Yesterday I attended World of Love, a UK conference for independent game developers. The event, despite being in its infancy (this was the second), was fantastic.
There were some great speakers, with the likes of Honeyslug, Alice Taylor, Sophie Houlden, Tak Fung, Mode 7 Games, and Charlie Knight (to name a few).
Rather than cover each talk, I thought I’d just detail what I felt were some of the key points made – those that particularly resonated with me.
You need a bad cop
Something highlighted by Honeyslug which became a thread throughout the talks was the benefit of a good partnership in your game development. Often you’ll adapt the roles of good cop and bad cop, with the bad cop ensuring that the project stays on track. Interestingly, it seemed that contrary to what you might expect, this was usually the designer rather than the developer. With the developer trying to cram in more and more wacky ideas and the designer having to keep them in check.
I found this particularly relevant to me because I tend to work on all aspects of my games alone, and yet there is a clear benefit to partnering with a strong designer/artist etc.
Seek help in unlikely places
Something else that became a running theme was partnering/getting input from individuals who aren’t in the games industry. This can bring a different slant to your games and open your eyes to outside inspiration. An opportunity to express creativity in something like a game is often seen as intriguing to those who haven’t considered it before.
Know your market and where your game will be played
It’s important to recognise your target market and understand the realities of who will be exposed to your games. Apparently 24% of 10-14 year olds list playing games as their favourite activity. This is a huge, potentially untapped, market and something worth considering.
Where people are likely to play your games can also have a huge influence on it’s marketability. For instance, a Facebook game is likely to be played at work in lunch breaks, an iPhone game is likely to be played on a bus or when passing time. It’s important to understand this and build with it in mind.
Pick your battles and code clever
Not necessarily related but it was mentioned that we shouldn’t be trying to compete with larger scale games and that we should be clever about the type of games we write. An example given was using something like a car rather than a human since you can utilise physics based animation rather than having to animate by hand.
Also mentioned was mixing generative content with canned content. Rather than opting for producing individual levels (which is time consuming) or making levels entirely random, a mixed approach can ensure that levels are memorable whilst still being time efficient to code.
I found this particularly interesting. Ensuring you are capturing data about your players and that you analyse this to improve your game. This was specifically related to online games but I think it holds true for other platforms. Correctly analysing player feedback is a great way to extend the life of your game.
Prototype lots and re-use ideas
It’s not always possible, but prototyping various ideas until you find mechanics that are fun, and developing these into fully fledged games, can pay dividends. Taking this approach you are likely to can a lot of ideas but you shouldn’t consider these ideas dead – you can always borrow from them in future games.
I met lots of great people at World of Love, saw some great demos of games, and had some awesome chats. A quick shout-out to a few of them: Luke for keeping me company and allowing me to play some awesome multiplayer flying cats, Michael for some insights into music production, Paul (and Matthew) for some generally interesting conversation and some great insights into studio life, Paul for some good conversation in the pub and because his game looks awesome, Peter and Sophie for some cool conversation about audio games, Andrew for some funny chats and the chips, and Simon for being welcoming and for the chat. Also, anyone I forgot whos twitter details I don’t have.
All in all it was a brilliant event and I highly encourage you to think about attending the next one if you are able.