David and Goliath Story
Today I’d like to talk a little bit about the Irish “Independent” Game Development scene. So please; while I understand that Bioware, Demonware, Gala, Big Fish Games and more are based here, this specific post is simply related to companies like Open Emotion Studios, bitSmith, Batcat, Pixel Wolf etc. O.K? If you’re still here then great, let’s begin.
First of all let’s jump back in time to 2009, a time I like to refer to as P.R.B (Pre-Rebecca-Black). In December of that year, Myself and my friends Colm English and Mike Naughton, co-founded Open Emotion Studios.
It was quite a quick process (Probably a little too quick, but hey, it worked at the time) to get up and moving and within just one month, with no prior game development experience, we’d created a little flash game called Mad Blocker, which was being played all throughout the world; primarily in Latin American countries, for some strange reason… Roll on to March 2010. At this time, we were well on our way to completing our second title, when we received an invite to an Irish programming and game development conference, called Games Fleadh. At Games Fleadh 2010, we got the opportunity to meet guys from Popcap, Jolt and Demonware, but what struck me at that time, was that we had no real peers to chat with. There was no other Indie development companies at Games Fleadh that year, to the best of my knowledge anyway, which I was quite shocked by. The lack of fellow devs at that time also made getting funding from the local country enterprise board very difficult, as we had very few success stories, within Ireland to reference. Thankfully, at that time Aphra Kerr, who some of you may know from GameDeveloper.ie had written a report about the Irish Game sector and statistics on its growth and such. This was instrumental for us in securing funding at the early stage and without that kind of information being publicly available, we may never have received funding and would never have grown the company, as we did over the subsequent two years.
This brings me, in a roundabout way, to my “BIG” observation :P Access to information, knowledge of industry and availability of resources are key to allowing our tiny “David” of a country, to be able to fire some stones at the “Goliath” that is the global games market.
We need to acknowledge and accept that we are a small country – Our population is less than that of Manchester in the U.K – and need to also realise, we’re punching above our weight at present. To be fair there are areas where we’re still playing catch up to countries like Canada and Sweden in regards to our academic structure. We are also working to build up a qualified indigenous workforce suited to the ever-growing game development sector. Upon my departure from Open Emotion Studios, I got to thinking about the development scene in Ireland as a whole and I realised, how easy it is to get caught up in the affairs of your own one company; how simple it is to lose sight of the need’s of the industry as a whole. We are too small, as stated above, to be competing internally – That might sound like crap, but its the truth. Considering the lack of people with the experience and skills required, the truth of the matter is, we need to start learning to better share resources and information internally between developers.
I recently spoke to a number of devs from around the country and while they all shared the same huge amount of energy and passion for game development, they felt confused about certain aspects of the industry. One developer had an amazing ability for fundraising but didn’t know the best way to showcase or market his product. Another company was struggling like mad to raise funds, but had a great knack for bringing virality and awareness to their project. It was upon seeing, and taking note of, this that I decided it may be in the best interests of #IrishGameDev to have weekly or even bi-weekly web conferences, with all the developers, across the country, discussing the key areas which we can help others in, or seek help when we are struggling with something like Marketing or Asset Creation. For example, one team might have an amazing concept, the money available but a lack of qualified artists – This would be somewhere that I could step in and play matchmaker between that developer and some qualified artists, who are keen to find work. It should be fairly obvious that this approach will not always work, but with that kind of structure or support in place, having it always readily available would give so many more independent developers the opportunity to bring their content to the market which would improve Irelands profile within the global games industry.
I suppose to try and link the whole article together – Basically, if the information and guidance I received from Aphra Kerr hadn’t been available, I don’t know where the videogame sector would be today, as I know Open Emotion would never have gotten off the starting block. We need to, much like Aphra has done, be willing to share our knowledge and experience of the industry wherever possible if we are going to see the indie scene thrive here as it has done in countries like Sweden. I know as Irish people we can be inherently competitive and may not want to share our contacts or our best tips for marketing products; on top of that we are also none too keen to admit our own failings… but sharing and discussing that type of valuable information, is what will enrich and strengthen the Indie Development scene in Ireland.
If you are an independent developer or development company and would be interested in trying to get together on one of these webconferences in the coming weeks, please feel free to let me know on the IGDA Ireland Facebook page or over on twitter!
I hope this article wasn’t too nuts and I apologies for any presumptions I have made that may be inaccurate – This is simply my observations on the sector and suggestions for action to enhance growth.
The Dev(il) in the Red Hat
Posted on April 5, 2012, in IrishGameDev, Observations and tagged academic, bitsmith, dev, development, game, grown, home, indie, irish, pixel wolf, resource, share, workforce. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.