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  • Game Dev Podcast Of The Year: How an Indie Developer Turned a Failed Flash Game into $40,000

    Posted on December 30th, 2010 IndieGamePod 1 comment

    Hey folks,

    The game dev podcast of the year has been chosen…and it is the Steambirds Interview where an indie game dev turned a failed flash game into $40,000…

    You can download the podcast here…
    http://www.indiegamepod.com/podcasts/cc-steambirds.mp3

    Or listen to it here…

    Read the rest of this entry »

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  • The Story of An Inventor Trying To Start A Business In The Games Industry

    Posted on December 29th, 2010 IndieGamePod No comments

    Kevin talks about trying to start a business to help the games industry….

    Note: here is a link to his interview last year…

    You can download the podcast here…
    http://www.indiegamepod.com/podcasts/gdco-graphics.mp3

    Or listen to it here…

    Read the rest of this entry »

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  • Guest Post: Evolution of Entertainment – From Superman and Pong

    Posted on December 28th, 2010 IndieGamePod No comments

    The famous adage, that history repeats itself, applies to the video game industry. I have spent the last couple of weeks thinking about super heroes and comic books, and out of that I began looking at a bigger picture, the entire comic book industry, and have realized a great many aspects to its history that have been mirrored in the video game industry.

    And why does this matter? Because these two industries have gone through just a similar metamorphosis, we may be able to predict where games are headed. And this might not just be games and comics. The trends seen in these two industries might be inherent in many areas of culture. I have researched the history of both comic books and video games, and I hope you find my findings as interesting and important as I do.

    The origins of comic books are deeply based in drawing, and more directly include political cartoons and comic strips, which were both too short to tell a real story. Drawing goes way back with the history of humanity, whether it be prehistoric cave drawings or 14th century sketches made on the first paper.

    Comic books would slowly expand comics. Collections of comics, comic books, began to arise in the early 1800s. The Yellow Kid in McFadden’s Flats, published in 1897, collected 196 5X7 inch pages of black-and-white comic strips and is known as the first proto-comic-book magazine. Comics went color with The Blackberries in 1901, and comic books first went monthly with Comics Monthly in 1922. In 1929, The Funnies offered original comics, without news, again evolving the comic, now in 4 colors and 16 pages. This extension of the Sunday comic strip continued to expand.

    The origins of video games are deeply based in games, and more directly include board games, sports, and other games, all of which have possibilities which open once technology is utilized. Games go way back with the history of humanity, whether it is the Mayan ball game or the Ancient Chinese Go. Sports, board games, and childhood “playground games” had always been popular, but limited, much like the comic strip and political cartoon.

    From 1947 to 1958, computer games like “Cathode Ray Tube Amusement Device”, “NIMROD”, “OXO”, and “Tennis for Two” were programmed in computer labs. “Spacewar!”, created by Harvard students, showed a flicker as to what video games could be, and was a stepping stone to the grandfather of video games.

    Both comic books and video games are the next step in their form’s evolutionary path, drawing/art and games. Very simple precursors led to a single product which would establish its respective field. These products are Action Comics No. 1(Superman’s debut), and Pong.

    The Golden Age of comic books, which lasted through World War II, was led by superheroes like Superman and Captain Marvel, and was the time during which many of the comic book series we have come to know were created, including Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, etc. And although we think of the superhero genre when we think of comic books, many genres were reaping benefits, including romance, western, and comic animal comics. Comics, like all other facets of life, reflected the events which happened around them, which, in this case, was World War II, which suddenly became the theme of most comic books. After the war ended, people began to lose interest in comic books and the superheroes who lived inside of them.

    After Pong, the Superman of video games, arcade games began to boom, with hits with similar mechanics to Pong. Arcade games, which had now drawn influence from sports and other, less abstract concepts, led the way for video games through the 1970s. From this time period we have iconic games like Asteroids, Space Invaders, Pacman, Missile Command, Donkey Kong, Mario Bros., etc. Much like how comic books began to cover many genres, video games expanded their diversity too.

    Adventure games evolved from Adventure and Zork to point-and-click adventure games like Maniac Mansion, the game Street Fighter broke new ground in the fighting genre, platformers like Super Mario Bros , Metroid, and Prince of Persia broke new ground in the platformer genre, RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons, Dragon Quest, and Final Fantasy broke new ground in the RPG genre, and many other genres, like stealth games, scrolling shooters, and simulation games succeeded in sales.

    After the golden age of comic books, the entertainment form as a whole was being scrutinized, following the publishing of Seduction of the Innocent, which blamed society’s problems on the comic book, claiming they were responsible for instilling violence in the youth. Sales dwindled, many publishers stopped selling books altogether, and the art form was to be restricted due to the pressure of the public. This was 16 years after Superman burst onto the scene in 1938.

    After the golden age in video games (I am coining this – the industry is too young to generally split its history into far-reaching eras like comic books), video games were beginning to be shot down more and more for instilling violence in youth. Hearings began around 1992, almost 20 years after Pong, and the case was eventually heard by the Senate in 1994. But where comic book sales dwindled, video games had already reached a larger audience of both the youth and adults, and their success increased if anything.

    The comic book industry went through a transformation, and the silver age began with the reboot of The Flash in 1956. Publishers began updating their superheroes with a newer art style that finally broke the barrier that the preceding comic strips had placed on them. Not only were the comic books being admired for their art, but their characters – beyond the mask.

    The Fantastic Four comic series, created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby 5 years after the beginning of the silver age, had characters with real problems and real emotions. Not only did a superhero have to save the world, but he/she also had to pay the rent. Writers had to look past the single side of a superhero and examine the problems that went with being a superhero, socially, psychologically, etc.

    Video games began to move past the 2D styles consumers had seen far too much of and to better graphics. These better 3D graphics, which allowed for a higher degree of realism and far more possibilities than was previously available, ushered in a new era of gaming. Super Mario Bros, which had been the iconic game of the golden era, was rethought for a 3D game, which utilized the many possibilities that went with being able to move in all directions. Even games that still had 2D graphics benefitted from the improved graphics, allowing for greater stylism than what was previously possible. New, better stories were being told, beyond just rescuing a princess.

    Final Fantasy VII dealt with death, in a huge breakthrough that proved that players can feel emotion when playing a game. I believe we are still in the silver era – we are still exploring the more practical problems our video game heroes can face, and although not all characters should have everyday problems (most games don’t), the fact that some heroes becoming a little more real shows a greater diversity in games and that games have the possibility of exploring real problems in our world, our real world. And art should be able to do that. Grand Theft Auto 4 touches on the troubles immigrants face in America, Snake from Metal Gear Solid 4 has to deal with the anxiety of war in addition to the people shooting at him, and Persona 4 even deals with the struggles faced by those of a certain sexual orientation.

    In Heavy Rain, the most “real” game I can think of has you bathing and eating, challenges that have no challenge, challenges that are the most real of our kind. And those are just a few recent examples, but if you take a look back, you will realize that games are becoming more and more real, whether they take place down the block or across the universe.

    The bottom line is that characters from both comic books and video games in the silver era began to get more real. Beyond the perfect being, Superman, who was rather dull in the start, comes a superhero with a real personality and real challenges that we see every day. Beyond the blank protagonist from Grand Theft Auto 3 (I can’t even remember his name!) comes the real character known as Niko Bellic, a veteran immigrant learning the current state of the American Dream.

    But if video games are still in the silver age (which I believe they are), what comes next? Well the bronze era was known for non-superhero protagonists, antagonists, which I do not believe we have seen too much of yet. Relevant issues were also extremely common, things like drug-abuse (Stan Lee told a great story with a great message about narcotics against the current comic book code) and social issues (we have seen very little of this – Persona 4 is the only large example I can think of right now). We are not even close in this regard, though.

    Maybe when we see the first iconic African-American protagonist, more of the non-hypersexualized women protagonists, some more sexual diversity, Nathan Drake facing his new habit of drinking, or Master Chief battling against his crack addiction (okay, maybe not Master Chief). Characters also grew much darker during this era, which was necessary due to their deeper awareness with the problems of society and greater vulnerability to enemies, both physically and psychologically.

    More games will deal with the darkness of mankind (again, Heavy Rain appears to be a revolutionary game), not embracing it obliviously (we need games that will explore the horrors of war and the psychological effects of it, the opposite of games like Call of Duty and Bad Company and Battlefield and Resistance and Killzone and (gasping for breath) . . .). But all that will come as we progress through the evolutionary path all forms of entertainment go through.

    This is what we have to look forward to – and I for one cannot wait to be a gamer in an era in which game designers are allowed and have earned the responsibility to make a great game that will explore boundaries, without the fear of being slapped by the public. But what can we do as gamers? Well, for starters, we need to stop blindly hailing games because the main character has sex with another character, or because you can make explosions two times as big…

    If I asked a few mature comic book readers which super hero was the best, they might argue that Batman has a great psychological aspect to him, making for a more interesting character, or that Spiderman, without his costume, is struggling with day to day life, not having the wealth of a hero like Batman, or that Wonder Woman has to fight against both physical enemies and social enemies of being a strong woman in a society in which many see this as odd… this argument is a sign that the comic book industry has really reached a high level of maturity.

    However, ask a few mature video game players who their favorite protagonist is, and they will begin arguing about how strong Master Chief is, or how smart-mouth Nathan Drake is, or how Lara Craft has a nice butt you get to stare at the entire game (I’m sure you’ve heard (or thought) things like these too). This is a sign of an industry in the early eras of its evolutionary path.

    I am looking forward to the day when, at E3, we see not only the inventive new gameplay, but the real, compelling story and the real, compelling character who must go through it. Even though video games allow for a more personal experience and story, the industry mirrors the comic book history, but we are not quite as far along as they are. I am estimating, based on the year-length of each industry’s eras, the bronze age of video games will star in about 4-6 years (give or take), about 17 or 18 years after Metal Gear Solid and Final Fantasy VII came out. I would really like some people to research a little more into this series of common trends seen in sources of entertainment, and not just games and comic books, but maybe music, or specific music genres, literature, anime, television, film, etc.

    Dylan Woodbury lives with his family in Southern California. He runs http://dtwgames.com, a game design website that posts intriguing new articles every week, both beginner’s tutorials and theoretical ideas. He also has an interest in writing, and is planning his first novel. His primary goal is to change the world through video games.

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  • Developing an iPhone Game On Nights and Weekends, Part 2

    Posted on December 26th, 2010 IndieGamePod 2 comments

    Peter…founder of Magnetic Studio…and developer of 123 Pop, talks about developing an iPhone game…

    You can download the podcast here…
    http://www.indiegamepod.com/podcasts/123pop-part2.mp3

    Or listen to it here…

    Read the rest of this entry »

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  • Last Chance To Vote for Podcast Of The Year…

    Posted on December 24th, 2010 IndieGamePod No comments

    Hey folks,

    This is your last chance to vote for the “Podcast of the Year” … you can check out the entries here 🙂
    2010 Game Dev Podcast of the Year Finalists…

    Voting ends in a couple days 🙂

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  • Developing an iPhone Game On Nights and Weekends, Part 1

    Posted on December 23rd, 2010 IndieGamePod No comments

    Peter…founder of Magnetic Studio…and developer of 123 Pop, talks about developing an iPhone game…

    You can download the podcast here…
    http://www.indiegamepod.com/podcasts/123pop-part1.mp3

    Or listen to it here…

    Read the rest of this entry »

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  • Guest Post: Alternate Endings

    Posted on December 22nd, 2010 IndieGamePod No comments

    One of the things that make video games unique compared to all other forms of art/entertainment is their ability to change in response to the player. This is a great aspect of games, as it allows players to make meaningful decisions, which are at the spine of every game, and watch their effects play out in a unique way. This is one thing books, movies, and other forms of entertainment can’t do – the novel’s course is not affected by who the reader is or what his/her point of view is. However, alternate endings should be used with caution, as including them for the wrong reasons can actually hurt the overall experience.

    Alternate endings in games go way back, and many significant games have included them, like Chrono TriggerDeus ExHalf Life, and Metroid. But when is it necessary to include multiple endings in games? When is it foolish to include multiple endings?

    Back in the day, most games which included alternate endings did so as a gimmick, as most games used little or no deviation from the main storyline. There were no choices that changedHeavy Rain Facing Death the story (although there are some exceptions). More and more today, though, it would be unreasonable to NOT include alternate endings. For example: Heavy Rain.

    In Heavy Rain, the player switches between the lives of four different protagonists, all going after the origami killer. Along the way, you paved the story, as messing up in a critical situation would lead to your character’s death (permanently). You may miss out on some clues that directly change where the story is going. Therefore, not including many different endings for each route you take through the game would be not foolish, but impossible, as the game features a branching story.

    Some games’ alternate endings do not enhance the experience, like Half Life’s endings. At the very end of the game, after the climax, Gman gives you the choice of either working for him, or fighting him in a fight which Gordan cannot win. Choosing to obey Gman pops up a screen of text, informing you that Gordan is now working for Gman. Choosing to disobey Gman leads to your death, shown in a three-second clip and a page of text. That is it. The alternate endings are not decided by how you chose to play the game or important choices you made along the way, but are decided by a gimmicky decision that had nothing to do with the plot (well, not really anyway).

    In fact, choosing to disobey Gman leads to a rather disappointing ending which,Gman Half Life 1 Endingcontrary to what the rest of the game did, punished you for sticking up for yourself. After playing for hours, the player does not want to learn that it was all for nothing. Even though you could replay it, the first ending you acquire is the real ending for the player (and Half Life 2 assumed you made the choice, the “correct” choice, to obey Gman).

    These alternate endings that are based only on a small portion of the game towards the end are weak, as the player does not feel as though he/she deserved the ending he/she got. Instead, the player should have an idea about what kind of ending they are going to get, so it is important to inform the player if he/she has no way of knowing what the consequences of his/her actions are.

    In Infamous, playing corruptly, making selfish decisions and creating havoc for the innocents of the city, is going to lead to an evil ending, in which Cole becomes corrupt with power over the people. Playing heroically, putting others before you and going out of your way to help people, is going to lead to a heroic ending, in which Cole struggles with being seen as a hero, worried he will not meet their expectations.

    The endings in Half Life are uneducated – although Gman tells you he is impossible to defeat, the player should not actually be expected to believe this. The player feels challenged, and most often will refuse to work for Gman, not even getting a chance to fight. The choice was notInfamous evil path gradual and was not worked towards throughout the game, rather it was something tacked on, completely unnecessary, that was made to intrigue the player, not close the game.

    The endings in Infamous, the paths you choose throughout the game, fit your actions and the way you played the game. It ties in with the story, and closes at the climax. Rather than choosing after the boss fight whether you want to be good or bad, taking your story in dramatically different directions, you play good or evil throughout the game, earning your given ending. And better yet, you can play heroically and halfway through the game turn to the dark side to save your love, get your way, or whatever. Even though there are two endings, there are many stories that could be played out because of the story’s ability to adapt to your style and decisions.

    If a video game embraces aspects only found in games, like adaptive storytelling, various playing styles, story decisions, etc., it could be bettered by alternate endings, as YOU are the character. This is a very important truth of gaming. In Great Expectations, Charles Dickens creates a character – Pip’s story is going to close a certain way, and only one way, because his personality and background directly decides what he will do next – the story is linear. A game designer has no way of knowing what the player is like, and as designers let players play a certain way or make certain decisions (based on who they are and what they have experienced in their life), the story has to go certain ways – the story is nonlinear. And although multiple endings improve replayability, that should not be a reason for creating multiple endings – the first ending is the one that counts, and the rest are just the player messing with the possibility space.

    As the industry grows and technology improves, games are going to allow more and more possibilities to the player, and the 88 possible final cutscenes found in Star Ocean: The Second Story are going to be necessary to give the player the feeling that what he/she did mattered, and the decisions he/she made left an important influence on the story. As the possibility space offered to the players expands, so do the number of closings possible.

    So, alternate endings are just a gimmick, something the company can write on the back of the box (–over 175 possible endings for unlimited replay!), unless they are made to close every Branch Chart Possibilitiespossible path a player could take on his/her special way through the game that reflects his/her thought process and own self. THEY ARE NOT NECESSARY IN ALL, OR EVEN MOST CASES THOUGH. In games that focus on the character the designers created, there is only one possible outcome that you play out (most games do this).

    If you want to learn about exploring a possibility space and the necessity or unnecessity of multiple endings, try out some of these games with multiple endings; some of them you might not have even known there were multiple endings (list)! I also recommend you play an interactive fiction game called Aisle (game), which explores the possibility of the possibility space in just one choice (with 136 alternate endings). After you play through as many actions you can think of, try going through this list (guide), during which you will learn a lot about the character and his history, all made possible through inventively using the alternate ending.

    Dylan Woodbury lives with his family in Southern California. He runs http://dtwgames.com, a game design website that posts intriguing new articles every week, both beginner’s tutorials and theoretical ideas. He also has an interest in writing, and is planning his first novel. His primary goal is to change the world through video games.

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  • NewToy has an “Indie Day”…Game Industry’s Version of Google’s 20% Time…

    Posted on December 21st, 2010 IndieGamePod No comments

    Hey folks,

    NewToy had an interesting talk at the Austin Game Developer’s Conference…talking about the culture of their company. One thing that was interesting was that every Friday, they had an “Indie Day”…they mentioned that this was similar to Google’s 20% time…where a person could spend the day making a new/unique/innovative game.

    So…one day each week, each person would be able to do something experimental/indie…

    Many indie/experimental developers may say that they are doing indie 100% of the time…but I think the important concept here is…the idea of spending 20% of each week on new/experimental ideas. I’ve seen indie developers get sucked into a project…for months at a time…and during that time, they no longer explore or do interesting new/quick games.

    Having an “Indie Day” each week is a good reminder to keep learning/exploring.

    In the games industry…learning is an important part of the development process…and “Indie Day” helps to underscore this habit in a good way.

    Anyone doing something similar to an “Indie Day” with their team/studio?
    Post suggestions and comments about your “Indie Day” below 🙂

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  • Developing The Point and Click Adventure Game, Dream Machine

    Posted on December 20th, 2010 IndieGamePod No comments

    You can download the podcast here…
    http://www.indiegamepod.com/podcasts/gdco-dream-machine.mp3

    Or listen to it here…

    Read the rest of this entry »

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  • Catapult for Hire = Physics Game + Comedy

    Posted on December 17th, 2010 IndieGamePod No comments

    You can download the podcast here…
    http://www.indiegamepod.com/podcasts/gdco-catapult.mp3

    Or listen to it here…

    Read the rest of this entry »

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