Russian and Ukrainian game developers are starting to leave their countries in midst of political crisis

Kommersant writes about planned exodus of Russian game developers to Lithuania. It is actually going on for quite some time now and started right after protests on Maidan in Kyiv in December.

A lot of Russian and Ukrainian companies are seriously considering moving their teams abroad to escape political instability. At least several game companies were closed in Crimea, staff moved to mainland Ukraine or let go, so people are rightfully worried about their business and future.

Local companies moved abroad before – to US, Asia and Europe, but it usually was caused by economic reasons, not political ones.

Every single company in Kyiv has some kind of escape plane in case situation goes really bad – bigger guys are ready to relocate to Europe, smaller are ready to flee to Turkey, India or Thailand, where life is cheaper.

Lithuania looks like a nice country to start for Russian companies – it’s close to Russia, older population is Russian-speaking and prices are low compared to Moscow. So recently heads of several major companies including Wargaming, Game Insight and Nival visited Vilnius to evaluate it as city for developing games in case Russia becomes bad place to do business.

Ukrainian developers aren’t that enthusiastic about Lithuania – I’ve heard people talking to officials from Cyprus, Malta and France. Probably because Lithuania being close to Russia is seen as a disadvantage by Ukrainian developers. They’re saying main problem of Ukraine is its border with Russia.

Still, there were no high-profile relocations yet. Some small-scale companies moved abroad already, but everyone else still hopes that current political situation will somehow work out.

Unity opens new office in Russia

Unity just announced a new representative office in Moscow, Russia. Headed by ex-Adobe Roman Menyakin, office will support local sales and marketing for Unity products.

Unity is widely popular among Russian and Ukrainian indies, so it’s no wonder company decided to open an office here. Unity already has an office in Odessa, Ukraine, but that particular office is doing software development, not sales or marketing.

Russian bloggers are now officially mass media and have to register

Remember how ten years ago people argued about bloggers being new journalists and blogs becoming “Media 2.0″. How time goes by…

So, Russian Parliament just decided that bloggers are in fact mass media. And if you have more than 3 thousands visitors (or friends/followers) per day you have to be registered as a media. Well, not as a “real media”, you don’t need to have a company and everything. But you have to show your name and contact address, verify your sources and abide all laws written for traditional media.

Technically that makes each Russian blogger equal to a newspaper and every Russian Youtube personality to a TV station.

UPDATE: I see this post got some coverage on Interwebs, so I’ll clarify it a bit.

If you’re a blogger and you have 3K daily visitors during one month you have to add required information to your blog so you can be added by government agency to its list of bloggers. You can later opt out if your popularity drops and you’ll have less than 3K viewers per day for three months straight. But when you hit that magic number, you will be registered again.

If you fail to comply your blog will be blocked in Russia. Russia has quite an effective system for Internet filtering with deep packet inspection hardware installed at most major providers. So, when Russia blocks you, it blocks you for good majority of its population.

No word on international Russian-speaking bloggers. I’m one of those, I have around half a million visitors per month to my personal blog, so I’m kinda worried. Worst case scenario they’ll block people like me as “foreign agents”.

Mail.ru Games EU head joins Crytek

ilyaIlya Mamontov, head of European Mail.ru Games division (known also as My.com) has left the company and now works for Crytek in Frankfurt.

That probably makes total sense, since Crytek’s Warface success in Russia was achieved thanks to cooperation with Mail.ru. It seems that Warface hasn’t enjoyed similar level of success anywhere else.

In totally unrelated news – Mail.ru’s own Skyforge is now called “an epic MMO from Obisidian”. At least it was called so in recent interview on Komsomolskya Pravda radio station. Mail.ru representative claimed that Obsidian was working on Skyforge from the beginning.

In fact Skyforge was announced in 2009 as “Project Sun” and Allods Team worked on it since at least 2008. Obsidian joined to help with story only in early 2013.

It’s obvious that Mail.ru tries to distance Skyforge from Allods Online legacy, but I wonder if people who spent 6 years of their lives on this project are ok with it?

DevGAMM, GamesJamGAMM and some pictures of naked ladies

Ain’t no rest for the indie – there is a new games jam coming and this time it’s going to be a proper jam, not a festival – GamesJamGAMM. Also, let’s talk a bit about Russian game developers events and DevGAMM in particular.

So, for years KRI was the most popular game developers conference in Russia. KRI literally means Game Developers Conference, but it is not in any way related to the original GDC. There was GDC Russia once though, I was there and I’ll probably tell its sad story later.

KRI usually happened in Spring, gradually moving from February to May. Nevertheless, KRI was almost always accompanied by snow, except for last couple of times.  Before Igromir, a Russian version of Gamescom, KRI was not just a conference but also a press event, where journalists could learn about new games. Well, these days are all gone now, but journalists are still a plenty at KRI.

Maybe because KRI is always packed with half-naked and literally naked women. Here are some pictures I took personally and they’re NSFW:

My name is Commander Sheppard and this is my favourite promo on CitadelYes, that’s Mass Effect logo on her boobs. It was official game promotion in Russia back in 2009.

Something somthing developers something mobile something LOOK AT THIS ASS!I took it last year. I have no idea what they are advertising.

This year is different. KRI has moved into Autumn and is going to be connected to Igromir. There is also going to be Russian Comic-Con packed Igromir. It’s obviously has no relation to real Comic-Con and is called World of Heroes (great name for Wargaming’s new MMO, right?).

So, Spring is free for grabs and DevGAMM is trying to take KRI’s place. DevGAMM (formerly FlashGAMM) was usually held in Kyiv, Ukraine in late Autumn and was dedicated to casual, social and mobile games. So it’s unusual to see DevGAMM in Moscow going for KRI audience, but it just might work – a lot of people I know are going to visit it. I guess old habits die hard.

BTW, GamesJamGAMM is supported by that all-girls gaming website Kitchen Riots. I guess we’ve come a really long way since KRI 2009. Or not.

Of course DevGAMM and KRI are not the only events for game developers in Russia and Ukraine. There is Sociality Rocks (another Ukrainian conference that expanded to Russia), there is Winter Nights and there is Casual Connect Kyiv among others. And if you’re not in the mood for spendings there were at least 13 free to attend Games Nights last year in various cities of Russia and Ukraine.

But if you’re in it for naked ladies, you should go to KRI.

Russian press this week

Another lazy week here – some games got released, tournament happened, somebody probably launched a new gaming website to copy-paste news from Kotaku. So let’s talk about it in details.

Let’s start with new games, shall we?

Diablo III: Reaper of Souls got glowing 93 from Russian press. The game is unofficially called here “Reaper of Wallets” because of its unusual pricing scheme: you either buy European version at 40 euros now or wait for Russian ghettoed edition two weeks later for 899 roubles. Rouble is particularly weak these days, so Russian gamers aren’t happy with 40 euros price tag and/or two weeks delay. Despite that you can buy unofficial keys online starting at 600 roubles. One of my friends bought one and claims it works like a charm for European game. I wonder, where these keys are coming from?

Internet phenomenon Goat Simulator got 88 and deserved a dedicated article on TJournal. TJ usually writes about Internet culture and politics, so this means Goat Simulator is a big news.

To my concern nobody played wonderful Age of Wonders 3 – it got 77 with only two reviews from minor sites so far. Not enough goats, I presume.

Also expect a lot (and I mean A LOT) of coverage from recent Wargaming.net finals in Warsaw – Instagram and Twitter were heavy as hell with pictures and tweets from Warsaw last week. For now there is only one article on Kanobu, everyone else is probably still jet-lagging. All you need to know is: Na’vi won, Virtus.pro took second place and Wargaming.net isn’t afraid to spend money on e-sports. As a big fan of Na’vi I’m quite happy with it.

Kanobu writes about Russian games for various consoles and while there isn’t much to read there, it’s still an entertaining article if only for games screenshots. Unfortunately they’ve missed a lot of games there – Planets Under Attack, Armageddon Riders, Mushroom Wars and so on.

Somebody is making a GTA game about that cute prosecutor from Crimea

I don’t even know where to start.

Lifenews (yellow tabloid loyal to Russian government) reports that some studio in Russia is allegedly creating a Grand Theft Auto game based on Natalya Poklonskya, widely known here as “that cute prosecutor from Crimea”. Gamers are going to be able to play as Natalya, fighting crime on streets of conflicted Ukrainian peninsula.

The “game” is based on GTA: San Andreas and will, I quote, feature “less violence and perversions” and also allegedly is “compliant with Rockstar Games rules”.  They’re planning to release it for free in next four months and now registering a trademark to make sure nobody steals their brilliant idea.

Some other Russian developers are saying that GTA: Crimea is aimed at, I’m not joking, school kids.

Russia never ceases amusing me.

How one businessman from France created a thriving gaming company in Ukraine with only $10 thousands in his pocket

Kanobu interviews Wael Amr, head of Frogwares studio, known for it’s Sherlock series of adventure games.

Wael talks about starting a business in an unknown country. He said, he always wanted to start his own game development studio, but with only $10 thousands in his pocket he could only dream about it. Until his Ukrainian friend recommended trying, well, opening a studio in Ukraine, where salaries back in 2000 were astonishingly low.

Frogwares spent two years working on their first game (about Sherlock Holmes, obviously), and Wael decided to stay.

He is also describing his relationships with publishers and brief foray into free-to-play, but there is nothing unusual: publishers usually are doing a bad job and F2P is evil, duh.