Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Value of Ideas

After dedicating my adult life to a creative pursuit such as the video game industry, I am no stranger to ideas. I see everyone around me being just as inspired and imaginative as I am. These days, it is easy to see how a simple idea can quickly make a person very famous or wealthy. For the most part, I believe that this is why people see and associate tangible value in thoughts and ideas; particularly their own. In many cases, people will insist on others signing a legal agreement before they even mention their ideas to anyone. To those people, a grand idea is a rare commodity that should be protected until they are ready to show. The truth however, is that to a truly creative person, ideas are things that come and go frequently.

People are afraid to share their ideas with anyone. It has become a coveted commodity and when they finally get it, they won't let it go. As far as I'm concerned, this is stifling our creative industries.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Video Games Aren't Letting Us Learn Anymore

Do you remember your early days of playing video games? That feeling when it was your first time playing a new game and you were fully engaged with what was being presented to you. After each set of dialog or cut scene you were off to continue your adventure and you knew exactly who you were in that world. Your objective was clear whether it be save the royal heir, kill the evil wizard or push the large block out of the way. Well now those days are but a fond memory and that game is solidified as one of your most beloved games of all time. You love that game so much that every so often you revisit it in hopes to relive at least a little of the pleasure and wonder you once experienced as a kid. One day, however, you decide to show a friend. Sounds great, sharing each other's experiences is what many live for and you want to do the same. With controller in hand, your friend begins what you know to be one of the greatest adventures of their life! There's a problem though... The intro concludes and your friend says those fateful words, "So, what am I doing?"

Friday, January 24, 2014

Retora Unity Starter Package

The Global Game Jam is back for 2014! You can get off to a great start by using our Retora Starter Package. It includes many awesome things to help you get started as well as folders to organize everything.

Start a new Unity project then import this package and you are good to go!

Click here to download

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The time they pretended they were vikings, also we're back!

So... I must apologize for the gap in our writing, I've been waiting on the other two yokels, I mean co-founders, to write their own pieces for 3+ weeks. I guess that's not going to happen.


Now I'm sure many of you have been wondering what the heck we've been up to for all this time. Well let me sum up.

WORK. Sleep. Mentors + Network. Maybe Sleep. WORK + Network. Not enough sleep. WORK + Pitch. Way too much sleep. WORK. Sleep. WORK. SLEEEEP.

And that's Monday to Sunday folks. We've been getting quite a bit of time spent on the game which is good.

I even have great news. There is new art in the game.

I KNOW right? It only took nine weeks, and finally we have new art. Super impressive! And here it is, look at that.

This is where you say to yourself... hmmm this looks like programmer art. Well good job art sleuth. You are correct. Nine weeks in & the updated art came from none-other than myself. (To be fair I will credit Zak with the backgrounds)

So this obviously isn't the final direction, we are just trying something new for Slush.

Side note:
There was a day when both Zak & Tyler were gone. This happened to fall on one of our pitch days. Essentially a pitch day is when each team gets up & practices pitching their team/game to investors or publishers. So while they were gone I had to solo pitch. Turns out I did a good job because I won a ticket to Slush for our team. Yay me :D

What the hell is Slush you ask? Great question avid reader! Slush is a start-up conference in Helsinki Finland. It's all about getting your ideas out there & starting a company. Everyone from GameFounders is going and we've been preparing for weeks. Preparation looks very different depending on which one of us you are.

Tyler: Contacts publishers & investors, setting up meetings. Also practices pitching.
Zak: Keeps tabs on mentors, handles marketing images/direction, probably send 50 emails a day, manages tasks & deadlines. Occasionally pretends to do art.
Brendan: Makes the game. Consults on all of the above.

Everything we do is very iterative. We are actually on the sixth iteration of art, we've made & remade 5 pitches, it's all constantly changing. This process is very fun but can sometimes feel a little slow. We have for sure improved the product a lot, but it's hard to not want more.

I'm going to take a short minute to talk about the game. Right now we're testing & testing, trying to find our place. We want to stand out, we want to be cool BUT we also want everyone to be able to play the game. And yes, to all those who feared the worst, we would like to make money with this. There is a lot to be said about art vs money and you know what? I'm not going to get into it because I'm neither smart nor experienced enough to comment. Kateas is a casual game, we'd like to make it so successful it funds production of several more games. That's the plan folks!

So we're working on the game, we're prepping for Slush, there's some of this elusive networking happening. Anything else exciting?

THOR. We saw a movie in Estonia. It was Thor. It was awesome. Do yourself a favor & go see it.

Oh I guess these other things happened too... Tyler went to Kyiv for Casual Connect, with the Ukrainian team! And Zak had a visitor from America.

Not as cool as Thor though, just saying.

Now what's next. Well. I wrote this blog on a boat, the only way to really blog. We're taking the ferry to Finland where we will be getting Slushed until Friday.

Estonian Culture Update:
Whenever Estonian's travel to Finland, it is customary to bring a body back to Estonia. This is due to their viking heritage (True story, the reason Stockholm is as far inland as it is, is because Estonian vikings raids were so successful). So Kati (GameFounder's super helpful liason, and likely the person who is most fed up with Zak & I), informed us that it was perfectly natural to bring a bag full of hachets & knives on a trip to Helsinki, for you know, pillaging & stuff.

Oh btw. It gets dark around 4pm now. And I haven't seen the sun in weeks, nothing but grey & black... Why do people still live in this part of the world?

After Slush, well. We're almost done. Our time is drawing near. Game Connection, a game conference in Paris, is in 3 weeks. There will be some travel around Europe, some more time spent improving the game, and hopefully a fair bit of networking.

I will post a post Slush update on our return, hopefully with proof of our viking offering.


Meet Bearry the Barbearian who lives at the Bar.

Friday, October 25, 2013

A late blog post. Now with less words!

So. We finally finished, edited, and uploaded the VLAHG.

Honestly that's all you get this week. Enjoy.

Meet Raven, the Hooded Crow ;)

Friday, October 18, 2013

Winter Ist Kommen

I'm sitting here at nearly 4:00am 5:00am 5:15am writing/watching Breaking Bad ( S5E10 S5E11 S5E12...holy [moly], by the way) after deleting the first 600 words that I wrote down for this.  I'm new to blogging.  Not a really big fan of the word -- our team calls it "blahging," so I'll just go with that.

So, hey!  Wilkommen und hallo.  I am Zachary Snader, Game Designer at Retora Game Studios.  Such a fancy title!  I feel fancy.  I also feel tired, because I am jet-lagged as all hell from my trip, beginning in the desert metropolis of Phoenix, AZ and ending in the small German town of Schwäbish Gmünd.

I still don't know what this means and I'm not going to look it up because I am a child and this amuses me.

Upon arriving, I almost immediately began drinking with my fellow international students.  My experience so far can more or less be summed up in the amount of hops-based beverages consumed and foosball matches played (I currently sit at two wins and two losses).  Foosball might as well be a national sport here.  I like it.

About "here:" It's nice, a bit cold...but nice.  Schwäbish Gmünd, or Gmünd as it's more aptly referred to, is a village of around 60,000 people and 44 square miles that was founded in the year 1268.  As in, 745 years ago.  It still looks that way in most of the town, which is cool and all, it just kind of sucks that its grey and raining and [dreary] and willbesnowinginaweek at all times.  But, you know, it's pretty awesome that I am in Germany on my own accord.

Also, the coat of arms is amazing.  I mean, just look at this thing:


It looks like a tentacle monster wrestling a horse.  This is supposedly a unicorn.  I assume that is a depiction of the last unicorn on Earth in its final moments as it is being viciously devoured by suction-cupped hell beasts.


Anyways, I'm getting settled into my flat, aka House Tabula, named after the cabaret that is (literally) two doors down the road.  You can see a strip club from our garden!  Now that's living.

 Location, location, location!

As much I'd like to be, I'm not here to just make games and hang out in random European towns.  I've also got to study interaction design.  Good stuff, really.  I'm learning about this stuff at Hochschule für Gestaltung, one of the better schools for design in this region of Europe.  I started classes this week and will be doing a few projects while continuing my role with Retora.

While the semester rolls along I'll post updates regarding what I'm doing, including entries specifically about design, games, our projects (non-NDA, of course), and how they all mesh together.  I will have more pictures as well.

I'm going to finish Breaking Bad now, because seriously...[wow].

Bis bald!

- Zach | Senior Creative Director of Business and Game Management Operations, Vertical Integration and Synergy Division, Retora Sunrise (Deutschland Office)

 *Retora Sunrise is not a real subsidy of Retora Game Studios, LLC.  All references to Retora Sunrise should be taken jokingly.


SUPER IMPORTANT UPDATE: I finished Breaking Bad because I haven't slept yet.  Dude.  It's...yeah.  Yeah.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Blahg, now with more video.


A wild CEO appears!

Yep. Tyler made it. There are now three of us living in Estonia, enjoying the lovely weather… oh that’s right, it’s been raining and near freezing all week. At least the people are nice (except the Russian grocery lady who we’re pretty sure hates our english speaking guts.)

Week 3. Well, yet again a whirlwind of action. The week started off with a slew of new mentors who were all extremely helpful. We got notes about marketing strategies, release plans, App Engine Optimization (S.E.O. for app stores, who knew…), and of course the now broken record, Test Test Test.

Oh. One of the mentors, Sonja Ängeslevä, also set me up to speak at IGDA Finland on October 8th about Unity. I guess that’s kind of cool; if you are into that whole amazing opportunity & awesome experience thing. (You can read about it HERE)

The middle of the week was spent actually making the game! Woo I wrote some code! Starting on Wednesday & finishing Thursday night, I rewrote the game. Yes for what feels like the 19th time, I started again. It’s a process, some of the old code was converted but a lot of it was scrapped. That’s just the way of life. It’s running a lot smoother, it’s a lot cleaner, and most importantly it will do what I want with the new changes coming soon.

Zak made us some temporary art for the playtest, so I’m not going to show it to you. But I promise I’ll lock him in a box, there will be something to show by next week. No matter what, I’ll upload something…

So the playtest. Another mentor brought about 15 high-schoolers out to test the teams games. None of them had done this before & it was an interesting experience for everyone. Our focus was to improve how easy it is for players to understand the game. The idea being, if I hand you the game, how long does it take you to figure it out without any prompting from us. Halfway through the test we made a slight change, just a simple texture swap. We immediately saw a 20% decrease in ‘start-up’ time. This was awesome to see & it has me excited to test new strategies, luckily there are playtests every two weeks!

Mentors & Playtesting, that was most of the week. However on Thursday there was one other very useful event. Pitch Practice. Each of the eight teams got up and basically presented their team. The general idea is you are practicing a pitch you would give to an investor or a publisher, so you have to come off professional & sell your company in about six minutes. We didn’t have any visuals prepared but I think we did fine.

There is something to mention here. The inherent advantage of being a native English speaker is more & more apparent every day. Some of these teams have members that barely speak the language, let alone possess the mastery to perform public speaking. Between Zak, Tyler, & myself we really have a wealth of experience it’s obvious these other teams don’t.

Pitch day happens once a week, every Thursday. So while I’m working on my talk for IGDA Finnland, Tyler & Zak will be preparing to knock everyone's socks off. The practice & feedback received in these sessions is going to be hugely valuable in the long run.

As a bonus this week we have a video! Word on the street was some people wanted to know more about our day to day. So we have tours of the office & flat for you. Enjoy.

WARNING: Zak is in charge of the Vlahg, not me. I am not responsible for the lack of professionalism that follows.

Seriously not my fault... Also for the record, the first 30 seconds of that video are 100% real. They certainly didn't make anything up at all, that would be irresponsible & borderline slander. Anyone who knows Zak could tell you he is the most truthful person on the planet,  nothing but facts & good advice come out of his mouth...

Looking forward, this week is about presentations. We still have mentor meetings & seminars but we’re going to be working our public speaking chops as often as we can. The next blog will feature new art (right Zak?), some thoughts from Tyler (right boss?), and a little bit of my prep for the presentation!



PS: Meet Snappy the Snail. They block the bike path so cars don’t murder children, how cool is that?