Jaime Woo on the End of Gamercamp and Building a Community

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Jaime Woo on the End of Gamercamp and Building a Community

Jaime recouping on the final night of Gamercamp

Jaime recouping on the final night of Gamercamp

Co-founded by Jaime Woo, Gamercamp was a games festival created mostly for the founder's curiosity.

They heard Torontonians were making games and getting attention for it, but couldn't see the games anywhere.  So they made their own event based in their hometown. Their first year, it was just a series of talks in a small theatre on one day, and despite a rocky start they kept at it. Six years later, Gamercamp was the biggest festival of its kind in the city, including an arcade and multiple parties in a single weekend. Compared to even a medium-sized convention like IndieCade, Gamercamp is tiny. Yet, by any measure, it's been a success. Which is why the decision to close up shop came as a surprise to some, and upset a few others.

We brought Jaime into the studio to talk about those early years and why he's decided to end Gamercamp.


Jaime Woo is a technology writer, and author of the book Meet Grindr. You can find him on Twitter @JaimeWoo and on his website. Thanks for the Free Music Archive for "Carousel" by johnny_ripper.

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Stephan Tanguay on Virtual Reality and Forgetting About the Machine

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Stephan Tanguay on Virtual Reality and Forgetting About the Machine

Courtesy Stephan Tanguay

Courtesy Stephan Tanguay

Stephan Tanguay loves virtual reality. He's looking forward to day where he completely forgets he's tethered to a computer. Eventually, he wants a holodeck, but with that a little farther away than he'd like, he'll settle for an Oculus and a Razer Hydra. Stephan runs the local virtual reality meet up here in Toronto, and is developing his own virtual reality game for the upcoming headset, the Oculus Rift.

His goal is to expose more people and designers to the possibilities of virtual reality. The technology has never been better or more usable, and he ran a presentation at the Future. Innovation. Technology. Creativity. conference back in May to explain just that. That doesn't mean the Oculus is perfect by any means. Right now the capabilities are thin. The resolution isn't high enough and long term play can induce motion sickness. Not to mention, that if you have the wrong kind of controller, virtual reality can be downright awkward to explore.

Stephan believes we're going to work through all that. As he put it, VR is a wild frontier. He's using the Razer Hydra, a highly precise handheld motion controller, for his games, and he's forward to the STEM which can track a lot of upper body movement. If the future's as bright as Stephan sees it, we aren't all that far away from a day where we completely lose track of whether we're in the real world or virtual one.

The Sixense STEM motion controller development kit

The Sixense STEM motion controller development kit

Stephan Tanguay is a game designer and Unity 3D developer. You can find his work at his website Call2Action and find him on Twitter @StephanTanguay. The music in this interview came from the Free Music Archive: "Song D'Automne" by Latch Swing.

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Marcus Lindblom on EarthBound's Localization and History

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Marcus Lindblom on EarthBound's Localization and History

Courtesy of Fangamer.net

Courtesy of Fangamer.net

When he was handed the editing job, Marcus Lindblom had never heard of EarthBound before, or the Mother series. They'd just told him that about 10 per cent of the editing had already been done, and that he'd be working with a new translator, Masayuki Miura who had previously worked for Ape. Marcus had edited the translation of a couple games before this, but they were all small projects. He usually dealt with games where the biggest problems were editing menus and item descriptions, leaving not much room for creativity. But here was this long role playing game with funny dialogue, complicated characters and an exceptional world.

To no one's surprise, that meant a lot of hard work. Marcus worked 14 hour days, and had to crunch soon after the birth of his daughter. The localization process was also challenging, not just because of the translation. They had no dedicated software beyond a text editor. So Miura would toss him a line, a name or a description and Marcus would think for a moment and then write something down. Miura would type that back into the computer, sifting between the code and the language. They'd do this without the full script, not knowing how the game would end, and didn't have much opportunity to play the game to gather the context. And that was the job every day for around 3 months. 

It's also strange to consider Marcus didn't think much of the game. When Nintendo first released EarthBound in 1995, they considered it a flop. It had a bad advertising campaign, was too ahead of its time or any number of reasons. So for around 10 years, it was more a personal success than a public one, even as a fan base grew online.

Marcus currently works at Carried Away Games. You can find him on twitter @CarriedAwayGame. The music in this episode was EarthBound Brainshock by aluminium on OCRemix.

 

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Colin Williamson on Codifying Final Fantasy

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Colin Williamson on Codifying Final Fantasy

From Final Fantasy I

From Final Fantasy I

Colin Williamson worked for Square Enix for seven years, six of which he was a localization specialist. That meant a lot of things back then, writing dialogue, editing scripts, coordinating with the Japanese team, but essentially, he helped make their games understandable in North America. Localization is a tricky process, especially when Japanese is barely compatible with English in terms of grammar or culture. Or consider the games he worked on: 100-hour role playing games filled with item names, dialogue, and menus that all needed translating.

One of his biggest achievements, however, is on the Game Boy Advance release of the old Final Fantasy games. Square decided in the mid-2000s that they would retranslate the Super Nintendo classics. Everyone loves Ted Woosley, the most famous Final Fantasy translator, but his translation was inconsistent, and in some cases rushed due to extreme time constraints. So Colin, and his team, ended up dealing with a lot of seemingly insignificant questions. Was the item that revived a party member, Pheonix Down, Fenix Down, or Pheonix Feather? Do they keep the old Ted Woolsey pop culture references that worked in 1995, but not so much in 2005? Their solution was a massive spreadsheet that eventually became the Final Fantasy series' complete lexicon. 

To hear more from Colin, his time at Square, and how the industry's changed since Woolsey just click play.

Courtesy colinwiliamson.com

Courtesy colinwiliamson.com

Colin currently works at 17-Bit Games working on Galak-Z. He can be found on Twitter @ColinWilliamson. The music in this interview is "Hungraria" by Latch Swing from the Free Music Archive. 

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Conatus Creative on River City Ransom, Punching and Smiles

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Conatus Creative on River City Ransom, Punching and Smiles

One day, Daniel Crenna of Conatus Creative came across sprites for an unofficial River City Ransom sequel on TIGsource. Armed with the knowledge that it was possible to get the official licence, Crenna recruited the artist, recruited a team, and sent off an application. He wanted to make the first North American sequel to the NES classic, River City Ransom, and he wanted to do it with the creator's blessing.

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Fast forward to September 2013, and Conatus Creative has a Kickstarter for River City Ransom Underground, an officially licensed sequel to the game Crenna loved as a child. Not only do they have the creator's blessing, but they're also collaboration with Yoshihisa Kishimoto, the creator of Double Dragon and Kunio-kun, the series that became River City Ransom in the west.

We spoke to Daniel Crenna, the producer on River City Ransom Underground, his brother, Dustin Crenna, the audio director, and Mark De Verno, the gameplay developer.

Together, they explain what it's like getting the rights to a 20-year-old game, how you follow up what most consider to be the first open world game, and how the economic depression has affected the once rock bottom price of smiles. 

For more information on River City Ransom Underground, you can find their Kickstarter here. This interview was originally broadcast as part of an episode of Built to Play

Music used in this interview comes from the following albums: Mega Ran in River City Random and River City Ransom OST. For more of the 20-year-old soundtrack from Japan, take a listen to the song below. 

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Farhang Namdar on Dragons with Jetpacks and Competing Against Giants

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Farhang Namdar on Dragons with Jetpacks and Competing Against Giants

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Farhang Namdar is the lead game designer of the Divinity role playing game series. He's been working for Larian Studios for more than 10 years, and making new Divinity games all the while. Larian is all the way out in Belgium, which comes with its advantages. It's a medieval university town that's older than the United States and Canada, and is filled with history and culture. It's one of the few towns in Belgium whose top political candidates are the Green Party and the Socialist Party. However, Belgium, along with most of Europe, has a lot of taxes and they don't spare small companies like Larian. So Farhang's forced to focus on his priorities, making the gameplay as engaging as possible within their minute budget. 

Larian's most recent game is Divinity: Dragon Commander, which is unique for two reasons. Firstly it is simultaneously a RPG, a board game and a real time strategy game. Secondly, you can transform into a dragon with a jetpack. Farhang explains how both these elements ended up in the game, and why he's proud of the outcome. 

You can find out more about Divinity: Dragon Commander here. Larian Studios upcoming game is a Divinity prequel called, Divinity: Original Sin. 

The music in this episode is from Johnny_Ripper, Luca La Morgia and the Dragon Commander Soundtrack. For a sampling, you can find some of the tracks on Youtube.  

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Jordan Weisman on Returning to Shadowrun and Designing a Game Meant to be Shared

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Jordan Weisman on Returning to Shadowrun and Designing a Game Meant to be Shared

After going through Kickstarter and releasing Shadowrun Returns a year later, Jordan Weisman talks about rediscovering his audience, his family and the difference between designing a tabletop role playing game and a video game.

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Weisman created the tabletop RPG Shadowrun back in 1989. The cyberpunk fantasy world combined the rigid dystopian future pioneered by writers like William Gibson and combined them with a familiar sense of magic found in other rpgs at the time. Weisman was behind multiple start-up companies, all which tackled games from a different angle. He was behind the Halo 2 alternate reality game I Love Bees and Year Zero for the band Nine Inch Nails. It took, however, until 2007 before he decided to go back to the franchise that jump-started this career. In 2012 his newest company, Harebrained Schemes Studios, launched a kickstarter for Shadowrun Returns. Just over a year later they completed it, and are now working on the second campaign - Berlin.

Shadowrun Returns received mixed to positive reviews back in June, and is now available on Steam. Parts of this interview were originally broadcast on episode 17 of Built to Play. 

 

The music used in this interview includes Epsilon Not, Johnny-Ripper and Jared C Balogh under a creative commons license. It also uses a track from Shadowrun (Sega Genesis), and one track from Shadowrun Returns. For more of the Shadowrun Returns soundtrack, listen online. 

Full Playlist: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UDW0s6s0P64&list=PL1Uj0cNo6vn3oAxrduZt8VXpMsGqka0hZ&index=1 ~enjoy

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Matt Gilgenbach on his Neverending Nightmares

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Matt Gilgenbach on his Neverending Nightmares

Matt Gilgenbach spent five years at Heavy Iron Studios, before deciding to strike out on his own. His first game was called Retro/Grade, a rhythm-based space shooter done backwards. It's a tough game to describe. Despite multiple positive reviews, the game was an utter flop and Matt fell into a period of depression. Retro/Grade took four years of his life with zero salary without stopping. Eventually he overcame his depressive spell, and decided to take inspiration from it. Thus came Neverending Nightmares, a horror game drawn from Matt's own obsessions and morbid fantasies. Neither of which he particularly enjoys having, but if he's going to have obsessions, he might as well use them to his advantage.

The game follows Adam, who is having a particularly poor time of keeping track of reality. Neverending Nightmares' aesthetic, drawn from German Expressionism and horror films, makes you second guess how real Adam's surroundings are or whether the terrifying situation he's stuck in has finally killed you.  

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You can download this episode here.

The music used in this interview is from Junior8, Downliners Sekt, and Coma Stereo. You can find them all on the Free Music Archive.

Neverending Nightmares is currently on Kickstarter with a $99,000 goal. Should he reach his goal, he is also applying for the contraversial Ouya's Free the Games contest which would double his earnings. For more from Matt, you can check out his twitter

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Christine Love, the Visual Novel, and Cake Photos

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Christine Love, the Visual Novel, and Cake Photos

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Christine Love is a video game designer based out of Toronto who has just released her new title, Hate Plus. According to unofficial sources, she is a "visual novelist" which is a fairly unique title in North America. While the genre (also known as eroge) has its fans (in games like Ace Attorney) it is far more popular in Japan than in the West. It's a genre that provides hours of reading, multiple choices, audio clips and an engaging plot, since that's the sole focus of the game. Love also included a achievement in the game which requires the player to complete a delicious task in real life. Discover what it takes to make a visual novel, the themes behind Hate Plus and the how the game transitioned from an expansion pack to a full game all its own in this interview done by Daniel Rosen. 

Love's other games include: Digital: A Love Storydon't take it personally, babe, it just ain't your story, Analogue: A Hate Story. 

Hate Plus is available on Steam or through its website. The song used in this interview is the game's theme "It's not Ero!"

 

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Steve Gaynor on Gone Home, Fun Home and Storytelling in Games

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Steve Gaynor on Gone Home, Fun Home and Storytelling in Games

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Steve Gaynor founded the Fullbright Company alongside Johnnemann Nordhagen, and Karla Zimonja in 2012. They were fresh off of working on the Bioshock series, notably producing the best part of Bioshock 2 - the Minerva's Den DLC, when they decided to make their own game that felt like the story of that series with none of the combat. The game instead feels more like exploration of family life and a certain era. In this interview, Gaynor discusses how they put the game together, its origin, and how they developed many of the the themes in Gone Home. 

Spoiler Warning: We do discuss a major character beat about 20 minutes into the interview. It's not a massive spoiler, but it does colour your perspective on the game. If you want to really go in fresh, stop listening to interviews and go play the game. 

You can buy Gone Home on Steam and through their website. 

Below is their trailer, featuring one of the songs on their soundtrack, Style Now - Riot Grrrl. The song we used in the interview is unrelated, but can be found here. For more of Gone Home's music, check out their description of it here. 

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