Inspired by... blog

6 posts categorized "Games"

04 November 2014

Off the Map competition: Turning Gothic literature into games

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One of our Digital Curators at the British Library – Stella Wisdom – is working on a great project to encourage games makers to use the Library’s archive for inspiration. For the last few years she’s been running Off the Map, a partnership competition with GameCity and Crytek to challenge UK higher education students to make videogames based on British Library collections.

This year’s competition had a gothic theme to accompany the Library’s current exhibition, Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination. The exhibition showcases manuscripts and hand-written drafts of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Clive Barker’s Hellraiser and the Twilight series (check it out, it’s on in London until 20 Jan 2015).

Stella created this video which shows footage of last year’s winning entry from Pudding Lane Productions, De Montfort University. It also gives details of the 2014 gothic sub-themes and shows flythrough clips from this year’s shortlisted entries.

The third winning entry was Team Shady Agents from University of South Wales in Newport with their Edgar Allan Poe inspired game Crimson Moon. The second winning entry was Team Flying Buttress from De Montfort University, who created a visually rich interpretation of Dracula's Whitby. British Library Chief Executive Roly Keating announced the winning entry: Nix, this was created by Jackson Rolls-Gray, Sebastian Filby and Faye Allen from the University of South Wales.Using Oculus Rift, a virtual reality headset for 3D gaming,it challenges players to reconstruct Fonthill Abbey via collecting hidden and moving glowing orbs in a spooky underwater world.

Of course, these projects never happen on their own. Stella worked with our Curator for Terror and Wonder Tim Pye and Tom Harper, our Maps Curator, as well as the lovely teams at GameCity and Crytek.

Plans are currently underway for the third competition: 'Alice's Adventures: Off the Map', which we are launching at the Library at the start of December. I’m also working on a few Alice-themed projects myself (watch this space).

You can read more about the project on the Library’s Digital Scholarship blog.

26 March 2013

The UK gaming industry, it's on the up

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The Guardian’s games blog is generally a good source of info for all things games and last week they posted a particularly interesting one about TIGA’s (the non-profit trade association representing the UK’s games industry) new report. In my last blog about gaming, it seemed that the industry in the UK was in decline, despite its growth internationally. But I have good news! In their latest report, TIGA has reported a 4% growth in the UK industry during 2012. Here are a few quick stats for you, to prove this: the number of development studios has risen from 329 to 448 in the last year, the number of creative staff working on game development has risen from 8,888 to 9,224 and TIGA has calculated that the game industry’s annual contribution to UK GDP (Gross Domestic Product) has risen from £912m to £947m in the last two years.

Tiga logo

Although it doesn’t come into effect until April, it seems that the government’s creative industries tax break for the games industry is already making waves. Large developers like Activision Blizzard, Konami and Microsoft have all opened new smaller studios in the UK. This shift of downsizing is also becoming more and more prevalent. As larger developers are closing, smaller ones are being opened by ex-staff. For example, when Bizarre Creations, which was owned by Activision, was shut down in 2011, at least two new studios, Hogrocket and Lucid Games, were subsequently created.

Many of these small start ups have moved away from the console industry towards mobile and tablet gaming, due to the exponentially growing smartphone market. But how reliable is this sector? TIGA have reported that 21% of UK studios created in 2010 have now gone into administration. Mobile gaming is becoming less and less niche, as hundreds of new titles are released on the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store every week, increasing competition more and more.


One of the biggest problems for new, smaller, mobile developers is funding. Previously, when they were working for big developers, ex-staff could focus entirely on the creative development of the games, whilst the wider company looked after the marketing and the money, now they actually have to start looking at and learning the business side of things. Both TIGA and UKIE (another trade body which looks at all interactive entertainment in the UK) are committed to setting up programmes to help smaller developers with commerce.

TIGA is aware that currently the gaming sector is fragile, but growth can only be positive, the more studios that open, the more chance there is that some will survive and thrive.

21 January 2013

New British Library Off the Map game competition with GameCity

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On Friday, Eidos lifetime president Ian Livingstone launched a new competition at the British Library, in partnership with GameCity and software company Crytek.

We’ve set games students the challenge of create games based on historic maps from our British Library collection. Two of the maps they can choose from include a proposed plan to rebuild Stonehenge and an important engraving of London made months after the Great Fire of 1666. The students have been granted complete creative freedom to adapt the maps, using CryENGINE 3D technology to stretch, build or totally re-design the materials as they wish.

Stonehenge location
Image: Stonehenge location

This is part of a range of creative projects we’ve set for designers and makers based on our collections. Before Christmas we ran a competition for short filmmakers and animators inspired by our wildlife sounds, and Central Saint Martins students are curating our fashion LATE event in Spring Festival.

14 November 2012

Call of Duty, Halo 4 and key trends in the gaming sector

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Yesterday one of the most anticipated video games titles of 2012 was released, just in time for the Christmas rush! Call of Duty: Black Ops II is the ninth title in the popular first person shooter franchise, Call of Duty (CoD). The first Black Ops game accounted for 5% of worldwide video games sales in 2010. Activision and Treyarch, the companies behind its development, are competing directly with other brands, such as Microsoft, who also just released Halo 4. Activision are hoping to go above and beyond the first 24 hour sales of Halo 4, which was around $220 million (just under £140 million). Pre-order sales have so far smashed the previous record, held by Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.

Call of Duty British Library blog

Image: Activision Call of Duty Black Ops II

The gaming industry has boomed in the last two decades so there is actually a lot of documented research available here at the Library in our Business & IP Centre. The information I have found here focuses on key trends in the industry and come from two of our electronic databases: Keynote and GMID.

Microsoft and Activision rank top in the UK for sales, pre-tax profit and total assets. Microsoft has larger profit margins though because of their enormous hardware sales, namely the Xbox, with their brand shares being the highest in 2010 at 8.3%. They have also had success with Xbox Kinect.

Infinity British Library blog

Image: Xbox 360 Halo 4

First person shooter games are the most popular genre in the gaming industry. It is the biggest and fastest growing video game sub-genre in terms of revenue for publishers. But there is the risk of consumer fatigue setting in. Although different editions of these games are still selling, game reviewers and players have begun to complain that there is no more originality in the games, the graphics aren’t necessarily improving and the story lines are becoming predictable and boring. Repackaging of old games is a big problem in the sector with developers attempting to create something new.

Despite these huge figures, the worldwide video console gaming industry seems to be declining. This is partly because of the rise of low cost games on smart phones, tablets and web-based games. The success of these, for example, Angry Birds, has seen a forecast CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate – the steady rate at which an investment would hypothetically grow) of 14.4% during the period 2009–14, just for the mobile gaming industry.

Strike Force British Library blog

Image: Activision Call of Duty Black Ops II

Although Business Insights forecasts that global video gaming revenues will grow at a CAGR of 5.1% during the period 2009–14, to reach $92.5bn in 2014, the UK industry has actually dropped from the 3rd highest producer of computer games to 6th in the last year.

This blog was written by our Creative Industries Marketing Assistant and Intern Olivia Fine.

03 July 2012

Ping Pong at the British Library

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If you’re feeling adventurous and are willing to brave the July rain, come along to our Piazza between now and the 28 July for a free game of ping pong.

We're taking part in Ping London, who has set up 520 tables across 8 cities in the UK, including 100 in London. And we have two of those tables outside the British Library building in King's Cross.

Come along for a game...

29 May 2012

The rise and fall of Whale Trail at Digital Shoreditch

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Whale Trail image

We help lots of tech and design-based businesses at the British Library, so this year we took part in Digital Shoreditch, a festival celebrating ‘silicon roundabout’ and all things digital. Two of my colleagues, Julie and Jeremy, gave out fantastic advice about the business support available at the British Library, including our new Innovating for Growth programme.

In typical Shoreditch style (what else would you expect?) it took place in a big top, with disco lights and smoke machine and lots of free sweets. I got to mingle with a great mix of designers, developers and entrepreneurs, many of whom seemed to be on the cusp of launching their own apps and games.

One story in particular caught my eye: Digital design studio Ustwo’s Whale Trail game. I loved the honesty in which they told their story – as with lots of entrepreneurial journeys, there were ups, downs and new ventures always on the horizon. In a difficult climate, they are prepared to take big financial risks to produce products they are proud of.

They talked about their dramatic journey to launch a new app where whales can fly over rainbows and collect bubbles for points. So far so silly, but then again, this was a £200,000 investment opportunity.

With no marketing resource (except for their creative skills) they worked with Gruff Rhys from the Super Furry Animals to launch a new song, soundtrack and animated music video (below). They were listed as iTunes Game of the Week globally, and featured in major press, including the New York Times. They reached number fourteen in the US iTunes charts by midnight on the first day of release. 

According to Ustwo, the initial development cost the team £150,000 and 4,500 hours of man time. They worked out that they would need to bring in £300,000 to break even. But they didn’t. After a fantastic start and high ratings, they brought in £80,000 of revenue, then suffered a dramatic drop in sales.  They maintained some position in the UK, but were not able to maintain their level of sales in the US and Asia, crucial to the apps market.To give it a boost, they then invested a further £50,000 into developing the game and moved onto Android. But it still wasn’t quite enough. So they didn’t recover their money or make profit.

But unlike the Whale Trail game, where clouds can actually kill you, this story has a silver lining. The exposure and braveness of the game made their industry and peers stand up and notice. It gave them big exposure, which has led to some great outcomes, including a licensing deal with Penguin and merchandising opportunities. And now they’re moving on to their next big thing.