Though it’s been a while since we’ve talked about it, we have been working diligently on our Unity-powered game Swarm – Backyard Buzz. Ninety-five percent of the assets have been built and we’re currently working on the multi-player duties.
Not surprisingly, multi-player functionality has been the most difficult part of the project. Swarm is our first attempt at a multi-player game, so a lot of research was done on services and providers. In the end we chose to use Exit Games’ Photon Cloud for this first version. We found Photon Cloud hard to beat for ease and speed of getting a network game up and running.
It should come as no surprise that Boise isn’t a hotbed for animators or video game designers/developers. Anyone around here will tell you how hard it is to either A) find talent or B) find a job. We’ve talked and blogged about this in the past, but last year we decided to stop talking and do something about it.
In 2011 we started an organization called Interactive Artists & Animators Group of Idaho (IAAGI) in the hopes of finding new talent, giving people a place to share ideas, network and teach. We’ve been surprised by the number of developers and artists that have been hidden away and share the same passion and desire to see the industry take off here. But that’s not to say there isn’t plenty of room for improvement.
We’re quietly talking with people about ways to get kids excited about programming, game design and animation. It’s a slow process, but we’ll post updates as they come available. In the meantime, if IAAGI is something you’re interested in or you know somebody who is, point them our way. We’re always looking to meet new people.
Horses, Chupacabras and QVC don’t often get mentioned in the same breath, but together they’ve been keeping us pretty busy. This week we launched three great projects – Sun River Equine Ranch, Goats R Delicious and a QVC commercial.
Sun River is a Treasure Valley non-profit that uses horses as therapy tools for kids. We spent many hours with the Sun River staff getting to know them, their needs and understanding the life-changing events that can take place at the ranch.
Goats R Delicious has been in multiple stages of design and development for the better part of 15 months. The project includes four 3D animated shorts, three websites, multiple viral videos and a Unity-powered video game for the iPhone and iPad.
The QVC project included 3D animation and special FX for a hair treatment product.
It all started with a phone call. The woman on the other line claimed that she was our client and was unhappy with our services. Naturally, this was deeply concerning as the satisfaction of our clients is a core value. However, the package of services she was receiving was something we would never provide, yet someone from Pixel Fish had come into her shop and sold her video services and web placement. After further research into the matter, we found that a company in southern California had begun to hire contractors in Boise. These contractors are selling videos and online aggregator placement under the name Pixel Fish to businesses all over the Treasure Valley. We knew that the reputation of our name was being influenced by people we don’t even know and we had to make a shift. So from here on out, if you meet someone from Pixel Fish, just remember they aren’t the local guys.
Recently I started up the movie “Soldier” starring Kurt Russell on Netflix. I had seen this the year it was released and thought it would be worth re-watching. After all I like action shows. I grew up in the era of the action hero – Schwarzenegger, Stallone, Norris, Van Damme and Seagal. There was never a shortage of explosions, bad puns, round houses and double-handed hip shots in my day. But five minutes into “Soldier” I was done. I started asking myself what had happened. The short answer – my age.
Now I’m not geezer, but I’m also not fresh out of college. My tastes have changed and although I still like an exciting action flick, I need more. Give me a well told story and some character development along side my chase scenes and I’ll probably stick with it. I’m finding the same thing is happening with my game choices.
While my friends like COD and BF for its online battles, I enjoy the campaigns. I love getting sucked into the story, getting to know the characters and finding myself taken aback when something completely unexpected happens. But I had yet to experience that ultimate game until I bought a PS3 a couple of months ago.
It was recommended to me that I buy Uncharted 2 since I was looking for a platform specific game. Never before had I become so caught up in the cut scenes, the dialogue and the development of the characters as I had with Uncharted 2. The game was so gripping and well done, my wife found herself clutching the pillows as I moved from level to level and telling the kids to hush so she could hear what was being said.
This got me thinking back to my recent experience with “Soldier” and how I’m no longer as easily entertained. I’ve been cognitively watching movies about as long as I’ve been playing games (since 1981), so it shouldn’t be a surprise that I’m expecting more for my $60 game. Yet with the exception of Naughty Dog, I don’t think many studios are paying close attention to the story and characters. We’re witnessing Hollywood and the game industry take similar paths – using more CGI, more special effects, better graphics, etc. as a crutch instead of focusing on the actors and the story. Why can’t we have both?
However I think we’re near a paradigm shift as a whole generation of aging gamers will expect something more in their gaming experience. Yes we still want the mind-blowing graphics, hectic gun battles and realistic driving experiences, but please give us a good story too.
Not much of surprise, Idaho isn’t a hot spot for game design and animation. What we have found though is that there are pockets, small groups, and individuals that have been working alone with no idea that there are others just like them. People building games, animating characters and illustrating cartoons. IAAGI was formed to help bring these like-minded individuals together to network, share ideas and collaborate on projects.
If you’d like to be involved, head over to IAAGI’s website and RSVP for the first meeting.
Whether it be a website redesign, a custom CMS or a video game, it’s not uncommon for companies to have internal projects they’re working on to help advance or better self-promote the company and its goals. Typically though these projects take a back seat to client projects.
We started Dozer Dash with the full intent of building it all the way out in a timely manner. However business happened, which made us happy, and we found ourselves using all of our resources to keep up with the incoming workload and projects.
Fast forward half a year and things are moving along better than we anticipated. So at this time our internal project, Dozer Dash, is being postponed indefinitely… unless there is a sudden interest from CAT.
While we don’t deal with print or design for print, we do love the feel of paper (especially for books), so we thought we’d share our active book collection:
3D Game Art for the iPhone with Unity
Persuasive Games: The Expressive Power of Videogames
A Theory of Fun for Game Design
Introducing HTML5 (Voices That Matter)
iPhone 3D Game Programming All In One
Level Up!: The Guide to Great Video Game Design
Real World modo: The Authorized Guide: In the Trenches with modo
While we hate blog articles about not posting blog articles, we thought it would be a good idea to at least let new visitors know we’re still kickin’. We’re working hard on some killer projects and hope to come up for air soon.
We recently had the opportunity to work on a small ecommerce project for a company in eastern Idaho. We don’t do a lot of these and whenever we’re approached about them we go into research mode trying to find a good cart solution.
Our biggest issue though is that we use Expression Engine as our CMS and want something that integrates nicely. The idea of sending the client to two different CPs to update the site and the store isn’t ideal. This obviously limits the number choices out there to three that we’re aware of. They consist of Foxy Cart with Foxee, brilliantretail and CartThrob. At the time the project was starting we weren’t aware of brilliantretail, so the choice was between Foxee and CartThrob. After doing some research we decided to go with CartThrob because they appeared to be closer to their EE 2.0 compatible cart. Not that this was a deal breaker, but it showed us that the CartThrob team was still actively engaged.
What we found was that CartThrob is extremely flexible. Just as Expression Engine doesn’t tell you how to design, CartThrob doesn’t tell you how to structure your cart. They give some examples and advice, but it really falls on the developer to use the CartThrob tags and mold the store to the client’s liking. CartThrob supports all major payment gateways, looks seamless with the rest of the site and building custom plugins isn’t too difficult (as we found). Plus there is one control panel to rule them all which meets one of our most important criteria.
CartThrob isn’t for everyone as some knowledge of Expression Engine is recommended, but the forums and the tech support team are second to none if you get stuck. Should another ecommerce project come up, we’ll definitely look at CartThrob again.