15 May 2019

STUDENT BLOG: 5 Things I learned during Dare Academy

STUDENT BLOG: 5 Things I learned during Dare Academy

The only shadows stand at EGX

Hello Abertay Game Developers! I’m Gregor Duddy and I’m a Fourth Year Game Design Production student. Spring is upon us and semester two is nearing its end - that can only mean that the 2019 Dare Academy competition is right around the corner! 

Around this time last year, I had the privilege of entering Dare Academy 2018, becoming a finalist as the Producer of Only Shadows with the wonderful Aetherfall Games team. 

I learned a lot about the game production process, the industry, and myself during those four quick months; so here are a few tips for all you future Dare Academists… 

  1. Support your fellow Dare Academists

Friendly competition can be a fun and healthy approach to the DARE process and development of your game as a whole - but don’t forget that if your team makes it to the final six of Dare Academy, you’re already a winner. 

As such, make sure to get to know all the participants of the other teams, and help them out/support them whenever the usual development-related issues arise in their projects. Hopefully, that means if anything goes awry during the development of your game, other participants will be happy to help you through it, too.

  1. Take every opportunity to showcase your game

Of course, EGX is the big finale to the Dare Academy competition, but from the beginning of Hot-housing to EGX weekend, there will be opportunities to show off your game at a variety of exhibitions and events during after-hours - take them. 

Throughout the process, competition organisers will inform you of upcoming day/weekend events where you can publicly showcase your game. No matter how big or small these events are, they give you the chance to network with talent within/outside the game industry and get them to engage with your game on social media (and the more social media followers, the more opportunities you have to drum up hype of your game on the run-up to EGX!) 

  1. Listen to feedback from Industry Mentors, Organisers, and Participants

Whether your game is a side project conceptualised a few weeks before the Dare pitching presentations, or a professional project you’ve been working on for months in advance, there’s always a chance you lose a little bit of perspective on the quality of your game when you’ve been focussed on it for so long. But don’t fret! Industry mentors who you’ll interact with on a weekly basis are there to support the development of your game and offer guidance based on their many years of industry experience. 

Having a pair of fresh eyes to take a critical look at your project is crucial to the iteration process of development; they can identify positive aspects of your game along with areas of improvement to hone in on while you still have the time. Best of all, it doesn't have to be feedback about your game; they could give you guidance on marketing, social media management, interacting with publishers and much more. 

  1. Scope, Scope (and Scope)

This is the tricky one! The four months between the beginning of hot-housing and EGX weekend sounds like quite a lengthy time, but believe me, it goes by in a blink of an eye. Within this period of time, it’s crucial that your game is finished and actually playable from beginning to end - and a big part in achieving this is knowing the scope of your game, and how achievable it is to develop the game to according to your vision. 

Prior to hot-housing, it’s best to take time as a team to envision what your minimum viable product will look like, and begin planning small milestones and activities week-by-week. Planning early-on, along with ensuring all team members are on the same page, will guarantee that every day of hothousing is productive and stress-free! I’d personally recommend developing a ‘vertical slice’ product for showcasing - a ten-fifteen minute demo that perfectly encapsulates all the main aspects of your game while being engaging with the player at the same time. 

  1. Have fun!

At the end of all your hard work, you get to experience EGX - the biggest games show in the UK and the platform for indie devs and industry heavy-hitters alike to showcase their new releases. Enjoy it! It’s easy to get into the competitive and business-orientated mind-set when you interact with possible publishers and attempt to woo the judges, but EGX is too fun to not stop and smell the roses every once in a while. 

Overall, EGX weekend, alongside all game exhibitions that precede it, are incredible experiences; seeing your game poster as a big banner for the first time just a few metres away from PlayStation or Fortnite stands is equal parts humbling and empowering. The competition as a whole reminds me you just why you wanted to be a game developer in the first place. 

The fact that you made it to the Finals at all is a huge privilege - it’s like being apart of the Champions League of Abertay games development! Soak up everything you learn over the four-month period, and you’ll become a better game developer by the end of it.

Good luck everyone! Looking forward to seeing your amazing games :)

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