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HEADLINER: What if YOU controlled the news?

November 17, 2017 — by Orchid

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If something’s bothering people’s mind, it’s just a matter of time till there’s a game about it. Fake news have been trending for a while, and resulted, among other things, in HEADLINER: a short adventure game about media bias and how it affects the society, families and careers. The Seattle-based developer Unbound Creations has worked with teams up to 6 people on their previous titles, but HEADLINER has mostly been just Jakub Kasztalski.


However, as prototyping went on and Jakub observed what was happening around the world, the design shifted towards the narrative and media bias. “Here’s an article I wrote that goes into more details of how I mined Facebook and Google data to stay relevant to today’s issues”, he shares.

Jakub observed what was happening around the world, the design shifted towards the narrative and media bias.

Try Before You Decide

“I started with free/public domain 3rd party assets and simple scenes built in Blender to nail down the look/feel/setting”, the developer recalls. “I went through 2-3 iterations before arriving at the final look. Overall, that wasted a lot of time, but not being an artist myself, it helped me figure out what “felt right” and what I wanted to really communicate. I’m very “try before you decide” when it comes to visuals”.

“I settled on Vector Art as I realized it’s the one style I could actually do myself. I researched a lot of references, the biggest being the awesome Lyft commercial.”

“I researched a lot of references, the biggest being the awesome Lyft commercial.”

The street scene remained a 3rd party pixel artwork, but Jakub had upscaled it and did a lot of post-processing. He also used the baseline sprites to create new variations, such as police or rioters.

The art Jakub decided on as something he could do.

Music was also public domain/creative commons, but again the developer spent a lot of time researching: “I’d just play different tracks in the background while coding and testing, until I found ones that felt right”.

Someone Might Get Offended

When asked how not to offend anyone with a game on a touchy subject, Jakub confesses: “Honestly, I just follow my gut feeling. I’ll admit I used to be really socially awkward when I was younger (as many geeks are), but through great friends and few years of freelancing I learned where the social boundaries lie. I just apply the same skills to my work instinctively I suppose”.

“I also listen to the feedback I get. For example, many testers asked me why your spouse was always of opposite gender – why you couldn’t have same-sex marriages in the game? And I realized there really isn’t a good reason not to, so I added that”.

“Why can’t you have same-sex marriages in the game? And I realized there really isn’t a good reason not to, so I added that”.

“There are some ideas I am trying to communicate in the game so it is inevitable that someone might get offended. And honestly if they do – well, that’s just what I stand for I guess. You can’t please everyone”.

Learn From Others'(and His Own) Mistakes

Learning from others’ experiences is what Jakub fully uses in his dev practice. Being inspired by titles like Papers, Please and Westport Independent, he read through Steam and press reviews. “I really tried to find what worked and what didn’t, building on the formula instead of simply copying”, he explains. “For example, in Papers, at the end of the day you might get a white text on black screen telling you your wife died. Well, that’s not very engaging. That’s why I wanted the whole street and home section – show, don’t tell. Make the player care about the world he’s building (or destroying).

“Show, don’t tell. Make the player care about the world he’s building (or destroying)”.

“There are many pitfalls I’ve learned and still need to learn. Brevity is very important I realized, as most gamers don’t want to be reading a book while playing (purely text-games and interactive fiction aside). Secondly, players want to really feel the impact of their actions, even if it may feel like over-explaining at times (I tend to be overly subtle). Lastly, fleshing out the world may seem wasteful, but it can do a lot for immersion – all my games have been praised for creating a believable sense of space (even if you only see a fraction of all the research and backstory I wrote)”. Jakub hints there’s a ton more lessons he could come up with, “but that’s probably a whole different topic in an of itself”

Looking back, Jakub says he’s pretty happy with how things went. “All the significant improvements I would have liked to add at this point would have taken several months and considerable investment. However, for various reasons, I did not want to go down that route, instead preferring to spread the additional effort and lessons learned over future episodes and new games”. If he still had to pick one area to improve, it would be artwork: “it was a big learning experience for me and I think it shows”.

Meanwhile, a fresh wave of fake news is coming up. “I’ve got a few ideas brewing in my head right now, but two of the major changes would be a bit randomized newspaper system for more engaging replays, and more personal interactions with various characters you meet”, Jakub shares. You can also join the world domination through news planning through the game’s official Discord, and keep track of updates on Twitter

Game DevelopmentPostmortem

The Long Reach: Never Trust A Purple-Green Cute Sheep

June 5, 2017 — by Industry Contributions

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Painted Black Games is a young Ukrainian mini-studio. There are five of them,  and they’re making their first game – a philosophic sci-fi thriller-adventure, The Long Reach. The team has changed many times since 2015 when it all started. It didn’t mess up the process – on the contrary, everyone who has contributed to the game, brought their unique view and made it better.

As the developers were writing the story, the lights at their office went out. “We’re in pitch darkness and –  I’m not sure, but I think something is scratching at our door”, says Roman Tomilin, the producer and programmer, as he shares the game development story.

Game DevelopmentPostmortem

BalanCity: Balancing Gamedev and Kids

November 22, 2016 — by Industry Contributions

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BalanCity is a goofy mixture between the oldschool Sim City and Jenga. In this physical city builder you need to make a towering metropolis over a treacherous seesaw. You can build houses, offices, parks, transportation, landmarks and more. Eventually, disasters will hit your city, so you must have your emergency services ready to act. Citizen approval is also a thing you must take care of if you do not want your people to start rioting and burn the city down. There is a Free Build Mode as well as Challenges and Scenarios where you must build real life metropolis with their famous landmarks. 


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Party Hard: Community-Driven Updates

September 16, 2016 — by Orchid

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The Ukrainian team of Pinokl Games team was working on a huge ambitious project of Mecha Titans and some other casual and family-friendly games… and then got tired of that all. They unleashed their darkest thoughts and participated in Kanobu Game Jam with Party Hard, a game of a bloody massacre at a noisy neighbors’ party at 3AM, or “third-person urban conflict simulator” as they describe their creation.

The bloodthirsty theme found a response in the hearts of Casual Connect Europe 2015 critics, having brought the team the Critics Choice award in Indie Prize. The team recently celebrated the 1st anniversary of Party Hard launch, having scored numerous other awards and gaining a massive creative fan base. Pinokl Games’ marketing manager and producer Alina Husevyk shares the most noticeable learnings of the year.


Game DevelopmentPostmortem

Iron Tides: From Board To Digital

September 8, 2016 — by Industry Contributions

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Crash Wave Games, founded in August 2015, is an unusual pairing of two game developers from Finland and South Africa. As two developers of entertainment, the Vancouver-based indie studio has travelled all across the city and its borders for opportunities to showcase their first turn-based tactics game Iron Tides for the PC/Mac. The duo emerged from the hustle-and-bustle world where they met and made a pact to pursue the lifestyle of their dreams.


Game DevelopmentPostmortem

3 Nights In Chicago: Wherever the Project Goes

August 28, 2016 — by CS Wallace of MarcoPolo Learning

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As designers, we often sit down to work on a new game with a (so we think) clear idea of what we want the end product to be, or at least a set of core design goals we’d like to reach. Over the course of creating our masters thesis, my team and I learned to let go of our ideas and let our game organically become what it wanted to be, rather than trying to force it to be something it couldn’t.


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Mind the Trap: How To Engage Those Who Haven’t Played Yet

August 15, 2016 — by Kenneth Ng of Dissonance Entertainment

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The majority of people buying your game are consumers, not developers. - Kenneth Ng.Click To Tweet

During the last weeks of July, our team of Dissonance Entertainment has been hit by a whirlwind of exciting events. Mind the Trap won the Best Multiplayer Game award and was nominated for Best Game Design at the Casual Connect 2016 trade fair. In addition to that, we locked in meetings with publishers, got approached by freelancers and marketers, got the game Greenlit after nine days on Steam, and for the first time had a post hit the front page of Reddit with over 7000 up-votes.


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Demon Archive: Recurrence of Dr. Faustus and Fantastic Elements

August 4, 2016 — by Industry Contributions

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Founded in 2014, La Calade Games is merely composed by the couple at the beginning. As a player of roleplaying games, co-founder and CEO Shirley Cheng was excited to see so many hidden object games with amazing animations and stories on iPad during 2012. She remembers her first time playing these games on iPad: being really impressed, especially when the games were inspired by some classic works. One day Shirley’s husband saw her playing those hidden object games and wondered why she was so obsessed with them. Eventually he realized those were truly interesting, and considered making one, since he’s always had a dream to make his own game. Shirley tells more of the story of the award-winning game that has been honored for Best Narrative at Casual Connect Asia 2016. 


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Regency Solitaire: A Game To Go Back In Time

April 2, 2016 — by Industry Contributions

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Grey Alien Games has been making premium downloadable PC and Mac games since 2005. This British game studio has brought casual game hits including Regency Solitaire, Spooky Bonus, Fairway Solitaire (2007 PC/Mac version) and Unwell Mel to life.
The theme for Regency Solitaire came to writer and researcher Helen Carmichael while she was watching Downton Abbey in 2013. She had recently moved back to Bridport, Dorset from Canada with husband Jake Birkett, and the couple were keen to revisit their favourite historical locations in the UK.

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Tenshu General: Small-scope RTS – a New Trend or Not Possible?

December 24, 2015 — by Industry Contributions

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Two veteran RTS players create a company to capture the excitement of hardcore RTS and bring it to a wider audience. A few weeks after their successful Steam release they look back at their original goals and discuss if it is possible to make a small-scope game in a genre that is dominated by elaborate and highly developed flagship titles. The studio’s executive producer Casper Bodewitz shares the experience. 


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