The story of Jump or Fall - Georgian team at Estonia's Gamefounders

We typically never just re-publish what someone sends us, and Georgia is far from "Arctic" but we got such a crazy email after meeting Georgian game developer Sanders Kvlividze part of the Estonia-based accelerator, Gamefounders, that it sounds better coming straight from him.

Kvlividze writes to us,

Back in 2009, there was no game industry in Tbilisi, Georgia whatsoever. Then out of the blue, the Georgian Minister of Internal Affairs (Vano Merabishvili) decides he wants to kickstart the gaming industry in the country. He brings in several consultants from Electronic Arts, hires two game designers of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. from Ukraine and announces he needs people.

The main police guy making a video game? pfff... many didn't take him seriously, including us, we were skeptical as hell. But then we went anyway and what do you know, he's pretty serious about the whole deal. The screening process was held by the EA/S.T.A.L.K.E.R. guys and, along with several others, they chose us. So we started to work in Unreal Development Kit (UDK) on a first person shooter about Police. The idea was to debut with a fully fledged game and promote Police at the same time.

Back then, Geopolice (yeah, the name's THAT creative) was one of the few full grown games made in UDK. UDK is a free version of the engine with limited functionality and yet, there were some Georgians making a First Person Shooter with a storyline, campaign, dialogue options, etc. All this generated a lot of attention on epic's forums. Amazed by our progress, the government even bought a motion capture studio for us and not many UDK made games had full, MoCap animations in them.

To celebrate the release of the second part of Geopolice, the ministry gave us real guns with fake bullets and told us to assault an unsuspecting Hotel... so we did.

In 2011, while working on the third part of the game, we were approached by Larva Games studio for an outsource project. The game was called Last Day On Earth, which was a mixture of third person shooter and tower defender. Most of the production including all lead positions was done by us. They also gave us a full version of Unreal Engine to work in which opened up new horizons for us knowledge-wise.

By the end of 2012, we finished the Last Day On Earth project and three parts of Geopolice. The latter amassed over 1,000,000 of downloads in addition with personal thanks from the president and being televised several times. Larva Games is currently looking for the publisher.

All was fine and well, until the new government came to power and decided to put bunch of people in jail, including our minister of internal affairs. Because of this, the studio came to a screeching halt. Since we were far from done with games, the collapse of the studio didn't stop us. We created our own start-up and this was the genesis of Jump or Fall.

In 2013, when we were testing out various game ideas, the microconsole market was just emerging and we thought "let's have our own console game". And we did. We made Washington Vs Zombies for OUYA which received positive reviews on gameindustry.com and indiegraph.org. The game floats in the top 25% of the OUYA market. As of now, we are remaking it for the release on mobile.

So digging into their games a little more, Washington Vs. Zombies has America's founding father hacking and shooting through red-coat zombies in a 2D side scrolling platform shooter. OUYA was a Kickstarter success, raising $8.5 million, and runs a modified version of Android. Unfortuantely the reception has been fairly light, explaining why Jump or Fall is exploring the mobile market for this and their next releases.

Jump or Fall is also working on a new title, called Coffin Rush (image above), where you pilot a skeleton on a mining cart in what they're calling an unorthodox runner. In the game, you have to keep retractable arms on the cart's power wires running on each side of the rails while avoiding obstacles as you switch between both sides. The game is said to be releasing on iOS, Android, and Windows phone, and looks nicely polished already from the work-in-progress video we saw.

For better or worse (probably worse when I think about pageviews) the Nordic and Baltic countries don't have many stories about game studios halting when our Ministers of Internal Affairs get arrested. Hopefully we'll hear more out of Gamefounders as their current spring batch continues.

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