Developers, designer, artists and gamers. These bright young Egyptians are keeping the gaming scene in Egypt alive.
As outlandish as it may sound (even in 2018), Egypt just so happens to have its fair share of game developers, designers and artists. We were recently on-ground at the 10th annual Global Game Jam, the biggest of its kind in the known world, right here in Egypt, where a massive turnout of creative game enthusiasts, developers and other industry figures came together to craft this year’s indie hits. We also happened to meet some pretty neat local game studios, and decided to scope them out and see what they had to offer – and we were not disappointed.
With an equal focus on making games for entertainment, culture and awareness, Castling Studios has worked on games aimed at addressing some of the more glaring social issues in the country; topics such as domestic abuse, even sexual harassment and even female genital mutilation, as well as a game aimed at helping new workers adapt to the social aspects of their workplace, Wazafny Shokran. In addition, they've garnered their fair share of recognition from other game jams and competitions, such as Microsoft's Imagine Cup, where they managed to get 2nd, 3rd and 4th place for their smash hits Cell and Back to the Grid.
We met with Mohammed Esmat, the CFO of Castling Studios, and got some hands-on experience playing their newest game, Tribal Tantrum; a fun little romp with two sides competing to perform an ancient ritual. It’s a competitive and deceptively simple title to add along with their impressive roster (and it managed to nab them the Google Choice award at the 2016 Global Game).
"Video games have massive potential to bring a lot of important topics into light, and at the same time, offer a lot of entertainment value. It's a one-of-a-kind medium really," Esmat told us.
You can find out more on the Castling Studios website.
Right after having a fun time thrashing Esmat at his own game (quite literally), we stumbled on a pretty creative Egyptian games company by the name of 2024. Initially starting off as just a bunch of buds who managed to wind up in lab 2024, they decided to pool their brain juice and start churning out some of the best puzzlers and time killers this side of the Nile. With just a team of five driven developers and one aspiring artist, 2024 have a simplistic approach to game design, with their latest PC entry, Keys to Success, adopting a minimalist enough art style to carry the game's main message; to find success in yourself, and to adapt and evolve regardless of circumstance.
We spoke to co-founders and lead game developers, Ahmed Najeeb and Ahmed Mohi, about the Game Jam and the kind of significance that gaming has in Egypt.
“It’s a wonderful, immersive medium that’s easily accessible to anyone, it leaves you with full control over how you want your story told, unlike anything else out there,” Najeeb said.
They primarily work on mobile puzzle games, with their most noteworthy creations being Impulse – a devilishly complex yet simple navigation puzzler – and Rebound; a game we spent more than your average twelve year old would trying to figure it out.
Check out the 2024 Studios website for more.
Perhaps the most eye-catching of the bunch in terms of production value and aesthetic at the GGJ, Rumbling Games Studio are possibly the closest game company we have to triple A – games that, in the industry, have the highest development budgets and levels of promotion. Founded in 2015 by CEO, Ahmed Fouad, Rumbling Games is a team of 18 talented folks from all walks of life and all backgrounds of game design, including the extremely talented Hayat Selim handling the audio side of things. Their biggest project to date, Knights of Light, is a massive, open-world thir- person adventure title with some of the most gorgeous utilization of the Unreal 4 engine and they’re even going an extra mile by hiring local martial arts masters for proper motion capture. From the demo we saw at the GGJ, Knights of Light and Rumbling Games should definitely be on your radar if you’re a gamer yourself.
Apart from having massive ambition (and the power to realize it), Rumbling also try to connect local talents together via their 'Academy'; a little community on their main site where talented gamers, developers and artists can connect, interact and share their expertise and insight, in the hope of trying to stitch a strong game development presence for the whole region. There’s a reason their booth was swarmed through the Game Jam.
Check them out for yourself on their official website.
Though Instinct Games weren’t at the Game Jam, they’re one of the more significant examples of local game development in the Egyptian scene. However, Instinct’s virtual fate would soon have them collaborate with a few other studios the likes of Artificial Studios and Timeline Interactive, chief of which, however, would have to be Studio Wildcard. To those of you sadly unaware; Studio Wildcard and Instinct Games worked together on the incredibly entertaining (and unforgiving) survival supergiant, ARK: Survival Evolved. Not exactly unforeseen given the chops that CEO and founder, Mostafa Hafez, has accrued over the years. Having helped develop the Reality Engine (which he later sold to gaming giant, Epic Games). Hafez was the designer and lead programmer on ARK - a game that has sold over five and a half million copies and has given gamers around the world a renewed interest in dinosaurs, wooden spears and lighting manure on fire (it's an odd game).
Instinct games is primarily a six-man team, but they're always on the lookout for fresh talent to join the fray and start working on quality Egyptian (and maybe even international) gaming phenomena.
Check out the Instinct Games website for more.
Having spoken to the Appsinnovate team in 2015 as part of a story looking into the challenges face by Egyptian game developers, this studio has been on our radar for some time. Established in 2012 by co-founders Hany El-Akel and Karim Abdullatif, Appsinnovate are a jack-of-all-trades in that as well as being software and game developers, they’re also customer solutions providers in Cairo. However, they’ve had a pretty substantial portfolio of games in a wide variety of genres, in a constant cycle of trying to stretch into newer territories of thought and gaming concepts. Appsinnovate try to spread a simple yet substantial message that the Egyptian people aren't very keen on learning; the fact that video games are not just something you get to distract your children, but a massively advantageous platform for artistic expression, as well as a lucrative market to tap into.
Their most well-known offering to the game word would have to be Toktok Drift; a 3D racer where you get to gear up and customize your very own three-wheeled monstrosity and take to the streets, a title so enjoyable that it received a second iterations, Toktok Drift V2. In addition to their hit Blops (a surprise hit in Japan) as well as Bilal: A New Breed of Hero - a top-down action-adventure movie tie-in to the award winning animated film of the same name, Appsinnovate are a true testament to the kind of potential for creativity Egyptian developers can have.
Find out more about them on their website here.
Though not exactly game developers or designers, Alexandria-based Majaz offer a service that’s just as significant as any other division of game development, if not even more impactful; game art. Majaz, founded in 2013, initially started life as an art training school, but over the years they’ve accrued enough knowhow and talented artists to become a dedicated team of creatives in the field of game art. In a brief exchange with some of the Majaz folks, they stressed the impact that a unique visual identity and proper choice of art style can have on a game’s overall perception, and mentioned some of the projects they’ve worked on, with their most recent having been Lost Tribes. For their size and age as a company, their work is pretty tough to put into words, so maybe head over to their site and give it a look.)