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GAMEDEV: CONCEPTS, PROSPECTS, MARKET REVIEW, EXPERT OPINIONSs

 

We continue to familiarize you with IT specializations, and this time we will talk about our beloved GameDev.

In our opinion, Game Development is an entire industry, and with the purpose to make the market overview of specialists more substantive, we decided to devote a series of articles to it. So, it's time to figure out who is who! ;)

About the daily issue: money question

According to the forecasts for 2020, the income of the global gaming market will be approximately $159.3 billion, which is 9.3% more than last year. And the pandemic even raised the sales rate of video games by 35%, compared with the same period last year. As for the mobile games market, where revenues will amount to $77.2 billion, an increase of 13.3%  year-over-year.

Therefore, in comparison with other IT areas, the game industry is not so affected by the “pandemic crisis”, and not only recovering really quickly, but it is also boldly making plans for the future.

What is GameDev?

GameDev is a complete cycle of creating games: design, development, and release. This also includes concept creation and testing. When the process of creating a game begins, it is important to think over game mechanics, rewards, player involvement, and level design. The development team includes programmers, sound engineers, artists, designers, and many other roles. GameDev can be done by a large studio or even by one person. It all depends on the skills and level of the game.

Game Developer is always, and first of all, a fan of games. Only being in love with games from the user’s side, you can understand the essence of the mechanics of the game, its pros and cons, as well as see the whole picture. Most often they leave GameDev only in the early stages of their career.

The picture of GameDev specializations is as follows:

 

Thus, the team is conditionally divided into three large groups: digit heads, artists, and ideologists of the project.

The first group includes: programmers, web-developers, developers for mobile devices, system administrators, database administrators, etc. This is the highest paid part of the team that is responsible for the entire technical component of the game.

The second group includes specialists, who create the visual part of the game: 3D modelers, animators, texture artists, concept artists, and designers.

And finally, the ideologists who invent the game and manage the entire development: game designers and producers. The initial contribution of designers is much more important than most of the team members. They create a beautiful cover for gamers who like to criticize everything.

The situation is slightly different in indie projects (projects created without direct financial support), where the core of the team is a programmer, an artist, and a game designer. The remaining tasks can be performed either by team members with additional skills, or delegated to outsourcing.

Let's have a closer look at each role:

  • Gameplay Developers are responsible directly for the game mechanics. They are in close association with designers.
  • Back-end Developers work directly with servers, parsers, and receiving data.
  • Engine Developers are engaged in the development of the engine (utilities, tools for other developers, SDK integration).
  • Animation Developers develop animation systems and tools for developers and animators. They are highly demanded in companies, which use custom engines.
  • DevOps Developers are responsible for microservices and also work with clients. Required for multiplayer Internet games and the purchase of games and their updates.
  • Tools Developers write tools for game designers.
  • UI Developers their area of expertise is the graphical interface; they can also work with customizing the appearance of a 3D character.
  • Graphics Programmers responsible for the quality of the picture, work with a low-level layer. They also work with shaders and optimize the graphics of the final game product.
  • Audio Developers create audio content and various sound effects.
  • Client Developers are engaged in event processing and work with the upper interfaces.

Mobile games

Despite the fact that the championship still belongs to China, since 2018 Ukraine has confidently strengthened in the ranking of mobile Game Developers. The popularity of the mobile games market is growing every year, and by the end of 2019, they occupied about 60% of the entire gaming market. For example,  for the first quarter of 2020, almost 70% of users were spending money in iOS App Store and Google Play app stores specifically for mobile games. The most popular games are multiplayer games with the possibility of team play and communication. On the iOS platform, the first place is occupied by the Chinese Game “For Peace”, on Android is the South Korean game “Lineage 2 Revolution”, among the games on Nintendo Switch console, the hit of the last month “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” is certainly leading.

In addition, some companies release mobile games as an advertising campaign for their main product. For example, the game “Fallout Shelter”, which originally came out more as an advertisement, eventually took root and became an interesting independent project, which still attracts fans of the Fallout series.

Today, mobile games continue to develop simultaneously with PC games, and the developers themselves strive to adapt as much as possible to the needs of the audience, offering the game more and more accessibility for the user, both in terms of simplifying the game process and physically, creating analogs for different platforms.

For example, CCP Games, which EVE Online has been involved in for almost 20 years, also decided to create a mobile counterpart – EVE Echoes (the release was postponed due to a pandemic, it was originally supposed to release at the end of 2020). Of course,  EVE Online audience is not the widest, but the “whales" of the GameDev industry are doing the same. Among the largest GameDev companies in the world, this is, for example, Activision Blizzard, which announced in 2018 a mobile version of “Diablo”. The second whale, which made its mobile game based on the PC version of the gaming universe, is the developer “Elder Scrolls” (Bethesda Game Studios). Another bright representative of the developers of the cult MMO games that are exploring the mobile platform market is NCSoft and their “Lineage Revolution”.

Gambling

A special place in games is played by gambling, which often causes mixed feelings both among users and the developers themselves.

The problem of hiring in this area is always associated with some bias and floating legality. Despite the fact that many gambling projects are technically quite complicated (for example, Come2Play attracts employees with a scientific degree), there are a number of developers who are interested in realizing their professional ambitions only in AAA projects (blockbusters among games). The second popular reason for refusal is the personal principles of the developer and doubts about the legality of the sphere.

Developers in such projects are attracted by money or a technically challenging task. It's no secret that usually gambling projects are paid much higher.

Here is how Natalia Razumikhina, Playtika HR Lead, commented on the prejudices of candidates and their overcoming in the field of gambling:

“Yes, we encounter prejudices quite often, but often this is due to a lack of information in this area and certain existing stereotypes. Therefore, the main task of recruiters and company representatives is to provide the maximum amount of information and talk about the basic principles of the application and show the differences between truly gambling applications and social casino applications.

The sphere of Social Casino, first of all, is different in the point that we do not play for real money and the user enjoys the game process, beautiful animation, and mechanics. The application visually looks like real slots, which helps the player to immerse themselves in the atmosphere of real Las Vegas casino without leaving home.

Optionally, the user can access additional elements of the game by purchasing game currency, but this is not a prerequisite.”

And here is how Neogames Elena Mackenzie sees the situation:

“The fact that this is Gambling does not affect candidates at all. Perhaps this mattered about 7 years ago, when the Company just entered the market. As elsewhere, there is a certain percentage of candidates who simply do not want to work with a certain topic. Gambling is often attracted the candidates by various additional  “buns”. For example, Neogames provides one-on-one soft skills training for its employees.”

Education

The education in this sphere is not particularly important, although most programmers have a technical background. In GameDev, the portfolio and the list of projects in which the specialist took a place are of great importance.

As for the artists (PC / Video games), for the art degree is an undoubted advantage, but quite often the experience and possession of the tools also level this requirement.

Psychological profile

If a Game Developer gets into a company with an interesting project, he is unlikely to change his place of work soon. An important factor is a team; quite often internal disagreements and misunderstanding are a reason a quitting a job even in an interesting project.

Gambling and stress tolerance are the main features of a Game Developer, because if it’s not the AAA level, any project is a venture. Another important quality is the entrepreneurial spirit, especially when it comes to indie-project.

Career opportunities

Ukraine is definitely among the top GameDev countries in Eastern Europe. Today, more than 20 thousand specialists work in this area.

According to our partner Yulia Tupchiy, who worked in GameDev in 1997-2005: “Despite the fact that there there are no large publishers in Ukraine and the local market is not big enough to make the project profitable, Ukraine is famous by its GameDev specialists.   GameDev as a business has started its development in Ukraine even before IT outsourcing boom, thanks to a couple of own successful projects (“Carnivores”, 1998, “Action Forms” (Tatem Games), “Cossacks”, 2001 (GSC), and through outsourcing too. For example, in the early 2000s, Boston Animation or Persha Studio already had 150+ employees, as a comparison, at the beginning of 2005 Ciklum had about 50 employees, and EPAM just opened its Ukrainian office. It's interesting that the reason for outsourcing from the very beginning in GameDev was not tech talents but strong classical Art and Animation schools. As a result the employees of the mentioned  companies subsequently stood at the origins of so many game and animation studios.”

At the same time, the desire to go deeper into the development of world projects encourages Game Developers to migrate to Europe, where giants like Blizzard and Epic Games are located. Career opportunities and cool projects interest them much more than finances. Even receiving the same money as in Ukraine, a developer is more likely to take part in the project with a worldwide reputation. The most attractive countries for relocation are the USA, Germany and Canada. The last one is more open and willingly accepts specialists from different countries.

GameDev in Ukraine

According to UNIT.City, the most popular platform for Game Development in Ukraine is Unity – 69%; among the genres, developers prefer Action (63%). As for mobile games, here the popularity of the platforms is as follows: Android (82%) and iOS (79%).

The fact of financing is also interesting: at the moment, about 76% of companies work on funds invested by the founders. At the same time, there is a tendency for foreign investors to enter, attracted by a high level of qualification and relatively low salaries. For developers, this is a good opportunity to participate in interesting projects without leaving the country.

Top leading GameDev companies list in Ukraine today looks as following :

  • Ubisoft. The third-largest game creator in the world with 29 studios in 19 countries. In its portfolio are legendary games “Assassin's Creed” and “Prince of Persia”. Most versions of the “Assassin's Creed” series for PCs (including “Assassin's Creed: Revelations” and “Assassin's Creed III”) were developed at the Ubisoft office in Kyiv.
  • N-IX game and VR Studio. 16 years on the market, the staff is more than 900 software engineers. The main specialization is the production of full-cycle games, the design and development of solutions for VR, outsourcing. The company worked with the games “Stellaris” (Paradox Interactive) and “ComPet”.
  • Zadzen. Lviv gaming company provides a number of services, including the development of custom games, co-production of games, and the development of VR / AR. Worked on “Elements: Epic Heroes”, “King of the Mountain” and “Baba's Birth”.
  • 4A Games. The Kyiv studio, which has been operating since 2006; it has been based in Malta since 2014. The staff consists of more than 100 specialists. The studio has created a series of “Metro” games, in particular, “Metro 2033”, “Metro: Last Light” and “Metro Redux”.
  • JoyRocks. Rivne Game Development company for web and mobile platforms, working since 2011. The audience is more than 10 million users, which allowed the company to become one of the most successful startups in the country. The company develops games in the world of “Bird’s Town”.
  • Pinokl Games. Rivne video Game Development company specializing in creating multi-platform gaming applications for mobile and social networks. The company worked on “Mecha Titans”, “Dino Battle”, “Real Steel” and “Party Hard”.
  • Room8. Kyiv Game Development studio deals with the development of full-cycle games and professional game art from a concept to ready-to-release products. Room8 has over 300 employees. The portfolio includes games such as ‘Family Guy”, “Independence Day” and “Walking Dead”.
  • Tatem Games. Developer of universal games for the mobile market. It worked on games for Palm, currently releases games for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone. The audience worldwide is more than 42 million people.
  • Atom Team. Indie studio represented in Poland, Ukraine, Russia, and Latvia. Inside the team, there is a special ecosystem without managerial positions, which allows involving all team members in the process. It is the author of the independent role-playing game “ATOM RPG”.
  • Crytek. German gaming company has six studios in Kyiv, Budapest, Sofia, Shanghai, Istanbul, and Seoul. In addition to advanced graphics and mechanics, the company has created its own game engine. It is Crytek who was a developer of the “Warface” shooter.
  • Frag Lab. Ukrainian AAA studio, creator of the best free FPS games in Eastern Europe. It features a decentralized approach and an emphasis on the potential of each team member. The backbone of the team is made up of former Crytek employees who left the project in search of something new.
  • Wargaming. The headquarters of the company is situated in Cyprus, the main development center is in Minsk. There are also offices in Kyiv (the office opened on the basis of strategic cooperation with Persha Studia), St. Petersburg, Seattle, Chicago, Baltimore, Sydney, Helsinki, Austin, and Prague. It is the developer of the well-known game World of Tanks.

Segmentation of GameDev companies in Ukraine with the number of employees:

 

 

Alexander Telcharov, Skillers recruiter, about job search in GameDev:

“As for me, if you don’t like games, then this is not the most attractive area of specialization for a job search. Indeed, the salaries of such specialists are usually not so high, in comparison with the same positions in the embedded industry; there is always a risk that the project will be closed. From the recruiter’s point of view, I can say that it’s not easy to find candidates for GameDev vacancies, but it’s always a big pleasure.

The difficulty is in the fact that this is a very narrow industry in terms of the number of specialists, if you take Ukraine, as a result, almost all studios know 80% + of the guys, and it is problematic to find and interest someone. Another problem is that the studios have formal and informal agreements among themselves, because of which it is impossible to hunt candidates from partner studios, which makes it more difficult to find a suitable specialist.

In general, the candidates for GameDev industry with whom I have talked are quite interesting people, they are creative and if they respond  (for example, the rate of answers from C++ game programmers is very low), then they are quite pleasant in communication, willingly talk about their projects, and share the details of work and projects they took part in.

Usually, there is no particular need to present and sell employer company to the specialists; the candidates already know all about one or another studio. Often, if a person has not heard about some top studio, this already a sign of his qualification in GameDev market, with the exception of very junior specialists. ”

 

In 2005-2019 among all Skillers’ vacancies, about 13%  were game development positions. For Skillers, this is mutual love, and for someone is a real nostalgia :) Based on our  “quarantine” communication with partners, an increasing number of leads and requests from European game companies for specialists including remote, we consider  2020 to be for the be dynamic and interesting for GameDev industry.

Recruiting in GameDev has its own specifics; in short, you must be an expert in game dev market or a gamer.

A search scenario for animators, game designers, and programmers, as well as a level of compensation and career ladders, differs significantly. And it's exactly what we are planning to talk about in our further articles. w. So let's get started!

 




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