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How I ended up on stage at the EADC to talk about rapid prototyping

Back in April 2014, I went to the EA Developper Conferences in Redwood shores and did a talk about how rapid prototpying using my horrible romantic french accent. The thing is that it mostly happened by accident!

A few weeks before going there, we received an email asking if we wanted to share quickly an idea or opinion for 1 to 2 minutes. So I decided to say something – at that time it was supposed to be a simple “pass the mic in the audience” thing. But about a week before the conferences, I received a powerpoint template asking to make it a real talk! I only had less than a week, finished it on the way there and did a few repetition. And I was getting even more nervous when I realized that it was going to be on a proper stage – not just a simple room that I’m used too!

But it all went well – I had some great feedbacks about the ideas and my presentation skills (people really like the “inception exemple”0. So, I guess the morale of the story is that you are never truly ready for thing, so you just need to use every opportunities to improve, especially when it is about stepping out the comfort zone.

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Be creative to test your ideas

Being creative is about being wrong: how many times you had a great idea and it didn’t work out? This is just part of the creative process – a big mess that you just need to embrace. The problem is that is is tiring and expensive.

Designers shouldn’t just throw ideas – everyone can do that: they should get ideas on how to communicate and test them quickly.

You have a simple game mechanic you want to explore? Try to prototype it. You can use Playmaker for unity to quickly get something without any scripting needed.

Too hard to get it software? Try to make a simple drawing, take screenshots and write over them, use Premiere to make a quick video… Just find any way to communicate your idea clearly and fast.

Making a game system? How about making a board game out of it. If you are making a city builder game, how about building the entire city with legos, and mix it with some cards to represent the player’s interactions. It will be faster and way more fun than spending all those long hours in Powerpoint.

Still too hard? How about using toys or even act it. That is what we did t another producer when we wanted to explain a new mechanic involving multiple vehicles. We could have spent days to illustrate it, but instead we pretended to be vehicles ourselves and acted it in front of the studio! Yes, everyone laughed and the message came across.

People will also remember those concepts more than any other documents you could have provide. Do you remember that powerpoint document? Probably not. But do you remember when I pretend to be an ATV? Yes, that was fun. Your team will be way more engaged in your design if there is some ways for them to interact.

No matter how good your idea can be – if you are not able to demonstrate it, communicate it and test it, then it will never happen. Don’t get stuck in the paper design: ideas are cheap and execution is what matters.

Promoting your game : what I’ve learnt on Most Wanted

Last November, I was asked to promote Need For Speed Most Wanted in France at the Paris Games Week (a consumer video games show in Paris) : I had never done that before and didn’t really get any training. What I learnt is that press interviews are like job interviews : officially, it’s a discussion between two people who don’t know each other; actually; it’s you trying to sneak your key points in the conversation.

There are two reasons why I was sent there : I’m French and I knew the game very well. That’s it. Speaking the same language helps a lot (no kidding !) as it helps to create a connection with journalists. For example, journalists really like the fact that I was “a french in an international studio” and some journalists can’t really speak well english. So you have someone in your staff speaking a different language, you should send them to those countries to speak about you game.

It’s very important that you know the game as a whole and just one thing in particular : this is the reason why, most of the time, producers or designers go to those events – because they can really talk about what matters, the key points of the game, and not talk about specific features. For example, Most Wanted is all about “being the Most Wanted among your friends”; I had to repeat that all the time – for every single interview. It’s really about hammering those key points and that’s what marketing is all about.

And get ready to talk loud : the Paris Game Week was very noisy, sometimes I felt like I had to scream during an interview. If you can, try to bring the journalists in more quiet zone (they are some press zones, make sure you use them). Also check that they can record you well: some interviews got screw about because the sound wasn’t working.

During an interview, you will have to repeat those key points but don’t be a robot : try to put a little bit of yourself in it. Talking about multiplayer, I was explaining that I was mostly taking down other players, and most of the time tracking those producers. This is the way players will talk about your game : they don’t repeat the “key points” but telling each others stories of what they did. So you should show that you are playing and enjoying your game like they will.

It’s all about adapting yourself to your audience : if you’re talk to your mom about a game, you are not going to explain the asynchronous multiplayer. Do the same with journalists : talk simple with general journalists, details with specialists … For example, I was talking more about the cars in Most Wanted and the fact that they are all available from the start with car magazines – because that’s what people who read want to know. Always remember to adapt yourself. It can be difficult so try to connect with journalists before the interview starts : ask them what they are playing, if they play the game, what they like about it …. I wish I had a business card during the event : if they need to ask more details about something, at least they know how to contact you directly.

So you understand that your job will be then to say those key points over and over. But it’s not only for journalists, as you will have to talk to “demoers” or “speakers” and the staff on the showfloor : those guys don’t know the game (most of them don’t really play games), so you have to make sure that your staff know what they need to know. For example, speakers need to know the global keypoints, but a staff member might need to know how to reset a race or help a player. So you really need to know everything and communicate it to the right people.

And trust your staff : don’t try to come on stage and talk about your game – most of players want to play it, not a commentary. So let the staff do their job : they know how to sell those games – they do it all over the year – and you don’t. My advice on this is to come on stage if you can show our deep your game is. I will always remember the face of some players when I beat their time by 10 seconds !

This experience really helps me to understand how difficult promoting a game can be. It looks nice when your producer says it has been to a cool city and stay in a nice hotel, but actually it’s a lot of work, especially if you are finishing your game or that the design of the game keeps changing at the same time. That’s why I think everyone should do it at least one time : you will understand why games need to be simple to communicate to survive in this strong competitive market. And it’s not worth doing it for showing off or fame . if you want to be famous, there are better and easier ways than making video games !

I was very lucky I had the chance to go to France for Most Wanted : it was going back to your home town to show something you work hard on. My best moment was when I had to do a TV interview I had to do with my friends behind the camera, trying to make me laugh, and they almost did !

Need For Speed Most Wanted : Metareview

Need For Speed Most Wanted is available on Xbox360, PS3, PC and PsVita. A WiiU version is coming and should be released in February/March. I worked mostly on multiplayer as a Designer.

So let’s see what the reviews say about it :

Gameinformer

Most Wanted has a hearty multiplayer spread, offering normal races and special challenges based around specific locations on the map (such as everyone getting a certain amount of air off a jump). Like other aspects of the game, the online mode blends freedom with structure. Cooperation and competition can be intertwined.

IGN UK

That incentive is bolstered by the game’s approach to multiplayer. You’ll be able to drive around a private version of the city with friends, smashing into each other with Ballardian glee, or run through ‘setlists’, which comprise of races as well as challenges – who can make the biggest jump or execute the longest drift, and so on. It’s a lot fun and, as with the main game, it’s all seamless and flowing. Events are linked by mini-races as players attempt to get to the starting point before the rest.

The Guardian

The multiplayer is great: setting up races against friends is a breeze, and it’s incredibly easy to jump into sets of races with and against strangers: the game shepherds you to meeting points and has you doing imaginative things like surpassing a collective distance-target for jumps off the roof of a building.

Official Xbox Magazine

Deftly generating unique solo, team, and coop challenges on the fly, Most Wanted’s online system keeps the racing lively and interesting. And much as they share the same terrain and speed-point pool, the online mode’s randomized tests offer potentially endless enjoyment

Joystiq

The feel of the cars, the physics and the eclectic mix of multiplayer modes are all undeniably Criterion qualities, the things old fans love and the properties that convert new fans with every studio release.

So it seems loads of reviews says that our multiplayer is great :D. Well, I’ll see you online for some takedowns then ;).