Game Summit Sweden 2023

I recently got the opportunity to attend Game Summit Sweden, a game development conference in Stockholm organised by Dataspelsbranschen.

This event took place on the 15th of November 2023 at Södra Teatern in Stockholm. Resolution Games, the company I work for, was kind enough to sponsor a ticket for several employees.

Attending Game Summit Sweden

Per Strömbäck, head of secretariat at Dataspelsbranschen introduced the conference by welcoming everyone to the very first iteration of Game Summit Sweden, saying that it was only right that Stockholm should have its own game conference. He stated that this year’s conference theme would be What’s Your Story, where attendees were encouraged to explain their personal journey into game development.

After this introduction, Pamela Clemente, project coordinator at Right By Me, explained Right By Me’s role in helping young people in Sweden with foreign backgrounds find jobs and opportunities in the country.

Finally, Johanna Nylander, head of analytics and deputy CEO at Dataspelsbranschen, took the stage to share some figures about the Swedish game development industry. She attributed Sweden’s successful games industry to a robust tech infrastructure, long dark winters, Sweden’s generous social safety net, and a strong sense of community and teamwork. This was reflected in the increasing amount of game companies in Sweden over the past ten years, as well as Nylander stating that Sweden had the 3rd largest in Europe in terms of amount of companies, 5th largest in Europe in terms of revenue, as well as the 3rd largest investor in the UK games industry.

Midjiwan's Game Design Principles, by Felix af Ekenstam

The first session of the day was called Midjiwan’s Game Design Principles, presented by Felix af Ekenstam, Midjiwan’s founder & game designer. Here, af Ekenstam presented Polytopia, a minimimalistic 4X game, and 7 game design principles that he kept in mind while designing the game. These principles included:

  • making sure your game had a reason to exist: is it a game you would like to play yourself (or perhaps has an established audience asking for it), and does it exist already?
  • making sure your game is both smart and pretty: your game should be smart enough to play without graphics, and pretty enough to play without logic
  • making sure that the player desires something before giving it to them: this included making sure that players had something to aspire to, or encountered obstacles that they wanted to overcome before giving them a means to do so
  • making sure that every choice should be a challenge: players should be given a limited choices that are equally good, while making it difficult for players to choose, allowing for strategic gameplay
  • making sure to maximize happiness: rather than making players sad, af Ekenstam’s philosophy is to only present beneficial outcomes to players during random events
  • making sure that art informs the player: art for items, enemies, and spells should be informative and descriptive without needing to read in-game stats or look up on a wiki. If properties change mid-game, then the creature or item’s art should reflect those changes
  • making sure there are no unnecessary systems: if there is anything that can be removed, remove it! af Ekenstam states that the more things were removed from Polytopia, the better the game became

The next session was a fireside chat titled Games Done Differently – A Conversation with Josef Fares led by Per Strömbäck with the aforementioned Josef Fares, the founder of Hazelight Interactive. Fares spoke about his extreme passion for games as well as entering the industry while coming from a background of film making. He stated that without his team, he was nothing, and that it was important to make the team believe in themselves and unlock their own creativity. Fares also spoke about his philosophy of making games, such as insisting that games he made would never have collectives and that Hazelight would never be a public company, stating that this would mean the death of creativity.

Another fireside chat titled Battle Royale Fireside was led by Per Strömbäck with Brendan "PLAYERUNKNOWN" Greene, an Irish game developer best known for his work on PUBG: Battlegrounds. He spoke about his road into game development as a modder, working on mods inspired by the Japanese film Battle Royale for the open-world survival game DayZ. Greene was insistent that he did not create the battle royale genre; rather, it was the community that decided that they wanted such a genre. After talking about his work with H1Z1, Greene talked about his ambitious new project working on a new open-world sandbox engine capable of using ML models to generate worlds the size of earth.

After breaking for lunch, conference attendees were free to choose from various parallel talks. The first talk I attended was one titled The Happy Genius – Psychology for Developers by Pär Säthil, founder of Brave Creative. Säthil spoke about his book Det lyckliga geniet: Psykologi för kreativa and various psychological techniques that one could use to improve creativity, such as by splitting up large unachievable goals into smaller goals and by being self-compassionate.

The Psychology of Play, by Anna Brandberg

The next session I attended was The Psychology of Play – The Power of Understanding Your Player by Anna Brandberg, lead UX Designer at The Outsiders. This was a fantastic talk which discussed what exactly UX design was (and what it wasn’t), the various techniques that could be used to understand player feedback, and to always remember to keep players first since user needs and business needs were one and the same thing. Brandberg mentioned several techniques for easy wins in UX design, such as making sure that:

  • every player action should have visible or audible feedback
  • UI elements should be consistent
  • tutorials should be clear without handholding the player
  • control schemes should be customizable
  • colours and fonts should be accessible
  • menus and navigation panels should be intuitive
  • error messages should be clear, telling players what happened, why, and how to solve the problem

The last session I managed to attended was titled Failing on Roblox by Gustav Linde, co-founder and Head of R&D at The Gang. Here, Linde spoke about the difference between the traditional approach to making games compared to the difference in making games for the Roblox platform and its respective audience. For example, Linde stated that Roblox players preferred to have as little onboarding in the game as possible (preferring to directly ask other players how to play in chat), and were more than happy with pay-to-win mechanics. Furthermore, he reminded the audience that Roblox players were often kids that did not use social media in the same way as previous generations.

Night of the Devs

The evening was spent at the Night of the Devs party, with music by DJ Rå and a stunning performance by Sirqus Alfon. Here, I got the opportunity to mingle with other conference attendees.

Dataspelsbranschen did a fantastic job in organising Game Summit Sweden, and I really hope this continues to happen in the future!

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