Tuesday, 27 December 2011

The Mammoth Academy is on AppSumo: Learn how to make video games with zero programming

I am pleased to annouce that AppSumo has run the Mammoth Academy on their site. As of today there is 5 days left to get 75% off. The course is only 99 dollars. 




Here is what AppSumo had to say about the course:


Who doesn’t love a good casual computer game?
Games like Angry Birds, Bejeweled, and World of Goo have exploded in popularity for wider demographics in recent times.

Got an amazing idea for a game but ZERO programming knowledge?

We’re right there with ya...

See, I have this idea for an AppSumo game called “5 Minutes To Squash A Deal”.

You play a handsome and husky Sumo who travels around the world finding the offices of the people who offer AWESOME products or services for web geeks and business professionals.

When you find them you can either...

1) Kidnap the CEO
2) Deploy stealth ninjas (you have to find those first and get them to defect to Sumo Nation) to swap out prices
3) Or just negotiate (i.e., push them against a wall with 502 lbs. of happy gut force)

And then you score points when ever you SQUASSSSSH the hell out of a deal!

Sounds like a winner, right?

Anyway, hiring a team of game developers is a bit out of this Sumo’s price range, and digging around learning how to create a game is too frustrating for Sumos (we barely have the patience to wait for someone to seat us to eat).

That’s why we were soooo freakin’ happy when we found this course from John Bura of Mammoth Interactive.

John has been programming games since 1997 (damnnnn old school; FF VII for the WIN!).

And he has been teaching others how create games since 2002, so he’s something of a game veteran who can quickly teach you all the tips and tricks that took him years to learn.

Ok, before we get any more into it, there’s one little disclaimer...

This is a HUGE course (though damn well worth the price) that actually teaches you in a way your Sumo-noodle can understand.

I’m talking about 5 full lessons broken down into 348 videosThis is NOT for the weak of heart or frail fingers...

This is for those who are willing to put in the effort needed to create AWESOME games and reach the "Top 10 Most Downloaded Apps" hall of fame!

This is for those who have a seedling of an idea for a GREAT game but can’t afford to hire a team or have NO IDEA how to even begin to create a game.

What makes this course different from other game development courses is that other courses only concentrate on the basics of putting a game together.

This course teaches you all that, but ALSO teaches you sound and music creation (which actually adds 70% to the game experience).

Ready to learn an entire degree’s worth of game development for less than the price of a community college class? This course normally goes for $399, but we've squashed the deal down to ONLY $99!

Click BUY NOW and get access to this course (which is yours forever) and get your game development going!

Sincerely,
The “Mega-Man Of Eating” Chief Sumo


P.S. This course will also eventually give you access to bonus material, including:
  • An introduction to Game Salad, the powerful engine that allows you to deploy to Apple's App Store and the Android Market
  • How to make an interactive ebook from scratch
  • How to compose and remix video game music in FL Studio
...as soon as they’ve finished the production of the videos (free extras for everyone! Hooray!).


Friday, 23 December 2011

Image compression in Construct 2 - Scirra.com

Image compression in Construct 2 - Scirra.com

Great read about image compression in construct 2

FL studio sale 35% off!

I love FL studio. It is by far the best digital audio workstation to use. If you like video games and video game music or if you are a program FL studio is for you. They are having a 35% off sale. With most software you have to buy the additional software upgrades but with FL studio you buy it once and get lifetime free updates.

I bought FL studio 6 and I got 7, 8, 9 and 10 for free.

If you have some extra cash this holiday season I suggest purchasing FL studio.


Thursday, 22 December 2011

Mega Man Remixes

During the holidays I usually listen to a lot of music. One of the best soundtracks in video game history is the soundtrack to mega man 2. The rest of the series is also amazing. There are a few reasons why the soundtrack to mega man is so great.

  • Well crafted songs
  • Very melodic content
  • Adaptability
The songs are so well crafted and they aren't just thrown together. I find that most music is an afterthought when it comes to video game production. I think that if there is anything timeless about video games its the sound track to the mega man series. 

One of the reasons why the music last is its rich melodic content. Have you ever caught yourself humming a melody in the shower or on the way to work. Strong melodies stick with us. The mega man melodies are very well crafted. What is even more surprising is that when you compose music for video games you have less design options and the music still shines. 

Because the melodies are so well crafted and they have a strong melodic content, the music can be adapted, remixed and covered. You can go to youtube and find a plethora of remixes to enjoy. Personally, this is one of my favorite parts of the soundtrack. I love listening to all the different versions of songs.

I find that if a developer is looking for a good business reason to put good music in their games they should look at the mega man franchise as an example. 

When people remember the music in your game they remember the good times they spent playing the game

If you are building a brand have good music. It will enhance everything that you do. 



Wednesday, 21 December 2011

One reason why video game design is not as good as film

I love seeing a big budget hollywood film. Everything is generally well thought out and the experience is gratifying. I seldom get that same experience from games and as I was watching a movie I finally figured it out. It's the music.

Big budget productions have big budget scores. Big budget games have mediocre scores. This shouldn't come to a surprise to anybody in the industry. In almost every game the sound is almost always tacked on at the end. Composers are generally not paid what they are worth and as a result the music is not as good as it could be. In contrast the film industry pays it composers well and the music is a much bigger part of the production. Imagine Inception without it sound track. Imagine that the soundtrack was just an afterthought. It wouldn't be as good as a movie.

I honestly think that some developers thing that if music is simply just playing it is good. They don't care about fidelity at all

Personally, music is the one place where the least amount of money and time is spent in development. It really shows.

Monday, 19 December 2011

More music

So you are probably wondering why I post so much music here. Isn't this blog supposed to be about game design? Well design concepts overlap and I find that since most other forms or art or media have been around for a longer period of time they have had time to explore ideas more throughly. But classical music in particular is very dense and is very well constructed. I urge any game designer to study classical composition from Bach to Stravinsky.

The reason why classical music is so amazing is that everything is placed with absolute precision. There are pieces that "work" and there are masterpieces. Games are the same way there are games that work and there are games that work better. Compared to classical music there are no games that are masterpieces. Portal comes close and maybe a few other games.

Anyway here is a great orchestral work for you to get inspired.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Another great chip tune rendition of classical music

I personally love the work of JS Bach. His music doesn't simply just "work" it transcends. I always recommend game designers to study music especially classical music. Enjoy this chiptune rendition of the prelude in G minor.


Saturday, 17 December 2011

Why the Chrome Web Store is better for developers

I'm always looking for places to deploy my game. There is one feature that makes the Chrome Web Store really attractive. It's the fact that in order to be a developer it costs 5 dollars and they only take 5% of the profits. Look at most other places like the app store where it costs 100 dollars a year and they take 30%. Now people can argue that apple is hosting your game and they are marketing the store. But I highly doubt that my game is being marketed. They are just promoting angry birds and other apps. So why do I have to pay 30%?

The proposition fo only giving google 5% is amazing and personally I think that is fair because 30% is a lot. I still think that the Chrome Web Store will be the best place for any development company to make a game. It will especially be a great place for indies to go and be successful.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Why I don't listen to music when I work

Most people listen to music when they work. I love working in silence. I think its because most people think of work as work and I think of work as fun. I take what I do seriously and Im not just killing time whenever I work on something.

When you listen to music your brain isn't 100% focused on the task at hand. In order to produce amazing things you don't have to work hard you just have to work focused. The more focused you are on the task at hand the better your products will be.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Setting a countdown timer to improve efficiency


Have you ever spent the whole day "producing" and have the results have been mediocre? Perhaps you should set a countdown timer to improve efficiency. I usually set mine to about half an hour. In this time you don't listen to music, don't check Facebook, don't do anything but produce in a very clear and focused half hour of production.

I find this works because most of our attention spans are about a half hour anyway. You can set the timer, produce and when the timer is over you can go and do something else for 10 minutes. This way it gives your brain sometime to think about what you have just done and it gives it a little breather. I find that when I produced with this method my product is much better than when I don't use the method

You can really use any length of time. I even do this in 5 minutes intervals for speed production practice. I recommend shorter versus longer periods of time. The reason is that you have to hurry when the time is shorter.

Give this method a shot and post below. I would like to see your comments.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Why 100% creative control is not always the best thing

I recently watched Harry Plinket tear apart Star Wars and Star Trek

http://redlettermedia.com/

If you haven't watch these videos I urge you to watch them. They give you an insite as to how to make a production make sense.

One of the best parts of this review is how he looks at the production process. He shows several parts a long the way where major problems could have been fixed. If they had fixed these problems the movies would have been much better.  Some people think production is a nonsense career and doesn't have a lot of weight.

As a producer you craft memorable experiences that translate into loving life

There are more points to living than just being alive. When you drop the ball as the the Star Wars prequels have done you have disappointed people and ruin the love people have for the experience and life.

Having 80% creative control is just as good as having 100%. Other people will help you make your ideas better. This works is most areas of production. Surprisingly, the only area where this dosen't work is musical composition. Solo artists and composers can compose and produce by themselves and get wonderful results. But I feel that bigger projects have to have more people. Eventually, landmark games will be producable by one person.

If you are the producer give some credibility to your team. They will help make your product much better than if you commanded all of the orders.

As a producer if you give a little your product will get a lot

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Orchestration versus construction

In the 19th century there was a debate on orchestration versus construction. When you compose a symphony orchestration is very important. If you put the pair the wrong instruments your symphony can sound horrible. Some composers decided to make the symphony mostly about orchestration and others were all about the structure of the composition. During the process of both you have to weigh the positives and negatives of sacrificing one or the other.

If you wanted an orchestra to sound really good you would have to sacrifice some of the structure. Likewise if you wanted great structure you would have to sacrifice orchestration. The big debate was between the composers Tchaikovsky and Brahms. Tchaikovsky' symphonies sounded great but lacked the structural components that Brahms had. Brahms was the reverse. Naturally you want your orchestra to both have amazing structure and be well orchestrated. However, that is not always possible.

So if we flash forward to today. I find the exact same argument among game developers. Does the game play well or look awesome? Do you sacrifice definition for mechanics? Naturally you want a game's design to flow and in a perfect world you would have great mechanics and great assets. But a long the way you have to sacrifice something. The question is what will you sacrifice.

Personally, construction will always trump polish. To me all forms of media should be engaging and I consume media for the ideas and the exploration. On top of this, well constructed ideas can be adapted and improved upon. The oposite to this is fluff. Games that look and feel good but have no substance. It's the classic style versus substance. I like my games to have substance.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Chip tune arrangement of classical music

I love finding something awesome on youtube. This is a chiptune version of claude Debussy's Passepied. It is amazing. Surprisingly, it works very well as video game music. Usually complex songs don't work out because there is too much variation. Here are some reason why it works(except the ending)
  • It is face paced
  • The energy is for the most part constant for the entire song. 
  • It is interesting to listen to.
The arranger did a good job as well. Enjoy!


Here is a orchestral version. Compare the difference and post your thoughts below!

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Why I don't like 3D today

While I love playing 3D games I tend to produce in 2D more than 3D. The main reason is that 2D games have more longevity than 3D games. With 3D games you have a very short window to make your money in and after that your game is done. Your game will be graphically obsolete in a short span of time. On top of that, a revolutionary new paradigm could happen during production and make your product worthless. This has happened to me a couple of times.

There are other reasons why 3D isn't as "viral" as 2D. If your game is successful, people with make fun of it with cartoons or videos etc. This process is much easier if your game is in 2D. People can interact with it. With 3D this process is possible but it is much harder.

Lastly, the development is much more expensive. 3D artists are much fewer and more expensive. There are a lot more problems that can go wrong. The game could crash or something random can break your game. As a result you have to test them more. Even something as simple as collisions can be very problematic.

3D games are awesome and I love to play them. I am personally going to wait before I produce my 3D games. I will take a look at the production landscape before I start a game.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Bastion is on the chrome store, native clients on the web and what's next for the chrome store.

I am speechless. Bastion is on the chrome store.

Im surprised this was even possible. Usually you have to code these kinds of games in native code. But apparently Google has a native client called NaCl that will allow developers to use native code on the web. What this could mean is that bigger games that were coded in native code can now be played on the web. I have to give google a gold star for doing this. 

So what does this mean for all of the app stores? Every device seems to have its own store and each of them have their positives and negatives. All of them make money but as a developer some of them are better than others. The most famous is Apple's app store. It has made a ton of money and is probably the most well known. But that might change with Google's chrome store. 

So far the best part of the app store to any developer is that everybody gets an equal chance. Nobody screens for content and every developer gets a shot of making the next Angry Birds. It's a more modern style of distribution. It is similar to how youtube will just allow almost any video to be put on there. So if you have a game and it doesn't crash, then you are good to sell on the apps store. The chrome store works in the same way. There is no filtering for content. If you want to make a chrome store game and it doesn't crash you can sell your game on the store.

This approach is better for developers especially indie developers like Mammoth Interactive (me). This way everybody gets a fair shot at production. It says let the best game win (for the most part). The services that does not do this is Microsoft. They purposely divide the service into three tiers. There are certain privileges and features that you as the developer can and can't have. For example, you can't have achievements on XBLIG or in game purchases. As I have stated before. This is a major problem and it's why I will not be developing for Microsoft until they change this.

This is why the chrome store and the app store are much more attractive to me and other indie developers. On both of these stores I can use in game purchases as well as achievements and leader-boards if I want to (the chrome store doesn't have leader boards or achievements at this time). For me, I need to be able to compete with the giants. I need everything available at my disposal in order to succede. In the past, it was hard to impossible to make money off an indie game and now it is easier than ever.

Sidebar: I tell everybody who reads the blog to ship a game sooner rather than later. It is now easier than ever to make money so start shipping.

So as an indie developer I will be for sure putting a lot of thought into the chrome store for 2012. 

Why you need to get your games in the hands of players yesterday

There is an old adage for musicians...

When you are not practicing somebody is...

I would like to update this adage for game developers...

When you are not developing somebody is...

You can even go as far as saying...

When you are not shipping somebody else is...

Your game is worthless without execution. I personally have games on my hard drive that nobody will ever enjoy. People can't enjoy your game if it is in your head or on your hard drive. Go ahead and start to develop and ship your game. If you hesitate, somebody will just develop and release a game and become successful.

Start developing your game today!

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Timeless games

The main reason I work in gaming is because games is an area where there is much needed improvement and development. Most other forms of media are harder to innovate because they have been around for a longer period of time.

There is no such thing as a timeless game. There is timeless movies, music, literature and theater, but there is no timeless games.

People have listened to and enjoyed the music of J.S Bach long before you were born and they will continue to long after you die

But will people play Mario or Angry Birds in the future? Games don't have the same lasting power as other mediums do. When you listen to Toccata and Fugue, you know that this is an epic work, that it is a masterpiece. He made all of the right decisions in that work an it will last forever. Some forms of art are like monumental buildings, such as the pyramids. Toccata and Fugue is one of these works of art.

Games are fun and do not have the same lasting effect. I find that even mind blowing games are only fun for a certain length of time.

There is a fundamental difference in the way that other mediums are produced and games. Toccata and Fugue is 10 minutes long. But it took a lifetime to compose. Now I don't mean that Bach started to work on this since he was a little kid and then one day he released it. He worked on his craft and the culmination of all of his experiences made that work amazing. He probably did spend a lot of time writing and perfecting that song. Great art has hours of thought put into a few seconds of experience.

Movies are produced the same way. Next time you see an amazing movie look at every scene. Most of the time that scene was made with extreme care.

With games I find most of the production is rushed and not thought out. Now there is one key difference that game producers have to take into account

Interactivity

Interactivity is a big part of games and it is the reason why games do not stand up against other mediums. In games you have to craft experiences. You have to take into account how people perceive the game and make it fun for them. Nobody has solved this yet.  This for me is the best part of game design: so many unsolved problems. 

There is one game that comes close and that game is the Mass Effect series. I give a round of applause to the BioWare team which is located in the Canadian city of Edmonton. Seriously, if you love art go play this game. It is absolutely amazing. Whatever the code base they have for that game I still feel that it is a few generations out from being a true masterpiece. 

I recently showed Mass Effect to my friend and I started the opening sequence and I got the same tingly feeling I get when I listen to a great work such as Toccata and Fugue or watch an amazing movie like Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. BioWare is the closest company to achieving a timeless game. If they make Mass Effect 3 awesome then I would say it could be a contender.

Here is what a timeless game needs
  • To be able to be fun, relatable and revelvant at any time
  • To have extremely rich content
  • To emotionally move people at any given time
Mass effect has extremely rich content, but we will have to see about the other factors. Any game developer who solves this will be the JS Bach, imhotep or George Seurat of our time

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

The 3 things I think XBLIG should have

Here are three things to make XBLIG competitive


  1. Access to achievements
  2. In game purchases
  3. Steam like promotion services
If XBLIG had this it would attract more developers and would improve the service quite a bit.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

XBOX Live Indie Games review

I created an XBLIG last year in August 2010. I am happy to see some of my developers such as Radian Games be so successful now. Radian games just released a game under Chilingo the Angry Birds publisher. While XBLIG is always the subject of debate among indie developers, the services is luke-warm in terms of features and success.

Let's start with the good
So imagine you are 10 years old and you somebody says to you  that 15 years later you will make your own game for the leading console of the time. You are playing Megaman trying to get to the boss and you are thinking to yourself "No way, I don't think that is going to happen". Well thanks to XBLIG you can. You can produce a game for the leading console today. If there is any reason to produce a game for XBLIG it would be to just feel a sense of accomplishment and say that you made a game and have it being sold on the XBOX 360.

On top of that, you can make money. There are a handful of games that have made 6 figures. There is even a game that has surpassed a million sales. So you can make money but not everybody can make money.

In addition, you get a ton of exposure. Lot's of bloggers and reviewers will review your game and that is a good thing. Anybody talking about your game good or bad is a good thing. If you develop a game for XBLIG you will get about 10 times more press than a game for iPhone or android.

The tools to develop an XBLIG are amazing. C# and XNA are awesome programming languages. These languages make game development so much fun. There are a lot of resources in the forums and they are easy to implement and follow. Also deploying to your XBOX is incredibly easy.

XBLIG is a great place to make your game and get some press for your game. You might make some money with it and it can be a gateway to greater success.

Let's talk about the bad things
Microsoft divides its game development into three parts: XBOX 360, XBLA, XBLIG. Each has their own rules and costs associated with it. XBLIG easily has the worst reputation. The reason is that there is a lot of shovelware on the service. Some developers have something like 60 small games on the service. There are a few really good games on the service but if you don't get featured your game gets clumped with the shovelware.

If you produce a game for XBLIG you get little or no XBOX features. You don't get achievements or in game purchases. This is a major problem if you want to make money. I don't really care about the reason why this happens. If you can't use these two techniques then it makes your game less competitive. Not having achievements is the worst part. I really, really wanted this when I was making Circa. If you can't use it then how are you going to get good at incorporating those features into games. You have to go to iOS to get this kind of experience.

You have to use XNA which can be problematic. The reason I bring this up is because there are some major limitations with XNA. While it is easy to use, if you are an experienced developer then there are parts of XNA that will drive you insane. Somethings are either impossible or ridiculously hard to do. You can code XBOX games in other languages. I wish I had this option

Other thoughts
So if you are a hobbyist or just simply want to produce a game to add it to your resume, then XBLIG is the platform for you. I personally get a lot of "street cred" for my game Circa. I have easily made money because I have the game and not from the game. Basically it helped me make a living in 2011.

However, if you are serious about game design and development (which I am). I would suggest staying away from XBLIG and instead go to steam. The reason is simply because you don't have enough montization features.

I don't think XBLIG was ever set up to make money. It seems like it a place to get experience and not a place where you can make a living let alone start up a studio.

Finally
I'm glad XBLIG exists at all. It's a place where you can gain some experience and have a little fun with development. It is a great thing to add to your resume and will most likely help your career along. If you haven't made an XBLIG then what are you waiting for?

Monday, 5 December 2011

Real life is like a multiple choice test

The best part about multiple choice tests is that the answers are on the page so all you have to do is select the right one.

I could say the same thing about real life. All the answers to success are around you just have to select the right course of action.

If you want to start a business go and find a few businesses you like and reverse engineer what they do. Find out what makes it good and put it in your own product.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Frank Zappa


Frank Zappa died today in 1993. Thank you for all of the inspiration Frank

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Make your own Legend of Zelda franchise

We all know and love the Legend of Zelda. There is one thing that this game franchise does that makes it great to plan and last essentially forever. What Zelda does is have re-occurring characters and themes. Each game that is produced has a similar story, theme and characters. When a new game comes out it is familiar enough so that people know what they want and it is different enough that people buy it and enjoy it.

This is simply brilliant. Let's look at how to make your own Zelda franchise.

  1. Get a list of characters and give them flexible attributes
  2. Make a list of possible settings again with flexible attributes
  3. Set up a your game mechanics
  4. Have a fixed release schedule
Now making a franchise like Zelda dosen't happen over night. But you can experiment with these ideas and you can make your own franchise. 

Why you should know everything about the process of making video games if you want a job in the industry

I usually get a few resumes a week in my inbox. One thing that everybody has in common is that they only have one tallent and no skills. Of course you need to be talented if you want a job. But you should have some skills to compliment that tallent. I get a lot of artists emails and that is all they can do. If you are an artist and want some advice on how to stand out.

Learn everything about the production, produce your own game and release it.

Of course you are not setting out to be a programmer or a composer but you can make your own game and release it. I personally look for this when I am going through resumes. Very few people have produced a game by themselves. To me that is the most attractive item on a resume. There are people who work by themselves and make a living. So why not try and make your own game from scratch and see if you can make some money. If it dosen't make any money then you can at least add it to your resume.

There are so many things that can go wrong with the production in a game. When everybody knows what the problem is and how to fix it, the work can be divided and solved much quicker.

You will become a better artist or programmer if you learn the entire route to game production. When you are an artist you can learn how to tailor your art towards the mechanics and when you are a programmer you can tailor your mechanics towards the art. I personally feel that the design of games compared to older forms of media such as film, literature and music is much poorer and if everybody learned the entire process it would make the design of games much better.

If you want media with a  great design, all of the parts have to easily fit together. When you experience a production backlog because the art doesn't jive with the programming then the design of the game starts to feel disjunct. This could all be solved if everybody knew the entire process of creating games.

There is a difference between talents and skills. You have to know the difference between the two. You want to get hired because of your tallent and not your skill. Talents is an area of production that you are extremely good at and know a lot about. Skills are something that you can just do and get it done. For example, I have coded many games from scratch, but I am not a talented programmer. I have made the art to many of the games I have produced, but I am not a talented artist. My two talents are game design and composition. Surprisingly there is little difference from composing a symphony and designing a game.

Why don't schools teach this? The answer is that most schools want you to end up in a big company that where the work is very specific. While that is a great prospect for students, it doesn't explain to them that you might be on contract before you get hired full time. So what do you do between contracts. Why don't you make your own game and try and sell it.

During the great recession, I noticed that a lot of people who were laid-off started their own studio in their basement. Not every developer made money but some actually made what they were making in their jobs. I tell this to everybody I meet who wants to be apart of the industry especially artists. Start your own studio, you get to learn (probably more than you did in school) some new things and possibly make some money. Plus, you get to add a game to your resume.

People always tell me that it is unrealistic for people to know all the areas of game development. I say that I made Flashes of color all by myself and the game is the size of super mario 3. I made some money with that game and I feel that I could add it to my resume if I wanted to apply to a job. On top of all of that I learned a lot about game production during that game. I always learn something about production during any game.

Tearing down the fabricated walls of game production practices makes games more creative. Again, the best games with the most coherent designs have every part of the game complimenting each other. The best way to do this is that everybody learns all parts to game production.

Friday, 2 December 2011

The best defense of piracy is to not produce it

If you don't want your game or content pirated don't produce it. It cannot be pirated if it doesn't exist.

Ubisoft recently announced that thy are not producing a PC version due to piracy.

http://torrentfreak.com/ubisoft-blames-piracy-for-non-release-of-pc-game-111124/

In the article it says that the PC game wasn't even part of the plan. They tailored the game towards the consoles and they would have to re-design the game for PC. If you want to make a good PC game, you make it free and with purchases. But not every game should be like that. What about Braid for example. In game purchases would ruin it. So how does the developer make money if a game's design doesn't support in game purchases. The answer is simply release for consoles. There is still piracy for consoles but there is much less and with each generation of consoles that comes out the piracy gets harder.


Thursday, 1 December 2011

I would love to work on something with a really big budget

I love what I do. I try to get the most out for as little money as possible. Some projects have seem to have almost unlimited amounts of cash pouring in. It seems like those if those projects need more money get it. My guerilla production style works great for me however, I would love to work on something epic, something truly awesome.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Check out this great blog 2D Art for programmers

Check out this blog. It explains video game in a very easy to understand way. One of the best parts is that it uses inkscape an opensource vector image editor. When you think about it video game art isn't as hard as it should be. It also has some good animation tutorials on animation. When you think about it art is the 2nd most important part of games after programming. Im glad this blog exists. So check out this blog

http://2dgameartforprogrammers.blogspot.com/



Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Stanford offers free online computer science course

Sometimes when the big universities get it right, they really get it right.  Stanford is offering free computer science courses online. In addition they will be offering online tests so that you can quiz your knowledge. Although most of the classes won't start until 2012, that hasn't suppressed any of the excitement from people like me. Online video lectures solves so many problems with education. Here are some good reasons why offering online lectures is a fantastic idea.
  • You can watch the videos whenever you want
  • You can go back and review
  • You can ask people in the forums questions about that video
  • You can listen to the video at 1.77x the speed so that you can fit more videos in
  • You don't need to go through a pecking order to get there
One of the best things about online video tutorials is that you can watch them whenever you want and if you can watch them at 1.77x times the regular speed you can watch more of them. Going back and reviewing is essential and with video tutorials its quite easy. You can ask people on forums if you don't understand something and they would be glad to help. When you are at a higher level you can help the new people. The learning is circular.

My favorite part is that anybody can take a university course. It doesn't matter if you are in elementary school or graduated years ago. Everybody can take part in that class. The current system says that you have to go to grade 1 then 2 then so on. But what if you want to learn the course material in grade 2 today. Well with courses like this you can.

One thing I like doing is jumping into a situation that is over my head. You learn more this way. If a teacher in elementary school said to me that I was going to go to a higher grade class I would have loved it.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Introducing the Scirra HTML5 arcade - Scirra.com

Introducing the Scirra HTML5 arcade - Scirra.com

Scirra adds an arcade and all I can say is wow! Scirra's arcade is absolutely amazing. It has a lot of social networking linkes which is really important. And now it has an embed feature so you can add the games to your blog or website. This is so awesome. On top of all of this they have little game cards that you can use to promote your game. I can't wait to see what comes up next!

Again, every update Scirra gives feels like Christmas.

Why selling stuff on the app store for a dollar sucks

I don't like selling my games for a dollar. I find it hard to impossible to make money off of that dollar. Let's look at the math.

The customer pays 99 cents - 30 goes to Apple - 2 cents go to taxes = 68 cents to the developer

The reason I don't like this model is that 68 cents is not a lot of money. This is why I don't sell my apps for a dollar. The lowest amount is that I sell is 2 dollars. I couldn't imagine working on a team of 5+ people with a profit margin of 68 cents a purchase.

Then people say "Well if you sell 10 million then...."

That's a pretty large if. There is only one real way for your apps to make it big on the app store and that is to have apple feature you app. If it dosen't get featured then I would say move onto another project.

You can actually make money selling your app for more than a dollar. One idea that I would like to see more common place at least for indie games is that the cost is 1 dollar per person. So if I made a game by myself it would be 1 dollar and if I had a team of 3 people I would sell it for 3 dollars. This makes so much sense for the developer.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Why you should start making your game right now

You should start making your great game idea right now. While you are reading this other people are producing and releasing. Your great game idea is nothing if you do not release it. It is worthless if it is setting on your hard drive.

So why not start now? Most people don't know where to begin. Well I say start with A non programming engine such as scirra's construct 2. This engine is so easy to use and you can start making your game. If you do not have a PC you can use game salad for mac.

Start making as many games as you possibly can. The more games you make the better you will be at making games. You can release your awesome game idea and you develop a new skill.

Remember today is a great day to start. Not tomorrow, today.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Google's new Blogger interface

As a lot of bloggers probably know Google has updated their blogging interface. Every time a platform upgrades its interface, I go through 3 stages

  • Uncomfortable friction
  • Realization it's better than the last interface
  • Joy that the new interface is awesome
Humans can't deal with change. I suggest plowing through the uncomfortable friction as fast as possible. Stages 2 and 3 are much better anyway. 

Friday, 25 November 2011

Construct 2 vs GameMaker vs GameSalad vs Stencyl


I like to work with 2D engines that take a lot of the legwork out for me. I don't like having to code stuff from scratch all of the time. The more time you will spend on design and QA the better the game will be. The more time you spend on technical garbage, the less time you have to work on making the game good. I have noticed this with my projects. All of the games that I have used a non coding language game are way better than the games that I had to program from scratch.

If you haven't seen this already this was posted on the Scirra site.

http://www.scirra.com/blog/59/construct-2-vs-gamemaker-vs-gamesalad-vs-stencyl

I have used all of these engines extensively and my favorite by far is Scirra's Construct 2. It is by far the best engine for several reasons. I am going to start of with my least favorite and work my way to my favorite

Stencyl
Pros
Stencyl is a non programming engines that makes flash games. It is very easy to use and you can make games fairly quickly. It recently added iOS support. If you like to make games in a hurry you can use stencyl. On top of this, Stencyl is was essentially made by one person. As a person who knows how hard it is to code things, my hat is off to the creator.

Cons
Since flash is not being supported any more it will be hard to use stencyl as a commercial platform. If it can export to HTML 5 then this engine will be a strong contender against the other ones. They are planning to be able to export to HTML 5 in early 2012. Once that happens it will be on par if not better than Game Salad.

Verdict
Use it


Game Salad
Pros
I think game salad is a great engine and just because it's here on my list doesn't make it a bad engine. Game salad is awesome. It is a very streamline engine that makes game development extremely easy. I highly recommend checking it out. In fact, I use game salad to make most of iOS games and if this is your main goal I would suggest using it.

Game salad has a ton of features that you can use to make your game and the development team is constantly adding more. I have to stress that it is very easy to make a game and if you want to start making games, the free version has a lot of features to it. If you own a mac download it and start producing some games it is really easy and you will have a lot of fun making the games.

Cons
While Game Salad is awesome there are a few problems with the software and the amount of cons I have with the software puts it here on the list.  I should also point out that I am a professional game developer and I am viewing how these engines work through this lens. But even as an amateur these issues pop up and can be annoying.

The biggest issue with game salad is the lack of updates and features. I say this because I have been using game salad since February and the roadmap that they have set out to achieve has not even been met. There are tons of features like arrays, in app purchases, joints and a whole list of others that have not been added to the engine. Also, when they update the engine the performance can be worse than the previous version. When I am working on a huge project I hesitate to upgrade my software because it could be broken.

Whenever you use an engine you will see a performance drop in your game. While game salad can be sluggish at times it still isn't that bad. People complain about it on the forums, but personally it isn't that bad. It could be better and once they get the engine to run smoother Game Salad will be a better engine.

Also, to be a pro member you have to pay 500 dollars a year. This may seem high but it used to be 2000 dollars. This is way too high. There are other engines that can do what game salad does for less money. If they don't change the price they might lose a lot of customers.

Lastly, their arcade is very inflexible. Game Salad has a feature where you can export your game to their arcade which is HTML 5. However, you have to export it to the arcade you can't export it to your site. I would like this to be more flexible in the future. The arcade is a good idea but it needs improvement.

Conclusion
Im not sure Game Salad was ever designed to be a commercial engine. Personally, the engine looks like it is made for hobbyists instead of professionals. Having said that, I don't think game salad is a bad engine, in fact it is a great engine and I will still make commercial games in it. While the engine has a ton of features and they are constantly adding new ones, Game Salad is lacking a few key features such as arrays and in app purchases. Once it gets those features then Game Salad will be even better than it is

Verdict
Use it

Game Maker
Pros
Game make has been around for a long time. When it first came out nobody wanted to use it because the engine couldn't make AAA titles. Now that everybody wants to play casual and simple games, Game Maker has entered the spotlight as an engine that can do this. If I had wrote this article a few months ago Game Maker would be lower on the list. But recently it added a lot of new features that make the engine very attractive.

The engine has been around for a long time and therefore it has a lot of QA behind it and it works really well. For the most part you can make a really good game without coding. One of the main features that Game Maker has is that it does have an interface where you can program. This is great for professional users who know how to code. Even with out the code there are a lot of features that you can use. Game Maker is a very well thought out and tested engine and if you want to make a good game then go ahead and use it.

Another reason to use game maker is their sandbox arcade. Lots of people play the arcade and you can upload your game so that other people can play it. It's a good way to get your game out there

Although it hasn't been released yet, they will have a feature where you can export your game to iOS and android. This is amazing because the engine is so robust, you can make an awesome game and then possibly make some money on the app store. The best engine will be one where you can push a button and release it to several different platforms. Game maker is almost there and when it gets there it will be an even better engine.

Cons
There are few things that I can say about Game Maker that are bad. One thing that they do is advertise that the engine has it's own image editor so you don't need to buy software. This would be awesome if the editor was good but it is a pixel editor. If it had a vector editor like adobe illustrator then that would be amazing. The problem is that game art has to be much better thank pixel art in order to sell it (for the most part).

Other than that the only issues I have with Game Maker are personal. For example, a feature might not work exactly the way I want it to or the interface is a little odd. But that is all personal preference and I can't say that it is necessarily bad.

Conclusion
Game Maker is awesome and I suggest using it. Once it has iOS and android support I would suggest using it to make your games.

Verdict
Use it

Scirra's Construct 2

Pros
This is my favorite engine to use. Out of all of these engines it is the best for so many reasons. What is mind boggling is that it has only been around since July and there are only 2 people working on it.

Here are the features I like best about construct 2

  • Engine features
  • Performance
  • Export control
  • Updates

The engine features are amazing. You can create almost any game you want with them. They are also really easy to use. I run a course on construct 2 because I believe that it is the easiest way to get your ideas from idea to realization. The features are set up in a wonderful fashion.

The performance of the HTML 5 game is amazing. They recently upgrade to WebGL and the performance is out of this world. You can have some very computing intensive games and they work. I use a 3 year old PC to develop my games and it works well.

The export control is awesome. You get 100% of the control. You can export it to HMTL 5, Chrome Store, PhoneGap (experimental) and the Scirra arcade. And it is easy! The developers took time to make this process incredibly easy.

The best part about the updates is that they happen on average once a week and usually they have a cool new feature. Every update feels like Christmas as a kid. The developers have done such a good job.

Cons
There are few negative points I can say about the engine. Sometimes there are bugs and sometimes a feature doesn't work exactly the way you want it to. But this is to be expected with any software. There is one major suggestion I have that for me and other professional developers have.

It would be amazing if it had chrome store in game purchases and facebook credits functionality.

HTML 5 + in game purchases = money for the developer

The main reason why they are not putting this in is because they advertise themselves as a no coding game engine and to make in game purchases work you need to have server side scripting which essentially means some code on a server. Personally, I don't really care if the process isn't pretty. I just need it to be able to happen. I would love to make games with in game purchases. I would also love to make some tutorials on the subject in my course.

Conclusion
This engine is amazing. It is by far the best. Go download it and use it to make games. You will not be disappointed.

Verdict
Use it

Final thoughts

While all of these engines are awesome. Scirra's Construct 2 is the best by far. One thing that I would love to see from any engine is in game purchases. I constantly crave this feature. I will give a gold medal to the first engine that allows me to do this.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Using your own creations to inspire you

The first time you release something it feels great. You have all of these prospects for the future. But sometimes this first product has high expectations and doesn't live up to them. This project isn't junk it is a learning experience. Years down the road you can look at this project and you can say "I worked hard and released".

When I look back at my projects I usually get inspired by them. For me it's a milestone along a journey.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Mammoth Academy released: Learn how to make and HTML 5, Chrome store, Facebook games and more!

It is my great pleasure to release the Mammoth Academy. This is a course that you get to take on the video course training site Udemy.  There are over 200 lectures on how to make HTML 5, Facebook, and google chrome store games.

I wanted to give this an edge over every other class there is both on the internet and off. We all know how awesome internet tutorials are. All you have to do search for anything you want and there will be ten thousand tutorials waiting for you to read and learn from them. While these internet tutorials are great I find that most of them deal with how to get from A to B. These tutorials only deal with the technical and how to  portion of the learning process. Essentially it tells you how to get from A to B.

These tutorials don't really tell you why you should go from A to B. Usually the deeper understanding of a subject is reserved for college and university level courses.

What I am trying to do in these courses is give you that deeper and more creative understanding of the subject matter. This isn't isn't usually done in online courses and that is why I am doing this. I am happy to mention that I am first to market for a number of reasons:


  • Putting college and university level concepts into an online tutorial course about gaming
  • The first to make a game from scratch and cover all the other production issues from programming to art to music
  • The first real course on how to make HTML 5, Facebook and chrome store games
  • The first do do this with Scirra's amazing construct 2 engine
There is another big reason why this course is so different from the others. Game production is very departmentalized. But I see that there is little or no reason for it. The current mentality is that an artist could never be a programmer and vise versa. Personally those are just mental blocks that are set up and have no reason to be there. In this course you learn how to do everything and I mean everything about game design. I tear down that mental block and show you how to do everything yourself. 

On another note, when I hire somebody to work with me I would like them to use this production style. Personally I love to see when an artist has in game examples of their art. Games production is so fragile things can fall apart quite easily if you are not too careful. I generally like to work with people who are very skilled at one thing and know a lot about other things. The more somebody knows about the entire game development process the better.

I am very excited to have completed this course. I am continuing to make more tutorials. If you have ever wanted to learn game design this is your chance. Take the course you won't regret it. 




Sunday, 20 November 2011

Coffee and why I love it

I actually hated coffee for most of my life. Even my friends and family would joke on how much I disliked it. I was teaching 53 students a week and almost all of them gave me Starbucks or gift cards to other coffee shops. At the time I gave them to my friends. Then in second year of college I had an unusually large amount of work to do that week and I found myself unusually tired. So I went to the campus coffee shop and I tried a super sugary iced coffee drink.

From that moment forward, my life changed.

I started drinking coffee everyday and all areas of my life improved. I started getting better marks on tests and my music and game design was getting better. On top of that I started to have bigger and better ideas.

Coffee is easily the catalyst to my success

I owe a lot of my successes to the drink. I suggest drinking a cup every morning. It helped me become the person I am today.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts (sometimes)

The main reason you work with other people is to achieve something greater than what you can do by yourself. If you can't achieve something greater than working with others then you should work alone.

When you are looking for people to work with you need to find people that can make the product better and not worse. This seems like common sense but just because you are working with other people doesn't mean that you will produce something better.  Some people think that just by working with other people that will instantly make your product better. But for a number of different reasons it working with other people can be completely destructive.

You need to practice working with others. You need to find out what what works and what doesn't work. Find that right person who will help your projects shine will take time. So start working with other people as soon as possible.

You work alone to practice your skills. You work with others to synergise your skills.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Fabricated mental blocks

Often times I hear people say something like " I  can't do this because it is too hard and it will take too long to learn" or " you need to be an expert at that in order to succede".  On top of that you can hear people say to you " You can't do this because it is too hard and it will take too long for you to learn" or " you need to be an expert at that in order to succede" 

What these phrases do is put up mental barriers. Be careful when you say this to yourself and other people. It's amazing what this negativity can do the creative process. If anything you should try and do things that are hard and you should try to be in over your head. When you put yourself in a situation where you know very little, this is the situation where you learn the most. 

When things are too easy you are not learning anything. Also when you put up these barriers you forget to experiment and try new things. When you mix different disciplines together magical things can happen. Don't setup unnecessary mental barriers. 

Thursday, 17 November 2011

My Advice for young people 2011

Being young can be tough for many different reasons. Lots of people ask me for advice and here is what I say to them.


Start a blog
Starting a blog is the best way to start producing and achieving right away. It is also a great way to improve your writing skills. A lot of people can not get anything done. If there is one way to stand out it is to produce results. Writing to a blog once a day will get you in the habit of producing and releasing. It doesn't have to be attached to your name. The blog posts can be about anything. The blog dosen't have to be serious it can be fun. You can even make some money with adsense. Wouldn't it be great to make money with your writing?

Find somebody who is older than you and would love to coach you
Going through school you will find that some teachers are amazing and others are there just for the summer vacations. If you are young there are lots of older people who would love to help you and mentor you. Find these people and listen to what they have to say. Don't find just one either. Find a few and really pay attention to what they say. Finding an older friend to help you will be beneficial for you and them.

Get a job
Having employment on your resume is essential. While your few few jobs might not be that good it will be better for your career than sitting around. If you can get into a vertically integrated company, find out how the corporate structure works. Some companies will pay for things such as training. Imagine getting paid to go to school. On top of all of this you will be making money. 

Try to skip the pecking order
School gives you an impression that you have to though life in order. You have to pass grade 2 before you go to grade 3. But what if you like the courses in grade 3 better than 2. Why do you have to go through that? If you are in high school try going to a university lecture. When you apply to a company try applying to a higher up position than the bottom. 

My first real job was a guitar teacher I was 17 at the time with little experience. All I did was apply. I had practiced my guitar a lot and I got the job. I was getting paid a lot of money and the experience was invaluable. On top of that I taught 53 students a week. Nobody at that age gets that kind of experience.

If you go into the situation with confidence then you have a higher chance of succeeded. Try to skip the pecking order whenever you can. 

Try to get as many scholarships as possible
School is expensive in most countries. In the United States, student debt is now in the trillions. Going for a college degree is non negotiable. You have to at least get one. But what you don't have to do is pay for it. Try and get as many scholarships as you possibly can. The less you have to pay for education the better. Everything that you cannot pay with scholarships you have to pay by yourself and that would most likely have to go into debt. Remember if you go into debt the items you bought are more expensive than the purchase price.


Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Writers block in an invention not a condition

I rarely have writers block. For me I don't have enough time to realize all of my ideas. The reason I don't have writers block is because I am constantly writing and constantly thinking up ideas. The more you brainstorm and blog the better you will get at talking about your ideas. Even if nobody reads your blog the act of blogging will help you flush out your ideas. 

By practicing and perfecting your ideas you will start to get better. Don't sit around theorizing and contemplating. At the end of the day you will have nothing but grandios theories on any given topic. Instead start blogging, connecting and  collaborating with people. If you start creating today you will be farther ahead then theorizing today. 

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Gravity in games: Why the less obvious can be cool

We all know about gravity in games. We all know about gravity in real life.  Gravity keeps things on the ground and it doesn't move. However, when you start making a game you have to program the gravity in.

So naturally you can play around with the gravity. You can make the gravity go in any direction and you can even make the gravity towards certain objects.

When you play around with any game mechanic you want to push that mechanic to the max. Gravity is something we always take for granted in a game. Why not play around with it and push the idea to the max. Next time you make a game add in some cool gravity mechanics.

Monday, 14 November 2011

The tutorial sphere

I love online tutorials. You can start learning whatever it is you want right away. We have all heard of the blogosphere, the interconnected networks of blogs. Should we think of a name for all of the online tutorials. Perhaps we should call it the tutorial sphere.

The tutorial sphere: Imagine learning whatever you want right away. You can learn as much or as little as you want and it can fit your schedule. The tutorial sphere awaits. What are you learning today?

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Tips on how to be a great game designer. Look at the foreground and background

In most games there is a foreground and a background. The foreground is the game objects that we are focused on. The background are the game objects that compliment the foreground. When you are designing games look at the difference between the two and look at how they compliment each other.

There are several different ways the foreground and background can compliment each other. 
  • Detail
  • Color
  • Style
  • Intensity
  • Amount of lines
  • Object differences

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Tips on how to be a great game designer. Learn to take things away

Often times when game designers, programmers and artists want to make a game better they add something. They add more code, more detail and more features. The game gets bigger and 'better' with ever feature they add.

While the instinct is to add more features you can actually increase the creativity of your game by subtracting items. By limiting and taking away items or features you can increase the creativity of your game. For instance, if you have heard of the novel Gadsby, that entire novel was written without the letter E. That is a tough challenge especially because 'e' is a vowel. When you limit yourself you open your mind to creativity. You have to find creative ways to overcome this challenge.

So when you are designing your next game try and find something that is in every game and then take it away.

First post

Welcome to my blog everybody. As usual I have lots of interesting events planned for this blog. Stay tuned.

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