Game Insight gets new president, promises to develop core games

Anatoly Ropotov _ Photo

Anatoly Ropotov is replacing Alisa Chumachenko as president of Game Insight, Kanobu reports. Company moves to develop core games for mobile devices, promises 5 Unity-based games till the end of 2014.

Game Insight is well-known in Russia for its creative director Leonid Sirotin quotes, slamming down core gamers as ignorant cheapskates and praising casual audience. It seems that “ignorant cheapskates” are the new target audience for GI.

Update: Here is an official press-release in English.

Russia plans to ban crypto currency, might ban in-game currencies as well

Russian Department of Finances is planning to ban “surrogate currencies” in Russia. The law is clearly aimed at crypto currencies, such as bitcoin, but it is written so vague, that it might affect any other virtual (i.e. fictional) currency as well, including in-game currencies.

Apple Insider here worries that it will effectively put an end to in-game purchases. It probably will not, but game companies will have to replace their “gold”, “crystals”, “hairy gophers” with Russian roubles.

Or maybe not, you never know with Russian laws.

A new STALKER’s spawn is born. Or maybe it is just being fictitious?

Even today there are lots of individuals wishing to get a piece of STALKER‘s fame. Another attempt to exploit this topic is Areal, a game developed by West Games studio.

A couple of weeks ago an announcement of a new project was made; a game allegedly developed by creators of STALKER. Great news, isn’t it? However, this announcement was accompanied by few controversial points that darkened the joy in some way.

I won’t go into details, just want to point out some key moments of this story.

GMBox tried to collect as much info they could.

So, what do we know about Areal? The project got into the spotlight of gaming press by the end of June. On June 24 it started a Kickstarter campaign. It was claimed that West Games is comprised by the key developers from GSC Game World. Moreover, Areal’s game setting is obviously inspired by its famous ancestor: post-apocalyptic world, open-world shooter mechanics, mutants, etc.

Questionable matters came to light right from the beginning of the Kickstarter campaign. Seriously, the goal to collect $50,000 looks too humble for a triple A project which Areal tries to be. This amount may be enough for making a demo for investors, but not for an entire project.

A promotional video at the Kickstarter page contained snapshots taken from Unity’s tecnhical demo and STALKER‘s early builds. In addition, many Internet users recognized one promo art being taken from the cover of the book “Areal: State within a state” [rus. “Ареал: Государство в государстве”] by Sergey Tarmashev, but no references to the book, neither to its author were made.

UPDATE. Now it is officially confirmed that the game is developed on the basis of Sergey Tarmashev’s book.

1Areal’s promo art

2Front cover of Sergey Tarmashev’s book

3A screenshot from Areal

4A screenshot from technical demo of Unity 3d game engine

Anyway, the fundraising campaign started well and West Games managed to collect over $30k during first hours since its launch.

Then the other “people behind STALKER“, Vostok Games (Survarium) accused West Games of fraud and use of someone else’s materials, exploitation of STALKER‘s and GSC‘s names and a reputation parasitism.

I’m not going to take sides in this matter, but I think this moment is quite self-explanatory:

On Vostok’s claims that West Games is not comprised of true S.T.A.L.K.E.R creators, West Games’ Igor Buryak stated, “Oleg Yavorsky says we have no former GSC employees. He points out high staff turnover in GSC. Well, this wasn’t addressed to West Games. He can’t make such a statement because it would simply be a lie. Since we’re at the very beginning of our work we can’t (and should not) make our whole team public, because as soon as we do that they’ll get caught up in gossip and accusations made by our competitors.”

Dave Cook from VG247 has been monitoring the situation from its start.

He makes a reference to the statement of Vostok’s Oleg Yavorsky made in personal correspondence “I think instead of blaming press, the Areal guys should really be grateful for all the hype the press helped them make for their yet non-existing project. If they are accusing press of non-professionalism, the best favour you could do for them is simply stop writing about them”

Only time will tell who’s right, but, honestly, I can’t remember an honest project causing such amount of informational noise (except for GTA‘s Hot Coffee, of course :-)) All I can say is that the whole situation with West Games is generating more questions than giving the answers.

Changes to SMS laws will affect Russian gaming industry

Russian Parliament recently passed a law about SMS-spam and SMS-fraud. This law introduces a lot of much-needed changes into what many consider to be ‘gray area’ or even ‘fraud market’. Now SMS providers won’t be able to automatically charge you unless you explicitly agree to it via SMS of your own.

This law will also affect certain games in Russia, but, fortunately, not many. Five or six years ago SMS were the main source of payments in online gaming, but since then the share of SMS payments dropped to less than 5%. So some games might take a hit in their revenue, but it won’t be significant and probably won’t last as affected users will switch to credit cards and e-wallets.

Still, I’ve heard some SMS payment companies are now firing up to half of their staff.

Game Insight is moving its HQ from Russia to Lithuania

Now it’s official, Game Insight decided to relocate its HQ from Moscow, Russia to Vilnius, Lithiania.

Interestingly, I’ve talked to several people from Game Insight around a month ago and they claimed that company wanted to relocate one of its studios first before deciding on moving HQ. Either I was misled, or something has changed.

In unrelated news: Bloomberg reports that Luxoft is relocating 500 of its programmers from Russia and Ukraine to Bulgaria, Poland and Romania.

DevGAMM 2014 – indies, indies everywhere!

So, I’ve visited DevGAMM 2014 in Moscow last week. It took me one hour wait on Russian border where they’ve tried to check if I’m eligible to visit the country (Glory to Arsztotzka!), but it was worth it.

DevGAMM 2014 was surprisingly good: nice place (Radisson Slavyanskaya), a lot of visitors and indie-centered talks. In fact, you could easily mistake DevGAMM for indie conference, because a lot of game developers from big companies (Nival, Mail.ru, Gaijin and so on) visited DevGAMM as indies – probably because they’ve paid for their tickets themselves.

DevGAMM is obviously not GDC, but compared to KRI (so called “Russian GDC”) it is better organized, friendlier and more useful.

While I don’t recommend everyone from outside Russia or Ukraine to visit DevGAMM to learn something (most talks are in Russian), it is a great place to establish connections, find partners and talk to local game developers.

There is another games industry support group in Russian government

Remember that hilarious games industry support group in Russian parliament? The one with no actual game developers? It’s been holding several meetings since then, discussing, I kid you not, ban on long articles and non-patriotic games, and enforcing e-sports shows on federal TV.

Department of Communications on the other hand just started another games industry support group – this time with real game developers, including Wargaming, Mail.ru and 1C representatives.

Expect some kind of competition between those two, although my money are on DoC group.

Still, games journo group in Parliament generated a lot of hilarious proposals. I would love to see “maximum games article length” enforced.

4A Games is moving to Malta

4A Games, celebrated developer of Metro 2033 series, just announced its new office on Malta.

Well, I wrote about it before, so there are no surprises here. Current crisis in Ukraine isn’t helping games development much. Big publishers are simply afraid to sign projects from Ukrainian and Russian teams.

BTW, I’ve met with Andrew Prokhorov two weeks ago and their new projects look absolutely amazing.

The Sims 4 is rated 18+ in Russia

Next instalment of favourite game of young girls and housewives, The Sims 4 was rated 18+ “Not suitable for children” in Russia.

sims4

As I wrote earlier there is no official rating entity in Russia and all rating are issued by local publisher. In this case – Electronic Arts Russia.

Supposedly the game was rated 18+ because it features gay and lesbian relationships between characters.