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Dave Jones took to the Brighton Develop Conference stage this morning to deliver his talk on how to make a successful game and take it online.
We reported live from the event, capturing a blow-by-blow account of all he had to say, offering you sense of Develop and what it's all about. And because it's just round the corner, clearly.
Why? Well, Dave Jones helped create Grand Theft Auto and Lemmings, before going on found Realtime Worlds and make Crackdown. Now, Jones works on APB, the ambitious and perhaps ground-breaking urban MMO with big veins and tattoos.
Read on for the full coverage of Dave Jone's talk, in which he discusses why APB went online and the benefits of it. The earliest entries are presented first.
HELLO WEMBLEY. Here we are at the Develop Conference in Brighton, for the keynote speech from Realtime Worlds bigwig Dave Jones. Wonder if David Reeves has ever heard of him?
His speech is titled Spare socks, a copy of Tricolore Book 3 and a pair of broken swimming goggles: Inside Dave Jones's Locker
It isn't, obviously. It's titled Online functionality for your next game? Why not go 100% online!
I was almost late because I got stuck in a lift with a man and a giant stuffed pirate shark. That is not even a lie.
Still no sign of Dave Jones. Perhaps he's going to go 100% online for this keynote and just do it over the internet?
There are so many people here they're having to put more chairs out. The tension is literally and barely palpable.
Hello ChthonicEcho, thank you for going First. Please see previous post for explanation of lateness. Sharrrrk.
Shall we play Conference Drinking Bingo? Prepare your vodka and shot glass. Knock one back every time one of the following words is mentioned: community next-gen digital revolution Twitter Facebook user-created content.
Dave Jones is at the podium! His hair is shining under the spotlight like bronze in the sun.
He's been in the industry now for two decades. Who would have thought it. He can probably remember when this was all cassettes.
Part 1 of his talk is called Evolving Games; it's about his youth. Space Invaders, Pac-Man on the screen.
"When you look back at classic videogames, I think they still hold a lot of good ideas and inspiration for gaming today."
Space Invaders was a micro-transaction game, he says - 10p a go, innit.
He didn't actually say "innit".
It was a subscription in fact - 10p for three minutes. Gosh, imagine if World of Warcraft cost that much.
Pac-Man was in fact cops and robbers, he says: the ghosts were the cops, chasing you as you ran over pedestrians.
Pic from War Games on the screen. BRODERICK. He was so handsome then. Like a more sculpted Scott Baio.
Now there's an Amiga on the screen - Dave bought one of the first to arrive in the country and a couple of books about how to use it.
Now there's a picture from 20 years ago with the man who founded Psygnosis, Martin Edmondson from Reflections, Tim Ansell from Creative Assembly - "All people who went on to do great companies and good games."
Martin Edmonson "was the Swiss Tony of the games industry - he could sell games to anybody".
Now we're looking at Dave's second ever invoice, in 1988 - he got 75 pence per copy sold of his game Menace. That amounted to £3750.
Nowadays, Dave says, developers can do the same sort of thing by developing games for iPhone. "I never thought that would happen again - that we'd be presented with all these unique new models."
Dave dropped out of university in the end and got himself an office instead, then started to program games full times.
We're seeing a prototype for lemmings - tiny figures walking across the screen, falling under 10 ton weights, being eaten by a monster. This was created over the course of a lunchtime, says Dave, and inspired Lemmings.
A screenshot of a more advanced version of Lemmings, now. "Although it was simple on the surface, it was quite a complex game underneath."
Those were the days when there were 20 formats out there, different territories, d-pads for the first time - "It was a tremendous learning curve."
Lemmings 3 - "We did that for the sake of the franchise, not really because we had an idea for the game, and I think that showed in the product." Dave "didn't really enjoy" working on that one.
Then came Body Harvest, "kind of a precursor to GTA, really". He had to learn a new platform in the N64 "so we never really delivered on the openworld vision".
Thinks got better with GTA though, "It was very refreshing and very new. We were very nervous - would people accept a 2D game in a world of emerging 3D?"
But they did, of course.
Then came GTA 2, Walker, Tanktics - "I basically tried absolutely everything. It was about trying things out and learning."
When he left DMA, he sat back and looked at his design principles and what he'd learned.
The biggest one, he says, is attention to detail. "That is paramount. You have to have a love for what you do and be honest about what you're creating."
"I am not a fan of deeply complex games... I like games that let players use simple building blocks." Lemmings is a classic example, says Dave - there were just eight skills. "How the player compound uses those together creates thousands, if not millions, of combinations... It's really the player's experience that's making the game deep."
The next principle is keeping everything "as contemporary as possible", so you don't have to teach people about stuff - like alien vehicles in landscape in Body Harvest, for example.
"There's obviously a great market out there for sci-fi games, but keeping it contemporary has always worked for me."
The next one is humour. "If someone laughs in the first five minutes playing one of my games, I've accomplished something. It breaks down barriers hugely."
The last one is to try to innovate and create a genre, rather than follow one. That's getting harder and harder, just because there are so many games out there.
But the online space opens a wealth of opportunity - "It's very, very much untapped."
Now Dave's going to talk about applying all this knowledge in practice when designing games. And Realtime Worlds. (For the benefit of David Reeves: RTW is Dave's Scotch development company, currently working on MMO APB.)
Dave's talking about other early influences - Populous, Stuntcar Racer, Command and Conquer, Counter-Strike... These all fuelled his passion for multiplayer. Codename Eagle. Dark Age of Camelot.
And so Dave came up with Crackdown, "a carefully crafted kind of game. It's hard to say we were trying to invent a new genre, but I certainly felt we could create this living city and create a new experience inside it".
The player could "experience the city as a 3D platform game", was the point
He's talking about how Crackdown let you develop weapon, driving skills etc., then compound them to do exciting stuff.
Drop-in drop-out co-op was "extremely hard to pull off", says Dave, but it was very well received.
Come on Dave, show us something of your new game. Even if it's that tattoo designer thing again.
InFamous and Prototype have touched on the same areas as Crackdown, says Dave. Which is a polite way of saying...
He's going to show us a video now, it's a YouTube film of Crackdown with a voiceover by co-op players. One of them's a lady!
The players are laughing as they go around smashing stuff up, flying off ramps etc.
Actually one of them might just be a young boy.
People sound like they're having the times of their lives. Nothing funnier than blowing up a car, apparently.
"I have no idea what game they were playing but it wasn't Crackdown as we designed it," says Jones.
It's about letting players create their own story and play the game they want to play, he reckons.
Aha! APB is on the screen! Only the cover but still.
Crackdown sold 1.5 million, "which is pretty good".
But it's an expensive industry to develop in - even if you sell 5 million you might only break even. Also, publishers are hesitant to sign sequels till they know how well the first game has done.
"That's no good to independent developers like us."
Resales of pre-owned games were also affecting developers - Crackdown might actually have been sold 2.5 million times.
Then there were loads of new things to consider like the Wii, iPhone, social gaming, digital distribution, etc... What no Facebook?
MMOs "are associated with RPGs", and that's a tough market to go into, says Dave. "The behemoth" has that sewn up really.
He mentioned MySpace and Facebook. Two shots.
"It's hard with social games to feel anything back from them. They're interesting, they're fun, but..."
iPhone "is really for the up and coming guys". It's still a tough market, says Jones. "It's an interesting market, it's a great one, but for us as a big studio we felt it's not something we could get into."
Flash and casual gaming - "Just not us," says Dave. Blimey, it's a wonder they ever decided to make any more games at all.
Digital distribution - "It's coming, but it's not something we'd ever try to develop a product around."
Online - has done nothing for the music and film industries but create problems. "But for games, online creates new opportunities"
So they decided to pursue an online, next-gen project. YES DAVE WE KNOW SHOW US A VIDEO OF IT PLS.
He's talking about the benefits of next-gen and online now. Honestly Dave, even the character creation tool again would do.
Huge scope for innovation, everyone loves the internet, client piracy not an issue, etc etc etc.
"APB is a highly dynamic action game, but it runs on a server. That's probably the biggest thing about it."
It has to be something "players perceive they can't get anywhere else", so that's what RTW is trying to do.
They want to give players Creativity - freedom to play, Conflict - great combat, and Celebrity - "For the first time ever we wanted players to be instantly recognisable, and make themselves famous to all the other players in the game."
You're going to show us the character customisation tool, aren't you Dave?
No, back to Conflict - online persistent living citites (sic), no lobbies, 100 players per city, dynamic matchmaking, "players as content".
The game watches what you do and starts to match you with other player. "It's what we call asymmetrical matchmaking - it looks at your skill level and can bring you together temporarily into a group of players, roll out big matches so it's 2 vs 2 then 2 vs 4 then 2 vs 8... It's very new."
"We removed AI completely, because real people are a thousand times better than AI." I.e., players as content.
A tech video now - some coloured dots moving around the screen. Looks like a simplified overhead map.
"For the first time ever, when we say a persistent world we mean a persistent world. Crackdown and the GTAs are not" persistent - "If you drive round a corner then drive back again, the cars that were behind you aren't there now."
We're seeing street-level action now. A couple of players are driving round in a van. They jump out and steal a car by jimmying the window with a crowbar.
But here come the police, because the game has dynamically matched the crim players with some po-po players.
"We're always pitching players against players, but we've no idea who that's going to be."
If crims keep getting away with it, the game will keep sending in more police - so two players could end up on an hour-long killing spree with 10 police after them.
Just walking around you'll see action; we're watching a character walking through a gunfight, basically.
"You give a hundred people and you throw them into it... It's not as much fun as you might think, it quickly turns into anarchy, so we've done a lot of things to" sort that issue out.
Creativity now - it's about being able to make your player look unique. YES IT'S THE CHARACTER CUSTOMISATION TOOL
It's an avatar in her bra and knickers. Boobs growing and shrinking.
A muscly man in boxers now. You can even expand or contract veins. NEVER HAS THIS BEEN SEEN BEFORE
Skin pigmentation, hair colour, scars, etc.
It's the tattoo design tool. Who would have thought it.
You can make your own decals yes yes very good.
Who will your APB character look like, readers? I will go for either Princess Diana or Ben Fogle.
You can customise and upgrade vehicles too.
They've made an Obama avatar, wearing a "Yes We Can" badge. The resemblance is yesweuncanny.
Music now. "We ship 100 tracks with the game."
But they did a deal with Last.fm so you can import your own music and that data is pushed out to other players. So if you have the same track in your libraries, you'll hear the same tracks. If not, you'll hear something similar - maybe something by the same artist, or something from the same genre.
Audio now - Dave's showing how a basic music program can play Another One Bites the Dust. "We're giving players the option to attach anything they compose to anything in the game."
When one player kills another player, you can take any music you've designed and attach it to that death. On-screen, a character is gunned down and Another One Bites the Dust plays. People in the audience laugh and someone even claps.
Annoying death tunes are possible - e.g. Super Mario. More laughing.
You can even attach tunes to your car sirens if you're a po-po.
Celebrity now. "We want APB to be a different kind of game; it's not just about being the winner, it's about being the coolest fashion designer, composer..."
You can group together with friends and even win statues in your honour in the city.
To end, Jones is showing us a video of APB. Rockin' music. A man pulls a man out of a truck. Hooded figures walk through the city with guns. Girls in vest walk across a pedestrian crossing. One of the girls picks up a gun from a dead body.
A gang now, armed with machine guns and tattoos.
Police cars leap out of an underground carpark. Lots more striding around, masked figures shooting, rocket launchers, a truck driving off a bridge.
Two whole armies of characters are shown facing off with each other. "Let's do some business." The end.
"It's hard to classify what APB is," says Jones. You can play it as a single-player game if you want. "Hopefully there will be something for everybody in there."
"Hopefully people will see it and say wow, I can see why moving onto a server will bring me all these advantages as a gamer."
And it's all over. Thank you Dave Jones.