All posts by Stephanie Whitlow

RG Takes on Heroes of the Storm

Last Friday the RG team played Heroes of the Storm, a MOBA by Blizzard Entertainment that merges multiple characters from their other games. Video of our trial is on YouTube now — WARNING: opinions expressed by individuals are his/hers alone, and in no way  represent Reactuate Games … except that they kind of do because we are the company. So, yeah.

Here’s our video of the Retrospective and Play & Learn:

And the summarized version of our pros and cons that we discussed after playing an hour or so of HOTS:

Pros:

  • The game provides a good walkthrough for beginners. Devs made sure that the players knew how to fire a weapon or call on their faithful steed before letting them flail around too much.
  • Animations are super detailed, and it’s apparent the artists dedicated some time to them. Even the extra animations on the sidelines, which weren’t even supposed to be noticed, tell a story of their own and complete the atmosphere.
  • HOTS made it simple to select items. A red outlining shows the player exactly what can be demolished or attacked, so you don’t have to wonder or waste ammo.
  • The music and sound effects work pretty well with the game. No unbelievable, out-of-place screams or horse-trampling sounds occur, which is a bit refreshing.

Cons: 

  • The AI for HOTS is a bit too predictable. Of course, we played on the easiest of easy levels, but still …
  • As one of our artists noticed, there is no racial diversity in this game. All humans are white, excluding one who is a witch doctor and completely covered anyway. What’s up with that, Blizzard?
  • Pop-up text, like the level-up signifiers, tend to show up over the action, causing some distraction.

Here are some issues we discussed that don’t necessarily fit into the pros or cons. Basically, we disagreed on these ideas.

  • The WASD keys are a hassle. Some of these same keys are used for powers, and the arrow keys are used to move the camera. This caused issue when someone had to either take his hand off the mouse or use his left hand to move the camera. In HOTS’ defense, one doesn’t necessarily have to move the camera if it is locked and they like it to be controlled.Screenshot 2015-07-16 12.04.32
  • On the beginning level, a small screen is visible in the top left corner that doesn’t match the UI theme. This screen has computer-ish text and lists what the controls do. Some believe this screen should match the rest of HOTS’ theme, but for new players, this screen stands out, helping them read and learn the controls quicker.
  • HOTS makes us want to play another game. Now this statement could be taken in two ways. The ongoing battle made Ron think of Blizzard’s other works. He said HOTS made him want to play those games. However, I wouldn’t want to make a game that someone leaves because it reminds them of a game they would rather play. I want to make a game that players would rather be playing or can’t quit– because it’s that good.

 

Overall, we know HOTS is a well-loved game, and thousands can watch it all day long on Twitch. It was fun to play, and we definitely learned a lot from it to implement in Guardian.

What do you guys think of HOTS? Agree or disagree? Let us know in the comments.

“Halfway Point” — Week Seven Recap

We’ve spent 7 weeks on our game.

We have 7 weeks until Kickstarter.

And that is terrifying.

kickstarterpig
mashable.com

Last week, it finally hit me how little time we have to get to a playable position with Guardian AND to build a fanbase for our Kickstarter campaign. Forty-nine days. I may or may not have had a mini panic attack.

Our Twitch followers have asked if we are on schedule, and to a certain extent, we are. Colonists’ structures and worker units are being put into the game every couple of days, ominous beasts are being reimagined and designed, and new ideas, like Colony Cams (an interactive option for gamers that allows them to watch their colony grow at ground level), are popping up every day.

Support for our game and the company is not where we wished it would be, unfortunately. Exactly how long does one need when marketing a video game? I’m not sure. But a few months certainly doesn’t seem like enough time. Even then, the finish line approaches with more haste.

Inspiration personified visited the Command Center last week, easing our anxiety some. His name is Angel Rodriguez (@dirOFawesome). Angel is a professional gamer who travels the world to compete in game tournaments and gives inspirational talks related to the benefits of gaming. Oh, he also works full-time in the U.S. Air Force AND has a family.

Angel reminded us why games are so important; besides simply being fun, video games teach us about problem-solving, making decisions, and taking on pressure. After our chat, I realized that Guardian will be more than just an entertaining, intriguing, and addicting hobby. It could make us better at life, too.

***

In Guardian-related news, the team has made great strides in their own work. Katey (@BluelKatey) conquered curves while modeling more luxury houses in Blender, Austin (@Austin_Graham24) worked on navigation, having builder units move across rough terrain, and Ron (@rondavis007) created a new UI for the game that follows our futuristic theme.

Our current UI
Our current UI (Click to watch in action)

I also did an interview with Austin, our code artist. In the video, he talks about programming, the foreign language of coding, and what someone should do if he/she wants to become a programmer. There’s tons of great information, so go check it out on YouTube or click here.

 

 

Can You Be Too Hyped for Your Game?

Over the past month, I’ve contacted numerous Abilene reporters and news anchors about Guardian and the company. Unfortunately, I’ve received  little interest back. Feeling defeated, I wondered why our own city didn’t want to cover us. Were abandoned kittens being mothered by a terrier that much more newsworthy than Reactuate Games?

For a brief time, I decided to take a break from the rejection and work on things that did get noticed, like our YouTube videos or blog posts. These marketing strategies were at least being viewed and retweeted in the Twittersphere. Except for one of my blog posts getting put on a website,  I wasn’t getting anything from the press, and I wondered if perhaps I was trying too hard.  Maybe I was becoming a pusher rather than a promoter and annoying all of our followers and friends on our social media pages by my constant plugging.

As Chris Hecker (@checker) says in his GDC video presentation “No One Knows About Your Game,” being an enthusiastic promoter isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though. Hecker states:

“You can’t overhype a game; you can only underdeliver.”

If you focus on creating a really interesting and fun game, then you shouldn’t have to worry that you talked-up your game in the first place. And if you believe in what you’re creating, let the gamers of the world know!

So we’re excited about marketing again, and plan to do it whenever and wherever.

1. We have joined Abilene’s Chamber of Commerce, a collection of local businesses that get together and network and support one another. Hopefully we’ll meet other Abilenians who are interested in what we are doing.

2. We’ve also made flyers that we hand out at local universities. One school has a Digital Entertainment Technology program that turned out to be a great place to discuss our company with potential future game devs. We also plan to leave these flyers at video game stores and gaming hangouts around town.

3. Just today we booked an interview with our local TV station’s community-oriented series called 4U. Later this month, Ron will talk about RG and Guardian so that others in the area can support the first video game company in the city.

Eventually, our marketing scope will be larger. Our end goal is to have a fan base that stretches across the globe, but it’s important to start with a foundation and grow from there.

Check out Hecker’s GDC video:

“All the Small Things” — Week Six Recap

I’m not a morning person. Before I have some swigs of highly sweetened coffee, I hardly open my eyes to acknowledge the existence of anyone or anything. And by the time I get to the office, I’ve probably growled and groaned thirteen times at helpless inanimate objects that did nothing wrong except get in my way.

These mornings continue into the Command Center, where I check and update our Follower Tracking spreadsheet. This document tracks our subscribers on YouTube and in our email system, our likes on Facebook, and our followers on Twitter. Each day since the start of Reactuate Games the total has gone up. Some days it’s 17 new people interested in what we are doing here, and sometimes it’s only 2.

Though it’s still early and my coffee hasn’t fully kicked in yet, every morning I look at our spreadsheet, I smile.

When you’re working for a company, and a humongous goal is plopped in front of you, egging you on, teasing you to catch it, the small accomplishments seem to fade in the sidelines of the race. But it’s important to celebrate these little victories, like our follower-count, too.

For example, last week RG was added to a few game developers’ lists on Twitter. When I read the notifications, I cheered at my desk, stoked that people were beginning to see us as a real game studio– a working and thriving video game company.

Now, in the world of Twitter, an addition like this may seem trivial, but I was honestly and pleasantly surprised! Of course, this whole time I believed in what we were; however, this validation from others felt good. (Yes, Momma always said not to care what others think, but this here is about marketing, and it’s all about the fans and support). Reactuate Games needed that acknowledgment … I needed us to have that acknowledgment, though it be a small one.

Screenshot 2015-07-06 13.42.05
Sam’s sandworm

Other little wins occurred last week as well. More and more graphics are emerging from the imaginary and being transferred into Guardian. Sam completed a builder unit that will construct buildings for the colonists, and he also designed a beastly sandworm (which personally reminds me of something from Starship Troopers). It’s scary for sure, and the colony’s controller will have to try his best to protect the people from this disastrous threat.

luxuryparticles
Moving particles / Luxury housing

Austin worked on particle effects for the game, as well as the construction process, which will include choosing a location to build on and having a unit construct the building. Katey also made headway by creating a luxury home model that colonists will reside in once on the new world. These skyscraping structures will help the ex-earthlings keep their extravagant and polished lifestyle while away from their native planet.

The saying holds true: it is the little things that count. And it’s the big things. And the medium-sized things. All the things count. Because with each step we take, we are farther than we’ve ever been before.

And that’s worth getting a little giddy about.

… even at 9 a.m.

 

Marketing a New World

Convincing others to like something has never seemed like a difficult task before. With two degrees in English, I’ve studied the art of rhetoric and persuasion, and I get why I’m more tempted to buy the shampoo bottles that are pink and sparkly than the plain-looking ones. Before, marketing seemed simple: find out what people like and give it to them.

As the marketing producer for Reactuate Games, however, I’ve realized it’s a bit more intricate than that. A lot more actually.

The truth is it’s hard to market a game that hasn’t been fully created yet in a city that I feel more comfortable calling a town. The RG team is making progress daily, of course, designing other-worldly graphics, fleshing out the backstory of the game, and considering future game advancements, but without any product to show audiences, we seem to be at a marketing standstill. And this lack of attention can be discouraging.

So when does our game become news? When does Guardian become relevant enough to the press and gamers of the world?

Or in other words, when will people care?

I’m not sure when this will be. And when it comes to a startup, the risk is high that we may not get the publicity we need. But even though we may not have much of the game to show people at the moment, it’s important for us to still get the word out and to share our ideas. As Robert DellaFave says in his blog post, “Marketing Your Indie Game: The Single Most Important Thing That No One Knows How to Do,” you must:

“Begin your marketing campaign the moment you have something that illustrates the fundamental mechanics and look of your game.”

Creating hype as soon as possible is vital to the survival of the game. Even if you don’t have a workable game right then. I’ve been posting to Facebook and Twitter updates and screenshots of the game, and I’ve also created quite a few interview videos about the team and  uploaded them to YouTube. Showing the public our game in progress presents some humility to the audience– because most of our work isn’t flawless or complete the first time around. Slowly, a small following has developed as we get better and faster at creating parts for the game.

Last week, I put together a press kit— a small file that includes a press release, some screenshots and video, and the most up-to-date company info (game description, company bio, our goals, etc.). It’s a light folder, Screenshot 2015-07-02 11.06.13yes, but I believe it’s a start. When the press is ready to write about us, this folder is able to be downloaded from our website. This kit makes it easy for others to write up a story about us and use our own pictures and logo. And making life easier for reporters, bloggers, and journalists can be beneficial for your company.

We also started talking about our audience for Guardian and who truly will play and support our game. From a marketing standpoint, a target audience should be defined by asking who will be our main followers and who will ultimately purchase this game.

This is important to figure out because no company wants to waste resources or time on marketing avenues that won’t be fruitful. My initial conclusion was that males in their 20s to early 40s would enjoy our video game the most, but upon mentioning this in our Twitch stream last week, a viewer told us that his company was well over 50 years of age, and they all played video games still. The statement stuck with me. Was my estimated target audience offensive to those outside of it? Was I making a mistake in being too specific?

Of course, Reactuate Games is creating a game for all individuals to play and hopefully get addicted to, with no strict gender-based or age-based influences placed on the design or intended game play. But, at the same time, I need to know who our supporters will be and direct my attention towards them.

Marketing is a constant job that may not result in immediate satisfaction; I’ve learned this. I’ve also realized a devoted fanbase will take time to accrue, so I’m here for the long-run, trying to get the word out wherever and however I can.

 

How are you marketing your game? What’s worked and what hasn’t?

5 Things You’ll Learn When You’re New to Gaming

Stephanie Whitlow

Time to be honest: I work at a video game company, and I haven’t played a ton of video games. I’m what some would call a Noob. But while working at Reactuate Games, I’ve learned a lot. For example …

 

 

  1. People like to talk in three-letter terms: GUI, RTS, MMO, RPG. WTF?
conceptdraw.com
conceptdraw.com

As with most fields, knowing the jargon is essential. Whether you’re developing a game for an app or just learning to play, it’s best to figure out what some of these acronyms mean. You have a GUI (gooey), a graphical user interface, for instance, on your cell phone now. It’s the section of icons where you can tap Facebook or Pinterest. RTS or Real Time Strategy is a genre in which the player focuses on tactical solutions to conquer or defend something. Society is shortening terminology all the time, and in the gaming world, it’s no different. Here’s a pretty conclusive list of game terms to check out.

 

  1. You find out the “standard” keyboard keys for moving are W, A, S, D and not the arrows.

Some PC games call for finger-action on the keyboard, and instead of the four arrows moving the character or camera, the letters W, A, S, D do the job. Why is this a thing? Way back in ancient days, some arrow keys weren’t available on keyboards, and even if you did have them, the space between left and right hand was awkward, and you couldn’t access the space bar quickly, etc. Before you jump into a PC game, check the controls, or prepare to be killed, eaten, or, worse, look stupid in front of your friends.

 

  1. You learn there is such a thing as inverted control playing. But even after you learn that you are, in fact, inverted, it doesn’t really help you anyway.

What’s that? You’re pushing the joystick up thinking it would make the camera go down? You’re probably an inverted game player. Or a pilot. There’s a division between gamers who are inverted and those who play non-inverted controls. Neither is wrong; however, switching controllers among friends may call for extra time getting used to it if y’all are a mixed batch. Aiming is still hard regardless.

 

  1. You realize characters can become much more interesting than Mario and Luigi. No offense to them.

A pair of plumbers who wear overalls and suspiciously have a secret life fighting for a blonde princess is just the beginning of unique characters and story arcs in video games these days. Game developers are creating humorous, smart, and intriguing characters all the time– take Tiny Tina for instance. This thirteen-year-old with quick wit and a knack for blowing stuff up is a favorite in the Borderlands series because she is so unusual. Watch a montage here. Caution: she’s a mess.

tinytinawp
saynotorage.com

 

  1. AAA suddenly means more than car help.

AAA (triple A) refers to the top stars of the video game industry. These games are the ones with the highest budgets and have the most people working on their development. These types of games take a long time to create because of the high quality produced. While none of this means these particular games are the best, a lot of time, effort, and money has been put into them, and some titles, like Call of Duty, Halo, and Final Fantasy,  tend to stick out even if you’re not a big gamer. Here are some previews of the top 30 games in 2015, which may give you an idea of what AAA means.

Are you new to the gaming world? Or do you have any suggestions for new gamers? Let us know in the comments below!

“The Meaning of Life” — Week Five Recap

If earth became a utopian world where progress was no longer needed, peace claimed the nations, and prosperity allowed all humans to be satisfied with life, why would you want to leave?

I asked this question last week, while writing up a game description for our press kit . I realized as I was writing that I didn’t fully believe the backstory. Why would people want to leave our planet at its pinnacle point in history?

Screenshot 2015-06-29 14.51.51
Our new world

The premise of the game (developed more in our Super Secret Game Design) revolves around the idea that people will no longer face hardships or worry about life’s circumstances or struggles– life is pretty much perfect. And yet, our game involves people wanting to discover and inhabit a new world.

So what is missing from the people’s lives back on earth?

Ron, our founder who designed the game,  says the earthlings have no sense of purpose now, and they have lost their motivation for life. Hence why they seek adventure on another mysterious planet.

Screenshot 2015-06-29 14.47.04
Sandworm that will threaten the lives of our colonists.

As pointed out to me, life can be adequate for most of us in the world today, and yet groups still travel to space on occasion or send rovers out to Mars. Why? A review of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, explained here, helped me better understand  why these futuristic beings would leave a near-heavenly place to teleport to an unknown world and face possible death.

This theory proposes the basic needs of humans — food, shelter,love, and esteem. But one important necessity will be missing from our colonists’ lives. Self-purpose. The earthlings have everything they need and want, and yet, they will be bored with their lives, merely surviving their days on a dull, predictable world with no real reason for living. Therefore, they yearn for something more. They yearn to be more.

maslow
Photo from acompli.com

Of course, most of our psychological discussion on the backstory of Guardian is not extremely relevant to gameplay. Does it matter exactly who these colonists are or when they decide to venture to another planet to rebuild mankind? Not really. But by ruminating on the psyche of our colonists, we learned more about our game and the new world we are creating.

 

What do you think about our backstory? Is a video game’s plot critical to game play? Let us know!

 

“Figuring It Out” — Week Four Recap

It all starts from the spin of a chair.

Topics emerge from the ether of our minds while in the RG Command Center, and the next thing you know, we’re discussing feminist film theory or the cuteness factor of opossums and chirping moths. Sure, our talks here at RG can seem completely off base sometimes, but, on occasion, we actually talk about serious game stuff.

DSC00588
The RG Command Center

For instance, last week we pondered on subscription options for the game, now codenamed Guardian. We asked ourselves a lot of questions: Can we offer a free demo? Should we ask for a monthly payment? If people cancel their subscriptions, what will happen to their colonies? Will we auction off their items, like in the real world?  Pivoting our chairs, we traded thoughts back and forth across the room, offering suggestions and weighing in on them, trying to nail down some fuzzy details.

While the subscription issue is still up in the air, we did  flesh out a lot of other ideas about the game.

Screen_Shot_2015-06-18_at_10_16_44_AM

The graphics for the game  have been thus far generated from the artists’ whims, but now we have a distinct architectural theme. This new world in Guardian (read our Super Secret Game Design 2.0 for details) is a fresh start for colonists, so the buildings will appear more updated and futuristic with pronounced curvature throughout the designs. And because this discovered planet is foreign to the ex-earthlings, we will also be creating alien terrain– purple and pink landscape, black sand, and weird plant life. “Normal” items we find in our reality will be twisted and transformed into alien concepts.

I also sketched out a marketing plan for the next two months, up until we start our crowdfunding campaign. RG doesn’t have a marketing specialist on the team per se, but we have found some great resources like PixelProspector’s website where they take you step by step into how you can promote a video game. In our own marketing plan, we discuss the company’s current situation, our strengths and weaknesses, our target audience, our goals, and some of our marketing strategies.

And if you’re still wondering who the heck we are and what we’re about, we created an introduction video that explains the backstory of RG and what we see for our future. You can watch that here!

A lot was figured out last week, but there is still a ton to do before we can sit back and relax. So here’s to week five!