From deep in the Swedish woods, a new idea has been brewing.
Well twenty-three new ideas, really, but each one springs from one unique vision: an accelerator that drops the knife usually wielded by investors to carve profits from theses programs.
Stugan 2015 is the nest-egg of Rovio’s Oskar Burman and games industry veteran Tommy Palm, who recently left King to plunder the untapped potential of virtual reality with his startup Resolution Games.
Vi går in i skogen
Inspired by Andy Warhol’s New York “Factory,” Palm and Burman invited 23 games developers to spend a summer in Swedish nature where they could develop their games under the tutelage of some of our industry’s greatest mentors – including veterans from Mojang, DICE and King.
Paying for all their food and accommodation, Stugan asks for nothing in exchange. No share in the company, no say in the IP – not even a back rub.
It sounds too good to be true doesn’t it?
Indeed, as word of Stugan spread onto sites like Pocket Gamer, VentureBeat and Wired, commenters found it hard to shake the perception that at the very least Stugan was populated by espresso-addled hipsters who had flunked their art foundation and were coding to fund their moustache wax habit.
But PocketGamer.biz spent the entire two months at Stugan, and can confirm that there are no strings attached to this venture that has drawn genuine talent from as far as Australia.
Palm and Burman believe that they and the mentors – including Minecraft’s lead programmer Jens Bergensten and King’s senior creative director Stephen Jarrett – benefit from the participants’ creativity.
While they don’t gain financially, each sponsor and mentor can learn lessons from the indies that are working their way to the top – and gain the satisfaction of helping them on that journey.
Now before you sound the cliché claxon, that genuinely is the aim, and what better place to do it than Sweden?
This is the country that has produced global hit franchises including Candy Crush Saga and Minecraft, while according to Fortune over 700 million people play Swedish video games.
That’s one out of every ten people on the planet, generating over $1 billion for Swedish developers in 2013.
The head of the Swedish Games Association Per Stromback came to Stugan and gave a presentation in which he predicted a 25-35 percent increase in Swedish games industry employment and revenues in 2014, once the tax numbers are calculated.
Into the woods
The space to create in the calm of Sweden’s countryside away from “real life” pressures created a unique environment for development.
Indeed one of the teams, Rosvita, ended up completely redesigning a core mechanic of their eponymous game after feedback from mentors – a gargantuan task they would not have been able to achieve had they not all had two months to work together in one place.
“In a way it’s funny that this change only really happened because we were at Stugan,” Rosvita’s programmer João Guerra said.
“If we weren’t I don’t think we would have been able to push through and create something completely different. It’s all thanks to the amount of developers here, the mentors, and the feedback they’ve been giving us.”
Wendelin Reich, the creator of VR artificial intelligence game A Dog’s Heart agrees.
“There are a lot of people here, but you get really close to them, you get to know them really well after two months and that’s really important.
"But there are also a lot of mentors, which are really important because you get new ideas three times a week from people you’ve never met before but who really know a lot more than you do about games.”
Both Palm and Oskar alongside Stugan’s project manager Jana Karlikova have said they intend to make Stugan an annual event, and are currently looking for sponsors to fund next year.
In the meantime, you can head over to Stugan’s official YouTube channel for more details on each of the games this year’s developers created, as well as weekly roundups charting what happened every week deep in the Swedish woods.