Cut scene 1 - Intro
2Awesome Studio is a Dutch independent game development studio, we are working on our first commercial game, Dimension Drive. This year and a half of trying to make it in The Netherlands have been an amazing experience and we have to say we could not have reached this point without the help of so many people listed in this article. Are you a game developer planning to move to The Netherlands? Are you already there and want to know how is the game development scene in the country? Are you just curious about how the Dutch do it?
Read on to get an in-depth look at our experience as a foreign indie developer. At the end of the article you will find a (non-exhaustive) list of links that will be useful if you are planning to develop games in The Netherlands.
2013 - I want to believe
So, tell me about you…
It is a bit over a year since we started with this crazy idea of becoming game developers in our free time besides working full time as engineers in the European Space Agency. We had done already many games in previous years as hobby projects but nothing really intended for publishing. I remember it clearly, Alejandro and I were in my living room just throwing names in the air for this awesome studio we were going to create. Turns out the word awesome kept repeating, and we were two guys, so the selection of a name became almost obvious.
2Awesome Studio was going to be a new studio in The Netherlands. But wait, we are not Dutch, and our Dutch language skills are not something to write home about. This started to look tricky at best.
With equal parts overconfidence and naivety we decided to explore the Dutch developer community. We worked in a prototype for a couple of weeks, put the laptop in a backpack and off we went to Festival of Games 2013 to amaze with it to everybody there.
Turns out the prototype was worse than we though and we did not amaze but raised a few eyebrows. Luckily not everything went bad for us. In a very prominent position of the show we found a showcase area by Dutch Game Garden. It was a collection of Dutch developers showing their games in these beautiful white cabinets. We met Matt Donnelley who explained us all about it. Dutch Game Garden is a game developer startup incubator and INDIGO is a showcase they organize from time to time where developers band together and show their latest creations. We were hooked from that moment! We wanted to be in that showcase next time!
It’s not the language silly!
Turns out our fear of not being Dutch or mastering the language was unfounded and we did not need to worry too much about that. What we needed to be worried about was quality. The Dutch indie games we had seen were light years away from our prototype. As we were expecting we did not make it into INDIGO 2013. The games selected for the event are of really high quality and our prototype was nowhere near that level. If we wanted to be taken seriously we needed to take our prototype and polish it to a point beyond whatever we had done before with our hobby games. And honestly we were not even sure we could reach such a standard.
2014 Living the dream
Global game jam: adding gasoline to the fire!
Global Game Jam was around the corner and we decided to join it in the Amsterdam venue (Amsterjam). We thought that doing a game in 48 hours would be a good way to test our skills and see if we had what was needed to succeed in this business. We finished the game jam and we did a game, which we were quite proud of by the way. But the important point was the morale boost that this gave us. For the first time we were sure we could pull this off. Take a team, join together, work on a deadline and deliver. So we decided to go all in with Dimension Drive and make the best game we could. The extra morale also tricked us into believing that we could work on the game jam prototype in parallel and polish it into a full game.
Indievelopment 2014 – Double impact!
Turns out The Netherlands is an indie developer paradise, every other month there was an event where showcasing, meeting other developers or doing a game jam was the thing. We decided to time our development calendar around this and have a new version of Dimension Drive for each of these events. We managed to get a booth at Indievelopment 2014 were we showed not one but two games, Dimension Drive and Brushed Away (a polished version of the GGJ prototype). This time we focused on delivering quality and getting as much feedback as possible. We got quite positive reaction for both games and thanks to that event we met Mendel Bouman from Indietopia.
Indie Gameleon – King in the North!
We could not believe it was starting to happen, it was the first time we got invited to an event without us actively asking for it. Mendel invited us to Indie Gameleon 2014, a 4 day event in Groningen (the north of Holland) organized by Indietopia (an indie incubator and publisher). So, this country does not only have a great incubation program but two!?
We worked hard again to showcase our two games at Indie Gameleon. On top of that, Mendel and Shan were so cool to let us give our first talk as game developers during it. This had me extra excited, I give presentations and conferences in my main job on a daily basis and this time they were letting me do it about videogames!
The Dutch developer scene are all very close to each other, they help and support each other. Here we were in the north of the country and we saw Matt from DGG again. Turns out DGG had lent the cabinets for Indie Gameleon to Indietopia. We met lots of cool people, that we keep meeting now at every other event, Rami from Vlambeer, Derk de Geus from Paladin, the guys from Critical Bit, Kijk Online press guys, BlauwPrint, Scaffa…
Epicon - Hey, Shan called…
Suddenly reality hit us. Working full time jobs and developing two games in parallel was burning us out. Some people (Rami, Matt, Shan…) already warned us this would happen I guess the adrenaline rush was keeping us in denial. We decided to do the most sensible thing and concentrate only on Dimension Drive and work on the next game after it. One morning, Alejandro told me that Shan from Indietopia had contacted us with an opportunity to showcase on the DGG cabinets during Epicon. There we went with our new shinny build of Dimension Drive and people played it non-stop during two days surrounded by cosplayers, youtubers and even storm troopers.
This time besides Matt, we met the rest of the people from Dutch Game Garden (Martijn, Rembert, Martine, JP…) and other developers that were really friendly and have cool games (I am looking at you Speelbaars, Amulware and Rock It Bit). We also met the amazing Vera Lakmaker who is now helping us with lots of things (PR, testing, community management, and in general being a great friend).
GDC and Gamescom – Are we still in The Netherlands?
We went to GDC Europe and Gamescom. You can read all about in this previous Gamasutra article. We managed to attend both events and still fit it all in an indie budget. What you will not find in that article is that again we met many developers in Germany who were coming from The Netherlands. These Dutch seemed to be everywhere! We had a nice time getting lost with the guys from Abbey Games and lots of fun going for dinner with Weirdbeard, Excalisoft and all the gang of the north (Indietopia, Blauwprint, StudioBleep). We did not plan any of it, but we finally were belonging to these incredible community and everywhere we went our paths were crossing.
INDIGO 2014 – We did it!
We applied to INDIGO 2014, this year Dimension Drive was finally in a state worthy of showing and we were hoping it would be picked for the showcase. Turns out we did it! We got a reply from Dutch Game Garden inviting us to showcase in THE EVENT!
We attended with the current open beta version of Dimension Drive that shows already a glimpse of level 2 and the puzzle mechanics we are planning to mix with the sh00t’em up parts. The event was incredibly inclusive, we knew some of the other developers and mostly everybody in the organization belonging to the Dutch Game Garden team from previous events. We met lots of new people including tons of interested gamers that played Dimension Drive non-stop and other developers that were selected for the showcase or just happen to be there. We had a great time talking to people and playing with Two Tribes, Ronimo, Grotman Games, Sneaky Mammoth and many others.
This event brought the things full circle for us and showed us not only that Dutch game developer community is built striving for quality and innovation but also that they are all a big happy family that supports each other. Now, we can happily say that we are proud members of this family (even if we are the distant cousin).
Useful links (in no particular order)
Incubators, institutions, funding , events and other stuff:
- Dutch Game Garden
- IGDA Netherlands
- Game On
- Indie Gameleon
- Let’s Gro
- Amsterjam (GGJ Amsterdam)
- Control Conference
Some cool developers:
- Critical Bit
- Two Tribes
- Abbey Games
- Game Oven Studios
- Tiny Build Games
- Woodden plank studios
- Grotman Games
- Flow Studios
- Sneaky Mammoth
Some press outlets:
- PC Only
- Kijk Online
- Information Geek
- Control Magazine
- Punk and Lizard
- Power Unlimited
This is a repost from our own blog at http://www.2awesomestudio.com/go-dutch-made-in-holland/