Tag Archives: RTS

“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.

RG Takes on Heroes of the Storm

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:

Pros:

  • 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.

Cons: 

  • 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.Screenshot 2015-07-16 12.04.32
  • 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.

“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.

 

 

5 Things You’ll Learn When You’re New to Gaming

Stephanie Whitlow

Time to be honest: I work at a video game company, and I haven’t played a ton of video games. I’m what some would call a Noob. But while working at Reactuate Games, I’ve learned a lot. For example …

 

 

  1. People like to talk in three-letter terms: GUI, RTS, MMO, RPG. WTF?
conceptdraw.com
conceptdraw.com

As with most fields, knowing the jargon is essential. Whether you’re developing a game for an app or just learning to play, it’s best to figure out what some of these acronyms mean. You have a GUI (gooey), a graphical user interface, for instance, on your cell phone now. It’s the section of icons where you can tap Facebook or Pinterest. RTS or Real Time Strategy is a genre in which the player focuses on tactical solutions to conquer or defend something. Society is shortening terminology all the time, and in the gaming world, it’s no different. Here’s a pretty conclusive list of game terms to check out.

 

  1. You find out the “standard” keyboard keys for moving are W, A, S, D and not the arrows.

Some PC games call for finger-action on the keyboard, and instead of the four arrows moving the character or camera, the letters W, A, S, D do the job. Why is this a thing? Way back in ancient days, some arrow keys weren’t available on keyboards, and even if you did have them, the space between left and right hand was awkward, and you couldn’t access the space bar quickly, etc. Before you jump into a PC game, check the controls, or prepare to be killed, eaten, or, worse, look stupid in front of your friends.

 

  1. You learn there is such a thing as inverted control playing. But even after you learn that you are, in fact, inverted, it doesn’t really help you anyway.

What’s that? You’re pushing the joystick up thinking it would make the camera go down? You’re probably an inverted game player. Or a pilot. There’s a division between gamers who are inverted and those who play non-inverted controls. Neither is wrong; however, switching controllers among friends may call for extra time getting used to it if y’all are a mixed batch. Aiming is still hard regardless.

 

  1. You realize characters can become much more interesting than Mario and Luigi. No offense to them.

A pair of plumbers who wear overalls and suspiciously have a secret life fighting for a blonde princess is just the beginning of unique characters and story arcs in video games these days. Game developers are creating humorous, smart, and intriguing characters all the time– take Tiny Tina for instance. This thirteen-year-old with quick wit and a knack for blowing stuff up is a favorite in the Borderlands series because she is so unusual. Watch a montage here. Caution: she’s a mess.

tinytinawp
saynotorage.com

 

  1. AAA suddenly means more than car help.

AAA (triple A) refers to the top stars of the video game industry. These games are the ones with the highest budgets and have the most people working on their development. These types of games take a long time to create because of the high quality produced. While none of this means these particular games are the best, a lot of time, effort, and money has been put into them, and some titles, like Call of Duty, Halo, and Final Fantasy,  tend to stick out even if you’re not a big gamer. Here are some previews of the top 30 games in 2015, which may give you an idea of what AAA means.

Are you new to the gaming world? Or do you have any suggestions for new gamers? Let us know in the comments below!

“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!

“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.

Screenshot 2015-06-16 09.48.08
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.

Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 2.23.22 PM
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.

“Danger Zone” — Second Week Recap

Nothing pumps us up more than Kenny Loggins’ 1980s hit “Danger Zone.” Sure, Tom Cruise has gone a little cray since Top Gun, but most of us at Reactuate Games can still get a rush from the adrenaline-inducing tune, which is a part of Ron’s special morning playlist. And as the second week got under way, we learned more about Ron’s music tastes (hint: he has the Xena theme song in there, too), our game, and each other.

The Reactuate Games team received more info on the game this week and shared the Super Secret Game Design document with email subscribers. This file explains the backstory of Colony Manager (possibly changing to Colony Maker) and how the player advances through the game. We shared this as a thank-you to our subscribers, so if you’re interested in the original design for the game, sign up here.

We’re actually creating graphics for the game now, too! Sam drew up a spiffy rocket ship, Austin played around with some terrain, and Katey created a monkey for scale purposes. Slowly but surely, the RG team is moving along.

monkeyOnMountain
Katey’s monkey on a mountain. Cute, huh?

Last week, we also took a field trip to The Gathering Place, an Abilene hotspot for gamers to hang out, compete, and play all kinds of games. We met with them in hopes to sponsor an event in the near future or at least get the word out to our Abilene audience. Afterward, we stopped by 7-11 for much-needed Slurpies to rehydrate and refuel before getting back to the office. Because work is hard and stuff.

FullSizeRender (1)
Katey was crowned victor of the first RG Game Bracket

On Friday, we had some Internet connectivity issues, which hindered our Twitch stream some, but that didn’t stop us from battling in our NBA Live 15 bracket and meeting a few new followers when we were broadcasting. Katey came out on top (*cough*… it was her game…*cough*), but it was a fun team-building experience, and we learned a lot about how gamers should get to skip tutorials, i.e.,  we spent thirty minutes watching our fearless leader learn to dunk.

Our second week together came and went quickly. The constant sound of mouse clicks filled the office, as we accomplished many of our week’s goals and  built a sturdy foundation for our game and our company. And I personal can say it’s all due to Kenny Loggins.

Thanks, Kenny.

Now on to week three!

P.S. Need some motivation? Watch a 1986 Cruise fly really fast.

 

The Agile-Scrum Methodology

Confused about what we mean by Scrum Master? Here’s a look at how we’ll be working at Reactuate Games.

What is Agile-Scrum?

The Agile-Scrum methodology is a new workplace-development process. Using this method, employees have more say over how long it will take to complete a task, and they will get feedback more often. The Agile-Scrum system encourages frequent check-ins at Scrum Meetings so that others may help their team members when a task-problem arises.

What is a Sprint Planning?

First off, a sprint is the duration a team has to accomplish tasks. These periods of time can be a week long or longer, depending on how much work the team has on its plate. The Sprint Planning involves the product owner and the employees listing their upcoming tasks, ranging how large the tasks are, and ordering them based on priority for the company. These meetings take place on the first day of the sprint.

What is a Scrum Meeting?

A Scrum Meeting is a five-minute gathering of the team where all employees answer three simple questions:

  • What did I work on yesterday?
  • What am I doing today?
  • What is standing in my way?

It’s a time to briefly meet and check on each other and his/her progress throughout the week. Team members are also able to offer help to others by eliminating what is standing in his/her way. This speeds up work flow and promotes team building.

What is a Sprint Retrospective?

A Sprint Retrospective takes place at the end of the sprint, and it allows the staff members to discuss what each one accomplished that week. The team can also talk about what is to come in the next week.

What is a Scrum Wall? 

A Scrum Wall is a place where the team’s tasks are shown, usually on sticky notes. Three categories split the flow of production– To do, Doing, and Done. As an employee works on his task, he moves the sticky note to the corresponding slot. This technique displays the progress being done in the office and where each teammate stands on their tasks.

Who is the Scrum Master?

The Scrum Master is the MC of the Scrum meetings; however, this person does not always have to be the boss. Scrum Masters can vary daily, and everyone can end up being the scrum master at some point. The main purpose of the scrum master is to resolve any issues standing in a team member’s way.

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.