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Indie Spotlight: Forgotten Anne

Tell us about your game: Valdemar Schultz Andreasen (Lead Game Designer):

Forgotton Anne is an untraditional 2D platforming adventure, with a heavy focus on the narrative and an interest in telling a very human story. We’ve done what we can to make it feel as if you’re playing inside an anime-movie, with a cinematography that swoops and zooms around.

The story centers around Anne, one of two human beings trapped in the world of lost and forgotten things – the Forgotten Lands. The inhabitants are socks, scarfs and other objects that people forget, animated into life as citizens of this world.

Anne and her Master Bonku are trying to get back to the human world, but as the story begins, an explosion occurs – somebody is trying to destroy their plans of returning home.

Since Anne has the role of Enforcer of these lands, she is sent out to locate and find the cause of the rebellion.

You play the game as you would a platformer: Anne can walk, run, jump – and then she has two tools in her belt: Her wings give her a boosted jump. Her Arca-glove on her hand can draw and transfer energy – called Anima – between cylinders and power up machines. It can even draw the Anima out of Forgotlings.

Through the story told, Anne interacts with a lot of Forgotlings, not just drawing life, in fact, mostly speaking to them. Anne encounters a lot of different situations that ask something of her situation as the Enforcer, but also moral situations for the player to contemplate.

The decisions Anne and the player makes impact aspects of the story, and it is not always clear what action leads to what reaction or consequence, which might just make it worthwhile to go through the game for a second run.

Situations of identity, loyalty and choice weave in and out of a beautifully aesthetic and engaging experience, that has a constant drive forward with new areas and situations.

The human story emerges as the story becomes an investigation of Anne – not just of her past, but also of who she is as a human being. We have done what we can to avoid turning her into a caricature or a superhero, rather trying for a naturalistic description of a complicated person full of contradictions and emotions, like any of us. While Anne is athletic and cool, she is also sometimes slightly clumsy. Our lead animator, Debbie Ekberg, was really great in portraying Anne’s movements with 2D animation. The game contains more than 5000 individual drawings, frames, of Anne. She would add these subtle touches of animation that showed Anne from a more vulnerable and naturalistic side that really rounded off her character.

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What was your inspiration to create the game

Alfred Nguyen (Creative Director): It came about after a soul-searching period after I quit my job as a creative lead at a mobile games company. I was reaching a point in my life where I wanted to make use of all the skills I had accumulated throughout the years as an animation film director and artist to express something meaningful. I think there is a space for fun addictive mobile games in our lives, but it did not allow me to go deep with crafting imaginary worlds of wonder and tell stories that affected people in a meaningful way. The same way certain games, books and movies had a lingering effect on me growing up. So the first thing I did was to reflect on themes I kept returning to as an artist and topics that kept being there on the back of my mind throughout my life. My parents were refugees from the Vietnam war and I grew up in Denmark, and so had two very different cultures vying for my identity growing up. So the search for an identity, the feeling of being lost, ‘forgotten’ I could see was a recurring theme in my life. Making a game can be a sisyphean task and so I knew it had to have a personal core that guided the project through tough times, and so this world of the forgotten began to form in my mind. From there it’s just been an incredible journey, starting a company, assembling my great and loving team who is responsible for making Forgotton Anne into what it is, and bet that years of work will feel worth it, as long as we focused on a meaningful creative process instead of calculating what will be ‘hot’ in the future to play or current trends.

Forgotten Anne is availble on Steam, Xbox and PS4 May 15th

 

Zenkaikon 2018: Empathy

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I had the absolute pleasure of attending Zenkaikon 2018 this year. I will gush about all the fun that was had for hours. However, I want to talk about a very specific moment.

As press, I go there to work. I love going to conventions, but I love them more when I’m working them. I love watching other people have fun, asking guests questions and talking to people. It fills me with absolute delight.

So, as I prepared to interview one of the many amazing guests at Zenkaikon, the unthinkable happened. I was bumped into and our camcorder went flying from my hand. Even the guest attempted to dive for it as it hit the carpet and broke. The flood of emotions that filled me in those seconds is hard to describe. I picked it up and my heart sank, there was nothing I could do, it was broken and the whole weekend of interviews was flying out of my hands.

A couple of things happened all at once. As I breathed through the desire to cry and seeming apathy of the person who bumped me, I heard a couple of voices.

__yhqNo5_400x400Mae & Kyle of Fandom Spotlight jumped up and offered to record it using their camera.

I could have cried. I used their mic (a mic I was NOT used to using, so here is hoping all went well) because it had their name on it and I wanted everyone to know who these amazing people are. They even offered to sync it up and send it to me.

We couldn’t ask to make better friends at a convention. I honestly didn’t expect so much help, but they offered more, even taking the time to give us tips on things we can do differently, things we can do better as beginners. Kyle said that something similar happened to him at another convention: he dropped his camera and it broke. Another press stepped up and helped him out. A little bit of pay-it-forward but mostly, “Hey I’ve been there and it sucks.”

I’m sure you are wondering about the camcorder. Anthony, a member of the Zenkaikon staff in the press department asked to look at the camcorder while we were interviewing. I had already asked if they wouldn’t mind being amazing and allowing us to use their equipment for the rest of the day since we were in all the same interviews; however, during my interview Anthony was able to fix the camcorder. In about 10 minutes, he put everything back together.

We did lose some footage and we are attributing it to the camcorder dropping but Kyle, Mae and Anthony are our superheroes, MVPs, angels for the day. Not only did they save my sanity and our interviews but they also rolled out with that empathy, that desire to help so quickly. I was stunned. I was stunned and my heart was full.

Thank you friends for being so amazing and helping us in our time of need.

Zenkaikon 2018: An Overview

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My mind is still a buzz from our weekend at Zenkaikon, a convention I will never get tired of talking about, that I absolutely adore, and that I look forward to every year.

This is only my second year at Zenkaikon and it did not disappoint.

I want to point out something extremely important: whilst the panels, guests, vendors, anime, games, etc are all of the utmost importance for a convention, there are two things I look forward to the most:

  1. The Staff
  2. Lancaster, PA

Of all the conventions I have been to, the staff here has never been rude to me or anyone else that I’ve seen. I also walk through those doors with an understanding that these people are not getting paid, they are volunteering. They are doing this for the love of it, for the fun, for the Zenkaikon community. They are trying to tame a convention of people. Every different type of person under the sun and, honestly, I think it would be easier to tame a rave of drunk squirrels then to keep a convention under control.

IMG_2845I also don’t mistake urgency for rudeness. I’ve seen them get loud. I’ve seen hurry people. I’ve seen them say ‘no’ more times than I can count. I’ve never seen them get angry. They have to be loud so you can actually hear them over the general convention noise. They have to hurry you along because you are one of over 5,000 people they have to make sure is safe. I love the Zenkaikon staff.

Lancaster, PA, is also AMAZING. Having grown up in the area, I knew Lancaster for two things: the Amish and the farms. I had no idea there was an actual downtown area until we drove into it last year. Now, thanks to an amazing Zenkaikon guide (MrEvilena1), not only was I able to figure out the convention and have so many questions answered, but he also pointed out delicious food. Granted, this year was a bit crazy, but the food never disappoints. It just get’s better and Vanri is so excited to tell you all about it.

On top of all of that,  I got to meet The Triforce Quartet, Sarah Wiedenheft, Jessica Calvello, Quinton Flynn, Jad SaxtonJonathan Maberry, Corgi Cosplay and the always wonderful Cosplay Burlesque. Of course, every year I am terrified of the guests and every year I realize that they are just a bunch of people. They’re mostly just nerds who love talking to people and being at cons. That makes my heart soar.

If you’ve never been to Zenkaikon, I urge you to go. You don’t know what you’re missing!

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Why I Came Back to Overwatch

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Vel got Overwatch on Xbox One to play with his friends. I spent one night going through the tutorial and playing different characters against the computer. I enjoyed it, it was fun, but I was too nervous to talk to my teammates. I may have said “Hi” once, but two very important things were swimming through my head:

  1. Every time I’ve talked to a bunch of people I didn’t know over Xbox, it ended badly. Usually in trolling through the entire match, mostly because I am female. I am used to harassment, but that doesn’t mean that I want to put myself in a situation with the potential for harassment when I’m not streaming.
  2. Overwatch is considered one of the most toxic gaming communities. To me, that just screams that the above-mentioned harassment is bound to happen. Plus, I’ve left several games ( League of Legends is one of them ) due to that elitist attitude.

So I finished playing, put my controller down and didn’t pick it up again. At the time, I didn’t really have a problem with this because I didn’t know anyone who had it and played it often. Why bother with it? Plus, there is always Paladins, and that’s free-to-play.

Years went by and I didn’t think about it. I occasionally saw a streamer I follow playing it, but that was about it. That was until I started to make friends with the people who played it. Now it was more than just streamers I followed playing, it was my friends. Of course, I’m going to go into their streams, even if I’m not 100% interested in the game because that is what friends do. We hang out, show love and support and never miss an opportunity to watch them get sniped from across the map.

They looked like they were having SO MUCH FUN. I was even having fun watching them play. They would tell me about what characters they liked and why. I noticed that the outfits are amazing and they’ve added new characters. There is so much to see and many events to be had. I wanted to give it a go, play with friends and see if that makes a difference. Pro Tip: friends typically make any game way better. Big problem: all of my friend’s play PC and I have it on Xbox One. I was going to have to wait.

When I started to talk about it, though, an amazing friend sent me a copy. I call it an early birthday present. I installed it and played with them the very next day. I had so much fun! Much more than I had by myself. I played for nearly 4 hours and then came back later that night and played for another hour or more. Right now I have the itch to play, but I have work and no one is on. That also helps me from getting burned out on a game.

The game is nicknamed Oversalt, so of course there were some salty people. I turned off the general chat. After the match, people were a bit salty but mostly they just said “GG” and moved on. I was more concerned with talking with my friends in group chat and opening my loot boxes.

My take away from this is this: form your own opinion. Don’t avoid a game just because of the community, especially if you can play with friends. I feel the same way about Dead by Daylight and Friday the 13th, both are games that I love to play but often have to deal with annoying people, just like Overwatch. I’m glad that I had an opportunity to play a great game with amazing people.

Guest Post: The Number of Female Gamers is Rising, Studies Show, so What’s the Problem?

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Gaming research studies for several years have been dealing major blows to the stereotypical view of the typical gamer as a white guy in his mom’s basement. In 2014, a paper by the Internet Advertising Bureau showed that a shocking 52 percent of the total gaming audience is actually women. It indicated a rise from the 49 percent in 2012. By 2017, the most recent research shows that this number had risen to an incredible 65 percent. The 2017 Google Play and Newzoo study revealed that women are now more than half of the gamer population.

The rising number of female gamers should be a positive sign for women in gaming, who have been long marginalized, discriminated against, and openly harassed by fellow male gamers. The million-dollar question now is, is it really? While women are boosting the multibillion-dollar gaming industry, largely by playing various mobile games, the sector is still struggling to accommodate female gamers. Many women gamers, it turns out, largely feel underrepresented in the gaming sector. Let’s consider some of the contributing reasons:

Persistent Stigma
Female gamers may have the numbers on their side, but the general attitudes in the industry largely stigmatize them. Veteran female gamers complain of bias female gamers still have to face. The stigma can be pervasive enough to drive women to pretend to be men when playing. Researchers have noted that a considerable number of female gamers do not disclose their gender because of fear of being alienated by male players. The “gamergate” scandal brought to light the level of misogyny hardcore female gamers have to face. There are also more subtle hints of misogyny indicated in surveys. Another Google Play survey found that male gamers are more likely to spend time playing with others if they know those other players are also male.

Lack of Female Game Developers
While the female percentage in the player sector is on the rise, the same is not true for women game developers, designers, or creators. Women players may be owning it in mobile games or building their own gaming PCs, but according to the International Game Developers Association, only less than 30 percent of developers in the gaming industry are either female or transgender. This affects how women are depicted in games, obviously. The traditional mold of the female characters in games being over-exaggerated sex symbols is still prominent, which discourages female gamers from trying out some of the top ranking titles. It should be noted though that some activist developers are trying to include more diverse and wholesome female characters in games.

Male Toons are Still Prominent
Women are getting into the gaming scene largely thanks to the rise of gaming apps. Women of all ages and from nearly all walks of life can play games while on the move. Some women, like new mothers, report that mobile gaming is a pleasant distraction. Naturally, these female gamers prefer to adopt female avatars and toons for in-game experiences. However, a majority of games still feature male personas rather than female ones. Google found out that the 44 percent of game app icons on Google
Play feature male faces rather than female ones, despite the majority of women consuming these products. A survey found that over 60 percent of female gamers think no more than one-third of mobile games are made for women.

The fact that the number of female gamers is on the rise should be a pleasant and welcoming development for aspiring female gamers and developers everywhere. But as the points above indicate, gender parity is still far from reality in gaming. Hopefully in the future, with more female gamers and developers, these unequal factors may change for the better.

Written By: Tracy Plunkett, Kiwi writer with a love for gadgets, games, and music. I also have an unhealthy obsession with cats.

How to Brand your Stream to Create a Lasting Impression

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Guest Post by: Kristen Heller

Introduction

When someone mentions streamers like, imaqtpie, Shroud, or KittyPlays, you probably know who they’re talking about. Each of them are some of the most successful streamers on Twitch, loved and followed by many.

What propelled them to such heights and how did they get so many followers, subscribers, and active viewers? Well, it’s a long journey and it takes a lot of hard work, but the most important thing to know is that you can reach this goal as well.

The Importance of Branding Your Stream

One thing that everyone can agree on is that the moment you see anything related to a successful streamer, you instantly recognize it’s them. Branding, as it turns out, is not something reserved for marketing departments; it’s super important in streaming as well!

Not many streamers think about branding when they first start out. In order to really succeed and grow your channel, you need to be easily recognizable. There are no templates here: be unique, be yourself. Viewers should know it’s you the moment they see your emotes, colors, and mascots, or hear your quotes.

What are the Key Elements of Stream Branding?

In order to start building your brand, you must think about what you wish to achieve with your stream, how you want your viewers to perceive and identify you. This is what branding is all about.

When a viewer enters your channel, what is the first thing they see? The game of course, but what else is there to it?

  • Are you streaming gameplay only, or are you actively commentating on gameplay?
  • Are you interacting with your viewers, do you talk about your day?
  • Do you have a camera set up, can your viewers see you? What about what’s behind you?
  • What does your channel say about you?

All of this is covered by branding, and here are some guidelines on how to make it work.

1. Stream Channel Design

The design is the most recognizable feature of your stream. It includes all the graphic elements that you can manipulate and design to represent you and your stream, like the logo, color palette, overlays, images, and emotes.

Unless you’re a graphic artist, chances are you’ll need someone to help you with your streams designs. Thankfully there are plenty of options, ranging from free to paid, for you to get someone to create your graphics for you.

Websites like Streamplay Graphics, and REKOYL would fall under your paid options for graphics, and if you’re looking for something designed for free, then you can often find designers on Twitter looking to offer free services, so they can build up their portfolios.

When you’re ready to start creating your graphics, make sure to choose a color palette that you will use throughout all the elements, from logo to overlays, images and emotes.

The logo is the most important of these elements – this is how viewers identify your stream. Build a logo that represents you – it can be linked to your username, your persona, your mascot, whatever you think will represent you best.

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2. Recurring Themes on Your Stream

These can be various traditions that you set up on your stream. They can be anything you want, like a unique quote that viewers associate with you, a unique name for your follower community, your mascots and more. Your viewers will associate them with you the moment they see them.

The background is also important, so pay close attention to what you put behind your webcam.

You can highlight various game merchandise, sponsor gear, fan made gifts, plush toys or mascots. A mascot can be anything. Many streamers go for plush toys, and later also turn into special icons for their community chat.

 

Some streamers, on the other hand, prefer to use a green screen so that only they can be seen on stream, so this is entirely up to personal preference.

Read the rest of this entry

Monster Highway – Indie Spotlight

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After a nuclear meltdown at a power plant, the lake next to it was quickly saturated with radioactivity. An alligator in the lake transforms into a road smashing, car crushing Monster! Your goal: be the first to build your roadway and drive your car from ground zero to your home while avoiding the monster AND of your opponents. No one is safe on Monster Highway!

Overview
Monster Highway is a 2-4 player game for ages 8+ and takes approximately 30 min to play.  Players need to create a roadway out of road tiles that leads from the center of the board “ground zero” to the players home base. The players car moves along the road built and once the car makes it to home base, that player wins the game.

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Gamplay
To start, players are all dealt, at random, 5 road tiles and 1 monster buster card for their hand.On your turn roll the two specialty dice that have images of a car, monster or road on them.If road comes up, play a road tile from your hand. If a car comes up, roll the six sided die to see how many spaces your car can move. If monster comes up, draw a monster card and see what space the “monster” lands on.

The goal is to create a roadway out of road tiles that leads from the center of the board “ground zero” to the players home base. The players car moves along the road built and once the car makes it to home base, that player wins the game.

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From the creators
From Bob and Ryan (One Day West Games) – Our inspiration for creating Monster Highway stems from our love of playing board games and our background of design.  For our profession, my brother and I are Landscape Contractors.  We have been designing and installing landscapes for many years.  Two years ago we decided we wanted to design our own game.  Typically we play games that are easy to learn but have enough mechanics to keep gamers of all levels interested.  They usually have a nice blend of strategy and chance.  Designing a game allowed us to incorporate everything we enjoy in games.   Living minutes from a nuclear power plant also helped drive the storyline!  It was a real pleasure designing Monster Highway!

Where to find it
Monster Highway launched on Kickstarter on 1/15/18. With 16 days left, they’re already halfway to their goal. Good luck, guys!