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Belgrade 2014Live CoverageVideo Coverage

Spencer Scott: The Snowboarding, Revenue-Chasing Dude | Casual Connect Video

November 19, 2014 — by Emily Baker

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“App marketing cannot be built on hope!” Spencer Scott emphasizes. “You need to work on it.” He provided examples of how they ran QuizUp during his session at Casual Connect Eastern Europe 2014.

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Spencer Scott is the chief revenue officer of Fiksu working with direct client and prospect relationships to ensure Fiksu is giving its all towards their clients. Before Fiksu, Scott spent 10 years in ad tech, building up sales and services organizations via several companies which were founded by the CEO of Fiksu, Micah Adler.

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Spencer Scott, Chief Revenue Officer, Fiksu

When Fiksu reached $100 million in yearly income, Scott was filled with pride. He realized that “a lot of hard work over the last several years from our great team helped lead us to achieving that accomplishment.” Another great moment for both Fiksu and for Scott personally was when they moved to a new office. The moment when he saw everyone on the same floor together, he realized how big the company had gotten. He is gratified to be a part of what he calls “the best team in ad tech.”

Small Companies, Large Companies, and Snowboarding Too

Scott graduated from Boston University with a Bachelor’s of Science degree. Through his work in mobile advertising, he eventually became involved in the game industry. He says, “the most fun part of working in the industry is watching the small five-person companies compete with the 1000 person companies.” He has remained in the industry because he finds it exciting to be where there is such rapid growth. He states that if he weren’t a part of the game industry, he would be a snowboard instructor.

“I enjoy anything on a board including snowboarding, kiteboarding, paddleboarding, or skateboarding,” Scott said. Copper Mountain in Colorado is his favorite place to snowboard. He is passionate in that he can give 100 percent of himself, especially in the things he loves and is interested in. Scott is currently playing Modern Combat 5, as the action and the graphics are enough to hook him. The fact that it is a good way to relieve some aggression doesn’t hurt either.

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Scott is currently playing Modern Combat 5, as the action and the graphics are enough to hook him.

The consoles Scott owns are a PS3 and an Xbox One, which he facetiously says he “owns for research”. His favorite platform though is his iPhone 6, mainly because he always has it. Another reason he is partial to his iPhone is that it has higher quality apps as opposed to Android. Scott admits that the most interesting place he ever played a mobile game was at a wedding. However, his favorite app isn’t a game. It is Evernote, which helps him be even more productive.

The Platform Collapse

As we look to the future, Scott sees the industry heading towards a platform collapse. This would be a game industry where there would be continuous game play across all of your devices. Fiksu is working with developers as well as advertisers in order to understand audiences, no matter what device they prefer to game on.

 

Belgrade 2014Live CoverageVideo Coverage

Laurent Lavigne: Moving People with Conscious Games | Casual Connect Video

November 19, 2014 — by Emily Baker

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During Laurent Lavigne’s lecture at Casual Connect Eastern Europe 2014, he explained, “We never stopped working on the gameplay until two weeks before the launch!”

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Laurent Lavigne, Founder, Elefantopia
Laurent Lavigne, Founder, Elefantopia

Laurent Lavigne started his career working on Hollywood blockbusters including Mission Impossible 3, The Matrix movies, and Transformers. After 15 years in Hollywood, in June 2008, he founded Elefantopia, a startup which makes conscious games. Laurent is currently launching a new game entitled Amazing Forest, which he announced at Casual Connect Eastern Europe 2014.

The game Elefantopia began as a sort of Farmville meets Sim City game. At the time of Elefantopia‘s birth, he was addicted to Farmville without knowing why. In order to understand, he decided to make his own game. This new game was centered on the balance of nature and played on spiritual energies. Elefantopia‘s name sprang from Laurent’s fascination with Ganesha. He later used the name for his company. Laurent performs the initial pass on all task and then hires outside contractors to redo what didn’t work or would have taken too long for him to do himself. He admits that it’s not exactly efficient, but it is what has worked for him thus far.

Career Path and Passions

Laurent first got involved in the game industry with the development of McDROID. Prior to that, he was making McDROID alphas and prototypes in a sort of vacuum. When he needed to make money, he launched Desura, later traveling to the US to do a booth at PAX EAST in Boston, Massachusetts. This was a very gratifying experience for Laurent. Still, he doesn’t claim to be a part of the game industry, except when he participates in jams or when he experiments. He still has some games in his head that would make people happy. Yet he would prefer to do things directly with his hands to make things and to help people. Some examples he mentioned were efforts towards planting trees, de-polluting water, and providing water to those that do not have access to it.

Laurent first got involved in the game industry with the development of McDROID
Laurent first got involved in the game industry with the development of McDROID

Describing himself as mercurial, Laurent enjoys swimming, Yoga, meditating, drawing, travel, and driving fast in Beirut. Because he used to waste far too much time on iOS games, he has given up playing games entirely. He even prefers Windows Phone because it has “a superbly crafted, elegant OS which is very, very fast, and doesn’t have tons of games to distract me”. He does own an iPad 2 though.

Moving Forward

For Laurent, the best moments in his career is when he drops his ego, which leaves space for “the elegance of silence and simplicity can set in.” His past work with big movies and seeing constant script changes taking place prepared him to be able to detach himself from his creation without feeling heartbroken. In short, change is inevitable and is part of the creative process. His process helps him to see the big picture and be able to work relatively fast.

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Laurent’s office in Thailand. For him, the best moments in his career is when “the elegance of silence and simplicity can set in”.

According to Laurent, the next big thing is the elevation of human consciousness. The reason for this are:

  1. If it doesn’t happen, we’re screwed
  2. Gaming has already reached rock bottom, so the only way is up
  3. The technology is ready

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Sagi Schliesser: Filling a Hole in the Market | Casual Connect Video

November 19, 2014 — by Gamesauce Staff

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Sagi Schliesser explained how the company he co-founded, TabTale, was able to release 300 games in 4 years in his session at Casual Connect Eastern Europe 2014. One of the lessons they learned was that, according to him, “Consistency is critical.”

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Sagi Schliesser is a family man. He has two daughters, of which he is their “number one fan,” and takes part in all the regular fatherly tasks: helping with homework, cooking, talking with them, guiding them through life, and even playing games with them.

It’s the last item on that list that ended up getting Schliesser into the games industry. “My daughters would ask to play games on my phone, and there weren’t any that they wanted to play,” he says. Rather than bemoan the state of things, Schliesser decided to do something about it. A born entrepreneur who has always had a creative side, he used his connections as a technology executive to bring together game-makers in order to build engaging apps — with a focus on the children’s market. The result: TabTale.

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A born entrepreneur who has always had a creative side, Schliesser (left) used his connections as a technology executive to bring together game-makers in order to create TabTale

Exponential Growth

Founded in 2010, the company first focused on interactive books and their first app, A Christmas Tale, hit #1 in the iOS App Store. And they’ve skyrocketed from there. The company had 25 million downloads in 2012, 100 million in 2013, and over 500 million this year alone.

Things have changed a lot since 2010. When the company started, there wasn’t mobile content directed toward kids — now, not only is there practically a mobile device for everyone on the planet, there are various tablets and electronics geared toward children. The company, which established their operations on iOS because of its dominance, is now operating in the Android market as well because it has found equal footing with iOS in the games market.

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When the company started, there wasn’t mobile content directed toward kids — now there are various tablets and electronics geared toward children.

“(It’s been) stated by many people before that the only constant in mobile gaming today is change, and we keep seeing it constantly on the App Store,” Schliesser says. He notes though that “we are a nimble company, and adjust as we learn and as the industry changes.”

When TabTale started, they focused on the North American market. Today, they have strong audiences around the world — including in Asian markets and the Chinese market in particular. The company even recently acquired a Chinese studio.

Along with China, TabTale operates in five countries — a key part of TabTale’s strategy for growth. “When TabTale was created, part of our vision was to create a global company which does not have ‘one voice’ and taste, but rather a fusion of different cultures and talents,” Schliesser says. “We believe it can bring kids from different countries to learn about more than just the movie-type characters (they see in film) and enrich their experience.”

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“When TabTale was created, part of our vision was to create a global company which does not have ‘one voice’ and taste, but rather a fusion of different cultures and talents.”

Schliesser notes that having a multicultural company is a great incubator for many different ideas and innovation. Part of his focus as CEO of TabTale is to make sure creativity keeps flowing and communication between everyone is open and continuous.

“Camaraderie and creativity flow from one conversation to the next at TabTale. We have fun in what we do — that’s important to our success,” he says. However, there is no room for things that gum up the works — like clashing egos. “TabTale already has over 200 people, but I have zero tolerance for red-tape or politics and (I’m making sure) we build a great DNA of people.”

Crazy Labs

Another key contributor of TabTale’s success is Crazy Labs — the company’s publishing arm. According to Schliesser, TabTale’s “Top 10” status worldwide downloads is largely due to the popularity of Crazy Labs games released over the summer — such as Airheads Jump and Cheating Tom. “In the first two weeks of release, each game had at least one million downloads — and Cheating Tom crossed 3.5 million so far,” he says.

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Cheating Tom has over 3.5 million downloads…and it is still climbing.

The company got into the marketing game after coming to the conclusion that with their expertise in marketing and monetization, they could help a lot of great games — like the kind made by indie developers — get noticed. While they are very selective about the partners they choose, they are also very active in mentoring those they work with through whatever fine-tuning is needed to make the game a success.

“There is a lot of talent and creativity being put into great games (by) gamers who know what other gamers want to play,” Schliesser says. “We want to put their game in the top charts so that they can continue to keep making great games.”

Forward Thinking

TabTale is also keeping an eye focused on the horizon. Schliesser notes that wearables are a big trend the company is closely watching. However, the challenge is learning how to engage gamers with the technology in a way that is clearly beneficial to everyone — consumer and company alike.

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Schliesser believes the challenge is learning how to engage gamers with the technology in a way that is clearly beneficial to everyone — consumer and company alike.

The company is also closely watching Android TV, the rise of mobile-to-TV gaming, and 3D printing. “We believe the ‘family board games’ model will be extended to the living room using the big screen and handsets for playing, and we are already in the lead to meet this change — as well as the revolution which is bound to happen with the costs of 3D printing lowering and kids’ love for customized games or accessories.”

Meanwhile, TabTale is continuing to build its mobile game portfolio to suit all ages — with a strong focus on the kids demographic, of course — and expand its reach into Asian markets. They are also making inroads into the non-mobile markets. In the last year, the company announced a collaboration with Microsoft to bring their games to Windows stores, marking their first steps into the PC world.

“However,” Schliesser notes, “there are many new platforms to explore.”

 

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Jaroslav Stacevic: “A Happy User is a Paying User” | Casual Connect Video

November 19, 2014 — by Catherine Quinton

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Jaroslav Stacevic talked about the importance of UI during Casual Connect Eastern Europe 2014. “Interface is the handle of the hammer,” he explains. “You need it to use the hammer.”

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Jaroslav Stacevic once thought of games only as his hobby, yet today, he is the lead game designer at Nordcurrent, Lithuania’s largest international game development and publishing company. Previously, he worked with a non-governmental agency preparing volunteers for development work in Africa. But his passion for games caught up with him; he applied for a games designer position, and almost immediately, he was creating games.

After participating in the development of many of Nordcurrent’s games, he now leads a team responsible for the development of external projects in close cooperation with various studios from Eastern Europe and Russia, among others. This team ensures players get the highest quality product, one that is fun to play and worth paying for.

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Jaroslav Stacevic, Lead Game Designer, Nordcurrent,

Keeping Focus

Stacevic calls himself an obsessive person, but usually he finds this quality an advantage, since his obsession comes from an open-minded attitude coupled with the ability to take in new experiences and invest himself in them. However, he admits at times this inhibits his work when it causes him to burn out on an idea by focusing on it too intensely.

With this intense focus, every time a game he has worked on is released and begins climbing the charts, he has a moment of personal pride. He says, “I can’t say which one has influenced me the most, but whenever I see my ideas succeed and my efforts recognized, it sure feels good!”

His View of Games

When he is gaming for enjoyment, his preferred platform has always been PC; he feels it is unique in the way it empowers the user to take a more personal approach to gaming. PC games offer great possibilities for customization, allowing the user to tweak and create. Third party modifications, “game mods”, are only currently possible on PC. And Stacevic enjoys building the game rigs that PC allows.

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Most of Stacevic’s gaming is now on mobile, which he appreciates for its convenience and accessibility.

He also greatly enjoys console play, and besides the old-school consoles, he owns a Wii U and a Playstation 3 for their worthwhile games that are not available on PC. These include The Last of Us and Journey, his all-time favorite.

However, most of his gaming is now on mobile, which he appreciates for its convenience and accessibility, as he plays titles such as Ruzzle Adventure, Plague INC, or Banner Saga, and of course, Nordcurrent titles, including Cooking Fever and 101-in-1 HD. His currently favorites among hard-core titles include Dwarf Fortress and Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor.

Stacevic enjoys free-to-play games, but rarely makes in-app purchases simply because he sees too many publishers whose only goal is to extract money from their players. On the other hand, he emphasizes, “I treasure studios that do not sacrifice fun for money and understand that a happy user is a paying user. Publishers that invest in their player base instead of going for the fast cash grab are the ones that get my money most often.”

A Shifting Industry

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“Nordcurrent is more than happy to offer our users great and affordable games.”

The games market is now undergoing a major shift from West to East. He asserts, “I don’t just mean China, but also the emerging South-East Asia markets such as Malaysia and Indonesia, and mature markets, including South Korea and Japan. To succeed in these markets, localization is essential, and the game must be adapted to Asian tastes.”

He also sees freemium and free-to-play games maturing along their user base. As the quality of games goes up, players are demanding more quality titles. This development is of benefit to any developer willing and able to provide the audience with a great means of entertainment, and makes for healthier competition in the market place, requiring many companies to rethink their strategies.

In this atmosphere, he insists, “Nordcurrent is more than happy to offer our users great and affordable games.” They are actively working on localizing their games to the Asian market, not only translating them, but adapting the art style to the cultural specifics of the Asian market. And they are constantly working to raise the bar on their titles to satisfy growing community needs and demands.

Stacevic notes that the games industry today is on the threshold of a wide array of new platforms. An entirely new environment is developing as wearable electronics become mainstream, with smart watches the most prominent example, and Google Glass just beginning to make its presence felt. Another trend, virtual reality will probably become closely integrated and rapidly make its way into the mainstream. “These developments will certainly shift and shape the games market,” he claims.

When Stacevic is not focused on gaming, he is involved in photography, which he considers closely allied to game development. Both allow him to create experiences and even entire worlds. While his game development focuses on the end user, he views his photography in a much more personal way, something he does for his own enjoyment.

 

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Andrei Dementjev: Pioneering Mobile Billing | Casual Connect Video

November 18, 2014 — by Emily Baker

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During his session about maximizing revenue at Casual Connect Eastern Europe 2014, Andrei Dementjev also provided a bit of advice to those listening: “Stop ignoring 50 percent of your audience.”

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Andrei Dementjev works within the mobile operator relations department as the vice president of operations at Fortumo. When Dementjev first started at Fortumo, the company was just getting started and the team was relatively small. The business idea was much more local and targeted at very specific markets. Even though the company and its goals were small, it was still a challenging opportunity for Dementjev. Now, he has been the leading Fortumo payment coverage expansion strategy for the last five years. When asked what he does at Fortumo, Dementjev says, “operations is all about stress, incident management and expansions. [There is] unbelievable multitasking and project priorities changing every day.” Some of these changes which Fortumo has faced over time were when they shifted from desktop to mobile and then from dumb phones to smart devices. Both of these changes presented completely different challenges in payment flow, UI, and use cases.

Fortumo currently covers a network of 300 operators in 81 countries from Albania to Vietnam. Fortumo is unique as it focuses on emerging markets in Middle East, Central and Eastern Europe, Latin America, and Africa. It is in these areas that mobile payments can make a tremendous difference. According to Fortumo’s website, “Fortumo is now enabling developers to effectively make money from more countries . . . than any other mobile payment provider”. A large part of this success is that Fortumo was the first to fill the niche in emerging markets, and it offers instant activation and self-service setup.

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Fortumo currently covers a network of 300 operators in 81 countries from Albania to Vietnam.

With millions of new smartphone users in existence (and prior to released games), Dementjev strongly believes that emerging markets are coming on strong in the gaming industry. As the use of smartphones spreads, game developers are faced with all sorts of new challenges. These challenges are occurring because the product is new to the audience. The “normal” or expected behavior of people whom are introduced to these products for the first time is different than the challenges the gaming industry has tackled before.

Favorite Passions and Past-times

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Andrei Dementjev, VP of Operations, Fortumo

Dementjev stays positive because it keeps him motivated and able to conquer the challenges he faces. In his free time, he enjoys cycling and photography. His favorite subjects to photograph include big city nightlife and beautiful Estonian nature. He also likes all varieties of active team sports. When asked about F2P games, Dementjev said that he has both a love and hate relationship with them. He loves them because they bring “great games to the masses.” His hate of F2P games springs from the fact that “it kills smaller games, genres, and niches.” Andrei’s favorite gaming platform to play on is Xbox Kinect because it is fun and it is a great way to play with friends. In fact, the only console that Dementjev owns is Xbox 360 because of the Kinect.

The Future and Fortumo’s Role

The single event which changed how Dementjev viewed Fortumo was the first popularity boost of Android devices. The Android devices had a “very quick market share rise and ecosystem development”. Fortumo embraced this and was the first company that released a mobile payment product on Android. The proudest moment in Dementjev’s carrier was when Fortumo launched payments coverage in 80th market, saying “every new expansion is unique and unforgettable, with it’s own problems and solutions”. In Dementjev’s opinion, in the next three to five years, the many variations of smart devices such as phones, fridges, wearables, tablets, glasses, and cars will keep growing. These new devices will interact and communicate with each other in innumerable ways. Fortumo’s role in this will be to ensure proper content and game monetization in emerging markets around the world.

 

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George Lemnaru is Making His Own Path | Casual Connect

November 18, 2014 — by Catherine Quinton

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During his session at Casual Connect Eastern Europe 2014, George Lemnaru discussed how a community affects games. “Content is your ice breaker and social recognition, your long term retention,” he says.

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George Lemnaru, Founder and CEO, Green Horse Games

George Lemnaru loves the way the games industry combines numbers and formulas with creativity. He asserts, “It allows you to dream but forces you to have your feet on the ground.”

Lemnaru founded Green Horse Games because, he emphasizes, “We believe in games that are truly social, games that empower users and allow players to reach a goal together with other like-minded people.” Before founding Green Horse Games, he had already successfully founded and developed eRepublik.com, a massive multi-player geopolitical game. But he has gained the most satisfaction in his career through starting again from scratch, founding his new company, and constantly growing it.

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Lemnaru has gained the most satisfaction in his career through starting again from scratch, founding his new company, and constantly growing it.

While managing Green Horse games as CEO, he has developed Liga Ultras, a game built for football supporters. It has more than 30,000 users in Romania, averaging 30 minutes of playing time each day, demonstrating impressive engagement and retention. The game has now opened to international players, beginning with Greece, and the company plans to continue to spread internationally.

Facing Copycats

Lemnaru believes the greatest challenge facing the games industry today comes from the huge number of copycat games being created. While he understands that large companies may sometimes find these games advantageous, he insists it is an enormous mistake for a small studio to make one. The only advantages they have in the struggle to survive are originality and adaptivity.

Green Horse Games’ response to this challenge begins prior to working on a project. First, they analyze the concept and make sure it is not an ordinary sorrel or bay that you could find on any farm, not even a palomino, but a true ‘Green Horse’ that will really stand out.

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The team analyzes a concept first to make sure it is a true ‘Green Horse’ that will really stand out.

The next important trend in the games industry, according to Lemnaru, will be generated by a company following its own path to create something outstanding, that everyone else will want to copy. He claims, “This will create a new pool which small fish and big sharks will start to populate one by one.”

Green Horse follows its own path. He emphasizes, “We don’t know where that road will take us, but we are doing our best to make it a fun ride.”

Enjoying Variety

Lemnaru himself is a very eclectic player, playing different games on different platforms. Currently, he is playing Civilizations and FIFA Manager on his PC and a variety of games on Facebook, the App Store and Xbox.

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George Lemnaru, Founder and CEO, Green Horse Games

When not gaming, he is actively involved in sports, playing football, and swimming with his young daughter. As well, he is passionate about history.

 

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Taras Leskiv: Bringing Digital Education Content to Eastern Europe | Casual Connect Video

November 18, 2014 — by Catherine Quinton

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Taras Leskiv shares his experience with creating games for children during Casual Connect Eastern Europe 2014. And one of the lessons he has learned is, he says,”Children are the best QA!”

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Taras Leskiv, Lead Programmer, Nravo Kids

As lead programmer at Nravo Kids, Taras Leskiv loves an intellectual challenge. As an English Language enthusiast, he spends his free time translating technical articles into his native language, and he is also a member of Coursera Global Translator Community. His other interests are startups, analytics, board games, and puzzles, balanced with the physical activity of table tennis.

His enjoyment in using his mind is equally apparent in his gaming. He is currently playing Dota 2 for the challenging mind games it is famous for. He also plays Skyrim because he enjoys the RPG experience and, as he says, “It’s great to have some rest.” He rarely plays any free-to-play games, preferring to buy full games from Steam and using a PC for his gaming.

A Focus on Children

Taras sees a lack of high-quality digital educational content for children in Eastern Europe and Nravo Kids is focused on filling the void by building a company that can provide this content with superior educational games for Ukrainian children. Taras notes that the number of mobile devices in Ukraine has been growing dramatically in the last several years, so the company is working actively with the community to understand what they would like to have on the market and how to monetize it.

Prior to working in the games industry, Taras worked for a company that provided English language courses. He has found the English he mastered there very valuable in his present work. He also spent a great deal of his time working with children, teaching English classes and conducting English master classes. This experience is critical in allowing him to understand the specifics of developing games for children. It also helped him with ideas for useful features and game improvements.

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His time working with children has been critical in allowing him to understand the specifics of developing games for children.

“My the most memorable teaching experience is from a summer English-speaking camp where I conducted master-classes about 7 Wonders of the Ancient World in English for Ukrainian children,” Taras says. “I had to gamify my classes to get children interested in the subject of ancient history and to teach them English at the same time.”

Working Hard

Currently, Taras is the only developer at Nravo Kids, handling all the development using the Unity 3D game engine. He is also responsible for the publishing process. “We are a really small and compact startup team that consists of six people for now,” Taras says. “So every team member has to be quite universal.” Since he had always wanted a career in game development, when the opportunity at Nravo Kids arose, he immediately joined the company.

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The most gratifying time in his career came with the publishing of the first Nravo Kids game, Who’s in the Mountains?

The most gratifying time in his career came with the publishing of the first Nravo Kids game, Who’s in the Mountains?, on all major mobile platforms. With the initial idea of having a simple game, it soon became clear that the game would need to have more to it than planned. “The development was driven by the main goal – every aspect in the game has to be not only fun but also have educational value,” says Taras. As the only developer on this project, he successfully handled all the development as well as the publishing process to Android, iOS, and Windows Phone. Taras mentioned there were a few challenges when it came to wearing two hats, saying “it sometimes gets hard to switch between development and publishing contexts of the production process. Multitasking can’t get you focused at times.” But he looks at the bright side. “It’s a wonderful experience to develop a project from scratch to a final published title.”

Although Taras admits he is not particularly good at predicting trends in the games industry, he is expecting to see a major impact in the future from porting AAA titles like Bioshock and GTA from PC to mobile.

 

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Nenad Tomić: Quality Above All Else, Without Exception or Compromise | Casual Connect Video

November 18, 2014 — by Emily Baker

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“We were not inspired by money or something else,” Nenad Tomić expressed. “We were only focused on one goal and that’s how to create the best game ever.” Along with co-founder Uroš Banješević, he described the journey of their company, Mad Head Games, during Casual Connect Eastern Europe 2014.

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Nenad Tomić founded Mad Head Games with Uroš Banješević just over three years ago. In just six years, Tomić has been involved in the release of more than 50 games ranging from AAA titles for Ubisoft to more casual games for numerous clients. While Tomić’s most prestigious accomplishment was being involved with the development of CG portals, the awards won as a part of Mad Head Games are the accomplishment which make Tomić the most proud, as it is what defines him as the developer he is today.

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Nenad Tomić, Co-Owner / Game Producer, Mad Head Games

Tomić’s Introduction into the Game Industry

As of now, Tomić has two separate jobs. The first one, he admits “is a bit boring and not inspirational, and that’s running a company”. The second embodies the reason Tomić went after a career in game development: designing games. During the last eight years, Tomić has been a part of game and level design, 3D modeling, some basic coding, producing, writing stories, etc. Since he has been doing all of this, he has become a “jack of all trades, master of none.” And yet, Tomić has a rich overview of their work as well as “a good understanding of how to makes games that will stand out”.

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Tomić describes himself as a “jack of all trades, master of none.”

For Tomić, his straight-forward, systematic nature springs from his traditional education while being trained to be a telecommunications engineer. Tomić explains, “being systematic in game development, and especially with running a company, helps a great deal, even though from time to time it clouds some more creative and innovative paths.” It is for this reason that he strives to find a balance between his systematic nature and the creativity required for game development.

Tomić does not limit his game design to work, he also claims it as a hobby, “Yep, making games for work and doing it as a hobby is kinda messed up, but it is how it is.” He also enjoys juggling, rollerblading, and participating in all sorts of sports, especially the social ones. In his free time, Tomić also plays iOS games on the phone and tablet. For the majority of his life, he played PC games, but has now shifted. Tomić explains, “The reason for that is probably the fact that I spend the most of my day sitting at my computer, and when the time for playing games actually comes, I prefer to be in a more comfortable and so to speak ‘casual’ position.” Currently, he is playing Cookie Clicker and Clash of Clans (CoC). When he first started CoC, it was for educational purposes. He wanted to learn how F2P works. However, before Tomić knew it, he was hooked and it was no longer about education. As for Cookie Clicker, it has a “madness of its own, and I don’t have a true explanation why I still play it.” As far as consoles go, Tomić doesn’t know why they were never tempting for him. The only exception: Little Big Planet and Journey for the PS3. These games are definitely on his bucket list of future games to play.

Now that Tomić has experienced F2P as a consumer, he loves how this genre has the possibility to reach a wide range of players. Additionally, F2P games have great potential for creativity and innovation towards “nailing down the proper way of producing a fun and fair game,” stated Tomić. On the flip side, he hates how often there is cloning and reusing of optimal monetization strategies with a total lack of innovation. Lazy design strategies result in redundant games, which reinforces the perception of games being evil money suckers. Tomić does have one gripe: the waiting times associated with F2P, which Tomić admits that he really hates.

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Now that Tomić has experienced F2P as a consumer, he loves how this genre has the possibility to reach a wide range of players.

Defining Events Which Shaped the Company

The defining moment of Tomić career is when he witnessed the reception of Mad Head Games’ Rite of Passage. Although the team had worked tirelessly to ensure quality coming first in every aspect of the game, nerves were high upon release. Tomić reflected on how Rite of Passage was the team’s first casual game, stating, “We had our doubts even though we knew that we went back a thousand times to do all little improvements that were hardly noticeable.” Even though they had even rejected whole sections of the game because they didn’t meet their high standards, they were naturally anxious about the audiences’ reception. When the game hit the number one position of Big Fish Games’ top downloaded games, Tomić knew that their efforts to ensure quality first were not in vain. This moment is when they knew, “we wanted to make only games of the greatest quality and that there’s hardly a greater reward than seeing people enjoying the game you made, and hearing that in some ways it changed their lives – even if it is just for a while.”

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“We wanted to make only games of the greatest quality and that there’s hardly a greater reward than seeing people enjoying the game you made, and hearing that in some ways it changed their lives – even if it is just for a while.”

From that moment on, the team members were able to give their absolute best because they were vastly more confident in decisions during production. They were able to stay fearless and innovative with the upcoming projects. Through this experience, they also realized that if a concept doesn’t work, it needs to be revamped until it does work. Also, if there is a part of the game that doesn’t amaze them, it won’t amaze the audience. If this is the case, this part of the game must be fixed.

Tomić finds great joy in seeing the growth of Mad Head Games’ team members, which replicates throughout the company and enables an ever increasing quality of games. Tomić explains that one thing that has encouraged this growth is the fact that Mad Head Games has, “invested a lot of time and energy into working with people on their self improvement, and teaching them to embrace our initial core values as their own. Seeing that work, everyone being happy about it, and being enthusiastic about upcoming challenges is priceless.” Personal growth is important and enables company-wide growth, which benefits everyone.

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Tomić finds great joy in seeing the growth of Mad Head Games’ team members, which replicates throughout the company and enables an ever increasing quality of games.

 

The Next Couple of Years

If Tomić had to predict one trend which would shape the industry in the next couple of years, he would pick wearable technology. He believes that the impact will be similar to the upset of mobile. He further explained, “I’m absolutely sure that developers will come up with crazy innovations that are unimaginable to us at this moment, and I can’t wait to jump onto that train.” To further illustrate his point, he said that plans are already being pursued in this field, but it is still far too early to announce it.

 

Belgrade 2014Live CoverageVideo Coverage

Olga Khomenko Sets Her Sights in the Mobile Web | Casual Connect Video

November 17, 2014 — by Catherine Quinton

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“Get ready to embark onto HTML5,” Olga Khomenko explains. “As the technology matures, you will see it more and more!” She talked about how HTML5 could help older games in her session at Casual Connect Eastern Europe 2014.

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Olga Khomenko, Co-founder, PlayToMax

Olga Khomenko is the co-founder of PlayToMax, one of the leading companies in the HTML5 market, with a team of professionals having more than eight years of experience in game development. At Casual Connect Eastern Europe 2014, she announced the upcoming release of popular titles such as Treasures of Montezuma 2, Farm Frenzy, My Kingdom for the Princess, D Day Tower Defense, and others, on the HTML5 platform. Having these titles available on the mobile web should bring a new impulse to the market, she believes.

Khomenko tells us, “I have real pride in the team we have at PlayToMax today. It’s a feeling I have every day when I come to the office.” This sense of gratification began when the company was first created with a team of five through its growth to the team of twenty-two it is today. The recipe she gives for its success is friendship and a sense of humor.

At PlayToMax, Khomenko focuses mainly on company management and client services. However, as she points out, when you have your own business, your job responsibilities are not strictly defined; you do many things simply because they are needed.

Focusing on the Mobile Web

Analysts expect by the end of 2014 mobile web usage will have outstripped PC web. This is exactly the trend PlayToMax is targeting. Since HTML5 is a web-based technology, PlayToMax expects strong growth for mobile web and a parallel increase in interest for HTML5 games. Because these are cross-platform, they can cover both PC and mobile at the same time. As the technology continues to develop, Khomenko believes mobile browsers will continue to advance in performance capability, giving users the opportunity to have a native-like experience.

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Since HTML5 is a web-based technology, PlayToMax expects strong growth for mobile web and a parallel increase in interest for HTML5 games. Photo credit: Sasha Paleeva

PlayToMax is in an ideal position to respond to this trend since their main business is populating web-based mobile games while creating addictive and successful titles for the market. Khomenko admits, “This is a hard job. Out-of-the-box thinking and passion for what we do is what helps us every day.”

The most impactful trend she sees in the games business as a whole is mobile; it has been an important evolution for years and continues to influence the games market. This is shown by the movement toward games-on-the-go, endless games with simple gameplay that can occupy users’ time while they are waiting, traveling, or have some short period available for play. The result is shown in the success of games like 2048 or Flappy Bird.

Free Time Play

When Khomenko is gaming, she is, of course, doing it on HTML5, appreciating its easy accessibility with no passwords or logins; you just play. Her favorite game so far is D Day Tower Rush, a tower defense game with a fun setting. Another favorite game she continues to play and enjoy is Plants vs Zombies. She describes herself as somewhat old-school in her console play; she is still using her PlayStation 1, but admits she has limited time at home to play on it.

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Her favorite game so far is D Day Tower Rush, a tower defense game with a fun setting.

Khomenko’s passion in life, other than games, is music. For a couple of years, she has been playing drums in a band, called Miles Babies. Shortly after Casual Connect, they will be doing a tour in the Ukraine, with concerts in seven different cities. She claims, “It’s always funny to see the reaction of people when the girl tells them she plays the drums.”

 

Belgrade 2014Live CoverageVideo Coverage

Igor Degtyarev: Moving Forward in Development | Casual Connect Video

November 17, 2014 — by Catherine Quinton

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“Augmented reality will have a huge impact on the video game industry,” Igor Degtyarev explained during his session at Casual Connect Eastern Europe 2014. “We are working out the last few challenges.”

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Igor Degtyarev is a senior R&D and graphics engineer at Targem Games, the largest game development studio in the Urals. Since much of his career has been closely tied to Targem Games, he identifies his success with the company’s success, including such achievements as shipping their product to different consoles and platforms, evolving their technology base, and expanding to new markets. In his nine years of game development experience, Igor has been a part of the creation of a number of games, including ExMachina, Armageddon Riders, Star Conflict, and others.

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Igor Degtyarev, Senior R&D and Graphics Engineer, Targem Games

Like many in the games industry, Igor began his career without any relevant experience. However, he had burning passion for games and the desire to create them. He has since developed the skills to fill many different roles, from the automatization of processes to new platform support. Because the company is not large, he must function in a variety of areas. But whatever facet of the work he is engaged in, he emphasizes, “Only hard work and concentration on specific goals allow me to reach the expected result.”

Igor finds his work and his free-time activities blend together seamlessly. As a curious person, he is always thinking and acquiring new knowledge in a range of subject areas. But no matter what he is thinking about, he finds it connects in some way to his work.

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No matter what he is thinking about, he finds it connects in some way to his work.

Passionate About Games

When Igor is gaming these days, he is using a PC, although, until recently, he preferred his PS3. He can’t quite explain why, but he feels his preference is an obvious choice. However, he intends to purchase a PS4 as soon as he finds one attractive game for it, a statement which certainly reveals his opinion of the games now available.

Recently, he has become especially passionate about indie games, particularly the rogue-like ones. He appreciates the constantly changing game mechanic as well as the progressive disclosure of new game features. His current favorites include Risk of Rain and The Crypt of the NecroDancer.

Virtual Reality

As they plan for the future, Targem Games is focusing on next generation consoles and virtual reality. Virtual reality is of particular interest since, according to Igor, it appears to be rapidly evolving, but the direction of its evolution is still not clear. Targem Games is making every effort to keep up and stay on the edge of this exciting technology.

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As they plan for the future, Targem Games is focusing on next generation consoles and virtual reality.

In the next few years, Igor believes virtual reality will come closer to representing real life and will be a significant part of the entertainment and game industries. “The necessary ingredients are already in place,” he insists, “All that remains is the time it will take for VR devices to become widespread and the effort necessary to ensure virtual reality will evolve in the right direction.”

 

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