ravaught

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  1. Rules and Goals Rules are not only one of the fundamental components of a game, but they are also one half of the defining elements of a game, the other being goals. Rules and Goals separate games from toys. One thing that will be immediately obvious is that I did not include Fun as one of the defining elements, because, honestly, not all games will be fun. Rules are what provide the broad structure to the game while goals serve as a form of context that allows successful play to be measured. Rules are different than mechanics, though they are often confused. Rules are typically broad, generic, and are most easily analogous to principles. For example, in the game of Tag, one rule is that only one person can be 'IT' at a time, or being touched (tagged) transfers the status of 'IT' to the touched player. To illustrate the difference between a rule and mechanics, a mechanic would expressly define HOW the it player chases the other players (running after them) or HOW the tagging takes place (by touch of the hand, snatch of a flag, shot with a paintball gun, etc). Goals, on the other hand, are exactly what they sound like. They are the conditions for progression. Often times, the goals are context dependent. For example, in Tag, the goal for the player that is 'IT' is to catch any other player, while the goal for the players that are 'not it' is to avoid being tagged. Goals can often be broken up into short term and long term goals. For example, in football the immediate goal is to progress 10yds down field within 4 moves. The longer term goal is to move the ball to the end zone of the other team. The game goal is to score more points than the other team. The combination of rules and goals generally serves to define a genre of game play, while the implementation of the mechanics serves to differentiate games within the genre. For example, in the First Person Shooter genre, the overall rule is that the player will control a character from the first person perspective. No matter how the controls, view, or other interface elements and game mechanics are set up, the player will primarily play from the first person perspective, thus the rule is separate from the implementation.
  2. A craftsman is only as good as his tools, as the saying goes, and that is just as true in game design as it is in any other trade. With the prices of quality tools being what they are, it is always a pleasant surprise to find AAA quality tools for a price that is reasonable for indie development budgets.AGFPro Unity Plugins - Terrain Making Made Fun A craftsman is only as good as his tools, as the saying goes, and that is just as true in game design as it is in any other trade. With the prices of quality tools being what they are, it is always a pleasant surprise to find AAA quality tools for a price that is reasonable for indie development budgets. Fortunately for developers on a budget and hobbyist alike, Axis Game Factory has scored a major victory for the indie development scene with their new software, Axis game Factory. This wonderful tool weighs in at a very affordable $100 price tag and provides a quick and easy way to create richly detailed environments quickly and with minimum hassle, built from the ground up to work hand and hand with the Unity game engine. As an early adopter of the product, I was very surprised that making landscapes (something which I had always dreaded) was become FUN. After the initial learning curve associated with any new tool, I really had to struggle to get myself to put my mouse down and get back to work. The other aspect that was extremely interesting was the development team behind the software. The development team at Axis Game Factory consists of a very small team that is highly interactive with their audience. As a ‘grass roots’ start up that has worked in the AAA environment and subsequently scaled back down, we wanted to find out more about these remarkable developers and the product they were providing, so we reached out to Tammy McDonald, the business face of Axis Game Factory to see if they could give us some insight from both the AAA and indie perspective regarding working in the game industry. Aside from yourself and Matt McDonald, who are the key contributors at Axis Game Factory, LLC and what are their roles in the company? When we started development on Axis Game Factory, we realized this was not going to be a typical project. It required Matt and our lead programmer, Luke, to spend countless hours working side-by-side to implement features and functionality that would not only create a stand alone toolset, which would allow users to rapidly create levels and maps, but be flexible enough to continue to add features and attributes that will take the software in many directions. Because Axis Game Factory’s AGFPRO is a culmination of features and functionality that were derived through Matt’s 25 plus years as a creative in the games space, our core team consisted of Matt, Luke and I. We have also brought industry veteran game programmer, Jim Buck, in to contribute to future builds, DLC and the addition of the Workshop for Steam. Beyond that, we have a few additional team members that contribute to customer support, creating curriculum for schools, as well as marketing, distribution, and team members working on additional players, assets, and product features. On your website, you mention that you have intentionally kept your team small. How has that impacted your business and development process? At the end of 2012, we made a conscience decision to change the course of our business. Since starting our own game development studio in 1997, we have gone from growing the studio with 125 developers in San Diego studio, and an outsourcing team in China and India that at one time exceed 300, to bringing our current studio down to a handful of key team members. The games industry ebbs and flows and if you aren’t changing with it, you get swept away. We knew that AGF would take time to develop and we self-funded this new entity, so we had to keep it small and take our time until it was ready to publish. Indie game developers often end up working in unique environments in terms of staffing and the relationships between the team members. How has working a start-up as a husband and wife team impacted your company? Do you think it has benefited the operation overall? Has it presented any challenges that you normally would not find in a traditional environment? This is an interesting question… As you can imagine, there are many challenges that every company may face. We have always been independent, have never taken on investors and have had to wear many “hats” in order to keep things moving forward. Being a husband and wife “team” has had it’s challenges, but for the most part, Matt and I have very different areas of focus in the business; he is the creative mind behind everything we do and I am in charge of the business and all that it entails. There are times when we butt-heads, but we usually find a way to work through things, and if we can’t agree, we go back to rule #1, “Tammy’s always right” . Throughout the years of growing our development studio(s), we have raised our three boys, Tyler – 16, Gage – 13, and Gavin – 8 and have had great flexibility being present for them and they have grown up around game development. They are a part of what we do and the software we create as testers, giving feedback and design suggestions and moderating forums. Your company does business under the Vision-Scape Interactive umbrella, and has been a part of some really notable games and franchises such as SOE’s Everquest franchise and SCEA’s PSN network Playstation Home. In fact, you seem to have a long line of experience working with Sony in general having worked on numerous titles for them. Can you briefly describe your experience working with Sony, and is there any advice you might give to indie developers looking to move into work with Sony or other major publishers? When we first launched our studio in 1997, we incorporated as Vision Scape Interactive, Inc. and started working with Sony’s 989 Studios contributing to many notable titles that included Jet Moto 3 and Twisted Metal 3 & 4 amongst others. We later began work for SOE and contributed to several iterations on the EverQuest MMO that ranged from character development, to up-res’ing 17,000 + textures and publishing an EverQuest “Maps” book, we were like their local “outsourcing” team. All of our early work with SOE and SCEA was work-for-hire and helped us grow our studio into making next-gen titles with partners that included Microsoft, THQ, Sega, EA, Disney, Activision, TDK and others. Looking back, it is safe to say we have worked with every major publisher with the exception of Nintendo. We have had our ups and downs working with SOE and SCEA… I think the earlier work was pretty straight-forward, we would scope the work, if there were any major change-orders, they always worked it out with us and were fair. As for SCEA’s PlayStation Home, it’s been a different story… while we were one of the first developer/publishers to the platform; it was difficult to sell the concept of “Home” to other 3rd Party Publishers unless they had a previous commitment with Sony to do so. We did quite a bit of work-for-hire projects directly for the SCEA Home team, but most of the concepts and projects came from sales and marketing campaigns and lacked a clear understanding of their SKD and limitations of the platform. We did butt heads a few times, but in the end, we enjoyed working with their team and hope that the platform continues in one form or another as things transition between PS3 and PS4. As for advice to indie developers, I would suggest that if they have the ability to self-publish and launch on Steam, go for it! Steam is an amazing platform with over 75 million users and the community is pretty supportive and helpful. If you have a hit on your hands, publishers will start courting you and then it’s up to you to make a decision if you want to sell out or stay independent. The games industry has changed so much, back when we started our studio, we had to make demo after demo and go on road shows with our agents and pitch to publishers. We had a big studio and mouths to feed, with an overhead of over $600k a month in 2002, we couldn’t afford to make mistakes or take a risky deal. When you have all of that weighing on your shoulders, it’s hard to stay true to what you really want to do because you have to make payroll and don’t want to let your employees down. Bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better, and we have learned that with the right mix of talented people on board, we can be more productive than a team four times our size. How has working with companies like Sony shaped your business? Has the experience changed the way you look at game development over the years? Our business as it stands today does not rely on 1st or 3rd Party Publishers, so yes, I would say that all of our past experience with publishers have led us down the path of creating our own content and establishing our own distribution channels. But it’s not so much the publishers that have changed our business, but moreover the state of the industry and the opportunities each and every one of us have as independent developers. Our end-users are independent developers, gamers, students and teachers and our software is not limited to any genre, age group, or end-user . So, Axis Game Factory, LLC, has just released a brand new landscape editing tool under the name Axis Game Factory AGFPro that can also be used with the Unity3D game engine. I was an early adopter of the software and I can say that is an absolutely wonderful tool. What led you guys to move in this direction as opposed to what seems to have been your previous focus on content creation? Again, AGFPRO has been something that Matt has always wanted to create. At the end of 2012, we made a decision to “go all in” and make Axis Game Factory a reality. He wanted to make software that could change people’s lives by giving them access to immediately begin creating environments for games that Newtek’s LightWave software did for him when he first got into the games industry. We have worked on hundreds of work-for-hire projects and while it pays the bills, it’s just that, and we wanted to create something that got us out of bed each day, excited about what we are creating and how we are helping others. We have such a great community and they love AGFPRO, they feel that creating levels and maps with the software is fun and as entertaining as actually playing a game itself. Tell us a little bit about AGF Pro. What kind of capabilities does the product have? What is the eventual scope of the tool that you are hoping to achieve with it? We made the decision to lead with a “pro” product with Axis Game Factory because we had to build out many key features before we could later simplify it as a consumer product. Today, AGFPRO is a stand-alone toolset that allows users the ability to rapidly create levels and terrain in real-time and comes with a library of content and textures to allow users to create their own levels. We have so many great features that expedite level development, if you are making a game with the Unity game engine; this is a natural product to integrate into your pipeline and will be quicker and more cost effective. We will continue to add features to AGFPRO and the Premium DLC and will also be introducing a “Yu-MAK-it” consumer product from AGFPRO that will be a simplified version of the current product. Yu-MAK-It will focus on specific game genres and game mechanics for gamers to “Build, Play and Share” their games, while making use of Steam’s extensive Workshop framework. Once our Steam Workshop is up and running for AGFPRO and Yu-MAK-it, users will be able to sell their content and maps in the Workshop, immediately monetizing on a platform with over 75 million users. How has the experience of working on content creation software differed from actually creating content? This is somewhat similar to making full game development from the engine on up, as building key tools into our games was an important element for Matt and our dev teams. Matt’s focus has always been, “how can I make it easier for the team to get content into the game quickly and efficiently” and he has carried this ideology with him in the design of Axis Game Factory. We still create content for the Warehouse in AGFPRO, but what is different about our thought process today, is that we are making it for users to add their content and share with others. I know you just recently got your Steam Greenlight, which is a really big deal in terms of product exposure and delivery. What has your experience been working with Steam, and do you think that in the future you will continue to consider them as a platform for launching a new product? We absolutely love the Steam platform! We were Green-light in just 12 days from submission, which I understand is quite an accomplishment. We have additional distribution channels but they all pale in comparison to what we have seen as far as sales and community feedback and support. We attended the first Steam Dev Days in Seattle last month and were blown away with the additional features and publisher controls that are coming down the pipe. All of our communication with our Steam rep has been top-notch and their SDK is straight-forward and easy to use. I handle all of our store page publication and announcements and set up the online account, so if I can do it, it’s pretty damn good! So you have version 1.0 out the door now. While I am sure that is a relief in its own way, where are you planning to go from here? What kind of features and upgrades can AGF Pro users look forward to seeing in the future? In the immediate future, we plan on releasing the Steam Workshop for AGFPRO and Premium users to allow them to create UGC and expand development opportunities. We will also be including a “save” feature in the base product, AGFPRO, that will allow users to save image files to re-create terrains in other programs to allow the export of image files to use in any program that uses height and splat map based terrain. This will enable users to create maps and MODS for other games as well (and can be sold in the Workshop). In addition, we plan to update the GUI design and provide a header and tool shelf to give users an option between this and the radial menu. We will update AGFPRO to allow users to import OBJ files directly into the software. Additional DLC will be offered that will include players, we have an off-road racing players, side-scroller Platformer with a ton of fun characters, and a “Hack-n-Slash” RPG player.Beyond that, there will be an update that will include new browser code to allow the importation of .WAV files and images with a display feature, new textures and assets in the warehouse to support interior environments and additional game themes. My favorite two additions on the roadmap include a character creation feature and “Scene-Linking”, where users will be able to connect start and exit points with other maps making endless gameplay for scenes and connecting with other AGFPRO & Premium users. Are the plans to focus on AGF Pro, or has the experience developing this software changed the company’s outlook for the future? We are definitely focused on Axis Game Factory and will continue to add features, game mechanics, assets and the ability for users and developers to create their own content, share it in the Steam Workshop and add MODS to their games. We have seen a solid interest from developers that are using AGFPRO for game development as well as schools adding AGFPRO to their game development curriculum. There is a VERY long list of features we will be adding and we are excited to have this as the focal point of our core business model. Thank you, Tammy, for taking the time out to talk with us, and please pass on our thanks to Matt and the rest of the staff at Axis Game Factory. As a special for our readers and indie developers, Tammy and the great people at Axis Game Factory have graciously extended a limited time 50% discount off of their Axis Game Factory software using the discount code at the bottom of the article and is available through Steam. It is truly a wonderful bit of software and can really help speed up your terrain asset creation pipeline and make the production of environments a real pleasure to work with. Happy Gaming! Get 50% off the AGFPRO 1.0 software for terrain, lighting and atmosphere development. Just use the coupon code AGFPRO50 when checking out at axisgamefactory.com. Click here to view the article
  3. Games, in many ways are still an immature medium that holds little relevance in the way that we think about current events or the news we hear day to day, despite its great potential. 9.03M, the short art/empath title from Space Budgie, has changed that.Generally when we think of video games, we think of some fun pastime; maybe our current top favorite AAA game, some trending indie title, or perhaps even a quirky little mobile app that we use to while away the minutes on a long commute. What we generally don't think about, however, are the deeper topics of life, death, family, or the most recent disaster covered on the news. Games, in many ways are still an immature medium that holds little relevance in the way that we think about current events or the news we hear day to day, despite its great potential. 9.03M, the short art/empath title from Space Budgie, has changed that for me. In its own subtle way it has moved beyond the boundary of simply being a game. More than any title we have played that lays claims to being artistic, introspective, or in some other way enlightening, this short indie title actually made me reflect on something more serious than gaming. Created as a memorial for the Tsunami victims of 9.03M(agnitude) earthquake in 2011, 9.03M reminds us that all of those people that died in the disaster are more than just numbers in a news broadcast or stats on paper. They were people, individuals, children, parents, lovers, all of which had their own lives and passions that were cut tragically short by events utterly beyond their control. A favorite toy, a nice view, holding hands on the beach; these are the type of simple experiences that make lasting impacts on us, and these are the things that this title highlights. The developers have also promised to donate half of the proceeds from this title to the Aid For Japan charity for children orphaned by the disaster. One of the most interesting things about the game is the way that it approached the topic. Instead of showing some scene from Japan, the game takes place on an empty stretch of beach in California. The player is being led from point to point around the beach, coming across items that have washed up that belonged to one or more of the victims of the tsunami. This fresh approach manages to capture some of the sadness of the event without being too over the top or in-your-face about it. It is as if you are simply finding pieces of these people’s lives, and wondering about the individuals that they belonged to. Who are they? Are they still alive? What's their story? We think this, more than anything is what sets this title apart. It doesn't tell the story, as most games do, but rather invites the player to be curious about what the story might be and starts them down the path of imagining the victims as individuals instead of faceless numbers. Despite the artistic and emotional merits of the title, it’s extremely simplistic; it's short, completely devoid of gameplay, and sports a 50 Shades of Blue art style that falls flat on its face. In fact, we are hesitant to even classify it as a game as opposed to a more generic term like interactive media or interactive art. Yet, for some reason these things that we normally value when analyzing games don't seem to matter at all for this title. The experience is subtle, touching, and personal. The real gift it gives the player is in drawing out an emotionally somber experience that makes the player reflect on how precious the small things in life really are, and, for us at least, we think this is something the world definitely do with a little more of. We would highly recommend this game, and at a price tag of only $2, half of which goes to charity, it is worth every penny. Click here to view the article
  4. Game Development Game development differs from game design in a very critical way. Game Development is the process of implementing the design in such a way as to produce either a prototype or finished product for deployment. It requires a broad range of disciplines, such as programming, graphics design, story boarding, scripting, etc. In short, game development actually covers the entire process from start to finish, including the actual design process. However, because of its scope, it is not practical to use the term to refer to any individual aspect of the development process. Historically, there has been little differentiation between game design, game development, and game production. This has led to a lot of confusing conversations where they were used inter-changeably to refer to different aspects of game development. The process of game development has two basic ideologies. The first is similar to the waterfall method of programming, where almost all of the goals and design happen up front and then the rest of the development process is spent implementing them into a finished product. This type of methodology is heavy on paperwork, heavy on assumptions as to what will be 'fun', and notorious for producing buggy, un-fun games. The second method of development falls in line with the concept of agile development, where a basic framework concept is developed up front, and the rest of the game is designed and developed side by side in an iterative process. There are couple of major advantages to this method. First, as changes are made, they can be tested for their 'fun' factor immediately, and scrapped before too much development time or money has been wasted on them. Second, the games mechanics and code tend to be more robust, more intuitive, and flow more naturally throughout the finished product with fewer bugs or flaky game systems.
  5. Tags: Game Design, Design Game Design - Game design is the process of taking a raw idea for a game and giving it structure, balance, and aesthetic appeal. The structure of the game comes in the form of rules and progression, while the balance tends to come from the more detailed mechanics. Aesthetic appeal comes from a combination of art and music style, story-line, character design, controls, and essentially anything else that falls outside of the core rules, mechanics, and progression. In recent years, the field of Gamification as gained popularity, allowing game design principals to be applied to a wide range of real world issues such as market retention, employee engagement, medicine, and even education. One common mistake is using Game Design interchangeably with Game Development. Where Game Design deals primarily with the formation and codification of the structure, balance, and aesthetic appeal, Game Development is the implementation aspect where these concepts are turned into code, artwork, and other components of the final game product. This is similar to the distinction made between an architect and builder, or between a playwright and a theater troop. They are co-dependent but work on entirely different aspects of the product. The second common mistake is to confuse Level Design with Game Design. While there is a lot of bleed over between the two disciplines, Level Design tends to be much more focused on a single area and the methods and best practices for using architecture, lighting, audio, artificial intelligence, and other game flow principals to create an individual and unique play space in which the game can occur. It is also worth noting that many, especially in the indie development community, may perform any or all of these tasks at different points, but that does not prevent them from being separate and distinct disciplines. Game Designs are often codified into a Game Design Document (GDD) that serves as a living document for the development team throughout the development process. These documents will generally contain all of the raw information for the game that is needed by the various departments in order to implement the design. However, there is some disagreement within the development community over the long term usefulness of these documents in new agile development methodologies. Examples: Topics Covered in a GDD, Game Design Pitfalls, Game Design Process Cross-references: Game Development, Game Design Documents, Agile Development, Iterative Development, Rules, Mechanics, Aesthetics, Balance, Progression, Reference articles: Game Design Disciplines Game Career Guide Triadic Game Design
  6. The Language of Game Design & Development The Purpose Language is a tricky thing, and it is getting trickier by the day as new words, meanings, slang phrases, acronyms, and other artifacts are being introduced at a rate never before experienced. It can be really difficult for two people in the same field to sit down and have a conversation and know exactly what the other means, much less for industry insiders and outsiders. The game design, development, reporting, and player communities are in even more trouble because no one really agrees on what anything means. In order to try and foster some comprehension, unity, and improve the dialogue and feedback through non-traditional channels, IGS is attempting to compile a sort of Game Design and Development Dictionary. While one of the major goals is to clarify and foster communication and writing terminology into something consistent, a secondary goal is in the education of anyone interested in game design and development. We think that this is a great opportunity for players, readers, writers, and developers to come together and teach each other in a way that benefits everyone. Formatting For the sake of clarity and ease of use, we would like to get some quick feedback/proposals for the format for entries. My personal suggestion is along these lines: Tags: Word/phrase being discussed, possible abbreviations, genre Word or Phrase (Abbreviation) - Definition/Description Hyper-linked examples Hyper-linked cross-references Hyper-linked reference articles
  7. I am still on the fence with unreal. Even though the engine is robust and there are some really great tools for it, I am not keen on the Kismet system and their scripting language is proprietary, which to me is a major failing and one of the strongest selling points of Unity.
  8. AGFPro Unity Plugins - Terrain Making Made Fun A craftsman is only as good as his tools, as the saying goes, and that is just as true in game design as it is in any other trade. With the prices of quality tools being what they are, it is always a pleasant surprise to find AAA quality tools for a price that is reasonable for indie development budgets. Fortunately for developers on a budget and hobbyist alike, HeavyWaterH20 has scored a major victory for the indie development scene with their new software, Axis game Factory. This wonderful tool weighs in at a very affordable $100 price tag and provides a quick and easy way to create richly detailed environments quickly and with minimum hassle, built from the ground up to work hand and hand with the Unity game engine. As an early adopter of the product, I was very surprised that making landscapes (something which I had always dreaded) was become FUN. After the initial learning curve associated with any new tool, I really had to struggle to get myself to put my mouse down and get back to work. The other aspect that was extremely interesting was the development team behind the software. The development team at HeavyWaterH20 consists of a very small team that is highly interactive with their audience. As a ‘grass roots’ start up that has worked in the AAA environment and subsequently scaled back down, we wanted to find out more about these remarkable developers and the product they were providing, so we reached out to Tammy McDonald, the business face of HeavyWaterH20 to see if they could give us some insight from both the AAA and indie perspective regarding working in the game industry. Aside from yourself and Matt McDonald, who are the key contributors at Axis Game Factory, LLC and what are their roles in the company? When we started development on Axis Game Factory, we realized this was not going to be a typical project. It required Matt and our lead programmer, Luke, to spend countless hours working side-by-side to implement features and functionality that would not only create a stand alone toolset, which would allow users to rapidly create levels and maps, but be flexible enough to continue to add features and attributes that will take the software in many directions. Because Axis Game Factory’s AGFPRO is a culmination of features and functionality that were derived through Matt’s 25 plus years as a creative in the games space, our core team consisted of Matt, Luke and I. We have also brought industry veteran game programmer, Jim Buck, in to contribute to future builds, DLC and the addition of the Workshop for Steam. Beyond that, we have a few additional team members that contribute to customer support, creating curriculum for schools, as well as marketing, distribution, and team members working on additional players, assets, and product features. On your website, you mention that you have intentionally kept your team small. How has that impacted your business and development process? At the end of 2012, we made a conscience decision to change the course of our business. Since starting our own game development studio in 1997, we have gone from growing the studio with 125 developers in San Diego studio, and an outsourcing team in China and India that at one time exceed 300, to bringing our current studio down to a handful of key team members. The games industry ebbs and flows and if you aren’t changing with it, you get swept away. We knew that AGF would take time to develop and we self-funded this new entity, so we had to keep it small and take our time until it was ready to publish. Indie game developers often end up working in unique environments in terms of staffing and the relationships between the team members. How has working a start-up as a husband and wife team impacted your company? Do you think it has benefited the operation overall? Has it presented any challenges that you normally would not find in a traditional environment? This is an interesting question… As you can imagine, there are many challenges that every company may face. We have always been independent, have never taken on investors and have had to wear many “hats” in order to keep things moving forward. Being a husband and wife “team” has had it’s challenges, but for the most part, Matt and I have very different areas of focus in the business; he is the creative mind behind everything we do and I am in charge of the business and all that it entails. There are times when we butt-heads, but we usually find a way to work through things, and if we can’t agree, we go back to rule #1, “Tammy’s always right” . Throughout the years of growing our development studio(s), we have raised our three boys, Tyler – 16, Gage – 13, and Gavin – 8 and have had great flexibility being present for them and they have grown up around game development. They are a part of what we do and the software we create as testers, giving feedback and design suggestions and moderating forums. Your company does business under the Vision-Scape Interactive umbrella, and has been a part of some really notable games and franchises such as SOE’s Everquest franchise and SCEA’s PSN network Playstation Home. In fact, you seem to have a long line of experience working with Sony in general having worked on numerous titles for them. Can you briefly describe your experience working with Sony, and is there any advice you might give to indie developers looking to move into work with Sony or other major publishers? When we first launched our studio in 1997, we incorporated as Vision Scape Interactive, Inc. and started working with Sony’s 989 Studios contributing to many notable titles that included Jet Moto 3 and Twisted Metal 3 & 4 amongst others. We later began work for SOE and contributed to several iterations on the EverQuest MMO that ranged from character development, to up-res’ing 17,000 + textures and publishing an EverQuest “Maps” book, we were like their local “outsourcing” team. All of our early work with SOE and SCEA was work-for-hire and helped us grow our studio into making next-gen titles with partners that included Microsoft, THQ, Sega, EA, Disney, Activision, TDK and others. Looking back, it is safe to say we have worked with every major publisher with the exception of Nintendo. We have had our ups and downs working with SOE and SCEA… I think the earlier work was pretty straight-forward, we would scope the work, if there were any major change-orders, they always worked it out with us and were fair. As for SCEA’s PlayStation Home, it’s been a different story… while we were one of the first developer/publishers to the platform; it was difficult to sell the concept of “Home” to other 3rd Party Publishers unless they had a previous commitment with Sony to do so. We did quite a bit of work-for-hire projects directly for the SCEA Home team, but most of the concepts and projects came from sales and marketing campaigns and lacked a clear understanding of their SKD and limitations of the platform. We did butt heads a few times, but in the end, we enjoyed working with their team and hope that the platform continues in one form or another as things transition between PS3 and PS4. As for advice to indie developers, I would suggest that if they have the ability to self-publish and launch on Steam, go for it! Steam is an amazing platform with over 75 million users and the community is pretty supportive and helpful. If you have a hit on your hands, publishers will start courting you and then it’s up to you to make a decision if you want to sell out or stay independent. The games industry has changed so much, back when we started our studio, we had to make demo after demo and go on road shows with our agents and pitch to publishers. We had a big studio and mouths to feed, with an overhead of over $600k a month in 2002, we couldn’t afford to make mistakes or take a risky deal. When you have all of that weighing on your shoulders, it’s hard to stay true to what you really want to do because you have to make payroll and don’t want to let your employees down. Bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better, and we have learned that with the right mix of talented people on board, we can be more productive than a team four times our size. How has working with companies like Sony shaped your business? Has the experience changed the way you look at game development over the years? Our business as it stands today does not rely on 1st or 3rd Party Publishers, so yes, I would say that all of our past experience with publishers have led us down the path of creating our own content and establishing our own distribution channels. But it’s not so much the publishers that have changed our business, but moreover the state of the industry and the opportunities each and every one of us have as independent developers. Our end-users are independent developers, gamers, students and teachers and our software is not limited to any genre, age group, or end-user . So, Axis Game Factory, LLC, has just released a brand new landscape editing tool under the name Axis Game Factory AGFPro that can also be used with the Unity3D game engine. I was an early adopter of the software and I can say that is an absolutely wonderful tool. What led you guys to move in this direction as opposed to what seems to have been your previous focus on content creation? Again, AGFPRO has been something that Matt has always wanted to create. At the end of 2012, we made a decision to “go all in” and make Axis Game Factory a reality. He wanted to make software that could change people’s lives by giving them access to immediately begin creating environments for games that Newtek’s LightWave software did for him when he first got into the games industry. We have worked on hundreds of work-for-hire projects and while it pays the bills, it’s just that, and we wanted to create something that got us out of bed each day, excited about what we are creating and how we are helping others. We have such a great community and they love AGFPRO, they feel that creating levels and maps with the software is fun and as entertaining as actually playing a game itself. Tell us a little bit about AGF Pro. What kind of capabilities does the product have? What is the eventual scope of the tool that you are hoping to achieve with it? We made the decision to lead with a “pro” product with Axis Game Factory because we had to build out many key features before we could later simplify it as a consumer product. Today, AGFPRO is a stand-alone toolset that allows users the ability to rapidly create levels and terrain in real-time and comes with a library of content and textures to allow users to create their own levels. We have so many great features that expedite level development, if you are making a game with the Unity game engine; this is a natural product to integrate into your pipeline and will be quicker and more cost effective. We will continue to add features to AGFPRO and the Premium DLC and will also be introducing a “Yu-MAK-it” consumer product from AGFPRO that will be a simplified version of the current product. Yu-MAK-It will focus on specific game genres and game mechanics for gamers to “Build, Play and Share” their games, while making use of Steam’s extensive Workshop framework. Once our Steam Workshop is up and running for AGFPRO and Yu-MAK-it, users will be able to sell their content and maps in the Workshop, immediately monetizing on a platform with over 75 million users. How has the experience of working on content creation software differed from actually creating content? This is somewhat similar to making full game development from the engine on up, as building key tools into our games was an important element for Matt and our dev teams. Matt’s focus has always been, “how can I make it easier for the team to get content into the game quickly and efficiently” and he has carried this ideology with him in the design of Axis Game Factory. We still create content for the Warehouse in AGFPRO, but what is different about our thought process today, is that we are making it for users to add their content and share with others. I know you just recently got your Steam Greenlight, which is a really big deal in terms of product exposure and delivery. What has your experience been working with Steam, and do you think that in the future you will continue to consider them as a platform for launching a new product? We absolutely love the Steam platform! We were Green-light in just 12 days from submission, which I understand is quite an accomplishment. We have additional distribution channels but they all pale in comparison to what we have seen as far as sales and community feedback and support. We attended the first Steam Dev Days in Seattle last month and were blown away with the additional features and publisher controls that are coming down the pipe. All of our communication with our Steam rep has been top-notch and their SDK is straight-forward and easy to use. I handle all of our store page publication and announcements and set up the online account, so if I can do it, it’s pretty damn good! So you have version 1.0 out the door now. While I am sure that is a relief in its own way, where are you planning to go from here? What kind of features and upgrades can AGF Pro users look forward to seeing in the future? In the immediate future, we plan on releasing the Steam Workshop for AGFPRO and Premium users to allow them to create UGC and expand development opportunities. We will also be including a “save” feature in the base product, AGFPRO, that will allow users to save image files to re-create terrains in other programs to allow the export of image files to use in any program that uses height and splat map based terrain. This will enable users to create maps and MODS for other games as well (and can be sold in the Workshop). In addition, we plan to update the GUI design and provide a header and tool shelf to give users an option between this and the radial menu. We will update AGFPRO to allow users to import OBJ files directly into the software. Additional DLC will be offered that will include players, we have an off-road racing players, side-scroller Platformer with a ton of fun characters, and a “Hack-n-Slash” RPG player.Beyond that, there will be an update that will include new browser code to allow the importation of .WAV files and images with a display feature, new textures and assets in the warehouse to support interior environments and additional game themes. My favorite two additions on the roadmap include a character creation feature and “Scene-Linking”, where users will be able to connect start and exit points with other maps making endless gameplay for scenes and connecting with other AGFPRO & Premium users. Are the plans to focus on AGF Pro, or has the experience developing this software changed the company’s outlook for the future? We are definitely focused on Axis Game Factory and will continue to add features, game mechanics, assets and the ability for users and developers to create their own content, share it in the Steam Workshop and add MODS to their games. We have seen a solid interest from developers that are using AGFPRO for game development as well as schools adding AGFPRO to their game development curriculum. There is a VERY long list of features we will be adding and we are excited to have this as the focal point of our core business model. Thank you, Tammy, for taking the time out to talk with us, and please pass on our thanks to Matt and the rest of the staff at Heavy Water H20. As a special for our readers and indie developers, Tammy and the great people at HeavyWaterH20 have graciously extended a limited time 50% discount off of their Axis Game Factory software using the discount code at the bottom of the article and is available through Steam. It is truly a wonderful bit of software and can really help speed up your terrain asset creation pipeline and make the production of environments a real pleasure to work with. Happy Gaming! This post has been promoted to an article
  9. AGFPro Unity Plugins - Terrain Making Made Fun A craftsman is only as good as his tools, as the saying goes, and that is just as true in game design as it is in any other trade. With the prices of quality tools being what they are, it is always a pleasant surprise to find AAA quality tools for a price that is reasonable for indie development budgets. Fortunately for developers on a budget and hobbyist alike, Axis Game Factory has scored a major victory for the indie development scene with their new software, Axis game Factory. This wonderful tool weighs in at a very affordable $100 price tag and provides a quick and easy way to create richly detailed environments quickly and with minimum hassle, built from the ground up to work hand and hand with the Unity game engine. As an early adopter of the product, I was very surprised that making landscapes (something which I had always dreaded) was become FUN. After the initial learning curve associated with any new tool, I really had to struggle to get myself to put my mouse down and get back to work. The other aspect that was extremely interesting was the development team behind the software. The development team at Axis Game Factory consists of a very small team that is highly interactive with their audience. As a ‘grass roots’ start up that has worked in the AAA environment and subsequently scaled back down, we wanted to find out more about these remarkable developers and the product they were providing, so we reached out to Tammy McDonald, the business face of Axis Game Factory to see if they could give us some insight from both the AAA and indie perspective regarding working in the game industry. Aside from yourself and Matt McDonald, who are the key contributors at Axis Game Factory, LLC and what are their roles in the company? When we started development on Axis Game Factory, we realized this was not going to be a typical project. It required Matt and our lead programmer, Luke, to spend countless hours working side-by-side to implement features and functionality that would not only create a stand alone toolset, which would allow users to rapidly create levels and maps, but be flexible enough to continue to add features and attributes that will take the software in many directions. Because Axis Game Factory’s AGFPRO is a culmination of features and functionality that were derived through Matt’s 25 plus years as a creative in the games space, our core team consisted of Matt, Luke and I. We have also brought industry veteran game programmer, Jim Buck, in to contribute to future builds, DLC and the addition of the Workshop for Steam. Beyond that, we have a few additional team members that contribute to customer support, creating curriculum for schools, as well as marketing, distribution, and team members working on additional players, assets, and product features. On your website, you mention that you have intentionally kept your team small. How has that impacted your business and development process? At the end of 2012, we made a conscience decision to change the course of our business. Since starting our own game development studio in 1997, we have gone from growing the studio with 125 developers in San Diego studio, and an outsourcing team in China and India that at one time exceed 300, to bringing our current studio down to a handful of key team members. The games industry ebbs and flows and if you aren’t changing with it, you get swept away. We knew that AGF would take time to develop and we self-funded this new entity, so we had to keep it small and take our time until it was ready to publish. Indie game developers often end up working in unique environments in terms of staffing and the relationships between the team members. How has working a start-up as a husband and wife team impacted your company? Do you think it has benefited the operation overall? Has it presented any challenges that you normally would not find in a traditional environment? This is an interesting question… As you can imagine, there are many challenges that every company may face. We have always been independent, have never taken on investors and have had to wear many “hats” in order to keep things moving forward. Being a husband and wife “team” has had it’s challenges, but for the most part, Matt and I have very different areas of focus in the business; he is the creative mind behind everything we do and I am in charge of the business and all that it entails. There are times when we butt-heads, but we usually find a way to work through things, and if we can’t agree, we go back to rule #1, “Tammy’s always right” . Throughout the years of growing our development studio(s), we have raised our three boys, Tyler – 16, Gage – 13, and Gavin – 8 and have had great flexibility being present for them and they have grown up around game development. They are a part of what we do and the software we create as testers, giving feedback and design suggestions and moderating forums. Your company does business under the Vision-Scape Interactive umbrella, and has been a part of some really notable games and franchises such as SOE’s Everquest franchise and SCEA’s PSN network Playstation Home. In fact, you seem to have a long line of experience working with Sony in general having worked on numerous titles for them. Can you briefly describe your experience working with Sony, and is there any advice you might give to indie developers looking to move into work with Sony or other major publishers? When we first launched our studio in 1997, we incorporated as Vision Scape Interactive, Inc. and started working with Sony’s 989 Studios contributing to many notable titles that included Jet Moto 3 and Twisted Metal 3 & 4 amongst others. We later began work for SOE and contributed to several iterations on the EverQuest MMO that ranged from character development, to up-res’ing 17,000 + textures and publishing an EverQuest “Maps” book, we were like their local “outsourcing” team. All of our early work with SOE and SCEA was work-for-hire and helped us grow our studio into making next-gen titles with partners that included Microsoft, THQ, Sega, EA, Disney, Activision, TDK and others. Looking back, it is safe to say we have worked with every major publisher with the exception of Nintendo. We have had our ups and downs working with SOE and SCEA… I think the earlier work was pretty straight-forward, we would scope the work, if there were any major change-orders, they always worked it out with us and were fair. As for SCEA’s PlayStation Home, it’s been a different story… while we were one of the first developer/publishers to the platform; it was difficult to sell the concept of “Home” to other 3rd Party Publishers unless they had a previous commitment with Sony to do so. We did quite a bit of work-for-hire projects directly for the SCEA Home team, but most of the concepts and projects came from sales and marketing campaigns and lacked a clear understanding of their SKD and limitations of the platform. We did butt heads a few times, but in the end, we enjoyed working with their team and hope that the platform continues in one form or another as things transition between PS3 and PS4. As for advice to indie developers, I would suggest that if they have the ability to self-publish and launch on Steam, go for it! Steam is an amazing platform with over 75 million users and the community is pretty supportive and helpful. If you have a hit on your hands, publishers will start courting you and then it’s up to you to make a decision if you want to sell out or stay independent. The games industry has changed so much, back when we started our studio, we had to make demo after demo and go on road shows with our agents and pitch to publishers. We had a big studio and mouths to feed, with an overhead of over $600k a month in 2002, we couldn’t afford to make mistakes or take a risky deal. When you have all of that weighing on your shoulders, it’s hard to stay true to what you really want to do because you have to make payroll and don’t want to let your employees down. Bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better, and we have learned that with the right mix of talented people on board, we can be more productive than a team four times our size. How has working with companies like Sony shaped your business? Has the experience changed the way you look at game development over the years? Our business as it stands today does not rely on 1st or 3rd Party Publishers, so yes, I would say that all of our past experience with publishers have led us down the path of creating our own content and establishing our own distribution channels. But it’s not so much the publishers that have changed our business, but moreover the state of the industry and the opportunities each and every one of us have as independent developers. Our end-users are independent developers, gamers, students and teachers and our software is not limited to any genre, age group, or end-user . So, Axis Game Factory, LLC, has just released a brand new landscape editing tool under the name Axis Game Factory AGFPro that can also be used with the Unity3D game engine. I was an early adopter of the software and I can say that is an absolutely wonderful tool. What led you guys to move in this direction as opposed to what seems to have been your previous focus on content creation? Again, AGFPRO has been something that Matt has always wanted to create. At the end of 2012, we made a decision to “go all in” and make Axis Game Factory a reality. He wanted to make software that could change people’s lives by giving them access to immediately begin creating environments for games that Newtek’s LightWave software did for him when he first got into the games industry. We have worked on hundreds of work-for-hire projects and while it pays the bills, it’s just that, and we wanted to create something that got us out of bed each day, excited about what we are creating and how we are helping others. We have such a great community and they love AGFPRO, they feel that creating levels and maps with the software is fun and as entertaining as actually playing a game itself. Tell us a little bit about AGF Pro. What kind of capabilities does the product have? What is the eventual scope of the tool that you are hoping to achieve with it? We made the decision to lead with a “pro” product with Axis Game Factory because we had to build out many key features before we could later simplify it as a consumer product. Today, AGFPRO is a stand-alone toolset that allows users the ability to rapidly create levels and terrain in real-time and comes with a library of content and textures to allow users to create their own levels. We have so many great features that expedite level development, if you are making a game with the Unity game engine; this is a natural product to integrate into your pipeline and will be quicker and more cost effective. We will continue to add features to AGFPRO and the Premium DLC and will also be introducing a “Yu-MAK-it” consumer product from AGFPRO that will be a simplified version of the current product. Yu-MAK-It will focus on specific game genres and game mechanics for gamers to “Build, Play and Share” their games, while making use of Steam’s extensive Workshop framework. Once our Steam Workshop is up and running for AGFPRO and Yu-MAK-it, users will be able to sell their content and maps in the Workshop, immediately monetizing on a platform with over 75 million users. How has the experience of working on content creation software differed from actually creating content? This is somewhat similar to making full game development from the engine on up, as building key tools into our games was an important element for Matt and our dev teams. Matt’s focus has always been, “how can I make it easier for the team to get content into the game quickly and efficiently” and he has carried this ideology with him in the design of Axis Game Factory. We still create content for the Warehouse in AGFPRO, but what is different about our thought process today, is that we are making it for users to add their content and share with others. I know you just recently got your Steam Greenlight, which is a really big deal in terms of product exposure and delivery. What has your experience been working with Steam, and do you think that in the future you will continue to consider them as a platform for launching a new product? We absolutely love the Steam platform! We were Green-light in just 12 days from submission, which I understand is quite an accomplishment. We have additional distribution channels but they all pale in comparison to what we have seen as far as sales and community feedback and support. We attended the first Steam Dev Days in Seattle last month and were blown away with the additional features and publisher controls that are coming down the pipe. All of our communication with our Steam rep has been top-notch and their SDK is straight-forward and easy to use. I handle all of our store page publication and announcements and set up the online account, so if I can do it, it’s pretty damn good! So you have version 1.0 out the door now. While I am sure that is a relief in its own way, where are you planning to go from here? What kind of features and upgrades can AGF Pro users look forward to seeing in the future? In the immediate future, we plan on releasing the Steam Workshop for AGFPRO and Premium users to allow them to create UGC and expand development opportunities. We will also be including a “save” feature in the base product, AGFPRO, that will allow users to save image files to re-create terrains in other programs to allow the export of image files to use in any program that uses height and splat map based terrain. This will enable users to create maps and MODS for other games as well (and can be sold in the Workshop). In addition, we plan to update the GUI design and provide a header and tool shelf to give users an option between this and the radial menu. We will update AGFPRO to allow users to import OBJ files directly into the software. Additional DLC will be offered that will include players, we have an off-road racing players, side-scroller Platformer with a ton of fun characters, and a “Hack-n-Slash” RPG player.Beyond that, there will be an update that will include new browser code to allow the importation of .WAV files and images with a display feature, new textures and assets in the warehouse to support interior environments and additional game themes. My favorite two additions on the roadmap include a character creation feature and “Scene-Linking”, where users will be able to connect start and exit points with other maps making endless gameplay for scenes and connecting with other AGFPRO & Premium users. Are the plans to focus on AGF Pro, or has the experience developing this software changed the company’s outlook for the future? We are definitely focused on Axis Game Factory and will continue to add features, game mechanics, assets and the ability for users and developers to create their own content, share it in the Steam Workshop and add MODS to their games. We have seen a solid interest from developers that are using AGFPRO for game development as well as schools adding AGFPRO to their game development curriculum. There is a VERY long list of features we will be adding and we are excited to have this as the focal point of our core business model. Thank you, Tammy, for taking the time out to talk with us, and please pass on our thanks to Matt and the rest of the staff at Axis Game Factory. As a special for our readers and indie developers, Tammy and the great people at Axis Game Factory have graciously extended a limited time 50% discount off of their Axis Game Factory software using the discount code at the bottom of the article and is available through Steam. It is truly a wonderful bit of software and can really help speed up your terrain asset creation pipeline and make the production of environments a real pleasure to work with. Happy Gaming! Get 50% off the AGFPRO 1.0 software for terrain, lighting and atmosphere development. Just use the coupon code AGFPRO50 when checking out at axisgamefactory.com.
  10. Generally when we think of video games, we think of some fun pastime; maybe our current top favorite AAA game, some trending indie title, or perhaps even a quirky little mobile app that we use to while away the minutes on a long commute. What we generally don't think about, however, are the deeper topics of life, death, family, or the most recent disaster covered on the news. Games, in many ways are still an immature medium that holds little relevance in the way that we think about current events or the news we hear day to day, despite its great potential. 9.03M, the short art/empath title from Space Budgie, has changed that for me. In its own subtle way it has moved beyond the boundary of simply being a game. More than any title we have played that lays claims to being artistic, introspective, or in some other way enlightening, this short indie title actually made me reflect on something more serious than gaming. Created as a memorial for the Tsunami victims of 9.03M(agnitude) earthquake in 2011, 9.03M reminds us that all of those people that died in the disaster are more than just numbers in a news broadcast or stats on paper. They were people, individuals, children, parents, lovers, all of which had their own lives and passions that were cut tragically short by events utterly beyond their control. A favorite toy, a nice view, holding hands on the beach; these are the type of simple experiences that make lasting impacts on us, and these are the things that this title highlights. The developers have also promised to donate half of the proceeds from this title to the Aid For Japan charity for children orphaned by the disaster. One of the most interesting things about the game is the way that it approached the topic. Instead of showing some scene from Japan, the game takes place on an empty stretch of beach in California. The player is being led from point to point around the beach, coming across items that have washed up that belonged to one or more of the victims of the tsunami. This fresh approach manages to capture some of the sadness of the event without being too over the top or in-your-face about it. It is as if you are simply finding pieces of these people’s lives, and wondering about the individuals that they belonged to. Who are they? Are they still alive? What's their story? We think this, more than anything is what sets this title apart. It doesn't tell the story, as most games do, but rather invites the player to be curious about what the story might be and starts them down the path of imagining the victims as individuals instead of faceless numbers. Despite the artistic and emotional merits of the title, it’s extremely simplistic; it's short, completely devoid of gameplay, and sports a 50 Shades of Blue art style that falls flat on its face. In fact, we are hesitant to even classify it as a game as opposed to a more generic term like interactive media or interactive art. Yet, for some reason these things that we normally value when analyzing games don't seem to matter at all for this title. The experience is subtle, touching, and personal. The real gift it gives the player is in drawing out an emotionally somber experience that makes the player reflect on how precious the small things in life really are, and, for us at least, we think this is something the world definitely do with a little more of. We would highly recommend this game, and at a price tag of only $2, half of which goes to charity, it is worth every penny.