As reported by Vulture, Wicked composer and lyricist Stephen Schwartz has stated that a movie based on the Tony Award-winning musical is “gearing up.”
“We’re starting to do some work on it. We’ve actually started gearing up on it a little bit. … I don’t know exactly how many years away it is. What are we going to change? What are we going to keep? How do you use a whole new language and medium to tell the story? [We can] really look at it again and say, ‘Oh, we can do this, and we’ve always wanted to do that and we couldn’t onstage, but we can in a movie.’ We’re actually having a blast.”
Currently running on Broadway and as a touring production, Wicked is adapted from Gregory Maguire’s novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. An origin story for the witches of OZ, Wicked is a tale of two magical teenagers who become unlikely friends, only to suffer a philosophical falling out that sets Elphaba and Glinda on a road to bitter strife.
Rightly so, some have drawn parallels between Wicked and Disney’s Frozen. For starters, Elsa and Elphaba are both portrayed by Idina Menzel. Just for fun, here are a few of the best Wicked/Frozen mashups:
Animated sequence from Frozen set to music of “Defying Gravity.”
Glee’s version of “Defying Gravity” to the instrumental accompaniment of “Let it Go.”
This one has costumes! (You know you want to see her Hunger Games parody to the tune of “Wrecking Ball.”)
Oops. That’s Sam Tsui’s mashup of “Let it Go” and Passenger’s “Let Her Go.” Still fantastic.
Finally, if you weren’t starving for a feature animated take on Wicked, Heidi Jo Gilbert’s spot-on storyboard animation for “Defying Gravity” will change your mind.
The year was 1994 and Tom Hanks was teaching us the meaning of life, James Earl Jones explained the circle of life, and Kevin Smith showed us the monotony of Jersey life. The Beastie Boys owned MTV (jokes about the lack of music on the network are so five years ago) and we said goodbye to Kurt Cobain.
It was also in 1994 that Sony’s first PlayStation console hit the consumer market, overshadowing the doomed Sega Saturn. That same year, Ted Price founded indie game studio Insomniac Games with the help of programmers Alex and Brian Hastings. To commemorate its 20-year anniversary, Insomniac released this retrospective music video, featuring Price in a wig, as an ode to Insomniac’s grunge roots and greatest hits.
Next up for the developers of Spyro and Ratchet & Clank is the Xbox One title Sunset Overdrive, due out this year.
The last day of GDC 2014 brought in greenhorns who ponied up for the Friday student pass and a bevy of workshops focused on how to break into the industry and the nuts and bolts of succeeding once you have. Yesterday’s Game Career Seminar, a $75 must-do for anyone looking for employment in the gaming world, included mini-workshops on everything from lean game development to spreadsheet skills, but the real draw of the day was undoubtedly the in-person portfolio reviews, helmed by developers at Epic and Irrational Games, amongst others.
Takeaways from today were massive, but highlights included an inspiring (and unfortunately short) presentation by former Rockstar Games developer Shawn Alexander Allen about the barriers of going indie. Humble and honest, Allen spoke with passion about what areas developers branching out on their own should focus on—paper prototyping, building community, and iterative design—and where they can sidestep stress by keeping game scope small and simply picking an engine and sticking with it. Allen also spoke to the emotions that come with building your own game.
“It’s very important, I think, to avoid dev worship,” he said. “Other devs are are not better than you.”
Many developers think their games suck, he added. Allen himself was so disappointed in his first indie game, a side-scrolling brawler titled Treachery in Beatdown City, that he wouldn’t let his own wife play after entering it in a game jam. The bright side is that players may not feel the same way. Despite Allen’s reservations, Treachery still landed the game jam’s best overall title prize.
Jesse Harlin, a game composer and music designer whose credits include Star Wars: The Old Republic, The Secret of Monkey Island Special Edition, and LEGO Indiana Jones, also enlightened audiences about the hiring process. Little factors like having a clear signal during a phone interview, ensuring that the room you’re Skyping from is in order, and avoiding suits like the plague can have a big impact on how interviewees fare.
“Overdressing is a real rookie mistake,” Harlin said. “Nobody wears suits and ties in our industry. … You want to look first date nice.”
You also need to make sure you can fit in with the team. Talent and experience are important, but having a strong work ethic, the ability to diffuse problems, and keeping cool under pressure is even more crucial.
“We have a really nasty habit as an industry of crunching all the time,” he added. “[Your team] is going to see you at your worst and you’re going to see them that their worst.”
The best way to prepare for an interview is to research the company and who’s conducting the interview, be prepared to talk about your experience and passion for video games, and come armed with a few smart questions to grill interviewers with after they’re done questioning you. And whatever you do, don’t be a kiss-ass.
“If we ask you ‘What’s your favorite game you’ve played in the past five years?’ don’t say it’s the last one the audio department did, unless it is and then be prepared to back it up,” Harlin said.
If you don’t opt for a job through an established studio, there’s always the crowdfunding route, but it’s not going to be easy. A brutally honest panel on crowdfunding broke down exactly what newbies need to do to get their campaigns publicized and funded. The secret? Prepare, prepare, and then prepare some more.
“Put ten times more work into getting people excited than into your project,” said Samantha Kalman, an artist who recently raised over $56,000 through Kickstarter to fund her game Sentris. A key part of generating fan excitement is by creating a killer campaign video. Kalman, who shot her video three different times because the first two versions “had this theme of failure and not being good enough,” credited her more upbeat promo as helping audiences realize that the project was worth their money.
You’ll also need press releases, game updates, generous incentives for backers, and a promotional strategy that draws new investors into the project as it progresses. One way to do that is through cross-promotions, Kalman added. Allying your campaign with a bigger, more well-funded one and requesting that they promote you in their updates can drive serious backer traffic your way. Just be prepared to deal with issues on the fly.
“If anything goes wrong, tell [backers] as soon as possible,” advised Tyriq Plummer, a designer who is now able to work on his game, Catacomb Kids, full-time thanks to a $30,000 Kickstarter campaign completed in December. Plummer credited the crowdfunding vehicle as being the only way he could create his game without having a major reputation in the gaming field and without falling into substantial debt.
“Make games in a sustainable fashion,” he said. “Make things and do it in a way that allows you to continue making things in the future.”
That wraps it up for GDC 2014. Until next year…
The Game Developers Conference is coming to a close today, but you can catch a live stream on gaming narrative hosted by Irrational Games co-founder Ken Levine. The talk begins at 11:30 a.m. PST, streamed courtesy of GameSpot.
AAA and social games have an enormous presence at GDC, but the indies are all the buzz after the winners at the Independent Games Festival were announced on Wednesday. In addition to garnering attention for the year’s most kickass indie titles, Xbox One also revealed the first 25 indie games supported through the ID@Xbox program—a full list is available here—and Ouya is currently showcasing 12 more independent games, including a first peek at Neverending Nightmares, a game we covered earlier that’s inspired by developer Matt Gilgenbach’s real life struggles with depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Among the 15 games that won coveted slots in this year’s Indie MEGABOOTH, the sci-fi shooter Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime and the upcoming iPad game Robots Love Ice Cream have emerged as fan favorites.
But for as much as GDC promotes and supports independent game development, the conference also serves as a sharp reminder of the challenges small teams face in funding, project managing, and publicizing experimental games, particularly when forced to fight for limelight against larger names in the market. In an Indie Soapbox panel held earlier this week, Leigh Alexander, Gamasutra’s editor-at-large stated, “The barrier for game development is much lower than it used to be. There’s no longer the need for so much privilege to have access to hardware, but a sustainable full-time living in games is increasingly tough. The economy forces us to decide who we are and what we are doing here.”
And it is difficult to focus on smaller games with major announcements from bigger companies, such as Google Play’s reveal that they will soon support iOS, Sony’s debut of the Project Morpheus virtual reality simulator, and Obsidian Entertainment’s announcement that they’re working in collaboration with My.com to create a free-to-play tactical tank MMO titled Armored Warfare. You can sign up for the beta version right over here. One way to help support developers both large and small is by posting information about your game, from user data down to financial stats, on the web and using #OGDY, short for Open Game Data Yes, to promote it on social media channels said Justin Hall, former director of culture and communications for ngmoco.
GDC also provided the standard fare of retrospectives and case studies of successful games on the market. In a session on the PlayStation Vita title Tearaway, designer Rex Crowle discussed the challenges of creating a game that breaks down the barriers between the real and virtual worlds experienced by the player. Instead of adopting the role of a game character and piloting an avatar accordingly, Tearaway literally puts players into the game by inserting actual photos of the player into the virtual world and requesting them to complete simple real-world activities to further the plot line. At certain points in the game, players can even watch pixelated versions of their own fingers enter Tearaway’s world when they tap on the back of the PlayStation Vita.
“It makes you look at your fingers again. … Placing them in this new world makes them look alien and reassuring,” Crowle said. “It was important that the [Tearaway] world didn’t just look different, that it would feel different.”
Achieving that wasn’t easy and early iterations of the game tried unsuccessfully to adopt a 3D RPG structure, which Crowle admitted “wasn’t really involving the player” and to include technologies like facial recognition. One reason Tearaway has been successful is the team’s commitment to making the player feel some ownership of the game. To do that, Crowle’s crew insisted that players be able to easily customize both their avatars and the landscape using extremely simple tools.
“You can make something look cool in the time it takes to press a button, essentially. You can’t fail at that,” Crowle said.
In a separate panel, Justin Bell, audio director for Obsidian Entertainment, walked audiences through the process of getting the perfect sounds for South Park: The Stick of Truth, an RPG that’s been heralded as the single best game spin-off. Bell said that one of Obsidian’s main challenges, audio-wise, was creating combat sequences that fit with the tone of the show. After making a few samples that styled fight sequences after Persona 4: Arena, Final Fantasy 13, Street Fighter 4, and Soul Caliber 4, South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker felt that the audio “didn’t really have that trademark understated crappiness” pervasive in the show, Bell said. Requesting that the fight scenes “sound like a kid took their mom’s spatula from the kitchen drawer and whacked someone on the head with it,” Bell’s team opted for super simple sound effects to achieve South Park’s lo-fi tone combined with more demure action music to give those sequences suspense.
Bell also hit obstacles when trying to find appropriate music to soundtrack the central hub where players return time and time again. Wanting to avoid the droning repetition that often comes with short loops, Bell’s team used a lengthier seven-minute song that syncs to a random bar every time the player returns to that spot.
“I find [seven minutes] to be the sweet looping spot. … Every time you hear that piece of music, you’ll discover something new,” Bell said.
GDC 2014 winds down later today and we’ll be there to document every bit of it. Stay tuned.
As the GDC expo wrapped up its third day, Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us took home the title of Game of the Year. The highlight of today’s conference was undoubtedly the 14th annual Game Developers Choice Awards, where Bioshock Infinite nabbed the Best Audio and Best Visual Art awards, The Fullbright Company won Best Debut for their game, Gone Home, and Papers, Please swept up the Innovation Award and Best Downloadable Game as well as the Seumas McNally Grand Prize, Excellence in Narrative, and Excellence in Design awards at the 2014 Independent Games Festival. Whew.
Earlier in the day, panels were held geared toward addressing current problems in the industry and giving new developers, engineers, and artists the tools to solve them. In a roundtable discussion on entry-level positions in the gaming field, Red Storm veteran Marq Singer volleyed industry criticisms ranging from poor training programs to the dearth of mentoring opportunities. Thankfully, there are ways to tackle those obstacles, including utilizing programs like the International Game Developers Association’s mentoring opportunities, free continuing education courses, and pair programming initiatives. How to interview was also discussed, with several hiring managers encouraging gaming newbies to come prepared with questions for the interviewers: What are the coding standards here? How many checks does each piece of art have to go through to get into the game? What is the quality control pipeline like?
“[Entry-level] people should have the most questions,” Singer said.
In a separate workshop, BioWare Montreal designer Manveer Heir delved into the question of whether games have problems with racism, homophobia, and sexism.
“We have a severe lack of minority, women, and LGBTQ characters,” especially in lead roles, Heir said. But the problem can’t just be solved by writing better narrative for minority characters. Gameplay mechanics have to follow suit. One example, Heir cited, is Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation, a game that stars an African-French woman who can racially pass as either upper class or a slave. Depending on which track the character takes, abilities and how the player interacts with the world adjust accordingly. Another example is the indie darling Papers, Please, a puzzle game wherein players assume the role of an immigration agent who must vet those who can enter their country and who must be turned away. As the game progresses and increasingly tough entry requirements are added, players are forced to face moral dilemmas and think about issues of nationality, patriotism, and the choices made by everyday people in that position.
“Papers, Please made me, for the first time, understand why I feel racially profiled,” Heir said. “The game made me see things from a different perspective. … Papers, Please made me hate myself a little bit.”
Heir also pointed out that creating games that appropriately address issues of race and sexual orientation won’t be easy and there will undeniably be major mistakes made along the way, but ended the impassioned session with a strong call to action.
“You are the army for this cause,” he told developers.
Shortly thereafter, Mark Barrett, senior artist at PopCap Games, spoke about creating a different army… or rather recreating one. In The Art of Reanimating Plants vs. Zombies 2, Barrett gave the play-by-play on how his team updated the best-selling app that won more than 30 game of the year awards.
“We went to the shrine of Miyamoto and we prayed,” Barrett said, referencing the group’s attempt to emulate how Super Mario Brothers created their sequels.
Needing to retain the signature gameplay and visual cues that initially drew in players, Barrett originally focused on creating a farm-themed game, but gave up after figuring out that they couldn’t flesh it out and stay close to mechanics of the original game at the same time. That’s when they discovered time travel, a theme that would allow the team to retain the same characters players could instantaneously recognize while at the same time providing wacky new landscapes to conquer.
“Figure out the core elements of your game and do not replace them,” Barrett said. “Once the player feels ‘home,’ only then introduce new stuff.”
The tactic paid off for the PVZ 2 crew, whose game was downloaded by an astounding 25 million patrons, surpassing the original game by a significant margin.
More tips, tricks, and industry info are coming your way throughout the day, live from the Game Developers Conference.
Teasing the soundtrack for inFAMOUS Second Son, Sony music director Chuck Doud offered a peek inside the recording process for what he calls “one of the most dynamic and exciting scores we’ve ever produced.”
The Sony Computer Entertainment America team collaborated with Sucker Punch Productions audio director Brad Meyer to craft the soundscape of Delsin’s story, drawing inspiration from the character’s personality and the game’s Seattle backdrop.
Sound design and scoring for the PlayStation team takes place in the new San Mateo headquarters, where the audio facility is outfitted with two control rooms, two live recording rooms, and 17 editing suites.
Have a listen to “The Vandal King,” a new song off the inFAMOUS Second Son soundtrack now available on iTunes and for pre-order on Amazon.
With the Game Developers Conference now in full swing, Sony dropped the biggest bomb of the day by announcing that it is moving into the virtual reality market. Project Morpheus is primarily designed for games, but will hopefully expand into non-gaming, non-entertainment uses, said Dr. Richard Marks, a researcher who is part of the Project Morpheus team.
“VR is going to be pervasive, and by that I mean it’s going to be used for all sorts of things you wouldn’t think it would be used for,” said Marks, adding that Sony is already partnering with NASA to create virtual reality space exploration.
Strategically unveiling the Project Morpheus developer kit at GDC as a way to encourage the developer community to jump on board, the Sony team also touched on the challenges of creating experiences for virtual reality environments, which include limiting players’ head motions, keeping latency low, maintaining high frame rates, and incorporating haptic feedback that simulates what’s going on in the game.
“A lot of the rules of game design simply don’t apply,” said Sony researcher Anton Mikhailov. “The player is in the game, not observing it.”
Developers will also need to be wary of motion sickness, which can happen when players are exposed to clunky game play. Despite debuting the product at a gamer event, the Sony team called virtual reality “a medium, not a peripheral,” adding that they expect to see VR experiences infiltrating everything from educational materials to hotel reservations.
“There are no rules right now,” said Marks. “How often do you get to define a new medium?”
Sony had the big news of the day, but the rest of the speakers brought the knowledge too. In a session on the “overnight” success of his game Antichamber, Aussie developer Alexander Bruce laid down the cold, hard truth that indie game development is painfully slow, financially difficult, and fraught with emotional challenges. Bruce, who chronicled, in detail, his game’s successes, including a slot at PAX 10 and an award for technical excellence by the Independent Games Festival, was brutally honest about his own sacrifices to get there and the physical and emotional toll it took on his body.
“It’s not that I didn’t make mistakes,” he said upon revealing that his game, seven years in the making, had 25,000 sales within the first 24 hours of release. “I made 1,000 mistakes and corrected them.”
Those mistakes range from building an initial game that players only engaged with for an average of five minutes—this average eventually went up to several hours as the game improved—to harboring jealousy towards games that were performing better. A few takeaways from Bruce’s standing ovation-worthy session included:
- Genuine relationships in the gaming industry can pay. Bruce cited everyone from Kellee Santiago to Heather Kelley as key figures in helping him build a winning game and create a solid release strategy.
- “Just looking at the successful people [is] only half the story.” For every person who’s on top, even more are at the bottom struggling to get a slice of recognition. Pay attention to what they’re doing too.
- Timing counts. Bruce was set to launch Antichamber several months before the game was actually released, but took the advice of IndieFund mentors to hold off in order to build anticipation for the game. It paid off.
- “Being different can be very polarizing.” It may take time for audiences and judges to understand a game that’s not a cookie-cutter of a more popular title. That’s OK. Give it time.
Time was another theme at the Q&A for new game writers panel. Focused on helping newbies break into the business, the panel delved into tools of the trade (Twine is your friend as are game engines) and how game writing is different than writing for other mediums.
“You need to think about the environment and what the player is interacting with,” said Toiya Kristen Finley, a member of International Game Developers Association’s Game Writing executive board.
Unlike traditional book writing, “environmental narrative,” the story elements players get from a game’s surroundings, plays an enormous part in how narrative is delivered. Game writers also have to be prepared to work on teams and be able to converse with both developers and artists to construct a storyline that serves both sides. Also, don’t get too attached to your work.
“You have to be flexible,” said Chris Avellone, who’s worked on Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II and Neverwinter Nights 2. “The worst writers I’ve worked with are the ones who won’t change.”
Navid Khonsari rounded out the day with a panel on 1979 Revolution, a game designed to showcase the human element in the Iranian revolution.
“Making a game about history is possibly the worst idea,” said Khonsari, a veteran developer who’s worked on the Grand Theft Auto and Max Payne series. “It was all over the map on why this shouldn’t happen.”
The process of capturing the emotional experiences of those who lived in Tehran begins with research, both passive and first-person interviews, and is furthered by a commitment to preserving the truth, even if it means ditching the idea that games are supposed to exclusively be fun. Gameplay in 1979, for example, requires players to learn to make a Molotov cocktail, navigate through a protest crowd, and try desperately to save a wounded man who dies anyway.
“If you’re replicating the real world, success is not always a part of the real world,” Khonsari said.
More groundbreaking games and tech innovations are ahead. Stick with us for all the updates from GDC 2014.
Who is Jon Snow’s mother?
That was the question George R.R. Martin posed to series creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss when they met to gain Martin’s permission to adapt his epic tale of conflict and conquest for television.
“We threw out our guess,” Benioff recalls, to which Martin smiled. They had sealed the deal.
It was always the intention to pitch the series to HBO, and when Benioff and Weiss proposed the idea to Martin, the author remarked that he never envisioned his work finding a home anywhere else.
Now less than a month away from the premier of Game of Throne’s fourth season on April 6, HBO has released “Long Story Short,” a featurette that charts the three-year endeavor to bring the award-winning series to life.
Warning: Spoilers for those who aren’t caught up through the third season.
Developed by a four-person team living together in order to minimize expenses, Gone Home has already earned numerous accolades. The indie game created by Steve Gaynor’s Fullbright Company took home an IndieCade Audio Award, two Spike VGX awards, and received a 9.5 rating on IGN. Now Gaynor and his team can add five Game Developers Choice Awards nominations to their growing list of honors.
Also earning five nominations each, Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us and Media Molecule’s Tearaway, both published by Sony.
The awards will be handed out this week at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco on March 19, 2014. Here’s the full list of nominees:
Game of the Year
Honorable Mentions: The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (Nintendo EAD/Nintendo), Papers, Please (Lucas Pope), The Stanley Parable (Galactic Cafe), Tearaway (Media Molecule/Sony).
The Stanley Parable (Galactic Cafe)
Honorable Mentions: Brothers: A Tale Of Two Sons (Starbreeze/505 Games), Candy Box (Aniwey), Kerbal Space Program (Squad), The Last Of Us (Naughty Dog/Sony), Proteus (Ed Key/David Kanaga).
Tearaway (Media Molecule/Sony)
Honorable Mentions: Animal Crossing: New Leaf (Nintendo EAD/Nintendo), Battlefield 4 (DICE/Electronic Arts), Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon (Ubisoft Montreal/Ubisoft), Gone Home (The Fullbright Company), Metro: Last Light (4A Games/Deep Silver).
Undead Labs (State Of Decay)
Honorable Mentions: Facepalm Games (The Swapper), Frogmind Games (Badland), Grinding Gear Games (Path Of Exile), Suspicious Developments (Gunpoint), Warner Bros. Games Montreal (Batman: Arkham Origins).
Best Downloadable Game
The Stanley Parable (Galactic Cafe)
Honorable Mentions: Guacamelee (DrinkBox Studios), Gunpoint (Suspicious Developments), State Of Decay (Undead Labs), SteamWorld Dig (Image & Form), TowerFall (Matt Thorson/Miniboss/Alec Holowka), The Wolf Among Us (Telltale Games).
Tomb Raider (Crystal Dynamics/Square Enix)
Honorable Mentions: DOTA 2 (Valve) Pokemon X & Y (Game Freak/Nintendo), Rogue Legacy (Cellar Door Games), The Stanley Parable (Galactic Cafe), SteamWorld Dig (Image & Form), TowerFall (Matt Thorson/Miniboss/Alec Holowka).
Best Handheld/Mobile Game
Tearaway (Media Molecule/Sony)
Honorable Mentions: Animal Crossing: New Leaf (Nintendo EAD/Nintendo), 868-HACK (Michael Brough), Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon (Next Level Games/Nintendo), Plants Vs. Zombies 2 (PopCap/Electronic Arts), The Room Two (Fireproof Games), SteamWorld Dig (Image & Form).
The Stanley Parable (Galactic Cafe)
Honorable Mentions: Attack Of The Friday Monsters (Millennium Kitchen/Level 5), BioShock Infinite (Irrational Games/2K Games), The Cave (DoubleFine Games), Ni No Kuni: Wrath Of The White Witch (Level 5/Namco Bandai), Shadowrun Returns (Harebrained Schemes).
Tearaway (Media Molecule/Sony)
Honorable Mentions: Battlefield 4 (DICE/Electronic Arts), DOTA 2 (Valve), Forza Motorsport 5 (Turn 10 Studios/Microsoft Games), Metro: Last Light (4A Games/Deep Silver), Tomb Raider (Crystal Dynamics/Square Enix).
Best Visual Art
Tearaway (Media Molecule/Sony)
Honorable Mentions: Don’t Starve (Klei
Entertaintment), Grand Theft Auto V (Rockstar North/Rockstar Games), Papers, Please
(Lucas Pope), Puppeteer (SCE Japan/Sony), Ryse: Son Of Rome (Crytek/Microsoft),
Wonderful 101 (Platinum Games/Nintendo).