Talking A Good Game

Update: We have a (slim) chance of making the top 100 games on Indie DB and thereby qualifying for their Game Of The Year award. You can help us get there by clicking this button and voting for us. But only if you actually like the game - wouldn't want to rile any internetrolls with our particular brand of corruption.

Super Glyph Quest

With Super Glyph Quest done, dusted and dead in the water, it's about time I distract myself from our current state of financial meltdown and talk about something fun for a change.

Games Conferences.

When I'm not playing games or making games I can often be found talking about games. Or making games. Next to Willow* it is my favourite subject to talk about.

Sometimes I'm even allowed to talk about games and making games to members of the public at Conferences. Sometimes they even pay me to do so. How cool is that?

So to kick things off, here's an example of one of my talks. It's taken from Konsoll in Bergen, Norway, from 2013.

Looking back on it now, the thing that really strikes me is how much of my own advice we didn't take whilst developing Super - specifically to do with the marketing side of things. In our defence, we just didn't have the time (also, money) to do all of that whilst finishing the game and ensuring that Willow didn't die a horrific, neglected death. But it does serve to prove the point - it doesn't matter how good the game is (and, by all accounts, Super Glyph Quest is pretty damn good), if no-one has heard of it, you're not going to make any money.

You'll also notice how I've spectacularly failed to distract myself from the aforementioned state of financial meltdown. Oh well.


I've been to a fair few of these conferences now and most presentation's follow a pretty similar format. Namely, Powerpoint.

I feel that, in a creative industry such as this, that's a bit of a missed opportunity.

All of this started off at Animex** a few years ago. The first year I attended, I had no presentation at all - just flash cards with my notes on it. It was the first time I'd ever given such a talk and I was kinda finding my feet a bit. Don't get me wrong - there was still plenty of wild gesticulation and ranting - but there was nothing to show.

The second year I made a presentation in XNA. It had text and little cute characters (drawn by the awesome Damo) that would slide in when I needed them to. It also had a neat little sin scroller like the demos of yore in which I could throw in things like 'greets' and even take the time to try and torpedo Zub's talk, which followed immediately afterwards.

After that, I moved over to Unity.

I was tinkering with a dungeon crawler game around the time of the following Animex and I simply re-purposed the engine into my talk. Now, instead of just moving on to the next point, I actually had to drive my character around the environment, pausing only to 'talk' to the other characters who would then put across particular points.

One advantage of that method was that I could also slay them with my sword if I didn't agree with said points.

On stage at the ExPlay festival. Hand Waving is important!
It allows me to present stuff in a more original and, in some cases, interactive way. I reprised the talk for The Gathering in 2012 as well - which is a truly crazy place to be.  That particular event predates my attempts at semi-regular blogging, but probably deserves a post of its own. The short version though is if ever you get the chance to go, I heartily recommend it.

The version shown in the video above has also been re-purposed and the content altered for a number of other occasions. I've used it at ExPlay in Bath for the last couple of years as well as the much more recent Press Fire To Win in Brighton. That also enabled me to try something a bit new - tag-teaming with Leanne to deliver our presentation on how we made Super Glyph Quest.

We had a chance to tart up the presentation and give it another go in a return to Konsoll for this year. A new talk engine was made to take advantage of the fact that I actually had an art resource this time and I was free to wander around the stage and wave my arms whilst Leanne drove. Other than her microphone volume, I think this worked out rather well as you can see here:

Pros and Cons

I think the biggest plus point about this type of presentation is that you stand out a bit***. It's just something a little bit different from everyone else.

Don't get me wrong - I've seen some truly amazing presentations all done in Powerpoint - Scott C's BrĂ¼tal Legend at Animex springs immediately to mind. Also, there are some epic ones that merely use Powerpoint as the backdrop - playing second fiddle**** to Austin Wintory's live musical presentation, for example. There are also alternatives out there. I'm not sure what Vaggelis Livaditis used on his talk about how he learned to be less precious about his own, individual ideas, but it was pretty funky.

But I also wonder what would happen if you took those super creative people and let them make something bespoke? Sadly, more often than not, these super creative people are also incredibly busy - nominally finishing off the actual project they've been invited to talk about - and so would never have the time to put in to a project like this.

In fact, perhaps that's a thing? Given that all Powerpoint really is is a method of displaying text or images, perhaps I should offer my services as a presentation creation dude or package up Dungeon Crawler Presentation on the Unity Asset store and let people tinker with it themselves. Sure, you'd lose the 'bespoke' bit, but it would be interesting to see if something like this took off*****.

But let's say you've made a game and there's some part of it that you could re-purpose for your presentation. A demo level, perhaps, with posters or paintings on the walls. Or maybe a new conversation arc with one of the characters. That'd look pretty cool.

There's an irony in that Valve already do something similar with their embedded director's commentary stuff in Half Life 2 and things. Yet all of their presentations use exactly the same Valve boilerplate Powerpoint format.

Talking The Talk

Actually, all of this pales into insignificance compared to the most important thing - the talk itself.

Having a flashy presentation running on a giant screen behind you is one thing.

Actually delivering a decent presentation is something else entirely.

There are those that have to read from scripts. There are those that eschew scripts in favour of simply reading the information off the slide for you.

But then there are those for whom the slides are merely bullet points. Punctuation. A sideshow for the main event. They glide across the stage with purpose. Their words have meaning. Their passion for their subject matter sweeps you along to such an extent that even though you started off without an interest in their topic, you'll end up a devoted believer in whatever it is they are selling you.

I've said it before but one of the finest examples of this, I think, is Benjamin Zander. His subject is classical music - something I have little to no interest in. But I would happily listen to him talk about it because he does it with such passion and enthusiasm. He doesn't use Powerpoint - merely a keyboard - very much like Austin, in fact.

Being at Austin's talk and watching Benjamin's makes me rather jealous. As a designer, I don't have a 'live' skill. At least, not one that readily translates to an auditorium containing a couple of hundred people. It would be very hard for me to 'perform' my talk as it rather relies on a level of interaction that's just not practical.

Or is it?

I suppose the next step would be to democratise the process a bit. Give the audience a stake in the presentation somehow. Perhaps via a website or downloadable app. Somehow they'd get an avatar right there in my presentation and play it themselves. Altogether. On the big screen. Which way does the Party go? Do they want to enter the Dungeon of Level Design or are them more interested in the Arena of Industry Anecdotes? What is the next topic of conversation? And will they make it to the end of the talk alive or will the final Boss fight overwhelm whoever is left?

Either way, I think people would remember that.

Or it would be chaos.

Total, bloody chaos.

Now, go and download Super Glyph Quest if you haven't already done so.

* Or, well, me.
** As I've mentioned before - easily my most favourite of conferences for a wide variety of reasons.
*** Likewise, indulging in a spot of karaoke for the attendees. If in doubt, don't let me near a microphone (although Rob Dressel does a mean "Don't You Forget About Me")
**** Actually, a keyboard, although I wouldn't put it past him to rock up next year with a fricking lute or something.
***** In the tiniest market sector known to man.


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