Hero’s Song: Doing it Right!

Today, september 7th, was the day Apple officially announced the iPhone7. That, however, was not what i was looking forward to today. September 7th was the day that PiXelMageGames made right what started in january with the announcement of this new company, their first game in developement, Hero’s Song, and the sadly failed attempt to launch a Kickstarter. Anyone with a bit of interest in gaming might remember that the game was pulled from Kickstarter within a few days after it started their campaign, appoligizing for their enthausiastic but rushed attempt. After that things got kind of quiet around Hero’s Song…

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Ofcourse the people behind PiXelMageGames got anything but quiet, passionately working on the game that they announced and that had sounded so promising. Sometimes there was some chitchatter on Twitter, usually voiced by John Smedley (CEO of PiXelMageGames), but nothing really big this last half year got announced nor shown to the public. A while ago i wrote a blogpost about community and how important it is to keep communication with your fanbase clear and active, to involved them on the project you are working on and how they are your best shot at promoting your product. In this post i used Hero’s Song as an eXample and tried to discribe how PiXelMageGames could benefit from a dedicated group of fans to both make their game better as well as keep the hype alive they started eventhough the Kickstarter failed. I hoped it got some attention from some of the people working on the game and fans in the community, for i still think together we can make this game a big succes. I dont know if anyone did notice my thoughts on the subject but today i got the feeling someone had seen the light and PiXelMageGames had made some eXcellent decisions!

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First there was the info on the game. All the credits for this goes to the people working on Hero’s Song at PiXelMageGames and they have the opportunity to show this eXciting game they are working on all these months. Alot of features and ideas already mentioned with their first announcement seem to have made it into the game and the possibilities of unique worlds, a ton of classes, privately hosted games and an indept living gameworld, each with their own history, is mindblowing but seems to have become a real thing! Im really eXcited how this will develope over the neXt few weeks and months until we get the possibility to step into alpha-/preorder release and eXperience these brave new worlds for ourselves. It feels like what No Man’s Sky could and should have been, the eXploration of a procedurely generated gameworld but with the actual presence of eXciting gameplay and story… The difference of a beautiful but hollow shell and a game in which fantasies become real and a new adventure is yours for the taking.

PiXelMageGames decided to make amends with their failure at the Kickstarter campaign and launched on Indiegogo today. Opposed to their earlier attempt they backed this campaign with a ton of eXciting info on what they have achieved so far and set a fleXibele thus realistic goal to raise money to top the game eXperience with even more features and options. They left out the ridiculous backer options from their Kickstarter campain and set up a variety of realistic but desireable perks. There is the opportunity to buy a pre-order with a discount on the official price after launch, alpha access and a smal variety of goodies and/or ways to get your own ideas in the world of Hero’s Song. For the official announcement on this neXt stage in the developement of the game they set up a live stream hosted by the partnered and well known Twitch streamen CohhCarnage. John Smedly and Patrick Rothfuss (World Building and Design) appeared on the stream, showing their latest trailer on the game, eXplaining their progress and near future plans. NeXt to the eXciting features of the game and story they talked about, i was thrilled to hear CohhCarnage emphasize the importance of maintaining a good and active relationship with the community. Looking at the choices PiXelMageGames seem to have made with this new backer campaign and the communication towards their fanbase i would like to think some of my wishes have been heared and pick-up, wether it is coincidence or not i do not really care, i just hope it will make this game the fantastic project we got promised and i see a bright future ahead for everyone that have put their hopes on this project which could blow our minds. Hero’s Song, the game No Man’s Sky never was!

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The Importance of Community – Hero’s Song

I would like to share some thoughts on the effect off investing in a relationship with your customers. Specificly the relationship between a gamedeveloper and the potential players of the game they are creating. Is this relationship something a game developer should invest time and money in or do you think they should focus on creating the game and don’t need to be distracted by side issues?

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Lets have a look at what is needed to create and maintain a preferably positive relationship with the people that are interested in the game you are developing. First of all one or more people within your team need to act as a representative for the company and that person should be the one to communicate with the community. Usually there is already a person dealing with press-releases, interviews and other promotional issues and that is probably the first person to think of when considering someone for this community task. Remember that this person will be the “face” of the game, the person we have in mind associated with the game. Also it is crucial to regularly create posts, articles and other publications to keep a flow of interest running for the game. If you stay under the radar for too long people will start to lose interest and move on to other games, not checking out the latest news on your game anymore and therefor not spreading any (positive) information to their fellow gamers. New material and facts will give the community a reason to keep coming back for more news. Throwing everything you have on the table all at once will definately create alot of buzz but only for a very short time and if there is nothing new to show for months after that initial pile of information you have lost all those potential costumers as fast as you have invited them to your game-to-be. Information management is key in this proces, less is more. Too much is a waste!

heros-songI did not accidently stumble on these thoughts as you might have guessed by now. There is a game that has grabbed my interest as soon as it was announced back in januari of this year and had me check for information on a weekly basis…. Im talking about Hero’s Song, a 2D piXelart game by PiXelmage Games, a game company created by some veterans in the gaming industry like John Smedly, Jon Handy and Dave Mark. Within the first weeks after the announcement there was info on the game to be released like screenshots, indept information on the gameworld and they use the eXpertise of wellknown streamer CohhCarnage to keep in touch with that side of the gaming community. On their website (www.piXelmagegames.com) it’s possible to opt-in for recieving news and updates on the game and company as well as links to all their social media presence.

On their site they have a page about their announced game Hero’s Song which already contains quite alot of info on the gameworld, systems, characters & races as well as some good looking concept-art. With John Smedley they have a representative who is well known in the gaming industry already and the perfect guy for promoting and representing the game to the community.

Getting back to keeping that community (the potential customers for PiXelmage Games and their game Hero’s Song) involved, i do have some critical notes to mention though. The announcement of the new gamestudio and their game was made on the 19th of januari 2016. That announcement has since then been the only newsitem on their site. I have been checking their site regularly but nothing seems to change or get updated which keeps me in the dark on the progression on the game which i am genuinly looking forward to. I understand they can’t produce more info on the game than is available at this time, also due to the fact there is already quite a bit of info on the game to be found at their website already. They could have considered however to release that information over a longer timespan with bits and pieces now and then to continue lureing people back to their website and keep interest in the game alive. Even little things like new screenshots or revealing teasers/information about the backstory or even characterstories could be a good way to generate recurring buzz. Another idea could have been to have the members of the company introduce themselves to the community with a personal article and/or bits of info on the part they are working on.pixelmage-logo PiXelmage Games has this information on their site as static information which has been there from the start. Very interesting but since it has never been updated it will be checked ones or twice and never again.

The presence of PiXelmage Games and John Smedley on social media, especially Twitter, is alot more active though. I’ve made Tweets and asked questions about Hero’s Song which have been commented on and answered quite fast and to the point. That particular active interaction with the community has kept me coming back to their Twitter page and checking on their Tweets regularly hoping to get some more info that way. It is that positive way of interacting with their community and potential costumers that PiXelmage Games should focus on and try to eXpand to their other means of communicating, for eXample their website as mentioned before.

To my opinion the community is a very important subject to deal with as a (game)developer and not to be treated without care. The time and effort you invest into your fans will be payed back to you by means of free promotion, free critics with genuine interest in creating a good product and they will also be your first customers. When you have the product to look forward to, the right people to make it and the presence and tools to get people hyped and informed, take that last hurdle and embrace YOUR community!

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Things dont break alone

You might recognise the event when something in your household breaks down and not long after something else follows? The most common eXample is the washing/laundrymachine and after replacing it the dryer breaks down and needs to be replaced as well…

Such a streak of bad luck seems to be happening to us lately. A couple months ago our car broke down for the 100th time in 2 years (we needed to have it pulled away for the 5th time since we bought it) but we are so getting used to that we’re not even surprised anymore. What annoys me more is my laptop that seems to have given up on me last weekend and that is one thing i cannot miss since we are in the process of renovating some rooms and therefor i have parked my desktop computer in my sons room. He is quite thrilled with that since he is now able to play some games on this PC in his room but i feel kind of like missing a limb!

The laptop i was working on AND playing my games on since my desktop is temporarily in use by my son is a 3-years old but quite decent HP G6 (i7, 4gb with a dedicated GPU R7670m) that plays my games fairly well… Since about half a year though it started eXperiencing heat issues for which i had it checked out at the local computer store. First time i brought it in they cleaned it and put on new cooling paste which worked for about a month untill it started to shut down again. The second time they discovered that the heatsink was broken and therefor it couldnt direct the heat out of my laptop correctly. Because the laptop had a dedicated GPU it has a rather unusual heatsink and we found out it couldnt be ordered via the official channels anymore. HP stopped producing it and they had none in stock anymore but via some obscure website we found a seller in China. After a 30 day delivery time we did actually recieve the part and i must say we were a bit surprised since we kind of gave up hope on it being delivered. The laptop was fiXed and worked fine again… For 2 months… Since last weekend it shuts down again and i tried several things but im afraid its overheating again and honesty i dont want to spend anymore money on repairs…

For my son i am putting together a desktop computer from spare parts i have laying around… Or at least that was the plan! I had put together my old AMD64-3500, 2gb ram, R3850 but then the videocard gave up on me. I had another card laying around, a Radeon X850 but we found out my son couldnt even play Minecraft on the system with that card so i started replacing stuff and one thing led to another…

I bought a budget videocard but one that would be able to play games at a decent framerate, a Radeon r7 270X and decided to order 8GB ram with it as well. I did accidently order ddr3 ram which doesnt fit on the old motherboard is was using so afterwards i decided to find a decent (again budget) motherboard and processor for him as well to replace his old ones with. So at that point i got him an Asus motherboard with an AMD A4-6300 processor, 8gb ram and a Radeon R7 270X videocard… And there are no IDE connectors on the new board so the choice for a new SSD HD was made and completed his system. It ended up better than my current desktop system but it looks like there is one hurdle to overcome.

I installed Windows10 on the new system and made my son very happy with his own computer… Untill it started showing bluescreens and error messages about drivers that are causing issues! At this point im still testing and searching for which driver is causing the issue and untill i find out my own desktop remains in his room, leaving me without a computer and now even without a laptop!

Long story short, i have gotten my 7 years old Acer laptop back on the kitchen table with a faulty spacebar which makes it unusable for write large amounts of teXts (like blogposts) but at least give me the opportunity to fill  in my taX papers and even lets me play a game of Diablo… 2…

Please bare with me, blogposts will be a bit low  but ill be saving my ideas for better times. If you like to help me either intelectual, technical or financial… Just sent me a message 😉

Edit: At this moment as im publishing this blogpost i have just recieved my new laptop!

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Gamerdad, hot or not?

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As i have written before in my previous blogposts i have been gaming since i was 7 years old and i have recently achieved level 40 in life so i believe i know a thing or two about the subject.

I also have 3 sons (age 5, 8 and 12) who have inhereted the love for videogames from their dad. Mom is not into gaming so every question regarding games will be thrown at me and is answered with enthausiasm and usually results in a fun family gaming session.

The flipside of the medal is that my kids cannot (yet) fool me when it comes to gamerfacts or general knowledge about games. When my oldest son had his 11th birthday 2 of his friends got him a version of GTA for the XboX360 (still wondering how they got it!) and the kids tried to justify the 18+ PEGI with arguments like:”All my friends play this game!” and “Those age ratings are different for movies and videogames so there is nothing wrong with me playing these!” I eXplained to my son that i have played these games myself and i think they are not appropriate for his age. His remark:”You dont know anything!” was countered by my wife with:”That might be true but your dad does know games!”

I do admit im not always that harsh with enforcing these age ratings. People might not agree (if so please do tell me in the comments!) but i do allow my 12 years old son to play Call of Duty which is rated 16-18. The only rule to that is that he doesnt play it when his younger brothers are watching which made him safe up for an XboX for himself which he has in his room right now! Also for the younger kids are playing games which are technically not appropriate for their age according to PEGI ratings but a 5 year old playing Skylanders (PEGI 7) and the 8 year old playing Harry Potter (PEGI 12) is something i can allow. Just remember kids, dad also needs to play these games for the sole purpose of checking them out for you! 😜

I would like go know how you handle your kids playing videogames… Or maybe how your parents react to you when you sit down for a much needed 24 hour gaming marathon! Maybe you dont like games yourself and you think your dad is such a nerd because at his “old” age he is still playing games… Please let me know… Game on!

 

The gaming “Carrot-on-a-Stick”

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My favorite gaming platform has always been PC although we also have a Wii and 2 XboX360’s at home. Its probably because i grew up gaming on PC (and so called Home Computers before that) and my parents never thought about getting a game console for my sister and me. When i was 18 i bought myself a Nintendo Gameboy when i lived in Canada for a year. Many years later my wife got me a Sony PSP for my birthday but despite that my go-to favorite machine to enjoy gaming has always remained the PC.

The introduction of the mobile phone also got us so-called mobile games. Starting with classics like Snake on all Nokia phones, with the developement and improvements to mobile phones and later smart-phones also grew the amount and quality of mobile games. There have been some very good and innovatieve games on the mobile and tablet platform but personally they cannot compete with a good and immersive game on PC or console. Usually they function as a quick passtime when waiting at the dentist or at the busstop but can hardly keep my attention for more than 10 minutes and a couple of days.

Most of these games however try to bind their players with the use of daily login rewards and the so-called “carrots on a stick”. Recently i have installed the free-to-play game Dungeon Boss on my iPhone. The objective is to get up to 4 of your collectable Heroes through short (1-5 minute) dungeons collecting tokens to get more Heroes or to upgrade the ones you already own. When you have reached a high enough level you get to create your own dungeon which you need to protect against other players with your available Heroes. Its up to you to raid other players dungeons for rewards or the general dungeons for Hero tokens. You can take on (daily) quests to earn eXtra rewards and to help out your guild in earning guildrewards.

I was wondering why this game keeps my interest for weeks on end already even managed to make me login on a regular daily base to go finish the daily and guild quests and trying to get enough tokens to get this new Hero or upgrading that one Hero i love to improve. Apparently the carrot in this game is the same used for eXample in the Pokemon games where all players keep trying to get all the available characters…

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Eventhough these games wont replace the ones on my PC, not even Dungeon Boss, it is interesting to see why this carrot is so appealing. A good (mobile) game needs a good carrot but not every “gamer” is caught with the prospect of collecting 50 or so characters by grinding days, weeks or months… The secret i think lays in the fact that the first week or 2 you need to bind the new player with the prospect of offering them something new every day. If you dont reward them when they are discovering the game they will quickly put it aside to try something else. But if you manage to keep that player interested for a (couple of) week(s) they start setting bigger goals and they dont need to be lured back in every day. So you need short term goals as well as long term goals. I guess that is no different for mobile games, PC or console games nowadays… Alot of games have introduced daily quests and login rewards these last few years and i think it has the desired effect because i keep catching myself login in to several games just to pick up a login reward or finishing a couple of dailies, even feeling guilty when i skipped those quests/rewards for a day!

Enough on addictive game mechanics for now because i still need to pick up the login rewards for Marvel Heroes and Guild Wars 2 before i get back at finishing my daily quests in Dungeon Boss to get the new Hero ive been franticly saving up tokens for… Gotta catch ’em all!

Are you game?

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As i have writen in a previous blogpost i enjoy gaming and when im not gaming i follow game news via blogs, websites, magazines, podcasts and social media. Over the years my preferred type of game shifted a couple of times from TBS, shooter, adventure, MMO and (A)RPG besides all the occasional games that cant be placed in a certain catagory. Usually it is with the change of a game catagory that i really get into a new game or get all hyped with anticipation when nearing its release.

This last year i was moving back and forth between some MMOs (SWTOR, LOtRO, Guild Wars 2) i play for some years already and a couple of (mainly) ARPGs like Diablo 3 and Marvel Heroes. I tried to look around for some new games that might fancy my interest and tried a few but none of them really clicked.

Last week however i suddenly read about the announcement of a new game by a formiliar name in the gaming industry. The game, Hero’s Song, is scheduled for release in fall 2016 and is produced by PiXelmage Games. One of the founders of this new game studio is John Smedley who we know from Daybreak Games, formerly SOE.

I wont bore (or eXcite!) you with a full eXplanation of the game since that can be found at http://www.piXelmagegames.com along with media and introduction of all the people working on their first project. I do like to tell you what made me so eXcited. For years everyone is used to (almost) all games being 3D and with the upcoming VR everyone is looking ahead to new and even more immersive gameplay and graphics. Hero’s Song however is a 2D, piXelart style game that takes us back into nostalgic times with games like Chrono Trigger and the Diablo 1 & 2 series. It promises to be as deep as current day games with 10.000’s equipable items, a housing system and a consistant & dynamic world with the possibility to host your own servers. Think about playing with a bunch of your close friends and/or guildmates.

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Ofcourse i can tell you about the races and roles for the game but like i said you can find all that information on their website and im not trying to copy and paste or rewrite any of that. I will be following the developement of this game as closely as i can though so i will be keeping you up to date on major updates and eXciting news.

Last thing to mention is that PiXelmage Games decided to get Hero’s Song on Kickstarted despite (or maybe because!) an already guaranteed $1million dollar funding by investors. To remain independent for the most part it was hoping to get aditional funding so there is no need to get any more investors. After a rocky start and adjusting their Kickstarter project a couple of times they decided after a week to cancel the Kickstarter. They ensured everyone that the game is not in danger since they found new investors but the shot at Kickstarter funding sadly didnt work out.

Im sure there will be other oppertunities to somehow back the project. There will probably be a way to preorder the game at some point but even before that i think the best we can do to help make this project a succes is to give it the attention it deserves. So keep an eye on the PiXelmageGames.com website, follow them via @piXelmagegames on Twitter or Facebook. If you are into gamestreams i would advice you to follow CohhCarnage on Twitch who will be spreading official news on Hero’ Song via his streams.

Ofcourse i cannot tell you at this point if the game will be as good as it sounds right now but i can hope and dream about a game in a new catagory that once again will get me totally hooked… Will you stay around to see if it will?!

Gamer history!

One of my passions for spending my free time is gaming. Having a nice job and a great family with 3 little kids takes up most of my time (which is a good thing!) but if the work is done and the kids have gone to bed there is some time left for playing a videogame and getting lost in some virtual world in Middle Earth or a galaXy far far away…

I have been gaming from mid-’80s when my dad brought home our first computer, an Acorn Electron (32kb was all we needed!). We connected the computer to an old black/white tv and opened the book that came with it and had some games in it programmed in Basic. You sometimes needed to type several pages of code to get create the program or game and most of the time when finished you needed to search for typos that prevented the program to run! Asteroids was a favorite of mind back then and ive spend a good chunck of time mastering my earliest gaming skills.

 

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The Acorn Electron was traded for an Atari128 not long after which had a bunch of nice games which actually had color and we connected the Atari to the livingrooms color tv… I remember a game Thank God Its Friday which could be played with 4 people taking turns and was actually my first “party-game”.

The Atari128 went out when i got my Commodore64 for my 12th birthday. It came with a 5.25inch floppy drive and i somehow managed to get loads of games. This computer sat on the desk in my bedroom and i spend all my spare time playing gems like The Last Ninja, Rainbow Islands, Lode Runner, Winter/Summer/California Games, H.E.R.O., Airborn Ranger and many, many other great games. Another thing we loved to do was make those so-called “C64 Crack Intro’s”. A crack intro, also known as a cracktro, loader, or just intro, is a small introduction sequence added to cracked software, designed to inform the user of which “cracking crew” or individual cracker was responsible for removing the software’s copy protection and distributing the crack. We did not actually crack any software but were so impressed with these cool looking intro’s and their eXciting midi-tunes that we started making those ourselves.

 

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When i was 14 i bought myself an Amiga500 and build in an aditional 500k of memory (totalling a staggering 1MB RAM memory!). At that time the A500 was praised for its impressive colourpalet for the ability to produce 4096 colors with most computer still stuck at EGA (16 colors) or VGA (256 colors) at that time. It also came with a build-in 3.5inch floppy drive and taking those floppies to school to trade with your friends was alot safer than the 5.25 disks (and looked alot cooler as well!). I remember spending many hours in games like Sensible Soccer, Monkey Island, Civ, Pirates!, Another World, Dragons Lair, Stunt Racer, Wings! and many many more 😉

 

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Next step came when my sister and i needed using computers for homework more and more so my dad got us our first PC, a Pentium75 and at that time i also took my first steps on the internet. With a cd that came with the PC and a 14k4 modem i connected to Compuserve and i discovered a whole new world. BBS, IRC, MUDs, email and creating your own websites that nobody ever visited were new areas to eXplore…

After that there was a bit of an hiatus in my gaming history… Guess part of it was due to student life being all about going out, drinking beer and meeting girls… A horrible, totally uninterresting time so we fast forward to 2003.

At work a colleague of mine mentioned her boyfriend who worked at a games magazine at that time and was reviewing a game called Eve Online. I was intrigued by the things she told me and i decided to try the game for myself… Those were my first steps into an MMO and it has been my favorite games genre ever since. Ofcourse there were other games i played and i had alot of fun with my friends playing Call of Duty, Medal of Honour and Rainbow Six. However since Eve Online when i look at my gaming history i remember it by the MMO i played at a certain time. Next big game that took 90% of my free time was Lord of the Rings Online in 2007. I got heavily invested and joined the Malevolents of Xibalba (MoX) gaming community and got to eXperience the fun in gaming with a steady group of online friends. I continued playing LotRO up to 2011 and even got myself a Lifetime subscription to the game so up till today i still enjoy VIP status and fire up the game now and then.

 

Star Wars The Old Republic (2011)

2011 was the year that another one of my love interests made the gaming scène, Star Wars: The Old Republic launched on december 20th of that year. Because i pre-ordered the Collectors Edition i got 7 days head start and up till today im lost in this game. Ive never played its predecessor Star Wars GalaXies which is a shame because when i read or hear about that game it sounds like a Star Wars fan wet dream but sadly they shut down the official servers just before SW: The Old Republic came out.

Ofcourse i play other games now and then. I am also a big fan of Diablo 3 (got all classes to 70 and im enjoying all the seasonal journeys), Marvel Heroes 2015 (there is always a super hero to love) and a bunch of MMOs i play irregularly… Lately i also started my Steam backlog in which i have about 40 unplayed games that need some love. To start with ive installed and played through the first chapter of The Walking Dead (Telltale) and i like the relaXed slow story telling pace of the game… With the occasional jumpscare that puts me right at the top of my seat!

I can go on and on about the games ive played and all the ones i still like to play but ill safe that for another post. For now i just like to tell everyone that is into gaming to please enjoy yourself in whatever genre you are commiting and please dont be a jerk online but help your fellow gamers.

Game on!