But first, let’s dispel some of the myths surrounding the business. Rather than sit around playing games, the answer to breaking into it is simply to get involved with any number of projects from apps to books, modifications (mods) to retro remakes. Leading game companies receive thousands of submissions from eager job seekers weekly. Finding ways to catch their attention and demonstrate your talent, e.g. by creating highly downloaded songs for top music games or total conversions (graphic makeovers) for first-person shooters, is the secret to standing out. With millions competing for the chance to work on smash hits like “World of Warcraft” or “Call of Duty: Black Ops,” it’s what you do in the off-hours, not on the clock, that ultimately counts most.
No matter if you’re an artist or programmer, designer or marketing maven, the operating rule is show, not tell. Building a portfolio is easy though, thanks to the vast range of free and cost-effective tools offered online, and array of level- and map-making utilities built into many leading games.
Artists should establish a singular style that acts as their personal signature and look for ways to gain visibility. Contributing to fan-made game updates such as “King’s Quest” reboot “The Silver Lining” and extreme visual makeovers of hits like Half-Life make a great start. Crafting quirky concepts including paintings of popular ‘80s heroes in unlikely situations or free downloadable desktop wallpaper that pays tongue-in-cheek tribute to beloved series such as “Halo” and “The Legend of Zelda” can also work.
Designers and programmers need to create. Small-scale projects like new maps, missions and scenarios for popular titles make a great starting point. So too do iPhone apps, homebrew remakes of classic games from the Commodore 64 and IBM-PC, social network games and Flash titles (games designed to run in one’s Web browser). Software engines like Unity, the Unreal Development Kit, Torque, Adventure Game Studio, Playground SDK, and services such as App Hub can help you get started developing for computers, consoles like the Xbox One or Apple and Android handsets. To stand out, creations need to be unique and easily comprehensible at a glance. Focusing on building a handful of well-executed features vs. many poorly-implemented options helps, as does rapid prototyping and playtesting, since few great ideas are birthed fully-formed straight out of the womb.
Musicians likewise need a personal calling card, which could be a specific style of music, genre or audio flourish. (Think T-Pain’s signature Auto Tune sound which, while annoying, makes him impossible to miss.) In-game creations should also be designed to evoke specific storytelling moods and stand up to multiple, looping plays as adventures progress. Providing audio scores for notable amateur and indie game projects is a great way to get one’s creations heard. But offbeat alternatives including creating concept albums inspired by popular titles (e.g. “Halo: The Musical) or downloadable mixtapes for enjoyment alongside specific outings (“Assassin’s Creed: The Unofficial Soundtrack) can also garner attention.
Journalists and writers can use blogging tools such as WordPress, Blogger and TypePad to instantly start publishing magazines. Aspiring DJs have the option to simply hook up USB microphones and free podcast recording programs such as Audacity and create their own radio shows. Budget digital video camcorders such as those built into modern phones, coupled with YouTube and live streaming services including Twitch.tv, offer options to play online video star as well.
From fan sites to Internet gaming shows, all provide clips you can present to potential employers, and possibly even lead to jobs as a reporter, community manager or on-air TV correspondent. But to stand out, you’ll need to have a singular voice, speak loudly and have something to say that thousands of others aren’t already.
Marketers and executives lacking technical skills can always find development teams or freelancers who possess them at sites like Gamasutra, IGDA.org, GameDev.net and oDesk.com. Online vendors such as Lulu.com, CafePress, and CreateSpace can also put you in the publishing or fashion business overnight. Crowdsourced funding sites IndieGogo and Kickstarter.com even lets you present ideas to the public and request donations to get game projects off the ground.
Finally, though it’s crushingly difficult to make a viable career out of professional gaming, circuits like Major League Gaming and Virgin Gaming do reward skillful players with cash and prizes. Don’t quit your day job, however, unless you live in South Korea.
As a word to the wise, spending quality time with hundreds of games helps provide vital experience, frame of reference and an innate ability to analyze what makes successful titles so compelling. But ironically for prospective video game industry hires, with so many competing for so few coveted positions, ultimately it’s one’s willingness to work, not play that determines who gets the high score.
Expect more tips and insights soon as we report back from the floor of GDC 2014.
– Steven Alexander]]>
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Part 1: Getting Started
I did some research, looked at some projects that were working and read all the material that the Kickstarter people offer to help you prepare. I worked for a week on my pitch video and initial presentation of the project, my rewards for backers and a number of other details, such as the amount I would ask for and the project timeline. I thought I had it all figured out and was, finally and with some trepidation, ready to launch. Pushing that button was like launching myself into empty space without a parachute. I was committed. I was excited. I was terrified.
The risk we all take when we do something like Kickstarter is that people won’t respond – that we’ll fail and look foolish. Our egos are involved. Are we going to be picked for the team, or the one that everybody ignores? What do we have to do to be successful?
I knew from the start that social media would be critical, and that I would have to market the project relentlessly. I had my main media ready to go – Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In specifically. But I’m not a social media powerhouse. I have friends, but I rarely post updates. I usually can’t think of anything to say that I think other people will find interesting.
I also knew that rewards would be important, and that the most natural reward was a copy of the book, or an autographed copy. I had the problem that the books and shipping would cost me money, however so at first I limited the number of book rewards. However, my aces in the hole were meals with famous designers, such as Will Wright, Trip Hawkins, Lorne Lanning, John Romero, Peter Molyneux, Sid Meier and more – about 20 in all – each of whom had generously offered to help the project It is because of their support that I was successful, I’m sure.
Part 2: Backer Support
Day 1 was good. I got quite a few backers right away, and things were looking promising. But by Day 2, I saw that this was going to be a long haul, and that I had a lot of work to do. The project had slowed down.
Over the first week I kept putting the word out and sent a press letter to a huge list of press outlets that I had gathered. Over the subsequent weeks, I did several interviews and even wrote a couple of articles. However, what helped me immensely in those early days was the feedback from my backers. I heard from people who were major fans of the book, and many of them offered me help in improving my project.
First off, they told me that I had to give away more books, so I bit the bullet and offered unlimited book rewards and set prices at $50 for the book and $70 for an autographed copy. This helped. People like books. I also had other rewards, such as every person who donated $10 or more would have their name in the book, and people who donated $1000 or $2500 got special mentions.
The project picked up steam, and was moving forward at about $1000 per day. I still wasn’t sure if it was going to succeed, but I kept adding rewards and updating the project, listening to my backers and accepting all the help I could get. One backer even offered to produce a limited edition comic book as a low-cost reward, and many people were interested in that. I also added a T-shirt option, which people liked.
There were still very slow days when my doubts resurfaced. I watched my friend Brian Fargo make $500,000 in 17 hours with his admittedly very cool project to produce Wasteland 2. Meanwhile, I was struggling to get to $25K. I was asking myself if I had done something wrong? Why weren’t people flocking to my project?
I came to realize that each project has its own life, its own cycles and its own audience. Books on game history don’t compare with amazing games by great designers. I got over my frustration and moved on. And my project continued to move slowly, but steadily toward the goal.
Part 3: Setbacks
The project continued to move forward, but then I hit a couple of snags. First, Taito wouldn’t let me use a Space Invader image on my promotional T-shirt, so I had to scramble for a new design. That wasn’t so bad – more a disappointment than anything major.
What really shook me was discovering that my publisher was going to set the retail price of the book at $50 and was going to give me a far smaller discount on books than I had anticipated. So, once I figured my costs, for every $50 book I was offering, about $30 of it went to expenses. This immediately changed the nature of the project, and was an example of my not doing all my homework before setting prices and launching the project. I was caught by surprise, but I shouldn’t have been. This is a lesson I want to share. Be sure you know all your costs up front so you don’t get blindsided in mid-stream like I did.
I posted an update about these issues and had a lot of people blaming the publisher and putting a negative spin on things. I don’t blame the publisher. The print business is difficult and I know they are doing all they can to support this project. But I was still distressed at that time.
Then I got a message from an industry friend – the kind of friend who tells you the truth, and she told me that the negative news was a turnoff. That I needed to keep things on a positive note and to encourage people to believe in the project. She was right, and I realized that I still had a lot to learn about marketing a product or managing an event. It was a great lesson, and one gratefully accepted.
And in the end, I worked things out with the publisher, and they donated a number of books to the project – enough so that it took much of the pain away.
As the project entered its final week, two people stepped up and gave me $2500 angel/corporate donations, which turned the tide of the project and made it possible for me to meet and exceed the goal.
Part 4: Completion
I have to say that this Kickstarter project was both exhilarating and an emotional rollercoaster at the same time. I had low period when I really thought I was going to fail. It brought up a lot of personal issues. There were great times, too, when I would hear from fans of my book, telling me how much they have enjoyed the book, and in some cases, how High Score actually changes their lives for the better.
In the end, I’m really glad I took the risk and pressed that Launch button. I’m glad I found a landing spot and that I am now able to move forward on the 3rd edition of High Score. I’m extremely grateful to the people who backed the project, the people who offered their time, support and advice. Thank you all.
High Score 3: A Kickstarter Postmortem]]>
One of the most popular modern misconceptions is, “PC gaming is dead.” That statement isn’t simply untrue: it’s enough to make anyone who knows otherwise grab their hair and grit their teeth. Here are five reasons why:
PCs are a pioneer in digital game distribution — “Of course PC gaming is dead,” scoffs Joe Average. “Walk into a GameStop and tell me how many PC games you see on the shelves.”
A game’s availability at retail has always been a spotty way of determining its popularity (“Want a copy of Deadly Towers? Plenty to go around!”). Nowadays, it’s useless. Though consumers still favor retail as their means of acquiring console games, the digital market is growing rapidly. Meanwhile, PC gamers turned to the online marketplace a long time ago.
Valve launched Steam in 2003, and the service has since grown to became the premier distributor of PC games. Though you can still find PC games sold at retail, it’s simply more convenient to download them if you can spare the bandwidth. Console fans are only beginning to fall thoroughly in love with digital distribution, but PC users were married to the online market years ago.
PC’s have thrived in times when consoles were unpopular, or outright dead — The Video Game Industry Crash of 1983 (or 1984, depending on whom you ask) is a well-known event. What fewer people seem to remember, however, is that computer games remained popular while console games declined. In fact, the rise of the affordable PC was one of the major factors that contributed to the crash: clever advertisers asked parents why they were wasting money on “toys” for their kids when computers could play games and prepare them for college?
In other words, PC gaming has retained steady popularity since its conception, whereas public interest in console gaming has gone through dips and over peaks.
Many PC gamers love having the power to customize their rig — In that vein, it’s important to remember that PC gaming holds a special lure to gamers who enjoy customizing their experience on some level. The PC boom during the industry crash allowed amateur programmers to build their own games. Similarly, modern-day PC’s allow interested parties to essentially build their own computer to suit their performance tastes. Not everyone has the skill to build their own computer, and not everyone enjoys the task, but those who do find it a rewarding, enjoyable project that makes playing games on that PC all the more satisfying.
By contrast, console manufacturers discourage any sort of customization or tampering, and even tend to frown on homebrew games and apps. If you buy a console to play your games, what you take out of the box is essentially what you get. It’s uncomplicated and hassle-free, but that kind of straightforwardness isn’t enjoyed by every gamer.
PC’s are where MMOs live — Massive multiplayer online games–MMOGs–are huge. And the rise of the free-to-play market means they’re only only getting bigger. MMOs are no longer simply limited to medieval multi-player games like World of Warcraft, Ultima Online, and EverQuest. Now there are MMO games to suit every taste and genre, and the vast majority of them are exclusive to the PC. In fact, given the popularity of the free-to-play and social markets, the PC might be considered the most popular game console that’s currently in use.
PC’s are getting cheaper, which makes them serious competition for consoles — Computers, particularly desktop computers, are becoming more affordable with every passing year. Competition from sleek laptops as well as tablets, keeps PC pricing on a downward trend.
There was once a time when consoles were considered the cheap, easy alternative for people who just want to play some cool games, but with console tech becoming more complex and therefore expensive, will game systems continue to look like the more affordable choice when stacked up against a typical gaming PC? We’ll certainly find out in this coming console generation!]]>
Take, for instance, video game development. Before the advent of the internet, funding a game project required finding a publisher, which, in turn, often resulted in the developer(s) inevitably losing the rights to his or her creative property. There were business alternatives, but they were still costly and involved tremendous financial risk.
Building any kind of game project in this day and age is still a very risky undertaking, but indie devs who have a vision also have funding alternatives beyond selling everything they own and making their dog pull children in a cart for five bucks a pop. Through internet-based crowdsourcing, for instance, a project manager can gather talented people from around the world and put them to work on a single game. There has also been a sharp rise in the popularity of online pledge systems (“crowdfunding”), which typically offer rewards to participants according to the amount of money that’s donated.
Social media website SocialTimes has an article that outlines twelve excellent ways you can get crowdfunding for a game-related project (or any project, as the advice applies to the arts in general). When you’ve worked out a game plan, so to speak, consider which website will manage your pledges. Here are five notable options:
Kickstarter — Probably the most recognizable crowdfunding website to date. Project managers pledge rewards according to the amount of money raised, and Kickstarter takes donations through Amazon Payments. A target goal is set, and a deadline is chosen: if the target amount of money isn’t raised by the set date, no funds are collected.
Each project has to be approved by Kickstarter before it can launch, and the project manager must have a US bank account. Kickstarter keeps 5% of the funds raised, and Amazon nabs an additional 3 to 5%, though the project manager retains ownership of the creative property that’s produced through the fundraising.
8Bit Funding — 8Bit Funding is a crowdfunding site that’s oriented towards helping indie game devs get their dreams off the ground. Though 8Bit Funding charges fees (in addition to PayPal’s automatic fees), it aims to help developers get the money they need without having to deal with banks and investors.
8Bit Funding also encourages people with game-related projects to apply for crowdfunding, including ladies and gentlemen with aspirations towards opening up game stores and cafes.
RocketHub — RocketHub is another crowdfunding option, but with a difference: even if a project manager doesn’t reach his or her monetary goal by the set deadline, he or she is able to keep the money that’s been raised.
IndieGoGo — IndieGoGo likewise collects pledges via crowdfunding, and is, according to its creator Slava Rubin, “about allowing anyone to raise money for any idea.” IndieGoGo is one of the earliest crowdfunding websites on the internet, to date, it has helped raise millions of dollars across 60,000 campaigns. FYI, this is also where the Angry Video Game Nerd, the Internet’s premiere Nintendo loving/hating celebrity, is raising the money he needs to produce his independent movie.
Threadless — Threadless is an internet T-shirt retailer that can help you initiate your crowdfunding project with a creative spin. If you can design a T-shirt that’s clever and also related to your project, it might be selected to sell on Threadless’ online store. You’ll manage to pique interest in your work, and you’ll also net a cool $2,000 that will surely help with some of your development costs.]]>
Angry Birds — This one’s a given. Rovio’s Angry Birds is a physics-based phenomenon that challenges players to fling birds of various shapes and sizes into rickety structures populated by pigs (no, seriously). It’s a fun and charming game, and Rovio is always on top of adding new content. It’s also an educational game: if you don’t think out your shots before launch, you’re going to fail. When that happens, you’ll have to endure some very smug smiles from some very self-satisfied pigs.
DragonVale — Lots of free-to-play iPhone games let you run amusement parks, but only DragonVale lets you run a park where the main attractions are of the fire-breathing variety. Not only does DragonVale task you with building a magical tourist attraction, but you’re also expected to breed rare hybrid dragons that will bring in the visitors.
Fruit Ninja — Fruit Ninja is a simple but insanely addictive game that pits you against reams of succulent fruit. How many melons, apples, kiwis and bananas can you slice in a given time period? Test your reflexes, and try not to drool on the screen.
Doodle Jump — Another simple but addictive game, Doodle Jump is one of the App Store’s best-sellers. Using the iPhone’s gyro sensor, you must guide the ascent of the game’s main fellow, who has one heck of a spring in his step. Perilous platforms and enemies await.
Bookworm — Bookworm is a great vocabulary-building game for anyone, but will especially fly with kids aged nine through 12. You use a letter grid to select blocks that spell out words and earn you points–but if you don’t do something about the burning blocks before they hit the bottom of the screen, you’ll end up with a cartoony interpretation of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.
Pocket Frogs — Pocket Frogs is a game about the care and breeding of many, many pretty frogs. It’s far more fulfilling than it sounds, and teaches a fun and easy lesson about genetic selection. You can literally spend hours in your attempt to–ahem–catch ’em all.
Tiny Tower — Build a tower to the sky, manage your tenants, keep their businesses stocked, and keep tabs on your “Bitizens” by nosing in on the entries they’ve posted on their Bitbooks. Tiny Tower isn’t the most accurate simulation on the App Store, but it’s definitely one of the busiest and most charistmatic.
Minecraft PE (Pocket Edition) — Minecraft is an indie title that’s taking the gaming world by storm, and for good reason. It’s indescribably fun, and exercises your inborn god complex. Imagine having all the Lego bricks you could possibly want to build with–and imagine having the entire world as your building base. That’s Minecraft.
Pocket God — If Minecraft PE still leaves behind an itch to rule, consider Pocket God. Pocket God lets you rule over an island civilization, and leaves it up to you whether or not you’ll be a happy god or a vengeful god.
The Moron Test — Everybody loves to try and prove that they’re as smart as a whip–but all it takes is a tricky trivia app to put you in your place. The Moron Test is a tongue-in-cheek game that forces users to come at its plethora of problems with an open mind. Proving your intelligence is not as easy as it initially seems.
(Special Thanks: Best Kids Apps)
Cut the Rope HD — Cut the Rope is a physics-based puzzle game that challenges kids to feed an adorable monster lots of candy. The candy, however, is bound up in ropes that must be cut at just the right angle for the deliciousness to drop/swing/rise into the monster’s mouth. There are also plenty of traps that are waiting to steal or smash the candy, and make the monster sad. It’s inadvisable to make monsters sad.
Playtime Theater — Playtime Theater is an App that lets kids set up and “stage” their own puppet show. The App is pre-loaded with sets, sound effects, characters, and costumes. Shows can be recorded, then shared.
Pac-Man for iPad — Wakka wakka. Pac-Man for iPad is pretty much what it sounds like. The arcade classic is just as appealing today as it was in the ’80s, and any player of any age will fall helplessly in love with its simple concept. Moreover, playing the game on an iPad is a bit more clean and pleasant than lugging around an arcade cabinet that’s been scarred by cigarette burns.
Scrabble for iPad — One major advantage the iPad has over the iPhone and iPod Touch is that its big screen makes it the ideal place for electronic replicas of board games. That goes double for Scrabble, which has found a huge audience on the iPad thanks to the convenience of a “game board” that won’t leak little wooden tiles everywhere. It’s perfect for the car, and the ability to challenge friends via a Facebook connection makes it a winner at home, too.
X Plane 9 — Kids fall in love with planes as easily as rabbits fall in love with each other. X Plane 9 is a flight simulator that’s must-have for kids who aspire to be pilots. Using the iPad, X Plane 9 lets the player fly through every imaginable sort of weather condition, including storms, blizzards, turbulence, and even nice, sunny days. The game may be a bit complex for younger children, but those who desire to be in the sky will take to it immediately.
Kid Art — Kid Art was formulated with the younger iPad user in mind, but it’s still a pleasingly in-depth paint program. Kids can draw freely, or they can doodle on themed backgrounds. Drawings can be saved and shared, and most importantly, even the youngest child can use the app with a minimum of parental intervention.
Glow Hockey 2 — The iPad is the go-to platform for simulated air hockey games. Cool-looking titles like Glow Hockey 2 are as good as it gets when a real table isn’t in range. Heck, the simulated experience may even be better: for one thing, the puck won’t jump from the surface and smash anyone’s knuckles. For another, kids can play Glow Hockey 2 against the computer if a friend isn’t within easy reach.
Star Walk — Star Walk is a wonderful App that unfurls a real-time display of stars and constellations on your iPad. Kids can also discover what time the sun and moon will rise and set, and they can look up all manner of planets and heavenly bodies in the App’s star atlas. City-dwellers who have their view of the stars obstructed by light pollution will find it especially compelling, but Star Walk is an overall good choice for any kid who thinks that stars are “a bunch of fireflies that flew too high and got caught in that black, inky stuff.”
Touch Pets Dogs 2 — Touch Pets Dogs 2 is a pet simulator that lets kids feed, play with, and groom their very own dog. Alternatively, they can make the dog perform tricks and wear crazy-looking accessories. A virtual dog will take it; a real dog would run away from home and change his name.
Chuzzle — Chuzzle is another Match-3 winner from PopCap Games. The game plays similarly to Bejeweled, but kids match up little furball creatures called “Chuzzles” instead of jewels. Even the best puzzle game can be improved with sentient Koosh balls.]]>
On the flipside, there’s no guy in a suit poking at the developers and saying, “Hey. Hey. This game needs more birds. Kids these days like birds. Put in lots and lots of birds.” That’s why indie games generally turn over some of the most creative and compelling ideas in the industry. That’s also why we feel that we ought to make note of ten of the best independent games of all time.
Super Meat Boy (XBLA, PC, Linux, MacOSX) — With its reliance on super-precise jumps around meat-ripping traps, Super Meat Boy offers up some of the most hardcore platforming challenges that a retro games enthusiast could ask for. It began life as a humble Flash game, and has since spread out to several online markets. If Super Meat Boy‘s challenge doesn’t sell you, consider that it’s the only game on the market wherein the hero makes a distinct, slightly nauseating “squish squish squish” sound with every step he takes.
fl0w (PC, PSN) — fl0w is a charmer of a game. You guide a multi-segmented creature through waters that are rich with cellular life. Your creature grows as you consume smaller critters, and it can also descend down into deeper planes. Though there are several struggles for survival against other multi-celled organisms, fl0w is one of the most calming video games you can possibly experience. Evolution has never been so peaceful. Though a graphically-enhanced remake of fl0w is available on the PlayStation Network, the original Flash version was a school project by two programmers, Jenova Chen and Nicholas Clark.
Another World/Out of This World (PC, iOS, Windows Mobile) — Another World is a dark, atmospheric, and highly unforgiving adventure game that was designed and programmed by developer Eric Chahi. The game was originally released in the Amiga in 1991, though it gained a wider audience in North America (where it was marketed as Out of This World) when it was retooled for the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis. Currently, Another World is one of the most widely-distributed indie games available–and is as worthy of your attention now as it was in 1991.
Braid (XBLA, PSN, PC, Linux, MacOSX) — Braid is a platforming game that’s about a hero rescuing a princess–or is it? There’s more to Braid than meets the eyes, especially as far as story and gameplay are concerned. As you play through dozens of unique levels that combine running and jumping with puzzle-solving, you can pause and scribble down some theories as to what each object in the game represents on a metaphorical level. Try it with your friends!
Bit.Trip Beat (WiiWare, iOS, PC, MacOSX, Nintendo 3DS) — Bit.Trip Beat combines the simple yet maddeningly addictive gameplay of an old Atari game with the irresistible rhythm and beat of some expertly-composed chiptunes. Your mission is to bounce back projectiles, Pong-style, to the tick of the music.
Dwarf Fortress (PC, Mac OSX, Linux) — Dwarf Fortress mixes roguelike-inspired gameplay, city-building, and simple graphics for an exceptionally deep gaming experience that is not for the faint of heart. This is a game that has no qualms about sending you back to “Go” for a single mistake, therefore reducing everything you’ve built up into a fine dwarf-flavored powder. A more casual player might want to dive in with Dwarf Fortress’s “Adventure” mode, which tasks you with chopping up the local wildlife.
Trine (PSN, Windows, Mac OSX, Linux) — Trine is a side-scrolling platforming/puzzle game that’s set in a medieval world. You take control of three separate characters–a thief, a knight, and a wizard (walk into a bar)–and switch between the three to solve puzzles and complete levels. If you have some pals at hand, they can join in, take control of a character, and help you out. Trine looks good, plays well, and has received critical acclaim throughout the indie game community.
Limbo (XBLA, PSN, PC, Mac OSX) — Limbo is another puzzle/platforming game, but with a creepy aesthetic twist. Limbo offers you a desolate landscape that’s washed out in shades of grey and black, leaving even the nameless protagonist a seemingly soulless silhouette. Meanwhile, enemies move with shuddering realism; when you first encounter the recurring spider “boss,” the hair on the back of your neck will surely prickle.
Minecraft (PC, iOS, Android) — Minecraft is the hottest thing to hit the indie game scene in a long time, and you only need to play it for a few minutes to understand why it’s captured the hearts, minds, and precious spare minutes of gamers worldwide. Minecraft is a simple-looking sandbox game that goes on, on, and on. You are given a world that you can shape to your liking, and you can live alone as a hermit, or among friends on a multiplayer server. In Survival Mode, players must build up their defenses and survive attacks by zombies and skeletons.
Cave Story (WiiWare, DSiWare, PC, Mac OSX, Linux) — Cave Story is often the first name that is dropped in a discussion about the best independent games ever made. The original incarnation of the game was put together by one man, Daisuke “Pixel” Amaya, who programmed and polished the game for five years. The end result is a platformer that recalls the style and challenge of old NES games like Metroid and Mega Man, but is thoroughly its own adventure–with some pretty sweet chiptune music, to boot.]]>
Oh, but we jest. Even so, the decision to school yourself in game design is a serious one. Though many successful developers break into the industry with little or no schooling at all, it’s never a bad idea to have a bit of education behind your dreams and ambitions. That’s why it’s important to research your prospects before throwing a lot of money at them, especially if said prospects run out of one room on top of a Taco Bell.
First, you should as yourself: “What do I specifically want to do with games? What do I want to specialize in?” The complexity of modern games, especially triple-A titles, means staff rosters that number in the hundreds. Most game projects require artists, sound designers, programmers, debuggers, testers, people who can fetch the coffee, and a whole lot more. While many game design schools will focus on one aspect of game development and touch on the others, any game school that promises to teach you everything in six months is probably doing it wrong.
AllArtSchools.com has an excellent guide that breaks down the types of questions you should be asking yourself about your schooling prospects. What facilities and tech will you have access to? What kind of experience does the faculty have? Are you willing to relocate for the sake of your degree?
To help you research your options, here are five game design schools that come recommended by developers, game sites and game magazines, including the late, great GamePro.com.
Academy of Interactive Entertainment (Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Seattle) — Founded in Australia in 1996, the Academy of Interactive Entertainment (AIE) is one of the oldest players in the game, so to speak. It also remains one of the most prominent, with programs in both 3D animation and software development. AIE has since opened up a campus in Seattle, which gives Americans a chance to study games under veteran staff.
Digipen (Redmond, Singapore, Bilbao) — Digipen has served as a beacon for aspiring game developers since 1988. It’s also the most recognized name in a growing roster of game development schools. Digipen has had time to develop a curriculum that surrounds a multitude of topics related to the assembly of video games, including some very intense programming courses.
Art Institute of Vancouver (Vancouver) — Interested in the Game Art & Design course offered at the Art Institute of Vancouver? Gamasutra has interviewed former attendees whose insight will help you live “a day in the life” of a GA&D student.
The Guildhall at Southern Methodist University (Dallas) — The Guildhall at Southern Methodist University (SMU) boasts Game Development Education that was founded by industry icons, and courses that start with the basics–namely, 2D game design and animation. If you make it to the end of the course, you might unlock a riveting graduation speech by the likes of Gabe Newell or Richard (Lord British) Garriott.
Worcester Polytechnic Institute (Worcester) — Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) is one of North America’s first technological universities. Not surprisingly, it’s also a nesting ground for an award-winning undergraduate game development course. Worcester’s Interactive Media & Game Development program was founded on the idea that video games aren’t simply entertaining, but that learning how to make them can help solve real-world issues as well.]]>
While nobody can predict the future, we can comfortably assume that the iPhone will continue to evolve and mature as a handheld gaming system. Here are a handful of iOS games that we anticipate will be among the best plays in the coming year.
Eufloria: Eufloria is a unique real-time strategy game that has already made a splash on the PC and the PlayStation Network. The game’s concept is based around the Dyson tree hypothesis, which states that it may be possible to grow life-sustaining trees on asteroids. The player colonizes and conquers asteroids by planting and growing Dyson trees, which then spawn seedlings with certain attributes.
Eufloria may be a bit slow-moving for some tastes, but players with time and patience will make fast friends with this original take on the RTS genre. It should hit iOS devices in 2012, so keep an eye on the official Eufloria site for a finalized release date.
Hunters 2: Hunters 2 is another strategy game, albeit a turn-based strategy game with traditional themes like guns, gear, and merciless corporations that hold entire planets in an iron grip. Hunters 2 also looks great, and will offer a single-player campaign mode–a new feature that wasn’t present in the first Hunters. Look for Hunters 2 on iOS devices in early 2012.
Clay Jam: This Katamari-style game features a familiar concept (run over small stuff and grow, avoid big stuff or get squished), but with some interesting traits of its own, not the least of which is its charming clay-based graphics. Players make their “Pebble” bigger by running over little clay people, but risk losing it all if they mash into buildings or monsters. By drawing trenches in the game’s clay foundation, however, players can steer the Pebble’s course. We can practically smell the Plasticine. Clay Jam should be available in February of 2012.
Battlefield 3 Aftershock: The iOS has a ways to go before it can prove itself as a viable platform for first-person shooters, but EA’s feature-packed Battlefield 3 Aftershock might be solid enough to make FPS fans rethink their stance on smartphone-based shooters. According to EA, Battlefield 3 Aftershock will feature connectivity with with other versions of Battlefield 3, and will have both single and multiplayer modes. Going by the screenshots, Aftershock is already one of the best-looking games on iOS devices. The game should be out sometime in 2012.
Super Crate Box: Super Crate Box is an arcade-style shooter that’s already a hit amongst retro enthusiasts on the PC. The game’s iOS adaptation is coming on January 5 2012, and (according to its official description) hearkens back to a time when “all that really mattered was getting your name on that high score list.” Fans of pixel-based graphics and twangy Sega Genesis-style chiptunes are sure to love this one, to say nothing of those of us who are willing to spend hours on a game for the privilege of inscribing our names as “BUTT.”]]>