For MassDiGI, 2016 is already shaping up to be one of our most action-packed years yet. In addition to our annual programs, events and activities around the Game Challenge, GDC, PAX East and SIP*, we have a stack of special projects in the pipeline along with a couple of games to launch. Phew!
That said, we’d like your help in spreading the word regarding a final push on our MA game industry survey. If you’d be so kind as to share it across your channels be it social media, email etc. and ask folks to fill it out, we’d be very grateful. The survey itself takes just a minute or two and the aggregated (and anonymized) data we get from it is very helpful to us when working with government etc. This link goes directly to it: www.massdigi.org/survey.
This year, the survey is a collaborative effort that we are doing with UMass Boston and the UMass Donahue Institute through Prof. Pacey Foster. Once the quantitative piece is complete Prof. Foster and UMass graduate student Brad Bleidt also plan on doing a few interviews with some community leaders and developers. We are already looking forward to sharing the results with everyone in late April or early May.
Lastly, we’re working with the folks at the SHiP iT! Game Jam in Montreal. If you or anyone you know might be interesting in jamming on a ship in the St. Lawrence in late May. Drop us a line. We have made arrangements with the organizers regarding tickets (including, potentially discounted spots for students). Should be an amazing time. Check out their video below.*
Hibachi Hero, a free, fun and fast-paced first person food shooter released today on the App Store, came from the imaginations of talented MassDiGI SIP interns Sai Timmermann from IUPUI, Melissa Chiu from RIT, Chris Bruno from Becker College, Mackenzie Denker from Northeastern, Uyen Uong from RPI, Rejon Taylor-Foster from Becker and Alex Ripple from Berklee who all teamed up to bring the game to life.
Working together this past summer, the team, using Unity, produced a great game (watch the trailer here) which caught the eye of our New York City-based game publisher partner, Thumbspire. From there, in coordination with Thumbspire, we brought Hibachi Hero into our LiveCode Studio program at Becker during the fall 2015 semester. Through LiveCode, more students from Becker as well as other schools had roles in the further development of the game and getting it ready to ship.
This fall, the LiveCode launch team, a group of students from across a range disciplines, put the final touches on Hibachi Hero and it is now available to download for iOS (coming soon for Android on Google Play – stay tuned).
It has been a busy semester for the launch team which pushed out Limbs (Google Play, App Store), a SIP14 and LiveCode 14/15 & 15/16 title, in October and, working with Thumbspire, launched Midnight Terrors (Google Play, App Store), also a SIP14 and LiveCode 14/15 & 15/16 title, which hit the stores earlier this month.
Note: Read other launch stories from the Worcester Telegram here, AdWeek’s SocialTimes here, The Patriot Ledger here and MassLive here.
It is hard to believe that 2016 will mark our fifth time hosting the Game Challenge. Time flies. Over the years we have seen some amazing game concepts and titles near-release from a range of indies and students of all sorts. Take a look back in our Game Challenge archives and check them all out. We are proud to have had folks participate from far away places and right next door. And, sponsors, mentors, speakers, volunteers and judges have helped make it all happen. Thanks again to everyone involved, we sure couldn’t do it without your support – especially, Microsoft New England for providing such great space each year.
That said, we expect this year to be better than ever. Though no substantial changes have been made, we have tweaked a few things which will be noticeable to veteran competitors at the event. With only 40 slots available, team registration will go fast so if you’re an indie, college or high school team, sign up sooner rather than later. See you on February 27 and 27!
Don’t let the bedbugs bite: Midnight Terrors hits stores
By Tim Loew, executive director, MassDiGI
Midnight Terrors, a free, fun and challenging tower defense game released today on the App Store and Google Play, came from the imagination of Joe Lajoie in May 2014. At that time, Joe, a Becker College student (now alumnus), was an intern in our annual MassDiGI Summer Innovation Program (SIP). After successfully pitching his idea about a boy named Casey and his toys to the rest of SIP, he along with talented students Renzo Heredia from Berklee, Loren Sherman from MIT, Ning Xie from Mt. Holyoke, Benji Smith from Northeastern and Aromie Kim from Tufts teamed up to make the game a reality.
Working together over that summer, the team, using Unity, produced a high-quality game (watch the terrific trailer here) which, during a demo at Boston TechJam, caught the attention of New York City-based game publisher Thumbspire. From there, partnering with Thumbspire, we brought Midnight Terrors into our LiveCode Studio program at Becker during the 14/15 academic year. Through LiveCode, many more students from Becker as well as RISD, Hampshire and WPI had roles in the further development of the game, winning awards and polishing it to the point where it was tested in international markets.
This fall, the 15/16 LiveCode launch team, a group of students from across a range disciplines, put the final touches on Midnight Terrors and it is now available to download for iOS and Android.
It has been a busy semester for the launch team which pushed out Limbs (Google Play, App Store), another SIP14 and LiveCode 14/15 & 15/16 title, in October and, working with Thumbspire, has Hibachi Hero, a SIP15 and LiveCode 15/16 title, slated to hit the stores on December 17.
Update: Click here to read the Worcester Telegram’s December 8 story on the Midnight Terrors launch.
Take this, please: 2015/16 Mass. game industry survey
By Tim Loew, executive director, MassDiGI
A few years ago we launched our first survey of the Mass. game industry. We learned quite a bit. We hope to learn more this time around, too.
That said, I’d like to thank all the survey respondents in advance – be they companies, studios, divisions, universities, hobbyists, non-profits, indies, schools, departments, colleges, etc. The information you provide in the 2015/16 Mass. Game Industry Cluster Census & Econometric Survey is critical in helping understand aggregate workforce, business, education and technology trends while providing the statistical foundation for expected biennial comparisons as well as ongoing efforts to attract talent, grow the sector and build alignment across industry, academia and government. Confidentiality is assured. Only aggregate data will be reported.
Take two minutes and take the survey – click here!
I’d also like to thank Prof. Pacey Foster at UMass Boston and the folks at the UMass Donahue Institute for there invaluable assistance.
I encourage you to share the survey link with anyone and everyone in your network. The more data, the merrier.
Limbs – Puzzle & Dislimberment, a free, fun and match-three game is now available to download on both the App Store and Google Play. The game, created during the 2014 MassDiGI Summer Innovation Program (SIP), was developed by students James Spavold from Becker College, Catherine Shen from RISD, Andrew Krischer from Northeastern, Sienna McDowell from WPI and Renzo Heredia from Berklee College of Music who all teamed up to bring the game to life.
Working over that past summer, the team, using Unity, produced a good game – watch the trailer here. From there, we brought Limbs into our LiveCode Studio program at Becker during the 14/15 academic year. Through LiveCode, more students from Becker as well as other schools had roles in the further development of the game and getting it ready to launch.
This fall, the LiveCode 15/16 launch team, a group of students from across a range disciplines, put the final touches on the game and it is now available to download for iOS and Android.
It is shaping up to be a busy semester for the launch team which plans to publish Midnight Terrors, also a SIP14 and LiveCode 14/15 & 15/16 game, and Hibachi Hero, a SIP15 and LiveCode 15/16 title, before the end of the year.
Please note Limbs has been renamed and can be found in the stores as Limb Lobber.
This past Thursday’s jam-packed Open House marked the end of our fourth annual Summer Innovation Program; and what a program it was! Our 24 amazing interns did a remarkable job in getting four game projects in near release condition in just over 11 weeks of work. We were impressed and proud of their effort throughout the entire summer. Stay tuned as we make announcement related to the games over the coming months.
Information on the games as well as links to Open House media coverage can be found below.
The 2016 MassDiGI Game Challenge will take place on February 26 & 27, 2016 at Microsoft New England. The Game Challenge is a one-of-a-kind pitch competition and event that helps aspiring game developers launch new games. Please save the date. More information regarding the event including registration details will be posted in the fall.
We’re coming up on the last week of the Summer Innovation Program now, and although the choices we’ve made since our last post haven’t been nearly as dramatic as the choice we made to scrap our idea entirely at the beginning, in many ways they’ve been harder to make. Throwing away one idea for something more fun is easy; coming to terms with the flaws in your ideas is another ballpark entirely.
The biggest change we made to Hibachi Hero was removing a mechanic where players had to tap the food that was cooking on the grill before it burned in order to serve it to the customers. We saw that our play testers felt distracted by the mechanic and wanted to devote their time to throwing knives. Many of the players ignored the food on the grill completely, only to be frustrated because they were losing the game. We tried to combat this problem with a tutorial, and while the players who read the tutorial understood and became better at the game, they weren’t having as much fun. We had to let go of our attachments to the idea we had built up of what our game was, and follow what was truly fun about our game – throwing knives.
When we removed the food serving mechanic it became apparent that the customer order system had to go as well. We were left with a single mechanic and no way to win or lose. Making matters worse, most of our major play testing opportunities had passed so we had much less feedback to guide the process of building our game back up. To say that we were feeling vulnerable would be an understatement.
We started small, building off of what we knew from our players and whatever we could salvage from the dismantled mechanics of our game. We knew that the order system hadn’t been successful because players hated not cutting the foods they didn’t need for the current recipe, so we based our losing condition off of that knowledge and built a system where the player received strikes for missing pieces of food. We also made the decision to have cut foods continue to cook on the grill and be served without the player tapping on them, and to have tips rewarded when the food finished cooking rather than when it is cut. We built off of that by implementing an earlier idea that hadn’t quite fit into the game at the time it was suggested: seasonings that the player could cut to season the foods on the grill and gain more tips. Later on we added in daily quests that reward the player for completing small optional challenges, as well giving the player a tip multiplier that grows the longer that the player goes without missing a food.
Once we had our core mechanics in we decided as a team that any ideas we had for a new feature would have to go into a document for the future. From that point on, we would only be polishing what was already in the game. For our programmers that meant bug fixes and ensuring that the knife throwing experience was flawless. Meanwhile, the artists turned their focus to populating the in-game shop with unique knives and restaurants as well as developing a UI that worked seamlessly with the various backgrounds that players could unlock, in addition to creating a trailer for the game.
Reflecting back on this summer, our team has learned the meaning of not being afraid to let our game change and evolve from our original vision of it. Although our mentors had stressed this piece of advice to all of the teams from the start of SIP, it was a concept that we couldn’t fully grasp until it had become abundantly clear that our only option in moving forward was to let go of half of the game we had made. Ultimately, it’s made Hibachi Hero a better game and prepared us for the next set of challenges that the industry will throw at us. The only thing left to do now is ready ourselves to let go of the game we’ve poured ourselves into for the past ten weeks, and hold on tightly to the knowledge that we’ve made it the best game we could in the time we were given. Team Hibachi, signing out.
*This post originally appeared on 7/30 at http://games.massdigi.org/hibachihero/dev-diaries/following-the-fun/