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