Playing Narratives autumn bootcamp – across Belgrade!

At the end of September, we reunited all the participants of the Playing Narratives program from the four countries of the region. Numerous workshops and lectures, guests from France, company visits and the entire CGA Belgrade conference marked this dynamic extended weekend.

After the first Playing Narratives “summit” in May in the premises of the Science and Technology Park Novi Sad, when our 30+ participants from Serbia, North Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Romania had the opportunity to attend numerous lectures and workshops as well as form their project teams, we gathered again – this time in Belgrade.

During the summer, as many as eight teams consisting of narrative designers, artists and sound designers worked hard to develop their concepts, which will be presented to an international jury and an interested audience on Friday, November 25 at the Grafički kolektiv gallery. It will also be the closing of the Playing Narratives x A MAZE. pop-up exhibition, where some 10 interactive installations from the so-called arthouse games domain, will be curated by and feature authors from Germany and France, two countries with which the PN concept has been jointly developed since its inception.

We used the participants' stay in Belgrade to connect them even more closely with one of the program's key partners, the company Ubisoft, which has more than 150 employees in Belgrade

But in order to get there, the young creatives who embarked on this eight-month game dev journey must develop and polish their projects, as well as prepare their effective pitching presentations that will leave a good impression on the jury. This was exactly the focus of the first workshop of this fall bootcamp program (which began on Thursday, September 22nd) led by Relja Dereta, one of our most experienced experts in public speaking, at Belgrade’s Startit Center. In addition to dealing with the very structure of the presentation and performing in front of the audience, we also dealt with how to describe your project in just a few words. In anticipation of the final event, Relja will work with the teams on several more occasions, so that the results are along the lines of the excellent pitches from the first cycle in November 2021.

We used the participants’ stay in Belgrade to connect them even more closely with one of the program’s key partners, the company Ubisoft, which has more than 150 employees in Belgrade. After the first workshop, we visited their Belgrade studio, which is located “just around the corner” in Balkanska Street. We were hosted there by Srđan Obrenović (Communications & CSR Specialist) and Lazar Ivanović (HR Business Partner), who brought us closer to the organization of the local Ubi studio, the way they are organized and how they function within the global Ubisoft system, which consists of 45 studios in more than 20 countries, with a total of 20,000 employees. A unique opportunity for our group to get to know the company that works on some of the most famous global AAA hit titles, and they were also welcomed by well-known lecturers from the Novi Sad bootcamp program, so that Playing Narratives and Ubisoft Belgrade are successfully building a common space for learning , whether it takes place online or in the company’s premises.

After a shared lunch and a bit of free time, the teams continued their joint work, which during the summer mainly took place in the online domain, but also took a break to prepare for the next, “hit” day of this program, which took place in the Miljenko Dereta Space in Dorćol. In addition to several lectures and workshops, representatives of 3Lateral/Epic Games, the general sponsor of the program, visited us that Friday to give the teams valuable feedback on their projects.

The day began with group work itself, where narrative designers, artists and sound designers had their own separate workshops with industry experts. Kathelyn Isaacson, composer and sound designer working with France’s Ubisoft Nadeo studio, gave a lecture and mentoring session with a focus on sound design (as opposed to the focus on music and composition which was the theme of the Spring bootcamp). Representing Mad Head Games, Irena Ćirković worked with narrative designers, while artists continued researching UI design with Diana Koltsova and Aleksandar Knežević from Ubisoft Belgrade.

This year's Playing Narratives is slowly approaching its grand finale, when the final projects will be presented as part of the November Numerique event organized by the French Institute in Serbia

Another geist from France, technical designer living in Belgium Camille Soual, then gave a workshop to all of the participants in regards to user experience design for players. Both of these lectures can be viewed by anyone interested on the SGA YouTube channel.

After the break, we were joined by Nevena Ristić and Aleksandra Smiljković from the company Webelinx Games based in Niš, also one of the partners and sponsors of this year’s program cycle. Their lecture was about game marketing, that is, how to approach a marketing strategy for your game, while their lecture is also available to all interested parties on the SGA YouTube channel!

At the end of this dynamic day, Adam Kovač and Dragan Jerosimović, whom the participants already had the opportunity to meet in Novi Sad, followed the teams’ initial presentations and gave them guidelines for further preparation of the game concepts, as well as the pitch itself. In addition, they were presented with the opportunities that await them after the end of the program.

The participants used their free time to socialize and discover Belgrade, while Saturday, September 24, was reserved for a visit to this year’s CGA Belgrade conference, which gathered numerous experts in the fields of computer graphics, animation, film post-production and gaming in Belgrade. This conference was also supported by the Creative Tech Serbia supercluster led by SGA, and all participants of the Playing Narratives bootcamp attended the all-day program in the MTS Hall, during which Camille Soual introduced herself to the local audience through an open lecture.

This year’s Playing Narratives is slowly approaching its grand finale, when the final projects will be presented as part of the November Numerique event organized by the French Institute in Serbia. Before that, our partners from Germany, the platform A Maze. / Berlin, will present a pop-up exhibition at the Grafički kolektiv gallery, from November 16th to 25th. In addition to the exhibition itself, which will present about 10 interesting interactive works, we will host several authors from Germany and France: Thorsten S. Wiedemann, curator of the exhibition, as well as Robin Baumgarten and Baptiste Portefaix, who will present lectures and workshops for high school students.

In its second cycle, Playing Narratives has significantly expanded its program, the number of participants and the type of activities, all the while striving to share knowledge with the wider community of young creatives interested in game development. Follow us and more importantly – join in!

As in the previous year, the program is supported by the Franco-German Cultural Fund, which was established in 2003 on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Elysee Agreement. The general sponsor is Unreal Engine (i.e. companies Epic Games & 3Lateral), while the distinguished sponsor is the French company  Ubisoft Belgrade. This year, the Niš-based Webelinx Games also joined the program as a sponsor, while additional support in the realization will be provided by French and Goethe institutes from the entire region, as well as SGA colleagues from Slovenia Games, MAGDA and RGDA.