Stugan Game Accelerator: Developers in the Swedish countryside
Sweden is a great country for game development. Companies based there such as King, EA Dice, Mojang, Avalanche Studios, Simogo and more have created and released some of the best-known and highly-successful IPs in the world. For example, just a couple of weeks ago, Rovio Stockholm released Angry Birds 2 (made with Unity btw), already downloaded by over 30 million people.
The beautiful Swedish countryside also hosts Oskar Burman’s (Rovio) and Tommy Palm’s (ex-King) non-profit game accelerator program Stugan.
Stugan — the name means “cabin” in English — gathers talented independent developers from all over the globe, from USA to South Africa or Australia. Together, they’re spending two summer months in lakeside red cabins. The program is their opportunity to make friends with developers from far away, get away from the distractions of large cities and focus on the games they have always wanted to create. But there’s also time for hiking through the surrounding woodlands, swimming in the nearby lake and an end-of-day relax in a traditional Scandinavian sauna!
Aside from working on their games, the organisers of Stugan also organized visits from various experts from the games industry to speak to the teams. They delivered talks and gave advice to the developers on topics like PR and marketing, running a game studio or using the Arduino hardware. I had the luck and pleasure to represent Unity and visit the game accelerator at its mid-way point of the program.
I met the teams, played their creations and learned about their backgrounds, what type of game are they making and how. The majority of the projects use Unity, which gave me a chance to learn how they are using the engine, help with a few of the technical questions and gather feedback.
Below is a sample of their many in-development Unity projects, plus my impressions on what’s interesting about them in terms of input, visuals and gameplay.
20,000 Leagues Above The Clouds by That Brain (Sweden)
Ever wanted to be a captain of your own air-ship? Now you can! In ‘20,000 Leagues’ you command your own flying-vessel and explore open worlds of floating islands, sky-harbours and rival air-ships. When playtesting the current version of the game, I customized my own ship in body-size, weapons, boost-abilities and even banner logo and colors!
Rosvita by Rosvita Works (UK)
In Rosvita, the visuals of the game are created by rendering 3D models of buildings in the game-world, but with a 2D detail map in the overlay. In the end, the game looks like a water-color painting with ink-work detail. The core mechanic lets you create cut-out bubbles, which you can combine with similar bubble colors. That creates pockets where you can manipulate gravity, so that Rosvita can navigate through the game world and get to out-of-reach locations.
Planeter by Ditto (Sweden)
PLANETER is a vibrant exploration game in which you create the universe. Adventuring is difficult on your own, but along the way you will find some alien friends to help you. Wiggle and wobble your way across the colourful terrain to discover the secrets of each planet, helping them flourish. PLANETER’s soothing soundtrack accompanied me as I floated, in my little bubble, between worlds. When the bubble bursts, there are puzzles to solve that reveal the mysteries of the planets.
Cerulean Moon by Nacho Beard (Spain)
Cerulean Moon puts a new spin on platformer controls. Instead of using virtual joysticks or thumb-sized buttons in the corner of the screen, the player holds a finger to the screen and gently slidea it left or right to ‘move’ the world around the character. The faster you move your finger, the faster the character dashes in that particular direction. The developer of the game, Nacho, demonstrated how this unique control style allows some high-precision movement, platform-dashing and fireball-dodging.
Cadence by Made With Monster Love (South Africa)
More than just a sound toy, the game is built on connections between logical nodes that create loops of music. Puzzles demand careful thought and can be solved in multiple ways, generating unique melodies from real-time synthesisers.
Robot Space Labs by Robin Baumgarten (UK)
Robot Space Labs is a space exploration and asteroid mining game that is entirely centered around peaceful research with autonomous robots. Rather than controlling the robots directly, they’re fully autonomous and you manage them by planning the construction of new factories, excavate minerals, and research and upgrade technology in laboratories. Different missions, materials and environmental hazards such as radioactivity, solar winds and meteor collisions add challenge and diversity to the game.
A Dog’s Heart by Wendelin Reich (France)
A Dog’s Heart is a short game featuring a unique, high-end artificial intelligence. Mimi, a 5-month old puppy, is your companion on a magical island and you become friends while playing through various activities together.
Intergalactic Space Princess by Geeiz Games (Australia)
Intergalactic Space Princess is a hyperactive adventure game about mistaken identity and roaming across the galaxy. It’s like a TV episode where you get to do all the action. You play as a sassy 14 year old, Meline, who accidentally gets eaten by a giant space worm and transported to a new planet, where people think she’s the REAL Space Princess. Features minigames, rap battles, sticking googly eyes on tomatoes, falling down a worms stomach and more!
Sunshine by Amy Dentata (USA)
Sunshine is a first-person exploration game set in a futuristic, low-poly city. Instead of a firearm or a melee-weapon, you posses a wrist-mounted computer-terminal that allows you to view live-feeds from nearby CCTV cameras and write commands to override nearby computer systems. This opens up a whole range of unique possibilities for missions across the neon city.
Keyhole by Czarcade (USA)
Keyhole is a timeline exploration game where the player’s actions affect the future of the world and its inhabitants, and every action can be undone at any time. As the player travels back and forth along the timeline, items are moved from character to character, creating new branches of reality.
_PRISM by Clint Siu (USA)
Inspired by Fireproof Studios’ ‘The Room’ and Plato’s ‘Classical Elements’, PRISM is a puzzle game about interacting with glyphs that surround abstract 3D geometry. It’s up to the player to work out the relationship between different glyphs and how to align them. This series of ‘combination lock’ puzzles is beautifully presented, with both the visuals and the sound contributing to a really immersive experience.
The Last Word by Mark Backler (UK)
Mark Backler’s project adds an interesting spice to the traditional a-to-b 2D platformer genre. Each level is presented as excerpts of a diary. Words that present the narrative can be repositioned as platforms, re-aligned to create stairs or even re-located to cause an effect to a certain object blocking or hindering your player’s progress. Each level brings a new part of the story and new environmental puzzles.
Induction by Bryan Gale (UK)
Induction is a puzzle game about time travel and paradoxes. You control a cube moving around abstract isometric levels and solve puzzles by jumping back in time and co-operating with past versions of yourself. Adding to the difficulty, you’re always required to create a ‘consistent’ timeline before you can complete each puzzle, so you have to be careful not to do anything that prevents your past self going back in time.