Harrison Short

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My trip down to GCAP

My very short trip to Melbourne for GCAP was an eye-opening and inspiring experience. If you hadn’t already found out, my final year project game, Bees Won’t Exist, was selected as one of six games to be showcased at the GCAP 2016 Student Showcase. Being selected is excitement enough, but as this is my first published game, it was an honour to be in front of so many industry eyes as early into my game development career as this.

I flew down the morning of the 31st (missing GCAP Loading, an event catered to students, which I now sort of regret) with my teammates Rory Dungan and David Upcher, and we met up in the CBD with Dylan Ford before heading to our accommodation. Upon getting settled, we discovered that Rory’s beautiful Dell monitor was not able to weather the flight down from Brisbane, and had cracked, not only damaging the screen, but also causing the display to glitch out.

After a quick call to a computer rental shop that told us it was too late for us to rent a monitor, Dylan optimistically decided to send a tweet out into the world hoping to find someone local that might have a monitor to use before we headed out to try and find a store that could sell us a new monitor – and miraculously we got a response, almost immediately! Not only was it an answer to our prayers, but it came from within Melbourne’s famous Arcade, from Tin Man Studios.

After a quick lunch, we headed down to The Arcade (a collaborative workspace in Melbourne with an impressive host of game dev studios) and met up with Neil Rennison who had replied to Dylan’s tweet. A bit of small talk lead to a longer conversation, and that lead to meeting a few more Tin Man devs, and then afterwards, we managed to score a bit of a tour through The Arcade. I’m not sure how open people are in the building, but I’ll consider the whole experience very unique. I could probably write a whole blog post on this tour and my thoughts, but maybe that’s for another day.

After saying our thank yous and goodbyes (or more, “see you tomorrow’s”) to the various people in The Arcade, we returned to the apartment and prepared for a networking event at a bar beneath Federation Square. As someone that does have trouble speaking to people, I remained a little subdued at this event. As much as I want to get myself out there, it’s hard for me to approach people, and it’s just something that I’m going to have to get used to and get over. Despite my reservations, I did meet a few people that I’d love to stay in contact with, so the event was not a loss.

 

We returned to the apartment and I attempted to get as much sleep as possible on the uncomfortable AirBNB bed.

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Trekking a short way to the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre with computer and monitor in hands, we made our way to the location of GCAP. Upon arriving, we were directed to the area where the Student Showcase would be held, and to our surprise, the student games were the only games on show. We mostly went into GCAP blind and had no idea how it was set up, so this was a very welcome surprise as it meant that anyone who was itching to play a game of some sort was directed to our games.

The response to our game was overwhelmingly positive and we also received a lot of feedback on how we could improve and fix certain aspects of the game. While we had many people from the networking event the previous night come around and play, we also had a heap of people who we hadn’t met prior to GCAP play the game, which was another good networking opportunity as people came by constantly throughout the day.

Another great experience was meeting the other students who were presenting their games. In particular, I had a great time talking to Jamie Rollo, who’s been working on his stellar title Silver Grapple for about 4 years now (almost entirely on his own!), the Team Armadillo folks working on Baroviet and Brad Francis, who impressively produced everything for his short game A New Life for Jerry. I actually helped out Brad by offering my laptop for him to use for the day, as the laptop he was using to showcase unfortunately died during set up.

Besides showing off our game in front of plenty of folks in the games industry, and meeting so many friendly people, the other great benefit of being at GCAP was the talks. I managed to see all the talks I wanted to see. The first of these was one titled “Let’s Make Unity Great Again.” This was a pretty good talk as I identified with a lot of issues that speaker Kieran Lord (of Cratesmith Games Assembly) raised, but I was also a little too inexperienced a coder to understand a lot of the content of his talk.

Moving on, I next attended the “Future of Game Audio: So Bright, It Hz” panel with some immensely talented and storied game audio experts. This was a talk I was eagerly anticipating, and I found the advice from the likes of Mick Gordon, Sally-Anne Kellaway, Jeff Van Dyke and Jacek Tuschewski. In particular, I became almost enamoured by the way Mick Gordon spoke – it was inspiring to see someone so enthusiastic about not only what he does, but what the people around him do.

Initially, my next talk was going to be one on mental health when working in the games industry, but I learned that Mick Gordon would be doing another (unrecorded) talk, so I decided to head over and attend this one instead. Again, this was another great talk that inspired me in various different ways. In particular, I loved hearing about Mick’s process as to how he comes up with not only music, but the true feeling and weight behind each track. It seems like every track that he composes genuinely has an entire thought process behind it.

To cap off the day, I went to Akash Thakkar’s talk about the sound work he did for Hyper Light Drifter – which ironically I have not yet played. Akash’s talk was probably the most entertaining of the day and it really succeeded in not only making me want to play Hyper Light Drifter but also just do some sound designing for the hell of it! Sound design is something to appeals to me due to how fun I find it, but I think in the last year, because I’ve been constantly under the pump, I sort of forgot that. After the talk, I spoke to Akash briefly, saying that I’ll follow his advice of emailing him, as he loves to help new sound designers and composers (note to self: I should probably get on that…).

Throughout my university tenure, I’ve always had moments of doom and gloom, wondering “what am I doing, this isn’t going to lead to anything, this is crazy, etc.” but after experiencing GCAP and how the industry truly is, those worries for the most part have left my mind. Having this experience so close to graduation was almost cathartic in a way, as if it was all meant to happen and I’m moving in the right direction. There’s always uncertainty in the industry and in everyone’s career’s, but I couldn’t be happier and more enthusiastic about where I am, how I got here and where I’m going.

Harrison Short