Interview

Prepare for a new arms race over mobile game graphics, predicts Lumo's Jonathan Evans

Prepare for a new arms race over mobile game graphics, predicts Lumo's Jonathan Evans

Making sure you start the year in style, Pocket Gamer Connects London is happening on 13-14 January 2015 at Vinopolis

And tickets are available now.

So to give you a hint at what you can expect, we're shining the spotlight onto our speakers to provide a deeper look at the personalities who will be taking the stage at PG Connects London 2015.

Keeping it surreal

Jonathan "Jogo" Evans is a game designer who loves to combine creative invention with a surreal imagination. However, with Jogo, the player and their understanding and enjoyment of every moment of the play experience comes first.

His influences stem from modern art and cinema to photography and science. If Jogo wasn't creating games, he would probably be writing novels or comics because he doesn't really know how to do very much apart from make things up.

Pocket Gamer: We're showcasing the Best of British at Pocket Gamer Connects so how much of an impact have British game developers had in your gaming life?

Jonathan Evans: A huge amount. I think back to the late nineties when I was going through university and formulating my plan to join the games industry. My favourite game then was a neat little sci-fi racer from Psygnosis (Sony Liverpool) called Wipeout 2097. That series of games have stuck with me throughout my career as a creator and as a gamer.

Wipeout was gameplay as sensation, a distilled experience of magnificent design and stunning visuals. That really encouraged me to become a game creative.

Aesthetic overload - Wipeout 2097

Looking beyond that game, how many hours have I spent raiding tombs and leaping around a city in Crackdown or collecting millions of LEGO lugs? And today - so much inspiration and encouragement from (often new) friends in the UK indie game dev scene. I wouldn't be here without them!

Why is user acquisition such a challenge in the mobile business today?

We have the twin tornados of mobile game saturation and the complexity of modern life.

People don't have time to play and even when they take out their phones to have a game, they could easily end up in Twitter or Pinterest instead. That's the irony of mobile phones - they bring us untold millions of players but then take them all off us with their alternative entertainments.

We are on the cusp of a new mobile gaming arms race. Games will need exceptional graphics to get noticed
Jonathan Evans

So all those games on the App Stores makes it difficult to get noticed and then all those other apps and activities plus next week's games make it extremely challenging to get players to stick around.

There are many things you can do to give yourself a better chance of survival. Making an excellent, visually startling and incredibly usable game is critical. Appealing to Apple and Google is equally important - they can bring you millions of players so it's useful to look at those platform holders as a client of sorts. Learn what they want and try to appeal to their requirements and desires.

Finally, take responsibility for your business! Yes the numbers and finances of monetisation are not the sexy bit of making games, but mastering that side of things is the way you'll get to keep on making games!

What are the major challenges currently facing games businesses when publishing abroad?

Well, the first big hurdle is the easiest to overcome. Translate your game. That should be easy these days - although it's not cheap and does add a LOT of time and bugs but be prepared to take that on.

More complex is reaching players in some of the emerging markets. Korea is a huge market but you probably need a Korean publisher to make any headway in the game market there. Same with China - there are amazing opportunities but you need to foster business contacts in those territories.

Will Lumo Deliveries' graphics appeal globally?

And sometimes that means learning what types of games they want. A lot of our beautiful, elegant indie games actually have negligible market appeal in China and Korea so you need to learn about those territories before trying to release there.

How can indie developers adapt to survive in the mobile economy?

The first thing indies need to accept is that evolution is not about survival of the fittest but the best able to adapt to a changing environment. And that change is continuous. It doesn't matter how amazing you were in 2013, by 2015 the rules will all be different and you'll be out-performed by some other crazy upstart so keep on watching the skies and adapting to change before it gets you.

It's going to be the more polished and usable games that survive.
Jonathan Evans

I'd also say that polish and usability are increasingly vital for indies. We already have the creativity and the vision but when that normalises and there are plenty of wonderful, moving and exciting games to choose from, it's going to be the more polished and usable that survive.

Will new technology like wearable tech and VR change the mobile landscape?

I'm not that worried about VR for the next few years, at least not as far as mobile gaming goes. Maybe when the tech is indistinguishable from your everyday shades it'll be something special but I suspect that is still a fair few years away.

Other wearable tech - such as smartwatches - are more exciting. If you can choose between two buttons on a small screen, you can make a decision, and that is the heart of gaming. I'm very interested in smartwatches as gaming devices in their own right and as extensions of the input/output systems offered by your phone.

What are you most looking forward to at Pocket Gamer Connects?

It's great to see smaller developers sharing knowledge alongside the big players. We can all learn from each other and we'll need to borrow from each others methodologies to survive in the chaotic few years we're all going to face.

What's your prediction for the mobile gaming industry in 2015?

We are on the cusp of a new mobile gaming arms race. Games will need exceptional graphics to get noticed - that'll be driven as much by hardware manufacturers and platform holders as by the players. It's exactly what we saw happen in the console industry. Mechanical elegance will bring less players in through the door than great graphics.

You'll still get your occasional wild and inexplicable successes that break all of the rules, but they will remain lightning in a bottle, and chasing that sort of wild luck doesn't make a great business case for career developers.

To cope with this, I think we'll see more experienced indies team up to form powerful collaboratives and using outsourcing and asset store purchasing to ease the creation of high quality products.

It's another evolution. Scary but exciting!

Grab your tickets for Pocket Gamer Connects London 2015 here!

Don't forget to keep up-to-date with content from our speakers via the Speaker Spotlight hashtag.

And you can check out videos of our speaker talks from PG Connects Helsinki 2014 here.

Contributing Editor

A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon is Contributing Editor at PG.biz which means he acts like a slightly confused uncle who's forgotten where he's left his glasses. As well as letters and cameras, he likes imaginary numbers and legumes.

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