Kajaani aiming for the stars with E-Sports!

It's gathering day 28th of March and Rock House Kulma is full of enthusiastic game industry veterans and students.

Kajaani is aiming to become the E-sports capital of Finland.
We are already famous for Critical Ops published by Critical Force Entertainment and a brand new Critical Force Academy starting next summer.
But it´s not all. Kajaani University of Applied Sciences in collaboration with Vuokatti
Ruka Sports Academy, is arranging the NORDIC eSports Academy Bootcamp
during the summer 2017.

We had a pleasure to have Touko Möttönen, former Kajaani University student and
Niklas Pehkonen to tell us more of this magnificent opportunity in our IGDA March
Gathering. Unfortunately our supposed guest Noel McAvennie couldn’t make it to the
event, but we took care of extra drinks for him.

Touko enlightened us about upcoming bootcamp.

Touko enlightened us about upcoming bootcamp.

The Nordic eSports Academy is a new Finnish summer school and tournament,
which takes place in Kajaani from 12.6 to 6.7 and culminates in 3-day CS GO
tournament in Vuokatti at the end (7.7 – 9.7). The bootcamp includes a series of
lectures, workshops and coaching sessions on a full time basis at KAMK for 80 to
100 students. The total prize pool for the tournament is 10,000€ and we’ll be bringing
approximately 10 to 12 of the best of the bootcamp teams together with a selected 8
to 10 guest teams. We’re hoping to bring some international teams as well as some
top Finnish teams to create something special. The camp is targeted especially for
amateur players, who aim to become professionals.

The bootcamp will be broken down into 5 modules: Business coaching, Physical
coaching, Mental coaching, Gameplay coaching and Testing. The Testing feature is
a new system developed by KAMK that measures a range of performance indicators
for each gamer while playing in a team. The end result will be a radar chart, much
the same as other athletes in traditional sports have to monitor ongoing performance
changes. This Testing system will be developed and exported with the idea that it will
become an industry standard so this is an opportunity for bootcamp teams to be
involved right at the start.

The various lectures, workshops and hands-on coaching classes will be undertaken
by a mix of local experts and international “gurus”. Ville “CISU” Leppälä, the former
Counter Strike player will do the coaching, while Mia Stellberg, a psychologist of
CS:GO team Astralis will handle the opening week lectures.

This is only the beginning of a new surge in local support for eSports, with major
plans afoot to develop eSports as an official sporting discipline that will be coached
at the Vuokatti Ruka Sports Academy, so we expect to see significant national
interest in what we’re doing as we launch the first bootcamp and tournament this
summer.

Samuli and Pauliina, after a hard evening of an IGDA Gathering

Samuli and Pauliina, after a hard evening of an IGDA Gathering

Written by:
Pauliina Lammi
IGDA Finland Kajaani Hub volunteer
 

Northern Game Summit 1.-2.10.

This week we’ll see the return of Northern Game Summit, which is held now for the 4th time already. The action takes place in Bio Rex, Kajaani, on 1.-2.10. – only two days from now! The event will feature speakers from Finland and around the world, representing designers, producers, programmers, artists and more. Some of the speakers, like Colossal Order’s Karoliina Korppoo and Housemarque’s Ilari Kuittinen, definitely need no further introductions, but the foreign talent is not to be dismissed either: Hunter Grant (US) is an industry veteran currently working as Lead Cinematics Animator at Blizzard, Marek Rosa (CZ) and his team at Keen Software House are responsible for the hit sandbox game Space Engineers – and this is just the start of the impressive speaker list.

Besides talks, there will be partying, mingling and a game showcase on Thursday evening: the party, titled Bonus Stage, is hosted by Fingersoft and there will be an opportunity for companies and local students to show their games and meet other people in the industry.

Friday will be concluded in a panel discussion, “Everything there is to come”. The panel is hosted by Ste Curran and the panelists are Antti Seppänen, Mehdi Benkirane, Luke Savage and Tuija Lindén.

What makes this year’s event special is the NGS Mixer on Wednesday which is a chance for people in the games and film industries to get together and find opportunities for co-operation. The makers of Rendel, a Finnish action film to be released next year, will be attending. They will also take part in a panel discussion, “Games & Movies, Brothers & Sisters”, which is hosted by Kimmo Kari and other panelists including KP Hiltunen, Niklas Saari and representatives from Apollo Music.

You can get your tickets to the event from the NGS website.

Kajaani Industry Beer, now also an IGDA Finland Hub!

Industry Beer gathering had been active for two years until last February we got the title of IGDA Finland Kajaani Hub! We are really excited to have Kajaani as one of the hubs of IGDA Finland.

Game scene has been active in Kajaani since 2007, when Kajaani University of Applied Sciences started Finland’s first professional game industry degrees. Our community has been growing and working together since the beginning.

Industry Beer started in 2011 as a local game industry gathering, where people could catch up and discuss their ideas. First there were less than 10 people and the event was organized irregularly, but others showed interest and the gathering exploded. Past two years the event has been a monthly event open for everyone interested.

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Starting left, Lauri Komulainen, Mikko Romppainen, Janne Remes, Jermu Joki and Aku Mähönen at Rock House Kulma

Our organizers are actively putting Kajaani scene on the map, it is important for us that the young talent that starts in the small city like Kajaani, gets discovered when the time is right.

Visions of the theme presented by Ilkka Leino from Supercell.
Visions of the theme presented by Ilkka Leino from Supercell.

Visions of the theme presented by Ilkka Leino from Supercell

Ilkka talked us about how their teams are self-guided at Supercell and how important it is to have someone holding the vision of the product. He also studied in Kajaani among us and it has been great to follow a young man moving forward on his career.

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We had 100 visitors at the event which is a local record, and according to official statistics 40 of them became IGDA Finland members on the site. This clearly shows how active our local developers are, and if you would like to meet them come and visit us.

Contact one of the organizers below to plan your visit to Kajaani.

IGDA Finland Kajaani Hub Facebook Group
Linkedin Aku Mähönen
LinkedIn Janne Remes
LinkedIn Lauri Komulainen
LinkedIn Mikko Romppainen

Spotlight story: Kajaani

From the viewpoint of game development, Kajaani is an interesting place. In the 1990s and 2000s regional development funds were directed to RAMK college and their game programming course in Rovaniemi or starting of 3D studies in Outokumpu college. Regional development turned out to be a difficult task. It was difficult to find enough applicants in order to keep up quality education and generate good results. Kajaani - tiny town with a population of ca. 37.000, located 560 kilometers north from Helsinki - managed to pull it off. Starcrossed (Kind of a Big Deal) Dare to Be Digital finalist

What went right?

Nothing happens overnight. Kajaani University of Applied Sciences (Kajak) is the key factor of the success. Kajak started offering education in game programming in 2006. In 2009 the focus shifted from sole game programming to game development introducing four different specializations: game programming, graphics, design and production. In 2012 design and production specializations were combined, game audio design and game technology (in engineering) were introduced. Kajak teams have actively taken part in different game development competitions. In 2012 the first ever team from Finland took part in Dare to Be Digital game development competition and they were one of the three winning teams (15 teams participated). As one of the three winners they are nominated for BAFTA 'Ones To Watch' category. The BAFTA gala will be held during March 2013.

In 2010 Kajak Games co-op was founded by students to function as a publisher and supporter for student developed games. 2nd and 3th year students offer Code and Art Clubs as extra curricular activities for first year students after school. Kajak Games has worked closely with various student teams, held game dev student events and has offered subcontracting jobs for it's members (customers include Futurecode, Wooga, Kainuun Sanomat and YLE). During the first or second year of studies, students are offered the chance to join Kajak Games as a member to acquire full support and services. In 2013 an EU funded project called Kainuu Gaming Cluster began in order to create a major game development cluster in Kainuu region. The project's main goals are to bring already existing companies in Finland into the Kainuu region, give birth to new companies, support existing ones and support our push game development teams towards start ups.

The building blocks at the moment are the KUAS school, Kajak Games co-op, Kainuu Gaming Cluster project, Innova project and Kainuun Etu Oy (municipality-owned regional development company).

Kajaani based game development studios

Kajak Games cooperative Studio On Mars No More Pie Rust0 Kajaani Game Studios Team Jolly Roger (student team) Indecisive Games (student team) BIND (student team)

What drives or supports regional growth

At the moment Kainuu Gaming Cluster offers resources and guidance in starting up a games company and finding funding. Kainuu Gaming Cluster also steers existing companies towards growth and success for example by offering mentoring by industry professionals around the world. Kajaani University of Applied Sciences brings enthusiastic and energetic people who are interested in game development together, and offers them education, hardware and software. These people form the working force of the future to support regional and national growth.

Local community driven by student activities

Currently students are the major driving force. Local companies exist and their numbers are growing steadily.

Kajaani tips & tricks - how other regions could succeed the same way?

1. Take it in our direction; use all means possible to create supporting infrastructure around education and entrepreneurship that keeps the talent in the area. So that there is something concrete (funding, work environments, hardware etc.) to help them to start up companies and support already existing companies. Regional development projects are one possibility.

2. Networking with the Finnish game development industry is a key for getting the area noticed and putting it into the map.

Critical Strike portable (Studio on Mars) Kajaani in 2018?

We will have substantial growth in the number of SMEs in the area; a critical mass of ~40 companies. Kainuu will be known globally for its game development cluster and education. Big players (EA, Activision-Blizzard, Ubisoft) are highly interested in the area and already have some activity in the area. A new business entity concentrating to games publishing is to be launched this spring. CSC with Finnish government. IBM built data center in Kajaani last year; there will be close cooperation in making cloud gaming concepts.

Interviewees: Janne Mustonen, Julius Fondem & Kimmo Nikkanen Kainuu Gaming Cluster Kajak Games