It was an early start at five o’clock in the morning for us here at GGUK, as we were heading to Edinburgh Interactive 2011, where we would attend the two day press event being held at the Radisson Blu hotel from the 11th to the 12th of August. This is the ninth year of the event which is held as part of the fringe festival and incorporates all things to do with the games industry.
This year’s event looked to be a bumper line-up featuring a mix of people and talent from across the industry, such as Ian Livingstone, Nicholas Lovell and Mike Rogers. Also there was a full schedule of conferences for the public which take place over the two days as well. So the stage was set for a bumper event which was all set to kick off at half past nine on the morning on Thursday.
With great excitement we arrived in a very, very wet Edinburgh and made our way to the venue. Although we were a little late because of the horrific weather, we were greeted with hot tea and coffee and even a bacon roll or two. While we were having a brew though, we missed the start of the press conferences. But we could make the start of the public ones, so we headed to that and took our seats, ready for the show to start.
The first session of this year’s event that we made it to was “games industry overview and how to get into the game industry”. This conference was hosted by Ian Livingstone, a legend of the British games industry, and he was joined by Ken Fee, a lecturer from The University of Abertay, and Clive Robert, a game developer and Train2Game evangelist.
Ian Livingstone was first to speak and gave a brief history on how he got started in the games industry, from Dungeons & Dragons to Eidos to Tomb Raider. Along the way he gave out some top tips about how to make it in the games industry. He was followed by Clive Robert who looked at how the mobile market is a great way to get into the games industry and that a great game isn’t all about looks, but if it has original, great gameplay that should sell the game. Then Ken Fee was there to talk about having a degree which would help you in the industry and what courses were the best to look at if you were thinking of getting started. The general feeling of this session was a DIY approach to game design and that you don’t need to work for a big developer to make great game.
After that session we headed to the next one that was being held in the industry room and it was Graham Martin, the founder of Learning Without Frontiers. He was talking about what the next big step in education would be, how the education system has not really changed at its core for hundreds of years and that with new tech like the iPad and smart phone it will have to change its horizons and the way it educates the children of tomorrow.
The next two sessions were linked under the topic Gamification, which is a way of taking any subject and making a game out of it. The first session showed how you can take any topic and by adding simple rules you can build a game around it. This session was held by Kam Star & James Allsopp from Playgen and with a deck of helpful cards they choose a topic, which was rioting (very topical itself), and showed how you can make it compelling and turned it into a game. This session set the stage for the next one which was about how Gamification is used to take serious topics from the likes of the Ministry of Defence and NHS and combine them with play.
After being shown how Gamification works in action, the following session was called “Gamification – Tricks of the Trade” and was hosted by Rajat Paharia, Philip Mohr, James Sampson and Chris Wright. It was focused on a new crop of companies which have emerged and provide developers with everything from leader boards to microtransaction info to help them target the right audience for the product that they are developing. This was a very interesting session that gave a look at this rarely seen side of the industry.
After a quick brew it was time to take our seats again for what looked to be one of the most interesting sessions of the day, if not the entire event. It was about facial representation and was hosted by Mike Rogers, director of research at Image Metrics, who has worked on games such as Army of Two: 40th day, Gears of War 2 and Halo Reach, as well as countless others. This session began with a video showing how the pros do it with hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of kit, but then began to show how with the likes of Move and Kinect the tech has made its way into homes across the country and is an untapped source.
They then demoed a new program which takes your face in real time and lets you talk through an avatar such as a cartoon character, a panda or a 3D render of your own head. This was very impressive to see and opens a world of options to games. Think about if you were playing L.A. Noire or Mass Effect and your character was you and you spoke to the game instead of having to use a dialogue wheel. This was a very impressive session giving a sneak peek at what the future of gaming may look like.
The final session of day one was the now legendary Great Debate which would see another two teams duke it out to see who would come out on top. This year’s topic was “This house believes that the UK games industry is only one life away from game over” and was chaired by Ian Livingstone, while Sean Dromgoole and Fred Hasson were ‘for’ and Rob Lowe and Graham Martin were ‘against’. The stage was set for an epic battle. The next 10 minutes was a battle of words with blows to both sides, the overview of the ‘for’ team was that the UK is on the way out because it is cheaper to make games in other countries, whilst the overall ‘against’ view was that there is a raft of talent in the UK, especially with the mobile revolution bringing in a whole new home brew of developer.
The final piece of business on day one was to award The Edinburgh Interactive Edge award, which is given to the game that did the most this past year to blaze a trail for new interactive experiences for players, whether led by advanced technology, a creative design or both. This year’s winner was the team at Rockstar North for their work on L.A. Noire.
With that day one comes to a close and what a day it was with some great talks. We can’t wait for the next day which is shaping up to be another bumper packed schedule.
The sun broke through the hotel window to our shock, it was an early start again on day two as it all kicked off at 9.30 back at the Radisson Blu hotel. So we collected our things and made our way to the event, excited to see what today’s schedule held. To get things started David Yarnton gave a brief introduction and just outlined the plan for the day. Although the schedule was shorter than the first day, there were some interesting sessions ahead in what looked to be another packed day.
The first session of day two was “How we got Benedict Cumberbatch on a spaceship and how you could too” – try saying that three times fast. This session was with Steve Ackerman who is MD of Somethin’ Else, the company behind the iPhone games Papa Sangre and the Night Jar. These are two games with a twist, the twist being that you have to play the game with your ears. This was an interesting session as it looked at how games don’t have to follow the normal road to be a hit and that sometimes thinking out of the box is the best way to design a game.
The following session was with Mark Gerhard, CEO of Jagex Games Studio who developed Runescape and Transformers Universe. This was a look at how MMOs are changing and that the market is always growing.
After another brew, the session that followed was very business focused because it was about how developers can claim back R&D credits for their work when they are developing a title. This session was hosted by Brian Williamson, director of JumpStart UK, and Euan Mackenzie, CEO of FatBobGames Ltd.
The Final session of this years Edinburgh Interactive was “Interactive TV – The games industry of the future” and was chaired by Fred Hasson who was joined by Dan Cryan, Chris Derring and Rob Woodward. They were going to talk about where the future of TV was heading and that it is changing. The likes of the red button being old tech which will start to be phased out in the coming years and more and more channels will start using iPlayer style systems which let you view content anywhere, anytime you like and you’re not forced to watch shows on specific channels at specific times. This was an interesting session about how the industry sees the way we watch TV and the direction it is going.
So there was Edinburgh Interactive 2011, an extremely enjoyable event for both fans and developers. We’d just like to thank all the developers and publishers for their time, and the guys behind the EI for putting on an outstanding show this year. We very much look forward to attending again next year!
On the fringe of madness
FuryAc3 & WeeFuryAc3
More photos from the event can be found on the FuryAc3 Flickr and on the official Edinburgh Interactive website, along with videos and PDFs of the speaker presentations.