Panel: Getting Started with Freelance Game Development

David Evans (Hybrid Mind Studios) and Michael Carriere (Zapdot) were part of a four-person panel on freelance game development that took place at the Microsoft NERD center in Cambridge, MA. David worked with Rohit Crasta (of Playcrafting Boston) to put the panel together.

Topics of discussion included:

– How to find contract work
– How to keep/manage contract work
– Basic business tips (negotiation, pricing, etc.)
– Basic legal tips (have a contract! where you can get basic contracts, how to avoid bad NDAs or NCAs, etc.)
– Possible types of contract work (advergames, serious games, education games, commercial games, etc.)
– Possible types of work terms (fixed price, hourly payment, revenue share, etc)
– How to recognize bad contract jobs/clients and fire them/move on.
– Negative side of being freelancer (no insurance, work from home/coworking space, different distraction like tax preparation, no stability, working on weekends) and how to minimize them.
– How to stay true to your indie dreams while contracting (ie, making time for your own projects)

The panel also included Boston locals Nina Klymenko (a 2D artist freelancer) and Caleb Garner (founder of Part 12 Studios.)

Three IGC titles featured in Humble Bundles

The IGC is well-represented this week in the Humble Bundle, with three games across two of the current bundles!  Pay what you want while supporting charities like the Maker Education Initiative, Worldreader, the Mozilla Foundation and CodeNow.

The Humble Mozilla Bundle includes nine big name indie titles that can be played right in the browser.  This bundle includes two IGC titles:

AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! for the Awesome

Aaaaa! took place in an alternate 2011, where BASE jumpers leapt from the skies and executed stunts around the floating buildings of Upper Boston. This semi-sequel picks up six years later — the sport’s been outlawed, and you’re jumping as a form of protest. High in Earth’s stratosphere, you’ll thread a path through the rotating blades of enormous wind turbines. Elsewhere in the solar system, you’ll dodge asteroids above seas of lava, spray graffiti onto lunar government offices, and flip off Ganymede colonists — all in the name of peaceful protest.

Jack Lumber

A tree killed his granny and now he is out for revenge. Meet Jack Lumber, the supernatural lumberjack who hates trees, loves animals, and hates trees. Did we say that twice? The guy really hates trees, and boy does he have an axe to grind.

Use the supernatural powers of Jack Lumber to massacre the forest in this time-warping, line-drawing, log-slicing, pun-filled lumberjacking mashup! Bust out your flannel to muster the strength and burliness to solve the skill and logic puzzles (flannel not actually required).



The “Get Your Learn On” Humble Weekly Bundle is all about the power of knowledge and features seven fun educational games.  This bundle includes one IGC title:

The Counting Kingdom

Get ready for magic, monsters, and math with The Counting Kingdom!

From writing simple spells to brewing bubbly potions, yesterday was just another day in your life as the Wizard’s Apprentice. Today, a horde of angry monsters is attacking The Counting Kingdom, and only you can defend the castle towers! Using your spells, potions, and the mighty power of mathematics, you must banish the monsters and save the kingdom!

Take up your tome of spells and save the castle in this tactical puzzler, featuring strategic tower defense gameplay across an expansive world map.


MassDIGI Summer Internship Program

For the past few years, the IGC has participated in the MassDIGI Summer Internship Program by supporting the student teams in various ways as they move through a rigorous program to design and develop a game over the course of 10 weeks. We have given talks and provided feedback at the students jumped into game development head first.

  • Jenna Hoffstein gave an introductory talk about game development and running a small studio.
  • Michael Carriere spoke about playtesting, and learning how to interpret player feedback.
  • David Evans and Elliott Mitchell worked with the teams and provided critiques and feedback for all of the projects in development.

Elliott Mitchell at Unite 2014: “Empowering Artists, Designers and Non-Technical Types to Make Games in Unity”

Elliott Mitchell Unite 2014 bAs is too often the case, non-technical people think that they can’t create games in the Unity game development engine because they lack coding expertise. Elliott Mitchell, co-founder of Vermont Digital Arts and the Boston Unity User Group, debunked this myth in his Unite 2014 talk: Empowering Artists, Designers and Non-Technical Types to Make Games in Unity.

Elliott Mitchell Unite 2014 aDuring his talk Elliott discussed:

  • Games such as The Counting Kingdom by Little Worlds Interactive that were developed without much coding
  • Specific coding concepts and aspects of the Core Unity editor that are necessary to know before making a game in Unity
  • Tools, scripts and other helpful assets on Unity’s Asset Store which help ease the pain of not knowing how to code well
  • Community resources for people developing in Unity

Watch the video of Elliott Mitchell’s Unite 2014 talk: Empowering Artists, Designers and Non-Technical Types to Make Games in Unity, here, if the embedded video above does not work.

Unite 2013: Talks

A bunch of us kept super busy at this years Unite 2013 event. Check out the talks given by Popcannibal, Disco Pixel, Owlchemy Labs and Vermont Digital Arts!

Postmortem: Girls Like Robots. Or: How I Accidentally an Adult Swim Game.
Ziba Scott, Luigi Guatieri – Popcannibal

Runtime Remix: Dynamic Audio in Real Time
Trevor Stricker – Disco Pixel

Console to Mobile: Bringing an AAA Console Title to Mobile with Almost Zero Asset Modification
Alex Schwartz, Devin Reimer – Owlchemy Labs

Successfully Avoiding Common Pathways to Heartbreak and Disasters in Your Art Pipeline
Elliott Mitchell – Vermont Digital Arts

RIP Hiroshi Yamauchi


Video games lost a great presence last week with the passing of Nintendo chairman Hiroshi Yamauchi. Who was he? How did he change the world? And why should you care about a senior executive in Nintendo mega game corp?
Wealth did not make Yamauchi’s childhood easy. He was the child of a broken home. He came of age working in a military factory in a war torn nation. When he became president of Nintendo, at 21, it was in a poisoned atmosphere of his grandfather dying, feuding with family members, and stepping into an organization that didn’t trust the fiery young man.
Shiny, blinky electronics giant Nintendo has roots in the Meiji era of Japan. It started in the 1880s making hanafuda—playing cards used by the yakuza in underworld gambling dens. When Yamauchi took the reigns, decades later, hanafuda was still the main business. In the 50s, Yamauchi introduced plastic coated cards, a twist that led to market domination. Yamauchi signed a licensing deal with Disney and sold cards to a huge untapped market of kids (who, needless to say, typically didn’t set foot into those smoky underworld gambling dens).

They sought growth in different markets. They made instant rice. They invested in a love hotel. They built a vacuum. All failures. What sold was the Ultra Hand, a robot grip at the end of an accordion like arm. Toys worked for them. They tweaked the display of the increasingly common electronic calculator to make electronic games. Game & Watch took off. Video games worked for them. That is how Nintendo, and Hiroshi Yamauchi, entered my life on the drizzly playgrounds of early 80s London: as a tweaked calculator in an orange plastic clamshell where a janky image of a gorilla jerked between two different body poses.

Decades before smartphones and social networking, Video games had been the hot tech sector. However by 1985 the industry had crashed. Conventional wisdom declared video games a fad—just like recent history examples the hula hoop and pet rock. The toy industry told Nintendo that the video game fad had passed, that the princess was in another castle. In the face of conventional wisdom, Nintendo bet the company to get the Nintendo Entertainment System into a single region of a single retail chain. Anybody who has heard of Super Mario Bros. and everyone who has played Zelda knows the ending to this story. Nintendo spent the following decades jumping from success to success, becoming more profitable than Goldman Sachs at one point.

So what was it about Hiroshi Yamauchi that made this possible? What made this guy a visionary? Was it that the Famicom released in 1983 had a modem port, foreseeing the future of digital distribution and network gaming? No. Something much more fundamental.

Yamauchi understood that you need to make awesome without the overhead. When his plastic coated cards took off, he realized that a small change could make a huge difference. The Game & Watches were commodity calculators with a different LCD. The black and white, blocky pixels of the Gameboy played Tetris. Nobody knew what played on fancy color screens and networking equipped Atari Lynx and Sega Game Gear. Everybody is familiar with the Wii. While a snarky game press complained that it was merely two gamecubes duct-taped together, Nintendo couldn’t produce enough to meet demand for three years. You can use the fancy Japanese term 枯れた技術の水平思考 if you want to sound as wise as Miyagi-san revealing deep truths to Daniel.

Yamauchi understood that you made great video games by empowering creators. The nerd canon has revered places for the likes of Gunpei YokoiShigeru Miyamoto, and Satoshi Tajiri. Yokoi was plucked off of the assembly line to make the Ultra Hand. Miyamoto was asked to make what became Donkey Kong, and was enabled to make sequels. That culture of enabling creators supported Tajiri for six years making Pokemon. At the dawn of video games Atari thought of the industry as gorgeous high-tech boxes to make your TV blink, the games themselves being shovelware. 30 years after ET the game was cranked out in time for Christmas, we know which philosophy has stood the test of time.

Yamauchi understood that failure is as natural a part of the creative process as getting up in the morning. They found success with toys only after they built a portfolio of failures from love hotels to instant rice. If you made a list of Nintendo’s world beating successes, from Mario to the DS, it would be long. However if you made a list of Nintendo’s huge public failures, from the virtual boy to even the Wii U, it would also be long. Few large companies are as fearless as Nintendo, and is a direct result of Yamauchi’s grasping search for success outside of playing cards.

Yamauchi was a great man. The world is a better place thanks to him. He will be missed.