Video Games

  • Tessa Bousfield posted an article
    Jordan expects players will be able to try the game on the Steam platform this year. see more

    Source: Times Colonist
    Author: Andrew Duffy

    Local studio Codename to release Dungeons & Dragons video game

    A Victoria game developer is giving his inner child — and he hopes thousands of others — a major treat after announcing Tuesday that his studio has been working on a Dungeons & Dragons video game.

    Eric Jordan, chief executive of Codename Entertainment and a lifelong Dungeons & Dragons fan, and his team have been working since last fall on Idle Champions of the Forgotten Realms, an official Dungeons & Dragons game.

    It is expected to be released this year.

    “This is a huge coup. It’s a dream come true,” said Jordan, who first played the table top board game Dungeons & Dragons in 1981 as a 12-year-old.

    “Dungeons & Dragons launched all the role playing games. It was the genesis of it all.”

    Dungeons and Dragons was first published in 1974 and is now published by Wizards of the Coast, a subsidiary of Hasbro.

    Rough estimates suggest more than 20 million people have played the game while it has been responsible for more than $1 billion in book and equipment sales.

    Codename, with 18 employees, has a licence from Wizards of the Coast to produce the game, which will be set in the Forgotten Realms universe.

    “That’s one of the iconic D&D settings, like Middle-Earth is a setting for the Lord of the Rings,” said Jordan.

    “Dungeons & Dragons has a very rich world with characters and monsters, and people will get to see and interact with some iconic characters.”

    The game takes players on a quest with the goal of recruiting champions, increasing their strength and power, completing storylines and advancing to become more powerful, collect more loot and better gear.

    The game, which is initially free to play, allows players to advance just by playing or advancing faster by buying items to help.

    It is also an idle-clicker game, which allow players to put as much time and effort as they wish into a game as it does not require active play.

    Jordan said the motivating factors in this game are advancing and completing quests and collecting gear and loot along the way.

    Jordan expects players will be able to try the game on the Steam platform this year.

    It will feature monthly updates with new campaigns.

    A 2014 study found that the Victoria gaming industry had grown to 20 studios employing 250 people

    It has experienced growing pains, with studio closures and contractions. But new ones have also opened and others have added staff.

    Jordan said the net result is the same number of studios employing the same number of people.

    ‘‘The hope with a brand like Dungeons & Dragons is it can do a fair amount not just for us but the community,” he said.

  • Sean Bennett posted an article
    Canada takes its $3 billion video game industry seriously as it pushes sector to new levels see more

    Canada takes its $3 billion video game industry seriously as it pushes sector to new levels

     

    SAN FRANCISCO — In the hustle and bustle of downtown San Francisco, the Game Developers Conference (GDC) takes place each March at the Moscone Center and surrounding city blocks. Sessions by industry members teach new tricks to those who make video games, business meetings take place behind closed doors and two large expo floors are filled with booths from companies small and large.

    In one corner, for the second year in a row, a Canadian takeover took place with rows of independent game studios all showing off their new titles — and taking a shot at stardom. Being there is only half the battle, however. A key element of their success is a makeshift Canadian pavilion, staffed by members of the Trade Commissioner Service (TCS) who work with the studios to identify their objectives and arrange meetings with publishers from other countries through its large trade network in hopes of generating exports. For many studios, these connections, together with financing through the Canada Media Fund, can help their games go international.

    “The world owes a little bit of a debt to the Canadian government for what the Canada Media Fund has done in helping jump-start a lot of really amazing games,” said Seattle-based Chris Charla, director of Microsoft Corp.’s independent developer program for Xbox. “The government support for video games in Canada has been tremendous and the net result is that Canadian games are by far some of the best in the world.”

    The TCS, which works with other sectors, has been involved with GDC but in a smaller capacity, since 2008. At the GDC, decision-makers from around the world gather in one place. In the past two years, a Canadian booth and separate rooms have been set aside for meetings that the TCS helps set up in advance or right on the show floor.

    Canada ranks third in the world for developing video games, behind the U.S. and Japan, according to the Entertainment Software Association of Canada. Last year, the industry employed 20,400 people in more than 470 studios and contributed $3 billion to the country’s GDP. Canada — a country known for its tech savviness and high mobile adoption rates — now has the leading countries in its sights in terms of becoming a gaming powerhouse.

    On a federal level, the Canada Media Fund acts like a loan and helps develop, promote and finance projects. Tax credits can also help cut labour costs by 17.5 to 50 per cent. All told, there is a 30.6-per-cent cost advantage when compared to the U.S., according to a recent KPMG study.

    There are additional provincial tax incentives in places such as Quebec, B.C. and Atlantic Canada — all of which were present at GDC — and funding to help give recent graduates work out of school.

    Chad Hipolito/National Post

    Chad Hipolito/National PostCodename Entertainment CEO Eric Jordan at his office in Victoria. Canada is becoming a video game powerhouse and the government is giving tools and resources to help independent developers like Jordan get off the ground to make games.

    Victoria, B.C.-based Codename Entertainment creates computer and mobile titles in the strategy and role-playing genres, with titles such as Crusaders of the Lost Idols and Bush Whacker 2 receiving tens of millions of plays. The company uses funding programs and tax incentives from different levels of government to help make its games, but CEO Eric Jordan said the Trade Commissioner Service’s matchmaking program on the business-to-business side is a major help.

    “In the national economic strategy for Canada, video games are one of the focus industries so the Trade Commissioner provides a lot of support,” Jordan said in an interview during the show that ran Feb. 27 to March 3.

    “My day today and part of tomorrow is mostly back-to-back meetings (set up by TCS) with various people. I really don’t know much about Asian publishers, for example … so I was meeting with folks from Japan, China and others.”

    The TCS put together a whopping 117-page book for this year’s GDC to give international businesses an overview of the industry and a database of the dozens of Canadian developers that were at the weeklong event. Information includes company objectives, size, types of services offered and genres.

    “Usually what they do is they ask for your objectives … and then go from there and cross-reference with their contacts based on being a great fit,” said Jean Simon Otis, co-founder of the six-employee Chainawesome Games based in Quebec City. “Then they’ll send an e-mail to both of us and see if we can meet at GDC.”

    Not all Canadian developers use government funding such as the Canada Media Fund, since they may have other ways of financing their titles. But most studios opt for the matchmaking service once they find out about it. Other companies around the world may not answer the phone for a small independent developer, but they will for the Canadian government.

    For some companies, however, the Canada Media Fund and other financial resources are crucial to getting off the ground.

    “It completely lit the fuse,” said Ryan FitzGerald, creative director of Winnipeg-based Evodant Interactive Inc., which has an AI-driven role-playing game for PC and consoles called Gyre. “By getting the production funding from the CMF, we can finally staff up. Winnipeg in particular has some extraordinary talent, both on the engineering and arts side, and it’s been a pleasure to hire and work with the people we have now.”

    The amount of funding a studio receives from the fund depends on the scope of its approved project, and it’s up to the company to decide exactly how to use it. For example, if overhead costs are kept lower than expected, more features could be added to the game before it is completed.

    “We knew that with the money we got, eventually the cupboard would be dry, especially if we were irresponsible with it,” FitzGerald said. “We work with the stakeholders and the CMF to make sure that the budget was responsible and appropriate.”

    With a significant provincial and federal push across all regions of Canada to support both independent and major studios alike, the video-game industry in Canada shows no signs of slowing down. The boom is also helping generate interest and create jobs for future generations that some sectors struggle to match.

    “Video games have this really important role to play in (Canada) for helping to go to high school and middle school students and say, ‘You know those things that you really enjoy as hobbies? Those are very viable careers,’” said Codename’s Jordan, who is also on the board of directors of DigiBC, a digital media industry association.

    “Video games are a subsector of this exploding, broader tech sector that’s just really understandable and identifiable.”

    Financial Post

    jomcconnell@postmedia.com
    Twitter.com/JoshMcConnell

  • Tessa Bousfield posted an article
    “We were a three-person studio when we shipped the first version of this game,” see more

    Source:  Financial Post
    Author: Josh McConnell

    ‘Rise of the indie developer’: Microsoft puts small studios closer to the centre of its gaming future

    SAN FRANCISCO — Independent developers have become a crucial piece to Microsoft Corp.’s video game strategy for both its Xbox and Windows brands, and now the company is opening up its platform so anyone can begin publishing original content.

    At the annual industry-focused Game Developers Conference in San Francisco last week, Microsoft announced what it calls the Xbox Live Creators Program, which lets someone make original games with any retail Xbox One console and then publish the final product in the company’s digital gaming stores.

    “The rise of the indie developer has been probably the most exciting thing to happen to games in the last 10 years,” Chris Charla, head of Microsoft’s indie developer ID@Xbox program, said in an interview during the conference.

    “Independent games, or smaller games from smaller developers, have the ability to take a lot of risks and really realize their vision and follow their passion.… We’re almost at the point now where the barrier to entry isn’t your ability to program a computer, it’s how good your idea is.”

    Modern video game consoles such as the Microsoft’s Xbox One and Sony’s PlayStation 4 have helped usher in a digital distribution era in which major blockbuster titles such as Call of Duty and Halo can live alongside independently made games that are cheaper, shorter and often more unique experiences.

    In a global video game industry expected to hit almost US$79 billion in sales this year, according to the research firm Statista, indie developers now have a direct line to consumers through digital marketplaces and programs offered by the companies making the home consoles.

    “The net result, for us as players and gamers, is when you turn on an Xbox One or PC the variety of game you’ll see is broader, more diverse and better than it ever has been in history,” said Charla. “For independent games, we’ve been in this golden age since about 2008 and it just doesn’t show any signs of ending.”

    Independent Games @ Xbox (or ID@XBOX) was first announced in August 2013 as a program anyone could apply for with a game pitch. If approved by Xbox, the applicant would receive two free development kits that allow access to the Xbox platform’s hardware or software features and eventually end up with a published title for the Xbox, Windows or both.

    The program has led to hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue generated by independent games, according to Charla, with tens of millions of gamers playing ID@Xbox-generated titles for more than a billion of hours in 2016 alone. There are now currently more than 1,000 titles under production using the program.

    “The results have really exceeded our best-case vision for the program when we started it,” he said.

    Many games under production using Microsoft’s ID@Xbox program are from Canada and showcased at events during the conference in San Francisco. In fact, Canadian games are some of the best in the world and most prominent in the ID@Xbox program, according to Charla.

    “Canada is in a beautifully unique position, because it is right next to the U.S. so it has really good sense of American sensibilities but it also has a really nice eye back to Europe and even over to Asia,” he added. “So I think the Canadian melting pot ends up with a really nice set of influences that result in games that are super popular worldwide.”

    One such studio is Victoria-based Metalhead Software Inc., a small nine-person team that is bringing its arcade-like sports title Super Mega Baseball 2 to Xbox and Windows later this year through the ID@Xbox program.

    “We were a three-person studio when we shipped the first version of this game,” said Scott Drader, co-founder of Metalhead Software. “So to be able to get in without a ton of overhead and have all of the onboarding go pretty smoothly, it made it easy to deliver the game.”

    On the people side, Christian Zuger, the other co-founder of Metalhead Software, said everyone at Xbox has been helpful and responsive, which is important as someone learns the publishing ropes.

    “Sometimes, especially when you are starting out, you wonder if you are asking stupid questions because they must hear the same ones over and over,” he added. “But they are very patient with us.”

    Montreal-based Borealys Games has been working on bringing its nostalgic, action adventure game centred around casting spells called Mages of Mystralia to Xbox and Windows through ID@Xbox. The studio said even the networking that Microsoft can offer goes a long way.

    “We knew that the program had changed quite a bit since the Xbox 360 and they wanted to be more aggressive with the indies,” said Patric J. Mondou, game director at Borealys Games. “Even when we just had a simple and early prototype, they were still willing to send us (development) kits. They’ve also invited us to many events… One of the most difficult things when you are indie is getting the reach to the media.”

    The Xbox Live Creators Program will launch in the coming months, and there will also be more features coming to the ID@Xbox program for developers including mixed reality, virtual reality and support for Microsoft’s new console coming later this year.

    “We just want to keep doing a better job for our developers and keep making life easy for them,” said Charla. “We want to be a conduit so the development community can let Microsoft know what they want and work on those feedback loops to make things great. It’s just super fun.”

  • Tessa Bousfield posted an article
    Island-based Red Nexus Games and Cloudhead Games are both up for national awards! see more

    Island video-game companies nominated for national awards

    Source: Times Colonist
    Author: Andrew Duffy

    One of Victoria’s newest video game studios has been quick to make a splash, and its first foray into the marketplace could net it a national award.

    Red Nexus Games, which opened its studio doors in January, has been named a finalist at the 2016 Canadian Video Game Awards as best debut game for their game, Friday Night Bullet Arena.

    “It’s an honour to be acknowledged on a national scale,” said founder Dylan Gedig. “Seeing the studios that we'll be joining is completely jaw-dropping.”

    Gedig, who is in Montreal for the awards, said the recognition of being nominated will help the company grow. “This will be very useful in introducing the studio to the Canadian game development community, including people in Victoria who might not have known that we were based here until now,” he said. “It may also bolster our upcoming Xbox release, but I believe that’ll be a secondary effect.”

    Friday Night Bullet Arena, is a top-down shooter game where players only get one bullet. The bullet wraps around the screen and bounces off walls and must be caught before the player can shoot again. It was released in late September for Windows and Mac PCs and will be coming to Xbox One in January.

    Red Nexus is not the only Island game studio nominated this year as Qualicum Beach’s Cloudhead Games has received nine nominations, including a game of the year nod for The Gallery – Episode 1: Call of the Starseed. The company has been nominated for best virtual reality game, best audio, best debut, best game innovation, best indie game, best performance, best technology and a fan‘s choice award as the best Canadian-made game.

    The Canadian Video Game Awards will be handed out tonight in Montreal. There are 45 nominees vying for honours in 20 award categories.

  • Tessa Bousfield posted an article
    As an active contributor to Victoria’s game development community, Dylan was the first recipient... see more

    Source: University of Victoria

    “I could feel the electricity in the room … see sparks shooting with every idea generated.” Dylan Gedig and the UVic Game Dev Club helped create that energy. They put on the Victoria installation of the Global Game Jam, a worldwide event that brings together artists, designers, musicians, programmers and writers for 48 hours of collective creativity.

    Alumnus and CEO of Codename Entertainment Eric Jordan knows working together like this is reflexive in Victoria’s vibrant technology sector. He brought VIATEC, DigiBC, OneBitLabs, KANO/APPS, InLight Entertainment, Electronic Arts Canada and Codename Entertainment on board to create a scholarship for computer science students who mirror that collaborative nature. As an active contributor to Victoria’s game development community, Dylan was the obvious first recipient. He shared this passion at UVic by volunteering with the course union and teaching coding to new students.

    Dylan laid the groundwork for a career in video game development through UVic’s Co-op program. This scholarship gave him confidence for the next step. Under Eric’s mentorship, Dylan launched a video game publishing company and his first product will be released before his convocation ceremony.

    “That recognition meant a lot to me,” he says of the scholarship. “I wouldn’t have started my own company if the local scene wasn’t so supportive. As a new member of that community, I’m excited to do what I can to help develop new talent.”

    Click here to watch the video!