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.
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.
After a month or so of testing, gathering some feedback and making some tweaks, Dozer Dash is ready for play. The leader board is up and as of this time we are moving forward with level 2 – Catapult Island. Have fun playing!
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.