Morbid Holiday Side Project

Art Game Business

This blog has been a bit quiet lately so I figure I might as well post one of the side projects that I’ve been working on all this time.  Morbid Holiday is a creative outlet for my illustration-based comics and off-center sense of humor.

Holy Artifacts

The seeds of this project began from starting my daily drawing routine back a few months ago on October 4th. I kept it up each and every day and found that I was getting more and more inspired about illustration again.

Illustration is what I originally went to art school for even though I never finished that degree. It has been very rewarding to reawaken a latent passion of mine to tell stories and jokes visually.

Episode 0: The Childhood Menace

I’ve been focusing lately on the one-panel style of comic, usually with a line of text beneath the drawing. Similar to the Far Side in format.  I grew up on a steady diet of off-the-wall Far Side calendars from 1986 onward, though until recently had completely forgotten about Gary Larson’s masterpiece.

I have been creating a new offbeat cartoon each day and have been having so much fun.  It is my hope that this is something I can grow slowly over the next year or two as the fan base and content increases.

I’ve gone ahead and setup a facebook page for Morbid Holiday so fans can get daily updates as well as leave posts or comments on the wall.

I’m also starting to build out content in an online store to offer greeting cards, prints, t-shirts, and other products to the folks requesting them. It has been very touching to receive requests for various art and designs of mine and I look forward to creating even more humorous content that will let people get a glimpse into my twisted view of the world.

SUV USA

I haven’t stopped working on games. I actually have two games finished and currently moving through the sponsorship and licensing process over at Flash Game License. It is also the holiday season so things get hectic and jumbled for myself and the portals and contracts I work with.

Well, I hope you check out the Morbid Holiday comic website and add the RSS feed to your reader or follow the facebook page.

I’d greatly appreciate any help reaching a larger audience for sure, so if you like what you see please share with your friends and followers!

Korrode – New Game Preview

Game Business Games

A challenging level from Korrode

Korrode is a brand new game that I have just finished. You get to play the part of entropy as a racing rust spot zipping around corroding metal bolts. It’s a level based racer that combines aspects of puzzle and time trial agility games.

My initial seed of an idea for the game was about crossing a 2d Katamari Damacy with Flow. The game has also drawn heavy comparisons to the excellent game Osmos but I had never heard of that game before beta test players started pointing that out. I wanted to explore the fun level design that would occur in a game where the level topology is constantly changing based on your scale.

The game isn’t released yet but I created a video game trailer so players and potential sponsors could get a sneak peek at what it is all about. Sponsors with an account on Flash Game License can also play the game here to consider placing a bid on it.

I’ve worked on Korrode on and off since January of this year. It is the largest game in both scope and time commitment that I’ve developed yet. I was very inspired by some entropy-themed texture photos a good friend of mine (Jeremy P. Bushnell) took from his travels around Philadelphia, Chicago, and New York. He gave me permission to use these photos as the base for a lot of the photo manipulation work I did to create both the UI and the levels for the game.

Grease is the natural enemy of rust.

I also had the pleasure of recording the game’s soundtrack which was a refreshing break from coding. I was able to create 9 unique music loops using the sounds of factories, metal clanging, machines, and other industrial ephemera to build the rhythm tracks. I then composed some simple melodies to go over them. The trailer features a longer version of one of the songs from the game.

The game uses a pretty cool technology from the Playtomic analytic service I use that allows me to embed player replays in the actual highscore data for a level. This means that when a player finishes playing a level their new best time is automatically submitted to the global leaderboards for that level. Then when players view the leaderboards they can actually watch the replays from anyone’s run in the score charts. It’s a great way to encourage competition and allow the players to race each other’s replay “ghosts” after they finish watching the replays. It also provides a built in walk through of sorts if player’s are just curious how other people solved a level in the quickest time.

Watch out for the moving walls!

I’m pretty excited about this game and I really can’t wait to see the replays that top players will generate. I’ve already learned a bunch about the levels I designed by watching the beta testers solve them! The sponsorship process can take awhile though so I have to be patient. I’ve got plenty of other projects to keep me occupied anyway!

 

 

GameLoop 2011

Game Business Games

GameLoop 2011 Begins

I had the good fortune to be able to attend GameLoop in Boston again this year. It was held at the Microsoft NERD Center in Cambridge, MA and about 150 folks attended. This was GameLoop’s fourth year and it continues to draw a great group of participants interested in all aspects of game development–both digital and non-digital. The event is priced ridiculously low for the amount of value you get out of it in both shared knowledge and networking. The $40 ticket price even includes a kick-ass T-shirt, breakfast, and lunch!

GameLoop was founded by Darius Kazemi and Scott Macmillan and they continue to help both organize it and refine its unconference style process.

For those unfamiliar with the unconference term, the gist is that an unconference is a type of conference that self-organizes during the day of the event.

Proposing Session TopicsThe participants of an unconference are active co-creators of the session content. Sessions are proposed in the beginning of the day with attendees gathered in a large room.

This year we all had a chance to say three tags that represented topics we were interested in. There was a 10 second time limit and it only took 15 minutes to get through us all. This helped gauge the potential topic interests in the room.

 

Voting on Session TopicsAfter all the proposed sessions have been written onto large pieces of paper the boards holding them are then moved out to the hallway. Participants then get to vote with 5 individual stickers on which sessions they might want to attend.

This was still a bit of a bottleneck but I felt it worked better than last year. I hope next year they have 3 boards instead of 2 and keep the notes to the top halves of the boards so you can preview the topics from further away.  I also think putting more space between the boards will help spread out the crowd a bit.

Curated Final ScheduleAfter we all voted the organizers then curate the most popular sessions to form the schedule by distributing or combining the topics in an intelligent manner to get good coverage throughout the day. I thought this curated approach worked really well this year. Each slot had something I could find that interested me.

 

 

Round Table SessionSessions tend to be a round-table conversation-based style where everyone can have a chance to contribute to the topic being discussed. The session leader is whoever proposed the topic and moderators are available to help out just in case things veer too far.

This whole process works surprisingly well! There is even a brief wrap-up session at then end of the conference where the whole group is able to provide feedback so that iterative improvements to the process can made for next year’s event.

The three tags I announced at the beginning of the event this year were web, mobile, and small studio business.  I then attended sessions that largely related to these topics. I enjoyed two different sessions related to indie business and marketing lead by Ichiro Lambe and Leo Jaitley of Dejobaan Games. I find a lot of useful stories and information in what those two have to share about their long term experiences with being an independent game studio that has released a lot of very original games over the past twelve years. The sessions they lead were titled Platforms That Make Indies Money and Staying in Business as an Indie Forever. Other useful contributions came from participants like David Carrigg of Retro Affect and Alex Schwartz of Owlchemy Labs. They all had experiences to share and it was very useful to hear what various studios are doing to stay in business and try and make money from their games.

I also attended a more tech oriented session lead by Sean Flinn of GameSpy Technology (thankfully a long term GameLoop sponsor) about online analytics, multiplayer, and distribution needs of game developers. I have a very big interest in game analytics and currently use the Playtomic service but it is always good to keep an eye on the various technologies out there. GameSpy Technology doesn’t currently have an ActionScript API but I was able to share some of my needs, concerns, and requirements with them about being a game developer on the web.

Of the two final sessions I attended, one was a session on Building a Personal Brand by Kwasi Mensah of Ananse Productions and the other a session on Prototyping by Caleb Garner of Part12 Studios. I find these conversation style sessions so helpful to hear other game developers stories and experiences. Afterward you can approach and followup with someone based on what you heard them talking about in the session and that is an excellent chance for further building connections.

After a long but incredibly rewarding day about 70 of us headed over to Cambridge Brewing Company for dinner and locally brewed beer. A perfect way to end the day!

Once again I would like to thank the founders of GameLoop–Darius Kazemi and Scott Macmillan. I think the following photo may hint at where they get all their incredible energy from!

Nyan Scott and Nyan Darius

All photos used by permission of Michael Carriere.

Three Months of BlackBerry PlayBook Game Download Stats

Game Business Games

I’ve had six free PlayBook games available on the BlackBerry AppWorld store for three months now. I thought it might be useful to share my download and play statistics for other developers who are considering the platform.

These games have been available as free downloads since the store launched with the release of the new PlayBook tablet.

I ran a report on the total number of downloads from all six games over the past three months of time. I also gathered my analytics data from the Playtomic service which I used on each game to track views, plays (number of plays per view), and average playtime length per view. I also used Playtomic to provide the global leaderboards.

Using this data I built the following graphic (click to enlarge):

Hybrid Mind Studios BlackBerry PlayBook Game Download Stats

I should also mention that five of these six games have been fairly popular and all within the top 25 lists of their respective free categories. They’ve all been well reviewed (when reviewed at all) and I’ve done next to no promotion of them. These downloads basically represent players discovering the games through the PlayBook AppWorld interface.

You’ll note that I tracked the review percentage. This represents the amount of reviews I received per game based on the number of downloads.

It was pretty easy to convert my existing Flash games over to work on the PlayBook. Besides receiving a free PlayBook for the first game as part of BlackBerry’s launch promotion I was also fortunate enough to be compensated as part of a contract for my conversion on the other five games too. This allowed me to release them for free to study the market in the most favorable of download circumstances.

That said, if I wasn’t being compensated for my efforts I would not find these numbers to be very encouraging at all! Each game was only downloaded an average of 1300 times.  That number would be far, far smaller if I was charging for these games. That is not a good indication that I’ll be attempting to pursue this market further unless new changes or information comes to light–I simply can’t afford to make that kind of super risky business decision with my time.

I’ve enjoyed the free PlayBook I received from BlackBerry. It is the first tablet I’ve owned and it seems to be a fine enough device. I am not a heavy tablet user though and have little to compare it to besides having used an iPad for a bit. I’d be curious to see other developer’s download numbers (and even sales data) on the PlayBook device. Anyone making any money?

Royal Wedding Run – New Flash Game Released

Game Business Games

Play Royal Wedding Run

Game Description:

Good Prince William is to wed the darling Kate this very day. But he is on the other side of town! This simply will not do. Run to meet your bride, ducking old girlfriends and paparazzi on the way. Be sure to grab your princely powerups. Release the Hounds!

Additional Screenshots:

Royal Wedding Run gameplay

Here William leaps over an ex-girlfriend. He’ll have to dodge that paparazzi too!

Royal Wedding Run gameplay ending

William has reached Kate with 22 seconds to spare. The crowds at Westminster Abbey go wild!

Background:

Royal Wedding Run is a viral news game I was contracted by MTV to make for their AddictingGames arcade portal. The news event was the wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton on April 29th, 2011.  The game is extremely silly and had a lot of humorous voice acting performed by various folks at MTV. I was responsible for the programming of the game and the artist was the talented Eric Falk.