Conference draws Triangle game companies

Apr. 24, 2014 @ 09:41 PM

From a three-person team behind development of a new mobile game to a California-based business with multiple titles under its development belt, Triangle game companies gathered in Raleigh on Thursday for the last day of a two-day conference.

The East Coast Game Conference was expected to draw more than 1,300 people to the Raleigh Convention Center. It included game development students who wanted to get critiques on their portfolios and representatives as well as established companies.
“This is our own back yard; we want to be visible in this area and we also want to help out students,” said Tim Salvitti, a web developer for Insomniac Games. The Burbank, Calif.,-based company has a Durham office on N.C. 751 that employs about 40 people.
The company has a full development team in Durham with employees who work on game audio features, animation, development and art, he said. In November, they released “Ratchet and Clank: Into the Nexus,” he said, which is the third game in a series of three PlayStation 3 games.
Salvitti said the company came to the conference to critique portfolios for students, and also for recruiting. They’ve mostly found employees to work in quality assurance, or testing, he said. It’s not just about playing video games -- the testers have to have an eye for detail, and be able to make sure the problem is addressed and fixed.
“This area is more of a hub than it’s ever been,” he said, for game development. According to conference staff, there are now about 40 game companies in the Triangle. Salvitti said there are larger companies and small operations, adding that some staff left to form their own mobile game development company.
“I don’t want to say it’s (bursting), but it’s definitely a stable market in game development,” he said.
The conference also included leaders from Durham-based Relevant Games and the three-person game development company Hazard Studios. The companies just released a new game called “Scrap Squad” for Android and iOS devices. In the game, the player is an evil genius who’s destroying the world using garbage.
Zach Abrams, executive director of Hazard, said he pitched the idea for the game and also worked on its development for Relevant, which was the game’s publisher. Relevant, a partnership between the E.W. Scripps Co. and Raleigh-based Capitol Broadcasting, is focused on developing games that are entertaining and also are informative about real-world topics, according to a news release.
“It’s blowing up,” Abrams said of mobile games. He said while there are studios working on involved immersive games, he also said there’s a new market for mobile games that offer simpler, arcade-like entertainment.
Another company with a Durham presence at the conference on Thursday was Funcom. The Norway-based company has about 20 to 25 employees in an office in Sutton Station off Fayetteville Road near The Streets at Southpoint. Funcom’s Laurie Payne said the office is working on developing new content for the company’s multi-player online game “The Secret World.”
She said the company had a presence at the conference to stay in touch with the industry and to keep up with other companies that are developing.
“If you want to get into game development, this is your place,” said David Crook, a “technical evangelist” for Microsoft. The company has an office off Page Road in Durham that works on tools for developers. Crook said he offers promotions to start-ups and also works with developers to help them with software or games that run on the Microsoft Windows operating system.