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Four things we learnt about design and development at PC Connects London 2019's Codeshop Track

Four things we learnt about design and development at PC Connects London 2019's Codeshop Track

Developers took to the stage to talk about what, how and why they do what they do at the Codeshop: Design and Development track this week at PC Connects London 2019.

This track not only provided some in-depth discussion on the nitty gritty behind PC game development, giving us complex insight into how games are put together, but touched on the culture surrounding game developers, and best practice for making the strongest end product.

Videos of these talks will be available in the coming weeks. But to sate your appetite until then, here are some of the key takeaways we found at PC Connects London 2019.

This track was sponsored by Jagex, which was a Gold Partner alongside Xsolla. Audio specialist Dolby Digital was a Silver Partner. 


Click here to view the list »
  • 1 Believability is more important than realism when it comes to level design

    Believability is more important than realism when it comes to level design logo

    Kicking off the Codeshop track at PC Connects London 2019 was Max Pears from Polish game maker CD Projekt RED, who was sharing his insight into level design.

    In a Q&A following his talk, Pears was asked about the importance of realism when building levels, with the developer saying that believability is much more important.

    "One of my friends taught me when I was first starting out that levels have to be believable, not realistic as realism can sometimes kill the fun," he said.

    "But making it believable is important. For example, if the player is walking around a power plant, making sure it has key things such as generators, safety rooms, toilets and so on - that's important so the players believe the space. It doesn't need all that stuff directly, but making sure it's believable will help. In general, you'll find that it's okay once you establish those things and you'll talk with your art style about this. But it's important to do your research as well - how do you run a power plant? How does that work? How do you start the process through to how do you end it? Understanding that process and knowing that's important, what makes a power plant a power plant.

    "In games, levels are architecturally correct, but most of us have never been in some of these weird locations properly. You are able to get away not showing everything."


  • 2 There’s never been more demand for unionisation in the games industry

    There’s never been more demand for unionisation in the games industry logo

    2018 was a turning point for workers rights in UK games.

    That’s according to Games Workers Unite UK Treasurer Kevin Agwaze. The GWU movement gained traction shortly after GDC 2018, but the following year would further prove its necessity. From the revelation of Riot’s culture of sexism to the sudden evaporation of Telltale Games, games workers have had enough.

    “Last year it became a hot topic of discussion. Cultures of crunch, cultures of sexism, cultures of breaking the law,” said Agwaze.

    Support for unionisation hasn’t suddenly sprouted out of nowhere. In fact, GWU claims industry workers have grown increasingly pro-union over the years. In 2014, support sat at 64 per cent - in 2018, that grew to 82 per cent.

    Key issues include work weeks lasting over 40 hours, unpaid overtime and the expectation to work overtime, poor diversity policies and severe job instabilities. The games industry has some of the worst gendered pay gaps in the UK, with places like Rockstar North paying women on average 64 per cent less than men.

    Change is coming, Agwaze explained: “It’s been a long time coming, and it’s pretty obvious if you look at what labour conditions are like in the games industry.”


  • 3 The future of multiplayer isn’t just scale - it’s putting all those players in the same place

    The future of multiplayer isn’t just scale - it’s putting all those players in the same place logo

    The next big thing in multiplayer gaming isn’t scale - it’s bringing that scale together.

    That’s what Klang Games co-founder Mundi Vondi and his team of CCP veterans are setting out to do. For them, the CCP MMO Eve Online represents the next stage of online gaming - where MMORPGs like World of Warcraft boast millions of players, Eve puts them all in one server.

    With Seed, Klang is attempting the same thing - believing the level of persistence afforded provides a more meaningful social space for players. Vondi elaborated: “In a social network you don’t think ‘what shard am I on?”

    There are some severe affordances made when designing for this scale. Traditional narrative and pacing go out the window, but you also need to account for the infinitely-increasing divide between old and new players.

    Permanence is key - while Eve has its player-driven economy, Klang wants every item in Seed to be player-created. Each user also has a number of ways to retain presence even while offline, including an extended in-game family of characters.

    But more than anything, designing games with this scope is more akin to designing a lifestyle. You don’t want players to quit after a month, or even a year - they need to be in for the long haul.

    “These games are 10x more expensive to produce,” said Vondi. “You have to think about extreme lifetimes, getting players into a path that might get them playing for the rest of their lives.”


  • 4 The AI in the Football Manager games is insanely powerful

    The AI in the Football Manager games is insanely powerful logo

    Artificial intelligence is a huge part of most video games, but the one seen in Sports Interactive's Football Manager games processes a huge amount of information.

    In his deep dive into the AI of Football Manager, programmer Joshua Crompton explained that each character - from players on the field to managers on the sidelines - makes a decision every 0.25 seconds. That’s 21,600 decisions per match per character, settling at around roughly 306,240 for the match total. Some shortcuts are taken to occasionally lower that figure, but it’s a monumental amount of AI working behind the scenes.

    The amount of variables is staggering. Menu after menu showed physical, behavioural, social and mental traits for each player, each with a minuscule chance of affecting what decision a character will make at any given time.

    The simulation is never about making sure the players’ teams are as optimal as possible. Football Manager simulates teams from across a range of skill, from the best of the best to Sunday league amateur skirmishes.

    “We have to compare with real-life," Crompton said.

    "We’re not going to get spot on for everything, but we try to get close.”


Staff Writer

Natalie Clayton is an Edinburgh-based freelance writer and game developer. Besides PCGamesInsider and Pocketgamer.biz, she's written across the games media landscape and was named in the 2018 GamesIndustry.biz 100 Rising Star list.

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