Category Archives: Gaming

Precursor Games crowdfunding campaign continues

gamestructure

 

With 20 days left to go Precursor Games has raised $268,731 so far in their quest to crowdfund Shadows of the Eternals, a spiritual successor to Eternal Darkness. Shadow of the Eternals will be released for Wii U and PC over 12 episodes, and is described as “a character driven action/horror game that interweaves real historical events with horrific fantasy – making the gamer question the perception of reality”. The company has been releasing regular video logs covering everything from the development of the game itself to the business model…

 

Eternals Showcase Preview

 

Through The CryENGINE Looking Glass

 

Episodic Structure

 

Project Overview and Budget Breakdown

 

They’ve also launched a fairly active web forum community…

forums

 

It looks like Precursor Games is hiring too…

Precursor Games is focusing on the opportunities created by the games industry transition from traditional development models towards digital distribution. Envisioned with an efficient and versatile structure, we have created a development studio in which each person is highly talented, experienced, and diversified. We are looking for people with cross-disciplinary skills and the confidence to transition from skill set to skill set seamlessly: artists who are writers; programmers who are game designers, and much more.

At Precursor Games, we are passionate about creating games of the highest quality. We are a closely-knit team, dedicated to helping everyone professionally grow and flourish. We are avid fans of games, and strongly believe in interacting with our community to design alongside the gamers. If you believe that Precursor Games is an environment in which you will thrive, please send your resume to jobs@precursorgames.com.

 

Denis Dyack responds to Kotaku article

Hamilton-based Precursor Games (@PrecursorGames) has launched a crowdfunding campaign to create an episodic spiritual successor to Eternal Darkness. Eternal Darkness was a very highly acclaimed award-winning game created by St. Catharines company Silicon Knights. The crowdfunding effort managed to raise $100k in its first day.

Kotaku published an article last October entitled “What went wrong with Silicon Knights’ X-Men: Destiny”. The article contains a lot of criticism of Silicon Kinghts and CEO Denis Dyack himself, using anonymous former employees as sources. Precursor Games is made up of former Silicon Knights employees, including Denis Dyack in the role of Chief Creative Officier, and the criticisms made in the Kotaku article are now being attached to Precursor Games.

 

precursorcrticism

 

As a result Precursor Games has released the following video where Denis Dyack responds to the Kotaku article:

 

 

Opportunity for Hamilton art and tech?

Part two of a two part series on art and technology in Hamilton. Part one is focused on current intersections between art and technology and is posted here, part two is focused on a potential opportunity.

 

In part one I mentioned how much of the technology industry involves intersections with existing industries. Mohawk College’s annual AppsForHealth (@AppsForHealth) conference and MEDIC Centre is a standout local example. In recent times art and culture have played an important and increasing role in an evolving Hamilton, which makes me think about what synergies may exist there, not so much at the level of using technology to produce products (video web series, digital animation, etc), but synergies in terms of developing new technology (software, apps, websites). The video game industry is my first thought, but this article is about another potential opportunity.

 

Creativity and organic community vs getting paid and structure

In the software world, many of us obviously want to be employed or make money based on our skills. But we also have things like the open source movement and hackathons, sometimes these things are about making money, but many times they aren’t. Sometimes it’s more about creating something for the love of creating something, or helping the community (think Random Hacks of Kindness). The kind of stuff Richard Stallman and others in the hacker subculture would probably like. There’s a tension between the more creative, communal hacker ethic and the need for structure, and to get paid. When one of my good buddy’s left for Microsoft, she got a good-natured ribbing from the rest of us about “selling out” to the corporate gig and the “evil empire”.

It’s possible to do both though, and achieve a special kind of full-spectrum awesome in the process. You can help people and improve the world around you while monetizing what you do, which gives you the money to grow and help more people and further improve the world, in a really great positive feedback cycle. As a result many companies, especially the really great companies, strive to do both – even the “evil empire” Microsoft will sponsor things like Random Hacks of Kindness.

But when you strive to do both, if you’re not careful you can end up slowing down, or selling out and crossing lines too. That Venn Diagram above has an evil twin below! There is research showing that unpaid volunteers in a charity donation drive outperformed paid volunteers (Pay Enough Or Don’t Pay At All [pdf]) and that a focus on monetary incentives can have a detrimental effect on tasks involving creativity (Large Stakes and Big Mistakes [pdf], or watch this TED Talk). So when dealing with creative endeavours such as technology and art, in the wrong situations a focus on monetization and structure will hinder quality, growth and the creative process.

Because I’m in software, even though there may be ongoing debates and it may depend on the situation, I have some idea where the lines are drawn for us between the creative process and getting paid. With the art world, I don’t really know where the lines are drawn. I’m an audience member, a viewer and a listener, but not a creator. I like stuff that makes me think, makes me feel something, sounds good or looks cool. That’s my whole experience with art. So I mean this as a constructive suggestion, and if I get anything wrong or cross any lines when discussing monetization and whatnot it is unintentional. For what it’s worth I consulted with friends who are involved in the art and creative community and have incorporated their feedback as best as I could.

 

Hamilton art and cultural goods should be sold online

Every time I go to an art crawl I see people selling all kinds of physical art and creative products, not just in the galleries themselves, but along the sidewalks, alleys and storefronts as well. I’ve never made a major purchase (i.e. hundred or thousand dollar paintings), but in addition to some smaller purchases I’ve also found it’s one of the best places to buy a unique gift for somebody. When you buy somebody a gift it’s pretty cool if it’s something that’s been handmade, that you’ve hand picked, and/or something you can’t get in a store.

But once the art crawl is over, unless it was something I bought in one of the permanent stores or galleries, I wouldn’t know how to buy something like it again, except by going to another art crawl. It’s happened to me where I see something and decide at the time not to buy it, but then the next day or next art crawl I can’t find it again. Even if it’s something I can go back to a permanent store or gallery on James street to buy, what if I didn’t live in Hamilton? What if I drove from Waterloo/Toronto/London for a night and went back? What if I want to tell my friends in another city, or country, about something I bought or an artist’s work or some kind of unique cultural product that I like so they can buy something similar too?

This is why I every time I go to an art crawl I think Hamilton artists/creatives/makers should start selling their work online. In terms of visual art, when I go through the listing of galleries on artshamilton.ca (and sublists of artists that I can find in the galleries), I can’t find a way to easily buy the artist’s work online. In a lot of cases I can see nice images of the art in what is basically an online gallery, and in some cases I see a price beside it, but in terms of buying the art it looks like I either need to contact the artist directly by e-mail or go to the gallery. And that’s just looking at the art galleries and artists, never mind all the antique, hand-made or knickknack type of items that I see along the street during an art crawl.

Now looking at how selling art has faired thus far online, back in 1999 artnet tried to pioneer the concept of online art sales but lost millions as part of the broader dot-com bust. Let’s keep in mind that 1999 was an era of dial-up Internet access with speeds a fraction of what they are now, using CRT monitors with “OK” SVGA resolution, attached to expensive clunky desktop computers with a mouse/keyboard interface. Oh, and a 2.74 megapixel digital camera costed $6,000. Those sorts of capabilities aren’t really conducive to an enjoyable online art purchasing experience.

Fast forward to 2012 and we’re living in a completely different era. Broadband Internet access at home and fast wifi and mobile Internet access have become ubiquitous. Our smartphones come with high resolution digital cameras. We have $500 iPads with retina displays, which have an intuitive pinch-to-zoom touch gesture interface that is perfect for viewing art. Therefore it shouldn’t be too surprising that there has been a recent boom in online art sales. Artnet itself is now doing a lot better, selling 6,500 pieces for $12 million in sales as of 2010.

There’s many different ways of selling art and related products online, one of the most successful is Etsy (@Etsy). Etsy is an online marketplace for buying and selling art, vintage and handmade items. Etsy allows sellers to setup standard online shops very easily, but there is also an Etsy API that allow developers to treat Etsy as a platform on which to build more sophisticated customizations. In May 2012 Etsy sales reached $65.9 million, up 68.5% from May 2011, with over 3 million individual items sold. That’s some serious exponential growth, and Hamilton should have a piece of that action!

When I sent this article to the artists and gallery owners that I know, I was told that art is a tough business, that selling higher-priced items can be a matter of building a reputation and clientele, and that there is a subjective element in terms of the work connecting with the buyer. Art galleries can do an amazing job at improving a neighbourhood, create social and community-building benefits, and generate economic activity in the surrounding area. But often the artists themselves don’t directly capture the benefits of that economic activity, it’s the services/events (restaurants, bars, live music, plays, comedy) and the related physical cultural goods (e.g. hand-made crafts, speciality spices, soaps and teas, etc.) that really benefit the most. This Bay Observer article about the potential for gentrification on James North seems to echo that sentiment.

That’s why I think it shouldn’t just be about selling art online, it should be about selling all “cultural goods and events” online. Hopefully in the process of doing so it should get more eyeballs on the more expensive art, and more chances for buyers to have a subjective connection with it and buy it too. I’d define cultural goods to be physical goods in the realm of paintings, sculptures, photography, hand-made crafts and clothing, speciality goods, etc, and a cultural event to be things like stage plays, live music and stand-up comedy. All those great things that you can’t find in an Ancaster Meadowlands-type power centre but that make being in downtown Hamilton awesome.

 

Hamilton cultural goods and events should become a global brand

The James North art crawl started up in 2005 when the street’s art community decided to increase awareness of their art scene by opening their gallery doors on the same night. This decision to work together gave them a critical mass and spurred growth that we are still seeing play out in 2012 as the art crawls continue to get bigger and more artists join in to showcase their work. I think the idea of the community working together to achieve critical mass and spur growth could now be extended to the (much lager) online marketplace.

For an example of what I mean, check out the “hub” website for The Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake. You can get a listing (Wineries -> Buy Wine) of all the wineries where you can buy wine in one click:

The websites for the wineries themselves are for the most part gorgeous looking and well functioning in terms of usability. You can sort through the collection of each winery and and buy bottles or cases of wine as easily as you could from any modern e-commerce website.

Working together online has helped make Niagara wine become a global brand (from the website: “visit us and see why we’ve grabbed the world’s attention”).

I see Niagara wine tours as playing a similar function to Hamilton art crawls, gallery tours, live music and stage plays. They bring people into the region to “sample the collection” in a fun way, and they spread awareness. But I think it’s brilliant how Niagara has also worked together on this “online hub” for searching through the wineries and buying the wine you sampled later on.

 

Hamilton cultural goods and events should have an online hub

Hamilton cultural goods and events should have a similar online hub made primarily for those willing to sell their tangible goods and market their events online. It shouldn’t be a website aimed at the community, it should be a website aimed at the cultural event attendees, the cultural good buyers, and people who have just heard through word-of-mouth that Hamilton has a growing cultural scene. The online hub could point to the online storefronts of whatever galleries, stores and/or artists that are selling their work online. Creating basic online storefronts for selling cultural goods wouldn’t be as difficult or expensive anymore thanks to modern tools like Etsy. Like the art crawl itself it would take a good base of willing participants to get started. As more galleries, stores and/or artists create online storefronts they could be added to the listing. It wouldn’t have to be limited to James Street, it could be for all cultural goods in Hamilton.

I believe that once an online hub is setup, the critical mass offline that we already see with the art crawl and especially the supercrawl could be translated into critical mass online. For an example of how this can happen, check out the story of #etsyday. Earlier on in the days of Etsy the sellers themselves banded together to create awareness of Etsy with grassroots “Did you Etsy today?” signs being placed all over and a push to make #etsday trend on Twitter. The art community and broader community in Hamilton could help make a similar awareness push online/offline to spur growth and sales.

There is a very powerful story in the revitalization of Hamilton with art as a driving force. That story is something that could resonate with communities around the world that are transitioning from an industrial economy to a creative economy. I’ve heard Hamilton art described as honest, fun to be around, and lacking pretension. That’s the kind of inclusive and welcoming image that if fostered correctly could help Hamilton cultural goods connect with more people and get into more homes.

I think an equally important component of such an online hub would be the marketing of Hamilton cultural events that bring people into the city to see just how much we have going on here. We have 11 million people within a 2 hour drive of Hamilton, all of them are a potential market for plays, dance, stand-up comedy, and especially live music. But how do we best gather all of that activity together and use it to pull in outsiders?

Many people have created an online presence of some sort aimed at letting people know just how much is going on here. Some examples:

Secret Hamilton (@SecretHamilton)
Happening Hamilton (@happeninghamilton)
Best of Hamilton (@bestofhamilton)
Beaux Mondes (@beauxmondes_)
Raise the Hammer (@RaiseTheHammer)
Get Cultured (@GetCulturedMac)
This Must Be The Place (@ThisMustBeThePlace)
MyHamilton
Mac Pop the Bubble
I Heart Hamilton
View Magazine

Two of the most interesting approaches that I’ve seen recently were demoed at DemoCampHamilton8Eventity (@Eventityca) by Steve Veerman (@veerman) and Hamilton Times by Dwanye Ali (@interestica) and John Fink (@adr). What I find interesting about these approaches is that they both involve (Hamilton-built) software innovations to conglomerate events into a common calendar.

Eventity provides a centralized way to search for events from sources such as Facebook, Tourism Hamilton, Tourism Burlington, View Magazine, SNAP Hamilton, Hamilton News, and Kijiji.

Where as Hamilton Times is aiming to be a collaborative open-data repository of public events for the city of Hamilton. A centralized pool of accessible data allows sites, individuals, researchers, and developers to make use of only what they require, while novel ingest methods aim to lower the technological barriers to participation.

What I like about these more technological approaches to event aggregation is that they drastically lower the burden and cost of gathering together all the activity into a common calendar. Perhaps some of this technology or some of these ideas could be adapted into a calendar of cultural events in Hamilton as part of an online hub, both lowering the cost barrier of creating a common calendar and increasing the calendar’s breadth and usefulness. Pulling in outsiders from the broader region to cultural activities in Hamilton, not just the art crawl but also things like Hamilton 24 (@thehamilton24), Fringe Festival (@HamiltonFringe), and live music shows, can perhaps (playing that role of Niagara wine tours) get them to buy more cultural goods from Hamilton too!

 

What’s in it for Hamilton tech?

I wrote this article last week about how e-commerce in general could be a Hamilton strength. My reasoning was that we have cheap space, a good location, we’re strong with community building and social media, the web design talent is there, McMaster has some research strength in this area, and that startup capital requirements are low. My other big reason was that the trail has already been blazed, in that we have seen Mabel’s Labels (@mabelhood) go from four (female) co-founders in a basement to 40+ employees in a 14,000 square foot location over the last 10 years. Mabel’s Labels sells personalized labels, mostly targeted at mother’s for household use. It’s a product that’s innovative and involves technology, but there’s definitely a creative element there as well.

If creators started making storefronts en masse using Etsy and other platforms, plugging into an online hub for Hamilton artists, there is the potential for some other breakaway success stories. Once you have success and customers, you have the desire to improve performance and take into account customer feedback.

This is where technology jobs can be created. So for example Etsy storefronts can be customized with Etsy Apps which are built by software developers. Getting off the Etsy platform, or other storefront type platforms like Shopify, is another option that requires software development. If a handmade product begins to sell in significant enough quantities online, it may warrant automizing production of the product as Mabel’s Labels does, which again adds technology jobs. In fact, about 1/4 of Mabel’s Labels 40+ employees work in IT!

 

Could this really work?

Like I said earlier on, I’m a software guy, not an artist. I’m worried about miss-communicating when writing this article because I don’t really understand the community. I think this idea is feasible, but that’s because of my own perspective.

Is it insulting for me to suggest that Hamilton artists make Etsy and other storefronts en masse? Do makers and creators have the time for managing an online storefront in addition to creating their work and selling it offline? Who would manage such an online hub? Is it super lame to suggest a “global brand” for Hamilton cultural goods and events given the organic, open and community-driven nature of something like the art crawl? What is the right balance between structure and getting paid vs creativity and organic community?

I don’t know the right answers to these questions. I think selling cultural goods and events online is something that should be led primarily by artists, creators and makers. I’ll say this though, as far as I’m concerned the cultural community is always welcome to connect with the technology community in Hamilton so that the right answers to those questions can be found. You’re always welcome at DemoCampHamiltons, StartupDrinks, etc.

The art crawl has made James North and Hamilton a better place by bringing enough artists together to reach thousands of people every month. Enough sparks were gathered together to create a fire of activity that’s improving a street and a city. I think bringing Hamilton cultural goods and events together with an online hub could spread that fire online and improve the world by reaching a market of billions.

 

Intersections between Hamilton art and tech

Part one of a two part series on art and technology in Hamilton. Part one is focused on current intersections between art and technology, part two is focused on a potential opportunity and is posted here.

Supercrawl 2012 (@supercrawl) brought together tens of thousands of Hamiltonians and visitors to celebrate and experience Hamilton’s creative community. Hamilton has always had an important arts and cultural community. But it’s very clear that over the last decade the sector has grown in size and importance with initiatives and events like the James North art crawl, Supercrawl and others that are too numerous to list in their entirety, but for example: Hamilton24 (@TheHamilton24), Cobalt Connects (@CobaltConnects), Gallery 205 (@205Cannon), The Pearl Company (@ThePearlCompany), Hamilton Fringe Festival (@FringeHamilton), and many, many more. Whatever your thoughts on art being the new steel, the art and cultural community has become a lynchpin of an evolving Hamilton.

Technology is another sector that is making an increasing contribution to Hamilton’s evolution. Local startups like Weever Apps (@WeeverApps) that can double in size in three months by selling their software product to clients all over the world also make Hamilton a more prosperous city. Much of the technology industry revolves around intersections with existing industries. So many industries have been revolutionized by technology over the last decade that it has been said that “software is eating the world”. Locally, technology is finding award winning intersections with health care at Mohawk College’s annual AppsForHealth (@AppsForHealth) conference.

Which makes me think about what intersections already exist between technology and art in Hamilton. I’m not focusing on intersections that involve the use of technology, like for example digital animation, where you’ve got a company like Pipeline Studios making a great contribution to Hamilton’s economy. These types of using technology intersections certainly have much value in their own right, like Michael Canton’s (@valleytownmedia) Hamilton web series community initiative for the online video community in Hamilton. But I’m thinking more about intersections that involve the development of some kind of software product or service (i.e. apps, websites) that are related to art.

One example of a Hamilton art and technology intersection is Indie Option (@indieOPTION) by Linda Mitton (@llmitton) and Sue-Roz Baker (@SueRozBaker). Indie Option is a hub for independent film makers to connect with one another and a management tool that allows them to collaborate on projects. Indie Option ran a BREAKOUT Film Festival, and the web application itself was demoed at DemoCampHamilton6.

Another example that you can’t go without mentioning when talking about art and technology in Hamilton is inventor and award-winning Sheridan professor Dan Zen (@DanZen). He stole the show at the inaugural DemoCampHamilton with his Opartica software that lets you fly through 3D art that you create and share. He has an entire “deck of creations” that you can check out here. One of my personal favourites is the fun drawing tool Swoodle – give it a try! You might have seen him at Supercrawl giving a live demo of his lastest creation called Hangy, which is a form of wearable computing or “Mobidallion” as he has named it:

 

 

The other obvious existing intersection that I’d like to mention is video games. We’ve got at least six firms already in Hamilton: Hard Circle (@HardCircle), Battlegoat Studios (@battlegoat), Snakehead Games (@snakeheadgames), GreenPixel (@GreenPixelDev), Four Seven Games (@fourSevenStudio), and E/ D&P Games. GreenPixel in particular uses pixel art as part of their video games like BlockHopper, and their flash webcomic. When looking at art and technology intersections I believe the video game industry has the highest potential for contributing to the ongoing revitalization of Hamilton, especially given the impact it has had in Montreal. A lot of video games require great creative talent to be successful – artists, graphic designers, musicians, and story tellers. It’s a controversy whether video games themselves should be considered art due their goal-oriented gameplay, points and rules. To me there’s no doubt video games are a form of art.

Art and technology are already intersecting in Hamilton. And I’m sure there’s other existing intersections that I don’t know about. There’s one opportunity that I think about a lot, and I’ll talk about it in part two later this week.

 

Made in Hamilton flash games by Hard Circle

I thought I had come across every video game company in Hamilton at this point, but it turns out there was one more! Founded by Bret Measor in 2008, Hamilton’s Hard Circle (@HardCircle) has since then expanded to a team of five and grown into a commercially successful online flash video game company.

Hard Circle’s roster of about 30 or so games stretch across a diverse number of genres including 2D side scrollers, shooters, puzzle games, and more. The games that I’ve played so far feature great art, catchy music and addictive, well-designed gameplay. Hard Circle maintains a YouTube channel where they post demos and walkthroughs.

 

 

I’ve posted a few of their games below, you can check out the full list on their website here. Note that Hard Circle will actually be refreshing their website soon.

Hard Circle is part of a list of Hamilton-based video game companies that include Battlegoat Studios (@battlegoat), Snakehead Games (@snakeheadgames), GreenPixel (@GreenPixelDev), Four Seven Games (@fourSevenStudio), and E/ D&P Games.

 

Bimmin 2

 

Swim Mr. Fish

 

Pedro’s Ricochet Rumble

 

Cloud 9

 

Full list of Hard Circle games

 

2012 Snakehead Games cyberpunk story contest

So you want to write a cyberpunk story, eh? And be paid for it (if it’s good enough?)

Then read on!

HOW TO ENTER: Email your story to info@snakeheadgames.com. The contest is open from July 11th, 2012 through August 31st, 2012. Stories will be reviewed with semi-finalists selected by panel, and finalist selected by voting.

PRIZES: The Grand Prize winner will be awarded the following: $1000 (CAN), all semi-finalists will be awarded $100 (CAN). In addition, the Grand Prize winner and all semi-finalists will have their stories published in the StarCrash short story book by Snakehead Games.

WHAT TO ENTER: The short story will be a Sci-Fi story based in the StarCrash Universe. It is open to anyone, whether you’re a player or not. It will be between 3000 and 6000 words long.

INFORMATION FOR ENTRANTS: Snakehead Games offers the following resources for those interested in entering. These are particularly useful for non-players who are interested in writing.
– Information Packages (Star Pirates, Spybattle 2165)
– Setting Timeline (Starcrash Universe)
- Example Stories (Blame, What Could Possibly Go Wrong?)
Those entrants wishing the review/editorial assistance of a veteran player of either of our games can contact Snakehead Games, and a partner can be found from volunteers amongst the player base.

There is also a forum thread collating relevant questions and answers, archived here.

There are clauses and details, so please review the Rules and Regulations.

 

Battlegoat Studios and the Supreme Ruler series

I posted an interview with Shawn Hopkins (@s_hopkins_dsine) of Four Seven Studios (@fourSevenStudio) last week, and Alex Pineda (@brainyweb) had previously interviewed Rich Halliday of Green Pixel (@GreenPixelDev) awhile back now. Green Pixel and Four Seven Studios aren’t the only video game companies in Hamilton though, the city is also home to George Geczy’s (@GeorgeGeczy) Ancaster-based BattleGoat Studios (@battlegoat) and Snakehead Games (@SnakeheadGames) which recently moved onto James North.

BattleGoat Studios is famous for the Supreme Ruler series of strategy games – the games are actually based off of a text-based strategy game of the same name made by George in 1982 for a Radio Shack TRS-80 computer! The company was founded in the year 2000 and Supreme Ruler 2010 was released in 2005, it went on to win the 2006 Canadian Award for the Electronic & Animated Arts Elan for “Best PC Game”. Chris Latour of Battlegoat Studios was interviewed by Bengt Lemne of Gamereactor about a year ago now about the latest instalment of the franchise Supreme Ruler: Cold War

 

 

… And Lead Designer David Thompson was interviewed at GDC 2011 about the same game:

 

 

BattleGoat Studios describes itself on its website as follows:

BattleGoat Studios is a Canadian Software Developer committed to developing leading edge “Intelligent Strategy Games” for the PC. Founded by George Geczy (Lead Programmer) and David Thompson (Lead Designer), the team firmly believes that Strategy Gamers are looking for more sophisticated games that also remain fun to play. BattleGoat insists that their approach to development will always emphasize an accurate, heavily researched environment assuring players an entertaining and immersive gameplay experience.

There seems to be a real interest in video game companies in the region based off the feedback from past interview posts, so I thought I’d throw these interviews out there in case anyone in the Hamilton community wasn’t aware of BattleGoat or what they’ve accomplished. I think it’s great to have an established, critically acclaimed and commercially successful gaming company in Hamilton alongside smaller indie gaming companies, and I look forward to seeing what BattleGoat Studios has planned next for the Supreme Ruler series.

 

Interview with Shawn Hopkins of Hamilton’s Four Seven Games

I recently interviewed Shawn Hopkins of Four Seven Games (@fourSevenStudio), a new gaming studio in Hamilton. Other video game companies in the Hamilton include Snakehead Games, BattleGoat Studios and GreenPixel. I’ve always thought of video games as a potential strength for Hamilton given the strong creative arts community and high quality video game related post-secondary programs, so I’m glad to see another gaming studio starting up in Hamilton. Check out the interview with Shawn below!

 

Tell us about yourself. What is your background in gaming?

My name is Shawn Hopkins, 29. Born and raised here in Hamilton. When I was younger I had moved to Calgary, Alberta for a couple years but returned back to Hamilton where I stayed. I have a wife and daughter who is five years old.

Like many others I got my start in gaming at a pretty young age. It all started with Super Mario Bros and Duck Hunt. I was 7 at the time and NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) had already been out a few years. I remember it vividly, sitting in front of the TV, eyes glued, thumbs sore, “This is incredible, I can control whats happening on the TV”. An addiction that has bloomed into a career was born that day.

I was always the type of person to tear things apart just to see how they worked, then attempt to modify them and put it all back together. This got me in trouble as a kid, always “breaking” my toys. So I ended up going to flea markets to buy working gadgets, mod them and put them back together. This didn’t work so well when I opened up an N64 game, all I saw was a circuit board. I mean at least guitar stomp boxes had actual components I could replace and “beef up”.

When I got to high school (Delta Secondary School), I had a large focus on music and art. A couple of the bands I was in needed websites, but I didn’t know any web languages, so naturally I turned to geocites. I quickly learned how web page elements were stacked and how limited the provided tools were. This is where my tearing things apart comes in. I was able to view the source of the web pages I was building. I stared at the source trying to make sense of it. Eventually I dropped the drag and drop WYSIWYG web site building tools and wrote my websites in HTML, then learning PHP, MySql, and JavaScript. It was then that I realized the games I was playing were built the same way.

Fast forward a few years to 2010 an I came to the conclusion that I needed more. I needed more of a challenge, and so I enrolled at triOS for video game design and development and learned as much as I could about the game business and programming languages. I participated in two global game jams, the first Great Canadian Appathon held by XMG and also participated in a Mozilla Gaming competition.

 

 

What prompted you to start Four Seven Games? Is anybody else involved?

Right from the beginning of my journey at triOS I knew i wanted to start my own studio. Having my own studio would present me with challenges I had never faced before. Actually this is not completely true, I had my freelance web/graphic design business and ran an independent magazine – both had similar challenges like strict deadlines, long hours and knowing what the client/reader will want too see/read. But this time feels different. There is an instant gratification in games, a gratification you don’t get in other forms of art and media. I am now a part of something that can share this gratification. Our goal with Four Seven Games is to create games that the whole family can enjoy with our main focus on games for children.

Yes. I do have someone helping me with programming. Matthew Collier is a fantastic individual who is just amazing at programming. Matthew started at triOS shortly before I did. We had worked on a couple projects during our time at triOS, one of those projects was Global Game Jam 2012. I am a lucky guy to have Matthew on board with Four Seven Games.

 

How is your first game coming along? What can you tell us about it?

This one is a weird one. Our first game isn’t our first game. Our first game will be our third or fourth game. While we work on our first major release, we will be releasing a couple smaller games. The first of which is almost done, but the past couple weeks have been really busy with freelance deadlines closing in. The game will be out very soon though. I am pretty excited for it.

The major release is in the very early stages of development. I had built a demo and now I love the idea of it so much we are going to expand the game.

 

What challenges have you faced so far?

One of the biggest challenges I have faced to date is balance. While I have self discipline to work from home I need to balance taking my daughter to school (she was only half day), work for a bit, bring her home, make lunch and work, spend time with her and my wife while fitting work in at the same time. It gets easier when my wife is home from work and now that my daughter is now on summer vacation it should be a lot easier accomplish goals and milestones. One thing i will say is that I would not change any of this hectic life for anything. My job allows me to spend time with my family while working, this does require a great deal of discipline. I love the challenges.

 

Why did you do Four Seven Games in Hamilton? How have you found Hamilton as a location?

Living in Hamilton made the choice pretty easy to start my studio in Hamilton. I do plan to move in the next couple of years to somewhere a little more rural. At that point Four Seven Games will still stay in Hamilton. Aside from living here, Hamilton has a great tech community that Four Seven Games is now a part of. I have attended DemoCampHamilton5 and DemoCampHamilton6 here in Hamilton, I plant to attend many more and maybe make my contribution to DemoCampHamilton in the future.

 

What are your future plans for Four Seven Games?

Over the next 12 months four Seven games plans to release our first two games plus our major release. After this we will maintain our major release, put out smaller games and just grow.

The truth is we don’t know what the future holds for Four Seven Games, so the only thing we can really do is Build, Learn, Grow, Repeat.

 

What would you tell somebody that’s considering starting up their own indie gaming studio?

Ideas are a penny a dozen, execution is key. More often than not I see great ideas put to simmer, then to back burner, and eventually dumped. Also organization and keeping on or as close as you can to a schedule is very important. Hmm… Oh yes. Grow some leather skin. While I was on my previous ventures I learned this the hard way. People will criticize your work, and they will be harsh. This being your own work, you may have an emotional attachment to it. I had taken a lot of these words to heart and just about quit more than once. Over time I’ve grown some pretty thick skin I still get attached to my work and still may take some words to heart. I still have a lot to grow.

Lastly, have fun doing what you do.

 

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