Ninja Theory’s tips for surviving and thriving as a ‘AAA indie’

Speaking at GDC Europe today, Ninja Theory co-founder Tameem Antoinades offered an update on how the studio is developing Hellblade with a 15-man team, and offer tips for fellow devs on making indie games with AAA polish.. Here’s a look at some of the highlights of his talk, courtesy of Gamasutra editor Alex Wawro.

A year ago Ninja Theory co-founder Tameem Antoniades came to GDC Europe to share his vision for the studio’s salvation: making indie games with a AAA level of polish, starting with its upcoming Hellblade. Today he returned to give an update on how it’s going, and share some advice for fellow developers engaged on projects that aim for AAA production values without the hassles of AAA markets.

“The retail model is like a grumpy old grandpa that doesn’t want to change its ways: games have got to cost 60 dollars, and that’s that,” says Antoniades. So when these games can’t compete on price, they have to compete on features, and that leads to an arms race which forces devs to “go big, or go home.”

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Cities: Skylines dev: Don’t punish your players; teach them


Cities: Skylines lead designer Karoliina Korppoo offered a postmortem of sorts today at GDC Europe, deconstructing her design philosophy and making a case for designing games that teach, rather than punish. As part of our ongoing partnership with sister site Gamasutra, editor Alex Wawro has published some highlights from her talk below.

Karolina Korppoo is the lead designer of Colossal Order’s remarkably successful Cities: Skylines, and while deconstructing the game at GDC Europe today she encouraged developers to focus on rewarding players for learning, rather than punishing them for failure.

“If you have the greatest game in the world, but nobody knows how to play it, it’s not the greatest game in the world,” says Korppoo. “If you think about Diablo III, one of my favorites, it’s all about teaching players how to play the game.”

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Valve shares advice on designing great VR game interactions


At GDC Europe today, Valve’s Yasser Malaika shared some key lessons learned about how to make great VR game interactions by both Valve’s own devs and external dev partners like Owlchemy Labs. Here are some highlights from his talk, courtesy of Gamasutra editor Alex Wawro.

Figuring out how to design the ways players interact with your VR game is tricky business, especially now when many high-profile VR headsets haven’t even hit the market yet. But Valve’s Yasser Malaika cautioned developers at GDC Europe today to look upon VR interaction design as a challenge, but also as an opportunity..

“Interaction is turning out to be an essential part of VR, as a medium,” says Malaika. “It is profoundly satisfying for users to interact with [VR] content,” and developers have a rare opportunity to freely experiment with how players reach out and touch their games.

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Key takeaways from Epic’s open development of Unreal Tournament


Epic Games’ senior designer Jim Brown took the stage at GDC Europe today to talk about some of the lessons the Unreal Tournament team has learned about open development and turning players into contributors. Gamasutra’s Alex Wawro was in attendance, and shares some highlights of Brown’s talk below.

Epic is up to something intriguing with the new Unreal Tournament: shortly after it was announced, before it was even really a playable game, Epic made the game freely available for people to download and check out.

At GDC Europe in Cologne today, senior designer Jim Brown outlined what Epic has learned from the experience so far. He pitched the experiment as less of an exercise in getting people to develop a game for free and more of an open-minded experiment that reflects design philosophies at Epic, a company with deep roots in the modding scene.

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Advice on making believable VR games from Sony’s Heist designer


Gamasutra’s Alex Wawro relates how, at GDC Europe today, SCEE’s John Foster shared advice for fellow devs on making believable, enjoyable VR games based on his experiences crafting Project Morpheus demos like The London Heist and The Deep.

Sony Computer Entertainment Europe is, by virtue of association, one of the leading authorities in VR game design right now.

SCEE was one of the first studios to get involved with the Project Morpheus headset, over two years ago, and is best known now for producing high-profile Morpheus demos like The London Heist and The Deep. At GDC Europe today, SCEE’s John Foster shared some advice for fellow game makers on making believable, enjoyable VR experiences.

The key to compelling VR game design, says Foster, is fostering immersion. You have to fool a player’s subconscious into thinking “yes, this is real,” and you have to keep that illusion going for as long as possible. A good way to start, while VR game development is still young, is to focus on making one specific action or experience feel really good in VR.

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Cat and mouse: How Bohemia bags cheaters in DayZ


After  studying the problem of players cheating for some time, DayZ associate producer Eugen Harton took the stage at GDC Europe today to share best practices and lessons learned in detecting and combating cheaters in your own game. Gamasutra editor Alex Wawro relates some of the highlights below. 

Bohemia Interactive’s DayZ has been remarkably successful and helped jumpstart the game industry’s current fascination with survival games, but its also been plagued by cheaters. Today at GDC Europe, associate producer Eugen Harton described Bohemia’s efforts to crack down on cheating in the wake of an exploit plague.

“It’s a huge game of cat and mouse,” says Harton. “You’re basically trying to get ahead, and try to get those guys dead.”

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How CD Projekt Red made crafting work with Witcher 3‘s dynamic economy


Speaking at GDC Europe today, CD Projekt Red’s Matthew Steinke offered a behind-the-scenes look at how he led design of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’s crafting system and how he made it play nice with the game’s dynamic economy. Here’s a look at some of the highlights of his talk, courtesy of Gamasutra editor Alex Wawro.

Much has been made of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt‘s open-world design, but less attention has been paid to its intriguing crafting system and how well (or not) it ties into the game’s dynamic economy.

At GDC Europe in Cologne today CD Projekt Red senior gameplay designer Matthew Steinke said his dream in designing the economy of Wild Hunt was to create “a gameplay mechanism to bind the world together,” but the reality of doing so proved difficult.

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Reminder: GDC Europe online registration closes today


With GDC Europe 2015 less than a week away and the session schedule finalized, conference officials have taken the liberty of highlighting a collection of can’t-miss sessions for the event.

Online registration for GDC Europe 2015 will close today, July 29th at 23:59 PM ET. If you miss your chance to register online before the window closes, you’ll have to pay extra to register onsite.

GDC Europe will take place next Monday and Tuesday, August 3rd and 4th at the Cologne Congress-Centrum Ost in Cologne, Germany ahead of (and co-located with) the massive gamescom trade fair, with all GDC Europe passes guaranteeing entrance to gamescom.

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GDC Europe EIGS Roundtable: What’s the state of European indie dev?

gdceurope1.jpgHeads up, European game makers: some of the most innovative and intriguing indie developers in Europe will be showcasing their work at GDC Europe next week as part of the second annual European Innovative Games Showcase.

The nine games featured in this year’s showcase were selected by a coterie of judges from across the industry, and the winning developers will be offered full Speaker Passes to GDC Europe as well as the opportunity to give a 5-minute microtalks at the final session of GDC Europe’s IGS about the nature of their work.

It promises to be a great session, so if you’re attending GDC Europe in Cologne next week be sure to make time to see it —  last year’s inaugural EIGS is viewable now in video form on GDC Vault if you’d like a taste of what’s in store.

To get a better sense of the EIGS itself, we sat down ahead of the show with a few of its judges — game designers and showcase organizers Lea Schönfelder anJonatan Van Hove, GDC Europe Indie Games Summit advisor Kitty Calis, and Dutch indie developer/advocate Zuraida Buter — to talk about the nature of European indie game development and the evolving role of the EIGS.

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Gamescom exec chats about the ‘exciting and diverse’ state of European game dev


With just weeks to go until some of the best and brightest in the game industry meet in Cologne to attend GDC Europe, conference officials want to remind attendees that your GDC Europe pass grants you complimentary access to the gamescom trade fair, which is co-located with GDC Europe.

In order to shed some light on the state of gamescom for GDC Europe attendees who may be unfamiliar with the event and its role in the European game industry, we chatted briefly with BIU managing director Maximillian Schenk.

The BIU (or Bundesverband Interaktive Unterhaltungssoftware) represents the European interests of Nintendo, Microsoft, Sony and other game makers, and is the primary organizer of gamescom. 

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