Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Secret Life of the Indie Gamer

   Well, I can't say that I've been asked much lately about what I plan on doing with my degree and or how my plans are progressing. But on occasion someone on the fringes of my social circle will ask when will I graduate and what will I do. Being a methodical person I first inform them that I graduated back in October, oops, did you not get the grad party announcement? Then I explain a birds eye view of my master plot, which often excludes the part where I take over the planet using subliminal messages in the games I make. You know, don't want to ruin the surprise. I suppose most frequently my response is met with what I would best describe as the 'Oh-you-poor-misguided-graduate' look, followed with "Well, good luck with that. If you need any help testing..."

   I shrug it off and continue on. After all, what else am I to do. My goal is to build games. But not just any games, my games. Going the indie route isn't what I would call the easiest or most profitable, but it is doing something that I like and can respect. Given that I'm the one that has to see my ugly mug each morning, at least I can be happy about the fact that I am able to do something I really enjoy... even if it doesn't pay  anything yet.

   But for any budding indie game developer, or anyone looking to venture out on their own in any regard, the best piece of advice I can offer right now is documentation. I hated  that part during school. The design docs, concept docs, risk analysis docs... it seemed like we were doing more documenting than coding sometimes. But having gone solo for a couple projects I can really appreciate the value of a good plan and having it written down before jumping feet first into the project. Especially the "easy" designs. Plan what to build. Build what you plan. And refer to your goals and plans as often as needed.

   I think that would relate to anything in life. Budgeting, school, career. Set a course, and include in that plan how to get back on course if you get off course because unless life never throws you a curve ball, you're bound to get off track once in a while. And remember to have fun with it.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Boy Toy or Girl Toy with Your Kids Meal?

   I had read an article some time back that compared the choice of toys made for boys or girls and which were more popular. Not having a photographic memory I don't recall the entire gist of the article, but I do recall that the toys available for boys were meant to (in large part) bring about a sort of 3rd party play. Such as action figures or something to play "with". Meanwhile the toys packaged for girls had a more personal interactive role involved. Such as things that the child could "do".

   In comparison to an article posted on PSX Extreme Newsletter the contrasting sides were related to boys and girls or rather men and women and game playing habits. I found the article interesting to the degree of posing the question, but then leaving it open to public comments to propose a rationale that might identify why more men than women play games. I'd have liked to see more of that direction followed. As nice as it is to see that some of the comments evaluated that aspect, I figured I'd add my two cents.

   Being a guy, and being what I would consider a gamer, I think I have a good feel for the why I play games. They are fun. They allow me to do things I couldn't such as drive a suped up way expensive sports car. Games give an escape, when I feel frustrated I'd rather play a game to blow off steam than have a fit of actual road rage or any other act of violent behavior. Games can provide an alternate reality allowing me to experience what is "could" have been like for someone in an earlier time period. (Though I'm sure in that time period, I'd have to find some time to sleep and eat, unlike in most games...)

   In an effort to not assume what women feel about games or their lives. I have observed that women often are more interested in connections than the standard isolation of game consoles. Perhaps games do not offer enough connection, though they have become much better about that through the various online games that are available now. This of course is not to say that all women dislike video games and like hanging out with others, nor is it to say that all guys would rather sit in front of a TV blasting swarms of alien invaders instead of go out with other real live people and do something. What I do think is that women are more likely to spend less time invested in a virtual game world that doesn't offer any real world value or substance (i.e. level grinding on a role playing game comes to mind). I do think that with the advent of social media and the games that allow for interaction, women are more involved than what they had been. Whether this is a shift in isolated media to social media or if it shows the evolution from treating women targeted games as being only frilly and cutesy to giving more realistic and appropriate roles in games. I don't know... maybe the paradigm hasn't shifted at all.

   I think that what I am taking away from this thought process is that by and large games have (either by design or inadvertently) not been effective in gaining women players. I don't know that there is a simple blueprint that would ratify this stereotype, but I think that one place to start would be with asking women what they would want to spend their time playing. Oh, and then of course implementing that into a game. Even if it means not adding that huge meat-headed hero that can slaughter a ba-zillion zombies, rescue the village and whiten his teeth all in a days work.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Proof is in the Pudding

   Okay, so the title doesn't exactly ooze with gamer coolness... in fact, it sounds like a better title for Sugar and Spice a great recipe blog. But given that I haven't posted anything new in oh, over a month now. I figured I should show people what has been going on at Game Crossing Studios.

   Besides the initial and "formal" procedures of actually moving toward a "legal" business entity, we've been planning and working on a new game platform. It has a bit of a learning curve, as mobile games isn't at all what I had gone to school with a focus in. I love the idea of having the desktop and server quantities of mass storage. Both capable of holding huge amounts of information and in a manner that would allow for highly detailed graphics. Not that I am currently developing at that level, but I like the freedom that comes with it. Meanwhile as smart phones and mobile devices become, well smarter, and storage mass is continuing to shrink to ever smaller footprints, the reality and viability of games and applications that are available and needed in a mobile market increases.

   Game Crossing Studio had announced that we would be working on a project that utilizes the Windows Phone 7 and may cross develop for XBOX360 and Windows desktop and that is still the plan. In fact the following picture is the beginnings of what we are working with on the Windows Phone 7.
   As a side note, having been ribbed a bit by Mac users to work on a development for the iPhone/iPad, I would like to point out that the development tools to work on this platform are available for FREE! I suppose the response may be that development on the i-Platforms is too, assuming that you are using a Mac to write the code from. Thus, I work with what I have and am content to grow at a level that allows me to work at the pace life demands.

   I realize that the photo isn't much to go on. It is pretty basic, but it does constitute quite a bit of energy in developing resources, studying the nuances of C# instead of the C++ I studied in school, and the fact that I haven't been able to devote as much time as I'd like to this. However, it is underway and we will be providing updates as the process continues. If you know anyone with a Windows Phone 7 encourage them to let you play our game when it comes out! And if you don't have a Windows Phone 7, (Microsoft would love for me to say go get one... but) we may be adapting this game for PC or possibly another mobile device as a future release. Be patient.