Portfolio Updates

Latest updates to my portfolio (accessible under “Pages”):

Digital Graphic Novel Project – prototype of a graphic novel multimedia creation process.

Game-Making page – a more organized listing of my past game development projects.

Quoted in the Game Developer Magazine’s Fall 2009 Game Career Guide

After the last TOJam in May 2009, Jim McGinley, one of the TOJam organizers, put several of the TOJam participants, including myself, in touch with Jeffrey Fleming, who works for the Game Developer Magazine, to write about our experiences with the various game-making technologies that we used when making our games. At the time, Jeffrey was covering the Toronto’s independent game development scene, as part of his Do It Yourself! article in the GDMag’s Fall 2009 Game Career Guide (page 15).

I wrote to Jeffrey about my experiences with Flash, Flex, Torque Game Builder, Adventure Game Studio, and Microsoft XNA, including the pros and cons for each in the type of game being made. A couple of snippets of my written experiences with Torque Game Builder were quoted on page 16. :)

Game Career Guide is a special standalone magazine issue presented by the Game Developer Magazine and aimed at students and recent graduates as a helpful guide towards starting, and later maintaining, one’s career in the game industry. It is available online for free.

Yellow Belt!

After grading in November, I am now starting the 2010 year of Wado Kai karate as a yellow belt! Last class I was introduced to a new kata: Pinan Nidan. I observed this kata being performed by yellow belts before, but now I actually got to do it.  :) After training the basic Kihon kata as a white belt, the Pinan marks my first step into training some advanced kata.

Yellow Belt!

The Toronto Wado Kai karate dojo is focused on teaching techniques that can be used for self-defense, more so than training specifically for tournaments. The Toronto dojo still participates in tournaments, as we practice the basic karate techniques; however, training focused on self-defense exposes us to techniques otherwise not allowed at tournaments. You could say we train primarily for the streets, in which case the focus is on survival, and not necessarily a fair fight. For instance, in a sequence of take-down techniques, hitting below the belt can be an early step you perform to distract your opponent while you proceed with a joint lock to control the opponent and finally take him down. The students at our dojo are also exposed to a variety of self-defense techniques belonging to other martial arts, such as Judo.

Karate training is an excellent way to stay in shape and a great way to stay sane after hours of coding. To anyone sitting in front of a computer for long periods of time, I extremely recommend getting involved in a physically and mentally rewarding activity, whatever that may be. Going to the gym is obviously an excellent way to stay in shape, but I find that lifting weights alone gets boring very quickly, unless you have something else to occupy your mind with. This is not to say that gym is not useful; often times the karate training alone is not enough to keep my endurance up in all cases, so additional cardio work is always welcome. Though, as a single activity, karate is one that balances mental and physical challenges very well.

TechVibes Interview

Last November I was interviewed by Eric Floresca on behalf of Techvibes technology blog about The Empire Game and the involvement our Fun Forged team had with the Vortex Competition during the past couple of years. I met Eric at the Vortex 2009, where we (Fun Forged) were given a great opportunity to present our open beta launch of The Empire Game. This interview is one of many we have done to spread the word about The Empire Game and our company.

Here is Eric’s article on Techvibes: Link

The Empire Game

Happy New Decade!

Time sure flies since last I posted. Looking back at 2009, it’s been quite an eventful year for me. Since the start of last year, right after I completed my university degree, I have been busy working with my friends at Fun Forged making The Empire Game. Working on this game last year was a time well-spent, making 2009 a fond year to remember.

Fun Forged

The Empire Game is a team-oriented strategy MMO, where you take control of an empire belonging to a team to compete for dominance by crushing other empires and conquering their land, forging alliances with other teams,  and eventually backstabbing your allies as you climb towards becoming the most powerful empire. “Power” is a measure of your empire’s economic and military might, so the most powerful empire is usually one that maintains a balance between their offensive and defensive military forces and their internal economy (to sustain their military).

For me personally, it was the year to do this; I simply could not pass out on the opportunity to work on an MMO straight out of university with a group of very talented people who are also great friends. Our core development team is currently 5 people, including myself. Making The Empire Game was a labour of love, yet also a serious undertaking made even more so by our lack of financial support.  There were stressful and frustrating moments to weather, but it all led to one great game, and an awesome “high five” material for us to be proud of. :)

The Empire Game is currently available online for people to enjoy, and it has been in open beta for the past two months. We are currently improving and maintaining the game, with some very cool plans for it in the future.

San Francisco – The Coast, The Park, The Bridge

We continued our walk along the coast, observing the piers that curve and stretch out into the faraway distance.

Alcatraz Island loomed in the distance, our plans already forming to visit it in the following days. Sadly, the tours for the Rock were booked for the whole week of our stay in San Francisco.

Alcatraz Island

Continuing on a road leading to a park, we climbed a steep hill from where we could observe several residential and warehouse buildings (from the looks of it).

The Golden Gate Bridge still graced the panorama.

Finally, we arrived at the park, immediately noticing its palm trees adorning the surrounding open space. I couldn’t help but be drawn to the cloudy sky – the weather was getting worse.

 

 Yet our spirits were high and we once more set off for the bridge.

 

GDC 2009: San Francisco – Day 1

Even though it was my first time in the States, I couldn’t help but feel a bit underwhelmed at first. The arrival on American soil felt no more than a simple exchange of similar-looking airports. Only upon our departure from the San Francisco Airport did I began noticing the subtle differences: increased presence of security cameras, federal law warning signs, and audio security notifications. The BART transit system from the airport was convenient enough to get us downtown, from where we got ourselves Muni transit weekly passes (I believe Muni might be a cute way of saying “municipal” transit). I couldn’t help but compare San Franciso’s downtown to Toronto’s – the many subtle aesthetic differences raced through my mind. One of the first things that grabbed my attention away from the many tall buildings was a group of four police officers near the BART subway transit station, looking about. Though it might have been an odd instance for that day, rather than a usual occurrence, I felt a strange mix of safety and alertness.

Our travel bags gave us away as tourists in the dense crowd, which innevitably attracted what we later learned was a famous homeless guy of San Francisco. With great enthusiasm, he demanded our attention to show off his knowledge of the downtown area, pointing out some supposedly delicious places to eat. Taken aback by his extreme hospitality, we motioned our urgency to get going, which in retrospect we could have handled differently. The man made sure to point out our lack of tact with a few carefully chosen swear words to send us on our way. We stayed near the police officers during this time, before figuring out where to go next. As if to feel more like we were in Toronto, we chose to have lunch at an Asian restaurant. The food was quite good, though also quite expensive (later we realized how much this was true of groceries as well).

After getting acquainted with our hotel, we decided to explore the piers of Fisherman’s Wharf, known for its various seaside attractions, such as the tour of Alcatraz island, the Aquarium, and the Boudin bread bakery, to name a few. We heard there was a possibility of rain the next day, so we wanted to see as much as we could before GDC. So, we walked in the direction of the Golden Gate Bridge, keeping the option to cross it if we felt like it.

What was once a small speck in the distance became a giant walkable treat.

 Golden Gate Bridge from far away

In the end, the scale of our walk became epic.

The Epic Walk

Note that the image above does not show the path we actually took. With the exception of crossing the bridge, we walked off the road, close to the sea.

GDC 2009: Preparation

Last week I spent a week in San Francisco attending the Game Developer’s Conference 2009. I went with two of my friends, Mark and Andrei, who are also my co-workers at FunForged. Our initial plan was to volunteer at the conference, not only because of getting a free all-access pass to the conference, but also because of the abundance of networking opportunities there while meeting other volunteers. Alas, Mark and I did not manage to secure our volunteer positions, which we later understood to be because of the sheer number of applicants, the limited number of available volunteering positions, and the established priority being given to past volunteers (which tend to come back each year). Unlike us two, Andrei, having volunteered at the conference last year, managed to secure his position this year. Because of this, it was not a total loss, as we ended up meeting some of the volunteers Andrei hung out with. Still, I’m keeping my fingers crossed for next year. Hopefully, one of two things will happen before the next GDC: either more volunteer positions become available or less alumni volunteers apply … the former being more likely.

Even though I felt a healthy dose of disappointment after receiving the rejection message (I admit, my hopes were high), I decided to press on, turning next to my savings account. I was happy to note that at the time the conference website offered early bird pricing; however, even the discounted amount was not easy to behold. After much debating – going back and forth between the Expo, Summit, Conference, and All Access passes – Mark and I finally decided to purchase the Conference Pass, coughing up little over $1K CAD. At the time we felt it was a necessary evil; in retrospect, a good investment, but one I am not fond of.

Since Andrei was volunteering, we left for San Francisco two days before the conference started. For Mark and myself, this meant we would be spending four days exploring San Francisco prior to being able to attend the second part of the conference we purchased access to. This arrangement turned out well, as we got to see some cool stuff around San Francisco – albeit, not without a share of perilous adventures along the way.

Peirson International Airport

 

Cheese is War @ TOJam 2008

Cheese is War

Cheese is War is a game I participated in developing for the 2008 Toronto Independent Game Jam or TOJam. We made the game using Microsoft XNA framework. The cheese physics were made with the help of Farseer Physics Engine. The objective of the game is to push, tilt or stretch a tower of cheese on your opponent mouse by shooting the cheese mass with your bazooka. Deep within the core of the cheese tower, there are mines that explode upon impact with your shot projectile, which send the cheese tower ripping apart for added instability, which can aid or hinder your chances of winning. The winner is the mouse that withstands the least amount of damage from being crushed by the falling cheese.

Making this game was tons of fun. It was my first serious try at coding in XNA and I learned a lot from it. Check out the links below for the download page and the short game video.

Cheese is War Download Page (hosted by TOJam)

Cheese is War on YouTube

Credits:

Andrei Petrov – Programmer
Andy Hammerlindl – Programmer (cheese string physics)
Ante Bralic – Programmer, Graphics
Jennifer Ruttan – Programmer, Graphics
Thuan Ta – Programmer
Liesl Anipare – Graphics
Darie Petrov – Sound
Barry Rowe – Graphics

Wheel of Space Game

Wheel of Space is a quirky adventure game created by myself and Mark Cautillo for the Game-Making Deathmatch 2008.

Download – 18 MB

The GMD 2008 competition ran for three weeks during which time the contestants need to create a game based on one of two given themes:

  1. Deadly Viruses from Dimension N+1.
  2. Planet Earth and Frogs with Potatoes on the side.

Now, Mark and I wanted to create an adventure game in the spirit of Sierra’s old Space Quest games, with all the ridiculousness added in, so we chose theme 2.We made the game in Adventure Game Studio. This enabled us to focus on the game’s silly humour, CG art, and sound (which included voice acting, sound effects, and music). There was minimal programming involved in this project, which was a departure from what both of us usually do for GMD competitions. In programming-intensive games, such as my Blood Vessel game made in Flash, I tend to challenge myself to learn a new programming (or scripting) language, whereas the development of WoS was a challenge in other aspects of game development, such as writing and art.The part that was most fun to do was voice acting. :)

We recorded about 240 lines of spoken dialogue, most of it adventure game styled narration (for looking at things, using objects, etc). We both played several roles. I played the majority of the game’s narrators, which was tons of fun. Mark voiced the introduction narration, the game’s hero and Commander Obama (a play on “Commander Adama”, from Battlestar Galactica Sci-Fi show). We used Audacity to remove the noise from all our recordings, and to tweak the pitch of introductory narration and Commander Obama. The computer voices we borrowed from the text-to-speech generated output provided by AT&T Labs TTS Demo.

Whee of Space

The most challenging part in making WoS was creating the CG art. I was in charge of creating all of the game’s environment backgrounds and their animations. Even though it was a lot of work to complete within a short period of time, it was nevertheless time-well-spent in practicing CG painting and the general use of some cool features in Adobe Photoshop.

Whee of Space

Whee of Space

During the making of this game, I realized how much work there was behind making only a small fraction of the classic adventure games in the 90′s, from companies such as Sierra and Lucas Arts; especially in terms of the amount of voice-over dialogue that needed to be recorded to cover the large amounts of game text. Even a simple action of looking at the in-game environment within a particular scene accounts for about a dozen lines of text – if the scene is simple, and even more text if the scene contains a puzzle that changes the state of the environment. Add to that the various items the player can use to interact with the environment, and a simple scene can take several days to complete.

Speaking of in-game items: in keeping with the second competition theme, we decided to add a potato to the player’s inventory, which the player can use to interact with the various parts of the game’s environments. The same holds true for the talk, look, and touch actions. Try them out. :)

Whee of Space