Text by Giorgos Riskas and Roope Sorvo, photos by Jesse Eloranta
October is the time of the year when the evenings get darker, leaves fall and the spirit of Halloween rises with undead horrors.
The October gathering was appropriately sponsored by Next Games, celebrating the release of their recent title, The Walking Dead: Our World, an AR title where the player takes on the zombie hordes on the streets of the real world. For the past five years, Next Games has been working hard to elevate the reputation of games using licensed intellectual property (IP), and they are currently working on three new games based on popular entertainment franchises.
Sulka Haro, lead designer of The Walking Dead: Our World, opened the seminar with his presentation “In Search for Location-based Mechanics - The Walking Dead: Our World Design Retrospective.” He went through the game’s creation process from their three core design pillars (“Play everywhere, Support couch play, and Be true to The Walking Dead) to aspects of the game’s core loop and the concept of shared reality. The presentation also delved into a brief history of AR games, listing influences and lessons learned from each spiritual predecessor of Our World.
The second speaker was Matias Ärje, director of technology at Next Games. His presentation “Earth, My Game Level - How the Planet-Wide Gameplay in The Walking Dead: Our World Came to Be” explained the methodology and language of the impressive mapping technology used in Our World. The presentation went into detail about the process of mapping, use of art, troubleshooting gameplay elements, and offhandedly explained compatibility issues between Google Earth and Google Maps.
The third and final presentation of the night was “How We Gather, Use and Lose Data - On Data Architecture, Selected Results, and Data Retention” by Jörkki Hyvönen and Vesa Palonen, the self-described “Matti & Teppo of the Game Industry”. Both worked with analytics on Our World; with Hyvönen as the Head of Analytics, while Palonen described himself as a ‘happy generalist’. The duo went through how data collection works at Next Games, and how applying analytics to that data affected the creation of Our World, from visibility and prediction to modelling and automation.
In addition to the presenters, we talked with Susanna Aittokoski, the communications manager at Next Games. According to her, the company’s success in the industry and good reputation on work ethic are thanks to the company’s culture, based on values of Caring, Courage and Curiosity.
“We give our employees the amount of responsibility they ask for themselves,” Aittokoski said. “Nobody is handed more to bite than they can chew.”
These values also extend to their partners, which has allowed a tighter relationship with the licence holders. Currently Next Games is the official, exclusive developer of The Walking Dead games. The close working relationship has enabled Next Games to have their games closely integrated with the series. For example, events of the series are reflected in The Walking Dead: Our World a day after the episode airs.
“Things like that are just plain cool to do,” Aittokoski said with excitement.
Alongside the seminars IGDA Finland presented their new project IGDA Future, an upcoming series of events aimed at kids and young people, created in collaboration with the libraries of the Helsinki Metropolitan Area and Digitalents. The aim is to create an equivalent of IGDA gatherings for younger audiences, with less stress on networking and more emphasis on activities.
See you in November!