Tag Archives: new worlds

“The Time Has Come” — Week 14 Recap

This is it. Our Kickstarter campaign has finally arrived. And with that arrival is the tremendous urge to throw up.

Just being honest.

Though the nervous energy consumes us all as a team, we still managed to work together and have fun last week. Especially, Friday. For our weekly Friday Team Lunch, we tested Taco Bell’s ordering app together, which turned out to be a team-building exercise oddly enough. And slightly pointless.

Afterward, we worked on our Kickstarter Launch poster. As one Colony Rushcreative force, we designed a spiffy, detailed poster for all of our upcoming events. Once the poster was finalized, we played Dominion, a strategic card game, for our streamed Play&Learn on Twitch. We joked, we laughed, and we forgot, for a moment at least, that this job could be over in just a month.

It’s difficult to discuss this reality. But it is our reality. If we don’t make our Kickstarter goal, this Command Center at Reactuate Games will turn back into a regular old office. And that is disheartening to think about.

But on Friday afternoon, during our game play, we pushed these thoughts away.

Very few tasks were on our to-do list last week. This was mostly because we prioritized items and issues that concerned our Kickstarter.  The full week looked like this:

When Ron wasn’t working diligently on our Kickstarter page, he grew crystals (which would mimic our game’s mineral shards) for the party tables at our launch. Ron also ordered various swag gifts for our supporters, the poster, and other essentials for our promotion.

I posted the fourth episode of the Say Something Smart podcast, featuring Jose Sanchez. You can view that here. I also worked on preparation for the party. I bought the plates, cups, forks, decorations, etc. The majority of my time was spent contacting the press and others about our KS, though. Lots of emails. Lots.

Katey was the woman behind the wheel for the poster. She’s the one who took all of our critiques and suggestions into consideration and designed the piece. On another note, Katey also animated our colonist and got him to walk. Click the pic to see him strut.

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Cool, huh?

For Austin, much of the week was concentrated on taking screenshots and filming in-game scenes for our KS video. It was extremely important to arrange the best images and segments for this highly influential clip on the KS page. When he finished that, Austin went back to working on the saving/loading system in the game.

 

 

“Are We There Yet?” — Week 13 Recap

The term Kickstarter has been heavily integrated in our vocabulary here at Reactuate Games. Phrases like, “On September 1st, we’ll be Kickstarting our Kickstarter campaign on Kickstarter” have been said, and it’s totally normal because we are up to our eye holes in Kickstarter planning.

Yes, our eye holes, people.

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Jose Sanchez

Fortunately, we’ve had a few other tasks that have relieved our minds from KS. Last week, Angel and I interviewed two new guests for our Say Something Smart podcast. Jose Sanchez, who is not only a  game developer but also a professor at the School of Architecture at USC, was our first guest. His video game Block’hood will be released within the next few months. Our second guest was Craig Fryar, the Head of Business Intelligence at Wargaming.net. Craig has helped with the data analysis on numerous games, including World of Tanks and World of Warships. Both episodes will be posted in the next couple of weeks.

Also, episode 3 with Dr. Brian Burton, a professor of digital entertainment, is up on our website. If you missed it, you can watch that here.

I’ve finally reserved a venue for our Kickstarter launch party, which will be September 2nd (the date had to be moved a day after our actual KS launch). We’re beyond excited to celebrate what we’ve accomplished these last three months and to show others the game’s progress so far. The event will be held at a casual winery here in town, and it will be a come-and-go party. A few monitors will display the KS video, in-game images, and perhaps even our YouTube collection.

Speaking of our launch, Ron has officially started up a page for us on the website. Before it goes live, we want to create a promotional video that will be at the top of the page. Ron and I have researched a lot into how we can produce an entertaining and yet persuasive video because it’s one of the most important items on a KS page. Ron prepared the script that we’ll be filming today, so be on the lookout for that gem!

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Power reachability

Austin has been working tirelessly on many lengthy projects. He now has the power plant and power towers working in unison with the power’s reachability. The colony cams now appropriately work within this range, too.

He’s also successfully built a log-in/quit scene with username and password blanks. At the time of this post, the game wasn’t able to be saved, but Austin is working hard on getting that fixed.

Our KS page was in need of a great visual that will entice people to click on our page, so Katey created that image. Katey has also been rigging our first colonist, which turned into a tougher task than we had first imagined. But Katey, the great perseverer she is, finally got the job done. Our colonist, seen here, is quite the kung fu artist.

It’s amazing to see how far we’ve come as a team. We’re rigging art, recording podcasts, and making a game that we are really proud of. We have a long way to go, of course, but the journey thus far has been immensely fulfilling. On to week 14!

“What’s in a Name?”– Week 11 Recap

 

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”

– Wm. Shakespeare


Shakespeare always applies. Even in game development.

***

I spun in my chair for what seemed like an hour as we processed the possibilities. The team and I sat in the office, mumbling words from the tops of our heads, some making good sense and others making us question our sleep depravity.

The new name of our project needs to be chosen. Time is running out, and our codename Guardian no longer fully represents our game design.

We’ve been told that the name will find us. A serendipitous lightbulb will go off, and immediately we will all know that that was meant to be our game’s name.

Others suggested we drink till something comes up — a name preferably.

While we waited on a name to emerge, plenty of other things happened last week:

Ron and I met with the owner of Abilene’s The Gathering Place, a hangout for those who love games, especially those who enjoy card games like Magic: The Gathering and Yu-Gi-Oh! . Though our audiences may vary slightly, we learned a lot from the meeting, and it’s always nice to see others who are passionate about gaming. We hope to attend the West Texas Table Top Con in San Angelo this weekend and spread the word about Reactuate Games and maybe make some friends in the process.

The Say Something Smart podcast recorded another episode, this time featuring co-founder of Nectar Game Studios, Rob Buchheit. We discussed such topics as their new game Project Resurgence, unrealistic females in video games to having “too much rhythm” for DDR. Episode 2 goes on Aug. 13th, but you can catch up on the series on our blog post, YouTube, or iTunes.

I also wrote a script and storyboarded a “happy” teaser trailer for Guardian. Reminiscent of the “Pure Michigan” commercials, this short video focuses on the touristy feel of the game. Within the next two weeks, this trailer will be released and showcase RG’s animation debut.

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Colony Cams

Ron also worked on a storyboard for the “scary” teaser trailer. This video will consist of the problems that may occur in the game. We’re hoping to release this video a week after the “happy” one.

Our fearless leader is now moonlighting as a YouTube personality– sorta. His new vlog series focuses on leadership in a video game company. The first episode, entitled “What Does It Mean to Be Boss?”, is on YouTube and here.

The Kickstarter goals and rewards have been sketched out by Ron, too. Though RG’s main monetary goal has been cut, we still want to give our backers great rewards, so we all added our two cents in to what our supporters should get, and Ron created the final-ish list.

Our talented digital artist, Katey, has been hard at work on many different tasks. The Colony Cam, for instance, has come to fruition, with a rounded, futuristic appeal.

Katey also practiced rigging on her monkey, who’s been with us since day one. Now, the monkey can dance, bounce, shake, twist … everything but twerk! It’s a big accomplishment, as Katey had to watch a lot of training videos and spend a lot of time getting things into motion.

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Swarmbeast rigging

Now Katey is in the process of rigging the fearsome Swarmbeast, a monstrous alien that threatens the colonists. This creature will be featured in our trailers for the first time.

Austin focused on getting the UI elements in place and having them work properly when clicked on, including pop-ups popping up at the right time.

He also managed to get the colony cam system working, which is a huge feat for Guardian. Now, the colony cam is part of the UI, and players can see what is going on in their game at ground level. This interactive feature will hopefully appeal to players, who can now build their colony, watch it transform in real time from a colonist’s perspective, and share their world with their friends.

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After all of this, we still don’t have a game name, but we know that our game will be awesome despite the title choose.

So, The Bard had it right after all.

 

Reactuate Games does Super Smash Bros.

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.

Pros:

  • 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.

    Screenshot 2015-07-27 17.03.18
    smashbros.com
  • 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.

Cons:

  • 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.
ssbyoga
en.wikipedia.org

 

Do you love Super Smash Bros.? Let us know in the comments below, or give us suggestions for our next Play & Learn!

 

 

 

 

“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.

Can You Be Too Hyped for Your Game?

Over the past month, I’ve contacted numerous Abilene reporters and news anchors about Guardian and the company. Unfortunately, I’ve received  little interest back. Feeling defeated, I wondered why our own city didn’t want to cover us. Were abandoned kittens being mothered by a terrier that much more newsworthy than Reactuate Games?

For a brief time, I decided to take a break from the rejection and work on things that did get noticed, like our YouTube videos or blog posts. These marketing strategies were at least being viewed and retweeted in the Twittersphere. Except for one of my blog posts getting put on a website,  I wasn’t getting anything from the press, and I wondered if perhaps I was trying too hard.  Maybe I was becoming a pusher rather than a promoter and annoying all of our followers and friends on our social media pages by my constant plugging.

As Chris Hecker (@checker) says in his GDC video presentation “No One Knows About Your Game,” being an enthusiastic promoter isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though. Hecker states:

“You can’t overhype a game; you can only underdeliver.”

If you focus on creating a really interesting and fun game, then you shouldn’t have to worry that you talked-up your game in the first place. And if you believe in what you’re creating, let the gamers of the world know!

So we’re excited about marketing again, and plan to do it whenever and wherever.

1. We have joined Abilene’s Chamber of Commerce, a collection of local businesses that get together and network and support one another. Hopefully we’ll meet other Abilenians who are interested in what we are doing.

2. We’ve also made flyers that we hand out at local universities. One school has a Digital Entertainment Technology program that turned out to be a great place to discuss our company with potential future game devs. We also plan to leave these flyers at video game stores and gaming hangouts around town.

3. Just today we booked an interview with our local TV station’s community-oriented series called 4U. Later this month, Ron will talk about RG and Guardian so that others in the area can support the first video game company in the city.

Eventually, our marketing scope will be larger. Our end goal is to have a fan base that stretches across the globe, but it’s important to start with a foundation and grow from there.

Check out Hecker’s GDC video:

Marketing a New World

Convincing others to like something has never seemed like a difficult task before. With two degrees in English, I’ve studied the art of rhetoric and persuasion, and I get why I’m more tempted to buy the shampoo bottles that are pink and sparkly than the plain-looking ones. Before, marketing seemed simple: find out what people like and give it to them.

As the marketing producer for Reactuate Games, however, I’ve realized it’s a bit more intricate than that. A lot more actually.

The truth is it’s hard to market a game that hasn’t been fully created yet in a city that I feel more comfortable calling a town. The RG team is making progress daily, of course, designing other-worldly graphics, fleshing out the backstory of the game, and considering future game advancements, but without any product to show audiences, we seem to be at a marketing standstill. And this lack of attention can be discouraging.

So when does our game become news? When does Guardian become relevant enough to the press and gamers of the world?

Or in other words, when will people care?

I’m not sure when this will be. And when it comes to a startup, the risk is high that we may not get the publicity we need. But even though we may not have much of the game to show people at the moment, it’s important for us to still get the word out and to share our ideas. As Robert DellaFave says in his blog post, “Marketing Your Indie Game: The Single Most Important Thing That No One Knows How to Do,” you must:

“Begin your marketing campaign the moment you have something that illustrates the fundamental mechanics and look of your game.”

Creating hype as soon as possible is vital to the survival of the game. Even if you don’t have a workable game right then. I’ve been posting to Facebook and Twitter updates and screenshots of the game, and I’ve also created quite a few interview videos about the team and  uploaded them to YouTube. Showing the public our game in progress presents some humility to the audience– because most of our work isn’t flawless or complete the first time around. Slowly, a small following has developed as we get better and faster at creating parts for the game.

Last week, I put together a press kit— a small file that includes a press release, some screenshots and video, and the most up-to-date company info (game description, company bio, our goals, etc.). It’s a light folder, Screenshot 2015-07-02 11.06.13yes, but I believe it’s a start. When the press is ready to write about us, this folder is able to be downloaded from our website. This kit makes it easy for others to write up a story about us and use our own pictures and logo. And making life easier for reporters, bloggers, and journalists can be beneficial for your company.

We also started talking about our audience for Guardian and who truly will play and support our game. From a marketing standpoint, a target audience should be defined by asking who will be our main followers and who will ultimately purchase this game.

This is important to figure out because no company wants to waste resources or time on marketing avenues that won’t be fruitful. My initial conclusion was that males in their 20s to early 40s would enjoy our video game the most, but upon mentioning this in our Twitch stream last week, a viewer told us that his company was well over 50 years of age, and they all played video games still. The statement stuck with me. Was my estimated target audience offensive to those outside of it? Was I making a mistake in being too specific?

Of course, Reactuate Games is creating a game for all individuals to play and hopefully get addicted to, with no strict gender-based or age-based influences placed on the design or intended game play. But, at the same time, I need to know who our supporters will be and direct my attention towards them.

Marketing is a constant job that may not result in immediate satisfaction; I’ve learned this. I’ve also realized a devoted fanbase will take time to accrue, so I’m here for the long-run, trying to get the word out wherever and however I can.

 

How are you marketing your game? What’s worked and what hasn’t?

“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.

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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.

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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!

“Show and Tell” — Week Three Recap

Stephanie Whitlow

When we were six-years-old and brought that smelly, plush teddy bear to our kindergarten show-and-tell, we were utterly proud of our artifact … despite the Kool-Aid stains and bits of questionable gunk clinging to its fur. It was ours, and we loved it.  We weren’t afraid to show others our most-prized possession, even though it was flawed.

As we age, however, some of us become more self-conscious and aware of what others think of us. We learn to present ourselves to the world daily, sometimes worrying about how we come across.

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Our daily meetings are streamed live.

At Reactuate Games, we’ve chosen to film, stream, and document our entire development process from day-to-day. Our goal is to share a behind-the-scenes look at how a video game evolves, as well as the company who creates it. But as we have found out, it’s not all rainbows and lollipops inside a startup company. We have run into roadblocks and gotten embarrassed or nervous about our work, too.

We first encountered this last week. I interviewed one of our digital artists, Katey, for a clip on YouTube (You can see that awesomeness here). While editing the material, though, I became super self-conscious about my video-producing skills. At one point, the video bothered me so much I almost wanted to scrap it and re-film.

Also last week, our artists created some amazing graphics for the game (a command center, some mineral shards, a builder unit), but as with most creative products, they were first rough drafts. So rough, in fact, some questioned whether or not to show our followers.

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Mineral shards with bottom half of Command Center

The temptation to only report the good news is strong here. After all, we are representing a company. But we are much more than that at Reactuate Games. We are dreamers, and students, and gamers who are trying to create a video game that people will love and enjoy for years to come. And we want to share with others our experience.

So how do we ignore these self-conscious tendencies when we are devoted to recording the good, the bad, and even the ugly?

Ron constantly reminds the team  of what digital artist Feng Zhu says in this GDC video session (you should take a look–it’s pretty inspiring). Shown to us on week one, Zhu’s video encourages game developers and artists to not be scared of the blank canvas or making mistakes. Because if someone is scared to try things, learn, or produce imperfect work, then he/she is also afraid of progress.

Though we aim to show our successes, inevitably struggles will occur along our journey. And that’s okay. We’ll document those, too. It’s all a part of the process. Plus, we’re proud of our game and our company. Even if it does have some gunky, imperfect parts.

Our First Week

The first day of any new job can be nerve-racking. Five individual first days with a brand new company … perhaps even more so. But that didn’t keep the Reactuate Games (RG) team from expressing their eagerness to start building a video game from scratch. On the fifteenth floor in Abilene’s tallest building, the Enterprise Tower, Ron introduced the team to the RG command center, a two-room office with red couches, five Ikea desks, and a great view of West Texas. Here we would develop a game from nothing. Here we would create what was once only a mere thought.

abileneskyline

For most of us, our first week at Reactuate Games was a learning experience. Not only is working in a business environment with elevators different for some, but producing a game of this magnitude with a handpicked team is a special experience some of us have only wistfully daydreamed about until now.

Throughout the week, we studied design tutorials, coding, andIMG_6847 photo-editing programs, learning skills we will need for everyday tasks during this intensive summer launch. Humbly, we even looked to the Google-gods for help with a few of our problems. After our Agile-Scrum development training, (a relatively new workplace methodology we will discuss in another post), we transformed the office into a productive and “stream-friendly” atmosphere. We moved around the furniture, created a Scrum Wall, and had our first Scrum meetings, which were a lot less painful than any Rugby player may presume.

We had a lot of questions at first– Where do we start? How does this game development stuff work? What are our goals, and how long will it take to reach them? It seemed as if we had more questions than answers.

But questions are not necessarily a bad thing, especially for our new company. Asking means that we care. It means that we are excited and willing to work. It may even mean we are all a little anxious about the journey ahead of us. However, despite not knowing the territory we will venture into in these upcoming months, we are all packed and ready to go.