North­ern ex­po­sure

John Romero will be among the guests at the in­au­gu­ral York­shire Games Fes­ti­val

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A look ahead to the York­shire Games Fes­ti­val, with John Romero

York­shire is one of the UK’s most pro­lific, long­est-stand­ing game de­vel­op­ment hubs. Nu­mer­ous iconic stu­dios have called the re­gion home, from Team 17 and Revo­lu­tion Soft­ware to Rock­star Leeds and Sumo Dig­i­tal. Quite rightly, then, there’s a lit­tle York­shire pride when it comes to games.

The gen­eral pub­lic may not pri­mar­ily as­so­ciate the county with the craft and busi­ness of build­ing dig­i­tal worlds, but game de­vel­op­ment ar­guably de­serves a place on any list of lo­cal archetypes. In an at­tempt to share what games mean to the re­gion – and to help stim­u­late and bol­ster the area’s in­dus­try – Brad­ford’s Na­tional Me­dia Mu­seum is host­ing the York­shire Games Fes­ti­val this Novem­ber.

“We’ve hosted a num­ber of game events here over time,” says Kathryn Penny, fes­ti­vals di­rec­tor and film busi­ness man­ager at the Na­tional Me­dia Mu­seum, as she con­sid­ers why 2016 pro­vided the ideal time to launch a new gath­er­ing. “This year we wanted to go re­ally, re­ally big on games, and we wanted to have a plat­form for the game in­dus­try in our fes­ti­val cal­en­dar. The mo­ti­va­tion be­hind the York­shire Games Fes­ti­val was to have an event where stu­dents and re­cent grad­u­ates in rel­e­vant games cour­ses – mainly in the re­gion – could get closer to the in­dus­try.”

Penny firmly be­lieves that process should in­spire and in­form, by giv­ing fledg­ling tal­ent a chance to meet with and learn from a spread of vis­it­ing lu­mi­nar­ies. There are fam­ily- and player­fo­cused el­e­ments too, tak­ing place over the fes­ti­val’s clos­ing week­end, of­fer­ing a num­ber of free el­e­ments. And de­spite be­ing a way to pro­mote the lo­cal game in­dus­try, the event is any­thing but parochial, de­spite its name.

“It’s not just about York­shire,” Penny says. “There will be lo­cal, na­tional and in­ter­na­tional speak­ers. We’ve got John and Brenda Romero. War­ren Spec­tor and Rhi­anna Pratch­ett are there, and then there are our lo­cal guests like Charles Ce­cil from Revo­lu­tion. It’s all about ac­cess to in­dus­try, and stu­dents get­ting an un­ri­valled op­por­tu­nity to meet that in­dus­try and learn about a range of topics, from di­ver­sity in games and pro­gram­ming Doom to re­viv­ing clas­sics and writ­ing in games.” John Romero will be tak­ing to the stage at the fes­ti­val for an in­ter­view hosted by Edge, and the famed gamemaker will also de­liver a de­tailed look at his pro­fes­sional past, and the lessons he learned on the front­lines at Id Soft­ware, the stu­dio he co-founded 25 years ago where he worked on sem­i­nal shoot­ers in­clud­ing Doom, Quake and Wolfen­stein 3D.

“My talk cov­ers the early his­tory of Id Soft­ware,” Romero says. “It’s a short his­tory of the be­gin­ning of the com­pany, all the way through to ship­ping Quake. Dur­ing the process of telling that story I’ll have lots of other lit­tle quick sto­ries about things that hap­pened back then.

“I’ll also cover 13 pro­gram­ming prin­ci­ples that helped us make the amount of games that we made dur­ing that pe­riod, which was – I think – 28 games in five years. That was a time when we had to write the en­gines our­selves, too. The funny thing is, even on the PC – com­pared to pre­vi­ous ’80s con­soles and com­put­ers like Com­modores and BBC Mi­cros that had sprite hard­ware and sound hard­ware – we didn’t have any of that kind of thing.”

That, Romero be­lieves, led to a dis­tinct de­vel­op­ment method and mind­set that re­mains rel­e­vant and ap­pli­ca­ble to­day. “[David Kush­ner’s] book Masters Of Doom kind of tells the story of Id Soft­ware, and I get a lot of feed­back from peo­ple that have read the book,” Romero ex­plains. “They ba­si­cally tell me it’s so in­spir­ing. A lot of peo­ple that are feel­ing de­pressed or burned out or what­ever, they read the book and it re-en­er­gises them. Most of that comes from the fact that they re­alise they are like we were at Id Soft­ware, and I think that’s still rel­e­vant to­day.”

Back in Brad­ford, or­gan­is­ers are draw­ing up the fi­nal plans for the fes­ti­val, which runs from Novem­ber 9–13. Nar­ra­tive ex­pert Pratch­ett is set to dis­cuss the chal­lenges and op­por­tu­ni­ties that face those look­ing to thrive as game scriptwrit­ers, while Sys­tem Shock pro­ducer Spec­tor will join via video link to of­fer in­sight from his three decades at the lead­ing edge of game de­vel­op­ment.

The clos­ing week­end will also fea­ture Yogscast host­ing a live Q&A ses­sion; there will be ca­reers ad­vice for those pon­der­ing a move into videogame de­vel­op­ment; and, for the fam­ily-cen­tric fi­nal day, there will be a col­lec­tion of events based on Minecraft.

“We’ve got a few fringe events as well,” Penny says. “There are things like DJ Yoda on the Fri­day night, which will see games clash with other art forms. There’s plenty to get ex­cited about.”

For tick­ets and more in­for­ma­tion, visit www.bit.ly/york­shireGF.

“It’s all about ac­cess to in­dus­try, and stu­dents get­ting an un­ri­valled op­por­tu­nity to meet that in­dus­try”

Kathryn Penny, fes­ti­vals di­rec­tor at The Na­tional Me­dia Mu­seum in Brad­ford

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