From Tbilisi to San-Francisco: The Journey of Storm Bringer
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From Tbilisi to San-Francisco: The Journey of Storm Bringer
12 January, 2015
Interview

Irakli Kokrashvili, CEO and founder of Storm Bringer Studios, told 80.lv about his creative look at F2P-monetization, virtual reality and governmental support for game studios in Georgia.

Money from the government

Stormbringer Studios is a company of dreamers. Like me, most of our stuff was dreaming to get into the industry but we were working separately as sole professionals, as outsource freelancers for decade before we had a chance to work together. For example Zviad Baratashvili, our Lead Artist was working for Blizzard. 5 years ago we finally started as a government funded initiative.

stormbringer stidios 80.lv

When we tell this to journalists, people usually interrupt us: “Wait what? Did your government fund you? Really? Usually government takes money away“.

Yeah, I know it’s hard to grasp but this is exactly what happened.

28 professionals were gathered with a mission to make the first Georgian game. The only requirement was that the game had to be about police. We wanted to make games more than anything. Suddenly in a country where nobody was taking game development seriously, government provided everything possible to make a fully functional videogame. We had good salaries, a big studio, equipment and consultants.

Games with The Police

And so Geopolice 1 and 2 were born. These were our pilot projects as team. These products were distributed freely and we got more than 1 million downloads worldwide. After releasing Geo Police 2 we started doing outsource work for Microsoft, KixEye, Larva Game Studios. Last Day On Earth is one of the biggest titles we’ve worked so far. 15 developers and artist were hired to make this game for PC, XBOX 360 and PS3 on UE3.

Meanwhile part of the team was working on Geo Police 3 but it wasn’t all smooth sailing. After 3 years the government has changed and we lost all support. It was actually good timing. We tasted what was it like to be in industry and work as team. At that time we decided to found a new Studio. While we were discussing the details I’ve received note from GameFounders – First Game Accelerator in Europe. We were accepted in. Our team went to Tallinn and founded our company Storm Bringer Studios there in 2013.

GeoPolice 3 was never released but it was 80% ready by that time. After several meetings with team we decided to make new titles based on the existing assets. We’ve also decided to use a completely different monetization model. This is how Steameria: Tournament was born.

From Governmental Projects to F2P

Our first few titles were realistic shooters. At first we thought to make another shooter with innovative monetization model but when we started brainstorming session few artists came up with a steampunk theme. With realistic weapons and setting art is rather restricted. You cannot make interesting weapons and environment. Steampunk on the other hand gives us more creative freedom.

  • Steameria: Tournament 80.lv
  • Steameria: Tournament 80.lv
  • Steameria: Tournament 80.lv
  • Steameria: Tournament 80.lv

The other peculiar thing about Steameria is its monetization model. We’ve divided it into 3 stages.

Stage 1: Usual Free 2 Play. You can choose characters, weapons, customize them, buy unique ammo or stickers. But all those customizations would not affect game balance.

Stage 2: Game will support skilled based gameplay. That means when Gladiator reaches high enough levels they can initiate Cashed tournaments, either 1vs1 or team based. This means that they can invest and earn real money. There will be several tier cashed tournaments. This kind of monetization is new. We partnered with Cashplay on our mobile titles and we are happy how it works. We want to bring same experience on PC and hardcore market.

Stage 3: 6 month after release of initial game we will release partner mobile application, which will allow everybody to view statistics of individual Gladiators of Steameria and bet on them like we do in soccer and other sports. This will allow real pros of Steameria earn more and other people who do not actually play game also earn some money.

Unity and Unreal Engine 4

We have worked and experimented with several engines: UDK, UE3, UE4, Unity, Construct, Ogre3D etc. For the moment we use Unity for our mobile titles and UE4 for PC. We choose UE4 because we loved that engine first time we saw it. We got access to UE4 6 month before the official release. We have worked with UDK and UE3 in past and mastered the new engine pretty quickly. It’s ideal engine for Steameria, because this game has a lot of multiplayer shooting. We are also looking forward to work with Oculus Rift as we think VR ideally blends into our game concept.

Events

While we were participating in GameFounders programs we attended several events: Slush in Finland, GameConnection Paris, Demo Days in San Francisco, E3 in LA. We’ve seen industry from inside and met many interesting and iconic game industry veterans. The first time we met Mark Rein from Epic in Finland or Robin Hunicke from Funomena was real eye-openers from us.

  • Storm Bringer Studios 80.lv
  • Storm Bringer Studios 80.lv
  • Storm Bringer Studios 80.lv
  • Storm Bringer Studios 80.lv
  • Storm Bringer Studios 80.lv
  • Storm Bringer Studios 80.lv
  • Storm Bringer Studios 80.lv
  • Storm Bringer Studios 80.lv
  • Storm Bringer Studios 80.lv
  • Storm Bringer Studios 80.lv
  • Storm Bringer Studios 80.lv
  • Storm Bringer Studios 80.lv
  • Storm Bringer Studios 80.lv
  • Storm Bringer Studios 80.lv

We started thinking BIG. Upon return to Georgia, first thing I did was to establish IGDA Georgia and in 9 month we had 3 GameJams there.

We initiated whole new wave in 2014 which will explode to gamedev industry in Georgia in 2015!

The Future of Virtual Reality

When we received Oculus Rift I was a bit skeptical. We had VR 10-15 years ago and here’s iteration, probably it would not work. Or so I thought. I plugged the VR-helmet and then my whole attitude toward this product was changed. I’ve spent 3-4 hours with all kinds of demos and games that support Oculus Rift VR Goggles. I cannot explain how great experience this was for me! You can physically feel every movement, every motion and your body reacts naturally to all the commands. This experience cannot be duplicated on flat screens or with 3D glasses. This is the real next gen and a huge HUGE leap for the whole industry. A real revolution. I’ve become a VR fanatic. Right now we are early adopters and pre VR era, but it will become really big. It is way more natural than flat monitors and keyboard/mouse input. Most current modern engines support Oculus SDK and integration is included or can be added within 15-30 min.

Looking For Investment

Steameria tournament is an AAA title. Its full budget is about 500K EUR. For the moment we do not have the necessary money so development is going slowly. We release smaller mobile titles to finance our bigger project. We published 12 mobile titles on iOS, Windows Phone and Android in 4 month. We are actively looking for investors to accelerate the development. I love crowdfunding concept and going to try it pretty soon for our IP Magicraft Series (check out the demo here). If the campaign goes well I will consider doing the same thing for Steameria.

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[…] Did you ever want to become a powerful mage and cast reality-shattering spells? It’s possible with Warlock VR, the latest creation from Storm Bringer Studios, who built last year’s 3D Jam semi-finalist demo Magicraft. “We’re living in an incredible time where we can dive into fictional universes and fully experience presence in seconds,” says Irakli Kokrashvili, the CEO and co-founder of the Georgian game studio. […]

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