Today David, David, Lewis, Rob and I went on an exciting adventure to that there London. There we were treated to a tour of Lift London in Soho and talked to a couple of resident developers from Dlala studios. Following that we took a short tube ride to Shoreditch where we went to Modern Jago to hear some games industry veterans talk about what’s going on in the industry. The lineup included Ian Livingstone (Vice chairman of Ukie, Games Workshop founder, president at Eidos), Andy Payne (chairman of UKIE and CEO of Mastertronic) and Philip Oliver (TIGA board member and CEO of Blitz Games Studios). All three speakers made some great points about the industry, and Ian Livingstone was a special highlight for me as I grew up reading his fighting fantasy game books. He’s a great ambassador for the UK games industry and co-wrote the Next-Gen report which has had and continues to have a great impact on the industry. We had to sign an NDA so there are aspects of the day that if I told you I’d have to kill you, but I’ve picked three points that were made multiple times throughout the day that I think I can reveal without getting in too much trouble.

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The biggest theme that was repeated again and again was the advantage of small studios to be agile in an industry that is changing all the time. In this case, agile means using agile processes, and changing direction and business models very quickly. This came across in descriptions of large companies that were unable to be agile because it took so long to make decisions. Agile seems to be somewhat of a buzz word these days, but it made perfect sense. Especially in a small studio environment without much financial support that need to be able to make changes efficiently.

Another theme, if you plan to make money from games, was the need to build monetization methods into games from the outset. Whilst selling games is sometimes appropriate, depending on the game, many people simple don’t pay for games, particularly on mobile devices and internet based platforms. These games usually use a freemium model, making money through advertising or in app purposes for example. In addition to this in order to monetize effectively you also need to build in analytical methods to measure metrics and find out what your players are doing. Again, this makes great sense too. I’m a believer that when designing a game you should identify a central theme and everything you add should be supportive of that theme. Ian Livingstone said that the three most important things in game design are gameplay, gameplay and gameplay, and he’s right, but if you’re in the business to make a little money and you don’t integrate your business model into your design early then when you do force monetization in your game will be compromised.

The final takeaway for me was that it’s not always about being the best programmer, game designer or artist out there. You still need a lot of luck, but to make some of your own luck sometimes it’s about who you know. AJ, the CEO of Dlala came across as a very cheeky, extrovert type of guy who seemed like he certainly doesn’t have a problem putting himself out there. It seemed to be very natural for him and I think that’s at least in part how he’s got the opportunities that have lead him and his colleagues to where they are now.

Generally computer scientists tend to be a bit introverted, but if you want to make your own luck you have to put yourself out there a little, which is a scary thing. The only way it will get less scary is to bite the bullet, get out there and work at it.

Me standing next to Andy Payne, Ian Livingstone and Philip Oliver (and a selection of other reprobates)

Me standing next to Andy Payne, Ian Livingstone and Philip Oliver (and a selection of other reprobates)

In was a great day which I thoroughly enjoyed, and I’d like to thank everyone involved in making it happen. On the train home we discussed ideas for potential future games, and wrote down 30 in total. The goal was 60, which would then be pruned down to ten, and then down to two until we have two great ideas to choose from. I can’t show you our list until you sign our NDA though πŸ™‚

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