External Development Summit to showcase Vancouver's video game talent

Vancouver gamers hoping for an inside look at the gaming industry may have to hit the pause button if they show up at the city’s second annual External Development Summit (XDS).

California's Animation Vertigo uses artists in the Philippines to provide motion capture work for video games.

Vancouver gamers hoping for an inside look at the gaming industry may have to hit the pause button if they show up at the city’s second annual External Development Summit (XDS).

Part of its uniqueness compared with mega-events like the most recent Game Developers Conference in San Francisco is that XDS is a professionals-only affair, according to organizer Chris Wren. He expects up to 500 industry insiders to descend upon the Vancouver Convention Centre from September 10-12.

“We’re the only annual games industry event that runs in Vancouver,” added Wren, who serves as chairman of the XDS advisory committee.

“I personally find that both disturbing and significant because Vancouver is such a hotbed of game development today.”

He said gaming conferences are a pretty crowded field, but XDS is the only one in the world focusing specifically on external development — the practice of distributing production across multiple studios.

Marla Rausch, CEO of southern California's Animation Vertigo, has helped develop titles like Call of Duty: Black Ops and works with motion capture artists based in the Philippines.

She’s heading to Vancouver again for XDS after attending the inaugural year.

“It’s nice to go see new companies come in, to be able to share their ideas, to share their best practices, their experiences,” she said.

This means everything from discovering what new software is out there to how to communicate effectively between studios planted on other sides of the globe.

“But at the end of the day, what we’re trying to see is how we can really make this work for everyone to get to where it’s a professional environment (that) people can count on,” she said.

As such, XDS is opening its doors to more than just video game developers.

Companies offering services to the video game industry will also be there to offer solutions to developers.

Anja Haman, chief operating officer of Vancouver’s Work At Play, said service-based companies like hers have become more significant as the industry goes through fundamental changes.

For instance, Work At Play has developed apps that keep players immersed in the games even when they step away from the console.

This could be anything from a mobile app that breaks down player statistics to a game-within-a-game app that furthers a player’s status in the main console game.

“No one company can be an expert at everything and what we provide in terms of expertise is needed by multiple different companies. But they need to know that we’re there,” Haman said.

“(XDS) allows us to (gather) in one place in our backyard to tell all of our clients what we do. And us, we also get to see what everybody else is doing.”

torton@biv.com

@reporton