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Friday, 21 April 2017

Develop:Five - Dan Marshall, Size Five Games

Every week, we ask some of the best game development minds five questions in a feature we are calling Develop:Five. This week, Dan Marshall from Size Five Games answers our five question blog feature. 

1. What’s your earliest memory of playing video games?

I remember seeing Pong being played and being fascinated by it, but my earliest memories are probably the likes of Chuckie Egg and FRAK on the BBC Micro. I also have fond memories of plying Monkey Island on a preposterous, hulking great big black and white laptop, but I suspect I was a bit older by then. It's a memory that's stuck, though!

2. What are you most excited or annoyed about in the games industry today?

I'm really excited by the idea of games breaking free of the confines we've placed upon them over the last few decades - the new Zelda game seems to be a good example of that, this 'here's a world, have at it' approach I find really exciting. The indie space has long been pushing this with Roguelikes, procedural generation and what-have-you, and it'll be amazing to see what AAA and money can do with those concepts.

3. Tell us about a life-changing or special moment you've had at Develop:Brighton in the past.

I've met several people over the years at Develop, I'm not so sure there's one particular thing. But whenever we talk about Develop and what we want to see each year, the point I always hammer is that sense that when it's over I *can't wait* to get back to my desk and start working. It's like this big inspirational, cleansing process that reminds you how incredible the games industry is. Seeing talks, meeting people, taking some time away from 'work' makes the quality of what I'm doing in the weeks after Develop so much higher.

4. What are you most looking forward to at Develop:Brighton 2017?

The same thing I look forward to every year - bumping into exciting indie devs showing off games on their laptops in bars. That's always the thing that reinvigorates me, it's about meeting people and seeing what incredible stuff people are coming up with.

5. Which game developer would you most like to meet and why?


Oh, I don't know. There are so many people I'd love to shake by the hand and just point out how much they influenced my life, and my career. I'd love to meet Gabe Newell, I think I can convince him to let slip about Half Life 3, I can be very persuasive at times.

Image result for Dan Marshall, Size Five Games
Dan Marshall (@danthat) is a BAFTA-winning Indie Game Developer and founder of Size Five Games.

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Find out more about Develop:Brighton here

Friday, 14 April 2017

Develop:Five Tim Wicksteed, Twice Circled

Every week, we ask some of the best game development minds five questions in a feature we are calling Develop:Five. This week, Tim Wicksteed from Twice Circled answers our five question blog feature. 

1. What’s your earliest memory of playing video games?
My earliest memory of playing video games was sitting around with my brothers, playing the demo discs that came with my Dad's Atari ST magazine. Seeing our fascination, and being a programmer himself, my Dad showed us how you could create a simple platformer using code. It was like magic! And that was that, I was hooked, from that young age.

2. What are you most excited or annoyed about in the games industry today?
The most exciting thing about the games industry today is that is feels like such an open playing field. There's such a diverse range of gaming tastes out there that there's room for games of every shape and size. There are amazingly affordable development tools and the route to the consumer has never been more direct, both in a promotional sense (YouTube, Twitch) as well as a technical one (Humble Widget, Steam Direct). But of course there's a catch; there are also more games and developers than ever before. It's both inspiring and terrifying, we all have the power to succeed but there's no-one to blame if we fail.

3. Tell us about a life-changing or special moment you've had at Develop:Brighton in the past.
I have very fond memories of my first visit to Develop: Brighton. I was still early on in my career and I was lucky enough to be invited to a couple of developer dinners by some friends of mine. It was daunting to hear that all these much more experienced developers were struggling with all the same things that I was at the time: discoverability, funding etc. But it was also reassuring that there wasn't some magic trick that I was missing due to my relative inexperience. The industry is constantly reinventing itself and in that flux there are opportunities for established players and new developers alike.

4. What are you most looking forward to at Develop:Brighton 2017?
I'm looking forward to catching up with developer friends from other parts of the UK. Develop: Brighton is special because it's the one nearly everyone goes to so it's a great place to catch-up, share and learn from the experiences of the last year.

5 . Which game developer would you most like to meet and why?
 I'd love to meet Finn Brice from Chucklefish (or perhaps their technical lead Catherine West) and talk deep, down, technical stuff. I'm amazed by the technical feat achieved by Starbound so it would be great to just geek out and learn how it was made.

Indie developer Tim Wicksteed (@TwiceCircled) runs Bristol based, one man game studio Twice Circled. He's the creator of pharmaceutical company simulator Big Pharma and was recently announced as a BAFTA Breakthrough Brit 2016. 

Tim will be speaking at this year’s Develop:Brighton – check out his talk here


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Friday, 7 April 2017

Develop:Five - Jonathan Smith, TT Games

Every week, we ask some of the best game development minds five questions in a feature we are calling Develop:Five. This week, Jonathan Smith from Traveller’s Tales answers our five question blog feature. 

1. What’s your earliest memory of playing video games?
Pounding aliens with a spade in "Space Panic". Dig-anywhere gameplay 30 years before Minecraft.

2. What are you most excited or annoyed about in the games industry today?
I'm hoping to see Switch players colonising public spaces with portable social multi-player fun. The more videogames are visible in the real world, the better.

3. Tell us about a life-changing or special moment you've had at Develop:Brighton in the past - it could be an inspiring talk, someone you met or something that happened to change your career or business? Or something else completely!
Develop: Brighton is always a highlight of the year. And I've seen... things... you wouldn't believe. One standout moment was watching David Braben and Dave Jones play GTA and Elite (respectively), two games I've loved dearly.

4. What are you most looking forward to at Develop:Brighton 2017?
Camaraderie.

5. Which game developer would you most like to meet and why?

Miyamoto, to say thank you.

Jonathan Smith is Head of Production and Strategic Director at TT Games, and a member of the Develop:Brighton Advisory Board.
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Find out more about Develop:Brighton here

Friday, 31 March 2017

Develop:Five - Barry Meade

Every week, we ask some of the best game development minds five questions in a feature we are calling Develop:Five. This week, Barry Meade from Fireproof Games answers our new five question blog feature. 

1. What’s your earliest memory of playing video games?
1980, the the back of a pub while on holidays in Kerry, Ireland, they had Space Invaders. We learned how to clock it, it was the best thing ever.

2. What are you most excited or annoyed about in the games industry today?
Can it be the same thing? I think the democratisation of game dev through digital publishing, free tools and mobile has been the biggest change in 30 years. As a business, games is pro-amateur now and at the edges real change is happening, even if the centre is as stiff as ever. I'd say this democratisation is simultaneously the most annoying and the most exciting part of being a developer in 2017.

3. Tell us about a life-changing or special moment you've had at Develop:Brighton in the past.
My favourite memory of Develop is going there for the first time representing Fireproof, the company myself and my friends had just set up. We had nothing to start with but it was so different and freeing being there to drum up business rather than as an employee/observer.

4.  What are you most looking forward to at Develop:Brighton 2017?
For me,  to meet the people who go to it. And to hang out with Fireproof, we always make a big deal of Develop, make it a party for the whole team.

5. Which game developer would you most like to meet and why?
I've managed to meet Tim Schafer and work for Peter Molyneux, both of whom had a big impact on my teenage self. I wouldn't say I have heroes like them anymore but there are certainly devs who's attitude I admire from interviews, so maybe Miyazaki or Miyamoto, or the people behind Paradox software.. in fact thinking about it there's quite a few.

Indie Developer Barry Meade (@Fireproof_Barry), is a co-founder of Fireproof Games, creators of 'The Room' puzzle games and Omega Agent for Rift, GearVR & Vive.

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Find out more about Develop:Brighton here

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Guest blog: Is Microsoft Hololens really a ‘Mixed Reality’ Device?



Over the past 5 years, consumers have had a lot of new terms to grapple with. ‘virtual reality’, ‘spherical video’, ‘cinematic VR’, ‘volumetric video’, ‘augmented reality’, ‘mixed reality’, ‘blended reality’ and I’ve even heard the name ‘transmogrified reality’ floating around. With so much debate among industry professionals over the true meaning of these terms, how on earth can we expect the general public to understand the differences?


Whilst these terms are typically coined in academic papers, technical terms are often bastardised by companies in an effort to carve out their own identity and differentiate themselves from competition. And this is understandable.

Most of us can recall the less-than-complimentary term for people wearing Google Glass. In the adverts for Glass, Google introduced consumers to ‘augmented reality’, a technology which would revolutionise every aspect of our experience. However in reality, Google Glass never lived up to expectations and the term ‘augmented reality’ suffered from stigma as a result.

Two years later, when the Microsoft Hololens announced their head mounted display, they needed a new term to differentiate their new product from Google Glass. They did this in two ways. Firstly, Microsoft revived the popular concept of ‘holograms’ for the type of content it displays.

Note that this bears little relation to the technical definition of holograms, where a three-dimensional image formed by the interference of light beams from a laser. For anybody interested in a deeper dive, VR developer & academic Oliver Kreylos has a great post on his blog about the differences between holograms & what the Hololens creates.


The second way Microsoft distanced themselves from Google Glass was by bringing another term into the public lexicon - ‘mixed reality’. Microsoft use this term to describe an overlay of synthetic content on the real world that is anchored to and interacts with the real world. However, the term ‘Mixed Reality’ was actually coined in 1994 by researcher Paul Milgram in an academic paper, which described MR as part of the ‘virtuality continuum’.


Whilst the concept of the ‘virtuality continuum’ can be hard to grapple with, broadly speaking, the ‘virtuality continuum’ describes AR & VR as being on a sliding scale, rather than as discrete, binary terms. On one side of the continuum, you have good old-fashioned reality. On the opposite end of the spectrum, you have full, immersive virtual reality. Along the continuum from reality to VR, there is also ‘augmented reality’ and ‘augmented virtuality’. For a better idea of the differences between the components in the ‘virtuality continuum’, creative technologist Vincent McCurley created this wonderful gif that illustrates the virtuality continuum perfectly:


From looking at Vincent’s gif, anybody who has tried the Hololens would say that actually, Hololens content most closely resembles ‘augmented reality’. However, by describing the Hololens as a mixed reality device, Microsoft seeds the idea that their device is capable of displaying any content along the virtuality continuum.

Dispute only arises when people treat terms like AR, VR or MR as absolute terms. By nature of being a ‘mixed reality’ headset, the Hololens is both an ‘augmented reality’ headset as well an ‘augmented virtuality’ headset. Anybody trying to assert that the Hololens is one or the other, hasn’t understood the definition of what a mixed reality headset is.

Thankfully, whichever term the public adopt will ultimately be driven by the product which most resonates with consumers. Industry ‘gurus’ will argue ad nauseum whether the widely popular ‘Pokemon Go’ is or is not ‘true’ augmented reality. However as far as consumers are concerned, if you can see a Pikachu on your camera feed, it’s AR. This is in stark contrast to Snapchat, one of the most popular mobile augmented reality apps, which doesn’t mention the terms AR or MR anywhere.

It’s clear that over the next decade, we are going to see a dramatic increase in augmented and virtual reality innovations, in both hardware and software. At Scape, we’re working on localisation technology that allows regular mobile devices to recognise exactly where they are for city-scale augmented reality. My hope is that as the AR market matures, innovations will be judged by their merits and not obfuscated by buzz-words and hyperbole.

Edward Miller

Edward will be speaking at Develop VR on Thursday 1st December, 2016.

Friday, 18 November 2016

Guest Blog: Immersion Doesn’t Have to Mean Isolation

At seeper we use creative technology for live events and installations and VR is an odd one for us. On the one hand clients are interested in the novelty and immersive experiences we can create with VR. On the other hand, once wearing a VR device the physical venue matters less if at all - and arguably undermines our client's business, which is to offer destinations that are worth travelling to - whether that be a visitor attraction like a theme park or museum, or an experiential event for a brand. At my Develop:VR talk I'll explore this in detail, and look at technical and creative solutions. For this post I wanted to flag up five of the challenges we face:

1.         Disconnecting your senses from the real world.. in public.

We’ve evolved to use our senses for matters of life and death. We may not be in danger of being mauled by a sabre tooth tiger while enjoying a VR experience in a natural history museum but we might just be in danger of having our handbag swiped! There is something disconcerting about surrendering our awareness of what is happening around us in a public space. We need to mitigate this…

2.         Bumping into things!

VR systems that allow you to move around present problems at home too, but in public spaces the additional fear of walking into walls or into total strangers is heightened. I recently had this experience at Bjork Digital, when pairs of guests wandered around in an enclosed space and we were all distracted wondering whether we were about to clatter into one another.



3.         Interacting with hosts

Pretty much any live VR experience requires some guidance from support staff, whether that be practical advice on adjusting focus or helping users navigate an interactive experience. This presents problems for both the user and the host in communicating and for the host in understanding what is going on.

4.         Interacting with products

We’ve looked a number of times at how a brand’s product, typically drink brands it seems, can be incorporated into a VR experience. The challenge is how to enable a VR user to pick something up, or even to place something in the hand without mishap.

5.         Interacting with other visitors

The destination experiences we create are for groups, and often families. Immersion in the virtual can mean disconnection from the shared experience. On a thrill ride, part of the fun is exchanging excited thoughts as the ride starts to move, or watching the reaction on a friend’s face.


Come by the talk at Develop VR where I’ll be sharing the solutions we’re developing at seeper.

Ed Daly is managing director seeper and is a speaker at Develop:VR. His session 'Immersion doesn't have to mean isolation' will take place at 16.45 in room 2.


Monday, 14 November 2016

Guest Blog: VR production and the evolution from storytelling to story-living

VR is a new medium with many emerging genres and complex production methods, so when briefs come into REWIND, the first thing we do is get clarity on what exactly is required. Is it as simple as linear 360 degree video or as complex as a VR Experience (VRE)?  Both are fantastic in their own way, but could not be further from each other in their creation.

Storytelling to story-living
The difference in user experience between these two bookends of content production can be described as ‘story-telling’ to ‘story-living'.  Storytelling applies to current film and also to 360 degree video, it’s a linear experience, the user is a passive observer. But with 360 video you get some level of immersion although it’s limited as you cannot fully interact with your environment. Story-living on the other hand applies to VRE where ‘presence’ - the real magic of VR -  is at it’s most powerful. The perception of being physically present in a non physical world is an incredibly powerful sensation. Within VRE you can fully interact with the environment you find yourself in, you can even walk around, you are fully immersed, you truly ‘live’ the story you find yourself in. Traditional film is a window into a story. In VR, you are the story.



VR requires an entirely new type of storytelling
VR requires new storytelling rules and everyone is still trying to figure them out! Unlike traditional film-making where the director has complete control over what the audience gets to see, VR allows viewers to make their own decisions about what they focus on in the scene. This is a potential problem that no one quite has the answer to yet: how do you keep the level of freedom and interaction that VR allows the viewer, while making sure they don’t miss any of the key elements of your piece? There are several options open to the director to ensure the audience’s attention can be focused when necessary; lighting and sound cues, changing the focal point of an object or character on-screen, or even verbal/action cues can be a powerful tool. In ‘Back To Dinosaur Island’ Crytek used a dragonfly moving around the player’s “head” to direct their attention and ensure that they get a good look at every part of the environment.

Creating ‘presence’ and considering the user
‘Presence’ refers to audience participation within VR, something which can be greater or smaller depending on the type of experience they’re viewing. Directors will need to decide what level of engagement they want, and ensure that the right balance is struck; if a scene is too intimate without acknowledging the viewer, it's likely users will feel uncomfortable and intrusive. Conversely, if your viewer feels like an outsider they can quickly become disengaged and disinterested.


Pushing the level of immersion

‘Home’, the epic spacewalk experience REWIND created with the BBC is a prime example of story-living. The 15 minute VRX was created in Unreal 4 for HTC’s Vive, and the content was in part inspired by NASA's training programme and the astonishing experiences of its astronauts. ‘Home’s ambition as a piece of VR is to combine a strong narrative and sense of drama with the incredible impact possible in an immersive experience to encourage and enhance the public’s interest in space. The level of immersion is heightened at live events by the integration of heart rate monitors that feed back into the experience, recreating the sound of the user’s own heartbeat in their headset. This is combined with an integrated live mic that is acoustically treated and delivered back into the experience, relaying the sound of their own breathing. The ambient sound is spatial and creates the claustrophobia of the astronaut’s helmet and the unnerving sounds of your own body and your space suit's life support system. A gaming chair is also used to provide haptic feedback to make the experience as real as possible. 

Solomon Rogers is founder of VR and creative digital agency, REWIND. His talk 'VR Production: From Story-telling to Story-living" will take place at 3.30pm, room two.