Prague, 22 August 2022
Video game development has gradually evolved into one of the fastest-growing creative industries, with turnover surpassing film and television production. The Czech video game industry is enjoying a golden era. A miniseries of articles gradually presents interesting facts about Czech film, food, sports, and the video game industry.
The video game industry employs more than 1 750 people in the Czech Republic, with over 300 more jobs opening every year. Annual turnover is around five to six billion crowns. This is partly thanks to development studios, the number of which has significantly increased alongside technological progress. More than 110 such companies operate in the Czech Republic alone, according to the Czech Game Developers Association. Among the best known of them are Bohemia Interactive Studio, Warhorse Studios, 2K Czech, Amanita Design, and SCS Software.
The first video games were created in the 1980s for what are nowadays primitive 8-bit home computers, such as the ZX Spectrum and the Czechoslovak PMD 85. Games from this era like Indiana Jones and Tetris 2, created by Czech developer František Fuka, still resonate. With the increasing commercialisation and availability of computer technology in the 1990s, the number of games on the Czech scene increased. Adventure games such as the popular Czech game Polda predominated.
The rise of 3D action games – Operation Flashpoint, Vietcong, and the best-selling Mafia
Several very successful titles were produced at the turn of the millennium. The first internationally successful Czech game was the first-person shooter Hidden & Dangerous, in which the player controlled a four-man special team in the Second World War. The game was developed by Illusion Softworks (later 2K Czech), who followed up their success with the war epic Vietcong, and in 2002 launched probably the most famous Czech Mafia game – Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven.
The game boasted a refined script, great gameplay, an open world, and high quality audiovisual presentation. The fictional story, reminiscent of the cult film The Godfather, is set in the 1930s in a city resembling New York. Through a series of unexpected events, the protagonist, taxi driver Thomas Angelo, finds himself in the role of a driver working for the Don Salieri gangster clan. This pioneering work competed in its time with the third instalment of the famous American Grand Theft Auto series. However, the Czech Mafia game stood out for its realistic treatment, story, and unforgettable Czech dubbing. Famous Czech actors such as Petr Rychlý, Marek Vašut, Antonín Molčík, Linda Rybová and others lent their voices to the game.
The game was so successful that in 2020, American studio Hangar 13 and 2K released new versions of all three episodes. As with Polda, Vietcong and Mafia, studios have tried to build on the success of the first instalments with follow-ups or to improve them through various expansions. In addition to the Mafia game, this period also saw the launch of hits such as Operation Flashpoint from Bohemia Interactive Studios, which was later followed by the elaborate tactical game ArmA. This game remains a fan favourite to this day, with the second part used to create the zombie horror game DayZ, for example.
Truck simulator and expedition to the Czech lands in the 15th century
Surprisingly, the best-selling Czech game was not Mafia, but the truck-driving simulator Euro Truck Simulator 2 and its expansions from SCS Software. The company experienced great success mostly in 2019, when the game became the best-selling title on the Steam platform. The international gaming community has also recognised the beautifully designed adventure games from the developer Amanita Design. Machinarium gives the player the opportunity to solve various puzzles and explore a remarkable world made up entirely of robots.
Machinarium and the origin of the term “robot”
The main character, the robot Josef, is a tribute to the painter and writer Josef Čapek. His brother, Karel Čapek, published the book R.U.R. in 1920, and it is said that the word robot was first mentioned in the book at the instigation of his brother Josef.
The etymology of the term goes back to the Slavic word robota, which denoted the strenuous and forced work of serfs.
Other titles worth mentioning are Botanicula, Chuchel and Samorost, which won several awards. Visitors to the Design and Transformation in Brussels exhibition will be able to play this game. Players can enjoy modern technologies such as virtual reality in the rhythm game Beat Saber.
However, the largest work of recent years was released by the Warhorse studio – Kingdom Come: Deliverance. Under the baton of Daniel Vávra, the well-known Czech designer behind the development of the original Mafia game, a very sophisticated open-world historical game has been created. The story takes place in the Czech lands at the beginning of the 15th century during the troubled times after the death of King Charles IV. Through the main hero, the player can explore historical towns such as Sázava, Rataje nad Sázavou, and Stříbrná Skalice. The historically faithful atmosphere is complemented by horse riding, a sophisticated sword-fighting system, and symphonic background music.
The Czech video game industry has been growing in recent years. New opportunities for higher-education studies are evidence of the growing interest. Last year, the FAMU film school in Prague opened a master’s degree course in game design, the Faculty of Fine Arts at the Brno University of Technology offers studies in digital creation, and the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics at Charles University in Prague also offers studies in video game development.
Source – Czech EU Presidency