Category Archives: Building A Company

“No Rest for the Weary” — Week 15 Recap

By Friday afternoon of last week, the Reactuate team was practically drooling over the Wii remotes during our Play&Learn. We were exhausted and sleep deprived. As we struggled to stay awake and entertain our Twitch audience, we aimed red turtle shells, threw opened bananas, and transformed into racing bullets. Mario Kart was fun. But we were tired.

We officially launched our Kickstarter campaign last Tuesday, September 1st. Within hours of our launch, we had over $5000 dollars raised. We watched the number of backers rise throughout the day, mesmerized, as if we hadn’t known before how numbers worked.

Wednesday we celebrated Colony Rush by having a launch party at The Mill Winery in Abilene. It’s a local hot spot that has recently become “the place to go” in this city. Here, we showed our game and the development behind it; we also thanked our backers and set up a computer for those who wanted to support us. (We actually got a couple of people to back us at the party!)

DSC00784
Our launch party!

This event was a great opportunity to show our family, friends, and colleagues exactly what we’ve been dedicated to this last summer, but it was also a moment for us at Reactuate to just look at all we’ve done and give ourselves a pat on the back.

It the midst of all things Kickstarter and the statistics of how many campaigns succeed after 20% is raised within a 7-day span and yada yada yada … it was nice to sit back and hang out with those that care about what we’re doing.

IMG_7180
#Famous

A lot of different interactions took place last week, too. We were pleasantly surprised when contacted about an interview with The Abilene Reporter-News, who put us on the front page of the business section. In this Sunday edition, the reporter wrote about Ron, the company, and Colony Rush, which enabled more Abilenians to find out about us. We also received a phone call from L.A., but more on that story later …

Ron was asked to give a presentation at a local Rotary Club meeting last week,  too. This was another chance to share what Reactuate Games is doing. The presentation, entitled “The Narrative of Our Age,”  discussed the history of story and its future place in video games. Ron shared Reactuate’s vision and our own push for progress in virtual storytelling.

DSC00791

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our latest episode of Say Something Smart with Craig Fryar of Wargaming.net is now up on our website, our YouTube channel, and iTunes. Craig, who specializes in game data for projects such as World of Tanks and World of Warships, shared insight on how analytics can influence game design. Check out the episode here.

 

“The Time Has Come” — Week 14 Recap

This is it. Our Kickstarter campaign has finally arrived. And with that arrival is the tremendous urge to throw up.

Just being honest.

Though the nervous energy consumes us all as a team, we still managed to work together and have fun last week. Especially, Friday. For our weekly Friday Team Lunch, we tested Taco Bell’s ordering app together, which turned out to be a team-building exercise oddly enough. And slightly pointless.

Afterward, we worked on our Kickstarter Launch poster. As one Colony Rushcreative force, we designed a spiffy, detailed poster for all of our upcoming events. Once the poster was finalized, we played Dominion, a strategic card game, for our streamed Play&Learn on Twitch. We joked, we laughed, and we forgot, for a moment at least, that this job could be over in just a month.

It’s difficult to discuss this reality. But it is our reality. If we don’t make our Kickstarter goal, this Command Center at Reactuate Games will turn back into a regular old office. And that is disheartening to think about.

But on Friday afternoon, during our game play, we pushed these thoughts away.

Very few tasks were on our to-do list last week. This was mostly because we prioritized items and issues that concerned our Kickstarter.  The full week looked like this:

When Ron wasn’t working diligently on our Kickstarter page, he grew crystals (which would mimic our game’s mineral shards) for the party tables at our launch. Ron also ordered various swag gifts for our supporters, the poster, and other essentials for our promotion.

I posted the fourth episode of the Say Something Smart podcast, featuring Jose Sanchez. You can view that here. I also worked on preparation for the party. I bought the plates, cups, forks, decorations, etc. The majority of my time was spent contacting the press and others about our KS, though. Lots of emails. Lots.

Katey was the woman behind the wheel for the poster. She’s the one who took all of our critiques and suggestions into consideration and designed the piece. On another note, Katey also animated our colonist and got him to walk. Click the pic to see him strut.

He_s_Alive

Cool, huh?

For Austin, much of the week was concentrated on taking screenshots and filming in-game scenes for our KS video. It was extremely important to arrange the best images and segments for this highly influential clip on the KS page. When he finished that, Austin went back to working on the saving/loading system in the game.

 

 

“Are We There Yet?” — Week 13 Recap

The term Kickstarter has been heavily integrated in our vocabulary here at Reactuate Games. Phrases like, “On September 1st, we’ll be Kickstarting our Kickstarter campaign on Kickstarter” have been said, and it’s totally normal because we are up to our eye holes in Kickstarter planning.

Yes, our eye holes, people.

jose
Jose Sanchez

Fortunately, we’ve had a few other tasks that have relieved our minds from KS. Last week, Angel and I interviewed two new guests for our Say Something Smart podcast. Jose Sanchez, who is not only a  game developer but also a professor at the School of Architecture at USC, was our first guest. His video game Block’hood will be released within the next few months. Our second guest was Craig Fryar, the Head of Business Intelligence at Wargaming.net. Craig has helped with the data analysis on numerous games, including World of Tanks and World of Warships. Both episodes will be posted in the next couple of weeks.

Also, episode 3 with Dr. Brian Burton, a professor of digital entertainment, is up on our website. If you missed it, you can watch that here.

I’ve finally reserved a venue for our Kickstarter launch party, which will be September 2nd (the date had to be moved a day after our actual KS launch). We’re beyond excited to celebrate what we’ve accomplished these last three months and to show others the game’s progress so far. The event will be held at a casual winery here in town, and it will be a come-and-go party. A few monitors will display the KS video, in-game images, and perhaps even our YouTube collection.

Speaking of our launch, Ron has officially started up a page for us on the website. Before it goes live, we want to create a promotional video that will be at the top of the page. Ron and I have researched a lot into how we can produce an entertaining and yet persuasive video because it’s one of the most important items on a KS page. Ron prepared the script that we’ll be filming today, so be on the lookout for that gem!

validLocation
Power reachability

Austin has been working tirelessly on many lengthy projects. He now has the power plant and power towers working in unison with the power’s reachability. The colony cams now appropriately work within this range, too.

He’s also successfully built a log-in/quit scene with username and password blanks. At the time of this post, the game wasn’t able to be saved, but Austin is working hard on getting that fixed.

Our KS page was in need of a great visual that will entice people to click on our page, so Katey created that image. Katey has also been rigging our first colonist, which turned into a tougher task than we had first imagined. But Katey, the great perseverer she is, finally got the job done. Our colonist, seen here, is quite the kung fu artist.

It’s amazing to see how far we’ve come as a team. We’re rigging art, recording podcasts, and making a game that we are really proud of. We have a long way to go, of course, but the journey thus far has been immensely fulfilling. On to week 14!

“Going Kickstarter Crazy” : Week 12 Recap

*Caution* The word Kickstarter will appear more than ever in this post. That’s our life now.

We have waved goodbye to week 11, a week filled with big decisions, perseverance, and all-things Kickstarter. Here’s what happened at Reactuate Games:

Screen Shot 2015-08-14 at 1.50.13 PM
Meet Colonist #1.

The swarmbeast, who has given us more trouble for the past month or more than we originally envisioned, is finally rigged. Katey worked hard on the monster throughout the last couple of weeks, and now it is finally prepared to have rag doll physics applied to it.

Katey also created our very first colonist! At the moment, he is a faceless young man, but we are eager to see what Katey comes up with.

In addition to these projects, our digital artist also created our Colony TV icon. The icon was inspired by the old Comedy Central logo, but Katey put her own spin on it.Colony TV

The icon, colonist, and rag-dolled swarmbeast were all  originally going to be used in our teaser trailers, but with Kickstarter coming up so quickly, the trailers have been put on hold. These projects will be back in production sometime during September.

Austin continued working on the colony cam system, enabling the cameras to record real-time action at the ground level of the game. He’s also implemented the add or delete buttons that will allow players to have up to 8 cameras in their colony.

The reach of the wireless power towers was programmed into the game by Austin last week as well. Placing buildings that will need electricity, like houses and factories, will need to be more strategic now that structures must be within a certain distance of the power towers. Buildings will light up red if they are placed out of reach.

Ron focused a lot on the Kickstarter project. He officially created the KS page we’ll use for our campaign and  fleshed out the rewards for our backers. He’s also been researching into the technicalities of starting a campaign. Who knew there was so much planning involved in proper crowdfunding?

Hacking Kickstarter

The Crowdfunding Bible

Huffington Post’s Campaign Tips

Tips for Your Kickstarter Video

Forbes Crowdfunding Secrets

1,000,000 Sites on “Planning a Kickstarter

Oh, well apparently everyone.

Kickstarter has been haunting me in my sleep, too. Fortunately, some good ideas have come from it. I wrote up some ideas for the KS video that will be displayed on our KS page, and I’ve drafted some of the page’s content– what the game is, its features, info on the planet and the beasts, the backstory, our music, the budget, etc.  I’ve been told this is the most important document I will have written for Reactuate … so no pressure there.

When I haven’t been hyperventilating about our KS, I’ve done a little party planning. We are preparing to have two launch parties, one near the Kickstarter launch date and another near the the middle of the campaign. The first will be hosted for friends, family, and supporters. The second will be an e-sport tournament at a local university (hopefully). For some reason, we didn’t realize how much planning goes into these events, either, so I’m a little behind on the scheduling. But it will get done, and it will be fantastic!

I also posted episode 2 of the Say Something Smart podcast. In this episode, Angel and I interviewed Rob Buchheit of Nectar Game Studios. Listen to it here.

Dr. Brian Burton, assistant professor of Digital Entertainment and Information Technology at Abilene Christian University, stopped by the office last week for episode 3 of the podcast. This will be posted later this week. We shared some great conversation on the future of game development and the possibility of “electronic medicine”.

In other news, Ron finally picked a name for the game! After much deliberation, our game is now called …

Colony Rush

 

We’re excited to have an official name to accompany all the hard work we’ve put into making the game. It just makes the project feel that more real.

 

 

“What’s in a Name?”– Week 11 Recap

 

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”

– Wm. Shakespeare


Shakespeare always applies. Even in game development.

***

I spun in my chair for what seemed like an hour as we processed the possibilities. The team and I sat in the office, mumbling words from the tops of our heads, some making good sense and others making us question our sleep depravity.

The new name of our project needs to be chosen. Time is running out, and our codename Guardian no longer fully represents our game design.

We’ve been told that the name will find us. A serendipitous lightbulb will go off, and immediately we will all know that that was meant to be our game’s name.

Others suggested we drink till something comes up — a name preferably.

While we waited on a name to emerge, plenty of other things happened last week:

Ron and I met with the owner of Abilene’s The Gathering Place, a hangout for those who love games, especially those who enjoy card games like Magic: The Gathering and Yu-Gi-Oh! . Though our audiences may vary slightly, we learned a lot from the meeting, and it’s always nice to see others who are passionate about gaming. We hope to attend the West Texas Table Top Con in San Angelo this weekend and spread the word about Reactuate Games and maybe make some friends in the process.

The Say Something Smart podcast recorded another episode, this time featuring co-founder of Nectar Game Studios, Rob Buchheit. We discussed such topics as their new game Project Resurgence, unrealistic females in video games to having “too much rhythm” for DDR. Episode 2 goes on Aug. 13th, but you can catch up on the series on our blog post, YouTube, or iTunes.

I also wrote a script and storyboarded a “happy” teaser trailer for Guardian. Reminiscent of the “Pure Michigan” commercials, this short video focuses on the touristy feel of the game. Within the next two weeks, this trailer will be released and showcase RG’s animation debut.

ColonyCams1
Colony Cams

Ron also worked on a storyboard for the “scary” teaser trailer. This video will consist of the problems that may occur in the game. We’re hoping to release this video a week after the “happy” one.

Our fearless leader is now moonlighting as a YouTube personality– sorta. His new vlog series focuses on leadership in a video game company. The first episode, entitled “What Does It Mean to Be Boss?”, is on YouTube and here.

The Kickstarter goals and rewards have been sketched out by Ron, too. Though RG’s main monetary goal has been cut, we still want to give our backers great rewards, so we all added our two cents in to what our supporters should get, and Ron created the final-ish list.

Our talented digital artist, Katey, has been hard at work on many different tasks. The Colony Cam, for instance, has come to fruition, with a rounded, futuristic appeal.

Katey also practiced rigging on her monkey, who’s been with us since day one. Now, the monkey can dance, bounce, shake, twist … everything but twerk! It’s a big accomplishment, as Katey had to watch a lot of training videos and spend a lot of time getting things into motion.

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 1.49.00 PM
Swarmbeast rigging

Now Katey is in the process of rigging the fearsome Swarmbeast, a monstrous alien that threatens the colonists. This creature will be featured in our trailers for the first time.

Austin focused on getting the UI elements in place and having them work properly when clicked on, including pop-ups popping up at the right time.

He also managed to get the colony cam system working, which is a huge feat for Guardian. Now, the colony cam is part of the UI, and players can see what is going on in their game at ground level. This interactive feature will hopefully appeal to players, who can now build their colony, watch it transform in real time from a colonist’s perspective, and share their world with their friends.

CamSmall

After all of this, we still don’t have a game name, but we know that our game will be awesome despite the title choose.

So, The Bard had it right after all.

 

How To Evaluate Music When You Aren’t A Musician

Recently Reactuate Games got a new theme song. We think it is awesome, and it was written and produced by Jon Sheppard of Sheppard Studios.

When it comes to any art that goes into your game, there is trepidation. This is compounded when you have no skill in it yourself. This was true of game art because I don’t consider myself a 3D or 2D artist. And I can’t play a musical instrument and don’t know the language of music.

So how do I get music created for my game with the wow factor we’re looking for?

I fell back on the framework I’ve used to get 2D work like logos done in the past. I’ve hired graphic designers before and been happy with the results I got from them. But how do you do a sketch of a song?

Enter Jon Sheppard.

A friend of mine suggested I talk to his close friend about doing music for the game. So I sent him an email and asked for a demo of some of the stuff he’s done in the past.

After listening to that, I arranged a time to get on Skype together.

We talked a little about how the process would work, and I assigned to him a 30 second theme to do as a test. Doing it would tell us if we could work together and let me learn the process for creating and evaluating music.

Jon suggested we describe the feel we were looking for and to give him examples from anywhere of things we liked. Since I know no musical language, I was describing things in non-musical terms.

For example here’s what I sent Jon to describe what I wanted:

Jon:

For a theme for the company, I’m thinking something rock, with guitar and some subtle undertones of 8-bit video game music. It needs to be 30 seconds or so long with shorter versions later.

I’ve created a spotify play list with some songs in it.

https: //open.spotify.com/user/11143008571/playlist/0hot3Pr3bC5Tt92T6uZAkw

Here are some notes on those songs and some other related stuff:

Wanted Dead or Alive from Bon Jovi, specifically I like the guitar at the beginning and end.
This Life – the Theme to Sons of Anarchy – again the guitar at the beginning.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ir9-p4yFrOo – nice remix
Short Change Hero – The Heavy Starting about 1:20 into the track on Spotify. This is the theme on Borderlands 2.
Though it can’t take that long to get into the main theme.

Some hard rock.
A driving rhythm like Lonely Boy.
Or really pounding like Living Dead Girl.

As a subtle undertone, that 8-bit synth sound of retro video games. To give the understanding that we are a video game company.

Danger Zone from Top Gun

Hopefully that will give you somewhere to start. Let me know if you need anything else.

 

Jon took this craziness and turn it into a rough draft of a theme:

Version 1

Then we got together again, and I gave him feedback on exactly what parts we liked and didn’t like. We loved the guitar part at the beginning. As soon as we heard it, we were humming it all the time.

But things were rough. The 8-bit synth part was way too strong. The whole second half really seemed like it was going in multiple directions.

After that meeting, Jon went back and started smoothing things out. This is version 2.

Version 2

Now we were getting somewhere. The feedback we gave was very specific.
“The change at 11 seconds is too rough”
“The end at 20 still seems to be going off in another direction”.

Jon said he’d fix those things and get them back to us the next day. That was our final version and what you hear at the beginning of our videos now.

Final

We also had him make short versions 15 and 10 seconds long to use as bumpers and what not.

Now were starting work on music for our trailers that will be coming out this month, and we’ve found a music guy for the game.

“Five Minutes of Fame” — Week 10 Recap

Reactuate Games had an influx of visitors last week as the team prepared for bigger and better things happening with Guardian and the company. Among the special guests was Angel Rodriguez, who is now more like an official member of the team, co-hosting the Say Something Smart podcast with me.

Jon Sheppard of Sheppard Studios joined us in the Command Center, too; we listened to his take on our company’s musical interpretation. This theme encompasses some of the adventurous aspects we envision for Reactuate, but it also includes a hint of 8-bit to acknowledge our game development.  You can listen to the entire theme here.

IMG_7052
Ron on TV

Finally, Abilene’s KTAB news station visited us for a live interview last Tuesday. To say that we were as giddy as 12-year-old girls at a One Direction concert is an understatement. Sure, it was only local TV … but hey it’s a start! And as I’ve mentioned before, when you’re in a startup, you should celebrate the small wins. The KTAB crew was super nice and even complimented the cookies we offered (psst…. thanks United Supermarkets).

Task-wise, we got a lot done. Ron, who was on a task-slaying spree, accomplished much, writing and recording a couple of leadership vlogs (more news on those later), creating images for our podcast series, and installing some podcast plugins for our WordPress.

Ron was also our guinea pig for the first episode of Say Something Smart. Angel and I interviewed him and discussed a plethora of topics, including drug testing in professional gaming competitions and the real definition of gamer.  Before we started, I admit that I was a little nervous. The mic seemed to stare into my soul and stifle my voice from sounding natural. But as we eased into the podcast, we all started to mesh a bit more and flow with the conversation. Our first episode will be posted in a few days on our website, YouTube, and on iTunes.

I also sketched out some teaser trailers that we will hopefully create within the next couple of weeks. As of now, we have two visions: one lighthearted and the other … a little less so. We’re excited to finally get some moving video of the game out to the public and interest more people in Guardian.

Screenshot 2015-08-03 11.13.10
Power plant

Katey finished her recreation of the power plant (which now has a smoke feature). She also created some cool icons for the UI. They include simple images, so players will easily understand their function, but they are unique enough to be intriguing and admired as well.

Austin worked more on the UI system and implementing missions. He also put Katey’s icon to use. Buildings can now be placed in the game and rise from nothing upon command thanks to our code artist, too.

icons
Icons for UI

Reactuate Games does Super Smash Bros.

Last Friday, we had a blast playing Super Smash Bros. … and you can’t see it because our screen didn’t record any of it. But we promise it happened.

There was screaming and jeering and vengeful laughing– mostly from me– but everyone seemed to have a good time. And after some intense 4-player action, we talked about the pros and cons of this wildly entertaining game.

Pros:

  • So many characters to choose from! Not only do you have the regulars like Mario, Luigi, and Peach, but you also have Pac-Man, Pokemon characters, and the Wii Fit Trainers. Yes, the lady trainer pulls a yoga move. No, it didn’t do much — but it’s cool as an option anyhow.

    Screenshot 2015-07-27 17.03.18
    smashbros.com
  • Up to 8 people can play. Why would you want 8 to play? To add to the chaos, of course! As the saying goes, the more the merrier. And the more to demolish.
  • Developers still focused on details. If you attack someone with a shield, you’ll get hurt. Even with all the craziness happening, Jigglypuffs flying left and right, it’s nice to know that even these minute details work.

Cons:

  • We still don’t understand the controls. As Ron mentioned, he was just hammering buttons the whole time and played a lot of defense because he, like the rest of us, couldn’t really grasp what the controls specifically did. Nor could we find a tutorial. (But that’s kind of the fun, right?)
  • Controls vary with remote. This may not be a con so much as just an annoyance. We couldn’t help Ron, who had a Wii U gamepad, because our setup was so different. On that note …
  • The wii remote doesn’t have any effect on game play. The movement censor means nothing in this game (at least it didn’t seem like it). I see a missed opportunity.
  • Camera view plays favorites. Sometimes the camera would follow a character to their death besides focusing on the remaining players left on the platform. What gives? This sometimes made it difficult to continue fighting when others were defeated.
ssbyoga
en.wikipedia.org

 

Do you love Super Smash Bros.? Let us know in the comments below, or give us suggestions for our next Play & Learn!

 

 

 

 

“Fine-Tuning” — Week 9 Recap

As Reactuate Games gains more support and Guardian comes into focus, we have begun to notice the details that were once not a big deal — the things we said we’d get back to at a later date or work on once we get the bigger priorities complete. We did a lot of this fine-tuning last week.

We largely focused on a new podcast project we’re starting. Angel Rodriguez (find more about him here) and I will be co-hosting the series and discussing anything from video game development to how society can benefit from playing these kinds of games.

I worked with Ron, who has past success with multiple podcasts, to reconstruct a lot of his ideas. We sketched out our theme, some question topics, and the outline for the episodes. The title is something we’re still wrestling with, however. We’ll be recording some of those episodes this week, so be on the lookout for those soon.

Ron also contacted a music tech who will create our company’s sound– meaning, he’ll produce music that embodies what RG is about. This music could potentially be on podcasts, trailers, and other videos that we create. Eventually, our music man will make a theme for our game. But first things first.

Screenshot 2015-07-27 14.10.00
The new power plant

Over the course of last week, Katey concentrated on fixing and revamping some of her older work. Our digital artist added more realistic lightning to the colony portal, shrunk the warehouse to be a more appropriate size, and recreated a power plant with an interesting design. 

While still coding the game into existence, Austin also managed to take on some art duties by putting together a thumbnail for our YouTube videos. Though this seems like a simple task, it’s important to incorporate the right amount of details and simplicity for YouTube audiences scrolling through clips. He also wrote up a programming blog post and continued testing UI elements. 

Besides working on the podcast, I uploaded a new video to YouTube, entitled “Why We’re Not Free to Play.” It’s an interesting talk on why we’ve chosen not to go with the trend of F2P. Watch that below or check it out on our YouTube channel

I also created an email subscription survey, completed some courses in YouTube Creator Academy, and wrote up a document on our target audience avatar. These tasks are fleshed out a bit more in my marketing blog post.

To end the week, we invited Angel over for some shawarma in our office. And it kind of felt like this … 

Avengers-shawarma_510x317
ew.com / Shawarma provided by Big Country Wraps in Abilene, Texas!!