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Develop Day 1 – My Evolve Notes

July 19, 2011

In session on story-telling on new platforms, discussion was about how social games have not end, can they tell stories. Panel talked about how this is hard because of both the ongoing nature of the game as opposed to stories that tend towards a beginning-middle-end. It is also hard because the gaming sessions of such games are anything from 5 minutes to hours, so no prediction on audience time. However they noted that all games themselves have an arc, and rise and fall in popularity, which is in itself a story arc – not unlike a soap opera. (I have heard that this is a discussion amongst game studies academics where those exponents saying story does not matter that much use the ‘Tetris Defence’ – a position pointing out Tetris is a great game with zero story. The counter is that Tetris does have a story but it is constructed in the head of the player…) It was suggested that if you make games that reply on reflex speed, being a core gamer skill, that it can’t go very mainstream. An idea I found interesting is that games are about fantasies of success (being the hero, best football player, rockstar etc) – what about games that explore failure? Literature does all the time, so why not games… Also liked the point that characters need to be archetypal and not stereotyped. I feel this is as the former allows the audience to map themselves onto the character and relate to it, the latter is bad because it is boring and too easy…

45 Games in 45 Minutes was a great talk. The games came faster than I could type but often game down to isolating a single idea or gameplay mechanic such as how Backbreaker does for American Football. Other ones that were highlighted that caught my eye were 1 Bit Ninja, Pocket Academy (from Game Dev Story people, which is a PC port but great fun and works (ish) on iPhone), Tiny Tower (good rate of players spend money on real cash within the game compared to other free-to-play), Red Rover (split-screen iPad wargame, WW1 set game, yay for broader historical settings…), Infinity Blade (sells at high price-point but also in-app purchases now make 43% of income) One Single Life (1 life only! However got a player backlash over this as a paid game so went free), Piclings (play levels on photos you’ve taken), Space Cadet Pedometer RPG (links your real-world steps to levelling up in game), Wiki Golf (turns Wikipedia into a game & donates 10% income to Wikipedia), Angry Hipsters (pulls in live music stream as game background), Stem Stumpers (game designed for partially sighted people too has mode that allows fully sighted players to play ‘blind’ so explosring the issues).   Prose with Bros (competitive poetry)

This talk also noted the Filth Fair & Ultimate Alphabet as good games to look at (which is cool)!

In the session on pricing for small developers – NIN front man, Trent Reznor‘s advice was quoted to make sure you offer fans various ways to interact with you on a price scale, including more expansive options, if that is what they want. Don’t just give them the one £10 option and that’s it.  This echoes the ideas in the earlier talk (above) where in a Pocket Frogs (frog breeding game it was noted that while only 8% of players were willing to buy $30 of consumables for ingame play, that 8% made up around 40% of the total income.  Trent’s advice that the only true marketing that matters to an artist is word of mouth.  Note that only 2% of players in free-to-pay games pay for anything, however the other 98% can and do add value to the game experience (depending on the numbers).  With Zynga 1% of players account for up to 50% of the companies income.  Stats from Tiny Tower reveal that 3.8% – much better than the 2% average.  Conclusion is while don’t need to make fremium game, but don’t only offer one price point to engage them.  (Slides will be on gamesfromwithin.com soon)

Finally attended the ‘What’s Next?’ session which was a good wide ranging discussion about everything from the demographics of game players, developers and games themselves.  Two main points for me were Alice Taylor noting that games for girls often ended up with a stereotype pink thing and needed to find more depth and the choice quote: “When the industry can support a Jane Austen MMO then BOOM we have reached a level of cultural acceptance” (link).

PS. Tomorrow I’m on a panel session at 11am in Room 7, hope to see you there.

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