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Industry News

Immersive Tech NI Hackathon

Earlier this month saw the launch of Immersive Tech NI as well as a VR hackathon. The event marks the beginning of the group which is designed to bring together the most creative minds in Northern Ireland as a community to explore and expand the possibilities created by immersive technologies, including virtual and augmented reality. Attendees got the chance to try out projects run by local companies, as well as go through workshops leading up to the Hackathon, which had prices for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place. We caught up with some of the winners to find out their experience of the Hackathon. 

1st Place – Team Rocket

The Immersive Tech NI Hackathon started on a Saturday morning with breakfast and a brief introduction from the event organisers. After this, everyone with a prearranged group set off to find the best tables, leaving just seven of us: a game developer, a software engineer, a museum worker and three students. Only two of the group had ever actually met before, but it wasn’t long before we started sharing ideas and making decisions. The pitches ranged from a first aid instructor to a virtual riot for police trainees, but in the end the idea that really stuck out was a sign language learning tool. A picture of hands signing the letters of the alphabet would be displayed in front of the user, allowing them to practice without a teacher. We decided to go with the augmented reality of the Microsoft HoloLens over any of the virtual reality headsets, as the user would be able to see their hands as they matched the pictures on the screen.

After the idea had been decided it was just a matter of implementing it in six or seven hours, with little to no experience of working with immersive technology. Emma and Paddy worked on the product branding and the pictures of the hands signing. Clea and Rachel created a presentation to give to the judges, making sure to draw attention to why this sort of tool would be useful for so many people learning sign language. James, Michael and I handled the technical side of things. Apart from a few problems with Unity and GitHub, and a bit of a dash to get through all the letters of the alphabet (I think we only made it to N or M), a working prototype was created and the presentation went off without a hitch.

The projects made by the other teams were all of such a high quality so we were all very shocked and delighted to win first prize. I would like to thank my team mates for working so hard and everyone who helped run the hackathon for organising such a great event.

 John McDonnell
John McDonnell

2nd Place – 5 in a Vive

At 5pm on 5th of November in The Hive in Belfast, 12 teams were watching the last hour of their immersive tech hackathon tick away while they tried to finish their demos and presentations. By 6pm the work was done, the beers were opened, and the pitches soon to start.

Our team consisted of Mal Duffin, Dee Harvey, Kris Ignasiak, Steven Kennedy, and Brendan McCourt and we worked on a fire safety app. Brendan and I took on research, idea development, branding, and strategy. As we worked, we identified the most serious fire safety hazards, the most likely audiences, how to make the game increasingly difficult so it can be played repeatedly, what the likely business models were. Steven and Kris got straight to work in Unity building a model of the interior of a house with various fire hazards needing to be neutralised. Mal was building the Reward stage of our game – the bit where you get to be fireman and put out the fire.

As the afternoon wore on, Brendan and I moved onto developing and practising our presentation, while Kris, Steven, and Mal put the finishing touches onto our demo. Powered by sandwiches, haribos, and chocolate buttons, we kept working as the deadline approached.

Delivering the pitch and demo was fun when our turn finally came around. After work stopped on the projects at 6, the judges did the rounds of the room to hear pitches and experience demos where they had been created. Following them around to hear the other pitches was too much for my delicate constitution. I love to watch a pitch, but not before I pitch myself.

We were delighted to come second. We all felt our idea was strong and worth pursuing beyond the hackathon. We make a good, productive team, so we plan to keep working on Safe as Houses. Watch this space.

  Dee Harvey  is Founder and Creative Director at Controvert Ltd
Dee Harvey is Founder and Creative Director at Controvert Ltd

3rd Place – A(rachnaphobia)

For the Hackathon we hooked up with Rachael and Zach, who brought with them her great idea of simulating vehicle safety checks for Trucks, Cars, etc. It was a great experience being able to walk around a really big virtual truck with a horn and engine sounds, take a tyre off, check indicators and open doors and load cargo. Being me, I was keen to gamify the experience and add achievements – it makes for much more effective learning. We didn’t quite get to build that into the demo, but it was in the concept.

We wrangled with the HMD camera, with teleport code, collision detection with the weird SteamVR constraints, and other code issues. We downloaded assets, made a presentation, looked up industry-specific statistics and use-cases, ate sweets and drank tea. Most of all we wrangled with the fact that four people developing on one machine is more than a little ludicrous. Nine hours of constantly being ‘on’ and thinking hard over brand new problems is tough going. 

We yawned, we disagreed, we covered the white board with stuff, we tested and tested and tested, we fell out, we made up, and finally it was time for judging. Rachael gave a really cohesive presentation of the various concepts and ideas we had drummed up through the day. The judges were thankfully game for trying our (still a little clunky) demo in person, and Glenn made a good demonstration of the parts they didn’t quite manage. An hour later, after a much deserved beer and a rest and a good nosy at other people’s projects, we were delighted to win 3rd prize!

In all, it was a super experience. We have a conceptual project that could in theory be taken forward into a fully-fledged real life application. The development issues and code quirks we are now aware of, the differing experiences between the hardware, the user experience of the camera and teleport, that’s all invaluable knowledge. More than anything, though, we now have the motivation to give VR dev a go – it’s amazing fun.

  Angie McKeown  is the founder of  Miss McKeown's tea , #NIGameDevNetwork and #PlayMyDemo. 
Angie McKeown  is the founder of Miss McKeown’s tea , #NIGameDevNetwork and #PlayMyDemo. 

You can follow and keep up to date with Immersive Tech NI and any future Hackathons on their twitter page or via their Meetup page.

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Industry News

AppAttic CEO Wins Innovate UK Women Infocus Innovation Award

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Health engagement and insight company AppAttic got a boost today when their CEO and Founder Dr Rachel Gawely was announced as an Innovate UK Women Infocus Award Winner. The announcement was made this afternoon ahead of the National Business Awards in London where the winners will be introduced by Cisco and Innovate UK chairman Phil Smith.

Finalist, Rachel Gawley impressed the Innovate UK interview panel with her ability to commercialise research and with her company’s latest innovation which is set to disrupt the clinical trial of low risk medical apps through crowdsourcing. She is one of 15 winners who will receive a tailored package of business support and a £50,000 cash prize to assist in developing the project.

“I’m absolutely delighted. At AppAttic we want to improve health globally and we want to do it in the most fun and efficient way possible. The support will assist us as we grow from a small, regional company to putting us on the global map. It will enable us to run large scale trials that are not restricted by geography, at a much lower cost and faster than traditional randomised control trials (RCT). The vision is that saved resources – which are estimated to be 70% – will allow us to focus on what we are good at; research, development and innovation. Furthermore, the technology is being developed to become a stand-alone product which will enable any health app to avail of the benefits.”

The 2016 infocus campaign launched following an analysis of 8,566 historic Innovate UK funding applications. The findings highlighted that there was little difference in the quality of applications submitted by women and men, yet just 1 in 7 applications (14%) for funding were from women. With women in the UK half as likely to start a new business as their male counterparts, or indeed seek out external sources of funding, Innovate UK’s 2016 infocus awards sought to redress this imbalance by encouraging them to apply. The winners will be formally congratulated at tonight’s National Business Awards in London.

For further information on AppAttic please visit www.appattic.co.uk

Categories
Industry News

GamesNI Launches new industry meet up

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Earlier this week GamesNI held the very first GamesNI game developer meet up in Belfast. The event saw talks from Troll Inc and Coffeebox Games, with refreshments provided by Testify. The aim of this event is exploring and expanding the current Game Development industry in Northern Ireland.

This comes a few months after Games NI launched its new web hub for industry leaders, developers, writers, engineers and students. The new hub aims to support all members of the games entertainment industry from beginners just joining to well-established veterans of the digital entertainment with resources and support spanning all their needs.

“Since 2014, Games NI has set out to assist industry members with all manner of guidance, training and education,” Games NI Chairman, Gareth Grey explains. “Working closely with a range of educational bodies, we are creating opportunities for all experience levels to enhance skillsets, and provide industry-led experience and support for professionals and companies across Northern Ireland.”

Kitty Crawford, Assistant Chair of Games NI added “We’re very excited to announce the recent additions to GamesNI’s remit. The new meet up is the perfect place for companies, freelancers and Game Development students to learn more and connect with the local industry. The site also hosts a directory of local companies actively developing games, showcasing their projects at all stages of development. It features relevant local and international news and blogs on current development trends.”

Norbert Sagnard, Co-founder of Mobile Mondays who attended the event explains “I think what’s important for the worthiness for an event like this tonight, and for future ones, is the bringing everyone together.”

The next GamesNI Meetup will be held in February ahead of GDC 2017.

Categories
Developer News Industry News

Boomdash Digital launch ‘Evil Dead: Endless Nightmare’

Developed by Dream Country Limited, Inlifesize Ltd, the official mobile game of the chilling remake of one of horror’s most iconic movies debuts on the Apple App Store today.

Boomdash Digital, the UK mobile publisher, have released on iOS and Google Play the official Evil Dead mobile game, based on the terrifying re-imagining of the horror masterpiece.

A secluded cabin. An ancient curse. An unrelenting evil. All you have to do is survive!

Based on what is widely regarded as ‘the most terrifying movie you will ever see’, Evil Dead: Endless Nightmare is an action-packed first person runner. Players get to experience, for the first time, familiar locations and characters from the movie, in a game packed with psychological terror, movie audio and cinema realistic graphics.

Evil Dead: Endless Nightmare sees players run from cinema’s most iconic cabin, where they must then survive the Deadite infested woods, avoid deadly obstacles and select the right weapons to take down the bloodthirsty Deadites, whilst completing increasingly challenging missions.

With the help of the Book of the Dead and an arsenal of signature weapons, including the trusty boxcutter, chainsaw and shotgun, players must fight for their survival, running through the woods to complete missions, collect blood droplets, unlock bonuses, upgrade weapons and ultimately prepare themselves to battle against the Evil Witch!

Evil Dead: Endless Nightmare is now available to play on iOS and GooglePlay:

Download on Google Play

Download on iOS

Features:

  • Spine chilling, 1st person POV, puts players at the centre of the Evil Dead universe
  • Record times, distances and Deadite-killing achievements to beat your friends
  • Cause carnage with an array of murderous weapons including the boxcutter, chainsaw and shotgun.
  • Run deeper into the woods to unlock new missions straight out of the Book Of The Dead
  • Realistic 3D graphics and camerawork recreate the look and feel of the movie set

Game Info:

Title: Evil Dead: Endless Nightmare
Publisher: Boomdash Digital Limited
Developer: Dream Country Limited, Inlifesize Ltd
Category: 3D Endless Runner
Monetisation: Free with In App Purchase
Age: 17+   

Categories
Industry News

Northern Ireland talent wins at Game Connection’s Development Awards

Congratulations to Northern Ireland game development studio Italic Pig, which won Best Casual Game at the Game Connection’s 2016 Development Awards this week for the project Mona Lisa. The award ceremony took place earlier this week in Paris.

Mona Lisa, created by Italic Pig’s Kevin Beimers, is a stealth and forgery adventure that sees Leonardo Da Vinci’s famous creation brought to life as Renaissance Italy’s greatest art thief.

Mona Lisa’s game concept pitch was a recipient of a prestigious development award from Creative Europe’s MEDIA sub-programme, which, along with support from Northern Ireland Screen, has been used to fund the development process over the last year, utilising local homegrown talent to create a game with huge international appeal, whilst also helping to bolster the burgeoning games industry in the country.

The ambitious game sees you playing as Mona Lisa, a Renaissance robot of Da Vinci’s own design and a graceful and gadget-filled marvel of engineering perfection. When Mona is not busy breaking into 15th century strongholds and forging some of the greatest works of art that mankind has ever created, she is exploring the streets of Italy trying to solve a mystery that even Robert Langdon would struggle to make sense of.

Congratulations once again to Kevin and the wider team.

Categories
Industry News

DogBiscuit nominated for a children’s BAFTA

Northern Ireland game developer Blackstaff Games has been nominated in the Interactive – Original category for its game DogBiscuit

As the player you are the creator of the world in which DogBiscuit, RichTea and ChocolateNibble have their adventures. Throughout their outings to picnics at the beach, or meeting aliens in space, they make friends with a tribe of crayons, unlocking new colours and tools to change the environment and progress through in the game.

DogBiscuit is a great game for the entire family; The user interface is intuitive and objects can be drawn very simply or in greater detail, depending on the player’s age. Unobtrusive music and lovingly designed animations round off the experience and turn it into a pleasant trip into the world of drawing.

For a full list of nominations visit the BAFTA website.

Categories
Developer News Industry News

Italic Pig Nominated for 5 Games Connection Development Awards

Northern Ireland game development studio Italic Pig have been nominated for five awards at Game Connection’s 2016 Development Awards for its latest project Mona Lisa. The award ceremony will take place during this year’s conference in in Paris from October 26th – 28th.

Mona Lisa, created by Italic Pig’s Kevin Beimers, is a stealth & forgery adventure that sees Leonardo Da Vinci’s famous creation brought to life as Renaissance Italy’s greatest art thief. The project received funding from Northern Ireland Screen via Invest NI.

Having picked up a number of awards and nominations for his last production Schrödinger’s Cat And The Raiders Of The Lost Quark, including Best Game Script nominations from both Writers’ Guilds of Great Britain and Ireland, Kevin continues to push the company’s impressive storytelling record by securing Mona Lisa nominations for Best Casual Game, Best Story/Storytelling, Most Creative/Original Game, Best Quality of Art and Best Indie Game. Italic Pig is the only member of the UK games industry to receive nominations at the event.

“The Game Connection Development Awards program is designed to shed light on the most innovative and creative projects that we can find and offers additional exposure to those developers who are constantly pushing the industry forward,” said Pierre Carde, CEO of Game Connection. “We are very excited for the Game Connection Development Awards to spotlight and award more projects than ever and we look forward to seeing what the newest crop of nominees will bring.”

Mona Lisa’s game concept pitch was a recipient of a prestigious development award from Creative Europe’s MEDIA sub-programme, which, along with support from Northern Ireland Screen, has been used to fund the development process over the last year, utilising local homegrown talent to create a game with huge international appeal, whilst also helping to bolster the burgeoning games industry in the country.

The ambitious game sees you playing as Mona Lisa, a Renaissance robot of Da Vinci’s own design and a graceful and gadget-filled marvel of engineering perfection. When Mona is not busy breaking into 15th century strongholds and forging some of the greatest works of art that mankind has ever created, she is exploring the streets of Italy trying to solve a mystery that even Robert Langdon would struggle to make sense of.

“It’s an over the top mash-up of Dan Brown, Terry Pratchett and ‘springpunk’” describes Kevin Beimers, Mona Lisa creator, “Mona herself is a charming mix of Lara Croft and Inspector Gadget, clad in a modest floor-length dress. Leonardo, on the other hand, falls somewhere between Doc Brown and Peter Capaldi – amazed not so much by his own genius as by other’s stupidity. They make a great team to write for.”

The writer, director, programmer, artist and animator will attend the awards and the conference at the end of October hoping to not only secure more kudos for his company but also with a view to attracting further interest in Mona Lisa and exploring potential opportunities with publishers and distributors. Whilst the game will not be officially launched until 2017, Kevin will be showcasing exclusive first-look content from the game at the conference. For those familiar with the high-quality, narrative-driven games that he has been involved with in the past, Mona Lisa is sure to thrill.

For a full list of nominations visit the Game Connection website.

View the trailer for Mona Lisa below. 

Categories
Industry News

Northern Ireland Screen’s Adding Value Report

Northern Ireland Screen has published the second edition of its Adding Value Report, a celebration of the spectacular range of opportunities, jobs and experiences pursued within and supported by the screen industry in Northern Ireland.

Covering the period from September 2013 to June 2016 the report offers an insight into what growing the screen industry in Northern Ireland really means for the broad range of individuals involved.

Whilst covering multiple screen industries, the report covers Gaming and mobile, which has stepped up in Northern Ireland since the previous report with a growing cluster of local companies now involved in digital and interactive content. Among the recent achievements, Northern Ireland Screen launched Greenshoots NI in partnership with Microsoft, a funding and technical support initiative for early stage start up game studios. We’ve seen Northern Ireland becoming home to the team Of Kings of Men, and the establishing of many new companies province wide.

The report also gives a glimpse into the future of the screen industries as it highlights some of the many talented trainees taking their first step, be it on the Aim High development programme or through the DEL Animation and Gaming Development Academies. These trainee development schemes aim to equip people with the skills and experience required to take up new opportunities, as well as address the needs of our local screen industries.

 

 

Richard Williams, Chief Executive of Northern Ireland Screen, said; “We cannot believe it has been almost three years since our last Adding Value Report in 2013. So much has happened in that time which Northern Ireland can be proud of, it has been a great period for the screen industries here, with lots more exciting projects in the pipeline.

“We hope readers will enjoy learning about the companies and individuals that work in the screen industries here and feel the same pride that we do at what they have achieved not just locally but nationally and internationally.

“These are exciting times and we are very conscious that this is the result of tremendous support given to the screen sector here by Invest Northern Ireland, the Department for the Economy, the Department for Communities, the British Film Institute and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. ”

To view the Adding Value Report please click here.

If you would like a printed copy of the Adding Value Report please email info@northernirelandscreen.co.uk

Categories
Education News

Games R&D Tax Relief event; in review

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Putting compelling storylines, picturesque artwork and a captivating soundtrack to one side, a modern game is a masterpiece of software development. It is just as likely to contain as much serious research and development as that undertaken in a laboratory.

The video games and interactive entertainment industry has a clear strong link to high-tech research and development (R&D). Playing an integral part in the development of original intellectual property, R&D has helped the UK become recognised globally as a leading source of original computer games concepts and design.  

With access to finance being a priority for the industry, HMRC’s R&D Tax Relief scheme actively encourages developers to engage in technological innovation that can bring huge benefits to the sector.

In order to qualify for relief, HMRC wants to see R&D being used to create an improvement in a field of science or technology. Even if the R&D in which a company has invested does not have the outcome hoped for, it may even still be able to qualify for R&D tax relief.

 From Left to right; David Baxter from Boom Clap Games, Carley Morrow from App Attic and Mark Westwood from Jumpstart
From Left to right; David Baxter from Boom Clap Games, Carley Morrow from App Attic and Mark Westwood from Jumpstart

With this in mind, Games NI held a discussion with R&D tax experts Jumpstart at the Northern Ireland Screen offices to chat about what the R&D Tax Relief scheme actually means for gaming companies here. R&D tax expert Jumpstart was on hand to explain that game development and interactive entertainment companies should take full advantage of the potential financial gains.

“From designers to producers, it was great to chat to a real mixture of gaming companies. You see, I’m not an accountant; I’m a software developer,” says Mark Westwood, a Technical Analyst at Jumpstart, who has over 30 years’ experience in software development.

“The fact that everyone knows about the Video Games Tax Relief (VGTR) is great to hear – I was very impressed by the knowledge the NI gaming sector has of it,” he continued. Mark also revealed that opportunities exist to claim both VGTR and R&D tax relief, but advised that care is required as HMRC are very particular about what is eligible.

Continuing, Mark says: “However, I found that knowledge on the R&D Tax Relief scheme was a bit sketchier. We have found that some people have looked into the scheme, but it really is under-utilised across Northern Ireland. Which is a shame really, as it’s not often HMRC actually offers you ‘money on the table’!”

 Mark Westwood from Jumpstart
Mark Westwood from Jumpstart

Kitty Crawford, Deputy Chair of Games NI, thought the event was highly informative for both herself and other companies in attendance: “It was superb to get a good overall grounding on the R&D Tax Relief scheme, as well as the opportunity to ask specific, technical questions which was very useful. Even though some companies may not be in a position to claim relief now, it is of huge benefit to know about it for the future.”

If there was one thing that the gaming sector in NI should know about the R&D Tax Relief scheme, Ian Wolfendale, Jumpstart’s Client Engagement Manager, said: “Take a look into it. Don’t ignore it and think it’s not for you, as you could be pleasantly surprised.

“After all, analysis of HMRC’s latest figures shows that NI companies – across all sectors – account for just 2.7% of total claims and a mere 1.6% of the total tax benefits claimed from across the UK. This tells me that the R&D tax relief scheme is massively underutilised here.”

If you would like to chat about what opportunities there may be for your organisation, drop Ian a line at ian.wolfendale@jumpstartuk.com, or find out more at their website.

 

 Guest post by Gavin Williamson, lead organiser of the event, from Lanyon Communications
Guest post by Gavin Williamson, lead organiser of the event, from Lanyon Communications

 

 

Categories
Developer News Industry News

Northern Ireland talent among TIGA Awards nominations

Northern Ireland talent is among the nominations for the 2016 TIGA Awards which will take place on the 10th November at the Christ Church Spitalfield in London.

Three games developed in Northern Ireland have been nominated in three separate categories. Blackstaff Games’ Safari Slides is nominated in the Puzzle Game Category, Iglu Media’s E1027 is nominated in the Educational Game category and Outsider Games’ Wailing Heights is nominated in the Visual Design category. Italic Pig’s Kevin Beimers is also part of the team behind The Bunker which is nominated in two categories.

Safari Slides is a mobile puzzle game where players follow the adventures of the Safari families as they cruise their way around the world hitting every water park as they go! At each park they attend it’s your job to get them from the top of the park to the bottom, unscrambling the slides as you go.

In E1027 players explore the home of renowned architect Eileen Gray, E1027, regarded as a 20th century architectural masterpiece. Players are tasked with restoring the building to its old glory and uncovering the secrets within it.

Wailing Heights is a coffin-rocking, body-hopping, musical adventure PC game, set in a village which is home to vegan werewolves, hipster vampires and soulful zombies. Play as music band manger Frances Finklestein who arrives in Wailing Heights and is charged with the crime of being alive.

Kevin Beimers is a Northern Ireland based video game developer who was a writer on The Bunker. Kevin is currently working on his own project Mona Lisa, a stealth adventure game were players play as a Renaissance robot who is also the 16th century’s greatest art thief.

For the full list of nominees visit the TIGA website.