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The Wizard World Chicago 2018 Video Game Round-Up

Wizard World Chicago 2018. Photo: Marielle Shaw

Wizard World has come and gone to the Chicago area, and there was so much to do and see. If you weren’t able to get out there to check out what video game related Wizard World Chicago panels, events, or activities there were, or just wanted to see how your weekend shaped up compared to ours—we have you covered.

Wizard World Chicago 2018. Photo: Marielle Shaw

Cosplayers and gamers Stella Chuu and Fiona Nova were on site all weekend to greet fans at the Wizard World Chicago Gaming area. They made for great MC’s as they gave the occasional play-by-play from the on-stage pro gamer action while keeping the transient spectators amped.

A few Fortnite and Overwatch pros like iddqd, Kayuun, and Kenith showed off their skills (skillz? Do we still say that?) to a humbled crowd of young gamers. There were lots of kids taking advantage of the open play option, with many young gamers playing Overwatch and Fornite. I even spied some very little kids quick scoping through their opponents–it warmed my heart. But Overwatch and Fortnite weren’t the only games available, as there were tournaments being held for Super Smash Bros. as well as lots of other PC games being played on Razer hardware in the Razer booth.

Perhaps the highlight of the weekend was the Video Game Design panel. It was a discussion on all things related to the industry-side of video games, from breaking into the business, to the more mundane day-to-day aspects of working in the business of making games. The wonderfully energetic Genese Davis emceed the panel, while also providing some insight from her experience writing for video games and working in the industry. Joining her were Darold Higa and JJ Bakken from Wargaming.net, where they work on World of Tanks. And from Volition was artist/art director Frank Marquart, who is currently working on an unannounced project.

One thing was clear from the offset: if you want to make games, don’t expect a life of sitting around and playing games all day.

As an art director, Frank Marquart’s day-to-day consists of lots of meetings—the regular staff meeting, meetings with management, etc. “Video game development is very hard and complicated” and the department that is usually staffed more than design and programming is art. Frank goes on to say, “(we) outsource lots and lots of art.”  But that describes more of the AAA side of game development. So what’s the difference between AAA and indie, anyways? According to Darryl Higa it’s more about “upfront monetary costs” and of course, the scale of the operation. In AAA games each person might have more specialization towards their jobs, but in an indie studio with less employees, they find themselves “wearing many hats” according to Higa. World of Tanks producer JJ Bakken says that it’s easy to just start making games, or the parts of games you want to make, at home. “You can download and start doing it now,” Bakken encouraged inspiring game makers to download Unity or Unreal engine to make games. If you want to start making 3D art, Blender and Autodesk Maya are good places to start. If you want to be a game designer, it can be as easy as making up your own rules to tabletop/board games.

When presented with a mechanic in a game that she has to write a backstory for, Omensight character writer Genese Davis “loves the challenge.” But she recommends flexibility when writing for video games, or in other collaborative ways, “Be humble, work together!” she encourages, but also take the initiative. When trying to visualize a character’s perspective of a cataclysmic event, she didn’t have a game map at her disposal, soshe started to draw one herself, much to the excitement of others on the project.

When asked about the future of video games, and whether AR or VR would be the dominant form, Darold Higa believes that AR will take over. “The technology for virtual reality just isn’t there yet,” he explained, “unless you have something like [the haptic suits] from Ready Player One, full immersion is not possible” and the type of games you can play as a result are extremely limited. “VR lends itself to certain types of games. As it is right now, the technology is too young. We’re in the silent movies of VR”

Thanks for the great panel, guys.

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