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’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.
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 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.
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!