The Norwich Gaming festival has a tight budget on marketing for our first year, so it was vital for us to ‘get the word out’ in as many ways as possible. Utilising a twitter hashtag (#1UpNorwich) helped keep all the buzz about the festival in one place, but only using twitter is not enough. Fellow NUA student Elrik Jupp helped me set up and create this Facebook Page, which achieved 180 likes in the first 24 of it being online. It provided an informal platform with which to inform those interested in the event, and a place for us to direct people to that was easier to monitor than the wordpress website.
Our Facebook page worked well for raising awareness of the event, and by myself and Elrik targeting key groups on Facebook (such as ‘free events in Norwich’ and ‘Pokemon Players Norwich’ amongst others, we were able to target groups that would be interested in our event directly, rather than merely shouting to the masses (which almost never succeeds).
Below are some statistics showing the reach, activity and numbers with regards to the Facebook Page – combine this information with the attendee feedback forms – and you begin to see that with hard work, perseverance and a lot of networking, you can spread word around Norwich on a small monetary budget (the time-budget would be a whole other matter!)
It was only after the festival that I became aware that you must pre-register a hashtag with monitoring websites BEFORE you plan to use it, in order to be able to collect statistics on it.
The following is taken from this article written by Holly McDede.
Each year, the Forum’s Fusion Gallery becomes a retro arcade of old consoles and old classics, like the ancient legend known as Rayman Legend and some good, old fashioned Pacman. But games have changed since the yellow dude chased down those floaty ghosts. To capture the modern gaming console, you might as well put a smart phone behind a glass case and start whistling to the CandyCrush soundtrack.
Don’t necessarily mute the gunshots or cross out the scantily dressed women in games like Grand Theft Auto – those are still there – but do acknowledge the rising popularity of the indie gamer’s quest to bring morals to video games. Nowadays, these gamers can work from their bedrooms. That’s why, despite the absence of large game companies in Norfolk, game development still flourishes through associations like the Norfolk Indie Game Development group. And, with the recent announcement of tax breaks for video game makers throughout the U.K, developers who had fled to less taxed pastures may be back.
The future proof nature of the industry was part of the reason Robin Silcock went from being an artist to a game artist, and why she decided to help expand the Fusion’s annual retro arcade into Norfolk’s first full on gaming festival earlier this month.
At the festival, hundreds went to the Forum to find themselves inside of a video game. The sound of Mario traveling through the Mushroom Kingdom in the “Retro Arcade” was muffled underneath the vrooms of race car driving. Norwich City was heard playing Ipswich – and winning, in the virtual world of FIFA14. Charli Vince, face-painter at the festival turned kids into Pacmans and Wonder Women. Some gamers cursed their lack of finger to remote control co-ordination while other intellectual gamers listened downstairs while the professionals gave tips on making it.
Meanwhile ,Robin Silcock, who helped organize the Norwich Gaming Festival along with Alastair Aitchison, checked in to make sure the volunteers were hydrated and all systems go. Robin gave a tour of the Art Gallery. The gallery featured landscape art, character sketches, and some diagrams of game weapons.
“So what we’ve tried to create with the 3-D artwork is not only the great finished image, but also how it was created, so people could better understand where game art comes from,” Robin said. It’s not surprising Robin helped curate an art gallery. She’s studying Games Art and Design at the Norwich University College of the Arts. Once, she was an eight year old struggling to beat her teenage brother at video games. Now, she stays up late working on essays analysing the effects of games on society and making 3-D generated lampshades.
She had no background in game development when she applied for her degree, and her portfolio included fuse glass and woodwork. Now it includes helping to organize the Norwich Gaming Festival at the Forum. She also co-organises the Norfolk Gaming Association. Many members like gamer Linden Holt-Whittaker, are surprised when they discover a whole community of gamers in Norfolk.
”Things like this, I really hope it will just let people know you don’t have to be in London or Brighton or these big game developer places to make games. You can do it anywhere. You can do it in your room. Just download the software and just do it,” Linden said.
Linden is inspired by indie games like Papers, Please, where the player’s job as immigration inspector is to control the flow of people entering the Arstotzkan side of Grestin from Kolechia. Games like that might not fly with major companies, but thanks to apps and digital distribution, it doesn’t matter. Linden wants to make people think, and he can do that on his own. He’s already made a game about witchcraft. Scratch that: a dramatic role play experience about witchcraft.
“It’s all about the social pressures of trying to seem normal, and extreme pressure that is sort of a weird contradiction. To seem normal, you need to be normal. But when you’re that conscious of being normal, you’re not normal,” Linden said. “It’s hard to develop. It’s a delicate system I need to create.”
For Linden, games are important. Ellie Harrison is another such aspiring game designer. But she had to convince her parents gaming mattered. “They thought games were stupid. I really wanted to prove them wrong more than anything. They’re really excited for me. They’re actually really into it now and think it’s all very exciting. New games, new energies on what’s possible,” Ellie said. They see the potential games can have. Not just games, but the technology that can be applied to games and industries and fields. They find that really exciting.”
In a way, that’s what Robin set out to do when she co-organised the festival: remind people that games aren’t stupid. Thanks to mobile games, they’re also everywhere – even in places without any major gaming companies like Norfolk. Her Game Developers Group has over two hundred members, and it’s growing.
“I think games are important because they have a way to engage a player, or engage a person, emotionally and mentally. Passive media like books or films where you’re not in control of what’s happening just can’t give you the same experience. I think the engagement you get from the game…there’s so many possibilities that haven’t even begun to be explored. It’s such an exciting industry to be about to go into.”
I decided to play one. I gave an indie game called Tenya Wanya Teensa a shot for myself and played against Lawrence Russell. By the end of it, I growled at the screen, and then walked away, thinking that if my mom had told me to play more Sims as a kid, I would have been fully equipped to try again. My opponent over there, on the other hand, was a game designer, programmer, and artist who became so frustrated at dying in games he made cheats and eventually his own games. At the festival, he shows off his game, Trash TV.
“You have to solve puzzles to escape. It’s a big quest to find this TV remote. It’s kind of like a Hollywood story. Without it, you don’t have control over your own life,” Lawrence said.
The remote control is a metaphor for having control of your own life. The metaphor is a metaphor for what games are becoming: more meaningful, more present. Try playing a Minecraft version of Norfolk – a game designed for the festival – and you’ll see what I mean. If Robin’s quest was to make people look at games a different way, nothing does it quite like trying to find a remote control in a virtual world made by the gamer standing next to you whose just defeated you in a game where you have to brush your teeth at exactly the right time.
Nothing to do with my university degree, but this is just breathtaking:
The earth from space on an HD Camera.
<br /><a href=”http://www.ustream.tv/” style=”padding: 2px 0px 4px; width: 400px; background: #ffffff; display: block; color: #000000; font-weight: normal; font-size: 10px; text-decoration: underline; text-align: center;” target=”_blank”>Live streaming video by Ustream</a>
Link to an interactive fancy-version: https://magic.piktochart.com/output/1895042-gaming-festival-report-robin-sil
The UKIE Student Game Jam, my third official game jam. Monday April 14th, 9:00am – Tuesday 15th April, 12:00am (midnight).
Update: Results are In!
After talking with Phil Elliott our mentor for the jam, we learned that our game was a close second to the winning team, and that the judges had to take a vote on which team should win. We are absolutely ecstatic to have come so close to the winning prize, considering the up-and-down-and-down journey we went on to create our game; ReOrb. Thank you so much to UKIE (especially Richie Enticknap), the judging panel, The Forum for housing us, my team: Mike Iorizzo, Daniel Scales, Jess Magnus and Bradley Morgan-Johnson for their amazing hard work, and Phil Elliott for supporting the team so well over the two days.
A link to our .Rar File can be found here.
Our team of 5 for the jam consisted of Jess Magnus, Bradley Morgan-Johnson, Michael Iorizzo and Daniel Scales. Daniel and Michael responded to a request from Richie at UKIE for programmers for the Norwich team.
The first setback was that one of our programmers would be working with the team remotely, as he was unable to get the trip down from Derby to Norwich funded. We were to work over Skype, and the programmers would use Source Code to ‘merge’ their work on the game over the internet.
Mike’s second issue was that he had to be in a car for 4 hours of the first day between 11am and 3pm – a crucial time for decision making on how we would interpret the theme. But we worked around it, and managed to keep in touch over the phone when we needed to get a hold of Mike. However – the source code was not working properly so Daniel and Mike decided to start using Google Drive to merge their Unity Scene’s instead.
Unity Free-License (and possibly not even Pro) does not have an amazing capacity for remote working, or collaborative working as sometimes when Mike and Dan would attempt to merge their work, it would corrupt the scene, or the internet would drop out unexpectedly and Google Drive would encounter an error – leaving whoever was downloading at the time with a half-complete build.
Due to the university being closed, we were unable to get any access to university resources such as the Media Lab – this left us with trying to combine the Jam with the Gaming Festival and use The Forum’s Atrium as our ‘jamming-venue’. Also due to the university being closed, we were only able to use our personal laptops, and our free licenses of Unity to develop the game.
Our next set-back was the fact that we were attempting to jam in a public venue – it looks great on paper, let the public see how games are made, and where they come from etc. – but in reality it meant that our hard work was interrupted by people thinking we were just ‘playing’ games, or asking if they could ‘have a go’. This all put aside however, the main issue we had from using the public venue was the lack of security for our valuables if we wanted to get food, the lack of access overnight, but mainly – the intermittent and unreliable internet connection. Rendering the transfer of files between team members to the exchanges of USB sticks (unfortunately this also meant that trying to keep Mike in the loop was hard due to the wifi connection, and the noisy environment from which we were attempting to Skype him from!)
Tuesday morning Jess was really ill, which meant she was unable to meet up with Phil and the team until Lunchtime that day, I was ill the evening of Tuesday meaning that I was unable to help the team over Skype when it came to submission. Dan was unable to work on the game from home, so he was unavailable in the evenings after 10pm.
The theme of the jam came through as “Regeneration” – a theme UKIE explained as inspired by the ‘new golden age’ of indie development in the UK and the recent tax breaks for game developers meaning a decided shift for the games economy in this country.
We originally thought about how we could use an energy source in the game to ‘regenerate’ elements of the game’s level. For example the player could ‘spend’ regenerative energy on a broken bridge – thus giving themselves access to the next part of the level. Mike and Jess managed to get a great break-and-fix animation going for such a type of bridge, though due to the technical issue above, they were unable to implement it into the final game. A real shame as it was really well done, and would have added a real edge to the game. We settled on the player character being an orb of light, and then working from there. Here are some initial notes for the game:
- There will be set paths to take within each level
- The game should be visually rewarding
- The speed of the character should be controlled by the amount of light it has
- Momentum should be used in the level design to give the player a sense of ‘flow’
- The player should have a sense of getting from A to B, through collecting required light energy.
- The level would be made up of an undulating surface.
- The orb would roll like a ball, and the player would have to use speed and momentum in order to complete jumps.
- Inspirations to be taken from the game: Lost Planet
- Leader-boards used as a form of score-recognition.
- The game would not be able to have shadows if we ported it to the Vita.
Questions to Answer
- What is expending the player’s energy? Movement? Deconstructing the Environment / Reconstructing the Environment? Moving faster depletes energy faster? Or is the depletion of energy continuous, with power-ups of energy simply ‘topping up’ the supply for the player?
- How is the success of the level measured? How fast a player completes? The number of power-ups collected? Is the game strategic or frantic?
- How do we balance the fun of play with the challenge of puzzles?
- How can we implement check-points into the game? Are they beacons of light – how do they factor into the game-play / narrative?
- How do we maximise playability – as that was one of the judging criteria?
- Does the game-play work on judgement or luck?
- Think about the tactile skill required in ‘Trials Evolution’ – how can we make the game have a ‘pick-up and play’ feel to it?
- We need to decide exactly what we are generating.
- How do we complicate levels? Less power ups/ fuel supply in each level? Timed elements to the level?
Clarification of Concept
- Levels in the game will be organic and unique with multiple pathways for the player to take.
- The player character is an energy sphere which requires power-ups of energy in order to progress in the game.
- Exploratitive Level style.
- The glow of the orb is in relation to the level of fuel that orb currently has – this is the meta game, and is our representation of ‘Regeneration’.
- There should not be continuous movement – the player should be able to have full control of the ‘orb’ including keeping it still.
- The first 20% of the level need to be accessible to all skill levels of players so that they are ‘drawn in’ to the game rather than put-off.
- The game will serve as a ‘Proof of Concept’ for what the game could become, and we will develop it as far as we can in the time available.
- Colour-coded power-ups showing different levels of energy, and would be placed in accordingly hard-to-reach places.
- Risk and reward in the level needs to be balanced so that the player has to make a choice, to complete the level. For example; a player has to take a more risky path (more hazardous) in order to get a quicker time, or take the easier route, but there are less power-ups so runs the risk of running out of energy before the next checkpoint.
When creating the game we used our own laptops, using Photoshop, Maya 2014 and Unity (Free Licence). We had originally hoped to create a version of the game for the jam on the PS Vita, but we were unable to get a good-looking enough version working on the Vita due to Unity/porting issues.
Final Build and Submission
An interesting dynamic to our game’s submission was that we were trying to co-ordinate builds of the game across Skype as we were unable to stay in The Forum until the submission time. Dan was again unavailable, so it was down to Mike to implement the features he had been working on (mainly the camera controls) and put them into the final game. Phil our mentor really came into his own at this point helping Mike over Skype to find bug fixes online, and working with the team well into the early hours to get a working build submitted. Thank you Phil.
I was wary of us Jamming in Public, but thought that our team should try and help ‘lift the veil’ of game development and showcase what a catalyst for creativity game jams can be. Why should we be locked away in our ivory media lab, when we could be jamming amongst the public? This was a mistake, as the loud noise and consistent interruptions made a less than cohesive environment for rapid-game-creation!
I never quite understood how fundamental source control was until we couldn’t use it for our jam – we had one remote programmer, and one local programmer – which were having to resort to Skype and Google Drive for combining their work. This might not have been so bad if our Wifi was stable. The Wifi we were using was the Venue’s, meaning that it was prone to dropping out, slowing down and just generally misbehaving.
Put feelings into words that until now I wasn’t quite able to explain clearly.
In a society where it’s considered rude to answer “yes” to the question “Does anyone want the last scone?” (especially if they’re at the next table, I’ve learned), it’s amazing how many people will happily go up to a young jobseeker, pick up their last shred of self-esteem and dunk it in their tea until it disintegrates into soggy clumps. My year spent blogging joblessness landed me a job, and doctorate-level knowledge of what not to say to a jobless youngster.
“Get a job”
Today’s youth has spent years chasing qualifications no one ever asks us about. The notion that algebra would ever be useful seemed fishy, but the grownups insisted: education, no matter how apparently arbitrary, leads to jobs.
But the minute we graduated, something switched in employers’ heads. The same generation who had us sit Sats and the 11-plus and the 12-plus and Sats again and mock GCSEs…
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Below is a gallery of websites which advertised and listed the Gaming Festival, demonstrating the reach that the event had – particularly with organisations such as Creative England and Gameconfs (technology specific sites), alongside the makers of “Us and The Games Industry” – which kindly let us show the film publicly for THE FIRST TIME IN THE UK – which we were honoured to do.
A brief collection of the games I have been surprised and delighted by on Kickstarter this week, and my some interesting new releases and discoveries; BEAR SIMULATOR on Kickstarter What a gem in the making – from the same school of thought as the infamous Goat Simulator, this ambitious RPG challenges the default role of only playing as a human character in most Action RPG’s – a valid point. However, I think most backers of this project mainly just want to feel like a freaking awesome bear thrashing their way through a forested world with ultimate bear-claw power! For hard-core Southpark fans I am unsure as to whether their showing a pig in the gameplay is some subtle reference to the “Man-Bear-Pig” (as you are a (wo)man playing as a bear attacking a pig) or if that is just my own popular-culture twitches seeing something that is not there…
I have never seen cubes look so good. I have never got into Minecraft, so it was surprising to me that I found the idea of Planets3 so appealing. The visuals of this game are basic and yet refined, the colours and lighting fully considered. In their pitch video they have managed to capture the atmosphere of their cubic world and I admit – I would play this game!
Please be Nice has an honesty to it – the game is what it is – a community led game development project. I think that this game could be seen as indicative of independent developers giving their audience more access to their development process. Aran Koning uses Twitch in order to stream his computer screen as he is developing the code for the game – much like how some Game Jammers have done in the past. This open frank-ness to the whole game is refreshing and encouraging – now it is easier than ever before to fully understand the day-to-day of being a Game Developer, and that is an excellent thing.