The Ruby Rogues

The Ruby Rogues podcast is a panel discussion about topics relating to programming, careers, community, and Ruby. We release a conversation with notable programmers and Rubyists each week to help programmers advance in their careers and skills.

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154

154 RR Indie Game Development with Megan Fox


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TRANSCRIPT

CHUCK:  Isn’t there a celebrity named Megan Fox?

MEGAN:  There is. But I’m the cool one.

DAVID:  I loved you in Transformers, by the way.

MEGAN:  Oh, thank you.

[Laughter]

MEGAN:  It was some of my best work.

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[DevMynd is a software design and development studio in Chicago with expertise in Ruby, JavaScript, and Clojure. We believe that well-crafted software makes life better. And our team of designers and engineers is dedicated to that pursuit. We love our customers, we love our team, and we spend a lot of time and effort making sure that we fit the right projects with the right people. Get in touch at DevMynd.com.]

[This podcast is sponsored by New Relic. To track and optimize your application performance, go to RubyRogues.com/NewRelic.]

CHUCK:  Hey everybody and welcome to episode 154 of the Ruby Rogues Podcast. This week on our panel, we have James Edward Gray.

JAMES:  Hello from JavaScript Jabber.

CHUCK:  Avdi Grimm. [Chuckles]

AVDI:  Hello from Pennsylvania.

CHUCK:  David Brady.

DAVID:  Unless directed by a physician, this entire podcast must be finished.

JAMES:  [Chuckles]

CHUCK:  I’m Charles Max Wood from DevChat.TV. We have a special guest this week and that’s Megan Fox.

MEGAN:  Hello. I’m not that Megan Fox. I’m the cool one.

CHUCK:  There you go. [Chuckles]

CHUCK:  Do you want to introduce yourself really quickly?

MEGAN:  Yeah, sure. So, hi. Yeah, I’m Megan Fox. I’m the owner, founder, blah-dy blah, of Glass Bottom Games. You might have seen Jones On Fire on every mobile device you possibly own. It was a critical success at [inaudible]. Now we’re working on Hot Tin Roof, which is a kickstarted game, much bigger, much fancier.

JAMES:  Awesome.

CHUCK:  Sounds like fun.

MEGAN:  Yeah.

JAMES:  So, this is your day job. You go and you work on games. How cool is that, right?

MEGAN:  It’s pretty cool. I even work in my basement. So, I don’t even have to go very far.

JAMES:  That’s right. Sounds great. I asked you on because I am a huge fan of games. And I have always been a terrible game addict. And it seems to me that when I talk to lots of programmers and they give me their origin story, it somehow includes, “Oh yeah, I got into programming because I wanted to make games.” I swear, a strangely high percentage of people say this. And then I talk to them. I’m like, “Awesome. What have you made?” And they’re like, “Oh, nothing. A little something, but yeah, nothing.” [Chuckles] And I think this is tragically sad.

[Chuckles]

JAMES:  Am I the only one that runs into this?

MEGAN:  No. It’s a pretty common thing. So, a lot of people say they want to make video games and they play a video game and they go, “Oh man, I want to make video games.” And then they sit down and they realize how much work goes into making the simplest of video games. And then they give up and they go back to playing video games.

JAMES:  [Laughs]

MEGAN:  It’s pretty common.

CHUCK:  So, that just leads me to one question, then. How do you make video games? Just a little question.

MEGAN:  Oh, well it’s such an easy question. [Chuckles]

JAMES:  Right, yeah.

MEGAN:  Well, you start eight years ago and you, no.

[Laughter]

MEGAN:  So, there are a couple of ways of going about it. The way I did it was, since I was learning back when I was 11 and it was the, it would have been the 90s when I was 11. At that point, you sat down and you wrote your own engine and you use mode13h and there were interrupts. And it was very low-level. That was much harder and it took a year before you got a pixel on the screen. That was less fun.

JAMES:  [Laughs]

MEGAN:  These days, making games mean you pick Unity 3D or Unreal Engine 4. You download it. You look at the sample program. And you’re probably making a basic game in a couple of hours if you’re already a competent engineer. The level of difficulty is much lower. It still takes a ton of work to actually go from there to making a game of your own that someone else would actually want to play. But there’s less of a hurdle towards getting to the fun stuff.

JAMES:  That’s a really cool point.

AVDI:  That’s impressive. I’ve always been intimidated by everything that goes into making a game.

MEGAN:  Eh, it’s not as hard as it once was these days. Back then it was of course C or C++. These days, it’s probably going to be C#. Though I think, actually Unreal Engine is C++ now. It used to be UnrealScript which was really miserable. But yeah, it’s just pretty high level simple stuff. It’s a lot of linear algebra. [Chuckles] So, I hope your math’s good. But beyond that, it’s not that difficult. It’s just time consuming and there’s a lot to learn. There’s a lot of domain-specific knowledge. But if you’re a competent engineer, you can probably segue into it without too much trouble.

AVDI:  In my imagination, there is also a lot of non-programming creation of assets that has to go on. Is that a big part of it?

MEGAN:  Yes and no. So, if I say roguelike, does everyone know what I’m talking about?

JAMES: Yup.

AVDI:  Yeah.

MEGAN:  Ok. So, roguelikes are commonly made by programmers because they don’t want to do the non-programmatic creation of assets. So, you sit down and you create an algorithm to generate your world, your NPCs. You probably go on to a free sprite website or whatever and download some sprites that are appropriate for a 2D top-down game. And then you’re working on Dwarf Fortress even though you’re a programmer that can’t make a happy face without it looking horrible.

[Laughter]

MEGAN:  So, there are ways of doing it without an artist. Having an artist is really important for a lot of other kinds of games. But a lot of programmers end up in procedural at least at first, just because there’s more that they can play with without having to go near the dangerous Photoshop land, though you’re going to have to use Photoshop regardless. You need to understand how masking works, and how to make a transparent sprite, and how to take a piece of art that you stole into a transparent sprite and that kind of thing. [Chuckles]

DAVID:  So, how do you make a transparent sprite?

MEGAN:  You pull it into Photoshop, you use the magic wand tool to select the background and you delete the background. And then you save it out as a PNG.

DAVID:  Awesome. Right on.

MEGAN:  Yes.

DAVID:  Absolutely no mention of chroma key. That makes me happy.

JAMES:  [Chuckles]

MEGAN:  No, no. No, I’m sure actual artists, if they’re listening to this, are cringing that there’s some magic you can do with you make a path and then you use the path to select. That’s way beyond the scope of programmer art. Just magic wand, delete, save, done.

CHUCK:  So, how do you make friends with an artist?

MEGAN:  Oh, that one’s kind of hard. [Chuckles]

CHUCK:  I’ve been saving up. I like asking the hard questions.

JAMES:  I like that question.

MEGAN:  So, let’s see. There are a couple of ways of going about it. One of them is you post on a forum that attracts programmers as well as artists. As a simple example I have moderated the games forum of Something Awful, which you wouldn’t think so but their games forum is actually one of the best ones on the internet even though the rumors of what Something Awful is. That forum, we run the SA game dev competition every year in July, I think it is. That tends to draw artists as well as programmers. Ludum Dare has a lot of social networking built around it that tends to draw programmers as well as artists. There’s the Polycount Forums which are very artist heavy. But it’s a place where you might be able to get some. Twitter is also obviously fantastic. Twitter’s probably the single most important social networking tool that a programmer can use these days. Just talk with people and make fart jokes and get introduced to artists. And it just works. But yeah, there are a couple of ways and all of them involve getting out of your shell and stop being an introvert, which is really hard for most of us, and talking with people and sharing what you’re doing, which probably looks awful, but you need to share it anyway.

DAVID:  So, our careful listeners heard the one sentence in there that explains why I am the Ruby Rogue with a couple of years of actual video game industry experience. Hint: it was the fart joke sentence.

[Laughter]

JAMES:  I actually got paid to write a game once.

DAVID:  Awesome.

MEGAN:  Cool.

DAVID:  There’s a thing that I would like to point out, that if you want to make a game, you want to program a game, and you go looking for art for your game, well if you go looking for artists for you game, you will very quickly run up against… There’s a thing that happens to pretty much every video game artist out there, which is they meet up with a programmer, they get really excited, they start doing some art, and then the programmer vanishes, just decides not to finish the game. How many games have you started or programs that you’ve started that you didn’t finish? And so, there’s a lot of, if you want an artist come work on your game, write the game. Use placeholder art. Get something simple up. OpenGameArt.org is a resource that I like to use. They’ve got lots of 2D tile art and that sort of thing. Get your game working or at least in a rough sketch. And you have a much better chance of attracting an artist to say, “That’s really cool. That’s fun to play. I would love to make that pretty.”

MEGAN:  Yes.

JAMES:  Also, the not having art thing tends to be an excuse that people use when they’re, “Oh, that’s the reason I can’t finish, is I don’t have art.” A lot of times, just grab some sprite set out there, a free one or something like David already mentioned. There’s OpenGameArt. And you can find them in lots of places online. But just grab some free sprite set. Who cares it looks terrible? Or, draw some very simple drawings on a piece of paper, scan it in, and chop them up into images. They’ll look terrible and that’s totally fine. It’s not the point at all, right?

MEGAN:  It’s also possible to use programmer art and actually make a shipping final okay game. One example of this is our game, Jones On Fire. Jones On Fire’s art was me doing programmer art. It started at a game jam a couple of years ago. It’s just boxes. It’s just colored boxes that I slapped down and I scaled it into place. And that happens to be a style that programmers can do relatively well and it looks okay. It’s like pixel art in that actual artists will look at it and go, “Ugh.” And because so many programmers have abused pixel art, that’s harder to do at this point to get away with it. But it’s a little easier with geometric art. And eventually, geometric art’s going to have the same thing. It’s going to get flooded and kind that have of problem. But still, you can make programmer art that’s not awful, even in 3D. If you just sit down. Tools like Unreal Engine and Unity make this easier since you can sit down and scale the box and do it all dynamically and very easily. You don’t have to go into Maya or 3ds Max and be all intimidated by the toolsets. So yeah, there’s never an excuse Even if it’s just boxes, sometimes a lit box bouncing around with decent lighting actually looks really good if you use it right. FRACT OSC is actually another example of this. By the way, if the developer of FRACT is listening to this, I’m not saying you’re not an artist. It’s fantastic. But someone could make a passable imitation of FRACT that looked okay, with programmer art. And it would be enough to sell an artist on it and then the artist comes in and says, “Oh hey, I can all this better.” And then your game looks really good.

JAMES:  So Megan, you’ve said a couple of things now that I’d like to circle back to that I think are cool. First of all, you talked about how far the tools have come, with things like Unreal Engine and Unity and stuff like that. Unreal Engine just drastically dropped their price recently. And the reason they gave for that was to reach out to the indie devs. What do you think about that?

MEGAN:  I think that they are gunning hard for Unity 3D. And unless Unity 3D really scrambles and updates their market offering, Unreal’s going to eat their pie and their cake and their sandwich. And there won’t be anything left for Unity.

[Chuckles]

MEGAN:  But yeah, they’re making a very, very heavy play for the indie space. And they’re doing it with a cutting edge engine with some really fantastic technology driving it. So, this is another one of those how easy it is to make games these days. Unreal Engine, it used to be called Kismet. Now I think it’s called Blueprint. It’s a visual scripting language, is basically what it is. And if you’ve ever done a flowchart for your software, you can write Blueprint now. It’s just a bunch of nodes that you connect with little arrows. And then you get game logic. And I want to say that Blueprint can then dump that into script which you can edit, but don’t quote me on that. But still, there’s that. There’s ShaderLab which lets you make, it’s probably called something else now, it lets you make really high-end shaders and fancy effects, again with a node-based connect this to that and, “Oh cool, look a graphical effect thing.” There’s a whole bunch of tech there. And it means that indies can make games that look really stunningly good. And you’re already seeing this on Kickstarter where, I’m not going to name names, because it’d be mean. But there are a lot of Kickstarters now that use Unreal Engine 4 where if you happen to know what you’re looking for, the video they’re showing is basically just a bunch of stock assets that an artist arranged over a weekend, or that a programmer dubbed into the world over a weekend. And then they made a video of it and said, “Look at our prototype. Look at how far along it already is.” It’s not.

DAVID:  [Laughs]

MEGAN:  It’s two hours of Unity Engine work. But because Unreal Engine 4 is so, so [inaudible]… Crytek is also this way. CryENGINE, whatever it is at this point, 3 or 4. But the engine is so gorgeous and is capable of such fancy rendering that it’s enough to totally fake people out and they take $60,000 and hopefully they’re going to make an actual game with that. But eventually, people are going to adjust to how gorgeous both of these engines are by default. And then it’ll go back to you actually have to show an actual game to get Kickstarter money again. But yeah, that’s how far above everything these engines are right now.

DAVID:  So, you’re blowing the lid off the fact that these people are saying, “Give is money to build Facebook,” but what they’re showing you is a video of build a blog in 15 minutes. MEGAN:  Pretty much, yes.

[Chuckles]

MEGAN:  And that’s why I’m not going to name names. So, the people that are doing this, it’s not like, I don’t think they’re going out to intentionally scam people.

DAVID:  Right.

MEGAN:  It’s just that you get a bunch of students together and they’re trying to make a game and they basically make the framework of a game which they had made in a couple of hours in UDK, well it used to be UDK, now it’s Unreal Engine 4. And they go, “Oh man guys, we can actually do this. Look how good this already looks. We can totally make this game. And it’s going to have,” litany of features that they could never get in a billion years. “And it’s going to be easy, because look at how easy it was to get this far.” And then they put their Kickstarter together and they put their feature list together and they ask for $60,000 or whatever, which is a lot but also nowhere near what they need. And then they get the money and then they find out that all of that stuff is way harder than they thought it was. And then the projects tend to fail. So, there’s no malice. But yes, that’s happening.

JAMES:  Right. The other question I wanted to ask similar to that. It is indie gaming seems to have just exploded in recent years in my opinion. Even all the major game development engines, or machines that typically focus on AAA titles and stuff, now all they want to talk about is indie gaming at their releases for their new systems and stuff like that. And to me, that’s really interesting. What’s going on there?

MEGAN:  So, this is a long answer. So pull up chairs [chuckles] and take a drink.

DAVID:  Awesome.

MEGAN:  So, the indie movement starts around, Jonathan Blow and people if you’re listening, I’m going to get these dates wrong. I’m sorry. It’s back around 2002, 2003 I think it was. Somewhere around in there you get Alec Holowka. Sorry Alex, Alec, Alex, whatever. I’m terrible at names. You get Aquaria, you get World of Goo. Those were two big ones. But there were a bunch of early games that came out around that period. This was before indie gaming was really a thing. The market didn’t really exist. Steam either didn’t exist at this point or was really early. But they still attracted an initial audience. And they became successes. These are the ones that proved out the idea that you could make games on your own that were relatively high budget looking without the giant AAA arms. And so, at this point remember AAA’s, this is right when EA is surging in and the entire industry shifting to high polygon [inaudible] and everything else. But still, these guys are doing this. Around a couple of years later, Steam comes out in force and it’s either they released or they opened themselves out, or people stopped going, “LOL Steam,” or whatever it was. They open the market to indies. Initially, Steam has less interest with the traditional brick and mortar. Indie’s moving in force. And these initial people that positioned themselves really well make a ton of money because of the amount of audience that Steam commands and the comparative lack of competitors. That happens over the next five, six, eight years. And now you get up to the last couple of years. You’re also seeing recently, well not recently now, iPhone, that would have been 2007 I think is when that really exploded. That opened up another avenue for small studios to make a ton of money with small games and just doing what they want and people paying them for it. So anyway, that’s all developing. All of that comes to a head in 2010, 2011. That’s when a lot of us went indie because, holy crap, this is so amazing. Now as tends to happen in these things, the knowledge of this happening happens a couple of years past the actual swell. So, by this point, Steam was already getting more and more dominated by, it’s already getting more and more flooded. So, the individual successes are harder to make. Obviously the App Store is totally flooded. And it’s really, really hard to make a living at that point. Well, it’s really, really hard to break in and so on and so forth. So, the actual swell of people hitting the indie scene happens a little bit after whenever they really should have done it. But that’s how these things always happen. So, that’s why you’re seeing a ton of people entering indie now. A lot of us entered because of that swell. Now, with the consoles you mentioned, the reason consoles are focusing on indie is not altruistic. It’s not altruistic in the least.

JAMES:  [Laughs]

MEGAN:  The reason they’re doing it is because consoles traditionally have difficulty driving numbers for the first couple of years. This is because none of the big AAA publishers can afford to do exclusives. The market’s just not there. No one knows how quickly the console’s going to grow, especially in this generation. No one can really commit their resources. So, you get a lot of cross-platform titles. Cross-platform titles are not a good way of selling excitement because pretty much everyone that has a PS4 probably has a PS3. Everyone that has an Xbone probably has an Xbox 360. So, if you release cross-platform, it’s like, “Eh, I guess I’ll get whatever.” Indies are a convenient way of creating a value for this console. It’s not like anyone’s going to buy a PS4 because, “Oh man, TowerFall.” But once you have a PS4 and you’re sitting there going, “Holy crap. I spent $500 on a piece of plastic and I’ve played inFAMOUS Second Son. And man, it was fun. And now I’m regretting my purchase.”

[Laughter]

MEGAN:  Then you go to the store and you go, “Oh shit, TowerFall. That looks fun.” And so, you download TowerFall and you have a ton of fun with it because by the way, TowerFall is a fantastic game. By the way, one of the developers is infinite_ammo on Twitter. You should follow him, cool guy. Anyways, yeah so, it’s a value add and it’s a relatively cheap value add for publishers and for platform owners because to us, $60,000 to do a port is manna from heaven. Holy crap. That’s a year of survival for us. And to them, it’s like, “Really, you guys can turn on the lights for this? Okay. Here, you can have this money. We found it under the seat cushion. And yeah, sure.” So, it works for all of the parties. And I’m also not saying this is totally money grubbing. Sony has some really fantastic people. Oh, I don’t know your name, I’m sorry. They have a guy on Twitter who is their kind of, oh I can see his Twitter handle in my brain but I can’t pronounce it or read it properly. Anyways, he is a great, great, great guy. And he really injects excitement into it. On the other side you have Chris Carla who honestly believes in the indie mission, the value of indie. And he really promotes that side well. The difference in this case is that Chris Carla and his indie-focused team, they honestly believe in what they’re doing and they’re doing a fantastic job of it. And they’re trying very hard to make an avenue for indies in Xbone, Xbox One, Xbone, whatever.

JAMES:  [Laughs]

MEGAN:  But no one else at Microsoft gives a damn. The first release of indie on Xbone was the Strike Suit Zero. This was their one chance to say, “We care about indie. We are going to make you guys lots of money. We can do this.” Their release slate was empty. There were no games coming out. There was nothing even in the same window. They put it out. It got the worst of the, so Xbone Marketplace if you don’t know has the giant sell, the big one, and then there’s the stack of the two slightly bigger ones. Then there’s the stack of these three smaller icon whatevers. That’s their front page. That’s kind of all that matters because the rest of their store, there’s just not much there. So, they gave Strike Suit Zero the smallest of the slots. And it got a whole three days before it got knocked off. And it didn’t get knocked off by an actually good game. It got knocked off by freaking DLC for their free to play fighter and by Kinect Sports Rivals. These games don’t need promotion. They don’t need help. [Chuckles]

MEGAN:  So, if they honestly cared about indies on Xbox, I think they might have not nudged it down. But they did. And it got a whole three days on visibility and then it died. And now, because of the design of the store, which is built entirely to service AAA publi-… if I say AAA, does everyone know what I mean?

CHUCK:  No. [Chuckles]

JAMES:  Go ahead, give us a definition.

DAVID:  Yeah, define it for us.

MEGAN:  Okay. AAA is, well what it used to be was a marker of quality. AAA, AA, et cetera. AAA publishers is used cloak-weild-ly to refer to you EA, your Ubisoft, your Maxis, all of the giant publishers, the people that are making the $60 games. AAA basically means big budget $60 AAA game. But it can also kind of mean big budget, smaller $15 game like Kinect Sports Rivals, since it’s being pushed by a larger publisher, Microsoft in this case. So, that’s what AAA is, the big budget stuff. Point is the entire marketplace is built to service that class of people. everything is for sale. There are no slots that are built to realistically push smaller developers because they’ll just get bumped out by the people that can pay more money. The one exception to this is the recommendation engine, which is all the way to the right. You have to scroll two or three pages. And it’s got two slots. It’s not very useful and it usually… oh, and my favorite part is their Top Sellers. Their Top Sellers has been their two free games for the past months.

JAMES:  [Laughs]

MEGAN: I don’t think that the word selling means what they think it does.

JAMES:  Those are going off the shelves like you can’t imagine, Megan. [Chuckles]

MEGAN:  Yeah. That just, oh it burns me that they’ve got that. It’s just useless. If that’s what they want, they should have a Top Free Games. Top Free Games would be fantastic. But anyway, point is this is the way the Microsoft store works. So, as much as Chris Carla wants indies on Xbox to be this thing, the rest of the organization apparently doesn’t give a damn. And I don’t know if they have the voice they need to actually get the indies the exposure they desperately want them to get. On the other hand, Sony actually kind of cares. There are clearly avenues up through their corporate muckamuck that gets developers exposure. You don’t even have to be a Pub Funder. By the way, so a Pub Fund is one of the deals that Sony has offered historically to help small developers do either ports or exclusives on consoles. Oh, and by the way, exclusive and console terms, especially for indies, basically means not on Microsoft or not on Sony.

JAMES:  [Laughs]

MEGAN:  No one cares about PC because I guess they still think that the PC market is tiny and forgettable or they don’t care. It’s very convenient for us, since we can release. TowerFall was a PS4 launch exclusive. It’s been on PC and Steam for months. And it’s been on OUYA before that. But still. Sony has these channels. And it’s not just for a Pub Funder. Sorry, I skewed that. Pub Fund is a funding scheme. It’s basically, we will give you an advance on royalties. It might even just be money. I don’t remember. it might be a grand. But still, we will give you money in exchange for putting your game on here and we’ll help you do the porting. And we’ll help cover the costs of QA, blah, blah. There’s a lot of really neat promotion and stuff tied into it. But the point is you don’t even have to be a Pub Funder to get promotion. You can just publish on their store. And if they like the cut of your jib, they’ll actually give you some really kickass placement on the store. For instance, if you go to the PS4 store right now and you scroll through their many categories, first of all Xbox One is the front page and then you literally can’t fine games once they’ve slipped off that unless you search for them by name. Sony, you scroll and there’s a bunch of categories. And one of those categories is indie. So, we have top level, as far as categories go, visibility constantly, all the time, which is amazing. But you’ve got all of the new releases and what’s hot and day one. They’ve got this whole chunk of stuff at the top. I haven’t looked recently. But for a long while, TowerFall was there. It had a huge ad spot. And it’s just a cool indie game. And they did the same thing for Guacamelee when it released. They’ve done that for a ton of games. And not all of these games have Pub Fund. They’re just indies that released on PS4 that looked good and so Sony chose to feature them. So, on that side of the fence, you’ve got this honest promotion. And you, believe it or not, the Nintendo 3DS, okay I know the game and I can’t name names because indies are this weird, there’s a lot of behind the scenes conversation and helping each other out, knowing what numbers are. There is a game that released on 3DS and is also released elsewhere. 3DS is their number one market by a huge margin. We’re talking like they moved four times as many units. And these are not free units because of a promotion. These are sales. Four times as many on the 3DS as compared to anything else. I don’t know if that’s because of the captured market Nintendo 3DS has or if it’s because they do really good promotion. But my sense is that Nintendo also actually understands and cares about indies. So, Nintendo and Sony, they care. But Microsoft not so much. So again, even though there’s this overall movement towards large platform owners, promoting indie first of all is not altruistic. And second of all, it’s not equal. Some of them actually care and some of them are just kind of talking a good game, yeah.

CHUCK:  So, one thing that comes to mind here. we’ve talked a bit about these platform games and console games and being in different marketplaces. One other area that I’ve seen games coming out in is HTML5, either using Canvas or SVG. Does that affect the indie game scene at all? It seems like the marketing there would be a bit different since you’re not in a place where people are looking for games necessarily.

MEGAN:  Yeah, that’s kind of the problem. So, on PC if you are not on Steam you don’t move numbers. There are exceptions to this: Cliffski and Jeff Vogel. So, Jeff Vogel runs Spiderweb Software. They do the Avernum games. Though I think they’ve stopped. I think they’re actually moved onto another series. But anyways, they’re old school top-down tile-based very cool, very deep RPGs.

JAMES:  They had one of my really old favorite, or did a long time ago. I think it’s gone now, but called Lost Souls. Did you ever see that game?

MEGAN:  No. I know about…

JAMES:  It was a simple chess-like magic strategy game. It was really good. I liked it.

MEGAN:  Cool. Yeah, they’ve been around forever. So, Jeff Vogel is one of those developers, it was back in, I think it was actually in the 90s. He has been around forever. And he’s just carved out this… So anyways, the overall here is Cliffski and Jeff Vogel, they’ve carved out audiences by being in the market for ages and from way before Steam, where even without Steam they can actually make a very reasonable living just by selling new games to their audiences of people that love their games. And that’s what they play and it’s very simple. For everyone else, Steam is it. If you’re not on Steam, you don’t exist. If you put a game on your website and if you get promotion on, let’s say you get an article on Rock, Paper, Shotgun and all of the bigger press, you will get a couple hundred sales. You get on Steam and you’re looking at orders of magnitude more and you can actually make a living. So, HTML5 only really matters on the PC space for Facebook games and none of us go anywhere near Facebook games at this point. [Chuckles]

JAMES:  Do you think with Steam being so critical like you said, how do you think the Steam Machines, when they come out, are going to affect this?

MEGAN:  That’s difficult to say. So, a lot of us, I am one of them, are looking a lot at the Steam Machine as being the console that we want to focus on just because it’s cool. So, this is one of those things where a lot of times indies make business decisions based on gut instinct or because of what they think is cool rather than because of what’s maybe the best business decision. I personally have totally drunk the Kool-Aid on Steam Machine, hook, line, and sinker. I think it’s awesome. and I think what they’re trying to do to the console market is amazing. And the idea of a console that I could get Skyrim on and then install mods and then customize it but it’s still a console experience that just turns on and basically works, that sounds freaking amazing. That’s awesome. Realistically, all Steam Machine is, is a PC because I’ve got my laptop sitting in my den right now as basically a Steam Machine. I turn it on and I use the gamepad to start Steam and it goes into big picture mode. And now I’m playing Skyrim with mods. So, practically speaking, there’s not all that much difference. And I don’t know how well it’s going to sell. But if they can actually use this to convert a ton of console gamers into effectively PC gamers but are still console gamers, and if these machines maybe make more people skew to Linux so that we’ve got more games on the Steam box and we can just buy one of these things, basically if I could turn my den machine into a Steam box such that I don’t have to go through Windows to get to Steam and so that all of it just works without so much niggling, that would be awesome. And that’s the thing. There’s a lot of selling the dream there of all of the console coolness but with all of the PC compatibility and customization stuff and modability. That’s awesome. But that’s the dream that I’ve bought into and I don’t know if the reality will necessarily be the same thing. But I sure hope it is.

JAMES:  Me too. I’m super excited about the Steam Machines.

MEGAN:  But yeah, to answer your question, yes a bunch of us are looking at the Steam Machine excitedly, not necessarily for good business reasons. But yeah, there’s a lot of interest in it.

CHUCK:  I have another question that’s not related to Steam machines, and that is mobile games. Do you have to approach those differently from the console games or the PC or full screen games?

MEGAN:  Kind of. So, the big difference between console and PC games, there’s almost no line between them at this point. Almost every PC game released has console support, or sorry, gamepad support because a lot of us who are on PC at this point prefer gamepad for gaming. So, PC and console are pretty much the same thing at this point so long as you’re using an engine that makes porting easy. Mobile is different because mobile games, with some exceptions, you can’t make “large” mobile games. You can’t make, for instance I wouldn’t make Hot Tin Roof and try to release it on mobile. There will be a mobile port which is released after the desktop, and I’ll get to that in a second. But you need to make smaller games because you need to make smaller bets, since the right way to get success in mobile is to put out a lot of games and figure out which of them are going to hit. Because you really can’t easily control what’s going to be a hit on mobile and what’s going to be a flop on mobile. A lot of it’s dependent on whether or not Apple or Google are willing to feature you. And whether they’re willing to feature you or not is heavily dependent on your relationship with them. And you build a relationships with them by releasing lots and lots and lots of games and gradually getting a following such that Apple actually cares about you as a developer and maybe gives you that juicy featuring slot. You just get the shotgun approach where you take the shot. That approach on PC, yeah it doesn’t work. You need to make larger, bigger, fancier, bigger bets. Does that make sense?

JAMES:  Yeah, it does.

DAVID:  And we see a lot of games on PC that are iterating a lot, like Minecraft or Prison Architect, that are released in almost alpha state sometimes. And you buy in early and you get updates that completely change the game as you go along. Yeah, that would not fly in mobile. You would get a one-star review for changing a feature.

MEGAN:  Exactly. In mobile, so we actually ran into this with Jones On Fire. Jones On Fire was a critical success. I’ve been working with my mobile guy to do this giant big expansion patch thing. What we finally realized was it made a lot more sense just to turn it into a sequel, since if we release it as a patch, Apple won’t care about it because it’s a patch to a year-old game. Google probably won’t care about it either because of the perspective. We flubbed the initial release of Jones On Fire with the IAP scheme. And because those never go away, users would see the updated game but they would see the old IAPs that no longer exist in the game. There’s a lot of weird stuff in mobile that makes you focus more on sequels and series and lots and lots of games as opposed to one game that grows over time. There are exceptions, which are the kind of Minecraft-y games like The Blockheads, which is the mobile approach to Minecraft. And there’s also mobile Minecraft. And those patch over time and they’ve got large communities. And free-to-play games patch over time. Basically, free-to-play games patch over time but other stuff that’s different, not so much.

JAMES:  So, shifting focus a little bit. Let’s talk about the gaming community. You already snuck in a reference to one of, in my opinion, the cooler parts of the gaming community. And that’s Ludum Dare. Want to tell us what that is?

MEGAN:  So, Ludum Dare, is it dare or da-re?

JAMES:  I have no idea.

MEGAN:  [Chuckles] I say da-re because I heard someone else say da-re. But I always said dare before that. So, I don’t know. Ludum Dare. It’s a game jam. A game jam is a contest, or not a contest, an event where a bunch of developers come together either digitally or physically and they get handed a theme. And then they make a game to that theme from scratch in, the typical format is 48 hours. Global Game Jam is 48 hours. But there are also game jams that take a week, like Seven-Day Roguelike or Seven-Day FPS. There are also jams or competitions that take a month like SA Game Dev. But the gist is you come in, you get the theme, and then you write the game from scratch. From scratch is a fungible term. Some people come in with preexisting engines and then they re-skin them to match the theme. Some people come in and literally sit down with C++ and write it from literal scratch, bare metal. Obviously, people coming in from scratch using GameMaker are going to have an advantage over them because they can get a game going a lot faster. So yeah, the ‘from scratch’ is fungible. But the idea and the spirit is that you’re making the game from nothing over that time, usually with a team assembled from the community that you might have never worked with before. Game jams area really good way of proving out possible coworkers and collaborators. They’re a trial by fire, is one way, but there’s a better word for it. They’re a crucible!

DAVID:  Yes.

JAMES:  [Chuckles]

DAVID:  Awesome.

CHUCK:  [Chuckles]

MEGAN:  They’re a way of forcing out a lot of personality conflicts and quirks that would otherwise take months to come out since people get very intensely involved in them. But yeah, they’re good for a lot of reasons. And they’re a lot of fun. A lot of developers in the indie space use them both to build teams as a way of proving people out and also as a way of coming up with game ideas. Does anyone here know what Amnesia Fortnight is?

JAMES:  Nope.

MEGAN:  Okay. Amnesia Fortnight is basically a game jam at Double Fine. Okay, does anyone know Double Fine Software is?

DAVID:  No.

CHUCK:  Nope.

MEGAN:  Oh, okay. So, Tim Schafer is the indie god. He’s this jolly guy with a beard and he’s generally one of the nicest people in the industry. He is the guy behind Grim Fandango, Day of the Tentacle, I think. Was it Day of the Tentacle? Grim Fandango’s the one I really remember him for. Day of the Tentacle, Full Throttle, Brütal Legend, the game about a roadie that gets transported to a heavy metal world. It’s very cool. He’s done a lot of very big games. And more recently his studio has done games like Stacking and Costume Quest and a bunch of others. Still, point is he’s been here for ages. He’s done a lot of cool games, very well liked. His studio’s about 40 people large, I think, Double Fine. They also did a Kickstarter recently, Double Fine Adventure to the tune of 3.5 million. That’s what kicked Kickstarter for big budgets off. Point is, their studio does a thing called Amnesia Fortnight, which is two weeks over which they form teams and they create games. Almost all of their recent ideas and things that they’ve pitched and done have come from that. Indies use game jams in a very similar way. We use them to try out ideas or technologies or whatever else that we think we might like to turn into a larger game but don’t have the time for or can make an excuse for normally. So, we just throw this thing together really quick in 48 hours. And that maybe becomes our next prototype or project. Other people just compete in them because they’re fun.

JAMES:  They are fun. And having done a couple of them myself, I enjoy them. One of the things I like though is there’s a community, IRC channels and stuff. So, you can talk to other people working on games and see what they’re doing. and I just find that inspiring, to hang out and see people working on projects like that and stuff. We should say the Ludum Dare, or da-re, however it’s pronounced is actually this weekend, which is sad because this episode will air just after that.

DAVID:  Ouch.

JAMES:  So, it just happened. But it happens three times a year. I think April, August, and December I believe. And then they have a special thing in October where they try to encourage to build a game in a month, put it somewhere where it could be purchased, and make one dollar in sales.

MEGAN:  Oh!

DAVID:  Cool.

JAMES:  Yeah.

MEGAN:  It’s basically NaNoWriMo.

DAVID:  Nice.

JAMES:  Right, exactly. Exactly, kind of a NaNoWriMo. I think they call it The October Challenge. So yeah, people should check that out if they have any interest in doing it. To me, it’s a low friction way to just try to start playing a little bit.

MEGAN:  And if I could also interject and suggest that when you’re looking up Ludum Dare, look up ld48. That’s how you actually find it. That’s the easiest way. Also, look for Seven-Day Rougelike, which is 7DRL and Seven-Day FPS which is 7DFPS. Both of those are also once or twice a year, very, very cool. Viscera Cleanup Detail and Surgeon Simulator both came out of Seven-Day FPS. So, I highly recommend it. And I think one of those hits in the next few months. But I’m not sure.

CHUCK:  I’m curious. I’m going to change the subject again a little bit. How much overlap, we talked a little bit about the gaming community, but how much overlap is there between the gaming community or the gamers, the people that play the games, and the people that write the games?

JAMES:  That’s a good question.

MEGAN:  Well, so this applies pretty much anywhere. Whenever you get interviewed, for instance in AAA games, your interview will almost certainly include the question what was the game you played most recently? Give me your ten favorite games. Give me your favorite game in the genre, because this is the genre we play here. Yadda, yadda, yadda. That’s almost always going to be a thing. And you will get often hired based on your gaming tastes.

CHUCK:  [Laughs]

MEGAN:  You also need to be a good candidate and not suck. But there are many interviews that you maybe fubbed because the guy interviewing you really likes World of Warcraft and you think it’s stupid. [Laughter]

MEGAN:  And he gets offended.

DAVID:  Just a hint, Turok 2 is always the wrong answer.

MEGAN:  Yes.

JAMES:  [Laughs]

MEGAN:  God.

[Laughter]

MEGAN:  So is Superman 64.

DAVID:  [Laughs]

MEGAN:  Well, also possibly the best answer you can make.

DAVID:  Yes.

MEGAN:  Man, that will start a conversation.

DAVID:  Yes.

MEGAN:  But yeah. So, even the AAA there’s big overlap. You will get people in AAA that say, specifically EA, that says, “Making games should not be fun. We’re going to hire non-game programmers. And they’re going to make games just as well because it’s a system.” And no, that doesn’t work.

CHUCK:  [Laughs] Yeah.

MEGAN:  If the people making the games don’t understand why they’re fun… So, designers especially, design is what you call a soft skill. It’s really hard to quantify what makes a good designer. But part of what makes a good designer is a backlog of a ton of game experience where whenever they’re looking at a room where they’re trying to figure out how to fill that room, they’ve got this huge database at the back of their brain of all the stuff they’ve played through and had fun with. And they have a really good sense for what will make that room fun, just instinctual boom, there you go. Though there’s also the counter to that argument that says that you need to get people that are not gamers into the space if you want new experiences. That’s what you want especially if you’re making a game like Flower or Journey. Those come from experiences not informed by gaming. So, ideally your team should be a mixture of both. But what you can’t do is have non-creative people. You should never be looking at a room going, “What do I fill this with? Please tell me.” It should be, “I saw this gorgeous painting and I want to make this room feel like walking through this painting,” or, “There’s this musical I love and I want this room to be inspired by that and feel like living in that moment,” or, “I was on a nature hike,” or whatever. You need to have some creative experience to inform that thing. And whether that creative experience is based on gaming, so I’m going to fill this with a Zelda puzzle, which the kind of design I do which isn’t necessarily the best but it’s what I do, or if your design is informed by background in music or art or whatever else. Something there. If you’re a widget programmer and you sit down, you’re going to have trouble and you’re probably not going to make a very fun game.

DAVID:  So, I resemble that remark.

[Chuckles]

DAVID:  Do you remember Jeremy McGrath Supercross?

MEGAN:  No, I do not. Well, kind of, yes.

DAVID:  Kind of. Okay. So, if you remember Jeremy McGrath Supercross and you remember it as a fond memory, you are thinking of Jeremy McGrath Supercross 98, which was a PlayStation gold title, went on to sell 90 million copies. It made just a bundle of money. And the studio I worked [had a claim] and we picked up the rights for the sequel, for Jeremy McGrath Supercross 2000. And I worked on the physics engine. And we had a mission. We had some physics PhDs and some heavy duty computer science engineers. And we built the most accurate physics engine in a motorcycle racing game ever. And it was absolutely no fun to play.

MEGAN:  [Laughs]

DAVID:  And the game was an utter flop. It just stunk. And I still pull it out and play it and go, “Yeah. That is so accurate. Look at the loving attention to detail that we paid on those rigid bodies.” But that is not fun. And that’s the key. This is a life skill. If you’re doing web programming, you think it’s all about web requests. It’s not. It’s about the web experience. And with games, it’s the same thing. World of Goo, you’re sticking blobs on the screen. That’s not accurate physics but it’s fun. And that’s what you have to do with games.

MEGAN:  Yes.

DAVID:  Sorry, end rant. [Laughs]

MEGAN:  No, no. This is actually a really good place to interject. Okay. all of you people listening at home. I want you to go to Google and I want you to type in Juice It or Lose It video, all separate words. Google that. What this does is it teaches you, the video is a really good one. It shows you how important the concept of juice is to video game experience. Juice is all of those little, [inaudible] in my example Jones On Fire, the little bouncy squishy movement that they do when they move. Another example of juice, camera shake, lasers, light shows, everything you can do to make the experience of a game more fun, more kinetic. But google that. That juice is the difference between say, they show you the demo. A Pong demo which all of you will probably start by making in a week, Pong is really easy. Your Pong demo will suck. But if you sit down and you just spend another week making the Pong demo juicy, it might actually be something you can get your friends to play. That’s one of those concepts that are really super important to learn as a designer. And it touches on what he’s saying of making it fun. Though I also have to say that as an artist, fun is not the only metric by which we should judge artistic endeavors. Something like Train, google Train. If you can find someone to play Train with you that doesn’t know what Train is, it’s a board game. In that case, you could argue that the experience is fun but that it shouldn’t’ be. But still, fun is, I don’t want to spoil it in case people don’t know what it is and they have a chance to play it. If you’re a board gamer and you have someone that has Train and you tell them Train and they go [gasp], play it with them. But still, fun is not the only metric by which we should judge artistic endeavors. Fun is not necessarily the goal. Engaging is probably a better metric. But still, what he’s saying is true. Engagement matters. You can’t just make an accurate physics engine and expect it to be fun. You have to be thinking about the player experience or the user experience with whatever it is you’re making and making that engaging and interesting in some way. But yeah, that’s my rant.

DAVID:  Absolutely. I was going to pick this on the show but I see it’s been picked a while back. But there’s an iOS game called Beat Hazard. And it’s just a space, it’s Asteroids. That’s all it is, is Asteroids. It’s a ship shooting at enemies. But they pull your entire iTunes library into the soundtrack. And everything moves and jiggles with the beat of your own music. And the levels last as long as the songs last. And you can’t put the stupid thing down.

JAMES:  [Laughs]

AVDI:  The noises I made when I first played that game were a little ridiculous.

DAVID:  Yeah. Yeah.

JAMES:  [Chuckles]

DAVID:  I’ve played it to Rebecca Black’s Friday and it’s the most fun I’ve ever had listening to that song.

[Laughter]

DAVID:  It’s the only fun I’ve ever had listening to that song.

MEGAN:  Oh, god. [Chuckles]

JAMES:  So, let’s turn this around just a little bit Megan, before we close it off. We’ve talked a lot about the industry and the community and stuff like that, where games are going, where they’ve been. What about if you’re someone listening to this and you think you have a little bit of interest and you want to get into it a little bit? But you don’t want to go all in until you see how things are. What about, we’ve talked a lot about Unity and Unreal Engine and things like that, but people listening to this podcast are mostly Ruby programmers or even other developers, C#, Python, whatever. And all of those have game engines. Pygame, in Ruby we have Gosu, et cetera. How is it to get started on those engines and just to try things out, not so much from a, “I plan to make money on Steam with this,” but more as just a, “I want to try and get into gaming a little.” Any recommendations there?

MEGAN:  Yeah. First of all, the thing I always have to start with, ideas do not matter. I don’t care what your idea is. I don’t care if you think it’s the next greatest thing. Ideas do not matter. Everyone has ideas. Abolish the idea that you’re going to make the great American novel in video game form. Just start with that assumption. I know it hurts, but move past it.

[Laughter]

DAVID:  Well, first of all The Grapes of Wrath would be a lousy video game premise. [Laughter]

MEGAN:  I don’t know.

[Laughter]

MEGAN:  But still. But start there, abolish that. Just start by making something simple like Pong. I would say make a card game, but card games suck because you’ve got to do the deck shuffling logic. Don’t make a card game. Make Pong. Just start small.

JAMES:  [Laughs]

MEGAN:  Pygame, the Ruby one I don’t know as well, but if you’re a C# developer Unity is probably the best C# engine. Though if you want to go without Unity, MonoGame is perfectly acceptable. Pick one of those engines. The key is you want portability. You don’t want to write in native. If you can avoid it, don’t write in native C or C++ using DirectX or OpenGL because then you’re going to want to make that game work on a Mac, on a Mac it was DirectX, or on mobile and you’re going to hate life. Pick a portable engine. So MonoGame. I’m pretty sure Pygame is relatively portable. It doesn’t matter. Pick that. Make Pong. Just start there and figure out if you enjoy it and if it’s fun. And get someone to sit down and play your game. And I know you don’t want to do that because you’re going to say, “It’s not fair. It’s not good enough and it’s not pretty.” Do it anyway. Get that feedback going between you and users. And then you want to make progressively larger games. Do not, I repeat, do not make an MMO. Everyone does this.

[Laughter]

MEGAN:  Don’t make an MMO. You have no idea how much work. I was the senior graphic programmer on LEGO Universe. So please, trust me when I say you don’t want to make an MMO. Never. I don’t care. Whatever your reason is, it’s not good enough. Don’t make an MMO. Make a small game. And also, don’t make an open world RPG. I know some of you want to make Skyrim. Skyrim took a team of 400 people 5 years. Make Pong. Make Breakout. Make a game not…

DAVID:  Make Tetris.

MEGAN:  Yeah, Tetris. Make a game about a little man who jumps and shoots other little men. There’s a long gaming tradition of making men that shoot other men. Pick something.

JAMES:  And there are lots of free sprites for that.

MEGAN:  Yes.

JAMES:  [Chuckles]

MEGAN:  And that’s the other thing. It’s much easier to find sprites for these kinds of things. Or make a puzzle game, something like Threes. Look at how successful Threes was. Though by the way, Threes took two years to make for a team of two or three. So, those are deceptively simple to make. But it’s relatively easy to make a simple puzzle game. It’s harder to make a puzzle game good. But start simple. Start small. And more than anything focus on mobile. So, if I could go back in time and start my career over again, what I would do is while I was still a student especially, or if I was working a job where I had evenings to myself and I was just goofing around on code anyways, I would spend those evenings making free-to-play, well free with ads mobile games. And I would integrate the ads in a relatively simple way. I would use Vungle. Vungle is very important right now because the monetization is very effective. You basically make an arcade game or something else that says, “I’m sorry. You’ve run out of lives. Would you like to watch a video ad for three more lives?” Something like that. Look at Disco Zoo if you want an example. Make a game like that. Release it. Keep releasing games like that. So, Jones On Fire I released a year ago. It was a critical success [inaudible] financial. It still makes me $100 a month, mostly because of ads and the occasional purchase. If I had 20 of those games released at this point, I could do whatever the hell I wanted for the rest of my life and it would just keep making money. The tails on these things are insane. And as you release more, they make more and more and more because you convert the audience of your first game to your second. And your second to your third, and so on and so forth. So, start making small games that you can port to mobile. And make them free, ad-driven. They’re going to suck at first. That’s fine. It doesn’t matter. Just make them better and better and better. Start stacking that back catalogue up. That’s probably the single most effective way of easing yourself to being an indie developer in today’s market. The other way is by making larger games going into Steam or whatever, but that takes a lot more effort, especially when you’re just starting. Just make small games. Make small mobile games. And the coolest part about small mobile games is you could put them on your phone and say, “Hey, play this.” And people might actually play it. If your game takes sitting down at a computer, it’s really hard to do that until you’ve got friends and a network to convince people to do that. But a phone is easy. Throw a phone at someone and they’ll play your Breakout phone almost guaranteed. Yeah. That’s what I’d say.

JAMES:  Awesome. That’s great.

MEGAN:  Oh, and platform and technology, be platform agnostic. It really doesn’t matter if it’s Pygame, if it’s MonoGame, if it’s UMD. All that matters is you’re comfortable with the language and it’s portable. If it’s a GameMaker, I don’t care. GameMaker, Stencil, both of these are portable. Just pick something that allows you to make games quickly and that you enjoy using. That’s the only thing that matters. Who cares if it’s, you’ll get bitched at by C++ developers that, “Oh, you’re not low-level enough.” Screw them. it doesn’t matter. Just have fun. Pick something you can work effectively in.

DAVID:  I shipped. That’s the answer to that.

MEGAN:  Yes.

CHUCK:  [Laughs] Fair enough.

JAMES:  Alright. We got to wrap this up so I can go make my MMO.

MEGAN:  Cool.

CHUCK:  Yeah. [Laughter]

CHUCK:  Yeah, let’s see if we can fit some other TLAs in there. MMO, FPS, I don’t know. Anyway…

MEGAN:  If it’s a AAA game that ever costs $60, don’t make it.

[Laughter]

DAVID:  Yeah.

JAMES:  70 in the case of Final Fantasy.

MEGAN:  Yes.

CHUCK:  Alright. Let’s do some picks. James, what are your picks?

JAMES:  So, I’ll just throw out a bunch of links here that are quasi-relevant to what we’ve been discussing. The first two are a couple of Ruby conference talks showing how to use Ruby Gosu to create games. And the first one definitely has Megan’s approval because the person giving the talk builds Pong on stage. So, it’s awesome. It’s really cool. And you get to see how you do that. And the second one goes into some different stuff. But it shows things like parallax movement and stuff like that. So, kind of interesting. I’ll throw those out. And then I’ll just throw some links to, I’m surprised at how much books and stuff there are these days for people wanting to make games in various languages or platforms or targeting children. So, it’s a fun thing you can do with your kids, just to spend some time showing your kids how to bounce a ball around the screen in Ruby Gosu. It’s fun stuff. So yeah, I’ll just throw out a bunch of links for people looking for game resources. That’s it.

CHUCK:  Alright. Avdi, what are your picks?

AVDI:  Well, let’s see. I guess I’ll start with a technical pick. This may come as a surprise to some people but I am a long-time fan of the Apple island-style keyboards. I had one with my MacBook years ago when they first came out with those keyboards. I had the Bluetooth version of it when they didn’t even have them on the MacBooks. And I love that style of keyboards, one of my favorite keyboards. One of the reasons I like my ThinkPad is that in my opinion it is the only laptop keyboard on the market that’s actually better than the MacBook ones. They put a lot of engineering into making the island –style just that much better. And I discovered recently that if you’re a weirdo like me who really likes these ThinkPad keyboards with the little track point on them, you can get external versions of them. Lenovo will sell you an external version of basically the exact same keyboard that’s in the laptop, either USB or Bluetooth, whichever you prefer. I got a USB one recently and it’s really cool. Yeah, that’s really nice for carrying around and for putting on my lap, stuff like that. And it’s got the pointing device right in there. That’s the only technical pick I have. Last week, which would be two weeks ago when you’re listening to this, I was actually on vacation. I was thinking about it and I think this was my first real proper vacation basically since I was 18 years old. And the whole family went down to the Smoky Mountains And my pick is basically just the Smoky Mountains. They are beautiful. They have many wonderful sites that you can see in the park. We stayed in Gatlinburg. There are a lot of really nice cabins you can get on the mountainside in Gatlinburg. A little warning: Gatlinburg itself is kind of crazy built up in recent years. It’s become this boardwalk in the mountains with crazy, crazy touristy commercialization. So, it’s a bit much. But on the other hand, there’s some cool stuff there for kids, especially over in Pigeon Forbes. There are some really neat activities for kids. So, that aspect of it is nice. And speaking of kids, one other pick I have is just the idea of if you have a local science center nearby, in whatever city is near to you, one of the greatest things you can do if you have young kids is to get a family membership to that place and just take them there when you can’t think of anything better to do. We did this recently. We have The Whitaker Center in Harrisburg which is an hour or a little less way. And I got a subscription there. And on cold days or rainy days when it’s Saturday and it’s family day but I don’t know what else to do, I can take them up there. And it’s easily three, four, five hours of fun for them just playing with all the different exhibits. So, just a great thing to do for when you have kids. And I think that’s it for me.

CHUCK:  Awesome. Alright, David what are your picks?

DAVID:  Okay. Well, like James I’m going to pick a bunch of game libraries. But actually, I’m going to let somebody else pick them. Ruby Toolbox has an entire category for game libraries where they list all of the game things that you can use or all the gems and whatnot that you can build out there. The two popular ones of course are Gosu and Chipmunk. Chipmunk is a physics engine that integrates well with Gosu. I have to admit, I’m really busy this week. I do not have time to do Ludum Dare. But I kind of want to because there’s also a gem now called releasy, or releasy is I guess maybe what it’s called.

JAMES:  Yeah, that’s right.

DAVID:  It lets you take a Ruby program, a Ruby script that you’ve written, and it will build a .dmg file that you can run on OS X. And it will build an .exe that will run on Windows. And you have to be careful about which version of Ruby you use. You have to use 1.9.2 if you want to target OS X but you’re not on OS X. You have to use Ruby 1.9.2. If you want to target Windows from other OS’s you have to use 1.9.2 or 1.9 3 or something like that. So, it’s a little fiddly. But releasy will not compile most gems. But they specifically have targeted, they’ve included Gosu and Chipmunk specifically so that you can build games with a physics engine in it and push it out. You can build on OS X, Linux, or Windows and you can target OS X, Linux, and Windows. And so, if I do go into Ludum Dare I guess I’ll give you guys a report next week and tell you how it went. But I’m probably going to chicken out. So, I’m just going to say that right now. But I’m excited about that. And I hate to be on the game episode and not pick a game. But the reality is I’ve been replaying Half-Life, the original. I played Half-Life and then I played Opposing Force, and then I played Blue Shift. These are all on Steam now. They look like crap. You put them on a 1920x1080p monitor.

CHUCK:  [Laughs]

DAVID:  And the pixels are as big as your head. But some of the great thematic and theatric moments, like shooting down a helicopter, were never done in a video game before this. And it’s like, “Oh yeah, this is where that started,” and that sort of thing. And I’m now, actually I just finished Half-Life 2 episode 2. And if Valve doesn’t write episode 3, I think they should be forced to watch the ending of their own episode 2 cliffhanger over and over again until their eyes bleed.

JAMES:  [Chuckles]

DAVID:  That’s just my opinion on that. But those are all available on Steam. And those are my picks.

CHUCK:  Awesome. I’ve got a bunch of picks and I guess I’ll pick a couple of games that I’ve been playing recently. One of them is one of those AAA games. I’ve been playing Diablo III. And I’ve been enjoying that. I’ve also been playing this really old game that I’ve really been enjoying. It’s called Multiwinia. And there’s a prequel to it, or there’s a game that came out before it, Darwinia, that I haven’t had a chance to play yet. And those are both on Steam as well. I actually got them as bonuses for buying the upgraded package for Prison…

DAVID:  Prison Architect.

CHUCK:  Yeah.

DAVID:  I did the same thing. You also get Uplink and DEFCON 5: Everybody Dies.

JAMES: Uplink was a big game. I believe Uplink and Darwinia, they came to the Mac a long time ago through Ambrosia, if anybody remembers them. they did the Escape Velocity series which was also pretty good.

CHUCK:  So, those are my game picks. I’m also going to pick episode 47 of the iPhreaks Show where we talk to Brianna Wu, Amanda Stenquist Warner, and Maria Enderton from Giant Space Cat about game development. They talked a lot about the Unreal Engine, I think it was. But it was a really good episode, too. Kind of got me excited about building and playing games, even though I haven’t done anything with it. And then I’m going to pick a few other things that I’ve just enjoyed lately that I’m probably never going to get around to picking if I don’t just pick them. So, this is going to be a long list. I recently listened to ‘Hatching Twitter’ which is a book about how Twitter came into being from all of the stuff that they were doing. It has a really interesting story to it. I also listened to ‘The Total Money Makeover’ by Dave Ramsey. And that’s my penance for not being out of debt yet. So, I’m just going to listen to that every month that I’m not out of debt. And then the other one that I want to pick is ‘Platform’ by Michael Hyatt. And if you’re running a business, if you’re trying to build marketing of any kind, ‘Platform’ is a terrific guide to that. The audiobook is about four hours long, And I’m guessing that if you read it straight through, it’d probably take you about that long. And then the last pick I have is something that I’ve been playing with lately. It’s called HabitRPG.com. And it might have been picked on the show before. But basically what it is, is you go in and you put in all of the habits you want to start and all the bad habits you want to quit. And then when you do it, then you click on it you get points and coins for doing whatever it was that you were supposed to do. And then if you participate in one of your bad habits, for example sometime I have this habit of chewing on my fingernails, you didn’t need to know that I guess, so I click a minus on there and then I lose life points for doing it, which is oddly effective for me even though none of it is real. Anyway, those are my picks. Megan, what are your picks?

MEGAN:  So, I’m going to throw out links to Unreal Engine 4 and Unity obviously. So UE4 is a good choice if you’re a C++ developer and want to do that. Unity’s a good choice if you’re C#. The mentions of educational stuff reminded me, going to throw out a couple of links for kid appropriate stuff. One of them is called Scratch. A good friend of mine works on this. Scratch is a programming language designed to be use by kids. And it is teaching kids as young as 8, 7, 6 to write software. And they can make games in it. It’s a very cool thing if you’re looking for something that you want to do with a younger girl, younger boy, kids basically, that you can do with them as a family thing. It’s a good choice. The other thing is if you’re even in Boulder, go to NCAR. NCAR is really cool for kids. They’ve got a lot of neat shows and a lot of exhibits. It’s the same. If you’re in the area and you want to do a science-y thing with your child, that’s a great choice. Game picks I have to say FRACT OSC. I’ll throw a link out for that. it just released on Steam. It’s a game where you explore a musical world. and your interactions with the world influence the music. And the music, the synth, that drives the world in turn drives the world. And you can customize the world and create your own worlds by composing music, which you then submit to other people that becomes levels. It’s this really cool interplay between the two. Though I have to admit, I’ve mostly been playing Skyrim. So, I guess I’ll throw another pick for Skyrim. And finally, on the game gem note, I did want to point out that One Game A Month is still happening. The idea with One Game A Month is you make a game per month. It’s a permanent game jam that a lot people use to inspire themselves. So, I’ll throw out a link to that. You’re going to miss ld48 and all of that and Seven-Day FPS isn’t ‘til later this year. But you could in a couple of days start your One Game A Month for May. That’s it, though.

JAMES:  Awesome.

CHUCK:  Awesome. Well, thank you for coming, Megan.

MEGAN:  Thank you for having me.

DAVID:  Yes. This was awesome.

JAMES:  Yeah, thank you Megan.

MEGAN:  No worries.

CHUCK:  Before we wrap up, I want to remind everybody we are still reading ‘Object Design’ and we’ll be talking about that in a couple of weeks. Go pick it up. And as we’ve said before the best place to get that is Safari Books Online. And I don’t think we have any other announcements, so go sign up for Parley and we’ll catch you all next week.

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