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ContributionsDevelopmentIndie

World’s First Voice-Controlled Mobile Fighting Game: Vocal Warrior

June 7, 2016 — by Industry Contributions

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By Yi Wang

The Beginning of it All:

Back in 2012, Apple had released the voice-activated assistant known as Siri unto the world, and that latest innovation in technology is what gave us at Centaurs Technologies the idea to create the world’s first, voice-controlled mobile fighting game.

With the game also taking inspiration from one of my favourite fighting games, The King of Fighters, I believed that voice-control would be more fitting of the fighting game, especially when I found it’s difficult to achieve the complicated fighting movements fluidly by touching the screen.

By 2014, I had quit my job in China to come to America and make the idea come to fruition, along with the help of three other founders, which made up our game development studio of Centaurs Technologies.

USA 2015Video Coverage

Aaron Walz Makes Sound to the Beats of Inspiration, Creativity, Teamwork | Casual Connect Video

January 9, 2016 — by Casey Rock

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'Other aspects of mobile games are getting fancier, and so should audio implementation.' - Aaron WalzClick To Tweet

In a panel of sound designers at Casual Connect USA Aaron Walz of Walz Music & Sound led a discussion about ways to get the most from your compositions. Together, they highlighted Audio Middleware. Tricks, trade secrets and also some examples of how they have avoided the old-fashioned “loop” approach to game music. He revealed, “(One thing) that composers do and that you can do is something called layers or stems (where) you have a music track that has everything in it and then you can strip down certain elements . . . It really becomes staggering how many different things you can do rather than paying your composer to make ten minutes of custom, all individual music.”

Tel Aviv 2015Video Coverage

Arnold Nesis: The Future is Music Video Games | Casual Connect Video

December 17, 2015 — by Catherine Quinton

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'Music should not only be ‘cool’, it should say what words alone simply cannot'. - Arnold NesisClick To Tweet

Capricia Productions is doing something unique and a bit crazy: Producing music albums as video games. ‘The Birdcage’ is a music game album and a collaboration between artists from Guns N’ Roses, former Evanescence members, Within Temptation, Epica and others currently in production. During Casual Connect Tel Aviv, Arnold Nesis, CEO and Lead Composer of Capricia Productions, presented ‘The Birdcage’, discussed the logic behind such games, covered the challenges they faced, how they solved them and how you can (and should) make such games with them. He revealed, “We decided to compose and keep the music the same, instead we have tailored the game to it for maximum player experience.”

Tel Aviv 2015Video Coverage

Niv Touboul: Combining the Right Components | Casual Connect Video

December 5, 2015 — by Catherine Quinton

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'I want our users to look for the new Upopa game just because it’s Upopa!'— Niv TouboulClick To Tweet

Creating a sequel can be tricky. As a game developer, you strive to have something true to the original but also fresh and new. During his talk at Casual Connect Tel Aviv, the co-founder of Upopa Games, Niv Toubol, spoke about the lessons they have learned from the creation of Hopeless 2. In his talk entitled Sequels: Dealing with Fan’s Expectations, Niv explained, “Understanding the challenges and preserving the original style and mechanics is crucial for successful sequel”. Since the conference, Niv is proud to announce that Hopeless 2 is featured on the App Store and at the moment they are ranked as #4 on the US App Store.

USA 2015Video Coverage

Casey Cameron: Music and Sound to Fit the Game | Casual Connect Video

October 24, 2015 — by Catherine Quinton

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'No job is worth permanently injuring yourself, not even your dream job. - Casey CameronClick To Tweet

Join freelance composer and music designer Casey Cameron as he moderates a roundtable discussion at Casual Connect. Learn how to get the best audio for your game. From start to finish, the panel worked to explain why you need an audio contractor, how you find a great one, when to get audio involved, and what’s expected of both parties. They covered answers to questions about contracts, tech specs, platforms, terminology, implementation, best practices. One piece of advice Casey offered on how to find a composer or sound designer is on twitter. He pointed out that, “We all follow each other so if you find your favorite composer and that composer is not available for work, you can just move out from there, searching through all of his friends”. He further relates that that is how he got into jazz. Searching in this way can open some unexpected doors.

ContributionsPostmortem

Indie Showcase: Dream Symphony (Flash)

March 4, 2013 — by Martijn van Dijk

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George Zarkua is an indie game developer with four years of experience. He is the artist and game designer of Nude Hunter, Ragdoll Ball, Dream Symphony, and Spicy Story. He recently started his own studio, called Zarkua Studio.

A Vague Start

George Zarkua
George Zarkua

When the idea of this game appeared in my head, I had already done four projects in a rush mode. I enjoyed making games quickly, not only because it really saved valuable time, but also because this way the projects didn’t last long enough to bore me. The main idea for my new game was a bit blurry and existed only as an idea. The only clear thing was the concept, so I took it as a constant foundation that has been preserved from the beginning to the end of the development process.

I use tricks to escape the routine

When developing a game I try not to work in the same pattern over and over. I use tricks to escape the routine. On Dream Symphony, I tried to leave my comfort zone and tread into an area I had no experience with – music.

Despite the fact that indie games are mostly made without reliance on colorful graphics and effects, music always substantiates or even creates the atmosphere in those games.
Among flash games, there are outstanding representatives of the music games genre that are all based on the mechanics where static objects in the scene (such as obstacles or changes in the landscape) occur after the composition reaches a certain time or a certain pitch (Music in Motion and Take a Walk).

I wanted to create a musical flash game, but with rather unusual mechanics. The idea was simple: apart from the normal sound in the game, there were more sounds that were played in the interaction with surrounding objects. I.e. no objects were created depending on the music, but music was created by the objects.

The idea was very vague, and I could not explain what I wanted. So when I offered it to my partner programmers; four out of four said no. I created a thread in a forum, without a precise description of the concept. Before my idea gained any reputation, I got several messages from programmers who offered different kinds of partnership. There were about eight people and to each of them I described the idea. All of them were willing to work on the project., I couldn’t assess their levels, but one of them wrote GDD and showed his previous game with the mechanics of a platformer. This made for an easy choice. I chose Igor Kulakov. The last problem was me. I was tired after two years of working, so we agreed to start the game over time and I left for some relaxations.

At that time, I didn’t think that after the release of the game it would be featured on Newgrounds, Kongregate, NotDoppler, Bored, that we would win three cash prizes, including best game of Maypleyard, that I would read news about my game on leading indie news sites, including JayIsGames and that I would write this postmortem.

Character progress
Character progress

Before leaving, I made a couple of sketches of the main character (a huge goof pumped in a tracksuit, which jumped from cloud to cloud, and bursting bubbles with music) and a couple of backgrounds. It was cute, but not particularly interesting.

It was in a village deep in the heart of Russia where I decided to change the setting of the game. Originally, I had planned to make a quick jumper, with an active music. There I met a creature that changed my view of the future development of the plot. It was a sheep. I really wanted to see it in the game. I had only a pen and a notebook so all that I could do was make a few sketches. The body of the sheep looked like a cloud. In my head I animated the sheep slipping and awakening when you jump on it. This helped me to revive the game. However, the game still was in the same state, without any fundamental differences comparing to the flash jumper games, so I decided to add one more feature. The idea was that at the very beginning of the game the level was grey and while ascending in height, the game gradually became colored. This idea has also formed the basis for further work.

When I got home, the first thing to do for me was beating similar games. Meanwhile, my partner had created a working prototype. It was a very important step. After that, we coordinated our work through Dropbox and thanks to his prototype, we could work separately. He worked evenings and I started my work in the mornings.

Rush Mode

You just need to turn off the internet. Switch it off. You will reach zen

We worked in a rush mode, so the development of the game was enjoyable. Rush mode is the apotheosis of self-discipline, self-control and determination. In the morning, after you get up, cook all the necessary food for the day. Work should ideally take about 10-15 hours a day plus three hours for breaks. You should consider disabling all things that can give a signal. The most important discovery that I made for myself and increased my productivity 5-6 times is that you just need to turn off the internet. Switch it off. You will reach zen. The first time I came across this, lightning hit the transformer vault in my house. That day, I finished a big to-do list for the entire week and even cleaned the room, paid the bills and went for a walk. The second time, I fully encoded and made all the graphics to the simple little match-3 game, which I later sold it for 4k.

You must be completely off-line. And if suddenly you need the internet write down what you need on a piece of paper. In the evening spend an hour online and go to bed cheerfully. Of course, working like this for a long time might not be healthy, but you should try it.

Working on the Sound

The effect created a sense of passage and epicness

We needed a specific type of music with a perfect tempo and a certain feel to it. We hired a professional musician who had to rewrite the main track a few times because it didn’t quite fit the gameplay. When objects exploded, the sounds did not fit with the overall tone of the music. In addition, the levels in the game seamlessly switched, and the track for the next level was a copy of the previous one with the addition of one more instrument. This effect, coupled with the effect of saturation rising, created a sense of passage and epicness. By the end of the level, you could see a completely colored game, with a soundtrack that also felt complete.

The sheep in Dream Symphony
The sheep in Dream Symphony

When all the music was ready, it had to fit the levels. Connected tracks should feel solid. As an artist of this project, I needed a simple program for sound processing. I was looking for a free, easy program with minimum functionality and intuitive function names. I only needed to be able to change the tempo, the pitch, and the volume. By changing these aspects, the music comes to the foreground, and the sound echoed in the background.

The most important part was yet to come. We had to place the sounds in a way that the track seemed to be solid. To do this, sounds had to fit into the gameplay music. The player should feel that he was involved in the creation of music. It should not distract the player from the process. So some sounds had to be neutral and others had to be more in tune with the rest of the audio. The musical instruments only appeared in intervals where there was a deliberate pause. Needless to say, because of these actions the game was really hard to balance. In the end, the balancing of the game took about 30% of the work.

ContributionsPostmortem

Indie Showcase: Sergey Batishchev’s Gluey (Flash & iOS)

February 21, 2013 — by Bart Eijk

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Sergey Batishchev is an indie game developer and has been an enterprise Java developer and tech lead for more than 12 years. Still, games and game development have always been his hobby. After the successful launch of his Gluey game series, he is dedicating himself more on indie game development. Batishchev strives to make simple, polished and fun Flash and mobile games that appeal even to most casual gamers.

I spent many hours with my Watcom C++ compiler trying to code fire, fluid, and smoke

Gluey is a very simple action puzzle game. You just click the blobs, they disappear and you earn points. Large blob clusters give you bigger score bonuses. And, of course, it is seasoned with multiple levels, modes and power-ups. The idea for Gluey originated from an unusual source. Back in my university years, the demoscene was at its peak. I was amazed by the graphical effects in the demos and I wanted to learn how to do the same. So I spent many hours with my Watcom C++ compiler trying to code fire, fluid, and smoke.

Back in 2009, game development was purely a hobby for me. But one day I thought: Wouldn’t it be cool to create the simplest game possible, based purely on a rendering technique – like fire, liquid or particles? Surprisingly, no one made a match-3 or click group to clear-game with liquid blobs at that time! All other elements came quite naturally. I decided to use simple click group to clear-mechanics, as my friends really enjoyed games like that on their Windows 6.5 phones. It was also intuitive for the blobs to follow real physics, not just gridlines as in classic match-3. Within a couple of days, the prototype was finished. Although still in its early alpha-stages, the basic gameplay mechanic was already quite clear.

Gluey
Still in its early alpha-stages, the basic gameplay mechanic was already quite clear.

Art was a weak point for my hobby games before Gluey. Psychologically it was hard for me to fork out real money to hire an artist and a musician. I first needed to prove to myself that my games could generate some revenue. In retrospect that was not very smart choice. If you are a part time indie, you really should treat your home game development just like other expensive hobbies that you enjoy!

Luckily my previous game Cyberhorde generated about $1.5K in primary and non-exclusive licenses, so I posted a job offer for art design for Gluey. Bogdan Ene responded very quickly. Within my tough budget constraints he managed to create compelling characters and nice visual style. The visual design was completely done in a matter of days; there was no need to send anything back for revisions. After that, it took me about 6 calendar weeks (working through the weekends and evenings) to complete the rest of the game, which included levels, power ups, bonuses and transition screens.

Sponsorship and Release

To this date, the viral version has generated 14 million views

Gluey attracted good attention from sponsors on FGL – 28 bids. I went with king.com for the primary sponsorship of this game. It was my first game with 5-digit primary offer and, to this day, my biggest success. The game met king.com’s expectations. It hit Kongregate and Newgrounds frontpages and spread quite well. To this date, the viral version has generated 14 million views. Unfortunately, ads were not allowed, but game did attract quite a lot of non-exclusive licensing offers.

BusinessExclusive Interviews

D’Accord Music Software’s Americo Amorim on playing the music game, being a startup, and the importance of being lucky

January 6, 2011 — by Gamesauce Staff

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Great games can come from the most unexpected corners of the globe, sometimes years in the making before finding their rhythm. Brazil’s D’Accord Music Software started ten years ago. “We were doing music education software,” recalls chief executive Americo Amorim. The company made mostly PC-based downloadable products, which were very successful in schools.

By 2007, he says, “We got bored with only doing educational stuff.” So, the company created a division called MusiGames. It started with ten people, hired more along the way, and has reached thirty people so far. Amorim reports, with a touch of pride, that almost all of his company’s current development efforts are in games.

Legacy of games

The original idea for Drum Challenge came from one of the D'Accord's own software engineers.

“In Brazil, we had a lot of experience with SEGA consoles,” says Amorim. “But our team’s background is PC development and mobile development studios, like traditional J2ME development.”

Before making a game together, they started with research, attending developer conferences, and meeting publishers. “We weren’t sure what platform we were going to work on,” says Amorim. “Of course, the team wanted to do Wii games, Xbox games, PlayStation games. But it didn’t really make sense for a start-up company at that time to do those kind of things,” he says.

They found the smartphone market to be open in 2008, and there were even fewer music games on the market.

Proof of concept

D’Accord’s first game was Drums Challenge for the iPhone. When they released it in June of 2009, it managed to sell 500 copies in the first three weeks. “With the public we drove to the game,” explains Amorim. “And what really happened was that Apple started promoting it. So when Apple started promoting it, the sales skyrocketed.”

“What our experience says, what really matters, is Apple promoting your iPhone game.”

The initial price was $2.99, and is $0.99 today. “What our experience says, what really matters, is Apple promoting your iPhone game,” Amorim reveals. “If they promote,” he laughs, “you’re successful.”

“And, of course, they don’t promote crappy stuff.” Amorim says that Apple doesn’t have room to promote everything that is great.

“On our side, we’re focusing more and more on the quality.” Last year, the company produced five games to create a portfolio. “For this year, specifically, we’re focused more on quality. So we’re doing only two games, and we’ve been developing them for six months.”

“Right now, we are focusing on smartphones: iPhone, iPad, Android, Symbian, and Facebook.” says Amorim. When asked about budget, he replies: “It’s usually $50,000 to do a nice music game.”

For MusiGames, both iPhone and Android development are done with the same budget. “That’s where we are improving,” Amorim points out. “It’s not a very high budget, but it’s a complicated budget for a small developer.”

Key learnings

Released right after the iPad launch, Drums Challenge became the bestselling iPad music game in its release month.

Some games, Amorim’s team promotes on their own. On others, they’ve tested distributors like Chillingo and I-play. “Some of those guys have more access to Apple, and that makes it easier for us. But, of course, they get a share of the game. So it’s really a decision that depends on the game we are talking about.”

The company decided to aim for a global audience, because the game market in Brazil is still growing. Amorim reports that the marketing is “starting to happen right now. Two years ago, it didn’t make sense to do smartphone games in Brazil.”

Today, they’re developing a title for Google-owned social-network Orkut. “Orkut is the Facebook of Brazil,” Amorim explains, adding, “Our first experience in Brazil will be this Orkut game. I really have high hopes for it.”

Playing social

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The idea for iMusicPuzzle came from one of the company's artists.

While social games have been a strong trend in recent years, Amorim says: “We are really trying to focus on music games — because our expertise is in this. This social game is really musical,” he adds, about their upcoming product.

It could mark the first cross between the music genre, and a game for the social network platform.

When asked what a music game on a social platform would look like, Amorim smiles. “You’ll see in a couple months.” And that raises the question of whether it’s even possible. “Yeah, it is. The challenge is to get the friend’s interactions. You have to interact with the music, and you have to interact with friends.”

Amorim considers the question of whether music is universal on a global scale. “It really depends on the songs that you have in the game. So as we try to do games that you can play with any song: that makes them universal. So if you have ten-thousand songs in your library, you can play with them: that’s great.”

Market growth

Something they’re investing in more and more is letting the user play with their own songs. It saves the hassles of licensing, and the company had developed chord-recognition tech from their education software days. “We have a very good technology and we started applying this to games,” says Amorim.

This year, the company managed to get some VC funding. It allowed them to grow their development capabilities, and as Amorim adds: “We grew our marketing team, which we didn’t have before the VC guys came in.”

“We want to be known as the music games studio, and the Brazilian leader.”

Amorim says the strategy for MusiGames is to position themselves as “the big independent music game studio.” Beyond that, they want to have a strong position in Brazil. Amorim reveals: “We’re seeing the market grow a lot there.”

Which is why they’re investing in that growth. “We want to be known as the music games studio, and the Brazilian leader.”

Sound advice

The MusiGames team celebrating the company's anniversary with some fresh t-shirts
The MusiGames team celebrating the company's anniversary with some freshly printed t-shirts

And when it comes to what other developers can do to achieve success, Amorim has a few pieces of advice: follow game-business news, follow the market, and try something different with your game.

MusiGames’ best successes weren’t radically different, he says, but all “had something really unique.” And having a specialization is a great way to keep from losing good ideas along the way.

“What’s our guideline? If it’s a music game, we’re interested,” Amorim says. “And if it’s a platform we already know how to develop for, we can even study the idea. If the idea’s really good, we may do it. But, on the other side, we try to keep the focus.”

MusiGames is currently working on a music game for the Orkut social-network.

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