FNE Film Meets Games: Q&A with Founder and Director of Slovak Incidental Minds, Boris Brnčal

    Boris Brncal Boris Brncal credit: Archive, Creative Industry Košice, n.o.

    BRATISLAVA: FNE spoke to Boris Brnčal, founder and director of Slovak Incidental Minds, about their current activities, as well as the state of the Slovak game development industry.

    Central and Eastern Europe is one of the most important locations for global games developers and studios, and artists in the region are increasingly working for both film and games. FNE looks at how these two sectors of the entertainment industry are converging and why this trend is important for the future development of both.

    FNE: When was Incidental Minds founded and what have been your main missions and strategic projects so far?

    Boris Brnčal: Incidental Minds was originally formed in March 2018 as an independent team working on Grayton the Detective. In 2019 we received some funding from the Slovak Arts Council, which helped us accelerate both the project and the team. We didn't recognise ourselves as a game dev studio until 2020, when we were finishing a “Vertical Slice” demo of Grayton and already had a prototype of another game named House Them All!

    At that point, Grayton became too big for us to manage and we felt like we had to give it a break and began seeking new opportunities. Although, the development of Grayton, “an adventure game about a homeless detective,” started as a joke, in the process we strived to make it as (morally) responsible, realistic and meaningful as possible and we gradually found out that our mission is to create “engaging, yet meaningful games.”

    FNE: What is the current situation in the Slovak gaming industry and what distinguishes it from the industries of other countries?

    Boris Brnčal: At the moment it is far smaller than the Polish and Czech industries, but it is starting to grow thanks to organisations like the Slovak Game Developers Association and Hemisféra. It is also suffering a bit from a brain drain as for example Beat Games (Beat Saber) are recognised as part of the Czech Industry despite being founded by Slovak developers.

    FNE: Film and games convergence is a hot topic now. What can you tell us about the relationship between the gaming industry and film in your experience? What can you tell us about your game Grayton the Detective, on which you worked with some people from the film industry?

    Boris Brnčal: There is a certain overlap, mostly in the art departments: animation, music, visual effects, writing, directing, and voice acting. I do have a bit of a background in filmmaking and I know quite a few people who have either worked in both industries or studied film and then found their future in the game industry.

    To clarify, there were almost zero possibilities to choose a game-specific field of study until not long ago, therefore many hopeful game developers chose film studies as an alternative. However, quite a few game dev-oriented studies have been created recently (TEDI, VŠMU – Herný Dizajn, ŠUV – Concept Art) and it seems like the change is coming.

    Grayton the Detective is a story-based game connecting animated sequences and interactivity. While the Slovak game development industry is still emerging, it was quite necessary for us to also connect with talented people from outside of our industry, and the film industry happens to be a great fit. In the original team, we had an artist who studied scenography and works in the film industry, also a composer (Robert Bruckmayer) who worked in both of these industries.

    Later in the production, we had a writer who studied film and worked in the industry too. And after all, we were looking really hard for an artistic 2D animator and there was no way to find one in the game industry, but finally, we put together a team of five animators from the animation/film industry. It seems like a way to go. We also had a few voice actors from the US who also act in films.

    FNE: How important are full-motion/real-life footage game projects to your company?

    Boris Brnčal: We never tried anything like that before, but we are currently starting a full-motion video game project with our Italian partners from SolidColor, who have far more experience with that and also developed their own solutions to make such games. It is not something that we would do regularly, however, it sounds promising to explore the options offered by this rather unusual way of making games.

    FNE: Are games going to IPO on Slovak stock market and do the companies going to IPO include a film person or film projects?

    Boris Brnčal: I do not have any knowledge of the Slovak stock market, however, I have been considering it as an option for my company in the future.

    FNE: Are there any Slovak films that are being turned into games or Slovak games that are being turned into films or TV series?

    Boris Brnčal: Yes, there is a second game adaptation of Mimi a Líza, developed by Darkvision games/Midnight Factory, coming in no time. Also, as for our games Grayton the Detective and House Them All! I have been seriously considering an option to make an animated series (and even more) out of them in case of their success; I would be more than happy to do it.

    FNE: What can you tell us about the projects you have worked on so far?

    Boris Brnčal: We worked on Grayton for aprox two and a half years until the end of 2020. During that time we attended and won the Bratislava Game Jam 2019 with the prototype of House Them All! After that we won the Mad Game Jam 2021 with a game named Off Stage, and we created a few other game jam prototypes such as MIRRORED TRUTH. We developed a gamified app for clients named Lebo Mädveď App. We also co-organised a beneficial game jam to help Ukraine and co-founded a PlayForUkraine.eu initiative.

    FNE: What projects are you currently working on?

    Boris Brnčal: At the moment, we are applying for two grants of Slovak public funding with two different game projects focused on two different socially beneficial topics. Also, we've just happened to return a bit to the development of Grayton the Detective after two years, to put the vertical slice demo a bit closer to the shape that we imagine, so we could finally start showing it to the public and hopefully get it fully funded. We are also starting quite a few other projects including the cooperation with SolidColor, that I mentioned above and an upgrade of the Lebo Mädveď App.

    FNE: How do you see the development of the relationship between the film and gaming industries?

    Boris Brnčal: As I mentioned above I can see quite an overlap between these two, also I can see progress in their cooperation, and hopefully we will see more of it in the future.