Gaming In Eastern Europe: Polish Creativity

Gaming In Eastern Europe: Polish Creativity

Feature

The first part of a series dedicated to appreciating the finest development teams coming out of Eastern Europe. The Polish development scene is still up and coming but already has a fine repertoire on offer!

People Can Fly


Gaming In Eastern Europe: Polish Creativity

Founded: 2002
Based: Warsaw
Key Products: Painkiller, Gears of War (PC) and Bulletstorm

People Can Fly are the new kids on the Eastern Bloc, but that didn't stop them from establishing themselves enough to become a subsidiary of Epic Games in 2007, and publishing several AAA titles. From humble beginnings as a joint effort of developers who had worked for companies such as Metropolis Software on games such as Gorky 17, People Can Fly began their foray into the video game world as developers of the 2004 title Painkiller. Their debut received praise for its simple yet engaging gameplay, which took pointers from the likes of DOOM and Quake in encouraging the player to kill large numbers of monsters across 5 acts, each containing about 8 levels each.

However, People Can Fly didn't hit the big time until 2007 when, after a chance e-mail to Epic about licensing the Unreal Engine, they were hired to create some additional content for the PC version of the Xbox 360 title Gears of War. Impressing Cliff Bleszinski and his team with the content, they were placed in charge of the entire port, leading to their formal acquisition by Epic. This meant great contacts and the support of a great developer who were more than happy to issue them with the Unreal Engine that they originally wanted. Life was great.

It got even better for the small Polish firm in 2008, as Epic and EA signed a deal to publish an action title by People Can Fly, later revealed to be the insane First Person Shooter Bulletstorm. Released in February 2011, Bulletstorm's eye-popping visuals and uniquely OTT gameplay certainly impressed the critics, including HG's very own Andrew Hallam, giving it a 9.0 in his review. Despite the critical acclaim however, Epic Games recently admitted that Bulletstorm didn't make any money. For many developers, that would cause the loss of many jobs or the cancellation of a franchise. Epic are not a normal developer though and stated that they didn't regret it, instead affirming that 'The next thing we do with People Can Fly will be great'. Things for People Can Fly just keep on getting better, and they now sit as another great example of a successful Polish developer.

Techland


Gaming In Eastern Europe: Polish Creativity

Founded: 1991
Based: Ostrow Wielkopolski
Key Products: Chrome Engine, Call of Juarez and Dead Island

If I had written this before July, this next part would be full of gushing romanticism and unequivocal high praise. However, despite a recent setback which I will divulge later, Techland are still a shining example of what Poland can do for video games. Starting as a computer software distributor, Techland moved into creating their own in-house video games, beginning with the Descent-influenced shooter Crime Cities in 2000, which launched to a resounding 'meh'. After Crime Cities was bounced from publisher to publisher, and Techland created such Triple Z titles as Pet Racer and Pet Soccer, Techland took the next step by developing their own engine, Chrome, named after the first person shooter where it was first showcased. Chrome the game was poorly received, but the engine itself was impressive. Written entirely in Java, the Chrome engine was freely distributed with Chrome, including all source code to allow for mods.

The Chrome Engine has been continuously improved upon with further developments by Techland since that first appearance, leading to it being used in a range of budget games made by Polish contemporaries such as City Interactive and in Techland's own games. The series that has really shown the power and potential of the Chrome Engine, as well as the skill of Techland as developers, is the Call of Juarez series. Making its debut on PC in 2006, and later ported to Xbox 360 in 2007, Call of Juarez was a shot out of the blue from a developer previously unknown outside of Poland. One of the first games to utilize DirectX10 (achievable due to the power of Chrome Engine 3), Call of Juarez not only looked great but managed to mix FPS gameplay with suspense-filled adventuring and an enjoyable story, full of character and a unique setting in the Wild West. Falconer certainly enjoyed it, as can be seen in his review. Either way, the game won itself and Techland a lot of fans, and signalled Techland's arrival on the international scene. This was further cemented by the 2009 prequel Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood , which continued the brilliantly woven story with a convincing and engaging back story with improved visuals and better gunplay, which Falconer enjoyed once again as can be seen in his review.