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Interview: As GDC Europe Kicks Off, Myllyrinne, Yerli Talk European Industry

GDC Europe advisors Mattias Myllyrinne of Remedy and Avni Yerli of Crytek talk the unique needs of the European development community, strides it's made over the years, and the need for the region's own "tentpole" event.
Game Developers Conference Europe 2010 runs this week in Cologne, Germany, and it aims to offer the region's developers both the opportunity to network and collaborate on local issues as well as interface with a wider global forum. Remedy's Mattias Myllyrinne and Crytek's Avni Yerli sit on the advisory board of the event, organized by UBM TechWeb Game Network (parent of this website). "I think Europe is a strong and vibrant development community and has a lot of good development clusters that are growing -- and very competitive," says Myllyrinne, director of Finnish Alan Wake and Max Payne developer Remedy. "I think it's only natural we have a European GDC to match that -- some of the challenges we face are going to be local, and of course we operate in a global industry with, hopefully, a wider audience for a lot of the things we do." Among these local challenges: "Compared to North America or Japan, most of us don't have a vibrant domestic market for our games... hence, naturally, we need to go international from the get-go. If you're based in the states, you're probably not that far from your mass audience, or your publishing partner." Digital distribution and increased globalization has reduced these recent challenges in recent years, but it's still something all European studios must consider. Some of Europe's communities have historically lacked a wide range of disciplinary specialties, Myllyrinne adds. Speaking at least from a Nordic perspective, he notes, "we have a very strong background in terms of programming and engineering, and I think we're fairly good in the traditional game design side of things -- but for example, we didn't have the history of animation that [the U.S. does] in California," he says. "These are skillsets that we seek to learn from North America." But Myllyrinne sees enormous growth in the European industry. "At least from what we've seen, when I'm looking at technology and I'm looking at innovation, I think a lot of good games and a lot of innovation is coming out of Europe," he says, pointing to refreshing ideas like UK-based Media Molecule's Little Big Planet or Swedish DICE's Battlefield and Mirror's Edge. "I think we're facing a lot of change," he adds. Crytek's Yerli agrees -- and, perhaps surprisingly for a developer known for its AAA titles like Crysis, he says that much of this growth is being driven in the social games space. "The biggest growth in Germany has been in the social gaming market," says Yerli, one of the Turkish brothers who co-founded the Frankfurt-headquartered Crytek. "We see a potential future in the social space because it's a very dynamic environment. It's very interesting how the evolution of the industry is going on, and how core gamers are attracted to that... it's an area where we are looking very closely. " Social gaming is one of the areas where Europe can learn more from North America, suggests Yerli. Conversely: "Based on the developments going on, I think Europe is pretty much ahead in terms of 3D," he suggests. "Interestingly, I think that will also be very marketable going down the road." European developers are also innovating in other emerging markets, such as mobile and downloadable, as Myllyrinne points out: successful Xbox Live Arcade title Trials HD was developed by Helsinki-based RedLynx, PlayStation Network hit Super Stardust HD was created by another Finnish studio, Housemarque, and iPhone chart-topper Angry Birds was also created in Finland by Rovio. So with 3D, emerging markets and upcoming opportunities in motion control, says Yerli, it's all the more important to have a forum in Europe for the region's developers: "A lot of European developers don't have the time to travel to the U.S. [for main GDC] and deserve a high-quality event in Europe," he says. "A huge amount of developers can attend, network, train and get inspired. The industry itself is the format, which is exciting... I think we have managed to formalize a program that's actually very well balanced," Yerli adds. "It's a very wide offering, and it targets the right group of attendees." "From my perspective, it's a tentpole event in Europe where you get to share a lot of insights with other developers," adds Myllyrinne. "The key thing is being able to share ideas with folks, and everything around that is kind of secondary to the fact you have all these great people come together."

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