Twice as many participants in the Game Dev category of students’ competition “Az Moga – Tuk & Sega” this year

For the second year, ARC Academy took part in the national students’ competition for IT, informatics, and visual arts “Az Moga – Tuk & Sega”. In our entrusted Game Dev category, this year there were twice as many participants as last year (47 students), which made the task of the jury and ARC mentors twice as difficult, but also more exciting. What happened last weekend in Devin is told by the jury in the Game Dev category – Ivaylo Koralskyi and Krasimira Manashvi, as well as the organizers of the initiative in the person of Victoria Mitova.

Ivaylo Koralsky
Game Developer, the jury in the Game Design subcategory

For the second year, you are a jury in the “Az Moga – Tuk & Sega” competition. How was this year for you?

Just as inspiring as the last one. Fortunately, this year everything was multiplied by two, starting with the number of participants who signed up for the game category – nearly 50. The children were from all over the country and were divided into two groups – Game Design and Concept Art. This has been an extremely uplifting and positive weekend for me, a joy to the soul of an older person from the game industry.

What were the criteria by which you chose the winner in the Game Design subcategory?

We have not had students write an actual Game Design document. This is something that requires much more time than 1 day, as well as more preparation. However, some of the children had written things that were very impressive. There were gameplay ideas that were extremely well developed. Some of the children stepped on ready-made genres, which they developed in their own way. Other participants thought out of the box. This is my favorite way of thinking lately given how largely unified the products we get are. The criteria were as follows – how well the participants are technically familiar with making games, how they develop the story part, the gameplay mechanics, and the business model. It was interesting to learn how the children see the model of who their play is aimed at.

What impressed you the most in the winner’s project?

The theme of the task was inspired by Aivazovsky and the winner – Ivan V. Lazarov, 11th grade, ChPGDN “SoftUni Svetlina”, Sofia had included the artist in an extremely innovative way. The artist talks to the ocean and it gives him different options of what to do and how to paint his next picture that represents the next level.

What are the most valuable skills that a person wanting to work in the game industry should have, and did you see them in the participants?

Yes, at least half of these kids have a career, not to say glamorous, in the game industry waiting for them. The winner is an extremely talented young boy, but there was also a 13-year-old girl who was working with Unreal 5. She was making 3D illustrations for the assignment she was given. This girl in particular has a bright future ahead of her. She knows so much at this age that if she continues to develop it, at 20 she will be working for a big company most likely.

How did you like the atmosphere of the competition “Az moga – tuk & sega”? How is the initiative useful for students? Are you ready to be a jury again next year? 🙂

If invited, I would gladly be a part of this event again. It is extremely positive and useful, especially for children. The preparation for the task itself is very important and very cool, but for me the most valuable thing that students can get is networking, getting to know students from other parts of Bulgaria and communication between them. What games they like, what ideas they have, and the opportunity to share knowledge. Seeing these kids communicate informally is a gorgeous emotion.

Introducing the Game Design subcategory winners and a brief summary of their game concepts.

1st place: Ivan Lazarov, 11th grade, ChPGDN “SoftUni Svetlina”, Sofia

In Ivan’s game, the main character is the Russian artist Ivan Aivazovsky, who, in order to survive on his shipwrecked ship, begins to paint directly on the sea.

2nd place: Christiyan Dimitrov, 11th grade, ChPGDN “SoftUni Svetlina”, Sofia

Chris presented a concept for a first-person story-driven adventure where the player encounters various pirates that he must help.

3rd place: Ralitsa Nikolova, 10th grade, ChPGDN “SoftUni Svetlina”, Sofia

Ralitsa’s game takes place in a semi-fantasy world called New Earth. After a world war, the earth and its population were destroyed, and humanity was taken back centuries. In the new world, there are creatures that evolved thanks to technology, and the main character is a famous sailor.

Krasimira Manashvi
Program Coordinator and ARC Academy Alumni, Jury in the Concept Art subcategory

What was the topic the students were working on and how long did they have to complete the task?

They had 7 hours. The story took place in a wrecked ship that is located in the Bermuda Triangle area. The ship explodes and only three souls survive from the crew. Two are in a boat and one is on a raft. The task was for the students to invent and show what happens to these people and what happened to the ship. They should have developed a game on this theme.

What were your evaluation criteria in the Concept Art subcategory?

First, how the students developed the story in their concept art. There were no restrictions on whether they would choose the present, future, or past. The second – is composition, as here we were looking for something that would be consistent. It was important whether the objects present in the art were correctly placed in perspective. Generally speaking, whether the task is performed correctly compositionally. Of course, the colors – we evaluated whether they corresponded to the mood and whether they were used correctly and well combined. We looked at the technique – whether one or two techniques were executed, and how they were used. The other important part was the presentation. 

What impressed you most about the winner in the Concept art subcategory – Alexandra Chobanova from High School “Acad. “Lyubomir Chakalov”, Sofia?

This was the best-developed concept art. The girl had made a storyboard that tells the story before, during, and after the explosion of the ship. There was a development of the story and it was conceptually created very well, executed technically and colorfully. The colors were mainly black and white, but she captured the shapes and contrast of the art well. She had a vision for the game itself and had developed it in a very interesting way.

What are your impressions of the participants?

They were very motivated and wanted to do as many things as possible. Some of them did very well and exceeded my expectations. On the other hand, they did not think much about the art itself – they start and only then think about the idea. They do not approach the task critically and do not do good research. This was perhaps the minus of all. But overall they all did pretty well. They took 99% of the feedback we gave them during the competition itself and implemented it into their stuff. It gave me a good impression that they realized they had gaps and tried to improve their work.

What did you think of the atmosphere and setting of the competition “Az moga – tuk & sega”?

I loved the energy. Communication with students is much different, they tend to take what is said to them. Naturally, in most cases quite literally, but that is also the charm of working with students.:) They perceive everything as a game, fun. There is no prejudice in them. I liked the opportunity we had to help young people realize what they want to do, and expand their horizons and worldview. We had the opportunity to show them that all creative professions exist in Bulgaria and that they can be part of the creative industry.

Here are the three finalists in the Concept Art subcategory:

1st place: Alexandra Chobanova, 12th grade, NPMG “Acad. Lubomir Chakalov”, Sofia

2nd place: Dilyara Eminova, 9th grade, ChPGDN “SoftUni Svetlina”, Sofia

3rd place: Nadya Meracheva, 11th grade, ChPGDN “SoftUni Svetlina”, Sofia

Victoria Mitova

Co-president of the Alumni Club/”Az moga – tuk & sega”

The competition “Az moga – tuk & sega” has been held since 2011. How has the initiative developed over the years? How did this year’s edition go?

This competition started as a small form of protest against the way competitions are held in Bulgaria and grew into a large-scale form of inspiration with various initiatives – Information Technology and Visual Arts Competition, Summer Academy, Walks of Inspirers ( meetings with schools in different settlements), Foreign language competition, Alumni club (the club of former participants). We strive to develop the initiatives every year and for the participants to meet different professionals and challenges. This year’s competition was one of our largest to date with over 500 participants, organizers, and judges from 43+ localities. In addition to a large number of participants, they also showed serious skills in their categories. Just as they went home with a lot of emotions, we also went home inspired by them.

For the second year, the Game Dev category has been added to the program – what are your impressions of it?

The Game Dev category is non-standard for competitions in Bulgaria, and this, together with the organization, tasks, and mentors, makes it one of the most interesting for the participants. Those who have given us feedback remain enriched and energized by the setting. Teachers comment that it has been needed for a long time, as they have students with such interests. And we, as organizers, believe that Game Dev is a category that develops the creative thinking of students, manages to socialize them, and shows them their skills to peers from all over Bulgaria. We believe it is a solid first step for participants in the seemingly abstract dynamic world of video game development. And such a first step can become the basis for a future career path.

What’s next from here?

Our events continue with the same aspiration – the most recent is the meeting of our alumni club, where we will also welcome new members. At the end of the summer, we have the SUPER summer academy, which pits teams of students against each other while working side by side with professionals. All the competitions we run are eagerly awaiting their turn, and a brand new initiative will be announced soon. Still with the same determination, perseverance, and ambition.

Now, watch the video and immerse yourself in the atmosphere of the competition: