All posts by Alex Ferri

Phoenix Global Game Jam 2015: Jan. 25

Teams are already organizing for the world’s biggest collective game jam.

The Phoenix branch of the event is kicking off at 6 p.m. Friday, Jan. 23, at Arizona State University. It’s hosted again by Game CoLab and will last all weekend at ASU’s Digital Culture Studio.

Teams of amateurs and veterans alike will have 48 hours to make a game following a to-be-announced theme. It’s a great opportunity for developers to make friends, work together and learn about making video games.

There were no prizes at last year’s event, but Game CoLab is looking for interested sponsors.

The event will wrap up on Sunday at Endgame Bar with a demo night for game jam entries and other titles from local developers.

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Sandbox MMORPG Dwell hits Steam Greenlight

Gather resources, craft tools, find shelter and survive the night – that’s the typical experience in most creative sandbox games like Minecraft and Terraria. But the sense of danger on that first night is soon forgotten as strongholds grow more and more impenetrable over time.

Dwell: The Drifting Worldfrom Tempe-based developer Brady Welch, adds a new variable to the sandbox equation to keep things exciting: organized player-versus-player combat. The game hit Steam Greenlight on Oct. 25 and, if approved, should be released in early access by early 2015.

Welch, a student at Arizona State University, calls Dwell a creative sandbox MMORPG. While the game is clearly influenced by Terraria and Minecraft, Welch knew the game would need something new to avoid being just another clone.

The X-factor for Dwell, Welch said, is a PvP system that pits entire villages of players against each other in a fight for supremacy.

After surviving long enough to build shelter, players can invite others to build near them and eventually create a village. Players can then build defenses and use the “claim” system to help protect the village further.

“The level of complexity is pretty high in terms of village creation,” Welch said. “You can create your own walls, allow different permissions for players and you can basically have any style of government you want.”

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GamerGate, stereotypes and the ‘gaming community’

Ever since the GamerGate movement arose a few months ago, many claims have been made about how it has hijacked the “gaming community.”

GamerGate’s supposed message promoting ethical games journalism has been dwarfed by its association with harassment, threats and misogyny. Now national media has picked up the story, with a New York Times article making the front page of the paper.

That attention has only amplified the message of so many who bemoan GamerGate’s negative influence on the “gaming community’s” reputation. Just read a few of the top comments on that piece to learn the general public’s reaction to GamerGate (hint: it’s not good).

Clearly, gamers have a long way to go to shake their reputation as basement-dwelling nerds. And many gamers believe GamerGate is to thank for that and have taken to Twitter to voice their concern for this “gaming community.”

Here’s the thing: Older generations might forever lump gamers into a single stereotype. But why are gamers so quick to do the same? Why is there seemingly only one “gaming community” that every schmuck who has ever played Angry Birds is suddenly a member of?

There are so many different types of gamers that classifying them as one group is both unnecessary and inaccurate. Gaming has become such a mainstream hobby that there is room for countless communities under its umbrella.

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UAT pulls Gamasutra ads over #GamerGate

The University of Advancing Technology has reportedly joined Intel in pulling its advertising from news site Gamasutra, citing the organization’s “negative journalism” regarding the #GamerGate movement.

Twitter user @Jayd3fox posted the following image Oct. 4 of an email, supposedly from Alan Hromas, UAT’s marketing and communications director.

The email reads, “UAT ceased advertising on Gamasutra as soon as we became aware of their (sic) being an issue with negative journalism,” he wrote. “Having one of the oldest game programs in the nation, we are very sensitive to issues of this nature.”

UAT hasn’t responded to requests for more information or to verify the email’s legitimacy.

Intel pulled advertising from Gamasutra Oct. 1 following complaints from #GamerGate supporters about an editorial the site had published that declared “‘Gamers’ are over.”

Continue reading UAT pulls Gamasutra ads over #GamerGate

Arizona Gamer reviews The Sims 4

What makes a good sequel: improving core features or adding new content?

A perfect sequel would do both, but developers often prioritize one over the other. Even a giant like Electronic Arts had to choose with The Sims 4, and the company chose the first route, even going so far as to leave out popular features from previous games.

Compared to its predecessor, The Sims 4 offers better customization, interaction and depth while sacrificing an open world and leaving some obvious content holes that, in typical Sims fashion, will inevitably be patched with expansion packs.

As a base game, The Sims 4 is the best installment in the series despite lacking some features as pools or toddlers. Here’s the thing: every games in the series has used expansions to complement the first release. Every Sims game is guilty of it, so it’s unfair to hold it against The Sims 4 more so than another installment. However, it’s a valid criticism of the entire series.

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Where The Sims 4 shines is with its core features. Overall, they’re a strong improvement over The Sims 3. Most notable are improvements to the dialogue and emotion systems, which have undergone a complete overhaul to include various mood states for each Sim.

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Best video game music: AZ composer talks tunes

chrisVideo games soundtracks are becoming “too Hollywood,” according to Arizona composer Christopher Norby. Some games avoid this trap, he said, but the true potential for games composing has still not been fully realized.

A native of Derry, Ireland, Norby now lives in Tempe and has worked on three mobile games: JellyFlug, Fionn Folk Tales and Grand Theft Seagull. All were developed by Ireland-based Troll inc.

He started playing the piano at age 6 and became interested in composing at age 11; films were his first inspiration, he said.

“The one that really stood out to me first was Aliens, the James Horner score,” he said.

While games composers owe a good deal to film soundtracks, Norby thinks games should avoid copying the style of film soundtracks too much, he said. Bioshock did a good job of keeping an orchestral and cinematic feel while staying original, he added.

“Some games have started to lose their originality,” he said. “But I think games are a brilliant media for writing music.”

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