The vogue for local game development conferences has now reached Italy, with November 22nd set as the date for the first ever Italian Videogame Developers Conference (IVDC).
Backed by AIOMI, the Italian Association of Interactive Multimedia Works, the conference will feature Italian speakers from key home studios, as well as others who've gone to work abroad at studios like Crytek, Ready At Dawn and Infinity Ward.
We caught up with two men steering the conference forward, Marco Accordi Rickards and Raoul Carbone, to hear why they're determined to put Italian development on the conference map.
Why should we be excited about the Italian Videogames Development Conference?
Raoul Carbone: For the first time ever, the Italian game development industry - including all its main teams - will be meeting in a single national congress. That's very important, because the sector is expanding more and more in Italy, but it's not yet fully conscience of itself. The IVDC will be a unique moment during the year when all these companies can meet and talk to each other, a chance to let the world know that Italy is a place where quality games are made, and to show investors that videogames can be a very interesting business.
What would you say are the main challenges and opportunities facing games developers at the moment, and how will you look to address those at the event?
Raoul Carbone: In my opinion, the first and foremost problem for the Italian videogame industry is the lack of communication in the field. The challenge is to make everyone appreciate the potential of videogames as a medium of cultural and artistic expression, and as industrial products that are able to create a rich economy and career opportunities for many people.
On the other hand, there are also many opportunities, because the field is expanding. With the IVDC, we want to create an official meeting point, where all the Italian game developers will successfully communicate with investors and institutions.
How many sessions will you have in total, and how are they arranged?
Marco Accordi Rickards: The IVDC will be divided into three main parts. During the first part, we'll have technical speeches made by developers to developers, and useful advice from existing games developers to young people eager to enter the field. The second part of the conference will be dedicated to the main Italian development studios. It will start with a keynote by Andrea Pessino, founder of Ready at Dawn.
The third part of the IVDC will be a public debate about videogame development in Italy, where speakers will answer questions from the chairman, the media and the audience. Some key figures will take part to this debate - people like Luisa Bixio, CEO of Leader, one of the main Italian videogame distributors, and Thalita MalagÚ, general secretary of AESVI, the Italian videogame publishers association. The full programme is available here.
How many attendees do you expect?
Marco Accordi Rickards: We already have more than 200 professionals due to attend the conference, not counting journalists. Moreover, the IVDC will be held in Milan, during the Ludica/Ludic@rena fair, a games and videogames festival that is expecting more than 30,000 visitors.
What three sessions or speakers are you personally most excited about?
Marco Accordi Rickards: This is a very difficult question, because I personally think that all the speeches will be very interesting and important, for different reasons. If I had to choose three, I guess that I'm really looking forward to Andrea Pessino's keynote, because he's first of all an extraordinary man, and a real international success, and also to the speeches by Antonio Farina and Riccardo Cangini, two of the pioneers of the Italian game development.
I'm also looking forward with great interest to the final debate, where publishers and distributors will face each other and games developers in front of the press and the public. Honestly, I think it will be a unique occasion.
How many games development studios would you estimate are operating in Italy at the moment? And how many people in total are employed?
Raoul Carbone: The Italian videogame industry is still in its beginnings: at the moment, we can count about ten software houses, among which only some are professionally structured and able to bring internationally competitive products to the market.
About 300 professionals are employed in the field, but it must be remembered that many Italian programmers and game designers went abroad to work in places where the videogame industry is more developed than in our own country. We really hope that in the not too distant future, with the expansion of the market, companies and staff numbers will grow more here in Italy.
Who are the standout Italian studios who are already setting the pace in the territory at the moment, and why?
Raoul Carbone: Milestone is the most developed software house at the moment, but we can also speak proudly about Artematica, Ubisoft Milano, Raylight, Twelve, SpinVector, and the small independent studios like Idoru, 7Sense, Virtual Identity and others that are entering the market. Not to mention my own company, Black Sheep Studios, which will be announcing a new game at the IVDC!
Do you think your local game development industry faces any particular issues?
Marco Accordi Rickards: Yes, there's a very important are that all the main development teams in Italy are finding problematic: recruitment. It's very difficult, here in Italy, to find young people qualified and ready to work in the field, and that's the reason why companies like Milestone, Artematica, Twelve and Black Sheep Studios will take advantage from the IVDC in order to find and recruit new employees. Milestone, in particular, will have a dedicated recruitment area, running all day, where they will meet young programmers, game designers and artists to recruit.
Moreover, AIOMI, the association behind the IVDC, will provide a 'DEV BOX' in order to collect young developers' CVs and demos. At the end of the conference, these documents will be sent to all the software houses that took part in the event. We think that it can be a serious way to help young people who wish to work in the field, and to help the companies searching for new talent.
Are Italian studios producing much localized content, or is it more competing on a global stage for the usual triple-A game budgets from the big publishers?
Raoul Carbone: Italian videogames are suffering from a lack of investment when confronted with the big production demands of the international majors, who are setting more and more difficult standards to cope with. Private investors and institutions here in Italy have not understood the real economic potential of videogames yet, but we are sure that it will happen very soon, so that the Italian software houses can better create products capable of competing on a global scale.
To follow that up, how do you think Italian development is perceived by the big international developers. What more needs to be done?
Marco Accordi Rickards: The 'Made in Italy' badge is always perceived as something creative, high quality and very cool. (Just think about fashion, for example.) I think videogames can also become something great, in Italy - the ideas and talent is already here, we just need more investment. But fortunately, that is arriving, too.
What are your all-time favourite Italian developed games, and why? And what Italian games in development have the most potential?
Raoul Carbone: I'm very fond of Antonio Farina's Screamer series (Milestone), because, in my opinion, it launched Italy onto the international game development stage. I think that, at the moment, the latest products from Milestone are the ones with the best potential, because of their quality and the technologies they are implementing.
Marco Accordi Rickards: I'm Italian, so I can't help choosing Simulmondo's I Play 3D Soccer, the first real 3D soccer game in history. As far as the new games that are being developed, I'm very fond of comics and adventures, so I will choose Artematica's Julia, a beautiful noir adventure based on a well-known Italian comic, whose main character is an intelligent and fascinating female criminologist.
To see the full programme for IVDC 08, head over to the conference website.