The second year of the annual Devcom conference starts on Sunday, providing a more cerebral run-up to the controlled chaos of its consumer-facing sister event Gamescom. The schedule has more than 50 talks and panels covering all aspects of game creation and the most urgent issues facing the industry today. Below is a curated selection of those talks, featuring some of the biggest names in the games industry.
This year will also see the Devcom debut of the Women in Games networking event, a free session that will allow guests to meet, make contacts, and receive mentoring advice from female industry veterans in attendance. The WIG networking event will be held from 15.00 to 16.30 on Monday, August 20.
Sunday, August 19
12.00 - 13.00
Keynote: Cory Barlog
Sony Santa Monica's God of War looks set to be named Game of the Year by virtually everyone - and with good reason. Not only did it maintain the series' longstanding values of impeccable visual style and weighty, visceral combat, it told the kind of emotionally resonant story that few would have believed possible from a character like Kratos. In his keynote, creative director Cory Barlog promises to chart the development of God of War in terms of the emotion that every developer invests when creating a game.
14.00 - 15.00
Teut Weidemann: Loot boxes - WTF?
One of the most familiar face at developer conferences around the world, Teut Weidemann has established a deserved reputation as one of the industry's foremost experts on free-to-play monetisation. We fondly remember his bold proclamation that he could double League of Legends revenue at GDC Europe - which preceded Gamescom until 2016 - and we fully expect his talk on loot boxes at Devcom to explore one of the industry's most divisive subjects with similar vigour.
16.00 - 17.00
MachineGames: Creating Frau Engel - Portrayal of evil in Wolfenstein
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus may have been released in 2017, but there is so much in its rich, vivid story to pick apart. In this Devcom session, MachineGames' Jens Matthies and Andreas Öjerfors - game director and senior game designer respectively - will discuss the creation of General Irene Engel, one of the primary antagonists in both Wolfenstein games, and an "incarnation of evil."
Given that Devcom takes place in Germany, Matthies and Öjerfors may have something to say in the recent change in policy on the use of Nazi symbols in video games; a policy that led to changes to both Wolfenstein games.
Monday, August 20
10.00 - 11.00
Blizzard Entertainment: The great fandom frontier - And the game developer imperative
Saralyn Smith has been on the frontline of some of the biggest gaming communities of the last decade. As leader of Blizzard's global community development, or in her new role as executive producer of the company's annual fan event BlizzCon, Smith oversaw the huge groups of fans that clustered around franchises like Diablo, StarCraft and World of Warcraft and Overwatch. But it is Overwatch that is most ripe for exploration in this talk; Blizzard has faced a lot of difficulty in managing its shooter's community, but the evidence suggests it is winning the battle.
11.30 - 12.00
Ghost Games: Managers have feelings, too
The mental health and quality of life of industry employees is one of the defining topics of the present moment, but who is watching the watchers? That's the question at the heart of Lisa Marie Kretschmer's talk, which will look beyond the “organisational” issues that are supposed to be the focus of management, and address the unspoken emotional weight of being responsible for other people. Kretschmer will draw on her experience as development manager at Ghost Games, and invite the audience to share their own stories as well.
16.00 - 17.00
ArenaNet: Drives - Helping more players get from first-taste to satisfaction
In another Devcom talk that drills right to the heart of a divisive issue, ArenaNet design director Jason VandenBerghe will delve into the fine line between motivation and addiction in game design. All successful games, he argues, must stimulate the player's “drives” to get them to push through the difficult journey to skill development and mastery. The key to this could be an oxytocin-based drive known as “tend and befriend” - which games have seldom explored, and which Tru Luv CEO Brie Code has championed in a series of articles for this very website.
GamesIndustry.biz is a media partner for Devcom. We will attend the show with assistance from the organiser.