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Dec 14 2016

2016 Review

2016 has been an interesting year with a range of different projects. We have been wo...

Dec 14 2016 By: Charlie Close

2016 Review

2016 has been an interesting year with a range of different projects. We have been working on applying game design and development technology & methods to new areas, and trying to further our skills and knowledge in this regard.

 

Our Work for the Year

Following the release of Iwo: Bloodbath in the Bonins late in 2015, the game was eventually Greenlit on Steam, and released mid-May.

Throughout the year we worked with IbisVision to help develop a new visual field test designed for the early detection of glaucoma.

In April we ran a game development workshop for deaf children alongside the National Deaf Children’s Society, hosted by Abertay University. The event lasted a day with small groups working on individual games. Each team was separated into those interested in art and those keen more programming, and by the end of the day every team had their own game up and running. We compiled all the games into a single app and released it shortly after.

Towards the end of the year we worked on a serious game project called Wiggeldi, which was released specifically in Germany. It’s a game based on preventative healthcare, where the player cares for a pet alien, and build up their reputation on a mock social media page.

wiggeldi_promo_image

Aside from the projects that took place throughout the year, there were also a few random and awesome things which happened:

 

In April the V&A Museum of Design Dundee represented the UK at the XXI Milan Design Triennale, which included a showcase for Play to Cure: Genes in Space.

Play to Cure: Genes in Space was also featured at the Dundee Design Festival a month later in May.

In June Guerilla Tea and friends took part in Tough Mudder 2016 at Drumlanrig Castle. It was muddy, exhausting and a lot of fun! Here’s us looking fresh and motivated before the madness…

gt_toughmudder_2016

 

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May 10 2016

NDCS Workshop 2016

Workshop Summary Recently Guerilla Tea teamed up with the National Deaf Children’s So...

May 10 2016 By: Charlie Close

NDCS Workshop 2016

Workshop Summary

Recently Guerilla Tea teamed up with the National Deaf Children’s Society and Abertay University to run a game development workshop with a group of deaf children.

There were several objectives we wished to achieve during the day. Primarily we wanted to show the group that game making can be for everyone, no matter your background or situation. We also aimed to introduce some of the core game development principles and procedures without the need for any prior knowledge.

The day started with a short registration, including the group receiving Guerilla Tea T-shirts, making each of them honorary members of Guerilla Tea for the day…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This was followed by an awesome introductory ‘warm-up’ game coordinated by the NDCS staff, involving quick reactions.
We then ran through what the day would involve with short introductory talks from ourselves and Abertay. Alex gave a light hearted introduction to what code is, what it does within game development, and how our favourite games are underpinned by maths. Matt introduced visual design in games and the role that artwork and artists can have in game development. The talks culminated in a great inspirational speech from Abertay Lecturer Ryan Locke about why we love games and how that love can translate to game-making and one day game development as a career, and the routes made possible through courses at Abertay University.

From here, we split the group into the children interested in programming and those more keen on the art side, then put together the coders and artists into small teams of three or four.

Before jumping into anything technical, we began the day’s development with an initial design session for all the teams. During the prior week, we had put together the bare bones of a top-down endless runner game, and the design section essentially involved each team filling out a worksheet allowing them to come up with themes for the various parts of the game. They had a chance to choose the setting, the type of player character, the enemies and a selection of power-ups (we had pre-defined the functionality).

This workshop was actually run in a slightly different fashion to our previous workshop. Naturally during the course of a day, there was only the time to create a single type of game – the top down endless runner – but we wanted each team to give it their own flavour and theme, so by the end of the day we’d end up with a series of games, rather than one single product. We’ve found both approaches work very well.

By the end of the design session there were a lot of different themes for the game, involving various settings and some creative ideas for characters and enemies.

The day was then divided into two development sessions separated by a lunch break.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

With a creative vision established for each team, during session one the programmers moved to a separate room to work with PCs, while the artists remained to begin creating the art assets for the games on paper. The programmers essentially got a very basic introduction to Unity, involving the layout, prefabs, transforms and the creation of game objects. Towards the end of the session they started on some basic code. The artists worked on creating line drawings for each game asset, ticking off each item on a list as they progressed.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ryan and Matt used the lunch break to scan in and crop all the images.

After lunch we began session two. The artists moved through to the computer room, where they began working with Adobe Illustrator to add colour and some more detail to the assets. Session two for the coders involved writing the bulk of the code for the game; essentially the slightly more complex areas which made the whole game come to life. The result was a top down infinite runner involving three lanes of movement. Players move a player character from lane to lane, avoiding obstacles coming down the lanes, while trying to collect power-up items such as extra lives. The player’s score is recorded as the distance travelled which is displayed on the game over screen.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGuerilla Tea along with the excellent staff from the NDCS overlooked and helped with both sessions, and by the end of the day, each team had a working game, complete with unique themes and their own artwork. The day finished with a short evaluation session, and the group got a chance to showcase their creations.

 

The Day’s Creations

We have compiled all the games created during the workshop into a single mobile application for both iOS and Android. There is also a web version.

Download the game on iOS, Android or play on the Web.

3

 

Workshop Resources

To run the workshop smoothly we created various documents and worksheets to keep things on track and moving forward. These may be of interest, particularly if anyone is thinking of running a similar event at some point in the future. Find the documentation at the link below:

Workshop Documents

The main take-away for running a workshop with any group of young people is to put in the hours of preparation before the day itself. You absolutely must pre-design and build the skeleton of a game of your choice, with the caveat being it must be incredibly simple. Think endless runner, space invaders clone, breakout game, etc but in all honestly the endless runner has worked well for us. During the workshop you essentially re-build the game step-by-step from a code side. For art, drawing on paper and scanning in the images proved to be the best solution for ourselves, and was the most fun in general for the group taking part. We did however include the basics of Adobe Illustrator to colour the scanned images which also worked very well.

 

All in all, the day was a great success and everyone taking part thoroughly enjoyed a taster of game development. A huge thanks from Guerilla Tea to the National Deaf Children’s Society, and to Abertay University for hosting the event.

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Feb 17 2016

Dead Man Switch

A few weeks ago Guerilla Tea took part in the Global Game Jam 2016. The end result of...

Feb 17 2016 By: Charlie Close

Dead Man Switch

A few weeks ago Guerilla Tea took part in the Global Game Jam 2016. The end result of our 48 continuous hours of game development was a multiplayer game, which we named Dead Man Switch.

The game functions as a 3 player, cross platform multiplayer game, which uses the concept of a dead man’s switch to create some frantic gameplay.

The game’s setting is an underground bunker, which we gave a sinister & unsettling appearance.

DMS1

Each player takes on a different role within the game:

Hero
As the hero you’ll play on PC (also with VR support), and from a first person perspective navigate through the underground bunker. The objective is to find your way to a room containing a broken piece of machinery, fix it, and then quickly return to your starting position to press the dead man’s switch within a time limit.

Navigator
As the navigator you’ll use a tablet device, and see a map of the bunker with all relevant points of interest marked. It’s your job to speak to the Hero, giving them directions to get the machine fixed, and then back to the dead man’s switch in time.

Villain
As the villain you’ll also use a tablet device, and your job is to stop the other two from accomplishing their goal. You have a handful of tricks at your disposal to impede. You can turn off lights, seal doors and block communication…

DMS5

It was an ambitious game to try to put together at a game jam, but after a monumental effort from art and code it all came together incredibly well. The gameplay system worked as intended; fast paced a good synergy between the different roles.

Another successful GGJ!

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Jan 06 2016

2015 Review

The start of a new year and a chance to reflect back on 2015 and the various activiti...

Jan 06 2016 By: Charlie Close

2015 Review

The start of a new year and a chance to reflect back on 2015 and the various activities and developments.

2015 turned out to be interesting with a lot of unexpected events. The first week back after the Christmas break began with a visit to the Scottish Parliament to showcase our work at a special event.

Alex and Brian joined the STEM Ambassador scheme early in the year and have been helping to run and promote CoderDojo, involving a series of workshops aimed at teaching programming to young people and raising awareness of the games industry as a viable career option.

In terms of projects, the first part of 2015 involved continued work and the eventual release of Mixkit, a mixtape creation and sharing application.

This was followed closely by a small project for the V&A, and we also teamed up with Connect2Media who picked up our previous year’s release, Mind: Brain Training. We re-worked the game implementing various design modifications, and it was re-published onto alternative Android app stores.

Late June Guerilla Tea turned 4 years old, so we celebrated in the usual fashion…

GT4Cake

We had a pleasant surprise about a month later when the V & A featured our work on Genes in Space on a giant comic strip at the waterfront construction site of the V&A Museum of Design Dundee.

GTVAComic

From the summer onwards our time was taken up by 2 major projects.

Firstly, Metal Hammer: Roadkill, a mobile rhythm-action game where players smash through the hordes of hell to a licensed metal soundtrack, including Suicide Silence, Sabaton and Epica. The game was released initially during October and work is ongoing.

MHRK

During development we received invites to the Classic Rock Awards, held at the Roundhouse in London. A star-studded evening of food, wine and music, plus we met Alice Cooper…

Alice Cooper

Our second major project was Iwo: Bloodbath in the Bonins. A PC and tablet hex-based strategy game and a digital version of an existing board-game. We worked with the publisher HexWar, and the game was released on Christmas Eve 2015.

Iwo will be coming to Steam in 2016.

IwoBlogScreen

 

2015 was awesome, here’s to a successful year ahead!

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Jan 05 2016

Iwo: Bloodbath in the Bonins

Over the past several months, we’ve been developing Iwo: Bloodbath in the Bonins. It’...

Jan 05 2016 By: Charlie Close

Iwo: Bloodbath in the Bonins

Over the past several months, we’ve been developing Iwo: Bloodbath in the Bonins. It’s a turn-based strategy game, and a digital version of an existing board-game originally developed by Decision Games.

The game is centres around the US invasion of Iwo Jima, which was a critical strategic location for the United States in their preparation for an invasion of the main Japanese home islands.

Iwo_screenA

You’ll take command of the US forces, choose a landing beach and then make your way across Iwo Jima’s hex based terrain. The main objective will be to send some of your forces to capture Mount Suribachi in the south, and then advance northwards up the island eliminating all Japanese defenders.

The game rules are tailored to the many factors which affected the actual conflict, in particular the island’s terrain which caused the beach landings to be far more arduous task than was initially expected…

Iwo_screenB

We’ve also included a historical information database, covering key aspects of the invasion for general background reading.

Grab Iwo for PC from HexWar’s site: https://www.hexwar.com/downloads/iwo-bloodbath-in-the-bonins/

Or download the iPad version from the appstore: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/iwo-bloodbath-in-the-bonins/id1053530387

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Oct 15 2015

Metal Hammer: Roadkill

Today marks the day that Metal Hammer: Roadkill is unleashed on the world! We’ve been...

Oct 15 2015 By: Charlie Close

Metal Hammer: Roadkill

Today marks the day that Metal Hammer: Roadkill is unleashed on the world!

MHRK_marketing_FacebookLinkPostLaunch1

We’ve been working alongside Team Rock Games, Nuclear Blast & Metal Hammer on the project, and it features artists such as Suicide Silence, Epica, Sabaton and more!

Metal Hammer: Roadkill is a rhythm-action game where players rip through the hordes of hell populating insane locales including Riot de Janeiro and Westmonster…

MHRK_marketing_FacebookPostPostLaunch3

The enemies spawn to the rhythm of the music, and the combat gameplay becomes a fast-paced finger tapping task, keeping you in time as you aim for a ‘note perfect’ performance.

MHRKScreenshot

Download for FREE!

iOS

Android

 

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Jun 29 2015

Art Application Advice Pt. 3

This is the third installment of a three part blog aimed at graduates and junior arti...

Jun 29 2015 By: matt Close

Art Application Advice Pt. 3

This is the third installment of a three part blog aimed at graduates and junior artists applying for a job in the Games Industry. In part one (available here) we covered the CV and covering letter. In part two (available here) we looked at Portfolio and Showreel, and finally we shall conclude this week with Web Presence and Social Media. 

 

Web Presence & Social Media

Being 2015, of course you will be distributing all of your content via your own website. Many artists I have seen opt for DeviantArt or similar sites, as an alternative to a personal website. Strictly speaking there is nothing wrong with this, on some level it even makes sense as it takes far less work to maintain it. Nonetheless in my opinion it is not your best option and here’s why. DeviantArt as you will be aware has a LOT of art, the majority very very good art. I love looking at awesome art, as I’m sure you and any other employer you may be applying to does, and so if I see a thumbnail of something cool I’m going to click on it. Through no fault of your own I’m diverted away from your work and will no doubt fall down a rabbit hole of beautiful artwork. By sending me to DeviantArt you have just taken me to the place containing all of your competition. I am not in any way suggesting a boycott of DeviantArt, I love the site and if you are present on it then awesome, but it is not your best option for a portfolio. Use it for inspiration, the community and the C&C, however if want to grab my attention then be selfish with it, take me to a place that I can immerse myself in your art and your art alone, after all that is what you are trying to sell me.

Social media is probably one of the few points here that does not solely apply to artists but to anyone who actively participates in any industry’s public social media channels. Basically it boils down to this, DON’T BE A DICK! The amount of people who are either just entering or trying to break into an industry being dicks to others on public forums is astonishing to me. In the past year alone I have added about three or four people to my ‘do not hire’ list simply because of it. I have never met them, never seen any of their work and have obviously never worked with them, but if I see their name on an application it is immediately dismissed. All because of the way they have conducted themselves on social media. This may seem unfair but it is important to remember you are not just being hired on the strength of your work but the type of person you are and ultimately how easy you will be to work with. We all enjoy a good workplace environment and business owners & managers work very hard to instill this. Speak to any business owner and despite all the stresses and strains of running a company, you can be pretty certain that none of them get that dreaded Monday morning feeling, at least not in my experience anyway. And thus if you are viewed as a potential threat to that positive work atmosphere then it doesn’t matter how great your work is, you will not be brought on board for fear of disrupting it.

Lastly, and I’m sure this is common knowledge by now, but you will be Googled and your personal Facebook will be viewed if it pops up. You have two options at this point; either present yourself as a professional, reliable and sensible person or make your profile completely private. Personally I opt for the latter.

 

Final Considerations

Breaking into a new industry, whether as a graduate or professional, is always an arduous task which involves dealing with rejection, no responses and massive amounts of frustration. There are two ways you can tackle it; you can bitch and moan about how special you are and how no one will give you what you deserve or you can, much like game development, persist through every challenge and iterate on your CV and portfolio making it better each time until you finally land the job you want. As a result you must be incredibly critical of yourself and your work. Ultimately no one owes you anything; it is up to you to demonstrate your value in order to secure the job you want.

I’ll finish off with one last example which I have been using to explain to students exactly what is going through my head as I review an application. Hopefully it’ll give you a little insight into what is happening on the other side of that email you sent. When looking through someone’s artwork, first and foremost I am looking to see whether this person has the particular set of skills that I require. More importantly I am asking myself “Is this work worth thousands of pounds per month?” and not only that but is it good enough for my company to see a return on that investment. So when reviewing your application and portfolio before sending it out try to keep those two questions in mind. Put yourself into the mindset of an employer and consider the question “Would I pay that amount of money for this work?”. If the answer is no then carry on iterating.

– Matt (CCO)

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Jun 22 2015

Art Application Advice Pt. 2

This is the second instalment of a three part blog aimed at graduates and junior arti...

Jun 22 2015 By: matt Close

Art Application Advice Pt. 2

This is the second instalment of a three part blog aimed at graduates and junior artists applying for a job in the Games Industry. In part one (available here) we covered CV and covering letters, this week we will be looking at Portfolio and Showreel, concluding next week with Web Presence and Social Media. 

 

Portfolio & Showreel

As I am sure you are aware your portfolio is arguably the most in important aspect of any application to a creative industry. All too often however I am sent portfolios which are nothing more than an assorted collection of every scribble and/or mediocre flash animation the applicant has ever made since they first opened an Adobe package. Ultimately this comes down to experience, to this day I look back at my first few portfolios and cringe. It is in your interest to curate your viewers experience as much as you possibly can. People enjoy structure and it is in their nature to a follow a path whenever presented with one. I understand that this can be somewhat challenging and people may not necessarily always follow it exactly the way you intended, nonetheless if you build your portfolio with your viewers journey in mind, ultimately you will end up providing them a far greater experience which will ultimately work in your favour.

Back when I was first trying to break into the design industry, I would include every single project I had done since my second year at university, with each piece in chronological order with the notion that I was demonstrating my progression. This was ill conceived on my part as in reality employers are not really interested in how bad you were, they want to know how good you are now. Ultimately what I had done in my naivety was immediately turn off potential employers by starting my portfolio with my weakest piece. It was not until I spoke to a more experienced designer that I was made aware of my mistake. The way he explained it to me was to imagine I was a musician putting together an album. Would the very first track on that album be your worst song? It is the job of the first track to get your audience hooked and retain their attention for as long as you desire. Ever since then I have always tried to keep that comparison in mind when creating portfolios. On top of this it is important to only present your best work. Quality over quantity is a rule which can be quite hard to abide by when creating your portfolio, but if you can be strict with yourself then ultimately you will end up with a far more successful outcome.

Another common mistake I often see, although thankfully somewhat less these days however I still feel it is important to include, is people only showing final renders, paintings and animations, with nothing more. If you have gone through any sort of art training, whether it be through education or self taught, and you are applying for a professional position it is wholly expected of you to be able to produce a good looking final piece of work. Your potential employer however does not only want to see your final outcome but the journey you took in the creation of that piece. What we are looking for is whether you can follow an iterative creative process from conception to final asset creation, as this is what you will be doing 5 days a week if you get the job. In addition to this we need you to provide us with all of the technical information necessary to accurately judge your work. This means; polycount, topology, texture types and sizes, shaders used or created, number of frames in animation cycles and possible time stamps so that we can get an idea of how quickly you work. A quick Google search throws up lots of creative techniques to provide all of this information to your viewer and very often not only does it do just that, but it is actually far more interesting to look at for people who are interested in the creation art than merely showing final pieces is.

The showreel can be your most powerful, and at the same time most damaging aspect to your portfolio. It will very often be the first thing people opt to view and can therefore sway their opinion before they have even looked into the rest of your work in any depth. If you intend on creating a showreel take some time to learn, at very least, the basics of video editing. Even more so than with your portfolio, you really can curate your viewers experience so be sure to take advantage of that. Maintain a reasonable length, no one wants to sit through anything over 5 minutes, which itself is actually far too high. If possible try to keep it below the 3 minute mark. Finally all of the technical information in your main portfolio is still expected here. If you are struggling for ways to successfully include this my suggestion is to look at a few VFX breakdowns. VFX artists are incredible and due to the fact that they work with video for a living their breakdowns and showreels very often offer a lot to learn from. As a final rule of thumb, a bad showreel is far more damaging than no showreel at all, so bear this in mind and don’t be afraid to liberally cut aspects.

During the process of applying for jobs it’s always good practice to be continuously adding to your portfolio. Firstly, you don’t want to fall out of practice. Art is like a muscle; the more you use it the stronger it gets, with extended periods of neglect being detrimental. Not only this, but if the most recent piece of work you have created is 6 months old it does not make a great impression to your potential employer. You are trying to enter a highly skilled industry full of passionate people who live and breathe their craft, and you are expected to be no different.

– Matt (CCO)

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Jun 15 2015

Art Application Advice Pt.1

This blog post is aimed primarily at new graduates or anyone applying for a Junior ar...

Jun 15 2015 By: matt Close

Art Application Advice Pt.1

This blog post is aimed primarily at new graduates or anyone applying for a Junior art position in the games industry. As such, much of what is in here should be common knowledge to any Senior or experienced artist, however what I am aiming to provide is something of a jumping off point for anyone trying to enter the industry. Of course what is written here should not be taken as gospel, these are merely my experiences and what I have come to look for in applicants over the years. The unfortunate aspect when applying for jobs, especially creative ones, is that everyone has their own tastes and preferences as to how things should be presented. Your job as a fresh faced young applicant is to find the method which successfully manages to capture the recipient’s attention. You may have heard of the old notion that people make up their minds on whether or not to hire you within the first thirty seconds of an interview, this can also be true of people viewing your portfolio and whether or not to call you in for an interview. The reason for this is simple, everyone is busy and looking at your portfolio is taking time away from the work they are currently doing, which often if you are a Lead or in Management is not usually work that can or will be picked up by anyone else and so the time will have to be made up elsewhere. And so your first goal is to interest the recipient enough to actually make it through your entire portfolio or bookmark it to come back to later. Any excuse to disregard an application and get back to work will be leapt upon. Now in general instant dismissal can in fact easily be avoided simply by adhering to a few simple rules which will firstly make people want to actually look at your work and secondly give them all the information they need in order to judge it, hopefully taking you through to the next stage.

Due to the fact that my three partners and I decided to go down the route of setting up our own studio, I personally have never had to create a portfolio or applied for any jobs in the games industry. I have however created personal portfolios many times during my previous career in Interior Architecture when applying for work, and I myself committed many of naive mistakes that I see today. I do receive and review applications on an almost weekly basis. This combined with my work with Universities; Abertay, Glasgow Caledonian and more recently DJCAD has given me a rather good perspective on where students are when they are graduating and the common mistakes they make when sending applications or creating portfolios. In order to keep this post as easily digestible as possible I shall break it down to three parts. In part 1 will be covering CV & Covering Letter, moving onto Portfolio & Showreel and finally Web Presence & Social Media in parts 2 and 3. So without further ado let’s begin.

 

CV & Covering Letter

I want to avoid detailing exactly what to include in a CV here but rather focus on how it is presented. As a professional, or aspiring artist, your job at its very basic level, is to make things that not only look good but keep people engaged for as long as required. Looking deeper into this, and this applies even more so in the games industry, it is your job to take huge amounts of very complicated information and present it to the viewer in a manner that is; accessible, aesthetically pleasing and intuitive.

As such you should view your CV not as a formality but as a collection of information that needs to be delivered in such a manner. The CV is often the first thing I look at when someone applies, not the covering letter but we shall get to that, and the very first thing I am looking for is, has this person actually demonstrated an understanding of how to use their skills in the creation of their CV? When I see a word doc attached to the email application instantly my opinion goes through the floor, and I haven’t even read a word yet. I know as soon as I open that document I’m going to assaulted with multiple pages of 11pt Times New Roman. Remember the very basic level job description as an artist, walls of text may be functional and a lot of the time necessary but they are definitely not pretty and to be honest their necessity does not carry over into CV creation so my first suggestion is simple, don’t do it. As an artist you will have developed skills in a multitude of tools which will allow you do everything that a word processor can do, however further to that they also provide you the means to actually incorporate some design into your CV, making the audience’s experience much more of a pleasure rather than a chore.

A while ago I was discussing the state of certain CVs with a colleague who works in the film industry. He in fact disagreed with my disapproval of word docs. In his experience, whenever he had received applications that were anything more than the applicant merely throwing random images with little thought, ultimately distracting from the information that he was interested in. And he was right, that is a terrible way to go about creating a CV. What I am talking about however is not simply throwing in a few images and saving it out as a PDF, it’s quite the opposite in fact. I never expect nor want to see portfolio images in a CV. I explained that in fact I agreed with his sentiments and he had in fact brought up another very common issue. The type of CV I love to receive is one which employs some very well thought out visual communication; if don’t know what that is look it up…you’re going to need it! Visual communication and design are not about throwing in a few random images and calling it a done. Successful design, especially that of a CV, should draw strongly from the sentiment that “Less is more”. Your viewer should be able to extract all of the information they need exerting the least amount of effort possible because you have already made all of the effort for them.

Visual CV by Antonio Di Vico http://visual.ly/antonio-di-vico-visual-cv

Visual CV by Antonio Di Vico http://visual.ly/antonio-di-vico-visual-cv

Now putting aside the fact that this particular style may not necessarily be to your taste or you may dislike the rather ‘on the nose’ Swiss Army Knife reference, take a few minutes look it over. The first thing you will notice is that you are not instantly bored by it; there is a quality which compels you to look at it. Secondly and most importantly look at the amount of information…on one page! Now I don’t expect you to simply copy this example of course, your job is to take it, and others you find successful, as a basis. Find their flaws and rectify them, find their strengths and improve on them.

Finally onto your covering letter, I will keep this short much in the same way you should your covering letter. If I’m being honest, of all the applications I have received I have read exactly zero covering letters in full. At most I and probably many others will skim read it, unless it is ridiculously stupid in which case it gets passed around the office as the afternoon’s entertainment. Your best bet is keep it as concise as you possibly can, half a page max, that way people are far more likely to actually read it in full and there is far less margin for error.

The very last thing I will say regarding the CV and covering letter is this. If you are emailing multiple companies at one time, which you should really be doing, under no circumstances send it to every company in one email. We have had too many applications sent to us where alongside Guerilla Tea is every other games company in Scotland. It sounds stupid but I assure you it happens more than you would care to believe, and there is no quicker path to the trash folder.

In Part 2 I shall be talking about Portfolio & Showreels, covering common mistakes and what to include in order to allow your recipient to accurately judge your work.

– Matt (CCO)

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Mar 25 2015

Community Engagement

  Community engagement is something we’ve always been involved with since the ge...

Mar 25 2015 By: Charlie Close

Community Engagement

 

Community engagement is something we’ve always been involved with since the get-go, and just recently we’ve taken on some other responsibilities.

It’s a side activity for us, but nevertheless important, and about high time we put together a summary of our activities alongside our main company projects.

 

STEM Ambassador Scheme

Several months ago our CTO Alex and programmer Brian signed up to the STEM Ambassador scheme. On the programme, they are essentially responsible for promoting STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) subjects. Their task is to advocate and inspire young people to pursue these subjects, and follow relevant careers. The video games industry is very relevant to STEM, and they’ll be taking part in a number of different events over the year to promote a career in the games industry.

So far this has involved a number of different promotional activities for young people keen on the games industry and looking for the next stage after high school. They recently attended a ‘Meet the Expert’ event the Dundee Science Centre, meeting local teachers to promote CoderDojo, a community of free programming clubs for young people aged 7 – 17. In the coming weeks they will be helping to set up a Dundee CoderDojo.

 

Student Teams – 3rd Year Projects

For the last two years we have provided project briefs for 3rd year student teams at Abertay University. During the first year of our involvement, three teams accepted projects from Guerilla Tea, and by the end of the academic year one in particular stood out. It was a virtual reality game called Drop, where the player free falls through a space station environment, finishing in the core. The team attended showcase events including Protoplay and Deecon alongside Guerilla Tea, giving people the chance to play the game using the Oculus, which went down very well.

This year we are working with two student teams, who are building prototypes for some of the game concepts we have in our back catalogue, but haven’t had the chance to make yet. One team is again working on a virtual reality prototype, with the second team building a castle defence game. Hoping for some impressive vertical slices by the end of the year.

 

Talks, Glasgow Caledonian University, IGDA Scotland

All four co-founders give talks at industry events, including guest lectures and presentations at Abertay and University of Dundee.

Matt and Alex have both given talks at Glasgow Caledonian University, and Matt is on the industry advisory board there. He has been involved in ongoing communication with students, providing 3D Art project briefs for honours projects, and critiquing portfolios.

Several weeks ago I attended a games industry event at the Creative & Cultural Careers Festival, giving a brief presentation and then speaking with students about routes into the games industry.

Since late 2014, Mark has been on the board of IGDA Scotland, and is serving as the treasurer.

 

Breaking into Video Game Design – A Beginner’s Guide

Not long after starting Guerilla Tea I decided to write a short eBook guide on how to get into game design. The main idea was to share some tips from the perspective of someone who isn’t a 30 year veteran, who would have joined the industry at a time when it was a completely different beast compared to what it is now. I wanted to provide some tips as someone who is in a position a little more relevant to recent graduates.

Later last year I gave the book a major re-write, updating it with some new insights.

Here’s an extract from an old Gamasutra blog post.

Or buy the book, it’s only £1!

 

ENABLE Scotland

A few years ago we teamed up with ENABLE Scotland’s East Renfrewshire LAC team to run game development workshops with a group of young people with learning disabilities.

Over the course of two workshops, we organised talks from Brian Baglow, Phil Harris and Ryan Locke, and used the first workshop to establish a game concept, under the team name Lazy Boyz decided by the group!

The second workshop involved building a game, an endless runner called ‘On The Freerun’, which was released on iOS and Android after the event.

You can give the game a try…

 

iOS

Android

OTF1

OTF2

This post is just a short summary. We’re always active on social media about community engagement work we do, and will continue to share info about further activities throughout the year.

 

– Charlie

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Feb 16 2015

VR Development

A new year brings about new opportunities and 2015 is going to be interesting. One of...

Feb 16 2015 By: Charlie Close

VR Development

A new year brings about new opportunities and 2015 is going to be interesting. One of the main focus points for the year ahead will be to give some rightful attention to virtual reality development.

Our mission statement as a company is ‘to integrate areas of study and interest with innovative game design and development’. From the very beginning we’ve been taking on projects which have helped us grow and represented our business goals in terms of this statement. Early on we worked on a medical study aid called Ward Round, applying game design techniques. Our breakthrough came about a year and a half ago when we began working on Play to Cure: Genes in Space, which released early last year. This was a successful project and basically the epitome of our mission statement. This year we’re looking to combine our experience in the serious game space with virtual reality development, and are looking to find new ways of creating products which have engagement akin to video games, but also have a practical end use.

As game developers we are extremely well versed in creating immersive environments, which have a wide range of bespoke interactions.

There is a lot of scope for the use of virtual reality within training applications and we’re keen on exploring new VR based methods of solving problems. For example, being totally immersed in an environment has a wide range of possible applications to any industry which involves working in dangerous environments, such as the energy industry and its various sub-divisions. There is a vast scope for what we can achieve here and it can be tailored to suit specific needs.
The virtual training world can lead a user through specific tasks, which can be easily repeated, and context specific interactions would play a major role. These are all aspects that lend themselves to the domain of game development; we can script certain situations such as emergencies within a simulation also.

On the opposite end of things, we are looking to incorporate VR into our original IP, and we’ll be developing a number of prototype experiences this year, which we’ll consider carrying forward.

Speaking of prototypes, we’ve used the last two game jams to experiment with off-the-wall game concepts, where VR support breathed new life into the experiences.

First time around we made Just One Trip, a game about addiction where the challenges modify depending on whether you take the easy way out and give in to temptation.

JOT1JOT2

Then this year we made ‘What Have We Done!?’ which was all about the development process, but with an Oculus it became completely outrageous. Have a read about the process here.

GGJ9

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Jan 26 2015

Global Game Jam 2015

The Global Game Jam 2015 is over for another year and it’s genuinely been the most en...

Jan 26 2015 By: Charlie Close

Global Game Jam 2015

The Global Game Jam 2015 is over for another year and it’s genuinely been the most enjoyable jam we’ve attended yet.

With the office equipment boxed up and moved temporarily to Abertay University, and the core dev team stocked up on a range of healthy snacks and caffeinated beverages, the 48 hour game making marathon began.

GGJ15_office

 

The theme of this game jam: “What do we do now?”

This opened up a lot of possibilities and we set about on our normal brainstorming process, although in the end we decided to do something a little different…

Instead of taking the theme and trying to fit a game concept around it, we decided to literally apply the theme to the process of building the game.

Firstly, Brian quickly hacked together a random word generator, primed with a long list of words established during the usual brainstorming session. Every two hours it produced a word telling us what we do now, so that’s the jam theme covered in a nutshell!

Art and code then set about building something which related to the word, and spent some time putting it all together into a coherent whole.

During the 48 hours, the words we had to work with were Nature, Klein Bottle, Window, Mountains, Misery, Cookie, Camera, Blue, Survival, Lever.

Admittedly, ‘nature’ was a good starting point, so we put together a lush environment, but after that it essentially it became a video game interpretation of dada…

 

We ended up with a random Klein Bottle

GGJ9

 

A UniPig… The ability to ride a critter that’s a cross between a Unicorn and a Pig.

GGJ10

 

And a Mountain Launcher… Yes, a gun that shoots mountains!

GGJ6

 

And many other weird and wonderful things.

 

The reason this particular jam was so enjoyable was down to the process. Although we got a strange mash together of different objects and gameplay, the fact that every few hours there was a completely new problem to solve kept the team interested.

The game itself assumed the title ‘What have we done!’, and it’s something that could never really have been made if it’d been pre-planned in the normal way, even if we’d tried to go as crazy as possible with ideas.

It’s easily our most trippy experience to date, and with the Oculus it’s just a little insane…

 

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Jan 05 2015

2014 Review

  We’re back in the office after the Christmas break, and 2015 is shaping up to ...

Jan 05 2015 By: Charlie Close

2014 Review

 

We’re back in the office after the Christmas break, and 2015 is shaping up to be an exciting year. 2014 was a challenge… Here’s (briefly) how it panned out!

Throughout January we finished off the development of Play to Cure: Genes in Space, and released the game to the world in February 2014. This involved a trip to the launch event hosted by Dara O’Briain in London, social media erupted (at least in London!) and the day was awesome in general. The game was covered extensively by the mainstream and games press, and in the month after release it had processed 1.5 million samples of genetic data. The project eventually got a feature on ‘The One Show’, and the coverage from ‘I Fucking Love Science’ was also a huge boost…

infographic v_12 (football) - small

In the end, the game surpassed its download targets fivefold and picked up numerous awards, some in tandem with other citizen science awards via projects such as Cell Slider: The Digitals, Mobile Marketing Awards, BCS & Computing UK IT Industry Awards 2014, to name a few.

Here’s a post-mortem article on Gamasutra which goes into detail about the science underpinning the project, along with some positives and negatives.

Throughout 2014 we managed to boost our portfolio of original IP, with a number of game releases spread over the year. This included working with Windows Phone 8, which became our most popular platform largely thanks to the excellent team at Microsoft.

We gave our first original game, The Quest, a complete overhaul including full re-skin, and re-release.

Promo Image 558x558

We launched Staking Claims on iOS & Windows 8 after an Android release a few months prior, and followed this with Array, a challenging logic puzzler. Next project out was Mind: Brain Training which is a collection of brain fitness games.

Finally, our experimental game Incandescence, came out after a good amount of press coverage. The game was inspired by finger drumming, and of all our original games in 2014, it was the most downloaded.

Screenshot 4 480x800

These projects have seen updates since release, with further updates planned.

Here’s our portfolio with more on each game, along with download links:

http://www.guerillatea.com/portfolio/
 

Our producer Mark represented the company at Develop Conference during the summer, and gave a presentation about our work with the Windows platform, and we made it to the finals of the Develop Awards in the Micro Studio category although unfortunately didn’t take home an award on this occasion.

We also enhanced the work-for-hire side of the business during the year, and have expanded our client base with new partners, and continued projects. This has been an on-going process, and we are now in a strong position to hit the ground running in 2015.

Hope everyone had a great holiday and all the best for the year ahead!

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Jul 24 2014

Incandescence

The original idea for Incandescence came about randomly one day when I was tapping on...

Jul 24 2014 By: Charlie Close

Incandescence

The original idea for Incandescence came about randomly one day when I was tapping on the desk, just as the first coffee of the morning was beginning to kick in.

It hit me that it’s a ridiculously irritating but insanely popular habit. In fact a brief scout around the web backed up my feeling that it’s the number one most irritating office habit in the world.

I also had a feeling that there was a game mechanic somewhere in there. I suppose the aim was to play on the common finger drumming habit, and squeeze a mobile game out of it.

Inc_screenshot1 - small

A few nights later, Brian hacked together a basic working prototype.

It worked by detecting fingers tapping in succession against the phone screen. Each successful tap causing the score to increase, with the need to speed up over time.

With that implementation, the game basically challenged you to tap faster and faster (up to a limit), making it a physical challenge. It’d get to a point that was uncomfortable in a way, but you’d feel that motivation to beat the high score.

Inc_screenshot3 - small

Coming up with a theme was interesting… We passed around a few different ideas. First was the idea of tapping to start a fire, then tapping to unravel toilet roll, and several other off-the-wall suggestions…
In the end the ‘mystical crystal’ theme was the best fit for the game in general.
This was a chance for Matt to come up with something wild and unusual, so he went overboard and created the trippiest set of effects we’ve put in a game yet.

The whole project is very modest in scope, but it’s become an experimental game in a way. As you play, the crystal object will generate all sorts of different effects, some of which you can see in the screenshots above. As your score shoots up, the more intense the effects become.

In terms of music to match the visuals, we are going for synthwave. It’s semi-procedural, and will build up and up in layers to match the intensity. We’ll share more on this as it comes together.

The game isn’t particularly complex but has come far in a short space of time. We’re looking to release around mid August, so look out for a gameplay trailer soon!

– Charlie

 

 

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Jun 16 2014

Coming Full Circle

This entry was originally posted on the Microsoft UK Developers Blog. View the origin...

Jun 16 2014 By: Charlie Close

Coming Full Circle

This entry was originally posted on the Microsoft UK Developers Blog. View the original HERE.

It’s odd how things tend to come full circle… The development story behind ‘The Quest’ is evidence of this.

The four founding partners of Guerilla Tea met in 2010 on the Professional Masters course in Game Development at Abertay University. During the first semester we were randomly put together into a team and given the brief of building a small game prototype titled ‘The Quest’, and by chance we were assigned to work with the Windows Phone 7 platform.

After a night of brainstorming we hadn’t fully settled on a design to carry forward. We wanted to make a puzzle game and we kept coming back to the idea that ‘to be original is to return to the origin’ and when it comes to puzzle games the origin for all of us was the Rubik’s Cube so we kept returning to the idea of a game based on the Rubik’s Cube mechanic. This lead fairly swiftly to the core Quest mechanics.

Before settling on anything, we went out to the local shopping centre and bought a Rubik’s Cube along with some paper stickers, and applied them to cover over three of the colours on the cube. The result was the very basic physical prototype shown below. Needless to say, the gameplay mechanic worked incredibly well. You could actually play by holding your finger against a specific tile, rotating the cube to align specific coloured tiles, and then sliding your finger along eventually reaching the goal, which we’ve marked with the ‘X’ below.

Physical_Quest_Prototype

With the core of the game working, we needed to make the whole experience a little more vibrant. We decided to go down the light hearted humour route, and wrote a brief story around the game.

Our hero would be a brave but bumbling knight, who we aptly named ‘Steve’. He would be tasked by God to retrieve his favourite tea mug, otherwise known as the true Holy Grail. God would grant Steve the ability to manipulate the surrounding terrain in order to aid him on his quest.

And from here, the overarching story neatly fitted into the gameplay mechanic. Steve stands on the Rubik’s Cube-like world with varying terrain such as grass, water and mountains covering the individual squares. The player taps on squares to move Steve, and the idea is to guide him over the terrain to the goal square (ultimately containing the tea mug). Rotating the segments of the cube world allows the varying terrain types to align ultimately creating a path for Steve.

To add additional depth and complexity to the gameplay, we added special ‘transition’ squares which allow Steve to move between two terrain types. These transition squares became specific vehicles, such as a sledge which links grass and mountains.

By the end of the first semester, we had created a vertical slice for the game. Here’s a screenshot from ‘The Quest’ in its university project form:

early_Quest_1Our prototype was very well received in academic circles, and was shown at a number of conferences by academic staff from Abertay. In 2011, it picked up a Creative Loop award under the ‘Best Computer Game Concept’ category.

From here we moved onto other university projects right up to the end of our course, and The Quest remained as a great portfolio piece to take forward.

It was only after the course had finished that we managed to return to working on The Quest. In the run up to Christmas 2011, our CEO and producer, Mark, worked some magic and managed to secure the IP for the game back from Abertay University.

Over a period of 6 – 7 months, while Guerilla Tea was a very new indie studio finding its feet, we fully rebuilt The Quest in Unity for an iOS and Android release, expanding it from a vertical slice of gameplay, to a fully-fledged commercial game. Unfortunately at this point, despite the fact that the prototype worked wonderfully on the Windows Phone 7, the platform just wasn’t commercially viable yet so we were only able to release on iOS and Android.

From here we became BAFTA nominated, and in April 2012 The Quest was released as a premium app for Android and iOS. It was also featured in the New and Noteworthy section, and was generally well received, picking up praise from Pocket Gamer:

“The Quest takes a well-known concept in the form of the Rubik’s puzzle and gives it a fresh new challenge by adding in the task of getting Steve to the mug of tea. In this respect, the game is something of a triumph – few puzzlers have grabbed us in quite the same manner.”

Things were looking good, but despite being an excellent first release for the company, The Quest didn’t perform quite as well commercially as we’d hoped.

 

Fast forward 2 years…

 

After stabilising and growing the studio with a series of work-for-hire projects, including work on the Beano and Dandy brands, and most notably Play to Cure: Genes in Space for Cancer Research UK, we returned to working on The Quest in early 2014 to mark the second anniversary of the original release. This involved a full re-skin and we also took this chance to include a third Egyptian themed world which had been previously built but sat gathering dust without ever actually being included within the 2012 release for iOS and Android. Seeing the re-mastered version, it was refreshing to see how far we’d come in the intervening period…

The updated version was launched on iOS and Android in March 2014.

new_Quest_1

We’d been keeping an eye on the Windows Mobile since we first developed The Quest so when we saw Microsoft and Unity holding a porting day in Glasgow just a few weeks after we had re-launched The Quest we sent some of our coding team through to participate.

During the day, all current Guerilla Tea titles were for the most part ported successfully to Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8. We met some incredibly helpful people from Microsoft, and over the next few weeks, took the chance to polish and finalise the Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 versions of our games.

Firstly, there was The Quest, but we also ported our casual strategy title Staking Claims over to Windows 8. It’s a digital remake of the classic pencil and paper game, Dots and Boxes, which took up a lot of time during our rainy school lunchtimes years ago.

This was something we’d been looking forward to for a while so we wanted to make it a bit special so we decided to launch our new logic puzzle game Array on the Windows Phone 8 marketplace along with our ported games. Eventually we’ll move it to iOS and Android but for now it’s a Windows Mobile exclusive.

The Quest had a slight name alteration for Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8, becoming The Quest: Anniversary Edition, and has now come full circle, returning to its roots for a release in May 2014 on Microsoft’s platforms.

Guerilla Tea began with the four of us working ridiculous hours on PCs set up around our producer’s kitchen table, while at the same time holding down part time jobs to pay the bills. We worked hard and managed to get our start with some small projects for DC Thomson regarding the Beano and Dandy. From here we began to build up the studio with a balance of original IP and work-for-hire, and eventually Guerilla Tea became a full time job for us all. We also moved out of the home and into premises in Dundee city centre, and expanded our art and code teams.

Our recent major project was the hugely successful Play to Cure: Genes in Space developed for Cancer Research UK. We are going strength to strength and continuing to work on a variety of interesting projects, including a series of original titles.

Everyone at Guerilla Tea has been incredibly impressed with the Microsoft support operation and it’s been a really smooth process to port and launch our games onto Windows and Windows Mobile. We’re now nearing completion of our next game, which is to launch on all our core platforms simultaneously; Android, iOS and Windows Mobile. I have no doubt that other developers will do the same.

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Apr 17 2014

Guerilla Tactics

The original post “Guerilla Tactics – Handling Unfamiliar Terrain – How to deal...

Apr 17 2014 By: Charlie Close

Guerilla Tactics

FB BannerThe original post “Guerilla Tactics – Handling Unfamiliar Terrain – How to deal with Clients” was written by Alex for a blog on MobileCamp Dresden. Take a look at the original article HERE.

So, let’s talk about clients. I know a lot of indie game devs frown at the very thought of working for hire. And let’s be honest here, if we could just do our own stuff without ever having to worry about how we pay next month’s rent or get food on the table, most of us wouldn’t even bother talking to someone outside the industry. But the reality is, we’re still running a business and we need to make money. And unless we’re producing the next Flappy Bird or whatever magical timesink is currenly floating on top of the app store charts, we need to have an eye on our revenue stream.

 

Now, I’m no expert, but we’ve been around for about 2.5 years now and worked with a whole bunch of different clients from a variety of industries. The most notable ones were DC Thomson and of course Cancer Research UK, with whom we developed the hugely successfull Play to Cure: Genes in Space – the world’s first mobile game that actively helps with finding a cure for cancer (seriously, how epic is that?!). But all of that still doesn’t make us the ultimate authority in the field of B2B relations, so don’t take everything I’m writing here as gospel. It’s just how we do things at Guerilla Tea because we found they work for us, and our clients.

Now, with that said, let’s get to the question. How do we deal with clients that don’t have a games background but want to develop a game? (Note: most of this is applicable to pretty much any client regardless)

 

1. Know the territory!

This is probably the most important part when working with a new client. Do your homework! It’s a bit like a job application; the better you know who and what you’re dealing with, the easier the whole process will be and the less friction will occur once you actually start working on the project.
The first thing we did when putting together the pitch for Genes in Space was researching the other companies involved, their experience, past projects and so on. For example, we knew CRUK had already sucessfully launched a serious game on the web called Cell Slider together with Zooniverse (of Galaxy Zoo fame), so we knew they had some experience working with external developers and had people with the technical background to understand the implications of running a backend system for several hundred thousand users. This was great for us since it allowed us to be more technical and therefore precise when writing the pitch. If your client doesn’t have a technical background, it takes a lot more effort to explain what and why you’re doing things, so be careful and make sure you adjust your language appropriately (and *never* try to hide knowledge gaps behind tech lingo)!

Maybe even more important than researching your client is doing the research for the project itself. What is it? Why do they want it? What and who’s problem does it solve? How? For Genes in Space, this involved me digging through every academic research paper on BAF Data, detection of Copy Number Variations and related subjects that I could get my hands on. I didn’t become a Geneticist overnight, but at least I got a good enough understanding to be confident about the project requirements. As a side note here, don’t be afraid of researching subjects that you don’t have previous experience in. My knowledge on genetics before that was basically 7th grade biology and watching Jurassic Park, but by constant cross referencing and a lot of help from Wikipedia I still managed to get a decent enough understanding of the subject. You don’t need to know everything about it – that’s your client’s job – you just want to know enough to communicate effectively and make sure you understand what it is you’re supposed to be doing.

At the end of the day, this will keep both you and your client happy because you will have a lot less misunderstandings that cost time and money to resolve. The more you know about your client and the subject, the easier it is for both parties to find and realise a common vision!

 

2. Control communication!

Keeping clients in the loop is important. Keeping clients that don’t know about games development in the loop is a lot more important. Look at it from their perspective: they just shelled out a lot of money to a company they never worked with to build a product they don’t fully understand. Of course they are nervous, so the better you keep them informed about the project, the happier they will be.

We acomplish this in multiple ways. The first one is to have regular conferences with the client (usually weekly). If possible do face to face meetings, but if the distance is too large, Skype and Google hangouts are two viable options we use regularly for that purpose. The more often you communicate directly, the easier it will be for both of you to spot problems and address them before the project veers off track.

You also want to give your clients at least some access to your internal scheduling tools. Trello and Asana are really good for that, but if your tool of choice doesn’t support this behaviour, an up to date spreadsheet on Google docs will do the job as well (you should still get a better tool though, because yours is obviously crap). This will reduce unnecessary communication overheads because everyone involved knows what you’re currently working on and when a certain feature is supposed to be implemented.

Finally, having an iterative development methodology works incredibly well with that. This way your client always has the latest stable version of the game for testing, and necessary changes can be fit into the schedule with very little friction. You don’t have to use any of the heavily formalized methodologies like SCRUM for that. We’re using our own homebrew mixture of agile and waterfall which gives us enough stability in terms of cost and time projections, but still allows us to act and react very flexible on changing requirements. Anything that gives your client enough input into the development process should work.

 

In addition to keeping up client communication, make sure you don’t forget to talk to the most important group of people: your target audience. Most of the time this will be your players, but it doesn’t have to be that way. For Genes in Space, our main audience were not the people who played the game but the researchers that had to use the analysed data. We therefore made sure to run any changes we made to the data analysis by them first to verify that it was still accurate enough. We also sent them regular samples of the data to see if we needed to improve anything. That’s not to say that we didn’t do regular playtesting sessions as well to make sure the game was fun and accessible, but those were not our main priority.

 

3. Hold your ground!

The last lesson we leant when dealing with clients was probably the most difficult one, but it’s absolutely crucial if you don’t want your project to turn into a nightmare of Lovecraftian proportions: you need to learn to say no. I know this is hard. It requires being somewhat confrontational and it can be incredibly scary because that clients money could be the only thing keeping your company from going belly up. But if you think that a client not getting the feature they wanted is bad news, wait till you see what happens when the deadline slips for the 3rd time because the project is choking from feature creep, you’re nine months late and your code has more bugs than a roadside motel bed because all those nifty little features were glued together by spit and good hopes, without any proper planning whatsoever. That is when you should be scared.

Now, I’m not saying you should just tell your client to bugger off when they have an idea for a new feature. But if it doesn’t fit into the schedule or would be too costly to implement or is just a generally bad idea, you’ve got to deal with that. Explain the situation. Look for compromises. Maybe you can get that new feature in if you remove another one that is less valuable. Maybe you can come up with something that is less costly but emulates almost the same functionality. In the worst case, tell them that you will have to adjust the schedule and costing of the project if they really want the feature in. Whatever you do, just don’t simply say “yes” because the client asked for it; that’s the express lift to developer hell. Stay focused on your goals. Keeping the project on time and on budget is infinitely more valuable for everyone involved in the end than a little disappointment every now and again.

Also, don’t just watch out for the client. Your team members are just as prone to come up with potentially damaging features. However, they are usually easier to deal with since they have a better understanding of the development process. When we were building Genes in Space, Charlie (our designer) had a lot of ideas that I’m sure would have made the game a lot more exciting to play. Making a game fun is his job after all. However, we needed to shoot a lot of them down because they would have meddled with the accuracy of the data analysis. For these cases, I recommend having one team member as a dedicated “guardian”. The job of the guardian is to make sure that whatever is proposed does not interfere with the main goal of the application; a bit like a vision keeper, but with a much narrower focus. Take the person with the best understanding of the project’s goals and give him the authority to veto every new feature if it violates these goals.

Now, as I said at the beginning, this is just the way we do things. It took us a while to get there, but for now it works pretty well – for us and our clients! However, we’re still prone to making mistakes at one point or the other, so if you use a different process that might help us or have a good idea that might improve the ones we have, we’re looking forward to hear about them. Maybe in a year or so I’ll write an update for this post to see what we’ve learnt in the meantime.

Alex out.

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Feb 05 2014

Play to Cure

Play to Cure: Genes in Space is a ‘one of a kind’ game that pushes the boundaries of ...

Feb 05 2014 By: matt Close

Play to Cure

Play to Cure: Genes in Space is a ‘one of a kind’ game that pushes the boundaries of the serious gaming genre. By playing the game, you’ll in fact be analysing genetic data ‘beneath the surface’ of the gameplay.

The game centres around the collection (or harvesting) of a mysterious substance known as Element Alpha. This fictitious chemical found in deep space is actually inspired by neutronium, and has significant benefits within medicine, engineering and construction.

Once you install the game you’ll become a base level employee at Bifrost Industries, the leading processing organisation in the Element Alpha industry.
From here you’ll be thrust into deep space in your harvester vehicle, collecting Element Alpha and trading it in for credits. Spend these on spaceship upgrades and progress through the ranks at Bifrost all the way up to the revered Galactic Legend

How it all started…

We first heard about the project in summer 2013 and we were put forward as a potential developer; with huge thanks to Colin McDonald at Channel 4. We were invited to pitch for the project and set about coming up with a solution to the brief…
The task was to come up with a proposal for a mobile game which is not only entertaining to play, but simultaneously analyses genetic data to find anomalies, ultimately helping to potentially find a cure.
Hours of research from Alex our CTO allowed for a far greater understanding of the science underpinning the project. This gave us a springboard for coming up with a creative game concept which closely fitted the outlined brief.

We spent a lot of time writing and experimenting with different ideas and directions, but one in particular we kept returning to was a space exploration game. We could put the player in charge of a futuristic spacecraft exploring the galaxy. Running with this, we decided to centre the gameplay around collecting a mysterious substance from deep space, which would later be named ‘Element Alpha’. This would add some intrigue but most of all would tie in very nicely with the method we were using to analyse the data.

Our pitch effort culminated in a gruelling 24 hour shift in the office, fuelled by pizza and energy drinks to create the best possible game proposal. We submitted this and several days later travelled to London to present our game to Cancer Research UK. It went extremely well and we returned home to wait on a decision…

It wasn’t a long wait before we got a phone call with the good news. Time to get started.

What Genes In Space does…

If you can imagine the genetic data as an area (or graph) containing many dots, forming a pattern. We have taken this data and basically imagined it as the Element Alpha deposits, distributed around an area of outer space. Players control a spacecraft, guiding it over the Element Alpha to collect it. In a sense, the spacecraft is flying ‘over’ a graph, and we are recording the position of the spacecraft in order to analyse the data.

This is however not the whole story. The player also analyses the data in a different way prior to flying through space. We included a Route Mapping section where the player must place markers on a representation of the Element Alpha deposits in order to plan the best possible route. This effectively doubles as the genetic data, and we then compare the marker locations with the route the player actually flies through to provide accurate data back to Cancer Research UK.

The huge challenge with building this game came down to the fact that we were very constrained in terms of the behaviour of our core gameplay. The most important aspect is of course the ability for the player to analyse data. However, the game needed to be fun to keep players coming back for more. We decided Genes in Space needed a little more intense action. Since we couldn’t tamper with flying over data graphs, we decided to include a section where the player would enter an asteroid field. They would be able to shoot or avoid these, and wouldn’t necessarily enter the asteroid field each and every time they played. This helped us create a bit more tension. Every time you play you’re faced with the risk of stumbling upon an asteroid field and if so you have to concentrate on making it out in one piece…

Using Video Games in new ways…

Since the beginning of Guerilla Tea the four founders have shared a common interest; in that we want to use video game design and development effectively within other disciplines. This project is the absolute epitome of this, and it’s been a massive challenge for us, but ultimately the rewards have been huge. Genes in Space has had significant interest from the gaming and mainstream press even from the initial announcement. It’s certainly one that has upped the stakes in the serious gaming sector and moved our company to the next level, all for a massively important cause.

You can help the fight against cancer for FREE on iOS or Android devices:

For iOS: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/play-to-cure-genes-in-space/id784643890?ls=1&mt=8

For Android: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.guerillatea.elementalpha

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Jan 28 2014

Just One Trip

Just One Trip This entry was originally posted by Brian Beacom on his personal blog. ...

Jan 28 2014 By: matt Close

Just One Trip

Just One Trip

This entry was originally posted by Brian Beacom on his personal blog. It is cross posted here with permission.

Last weekend myself and the folks from Guerilla Tea found ourselves at the Dundee site of the Scottish Game Jam which itself is an arm of the Global Game Jam. The 48 hour game jam takes place at the same local time everywhere from New Zealand to Hawaii, but I’ll cover the event itself in more detail another day.


What follows is an account of our game, Just One Trip and the dark journey it leads you on through the heart of addiction.

Note: This blog is still to be revisited with added pictures but I wanted to get something out asap.

The Inspiration

As with all game jams, or at least all good ones – it all starts with a theme, every game at every site had to be based somewhat around the theme provided at the start which was:

We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.

From this somewhat vague theme we spent a large chunk of time brainstorming and coming up with some concepts around the ideas of perception eventually centring  around the concepts of addiction and a journey and we settled on what became Just One Trip – a journey through addiction focusing on how an addiction can affect your perception of reality.

The Premise

The game at its core puts you in the shoes of a mild addict struggling through life, at each hurdle the player is presented with a choice: the player can conquer the challenge and rise further above their addiction or drink their problems away, sinking deeper into their addiction. The choice the player takes will affect their reality, the path of someone clean of their addiction becomes easier over time however the challenges they face are increasingly harder to handle. Meanwhile the addict may find that the challenges they face aren’t so insurmountable but simply navigating through life may be fraught with difficulty and as they succumb to their addiction they may note the highs aren’t quite as great any more, nor indeed is life itself as easy to appreciate whilst they shuffle and stagger through it.

The Game

So that’s the basic idea but that’s a helluva lot of metaphor and not much game play so lets take a closer look. The game is broken up into three chunks the puzzles, the paths and the main room.

Puzzles represent life’s challenges and consist of 3 different types:

Movement Puzzle – A basic puzzle involving jumping from block to block without falling.

Brick Breaking Puzzle – A button mash event where you knock all the bricks out of a wall whilst they slower regenerate

Pendulum Puzzle – A series of swinging pendulums that you must pass without being knocked off.

Paths represent the players path through life and can also take various forms such as being packed with furniture or the floor moving beneath you.

Finally, the room provides some information on game performance, it will change over time as will the quotes from your wife.

These pieces are fit together procedurally to create an ever changing game that has no ending, reflecting the lifelong battle people suffering from addictions face and the individual puzzles and paths are also procedurally built allowing the path and puzzle to be dynamically varied in difficulty to a massive extent allowing for most of the rich metaphor above.

The final key game play characteristic is in fact the deterioration in ability of the player, as the player becomes more addicted they will begin to slow down, the camera will be prevented from looking up and you start sliding to the side as you look around, this combines to produce a very uneasy feeling. Particularly, the inability to look up feels very uncomfortable which was considered an interesting trait by everyone involved – it’s not something you consider but the inability to hold your characters head high translates very well.

The outcome of all this is that the player finds themselves very uncomfortable whilst addicted but due to that deterioration will really struggle to complete the puzzles without taking the easy route which provides more and more to the metaphor being built.

The Conclusion

We set out to create a fairly ambitious game in just 48 hours including an entirely procedural, infinite, full 3D environment that closely followed a design that would identify the struggles of someone suffering an addiction. In all honesty, I’d probably call it pretty inconceivable to pull that off and almost certainly thought it at several times throughout the weekend whilst suffering from chronic fatigue but y’know what, we pulled it off and in my opinion very nicely – every element of the game is true to the design we envisioned and in a lot of cases better. I unfortunately lack the pre-requisite medical knowledge to know whether this could be remotely be considered a useful tool for teaching people about addiction or even if our realisation of addiction is in any way accurate but it would be nice to think it is and if nothing else it was really pleasing to have pulled it off.

Want to play?

See all the details including credits, source and playable builds at the Global Game Jam website:

http://globalgamejam.org/2014/games/just-one-trip

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Jan 08 2014

Reflecting on 2013

Even though we’re only 2 working days into 2014, it’s already showing signs that it’s...

Jan 08 2014 By: matt Close

Reflecting on 2013

Even though we’re only 2 working days into 2014, it’s already showing signs that it’s going to be a busy month, and on top of that a busy year. Since it was a successful 2013 that gave us a superb springboard for this year, I guess it’s a good time to reflect on the past year.

At the beginning of the year, we jumping head first into a number of projects, the most notable being the Beano iPrank app in conjunction with DC Thomson. This app went through a relatively fast development cycle, and went on to become DC Thomson’s most and highest rated digital product. We also continued our work on other aspects of the Beano and Dandy brands, along with attending several events including a TIGA Game Dev night in Dundee (where I did a presentation on the company).

One project which had been in preparation since 2012 came to fruition in early 2013; our Game Development Workshop with ENABLE Scotland, with a group of young people who have learning disabilities. This actually involved two separate workshops. During the first event we met with the group, introduced them to the games industry (with an outstanding talk from Brian Baglow), and went on to concept out a simple game on paper. We took the work back to the office and prepared for the second event where we would build and release the game. This follow-up workshop took place alongside Futures Fest 2013. The four company partners attended the two day event in Glasgow; first day we held a number of presentations and panel sessions about working in the industry, and the second day we did the follow up ENABLE workshop. During this we built an endless runner for iOS and Android called ‘On the Freerun’. The events received some great coverage; you can download the game:

On The Freerun iOS

On The Freerun Android

In April we moved office (a space that was formerly the home of Digital Goldfish), and expanded our programming and art teams.

During the summer, we continued to work with DC Thomson, creating mini-games for the Dennis and Gnasher site, while also making a small original IP, ‘Staking Claims’ which was released on Android Tablet, with an iOS release to follow this year.

It was around the same time that we pitched to Cancer Research UK for the ‘GeneGame’ project. We put in the work, including a great deal of research culminating in a 24 hour shift to polish our pitch. It paid off and we won the contract which has kept us busy up until now, to be released early this year. To add to this we were shortlisted under the ‘Best Newcomer’ category in the ScotlandIS Digital Technology Award 2013.

Around autumn time, when we were snowed under with work, we were greeted with several high points including being selected for the Develop Top 100 UK Games Companies along with the Develop Top 100 European start-ups. Continuing the recognition from Develop magazine, our CTO Alex appeared in the 30 under 30 list.

The workload continued into winter, but Alex and Matt did free up a weekend to take part in the TIGA Game Hack, where they created a prototype tower defense game with a twist… It’s called sandbox TD; take a look at the gameplay trailer.

We’re now at the start of 2014, and we’ve got a lot to look forward to as we move through the year.

Here’s to a successful year!

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Oct 25 2013

Company Profile

This is the Guerilla Tea company profile as of October 2013. This was originally post...

Oct 25 2013 By: matt Close

Company Profile

This is the Guerilla Tea company profile as of October 2013. This was originally posted on the Scottish Games Network.

Name of Company: Guerilla Tea

Date Founded: 2011

Location : 31 South Tay Street, Dundee, DD1 1NP

Founder(s): Alex Zeitler, Matt Zanetti, Charlie Czerkawski, Mark Hastings

Background of founder(s):

Code: Alex Zeitler hails from Bavaria and has been programming since the age of 7. Twenty years on and his talents with C++, C#, HTML5, Objective-C, PHP, MySQL, Flash and Javascript have been brought to the table at Guerilla Tea. He has a vast knowledge of video games having been an avid gamer for over 25 years.
Art: Matt Zanetti has a background in interior architecture started his career working at MKW Design Partnership and Michael Lairds Architects. When Matt decided to change industries he came to Abertay to do the MProf in Games Development which eventually led him to Guerilla Tea.
Design: Charlie Czerkawski is a qualified mathematician with past experience in video game quality assurance on the Grand Theft Auto franchise. He has a wide range of interests including many sports, travelling and creative writing.

Production and Business Development: Mark Hastings followed a traditional games education route, gaining a BA (Hons) in Game Production Management and an MProf Games Development from the University of Abertay, focussing on the skills necessary to run a game studio.

Number of Employees: 8

 Describe your company: The Guerilla Tea studio is built around a core in-house team of highly skilled dynamic developers that draws upon the best local talent to bolster internal resources when necessary. Utilising the highest level of development standards Guerilla Tea mixes creativity, innovation and passion and strives to offer risk-free development solutions across multiple platforms covering hundreds of handsets and multiple languages.

Over the past two years Guerilla Tea has striven to build a solid reputation as a dependable studio in the work for hire market while building the team we need to develop our own games and IP. Over the next year we plan to focus more on our own games using the skills and resources gained from our contract work.

Platforms supported/Services offered: iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Blackberry, PC, HTML5, Flash, Software Development, Application Development, Games Development, Consulting, Social media Management and Project Rescue.

 Current projects:

 Contract Projects

Cancer Research UK (working title GeneGame) – A mobile game to aid the fight against cancer.

Knux – A mobile game being developed for Kydaemos.

Unnamed HTML5 game for BBC

In-house Projects

Fangs Out [working title] – A model helicopter dogfighting title.

 

Releases To Date: The Quest, The Quest: The Beginning, Ward Round, Ward Round: Picture Quiz, Go Go Go Bananas, Dollops, Dandy Integrated Minigames, Staking Claims, Beano iPrank, Piefall, Splat-apult, Board Silly.

Greatest Achievement(s):

  • TIGA £100k ‘Games on the Move’ winners
  • BAFTA Nomination for The Quest
  • Working on The Dandy & The Beano
  • Working with Cancer Research UK
  • Selected for Develop Top 100 UK Games Companies 2013
  • Shortlisted for Best Newcomer Category in ScotlandIS Digital Technology Awards 2013
  • Facilitated ENABLE Scotland game development workshops for  students with learning disabilities
  • Mentors / Judges at Global Game Jam 2013
  • Keynote speakers at Game in Scotland 2013
  • Keynote speakers at TIGA GameDev Night of the Year 2013
  • Featured in Develop Magazine and Gamasutra
  • Hosted games industry workshops at Future’s Fest 2013
  • Building the company over the last 2 years, and still going strong!

Favourite game(s): Assassin’s Creed series, Grand Theft Auto series, Total War Games, Shenmue, Fallout Series, Metal Gear Solid, Cut the Rope and many others.

Member of: TIGA

Contact details: info@guerillatea.comjobs@guerillatea.com

Social Media Links:

General:

www.guerillatea.com

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Guerilla-Tea/207356442628899?fref=ts

http://www.facebook.com/GuerillaTea

https://twitter.com/GuerillaTea

 http://www.linkedin.com/company/guerilla-tea

Store:

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/the-quest/id510651018?mt=8

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/the-quest-the-beginning/id518294842?mt=8

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.guerillatea.stakingclaims&hl=en_GB

Trailers:

Fangs Out – This is a gameplay preview video of our main original IP currently in development.

The Quest – This is a gameplay trailer video for our first original IP, The Quest.

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Aug 28 2013

Tough Mudder

This past weekend, I took part in the Tough Mudder event at Dalkeith. For anyone who ...

Aug 28 2013 By: matt Close

Tough Mudder

This past weekend, I took part in the Tough Mudder event at Dalkeith. For anyone who hasn’t heard of it, it’s basically a mud run with ‘military designed’ obstacles littered throughout. Take a look at the event website if you’re interesting in signing up next year.

 

It’s a heavily marketed event (just look at the site), and it’s tempting to believe that the marketing is exaggerating things. I’ll admit I had a feeling it would be relatively tame considering the usual health and safety constraints.

 

Anyway, I’d been warned by a few friends not to take it lightly, as it took them by surprise. Bearing this in mind, I showed up with the rest of the team on Sunday morning ready to rock and roll.

 

After registering, leaving my bag in the bag drop area, and taking an energy gel, we proceeded to the start line, which itself involved climbing over a short wall. There’s a fairly energetic announcer who basically gets everyone jumping and shouting just before we set off.

 

What followed was a 12 mile run over fields and countryside, with about 20 obstacles involving icy water, high walls, and electrocution…

 

I’m not going to go through each and every one of them, but any notion of the course being tame was quickly washed away so to speak. Mainly because after only about 20 minutes of running, there was a lovely vat full of muddy, icy water to swim through, including a section where you need to swim underneath a beam crossing your path. It knocks the air out of your lungs and makes running straight afterwards a lot harder…

 

After this, different obstacles were placed at intervals throughout the course, which was mapped through many forest tracks and open fields; lots of uphill and downhill areas, etc.

 

The ‘Mud Mile’ obstacle was particularly interesting; basically a long traipse through avery muddy forest track where I was trying very hard not to lose my trainers in the mud.
I was genuinely concerned about getting over the Hero Walls also. 12 foot walls are surprisingly high when standing directly beneath them, although my height certainly helped on the way down the other side.

 

Aside from this, there were a good few obstacles that involved crawling through tight constraints, such as the ‘Boa Constrictor’, which was pretty enjoyable really.

 

Just before the end, there’s an obstacle called ‘Everest’ which is basically a dash up a half-pipe slope. You sprint up as far as you can before it becomes too steep to run, then reach up a try to grab the top, or hope someone at the top catches you. Anyway, I managed to pull a leg muscle badly on my second attempt so I pretty much hobbled on to the final obstacle on one foot. The final challenge before the finish line was a run through electrical wires. Needless to say, I got shocked about ten times, and I recall the commentator shouting something along the lines of “This guy thinks he’s a horse!” to coincide with my galloping along… Good times!

 

I did feel that being 6’4” and 19 stone let me down a little. Obstacles such as monkey bars or ‘Human Gecko’ where you move across a wall with very small protruding handles and footholds never will be suited to someone of my size.

 

I’m exceptionally strong and my cardio fitness and speed is good for my size, but no matter what I’m never going to be small. As a result I’m well-nigh allergic to running uphill, and in general not built for long distance running. Although my own mistake I admit was practicing road running too much and not cross country running, as I did tire a lot quicker than I should have…

 

Seriously though, it was superb. You do get a great sense of achievement at the end as you’re met with a headband, t-shirt and a pint of cider.

 

Camaraderie is the theme of the event, and it’s very prominent throughout. There’s always someone there to offer a helping hand with the more difficult obstacles. I’ve never experienced more people offering help and words of encouragement. It helps you push yourself and a lot of physical challenges are firmly rooted as mental challenges. You can push yourself through them, after all, pain is just weakness leaving the body, right?

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Aug 02 2013

Crunch

Crunch is a fairly sensitive topic, and there are a lot of strong opinions floating a...

Aug 02 2013 By: matt Close

Crunch

Crunch is a fairly sensitive topic, and there are a lot of strong opinions floating around the games industry, but this is basically our view on working crunch.

 

There are a good number of horror stories that have become public knowledge regarding excessive working hours. 7 day weeks and 12+ hour working days, including resulting health problems, etc are all covered, as well as the angry responses from relatives and colleagues.

 

To counter balance this, there are companies who are completely against crunch and will absolutely never demand overtime regardless of circumstance. Fair enough. If this works and the company succeeds then great; we have huge respect for this.

 

Something which also occurs is ‘optional overtime’ which comes with a type of emotional blackmail where staff are made to feel guilty for working anything less than life consuming hours. This happens through all the roles over all career stages, and in the junior positions such as QA, the paycheck just doesn’t match the required commitment.

 

So what about our view on crunch?

 

First of all, in no way would myself or Guerilla Tea condone the spirit of making employees feel guilty. We do not demand staff work additional hours on a regular basis. We sometimes find ourselves virtually insisting on staff going home and relaxing in the evening.

 

I suppose we sit somewhere in the middle ground. If we’re being honest, as directors of the business we have worked long hours since our part time days as students, and continue to work until we are finished, rather than until 5pm. I think anyone in the position of running an indie studio or start-up will relate to this. There is a general notion that if you’re only doing nine to five when running a company then you’re doing something wrong… I believe this, but since the business is your ‘child’ you don’t feel the same drag of working long hours.

 

People often talk of crunch as the result of poor management and scheduling. I’m sorry, this may be a nice theory and it’s very easy to say this when you’re on the outside, but the practical reality just doesn’t always allow for things to run smoothly, particularly in the pressure cooker that is a young games studio where maintaining sufficient cash flow is a constant worry.

 

Ergo, there are periods of time when work picks up considerably. Just recently several of the Guerilla Tea partners worked through the night to finish a major work pitch. It was very much worth that brief, extra effort.

 

I have to be careful here. I may be walking a bit of a tightrope but the other pertinent point about crunch I can’t ignore is the general contempt that the very word itself evokes. Crunch is simply another word for ‘working overtime’, which in other industries isn’t something that has been completely demonised. And yes, the games industry isn’t the only industry in the world where people work additional hours! Sometimes I feel people forget this in the haze of complaints. This is not to say that certain companies don’t overdo it and do take advantage of employees as I mentioned in the opening paragraphs. However, there is nothing wrong with extra exertion now and again. Making games is not easy, and to be successful you need complete dedication. In the paraphrased words of success expert Brian Tracy, “If you think it’s hard trying to be successful, try being unsuccessful. You don’t know what hard is until you’ve lived like that”.

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Jun 28 2013

Our 2nd Birthday

Beer, Cake and a Game Release! As of today, we’ve been in business for 2 years. It’s ...

Jun 28 2013 By: matt Close

Our 2nd Birthday

Beer, Cake and a Game Release!

As of today, we’ve been in business for 2 years. It’s scary how quickly the time has gone by. We could describe the past year as ‘tumultuous’ to say the least and it’s been an awesome learning experience. It’s still very early days for Guerilla Tea, but throughout the last year we’ve built up a strong client base, moved into superb new premises and expanded the core team. There’s been a lot of blood, sweat and tears so far, which has combined to give us that much needed luck. We’ve had a few ‘reality checks’, and it’s safe to say we have a lot to learn.

On a more light hearted note. Cake and beer is always essential to mark such an occasion. It’s one hell of a cliché but we’ll say it anyway. This cake is not a lie.

As well as our foundation in client-based work, we also do make our own games from time to time. We are releasing Staking Claims early on Android tablet to tie in with our 2nd birthday. Look out for Flash and iOS releases to follow.

 

Staking Claims is a (very) casual strategy game that should stir some rainy school playtime nostalgia (unless you’re still at school of course!). It’s a digital version of the pencil and paper game ‘Cheese Squares’, the ‘time wasting’ game of choice for many. Players take it in turns to draw lines onto a square grid; the idea being to complete squares to secure them.

 

Our game is themed after the California Gold Rush of the mid 19th century. Imagine you are in command of an entire army of gold hunters, trying to claim riches from as much land as possible before other bands of fortune seekers beat you to the punch. You’ll draw ‘fences’ on the land, and once you’ve fenced off a full square, that land will be yours.

Of course, some areas of land are more valuable than others, so you’ll need to be creative as to how you place your fences to fend off the competition.

 

The game can be played single player against an AI. For an easy round, blast through a greenhorn opponent, or go loco and play against a tough tactical enemy. We’ll be adding another difficulty setting in due course for an ultimate test of skill…

 

Staking Claims can also be enjoyed as a hot seat multiplayer game. Take your turn, then pass the tablet (or mouse) to your opponent.

There are a millions of possible terrain layouts with random level generation, so the gold won’t dry up anytime soon…

 

Enjoy the game and happy hunting!

 

Staking Claims is available to download here:

 

Android (Tablet Only) – DOWNLOAD

 

Coming to Flash and iOS!

 

 

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May 31 2013

Quality Assurance

Game testing, or Quality Assurance (QA), is a role in the industry which seems to bri...

May 31 2013 By: matt Close

Quality Assurance

Game testing, or Quality Assurance (QA), is a role in the industry which seems to bring with it a ton of misconceptions. When I used to work in QA, if I mentioned my job as a “games tester” to someone outside of the games industry, they’d jump to the conclusion that we play our favourite games at home for a few hours in the evening with a beer, and happen to get paid for it…

 

Ok, so this is a bit of an exaggeration. We know this sounds ridiculous, but in all seriousness people do think that game testing involves leisurely playing through a selection of games. Someone once asked me which of the hundreds of games I’ve played, was my favourite to test? I gave the usual game tester reality speech about working on one project for months on end, repeatedly playing the same tiny section over and over, and reporting bugs.

 

I’ve noticed that oftentimes, the thought that there has to be a methodical process to finding and fixing bugs within games goes over the heads of most people. The fact that we need to use special problem tracking software can sometimes also come as a surprise. There is a set process to game testing, and writing bug reports. Although there are slight differences from company to company, the general pattern stays the same.

 

The General Process of Game Testing

Functionality testers will often play a small section of a game repeatedly, basically trying to break that section. Testers have to approach their assigned area of the game from every conceivable angle, thinking outside the box, to try and expose any bugs, no matter how obscure. Once a bug is found, the tester will write and submit a bug report using the particular bug tracking software used by the company (It’s basically a database that stores the bug reports). At Guerilla Tea we use JIRA, but there are many others including MantisBugzilla, and larger companies may have their own proprietary program.

 

The tester assigns a bug report to a member of the development team, or maybe to their lead tester who will then assign it to the relevant developer. The developer will fix the bug, mark it as resolved, and assign it back to the tester.

 

Once the next build of the game becomes available, hopefully with the bug now fixed, the tester will try to reproduce the bug in the new build and if it doesn’t occur, he/she will mark it as closed. However if the bug still occurs, the tester will assign the bug back to the relevant member of the development team, and the process repeats for the next build of the game.

 

This is a brief overview of the process, but what about the individual bug reports? There is a standard format, again with minor differences between companies.

 

 

Standard Bug Reports

Bug reports tend to be very similar throughout the games industry and include the following sections:

– Summary Sentence
– Description
– Steps to Reproduce
– Severity
– Priority
– Rate of Occurrence
– Expected Result

 


Summary Sentence

A single, short sentence describing the bug, which will often begin with the type of bug such as art, gameplay or crash. For example.
“Crash – Game will crash at start of Tank boss battle in chapter 2.”

 

Description
A longer description of the bug, going into far more detail.

 

Steps to Reproduce
The sequence of actions you did in-game to make the bug happen. It’s deemed one of the most important aspects of a bug report and each step must be very clear, but not exhaustive. You generally shouldn’t have more than about 10 steps. Common sense really; you wouldn’t summarise playing through an entire game if the bug happened on the final boss!

 

Severity
How serious the problem is. We tend to classify bugs as A, B, C or D.
A = Game breaking; crashes, etc. Something that stops player progression.
B = Major problem, but game can still be completed. Serious gameplay or art issues usually.
C = Minor problem. Less noticeable gameplay and art issues.
D = Design bugs. Possible improvements, very minor design suggestions, etc.

 

Priority
The priority is a very important aspect of a bug in terms of the development process and works in tandem with the severity, in a way. Priorities may be marked as “must fix”, “should fix”, “could fix” or “won’t fix”, but it does vary. A bug may be ‘A’ class in severity, but if it only occurs less than 1% of the time under a very obscure sequence of actions, then it would likely be marked as “won’t fix”.

 

Rate of Occurrence
The rough frequency with which the bug occurs, usually marked as a percentage. The tester must try to reproduce the bug several times, and then judge the frequency from there.

 

Expected Result
A brief sentence describing what the tester expects to happen if the bug is not present. Could be as simple as “Game should not crash”

 

I understand that developers will know all the above inside out, but I speak to so many people that have completely the wrong idea about the QA role. It’s an important first rung on the career ladder for many, especially those looking to get into game design and unfortunately a job that doesn’t get the respect it deserves.

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May 21 2013

Using Social Media

Since we started Guerilla Tea in 2011, the use of social media has been hugely import...

May 21 2013 By: matt Close

Using Social Media

Since we started Guerilla Tea in 2011, the use of social media has been hugely important to us. I’ve wanted to share some of my thoughts on our approach for a while, so this week’s blog seems like a good opportunity.

 

One thing we have learned (the hard way, actually) is that simply making games as an indie studio is not enough. You must also have individuals on the team who are more outward facing, and handle business aspects, finance, and marketing & selling. Of course, we make no secret of our heavy focus on contract work, and we have a producer who handles business, finance and any similar issues.

 

My role within the company as Chief Design Officer involves traditional game design where I’m holding the vision of our projects, creating the game mechanics, balancing, etc. Although another vital hat I wear is that of marketing and selling. By this I mean my job is try to get our games and our business as well recognised as possible.

 

The problems facing every indie developer are visibility and reach. The two are closely related. This is something we all battle with. Without the massive marketing budget available to large organisations, how can we get our games and our company name out there? How can we become a recognised company and how can our games be seen through the masses which clutter the app store?

 

From my experiences so far, there is no secret formula to it as such. Generally ‘putting yourself out there’ through attending events, establishing contacts, completing projects, and being active in the communities certainly puts you on the right track… And social media plays a heavy part assisting with this.

Get Connected!

Our first port of call is Facebook. Likewise for many businesses with a company page. However I do things a little differently with Guerilla Tea in that as well as a company page, I also manage a standard personal profile page.

 

Although I can share topics when using Facebook as my company page, I can’t ‘like’ other people’s comments, I can’t myself comment on other topics or post into groups or on walls. Having Guerilla Tea as a person on Facebook allows me to do all of the above.

 

When we have something to share, I tend to cross post it from our personal profile onto our company profile. These are the standard items that companies tend to share; posts relating to our activity such game projects, careers, or events we have attended, etc.

 

On top of this, I post other information relating to not only our company, but also our industry in general (usually via twitter) and possibly Scotland as well (more on that later…). Using a personal profile, I can put things onto the Scottish Games NetworkFacebook group. This is invaluable as the SGN is effectively the voice of the Scottish games industry.

 

Thanks to this strategy, I have connected with other extremely active users who support their business with social media. I post on other groups, as well as commentand click the ‘like’ button on posts from other people. Very important as this helps create more of a personality for our company. We have always promoted ourselves as a studio with a strong spirit, and people will relate more to a personality, rather than a soulless commercial entity.

 

I suppose I’m trying to work a type of synergy between promoting the business through social media, and creating a personality for the company. There is also the very correct school of thought that sheer volume of content and communication boosts company promotion. Basically, the more times you have your logo and name popping up on a social media network, the more noticed you’ll eventually become!

 

Facebook assists us in essentially trying to build a small community around the company, which is closely tied to the Scottish games industry community. Information from the personal profile and company page appear in activity feeds, but we find that not everyone wants to add us as a friend, so they have the option to ‘like’ the company or befriend us, or both! The options are open.

 

I feel that a trap some fall into is treating social media communication too formally, almost in the same vein as a professional blog. It very much isn’t. Social media allows us to be a lot more colloquial in our communication, basically.

 

Everybody’s heard about the bird!

Twitter is a great service for the creative industries. We use twitter constantly, and of course tweet about company activity, in a similar vein to our Facebook use. We have our Twitter account linked to Facebook so these tweets appear on our FB wall also.

 

There is no strict rule to our tweeting, but in general I tweet very often.

 

In addition to the regular tweets about releases, etc. I try to tweet random, amusing things relating to work, and possibly just about game development life in general, even very indirectly. I also tweet about games education such as tips for graduates trying to break into the industry.

 

Attaching images whenever relevant is also very effective, cohering to the adage “A picture says a thousand words”. Screenshots will be the first thing that comes to mind for a games company, but I try to put other photos up there too.

 

I’ll tweet a good number of links to interesting articles, which adds to the idea I discussed above about trying to create a personality for our company. It’s important to tweet links to your games often after release. However, it’s important not to overdo tweeting links. You run the risk of constantly appearing to be selling something, and you want to allow people to be interested in you, rather than wonder what you are trying to provide them.

 

In addition to this I’ll regularly retweet from other people, and always use recognisable hashtags. I almost always tweet a short ‘thanks for the follow’ to people who follow Guerilla Tea, and on Fridays I’ll do 2 to 3 Follow Friday tweets, usually listing new and interesting followers, and likely one relevant to game developers, review sites, etc.

 

Last point on Twitter, I’d fully recommend downloading TweetDeck. It’ll allow you to organise and filter columns regarding tweets, activity, etc. and will generally make your life a whole lot easier.

 

There’s A System in Place!

We have the following rules in place for marketing and promotion through social media. These are guidelines, and of course it fluctuates either up or down (slightly) depending on our projects:

 

– Tweet 5 times a day minimum.

 

– Put up one Facebook post a day, even if it’s very short.

 

– Write one developer blog post a week, which is then shared on social media. (Writing a blog post is a greater time investment that most people think!)

 

What about subject matter? Well we have three points when judging whether something is relevant.

 

– It relates to the company.

 

– It relates to the wider games industry.

 

– It relates to Scotland.

 

So these are my thoughts on using social media. I have no doubt that there will be many differing opinions, just as there are with game design theories. The only thing I can say is that you really need to find what works for you and then stick with it. Effectively using social media doesn’t happen overnight, and it will take the combination of this, and generally building up the status of your company to ultimately get the most out of it.

 

 

Images courtesy of Stock Free Images.

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Apr 23 2013

Games Workshop Review

  The following blog was originally a featured post on Gamasutra. It is a more d...

Apr 23 2013 By: matt Close

Games Workshop Review

 

The following blog was originally a featured post on Gamasutra. It is a more detailed account of our game development workshop with ENABLE Scotland.

 

Introduction

My name is Charlie Czerkawski and I’m the CDO of Guerilla Tea; a Dundee based game and app developer. Several weeks ago Guerilla Tea worked together with ENABLE Scotland’s East Renfrewshire Local Area Coordination Team to run a few game development workshops for young people who have learning disabilities.

 

ENABLE Scotland is the country’s leading charity supporting children and adults who have learning disabilities and their families and carers. The charity campaigns for people who have a learning disability to live full and independent lives.

 

Several months ago Guerilla Tea met with ENABLE Scotland quite by chance at Futures Fest, an annual careers fair held in Glasgow. There we discussed the video games industry and the organization mentioned the fact that a number of their members were extremely interested in video games, specifically how games are made and the possibility of it as a viable career path.

 

Guerilla Tea is a young, ambitious company and as we continue to grow the business we are interested in exploring a number of different aspects of game development. It is widely known that there is still very little structure in place and routes into the industry, as well as prospects of career progression, are still somewhat unclear. However, one aspect that we have had to come to terms with as we have learnt the business is that the industry can, at times, feel fairly insular. With the increase in popularity of casual and mobile games however, and the ease with which games can be developed and published, we wanted to try and reach out and promote game development as a great past time, and potentially a great career.

 

The meeting with ENABLE Scotland’s LAC team came at an interesting time for us, and after some lengthy discussions within the company we decided that this was a cause that we all felt was worth investing some of our time in. After months of careful planning we decided that as an initial event we would work with a small group, around 12, young people supported by ENABLE Scotland. We would run game development workshops where we would introduce the group to the Scottish games industry, and teach them the methods and some of the more user-friendly software involved in game development. During the course of the two scheduled workshops we would work with the group to decide on a game concept and move it towards a working design. We would then build the game and ultimately release it on iTunes and Google Play as a completed product.

 

 

Workshop 1 – Concept Design 

Our first workshop took place during early February where we met with the group and began with an introduction to the Scottish games industry by veteran Brian Baglow. The talk itself was extremely entertaining and Brian covered the Dundee game development scene, which is recognised as a hub of game development in the UK. He talked about the existing game companies and a little about the history of the games industry. A few myths were dispelled in the process, including the notion that Grand Theft Auto was developed in the United States!

 

After a short lunch break, we set about doing some basic concept design with the group. The first thing we needed to do was come up with a team name for the group, and we took a number of suggestions, eventually deciding on the name ‘Lazy Boys’ by majority vote. There were a number of catchy names suggested, and ‘Sonic Muscle’ was my personal favourite!

 

Our idea was to basically structure the two events in the fashion of a game jam. We then told the group about the idea behind a game jam, and the fact that normally games take months or even years to make, but here we speed up the process to cover a single weekend, often losing a few night’s sleep… Although these workshops would take place over two separate days and wouldn’t involve working throughout the night.

 

We set team Lazy Boys with the task of coming up with some ideas for games, noting down suggestions on paper. The main lesson we were aiming to teach the group here was project scope. Given our limited time and resources there would be a lot of features and gameplay elements which would simply be unachievable, and our challenge was to keep the concepts within the umbrella of simple, pick-up-and-play casual games. The group understood the idea of scope extremely well, and there were a lot of concepts for games ranging from several different takes on the platforming genre covering a number of themes, along with ideas for text based quiz games.

 

After a few hours we took some time to collate the concepts. There were several ideas for various elements within the concepts including enemies along with pickups and other gameplay enhancements. We got the group together to work through the ideas and essentially vote on elements to include in our final project, eliminating aspects which were not relevant or feasible.

 

A recurring idea was platforming as mentioned above, which we worked into an endless running game. A theme which seemed popular was cyberpunk, so Lazy Boys decided that the character would be running over skyscraper rooftops in a dystopian future. Thinking about the character, there were several ideas for outlandish creatures but ultimately the name ‘Norman’ was decided and a regular cartoon styled human figure seemed more fitting. So how could we make the game a little more interesting? Random ideas thrown together was becoming the theme of the day, and to keep in tune with this the team voted for the enemies to be extra-terrestrial elderly people, appearing to block Norman’s path on the rooftops. Norman would also collect Mana which would boost his score.

 

A name for the game – ‘On The Freerun’. A fitting name and descriptive of the content, which was another lesson we covered during the day, as many amateur games are created with weak titles which limit their potential reach.

 

As the first workshop came to an end, we had a game concept which would be taken to the next stage. There were of course a lot of other ideas and some members of the group had shown a great deal of interest in making games in their spare time. After highlighting the fact that the software Guerilla Tea uses to make games is beyond the hobbyist price range, we talked about available free (or more affordable) software programs such as GamemakerUnity and GIMP, which can be purchased or downloaded, and we prepared a list to be sent out to the group.

 

This concluded a successful first workshop, and during the intervening period Guerilla Tea undertook some basic preparation for the next workshop which would be the development day.

 

We designed a logo for ‘Lazy Boys’, and also put together a basic front end for ‘On The Freerun’. We also worked on putting some of the core framework together for an endless running game using YoYo Games Gamemaker engine.

 

We decided that the most effective approach to building the game with Lazy Boys would be to have them create the art assets for the game using traditional means, ie. simply creating it on paper with coloured pens. We would then scan it into a PC, and add a little minor polish using Photoshop. With the game framework in place we would create the gameplay on the day of the event and import the art into it, finishing the day with a working game.

 

Workshop 2 – Development Day

The second workshop began with two further talks, beginning with games industry adviser Phil Harris giving a presentation on the games industry in general. Throughout the talk he covered organised game jam events in greater detail, again something which the group showed interest in.

 

University of Abertay Lecturer Ryan Locke then gave a very motivating speech on focussing on your goals and ambitions, and the value of attending university, and in particular how closely tied the University of Abertay is the Dundee games industry, providing all the benefits when looking to build a career.

 

After lunch we separated Lazy Boys into those who were interested in programming and those who were interested in art.

 

The programmers worked with YoYo Games Gamemaker, with help from Guerilla Tea CTO Alex Zeitler. The object of this was to learn Gamemaker in the process of building On The Freerun. With our basic pre-prepared framework, a few members of the team began implementing the designed functionality of the game. They managed to get a character moving in the randomly generating environment, and implemented the health and scoring system, as well as the behaviour of the Mana and damaging effects of the hostile elderly people.

 

Simultaneously, the members of the team who were more interested in art worked with the help of Guerilla Tea CCO Matt Zanetti and Ryan Locke to create the art assets for the game. We set about putting up a list of required objects onto our large projector screen, and then assigned different tasks to members of the team. Throughout the next few hours the team created a series of buildings, enemies and mana objects on paper.

 

It was great to see the team working towards the design established from the first workshop, keeping things simple. Although in the process we did lose the cyberpunk style and the game world did become more cartoon-like. Something that was unavoidable with the tools to hand and the short time frame.

 

We had already planned out the basic running and jumping animations for Norman previously, and at a point in the afternoon, Matt helped a few members of the team draw a simple design for Norman using Photoshop, and also tweak some of the animations with Maya. This was definitely a more sensitive aspect of the design, so a lot of supervision was required here.

 

Myself, Matt and Ryan guided the tasks during the day and as the development session came to a close, we collated the afternoon’s work and brought the art assets into the prototype which Lazy Boys programmers had created, tidying up some of the art using Photoshop, although this was very minimal.

 

The group then had a chance to test their game to round off the day. The majority of the team had been particularly keen on the game tester role within the industry, and they did actually find a good number of bugs in the game in only a short time playing. However, the ins and outs of game testing was not the objective of the workshops but since it’s a well recognised first rung on the career ladder in the games industry, we recommended some of the older members of the team to actively look into testing work.

 

On The Freerun 

Over the following few days Guerilla Tea set about adding a little polish, and more importantly fixing the bugs the team had found. We released the game to the world on iOS and Android:

 

iOS: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/on-the-freerun/id626730211?mt=8

 

Android: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.lazyboyz.on_the_freerun&feature=search_result

 

Lazy Boys now have a completed, released game with their names in the credits, published by a professional development studio, certainly something to be extremely proud of.

 

This is one of the first events of its kind and we hope to open up many possibilities in the future. I’m very pleased with the positive response from we have had from the games industry so far, along with some excellent media coverage. We hope to further reinforce game development as an enjoyable and rewarding career choice for those willing to put in the work.

 

A Great Career

The games industry can at times seem fairly insular but we hope that this small event is just the first step in proving otherwise.

 

I was quoted in the media:

 

“We wanted to show the kids and the adults, the concepts of making a game, the software, some of the processes of game development and at the end have a game with their names on the credits.”

 

“We were really promoting that game making is a viable career option, for anybody. It is certainly not cut off or elitist.”

 

Dougie Purves, Service Leader with ENABLE, said:

 

“We identified that many of the young people we engage with have an interest in the games industry and were really keen to give them the chance to find out more about this field and the training and employment opportunities that exist in Scotland.”

 

“This was a unique experience for everyone who took part. The feedback from participants has been overwhelmingly positive. We are so grateful to Guerilla Tea for making this possible.”

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Mar 13 2013

Beano iPrank

As part of Guerilla Tea’s ongoing relationship with DC Thomson, we were recently comm...

Mar 13 2013 By: matt Close

Beano iPrank

As part of Guerilla Tea’s ongoing relationship with DC Thomson, we were recently commissioned to develop a Beano prank app for iOS and Android as part of the Menacing Monday Digital Campaign being done in the run-up to April Fool’s Day.

 

The app contains 5 humorous prank programs; Beano Bigmouth, Fart Finder, Super Soundboard, Menace-O-Meter and Eye Fright.

 

In true Q-Branch fashion, we’re going to proceed with an equipment briefing, so you’re fully prepared for the mission of generally being annoying.

 

With the Beano Bigmouth, choose a Beano character and hold the phone up to your mouth. The character’s lips will move with your own speech. Simple laughs.

 

If a bright red face isn’t enough to identify the guilty party, then the Fart Finder is the tool of choice. Believe it or not, it doesn’t really tell you who farted; although we’re looking into the technology for that… If you discretely touch the screen when lowering your phone, you can pin the blame on anyone your little heart desires…

There is nothing in this world more amusing that the sound of a fart. I know, it’s the small things in life… (And flatulence seems to be a recurring theme) Nevertheless with the Super Soundboard you can irritate the hell out of anyone and everyone with headache-causing noises. It’s not just farts, there are buzzing flies, toilet flushes and plenty more; the best part is that you can mash the buttons and play them all at once. Seriously, we’re easily amused!

The Menace-O-Meter is a top of the range scanner detecting the ‘menace’ viability of a particular individual. Get your subject to place his or her hand on the scanning area of the device, and upon completion, the subject will be declared either a menace (which is a good thing by the way), or just generally uncool in every way. How does this work? You’ll just have to download the app to find out…

The Eye Fright is used to catch out unsuspecting victims by disguising itself as a harmless Colour Blindness Test application. Just when you think things are progressing as normal, Gnasher will make an untimely appearance.

 

This concludes the briefing session. All that remains is to download the app and test them in the field. Go on, you know you want to.

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Feb 06 2013

Getting a Job in Game Design

      The next few months we’re taking part in a number of talks and e...

Feb 06 2013 By: matt Close

Getting a Job in Game Design

 

 

 

The next few months we’re taking part in a number of talks and events (or at least it seems so!) Some of these are focussed on basically what it takes to get into the games industry, and build yourself a career doing what you love. So to in keeping with the theme, I’m going to dish out some advice on those looking to get into game design.

 

I published an ebook in late 2011 called Breaking Into Video Game Design: A Beginner’s Guide. The book is actually a little outdated now from my perspective, but there is some timeless advice in there for anyone looking for a job designing video games.

 

The main problem with game design, unlike programming and art, is that it can be very difficult to prove your ability. The main way to do this is to have a track record of shipped titles, but of course this first requires you to get a job designing games, so we hit the industry catch-22 that we’ve all heard before…

 

So how do you get around this? Well there’s no doubt it’s a problem, but there are several things which stand out to me as extremely important.

 

Firstly, get some experience working in video game testing (QA). You don’t need a degree as such so you can get summer jobs during university holidays, for example. At Guerilla Tea, we see QA as the most important foundation for games designers; it is a subdivision of design.

 

We also don’t currently do the “programmer-designer” or “artist-designer” thing. A game designer is a vision holder for a project, working with documents, spreadsheets, bug trackers, and good old fashioned verbal communication. So it follows that getting some experience working in the heart of a game company is very valuable indeed, and QA is a first port of call for this.

 

Secondly, look for any and all opportunities to build games in teams. There are lots of different ways you can go about this. A university course may give you this, or maybe you can team up with an artist and programmer friend (people you might meet by getting a job in testing!) and put together a simple prototype. If you can show some type of playable artefact, where you worked with other people, then you’re very much on the right track.

 

Lastly, go live. Strange one this I’ll admit, but whatever you do, don’t only play videogames in your spare time. It seems obvious but there are plenty of people who stick to the stereotype far too closely… If you’re in charge of creating experiences for players, then having some yourself is pretty important, right?

 

Above everything, it’s all about working your ass off. Put in the hours early on, and the rewards come later, honest.

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Jan 23 2013

Puzzle Design

  If you’re looking to get involved with the video games industry in any way, th...

Jan 23 2013 By: matt Close

Puzzle Design

 

If you’re looking to get involved with the video games industry in any way, then I wholly recommend The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses by Jesse Schell. It’s geared towards game designers, but there is a huge amount to take away regardless of your own discipline.

I grew up playing action adventure games from the PSOne era, where puzzles were a major part of the experience, so a chapter I found particularly interesting was Twelve: Game Mechanics Support Puzzles.

The chapter goes into a lot of detail with ten puzzle principles, which basically act as guidelines for designers. I try to work from these for my own designs, although I’m feeling compelled to blog about a few of them which I think relate very nicely to our first release, The Quest.

Principle 3: Give a Sense of Progress

Quoting directly from the book; “A puzzle also demands an answer, but frequently involves manipulating something so that you can see or feel yourself getting closer to the solution, bit by bit.”
The gameplay of The Quest is to move the character Steve along the surface of a world derived from a Rubik’s Cube; we basically replaced the colours of the cube squares with 3 different types of terrain (Grass, Water & Mountain) and the player can move between each using special transition squares.
As I was building and testing the levels – generally experimenting – I managed to hit upon that sense of progression using the transition tiles. You’re moving between different terrain and you get the idea that you are finally ‘getting somewhere’ with the level. Even better, sometimes you’ll find yourself so close, yet so far away; standing on a tile adjacent to the goal but unable to touch it.

Principle 4: Give a Sense of Solvability

I had to get across the idea that you could actually complete the levels. I’ve played so many games which have presented puzzles which just seemed impossible… I honestly could have stared at it for a year and not have had even a light in the brain switch on.
The book actually mentions the Rubik’s Cube in relation to this principle: Rubik’s Cubes come in a solved state when purchased so there is instantly a sense of solvability. Fair enough, this wasn’t feasible for The Quest as such, but I felt that because The Quest was so obviously based on a Rubik’s Cube, it would give the player that idea that each level would be have a solution.
On the other hand, a number of people thought that you had to be able to actually solve a Rubik’s Cube in order to play the game! Predictable, I suppose.

Principle 6: Parallelism Lets the Player Rest

This principle discusses the idea that puzzles tend to make the player stop and think, and if they are unable to solve the puzzle, they will likely give up in frustration and abandon the whole game. This was a danger when I was piecing together our game’s levels. If just one of them had an odd difficulty spike, there was the risk that our audience would just give up. The levels are arranged in sequence but I decided to unlock 2 subsequent levels for each level completed. This very subtle design decision gives the player an option should they become stumped by a particular level.

 

Principle 10: Perceptual Shifts are a Double-Edged Sword
This final principle is essentially a warning to game designers to steer clear of a specific type of puzzle. The example of a perceptual shift puzzle given is “Can you arrange six match sticks so they form four equilateral triangles?”
It is one of those exercises that has a very high “you either get it or you don’t” factor. It reminds me of chronic intelligence tests, and the type of exercise sometimes given in schools to determine how successful the pupil will be later in life…
The truth is that there is no true learning with these perceptual shift problems. If you fail to solve one, you’ll not gain any useful knowledge or experience to take into the next. Fortunately, in regard to The Quest, we basically avoided this problem all together. I tried to make the game as easy to learn as possible, and once you know how to play, each level challenges you further, rather than throwing in something completely different.

This has been just a brief run through with The Quest in mind, and there are of course the other puzzle principles, some of which apply more than others. It isn’t an exact science by any means, but they provide very good guidelines to work from.

All in all, if you’re an aspiring designer, I’d go out and pick up a copy of The Art of Game Design. It’s an inspiring book covering everything important about the design discipline. It helped hugely when we were making The Quest, and I often use it for our current projects.

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Jan 15 2013

Reflecting on 2012

  At Guerilla Tea are busy as ever as we start back in 2013. It has been a succe...

Jan 15 2013 By: matt Close

Reflecting on 2012

 

At Guerilla Tea are busy as ever as we start back in 2013. It has been a successful first 18 months, and things are moving onward and most definitely upward for this company. We’ll have regular updates over the coming months, but it seems like a great time to reflect on the past year’s activity and achievements.

 

At the beginning of 2012, with Ward Round safely released to thousands of students and medical professionals, we returned to our original IP, the Rubik’s Cube inspired puzzle game The Quest. We worked on a number of small contracts including Fairground Photos, simultaneously while developing The Quest, ultimately releasing the, now BAFTA nominated game on iOS, Android and Kongretate in April.

 

A trip to London for the finals of the TIGA £100k competition followed shortly, with Guerilla Tea winning the ‘Games on the Move’ category, funding the prototype development of Fangs Out, a model helicopter dogfighting game. This success involved an office move and some much needed security for the summer period. Work continued and Guerilla Tea was featured (primarily with Fangs Out) for the BBC programme Show Me The Money.

 

During the summer months a free version of The Quest was released, called The Quest: The Beginning, and the Ward Round supplementary application, Ward Round: Picture Quiz began, and was duly completed.

 

August was exceptionally busy as we presented the completed prototype of Fangs Out to the public at the Dare Protoplay event, and two days later left for a productive trip to Cologne for Gamescom.

 

On our return we were delighted to become involved with the digital relaunch of The Dandy, developing additional games, and integrated mini-games for the world’s longest running comic. We moved into a superb new office at Seabraes House in Dundee to continue development and expand the company. We were also featured in the October issue of develop magazine with a six second studio spotlight, and around the same time released Ward Round: Picture Quiz.

 

Early November saw us attend Explay 2012 Festival in Bath, which involved exhibiting Fangs Out to the public for a second time, covering the South West of England. Big thanks to Remode for the invite.

 

It has been a tough but hugely rewarding first year, and we will continue with more exciting work in the new year including fresh contracts and a return to Fangs Out. For more news as it happens follow us on Twitter, Click the like button on our company page and certainly don’t be afraid to add Guerilla Tea as a friend; we’ve given our company a personality thanks to the wonders of Facebook!

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Aug 29 2012

Fangs Out! – Game Design

    Welcome to the second Fangs Out! development blog post! As you all know...

Aug 29 2012 By: matt Close

Fangs Out! – Game Design

 

 

Welcome to the second Fangs Out! development blog post! As you all know now, Fangs Out! is an action game where players control virtual model helicopters, and engage in living room dogfights through a variety of intense single and multiplayer contests.

 

The main inspiration for Fangs Out, and indeed the key ‘feel’ for the game which we are aiming for, is related to the ways in which children play and use their imagination. Children can entertain themselves for hours on end by creating role plays, stories and situations with inanimate toy vehicles. They use their imagination extensively, and we naturally tend to lose this desire and to some extent ability as we move into our teen years. Though I’m sure we all did it at one point or another! With the design of Fangs Out, we are aiming to play on the nostalgic value of childhood imagination, and bring to life the battle scenarios and stories which people enjoyed as children.

 

The first major stage for the design of Fangs Out was to define and document the core gameplay mechanics to provide direction for programming. At this stage our artist began creating concept art for the gameplay environment and vehicles, which you’ll know all about if you’ve read the previous blog post. This early design stage involved a great deal of research and experimentation; looking towards other vehicle combat games, examining our own resources, and then finding a gameplay system which would best apply to Fangs Out.

 

We decided to utilise the gyroscope contained within most modern phones and tablets, and create a motion control system for the helicopters. The game is intended to be a fast paced, casual experience; a game where players will become engaged very quickly. With this in mind, it was important to steer clear of any type of helicopter simulation design, and we ultimately created an arcade control scheme where the player tilts forward and backward to move respectively, and rotates to steer. This was combined with touch screen buttons to control weapons and the engine power (height) of the helicopter.

Content design involved a degree of research, and working closely with our artist to devise the helicopters to be included in the game, and to map out the game environment.

 

The helicopters are mainly inspired by real life attack helicopters, but it was important not to lose that core feel of ‘toys’ fighting one another, so I decided to fashion the default helicopter, the FO-RC mk1, in the standard RC helicopter style, and use the more ‘warlike’ helicopter styles and designs for later, potentially more desirable vehicles.

 

The game environment is a modified living room, kitchen and hallway area inspired by a colleague’s home. I began with some simple paper sketches to get the general layout of the level, and moved onto blocking it out in 3D using Google Sketchup. This was then passed onto our artist who modelled the environment using Maya, to be loaded into the game. Once the basic environment was in the game and playable, it was extensively tested for general playability, and then built up through a number of iterations and tweaks.

 

A major feature of Fangs Out! is the customisation system. The system is intended to allow for aesthetic and gameplay related customisation. All customisation items (weapons and upgrades) are kept as peripheral to the helicopters, and not associated with any particular vehicle. This gives players the freedom to use any weapon or upgrade they like with their favourite helicopter.

 

Two currencies are used in relation to items and upgrades. Coin is used for the initial purchase, and Experience Points (Xp) are used specifically to increase the effectiveness of each upgrade. This allowed me to gain more control over the pricing of items and the in-game economy and therefore the monetisation of the game. It also provides a greater reward to the player for playing the game, as increasing effectiveness can only be achieved by using Xp which are solely attained from gameplay.

 

With Fangs Out! I decided to give players two methods of attack, allowing them to take one type of machine gun and one type of missile into any one battle. This may seem fairly facile in some regards, and is common within games, but small decisions such as these result in a great deal more art, code and design work as the game moves through the development process…

 

Other upgrades cover Engines, Rotors and Armour. These affect the speed, turning speed, and vehicle health respectively thereby allowing the player to upgrade these attributes which should, in turn, provide a dynamic gameplay experience. E.g. you can personalise your helicopter to become more nimble, or possibly become a slower, heavily armoured helicopter.

 

The key is balance. The main design task with regard to the statistics mentioned above was intensive numerical balancing. I used a number of spread sheets to create tables of statistics and in some cases mathematical formulas were used to aid balancing (particularly pertaining to xp levels). This was combined with extensive play testing, to achieve the desired gameplay.

 

As development continues we are constantly refining the design. As the game comes together, as the programmer and artist bring the game mechanics to life, new decisions and tasks surface. The main role of the designer is continuous decision making, so I’m sure I’ll be busy. It is an on-going process. Keep an eye on this space for more Fangs Out development updates in the coming weeks and months.

 

Charlie Czerkawski

 

The Designer

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Jul 19 2012

Fangs Out – Concept Art!

This is the first in a series of blog posts that will follow the development of Gueri...

Jul 19 2012 By: matt Close

Fangs Out – Concept Art!

This is the first in a series of blog posts that will follow the development of Guerilla Tea’s second original title ‘Fangs Out!’. In the coming weeks you will see blogs about Game Design, Programming and Production however today we begin with Art; specfically the concept art stage of this project. The idea for Fangs Out! was born out of the notion of what happens in a childs imagination when playing with their toy planes and helicopters. As a result the team decided very early on that we wanted the game to be larger than life, over the top, humourous and stylized in a cartoon manner in order to try and imitate what it might be like in a childs mind. As you can imagine the most important art task in a helicopter game is of course the visual design of the helicopters themselves, and so once a style had been discussed the first major art task was to deal with these. Once our Designer (Charlie) had decided on the helicopters that would be available in the prototype; a generic model helicopter, the AH6 Little Bird, an Apache and something similar to the Scorpion, as a premium product, the task of visualising them began. The first step was to get an understanding of how the helicopters looked in real life. This was done with some very simple line drawings in Illustrator using all the correct proportions. As we were trying to achieve a stylized cartoon art style I decided to make the helicopters much chunkier than they were in real life and to play with their proportions a bit; for example shortening the tail and over-sizing the body in order to pull them out of reality and emphasize each helicopters individual qualities. We also decided that as we wanted to really push the ‘larger than life’ aspect of them we would make the weapons greatly oversized, almost as much as it would seem that the helicopters would barely be able to fly with them attached. Once the Illustrator sketches had been completed it was important to ensure that, due to the amount of visual noise that would be contained within each map, that each helicopter model was easily recognisable from one another. This was vital as we wanted to ensure that no matter which helicopter a player chose they would always be able to defeat other players as long as they used tactics which emphasised their chosen helicopters strengths, for example is it fast and agile with low armour such as the FO-RC mk1 or slower and less manoeuvrable but with great armour like the RC Naked Flame. Thus the design of each helicopter had to be immediately distinguishable from each other, even in low lighting or visually dense scenes in order to allow the player to make very quick tactical decisions on how to tackle their opponents. To test this we used a very simple shadow study in which all detail was removed from the helicopter so that only the only information available to tell apart each model was the silhouette. This guaranteed that even in the poorest of lighting conditions the player could identify what model an enemy player was using. We were very keen to provide a high level of customisation to Fangs Out! not only in terms of how each individual player could load out their helicopter in terms of rotors, engine, weapons and a few other things we’re keeping a secret for now! We also wanted to include some aesthetic customisation in terms of pattern and colour choices. The next task then in terms of concept art was to choose the four patterns that would be available for the prototype and apply these to the drawings to see how they worked and also give the helicopters a bit of character and finalise how we would achieve a cartoony style with shaders, which in the end was decided to be a Toon Shader optimised for iOS and mobile. Once the vehicle design had been completed the last part of this relatively short concept process was to map out the environment in which the battles would take place. As we had decided to only create one environment for the prototype we wanted to really try and reinforce the idea that these were model helicopters and not actual military helicopters flying around fighting; the end result was a living room. The main aspects to work out in the mapping of the environment was the; scale, layout and general placement of obstacles in order to make as interesting an area as possible, as well as being believable as liveable space. Initially we thought it would be nice to treat the environment with a Toon Shader in the same way we had the vehicles, however due to the technical limitations of mobile devices we decided that this would not be feasible. Instead we decided to give it a semi-realistic feel while restraining ourselves from getting carried away with too much detail in the textures so that the main focused remained on the helicopters themselves and environmental gameplay features. In the end we feel that this also benefitted the idea that helicopters and combat were taking place within a child’s imagination and thus were stylized and the environment was simply where the events happened to be taking place and so remained somewhat realistic, proving that technical limitations need not always take away from you’re games final outcome. Well, that’s our first development blog post, I hope you all found it interesting. The next post will be from our Designer so keep an eye out for that. Matt Zanetti The Artist

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Apr 09 2012

BAFTA Nominated

  This month Guerilla Tea had the honour of being nominated for a Scottish BAFTA...

Apr 09 2012 By: matt Close

BAFTA Nominated

 

This month Guerilla Tea had the honour of being nominated for a Scottish BAFTA for in the New Talent Awards category with The Quest.

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Mar 17 2012

Guerilla Tea win TIGA Games Contest

  The Guerilla Tea team was in London last week for the final pitches for the TI...

Mar 17 2012 By: matt Close

Guerilla Tea win TIGA Games Contest

 

The Guerilla Tea team was in London last week for the final pitches for the TIGA Games Contest, and we’re happy to say we won the ‘Games on the Move’ category with our ‘Fangs Out!’ concept.

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Dec 23 2011

Ward Round Out Now!

    Ward Round is now available on iPhone, If you are a medical student, tr...

Dec 23 2011 By: matt Close

Ward Round Out Now!

 

 

Ward Round is now available on iPhone, If you are a medical student, trainee doctor, or interested in a career in medicine, this is for you!

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Sep 04 2011

The Quest – 3D Artist

  The Quest was featured in issue 32 of 3D Artist magazine with an extended six ...

Sep 04 2011 By: matt Close

The Quest – 3D Artist

 

The Quest was featured in issue 32 of 3D Artist magazine with an extended six page master class in mobile game development!

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