Chris and I attended the IGDA LA Chapter’s July meeting for a panel discussion titled “Running a Small Development Studio: Perils, Pitfalls & Promise.I was interested in checking out the event because it was a relevant topic and I’ve yet to attend any of the LA Chapter meetings. I’ve been an IGDA member on 2 separate occasions but failed to see value in the membership since there were never any meetings. This year they’ve restarted and are having meetings the 2nd Thursday of every month.

The talk was excellent. The speakers gave a good idea of some of the challenges of getting a company started and keeping it rolling.

The speakers were:

John Beck CEO, WayForward Technologies (A Boy and His Blob, Where the Wild Things Are, Space Chimps)

Jenova Chen Creative Director, thatgamecompany (Flower, flOw, Cloud, Journey)

Tian Mu CEO, Co-Founder, Naked Sky Entertainment, Inc. (Star Trek DAC, RoboBlitz, RoboHordes)

Jesse Vigil Founder, Partner, Psychic Bunny (Codename Games, Lead Balloon)

After the talk, it transformed into a mixer. It was good chit-chatting with some of the homies and the regulars. Met and re-met a couple people we saw at the USC Global Game Jam. I had a good chat with the homies Nite and Deon, who worked on Lulu Cao’s thesis project, SomeDay.

This IGDA-LA event is every 2nd Thursday. It hasn’t been updated for a while, but you can try the website for info about the next one. If they keep having meetings of this caliber, I’ll have to renew my membership.

Oh yeah, baby. I came up. Won this wonderful game at the raffle.


Two guys playing with the Kinect at E3 2010

That’s right. Sokay is at E3 and nobody else will give you the breaking story on the games YOU want to play! Anyway, I’ll let you know how it went. For me, Nintendo was the show, so I’ll start with the other guys.
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Roger Ebert recently published an article reiterating his claim that games are not art. This was in response to a TED talk given by USC student Kellee Santiago.

I’d have liked to see Santiago take Ebert down a notch with a strong argument, but she came off as many of the ‘game school generation’ do: all talk and born to sell out (e.g. using marketability as evidence of artistry). I assume this is because graduates would rather not alienate the industry or general populace with their ideas, but the need to maintain a friendly facade dilutes the message too much for my taste. For that reason, I’d also have liked to see Ebert take Santiago down a notch, until he stopped making sense.

One of Ebert’s key failings is that his actual views on art remain a mystery and for that reason, I hope to convey my perspective through my discussion of Santiago and Ebert. I welcome attack.
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Play The Dream Machine at

I had contacted Anders Gustafsson, creator of Gateway II, and he gave me a preview of the first chapter of his latest game — The Dream Machine by Cockroach Inc.

I had played the demo before and while it was presented well, I didn’t know what to think of it. It was so short that it felt like it was over before it ever began. But after playing through the first chapter, I can now rest my worries. I can’t wait to play the rest!

First off the game is well written. While Gateway had some dialogue, its story was mostly told visually through the animation of the characters. In The Dream Machine, the characters have some great dialogue, which I find believable. The game start with your character, Victor, just moving into an apartment with his girlfriend. You get a good feel for their relationship through their talking. The game has dialogue branches which allow you to respond in a more serious or joking manner if you wish. It helped me to believe in the characters — okay, Game Creator, you’ve got my attention.

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Indiecade 2010 is a comin! Deadline for submission: June 1, 2010

I read about Indiecade accepting submissions for the 2010 game festival on Gamasutra. If  you read this blog, you might know that we went to last year’s Indiecade and had a good time. I told Chris and he’s down for action! He wants to submit his upcoming game. I think it’s unannounced…

I see this as a threat. He may be my friend, something of an ally, but I will never let him make me look like a chump by outclassing me at Indiecade. Never!

So I now announce that we are at War.

This ain’t no East Coast/West Coast thing. We’re both representing Los Angeles, no problem there. Nobody’s getting killed. This war is more of an arbitrary goal to provoke motivation, sorta like Obama’s car MPG requirements for 2016.

Chris’ game is looking great. It’s a physics based puzzle game, he’s doing all the art and coding as well. In addition, there will be some procedurally generated music. This guy is nuts, but it works. A demo for it is coming soon.

I’ve been forever working on my Donut game. It’s looking great but I’ve been neglecting it because I’ve been doing long hours on a game I’m doing for my day job. And I’ve been working on an update to the site. When things get back on track, I’m gonna knock it out.

I read a comment on Gamasutra that mentioned the game Soul Bubbles by French developer Mekensleep and how its lack of definite genre and audience limited it to an order-only title exclusive at the Toys R Us stores. I did some Googling to find some interviews and interesting stuff.

I also found this great GameSetWatch interview where the creative director Oliver Lejade discusses how the game came to be. From starting off as a PC tech demo, to becoming an innovative title making extraordinary use of the DS’s capabilities. Here’s a quote on why they had a hard time selling the game to distributers.

You’re saying, “Oh, this is a game about little girls, pink ponies, and you know that little girls are going to buy this,” it’s X number of units are going to go, it’s an easy sell. But when you come in with an original game, that they don’t have any clear reference to the gameplay of something that has been done recently, that has no license, then it’s a very hard sell. And if you have only five minutes? I can’t explain Soul Bubbles in five minutes. It’s not doable — and I made the game.

You can read the interview here:

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At the IGDA leadership forum in San Francisco Chris Hecker demanded that game developers ask themselves why they are making a game before they design it. Hecker is a renowned contributor to game graphical and physics technologies and a long time proponent of indie gaming.

‘Why’ is step one in any other art form, but Hecker is right. We don’t hear that question too much in games. It is my opinion that the earmark of great art is the purpose behind every choice involved in its creation. Even if that purpose is ambiguous at best, there must be justification for artistic decisions. But Hecker did a good enough job of making this point, so I’m going to say something that may be to the contrary. Continue Reading…

This is a video of Kyle Gabler‘s keynote to Global Game Jam 2009. I’ve been meaning to post this since I first saw it. I found it super inspiring!

7.  Adjust Expectations – Don’t strive for the next AAA hit, limit your expectations to something reasonable.

6. Create a Low Barrier of Entry – Make sure its fun within the first 15 seconds. Title screen, concise instructions, and jump into gameplay! Please forget the drawn out backstory.

5. Feel Something – Feel music to inspire, have an emotional target.

4. Make the Toy First – Prototype the idea to see if it even works before commiting!

3. Audio! – Sound is super important, make sure it’s not slapped on last minute. Involve it in the design of the game.

2. Harmony – “Think of how you can achieve harmony economincally.” Make sure everything that you have (music, art, gameplay) fits together.

1. Never Fall in Love – Free yourself to experiment with new ideas and don’t get too attached!

I don’t necessary feel that these are laws of game design, but they are very helpful philosophies to be able to complete a game prototype in an accelerated timeframe. I tend to fall in love with every game idea I have, which is why I have so many illegitimate prototypes running through my project folders.

A few months ago the Gnomon School of Visual Effects in Hollywood hosted a Making of Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune talk, titled An Evening with Naughty Dog. The guest speaker was Richard Lemarchand, the lead designer for Uncharted. An excellent speaker, he opened by shining some light onto the environment of Naughty Dog. I wasn’t just there for the free booze and pizza — I also took some notes.

  • Produced by Artisans. Everyone on staff at Naughty Dog actually has a role in making the game. No-one only does management. NO PRODUCERS (sounds like heaven to me). The people with responsibility are creatives that are making the game.
  • Disciplined leads should know how long tasks should take to be completed because they do the same work themselves.
  • Give people responsibility. Trust the members of the team to have good judgment and make the right decisions.
  • Face-to-Face communication. Less disruptive than e-mail. Builds teamwork/camaraderie.
  • Short meetings. Keep them brief to get the message across and to stay productive.
  • Cross-functional team.
  • Allocate work to those who are passionate about it. That’s where the magic comes from.
  • Do-acracy — individuals choose tasks for themselves.
  • Never get personal w/criticism. Don’t get bent out of shape.
  • Micromanagement is usually the enemy of excellence.
  • Waterfall development process from software development doesn’t necessarily apply to game development.
  • Games are like painting. Before painting you make sketches, research, rough in charcoal, etc. before even touching a brush. Continue Reading…

So the Tomb Raider hype machine is pumping away about the new player tailoring features of the latest addition to the franchise, Tomb Raider: Underworld. Tomb Raider games involve action elements and puzzle elements. But what if I don’t like action elements? Now they can be turned down so you don’t fight much. And if it’s puzzles you don’t like, you can turn those down too. If you don’t like something, you turn it down like volume on a TV. Great, right?

In the options menu of a game, you expect to find options. What is optional is, by definition, not necessary. So what does it mean when what is otherwise considered an essential part of a game, like it’s action or puzzle elements, is made optional? Developer Crystal Dynamics says that the different types of gameplay are nice as “punctuation,” which is why the player was not offered the power to completely remove them. So if you don’t want to solve a puzzle, just ask Lara and she’ll solve it for you. Unfortunately, turning down one half of the game will not reduce its price to $25.

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