Locally renowned web dev and community manager at Hackerspace Farset Labs, Claire Wilgar is known by most of the Northern Irish community as one of the lead organisers of the Global Game Jam in Belfast. On the up and coming jam however, Claire has taken it a step further, and will be involved with the organising of the global event as one of the committee members spear heading the jams world wide.
We’d like to both thank Claire for all her hard work organising the Global Game Jam every year, and wish her luck/congratulate her on becoming part of the steering committee. We all look forward to what the next jam brings.
You may have heard of GamesAid, a collective for charitable activity on behalf of the games industry, taking advice from all sectors. Local Northern Irish charity Child Brain injury Trust have been nominated and are seeking local industry support to help them secure their nomination as one of this years sponsored GamesAid charities.
By voting for the Child Brain Injury Trust in this year’s GamesAid charity nomination, you will transform the lives of hundreds of children and their families, many of which are based right here in Northern Ireland. They are a small UK charity with an office in Carryduff and your vote could make all the difference to them and the hundreds of children they support.
In order to secure their nomination, they need as many people associated within the UK gaming industry as possible to vote for them.
HOW TO VOTE
If you are an Existing Member of GamesAid
– Check your Email Inbox for the GamesAid Poll Card. – Select the link and vote for The Child Brain Injury Trust.
A word from Child Brain Injury Trust – Why Vote For Us:
‘When brain injury strikes, we provide long term emotional and practical support for children and their families. We are the only charity to look after the needs of the whole family, helping them to come to terms with the lifelong impact of a child’s brain injury.
“Melissa suffered severe brain injury and lost the ability to walk and talk. She took her first steps and spoke her first words again at the age of 8”.’
Voting will run from the 16th of August to the 6th of September.
This is the first time a Northern Irish charity has been entered into GamesAid and it would be fantastic to get as much support as possible. Thanks to everyone who votes!
Northern Ireland games developer No Piknik is among the Twenty-three teams of graduates from across the UK are today celebrating success after being selected to take part in Tranzfuser™ 2017.
Tranzfuser is funded by UK Government and organised by UK Games Talent and Finance CIC (UKGTF). Now in its second year, the games design competition runs for 3 months. Each team will be awarded £5,000 to support them as they turn concepts into prototypes ready for further professional development.
Matt Hancock, Minister of State for the Creative Industries said: “The UK’s creative industries are one of our biggest success stories and a big part of that is our leadership in video game production. Now we need to nurture the next generation of talent, and the Government’s UK Games Fund and Tranzfuser have been set up to do exactly this. I wish all the entrants good luck in the competition and look forward to seeing the prototypes as they develop.”
All of the 2017 selected teams are meeting for the first time today in Manchester for the TALK Tranzfuser event; a jam-packed day of practice pitching sessions and expert advice.
The hard work will culminate in September when the teams journey to EGX 2017, the UK’s biggest consumer games event which will take place at Birmingham NEC where the teams will showcase their work. The contestants will pitch their prototypes to a panel of games industry experts for the opportunity to receive a grant of up to £25,000 from the UK Games Fund (also operated by UKGTF).
Today, UKGTF also announced the network of UK-wide local hubs which will support the individual teams throughout their Tranzfuser journey.
Deborah Farley, Head of Talent and Outreach, said: “The quality of the applications to Tranzfuser 2017 was very high across the board. This made the judging process for our external reviewers no easy task. However, after much
Northern Ireland app and tech development company App Attic has been named in the Disrupt 100 list for 2017.
Disrupt 100 celebrates the businesses with the most potential to influence, change or create new global markets. The list is compiled and curated by the world’s leading entrepreneurs, investors and business people.
AppAttic uses innovative tech solutions to help improve people’s health. Through apps and games, it collects and validates clinical data derived from mobile devices, and aims to evoke prolonged behavioural change in people with health conditions in order to reduce their costs and improve the quality of their life.
One of its products is a medicines-tracking game for mobile and tablet devices. The app engages users with their medicines schedule – recording their mood and heart rate and any non-adherence and reasoning. It gently nudges users to adhere to their prescribed medicines schedule through game experiences, rewards and competing with their peer-group.
Engaging people in their own medicine routines and getting them to understand what leads them to skip their medicines is becoming a massive part of health education. AppAttic is providing health engagement and insight in a fun, tactile and innovative way. Its “games” approach means it is especially suitable for children who rely on medicines for their health, but need daily encouragement to take them.
Northern Ireland game developer Billy Goat Entertainment has released its celebrated space adventure game Her Majesty’s SPIFFING (that’s the Special Planetary Investigative Force For Inhabiting New Galaxies, if you’re wondering) on iOS and Android platforms today.
After a successful Kickstarter campaign Billy Goat Entertainment commenced development of Her Majesty’s SPIFFING in November 2014 with funding from Northern Ireland Screen via Invest NI.
Just like the console and PC versions, which were released last December, mobile gamers will now be able to take charge of Captain Frank Lee English as he (along with his insightful Welsh colleague, Aled) takes to the stars on-board the HMSS Imperialise in this modern interpretation of a classic point-and-click.
In Her Majesty’s SPIFFING players will be charged with solving both mental and physical based puzzles, all the while being rewarded with a sharp and witty script.
William Barr, Director, Billy Goat Entertainment Ltd “It takes cues from/ plagiarises everything from Monty Python to Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. In short, it’s about as British as a game can be, in that it deftly undermines everything we hold dear about this damp collection of islands from beginning to end.”
Her Majesty’s SPIFFING is available now on iOS and Android.
This is a guest post by Stuart Neill of Lapsed Gamer Radio, talking about what it was like attending the latest Games NI Meetup.
It was with a excitement and a little trepidation that I made my way to StartPlanet NI in Donegall Street, Belfast on the 15th February to attend my first Games NI Meetup.
The event was only the 2nd meetup organised by GamesNI and they plan to host one every 2 months. They are a chance for developers to get together to talk about game development in Northern Ireland, and everyone is welcome, whether you’re with a company, a freelancer, a student, or just interested about game development (or in my case as an amateur podcaster).
While waiting for the night’s presentation to begin I got talking to Stuart McAllister, the Director of NSG eSports (@NSGeSports), an Irish based gaming organisation that has a League of Legends team and a Counter-Strike team, both of which are aiming to compete at the highest level possible with the esports leagues for these 2 games.
The main event of the evening was a presentation by Kevin Beimers from Italic Pig (@italicpig). It was catchily titled “Pitching, Pick Up Lines and Polyamorous Marriages”, and was a shortened version of his talk from the Unity 2016 conference on Publisher Relationships, but due to the pizza not arriving on time I think we got pretty much the whole thing.
The presentation itself was about courting and developing a relationship with a publisher and focusing on long term, not just a one night stand. Italic Pig have experience with this as Team17 publishedSchrödinger’s Cat and the Raiders of the Lost Quark. The presentation was a masterclass in doing an engaging presentation over 100+ slides, and was jam packed with film stills that illustrated the points being made.
After the presentation we were treated to pizza, nibbles and drinks, and while mingling I had the chance to talk to a number of people including Adam & Vicky of Whitepot Studios (@Whitepot), Michael from the YouTube channel Bellular Gaming (@BellularGaming), Johan from Sweden, and Donal Phillips from NI Screen ( @NIScreen). Everyone that I spoke to had some great ideas and their own particular insights into the gaming industry, and it was fantastic to see that Northern Ireland has such burgeoning talent, and support to help them.
January saw return of the Global Game Jam at Farset Labs in Belfast. This year was the biggest yet, seeing 15 teams enter under the theme of ‘Waves’. Three teams also won tickets to the NI Game Awards show the following weekend. Here is what two of them had to say about the event:
Thomas Hislap; Coffeebox Games & Titanic – Never Let Go
‘This year was our first game jam and despite being down a team-member and a severe chest infection, we had an absolute blast making something without the pressure of commercial release. We found the atmosphere of the event to be extremely inviting, and we certainly picked up some new skills watching how other teams worked together.
We went in with the intention of making something silly, this turned out to be the perfect environment for just that! The best part of the Jam for us was getting to see so many devs play our game in person and have fun with such a silly concept. Looking forward to next years Jam already. Big thanks for farset labs and NI screen for orchestrating the event.’
Daniel McDowell – Barbara & Gordon
I was quite anxious about signing up for the Game Jam because I hadn’t done anything in the games development space for about 4 years. I was incredibly rusty and I didn’t want to hold the team back. Our team was made up of people who had never met before and didn’t have a team. Nevertheless, we sat down, discussed ideas and by the end of the first night, I had been introduced to a few new technologies, primarily Git.
The next morning, I discovered our team of 5 was down to 3. Thankfully, this didn’t disband the whole team; rather, it made our responsibilities on the project clearer and made us determined to create something. As always, there were frustrating times when we couldn’t get something working and had to make compromises due to the time constraints, but we prioritised features and managed to make something we could demo.
Despite our struggles, we won a spot prize for our game. I couldn’t believe it! I learned many new things and made some new contacts. I got to witness and play some truly innovative games that use the latest technology and work in the same room as those creators. Initially, I wasn’t sure if giving up my relaxing weekend to spend more time staring at a computer screen was the right thing to do, but now, I believe it was. My fire for developing video games is back!
Earlier this month saw the launch of Immersive Tech NI as well as a VR hackathon. The event marks the beginning of the group which is designed to bring together the most creative minds in Northern Ireland as a community to explore and expand the possibilities created by immersive technologies, including virtual and augmented reality. Attendees got the chance to try out projects run by local companies, as well as go through workshops leading up to the Hackathon, which had prices for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place. We caught up with some of the winners to find out their experience of the Hackathon.
1st Place – Team Rocket
The Immersive Tech NI Hackathon started on a Saturday morning with breakfast and a brief introduction from the event organisers. After this, everyone with a prearranged group set off to find the best tables, leaving just seven of us: a game developer, a software engineer, a museum worker and three students. Only two of the group had ever actually met before, but it wasn’t long before we started sharing ideas and making decisions. The pitches ranged from a first aid instructor to a virtual riot for police trainees, but in the end the idea that really stuck out was a sign language learning tool. A picture of hands signing the letters of the alphabet would be displayed in front of the user, allowing them to practice without a teacher. We decided to go with the augmented reality of the Microsoft HoloLens over any of the virtual reality headsets, as the user would be able to see their hands as they matched the pictures on the screen.
After the idea had been decided it was just a matter of implementing it in six or seven hours, with little to no experience of working with immersive technology. Emma and Paddy worked on the product branding and the pictures of the hands signing. Clea and Rachel created a presentation to give to the judges, making sure to draw attention to why this sort of tool would be useful for so many people learning sign language. James, Michael and I handled the technical side of things. Apart from a few problems with Unity and GitHub, and a bit of a dash to get through all the letters of the alphabet (I think we only made it to N or M), a working prototype was created and the presentation went off without a hitch.
The projects made by the other teams were all of such a high quality so we were all very shocked and delighted to win first prize. I would like to thank my team mates for working so hard and everyone who helped run the hackathon for organising such a great event.
2nd Place – 5 in a Vive
At 5pm on 5th of November in The Hive in Belfast, 12 teams were watching the last hour of their immersive tech hackathon tick away while they tried to finish their demos and presentations. By 6pm the work was done, the beers were opened, and the pitches soon to start.
Our team consisted of Mal Duffin, Dee Harvey, Kris Ignasiak, Steven Kennedy, and Brendan McCourt and we worked on a fire safety app. Brendan and I took on research, idea development, branding, and strategy. As we worked, we identified the most serious fire safety hazards, the most likely audiences, how to make the game increasingly difficult so it can be played repeatedly, what the likely business models were. Steven and Kris got straight to work in Unity building a model of the interior of a house with various fire hazards needing to be neutralised. Mal was building the Reward stage of our game – the bit where you get to be fireman and put out the fire.
As the afternoon wore on, Brendan and I moved onto developing and practising our presentation, while Kris, Steven, and Mal put the finishing touches onto our demo. Powered by sandwiches, haribos, and chocolate buttons, we kept working as the deadline approached.
Delivering the pitch and demo was fun when our turn finally came around. After work stopped on the projects at 6, the judges did the rounds of the room to hear pitches and experience demos where they had been created. Following them around to hear the other pitches was too much for my delicate constitution. I love to watch a pitch, but not before I pitch myself.
We were delighted to come second. We all felt our idea was strong and worth pursuing beyond the hackathon. We make a good, productive team, so we plan to keep working on Safe as Houses. Watch this space.
3rd Place – A(rachnaphobia)
For the Hackathon we hooked up with Rachael and Zach, who brought with them her great idea of simulating vehicle safety checks for Trucks, Cars, etc. It was a great experience being able to walk around a really big virtual truck with a horn and engine sounds, take a tyre off, check indicators and open doors and load cargo. Being me, I was keen to gamify the experience and add achievements – it makes for much more effective learning. We didn’t quite get to build that into the demo, but it was in the concept.
We wrangled with the HMD camera, with teleport code, collision detection with the weird SteamVR constraints, and other code issues. We downloaded assets, made a presentation, looked up industry-specific statistics and use-cases, ate sweets and drank tea. Most of all we wrangled with the fact that four people developing on one machine is more than a little ludicrous. Nine hours of constantly being ‘on’ and thinking hard over brand new problems is tough going.
We yawned, we disagreed, we covered the white board with stuff, we tested and tested and tested, we fell out, we made up, and finally it was time for judging. Rachael gave a really cohesive presentation of the various concepts and ideas we had drummed up through the day. The judges were thankfully game for trying our (still a little clunky) demo in person, and Glenn made a good demonstration of the parts they didn’t quite manage. An hour later, after a much deserved beer and a rest and a good nosy at other people’s projects, we were delighted to win 3rd prize!
In all, it was a super experience. We have a conceptual project that could in theory be taken forward into a fully-fledged real life application. The development issues and code quirks we are now aware of, the differing experiences between the hardware, the user experience of the camera and teleport, that’s all invaluable knowledge. More than anything, though, we now have the motivation to give VR dev a go – it’s amazing fun.
Earlier this week GamesNI held the very first GamesNI game developer meet up in Belfast. The event saw talks from Troll Inc and Coffeebox Games, with refreshments provided by Testify. The aim of this event is exploring and expanding the current Game Development industry in Northern Ireland.
This comes a few months after Games NI launched its new web hub for industry leaders, developers, writers, engineers and students. The new hub aims to support all members of the games entertainment industry from beginners just joining to well-established veterans of the digital entertainment with resources and support spanning all their needs.
“Since 2014, Games NI has set out to assist industry members with all manner of guidance, training and education,” Games NI Chairman, Gareth Grey explains. “Working closely with a range of educational bodies, we are creating opportunities for all experience levels to enhance skillsets, and provide industry-led experience and support for professionals and companies across Northern Ireland.”
Kitty Crawford, Assistant Chair of Games NI added “We’re very excited to announce the recent additions to GamesNI’s remit. The new meet up is the perfect place for companies, freelancers and Game Development students to learn more and connect with the local industry. The site also hosts a directory of local companies actively developing games, showcasing their projects at all stages of development. It features relevant local and international news and blogs on current development trends.”
Norbert Sagnard, Co-founder of Mobile Mondays who attended the event explains “I think what’s important for the worthiness for an event like this tonight, and for future ones, is the bringing everyone together.”
The next GamesNI Meetup will be held in February ahead of GDC 2017.