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Game in Scotland: Fostering Creativity in the Games Industry

Game in Scotland is more of a recruitment fair than an industry conference. This event is truly unique in allowing Dundee & Scotland’s finest game developers to show off their finest work to in an intimate and friendly environment.

Gone are the official airs and graces or the grand spectacles of the big shows like E3, the Tokyo Games Show or Gamescom.

This year’s conference opened with a brief introduction from the CEO of 4J Studios, Chris van der Kuyl. The studio has worked on an impressive array of titles from Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion to the Xbox Live Arcade versions of Banjo Kazooie and Banjo Tooie. Having just finished the XBLA adaptation of Perfect Dark, 4J Studios are on the very cutting edge of the industry working in the exceedingly competitive digital downloads market.

Van der Kuyl’s message to prospective recruits was this:

“Creativity is more important than ever with the growth of social gaming and mobile games and the growing casual gaming market.

Despite the times being tough it is an exciting time to get involved with the games industry. Get started in Dundee and you will grow skills that can take you anywhere.”

This set the tone for the afternoon which would include presentations from some of Dundee’s biggest mobile and social games developers including Car Jack Street‘s developer TAG Games and Dynamo Games, the team behind the mobile and iPhone versions of Championship Manager.

Dynamo took the opportunity to highlight their recent shift in strategy to move into the immensely lucrative social games scene with their first Facebook game Soccer Tycoon. This clearly offers excellent opportunities for talented developers keen to work in the fastest growing fields in the games industry.

One of the more curious entries was the presentation from Kirk Ewing’s Veemee. Veemee is not a name that will be instantly familiar to gaming buffs but it is a certainty that PlayStation 3 gamers will have encountered Veemee’s work at some point.

The studio has been working very closely with Sony and other partners to produce content for the much-maligned but steadily growing PlayStation Home. Home has been kind to Veemee as the studio has produced a significant volume of content for Sony’s virtual space.

Veemee current has a large presence on Home producing the Audi space and the London Pub as well as running their own virtual clothing store the V-store. The store currently sells t-shirts but will soon be adding costumes from Batman and Monty Python as well as their current line of avatar t-shirts from the likes of Billabong and WornFree.

The small studio is an example of how creative the games industry can be in working with established brands in order to create content that is both entertaining and creates meaningful brand exposure.

APB is the very pinnacle of what the Scottish games industry is capable of.

One of the real high points of Veemee’s portfolio is their Iron Man 2 flight game created in conjunction Marvel and the Audi space. The game is a simple task of flying around New York City as Iron Man collecting Arc Reactors and avoiding mines. However it highlights an appealing direction that the games industry could go in order for independent developers to finance their work.

Of course, the highlight of the show was always going to be the Realtime Worlds presentation. The studio, headed by Dave Jones, creator of Lemmings and Grand Theft Auto, shot to fame within the industry for its sleeper hit Crackdown. They have been working on a follow-up to the game for the last six years.

APB is the result of several years of toil and is an impressive fusion of their experiences of working with the GTA franchise and their observations of the creative ways that gamers used Crackdown as a digital playground. The game is impressive. Combining compelling real time action and multiplayer gameplay with the most extensive and versatile set of character customisation tools ever seen in any game to date.

This is clearly the company to work for and that is evident from the emptiness of the concourse during their presentation. Of course, anyone who has had even the slightest of contact with APB or Crackdown will know just how talented the team at Realtime Worlds is. They tend to let their work speak for itself and quite rightly so as APB is set to make tsunami-sized ripples when it releases at the end of June.

All round the world games developers shroud themselves in secrecy and treat the competition with a ruthless hostility. There is none of that at Game in Scotland. The games developers in Dundee all work in a spirit of brotherhood and will discuss openly problems that they have as much as possible without violating their respective non-disclosure agreements.

Staff also seem to flow freely between studios with no bad blood in passing. In fact, when Denki Games downsized its staff due to problems finding a publisher for their innovative Xbox Live Arcade title Quarrel, other studios welcomed the redundant staff in or pointed them in the right direction even allowing them to finish off their work at Denki before starting their new jobs.

The Scottish games industry can be very proud of its achievments so far. With high profile titles coming out on every platform from PSN and XBLA, to Facebook, to the PS3 and PC, the message coming out of Game in Scotland is clear: no matter what type of games you want to make, whether it be AAA level PC and console titles, to PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade titles or even mobile and Facebook games, if you want to make the best titles, come to Scotland – there really is nowhere better.

About Ewan Aiton

Ewan Aiton
Ewan has worked at GamersUniverse.com and is currently PC Editor at GamesAreEvil.com as well as UK News Editor at Play.tm. He regularly attends European trade shows.

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