Developing Games in Lithuania
It all started just 8 years ago!
There are just a few places in Lithuania where one can study things relevant to video game development, however, no higher education institutions offer specific training for key areas of game development. Therefore, game development has long been the preserve of self-trained enthusiasts.
Companies specializing in game development tend to cater to foreign markets. For some of them this specialisation was just a starting point: Vilnius-based GetJar, for one, which started as a company listing game development as one of its specialisations, has evolved into the world’s second largest mobile applications store with over 1 billion downloads to date, second only to the Apple App Store.
Some of the early day game enthusiasts continue to work as independent game developers or teams and publish their work on the web. Ironically, the company that produced the first ever Lithuanian strategic video game entitled PSI: Siberian Conflict, Wireframe Dreams, went bankrupt almost immediately after the release of their product (2006).
Over the last five years, one Lithuanian company in particular has established itself as a consistently creative game developer. Ivolgamus, which was founded in 2002, presently has two game development studios, one located in Vilnius, and another in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Ivolgamus’s portfolio contains over twenty games, both original and licensed, that are for various platforms. The company is proud to be working on “large-scale multiplatform titles for big-name publishers”. Ivolgamus’s most recent projects included Shrek’s Carnival Craze, which includes “28 hilarious and action-packed party-games”. The company is a licensed developer for all platforms, including PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, PSP, Nintendo Wii, Nintendo DS and Xbox 360. Games developed by Ivolgamus have been released in English, French, German, Italian, Dutch, Spanish and Russian.
An independent team of young Lithuanian game enthusiasts known as 3J has gained critical acclaim for their creative games that are characterized by “a sort of home craft/DIY aesthetic”. 3J stands for Justinas Malijonis, Jurgis Tamulis and Jurgis Jonaitis, the three friends who started working together as a team at the age of 16. In 2007, two original games developed by 3J, Menulis and Miestas, were selected as the best adventure games by the popular website Jayisgames.com. The team’s later project, entitled Pragaras, got awarded as well. 3J’s games have been described as looking “as though [they have been] cobbled together from smudged scrap paper and magazine cuttings” and deploying “customisable ragdoll characters”.
One of the leading Lithuanian providers of “e-solutions”, Gaumina, has established itself as a creative developer of online games. Gaumina’s games range from simple hand-drawn games in black&white style to “entire virtual worlds” with 3D effects. Gaumina’s portfolio includes a number of thematic online games targeting the young, such as Common Seashores: A Fish’s Trip which deals with ecological topics, and a game introducing Nordic countries, Nordic Friends, as well as an interactive information portal designed specially for the Lithuanian exhibit at the World Expo 2010 in Shanghai.
The most recent trend in Lithuanian game development is the result of new opportunities provided by Apple’s platform. Lithuanians have been busy developing not just games, but also special tools for developing games for iPhone and iPad. One recent example is d’ART Jigsaw HD by KIORK, a puzzle developed specially for iPad (“made with a large iPad screen in mind”) and featuring hand-drawn artwork by Egle “Daywish” Zioma.
Then, there is a specific market of educational games. Interactive and computer-based forms of instruction have proved to be an effective means of getting learners engaged in the subjects of their education. Thus, Educational Systems (Edukacines sistemos), a company specialising in educational software development, has launched a number of projects involving interactive platforms for education, including an internet portal mokinukai.lt, which is described as a social internet learning platform aimed at a target audience of 6 to 12 year olds, where learners can access many curriculum-related games and interactive animation programmes. The contents of the site include animated visuals dealing with various subjects such as knowing the world, English, history, geography, etc.
The situation of game developers in Lithuania may serve as a nice example of what globalisation means in practice. Young but exceptionally skilful artists and designers may be contributing to a rather anonymous and complicated process of game development comprising a number of countries, with a final output being patented somewhere in Japan, of which those contributing artists may have no idea whatsoever. Also, independent art work may serve as a material for interactive games suited for new globally-promoted technological platforms, thereby turning from locally appreciated creative production of an author into a globally „consumed“ and anonymous piece of entertaining software.