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.
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.