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Casual Connect Europe 2018 Indie Prize Finalists from Eastern Europe

May 18, 2018 — by Catherine Quinton

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Indie Prize London at Casual Connect Europe 2018 has attracted an outstanding variety of games from Eastern Europe. Role playing is featured in many games, and is perhaps taken to new heights in a game where the player literally chooses a role to play on stage. Many also combine role playing with different types of adventure, such as surviving on a sinking island or digging through caves or being lost in a desert. There are games that challenge the brain with puzzles, multiplayer games, beautiful learning games for children, and even games that take players into accurate representations of history. There is something in this group of games that will attract everyone.

Game Title: Theatre VR
Developer: Misterine
Platform: VR desktop/console
Country: Czech Republic

Theatre VR is the perfect game for aspiring actors and anyone who would like to experience what it would be like to be on stage. It allows you to choose a play and a role, then act that character. You say the lines while making gestures and moving around the stage. But you are not alone on stage; there are other characters driven by the computer. You can also create your own productions and share them with others and enjoy the play with your friends.

Game Development

Raiders Of The Lost Island: Win Alone Or Die Together

September 29, 2017 — by Industry Contributions

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By Alexandru Simion

Raiders of the Lost Island is a local co-op party game for up to 4 people. Well, technically it is a semi-cooperative one, as you will soon find out. Alexandru Simion, the developer behind this title, has been in the industry for almost 20 years. Even though his dayjob as a lead gameplay programmer is to make AAA games shine, he never lost his passion for making indie games and expressing his creativity through such projects in his free time. Raiders of the Lost Island has won the “Best game of the show” and “Best design” awards at the Dev.Play convention in Bucharest, Romania, and will be showcased at Casual Connect in London in 2018. 


IT ALL STARTED THAT NIGHT

“I teamed up with three friends of mine and we stepped in the tech pub where Bucharest Global Game Jam 2017 was taking place.”

It was a cold winter evening when I teamed up with three friends of mine and we stepped in the tech pub where Bucharest Global Game Jam 2017 was taking place. We were prepared and ready to survive the long weekend. The jam’s theme was “waves” and, as it always happens to me at such events, I was set to come up with a game that would not only be fun to make, but could give us many hours of fun playing it long after, with friends and family.

I didn’t have many board games when I was young and I can say I developed a passion for them quite recently. But one thing that board games have been doing so well for a long time is bringing people together, creating special chemistry between them. It doesn’t really matter if they’re happily working together towards a common goal, or if one betrays, or if they’re all at each other’s throats, but I’ve been really fascinated by this social interaction and I think video games have many lessons to learn from here.

So, drawing inspiration from board games like Forbidden Island and Small World, I managed to sell these ideas to my friends and convince them this was what we must do to worth the effort of the next 48 sleepless hours. We bounced a few ideas, and the game shaped pretty quickly this time.
Let me tell you what it is all about.

“One thing that board games have been doing so well for a long time is bringing people together.”

You and three other buddy adventurers of yours just found the Lost Island and you’re not there on a vacation. No, you’re gonna get filthy rich, because the island is full of silver and gold coins, and the most precious diamonds. You just have to grab them. But there’s a catch! You know the island is going to sink in about 4 minutes. The waves are already going up and down fast, and soon the water will rise, flooding the whole place. You will all lose, unless… you all work together to build a raft and escape in time. If you manage to survive, the richest raider stands in front, while the others just help them win.

The waves are already going up and down fast, and soon the water will rise, flooding the whole place.

So, everyone wants to collect as much gold and diamonds as possible to win the game, but if they don’t work together and build the raft, they might all lose! The gameplay mechanics are simple enough, but the fun moves to the couch, where the real players are. No one wants to carry sacks and work hard on the boat while others are stuffing their pockets with treasures and can win the whole game. So, if you feel you’re in front of others, you still have to convince them to stop chasing you and put their efforts to some better uses, like building the boat.

If they don’t work together and build the raft, they might all lose!

That was the original idea. But at the end of the Game Jam, after 48 hours of hard work and no playtests, we didn’t really know what we had and if it actually works. We were pretty tired and had been fixing bugs until the last minute. I don’t know if the game made much sense when presented to the other developers who were probably as tired as we were. But we were proud of our baby and still believed we made the right choice.
However, when I got home and gathered the family to play daddy’s endeavor of the last 2 days and 2 nights – in that moment I knew the game really works! It was a blast! Kids reacted exactly as I hoped, gathering gold coins like crazy, trying to push each other in the waters and steal their treasures. I had to calm them down and tell them we can actually survive if we cooperate to build the boat at least once.

THE ROAD AHEAD

As it usually happens to me with game jams, if I feel I came home with something special, I want to finish it. I must finish it! I knew from my experience that this won’t end soon. I was coming from another project, a game for kids on iOS, named Bathtime Toys, which took me almost 2 years to finish in my free time and I was hoping to finalize this one faster.
After a short break I started to work on the game to refactor the code architecture and make development and marketing plans. I was a total noob on the marketing side and still am, but I knew I had to start early this time and learn it.


Unfortunately the original team didn’t stay, as after the game jam people got back to their busy lives. They simply didn’t have time to put into the game any further. It’s hard to come home after 9 hours of making games and push yourself further up until late in the night, making more games. But I am that kind of guy, and I know this game deserves to see the light of day. I hope to catch them back from time to time though, to help me with some feature or making new levels.
According to my plan, I had to get a demo ready as soon as possible, to build a nice website and to make an awesome trailer. With these in hand, I was to register for Steam Greenlight and grow the game’s visibility through this campaign. After that, when the game had a good base of players, I planned to launch an Early Access campaign and finally release it in about 1 year. And so I started working.

GET THAT DIAMOND!

Perhaps the most important addition to the game was the diamond! This was planned from the beginning but we didn’t have time to add it in the Global Game Jam version. To understand what this is about, imagine that one little silver coin scores 1 point, one shiny gold coin scores 3 points, and then you have this magnificent bright white diamond worth 10 points! It was blast! Everyone was chasing to grab it. And when someone had it, everyone else was chasing after them, to steal it. Not many boats were finished during those days.
In fact the diamond was so powerful, that it made players invent new grief mechanics that I never had thought of. If my kids couldn’t get the diamond, they would start jumping off the island’s edges, drowning into the ocean while carrying the sacks needed for the boat, so they would be lost forever and no one was able to escape anymore.

“Kids reacted exactly as I hoped, gathering gold coins like crazy, trying to push each other in the waters and steal their treasures.”

“I’m throwing sacks, if you don’t give me that diamond!” was the warning you hear just before realizing that chances of surviving are dropping down fast.
Some sessions were so intense that they ended up in tears. Once I even had to order real glass diamonds from an online shop as a final solution to calm things down. All this excitement confirmed that I’m on the right track with the game, so I kept going.

MISSING the greenlight TRAIN

Making the trailer was a heavy milestone. I didn’t have proper skills, and it took me almost a whole month to finish it. But it was really fun and it motivates me every time I watch it.
I invited some friends for a playtest, we had some beers, wore some funny hats and I filmed them while they were playing. It was a successful playtest, everyone had a lot of fun and I got some good feedback.

“I invited some friends for a playtest.”

As I said, making the trailer and implementing the most important suggestions took quite some time and while I was pushing hard to get these things done, Steam decided to drop the Greenlight feature. That happened earlier than I expected and I felt pretty upset at the time. It was like missing a train you were running after.
After a while I got over it and felt really happy for my efforts with the trailer. That playtest created some of the game’s biggest fans. In fact we did it again when the demo was ready and I know they can’t wait to return and raid some more in the future.

SHOWING OFF

The marketing side is really tough for me. Building the website, Facebook page, videos on YouTube, preparing images, posting online, answering emails, writing articles – it all takes me more than half of the development time. But I know I can’t get the whole project right without it and I’m still learning what works and what doesn’t.

One of the first lessons I’ve got in online marketing was when someone wanted to “help” me with a Facebook post that would gain thousands of likes. I thought I can spare $30 to see what happens. And I saw it going down the drain. From all those likes, not a single person visited the website, since they were all coming from kids at “like farms”. Well, it was cheap enough for a lesson and I got a story to tell.

The first real challenge was to get to the Dev.Play Eastern Europe Conference which had a partnership with Indie Prize, the sponsor of their Indie Expo contest. The conference is like a smaller GDC organized in Bucharest by RGDA. Being accepted to show my game there, among so many other really good indie titles, was a big thing for me. I put a lot of effort in finishing the demo in time and preparing the advertising prints and everything for the booth.
All the efforts paid off when my wife and I presented the game and saw so many people enjoying it for 2 full days. It was the reassurance I needed, because until then, most of the playtests were conducted within the family, with kids and some friends.

Showcasing the game at Dev.Play was a big deal for the developer.

The extra bonus came when the jury decided to award the game as “The Best Design” and “The Best Game of the Show”. My trailer was played on a huge cinema screen and my friends were the actors. The big prize was a place for my game in Indie Prize London 2018, and I have much to do until then.

The jury decided to award the game as “The Best Design” and “The Best Game of the Show”.

After the success at Dev.Play, the game visibility was boosted quite a lot. I released the Alpha Demo on Itch.io so everyone can try it, and we’ve even been invited to tell about it in a famous Romanian television show.

BACK TO WORK

Passing the Alpha Demo stage puts me back to work and I can’t wait to unleash my creativity and shape the game further. In the next couple of months there will be a few more events, like a talk at Game Anglia conference and some local festivals. But the main focus is now on adding new features, new gameplay mechanics and new levels.
There have been almost 9 months since the game was conceived and, even though human babies see the light of day by this time, baby games tend to be more like elephants and stay in development for quite a bit longer.

“Play the Raiders of the Lost Island and be part of its story, tell me about your experience with the game, stream your play sessions and help it become a success!”, the developers invite. 

EventsNews

Indie Prize Europe 2017 Winners Revealed

February 10, 2017 — by David Radd

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Photo by Lera Polska

Casual Games Association has announced the winners of the Indie Prize showcase. The honorees were revealed during a awards ceremony at Casual Connect Europe in Berlin.

Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun, a tactical stealth game set in Japan’s Edo period by Mimimi Productions, won Best Game Design. Anshar Wars 2, a VR space shooter game by Ozwe Games, won Best VR Game. FRU, a puzzle platformer that that uses Kinect to make the player’s silhouette into a “portal” between two worlds by Through Games, won Most Innovative Game. Blink and Die, a VR rhythm title where the music defines the level by Sureksu, won Best Game Audio and Best Kids & Family Game

“Indie Prize is becoming bigger and bigger year by year – it is amazing and overwhelming to see indie talent and spirit growing so very strong all over the world,” says Yuliya Moshkaryova, Director of Indie Prize. “On behalf of Casual Connect and Indie Prize, we cordially congratulate all the finalists, nominees and winners, and are looking forward to seeing more games in the future.”

Photo by Lera Polska

Other winners include Figment, a 3D isometric action-adventure where players fight against the anxieties of a 40-year old man by Bedtime Digital Games, won Best Game Art. Empathy, an adventure game where you explore the memories from people of the path by Pixel Night, won Best Game Narrative. Lightfield, an omnidirectional racing game described as parkour with a space ship by Lost in the Garden, won Best Multiplayer Game. Super Pet Hero, a voxel game about dodging traffic and pet saving by Amused Sloth, won Best Mobile Game. Lastly CoverFire by 1MBand had the honor to win the Best in Show award which was voted for at the event. 

Indie Prize has partnered with many local game contests from around the world. This grants the opportunity for various regional winners to showcase their games at Casual Connect. All told, developers from 63 countries submitted 470 games for the international Indie Prize scholarship, an increase of 20 percent compared to last year’s Indie Prize Europe 2016. Forty-two judges selected the 130 indie games to be showcased in the Indie Prize area during Casual Connect Europe in Berlin.

Celebrating a well earned moment of triumph, photo by Lera Polsky

Fantastic Nominees:

BEST GAME AUDIO
Blink and Die developed by Sureksu
Guns, Gore and Cannoli 2 developed by Crazy Monkey Studios
The Long Reach developed by TLR Team
Beat the Game developed by Worm Animation

BEST GAME DESIGN
Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun developed by Mimimi Productions
FRU developed by Through Games
The Adventure Pals developed by Massive Monster
Okhlos developed by The Adventure Pals

BEST GAME ART
Figment developed by Bedtime Digital Games
Vive le Roi developed by Seccia
Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun developed by Mimimi Productions
Anshar Wars 2 developed by Ozwe Games

BEST GAME NARRATIVE
Empathy by Pixel Night
Lost Words developed by Fourth State
Code 7 developed by Good Wolf Studios
Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun developed by Mimimi Productions

BEST MULTIPLAYER GAME
LIGHTFIELD developed by Lost in the Garden
Super Rocket Shootout developed by Oddly Shaped Pixels
Panoptic developed by Team Panoptes
Akuto: Mad World developed by Hut 90

BEST KIDS AND FAMILY GAME
Blink and Die developed by Sureksu
House of Languages developed by Fox3D Entertainment OU
Figment developed by Bedtime Digital Games
Trains VR developed by The House of Fables

BEST MOBILE GAME
Super Pet Hero developed by Amused Sloth
VOI developed by Yunus AYYILDIZ (gamebra.in)
unWorded developed by bento
Euclidean Lands developed by Miro Straka

BEST VR GAME
Anshar Wars 2 developed by Ozwe Games
Panoptic developed by Team Panoptes
The Biumbis developed by 3OGS
Wrath of Loki VR Adventure developed by The House of Fables

MOST INNOVATIVE GAME
FRU developed by Through Games
Lost Words developed by Fourth State
Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun developed by Mimimi Productions
Panoptic developed by Team Panoptes

You can find the full list of Indie Prize Berlin 2016 finalists at indieprize.org.

Photo taken by Lera Polska

Join Indie Prize Facebook community to stay updated about Indie Prize https://www.facebook.com/groups/870174783048528/

The winners are supported by Unity (Platinum sponsor), Korean Game Developers Association (Gold sponsor) and the prizes for winners are provided by: Tenjin, Photon, Amazon Appstore, Appodeal, SpeedLink, ironSource and IBM.

ContributionsDevelopmentEventsIndieNews

Join Eastern European Devs at Casual Connect Europe this February

January 15, 2017 — by Yuliya Moshkaryova

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One game from Bulgaria and from Republic of Moldova, three games from Romania and from Serbia, six games from Russia and nine games from Ukraine were selected by judges among 470 submission to represent their countries as the finalists at the international Indie Prize showcase in Berlin during Casual Connect Europe 2017! Among these, six games were nominated by Game Nation Nomination Partners: Game Factory Jam Winner which was in Republic of Moldova, DevPlay in Romania, DevGAMM in Belarus, White Nights in Russian Federation, Games Gathering Conference and GetIT! in Ukraine.

ContributionsDevelopmentIndie

Rikodu Brings Robots and Mayhem from Transylvania

December 5, 2016 — by Industry Contributions

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Editor’s Note: The RGDA Dev-Play Indie Pitch Contest took place on 26th and 27th of September in Romania. At this contest, Romanian indie studios get a chance to present their creations to a jury with well known developers, national and international publishers and specialized media to determine two winners. As an Indie Prize nomination partner, RGDA has invited the winner to participate at the Indie Prize Scholarship which is taking place at Casual Connect Berlin.


By Alexandru Palade, Founder, Managing Director at Rikodu

Hi there. I’m Alex, and in April 2016 I founded an indie game studio in Cluj-Napoca, a city in the heart of Transylvania. Read on to hear a personal story of why I left my safe, well-paid job to jump into indie gaming, how Team Rikodu got together and how we ended up winning our first prize at the Dev-Play Indie Pitch with the prototype of Second Hand: Frankie’s Revenge.

Going Indie

Indie is a loaded term and it means different things to different people. To me, Indie boils down to two things: increased risk and some level of sacrifice. Indie developers live or die by their success and they sacrifice either their free time or the potential to make more money. In exchange, they get creative freedom and the potential to get a much larger share of the financial success.

My story is a variation on another common theme: software developer who loves games, always wanted to make them, but was taken by life on a different path. The only minor variation is that I had a better paid job to give up than usual, because I had climbed the corporate ladder and was managing a large product department by the time I left. But those of us who are marked have no escape. The fascination with games is what led me to follow a career in technology. If I would have settled and hadn’t jumped in – Indiepocalypse be damned – I would have regretted it forever. For those of you nodding in agreement who haven’t taken the plunge yet I have a quote from my favorite book: I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.

EventsNews

Eastern Europe at Indie Prize Tel Aviv 2016

October 12, 2016 — by Yuliya Moshkaryova

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The international Indie Prize showcase for independent developers will take place on Nov 1-3, 2016 in Tel Aviv. Sixty games from 21 countries were provided with Indie Prize scholarship by Casual Connect and will be showcased at Habima Square during three days from 9 AM to 5 PM. Eastern Europe will be represented with Czech Republic, Romania and Serbia.

Two games will represent Czech Republic at Casual Connect Tel Aviv: Planet Nomads developed by Craneballs and Take Cover developed by Gamajun Games.

Europe 2016Video Coverage

Nicolae Berbece Finds Beauty of Creativity is in Limits | Casual Connect Video

March 23, 2016 — by Gamesauce Staff

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'The beauty of creativity is in limits.' - Nicolae BerbeceClick To Tweet

From annoying pop-ups and walls of text to images of controllers with tons of little lines coming out of them leading to actions that the player is supposed to magically remember before even playing the game, tutorials can be the death of a game. In the recent talk about tutorials at Casual Connect Europe, Nicolae Berbece taught how to make a successful tutorial, one that will hook the player from the beginning to the very end. Do you want to know how to make a good tutorial without the player even realizing they’re going through one? First of all, you do need to know that “tutorials are essential”, but also keep in mind that “a good tutorial is invisible, no one remembers a good tutorial”. Nicolae further advised, “teach through experience, no popups, no wall of text.” For these things and more, lend an ear to one of Those Awesome Guys, Nicolae Berbece.

DevelopmentExclusive Interviews

No-Coding-Required Glue Engine Will Revolutionize Game Dev, Makers Say

July 16, 2015 — by Steve Kent

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Developers of a game engine currently in beta say their product will allow people to make games without coding, but that it will still appeal to more knowledgeable developers who just want to speed things up. Glue Engine, headquartered in Bucharest, was founded with the goal to let users “create games very quick with no programming skills.” GameSauce interviewed Glue Engine CEO Catalin Biga and CTO Alexandru Matei to lock down a few more specifics regarding the product and the company’s vision for the future of development.

Europe 2015Video Coverage

Bogdan Iliesiu: Finding Focus on Diverse, Fun Games | Casual Connect Video

June 18, 2015 — by Gamesauce Staff

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'Working in games feels so creative and rewarding.'–Bogdan IliesiuClick To Tweet

During his Casual Connect Europe 2015 lecture, Bogdan Iliesiu compared the risks and rewards of making innovative games vs. building on established IPs or gameplay. “If you’re making something innovative, users usually like it,” he says. For more, see the video below.

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