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Live from the BIG Festival: Day two of Latin America’s biggest gaming event

Thousands of gamers and industry professionals have descended on Sao Paulo - and we’re here on the show floor
Live from the BIG Festival: Day two of Latin America’s biggest gaming event

BIG festival goes a long way towards showcasing the passion Latin America has for gaming, and the focus companies worldwide are giving to this fast-growing region.

Game makers from as far afield as Wales, India, and Germany have settled in Sao Paulo to showcase their games, and with some true icons of the industry, such as Final Fantasy IV lead developer Takashi Tokita on the line-up, it’s clear that the organisers are going all out to showcase not just Brazil’s potential as a gaming hub, but also the passion of the local gaming scene.

We’re here at the festival to bring you the latest news right from the floor - from talks to meetings to big announcements, so stay tuned for what the festival has to offer. Here are just a few of the highlights from day two.

The Principles for Creating Memorable Characters

Angry Birds is arguably the world’s most famous mobile gaming franchise, and the first that really captured the public attention, but it’s not just all about the addictive gameplay and simple loops, it’s the well defined and instantly recognisable characters which have helped make the franchise a multimedia phenomenon.

Tom Bernardes, Rovio’s senior character designer took to the stage to delve into the topic of character design, and how game makers can leverage great central characters to help their product stand out.

“There are two types of designers, or artists. One type is born with that talent, very acute perception, and they’re self taught and can improve their technique a lot. The second type of designer are “normal” people who have to study in order to develop their skills,” he informed the show's audience.

Bernardes identified key differences between character design in games compared to other fields, such as animation. While games have a more chaotic creative process, animation is more methodical and somewhat strict, with the characters being designed later in the development process.

Bernardes also revealed some concept art for a new angry birds character, showing the various possible designs based on different powers, each based on a different real-life bird. Although the character would eventually become the songbird Melody, a pelican character which would swallow and then spit up objects was considered. Through the talk, game makers gained an insight in the iteration process involved in taking a character from the concept to the screen, and with Angry Birds still producing memorable extensions years into the fanchise's lifecycle, it's clear that Rovio still has plenty of eggs in its basket.

Meeting Rockhead Studios

We had the opportunity to sit down with Rockhead Studios CEO and co-founder Christian Lykawka to discuss the company’s hit Starlit franchise.

Starlit is a transmedia franchise encompassing games and comics which takes its established characters into new environments. The simplistic art style is immediately gripping, and the well-defined characters can easily slide into a variety of game genres, ranging from platformers to cart racers to puzzle games.

Lykawka presented an interesting theory as to why free-to-play has found such a strong foothold in mobile gaming as opposed to other platforms - namely, that PC and console games have a dearth of free-to-play games aimed at children and families, whereas mobile has a wide variety of options available targeted towards children.

However, Lykawka did identify an issue with ad-based monetisation in games aimed at children and families - namely, that there’s a risk that children will be exposed to more adult themes through in-game advertising. To combat this, Rockhead have taken a novel approach, creating short films set within the universe to use in lieu of traditional ads, eliminating the chance of exposing children to adult themes while simultaneously keeping players engaged with the game and its universe.

Unleashing the power of Tencent’s technology: Building interactive and immersive global games that captivate players

Tencent is a mainstay in our Top 50 list, and for good reason. The company is one of the world’s biggest tech companies, with mobile gaming at the forefront of its gaming interests, and the company’s lead technology strategist for Latin America Tom Petreca took to the stage to discuss how developers can utilise the company’s technology to build immersive and entertaining experiences for players.

One piece of tech, their GME (Game Multimedia Engine) drew particular focus. This software works with audio and voice play to make games more immersive by taking audio design to the next level and offering the capacity for voice communication and spatial interaction in game. For example, in a multiplayer game players who aren’t in a party together can communicate with each other dependent on distance within the game.

Petreca defines immersion as “interaction that exists between the virtual game and the physical world” and spatial audio can go a long way towards making a game feel more realistic, and help bring its design to the next level.

He also discussed two key pieces of infrastructure which have helped make the gameplay more experience for users: Anti-Cheat Expert (ACE), which helps identify cheats and exploits, and WeTest, the company’s quality assurance and performance tester.

WeTest continuously monitors the game to identify any issues with quality, both before and after launch. As such, Tencent’s technology doesn’t just make games more accessible and immersive, but effectively helps create a smooth experience for the players, letting them avoid frustration. He specifically noted PUBG Mobile, which saw a 90% reduction in cheating following the implementation of ACE.

Public Relations 101: Best Practices & Pitfalls

In the early afternoon we took to the stage to take part in a panel session all about getting the best from PR where, alongside other journalists from Screenrant, The Gamer, and VG247 we collectively conveyed the needs of modern media such as

The round table, moderated by Homerun PR’s Damien Sarrazin, saw the panellists discuss the best practices of getting games to the attention of news outlets.

Several recurring themes popped up, such as ensuring embargo dates were clear, ensuring the press release was appropriate to the outlet in question, and making sure that any necessary assets were available, However, there were also some surprising commonalities, such as identifying a point of contact within the outlet and establishing a positive and personable working relationship.

By identifying not just which news outlets are best suited for a press release, but which journalists within that site work well with (or, in some cases, even specialise) PR representatives and game makers have a better chance of getting their products to the attention of the target audience.

"It was nice to have the opportunity to speak to publishers, developers and consumers all at once. It made for a nice and authentic audience that highlights Brazil's passion for gaming," said VG247 feature editor Dom Peppiatt.

"The audience was captivated by the media perspective on how they receive information from developers and publishers," wrapped up Homerun PR's Damien Sarrazin.

Gustavo Steinberg - an interview with the founder of BIG

Towards the end of the day we had the opportunity to speak to BIG Festival’s founder Gustavo Steinberg to discuss the event’s history and Brazil’s gaming scene.

BIG is currently in its eleventh year, and it’s been a period of massive growth for Brazil's gaming industry, with the number of studios growing from 20 to over one thousand in a little over a decade, BIG Festival has a large part to play in that growth.

Gustavo launched BIG Festival following a career in film, but he describes BIG as a means of artistic expression in its own right, calling festivals “the ultimate form of interactive art experience.” Festivals offer an opportunity to involve not just creators but fans into an event to create something truly unique.

Brazil has seen a number of success stories, but one thing Gustavo highlighted is that the country’s game makers are succeeding in international growth by focusing on international markets. Wildlife Studios, for example, is arguably one of the biggest game makers from Brazil, and this success came from a commitment to developing games for the international scale. Similarly, many games by independent developers have strong Brazillian themes, and Gustavo noted that these themes tend to be downplayed as game makers scale their businesses.

While, by his own admission, Brazil has yet to see a major breakout hit, Gustavo noted that several studios have taken part in the development of major titles. He highlighted Kokku in particular, a co-development company which has provided assets for the likes of Roblox, Horizon, and Call of Duty and their work that elevates the country’s status in the wider gaming ecosystem.

“The studios are becoming more specialised. Those who specialise in mobile understand that it’s a very competitive market," he explained. "I see a separate trend between studios focusing on that and studios specialising on PC and console. The challenge is user acquisition, which has become extremely expensive. The mobile companies are becoming more robust in the community and self-publishing aspects.”

Gustavo also spoke about what the country is doing to enhance its gaming industry. He highlighted the work BIG is doing to increase government funding to onboard more and more game makers into the space.
“There’s a big fund for films that was stopped during the previous government which is now starting to work again, and we’re working hard to get a chunk of that investment for games.”

We asked Gustavo what made Brazil different from other gaming ecosystems. His answer? Quite simply, passion. The local population is passionate about gaming and that's something evident just from walking the floor of the festival, bringing a unique spark and creativity into game development.

As such, while Brazil has yet to see a major breakout hit to call its own, it’s clear from the scale of BIG alone that game makers from all around the world are taking note of what Brazil has to offer, and those offerings are look certain to increase in popularity and value in the coming years.

That wraps our coverage for day two. Stay tuned for more reports from the floor in São Paulo and check out the action from day one here.