Tag Archives: command center

Spreading the Word

Marketing is in full-force here at Reactuate Games. With a little over a month until Kickstarter, the team has had idea-fever (it’s a thing), and our marketing to-do list is growing.

One idea that we’re extremely excited about is our new podcast series. Since our first weeks at RG, we’ve aspired to produce a gaming podcast, but we felt too much time would be taken away from other, more important projects. At this stage in our journey, however, it’s vital to collaborate with other gaming-industry influencers, build our community of supporters, and spread the word about our game.

pixels
imdb.com

With the movie Pixels coming out this Friday, I saw the debut as an opportunity to introduce our company to those who enjoy or enjoyed gaming in Abilene. This Adam Sandler film is about aliens misconstruing feeds of classic video games as threatening, so the extraterrestrials send arcade-faves, like Pac-Man and Donkey Kong, to destroy earth.

Epic. Just epic.

I’m planning to see the movie this weekend, so while I’m out I’ll pass out flyers about our game, hopefully letting a few interested strangers know that a video game company exists right here in town. Fingers are crossed on this one!

Another project we’re working on is an incentivized survey for our email subscribers. Sharing by word of mouth is still a crucial part of marketing, so we’re offering subscribers to choose what we do next here at RG, and we’ll do it … once we get a certain number of subscribers. This will encourage others to share the website and our work. Some of the choices include me writing a flash fiction piece involving the colonists and streaming a special Youtube video for the subscribers.

I’m always trying to learn more about my job. Therefore, I’ve been going through YouTube Creator Academy, a helpful video series that teaches the fundamentals of sustaining and popularizing a YouTube channel. Tips on titles, thumbnails, and talking to your audience are all included. For those wanting to grow an audience on this site should look over these short clips and take notes.

I’m also reading Made to Stick, a marketing book that specializes in getting people’s core ideas to stick with the public. Using the acronym SUCCESs, the authors breakdown the techniques to having good concepts being remembered. Simplicity, Unexpectedness, and Concreteness are just a few of the strategies to consider. This book can actually work for many professions and not simply marketing (teachers, I’m looking at you).

madetostick

 

Finally, Ron and I spent a little time (like two hours) writing up our target audience avatar, Caleb. This imaginary man is a representative of the people we believe will buy and enjoy our game.  It’s crucial to understand Caleb as we market our game and company. We’ll share an in-depth post on Caleb later.

Are you marketing a game now? What ideas have seemed to help? Let us know in the comments below!

 

The RG Team does Civilization V

Last Friday for our Play & Learn we wanted to play Star Trek Online … but, unfortunately, I am inadequate at remembering passwords two minutes after I create them. So, we played Civilization V instead.

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

While Katey took over observer mode, Austin and I played. An hour of game time flew by as we established our empires, conquered brutal bandits, and waged war on Germans who didn’t want to be our friend.

Here are some pros we found for the game:

  • Animals move like real animals! We noticed that whales jumped from the surface of oceans and horses seemed to do horse-like things, too. These small details make the game play more realistic and fun.
  • Viewer mode. The observer mode that Katey was on is similar to a feature we hope to implement in our own game. Like our Colony Cam, this position allows the person to look at the game play in a new and unique way.
  • Automatically takes you to the action. This feature helps prioritize the big battles that occur during game play.
  • The mini-map is clickable. Katey could click on where she wanted to go using the mini-map. (However, she had mentioned that clicking on the users’ names would be more helpful.)

Screenshot 2015-07-21 16.01.40

  • Enlarged images. These large-scaled images help players understand what to do. A huge group of cattle or giant glittering minerals give players a hint at what’s supposed to take place.
  • Option to change pace. This is nice in that various personalities or gamers can play at their own speed.

And here are ALL of the cons we came up with:

  • It can get dull if pacing is too slow. Sometimes I found myself clicking “Next Turn” just because …
  • Observer can get lost. If you’re the observer, you won’t really know what’s going on with your friends. No info is available on them, and you won’t be able to see political relations. (But this may be a good feature because you certainly don’t want a spy helping out an opponent.)

Have you played Civilization V? What did you think?

Remember to join us next time when we do another Play & Learn on Twitch!

“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.

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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

 

 

“All the Small Things” — Week Six Recap

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

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

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

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

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

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

Screenshot 2015-07-06 13.42.05
Sam’s sandworm

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

luxuryparticles
Moving particles / Luxury housing

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

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

And that’s worth getting a little giddy about.

… even at 9 a.m.

 

“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.

“Figuring It Out” — Week Four Recap

It all starts from the spin of a chair.

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

DSC00588
The RG Command Center

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

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

Screen_Shot_2015-06-18_at_10_16_44_AM

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

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

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

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