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Game Design Getting In-Depth, Innovative Look At Casual Connect USA 2018

December 12, 2017 — by Casey Rock

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Developing games is at the heart of every game studio, but understanding best practices and keeping up on the latest in game design from conception to post-launch can be daunting. Attendees of Casual Connect USA 2018’s Design & Development track, however, will become well-versed in important topics throughout the content-creation pipeline and beyond.

LOGISTICS OF GAME DESIGN

Providing broad overviews of different points in a game’s life will be experts from across the games industry. Skydance Interactive CCO Laralyn McWilliams will detail an approach to design that focuses on setting clear goals, determining measurements for those goals, and evaluating success during testing and live-game service. The Arsenal Agency Developer Representation Caspar Gray will provide a lecture intended to give game designers the confidence and expertise they need to negotiate and sign a fair work contract.

In a panel focused on working within the hardcore strategy sector, one of the world’s most competitive user-acquisition (UA) environments, experts from N3TWORK, Facebook, and Bidalgo will dive deep into the details of Legendary: Game Of Heroes from launch to scale in order to provide a case study on the tactics that can be used to crack a game into the Top 100 Grossing.

CHARACTER DESIGN

Digging deeper into specific areas of game design – namely, game characters – will be Microsoft Art Lead Floyd Bishop and Vault 501 President Mark Estdale. Floyd will explore how to create expressive characters and look at their setup in Unity. Mark will focus more on the audio side of character design with his lecture on producing better voice content. His talk will introduce a “can-do” methodology that small independent developers and AAA studios alike can easily apply to take their game to new levels.

Game Design at Casual Connect Kyiv 2017
Game developers showcase their games at the Indie Prize Showcase during Casual Connect Kyiv 2017.

MAKING THE OLD NEW

Two sessions will dive into an emerging trend in the games industry: Re-releasing older games on new platforms or with new methods of monetization. In a joint session, Blizzard Entertainment’s Tim Morten and Christopher Reed will discuss how their team took StarCraft II from a premium, award-winning game and made it into a free-to-play (F2P) game for all to enjoy. Big Boat Interactive CEO Mike Arkin will discuss the release of Battlezone 98: Redux – reimagined from Activision’s 1998 game Battlezone – onto multiple platforms including Steam and the App Store.

ETHICS & INNOVATION

With great game design comes great responsibility. In a timely roundtable led by The Arsenal Agency’s Caspar Gray, experts and audience members will discuss the ethicalness of loot boxes and other forms of monetization. In an out-of-the-box presentation full of innovative ideas, Zoic Labs Senior Software Developer Dave Taylor will discuss moving our commerce, currently based on scalar money, to the “measurably superior alternative” of vector money based on technology already available today – and how game creators will be a pivotal part of building this new economy.

NEW CONNECTIONS

Game design isn’t all that Casual Connect USA 2018 will offer though. Attendees can also expect many other topical insights across the conference’s 15 tracks and three days of content. The conference is expected to host about 2,000 gaming professionals, providing attendees with plenty of chances to build new relationships at networking parties, through its meeting system, at exhibitor booths and in the Indie Prize Showcase. Those interested in learning more or purchasing their pass can do so at Casual Connect USA 2018’s official website.

USA 2017Video Coverage

Doug Pearson: Creating Truly Social Casino Games | Casual Connect Video

November 15, 2017 — by Catherine Quinton

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As technology evolves and tools become outdated, such changes can leave developers in the dust and struggling to convert to mobile. Join Doug Pearson, Co-Founder and CTO of FlowPlay, for a technical discussion on how and why FlowPlay tackled these challenges firsthand by transitioning Vegas World from a Flash codebase to Haxe. Doug will also discuss the cost/benefits of making the move, lessons learned, and future cross-platform strategy. This session took place at Casual Connect USA 2017 in Seattle. See the full session below.

Exclusive InterviewsIndie

Artem Savotin: Find a New Homeland in Sayri Adventure

October 26, 2017 — by David Radd

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Artem Savotin, a Ukrainian developer, is the owner of Vidloonnya Reborn. He says that he got into the IT business more than 12 years ago.

“Games and game business always were a hot theme for me. I’ve created my own game projects at school and in the university along with my artist friend. I was a developer,” said Artem. “After graduating from the university I was working on enterprise development and outsourcing, where I went from a developer to a leader of a German IT company in Ukraine.”

Artem Savotin is the owner of Vidloonnya Reborn

Artem says that #DevGAMM 2016 in Moscow where he really started to understand game development. “I’ve decided there that I want to work on premium games, not F2P, since the creation of a fully functional commercial product was closer and clearer to me,” he detailed. “After the Moscow #DevGAMM in May 2016, we’ve started to experiment, and the first idea was based on evolution theme. The first prototype wasn’t very successful, alas. We’ve experimented with the control methods, and that appeared to be a typical beginner’s mistake, though the idea appeared to be very interesting from first sight.”

Early on the development team was Artem and Vasyl. At the time, Vasyl was still working with Unity, but he was experimenting with Unreal Engine during evenings and weekends and pushed that it was much better.

EventsNews

United in Education Bringing Several Workshops to Casual Connect Kyiv

October 13, 2017 — by Casey Rock

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Casual Connect has always been about educating game developers to keep them at the top of their game. Recently, Computer Games Association, Casual Connect’s parent organization, unveiled their United in Education initiative. Calling it their “largest initiative”, United in Education is meant to provide “a comprehensive set of educational materials for games industry professionals”. At Casual Connect Kyiv this will be reflected in two days of hands-on workshops under the United in Education track. The workshops can essentially be split into three categories: business development, game monetization, and platform insights.

Exclusive InterviewsIndieStudio Spotlight

Pajama Llama Games: Finding Treasure in Flotsam

September 28, 2017 — by David Radd

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Stan Loiseaux of Pajama Llama Games is one of the creator of the game Flotsam. The indie game recently won the Grand Prix at White Nights Prague. The White Nights Conference is an international cross-platform business conference for game industry professionals, featuring plenty of networking parties and attended by thousands. As winner, Pajama Llama Games has the opportunity to compete at Indie Prize London at Casual Connect Europe.

“It was amazing and totally unexpected!” said Stan. “We’re still early in development so didn’t even think of winning any prizes anywhere yet. It certainly gives us a lot of encouragement to continue developing, knowing that people like it.”

While it’s a huge moment winning the Grand Prix and receiving a place at Indie Prize, Stan is still very reluctant to give out advice. He says this is his first game and he’s not sure he knows the real keys to success yet.

“If I had to give any advice it would be to start showing your game as soon as possible to other people,” said Stan. “Either to other developers or at conferences like White Nights. We have a small gamedev community in Belgium and we help each other all the time.”

Europe 2017Video Coverage

Vera Velichko: Succeeding with the Visual Novel | Casual Connect Video

September 19, 2017 — by Catherine Quinton

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I make something beautiful and teach my team to do it. It makes me happy every day. - Vera VelichkoClick To Tweet

User Interface is the connection between the customer and your code. The CEO and Art Director of Owl Studio has a passion about what makes User Interface good or bad. In her lecture at Casual Connect Europe 2017 discussed this and how to build effective interfaces as well as how to direct the user’s attention to the right place at the right time. This presentation will help you whether you are an artist or not to design better layouts that help increase user engagement and retention.
One tip Vera shared was: “Passive and active colors for user interface UI needs a good balance, using gentle shades that won’t tire the eyes.” To learn more, see the full lecture and slides below.

DOWNLOAD SLIDES

Vera Velichko is CEO and Art Director of Owl Studio

Vera Velichko, CEO and Art Director of Owl Studio, has always been determined to have a company of her own, but for many years it seemed like a distant dream as she continued working as an employee. But finally, two years ago, the time was right. “I realized that there is no time like the present, and if I wanted to achieve my dream, I had to do it there and then.” So, with some friends, she began working on her first project, a visual novel called One Day in London. The company has developed into a team of twelve and they still work with this visual novel (an episodic project) as well as doing outsource artwork. During the past year they have completed seven projects together.

Doing Something that Really Matters

Today Vera firmly believes that the work she is doing means something; it really matters. This year Owl Studio’s online school for artists begins. Each day brings interesting tasks; each new project brings new challenges for Vera and the team. She revealed, “I can make something beautiful and teach my team to do it. It makes me happy every day.”

Almost all her life Vera has been working as an artist. While studying fine arts, she started accepting what it would be like to live on the salary a painter could make. But then Vera discovered that the game industry offered a brilliant opportunity to make real money doing what she loves. So she made a portfolio of her work and began doing freelance work as a game artist. At first she were working for almost nothing, but the work allowed them to continue improving the portfolio. And as the portfolio became better and better, the more opportunities it generated.

A pelf portrait by Vera

Building a Business

With the creation of Owl Studio, Vera entered a new stage of her career. Suddenly she must be involved in business development, networking, team building, setting up process, and many other aspects of building a business that she had never done before. Their motivation to succeed comes through seeing a goal and moving toward it. When she looks to the future and see there is something still needed, Vera just keeps moving on.

The biggest challenges she has faced recently is making decisions for the company. Vera reveals, “How can I find out that my decision is right? How can I be sure it doesn’t hurt my team?” She has realized that, although there is no way to be sure something is the right decision, it is still her responsibility as the leader. This continues to be the most complicated aspect of running the company.

Building the Team

For the members of the team Vera searches for those who can combine creative talent with responsibility, but it is a rare combination. This is because the art that Owl Studio makes is much more than a job or a way to make money. She explains, “We are trying to make a graphic with soul and spirit, that will take a user to a new world. It’s impossible without talent. And we work with customers and abide by deadlines, and this would not be possible without responsibility.”

The most difficult positions to fill are the team leads. This employee must have the very unusual ability to be a leader while also being a team player. And next most difficult to find are the UI designers.

Vera has discovered that there are no standard methods of how to work with the team members because everyone is unique; an individual approach is necessary. So she tries to find a way to connect with every employee, but recognize that is also important to know the moment to let them go.

Her commitment to team members is evident when Vera relates the proudest moment of her career. It was when she realized what an apprentice had accomplished, something more than Vera could do alone.

Developing and Testing a Visual Novel

Owl Studio’s first project: One Day in London

When Owl Studio began working on their own project, they used play tests of their first demo to form the final vision of the project. They were testing UI, storytelling, sounds and perception of the image, and as a result of these tests they made changes and adjustments. As they tested this visual novel, the most interesting results came from seeing the differences in feedback from the different story lines. The choices the users made changed their perceptions of the entire story. It was a very important discovery.

Now there are no longer significant changes to the project mechanic from episode to episode, so Owl Studio is no longer doing play tests. However, they do get feedback from users on a daily basis and use this information to constantly improve the project.

The monetization method Owl Studio uses for One Day in London is premium. This is simply a result of the visual novel genre; there is no opportunity to monetize within it for using the free-to-play principle.

Vera has seen dynamic growth in mobile games, as well as hearing many colleagues talking about new trends in this sector of the game industry, and expects this to continue over the next few years. In response, she is teaching the team and students to understand the specifics of mobile art.

The Essential Skills and Attributes of Good Interface Design

There are two essential skills to the basis of good interface design. The first is understanding the features of the project and the target devices. The designer must be able to imagine how the user will use this. The second is understanding the topography and visual design. As Vera points out, not every artist can understand how to work with texts and infographics.

Vera describes the difference between UX and UI design this way: “UX design is the process of establishing the logic system that controls the application. UI design is the process of making this system beautiful.”

Casual Heroes by Owl Studio

The software to design good graphical user interface will vary depending on the artist’s habits and preferences. Some possibilities include Photoshop, Illustrator or Animate. The only essential is providing a portable network graphics set.

For someone who is considering UI design as a career, Vera emphasizes the importance of playing games while thinking about how you do it. Also, study the topography design. These are the two most significant steps toward becoming a UI designer.

Europe 2017Video Coverage

Petri Ikonen on Designing Games, Creativity and Putting Players First | Casual Connect Video

September 15, 2017 — by Catherine Quinton

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Petri Ikonen, Creative Director at tracktwenty, joined EA in 2012 when they opened their mobile game studio in Helsinki, Finland. With responsibilities that include supervising the studio’s design team as well as doing many hands-on design tasks, he is vitally involved in developing tracktwenty’s creative culture and processes. At Casual Connect Europe 2017 in Berlin, Petri discussed the challenges of creating SimCity BuildIt.

Exclusive InterviewsIndie

Kevin Beimers: Mona Lisa Stealing a Smile

September 13, 2017 — by David Radd

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Kevin Beimers fulfills a lot of roles for Italic Pig: writer, editor, producer, director, animator, artist, designer, developer, coder, and storyteller. He has helped create Schrödinger’s Cat and the Raiders of the Lost Quark with Italic Pig. He noted that what he learned from this was: “the weirder the idea, the less likely it is to be stolen”, which led to the development of Mona Lisa, a game where the titular character is a Renaissance robot art thief.

“I’ve always found Da Vinci fascinating – I think everybody does at least a little bit. I mean, here’s a guy so far ahead of his time, with buckets of ideas, talented in every facet of art and science from inventing to sculpting to painting to engineering to botany to anatomy… and that’s just from the codices that he let everybody have a peek at,” said Kevin. “The thing is, for every time he dropped a bomb on human invention – ‘Here you go, folks: I call it a helicopter. That’ll blow your mind.’ – how many of his ideas never saw another human face? I would imagine that for every codex he felt comfortable putting on display, there’s another 10 back in his basement he never told anybody about, and more than a few that he probably had to set fire to.”

“Then you’ve got the mystery of Mona Lisa: Who was she? Oh sure, historians think they’ve got her pinned down as either the wife of a Florentine cloth merchant, his secret same-sex lover, or Da Vinci himself. In other words, nobody’s got a clue,” he continued. “I asked the question: what could be the culmination of Leo’s work? All of his sketches of engineering works, all of his sketches of the human body, what if Mona Lisa the Painting was not his greatest creation, but Mona Lisa the Girl?

EventsGame DesignNews

Casual Connect USA: Mark of Innovation

July 26, 2017 — by David Radd

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Casual Connect USA 2017 is coming up August 1-3 in Seattle, Washington. While it will feature details on all sides of the industry, from game creation to marketing and publishing, the Design Innovation track in particular will take place on Tuesday, August 1 introduced by EMCEE Mike Hines, Developer Advocate at Amazon.

Innovation from Experimentation

Prototyping can be productive but perilous, with great rewards coming from experimental designs. Scott Jon Siegel, Indie Developer and Game Design Consultant, wants developers to not worry about failure and focus on the rewards that can be had from experimentation.

EventsGame DesignNews

Casual Connect USA: Crafting Your Design

July 26, 2017 — by David Radd

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Casual Connect USA 2017 is coming up in Seattle, Washington from August 1-3. The conference will cover a variety of subjects from developing, publishing, and marketing of games for all platforms. Taking place on Wednesday, August 2 and Thursday, August 3 will be the Design & Development track kicked off by morning EMCEE Chris Lefebvre, Head of Business Development at Tapdaq, and afternoon EMCEE Macy Mills, Head of Business Development at GameInfluencer GmbH, with second day EMCEE Jordan Blackman, Founder of Bright Black leading the track on August 3rd.

 

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