24-11-2022

FNE Film Meets Games: Q&A with Vladimir Funtikov - Cofounder of Estonian CM Games

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    Vladimir Funtikov Vladimir Funtikov credit: CM Games

    TALLINN: FNE spoke with Vladimir Funtikov, co-founder of Estonian CM Games, about their current activities, as well as the state of the Estonian game development industry.

    CM Games is an independent game developer based in Estonia since 2010, which develops mobile, VR and NFT projects. Over 500 million players have installed their hit games such as Into the Radius, Nitro Nation and Drag Racing.

    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 CM Games founded and what have been your main missions and strategic projects so far?

    Vladimir Funtikov: We were founded in 2010 as a studio focused on casual games for smartphones. After finding international commercial success on mobile devices, we successfully expanded into VR gaming and are working on the next generation of web3 games. Our mission is to create experiences that are loved forever. The key components of our DNA are open culture and a focus on innovation.

    FNE: Which projects would you highlight from your company's portfolio?

    Vladimir Funtikov: Drag Racing (2011), which has created a new sub-genre and accumulated over 350 million installs - not bad for a game initially made by five people in six weeks. Into the Radius (2020), which was our first VR project and is consistently among the top-selling and highest-rated games on both PC and Quest 2. Nitro Nation World Tour (2023), which is the upcoming expansion of our successful Nitro Nation franchise to web3, leveraging blockchain technology to improve the player experience and add to the fun factor.

    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? Do you have any experience using VFX in terms of games?

    Vladimir Funtikov: Both games and film solve the problem of entertaining audiences in new ways, which presents similar challenges. It’s incredibly difficult to deliver a story or gameplay that is fresh but also accessible, while organising a large production over multiple years. There is also an increasing overlap in terms of production tools, as films and TV increasingly rely on digital assets and creation/rendering tools such as Unreal Engine, while games implement cinematic tools for Hollywood-grade cutscenes.

    However, the pipelines are still vastly different. Films and TV are heavily dependent on cast and staff availability, dictating more rigid schedules. Videogame development is significantly more agile and centered on developing gameplay systems due to games’ interactive nature.

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

    Vladimir Funtikov: Very narrow application, primarily as reference material for digital assets.

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

    Vladimir Funtikov: I don’t think a listing on any exchange is a great way of gauging industry development, as an IPO is primarily a liquidity event for shareholders and a financing tool for future growth. On a national level, I would rather like to see many high-paying, satisfying jobs created in the sector, supported by a great specialised education and a favourable public opinion.

    We've made massive progress in the last decade, from having one or two commercial successes to several hundred jobs and multiple education opportunities, but there is still a lot of untapped potential.

    FNE: Are there any Estonian films that are being turned into games or Estonian games that are being turned into films or TV series? As far as I know, CM Games in cooperation with 20th Century Fox developed an official game based on the hit television series The X-Files. What can you tell us about this and other projects?

    Vladimir Funtikov: Disco Elysium, the best-rated PC game of all time on Metacritic, is getting a TV adaptation, which is fascinating. But it should be noted that the elements that make games great don’t always transfer to screen, and vice versa. Moreover, the ideologies and interests behind the production team play a major role. It’s intriguing how an Amazon-funded crew will interpret the ideas of ZA/UM.

    With X-Files: Deep State, we innovated in the “hidden object” game genre by introducing more mature themes aimed at a larger audience alongside the reboot of the TV series. We had a perfect combination of genuine franchise fans and great creators at the studio, producing possibly the most engaging and unique game in the genre.

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

    Vladimir Funtikov: I believe that filmmakers will increasingly rely on real-time rendering, AI-assisted asset creation and computer-generated actors. At the same time, games will become increasingly cinematic, delivering immersion and fidelity nearly indistinguishable from FMV in real-time. The recent UE5 Matrix demo, which can be enjoyed both as a short film and an interactive game, provides a glimpse into the future dominated by photorealistic real-time CGI and physics.

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