Monday, September 17, 2012

The Thick & Thin of Our Conspiracy

     To be honest, I had hoped to have our first title ready to distribute to the masses, or at least the 3 or 4 people kind enough to drive up my page view numbers (thanks Mom, just kidding, I don't think my mom even knows I have a website and blog...). But truth of the matter is that we aren't ready for it to be turned out to the public yet.

     It may be close to a early demo version, but there is still a lot of missing story elements, incomplete art assets and a couple audio clips that I'd like to add before we let real people dig into the meat and potatoes of it. Sorry, we want to show everyone, we're just a bit self-conscious.

     In the meantime, let me tell you a bit about the process and journey this whole hobby project took.

     It started in December of 2011. Having graduated from DeVry University the year before and having toyed with about four to six other game plans between that time and last December, I was chatting with a good friend and expressing some of the frustrations that the day to day job held. It started like a joke, the idea of escaping the current jobs. (Granted that is not to say that I'm/we're ungrateful to have the day jobs that we have, but as with any job, the frustrating days can lead to dreams of finding better employment.)

     So from the kernel of escape we built the premise of this first in what developed into an older idea of a comic book series I had worked on many years ago. The story began with a very basic structure as the game idea began to form. Over the months it has been modified and stretched to answer questions that were present, and to give a bit more depth to the story than a simple escape the building game.

     From there concept art was developed, and as is stated on our website, we all have day jobs or activities that demand our attention. Therefore the concept art was slow in being developed. Initial concepts planned for us to use fully 3D rendered characters, rigged, animated and to create our game as close to a Triple A title as we could. And I fully believe we could have done that...but we didn't. We wanted to be able to have this game distributed by the end of 2012, and knowing that our first character wasn't even fully sculpted and we were a couple weeks into it, helped us see that as a side job with limited amount of time we could not expect miracles when we were first attempting to break into a market like this. 

     The story was good, the concept art and storyboards were adequate, but the mode that we were wanting to take was needing adjusted. So we considered our options. We had wanted to use Unity3D, they have a great engine that has solid documentation and tutorials to help any indie get up to speed. But knowing that asset creation was a task that we didn't have the luxury of putting the amount of time into it that we really wanted we looked at other engines that we could customize enough and get custom assets through a community forum for little to nothing. 

     That's when we came across Enterbrain's RPG Maker series. They have a strong active forum community that has been extremely helpful in providing assets in art as well as music and mapping tiles. Scripts are available as well to help customize the look and functions of a game. It is also a great engine for the hobby game builder on a budget. While many of those talented individuals asked only for credit to be given as payment for the use of their work, we hope to make a little something through this project that we can donate back to help keep them producing the amazing products and resources for future game makers. 

     We recognize the sacrifice and efforts of everyone in the game development industry. And while it is a great career to get into it really can eat up time, especially if it's not your day job. The time (late nights and evenings) that I alone have spent on this project from December 2011 to now is close to 800 hours. If parents think that playing video games wastes a persons time... yikes! 

     Seriously though it has been a good experience, I've enjoyed struggling and working long distance with some great people and look forward to one day being able to to this as a full time gig. In most post development documents they record what was done good, what was done bad, and how to improve both. 

     While we're not done yet, I would say the good has been the way we've stuck to it even when life has thrown multiple challenges at us individually and as a team. It isn't easy working at a distance, let alone working out a project in our 'spare' time and having a TON of personal stuff take precedence over our intentions on this project.

     The bad has been the documentation. While I may have 3 spiral notebooks full of doodles, notes, concept ideas and documentation, I would say that as a team we failed to accurately and efficiently document our path so that we could have a benchmark for future games.

     The improvement I believe will come as we better establish roles within our team, make documentation a prime part of the process and continue to move forward one project at a time. Focusing and making success a deliberate result of concerted effort is much less risky than relying on dedication and luck alone.

     So to you the gamer, we're not going anywhere. We'll continue working to make games that we hope you will enjoy. And we are listening. Go to our website, at the bottom of the home page, take the opportunity to tell us what kind of games you like. Or if you have a great game idea and feel like sharing, tell us. We're not a big game making machine, we want what you want, awesome games that are fun to play.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Games and Girls

     Hi all, I’m Meg and a new contributor to the Game Crossing Studio blog!  For this first post I’m going to talk about women and our relationship with video games. 

     I have seen both appropriate and inappropriate gaming.  That is to say I have seen people spend far and away too much time in front of a screen with flashing images!  This may sound strange coming from someone who develops video games and has dealt with creating fictional world most of her life but it is important to remember where our real priorities lie and to spend our time accordingly.  Gaming can be a lot of fun and I hope you really like playing our games, just not at the expense of your personal relationships.

     I’ll move on from that before I lose my job! :)

     I want to talk for a second about how female characters are portrayed in games.  Recently we got Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City.  I know, I’m behind the times.  But since these two games were so highly rated I’m going to use them as examples of what I’m talking about.  The females are portrayed in what I feel is a less than respectful manner.  I mean, is Poison Ivy wearing anything at all on her lower half?!  What happened to the full leotard of the comics that Harley Quinn wore?  She’s now in a bra, mini skirt, and combat boots!  Talia could have been in body paint for all we know.  Don’t get me started on Catwoman’s jumpsuit and how low cut it is!  Are these images we want displayed in our homes?  What does this teach our kids about women?  What effect does it have on male teens and adults?

     This is my call to all game producers, comic writers, and movie producers: We want to see a strong female hero who wears clothes.  Who is smart and inventive.  Who respects herself enough to demand respect from others.  I don’t want my daughter to come away from a game thinking that the way to get ahead is to be provocative.  I don’t want my son to come away from a game thinking that women are objects for visual pleasure.

     What are you're feelings on video games and how they portray women?


     Hey Meg, thanks for the upfront post.

     From the male side (or at least this male's side) I can agree with you that the accepted fashion sense is less sense and more skin. It's like the fantasy games where female characters wear next to nothing and run off into battle. Seriously? Whatever state of reality the publish is hoping to create is diminished as those women characters have no defense against anything including the wind. Or they shouldn't as they aren't wear much more than a couple pieces of fabric stitched together.

     So to what end is the basis for this portrayal? The marketing term sex sells is rampant in society. But behind the near-naked people in a game, is there a story and real gameplay or are developers planning that boys in particular will buy their game because of the enticing female graphics? Some games do have both story and less than modest graphics, but do they need the immodest attire?

     For those of us "old gamers" like me, the reason we played games initially was because they were fun. You can't really say that the princesses we rescued in the old Mario and Zelda games held our attention longer than to inform us that we finished the game. But people played for hours and days (Meg touched on this too, it can be a bad thing) developers had to dig deeper and really deliver gameplay more than eye-candy.

     To mirror Meg's invitation, if we as a society are not tolerant of the immodest portrayal, those producers and developers will have to change their tactics and put some clothes on those digital characters. Don't be afraid to not buy a game or watch a movie or TV show that doesn't reflect your standards. Consider the affects of those images on a views mind. I have a friend whose father has a signature line on his email that reads: "Be careful what you put into your head, because you can never get it out."