Reality is a Game

Game thinking from Adam Clare

Tag: indie(Page 2 of 5)

On Game Making Resolutions for 2014 And Learning To Code

It’s 2014 and if you’re into making games you may have made one of those resolution things related to making more games- I know I did!

I want to push myself and have thus opted to engage in the One Game a Month Challenge. The challenge is to release a game a month – not to create a brand new game every month. In this regard it’s different from the game jam model of starting fresh. So if you have games that are half finished (like me) then you can complete them and have that count. One of the nifty things about the challenge is that it’s like a game itself in which you can earn XP. Presently, I’m at level 4 for just filling out my profile.

One thing that I particularly like about the game a month challenge is that it’s not focussed on only video games. You can make board games (pro tip: Board Game Jam!) or games set in playgrounds! Whatever your heart desires.

It looks like many on Twitter have also thought that entering the self-imposed challenge is a good idea too. It’s never too late to join!

For those of you who are debating making games yourself, I implore you to take a look at the easy to use resources I’ve listed which include things from art to code to sound to more!

If all goes according to plan you too can be a indie game developer by the end of 2014! When in doubt, be sure to read how to be a happy indie game developer. Stay positive and remember that even a little time spent on making your game brings it that much closer to completion.

At the very least, you can help make 2014 not copy an awful year for technology that 2013 was.

Coding technology is complex

Speaking of technology, it obviously relies on code. Part of me wanting to attempt a game a month is to up my abilities in the obscure world of coding.

Coding is obviously something that needs to be learned and there are many place online to learn it. What I’m interested in is what people had to say about the process of learning.

Late last year Cecily Carver of DMG fame posted Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me When I Was Learning How to Code and it’s excellent! Here’s just one of many great points in the essay:

I’ve found that a big difference between new coders and experienced coders is faith: faith that things are going wrong for a logical and discoverable reason, faith that problems are fixable, faith that there is a way to accomplish the goal. The path from “not working” to “working” might not be obvious, but with patience you can usually find it.

In /r/LearnProgramming one person asked how self-taught developers learned how to code. The best response is applicable to anyone learning anything new:

You’re going to be frustrated, feel like you’re stupid, and get completely overwhelmed many times. The only difference between that person with that app/game on the store and you is that they didn’t give up.

Coding is (socially) complex!

It’s so often said in the tech community that coding will solve all problems and guarantee you a job. This is not the case! Indeed, over at Wired they have an article Pushing People to Code Will Widen the Gap Between Rich and Poor which further complicates this technopostivist worldview.

All that compiles is not gold. Coding is only a panacea in a world where merit is all it takes to succeed. In other words, a starkly different world from the one we actually live in where social structures, systemic biases, and luck may matter more.

On this “code solves all” ideology all I can really say about it is that it’s important to understand the core logic behind programming. For now, I’m going to continue to learn and make more games.

This turned from a short post into a long one that really should divided into multiple post for clarity. Oh well.

Time to go make games!

Two Different Postmortems On Two Indie Games

Postmortems are always helpful in understand how other game developers work and what issues they brush up against. It can be very illuminating when multiple studios run into the same problems. They are also useful if you’re thinking of getting into the games industry to see if those problems are even ones you want to tackle.

The great folks at DrinkBox are always looking to be better than they were the previous year. Chris Harvey, from DrinkBox wrote a great postmortem on Guacamelee! for Indie Games. It goes into great detail and address many things that arise during production of a game.

Their art style for the game evolved from a cutesy look to a more adult look, with (surpassingly) the tech team making a first pass at some of the art.

thanks gamasutra!

While this success was naturally a result of the talents of the art team, it also depended on a cooperative back-and-forth between the art, tech, and production departments. In particular, over the course of Guacamelee! we changed how effects were developed, counter-intuitively putting the development more into the hands of the tech team and then letting the art team direct refinement.

He even shares internal issues that any company runs into when it grows. The studio had an informal work structure which works quite well for small teams but inevitable breaks when the company grows.

During Guacamelee!, we encountered difficulty scaling this approach. Some new members of the team struggled to find their place alongside peers when working without a clear authority structure. Lacking the confidence to navigate disagreements constructively, in frustration these team members sometimes ignored decisions or emotionally disengaged from certain tasks. As a result, we’ve begun to put a clearer authority structure in place for the team, and we’ve become more aware of the need to monitor personalities and provide ways for people to make their concerns known.

For a much shorter read, check out this reflection on the release of The Stanley Parable. This quote sums up their overarching message:

[If] you make the marketing material interesting on its own, it’s irrelevant whether it “sells” your game. Our focus was always on creating content that was on its own fun for people to experience and to be a part of, with essentially 0% of the design aimed at trying to get the game to sell.

Coverage of Some Toronto Game Studios

Toronto has a bunch of small indie studios that are constantly making great games (just look at Capy’s success). Thanks to some keen efforts by the Ontario government bigger studios have been eyeing Toronto too, Ubisoft came to Toronto because of those efforts.

What I find interesting is that these efforts have changed the digital industry in Ontario and these changes have reverberated down to the the street level.

Ubisoft has moved into the Junction neighbourhood of Toronto and has had a positive impact on that section of the city. The area suffered from old manufacturing industries closing down but saw artists moving in to fill the gap. Ubisoft hasn’t pushed out the artists (thankfully) so much as they brought new local food options for them.

Since Ubisoft Toronto opened its doors, the list of notable new restaurants and cafes to set up shop in the neighbourhood include the aforementioned Wallace Espresso, Cafe Neon, and Wallace and Co. The businesses that were open before the studio came, such as the Starving Artist, continue to flourish.

If one extends the list to include nearby Brockton Village, which is reasonable given that the studio is a short walk away from the neighbourhood boundary line of Bloor Street, then the list of new businesses expands to include places such as the Whippoorwill and Brock Sandwich, the latter of which opened as recently as this month. Obviously not all those businesses opened with the express purpose of servicing Ubisoft’s employees, but a workplace that is set to grow to 800 strong before the end of 2019 is going to have an effect on business nonetheless.

The first game to come out of Ubisoft Toronto is Splinter Cell Blacklist and the reviews have been positive. I’m proud to say that a former student has been working on the game’s story. The success of the game is a great sign for a new studio that only opened in 2009.

The CBC recently covered the studio and they quote managing director Jade Raymond:

“Setting up a new studio from scratch, hiring over 300 people in three years and shipping the biggest game ever to come out of Ontario and the biggest game in the franchise to date is quite an accomplishment,” says Raymond.

“The game industry and our team here is full of people who want to outdo ourselves each time, so we’re setting the bar even higher with all of our next projects.”

Back to the independent studios we find that Phantom Compass, They Bleed Pixels, and Little Guy Games are getting praise for their work too (there are too many studios to list!). These smaller studios benefit from support from the province too but mainly rely on contract work to keep them going while they finance their own intellectual property. Organizations like Interactive Ontario help in that process (FYI: I worked for IO a few years back).

One of the ways Interactive Ontario aims to help its members is by connecting them with potential contract opportunities, which often involve creating interactive elements for web and television.

“A lot of companies start out that way,” Henderson says. He’ll also be speaking at today’s conference. “They take some jobs to pay the bills and keep the lights on while they work on their own intellectual property (IP). Eventually they get to the stage where they’ve created their own IP and now they own it.”

Read more about these developers mentioned above and what they are up to in Yonge Street.

Planning to Enter the IGF?

A student project from George Brown is looking to enter the IGF which got me thinking about their chances. Here’s the result of my research into entering the IGF for those who are interested.

What is the IGF?

The Independent Gaming Festival (IGF) has been running for over 15 years in parallel with the Games Developer Conference (GDC). The goal of the IGF is to celebrate and promote games made by independent studios by rewarding the best games. What makes a studio independent isn’t clear but here’s what the regulations say:

Independently Created: The Nominating Committee must be confident that the submitted game was created in the ‘indie spirit’ by an independent game developer, fulfilling the question asked on the entry form. The Nominating Committee reserves the right to refuse any game at its sole discretion.


  • Submissions are open towards the end of summer.
  • Deliver game builds in October.
  • Festival and awards handed out in March.
FTL was a winner

FTL was a winner

Awards and Game Categories

  • Seumas McNally Grand Prize
  • Excellence In Visual Art
  • Excellence In Audio
  • Excellence in Design
  • Excellence in Narrative
  • Nuovo Award
  • Audience Award
  • Best Student Game


There is no guaranteed way to win the IGF (if there was the whole thing would be pointless) so the best thing to do is try your hardest to make your game stand out. Obviously you’ll want to focus on one of the categories above like best art or something.

THere is a ton of competition every year with the quality and number of submitted games increasing. Here’s a complete list of games submitted for 2012’s competition.

The team over at Cipher Prime studios did a rather intense analysis of who wins the IGF competition and it’s a long but informative read.

We found that IGF winners were characterized, with very few outliers, by:

  • Some type of prior “notoriety”, which might come from the developer’s previous games, a pre-existing version of the game itself, a large or growing fan base, or other factors discussed below.
  • Development times averaging out at over two years.
  • Having at least two people involved in the development process.
  • Being more than just “feature complete” (one of the requirements for an IGF submission). By the time IGF winners are announced in March, the majority of them are highly polished, and are often already commercially releasable games.
  • A widely varying amount of information available in developer blogs. Winning developers differed greatly in their posting frequency and blog content, although most of the winners made sure to at least announce, “I’m making this thing!”
  • Awesome trailers.
  • Diverse geographic location, if “diverse” includes only Europe and former British colonies.
  • Many different game engines, some commercial and some custom-built.
  • Varying amounts of press, ranging from zero to boatloads.

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