Post-presentation Elation

I was expecting to need several pairs of huggies for my first presentation at Designer’s Night on Friday, but I was cool as Keanu. Knowing that what I had to say was really important numbed any fears I had about public speaking. Many people came up to me afterward to say they were inspired, which made me very happy. Here’s my presentation for anyone who’s interested:

–[ Flash Bandits at dScape Presentation ]–

Hello there,

I’m really happy to be a Flash Bandit! I’m going to explain why I really feel like a Flash Bandit, and then I’ll show you some work, but first…

I run a company called FuturLab. It’s a team of people with wicked talent who like to focus on entertainment oriented projects – fun stuff. This year we’ve worked entirely in Flash, which has been great. Unfortunately a lot of the work we’ve done is confidential, so I can’t show you much of it, which is why I’d initially declined to do this presentation. I didn’t feel we had enough of the kind of work that would inspire a crowd like this, and that’s what these events are all about for me.

I came to Designers Night last year, and was thoroughly inspired… and thoroughly envious.

Seeing Seb and Dom do their Plug-in Media double act, showing everyone the super-cool games they’d made – I just thought to myself: “Where’s my cool shit?!”

I’d been in the industry for three years, and I hadn’t achieved what I’d set out to do, which essentially comes down to creating work that captures people’s imagination.

So I left Designer’s Night thinking: “I really need to pull my ideas together soon, or my blood is going to turn grey.”

At the time FuturLab was going a bit stale. We didn’t have any goals we were actively pursuing. Jade, our producer was really concerned about this; more concerned than I was really! She said to me quite bluntly: “Unless you do something significant to push this team you’ve worked so hard to build in the direction you want to go, we’re going to sink, because nobody else is going to do it for you” –

So, a wake up call slap in the face from Seb and Dom, followed by a power-punch from Jade…

So now I realise that despite not having a portfolio of jaw-dropping client work to inspire you all, I do have quite an inspiring story, especially for those like me here tonight who just need a gentle push/power punch in the right direction.

A year on from dScape, FuturLab have pulled a complete U-Turn. Some of our biggest dreams as a team are coming true, the most exciting being that our original game ideas have captured the attention of a major US TV channel (secret at the moment, sorry). We’re currently negotiating a contract to publish our game – this means they’re going to pay us to bring our own ideas to life!

That’s all well and good, but what’s particularly interesting about this I think, is that before starting work on this game in January this year, I’d not made any games before. Not even tic-tac-toe or bingo, or some text-based game on the Spectrum when I was 10. Everything that I’m going to show you here was researched, learnt, developed and crafted into a pitchable demo in just 4 months.

I think that’s pretty inspiring, and all it really took to get it done was to cancel my social life; which was non-existent anyway.

It was a big risk for FuturLab of course. Spending 4 months on a project with no immediate financial merit is business suicide if you don’t have the capital, but once I was on the case, it was this or nothing, and I think this is what qualifies me as a Flash Bandit.

If I’d listened to anyone too seriously when embarking on this game, it wouldn’t have happened. Every person I consulted told me not to make it.

Too ambitious, too long, too big, too conceptual, too expensive – etc. Without wanting to discount what is essentially good advice in most situations, when you have ideas you want to realise, you have to ignore everyone. Even the people you look up to and respect, as they do not know what you know.

I’m sure there are people here tonight who have talent, and ideas, and perhaps a dream, and they’re waiting for something before they’ll embark on it. I’m here tonight just to say – stop waiting, and just get on with it – I’ve done it in less than a year, and I’m a fine art graduate. I’m in the lowest bracket of motivated people…

Ok, enough preaching to the converted – I’ll now show you “my cool shit”.

It’s called Prism, and it’s a concept rich Flash game; concept rich in the sense that it’s immersed in metaphor, with the entire experience modeled on an Escher painting; using devices of the medium to create the illusion of an endless loop of self reference.

The game revolves around a character called Routine404. It’s a piece of commercial software, responsible for fixing broken links between web pages. It achieves this with a creatively weighted artificial intelligence – a creative spirit if you like. This is represented by the electrical energy. As everyone in this room should know, the creative spirit is highly unstable, unpredictable, often dangerous and prone to mood swings – not the kind of things you really want in a commercial software package.

So the makers of this software, Generative Systems, have created a restriction algorithm, to weigh down the creative spirit, ensuring reliable performance. I’m sure you’re seeing the message we’re trying to put across with this metaphor…

Generative Systems have continued to develop the source code into a new product called BreakSpace, which in classic sci-fi tradition has gone horribly wrong, and threatens their server network and entire operation. Since Routine404 is based on the same source as BreakSpace, Generative Systems figure that it’s their best hope of finding and neutralising the threat. So Routine404 is dropped into the server, and it’s the player’s job to pilot the software; searching out and destroying the ominous and elusive BreakSpace.

Show Game: Prism Flash Game

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  • //A
    Posted November 12, 2006 at 4:08 am 0Likes

    bugger, so i really did miss the best bit 🙁 Super cool and inspiring speech James. Where’s the video of it?

  • Seb Lee-Delisle
    Posted November 12, 2006 at 4:16 am 0Likes

    Yeah it was a great night, good work James, and thanks so much for the name-check 🙂

    More info about the night on my blog.

    Keep up the great work!


  • Richard Mitchelson
    Posted November 14, 2006 at 6:38 am 0Likes

    Hi James, nuff respect on the talk, it was a good idea to take the beer up there, my mouth got as dry as a camels arse. great blog too, good to feel the warm bosom of the Brighton creative scene. I shall return!!!

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