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What I Played: 2011 Edition

What I Played: 2011 Edition

Posted on Jan 27, 2012 in Blog, Feature, Now Playing | 2 comments

I’m a little later than usual getting my “year in review” list up this month. 2011 was my first year working full time in the games industry, and I expected the idea of “making games means playing less games” to apply. It didn’t apply all that much in the end – maybe I played games for less time, but I still played a lot of different ones. If this is your first time reading one of these lists, let me preface it like I always do: I’m not an expert critic, and this is mostly an exercise for me to analyze my own gaming habits. I share it publicly so my peers can better frame my background and biases as a designer/producer/geek. With that, onward! Anomaly Warzone Earth (PC) Nifty take on “tower offense.” The formula grew a bit stale for me on PC because I felt like I didn’t have enough to do while I was waiting for my troops to reach the towers, but that might feel better on the iOS version where touching and panning is a bit more action-heavy than dragging a mouse. Atom Zombie Smasher (PC) The first of many Humble Indie Bundle pickups on this list, Atom Zombie Smasher is a charming top-down defense game. The presentation value sells the experience, much like in Firemint’s Flight Control. It’s a fun time-waster, worth the price of admission, but it doesn’t bring anything new to the genre so I don’t think I learned much from it as a designer. Barkley: Shut Up & Jam Gaiden (PC) Fantastic indie RPG that took me way too long to get around to playing. It’s absolutely hilarious from start to finish and features a battle system that rivals the Paper Mario games. You don’t have to be a sports fan to appreciate an epic drama in which the events of Space Jam are considered canonical. Batman: Arkham City (PC) It’s like Arkham Asylum, but more Batman-ier in all the right ways. Arkham City was probably my “game of the year” in terms of moment-to-moment joy while playing it. Again, like Saboteur and Assassin’s Creed, it gave me a map with a ton of dots on...

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A Student’s Guide to Getting Into the Games Industry

Posted on Apr 12, 2011 in Blog, Feature | 7 comments

There’s one question other students ask me more often than anything else: “How’d you get your foot in the door?” The economy sucks. Companies say they aren’t hiring. There are a ton of job search tools out there, but none of them seem to help. Sometimes we don’t even get automated responses to our applications, much less any feedback from an actual person. Yet somehow, some people are still getting jobs straight out of school. I’m one of the lucky few, and now that I know where I’m going, I’ve had time to reflect on how I got here. There’s no clear-cut path to getting in, but there are plenty of things you can do to improve your chances – hopefully my experience will help somebody else. Create an Online Portfolio Way too many people wait until just before they graduate to make a portfolio and toss it online. You should do this as soon as you start college and add to it every semester. Add class projects. Blog about your experiences. It’ll make networking easier down the road. Shell out the ten bucks a year for a real domain name. It looks a lot more professional and it’s easier for people to find. If you can get your domain to match your name, it’ll also raise your Google karma. If you’re a programmer, producer, or designer, it’s completely fine to use a prebuilt theme for a content management system like WordPress. If you’re an artist, you can still use something like WordPress, but you should think about customizing it to show off your skills. Use your website as your opportunity to craft an experience that displays exactly what you want people to know about you. Network Early A lot of students seem to think that networking is the hardest part of the job search process. You don’t start off by knowing the the CEO of a major game company or someone who has the ability to directly land you a job. It’d be nice, sure, but it isn’t realistic. Start off by getting to know your fellow students. They’re a fantastic foundation for networking. I made a game with...

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My Gaming Habits: A Year Over Year Comparison

Posted on Feb 3, 2011 in Blog | 1 comment

One of the perks of making the “what I played” lists is the ability to look back and see how my gaming habits change over time. I took some data from those posts and visualized it… First off, it’s clear that the Xbox 360 has cemented itself as my platform of choice for this generation. I don’t play a lot of games on Xbox Live, so I guess I’ve fallen victim to Microsoft’s goal of making the Xbox the “entertainment center” of the living room. I listen to a lot of my music through it, streaming off my PC. I watch most of my movies through the Netflix dashboard app. Even though the PS3 has a Bluray player, I find myself turning on the Xbox when I want to be entertained with no particular game or activity in mind. The iPhone also appears to have replaced my DS almost entirely. I’m intrigued by the new handhelds Sony and Nintendo are hawking, but I doubt I’d spend as much time with them as I do my phone since my phone is always with me. The ease of access to buying new stuff in the app store goes a long way. It doesn’t look like my preferred game genres have shifted much when I account for what games were actually released in each year. Strategy saw a bump thanks to two different versions of Plants vs Zombies and StarCraft II. I was surprised to find that an increase in iPhone gaming happened to correlate with a decrease in puzzle games, but that might be a testament to the kind of things developers are releasing for the app store nowadays. The chart aside, I feel like the biggest shift in my gaming preferences deals with open world games such as Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood and Saboteur. I’m just now getting into those games and catching the completionist bug, so they probably make up the majority of my gaming hours. I’ve always been an early adopter of new tech in gaming – I owned a Sega Nomad, four GBA-Gamecube cables, and an eReader – so take it with a grain of salt, but 2010 represented...

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What I Played: 2010 Edition

What I Played: 2010 Edition

Posted on Feb 1, 2011 in Blog, Feature | 0 comments

I’m in my last semester of college, and I’m excited about what the future has in store. I’m also working on a couple more games that will hopefully be out the door soon. And of course, I’m looking forward to GDC in a few weeks. Here’s the second entry in what I’m trying to make an annual piece – a complete list of every game I remember playing in the previous year, along with a few impressions about it. I especially enjoyed comparing this list to last year’s to see how my gaming habits have changed (more on that in a future post). Alan Wake – Remedy (Xbox 360) As someone who was never a huge fan of Max Payne, I was more interested in the game’s perceived similarities to Resident Evil 4 and Dead Space. The “use light to kill” mechanic was really cool for the first few hours before it became tedious and repetitive. I was also disappointed by the script and the plot – it seemed to think it was a lot smarter than it was, and I guess the developers expected it to carry the experience when the gameplay couldn’t. That said, it’s original, it’s beautiful, and it’s very playable – that is to say there aren’t many bugs or control issues. This fits nicely with Resident Evil 5 as a good game that could have been great. Finished: NO APB: All Points Bulletin – Realtime Worlds (PC) Read the decon for my detailed impressions.  I had fun with APB despite its flaws. Looking forward to seeing what changes are made when it relaunches later this month. Finished: N/A Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood – Ubisoft Montreal (Xbox 360) This is actually the first Assassin’s Creed game I’ve played for more than an hour or so. After hearing so many people talking about it for the last two months of the year, I decided to pick it up right after Christmas and I haven’t been disappointed. I love it when open world games give me a map with a bunch of dots that represent things to do outside of missions – I feel like I don’t have to make...

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Reflections on Computational Media

Posted on Dec 2, 2010 in Blog | 1 comment

This is the paper I turned in for my senior design “capstone” class in which I’m supposed to reflect on how my coursework relates to the work I’ll be faced in a job after I graduate. I’m posting it because a number of students in Computational Media have asked me for advice about classes and other projects, and this is probably the most honest summary of my take on Tech I’ll ever write. My time at Georgia Tech is finally coming to a close. I absolutely love being here and I certainly don’t regret enrolling as an out of state student. I’ve shown my school spirit through founding Only at Tech and representing Tech in Indiecade and the Global Game Jam, and I’m always looking for new ways to give back. More so than the classes, the people in Computational Media have helped me achieve success beyond the school and I’m very grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given that have shaped me as a designer, producer, and person. For my capstone project, I was given the chance to work on a new game to give Georgia Tech an entry into the annual Independent Games Festival – the first time undergraduate students have been allowed to do so for course credit. To make it happen, my group had to start planning ahead of the fall semester. We built a playable prototype for the game in the spring and showed it to industry professionals for feedback during our summer internships. By the first day of class, we already had a detailed development plan and tasks for every member of the team. Our game, A Sticky Situation, is a puzzle-platforming game for the PC and Xbox 360. Players control a piece of gum who ventures outside the world of the gumball machine in search of his girlfriend who was vended away to a customer. I came up with the original concept and the gameplay mechanics, designed a couple levels, created all the marketing materials such as the website and trailer, and composed roughly half the game’s music. The team spent entire weekends (including every day of fall break) at my apartment...

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