GAME PC CONSOLE Indie Game Development in the Czech Republic

GAME PC CONSOLE Indie Game Development in the Czech Republic

tgwe1.jpgThe Czech game industry has a long history, though it wasn't until fairly recently that their indie scene began to blossom. Matej Jariabka of Gamifi.cc, the independent Czech studio behind The Great Wobo Escape, currently available on Android and headed soon to PC on Steam, talks about the how that history has led to the current state of today's indie game development scene and where his studio fits into it.

"Game development in the Czech Republic started around the year 1984 with text adventure games and smaller puzzle games," says Jariabka. "These two genres were dominant in the late 80s and early 90s. In the late 90s, more and more companies began to produce games -- most popular were humorous adventure games, strategy games, and puzzle games.

"At the end of the 90s, bigger and better-known game companies started with the development of 3D games, mainly shooters and tactical shooters," he continues. A company called Illusion Softworks created Hidden & Dangerous and later became 2K Czech, going on to develop the first two Mafia games. Bohemia Interactive, developer of Arma and DayZ, was founded in 1999.

Jariabka goes on to list a number of smaller studios in the Czech republic including Amanita (Samorost, Machinarium), Dreadlocks (DEX), and Keen Software House (Medieval Engineers). "Most of these are less than 10 years old and started on waves of mobile games and Kickstarter -- I guess the two best things that happened to game development in the Czech Republic."

Mobile games aren't as popular in the Czech republic as PC games, Jariabka explains, but it opened the doors for Czech developers to strike out on their own and form independent studios to create original IPs, gain experience, and move on to developing for consoles and PC.

The Kickstarter for Kingdom Come: Deliverance raised about $2 million USD, setting up Warhorse Studios to be the first large independent developer in the Czech republic. "Money is, of course, not the only measure of success of these projects," says Jariabka. "The generated buzz, all the professional experience, jobs, and community add just as much."

Gif-Spotlight-v3.gifThe word Jariabka uses to describe the Czech indie game development scene today is "thriving." He attributes much of the scene's success to the exchange of ideas and techniques at local and international events, as well as to direct access to players. The biggest gaming events local to the Czech republic are Game Developers Session, GameDay, and Game Access.

Gamific.cc is one of the small studios that has arisen in this thriving environment, a four-person studio that officially went into business on September 1, 2012. The first project they started together was a game that incorporated psychometrics. However, they didn't have much passion for it and started working on The Great Wobo Escape three months later.

Their original concept for The Great Wobo Escape was a mixture of Lemmings with robots and 2.5D graphics in a sci-fi setting for mobile devices, but they quickly refined the idea into something different.

"Right after playing our first prototypes, we realized that less crazy action and more stealth would make the game stand out and feel unique, "says Jariabka. "We had to shake all the ingredients several times until we found the whole formula tasty enough for demanding players."

Gif-Hiding-v3.gifWith The Great Wobo Escape having been released first on mobile and Czech gamers being overwhelmingly a PC audience, they've had trouble finding love for the game at home. Like many other indie developers from smaller countries, they've built the game with foreign audiences in mind.

Jariabka thinks that designing The Great Wobo Escape with an international audience in mind helped Gamific.cc avoid problems with their Steam Greenlight campaign. "To pass the Greenlight process we needed a lot more votes than just those from local players which knew about the game and supported it," he says.

"This is probably one of our biggest lessons learned: if you are coming from a rather small country, it might be a good idea to create a universally appealing game rather than a piece of art that requires lots of explanations and cultural contexts," Jariabka says. "I hope it doesn't sound like you have to betray your cultural background in order to be successful. It just might make things easier for you."

Gif-Death-v3.gifJeriabka's outlook on the near future of game development in the Czech republic is bright. "I think that even more independent game developers will appear and more companies will release games for mobile platforms, even though the PC will remain as a dominant gaming platform," he says. "I also foresee a rise of several new mid-size indie studios with about 10 - 20 people, which will dramatically improve the quality and quantity of games produced locally."

The best thing about being a Czech developer, Jeriabka says, is that the country's small size leads to smaller companies helping each other out, sometimes even cross-promoting each others' games. "Many great Czech games are a result of cooperation/collaboration and joined resources. This is true also for games-related media, which really support Czech games and their [promotional and crowdfunding] campaigns."


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Gamasutra New Game Online Blog: 7 lessons I learned making VR games

Gamasutra New Game Online Blog: 7 lessons I learned making VR games

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

Hi! My name is Coray Seifert, I’m the Director of Production here at Experiment 7. I’ve been working on VR games in various capacities for the past 4 years, first with Impeller Studios, then with Autodesk’s AR/VR Interactive Group, but most meaningfully with the fine folks here at Experiment 7. Over that time, I’ve made a number of horrific mistakes that haunt my dreams to this day. I’d like to share some of them with you!

If the beer is virtual, are the calories real?

If the beer is virtual, are the calories real?

Below you’ll find 7 lessons I learned working on VR strategy games at Experiment 7. I wanted to put this list together so others who are just getting into VR development can avoid some of the same challenges.

Why spend the time to share key learnings with potential competition? The bottom line for our corner of the industry is that the more teams there are making great VR games, the more consumers we’ll see adopting VR platforms, and the better the market will be for all of us. Just like how Tesla shares their best practices with their competition to help drive their industry forward, we hope that creating a marketplace of shared ideas will help the VR game creation space move forward as well.

In traditional game development, we have experiences, best practices, and cautionary tales that effectively guide our efforts. Platform migrations have happened in the past and we’ve tweaked our best practices accordingly. What works on PC might not work on console due to input differences, processing power or consumer expectations, so we modify our approach slightly to adapt for the new medium. 

VR, on the other hand, is a complete paradigm shift. Not only do our best practices need to be refreshed, but some of the core tenants of what we believe about game development need to be unlearned. Moving the player’s first person camera may make them sick. 2D planes for VFX can be invalidated due to stereoscopic rendering. UI and UX design has to be completely rethought from the ground up. This is a complete phase shift from the old way of doing things. 

That's no UI object...That's no UI object...

I find myself annoyed by long-form lists where you have to scroll forever to see if the pillars of the article are worth investing your time in, so here are the 7 lessons, in brief:

  1. Double down on engineering – More tech needs, less asset budget. Trade artists for engineers.
  2. Make sure someone on your team has shipped something in VR – Ideally your tech lead.
  3. Don’t skimp on preproduction – Prototype aggressively, define hardware/QA/pipelines first.
  4. Respect the minspec – Pick your platforms, identify your minspec, and stick to it.
  5. Realism is important, but comfort is king – Use realistic proportions, but framerate/comfort is priority.
  6. Start small – Maintain vision, but start with a fraction of what you’re eventually trying to build.
  7. Expect the unexpected – Prepare for rapidly evolving hardware, dev tools and marketplace.

If you just came for the pillars, I hope they’re helpful in your adventures. If you’re here for context, let’s dive into the details!

Let’s start at the beginning.

When you’re building your team for your VR project, you’ll want to staff heavier on the engineering side than you would for a traditional game project. Further, it's optimal to populate your team with a greater percentage of experienced developers than normal. 

While more engineers doesn’t perfectly equate to increased velocity, the simple fact is that every problem you face will require new solutions, a risk that can be meaningfully mitigated with people power. Even if you’re using a proven commercial game engine, everything from feature development to optimization takes a long time on VR and involves a significant learning curve. These are new knots to untangle and for the most part, very few people across the industry have meaningful experience in VR.

Here’s how I would recommend adjusting your engineering team size: 

  • >10 total headcount: 3x
  • 11-50 total headcount: 2x
  • 50+ total headcount: 1.5x

If you’re working with a fixed budget on your game, this may mean scaling down your art headcount, which isn’t great in and of itself. One mitigating factor is that stereoscopic rendering means you're basically rendering everything twice. A game of comparable scope simply has fewer pixels it can push through the renderer.

Accordingly, the content requirements for VR are lower than other platforms. If you think back to past generations of console games and the scope of art created for those games – both in terms of the raw asset density and in terms of the amount of polish per asset – you can get a good sense of where VR is in its current (2017) iteration. 

In an ideal world, I recommend a small VR art team laden with senior artists who enjoy new technology challenges and plenty of technical artists who are passionate about the medium.

The good news on this front is that great engineers are frequently drawn to new technology problems, just as great artists can be drawn to new mediums of expression.  You can harness that excitement to bring fantastic people into your organization.

It’s one thing to read about the technical limitations of VR or talk to someone who has shipped a game in VR, but don’t talk yourself into thinking you can make it without significant input from someone who released a commercial product on the platform. You need someone who has directly worked on solving the unique problems of the medium. It can be a freelancer, consultant, or advisor, but ideally that person is someone who is a core member of your team. 

The best case is if this person works in the engineering vertical of your company, even more so if your VR expert is the head of your engineering team. This allows that person to translate those experiences working on the platform directly through their team, providing that intrinsic, internalized knowledge of VR-specific challenges to everyone working on the technology that drives your game.

Experiment 7 is lucky in that our Technical Director, Mario Grimani, has been working in VR since the days of duct tape and bailing wire. One of our engineers worked on open source VR solutions. I worked on some of the very early (and very rough around the eyeballs) VR prototypes internally at Autodesk. Those experiences – often in figuring out what doesn’t work on the platform – have been crucial to the success of our team, even more profoundly than in traditional game platform transitions, because of the transformative nature of VR.

Baby steps from the Autodesk days...Baby steps from the Autodesk days...

New tech is exciting and none more so than VR. Which is why it’s vitally important that you take the time during preproduction to plan, prototype and test. Don’t get too excited and run straight into the teeth of your project! 

Stick to your phase gate plan. Build and iterate through your concept, look & feel, and early prototype in preproduction (which will take longer than you expect, especially for your first project). Getting a new asset pipeline for VR set up is no small task - do it early. If you wait until the production phase to finalize your content and feature workflow, you’ll spend your production cycle firefighting and redoing key systems, rather than delivering great features and content.

Make sure that you’re aggressively prototyping at every phase, even with proven mechanics. We made the decision to go with a relatively low-scope chess game for our first title, so we could easily integrate a Chess engine and use Unity store assets to test the concept of table games in VR early. That process, as rudimentary as it was, revealed tons of issues and opportunities in our core design and in our technology expectations. Issues that would have been hugely problematic (or significant missed opportunities) if we had left them to the end of the project.

"Okay, so imagine you've got a table...and it's magic..." - Geoff, probably"Okay, so imagine you've got a table...and it's magic..." - Geoff, probably

Finally, during preproduction, budget more time than you think for infrastructure. You can’t just buy a few machines and desks and be off to the races. Depending on the platforms you’re targeting, the various combinations of hardware and software can take significant time to track down, given the wide range of headsets currently in use (with new ones coming online every quarter). QA infrastructure can be especially difficult to get going on new VR projects given the specific physical device requirements at the scale of a full QA team.

In VR, more than any platform, framerate is more important than fidelity. 

As you may or may not know, framerate in VR has an outsized impact on the overall experience. High framerates (90+ fps) lead to a smooth experience, while lower framerates can lead to a profound sense of discomfort and render your application unusable to a significant portion of your audience. 

No matter how aggressively you scope for memory and processing power, content has a tendency to come in over budget – make sure your asset budget has lots of buffer room; more than you think you need. Things will get broken by new platforms that are dynamic and constantly evolving – make sure you’re accounting for this so that when something does break, it doesn’t completely nuke your game. Users will do horrible, horrible things to their hardware – make sure to account for your end users installing tons of CPU and memory-hogging applications on the target platform. 

If you’re multi-platform, set goals based on your lowest possible performing platforms…and stick to them! This is a non-trivial task, as it requires business, technology, and creative buy-in. Push this to the top of the priority list. 

Realistic proportions, movement, and physical relationships are critical to creating a VR experience that makes use of presence. Content that is out of scale with the world around it risks appearing "spooky" and unsettling, leading to subtle but meaningful feelings of cognitive dissonance in your users. Unrealistic or unfamiliar gravity, viscosity, or friction can have the same effect.

Door frames, windows, tables, chairs and other common real-world physical objects in game space are especially susceptible to this phenomenon. For games grounded in reality, there is a pretty simple solution. Measure things and stick to those sizes. This constraint can certainly be a limiting factor, but can also be a creative challenge that leads to dynamic and innovative solutions to problems both complex and mundane.

Preproduction proportions testingPreproduction proportions testing

During preproduction, try starting with realistic proportions and aggressively test with white-rooms to avoid having to rework assets down the road. Working from a regimented, realistic base of assets goes a long way towards making the user comfortable in your environment.

All that said, the one guiding principle for VR – especially in these relatively early days of mass market consumer VR – is that comfort is king. It’s imperative to ensure your experience is palatable to your target audience. 

If you’re making a card game for a wide audience, make sure that your framerate is extremely high, your contrast is relatively low, and you’re never accelerating or moving the character outside of motion-tracked head and body movements. If you’re making a hardcore flight simulator with 6 degrees of freedom and non-stop flak explosions, you have a different bar to hit, but core tenants (always high framerates, try to never move the player’s camera unless they’re controlling it, use slower acceleration where appropriate, etc.) are always good to keep top of mind.

Be cognizant that with every increment you push your experience past your target comfort point, you’re losing and alienating another large cohort of users, potentially damaging your reputation and your brand.

Find a spark and build from that. There are so many unknowns in VR – especially right at this moment in time – that it requires an entirely new pipeline, process, and technology outlook to bring anything to market, let alone something of notable scope. 

This is VR. You should dream big. However, the best advice I could give at this moment in time is to create a small chunk of that dream with your first VR release. Get that product to the market – to any market – and get into preproduction on your second title with everything you’ve learned. Use that experience to help your team execute more efficiently and at a vastly higher level than the first go round.

This is one thing we nailed at E7. We started off with a relatively small game in Magic Table Chess, moved on to something marginally bigger for our second game, with exponentially larger projects on the horizon. Each step along the way has enabled us to work faster, focus more on experiences than infrastructure, and push our quality bar higher and higher.

Staring to come together...Starting to come together...

This is the agile mantra, but especially so for new, rapidly evolving platforms like VR. It might sound cliché, but the pain is real. These are incredibly dynamic software and hardware products that are constantly evolving in meaningful ways. Platform updates right before VC meetings, cables getting imperceptibly loose and taking someone offline for hours, system background processes triggering and running the game at one frame every other second are all real possibilities that many of you will encounter. 

While there’s little you can do to truly mitigate for these challenges, knowing that something along the way will conspire to foul up your perfectly-planned software project can help you reduce the impact of these issues when they do happen.  

In addition to unexpected critical fails, if you’re working with a commercial game engine or platform back end suite, plan to be rolling over to new versions far more frequently than on traditional platforms. The dynamic nature of these platforms means that new updates address critical issues and can introduce new version mismatches more frequently than stable technology platforms.

In Conclusion
Making games in VR is awesome. I frequently find myself losing myself in our games when I should be doing work, just because the experiences are still so profoundly magical. VR is a new and massively exciting frontier. A stereoscopic wild west.

It all comes togetherIt all comes together

However, like the American wild west of old, it’s full of danger and adventure. Being cognizant of the perils of the medium can’t help you to avoid these challenges altogether, but hopefully it can help mitigate the impact of them when you hit them.

I’d love to hear similar experiences folks have had working on early projects in VR. Horror stories are always great, or if you disagree with anything I’ve said here I’ll keep an oculus out for comments posted to this article.

Yes, I just ended this 2500-word VR article with an eyeball pun. 

This post originally appears on the Experiment 7 Blog.

Coray Seifert is the Director of Production for Experiment 7, a VR strategy game developer based in New York City and San Diego. For more than 15 years, Coray has developed games as a producer, game designer, and writer for organizations like Autodesk, THQ's Kaos Studios, and the US Department of Defense. A Lifetime Member of the International Game Developers Association, Coray was elected to the IGDA’s Board of directors in 2007 at the age of 27; the youngest board member in IGDA history.  


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Gamasutra New Game Online Bravely Default dev to release its own game engine: Xenko

Game engine enthusiasts, take note: After roughly two years of beta testing, Japanese game and tech company Silicon Studios Corporation has announced plans to release its open-source C# game engine Xenko this April.

This is mostly notable if you're interested in Xenko itself, and you can figure that out by downloading the free beta version that's currently available via the Xenko website. You can also poke around in the source code over on Xenko's GitHub page.

While Silicon Studios is probably best known now for developing the Bravely Default 3DS games, it has a long history as a middleware developer. However, this is the first time the company will be releasing a commercial game engine -- on that's meant to be used to make games for mobile, PC, console, and VR platforms.

"The decision to move from middleware to a full game engine was actually a fairly easy one for us,” company chief Terada Takehiko stated in a press release. "We were in a position to address some of the complaints developers have about the other commercial game engines on the market, and from there we began to see what developers of the future will need to be successful, including VR and mobile support.”

When the engine is formally released Silicon Studios expects to charge for it, though it has not yet released any pricing details. Of course, GDC is next week, so expect the company to be demoing it there and sharing more details during the show.


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Gamasutra New Game Online Blog: Here's all the things you can do with an expo pass at GDC!

Gamasutra New Game Online Blog: Here's all the things you can do with an expo pass at GDC!

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

The Expo Pass is the cheapest way that anyone can get into GDC, without any special requirements (such as being a student, volunteering, etc). It cost $249 (or $199 with the earlybird rate), and of course gets you access to the event in general, which is valuable in itself. But there's actually a lot you can do and see with an expo pass that people don't think about. I'm here to help!

There are three main things an expo pass can get you access to in addition to the Expo itself; talks, job opportunities, and events/parties. Let's go through one by one!

TALKS

Expo pass holders have access to the entire Advocacy Track, which runs Monday through Wednesday. These talks largely surround issues of accessibility, diversity in all its forms, and simply how to make games for everyone. A lot of these are super interesting, from scientific research in Eve Online, to the unmissable, always performative talks of Ste Curran.

The next-most obvious section is the Career Seminar, which, full disclosure, is a day of talks that I run. Come say hi! It's on Friday, and is a full day of talks from all across the industry. I try to make it like a mini IGF, but with some triple-A folks thrown in for good measure. If you want to see the triple-A art director of Lawbreakers speak next to the creator of the erotic visual novel Ladykiller in a Bind, this is the place.

There are also talks about breaking in as a woman in the industry, best practices for low-poly 3D, creating a VR engine, my talk about how you can keep getting money so long as you have a game, and of course, the always-popular portfolio review sessions. If you're an artist who is newer to the industry, you must attend this panel and subsequent portfolio review. It begins by discussing what makes a good portfolio, and after that, becomes a series of 1 on 1 portfolio reviews with industry professionals. It's not to be missed for any young artist!

Now, there are also some less obvious talk categories you can get into, which people sometimes don't think about – because they're sponsored. Here's the main list of sponsored sessions. You may initially balk at this – what use could sponsored sessions really be? In fact, as an Expo Pass holder, they're your best bet at learning about new technologies, and seeing some of the bigger companies in action. 

Check out this unusual session about the PSVR aim controller! Or this one, about building an MMO in one single world/shard. Here's one about setting up clans in your game. While, yes, all these folks will be trying to tell you while their technology or idea is best, you can learn a whole lot from these talks, and some of them are super valuable. Sponsored sessions are running much of the week, so there's plenty to check out.

There's one more category of talk that sort of bridges the gap to my next section here, so let's get right into it.

JOBS

Jobs are a big reason some folks come to GDC. They want to get one, or they want to hire someone, or just meat likeminded people to form a team with. To that end, one helpful section is the Career Theater, located in North Hall, booth N5220. Now, this one is a bit under the radar, because there's no site hub for it. But when you get the official GDC brochure, make sure to browse these.

The talks range from topics like “how to work at X company,” presented by that very same company, to networking tips, and resume/portfolio best practices. Seriously, some of the best GDC talks I've seen have been in the Career Theater, because they're either totally right for you, or totally wrong, because all the topics are so straightforward. 

Now, more about jobs – check the career site for more information about this, but I'll try to sum up. Essentially, if you're looking for a job at GDC, you can put yourself into a pool, by registering for a Gamasutra jobs board account. This then gives companies that are exhibiting at GDC access to your profile, and lets them contact you for meetings! And then there's the more traditional hiring booths, where you can go around and talk to recruiters. They're not all in one space this year, but there are online and offline brochures that tell you who is hiring, and where you can talk to them.

Last for this section, I'll give one more plug for the art portfolio review I mentioned above. If you want a job as an artist, you need to have a good portfolio, and these are the folks to tell you. 

EVENTS AND PARTIES

Okay, fun stuff! There are lots of events and parties you're granted access to with an expo pass. First is GDC Play, which is GDC's version of the traditional video game expo, and part of the Moscone North expo floor. Game developers are showing their games, many of which are new, incomplete, or looking for funding. It's a great way to network with fellow developers and see what's new.

Related to that is the IGF pavilion – these folks are all up for awards in the Independent Game Festival, and in this area you can check them out, as well as meet their creators, before the actual awards. The Student Showcase is also here!

The IGF and Student Showcase sections all takes place on the expo floor, which is the most obvious benefit of the expo pass. It's right in the name! The expo is open from Wednesday through Friday, but closes early on Friday, so don't drag your feet! On the expo floor you can see new technologies, talk to various companies about what you're doing and what they're doing, and try to hustle up new platforms for money (ha ha… I'm kind of serious though, come see my talk on Friday for more about that). 

If you like looking at new/weird/interesting games, there are also tons of other ways to do that. Check out this huge list of interactive spaces and exhibits, some of which are on the Expo Floor, some of which are not (so check first!). From games with alternate controls, to the Shup Up & Sit Down board game lounge, to multiple retro game exhibits, down to the Mild Rumpus game chillout space, Day Of The Devs, IndieMEGABOOTH & the Art Boss art exhibit, there are tons of places you can just go, play a game, and talk to some other people who are taking a break from all the hubbub.

There are also a bunch of parties and things! Check this listing for official GDC events, most of which are sponsored and have some sort of free stuff (like beer). And then there are the external parties. Here is a list that just contains parties anyone with any kind of GDC pass can get into. No invites needed! Expect them to be crowded, but that can be good, depending on your personality.

So that's pretty much it! There's a lot more to an expo pass than people think at first blush – hopefully this gets you all started. And if you feel I missed something, feel free, to mention in the comments!
 


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Game Reviews Modojo Rewind: Switch Hype, Party Hats, and Questionable Dragon Ball Art

Game Reviews Modojo Rewind: Switch Hype, Party Hats, and Questionable Dragon Ball Art

We're almost there, ladies and gentlemen. This is the last Modojo Rewind before the Nintendo Switch is finally released. As such, there's plenty of Switch-related news to talk about this week, from how to get yourself one if you missed out on a pre-order to new games that will be available for it. We've also got plenty of mobile games to talk about and some tech news to boot, so let's get started!

Snipperclips

Nintendo Is Almost Ready To Switch It Up

With just a week left before the Switch is out in the world, Nintendo has been spreading the hype as much as possible. They've shown off their own unboxing video, and even talked about a couple more games that will be available at launch. Shovel Knight's new Specter of Torment campaign and Fast Racing Neo successor FAST RMX will debut on the Switch at launch, along with co-op puzzle game Snipperclips. Disgaea 5 Complete also received a Switch release date for May.

If you weren't able to nab yourself a pre-order, then you may want to check in with your local GameStop at launch anyway, as they seem to have a couple of extras for walk-ins. It's not all sunshine and rainbows for the Switch though, as Nintendo confirmed this week that the Virtual Console will not be available at launch.

Robot Unicorn Attack 3

It's Called Modojo For A Reason

There's never a shortage of mobile games to talk about, due in no small part to the revolving door nature of their popularity. Mobius Final Fantasy received a Final Fantasy VII themed updated with cards and a new class, while Final Fantasy: Brave Exvius got updated with a new story arc, esper, and more. Robot Unicorn Attack 3 has still only soft-launched in a couple of countries, but it's already getting updated in preparation for its full launch.

Pokemon Go is still popping into the news as well. With Pokemon Day right around the corner, you can catch a special Pikachu variant that rocks a party hat. Internet sleuths also narrowed down the locations of Gen 2 region-exclusive pokemon Heracross and Corsola. Finally, Futurama and Skylanders both have new mobile titles on the way.

iPhone

Tick-tock, It's Tech O'clock

We don't just cover games over at Modojo, so for those of you who have an interest in the tech side of things, here's some other cool stuff that went down this week. AT&T announced they too will be offering unlimited data plans soon, as they were in no mood to be left behind by the likes of Verizon. SnapChat decided to finally start making money off of their new product and are now selling their Spectacles online in the U.S. rather than just in random yellow vending machines hidden around the country.

Samsung has reached out to Sony for their Galaxy S8 battery needs, which is hardly surprising after their factory caught fire not long ago due to the darn things. Rumors continue to spread about the iPhone 8, this time that its front facing camera will feature some 3D tech and that Apple won't be offering a 32 GB model. The HTC One X10 had some images leaked of its sleek new design ahead of its Mobile World Congress reveal. Some cool cat also put his skills to use making a Pebble watch face resembling the Resident Evil 7 device, and anything drawing more attention to that awesome game is worth talking about.

As usual, this is just a taste of all that's gone on over on Modojo this week. I do have one last fun little story to share, however, starring a wacky Japanese 3DS game called Dragon Ball Heroes: Ultimate Mission X. The lastest in Namco's digital card game series, Ultimate Mission X naturally looks to be the biggest and hypest entry yet, but what really stood out was a fun piece of art we spotted in the official trailer. A piece of art that genuinely had us questioning if fan-art was now being used in trailers. Enjoy that picture below, and have a good week folks.

Dragon Ball Heroes

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Game Reviews Mass Effect: Andromeda Has Gone Gold, BioWare Says

Game Reviews Mass Effect: Andromeda Has Gone Gold, BioWare Says

BioWare issued a tweet earlier announcing that Mass Effect: Andromeda has gone gold. In industry speak, "gone gold" means that the core game is finished and ready for mass production ahead of its slated March 21 release for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.

Mass Effect: Andromeda leaves Commander Shephard and her (or his) crew behind to follow a new cast of characters. Players will command Scott or Sara Ryder, a military recruit primed to explore the game's open-world environment. 

With Mass Effect: Andromeda just under a month away, BioWare wants to make sure players are ready to boldly go where no Shepard has gone before. A "Weapons Training Video" breaks down different weapon types, melee combat, and more. Earlier this week, the studio announced that Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones' Margaery Tyrell) will voice Dr. Lexi T'Perro, an Asari character.

BioWare is already looking ahead to customer support. Like Respawn Entertainment's Titanfall 2, Mass Effect: Andromeda will have DLC, but not within the confines of a season pass. Furthermore, BioWare and publisher EA are open to bringing the game to Nintendo Switch if the console—due out next Friday, March 3—proves successful.


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Gamasutra New Game Online Get a job: Cat Daddy Games is hiring a Server Engineer

The Gamasutra Job Board is the most diverse, active and established board of its kind for the video game industry!

Here is just one of the many, many positions being advertised right now.

Location: Kirkland, Washington

Come join a small team of talented and passionate server engineers designing and building our future server architecture. We're using Azure hosted servers and a new micro-services architecture to achieve our very high scale and reliability goals. This role offers lots of ownership and impact if you have the right blend of creative and server engineering skills to help make our games awesome for millions of players. We are solving very interesting technical challenges with new services while supporting and growing multiple mobile game titles. It is a great time to jump into our game and become a big impact contributor. We would love to talk to you directly if this opportunity sounds appealing to you!

Job Responsibilities Include:

  • Design / develop / maintain robust multiplayer game architecture for cloud computing
  • Design / develop/maintain tools and utilities to support multiplayer game servers and services
  • Research coding techniques and algorithms in order to keep current on technological developments and advancements in the game industry
  • Research and analyze new cloud computing technologies in order to continually evaluate how they might be utilized to improve existing multiplayer services, or be applied to implement future services or solve future problems
  • Identify technical and developmental risks/obstacles and generate solutions to overcome identified risks
  • Effectively listen and communicate with team members in order to quickly adapt as project needs evolve, and to maximize efficiency 

Required Experience and Skills:

  • Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, related discipline, or relevant work experience
  • Expertise with C# and C / C++ programming languages
  • In depth understanding of and familiarity with Object Oriented design principles
  • Strong debugging skills
  • Strong problem solving skills
  • Solid understanding of game networking and TCP / HTTP / UDP networking protocols
  • Commitment to code quality, documentation and sound testing procedures
  • Ability to learn and master new technologies and code
  • Ability to work independently and efficiently under deadlines

Desired Experience and Skills:

  • Experience writing tools with C# and WPF
  • Experience with ASP.NET, ASP MVC, JavaScript, JQuery, and Ajax
  • Experience with Windows Azure or other cloud computing platform

About Cat Daddy:

Rooted in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and just a short drive from Seattle, Cat Daddy has been around for more than two decades and over that time has launched multiple successful PC, console and mobile titles.  Currently we are focusing on Mobile and Tablet games and are working on some exciting upcoming titles.  Sure, we are part of the big and impressive 2K family and we love it, but really we are a small band of talented, artists, programmers and production staff who get the job done and done really well by relying on skill, collaboration, humor and grit.  We pride ourselves on being nimble and tech savvy, having shipped titles of almost every genre and on almost every platform.  Bottom line is, it’s a good time to be a Cat Daddy!

Interested? Apply now.

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Gamasutra New Game Online Zenimax files to halt sales of Oculus tech containing stolen code

An earlier courtroom battle between Zenimax and Facebook-owned Oculus might have ended, but a recent injunction stands as a reminder that the war over the code powering Oculus' virtual reality technology still rages on. 

According to UploadVR, Zenimax filed an injunction yesterday that seeks to halt sales of Oculus hardware and software containing Zenimax-created code or intellectual property. Such an action would have adverse effects on Oculus, but would also no doubt harm the developers creating games for the virtual reality headset.

If granted, the injunction would affect the future of Oculus tech featuring the stolen code, including Oculus’ PC and Mobile software and SDKs, and game engines like Unreal and Unity that have built-in Oculus integration already.

This latest action from Zenimax falls on the heels of a jury case that ultimately awarded Zenimax with $500 million in damages. But, as the documents fueling this latest legal action illustrate, the company feels that the ruling was not harsh enough to fully rectify the situation. 

“The jury’s damage award here, however substantial, is an insufficient incentive for Defendants to cease infringing,” said a Zenimax lawyer in legal documents shared by UploadVR. “Just minutes after the jury revealed its verdict, Facebook’s COO, Sheryl Sandberg, publicly stated that the jury’s verdict of a half billion dollars was “not material to [Facebook’s] financials.”

In a statement, Facebook expressed its own disappointment in both this latest development and the earlier ruling, saying, “Zenimax’s motion does not change the fact that the verdict was legally flawed and factually unwarranted. We look forward to filing our own motion to set aside the jury’s verdict and, if necessary, filing an appeal that will allow us to put this litigation behind us.”


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Gamasutra New Game Online Keep track of all of Gamasutra's GDC 2017 event coverage!

Next week the game industry gathers in San Francisco for the 31st Game Developers Conference, and it promises to be an exciting show! 

Gamasutra will have reporters at the conference all week who will be working furiously to bring you breaking news from the event, along with coverage of developer sessions and interviews throughout the course of the week.

So follow along via our live event coverage page, sponsored by PlayStation!

For more information on GDC 2017, which runs February 27th through March 3rd, visit the show's official website, or subscribe to regular updates via Facebook, Twitter, or RSS.

Gamasutra and GDC are sibling organizations under parent UBM Americas


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Gamasutra New Game Online Road to the IGF: ConcernedApe's Stardew Valley

Gamasutra New Game Online Road to the IGF: ConcernedApe's Stardew Valley

This interview is part of our Road to the IGF series. You can find the rest by clicking here

The farming and country life RPG Stardew Valley came out early last year and quickly became a breakout success in a genre that has been more-or-less dominated by the same few franchises for decades. The game was a passion project for Eric Barone who, under the moniker ConcernedApe, channeled his love of the early Harvest Moon games into his own take on the niche genre. 

Barone first started working on Stardew Valley as a solo development effort over four years ago and spent an average of ten hours a day acting as a designer, programmer, artist, writer, and composer to bring the game to life.

Stardew Valley clearly resonated with players who shared Barone’s fondness for the classic farming RPG experience; the game rapidly became a hit and had sold over a million copies within just a couple short months. And for good reason; Stardew Valley captures the best parts of earlier Harvest Moon games and infuses that with a charming world and new crafting systems to make the exact game many fans of the genre had been dreaming of.

Following his nomination for an award at the upcoming Independent Games Festival, Gamasutra caught up with Barone to find out how he brought his childhood gaming experiences and computer science degree together to create the unforgettable farming game, Stardew Valley.

What's your background in making games?

While I was at school (for computer science), I started teaching myself how to make games. I started with really small, simple games and worked my way up. I would also sometimes fiddle around with things like Flash or Adventure Game Studio, and I made a few games with those. At some point I decided to make something bigger -- and that ended up becoming Stardew Valley.

How did you come up with the concept?

Harvest Moon was one my favorite games as a kid, and it left a lasting impression on me. I wanted to recapture the special feeling that game gave me. To do that, I decided to start with the basic Harvest Moon “formula” and then expand on it in my own way.

What development tools were used to build your game?

I used Visual Studio 2010 to program, Propellerhead Reason to do the sound/music, and Paint.NET to do the art. I also used an XNA tile map library called xTile.

How much time have you spent working on the game?

I’m not exactly sure how many hours I put in, but I did work on the game for at least 4.5 years. I worked at least 8 hours a day on it and only took a day off if it was unavoidable.

One of the unique things about Stardew Valley is that you were the sole developer on the project. What led you to take on such a huge undertaking independently? Did you ever think about bringing in outside help during development?

I like to work alone. I like having complete control, and not having to justify myself to anyone else. I’m a perfectionist and I think it would be difficult for me to work with someone else. I also enjoy doing the music, the art, writing… I wouldn’t want to give any of those things up. They make my job more varied and interesting.

Harvest Moon and Rune Factory have more or less dominated the fantasy farming genre for ages; what was the driving factor behind disrupting this and developing your own take on the genre?

There were a few things. For one, I think the early Harvest Moon games were the best, and the series had gotten worse over time. I figured there were people out there who felt the same way, and would be eager to play a new game in the style of those first few. Second, there was nothing like Harvest Moon available for PC, so I felt there was a void there that needed to be filled. 

It’s already coming up on a year from when Stardew Valley first released; how has feedback from fans helped to change or shape your future plans for the game?

I try to listen to people in the community and respond to them. For example, I’ve had a lot of requests for a PS Vita port, so that’s something I am seriously looking into. The major success of the game has certainly caused me to spend more post-release time with it than I would have otherwise. 

Have you played any of the other IGF finalists? Any games you've particularly enjoyed?

I haven't played any of the other ones yet.

What do you think are the biggest hurdles (and opportunities) for indie devs today?

I think the biggest hurdle is to find a way to make [your] game stick out from the crowd. There’s a lot of competition out there, and it’s not easy to come up with compelling original ideas. My advice for other devs is to be yourself, not follow trends, and not be afraid to do something unusual. But it needs to be genuine.


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