As game development becomes an ever broader church, it’s fitting that this year’s Develop, taking place July 14–16 in its traditional home, should encompass an extraordinary diversity of experience, its lineup designed to cater to all who make the pilgrimage to Brighton.
Take, for example, the ever-popular business track. This year, Google’s Ross Brockman will wade into the murky waters of monetisation, discussing how to make the most of in-app purchases and advertisements to keep the money rolling in. On the other hand, design and production consultant (and UKIE board member) Ella Romanos will deliver a talk with a different focus: how to get funding to make your game in the first place.
Google is represented elsewhere, too, as part of the event’s opening Evolve day, which is, as ever, centred on the technological frontier of game development. The company’s internal startup, Niantic Labs – responsible for a series of augmented reality games, including Ingress – will explore how to blend virtual experiences with real-world activities ahead of the release of its ambitious Endgame: Proving Ground. And what could be more pertinent to the future of games than their youngest players? The University Of West England’s Esther MacCallum-Stewart will discuss taking design cues from feedback provided by children.
After a successful launch at last year’s event, the Indie Boot Camp returns, with Dan Da Rocha from Mudvark and Toxic Games (Hue, Qube) outlining his years as an independent developer, while Total Monkery’s Andrea Chandler will explain why making a game is the easy part and selling it is the challenge. Machine Studios’ Simon Roth, meanwhile, is keen to dispel the myth of the ‘lucky indie’, explaining the hard work that goes into building a sustainable micro-studio.
If there’s a recurring theme among this year’s tracks, it’s how to stay profitable in an unpredictable marketplace – and, perhaps, that it’s not enough to simply make a great game, but equally crucial to ensure that word gets around. To which end, the marketing track will discuss crowdsourced promotion, while former game journalist Mike Rose, now of TinyBuild Games, will examine the influence of Twitch, YouTube and
Attracting an audience is one matter, but for an increasing number of publishers, player retention is even more vital. Mediatonic’s Ed Fear will be asking whether narrative can be a significant hook – a key concern, particularly as more games move away from the traditional retail model and towards service-led entertainment.
Away from the business and marketing spheres, developers from award-winning studios will be discussing their artistic achievements. State Of Play’s talk should be a popular draw, the London-based indie set to detail the making of the gorgeous, BAFTA-winning Lumino City. And as the bonds between games, films and graphic novels grow stronger, attendees will hear insights into the creative process from Ron Ashtiani of Atomhawk, which was responsible for concept art for the likes of Guardians Of The Galaxy, Thor: The Dark World, Ryse: Son Of Rome and Enslaved.
There’s plenty of experience behind the audio track, too, a new addition to this year’s event. Side has been supplying casting services to the game industry for some time now, working on a range of projects, including the likes of Dragon Age: Inquisition and Alien: Isolation; company co-founder Phil Evans will detail the lessons he and his team have learned from 15 years of directing, voice production and performance capture. Alongside Evans, Ciaran Walsh from Hornet Sound and SoundCuts’ BAFTA award-winning Adele Cutting will discuss the changes in the freelance audio game.
Develop’s coding track will include a talk from Perforce Software’s Tulin Green, who will discuss the merits (or otherwise) of trunk-based development. Meanwhile, the production side will be led by two postmortems. Industry veteran Jamie Firth asks ‘Whither the middleman?’, delivering an epitaph for external producers, while Hendrik Lesser, from Remote Control Productions, will take a look at the lessons learned during production of Rovio’s well-received RPG spinoff, Angry Birds Epic.
With a headline keynote from Vlambeer’s seemingly ubiquitous Rami Ismail, it’s an event clearly keen not to rest on its laurels as it enters a milestone year. The third day’s activities, focused on smaller studios and including opportunities to network alongside a product showcase, are testament to Develop’s commitment to the developers looking to shape gaming’s immediate future. It’s heartening to see the UK’s premier industry event working so hard to remain relevant in the face of a constantly shifting landscape, ensuring this tenth anniversary will be one to celebrate.