In this interview, yellowHEAD’s Marina Sapunova speaks with Olga Khomenko about her life as a drummer in an indie band, what exotic places she wants to visit and why she loves playing board games.
Marina: Hi Olga! So we are at Casual Connect Kyiv. Could you please share with us what you do?
Olga: First of all, I want to say that I’m so excited that Casual Connect is back at Kyiv because it’s my native city and I adore it. A lot of new people come to your city and see how cool and beautiful it is. I work at PlayToMax and we create HMTL 5 games. We develop our own games, as well as provide outsourcing services. And I’m also here at the conference together with my friend – he’s an indie developer who’s working on his own game and I’m helping him, so please vote for him.
Marina: Sure! I still haven’t voted so I will do it. Are you a gamer?
Indie Prize London 2018 featured many exciting games that we will enjoy playing. The judging is now complete and Casual Connect Europe is happy to announce the winners and nominees in each category.
The winner of Best Game Audio is Zebrainy ABCs, created by Zebrainy Limited from Ukraine. This is an alphabet learning game for young children that takes them on a journey where they learn to construct each letter and then to know animals, objects and characters that begin with that letter.
Nominees for Best Game Audio were: LUNA the Shadow Dust, developed by Lantern Studio from the United Kingdom, a point-and-click puzzle adventure set in a fantasy world; Nishan Shaman by Next Studio from China, inspired by ancient Chinese Manchu mythology; and Hyperforma by Nord Unit of Russia, an arcade puzzle in a steampunk setting.
The winner of Best Game Design was EnigmBox by Benoit Freslom from France. EnigmBox is a puzzle game that requires you to use all the functionalities of your smartphone to solve the puzzles, including things like the location service, plug-in accessories and much more.
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.
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.
We are SignSine – a two people game studio from Kyiv, Ukraine.
We are developing PROZE, an atmospheric survival adventure game focused on telling a compelling story “about friendship with massive Cold War conspiracy background” and providing an immersive experience in VR.
Where did everything start?
In August 2016, we went to a countryside house (dacha) nearby Kyiv with a company of old friends. After getting lost in the woods we were very inspired telling the story to each other from a different perspective. Some time after we decided to turn our memories of that evening into a game screenplay, that’s how the initial idea came together.
We weren’t sure about genre, setting or technology. It was just a draft story and we kept developing it, collecting ideas and references for everything, drawing early sketches, describing game mechanics and creating puzzles — basically doing what we could.
We knew exactly what kind of experience PROZE should be in the end – a unique story with massive background, characters, which you love, hate and empathize. Cozy and at the same time – scary atmosphere that will be left imprinted in players memories for decades. Our sights of what the perfect game should be and on many other things was uncommon, that’s why we settled as a team and kept progressing on the development.
The decision of making a VR game was not instant. However while putting our design document together we realized that this technology can fully project our idea, thoughts, and emotions that we have put into the screenplay. To embody those moments as it could happen in real life we decided to make a VR game at first place.
Going for technologies that we are using in the game creation is a bigger challenge for us, as we are trying to reach really stunning quality of visuals and audio with no budget.
So pretty much all the things that we are doing, we are doing ourselves, including photogrammetry, motion capture, spatial sound design, 3D modeling.
The hardest part was to combine the development with our day jobs. We have to support financially ourselves and the project. We have to spend tons of time on doing things and learning new as we set this unreachable goal of making an uncompromised game.
There were 4 of us in the very beginning, but only 2 of us left carrying the torch. All of us have motivational, financial, family, time and other problems from time to time, it makes huge impacts on the progress of PROZE development, nevertheless we work as a team and support each other during the hard times.
Today we went for full time development, rented a small office, upgraded some gear.
That’s not fine when we can’t afford buying food everyday, but we truly believe that things will change and PROZE will be a blast when it’s done.
We have spend a lot of time on crafting the cinematic story trailer, which is not completed yet today. It still lacks of visual effects and expensive 3D character models.
Perhaps it was a mistake starting from such complex footage that required all states of technology and art in itself ignoring the actual gameplay.
However we’ve learned a lot and gained big experience with
The new game engine.
Motion capture, which we were recording with 2 soldiered Kinects in the rotten basement of the 18 story building. Where we were disturbed all the time by the tenants that were looking at us as on aliens trying to steal their gigabytes of internet.
Crawling through the dungeons and caught cold standing on the windy highways and fields and lakes to record authentic ambiances and sound effects.
But wrong moves were made right. Using the experience and groundwork we started from scratch creating a playable game episode in VR. Not much time has passed and we are showcasing PROZE pre-Aplha at our first conference. So many gamers that have never played anything like that before were extremeley excited.
After 2 months and huge update we are getting 2 main prizes during our second in life conference.
We’ve been awarded the Audience Choice Award and the Best Indie Game Award. Now as winners from GameDev Lviv (an Indie Prize Partner event), we are Indie Prize London finalist at Casual Connect Europe and the game looks and feels like never before.
The mistake that we won’t regret if you can call it a mistake is that we are not following the trends.
The development of such complex project takes a lot of time and the industry changes every now and then. PROZE is not social, it is not a multiplayer. It doesn’t have loot boxes or similar things.
It may sound strange, but it is designed mostly for introverts that want to relax after a busy day, spend a few hours alone and take part in the breathtaking story, experience the situations that might be related to them, but in an extraordinary way and get the emotional connection with the characters.
Hopefully we will connect with our audience and together we will prove that there are no such thing as unreachable goals. And the higher you aim the more you gain. That probably would be the main tip for other developers trying hard to bring their worlds to life.
It might be early to judge if our approach repays.
In this interview, yellowHEAD’s Marina Sapunova speaks with Jessica Tams about her life behind one of the most successful events in the games industry, why she moved to a farm and what she was like in high school.
Marina Sapunova: Hi Jessica! I’m happy to have you with me. I don’t think that you need an introduction for our audience, but it would be great if you could say just a few words about what you do.
Jessica Tams: I’m Jessica Tams – I am the Managing Director of CGA. We have a couple of things that we do: Casual Connect; we also organize Indie Prize, which is the scholarship program for indie developers; and a media outlet – Gamesauce.biz. We’ve been doing this for 13 years. We do 4 shows a year. So that’s what I do.
Marina: Nice! And you are so good at what you do! But let’s talk about Jessica. Who’s Jessica behind her title?
There’s nothing quite like the intensity and excitement of forty-eight hours of working together to create a new game. Ask any participant in a game jam. Then, at Global Game Jam, multiply that excitement with the knowledge that teams are doing the same thing in centers around the globe.
2017 was the second year for Global Game Jam Ukraine. It is a partner event with Indie Prize where certain winners are given the opportunity to compete at a Casual Connect and Indie Prize of their choice. Recently Casual Connect asked Oleksii Izvalov, Regional Organizer in Eastern Europe for Global Game Jam, about the event. He described the incredible feeling that came from seeing game developers from every part of the country gathering together to make a game.
In this interview, yellowHEAD’s Marina Sapunova speaks with Javier Castro, Head of EMEA Apps Gaming Sales, to find out about the person behind the title, what interests him in life besides work and what brought him to Casual Connect in Kyiv.
Marina: Thanks for taking the time to talk to me, Javi. Could you kick things off by sharing with our audience what company you work for and your title?
Javier: For the last 5 years, I’ve been working at Google. I started working at the Google Cloud team and then I moved to the Google apps business. Currently, I am managing a team of colleagues who are working with gaming companies across EMEA, so pretty much working with most of our top gaming companies.
The Indie Prize competition at Casual Connect USA 2018 featured many exciting and innovative entries. Casual Connect is now announcing the nominees and winners.
Best Game Audio
The winner of Best Game Audio was Floor Kids, developed by MERJ Media from Canada. Floor Kids is a break dance battle game that rewards musicality, originality and style. It can be played in solo freestyle mode or in two player battles.
Also nominated for Best Game Audio were Stack & Crack, a 3D puzzle game by Jambav from India; Orbit – Playing With Gravity, a game that has players launching planets and attempting to get them into stable orbits around black holes, by HIGHKEY Games from the United States; and Rumble League, a real-time, action packed strategy game by Lorraine Studio of the United States.
Europe and India are bringing a fascinating variety of games to Indie Prize during Casual Connect USA at Disneyland® Hotel. This group of games include beautiful puzzle games, games requiring skills, learning fairy tales for children, games of suspense and, of course, games of competition. Indie Prize is seeing amazing innovation and diversity in these new games.
Game Title:Stack & Crack Developer:Jambav Platform: iOS Country: India
Stack & Crack is a 3D puzzle game with beautiful levels. There is no tutorial; the levels are designed in a way that makes a tutorial unnecessary. But it is not an easy game. Each chapter introduces a different creative element that makes cracking the game a challenge to the brain.
Stack & Crack was shortlisted in the “Upcoming Game of the Year” section of NGDC 2017, Hyderabad, India.
Casual Connect Kyiv 2017 has been going strong in beautiful Kyiv, a city known for its history, creativity and culture, October 24, 25 and 26. And now we have the results of the exciting 20th Indie Prize competition.
Best Game Audio
Best Game Audio was awarded to Kenshō developed by FIFTYTWO, a Russian game studio. Kenshō is a mysterious game that takes place within a ruined room with doors opening onto beautiful landscapes. It is an addictive puzzle game with the player matching blocks and overcoming challenges to unfold the narrative.
Nominated for Best Game Audio were Melody Streaks by Beeble Games of India, a game where the player creates music with every move the character makes; Talking ABC by Hey-Clay of Ukraine, which uses animal characters to make learning fun; and Guns ‘n’ Stories: Bulletproof VR by Mirowin of Ukraine, bringing VR to the Wild West Era.