Tag Archives: Code Artist

“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.

 

“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

 

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:

“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!!

“Checkpoint”- Week 8 Recap

Last Friday, our company let go one of our digital artist. We were saddened by the decision, but it was one that the company felt needed to be made. The RG team shared a tearful goodbye with the artist and then tried to get through the rest of the day.

This is the ugly side of business. Sometimes things just don’t work out.

Screen Shot 2015-07-16 at 3.24.03 PM
Guardian’s colony portal

Though we are one man short, we still have a dedicated team working hard on getting Guardian’s demo out by September 1st to begin our Kickstarter Campaign. Austin, our programmer, has been implementing the UI into the  game and creating the introductory missions that will advance the player through different levels. Katey, our digital artist, has nearly completed one of the most important pieces in Guardian— the colony portal. This gigantic contraption will transport humans from earth to the foreign planet by  using tremendous amounts of electricity. Because so much energy goes into this process, colonists won’t be able to come and go all willy-nilly.  The decision to populate this new world will not be an easy one.

Katey also revamped our hydroponics farm, a building that will act as a greenhouse for agriculturally-inclined colonists. More windows= more sunshine = happier plant life. (Katey will be doing a majority of the artwork from now on, except for a few graphics that will be contracted out to other artists.)

Hydroponics farm
Hydroponics farm

This last week I focused largely on finding new blogs and bloggers that are primarily interested in indie games.  From Kickstarter’s website, I searched for other indie game companies’ campaigns and saved their games’ images. After using Google image search, I found a few blogs that covered these games. Eventually, I will reach out to these bloggers in hopes that they will want to write about Guardian, too. It could be a long shot, but there isn’t any hurt in trying, either. This marketing strategy stems from Tim Ferriss’ article “Hacking Kickstarter: How to Raise $100,000 in 10 Days.” It’s a great read if you or your team are planning to do a crowdfunding project.

The RG team faced a difficult week, one that stretched us as game developers and as individuals. But a new week is upon us, and we’ve taken the time to rejuvenate, refocus, and reset our mind on the ultimate prize.

“Tea, Earl Grey, Hot”-Engineering Log 3

Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could just tell the computer to make something and have it done (also food replicators would be cool too)? How the user interacts with the computer and/or game has a dramatic influence on the overall experience. While our user interface (UI) won’t be voice activated like the computer from Star Trek, we are working to make it easy to understand and accomplish tasks without a lot of hassle.

oldUI
placeholder UI from older method

That being said, let me go back several weeks ago to talk about the beginning of our UI system. Those of you who remember (or have read my past blog posts) will know how I ran into some issues in the organization of code early in development. Luckily, I found a tutorial to help me get my bearings and better organize our code. There was just one problem with this tutorial: it was written for Unity 4.1. We are using Unity 5.1.1 and a lot of changes have been made, especially to the UI system. The UI the tutorial used was the outdated way of doing user interfaces. So while I worked on some other mechanical things, Ron started working on our new User Interface. The biggest inspiration for our design came from Jurassic World‘s website. Ron thought that having the ability to dismiss certain elements but still having easy access to them was a nice idea. So Ron got to work animating and creating placeholder UI elements.

newUI
New UI with placeholder graphics

Here is where I come back into the picture. Now that the placeholders are set up, it has been my job to link the functionality that has already been coded from the old UI into our new interface. It’s actually kind of weird to get it to work since now I have to go find all of the elements to change. I have been working to make things as efficient as possible and only update when needed. With some basic functionality now tied into the new UI, our Digital Artist, Katey Bluel, will be working on creating amazing graphics and symbols for the UI, and I will begin work on creating some of the more in-depth UI elements, such as a pop-up command window and in-depth unit/building stats page.

In addition to the blog posts on the site, Katey and I have started individual stream series on Twitch that appear throughout the day where we show you what it is we are doing and you can watch the development of the game in real time, make comments, and ask questions. Also, don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and subscribe to our YouTube channel, as well as our email list here on the site. We are now 41 days away from the start of our Kickstarter, and the game is moving along quite nicely.

Engineering Log Supplemental: 7-27-2015

details
UI with pop-out details window
command
The Command Center’s detail view.

A lot can happen in just a few days, and instead of another short blog, I will be adding onto my last UI blog. Last week, I was able to get a pop up window of detailed information and commands to show up. The idea is to give the user a great deal of information in a nice and neat little area. Here the user will have access to different commands, various progress updates, and other miscellaneous information about buildings and units. This is only brought up when desired from a flag above the selected object. The graphics are still all placeholders until our artist has a chance to sit down and switch from modeling to 2D art. Now that most of the UI framework has been set up, I will be adding a few small additions here and there and continue working on the missions for our “Simplest Path to Portal” Epic.  The end of this week will mean we only have one month left before Kickstarter, and we are all working like crazy to get content out before then. We’re giving it all we got!

P.S. I tried Earl Grey tea last week for the first time! It was great.

Next Engineering Log:
Engineering Log 4

Previous Engineering Logs:
Engineering Log 1
Engineering Log 2

“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.

 

 

“Portals and Particles”- Engineering Log 2

Read Engineering Log 1 if you missed the first post detailing our first few weeks and the struggles we faced early on.

So how does one travel across the universe when warp speed isn’t fast enough or even an option? A Starga… I mean portal, of course. Call it what you will, but there is no faster way to travel than simply stepping in on one side and stepping out on the other halfway across the galaxy! This is your first main goal as colony manager: build a portal. That’s easier said than done, and it is our goal to be able to show you just how to do that in the next coming months.

We have been working hard here at Reactuate Games moving along with the game. The Epic (i.e., a large collection of tasks) we are focusing on for our Kickstarter event this fall is called “Simplest Path to Portal.” In other words, these are the mechanics that are essential for the user to land his or her colony ship and eventually construct a portal to bring colonists to the newly found colony. All information about portals and colonists is restricted to personnel with Level 3 Security Clearance (i.e., anyone signed up for the Reactuate Games newsletter) or higher.

ghostBuilding
Ghost Building

One of our past milestones has been to get building construction up and running. There are some slight alterations that can be done in the future as extra things to make users happy (you’re welcome future players), but the core mechanic is in place. We have “ghost” buildings as a means to help the user find the perfect location for the building (with the color green meaning it is a valid location and red meaning it is an invalid location). Once construction begins, the building slowly rises from the ground until it is fully constructed. Additionally, when two or more builder units work on a building, the building is constructed faster. In contrast, if all of the builder units are destroyed or leave, then construction is paused and the building remains unusable until it is complete.

particles
Simple particles around a building

Just before our three day weekend for the Fourth of July, I began looking at particles and experimenting with them in different places and uses. Particles are a very interesting system in Unity, so I took the time during our short week to experiment and familiarize myself with particles. It was actually a lot of fun playing with the settings to see what different kinds of effects I could get from simple particles.  If we are going to have a science fiction, futuristic game, having good particle effects are pretty important. I’ll revisit particles in another Engineering Log once we have more fleshed out particle systems and effects.

While I was working on game mechanics, Ron generated our alien landscape. As we are moving our project to integrate this larger terrain, I have also been working on our navigation system to keep units moving smoothly over the rough terrain. We are still working on how to do our pathfinding to keep our units moving along the terrain. I will continue with pathfinding, optimizing our code, and simplifying  the interactions between units and buildings over these next few weeks.

PurpleLand
The New World: “The Purple Land”

This past week we have been creating “missions” that will guide new players to the point of witnessing the power of their fully operation battle statio… I mean portal. I am hard at work getting these basic missions set up in our new environment. The first of these missions is to have the colony ship land and “beam” down units and allow them to carry out orders. Now that I have probably ruffled enough feathers by referring to Star Trek, Star Wars, and Stargate all in one post, I will end this Engineering Log.

Next Log:
Engineering Log 3

 

 

“Heigh-Ho! A lot of Work to Go!”- Engineering Log 1

Begin Engineering Log 1…

Take a moment to get the song out of your head. I’ll wait.


Now then, before continuing, picture this: You are starting a voyage on the open seas, and you must guide the ship without modern technology. Now imagine that your charts and maps you use to navigate are drastically outdated, or even entirely useless.

So what does that have anything to do with our company and game? We are venturing into uncharted waters, creating a game that is not like anything else, and my job as Code Artist is to bring elements the others create and combine them into a working game. With these development blog posts, I invite you to follow along as I document our struggles, triumphs, and process we go through to make this game a reality. Our ship is guided from the Command Center,  but the heart of the game is maintained in Engineering.

mineralDeposit
Mineral Deposit and Miner Unit

Now then, let’s get on with the game talk. That is why you’re here after all. When work started at the beginning of June I had no references and only a vague idea of what kind of game we were going for. I knew certain elements needed to be in place and so worked on those. My job involves the actual programming of the game, but I actually do much more than that. In addition to the actual programming, I have been working with our two artists to bounce ideas around and integrate their creations into Unity
and the project. Those who have been following our Scrum meetings may recall the little snag we hit in week three and four when the organizational structure of the game came into question. For a mix of reasons including lack of references, new programming methods, and others, we had to rethink our approach. Thankfully, at the end of week four I found a wonderful tutorial that outlined a very basic structure for a Real Time Strategy (RTS) game, which our game pulls heavily from. Instead of combining and creating the more advanced sections of code from the beginning like we tried to do before, this new outline followed the same way the game would be played: the player would start with a building that created units and then later new units could create new buildings. There was just one tiny hurdle to overcome: the tutorial was written for Unity 4.1.

Since the structure was still sound I decided to adopt it as a rough outline for our game and integrate our systems with the structure, updating pieces when necessary. MinerVariablesNow, at the end of week five, we have working buildings, units, and resources. The next step is to have units create new buildings. I have two things to say to others in similar positions to my own: never underestimate good code and become able to adapt to less than ideal conditions. Even though the code example is from a much older version of unity, the underlying structure is still viable. Also, I have had to constantly adapt the code and my thought process in order to overcome the various challenges faced thus far.

This week I have been hard at work getting the resource collection code done, and I am proud to say that finally our mineral deposits can be harvested by the miner units made by our artist Katey Bluel and deposit them at the nearest holding facility. A while back, Katey made many of the different shards, and we collaborated on how they might be used in the environment. After creating the crystal cluster-like deposits, we moved them in game and got to work on the unit to mine them and the code to accomplish the task. Now, our miners are able to collect resources. This is just the first step, as much more work is to follow, including animations. Now that we can collect resources, the next step is to have units create buildings using those resources, but that is a topic for another day.

Keep a look out for future Engineering Logs! If you have any questions about the game and want  to learn more, keep checking out our website and follow us on social media and let us know!

End Log.

Read Engineering Blog 2 HERE.