IGDA Finland Turku Hub Gathering in May

May 12 was Turku Game day, and IGDA Turku Hub organized a full specced evening program at Sparkup, with talks by several prominent game industry people. Read more about how to make money when everything is free, what Rival Games learned from their game series The Detail, how NordicEdu designs the future of serious games and what Appstar are up to. Read all the way to the end, and get some good advice from IGDA volunteer of the year.

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Lovell’s Curve

Nicholas Lovell, an investment banker, author and consultant, held a thought-provoking talk about his theory on ”how to make money when everything is going free”. Lovell claimed that F2P is not actually a business model it is a marketing tool. By offering the product for free first, you reach an audience, but after that you have to “earn your right” to talk to the customer again.

The Curve refers to the amount that a person, a customer, is willing to pay. The idea was inconceivable before the Internet. The web has enabled one-to-one communication, but also increased the amount of products that are given away for free. How do we keep paying our bills when the competition gives away their stuff for free?

We can let people choose how much they spend – this is a marketing opportunity. Some of the audience will pay even if most will not. Lovell’s Curve can be broken down into three steps: 1. Find an audience 2. Earn the right to talk to them again 3. Enable superfans.

His advice is that we as game developers and creators need to keep our customers in “our ecosystem”. You offer the customers the chance to pay what they want (and including some ridiculously over-priced items, tiers or pledges, makes the cheaper ones look like a bargain). Also enabling people to participate in the journey of the game has turned out to be a successful strategy. Lovell mentioned Tim Schafer’s Kickstarter as an example. One-third of the pledgers did not even play the finished game – they backed the project for the creator’s journey.

So, how can you enable the people who love what you do? Let superfans spend money on something they value, let them “level up” as supporters. Lovell also pointed out that people in the digital era spend money on content that gives them status and emotions. The point is not to extract money from people. This is something that stops working after a time, according to Lovell. Delivering human joy is what works.

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A Detailed Post-Mortem

Rival Games and Jukka Laakso held a presentation about their third and last episode of The Detail. For those of the readers who do not yet know about Rival Games, they are currently the biggest Turku game company, with 17 employees. They focus on interactive narratives and storytelling. The core game loop focuses on choices, particularly on the gray areas of our moral compass. These choices make the player emotionally attached to the characters in the game. Interestingly it is the smaller choices that really bring the characters alive. The Detail is a game series that is about how people experience stories differently.

The third episode of The Detail – Devil in the Details was recently released on Steam. Laakso gave the audience a post-mortem highlighting first the good, then the bad.

The writers did a good job, the visual style was unique and appealing, audio was successful, coders made things seem as they should. Communication within the team has improved.

The list of bad things was slightly longer, or more detailed. The team expected more money from revenue, and Laakso gave us the advice to plan the budget so that it lasts for the whole game. Because of the lack of money, deadlines and delivery failed. There was too much time between episodes, and sales were bad because of it. The team had to cut the last two episodes, and a lot of the plot was cut short. The core team changed a lot. Design was neglected, and so was gameplay. There was no iteration just execution. The art style was inconsistent because of the change of artists. There were bugs and there was not enough time left for testing. Many of the problems had their origin at management level. But all you can do is learn from it and move on.

Currently Rival Games has a partnership with a comics print, and the budget problems are solved.

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Serious forest games

The following presentation was by NordicEdu CEO Tomi Kokkonen. NordicEdu has been making games for five years, and already have an excellent track record of serious games. They currently employ seven people and reside in the Manilla building in Turku.

NordicEdu’s goal is to become the best serious game company in Finland, and globally. They offer expertise to different organizations. They have three types of customers: other companies that want to implement a game idea; unions, federations or public organizations that need partners to develop a game; organizations that commission advertisement games.

People learn best when they are motivated. There are different approaches to serious games, and some projects are more about gamification or gameful design. Kokkonen lists types of serious games: teaching games, simulations, meaningful games and purposeful games. NordicEdu’s current project MobiMetsä is for UPM and the Scouts. It is a game about teaching the sustainable use of the Finnish forest. The players need to, for example, take photos of real trees in the game.

Kokkonen also gave us an introduction on how NordicEdu does their projects. They start with a workshop day and they create a user experience journey. Focus group opinions are crucial in developing good serious games. Making graphics and coding is almost trivial compared to the much more demanding process of getting to know the core audience.

NordicEdu also showed us an interesting way to garner comments from testers: short video blogs by the testers that are sent through Whatsapp. It is hard to get people to write, and when they talk freely they give away much more information.

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Tapping into a fashionable audience

Appstar’s current game is focusing on the dress up genre with a more casual (but fashionable) twist. Olesja Parkkali introduced the small start-up that is about to grow. They have gained success with their beta version of World of Fashion and are developing the game further.

According to studies, women and girls spend more money and time on mobile games than men. Still this customer group is underserved. Appstar has been able to engage female players ages 13-20. The game itself is about collecting celebrities and doing global challenges. The players comment and like styles.

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The Turku Game Day evening ended with a short presentation by an IGDA volunteer from Helsinki: Jenni. Her most valuable hints were to 1) volunteer 2) get a spot at the door to the gatherings, that way you meet everyone.

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Our demo corner got many people interested in testing the new games.

IGDA is all about networking and an inclusive community, and making work as a game developer fun.

Text: Jenny Wiik

Photos: Oskari Tamminen and Toni Heinonen

IGDA Finland Turku Hub May Gathering Demo Corner

We are organizing demo corner at the Turku Hub May gathering. The demo corner is a place for developers to show their games and get some feedback. The space is intended for everyone: from teams continuing something they started at game jams to commercial studios. Space is limited to ten spots. People demoing will get a table and power outlet. If you have special needs please mention them in the form.

Demo corner is free and open for all. Collected information will be used for event organization only.

NOTE: Provide your own laptops, phones, tablets or other devices your game needs to run. If you need to plug more than one device to a power outlet, require a lot of space or need anything else we might have not thought about, let us know here. (Mobile devs might want to bring their own chargers.)

Sign up here!

IGDA Finland April Demo Corner Sign-up

We're organizing another demo corner at the April gathering. The demo corner is place for developers to show their games and get some feedback. The space is intended for everyone: from teams continuing something they started at game jams to commercial studios. Space is limited to eight spots. People demoing will get a table and power outlet. If you have special needs please mention them in the form.

Demo corner is free and open for all. Collected information will be used for event organization only.

NOTE: Provide your own laptops, phones, tablets or other devices your game needs to run. (Mobile devs might want to bring their own chargers.)

Sign up here!

IGDA Finland seminars + January Gathering with Metropolia: The Aftermath

Happy New Year, folks! Time for the recap of the year’s first gathering, sponsored by Metropolia. Held in Maxine for the second time, the event was kicked off with a seminar on storytelling. A respectable number of people had braved the weather and knee-deep snow to tap into the knowledge of Mika JD Sorvari of Rival Games and Adam Mayes, Game Designer and subject responsible for the Uppsala University Game Design programme in Visby. The Devil in The Detail

Mr. Sorvari talked about the practical side of publishing their neo-noir crime adventure The Detail. The team’s goal was to create a five-episode season, and they decided to focus on the story instead of gameplay and puzzles. Their format, inspired by Telltale games and Dontnod’s Life is Strange, hasn’t really been overdone in the market, so they wanted to join the race and even do better! The game has been quite successful with 80/100 average rating on Steam, selling over 100,000 copies.

The presentation provided delightful insight into a game writer’s job and some of the choices they face when writing a modular story. Mr. Sorvari described to us several ways to structure such writing, from the relatively simple “String of pearls”, where storylines come together every so often in the same place, through the “Diverging Paths”, which can be more fun for the player with its multiple independent story streaks, to the “Full Octopus”, which appeared to be a mix of both. Some choices may skip some parts of the plot entirely, for instance, but there would still be an abundance of possible outcomes. All structures need to balance meaningful choices with available resources.

Mr. Sorvari emphasised the importance of “mid-level choices”. Often you may be faced with the fact that your choices are often either completely trivial or absolutely life and death. Giving the player choices from the middle ground can be very satisfying, especially if they lead to concrete outcomes – possibly even later in the game.

For keeping all of this together, Mr. Sorvari introduced us briefly to his most important tool, articy:draft. It’s a professional game design software, especially powerful in organising modular writing. Beat the dead horse until it stops spitting out money, or, You’re doing stories wrong Mr. Mayes took us on a (at times absolutely hilarious) whirlwind tour of good storytelling principles. He started with “cussing out lazy, feckless narratives and the people who buy them” (his words, not ours!). But there was more to it. According to Mr. Mayes, since we have this massive new storytelling media with millions of consumers, we should make something other than Michael Bay movies with it. So how? Taking storytelling apart, we have the narrative: a simple telling of events. ”The floating hands and gun flew into a room. The floating hands and gun killed some people.”

A plot then, is a sequence of events with a causal link. “The king died, and then the queen died of grief.” And then, of course, you have your characters. Mr. Mayes showed us a quote from Matt Burnett, the creator of the Steven Universe cartoon; he was asked whether his show was a character driven or a plot driven story or a bit of both. His answer: “Character driven. Plot means nothing without characters.” Alright, so what makes a good character? In short, Desire, and goals. What do they want? Why do they want it? Plot can’t be isolated from characters, because they are the ones creating the causal links that make up the plot! And if you link your player’s goals with your character’s goals, you’ll not only be telling a story through an interactive medium, but you actually engage the player and make them drive their own interactive story.

It doesn’t even need to be tedious. The adorable Steven Universe video (available in the slides) showed us that you can introduce characters and their motivation, lay down the backstory and push them towards the future in only a few minutes if you’re clever about it.

So what’s the problem? Why aren’t we already doing this? According to Mr. Mayes, the industry consensus seems to be that an interesting lead would make it harder for people to relate to the protagonist. Or that the players need to be able to see themselves as the protagonist, which clearly, as you can see, is usually the case.

Sure, the protagonist might be a supersoldier. And a cyborg. You’re also assassins. From the future. But it’s a blank character, immediately relatable to anyone!

And here came perhaps the most poignant words of the evening: since games are an interactive medium that can be the complex bearers of ideas, designers should not only be capable as designers. They should also be competent and responsible authors, who can express meaningfully through interactive systems.

One thing that games are brilliant at, according to Mr. Mayes, is character development: levelling up, getting more powers, getting more powerful equipment and so on. If you tie this mechanic to the player’s progression in the story, you let the player truly play through the story and not just sit back and watch the it unfold. All in all, these two very inspiring and educating presentations launched an excellent evening with many excited groups of people teaming up to discuss the themes among themselves and the speakers.

 

  • Mr. Mayes’ presentation slides are available here!

 

Demo Corner Report

This month’s demo corner hosted games made by students and affiliates of Metropolia. By the time I got there, there were still six games to try out! Ilkka Räsänen from Mubik Entertainment was there to show off their company’s and Metropolia students’ collaboration, a musical snake game based on Mubik’s original musical quiz game. The goal of the game is to keep the snake alive by tapping on buttons, keeping to the rhythm of the song playing in the background. The company also make pure learning games with similar mechanics to be used in teaching children and treatment of memory patients. The game will be out for Android in February. Panu Siitonen, who currently works at the Metropolia Game studio, presented a 2D flying game called Al’s New Wings. Al is an albatross who has lost his wings, so he’s learned to fly a helicopter and found himself a new career saving people, animals, crates and ships that are in trouble at sea. Adorable! The game isn’t out yet, but iOS and Android releases are planned.

Trash Diver started out as a school project in Metropolia. It’s a post-apocalyptic underwater platformer inspired by the alarming trash situation of the Pacific Ocean. In a world where sea levels have risen critically, most resources are now trash in the bottom of the sea. The game features some puzzles and enemies, and the goal is to get resources to the surface. The demo version has three levels and is available on Playfield and IndieDB. Vulpine Games had brought their social space game, Last Planets. It’s a tactical mobile MMO in the spirit of Clash of Clans, set in space. Every player has their own planet, and you can team up with your friends. Rashad Hasanzade told us that they really aim to make it fun to play with friends, and that the social aspect comes first. There is an evil AI power called B.O.TS.  you’re meant to stop from invading the galaxy destroying your home planet. The game looks really colourful and delicious and will be released for iOS.

Next up was Taphold Games with two games. Lead designer Konsta Kesälä told us about the Metropolia game design project their company formed around, the as of yet unreleased Buglantic Football. Refreshingly, the game is in fact a two-player hotseat game for mobile platforms! The idea is to bring people together over mobile devices, in the manner of board games. The teams move on a hex grid and attempt to score goals kicking around a wilful little bug who also moves if it has the space to do so. I was pleasantly reminded of old Heroes of Might and Magic mechanics, but the game requires some chess-like tactical thinking as well.  The game will be published later for iOS, Android and PC, but the company is currently focusing on their recently published mobile puzzle game, SumTowerElias Rantanen was there to introduce us to SumTower. The game has some match-three qualities, but the guys at Taphold wanted to do something different. In a 6x4 grid, you start with a screen full of blocks. Removing blocks makes the blocks fall down and similar colours combine, but as an extra twist, the blocks have numbers on them! When the blocks combine, the numbers on them are summed together. The game combines the incredibly addictive features of Candy Crush and 2048 while being quite original. I was instantly hooked! SumTower is available on Android, iOS release is pending.

What a fantastic gathering once again!  See you all in February!

 

 

Photos by Daniel Schildt

IGDA Finland Seminars + December Gathering with InMobi: The Aftermath

This year was wrapped up in our December gathering last week. Not only did we have traditional Christmas caps for everyone, provided by our sponsor InMobi, but a seminar to kick off the evening and a demo corner featuring local devs as well. What a night! The first presentation was by Jami Laes, CEO and co-founder of Futureplay Games. Instead of the traditional free-to-play monetization model with IAP, his company has opted for a different approach: view-to-play. Laes showed us why video ads are a more profitable option – with few companies using this opportunity right now.

Continuing the theme, Mitchell Smallman from Next Games gave us some insight as to why ads have monetized remarkably well with Compass Point West. He listed some key points they had learned from other successful games on the market as well as the things they had done differently.

Seminar slides available for download here:

After the seminar it was time to gear up for the party. The revival of demo corner was a huge success, with eleven teams and developers showing off their games to peers.

Thank you for another great gathering – happy holidays and see you in January!

Photos by Daniel Schildt.

Re-introducing Demo Corner in IGDA Finland Gatherings

With new locations come new possibilities: as the gatherings are moving to Maxine, we thought this is a good time to bring the demo corner back. It has been way too long since they have been organized, and as the IGDA Finland community is all about sharing what better way to foster that ideal than showcase the talent in that community. The demo corner is a place for developers to show off their games and get some feedback. We're aiming for this area to be a space for everyone: from people working on commercial AAA games to enthusiasts making indie projects in their spare time. So don't worry about your studio being too famous or your personal project being too insignificant – we want everyone to have a chance at giving and getting feedback and sharing ideas.

If you have a game you're working on that you want to share with fellow devs, head to December Demo Corner sign-up page right away!