Six things we learnt at Develop:Brighton 2018

Six things we learnt at Develop:Brighton 2018

We're finally home from this year's Develop:Brighton and - having slept for many hours - want to share the top things we learnt at the conference.

We were fortunate enough to attend talks from some of the biggest personalities in the video games market, and even more fortunate to sit down with them to discuss the biggest

The TL;DR of this year's show is that a bevvy of new technology is about to make the lives of games developers much easier, with smaller companies likely being able to compete more readily with their triple-A counterparts. Additionally, advances in machine learning and AI tech will help expand the scope of many games but also help keep a toxicity in the fanbases at bay.

We also found out what is considered one of the best ways to market your game is right now, as well as how to make sure your studio is futureproofed as Steam becomes a harder nut to crack.

What can be done to make games more accessible was also addressed at this year's Develop:Brighton, following Microsoft's focus on this with its Adaptive Controller and more diverse Xbox Live avatars.

These are - of course - not all new, revolutionary takes on what's going on in our sector but a summary of the biggest trends we noticed from speaking to the industry this year's show before, during and after finding out that It, sadly, is not Coming Home. 

Stay tuned to in the coming weeks to see our on-going coverage and interviews from the show floor.

Click here to view the list »
  • 1 New technology is about to further level the development playing field

    For the first time since Unity democratised games development and enabled a wave of smaller studios to compete with the big boys, a fresh round of new tech is going to do the same.

    Raytracing technology will allow developers to create projects that look truer to life, while machine learning will be able to speed up slow processes for developers (more on that in a moment). That's on top of the massive potential of artificial intelligence which will allow smaller studios to massively expand the scope of their projects.

    That's not to say that games development is suddenly going to become easy - these new technologies will no doubt come with their own sets of challenges. But they will let smaller studios create much more expansive and ambitious projects on a lower budget with their smaller staff count.

    That's not to say these are the only technologies that are helping developers make gamers with a larger scope; SpatialOS from Improbable as well as the Artisan Engine from Artcraft are two such example that spring to mind which will assist studios in the coming years.

  • 2 AI and machine learning is going to have a massive impact on the games industry

    The age of the articial intelligence is upon us and it's nowhere near as scary as films made it appear. There are a number of AI and machine learning initatives that we saw at this year's show that are going to make the games industry a much better place to be.

    SpiritAI's Ally tech is being used for community management purposes - this spots toxicity by determining the context of words being used. For example, friendly insults between teammates will not generate a flag on the system, while similar language between strangers will. The end game for the AI company is to prevent harassment movements such as GamerGate from taking place again - a noble goal when you consider the hugely detrimental impact that had on the industry.

    Over in the development side of things, Bossa's Chet Faliszek - formerly of Valve - spoke about the impact that AI could have on narrative within games. The Seattle-based developer said that this technology could be used to create outcomes and conversations in a game that the developers never actually intended. As such, a smaller team with the right AI tech could make a much more expansive game than was previously possible.

    And finally, Nvidia talked to about the company's machine learning initiatives. This was demoed to us at GDC this year, with the tech able to help developers out in small but significant ways. For example, it could help tell characters where to place their feet making the environment and character models feel more coherent.

    The possibilities with this are endless, with studios able to apply machine learning to any number of problems.

  • 3 Everyone loves Discord for marketing their games

    Having taken the games communications sector by storm, Discord has become a prime place for promoting games.

    Mike Rose of No More Robots spoke of how he had been using the platform to reach an audience for both his first game, Descenders, and the soon-to-be-released Not Tonight.

    Rose pointed to the dedicated community that gathers on Discord resulting in a higher number of Steam Wishlist entries, boosted Day One sales as well as more positive Steam reviews at an earlier point. Additionally, having that conduit between the game makers and their fans means that issues get dealt with much quicker. It also allowed additionally functionality to be added into Descenders ahead of its launch; Rose and co crowdsourced translations for the script of that particular project - which admittedly doesn't have a huge amount of dialogue - resulting in higher sales abroad.

    These comments were echoed by other game makers that we sat down with during Develop:Brighton, including Slingshot Cartel who have been using the comms app to drive excitement for its debut title, The DRG Initiative.

  • 4 We need to make games even more accessible

    Major steps have been taken to make video games more accessible to differently-abled people, but more can be done.

    Mixer program manager and gaming and disability community lead Tara Voelker said that further standards need to be drawn up to make video games playable to a wider range of people. This includes allowing game controls to be remapped by default, as well as making sure that options such as subtitles being available in a larger, san serif font.

    Additionally, Voelker argued that we need better representation within video games - and the right reputation, too. This means having more differently-abled characters in video games, as well as making sure that the details are right. Voelker said that things such as making sure that the right kinds of wheelchairs are being used.

    Voelker also said that making games accessible to as many people as possible is not only the right thing to do, it also makes sound business sense - she claimed that differently-abled consumers play games for longer and that they are more dedicated customers.

  • 5 Steam is not the easy win it used to be

    So this one will not be much of a surprise if you have been on Steam recently, but Valve's storefront is more crowded than it has ever been. Auroch Digital's Tomas Rawlings explained that just releasing a game on the platform was not the guarantee of success that it once was due to the sheer number of releases as well as schemes designed to help smaller studios - like Early Access - being nowhere near as reliable as before.

    In short, developers should not be relying on Steam entirely to make their game a success. They should be diversifying how their games are sold; that can mean selling their titles on a number of different platforms or even moving their titles onto different formats. Rawlings pointed to consoles as being a good option, in particular, Nintendo's Switch, as well as showing some excitement at the possibility of a new storefront in Kongregate's Kartridge.

    Furthermore, diversifying income sources is a good idea. Work-for-hire and consultancy are two options that Rawlings suggests, saying that this kind of work will allow developers to weather harder times.

  • 6 Indies need to start charging more for their games

    It's well-known that indie developers are feeling the heat and trying to be more visible, and lowering the price of their games is certainly one way of doing this.

    But No More Robots' Mike Rose says that indies should be charging more for their games, going as far as to say that whatever price you are charging - add $5 to this.

    The indie publisher says that this will create a perception of value - a title that is $20 or $25 will stand out from the crowd in a New Releases section with cheaper games. Auroch Digital's Tomas Rawlings also said that anything under $20 on Xbox Live is seen as not worthwhile by many consumers.

    Additionally, an extra $5 will bring in a decent amount of further revenue which adds up across thousands of copies sold.

    Speaking to later, Rose joked he wished he had charged $30 for his first published title Descenders as opposed to $25.

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.