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Game Network Newsletter - October 2013

In This Issue:


Gree  

AndersEvju
Anders Evju

Anders Evju, CMO of PlayPhone, chats about partnering with a major Asian carrier, how its network will soon reach over 800 million subscribers, and the announcements it intends to make soon at the GDC Next/ADC conference.


Q: Anders, tell me about the latest updates from PlayPhone.

Anders Evju:We're seeing great momentum with our carrier game stores and are continuing to expand at a very rapid pace. We've announced relationships with Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, Claro, and Rogers, and we have a major Asian carrier announcement coming soon. Once we launch our upcoming Asian carrier partner, PlayPhone's carrier network will reach over 800 million subscribers. That's a massive distribution channel for game developers to tap into and monetize.

PlayPhone also offers global direct carrier billing with carrier partners using a single billing API. Carrier billing is the most frictionless payment solution and doesn't require the user to enter a credit card. This is perfect for countries where gamers are hesitant to input credit cards. PlayPhone also offers social-powered game discovery which virally promotes engaging games in friend networks and avoids large marketing spends to increase game ranks.

Q: Earlier this year -- at GDC -- you launched your Games Portal, a combined app store and gaming network, on Verizon which now comes preloaded on Android phones. What sort of response has that had from developers who, after all, are most likely posting their titles on Google Play as well?

Evju: PlayPhone was excited to launch Games on Verizon at GDC earlier this year and we have seen a great response from our developer partners. Because we don't require exclusivity, we're seeing thousands of developers sign up to distribute their games on PlayPhone's network. We position our gaming network as the essential addition to their publishing strategy that enables them to truly maximize their games distribution, revenue, and ROI. We've been able to partner with some of the biggest game developers and have also partnered with many indie developers.

Q: Since last we spoke, PlayPhone won the Red Herring Top 100 Award last year for Technology Innovation in Mobile Social Gaming. You had some pretty stiff competition. Do you have any insight as to why you think you got that award?

Anders Evju: PlayPhone has been an innovation leader in the mobile content distribution space for over 10 years. We have developed scalable distribution solutions that have delivered mobile games to over 1.5 billion users, and are looking to continue our innovation leadership in smartphone and tablet gaming for many years to come.

Q: You have a booth at the upcoming GDC Next/ADC conference. Will you be making any big announcements there like you did at GDC? What will be the main takeaways for people who visit your booth?

Evju: Yes, PlayPhone will be making another major carrier announcement at GDC Next and are looking forward to discussing our new carrier partners at the event. People visiting our booth will be able to hear about a fantastic new distribution and monetization channel that will help them maximize revenue for their mobile games.

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Xsolla

 
Alexander Agapitov
Dr. Jo Webber

Dr. Jo Webber, CEO and founder of Virtual Piggy, talks about what it is doing to stop unauthorized child spending on gaming, the effects of the freemium model, and the new COPPA rules.

Q: Jo, as you know, there've been press reports about unauthorized child spending on gaming and parents' concerns about the situation. What does Virtual Piggy do to rectify that problem and how does "COPPA compliance" figure into that?

Dr. Jo Webber: What Virtual Piggy does is bring the parents into the loop, something very key that was missing before. By allowing parents to set limits, control accessible merchants, and encourage financial literacy, we are bringing a new layer to both gaming and commerce situations. COPPA compliance is becoming even more important as companies retain increasing amounts of data on customers. Parents want to feel safe, and knowing that their children are not going to be asked for personal data when they are online is a good first step. When a company is using Virtual Piggy, they can be sure that they are not engaging children incorrectly during monetization.

Q: Do you expect this to be a worsening problem as the freemium model seems to be taking over mobile games? Should parents become increasingly worried about the trend?

Webber:The freemium model is just another way of paying for your entertainment. The problem arises when there is no control on the purchasing. New COPPA rules were implemented in July and those are still being felt out across the industry. I do not think we've seen the reach of those yet, especially as it relates to how freemium games will be marketed, age-gated, and monetized. While I think parents do not need to be increasingly worried, I think that being vigilant about their passwords and what style and types of games their children are playing is a good start. The most important step to avoiding these kinds of issues is engaging in games with your children. It's a great touch point and will help you understand the freemium model better -- your children know it, let them teach you!

Q: Frost & Sullivan gave Virtual Piggy its 2012 Entrepreneurial Company of the Year award in Digital Media as well as the 2013 CODiE for Best Commerce Solution and the Dr. Toy's Top 10 Best Technology Award for 2013. Pretty impressive! What did you folks do to deserve all of those?

Webber: Virtual Piggy keeps winning these awards and being invited to speak at the various events because we've made it our business to help both families and companies work together safely at a time when few other companies were interested in doing so. Children are independent and online, playing games, buying clothes, and consuming entertainment at an amazing rate. There is no reason why they cannot do that safely in a manner that benefits everyone involved. Being willing to be a pioneer and innovator in this space has the side effect of setting us apart.

Q: Talk to me about the booth you'll have at the GDC Next/ADC conference. Why would developers be interested in dropping by -- and what will they learn?

Webber: We'll have our crowd-favorite 20-ft. booth from GDC San Francisco out in our hometown of Los Angeles for GDC Next/ADC. We'll have two demo stations and a cross section of our team available for all levels of interaction. We feel it's important to include our production and tech teams along with sales and marketing for a major event like this. Developers can learn more about COPPA, CARU, and what Virtual Piggy can do to help.

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Organic Motion

 
Andrew Schneider
Brent George

Brent George, a freelance animation director, recently utilized Organic Motion's OpenStage 2 motion capture system to produce a lot of high-quality animations in a short period of time. Here's how he did it.

Q: Brent, you're a freelance animation director, correct? I understand that one of your past clients -- a major game studio -- was under pressure to produce a lot of high-quality animations in a short period of time for a AAA title. What were the challenges you faced?

Brent George: Yes, sir! After working for several years for video game and film companies -- like Ubisoft and Technicolor -- I decided to give freelancing a shot and I'm loving it!

I'm often called into projects with a specific mandate often related to bringing animation quality up in certain areas of a production. One of my past projects in particular brought me in during their polish phase of production; they were looking to take a good number of prototyped animations and polish them for the final release of the game. It's always a challenge coming into an established production during the final rush because you need to get up to speed fast and there is typically a healthy time pressure to raise the quality bar as efficiently as possible.

It's a well-understood reality that in any creative production, you can only ever truthfully admit to achieving two of the following things: you can have it fast, you can have it cheap, you can have quality results. However, anyone who has ever worn director shoes before will tell you that we're always dreaming of the day we can deliver all three on a production. So, it's safe to say that this is my challenge on every production.

Q: You came up with a solution that involved utilizing Organic Motion's motion capture system, OpenStage 2. Tell me about why you chose to use that tool.

George: The biggest advantage Organic Motion's OpenStage 2 has over many other systems is its accessibility. In my opinion, there are three major reasons that make this system more accessible than just about any other system currently on the market, all of which contribute to tackling the coveted production trinity of faster, cheaper, and better:

    • Faster. OpenStage 2 is a "markerless" optical system, meaning that the traditional mocap suit -- the skintight "superhero suit" with reflective balls on it -- is no longer necessary. Without the need to don the "super suits," you can drastically reduce the amount of set-up time needed before shooting and downtime during a shoot. Markers love to fall off the suits during mid-take, which is really frustrating and can kill the momentum of an otherwise efficient shoot.
    • Cheaper. The cost of an OpenStage 2 system is relatively inexpensive compared to many of the competitive solutions. Affordability equates to ownership as opposed to the ongoing and costly rental of motion capture services. It's also easy to use and therefore doesn't require a team of technicians to run the system. The cost of a mocap solution is usually a lot more than just the upfront cost of the system. It's the operation, the staff, the time delays, and sometimes even travel, that add up to a significant hit on the budget. Any motion I can capture faster and with less overhead right on the production floor is one less thing I need to book the whole team's time for in a big, expensive, marker-based studio. Even with access to a large marker-based capture system, using OpenStage 2 to affordably prototype animations before doing a big shoot can save you time and money.
    • Better. The configurable size of system will fit in just about any studio space. Having the system on-site means you can have shoots whenever you want and, more importantly, as often as you would like. Also -- and this is a big deal for me -- having the system right there on site makes it a lot easier to involve and collaborate with other members of the creative team who might not have been able to attend otherwise. In my experience, cross-department collaboration is a key ingredient in quality results.

Q: For the developers out there who are our readers, explain a bit about the process you used to achieve your goal.

George: Sure! I took advantage of some new OpenStage 2 features to achieve two specific things to record multi-angled and synchronized video references of rehearsals that would later be used during a marker-based motion capture shoot, and I used the system to capture performance data while simultaneously capturing the video feeds from every one of the systems cameras. Let me break these two items down a bit:

    • Reference shoot. The reference shoot is a pretty straight-forward process in theory. It's a chance to test out and rehearse the often complicated and choreographed movements that you intend to shoot in a mocap volume. However, in my experience few production teams are set up to handle a proper shoot. Almost every time I've had to shoot for a production, I needed to rent cameras from a local company. Even with rented cameras, I could never dream of having 18 unique and synchronized angles of view. Having a good reference before going to an expensive marker-based mocap session will drastically improve your efficiency and save you time and money because you already know what you want and your performers can see what you want (all 18 angles of it).
    • Data and reference. We were able to combine the captured data and reference videos from an OpenStage 2 shoot in order to build what I think is the world's most advanced rotoscoping machine. With professional stunt actors in the volume, we digitally captured their movements while simultaneously recording the video feeds from each of the 18 cameras. OpenStage 2 then supplied us with a virtual replica of the volume complete with virtual 3D cameras for each of the capture cameras used in the shoot. The reference videos were then loaded onto each of camera's background planes allowing us to see what each camera saw during the capture. The captured performance was also loaded into the scene and positioned accurately relative to the cameras. Now, with the virtual stage in place, we could then select key poses from the movement, throw away everything else, and use the video reference to help clean up and/or enhance any kept poses. From there we could use the blocked-out animations for prototyping/previs or polish them off using a traditional keyframe workflow. This way of working is particularly ideal for projects that have a keyframe art direction. It allows you to very quickly block out the timing and poses for animations but still retain a "keyframe" look and style, which was exactly the situation we were dealing with at the time.

Q: And what then were the results?

George: Of the select set of animations that we applied this OpenStage 2 workflow to, we were able to greatly reduce the time spent animating, raise the level of animation quality, and save money while doing so. As a freelance animation director, I'm always looking to expand the bag of tricks that I can use towards the quest for the holy grail that is the production trinity. I'm happy to report that OpenStage 2 has earned a spot in my bag.

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Paul Hyman
By Paul "The Game Master"Hyman

Paul has covered the videogames industry for over 15 years now, currently writes for Gamasutra.com, and was editor-in-chief of UBM's GamePower.com. He can be reached at phyman@gdmag.com.



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