This month and next I'm staying in Berlin, which, besides being a bustling, fascinating and very international city, also seems to have a stealthily growing games scene.
Last week I gave two talks here based upon my book--one at the Games Academy for the local chapter of the IGDA, and one at Yager Development, which was hosting the annual meeting of the German Game Developers Guild.
The Games Academy has been in business since 2000, and seems to be thriving. They recently added a new degree focus on Game Producing, something that RPI's panel of experts on our own undergraduate degree development spoke of as an educational gap, now that game projects are so huge and complex.
The IGDA talk was well attended, and the audience had many great questions and thoughts about game characters and emotions.
The next day's talk at the Game Developers Guild meeting was actually part of a 5-hour workshop among experienced designers/developers from all around Germany. After I spoke, the group discussed their own issues and insights around characters and emotion--from designing interesting and non-repetitive interactions with merchants in a big open-ended game world, to strategies for offering character customization in a classic RPG, to how to make a character feel alive and emotionally engaging in a point and click style adventure game while the player is mulling over what to do next. The common theme among all these dilemmas was how to handle limited resources to deliver emotional punch along with great game mechanics and all the other things that players expect. It seemed that everyone there benefited from the shared brainstorming, and I was impressed that the developer community here manages to find the time and to be open enough to share dilemmas and pool their insights.
Several people had traveled quite a distance to be there, and were happy when the meeting adjourned to a local cafe/pub on a floating dock in a canal near the studio. Before we left, Uwe Beneke, one of Yager's founders and my gracious host at both events, brandished a full-size mock-up of a weapon that his art director constructed for their new game. It was huge and heavy, and could even be reloaded, after a fashion. They are using it for mocap for one of their games, to add a level of realism to the movement of the characters. Yet another of all the myriad details that go into making a game feel emotionally real...