Train2Game’s 2nd Webinar Part Four

In Part 4 of the 2nd Train2Game Webinar the panel continue to discuss the Art and Animation course, mainly about when it will be benchmarked and also answer live questions on how strong the job market is for Train2Game graduates and if the opportunity to start on your own as an ‘Indie’ is better now than ever before.

Key quotes include…
Carsten Maple on the UK video game job market “I say to all of my students now, you gotta show that you’re worth it…There are jobs for those who can really make a difference”

Carsten Maple on why the UK video games industry needs tax relief – “I think it’s something they [Conservative Government] should do…For a whole number of reasons, not least of all that the significance of the UK games industry that it has been before is slipping backwards in terms of its relative success and I think it’s something that needs to be addressed because more companies are moving abroad because it’s a lower risk. If you’ve got to spend less money developing a game, than that’s a lower risk and unfortunately we’ve seen that move away and unless we act quickly and, I know it’s difficult, but we’ve got to keep petitioning the government to say “look we need this because once you lose it it’s very difficult to get it back”

Tony Bickley on why it’s not all doom and gloom for the UK video games industry lacking tax breaks – “This is probably one of the best times over the last 5-6 years for the smaller studios and the start-ups. You’re not looking for that half-million, three-quarters of a million pound investment to develop for the PlayStation 2 with £20,000 development kit, etc. You’ve got the three, four or five man development teams so there is a lot of opportunity for people entering the industry to join the smaller indie studios”

You can leave your thoughts about the Train2Game webinar on the Train2Game forum.

The PC – The ideal platform for Train2Game students?

Dragon Age: proof of a popular PC game

My spiffing Train2Game colleague Gabe recently published a blog about PC gaming, and as what could be described as a ‘hardcore’ PC gamer myself, it got me thinking.

Gabe’s blog came following remarks from Bioware that the PC “is made for gaming” which seemed rather obvious to me. It should of course be obvious to anyone who’s played a Bioware Role Playing Game, be it Mass Effect or Dragon Age: Origins.

When it comes to these RPG’s, it’s the PC that’s king, and in an interview with CVG, Bioware designer and writing director Daniel Erickson says the numbers speak for themselves.

“Every two or three years we hear the announcement of fantasy being dead, PC gaming being dead and RPGs being dead, and yet, all of the biggest games that ever come out – that set the records – are nearly always PC games, and a lot of them are fantasy games.”

The biggest game in the world is a fantasy, PC, RPG MMO. We all know the drawbacks of PC. We all scream at our boxes and try to make stuff work. But at the same time, the interface is made for games. The mouse/keyboard interface allows so much less restriction [Than consoles]”

Personally, I’ve not experienced Dragon Age: Origins on a console  – I play it on PC – but it’s certainly obvious to me how much easier it must be to play on a PC as you can easily access spells and talents using hot keys 1-9 and the space bar easily pauses the action. I’d imagine the whole process is a bit fiddler using a control pad, but if you can do so, feel free to prove me wrong!

The PC certainly gives Train2Game students, be they Games Designer, Games Developer or Games Artist & Animator, an opportunity to test their skills thanks to the number of games with large modding communities.  Half Life 2 and Fallout 3 are just two games that a loyal fanbase who are giving others the opportunity to try new weapons, new skins or even whole games.  Counter-Strike, one of the most popular online shooters of all time, started as a fan produced Half Life mod and shows that with the right ideas, modding a current game could provide a small studio with a big break.

Some developers even encourage the addition of community content to their games, with Valve perhaps providing the best example of this with Team Fortress 2. Valve have run numerous community competitions calling on fans to create items in the form of weapons and hats with the winners being able to see their creations in game. There seem to be a lot of talented Games Designers out there, and Valve are going to have a tough time deciding on a winner of the most recent contest!

The PC is the most popular gaming platform, partially due to the rise in the popularity of flash games which in itself provides even more opportunities for Train2Game students to create games.

So what do you think? Would you consider creating PC games? Have you already made mods? As usual, let us know here on the Train2Gameforum.

Train2Game’s 2nd Webinar – Part 3

Part 3 sees the Train2Game webinar panel answer questions on if you’re video game idea is worthy enough to be pitched, if the video game industry is in danger of coming to a full stop and where the games industry will be in ten years time.

Key quotes include:

Carsten Maple on moving away from producing sequels : “Where is an idea that’s quite unique and pivotal to a game rather than just an idea for a game…most [games] are quite derivative and what makes it sell is the branding around it”

Pete Hickman on protecting your idea and getting it implemented: “it’s very difficult to protect just an idea, and IP protection law is a very complex subject. The best way I think to protect an idea, especially when you’re showing around to different publishers is to make sure that it’s not just an idea there’s some physical assets that you can use, you can show. We’re talking about storyboards, character design, and level design…”

Tony Bickley on publishers and video games – “I do know of quite a few publishers that refuse to accept ideas that are unsolicited because the ideas are fairly worthless unless they’ve been worked up into a full pitch, but they could impact on a current development and most big publishers and developers have 30-40 ideas that they’re kicking around, they prototype a few, they play with a few more, they take them to a storyboard etc.”

Let us know your thoughts either here, or on the Train2Game forum.

Train2Game’s 2nd Webinar – Part 1

The second official Train2Game Webinar took place on 18th June 2010 featuring CEO of DR Studios Clive Robert,  COO of DR Studios Tony Bickley, Executive Producer and Industry guru Pete Hickman and Professor Carsten Maple from the University of Bedfordshire.

In part one, we kickoff the discussion about the video games industry, with the panel answering questions about the complexity of games, children playing certified 18 games and making your characters look unique.

Game Pitches – A useful tool for Train2Game students.

The pitch for Fallout 2 is one of many available

So, as a Train2Game student, you’re learning new skills and you’re well on your way to becoming a Games Designer, Games Developer or Games Artist & Animator.  Perhaps you’ve got together with other students, formed a studio and have a great idea for a game, but  you don’t quite know where to start when it comes to designing and pitching it…

Never fear, Game Pitches is here to help you! What is Game Pitches you ask? Well it’s About page answers that better than we can;

“Welcome to Game Pitches! This site serves to be a free resource to game designers offering them the web’s largest single collection of game design documents and game pitches. Be they famous or obscure, big or small, successful or not, this site is intended to be a resource for learning how better to design and pitch games in the spirit of sharing information and improving the state of the art through freely available knowledge. Let’s make great games”

It certainly sounds useful doesn’t it? And there are some rather interesting design documents on the site which were used to pitch what became successful titles. One of the more recent examples is the original pitch document for Bioshock, but the website also contains useful design documents about older, classic games such as Fallout 2.

Game Pitches really does make interesting viewing as it’s evident that so much effort just has to go into design and artwork just for a pitch document, let alone the job of actually developing a game!

So take a look, do you think Game Pitches will be useful? What do you think of the design documents for other games?

As usual, leave your comments here or on the Train2Game forum.

Game over for television advertising?

Television, that box in your living room or bedroom that not only connects to your chosen games console, but also transmits them fancy moving pictures – or television programmes as they’re also known. Now, while television is of course still a massive form of entertainment in many households throughout the world, publishers seem increasingly keen to move away from advertising their games on the box.

Why? Well, some just don’t see TV as that relevant to video game marketing anymore. Speaking to thealistdaily, THQ’s VP of core games Danny Bilson said;

“One of the bigger questions we have to ask ourselves is how important is television? How important is television to a core gamer on a non-television brand? So I think television has some relevance on WWE and UFC because I consider those TV brands. But our other stuff, I question it severely.”

“It’s incredibly expensive, and what I can do with two million dollars, which will buy a few TV spots on a big sporting event, what I can do in outdoor, or on the web, or direct-to-consumer is way more exciting.”

“You know where I want to market? I want to market on Xbox Live. I want to market on PSN… Television is a big question mark for me.”

Mr Bilson does appear to make a good point, why spend millions on a television ad which non-gamers will not be interested in, when you can spend much less on advertising the game online?

EA share a similar view, and senior VP and head of European publishing, Dr Jens Uwe Intat recently revealed that they also plan to spend less on advertising with the intention of investing the saved cash into games development.

“Part of it will go online, but most of it will actually be invested into making good games – despite the fact that a lot of marketing money is spent on a Call of Duty or FIFA, when we look at our research, most people actually buy a game because of a referral from a friend.

“So the product quality at the end of the day is still the dominant criterion,”

Online games communities are ever expanding and it’s likely that a gamer will see more adverts online than they would on television, or as EA point out, hear about a game from a friend via word of mouth or perhaps an internet forum.

The very nature of online advertising also means that it’s easy for smaller independent Games Developers, Games Designers and Games Artist & Animators to market their games. Of course, a Train2Game student is unlikely to have the millions needed to fund a high profile television campaign at this time!

So, what are your plans for advertising your first game? How will you market your first creation? And do you think online advertising will become superior to its television counterpart?

As usual, leave your thoughts here or on the Train2Game forum.

Nintendo President – ‘Slow sales due to lack of great software’

The lack of quality games – not the global recession – is the main reason behind slow software sales. That’s according to Nintendo President Saturo Iwata who was speaking in an interview with Venture Beat.

“I cannot say that the recession has no effect on the sales of video games. My belief is we should not blame the bad economy for the cause of slow sales of video games. The slow sales must be due to the lack of great software that everyone wants to buy. We have not shown off the great attractions of whatever we are selling. This is not the problem of Nintendo alone, but the entire video game industry”

There are some in the games industry, Activision with their 20 million Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 sales, who may not necessarily agree with the Nintendo President that the Market is slowing. Nevertheless, Mr Saturo believes the games industry – which includes Games Designers, Games Developers and Games Artists & Animators – needs to innovate in order to keep us, the consumers, interested.

“Something that is really fresh can make our industry grow. The important thing we have to tackle is making attractive games and marketing them well toward the end of this year. I think the whole industry should be more cautious about how we act and how the general public perceives us.”

Basically, Mr Saturo is warning that the games industry shouldn’t become boring and repetitive. Producing video games is a creative industry after all and the Train2Game students have already demonstrated that they’re full of ideas, and are even working on their own games.

However, there does appear to be a prevalent theme within the industry where some developers do make very creative and interesting games, but then churn out numerous –perhaps better looking – sequels. This may be repetitive, but developers with a successful product are seemingly less likely to take risks with new ones. The Nintendo President also touches upon this during the interview with Venture Beat:

“I think the whole industry should be more cautious about how we act and how the general public perceives us. In the past, the formula was to make the computer graphics more gorgeous. It used to fit the taste of the majority of the gaming audience, but it doesn’t work so well in this day and age. It’s more difficult for us to come up with something new and different and show people how different we are. The whole industry has to recognize that.”

“Looking at the product line-ups this year, these titles might have been big hits three years ago. But now this year, they are not selling that much. In other words, people get tired of games more quickly than they did before.”

Naturally, with the upcoming release of the Nintendo 3DS, Mr Saturo believes that it’ll be the introduction of 3D games that will galvanise the industry.

“When you look at our 3D games concept, we recognize it will not be eternally appealing. However, it’s not a shallow concept that can be forgotten as a momentary fad.”

The Nintendo 3DS will be available in all “Major Markets” by April 2011.

So what do you think of the Nintendo President’s comments? As usual leave your views here or on the Train2Game forum.

iPhone 4G out today

With the much anticipated iPhone 4G having been released today, we’ve had the seemingly usual scene of hundreds of Apple fans queuing up in order to get their hands on a shiny new product as soon as possible.

Seeing as the iPhone 4G is at the forefront of technological minds right now,  it makes sense to point Train2Game students in the direction of a previous blog: The iPhone 4G could provide a Train2Game student with their big break.

You can read it, I’m not going anywhere…

On the Train2Game forum, students reacted very positively to the iPhone 4G blog and many Games Developers, Games Designers and Games Artist and Animators do see it as a way into the industry.

So then, which one of you is going to produce the first one then?