The Connection is Made: Developer Highlights from Game Connection 2006 (Part One)
April 14, 2006
Game Connection is an event designed to build relationships between game developers and game publishers in an intimate, quiet environment. It is put together by Lyon Game, and takes place twice per year: once in December in Lyon France, and once in March, to coincide with the Game Developers Conference.
For many attendees, Game Connection is viewed as the antithesis of E3. Rather than struggling for meetings amidst the booming audio and flashing lights of the sales-driven event, Game Connection is a relaxed, intimate environment that allows attendees to have intimate meetings with potential partners they may not normally have access to.
As American game publisher Mastiff's Bill Swartz described it, Game Connection's basic premise is "a lot like speed dating, except they look at your checkbooks and technology instead of your jewels and curves." Game developers taking part in the event reserve a modest meeting room, and request meetings with publishers via a simple online interface. The Game Connection staff then schedules the appointments accordingly, in thirty minute increments.
The Game Connection that coincided with Game Developers Conference 2006 saw increased attendance for both developers and publishers over previous years. Developers the world over came to show off their wares, introduce themselves to the world, or to simply touch base with prospective clients from the past.
Gamasutra sat down with a number of developers this year, and in this two part series, we'll provide brief profiles of some of our more interesting encounters.
"You're the god of the anteaters," explained Hugo Morin, CEO of Quebec-based developer Humagade. "The ants have disappeared, and you don't know why. And the anteaters have stopped making sacrifices for you."
The game, currently in a rough demo state, is called Tamano. It's a platform adventure for the Nintendo DS, which controls entirely via the touch screen. Want Tamano to jump to an upper platform? Draw a line leading him there, he'll do it himself. Need to go even higher? Click on a jutting pole, Tamano will wrap his tongue around it. Grab and stretch him with your stylus, pointing him at your target, and let go. He'll fly through the air like an arrow. Be sure to blow into the DS's microphone for some extra distance. Tamano is currently without a publisher to fund its development, and while Morin hopes one takes interest at Game Connection, the little anteater god isn't the only reason he's here.
|Humagade's Tamono demo for the Nintendo DS.|
"It's a long-term thing," said Morin of his utilization of Game Connection. "Yes, you might get something signed, but it's also working on a bigger term. It shows the publishers that you can afford to be there, first of all, that you're organized and know what you're doing."
Humagade is a moderately-sized studio, currently employing forty-three people at its Quebec City headquarters. Its main source of output so far has been in the mobile games field, though Humagade has also touched on the casual PC and ICTV interactive television markets, and even the major handhelds, with last year's Sea World theme park-licensed Shamu's Deep Sea Adventures for both the Nintendo DS and the Game Boy Advance. Currently, Humagade is working on a "high profile project" with Electronic Arts.
"It's pricey," Morin admits about Game Connection. "But to have this setting, to be sitting in your own room not having to run around like crazy, I think it's worth it. Normally [publishers] would probably be too busy to have meetings with you, but this is made for that. If you ask for a meeting early enough, you'll get one."
Dream On Studios
As previously reported in a Gamasutra Q&A, French developer Krysalide attended this year's Game Connection to pitch a Day of the Tentacle-inspired point and click adventure titled Cassius Pearl.
The game, shown to us at an estimated 60%-completed form, oozes style. The environments, though fully rendered in 3D, give an abstract, flat vibe, with a muted color palette that makes the game's vibrant blue protagonist, bouncing around even as he drags his exaggerated arms behind him, stand out that much more. Though the script is entirely in French, the spoofs and references are obvious, and include Gordon Freeman's Half-Life suit as an equippable item, a vehicle that more than resembles the modified Delorean from Back to the Future, and some highly sexual leather goods.
|Cassius Pearl, in an in-development state.|
"The first concept of the game was a platform game on PlayStation 2," explained Gaming-Side's Nicolas Magnier, who is contributing to the game's development in a partnership with Krysalide. "And we moved to the PC, and then to point and click, because it was easier to create and to pitch to publishers."
When questioned on how a point and click adventure could possibly be easy to pitch, Magnier gave the example of Pendulo Studios' Runaway: A Road Adventure. "It was a bit of a genre comeback for gamers," he said. "It reminded people that point and click games are good."
"Maybe it's not well known in the U.S., but in Europe, it was a great comeback for the genre."
Team 17, the West Yorkshire, England-based independent developer that formed nearly twenty years ago as a distributor of public domain material for the Commodore Amiga, was on hand for their fourth Game Connection in a row.
Team 17 is perhaps best known for their Worms franchise, which they continue to develop. They also just shipped Lemmings for the PSP, a continuation of the franchise originally conceived at DMA Design.
"It depends on the timing," said Studio Director Martyn Brown when asked why he attends Game Connection. "Sometimes we're pitching a product, or sometimes we may have conversations going on with half a dozen people anyway, at which point it's just a way of moving things forward."
"It's just a great opportunity to catch everybody, and catch everything that's going on. Publisher strategies seem to change like the wind."
"Publishers come out to look for teams to fill things in their roster, sometimes it's about being in the right place at the right time," added game designer John Dennis. "Anything we publish generally involves a long-term relationship, attending Game Connection is vital to really stimulate that."
|Team 17-Developed Lemmings for the PlayStation Portable|
Like most developers we spoke to, Team 17 doesn't necessarily view Game Connection as the ideal place to pitch a new game. "It's a good opportunity to pitch, but we're not sure if it's the right place for it," said Brown. "What we prefer to do is give them a little look at what we're doing, and then reschedule later."
"And the timing is very good with E3 just a couple months later, so you can do follow-ups there as well."
Gamasutra will continue its look back at the attending developers of Game Connection 2006 next week.