Last Friday was the 2014 edition of the Wales Games Development Show at the Millennium Centre in Cardiff. Being a proud Welshman, I took the time to head down to check out what was going on and I had very good time. Read on to check out my report of the show.
First up I want to say that this years show felt much more professional than last year, there was a greater range of speakers on hand and the quality of titles on show seemed higher. I’m already looking forward to the show next year, I am sure it will be even bigger and better than this years edition.
The speakers this year were of a really high calibre. We had Gary Napper from Creative Assembly talk about his experience of working in the industry for 14 years and shared some hints and tips for the young developers that were in attendance. Gary also talked a little about Alien Isolation and the challenges the team faced in ensuring levels were crafted to take into account the fluid systematic nature of the Alien.
The next speaker was Manesh Mistry from USTWO Games who worked on mobile indie title Monument Valley. I’m not entirely clued up on the mobile gaming scene and Monument Valley had passed me by when it was released earlier this year. Manesh talked about the process of developing the game with an 8 man team and talked us through how the development process evolved as the team built their understanding of what the game would be. What struck me from his talk was the comment that they preferred to release 10 perfect levels for 90 minutes of gameplay than releasing 20 or 30 mediocre levels. The game looks absolutely gorgeous and at the end of Maneh’s talk, I pulled my tablet out of my bag and bought the game.
The final talk of the day came from Mike Bithell who is currently working on Volume. In a similar way to Gary earlier in the day, Mike talked about his journey through the industry from taking a game design course at Newport University to working at Blitz before the massive success of Thomas Was Alone. It was another very interesting talk from one of the biggest names in the indie development scene here in the UK.
In between the talks, I did get some time to check out some of the games that were on show. Swansea based XD Studios were showing off a couple of prototypes they had worked on in internal game jams along with an early build of Gone Huntin’. This is going to be a free-to-play mobile game (with in-app purchases) where you control a truck from a top down perspective trying to chase down a variety of animals. It was still a very early prototype, but it seems quite amusing.
While I wasn’t able to play it, I took a little look at Solitude from developers Rogue Vector. It is a co-op game that was being shown with two players, but there are long-term plans to build up to 6 or even 8 players. You will take control of a ship which has suffered numerous engineering issues which you will work as a team to repair and ultimately fend off alien races. As I watched, I saw a player in the command area of the ship checking on the progress of the systems and guiding another player around the ship to repair different parts of the ship. It looks a very ambitious but potentially very rewarding game. One to keep an eye on.
You might remember from last years show that I played a little mobile game called Toast Time from Bristol developers, Force of Habit. Their new game, Timmy Bibble’s Friendship Club is a local co-op arena shooter. I had a blast with this playing with a few other show goers, it is very simple and full of fast action. There are a variety of games modes in the works going from super fast bullet spraying action to slow motion melee battles. It is very fun and can currently be found on Steam Greenlight. In a world where there aren’t many local co-op PC games, this was a pleasure to see.
In a change to my normal habits at shows, I stopped by and checked out a tabletop game. Know as Stand & Deliver it is a highway robbery based game where you take on the role of characters like Dick Turpin in an attempt to steal money from ye olde coaches. It is a game for up to six players and takes about 30 minutes to play from start to finish. I lack any knowledge of the tabletop gaming world, so I will leave this know with a link to the Kickstarter page where a pledge of £25 will get you a physical copy of the game. The team are looking for £12,000 by 1st August to go into full production and they have currently raised £1,762.
While I wasn’t able to get hands-on with the final game I saw, I did spend some time watching people play the Occulus Rift version. This last game is out today on Steam and is called Infinity Runner and comes from Wales Interactive. If you imagine Mirror’s Edge set on a massive space ship with a pinch of werewolf thrown in for good measure. Certainly on my list of games to play (if I can find the time).
To close the out the day, developer of Redshirt, Mitu Khandaker-Kokoris gave the BAFTA Cymru key note speech about breaking through. Another very good talk from one of the rising stars in the British gaming scene. You can find a breakdown of the BAFTA Cymru awards right here.
For anyone interested in getting involved in the games industry, I really recommend you take part in events such as this. The talks are very informative, and they provide a perfect opportunity for networking with other developers and building up relationships. If you are simply just interested in games then you can often find some hidden gems at small shows like this.
The team who organised the Wales Games Development Show did a very good job and I am looking forward to next year.