Train2Game News: Games Industry Lessons – Guest Blog by Chris Ledger

Chris LedgerWow, I must say its been a busy year! A lot of events both good and bad have gone down.

However many lessons have been learned and you know what? I’m going to list off a few of these lessons, as I’ve had to find out the hard way!

1: Don’t aim too high

It may sound simple but it really isn’t. Even the most simplest of ideas can spiral into something a lot bigger.

As a start-up you want to aim small, create some stepping stones that can lead you onto bigger things. Even create some tech demo’s!!

If you create massive projects, you risk never finishing or having to cut them short (depending on your team structure, finances and time in general).

Whilst big projects are achievable, it usually means you’re developing one big title instead of several small ones. This isn’t to say that you should reskin everything, it’s being creative inside boundaries and restrictions. I swear it’s companies that reskin everything which crash the video games industry!!

I find that doing game jams are a great way to make a quick qwerky title that you can blast out in no time. Slap on some ad support and post it on any store you can!

2: Log your finances!

Always keep track of what goes in and out of your company financially. Know your profit, know your overheads because you can make a decent amount by selling a game and because you haven’t been logging your companies income and expenditure properly, you realise you’ve made a loss.

So my advice is that you log everything when it happens and don’t rely on bank statements and PayPal to record everything!

Always work out a cash flow forecast as well. It’s very important to show publishers, the government and other important people who could help you out.

3: Dont work for free!!!

Okay if it’s a self funded project then there are exceptions, however if a company wants to utilise your skill sets, make sure you whack a price tag on them.

When doing this, make sure you aren’t pricing yourself out of the market. You want to be affordable and reliable. Always draw up contracts of terms and conditions and ALWAYS GET A BRIEF.

Always stick to the brief and deliver, if clients want anything else they will have to draw up a new brief and pay extra. Don’t let people push you around.

If you work for free, people will take advantage of you and make you work to ridiculous extremes.

Not everyone is like that though, there are some genuinely fair people out there but they are far and few between when it comes to working for free.

So put a price tag on those skills and make sure you have a decent portfolio to back up your price tag!

4: You’re already in the games industry.

That’s right, as soon as you start making a game, you’re pretty much in the industry. So man people work on their own projects and say they want to be in the games industry, however what they don’t realise is that they already are.

Just because you’re not in a AAA studio and are coding in your bedroom does not make you any less professional and legitimate than someone with a £30,000+ a year salary at Square-Enix.

5: DOCUMENT EVERYTHING

This should of been number one as its my pet hate in this line of work.

No matter what role you have in a team DOCUMENT EVERYTHING. That’s right, I can’t stress that enough.

If you’re ill and can’t work and someone has to pick up the slack, they will need guidance. They will need to look at what you’ve done and what needs to be done.

As your projects grow you will need to log everything because your idea may not be communicated properly and your Elephant Gun weapon, for example, may end up being an Elephant with a gun as the player character.

Designers, make sure you have concepts, high concepts, pitches, game design docs, story bibles and level design docs as your raw minimum.

Coders, make sure you comment your code appropriately and professionally, comments really help others out especially if a designer needs to adjust a variable or two for some balancing.

Get a Technical design document sorted out so you have a clear blueprint of how your code works so that whoever picks up the slack during illness or your departure to can carry on. It also means that people with the clearance to alter bits of code can do so with ease.

Artists, remember that your first attempt probably won’t be your best and don’t expect to get it right first time. Always iterate and try different things. Create a concept diary and aid the designers and coders the best you can. Create character sheets, bestiary’s and make sure you log down the poly and vert count of a model and document what maps and textures models require in their own specific documents.

It sounds like a lot of work and it is. Not everything in the games industry is fun and glamorous. You’ll have your good and bad days like any other job. Trust me, I love my job, but there are some days I would rather just stay in bed instead of modifying the game design doc or using UDK.

6: Prepare to be let down

People will let you down no matter what, it’s in our nature. Staff will come and go so always be prepared to call in a replacement.

It’s not the end of the world, even though it is fairly gutting and stressful. I had 3 staff leave in the space of a week but in the end I found some replacements. As harsh as it sounds, everyone can be replaced.

People will also tear apart your ideas, especially clients. You will also find yourself tearing other people’s ideas apart in order to get something working and to make the project feasible, even as the boss my ideas are torn to shreds as well!

It’s tough out there but don’t give in. No one is doing it to personally spite you and if they are then they aren’t worth working for.

So keep it pro and be a bro about it. As a team you’re there to support each other and make great titles with whatever resources you have!

I hope this helps you guys and girls out. Obviously these aren’t set in stone rules, just my experiences that I thought I’d share with everyone and I hope they are of benefit to people.

Season Greetings,
Chris Ledger
 CEO/Lead Designer
Derp Studios

Train2Game News: REACT thank Train2Game

Earlier this year Train2Game helped spread the word of the React Initative and the lovely people from the charity sent us a thank you certificate.

Rapid Effective Assistance for Children with Potentially Terminal illness (REACT) is a dynamic charity working to improve the quality of life for children with life-limiting illnesses living in financially disadvantaged households throughout the UK. Their work is unrivalled by any other organisation and their passion and belief that every child should have comfort, dignity, and the opportunity to participate in life as fully as possible is a primary driving force for the charity.

If you’d like to find out more about REACT you can visit http://www.reactcharity.org/

You can view the certificate they sent us in the pdf below

REACT

Train2Game News: A Holiday Blog – by Muir Halleron

Muir HalleronWinter is once more upon us, and with it comes celebrations and traditions as numerous and varied as a handful of Skittles. And just as colourful too!

Some of us are social animals and go out partying every night, staying up until the early hours of the dawn, visiting with friends and family and waking up with hangovers the next day. While others may prefer more solitary activities such as spending the evening with one or two loved ones cuddling on the sofa, sipping hot beverages while watching seasonal films.

We all celebrate this time of year differently, though I think you’ll agree that as students of Train2Game and lovers of all things to do with games and geekery, several of our traditions overlap in similarity.

How many of us, for example, plan to work on a game idea? Which of us will end up spending way too much money on various game sales? And how many of us plan to try to either catch up or get ahead on our Train2Game course?

Like many families, the winter holiday my son and I celebrate is Xmas. Our celebrations start at the beginning of the month with the opening of the first advent calendar window. In the evenings, we watch various dvd series starting with Harry Potter, followed by Doctor Who, all the way up to the reopening of school in January. The tree and decorations go up during the last week of school and healthy eating pretty much goes out the window for the month. Xmas Eve and Xmas day are, quite oddly, the two quietest days of the year in our home. On Xmas Eve, my son gets his stocking which is typically filled with dvds, chocolate, candy canes, and a few other small toys. Xmas morning, of course, is when he gets to open all the presents under the tree. As is his tradition, he gathers up all his unwrapped toys, takes them to his room and that’s the last I see of him all day, with the exception of meal times.

The evenings are of course for me and they vary widely from one night to the next, though they are pretty much what you would expect for a gaming student. Once the Steam sales start, my evening always begins by checking my (extremely large) wishlist to see if any of the games I want are on sale.

My first choice is to play a game. Currently I’m working on another playthrough of Fallout 3, with mods. I highly suggest the DCInteriors Project, Ties That Bind, and MTC Wasteland Travellers mods. They all really add to the base game by giving extra quests, companions, and making the world seem more populated and travelled.

If it’s getting too late in the evening or I feel like having an early night, I usually choose to read through part of a lesson in the game development course or work on any gaming ideas that I have. At the moment, I’m just getting ready to start on Section 2 Part B of my course which starts putting together all the theory I’ve been learning and shows something that I can actually type up in a computer program. This is something I’ve been looking forward to learning as I have several ideas for games, but I’m finding it difficult to actually program them in C++. Simply put, I know the basics in programing, but not how to put it all together into something that combines both graphics and code.

Which brings us to another holiday tradition – New Year resolutions or, as I prefer to call them, goals. Most people decide to lose weight, quit smoking or get out of debt. As for me, I think this year my goal will be to make and release one game. (And no, the T2G developer’s holiday card challenge doesn’t count!)

So what about you, dear reader and fellow student/game geek? What are your holiday traditions like? Are they similar or radically different to mine? What goals have you set yourself for the coming year? Please feel free to share.

Train2Game News: SpecialEffect wish Happy Christmas!

SpecialEffectThe team at SpecialEffect would like to wish everyone a very Happy Christmas and a big thank you for all the help the charity has received this year.

They put together this heart warming video to show their appreciation

Don’t forget you can continue to help SpecialEffect in the new year by signing up to be a part of their GameBlast in February!

Train2Game News: GameSalad giving cash incentives

TizenGameSalad has added a new platform for developers in Tizen, the Linux-based operating system for smart devices.

The company has been working with big name partners at Intel and Samsung to provide exciting opportunities for developers to profit handsomely from apps they port to Tizen or new ones they create for the platform.

For a limited time only, they’re offering an unprecedented deal to GameSalad developers: a minimum of $50 cash, plus three free months of Pro membership for every app published to the Tizen store!

PLUS, the best quality games and apps may be eligible for up to an additional $1750 in incentives, simply by publishing to the Tizen platform!

This promotion only runs for a limited time, so publish your game to Tizen today to take advantage of this awesome opportunity!

For more details, please be sure to read the Terms & Conditions of this promotion.

Train2Game News: Warner Bros mobile game sale

WB InteractiveIn celebration of the holidays, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment announces mobile games priced at £0.69. For a limited time starting today, the following games will be discounted on the App Store:

·  LEGO Batman: DC Super Heroes
·  Batman: Arkham City Lockdown
·  Man of Steel
·  Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters
·  LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4
·  LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7
·  Harry Potter: Spells
·  Scribblenauts Remix
·  Bastion
·  AdvenChewers
·  Midway Arcade Games
·  Tapper World Tour

LEGO The Lord of the Rings is also available on the App Store for the low price of £1.99.

Additionally, for Android users, Batman Arkham City Lockdown, Man of Steel and Scribblenauts Remix are available on GooglePlay and in the Amazon Appstore for Android for £0.69.

If you are looking for an entertaining game to play over the holiday season you are spoilt for choice!

Train2Game News: GallantCloud pitch video

Gallant CloudThe pitch at the Microsoft Ventures demo day that Train2Game Student Studio, GallantCloud, gave is now available to view. The guys did incredibly well and their game, Ether, sounds great!

Enjoy the video below

Train2Game News: Smithsonian adds video games to its collection

SmithsonianThe Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., has announced the addition of two video games to its permanent collection.

This is as part of “an ongoing commitment to the study and preservation of video games as an artistic medium.”

Flower (2009), a game by Jenova Chen and Kellee Santiago from thatgamecompany, is to be inducted into the collection alongside Halo 2600 (2010) by Ed Fries, the former vice president of game publishing at Microsoft.

Explaining its decision in a statement, the Smithsonian said: “Video games offer a compelling avant-garde performance space, activated by artists and players alike. These media art practices are distinct from film, video and theatre and mark a critical development in the history of art.

“The inclusion of video games furthers the mission of the museum and ensures the ongoing preservation, study and interpretation of video games as part of the national collection of American art.”

The addition of these games to one of the biggest museums in the world is a great step forward for the games industry. The world is starting to accept video games as art in much the same way films are considered art.  We can only hope more follow the Smithsonian’s lead.

The Smithsonian added in its statement that it is looking to expand its collection of video in the future.

Train2Game News: Special Gift with Pokémon Bank

Celebi

Today, The Pokémon Company International announced a special gift for Pokémon X and Pokémon Y players that download and use Pokémon Bank, the new Nintendo 3DS downloadable software service.

When a player downloads Pokémon Bank anytime between December 27, 2013, and September 30, 2014, they will receive the Mythical Time Travel Pokémon Celebi. This special Celebi comes with the move Hold Back, a restrained attack that cannot be learned through normal gameplay, which always leaves the target with at least 1 HP. This allows players to weaken a target with certainty and is very useful in capturing Pokémon. This particular Celebi also knows the moves Recover, Heal Bell, and Safeguard.

Players will need to use the Pokémon Link feature in their  Pokémon X or  Pokémon Y game to receive Celebi. After you have received your Celebi gift within Pokémon Bank, select Pokémon Link, and Celebi will be sent to your PC Box in your Pokémon X or Pokémon Y game.

Additionally, a video showcasing the features and functionality of the Pokémon Bank can be viewed below:

Train2Game News: GTA: San Andreas now available for iOS

CJ_and_HomiesRockstar Games is proud to announce that Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is now available for select iOS devices.

Upon its original release, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas took the groundbreaking series to new heights, delivering three detailed cities and an entire state for players to roam.

“Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas was a giant leap forward for the series, bringing the early ’90s West Coast to life in a massive world full of possibilities,” said Sam Houser, Founder of Rockstar Games. “We’re thrilled for players to experience it all on mobile devices.”

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas features a vast open-world covering the state of San Andreas and its three major cities – Los Santos, San Fierro and Las Venturas. In addition to enhanced visual fidelity and over 70 hours of gameplay, the game has received several technical upgrades for the iOS version and has been specially modified for use with mobile devices. Upgrades and enhancements include:

  • Re-mastered, high-resolution graphics including lighting enhancements, an enriched color palette and improved character models;
  • Dynamic detailed shadows and real-time environmental reflections (iPhone 5 series/iPad 4th Gen and above);
  • Physical controller support for all Made-for-iOS controllers;
  • Cloud save support for playing across all of your iOS devices for Rockstar Social Club Members;
  • Updated checkpoint system;
  • Dual analog stick controls for full camera and movement control;
  • Three different touch control schemes and customizable controls.

Five years ago, Carl Johnson escaped from the pressures of life in Los Santos, a city tearing itself apart with gang trouble, drugs and corruption. Now it’s the early 90’s and Carl’s got to go home. His mother has been murdered, his family has fallen apart and his childhood friends are all heading towards disaster. On his return to the neighborhood, a couple of corrupt cops frame him for homicide. CJ is forced on a journey that takes him across the entire state of San Andreas, to save his family and to take control of the streets.

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is available for $6.99, and can be purchased for iOS.