A day at a Indie Game Development meetup.

Hello everyone!

It has been a long while since I was last active on making games. Since the game Sean and I both created for the Candy Jam, I became burned out from working nonstop at my job and working on the game for two weeks. Afterwards, I was really busy with attending to whatever life threw at me (whether it is socializing, going home for the weekend, etc). As things started settling down, I finally decided that it would be time to start surrounding myself with independent game developers again so I could have my passion for game development rekindled once again. I figured what could be a better way to do so than to go to an independent game development meetup events. Lucky for me, San Jose (as well as the surrounding towns) has a high volume of meetup groups of varying interests, including game development. Last night, my quest took me to the Microsoft branch in Mountain View where a certain indie game meetup group has their monthly meetings there.

In these kind of meetups, you could bring your current project it to show it to other people with hopes of getting feedback(that is assuming you are currently working on it or finished it recently). This aspect is pretty interesting as you get to see some creativity of varying sorts.  During my time at the meetup events of this group, I have seen one of the projects that was made at Global Game Jam (at the Facebook site where I was a while ago), along with a 2D Spy Party inspired game, a game that was released on the Ouya console, a candy themed dungeon-crawling game, and an Oculus Rift simulation (which led to my first Oculus Rift exposure). It’s also interesting to find out what they enjoy playing based on the games that they made, or seeing their end result of their creativity.

Its pretty sweet!

Its pretty sweet!

Other than showing off games, the dynamic is pretty much the same as any other meetup group. You chat with people and you get to network with people. Its interesting to hear different stories of people at the meetups. I once met an artist at one of the earlier meetup events I went to who used to work as a art director for AAA games until he worked on 3 consecutive projects that ended up being cancelled. One of these titles that he worked on was Star Wars 1313 that got cancelled when LucasArts closed its doors about a year ago. At the last night’s event, I also met an individual who specialized in the marketing aspect who knew Pixel for years in prior to his release of Cave Story. With a varying amount of backgrounds from independent game developers, you could also ask about what it is like to work in a certain aspect of game development (such as art). It’s really cool on how they approach on creating their pieces that would be eventually be used in their current project. I even got some tips on how I could explore a certain area of game development that I have always wanted to try out (which I’ll go over that in a later post). Hearing on what people have to say in these conversations is what makes me enjoy the independent gaming community for the type of people that are involved with making games.

Oh and lastly, if you are a game developer that is working on a game that is looking for other people to help you on your projects, going to these kind of meetups is not a bad idea. There is a chance you could meet someone who have the same interests as you have. I have been asked by a couple people if I could contribute to their projects. As much as I would like to help them, I was too busy to set aside my own time. After all, I still have some projects that I would like to revisit in the near future.

Did the last night’s event help spark up my interest in game development? I like to think it did a little bit. I couldn’t have picked a better time to try and spark my passion for game development once more because life has started easing its grip on me, allowing me more time to do what I please. I may be able to start making games in the near future. Perhaps I could explore that aspect that I mentioned earlier on my post in the near future.

That’s all I have for now. Until next time, don’t be strangers!

This post is reposted at Last Token Gaming. Come here to check out the post and give me and the other writers some love!

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Nostalgia Game Review: Spyro the Dragon

Look at that majestic dragon!

Look at that majestic dragon!

Ahh Spyro the Dragon. This was an another game that I remembered playing at my aunt’s house years ago during the glorious PSOne years. I was drawn to this game because of the fact that you could play as a dragon. I also saw the commercials for the game which made me drawn to the game even more. I remember the good times I had from roasting sheep to well-done and ramming those nasty green bad guys to grab different colored gems. 14 years later, I managed to get this game at the PSN store and I had the pleasure playing this game again!

As it turns out, Spyro the Dragon was made to appeal to the younger audience so that Sony could broaden its audience. Around the time this game was made, all of the other hits were appealing to the older audience (with the exception of Crash Bandicoot) like Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evil, etc., so it was about time that the kiddies back in the day could have another game to play with. Insomniac Games (the guys behind Rachet and Clank series) managed to rise to the occasion. As the result, the kids yet again have another 3D classic gem for the Playstation library.

Spyro the Dragon takes place in the mythical Dragon Kingdom where dragons exist in harmony. That is, until Gnasty Gnorc  imprison all of the dragons into their crystal forms except for our main hero Spyro. As the small purple dragon with attitude, you have to traverse through all 5 realms to save all of your fellow dragons and defeat Gnasty once and for all.

This adventure takes Spyro through all 5 different realms before going to Ghastly’s world to settle the score. Each realm has different levels for Spyro to traverse through and rescue the dragons as well as collecting stolen gems and eggs (which the eggs are held by those nasty blue thieves). In each of the realms, there is a level where you can control Spyro as he flies and you have to hit all of the obstacles in order to complete the flight levels. In addition, each realm also has a boss which can pose a challenge to the player.

This is one of the earliest games where 3D controls are introduced which became the staple of all 3D games today. By that, I mean you could move your character with the joystick and use shoulder buttons to move the camera around. You could also look into the first person(ish) perspective by holding the triangle button. However, the camera is situated behind Spyro’s head rather in front of his head as the more modern 3D games have done. As someone who was more used to modern 3D game controls, it took me some time to gain a grasp of that. But I forgive this game. Besides, it is an early 3D game. Besides, having the ability to make Spyro glide (along with making Spyro ram into enemies and roast his foes) aren’t really shabby either. I mean, how could you not love gliding, burning your enemies, and ramming your enemies? I’d say it is rather satisfying!

The former drummer of The Police was responsible for composing the soundtrack in this game. For a former drummer, it was rather surprising to see what he managed to pull off in the electronic music department. Each of these tracks in the game were given a nice mythical feel to them, which fits the game rather well. Not to mention that the music on its own was decent to say the least. For some reason, the theme of the Peace Keepers realm has always stuck in my head for years and to this day I could still remember how it sounds.

Another great thing about this game is the ridiculous amount of variety that was put into this game. The developers went all out and added the variety to the realms, the levels in the realms, and the enemies that dwell in them. Each realm was never similar to the other, and in each of the differentiating levels, there are different enemies in which you have to defeat. Even through the number of  different enemies per level was rather small, you could never expect who you would face next when you step into a new level. In addition, the flight levels in each of the realms are a nice departure from the usual platforming that you have to do so often. The design that is put into the game complements each level and enemies rather well, as each enemy has a slightly different strategy in order to defeat these enemies.

At the time this game was made, it was more common practice in platformers to create enemies that have only have one function, which is to move around in a certain pattern. Spyro the Dragon departed from this usual formula to create the enemies with a AI that was more complex at the time. The enemies are more intractable to the player. For the most part, they don’t attack the player until the they get close. There are other enemies that do more than just that. Like the enemies manning cannons who would fire the cannon balls at Spyro and…this.

Why yes, they are indeed mooning Spyro.

Why yes, they are indeed mooning Spyro.

It’s always a treat when the developers try to deviate from the usual formula. And that’s where Insomniac Games did it fantastically well with the enemies in this game.

There is only one minor thing they could have done to make this game better. Before I say this, I’ll say that it is indeed a game made for the younger audience. That being said, the difficulty level in this game is rather not suited for the players that are looking for a challenge from the game (unless they are trying to earn a 100% completion in this game). The difficulty does curve up a bit later in the game, but for me, the curve isn’t well adjusted enough. Even though that the strategy slightly varies within each different enemy, it didn’t take much time to figure out how to best a new foe. Once I got to that point, I managed to (almost) breeze through the level without much trouble. Despite the fact that the difficulty did pick up at the fourth realm, it would have been more reasonable if the game didn’t take as long for the curve to slope up. Other than that, the challenge is rather reasonable for all players alike, which it’s not bad considering that it is a kid’s game.

Overall, it is a fantastic game. Even though it doesn’t age as well as other older games, it is rather a fun game to play if you are wanting to take a trip down memory lane or if you are a kid that have yet to hit their pre-teen years. However, if you don’t fit into either of these categories, its not a bad game to play. Even though it may be too easy for some people, its rather satisfying ramming your enemies or burning your enemies to crisp. If the lack of challenge is the only bad thing in this game, I’d say that Insomniac Games did a fantastic job making Sony reach out to the younger audiences as well as making the game enjoyable for everyone (I mean, how often do you get to play as a dragon and breathe fire?). This game deserves my score of 9 out of 10. If you are curious about this game and if you own a PS4, you could wait until this game is available in Playstation Now and try it out for yourself. Or if you don’t want to wait and if you have a PS3, you could just buy it from PSN no problem! Its pretty cheap too!

I’ll end this review with a interesting fact: One of the tracks used in Spyro The Dragon is used for The Amanda Show (that one Nick show that aired in the 90s). Listen to the track here and the show theme song here and hear for yourself!

Until next time, take care and don’t be strangers!