Running On Empty – Develop in Brighton

Game On, Journal

Running On Empty – Develop in Brighton

What a week I had.

I spent the day in work on Monday, followed by an hour or so there on Tuesday morning before traveling down to Brighton for my first experience of the Develop conference.

Once myself and the others who had traveled down from Liverpool checked into the hotel and registered for the conference, we ended up having a few beers in a Belgian cafe we’d past while scouting the promenade. It was strong stuff that Belgian beer, I can tell you – even though I was sticking to the “lower” percentage blonde beer.

Once I was back at the hotel that night I ended up sitting talking about everything under the sun with one of the guys until after three in the morning. It’s all a blur, to be honest. Last thing I remember doing was being in the bathroom in my room, throwing up whilst having a pee at some unearthly hour, then having to clean up the splash damage.

Needless to say I was ruined the next day, having a combination of the sweats and the shakes all day long. Not good. It was hard work attending the seminars that I did make it to – especially a “web 2.0” talk that was essentially an hour of MicroSoft marketing/brainwashing that did little to expand on how emerging web techniques could be used within the Games Industry.

On Wednesday evening a bunch of us went to a gourmet burger joint for dinner, but despite the kiwi burger I ordered being perfectly tasty, I just couldn’t choke it down due to the nausea I felt from poisoning myself with alcohol the night before. Admittedly, I did end up in a pub with a couple of the other guys for a while after the meal, but neither of the two drinks I had tasted particularly good. I called it a night after that and went back to my hotel room, but I struggled to get to sleep until after 1am – probably because I felt awful, still.

On Thursday I was up in time for breakfast at the hotel, and although food tasted better than it had the day before, I wasn’t exactly wolfing it down. Myself and one of the other guys went for a walk along the promenade after breakfast – the De Vere Grand hotel is pretty close to the remains of the old West Pier, so it made for a good walk from there to Brighton Pier and back. The lack of sleep had left me nursing a mild headache, but the fresh air worked pretty well to clear my head and set me up for a solid day of lectures.

First up was a game design lecture with four parts to it – the first two were, in the main, shit. The third talk was by Kate Pullinger, the author of Inanimate Alice – an interactive online novel. Although she wasn’t miked up and was hard to hear when she moved from the microphone to her laptop, it was quite an interesting talk. After that there was a talk by Jolyon Webb from TruSim, showing off animation technology that enabled his company to deliver realistic representations of people who had been injured in order to train paramedics and the like. That was well cool, and quite unexpected subject matter at a games development conference.

After lunch I went to David Braben’s lecture on “game design for the 5th generation” – partly because there were a lack of other lectures relevant to my work, and partly because David Braben co-created Elite – the seminal 80’s space trading game – and I’d been a fan of his work ever since. I did want to ask “when are you bringing out a new Elite?” when it came to the Q&A after his talk, but thought better of it in the end. It was a good talk, though, and the footage of his new game “The Insider” piqued my interest.

Next up was a talk by industry luminary Peter Molyneux on “innovations in game design”, but I didn’t think much of it. And man, does that guy like the sound of his own voice. Unfortunately his attempts to convince me that Fable 2 would bring RPG’s to the casual gamer didn’t carry much weight. Neither did the one-button combat system – looked like it would get very dull very quickly; something I don’t think would sit so well with RPG players.

Once that was done I regrouped with the rest of the lads from work and we went to explore Brighton to kill time until our 19:19 train. Unfortunately the great British summer brought us yet more rain, so three of us ended up sheltering in the pub from the night before, while the others went to visit the museum. As we sat and chewed the fat of the previous couple of days the time melted away, and soon we had to make tracks back to the hotel for our bags, and then on to the station for the return leg to London.

The journey back from London to Runcorn was an arduous one – there’s nothing like sitting on a train carriage full of screaming kids and loudmouths on their mobile phones to make you yearn for the comfort of your own home. I had my PSP and my headphones on, but it was hard to concentrate on a game with the level of tiredness I had.

Eventually I got in about a half hour before midnight, exhausted and very happy to be back in my own bed again. Unfortunately Elisha woke and cried for a while just after I got to bed, so I got up to check on her with Fliss a couple of times. Due to that it ended up being yet another night of sleep cut short – the week was beginning to take its toll.