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Behind the scenes with the Game Development World Championship 2018

What is the GDWC you ask?

“The Game Development World Championship is an annual competition for indie game developers, game development students and anyone interested in game development to join in.”

There’s a few interesting things you should know about the GDWC…

First of all, it doesn’t cost anything. No, seriously. Nothing, nil, zero! So if you have a game, and you’re unlike all the wealthy indie developers out there who have oodles of cash to throw around, there’s nothing to stop you from entering! (just joking about the wealthy indie dev thing)

Second is that it primarily happens online but the finalists are brought to Finland and Sweden. To find out why, and what you’ll do while you’re there, you’ll have to read the interview 🙂

Also, registering for the GDWC is a great way to get some extra exposure for you and your indie game, or maybe light a fire under your butt to have something to submit!

Now onto the interview!

Your site gives the motive behind starting this competition as “We believe in new game developers and want to give them the chance to show their games for a large audience.” What fueled that for you and how did the GDWC come about?.

This question deserves a two-fold answer. Personally, I’ve always been a huge fan of games, especially on the PC. I was born in ‘93 so my early game experiences consist of downloadable games and retro games, such as the amazing Finnish classic “Tapan Kaikki” (freely translated as “Kill them all”, which is pretty much Hotline Miami but made in the 90’s. Modern AAA titles don’t give me those kinds of small, unique experiences that indie games give, you know? It’s amazing to find a new game which just feels… Fun! The latest examples of which I can give are the amazing stealth shooter DEADBOLT and the Cyberpunk action game MINILAW, which actually got 3rd place in GDWC 2017.

However, I’ve only been the event producer of GDWC starting on ‘16. The GDWC originally started as the “Viope Game Programming Contest 2012”. It was a guerrilla marketing operation, the idea being that the contest would encourage students and young adults into trying their hands at game development, and Viope sold online courses related to programming, math and game dev. From what I’ve heard, it did not work in that regard, but the interest was enough for it to evolve into the GDWC as we know it today… After a few years creative break.

The time allowed for submissions is from January 31st to September 30th 2018. How many submissions get sent in on average?

In 2017 we got close to 700 submissions. The greatest amount of games gets submitted during the final two weeks of the contest, but we’ve already had a good amount of submissions for this year. I believe it is due to word spreading about the contest.

How many different countries are represented in the submissions?

We had developers from 127 different countries registered into the contest, with the highest amount of submissions from the United States. However, not every registered user submitted a game. For example according to our analytics, we actually had one registration from North Korea!

There are two categories of submission, Pro (commercial games) and Hobby (Non-commercial or Not for Profit games). Are there usually more submissions in one category than the other?

So far, Pro has been more popular in submissions than Hobby. I’d say it’s around a 40-60 split.

What would you say is the biggest difference in the commercial versus non-commercial games?

In the non-commercial games you see a lot of small “bite-sized” games, especially on PC. I believe it’s due to the developer believing that such a small game is not worth paying for… Or they just don’t want money for it. In mobile games, the lack of ads or F2P monetization mechanics is usually pretty refreshing! Another thing to note is that games for health and education so far have been non-commercial projects.

Are the “Pro” games more heavily critiqued than the “Hobby” games?

Nope! They have identical judging criteria. However, they are treated as completely separate pools of games. Though we have seen Hobby projects that are clearly professional quality, such as the winner of the Hobby category 2017, MONITOR: The Game.

 

In 2016 the game submissions were categorized into “ Serious Games” And “Entertainment Games,” What sparked the change to “Pro” and “Hobby” in 2017?

If I am brutally honest, it was the lack of interest in the Serious Games category as a whole. We could not find many Serious Games to invite into the contest, nor did our partners find it worthwhile. Additionally, we received a lot of feedback about the categories in the competition, mostly that developers felt only having one category for all developers be unfair. We considered splitting the categories for platform, but ultimately decided to do the split to Pro/Hobby developers as we wanted this contest to serve students and hobbyists across the world as well.

What has been your most memorable online game submission?

I’ll have to say “Break Meteorite” by DDSpace. Mostly because it was sent to the GDWC 2016 by 10-year old David as his first game, making him the youngest GDWC contestant. I really wish him luck in his career in Game Development, however!

Your site states that board games can be submitted as well. Have you seen many board game submissions in the past? And which was your most memorable?

Sadly, so far there haven’t been many board game submissions. We believe this is due to our focus on marketing only to video game developers, but I’m hoping for this to change as GDWC grows.

You reserve the right to reject any submission. Have you ever had to do that? On what grounds?

Thankfully, no. We have had games that may be considered offensive (which I won’t name here), but nothing that could be deemed to be racist for the sake of being racist or worse. And I really hope anyone reading this won’t take this as an invitation to making “Super Hitler Adventure”

The prizes listed on the website are a trip to Finland and Sweden for a team representative, visits to top game studios,trophies and medals, and more to be announced. Can we get more details on what these are? What kind of itinerary does the trip have? Who are the top studios? And what else could you be cooking up when you say “more to be announced”?

We have a gallery of images from the trip in 2017 on Facebook showing what kind of things happened, but as a general idea the top companies include some of the best mobile gaming studios in both countries such as King (Candy Crush) and Rovio (Angry Birds) and top indie studios such as Redlynx (Trials) and HouseMarque (Nex Machina). These vary from year to year, of course.

The trip lasts about a week, and other activities have included a trip to the Finnish video game museum, an evening in a real Finnish Sauna, visiting the Old Town in Stockholm and seeing the Finnish House of Parliament. And of course the final GDWC event during which the winners are announced.

As for the prizes… Well, I can’t make promises on behalf of other companies, but for example in GDWC 2017 we received Lenovo tablets and a top-tier gaming PC to give the winning teams, and that just might happen again this year too…

 

What qualities do you look most for in a winning game?

This may sound like a cliche, but we’re looking for games that are primarily fun. The GDWC judging criteria merits three things, which are Fun, Feel and Novelty. Fun is about enjoying the game right from the start and to see if it stays fun for more than the initial “this is cool” moment. Feel is more about the technical details. Is the art consistent, does moving feel and look good, does the game run smoothly, are the controls intuitive and so on. Novelty is asking if the game brings anything new to the table, or if not, how does it compare to other games of the same genre and style? Games are pretty subjective experiences, but we trust our panel of judges to be as impartial as they can.

What is your advice for Indie developers submitting entries this year?

For the competition: Submit early! We’re going to start going through the submissions weekly to see nice games that we think should deserve more visibility for our upcoming weekly videos and “fan favourite” voting!

In general: Ask for feedback. Show your game everywhere you can. Don’t believe everything that is told to you, but if you show the game to ten people and all of them think they think something needs to be changed they may be onto something. Also, as a shameless bit of self-promotion, I wrote an article on starting and finishing projects last year, which is all stuff that applies to game development too.

Which winner of previous years has had the most commercial success?

I can’t exactly go into details here, but the 1st place for GDWC 2016, Beholder, just had a sequel announced on Steam while 3rd place Poi has been ported over to Switch and other consoles, so they’re doing pretty good for themselves.

As a side note to this, I think the definition of a successful, commercial indie studio consists of three steps. First, make a game that makes enough money for you to make another game. Second, repeat this process. Third, stay sane and healthy.

I imagine with so many creative submissions, the competition is quite close. Have you ever come close to having a tie?

Every year so far, yes. The judging process is harsh and both my favourite and least-favourite part of the GDWC. Seeing all the awesome games is great, but having to decide which games are going to make the cut have lead to some heated debates with the judges in the past. It gets most fierce when the number of games is lowered to less than ten and then the choice is made out of the best of the best.

Rule 8 states that games must not break the Finnish law. Most rules have been created as a reaction to a past occurrence. Has this happened with past submissions?

Thankfully as with the right to refuse any application, there has not been a case of having to invoke this rule yet. The reason was to make sure we won’t have that “past occurrence”, but rather have the rule there pre-emptively.

It has raised a lot of questions however, prompting developers to ask if there are any specific laws they need to be mindful of or if we really expect them to read through Finnish law to participate in the competition… The answer of which is no, we just want you to act smart.

“Game Jam” is a Bonus Stage for extra prizes. Can you give us some more information about what that’s all about?

We’re trying out different Bonus Stages each year to see which ones will be popular and gain the attention of our audience. This year we went with game jams as in my opinion, they are one of the greatest source of awesome indie games as they are great for trying out new ideas, prototyping or trying out game development. We want to see amazing games made during game jams and hopefully start holding our own game jams to get more people into game development as well.

What is in a GDWC 2018 Finland-themed “care package”?

It’s a bit of a work-in-progress but as we realized we are unable to offer more trips to Finland due to the costs involved, we’re going to instead be sending a piece of Finland to the winners. Exact contents of the care package are still a secret, but it will involve finnish specialities such as Salmiakki and Finnish design products.

Has the fan favorite ever differed from the GDWC Judge’s pick?

Quite a lot, actually! The final games of the fan favourite vote for 2017 were pretty different from the judges favourites. We want this to be the case though, as it gives us an excuse to let more games win different parts of the competition.

Who are the GDWC Judges?

Every year we have a panel consisting between 5-8 industry professionals from Finland. Examples include the Head of IGDA Tampere Joni Lappalainen, Games Researcher at the University of Tampere Anna-Kaisa Kultima, Lead game designer of Cities: Skylines Karoliina Korppoo and the Chief Editor of Finland’s oldest and largest games magazine, Pelit-Lehti (which, translated literally means “games magazine”).

It seems like you must have the perfect job, playing and judging video games all day. What do you do in your spare time?

I wish it was just playing and judging games, but honestly, most of my time is spent on spreading awareness about the GDWC to make it the biggest and best indie dev competition in the world… But getting to see awesome new games and to play them is pretty awesome, I admit.

I’m a very impulsive person and when I get into something, I get into it completely for a few weeks or months until some other fancy grabs my attention, repeating the cycle. Last “cycle” was Riichi Mahjong, a Japanese variation of the Chinese gambling game which I think I’m pretty okay at, while now I’m getting excited about getting to go to the shooting range as my firearm license applications went through. Other hobbies include (you guessed it) video-, board- and roleplaying games, badminton and golf.

 

What is your all-time favorite game? Why?

Aw, man… I’m going to go with Descent: Freespace. There are a lot of other games on all mediums that I also really love (Megaman X, Riichi Mahjong, Blood Bowl) but Freespace is just one of those games I really loved as a teenager. It’s got an epic space opera storyline, tons of backstory and all kinds of different weapons, spaceships and such for different missions… All kinds of different missions and a ton of things (such as optimizing your power output to your engines to outrun enemies) that just make it really feel like a great spaceship combat simulation.

You can keep up to date with the GWDC here:

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http://behindtheindies.com/2018/03/07/gdwc2018/

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