It was a warm day in Athens, when the Coding Jar crew gathered outside of Aegean College's building, our goal? To record the Athens Meets Unreal Engine Meetup which would take place inside the building.
Epic Games in Greece?
The event was hosted by Epic Games, and presented by Alex and Pavlos, two indie game developers in their own right and friends for years. Its goal was two folded, first to meet the Greek community of future and existing developers using the Unreal Engine, and later to "test the waters" so to speak. With a better feel of the community of Greece, a sizable community would show Epic Games that a potential expansion to Greece is something to consider. So, without further ado we went all the way to the seventh floor to see the area for ourselves.
As we set up our cameras and got a better feel for the area, the first arrivals started to show up and take their seats. As the room started to have less and less empty seats and we were busy finding the optimal filming locations (*majestic hair flip* like bosses), Pavlos broke the ice, and started to chat with the crowd, making the entire thing feel more like a friendly meet up than an officially sponsored presentation.
With the room full, everything set, and Alex and Pavlos in their seats, the event was now on its way. From the get go crowd feedback was not only encouraged but sought after, as they gave everyone a piece of paper, asking us to write down the largest issue we either have had, or are having that they could not solve as they developed stuff with the Unreal Engine. After they gathered all the answers they pulled a major switcheroo by announcing that we would not talk about any of the things written in the paper (bamboozled again!), but the way they said it gave us hope that perhaps in a future Developer's Meetup we will all get our answers.
Why pick Unreal Engine?
Starting by sharing their stories in the game developer scene, they shared with us the reasons they are using the Unreal Engine and discussed with the crowd as to the various applications and uses the Unreal Engine has, as well as the potential of it in the hands of a "Guru" for the engine.
At this point however the question of "Why pick Unreal over any other engine?" started to appear more and more, and as such, Alex and Pavlos were asked to tell us how this event came to be.
They continued forward by telling us how Pavlos seemingly out of nowhere, via use of magic tricks, ended up talking to people from Epic Games in an event in Sweden. There he told us, he asked Epic Games if they had any plans to expand to Greece which, much like Sweden, is a country with a considerable scene, if a bit disorganized. Epic Games had no plans for Greece, but was open to the idea, so they tasked Alex and Pavlos to organize the Developer Meetups.
Furthermore they explained that the presence of Epic Games, regardless of how you feel about the Unreal Engine can only mean good things for the community. As their presence here will only boost the potential and technical know-how of the game development scene in Greece whether it is via courses, seminars, presentations or whatever they choose to establish here. But, in order to do so, the Greek Development Community would have to unite and show that they are indeed both numerous and willing to embrace such attempts not only by Epic Games but by any potential titan of the industry.
Community wins all!
With the motto "Sharing= Win/Win strategy", our hosts stressed the importance that our community bands together, breaks down the walls various ego's and previous competition have established, and instead group up as one large community. Their words were not however only inspiring, but backed with facts, and the reception they had from the crowd was overwhelmingly positive. The groundwork Pavlos put down, by breaking the ice paid off, and soon the conversation had strayed extremely far from the Unreal Engine and its uses and was now all about how the Greek community could (and should) come together as a group rather than be small individual groups trying to make it in the very competitive game developer scene. The presentation turned into a conversation, about the needs of the Greek gaming development scene, how we can improve and plans were set to spread the word, organize forums and include people from outside the programming profession, as it was stated, it takes a lot more than just a few programmers to make a game.
After all, in order to get funds (such as the fabled Unreal developer's grant), sponsors and the spotlight, the above are key. Not to mention how it would be beneficial for the scene if everyone is on a higher level of game development, after all, would each individual from the crowd hire someone else among them if they did not know they were up to the task?
If all went well, Alex and Pavlos were aiming to have Epic Games in Greece by 2019
With focus now back on track, the interest of the crowd was clearly piqued, and everyone was keen on giving their input on how to form up and bring Epic Games to Greece, with many developers proposing a community project on the Unreal Engine in order to showcase their abilities.
Time was up 🙁
Unfortunately time was up, despite the extremely positive feedback of the crowd and their will to continue the discussion. Wrapping up the event, a presentation of two games made by George Xenitidis using the Unreal Engine, Purito and Rapatu, as well as a showcase of a game he has on the makings, impressive work considering the small group of people involved (2-3 people). As the event wrapped up, many developers including Alex and Pavlos agreed to go to a nearby bar and meet and talk in a more casual tone (gotta love beers).
As the crowd dispersed, we had the time to ask Alex and Pavlos to share their thoughts about the event and they told us it was overwhelmingly positive. The turnout exceeded their expectations and they enjoyed hearing the many positive feedback and ideas they all had to bring the Greek Community together. Unfortunately due to cyborg related issues the team of Coding Jar was not able to meet up with the developers for drinks, however we promise you that next time we will make sure to have a designated recorder, so we can cover every aspect of the scene. Even if that means some of us may get a ride home.