A Game Jam at the MIT Pt.1

It’s been a busy few weeks (as always). We’re working on the console port of The Inner World, we’re working on contract work, we’re working on the sequel, I’ve been organizing a jam for a client, I’ve been mentoring kids in building cool stuff with garbage and electronics, showed our game at gamescom and in the end… i got the opportunity to go to Boston. And it was amazing:

Thursday evening:
My friend Riad and I arrive at the Airport in Boston and there Christoph is already waiting for us to pick us up. We’re super happy to be taken care of that well, as neither of us has ever been to the states. So the first day is basically being amazed by the city and especially the apartment we had the luck to stay in. We even had access to a rooftop terrace with a beautiful view at the skyline of boston.

Skyline Drinks

This day got busier than we thought. First we went shopping quickly and had breakfast. After that we went to visit the Boston Indie Game Collective. As we’re also working on germanys first indie collective called “Saftladen“, we’re more than happy to talk to other fellow indies to discuss the challenges we have to face. After that we went to the MIT where Rik showed us the Gamelab. It’s really an awesome place with awesome people trying to teach gamedesign. After the quick tour we we’re invited in a gamedesign class and interviewed about our relationship to boardgames and how we grew up with them (if we did). It was interesting to think about that again how we played as kids and how that maybe influenced the way we design & develop games today.

Rik’s office

After the tour we went for a little walk together with Jana & Friedrich and explored the West End of Boston a bit. We walked over the Charles River and had a look at the public garden. I must say this was really nice as walking through all the different parts of Boston & Cambridge really had a big variety of architectural styles to offer.

Friedrich says hi

After that we had dinner and ended of course, on our terrace again for drinks.

We went to visit the Boston Festival of Indie Games. The Festival had two floors: the first served as the boardgame showcase while the second served as the digital game showcase. I must say, although in the first place I was more interested in the digital showcase, the boardgames really amazed me. There was such a variety of interesting prototypes to play. My favorite was one where you had to build spiders nets using rubber bands. Your goal was to try to trap as many insects as you can by just throwing them at your net. This game was designed by one of the members of the Game Makers Guild, a very nice group of board game designers.

Rubber Band Spider Net

The digital showcase on the other hand had also it’s gems hidden between all the more prototype like games. On the one hand there were very professional games like The Flame In The Flood and Perception which both were created by ex AAA-Devs from Irrational. But for me the most interesting game was Ape Out from Gabe Cuzillo which won two awards at the FIG-Award Ceremony: Audience Choice and Compelling Game Loop. And i totally agree. It had a feeling of Hotline Miami with it, but as it always showed you the whole map when you died, it gave you a nice sense of how far you progressed and what you should try differently. Sadly i didn’t take much pictures of the game themselves as I was busy checking them all out.

As a summary i must say: The FIG is unlike any festival i have seen till now, because it includes a wide variety of games regarding to their “polished” status. A lot of them were very experimental and lacked good looking graphics, but on the other hand that gave some of the more experimental games the chance to be played by a big crowd. On of my surprise hits was a game called Lightning. It has a very distinct art style and the gameplay is weird – but in a good way. It’s a 4 player top down arena shooter where you have to tap the shoot button in a specific manner to guide the lightning bolt coming out of your ship. I think there is still a lot of polish to do on exactly that mechanic, but as i played and watched people playing i think there could be a little gem hidden inside that loop.

I think i have to stop this wall of text from getting any bigger – so stay tuned for part 2 of my boston trip report next sunday!


2013: Consequences, the release, love, speeches, prizes, hatred and new love.

This year may be one of the most exciting years of my entire life. Exciting in both ways: in a good and bad way. I experienced a lot of things, you would consider good and things you would consider bad. Nonetheless i am happy that 2013 and all of her events happened to me. As i said: much stuff happened, so let’s get started!

The Beginning:
As every year (also this year) i spent the new year’s eve with my best friends somewhere in Germany. It doesn’t matter where, the only thing that matters is that we’re altogether. But this time it was a bit different. We were working on the desktop version of “The Inner World”, and were totally excited about it, but i also knew that it would be a tremendous amount of work. We started to port our Adventure Engine from Objective-C to AS3 in the end of november and also got a running prototype done just in time before christmas, but of course the devil is in the detail. So we planned a four weeks coding marathon starting on second of january. That’s why that new year’s eve was so different. I knew that in 24 hours i will start something i am very proud of, working on my own game that will be released in a beautiful box, but also i will start something i never done before. These four weeks were exhausting and fun at the same time. We had a lot of fun joking around – but we also learned that we need rest too.

“The Inner World” on all supported screen sizes

The Consequences:
After this marathon i learned something else. Being a self employed developer, working in your own company and trying to code a self built engine for a 2D point and click working on iOS, Mac and Windows does cost a lot of time. A lot of time that you can’t spent with loved ones. I learned it the hard way when the relationship with my girlfriend ended after 5 years. My love for my work and my studio consumed everything else in my life. So I learned something about work-life balance: it is actually possible to devote your whole life to your work. But for me that would mean: Dying alone and killing my love for videogames. After working so hard and long on the Desktop version i hated “The Inner World”. I really hated it. And not only because i blamed it for my personal situation, which was totally bull-shit as i was responsible for my situation to a hundred percent by myself, but also because i could not stand it anymore. I was working too long and too hard on it.

One of my long midnight walks

The Release:
After I learned that lesson i had to get my life back on track as where running with the speed of light forward to one of the most important event in the past 3 years: The release! Our little pr-machinery was running hot and trying to inform everyone about our game. And they did inform what would turn out one of the most important instances for us: a german “Let’s Player” called Gronkh. His videos playing “The Inner World” and loving it gave us an insane amount of public awareness. We had an super awesome time at the Indie-Arena booth at gamescom with hundreds of fans coming and taking pictures with hack, signing our booth and giving us tons of love for this game. I was totally overwhelmed. I also made some new friends at the Indie-Arena booth and met some awesome guys from the German Indie Scene. I was am living a dream and that helped a lot to get over the loss i experienced some months ago.

The Speeches:
The release also brought a lot of professional attention to our studio. We gave a lot of speeches at different venues but the most awesome for me was Casual Connect in Kyiv. I was given the opportunity to visit the Ukraine (a country i have never been before), to meet a lot of mega awesome people, to make new friends (again), give some insight in the development process and to take home the Indie Prize in the category “Best game in show“. But what i enjoyed most is the country and the people i had the honor to meet. On such events i always have the opportunity to meet the makers of stuff i love but from a professional perspective. You know, inside of me there is still this little kid that is a fanboy of videogames and for whom the makers are like rockstars. If they sign his shirt for example he’ll probably faint. So this kid was totally overwhelmed when it had the honor to meet the makers of “Nihilumbra” or “SpeedRunners” for example. And if that wasn’t awesome enough i have the chance to get an insight that other people won’t ever get: Discussing topics we both know and exchange experiences in these topics. It’s like rockstars talking to rockstars.

Peck now is a rockstar too.

The Hatred:
After all this stuff we finally managed to get the iOS Version done. Well we thought we did. If you followed the process of our iOS release you’ll notice that we released 2 updates within the first weeks. I am not going to explain here again what happened, because that would be a blogpost by itself. I want to talk a bit about the consequences of what happened. Well our first released iOS version had some serious issues with the save-system that we didn’t encounter in our own Q&A phase. Savegames could get corrupted with a specific move that we didn’t encounter in our testing sessions, but apparently the common user would encounter everyday. So after the iOS release we still have to fix some bugs, but that’s not the point. The point is another thing that I experienced and that was totally new to me: The hate the internet can spit at you when you sell stuff to it. “I feel betrayed! I paid so much money! Game sucks!You guys suck! You guys are the worst! Everyone could have done it better! Why did you get funding for such a piece of crap! and so on…” Don’t get me wrong – i totally knew that this would happen. But knowing and experiencing are two different stories. Trust me.

More indie love instead of hate-mails.

The New Love:
If the events of this year weren’t enough, we still managed somehow to start our new project with the current title “Beyond the mountains“. It’s a survival adventure set in the H.P. Lovecraft universe and based on the story “At the Mountains of Madness” written by the godfather of horror himself. We took our experience we gained through the process of making “The Inner World” and planned a little rougelike game we want to finish in less than half a year. Guess what: it turns out that your second game is still a wavy adventure. But a good one! From the technical point of view i get the opportunity to work with another technology, the concept for this game is based on a side project i did for the 7DRL this year and is also based in one of my favorite universes – the cthulhu mythos.

Finishing the steam version of “The Inner World”

Well looking back at this long blogpost i realize how much stuff happened this year and how stupid it seems to even try to wrap it up in one blogpost. But hey – i tried. I hope you enjoyed this little tour through my version of 2013. As i am curious by nature, i have to ask: How was your version of 2013?

So long, thanks for all the fish and see you in 2014!

Pepe finally talks about games.

Hi there,

so it took me a while but now i finally managed to spare some time in order to publish my own blog about my favorite topic – games.

Of course games is a very general topic so let me clarify it a bit:
The whole thing will be about videogames, how i make them, how i think about them, how i play them, how i love them, how i hate them, how i think they’re important, how i think the industry sucks, how i love the industry, how i think being indie sucks, how i prefer being indie, how i love/hate the term indie, etc …

So first of all i should start with a short introduction of myself and why i’ll write about this stuff.

Well, i am Alexander, but mainly called “Pepe” so let’s keep it that way, shall we? My interest in videogames, or games in general, began back in 1995 when i began watching my father play Adventures. He was mainly playing Monkey Island, Police Quest, Space Quest, Kings Quest and Day of the Tentacle. After i began realizing how awesome it was to follow stories this way, by playing it, i started exploring the whole universe of interactive storytelling. Two years later i started being interested in making my own games and wrote a little text adventure for my little brother in BASIC, called “Survive Afternoon School”.

“Survive Afternoon School”
And now, 16 years later, here i am:
28 years old, Co-Founder & Technical Director of “Studio Fizbin“, finished and released the multi-platform beloved Point’n’Click-Adventure “The Inner World“, finished my studies in “Applied Computer Sciences” with a B.Sc., still loving good old PnP-Games, working on our next Project, teaching Game Programming, giving Workshops, …
So i think that’s enough for a short introduction – back to first real news!
Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes got a Release Date (03.20.2014 in Japan and 03.18.2014 in US) and some very good looking Special Editions (at least for Japan) [click!]. Actually this is the first next-gen game i really care about and will maybe be the reason for me to get a ps4.
[Pic from KONAMI]

And there is another piece of news i wanted to share with you in my first blogpost: Our first game “The Inner World” just won the German Developer Award for “Best Family Game”! Woohoo! Being nominated in five categories is pretty awesome already (Best Story, Best Sound, Best Adventure, Best Family Game and Best German Game 2013 (!)) but actually winning an award is even more awesome!