Samantha Kingston – Virtual Umbrella Talk

For notes on the talk, see Lectures/Crits/Notes book, green tag labelled Sammie Kingston, pages 81 – 82.

Today we had Samantha Kingston from the company, Virtual Umbrella, come to talk to us. She told us about her journey and how she’s arrived at her own company of 4, soon to be 6 at the age of 26. It was really interesting to hear from someone similar to our age and how she managed to get to where she is today. She offered so much friendly, down to earth advice for leaving university and starting off in the big wide world and I feel she filled a lot of us with confidence.

I’ve personally not really had much contact with VR before, apart from that one time I tried out the Vive and played the Ikea walkthrough (never again…) but hearing from someone who has so much experience already with it was inspiring. Samantha spoke about Social VR becoming a big thing which was an area which I think we all found intriguing. There’s a stigma that games are becoming anti-social, and considering VR blocks everyone out, there’s no doubt VR will get more stick as the years go on. Yet thinking about how people can socialise through VR is pretty damn cool and something that I am interested in looking into further.

One thing she mentioned which I thought was really intriguing was how when she gets people to test VR headsets, some people become really freaked out (I’m one of those people). Yet instead of doing the instinctive thing of closing their eyes, they just freak and seem to lose all function of their own body. This made me think about the Psychology behind this. Horror films and games are, personally, making people become desensitised to some aspects of horror yet when put into immersive VR, even the slightest of horror elements such as sound can freak people out instantly. I’d be really interested into looking more into the idea of Psychology and Virtual reality – it could be an idea to do this for my reflective journal next semester?

Samantha also went on to talk about ‘how to make technology beneficial’ where she spoke about Medical Realities where Doctors use VR to train themselves on how to carry out operations and such. I thought this was incredible as it gives hands-on experience to the trainees without any ethical issues that would come with practising on real subjects. It opens up for practice and improving precision etc. It will be amazing to see how VR could help more in the field of the sciences – imagine if you could somehow link swimming capsules in a blood stream to a VR so that Doctors could find blockages, cancer cells etc? They probably can already do things like this but this is something that I’d definitely like to look into more.

Overall, the talk Samantha Kingston gave was brilliant and got me excited and interested in learning more about Virtual Reality and where it’s headed in the next few years. 

#Note to self, check out VR Girls UK



The 1-1 that I had with Adam today was useful. The team weren’t here, so it meant that I could get some advice on the areas that I’m working on. Recently, I’ve been stressing a lot about the amount of stuff that I’ve been assigned for the GDD, yet after speaking with Adam I feel more confident that I’m on the right track, however, I’m developing too quickly; this has made me more reassured.

Notes from 1-1

  • Grab initial sketches – text and stuff what it would feel like with sketches and photos – almost telling a story 
  • Then some isometric ones to show the environment – show and feel with sketches. Tell the story, what the look and feel would be with screens and sketches and then take a concept and make it isometric to show what would hope to look like
  • aim to have a document that facilitates deep dive research in semester 2 – exhibits – castles medieval, Arundel castle – pictures, video
  • British library labs collections for characters
  • Go to the library and look for artists books on fantasy illustration
  • Locking down too soon, more open and be a resource in order to deep dive i.e logo is getting somewhere – good for the document but next semester, we iterate lots more. Stuff doesn’t need to be nailed down – if rushed now then will look like shit. overcomplicating it in making it too finished. 
  • On GDD, add next steps: exhibitions, artists etc 
  • Github – issues and features – Must haves, show stoppers (lists of features and categorising them – if inc = ? if not = ? )
  • Why did we choose Iso, why high fantasy – make sure this is all documented in books etc.

Following this 1-1, I’ll be passing on the notes and information from Adam to the rest of the team so they’re aware that the speed in which we’re going is too fast and we need to reign it back a bit.
I will also be taking the majority onboard and begin applying this to my work. I am slightly annoyed at myself that I’ve been stressing myself out when essentially I am doing the right sorts of things. I need to think about what I’m designing for in order to make sure I get a good look and feel, description and visualisation sorted for the GDD for the certain jobs I’ve been given. 

Sennep Talk – London Visit


Paul the Pug ❤

Today, we had an interesting talk from the lovely people at Sennep London. It was really intriguing going into a design studio and seeing the set-up; it has definitely inspired me to push forward to either join a small studio or maybe even build one of my own.

There were many key things that were said in their presentation including the idea of ‘Sennep Seeds’. An evolving collection of experiments which allowed the team to freely experiment, ‘stay fresh’ and learn new skills. Having allotted time to work on personal projects and to improve or gain new skills is key to having a diverse, strong team; it can also help to refresh the mind when you’re working on something else other than your current project. This is definitely something to bear in mind with my work this current semester. Already, I have neglected everything else and just worked on the game I’m currently working on, so maybe I should dedicate at least an hour each Friday or on the weekend to learn something new or work on something else. 

From the Sennep Seed experiments came OLO which was turned into a technical test and developed into a prototype. They put it out on the web and got feedback from the players. Getting feedback is key and they mentioned that if the internet like it, they tell you, they don’t normally tell you what they don’t like. One thing that I found when looking at the feedback they received was also that they used Twitter as a major feedback system. It seems to be good for short feedback but maybe not everything can be said in 140 characters. It’s given me the idea that once we change the name of Bell Jar and have the branding and identity worked out, I may start up a Twitter account and possibly Instagram in order to get the game out there. 

In terms of internal testing, they normally used a handful of people in their studio to test the games. This makes me feel better as often we test things in-house with people on our course across years and felt it has worked well; having it reaffirmed that having a small group of internal testers is a good way to start before furthering the game feels reassuring.
“If someone wants to play it again and again, you’ve obviously done something right.” Something to definitely consider…

Sennep also used Google analytics in order to track feedback which I thought was really interesting. It enables you to see how long people play for, what device etc. This could really help whilst we prototype and test mechanics and such in the game. This will definitely be something that I will look into more next semester to help further improve and develop our game. 

They also touched on the idea of having easter eggs within your games. They are a cool way to get people more drawn into what you’re doing. For example, they used music to play out the moves in their 10th-anniversary game TEN. It was a really fun and interesting feature which people would end up finding and think that this golden treasure was awesome. These sorts of things help to build a portfolio of things to show clients as well in order to show your creative, fun side. I think that we could possibly have some fun with this in Bell Jar, but it could be something that is discussed and developed next semester as at the moment we have a lot of work on our plate in the upcoming deadline till after Christmas.

A final key point, if I ever think about developing a phone app with bouncing ball type things in it, the Netherlands are massive on this so would be worth checking out releasing over there!

Overall, good tips, great burgers and amazing dog.

Kate Taylor – Activision Talk

For notes on today’s talk, see Lectures/Crits/Talks book, green tab labelled Kate Taylor, pages 78 – 80.

Today we had an interesting talk from Kate Taylor, who works for Activision and formerly worked with Codemasters. It was really useful to have someone in who has a first-hand experience in the industry and how she managed to get into the industry itself.
Her portfolio, Kowono was really good to look at in terms of how to set out a good site for yourself. There are mostly images with barely any text supporting it, just a little description. Maybe this is something to think about when I come to reshuffling my site later on in the year. 

One of the main points that Kate mentioned which I hadn’t thought about much, was the idea that you are always going to be learning whichever job you end up in. She learnt everything on the job and continues to learn daily. This makes me feel better about leaving university as over the couple of years that I have been on this course, I have been constantly learning every day and I don’t seem to have fully realised this but if I continue this attitude after uni, who knows where it will lead me. It has now motivated me to try and learn new skills as I go along in this project and in my future career plans. This will help me to improve current skills as well as make new ones which will help improve my portfolio as well as inspire me to learn more.

Another point that she made was about how having short briefs and deadlines can be really handy to help speed up your creative process and concept quickly. This is definitely something that I feel I need to focus on doing more of in order to improve my concept skills, maybe I could look for some prompts online and from there concept lots of different designs in 24 hours or something similar to challenge myself.

Motion graphics within concepts has also proven to be something that is being used more often now than just sketches for prototyping and concepts. I don’t know much at all about the idea of motion graphics so it could be a good idea to try and look into some tutorials to see what I can come up with. It could really help me to improve my skillset as well as make my work quite diverse; it could be something that stands my work out from other people and this is something that I could easily work on as a side project. 

When she came to speak to us in the studio after her talk, she answered a lot of our questions about working in the industry which was useful and refreshing. It helped set our minds at ease and really made me think about how I use my time with projects.
She made a valuable point that online presence is key, so making sure that your LinkedIn account is up to date and relevant, you have a portfolio site to show off your work but also bring to interviews, as well as social media in general. I feel that my LinkedIn is fairly good however, it’s not very ‘games’ specific as I don’t have much work experience. My skills from my previous jobs, however, could be applied to the games industry in some cases; I should work on this over Christmas to make sure it is up to date and relevant.
I may also think about using my twitter account to post work as well as use my Instagram.  

Overall, the talk from Kate Taylor was really informative and helped me, as well as others, have an idea of what sorts of things we could do to potentially increase our chances of getting employed after university. She was also very encouraging when we spoke of how we don’t feel our skills would be up to scratch. Kate mentioned about learning as you go again as well as saying having more than one skill is good, especially if you learn to improve those skills over time; nothing comes to you immediately. This has inspired me to think more about what I would like to improve and what new skills I could try to learn too. Maybe I will look into this over the next few weeks, or certainly, once we hand in as then I will have a lot more spare time to focus my energy into something new.  

Seth Giddings Talk – Designing for Play

See notes in Lectures/Crits/Talks book, green tab labelled Designing for Play, pages 69 – 71.

Today we had an industry talk from Seth Giddings which was useful, especially as we’re in the stage of development and prototyping our ideas in our projects. 


He spoke a lot about his swing project, the Lightbug, which was a magical interactive swing which used light and sound that reacted to swinging in order to get children (and adults) to play.  It was helpful to go through his process of how the team went through the development of the idea. One of the main things I took from this project was that prototyping is key but feedback is super important in order to progress your work. For example, if you get people to test the project or idea, they may do something completely different to what you set out for the player to do. You get to understand the players more and how they play and using this, you could produce a better, more informed sort of game. 

Seth then went on to talk about the ideas of designing for emergent play which I felt was especially useful as we want to create games that get people involved and engaged.

“How do we design something/facilitate more imaginative engagement?” Seth Giddings

This question made me think about how I could possibly apply this to my team’s work at the moment with our ideas. I feel that we’ve become too tech focused at the moment which has meant that we have limited our ideas in some cases. I know that Millie and James are excited to try and use the Vive, however, I feel that we should focus more on the idea process at the moment and then once we have our favoured three ideas, we can think more about the sort of platform we want to use or what would be more applicable. 

One of the final key things that Seth mentioned was to do with user testing again but this time he was saying about what we can learn from user testing as designers. When making a proof of concept and developing this, feedback is key but having a user, someone who is likely to pick up your game (your target audience), actually test it, you can gain quality feedback which can, in turn, create a better-suited game for your audience. 

Team Chat
After this talk, it made me think about how we’re doing the prototyping stage as a team. We’re making prototypes in order to check to make sure mechanics work and are feasible but also we should be thinking about including the user in our prototyping stage. 
Unfortunately, as James and Millie weren’t in today, we had a Skype conversation instead of a face to face meeting about the idea of user feedback and how we can incorporate that into our prototyping stage.
We discussed how we’re to go about picking our three ideas for next Friday. To begin with, we had an idea of the three we thought we would take forward but after the talk with Seth, I felt that maybe we needed to rethink this. Instead of us choosing the three games, we make a survey. We would be describing our seven ideas with a brief narrative and the types of mechanics and movements you can use, then we’d ask people if they would like to play it and give us feedback as to why they would or wouldn’t play. By using our target audience, this could give us an idea of what the market is into at the moment as it would be nice to make something that could be put on the market. By having this user feedback, we can make good decisions on what game idea we use and how we go about designing it for the user rather than just “this is what we want to make so we’re going to make it”.
On the other hand, this could be the last time that we get to make what we want to make, or at least have the freedom to do what we want to do. Therefore, should we think about what we want to do still?
The group has decided that once we get the feedback from the surveys back, we can work out what the clear favourites are (top 3) and if there are any that are drawing with each other, then that will be when we use our creative decision in order to decide what we pick and could do.
We also need to think about the use of our skills – would the top three games chosen be feasible to do with our set of skills? These are all the sorts of questions that we need to think about when deciding on our three solid game choices. 

I also took this opportunity to ask them about my storyboards that I made using the crazy eight technique. I had already asked my classmates and others who are in our target audience (looking at ages varying from 10+ dependant on the type of game – Lucidity and 5 Days would be looking more like a 16 or 18 due to violence etc).
I made a tally chart in my sketchbook on the storyboards to see which story and storyboard people preferred and would like as a backstory.
I was quite surprised with the result as the father and son storyboard was the most popular. This was the backstory where ‘Mac’ the farmer needed a new liver and now can’t pay it off. The loan sharks come knocking and take his son as a blackmail tool,  Mac now has 5 days to repay his debt …

There was a close favourite just one point behind – this was the story where you are a biohacker, which is strictly forbidden in society, and someone knows about it. They then blackmail you into keeping their silence.
I was surprised by these choices as they weren’t ones that I saw as very exciting but apparently, the target audience thought they were which is great. The value of user testing is invaluable and I really need to remember to use user feedback more often in order to cater to my target audience and get critiques on my projects.
The plan now is to take the favourite story forward and refine the storyboard more as a structure for planning camera angles, dialogue and setting. If 5 Days gets picked as one of the popular three ideas then I will invest time into producing this and making a more thorough and developed character design through iteration.

Presentation to Year 2 on GDDs

Today I stepped out of my comfort zone and did a talk to the second years about the Games Design Document that we had to work on last year.

GDDs are often lengthy and it would have been very boring for me to have talked about everything so I decided to make a handout that highlighted the main points and areas that  I covered in my assessment. Below is the handout. 

I hope it has been useful for the second years as, when I was in their position, it would have been helpful to have some sort of structure to go off of from someone who had worked on one before. I had a couple of people come up to me afterwards and thank me for making this handout and that it helped them so I feel quite positive about my presentation outcome. I understand there’s no definitive template, but I hope I was able to structure something that helped the second years go forward.

This was a big day for me, and I’m proud of how far I’ve come considering that in year 1 I could barely speak in presentations. I feel that by doing more presentations over the past couple of years has helped a lot and I feel more confident in presenting in the future; this should hopefully help me in the industry when talking to clients about my ideas too. 

Intermedia – Mark Applin

Today’s talk was from Mark Applin of Intermedia and he primarily talked about business and starting up your own. 

He gave a lot of interesting, honest and sometimes brutal answers about the outside world and what sorts of things you need to think about before you even sort out your business. And even then – clients. How do you deal with them, how do you get them? Etc, the list goes on and the notes can be found in my Lectures book; it was informative, if not daunting.

TLDR: Go Corporate as they have all the money and ignorant clients are a bonus.

It was a super interesting talk with lots of terms and “business” words that effectively did help me realise how tough it is in the real world and I think that’s what I needed as motivation. Maybe some day I would like to run my own business or at least share partner in one so that I can build something to be proud of and make games that change people’s experiences and are fun to play! Today is not that day, but this advice has certainly helped one way or another. 

For notes from the talk see Lectures/Crits/Talks book, green tab labelled Mark Applin, pages 20 – 26.