As is our custom we sent a dozen of our students and their games to Gamex / ComicCon this year too. This year we showed off primarily 1st and 2nd year games and drew decent crowds with multiplayer games like Frog Climbers, the only true zombie-survival game Zombie Crawler, the relaxation and sleep helper Slumber and the unlikely party game Cryptogram; an escape the room horror game controlled entirely by a book shelf. 🙂
Gamex has changed a lot in the transition to ComicCon though. They still call it a show floor, but the only thing on show is merchandise. There are almost no game developers or publishers here anymore, so visitors pay good money for tickets only to get into a glorified market with hawkers pushing landfill-destined “collectible” plastics, plush toys, “loot crates” and other “nerd culture” ephemera. I’m not against commerce and people buying shit, but I am against charging people for the privilege. With the show floor at its current state, an entrance fee seems shameful.
What saved the weekend, I think, were the many ambitious cosplayers, the 2-3 companies that brought room-scale VR for people to try, our booth neighbors Little Nightmares and the many educations who, like us, were showing off experimental and exciting playable stuff.
A substantial part of the visitors seemed to be from small-child families, so the average age in these pictures trend towards the lower end. But it’s kind of cool to see how well received the games are by nearly anyone who tries them. To the extent that they often come back later with family or friends to show them the game too.
Our students did a great job, as always. They work their butts off during exhibitions like this. Long hours, lots of interactions, all while maintaining their constructions and keeping the games running under what can only be described as a three-day non-stop stress test. They worked hard, and they earned some very good publicity for their efforts! Listen to these interviews:
Susanne Möller, P3 Spel, played Zombie Crawler and Cryptogram at 1:32:45.
The Nördigt podcast talked Zombie Crawler (and Ballistic Balloon Battle) at 16:45
Another year, another conference. We’re good at this!
Our conference opened with our head of state, Hans Svensson, recognizing our education’s adolescence. He said, with gentle mirth and pain in his heart, the he realized “that every day I have to work with a teenager.” And thus he set proceedings off with a sentiment that holds for our education, our industry and our conference: Without the rebellious teenager, our futures would stagnate.
But, judging by the work of our students, the future is safe. The future is weird.
Every year our first year students make games with innovative input devices – no buttons and keyboards for them. Every year they do us proud, but this year, the games reached new heights – a game where you are a zombie, pulling yourself across the floor to get to your target; a game where the input device was a wooden rocking horse; a game where the primary action is hugging; and one where the entire input method was a room with a bookshelf.
The second years are given the opportunity to make the game of their dreams, and the freedom to break boundaries. And did they deliver! A game to help insomnia sufferers. A game expressing the experience of a teenage lesbian couple. Charming Platform Puzzle-games with tons of character and a plethora of interesting mechanics. A real time puzzle game where the player is a rogue AI. Even the third years, who are weighed down with the academic weight of a thesis, managed to put games into the show – Naar and Tamarrion returned, looking, and playing, better than their first outing last year. And Omni, a strategic real time board game, took to the floor, in time for the start of its Kickstarter campaign.
All these games were played, and considered, by our amazing speakers: Jerry Bellich, Richard Lemarchand, Patrik Hanson and David Wolinsky. These fine figures gave 5 amazing presentations ranging from circuses, input devices, employment, understanding the personal reasons we make games, and the subject of sex, sexuality and intimacy.
As always, these phenomenal presentations will be released to our YouTube channel so, even if you weren’t there you can enjoy them too. The Speakers were joined by an equally competent jury, some even made it to the stage for a panel discussion lead by the Swedish Games Industry’s Per Strömbäck.
We also said hello to our local college Gutegymnasiet. We have been working with them over the past year, sending our Subject Responsible Adam Mayes to teach in their newly created game program. They responded by sending their students, with games, to participate on the show floor! We look forward to having them back at the conference next year, and their students to our programs when they’re ready.
To see all the photos from the event, including the award ceremony and party, please check out the Gotland Game Conference gallery on facebook!
UPDATE: all talks are now published on our Guest Lecture playlist on YouTube.
This weekend we took a break from everything that has to do with Christmas preparations hullabaloo and invited some of our alumni to come and inspire our current students and spread their knowledge.
Martin Greip showed a very impressive graph of “All the Feels”™ of being an indie developer and the daily struggle of running a studio. And by “accident” he also revealed Eat Create Sleep’s next game, Project Synvilla.
Albertina Sparrhult held a very personal introduction (with cows, bathroom queues and everything), to what Diversi is all about and why we all benefit from more diversity within our games.
Nobody knows how to herd cats and destroy all the fun more than Ylva Sundström, who shared her biggest secrets on how to become an exceptional game producer.
After he conquered Europe, the son of Gotland return to talk about his conquests. Andreas Svensson has been working at several game studios around Italy and Germany. Now he’s back at Blue Byte, one of the first companies he worked at.
Making a game is easy. Making a game that people understand is hard. Kalle Henningsson, QA Manager at Playdead, showed of some examples of the different iterations of Limbo and their upcoming title, Inside.
Daniel Polgar & Lee Kåberg hade the audience clapping and cheering while they talked about the process of starting up their company, Bridgeside Interactive. They spilled the beans on everything from how to form the company culture, what positions you need to fill and where the money is. Not only that, but they also showed of their first game, Clapper. Which is based on a game they produced during, the objectively best course on Campus Gotland, “Theme Park”.
”Who made that wonderful torch”, was the only thing everyone could think of when Horizon: Zero Dawn was revealed at this years E3. Prop modeler extraordinaire, Kim Aava, talked about what goes into a portfolio, the difference between working at an indie studio compared to a AAA-studio. But most importantly, she bravely showed some of her early work to show that everybody is a beginner at some point. An encouragement to us all!
We ended it all at the local student union pub, with a Q&A-panel consisting of some of our alumnis, mingle and some of the games produced at the education this year. It was a blast! Big, big thanks to all alumni, students and staff!
A crew of space pirates travel through the Old Reach, looting and salvaging scrap and valuable metals to keep afloat. There they stumble upon an abandoned terraforming vessel that disappeared without a trace long ago, a most fortuitous event!
They start exploring the interior of the vessel, using magnetic abilities to advance and help each other along the way. Something’s not quite right however, and the question arises: Is the derelict ship truly abandoned?
The game is developed for PC using Unity 5.
Jenny Grip – Producer and Level Designer,
Rebecka Nyström – Lead Designer and Level Designer,
Nicolina Åkerfelt – Lead Programmer and Gameplay Programmer,
Andrée Henriksson – System Programmer,
Christoffer Svensson – Lead Artist,
Jonna Jarlsson – Animator/ Artist,
Ida Lahti – Environmental Artist,
Walter Tischkewitz – Sound
I bring this up because, every year, we have a similar ritual. At the party, we turn to each other and say: “This was a good year.” To which the comeback is, “How the hell are we going to top this?”. Sometimes there’s a shudder that goes with it.
And – really – how are we going to top this?
This year’s speakers knocked it out of the park. We wanted to talk about games with something to say, and games with meaning, this year.
And did we get it. Ave Randviir-Vellamo, finishing her PhD at Tampere University, presented her work on games as tools for propaganda; with “(Video) Games and Information Warfare – Will Revolution be Gamified?” she charted an amazing history of games designed to spread propaganda.
The ever amazing Constance Steinkuehler presented her research on the intellectual and cognitive merits of playing games. In a far ranging presentation we saw the positive impacts of not just playing games, but the meaning that players take from them.
Ian Gil and Richard Dansky talked content. Ian, about respecting cultures when using their myth forms. The value of representation, and the responsibility of those who represent. He also gave us this beautiful quote:
“You guys know about vampires? … You know, vampires have no reflections in a mirror? There’s this idea that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. And what I’ve always thought isn’t that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. It’s that if you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves. And growing up, I felt like a monster in some ways. I didn’t see myself reflected at all. I was like, “Yo, is something wrong with me? That the whole society seems to think that people like me don’t exist?” And part of what inspired me, was this deep desire that before I died, I would make a couple of mirrors. That I would make some mirrors so that kids like me might see themselves reflected back and might not feel so monstrous for it.”
― Junot Díaz
Richard talked about his “Charnel Houses of Europe: The Shoah”-supplement for White Wolf’s Role Playing Game “Wraith: The Oblivion.”; a supplement about the Holocaust. To say pretty much anything about the presentation robs it of its power. But I can tell you it contains the most amazing Harlan Ellison story. Yoshihiro Kishimoto, designer of some 60 games, and now an associate professor at Tokyo University of Technology, gave as an utterly fascinating presentation on character, and gameplay, design that is influenced by Japanese orthography. A true designers presentation, delivered by a design hero.
Double Fine’s Anna Kipnis gave us the programmer eyes’ view of getting dialog into a Double Fine game, from the moment a line is written to hearing and seeing the line in the engine, even in a foreign tongue. We were treated to an in-depth overview of Double Fine’s approach to design and development covering things like the tools our writers and implementers use, how lines are tracked, what dialog systems need to be written to play voice in the game, and how to approach writing dynamic dialog systems.
And, finally, a lesson for us, the people so set the conference up. In our conference blurb, we compared our industry to the films, asking where our groundbreaking, meaning making games were – not in terms of money, but in terms of relevance. We had that notion slapped out of us by an exceptionally researched presentation by George “Super Bunnyhop” Weidman. And what a presentation – finding footage from a first person movie, looking at the technical, artistic, and advances in characters in games, and hammering home, with each example, that movies aren’t games and looking at one, to find meaning in the other, was a futile gesture.
Alongside this, our wonderful jurors presided over a fantastic selection of games. Because what would our game conference be without our students games. This year we had games where you played frogs climbing a hillside – a description that entirely fails to convey the exuberant joy of the thing. Games powered my bicycle pumps; by the hammer of the Gods, creating weapons to beat back the Ice Giants. Games where you played penguins charging around ice-flows. There was a game that you controlled by playing drums, and one you controlled by rowing in a boat.
With games like these, the first years are going to have a lot to live up to as they enter the second you.
Not that the second year lagged behind. Games that encapsulated the End Boss feel of MMOs; slow paced, cerebral puzzlers; racing games; a game based on the the mythology of the Middle East, and a game about flying. And braving development and thesis writing, the third year produced games – with the return of Agency, Fly or Die or Defunct. Alongside new games BlastCat and Terrene.
As always, this show wouldn’t have come together without… well, everyone. We are always amazed at the caliber of presenters and jury, and proud at the level of professionalism from our students. Or, as we say: “This was a good year.”
To which the comeback is, “How the hell are we going to top this?”
This year we went another route with our advert. After we participated in co-founding the Higher Education Video Game Alliance in New York last autumn, and have continued to work on our new (international!) bachelor and future master degree, we felt it was time to start specifically positioning ourselves as the international choice. Here’s the ad, what do you think? Does it get the idea across?