Friday, March 27, 2009

Some hope for Danish game development

I am currently living in Denmark where the economical recession is really doing lots of damage. Already at least three very relevant and interesting game companies have had to close their doors due to lack of funding. That’s how it goes – no money – no games I am afraid.

There is something positive though. Limbo project (PlayDead) just got relatively nice funding of 11 million Danish kronas (~1,5 million €). Limbo got funds from Danish CAT Science by RUC, FAHU and Vækstfonden. I get to know Limbo more than a year ago through Nordic Game Program where I am at the Expert group evaluating the applications. Limbo charmed us too but whereas Nordic Game funds are good incentive for the developers it is (naturally) remarkably smaller than VC funds. And without these bigger funds development of a project like Limbo would be so much harder and slower.

But what’s so special about Limbo? First of all it is very much designer / artist driven project. When you look at game video or screen shots it is clear that the visual style is one of the key drivers of the game development. GameDaily wrote an article from IGF09 (btw: Blueberry Garden won – congrats!) where they described the style as “Scandinavian” referring (also) to developers like Petri Purho (Crayon Physic Deluxe), cactus and Niflas (Knytt). Could Limbo’s style be similarly Scandinavian? On the other hand it is a bit Japanese and has certain Ico-feel (black-white, blurred edges, hazyness). Also Samorost comes to my mind for some reason. The story is quite unique (Scandinavian? Remember The Brothers Lionheart / Bröderna Lejonhjärta? – Limbo is about a boy who is looking after his dead little sister in Limbo – mythical space in between heaven and hell.

I met Arnt (artist/designer behind Limbo) at the Nordic Game Jam. After meeting the designer the project felt even more clear and justifiable. Limbo seems to be based on a strong vision and demand to keep all the strings at their (PlayDead) own hands. According to Danish press big game companies have contacted PlayDead but they want to stay indie. I have nothing but respect to that – that is the way to innovate and reshape the game industry piece by piece. I hope Limbo will be stimulating Danish game industry, bringing hope to other developers as well.

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