Farid Hagverdiev是一名阿塞拜疆的学生，他已等不及Infinity Ward放弃用二战、中东战争等作为游戏的历史背景，转而以发生在阿塞拜疆的残酷斗争为主题。他希望看到那种游戏，于是他在首都巴库国立石油学院召集若干好友，一起做了一款自己的FPS。
这款FPS就是《Under Occupation》。在这款免费射击游戏中，玩家扮演一名阿国战士，在Shusha市与美国大兵展开战斗。这款游戏被认为是吹响了他这一代人的战斗号角，刺激这些年轻人想起美国军队于1992年占领Shusha市的往事和产生爱国之情。《Under Occupation》甚至得到阿国的“Youth And Sports”部门的认可。
伊朗政府经常谴责美国把游戏当作反伊斯兰教的工具，且已经用本国赞助的游戏作品予以还击。以《战地3》为例，尽管是在瑞典制作的，却被当成美国媒体进攻伊朗的一部分，所以被立即禁止了。据报道，《Attack On Tel-Aviv》就是为了直接回应DICE的射击游戏而被开发出来的。
许多伊朗游戏体现了过分的民族主义，因为政府在利用游戏促进民族文化中扮演了重要角色。事实上，在通过游戏传达政治信号方面，伊朗也许是世界上最激进的国家之一。以《The Stressful Life Of Salman Rushdie And Implementation Of His Verdict》为例，从这么长的叙述式标题上看，这款正在开发中的游戏强调了裁决该作家的重要性。
土耳其游戏开发业的明星无疑是TaleWorlds的《Mount & Blade》。这款游戏混合了动作和策略玩法。游戏以虚构的地中海为背景，但加入了17世纪欧洲战争和拿破仑战争。该系列在全球广受欢迎。另外，去年底TaleWorlds宣布《Mount & Blade 2: Bannerlord》已经在制作中了。
历史上的土耳其是一个地处中东、跨越欧亚、文化风俗丰富多彩的国家。类似地，在《Mount & Blade》的虚构背景故事中，也有五个文化显著不同的王国，它们为了争夺领土而展开大战。
虽然大多数国家是这5到10年才开始进军游戏开发业，但土耳其的游戏开发历史可以追溯到1993年的Amiga。那时，开发商Silicon Worx和Flash Computer制作了一些鲜为人知的游戏如策略游戏《Umut Tarlalary》和幻想RPG《Legends Of Istanbul》。但光明的开端过后，土耳其的游戏开发业就停滞不前直到2000。尤其引人注目的一款游戏是Motion Blur Game的《Kabus 22》。这款动作恐怖游戏使用了Gamestudio引擎，已经提交Steam Greenlight接受审批。
过去5年，Wargaming始终脚踏实地地以20世纪中叶战争策略游戏为开发重心，结果是，公司发展飞速。Wargaming的CEO Victor Kislyi表示，他们的成功与白俄罗斯及周边地区的曲折历史紧密相关。
Wargaming当然不是明克斯唯一的游戏公司，但它的光辉成就使其他公司相见形绌，甚至其中比较成功的Vizor Interactive的手机游戏《Zombie Farm》也不例外。尽管如此，Kislyi认为白俄罗斯的游戏产业不可能建立在仅仅一家公司的成功之上。“白俄罗斯的工作室必须取得更多成功才能达到与波兰同行相同的高度。”
根据独立开发工作室Aduge的Thiago ‘Beto’ Alves，“在巴西，投资游戏开发是非常少见的，如果有的话。我知道的所有独立工作室，包括Aduge在内，都是从事外包。政府用税收抑制我们，更别说通过减免政策扶持小公司了。”
但困难并没有阻碍独立开发者从事游戏制作。Aduge刚刚发布了它的第一款商业游戏——一款名为《Qasir Al-Wasat: A Night In-Between》的潜行游戏。现在，巴西国内有数十家独立公司，但都相对年轻。直到现在，独立开发都被视为进入大公司的敲门砖，而不是自立更生的创业实践。
那只是重大变化中的一部分。独立工作室孵化公司Execution Labs的联合创始人Jason Della Rocca解释道：“在巴西的大批游戏制作人才最终获得商业上的持续生存能力了，这要归功于数字平台和免费商业模式。”随着Steam、iOS和Facebook的发展，再加上政府对游戏行业开始产生兴趣，也许巴西很快就会成为游戏开发全球化中的又一匹黑马。
阿根廷是第一批登上独立游戏开发舞台的南美国家之一，这很大程度上多亏了Daniel Benmergui制作的著名作品，如《Today I Die 》和《I Wish I Were The Moon》。他正是凭《Storyteller》荣获2012年IGF大奖的那个人。他认为尽管南美的游戏业正在成长，但很然摆脱美国游戏的影响。
“我的游戏也不例外。我们模似他们的想法、常规甚至用词，但有些东西就是不太对劲。甚至非常优秀的游戏如《Uruguayan Kingdom Rush》也有一点这种别扭的感觉。
Immersion Games开发了许多本国知名游戏，如《Lucha Libre AAA Héroes Del Ring》、《Monster Madness》和《CellFactor》。但虽然它的作品曾经由分散在瓜达拉哈拉、波哥大、哥伦比亚的工作室共同制作，但Immersion的墨西哥分公司现在已经独立为Larva Game工作室了，目前正在制作一款有关外星人入侵的游戏——《Last Day On Earth》。
墨西哥最近吸引了一些大发行商如Square Enix到本地设立办公室，但在接下来的几年，它可能越来越成为独立游戏开发的中心，因为国产人才孵化公司如Juego De Talento已经收到大量资助和领导申请。
尽管独立游戏不是一个遥不可及的梦。凭借《Kerbal Space Program》，Squad已经积累了一批国际受众，它的火箭发射和星际探索游戏正在稳步培养忠实的粉丝和活跃的MOD社区。
越南游戏确实进步神速。2009年，河内的Alley Labs发布了广受国际赞誉的iOS游戏《流星战机》——一款《星际毁灭者》风格的太空射击游戏。同时，Emobi Games公司于2011年推出该国至今传播最广的一款FPS《7554》，它是根据越南取得反法战争胜利的历史改编的。另外，这款游戏已经被翻译投放到欧美市场。
除了几部成功的宝莱坞电影授权改编的游戏如《Ra.One》和《Ghajini》，也许在这个国家规模最大的产品就是Blue Giant Interactive的即时策略游戏《Tryst》。但即使Blue Giant和其他更小的独立工作室如Oleomingus、Yellow Monkey和Hashstash正在游戏界树立自己的形象，Dhruv对印度游戏产业的未来保持不温不火的态度。“我们所有的支持都来自印度之外的独立游戏社区或设计学院。因此，我们不是为本地的游戏迷开发游戏，我们的目标是那些乐意把游戏当作一种艺术形式来研究的更庞大的受众。”
西非的游戏源头在加纳，这里诞生了《Sword Of Sygos》和《iWarrior》等游戏。然而，游戏行业的发展势头现在转向尼日利亚了-00—短短的时间内，尼日利亚地区就冒出多家小工作室。当 地公司如Kuluya和Maliyo大量挖掘尼日利亚和非洲文化，专注于开发本地页游市场。以Maliyo的《Okada Ride》为例，让玩家化身摩托车手穿越首都拉各斯的繁忙街道。Kuluya在冒险益智页游方面更进一步，它的《Ogbanje》以探究威胁家庭和制作悲 剧的恶灵的信念为主题。
然而，尼日利亚的游戏的核心优势却是，它们的音乐。Sonbim Games的Idamiebi Ilamina-Eremie解释道：“我们必须发扬优点。我们在美术、编程或玩法上可能没有优势，但有了良好的系统和一副耳机，我们的游戏可以给玩家带来非常棒的音乐。我们的音乐创作非常发达，所以许多音乐创作者都乐意低价作业。音乐就是我们的竞争筹码。”（本文为游戏邦/gamerboom.com编译，拒绝任何不保留版权的转载，如需转载请联系：游戏邦）
Open world: the new wave of international games fostered by the democratisation of development
Farid Hagverdiev, an Azerbaijani student, didn’t wait for Infinity Ward to ditch WWII, Middle Eastern and near-future settings to depict the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict that afflicted his country. He wanted to see that game happen, so he pulled together a few friends at Baku State Oil Academy and made his own FPS.
The result was Under Occupation, a freeware shooter that casts the player as an Azerbaijani fighter battling Armenian troops for the city of Shusha. It was conceived as a sort of rallying cry to members of his generation, a game intended to inspire a sense of patriotism in those too young to have memories of the taking of Shusha by Armenian troops in 1992. It even has the endorsement of the Azerbaijani Ministry Of Youth And Sports.
Under Occupation won’t win any industry awards, but it highlights that videogame development is now a global activity. Gone are the days when every game came from a small handful of hub cities, such as San Francisco, Tokyo and London, or even a select cadre of countries. The proliferation of programming knowledge and cheap game development software has created a world in which you’ll find at least some game development activity in virtually every corner of the globe.
What we’re seeing is the promise of low-cost development tools and the demolition of boundaries by the Internet starting to be realised. Across the globe, passionate developers are now expressing their unique cultures and experiences through the medium of videogames. The results may not always shine with triple-A polish, but often nudge gaming beyond its well-worn ruts. And where there are people experimenting with their own games, there is the hope that their successes will eventually blossom into a fully fledged local industry shaped by the culture in which it grew up.
If Azerbaijan represents an embryonic gaming scene, Poland offers a picture of how it could build into an international presence. After the dissolution of the USSR in the early ’90s, Poles were exposed to anything money could buy, including expensive computers. But there were meagre computer science resources, precious few programming guides, and even fewer in Polish. What’s more, Polish game developers faced distribution problems, a government that didn’t support their work, investors who thought they were joking, and families that believed they were wasting their lives.
Some of those challenges are the same as those ahead of the next generation of digital creators in places such as Nigeria, Iran and Belarus today. But these developers have an advantage brought about by globalisation and technology that the Poles couldn’t have dreamed of. In Poland, as Techland’s Blazej Krakowiak explains, “Today’s top game developers – programmers, artists, producers, sound designers – are often people who simply started experimenting with their first consoles or computers, using whatever information they could find to learn the basics.” But scarcity of information isn’t an issue with an Internet connection, even if language barriers may still persist. And free-to-use, well-supported game engines such as Unity further topple barriers to entry, opening the door to development talent wherever it may be based.
The potential upshot for players is diversity on an unprecedented level. Not every game will be worth your time, but the hope is for a stream of culturally significant, emotionally engaging and artistically experimental new games. The pioneers are already here. Here, we profile development scenes to watch in the near future, but even they represent just the beginning.
And as one project finds success, it radiates throughout its region as investor confidence grows and knowledge spreads. Is Under Occupation the seed from which an Azerbaijani dev culture will emerge? Time will tell, but it has certainly emboldened Hagverdiev’s team, which has begun work on a new project, one aimed not just at its home nation, but the global market.
Iran’s history with games is characterised by its political and cultural backlashes against western-developed titles, particularly American shooters, which can fail to offer even-handed images of Islamic cultures.
Iran’s government has often accused the United States of using games as vehicles for anti-Islamic propaganda, and has fired back with state-sponsored work of its own. Battlefield 3, for instance, was seen as part of a US media war against the nation, despite being made in Sweden, and was summarily banned. The inflammatory Attack On Tel-Aviv is also reportedly being developed in direct response to DICE’s shooter.
Many Iranian games are overtly nationalistic, since the government plays a heavy role in promoting the use of games to advance local culture. In fact, Iran may be one of the most progressive countries in the world when it comes to communicating sociopolitical messages through videogames. Take, for example, the descriptively named The Stressful Life Of Salman Rushdie And Implementation Of His Verdict, a game currently in development centred on the importance of the fatwa against the author.
It’s not all political, though. Iran has taken to gaming to communicate its own culture through the creation of the Garshasp series, a God Of War-alike based on Persian myth. Ironically, the series was taken over by Dead Mage Inc, a US studio, in 2010.
The stars of Turkish development are undoubtedly TaleWorlds’ Mount & Blade games, which mix action and strategy. Primarily set in a fictitious medieval world, but with forays into both 17th-century Europe and the Napoleonic wars, the series has won an international following. And more is on the way, with TaleWorlds announcing late last year that Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord is in the pipeline.
Mount & Blade draws on Turkish history as a country that sits at the crossroads between many different ways of life, being seated between Europe, Asia and the Middle East. In similar fashion, Mount & Blade’s fictional setting pits five kingdoms with vastly different cultures in an ever-shifting war for territory.
While most of the countries that are coming onto the international scene began working in the past five to ten years, Turkey’s game development history dates back all the way to 1993 on the Amiga. Back then, developers Silicon Worx and Flash Computer created obscure titles such as strategy game Umut Tarlalary, and the fantasy-RPG Legends Of Istanbul. But after a promising start, development here went into stasis until the mid-2000s. One game of particular note is Motion Blur Game Studio’s Kabus 22, an action-horror hybrid made in the Gamestudio engine, which has been submitted for approval on Steam Greenlight.
The story of game development in Belarus is the story of a single company, but that company has the potential to reshape the entire region. Wargaming.net has been in business in Minsk since 1998, mainly working on niche strategy games such as 2003’s Massive Assault and 2009’s Order Of War. But it was 2010 free-to-play hit World Of Tanks that catalysed the company into becoming a global juggernaut.
For the past five years, Wargaming has been steadfastly focused on mid-20th-century military strategy games, and the company has exploded in size as a result. It’s a phenomenon that Wargaming CEO Victor Kislyi says is tied to the dramatic history of Belarus and the surrounding area.
“Belarus saw more battles during WWII than any other country in the USSR,” he explains. “The country spent four years under Nazi occupation, lost every third citizen to the war, and saw entire villages simply erased off the map. Belarusians take pride in their victory… No matter how much time has passed since WWII, the memories continue to live on, and so does the interest for it. For this reason, the love of military warfare is a common thing and, at Wargaming, we transferred it into the sphere of digital entertainment.”
One big hit can be all it takes to forge a local industry, a crystallising moment that draws attention to the fundamentals underpinning that game. “I believe that the success of World Of Tanks has sparked interest for the country’s IT sector in foreign investors,” says Kislyi, “which in turn might be useful for Belarusian developers once they decide to step into the global gaming market. They have the knowledge, creativity and expertise it requires, but it will take time.
“The games sector is still in its infancy, though. Most studios do outsourcing projects for western companies or target social and mobile segments, [because] they don’t require big budgets and the development cycle is shorter compared to triple-A titles. Competing with industry tycoons who started in the late ’80s is just out of the question for game developers from Belarus, so they prefer to play small.”
Wargaming is far from the only developer in Minsk, but its colossal size dwarfs all others’ efforts, even successful ones such as Vizor Interactive’s mobile game Zombie Farm. Despite this, Kislyi believes that the Belarusian game industry can’t be built on the popularity of a single company alone. “Belarusian studios will have to deliver many more hits before they reach the level of Poland,” he says.
Eastern Europe has seen some of the fastest-growing development scenes of the past five years, with both Poland and Ukraine emerging from relative obscurity onto the international stage with games such as The Witcher 2 and Metro 2033. As talent and knowhow spreads, it seems possible that Belarus could be the next territory to join the Eastern European gaming renaissance.
Despite Brazil being the sixth-largest economy in the world, the development scene here has more or less kept pace with its smaller peers in the region, such as Argentina, Chile and Colombia.
“Here in Brazil, investment in game development is almost invisible, if there’s any,” says Thiago ‘Beto’ Alves of indie developer Aduge. “Every indie studio – including Aduge – I know of is paying to work. The government cripples [us] with taxes, and there’s no deduction program to help small companies.”
It hasn’t stopped independent developers from creating games, though. Aduge just released its first commercially available title, a top-down stealth game called Qasir Al-Wasat: A Night In-Between. There are now dozens of indie companies working in Brazil, but it’s a relatively recent development. Until now, Alves says, indie development was seen as a means to develop a portfolio to get hired at a major studio, not as a fully fledged enterprise of self-expression.
But it’s not just indies working in the region – there are over 100 studios here, most of them dedicated to advergames or providing outsourcing services. More excitingly, the Brazilian government has recently included interactive books and games as part of the public school curriculum for 2015, which will create a demand for educational software developers.
That’s just part of a potential sea change here. “There are a tremendous amount of talented game creators in Brazil that are finally getting a fair shot at commercial viability thanks to digital platforms and freemium business models,” explains Jason Della Rocca, co-founder of indie incubator Execution Labs. With the growth of Steam, iOS and Facebook, as well as the early signs of governmental interest in gaming, Brazil may soon emerge as a much bigger player.
Argentina is one of several South American countries that have become farms of creativity. When companies want to outsource at low cost and still make games with beautiful animation, they come here. QB9, for instance, creates licensed webgames for several media networks, including Comedy Central.
Argentina was one of the first South American countries to be recognised for its indie scene, thanks largely to the celebrated works of Daniel Benmergui, who created Today I Die and I Wish I Were The Moon. He’s also the man behind Storyteller, which was honoured at 2012’s IGF. He says that regardless of the growth of gaming in South America, it is hard to escape the influence of American games.
“My games are no exception,” says Benmergui. “We imitate ideas, conventions, even wording, but something is not quite right and feels out of place. Even very good games, like the Uruguayan Kingdom Rush, feel a bit like that.
“Eventually some local developers will figure out what it means to make a ‘culturally local’ game. I am not even sure what it means, but it is certainly not just using tango or Argentinean [historical] characters…It would reflect on how the game itself plays.”
What a number of Argentinian games seem strong in is creating atmosphere. There’s the poetic tone of Benmergui’s work, the abstract interactive music game Panoramical, and creepy indie horror games Doorways and Asylum. Each is an indication that this country has developers with an appreciation for how to build a mood that transcends a modest budget.
Latin America has been pegged as one of the main growth areas for game development in the near future, and Mexico has been leading that charge as a territory that is estimated to be worth $1 billion to the videogame industry by the end of the decade.
Immersion Games developed a number of the country’s best-known games, including Lucha Libre AAA Héroes Del Ring, Monster Madness and CellFactor. But while production was once shared between its Guadalajara and Bogotá, Colombia, studios, the Mexican branch of Immersion has now gone independent and become Larva Game Studios, which is working on an apocalyptic alien invasion game called Last Day On Earth.
The country has attracted major publishers such as Square Enix to recently set up offices here, but in the coming years it may become more well known as an indie hub, since homegrown talent incubators such as Juego De Talento have reportedly received hundreds of applications for funding and guidance.
Indie success isn’t a far-off dream, though. Squad has already found an international audience with Kerbal Space Program, its game of rocket launches and interstellar exploration, which launched in alpha form and has steadily built a highly engaged following around an active modding community.
The global reputation of North Korea has been dominated by its nuclear ambitions, geopolitical rhetoric and propaganda, but over the past few years the government has been quietly bolstering its IT sector. Notoriously isolationist, it’s a seemingly unusual place to find a game development presence.
There’s certainly no thriving independent scene here, but the government has been putting a focus on developing its IT prowess after Kim Jong Il declared the computer illiterate as one of the three fools of the modern day (the others being smokers and those who don’t appreciate music).
A few outside investors have even looked to North Korea as an outsourcing destination – the German-backed organisation Nosotek creates licensed iPhone and PC games based on films such as Men In Black and The Big Lebowski, for instance. That’s right, The Dude’s carefree pacifist bowling title was crafted under one of the most notorious dictatorships on the planet.
Nosotek isn’t the only outsourcing destination in the region, though. It’s near-impossible to get exact figures about the secretive country, but recently an outsourcing analyst said that North Korea has several IT companies dedicated to this kind of work, with employees numbering in the thousands.
North Korea’s most famous forays into videogaming are still its propaganda titles, though.
The state has truly embraced gaming as a means to communicate its messages to both its own citizens and to loyalists in South Korea. Several games have been produced to promote North Korean messages, many of which involve acts of brutality against an opposing political leader.
Vietnam and its neighbours in Indochina – Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand – haven’t been nearly as successful in the gaming industry as, say, South Korea and China, due in no small part to a century-long string of conflicts and wars in the region that finally abated in the ’80s.
Vietnam still has a long way to go to catch up to its regional competitors, but Nicolas Leymonerie, head of IGDA Vietnam, is optimistic. “I would say that it’s just a matter of time, development and economic growth,” he says. “That’s mainly why Vietnam is not as involved as other countries in the videogame industry, because they started and developed sooner. I’ve seen the exponential growth of this industry, and we’ll be able to quickly see the Vietnamese game industry competing on an international level.”
Things are indeed progressing at a rapid pace. In 2009, Hanoi’s Alley Labs released the internationally lauded iOS game Meteor Blitz, a space shoot ’em up in the style of Super Stardust. Meanwhile, the most widely circulated title to date has been Emobi Games Company’s 2011 FPS 7554, which is based on Vietnam’s history at war, recounting the victory of the Vietnamese over French forces. It’s been translated for the western market, too.
India is the second-biggest country in the world by population, with over 1.2 billion inhabitants, and has become an inexpensive IT outsourcing hub. It’s world-renowned for its entertainment industry, too, creating music and films that reach huge audiences across the globe. Despite all that, game development here is rare.
While developers in many nations face challenges in acquiring investors and education, Indian creators have a larger problem: making games is traditionally seen as a waste of time. “Videogames in India are considered a trivial pursuit,” says Dhruv, the lead designer at Oleomingus, an independent developer in Hyderabad, India. “To spend your time as an adult playing videogames – or even making them – is ridiculous. Videogames are a distraction, and if someone chooses to spend their time building games rather than pursuing a real profession then they do great discredit to their family.”
It’s a challenge that some at Oleomingus have had to confront, although one team member’s family began to warm up to his career choice after the studio successfully raised $900 on Kickstarter. “When we actually made money developing a videogame, there was cautious but greater acceptance of my work,” says programmer Sushanta Chakraborty.
Oleomingus was founded earlier this year, and is working on a freeware PC title called Somewhere, an experimental game of exploration with a narrative that attempts to tell the stories of the inhabitants of a small Indian town. “It is an experiment in trying to communicate the social complexity of a typical fishing town on the western cost of India,” says Dhruv. “Somewhere is not a single story, but an attempt at crafting a game world that can allow the expression of several smaller stories in their proper context.”
Beyond a couple of movie-licensed games for Bollywood hits Ra.One and Ghajini, perhaps the country’s largest-scale production is Tryst, a realtime strategy game from Blue Giant Interactive. But even though gaming is beginning to make its mark here with Blue Giant’s work and that of smaller indie studios such as Oleomingus, Yellow Monkey Studios and Hashstash Studios, Dhruv remains tepid about the future. “All our support comes from indie gaming communities outside India or the design college that I am currently studying at,” he explains. “We are therefore not developing for the local audience of game enthusiasts, but for a larger audience who are willing to consider games as an investigative art form.”
Another hurdle for developers here is that most games are currently in English. As a result of that language barrier, the most popular games here tend to be shooters, since the story and dialogue don’t have a large effect on the gameplay. “This condition is not conducive for any experimentation with the model of games that people are already familiar with,” Dhruv says. “Any attempt at experimental games will not find a local audience, simply because they will always expect a videogame to be a simple shooting or jumping exercise. So even with people playing games, there is no discussion of what games signify culturally.”
Gaming in West Africa has its roots in Ghana, out of which has come titles like Sword Of Sygos and iWarrior. However, momentum has now shifted to Nigeria, and a number of startups have emerged here in a relatively short space of time. Local companies such as Kuluya and Maliyo have sprouted up, focusing on the local webgame market and drawing heavily from Nigerian and African culture. Maliyo’s Okada Ride, for instance, tasks players with weaving in and out of traffic, mimicking the motorcyclists who navigate Lagos’s dangerous streets. And Kuluya has taken things a step further with the atmospheric adventure-puzzle webgame Ogbanje, which explores the beliefs surrounding an evil spirit that is thought to target families and cause grief.
The core strength of most current Nigerian games is, however, their soundtrack. “We have to play [to] our strengths,” says Idamiebi Ilamina-Eremie of Sonbim Games. “We might not always be able to get the art, programming or gameplay strong, but with a good system and pair of headphones you can turn out really good music. Our music is doing pretty well internationally, so we have many producers who are willing to work for cheap [or] free. Music is where we know we can compete.”(source:edge-online)