GDC Europe Unveils Keynote From Castlevania: Lords Of Shadow Director Enric Alvarez

Enric.jpgGDC Europe has announced a new keynote from Mercury Steam founder Enric Alvarez, who will reflect on the development of the studio’s recent action title Castlevania: Lords of Shadow.

Alvarez will join other speakers such as Epic’s Mike Capps, Ultima creator Richard Garriott and Wooga founder Jens Begemann as the fourth keynote speaker to be announced for GDC Europe. This year, the event will take place August 15-17, and is located in Cologne, Germany alongside gamescom, the leading European trade and consumer show.

The keynote, titled, “Postmortem: Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – How To Succeed And Not Die Trying,” will provide an in-depth look at how the Spanish developer Mercury Steam took the reins of one of gaming’s most classic franchises.

In addition, Alvarez will also delve into the origin of the project, how Mercury Steam handled its relationship with a Japanese publisher, as well as what went right and wrong throughout the course of the project.

Prior to working on Lords of Shadow, Alvarez and the rest of Mercury Steam worked on projects such as Codemasters’ Clive Barker’s Jericho, and the American McGee-designed game Scrapland

Following the production of these titles, Alvarez began co-writing and directing Lords of Shadow, a game that eventually set a new milestone for project scope and size in the Spanish development community. The game also had the support of Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima, who served as the title’s project advisor. Alvarez will elaborate on this relationship and more in his upcoming keynote.

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GDC Europe 2011 Reveals Crytek Keynote, Ninja Theory, Boyer Talks

enslaved.jpgThis month’s GDC Europe has debuted a new track keynote from Crytek’s Cevat Yerli, as well as talks from Ninja Theory on performance capture, plus the IGF’s Brandon Boyer on how indies will drive the future.

Taking place Monday through Wednesday, August 15-17, 2011 at the Cologne Congress-Centrum Ost, Germany, alongside the major gamescom trade show, GDC Europe will again provide the essential pan-European perspective of game development and business trends.

The new highlights from the Main Conference, which features tracks on Business & Marketing, Game Design, Production, Programming and Visual Arts, include the following:

– Crytek president and CEO Cevat Yerli will give a track keynote in the conference’s Game Design track titled, “An Old Horse Learning New Tricks – From AAA Retail to AAA Online.” Here, Yerli will examine Crytek’s history as a traditional, retail game developer and its experience transitioning to the online space with its upcoming shooter Warface.

Looking back at the company’s previous retail offerings such as FarCry and Crysis, Yerli’s keynote will also outline the biggest challenges Crytek faced when adapting to online game development, noting the “insurmountable differences” that forced the studio to learn new approaches to game production.

– Also in the Game Design track, UK-based Ninja Theory co-founder Tameem Antoniades will offer a in-depth look at cut scene production in, “Performance Capture: A Creative Primer.” This talk will detail how Ninja Theory cooperated with movie studios such as Weta Digital (Lord of the Rings), actor Andy Serkis, and numerous other movie professionals to create believable, high-fidelity scenes in titles such as Enslaved and Capcom’s DmC: Devil May Cry.

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GDC Europe Speaker Spotlight: VandenBerghe On Embracing Established IP

jvb.jpgIn the latest in a series of interviews with speakers from this August’s GDC Europe, Ubisoft creative director Jason VandenBerghe discussed how he maintains his creative drive when working on someone else’s game concept, noting why all developers should “become a fan” of their IP to stay passionate about their work.

VandenBerghe has been in game development for over 16 years, and much of his career has been spent making games based on popular movie licenses including James Bond (007: Everything Or Nothing), Lord of the Rings (Lord Of The Rings: The Third Age), and X-Men.

During his time working on these well-known franchises, VandenBerghe (Red Steel 2) learned to stay passionate and enthusiastic about his projects, even when a powerful brand offered his team little control over a game’s creative direction.

With GDC Europe almost upon us, VandenBerghe teased his upcoming talk, “The Magic Gun: Surviving IP Development Through Embracing Your Constraints,” diving in to his approach on IP-based development, and providing tips for making games based on popular licenses.

What do you do to maintain your creative drive when working on an established franchise?

For me, it came easy. I grew up sitting around with my D&D buddies talking about what our own Alien film would be like, or playing through a Traveller campaign based on The Terminator, and even in these early experiments, we were nailing the tone of our beloved franchises.

It was only later, when I came into the industry, that I realized that this was something that was even an issue for people. Working on the James Bond franchise, I was stunned by how many people wanted to utterly change the very nature of that character, simply to suit their personal creative tastes. While I could understand the drive to create, doesn’t James Bond deserve to be James Bond?

So, I developed the “Magic Gun”: a way of thinking about what I think of as “other people’s ideas” that could help my teams re-orient their thinking. It’s easy to learn… but extraordinarily difficult to master.

The Magic Gun is this: Learn your constraints, and then embrace them. Simple — yet so hard to do.

Learning is actually the easiest part: I find experts on the IP I am working on, and I interrogate them mercilessly. It’s the embracing part that is truly hard. To succeed as a designer, I must learn to love my IP for the same reasons that the fans of that IP do. Truly, unreservedly, I must become a fan. Then, the real work can begin.

What are some titles you’ve worked on that most challenged your creative control? Why were these titles particularly challenging to work on?

Few franchises can rival the Bond franchise for challenges related to creative control. James Bond is a $3 billion+ annual industry without the games, and if you think that those guys are going to let you kill the golden goose by incorrectly re-interpreting their character, you got another thing coming.

Strangely, though, the fans of James Bond are almost harder to deal with. Not individually, mind you, but as a group. Ask yourself this: have you ever met anyone in your life who doesn’t have an opinion about James Bond?

Chances are, you haven’t. That applies to your team as well. And everyone’s vision of Bond is just a little bit different.

Getting everyone to see the same creative vision is hard enough. Getting everyone to see the same creative vision when that vision is different from the strongly held, personal vision in their mind? Nearly impossible.

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GDC Europe 2011 Highlights Driver, Publisher Panel, Supercell Talks

driversf.jpgGDC Europe 2011 is highlighting three new talks, including a look at how Driver: San Francisco balances art and tech, a panel on what publishers really want, and a lecture from Supercell (Gunshine) on browser-based games.

Taking place Monday through Wednesday, August 15-17, 2011 at the Cologne Congress-Centrum Ost, alongside the major gamescom trade show, GDC Europe will again provide the essential pan-European perspective of game development and business trends.

The new highlights from the Main Conference, which features tracks on Business & Marketing, Game Design, Production, Programming and Visual Arts, include the following:

– In the Business & Marketing track panel, “Ask the Decision Makers: Find Out What Publishers Want and How to Get What You Want,” representatives from some of the industry’s top publishers will discuss what they look for when evaluating a potential product or development partner.

Speakers in this panel include Chris Charla of Microsoft Game Studios, Christian Svensson of Capcom, and Jeff Hilbert of the talent agency Digital Development Management, as well as Martin De Ronde of Vanguard Games (Gatling Gears).

Each of the industry veterans will outline their company’s philosophies on game development, teaching attendees what needs to happen before a publisher decides to support a game.

– Also in the Business & Marketing track, CEO Ilkka Paananen of web developer Supercell (Gunshine) will host, “Next Generation of Online Games: Accessible yet Deep and Immersive – and Truly Social via Real-Time Multi-Player!,” a talk focused on the overlooked potential of browser-based online games.

Paananen’s talk, referencing the Finnish firm’s popular browser MMO, will discuss how browser-based games can combine the benefits of social networks with the appeal of hardcore games, simultaneously offering both accessibility and depth. Paananen will also note the obstacles that come with developing for a browser, and his talk will outline “a lot of challenges that must be addressed.”

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GDC Europe Speaker Spotlight: B.U.T.T.O.N.’s Douglas Wilson On Breaking The Rules

wilson.jpgIn the latest in a series of interviews with speakers from this August’s GDC Europe, Douglas Wilson, developer of the IGF-finalist B.U.T.T.O.N., discusses how to design multiplayer games that don’t adhere to strict rules.

In 2009, Wilson (pictured, right) co-founded the Copenhagen Game Collective, a non-profit game design group in Copenhagen, Denmark He is also a Ph.D. candidate at IT University of Copenhagen’s Center for Computer Games Research, where he teaches and researches game design. In addition, his upcoming dissertation will discuss intentionally abusive, unbalanced, or broken game design.

Next month at GDC Europe, Wilson will host a talk as part of the Independent Game Summit titled, “Intentionally Broken Game Design and the Art of “Deputizing” Players,” where he will examine “traditional folk games, design research, and precedents in other media forms” to explain how players tend to enforce game rules without strict systems in place.

With GDC Europe just weeks away, Wilson discussed the concept of his upcoming talk, outlining the core design of his unusual multiplayer title B.U.T.T.O.N., as well as the benefits of creating games with lenient rules.

Your recent multiplayer title B.U.T.T.O.N. used a very minimalist approach, omitting some of the traditional systems and rules most often seem in multiplayer games. What inspired you to take such an atypical approach?

One of the core ideas behind B.U.T.T.O.N. is that modifying and negotiating the rules is sometimes the most enjoyable game of all. I feel like this is a lesson that we computer game designer sometimes forget. The system itself is never what comprises the game. Rather, it’s what the human players do with that system. Just think about the kind of improvisational play that underlie kids’ playground games, or the “house rules” that inevitably crop around boardgames and pickup sports.

Some game design theorists have argued that these ambiguities are a “problem” that computer technology can fix. How dull! As I see it, the key is to actively embrace these ambiguities in a way that feels intentional and fun. To this end, we conceptualized B.U.T.T.O.N. not as a “computer game,” but rather as a game that just happens to use a computer. I do admit that all games — even the most traditional and “closed-system” games — are subject to these kinds of negotiations and house rules. What we tried to do with B.U.T.T.O.N. was to actively call attention to the ambiguities of gameplay, in attempt to convince players to revel in and enjoy them.

Your talk description says you examined “traditional folk games, design research, and precedents in other media forms” when looking at alternative methods of multiplayer games. Can you describe what this research entailed and what you learned from it?

For my Ph.D. dissertation I’ve spent a lot of time studying folk games and sports, from old Danish children’s games to the American New Games movement of the 1970s. One of my favorite examples is the traditional Inuit game of Iqiruktuk, also known as Mouth Pull. In Mouth Pull, two players stand side-by-side, placing their arms over each other’s shoulders and hooking their thumb into their opponent’s mouth. When the game begins, both players start tugging away at each other’s mouth! The first player to surrender loses.

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Reminder: 24 Hours Left To Early Register For GDC Europe 2011

gdce1.jpgWith just a day left until early registration ends on July 20 at Midnight UTC, GDC Europe 2011 organizers have chosen to reveal information on the show’s Expo Floor and its gamescom-based Business Lounge, and recap some of the show’s most notable lectures and panels.

GDC Europe’s Expo Floor, located within the Cologne Congress-Centrum Ost, in Cologne, Germany, will once again showcase the most cutting-edge technologies from the industry’s biggest and most influential companies.

Unity Technologies, Crytek, Epic Games, Onlive, and Glu Mobile are but a few of the notable exhibitors at the show this year — please visit the GDC Europe website for the complete list of the show’s 35+ exhibitors.

The Expo Floor is open to all GDC Europe pass holders, and provides attendees with numerous opportunities to learn about upcoming products, interact with developers and publishers, and establish business relationships with some of the industry’s top professionals.

In addition to the show’s Expo Floor, GDC Europe attendees will also receive a 3-day pass to the major gamescom trade show, which takes place just after GDC Europe. As in previous years, gamescom will feature a specialized business-centric area for game industry professionals, also open to GDC Europe attendees.

In this dedicated area, GDC Europe will host its very own Business Lounge, providing gamescom attendees with a perfect venue for networking, gaining exposure, and more, even after GDC Europe proper officially concludes – with meeting rooms from many of GDC Europe’s major exhibitors.

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GDC Europe 2011 Reveals Keynote From Epic President Mike Capps

capps.jpgGDC Europe organizers have announced that Epic Games president Dr. Michael Capps will give a keynote at next month’s GDC Europe, revealing secrets behind the studio’s major releases, from big-budget shooters such as Gears of War to mobile titles like Infinity Blade.

Capps will join Ultima creator Richard Garriott and Wooga founder Jens Begemann as the third keynote speaker to be announced for the 2011 Game Developers Conference Europe, which will take place August 15-17, and is located in Cologne, Germany alongside gamescom, the leading European trade and consumer show.

The keynote, titled “Size Doesn’t Matter: How Epic Brings AAA Attitude to Every Game, from Gears of War 3 to Infinity Blade“, will delve into Epic’s development process for its various games, which range from AAA console titles to mobile releases and classic PC shooters.

Dr. Capps will discuss the key development similarities that pervade all of Epic’s projects, even when team sizes and budgets differ wildly. He will also cite specific examples of how the studio benefits from its shared staff and infrastructure, using examples from the upcoming Gears of War 3.

In addition to serving as Epic’s president, Dr. Capps is also an advisory board member for the Game Developers Conference, and holds a seat on the boards for the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences and the Entertainment Software Association.

Before entering the game industry, Dr. Capps worked as a professor at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, specializing in defense and entertainment collaboration, virtual reality, and computer graphics. He holds degrees in computer science and electrical engineering from the University of North Carolina and MIT, and a doctorate in computer science from the Naval Postgraduate School.

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GDC Europe Reveals Mark Cerny, Age of Empires, Bigpoint Talks

aoe.jpgGDC Europe has revealed a new batch of lectures for the upcoming August show, featuring industry legend Mark Cerny on the future of the industry, Age of Empires and Titan Quest veteran Brian Sullivan on level design, and Battlestar Galactica Online developer Bigpoint on handling large IP.

Taking place Monday through Wednesday, August 15-17, 2011 at the Cologne Congress-Centrum Ost, alongside the major gamescom trade show, GDC Europe will again provide the essential pan-European perspective of game development and business trends.

Some of the new highlights from the Main Conference, which features tracks on Business & Marketing, Game Design, Production, Programming and Visual Arts, include the following:

– Industry veteran Mark Cerny, whose career spans titles such as Marble Madness, Crash Bandicoot, and Resistance, will host a high-profile talk in the show’s Design track titled, “The Long View,” which will examine the last forty years of video game history, as well as provide a look into the future.

Cerny notes that “2009 and 2010 have now shown some erosion in console video game sales,” and his talk will discuss what this trend could mean for the industry, and why developers might have to adapt to considerable changes in their creative process.

– In a retrospective Design track lecture, “Level Design: Lessons Learned from Age of Empires and Titan Quest,” Northeastern University instructor Brian Sullivan will provide attendees with a look back at lessons learned from two popular isometric PC titles he was a part of.

Sullivan, who worked with Ensemble on the Age of Empires series and founded Titan Quest developer Iron Lore Entertainment, will go over the level design processes for these games, offering developers “insight into how to design their levels with respect to gameplay, play style, topic, story, quests, pacing, performance, tech, art, budget, schedule, and fun.”

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GDC Europe Speaker Spotlight: Bluebyte’s Weidemann On Community Management

tw.jpgIn the latest in a series of interviews with speakers from this August’s GDC Europe, online specialist Teut Weidemann of Ubisoft’s Bluebyte Germany (The Settlers Online) discusses the essentials of community management on social networks.

Weidemann has worked in the industry for over 25 years, and began his career as a producer and development director for Amiga titles such as Turrican. He later founded Panzer Elite developer Wings Simulations, and in 2005 served as CTO of Panzer Tactics DS publisher CDV Software Entertainment.

In 2007 Weidemann entered the online games market, consulting with various companies before finally landing at Ubisoft’s Bluebyte to work on the acclaimed browser based title The Settlers Online.

Drawing from his experience working in online games, Weidemann will host two talks at this year’s GDC Europe: A Production track lecture on supporting free-to-play games dubbed, “f2p Online Games: The Game Is Not Enough,” and a Community Management Summit talk titled, “Community Management in The Settlers Online.”

With GDC Europe just over a month away, Weidemann particularly discussed his upcoming Community Management Summit talk, and outlined the importance of regular developer-to-player interaction, as well as the differences between Facebook and other social channels.

In your experience, what are the best ways to foster the growth of an online game community?

The most important thing is service. If your community perceives that you care about them, they stay. Players love the attention, and they’ll recommend the service to their friends. It’s the best way to grow a game because it’s free. Marketing is growing the community fastest, but that growth is meaningless if you don’t manage to keep the new users.

Did you or your team learn any hard lessons when managing the community for The Settlers Online?

We are still learning. We approached the community for the game with years of experience in community management, and we still had problems satisfying players’ needs.

We established an open communication strategy, but we underestimated the frequency of interaction the users demanded. The internet is moving faster than ever, which means that we need community managers constantly online and talking to users.

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GDC Europe 2011 Debuts Thatgamecompany, Glu, Digital Chocolate Talks

journey.jpgGDC Europe 2011 has revealed a selection of new lectures from the show’s Summits, including thatgamecompany on reaching out to new audiences, Glu Mobile on freemium viability, and Digital Chocolate on making social games with hardcore gameplay.

This year, the gamescom co-located mid-August show in Cologne, Germany will host Summits on Social Games, Independent Games, Smartphone & Tablet Games, and Community Management.

Some near-final new highlights from these Summits, which have largely rounded out their line-ups, include the following:

– In the keynote for Monday’s Independent Games Summit, president and co-founder of thatgamecompany Kellee Santiago will discuss how to reach out to new demographics in “Developing New Audiences: When the Past Can’t Predict Your Future.”

Drawing from her experience working on flOw, Flower, and Journey, Santiago will explain “how to make effective decisions based on little data to create commercially successful titles that, in the beginning (and maybe right up until you ship), no one will think you can sell.”

– In the Smartphone & Tablet Games Summit, Mike Breslin, VP of global marketing at mobile publisher Glu Mobile (Gun Bros.), will host a talk titled “From Free-to-Play to Freemium: Emerging Category in Mobile Gaming.”

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