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.
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.
Within the confines of Pixel Fish Studios rages a small yet heated battle. It’s not political, religious or even about sports. No it’s about something much more important- 3D software. In our studio the heavyweights are Maya and Lightwave and the smack talk never seems to die. Now to be honest, we’ve been moving away from Lightwave because of certain issues with UVs and game design, but it’s still considered a competent tool and it was the only thing we used for many years. You might say Lightwave has that old flannel shirt feel to it.
But when we were hired to do the Alpine Village previsualization project, it was naturally assumed we’d easily go from the architect’s program to Maya for texturing and rendering because after all, Maya is the “best” (so we’d been told). Except that it wasn’t. Time and time again the file import resulted in mangled meshes, missing UVs and head scratching.
So what does one do when faced with repeated Maya failure? Yep, Lightwave to the rescue. The pipeline plan changed to include both Maya and Lightwave and proved to be incredibly successful. So why do I even bring this up? Because it goes to show that all options should be placed on the table. Pride could have easily gotten in the way on this project. And while I’m sure an all-Maya solution could have been found, the better way was to fall back to an old friend.
Last week after many hours of 3D modeling, model texturing, game development and web design, we were happy to announce the beta of Dozer Dash De-Construction Yard. The gameplay for the current and future levels will consist of piloting a bulldozer and other props in order to clear the various levels of boulders. But these aren’t just your run-of-the-mill boulders. These are the exploding variety that can damage your surroundings and cost you money.
If that sounds like your kind of fun, we hope you’ll take the time to try out our game and provide some feedback via the comment form.
About the project:
Dozer Dash will be an ongoing game project with multiple level releases planned throughout the year. The game is being developed with the Unity game engine and all development and aspects of the game are happening inside the walls of Pixel Fish Studios. It has always been the goal to develop a vibrant 3D and independent video game studio here in Boise and we feel this is an important step in seeing that goal come true.
When talking to people in Boise about the greatness of Unity and all it can do, it’s sometimes hard for them to get passed the video game aspect of it. Perhaps that’s because when they ask about the technology, some of the first words to come out of our mouths are, “video games”, so our bad. Though we do go on to explain that the possibilities beyond games are vast and many.
To show a great non-gaming use, the folks at Scion have embraced the power of 3D and Unity in this cool little visualization tool. It’s even got some funky beats to go along with it. You’ll need the Unity plugin, but’s it worth it. Check it out at http://www.scionnation.ca/scion/build-price/tc#build-your-scion
On Wednesday we had the pleasure of hosting some kids for a job shadowing event organized through DisAbility Rights Idaho. During their time here the kids played and tested some of our games and gave us some incredible (really incredible) feedback on how to improve them.
The highlight though was when we brought out the motion capture suit and showed them how their physical movements are translated to a 3D character. We think it’s pretty cool too.
Thanks again to DisAbility Rights Idaho for approaching us about this opportunity.
Pixel Fish Studios was excited to learn that we are among the recipients of the New Filmmaker Grant Program created by the Idaho Film Office. Our portion of the grant will be used to develop our upcoming video game Swarm – Backyard Buzz.
We’d like to thank the Idaho Film Office for their support and shared vision of creating new jobs and opportunities for our state. Pixel Fish Studios is committed to fostering the video game and 3D/CGI industry in Idaho and creating new employment opportunities. We feel that Swarm is a key step in reaching this goal.
About the game: Swarm – Backyard Buzz will be a third-person multiplayer web-based game centered around some of the characteristics and the community of bees. Development and design is expected to take approximately one year.
Unity recently released version 3 of their game engine with a host of new features and nice-to-haves including export to XBOX 360 and PS3, Beast Lightmapping, source-level debugging and new lens effects.