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johnmasterlee's blog

Introducing Spark Rising!
1:56 PM on 08.16.2013
Does Munch Face Sound Dirty To You?
7:28 PM on 08.05.2013
Oh Snap, My Game Is Changing
5:30 PM on 05.12.2013
Here's $100 in Free Games
5:17 PM on 04.18.2013
Building a game in 1 week
2:07 AM on 04.15.2013
Why no love for mod tools?
8:30 PM on 03.27.2013





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Community Discussion: Blog by johnmasterlee | johnmasterlee's ProfileDestructoid
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johnmasterlee 's blog
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About
Gaming Evangelist. Game Creator. GAMER.

I'm a game developer, and head up several gaming studios, including Wicked Loot and FitGoFun. Been in the game industry for many years now. It's the only life I know.

I pretty much done it all. QA. Marketing. Game Design. Coding. Editor. The guy who had to wear the (stank) mascot costume at a gaming event. The guy who drove a truck to deliver games to a warehouse. For the love of the game.

MORE NONSENSE ON MY YOUTUBE

It's sorta about games. But mostly about my life.
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Over the last many months my Wicked Loot team and I been working on a new game concept. We've been under the radar, blogging game updates to a small group of friends and current fans of ours. We're reaching a point where we'd like to open up our efforts to some new peeps, so I thought I'd do a quick post here!

Spark Rising is a build and battle sandbox game. It mixes elements from action games, strategy games, and building games.

If this is the sort of things that tickles your uvala (and no, that's not female genitalia) then I'm looking for feedback! I can only accommodate about 100 (update: now only have room for about 30) people at this stage, and in exchange you get the game for free.

NOTE - Sorry, early slots are full!


I should note that the game is still pre alpha so you won't actually get to play through much any time soon. The feedback you provide at this stage will eventually help shape the final outcome.
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Anyone else think Munch Face evokes dirty thoughts? That has come up a couple times in conversation, as if the game name infers, well, something else. I did learn what a Dragon Munch was for the first time, and the visual of that left me scarred... I'll let your imaginations run wild here (or you can Urban Dictionary it), but it's great conversation over a drunken night out on the town, because it inspires you to come up with your dirty words. Although I will say, the name Munch Face was always meant to be in jest:)

It's been a wild ride over the last many months, filled with such stories like the one above. I formed a new indie game dev studio, Wicked Loot then skipped town to go to Hawaii for 3 months to build our first game, learned how to surf, and now we're back in the bay area, conjuring up our next game. If you been following some of my blogs here on Dtoid, you'd been bearing witness to it all.

Now that we're back home, we decided to begin work on our next game. You might be asking, so what happened to Munch Face? Overall, the game is done. We build a game that plays great, mashing up arcade game concepts like Pac-Man, Space Invaders and Bomberman. We experimented with different concepts and mechanics and we realized as we marched forward that what we had was about as far as we could take it since the game likely had limited ability to showcase our passion for user generated content.



One of the core tenets of Wicked Loot was that we wanted to create games and a platform that fueled user generated content. Munch Face was an experiment we began to see if we could apply such vision to a simple arcade game. Turns out that while it works well, it really wasn't the best showcase game for us, due to the rather limited expectations of an arcade game. So it's time to prep our next game, which we think will resonate with more gamers.

So what of Munch Face now? It's core gameplay works, two gameplay modes are available, and over 100 levels have been created. The editing tools likely still aren't ready for consumer usage. The public alpha and beta wrapped up (much thanks to everyone who helped provide feedback) and now we're deciding what to do this Mr. Munch. Or Mr. Face if you prefer. We'll likely release it on a few select platforms, Ouya being one that I had an eye on for a while. New tech always catches my eye, so I'm curious to see what it's like launching a game on a micro-console. Are micro-consoles the wave of the future? ... ah, we'll see.

Whether we launch Munch Face on other platforms sort of depends on whether there's enough interest in it. The game plays better with a joystick, so we might explore consoles once they are more friendly for indie games.

Until then, it's been fun sharing with you all what we been working on. It's been fun blogging about the project, so I might keep it up over on our Wicked Loot where I share about various things that go on at an indie game dev studio.




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Back to the grind of making games after a day of surfing. 

Yesterday, my team was out catching waves for the first time to shoot a parody video of us having a board meeting. Get it? Board? Surf board? It's not ha ha funny, more I'll chuckle in my head amusing.

So this past week, the Munch Face concept has evolved. When I initially conceived Munch Face it was clearly inspired by Pac-Man, especially the Pac-Man Championship versions, one of my fave games of all time. I was hooked on that game for a while, reaching up a top 30 rank in the world out of several hundred thousand players. Some people have commented that Munch Face gives them that same sort of high as Pac-Man Championship, which warms the cockles of my heart.

But I really don't want to settle here. We didn't set out with a specific direction, it was more exploratory. So we set no boundaries and we started to explore, which is a pretty liberating way to design. Scary, but liberating.

The next thing you know, we had hints of an arcade mashup and that's when the eureka moment happened. Imagine an arcade game mashup mixing elements from Portal, Space Invaders, Metal Gear Solid, Pac-Man Championship, etc. with a storyline inspired by Wreck It Ralph!

This direction is so much more interesting that we went back to redesign our splash screen to visually capture how different game elements are spilling into the Munch Face world.




This all sounds that much more interesting when you can create your own levels and do your own mashups. I'm dying to see what people cobble together. And I think that's the main hook. The levels I create are merely a sample to what could come, and the best stuff will ultimate come from the gamer. We're just catalysts for that inspiration.

Munch Face It's still in early alpha and much could still change. Your feedback could help shape where things go from here!

Aloha from the Wicked Loot team!

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Like any indie game dev studio, we don't exist unless we have a Facebook page that posts up all the sexy pics we do in game development. Like code all day. Or eat Cheetos. Or work in our underwear.

So we set up our FB page! Now we're legit. And for fun, I thought I'd give away some goodies from my game collection as an incentive to LIKE our page. That's $100 worth of games to some lucky bloke.

BONUS for Dtoiders! Just leave a comment below for an extra shot at winning.


LIKEY OUR FB PAGE!

I'll post up some more pics of our adventures in Hawaii soon. And yes, I know, needs more hula girls. I do hang around our FB page, stalking our fans, so if you ever just want to say hi and chat things up, you can find me there drinking way too much soda.



And I'll be giving away more of my gaming swag. I amassed such a ridiculously large collection of awesome swag that if the pile ever toppled over, I'd be buried alive. While sounds like a heavenly way to die.

We do have a Twitter page, but I find that I lack the discipline to tap out 160 characters of insightful insight on a regular basis. I'm not even gonna bother linking to our Twitter page... I'd rather post incriminating pics of our team here without them knowing about it.

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So life out here in Hawaii isn't all pineapples and hula girls. Though there is a lot of that. Like any indie studio, we spend much of waking hours building games.

For the last few months, we been focusing on a turn-based strategy game that I been dreaming up for a while. It's a big game, and I have tons of charts, spreadsheets, and artwork that's been conjured up. It's a game that would take over a year to build. And after working on it for a few months we realized that we weren't moving fast enough. So what did we do? We shifted gears to work on another game.

Wha? What crazy logic is that? Well, it's pretty simple. Sometimes making a big game with long drawn out milestones can drain the team. We end up with concepts that aren't quite working yet, and tools that aren't quite user friendly yet. So to keep everyone motivated, and to test our design theories, we decided to work on another game at the same time. A smaller game that allows us to iterate faster. This other game is more like an arcade game, and we gave ourselves 1 week to build it. And we did.

I won't go into details about the games here, as there's time for that. What I thought was interesting to share was that this development approach works because we embrace user generated content. In other words, our goal as a development studio is to make games that feature user generated content. Making content takes a long time, so our approach forces us to launch a core concept, testing designs and ideas with our users, and then giving them the tools to play around with the game engine, while we build content based on what people find fun.

You may have noticed that more and more indie devs are taking a similar approach. They open up their game at a much earlier stage while in mid development, so that fans can sample a pre-alpha build and provide feedback. But many devs do this for perceived early marketing buzz and to build a user base. We just take it one step further. We try to let you create things too so that we can play test your stuff.

And that's how we could build a game in 1 week. Because the 1 week mark isn't the end of game development, but rather the beginning. From here, we'll continue to add new features, new ideas, and even your new features and ideas. The tools we create and the methodologies we establish for this smaller game can then get carried over to the bigger strategy game, and development on that game will then go faster and smoother.

The arcade game we're working on is coming along swimmingly, so I hope to share it with you all soon!
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I'd totally understand that you would think all I do is sit on a beach each day, drinking a Mai Tai, soaking up the Hawaiian sun. But really, I'm working hard! Not only am I creating a game, I'm also creating a platform that allows users to create their own content in our game.

It's something I'm pretty passionate about. The mod tool scene has been around for decades, primarily supported by the PC gaming community. But it wasn't until this past year when I was inspired enough to quit my job and to make games that featured user generated content. What was the catalyst that made me take a dive? In a previous blog I talked about some personal motivations, I'll now share with you a business reason: I discovered that games that featured mod tools were able to increase engagement by x2 to x10 over the long haul. And that translated into more new gamers, longer play time, and thus more revenue generated.

In addition to this data, a number of industry peeps have gone on record talking about how user generated content is the future of gaming, including Gabe Newell of Valve. Recently at the BAFTA awards, a question was posed to Gabe: "What do you see as the future of gaming? Give us a 5 year snapshot." And his response was great: "It will be challenging for award shows like this to deal with the fact that more and more of the experience will be created by people participating in those experiences... How do you give an award for best game design to a community of 10 million people building the experience."

Yet, despite all this, few game devs bother to offer mod tools. Even on Steam, less than 1% of all games support Steam Workshop. Which begs the question: Why aren't mod tools more popular?

I have my own theories, but I feel like it's worth vetting out. So I been posing this question around the industry, talking with game devs, mod creators and users of mods to see what the skinny was. While I'll share my findings at a later date, the exercise made me realize how the solution isn't going to be easy. It'll require game devs, mod creators and users to come together to made it work.

I posed this question in the Dtoid forums, and some community members have offered some great feedback. But I'd love to hear more from you guys about what you think.

What do you love about the mod scene?

What do you think prevents greater adoption from gamers and developers?

What about the modding do you wish worked better?
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