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?