A place for development, dating and indie games: photo report from the Games Gathering 2023 gaming conference in Kyiv Author: Vladislav Nuzhnov, August 08, 2023, 09:00
The gaming conference Games Gathering returned to Kiev after a year-long pause, which presented 2 bright and intense days, where developers, publishers, outsourcers, freelancers, localizers, bloggers, journalists and ordinary gamers could learn a lot of new things for themselves: attend lectures, start new meet new people, look at the vacancy wall, take part in competitions and just have a good time. It was my first time at such a gaming conference, and in addition to the things that I described above, I was able to play dozens of games at a special stand of indie developers, see live an active discussion between localizers and gamers who are not always happy with the Ukrainian translation of games, try to set a record in Pac -Man on a huge screen and chat with the robot, who wandered around all the time and amused the audience. Therefore, gg readers will find out how it all happened and see the most interesting moments from the conference.
Where it all began
This time they decided to hold the conference at the Rus Hotel, which was built back in 1979. The advantage of this location was that the hotel is located a 7-10 minute walk from the Palace of Sports station, which is practically in the very center of the capital. Therefore, getting there from any final metro station does not take more than 30 minutes, but at the same time, the new venue has one minus.
Not far from the hotel there is the NSC “Olympic”, if you go into the backyard of the hotel, you will see a beautiful view of the main sports facility in Kyiv (Photo: Hotel Rus)
The conference was attended by approximately 1,000 people, but this entire crowd could only be accommodated on two floors. Although there were only conference rooms on the second floor, all the activity took place exclusively on the first floor and sometimes it felt like you were in a tin can, where everything was tightly packed together. Interestingly, Games Gathering 2021 was held at the International Exhibition Center, which is near the Levoberezhnaya station, and the participants who attended that conference said that then they could calmly walk around the pavilions and no one would bother each other. Therefore, next year the organizers should look for a more spacious place, because there are enough people who want to attend the conference.
1) Conference 2021, with plenty of room to spread out; 2) Conference 2023, where everything is as close to each other as possible
And as happened in the spring with the RepRapUA 3D printing festival – at first you can get confused. After registering, you find yourself in the epicenter of a gaming party and you need to figure out what to do. But there were no restrictions on this, and everyone could go and do what they wanted: attend lectures, play indie games, or just grab a free beer (the queue for him was always the longest) or coffee and chat with colleagues.
Indie Blast is the best opportunity for small teams to show off their games
For me, as a person who does not develop games, the most interesting thing for me was not to attend lectures, but to play projects that I might never have seen if not for Games Gathering. There was a separate stand with indie games Indie Blast; we weren’t able to play all of them, but I’d like to talk about the most interesting ones. The conference organizers also found an interesting way to get people interested in attending Indie Blast. If you played 9 games, you received 9 stickers, which must be pasted onto a special piece of paper and given to the conference workers. Then you will automatically be entered into the Nintendo Switch OLED drawing. And there were as many as 700 people willing to do so.
- Deminer: Battlefield Ukraine – One of the few VR games on Blast was Deminer – a sapper simulator. You find yourself in a small location, take a metal detector and look for explosive objects. The project is being developed by only 3 people, but they want to release not just a game, but create a simulator on which Ukrainian sappers will train. Now the sappers are actively giving advice to the team on what needs to be added to Deminer. Some sappers have already experienced the simulator, but the plan is to have most sappers train in Deminer, however, for this the team needs to raise a lot of money, and there are problems with this now. But this is another example of how games with their technologies can be transformed into something that will be used by the military and not only.
- Through the Nightmares – Of all the platformers we could try, this one is the most memorable. Developed by the four-person Sandman Team, the story follows Sandman as he overcomes nightmares. Roughly speaking – a mixture of Inside and Little Nightmares. The main feature of the game is that the character can change in size, which is necessary to solve most puzzles. It takes a little time to master the mechanics, and even the Steam description states that the platformer is hardcore. There is also a demo version of the game on Steam that anyone can try, and you can also watch several trailers on their YouTube channel.
- NERD – rogue-like visuals that were reminiscent of manga. There you could even play as some manga characters, such as Guts from Berserk. The combat system is reminiscent of Dark Souls, where each blow is heavy and measured, but effective combinations require only the left and right mouse buttons, which allows you to quickly understand the basic mechanics of the game. So far the game doesn’t even have a page on Steam, but there is a working build that can be downloaded from the NERD Discord server
- Uanamon: Rugly Invasion is an RPG for iOS and Android, created by 3 developers. The events of the game take place during the Russian-Ukrainian war, but in the most non-standard way possible. The game begins with the girl, hiding in a shelter, drawing a green creature on the wall, which fights against other painted creatures on the same wall. The gameplay is as simple as possible – you move your finger across the screen to dodge enemies, and the character attacks himself. There are several heroes here, each with their own history and skills, but the most interesting thing here is the world of the game. Matryoshka dolls, an Egyptian shark, Yanukovych, on whom a wreath fell, and others – each character or object is a symbol of this war or Ukraine. The developers then want to add their own analogue of Wikipedia to the game, which is aimed at the Western world, so that people can immediately read why we joke about Yanukovych, why the destruction of the cruiser “Moskva” is important and other details related to our country. The game is completely free, and more details can be found on the team’s Twitter. There is no official trailer, but there is a 20 minute gameplay demo.
- Blessed Burden is a horror game in which you play as the last priest who was able to survive a religious apocalypse. The game has retro graphics from the early 00s, which will appeal to fans of old-school games, but Blessed Burden is also ideal for fans of speedrunning. With jumps reminiscent of Half-Life's bunnyhop and the ability to run, crouch, and slide, there's plenty of room for competition to see who can be the most agile. The game is made by just one developer, and when he told me that the level would take 5 minutes to complete, I managed to complete it in 2 minutes thanks to the elements described above. I think there will be those who want to do this even faster, not at one level, but throughout the entire game. The release of the game is unknown, but the release of the game is unknown, but there is a page on Steam and a trailer for the game.
1) Deminer gameplay from the outside; 2) Screenshot of Through the Nightmares; 3) NERD gameplay from the outside; 4) Screenshot of Uanamon: Rugly Invasion; 5) Screenshot of Blessed Burden
Dozens of lectures for game developers
There were also more than 40 lectures, where speakers from different studios shared tips and talked about how to make your game or business good. There were 4 lecture halls in total, which were divided into elements: fire (business lectures), water (for lectures on game design), earth (lectures on various topics) and air (about the productivity and success of your studio).
For example, one of the lectures that I was able to attend was a lecture by Artem Mashchenko, who works at 4A Games. He talked about the interface features in the Metro series of games. Most lectures last an hour, but the speaker presents his material for 40-50 minutes, and the rest of the time is spent on questions from the audience. And although some of the halls were spacious, there were situations when people had nowhere to sit, which shows the interest in such events.
1) Photo of the hall where the Metro Exodus developer gave a lecture; 2) Photo of another hall, but there were so many people at almost every lecture
And then there were the discussion panels, which are reminiscent of football press conferences, when several people sit around the same table, doing more or less the same thing and discussing issues relevant in the video game industry. The panel I attended was called “Video Game Terminology”. The topic is relevant, given that over the past month there have been two heated discussions on localization on Twitter. The first concerned Steam, when a sale dedicated to games of the stealth genre was translated as “Theft Festival”. Some gamers didn’t like this translation at all and the tweeter was on fire at the time. The second discussion began in early August with the release of Baldur's Gate 3. The game received Ukrainian localization, but again, part of the community did not like the quality of the translation, to put it mildly.
There were 5 speakers on the panel who were partially or fully involved in the localization of games into Ukrainian: Andrey Raboshchuk, head of UnlocTeam; Taras Sinyuk, project manager at UnlocTeam; Oleg Kulikov, editor-in-chief of PlayUA; Maxim Kosenko, independent translator; Dmitry Rasskazov, CEO of Patlati Productions. And they told some interesting details.
For example, Taras Sinyuk said that there is a dictionary of video game and video game terminology. Its creation was organized by the National Commission for State Language Standards in collaboration with representatives of Ukrainian localization companies and unions. So far this is only a working document, but it is already helping to unify the translation of games. And Andrey Raboshchuk once again noted that a gate towards the game/localization will clearly not lead to any good, and next time the publisher will simply refuse the translation or cancel it if negativity begins to appear even before the game’s release.
On a pleasant note, Maxim Kosenko reminded that a fan-made full localization of Portal 2 is currently being actively prepared. The trailer was published back in January, but it only has 7 thousand views, so now is the perfect time to watch it and get to know the project better. Moreover, now a set of 2 Portal games costs 32 hryvnia. By the way, there is already a fan-made Ukrainian localization for the first Portal.
Discussion panel “Video game terminology”
Cyberpunk atmosphere: merch, comics and a humanoid robot
There were several stands of various companies and publishers. For example, the conference was visited by Ubisoft's Kiev office, where you could talk with the team, look at the rack with their figures and take part in their competition. Although most companies had competitions with their own stands. There were also various outsourcing, IT companies and game studios that were actively looking for new clients and offering their services.
Part of the Ubisoft Ukraine stand
There was also a separate room where various companies sold their comics, art books and other merchandise. There was also a huge screen with PacMan, which had to be played with a joystick, like the arcades used to be.
And the main character of this conference was the G5 Games robot, who walked around, talked and took pictures with people and even congratulated me on my birthday, which was quite unusual. At this moment you feel like you are in cyberpunk, when you are already talking with both people and robots. Most likely, a real person spoke for him, who output the sound through a microphone and speakers, but it still turned out pretty cool.
The G5 robot that won the hearts of all conference visitors
The next Games Gathering conference will take place on September 26 in Bratislava, Slovakia. There will also be Indie Blast, 4 lecture halls, free beer and generally everything that is in Kyiv, only the vast majority of developers will no longer be from Ukraine, but from Eastern Europe. You can learn more about the conference and purchase tickets using this link. And the editors of gg will already be waiting for next year to once again attend the conference in Kiev.