Tag Archives: game development
Created by two brothers, Forest and Aaron San Filippo, #FlippFly is an indie games company that was founded in 2010 when they quit their jobs to pursue their love of videogames. Wanting their studio to stand out, they crafted four main goals for FlippFly; these being to produce games that are always conceptually new to the brothers, fun, honest, and family friendly. Since the studio’s inception, the San Filippo Brothers made Monkey Drum, a music-production game that allows animal avatars to play the tunes you make, and #RacetheSun, a racing game in which you pilot a solar-powered glider through an obstacle-filled landscape that has infinite variation and its own world creator. GameSauce recently had the opportunity to interview Forest and Aaron San Filippo about their backgrounds, Flippfly’s origin, their games, and surviving in the indie market.
Forest San Filippo
Prior to founding FlippFly, Aaron and Forest were on career paths that not only differed from their current studio, but also from one another. For instance, while Aaron was working on AAA games such as Singularity and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Forest was running a sign shop that he owned. Both brothers found success in these fields, but also found that that something was missing. As Forest told GameSauce, “Owning a small business was a huge education in customer service, time management, and finances. That experience has really served us well as we navigate the business end of game development. The experience also showed me how stifling it can be to always take orders from customers and try to realize their creative vision instead of my own.”
Aaron San Filippo
Similarly, Aaron realized that though he enjoyed being around his colleagues, he wanted more from his work; stating, “My goal in game development was to be able to stretch my creative muscles, to make new and interesting games, and to have a sense of ownership in the work that I created.” Sadly, Aaron found that “AAA studio work in general is getting to the point where you’re mostly just a cog in a machine.”
The brothers’ desire to pursue endeavors that allowed them to explore their creativity pushed them to start their own gaming studio. It was a decision compounded by Aaron’s belief that “it’s never been a better time to become an indie developer” and by Forest’s attraction to the creative freedom that would come from starting a studio. As Forest recollected, “the opportunity to start our own studio and have the freedom to create as I pleased was an attractive idea and it has proven to be incredibly liberating.”
Like most indie game developers, Forest and Aaron wanted to indulge their creative impulses. However, the brothers also wanted their studio to have a unique philosophy towards game development. One of the founding principles that resonated most with Forest is the company’s aim to always create games that they’ve never seen before. “There are tons of great games out there and we can’t risk creating something that isn’t (at-least in some ways) new,” says Forest. “We realize that we stand on the shoulders of other game designers and that our work will always be inspired by other games, but we have to be innovative.” As such, the goal of innovating new types of games is more than just the core of the studio’s identity, it is also, as Forest stated, their “best chance of success.”
Making Music with Monkey Drum and Learning Their Business
FlippFly’s first game would truly stem from the brothers’ goals to create something they have never seen before and that was family friendly; especially Aaron. After years of working on action games, Aaron wanted to work in a completely different genre. Given that both Aaron and Forest are amateur musicians and wanted to share their love of music with their children, the brothers began to think of a new type of music game for young kids. This brain-storming would evolve into Monkey Drum.
Looking back at the creation of this app, Forest explained that “the idea of making an app that could let a very young child experience the joy of making music was really intriguing. It seems likely that many of our games will have tools built-in to let players be creative. Encouraging the artistic nature is something that is close to our hearts.” As an app, Monkey Drum allows players to accessorize their characters, as well as feed, spin, and bop them. More importantly, the player can give characters access to realistic instruments and can be made to play real music.
Making Monkey Drum forced Aaron and Forest to grapple with the day to day grind of developing their game.
The process of making Monkey Drum allowed the brothers to indulge in their love of music and their goals to share it with their children. However, making Monkey Drum forced Aaron and Forest to grapple with the day to day grind of developing their game. One challenge that they encountered was time management, according to Forest. “We are both pretty good at working hard and getting things done, but game development is an excruciatingly slow process,” says Forest. “[We] learned a lot about how long things will actually take with a two-man team. To be completely honest, we are still learning that lesson.”
Released on May 25, 2012, Monkey Drum was more than just another app. For Aaron and Forest, it was proof that they could produce a consumer product. As Aaron expressed, completing this game “showed us that ‘yes, we can make a complete product.’” Its completion and consumer feedback gave them the confidence needed to go forward.
Race the Sun and Turning to Kickstarter
The next game that FlippFly developed merged the genres of intensive racing games and open sandbox worlds with infinite variability. According to Forest, this game began when Aaron showed him an image he created with Sketchup (a 3D art program that was at the time owned by Google, but now owned by Trimble Navigation) while asking “Wouldn’t it be awesome to race through this world at super high speeds?” It was a question that would be answered by creating Race the Sun.
This idea excited their imaginations and they immediately created a prototype to begin experimenting with. Much of the game’s development was less FlippFly following a clear direction and more about adding mechanics they thought would work and taking out what they felt didn’t add to the game. “The end result feels pretty intentional, but it was really a long process of trial and error,” says Forest. “We’ve found that letting the game ‘tell us’ how it should be designed is a great way to work.”
Designing this game brought about several new challenges. According to Aaron, one of the hardest parts of Race the Sun’s development was probably the server back-end. As he explained, “it wasn’t an area we had a ton of expertise in, and we didn’t have the benefit of a social layer like Steam’s when we built it. So we had to put together a system for player logins, leader boards, user world hosting (and downloading), etc.” Another challenge the brothers encountered when they were creating Race the Sun was just how demanding a Kickstarter campaign could be.
“Our approach to marketing evolved as the Kickstarter progressed,” says Forest. The goal of the Kickstarter project was to raise at least twenty-thousand dollars. But at the launch of the campaign, all they had was what Forest describes as “a solid alpha of the game.” Though this demo was well designed, it didn’t show potential donors what FlippFly wanted Race the Sun to be. “[What] Kickstarter taught us is that we really needed to show our full vision to potential players,” says Forest. “We could talk all we wanted, but putting those ideas into video and concept art were game-changers. Very few ideas are compelling enough to sell themselves without something visual to back them up.”
“Very few ideas are compelling enough to sell themselves without something visual to back them up.”
Luckily, Aaron and Forest were able to quickly adapt to the demands of Kickstarter’s community because their project was a success. Earning over twenty-one thousand dollars, FlippFly would be able to complete Race the Sun and release it December 9, 2013 on Steam for PC and Mac systems.
Indie Developer Lessons Learned and Looking Forward
Though FlippFly has only been around for a few years, Forest and Aaron have learned valuable lessons about succeeding in the indie-game market. In addition to gaining a better sense of how quickly a game could be developed by two people and how to properly use Kickstarter to raise funds, they also realized the importance of critical feedback. As Forest says, “It is possible that there are people who are geniuses and will make a masterpiece on their first attempt – but that is highly unlikely!”
Properly handling feedback is so important that, according to Forest, “one huge thing that we try to communicate to aspiring indies is the need to accept critical feedback.” Forest further elaborated on this point by stating, “When you spend hundreds of hours on something, it is very easy to lose objectivity. Learning how to accept (and even seek out) criticism is essential if you plan on making and selling games.”
Just as important as the experiences they have gained are the plans Aaron and Forest have for FlippFly’s future. For instance, their immediate focus will be updating Race the Sun, and following that, they will begin work on porting the game. As Forest explained, “we feel like we are only reaching a tiny portion of our audience and we want to remedy that.”
Just as important as the experiences they have gained are the plans Aaron and Forest have for FlippFly’s future.
Beyond further follow up work on Race the Sun, they will also continue to honor one of the core reasons why the founded FlippFly – to innovate. Given their desire to create games that they have never played before, it should come as no surprise that Forest describes FlippFly’s future goals as what follows: “Longer term, we will be making prototypes and trying to discover something fun and new! We have tons of ideas to experiment with, and we hope a few of them are worth sharing with the world.”
Australian video game developer Nnooo is bringing cross-platform multiplayer to Wii U with its title Cubemen 2.
Cubemen 2 is a 3D strategy game in which the player controls an army of Cubemen and uses them to battle against enemies in a range of modes. Players will be able to enter online matches and create and share user-generated levels regardless of which platform they are using. Players on the Wii U version will be able to battle against others who own the game on Wii U, PC, Linux, Mac, or iOS devices.
“I’m really proud to be able to announce this,” said Nic Watt, Creative Director at Nnooo. “We’ve spent the last few months working with both Nintendo and 3 Sprockets, the game’s developer, to make this a reality. Cubemen 2 is an amazing game and a great fit for Nintendo players. We can’t wait to see how creative they are, whether in tactical multiplayer online or in the new levels they build.”
A top-selling Steam and iOS, Cubeman 2 can be played in single player mode or with as many as six players in online solo or team battles against other players or AI. Players will also be able to create and share their own levels using the game’s built-in level editor. Wii U players will have access to all user-generated levels created on other platforms since the release of the game. There are currently over 4,000 user-generated levels to play. The game also includes specific level themes, customizable skins, and a global ranking system.
“We’re excited to be working closely with Nnooo and Nintendo to bring a new dynamic to a Nintendo platform,” said Seon Rozenblum, Director of 3 Sprockets. “We’re bringing the gaming community together, offering true cross-platform play and user generated content across multiple platforms and devices and we are ecstatic to be including the Wii U in our lineup for Cubemen 2.”
This game also marks another milestone for Nnooo, being the first game they have published from another developer. According to Bruce Thomson, Nnooo’s Business & Marketing Director, “Publishing has always been part of our long term plan. We’ll be identifying games we think fit well on the platforms we develop for and working with the developers to bring the games to some or all of these platforms. Our recent funding from Screen NSW has helped us to combine indie game development and publishing under one roof.”
Nnooo is a game development studio based in Sydney, Australia.
From Linux Game News:
Going back to Cubemen, it’s amazing to see a game that started off making an impact on Linux then moving on to other platforms. Even more impressive is the fact that Cubemen and Cubemen 2 are both fully cross-platform, giving a solid example of just how an independent title can impact the gaming community.
From everyone at Linux Game News, a very warm congratulations to Nic Watt and Nnooo.
Reblogged from: news10.net
The UNIGINE, a real-time 3D engine built to run on all major platforms, including Linux, has just received an update, bringing some changes such as data streaming and terrain improvements.
Unigine Engine is built by non-other than Unigine Corp., the company behind the Heaven DX11 Benchmark software. The technology they develop is getting better all the time, and with their recent expansion on the Linux platform, we’re all too glad to see that major updates have been implemented in the engine.
Amongst the biggest changes in the latest Unigine update is the introduction of a landscape plugin for UnigineEditor.
According to the developers, the landscape plugin allows users to create huge seamless scenes containing virtually unlimited number of terrain objects (each one of them can be up to 16385×16385 units in size).
Highlights of the new Unigine Engine:
- Terrain data streaming is now fully asynchronous;
- Users can now force load a specified terrain region via Terrain::loadHeights() function, with the specified bounding box;
- The “progression” parameter has been added for terrain LODs. The prev_distance + lod_distance * (lod_progression ^ lod_number) default value is now 2.0;
- The terrain file format has been changed;
- Support has been added for pre-cached file hierarchies. This means that the engine initialization time can be extremely reduced even with large assets database;
- The background loading of images (with unpacking) has been added;
- The filesystem_clear console command has been added. It can be used to remove all loaded, but unused resources;
- Various performance optimizations have been done for the terrain rendering;
- The OpenGL core profile compatibility has been improved;
A complete list of new features, for all the platforms, is available in the official announcement.
Keep in mind that the UNIGINE graphics engine is only aimed at commercial enterprises and that not even a trial version is available for the general public.
The existence of Unity3D and similar products (such as the Unreal Engine and CryEngine) has helped democratize game development.
In the early 2000s, three young programmers without much money gathered in a basement and started coding what would become one of the most widely used pieces of software in the video game industry.
“Nobody really remembers how we survived in that period except we probably didn’t eat much,” said David Helgason, the CEO and co-founder of Unity Technologies, maker of the Unity3D game engine.
A decade later, untold numbers of developers have used Unity3D to make thousands of video games for mobile devices, consoles, browsers, PCs, Macs, and even Linux. The existence of Unity3D and similar products (such as the Unreal Engine and CryEngine) helped democratize game development, making the kinds of tools used by the world’s largest game companies available to developers at little or no cost. This has helped developers focus less on creating a video game’s underlying technology and more on the artistic and creative processes that actually make games fun to play.
Helgason explained that a game engine is “a toolset used to build games and it’s the technology that executes the graphics, the audio, the physics, the interactions, the networking. Everything you see and hear on the screen is powered by this code that has to be super-optimized because it’s moving so much data and throwing so many pixels on the screen.”
At one point in time, he added, every game company in the world had their own proprietary technology—which made a lot of sense in a more constrained world where device memory was low by today’s standards. Game engines, in their natural state, were little more than minimal scaffolding around a particular game. But that eventually changed. “As platforms became more complicated, the technology requirements for making games became more complicated,” he said. “At some point you needed different shadows and special effects and smoke and particles and physics has to be realistic, and all this stuff.”
Instead of requiring separate software products for major development aspects such as animation, physics, rendering, artificial intelligence, sound, and so on, engines such as Unity3D give developers just about everything they need to build games in one package. Unity3D’s Pro edition is $1,500 per user; there’s also a free version with less functionality, but can still be used to build and sell games.
“We Were Just Hackers and We Just Liked Our Macs”
A decade ago, when Helgason joined with colleagues Joachim Ante and Nicholas Francis in Denmark to work on their project, they wanted to make something in the image of Apple’s Final Cut Pro. Final Cut gives amateur filmmakers reasonably priced, professional filmmaking tools; Unity would do the same for video game developers.
But the trio lacked a solid business plan. “The ridiculous and bizarre thing was literally the first and only platform we supported in the very first months was the Mac,” said Helgason, who is now based in San Francisco. This was before the Mac’s resurgence, and the Mac’s place in the gaming industry (especially compared to Windows) was even punier than it is today.
“It was the worst possible choice we could make from a business perspective, but we were just hackers and we just liked our Macs,” he said. “We weren’t thinking big thoughts from a businesses perspective.”
The three survived on loans, occasional consulting projects, and some non-technical jobs. “I did some cafe work in the evenings, mainly for the free food because it didn’t pay much,” Helgason said. “We were all in, we didn’t have any other projects we were doing.”
A somewhat primitive version of Unity was released in 2005. The team added support for Windows PCs and Web browsers early on. By 2008, the engine had become more sophisticated and software sales were paying the bills, allowing Unity to expand to a dozen or so employees.
A turning point came in mid-2008 when Apple unveiled the iPhone App Store. “We rushed and managed to support the iPhone, the first game engine to do that in late 2008,” Helgason said. “It happened really quickly. Suddenly, a lot of people wanted Unity.”
Another big advance came in 2008 when the Cartoon Network used Unity3D to create FusionFall, an MMORPG for kids that’s been played by 8 million people. Electronic Arts used Unity3D in 2009 to make Tiger Woods PGA Tour Online, and even Microsoft and Ubisoft became customers. In 2011, Unity bought an animation company called Mecanim, boosting the game engine’s underlying technology.
Today, Unity and its 285 employees around the world support development for iOS, Android, Windows, Mac, Linux, Web browsers, PS3, Xbox 360, and the Wii U. Unity is planning to support Sony’s PlayStation Vita, but hasn’t decided yet whether to support the Nintendo 3DS. Windows Phone and BlackBerry support is in the works. Some 1.8 million developers use Unity; the software’s browser plugin has been installed more than 200 million times. Dead Trigger and the upcoming Dead Trigger 2, among the most graphically complex games for iOS and Android, are based on Unity3D.
Despite the big names using Unity3D, it’s the smaller developers that make Helgason especially proud. “Big companies could always make games, they would figure it out and buy technology or build it themselves,” he said, adding: “Where we really made a dent is making it so that these masses of people can not just build games but can build games using the same tools as the big guys.”
Building games with Unity
“The code that has to run super-fast like the physics and animation, all that is C++,” Helgason added. “But the code that should be easy to write, you can write in .NET.”
inXile Entertainment is using Unity to build Wasteland 2, a post-apocalyptic RPG scheduled to hit PC, Mac, and Linux in fall 2013 as a result of a Kickstarter fundraiser that pulled in nearly $3 million. inXile also plans to use Unity to build Torment: Tides of Numenera, scheduled for December 2014 and the result of a $4 million Kickstarter.
Unity3D is a “component-based game object system,” said inXile technical director John Alvarado. “Every game object, you can attach scripts to. You write your scripts and derive them from a certain class and model behavior, and automatically when you drag scripts onto a game object that you create in the editor it will run your script. … It’s real easy to add code components to any object you create in the game, whether it be a box you just made or an animated character. It’s a very modular, object-oriented way of adding functionality to an object in the game.”
inXile previously used the Unreal Engine to build a game called Hunted: The Demon’s Forge for PS3, Xbox 360, and Windows. Unreal has its technical advantages over Unity3D—but given that Wasteland 2 and Torment: Tides of Numenera are turn-based combat games, Alvarado said, “we didn’t need that extra horsepower that the Unreal Engine provided.”
Unity3D was also a bit easier for Alvarado to learn. Unity offers an “Asset Store” that’s reminiscent of phone app stores, only it contains components and useful code in place of actual apps. “There’s quite a lot of material available through that store that was useful to us,” Alvarado said.
The Future of Unity—a Bigger Push on Consoles
The original trio that founded Unity is still going strong. Ante (“the best coder I’ve ever met,” in Helgason’s words) remains the CTO. Francis, who provided “the creative vision for a lot of the tooling and how we designed the workflow,” remained a top Unity executive until a few months ago, when he left to run an indie studio that’s making games—with Unity3D, of course. “He always used Unity more than we did,” Helgason said.
From their initial days supporting only Macs, Unity Technologies now builds for almost every platform. “It’s really, really hard, not to write an engine that sort of works everywhere, but to write an engine that uses the capabilities of these different devices and runs as fast as you can possibly run,” Helgason said.
But Unity3D was several years late to supporting the PS3 and Xbox 360, well after most developers had chosen their software for developing games on those platforms. And while Unity has announced support for the PS4 in collaboration with Sony, it won’t be ready in time to create launch games for the console.
Helgason acknowledges that the engine is well behind on traditional consoles. One challenge in building for next-gen consoles, he added, is supporting global illumination technologies that allow for more realistic lighting in 3D environments. Unity counts the number of mobile games based on its platform in the “high thousands,” but the list of console games numbers only in the dozens.
“We’re working very hard to change that, of course,” Helgason said. “If you look back in a year or two, you’ll see how far we’ve moved.”
Reblogged from: slashdot.org
The folks behind the Unity engine – Unity Technologies – have announced that the engine will support the Linux-based open source smartphone operating system, Tizen. The company will release deployment tools that will allow developers to make games for smartphones and tablets running on Tizen.
“Unity and Tizen have a lot in common in that they both aim to make the creation and the deployment of games and other apps as easy as possible for developers,”said Unity Technologies CEO David Helgason.
Unity has been making quite a push for development in the mobile scene. Recently, Helgason had announced that the engine will be free to game developers on iOS and Android. According to the company, the decision was made in an attempt to push the “democratisation of game development further than ever before.” Earlier, licensing the engine for game development on Android or iOS would cost $800 (approximately Rs 44,376), but it has now been made completely free.
This, of course, is a great move for game developers, especially because of the popularity of the game engine. A wide variety of different games have been made with the engine, ranging from DOS-styled management games like Organ Trail: Director’s Cut to turn-based RPG Knights of Pen & Paper and even full-fledged 3D games like Surgeon Simulator 2013.
“We were able to make Unity free for the web and for desktop computers a while ago, but have been dreaming of doing the same for mobile for what seems like forever,” said CEO David Helgason. “Mobile games development is possibly the most dynamic and exciting industry in the world, and it’s an honour to be able to help so many developers be so successful in fulfilling their visions and in building their businesses.”
While the engine is only free for iOS and Android at the moment, the company has hinted that it might make the same move for other mobile platforms, including Windows Phone 8 and BlackBerry 10. With the availability on Tizen, maybe the company will make the engine free for some other open source operating systems too.