India Game Developer Summit Bangalore 2010

Posted by Arun Menon at Mar 01, 2010 11:35 AM |
The India Game Developer Conference held at Nimhans Convention Centre on the 27th of February, 2010 was attended by Arun Menon who is working on The Gaming and Gold Project at The Centre for Internet and Society. The Developer forum brought together game developers from different sectors of the Game Production Cycle, with hardware manufacturers like Nvidia demonstrating their latest 3d technology and Software developers like Crytek and Adobe demonstrating the latest in developer tools for creating and editing games on multiple platforms.

The India Game Developer Summit Lite was sufficiently provocative in showcasing the developer community in India and the latest advancements made by the corporate sponsors. The presentations did not appropriately address creative development and management except for a few made by Keita Iida, Carl Jones, and possibly Varun Nair which stood out for the specific focus on creativity. The overall focus was on PC gaming with inroads into Web, mobile, and a smattering of social games. Console Gaming was present in a few statistics presented but did not figure elsewhere at the conference.

On Presentations

One key feature found in the presentations made by Carl Jones, Keita Iida, and Varun Nair at IGDS was the focus on creating immersive environments and naturally all the three took different approaches suiting their areas of specialization. The other presentations bordered on marketing and sales pitches, promoting the presenters' products, and were not sufficiently detailed other than pushing the presenter’s products and services. These three presentations stand out for their focus on creativity in game development, design, and research with data pertaining to the industry and not limited to their products or companies.

Carl Jones – Envision, Enable, Achieve.

Carl Jones from Crytek made an excellent keynote speech with a focus on their latest advancement; the CRYENGINE 3.0. A demonstration video showcased synchronous editing capabilities for multiple platforms as well as real time 'edit and play' functionality. What you see is [truly] what you get. Their engine is currently not set for a public release but can handle textures and fluid rendering with amazing ease on a standard 500$ machine. The detailed and fluid real-time editing cuts development time from weeks to a matter of days, not a possibility a few months earlier. The technology targets low end machines and has a higher market but both Nvidia and Crytek made it clear that their focus for development is going to be high end devices and technology for high end machines.

Crytek’s entire focus is on the development and sustainability of creativity, so that new technology could provide better rendering at better speeds and visuals. Cryengine 3.0’s capabilities in developing a truly interactive, immersive, and realistic environment were demonstrated at the keynote speech. The destructive environments and fluid/texture rendering made designing and editing seem as simple as using a brush (convinced of its capabilities as an engine but still skeptic about its simplicity in user interactivity). The dynamic lighting, downward light shafts, ocean rendering, view distance, soft shadows and particle rendering (fog, etc) and its real-time synchronous editing capabilities left no doubt as to Cryengine 3.0’s superiority in the competitive game developer market.

The keynote speech recognized one main deficiency in game development, there is a problem incorporating graphics and realistic physics. Jones showcased how at Crytek, the motto ‘the difficult takes a day and impossible takes a week’ works. Looking at the developer tools demonstrated at the summit that motto is quite realistic. Crytek’s focus is to make everything interactive and the CryEngine 3.0 demonstrates that focus. As a matter of fact Crytek has incorporated Star Data from NASA into their games. Star navigation based on the digitally (re)created skies in their games is possibility. The elements they bring in to build in realism to gaming will be interesting to follow, since realism often meant higher graphics requirements.

Keita Iida – Technology and Market Trends in the PC game Industry

The focused session by Keita Iida of Nvidia placed the growth of Indian markets in perspective including online markets (and digital releases) and offline growth plotted through hardware sales. The numbers and statistics presented showcased the strength of the growing gaming market particularly in Asia. The revenues of the Asia segment in the entire MMOG revenues is 76.6 percent globally, the United States and the West is lagging in terms of revenue generation in the MMOG segment but their recent growth is set to shoot up to 1.3-1.5 billion USD by 2013. Similar numbers in the social gaming segment was also reiterated by Sumit Gupta (the CEO and founder of BitRhymes). What they both articulated differently was that there was tremendous money in gaming both online and offline and India had sufficient infrastructure to capitalize on the gaming markets for online as well as offline products and releases.

Keita Iida argued that the online gaming market in India was in excess of 60 million USD assuming that these games were serviced locally. This still leaves out contribution from the Indian segment globally, such figures are also hard to plot out. Some of the numbers that Nvidia made available were from their own sales and marketing statistics. The DX10 capable computers globally were 171 Million as of 2009 and DX9 capable machines around 102million, which had a Geforce installed base. Keita Iida's statistics pointed to one thing - the Asian markets were far ahead of the other markets both in online and offline releases. Nvidia as an organization and developer would provide an ideal space for game developers to reach out to a larger global market provided they were Nvidia technology compatible. Keita Iida made an effective marketing pitch for Nvidia and provided enough data and statistics globally and locally as well as company specific data that made the presentation more accessible. This presentation was one of the few that involved industry movements and statistics with a focus on creative development.

Varun Nair - Quality Asset Creation & Sound as a Storyteller

The most creative presentation was perhaps the one made by Varun Nair on 'Sound as Storytelling and Quality Asset creation'. We had interacted prior to the conference as well as during the presentation and he provided a lot of information on the pre- and post-production cycles where sound design and incorporation was most effective. His presentation was remarkably different and stood out from the others largely because his focus was not on pushing his own projects or company agenda, rather he attempted to place the relevance of the sound design industry in the creative processes of the game’s design stages.

The session focused on the relevance of sound and visuals and the effective placement and modulation of sound to the visuals to communicate the desired effect. The main example used was an FPS where the ambient sounds and the player sounds had to be placed in perspective with the enemy sounds to create an immersive environment. This translates into sounds being modulated and dynamic as gameplay progresses  to effectively create immersive structures. The lack of this immersive effect will create confusion and destroy the effect even if the visuals are designed effectively. This is interesting largely because if you hear gunfire not represented in your visuals - as a character - you’re able to react effectively to the enemy based on sound alone. Quite a few games use this strategy to provide and create an immersive structure. There was a good emphasis on the development of sound particularly since it enables a certain human emotional response to that sound and developers of successful AAA games have used this strategy to create emotional engagement of the player with the game narratives. Varun Nair also pointed out the relevance of sound in making connections and here he mentioned using real world sounds and digitally created and re-engineered sounds. The effects he demonstrated with a training exercise, where he played out real world sounds and enhanced sounds to create a suitable environment. On making connections with the ‘experiential residual narrative’ as the Videogame theorist Henry Jenkins would put it, Varun Nair pointed out how sound design is created effectively to cater to certain specific feelings encountered before. Artificial sounds are specifically created to suit the artificiality of an environment and here he used the example of ‘Transformers’, the movie to explain artificial sound effects as well as information overload. The focus of designed sounds is largely towards creating an environment in which the main focus is to reiterate the environments artificiality largely used in Sci-Fi media and gaming.

Most sound designers only receive images and they have to create sounds often from scratch to suit the environment. In his demonstrations he showcased the kind of creativity that sound designers and engineers are capable of in designing the environments we hear and interact with in gaming simulations. Varun Nair also focused on Information Overload and how the effective blend of sound and visuals would form an ideal blend to counter this overload. He went has far as saying that at certain points an underload was preferred since there was less player fatigue due to overload. The design structures have to be suitably different particularly for non linear media such as gaming. Varun Nair mentioned the cocktail party effect where the human mind is able to focus on a few important sounds and tune out the rest as well as the 2.5 theme rule. The 2.5 theme rule emphasizes the perfect Balance between Visuals, Audio, and Sound effects. Among others were quality asset creation and the involvement of the sound designer in the early stages of the game to capitalize on creative development.

Sumit Gupta from BitRhymes and Hemant Sharma from Adobe

The presentation by Sumit Gupta was very detailed, with a focus on audience interactivity. The data Sumit used was excellent and placed the entire scenario in perspective; perhaps the overwhelming response to his presentation may have overwhelmed him a little. The data on social gaming in India and the lack of monetization in the current market scenario and the possibilities of monetization was explored in detail. The problem if any was in setting up these structures and infrastructure backing in India which was lacking. Payment systems and methodologies would ensure the creation and transaction of virtual goods. The data on the Chinese and Japanese markets and the Asian and World trends was extremely detailed, so much so that some of these statistics were scary. Most social gamers do not realize that data is being collected on them as they play and this was demonstrated in some of the internal statistics that Sumit presented. The information presented included age groups of the users, their purchasing power, spending power, and the relationship between the users who trade is almost totalitarian in terms of information collection. Privacy laws allow that generic data are collected but the presentation of these data and statistics reminds the viewer on just how much information is accessible to these developers. Hemant Sharma’s presentation later was highly technical and demonstrated the development of games for mobile devices on Adobe Flash CS5 which is currently only out on a beta release. The presentation there also talked about the ways in which a mobile app could gain access to the OS features to run better. Most of these features give undue access to the app developer to geolocationary movement information. Along with access to other apps which may store generic information which is user specific. This talk shed light on the amount of access that a mobile app developer has to the geolocationary and personal data stored on the phone. Although the perspective was to showcase the functionality of Flash Professional CS5, currently released as a beta version, details emerged on the kind of easy access a developer has to change mobile app settings to gather data. The possibilities that a malicious use of the data would compromise user security emerges strongly when reflecting on this presentation.

DSKs Presentation – Sell your Game, Adopt a Game Designer!

DSK Supinfogame had a booth at the India Game Developer Summit along with AIGA the Asian Institute of Gaming and Animation. DSK’s presentation was to be held by Philippe Vachey but a change in schedule had another member from DSK make the presentation. Their focus rested on Gamespot reviews and game journal rankings to showcase the problems that arise due to the lack of relevant design in games that would otherwise have been AAA releases. They had some really important points to make. A 30million USD project is not going to have developers and designers with one year experience and without a cohesive unit centered on design aspects a game may as well not make an AAA rating let alone an A or a B rating.

Networking @ IGDS

Networking at the India Game Developer Summit was one of the main benefits of the summit. The presentations, other than the few mentioned here in detail, were largely oriented towards marketing their own companies and products or sales pitches to this effect. I had already talked to Varun Nair (from bluefrog presenting Sound as Storyteller and Quality Asset Creation) prior to meeting him at the conference and discussed mutual interests in gaming and narrative communication in gaming. Before his presentation I had the opportunity to get a preview of his presentation and its main focus on presenting the relevance of sound design and its ideal placement to create an immersive environment which can be effective or confusing depending on how the visuals and sounds interact with each other to create an ideal immersive environment rather than information underload or worse overload and player fatigue. The discussion also revolved around my current research project and research interests in the Indian Gaming scene. Varun Nair is based in Bombay and works for Bluefrog, a company which specialises in sound creation for games.

Prior to the conference, Rev Lebaredian and Simon Green from Nvidia Corporation were available at the Nvidia booth and right after trying out Batman Arkham Asylum in 3D (with the Geforce 3D stereoscopic vision kit); Varun Nair joined us and we discussed my research interests as well as my project at the Centre for Internet and Society and its requirements. Rev and Simon were very accessible (not mobbed yet) and gave me a lot of details on their partnership programs and their products and upcoming releases. Being engineers they had very little data on the Indian market both virtual and offline, and the approximate industry revenues. Rev and Simon offered details on who might have access to the information I needed and told me some information pertaining to Nvidia might be shared but large part is internal and not for public access.

The interaction with Kiran was the most productive and engaging we discussed games of mutual interest and the goldfarming activities on his own server (one of the highest bids on eBay for an account on his server was above 566 pounds [GBP]) he also focused on goldfarming in India and how that is very little documentation of any sort on these activities. His own research is on improving design in online games to provide better retention, higher virality, and immersive environments.

Post the key note session, the opportunity to speak to Philippe Segard and Lionel Chaze from ‘DSK supinfogame’ presented itself. They were designers engaged with game design training and also had modules that addressed the online gaming segment. On hearing about my project they assumed that I was adopting a critical theory approach to a single game and its content and examining only that (which is also something I am doing as a part of my research read more on my blog). I explained some of my research interests and those of the project in examining the gaming ecosystem in India both virtually and offline, this was more appealing to both Philippe and Lionel who agreed to give feedback on the project as it proceeds. Robin Alter from Kreeda Games was available after his presentation and spoke to me about the future for the Indian markets and the growth they were expecting in the online as well as offline game segments, as publishers most of their focus was on offline products. Robin also spoke about Gold farming in India and how most of it is undocumented and has very little studies conducted on them particularly in the Indian context. Gold farming itself is prevalent in India and is not as minor as thought earlier looking at the responses by Online Server statistics only in India. Playdom’s Business operations manager Nagabhushan Rao also reiterated that there are cases of gold farming on their servers and few cases are logged in India as well. However, as developers they have very few mechanisms to control this activity, largely since their user base is approximately around 2.5 million (aggregate). He also happened to mention how Zynga could afford to proactively target such practices since their large user base would sustain these mitigating blocks. Playdom is developing a few mechanisms to track such usage and abusage of their credit but as of early 2010 they have very few mechanisms that would ban player activity for these practices.

The next Game Developer Conference is expected around the latter part of this year or early next year.





Arun Menon