Day Jam November Impressions

Once again a few students took up the challenge to develop a game with a preset theme within 24 ours. Design muscles were flexed, custom art was made, the 3D printer set in motion and the lazer cutter burned wood. In the end, with various amount of night time playtesting, 3 games reached the finish line and were played by everyone. Feedback to improve the concept was offered and some games as prizes to all teams. Nice work!

Looking back: Test & Chill October 2019

Just before the student Autumn break we had another edition of the playtesting event ‘Test & Chill’, co-organised with the student association Glitch. With around 80 participants -from all study years- we had a great turn up! It meant year 1 card game concepts were played, as were digital games. Check out the pictures below (made by Vasil and me).

Next block we will have 1 or 2 more playtesting events. And before that, to get your design juices flowing, we will have a ‘Day Jam’ on 14 and 15 November. Make a game in 24 hours!

Monster Problems: Co-creating a ‘serious’ game

Spring 2019 I was contacted by the municipality of Groningen. Their Kids Council is involved with serious topics and currently they had discussed poverty for kids and their families. They wanted to make a game out of it. Could I help? Together with a co-designer I asked to join, Robert Brouwer, we set out with the group to see what the topic is, what kind of game we could create and what design restrictions there are.

The result is a ‘serious’ card game for age 8 and older, in which players learn about problems caused by poverty and potential solutions for such situations. This is done by seeing text one side of the cards, the other side shows monster heads (problems) and limbs (solutions) that can be combined if they are of the appropriate color (type). The design challenge was to make use of all the information the Council had gathered and have the game be playable by kids without a parent, teacher or other supervisor to direct them or teach.

This was a co-creation production with fellow designer Robert Brouwer, the municipality of Groningen and their Kids Council. Drawings were made by the Kids Council, under art direction of Robert. Graphic design and art implementation done by Marco Westerkamp, who really enhanced the looks of it! The game will be distributed to primary schools in the city.

It was a blast to do and we are proud on the results!

 

News bulletin of the Municipality on the project during development:

Raad van Kinderen bedenkt armoede-monsterspel | Gemeente Groningen

Göttingen Game Designer Convention 2019 Impressions

In the first weekend of July once again the yearly game designer convention was organised in Göttingen. The SAZ has taken on the organisation and the location changed to the Lokhalle. Together with a fellow designer and a game illustrator we participated on Saturday. Time to look back (for more tips and tricks see this blog on a visit 2 years ago).

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Some rough numbers: around 160 designers were present and around 80 publisher representatives. Some publishers were represented by 3 or more, while other publishers had 1 scout that stalked the hall. There were also agents, who scout for prototypes they then pitch to publishers all around the world. It was a very productive event for us, getting interest in many of the prototypes we brought.

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Some personal impressions:

  • We talked to publishers and agents from Germany (most were), Switzerland, Austria, Lithuania, Belgium and Russia.
  • The SAZ indicates who will be there (some companies were not mentioned but still were present). Emailing those companies in advance helped with making appointments. I was a bit late (1 week in advance), and should have done it sooner. Luckily, compared to big conventions like Spiel Essen, it was still possible to make some appointments. Publisher have a full focus on meeting (new) designers at this event.
  • Making sell-sheets, to pitch concept(s) works really well. These can be used to place on your table, hang on the pin-board and put into publishers’s folders they will look into. This year I made them just before the weekend and not emailed them
  • Sunday is relatively less busy with publishers and this year we decided to be only present on Saturday. That did feel a bit short and rushed. Sometimes it was asked whether we would be there Sunday as well, to play a concept or talk more. For next time, I will consider going the full weekend again.
  • When being present on Sunday: the event is then open for the public and they might love to play your game. People enjoying your game is great advertisement, but do keep check if publisher would also like to talk to you.
  • I brought 2 published games that are available for sub-licensing outside the Netherlands. While most publisher look for new concepts I did get some interest in these and could then introduce them to the original publishers.
  • Another Dutch designer could not join, but send me demo-copies of his kickstarted game (Rollecate). 5 publishers were interested in checking it out and accepted a copy to take away. Whether this results in anything we will have to see, but this does seem to work to a degree.
  • Going as a team makes it much more fun. We had experienced this prior and is true still. And we could help each other out with playing a demo and by referring publishers to each other.
  • Some designers had a prototype in a rough state, not much playtested or developed yet. They got useful feedback but I heard one publisher also say they were being polite and not see these talks as useful for them. Seeing how making games takes a lot of effort and time I get that. It is stating the obvious perhaps, but do playtest and bring fleshed-out games. They certainly do not have to be finished, however. Some concept I brought I could indicate what still needs to be done (or how to improve it). There should be a good core of a game that can be assessed.
  • Note to self: make better conversation notes. After 15 talks some scribbled down key words is not ideal to remember what has been discussed and what follow-up has been agreed upon (extra nice: a spreadsheet with names, contacts, summary of talks and what actions you need to to next).

In short: preparation and representation will lead to better meetings!

 

Based on our experiences this is a really good event to pitch and to network. Once you have established a lot of contacts with publishers it might be less needed to go there. However even ‘big names’ are there to pitch (Friedemann Friese, Michael Kiesling). That is actually what makes this event more special: first time designers and veterans are there, all passionate about games and their newest concepts.

This was our 3rd visit and we each brought more different concepts and improved our preparation. In the end all our prototypes got some publisher interest, actually. Of course, the path from interest to publication is perilous, so we’ll see what comes out of it. It is encouraging for sure.

Game on!

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Interviews Tabletop Industry Europe

To contribute more to the community I started a series of interviews at the Spellenmaakgilde (Dutch Game Design Guild) with people involved in the tabletop industry. Focussing on Europe and more specific the Netherlands. A lot is happening and I think it is nice to get some insights. Plus each guest has their own unique perspective to share and tips for designers to share. Whenever possible I ask guests to share pictures of their prototypes. It might be me but it is really cool to see a concept in development and then see how the final published product looks!

So far topics that have been discussed include kids games, community building (with inclusivity), serious games, agent work and what a game design association offers. Check out the interviews here. The goal is to post a new one every 3 – 4 weeks.

If you have a suggestion who to interview as well, contact me. I have a shortlist that longs additions…

Screenshot 2019-05-13 at 20.42.21

May Day Jam 2019 – Impressions

During the May holiday break a few students took on the challenge to create a game in 24 hours (!). My colleague Sean kicked of the event at our ‘makerspace’ with 3 random generated themes to be used for inspiration (1 at least): regression, x-ray and affection.

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Three student worked solo on a game and managed to create a thematic experience. First of all: an idle game in which you numb the masses as a tv station with bland content, advertisements and indoctrination:

Another one, a break out game in which the hairline is actively regressed and the designer confronted himself with his future boldness, Red Hair Redemption:

Special kudos to the next game, which felt it could be published with some further development: ‘Regression to the Middle’ showcases this statistical phenomenon with a cute 1-button game. This felt as the most polished game, by also having a self-made music track:

Together with some non CMD students there were 2 bigger teams that created impressive games.

One is a local-coop game in which up to 4 players can’t see which avatars are npc’s and who are player controlled. Players score points by taking the  1 rose that is controlled by someone and then bring it to the 1 lady on the dance floor. Really smart was how players got feedback whether they have the invisible rose: their controller gives haptic feedback:

Another team wanted to integrate all 3 key words. In the end they presented a tabletop game with integrated AR (eh x-ray vision!), which help you check what secret desires anime ladies have. Then players secretly or openly offer gifts and try to successfully date a lady. All this to earn the most charm points. Gameplay was still a bit rough, but the AR integration was well done:

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We closed off the event with some snacks and drinks and playing the games. And had some playtesting of a card game of mine, grateful for the feedback guys.

Impressive jamming, well done!

 

Looking back: Test & Chill Playtesting April 2019

Tuesday afternoon 2 April we had another playtesting event at our study, supported once again by the study association Glitch. This time we had around 25 students showing up, most of them looking for feedback. On top of that we had a few external guests: a VR game company that wanted input on their VR multiplayer survival game and a tabletop designer who playtested a board game.

Check out the picture below. In a few week we will have the next event!

Impression Northern Dutch Digital Games Industry

In my work as a lecturer at the Hanze Applied University we focus on the digital games industry. To showcase more where this industry stands in the north of the Netherlands, they made a video with interviews of many participants in this field: students, company owners and lecturers. If you want to know more about the industry and see me appear, check it out:

There is second video which showcases some work, including Studio Bleep’s Augmented Reality Storywall: awesome wallpaper in a hospital that ‘comes to life’:

Overview of the video’s and read more about the local game incubator association, go here.