[00.45] Aleksander Helgessen and The Idea Behind Bergen Game Collective
My personal background, I have a master degree in languages specializing in Slavonic languages in Russian. I joined game development as a part of a writing team back in 2010, for company name Rain known as writing games developers of the game called Teslagrad. Since then, in 2015 I was asked to step in as the manager of the recently established Bergen game collective.
The Bergen Game Collective established a community combined platform for game developers in Bergen. We work together cooperating and combining resources and exchanging experiences contacts. It was founded by game developing companies. The experience was great and we were talking to each other about the companies and exchange of skills like 3D and mentorship.
The Bergen Game Collective was a coworking space for the last two years. We had this large office building which the collective leased and granted out companies could sit in the same office space. We have a similar situation to an Open Office solution. We did not have any large physical walls but the companies did have their own separate space. They leased for a certain amount of money and also paid for shared common costs like electricity, internet, and goods.
The Bergen Game Collective was intended as a non-profit, at the beginning along the way the business entity has either to be a completely nonprofit which means making no money at all or you have to generate some certain income to report to the authorities. Due to taxes, we ended up basically being a profit organization with a very small margin meaning the most of the money would go back to develop the collective.
[04.05] The Name of Collective
The collective itself means that you have a group of people working within the same kind of business but we also had an exchange of people between companies. We also had freelance workers like freelance 3D artist renting a small office space. They working privately on their own project within the game development. We also hosting events for game development in Bergen for instance, coming together parties or meetings with representatives of them from the municipal services.
The idea was to have a combined platform where game developers could meet and they could relate. We could exchange experience and build game developer community closed to each other
Game Development in Norway at the moment is still in its infancy. You have small companies established or founded by people who usually do game development in spare time. If you're gonna work on game development you have to go full, all-in. Due to that reason, you need contacts of the experienced game developers, funding. The collector was supposed to provide a certain basis for the companies to start with.
[06.23] Game Programming Language
Unity 3D is probably the widest used game development engine within our community. The Unreal Engine just recently being made available at no charge for people who want to try it out. Unity 3D has been free to use from the beginning or you could upgrade to pro. You can get a whole list of different options.
Some companies will choose to write their own game engines. They just thought it would be simple for them. For instance, a company called D-Pad studios. Recently, they released a beautiful and successful title called Owl Boy. They have basically brought their own engine because it was easier for the programmer to the process.
[07.32] Helping Member Got a Job as Game Developer or Funding For Their Own Game
We were working on matching the job between employer and employee. The thing is the companies that founded the Bergen Game Collective, they're still not completely full grown companies that have a large amount of available money. It's a little bit limited for what we can offer in terms of a job. We could offer of course expertise, where to find jobs and how to apply for jobs and how to see do it for jobs within the community.
We also helping people to get connected to the game development companies who were actually hiring and to exchange the information about the investors of putting them together, putting them in touch with each other. As I said the idea was to have a combined platform to work with game development but again being a still a small collective and with no funding from the outside. it's a little bit limited what we could do.
[10.00] Game Development Event in Europe
Unfortunately, we haven't given much time to come to coworking event. I think it's probably because we were not aware of such a community that existing.
Norway already has one game developing collective called Hamar Game Collective which is based on on the east side of Norway. They've been in business for a lot longer than us. We did have a lot of exchange information, email and coming together at the conferences.
We do attend gaming events, for instance, the the Game Developers Conference the EuroGamer Expo. The events overseas like the parks West and parks prime these are mostly attended by companies separately not a collective fortunately because traveling.
We tried that as well the challenge is to getting companies together and paying their own sum of money to join the conference. Actually, Norwegian Film Institute does give you a certain amount of money as funding to travel abroad to these game conferences which is good. It's not possible to apply as a large collective, unfortunately.
To apply for funding, you need to have a legal entity which means that you need to have a company with a name and the official registration number. Of course a game a project to show and filling out a couple of applications. It's also possible if you are apply independently. They also can give you a scholarship to travel to Game Developers Conference.
The problem of game development in Norway right now is the lack of investors. Many companies are struggling financially because the Norwegian Film Institute is essentially the only funding that you can get. It's always a chance you will not receive any money and there is also chance you get less than you applied.
The reason for lack of investors is basically the most of the investors decided to invest in things that they can profit purely for instance oil, IT businesses and the building industry. Game development in Norway as I said it's still in its infancy especially compared to larger countries like Sweden and Finland which are larger not in terms of population or money that they have but in the terms of game developing communities. Everybody would know about Rovio and Angry Bird but how about the Swedish Dice Battlefield Series. You need to have a good game and marketing is one essential part.
[15.15] Bergen Game Collective Marketing Strategy
The game collective would be promoting games on social med, on events and within the community itself. If you have a really good game, you still need to have a nice budget for marketing and it's not just posting on Facebook anymore it's not just keeping this team community going but somewhat beyond that.
The main focus in expertise in game development in Norway should be specifically on marketing and targeting the right audience at the right time and decide the better time of the releasing game.
If you release at the same time as a something called a five hundred pound gorilla in games basically an open-top adventure game and you release at the same time as Zelda you're not going anywhere. If you release a platform at the same time as a Mario game you're not going anywhere either. Since you cannot affect when those large games will be released.
We hope VR and AR will be more bringing potential. In Norway, there is not that much expertise in working with the virtual reality yet. There were some projects based on the augmented reality development Norway and hopefully the VR and AR will be growing. For me, VR has a unique way to experience the games with complete full immersion and can also be applied not just to horror games or shooter games or running. It could be applied to for instance story. Hopefully, we'll see more VR projects coming along and the investors as well.
It also depends on where the markets are going with the VR because you have to use the new Sony console which will have support for the VR. You have the VR consoles like Steam. The possibility for a larger consumer base in the VR even though the equipment itself is a little bit expensive right now but still within the reach.
[18.40] Coworking Space Landscape in Norway
There is a trend in Norway right now, something called like an open space. It's a situation where people don't sit in the cubicles but they have desks close to each other. They sit on those desks and there's literally no walls separating them. This open office idea gives people feeling like being closer to the colleagues.
It's a debated thing right now the effect of open space within companies. Some studies show the open space policy effects negatively that the workers performance is being affected. And some studies show that the performance is indeed increasing.
In our case, having come companies close to each other was actually refreshing because you can always know their game, their problem, asking advice, mentorship, sit together at lunch.
[20.20] Mentoring one-on-one session
The CEO of rain games, Peter, he has a long experience with companies and also long experience with game development. He has also a lot of game connection. He has been to many conferences. It was easier for him to talk to other game development companies and give them advice on how to get started, how to secure funding, how to approach the government authorities that could give you funding in the right way.
In Norway, we have something called the Norwegian Film Institute which is responsible to hand out a certain amount of money every year. It's dedicated specifically to game development.
The government supporting game development industry is something not very much seen outside Scandinavia; Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Iceland. They have government initiatives to help promote and develop game development outside of Scandinavia probably not so much the catch is there.
You have to meet certain criteria to apply for funding from Nowegian Film Institute and you need to have a creative and innovative game. It has to be based on a Norwegian or European law or culture traditions and has to be in European language. Once you get past those criteria you can actually apply for funding and can get a quite nice amount of funding as well which helps you a lot.
The Funding basically just the members paying into the Bergen game collective. The amount of money they were paying was to lease the office space and the shared common costs. We also charge a very small amount of money for the administrative purposes.
Basically, the things to pay for the accountant and the audition that we applied for funding to the government and municipal authorities. Bergen has a large potential within game development because you have three schools of Arts in Bergen; two private and one government. The University of Bergen or the colleges offering courses in game development and even education in game development; modeling or graphical design but also coding scripting and game design.
[25.03] Member of Bergen Game Collective
Game Development company who is a member of Bergen Collective, for instance, Rain Games. They were prior to joining Bergen Game Collective. This year, they have launched World To The West a slightly larger title than Teslagrad. It was launched in May. We have a company called henchman and goon who is working on a cooperative project called Pode and Flem.
There's also a company called RetroGene. They made a mobile game called SpinSling and the last company called Squad also a founding member of the game collective. A very successful studio called Dirty Bit they make games Fun Run.
[27.20] The Unique Selling Point of Bergen Game Collective
When we were getting in touch with potential companies and individuals to join their collective we offered things for instance mentorship as you mentioned, office space with all the costs covered by one single sum of money paid per month. We also offered a place in a thriving and positive and social community and also chance to be a part of the game global network and get help with starting a company or help with your project.
Let say, if you need advice on how to get started financially or how to apply for funding or how to find people that you need for your project for instance a freelance basis. Mostly there's expertise and it should never be underestimated because the amount of knowledge that you can generate within the community. It's important for the community to share this knowledge so that the other companies would not have to repeat for instance the same mistakes although they would have a simpler path to establishing the company so yeah it helps to exchange experience.
Reference sites that mention on the show:
The song is by Ketsa Wild Plain under CC license.