Category Archives: Creating a Game

“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!)

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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.

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#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.

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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.

 

Reactuate Games does Dominion

The Reactuate team played Dominion, a strategic, table top card game based in the Middle Ages. While the player is busy ruling his/her kingdom, he must worry about the other monarchs trying to expand their own territory. About thirty minutes into play, we were evilly laughing as we placed our militaries against one another … so it got a little competitive. And fun.

P.S. No video. Well, actually, we have video but no sound. So just imagine us, sitting around a table, staring, confounded at the cards in our hands for half an hour.

The Pros

  • Preparing for the future. Although this game can be fast-paced once you get going, there is ample time for future planning. As the other players go around, playing their cards, you can be thinking about what action you’d like to take, what you’d like to buy, and how much you can spend. Situations can change fast of course! For example …
  • The action cards can do some unexpected damage. Throw your military out there at the exact turn your opponent wants to buy a province and gain the lead, and he might just lose that money to your armies. Oh how the tables have turned.
  • The chains created. If you play an action card, sometimes it will allow you to take another action, or draw more cards, or have two rounds of shopping. In these moments, the strategy is against yourself. Put out the wrong card and your opportunity could be lost.
archive.wired.com
archive.wired.com

The Cons

  • Game doesn’t make sense at first. Like most strategic games, this one takes a while to warm up to. We spent a good thirty minutes trying to figure out all the intricacies of the game. And even though short clues are given on the cards themselves …
  • Rules aren’t clear. We got about 3/4 of the way through the game when a player asked a specific question about choosing cards. No one had asked the question because it didn’t seem right that one would be able to make that play. And yet, the instructions didn’t clarify that one couldn’t. Therefore, read ALL the rules and come up with some clear instructions before playing. And yes, I’m still a little bitter about it. Why do you ask?

Here’s how to play the game:

“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.

 

 

“Tesla’s Legacy: Wireless Power”-Engineering Log 5

newCameraIf you have read Stephanie’s article about Kickstarter, then you already know how much Kickstarter has been on our minds, and so I have been focusing on rather large systems than individual buildings in preparation. fullCamSince last time, I have finally finished getting colony cams into the game. Right now the cameras can be placed and deleted from the UI, and there shouldn’t be anymore problems with that. I also took a bit of time to add some simple icons to the camera panels for ease of access. The icons are as follows: center game camera on this camera’s location, move the camera to a new location, delete the camera. The delete button is the only button that works for the moment.

Green particles indicate a valid position for the tower.

In addition to the colony cams, I was able to implement a new system: power. With Katey’s power plants operational, players can now build wireless power towers (wouldn’t Tesla be proud) that send power to a certain area. powerThese power towers can only be placed next to a power plant so to help players find the location. I added a smaller particle effect around the power plant that only shows up when placing power towers. Also the visual for the power area (a yellow ring of particles) only shows up when constructing or selecting a tower so as to minimize clutter in the world. Several buildings, such as luxury housing and colony cams, require power to be built, and to get Katey’s Luxury House (aka the Shark House) built, a player must provide power.

As if getting power and the colony cam systems weren’t enough, I have also been working on a log in screen that will eventually pull data from a server to give access to a player’s colony. For the time being, we are working with an offline version. Below is the scene used for the log in screen.It is a deceptively soothing scene before the player is thrown into the chaos of managing a colony.

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Currently I have the game switching back and forth from scene to scene. I am looking into what it would take to save information and what all needs to be included and what can be loaded later from data stored. Finally, I have created development builds for the team so that everyone has a working copy of the current project to play with.

We have 7 days left before Kickstarter! It’s getting crazy around the office, and we are hard at work getting everything together.

Past Engineering Logs:
Engineering Log 1
Engineering Log 2
Engineering Log 3
Engineering Log 4

“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.

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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!

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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!

Reactuate Games does World of Tanks

In preparation for an upcoming podcast guest (Craig Fryar), we played World of Tanks, a strategic warring game that involves war tanks from various countries battling for territory. In this “capture the flag” game, people can play in large groups or mano a mano.

Surprisingly, we had a lot of fun just playing one-on-one. And though there was a bit of scheming and spying going on, the excitement shook our office’s walls.

Oh, and I came out undefeated.

Just thought I’d mention that.

Pros

  • Numbers don’t matter. Though we only had two people playing at a time, we all still engaged in the game. Sure, there was a little cheating going on to quicken the battle, but that was part of the fun and camaraderie-building. Game play in a group or alone would probably have a different energy, but the hide and seek aspect of the game is just plain thrilling. No matter how many players you have.
  • Controls are simple. The mouse, WASD, the scroll wheel. That’s basically all you need. Double-tap “R” and your tank gets a little kick. A quick tutorial also shows you all you need to know, like how to hide in a bush or move and shoot at the same time.
  • Realistic movement. Whether your tank is moving up hill, through the lake, or on a dirt road, it’s going to respond realistically. Hills are slow to climb. You have to sludge through water. Every decision affects your game play, making the battle more interesting and life-like.
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worldoftanks.eu

Cons

  • Countdown before battle is so looooonnnnggg.  For thirty seconds, players must sit still, twiddle their thumbs, and question all of their life’s decisions. Seriously. It’s pointless to wait that long. (Although, if you were cool and strategizing with your team, it would make sense to have this time.) But for one-on-one play, it dragged on.
  • Boring stretches. Especially during our play, there were lengths of time where the players couldn’t find one another to even start the fight. And because the tanks move slowly, it can take about an hour for any legit shooting can take place.  (However, we understand this game can be enjoyed methodically and slowly for others.)

Watch the trailer here and tell us what you think.

“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:

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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.

 

 

Reactuate Games does Tales from the Borderlands

In our eleventh week at Reactuate Games, we decided to play Tales from the Borderlands, a Telltale game that stems from the Borderlands series. Vault keys, bandits, and lots of one-click punches = the new generation of choose-your-adventures.

I was handed the task of maneuvering through the game, and though there was relatively little game play, I still managed to die … twice.

Watch the video here:

The Pros:

  • Interactive movie. If you’ve ever watched a film and thought, “It would have been better if …,” then these games may be for you. The cinematography smoothly runs like a movie, and it personally gave me a little thrill to be director of such a beautiful project.
  • Plugs into the universe. Everything, from the references to the sketch lines, is reminiscent of the original game. The tone and wit from the series transfers over into this Telltale game, too, so for those wanting more of their favorite game world, you can get that here.

 

The Cons:

  • Time limit. As the story chugs along, every once in a while, the player will be given a decision. “Say thank you,” or “Say screw you,” or “Ask about the promotion.” It’s fun to choose, but a time limit prohibits the player from making an analyzed choice. Perhaps this is for technical reasons or maybe just because developers didn’t want us to overthink things … either way, it’s a pain. Sometimes I didn’t even have time to read the options, so I just 2524097-tales_rhysfionaclicked one.

 

 

 

  • Too much instruction. I suck at games. I know. But I’d like to get a little more credit than this game gave me. Tales from the Borderlands displays the buttons to use in order to dodge left or right when someone is attacking and shows you exactly where to hit the bandit so as to win the fight. There’s little room for experimenting or figuring it out on your own. Which makes me feel a little patronized…
  • Doesn’t explain game references. I had no clue what a vault key was. Yet I was searching for one most of the game. It was my fault to play a game from a series I really knew nothing about, but not even subtle discussion occurred in the game to hint at why I really wanted a vault key.

Thoughts:

Austin made a good point after our gameplay — will hardcore Borderlands players even transfer over to the Telltales version? The games are radically different, one being more story-oriented and the other being a “role-playing shooter.” Some would even go as far to say that this is not a “gamer’s game.”

But maybe that’s the point?

To bring others (like me) who are not as into shoot ’em ups into a brand/universe. To share with me a world that I otherwise would not have really been interested in.

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What do you think? Do Telltale games count as games?

“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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

“I Always Feel Like Somebody’s Watching Me”-Engineering Log 4

geico-kash

So who heard this song before Geico used it for their commercials?

Ok, enough of that. The end of this post will cover the feeling of being watched. Recently, Katey took her rather simple concept for a power plant and transformed it into a much more modern and interesting look. Once that was done, I took it into Unity and gave it steam billowing from its main tower and the ability to now add onto the power potential of colonies. One of the cool things about the building is to watch it be constructed and then start releasing steam once it is fully operational. The next task in regards to power is the creation of the wireless power tower (courtesy of Nikola Tesla and Katey) that sends out pulses of electricity and provides power to all buildings within its reach.

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Notice anything familiar about some of these icons?

In addition to new buildings, Katey has been hard at work creating new menu graphics for the UI, with some input from me. These new icons are more unified in appearance and still give the impression of what they mean (plus we left the words underneath if there is any confusion). The UI has come quite a long way from where it once was, as discussed in my last blog post.

On a similar note, I have been working to get our game utilizing the event system to manage click events. Before, if a user selected an object and then tried to use the interface, unexpected results would occur as both the click event for the UI was triggered as well as the code to check for a mouse click for the object. The goal is to hook game objects into the event system since it has a built-in way to detect and handle multiple events. This will prevent some of the unexpected results seen in some of our videos and streams. The change to using this system is taking a little bit of time to try and figure out how to convert all of the necessary methods, but it will pay off in the end.

Lastly, we are excited to begin work on a feature we think will be very interesting for players to take advantage of: Colony Cams and Colony TV. The colony cams are individual cameras/objects that are placed by the player to give unique views of their colony. menuIconsThe plan will be that these can then be hooked into channels on “Colony TV” (a website for the game) where other people can get a glimpse at the goings-on of your colony. We will limit the number of cameras a player can have at one time, but players can change camera locations at any time, and potentially even keep some around their colony to act as outposts to keep an eye out for… ah, you’ll find out later. The point is, these cameras will provide an interesting mechanic for players to take advantage of, and we are excited to start working on them.

On Friday, I was able to get two Colony Cams in place and begin work on the UI system for our cameras. Right now, a player is limited to eight camera which they can move or delete at their discretion. Unlike normal buildings, that must be built by units and can have many commands, the cameras will be managed, placed, and edited through the UI system set aside for this purpose and are simply dropped into existence. They will, however, take up space and need to be navigated around, so keep that in mind when setting up your cameras! Once I have finished hooking everything into the UI, and most likely after Kickstarter, we will be looking into getting a site set up for colony cams to be displayed. So then you can really ask “Who’s watching me?” Here is a screenshot of the UI I have so far:
CamSmall

That about wraps it up for this blog post. Check out the other Engineering Logs and stay tuned for future blog posts from us here at Reactuate Games!

Next Engineering Log:
Engineering Log 5

Previous Logs:
Engineering Log 1

Engineering Log 2
Engineering Log 3