At the final day of Develop some of the smaller names in the industry took to the stage. The previous night entailed the first ever Develop Awards, a new annual event that will try and recognise achievements in the industry. This first year gave awards to Vlambeer (Luftrausers, Ridiculous Fishing) for Best Small Company, and Mark Cerny for Lifetime Legend Award.
Capy Games on Being an Indie in 2014
Nathan Valla from Capy Games (Super Time Force, Below) kicked off the day with a brilliant keynote that gave advice to indie start-ups, and also discussed how it feels to run a gaming company in 2014. Nathan started off by demonstrating what being an indie means in 2014, by showing bar charts and graphs on the current state of the indie scene. He noted how crazy it was that the vast majority of indie studios have actually been around for years, a fact that a lot of us gloss over when thinking about indie gaming.
Nathan then went on to explore hypocrisy within the industry, with key figures like Jonathan Blow and Peter Molyneux saying that indie development is dying, whilst industry giants like Sony see indie development as thriving and a key driver of innovation in the industry. It's a weird divide, perhaps best encapsulated by the fact that, as an industry, we just aren’t sure what the word indie even means anymore.
Nathan then went on to crush a few budding indie dreams by stating: “Don’t look to make millions, and instead, look to sustain yourself”. Nathan claimed that the whole industry is currently suffering from a “Notch Syndrome”, one that makes people think that you can make one game and instantly become rich and famous. He quashed these ideas by stating time and time again that, when running a small studio, you only typically make enough money to sustain yourself through to the next game/project, not to make a quick buck and run with it. He summarised this as follows:
Projects = Revenue
Revenue = Sustainability
Nathan finally left the audience with one final note, saying that the bar is getting higher for an indie games’ quality. He noted that games like No Man's Sky and Below are reaching a point where they're being compared against the output from AAA studios, in both visual quality and gameplay. This means that many creative people who aren’t willing to sacrifice as much of their life as others into producing their game will end up getting nowhere, a sentiment the audience didn’t really want to hear, but a jarring and truthful one all the same.
Another interesting talk of the day came from Eduardo Jimenez of Eclipse Games (formerly of Black Rock Studios). He spoke about working remotely whilst the rest of his team is spread all across the world. During his presentation he gave recommendations that could be used across a broad spectrum of industries, not just games, where technologies like Skype and Dropbox can help any developer reduce costs associated with making games. This has huge implications for the rest of the industry, as AAA studios like Ubisoft could save money by hiring people wherever they are in the world rather than emigrating them to a studio in Montreal or Newcastle.
Project Morpheus in Detail
As much as virtual reality seemed to be a trend at Develop this year, Sony wasn’t through with letting developers know what goes into making their ambitious new project. Ian Bicketstaff and Patrick Connor walked developers through some of the technical innovations Sony came up with to make Project Morpheus work as an immersive and potentially game-changing peripheral. Some of the new innovations included Binaural 3D Audio, where not only does a player hear surround sound, but also above and below, giving a truly unique feel to game worlds.
Another feature spoken about was the social screen, which allows a second player access to the game world to potentially mess with the player wearing the VR headset. For example, a second player could control a shark in Sony’s Deep Blue demo. Finally, Sony reiterated what had been mentioned in previous days, about the control being all in the player's hands, otherwise the sense of “presence” and “immersion” would be broken.
Day 3 concluded Develop 2014 with a bang, bringing to a close a packed event that bought together many of the industry's biggest names. I learnt a lot about the industry, and what technologies and themes are coming to the video game industry in the next few years. All in all, it was an enjoyable and productive event, one that I feel privileged to have been a part of.