take-aways from a week full of game related events

“I thought this would be something with 30-40 people in a classroom. It’s so much bigger than I expected. Let me make a movie for my mum. She doesn’t really get the work that I did for The Last of Us, but she will get this!” – Danar Worya

Much like concept-artist Danar Worya, when we embarked on our last In Motion adventure of 2023, we didn’t know what to expect. Our conference was part of the very first Game Week organised in Breda, an event we were not producing on our own but in collaboration with a series of partners: Breda Game City, Dynasty, BUas, Avans Creative Innovation, St. Joost School for Art & Design, Rooi Pannen, and the city of Breda.

“We were able to use esports to create inclusivity and increase self-esteem” (Ties Klok)

There were multiple things happening throughout the whole city, from a giant PacMan installation all the way to presentations and roundtables.The program was incredibly diverse, touching on subjects very much anchored in the now. Esports talks, video game investment events as well as workshops on serious gaming, all found an excited audience eager to take deep dives and enhance their understanding of these subjects.

“We were able to use esports to create inclusivity and increase self-esteem. With adjusted controllers the children who normally have to face functioning with their disability now were worthy opponents in the game. Their disability played no role anymore.” – Ties Klok, children’s physiotherapist and game therapist

At Rooi Pannen we dived into the world of esports and professional gaming, in the Breda Esports Conference, organized by Dynasty Esports. Talent scouts and professional esports coaches gave an insight into their tasks and worlds. Another important topic was the use of gaming in education and how game skills can be implemented in education to implement a different way of learning.

Our conference on The Art of Game took place in two different locations (BUas and St. Joost), it sported a program showcasing a bit of everything from insights on creating indie games all the way to discussing what it means to work on some of the most popular titles in the industry. In addition, on Wednesday, some lucky visitors also got the opportunity to have their portfolio reviewed by well-established artists.

“Make works that you would care to see yourself” (Jeroen Janssen)

The first day of the conference focused on World Building. Concept artist Danar Worya was the first to break the ice (in our case: rain) and set the tone for the event, talking about working on The Last of Us. “When I am designing something” he says “I ask one important person, whose opinion I value, one important question. ‘What do you think it’s cool?’ I ask my 16-years old self.”

A great perspective that would also reflect in other talks throughout the day, such as it was Jeroen Janssen’s presentation for Happy Volcano. “Make works that you would care to see yourself” he prompted the audience. Discussing how they managed to create the viral hit game You Suck At Parking with rather limited resources.

He added “Every piece of the puzzle is important to the process but there is always some friction between the artistic and the business side of a project. It’s good to have some knowledge about the business side even if you are an artist. Also, if you want freedom to be creative, make your works with somebody else’s money!”

“When I started out, there was no game industry so we had to create it!” (Peer Lemmers)

Similar ideas also echoed in the panel discussion of Larian Studio, but then featuring their own twist on things. “We don’t want to create the same game over and over. The more success Baldur’s Gate has, the more creative freedom we will have for our next project.” Also, when taking about their development process they added “Team members get inspiration from each other. Everybody works in parallel, shares their own piece  and we all somehow end up inspiring one another.”

Among the several interesting subjects covered in the panel “The Future of Game Development”, that yes, did include the dreaded AI, one provided an intriguing take on the state of the industry “It used to be much easier to build games with smaller teams. Now things move much faster. Games we make now are bigger in scope, bigger in technologies.” And testament to this were the talks of Guerrilla’s Peer Lemmers about animating creatures for Horizon Forbidden Forest and the panel discussion of Larian Studio’s work on Baldur’s Gate III.

“I like the fact that when I started out, there was no game industry so we had to create it” Peer confessed during his talk. “If you make an entertainment reel, I know you have what it takes to work in the entertainment industry” he further encouraged the audience.

Concept artist and filmmaker Sava Zivkovic had a slightly different take on things “Nothing is easy in animation, but compared to the process of a couple of years ago, now we have many more tools easing the things for us, that we could only dream of in the past. In Unreal Engines you are able to reiterate at the speed of talk. You can cheaply build a virtual camera in your office, thus hugely impacting the editing process, while in the same time being extremely liberating”.

Different nuances and lots of things to digest as we concluded the first day of our fully booked conference.

“You have to merge your artistic nature with your business side. You can’t be naive” (Tomas Sala)

On Friday, the focus was on Storytelling and Visual Development. Our event host but also speaker Molly Heady Carroll got us all excited about creatures and the narratives they can provide in a game. “Creatures appeal to our emotions” Molly says, “thus they can enhance the message and be vessels for meaning”.

Using monsters to process feelings was also an idea reflected in Taraneh Karini’s presentation. Her talk took us on an exciting journey, from the initial idea all the way to the finished product, as we get to understand how her (semi) autobiographical game  “Lona. Realms of colours” came to be. Talking about what a learning experience developing her game was, and how little she financially gained from it seemed to provide the perfect cue for Tomas Sala.

Known for his indie game The Falconeer, which he developed solo, independent game artist Tomas Sala showcased a very direct work ethic in his interview. “You have to merge your artistic nature with your business side. You can’t be naive” he prompted the audience.

Valuable tips for aspiring artists also came from senior concept artist and art director Jort van Welbergen “Your graduation work is very important” he says. “I got hired for Avenue 5 [HBO series] based on my graduation project made 5 years prior to landing the job.”

In his talk he also discussed how the process for this series was different than the one he encountered for House of Dragon, but how, in the end, it all came down to making his designs and the worlds believable by introducing various real-life inspired objects.

“Storyboarding is an invisible art as none of the stuff I do makes it in the final product” (Klaus Scherwinski)

Death by a Thousand Cut Scenes was the epic ending we needed (and got!) for our conference, and, in the same time, Klaus Scherwinski’s ode to storyboarding for game cinematic. “Storyboarding is not illustrating the script but visualizing a change in time, with a focus on emotion.” He also called storyboarding “an invisible art as none of the stuff I do makes it in the final product”.

Somehow bringing us all back to Danar Worya’s initial remark about his mother’s not really understanding the exact work he does. Behind the scenes, the game industry is full of work that is vital to projects but is not ending in the final product. We see and play the games, but the processes of their creation are so intricate, complex and often so incredibly spectacular if feels like an entirely different universe. We feel so grateful that during The Art of Game conference we got to explore and marvel at the processes that made some of our favorite games, the magical experiences they were.

All we can say is: we want more!