A student’s eye view of PocketGamer Connects Helsinki 2015

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Pocket Gamer Connects Helsinki 2015 has come and gone. The two day event was packed full of unreleased games, developers, industry talks, and a huge number of eager gamers ready to bask in the wisdom of their industry peers.

I’m a Games Development student, so I found a lot of inspiration in fantastic speakers like Jon Hare (Sensible Soccer) and Sam Barlow (Her Story) and Rami Ismail (Ridiculous Fishing).

I feel I was able to take in a lot more from people with real-world experience of creating games, who had spent time working in development teams, than I would learn in university.

Talking and listening to people with first-­hand experience was hugely important. Being surrounded by developers whose games I have enjoyed immensely was a surreal experience, and one that I will always remember.

Meeting up with the AppSpy team was a particular highlight. Upon arrival at the Pocket Gamer media lounge I was greeted by the friendly faces of Peter, Harry, and Glen, who all made me feel incredibly welcome.

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After a short conversation we took a walk around the beautiful Wanha Satama Exhibition Centre to see what the event had to offer.

Pocket Gamer Connects is not all about business – there’s a wonderful area that encourages attendees to talk to developers and play as yet unreleased games.

I had a blast with this, as any mobile game enthusiast would. The creativity of game developers never ceases to amaze me.

The first game I had a go on was Battle Buzz, which put me in the shoes of an army of bees fighting to stop a horde of zombie bees from claiming their homeland in a free to play tower defence game.

Rovio was showing off Nibblers, a match-three game, while Nitro Games showcased Raids of Glory, a 3D strategy / action game focusing on pirates.

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My favourite game of the show came from Orc Work – Evilibrium: Soul Hunters. It’s a unique collectible card battler with a beautiful, gothic-inspired art style.

From the moment I first saw the game, I was grabbed by the art style and found myself wanting to know more about the world Orc Work had created.

Evilibrium: Soul Hunters takes place on a real world map, where players can progress through set missions. The player places creature cards in their hand, arranging them in a strategic fashion in a bid to defeat enemies.

Battles are played out automatically, creatures can be levelled up, and as you might expect there was a stat mechanic in place. I’m really looking forward to it.

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As soon as I finished playing, I noticed that the Very Big Indie Pitch had begun. Development teams were
moving from table to table like frantic speed daters, pitching their games to the judges.

Five games reached the final, which took place on day two: Polybeats, Make More!, Shadow Bug, Dead Effect 2, and Tile Tales.

The Pocket Gamer Party was soon upon us as the end of the first day came and we began to pour in to the aptly named “Party Bus.” We soon hit our destination -­ the Virgin Oil Restaurant, bar and nightclub.

Just like the Wanha Satama Exhibition Centre, the venue was beautiful both inside and out.

Party­goers were greeted at the door with three Pocket Gamer dollars each.

I was treated to several of these throughout the night from Pocket Gamer staff, and it made me feel like royalty.

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With the party blazing in the background I was able to talk with Peter again and catch some other developers before they headed off to belt out songs on the karaoke machine.

Game developers are not as shy as you may think. I sat back and enjoyed several developers and industry professionals march their way to the grand stage, surrounded by stone statues, to present their singing voice to the masses.

Let me tell you, it was some of the best karaoke I have ever seen. Jon Hare can really crank out a tune!

Day two of the event had a more casual feel, as if we were all on vacation, staying in a large hotel, and embracing the world of video games.

This may have been thanks to the amount of alcohol consumed the night before!

I attended talks and I feel much better for it thanks to the vast knowledge that each of these individuals had to share with everyone in the room.

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The talks focusing on monetisation of games in Asian markets, and a live demo of Unreal Engine 4 by Epic Games were particularly exciting.

You could feel the enthusiasm in the room as budding developers got to witness a 2D game created in UE4.

Of course, the highlight of the final day was the grand final of the Very Big Indie Pitch, where five teams with fantastic games had to present to a keen audience in a bid to win a prize.

The final was the icing on the cake. It was the grand finale of the event, and you could see that everyone was equally exhausted and excited.

Each game was presented on stage with live gameplay demos. We had everything from a clicker game about creating rubber ducks and a ninja-style platformer to a tile based puzzler.

All of the finalists’ games were wonderfully unique in their own way, but there could only be one winner – Polybeats.

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The rhythm-based tower defence game showed huge potential and was clearly the event favourite.

After two amazing days, Pocket Gamer Connects Helsinki 2015 had come to a close and I said my goodbyes to the Pocket Gamer and AppSpy team, who amazed me with their hospitality.

I had an absolutely wonderful time and I will be back for Pocket Gamer Connects when it rumbles in to London early next year.

 

 

 

 

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