Over the past couple of days, I have been very fortunate to be able to attend the Platform Expo for 2013. This took place in Hull over the 15th and 16th November 2013. I found the event to be incredibly helpful. My time was spent mainly meeting local developers to discuss their projects with them, test their projects out and also attending the talks/lectures with members of the industry, such as people representing Microsoft’s Xbox division and Sony‘s External Development (XDEV) team.
I attended the expo on both days with two of my friends and course mates, Phil Maclennan and Jason Pook. We planned everything out so as to gain maximum advantage from the talks and sessions as possible.
We first of all explored the main show floor within the Hull City Hall. We jumped straight on some networked PCs to play a game called “Ace of Spades”, which is an FPS game in the style of Minecraft, where players are able to build their own maps and manipulate maps with their weapons during the game. I only got to play the game for a short period of time and to be completely honest, it wasn’t really my thing. It was interesting to see the combination of the genres to come up with something a little different to the usual FPS game. After this, we took part in a character designing exercise co-ordinated by our tutor, Gareth Sleightholme. We were given a task of creating our own character and drawing it on a fairly large roll of paper. To give us a starting point, we were given the words “Rodent” and “Robot”. My initial attempt was to draw a robot rabbit. Whilst drawing this character up, I was not really pleased with what I came up with. It was only towards the end of the creating process when I was able to turn it into something that looked more like a turtle that I was actually pleased with the work. You can see the finished article below.
After this, we attended a developer talk from Microsoft’s Xbox division. The talk was held by Richard Adams and Carla Prada of Microsoft Soho Productions. This was held at the Ferens Art Gallery. The talk focused on developing for the Xbox platform. The first part of the talk, taken by Richard, focused on what Microsoft are doing to foster small start-ups that wish to create content for Xbox. Richard went into further detail about his job, which involves literally searching for talent to bring to Microsoft platforms. This includes working with small indie developers to get their content onto their platform, as well as taking on over 30 interns over the coming year to work on projects within Microsoft Studios.
After this, Carla Prada took centre stage and discussed the process of creating an “interactive TV show” for the “Sesame Street” IP that makes use of Microsoft’s Kinect technology. We were taken right through the process from the initial concepting of their main character, named Cooper. This started with some initial test renders from within Maya, to actually creating a real “Muppet” for use in the motion capture phase (to achieve the Muppets style of puppeteering accurately), to near enough the final version of Cooper. We were shown many pieces of concept art from the beginning phases of Cooper’s creation as well as some of the mistakes and bugs that were encountered during Cooper’s creation.
I felt that this talk was very interesting. A lot has been made of Microsoft’s ability to support independent developers since they announced the Xbox One at E3 in June. This talk communicated to me that Microsoft are not only very interested in working with indie developers to get their content onto their platforms, but that they are also interested in nurturing new talent and also trying new ideas to further explore how games can expand into new territories such as that of interactive television.
After this talk finished, we headed over to the Hull College Studio School to listen to a talk held by Pete Smith of Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, External Development (XDEV). Pete’s talk was all about how to pitch. Pete opened by declaring that he created the talk/presentation because he was selfish. He said that he was basically sick to death of sitting through terrible pitches for games. The aim of his presentation was to explain how to pitch your game idea. The talk gave various dos and don’ts. I found this talk to be particularly helpful as one of my aims is to make my own games. Pitching to a publisher is an important step in this process and I feel that I will find his advice invaluable.
After this, we went to the City Hall to check out some of the games on show. Below is a quick 360 view of the show floor in the Hull City Hall. The event was spread out over multiple buildings, but the bulk of the events for the general public took place here.
Whilst in the City Hall towards the end of the day, I got the chance to play some pretty awesome games, including FIFA 14 on the Playstation 4. This was the first time I got my hands on a PS4 controller, so this was fairly exciting for me! Overall, I was very impressed by the graphical fidelity that was made possible with the hardware. I unfortunately lost 2 – 1 at the hands of my friend and course mate, Jason. It was however incredibly fun. We also got the chance to check out “The Playroom”, which is a pre-installed app which demonstrates the power of the PS4 camera and its motion tracking capabilities. This was incredibly interesting as it goes beyond the traditional definition of a game and more into the realm of an interactive experience with some game functionality added on.
By this point, the event was over for the day and we left. Upon returning the next day, I used the opportunity to speak to some developers about their games. One was a zombie survival game which had been developed in 48 hours by some university students. I was able to try this out. It was fairly impressive considering that six guys built it in 48 hours, but it was evident that more work needed to be done with it. There was also a game on show in which you had to defend a city from asteroids by blowing them up with rockets.
Overall, Platform 2013 was a fantastic event. It is great to see game development being recognised in Hull and it’s great to have the opportunity to speak to developers and to get developers and publishers to speak to us to offer explanations of how to do things and advice on how to move forward within the industry,