Irish games developers review 2012
It's been a good year for the Irish gaming community. It was announced that jobs in Ireland's video-games industry are up 91pc in the last three years. The Games Fleadh festival saw a huge growth in interest, Dublin GameCraft was launched with two hugely successful development days, State of Play saw a flux of showcasing developers and Games Ireland Gathering was also launched.
We take a look at some of the people and companies that have made the Irish games development movement a success this year.
2PaperDolls moved its operations to Ireland in 2011 and this year launched a new Twitter discovery game called Mind of Man for iOS devices. The aim is for players of the game to learn about their digital persona, and how others perceive them online, as well as allowing them to snoop in on people they follow or celebrities to find out more about how they project themselves online.
Working out of The Digital Hub, AffinityTech saw the release of the hugely popular side-scroller Joe Vs Banker at the Irish Games Fleadh in Thurles this year. The game’s test level was played in 18 different countries prior to launch. During Christmas it was announced that AffinityTech had teamed up with Big Fish Games to bring a festive effort to market in Santa Vs. Banker. The year 2013 looks to be a promising year, too, for the AffinityTech team, as it looks to have a number of new titles in the pipeline.
It’s been a good year for BatCat Games, as the independent games developer started the year on a high, confirming its first release P-3 Biotic, a twin-stick shooter set inside a petri dish, had hit the XBox Live Indie Games marketplace. The summer saw the team move into the Digit Games incubator and P-3 Biotic was also released on the PC, and in November BatCat Games was one of Siliconrepublic.com’s start-ups of the week . The crew was also behind the hugely successful Dublin Game Craft development days this year. With news that a new game Jiro, a Samurai runner/fighting game, will be released in the new year, it could be a bumper 2013 for BatCat Games, as well.
Another team to move into the Digit Games incubator this year was Dublin-based game studio bitSmith Games. The bitSmith team is releasing its first game, Kú: Shroud of the Morrigan, a fable-esq action-adventure game set in future Ireland, on the iPad late this year with a PC version to follow in the new year. Gameplay video of Kú: Shroud of the Morrigan can be found online.
One of the major success stories in the Irish development scene in recent years is Bluebear Technologies. Its focus is on bringing innovative titles to the kids and casual gaming market. Another company within The Digital Hub structure, it has established itself as one of the dominant players in the kids and photography apps market, with more than 25m downloads of its 28 apps.
Bright Head Games Studio
Bright Head Games Studio focuses on developing viral branded games to be used on Facebook, Android, iOS devices and PC. The team currently has two games in the works in ‘King Croc (an updated version of the platform-puzzler Dine-O-Sour game which won the top prize at the first Dublin Game Craft this year) and Epic Quest, an adventure game, which is in research phase.
Digit Game Studios
Founded this year by team members who have held senior positions in EA, Atari, Jagex, PopCap Games and Jolt/GameStop, Digit Game Studios made huge strides in making Dublin a major indie games hub following the announcement in June that it has raised US$1.25m and had opted to locate in Dublin rather than London. Supporting the likes of BatCat Games and bitSmith Games, the studio is presently working on its own “seamlessly cross-platform MMO” – Kings of the Realm. In October of this year, it was also announced that Digit Game Studios and Penguin had teamed up to publish books based on the Kings of the Realm game.
exGamers Studios first came onto the Irish development radar in early 2012 when its game Zero Carbon Nation got into the world qualifiers of the Microsoft Imagine Cup. The game was never finished, although since then the team has focused its efforts on its new game Source Control. Source Control is a fast-paced puzzle game/hacking simulator; it’s your job to hack through its terminals, destroying data-nodes, attacking it with your Trojans and causing general mayhem. We were treated to a demo of Source Control at the second Dublin Game Craft and I must admit it was mightily addictive.
Eyesodic Game Studios
Hailing from Kilkenny, the Eyesodic Game Studios has been very active in the games development scene over the last couple of years. Its first title Reapers End 1 won the Best Shooter Irish Game Developer Award at Games Fleadh festival. The team has followed up with releases of parts 2, 3 and 4, along with new games Haunted Dreams, Blood of the Divines and Days of Extinction.
Glass Robot Studios
Comprising four computer science graduates from Dublin Institute of Technology, it’s been a good year for start-up Glass Robot Studios, having moved into the O2 headquarters on Sir John Rogerson's Quay and receiving seed funding. The team released a number of games this year, including Blackjack: Aces High on Android platform and Crazy Catapults on Windows Phone OS.
Another start-up to receive awards this year was Belfast and San Francisco-based start-up Inlifesize, whose impressive iOS app Fairy Magic was released to critical acclaim. The team won the award in the gaming category at the ITLG’s second annual Innovation in Entertainment Event at Sony Pictures Studios in Los Angeles in September.
Nevermind Games first came onto the radar during the summer of 2010 when it represented Ireland in the Dare to be Digital international game development competition. Their WiiKick game received praise for innovation and gameplay mechanic. Now a fully-fledged games studio based in Thurles, Nevermind Games release two successful games this year: Solar Sprint, a side-scrolling space shooter on Windows Phone 7, and TroubleSUM, a hugely addictive 2D maths puzzle game on iOS and Windows Phone 7.
Pixel Wolf Studios
Independent game studio Pixel Wolf Studios was set up in November 2011 and moved into Dublin’s Guinness Enterprise Centre (GEC) this year. The company is heavily involved in Ireland’s budding games development scene and has organised development training days for kids using iOS and Android. The studio is now working on two games, Manic Machines, a physics-based puzzle game and The Imagination of Jamie Jones, a 2D platformer.
Casual games developer PufferFish Games had a year to remember this year. PowerGRID, the team's first game available on iOS and Android, was released in September last year and went on to win both the best mobile game and best strategy game awards at this year's Games Fleadh festival. The follow-up game, Busy Bees was released on iOS on 9 November this year.
Pump Station Studios
Cross platform developers Pump Station Studios came to light with its Happy Snappy app, currently available on Android and iOS. The app is designed to help children improve their memory and also to help catch learning difficulties early. The team won the Best Humour award at the second Dublin Game Craft developer jam in November.
Veteran of the Irish independent games and software development industry, Redwind Software was established in 2008 and has gone on to produce multi-award-winning apps and games. Winners of Best Newcomer with International Potential and Best Digital Design at the Irish Digital Media Awards in 2009, Redwind Software has also been awarded Best Business Solutions App and Best Entertainment/Gaming App at the inaugural The Appys award ceremony in 2010. Specialising in casual and trivia games, as well as app development, Redwind Software opened its first international office in Los Angeles, California, in 2010.
Social and mobile games developer SnowGlobe Games is headquartered in Dublin with a development office in Bucharest, Romania. SnowGlobe Games' first release came early in 2012 on the iPad with Paper Saga, an adventure game set in the enchanted kingdom of Papyrum.
Founded in 2008, StoryToys has become one of the world's leading publishers of innovative, entertaining apps for iOS and PC. The developers concentrate on making interactive 'digital pop up books' that combine story and illustrations with interactivity and engagement of games.
Based in Ireland and Gibraltar, SuperFunPlay Games was founded in 2009 and has worked for such great household names as Bullfrog Studios, Acclaim Studios, Climax Studios and the mighty PopCap Games over the years. Its first release Bubble Dreams won the Best in Animation award at this year's Games Fleadh festival, and this was followed up with the release of ApeShot! on the iOS platform. The team was also one of the shortlisted companies in the Spark of Genius Start Up competition at the Dublin Web Summit.
Tribal City Interactive
Boasting a stunning array of clients the team has previously worked with, including Disney, Warner Brothers, ESPN, MTV, Eidos, EA Mobile, and Glu Mobile, Tribal City Interactive is making a major splash in the iPhone and Facebook games market with its collaboration effort with Mad Toro Studios, Flip the Switch, winning the Best Casual Game award at this year's Games Fleadh festival.
Relatively new on the scene this year, Zombiesaurus is an indie game developer from Derry, Northern Ireland. The duo lives by the apt philosophy 'to build something we’d want to play!' Its first effort due for release soon is Soul Grinder, a side-scrolling 'Shmup' where you play as a plucky young maniac with rocket boots and a hand cannon.
Operating out of the Synergy Centre in the Institute of Technology Tallaght in Dublin, Zoodazzle is a software company specialising in game authoring tools. The company's product, GameCarver, is a game-authoring tool which employs a drag-and-drop approach to allow people to build games and deploy them to iPhone, iPad and Android. V1.0 is scheduled for release in mid-2013.