Friday, 28 June 2013


“Have you seen this game, Hunters?”, he said.

“Umm, yes, in fact my company created it.” I replied in mild shock.

“Cool.” he stated. His very words mirroring his disposition.

“Thanks... Why are you heading out to LA?” I asked, still recovering from having met an actual player of our game.

“Oh, I’m the Head of Licensing at Games Workshop.” he replied

“......”, speechless.

That’s how we met the Games Workshop head of licensing. Sat beside one another on a random plane trip to Los Angeles. Back then Laurent (co-founder and business director at Rodeo) and I didn't even fathom it would be the first steps down the path to us releasing an iOS version of their much loved Warhammer Quest. We were just enjoying meeting one of our childhood heroes! Time passes, and since then we've spoken to dozens of people about the inception of the project. The response is universally always the same....

"Wow! Talk about lucky!!"

I guess on the face of it, yes, it sounds more like a lottery winner story than Branson self-made-man style tale. However, as is often true of these anecdotes in our industry, meeting that particular man on that particular plane was inevitable because of how we’d positioned ourselves previously. Let me explain why...

Focus, know exactly who you are and what you do.
“We make the best turn-based strategy games on iOS”. That’s our company M.O. We have three games with a metacritic above 80 in our stable so far, and a hardcore group of fans who follow us for because they “get” what we’re trying to attain. We know who we are, and we know who we aren't  Dual stick shooters, gesture based sports titles, even flower growing sims are all experiences we've played and enjoyed. However, as a developer, our passion lies within the turn based arena. It’s something we've created a foundation for, and continue to build upon. It’s where we excel, what we love, and ultimately the fuel that runs our strange developmental machine. That single statement clearly explains to any outside force (whether fan, publisher, license holder, potential hire, etc), what our company is.

We know what we do. Come join us if you share our passion.

Have a solid history of games displaying the field you specialise in.
As I mentioned. At time of writing, we have three 80 and above metacritic titles. When we had the Games Workshop plane encounter we only had a lonesome release, Hunters: Episode One. However, Hunters 2 was in showable development, and was essentially a bigger and better version of the first title. Weekend philosophers say a picture is worth a thousand words... an entire game must be worth a billion. When a prospective partner can see and play your work, you’re no longer theorizing and explaining. THEY are experiencing. From that experience it’s much easier to envision how an existing license could work within your gameplay. I doubt many companies would entrust their hard-crafted licenses to a developer with no prior record.

Be visible.
This may sounds like a ridiculously obvious point. It’s funny though to see how many developers and people in general overlook it. Say, for example, you’re looking for a girlfriend / boyfriend. Would you sit at home, waiting for that perfect partner to chance a knock on your front door declaring their love. Ok, fine, if George Clooney is reading this, then feel free to ignore that last statement. However, the point still remains that no-one knows you. We knew that in our first year we’d really struggle to get our name out there. So, we attended conferences, shows, drinks nights, quizzes, all sorts, just to meet people. Ok, let’s face it, these functions are generally a lot of fun as well so I’d be hard pressed to say it was all work. Facebook, twitter, blogs and websites all count towards the goal in their way. As the world of dating will tell you though, nothing is as good as a face to face!

It won’t happen overnight. We still have a long way to go before Rodeo Games becomes even a vaguely recognisable industry name, but we’d have even further to go without all the founding effort.

Know what things you love.
...and by that, I don’t mean love EVERYTHING. Just some things. Be passionate about them. In no particular order a few of my object loves are: Dinosaurs, Games Workshop, Sharks, Forests, Computer Games, Cats, Movies (Can’t believe Universal gave Jurassic Park to another developer. Grrrr). Anyway, why does this matter I hear you ask? Let’s take the plane encounter with GW as an example. We didn't talk about how we could make them millions. Or how we could take their next digital business to the next level. Our conversation consisted of which BloodBowl teams we fielded. Why Fantasy Chaos Armies were so ridiculously overpowered about fifteen years ago, and why Space Wolves will always be cooler than Ultramarines (I feel I should point out the views of Rodeo Games do not reflect those of Games Workshop!). The love of subject matter shone through and in some way affected the final outcome. I'm pretty sure that if the seat next to me was occupied by a representative from Hasbro, we wouldn't be making a Transformers game right now.

Be prepared.
Ending on a point that seems so spectacularly simple, yet so many overlook... Know your business.

Don’t be the guy we've all seen on Dragons Den who doesn't know his numbers. It’s embarrassing and creates a terrible impression. If you've made the rather large steps of first creating a company and then putting yourself out there, take five minutes to know the ropes. Learn the difference between gross and net profits (Branson claimed to not know....I think he may be fibbing). Know how many units you sold in week one. Understand how advertising in games works, even if you don’t currently use it. Let knowledge be the armour that shields you from the lances of questioning and pressure. Did you ever not study for an exam? Actually I did once...and turned up drunk...though that’s probably a story for another time.

Know yourself, your business and your loves. Then get out there! You never know who you might meet.

Ben Murch will be talking at the Develop Conference on Wednesday 10 July 

Tuesday, 18 June 2013


"In all the time I spent with him, I never once heard him refer to his ability to see the future. He couldn’t see it – that’s why he had to grope for it. He would be seized by some overwhelming enthusiasm . . . and he would be off and running down some long, dark tunnel leading God knew where. . . ."
– Michael Lewis, The New New Thing

Virtual reality helmet designed by Toshiba 

What's that? You foresaw the modern era of games?

No you didn't. Maybe you saw multiplayer gaming over modems moving to the Internet, and games being slowly but surely downloaded on Steam.

Oh, and you played Snake on a Nokia.

These breadcrumbs pointed the way to today about as clearly as whether you can tell me if we will be will be ruled by our robot overlords come 2045.

It's only in retrospect the future is clear. Getting there is anything but.

The history of games comprises middling periods of dull conformity punctuated by short revolutions. Trying to predict gaming's future is a loser's game, because it's irresistible to look at the current winners and extrapolate, yet it's the revolutions that reshape the industry.

I should know! I worked at Edge back when screenshots posted in a jiffy bag from Japan constituted breaking news. I spent years writing future-gazing columns for the trade press, in which I pontificated about the end of retail. And I co-founded Pocket Gamer in late 2005, just ahead of the mobile games revolution.

I even helped put together the first 'evolve' for Develop in Brighton, after a year of raving about how the Internet was changing everything.

Hark at me, the visionary!


I was ten years too early in writing off the High Street. Worse, like everyone I foresaw people downloading FIFA 2015 for their PS4, not Clash of Clans on iPad. Indeed iPads hadn’t been invented and most mobile pundits thought the likes of Vodafone would wield all the power.

I was humbled recently when I revisited a feature I wrote for Develop around the time we launched evolve at Brighton. Entitled Games 3.0, it came out a few months before a certain exec's GDC talk of the same name that really caused waves. Brilliant – except I focused on user-generated content and YouTube, barely mentioning Facebook and free games.

In economics they call it 'hindsight bias' – the belief we saw whatever has come, coming. Nearly always we don't, but we edit our past to believe so.

In truth, even those of us who predicted digital distribution didn't foresee a new industry springing up alongside it, nor did we anticipate handicaps such as content discovery.

Digital distribution was meant make everything available anywhere. In reality it's created an unpredictable hit-driven business that makes 1980's Top of the Pops look like a sober scientific analysis of popular music, with the sums done by Stephen Hawking.

When I edited the then-newly launched Develop magazine a decade ago, the talk was all about how we would manage teams of 500 people, and whether we could shoehorn emotion into photorealistic $500 million blockbusters.

Yet it's teams of 5-10 people who've reinvented gaming and most of the emotion we've seen has come from the staff departing triple-A studios as they've folded across the globe.

Don't try to predict the future of video games. But if you must bet on it, bet on change.

In the meantime, monitor every new development in technology, software, and monetization as if your career depended on it.

It does! But don’t ask me exactly when, or how.

This blog was written by Owain Bennallack, the chair of the Develop in Brighton Advisory Board 

GUEST BLOG: Next Gen Audio - The Power of Ideas

I’ve interviewed a few famous composers in my time. They’re an interesting bunch – some perfectly relaxed, some slightly frazzled, some completely hyper, but they all have something fascinating to say.

John Broomhall

A particularly memorable moment occurred in conversation with an iconic movie maestro in front of a live audience. Having discussed some of his key works, his history and how he goes about the job, we strayed into his working relationship with orchestrators. This is sometimes a touchy subject, but no problem here. He was delightfully candid and complimentary about the contribution of the team around him. Figuring the audience of two hundred or so aspiring composers waiting on his every word might be interested in his choice of software and sample libraries, I then posed the question: “So, tell us about your studio – what technology do you use?” The terse, and somewhat unexpected, response: “Technology? F*ck the technology! What I do is all about the power of ideas!”

There are certainly many celebrated instances of sound design for moving pictures that have everything to do with ideas and little to do with technology. In fact, many were created using equipment we would now consider laughably rudimentary. The creative approach is, however, extremely sophisticated. I first experienced something of this early in my career sitting in a wildlife dubbing session watching a now famed sequence of whales beaching themselves in some exotic locale. It didn’t occur to me that the accompanying sound was complete artifice until the well-known wildlife dubbing mixer pointed out the tiger, tank and aircraft sounds that had been manipulated and combined to sell the drama of that extraordinary moment when a gigantic mammal hurls itself out of the sea.

The actual location sound recorded by some poor bod with a microphone in situ was truly pathetic. The cleverly ‘designed’ sound was awesome. The fact it wasn’t real didn’t matter one bit. It conveyed the immensity of the spectacle. This was the power of an artist’s ideas in play: story-telling through the choice and mix of sounds.

Such creativity is, of course, just as relevant to games. We may be inextricably linked to technology, but the power of our creative ideas is a real differentiator. However, it may require us to stray from some obvious paths that both technology tools and videogame culture and heritage tend to point us towards. For instance, a literal approach to sound choices and mix is not necessarily entertaining, informative or compelling for games either.  It’s a useful starting point but overriding it and embellishing it for dramatic effect to engage the power of ideas in storytelling and narrative support through audio is a rich seam, ripe for plundering. 

Xbox One and PlayStation 4 are almost upon us. Their technical power for audio is clearly obviously important. Equally important is the creative ‘ideas power’ we bring to the table to go beyond the obvious and break new ground, bringing engaging, dramatic and impactful audio to the console games of tomorrow.

This blog was written by John Broomhall who is a game audio specialist and organises and chairs the Develop Conference Audio Track. He is currently finishing work on original music composition and production for a major AAA console title TBA soon.

Find out more at or get in touch on Twitter - @BPLGameAudio and @broomerslive

Monday, 3 June 2013

GUEST BLOG: That's me in the corner... a video game psychologist's FAQ!

On a recent hospital visit the nurse (a woman in her 50s) asked me what I do for a living. I gave her my standard reply: "I am a psychologist specialising in cyberpsychology, so how humans interact with technology and specifically video game play." She gave me a fascinated look (it's the response I usually get) and replied: "I love playing Temple Run – why do I find it so compelling?" I answered her: "Because it makes you happy and getting high rewards compared to the effort you’re putting in makes you want to play more."

Psychologists have used physiological measurements such as heart rate to measure engagement

This conversation wasn’t a one off for me. When people find out what I do, they often want to know more and are instinctively interested in why humans engage in video game play. Personally, I think this speaks volumes about the power video games as entertainment on a global scale.

Developers are even more fascinated than gamers in the answer to that elusive question: “What makes people so engaged in video game play?” While developers  have many ways of gauging engagement, such as churning data, sales, time spent playing, etc., as a psychologist, I am more interested in scientific measurements as a result of research around gamer engagement, which can complement and even challenge the measurements developers already use to heighten the experience for the gamer.

A comprehensive review on game play engagement is published in Computers in Human Behaviour conducted in 2012 by Elizabeth Boyle, Thomas Connolly, Thomas Hainey and James Boyle. It sheds some light on engagement and highlights gaps in the research in this area. The study reviewed research from a ten year period between 2001 and 2011 excluding educational and serious games. All the papers reviewed were from research that was referenced in academic journals and included a large number of research papers all looking at different aspects of engagement.

The paper highlights the lack of consensus about what engagement actually is, although lots of constructs have been proposed: immersion, enjoyment, presence and flow, for example. Perhaps the best known concept is flow, which is often characterised by complete optimal experience and absorption in the task one is involved in to the exclusion of everything else. Other researchers challenge this suggesting that actually immersion is a better construct as it can be more varied in terms of the subjective experience and does not, as flow does, concern itself solely with the optimal experience.

Outside of the subjective experience, engagement may be measured objectively by studying the time spent playing a game, although some researchers suggest this is difficult to justify as a concrete measurement as factors like negative motives for playing may hinder this measurement. Lab research around physiological responses in gameplay are interesting, such as work around eye movements and re-engagement post play as a useful objective measurement of immersion, whilst other physiological measurements such as heart rate can inform around emotional responses, these can be ambiguous when measured.
According to psychologists enjoyment levels and motivation to play can predict engagement

Boyle's review showed that surveys were the most popular method of studying motivation and engagement, which is fine as long as they are scientifically designed to have good validity and reliability. However, there is a lack of good qualitative research which would further enhance our understanding of the subjective experience of engagement, and this is an area that developers may consider embarking upon in terms of research.

Players want more and more out of the gaming experience and developers could utilise scientific psychological measurements of engagement as objective robust measurement tools that can be specific to genre, gamer profile, target market as well as platform. The scope to get really close to the gamer using psychological scientific measurements combined with more traditional developer measurements can only be a good thing in terms of quality of the game experience for the player.

So, if you meet a cyberpsychologist in real life, please don't ask us what we do.

Boyle, E.A., Connolly, T.M., Hainey, T., Boyle, J.M. (2012). Engagement in digital entertainment games: A systematic review. Computers in Human Behaviour, 28(3), 771-780

This blog was written by Berni Good who is the founder of Cyberpsychologist Limited ( and who is speaking at Develop in Brighton –