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GDC Europe 2011 Day One: What You Missed

Gamasutra wraps up its on-the-scenes coverage of the first day of the 2011 GDC Europe conference, with talks and insight from industry alums and independent developers alike.
Gamasutra wraps up its on-the-scenes coverage of the first day of the 2011 GDC Europe conference, with talks and insight from industry alums and independent developers alike. The following articles were published from the Cologne, Germany-based event, which is organized by UBM TechWeb (as is this website), and hosts a multitude of conversations on the past, present and future of gaming: The Art Of Public Funding For Indie Games German independent developers Yacine Salmi (Swimming Under Clouds) and Alexander Zacherl (Astroslugs discussed the possibilities of finding funding in Europe for independent games, covering public funding through arts initiatives and IP-related startup funds. As Zacherl points out, public funding "reduces your exposure if you fail...and most startups will fail." Perfecting The SMART Parkour Traversal System In Brink Splash Damage's Neil Alphonso outlined his team's implementation of multiplayer-centric action title Brink's unique "SMART" leveling system, which was designed to "merge the movement of jump pads and rocket jumps with the feeling of realistic shooters." He also revealed that players don't use the system as much as the team would have wanted, and identified three key reasons why. B.U.T.T.O.N.'s Wilson On 'Intentionally Broken' Games This Independent Games Summit talk saw developer Douglas Wilson discuss how his IGF-nominated B.U.T.T.O.N. and Johann Sebastian Joust mess with conventional ideas about what video games should be. As the title of his talk suggests, his multiplayer party games "are intentionally designed to be broken," and rely on human players enforcing the game's rules with each other. Gomez Urges Survival Horror Developers To Break Core Game Design Rules Silent Hill: Downpour design director Brian Gomez (who also worked on horror titles that include Evil Dead, Alone in the Dark and Clive Barker's Jericho) said that "A good horror game immerses us in an atmosphere of dread, explores our fears, violates our comfort zones and allows us to experience the vicarious thrill of being preyed upon," and how a good horror game needsa different set of rules, fulfilling a player's "nightmare fulfillment" versus a traditional game's "wish fulfillment." We Have A 'Responsibility' To Support Indies, Says IGF Chairman Boyer "We should appreciate what a game is trying to do, whether we like it or not," said Independent Games Festival chairman Brandon Boyer, who urged those in attendance to support the independent games movement just like any other artform "we don't buy a music album and say 'this album was only 30 minutes long'," so why should we do it for games, he asked. Design Your Game Around A Message, Not Features - Santiago In order to tap into new audiences for your games, it's necessary to experiment with your game's message, and mold that message to fit the interests of press and gamers alike, according to Kellee Santiago of Journey and Fl0wer developer thatgamecompany, who spoke at the Indie Games Summit. She cited a specific lesson from the studio's upcoming Journey, illustrating how a good studio needs to be able to adapt to the direction a game sometimes decides to take itself, that may be vastly different from its original conception. 'Culture More Important Than Skills' - Castlevania: LoS' Alvarez "The video game industry today is complicated, unfair and tough. As such, it's of paramount importance that we have fun with our work." This was the message from Enric Alvarez, game director of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow and co-owner of its maker, Mercury Steam at a Gamasutra-attended session at GDC Europe today. "Having fun and working hard are not mutually exclusive things," he said. "In fact, someone who is happy and contented with his work promotes an infectious positive attitude for the wider team, which in turn makes that team better at fulfilling its work." Amnesia's Grip Delivers Terrifying Tales Of Immersion In his Independent Games Summit talk at GDC Europe, Frictional Games' Thomas Grip discussed his terrifying game Amnesia: The Dark Descent and its "focus on evoking emotion," going behind the reasons for its major success. The multi IGF-nominated PC game has now sold 400,000 units "without any real PR," said Swedish developer Grip, and the company is overwhelmed by the success. But how did this happen? Grip outlined some of the major steps that have made the firm's latest title its biggest by far. Time Is Right For Online, Mobile M&A The time is ripe for online and mobile game studios to consider mergers and acquisitions, according to Tim Merel from Digi-Capital, an investment bank focused on high growth digital companies across video games, technology, media and telecoms in Europe, North America and Asia. "Online and mobile studios have a competitive advantage right now," said Merel, speaking at a Gamasutra-attended session at GDC Europe today. "Nobody is yet truly dominant in the space. You have markets rapidly expanding, with a great deal of interest around them coming from investors." Wooga CEO Begemann On Social Gaming's Appeal "Social games are not here to take today's gamers and make them Farmville farmers," wooga CEO Jens Begemann reassured the public during today's Business & Marketing keynote at GDC Europe. As the founder of one of the three top social game developers on Facebook, Begemann said "[the] game industry has specialized in creating games for gamers." While there's nothing wrong with that, he said, the demographic most often targeted by video game developers was but a small "sub-set of the overall population." The Pains Of Taking APB F2P At GDC Europe, GamersFirst COO/CTO Bjorn Book-Larsson discussed how the company rescued disaster-struck MMO APB and is taking it free-to-play, though not without some transitional pain. The game is called APB Reloaded in its current incarnation -- under which it has bettered the pay-to-play predecessor game (which Book-Larsson calls APB 2010) by hundreds of thousands of players but is still in somewhat rocky shape.

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