Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Animex 2015

Since the first Animex I attended back in 2009 I've had a real soft spot for the festival.  Amazing speakers, inspiring talks and workshops, and a fantastic networking opportunity for students/grads to get some advice, tips and feedback on portfolios.  Back in 2009 I attended as a graduate looking for help and a break into the industry, this year was my fourth Animex, and my first as a speaker.

Indie Game Day

This year's Animex saw the first Indie Game Day.  Speakers included Georg Baker, Michael and James Brown, Richard Franke, Barry Meade, Ian McClellen, Alex and myself.  There was a huge range of experiences and advice on offer.  

Georg (A Brave Plan Ltd) gave 110 (!) slides of invaluable advice to budding independent developers with so much gusto it was a hard opening talk to beat!  The Gang Beast's (Boneloaf) were next up showing an insight into the process that has lead up to one of the most exciting indie games coming. Basically; prototype, play, iterate and once you have something to show, show it and use that feedback.  We followed after a short break giving advice on what we did, and why you should do what we say and not what we did (another blog post methinks).  After lunch we were treated to the musings of Barry (Fireproof) giving an inspiring talk on why you should make the games you want to play.  Up next was the fabulous Richard Franke (Magic Notion) talking about Kitty Powers' Matchmaker, a perfect example of a personal project driven by passion.  Then we had a very quick talk from Ian (Plug and Play) about marketing your games core message (your 'X') before the almighty panel session come game show for all the speakers and hosted by Alex.

If you thought a panel couldn't be gamified you clearly don't know Alex... (Also my team won thanks to my brilliant team mates Georg and Rich!).

Wow, what a day. Every Animex gives you a surge of inspiration, and Indie Day was no exception, we went to the bar that night buzzing with ideas and creativity, and this was just my first day of talks (we missed the start of the week and the VFX/Animation talks) there was so much more to come.

The Game Bridge in the student bar was the evenings entertainment.  Loads of local (and not so local) developers showing of their games and the incredible Ms Powers came along to spice up the evening.

Animex Game

The later half of the week was all things game industry and again, amazing speakers giving inspiring talks.  I wish I had made it to all of the talks as the ones I did catch had me enthralled.

Ken Wong (Ustwo) was the first talk I caught, encouraging this new age of developers to shake the shackles of what we've let ourselves believe makes a game, a 'game'.  Instead make experiences, channel emotions, produce works of art, think outside the (x)box.  Following the pink haired hipster force was Nicole Stark (Disparity Games) who gave one of the best openings to a talk I've ever seen.  Stating that she is a self confessed 'fake' mountain biker.  Nicole has the gear, knows the lingo but cycles faster uphill than down.  And despite getting horribly in the way of  'genuine' mountain bikers she has never been made to feel that she does not belong on that trail and as a part of that community.  Something that our gaming community could really learn from.  Nicole's talk was another personal journey in game development and the battle of balancing work and life.

I then skipped tracks to catch Jenifer Clixby (Lionhead) talking about her role as a cat herder (producer).  Some really useful advice in this talk especially her personal tip to always leave the 'TO' field empty when writing an email.  That way you can't accidentally send it unfinished, without attachments and/or full of errors, also you have to really think if you want to send that message.  Useful if you're in a bad/angry mood.  Following up this super useful talk was another amazingly helpful session from Wyeth Johnson (Epic) on how to give and ask for usable feedback.  Ask for specific feedback, and don't rush your reply, give yourself time.  It's a skill and it takes work to get good at so don't shy from it.  Closing the day was Nathan Stapley (Double Fine) showing us some of the beautiful art behind Broken Age.  I loved this talk and had to start making notes on things I want to try for our next Glyph Quest game (more on that another time).

Nathan gearing up for awesomeness and the doodle I stole after his talk. Haha!

Players' Lounge

Another of the networking events this week (and another evening with the irrepressible Ms. Powers!) held at the student bar is the Players' Lounge, the evening where you get to meet the speakers.  This evening also held a charity auction for Special Effect, speakers bring along game merchandise, usually unique, limited and/or signed, and this year auctioned by special guest Kitty Powers.  My contribution to the action was an original Cthuttlefish drawing (Sharpie and water colour on canvas, signed), we were also giving away the opportunity to be a character/enemy/monster in our next Glyph Quest title.  This was auctioned for a whopping £260 making it the joint highest win of the evening (matching the signed Monumnet Valey print).  

Wrap Party

The advantage of being a speaker at Animex is attending the wrap party.  Every year there's an evening of saying thanks to all those behind the festival and the speakers for making it what it is.  What was really special about this years party was Alex taking home the Animex Honorary Award!  Now of course I have to work on getting one for myself so we can have matching bookends! 


And this is really whats so special about Animex, the networking.  This year I was blessed to also meet Phil Co (Valve), Gary Napper (Creative Assembly), Andrew Walsh, Allesandro Taini (Ninja Theoy), Zach Parish (Disney) and Michael Molcher (2000AD) and catch up with some old friends and Animex regulars.  Played some excellent Mafia games and was introduced to the fantastic Escape and Super Fight games (thanks Jim!).

Seriously epic Mafia game.

There's always so many excellent speakers at Animex, hand picked by the wonderful Gabrielle Kent.  Getting to meet people in the industry that I have nothing but respect for is a treat year on year. 

Thanks Animex!  Please have me back next time!

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