2015-10-19

Interview with Mighty Pebble Games

Today I bring you an interview with the man behind Mighty Pebble Games, a new indie studio based in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.


Chad: First off, who are you and what lead you to game development?

James: I'm James O'Halloran from Charlottetown, PEI, and I'm the owner/developer of Mighty Pebble Games. I graduated Computer Science at UPEI in 2013. After school, I worked for a small software startup in Charlottetown that unfortunately went out of business this Summer. I took some game development courses at UPEI and also played around with game dev in my spare time, so I decided that this was a good opportunity to take my hobby full time and start my own game studio.

Chad: Awesome. Charlottetown is a beautiful city. How do you see the current game dev scene in PEI?

James: There are some cool things going on in the Charlottetown game dev scene. The video game specialization program at UPEI is great so there's a good flow of new developers hitting the scene each year. It's awesome to have EA here to create lots of jobs, and there are also several medium/small studios working on some cool projects.

Chad: That's great, I had no idea they taught video game-related courses at UPEI. So, are there other members of Mighty Pebble Games, or is it a solo project?

James: Right now it's a solo project. I do all of the programming myself. I have been doing approximately 70% of the artwork, and outsourcing the rest online. I also buy all my audio assets individually online. I'm hoping to hire a full-time artist if things go well with my first game.

Chad: You've recently launched a Steam Greenlight campaign. Tell me more about your game, Miner Meltdown.

James: Miner Meltdown is a 2D team-based competitive multiplayer game. Each player is a miner, who has to explore an underground mine searching for gold so he/she can buy better weapons/gear and ultimately kill the opposing team. Matches are quick, and the game is fast-paced. I often describe it as Terraria meets Worms meets Counter-Strike.


Chad: Sounds interesting! What would you say are the advantages of going Steam Greenlight as opposed to other platforms?

James: For my project, Steam was the best option to start on based on the fact that I'm making a multiplayer game and it's an increased risk to buy 8 developer kits for testing for each platform. Steam is also very open, and a lot more accessible for new studios. Steam doesn't even require getting a rating from a ratings board (which can costs thousands). The Steam Greenlight platform also gives your game exposure to a huge audience. If the game is a hit, I will definitely consider bringing the game to consoles in the future.

Chad: Thanks for your time James, and best of luck with your campaign!

James: Thanks Chad!

Support local game development by voting for James' game on Steam Greenlight! And might as well like his studio's Facebook page while you're at it.


2015-09-09

RPG Maker Game Jam


On the weekend of August 21st, I hosted a game jam.

This came about following repeated discussions with a friend about RPG Maker, a game-making program. Basically, we were pumped to make RPG Maker games, and I thought it would be fun to get together with friends over the Internet to make games during the weekend.

I was surprised and excited by the positive response to the idea. It was pretty short notice, though, and a few people were busy that weekend. But we still ended up with nine game submissions! Click on that last link to check out everyone's entries.

The theme, announced at the start of the jam, was pride.

Here are some of the participants having fun while making their games!

THE GAMES:


The Fall of Grant Manor by Daniel Ouellet and Moni Lasangue is a choose-your-own-adventure horror game.

Pride by Rebecca Goodine, Jeff Mundee and Nathan Thompson is a game inspired by the events of Cecil the lion. 

Messtiny: Vault of Crass is a Destiny de-make by Don Levandier, complete with real-time action combat. 

Hot and Heaven by Suzanne Lapointe is a funny game set in the afterlife.

Just Cross by Josh Robertson is the longest submission, clocking in at about an hour and a half. It’s a mini RPG where you play as a chicken attempting to cross The Road.

Washed Up is an island survival game by Kyle Honey.

Kalar’s Proud Ghost by AshenStar is the only entry from a person I don’t know in real life. He found out about the game jam via itch.io and submitted his game, a short adventure about a ghost in need of help.

Overlord by Tyler Matchett, a strategy game that was totally made in RPG Maker, hehe.

50 is a short introspective game made by yours truly.

I've played through all the games, and I'm really impressed by the variety and quality. Great job everyone!

I was glad to see people make their first game during the jam. One couple even made another game since then! I think that the short duration and immediate goals of a game jam could give some people that extra push they need to actually start making games.

In the end, the game jam was a lot of fun. Participants have told me they had a great time making and sharing their games. Thanks to everyone who took part in the jam, it was a blast! I’ll definitely be organizing more jams in the future.

Prizes: In what I thought was a long shot, I contacted RPG Maker to ask if they could provide prizes. Shortly thereafter, I was pleasantly surprised to read that they would offer credit for their web store as prizes. Since they were having trouble getting the store credit, RPG Maker supplied me with three codes for the new software RPG Maker MV! The winning entries, voted for by participants, were Just Cross, Pride, and The Fall of Grant Manor. Thanks to RPG Maker support for the download codes!

2015-07-31

Update - Stutter

I announced a new game called Stutter last fall. This is just a quick update, so for a description of the upcoming game, click on that last link.

After outlining how the game would work, I finished designing the game's story and primary mechanics.

The game then had to be written. Since Stutter is built using Twine, a hypertext engine, words are pretty important. I started writing, but wasn't satisfied with the result and lost motivation. I'm mainly a designer, not a writer, after all.

Logo for the game by Marc d'Entremont

Luckily I found a great collaborator. Rosiane Comeau, a friend and coworker at the time, agreed to team up for this project. She's writing Sutter and has also contributed to design and story structure. Thanks Rosiane for helping this project take off!

As of this week, a first prototype of the game is up and running. It will be easier to finalize the story and add variations based on player choice now that we have something playable to test. Here's a quick look at the prototype story web in Twine:



Once a more complete prototype is reached, I’m going to send it to the fine folks at the Canadian Stuttering Association. Their feedback will help us improve how the game represents stuttering.

Once all this is done, a release date will be announced, then you’ll be able to play the game! Follow Fring Frang on Facebook to stay up to date.

2015-06-25

Jalloo 2015

Earlier this month, I attended the Jalloo Festival of Animation and Games in Miramichi, New Brunswick, for the first time.

I had heard of this annual event before, but figured it was more of an animation and game art thing. Lucky for me, a few Fredericton game dev friends suggested that I attend. When I saw how many interesting talks were on the schedule, I just had to sign up.


from jalloo.net

The first day was busy. The event started with a keynote by Belinda Van Sickle, CEO of Women in Games International. There were awesome talks and workshops throughout the rest of the day. Lots of talented artists from NBCC Miramichi were showcasing their work in the gym. Oh, I also got to try Oculus Rift for the first time!

After a busy day of games-related fun, the lobster supper was a welcomed break. Free drink tickets were a nice bonus, and the karaoke night at Dooly’s was a hoot.

The second day started with more talks on animation and games. After a barbecue lunch of massive hot dogs (seriously, they were huge), the animation festival screenings began. We got to vote for an audience’s choice award. There are lots of creative animation projects happening in the Maritimes (like this and that).

Game Jam

At the end of the second day, participants gathered in the auditorium for the 24-hour game jam. For those who aren’t familiar with the term, a game jam is an event where teams of friends or strangers collaborate to make a game in a set amount of time.

The theme of the jam was then unveiled: “Is this legal?” Next, there were a few ice breaker activities to get participants talking and sharing ideas.

I joined forces with the kind folks from UNB for the game jam:


From left to right: me, Jeff Mundee, Rebecca Goodine,
Lauren Cruikshank, Nicholas Polchies, Nathan Thompson, Jade Yahp

We quickly came up with a weird concept while brainstorming. I like weird games, so I was completely on board. Our game is called Crime is Sexy. Click that link for more info and to download the game!

The game jam was an absolute blast. The team worked really well together, and I’m proud of what we accomplished. I don’t collaborate very often when making games, so it was great to be able to work with so many creative people on a collective project.

So Jalloo was really cool.

I was surprised at how awesome the event was, from the wide range of speakers and topics to the talent shown at the student showcase, the animation festival and the game jam.


I'm definitely glad I went. I had the chance to meet so many cool people! Thanks to everyone for making Jalloo an amazing couple of days.


10/10, would Jalloo again.



2015-05-28

Local game development


It's easier than ever to make video games. Thanks to the Internet and the democratization of game creation tools, a wider variety of games are being made by a wider variety of people, including people from around home.

To keep track of what's happening in my neck of the woods, I'm working on a list of game-related projects from the Maritimes. This list is obviously incomplete, and is limited to what I've heard of and what I find particularly interesting, i.e. hobbyist projects and anything that reflects local culture.

Here's what I've found so far. If you have suggestions for this page, don't hesitate to leave a comment or contact me!

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PEOPLE MAKING GAMES:


Don Levandier created an RPG about the Atlantic Canadian rock/metal music scene. The singer and guitarist of The Motorleague, a band from Moncton, made Atlantic Canada: The RPG in his spare time. The band used the game for one of their music videos. I thought the game was awesome and wrote an article about it.

Evan Olthafer is re-creating my hometown's railroads in a train simulation video game. When he's done, we'll be able to see the familiar Clare tracks running with trains as they once were. It's a great way to experience the past thanks to modern technology. Cool project Evan, keep it up! Click here to see a preview of Evan's project. Do you recognize the Maxwellton crossing? (Update: I just stumbled upon another Nova Scotia train video game project thanks to a comment on Evan's video)

James O'Halloran started an indie studio in Charlottetown, PEI. Mighty Pebble Games' first project, Miner Meltdown, is currently on Steam Greenlight. If you've got a Steam account, go vote! For more information, read an interview I did with James.

Josh Robertson made an RPG game about a chicken crossing the mythical Road. It's a lot of fun! Download it for free today.


K. M. Cooper hosts an indie game blog and is working on a Twine game. Check out thisindiegameblog for insightful articles about indie games, including amazing write-ups on Gone Home and Depression Quest. Kate is also working on a Twine project with local artist Lis Plante. Visit Kate’s website or professional Facebook page for more information.

Rainier Robichaud makes video games. Originally from Pubnico, N.S., Rainier graduated from the Interactive & Motion Graphics - Game Design program at NSCC Truro in 2014. He was sponsored to participate in the 2014 Brains Eden game jam in Cambridge, England. You can play his games here.

Sam Froux made a short text adventure in Unity. Features: it's short, and it's written in Chiac. Click here to play Prison.

Tyler Matchett makes video games. Tyler's education includes Computer Science at the University of New Brunswick. He is now based out of Halifax, Nova-Scotia. Visit his web site to play some of his games!

For my own work, check the list of my games to find stories that take place in Moncton and Edmundston (New Brunswick) and Clare (Nova Scotia).

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PEOPLE TALKING ABOUT GAMES:


Daniel Ouellet uses video games in the classroom. He produces gameplay videos in French on YouTube, in part to show his students that you can create content in French too. One of his missions is to explore the potential of video games as a teaching tool. He also held a KSP competition for his students. I wish we had stuff like that in high school. (UPDATE: he now makes games too!)

Gérard Connolly hosts a French radio show about video games. Follow Le Glitch on Facebook and tune in to CKUM on Tuesday nights to listen in.

Léo Melanson runs a video game review podcast called Level Up. You can read the text versions of his podcasts on the Level Up blog, where he has published over 180 articles since 2009.

There are also YouTubers and streamers creating gaming content in the Maritimes, like the mighty LRS. He recently started making video reviews, and I hope he continues. 

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EVENTS, SCHOOLS, GROUPS:


Jalloo is an animation and games industry event held annually in Miramichi. This year's schedule shows two days of talks, showcases, and networking followed by a 24-hour game jam. I was glad to see that some past game jam projects are archived online here.

There are post-secondary programs related to video games in the Maritimes. The University of New Brunswick offers many games-related classes in its Media Arts & Cultures program, including courses on actual game design. UNB also holds great day-long workshops on game design. And as I found out while interviewing James O'Halloran, there are video game-related courses at the University of Prince Edward Island.

In terms of game art, the Electronic Game – 3D Graphics program at NBCC Miramichi has been discontinued, but they still offer their Animation and Graphics program. I recently discovered that NSCC Truro offers a game dev program. There are also 2D and 3D art programs at the Centre for Arts and Technology in Halifax. I’m sure there are more out there, so let me know of any I missed and I'll update this page.

The owners of Cold Furnace Studios, a new game dev studio in Fredericton, have started monthly Fredericton game dev meetups. These have been very fun, and are a great way to meet people in the field.

2015-04-28

Retour dans le passé avec noRmPG


(Click here for the English version of this post)

Au cours des derniers mois, j’ai fait un stream de mon premier jeu créé avec RPG Maker. C’était le fun de revisiter ce projet absurde avec mes amis, qui sont en fait des personnages dans cette aventure incomplète.

Vous pouvez visionner la version abrégée ou complète du stream en cliquant sur les hyperliens. Les liens se trouvent aussi dans le vidéo ci-dessous, qui vous donnera aussi d’autres informations. Nos discussions lors du stream sont en français acadien.




Maintenant, je raconte l’histoire derrière ce jeu en laissant quelques remarques sur toute l’affaire :

En 2009/2010, mon ami Josh Robertson a montré RPG Maker, un logiciel qui permet la création de jeux de rôle (RPG) en deux dimensions, à moi et à d’autres amis. Plusieurs d’entre nous ont ensuite commencé à nous rencontrer dans la salle commune de notre résidence pour créer ensemble. Nous partagions souvent notre progrès avec les autres. Je me rappelle que beaucoup des jeux étaient comiques. Par exemple, un des Power Rangers était le héros d’un des jeux et dans un autres, notre ami était le méchant.

noRmPG est le nom étrange que j’ai donné à mon premier projet (puisque c’était un RPG qui mettait en vedette mon ami Norm). Lorsque nous avons découvert comment importer nos propres ressources dans le logiciel, j’ai commencé à ajouter des images de mes amis. Le scénario du jeu était bizarre et comique puisqu’il consistait en mes amis réels qui interagissaient dans un monde fantastique typique des RPG. 



Quand l’excitation initiale de RPG Maker est passée, la plupart des personnes de notre groupe ont abandonné leurs projets. Josh et moi n’avions toutefois pas arrêté. Josh faisait un jeu dans lequel les méchants de plusieurs séries se regroupent pour enfin battre les héros une fois pour tous.

Je me rappelle que lorsqu’il avait fini la première heure du jeu, quelques amis se sont rassemblés autour de son portable pour jouer. Pour vous donner une idée du ton, il fallait se battre contre Majora’s Mask sur le toit de Zonday Tower pendant qu’il pleut du chocolate rain. C’est dommage que la version du jeu que j’avais auparavant est perdu sur mon ancien portable brisé. J’aurais aimé vous montrer des images du jeu.

Et moi, je continuais à bâtir noRmPG. Puisque tous les jeux vidéo que j’avais joués jusque là étaient de grosses productions, j’ai conçu mon jeu pour ressembler à ceux-là. Au fil du temps, ce qui a commencé comme une petite blague a transformé en jeu complexe de 10 heures.

Josh et moi travaillions sur nos jeux ensemble et nous nous entre-aidions avec le testage. Nos sessions de RPG Maker étaient vraiment le fun. Nous rendions nos jeux de plus en plus complexes à mesure que nous connaissions mieux le logiciel de création. Mais cet élargissement de la portée de nos jeux nous a condamnés : nos jeux demeurent aujourd’hui incomplets et abandonnés.

C’est pour ça que je voulais faire un stream de noRmPG : mes amis pouvaient voir le jeu et rire de l’histoire sans avoir à endurer un jeu qui manque d’équilibre et de raffinement.


En rétrospective, le fait que j’essayais de faire un jeu de rôle fonctionnel et d’une certaine longueur pour mes amis semble un peu ridicule. Peu importe, c’était amusant de planifier le récit et den discuter avec mes amis. Maintenant que je joue souvent à des jeux indépendants ou amateurs, je sais qu’un jeu plus court et moins soigné aurait été la meilleure approche.

En bâtissant ce jeu, j’ai maîtrisé RPG Maker, ce qui m’a aidé en la création de deux de mes plus récents jeux, La vie d’Arcade et Pokémon Dusk. Le streaming et l’affichage des vidéos m’ont aidé à mieux comprendre Twitch et YouTube, deux plateformes que je ne connaissais pas très bien. 

noRmPG reflète lépoque dans laquelle je lai créé. Que ce soit par les vieilles photos damis ou les blagues et situations dépassées, le jeu me ramène à mes premières années à l'université. Il y avait malheureusement quelques moments du jeu que jai choisi de ne pas streamer ou publier. Quelques blagues irrespectueuses ne me faisaient plus rire. Mais à part ça, le stream était vraiment le fun! Plusieurs fois, nous avions les pleurs aux yeux à force de rire.

Merci à Normand Pothier, Alexandre Tremblay, Ernie Deveau, Ricky John Godin, Jon Roy et toutes les personnes qui ont participé au stream sur les ondes ou dans le chat. C’était le tyme! Et merci à Josh Robertson pour me montrer RPG Maker et déclencher mon passe-temps de création de jeux vidéo.