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Going Coastal

Thu 14 Jul 2011 7:00am GMT / 3:00am EDT / 12:00am PDT
PublishingDevelopment

Ahead of the Develop Conference, Dan Pearson takes a look at what makes Brighton a games industry hub

It has, without any doubt, been a tough few years for the UK industry. Job losses and studio closures have dominated headlines, including major casualties in the shape of two of the industry's most storied racing specialists - Bizarre Creations and Black Rock. Following, and indeed writing, the headlines over the last few months has, at times, been a pretty harrowing experience.

But it's far from all bad news. Almost every round of redundancies and studio shuttering is followed by the announcement of new companies forming. In the last year alone, Brighton has seen the foundation of Full Moon Studios, Phoenix Interactive, Short Round, Boss Alien and Roundcube Entertainment. Two major industry players in the form of ICO Partners and Unity have moved existing UK offices to the city. Add to that the existing industry here, represented by household names like Relentless, NCsoft and, of course, Eurogamer, and you have one of the country's most promising hubs of talent and agile development.

With Brighton's very own event, Develop, taking place next week GamesIndustry.biz felt that the talent and enthusiasm of the Brighton industry deserved some exposure. To that end, we've gathered together the local industry leaders from major concerns to micro-studio start-ups and consultancies, to discuss what their company plans are for the future, and what they think are best ideas for taking the UK industry forwards. Is the threat of Canadian brain drain a serious one? Are tax breaks achievable or a wild goose chase? Should you be following the trend and going social/casual or trying to be a survivor in the AAA boxed product market?

Boss Alien

A brand-new Brighton start up headed by ex-Black Rock game director Jason Avent and a team of four others, Boss Alien is an energetic development studio focussing on games and apps for iOS platforms.

bossalien

Jason Avent and the Boss Alien team.

Jason Avent: "I have lived in lots of different places up and down the UK. I've been in Brighton for six years now and it's one of the most vibrant and interesting places I've ever been to. I love living here. There are lots of pubs, clubs and music venues like many other places but what makes Brighton unique is the the chilled-out, no-hassle vibe and all the festivals and events.

"There's always something to do. Nestled right between the sea and the beautiful south downs, there's a great mix of urban and rural. I can get out into the hills for a blast on my mountain bike within ten minutes, come back to a gig of international repute, have a few beers in a great pub afterwards and walk home. Brilliant."

How can the UK best apply it's pool of talent to a successful games industry?

"I think we have a brilliant culture here in the UK for creating games. Look back over the past twenty years and many of the top games were made on this little island. Companies like Mind Candy and Jagex are great examples of independent UK studios making world-leading product right now. It can be done."

It's a great time to create something clever and new.

Jason Avent, Boss Alien

What's currently the biggest barrier/threat to that success?

"It takes market awareness, bravery and innovation. It's difficult at the moment to get large publisher deals because the market is changing, most publishers are risk averse, US based and much of the development work is being done in Canada because it's cheap. A lot of that work might have come here in the past. This change brings opportunity though.

"There are new ways of making games, new platforms, new business models and new technologies here right now and more coming just around the corner. It's a great time to create something clever and new. That's exactly what us plucky Brits are good at. As an industry we need investment from people who understand that innovation with quality is the best business model."

Full Moon Studios

Full Moon is a collection of ex-relentless staff building casual mobile games and providing production support to other teams. The studio is run by Kalvin Lyle whose 15 year career spanned Relentless, Next Level, Black Box, and Bioware. Kalvin's participation at Seedcamp Stockholm in May kicked off the development of their cross platform multiplayer service Solar Skynet. They are currently looking for investment partners and developers with games or apps that want to participate in a closed beta.

fullmoon

Full Moon's projects run the gamut from tech to art to services.

Kalvin Lyle: "I'm really happy to see studios popping up in Brighton. There is a great community down here and I've found the UK games industry in general to be very supportive. So much is changing in the industry right now with new business models and new technology. It's a great time to be involved and Brighton is a great place to be."

How can the UK best apply it's pool of talent to a successful games industry?

"That's a bit like saying how can all the cows be a better farm... the games industry is in flux, it's time for companies to adapt and be flexible, which is not something the UK's best known for, but it's something you can see everyday, studios make redundancies and then they hire. They're adapting to the changing market."

What's currently the biggest barrier/threat to that success?

"Change is the barrier, and I'm not sure tax credits or government lobbying is going to address that. What studios need right now is leadership, from within each studio to navigate the talent through the storm. If that happens I think the UK will be just fine, and as the industry moves back to smaller creative studios digitally distributing their own titles you'll see the vibrant creative side of the UK's games industry blossom again."

ICO Partners

ICO Partners is a Brighton-based agency providing bespoke consulting on all aspects of online game development and operations. The multicultural staff has experience in publishing online games in all European markets.

Since 2008, ICO has helped established companies to build European deployment strategies, including high-level planning, choosing an office location, organising operational structure and teams, evaluating service providers and assessing the potential of specific games across Europe.

ICO also assists developers on the publishing-related parts of development - from budget planning, tools development, metrics, to business development strategy and free-to-play business models.

ICO_bidaux

ICO's Thomas Bidaux has twelve years experience in online gaming.

Since 2009, the company has offered a public relations service under the ICO Media brand to answer the growing demand for a pan-European solution to communicate with media about online games. Unlike a typical PR agency, it works directly across a wide range of European countries and has a very community-based and audience-centric approach, thereby creating a long-term communication strategy designed to support the long life cycle of online games.

How can the UK best apply its pool of talent to a successful games industry?

Thomas Bidaux: "I'm obviously biased here, but I think we need more studios to make the jump to online games. The UK industry is very focused on console games, and while I believe consoles will still be around for a while, it's a shame that we don't see more studios apply their expertise to making online games - especially as this could allow them more creative freedom in the long term. Note, I mention online games but the same could be said about the mobile space that also has a lot of opportunities to offer."

What's currently the biggest barrier/threat to that success?

"I don't think that tax-incentives (or their absence, as the point is often made), have an influence on the overall fate of the games industry in the UK. In the end, those incentives are only applied to your profits and don't help much if you are just struggling to survive. At the risk of sounding redundant, the current challenge is online.

I don't think that tax-incentives have an influence on the overall fate of the games industry in the UK.

Thomas Bidaux, ICO Partners

"We need more studios to embrace online as a key way of mobilising players for their game, but also for their game's distribution and monetisation. It would be great to see them embrace self-publishing as well. Lots of the studios are in trouble as they are relying on publisher money, or big budgets spent pre-revenue (as Realtime Worlds did). They should learn the publishing job, and lean practices (and learn from the web for instance). Not all studios can afford this approach but this is what they should all aim to achieve."

Littleloud

Littleloud is a BAFTA award winning games and animation developer for the film, broadcast and video game industries. Productions are delivered across multiple formats including Web, TV and hand held devices.

The studio's clients include BBC, Channel 4, Disney, Marvel, Paramount, Sony Entertainment and Universal Pictures.

The company won a BAFTA for its web adventure game, Bow Street Runner, commissioned by Channel 4, in 2008. Following this success, the studio created The Curfew, a game about the erosion of civil liberties written by acclaimed comic book author Kieron Gillen, which won a Games For Change award in 2011.

Littleloud's latest release, Sweatshop, is an innovative tower defence-style game in which players must manage a clothing factory making clothes for Western high-street shops.

With art by pixel artist Gary Lucken (Army of Trolls) and a script written by video game journalist and producer Simon Parkin, Sweatshop launched in July, free to play on the web.

littleloud

Simon Parkin is also a leading games journalist, contributing regularly to sister site Eurogamer.

Moving forward the company wants to develop its own gaming IP, while maintaining close contacts with its established clients, crafting effective, successful and meaningful games for a diverse range of audiences.

How can the UK best apply its pool of talent to a successful games industry?

Simon Parkin: "The industry is in a period of transition quite unlike any it's seen in its 30-odd years. What once worked, no longer works in the same way. Meanwhile, ways of working that previously would have seemed like foolishness, now appear sound and robust. It's a period of disruptive turmoil.

"On the one hand this can lead to unrest and anxiety at every stage of the business from the investor downwards. But on the other, when the rules are torn up, a way is made for new innovation, be that in terms of innovative ways of designing games, or in finding fresh ways for people to digest them.

"The challenge for the industry is to find ways to manage staff anxiety in this period of identity crisis, while being courageous enough to explore the new. That way, Britain can lead the global industry, not just follow in its wake."

What's currently the biggest barrier/threat to that success?

"Fearfulness can be paralysing. Of course, studios need to balance risks, but when the landscape of games is shifting so quickly, there's barely any course of action that doesn't represent a substantial risk."

NCsoft

With a successful history creating a diverse catalogue of massively multiplayer online (MMO) games that appeal to many different types of players, NCsoft Corporation has made an indelible mark on the games industry. Established in 1997, NCsoft pioneered many elements of the modern face of MMO gaming and has quickly become the world's premier publisher and developer in this sphere, with offices in Korea, Taiwan, China, Japan, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the US.

NCsoft's European headquarters is based in Brighton - a highly welcoming, multicultural and attractive town that is a fantastic draw to people from across the globe.

Veronique Lallier, NCsoft

Starting with Lineage in 1997, NCsoft has some of the most well established, successful and longest running brands in its catalogue. In April 2004, Lineage II and City of Heroes were launched in North America, with the European launch following a few months later. Around this time the NCsoft Europe office was created in Brighton.

With the Brighton office well established, 2005 witnessed the simultaneous launch of Guild Wars in Europe and North America, a major franchise for NCsoft having enjoyed over six years of online action and almost seven million players participating to date.

City of Heroes will shortly see the largest single change ever to one of its games. City of Heroes Freedom allows players to enjoy the last seven year's worth of content free of charge. Across its titles NCsoft offers a wide spectrum of business models, with this latest change also providing an additional loyalty scheme for those players wishing to extend their experience further.

ncsoft

Veronique Lallier heads up NCsoft's Brighton offices.

Veronique Lallier "As a leading global games publisher, NCsoft believes in a global workforce, drawing people from not just the UK but worldwide. In order to best support our customers throughout the EU region this is particularly important. Fortunately, NCsoft's European headquarters is based in Brighton - a highly welcoming, multicultural and attractive town that is a fantastic draw to people from across the globe."

How can the UK best apply its pool of talent to a successful games industry?

"As the industry becomes more diverse and broadens its business and creative horizons the talent available to us becomes equally diverse. Here at NCsoft we have a huge variety of skill sets, levels of experience and backgrounds. With differing audiences, varying approaches and evolving business models across our portfolio this eclectic mix of professionals benefits us no end."

What's currently the biggest barrier/threat to that success?

"It's important to keep an open mind in this industry. Being receptive to ideas, information and input from all our staff at any level keeps business fresh and forward thinking. It's a lack of creativity and narrow-mindedness that causes industry to fall behind the times."

Relentless

Within 5 years, the audience for mass-market games will have grown from an estimated 50 million to over 500 million people. In another 5 years time that audience will have grown to over 2 billion people. As platforms such as iOS, Facebook and connected TVs make gaming accessible to everyone, Relentless' recipe of simple, familiar games that are instantly understandable and playable by everyone will come into its own. By 2020, the hardcore console will no longer be a barrier to entry and games will be available to and played by everybody.

andye

Relentless' Andy Eades is one of the best-known faces of the Brighton industry.

The studio has bulldozed the "barriers to entry" by working on early camera sensing games, introducing a simplified Buzzer controller, using TV show metaphors and never requiring previous games experience. Since 2003, it's made living room games social and inclusive. As the necessity of owning a console to play a Relentless game dissipates, a non-gamer audience will be able to enjoy the company's games for the first time on a device they own already.

How can the UK best apply its pool of talent to a successful games industry?

Andrew Eades: The UK is a creative country. With the rise of new digital distribution platforms, we should take advantage to not only continue creating amazing games but also retaining ownership of them. We're staring a new golden age of games so let's keep some of it in the UK.

What's currently the biggest barrier/threat to that success?

Our biggest barrier is finance. We need to build up a UK investment community that is enabled and prepared to invest in the future of our industry.

Roundcube Entertainment

Roundcube Entertainment is a new studio in Brighton focussing on bringing AAA console quality and production values to XBLA, PSN and emerging platforms. With a team that's used to providing thrills on an epic level, with titles like Split/Second in their back catalogue, Roundcube hopes to deliver memorable, connected experiences onto both console and beyond.

The goal for Roundcube is to establish themselves as a developer that always guarantees a certain level of quality, to be innovative and passionate about everything it does, and to be recognised as a name that means an experience that will stay with you long after you've put the joypad or tablet down...

nickb

Nick Baynes of Roundcube.

Nick Baynes: Brighton's an amazing place to develop games, and as more and more studios set up here it makes it more attractive for team members to come down and join the fun, while making the whole business more sustainable for all the companies here due to a larger - and therefore more scalable, and flexible - resident workforce. From a creative point of view, there aren't many better places in the UK to craft your trade, as the diversity and vibrancy of the city has a real creative buzz about it, from the boutique shops in the Lanes, the clubs and bars, to the quite often oddball architecture and surrounding countryside.

How can the UK best apply its pool of talent to a successful games industry?

"Trying to create local networks of studios that can share talent is one way of helping studios survive and manage their headcount - which is something seemingly happening in Brighton right now - and that's going to massively help job security. Studios in physical isolation find it much harder to attract top talent, so consciously trying to create a series of regional "Videogame Valleys" will help where possible.

"Being realistic but not pessimistic in our aims is important too. There's a danger that so many of us having been burnt by $30 million development all jump to two or three man iOS teams, and miss the healthy and creatively exciting middle ground. Making sure that as UK studios enough of us still aim at larger targets is essential to make sure the draining of big project talent doesn't become a self fulfilling prophecy."

Trying to create local networks of studios that can share talent is one way of helping studios survive and manage their headcount.

Nick Baynes, RoundCube Entertainment

What's currently the biggest barrier/threat to that success?

"Honestly, I think that we need to start bigging ourselves up more. When Black Rock went down for example, most people assumed they'd have to move abroad as by reading the press it seemed there'd be no jobs in the UK. The eight or nine studios that came down in that following week, and continue to offer jobs to ex-Black Rockers, shows that the picture isn't as dark as it seems.

"In this country we seem to like talking ourselves down and it's surprising how much that becomes embedded in your head as fact when really it's not. Of course there are a lot of fantastic jobs abroad, and the ongoing tax break issues don't help, but despite the recent studio closures the British industry is in a much healthier state than the way it's reported would lead you to believe. I think the sooner we shake that false belief off the more people will choose to stay and make a success of things here rather than running to Canada and elsewhere under the assumption it's the only safe option.

ShortRound Games

ShortRound Games was formed in June this year after seizing the opportunity to go it alone in the first round of layoffs from Disney's Black Rock Studio. The company is made up by four industry veterans with over 40 years collective experience in making high quality games, with credits on multiple AAA racing and action titles, including director and lead positions on Burnout, Army of Two and Split/Second.

The four friends and colleagues; Andy, Kim, Steve and Stuart, started ShortRound to fulfil what they originally came into the industry for; make games they want to play in the way they want to make them. The company's aim is to produce high quality products, whilst ensuring they absolutely fit the platform they sit on.

The past few months have been absolutely fascinating. We have gone from being small cogs in a very large machine, to starting our own company and taking control of our own direction.

Stuart Pharoah, ShortRound Games

ShortRound has already developed a couple of their concepts into demos, and are currently taking one of these through to a full game which will be announced very soon.

Stuart Pharoah: "The past few months have been absolutely fascinating. We have gone from being small cogs in a very large machine, to starting our own company and taking control of our own direction. It has also been amazing to see how fast we can develop a concept when it's our own ideas motivating us. In just over four weeks we have worked up an idea, pitched it and had it signed - something that has taken us all by surprise."

How can the UK best apply its pool of talent to a successful games industry?

"The industry in this country has of late shown that large expensive studios producing risky unproven AAA products is very hard to sustain. When team sizes are brought right back down to manageable levels, they can operate in far more efficient and creative ways. Cutting the red tape and reducing the chain of command, stops ideas from being watered down, and leads to nimble and adaptable teams that can capitalise on their creativity."

What's currently the biggest barrier/threat to that success?

shortround

The ShortRound team, like many small studios, are close-knit and friendly.

"We are sadly in a spiral at the moment in this country. With their tax breaks and incentives, countries such as Canada have over the past 7-8 years been attracting a lot of our best talent. They have done this by offering big projects and big rewards, and as a result it has proven hard for UK teams to fill some key roles.

"This in turn has lead to a decline in the number of big titles being developed here, which has forced more people abroad... and so on. Until development costs in this country are more competitive, we will struggle to attract the big projects and big talent."

Unity Technologies

Unity Technologies recently announced that it has expanded its operations in the United Kingdom by moving to a new office in the city of Brighton, East Sussex. The office will be managed by director of support Graham Dunnett and will continue to provide Unity customers with support, QA, development and training and consulting services. The new Brighton office will allow Unity to continue to grow into the UK.

With more than 500,000 registered users worldwide - including Bigpoint, Cartoon Network, Coca-Cola, Disney, Electronic Arts, LEGO, Microsoft, NASA, Nickelodeon, Ubisoft, Warner Bros., large and small studios, indies, students and hobbyists, Unity Technologies is revolutionising the game industry with its award-winning breakthrough development platform.

Unity Technologies is aggressively innovating to expand usability, power and platform reach along with its Asset Store digital content marketplace and Union game distribution service so that it can deliver on its vision of democratising interactive 3D technology.

unity

Unity transferred its UK office to Brighton when managers realised more staff were travelling from there than London, Guildford or Crawley.

How can the UK best apply its pool of talent to a successful games industry?

Graham Dunnett: Unity customers vary from big corporate studios all the way down to small one-man shops. The games industry in the UK needs to maintain innovation and keep producing original games that people want to play. Unity is trying to democratise the games industry so anyone with an idea for a game can create it.

What's currently the biggest barrier/threat to that success?

The choice of platform is ever increasing. The arrival of new handheld gaming devices can make the decision about what platforms to support something of a headache.

ZoŽ Mode

Founded in 2004, Brighton-based ZoŽ Mode is a leading developer of innovative console games. With a team of 70 developers, ZoŽ Mode were early pioneers of motion-based gameplay including four titles in the hugely successful Eyetoy:Play series as well as You're in the Movies and Dancing with the Stars.

zoemode

A team of 70 makes ZoŽ Mode a large-scale concern.

An unrivalled passion for music has been reflected through the SingStar and Sing It franchises, DLC packs for Guitar Hero and most recently the critically acclaimed Chime and Chime Super Deluxe.

2011 will see the release of the original Kinect XBLA title Haunt published by Microsoft, the sequel to the immensely popular Zumba Fitness for Majesco and Grease Dance on PS3 and Xbox 360 for 505 Games. Crush3D for the Nintendo 3DS sees ZoŽ Mode back on handheld consoles and is looking to build on the awards and critical acclaim of the original PSP version.

The future will see ZoŽ Mode continue to build on its desire for creating innovative gameplay experiences as well as exploring the next generation of consoles.

How can the UK best apply its pool of talent to a successful games industry?

Paul Mottram: "Consumer tastes and expectations are changing and the industry needs to change with them. We need to stop feeling sorry for ourselves because we don't have tax breaks or that iOS games are too cheap. Titles like Zumba Fitness can be as good for the industry as Call of Duty and with the talent we have in the UK we can open up gaming to an even larger audience."

We need to stop feeling sorry for ourselves because we don't have tax breaks or that iOS games are too cheap.

Paul Mottram, ZoŽ Mode

What's currently the biggest barrier/threat to that success?

"Budgets are much tighter than they have ever been which is a massive challenge. We need to be smarter and more agile, understand our audience better and offer something different as we can't always compete with the enormous franchises. Publishers need to take more risks and understand that quality is more important than quantity, especially when shifting to lower price points and digital distribution."

FuturLab

A small game studio that transitioned from producing online Flash games in 2009 to creating original IP for PSN and iOS. FuturLab's debut PSN title Coconut Dodge earned a metacritic score of 81 and was subsequently picked up by EA and published on iOS. With two new titles in development for iOS and PSN, FuturLab operates on a film production model, with a small number of payroll staff and roughly 13 contractors on various work-for-hire iOS and Flash development contracts.

James Marsden: "I've lived and worked in Brighton for nearly ten years now, and I love cycling to work along the seafront every morning. There are three 'crazy' golf courses here, which is a win - even if they're a bit naff!"

How can the UK best apply its pool of talent to a successful games industry?

I would like to answer this question from the perspective of getting more creative people mobilised and productive. As a designer I feel strongly about the need for shifts in the education system in early schooling so that innovation is given more of an equal credence to learning by rote. I've had to work against a whole set of very early imprints about the worth of being or thinking differently, and I know that affects many creative people to the point where they've chosen a non-creative line of work.

futurlab

When I was at school, my 'Career's Advice' - based on acute interests in Art & Design, was to become a painter and decorator! Absolutely no mention of any of the creative industries, and from what I'm told by my younger family, things haven't really changed.

There's a wealth of talented people out there who would make fantastic additions to the games industry, but because they're not being encouraged from an early age to explore their creativity, it becomes stifled.

What's currently the biggest barrier/threat to that success?

There is no larger threat to the UK competing with a global industry than our education system and the lack of value we put on creativity as a nation. I don't mean college or degree courses; by then its too late for most people (and a talented and ambitious student will make the best of even the most awfully led course) - but many of the most talented people - those who have a level of self awareness and self-critique necessary to develop their skills to the point of excellence - have very likely already given up on the idea of working in a creative profession.

I'm not holding my breath for huge changes to happen any time soon, but I'm doing my bit by being positive and encouraging to those I speak to about what might be possible.

Strange Flavour

Strange Flavour moved down to a village near Brighton from its original base in Newcastle last year. Primarily because most of the industry people they know are in or around Brighton, but also because their office was in a flood plain and they got fed up of wading to the shops.

A small, UK based games developer, run by two brothers, Aaron and Adam Fothergill, Strange Flavour have won an Apple Design Award for one of their Mac games, written experimental games for the XBox 360 for Microsoft and are currently writing best selling iPhone games such as Flick Fishing and SlotZ Racer for their publishing partners Freeverse (now owned by ngMoco/DeNA) in the US.

Aaron Fothergill:Brighton was recommended to us by a lot of our non games industry artist/musician friends as well as those we knew in the industry down here, so after a couple of visits it was the obvious place for us to move to. We didn't end up in Brighton itself, but in one of the villages nearby (we like our peace and quiet, with optional excitement)

strangeflavour

Strange Flavour reflect on success.

How can the UK best apply its pool of talent to a successful games industry?

Write games! It sounds simple, but there are enough talented people out there to create all sorts of new and interesting games but don't because they either can't see themselves writing a whole game or only have part of the skills needed and need to team up with someone with complementary skills.

Writing the first game is always the hardest, and games competitions such as the uDevGames competition running at the moment are great ways for coders, designers, artists and musicians to meet up, team up and write something.

Publishing is probably the easiest it'll ever be nowadays. The App Store isn't a guarantee of success, but a well written game and some good publicity help reduce the lottery effect a bit.

The App Store isn't a guarantee of success, but a well written game and some good publicity help reduce the lottery effect a bit.

Aaron Fothergill, Strange Flavour

What's currently the biggest barrier/threat to that success?

I'd say the cost of living mostly. For a one man team it's the direct financial risk you have of earning enough from one game while writing the next to afford the rent and for larger teams that same cost impacts the size of the wages your people need to be happy and productive.

The lower you can get those overheads, the more risks you can take with your creativity. Tax breaks can help that for the bigger companies and get us on an even playing field with countries that do the same, but simply making life a bit less expensive and easier for everyone would do much the same.

Fat Pebble

Fat Pebble is an independent Brighton developer focused on creating polished, innovative and fun games for all the major smartphone platforms. Formed by Michael Movel - whose 13 year career has seen him making games with the likes of Probe Entertainment, Novalogic, Blitz, Climax Brighton, Lionhead and ZoŽ Mode - Fat Pebble are a young and enthusiastic company looking for adventure! With four titles already published or in development and more on the horizon, they're ready to take it to the next level and are about to ramp up several of their own projects.

Michael Movel: "I've lived in quite a few different places in my increasingly ageing life and I can safely say there's nowhere in the UK I'd rather be than in Brighton. I've been here on and off (mostly on) for the past 11 or 12 years, and I've always come back. It's got it all really - the sea, the countryside, the city life, the pubs, the parties, the festivals and pretty much everyone here is chilled out and friendly. Except for some of the seagulls, but you learn to cope.

As they close or shed jobs, you always get an explosion of new companies with bundles of enthusiasm looking to innovate.

Michael Movel, Fat Pebble

"During that time it's always been a hive of creative activity of one sort or another, and the appearance of so many new games start-ups is really making it feel like it's the place to be. Exciting times!"

How can the UK best apply its pool of talent to a successful games industry?

"The UK has always had lots of talented individuals in this industry - sometimes they go and work abroad and disappear from these shores for a while, but they're always there and we always seem to nurture new talent as well. I think we should be proud of our record in that regard.

On top of that, we're currently in a period ripe for new start-ups to thrive - on the one hand, creative games made by small teams are all the rage, and coupled with that you have several of the larger companies struggling to cope with the recession and the change in the market. As they close or shed jobs, you always get an explosion of new companies with bundles of enthusiasm looking to innovate. It's like the perfect storm for the creation of small indie developers. I think the result of that will be a) our best developers staying in this country to live the dream of running and working for small, funky companies and making their own decisions and b) bucket loads of innovation and enthusiasm. I'm confident that will lead to an increasingly successful UK industry."

What's currently the biggest barrier/threat to that success?

fatpebble

Fat Pebble's Michael Movel

"The biggest threat is having a negative attitude - either as an individual, a company or as an industry as a whole. Personally I think things have never looked so good. That might seem a bit of a harsh thing to say in an environment where people are losing their jobs - and believe me I've been there myself, so I know it's not nice. But when the dust has settled, I'm sure people will see that there's a whole smorgasbord of tasty opportunities out there to produce successful and creative games. There's a fantastic chance right now for people to get back the passion for making games that might have been lost working long hours for the larger companies on projects that they had very little say over.

"In short, there are more people than ever before buying games, the costs to make a certain kind of game are low and it's never been easier to get those games to the audience.

"However it's easy to look at all the obstacles and difficulties that we face and then start to spread the doom and gloom of an industry in decline. If we do there's a danger that it'll become a self-fulfilling prophesy and our passion and innovation ebbs away. We've got a great chance to bring the fun and creativity back to games, and that will lead to success."

Vertical Slice

Vertical Slice is a user research studio which focuses on making games better by understanding players' behaviour and emotions. They use cutting-edge methods such as biometrics to get deeper insights into how players perceive the game experience, and then use this player data to help studios refine their game design. The four guys come from the backgrounds of Human-Computer Interaction, journalism and game development.

Vertical Slice have worked on titles such as Crysis 2, Brink, Split/Second and AvP.

Graham McAllister: "Brighton is a highly creative place, and the game dev community is especially proactive in making ideas happen. A great example of this is the recent Brighton Games People monthly meet-ups which have been a great success."

verticalslice

Vertical Slice at work

How can the UK best apply it's pool of talent to a successful games industry?

We've seen gaming platforms, business models and interaction methods change hugely in recent years. Speaking from our studio viewpoint, we think that if we all had a better understanding of players and their gaming desires, then we could feed this back into game design. Player context is everything.

What's currently the biggest barrier/threat to that success?

I think the biggest danger is that we carry on making games in exactly the same way in which we've done in the past. Too much has changed and I think we need to have a very sound understanding of these changes as we go forwards.

Gamania

Gamania Digital Entertainment was established in Taiwan in 1995 by CEO Albert Liu, and enjoys great success in both licensing popular Eastern online games, and developing their own free to play MMO titles. Gamania is now truly a global publisher with offices in Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, China, USA, UK, France, Germany & The Netherlands and development studios in the R&D Centre, such as Playcoo, Seedo, RedGate, Gamania Beijing and Firedog, employing around 1600 people.

Gamania has developed its own platform 'beanfun!' where players create and manage their accounts and access all the available titles. These include the soon to be released Lucent Heart and Bright Shadow and there are a wealth of games in development such as Core Blaze, Divina, Langrisser Schwartz, Art of War, Tiara Concerto and many others. Gamania's speciality is the free-to-play business model which makes it perfectly positioned to take advantage of the current trends of online & casual gaming.

The UK office based in Brighton has been in operation since August 2010 and is gearing up to release the award-winning game "Lucent Heart" with the open beta coming very soon. The UK office compromises of a wealth of MMO talent, highly experienced in bringing Eastern MMOs to the West and everything that entails.

Niall Callaghan"As the leading Taiwanese games publisher, Gamania believes in their range of family-friendly and social online gaming titles that has made them so successful in the East. With the opening of the EU offices, Gamania intends on working with the best local talent in each territory to prioritise and market their games effectively.

gamania

Gamania chose Brighton to open the UK office based upon the creative juices that run through the place and people who work here, as well as the wealth of knowledge, experience & support available. What better place to have an office than the central gaming hub of the South!?"

How can the UK best apply its pool of talent to a successful games industry?

"I think one of the many things that the UK does well is work with and offer diversification, adapting to change and providing games that are a little different from the norm. Games coming from the UK have been hugely successful over the years and it's with this uniqueness, especially in the current climate of social, mobile and indie gaming, that will allow the UK games industry to continue to grow and foster new talent.

There is a great land grab going on at the moment, with a lot of companies trying to achieve the same goals and market share. It's a learning process for many companies dipping their toes into uncharted waters. What we can do together as an industry is knowledge share best practices and learn from each other to ensure that we are successful, and the greater good of the UK industry and economy is supported too."

What's currently the biggest barrier/threat to that success?

"Typically many companies are becoming more and more risk averse, looking for the easy option to ensure the big returns. Whilst of course we are all here to make money, ultimately we are here to have fun at the same time and ensure that our players do too whilst playing our games, by offering unique social features and gameplay elements.

In addition to that, the industry has often been highly secretive and companies keep their cards close to their chests. Whilst this is understandable in terms of confidentiality and being first to market etc, there is an element of theory, development & publishing experience that we can all learn from, to save everyone having to re-invent the wheel. This is why conferences such as Develop in Brighton are a boon to the UK industry as it allows fellow industrialists to get together, share experiences and knowledge and work together to benefit the UK games industry as a whole."

13 Comments

In summary: we have the creative world beating talent, but need to keep development costs competitive either through managable sized teams or alternative fiscal means or innovative organic growth (keeping costs competitive and adopting a no frills approach that far exceed the current crop of Apprentice candidates skillets)

To go one step further, perhaps the various new startups in Brighton could be collectively under one roof or set of building clusters for a true regional hub, with pooling of resources, networking, joint conversations and liaisons at the pub and providing experienced help and advice to one another from one another as a collective

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Dr. Chee Ming Wong on 14th July 2011 9:46am

Posted:3 years ago

#1

Kirsty Rigden Operations Director, FuturLab

15 45 3.0
Aw - you forgot us! FuturLab released Coconut Dodge on iOS and PSP minis last year and we're currently developing 2 new games, 1 for iOS and another minis title. You can also pick up our lovely Coconut Dodge themed items in Home!

Posted:3 years ago

#2

Dan Pearson European Editor, GamesIndustry.biz

115 337 2.9
Hi Kirsty - sent you a PM!

Posted:3 years ago

#3

Aaron Fothergill Managing Director/Lead Coder, Strange Flavour Ltd.

1 0 0.0
We're also in the Brighton area (in fact, we moved Strange Flavour down here specifically because so many of our friends in the industry were down here). We develop hit iOS games such as Flick Fishing and SlotZ Racer for our US publishers Freeverse/ngMoco/DeNA.

Brighton and the surrounding bits are a bit of a hotbed of successful small team devs :)

Posted:3 years ago

#4

Michael Movel Director, Fat Pebble

1 0 0.0
Oooh if everyone else is chipping in, don't forget us! We love Brighton too! Fat Pebble has been going for about a year now, and we're just about to ramp up our development. We make funky games for all the usual smart phone suspects. Check us out at [link url=http://www.fatpebble.com.]http://www.fatpebble.com.[/link]

Posted:3 years ago

#5

Gareth O'Neill Environment Artist (Contract), Ubisoft Reflections

30 23 0.8
How about we get some Games companies Starting up in the North East of England?, theres practically no competition here just the one developer of Next Gen titles and some up and comers oh and one large-ish (but most likely going to be shut down in the near future) Studio. Theres loads of Talent up here that love where they live but have no choice but to move if they want to work for someone different than the slim pickings thats up here.
If a big company was set up, up here i'm sure they'd be swarmed with CV's

Posted:3 years ago

#6
I hope to meet some of you guys at Develop! - I'll be kicking around the Expo trying to chat up some devs and see if anyone needs music written for their games. Looking forward to it.

Posted:3 years ago

#7

Dan Pearson European Editor, GamesIndustry.biz

115 337 2.9
All updated now folks - fantastic to see so much passion and enthusiasm in the local area. Look forward to meeting you all over the course of Develop!

Posted:3 years ago

#8

Rob Purchese Senior Staff Writer, Eurogamer.net

3 0 0.0
Wonderful article, although it's a bit noisy down here with the seagulls. Glad to see Brighton prospering despite the troubles of late.

Posted:3 years ago

#9
WTF no Babel Media?

edit: Ahem [adjusts tie]...
For an article about Brighton's games industry, I think it would be generally regarded as a good thing to mention the longstanding heavyweight of games outsourcing that is Babel Media.

From Hove, actually.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Julien Amougou on 15th July 2011 11:09pm

Posted:3 years ago

#10

Richard Van Der Giessen President & Founder, U-TRAX

3 0 0.0
Did you know there's also a very nice localisation agency based in Brighton, called Loc3? Amazingly, they're French! Perhaps less amazing if you consider the company was founded a few years ago when NCSoft closed the loc dept of their Brighton office. Apparently, the three entrepeneurs decided Brighton was a better place to live than France and stayed.
Yes, this is still puzzling me too.... ;-)

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Richard Van Der Giessen on 16th July 2011 12:45am

Posted:3 years ago

#11

Dan Pearson European Editor, GamesIndustry.biz

115 337 2.9
Julien - Babel were contacted, but we didn't get any replies!

Posted:3 years ago

#12

Kessia Thomas Studying 3D Computer Animation, University of the West of Scotland

16 1 0.1
Fantastic article and as a 3D/creative industry student very informative, often finding out where you can go to after you obtain your degree can be a harrowing experience. This article has given me faith that in three years time when I graduate I potentially won't have to be looking abroad for work and I can stay in good old Blighty.

Posted:3 years ago

#13

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