GDC 2019 – Parties

Here’s a summary of some GDC 2019 parties and events based on my experience, hope it’s useful for someone planning their next GDC journey! You can also see my summary from last year.

For each one, I tried to categorize it under a type and rated how nice it was for me. This year I didn’t hit as many parties like last year, but still had great fun.

Polish GameDev Party

  • Type: Game Showcase, Networking
  • Sponsors: Lots of Polish GameDev studios, Polish Game Industry Conference, Indie Games Poland Foundation.
  • Venue: Alloy Collective (Coworking)
  • Access: Free, Requires Invitation
  • Free Food: Yes
  • Free Drinks: Yes
  • Rating: 5/5

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Check out cool games made by Polish companies, eat amazing Polish food, drink lots of Polish Vodka and beer. What could go wrong?

Oh, snap, it’s just Monday. 😛

IGDA @ GDC Networking Event

  • Type: Game Showcase, Networking
  • Organizers / Sponsors: IGDA, Dell
  • Venue: Children’s Creativity Museum
  • Access: Free
  • Requires Invitation: No
  • Free Food: Yes
  • Free Drinks: Yes
  • Rating: 5/5

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Great venue with lots of fun activities, good food and drinks, and lots of networking opportunities in a talk-friendly space.

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Indiepocalypse

  • Type: Game Showcase
  • Organizers / Sponsors: Game Jolt, Devolver Digital, Good Shepherd and DreamHack
  • Venue: 715 Harrison (Club)
  • Access: Free
  • Free Food: No
  • Free Drinks: No
  • Rating: 2/5

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Some good games there, but not as many as last year? and definitively too packed and loud, so it was hard to actually check out the game, let alone talk with someone.

PowX8

  • Type: Dance Party – Chiptune
  • Organizers: 8bitSF and Monobomb Records
  • Venue: DNA Lounge
  • Access: $19
  • Free Food: No
  • Free Drinks: No
  • Rating: 5/5

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If you like chiptune music you cannot miss Pow. Great DJs and a cool atmosphere, nice merch from underground DJs. Awesome performances. I missed the separate “chill room” from last year where you could relax for a bit while listening videogame OSTs, but the main stage was definitively better and full of energy.

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Celebrating Latinx in Gaming 2019

  • Type: Networking
  • Organizers / Sponsors: XBOX
  • Venue: Minna Gallery
  • Access: Free
  • Free Food: Yes
  • Free Drinks: Yes
  • Rating: 4/5

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Good for networking, nothing really mind-blowing. There were some cool activities tho (like a photobooth?) and some swag from XBox. Always a good chance to meet fellow Latin american developers.

Roguelike Developers @ GDC 2019

  • Type: Networking
  • Organizers: Temple of The Roguelike
  • Venue: Yerbabuena Gardens
  • Access: Free
  • Free Food: No
  • Free Drinks: No
  • Rating: 5/5

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Amazing meetup of the roguelike developers community with devs of influential roguelikes freely available to talk, and many roguelike enthusiasts talking about their projects. Hope the organizers can keep the meeting happening in upcoming GDCs!

Zynga

  • Type: Networking
  • Organizers: Zynga
  • Venue: Zynga San Francisco
  • Access: Free
  • Free Food: Yes
  • Free Drinks: Yes
  • Rating: 4/5

I somehow missed taking some pics this year. It was more packed than last year extending into Zynga’s arcade basement. Nice food and drinks, music a bit too loud to talk so actual networking was hard, there were fun games around too.

Marioke @ GDC19

  • Type: Karaoke Party
  • Organizers: Sing Marioke
  • Venue: Encore Karaoke Lounge
  • Access: $20
  • Free Food: No
  • Free Drinks: No
  • Rating: 2/5

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The venue was not very good this year, it was too narrow and small, and didn’t have a properly elevated stage. The hosts were not very fun, or maybe I was just not in the mood. Plus, there was no additional fun stuff being displayed (like in 2018). So it really felt like a setback.

AltCtrl Party

  • Type: Game Showcase + Networking
  • Organizers: GitHub, Particle, Oculus, SuperHot, Gametheory.co
  • Venue: Minna Gallery
  • Access: Free
  • Free Food: No
  • Free Drinks: No
  • Rating: 5/5

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Although the venue was a bit packed thru the night, the game selection was great and the music had just a good volume to be able to talk with people while still getting in a videogame mood.

Closing Party at The Foundry

  • Type: Videogame Party
  • Organizers: Showdown Entertainment
  • Venue: Folsom Street Foundry
  • Access: 18$
  • Free Food: No
  • Free Drinks: No
  • Rating: 4/5

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Great space to play videogames (modern and retro) with your friends, in giant and tiny screens. Sadly I don’t have friends that do this kind of thing, so I was mostly checking other people play.

Some parties I missed because of conflicting schedules:

  • Pocket Gamer Party
  • Kongregate Party
  • Github Party
  • Latin American Gathering at GDC

Also, that.party was cancelled, seemingly because of conflicts between the organizers.

Roguelike Developers and Fans at GDC19 San Francisco

We met together again and talked about our games and projects. 173 people signed up for the event and I think at least 70 roguelike developers and fans showed up including:

  • Glenn Wichman – Developer of… erm… Rogue.
  • Tarn Adams – Developer of Dwarf Fortress
  • Brian Bucklew and Jason Grinblat – Developers of Caves of Qud
  • Kornel Kisielewicz and Olgierd Humeńczuk – Developers of Jupiter Hell
  • Noah Swartz – Organizer of the Roguelike Celebration

And lots of other awesome roguelike lovers!

Planning to do something cooler for next year (hope I can gather enough people again!)

Heroes of Noresskia – 2019 7DRL Finished!

Managed to complete my 15th 7DRL Challenge Entry, PLAY IT NOW!

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Heroes of Noresskia is a setting for AutoDM 0.1, both things were produced during the 7 days time window (although I actually missed 3 days of dev due to the happenings of real life and work). This year I used Phaser again, with a somewhat modified version of the ES6 webpack template. The complete source code is here.

I will start with AutoDM since that’s the justification for my entry. I wanted to create a program that simulated the work of a Game Master / Dungeon Master on a pen and paper RPG session (and no, that’s not what all computer RPGs do). It all came from the research I made for my talk at Roguelike Celebration 2018 and the short article I published afterward. I knew in advance the 7 days timeframe was a bit short, but I believed I could at least do a proof of concept.

The rationale behind it was: Rogue’s intent was to simulate a Dungeon Master able to create Dungeon Dive campaigns, what if I try to create a program that can generate and run Epic Quest campaigns? these two are known as the “simplest” types of campaigns/adventures since the objective is pretty straightforward, and players know what to expect, they are the easier for the Game Master to run.

Of course, there is a lot of terminology on RPGs and none of it could be considered official. I did some research on Day 1 (including this pretty good post) and was really starting to despair since the solution to this seemed too complex and hard to scale down into a first iteration. Seriously, just taking a look at that website and reading two articles is enough for you to want to give up any pretensions of making a program able to do a tiny bit of what a good GM can do.

In any case, for the context of this, an Epic Quest type of campaign is that where the party has to travel the land finding clues to incrementally work towards an epic goal such as saving the world by destroying an arch-villain or finding/destroying an artifact, or a similar cool sounding task. All while surviving battles on the road, and becoming stronger to fight stronger monsters. Check this nicely worded article for more info on Epic Quests.

I have had a very shallow RPG playing experience, and I have never done GM’ing, so I just took what I knew from these sessions along with my research, and used that as a foundation.

The initial idea was to simulate the GM process by generating some key points of the campaign and then reacting to the player actions to build the intermediate steps or tweak the outstanding milestones. However, I ran into issues to implement that as an algorithm and had to settle in the end with generating the complete plotline from the onset.

The first thing the player does is setting up his character; since we are emulating a role-playing session, you don’t really have a lot of control over the other members of your party, but for yours, you can set the name, gender, picture, and re-roll for stats.

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After this, you will be greeted with an introduction giving you some context of what is going on. As I mentioned, the campaigns that the program can generate have a certain structure that is hard to miss, but it can still generate some variation and get the player in the mood provided he wants to put some effort into it.

noreskia1 The world is modeled as a collection of nodes, one for each location, connected by roads. The party moves by selecting the location to travel to, based on the available connections. In the main game screen, you see the game map centered in your location, the status of your party and the locations you can travel to.

I initially intended to provide towns view using Watabou’s Toy Town, but had to cut that part.

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The campaigns are generated as a linear sequence divided into episodes, the player has to travel the land looking for clues to get the artifacts that are needed to defeat the boss of each episode.

These clues are obtained from people in the different locations of the world, where the engine generates some dialog including an anecdote and the clue itself. Once you’ve gathered all the required items you will face the episode boss (or the final boss if you are in the last episode).

I think part of the charm of the game is these dialogs. The generative space is pretty limited now, and although they work well enough for a proof of concept, using something like Tracery (and a very good design) would probably yield more believable results.

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Of course, moving around the map has dangers, there is a chance that you might be ambushed by monsters and have to fight your way thru. The combat system is pretty simple, with each character having attack and defense stats, and damage is calculated as a 2 * roll of ATK – roll of DEF. If damage is > 0 it is deduced from the HP. I didn’t manage to implement any magic system or special skills, time was just not enough.

What monsters appear and what their level is, is however based on your party’s experience level. You level up as a party by getting XP, and all your stats increase.

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But seriously, the combat system was not the focus of my entry. I had to put it there to add some friction to the exploration aspect, but my intent was to have it get on the way of the player as less as possible. (In the end, the original 7DRL version has an issue where the players never recover their HP unless they level up, thus making it extremely hard to win).

I actually envisioned other dangers for the exploration, such as running out of supplies, but since I didn’t manage to implement an inventory and stores system, it didn’t make it.

So, the structure of the project had the AutoDM program simulating the GM, but in order to be able to create a campaign, a GM needs a setting to work with. Heroes of Noresskia is a classic Medieval Fantasy setting, I still haven’t delved into the details of it, since that was not necessary for this project. It’s basically what you would expect for a classic Dungeons an Dragons world: medieval cities connected by roads and ships, people with swords and bows, monsters roaming the countryside.

I should, however, note the tools and assets I used to build it even if it was not the development focus of the project, since it’s what it’s more visible and also it served as a proof of what the AutoDM engine can do (and could potentially do if expanded).

First off is the actual world map, after searching around for a bit for map generators, I stuck with Azgaar’s Fantasy Map Generator. It can create worlds that are big enough, detailed and more importantly, it generates towns and the connections between them.

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While there are generators out there that do a better job at the physical terrain and others that go in-deep into generating town descriptions and population, this one provided the level of detail I needed to make something similar to a Pen and Paper RPG campaign. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to map all the locations (Actually Kram helped me map a portion of the map, and that’s what ended up being released in the 7DRL), and the zoom level used in the game was a bit too low, would have been better to zoom in closer and show more detail.

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Then, of course, another critical aspect of the setting were the illustrations for the characters and the monsters. I went thru both Unity and Unreal’s asset stores looking for what I needed but wasn’t really happy with the sets I found (see 1, 2, 3). The main problem I had was, well, these are icons, so even if they were presented on a high resolution, it was hard to incorporate them into the layout I had in mind.

I finally went back to OpenGameArt.org and checked back into some assets I had dismissed initially because I thought they were too photorealistic, but on closer inspection, they were perfect for what I needed. They ended up having some interesting backstory, they were created as part of a Kickstarter campaign for the FLARE project  (Free/Libre Action Roleplaying Engine) but with the intent of them being useable “[…] in a great many free/libre media projects, from other video and computer games of different varieties, to print board games and rpgs, to modules and adventure scenarios or for use in other media.“. Well, I’m glad I found a good use for them! you can also back the artist’s Patreon to support this great work.

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Some other open assets that were used:

 

And that’s it! please play the game and let me know what you think 🙂

 

 

Webinar: Alternative paths for Indie GameDevs

A webinar by Procolombia (in Spanish: “Caminos alternativos para desarrolladores de videojuegos independientes“) led by Carlos Reyes from Game Art & Design Studios Colombia – GADS. Some takeaways for Indie GameDevs:

  • Have a clear success goal for your game, it doesn’t have to be money, it may be things like Social Impact (measured by feedback received by people on how your game changed their lives), or number of players.
  • Use your personal experiences to craft games that are different from the mainstream.
  • Indie games can focus on a single mechanic providing a shorter experience than commercial games which must provide enough content to justify a high price tag.
  • Before embarking on a game, evaluate you have the resources to complete it (don’t aim too high), and there is a public for it (aim somewhere).
  • Push technical boundaries, do things differently using existing technology (for example alternative controllers, or tweaking existing engines like Unity or Unreal in ways that are not commonly done). Take a license to experiment.
  • Get inspired at events like alt.ctrl at GDC, AMAZE, Fantastic Arcade
  • Look for alternative funding sources. Look for the niche that can support you. If your game has a social impact you can rent it to Art Expos or find persons that might be interested in sponsoring you.

 

Comic-Con Medellin 2018

This year, for the first time, Comic-Con Colombia was split into two events, the first one took place in June in Bogotá (Capital of the country), and the second part is taking place November 16 to 18 in Medellín (my hometown, fabled city of Eternal Spring).

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The talks

I was able to assist there on its first day, aiming to attend some interesting talks based on their program. Given my previous year’s experiences with the talks I was ready to be disappointed with the organization; unfortunately, it went even worse than expected. One of the issues they had past years was people couldn’t find out where the conference rooms were; well, this year I was hopeful it was going to be better when I saw this sign at the entrance.

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Unfortunately, the track ended abruptly ahead in the main pavilion, leaving you clueless as to where the talks took place. After wandering around aimlessly for a bit, I managed to find the rooms in a corridor outside the building, devoid of any indications.

After completing the quest of finding the rooms, I found out the first talk was not going to happen due to the rooms still being set up, and also because (unsurprisingly) only the speaker had managed to arrive (and even he had some difficulties). We were not alone in this, of course, during the day I saw stickers pasted on the program poster, asking for directions.

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The second talk was also canceled for similar reasons which discouraged me to try to attend most of the other talks for the day. Almost by the end of the day I attended one about Science Fiction which was ok, and found out the other talk I was interested in was actually a writing workshop, which I was too tired already to take part in.

I discussed this with a friend and we agreed all of this “academic” track of Comic-Con Colombia is something they are keeping just for the “status” of the event, but they don’t put a lot of energies on it since all they care about is fitting more stores to increase their revenue. Not like this hasn’t happened in other comic-cons around the world, but I feel there’s a lot of room for improvement.

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Some interesting discussion took place in the main stage tho; in one of them, Juan Camacho from UPB’s Digital Entertainment program and Andrés Gomez from lafinka.tv, discussed the current status of the animation and video games scene in Colombia.

The Artists’ Alley

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Let’s go into the happier news with the Artists’ Alley which was pretty good this year and seems like the only reason I would attend the event again next year. I was able to see comic artists from Bogotá, Medellín, and Cali, as well as two professional cosplayers and a sculptor. I wish again this particular section was bigger since I believe it’s what makes more sense to check (the work of local artists). But of course, it doesn’t bring enough money.

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Karmao’s “Bestiarum Maleficarum” is a nice rendition of monsters from Colombian legends, with the added coolness of all of them having Augmented Reality visualizations.

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Heroes Latinos by Mikealdi Comics is a saga inspired by Latin American countries.

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The comics tell the backstory of each hero and how they come to fight reptilian villains disguised as familiar faces…

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In “Buziraco”, from Dragón Negro Comics, the city of Cali is attacked by a demon in 1825. Two brothers, Franciscan friars, are tasked with defeating the demon with their holy weapons, but it will not be easy…

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7 Fábulas & Demonios” by Grecox and Santísima Daysi, is the story of how a group of innocent and happy animals becomes demons representing the seven deadly sins, thru the magic of living in “Maldita Fé de Bogotá”.

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Jonathan Vélez Muriel (JVM Ilustrador) was also in the Alley showcasing his work, including compilations of his InkTober work, and some watercolors and illustrations.

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The Zape Pelele guys were also in the event, drawing people and promoting their “New Zape” magazine.

Game Arena

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The game area was bigger this year, including areas with different kind of games, organized tournaments, booths for Gaming Hardware companies and spaces where players could experience VR games. It was organized again by Gamers and Geeks and it keeps getting better every year.

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UPB also had a booth again, with games made by their students including a bullet hell game I almost won.

Communities

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The communities area was pretty sparse this year, I saw an area where the Mil Espadas guys were having a tournament, and they also had an archery range. There was another area for the Tolkien Fans community where you could take pictures with some monsters.

LaFinka.tv

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This creative studio is the creator of “Mariposas”, an animated short that received the “City of Annecy Award” in the Festival international du film d’animation d’Annecy. They were displaying their services portfolio, meeting other Colombian companies and having some talks about Mariposas and other topics related to the animation.

Stores

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Of course, a big chunk of the event was devoted to the stores, including comics and manga, action figures, books, otaku-stuff and clothing.

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Some of the interesting things I saw where hand-made rubber guns of different types, I almost bought one.

Closing thoughts

There were some positives this year, with higher quality for the exhibitors, and the game arena was much better organized from what I could see.

I already discussed the problems with the organization of the talks; they also missed again publishing the event program on the website baring a link on their facebook page that you had to dig really deep to find (and was not completely accurate). I wonder what will happen this year in this regard, will they get better at it or will it be dismissed for good?

Again, I wish the Artist’s Alley area would grow and more welcoming for local artists. Some of the things I also missed this year was a strong presence of special guests (I was there on Friday and I didn’t really hear anything from them) and a much-reduced number of cosplayer walking around.

Even so, the event remains a good chance to meet artists and geek friends, I hope they address the issues and make it better next time. Until next year!

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Colombia 4.0 2018

October 23 to 26 2018. Colombia’s biggest technology-related conference (Official Website). Organized in Corferias in Bogotá, by the Colombian Ministry of ICTs (MINTIC), and sponsored by many organizations including SENA (National Learning Service) and Procolombia (Government Agency for the promotion of tourism, foreign investment, and exports).

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The event served as an umbrella for different sub-events, including Bogotá ACM SIGGRAPH 2018 which was probably the biggest and could well be a stand-alone event. Besides the opening talk by Adrian Molina (co-director and writer for Pixar’s Coco), I didn’t participate in any of its other many talks. However, their guests were top-notch, I’m sure all of their talks and masterclasses were good.

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More to my interest, there was also a “Business Showroom” organized by Procolombia / Colombia BringITOn. The format was a standard buyers/sellers match-making, categorizing the interests in two broad areas: “Animation” (including 3D Modeling, 2D/3D Animation, Visual Effects, Sound Engineering, as well as different types of coproduction / distribution / publishing deals) and “Video games” (with some overlapping categories but including development on specific platforms such as HTML5, Unity and Unreal, as well as publishing for PC, Console, Mobile and VR).

It ran for 2 days, with each participant having 14 slots for meetings, as well as a space for quick “speed dating” meetings. Overall the quality of the participants was very good, and the organization was great. Some of the companies that sent representatives were Turner International, 2K, Electronic Arts, Apple, Bungie, and Epic Games.

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Right by the business room, there was a space to display the video games and animation products made by Colombian companies. The overall opinion of the international visitors I could talk with was that the level was very high, and the evolution of what Colombian studios are producing is amazing.

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Another big part of the event was the conferences; there were tracks on animation, video games, music, entrepreneurship, media, digital advertising, cybersecurity, and fintech. Each track included conferences, workshops, and panels on the specific subjects.

The track of conferences I was more interested in was, of course, the video game development one, which covered topics such as UX, marketing, legal and workplace culture, and had several panels where developers of own Intellectual Properties, service providers and publishers shared their experiences and tips for success. I wrote a bit more in deep about one of these panels here.

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A final part was the expo floor, of which I could only take a quick tour through. In there, there were local universities displaying the innovations on their IT programs, a showcase of apps made in Colombia (including a section for Agriculture focused ones), a bunch of local companies showing their products and services, and probably a lot more that I missed.

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As with all good conferences, it was also a great chance to meet with game dev friends and make new friendships too; the IGDA Colombia Meet and Greet gathered a lot of the game development scene from Colombia as well as our visitors, stories were shared and new friendships were formed.

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All in all, Colombia 4.0 is a great event for IT enthusiasts, containing a lot more than you can probably check in three days. Fortunately, most of the talks are recorded so you can check them out in their channel. Unfortunately, for the ones I was able to check the audio was dubbed to Spanish so that may be an issue if your Español isn’t very good, and no English translation seems to be available for the Spanish ones.

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GameDev service providers panel at Colombia 4.0

One of the things I was looking forward the most for this year’s Colombia 4.0 was the panel with founders and CEOs of Colombian game development service providers.

The panel featured Enrique Fuentes of Teravision Games, Carlos Rocha of Below the Game, Eivar Rojas of Efecto Studios and Ivan Álvarez of Timba Games.

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Here are some takeaways of the panel, moderated by Chris Wren (ExDev Producer at EA):

  • Providing development services is a great way for a new or growing company to get funding and learn a lot in the process, this doesn’t have to be a pain even if your dream is to create your own games… there are fun projects to be made for clients.
  • You have to make a game first. There’s absolutely no way someone is going to hire you otherwise. You also need the ability to build a relationship with the client, communicate using their language, and learn and assimilate their business culture.
  • Creativity is at the core of video game development, but in order to build a successful business around it, you need to establish processes that can be reliably replicated through different projects.
  • You are going to face a lot of challenges, every time you face a situation try to figure out why it happened to prevent it from happening again (again, use the newly acquired knowledge as an asset to enhance your processes).
  • To get your first contract you need luck in order to find a good opportunity, but you also need to be ready with a game to show and push forward against adverse factors without giving up.
  • Go to events and talks, introduce your work to industry figures and speakers, that will help you get connected with companies if they like you.
  • We started working in an existing engine and build upon it; the creators of the engine were impressed by our work and hired us. This first client has evolved into our current development partner. Building long time relationships often help.
  • Initial cash flow issues and technical challenges were common when we started. Some things that helped were having people specialize in specific project roles creating a pipeline to be more efficient.
  • One thing is planning to make a pipeline and another one is implementing it with local talent. We learned it takes time to build a working team. You need to provide the team with challenges and tools.
  • We doubled team size too quickly in order to have the capacity to handle incoming projects, just to lose some of them afterward while keeping the additional fixed costs we acquired. We fell into irresponsible growth, we recovered but was painful. To prevent this it helps to grow in small “cells”.
  • We are building industry so that newly formed developers can have a place to work. Look for companies at IGDA Colombia website, send your portfolios, companies are always looking for good talent and people that understand core concepts of development.
  • Not all developers are motivated by the same kind of projects. For some developers, it might be more motivating and fun to work in “work for hire” projects, which may be more straightforward than own IPs for indie games.
  • Stay true to what your company wants to be good at making, know when to say no to a project. We have less diversity of clients every time, but we feel being focused has great advantages.
  • Find the genre of games you like, work on it every day and show your work to the world.
  • If you want to work developing video games, take advantage of the current moment of the industry, there ARE places to work in Colombia. It is challenging to get a job but be up to the challenge, even if your plan is to have your own company in the future, you can learn a lot.
  • Don’t approach game development as someone eating in a restaurant, but rather as the passionate chef in the kitchen, working constantly and focused into making better food experiences every time.

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After the panel, the participants were approached by students and developers eager to show their work.