Wednesday, September 28, 2016

My Opinion: Becoming A Game Creator

A board game idea I played around with
It's funny sometimes. Many people can come up with ideas on how to give aspiring game developers advice on how to become a game creator. Jeff Vogel is just another guy who simply presents his own list of suggestions for people who want to know how to get into game development. Creating games is not an easy process to take on, but it is doable. It's not rocket science but it does take time getting used to.

My eyes can't help but light when I generally read articles like the one in the above link because I have been one of these people who have asked this question. How do I become a game creator? Most of the points made by Vogel here are pretty legitimate. First off, yes, you have to start trying to make games. It doesn't matter what kind of game you make, you just have to make it. You have to be able to show off your idea in a way that people can visualize it and ponder. Otherwise you're already in trouble.

Secondly, playing games with an open mind is always the right thing to do. You can't just sit back and play a video game and not think about how you would change some things about said game. Being an aspiring game creator myself, I have to be able to visualize what changes I would make to my favorite video games, step back and then ask myself if those changes would make the gameplay experience better for the average gamer. 

What I can say about thoughtfully playing video games is this; pick apart the video games you play, and pick them apart often. Don't pick them apart in poor taste, but just keep it in perspective. The only way you learn how to make your own video game is if you detect what made some games great or not so great.

Pick and choose what kind of media you want to absorb. I personally don't absorb all media. I'm just not a fan of all kinds of media. It's impossible to love every different kind of media out there. For instance I have never been a horror fan, so don't expect me to hop on the horror movie style video game bandwagon anytime soon... or ever for that matter.

Media isn't limited to video games. Watch some of your favorite movies, TV shows and cartoons. Read some of your favorite novels and comic books. Listen to podcasts on the internet and see if you can get inspiration from the voices that run those podcasts. Get your mind working however you need to. In fact maybe a newspaper article that sticks out in your mind be the thing that motivates you. Who knows?

Lastly I think Vogel hit the nail on the head with his #5 point of advice. Find your own voice. In other words, find your way onto the game development stage. There is no clear cut one way for you to start making games. All of us take on different paths to get to where we want to go in life. Your path will obviously be different compared to my path, and that's cool. Some of the video game pioneers I read about have taken much different paths to long-lasting success in game development compared to my path.

Making a video game is an art form of sorts. I envision my own custom video games one way while you will envision something completely different with your games. Claude Monet and Vincent van Gogh painted different kinds of artwork, but they are both still considered to be great artists.

In my opinion, you gotta be creative. You gotta have the heart to be a game developer. You gotta have the mind to discern what makes sense in a game and what doesn't, no matter how much you like certain gameplay features. You have to make the tough decisions and live with them. You can't overlook the easy decisions you make. You have to be bold sometimes in order to make your game stand out, but with every move you make there has to be a valid reason behind those moves.

In closing, if you want to be a game dev, love the development process. It will reward you in the end if you stick with it.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Gamers Can Be Anyone!

Simply put, gamers can be anyone! Okay, that's the shortest article ever written by me! A job well done!

In all seriousness let's talk discuss this topic. What do we mean when we say that gamers can be anyone? I am highlighting the link above for a reason. The link will send you to a YouTube channel that is run by a passionate gamer, but he isn't just any ordinary gamer. In fact this guy happens to have a great well-paying job in one of the most recognizable companies in the world.

Austin Creed, or you can call him by his ring name Xavier Woods,  happens to be a professional wrestler, or technically a "sports entertainment superstar". Creed works for the WWE by night grappling and striking with the best in the wrestling business while he entertains the crowds that attend the shows and those that watch on TV or via the WWE Network app. What becomes obvious when you watch his content on YouTube, however, is that he loves to play video games and he certainly loves to talk about video games.

UpUpDownDown provides a unique look into the WWE Superstars you normally see in the ring either playing their favorite video games or playing video games just for the sake of taking on a challenge. The fun and friendly gaming competitions held on UpUpDownDown give viewers a different entertainment outlet while they will learn something new and interesting about their favorite wrestlers.

Even if you're not on the UpUpDownDown channel, you will inevitably come across Creed playing video games in other gaming competitions, such as ones held at gaming conventions. The fact is that Creed is a gamer and he loves spending time playing video games. While we may not exactly understand how his traveling lifestyle in the WWE works (WWE Superstars travel all the time, by the way), we are able to understand his enthusiasm for video games, and that's what makes UpUpDownDown click with many viewers.

What do we mean when we say gamers can be anyone? We mean that gamers can be pro wrestlers like Austin Creed, but we also mean that gamers can be movie and TV show celebrities, painters, comic book artists, bestselling novelists, singers..... and the list goes on. Perhaps some of your local firefighters and police officers love to play vintage video games and you may not know it yet? That is a possibility.

Mainstream video games have existed since the start of the 1980's, so it should come as no surprise that many people would grow up with video games and hang around video games even after they obtain a profession that they really want to do. If you need a list of the wide variety of people who play video games, then here's a short list.
^ Stephen Georg - Daily Vlogger and popular YouTuber who loves video games
Vin Diesel - Actor
Olivia Munn - Actress
Michael Phelps - Pro Swimmer
John Cena, Allen Neal Jones (AJ Styles) - Pro Wrestlers

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Desire to Innovate

Just me again at OGDE 2015, highlighting my backstory
 Depending on where you live opportunities to show what you can do as a creative person can either come very easy or very difficult. If you happen to live in an area where many things are happening, then there's a chance that you will find yourself being involved in projects that you can get behind. The purpose of this post I'm making here is for me to describe the differences between a "Have" and a "Have Not" in the gaming world.

In a nutshell anyone who has a genuine passion to make video games and has the desire to innovate should and will find a place in game development.

I firmly believe that. I also firmly believe that if a game developer's passion is genuine it will be seen and felt at some point in time, and it will grow to a point where it can't be ignored anymore. Whether you live in a big mecha like New York City or if you live in a rather quiet place like Davenport, Iowa, as long as you put the work in to prove that you love playing video games and making them, then there's no reason why you shouldn't be given a look to be included in a game-making project of any sort, big or small.

I point out the link above because a building like the Idea Foundry presents a viable option for people who specialize in making things. Creative people need somewhere to hang their hats on, and the Idea Foundry is certainly a good start for creative people inside and outside Columbus, Ohio.

Now you may not believe this, and don't just take my word for it, but Columbus is emerging as a serious player in the game development scene. I am bold enough to say that Columbus is on the verge of legitimately challenging Midwest regional markets like Chicago, Illinois for the top spot in game development in said region. Thankfully some of the efforts being made by passionate game designers in Columbus are being recognized across the United States, and well known names in the Gaming Industry are showing the willingness to show up at conventions like GDEX (formerly the Ohio Game Developers Expo), which wasn't really the case even 5 years ago in 2011.

For someone like me, who lives out in the middle of nowhere, being able to have such a platform where the opportunity to have individual growth as a creative input guy exists makes a big difference. I rely on Columbus to get my contacts. I rely on Columbus to branch out and extend my services, offering to help out on a game development project that anyone might be working on.

It does make me sad, however, to know that the small community I live in has the extreme unwillingness to ever make any platform that is even a small fraction of what the Idea Foundry presents itself. That also makes a big difference because from where I live the desire to create things simply isn't there. Bright ideas don't really come from my neck of the woods these days. That in itself is a different story altogether. Society, in that sense, is imbalanced and unfair because you will see the biggest differences in mentality and attitude between Columbus and "Bumpkinville". I won't justify calling Bumpkinville by its real name.

Whenever I attend game dev meetup sessions in Columbus, I absolutely feel at home. I feel comfortable and happy because I'm speaking the same language as other people in the meetup. I get what they're talking about, and they get what I'm talking about. When the meetup session ends and I go back home to Bumpkinville, the disconnect people have in understanding game dev lingo becomes blatantly obvious.

Overall the Idea Foundry and buildings like it serve as a meaningful goal for me to have. What's that goal? To one day have a stable job where you get to have your own office in such a building where you are allowed to create interesting things, video games and otherwise, and have people recognize the fruits of your hard labor. I don't think many people are aware of how big a victory it would be for someone like me to achieve such a goal.

Nintendo: Draconian Business Methods?

Tatsumi Kimishima
The above 2 links address a topic that is basically an extension of a story that we gamers already know. Remember when Nintendo was heavily going after the Let's Play community and aimed to take down numerous LP videos? Remember when Nintendo hated the idea of LP'ers making money off Nintendo LP's? While this isn't exactly that issue again, it does involve the use of intellectual properties which are owned by Nintendo.

The issue this time around happens to be that fans of classic Mario games, such as Super Mario 64 for the Nintendo 64, have made their own custom games using the Super Mario 64 engine, but of course making many tweaks to level designs and animations. Videos have been posted about these special fan games..... only for them to be taken down by Nintendo via copyright claims.

I have said it before and I will say it again. These attempts of trying to censor a Nintendo fan from showcasing his or her creativity are incredibly petty on the part of Nintendo. This is just another example of a company being socially out of touch with its fan community. These fan made games are nothing to be worried about. Creativity at its core is never supposed to be censored. If I were to make my own custom game of my favorite video game character, whether it be Mario, Mega-Man, Kirby, etc., I shouldn't feel like I have to look over my shoulder and worry about what Nintendo thinks of my creation.

I fittingly chose the title of this blog post for a reason. Are Nintendo's business methods draconian? I hate to say this, but some of this company's methods are indeed draconian, as in they're simply too overprotective of their properties. I understand that you don't want people claiming custom creations to be their property because that's not the truth. Nintendo created the Super Mario 64 engine to begin with. I highly doubt that's what fan game makers want to claim as what they own anyway.

Thankfully, though, it seems like Sega understands the concept and intent of fan generated content. Well, at least they have a better understanding of it than Nintendo if the 2nd link is any indication. Sega has gone up front and said that they encourage their fans to keep making custom games featuring the Blue Blur, Sonic the Hedgehog. For all the grief they get when it comes to certain Sonic issues (and I have raised one Sonic issue in particular before), Sega appears to have handled this issue correctly. Good for them.

YouTube and video uploading websites are made to exist for a reason, and putting up videos of Super Mario 64: Chaos Edition, for example, is not wrong. It's not a crime to showcase videos of someone playing through that custom game, even if it is ridiculously hard. I wish Nintendo would wake up and lighten up when it comes to transparent aspects like this.