Editorial: Develop in My Back Yard

More games for me!

Game development in Brighton is on the rise.

In the past, the majority of game development in the UK has taken place in an area just outside of London. Guildford has been host to a number of famous studios and names, from Peter Molyneux who founded Bullfrog Productions, Lionhead Studios, and 22Cans, to a range of other developers including Electronic Arts, Media Molecule, and Criterion Games. Recently though, my home town of Brighton has become a hotbed of development activity. Not only do we have assorted indie devs (FuturLab, Sock Thuggery, Bright Onion Studios), we also have traditional developers including the European offices of NCSoft. Brighton has also been referred to as ‘Silicon Beach’ because of our support of digital media, so it is no wonder then that we are drawing industry talent from all over the UK for the forth annual Develop Conference in Brighton. let us look at what Sony and Microsoft had to say at the conference.

Microsoft

Microsoft’s Rob Fraser delivered the keynote speech, a rough guide to cloud gaming, on the opening day of the conference. In his speech he talked about how, even with high download speeds enjoyed by some areas of the world, we have not yet reached a frictionless user experience. Cloud gaming is at the heart of Microsoft’s vision of the future of gaming, so it is strange that the talk was not focused on how Microsoft intended to use the cloud for their own purposes. Instead Fraser talked about OnLive, Age of Ascent, and Antstream.

Still needs games though.

OnLive has resurfaced with new technology and a new interface.

OnLive is still around, despite it seeming like it might have died quietly. In fact, the company now has new CloudLift technology to bring the most graphically intensive applications to smartphones and tablets. This way the user can seamlessly drop into games without having to load them up. Antstream tries to copy OnLive, but offers only retro games on their service. Age of Ascent was one of the most interesting aspects of the talk, as it is a space MMO that does all the processing server side so that thousands of people can play together with no lag. Fraser pointed out that the technology could be scaled out (not up) to allow greater numbers of players in for very little cost.

Sony

Sony unveiled what it believed to be the three key tenets of its future; development of streaming technology like PlayStation Now, sensor technology like wearable lifestyle and fitness devices, and the exploration of virtual reality through devices like Project Morpheus. Sony Computer Entertainment president Andrew House likened the software industry to that of the music industry, where digital downloads shrunk for the first time in year-on-year sales last year. Music streaming is on the rise, and House believes that the same is true for the games industry. This is why Sony are putting a lot of effort into their PlayStation Now service that launches in the US at the end of the month.

Brighton talent at its finest.

Velocity 2X Will be playable at the after-hours indie gathering.

At the same time there is also a revolution in sensor technology. House was not too specific on what this meant for Sony and PlayStation, he believes that the reduction in physical size and cost will bring about a new generation of interactive experiences. Lastly, he believes that virtual reality technology is reaching a tipping point and the magic of the experience is worth pursuing the technology. For a company who managed to win support of gamers through selling their machine as a gaming device, Sony seem to be doing anything else but that recently. Even with their PlayStation Now service, they have yet to announce a complete list of game that will be available at launch.

Nintendo had no presence at the conference this year, but there is a day devoted to indie developers, including awards and post-conference parties. This is where the real creativity in the industry comes alive and new idea are born. Brighton has an indie night on the first Wednesday of every month, but once a year we have an extra special gathering that includes out-of-towners. Called Games by the Sea, this gathering allows the indie dev community to show their wares off to each other, engage in some back-slapping with dodgy awards and showcase the talent that resides in Brighton. Stay tuned to the comments for more on this ongoing event.

So, game development in the UK has found a new home, and I hope it is here to stay. Having the cream of the talent on my doorstep allows me to bring the big news to the Lusipurr.com community, so now I ask you this; are there any indie developers you would like to hear more about here? Are there any upcoming indie games you would like to see reviewed? Let me know in the comments!

5 comments on “Editorial: Develop in My Back Yard”

  1. are there any indie developers you would like to hear more about here?

    You know I love the indies. Here are some of the companies/people I rate highly:

    Amanita Design (Botanicula, Machinarium)
    Drinkbox Studios (Guacamelee!)
    FrozenByte (Trine, Trine 2)
    Giant Sparrow (The Unfinished Swan)
    Housemarque (Super Stardust, OutLand, Resogun)
    Mike Bithell (Thomas Was Alone)
    Number None (Braid, The Witness)
    PlayDead (Limbo, Inside)
    PocketWatch Games (Monaco, Armada)
    Polytron Corporation (Fez)
    Q-Games (Pixeljunk series)
    Queasy Games (Everyday Shooter)
    Thatgamecompany (flOw, Flower, Journey)
    Yacht Club Games (Shovel Knight)

    They come in all shapes and sizes, as you see. In addition, there are smaller developers and publishing houses: NIS, Atlus, and Gaijinworks/MonkeyPaw spring to mind.

    In this industry, staying small seems to be the best way to remain true to a vision. We have all watched small, good companies become bloated, greedy porridge factories. It happens again and again: Activision, Squaresoft, Blizzard, Popcap…

    Luckily, the list above shows us that the indies are there to be the forefront of innovative, creative, and fun game design. Who needs the monoliths, anyway? They are dinosaurs.

  2. Now that you mentioned it, Lusi, anyone have any opinions on Machinarium? I was eyeballing it on Steam recently. The last point n click I REALLY played was The Neverhood about a billion years ago.

    Anway, I had always been dimly aware of some studios that came out of the UK, but I hadn’t really noticed quite how much. I knew Rare (back when it mattered) and Rockstar were based out of there but I had forgotten Criterion was as well. I was, and remain, a huge fan of early Burnout. So good.

  3. @Mel: Machiniarium is a thoroughly fun (and quite funny at times) point-and-click adventure game. If you’re a fan of the genre, you should definitely buy it. Same thing for Botanicula.

  4. I can’t think of anything to add to Lusi’s fine list. Toronto used to be a desert for game development, but it’s been picking up as well. I feel like Ubisoft Toronto has had a hand in that just by existing although I’m obviously more excited by Drinkbox Studio’s presence.

  5. Far to the North of Silicon Beach, the one man army that is Psychotic Psoftware. Impressed with his inaugural indie shump Power-Up (initially developed with XNA for XBLIG).

    Recently ‘Greenlighted’ after a very successful Kickstarter campaign last year, this gentleman has upcoming works – @psypsoft

    Both NG Dev Team & Hucast Games are a German-based developer/publishers, with a talent for coding titles aimed at long dead platforms (Neo Geo, Dreamcast) – @ngdevteam & @hucastgames respectively.

    I saw a wonderful looking point & click this past week, Goetia. The folks responsible being another European team (Suchee). Courtesy of Square Enix’s Collective website, I think the Collective is quite a new enterprise (akin to Greenlight) – @PlayGoetia.

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