Beyond the Console

I was at the Creative Technology Network event last Thursday: Beyond the Console.

Toby Barnes from Pixel-Lab kicked things off with a very brief overview of some South West Screen sponsored research on the Games Industry in the SW (not yet on Pixel-Lab, SW Screen or CTN websites).
Toby noted that the 5 year technology shift (PS, PS2, PS3 etc) makes for a very distruptive development cycle. There is very little other than basic principles that can be carried from one platform to the next, a huge barrier for small developers. Examples of disruptive (and expensive) changes were increased photo realism & development assets, improved AI, etc, (Toby was going quite quickly so I missed some detail).

Interestingly Toby noted that across the UK games sector there has been a dramatic reduction in the number of separate companies; 400 – 150 companies in few years – but that more people are now employed in the sector than before.

New business models were touched upon (and discussed in the Open Spaces session at the end of the event), especially the download market for consoles and increasingly episodic design. Despite the event title, the work Toby had been asked to undertake was concentrated on the main console platforms and so there was little data from this report on casual gaming & mobile / micro games as a sector in the SW.

The perennial issue of businesses in the SW choosing not to be more successful (Life style businesses) came up again, but coupled with the proposition that to be successful they’d have to leave the South West.

Best quote of the event (can’t remember direct context but I think it was linked to the meat grinder approach to big budget console games that replace game play with more detailed graphics and explosion effects, and thus why sticking to smaller casual games): Developing games that are actually fun!

Darius Pocha of Enable talked about their work on building a branded campaign in Second Life, mainly for the WWF conservation island (conserving Panda bears, not aging wrestlers as Darius pointed out). 🙂

In a slightly surreal moment Darius was describing the use of the fairly recent introduction of VOIP to Second Life being used by BBC Radio One to host an ‘outside’ broadcast on WWF stage.

One good point (I thought) was the point that traditional brands shout really loudly about how good they are and ‘better = louder’; Darius condends that this doesn’t work in the ‘brave new web 2.0, social networks, virtual world thingy’ ; you can’t replicate RL online.

Darius closed with two slides showing technology developments in console games on the last 5-10 years (going from a handful of pixels representing a car with wheels, to the super-photo-realistic-first-person perspective) and asked; what happens when you factorup the development in consols to virtual worlds?

Phil Stenton of HPLabs on mscape

Much of this was describing the potential of immersive and pervasive media. One interesting proposition was that WOW was the new golf – as much about turning up and chatting with your friends as with slaughtering orcs. Ended with plug for the planned Pervasive Media College.

Hazel Grian of Licorice Film on producing an Alternative Reality Game
Much of Hazel’s short presentation looked at Meigeist, a ARG in Bristol over summer that was by accounts very popular. I had a quick dabble but never really got into the game. One question that came up from several audience members was if anyone had made a commercial ARG that you could sign up for like a Murder mystery weekends (which are popular here in the UK at least)? The consensus was that, for the moment at least, ARG’s are the domain of art projects and advertising driven brand strategies.

Steve Hinde ran the Ideas Generator based on Open Space which was great but a lot of people seemed to dissapear after the second session and before the ‘serious’ networking began. My excuse was Open Coffee was starting down the bar. 🙂

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