Fascinating trip to GCAP this year (that is to say GCAP itself was fascinating, not the trip there. That was mundane and, dare I say it, rather painful).
If I could sum up this year's conference in one word it would be this one: marketing.
This word and subsequently theme was common to 80% of presentations, particularly the plenaries. David Edery's take on the lifecycle of a console is a useful guide for those wishing to maximize their chances of success when launching a new title on a particular platform.
The chaps at Endgame offered one of the few solely gameplay focused presentations as they outlined the difficulties they encountered when balancing, er, difficulty. Fractured Soul for the DS is a gamers game, if there is such a thing any more; if there is, this it is one, or something. A significant portion of their presentation was centred around the user testing process and the feedback generated by it. Heartbreaking might be one way to describe it. However, for the sake of a little pain, a well balanced gameplay experience is its own reward.
The Doublefine keynote was entertaining though not particularly relevant to those not running a large studio. Despite that, it did offer one particular lesson applicable to any developer; take risks.
Between sessions we were treated to a middling selection of pastries, none of which tempted me (though they were quickly snapped up by other more ravenous developers. Devs are a fine judges of pastryflesh). Lunch was distinctly DIY which seemed in keeping with the rise of local indie developers and the room in which we were provisioned could have housed a giraffe.
The EEDAR keynote illustrated the value of statistical data to developers as stat after stat was hurled at us from the podium by Greg Short. I was left in no doubt of the comparative scale of the industry and it's continuing growth through a particularly rough economic period. This previously 'recession proof' industry had been downgraded to defcon 2 or 'recession resistant', though this is still a pearly state of being.
Halfbrick's session had arguably the heaviest marketing focus and highlighted the need for a dedicated marketing person or unit depending on the scale of the assault. Of note were the fact that reviews were synchronised to launch alongside the game itself, thus creating a sort of tidal wave of attention. Of further note was the focus on maximizing marketing opportunities for each update, effectively relaunching the game in the process.
Special mention must go to Jupiter's Casino for having the gaudiest neon lighting system imaginable, the most appalling taste in music and the snottiest waiter this side of Noosa. "Got the money mate? Can't pay with hopes and dreams!" No, no you can't, though when you've already set up a bar tab it's not really relevant is it?