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Industry News

Claire Wilgar on Global Game Jam Committee 2018

Locally renowned web dev and community manager at Hackerspace Farset Labs, Claire Wilgar is known by most of the Northern Irish community as one of the lead organisers of the Global Game Jam in Belfast. On the up and coming jam however, Claire has taken it a step further, and will be involved with the organising of the global event as one of the committee members spear heading the jams world wide. 

We’d like to both thank Claire for all her hard work organising the Global Game Jam every year, and wish her luck/congratulate her on becoming part of the steering committee. We all look forward to what the next jam brings.

You can find more information at their announcement page.

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Industry News

Testify featured on Radio Ulster

Ahead of StartPlanetNI 2017 Demo Day – Testify founder Adrian Campbell speaks with Sara Neill from BBC Radio Ulster about his gaming industry startup and the Accelerator programme which has helped. Click here to listen to the programme.

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Industry News

Pitch-Perfect Painting Game Scores Big in London

Mona Lisa, the mischievous art heist and forgery game in development by Northern Irish game developers Italic Pig, delivered a grand slam to win the Very Big Indie Pitch in London last week.

Thirty-seven indie game companies participated in this year’s Very Big Indie Pitch (VBIP), arguably the highlight of the PocketGamer Connects conference last week in London. Each participant has no more than three minutes to showcase his or her game to a staggered panel of 15 judges, composed of industry veterans, journalists, enthusiasts and evangelists.

Italic Pig served up a game and pitch so grand, that it “made history”, said Dean Noakes, Indie Evangelist and one of the judges. It was the first time in the seven years the VBIP has been running that all judges agreed unanimously that a single game, Mona Lisa, was the clear winner.

“I couldn’t believe it when they announced Mona as the winner,” says Kevin Beimers, Founder of Italic Pig and Creator/Director of Mona Lisa. “Actually, yeah, I could totally believe it; it’s a fantastic game if I may say so myself. I’ve been working on it for a year and I’m still not tired of it.”

Mona Lisa is an artistic new adventure in development that combines stealth-platforming with speed-painting. Mona Lisa steals masterpieces from 16th century strongholds using the gadgets of Da Vinci to get in and out. When Mona locates her target painting, she quickly speed-paints a slapdash forgery of the masterpiece mid-heist to leave behind in the frame to fool the guards. The better the forgery, the easier the escape.

“In reality it’s much more complex and creative than the words ‘speed painting’ gives credit for,“ reported Emily Sowden from Steel Media (PocketGamer) after the event. One of the other Steel Media judges, Sam Simmons, thought that Mona Lisa delivered “an ingenious combination of platforming and speed painting with a solid narrative to drive us forward”.

Upon winning the event, Italic Pig was awarded an Amazon Kindle Fire HD10 for game development, a certificate worth $4000 of Steel Media’s promotional services, and an engraved VBIP Baseball Bat (which proved very inconvenient at airport security).

Next up for Italic Pig is the opportunity to hone their pitching skills further as they participate in Games London’s Pitch Bootcamp and Games Finance where they will be seeking additional finance to bring Mona Lisa to release.

In 2015, Mona Lisa was awarded a sizeable grant from the Creative Europe Media Subprogramme for the development of narrative-led video games, which was matched by an equally sizeable investment from Northern Ireland Screen.

Italic Pig specialises in character-driven adventures of the irreverently epic variety. Their debut game – Schrödinger’s Cat and the Raiders of the Lost Quark – is a quantum physics action-adventure game for Xbox One, PS4 and Steam that has been nominated for several writing and industry awards, including Best Game Script from the Writers’ Guilds of both Great Britain and Ireland. Mona Lisa recently won Best Casual Game at Game Connection Europe, and has since been marked as “one to look out for”.

For more information:
Kevin Beimers
kevin@italicpig.com
07979726519
www.italicpig.com
@italicpig

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Industry News

Big Motive Launches stunning childrens Virtual Reality story for iOS and Android

Tara’s Locket is a short story adventure for 5-7 year olds set in a beautifully illustrated world. This unique virtual reality experience allows kids to step into the story and meet Tara and her friends. Users can follow the interactive story and help guide Tara through the magical landscape of Urah with goal of reuniting our heroine with her parents.

A new project from product design and innovation studio Big Motive, Tara’s Locket was inspired by the landscapes, stories and folklore of Ireland’s dramatic Atlantic coast. The story explores the value of self-belief and the often overlooked contribution that children make to family ties.

Tara’s Locket began as a conversation about children’s books and how virtual reality might enhance how stories are told and enjoyed by early learners – enabling children to be transported into the world of the story. Big Motive’s Managing Director, Damian Cranney says: “We set out on this journey wondering about the opportunities to adapt existing IP for a virtual reality experience. Picture books felt like a super place to explore as we could potentially produce something additive in terms of how readers enjoy stories – while preserving the integrity of the story and the artist’s work.”

To expand the storybook into virtual reality, the team drew on their experience working on mobile experiences for the children’s category as well as working with existing IP for the likes of the BBC and Channel 4. Tara’s Locket features a hand-illustrated world – a magical counterpoint to 3D modelling and advanced CGI being used in to bring the latest slate of VR game to market.

The app is launching as a Google Cardboard experience. What excites Big Motive about Google’s about mobile VR technology in general is its affordability and accessibility. “It makes virtual reality completely portable, fun and easy to experience with family…” says Cranney. Tara’s Locket has been designed with this in mind allowing kids to dip in and out of Tara’s world.

Big Motive worked with Priya Mistry who illustrated Tara and her world, and with BAFTA-nominated (Lily’s Driftwood Bay) Scoredraw Music who composed an original score and sound design for Tara’s Locket.  

Stephen Shaw, Big Motive’s UX Director comments, “What sets VR apart from any other medium is its ability to transport you to a different place. Our goal with Tara’s Locket was to create an experience for children that lets them feel like they have stepped into the story.”

Damian Cranney adds. “We’re really excited about our venture in VR. There is so much junk out there using every modern technique to hook and bait kids into gorging on rubbish content, we wanted to create something that inspires little learners.”

Tara’s Locket is available for $2.99/£2.29 from the App Store on iPhone and Google Play Store for Android or at; www.AppStore.com/TarasLocket . (iPhone 5 minimum requirement). Compatible with all headsets including: Google Cardboard, Google Daydream, Homido, FreeFly, VR One, GearVR, Durovis Dive. Tara’s Locket features a kid-friendly interface with no in-app purchases or third-party advertising.

Tara’s Locket Website

Tara’s Locket Twitter

Big Motive Website

Big Motive Twitter

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Developer News

Q&A with Proceed developer

We sat down with Niall McGeehan, a recent graduate developing his own game set to hit Kickstarter in the new year. We asked him a bit about what it’s been like to set up in Northern Ireland, as well as a bit about his recent project Proceed.

Hi, why don’t you start by telling us a bit about who you are and what you do?

Hey, I’m Niall, currently a solo game developer working on a new title. I graduated from Ulster University earlier this year. For my final year project, I began work on a procedural 2D game called Proceed. This helped me achieve a first class honors in Computer Science, along with more than a few sleepless nights. Pretty much as soon as I finished University, I began the hunt for a job, preferably in the Games industry. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the opportunities in Northern Ireland were few and far between. This brings be on to the next question!

How did you get into making games?

Making video games was not my original plan. Throughout university I geared towards more traditional software development however in the past year I’ve been bitten by the game-dev bug. I’ve been programming and digital painting for years now and the 2 really go hand in hand with games development. In early 2015, I downloaded Unity3D and got to work putting together a simple 2D game. 

This quickly spiralled out of control and I found myself spending more and more time working on game development. Honestly, this helped my programming abilities a great deal, and I began to move towards more complex concepts.

How do you find making games in Northern Ireland?

The support for businesses in NI has become much stronger in recent years. I previously launched a T-Shirt business with mixed success, and found it quite hard to get the support I needed. This time around, I’ve managed to secure free office space in Belfast along with a network of mentors in a range of fields. 

For games in particular, NI is still lagging behind the rest of the UK. However there is a growing Indie community, who are creating some fantastic stuff! I’ve been lucky enough to meet a few fellow creators, though I hope to talk to many more in the coming years.

Can you tell us about the rest of your team?

So far, I’m going it alone. It’s a tricky journey. I’ve worked on programming, digital art, animation, 3D modelling, video creation and sound design by myself. As of yet, I just haven’t been able to find local talent who are interested in partnering up (if your a developer reading this, do get in touch!). This has helped to expand my skill set, and my latest game is coming along at a good pace. Though all good developers know, you can’t do everything by yourself.

Can you tell us anything about your upcoming game?

Yep! The game I’m working on is called Proceed. Proceed is a very unique take on the 2D platformer genre. It’s a sci-fi game with lots of twists, fast paced combat and unforgiving flight controls! A wide range of procedural systems generate endless and beautiful worlds to explore. Trippy and wondrous level design is at the heart of what I’m building, and Proceed will guarantee to take you on a hell of a ride.

And finally, what’s you favourite games?

For me, it’s always been RPG’s, particularly fantasy. I love taking in the lore, and exploring open worlds. The Witcher 3 is a particular favorite of mine, it’s hard to find a better combination of story, world design and gameplay. A game from my childhood also deserves a mention:  MediEvil, I really hope this one is remade some day, I’ll be first in line!

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Developer News

Her Majesty Spiffing launched on Steam and XBOX One

Wednesday 7th December, Belfast, UK: In a year when the United Kingdom has decided to “take back control” from those pesky bureaucrats in Brussels (preferring it be led by some equally pesky bureaucrats in Westminster, instead), what better time to gaze into the not-so-distant future and see just what the world has in store for Brexit Britain?

If Her Majesty’s SPIFFING is anything to go by, Britain’s future involves embarking on a journey to the stars (in whatever tin-pot craft we cans get our hands on). Yes, in the years ahead, SPIFFING predicts the UK will set out to conquer planet after planet in a bid to establish a new galactic empire, all the while subtly undermining the French at every turn.

Well, assuming there’s plenty of time to sup on cups of tea along the way, that is.

Coming to Xbox One and Steam on December 7th (and PlayStation 4 on December 13th), Her Majesty’s SPIFFING (that’s the Special Planetary Investigative Force For Inhabiting New Galaxies, if you wondering) sees you slip into the space boots of Captain Frank Lee English, a quintessential Englishman sporting impeccable manners, a taste for Earl Grey and an unwavering love for Britannia.

Accompanied by Sub-Lieutenant Aled Jones you’ll take to the galaxy on board the HMSS Imperialise in this modern interpretation of a classic point-and-click adventure where puzzle solving is intermingled with some hilarious wit and sharp one liners. Well, they made us laugh in the office, though that could be down to a complete lack of sleep over the last few years.

Taking direct control of English with a gamepad in place of directing with a mouse, SPIFFING features a mixture of physical and mental puzzles and often somewhat self-deprecating humour (blatantly plagiarised from/paying homage to everything from Monty Python to Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy). In short, it’s about as British as a game can be, in that it deftly undermines everything we hold dear about coming from this damp collection of islands in the darkest corner of Europe from start to finish.

 “We’ve been working on Her Majesty’s SPIFFING for the past three years with the intent of bringing the spirit of a classic point-and-click adventure to the modern era,” says Will Barr, Director at the Belfast-based studio behind the game, Billy Goat Entertainment.

“We wanted to make the genre a bit more current, taking a type of game typically tied to keyboard and mouse and bring it to the masses, turn it into a real mainstream hit. That’s what we told our bank manager at least and he bought it. That and, during these times of uncertainty, I believe SPIFFING goes some way to quell people’s fears in a post-Brexit Britain. I mean, the pollsters didn’t think we’d ever leave the EU, so who’s to say the Queen won’t return the UK to an autocratic government and commission an intergalactic space organisation tasked with establishing a Galactic British Empire? Stranger things have happened.”

Billy Goat Entertainment began life as a commercial animations studio, working on adverts for Irish television.

Work on Her Majesty’s SPIFFING has dominated the studio’s time in recent years, however, with the game already attracting praise ahead of release, with Digital Spy describing it as an adventure that “oozes British tongue-in-cheek charm, sarcasm and a whole lot of tea” –http://www.digitalspy.com/gaming/feature/a787132/5-xbox-one-indie-games-that-are-better-than-the-big-boys/

 Her Majesty’s SPIFFING will be available as a digital download on Xbox One and Steam worldwide on Wednesday December 7th, PlayStation 4 on Tuesday December 13th. 

Xbox One Download

Steam Download

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Education News

Gaming Aim High Diaries #4

Contiuning our series of Gaming Aim High Diaries, Chloe Gowdy talks about working at company Outsider Games

For my first 4 month placement I was chosen to be with Outsider Games run by Stephen Downey. For my first month there, the crew were all busy completing their game Wailing Heights, a body hopping musical adventure 2D game, so I spent most of my time helping them out by play testing the game and writing down any bugs throughout the game that I later gave to the programmer so that he could fix them. It looked pretty stressful for everyone as the release date was getting closer and closer and everyone wanted the game to be as perfect as possible so we were all over the place trying to get any possible bug or issues that happened in the game fixed, and finishing up any last minute assets that still had to be put in the game. On the day of the release (27th of april), we all took the day to relax in the studio and played lots of board game as we constantly refreshed the Steam page to see how the game was doing on the first day. 

 Chloe with the Outsider Games team after release of Wailing Heights
Chloe with the Outsider Games team after release of Wailing Heights

Even though the game was released I wasn’t done with the game just yet as Stephen wanted to have Steam achievement icons for his game as well as Steam trading cards and badges. After discussing what the achievements will be, I went into Photoshop to make several icon versions and showed them to Stephen who then gave me some advice on how to make some icons look better and once we were all happy with the icons, Stephen put them on Steam to be approved. It was fun to see the achievements appear in the game as I was testing it to make sure they were all working properly and appearing when I completed an achievement. We didn’t have any issue with making the achievement icons, but when it came to the trading cards, I had a lot of trouble getting everything to be approved by steam, especially for the badges. Stephen and I did a lot of research on how the trading card system on steam worked and how the badges are not allowed to look too similar, but even so I had to make the badges several times before they got properly approved on steam because they said our badges still looked too similar. But we eventually got there and it was still fun to come up with all these different ideas for what the trading cards and badges should look like and see it come to life on steam.

 Chloe hard at work in the Outsider Games office
Chloe hard at work in the Outsider Games office

After I had completed these tasks, there wasn’t anything left to do on Wailing Heights, so I started to work on their other project Jennifer Wilde, a point and click adventure game. They already had their 2D artist working on all the main stuff for the game so I mainly took care of designing UI for the game, think about what the main menu should look like and any other smaller 2D tasks I could help with. I am mainly a 3D artist so I wasn’t very confident in my 2D skills but Stephen was very helpful and was always there to come over when I asked for help r advice on something and he would correct me in any perspective issues I was having with my drawing and gave me advice on making my art better, which was very helpful and taught me a lot.

I finished my placement with Outsider Games at the end of July, and started my next placement with The Design Zoo. Overall I had a great time learning 2D and it was a great experience to see a game in its late development about to get released, and I look forward to learning more in my next placement.

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Developer News Industry News

Italic Pig Nominated for 5 Games Connection Development Awards

Northern Ireland game development studio Italic Pig have been nominated for five awards at Game Connection’s 2016 Development Awards for its latest project Mona Lisa. The award ceremony will take place during this year’s conference in in Paris from October 26th – 28th.

Mona Lisa, created by Italic Pig’s Kevin Beimers, is a stealth & forgery adventure that sees Leonardo Da Vinci’s famous creation brought to life as Renaissance Italy’s greatest art thief. The project received funding from Northern Ireland Screen via Invest NI.

Having picked up a number of awards and nominations for his last production Schrödinger’s Cat And The Raiders Of The Lost Quark, including Best Game Script nominations from both Writers’ Guilds of Great Britain and Ireland, Kevin continues to push the company’s impressive storytelling record by securing Mona Lisa nominations for Best Casual Game, Best Story/Storytelling, Most Creative/Original Game, Best Quality of Art and Best Indie Game. Italic Pig is the only member of the UK games industry to receive nominations at the event.

“The Game Connection Development Awards program is designed to shed light on the most innovative and creative projects that we can find and offers additional exposure to those developers who are constantly pushing the industry forward,” said Pierre Carde, CEO of Game Connection. “We are very excited for the Game Connection Development Awards to spotlight and award more projects than ever and we look forward to seeing what the newest crop of nominees will bring.”

Mona Lisa’s game concept pitch was a recipient of a prestigious development award from Creative Europe’s MEDIA sub-programme, which, along with support from Northern Ireland Screen, has been used to fund the development process over the last year, utilising local homegrown talent to create a game with huge international appeal, whilst also helping to bolster the burgeoning games industry in the country.

The ambitious game sees you playing as Mona Lisa, a Renaissance robot of Da Vinci’s own design and a graceful and gadget-filled marvel of engineering perfection. When Mona is not busy breaking into 15th century strongholds and forging some of the greatest works of art that mankind has ever created, she is exploring the streets of Italy trying to solve a mystery that even Robert Langdon would struggle to make sense of.

“It’s an over the top mash-up of Dan Brown, Terry Pratchett and ‘springpunk’” describes Kevin Beimers, Mona Lisa creator, “Mona herself is a charming mix of Lara Croft and Inspector Gadget, clad in a modest floor-length dress. Leonardo, on the other hand, falls somewhere between Doc Brown and Peter Capaldi – amazed not so much by his own genius as by other’s stupidity. They make a great team to write for.”

The writer, director, programmer, artist and animator will attend the awards and the conference at the end of October hoping to not only secure more kudos for his company but also with a view to attracting further interest in Mona Lisa and exploring potential opportunities with publishers and distributors. Whilst the game will not be officially launched until 2017, Kevin will be showcasing exclusive first-look content from the game at the conference. For those familiar with the high-quality, narrative-driven games that he has been involved with in the past, Mona Lisa is sure to thrill.

For a full list of nominations visit the Game Connection website.

View the trailer for Mona Lisa below.