The Vancouver Film School hosted their 7th annual Game Design Expo and Open House this past weekend.
Saturday's Industry Speaker Day had more than 380 game professionals and aspiring game designers attend. With a full agenda of speaker presentations and panel discussions from industry leaders, it was valuable hearing insights about the creative process, the impact of new technologies, and where the business might be heading.
Coursing through every conversation was an overarching theme: great storytelling is still the essential ingredient to delivering a great game.
For instance, Chris Haluke Lead Designer for 343 Studio’s Halo4 Spartan Ops, talked about the introduction of episodic content to multiplayer gaming. His team is embarking on delivering a new episode a week, and ultimately rolling out a 50-mission season. The idea supports creating better accessibility and reducing the friction or fear of getting into the multiplayer arena. Haluke noted that by adding fictional narrative to this type of gameplay they creating an experience that is “not just about jumping into the multiplayer arena and shooting the crap out of things.”
A panel discussion called "Storytelling and Sound Design in Halo 4" featured a gathering of VFS alumni including Robbie Elias (Sound Designer), Kyle Fraser (Sound Designer), Cory Hasselbach (Mission Designer), Noa Lothian (Sound Designer), Daniel Raimo (Sound Designer), and Armando Troisi (Narrative Director). It emphasized the importance of planning sound elements early in the design process—not as an afterthought. Great sound effects add depth and richness to the narrative, and isn’t just about blowing stuff up.
It was a highlight talking with 343 Studio’s Armando Troisi about how changing hardware technology and the user interface will impact the future of gaming. While not having the answer, it was cool ruminating on his question: "can I make someone cry by tapping on an he iPad?" Troisi is also a serious proponent of transmedia storytelling. He sees additional creative assets such as graphic novels and comic books as key elements for extending franchise reach.
Ubisoft creative director Patrick Plourde had one of the day’s best lines, suggesting that "AAA is still stuck in little boy fantasies." Plourde certainly hammered hard on the importance of storytelling saying new ideas should focus on “the story of who, and not on the story of what or where." He was consistent in both our conversation and on stage, saying the gaming business needs to see the world beyond the 16-to-24 year old male demographic.
Clive Downie, Chief Executive Officer of DeNA in North America and Europe also firmly believes that storytelling is critical to success. Downie acknowledges they are competing for people’s most precious resource—their time. The DeNA team focuses to two key performance indicators: number two is monetization, and number one is engagement.
Throughout the day it was a noteworthy theme playing out loud and clear. A great story that keep players engaged, entertained, and enthralled will continue being the linchpin to designing and delivering a successful game.