“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.

 

 

Ep. 2 Rob Buchheit

In episode 2 of the Say Something Smart podcast series, Angel and Stephanie interview Rob Buchheit, co-founder of Nectar Game Studios. The three tackle hard topics like female realism in video games, the best virtual combat style, and having too much rhythm for DDR.

me_cumberbatch
Rob Buchheit

 

Time Stamps

Unrealistic female video game characters:    0:40

Rob Buchheit: 5:30

Project Resurgence: 5:45

Freedom in story-driven games: 10:35

What makes a good game developer: 14:14

Turn-based vs. real-time combat: 16:25

What you should know about gamers: 26:15

 

References

Nectargamestudios.com (blog/forums)

Chrono Trigger

Unrealistic Female Game Characters article

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.

tales border2

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.

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.

 

“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.

icons
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

 

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.

Ep. 1 Ron Davis

In this first episode of the series, Angel and Stephanie interview the Creative Mastermind of Reactuate Games, Ron Davis. We discuss the future of drug testing in professional gaming, how other mediums influenced Reactuate’s strategy-based game, Guardian, and the real definition of “gamer.”

Ron Davis, Creative Mastermind
Ron Davis, Creative Mastermind

 

Links to References:

Reactuate Games does Cities: Skylines

Last Friday, Ron and I played Cities: Skylines, a city-building game that closely replicates some aspects of our own video game, Guardian. Austin and Katey were out for the day, so this left Ron and I to sort through the busy role of city mayor and grow a city into a thriving metropolis.

Here’s the video:

The Pros:

  • The atmosphere and game play is life-like. Children actually need a school, the people really want electricity, and houses physically burn down. All the pestering tasks that come up when building a town in real life, such as constructing a water line, providing energy, and supplying a landfill and garbage trucks, are necessary in the game as well. Which makes us feel like they weren’t cutting corners in this virtual builder.
  • Clickable graphics. Players can click on the scurrying residents and find out who the individuals are and what he/she does for a living. Click on the houses and see how many live there. While this info may not be important, the intricacy of detail adds to the realism.
  • Chirper. This feature (not to be confused with the better-known Twitter) is a notification system that reports the goings-on to the player. The people of the city will congratulate the player on adding green energy resources or blame him/her for not having enough police officers. Criticism happens passive-aggressively. And just like we like it in the real world… through social media.
chirper
Thisweeksgame.wordpress.com

 

The Cons:

  • Can’t choose individual businesses. Unfortunately, as the mayor, you cannot pick which industries build in your city. Companies simply form once placed on an industrial zone. (At least, this seemed to be our experience.) Extra customization here would be more fun for those who love a little bit more control.
  • Taxes. Enough said.
  • Too technical. While the realism of the game is a large plus in Cities: Skylines, sometimes it just seemed too real. Any time numbers and percentages popped up, either to fund or tax people, I got squeamish. I personal don’t want to deal with that adult stuff. I just want to put my pizza parlor next to The
    cities-skylines-01
    Gamingshogun.com

    Williams’ and watch my town flourish. But maybe I’m wrongly remembering how my days of Rollercoaster Tycoon used to be.

 

Did you like Cities: Skylines? Leave your comments below or give a suggestion for our next Play & Learn!

 

“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

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