Okay, if you have read my yesterday’s post, you know that Montreal was host of the International Game Summit on November 16th and 17th. Today I attended conferences that where more production centric, more “technical” in some ways, but there were great presentations good for everyone.
I went to Clinton Keith’s conference on Lean production, which was presented with concrete examples of game production situations. For those who know about Scrum, Lean production is another Agile method of production adopted by many studios and it answer issues that Scrum sometime fails to address. It can also be a complement to Scrum, so if you are actually using Scrum right now and you are not satisfied, you can turn to Lean Production instead of going back to Waterfalls. There is many details that where talked about during the presentation and real life examples where key to understanding the added value to the production phase of a game.
I attended Dorian Kieken’s presentation on the “Living Plan”. I found the presentation useful as well, and I also consider it as a complement to Clinton’s conference. He also talked a little bit about Scrum, but more on the production planning process and how to adapt and evolve your plan during the life of your projects. One of many things I learned during his speaking is the “Broken Window Theory”, and I found it very interesting because we can apply this theory many things.
Just after lunch we had the chance to have Jason Holtman from Valve to talk about digital distribution and Steam. He talked about how Steam can be beneficial to a game visibility, awareness, and performance across all channels. One observation he made is that the life cycle of a product is changed and extended because it is not dependant of shelves spaces. Also, the noticed that pricing online can be independent from in-store pricing, reducing the online price for a week-end and raising it back on the Monday has no impact on in-store sales.
The two lasts conferences I went where those I liked the most today for two different reasons. The first is the one about Building Strong Teams Around Gameplay, from Ken Yeeloy (Next Level Games). Why I liked that speech? Because the guy is in the gaming industry since 5 years and he doesn’t pretend to know everything, but still gives really nice advices that do not apply to only the gaming industry. He’s the producer of the last Punch Out game on the Wii, in my opinion; it’s a pretty big game. His presentation was about building a good team relationship through the leads and being honest but firm with people you work with. There were 5 steps to his presentation but the last one was the mortar to the bricks. The 3 notions of that last step that got out from the others were:
- Engage into constructive conflicts.
- Lose the decision role, but guide your team to the good decisions.
- Provide an environment where the team feels they can make mistakes.
I order to gain thrust for your team, you have to spend time with them, but you also have to be true.
The other presentation I liked the most was Chris Hecker’s keynote. He is such a dynamic and funny guy, but he also knows what he is talking about. He is questioning the right of videogames to be considered as Art. He was not debating if games are a form of Art or not, because if you look around the medias, games doesn’t seem to be considered Art at the same level of music, movies or books, even if videogames are often compared to movies! He compared the videogames path to comic books path – and then end up in the pop-cultural ghetto. He asked why we are making games and how can we make games more meaningful in order to get the same consideration as movies and novels instead of ending up like the comic books, or even worse, just toys.
I think that Hecker’s speech was inspiring and I hope it will open our minds and get developers to ask themselves what they are trying to say through their games, and why.
Where do you think games will end up? Beside comic books in the pop-culture ghetto or in the major league of Art along with movies, books and music? How do you think we can help the videogames industry to get where we want it to be?
By the way, next year, the Montreal International Game Summit will be held on November 8th and 9th. You can’t claim you didn’t know soon enough!