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Going Indie: Making the Transition from Cog to Linchpin

This weekend Cathy led a workshop on running an indie game studio. The workshop was part of a series called ‘New Game Makers,’ run by Dames Making Games and Bento Miso, and offered workshop participants the opportunity to learn from different speakers about the various aspects of game development. Cathy’s workshop, titled ‘Inside the Studio: Games from Idea to Production,’ focused on what it’s like to make the transition into indie game development.

The event led me to my first experience with both Dames Making Games and Bento Miso. I’d heard of DMG before and I know that Tim works at Bento Miso a few times a week, but I first got to see the space when we went to a DMG social the night before Cathy’s presentation. It looked like a pretty awesome place to work and the people were welcoming and friendly- which is exactly what I’d heard about Toronto’s gaming community. The social also introduced me to the Jeuxly participants (who would attend the workshop the following day) and their games-in-progress.

The workshop started off with a review of Cathy’s background in animation and the history of Rocket 5. Cathy talked about Rocket 5’s beginnings, and what it’s like to make the choice to ‘go indie’ when it comes to game development. She talked about salary VS self-employment, and the workshop participants were quick to help provide risks associated with working for someone else and the benefits of being your own boss. Cathy stressed that making this choice is personal and not everyone should make the same one, but that when it comes to choosing self-employment, one of the most important things to remember is that YOU are a valuable asset.

When talking about Rocket 5’s beginnings, Cathy also emphasized the importance of being flexible and ‘diversifying your revenue streams.’ Taking in contracts for extra money has been important to Rocket 5’s ability to produce original games. This flexibility meant solid teamwork, as well, and Cathy went on to talk about the importance of choosing your team carefully and maintaining a professional relationship when you’re working, even if you’re close to your co-worker (say, husband and wife).

While the choice to go indie and the task of choosing your team is entirely personal, so is your concept of success. Cathy outlined Rocket 5’s criteria for success in 5 points:

(1) Does this make us happy?

(2) Are we making games we love?

(3) Do other people love our games?

(4) Do our games receive critical acclaim?

(5) Do we make enough money to live comfortably?

This definition of success is entirely subjective to Rocket 5, but it means that the inspiration for games is not, ‘What sort of game will make the most money?’ I think this is why the indie gamer community is so colourful; profit isn’t the only driving force behind these games. There’s room to be unique and innovative, and make games you love, so indie game developers aren’t just pumping out game after derivative game.

Cathy spoke about the resources available to indie gamers, particularly in Toronto. The Toronto game development community, which I’m just getting to know myself, is completely friendly and accessible for people just getting into game development. It’s growing more and more each day, too, increasing the potential for games to rise up as a more popular art form. In addition to this, there are plenty of online learning resources for game developers, and Cathy suggests that anyone looking to get into the industry should ‘be a sponge.’ Soak up all the information you can get and remember that learning never really stops. Check out this past blog post for a ton of links to some of these resources.

After this, the workshop participants broke into groups. Cathy and Tim explained the components of a basic game design document, gave each group a fill-in-the-blank version of one, and asked them to come up with some game ideas. Tim suggested each member of the group pitch an idea and then the group would choose the best one. The ‘teams’ only had about an hour to do this, but when the time was up, it was amazing what kind of ideas they’d managed to come up with. Each group presented their game concept, and the ideas ranged from the more traditional to entirely experimental. It was awesome to see everyone so involved in the exercise and eager to get their ideas out there. One group even said they had four fully fleshed out game ideas and had difficulty choosing only one to present.


It was great to hear all of Cathy and Tim’s advice, learn about game design docs, and then see the workshop participants so enthusiastic about what they were hearing. It was an awesome experience and has me more and more excited about getting to know Toronto’s game dev community, which is apparently full of motivated people with exciting new ideas and an eagerness to collaborate.

Some Relevant Links

About the Author


Christine Feraday is a new addition to Rocket 5. She is attending University of Toronto St. George, studying psychology and English, and is super excited to be a part of the Rocket 5 team!
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TAAFI’s Animation Panel Gives Folks Something to Chew On

TAAFI IconEarlier this month, Cathy spoke on a panel at TAAFI called ‘Press A to Jump: Animation, Art and Interactivity.’ Being a new intern at Rocket 5 (and the panelist’s niece), I was really excited to hear what Toronto’s indie game developers had to say about animating. Cathy was representing not only Rocket 5 but women in indie gaming, being the only female panelist, though the event was hosted by animator Sagan Yee. The other panelists were Jay Edry, Matt Hammill, Miguel Sternberg and Ryan Henson Creighton.

As the panelists explained their background and played demo reels to display their previous work, I recognized a few of the games mentioned and found myself making note of a few I’d want to play in the future. These introductions gave way to a discussion about the differences between animating for features and animating for indie video games.

TAAFI

Image courtesy of Matt Hammill!

Cathy’s experience in animating for features came into play here, and she talked about how audience interaction in feature films differs from video games. The character’s believability as a living thing is more important in a film, where the audience is passive. In a video game, the player is the main character. Complex character animation is less important than appropriate reaction times and believable movement. Miguel Sternberg expanded on this by talking about anticipation time before a jump. Certain trade-offs need to be made in order to achieve the right sort of realism; animation may be simpler, but the character moves in a convincing way with a realistic reaction time. Jay Edry pointed out that these limitations (as well as a limited budget) force you to be creative and devise innovative ways to produce your desired games, which is why we see so many unique games in the indie community.

The panelists talked about the multidisciplinary nature of video games; how the very technical aspects mesh together with the artistic. Matt Hammill’s game ‘Gesundheit,’ for example, incorporates his hand-drawn art. His artwork adds a unique texture and atmosphere to the game. The panelists each had different preferences for artistic or technical work, and Ryan Creighton explained the process of using Flash to animate (though most panelists agreed that using Flash can be frustrating, to put it mildly).

Cathy

My technical understanding is limited, but I found myself engaged by the discussions. Most inspiring, though, was the encouragement the panelists gave to all the aspiring animators, programmers and game designers in the audience. They talked about the rewarding experience of creating your own games and the growing indie game community in Toronto. Cathy pointed out that there’s no real hierarchy when it comes to game design and animation work; it depends on what you’re happy doing.

And we’re happy at Rocket 5!

The panel was a great experience. The audience seemed engaged and the panelists had great advice to share. And, of course, it was awesome to see Cathy talking about her experience and her love for her work. Plus, after the panel, Cathy and I got to go watch short films (“Straight Up Toons”) and eat popcorn. Nom.

Cathy will be doing another workshop soon for Dames Making Games. “Inside the Studio: Games From Idea to Production” is on July 28th and tickets are $15. Get your ticket!

Panelists’ Websites

Jay EdryDrinkBox Studios
Matt Hammill
Miguel Sternberg – Spooky Squid Games
Ryan Henson Creighton – Untold Entertainment
Sagan Yee

About the Author


Christine Feraday is a new addition to Rocket 5. She is attending University of Toronto St. George, studying psychology and English, and is super excited to be a part of the Rocket 5 team!
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Press Kits Are Now Available

We now have press kits available for all of our games and apps. Each press kit .zip file contains the app’s description, info (app store & video links, price, category, etc), screen shots, icons, and logos.

You can download each press kit from the links below or from the Press page.

Media kit for Alien Booth
Media Kit for Giant Moto
Media Kit for Gaga Eyes
Media Kit for iSpoof Walken
Media Kit for Small Space
Media Kit for Holeshot Drag Racing

If you want to know more about Rocket 5 and our games or if you’d like a promo code for use in your review, please email tim at rocket5project.com.

Rocket 5 Buttons at Fan Expo

Rocket 5 ButtonsWe have buttons! Lots and lots of buttons! And we’re giving most of them away at Fan Expo Canada in Toronto this weekend!

Becka and Melanie will be handing them out on the floor and Kris Johnson, our Christopher Walken impersonator, will be giving them out at his booth where he’ll be showing off iSpoof Walken and also pimping a 66 page “Spy Guy” Graphic Novel. The booth is located in Artist’s Alley on an end cap right across from the DC Comics and Stylin’ t-shirt booth.

If you stop by the Spy Guy booth, be sure to show Kris your iSpoof Walken app on your iPhone, Touch or iPad and he’ll do a free voicemail impersonation on your phone for you!

Rocket 5 Buttons

I didn’t count all the buttons but I figure we made about 800 buttons in all! Special thanks to Ray, Melanie, Becka, Max, Renee and Cathy for cutting out all the images and making the buttons! We couldn’t have done it without you guys! Thank you thank you thank you!