Sunday, October 5, 2008

Update!

Wow, so I let time get away from me and haven't updated my blog in quite sometime. Okay so, I REALLY let time get away from me and so much has happened since my last ramblings on.

Well first and foremost of importance to mention is my engagement to my fiancée Yoriko of whom I've known would become my life partner from the moment we met. I proposed to her at the Botanical Gardens of Georgia up in Athens, where I attend college back in July on her birthday. Since then we've been busy trying to determine where, when and how expensive do we want our wedding to be and trying to plan it out one piece at a time. I think we both want to try and keep the costs down and save that money towards purchasing a home one day, so if anyone has any suggestions for doing just that, we're all ears! : )

So it looks like I've got about a year or so left to finish up my undergraduate studies at UGA as an Interdisciplinary student. So far I've been very pleased with what I've been learning through the Graphic Design, Dramatic Media and Scientific Illustration departments though I think I've finally made a decision to focus on an specific area of 3-D modeling/animation depending on where my strengths lie and improve on my skills. This semester has kept me very busy so far and with the addition of being selected to participate in a website design project for a cancer survivorship research group, it's about to get even more busy. But it will all be worth it in the end and the work that this group is doing for cancer survivors is to be commended. My plan for this coming Summer is to try and find an internship with a game developer if I can. My new goal is to become skilled enough to be useful for a variety of projects I may be asked to work on.


I just got back from spending a weekend at SIEGECON 2008, (Southern Interactive Entertainment & Game Expo) where I met some great folks in the industry as well as a few students that are also trying to break in to the industry as I am. Perhaps if things work out, some of us can collaborate on a game development project in the near future. I learned quite a bit of knowledge there about how the industry works, and more importantly how my specific department within the game industry works and the level of skill and know-how I should try to aspire to in order to become useful to a game development team. And I want to be useful to a team. I definitely don't want to be hired on a game development project and be put into a position where I slow down the "Pipeline" as it's referred to in the industry. I had a great time there and I was especially impressed with one particular Georgia based company, Hi-Rez Studios, not only with their new game "Global Agenda", but also with the demeanor and positive attitude that the entire development team had when meeting them in person at the con. They apparently have a in-house alpha testing at their Alpharetta office coming up soon so I think I'll sign up for it.

I also learned that making mods for a game engine to showcase in your portfolio work is something that is pretty much expected of those wishing to break into the industry and I just found out that apparently Unreal Tournament III allows the user to experiment with bringing in their own 3-D models into their Unreal engine. So the hunt has begun for a copy of the game with the extra tutorials for using their engine. I'm very excited about getting started with this and I'm hoping to possibly work with some other students that also attended the con in possibly designing a mod or level design.

Let's see I don't have too much else to add since I really should get back to a scientific illustration that I've been working on. I'll just close this off by mentioning some game related stuff:

1. Bionic Commando Re-Armed: This game was absolutely fantastic and I was very much addicted to it when it was first released. It's everything that was fun about the original NES Bionic Commando and filled with new content, and new challenges. Unlocking 200/200 ahcievement points for the Xbox 360 version was extremely challenging, but the right kind of challenge that kept me coming back for more punishment. I've got to hand to Grin, the studio that developed it, that they did an excellent job with this one!

2. Mega Man 9: AT LONG LAST! A new Mega Man game that is numbered and part of the original 8-Bit Nintendo series. As homage to all of the fans and *cough* fanatics, a.k.a. Me, that grew up playing these games, the style was kept in 8-bit format and it was definitely designed with the fans in mind. Thank you very much Inafune-san and IntiCreates! The game itself plays and takes various elements from Mega Man 1-3, which in many fan's opinions, were the best titles in the series. It's everything one would expect from an old-style Mega Man game with all kinds of new additions, physics and challenges implemented to keep you coming back to beat it again and again. To be honest, while I've already finished it once for the Xbox 360 and have unlocked some of the achievements, I'm just itching to play it again when I can free up some more time from my studies!

3. Cave Story: Cave Story is at last getting a commercial release! And one that is been much awaited by several CS fans. We kept hoping and pushing it to happen and I'm very happy to hear the great news that it will be getting a release on Nintendo's WiiWare lineup sometime in the near future! I'm also very happy to hear that my site, which served as a tribute to the game for several years now has helped aid this commercial release! Congratulations Pixel-san! You definitely earned it!

Now... if only XyZ could spark some interest in publishing the Xak games for Virtual Console, that'd be amazing! : 0

4. Backloggery.com: If you are a hardcore gamer and also a collector, or perhaps just curious enough to spend some time creating a profile and logging your games that you've finished, this site is definitely for you. I've always wanted to know just how many games I've played through over the years and now it seems there is a database that is simple and easy enough to use that I can finally learn what that magic number will be. I'm still adding games, but it looks so far like it will be over 1000+ games that I own/played/finished... which means that I've probably played too many and should probably go outside more. *laughs*

Anyhow if you're curious, this is my profile there:
http://www.backloggery.com/main.php?user=skyewelse

Till' next episode!

Monday, April 14, 2008

New Media Technologies Blog - Entry #11 Results of the 7th Annual Game Developer Salary Survey

Kotaku.com Article

Well, 73,600 is definitely higher than the national average income, so it's good to see that jobs in this industry are bearing fruit. Becoming a game designer has always been a dream of mine, so it's a nice bonus to see that this dream also has the potential to pay the bills. At any rate, there are some interesting facts mentioned on the survey as well:

"Art & Animation: artists - averaging a $66,594 salary - are also a well trained group, with 66% reporting at least a bachelor's degree. The percentage of artists with six or more years of experience increased to 40%, up 5% over last year, as industry workers matured. Game Design: Averaging $63,649, design positions sprouted an average $2,111 over last year, with writers new to the industry up by $6,000 to an average of $51,731."

Also, "18% of producers are women" which is fairly substantial.

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Monday, April 7, 2008

New Media Technologies Blog - Entry #10 Stephen King On Violent Video Games

Stephen King's Article: Video Game Lunacy

I could not agree more with what Stephen King has said in his article and I think he raises some very interesting points. Sure, violent video games do in fact offer a alternate reality experience where you can take the role of a character who can and most likely will kill another human being in the game world. But the fact of the matter is that certain people in this world are simply unstable individuals who probably shouldn't be playing violent video games in the first place because they for whatever reason cannot handle acknowledging that what you can get away with in a video game should be separate from real life. By that, it isn't the game's fault or the fact that the Virginia Tech shooter was able to possibly gain ideas about how he might kill his fellow students by playing the a game such as "Counter Strike", but rather that he was allowed to acquire a loaded gun. Whether or not he enjoyed violent video games is besides the point completely, because if it had not been a video game, it would would have been something else within our current culture of violence that would have set him off. As for for "Counter Strike", an online game where you play on teams designed around Counter-Terrorists and Terrorists, several of my friends played this game religiously and enjoyed it immensely without taking their violence to another level altogether.

It was awhile ago, but I remember a friend of mine telling me about a story, either a film or book, I'm not sure. It had something to do with a group of kids that enjoyed playing Dungeons and Dragons, or something to the effect of a role playing game. In the story, one of the characters enters a the classic scenario of the "Maze and the Minotaur", but the player is mentally unstable from the get-go and loses all sense of reality and starts believing that he is really inside that game's imaginative world. Ultimately the story ends with the mentally unstable player mortally wounding the Minotaur only to show as an aside to us that the Minotaur was not a beast, but simply one of his friends that is also playing the game. The story ends with the unstable kid not knowing what he has just done to this other boy. In other words, the kid simply couldn't handle the culture that was presented to him and if given a weapon, therein lies the true essence of danger, not the game itself.

So yeah, I think Stephen King's article makes an excellent point about how foolish it is to attack video game violence in this way. And the true thing about it is that even you were to do this and start banning games in this way, it will change nothing because of how culture is today. That's the simple truth. However, the only thing it will change is that the companies producing these games now have a smaller market in which to easily sell and distribute game to, which means less revenue and overhead on their time and money pumped into the game's development, which leads to games getting canceled or not given an opportunity for sequels.

Now, this is a bit different from my Jack Thompson entry, as I do agree with some of Thompson's statements about video game violence, including his attacks on franchises like Grand Theft Auto. The difference is, Thompson wants to enforce that the rating system of video games is held intact and that the availability of mature video games are more regulated so that only those 17+ can get a hold of them. Basically the same as how R rated films work in movie theaters. Unfortunately, the regulation of mature video games is not quite on the same scale as the theater industry, which still isn't saying much.

And just for the record, I'm not the greatest fan of the Grand Theft Auto series. So I support Thompson on that issue at hand. I'm probably one of the few hard core gamers out there that has anything decent to say about that man. lol

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Indiana Jones and the Lost Elgin Marmaros: A Live Action UGA Indiana Jones Themed Game



Project Website

This is a game that my buddy Alli and I have been working hard to create for a Digital Media class. Our assignment was to make a pervasive game that could be played by UGA students in the city of Athens. In lieu of the new Indiana Jones film being released soon, we decided to go with an Indiana Jones themed game that could be played based on various historical landmarks that exist within the immediate downtown area of Athens. Together we spent a ton of time creating it as well as many props and puzzles that can be solved using various clues that can be found during the game. It's REALLY involved and can be played with 2 teams, a good guy team and bad guy team. The puzzles and clues are different for each team, but lead to areas that are close enough in proximity to give a feel of "cat and mouse" chase scenarios, as in the movies where the bad guys are always on the good guy's tail. Each team can spy on each other and even initiate a paper-rock-sissors style combat with the opposing team in order to slow each other down on a race to complete each of the puzzles as fast as they can and make their way to the hidden treasure before the other team does. So yes, in this game the bad guys can most assuredly win. lol

We've had a great time putting this together and we finally get a chance to put the game in action this Friday! We hope to be running two separate games of two teams a piece back-to-back. I'm really excited to see how it will turn out. I'm hoping that we get a good guy win and a bad guy win, because that would mean that we made the two team's puzzle even enough for both to have a fair chance at winning the game.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

House Bill 1100 Passes Senate!

I just received the good news regarding a special bill that would give Georgia film, music and interactive entertainment industries a much larger tax break for development projects if developed within Georgia. This is excellent news as this now makes Georgia a much more attractive tax haven for these industries to get started and thrive. I didn't know if it was possible to make Atlanta as appealing as the West Coast, but now I'm actually beginning to think that it could possibly happen.

So what does this mean for students? Well it means more job opportunities for those looking to find jobs in these types of industries without necessarily having to move to the West Coast. For someone who is very much interested in entering either the Video Game or Animation industry, this could not be better news!

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HB1100 Passes Senate!

Thanks to everyone who contacted their senators in support of House Bill 1100. HB1100 passed the Senate 48-1 on Monday. This vital tax legislation provides for a 20%-30% flexible tax incentive for film, music, and interactive entertainment projects in Georgia.

While our current tax incentive is 9%-12%, Georgia wasn't really competitive at those rates. Think in terms of a "buy one, get one free dinner at your local restaurant". Georgia's 9% discount didn't provide enough incentive to attract feature projects and promote infrastructure improvements.

With our new 20%-30% incentives, we're in a good position to speak with west coast and Canadian companies about looking to Georgia for production and expansion opportunities.
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Monday, March 31, 2008

New Media Technologies Blog - Entry #9 Nintendo Introduces "Wii Want More"

Wii Want More

I must say, I WAS really excited about the extra content being offered for previously released Wii games... until I realized that it was simply an April Fools Joke. Though it seemed like you would get quite a lot of content in the bundle pack for a reasonable price. I know that Xbox Live offers and has been offering a similar service for Xbox 360, but most of the downloadable content is for ala carte features that you pick individually and usually for around a minimum of $3 or $4 a pop. A bundle of extra content for a game is not a bad idea though for $10 and it seems very reasonable to me, especially if it is for a game that I enjoy. Too bad it's fake as I was excited to see that the Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and Metroid Prime 3: Corruption were on the "supposed" scheduled list of future new content as I enjoyed these games immensely. Though... lol, it would mean that I'd likely need to re-purchase these two titles as I have already sold them upon completion in order to secure newer released titles.

However, regarding downloadable content or "DLC" in general, there is one thing that still kind of bothers me. Sure, new content for old games released is entirely one thing, but what about how new releases are developed with stuff like "Wii Want More" or "Xbox Live DLC" in mind? I'm referring to how some of Xbox 360's titles are treated where a great deal of unlockable content that you have the option of purchasing from the Xbox Live service, is and was already included in the original game disc that was purchased. In other words, the content was already there, it was simply not available until you pay extra money for it. When purchasing these "new" characters, stages, extras, you are often times purchasing a "code" that unlocks the content from the disc itself and not actually patching the game with newly developed content over the web. I find that this process actually kind of cheapens the feel of whether or not you are actually receiving fresh new content for a game. I guess to me, unless the extra content purchased feels really worth the money it almost feels like the game was sold at full price as an package of incomplete content that you must spend extra money just to make it complete so to speak. Now I'm sure that this process makes quite a bit of extra money for developers and publishers, but I'm hoping that this process of hiding already developed content from the customers who purchased the game does not become a trend.

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

New Media Technologies Blog - Entry #8 Gibson's Lawsuits Over Copyright Infringements of Musical Rock'N Roll Games

Gibson Lawsuit against Harmonix

Now, perhaps I do not understand or follow all of the details behind Gibson's proposal/patent to design their own rock'n roll simulation game, but it seems to me that Gibson's idea or concept of plugging an actual guitar into a video game system or computer to play a musical video game is quite different from playing a plastic toy controller designed to mimic the process of playing a guitar. Seriously, when you think about it, the process of playing a game like Rock Band or Guitar Hero you hit a series of buttons and strum yet another button. This is quite different from holding actual strings against frets and strumming a series of various gauge wires. If all Gibson is claiming is that their idea of using a guitar to play a video game rock'n roll simulation is proprietary, they really should think again. Gibson doesn't own the rights to "Play a Guitar" so to speak, so why would they own the rights behind the idea of "Playing a Virtual Guitar"?

I don't know, perhaps I'm wrong, but to me this logic doesn't make any sense to me and for that reason if anything alone, I'll be cheering for Harmonix and hoping they come out on top.

I also thought I should add, not many Americans really know about the origins of guitar music video games, but unfortunately for all of the companies arguing over who came out with the process first, the real origins of guitar themed music video games stem from the Japanese based Konami music franchise known as Bemani, with their Guitar Freaks series which was sold exclusively in Japan as early as 1999 and similar Guitar themed game, Gitaroo Man, developed by Koei in 2001.

Both these game franchises arrived many years earlier than Guitar Hero, Rock Band or whatever Gibson is or was planning on cooking up. And just for the record, if the issue is regarding the idea or process behind having multiple, different video game musical instrument controllers playing in sync with each other to play a performance, Konami's Bemani group has them beat on that as well. As with Bemani's musical series Guitar Freaks, Dance Dance Revolution, Karaoke Revolution, Beatmania, Drummania, Keyboardmania and Pop'n Music, many of these game controllers can be hooked up together to play songs as a live performance with multiple players.

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