Great City of Beer: Dusseldorf [May 28 (Wed)]

We woke up early today for a day trip to Dusseldorf. The trip was tiring, and knowing we had to make the same journey back on the same day didn’t help. When we finally made it to Dusseldorf we headed straight to Ubisoft Blue Byte’s studio. Blue Byte being the company that created the popular in Germany Settlers series who were later bought by Ubisoft. We were given a nice presentation by some of the workers there, former students of the University of Paderborn and GamesLab.

We learned a bit about how a game company, in particular one that is a subsidary of a larger corporation, operates and the challenges that they face. One of these challenges was regarding having an online game that expands to many different regions. Different countries accept different payment methods, so the company has to set up connections with the companies who are used as the most popular ones in that area. Another challenge is that of the different cultural implications things in games have in other countries. One example they gave was how China mandates “fatigue” systems in online games for players under 18 as a measure against addiction.

We also learned about the day to day tasks and role of a game producer. A producer needs to spend a lot of time talking with people on the team, making sure everyone is on the same page for how things need to get made. He also needs to listen to other people such as investors and upper management who want a say in what goes into the game. One example was that for a superhero game, the licensing company may mandate certain characters, powers, references, etc. to be included in the game, driving the design of it. I imagine it is a difficult role trying to keep the game consistant with the vision of all the different people who have a say in it.

Lastly we learned a bit about the different quality assurance strategies a company uses to test their games during development. These include things such as paper prototypes (using paper to simulate gameplay and/or interface) and diary studies (where people send regular reports about their playtests.) I personally wonder how business models such as Early Access will change the way companies address QA testing for their games. After the lectures we got to see the studio and some of the workers in the middle of work.

After the company visit we had some free time to explore the city. I saw lots of cool potential souveniers, but opted to buy nothing but a bit of ice cream before our scheduled restaurant dinner. After eating my pizza and hanging out at the restaurant to listen more to the workers from Blue Byte who joined us, we headed back to Paderborn late into the night for some much needed rest. The game jam would begin the next day and we all needed to be in tip-top shape.

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