Monday, April 30, 2007

Off to the USA

I'm heading over to the good old US of A this Wednesday. I'll be there for a week, which means I'll miss out on seeing Spiderman3 in Australia with friends... but hopefully I can hook up with some of my LA pals and catch a session with them.

And what's a plane trip without a load of handheld games to play? I'm still playing Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters on PSP, so I'll give that a good bash on my trip. I'll also be picking up some DS games while I'm over there - notably Pokemon Diamond and Puzzle Quest. That should keep me busy on my flight back.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Scumm 20th Anniversary

IGN has an interview with Ron Gilbert about his days at Lucasfiilm Games and his work on the SCUMM adventure game engine. It's hard to believe that it's 20 years since the first point and click graphic adventure game was created.

Monkey Island was a huge inspiration for my Flight of the Amazon Queen graphic adventure game. I was a huge comic fan and had been making arcade style games prior to seeing Monkey Island, but when a friend showed me the game a light bulb went off in my head. This was a game that was like a comic book!

Prior to that I had written some text adventures (a genre I also love) but these were more akin to interactive novels. Graphic adventures were just way cooler! What's really exciting is the work now being down by Telltale Games, and the talk of moving their games over to the Wii. I think the Wii is the perfect platform for adventures and can't wait to play Sam and Max on my wide screen TV.

So, congratulations to Ron on the 20th Anniversary!

By the way, if you're interested, you can download the ScummVM version of Flight of the Amazon Queen from my website here. It's freeware! (Just scroll down to the Free downloads! section).

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Brainiversity Sneak Peek 3

I've set up an online survey for the beta testers to fill out using Survey Monkey. It's a great way to track what people think of the game. I'm finding out what activities people like best, what their intent to buy is as well as what features they'd like to see in future versions. I'll definitely use Survey Monkey for the final release of the game.

Well, we've entered the home stretch now. It's just a matter of testing, testing and more testing. In the meantime, here's a screen shot from the "Visual Memory" activity from Brainiversity:


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Color Blindness and Games

I've just made a change to Brainiversity to take into account people with color blindness.

Deuteranopia, or Red/Green color blindness, is the most common form and affects about 8% of Caucasian males and 0.5% of Caucasian females.

So I've adjusted each of the tests that require the player to look for particular colored items or words to not use both green and blue at the same time. The change was simple but it was something that I hadn't really considered until I remembered reading a Gamasutra article a few years ago on Improving Game Accessibility.

It really does pay to read journals about game development!


Sunday, April 22, 2007

Inspiration and the other 99%

I love games. Video games, word games, board games and puzzles.
And I love creating games. And one of the challenges in creating games is coming up with new and interesting ideas.

As game developers a lot of us seem to draw our inspiration from two places: 1) other games, and 2) TV shows and movies.

Within those two wells of inspiration we tend to focus on specific areas. If we draw inspiration from TV and movies, its invariably genre shows focusing on sci-fi, fantasy, action or horror. And if we draw from games, we generally look at the top selling blockbusters. Now there are so many other sources of inspiration that range from books, toys, real life stories, sports, and natural phenomena to academia, but within the areas of games, TV and movies there is still a lot of untapped potential that developers can draw from.

Looking at the Top 20 grossing films in the US last year we see a wide range of topics that include pirates, penguins, race cars, period musicals and political parodies. If you dip below the top 20 you get an even more diverse range of films. Of course not every idea would make a great game. But then prior to Diner Dash, the smash hit casual game, most people probably would have thought basing a game around a sassy restaurant owner to be sales suicide.

And if you look within the world of games for inspiration you'll find the top 20 to be fairly predictable with themes of war, sport, music, crime, fantasy and sci-fi action. But like film, go outside the top 20 and you'll find some cool stuff. If the casual game market was included in the NPD data you might even find Diner Dash somewhere close by.

What I love about this great medium of games is that there is so much potential to be had if we stray only a little bit from our usual source of inspiration. It feels like we've only tapped 1% of our potential - and that 1% has been pretty good so far - so imagine what's waiting for us with the other 99%.

That excites me!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Credit Where Credit is Due

I've been playing Ratchet and Clank Size Matters on the PSP. It's great to finally have another game to play on that system.

So, I was reading through the manual looking over the credits - which is something I like to do for movies and comics as well as games - and for the life of me I couldn't find out who actually created the concept of Ratchet and Clank.

Now, I know it's Insomniac Games, and I know that they'd probably not credit one person or groups of people with originating the idea (with games like this it's generally one person that seeds the idea then a group grows it so everyone has some ownership) but I did expect to at least see a "Ratchet and Clank created by Insomniac Games" credit somewhere in the manual. Well, I searched high and low and all I found was their name under the SPECIAL THANKS heading.

Apparently the original concept grew from a void of inky blackness and landed fully formed on Sony's doorstep.

On the other hand I was heartened to see a "Prince of Persia and Prince of Persia The Two Thrones are trademarks of Jordan Mechner" credit on all material to do with the latest Prince of Persia game. And not just hidden away in the manual somewhere, but displayed prominently on the front page of the official web site. I guess that's what happens when you own the trademark and copyright. Good on you Jordan!

Now, I’m all for creator rights, and I do understand that people sometimes have to assign their copyright and trademark rights away to other companies (usually for money, or just for the sake of getting their work published) – but surely that doesn’t mean they should be erased from history as the creators of the concept?

At a company I used to own one of the executives wanted to remove the name of an artist from the credits because he left the project before completion. I was appalled. As a fan of the medium I want to know who created my favorite levels in a game or which concept artist designed the characters I’ve grown to love. Art, coding and writing doesn’t happen by itself. Needless to say I vetoed the idea and the artist got their credit.

We see more creator recognition in films, TV and comics. People in these mediums tend to fight harder to get proper credit. I’m guessing it has something to do with unions and the fact they rely on their reputations to get their next gig. Either way, it’s something the games industry could take note of, because as a fan, I want to know who makes the things that I really enjoy.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Brainiversity Sneak Peek 2

A big thanks to all the beta testers who are supplying some awesome feedback. The game is really coming along. The next step is to plan the marketing assault that will accompany the game's release.

Speaking of which, Scott Steinberg has conveniently released a free download of his Videogame Marketing and PR book to industry professionals. You can find out more at Games Industry Biz. Thanks Scott! The book will also be released as a hardcopy on May 15th - with the paperback costing only USD $17.95.

Okay, now here's a screen shot from the "Perfect Match" test from Brainiversity:

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Casual Game Wiki

Hot on the heels of the Indie Game Wiki comes the Casual Game Wiki.

It's a growing site where you can add in your game details, articles, information on companies, publishers, definitions - anything relating to casual games.

Go on, check it out now!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Indie Game Wiki

Indie Game Developer's Podcast has created an indie game wiki.

You can list your games, your game studios and your post-mortems. It's early days so there's not a great deal of content up yet, but it's a great idea to help centralize a lot of indie developer info.

Go check it out here:
http://indiegamepod.com/indiegamewiki/index.php

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Brainiversity Sneak Peek 1

The game is pretty solid. The only thing left to do is the balancing of the grading system - which I'm doing with the help of beta testers. I'm also working on the Brainiversity web site which will go live when the game launches.

If you signed up for the second round of beta testing, the latest build should be available later this week - so expect an email soon.

If you'd like to sign up to test, please email john AT redspritestudios DOT com to join.

In the meantime here's a screen grab from Brainversity's "Find Me" test:

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Beta Testers Wanted!

I’m opening up a second round of beta testing for my new casual game.
If you're interested in testing please email john AT redspritestudios DOT com.
It's a brain training style game and I'm looking for people to provide feedback and help adjust the game's grading system.

Thanks,
John

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Game On!

I did my Game On! talk at the Kelvin Grove Urban Village today.

The talk was about how now is an awesome time to be making games - on all platforms. I focused on the independent side of things, covering casual and indie gaming - with examples of successful games made with small teams.

I wanted to show students how they can make a game on a shoestring (hey, if you're reading this, then you already have a computer and internet access). If you want a job in the games industry then showing off a game that you worked on really helps.

I used my latest casual game as an example of how I use free tools to develop a game that you can (soon) buy online... Download the powerpoint presentation to find out what the game is :-)

The powerpoint also includes links to download the tools that I use.
I hope you find it useful.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

GO 3

I got home from from GO3 early yesterday morning. I only got to spend Friday at the conference as I had a wedding to attend on Saturday. The wedding went really well - congratulations to Rob and Trudy!!!

However the limited time I spent at GO3 was great fun. I got to meet Masaya Matsuura, Hideo Kojima and Tetsuya Mizuguchi who are all really nice guys and are true "rock stars" of the games industry. I wanted to speak with Goichi Suda, but unfortunately ran out of time. Suda-san gave a really cool talk about his Grasshoper Manufacture development company and showed some interesting stuff from his early games. I also missed out on Kojima-san's talk too as it was on Saturday...

I was surprised at the lack of Australian East Coast game developers attending the conference - especially given the caliber of the speakers. As well as the top-notch Japanese developers the conference also had Harvey Smith (Midway) and Rod Ferguson (Gears of War). Some New Zealand developer friends were there and they made the most of being able to talk one-on-one with the attendees. If I wasn't already attending, I would have been there and used the opportunity to pick these guys brains about the business. Well, if you're a developer and you're reading this, then that's a top tip for next year.

Apart from the speakers, I also met a lot of really cool local developers, including Michael and Jon from game.pride.id.au and Simon from ezone.com. These guys are all doing some neat stuff, and again, I only wish I had more time to meet everyone one else. I also got to meet PC Powerplay's Tim Best in person, which was nice as I've only ever exchanged emails with him.

I was a bit worried that my talk about adapting Destroy All Humans! to the Japanese market might be a bit too technical, especially following Mizuguchi's awesome "Inspiration Led Creativity" talk - but people came up to me afterwards saying that the talk really resonated with them. That made me happy! I have to give a big thanks to Gary Ireland, the producer of the Japanese version of Destroy All Humans! for helping me write the talk.

Now, I just have the Game On! talk at QUT to do as well as an appearance at Supanova and my speaking duties will be done for the year. In the meantime, I'll be taking my daughter to the "Focus on Tezuka" exhibition next week to check out Astro Boy and Kimba the White Lion. She's only two but already appreciates Mario and Star Wars.

Being a dad is the best job in the world!