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USA 2014Video Coverage

Jason Park – Always a New Challenge | Casual Connect Video

September 17, 2014 — by Catherine Quinton

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Jason Park provided a view of the Chinese mobile market compared to the other markets during Casual Connect USA 2014. “China’s big; we all know that,” he explained. “We’ve know that for awhile, but how big is it really? This year alone, in just Q1, the mobile market surpassed 630 million dollars. At this rate, they’re looking to surpass 3 billion by the end of the year.”

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Jason Park, Vice President of Operations, Art Concept House/Spellgun

Jason Park, vice president of operations at Art Concept House/Spellgun, runs this world-class art service as well as managing the new China mobile publishing division. When Park met CEO of Art Concept House, James Zhang, and heard his vision for the company, they discussed how Park’s prior experience as general manager for global publishing at Perfect World Entertainment, as well as running his own startup, could help take the company to the next level. And Park made the decision to join them.

From Player to Creator

He was first attracted to the games industry through running a PC café at the time StarCraft, Warcraft 3, and Counter-Strike were the popular games. While there, besides running tournaments and fixing broken computers, he spent his time (sometimes more than 12 hours a day) playing Counter-Strike in the pro league. When the PC café eventually went out of business, he began his first corporate games industry job in QA, testing games for SCEA. He went on to hold senior positions at IGN Entertainment, Gala-Net, and Sony Computer Entertainment. He also founded his startup company, Mobula, a mobile studio that made real-time online core games.

Park has worked in almost every aspect of the games industry: development, quality assurance, production, marketing, localization, operations, and business development. He loves the products, the people, and the constantly changing process. Despite his extensive experience, he feels, “No matter how many games you’ve worked on, the next one is always a new challenge.”

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Clash of Clans Wall Breaker CAH did for Supercell’s TV commercial

Finding Interactive Gameplay

He has always been a PC gamer, but for the past year, his focus has been on mobile. Although a longtime MMORPG player, he now finds it difficult to find the five or six hours in a day to concentrate on the game. Instead, he is playing Game of War – Fire Age, which he claims is undoubtedly the mobile game closest to an MMORPG. But he keeps going back to Kingdom Rush Frontiers whenever a new update is released.

The next big trend Park sees coming to the industry is deeper and more interactive gameplay in mobile games. He points out that MMORPGs took PC gaming to a new level; similarly, more interactive online experiences must be the next stage for mobile gaming. Already full-fledged MMORPGs are hitting the top charts in Japan and Korea, while in the US, successful mid-core games have been adding more MMO-like systems, such as global chat, guilds and clans, and guild wars – features which are leading to exponential growth in monetization and retention.

Artwork of Storm Casters by Get Set Games that was signed to publish in China
Artwork of Storm Casters by Get Set Games that was signed to publish in China

At Casual Connect USA, Park announced a publishing partnership with Get Set Games to publish Storm Casters in China.

 

USA 2014Video Coverage

Robin Hunicke: Bring More Diversity to the Industry | Casual Connect Video

September 17, 2014 — by Catherine Quinton

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While on a panel about indie entrepreneurship at Casual Connect USA 2014, Robin Hunicke described an aspect of people that everyone should be aware of. “It’s fundamental to our culture that we sometimes would rather think of the list of things we can get as opposed to the things we can do,” she explained.

Robin Hunicke, co-founder of the independent game studio Funomena, loves the unique challenges every day brings. Since she started the company in 2012, her work has varied tremendously from day-to-day; at different times, she can be involved in art and design tasks, production, or marketing and business development tasks. Her most recent title is the award winning Playstation Network title, Journey.

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Robin Hunicke, Co-Founder, Funomena

Hunicke has a background in art, computer science, and applied game studies. Although, her first love was fine art, her career began in computer science and then moved to design and production. And, in fact, she has been designing, making, and teaching about games for over 12 years. So she knows her background is varied enough that she can wear whatever hats she needs to. However, she admits, “The fact that I know a little about each aspect of game development means that I really appreciate the experts I get to work with each day. Their excellence is an inspiration.”

Making an Impact

Winning the 2012 Game of the Year Award at GDC brought Hunicke the proudest moment of her career, one that she credits to the entire Journey team. She emphasizes, “It was such an accomplishment for this small team to make such an impact on games, and it felt great to be a part of that dream.”

Hunicke is a huge proponent of the metaverse, believing Virtual Reality is the emerging trend that will make a great difference to her business and product. But she is very close-mouthed about how she expects to incorporate virtual reality into the games Funomena is creating.

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Hunicke was very close-mouthed about how she expects to incorporate virtual reality into the games Funomena is creating.

On the other hand, she is an outspoken evangelist for diversity of thought, design, and participation in both game design and game culture. Hunicke claims the biggest impact on the games industry as a whole will come as “more diverse people make games about more diverse topics and reach a more diverse audience.”

Assorted Playing

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She describes herself as a curious person, so perhaps it is not surprising that she tells us her favorite platform to play on is the real world.

She describes herself as a curious person, so perhaps it is not surprising that she tells us her favorite platform to play on is the real world. Currently, she is playing a lot of the Twilight Struggle board game because she appreciates how elegant the game design is for a rather complex simulation of Cold War politics.

She also plays on console and owns all the last generation consoles as well as a PS4, stating, “I love playing games cozy on the couch in my living room and cherish the few games that really immerse me in that way. It’s an experience like no other.”

Her F2P gaming is quite restrained; her most expensive purchase has been $10 for a familiar (probably a Leprechaun) in Kingdom of Loathing.

Her many hobbies other than gaming include cooking, hiking, traveling and gardening. She also loves photography, comics, watercolor painting, and origami.

 

USA 2014Video Coverage

Ian Vogel: Targeting Gamers in the Middle | Casual Connect Video

September 5, 2014 — by Catherine Quinton

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“We see this great opportunity between the smaller and the casual games that you see on mobile and the big Triple A budgets,” Ian Vogel told his audience during Casual Connect USA 2014. “There’s a huge market in the middle which I think is very exciting to me as a gamer and to me as a business person.”

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Ian Vogel, Studio Head, Amazon Game Studios

Ian Vogel has been creating games for the past sixteen years, including work on Age of Empires Online, Bioshock, System Shock 2, Swat 4, and Thief: The Dark Project. He has held key roles at Microsoft Game Studios, Irrational Games, Airtight Games, and Looking Glass Studios.

Learning the Ropes

Recently, he was promoted to Studio Head at Amazon Game Studios, where he leads first-party game development and is focused on giving players fun, innovative experiences. He insists that he could not be in this position if he had not started out as a designer, and he feels fortunate to have begun his career working with Doug Church, Tom Leonard, Ken Levine, Jon Chey, and the others at Looking Glass Studios and Irrational Games. He emphasizes, “Building a lot of games over time, killing some, and succeeding and failing along the way – It makes for some tough skin.” He sees this as good for consumers because developers focus less on how incredible, amazing, and infallible their idea is and instead learn to look at it through the consumers’ eyes. What are they going to feel? Where will they be confused? Where will they be frustrated? He insists, “You need some wins and losses to get good at that. I’m still learning!”

Vogel gains the most enjoyment in the games industry through seeing the impact his work has on people. He talks about an incident that occurred when he went to GameStop after Bioshock was released.

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“It made my day, and is a great example of why I do what I do.”

“There were 3-5 enthusiasts talking about the game, and I asked them ‘What do you like and not like about the game?’ About 45 minutes later, they had told me everything they loved and hated about the game, and loudly and emphatically asserted ‘You must buy this game!’ Which I did. And I left the store never having told them I worked on Bioshock for two or three years; it was immensely gratifying to listen to them appreciate the craft of the game and talk of deep personal experiences in that world. I didn’t need to talk about myself, that day was about them. And it made my day, and is a great example of why I do what I do.”

He reveals that being promoted to Studio Head at Amazon Game Studios has been very gratifying and a challenge he is eager to take on. He has always had opinions on how to do things, and this position is his opportunity to put them into practice. “Amazon is full of intense, brilliant people so it will be a heck of a ride,” he says.

Competing For Time

The biggest challenge Vogel sees in the games industry today is the competition for people’s time. There are hundreds of great indie games, too many copycats, and expensive, but intriguing console titles, all clamoring for attention. It becomes harder and harder for a game to actually make money. He points to the many lay-offs in recent years, with very talented studios and people gone. He would love to see the industry solve the problem of discovery and get interesting games in front of the people who want them, at a regular, dependable pace. He notes, “The barriers to succeeding at either mobile or console get higher every year. We have to help games find their audience.”

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“The barriers to succeeding at either mobile or console get higher every year. We have to help games find their audience.”

But Vogel sees a huge opportunity in the middle space, between casual/mobile games and AAA console titles. Indies are venturing into this space, but he believes there are markets we don’t know about that are looking for smaller, crafted games in that middle space. He emphasizes the need to understand this market and be ready with good titles when the opportunity arises.

Virtual Reality, Micro Consoles, and Hardware

For the future of the industry in the next few years, he is interested in the possibilities of VR, but needs more experience to understand the ups and downs of the tech.

For the future of the industry in the next few years, he is interested in the possibilities of VR, but needs more experience to understand the ups and downs of the tech. He also likes the trend to micro consoles; he thinks they are great products and looks forward to exciting possibilities as the hardware ramps up. He believes procedural games like No Man’s Sky and similar efforts will drive the potential for smaller teams to make bigger games. If that can be done at reasonable prices, the games industry will grow even more than it has in the past.

Vogel is an eclectic gamer, using every variety of device and game. He plays FTL and 10,000,000 on his iPad when he wants an engrossing but snackable experience. When he wants to sit down after dinner and play a game, he plays Badland or Double Dragon on his Fire TV. For a few hours of concentrated play, he uses his Xbox 360 to play NHL games, Skyrim, Fallout New Vegas, or Demon Souls. But when he is looking for a total forfeiture of normal life and 13 hours of getting lost in a different world, he plays XCOM, Civilization, and (he hopes) upcoming space sims, like Star Citizen and Elite.

He believes exposure to different experiences, different art forms, and other cultures of the world would make everyone better creators, so travel is extremely important to him. Some of the interesting places he has visited are Istanbul, Romania, Paris, and Fiji. One of the art forms he immerses himself in is music. He plays and records music on bass and guitar. One of his bands, The Model Sons, was on the original Guitar Hero. He also sails, hikes, and takes improv comedy classes.

 

USA 2014Video Coverage

Marcus Graham: Helping Gamers Be Heard | Casual Connect Video

September 4, 2014 — by Catherine Quinton

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“In my almost 16 years of experience, I began as a professional gamer myself,” Marcus Graham shared during a session at Casual Connect USA 2014. “Back then, it wasn’t going to pay my rent, but it was the love of the game, the passion for the competition that continued to drive it. And that’s probably one of the reasons I’m still in eSports today: the fire of competition and to see these amazing players and what they are able to do within these virtual games.”

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Marcus “djWHEAT” Graham, Director of Community and Education, Twitch

Marcus “djWHEAT” Graham, the director of community and education at Twitch, is a man whose passion for games began when, at the age of four, he picked up his first video game, and he continued to be involved through middle and high school. When he discovered competitive eSports, he became a professional Quake 3 player, traveling around the country, playing wherever he could find a tournament. The lure of competition led him to become one of the first professional hosts of esports and a well-known commentator. Eventually, he expanded into other game genres, and in 2004, he hosted the first LIVE DAILY video game show, Epileptic Gaming. He reveals, “From there, my love for gaming and for streaming were eternally united, and I’m pretty sure I’m here to stay.”

A New Age for Gaming

When Graham steps out onto a stage in front of thousands of people and feels their energy and excitement flowing across the stadium or arena, he is amazed to realize that, 10 years ago, seeing thousands of people cheering for their favorite gamer was an almost unimaginable idea. Yet in 2014, we have reached the point where stadiums fill with rabid gaming fans.

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Graham and his son at his son’s first event

Graham is equally ardent in his own gaming, playing an assortment of different games at any given time. Currently, he is playing DOTA 2 and CS:GO on his PC; on his iPad, it is Fates Forever; and on console, he plays a few Nintendo 3DS games. Although his favorite platform is PC, he also owns all the current consoles, saying every console and platform has given him a reason to play on it. And he loves mobile, admitting that he plays at least one mobile game almost continuously.

He was an early adopter of iOS, with most of his application investments on the App Store. The majority of his devices are iOS, but he also owns Android.

Twitch: Where Voices are Heard

Shortly after Justin.TV became Twitch, Graham began to work there, a natural progression in his career. He had been focused almost entirely on content when, in 2011, he had the opportunity to step off the stage to help Twitch build the eSports side of their business. He and his team have worked extremely hard to make Twitch the home for competitive gaming and eSports through securing every possible player, tournament, and organization. Being able to give back to the community and industry that have fueled his passion for years brings him great satisfaction; he believes his work on the successful build of eSports continues to contribute to the overall success of Twitch.

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Graham at LIVE from Twitch PAX East

Over the past year, developers and publishers have realized how big Twitch’s impact has been on the gaming market. Graham insists that Twitch sits in a unique position because it offers a platform for people to showcase their gaming, and he believes during the next three to five years, more game companies will be using Twitch as a way to showcase their games, interact with their fans, and even show transparent development. He states, “In 2004, gaming blogs changed the voice for how gamers get their news and who they get it from. In 2012, this changed again, as suddenly Twitch became a platform for gamers across the world to have a voice and to share it with others.”

When Graham is not gaming or streaming his gaming on Twitch, he is a big fan of comic books and movies. His favorite comic books include Saga, Preacher, Fables and The Authority. Because he loves cinematic storytelling, he will give any movie a chance, but his favorite genres are horror and psychological thrillers. And, of course, he loves to spend time with his wife and eight-year-old son.

 

USA 2014Video Coverage

Josh Nilson is Keeping Acquisition In Mind | Casual Connect Video

September 3, 2014 — by Catherine Quinton

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Josh Nilson talks about managing your community through various platforms in a panel during Casual Connect USA 2014. “You have to start planning from the start of the project and organically build that into your game, what channels you want, and allow time for iteration, just like game design,” he advised. “So you want to work closely with your creators, your artists, and your game designers to do that.”

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Josh Nilson, Co-founder and CEO, East Side Games

Josh Nilson is the co-founder and CEO of East Side Games. Before starting this company, he worked in tech startup companies in the Vancouver area and also for Relic Entertainment in Vancouver. Now, he finds the greatest gratification working in the games industry, through building games and creating new worlds with them. He claims, “It’s inspiring and amazing to see the stories our fans come up with in our games.”

He also enjoys connecting with other studios to share information and learn from them. He values the parties they throw, often through Indie Power, for the networking opportunities they give. In this industry, he believes, “You never stop learning.”

Bootstrapped and Scrappy

Nilson describes East Side Games as bootstrapped, scrappy, and active in the local games community. He is very proud of the way they have built this company and grown with their fans over the last 3 ½ years. They are still building all the games they want, but now they are seeing former East Side Games people move on to create their own Indie studios and projects, something he considers “all kinds of awesome!”

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The East Side Games Crest

At East Side Games, Nilson handles what the company will be doing over the coming three to six months, as well as overseeing projects and business development. They have now hired a team of passionate people; Nilson makes it possible (or, he says, gets out of the way) for them to create something wonderful.

User Acquisition Challenges

The most challenging aspect of the games industry today, as he sees it, is user acquisition. He asks, “How do you turn people trying out your game into players? Then, how do you turn them into fans?” With the cost of acquiring players increasing, he knows it is extremely important to consider the fans from the start of a project. Many studios build amazing games, but think of player support as something to deal with later.

Leveraging Metrics

At East Side Games, they assemble their teams with acquisition in mind, and have set high benchmarks for customer support. They keep the metrics open to the entire team, and everyone working on the games works alongside the CS team for the first week so they will understand the importance of this aspect of the project. He admits that there is still a lot of work to do in this area, but feels they have made a good start and are making continuing efforts to improve.

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These were awards for their successful Kickstarter for the Pot Farm board game, pitched and created by a team in ESG through their Swill and Spill pitch sessions. Nilson is really proud of this.

When Nilson considers how the games industry will evolve in the next three to five years, he notes that casual games have already vastly increased the number of people playing games, and considers this a great development. He believes we will see even more casual game hits, with companies like Toca Boca and Sago Sago driving younger, engaged players into games even earlier. He expects amazing growth in this area to continue.

Time away from work has Nilson hanging out with his grouchy old Pug, Jabba. He also enjoys hipster beer, coffee, and good movies. And, like every good Canadian, he is always ready for anything hockey, anytime.

At Casual Connect USA, Nilson announced that Munchie Farm is coming out for mobile devices. He says, “The game world is crazy; you grow junk food from plants because junk food has been banned in the world. This game is going to be a lot of fun!”

 

USA 2014Video Coverage

John K. Maloney is the Legal Eagle of the Casino World | Casual Connect Video

September 3, 2014 — by Catherine Quinton

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John K. Maloney provided insight on casino regulation during his session at Casual Connect USA 2014. “Many of the gaming regulators are former police officers who tend to take a hard-core approach to casino operators,” he explained to his audience.

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John K. Maloney, Principal Attorney, The Law Offices of John K. Maloney

John K. Maloney is the principal attorney of his firm, The Law Offices of John K. Maloney. Maloney specializes in the area of gaming regulatory law, and his firm represents state-regulated and tribal gaming all over the United States. They provide experienced legal counsel to casino ownership groups, management companies, and independent vendors. He spent eight years with the Nevada Gaming Control Board and four years with the Casino Control Division in Queensland, Australia. This background allows him to understand the mindset of a regulator, something which is an advantage when making decisions on behalf of clients and representing them in hearings. He claims, “I am able to think outside the box and be proactive through knowing what regulators might think and say, having personally worked with them.”

A Challenging Industry

The gambling industry is constantly evolving and has now become a worldwide phenomenon, both land-based and interactively. This constant change is what keeps Maloney involved in the industry. He finds it to be a challenging and very satisfying job, particularly knowing he has pleased clients in such a specialized area of law. He is intrigued by the many similarities between the gambling industry and the games industry, so perhaps if he were not already involved with his area of specialization, he would take an interest in the games industry.

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Maloney at Casual Connect USA 2014

A Growing Industry

Maloney believes the game industry and gambling industry together are set to explode in the next few years. Regulation will occur on both state and federal levels, and more acquisitions will occur that will ultimately lead to new giants settling in on the market. He expects the industry collectively to reach a larger audience as technology grows and expands globally. The challenge will come from the regulators perspective where regulators will need to incorporate the game world and the gambling world. From a gaming attorney’s perspective, this will be fun to be a part of and very challenging.

 

USA 2014Video Coverage

Bryan Buskas: Helping to Build Better Mobile Products | Casual Connect Video

September 1, 2014 — by Catherine Quinton

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“We asked developers, ‘How do you increase the size of your budgets?’ Mind you, these are the top 100 grossing developers, so the guys with the deep pockets, the guys with the highly monetizing apps,” Bryan Buskas explained during his session at Casual Connect USA 2014. “85 percent or so have said that they continue to increase the size of their campaign. For the indie developers out there, I think that shows the importance of publishing today.”

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Bryan Buskas, SVP of Sales & Performance Advertising, AdColony

AdColony’s Bryan Buskas started his career in games on the console side of the business, working in research and brand marketing in 2005. This was the year Xbox 360 was launched; an amazing time as they worked on titles like Call of Duty 2 and Guitar Hero. He loves the opportunity the games industry gives him to work on products people use every day and work with people and the technology that continues to evolves. He says, “There’s always something new and exciting happening in gaming, especially in mobile. There’s always so much innovation.”

Transformations

Just as the industry is constantly changing, Buskas’ roles in it have continued to evolve over the past ten years, from console to social and now to mobile gaming. This is what keeps him going in the industry: the notion of transformation and innovation.

Buskas runs AdColony’s performance advertising division, also known in the industry as user acquisition. He describes his work as such: “At the most basic level, I help mobile game developers find new players, using mobile video ad campaigns. Every day, we run campaigns in over 200 countries, which support developers in distributing their apps to audiences around the world.”

Because he spent over five years working with console game developers through the “green light process,” he has seen first-hand all the labor, skill, and collaboration required to bring new concepts and titles to market. He speaks the same language as game developers, so he is able to help build better products for mobile game companies. He believes this also gives him the ability to become a trusted partner to them, as opposed to just being the rep for an ad platform or a vendor.

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Because Buskas spent over five years working with console game developers, he feels this has allowed him to become a trusted partner to them, as opposed to just being the rep for an ad platform or a vendor.

Pride in the Partnership

Buskas has had many proud moments during his career, varying depending on the role he filled and the company he was working for. At Activision, one of these was the launch and success of Guitar Hero. Right now, he is very proud to be able to work with the top mobile gaming companies in the world, just as mobile is starting to dominate the time spent in everything from browsing on the internet to watching videos to playing games. He says, “Being one of the key launch partners that are helping these companies promote and bring their new apps to market is gratifying and really exciting.”

From the mobile ad perspective, Buskas believes the next big trend in the games industry is the move to mobile video. Video is the fastest growing segment of advertising today, so it makes sense that this growth is mirrored in mobile. He emphasizes, “All of the investment and interest from developers, advertisers, and users will lead to new formats and innovation across the spectrum of mobile video, mobile games, and mobile ads.”

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“All of the investment and interest from developers, advertisers, and users will lead to new formats and innovation across the spectrum of mobile video, mobile games, and mobile ads.”

He expects to see mobile video tying into more traditional channels such as TV or online. He explains, “Think of an AAA console game launch. The publisher might run mobile video ads that support or complement their TV campaigns. On the other end, a mobile game company might run a print ad with a scannable bar code that links to a mobile video demo.” He also expects to see the television interact with mobile devices as mobile games become richer and more immersive in both content and experience.

Because AdColony is a mobile video ad company, mobile-centric evolution and innovation is their DNA and is in everything they do. At Casual Connect USA 2014, Buskas shared insights and results from AdColony’s annual mobile game developer acquisition survey. For three weeks in early June, they surveyed the 100 top grossing game developers on iOS and Android. They believe their tightly focused data will provide important context into how the most successful developers are monetizing through user acquisition.

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Because AdColony is 100% focused on mobile video, mobile-centric evolution and innovation is their DNA. Pictured (L-R): Stefan Adamczyk, Eric Dickinger, Andrew French and Bryan Buskas from the AdColony team at a mobile gaming event in Helsinki, Finland.

In Buskas’ free time, he is an avid golfer and surfer. He has been a surfer for nine years and his favorite place to surf is Point Dume, but overall, he has spent more time golfing.

These days, his gaming is mainly on iPad and his favorite games are Supercell’s Boom Beach and Grand Cru’s Supernauts. There is so much great content on mobile that he no longer feels a need to use his console. But he does own both generations of Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo consoles. On the next-gen consoles, he is a big fan of the quality and content but feels the newest entries have become a bit niche. And people no longer have hours a day to devote to gaming, so the idea of console gaming is becoming inaccessible to larger audiences. On the other hand, mobile gaming has experienced explosive growth because it is much more accessible.

Possibly the most unusual place he has played a game is on a golf course, and that illustrates the great advantage of mobile games and why they have grown so much in popularity. You can play them anywhere. Clash of Clans is the perfect example. You have to come back to it at certain times for clan wars, but because it is on your phone, it doesn’t matter where you are. So he played it while on the putting green waiting for the rest of the group to hole out.

 

USA 2014Video Coverage

Amy Dallas Leverages Her Determination & Experience | Casual Connect Video

September 1, 2014 — by Catherine Quinton

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At Casual Connect USA 2014, Amy Dallas, the co-founder of ClutchPlay, described her views of running an indie company during a panel. “When you’re starting a company with other people, you’re essentially getting into a ‘business marriage’ in that you’re legally bound to those people for as long as your company is around. So, you need to know that your co-founders share your goals and values and that you’ll stick by each other when times are tough,” she said. She was excited to announce the release of ClutchPlay’s second game, “Skullduggery!”, in Fall 2014 on both iOS and Android.

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What is “Skullduggery!”

She describes the game this way: “”Skullduggery!” is an atmospheric, fling-based physics platformer, in which you’ll play a Semi-Organic Autonomous Skull, working as a collection agent for the INFERNAL Revenue Service.  Your mission is to collect taxes from the ‘deadbeats’ of the afterlife. You do so by using the elasticity of your own brain to flick yourself around the fortresses of the netherworld’s worst tax dodgers as you repossess their underworldly belongings. You also get to do a lot of other cool stuff like slow time to avoid deadly obstacles, pull off crazy trick shots to collect riches, discover hidden caches, and slip past surly guards. We also have a multiplayer mode we’re calling ‘head to head’ which allows you to play against your friends to become the afterlife’s most successful agent. Oh, and you also get to fill out paperwork and reflect on the inherent emptiness of existence. And I ask you, who doesn’t want to do that?!”

“Skullduggery!” also features an endearingly grotesque art style created by Bill Mudron and inspired by the Max Fleischer animations of the 1930′s.

It was announced earlier that “Skullduggery!” will be featured in this year’s “PAX 10” Indie Games showcase at the PAX Prime event. “Being part of the PAX 10 is a tremendous honor,” says Dallas. “We could not be more honored that “Skullduggery!” was chosen.”

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“Skullduggery!” features an endearingly grotesque art style created by Bill Mudron and inspired by the Max Fleischer animations of the 1930′s.

Determination & Experience

Dallas co-founded ClutchPlay in 2012 with Bernie Rissmiller, Jon Guest, and John C. Worsley. The studio they had worked for was downsized, so the four seized this opportunity to create their own studio. It wasn’t an optimal time to start a company with no promise of a salary for any of them. Dallas’s husband had also been laid off, Rissmiller and his wife had just had a baby, Guest had two children, and Worsley had upcoming major travel plans. They had no VC, angel investors, or funding of any kind. But they knew they had the right team, so they took a giant leap of faith to begin their company.

What they did have was determination, lots of experience, some savings, and an idea that became Little Chomp. Within their first year, they had developed a proprietary cross-platform game engine and had launched Little Chomp on both iOS and Android to great critical success. Little Chomp was selected as a featured game in the 2013 PAX East Indie Showcase. In their second year, they did a contract project for KIXEYE, Inc. which involved using their proprietary game engine to take KIXEYE’s Facebook game, Backyard Monsters, to mobile. Besides their consulting fees, KIXEYE licensed their engine source code, and the proceeds from that are funding the development of “Skullduggery!”.

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Within their first year, they had developed a proprietary cross-platform game engine and had launched Little Chomp on both iOS and Android to great critical success.

She says, “So far, it’s been the scariest, craziest, and most exhilarating time of my career, and I wouldn’t trade a minute of it. It’s true what they say. Feel the fear and do it anyway!”

Because ClutchPlay is a small, four-person studio, and Dallas is the only one who is not an engineer, she does almost everything else, and is, among other things, the producer, chief of ops, QA, and biz dev person. She has worked at a number of different game and tech companies and has been a producer most of her career, so that part of her work is second nature. But other things, such as marketing, have involved a giant learning curve. She claims, “If you aren’t at least a little freaked out at your work, then you probably aren’t pushing yourself hard enough or learning anything new.”

Another Discovery Challenge

Discovery is unarguably the mobile industry’s biggest challenge, especially for indies, according to Dallas, given the sheer volume of games flooding the market. It isn’t enough to make a great game, you also have to be great at marketing it. But that is difficult for indies who lack the resources to compete with products from larger producers with more experience and greater resources.

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Amy Dallas, Co-Founder, ClutchPlay

“As a developer,” she insists, “you have to do everything possible to keep your game visible”. At ClutchPlay, they do this by going to as many festivals and conferences as possible to meet press people, reps from different platforms and, of course, other developers. She is amazed at how willing the indie community is to help each other out. They also share their development process through blogging, forums like Touch Arcade, and weekly events such as Screenshot Saturday. This is a good way to whet people’s appetite for the release of the game.

Dallas believes the next few years will bring the release of more premium games, especially on iOS. She disagrees with those who believe free to play is the only way to go on mobile. Free to play titles do have the potential to bring in more revenue for a longer period of time, but they also costs more to produce, have on-going maintenance costs, and require huge user acquisition budgets.

Bigger Spend Equals Bigger Risk

The more money you spend developing a game, the more it must bring in. This pressure leads to taking fewer risks and going with a formula you know will succeed. The result is a lot of very similar freemium games, which is why Dallas believes premium is due for a renaissance. Some of the exciting titles out now, such as Badland, Duet, Monument Valley, FTL, are all premium games at a higher price point. She claims that these games are made by small, scrappy companies who can not only afford to take risks, they NEED to, and because risk is at the heart of innovation, we’re going to start to see a lot more really weird, cool, interesting games come out of the premium space. And so far, people are buying them.

Dallas says that the best thing about working in the games industry, by far, is the people. Game production can be brutal, grueling, and utterly exhausting. Sometimes, she feels blown to bits by it. But what gets her through is the people. Game teams will do whatever it takes to support each other and get the job done. There is a passion and camaraderie that she hasn’t found in other industries.

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Amy Dallas sitting on the panel at Casual Connect USA 2014

More and more, she realizes she is a mobile gamer at heart. She doesn’t have time for epic console games or MMOs. But on mobile, she can play in short, concentrated burst, which fits her lifestyle much better. She has just finished Monument Valley and has recently been playing Monsters Ate My Birthday Cake, which has just been released by another Portland studio.

Dallas has discovered that when you are an indie working from home, the line between work and personal life becomes blurred. When not working or playing games, she gets as much exercise as possible “to keep from physically fusing to her office chair.” She also loves to cook, describing herself as a huge food nerd. She enjoys reading and is working on writing a novel.

 

USA 2014Video Coverage

David Logan: An Ecstatic Indie Developer | Casual Connect Video

September 1, 2014 — by Catherine Quinton

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David Logan shared his thoughts on crowdfunding in his session at Casual Connect USA 2014. “The biggest thing I think is that people invest in people,” he said. “And that’s why, in my opinion, crowdfunding does so well, because you are investing in other people’s passion, in other people’s dreams, and you’re really helping those people take their project to the next level.”

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David Logan, founder of Night Light Interactive, says, “Work is my hobby.” He loves creating and playing video games. When he plays new games, he is looking for interesting and unique mechanics and trying to learn from them. But he also enjoys hanging out with his pet tortoise, Chronos, and racing him around the yard.

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David Logan, Founder, Night Light Interactive

Learning The Skills

Logan is a producer at Animax and also at Night Light Interactive. At Animax, he has worked with clients such as Paramount, Disney, Sony, and NBC. Currently, they are developing the mobile game Stick and Chick. He has been at Animax for over four years, where he learned the skills necessary to start his own company. These skills include management, budgeting, scheduling, marketing and more. He emphasizes, “These are really valuable skills that I’ve used in Night Light.”

The major milestones Night Light has reached with their game Whispering Willows has brought Logan the greatest satisfaction in his career.
The major milestones Night Light has reached with their game Whispering Willows has brought Logan the greatest satisfaction in his career.

The major milestones Night Light has reached with their game Whispering Willows has brought Logan the greatest satisfaction in his career. The first milestone was getting funded on Kickstarter. The other was getting the game approved on Steam Greenlight. The team had worked so hard at making this game a reality. These accomplishments made them feel ecstatic that their indie studio had made it so far and might actually be successful.

Logan’s view of his company changed completely when Whispering Willows won the Most Immersive award in the initial game jam they entered, the OUYA CREATE contest. He remembers getting home from work, lying down, and thinking, “Wow! We really can do this!” He found it very inspiring. After they won the contest, they wanted to ride the wave of their success, so they launched their successful Kickstarter campaign the following month.

Logan believes crowdsourcing and crowdfunding will take off in the next few years, even more than they already have. At Night Light, they are now thinking outside the box about how games will be funded and constructed.

Platforms of Choice

Consoles are Logan’s preferred platform for gaming. He admits to being a huge Nintendo fan and owns every one of their consoles. He also owns PS3 and PS4 and has a large PS1 and PS2 game collection as well. He has an OUYA a PC, and even a custom Dance Dance Revolution pad.

Currently, he is playing Mario Kart 8 with the Night Light team every week, and hosts regular Magic the Gathering and board game tournaments at work. He is looking forward to Super Smash Bros on Wii U and has also been playing TowerFall and Amazing Frog? on OUYA. However, his favorite game of all time is Unreal Tournament 2004. If anyone still plays, let him know, because he’d love to play again! He also makes an active effort to support other indie devs.

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The Night Light team at a “Escape a Zombie” team building event

He also plays F2P and enjoys being able to try out a game for free. But he is intrigued that he ends up spending much more money than he would have on a non-F2P game.

At Casual Connect USA 2014, Logan announced that Whispering Willows recently launched on Steam.

 

USA 2014Video Coverage

Jamison Selby Is Keeping His Secrets | Casual Connect Video

August 27, 2014 — by Catherine Quinton

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Jamison Selby shared his knowledge and views on real-money gaming during his session at Casual Connect USA 2014. “By 2018, less than .01 percent of commercial mobile apps will be considered a financial success by their developers,” he said.

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Jamison Selby, VP Games, b Spot

The best thing about being a part of the games industry, according to Jamison Selby, is, quite simply, that he gets to make games. He says, “I spend days creating new recipes for fun and testing them out.” He heads the Games team at b Spot, but refuses to divulge the secrets of how he joined up and exactly what he does there. State secrets, he claims. Or could they be industry secrets? But he admits that for years he walked the line between the video games space and the real money gambling world, an experience which he has found the perfect ground for his current endeavors.

He also reveals that he has had some great moments along the way in this industry, but he hopes the best moments are yet to come. He says, “Someday, I’ll get to show my kids what I’ve done. Ask me then.”

This busy father clearly makes his family a priority. With two young children, he spends his time chasing, splashing, running, dodging, reading aloud, and cleaning. And occasionally sleeping.

But he does find time for some game play. However, these days GTA5 on the Xbox often gives way to Wonder Pets and Octonauts. Currently, he is playing Wasteland 2 Beta and Broken Age. And his preferred platform is whatever happens to be available.

There seem to be quite a lot of choices available, since he says he has all the usual consoles, including his Nintendo DS which “shall never sunset.” For mobile gaming, he uses both Android and iOS depending on which game he is playing and claims the most interesting place he has played mobile games was in the crew bar of a cruise ship late at night in the middle of the Baltic.

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Selby is a busy father, but he does find time for some game play.

It Started With The TV

Selby became involved in the games industry while working on TV game shows. The trivia content was the jumping off point for him to dive into the games industry. He became the head writer for ODVD games, working on a series of trivia titles published by Hasbro. He states, “It was a big creative challenge and offered a very different path from the feast or famine world of TV production.” He believes if he had not joined the industry, he would be producing questionable reality TV shows or possibly teaching drama at a small Northwestern college. Or even serving drinks at a bar on an island without a zip code.

Here Come The Wearables

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“Every new innovation opens up creative possibilities, and we’re constantly dreaming up new ways to play.”

The next big trend Selby sees affecting the games industry is the explosion of wearables and VR technology. He believes this will bring huge opportunities for new content creation in the years ahead. He insists, “Every new innovation opens up creative possibilities, and we’re constantly dreaming up new ways to play.”

Selby has years of experience leading cross-disciplinary design and production teams to create multiplayer social games and interactive entertainment. He founded and leads the International Game Developer Association’s Real Money Gaming SIG. Previously, he launched the Monkey King Games consultancy and was the senior producer at TimePlay Entertainment, creating a new generation of multiplayer gaming in casinos, cinemas, cruise ships, bars, clubs and stadiums.

 

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