Archive for indie games

Many Hands…: The Importance of Collaboration

Posted in Kenley with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 30, 2010 by Kenley

Hey all, Kenley here and, as promised, I’m writing about collaboration.

Many hands...

I would put money in saying that Winnipeg’s New Media sector is different than most other New Media sectors in the world because rather than looking in for inspiration, it looks outward to its colleagues, compatriots and counterparts.

That needs clarification.  One company from out west moved over to Winnipeg approximately one year ago and asked me about “the way that we do things here in Winnipeg.”  I happily replied that we’re really all on the same team and we commonly discuss what we’re working on, how it’s going and ask for ideas or feedback.  The head of given company (who shall remain nameless, because I haven’t asked him if I can blog about our conversation) gaped at me as though I had broken the cardinal rules in business… oh wait, I have.

In many big cities and big companies, secrecy and protectionist tendencies are of paramount importance and collaboration is a faux-pas that no company can afford: What if their product leaks? What if someone tries to copy it? What if someone does it better?

I appreciate that those are valid concerns and they are in place for a reason – Blue Harvest and Rory’s First Kiss helped to quell the fans from discovering that the companies were really making Star Wars and The Dark Knight. But, why did they have to keep the secrecy? This does the opposite of a tried and true marketing force, perhaps one of the strongest marketing forces out there: Hype.

Many Indie game companies understand this better than most.  In fact, they do the opposite: They post their developmental material as well… and blog about it… it’s almost like they bring their fans into the creation process. One killer example of this is with Bit Blot’s 2007 release of Aquaria, made by Derek Yu and Winnipegger, Alec Holowka.

The Seven Days of Aquaria

On the first day, they take you through Concept Art and conceiving the basic elements of the game; then, on the second day, Music and a cool mix from some of the 53 tracks from the game; on the third day, we meet Jenna Sharpe, the voice actor for the game’s protagonist, Naija… you see where I’m going with this: Opening up creates hype and builds a relationship with your fans.

Other awesome examples of this include Bear McCreary’s blog on writing/conceiving/recording the music for Battlestar Galactica and Super Meat Boy Blog.  To be REALLY fair, Alec Holowka’s independent company, Infinite Ammo, has “Marion Mondays,” where  new design aspects of their new game, Marion, are released and discussed.

Where am I going with this? Many hands make light work, or in short, collaboration makes everyone better.  The last few examples weren’t ENTIRELY about collaboration, but focusing more on the idea of secrecy and how a sense of “intellectual protectionism” can be detrimental to everyone.

Winnipeg shares everything and attracts the best people from its pool to do the best work.  Winnipeg’s chapter of the International Game Developers’ Association has regular meetings every two months to showcase new ways of using lighting effects, manipulating gravity in the Unity engine and/or showcasing new games that are in development.  All of get to be inspired by crafty coding, beautiful artwork, beautiful sound design, excellent 3D modelling and stunning animation – there is no fear of stealing ideas because we are all on the same team.

One company in Winnipeg manifests that credo in everything it does: New Media Manitoba.  New Media Manitoba is like an umbrella that helps enrich all of the New Media companies within its subscription by holding seminars, bringing in speakers, running courses, hosting events and promoting the cutting-edge work that’s being done in our fair city.  New Media Manitoba had a hand in the course that Jeremy just attended… amazing work.  But again, it is through this collaboration that a shared and exponential success is nurtured – not only happening once, but a continual growth of the industry.  Again, collaboration.

Author Seth Godin discusses this idea at length in Episode 97 of CBC’s technology program, Spark and I recommend this listen for everyone  – it’s terrific.

Pick your cliche:

– Many hands make light work.
– The whole is more than the sum of its parts.
– The more that hold the net, the less that fall through…

… All of these make sense and that’s one of the reasons why Winnipeg’s New Media industry is growing by leaps and bounds.  The unified strength of our many companies is creating something special in the Paris of the Prairies and I think that it has a lot to do with collaboration and our sharing of skills.  Imagine how much further ahead we could be if we all shared our strength to create great arts and services for the world around us… if you can’t imagine, ask a friend.


Pirates Ahoy!

Posted in Projects with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 23, 2010 by ndbstudios

Good morning, everyone!

NDB is pumped to have worked on the music for Complex Games‘ release of Pirates Ahoy, for the Facebook platform! It’s a social/casual, so you get to play with people, but you don’t have to devote 10 weeks of your life to get through it – you start when you want and you end when you want.

But, that’s not to say that you can’t devote a lot of time.  I (Kenley) love customizing and outfitting – I know, it’s a weakness, but I want to pick my captain (name/picture/all that fun stuff), then hire out my crew, pick my ship, set up all of its weapons and colours and make it exactly the way that I want.  You can do that in Pirates Ahoy, and that makes me happy.

There be swabbin' on this deck... some killer artwork by Jonas van Niekerk

I do want to talk about Complex Games for a little bit too.  They’re a Winnipeg-based game developer that has been on the scene for quite some time.  They’ve worked on (and are working on) multiple titles for multiple platforms, be they PC, Mac, Wii or iPhone.  The CEO of the company, Noah Decter-Jackson is the head of Winnipeg’s chapter of the International Game Developers’ Association (IGDA) and has been instrumental in Winnipeg’s growing New Media industry.  We’ve done a lot of work for them and, like all the developer’s we work with, we want to help them get their project off of the ground as much as possible, including blogging about it, sharing the final copy with our friends and other colleagues, sharing media on facebook – it’s all about collaboration.

Wait for that post, that’s going to be a good one – I want an entire post to be on the awesomeness of collaboration.

In which case, if you want to check out Pirates Ahoy on facebook, then click the link here to have a go at it.  Also, make sure that you become a fan of them on facebook and follow up on what’s happening with the game!

I bet you want to hear some music too – okay, you win.

This is the music playing from the Volcano Level of the game, where there are lots of deep browns/blacks and reds.  The music should a “slave ship”-type, with big drums and sleighbells driving home the beat, while a mournful and haunting melody sails overtop of the ostinato with Irish tin whistle and solo violin.  Then, as we move into the A Section for the second time, the bagpipes come in with a deep drone and take over the melody, while the strings break into harmony and fill in that harmonic blanket, deepening the sound into a lamenting, yet persistent feel…

The next music is a short loop when you’re in your home port and customizing your ship (a task which in which I relish!).  It’s very reminiscent of “home”, but not just in geography, but more the feelings that are associated with the idea of “home:” Comfort, Security, Happiness and really, the notion of “everything being as it should be.”

I tried to accomplish this with keeping in the Irish-style of writing, with an Irish whistle holding the melody and a really warm blanket of strings and a resonant harp underneath.  The bodhran (pronounced “BEAU-ron,” with “beau” like the front of a ship) keeps the compound meter running and the music, while relaxing and peaceful, always has a sense of forward momentum.

It’s just… home.

Stay posted for updates on Pirates Ahoy!