Two Irish games selected for Casual Connect Indie prize

Casual Connect is taking place shortly in Amsterdam, the Netherlands and we are delighted to announce that two Irish indie games have been selected as finalists for the Indie Prize.

 

Hay Ewe by Rocket Rainbow Studios

 

Founded in 2012, Rocket Rainbow is an indie developer based in Galway. Last Autumn they released Hay Ewe, a ‘ewe-nique’ puzzle game centering on the adventures of Matilda the sheep!

hay-ewe-logoMatilda is a natural born leader with the unfortunate task of rounding up the ever-mischievous lambs. Using your finger to draw a path you must navigate challenging puzzles and avoid treacherous obstacles with your chain of lambs to deliver them to the safety of the barn.

J. P. Vaughan told us that “We are thrilled to have Hay Ewe nominated as a finalist for the Indie Prize. We worked really hard over the past year and a nomination like this makes us feel really proud of what we have achieved. We’re extremely happy to be standing tall alongside many other great indie games.”

 

Guild of Dungeoneering by Gambrinous

 

Gambrinous is an independent studio based primarily in Dublin, Ireland. Initially a kind of one-man-band run by founder Colm Larkin, it has now grown to a hefty four people as they work on their first commercial release, Guild of Dungeoneering.

Guild of Dungeoneering is a turn-based dungeon crawler with a twist: instead of controlling the hero you build the dungeon around him. Using cards drawn from your Guild decks you lay down rooms, monsters, traps and of course loot! Meanwhile your hero is making his own decisions on where to go and what to fight. But will he be strong enough to take on the dungeon’s overlord?

In between dungeon runs you manage your Guild, building new rooms to attract new classes of adventurer and to expand your decks of cards with more powerful items and events. Visually Guild of Dungeoneering looks like something you might have doodled in the corner of your copybook, with a sort of pen-on-graphpaper feel.

Colm Larkin told us “I’m incredibly proud that Guild of Dungeoneering has been selected as a finalist in the Indie Prize. The game has come a long way from its humble beginnings as a gamejam prototype to becoming a top quality indie game. Awards like this one really help show us we are doing something right!

Good luck to both!

NinjaGo Endless Runner released for the App Store

In late 2014 we announced that Galway games studio 9th Impact had released NinjaGo Endless Runner on Google Play. It is still on our frontpage banner.

In the 2 months following launch, the app has been downloaded more than 15,000 times from Google Play with over half a million games played in that period.

Today, the Galway team have good news for Apple users.  The game is now available in the App Store with versions for both iphone and ipad resolutions.

The game is free to play and features a Ninja running through different terrain (levels) jumping, somersaulting and using weapons.  It features “gamer thumbs” controls which is a departure from the more usual “swipe actions” of other games in the Endless Runner category.

“We’ve had incredibly positive feedback so far, with the majority of people rating the game 5 stars.” reported Finn Krewer, Head of Development at the 9thImpact studio. “As with any game, we’ve small things to improve and we’re busy developing new levels and enhancements which we’ll roll out to gamers soon.”

NinjaGo can be downloaded free from the following stores:

 

Ninja Go Endless Runner
Ninja Go Endless Runner
Developer: 9th Impact
Price: Free+

 

Ninja Go Endless Runner
Ninja Go Endless Runner
Developer: 9th Impact
Price: Free+

 

New Database of Game Related Courses

It is January and that time of year when secondary school students, people thinking of a career change, and those interested in further training, are galvanised by the CAO deadlines in the Republic of Ireland and the UCAS system in Northern Ireland (which has different deadlines!). Here on gd.ie we usually get a good few emails around this time of year from people looking for information on courses and advice.

Last summer one of our key goals was to update our database of all of the games related courses at levels 6/7 and beyond that are available both in the Republic and Northern Ireland.

Today we are relaunching our database of game related courses. While we still have some formatting work to do, time was ticking so we thought we had better get the info out there. Our database will allow you to search for courses by institution, course name/type and location. There are around 150 courses of different levels here from public and private institutions. Some of these courses are directly designed for those thinking of entering the games industry, others are less directly targeted but offer relevant skills. Thus our database should be a nice complement to the CAO and UCAS databases.

We hope that this helps our members to choose the right path for their career, and institutions with courses that are not listed can contact us to get listed.

We do not endorse one course over another and we rely on colleges, staff and students to update us with changes so always check the course website for updated details before making your final choice.

This is a volunteer effort by members of the gd.ie community with special assistance from K. Vesikko.

Let us know what you think and if you like it, share it!

#IrishGameDev in the news – 18 Jan.

Following in the wake of two articles in the Examiner newspaper which we have linked to in our forums, Róisín Burke from The Sunday Business Post (SBP) wrote two articles in yesterday’s paper (18th of Jan. 2015) on the Irish games industry.

5648_front

One focused on asking what has happened since the government launched its Action plan for the Games Sector in Ireland in 2011 and set out a number of measures which it claimed could double the numbers employed in ‘core game activities’. On foot of this a cluster group was established to implement the plan. This group included industry, academic and other interested representatives.

Games Ireland was formally incorporated around this time, as an industry representative body for the games industry in Ireland and held a high profile event in the Shelbourne hotel attended by industry representatives from Europe. See images below of an Taoiseach End Kenny and David Sweeney, then chair of Games Ireland and in the second image Paschal Donoghue (TD) and Barry O’Neil (StoryToys) from this event. Paschal Donoghue (TD) was at that stage one of the most prominent political figures promoting the games industry. Games Ireland were also participants in the cluster.

5648_3

 

5648_2

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Clustering Development Team has to date not published a report and there is no public records of their activities (do correct us if there are!). According to the SBP articles Games Ireland appears to be declining to agree to publication of a report without some key issues being included and the ‘team’ has been in hibernation now for almost a year.

Meanwhile David Sweeney stepped down as chair of Games Ireland towards the end of 2014 to concentrate on his European work. He has been replaced by Paul Breslin of Riot Games. Paschal Donoghue has moved to a new appointment as Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport.

In the second article we see some discussion of the potential impact of a new tax credit system for game development introduced in the last year in the UK. Some Irish companies are considering establishing offices in Northern Ireland or in the UK to take advantage of both the tax credit and funding via cultural funding agencies.

So together with the articles in the Examiner, a rather somber picture is presented and the action plan is looking rather lifeless.

Notes:

Download the action plan – forfas20111010-Games_Sector_in_Ireland_2011

 

GameCarver Workshop

Zoodazzle is happy to announce a GameCarver Workshop in the Synergy Centre, I.T. Tallaght on Saturday, January 31st. The workshop will run from 9am to 1pm.

Over the 4-hours, you will learn how to:

– make games in GameCarver (covering 2D and 3D, gadgets, inventions and game templates)

– collaborate in teams of mixed skills (artists with coders with designers)

– collaborate in distributed teams (artists in once place, coders in another)

Lunch and refreshments will be provided on the day and we hope it will be a lot of fun as well as the chance to use one of the coolest new game technologies for game development.

The workshop is open to all but limited to only 20 places and will be allocated on a first-come-first-serve basis.

To register, please click http://bit.ly/1DxJjhQ

FAQs
What are my transport/parking options getting to the event?
For travel information to and from the venue, please see the contact page http://www.gamecarver.com/contact/
There will be ample free parking available at the venue.

What should I bring to the event?
You will need to bring a Windows based laptop – but all other software and licensing for GameCarver will be provided free on the day.

Who is the event for?
To get the most from the workshop, we expect attendee to have some experience in game development – either as an artist, coder or game designer.

What is the running-order?
8.30am – Tea & Coffees + Setup time
9.00am – Workshop Part 1
10.45am – Break
11.00am – Workshop Part 2
1.00pm – Lunch

Where can I get more information on the event?
Information about GameCarver can be found at www.gamecarver.com
If you have any questions, please contact us at http://www.gamecarver.com/contact/

To register, please click http://bit.ly/1DxJjhQ

Looking for game design tutorials ? Find them in a new app, GAME DESIGN TOOLBOX

My name is Pascal Luban. I am a game designer with 19+ yrs of experience. I have worked on both triple-A console titles like Battlefield – Bad Company or Splinter Cell (I was their lead level designer on the multiplayer version) and mobile games.

I have compiled all my experience in an iOS/Android app called GAME DESIGN TOOLBOX

Check it out. The app is free and includes one tutorial. The other tutorials are for sale but at very, very low prices: most of them are priced between 1 and 3 $. for that price, you’ll be surprised by the quality of the content.

Tutorials cover the following areas:

– Game concept
– Game mechanics
– Level design
– Storytelling
– Tools & methods

Each category contains detailed tutorials. Chances are that you’ll find topics of interest to you.

If you want details on the content of the app, you can visit its website: www.tutorialsgamedesign.com
watch this Youtube movie: http://youtu.be/bldotB94MMQ
or visit the App Store and Google Play.

New Game Art and Design Programme (LIT Clonmel)

Limerick Institute of Technology (LIT) and the Limerick School of Art and Design (LSAD) are pleased to announce the launch of a new Bachelor of Science (Honours) Degree in Game Art and Design. This programme will run on the LIT Clonmel campus where it will compliment our current suite of digital programmes including Digital Animation Production and Creative multimedia.

The first of its kind in the country, this honours degree programme has been created to address the need for creative graduates who possess a unique blend of artistic and technological skills. This will support the continued growth and success of the games industry both nationally and internationally. The programme aims to develop graduates who can create high quality game content, design game levels and work with industry leading content creation tools, scripting languages and games engines.

The programme has been welcomed by key Game industry stakeholders both nationally and internationally and it addresses key recommendations of the 2011 Forfas report “The Games Sector in Ireland: An Action plan for Growth”.

World renowned Game Designer Brenda Romero, who recently visited LIT Clonmel for two days as part of a Fullbright Fellowship to Ireland, assisted in the design of this new programme.

“A unique aspect of this Bachelor of Science programme from a national perspective is that all applicants must present a portfolio of relevant work. This will ensure that entrants to the programme have an aptitude and interest in the field of Game Art and Design”.

– Andrew Crotty, programme leader of the B.Sc in Game Art and Design

We are very excited to announce our first student intake for September 2015 at our Clonmel campus.

For further information, please visit the B.Sc in Game Art and Design Web Page at http://www.lit.ie/Courses/LC502

Bluebear, Junior Game Dev (Dublin)

Bluebear is looking for a junior programmer to join our engineering team and help develop new and exciting games for our expanding library of titles.

We are interested in hearing from talented programmers eager to get their career in game development started. Prior work experience is helpful but not required. If you feel that you are a gifted programmer, then we would encourage you to apply even if you do not have all of the skills/qualifications listed below.

As programmers ourselves, we understand that a strong programming aptitude will allow you to pick up new technologies quickly.

The perfect candidate will need:


*A bachelors degree in computer science or equivalent ( M.Sc or Ph.d preferred )
*Strong programming abilities in C/C++
*Ability to write clean OOP code
*An appreciation for quality workmanship

Nice to have:


*OpenGL,
*XNA
Box2D/Chipmunk
Python/Perl scripting ability
*Linux/Unix skills
*Git experience
*Experience with Agile/Scrum methodologies
*JavaScript, Lua

Other Qualities:

*Display high standards, good attention to detail and a methodical work process.

The ideal candidate should have an ability to work effectively in a small team and independently under their own initiative.
Familiarity with the best apps on the App Store and an appreciation for beautiful UI.

Salary


The position is available on a full time basis. Salary will depend on the candidate/experience level.

To Apply
Please send us a short e-mail on why you want to work with us and any links to portfolio work/online presence to jobs@bluebear.ie

About Bluebear

Bluebear is an independent game studio based in the heart of Dublin, Ireland. We are focused on bringing innovative titles to the casual gaming market and have a passion for quality and beautiful design. We believe in creating fun games that offer strong user engagement and that allow our users to be creative. Our 36 apps have been downloaded more than 60 million times since the companies inception. We’re building out a team of extremely talented people and have huge ambitions for the future.

 

See www.bluebear.ie for more and for other positions.

Global Games Jam 2015

The Global Game Jam (GGJ) is the world’s largest game jam event (game creation) taking place around the world at physical locations. Think of it as a hackathon focused on game development.

The weekend allows you to explore the process of development, be it programming, iterative design, narrative exploration or artistic expression. It is all condensed into a 48 hour development cycle. The GGJ encourages people with all kinds of backgrounds to participate and contribute to this global spread of game development and creativity.

The structure of a jam is usually that everyone gathers on Friday late afternoon, watches a short video keynote with advice from leading game developers, and then a secret theme is announced. All sites worldwide are then challenged to make games based on that same theme, with games to be completed by Sunday afternoon.

In January 2014, they had 488 location in 72 countries create over 4000 games in one weekend!

GGJ 2015 is January 23-25. This year four locations are listed for the Ireland – Pulse College Galway, IT Carlow, Griffith College Dublin and LIT Thurles. See the website and then contact the individual venues.

 

Call for speakers for Women in Games Conf.

A call has opened for speakers and panellists to speak at the annual Women in Games industry event on September 10th, 2015 in London.

This is a European conference and it welcomes speakers – men and women – from Ireland and outside of the UK.

There is a deadline of July 11th for all those interested to make contact with their ideas for a conference which last year attracted over 200 delegates.

The Conference will take place on September 10th at London South Bank University at the invitation of Siobhan Thomas, Director of the very successful BA (Hons) Game Cultures course. The conference will include again the European Women in Games Hall of Fame Awards where last year Rhianna Pratchett, Siobhan Reddy and Zuraida Buter joined the Hall of Fame.

Anyone interested in speaking or a participating in this year’s conference can contact conference organiser, David Smith on david.smith@wigjobs.com

See also www.womeningamesjobs.com/ 

Six appeal

Pavel Barter talks to John Halloran, co-founder of SixMinute Games, about how the independent mobile game studio rose from the ashes of PopCap to become a leading light in Irish game development.

Failure is not always an option, but the team at SixMinute Games consider it a stepping stone to success. In January, 2014, the independent development studio began developing mobile game Pick A Pet. Six weeks later, the game had a soft launch in the Philippines. In Pick A Pet, players use pets, each sporting a special power, to match puzzles. Would people enjoy the idea? How long would users play it? How frequently would they change pets? SixMinute had dozens of questions about the game – and only players could provide the answers.

John Halloran, co-founder at SixMinute, recalls the process: “We can see the number of fails and re-tries on each level. Why are people dropping out at the third screen? Why are people not getting past level three, even though it’s definitely do-able?  You replace an early version of the screen with a more polished version. Does that work? Does it increase the number of players? Can we get people to level 20?”

Ultimately, the team wanted to know if the concept worked. “If users don’t enjoy this element of picking and choosing pets, we should stop. It’s about deciding whether or not to continue working on it.”

As it happened, Pick A Pet was a triumph. The game amassed around 25,000 users in the Philippines within a few weeks. Having ironed the creases out of the game, the company launched it in Ireland in April, 2014, followed by a global launch in July.

Pick A Pet

 

Halloran is in the rec room of SixMinute’s offices, in a building off Dublin’s Camden Street. Much has changed since September, 2012, when US developer PopCap, creator of hit franchises Bejeweled and Plants Versus Zombies, closed the doors of its Dublin offices.

Halloran and other members of the PopCap team then set up SixMinute, but they wanted a different approach to development. All of them had developed products at PopCap that were never released: a common strategy for a large studio. From the start, SixMinute’s strategy was to launch games quickly, then test them in markets before undertaking a big launch. “The idea is you want to fail quicker,” explains Halloran. “You want to understand whether this game is going to work or not… and understand what people like about the game.”

SixMinute, which has 11 employees at present, inherited the attributes that made PopCap a world leading mobile developer. Notably, a focus on design and polish. When Halloran first started working for the company in 2005, making a Nokia version of a PopCap title, he needed to raise his game. “In PopCap, everyone has to understand game design, whether you are a programmer, a tester, producer. It’s key to everything,” he says.

John Halloran became a mobile game aficionado early in his career. At Abertay University, in Dundee, his training was geared toward AAA games for PlayStation or Xbox, and working in large teams. But he found himself working in mobile at an early stage of the technology, developing the J2ME mobile game MotoX, while still in Scotland, in 2005.

“I preferred smaller teams, the fast pace of advancement of technology,” he says. “I always felt the need to be more central than peripheral. I would find it quite difficult to be an engineer doing physics code in a big team for a AAA game. Smaller teams, making games over the space of a few months, releasing them and going on to the next game, was my passion.”

When he returned to Ireland, Halloran helped set up a Dublin branch of U.S. development studio TKO Software, which lasted a few months before folding in 2005. TKO’s Irish mobile team then set up mobile development studio Gamavoo, which was acquired by PopCap toward the end of 2005. “We were happy when PopCap came on board and took us over. It was a great thing to happen – we knew they were a great company and were going on to do great things. I was in PopCap for seven years. There was only about 50 people in the company globally when I started. There was over 600 when we finished up. It was a great opportunity to be a part of that and see how a company develops.”

When PopCap closed its doors in 2012, almost 100 jobs were lost. “I don’t think it’s a failing of the part of people in Dublin,” reasons Halloran. “PopCap was going through a lot of changes at the time – there were cuts across the board.

Five PopCap alumni – Séadna Long, John Halloran, Rory Walsh, Brian O’Donnell, and Paul O’Donnell – stayed in Ireland to establish their own company, although Walsh dropped out along the way. Some outsiders considered it a risky venture. Surely having five directors would lead to creative disagreements and contractual difficulties?

“We heard that so often. It made us very self-aware. It wasn’t something that scared me. Having been through so much with these guys, we know each other well.”

SixMinute team

 Four founders (From left to right: John Halloran, Séadna Long, Brian O’Donnell, Paul O’Donnell).

Brian studied at Abertay and lived with Halloran in Scotland. Paul, Brian’s younger brother, worked at PopCap for five years. “We’re pretty solid,” says Halloran. “You need to have disagreements and differences of opinion. But we’ve been through enough, throughout our years working together, to be able to lead without friction becoming too much. That’s not an issue. There are bigger things to worry about.”

SixMinute was self-funded for its first six months. They were founding members of the Games Ireland incubator unit in the IFSC in early 2013, and secured investment that summer. By this time, they had released Monster Mini-Games for Facebook. Using Nintendo’s WarioWare as inspiration, Monster Mini-Games, released as an Android app later in 2013, was a collection of casual games with names such as Monster Pop, Egg Head, Monster Match, Flapper, Whack-A-Monster, and Word War M.

“I knew I’d love making that game,” says Halloran. “Every week or two, we’d make a new game. Myself, Brian, Paul, would split off and do our own game. If it became profitable, we’d [still] be sitting here making mini-games. That sounded like an ideal scenario for me: throwing out small games and having an audience waiting for new content every few weeks. We wanted to create a game where you play against a friend, take multiple turns, and don’t know what game is going to come next. The hardest part about that is, you have to bring casual players through multiple games. New users might not understand it.”

In the end, Monster Mini-Games was too high concept for most players. Despite there being precedents with games such as Dumb Ways to Die and Mario Party, SixMinute could not get the overall meta-game to work. Was it a risky venture for a first project?

Monster Mini Games

“In hindsight, yes. But it was a great learning experience that made us do things really quickly,” says the SixMinute co-founder. “Even when I was making that game, I thought it was a big venture to undertake: ‘We are going to learn to make games really quickly and make them polished as individual teams. We’re not dependent on each other as one big group’. The company’s ethos was founded with that game. It got us noticed in the industry. A lot of the contacts I made with bigger companies around Europe were made through that game. That was the foundation that allowed us to do what we’re doing now.”

SixMinute are not scared about taking risks when making games, but Monster Mini Games proved that self-publishing has pitfalls. So for its next game, the company partnered with a publisher, FingerSoft in Finland.

Since its launch in 2014, Pick A Pet, for iOS and Android, has hooked players around the world. SixMinute is confident the game will break a million downloads in its first year. In December, 2014, another Finnish company launched the game in China. And the story is not over. Players, eager to tackle new levels, are constantly waiting for new content updates.

SixMinute use the freemium model, simply because it would be difficult to operate a company of this size with premium games. Pick A Pet has an in-app currency that allows players to purchase items and feed their pets. At the end of each level, you can buy more turns. The studio has begun to integrate video advertisements into the game, as an alternative for users to buying premium currency. While this makes up only a few per cent of revenue stream at present, Halloran predicts it will increase in the future.

SixMinute’s model of mobile game production affects everything from team-size to recruitment. Pick A Pet had six or seven people working on it when in full production. Now a couple of developers manage the project, whether testing, designing new levels, working with artists, or dealing with business partners in Finland and China. Halloran looks for multi-tasking skills in everyone he recruits.

Pick A Pet 2

“The longer things have gone on, the more we’ve turned to multi-skilled people,” he says. “People who are experts and broadly skilled as well. Everyone in the team needs to be a game designer, and understand art and coding. You have to do a bit of testing, production. The team needs to manage itself. I look for that from nearly everyone I hire, even artists.”

Even when SixMinute is not actively recruiting, the studio is always interested in hearing from prospective employees. “Half of the people we take on are when we are not planning to hire someone. I always look at CVs. If someone wants the opportunity, I’ll always listen to them.”

SixMinute’s Irish base has advantages. The company has a symbiotic relationship with Google and Facebook. In December, 2014, Halloran gave a talk for Google business leaders about his experience of making games and running a small games studio. “They help us out quite a bit,” he adds.

As well as nurturing Pick A Pet, SixMinute has started work on two new casual games. In 2015, the studio hopes to release a game on Android-based TV platforms, such as Amazon Fire or Nexus Player. The business of mobile gaming, though, is constantly evolving.

“That’s why I love working in mobile,” says Halloran. “When I was making Nokia games, or J2ME games, it was all about getting Vodafone to take your game, then getting it pre-installed on Nokia handsets. The app store revolutionised this business model. Now you no longer have to be a company like PopCap, getting deals with other big companies. Now anybody can make a game. That was the biggest revolution in mobile games.”

In a few years’ time, the industry will probably have changed all over again. “Who knows where it will go? I suspect China is going to be a big market over the next three years. Advertisements, as a revenue stream for a casual games studio, will likely rise to the fore as well.”

One constant will remain: casual games that capture the world’s imagination. While John Halloran is optimistic about Ireland’s position in the global gaming hemisphere he contends that the country needs a breakout hit: a Tetris or an Angry Birds, developed on Irish shores.

“When I started the company, I felt the only thing missing from Dublin and Ireland is a big hit game. We’re still waiting for that. That will tie everything together. We’ve seen that level of success from Irish apps, but not necessarily in games. We want to be the company that makes that big hit. That one hit will transform the industry.”

 

 

 

www.sixminute.com SixMinute logo

Sign-in for SixMinute’s latest prototype testing here 

Check out their games

 

 

Pick A Pet
Pick A Pet
Developer: Brian O'Donnell
Price: Free+

Pick A Pet - Puzzle
Pick A Pet - Puzzle
Price: Free+
The app was not found in the store. :-(