It’s a lovely world

I was at the World of Love indie games conference last Friday (25th June) and I have a head full of ideas and thoughts and comments ready to spill out when they are slightly more fully formed than now. However, a brief run-down and some links for the interested:

Never been to the Channel 4 building for a start, I’ve only been to London a handful of times so it was interesting to see another area of the city I’d never visited. The ’4′ logo statue outside was covered in umbrellas, which was slightly incongruous given the 24° heat outside. We were in the Channel 4 cinema, the metal-walled ante-chamber of which is situated directly underneath the walkway up to the front door which we could see through the toughened glass ceiling. I felt like I was stuck in a 2002 Half-Life MOD. Quite eerie.

  • After a cup of tea and a short intro, the first speaker was Chris Delay of Introversion who gave us a special preview of their new game Subversion. All I’d seen and heard of the game so far had been some technical discussion about generating cities so I had no idea what to expect. What we got was a very detailed and very funny demonstration of a bank heist (one of many things you can do in the world) that got a huge round of applause at the end. No coincidence that when I heard all their previous games were now £5 on Steam I went and bought the next day!
  • Next was the softly-spoken Terry Cavanagh of VVVVVV fame who gave an informative talk on jams including TIGSource and The Games Collective. Not something I’d ever considered, being someone who likes to take the time to mull over things, but a nice insight into the scene.
  • Sean Murray of Hello Games, developer of Joe Danger (just released on PSN), gave us an interesting talk about his and his team’s inspirations, collaborative development and gave a fantastic construction/architecture analogy regarding the difference between AAA development and indie games. AAA games are the commercial skyscrapers – they need millions to build and must have detailed plans from the off to get backing. Indie games are individual boutique houses – a singular vision that stands out from everything elseand typically run by one person. Problem is, publishers only recognise a house as a house when the roof has gone on, which is far too late for the indie who needs the capital for the foundations. Also interesting in that he said PSN was the only way to release a game on console without a publisher.
  • After a short break, Steven Lavelle admitted his presentation was really boring so did a ‘tell us about yourself’ session instead which, although slightly awkward to start with, did give a good insight into the sorts of people who had travelled to the conference.
  • Following him, Tom Betts admitted he was a graphics whore. But then considering he is doing a PhD specialising in generative art and interactive games, you can forgive him! His was an extremely interesting talk which touched on some thoughts of mine about indie game graphics and how they are stuck in a retro ghetto.
  • Then just before lunch, Eskil Steenberg gave us a demo of the LOVE game tools he had created, specifically the dynamic, real-time UV unwrapping and procedural texturing tools. Eye-opening stuff, but I wager well out of the league of most indie devs.

Buffet Lunch! Mmm, spicy chicken spring rolls, micro hot-dogs, ham salad baguettes, fish-and-chips on a stick.

  • Simon Oliver of Hand Circus (he made Rolando for iPhone) was next and gave an infectiously enthusiastic run down of the games he had developed and his inspiration behind them.
  • Sophie Houlden then gave a brief talk, greatly hampered by reading her notes off a PSP screen, about her thoughts on indie development.
  • Cliff ‘Cliffy’ Harris of Gratuitous Space Battles fame gave a superb talk (uncluding the hilariously messed-up slides) about the money side of being an Indie Developer. Namely, how you won’t make any. At least not if don’t take the business side as seriously as the development side. Really useful stuff – made tons of notes.
  • The afternoon break gave way to Nicholas Lovell, founder of Gamesbrief and experienced businessman gave us some of his tips on Marketing, Finance and permission or lack of. Good stuff although a few too many plugs for his book for my liking, but then again when you’ve got a captive audience…  :)
  • Gobion Rowlands of Red Redemption then gave us a good background on his company and the new climate modelling game they were creating.
  • Alex Chapman from Sheridans solicitors came on and gave a brief run-down of some points of law that indie developers need to be aware of. He didn’t go into too much detail – for that I guess you need to pay him :) – but he brought up some things I wasn’t aware of.
  • Next up was Amy Casson from Littleloud (yeah, I’d never heard of them either). She gave us a talk about how she used Actionscript in her development. To be honest, not much of interest for the non-Flash developers and also none of her flash games would work which was a shame. But it did get me checking out the Channel 4 website to look at their Bow Street Runner, which I hugely enjoyed!
  • And to round things off, well-known PC games journalist Kieron Gillen of RockPaperShotgun (and writer of Marvel and Image comics to boot) gave an update of his Freeplay Melbourne 2005 conference speech How to Use and Abuse The Gaming Press… He talked about how indie developers can and should advertise themselves, how to get your name heard, how to get your games known, and how to be clever about it.

After that it was down to the pub around the corner where the upstairs had been booked for us. Now I’m not the most social animal around strangers, but everyone I did get to talk to was overwhelmingly friendly and enthusiastic and there was quite a mix of people: experienced indies, newly indies, those still at big publishers, press, scouts, oh and Nicholas was hawking his book :)

Overall it was a fantastic conference with a good variety of discussions, some more useful than others but I’m sure everyone’s definition of ‘useful’ will be different to mine such was the variety of people there. The tea breaks were times of active discussion, although some people were hard to get a word with, being quite popular. I’m almost certain there will be another one next year, given this one sold out so rapidly. All the talks were videoed and will be up online eventually so we’ll get to see what the feedback was from those who missed it, but it was well worthwhile from my point of view and I can’t wait to do it again!

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