Brighton Develop Conference 2011 - Top Five Best Bits

I was lucky enough to be able to go to the Brighton Develop Conference 2011 this week. It was all pretty amazing. I spent the entirety of Wednesday wandering through the plush corridors of the Hilton Metropole wearing a Portal hoody and an overly large backpack that had Sack Boy poking out of it (see below); truly I was dressed to impress.

For an at a glance record, my conference schedule was as follows:

  • 09:30-10:30 – GAMES:EDU: Why You Need Us More Than We Need You
  • 11:00-12:00 – BUSINESS: Money for Good Games
  • 13:30-14:30 – ART: Fable: The Journey – The Evolution and Preservation of a Distinctive Visual Style
  • 15:00-16:00 – ART KEYNOTE: Showtime! (although this was very nearly CODING: Engineering the Total War AI: from Soldier to Battalion)
  • 16:30-17:30 – DESIGN: Turning Ink into Brink

I’ve written about my experiences at Develop Conference 2011 in detail over at the blog of the kind people who sent me there, but there’s definitely more for me to enthuse about yet! With this in mind, here’s a list of the top five things that happened to me at Develop; don’t expect all of them to make sense!

5) Getting shot down by Bungie – This is probably one of the ones that doesn’t appear to make much sense. I was wandering around the Expo and, upon seeing it, tenatively approached Bungie’s stall hoping to get a look at what they had on display. The first thing I said was something along the lines of “It’s cool, I don’t think you’ll be interested in hiring me”, but despite this she asked what I did and my experience.

Sure enough, my degrees and year or so of copywriting experience weren’t quite what Bungie were looking for (apparently they’re interested in finding writers with experience in television and/or film, which makes senses), but they did offer as much stuff as I wanted off their stall as commiseration (see below).

4) FREE STUFF! – Always a plus. In addition to a Develop Conference goody bag (pictured below), I also got my greasy mitts on some badges, a wristband, a dogtag and a bottle opener from Bungie, a T-shirt from Splash Damage and a free copy of Creavures on Steam (as well as a poster) from Muse Games.

3) Learning about video game writing – This was pretty handy for me as a writer and worshipper of video games. There were bits and bobs about this throughout the day, but by far the most useful session on this subject was the one run by Splash Damage’s Edward Stern, the company’s one and only writer (and he’s a designer too). Entitled “Turning Ink into Brink”, he covered both the basics and the nitty gritty, saying early on that “being a hack is a good thing” when writing for video games (this way you don’t run the risk of “getting your heart broken”, or wasting the company’s time and money; certain games – like Madden 12, for example – don’t exactly need a dedicated writer).

Other key things to remember as a video game writer include being able to write your way out of any corner created by the restraints of time, budget or technology and that the story of the game is not yours to author but the player’s; they want to be able to create their own water cooler moments to reflect back on. Stern also said what he thought worked well and not so well in Brink, which was pretty enlightening considering the game’s somewhat mixed (but seemingly overall largely positive) reviews.

2) Iain McCaig – The reason I’m so glad I decided to go to art keynote. Artist and conceptual designer extraordinaire, Iain McCaig on a variety of awesome movies including Terminator 2, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and a load of stuff for Lucasfilm/arts including Monkey Island and the Star Wars movies. Insisting that everyone can draw (“It’s your first language!”), Iain invited members of audience to come up and contribute some of the stunning live drawings he did during the session while telling us about the importance of storytelling in both art and game design and his beginnings drawing for Games Workshop (he is responsible for their iconic logo, it first appearing as part of a larger design he did for a bag).

Additionally we got to see an exclusive unused pitch trailer for John Carter of Mars as well as the first public still from his upcoming film The Book of Secrets. An amazing and incredibly entertaining speaker; I can’t really recommend him enough.

1) Shaking hands with Notch – This doesn’t really require much explanation… BUT IF YOU INSIST. I was hanging around outside the Metropole after the conference had finished when I saw a somewhat familiar figure standing with a small group of people, others occasionally coming up to talk to him and/or shake his hand. Waiting until a nearby Daniel Kaplan got off the phone (I only realised it was him afterwards; to be fair, unlike Notch he doesn’t have a distinctive hat or beard), I asked if it was okay to request a handshake myself and was told to go for it.

I shook the hand of the god of Minecraft, ruefully mumbled something about my phone battery being flat so I couldn’t record the momentous occasion, seemingly misheard a joke of some kind then thanked him and went on my merry – and surprisingly professional – way.

ECMSquared (11 Posts)

MA student and copywriter with an incurable video game addiction. Also likes tabletop RPGs, films, comic books, anime, blogging and writing short stories. More crazed ramblings can be found on Twitter.

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