Friday, April 28, 2017

Game Development: Failure and Then Success

You'll fail as much (or more than) as you'll succeed

 http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2017-04-25-there-are-so-many-amazing-stories-out-there-that-dont-end-in-success

Game development is a learning process. As a game dev you will hit your stride and find something that really makes sense. You will be a part of a project that connects with audiences and will become something marketable. If your game project is a hit, help will be sure to follow in the form of promoting and general fan following.

Game development is a learning process. As a game dev you will encounter plenty of obstacles where your skills will be tested. Oftentimes you will be part of a project that will go through many revisions and will require the dev team to constantly discuss which route they need to take in order to make the game better. In reality you will experience failure in game development, and how you deal with failure depends on how you view the learning process of game development.

As you can see above, game development is a Tale of Two Views, so to speak.

Many game devs will have differing views on how they see success and failure in game development, and this is an issue that we all will have to tackle at some point. The linked article above goes into stories of game devs who learned quite a bit from failing at projects, and honestly, it provides a real look into what aspiring game devs need to know about the world of game development.

"Don't quit your day job." Boy, is that ever true? Whatever it is that you do during the day that helps make you money, it's recommended that you don't so easily let that thing go because you could be in for a whole world of hurt if you put all your eggs in the basket of "This game we're making will be a hit, so I'll stop everything else that worked for me to get here!" None of us know if our custom game projects will be guaranteed hits, so we can't just jump on the bandwagon and go all-in with something that's iffy at best.

Romanticizing indie devs is an issue, to be sure, because hyping up independent game development has its own pitfalls. I love the fact that "independent" is given the emphasis for these game devs because they don't work under the iron fists of gaming giants like Nintendo, Sony or Microsoft. To be independent in the Gaming Industry means that you are free to venture into any gaming territory with your custom game project, and that's a good thing. However, independent also means that you won't have all the resources in the world in your corner, hence why "Don't quit your day job" rings true.

Clicking the above link, just read what both Rami Ismael and Mike Bithell have to say, and their stories will make sense to you, especially if you have experienced anything similar to what these guys went through. I have mentioned this before on this blog, but I firmly believe this. You will fail just as much (if not more than) as you will succeed in game development. The true challenge is how you will respond to failing at a project and how you will regroup.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Foul Language In Video Games


Re-used this picture, but that's okay!

Since I mentioned it in my latest game review of Battlefield Hardline, I might as well dig deeper on this specific topic and explain my position. Foul language in video games... You can't really avoid it in this day and age. Back in the day, around the late 1970's to mid 1980's, very rarely would you ever find anything so questionable as to having a game be presented to the public and contain any sort of profanity in its text. Video games were made to be simple back then. Put in a theme that people will like, make sure the game plays well, and there you go.

Now the dynamics of game development have dramatically changed, and to the point where game devs have an immense amount of freedom as to what they can implement in their games. Many games today deal with some sort of dialogue and some sort of engaging text that will make gamers play the games. Even if your game has this one long intro cutscene where the gamer is shown what to do, even there would be a possibility of game devs slipping in some F-Bombs, D-Pads and the technical name of a donkey. Game devs simply have that kind of freedom now.

The ESRB Rating System has played a big part in allowing video games to be more flexible in how they present their content. You can have games rated as low as eC, or Early Childhood (rarely do we ever see this rating), and you can have games rated as high as M for Mature, which is where all the swear storms and excessive vulgarity come into play. A funny side note here is that as a child I was oblivious enough to believe that RP for Rating Pending was a rating so severe that the game would become a super special exclusive on store shelves. Yeah, my childhood...

Games rated M for Mature have the kind of content that adult gamers are generally looking for. Sit back, relax and listen to all the "creative" words of foul language fly like never before! Of course, that would be the mentality some gaming communities today seem to have, and in my opinion that's just unfortunate.

I would say that at least 80% (and maybe I'm being generous) of Mature games out there in recent history, let's say the start of the 2010's, include some form of foul language used by their characters. The setting usually takes place in heated scenes during gameplay where the characters get so angry at a situation that's going from bad to worse that they can't take it anymore. The characters let loose in bleep-worthy tirades that make them feel better, but I would ask; what is the purpose this serves?

Some gaming communities find it funny when they hear their favorite game characters cuss up a storm and verbally chew out other characters --Grand Theft Auto, Uncharted and Battlefield, I'm looking at you guys-- but I believe other gamers, with myself being included, wouldn't find these kinds of scenes necessary. There are some gamers, believe it or not, that actually appreciate clean dialogue, and this doesn't involve the game being cute and vibrant like Super Mario or even My Little Pony.

I believe that you can have a dark and gritty video game be made and leave all the foul language out. It is possible to make such a game. You can have all sorts of plot twists and character development that is M for Mature in tone, but you can keep the verbal outbursts to something as subtle as T for Teen or E-10+ for Everyone 10 and Up, and your game will still be successful.

Creativity in game development takes many forms, and this would be yet another form. You want your game to have an M rating? That's fine. Go ahead, but be prepared to lose out on key parts of gaming communities that are sensitive to such content that you are attempting to promote. If some gamers are sensitive to listening to foul language, then have your game feature an option in the Main Menu where gamers can adjust the dialogue where it won't be as foul. Plenty of games in the past have featured this option.

I don't overreact to foul language being used in video games, but the constant use of cheap one-line foul language dialogue does concern me. Many games just use swear words to use them, and I find this to be lazy. Swear words don't make a game good. Swear words, as I've mentioned in my Battlefield Hardline review, can bring a gaming experience down by trying to be too dark and gritty.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

GJG Game Review: Battlefield Hardline

This game did have potential...
 
For the first time in the history of the Gaming Journalist Gazette, I will be reviewing a game that is rated M for Mature! Now I'm clearly of the age where I can play M-rated games, but to be honest I have always gravitated toward the softer tone games like the T-rated and the E-rated games. The problem that I have with M-rated games has been the fact that the content such games contain don't really agree with me in one way or another.

Now here I will be reviewing Battlefield Hardline, a game in a series that has gained enough of a following that has had gamers talking about how flexible it is. When I say flexible, I mean the way that the games allow you to change things in mid stride as you play through the Campaign Mode. Battlefield is a Shoot 'em Up style of game, so if you like shooters, this may or may not be your cup of tea.

Controls - 17 out of 20 Points

The controls of this game were fluent and very easy to follow. It obviously helps when you have a directory of what the buttons do whenever you pause the game or whenever you get to a loading screen. Whenever I pressed a button, the actions of that button responded just the way it should. The responses I got from the buttons I pressed wasn't really the issue with me. Whenever I needed a button to come through in gameplay, it came through without experiencing any real problems.


The problem I had was really where the commands were assigned. I'm not really a fan of which button I had to press in order to fire a weapon. R2 for the PS4? I wouldn't think that would be the first ideal button you'd press if you wanted to fire your weapon of choice. I have always been more of a straightforward kind of guy, so if I were to have the main Playstation buttons act as a shooting button (X, O, Square or Triangle), then that would make a better transition for me while I play a game, but that is just a preference thing.

Story - 12 out of 20 Points

I found the overall story of Battlefield Hardline to be completely understandable. I totally got what the developers at EA were aiming for when they made this game's story. It can be compared to watching any rerun episode of  "Cops" on TV or watching a movie like Lethal Weapon. If you understand the basic principles between those examples, then you'll get what's going on in this game.

I did find it humorous how some of the plot elements were developed in this game. The formatting of how the characters of the story were introduced was interesting, and it could serve as a learning experience for any aspiring game dev. When playing through the Story Mode, or Campaign, of this story you may grow to like a few of the main protagonists of this game. On the flip side, some of you may grow to not stand a few of them as well. It depends on what kind of character you like in a game story.

Perhaps the main problem I had with this game's story was simply that it felt too "gritty" for my liking. I don't mind it when a game story gets rough and gritty, but there were a couple moments in this story where I felt like it went over the top. Sometimes too much of one thing isn't good.

Music - 18 out of 20 Points

I'm normally an easy customer when it comes to music in games. This game passed the Music Test. I had no problems with the music in Battlefield Hardline because the complete soundtrack captured the mood of the story it was trying to convey. The music fit the game's environment just right. I'm pretty sure EA did their homework when listening to soundtracks of popular crime drama shows and movies because this game's soundtracks sounded like they were inspired by popular media in some way.

Replayability Factor - 16 out of 20 Points

This is going to be a mixed bag of a game for you to handle if you're not really prepared for the "grittyness" of the main Campaign. I'm not saying that this is a bad game. No. This game handles very well and the gameplay segments are very fascinating to say the least. However, from a personal preference standpoint if you like something that isn't too dark in tone, I'm not sure if I can highly recommend Battlefield Hardline for you. 

I give this game the score of 16 in this category mainly because of its gameplay. It is actually very solid. If you like shooting style video games simply because they're shooting games, then you will probably like playing this game. The gameplay environment is exactly as it's advertised to be. You take on the role of a police officer and you go hunt down the bad guy criminals. If nothing else you will indeed get a kick out of the Multiplayer Mode that this game features, as it is a staple in any of the Battlefield series games.

Bonus Points - MINUS 3 Points

Let's play a game of "Good Cop, Bad Cop" for a second. I've been playing the Good Cop for this review up to this point, so now let me put on my Bad Cop hat. I simply hated this game's extensive use of foul language. I couldn't stand the use of vulgarity in Battlefield Hardline, which is a shame because I got used to the gameplay elements.

This is the core reason why I have a hard time recommending gamers playing this game for too long a time. In my case alone the way that the characters used foul language in their dialogue during scenes really brought down part of this overall gaming experience. It got harder for me to enjoy what I was doing because I had to listen to one character blurt out the F-Bomb, or worse, generally swear up a storm. It honestly got so bad for me that I simply hate to mute my TV for a few seconds in order to get past a moment of dialogue exchanges. When having a gaming experience, even for an M-rated game, it shouldn't come down to me having to do that.

I think this is the first time in the history of the Gaming Journalist Gazette that I've had to take away some points when reviewing a game. Once again, the general gameplay of Battlefield Hardline wasn't bad at all. However, the "little" things surrounding this game brought its appeal down for me.

Overall Score: 60 out of 100 Points (docked 3 Points)

60 out of 100 isn't exactly an appealing score, but I feel that it was necessary for me to rate this game that low. No, not because it was a bad game to play. The gameplay part of Battlefield Hardline is very much redeemable and I can get used to this style of play.

However, if you expect me to just sit there and accept a game for its extensive use of foul language and not raise any objection to it, then you are sadly mistaken. If anything some games even have an option where you can adjust the dialogue of their Story Modes so that you won't need to hear so much vulgarity. Some games definitely do this and it amazes me why Battlefield Hardline doesn't give you that option. Not every gamer who plays shooting games enjoys listening to characters swearing every few minutes. Maybe more research and surveys oughta be taken before freely plugging vulgarity into games?

Also the gritty nature of the Story Mode in Battlefield Hardline felt like it was a bit too much at some points. At times I felt like I was given a break from the grittyness, but at other times I felt like I was trapped and forced to witness a bizarre comedy of errors committed by people who, in real life, would get drug busted in the most unflattering, non-funny way.

I suppose there's a reason why I haven't really gotten used to M-rated video games. Perhaps it's because game dev teams take the liberty of making these games so outrageous by M-rated standards that it starts missing the point of what makes a game an enjoyable experience? Maybe gamers enjoy the real grit of such games and don't mind the things that I mark as negatives, but not all gamers share the same opinions.

Friday, April 14, 2017

How Game Stories Are Made: A Writer's View

https://soundcloud.com/the1099/episode-85-no-mans-sky-writer-greg-buchanan-on-how-game-stories-are-made

For those of view who are interested in getting the perspective of someone who has actually written for video games, you might want to click on the link above and listen to this podcast. Greg Buchanan is a writer for the game No Man's Sky and he shares his thoughts on topics related to game writing.

How game stories are made take different forms. We have known this fact for a while. The actions that players take during the course of gameplay will effect what they will do later on. Players need options. The options that a player is given depends on what genre of game a dev team is working on.

What Greg goes on to basically state here is that he's been given advice on how to proceed handling documents that tie in with games, and if you check out what No Man's Sky is all about as a game, you would know just how polished that game turned out to be. The key here is that as a game writer, you are being paid to give out advice in the form of dialogue. I thought that was an interesting way of putting it.

Every game story that you help make is a learning experience. Don't expect to make the same exact game story when you dig in. That's not gonna happen. As a writer you gotta be ambitious when you are given the kind of content the game dev team will allow you to have. You have to squeeze in the dialogue that's necessary. You have to put in the plot twists that are going to relate to gameplay elements.

Is there pressure on a writer whenever he or she works on a mainstream AAA level video game? How is that pressure compared to an Indie game? As Greg goes on to state, pressure comes in different forms. When making an Indie game right from scratch, guys like Greg have to wear more than one hat when making the game, so that's where anxiety could kick in. However, the positive experience that a dev gets from making an Indie game carries great value, and for a writer he or she can enjoy some more freedom in what is included in the game.

This podcast of The 1099 on SoundCloud is 1 hour long, so if you don't mind sitting back and relaxing while listening to video game-related discussions, then this is the podcast for you!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

American Midwest's Game Dev Campaign

http://www.iowastatedaily.com/limelight/article_6f896652-0475-11e7-9c92-330bf1725c77.html

When you read the Gaming Journalist Gazette you will know that I make references to the American Midwest. This is because that I am based in the American Midwest region, and particularly in the state of Ohio. I am happy to say that the American Midwest is a growing market in the field of game development. It has made great strides in becoming one of the talked about regions in the United States that supports and promotes game development, and little by little you read more updates about new and interesting games that are being made in the Buckeye State.

When clicking on the above link to read this article on a game dev friend of mine I have gotten to know, Jarryd Huntley, I want to point your attention to some of the points that are made in this article. First off taking advantage of your location's resources would really help you get a leg up on projects that you set out to to do. As I've mentioned before on this blog, it doesn't matter where exactly you live. You can either be in the big city like New York or you can live just outside Boise, Idaho. If you have the passion for doing this and you know you can assemble a team of game devs to make something cool, then just go ahead and do it!

Less than a day's drive to around 40% of the entire United States... Did you catch that part? Ohio is a centralized location, meaning that it can gather resources from abroad in a fairly easy manner. This also means that Ohio game devs can have access to other devs from other parts of the country, whether out west to Texas and California or out east to New York or Massachusetts. Interaction between developers in Ohio and other states happens more often than one might think.

Making friends in the Gaming Industry isn't too hard in this day and age considering all the tools we have on the internet. Once you establish a dialogue with someone who shares the same passion as you do, in making games, it becomes easier to understand what you are aiming to do in a project. Staying consistent with what you do will help going forward. Maintain the key contacts that will help you progress your projects and you will start seeing results.

Consider the Cleveland, Ohio area alone where Jarryd Huntley calls home. Cleveland Game Developers was a group that started out with 20 members. Now it has over 200 members. It is easy why the number of members has grown. Sharing that passion to make something cool out of a game has made a difference between all these members.

Another honest point to make here; while California is a beautiful scenery of a state, it is incredibly challenging economically for game devs to keep a hold on any territory in the Golden State. More often than not we see game companies come in and go out of California equally. Whereas the Buckeye State of Ohio has its perks economically in comparison. Significantly lower cost to maintain your own game dev base? Who would say no to saving money in a business as fun as this one?

The American Midwest's Game Development Campaign is still in its young years, but as you can see with various reports this region is becoming a budding part of the Gaming Industry for the right reasons. There's more to game development than taking that golden ticket and going to California or New York. In the geographic sense the landscape of the Gaming Industry is changing.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Confession: I'm a Terrible Mega Man Player


I have a confession to make in regards to certain games that I play. If you happen to be a big fan of the Mega Man series, keep in mind that I have barely gotten into playing Mega Man games, so my initial views on these games have just begun to form. However, I can say for a fact that with my first few times playing Mega Man games I haven't had the easiest time playing them.

To make a long story short, I'm a terrible Mega Man player.

To make the short story a bit longer, I'm not surprised that Mega Man games in general are very challenging to begin with. I can understand the appeal that gamers see in these games because every jump a player makes matters. Every move a player makes has some sort of consequence. If you're even 1 pixel off your desired target, chances are you're gonna pay for it by losing a life. I can already recall many times where I've made a jump off a high platform... only to have Mega Man fall into the bottomless pit and lose a life. This has stunned me because I assumed I had enough of a jump to clear the distance between one platform and another, but that wasn't the case.

The difficulty spikes can be felt all throughout each and every level of a Mega Man game, and it doesn't matter which game of the series you choose to play. Case and point I recently bought the Mega Man Legacy Collection for the Playstation 4 and I have been playing through the line of 6 Mega Man games provided in that collection, and let me tell you, these games are HARD, and probably harder than what I had imagined.

Creatively speaking I really appreciate the thought that went into designing these levels, as well as the various types of bosses Mega Man has to fight. From a creativity standpoint, the stuff I see in Mega Man for the most part is great. It's classic 8-bit platforming action that any gamer can fall in love with. I can definitely see aspiring game devs getting their inspiration to make a platformer from games like the Mega Man series. It's easy to see why.

It's funny that now I think about the comparisons between the original Mega Man games and the recently made Mighty No. 9. I made a separate post on this blog reviewing Mighty No. 9 and I compared how that game felt to the Mega Man games. It's easy to point out the differences between these two types of games. The inspiration of Mega Man was obvious in Mighty No. 9, but it felt abbreviated.

I am a terrible Mega Man player because of how I perceive the level layouts of Mega Man games. Being one pixel off the ideal spot can result in failure, and worse, a Game Over screen. I have had a Game Over screen in Mega Man many times already. Mega Man isn't the kind of game that you can just get good at overnight. At other times I simply run into enemies and I have no idea how to get around them without taking any damage to my Health Meter.

In the case of Mega Man it will be a great learning experience for me because I can get a better feel for how a platforming game works, whether an element in a Mega Man game was necessary or not. I look forward to playing (and failing more) at Mega Man.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Depression Help: Playing Games


Ever so often reports like this one linked above will come about that studies suggest that playing computer games can help treat issues that plague people, such as emotional and mental issues. The one part that interests me the most about reports like these is that there is a general awareness developing, that issues relating to a person's mood, state of mind and/or emotional state are being acknowledged through the medium of playing video games.

Enhancing concentration, improving learning and changing behavior are key targets in computer games that serve to help ailing people. Serious Games and Gamification have been used in therapy sessions for people who are in need of encouraging and motivational things to do.

I'm sure for some of you gamers reading this that Wii Sports was something heavily considered by some family members of yours. Wii Fit would be another example. This linked article goes into Wii Sports and states that this part of gaming has encouraged older adults to not only get in shape but to also fight off depression. Generally speaking when you give an older adult a basic sporting challenge through a video game setting, chances are you will get a positive response similar to that of a casual gamer of any age.

There is a side to video games that really doesn't get highlighted as much as it should. More often than not we keep reading reports from unreliable sources like Yahoo! (I use Yahoo! unfortunately) that video games are harmful for the brain, that they give gamers bad thoughts, and that playing video games leads to people committing crimes. It simply amazes me what lengths news sources will go to in order to demonize someone playing video games. Here's a dose of reality. Not every single person who plays video games ends up being a horrible person. I know that's shocking for some people to comprehend, but that is true.

There is a right way to use a tool, and there's a wrong way to use a tool. Game development is no different. There is a right way to develop a video game for people to play, and there is a wrong way. Not everyone is meant to play games like Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty. All the same, not everyone is meant to play something super cutesy such as a My Little Pony game. As gamers we all have different interests and we're not going to view every game in the same light.

If you don't like how certain video games are made, then why don't you do something about it? Why don't you get up, get together with a game dev and make a game that you feel will have some value behind it? Why don't you make a game that will help a person repair his or her cognitive status? Why don't you make a game that is educational and allows for an older adult to better process information? That's the unique field of game development for you. It's open for interpretation.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

GJG Blog Interview #11 - Kendra Corpier




Continuing from my post "Gaming Communities: Stick Together", I would like to present readers of the Gaming Journalist Gazette with this great interview. This interview is with the Lead Organiser of the Youngstown Game Developers group Kendra Corpier, who has much experience in the field of game development. Along with a few other organisers Kendra has been building a foundation for game development in and around Youngstown, Ohio, and it makes me happy as a fellow Ohioan to know that there are groups like the YGD that are trying to get aspiring game devs enthused about making games and sticking to their journeys, through both ups and downs.

The YGD is a great example of what a community can do when its members push forward with their passion for making games, regardless of how big or small the cities they live in are. Kendra provides great insight here on important game dev topics.

Steven Vitte:
1) You are the lead organizer of Youngstown Game Developers. How did YGD first come about? How did your core group of organizers first meet, and what led to YGD being formed?
 
Kendra Corpier: So, I moved here from Phoenix, AZ in February 2013. I grew up here, so it's not crazy that I moved back. I was working on my game, but eventually, funds wore out and I had to get a day job. I searched for jobs, that were at least in a similar field since I knew there weren't any game developers. I found a school and started doing some part-time media tech work for them in August 2014. 
 
I continued to job hunt and in October 2014, stumble across a startup game dev Meetup for Youngstown. 3 of us showed up. We chatted and started to kind of figure out what this group could do. The guy who started the Meetup, kind of mysteriously disappeared, so I took over as Lead Organiser and Bill Jones took over as Co-organiser. We just started scheduling Meetups and it grew from there.
 
2) How important are scheduled meetups for groups like YGD? How often do you see new people at these meetups?
 
Kendra: Keeping a regular schedule is definitely key, that way if people forget to put it on their calendars, they know it's there. We also schedule random meetups from time to time, but they are always scheduled at least a few days in advance on our Meetup.com site so our members can make plans to attend. We see new members every month. We're just over 3 years old and already have 98 registered members on our Meetup site, with plenty of social followers on Twitter and Facebook.
 
3) What are the challenges to promoting game development in an area like Youngstown's? And what are the benefits?
 
Kendra: The challenges with promoting in Youngstown is getting the media's attention. We do have local news channels (2 papers and 2 TV stations), and now they do seem to like having stories about what we do, but at first it was hard to get their attention. I think what really helped was becoming associated with and doing work with our local Youngstown State University. As far as social networks go, getting noticed just takes time unless your name is Just Beiber or Scarlet Johanson. Hah :D 
 
The benefits are meeting so many people. We've branched out with, and do a lot of work with the CleGameCoOp and Cleveland Game Developers, and all of us work with COGG, the big game dev group in Columbus. It's all about networking.
 
4) In YGD's opinion, what are your thoughts on what goes into game writing?
 
Kendra: Well, game writing is kind of a vague topic. So... writing stories for games just depends on the game and the developer. Like Tetris type games probably don't need much of a story, but a Final Fantasy type of game is all story. So, a developer can be as vague or as complicated as he or she wants/needs to be for their game. Writing reviews for games.. those are opinions of the media and I always hope for a good review. But a bunch of negative reviews can be beneficial if responded to in a timely and respectable manner. 
 
Writing a game blog can be about whatever you want. I write my dev blog which focuses more on me and my studio along with videos from time to time and some tutorials when I have the time. I keep the YGD blog up and running as well, and I accept and ask for articles from our YGD members for our monthly newsletter. I am always accepting guest posts too :D Like I said, networking is key.
 
5) In game writing what do you think are important components in character development? 

Kendra: Character development can be the most important or least important part of your game. If you are making any game with characters, you will need a background story. Many Japanese RPGs go as far as to give the character's blood type, which I have never found to be useful in game play, but it is a way to associate yourself with the game saying "Hey, I have the same blood type as this character.. awesome" 
 
Character development is all about allowing the player to identify with your game. So, let's say you are making a Street Fighter type of game. You'll only need a short background story as to why the character is fighting, maybe a blood type could be relevant here since they get injured, and a physical description so an artist can create your vision. Players don't need much info to go on, except to figure out what character they want to use to fight with. A fight generally lasts about 1-3 minutes and most players will choose their fighter based on appearance alone. 
 
Now, an RPG, players will be playing your game for hours. They need to feel like they could be the character they are playing. So, you would need to create a background story, something traumatic to associate empathy, physical description and probably details that have absolutely nothing to do with the gameplay other than allowing the player to feel like he or she is in the game as your character.

6) What are the basics a game dev team needs to get started on a game project? (programming, design, writing, etc.)
 
Kendra: Honestly, with a small team, you need Jack and Janes of a lot of trades. It's not like working for a AAA company where you have one person do all the lighting in the game. Typically, you would have an artist, a programmer and maybe a musician. You also can't jump into a project thinking you are only going to do one thing. Be good at a few things, and then learn from each other. I guess starting out would just depend on your team's starting skill level. If all you have are artists, you might want to start with Construct 2 or a WYSIWYG editor. 
 
If you have a programmer, I would suggest Unity of Unreal, depending on the language your programmer knows. For art, I always suggest the Adobe CC since it's just $50 a month, and for 3D, if you have someone who knows 3D then go for it. If you don;t, I would purchase assets or stick with 2D. Not to mention creating your own 3D is expensive, unless you want to try wrangling with Blender. For writing, typically you would start with an idea as a group, and then let it form into plot points, and from there you can build your story details and dialogue.
 
7) Where do you see the game development scene in the state of Ohio going in these next few years? 
 
Kendra: Well, I think Ohio has an excellent venue for Indie developers, with lots of support from groups like ours. Ohio is an inexpensive place to live, while being close to a lot of the game development scene, including PAX East, GDEx (which is in Columbus!), and several other big conventions. YGD and the other game dev groups are working towards making Ohio the place for Indie Devs to startup, and hopefully becoming the (coined by Multivarious Games) Silicorn Valley.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Gaming Communities: Stick Together


Youngstown, Ohio has been a struggling community for years, mainly because of all the various industries that have decided to leave the Youngstown area. Back in the day when industries such as automotive and steel were in operation, Youngstown was a thriving, booming place. In the 1950's and 1960's you could see the potential of something great brewing in this area.

Fast forward to the 2010's and it has become abundantly clear that Youngstown has needed to reinvent itself and take itself to a new direction. Major businesses have long left Youngstown and it has been a shell of its former shelf. However, when you click on the link above, you will notice that there is a genuine effort on the part of people who love to make games to make something out of nothing, so to speak. The game development community in Youngstown is in its infancy, but the enthusiasm is crystal clear here.

The website that you will check out above is very unique and interesting. It is very detailed with many categories, including the Youngstown Game Developers offering you their monthly newsletter, game jams, competitions, and resources. If you happen to live in the Youngstown area, or further up north near Cleveland, chances are you will experience something interesting when you participate in a YGD meetup.

This group loves to discuss topics in game development such as graphics, game design, mechanics, character design and networking. If you want to have detailed conversations about topics like these, then you will go to the right place by attending a YGD meetup. The core leadership of the YGD is made up of a QA tester, a professional software engineer, a software developer and a graphics modeler, so you will be talking to people who are experienced in fields relating to game development.

Gaming communities, whether you are in a city like Youngstown, a huge city like New York, or even near a bundle of smaller cities and towns, would be wise to stick together through all the ups and downs of their development as communities. Sticking together as a gaming community is important because the more you guys can exchange dialogue between each other, the better chance you will stand in growing your community. Socializing is a strong aspect of a gaming community. You need to try to get your name out there individually and you need to spread the word about the gaming community you roll with. Doing both of these things equally would really help game development as a whole.

The Gaming Journalist Gazette is the type of blog that brings exposure to gaming communities like this one in Youngstown, Ohio. Being an Ohioan myself, I understand the struggles that come with getting the word out on game development, so I want to highlight these guys at YGD. I also understand that Ohio is a state that is entering a time when it could have a really good opportunity of standing out as an impressive place for game development in the United States. Youngstown could be part of that drive for more exposure in game development, and they are doing a good job so far! Keep going, guys!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Starting with an Idea and a Vision

http://www.themetropreneur.com/columbus/first-look-columbus-idea-foundry-wrapping-up-work-on-second-floor/

I am now going to explain how important a place like this one in the link is. What is this place? It is called The Idea Foundry. This place is located in Downtown Columbus, Ohio and it has served as the meeting spot for many aspiring game devs in the Columbus area for the past year of 2016.

Yours truly has been going up to this place for a while now, and each time I have been there I have managed to get something out of it. I have managed to collect my thoughts better while interacting with other game devs while gathering new information on what needs to be in the game dev field. It's a good and refreshing experience for one who wants to know more and do more in a field that he or she is passionate in. If you love to make games, or you at least want to get started doing that, and you live close enough to Columbus, then I encourage you to make the trip over to West State Street in Columbus for these meetups!

The importance of a place like The Idea Foundry simply can't be understated. Without the valuable information most game devs cherish, it will be difficult to get off the ground and running with your own game dev project. You not only need the connections to make your project a reality, but you also need to view other projects for what they are. You have to study and examine what other game devs are doing, even if you are not helping them in their projects. With your own two eyes you need to be able to see what exactly it takes for a game dev to be a game dev. Don't just view the available game dev knowledge, take in that knowledge and apply it to your own project.

Starting with an idea and a vision is crucial. To make a game you need to know where your starting point is. You need to have an idea of where you want to take your game project. You need to have backup plans for editing your project. You need to have a long-reaching vision of what you want your project to become down the road in the future. You need to know how to go through the process of making a game and you need to know how to finish the project strong.

The Idea Foundry is a helpful outlet for aspiring game devs to say what is on their minds, and how they feel about game development itself. When it's your turn to take the floor and explain away what makes your game project what it is, you make that time yours and you get other people emotionally invested in that project.

Sharing ideas and expression a vision for a project you have in mind is one way other game devs can get a better feel for what you value in game development. We all have our own strengths when it comes to the game dev process. We excel in certain areas and we have challenges in other areas. We will all view projects out of different lenses. The point behind collaborating with other people to get a project off the ground is to establish that common ground of what everybody as a team wants to get done. "Hey, this is our goal and we're gonna meet it. We're going to hit these targeted themes and we're going to use these elements to make this game awesome!"  That's just how a game dev team thinks.

I am thankful for an outlet like The Idea Foundry because years down the road from now I can see where this place can take the game development scene in Columbus, and all throughout the state of Ohio as a whole. With places like Chicago, Illinois and Austin, Texas being fairly quiet in the game dev scene (though I'm sure devs are still doing things in those places), it would make sense for Columbus, Ohio to make its move and do some positive things in the Gaming Industry so that it can be mentioned along with Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Boston, New York, etc. as a game dev hot spot.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Let's Play: YouTube's Perplexing Games

http://www.polygon.com/2017/2/21/14683942/pewdiepie-controversy-youtube-drama

I have commented on the feature of Let's Plays on this blog before, and my tone hasn't changed from defending Let's Plays. I am a supporter of Let's Plays or "Walkthroughs" because I find these videos on YouTube to be genuine pieces of entertainment where gamers can sit back and enjoy what another gamer is experiencing. As a gamer you get an idea of what your gaming experience will be like when playing the game that's being played by someone else via YouTube. 

Now let it be known that I have never been a fan of PewDiePie. I have heard of him for the longest time but I have never bothered to watch his YouTube content because from the snip-its of footage I've seen of him, it seems to me that I would be wasting my time watching such content.

However, with that said, PewDiePie did bring up an interesting point in a recent video of his where he was heavily critical of YouTube and how they managed their economic distributions to members who were very popular. The linked article above was written by a long-time Let's Player named Slowbeef who has seen it all on YouTube. There are many reasons why members on YouTube experience a burnout of some sort.

One form of burnout would be "subscriber burn" where if you don't upload a video in some time, let's say a week or two, then the amounts of subscriptions you will get from people will slow down to a halt. In some ways YouTube has become a game of popularity between members who are trying to get ahead and get their names out there. This popularity contest has become dangerous in the last few years since more controversies have occurred, with YouTube itself being the prime suspect for causing these controversies.

YouTube celebrities don't have the same protection as typical celebrities you see in Hollywood. Not even close. Most YT celebrities don't have any agents or consultants they can go to for reviews of their content, and there's no dialogue being exchanged as to what should be considered appropriate content on YouTube. (Example: What kind of humor should be used in a video.)

The art of a Let's Play video isn't as easy as 1-2-3. I do agree with Slowbeef that creating the right kind of content in a Let's Play takes time. A Let's Player has to find out what he or she does best in before they can plug away. You don't just slap on gameplay footage and mumble to yourself and then say you did a good job. No, if you're gonna speak up while you play, then speak up. Let the people hear what you have to say.

Now there are a couple paragraphs in Slowbeef's article above that I recommend you ignore, because there again lies the problem with choosing the right dialogue in getting your message out. If I want to read a professionally written article, the language of it has to be proper... which this article isn't.

Back to YouTube, their perplexing games seem to revolve around them being able to dock members subscription counts. There is some broken algorithm at play now where if 1 subscriber suddenly unsubscribes from a member's channel, that will count as 2 unsubscriptions. It's nonsense like this that makes people not want to trust YouTube altogether because when a company does something like this, playing mind games, it makes one wonder what it is they're really trying to do.

How does all of this impact the Gaming Industry? Consider the sources of where gamers have to go to get an idea of what a game will be like before they buy it. If at any point YouTube has a huge crash in their business and many channels get negatively effected by this crash, it will shut down most of one outlet for gamers to go to. Basically it will be harder for gamers to judge a game they want to buy since they won't have as many opportunities to see the game via Let's Play. If you can't see why a game's so good to begin with, there's less of a chance for you to buy it unless you are given the chance to try it yourself.

It's just something to think about as we tread through the muddy waters of Let's Plays, a harmless form of entertainment.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Game Writing Process: Time-Consuming and Rewarding



The attached sample video above basically explains the game writing process, what goes into the process and what needs to be done to make this process work in the scope of a video game project. Game writing is not as simple as it sounds, and I'm sure I have mentioned that before on this blog. Not everyone will approach game writing the exact same way, and we all have our own unique methods as to how we are going to reach from Point A to Point B in storytelling.

What you can take from the sample video is that the game writing process is indeed time-consuming, but with enough planning and teamwork, the process can be rewarding. Organization is one key thing that game writers will need to have in order to develop consistency on a game development team. Without any sort of idea as to what you're going to do make a story work, you are going to fail.

Most writers have a clear understanding of what the game dev team is looking for, and aside from that, the scope of the game story itself will need to be adjusted to fit the software that's being used to make the game. Yes, depending on what limits you have with your game-making software, the amount of story you can tell will be impacted.

Game writing will be a process filled with editing. Don't really expect to have every single nook and cranny of what you write to be accepted right off the bat. That's not realistic. At some point you will need to rewrite a certain scene or change a character's dialogue to better fit what is unfolding. Even if what you originally wrote wasn't all that bad, you can't get stuck on that. You have to make changes when it's really needed.

There are tactics to use when preparing to write a game script. When you keep in mind that a game script revolves around the choice of a player, it should become clear to you how flexible your storytelling needs to be. You don't just present one possible outcome to a situation. You have to provide a few possible outcomes that will make the player not only care, but keep coming back to exploit and figure out. That's why it's ideal to separate certain events and actions by writing them down on separate cards, which is what one interviewed game dev mentioned in the above video.

Your scope of storytelling can't be compacted. It has to have the ability to expand and branch out. That's what you need to let happen in the game writing process. You leave an area where your game story can build a bridge to another unique point of storytelling, and you'd be surprised as to how many plot twists you can take your game story if you just leave a bridge area open.

There are some interesting things to take from the above video, some of which I have already known about, and some that are fairly new to my knowledge. I recommend you watch some of the videos provided by the YouTube channel that made the above video.

Monday, February 20, 2017

GJG Blog Interview #10 - Charles Thomas


The Gaming Journalist Gazette is a platform for anyone who is associated with any part of the Video Game Industry, and it's not just for game developers who are running companies. This interview is a unique one because these answers come from a passionate gamer, a guy who just loves to play video games. I think it's important to get the perspective of a gamer and understand what he thinks where video games are going. 

This interview is with Charles Thomas, who is better known by his YouTube username Dukect. I have followed Charles for some time now, probably a few years, and I have valued his opinions on video games and other topics that I'm interested in. Charles hosts his own podcast called the Dukect Lounge where he discusses the hot topics going around in entertainment media. You can listen to the Dukect Lounge on the 2nd link above, which takes you to his TalkShoe page. Plus, feel free to call in during the Lounge to chat with Dukect!


Steven Vitte:
1) How did you first get into video games? How long have you been a gamer? 

Charles Thomas: How did I get into video games? Well I started back when I was 3 years old playing on an NES with my older brother and I haven't stopped since as I played many game systems from the nes to the Wii U so I've been playing games for a long while with not only my older brother but also the rest of my family.

2) What are your thoughts on gaming conventions? How important are conventions?

Charles: My thoughts on Gaming conventions I really enjoy them as it fun to meet with and network with people and to find some games that would cost a little more on amazon. And, also the one thing about conventions is that they must be competently run or you might have dashcon on your hands and no one wants that.

3) How important are "Let's Plays" on YouTube and other video sharing sites, in your opinion?

Charles: I enjoy let's plays as its good for Walkthough's for the game but also having introducing interesting facts on how the game was made and sometimes the culture of the game is made. I do see some of the issues of lets plays of games like the Telltale Games like the Walking dead as they see their games as more like movies or TV series and worry about their story being spoiled and I do see that point but in my humble opinion lets play's have done more good then harm as they have brought more eyes to games that most people that never would have heard of.

4) Have you had ideas for making your own video game? If so, what kind of game would you make?

Charles: I did have an idea of a Sonic and Mario proper crossover once upon a time but I don't think that game would be made anytime soon so yeah.

5) Is it fair to compare video game writing to that of storytelling in pro wrestling? (This topic intrigues me.)

Charles: While they are some comparisons to make with pro wrestling writing and video game writing. The use of simple storytelling using good guys and bad guys and having the good guy win in the end. But the difference of right now between them is that video games writing leaves you with a sense of completion an enjoyment when you finish the game while right now in the WWE most of the storylines they put out there when its done leaves you in a bad mood or just confusion.

6) What are your thoughts on the current generation of gaming consoles?

I haven't really played the Xbox one or PS4 yet but from what I've seen from the games it looks like I'm not missing much. Recently I've gotten a new PC graphics card that can play the newer games on my PC without getting an Xbone or a PS4. So yeah I'm not that big in the console scene at the moment but I will get the Nintendo switch when it's available as I still care about most of their 1st party games

7) What do you feel the Gaming Industry is lacking right now? And what is the Gaming Industry doing right, in your opinion?

Charles: One of the main things lacking in the gaming industry right now is depth and that missing depth is gameplay and different types of games it just seems that most games right now are just blurring in with each other nothing really standing out but that's just the triple A game makers but where is the diversity of games is in the indy games and that's what's missing from most if not all Triple A game makers and games right now and if I had the power I would try to fix that by letting developers more freedom to make their own games like Dice in making Battlefield 1 and you can see how much they loved making that game while you play it.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Remote Working and Game Development

https://qz.com/891537/if-you-dont-trust-your-employees-to-work-remotely-you-shouldnt-have-hired-them-in-the-first-place/

One interesting topic that I think isn't discussed so much in places like the Gaming Industry would be the event of having someone work remotely to advance a game dev project. Working remotely is a concept that can take employees and employers in a myriad of directions, and depending on the kind of work that needs to get done things can either go very smoothly... or not so much.

Most game dev company jobs that you will see listed on websites will be tied to a specific location, meaning that if you apply for a job with that company you should be prepared to pack up your things and go to that specific location, working side-by-side with the rest of the game dev team. For example if a new startup game dev company takes root in Seattle, Washington and they have plenty of openings for aspiring game devs like you and me, then you can bet that at least 90% of those job openings will be filled by local Seattle talent or Washington state talent. If you happen to specialize in remote work through the internet, your chances of getting noticed seem to be put at a disadvantage right from the start compared to workers whom the Seattle company can see in-person.

How do we fix this? Well, it's simple to suggest that a game dev company just have a few designated job openings for remote workers only, so therefore when one is applying for a remote job that person will know that he or she is competing against other remote workers for that job, and not just on-location workers. I guess what I'm hinting at here is that there are certain parts of the job application process in the Gaming Industry that need to be re-evaluated and changed.

It also boils down to the basics when an employer looks for the right employee. Is this remote worker worth the gamble? Does he or she possess the qualities that we, the game dev company, are looking for to keep us going forward in projects? The key traits in any worker, remote or on-location, that I know matter to companies would be the following:

1) Trust: When hiring a new employee you have to be able to trust him or her to do the job that you assign them to do. Trust must be established right off the bat, especially after that new employee is hired. 

2) Passion: Does the new employee have the passion and fire to excel at the job that he or she will work? Does the new employee care about the job? How big is the employee's passion for the Gaming Industry? Is that passion something the game dev company can use for all the right reasons?

3) Consistency: It's one thing to work on a job and get assignments done, but it's another thing for a new employee to stay consistent at it. Is the new employee getting the work done with consistency? Are the end results of projects properly lined up with the schedule of the employee? 

4) Willingness to Learn: For a new face on the game dev team there has to be that willingness to learn new things while working on an assignment. Whether a project is a success, failure or anything in between, did the new employee learn anything from that experience? 

I believe that if remote workers clearly possess these listed qualities through the work that they do on the internet and by way of communicating these qualities back to the game dev company, then there is no reason why they shouldn't be at least talked about when filling a job position.

Trust always ranks at the top of my list because I know that you need to be able to trust someone to do the work. His or her track record will tell you right away if they can be trusted. Passion is what helps drive the Gaming Industry itself. You gotta love what you do, making games and creating experiences that gamers will enjoy. Again with the track record, you gotta be consistent at the job you're applying for. You gotta show the employer that you know what you're doing. Finally, don't keep a "single track mind". Learn new things while you help your team develop a game. Keep trying to learn new things because that opens up more opportunities.

In summary, is remote working bad for the Gaming Industry? No, of course not. It's really about how the game dev company will manage remote working positions and how they can fit those positions around the flow of the on-location workplace. As a game dev company if you know that you have remote workers who possess qualities like the ones I listed above, then you won't have anything to worry about. The game dev company won't miss a beat if everyone is on the same page, no matter where they are to work.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Inspirational Story: Cartridge Maker Jerry Lawson


Fairchild Channel F gaming console
Jerry Lawson is a name in video game history that many don't know about, but when you review articles like this one linked above, you will realize that he should be more well known. Jerry Lawson should be held in an important light similar to that of Nolan Bushnell because Lawson was the creator of the video game cartridge. Yes, believe it or not, the very cartridges that us gamers used to buy at stores when we were young kids took root in the mind of Jerry Lawson.

I highly recommend that you go through this linked article and read what Anderson had done throughout his career in game development because he actually provided a lot of help for an industry that was just in its infancy. Lawson helped make video games for the Atari 2600 and for arcade machines. In fact Lawson produced one of the earliest arcade games in history. What was the name of that arcade game? Demolition Derby. Now whether or not you've ever heard of that arcade game it's interesting to note how Lawson is traced back to the very beginning of the Video Game Industry.

I personally would like to point out #8 on the list of 12 facts about Jerry Lawson. He had the support of his parents to pursue what he wanted to do, and that was to be a part of the Gaming Industry. I think this is important for many aspiring game devs because support has to come from somewhere. You have to have someone in your life who generally appreciates and respects your passion for wanting to make video games, and will encourage you to keep going no matter where you are in the game development stage. Encouraging others to chase their dreams and showing them that you care will go a long way. Believe me when I say that.

It is also worth noting which connections Lawson had in business that kept him afloat in the Gaming Industry. Check out Fact #3 where it states that the Homebrew Computer Club featured members such as Jerry Lawson and, surprise, Steve Jobs. Now I personally haven't been thrilled by any Steve Jobs business stories, but the point from me here is that in any club or organization that you join it helps to know someone who is chasing a dream similar to yours. Chances are Lawson got some information and advice from Steve Jobs that actually helped him to proceed in his career in the Gaming Industry, and for us game devs today it is that same scavenger hunt or sorts. You have to find notable people who can help you here and there.

November 1976 saw the release of the Fairchild Channel F console, making it the first ever video game console in existence. Not many people would know this fact, but when you dig into the details it turns out to be a very unique piece of gaming history.

The International Game Developers Association honored Lawson as a gaming pioneer in March 2011, and then 1 month later on April 9 Lawson passed away due to diabetes complications.

I'd like to pay tribute to Jerry Lawson here on the Gaming Journalist Gazette by submitting this post because his name is one that should be brought up more often in the archives of time in the Gaming Industry. Sometimes certain pieces of history get discarded for whatever reason, and it's up to us gamers in the present time to dig those pieces back up to the surface. Jerry Lawson was an innovator in gaming, and that's what I feel most of us aim to be in gaming. It all starts with a simple idea, and then it grows into something larger and more important than what you first thought it would be. When trying to present something that's revolutionary in gaming you have to make sure that it's tested and that it will fit in the Gaming Industry, that it will serve a real purpose.

Friday, February 3, 2017

GJG Blog Interview #9: Mat Kraemer

 
(Pictured Left) Mat Kraemer of Sanzaru Games
The Gaming Journalist Gazette would like to present to its readers a special interview with one game dev whom I personally find to be an inspiration of mine when it comes to getting involved in game development. Mat Kraemer has seen a lot in his time as a game dev, and currently working as the Creative Director at Sanzaru Games, he is looking to make more fun games for gamers to play in the future. In fact, Sanzaru is said to be experimenting with VR (Virtual Reality) gaming technology, so keep watching those developments!

Mat was on my list of game devs I really wanted to interview, and I'm so happy to receive these answers! Now with further ado, here is my interview with Mat!

Steven Vitte: 
1) You have been in the Gaming Industry for a while. In your time how much have you learned about game development? How much have you had to change game development ideas and strategies?   

Mat Kraemer: Lots have changed over the years, but the core foundation for making games is the same.  Now we just have better tools, better pipe lines and overall faster technology.  Concepts and design principles used on Turok for N64 are still true today on the more complicated contemporary game designs. 
  
2) What was the moment (or who were the people) that encouraged you to enter the Gaming Industry as a developer?   

Mat: This was a true passion for me and I have always wanted to make games.  My mentor and friend Jools Watsham was a great influence and help get me into the business of making games and become the designer I am today.  It’s not an easy road, but sticking with it and being positive helps.    
 

3) How do you feel about employment opportunities in the Gaming Industry? How do you feel about job application processes, first-time workers and autistic workers in the industry?    
 
Mat: I think there are many opportunities for first time employment.  We hire many new out of school students that have a good portfolio and drive to make games.  I think there is room for all types of game industry contributions from autism to all spectrums of game developers. Again anyone can have success with the will and passion to make creative games.   
 

4) You are the Creative Director at Sanzaru Games. When discussing how to develop a game in meetings, what usually happens at Sanzaru? 

Mat: This really depends on the content at hand.  But for the most part we start out with a simple concept and build it up, change and modify it until it’s in the final state.  Also lots and lots of iteration!  We have had full playable items and tore them down to make it better.    
 

5) You have been involved with the Sly Cooper series and you have seen how Sly has progressed through 4 games. What has been the most rewarding part of Sly Cooper's success, in your opinion?   

Mat: I have only been part of Sly Cooper collection, Sly Cooper Thieves in Time and Bentley’s hack pack.  I love Sly Cooper!  It’s this passion that brought the team together to pitch continuing the story of Sly Cooper.  The most rewarding for thing to see is player’s happy faces enjoying the story and the world that we built.  Even now years later people still come up to us with fond memories of the game.  That makes me and our team happy.  
 

6) What are your thoughts on the upcoming animated Sly Cooper movie?  
Mat: Looks great and I hope it finally comes out!  More Sly Cooper the better! 
 

7) This could be an interesting question, but I have to ask this; Would you like to see more installments to the Sly Cooper game series? Do you think we will see more of Sly?   

Mat: I would LOVE to see more Sly Cooper!  Better yet, I would love that Sanzaru works on MORE Sly Cooper.  I feel the story is not over yet and we have more to tell so we will see what the future holds.  We can’t leave him in Egypt can we? 
 

8) Sanzaru also made Sonic Boom: Fire and Ice for the Nintendo 3DS. How was that game dev experience? Would you like to make more Sonic games in the future?  

Mat: I really enjoyed making the Sonic games.  They are fun to work on and it was a pleasure to work with SEGA Japan.  For me this was an honor and I enjoyed every min of working with these iconic characters.    
 

9) How do you feel about video game characters with certain interesting traits? (Examples: characters on the Autism Spectrum, characters with health issues, amnesia, etc.)   

Mat: I always like characters with interesting traits.  It makes for interesting story telling and cool ways to come up with fun colorful scenarios. 
 
10) Finally, what advice would you give aspiring game devs (writers, programmers, voice actors, etc.) wanting to make a splash in the Gaming Industry?   

Mat: Stay at It and don’t give up!  Be positive.  Persistence pays off and we all want the same thing to make great games, just stick with it.   

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

GJG Blog Interview #8: Zhenghua Yang

 
 
For the 2nd time in January 2017 the Gaming Journalist Gazette will feature an interview with someone associated with gaming! This time around it is a game developer who I happened to discover through Facebook and YouTube, and after watching an animated retelling of a rough time period of his life, I was motivated to schedule an interview with him. This man is the Founder and Executive Producer of Serenity Forge, a game developing company that puts its focus on making meaningful serious games, though they of course have fun making them! 
 
Better known as simply "Z", Yang's backstory in how he got into game development is not only very unique but also very inspirational. The YouTube video link below will tell a better story than I can, but basically Z spent 2 years in the hospital recovering from a very rare illness, one which doctors originally told him that he wouldn't survive from. Of course Z did survive and fought his way back to good health, and here he was kind enough to share his thoughts on gaming and game development.
 
 
Steven Vitte:
1) Serenity Forge appears to be a unique video game development company. What are the main goals of Serenity Forge?

Zhenghua Yang: The goal of Serenity Forge is that we wish to push the video game medium forward, creating interactive experiences that challenge the way you think. Games can do so much more than just teach people how to shoot, or waste peoples' time by knocking over bricks. We believe that ultimately, by creating games that would foster education, inspire art, or promote health, we're in the business of changing peoples' lives.

2) Challenging the way people think is one aim of Serenity Forge. How is this aim implemented in the games you make?

Z: Everyone has an opinion of what a game is and what a "gamer" should be. We aim to change that. The games we create are aimed to change peoples' perceptions of what games can be through both tangible knowledge via education and health, or the intangible mediums of art expression.
 
3) What are your thoughts on mainstream gaming, such as games on Sony PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Wii U and Switch?

Z: Main stream gaming is great, they provide a strong foundation for entertainment and culture. I own a PS4 and a Wii U, and I just preordered the Switch. We develop for all of these consoles that you listed, and we wouldn't be here today without their support. However, I definitely think there are more socially conscious decisions that these video game giants could make to further improve the industry.
 
4) What are your favorite gaming genres? (RPG, Shooters, Platformers, Puzzles, etc.)

Z: I play all sorts of games so it's a bit hard to answer this question. The genre that I get most drawn into however would have to be tactical RPGs, such as the Fire Emblem series, and mechanically JRPG type games (non-firstperson RPGS).
 
5) What are your thoughts on certain parts of gaming communities, such as the autistic gaming community? (I am a source on autistic gaming since I am autistic myself. I run my own blog dedicated to autism topics as well!)

Z: I think the various gaming communities, especially ones that support gamers with difficulties really shine as stars in our industry. AbleGamers is an organization that I love and work with. We also work with EVO, the fighting game tournament in Las Vegas this year. The fighting game community overall had been an amazing group of passionate fans that I've seen time and again in supporting any type of gamers.
 
6) Expanding on the last question, how do you feel aspiring game developers, especially autistic devs, can receive opportunities in game dev projects? (I just worked on a mobile game dev project late last year and it's something I want to do more of.)
 
Z: A good friend of mine is an autistic developer, I definitely see his struggles in life trying to "make it work" in the industry. However, the beautiful thing of our industry is that it doesn't matter who you are, what you look like, how you behave, etc. Ultimately, if you have the passion and the artistic eye, you will be able to create an amazing game and be recognized for your work. Tons of game developers I know are on the autism spectrum, and the funny thing is, you probably played and loved a lot of their games without even knowing. That's the beauty of this medium.
 
7) Are there any game dev icons you've gotten inspiration from when making games? (Satoru Iwata, Shigeru Miyamoto, Yuji Naka, etc.)

Z: Most of my icons are actually outside of the game industry, and many of them have been dead for thousands of years. However, within the game industry, one of my main icons is exactly former president of Nintendo Satoru Iwata (I'm glad you brought him up). he's such an inspirational figure. 
 
If you just look at his life, you see a life filled with hard work, dedication, talent, understanding, care, and forward thinking. He's a engineer guru but at the same time, was loved by millions and spoke for a generation. He had amazing ideas and was not afraid to get his hands dirty to make them happen. Ultimately, when he was required to take on much larger tasks, he never hesitated and proceeded to do the right thing. Hard to find a better person than that.
 
8) What advice can you give aspiring game devs?

Z: I think most game devs are not dreaming big enough, or dreaming incorrectly. I don't want people to lose their passion in this industry because afterall, it's fueled by passion. However, I think most game devs either want to "make a small addicting money-making project" or "make a huge MMO." Neither choices should be the goal, especially of an aspiring dev. 
 
I think everyone needs to dream bigger and think about what kind of impact you want to make on society. When you make a game, think about WHY you're making it, and design a game specifically to that goal. Don't base it on "how much money I can make." Instead, base it on "what can I do to make the world better." Because the truth is, if you're able to achieve that 2nd goal, the first one will come naturally.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Getting Rid of Affiliates and Affiliate Deals Tabs

Affiliate Marketing: Not as easy as it sounds
On behalf of the Gaming Journalist Gazette I have an announcement to make, and this is regarding a couple of tabs that you have seen at the top of this blog. Specifically the "Affiliates" and "Affiliate Deals" tabs are the core focus of this blog post. I believe I have given it more than enough time for me to possibly make some additional revenue via the affiliate deals that I have listed in these tabs, but the unfortunate fact of the matter is this. These methods of making additional revenue simply aren't working in my case. 

The announcement that I'm making here is that come around Spring 2017 I will be officially closing (deleting) my "Affiliates" and "Affiliate Deals" tabs, and there's a great chance that I won't be bringing these tabs back to the blog. At first this was a tough decision to make, but looking at this extensively, I really have no problem making this move. 

I have to consider a few things going forward with the GJG. First off I wasn't making any money whatsoever before I introduced the Affiliates and Affiliate Deals tabs (No thanks to Google Adsense, which only rewards bloggers like me as little as $0.04...), and secondly, it has become apparent that with my imbalanced blog posting schedule that took root in 2016, there was no realistic way of me retaining these tabs even if I tried.

I still believe that affiliate marketing in general still serves a noble purpose, and I understand the concept of it. However, for someone like me who hasn't gotten anything from it, I have to ask myself "Is it worth keeping around?" It was easy for me to answer "No" to that question.

To make this long story short, I am finding ways to make money, albeit little by little. I don't need to worry about the affiliate deals I was trying to offer because they just weren't anything that were appealing to you guys, my readers of the blog. Everything will be fine on my end, and if anything I can find myself being more productive staying on the course that I've put in front of myself, just being a writer and a hopeful game dev. So that's basically it, the ending of one chapter and the start of another in the story of the Gaming Journalist Gazette blog.