Sunday, August 31, 2014

GJG Blog Interview #3 - Wesley Adams

Dangerous was a previous project Multivarious Games had worked on.
Wesley Adams is the Co-Founder of Multivarious Games, a young independent game developing company based in the Buckeye State of Ohio. Wesley specializes in departments such as GUIs, 2D and 3D animation and rigging. Wes acts as the overseer for a lot of the game development tasks that need attending. Wes handles the creative side of MVG while the other Co-Founder, Christopher Volpe, handles the business side.

Multivarious Games: http://www.multivariousgames.com/
Wesley's Website: http://www.wescg.net/ 

Steven Vitte:
1) You are the Co-Founder of the startup game developing company Multivarious Games. How did Multivarious Games initially come about? What inspired its forming?

Wesley Adams:  MVG started back in October 2010 with a group of game enthusiasts from a local Meetup community called the Central Ohio Gamedev Group. I had just graduated from the Columbus College of Art and Design, did some job searching in California for a bit, and was now looking for options in Ohio in the gaming community as I waited for feedback. There I met with Devin Moore, Chris Sellers, Alex Jonas, and Todd Barchok who were all either working on games at the time or were interested in growing the community. 

Devin started the LLC for MVG and pushed to try to make it a tangible business through community development. Later the team grew and evolved and now Chris Volpe and I manage a team of about 14 people, team leads, writers, and sound designers. What inspired the collaboration was mainly due to the observed talent seen that was noticeably moved to job searching in the west coast. We really wanted to provide an option for those looking to stay in Ohio and do games for a living.

2) Multivarious Games is based in Columbus, Ohio (Dublin, to be exact). How do you feel about the Video Game Industry's presence in the state of Ohio? What can improve? What has improved?

Wesley: Dublin really supported some of the best entrepreneurship we were looking for to do our startup. The MVG offices at the TechDec of Dublin for example provided professional office space, meeting rooms, and technology support while offering affordable rent. The owners here really are excited to support our mission to help bring more game development jobs to Ohio. MVG is of course a startup but we are very much involved in the community here to support other local game development. If we can get exposure to Ohio as a talented place to make games, it will only help our company out as well! The game industry in Ohio is infant of course but growing rapidly. Check out the Ohio Game Developer Association website to see many related companies, groups, and talent: http://www.ohiogamedev.com/

In terms of improvement, yes every year we see an imporvement of growth in games, education, and local game communities here in Ohio I'd say. What we're working to do is to funnel game developers together to improve collaboration and build a larger portfolio of games made. One way we are looking to do this is through the Ohio Game Developer Expo coming up here on October 24-26th at COSI. The goal of this venue is to encourage developers to build games for one weekend a year and have a chance to show off their work to potential collaborators, investors and enthusiasts. We're also working with local education institutions such as the Columbus College of Art and Design, Columbus State, Game U, The Ohio State University, and many more to help bring awareness to their game programs that there are needs for new game developer talents.

For improvement, it's all about how to acquire more opportunities to succeed. We have a lot of talent already so we just need a chance to show off what we can do. One way to do this is by tapping into local capital investment through showcasing a portfolio of games and its positive relationship to investment growth.

3) What do you envision the state of Ohio to have when it comes to game development?

Wesley: The large advantage of Ohio is the COL or cost of living mixed in with game enthusiasts. We by no means want to underpay our talent but it is understood that we could get a startup company at a lower cost than most other locations. We also live in a time that has many more free and available tools/online support than we did just a few years ago. free professional tools like Unity 3D help us develop and online resources like Gamasutra helps those looking to get into the industry.

4) Following the Video Game Industry, which names have you followed and looked up to for inspiration? (Example - Nolan Bushnell)

Wesley: Recently, it has been Tim Shaffer of Double Fine Productions. I've been following a few of their games like "Broken Age" and "Massive Chalice" as they have opened these projects up to the community for those who support the games through a crowd funding website called Kickstarter. As a new game developer and project lead, it's very helpful for me to see how other game companies go through the many steps it takes to make a game.

5) As a company, how does Multivarious Games view the departments of game development, separately and together?

Wesley: As a whole, we work to bring the many parts of the company's projects together through weekly reviews. Usually, we have stand-up meetings throughout the weekdays with part of the team who can make it into the office. Then, the entire team meets up on Saturdays to recap what has been accomplished. We have separate yet small departments that we break down into each project based on needs. This usually includes the project lead, systems team, art team, writing team, and sound design team. Some departments may grow, shrink, or move between projects depending on its needs.

6) Programs and events such as Game U and the Ohio Game Developer Expo are taking shape. What are your thoughts on these developments?

Wesley: We see these resources becoming bigger and better. With COSI's support in the 2014 Ohio Game Developer Expo and the support in Powell for the after school game development program at Game U, we are very excited to be a part of these growing groups. They not only help support our company but also the gaming industry here as well. The more of these groups we see grow, the more support individuals will have looking to do games in Ohio.

7) What tips do you have on networking with people?

Wesley: There are many ways to go about networking and may depend on what you are networking and where. For us, it really helped to network with the local organizations in Columbus. We grabbed a lot of exposure through articles in Columbus Alive and 614 Magazine. Best advice is just get out there. Join on location with groups you are interested in with sites like Meetup.com.

You can also connect with many online services like Linked In, Facebook, and online podcasts like ours at WMVG. However, people will know you best when you shake their hand, get to know them, and they get to know you. I was pleasantly surprised to meet a few folks working on AAA games and even a UK game developer. You never know who you'll meet and where that connection may lead you to next.  

8) If you had a list of favorite video game genres, what would your list look like? (Shooters, RPGs, Platformers, Racing)

Wesley: It's hard to say because I don't feel games should be limited to genres. Some of the best games are the ones you can play with your friend and has a fantastic story. So that being the case, I like FPS but it should have a fun campaign mode. It would be okay if it wasn't multiplayer but really playing a campaign game with a friend makes the experience so much more fun. I'm also interested in games that invoke an interesting world. Some of my favorite games growing up was "Myst", "Shenmue", and "Day of the Tentacle."

9) What do you think are the main differences between independent games and mainstream games? 

Wesley: This has been a growing question for me. I feel that indie games and "mainstream games" are depended on who considers what is what, so to speak. Are sales a factor? Fan-base amount? Quality and feature support? There is a gray area I think in terms of shifts because technology and teams are changing rapidly. Years ago, indie companies like Team Meat with "Super Meat Boy" and Mojang with "Minecraft" were at one point pretty indie and are now very much mainstream. 

However, I still feel that they retain much of that indie feeling compared to a new COD (Call of Duty) game for example. My thoughts are to answer, "What makes the game feel more personal to your game related interests?" The more of this you have, the more you feel like it may be an "indie" game. However, as mentioned before, in my opinion you can feel indie but be mainstream which is great to see as this may be a close representation of the evolution in games.

10) What element of video games do you think should be expanded on? Examples - Arcade, Co-Op, Online Play, etc.)

Wesley: As mentioned before, I think game best benefit from playing with friends. Games are an experience and sharing with others makes it a much more dynamic experience. There are a lot of games like FPS, RTS, and RPG that share competitive tactics. This is a good start but I would love to see games that also share progressive experiences like as in "Journey." 
 

Have a Happy Labor Day, blog readers!        

Saturday, August 23, 2014

GJG Blog Interview #2 - Shark Puppet


Gaming Journalist Gazette Blog Interview #2 - SharkPuppet.com

Paul Jensen is the owner of Shark Puppet Media and Editor In Chief for SharkPuppet.com. Steven Brasely is the site's Gaming Editor and writes The Minus World, a weekly column covering the Video Game Industry. 

Link: Shark Puppet Media

Steven Vitte: 
1) How did the forming of SharkPuppet.com come about? How did interest in video games help make SharkPuppet.com possible?

Paul Jensen:  SharkPuppet.com was initially built as an extension of our YouTube video channel. My original goal for the website was simply to have a place to host our videos, which were a mix of video game-based comedy and Japanese anime reviews. I started writing some short articles in order to give the site a bit more content, and it quickly became apparent that the written content was generating far more traffic than the videos. 

That shifted our focus away from video work, and the site has slowly expanded to cover new areas of interest. Gaming has always been a part of Shark Puppet; the first thing we made as a company was a video of me trying to play Halo 4 while a friend shot me with Nerf guns. It's a passion that many of the folks who've been involved with the site share, and will likely remain at the heart of our activities for the foreseeable future.

2) Shark Puppet features The Minus World, a column dedicated to video game topics. How do video game discussions help Shark Puppet?

Paul: The Minus World has been our most popular column since it first started, and most of our site's visitors on any given day come for our gaming content. On a surface level, then, talking about video games has been our most successful method of getting people to check us out. Beyond that, I think gaming makes a great springboard for some of the other hobbies we cover. Folks who read and enjoy one of Steven's columns will be encouraged to check out the rest of the site and explore some of our TV and anime content.

3) What are your thoughts on the Video Game Industry in general? (You can make a list if you'd like.)

Steven Brasely: The Video Game Industry continues to grow rapidly, this means there are tons of new possibilities popping up each day hut also lots of risk. There is a lot of competition, in both game design and game journalism (game journalism, I feel, is even more of an over saturated market than design itself), however the silver lining is there are plenty of avenues people can try out in order to become successful (funding a game through Kickstarter, sharing news stories across many social media platforms). 

Paul: I agree with Steven on this one. There's no end of interesting and controversial topics to discuss when it comes to video games. The hard part is finding a way to get people to listen to your opinion in particular! 

4) In your opinion, what should really matter in game reviews? (and gaming journalism in general?)

Steven: People who play games naturally all have different tastes, and I'd say every critic would have a different answer to this question. For me, I particularly enjoy a game with a good story (especially if the game is a first-person shooter), so I like to focus on the strength of the writing and the voice acting, character development and overall design of a game's setting, all of which are needed to make a compelling story. Other elements I try to touch upon are gameplay (does it feel good, or are the controls horrendous?), as well as audio/music, graphics, and multiplayer if applicable. 

Paul: One of the dangers in reviewing a video game is that the reviewer can focus too much on objectively analyzing a game's various aspects and forget to ask if the game itself is fun to play. Some of my favorite games have had technical flaws or been behind the times in the graphics department, but that didn't stop them from being enjoyable.

5) What are your thoughts on game reviewers and critics? What do you think they could be doing better?

Steven: Game critics need to be more cynical. The Game Journalism Industry has had a problem for a number of years where critics are too soft on a game out of fear that they will ruin the relationships their companies make with game developers (see the controversial firing of Jeff Gerstmann from Gamespot in 2007 for his Kane and Lynch review). This can be fixed with more critics working independently, or working for companies that follow the practice of independence, such as The Escapist of Destructoid, though sadly all publications becoming independent will likely never happen. Sites like IGN live off of ad revenue, so they'll keep pumping out 8/10 and 9/10 reviews if it means keeping their sponsors happy.

Paul: I think one of the inherent problems of professional reviews is that the writers are typically seasoned gamers. Many games, especially in the FPS and RPG genres, have grown so feature-rich that they're practically impossible to understand unless you're accustomed to the conventions of the genre. Too many reviews forgot to take a look at how accessible the game is, or dismiss steep learning curves as though they aren't a problem. It makes sense for experienced gamers to write reviews, but we risk making both the games and the reviews irrelevant for newcomers to the hobby.

6) For The Minus World column, what kind of content would Shark Puppet like to put out as far as entertainment is concerned?

Steven: For the column, I like to do a few things: mostly editorials, but every now and again I'll do a game review or a fun countdown list. Once I even tried getting a but surreal, writing about a "video game cult" I encountered at IndieCade in L.A. last year. I am interested in producing more video content relevant to the column, but first I need to both get a huge external hard drive to help me with video editing and also come up with a neat video series that I would feel happy committing to. To be successful on YouTube today, you need a video series that is unique that will grab people's attention. Often I find myself thinking of a cool idea then saying, "Oh, wait. That's been done before."

Paul: I'd also like to get back into video content, but Steven's absolutely right. Not only is it difficult to stand out from the crowd, it's a huge increase in terms of workload. One of the reasons I moved my anime reviews and editorials to a written format was that the videos simply weren't worth the extra effort. That being said, it's something I'd like to get back into at some point, even if it simply means augmenting our written content with short video pieces. Pit Box One, my racing game column, is currently on hiatus while I look for a way to make it more interesting, so that may end up as a testing ground for new videos.

7) Who in the Video Game Industry would Shark Puppet love to interact with?

Steven: Oooh goodness, well for starters there are tons of great indie game developers I'd love to get in touch with. People like Davey Wreden (The Stanley Parable) and Edmund McMillen (Super Meat Boy, The Binding of Isaac). Indie developers are fun to talk to, incredibly intelligent and talented, and they're always happy to discuss their latest projects with game journalists. 

We have also interacted with Mega64 (YouTube video game comedy group) a few times. I covered their fan meet-up at Disneyland last year and also gave them a shout-out in my PAX East piece, which they retweeted to their followers.

Paul: I'm actually gonna go the other way a bit and call out some major developers, especially Bungie (Halo, Destiny) and Turn 10 (Forza Motorsport). I've sunk countless hours into their games, and would love to see some of the work that goes into making an A-list title. From a business standpoint, I think we could also learn a lot from the folks at Rooster Teeth in terms of making a career out of gaming videos.

8) What is important about game writing, in your opinion?

Steven: For game journalism, it is easy for people to jump in and put humor and entertainment value before everything else. As someone who just completed a formal education in journalism, I say stick to the basics first. Always spell-check (I'm guilty of not doing that from time to time), always fact-check to make sure you're putting the correct information out there, even if it's something as simple as what systems a game came out for, or release dates.

Paul: Steven says that, but he's actually a very easy guy to edit for when it comes to typos. As the guy who does the final checks before articles hit the site, I've been spoiled by a very professional group of writers! As far as writing for games themselves, I think the guidelines from other forms of fiction apply quite well. If the plot makes sense, the characters are compelling, and the work as a whole asks an interesting question or two, I'm happy.                 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Where I Want To Be - Part 1

Now I mainly discuss topics related to video games that have no direct connections to me, but I think that I should be writing an article like this one because I feel that it is definitely important enough for me to discuss. Now you have read my articles and you know what my thoughts are on certain topics such as gaming genres, game mechanics, UI/UX Design, voice acting, creative game writing, etc. but here I want to dig a little bit into why I am here and why the Gaming Journalist Gazette blog exists. I have talked a little bit about the reasons why but not so much in depth, so really, now feels like the right time for me to tell a story or two about my journey into game development stuff.



I first began to get really serious about wanting to write for video games in 2008 and the setting is as much of a blank slate as you could make it. I started out really preliminary and basic in my writing style as I would write slowly and just map out the details of my first scripted story. In the distant past, like say the time of 1998-2002, I would doodle, sketch and write text in composition books as a younger kid and I would put in all sorts of things, like stick figures with block-like hats on, chicken scratch that at least looked funny, short poems that sounded silly, etc. I would format some of my composition book entries in the fashion of a cartoon TV show or a comic strip and I would try my best to progress the theme of the short visual story. My family members called it cute whenever I referred to these composition books as "anthologies". I was a younger kid back then after all.

I was always an imaginative person, always willing to create new things, experiment with things that hadn't been experimented on before and just making tweaks here and there. Ingenuity is a word that can describe me. I have always been an observant person who paid attention to detail no matter what it was. I would see animals like deers, horses and birds and I would pay attention to how they would act. It fascinated me because all animals are different from each other. I would see a frog jump about in a creek next to my apartment home and I would smile. Something so subtle like a frog jumping from one spot to another would rive my imagination.

From early 2002 to late 2004 I would call the San Francisco Bay Area home, and specifically near San Jose, and of course I had some fun while I lived there. I had the beautiful weather of Bay Area California and I lived in an area where I had plenty of options to do stuff. I ended up attending a Golden State Warriors basketball game, 2 San Jose Sharks hockey games, a San Jose Giants Single A baseball game, San Francisco Giants and Oakland Athletics baseball games, etc. and I enjoyed myself. However, something always felt missing in my life during this time. While I was finding myself in the Bay Area, at times I just couldn't help but think about what was going on back home in Ohio.

I was born in Columbus, Ohio, in the Ohio State University Hospital on August 16, 1989 and I have called Ohio my home for the majority of my life. I was raised in Ohio for the early childhood years of my life and I currently reside in Ohio. I know how to get around in Ohio and I am mainly familiar with my Ohioan surroundings. Bay Area California was a nice detour in my life and it certainly refreshed me, but in my mind and in my heart, I am an Ohioan Buckeye.

So how does this tie in to my love for video games? I'm getting to that checkpoint, to be sure. My love for video games spans numerous console generations, dating all the way back when I was a young sprout of about 5 years old, I think. I remember as far back as to when I was playing Super Mario Bros. 3 on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) with my big sister and my official start as a gamer came when I got my hands on a Super Nintendo (SNES) console and here I would get the chance to play video games on my own.

Yoshi: "I am a professionally trained egg-thrower, a Battle Assassin at the Dinosaur Commando Power Plant!"


The first SNES game I played was Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island and that game almost immediately grabbed my imagination. It was simply the idea of a cute green dinosaur with a baby on its back throwing eggs at enemies and flutter jumping that got me hooked and Yoshi has been in my Top 5 of favorite video game characters ever since.Whenever I played Yoshi's Island as a little kid, I didn't want to stop playing. I would be stuck in the middle of a fortress or castle and I would ponder as to how I was going to get past certain obstacles. Some things caught me off guard and, yeah, Yoshi paid the price.


Once I was able to conquer Yoshi's challenges, I moved on to other games and my journey into video games would continue. I played other games and I would continue to learn how video games were structured. I developed a better idea of what video games were about and what they meant to gamers. Throughout the years, I have kept up to date on the trends in the Video Game Industry and I would continue to be amazed at how innovative and fascinating some of the best games actually were. The creativity of this platform grew on me very quickly since I was (and still am) creative at my core.

Throughout the twists and turns, my love for video games were always present and I eventually got to know just how important the business side of video games really were. I am a student of the game, so to speak, and I love digging into the history of various things, so researching the history of the Video Game Industry was no different. While living in the Bay Area, I was introduced to the likes of one TV channel that is no longer with us. In late 2002 I got acquainted with G4, a TV channel dedicated to video games. What a novel concept it was at the time since no other channel was committed to being loyal to just video game discussions.

G4 Rep.: "We were for gamers, but yeah, we moonwalked away from games and put on Cops reruns instead! Yippee!"

For the first few years of the channel's existence, G4 TV was actually a really fun place to be. It was a channel that caught your attention and allowed your imagination to wander even though you would see the end results of their shows. The shows that G4 put on in the early years felt special, as in you couldn't wait to tune in and see what some experts thought about certain games that just came out, or see what some guy was going to do with a cast of PC RPG characters in a comedic drama format, or even get the scoop on some cheat codes for your favorite games. I experienced some of G4's best programming back then and I was impressed by most of what they put out. Unfortunately, though, new leadership came in and completely destroyed the concept of a channel for video games, opting to air never ending reruns of Cops, Cheaters (not the same as Cheat), Magnum P.I., 1980's movies that nobody cared about, etc. instead.

Needless to say, as of late 2013-early 2014, G4 TV no longer exists, and honestly, good riddance.

Though I do have to say that one show on G4 TV stood out the most for me. That show was Icons and it documented the more serious and interesting topics about the Video Game Industry, involving the history of companies, peculiar events and the names that helped pioneer the business. There was one guy that Icons kept talking about and that guy was none other than Nolan Bushnell, one of the very first video game pioneers. Of course, I wanted to know more about Mr. Bushnell, so after conducting a bunch of research, I found out that Nolan was the creator of Pong, a now very old and classic arcade game that paved the way for other arcade games to be made. Nolan also led the charge for Atari back in the day when it came to promoting the brand of the Atari 2600.

Nolan Bushnell
Every time I hear or read a story about Nolan Bushnell I can't help but realize how much passion, desire and drive it must take for a gaming pioneer like him to do what he does to this day. Nolan Bushnell is one example of a guy who sets up goals that he wants to reach and will make sure that those goals are addressed one way or the other. If there is an issue in gaming that he wants to tackle, there's a good chance that Nolan will get right on it. He also does general technology stuff as well like utilizing the GPS device and setting up unique security system grids and such. Many game developers look at Nolan Bushnell as their inspiration for wanting to get into the Video Game Industry and he's certainly one who inspired me as well.

In recent years because of personal issues in my life, my love for video games and for the Video Game Industry has had to take a backseat and this was a sad experience. Through both good and bad times, I had used video games as a relaxing point to get away from the monotonous nonsense that life can bring. Especially in the span of 2010-2013 things became incredibly tough for me on various platforms since I was transitioning away from certain things that were pulling me back in life and I was struggling to establish something that I wanted to be a part of.

In 2010 I had to let go of a routine that I had developed since the Summer of 2005. I started going to baseball games for my local baseball team, and for 3+ years I was an official blog correspondent for my local baseball team, the Chillicothe Paints, and I committed so much of my time writing articles for this baseball blog. I had a lot of fun with these blog articles early on. Towards the end of the 2010 baseball season, however, it became very super clear that I had no future as a baseball journalist. I loved the game of baseball and I still do today, but the fact was that I was writing all these blog articles without being paid a single dime. I wrote these baseball articles for free, and in a sense, yeah, the Chillicothe Paints baseball organization used me. I was basically a volunteer and when I did bring up the issue of pay for my articles they brushed me off. However, I speak highly of the Chillicothe Paints organization as I do find them to be a classy baseball organization. It was just a matter of me needing to move on.

The late 2000's were a very interesting time for me. I began to rekindle my interest in a video game series and bring that interest back out to the forefront. I became much more attached to the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise even though I had already known about Sonic very well, and I learned of how much this franchise spiraled out of control ever since the fall that was Sonic 06. It began with a simple internet search for one Sonic character, Miles "Tails" Prower. I was interested in knowing what was going on with Tails, so I naturally got hooked on to news about the Sonic franchise, and I have been kept up to date ever since. The Sonic franchise is a motivating factor as far as me being interested in entering the Video Game Industry for a variety of reasons.

Sly Cooper - One piece of my Motivation Puzzle
Even though gaming technology had already advanced past the Playstation 2, I became compelled to take a trip down Nostalgia Avenue, and from 2009 on it did manifest. I had the desire to play some PS2 games just for the sake of refreshing my interest in video games, to keep that interest afloat and to keep my love for innovation and creativity going. One game in particular was the clincher in keeping me in the game, so to speak. That one game was Sly 2: Band of Thieves. I eventually got to play other Sly Cooper material, but Sly 2 was the one that rejuvenated that part of my innovative spirit and reassured me that I still had it in me to play video games and play them pretty well. There were times when I experienced some "burnout" on video games and I felt like I needed to be away for a little bit, so when I put my focus on Sly 2 I became hooked once again, remembering the time when I got hooked on Yoshi's Island as a kid.

Kevin Miller
As was the case with Nolan Bushnell, I wanted to know more about the guy who provided the voice for Sly Cooper, so a few internet searches here and there brought me to some things involving Kevin Miller, such as the podcasts that he has with comedian Justin Worsham. Originally called the Second Funniest Podcast, this show features Justin and Kevin discussing topics related to video games as well as off the wall stuff to entertain fans abroad. I have listened to a few episodes of the Gamerland Podcast and I have been entertained by these discussions. Kevin has done a good job along with Justin in providing insightful views on gaming topics and you can tell by listening to an episode that they have fun doing these shows.

Link: Gamerland Podcast

In one way Kevin Miller inspired me to come out of my shell when it comes to utilizing my voice. A few months ago I posted a blog entry talking about the local voice over recording session I attended, and I talked about how fun it was for me to give it my best try in seeing how my voice would turn out in the voice over format. I wanted to know for sure if my voice sounded clear enough, and thankfully it did according to those close to me. Not at all bad for my first ever try.

I was contemplating in 2013 whether or not I should consider doing any sort of voice over work no matter what it was for, and I eventually decided that there was no harm in me trying this out. I mean, what did I have to lose? This was surely a way for me to become more social and to present my enthusiasm for the video game business, a business that I love. It wasn't anything that Kevin directly did to inspire me, but rather it was because of his example that allowed me to admire the field of voice acting and to look at it more closely.

Steven Vitte - Where I Want To Be...

Now let's talk about the title of this article. Where I Want To Be... Clearly when you are in a position similar to mine, such as being in a No Man's Land area of the state of Ohio, your options will appear to be very limited in the beginning. My journey has many twists and turns, and most of which I really don't have the time to fit inside this giant article, but I will say that my journey has involved a great deal of heartbreak, "One Thing After Another" Syndrome, unnecessary distractions and moments where I just fell hard on the boxing ring mat.

Chillicothe, Ohio - A home I love, but a non-existent platform for creativity

I currently call the small city of Chillicothe, Ohio, a population of around 22,000 people, my home and although it has been my home for the majority of my life, it has always lacked the opportunities that many creative people seek when it comes to advancing their possible careers into doing something they really want to do. When I was a kid it didn't matter to me so much where I lived, but recent times have opened my eyes to the fact that Chillicothe just is what it is, a small "Bumpkinville" utopia that stifles any piece of creativity and rests on its lazy laurels. It is a stage for nearly 100 or so restaurants that most likely won't have long shelf lives to begin with, and the restaurants will just shuffle from one brand to the next. Commercial land in Chillicothe is poorly used in this sense as there could be room for something creative that people like aspiring writers could use as a platform to get noticed by companies in larger markets, but all such creative options get pushed aside in favor of the status quo.

I have tried to get the attention of the local Chillicothe government to spring into action and help establish a platform for someone like me, an aspiring writer, to perform on so that I can officially get some writing material published and send that material out to other people, but the tones of the responses I have received from my local government have not been kind at all. To be fair, they listened to me in our phone chats, but the sense of unwillingness to branch out into more creative territories was very present when I heard their responses. I was redirected twice and then forced to contact the visitor's bureau, and I did get some contact help, but it was nowhere near what I was intending to accomplish.

I have also tried to have one of my custom stories (scripts) get published by a comic book company, not a big name like DC or Marvel, but a still recognizable company, but the brick wall came again to block me from having my creativity be realized and observed by other people. I sent out a basic synopsis of a script to this comic book publisher and waited 1 month for a response. I called this company more than a few times and I only received the same guy who would take the company's calls, a guy who --I'm being real honest here-- did a really lousy job in cooperating with me. The guy who took the comic book pub's calls refused to give me a "Yes" or "No" answer to a simple question of mine; Did your company review my synopsis yet? He only danced around the bush with a discouraging tone, making me question the legitimacy of the Comic Book Industry as a whole.

Like most people, I have a job and the job I have mainly known has been in the field of Morning Stock. Yeah, I get up in the early morning and attend the "Hoot Owl" Shift, waking up at 4 AM and driving to work through all sorts of weird weather conditions like massive fog, heavy rainfall, blustery winds and such. I have worked for retail stores and I have provided the best customer service that I can possibly give. I have been going at the Morning Stock line of work for around 5 years now, and while I know that I am a hard worker who tries his best to help people find their products, I also know that there has been a void in my life that hasn't been filled in a long time.

I have my own goals in life and I know what my ultimate goal is. My ultimate goal does not involve staying in retail store Morning Stock for the rest of my life. After a while, pushing carts, breaking down palettes, stocking shelves and sweeping floors every day gets a bit monotonous and annoying, and unless one thinks about moving up in retail store ranks and working in another department, there's really nowhere else for one to go if he or she is intending to be more creative in life. I have looked around in stores and I have seen the various departments and I have seen the people who work in those departments, but every time I pause, my mind, heart and spirit always answer the same way. "This is not my final destination. This is not where I want to be."

I recently took a mini-trip and attended a meetup event and an office tour of an independent game  developing company called Multivarious Games, and I can say without a doubt that it was the most fun that I have had in a long time. Being able to take in the experience of talking video games and game development with other people who shared my enthusiasm made such a big difference to me. I was amazed by the fact that I finally had the chance to participate in an event with people who were already established in game development and I got to listen to what they had to say. I returned to my place of birth, Columbus, Ohio, on my 25th birthday and I went to Dublin, Ohio to meet up with cool and helpful people. Speaking in basic terms, my experiences in Dublin opened my eyes significantly to the game development process and made me happy because I felt like some sort of confirmation came to me on this mini-trip.

Multivarious Games is a start-up independent game developer that will aim to provide interesting gaming content to the gaming community. Based in Dublin, northwest part of Columbus, MVG has steadily made progress in the last few years, showcasing projects like Dangerous and Hatch-It! Now Hatch-It has received support via Kickstarter and is continuing to receive support. Hatch-It! is a Puzzle Game where you have to direct a robot around obstacles and collect dinosaur eggs without running out of fuel. If you watch the demo video below you will find out what the game mechanics are and how the flow of gameplay is.



Fun. That's the simplest word to describe my time interacting with the crew of Multivarious Games in person. It was just fun for me to see what they did in the meetup event and what happened in their meeting (which, of course, I can't disclose because of a signed agreement) and that confirmation settled in during this time. I was pretty sure of it before I went to Dublin, but now as I write this article there is no ounce of doubt in my mind as to what I would like to be doing in the future. The joy that I felt inside me as I took in this experience made it clear. My mind, heart and spirit basically told me "Steven, this is where you want to be. This is where the next chapter of your life will take place. This is your destination."

Where I Want To Be... In The Video Game Industry

Back when it wasn't clear, I always had dreams of entering the Video Game Industry and being a part of a game development team in some capacity. Those dreams floated in my mind ever so often in a "Wouldn't it be cool?" sort of way, but it was hard for me to figure out just how I was going to find that bridge that would lead me to the doorsteps of the Video Game Industry. I love to write scripts and general materials and I have the drive to provide other content such as working in QA Game Testing, UI/UX Design and putting in voice acting on the side. All of that relates to game development and all of that catches my interest. 

Today I look at the entire scope of the Video Game Industry and I definitely see more roots of my motivation for wanting to get in on the action. In the United States, states such as California, Washington, Texas, Florida, North Carolina and New York obviously have a strong grip on the game development scene, and while those areas are great for game development it does leave one area of the country open for more growth. In the Midwest, only Chicago, Illinois has received a great amount of attention in game development with Midway, but again, that leaves the door open for another Midwest game development market to emerge. Where could that market be?

Columbus, Ohio (in my opinion)

 I believe the puzzle pieces fit in nicely with the prospects of Columbus, Ohio being that next rich game development market to emerge. I believe the geography on the game development scene makes sense and I believe that Columbus would serve as a great bridge from places like New York City or Raleigh, North Carolina to Chicago. In fact, some game designers who originally moved from Ohio to California to do work have considered moving back to the Buckeye state because of the rise in interest in game development in Ohio. The game development scene is always changing and we never really know what market will really pop up as the next area of intrigue.

The goals that I have when it comes to a career in the Video Game Industry include the following:

- Officially attend a gaming convention
- Contribute my writing to a game story
- Become a representative for the cause of Gaming and Autism Awareness
- Meet Nolan Bushnell
- Meet Kevin Miller
- Meet Takashi Iizuka and Sonic Team
- Have one official experience with voice acting
- Talk to game reviewing companies like IGN, GameInformer, Gamespot, etc.
- Go on a small tour through parts of the United States
- Meet my favorite Let's Play personalities (ProtonJon, Chuggaaconroy, NintendoCapriSun, StephenPlays, SSoHPKC, JoshJepson, etc.)
- Give back to the gaming community

One of the things I listed above will be talked about in another blog of mine, and it's another part that describes why I want to be in the Video Game Industry. For here, though, as a gamer, I have this strong desire to give back to the gaming community in general. I want to share my love and passion for video games with other gamers and I want to show various audiences that no matter what your situation, no matter what physical or mental condition you have, and no matter what kind of journey you have taken to get to this point, your dreams can come true.

My Morning Stock days in retail stores are only temporary and I plan on having them be temporary. My days of exclusively being in and near Chillicothe represent a chapter in my life that I honestly don't want to keep reading anymore. Picturing my life in a book, I don't want to read the same chapter over and over again. I want to make that transition into the next chapter of my life and I want to know what that next chapter has in store for me. Life has a funny way of leading you into many directions, and I guess that recently life's canvas has been made more colorful and clear for me.

To be continued in The Autistic Help...

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Steven Vitte's Vision (Chart Part 3)


 Link: http://www.draw.io/#G0ByWv2Nj73WSMZi1kbTlCTFZjOHc

(Idea officially owned by Steven Vitte via copyright)

Here's another chart that I have made that describes the game mechanics for the main character of my hypothetical game concept. This chart is easy to skim through and understand in the sense of what will be required of the player to do once he or she starts controlling this heroic character. The visuals are basic and pinpoint the abilities of our main character. Part of the catch behind these charts is being able to explain what is going on in these charts. Of course, it was a nice touch to feature a stick figure person in the center of this chart, but this serves as a symbol for the main character whom we are encircling with gameplay moves.

Assigning buttons for different actions in gameplay is indeed challenging and you need to be able to figure out which button will have which duties to perform. You can't overlap certain actions over each other and you can't locate actions on buttons that don't translate well at all to the flow of gameplay. For example, on the Playstation 4, you wouldn't assign a fighting action for the Circle button and then assign a nearly identical fighting action with the R1 button. That isn't what I would want to do in any case.

There are plenty of game development companies out there right now that still don't know what to do with the functions of the Playstation 4 although they are experimenting at this point in time. When you design a game and you go for a moveset your main character (s) can abide by, then putting in a specific set of rules that is kept simple is the way to go, especially if someone is going through this game development process the first time. Take some time skimming through this chart and compare it to the other 2 charts I have shown you earlier. Have fun imagining the possibilities!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Character Talk: Captain Falcon

Captain Falcon: Um... When am I ever gonna go racing again?

I briefly talked about this character in the article titled Gameplay Mechanics: Punch Button, and to be honest, it has become pretty sad that this character happens to be mainly known for quotes such as "FALCON PUNCH!" and not much else. In the world of video games, there was a time when Captain Falcon meant so much more than just as a Fighting Game character. To be fair, there isn't anything wrong with showcasing Captain Falcon in the Super Smash Bros. series as I definitely enjoy his appearances in these games. However, deep down inside, we all know what Captain Falcon's initial purpose was as a video game character.

Captain Falcon is actually the main protagonist of a Racing Game series called F-Zero, a series that was innovative for its time when it first appeared on store shelves. The original F-Zero game that made its debut on the Super Nintendo was the first game to use a technique that Nintendo called "Mode7 Scrolling". This was a process where the scanlines would allow the game to simulate 3D environments Scaling and positioning of the layer on a scanline-by-scanline basis certainly helped bring to life a Racing Game series that would leave a great impression on many gamers.

F-Zero was also known for introducing modes such as "Death Race Mode" and a random track generator called the "X Cup". In a death race, the player had to eliminate 29 other races as fast as he or she could in order to succeed. There is no doubt that the F-Zero certainly made gamers think and rethink the entire genre that is Racing Games and not much has happened to this series since October 2004.

We are now approaching late 2014 and we still haven't gotten anything new on the front of F-Zero. There has been no traces nor hints of this series coming back and Captain Falcon has been limited to just making appearances in Super Smash Bros. games. 10 long years have gone by without an actual F-Zero game being released on the market, and this would certainly give any fans of the series pause for concern. If anything, though, hardcore F-Zero fans have probably moved on by now seeing that the wait for this series to return will probably be endless considering Nintendo's lack of urgency to revive F-Zero.

In June of 2013, this is what Shigeru Miyamoto had to say about the future of the F-Zero series, and he was indeed honest with the potential that the series still has in his view:

"I certainly understand that people want a new F-Zero game. I think where I struggle is that I don't really have a good idea for what's new that we could bring to F-Zero that would really turn it into a great game again. Certainly I can see how people looking at Mario Kart 8 could see, through the anti-gravity, a connection to F-Zero. But I don't know, at this point, what direction we could go in with a new F-Zero."

What is Captain Falcon as a character himself? He is considered to be a hero in the setting of Formula One Racing meets futuristic trip of unpredictability Originally intended to be the flagship character to represent the release of the SNES, Captain Falcon has proven his valor time and time again on the racetrack, defeating the most intimidating foes and putting a stop to the corruption that plagues his home galaxy. Captain Falcon obviously isn't shy when it comes to developing rivalries with the meanest of folks and he competes in many Grand Prix tournaments to stake his claim as the best racer the racing commission can offer.

Captain Falcon has certainly had his fair share of run-ins with the likes of Black Shadow and Deathborn, but he has never been one to turn down a challenge. Whenever there is someone in desperate need of help, Captain Falcon will rise to the occasion and with the help of his Blue Falcon hovercraft, missions get completed and peace is restored if only for a little while.

So what went wrong with Captain Falcon?

The general premise of the Captain Falcon character was definitely solid and there were loads of potential for this character to develop in ways that could have taken the Video Game Industry by storm in the Racing Game department. Unfortunately, Nintendo has not deemed it a priority to make something more of Captain Falcon and his series F-Zero and have basically put the world of Captain Falcon on the shelves for who knows how long.

The problem is very easy to see here. We had a character who seemingly had a chance to develop around the time of the Nintendo Gamecube, but then the most obvious thing happened to any game developing company that would happen to any novel writer. Writer's Block. I mentioned Miyamoto's quote above for a reason, and that would be the fact that Nintendo ran out of ideas for F-Zero as a whole. The Racing Game craze continued to go strong with the continuous development of the Mario Kart series and Nintendo has surely benefited from such a move, but I do feel that it is a mistake for them to completely ignore what they could have built up in F-Zero. To go 10 whole years and not being able to figure out what else to do with F-Zero is, in a sense, quite baffling.

I have noticed that throughout the series, F-Zero has never really come across as a story-driven concept, a theater of interesting and unique events that take place almost on the fly, and it's usually the races that take center stage, as they should since it is the genre built for these events. Captain Falcon's personality is hard to miss when you make references to it and I find it unusual how Captain Falcon's personality couldn't be built around for a new installment of the series.

If the problem of F-Zero were the characters around Captain Falcon, then the answer is simple. It's appropriate to reboot a series like this one. Normally I am very hesitant and weary of the idea of a video game series receiving a reboot because I tend to believe that rebooting a series will only create more problems rather than actually solve the problems the series had before the reboot. However, for F-Zero, I would definitely make an exception. I am very much open to the idea of F-Zero receiving a pretty major overhaul of a reboot if it meant that Captain Falcon's character would be better off in the long run.

I don't suggest that Captain Falcon himself be changed in this rebooting process. His personality is just fine and good to go, in my opinion. The side characters of F-Zero were characters that I had a hard time developing a sense of caring for. Captain Falcon was above and beyond the quality of some of these side characters that it wasn't even funny. When you see Captain Falcon in a scene, you know business is about to pick up. When you see someone like... Blitz Wagner, you probably wouldn't even recognize him very well if he were in a crowd.

I believe this is one problem that needs to be addressed if F-Zero is ever brought back. The side characters need time to develop, at least some of them. Whether they be fellow heroes, anti-heroes or villains, it doesn't matter. Captain Falcon stands out the most in part because he received the most character development in the series, and in return, there wasn't much of a chance for anyone else to develop as a character. While Captain Falcon gets familiar with the Blue Falcon once again, it would be nice to let the player know that few of the side characters are receiving the sufficient treatment that would make the player want to emotionally invest in them.

In closing, Captain Falcon himself never really declined in quality as character. It's just that he never received the lift from a supporting cast of equally interesting side characters that he needed to keep his world of F-Zero going strong. I could tell with the way some of the side characters developed that there was something missing and glaringly baffling about them. I would make drastic changes to the scope of an F-Zero story, but I would make sure that it stayed true to what it was about.

In scenes between races, though, it would help if Captain Falcon actually had a voice actor to provide dialogue to further bring out the character. I'd like to know if Captain Falcon could smooth talk his way out of a sticky situation and I'd like to know if Captain Falcon's quick thinking could elevate him into a favorable position on the racetrack. I would like to know if Captain Falcon could verbally provide something noteworthy that would make gamers step back and say "Whoa! I wasn't expecting him to say that!"

Hopefully Nintendo will one day "show us their moves" and revive something that is sorely missed and reduced to a Beat 'Em Up Fighting Game.