I was really impressed with the turnout on the day, nearly 200 people took seats to hear Dr. Jim Terkeurst, from the University of Abertay, give an overview of the digital games industry, key trends and what it is really like to work in the industry. What I took from this talk was the PS2 is the king of consoles, the European market is expanding fast and this year is the peak of the current console cycle. Jim noted that digital games were not yet mass market, like DVDs, and while bigger than the cinema box office, was not bigger than Hollywood.

As aspiring developers he warned us to be aware that budgets for a console game were between $5 and $30 million and that there were two types of developers: game factories, or ‘time to market’ developers, who delivered on time and within budget and game mavericks who had great ideas but came in late and over budget. The latter were the source of innovation but then these ideas often get moved to time to market developers.

Key issues he discussed were the importance of domestic and global markets, diversity (of sex and culture) within game companies, the detailed and long recruitment process and continuous training while on the job and the rewards (financial). He advised that would be developers need vision, focus, leadership, and excellence. He also noted that there are more than just developers in the industry – a key role in the industry is that of the producer/project manager. Other opportunities lay in outsourcing key functions, like animation and audio and localisation.

Today he noted that companies are getting larger, over 100 people, and this size was needed to support key functions like advanced technology teams; a necessity in the changing industrial environment. Finally, a game development company’s value lies in intellectual property and ideas – this is key to survival and this message was repeated throughout the morning.

Jim was followed by Jackie McKenzie from the University of Abertay who gave us a real bread and butter description of the Dare competition. While some issues have still to be finalised in relation to the Irish version of the competition, Jackie gave us a great insight into how the competition works in the Scottish Context.

To enter the Dare competition people must form teams of five people with a balance of skills between programming and animation and appoint a team lead. It would appear that the balance between animation and programming should be about half and half on the team with one person responsible for team management and reporting. The first stage in the competition is called a ‘paper sift’ and at this stage you don’t need a demo, you need to be able to describe your team, it cohesiveness and its skills, your concept and its market potential and have a planned ten week schedule of work that is realistic.

From these paper applications a number of teams will be chosen for interview and at this stage it would be good to have some conceptual art (not necessarily original) to illustrate your game concept. This is a ‘pitch’ essentially to an industry panel so you put your best sales person forward for this. In the Irish context if you get selected for the competition, the team will be housed in the digital depot, given computers and software, participate in regular video conferencing sessions with Abertay and work damn hard for ten weeks to get a playable version of their game concept ready for final judging. The final week for the Irish team will be spent in Abertay interacting with the other teams and adding the finishing touches. And what are the final game concepts judged on? Creativity, innovation and what the team achieved in the ten weeks.

A further incentive of the competition is that you get paid during the 10 week development period and there are cash prizes for the wining game concepts. Damian Furlong also added that competing in the competition seems to add an extra brownie point to your CV, while being a winner added two. Two of his team mates from last year’s competition are now working with EA.

Damian Furlong gave us an interesting insight into what can be achieved in just 10 weeks when he demonstrated the project he was involved in Demon Lore. Readers of gamedevelopers.ie will remember that we followed this competition closely back in September, and the fact that Damian, a graduate of DCU, was involved in one of the winning teams added an extra dimension. Yesterday he demonstrated just what their team achieved in terms of both tool development and content. Most of the audience were bog-smacked!

These presentations were followed after coffee by a panel discussion on the Irish games industry with Michael Kenna from Enterprise Ireland, Michael Griffen from our own Kapooki Games, Gerry Carty from Vivendi Universal Games Ltd. and Michael Hallissy from the Digital Hub.

Chaired by my good self, the discussion focussed on where we are at currently in the industry in Ireland and how we could grow the industry in the medium term to compete globally. Key discussion points from the panel were costs of entry, skills/competencies and emerging markets like wireless and massively multiplayer games. IDA are actively trying to attract international developers and publishers to Ireland while EI offers various supports including finance, mentoring and management support to start-up companies. Questions from the floor examined key functions that Ireland might be able to offer to international companies including animation and QA, how one can gain access to the industry and gain the required ‘experience’, the need to break the ‘boys club’ aspect of the industry and design games for women and piracy. Members of the panel noted that some large companies like EA offer placement programmes while localisation and QA are good entry points into the industry also.

The morning event finished just after 1 with teas, coffees, sandwiches and animated discussions. A further information event on the Dare to be Digital Ireland competition will be held in the New Year and a Irish version of the website is forthcoming.

Back in September we did a feature on Abertay university and the Dare to be Digital Competition. Seefeatures/index.php?article=8features/index.php?article=8

Other info: index.asp?i=259