Category Archives: Gaming Industry

The year gone by, the year that is!

I’m writing after a really long time. Approximately after a year.

Do people still read blogs? Not sure, but I’ll still write one!

It’s been a long year, lots of reasons to celebrate, and lots to think and ponder over.

The year began with a visit to the Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco last year. This was my first time at GDC and it was a great experience being around creative talent from the gaming industry and learning from them. I came back to India feeling a lot more motivated to start working on good ideas.

One of my games won a Brandon Hall Gold Award for the ‘Best Use of Games and Simulations for Learning‘. Brandon Hall Awards are one the most prestigious awards in the field of learning, so winning a GOLD was quite exhilarating. The game that won an award is called ‘Develop Your Drug’ and it takes the player through an end to end development cycle of a new drug.

I became part of the NASSCOM Special Interest Group for Applied Games and got an opportunity to learn about some very interesting serious games and their best practices, specifically those from the Dutch Applied gaming industry.  My shift from the commercial gaming industry to applied games enabled me to speak about my projects at the first NASSCOM SIG Applied Games meet-up at TCS.

I started developing games with Unity. It was long overdue since my focus till recently had be the Adobe Flash and AS3 platform. But the web just made Flash the bad guy, so Unity and HTML5 is what naturally came next!

Jordan was a destination I had been planning to visit since a long time. But the plans never transpired because I had my apprehensions about visiting a country whose geographic location is in the center of the Arab Spring chaos in the Middle East. But then in an instinctive moment, I went ahead and booked myself a trip last November, and thought I’d take each day as it comes. Turns out, it was one of my best decisions and the time spent in Jordan was indeed fantastic and memorable.

I spent lesser time online and sometimes never got online. But a digital detox always does good, right?

As the New Year is running in full swing now (a month has already gone by), I have no plans set for the rest of the year. But I do intend to write more, travel some more and build some great games.

Cheers and keep reading my posts!!

Mariam

The GDC week and all that’s new in technology

While thinking about the week spent at the Game Developer’s Conference (GDC), I can’t help but recall the immense learnings I had there. And learning was not all, there was a lot of inspiration to bring back home and start the new year building games using that inspiration.

Virtual Reality
Virtual Reality (VR) was one of the biggest draws this year. No one can say for certain whether this technology will thrive or cease to exist in the future. But at the moment, the VR experience is realistic and engaging, similar to living the game world created by the developer.

Some of the VR devices that I tested included the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Sony Playstation VR, the Samsung Gear VR and even the good old Google Cardboard. I found the Vive and Playstation VR to be outstanding, but thought that Samsung Gear VR had an edge as well.

The great part of VR is that when it is combined with other hardware simulators, it gives VR a whole new dimension.
For example, the motion simulator along with the VR device from Nexperience brought about an awesome 6D experience.

Nexperience

And then there was Birdly that used VR with a mountable stand to explore sensory-motor, wind generator along with strong visual impact to create a fantastic flight simulation experience.

BirdlyUnlimited Hands was another interesting technology that used VR along with a haptic game controller to help the player feel the objects in the gaming world. This controller used muscle sensor, 3D motion sensor and multi-channel electronic muscle stimulator to detect the users hand movements for responsive feedback.

Virtual Reality Games

The Virtual Reality devices were incomplete without the games. Some of my favorite games included –

The Climb powered by the CRYENGINE gave a thrilling experience of climbing a rock mountain. There were times where I missed on catching a grip on the rock, the experience of falling down the rock thereafter was terrifying.

Paranormal Activity, the game is built on the popular horror film franchise. As a player, you will see yourself inside a house at night time interacting with objects only to realize you are not alone. The game does a fabulous job of making you feel uneasy!

The Everest is a must try, especially if you love the Himalayas. The virtual experience of of climbing one of the highest and riskiest peaks of the world is just as terrifying!!

Alt. Ctrl
In today’s age of technological advancement and gaming gadgets, the alt.ctrl at GDC was quite a pleasant surprise. Alt.ctrl stands for alternative controllers and almost all the participants were entertaining with their ideas. Some of the ones I played and liked included –

Crank Tank powered by Aurdino used crank controllers to play a multiplayer arcade game.

CrankTanks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Threadsteading is a two player strategy game using a modified quilting machine.

Threadsteading

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Palimpseste is a first person exploration game that makes use of Filtered Reality i.e. Using a mounted device to view the game through the independent RGB filters. When a color filter is changed, it can show the player areas of the game unseen through the earlier filter.

Augmented Reality

Image Metrics is a face and expression recognition technology. It can capture head movements and rotations, as well as extract face textures. It then uses this facial data to overlay it with graphics. I played around a little with their IOS app Turned which used this technology brilliantly to create zombies out of our faces.

On the subject of Augmented Reality, I must mention another AR technology – Magic Leap. Although I did not see this at GDC, there is so much I’ve heard and read about it.

It is said to be the most exciting thing in Augmented Reality right now. It’s basically a startup which is working on an augmented reality technology. It overlays digital 3D graphics onto your view of the real world via a headset with transparent lenses or smartglasses.

I’m looking forward to Magic Leap opening up to developers soon.

Development Engines

Unity is one of the most popular engines that developers use to make games. CRYENGINE, UNREAL, and Amazon Lumberyard are other interesting game development platforms.

Google had a large space of their booth dedicated to PROJECT TANGO. Project Tango is a technology from Google where it uses vision sensors on devices to move through the world just as humans do. It uses 3D motion tracking and depth sensing to understand position, orientation and depth of objects in the real world. For example you can measure your floor using the phone before you go carpet shopping. Or walk into a maze and use Tango to quickly give you its plan in 3D for you to escape out of it.

Overall GDC was a massive event. There was so much to do that the week was not enough. But the good part is, the inspiration that I drew from it, will be enough to make me keep reading, learning and experimenting more till the next GDC!

I would personally like to thank Blake Merriam and the GameDesignersNetwork to enable the scholarship and provide networking opportunities with game developers within India and outside.

If you too are interested in attending GDC 2017 next year with a scholarship from GDN, make sure you fill out the form and stay in the loop for the announcement.

Mariam

A Round-Up of the NASSCOM Game Developer’s Conference 2015

Usually November is the time when Indian game developers start prepping themselves to attend the annual gaming event in Pune, India – The NASSCOM Game Developers Conference.

NASSCOM GDC has carved a niche for itself for being the premier gaming event in India. Since its inception in 2009, it has become almost ritualistic for game developers to attend the event every year. Some attend it to network, some to learn the new trends of the industry and some to show their games and get feedback.

The game development community is no longer naive. There are stories of acquisitions, funding, publishing deals, startups and new indie studios. And making these stories are the talented bunch of game designers, artists, programmers, producers, analysts and students with a curiosity of what beholds them. It is always great to meet and hear the personal triumphs and challenges of the game developers. Most of them don’t shy from talking about their games and are always open for feedback. This is how the community thrives.

Students demoing their games
Students demoing their games

According to The NASSCOM Developer Survey, nearly 65% of developers are employed with Indie Studios. 40% of developers have no prior gaming experience while the number of women in the industry is 15%. These numbers are good considering how fragile it is to survive in the industry. Those who are there, are because of their passion for games and motivation to build something beautiful.

This year the event started with a day full of workshops followed by 2 days of the conference. There were 5 tracks running simultaneously –Indie Development, Game Design, Game Art, Technology, Marketing and PR, with a mix of Indian and international speakers.

Women in Game Dev Meet-Up at ABC Farms
Women in Game Dev Meet-Up

Apart from the workshops and sessions there was an Investor Meetup, Games Pitch and Women in Game Dev Lunch meetup.

The tracks had informative content that was catered for the casual mobile gaming industry.This was one particular session conducted on serious gaming where the speakers shared ideas on Gamifying Maths and Geography for school students. It was interesting to see how they converted the concepts of Fraction into visuals for learning. The same visual learning could be applied to any subject be, it School Maths or other domains.

The postmortem on the game UNWYND, took us through the journey of a game where the developer explained how they uplifted a failed game on Android to Editor’s Choice on iOS. The developer emphasized on showing games to as many people as possible and implementing feedback early. Attending conferences and using social media to know people and maintaining friendships is definitely a catalyst to getting visibility.

The track on Game Design about making your players love your game in the first session explained how using minimum steps to reach the core game loop was critical. Only 20% of games make it past the first session therefore it was recommended to never dump the player with too many layers at start of the game, stimulate the player’s senses with animations and use notifications wisely to get your players back to the game.

The panel discussion on Indian Publishing deals had contradicting views. While some on the panel felt that Publishers help get a new game gain visibility, others felt that the presence of publishers could invalidate the original vision of the game. All agreed that it is possible for both the developers and publishers to have a win.

The Secret Sauce of App Stores Talk
The Secret Sauce of App Stores Talk

India may start seeing more gaming events in the future. At least that’s what the developers hope for. PocketGamer Connect already happened last year in Bangalore. But NASSCOM GDC will continue to drive developers. Looking forward to the event next year!

The Science Behind Mobile Gaming Addiction

Everyone who loves playing games, is at some point at risk of being converted to a full fledged video game addict (although this may not be a very bad thing :)).

And those in the business of making games, always aim at owning atleast one title that can lead to such addiction.

Mobile games today is a multi-billion dollar industry where just 0.15% of the mobile gamers bring in 50% of the revenue. The paying customers are small but they can be attributed as video game addicts. But they are not the only ones. There are some persistent players who keep grinding through levels without making any purchases, and they can be just as guilty of being addicts.

What makes games so enticing? Well, the science of mobile game addiction has been explained with an infographic below. Read it to find more –

AddictiveGamingSource: Online-Psychology-Degrees.org