1UP was now over a week ago, and although I was meant to have finished this write-up earlier in the week I was finding it difficult to whittle down the information I had got from the event into an article that didn’t take an hour to read. I hope that you (as a reader) can associate with what I am saying to almost feel how amazed I was with this event.
With something like this, it’s difficult to know where to begin – may be with… WOW!
This was Belgium’s first ever 1UP Conference and Expo; and what a success it was. To begin I will cover the Conference which was conducted on Friday 15th February, then move on to the Expo which ran both Friday 15th and Saturday 16th.
Here I will be outlining some parts of the Conference, however, I will be skipping over some of the talks; mainly outlining those that really made an impact. The Conference was hosted by a ‘huge’ star from the Belgian comedy scene, William Boeva – when I say huge, I talk of his reputation not his size, of course. Not only is he quite the comedian, but he also runs his own gaming channel under the tag Rage Quit; be aware, if you don’t speak/understand much Dutch you may struggle with some of his content – but he is still worth keeping an eye out for.
The Conference got off to a slightly rocky start, with the main host taking a wrong turning into the next door pigeon convention – but also being delayed through giving a radio interview regarding 1UP; this wasn’t going to stop the team behind 1UP coming to save the day. Robby Bisschop was on hand to get the Conference going with the introduction of Robbert-Jan Brems – a technical artist from with a history of working for the likes of Electronic Arts, Eidos and Unity Technologies; as well as having worked on projects such as Thief, Tomb Raider and Fifa.
Robbert-Jan Brems spoke of his younger years, growing up and failing multiple times in secondary school through his fear of failure and perfectionist characteristics. He linked a lot of his talk to his experience in break-dancing; outlining four key steps to a strong career in game development: (1) Awareness, (2) Constraints, (3) Free-Styling, (4) Reframing.
“I am always wrong, until I am wrong about being wrong.”
Next on the main stage was Anya Combs from Kickstarter; more precisely the gaming section of Kickstarter. It may not have been the most technological or design specific talks there, but it was filled with information regarding the best ways to get the funding for one’s project through Kickstarter; she gave some very specific do’s and don’ts for creating a good Kickstarter campaign. Additionally, she urged the audience to remember that there is no such thing as a failed Kickstarter project.
“Failure is if you don’t learn. None funding is not failure … Relaunch it!”
Another huge name in the industry appeared a little later on; Nicolas Pirot from the world-renowned Rocksteady Ltd. He was reaching out to all the technical artists in the audience, explaining how there isn’t just one criterion for being a good technical artist. He covered the misconceptions surrounding tech artist’s and how best to utilise the skill set that the audience has as individuals rather than worrying about ‘checking all the boxes’.
“Tech Artists; it’s not just about coding and tech skills – we’re not lone wolves.”
Dave Voyles from Microsoft made an appearance too! He spoke about the business side of game development, and how to get your game out onto consoles through multiple different avenues. Some seriously good tips and tricks on how to approach the Big 3 (Nintendo, PlayStation and Xbox). He covered everything from parity clauses, insurances, rating boards and having a ‘track record’ to the technical aspects of getting a game on the market.
The conference ended with a massive name in the gaming industry; Rami Ismail from Vlambeer. He had an amazing talk to give, truly earning his place as the keynote speaker. He worked his way through an alphabet (literally A-Z) of things to keep in mind as a developer to be successful. He gave too much solid information to summarise in this small section but nonetheless, the talk was amazing with such a strong insight into the world of game development.
“M = Motivation
Motivation is key. You can’t make a game without it. Motivation outweighs money and knowledge (although they are also important).”
As well as those mentioned above there were other big names gracing Belgium’s 1UP Conference stage, such as; Rik Leenknegt (Howest DAE), De Jong & Suika (Epic Games), Michael Douse (Larian), Kate Edwards (Geogrify) and Chanel Summers (VRStudios).
That was just the main stage too! Alongside the main speakers were also mentoring sessions in one of the Kortrijk XPO Meeting Centres. Speakers like; Dirk Bosmans (PEGI, Unity), Katleen Evers (4EversGames, GenVid Technologies) and Pascal Cools (Flanders DC) were all present and sharing their wisdom within small group sessions.
The expo’s atmosphere was alive with gaming references and enthusiastic chatter – a dark purple ambience embracing the guests, broken up with yellow and white neon lights; truly enchanting the venue with 1UP-fever. In the centre of this magical aura was the ‘Octo-garden’, where some of the main Belgian game developers set up their booths waiting to welcome fellow 1UPers into their creative worlds.
The Octo-garden was the home to some of the development companies that were nominated for the Belgian Game Awards (BGA) too – such as, Larian Studios (Divinity), Rablo Games (Healer’s Quest), Pajama Llamas (Flotsam), Like Charlie (Marie’s Room), I-Illusions (Space Pirate Trainer) and many more! – Make sure you check out the upcoming BGA article to see who won awards and were crowned some of the best in Belgian game development!
The attendees had an abundance of gaming pleasures to partake in. Of course, there were the VR headsets showcasing technology from R.A.V.E.N – showing off their escape rooms, multiplayer VR arenas and music-orientated games. In addition to this, games like Journey for Elysium and Space Pirate Trainers flexed their VR muscles alongside P.O.V and more!
In addition to VR, there was a Retro Game centre, where classic consoles and games were available to play – it’s safe to say, Mrs DementedSquire is by far superior at Super Mario Cart on the Retro games consoles than me. There was also an area full of some this gen classics too – we decided to show Belgium and 1UP how to really crank up the heat in the kitchen on Overcooked 2! This was just before we tried out the new Jump Force game, and Far Cry: New Dawn. To top off some the current gen titles, there was a 1UP dance floor dedicated to Just Dance 2019, to be fair Belgium has some seriously good dancers: even if we didn’t achieve our couples dance-off competition, we still had great fun!
With all the current and retro generation of gaming coming together, it would only make sense for 1UP to host their own esports competition. Unfortunately, we personally only caught a few games, but the gathering around the stage and big screen soon grew to an impressive size as fellow game enthusiasts watched 1UP competitors go head-to-head on games such as; Dragon Ball FighterZ, Rocket League and Counter-Strike (CS:GO). Believe it, or not, the solo developer behind Healer’s Quest (Rablo Games) was an overall winner for Dragon Ball FighterZ, showing he can both make and play games to a high standard!
If video games aren’t exactly what you were attending 1UP for, then that wasn’t a problem either! Pinball machines, arcade machines and fully interactive arcade racing machines were scattered around the main hall! There was even a masseuse ready to relieve all the stress and anxiety that is associated with big gatherings of people – oh, and a candy shop too! To top it all off there was a cosplay village for all the attending cosplayers in Belgium to really show off their creative streaks. In this village was the almighty Game of Thrones famous throne. There were stalls for cosplay goodies, such as EVO foam, stencils and ‘how-to’ books; as well as stalls for photographers, artists and hand-made merchandise.
Author’s Thoughts (Declan Kenyon)
After travelling a short way over the pond to Belgium from the UK, I was sceptical at how the first 1UP would perform. Was it going to be a roaring success? Was the travel time worth it all? Was it going to bring in a big crowd being the first ever 1UP?
I am happy to say that this was far from a wasted trip. Not only was the Conference highly informative and gave me food for thought approaching the start of my venture into the gaming scene – but it was also full of interesting people; from technical students to successful game development companies. There was no shortage of interesting conversation, and the atmosphere was always buzzing with a range of topics (not just gaming! I even remember a conversation about where to get the best coffee in Belgium… If only I could remember or pronounce the name of the place).
As someone who is not a game developer, the Conference was not aimed directly at me but despite this, I still felt drawn in by the information and talks being dished out by the big names of the industry. However, the expo was where my attention was really captured.
I am a reviewer, writer and streamer by hobby – so the expo really spoke my language. I have been a fan of gaming since I was a child and the evolution of the gaming scene has always intrigued me. It was fantastic to witness so many different era’s of gaming in one place. The ability to go from Pinball machines to N64 to Xbox/Switch/PS to VR with a mere 30-second walk was a small slice of gaming heaven.
Of course, with the good comes the bad – luckily for 1UP, there wasn’t much to criticize, which is quite the achievement when it comes to conventions just starting out. There were points of the Conference which were slightly unorganised (Robby Bisschop was not meant to be introducing any of the speakers, but at a couple of intervals William Boeva had to be excused through medical reasons) and at times slow to proceed meaning it began to run behind time a little; additionally, there was a slight wipeout by Dave Voyles on stage, and the expo was somewhat quiet on the first day.
These are minor things compared to the vast amount of achievements that 1UP can safely say they earned. The team dotted around the venue were welcoming, polite and always happy to help (and being multi-lingual really helped too). The venue was adequately sized for the crowd the event pulled in; the atmosphere was out of this world. I don’t recall a moment where anyone said a negative remark about the entire event. Then again, as I stated, there really were only little nit-picks to be found.
1UP managed to captivate its audience perfectly; there were young children running around having a fantastic time, and there were the older generation testing out VR headsets too! One older woman seemed to really get into Space Pirate Trainer which was a wonderful sight to experience. Queue’s for trying the games were moving swiftly, yet when I was play-testing them I never felt rushed. The developers were always happy to answer any questions, and I always felt valued when talking to them.
To be honest, 1UP was amazing.
All-in-all the 1UP event was a huge success in the eye of an attendee. The team behind the event are hopefully very proud of their accomplishments and I am personally looking forward to attending the next one. I can not sing enough praise for the event – and it really was a wonderful first trip to Belgium and 1UP.