IGDA Finland Seminars + February Gathering with King: The Aftermath

Hello again! Time to recap the Helsinki February gathering! The atmosphere was very warm, with an impressive number of people having showed up to hear the pre-gathering seminar. We had King representatives talking about the company's new game engine Defold, as well as New Dawn and Housemarque to show us a teaser trailer of their upcoming documentary feature film, Name of the Game. While waiting for the Candy Crush Royalty to show up, we had a chance to set up a Pulla Crush of our own - King, our sponsor this month, had provided some delicious Shrove buns for the Almond team and the Jam team to battle over. ;)


The Defold Saga

Robert Käck, Mikael Säker, and Benjamin Glaser from King introduced us to King's brand new game engine, Defold. King acquired Defold, now a six-year-old company,  two years ago. So far, Defold has been used for the King title Blossom Blast Saga, and a number of indie games.

The core idea around Defold is to create a lightweight game engine that would cut down the time spent fiddling with tools, and help you spend more time actually creating awesome games. Since most of the Defold devs come from AAA backgrounds, they know the importance of performance and scale - not just that of the games, but of the tools as well. Moreover, they wanted a tool that the entire team can use, from programmers to artists.

The engine itself will be very customisable. Capable of 2D and some nice physics out of the box, at its core Defold is 3D. The main scripting language is Lua, and all the features support fast and easy workflow. When restructuring folders, for instance, the engine keeps track of references for you. You can even make changes in scripts while running the game in the editor and see them take effect immediately! This is really good news for testing small tweaks. The builds for different platforms are also very fast, thanks to Lua.

There are some limits, of course – 3D and requires a little bit more effort and tinkering, and Lua as scripting language means you basically need to go low-level to create AIs. Currently the devs are working on a new, better editor view and engine expandability.


Sharing is caring

King is releasing Defold to the open public for free. There will be no premium versions, the engine will be the same inside and outside the company. When asked why, the answer was "because we can". Openness also maintains positive pressure to keep up great quality and discourages trick solutions.

The engine is currently at invite phase, and there are invites available for IGDA people here. Defold will be officially published at around GDC this year.


Vote Finnish in IGDA elections!

Vesa Raudasoja was applauded to the stage to remind the audience of his nomination to IGDA Board of Directors. Mr. Raudasoja feels that while IGDA is the largest game developers' association in the world, it is very US-centric. Mr. Raudasoja would like to offer global perspective and unite the European game front. If you are a member of IGDA, exercise your right to vote!


Name of the Game

Last but not least, we got a teaser sample from Name of the Game. What started as a marketing video about Housemarque's still very hush-hush game project collaboration with the arcade game legend Eugene Jarvis has now turned into a full-length film production.

The New Dawn camera crew has been following the development process for 18 months now, and while Mikael Haveri, the Head of Self Publishing from Housemarque told us that at first they felt a bit shy and may have needed a beer to relax in front of the cameras, they have now become a natural part of the process. We can attest to that, having seen his butt in some epic ice swimming scenes!

The film will follow the key moments of the project, but it also dives into the lives of the devs outside the project. Release is expected after the game – still unnamed – is released, but we can't wait to see the result!

If you missed the presentation, you find the trailer and more info here.

Photos by Daniel Schildt

That's that for this time! Hope to see you in March!


Housemarque 20th Anniversary Celebration

Even though the IGDA season is over, the game industry keeps on partying. Last Wednesday Housemarque celebrated its 20th anniversary, where more than 400 game developers and their friends gathered to congratulate one of the oldest game companies in Finland!


Housemarque prepared surprises for their guests: Consoles and PCs with studio's games were available for all guests, the various dishes offered were named after studio’s games. The CEO, Ilari Kuittinen welcomed everyone to the anniversary and started a party by showing recap videos of Housemarque games and company history (including the very special, previously unseen ones!). Finnish attendees were excited about the epic appearance of Apulanta (a Finnish rock band which was popular some years ago, as my Finnish friends told me). Marioke was the last surprise Housemarque prepared for the guests: Karaoke as usual, except that all the lyrics had been changed to game-related texts, for example "You are simply Tempest" or "Monkey Target".


If you didn’t get a chance to visit the celebration, you can check out photos and videos in various social media with the hashtag #hmq20. Also, here is a link to Facebook albums from the event: https://www.facebook.com/Housemarque/photos

Thanks Housemarque for a great evening!

Photos by Sami Välikangas.

How our new Industry Partner AWS can help Finnish game studios to grow?

IGDA Finland has recently got fabulous new Studio Affiliates like Frogmind, Kuuasema and Housemarque. Also Amazon Web Services, G-Cluster and Lexia have joined as Industry Partners. Welcome! Amazon Web Services (AWS) has witnessed several game industry success stories. That's why we decided to have a chat with the AWS guys to learn what type of business growth tips they can give to Finnish game studios.

When it comes to cloud computing, there's no bigger name than Amazon Web Services (AWS). Most likely every relevant Facebook and mobile game developer knows and uses / has used AWS. How big AWS actually is?

AWS: We have hundreds of thousands of customers in over 190 countries and among those customers we have a significant number of gaming customers leveraging AWS. Customers like Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, Supercell and Sega all take advantage of the flexibility and scalability of AWS technology. For game developers AWS offers a comprehensive set of development tools and services that make it faster and easier for developers to build, deploy, distribute, scale, analyze, and monetize successful games.

Why you decided to become an IGDA Finland's Industry Partner?

AWS: We want to support the Finnish game developer community to help them become more successful in their game development efforts. Leveraging AWS services has helped companies like Supercell, Rovio, and Grand Cru to focus on game development instead of setting up and managing the infrastructure.

More concretely, how can AWS help Finnish game development studios to grow? AWS: Game development is part science and part art. Developers strive to deliver compelling entertaining experiences for users but never really know how successful their game will be until they actually launch it. A big question that a game developer must address is how to prepare for game success or even failure? For a Social Game the number of players can be unpredictable; for some games the number increases rapidly and then drops again. To cope with the rapid growth anticipated with their most popular games Monster World, Diamond Dash and Bubble Island, Wooga turned to Amazon Web Services. With AWS Wooga (link to the case study) could scale easily to meet their peak demands. On the flip side, when the peak was met and the game dropped back to a steady state they were able to scale back the number of servers they were using just as easily and all without the headache of acquiring and managing their own physical infrastructure.

Amazon focuses on five things:

1) Pricing - always looking for ways to drive down costs for customers. When Sega’s Online Operation team was looking for a new home for their public websites, AWS was the obvious answer. Once migration on to AWS was complete, Sega noted a cost reduction in server costs of 50%.

2) Flexibility – Game developers are innovators. They are always looking for new ways to bring compelling entertainment in the form of games to users and as such need the flexibility to stitch together infrastructure as they see fit. Sony’s Naughty Dog Game Studio (link to the case study), maker of the popular Uncharted Series, looked to AWS to support them with Uncharted 3’s online multiplayer features and noted that the ability to have low level access to AWS’ powerful services meant that they are never in a position where there is something they can’t do.

3) Rapid Provisioning – With AWS Auto Scaling game developers know that they can programmatically increase the number of servers they use to meet user demand. This means that they can provision only as much as they need to get started and as the game grows in popularity they can scale to meet demand. In addition, they can scale back down when the demand decreases to a steady state.

4) Focus on the game – AWS enables game developers to focus on what they love, building great games, while AWS handles the undifferentiated heavy lifting of core infrastructure.

5) Rapid Growth and Scale – game developers can be confident that there are always resources available to support the rapid growth when a game becomes a hit. Take for example the Finnish-based game developer, Supercell, that successfully launched Hay Day and Clash of Clans in 2012. Since then Supercell's player base has reached over 8.5 million daily players and to manage their infrastructure they use AWS. The AWS services are important for Supercell to manage the rapid growth of their server usage and keep their players happy.

Amazon has done lots of case studies, including many Finnish game industry super stars: take a look at the Amazon case studies to learn more. Just to highlight some, check out Rovio and Supercell case study.

Join IGDA Finland November 12th Gathering to meet with Amazon guys in person.

Uutiskirje 06/2011: Housemarquen Dead Nation osa Sonyn Welcome Back -kampanjaa

Sonyn luottokumppaniksi asemansa vakiinnuttanut Housemarque on nostettu varsin merkittävään seuraan. Housemarquen Dead Nation on yksi niistä viidestä pelistä, joilla Sony hyvittää asiakkailleen 77 miljoonaa käyttäjätiliä koskettaneen tietomurron ja siitä johtuneen verkkopalvelujen katkeamisen.

Dead Nationin lisäksi Welcome Back -kampanja tarjoaa Sonyn omia, suurten studioiden voimin kehitettyjä lippulaivatuotteita: LittleBigPlanet, Infamous, Wipeout HD/Fury ja Ratchet and Clank: Quest for Booty. Dead Nation on tämän joukon uusin peli, mikä varmasti lisää sen houkuttelevuutta. Saksassa pelaajat saavat zombimättö Dead Nationin tilalla Super Stardust HD:n – oletettavasti paikallisen lainsäädännön vuoksi. Muut hyvitystuotteet ovat ilmaisia premium-palveluja.

Tililleen palaavat käyttäjät saavat valita kaksi peliä mainitusta viiden pelin joukosta. Vaikka vain osa käyttäjistä päätyisi valitsemaan Dead Nationin tai Super Stardust HD:n, kyse on silti potentiaalisesti miljoonista peleistä ja uusista pelaajista. Se on konsolimarkkinoilla aikamoinen saavutus, vaikka kyse onkin melko poikkeuksellisesta tilanteesta. Sonyn ja hyvityspelit tehneiden studioiden välisiä sopimuksia ei varmasti julkisesti kommentoida, mutta kyse on todella suurista latausmääristä. Miljoonien uusien käyttäjien tietoisuuteen kohoamisen merkitystä ei pidä aliarvioida – kysykää vaikka Roviolta.

Miten asian näkee Housemarquen toimitusjohtaja Ilari Kuittinen?

Mitä mieltä olet Dead Nationin ja Super Stardust HD:n kuulumisesta Welcome Back -kampanjaan?

Kun Sony kysyi halukkuuttamme tarjota pelit osaksi Welcome Back -kampanjaa, ei meidän tarvinnut kauaa miettiä suostumustamme. Omalta osaltamme toivomme, että yhä useampi Playstation®3-käyttäjä löytää PSN-pelit ja että sitä kautta hienot pelit, meidän tuotteemme mukaan luettuina, saisivat ansaitsemansa isomman yleisön.

Kuinka paljon Dead Nationilla oli aktiivipelaajia ennen PSN-katkosta, ja millaista lisäystä odotetaan?

Dead Nationilla oli yli 160 000 pelaajaa pelannut tuloksensa maailmanlaajuiselle yksinpelilistalle, ja verkkoyhteispeliäkin oli pelannut yli 60 000 PSN-tunnukset omaavaa käyttäjää. On tosin aivan mahdotonta arvioida lisäpelaajien määrää, koska tarjolla on monia muitakin hienoja pelejä. Olisi tietenkin hienoa, jos nuo luvut ainakin kaksinkertaistuisivat nykyisistä.

Vaikuttaako katkos mielestäsi muuten kuluttajien luottamukseen digitaalista jakelua kohtaan?

Uskoisin, että tapahtuneella on kahdenlaista vaikutusta, jotka saattavat kumota toisensa. Osa varmasti tulee olemaan erittäin epäluuloinen digitaalista ostamista kohtaan, mutta toisaalta Welcome Back -kampanja varmasti tuo ladattavien pelien pariin aivan uutta yleisöä, joka ei ole ennen kokeillut PSN-pelejä.

Koetun katkon kaltaiset tilanteet vaikuttavat eniten juuri itsenäisiin pelinkehittäjiin. Voiko tilanteisiin mitenkään varautua?

PSN on vain yksi monista mahdollisista kanavista, joihin pelikehittäjä voi pelinsä julkaista. Yksi tapa minimoida tällaisten palvelukatkosten vaikutusta on tehdä julkaisu moneen eri kanavaan. Meidän on tarkoitus tuoda ensimmäinen ”omakustanne” iOS-kauppapaikkaan ja menestyksen niin salliessa tuoda pelimme sitten muille alustalaitteille ja muihin sovelluskauppoihin.

Tuomo Karvonen