Top Start-up Cities in the Link, No Utrecht in Sight


Link 

Which incited me to think, why is Utrecht not in the list, or any other city from the good old Netherlands for that matter?

And then to write a semi-rant, semi-article, semi-discussion piece…

Unless Utrecht solves its logistics problems (limited space, expensive rent, food, and commute) it will never enter that list, even though it has a high desirability and visibility, being in the Netherlands and all, and high talent/visionary output.

Right, just a couple of students can start up a company, but it is still regarded as a highly risky behavior and without luck or $ you will get worn out in no time.

Even in DGG the question rises more often than not: what if DGG had a cafeteria, what if DGG had more office space, what if DGG costed less, how can I get to DGG when the train tickets are so expensive, etc. Some actually become serious restraints.

Basically my experience with immigration and starting up in Netherlands showed me that Dutch Economy wants you to be first self sufficient, have a paying job, and only then think about ideas whereas most occur to people who wish to do it at a minimal overhead. A person who has a paying job rarely quits it to create a start-up. Kind of a catch-22.

Ex-pats who are not insane usually find a job, get things set, and go on about their lives.

Then again there are nice things happening in Netherlands right? With all that “million euro” investment funds news that gathered attention recently. What I understood of it was that it would be given to companies who wish to scale up.

The problem here is that the Independent Development/Start-ups, rarely wish to scale up. We have been very careful about that fact, and we tried to encourage/help other start-ups with their vision while benefiting from each other’s existence. Which was, to some extent, one of Rami’s points in a recent discussion about the funds. We do not want to hire a 3 people for a project and then get stuck scratching our heads, trying to fill in tasks for an idle work-force.

Start-ups first require a proof of concept.

The average entrepreneur thrives in sustainable diversity where people do not get penalized for trying new things. That is to say, I often hear from friends and colleagues, “if this project does not work, I will have to find a job at AH” sort of rants, summing up quite nicely the expectations of people who have taken a huge risk. They see AH as the epitome of monotonous low wage  closed mind drudge work. To be honest I’ve seen CS master diploma holders work in worse conditions.

The result is people getting stuck on dead-end or low quality projects for long periods of time, just because the failure of it is over-inflated misery and doom. Your production force doesn’t scale to the project? Re-evaluate, scale down, start anew, scrap that shitty product which won’t sell and even it did you would feel bad about it being shitty, and start a better one.

In that sense almost each new project undertaken is a new start-up. It requires, in our case at least, contracts with partners, agreements, deals, a new business plan. Like all start-ups it requires a proof of concept, or should be scrapped. Our experience has been getting stuck with most, not wanting to find investors, etc. etc.

I remember the long meetings where when IP owners being not happy with the depth a game presents, thinking they could make it sure that it “at the very least” should cover the expenses, making ridiculous demands, everyone in development agreeing to underpaid requests of additional features/design decisions, each of them being poorly based on anecdotal experience and “feelings” and what “people want”.

That is, all this madness instead of personal experience, which could have been acquired much earlier if we did not get stuck on making a “sure hit”.

Some people just want to figure out a vision while experimenting on different possibilities. Without a minimum of 10K euros in the bank account, this is highly unlikely given the average rent cost for a person.

To my perception, people are afraid of getting invested on, since they do not wish to share this huge risk; they are afraid they will fail, and if they don’t they do not want to share the meager rewards of that risk, they are afraid of hiring people, because it requires such a huge commitment.

But there are subsidies right? Dutch Government subsidies for creative and technological start-ups is just a “beggar’s fee” that holds entrepreneurs in limbo; they do not want to make a dime more than the allowed money, because then they do not qualify for subsidy, and nobody wants to lose free money which unfortunately is only good enough for semi-decent living standards with some luck. Even more money would not fix this. It is free money, it is not a reward. Free money has a way of messing people’s minds. They try to get it with least amount of effort, and set the effort level so that they keep getting it. Then living arrangements get tailored around that amount.

We often get requests from Turkey and Germany, with very talented people who wish to do their internships here. They tell us that having worked in the Dutch Game Scene is a huge boost for their resumes. The brain-drain in Turkey is amazingly high. Yet they cannot leave, because it is amazingly expensive. Dang it, even Dutch people can hardly afford going to Global Game Jam, which by the way did not even have the decency to give any prizes, yet it had the nerve to have “judges”. That is the subject of another article. People who live as far as Den Haag have considerable problems commuting, let alone living here as an ex-pat. Subsidies would help in this case. You have your own company? Travel free. You want to bring in interns? Here have a bunch of euros.

I remember JP’s plan to send talented people to US, so that some exchange would happen later on. This is a good way to establish relations with industry savvy people, but talent will never come to Utrecht if it is not affordable.

Perception is that, living in Europe is a luxury. A frivolous expense. A self inflicted look at all the misery I am enduring even though I am paying double the amount an average US citizen does for amazing facilities, who by the way, doesn’t even get properly taxed.

Dutch Economy thinks that creating and supporting the game industry and having star-ups resembles having farms, throw subsidies so people want to work at it, all the while taxing them for the privilege. Newsflash, people already want to work at creative industries.

My point is, unless Utrecht somehow becomes a facilitating environment, it will struggle to fulfill its true potential in the international arena. We will remain as one of the “unofficial” indie hot-spot in the list of big theaters of the world.  I do not know how this should be fixed exactly, then again I am not running for burgemeester or whatever it is that has a say in the matter. Minister of Economy maybe. I may, in fact, have some ideas, but I am too busy earning my rent and food at the moment to write about them.

I believe that the recent proposal/public poll about selling tosti in the balcony of DGG by a resident company supports my point.

Yet, I am still an outsider. My view and understanding may be skewed. I would appreciate if anyone would care to correct me.

Cheers.

 

Spring cleaning is done!


First of all what Spring is this we’re talking about? It’s October, but months and seasons mean nothing in Netherlands so this’ll have to do.

I cleaned the website a little. Fixed the dead links and put our friends list in alphabetical order so no one has confusing feels over this matter.

I filled the missing content for all projects and remade the projects page into the beauty it is at the moment. Also fixed some other links on the footer and another article to our articles page.

By the way, we didn’t make any proper posts about these, but here are the two releases we made last month on the Unity Asset Store! I totally ignored a blog post for these fellers and went on to make pages for them.

  • ANT-Op: An ant’s nest simulation package using acoa!
  • SDSK: A 3D asset package for those who love making dungeons!

Soon I will add the following to the website:

  • Skies of Saturn Unity webplayer demo.
  • An update on the new release date for Gust and an explanation over the matter.
  • A post about a sandbox prototype we’re slowly working on the side as well as its web-player demo : )

Currently we’re swamped with tons of work and we can’t talk about it just yet… :/ I hope to become a more active bloggerdudeceomanbearpig.

Until the next post,

Tunc

Opening for New Interns: Game Designers and Programmers


We’ve got openings! Do you want to work with kickass technology? Do you think you have what it takes? Do you want to see the exciting world of independent game development?

Well, we got good news for you!

Gray Lake Studios is looking for talented and dedicated programmers and game designers who have experience with Unity and are currently undertaking university level education.

Common Requirements are:

  1. Currently pursuing a Computer Science/Programming/Game Development oriented education.

  2. Preferably university level or higher education.

  3. Good knowledge of Unity3d engine.
  4. Preferably living in Utrecht or willingness to travel.

  5. Good communication skills or willingness to get better.

  6. Good English is a must.

  7. Dedication and willingness to learn, and a plan of things you want to focus on.

Programmer Requirements are:

  1. Extensive portfolio/code/devblog of mad stuff that you programmed in your free time with good explanations. (we cannot stress enough how important this is)

  2. Knowledge of C# is a must, but if you got your thing going on with Java or C++ also nice.

  3. Ability to read and understand scientific books, papers, notation, and skills of the mathematical nature.

Designer Requirements are:

  1. Extensive portfolio of games that you’ve designed, or taken part in designing.

  2.  Knowledge of Unity3d and ability to implement things & make levels.

  3. Familiarity with scrum method and ability to use mindmaps.

 

please send CV stuff & letter of motivation to contact@graylakestudios.com

 

Q: What is Gray Lake Studios?

A: We are an independent game production company that focuses on technology and aesthetics. We got cool tools like random dungeon generators, wind simulators, reinforcement learning algorithms, etc. that you can use/learn during your internship.

 

Q: What are you working on?

A: Gust is the current title we are working on. You can see that stuff on our website. We also work with Dreams of Danu who specialize with BCI devices which read brain waves. Sometimes we take contract work too if it lies within our interests.

 

Q: The working environment?

A: We are a friendly bunch. Cool office on the third floor of Dutch Game Garden. Plenty of opportunity to meet the cool companies and people in the building. It’s cool. :)

 

Q: Fun and Food?

A: We make sure people eat well and have a game day at least once every two months. We tolerate your choices even if they include peanutbutter donut ham en kaas tortillas.

 

Q: What is the interview process like?

A: We will ask you a bunch of programming related questions. Mostly to gauge your ability to think on the spot as well as your knowledge of programming. No need to worry much. Make sure you bring a laptop with all the nice stuff you want to show us and you will be fine. There often is a second interview.

 

Q: What are the working hours?

A: We want you here at 9:00. You are free to go at 17:00 or 18:00. Usually we have to kick out everyone from the office after 18:30 because it is so much fun working with us. Rarely if ever we deviate from these hours. You have a right to use national vacations.

 

Q: Assignments? Workload?

A: If you are good we will even sit down with you and work towards an assignment that you are mostly in charge of. You have to be prepared to do research on your own, read scientific papers, and books. If scientific notation and mathematics look like chinese then you have a lot of distance to travel before applying to us.

Q: Burnout Policy?

A: Burnout is a touchy subject. Most game development companies work people hard till they bleed their fingers. We do not like that. If anyone shows signs of burnout/programmer’s desperation we will force you to take a time-out. However we also do not like grumpy people who easily whine and complain when things get tough. Things often get tough due to near fringe nature of technologies we deal with.

 

Some Programmer’s ground rules at Gray Lake Studios:

  • Always use pen&paper before starting to program.

  • Java sucks and C++ is the best but we all want to learn Lisp yet nothing beats Fortran.

  • PHP is devil spawn.

  • We do not like wearing hats on interviews, unless it is your “thing”.

  • Cleanliness and hygiene comes before proper code base structure.

  • Listen to Erhan when you are stuck.

  • Comment before thinking.

ProD: Procedural Dungeon Generator for Roguelikes


Gray Lake is proud to present their newest Unity3D package, ProD! It’s a procedural dungeon generator and an all-in-one for those who are interested in making their own Roguelike games!

 

 ProD v2 Screenshot_1

With 3-D assets.

ProD v2.0 Screenshot_0

With 2-D assets.

 

Here’s the link for the development blog and you can get ProD here!

Features include:

- Structured and re-usable code for the generation of Roguelike maps

- Changeable values, such as: map location; map size; cell size; room frequency; room size; number of staircases

- Fully commented code that allows you to walk through and understand the basics of procedural map generation

- Additional commented code that will help you understand maze and cavern generation, as well as dungeon generation

- A script that renders and shows all steps in the map generation process, for your viewing pleasure

Here’s an example of how ProD’s visual script generates a dungeon map.

For those who are interested in details, here’s the link to download the manual for free.