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.”
Last Friday, Ron and I playedCities: 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 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.
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
Last Friday, we had a blast playing Super Smash Bros. … and you can’t see it because our screen didn’t record any of it. But we promise it happened.
There was screaming and jeering and vengeful laughing– mostly from me– but everyone seemed to have a good time. And after some intense 4-player action, we talked about the pros and cons of this wildly entertaining game.
So many characters to choose from! Not only do you have the regulars like Mario, Luigi, and Peach, but you also have Pac-Man, Pokemon characters, and the Wii Fit Trainers. Yes, the lady trainer pulls a yoga move. No, it didn’t do much — but it’s cool as an option anyhow.
Up to 8 people can play. Why would you want 8 to play? To add to the chaos, of course! As the saying goes, the more the merrier. And the more to demolish.
Developers still focused on details. If you attack someone with a shield, you’ll get hurt. Even with all the craziness happening, Jigglypuffs flying left and right, it’s nice to know that even these minute details work.
We still don’t understand the controls. As Ron mentioned, he was just hammering buttons the whole time and played a lot of defense because he, like the rest of us, couldn’t really grasp what the controls specifically did. Nor could we find a tutorial. (But that’s kind of the fun, right?)
Controls vary with remote. This may not be a con so much as just an annoyance. We couldn’t help Ron, who had a Wii U gamepad, because our setup was so different. On that note …
The wii remote doesn’t have any effect on game play. The movement censor means nothing in this game (at least it didn’t seem like it). I see a missed opportunity.
Camera view plays favorites. Sometimes the camera would follow a character to their death besides focusing on the remaining players left on the platform. What gives? This sometimes made it difficult to continue fighting when others were defeated.
Do you love Super Smash Bros.? Let us know in the comments below, or give us suggestions for our next Play & Learn!
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.
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 …
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.
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 Sandlerfilm 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).
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!
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.)
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!
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.
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.)
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.
Last Friday the RG team played Heroes of the Storm, a MOBA by Blizzard Entertainment that merges multiple characters from their other games. Video of our trial is on YouTube now — WARNING: opinions expressed by individuals are his/hers alone, and in no way represent Reactuate Games … except that they kind of do because we are the company. So, yeah.
Here’s our video of the Retrospective and Play & Learn:
And the summarized version of our pros and cons that we discussed after playing an hour or so of HOTS:
The game provides a good walkthrough for beginners. Devs made sure that the players knew how to fire a weapon or call on their faithful steed before letting them flail around too much.
Animations are super detailed, and it’s apparent the artists dedicated some time to them. Even the extra animations on the sidelines, which weren’t even supposed to be noticed, tell a story of their own and complete the atmosphere.
HOTS made it simple to select items. A red outlining shows the player exactly what can be demolished or attacked, so you don’t have to wonder or waste ammo.
The music and sound effects work pretty well with the game. No unbelievable, out-of-place screams or horse-trampling sounds occur, which is a bit refreshing.
The AI for HOTS is a bit too predictable. Of course, we played on the easiest of easy levels, but still …
As one of our artists noticed, there is no racial diversity in this game. All humans are white, excluding one who is a witch doctor and completely covered anyway. What’s up with that, Blizzard?
Pop-up text, like the level-up signifiers, tend to show up over the action, causing some distraction.
Here are some issues we discussed that don’t necessarily fit into the pros or cons. Basically, we disagreed on these ideas.
The WASD keys are a hassle. Some of these same keys are used for powers, and the arrow keys are used to move the camera. This caused issue when someone had to either take his hand off the mouse or use his left hand to move the camera. In HOTS’ defense, one doesn’t necessarily have to move the camera if it is locked and they like it to be controlled.
On the beginning level, a small screen is visible in the top left corner that doesn’t match the UI theme. This screen has computer-ish text and lists what the controls do. Some believe this screen should match the rest of HOTS’ theme, but for new players, this screen stands out, helping them read and learn the controls quicker.
HOTS makes us want to play another game. Now this statement could be taken in two ways. The ongoing battle made Ron think of Blizzard’s other works. He said HOTS made him want to play those games. However, I wouldn’t want to make a game that someone leaves because it reminds them of a game they would rather play. I want to make a game that players would rather be playing or can’t quit– because it’s that good.
Overall, we know HOTS is a well-loved game, and thousands can watch it all day long on Twitch. It was fun to play, and we definitely learned a lot from it to implement in Guardian.
What do you guys think of HOTS? Agree or disagree? Let us know in the comments.
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.
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.
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