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!