Vancouver Game Design Expo Presentation

I just had a busy but fun few days. On Friday Nick Newhard from BFG Seattle came up to Vancouver and we prepared notes for our Vancouver Game Design Expo presentation called “10 Secrets to Designing Instantly Addictive and Enjoyable Games”. Nick is an industry veteran game designer – he made a game called Blood back in the Doom and Duke Nukem 3D days.

Vancouver Film School

On Friday night we got invited to a speakers’ Dinner at the Vancouver Film School cafe and then got taken on a tour around the Game Design Campus. It’s a pretty cool place and the course seems well thought out. I’ve was given a CD containing some of the students’ final projects (Flash games) to check out. Oh and I got a free jacket, a free bag, a free water bottle and a free pen, neato!

On Saturday we there were a whole load of presentations at the VFS Theatre and we watched one about prototyping by a guy called Matt who use to work for Nexon but who is now “Independent” (he said that sounded better than unemployed). It made a lot of sense and I hope to use some of the info for my next game. Then we continued working on our presentation notes and were beginning to wish that the presentation was called “2 Secrets to…” instead 🙂

Visualising Success

That night I spent some time visualising a successful presentation. So like me not being too nervous, smiling, making jokes (which the audience laugh at), and applause at the end, plus people telling us it was a great presentation. This is the kind of thing I learnt to do years ago before my Aikido gradings and before important sales presentations when I was selling business software.

Technical Hitches

Sunday morning we wanted to run through the presentation a couple more times but we ran into some technical hitches. Nick’s laptop had ceased to boot and so he wasn’t able to make some important edits. So we downloaded a trial version of Office 2007 (500+MB) in order to install Powerpoint 2007 on my PC, but when we ran Powerpoint we discovered that it was a crippled version that wouldn’t allow us to edit the notes or save! Damn you Microsoft! In the end we were able to edit it in an older version but we only got to practice the presentation once and that meant that we were nearly late for the presentation – oh and I left my notes printout in the office in the rush! We got there just in time to discover that they hadn’t set up the laptop to display the speakers’ notes whilst the main slideshow was projected onto the big screen. So this required a bit more technical jiggery pokery to resolve.

All of these last minute hitches that seemed to be conspiring against us and made us feel pretty nervous. I was more nervous than for my 2nd dan black belt grading in Aikido where I got attacked with a real knife for example! I guess I felt way better prepared for that, ha ha. But I did some deep breathing and walked around on stage and familiarised myself with the audience before we began, which helped.

The presentation

The presentation itself lasted exactly 35 minutes, which was the target time, and went very well. We didn’t sound too nervous, I encouraged some audience participation by getting them to name the game screenshots, and the jokes went down well. I actually made more jokes than planned because when I relaxed I imagined I was just talking to one person and so the jokes came out naturally. The presentation was jam packed with vital info and loads of people were making notes, even game designers from mainstream AAA game companies. We made sure that the presentation referenced both Casual games and mainstream games so that people could easily see the parallels. Also some of my notes just said RIFF, which meant waffle in an adlib manner about a particular game or topic. These sections added life to the presentation because they don’t sound as dry as when you read from notes.

At the end of the presentation loads of people rushed up to us and asked us questions, and one game designer from a AAA game company said it was the best presentation of the weekend (this was something specific I had visualised the night before), so that was pretty cool. Then we chilled out and had a big congratulatory lunch in Yaletown and I resumed adding sound effects to my current game.


Overall doing the presentation was fun, but it’s a LOT of work to deliver an info packed half hour presentation. It probably took us a couple of days to plan and make the slideshow (lots of screenshots) and a couple more days to make all the notes and practice it. So if you are asked to do a presentation somewhere, don’t underestimate the work involved. Also definitely try visualising a successful presentation so that you get into a positive mindset, not a worried mindset. Hopefully now if I’m asked to do another one I’ll be less nervous and better prepared.

11 Responses to “Vancouver Game Design Expo Presentation”

  1. Artyom Says:

    Hey, Jake!

    Could you share “10 Secrets … ” with your readers too 🙂 I think it would be one more interesting post in your blog.

    May be audio+slides will be available anywhere/anyday?

  2. Juuso Says:

    Nice post Jake.

  3. Grey Alien Games Says:

    @Artyom. I’m not allowed to put the slideshow online but we can send it to people who ask for it. We are preparing a locked down version for this purpose. The slide show is packed full of info but of course we gave even more by speaking at the presentation. It was also videoed so I’m keen to get hold of that. I wanted to post the 10 secrets on this blog, but I’m not allowed to; however, I’ll reword them in my own style because the knowledge already existed before I joined BFG, it’s not proprietary information.

  4. Roman Budzowski Says:

    @Jake: Congratulations on successful presentation. I know how painful it can be to create one.

  5. Roman Budzowski Says:

    You can read some of Jake’s secrets at this interview with him:

    Interview with Jake Birkett (Grey Alien), Big Fish Games Lead Programmer

  6. Artyom Says:

    Cool, will be waiting for the slides and reworded article.

    Ok, let’s read Jakes story from anawiki.

    Thanks, guys.

  7. Iain Key Says:

    Well, put me down on the list if you ever get permission to send a version of those rules.
    I’m just a huge information junkie and always on the look out for stuff on game design 😀

    Glad the presentation went well, sounds like you’re enjoying Vancouver


  8. Grey Alien Games Says:

    I’ll see what I can do…

  9. Grey Alien Games » Blog Archive » Good Press About Our Game Design Presentation Says:

    […] You can read my full blog post about the presentation here. […]

  10. Grey Alien Games » Blog Archive » How to be a confident public speaker Says:

    […] stare of a room full of programmers. A couple of months back I did a presentation at the Vancouver Game Design Expo and I did feel a bit nervous then, although I got into the swing of things after a while. So I got […]

  11. Vaclav Says:

    Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.