Thoughts about lecture by Matt Costello regarding writing in games industry

The games now Games Now! lecture series in Aalto University was launched today by Matt Costello who has worked for example with Doom3, Rage, 7th Quest and Pirates of Caribbean. He spoke for 1½ hour about aspects of creativity and inspiration, his experiences in the industry and  answering questions. As whole, he was very entertaining and took time and effort to engage the audience for a memorable experience. Being a showman, performing tricks and showing ming-blowing videos. In good and bad It reminded me of some speeches by marketing directors and leaders of the game industry seen in Nordic Design Symposium and Free Your Play seminars: insightful in high-level but shallow on easy-to-apply anecdotes from practical level. Superfluous, While video of asteroid colliding to earth make for a good entertainment and wows the audience, be it ceos or financial backers and it was plausible to show, I felt the lecture was at its weakest then. Instead of victories, I would’ve valued more of stories of mistakes made and lessons learned. I seem to appreciate higher content-to-entertainment value of the lectures.

The most valuable lesson was the underlined the multitude of channels for creativity within the industry – for example. the Launch of Rage contained a comic, a novel and a casual game which completed the storytelling and world on a levels that could not have been achieved with the AAA-title alone. Another good one was made memorable with play-acting, was the applying of different casual puzzles to different settings (say, how to do the wolf-goat-cabbage-man-boat-river puzzle in alien or mafia setting? On mission design, as generally a bad observed pattern was the mmorpg-common “do A, B & C, return and the story continues” instead of continuing the story during the missions.

As guide words to inspire creativity: Plöay, Wodner, Experiment, Risk, Passion, Market, Where and what are the conflicts? How things in this world are run? Who you want to be? Location, Corporations ,Team, Problems, Media, Creatures, People, Society. Who are the villains and heroes? Something normal can be fun when made a game, and reserve, something fun in real world might not work as a game.

I have to raise a glass for him for making me remember and explain a childhood fantasy world. (Which was inspired by original Elite, imagining building awesome spaceships with which to travel and trade in distant planets, observe them undetected and engage in fierce laser battles of technology and wit).

Question that was left on my tongue was about the multiplatform marketing which happened alongside Rage. Before actual launch, there was novel, comic and a casual game released that all expanded upon the world and the characters. While sounding engaging and I know that Dead Space and Hawken have used similar approaches, I wonder about its efficiency. While making a comic or novella might not dent too much out of a AAA-budget, I wonder if same works for mobile games. Maybe the guys behind Tunnelground might have something to say about it? What makes this kind of marketing and hype campaign successful and what possible pitfalls there are?

Next lecture will be of new user interfaces. I feel I’m rather aware of existing and upcoming technologies, and instead of shallow look towards them I would wish to see experiences and speculations about their best practices. Say Kinect being already rather mature system – and Leap Motion having a good run for few months – what are the best UI-patterns that have emerged? Or those who have played with Oculus Rift for a while, what are the experiments that have been tried and failed for surprising reasons (like in Minecraft, it comes tiresome to neck to tie the movement of up-and down to head position), and on contrast – what works really well in specific cases?

Links from lecture: mattcostello.dom , Asteroid apocalypse without musicDouble HappyEventide  Greatest Puzzles book

Thoughts after lecture:

  • Get a traditional game book – you can always find material from them. This was recommended in Free your play as well, not this particular one, but similar. –
  • Write a own book, seems like a good merit for career. I have the idea ready, just need to get working on it.
  • Next time, have business cards ready and updated blog, maybe a prototype of a game to show and talk about during mingling afterwards. Btw, was nice to meet you Atte with great surname!
  • Coordinating and planning that kind of multiplatform community building sounds fun.
  • How about that 3D-modelling a updated version of Cobra MK3
  • Unity stores seems like a good place to sell 3D-models and build passive income.
  • That eventide transmedia project aims to do AR and location based. Good IP for that. Better check it out later how they’ve innovated compared to other AR/location based games, that ghost-character-system might work really well. And why there is no data of it online – name change ahead or way too immature stage to not even have a homepage yet?
  • Matt offered to give insights and answer questions – so first, ask how the coffee cup magic-trick was done and then the actual one. Smart move from him to build networks, I wonder if this is from some stage-performance book.





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