About this Episode

Greg is joined by Olli Mäntylä, a pivotal figure in the gaming industry. Olli, who serves as the director of the Game Development World Championship (GDWC) and the founder and CEO of Ace Lagoon, shares an in-depth look into the workings of the GDWC. He explains how the championship is not just a competition but a platform that allows developers from around the globe to showcase their games. Olli emphasizes that the GDWC is designed to be accessible to game developers of all levels, from indie to more established studios, and discusses the variety of prizes that range from industry recognition to substantial funding and publishing deals.

The conversation also delves into the challenges and intricacies of organizing such a massive event, including the process of game submission, judging, and feedback. Olli reveals that he personally plays over 2,000 games a year to ensure a fair and comprehensive evaluation process. He also discusses the new initiatives by Ace Lagoon, like the Pipelines project, which aims to connect developers with publishers and funding opportunities.

Key Takeaways:

  • Global Participation: Learn how developers worldwide can enter their games, regardless of the development stage.
  • Judging Insights: Discover the unique challenges of judging thousands of games and how biases are managed.
  • Pipelines Initiative: A new opportunity for developers to secure funding and support.

For a deeper understanding of these topics and to get a firsthand account of the behind-the-scenes efforts that go into organizing a global game development competition, tune into this episode of Player: Engage.

AI Transcript: Olli Mäntylä

Greg Posner: 00:01: 00:35: Good morning, everybody, and welcome to the Player: Engage podcast. Greg here. Today, we’re joined by Olli Mäntylä. He is the director at the Game Development World Championship. He’s the founder and CEO of Ace Lagoon, and he’s also had other roles as biz dev and co-founder in the gaming industry. And I’m really excited about today’s episode because I think when you start hearing more what they do at the Game Development World Championship, you’ll get a better understanding of that and how he gets to play all these different games. Before we even jump into it, Olli, thank you so much for joining me today. Is there anything you’d like to say to introduce yourself?
Olli Mantyla : 00:35: 00:45: Thank you for having me, Greg, and hello to everybody. And I think we are good to jump into the questions. That was already a pretty all-encompassing intro, I think.

Greg Posner: 00:46: 01:18: Yeah, so our audience can kind of get an understanding. Oli and I met at GDC this year. He helped some of our colleagues at our community clubhouse, which you’ll hear more about in the next few weeks. But I was introduced to Oli and his position and what they do at the Game Development World Championship. And I’m going to hand it over to you here, Oli, to kind of explain what you do at the Gdwc is what I’ll call it because it’s a little easier, but I’ll explain to I’ll let you explain what they do and let people understand why it’s so cool.

Olli Mantyla : 01:19: 02:03: Yeah, absolutely. So GDWC is a global open competition for game developers, meaning basically anybody anywhere can participate and submit a game that they have either developed and released within like a narrow window before the competition or that they are working on right now. And just to make this clear to everybody, we are not a game jam, so you don’t have to make the game for us. You can just submit the game that you’re working on anyway. And that’s basically, we kind of do like an Oscar thing here, where we collect all the games, then we bring in industry people to pick the winners of best games in multiple different categories. And that’s kind of the gist of the whole thing.

Greg Posner: 02:03: 02:17: So not a game jam, but any indie game who’s making, or developer that’s making a game can join the GDWC and try to win an award in specific categories. What are the typical types of prizes that they’re shooting for?

Olli Mantyla : 02:18: 03:22: The prizes vary a lot. In the past years we used to bring in representatives from the development teams to visit us in Finland and to meet people from the Finnish games industry and just to have a bit of fun and so on. And that was one of the main prizes we used to do ourselves. Then we’ve had lots of great sponsors and partners throughout the years who have provided lots of their services, like special services to help the developers forward. We’ve had cash prizes even in the past, and also software licenses, of course, for different tools. Houdini has been a great sponsor over the years, multiple times, and we’ve given out a lot of Houdini licenses. And we’ve even had publishing deals from a VR publishing partner in the past, and even marketing funding for mobile games going up to $100,000 for the winner, and so on. So we’ve had all kinds of prizes, ranging from, well, basically the whole spectrum that you can imagine.

Greg Posner: 03:23: 03:51: Yeah, that’s awesome. So I mean, in my mind, and you can correct me, but if you if you have an indie game, that’s in a decent state close to launcher or playable, I guess, right? There’s no negative, except maybe time and effort, because obviously, time and effort, something that studios have, but there’s no reason you shouldn’t look into things like this, right? Because there’s prizes, there’s visibility, right? You’re It’s a way to get noticed. Am I wrong in my thinking here?

Olli Mantyla : 03:51: 04:54: No, no, you’re absolutely correct. Especially we understand that the developers have a lot on their plate and limited amount of time to do things. So we try to make the participation as easy as possible, depending a bit on the season that we have and thus our categories change a bit for each season. So sometimes there might be a bit more work if you want to participate into everything. And sometimes there’s less categories and less work for us to participate. And also, if you just want to participate on the default categories that we do ourselves, then it’s really quick and easy, usually. So, and I think you definitely always should look into, you should always participate in GDWC, and you should, of course, look at other opportunities, because they all just aim to promote the games that are out there and coming out and so on. And, I mean, that is one of the biggest challenges most developers face, is to get found and get seen by people. So, definitely, you should, like, generally aim to, like, do anything you can to get visibility for your game.

Greg Posner: 04:55: 05:21: In the indie world, right? It’s often people always talk about, I don’t know where to get funding. I’m looking for funding. Where do I get funding? Right. Whether it be GDWC or other, other contests, right? This is a great way to learn visibility of, Hey, what do others think of my game? Where can I improve my pitch? What else do I need to add this? And I’m assuming this is the type of feedback you’ll give not to everyone, obviously, because you’re getting lots of applicants, but towards the end, I assume everyone’s taking this advice and hopefully running with it.

Olli Mantyla : 05:22: 06:17: Yeah, the feedback is absolutely a big challenge because of the amount of games we get. And unfortunately, we haven’t been able to provide proper feedback for all the games in the competition. It is something we are looking to fix and hopefully can fix in the future. Overall, I think you should definitely just take it as an experience and see what you can do. If you win, great. If you don’t win, then take the steps of thinking what could I have done better, what was maybe the things affecting my game and so on. But also, there is the fact that if you don’t win, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with your game. you might just, you might literally be like on the position six before, from out of like hundreds of games. And if we reward top five, then unfortunately you didn’t quite make it.

Greg Posner: 06:17: 06:59: Yeah. And that shouldn’t dissuade people, right? Cause I mean, a lot of the launch of a game is timing. It’s the community that you’ve built all this stuff around it as well. Right. And you know, it’s funny how, how you can have the best idea in the world, but if the timing isn’t right, it’s just not going to be the right time for it. And I don’t think people, really factor that in. I mean, it’s a bit of luck, right? And you can’t really do that. But what you can control is the game that you’re building. You can take the feedback from what you get from GDWC from your other players as well to hear what you’re going to do. And you can build upon that. And I think, I mean, this is part of the reason you might go into early access or you might go to alpha and beta to get that feedback. So the main question I had on my mind is not the main question at all is how many games do you think you play a year?

Olli Mantyla : 06:59: 07:28: I’ve probably played Well over 2,000 games a year, easily. So, yeah. I mean, last season we had over 1,900 games submitted. The previous, the season before that was over 1,800 games. I have playtested, not everything, but I have playtested most of them. So, and on top of that, then like the previous season before that as well, so.

Greg Posner: 07:28: 07:41: So, this is a question I just had for myself is… How do you, and this is a silly question, but how do you deal with installing all these games? Like, there must be a ton of work that has to go into just setting this up.

Olli Mantyla : 07:41: 08:33: That is true. I mean, Steam is luckily a pretty good tool and a lot of games, even if they’re not finished yet, they are already on Steam one way or another or on itch.io. And they are both really good for installing games, especially Steam, of course. and other storefronts as well, if the games are available in there in one form or the other. But then, of course, a lot of them are just installation files that we have to download, we have to check them, everything, that they’re safe, and then just install them. And I mean, we use remote gaming machines for that, just for security reasons, to install everything on a separate machine. But yeah, it is a bit of a process, and it takes quite a bit of time. And even just activating the games on Steam is a bit of a workload, to be honest.

Greg Posner: 08:34: 08:54: It’s funny, I was thinking about that this morning. I was like, wow, he must spend a lot of time installing games. It gave me anxiety thinking about this random publisher you’ve never heard of or developer you’ve never heard of. I’m going to install their game on my computer right now and just trust it’s going to work. And obviously you’re using the remote machine, so you’re safer there. But I just kind of thought about, wow, that’s a time. You’ve got to learn how to juggle your time with that.

Olli Mantyla : 08:55: 09:27: Yeah, you kind of have to have multiple things running at the same time just to set everything up. Because transferring, even just downloading all the installation files, that’s already a bit of a workload. Luckily, there are some ways to automate that, partially at least. So we can load big chunks of them at once. And it also varies how people provide their games. Largely, like I just mentioned, like Itch.io and Steam games and just like Google Drive download links and stuff like that.

Greg Posner: 09:27: 10:03: So when you’re playing these. few thousand games, right? Everyone has a bias. Some people like sports games, some people like roguelites, hyper casual is popular. I saw casual is going to make more of a comeback here, right? And obviously there’s going to be some bias towards these games when you’re playing them, right? How do you, and I know there’s other judges as well, right? But how do you kind of mentally set your mindset towards, all right, I’m not necessarily playing this for fun, obviously it is for fun, but but you may not pick up a roguelite if you don’t like roguelites that are fun. But how do you how do you go in with an honest judgment when you’re playing a game type that may not be your cup of tea?

Olli Mantyla : 10:05: 12:43: That is, first of all, a challenge and a really good question. I can’t say how exactly other judges necessarily do this, and we’ve had cases where judges have directly admitted that they don’t like a specific type of game and even asked if they can skip those type of games or give them to other judges, which we usually accommodate if they don’t feel that they can comfortably or be fair for the game. Funnily enough, we’ve even had judges say that I don’t like these types of games, and this was the best game of the year. So, I think that is a very high praise for any game. But personally, I think what helps is just having a background in having, first of all, worked in game development, and also just having played all kinds of games over the years, and from all the way back in the history of Commodore 64. So, I kind of… No, I have some experience with all kinds of games in technical sense and design sense on a pretty wide degree. So, I think that gives a good perspective. And you, of course, kind of have to force yourself a little bit to think like, what am I thinking? Am I just like… Am I being objective about this game? And like, there are games that are maybe, for me, not my favorite things. But then I kind of have to sort of steer myself towards like, okay, what are the cool things in these games, usually what people like? Does this seem to have those elements? And even just like basic mechanics, like, is the game doing basic mechanics well? Like, is there something that’s not gender dependent that just is annoyingly done, for example, or poorly done, or super well done, or so on. So, yeah, it is a balancing act. And you kind of have to always… Rank the games against each other, which becomes even more challenging because you can have so different types of games. We don’t do traditionally just genre-specific categories. We just have more of a team size and commercial, non-commercial games categories and that kind of thing. So, you can have technically like an RPG going against an FPS and an RTS game. And then it’s like, okay, even if I like all of these, they are very different experiences, they are very different to start. And then you have to sort of like, what are the things that I’m valuing here especially? And it’s not easy, but you kind of have to… Ultimately, you have to put one game above the other and you have to have a reason for that.

Greg Posner: 12:44: 13:44: Yeah, it’s kind of crazy how it’s like you just said an RPG versus an FPS, right? Like, it’s not normally, I’m not gonna say it’s not fair, because a great RPG and a great FPS are both going to be great games. It’s just interesting how you get to mix the two genres. And I get it. It’s awesome. I love you. You’re looking for the best of the best. And it’s a fascinating, fascinating topic. And I, you know, I think, I don’t know why I liken it to this kind of thing. But, you know, when you go to the eye doctor, they change your lenses. They’re like, what’s better one or two, one or two, and then they go, all right, two or three, two or three. I’m just like, wow, when you’re playing this many games, they must bleed and blend into each other. And one of the things I’m terrible at and trying to get better at is staying organized, keeping your notes and all this stuff. Well, what’s your preferred method of staying organized? How do you stay on top and make sure you know that, hey, this game I played first happened to be the best game, even though 685 games later, I still have that one?

Olli Mantyla : 13:44: 15:57: First of all, we used to do just Google Sheets heavily and with ranking systems there. Now we have our own ranking tools as a part of our platform that we use. But that is something where you kind of have to just revisit the games. And you have to re-look at it, because the fact is, like… Of course, it takes a long time to review. Even if we’re doing preliminary reviews, it takes time to go through all the games. So, you kind of have to revisit them, especially the top and top list of like, why are these games… Like, these games got here yesterday. Or like, these games got here last week. This week, you just might be on a different mindset and that way, your ranking might be chained off. There can be a clear offset. So, you kind of have to revisit them regularly and just rethink, is this actually better than that? Or should this actually be higher? Should this actually be lower? But once you go through the games multiple times, checking, not necessarily playtesting every time, but just reviewing trailers, screenshots, descriptions and just like, you have some idea in your head what it feels like to play. You kind of start seeing relatively quickly, at least like, let’s say we have an indie category with 800 games. You start seeing like, okay, these certain games keep creeping up again and again to the top. Maybe not to the top 5, maybe not even to the top 10, but easily to like top 30, top 50. And then you sort of mull over that again and again and again and again, and you start finding like, okay, is the differences start to become narrower? Or like, why is this better than this? And so on. And again, the factors… may move about a little bit as you go through that, but you can’t really directly trust that the game that I put as number one a week ago will still be number one this week. Even if I currently don’t instantly put anything ahead of it.

Greg Posner: 15:58: 16:09: So with the ranking stuff, right, are you communicating with the other judges or is it a private type of thing where you’re not allowed to share information until the end?

Olli Mantyla : 16:09: 18:08: That varies a little bit. We have had, we’ve done like, especially like preview judging where the judges just give their own rankings and they have different sets of games. And then we sort of like put those numbers together. But then we’ve also like, with our own internal team, we’ve gone through We’ve gone through the games and just like discussed together. Especially when it’s come time, because when the final juries review the games, they don’t review all the games. We can’t dump 800 games to a visiting judge. So they get a short list of games. So then it becomes like, okay, we now have a ranking of roughly 800 games, which let’s say there’s like top 100, top 150 is like the interesting part. And we already have like a top 30 that we need to provide judges. Then we usually go through like, okay, is this really the best top 30 there is? And we review it again, multiple times of like, and there usually is some switching around at the very top at that point still. But we kind of have to be confident in the short list that we provide to the final judges. And just to sort of continue on that a little bit, we don’t prevent the final jury members from discussing. We used to actually have We’ve sort of shifted around the format a little bit. We used to have smaller juries in the past for the final juries, but they used to have like a meeting where they discuss together what is the actual top listing. But we’ve gone more towards bringing in more judges and allowing them to sort of Because working out schedules for all the quest judges, especially with judges from different continents and so on, can become really challenging for the meetings. So we’ve kind of moved towards just like a ranking system where everybody ranks the games the way they see best on their own. But again, some of them are from the same companies, so they discuss.

Greg Posner: 18:08: 18:18: When you’re in your role, Does gaming become less fun because of how much work you’re putting into it?

Olli Mantyla : 18:18: 18:36: On judging period, it kind of does. It does kill the vibe a little bit over time for a brief while. But then after a while, you just… I mean, gaming is still fun. You kind of jump back into your favorite games that you want to play and just continue with that.

Greg Posner: 18:37: 18:53: Usually this would be my my kind of fireball around question, but I’m gonna ask you now is that When you’re kind of judging and you kind of need to kind of clean your palate, right? Is there a game you’ll always pick up that you’ll know can hey reset me.

Olli Mantyla : 18:53: 18:54: Ah That’s a good question. I haven’t really thought about that.

Greg Posner: 18:54: 18:57: He’s a palate cleanser, right? Maybe solitaire

Olli Mantyla : 18:59: 19:11: Maybe, I might play Hitman when I play that, when I do that. Alright. Or Payday 2. Because those are like… Those are like really long time games that I’ve been playing for a long time.

Greg Posner: 19:11: 19:14: You don’t want to pick up Payday 3?

Olli Mantyla : 19:14: 19:26: I haven’t yet. I heard, I don’t know if they’ve changed this, but the original progression system that they had. I don’t like that type of progression system personally, so I just didn’t pick it up.

Greg Posner: 19:27: 19:48: Yeah, it was a it was an interesting start to that game. Yeah. So let’s actually go into our fireball round. I’m just going to throw a few questions at you. Super simple questions. Answer them as you would. First question is what do you have for breakfast today? Today, coffee. Perfect. If you what’s your dream vacation?

Olli Mantyla : 19:48: 20:02: Dream vacation? Maybe Okay, maybe like the next one I’m planning is maybe going to New York. Because I haven’t been to New York, so that’s… That’s probably it right now.

Greg Posner: 20:02: 20:13: Well, if you come to New York, hit up Ed and I, we’re both outside of New York. I will. If you are going to go to a bar and order a drink, what is the drink you’re ordering?

Olli Mantyla : 20:13: 20:16: Gin and tonic made from Napue gin.

Greg Posner: 20:16: 20:22: Okay. And then the last question I have for you is what is your all-time favourite game?

Olli Mantyla : 20:23: 21:32: Oh, that’s… well, yeah. That is a challenging one. Well, Hitman, the latest World of Assassination, is really good. Payday 2 is also awesome. I’ve played it, a lot of it. I have a love-hate relationship with that game. And then, but then, like, Fallout 2 is definitely one of my all-time favorites. I played it back when it came out. I was probably too young to play it, but I still played it. I actually, like, Fallout 1 and Fallout 2 and then, like, Baldur’s Gate games were basically my way of learning English. And because I played them with, and actually, Planescape Torment, I played with, like, Finnish to English dictionary. Because I didn’t, that was the only way I could, like, understand anything. And then, like, all of those are great. But also one, like, Brother, A Tale of Two Sons. That is like, that is absolutely one of the best games I’ve ever played. So, that has to be like really at the high, at the top. So, it’s kind of split between those. And I’m kind of suspecting that you usually get this kind of answer.

Greg Posner: 21:32: 22:27: Because… No, it always really varies, to be honest with you. You know, it’s… You get a lot of kind of the basics like mine, not basics like Minecraft, right? I mean, Fortnite, they’ve been around for a long time. I’m partial to RTSs, like the command and conquers of the day. Also a good one. Yeah. But I think that’s all I have for you for the hot seat. So I like your answers, but let’s go back to competition. First off, I mean, within your role where you’re sitting, right, I feel like you have visibility on what’s coming out in gaming, right? So do you feel like you have a front seat to the current trends that are happening in gaming? And before I let you answer this, right, there’s things that are like live ops or always online types of games, right? Which I don’t know if you can test that because the games may not be in a stage that are there, but do you have that visibility on kind of where people think games are going and does it align properly, would you say?

Olli Mantyla : 22:29: 25:22: I think partially, yes. I mean, at least we can see interesting trends there. They might be a bit on a delay. For example, I know that Among Us was in our competition before it broke big. That was before my time, I think like two years. But it was in the competition. I don’t know if they were, it didn’t win. So I don’t know if they were able to see what it would become. I suspect nobody was able to see that. But on the trend side, after COVID, we saw a huge spike in, like, Visual Novels games jumping in. There was like a massive… There’s always Visual Novels in the competition, but there was a huge spike of them. And then the spike went away in the following years. They are still there, but nowhere near as many as back then. Also we’ve seen like adventure games definitely are consistently there and like a really there’s a really good quality adventure like old point-and-click adventure games or variations of that type of game. Like if you look at the marketplace as like a just like briefly it might seem that they are dead but they definitely are there at least I mean to be honest I don’t know if they are selling They are there, they are being made, and they are really good. And we’ve seen a couple of spikes, maybe, in a few years, where there’s been surprisingly many of them. But again, they take quite a bit of time to make, so… Understandably not every year. Also, like, I’ve seen weird, I wouldn’t maybe call this a trend, but… One year, we had suddenly three games that all had, like, one of the core mechanics was delivering mail. And then we haven’t seen any like that afterwards. But it was like one year, three of those, and then none afterwards. So, it was kind of funny just to, like, notice that from among all the games. But yeah, it’s hard to say if we really, like, we don’t necessarily even look at that. But it would be… It would be interesting to look at what the trends overall are and how they match to market trends in general. As for games as service games go, we do get those as well every now and then. They are a bit more challenging because the game kind of needs to be out properly for it to work. Well, I mean, it depends a bit on how it’s set up, but usually. Yeah, it’s… For example, I didn’t see… What’s the… That was a big hit last fall. The Lethal Company, is it called?

Greg Posner: 25:22: 25:23: Which one?

Olli Mantyla : 25:23: 25:34: The one where you go and you collect these things from… As a group of space guys. And then there’s monsters that hunt you.

Greg Posner: 25:34: 25:37: Oh, well, there’s Helldivers, but that’s… No, before that.

Olli Mantyla : 25:37: 25:40: It was made by one guy.

Greg Posner: 25:40: 25:42: Deep Rock. Oh, I don’t know. I gotta look it up.

Olli Mantyla : 25:43: 25:44: I think it’s Lethal Company.

Greg Posner: 25:44: 25:46: Lethal Company?

Olli Mantyla : 25:46: 25:55: Yeah. Or something along those lines. There was a lot of like… It was a big hit, and I think it’s still doing really well.

Greg Posner: 25:55: 25:58: Look at that, 10 out of 10 on Steam.

Olli Mantyla : 25:58: 25:58: Yeah.

Greg Posner: 25:58: 25:59: Crushing it.

Olli Mantyla : 25:59: 26:07: Yeah, it has a really interesting visual. It’s almost like PlayStation 1 era kind of thing, but it’s still a bit of its own style.

Greg Posner: 26:07: 26:29: I’ll have to check it out. Uh, but that’s an interesting thing is like, and I’m guessing the answer is no based on what you said, but, um, you’re not selling any of these trends or analytics. You’re not selling them. Sorry. If selling comes to mind, but like creating white papers, like, Hey, this year we had 85 action games and 10% of them were hypercat. I don’t know. Like you don’t, you don’t do any sort of trends or white papers with that or with analytics with this type of stuff, huh?

Olli Mantyla : 26:29: 27:08: Yeah, we are. That is, that is something we have, uh, considered. We just haven’t like. We honestly haven’t had the manpower to focus on that. But it is something that’s been on the mind, because there is a lot of games, and it would be interesting to pull that type of data. We do have a survey for the developers as a part of the submission, which is completely optional, where we do get some details on what kind of tools they use, that kind of basic stuff, and do they plan to use outsourcing, for example, and stuff like that. Cool. A little bit there, but we haven’t fully embraced that part yet.

Greg Posner: 27:08: 27:32: You’re sitting on a treasure trove of data here. Yeah, I know. Let’s talk about it from the publisher, the studio, the developer, right? Because these are the guys and gals who are applying, trying to get their game made, looking for funding. Can you kind of give us the high-level rundown of what it’s like to apply, what happens when we’re accepted, and kind of the next steps if I was creating my own game?

Olli Mantyla : 27:34: 29:20: OK, so if you want to submit your game, the first thing is just to create an account on our site at thegdwc.com. Then you need to add your team, which can be your company. It can be if you’re a publisher. It can be your publishing company. It can be if you’re a student team, just your student team’s name. Or if you’re a solo developer, then just the name that you want to have, sort of the entity that you want to be connected to your game. And then you add your game. The game submission form, like I said earlier, it varies a little bit based on what categories we have. But basically you need to provide us just like a description of the game and of course name for it. And what platform it’s on, preferably a trailer, some screenshots. And that’s majority of it. And then you, if you just want to participate in one of our main categories, that’s automatic. Once you submit it, you don’t need to select anything. If there are, depending on what custom categories we have there, you might have to fill out some extra details for some of those, if you want to participate in them. And then basically you just hit submit. There is a bit at the end of the form where you need to submit also an activation key, or download link, or something that we have access to the build. You don’t have to do that right away. Because we have roughly four months of submission time usually per season. So some people join, of course, really early. But they don’t necessarily have a build then. So they can add the build in later as well. So it is… I’d say anywhere from five to 10 minutes max to do the whole thing, generally.

Greg Posner: 29:20: 29:36: So when you’re accepted, you get an email, hey, you made it, we need your key by a certain period, because you got those months to keep building, keep grinding, whatever you got to do to build it, right? Then if you’re accepted, how long is the typical kind of process from being accepted to the awards?

Olli Mantyla : 29:37: 31:52: Yeah, so we don’t really do the accepting phase specifically, because basically everybody is automatically in the competition. We just straight up go into like preliminary judging and we kind of consider every game is a possible winner at that point. So basically, before we close the submission time, we do reach out to developers if they haven’t finished their submission, if they’re missing a build or something. So we do try to remind everybody to, hey, finish your submission before the time runs out, add your game in there. So for the developer, basically, if you are among the finalists for a category, you get a message from us that, hey, you are a finalist in here. And then basically depends, again, a bit on the things. Sometimes we have custom things that need to be done there for specific categories where we might require like, hey, you need to fill out, for example, this survey. Since you’re a finalist in here, if you want to actually have a chance at winning, this is the last step. Sometimes there’s something like that. But oftentimes you just are let known that you are in the finals. And then you kind of get to know at the awards if you won or not. And I mean, we do request, usually at that point, some new materials from you, like videos. We usually request a thank you video from everybody, because it’s kind of great to show like, if you can’t be at the award show, to have like a video thank you. And of course, if you are a finalist, we can’t tell you if you won, so we have to ask it from everybody, which is unfortunately some unnecessary work for some, you know, keeping the excitement alive. It’s pretty straightforward from there overall. And right now, the feedback system, like I mentioned, if we have feedback, we can send it directly to the developers from the judges. But we are looking to update the system so that you would get the feedback on the platform itself. So you could see like which categories you are on. get the feedback straight up there. Yeah, there yet, unfortunately, but it’s I aim to have it there in the near future.

Greg Posner: 31:52: 32:25: Yeah, I’m curious if and maybe this is going to go into my next question. But when you when it comes to feedback, is there often a type of feedback that you’re giving the most like, hey, you’re trying this too much? Or this isn’t clear? Or is that and maybe this rolls into this question? Or what are the some of the common mistakes that you see time and time again, you know, when you’re building a game, you’re like, this is my baby, I’m going to build the best game in the world. And some people are kind of blind to feedback. But are you seeing common mistakes that these companies or publishers or studio, I keep saying publishers, but developers make when they’re building these games?

Olli Mantyla : 32:25: 36:27: That’s sort of, I mean, there are some that we see. But the thing is that once we get to the, like, even to the top 30 of most categories, it’s very rare to see those type of like, any kind of like a basic level. mix-up or mistakes because the games are usually already so well polished or well made that not necessarily finished even if they are like alphas or something they might they are just usually very well polished at that point but the common mistakes that we see so they come usually in earlier they include things like Just like the game breaking in unnecessary ways. We’ve had so many games where you have some kind of tutorial window that pops up, tries to tell you something, and then it just steals all your input away and it doesn’t let you play at all. That is really unfortunate. And of course, it’s possible that that’s a mistake with a specific device. But basically, every time that that has been a problem, it has been a problem beyond testing on multiple devices. So that’s really unfortunate. Some things that have come up with judges as well, which is not a technical issue, but the thing that tends to annoy people. which is not the best when you are in a tight competition, being judged by multiple jury members. But this has come up that some games try to push their story and worldbuilding too much, too early in the game. And, okay, this is not necessarily the most descriptive of a normal player’s experience, because understandably, the jury members are oftentimes under a lot of pressure to review the games. They don’t have unlimited time and so on. So, but regardless, the basically cases where you try to start the game and then it gives you a massive lore dump. And then, at the worst cases, it doesn’t let you go past those. So for developers who love their world building, love their story, I would just urge them to rethink how they want to feed that story to the player. Because games are still interactive media. You should get into the interactive part preferably a bit faster, at least in this context. So that’s one of the things that we’ve run into a lot. It doesn’t necessarily kill a game’s chance, but it is usually a little bit of a mark against if it’s… Especially if the game then, when you die on the first obstacle or whatever… It throws you back before the Lord. Then it’s… Then that’s usually pretty bad. Also, we’ve seen mobile games do things where they throw ads at your face before they let you play. Which is usually a mood killer instantly. And just, I generally say, a bad practice. And like… This is more of a trailer thing, not a game thing, but like… Trailers are part of the review process overall, because… Not on the final preview process, but like the preliminary preview process, so… In that, we see a lot of trailers where there’s… dark screen or like black screen with slowly fading white text and then you might have like a frame or two of gameplay flashing then you again have a long period of black screen text slowly fading in saying something deep and meaningful of course and and like those get really jarring Because you just want to see the gameplay or any game footage. So I kind of see where that kind of editing comes from. But I would really urge against that kind of editing for the trailers.

Greg Posner: 36:27: 36:31: Olli doesn’t want teaser trailers with too much teasing. We want real trailers.

Olli Mantyla : 36:32: 37:22: Yeah, but even if you have like… Not like proper gameplay, but like cinematics. Just show the cinematic, preferably. Than black screen. But yeah, then just like… I think then beyond that, it’s just like really weird bugs and just like games crashing and so on. Beyond that, it’s usually maybe… Maybe it comes down to not necessarily anything being specifically wrong. Just that if you have… For example, if there’s like a dozen platformers, it’s then easy to compare you against the other platformers. And then some of them just do the controls slightly better than the others. The same with FPS games. If you have an RTS or something like that, the menu structure can be really important how that’s controlled. And it’s, again, easy to compare.

Greg Posner: 37:22: 38:25: Interesting thought. I love all this stuff, right? Gameplay bugs, right? That’s fine. That’s feedback. There’s a bug in your game. But some of the other things you mentioned, like world building, it’s such a fine line because there’s so many great games out there that have good world building. But again, maybe if you’re a big AAA publisher with a little bit of oomph behind you, you can spend a little more time world building because people will know what you’re getting into, right? Whereas if you’re starting this new game from this indie publisher and you’re spending 15, 20 minutes watching this trailer or this cinematic, and it’s just like, come on, I just want to play the game, right? Like it’s interesting to kind of hear those two different points. Cause I don’t think they’re at all related. And one is more, again, there’s a bug. It’s fine. We can fix the bug. The other is like a design choice of, Hey, we’re going to make this unskippable intro. And you’re going to sit here for 20 minutes and learn about the whole realm. And it’s just like, right. When you’re judging that many games, how much time do you have to like I imagine if you die two or three times and you have to rewatch this whole thing, you’re just like, screw it. I’m not, I can’t do this.

Olli Mantyla : 38:25: 40:02: Yeah, that, that is like, that is a really like, uh, well, I don’t want to say common issue because it’s not super common, but. Whenever it happens, it’s really annoying because the game beyond that might be really good. And usually, it’s not a killer issue. But it is a mark against it, because then again, if you have similar games where both are doing a really good job at what they’re doing, but then the other just prevents you from playing because it desperately wants to tell you things, make you read things or listen to things. Which is fine within moderation. But then… Again, if the other game just lets you have a better experience right from the start, it usually goes a bit higher. Again and again, this depends partly on the judges, so different judges value different things as well. Yeah, and I actually won one which was sort of a bug, but an actual technical issue that we ran into. a few times every season is games where the keys are, if they are keyboard mouse control, the keys are hard-coded and they are hard-coded in some other keyboard layout than what we have. And you can’t even rebind them to fix it. So you kind of have to, I don’t know if you can fix it with changing language or something, but this is something where we ran into this issue multiple times where If you try to use WASD movement, it’s not there. The movement keys are all over the place. And that kind of kills any playability instantly.

Greg Posner: 40:03: 41:05: It’s funny you say that. I started alpha testing this RTS game, and to move the camera, it’s the arrow keys, but any action button is the WASD keys. I’m just like, oh, come on, man. This would be so much better if everything was right here. Like you said, I get it, right? It’s like alpha, and it shouldn’t be. But, but I’ve been reading and reading, I’ve been podcasting of people who work in accessibility and the things they keep always talking about are remappable keys, right? Like people don’t really think about that, but if you, if you build it from the ground up, I mean. you’re going to open up your whole game to a whole, whole new set of people with accessibility. And I realized what we’re talking about now, they may not have time to stuff all this accessibility stuff in there, but if you start early, it makes a difference, right? Even just, even if you don’t need the accessibility, just the quality of life by having everything right on this side of my keyboard and not spread across the whole thing makes a huge difference. Like I think bigger than what people think, like. It’s frustrating to move your hand when you don’t need to, to kind of Especially when you’re trying to be quick with it.

Olli Mantyla : 41:05: 41:28: Yeah, I fully agree with that. I think that is one of the things. Those are fundamentals that you should get sort out when you’re making your game. Just the basic control structure of everything. How do you control it? Just where are the keys? And so on. So I fully agree with that. And it is a bit of a pain if it’s all over the place.

Greg Posner: 41:28: 41:46: Four. For the Game Development World Championship, for you guys, right, when are you collecting feedback from applicants or from the whole process and kind of altering how things may work with judging or with other things based on the feedback of people who are either applying or part of the competition?

Olli Mantyla : 41:46: 42:19: We usually have an open feedback form in the submission form. I don’t actually know. I don’t think it is there right now. I think we lost it in one update. It should definitely be there. But we also have an open Discord where everybody is free to come and comment and give their feedback. And there are things that people have given feedback and we are actively fixing things and just trying to improve things overall. So we definitely want to like hear what we can do better. And so all feedback is very much welcome. The Discord is actually the best place.

Greg Posner: 42:19: 42:22: Discord, that’s what we’re hearing more and more often. Everything’s going on in Discord here.

Olli Mantyla : 42:23: 42:37: Yeah, I’m personally not a big fan of the traditional internet sort of disappearing into these walled gardens. So I’m from the forums era, so I kind of would love to see more forums. But I mean, it is the modern world.

Greg Posner: 42:37: 42:52: We’re becoming walled gardens now. Yeah. Nothing’s safe. True. We spent a lot of time talking about GWC, and I love it. I don’t have many other questions for you, but do we want to talk about Ace Lagoon, what you’re doing there?

Olli Mantyla : 42:53: 44:56: Well, Ace Lagoon is basically running GDWC and responsible for that, and then developing things around it. One of the things that we’ve done this year as a new thing that I could mention is we launched this thing that we are calling currently Pipelines. And the goal with that is to basically connect the developers with publishers and funding partners and so on. So right now, we have two pipelines actively running. One is where a publisher is looking for micro-indie studios, like one- to four-man teams that have a game, like a roguelike replayable game. And they are basically offering funding and support to finish their game and bring it to market. So that is something that developers should definitely check out. And the other pipeline is a big platform holder. bring that is aiming to like looking for games to fund basically they are I think you’re offering up to 250,000 in funding for select projects so that is the applying to those is completely free for developers so if you have a game that you’re working on if you have in the studio you’re running you should definitely go and check it out they are on that GDWC website just Scroll down on the front page and you can check out what they are offering and you can apply. Your game needs to be on our platform. But again, even if you haven’t been on the competition, you can just add your game without participating in the championship, if for whatever reason you don’t want to do that. You just add your game, and then you apply to the pipeline, and then get reply and feedback from the partners. So that’s one of the things we’re developing. We kind of want to find a way to bring more opportunities for the developers. And so that’s some of the things that Ace Lagoon is doing next to running the competition.

Greg Posner: 44:56: 45:21: Super cool. So for anyone listening that’s building a studio, trying to kind of get a game built, Check out the GDWC website at the bottom. Check out Pipelines. No reason not to put your game on there. The more people read about it, hear about it, it’s a way to spread the reach of who knows about the game. And maybe you’ll even find some funding or some help along the ways there. I’m going to cut this part out. I have one last question for you. Is there anything else you want to touch on today?

Olli Mantyla : 45:21: 45:29: I think we’ve kind of gone through everything possible. So, so, so I’m, I’m pretty good. I’m good. Cool.

Greg Posner: 45:30: 45:49: Oli, this was an awesome conversation. I really loved it. I have one last question for you, because I truly think if I looked at a young Greg, my dream would have been playing every single game that can come out. And it seems like you’re along that path. But my question to you is when you were young, when you were in grade school growing up, what did you want to do when you grow up?

Olli Mantyla : 45:49: 46:02: That’s a good question as well. I maybe wanted to do something within the cinema space, just like work in movies or something. I was much more of a movie buff than a gamer. Really? Nice.

Greg Posner: 46:02: 46:06: What movie got you into it?

Olli Mantyla : 46:06: 46:07: Maybe Terminator 2.

Greg Posner: 46:07: 46:09: Nice. Best sequel of all time.

Olli Mantyla : 46:09: 46:09: Yeah.

Greg Posner: 46:11: 46:35: Cool. Well, Oli, this has been such a cool experience to hear everything that you’re doing, how you do it, how the GDWC operates. We’ll have all of Oli’s information along with GDWC’s website, all their information on our Player Engage website. We’ll also shoot it out on all our socials so you can see it there. Before you go today, Oli, is there anything you’d like to just share with the audience?

Olli Mantyla : 46:35: 47:01: It’s the last month of submission time is in May. for GDWC 2024 summer season. So if you have a game that you are developing right now or have released within the last year, any digital platform, PC, mobile, console, VR, AR browser game, all are welcome. You should definitely check out our competition and join. And the next season will start in August.

Greg Posner: 47:02: 47:19: Sweet. So May is the last month. We will post about that as well and send some information out there for any of you indies that are listening that want to try and put your game up against some of the other ones that are out there right now. Olli, I really appreciate your time today. This was great. And I hope you have a great rest of your day.

Olli Mantyla : 47:19: 47:21: Thank you, Greg. Thank you for having me here. Awesome.

Greg Posner

Avid gamer with a passion for storytelling. My goal is to unpack the narratives of customers, partners and others to better understand how industry-leaders tackle today's challenges.

View all posts


Subscribe to keep your game strong with the freshest Player Experience insights from the industry's finest. 🎮

Community Clubhouse @ GDC

Player: Engage

Reserve your spot now to join the ultimate destination for enhancing player experience and support, ensuring trust and safety, boosting community engagement, achieving compliance, focusing on player-centric game development, and driving revenue growth.