions and where does the value lie for the youngest audiences?

Jelena and Raj present findings from a study of children and parents’ attitudes towards in-gaming spending, exploring how gaming motivations impact the decision-making process and what type of in-game spenders exist in this audience. They also present the up-to-date thinking on the ethics of monetising children’s games, as well as design implications of the audience drivers and attitudes.

In between research, strategy and application – they discuss how we build games for children – ethically, commercially and to delight.


  • What drives children's spending within games, and how games can be monetised ethically and effectively for this audience
  • How gamer motivations impact in-game spending
  • Parents' and children's role in gaming decision making
  • Design decisions that cause delight and those that frustrate children and youth

How To Support Learning in Multiplayer Games

Thursday 28th October: 16.00 - 16.45 :

This talk will discuss how players learn to play games based on academic research and then focus on how you can utilise these findings to design systems to help newer and more experienced players learn to play multiplayer games, motivated by academic, industry, and popular literature discussing learning of games. Starting with an overview of major theories of learning from industry and academic literature, followed by a series of guidelines to help you develop learning support tools for your own games, and ending with some examples of helpful learning support from existing games made by developers and players.

- A holistic overview of the schools of thought around learning of games (in general and specifically multiplayer games).
- Guidelines for designing and developing your own learning support tools for your games.
- Examples of game learning support by developers and community members for further inspiration.

Calling all wannabe speakers!

Develop:Brighton brings together the game dev community to share ideas, learn and be inspired by each other. So if you have an idea for a conference session we'd love to hear it. Hurry - the deadline for submissions is 25 Feb!

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