GameDev Estonia through 2022

I will write this article from the position of head of GameDev Estonia and project manager of IGDA Estonia. Let’s start with January, which was still a time of Coronavirus. Most of the meetings and planning were made online. All in all, I had around forty interviews with people across Estonian Gamedev. That was a starting point to create a reliable industry overview.

In February with the help of our Discord channel and all of the interviews, we created an Estonian Video Game Industry overview. This .pdf became very important throughout the year and was even used in a European industry overview document. But to be fair it’s not fully accurate. Later in the year, we found out about different studios that were hidden across Estonia and projects that were very quiet. This document will be updated in 2023.

At that point, our website and social channels started working. With some established connections and working channels, we started to be proactive.

February 11, 2022
Gamedev Meetup #1

This was our first meeting, that was held at the LVLup! Video Game Museum. Around 30 people came.

  • Ott Madis Ozolit – Future plans for APTGG and Placeholder games
  • Marten Palu – Building community in Pärnu, Gamecan
  • Andrejs Rusinovskis – Overview of Estonian GameDev scene


April 1, 2022
Gamedev Meetup #2

The second GameDev meetup was mainly about Game Dev Estonia’s activities and future plans. But after the main talk unexpectedly Ted Steen showcased his NES game project “Data Man”, and it’s pretty impressive what his team accomplished on this legendary hardware.

Here is a Livestream from that event: https://www.youtube.com/live/VSomnQgNEr0?feature=share

April 9 – 10
Character design workshop

The first real-life project of our association was a workshop targeting youth and students. “Character Design Workshop” was held in Narva – the first day in OBJEKT multimedia future hub, and the second day in Narva Art Residency. We are grateful that both venues not only took us for free but even provided additional support and advertisement.

The first day started with a series of lectures. First Dave talked about the marketing video game projects, then Sergei Dragunov from Fat Snail Studio made an introduction to the character design topic. After that participants were divided into six groups and started the development of their unique projects. The second half of the day started with a lecture about developing a compelling character from Mishura Games.

The second day was mostly group work, groups had time to work with mentors. At the end of the day, each team had five minutes to showcase their creativity. The final presentations were very diverse. There was a tiny demon on a mobile phone, a scientist with a robotic hand and energy core inside him, a visual novella with a very dark protagonist, a Native American with knowledge of dark magic, and a skeleton that is pretty good at stabbing people.

There were five teams, around 30 youngsters if I remember correctly, and they all had a good time. One of the participants is now working in Ringtail studios, and another one is working in Mishura games. And a team of three had practice in the Mishura office. So I would say that is a pretty cool outcome from a free event from a newly established association.

April 22 – 23
JAFF expo

At the end of April, we showcased Estonian games at JAFF / J-Zone. It was an interesting study. The main audience at this event are young people interested not only in anime and k-pop, but Warhammer, video game competitions, and role-play.


None of the attendees of this event knew any information about Estonian games or game dev as a whole. Even while playing the games next to the GameDev Estonia roll-up, most of the visitors didn’t get the idea that those games were developed in Estonia.


The event itself was not connected with the Estonian game dev community and did not even tap into gaming as a whole, but it showcased very well that there is a very long way to go towards promoting Estonian games and developers to the wider audience. Because all that young audience of school children/ university students are the potential future developers and a great support group for the local gaming industry.

April 22 – 23
MängudeÖÖ expo

Estonian games were present for the first time under the umbrella of GameDev Estonia at MängudeÖÖ. Four playable games were available at this year’s spring event. Developers of Broken alliance and Haiku the Robot even came to the event to see how people are playing their games.

Estonian GameDev had unexpectedly high representation at MängudeÖÖ. Rein Zobel from Maru VR Productions, A big part of the Placeholder Gameworks team, Ott Madis Ozolit. Almost full Mishura Games team, Aleksei Nehoroshkin. Jordan Morris from Mister Morris Games. Aleksandra Solomykova from Ringtail Studios.


May 6, 2022
Gamedev Meetup #3

The bigger meet-up that really showed some growth was our third meet-up in Telliskivi. It was May, with great weather, and many plans for the summer. Our venue was at the last moment became unusable, so we had to make the event in a relatively small room.

  • Program went like this:
  • Placeholder Gameworks showcased a new project “Broken Alliance”.
  • Mishura Games showcased for the first-time “Immortal” game in a playable state.
  • Mobidictum invited Estonian game developers to the conference in Turkey.

June 17 – 18, 2022
Estonian Gamedev Summer Summit

More than 70 developers and artists from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Finland came together in Tartu to discuss the ongoing Estonian projects and build plans for future cooperation. The weekend was divided into two parts. The first conference was held in Spark Demo and consisted of short presentations on topics of indie development and marketing. The second part was held in Tartumaa tervisespordikeskus and had more emphasis on international cooperation.

There were many games to discuss, such as “Haiku the Robot”, “Office Management 101”, “Artist Life simulator”, and “Blastronaut”. The main aim of this conference was to help each other to successfully release all of the upcoming games. One of the biggest pieces of news was that Estonian developers will travel to China and South Korea to showcase their games to the Asian market. That became possible thanks to the Baltic Explorers program (balticexplorers.eu).

Many great videos were produced from that event:

Jaanus Jaggo – Technology behind “Blastronaut”
Jaanus, a Computer Graphics Junior Lecturer at the University of Tartu, presents his game, and the technology behind it. BLASTRONAUT is a mining game in a procedural alien world but on a GODOT engine.

Katre Tiku – Guide to Indie Game Social Media Marketing
Student at the University of Tartu Institute of Computer Science and member of CGVR Lab. Defended her thesis on “Smart Solutions For Indie Game Maketing“.

Jordan Morris – Marketing tips for Indie Devs
Jordan is the creator of ‘Haiku, the Robot’, a 2D action-adventure platformer set in a post-apocalyptic world of virus-infected robots and machinery. His project was funded on Kickstarter, had a very successful release on Steam, and will come to the Nintendo Switch. He explained his marketing tactics.


July 23, 2022
GameDev DEMO Day

Due to the discussions at the summer conference, it was decided to make a Demo Day. Ten projects were showcased and discussed at the Ringtail Academy space. Almost all of the people attending were developers and artists, so this was a very productive meetup.


“Blastronaut” was coming out in a few days, so the creator Jaanus (Perfoon Games) had a last moment opportunity to check the reception and find some bugs. Placeholder Gameworks showcased the latest playable build of “Broken Alliance”, and got a lot of feedback and suggestions. Mishura Games had a new playable demo of “Immortal” with improved combat and more special moves. “Last Drop – Legend of Seppo” is a unique Finnish project showcased as an early beta. “Adventures of Delivery Man” was showcased in a pretty finished state. It is planned to come out as early access at some point. There was a selection of games from Tallinn University students, “Subsistence” by Box of Denial, “A bottles journey”, “O buddy, where art thou?”, “The Parallax Door”. We even had a game from Portugal – “Smithy Shop” by Nerd Monkeys.


July, August, 2022
Smaller Events Through Summer

Character anatomy drawing workshop – This workshop had an emphasis on drawing from a live model with traditional tools.

GameDev Lego Battle – We divided into teams and build crazy structures from Lego. It was like a Minecraft server in real life. There were tests on creativity, speed and humor.

Portrait Drawing Workshop – the second event from our drawing workshop series. This time we worked on the portraits from the live model. Aleksei Shatunov shared his knowledge about the basics of working with the human face.

July 28-29, 2022
DevGAMM Vilnius

After its fourteen-year-old history, DevGAMM has finally arrived in the Baltics, with its first-ever IRL event in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. And, boy, it was magical. Over 750 game dev professionals from 36 countries and 117 cities joined us on-site, with almost half attending DevGAMM for the first time! Andrejs from GameDev Estonia was invited to represent Estonia.


August 18-20, 2022
Pärnu Business Holiday

At the end of August, we helped to arrange a VIP event for Estonian, Finnish, Swedish, and Latvian game development industry makers.
Topics were:
-How to build a vivid game development scene in the nation?
-Game development education, future, and possibilities.
-Growth and funding. From work for hire to building winning brands.

During the long weekend at the sunny and fast-growing hidden gem of the Baltics with huge ambitions and plans towards the game development, in Pärnu we had discussions about key activities to boost gamedev ecosystem growth, talked about community building and gamedev education cooperation possibilities, and learned by investors how a nation needs one scalable breakthrough, not only to bring the whole scene interesting in eyes of investors, policymakers and greatly increase the popularity of game development industry but to create the replicable pattern of success!

Gamescom 2022
August 23 – 28, 2022

Gamescom 2022 was one of the biggest weeks in gaming and was filled with reveals, demos, news, interviews, and so much more. This was a valuable experience for many Estonian studios. Estonia was part of the Nordic and Baltic booth in the Business area. For most Estonian teams this was their first Gamescom.


Baltic Explorers program helped to bring to the event Joyxir (hyper casual mobile games), Placeholder Gameworks (Broken Alliance), Maru VR Productions (Bootstrap Island), Not Bad Games (Freddyssey), Henri Hanson from Tartu Teaduspark, and Andrejs Rusinovskis (GameDev Estonia representative).

With the help of IGDA Estonia and EAS – Enterprise Estonia even more studios went to the event – CM Games, Ringtail Studios, and Mainor University. Gamecan had their people present at Gamescom too. We can only hope that our country will be well represented at Gamescom in the upcoming years.


Gamecan at Mobidictum Business Conference
September 5-6, 2022

With the help of EAS funding and GameDev Estonia in September Gamecan went to Istanbul, Turkey, to attend the Mobidictum Business Conference.

Mobidictum Business Conference is the region’s largest games industry conference for developers, publishers, investors, and service providers. Mobidictum Business Conference addressed every corner of the industry, from mobile games to blockchain titles and onward. MBC 2022 welcomed well-known indie game studios, publishers, service providers, industry experts, and more!

Gamecan was there, to showcase the latest version of their IP and their CTO Flávio Pontes held an exciting talk on the topic of – Thinking Ahead: Developing a PC game in Unreal Engine slated for Consoles.

MängudeÖÖ
September 17, 2022

MängudeÖÖ, the biggest gaming event in Estonia, had a great selection of playable games from Estonian developers. This was the biggest showcase of Estonian projects in recent years. Some of the games were released this year, and others are in beta and pre-release state. There were around 1500 visitors, our expo got into the local news.

List of the Estonian games represented:

  • Blastronaut by Perfoon Games
  • Broken Alliance by Placeholder Gameworks
  • Haiku, the Robot by Mister Morris Games
  • IMMORTAL: And The Death That Follows by Mishura Games
  • Fredyssey by Not Bad
  • Exodus of Souls by FXFX Studio
  • Armed Expats by Bottled Fantasy Games
  • ENCODYA by Chaosmonger Studio
  • Clunky Hero by Chaosmonger Studio
  • Headbangers in Holiday Hell by Hammer&Ravens Games
  • Into the Radius VR by CM Games
  • Artist life Simulator by Interactive Fate

Lõunaka e-spordipäev
September 24, 2022

We had a great opportunity to showcase Estonian projects at Lõunakeskus in Tartu. This is our first experience working with a big crowd of younger audiences. Our showcase was a part of the annual Tartu E-sports day. We were situated next to the Tartu Kunstikool, their students showcased around ten different game projects that they developed during the latest Game Jam events.

List of the Estonian games represented:

  • Blastronaut by Perfoon Games
  • Broken Alliance by Placeholder Gameworks
  • Haiku, the Robot by Mister Morris Games
  • IMMORTAL: And The Death That Follows by Mishura Games
  • Exodus of Souls by FXFX Studio
  • Clunky Hero by Chaosmonger Studio
  • Into the Radius VR by CM Games
  • Artist life Simulator by Interactive Fate

IGDA Finland Leadership Day 2022
September 26, 2022

Leadership Day by IGDA Finland is an international event about how we build companies, teams, and working cultures to develop better games. I was present at the event and tried to establish a closer connection to Finnish IGDA chapters.


Gamedev Meetup #4
October 7, 2022

October meeting was held at Lift99, there was Youtube and Facebook Livestream.

Lectures:

  • Mister Morris Games: Life after Release
  • Membrane: Third-Person Shooter about Domed Cities and Killer Plants
  • Anita Kodanik about EKKM Exhibition – “Crawl out Through the Fallout”

Mister Morris Games told about his experience after launching his first indie title into the wild west of Steam.
Anita Kodanik told about the new exhibition in EKKM “Crawl out Through the Fallout”. Video games are an emerging topic in the contemporary art world with more and more artists and curators investigating digital realities as something that is shifting our ways of perception and creativity.

And the last presentation was about the new project “MEMBRANE”, an Upcoming PvPvE Third-Person Shooter about Domed Cities and Killer Plants. The game is created on the Unreal Engine and staged in the middle of a Green Apocalypse, loaded with dynamic multiplayer battles and biotechnological marvels.

Livestream: https://youtu.be/fux2_psoQm4

Halloween Game Jam 2022
October 23, 202

We went to the Spelkollektivet and attended their Halloween Game Jam. While being there we had some time to make a small video about this place and talk with the local homies.

Even though Spelkollektivet is quite known in the indie developers scene across Europe, understanding of this community for many is very vague. So the point of this visit was to introduce this space to the developers in Estonia. Because some of them may benefit from visiting this collective in the future.

Event video: https://youtu.be/VOWzICaNkjw

Two games were made:
DaBook
The Life of Banana Cat


Game Connection Europe
November 3-4, 2022

At the beginning of November Andrejs took part in Game Connection event in Paris, France. This adventure was possible thanks to Baltic Explorers and Tartu Teaduspark. There is a short video about the experience at this business-to-business event and some comments about the bigger event that was held in the nearby space Paris Games Week.

Gamedev Meetup #5
November 26, 2022

Our November meet-up was a total blast, with attendance exceeding all expectations and a very welcoming venue at Panorama T1. This was a night of Unreal Engine with three speakers in the field and one of them being the official evangelist of this game engine.

  • Lectures:
  • Leonardo Rocha from Gamecan “Unreal Engine: Exploring and Expanding Behavior Trees”
  • Ari Arnbjörnsson from Epic Games “Lessons Learned from a Year of Unreal Engine AAA Development”
  • Vahab Ahmadvand from Gamecan “How does Unreal Engine facilitate the game design process”

Livestream: https://youtu.be/eoHjUiK8ttc


Pocket Gamer Connects Jordan
November 12th to 13th

The MENA region is the fastest-growing region for gaming. This year Jordan’s show tackled the question: just how big can it get and what does the future of gaming in the MENA region look like? We helped to bring Ringtail Studios to that event with the help of EAS funding.

Robotex 2022
November 25 – 26

Robotex International is the greatest robotics competition on the Planet that for the first time was held in 2001 at Taltech Assembly Hall. Over the years, competitions have been held in various fields: line following, labyrinth passing, volleyball, rope climbing, room cleaning, football, sea rescue mission, and other tasks. The competition has had participants from several high schools and universities, companies, and also from abroad.

Game Wave Festival 2022
November 28 – 29

GameDev Estonia helped to fund and advertise this international event. EAS funding was used to cover the venue, and Ringtail Studios became one of the main sponsors. Additionally, JoyXir studio from Tartu became the wristband sponsor. The festival is smaller in scale in comparison to some of the well-known industry giants, but that is by design: each participant is vetoed by hand and integrated into seamless networking, starting from the online platform and event content all the way to the choice of venue.


2022 is the second year of the Game Wave Festival, it was held in the Tallink Spa & Conference Hotel in Tallinn. There were many Estonian studios represented, with many local developers having talks on the stage.


December 22, 2022
Estonian Gamedev Christmas Party

The last event of the year, there was nothing crazy or special – just a meeting of people. Attendees shared their latest news and had a drink together.


In conclusion

Those are only the main events, that I’ve decided to highlight. Other than that we were present at many other events like Game Jam in Pärnu and Tartu or different seminars. I’ve organized study visits of students from Ida-virumaa to Estonian studios and was present at the Tallinn university student projects evaluation.

There was so much work done, that this article could go for a few kilometers. But all in all, this was a year of building connections. This stage of work is not finished, and we still have a long road in front of us.

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