Video games, music videos and animation seamlessly tie in together, but as discussed in Fest Anca’s newly formed Game Days organised by Sector.sk, the merging of fields is treated with caution.
“‘Movie-like games’ require huge resources to do well, and that’s what’s done best by big studios,” said Poland’s Peter Iwanicki, developer of Polish video game SuperHot [pictured]. “When it comes to smaller games - we explore the game aspect first, and try things that are not possible in other mediums. Since that is already working for our players, we want to build on that.”
Slovakia’s first game development company Cauldron, set up in 1994, also conceded that narrative in films don’t always work for video games. The owner of the company, Marian Ferko, continued, “Since developers these days just need inexpensive software and tools, there is no shortage of ideas. Any clever programmer can make his own game. For us, there doesn’t seem to be a need to integrate with film, particularly when liaising with studios can be a slow and painful process.”
He is referring to their video game adaptation of Conan the Barbarian, that required in depth licensing approval for adjustments made to design and functionality.
Jaromir Plachy, an animator at Czech Republic’s Amanita Design, looks at things differently. Holding a degree in fine arts, he has made several animated shorts and music videos, one of which was in the music video competition at Fest Anca.
“Music, video, gaming, movement – everything is interconnected for us at Amanita. I am most interested in visual style, and I wanted to find a way to formulate basic movements into a video game structure.”
His idea turned into the successful game Botanicula, that has garnered awards for Excellence in Audio at Independent Games Festival 2012, Story/World Design Award at IndieCade 2012 and Best European Adventure Game at European Games Awards 2012.
“We want our design to be everlasting,” said the game’s developer Peter Stehlik. “When I look at intricate 3D design in games, or for that matter in film, I think that will look out of date in a few years. Our focus is a simplified concept, like a ‘Choose your own adventure’ game, with impactful 2D animation.”
He compared their style to other timeless art forms such as Russia’s fairytales with dragons and the Czech Republic’s classic puppetry.
SuperHot’s Iwanicki sites the game industry is changing as a whole. With big-budget games reaching million dollar budgets, they are becoming more conservative in their approach.
“People are looking for entertainment,” said Iwanicki. “While the big budget games are an awesome thing, there has emerged a market for smaller and more experimental games. Those rely mostly on fresh ideas and a tighter grasp of the game design nuances. With this rise of indie games, comes possibilities for smaller teams from around the world to shine.”
He, too, gives credit to the Czech Republic animation company, Amanita, listing their other titles, Machinarium and Samoro, as examples of simple but effective gaming.
In addition to his own SuperHot, Iwanicki lists fellow Polish developers as game changers in the independent sector: Michał Marcinkowski from Transhuman Design is making his personal style with 2d multiplier games like Soldat and King Arthur’s Gold, Tom Grochowiak from MoaCube has found his voice in visual novels with titles Cinders and now Solstice and Sos Sosowski is creating games that are comparable to performance art where you wear a helmet and mash your keyboard with your head.
Slovakian animation producer Peter Budec is thrilled by the endless opportunities in crossing platforms. Having studied animation and film in Czech Republic, he has returned to Slovakia to help bring animation to a bigger scale both domestically and internationally.
“Connecting genres and platforms is the future. There are plenty of options, people just don’t know what is out there. Some games are naturally movies, and some movies are naturally games. Everyone needs to be talking to each other, especially since the EU is willing to support these multi-platform projects,” said Budec.
Cauldron’s Ferko reminded, “The video game business is big, as big, if not bigger than the film industry. I don’t think many people realise this. Gone are the days when it used to be just for young kids. Adults are playing too. And in the next few years, technology is going to bring gaming to more experiential heights, both indoors and outdoors. It will be interesting to see how the mixed medias merge (or collide).”