Mel Taylor

Berlin Games Week: Two Awards, Two Talks and an AMAZING Indie Festival

It is one of the most important highlights of the German games industry: Berlin Games Week. The various events taking place in several locations across the vibrant city, such as Quo Vadis Game Developers Conference, Making Games Festival and A MAZE Festival, attracted more than 15,000 visitors this year.

We spent last week talking about, playing and celebrating games in Berlin. Not only did we win our very first award for Orwell, but also met inspiring new people, had interesting conversations, talked about our own experiences and then won our very second award for Orwell! Here comes a brief summary and a few pictures for you to see what we have been up to over the course of the week.

 

Quo Vadis Conference

Daniel and Mel gave a long talk about founding Osmotic, developing Orwell and everything else.

Photo credits: Uwe Voelkner / FOX.

 

German Computer Games Awards

On Wednesday, 26 April, the German Computer Games Awards were given to the best Games in the German industry. We were very honored and happy to receive the award for “Best Serious Game” for Orwell, which won the trophy besides the really cool looking “Debugger 3.16: Hack’n’Run” by Spiderwork Games, a game that teaches object-oriented programming.

Thank you so much for this!

BERLIN, GERMANY – APRIL 26: during the German Computer Games Award 2017 (Deutscher Computerspielpreis 2017) at WECC on April 26, 2017 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Franziska Krug/Getty Images for Quinke Networks).

 

A MAZE. Festival

Orwell was not only in the indie exhibition, but also nominated for the A MAZE. Award. After Mel gave another talk, this time about how we created emotionally impactful moments in Orwell, we were finally told that we had won our very second award for Orwell!

 

Orwell at the A MAZE exhibition. Photo credit: Mel.
Mel talked about how we managed to make players feel like assholes. Photo credit: Jana Reinhardt (Rat King Entertainment).
We could not believe we had won the coolest Indie Game Award ever! Photo credit: Micha.

Meet the Orwell Team: Philipp Swoboda

Continuing our series “Meet the Orwell Team”, we would like to introduce a very charming person to you today.

Please meet: Philipp Swoboda

Here is a short interview so that you can find out more about him and his work:

What are your favorite games?

Games with a strong and emotional narrative, like The Last Of Us or Beyond Two Souls. I’m also a big fan of games with beautiful artwork, like Botanicula, Limbo or Samorost.

What kind of work did you contribute to Orwell?

I worked on the sound design, so basically all sound effects you hear while you’re interacting with Orwell and stalking other people’s lives. Apart from the electronic sounds of the interface in the game itself, I also designed all the sound effects in the cinematic intro scene and the effects you can hear accompanying the events towards the end of the game, where … well, I better not hint at, spoilers here 🙂 I had a lot of fun with the mixture of working on synthetic sounds and recording natural sounds needed for Orwell. Designing bleeps and Interface sounds one day and recording crows and angry, yelling people the other day made for a nice variation!


Excerpt from the sound design for Orwell by Philipp Swoboda.

What other projects are you currently working on?

I have just started working on producing sounds for a documentary, which will be completed soon. Working on Orwell has been a really great experience for me, so I’m definitely looking forward to working on more projects in the game industry.

Find out more about Philipp here:

https://www.facebook.com/PhilippSwoboda9

Meet the Orwell Team: Clemens Kügler

Continuing our series “Meet the Orwell Team”, we will introduce a very special person to you today.

Please meet: Clemens Kügler

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Here is a short interview so that you can find out more about him and his work:

What are your favorite games?

Ah yes, that question. Let´s see: the first game I played on my C64 was “Street Surfer”. I still remember the pretty cool music and the sound of drinking an in-game soda. It holds a sentimental place in my heart, but I liked “River Raid”, “The Last Ninja”, “Pirates” or “Mafia” much better. None of my friends owned an early console, so I skipped that chapter until PlayStation (the “Burnout” series, “SSX3”, “Tekken”). Later on the Mac it was tough, since only few games were released for this system (“Heroes of Might & Magic 3”, “Alpha Centauri”, “Baldurs Gate 2”, “Warcraft”), but it got better with the years (“Limbo”, “The Binding of Isaac”, “Travian”). More recently, I turned to mobile games and like “Tiny Thief” or “Trials Frontier”.

In general, I like turn based games and roguelikes, games that have a high replay value and the challenge of figuring out the perfect strategy. There are a lot of great and classic games I have never played … most of them probably. And more and more are released every day with less and less spare hours at hand. Hard times.

What kind of work did you contribute to Orwell?

My task was to design the interface from a prototype state to its final form. The general appearance had to be practical and functional, similar to an operating system, yet entertaining.

At the beginning, quite some time was spent discussing the general layout, possible moods and tool functions. Still, throughout the development, the interface had to adapt constantly in order to match needs for changes in tool behavior or function. Here are some examples of alternative design directions that did not make it for various reasons.

The problem child of the project was the commenting and guiding feature “Symes” – where to place him so that he does not interfere with the flow of the gameplay on the one hand and would not be overlooked on the other. The version that made it into the game is a compromise between these two aspects. He still is a bit of a bugger.

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Clemens designed the user interface for Orwell.

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What other projects are you currently working on?

I have been a professional graphic designer for about 13 years. For the last few years I have been working part time for motorsport-clients, mostly from the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), designing everything from autograph cards to 40-foot-trailers. During the rest of the time in the last few months, I worked on Orwell. Apart from that, I have to write my master thesis in game design – a running gag. As a side project, a friend of mine and I are developing a small one-button-game for mobile that is in its prototype state and I also try to keep my drawing skills up.

Can you tell us more about awesome projects you have worked on in the past?

Graphic designwise I did a whole lot of projects for Audi Motorsports and Volkswagen Motorsports for all kinds of racing series including the Formula 1, WRC, LMS, VLN, DTM, Rally Dakar. That includes interactive e-magazines, apps, print magazines, tickets, posters, websites, business reports, corporate designs, books, illustrations … you name it.

Gamewise that would be “Scherbenwerk – Bruchteil einer Ewigkeit” (Shardworks – Fraction of an Eternity). Our student team of five spent 1.5 years developing this 3D adventure game around the main character of Kester Featherstone who accidentally ends up switching between two states of existence, being able to manipulate the very layout of the city he lives in and dealing with strange lifeforms while trying to get everything back to normal. It is fairly complicated.

“Scherbenwerk” won four awards including the Deutscher Computerspielpreis (German Computer Game Award) in the category Best Newcomer Concept. My task was concept art, 2D and 3D game art, interface design and graphic design. You can check it out here (German only): https://scherbenwerk.wordpress.com

 

Find out more about Clemens here:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/clemens.kuegler

Xing: https://www.xing.com/profile/Clemens_Kuegler

Meet the Orwell Team: Mathias Fischer

One week after having released the last episode of Orwell “Under the Spreading Chestnut Tree”, we are beyond happy that the complete game is finally out. The player feedback so far has been amazing and we are overjoyed about how many kind words, story analyses, soundtrack praises and inspirational quotes we have received so far.

Since all of this is not only thanks to our amazingly supportive players, but also to our wonderful team, we would like to continue our small series “Meet the Orwell Team”.

Please meet: Mathias Fischer

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Here is a short interview so that you can find out more about him and his work:

What are your favorite games?

I have a slight obsession with the game Xenogears, over-analyzing it for almost 10 years, although it’s probably not as deep as I’m making it out to be. But still, a far beyond average Japanese RPG. Also, I’m heavily involved in old-school western RPGs like the Icewind Dale series and detective point-and-click, such as Gabriel Knight and Broken Sword. When it comes to outstanding experiences that do not fall into the former categories, then I can only think of „Disaster: Day of Crisis“, by far the most consequent game ever created, a mix of a disaster-movie adaptation, the Rock, wii motion controls, every gameplay mechanic you can ever think of and giant hamburgers as medipacks. It plays exactly as this sounds like and I would recommend enjoying it with alcohol on the side and a wii-zapper.

Regarding everything else, I could prepare a 3-days-straight lecture of how superior and experimental the gameboy color and the bulk of its games exactly is or that Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag is the most fun you can ever have in your life ever..:)

What kind of work did you contribute to Orwell?

I conceptualized the intro cinematic together with Daniel, Mel and Michael, which developed into creating concepts and storyboards. The following tasks were building and implementing the scene within Unreal 4, animating Characters (2D and 3D) and camera-direction / cutting within Unreal-Matinee.

 

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Mathias did the artwork and animation for the cinematic opening scene at the beginning of Orwell.
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Concept Artwork of the Freedom Plaza – An important reoccurring location.

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What other projects are you currently working on?
Currently, I’m working as a freelance artist in Stockholm, Sweden for various companies.

Can you tell us more about awesome projects you have worked on in the past?
I spent almost half a decade as an artist with Daedalic Entertainment, helping to bring awesome point-and-click adventure games on their way. Games like „The Night of the Rabbit“ and upcoming superstars like „The Devil’s Men“ and „State of Mind“..:)

Meet the Orwell Team: Hannes Flor

While we are getting closer and closer to releasing Orwell, we would like to introduce some of the amazing people who worked with us on our first commercial project.

Please meet: Hannes Flor

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Here is a short interview so that you can find out more about him and his work:

What are your favorite games?
Well well well, where to start! I do have a soft spot for adventure games, so Telltale, Wadjet Eye, and Lucas Arts (of course) are responsible for a lot of them. Monkey Island 1-3, Indy 4, Grim Fandango, Primordia, the Blackwell Series, The Walking Dead, and The Wolf Among Us are all up there (though Myst, King’s Quest 6, and Beneath a Steel Sky shan’t be forgotten either.)

Then there’s a number of titles I can’t neatly store under an umbrella, like Vampire: The Masquerade, Arcanum, Gothic, GTA Vice City, Hotline Miami, LA Noire, Call of Juarez, Trackmania Sunrise, Hexcells, and 1000 Amps. And of course Prince of Persia (2008) is just goddamn perfection.

But my absolute favorite, the ones I could talk your ear off about their amazingness for weeks on end, is the Mass Effect series. I just love Mass Effect. Love them. All of them. Best games ever made. Ever. (God, do I love them.)

What kind of work did you contribute to Orwell?
I did the compositing on the intro cutscene, and I have yet to figure out a simple way to explain what that means exactly. But I basically took a video capture of the intro and placed all the 2D animations of people, birds, etc. over it in a way that makes it look like they’re actually in the scene, walking down the street and stuff. The “Orwell View,” where the citizens’ faces are tracked and matched against police records, was also one of my tasks.

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Hannes did the compositing work on the intro scene for Orwell.

What other projects are you currently working on?
I just started working on a small point-and-click adventure called AURORA. It’s a minimalistic scifi adventure about drive and obsession and its cost. I’m just about to finish up all the boring technical stuff, which means I soon get to start actually designing and scripting it.

I’m also involved in another project my company, Hypnotic Owl, is working on: a neat little math game about dividing numbers into their prime divisors. We call it Prime Division. But we’re still working up to an official announcement, so I shan’t say too much.

Can you tell us more about awesome projects you have worked on in the past?
I was Lead Compositor on Daedalic’s A New Beginning, which I think miiiiight have something to do with me getting this job, seeing as I met Daniel there and all that. I’m also very fond of The Wizard, a dungeon puzzler about Kevin, the most handsome wizard in the whole country, who gets his gorgeous face stolen and has no choice but to chase the wretched thief through the mazes beneath the wizard academy to get it back.

But the one I’m most proud of is called The Day the Laughter Stopped, a serious interactive fiction game about consent and choice. It’s somewhat difficult to talk about because it’s very easily spoiled, but if you have a few minutes and aren’t deterred by the trigger warning, I’d love for you to check it out.

 

Find out more about Hannes here:
Website: www.hypnoticowl.com
Twitter: www.twitter.com/elCrabman

Meet the Orwell Team: Frieda Sobiech

While we are getting closer and closer to releasing Orwell, we would like to introduce some of the amazing people who worked with us on our first commercial project.

Please meet: Frieda Sobiech

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Here is a short interview so that you can find out more about her and her work:

What are your favorite games?
This is hard to decide! I have been playing Pokemon a lot recently, all kinds of generations. I played through Spiderman Dimension and One Piece Unlimited World Red. Saints Row 4 captivated me for a couple of evenings, but then it turned into a kind of love-hate relationship, since the story was nice and freaky, but the fights drove me nuts. My all-time favorites are: Spore, Black and White 2, Journey and Spiderman 2 for Game Cube.

What kind of work did you contribute to Orwell?
I was an intern for graphic design/art at Osmotic Studios and supported the team by designing websites and logos as well as creating artwork. The different kinds of websites were very interesting, for example social networks or even medical logs. I enjoyed working on the diverse characters most: young and old, slim or large, from average to crazy, all kinds of people are represented in the game.

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Some of Frieda’s work for Orwell.

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What other projects are you currently working on?
I am currently working on my bachelor thesis, which is a graphic novel. The story unfolds around the topic “Space Adventure” and is about a space pilot named Arvin who runs into the most absurd situations and stories while travelling through the infinite universe.

Can you tell us more about awesome projects you have worked on in the past?
I collaborated with a friend on one of my latest projects, that covered the topic “Nation Branding”. We created a corporate design for the fictitious city “Asgard”, which is the home of the Germanic Gods. The design was supposed to give the city a new and modern look, including business cards, a website and even an app. Besides this, I also design invitation cards and yearbooks. At the moment I try to develop my talents further and practise a lot of different kinds of styles and character designs on DeviantArt.

 

Find out more about Frieda here:
Tumblr: www.yoshidie12te.tumblr.com
Deviantart: www.12teyoshi.deviantart.com
Twitter: www.twitter.com/Yoshidie12te

Meet the Orwell Team: Stefanie Curth

While we are getting closer and closer to releasing Orwell, we would like to introduce some of the amazing people who worked with us on our first commercial project.

Please meet: Stefanie Curth

image_steffi_portrait_website

Here is a short interview so that you can find out more about her and her work:

What are your favorite games?
I really like games with a fascinating, deep story and beautiful art style. So some of my favorites are Journey or Bastion/Transistor. I love the environment and character design of Rayman or Ori and the Blind Forest. I am also a big fan of the Dragon Age universe, of which I own all kinds of merchandise, from the games themselves to books, comics and art books which reveal the world lore. The Witcher, Bioshock, The Last of Us and Beyond – Two Souls are also some of my all time favorites. After work, I love to play League of Legends to relax ;3

What kind of work did you contribute to Orwell?
I worked as a concept artist and Illustrator for Orwell. The biggest task was to create recognizable recurring characters. The unique style I worked with was really fun to do.

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Some of Stefanie’s work for Orwell.

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What other projects are you currently working on?
I currently work as a concept artist and animator for Sir Eatsalot, a 2D Adventure-Platformer for PS Vita. In the remaining time I am working as „jack of all trades“ artist for Brutal Hack and writing my master thesis.

Can you tell us more about awesome projects you have worked on in the past?
I worked 1,5 years in a small team to create a vertical slice for the game idea of „Thirst“. My work contained concept art, 3D texturing and animation. I also participated in the last 3 InnoGames game jams and you will find me there at the next ones too.

Find out more about Stefanie here:
My homepage is currently under reconstruction, but will be available soon at
www.stefaniecurth.de

You can find me here too :
Facebook: www.facebook.com/PhySalisArt
Instagramm: www.instagram.com/physalisart
Twitter: www.twitter.com/PhySalisArt

Orwell nominated for PLAY15 Award!

Screenshot_ORWELL_Version_Sirko

Great news: Orwell is nominated for the PLAY15 Award as “Most Innovative Newcomer”! We are very happy about this and can’t wait for the jury’s decision, which will be on September 19th. So keep your fingers crossed for us!

The PLAY15 Festival is a computer game festival and conference taking place annually in Hamburg. The conference is specialised in social, political and education-orientated examination of digital games. PLAY15 targets pupils, teachers, students, scientists, people from the gaming industry and those who are interested in culture. Everyone, across all ages and from all over the world, is invited to discover the diverse possibilities that digital games offer, try them out and to explore their creative potential.

PLAY15 – festival for creative gaming introduces the new Creative Gaming Awards in the categories Most Creative Game and Most Innovative Newcomer Game. The award is particularly for projects that use computer games as a creative medium and encourage the player’s creativity in the game.Creative Gaming Award 2015 Nominee

The Most Innovative Newcomer Award focuses on the game idea and the innovation that is connected with the development of the game. This can be showcased by a special gameplay, transmediality, unknown possibilities of interaction within the game, essential graphic innovations, new interfaces, uncommon atmospheres, visual breakthroughs or new topics that are being dealt with in the game. The award is endowed with 1.500 €, furthermore the developers will be supported by Kai Fiebig from Daedalic Entertainment for 1 year, who will help them with the development of the game.

For this year’s PLAY award there were over 150 submissions from 20 different countries.

See all nominations here!

Respawn 2014 – Reincarnation of the Indie Spirit

At this year’s Respawn – Gathering of Game Developers there was one question which came up several times: What does it mean to be indie? There has been much discussion about „the i-word“ lately, especially since indie studios are getting more and more support and acknowledgement from the big players. At Respawn, apart from getting to know great new people, we got lots of input on the struggles of „wearing many hats“, „the suit“ or just trying to be yourself in the games industry.

Respawn is a very small conference, which is why it is easy to get to know people even if you’re not the super connector in your team. It is also much less of a hassle to get around and easier to switch between the talks than at large conferences. This is owed to a very neat idea: Since all the talks are in one large hall, only separated by light curtains, it would usually be hard to focus on the talk you want to attend. But at Respawn you get a headset when picking up your conference badge which you can use to tune into the channel of the talk you are attending and hear what the speaker says in crystal clear. This gives you the advantage of being able to tune into the talk on the other side of the hall and hear this just as clearly. Kind of like a radio station.

It also has some downsides though. As some speakers pointed out, they never know whether you are really listening to their talk or a different one because you discovered you find it too boring/it is not the topic you expected/you have an MTV-generation attention span of ten seconds and need to zap around. Another rather unpleasant disadvantage of this is that you basically can’t hear a thing without the headset. This wouldn’t have been much of an issue of course, if they’d had ENOUGH HEADSETS! So we arrived in Cologne after a five-hour drive, happy to finally soak up all the information from the talks and they told us they’d run out of headsets.

We were especially upset because two of us three had come to Cologne just for Respawn. So at the beginning, it felt like watching a silent movie – only with large audience background noise instead of the ridiculous music.

This is us looking really irritable because we couldn’t hear.

Even when the speaker talked really loudly, it was barely audible and hard to listen to. This resulted in me spamming the organisers with complaints on Twitter during the first three talks since I was really disappointed (I had missed the talk with Wolf Lang from THREAKS!!). Their Twitter account apologised and admitted that this was their mistake. During the last talk of the first day a few people returned their headsets and so we could hear in the end. Luckily, the problem didn’t return the next day. Still not amusing. But back to the content.

Yes, we found it! It was a sexy turtle.

One of my favourite talks was by Sebastian and Mareike from Studio Fizbin, who won this year’s German Computer Game Award in the category „Best German Game“ for their charming adventure „The inner World“. The talk was about character design, titled „Finding the Hunakel“. Mareike explained the difference between inner and outer character, which can be quite contradictory. Together with the audience, she then created a cute turtle that was also a great womanizer.

Andreas Suika from Daedelic Entertainment Studio West

Another highlight was Andreas Suika’s talk, who just co-founded Daedelic Entertainment Studio West in Düsseldorf. His very entertaining presentation about communicating game design was packed full of hands-on experience tools and approaches.

Tim Schafer (left) is the kind of guy people want to give thousands of dollars to. Jason is fine, too.

If you have read the editorial of the latest Edge Magazine issue, you might have noticed that there is much discussion going on about who or what is really „indie“ and whether this word is appropriate at all. Since the release of „Indie Game: The Movie“ everyone has this picture of the struggling artist on their minds. But how do we get to earn a living from it without Phil Fish insulting us on Twitter?

Jason della Rocca from Execution Labs gave a great talk about the struggles of „embracing the artist mentality as an indie dev“ versus running a successful business that is actually sustainable. He had many examples of indie developers who did things right in his talk „7 Habits of Highly Effective Indies“.

Gender (and Diversity) design in video games – “totally!” or “…not again…”?

There were also a bunch of discussions at this year’s Respawn. One of them was about gender issues. I had feared it would be a classic fight between machos and feminists, but it was, refreshingly, as much about character design and stereotypes in games and the industry itself. One of the discussed questions was how much thought you put into the male/female point of view as a character designer and whether male designers can make believable female characters and vice versa.

Did he get the publisher’s deal?

The grand finale was the Speedpitching-Session, hosted by André Bernhardt from Indie Advisor. Really great games and ideas! A memorable moment was when the last idea was pitched: A game which is basically a fork lift simulator with puzzle elements, called Forked Up. The presentation itself got withering criticism, but the game looked awesome. This lead to Dunium Games getting an appointment with one of the jury members at Gamescom, who appeared to be very interested. We don’t know if this lead to a publisher’s deal, but very impressing! Congrats!

Conclusion: This is definitely an informative and fun conference for every indie game dev or freelancer in the games industry. It is easy to get to know people, even if you’re not the most extroverted person. This is all under the premise of Respawn getting the headset availability problem solved, of course …