Sunday, October 7, 2007
I've noticed that many people characterize game developers as lazy, socially incompetent basement-dwelling underachievers. Sure, there's a segment of our community that certainly might qualify for this great description. But to routinely build entertainment experiences that last ten to sixty hours or more, it takes constant perspiration. It takes determination and skill like that which is found only in the trenches of a battlefield. Any game "playing" we do is measured and desperate, as the industry and market can run over us like a freight train if we miss out on what happens to be going on around us.
Developing games is an incredibly difficult undertaking. There is no cookie cutter to this process. It requires a highly orchestrated mixture of digital asset development, user interface design, software engineering, game engineering, marketing, and more to get something ready for release. A huge team of talented people who are trained in these areas come together and work for twelve hours a day for the final six months in a push to the final deadline to reach market where the competition is so brisk that even a good game is likely to fail to profit. And to make matters even more difficult, the platforms evolve so quickly that the tools and techniques are outdated as soon as they are perfected.
Of course, on some level, game developers must be gamers. Being a game developer requires a passion for games that will get you through the thousands of hours of work you will endure in your efforts on game projects you will build upon in your career. And it is so hard because there is no single button to press or knob to turn to make a game magically appear out of the air. It is a highly engaging software engineering effort. Every single game is a new invention. Every game is a new technology in and of itself.
Part of the difficulty with how game developers are not typically well received is that most people look at a game like Halo 3 and they rightly have no clue what it took to create it. For them it might as well have been made with magic. But as we well know from within the industry, games can truly be the ultimate creative effort in today's world. It requires great skill and intelligence to generate these products. It takes the collaboration and convergence of every type of artist, writer, technology developer, and more, plus the ability to manage these huge efforts in an environment where publishers, distribution channels, marketing plans, and more move at pace unmatched in other fields.
Games are not made with magic. They are made with absolute perspiration and passion by the most intense people you will ever encounter. Games are their art.
Everyone can be a gamer. And these days, most people are. Or they will be.
But very few people are game developers. There is a big difference between the two; they should not be confused. At Flashpoint Academy in Chicago, we prefer that you call us game developers. It is our profession. Those wanting to go to school to be a gamer can go elsewhere.
Saturday, September 22, 2007
Last Monday, against the odds some might say, we opened the doors on time.
The team came together.
This past week all the students at Flashpoint Academy have been deeply involved in their first Flashpoint experience. Here's what it boils down to: we are awakening their senses. We are awakening their ability to communicate and articulate these important details about what they observe around them. We are also taking them back to the fundamental beginnings of human storytelling. And finally, we are giving them a first-class overview of a professional media production. This intense cross-department experience prepares them for launching into the next sequence in the program at the end of Week Two.
I have been working in multiple classes co-teaching with John Murray and Bernie Mack. They are outstanding; it has been thrilling working with them as we go through the material so essential to the core of our school's mission.
See you in class!
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
School opens within a few short days at Flashpoint Academy in Chicago. Flashpoint is a new digital media arts school featuring a brand new curriculum centered on the production and development of game, film, animation, and recording arts projects.
At Flashpoint, we are about to embark on The Hero's Journey. The Hero's Journey, as described by Joseph Campbell, is a pattern that has followed humans throughout history. We live it now and we will continue living this journey for the rest of our lives. Every situation that confronts us with something new or that forces us to re-evaluate our thinking or behavior--this is part of the journey. It is a process of self-discovery, and it can be difficult. Through this difficult passage of time in this portion of our journey we can survive to develop a new perspective on this world. "Leveling up" is what I like to call it.
The Hero's Journey has many steps. Separation. The Call. Initiation and Transformation. The Challenges. The Abyss. The Transformation. The Revelation. The Atonement. The Return.
Once you step into Flashpoint on Monday, September 17th, 2007, you in fact are entering into this new journey in this new chapter in your life. There are many things you must do before you can reach The Return. You must break free of your old habits and preconceptions. You must adopt new ways of viewing the world and modify your methods of communication. You have to stand up. Or sit down. Or both. At the same time. You WILL do the impossible. Because you can.
On your Hero's Journey, times will get rough. It is inevitable. If you start to feel discouraged, please keep in mind that we are all on this journey together. You are not alone. We, all of us, are in this journey together for this incredible moment in history. If you are attending this school, please know that you are not just "going to Flashpoint" but that in fact...you ARE Flashpoint. WE ARE FLASHPOINT.
I can't wait to see everyone there on Monday!
Thursday, September 6, 2007
I found this interesting:
"...cooperative play of any kind is underrepresented on Live Arcade, and noted that games with cooperative modes tend to sell better. Two especially important forms of coop for Microsoft are local play ("couch play," as Pallister called it), and asymmetric cooperative play (as in Guitar Hero II, where two players of different skill levels can fare equally well). Pallister also wants to see more focus on kids play in Live Arcade games, "sandbox" modes where players can explore with no timer and no punishment for poor performance. However, independent developers may have trouble filling that gap for Microsoft, as Pallister noted that as with other child-oriented products, having a big-name license attached is a definite bonus."
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
State Of Play Tackles In-World Ownership, Building Virtual Worlds
"In one of the real highlights to the conference, Judge Unggi Yoon again amazed the conference. Korea’s legal system is already in the process of passing laws to regulate the trade, sale and taxation of virtual goods. Their current plans are to implement a system wherein virtual properties are going to be considered “public,” which is to say real properties with regard to tax laws on transactions. Korea, however, won’t be regulating small trades between two people, which they are considering “private.” Yoon said that the system would be in place by the end of the year. This lead to a great deal of speculation: to what degree will the East lead regulation inside of online spaces?"
Monday, August 13, 2007
This is a fantastic article from Blizzard's website; it's a definite must-read for those coming to Flashpoint Academy in Chicago to study game design, development and production.
"Blizzard responds to the thousands of letters we receive asking how to crack into the gaming industry. Now you can learn what it takes to work for a leading software developer like Blizzard Entertainment! Have you ever considered cracking into the gaming industry? Here is some information that is more important than a StarCraft Gas Mine! How to Get a Job at Blizzard Entertainment"
Tuesday, August 7, 2007
Here I am, being reflective (see below). Just kidding. The whole group of people working on The Collector are incredible professionals, and it was a pleasure and honor to get a chance to be a part of making this project at our new digital arts school in Chicago where we bring students to the professionals and the professionals to students.
Stay tuned to get a chance to play The Collector: The Game! Coming soon! Visit http://www.flashpointacademy.com for more information about this exciting production.
Thursday, August 2, 2007
"Crysis coming November 16
[UPDATE] EA further crowds jam-packed holiday season by nailing down launch window for Crytek's groundbreaking PC shooter.
By Tor Thorsen, GameSpot
Posted Aug 2, 2007 9:16 am PT
The fourth quarter of 2007 may go down as having the most high-profile releases of top-tier games in history, with the three months following Halo 3's September 25 launch being positively jam-packed with games. Call of Duty 4, Mass Effect, Super Mario Galaxy, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, Lost Odyssey, Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction, Warhawk, Tony Hawk's Proving Ground, Half-Life 2: The Orange Box, NBA Live 08, NBA 2K8, Conan, Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation, EA Playground, Clive Barker's Jericho, Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, Need for Speed ProStreet, Assassin's Creed, Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures (PC), Gears of War (PC), The Simpsons Game, Turning Point: Fall of Liberty, Virtua Fighter 5, TimeShift, Mercenaries 2: World in Flames, World in Conflict, Beowulf, Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles, WWE SmackDown! vs. RAW 2008, Army of Two, Brothers In Arms Hell's Highway, Rayman Raving Rabbids 2, SimCity Societies, Rock Band, Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings, Universe at War: Earth Assault, SOCOM: Confrontation, God of War: Chains of Olympus, Devil May Cry 4, Unreal Tournament 3 (PC and PS3), Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, NIGHTS, and many other titles are all currently scheduled to arrive before the midnight bells chime on December 31, 2007. The majority of those titles will arrive in November, after Grand Theft Auto IV's mid-October launch and before the end of the all-important holiday shopping season in mid-December.
Now, PC gamers can add one more title to their overflowing Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa shopping lists. During today's post-earnings report conference call, Electronic Arts CFO Warren Jenson narrowed the ship window for Crysis, the eagerly anticipated shooter from German developer Crytek. "We are now planning to launch Crysis in early November," he told analysts. Previously, the game only had a tentative 2007 release date.
[UPDATE] Early Thursday morning, EA announced an exact ship date for Crysis. The game will arrive on Friday, November 16, exactly one month after GTA IV. "We're thankful to our fans for their support and patience, and we're excited to bring them Crysis this year," said Crytek CEO and president Cevat Yerli in a statement."
Go to GameSpot.com to read the full article...
Sunday, July 29, 2007
"Mechanics and aesthetics are certainly important pieces of any model of game design, but in the end, such analysis provides little insight into what makes a game enjoyable. You end up with a set of fragmented pieces that tell you almost nothing about the meaningful interactions between the game as a simulation and the player as an active and evolving participant. Games are not mathematical systems. They are systems that always have a human being, full of desires, excitement and immense cleverness, sitting smack dab in the center. To accurately describe games, we need a working psychological model of the player."
Full link is here:
Friday, July 27, 2007
Ebert's main point I think is that he has a feeling that interactivity extinguishes the artist's message, thereby ruining it. The fact that the user can direct his own command of the experience seems to bother Ebert, whereas in "art" he suggests the artist must command the entire thing, enveloping the communication of the experience by injecting it straight into the observer. This of course comes from Ebert, himself a filmmaker and movie freak. My summary may be off base a little, but I think generally that's what Ebert is saying.
Here's my opinion -- my own experience in observing "art" -- in music, literature, visual medium, other any other medium that you can think of -- is that this interactivity exists but it is very much internalized and intellectual. We react to "art" in real-time and therefore are not static recipients of a one-way communication. We continue to connect to what we see and hear and feel not only with continued input through our senses, but now through this additional "mindtrack" of our own making. All art is interactive. It may be internally interactive, intellectually or physically so, but interactive nonetheless.
So games take this intellectual "mindtrack" we superimpose on everything we experience and give it some power. What an amazing advancement for art and for an experience that other humans work so hard to create to make for us to enjoy and learn from and respond to just as the classic mediums we have been used to in the whole of modern human history. It will take another generation to recognize this completely.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
"Jim Purbrick: Second Life and User-Generated Content
User-generated content is set to become a big issue in games, and virtual world Second Life has hinted at what's possible. Linden Labs' Jim Purbrick exposed some of its secrets at Develop.
While it's not technically a game, Second Life has a lot to teach the industry about user-generated content in persistent worlds, according to a lecture from Linden Labs' Dr. Jim Purbrick. Dr. Purbrick claimed that users were 30 times more likely to create something for Second Life than they would be in The Sims."
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
"Do you have a passion for games?
You can be a part of this exciting industry. There are many challenging roles to play in the game business, and the foundation you will find at Flashpoint Academy will prepare you as a top candidate for those entry level spots. If you want to be a producer, writer, designer, artist, modeler, coder, or any of the other dozens of possible roles that our training can prepare you for in this field, here's what you can expect in our game development, design and production program (if you're not yet sure what it is that you want to do, that's OK! Our program will give you a great start so that you can find your area of specialization -- see What kind of careers are there in the Game Industry?).
Flashpoint Academy features:
Critical training in professionalism and teamwork appropriate to the industry.
Building online student portfolios.
Hands-on workflow with professional digital asset management systems.
Training and creative content building with key tools such as 3D Studio Max, Maya, SoftImage XSI, ZBrush, MudBox, Adobe Creative Suite (including Photoshop), Dreamweaver MX, Microsoft Project, Microsoft Office Suite, Microsoft Developer Studio, plus various modding tools for cutting-edge game engines.
Side-by-side work with game professionals and actual contracted work with companies throughout many industries.
Interfacing with local studios in Chicago including Midway Games, Electronic Arts, Wideload, Pop Cap Games, Day 1 Studios, and others, including work with the International Game Developer's Association.
Ultimate innovation and creativity in all things while understanding all aspects of the business.
In addition to our seasoned teaching staff from the game industry, we are actively bringing in additional lecturers and industry talent including such developers as Sleepy Giant and thatgamecompany.
Are you ready to take the next step? Please click here to give us your contact information so that you can learn more about our Game Development and Design program. Our admissions counselors are looking forward to answering your questions once you complete the contact form -- we have an open house coming up that we hope you can attend, and if that doesn't work out, we invite you to a private tour.
Classes begin September 17th."
Sunday, July 22, 2007
"The key points that we're gonna do that no one's done before in an MMOG are bring story, character, and emotion to it. Decisions matter, [non-player characters] aren't just Pez dispensers, and you're not in a grind," Rich Vogel, co-studio director and "MMO veteran", told
"You're really compelled to get on and play what's happening today, kind of like watching a series like Lost on TV - putting page-turning in an MMO. It's going to be extremely challenging thing to do, believe me."
We are so fortunate to have such amazing facilities located right in the heart of Chicago. This is the first new school built in the Loop in the last 45 years!
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
"MTV Networks’ Nickelodeon Kids and Family Group Commits $100 Million to Its Online Casual Games Business
NEW YORK and SEATTLE, July 18 — MTV Networks’ NickelodeonKids and Family Group today announced its commitment to invest $100 millionover the next two years in development, distribution and creation of casualgaming titles, sites and platforms."
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Perry asked Danny Boyle about the use of visual effects and in particular the presentation of the Sun as a character, and the director gave a passionate and elaborate reponse about his work on the film and use of effects and the coordination of how actors interact with off-screen or green-screened elements (Mr. Boyle simulates events in the room at additional cost if necessary where other productions might just say, "PRETEND YOU SEE SOMETHING INCREDIBLE").
The next day, the Associate Chair of Film at Flashpoint Academy Peter Hawley interviewed him one-on-one in a special feature that we will edit and present on our website soon.
Monday, July 16, 2007
Sunday, July 15, 2007
Thursday, July 12, 2007
"Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men's blood and probably will not themselves be realized."
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
by Simeon Peebler
Getting a job in the game business is not easy; however, with preparation in the right areas, being a top candidate is something you can achieve.
Here’s the challenge. The CMP Game Group’s Game Developer Research division has revealed in its recent census that the number of people working within video game development and publishing in North America is nearly 40,000. With many new education programs throughout the United States, there are thousands of graduates looking for entry-level opportunities while relatively few new openings exist. As a result, game studios and publishers are now facing a daily avalanche of resumes, demos, reels, and others types of submissions seeking these coveted spots.
Getting an initial job in Quality Assurance (QA) is what many people recommend with respect to getting a foot in the door in this field. Forget starting out in QA if you don’t really have any special skills or interest in that area. If you want to start a career in the industry as a designer, story builder, artist, composer, producer, production technician, production assistant, or programmer, you are going to have to do things at a much higher level than those competing for those same entry level spots throughout the industry. In my research and discussion with employers in my role as a professor at a new digital arts school in Chicago called Flashpoint Academy, I found a distinct and consistent thread that is guiding what we’re doing in making a new breed of digital artists in the fields of game development, visual effects and animation, film, and the recording arts.
Here’s our school’s general breakdown of what it takes to be a top entry-level candidate for the game industry.
1. You need to have…Professionalism
If you can demonstrate by concrete example that you are dependable, trustworthy, a team player, and an excellent communicator, and that you are willing and eager to learn and do the hard work and drudgery that is required to complete assignments accurately and on time, this will really increase your value to a potential employer. You can actually learn these skills by working with professionals who mentor you along the way; the traits and behaviors I mentioned sound obvious and easy, but it is what you learn after you know everything that really counts. In school you can learn all of the tools of the trade, but, in most schools, you can’t learn in the classroom what most people traditionally learn through accident and trial and error when they are lucky enough to survive their first big breaks. And your potential employer will value this – they don’t want to suffer through your terrible twos. At Flashpoint we integrate professional productions and projects into the classroom and we take students out of the classroom to bring them real world opportunities to work side-by-side with and for professionals in their field of choice.
2. You need to have…Passion
Do you really love games? Do you really have a passion for this business? Having passion means that you have an internal pilot light that is ready to ignite your soul at a moment’s notice when it comes to this area of your life. It is a powerful energizer that will give you the ability to innovate, create, and commit yourself personally to the long hours and sacrifices required in this line of very challenging work. It is amazing how many people show up but fail to be excited or proud or happy about what they are doing. Not everyone can be a Steve Irwin in this world, but we can in fact ignite our passions and share them with others in a positive way.
3. You need to have…An Online Portfolio
Use the tools of the information age to tell your story; all you need to start is a weblink. Every potential employer can more effectively promote your “credentials” and what you have to offer decision makers by forwarding simple links to various staff members, HR departments, managers, business owners and so on. Create this website yourself, and make sure it is simple to navigate. Test it out! Present only your very best work. Leave your learning exercises off of the site. Favor quality over quantity. Buy your own URL too, since that is easy enough to do and cheap enough these days. You are worth it! And keep your site up to date when you are working with material that you can share even from work. This is your digital life story. At a moment’s notice you never know when a new opportunity can come to you through the web.
4. You need to have…Experience
Just because you haven't had an internship doesn't mean you can't get real experience out there. If you are a student and you are in a program with no curriculum to support team or group projects which result in valuable demonstrated results that you can share in your portfolio, get together with some other passionate people and make your own work experience. Create your own game dev team with like-minded people; join the modding community; do some highly creative indie work that demonstrates your passion and makes a great addition to a compelling portfolio; work in teams; and work with other people in diverse settings. Today’s games are made sometimes in teams comprising of over a hundred people! At Flashpoint we have an in-school publishing and development studio, and this provides great experience for students before graduation since the work completed is really not just another student project – it is made in conjunction with professionals and the industry.
5. You need to have…Domain Expertise
Know your tools. Know the technology. Know the industry and its history and the business. Know the players. Understand not only the facts, but the concepts, patterns and trends. Be a smart contributor -- not just a button pusher. Hey, and don’t forget to know your hardware! Even if you think that you have no business knowing anything about programming because you are in marketing, guess again: your exposure to the technical details will empower you in incredible ways and allow you to effectively communicate with and understand the hardcore geek talk in a much more reasonable manner. At Flashoint we give all of our incoming game developers lots of general training in this highly complex field before they focus on their specific area of interest.
6. You need to have…Problem-Solving Skills
Make creative problem solving a central tool at your disposal. This is a serious skill that requires a lot of work to develop and demonstrate to employers. It’s such a valuable skill because the game business and technology behind it is constantly changing. There are very few cookie cutter projects or even game studios out there. The business pushes the limits of everything and everyone in every aspect of how it operates. This requires that the people who are the producers and creators must constantly adapt to changing goals and technologies like no other business or industry in existence. To succeed in this environment, you must be able to solve new problems every single day.
7. You need to have…Talent
You need a certain level of talent and skill in your area of interest and focus and you need to demonstrate this in your online portfolio. This “talent” can be learned. And really what this means is that you are outstanding at what you do if not a bit original. And here’s a helpful hint: Be wary of people who tell you that everything you do is great. Go to a wide range of people who give you some negative feedback. Learn from it. Don’t take it personally, and try again. Look to find mentors out there who will give you this honest feedback when you are preparing work to share with the rest of the world. This will only serve to help train and improve your own sensibility.
So to sum up what I have laid out in terms of how to really get a job in the game industry, this is the formula: you need to have talent, problem-solving skills, domain expertise, experience, an online portfolio, passion, and professionalism. With this set of qualities and abilities, you will be a very valuable member to any team in any capacity. Flashpoint prepares students looking to start a career in this industry by building a framework for these things, which you can see may or may not directly relate to how to write a line of code or construct a model in some specific software or program.
My final comment and word of advice is that a key thing to do for your career is to revisit this list once you are in the door. Constant revision, improvement and hard work in all of these areas will elevate your position and open more opportunities once you are in the thick of things in this very demanding and competitive field. It won’t take forever. There’s room at the top. It may be lonesome but at least it’s not crowded.
Simeon Peebler is Department Chair of Game Development at Flashpoint Academy in Chicago, at http://www.flashpointacademy.com/. He has over a dozen years in the game industry working as a programmer and designer for such companies as Imagination Pilots Entertainment, FASA Interactive, totalPlay, Jellyvision, Brain Block Interactive, and itoons. He has also worked as a senior software engineer in the trading technology business.
Starting on Wednesday at 11 pm CST...
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Monday, July 9, 2007
"JOHN RICCITIELLO is assembling his video game legions, and he wants you.
No, not you, desensitized, caffeine-mainlining, virtual-gun-toting twitch artist. No, not you, high school Madden fiend or video basketball jock. After all, he’s already got you in his back pocket.
He wants to sign up everyone else. That means you, soccer mom. That means you, cubicle-dwelling Dilbert clone. That means you, seventh-grade girl. You may not think of yourselves as gamers now, but if Mr. Riccitiello has his way, you just might soon be."
Sunday, July 8, 2007
"Spot On: E3 absentees sound off
Many publishers and developers are steering clear of next week's trade show--they explain to GameSpot what's keeping them away."
"After months of uncertainty, next week the gaming industry will finally experience the new E3 Media & Business Summit. The event is the dramatically overhauled successor to the Electronic Entertainment Expo, which had been the central event of the North American game industry for the previous 12 years."
Friday, July 6, 2007
"DS top-selling game device in Australia between April and June
Nintendo DS sales in Australia almost equal to all three next-gen consoles combined; PS3 top-selling new console."
Thursday, July 5, 2007
Check out Lindsay's Eyetronics face scan!
This commonly held idea out there that gaming robs one of good things in life is rather backward. It dramatically changes the way we live for sure. A recent UK study found that nearly 100% of children under the age of 10 play video games (or at least have played them in some form or other).
Study: Video games rob reading, homework time
Study: Gamers spend less time reading and doing homework
Girls spend less time doing homework, boys spend less time reading
Gaming does not impact time spent with friends and parents
Video game play can be a distraction but may not hurt grades
"Alongside our daily coverage of online worlds, WorldsInMotion.biz is also building up a database of the major virtual worlds in this new Online World Atlas.
The virtual world guide, which will become the basis for the forthcoming Game Developer Research papers on virtual worlds, MMOs, and virtual items, includes information on the world, its payment model, key features, useful links, and a brief in-world guide, including exclusive screenshots and analysis on in-world interactions.
We're expecting to add approximately two worlds per week to the Online World Atlas, so check back often to see the latest specifics on a multitude of virtual environments."