DevGamm: In Russia, Unity develops with you
Russia is one of the top ten places on Earth when it comes to time spent in the Unity editor. So it makes sense that we now have a small office there; as we announced at DevGamm, a developer’s conference in Moscow. I talked to a number of Russian game creators there, from a 12 year-old genius to seasoned studio executives. Here’s an update on what they’re all making.
Until recently, the Russian market has been supported from Vilnius, with evangelist Oleg Pridiuk spearheading community outreach. At DevGamm, it seemed that everybody wanted to shake his hand and/or hug him. He delivered an intro to Unity 5 to a room so packed that I could barely stand in the door. But even Oleg can’t be at two places at once, so the time has come to set up a proper office.
That’s why we now have a Russia business development director: Roman Menyakin, along with a new strategic marketing manager: Natalya Sviridova. At DevGamm they were accompanied by an extra temporary member of the team: Unity Chan, our Japanese mascot, portrayed masterfully by local cosplayer Amiko Chan.
The local developers made DevGamm a warm welcome party for all of us, from the two teenagers who showed me their mobile Zombie Derby to the creators of giant online communities like Contract Wars and Tanki Online.
I also had the pleasure of meeting Vadim Logvinov, a 12 year-old developer with three years of C# programming experience. Vadim’s path to game development started with a few stop motion short films featuring his Lego models, which he then remade into small games in drag and drop game engines. Later, he came across Unity and enrolled on a C# course to be able to make more ambitious mobile and browser games. In impeccable English, he told me about one of his most recent projects, Robots Inc, a puzzle platformer for Android.
Charmed, we called him up on the stage after David Helgason’s keynote, where he got a full Unity Pro license suite from the hands of the man himself. Can’t wait to see what Vadim makes with that!
A whole day of Unity talks followed, with the help of simultaneous English-Russian translators. Andy Touch demoed the new UI tools, Carl Callewaert explained Mecanim by making a bear run after vodka and Marco Trivellato showed how Unity keeps an eye on your project’s performance. Antony Yakovlev introduced PhysX 3 support in Unity 5.0 and Ruslan Grigoryev talked about Android deployment with Unity.
The Russian game development industry has a charming DIY attitude that goes beyond the struggling indie community. Contract Wars by AbsoluftSoft is a WebPlayer FPS with over 30 million installs. The COO, Nikita Buyanov, still spends his nights answering questions on forums and his days worried about server performance.
At first, AbsolutSoft’s four person team worked on a sofa in a service room behind a restaurant. After 2.5 years, they finally got an investor and a ping pong table, shipped the first version of the game and quickly started rising up through local social media networks. Success led to more issues, however, from frequent server crashes to finding qualified team members in St. Petersburg.
Nowadays, the company has 25 employees. 70% them had no game development experience when they joined and only 40% speak English. Nikita credits Unity’s ease of use and collaboration tools for enabling them all to work together on the humongous game environment.
He hopes for an even better toolset in Unity 5. Since the game aims for highly photorealistic graphics, AbsolutSoft has been waiting for the lighting and shading improvements for a long time. Almost as long as for the new GUI. But at DevGamm, Nikita finally got a taste of what’s coming.
“When I saw the new GUI, I was so happy! I was shocked! It is everything we needed!” he shouts out with a roaring laugh.
Another Russian browser giant made with Unity is MMOG Tanki Online, developed by AlternativaPlatform. CTO Anton Volkov said that they initially sold a Flash engine before turning to games for more commercial success. An even bigger jump came half a year ago, when the studio switched from Flash to Unity. “We want to go multiplatform, to create one seamless experience across devices. With Unity, we feel like there is strong enough commitment to the technology that we can confidently plan a strategy for the next five years,” explains Anton.
And those plans are ambitious. According to its website, AlternativePlatform aims “to be able to provide beneficial entertainment for one billion people each month by 2020.”
Considering the rocket growth the local industry has been through in the past ten years, maybe that’s a pretty realistic goal. In any case, from now on, Unity will be right next door if they need any help.
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