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DEVCOM under review

devcom, one of the most renowned game developer’s event, was an enriching and inspiring experience I had the chance to attend last August, so am happy to share with you a selection of panels and some of my thoughts in this article.

devcom, one of the most renowned game developer’s event, was an enriching and inspiring experience I had the chance to attend last August, so am happy to share with you a selection of panels and some of my thoughts in this article.

The convention offered an international board of AAA and indie game veteran panelists whose talks were held on 17-18/08 in Cologne, in a bordering hall and right before the start of gamescom, world’s biggest video games exhibition.

TOM CLANCY’S THE DIVISION 2 POST-MORTEM

Ubisoft opened up the big stage with a Post-mortem of Tom Clancy’s The Division 2, a tactical post-apocalyptic shooting game set in an open world and launched last 15/05.

For those who are not familiar with gaming terminology, a Post-mortem is a kind of review that video game companies usually produce right after the shipment of a game in order to assess what went wrong and what went right during the development cycle. The main benefit of this procedure is that they can easily learn from their mistakes and improve many aspects of the team.

RETRO GAMING

After that, we travelled back in time with Noah Falstein and David Fox, game designer and programmer of the 1989 game Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: The Graphic Adventure to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the classic. As a funny story, Noah and David remembered how they had to work hand in hand with movie team members, including the own Steven Spielberg, because the film had not been released back then. Actually, they tried to replicate it as much as they could and any scene discrepancy is due to not getting to watch the final version of the film on time.

At the end of this talk, attendees could join different tracks related to all the game making phases, from conceptualization to publishing, and mainly divided into Game DesignNarrative DesignTech & ProgrammingSound & MusicArt & VisualsLeadershipProduction & Team Management and Business & Marketing.

NARRATIVES IN MOBILE DEVICES

I decided each track based on my personal project for CHARMING. My working group research is targeting high school to undergraduate students, which means considering mobile phones as a learning device should be on our research focus. Thus, I joined Valentina Tamer’s talk who is Studio Narrative Designer at King, the popular mobile game developer. To begin with, what does a Narrative Designer (ND) in a games company do?

As you can see in the picture, Tamer went through the main tasks of a ND, a person who is involved in writing, game design and creative direction. The speaker also mentioned that a good game narrative is important mainly because provides emotional contents, meaningful and motivational elements, flow/immersion, understanding/learning, attachment/caring and pleasing coherency among other things. Finally, she listed few unique mobile requirements we should take into account when developing in this platform. All in all, we could refer to her own words: “Less game writing, more narrative design!”.

STORYTELLING: THE ONION THEORY

During her talk What comes first: The Story or the Game Design? Jehanne Rousseau, CEO at game studio Spiders, described her fascinating onion theory of storytelling.

The storyline of a video game is deployed in very different ways and forms. Especially in narrative games —like What Remains of Edith FinchThe Wicher IIIDetroit: Become Human or Her Story—, the storytelling is provided to players using some resources. Rousseau sees the storytelling as an onion and these resources as the layers of it. 

The story, character design, environment/level design, sound & music, world building and game mechanics are the different layers of the storytelling onion.

BUILDING BORDERLANDS NARRATIVE

Narrative aspects took the focal points of this year’s key talks. With an increasingly competitive market, I had the impression big companies are looking into new directions and investing more in narrative roles in order to stand out. The role of Narrative Game Designer is quite established in game studios by now, but with BORDERLANDS 3 a whole new concept was introduced to me: it was the first time I heard about building a dedicated Narrative Team.

One of the main challenges GearBox was faced with during Borderlands 3 development was the amount of content they had to remember from previous titles of the saga. In order to build the story of this third part, characters were key elements for the narrative team. Starting with familiar faces of the universe is a nice trick to catch players’ attention. Another narrative technique worth to mention is title cards:

This unique feature to introduce new characters are very easily recognized by avid players of previous games and thus make them feel comfortable enough to keep on playing.

CLOUD GAMING

This is probably one of the most expected novelties in the industry of the last few years. Cloud gaming has been defined as “the Netflix of gaming”, a new way of playing games that will allow taking your favorites games with you on the go. Get to resume playing that quest you left uncompleted last night on your console, but do it the following day and on your mobile device. Forget technical requirements to play a game, in cloud gaming is all about streaming and internet speed. During the presentation of Shadow, one of the providers, they stressed out how this change will have an impact not only in players, but also in publishers and platforms.

With this article, I try to give my two cents about unknown practices and skills needed in or involved with game development. Just remember that making a video game is a complex process and it requires a multidisciplinary team of programmers, artists, producers, game designers, narrative experts and many other backgrounds.

After these intense two days of conferences, talks and interesting networking events, we stepped into the extraordinary gamescom… but that is a story my colleague Sanne will write about in an upcoming article, so stay tuned and feel free to like, share and/or comment in our social media channels!


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