What we have learnt at London Games Festival 2018

What we have learnt at London Games Festival 2018

The third London Games Festival is taking place between April 5th and 15th, with a variety of events taking place across the UK capital. has been to the forums and summits from this year's show and is going to be reporting on the most interesting stories and sharing the most pressing insight from the line-up of events.

Stay tuned as this piece is going to be updated over time! 

Disclaimer: The writer of this piece worked full-time on content marketing for London Games Festival 2017 and as a freelancer for the event in 2018.

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  • 1 Commentating is vital to esports mainstream success

    A panel on the opportunities in the global esports market kicked off proceedings at the London Games Festival HUB event, with representatives from Events DC, Excel and Laser League maker Roll7.

    One of the biggest lessons to emerge from this session was the importance of commentary with esports events; Roll7 co-founder and studio head Simon Bennett said that even though his studio's latest release, Laser League, is pretty easy to understand, having commentators - or shoutcasters - present at events gives users context that might otherwise be lacking.

    "It's been tough to convey how easy it is to watch," he said.

    "People coming off the street found it hard to explain what is going on. Having a shoutcaster was important for that. It was like an FA Cup final, people were really getting into it. Our game is best experienced live."

    Gregory O'Dell of Events DC also said that that waning interest in traditional sports, in America at least, means there's real potential for esports to wil that void.

    "One of the appeals of esports is that traditional sports are losing their audience," he said.

    "The younger demographic doesn't want to watch these games without interacting with their phones. We want to make esports more attractive and something the younger audience will want to watch."

    Meanwhile, Jane Hague from London's Excel venue reckons the industry needs to come together, or there needs to be a central point for esports as right now, the sector is too "disparate".

    "Bringing the industry together as part of the conversations we are having is important," she said.

    "The industry is disparate - there isn't one central place that you can go to to get the information you need. We need to build that community. It's important to know how to engage with the industry in the right way. The venues are all ready and willing to talk to publishers and tournament organisers about how we can help. It's about getting that message across - that we can help. Don't think because we're big and scary looking that we don't nwat to help you. We need to get that message across."

  • 2 Keeping interative narrative simple is key

    The Monday morning also saw narrative experts sharing their insight into telling interactive stories through video games.

    One of the keys to doing a good interactive title is actually reigning in player possibilities, making things much more manageable for the development team.

    Gina Jackson, head of games over at Imaginarium, said that the player also needs to feel part of the story, also.

    "Keep it simple," she said.

    "Our biggest learning is giving feedback to the player. The player needs to feel part of the decisions; they need to feel and understand a feedback mechanism and understand how a relationship between characters might have changed. Things like facial expression, or vocal cue. You need something or the player gets very frustrated."

    Flavourworks' Jack Attridge says that knowing the core of your story - and indeed, keeping that simple - is vital for constraining the narrative.

    "Really, have something you want to say," he said.

    "People need to know they are playing the same story. When you branch out endlessly, you start to water down what you are trying to say. You need to have a meaningful perspective on the core path."

    The Third Floor creative director Michael Ogden added: "Real storytelling is constraints. It's not a bad idea to really restrain yourself when you are trying to build an experience. Get an X statement [a brief, core summary of a game's content]. You really work that, share with friends. You have to make clear what the player motivations are, what the goals of the experience are. Coherency is always a good idea if you are working on a story. Take that paragraph, then it becomes a page. Once that's clear, you flesh it out. Keep it really simple; the complexities will come out naturally."

    Quantic Dream veteran and Interior Night founder Caroline Marchal also points out that it's not a good idea to give players too many choices early on in the game as by that point they likely won't know what is as stake.

    "The key thing is not how often you make choices but when," she said.

    "A lot of choices early on won't be that meaningful because they won't know the characters and thus won't understand the stakes. Your story structure won't look like a pyramid and people won't know there are other branches. It'll look more like a Christmas tree."

  • 3 Company culture is absolutely vital for a healthy working environment

    A point echoed by more or less every speaker during the LGF Working Culture Forum highlighted the importance of a company culture.

    Space Ape's John Earner said defined company culture as "values, customs and traditions", but went on to point out that it is not something you can introduce right at the start. During the early hiring phase of your studio, a company culture will come across as fake or disingenuous.

    "When you're starting, culture is one thing - hiring," he said.

    "Who you pick is everything. They don't need customs of traditions. Culture and tradition early on comes across as fake. Culture is partially for people who aren't there. Getting hiring right is the most important thing."

    He added: "Don't hire your friends; hire people who could be the foundation of your culture."

    Splash Damage associate creative director Andreas Gschwari added that company culture is something that has to be really considered when hiring because if you hire someone who is the wrong fit, you risk damaging your studio's balance.

    "Every time you hire someone you run the risk of diluting your culture," he explained.

    "You can add people to contrary to who you are as a company. Hiring people from different countries and backgrounds can change how the company feels."

    Gschwari said that an official company culture was actually a relatively new addition to the studio - the firm had started off as a group of friends who liked making multiplayer games, and over its history, the outfit hadn't actually stopped to consider what its culture stood for.

    Eventually, the firm came up with: "We create lifelong friendships by making blockbuster multiplayer combat games that champion team-play."

    Space Ape's Earner also said that one way to gauge what a company's working environment is like is to see how they treat their leavers. Some people will simply not be right for your company, and that's absolutely fine.

    "As you grow, one pitfall is realising that you're not for everyone," he said.

    "People might be wonderful with what you do, but won't want to work there. A good litmus test of a games company is seeing how they treat their leavers."

PCGamesInsider Contributing Editor

Alex Calvin is a freelance journalist who writes about the business of games. He started out at UK trade paper MCV in 2013 and left as deputy editor over three years later. In June 2017, he joined Steel Media as the editor for new site In October 2019 he left this full-time position at the company but still contributes to the site on a daily basis. He has also written for, VGC, Games London, The Observer/Guardian and Esquire UK.