Category: Game Room Exclusive

In my time at Southern New Hampshire University, I’ve been on a long search for a way to leave my impact on this place. Game Design is a big part of my life, and I believe it should tie into most of what I do. I’ve worked hard over the past four years to have a meaningful experience both in my education as well as my extra curricular involvement on campus. I was an RA for three years, trying to incorporate my knowledge of games into fun and interactive activities for the brilliant minds in my hallways.

I joined the campus newspaper, the Penmen Press, in order to spread objective finite details in the form of game reviews. While it was fulfilling, I knew that my true calling was creating a sense of connectedness between the university and local game developers.

Over the summer I created the site you’re currently reading this on, and by extension a lot of the creative content including the podcast and other discussion based creative work. The more I focused on what made games good, the more I came to the understanding that game design is an inherently social beast, regardless of the shape it takes. In order to truly understand the social elements of game design, we must understand the types of games people around us are developing, and expand the social consciousness of our entire industry.

I started planning the SNHU Game Design Showcase and Exhibition in an attempt to show that I believe in the game industry here in New Hampshire, and the noteworthy achievements of my peers. I’d done one Game Design Expo before, back when Mustapha’s Game Room was a baby blog and I was just an overly ambitious high school student. This event lacked the same sort of purpose and resources, as it was more of a charity fundraiser for a library I worked for.

This new event was going to build on similar ideas and principles, that games have the potential to bring people together, but combine it with four years worth of university level game design teachings.

Now that I’ve gone on for ages about the philosophy behind this event, I should make mention of how the event went.

While this event didn’t have the incredible attendance of a PAX or a Boston FIG, it did offer a very good environment of free press and testing for a lot of very talented developers. Students, outside companies, alumni, and more gathered to show off some of the most innovative and intuitive games ever made. Whether they were treading the difficult path of VR development or adding twists to beloved genres such as bullet hell shooters and action packed platformers, these games were using limited resources to churn out some very strong design, visuals, and controls.

We also were honored with the incredibly seasoned Chuck Carter as our keynote speaker, offering all of us some pretty incredible insight into what we can do as aspiring game designers and developers in order to make games for a living. The career elements are present, but perhaps nothing strikes as much of a chord as the mentality that those in the industry are encouraged to have. Dedication and persistence are great to have, and talent is absolutely important, but nothing is quite as integral to a career in the industry as the ability to work hard and work on your own. Creating content to show how you think, how you solve tasks, how you interact with others, and how you approach conflict is the primary way of displaying that you’re prepared for these sorts of things.

 

Chuck Carter and our outside exhibitors were incredibly strong and impactful, but what made me the proudest was witnessing the community of SNHU students who showed off a plethora of games. There’s something to be said for a community that stands together to do great things, and despite what some people may believe, video games are truly great. They are an impactful medium, allowing people from all walks of life to experience real magic. The magic of interactivity, of changed perspective.

To conclude, I created the Game Room on the sole principle of emphasizing the important aspects of the innately social nature of games as a medium. The SNHU Game Design Showcase and Exhibition is just a further extension of those same principles. So a profound thank you is deserved, to all those who helped me plan, who exhibited, who provided funding and support. I owe an especially large thanks to Chuck Carter, who managed to save us when we were very close to having an event with no keynote speaker. I also owe thanks to Professor Ed Brillant, who helped me through an entire year of planning and prevented me from going at this process blind.

Next steps will be to do a post-mortem process and determine what we can do next year to set ourselves on the right track to growing and expanding the event. One last thanks for all who’ve attended, and most importantly of all, a thanks to you, the reader! The Game Room has afforded me so many great opportunities. This website, the YouTube Channel, the Twitter, and more. This brand has given me an avenue with which to share my perspectives and beliefs about this medium. So thank you for sticking with me for so long, thank you for reading this post, and make sure you come back soon for more from the GAME ROOM!!!

Yeah, so there are going to be a few posts relating to this as E3 is in merely two weeks. But given glitches we encountered on the podcast and whatnot, I wanted to make sure that this information got across as soon as possible. The most direct thing that everyone needs to hear is this:

E3Mustapha’s Game Room and MMOExaminer are teaming up to provide you with the best and most thorough E3 coverage you can find. From constant articles and live-tweets to a full stream covering the press conferences and some of the show floor content. While we won’t be at E3, we will be paying close attention to every broadcast and covering news in an effective and concise way with the charm of myself, Jeremy and James, the likes of which you wouldn’t get anywhere else.

Over the next few weeks prior to the conferences, you’ll see a theme of E3 predictions and reflection on both my site and MMO Examiner.

During E3 however, the stream is going to be embedded on their website. We will likely be watching the broadcasts directly from the sources. Sony’s from their own broadcaster and so on. I will also be adding an E3 page to this website that will link to where all the action is taking place! So make sure to check that out. There will be more updates in the week as things change.

E3 is the biggest time of the year for the video game industry, as we get a retrospective look at the past year, and an even bigger look at the next year going forward. I think that is an opportunity we should welcome and embrace. For more on this partnership as news becomes available stay tuned on MMOExaminer, and stay tuned here on the GAME ROOM!!!

Hey yo, Game Roomies! I have some huge news. Not gonna lie, I wasn’t expecting to have something like this to say for a while. But, I have my official announcement, that I have been picked up to do some freelance writing for a publication called MMOExaminer! They focus on gaming news more than reviews, but all sorts of Game Journalism content is present here. I will be linking some articles that I write there to this site. Does this mean that the flow of Game Room Exclusive content will decrease? No. I’m going to work diligently to ensure that the Game Room continues to grow. I really appreciate your support, as my following. You’ve all made this possible. I hope we can continue to make the Game Room an awesome place, for gamers of all ages and interests. In the meantime, here are some links I want you to check out.

For the website itself and a few articles that I’ve already written, head here!

For the crowdfunding video, head here! <If you love me, you’ll make a donation, because that will eventually increase my pay. This site is really legit guys, and I’m so glad to be contributing to something so cool. That being said, I’m going to take it easy for this evening, as I’ve been working hard all day getting logistics figured out and whatnot. Thank you all for your constant love and support, and come back soon for more from the GAME ROOM!!!

I have a special treat for you Game Room readers today! Some of you may remember my PAX East Roundup where I highlighted Moon Hunters as being the most interesting game I saw. For those who didn’t see that post, Moon Hunters is a unique multiplayer RPG with a versatile class system and smooth comfortable combat, with a lot of emphasis on decision making, and how those decisions might reflect a player’s personality. The game is available on Steam and is slated to launch on PS4 this spring. I got to talk to Tanya Short, a designer at Kitfox Games, and ask her questions about some of Moon Hunter’s highlights.

I asked the Game Room standard question, requesting a highlight of three key features that you can only find in Moon Hunters. When asked about this, Short highlighted three truly interesting features, that reflect the game’s tone and intent very clearly.

I think the three unique points of Moon Hunters are the randomly generated RPG world, the 4-player co-op, and the setting (not a lot of ancient Assyrian inspired worlds out there).”

A randomly generated RPG world certainly opens doors for replay value. The section of the game that I played at PAX had very strong pacing, separating combat heavy sections and instances for self review in a way that really allowed you to customize your Cutsceneexperience and play in a way that is thoroughly true to your own style.

When asked about her favorite part of the development process, Short found that one of the best experiences was communicating with supporters. “My favorite part of the development process has been talking with our Kickstarter backers! It’s made the whole process so much more enjoyable, to know that there are people out there who support what we’re doing and are cheering us on. It really takes a lot of the stress out of development.”

It’s noticeable that games are really starting to weave in this element of player psychology. This was very noticeable over the past year, where games like Until Dawn and Life is Strange have been taking center stage, allowing player choices to be the primary mechanic in the game. In a world where his sort of psychological emphasis is becoming more important to developers, it was important to me to find out what role Moon Hunters plays in that evolution? When asked about this, Short stated that the non-binary aspect of the game truly creates a fully fleshed out personality test experience.

The stunning stylized art direction really shines through during dialogue.

The stunning stylized art direction really shines through during dialogue.

“Moon Hunters is much more freeform than most other games’ personality systems — no traits are binary or mutually exclusive, because in real life, it’s entirely possible for someone to be known as a ‘nice guy’ to some people and a real jerk to others. The heroic equivalent is when some people call you a brave hero and others call you a vengeful destroyer. We worked really hard to stay away from “either/or” systems and let people express who they are and explore the consequences of their actions.”

There you have it. Moon Hunters is a unique experience that avoids the trends often associated with “Game Morality” and allows you to make more thorough more human choices. Combine that with an awesome setting, well fleshed out mechanics and controls, and a beautiful score, and I’d say you have yourself quite a game. So give it a go!

Thank you all for reading this Game Room Exclusive! While I wanted to do a video today, I felt as though this took a slight amount of precedence. That being said, I do plan to have a video in the next two days. For more on sick indie titles like Moon Hunters, come back soon for more from the GAME ROOM!!!

I’m a fan of game design journalism and whatnot, but I also double as a game developer when opportunities arise. Here’s a bit of a post mortem for one of my favorite projects that I worked on.

Over the course of my college years, I’ve worked on a few projects, but probably none are as near and dear to my heart as Pixel Commando. Pixel Commando was a 48 Hour Game Jam project developed by myself, Jeremy, and James. This was the second Massive Hawk game, and the first one where I got to play the role of 2D Artist.

Pixel Commando is a game heavily inspired by Paper Mario, in way of aesthetic. It follows Corporal Carnage, a soldier for the Bureau Of All Residing Districts (BOARD) and their army called the Emergency Task Force (ETF).The Roktarian Colony that he is trying to occupy is under attack. Kragosaurs, an army of anthropomorphic reptilian soldiers wielding guns. It’s funny that they’re lizards, because in hindsight it really didn’t add anything to the narrative.

The game uses 2D character sprites in a 3D space, but rather than role-playing elements we focused on making a visually appealing side-scrolling shooter. While in hindsight there are a lot of things I would change, it was a great experience, and I got to really understand the beautiful experience of having a strong development flow. We had some prime communication, and strong talent, with adequate division of tasks to make for an ideal development experience.

We developed Pixel Commando in a short 48 hours, and while it’s only three levels long, for one of our first ever projects, I think it really came out well. I always look at it fondly as my favorite of our works. Even over Pavillion Pummel, which actually won us an award.

When we started, we had a theme “command” which allowed for a few ideas, but most people instantly went for RTS style games. We wanted to do something that highlighted each of our skills, and since I had little experience 3D modeling at the time, I knew I wanted to do a game with sprites. James still wanted to do his little 3D cartoons, bless his heart. While researching games that used that art style, we came across my pride and joy, Paper Mario. The legendary RPG whose praises I’ve been singing since I started the blog inspired one of my first major 2D art projects. As time progressed, we zeroed in on the type of combat we wanted. I’ll admit we didn’t focus on mechanics as much as we should have, but that was a valuable lesson for us going forward. We spent a lot of time on asset creation, and what we were left with was a pretty good looking blueprint of an experience. But why take my word for it? Give the game a go! Play Pixel Commando here! Unity Web Player isn’t compatible with Google Chrome.

That was my first post-mortem on here. Tomorrow, another game review! I hope you’ll tune in. For more on my personal projects, and other hype games, stay tuned for more from the GAME ROOM!!!

Hello readers. This is a special post from me to you, extending my thanks for your support in this starting week. Last week I was a guy with an idea to start writing about games again, but to take things to the next level. My old blogger business wasn’t cutting it for me, and I wanted something I could point to and say “hey world, I can write and I know games.” Now I have that.

Over the past ten days, I started a website, wrote anywhere between 11-15 reviews, among many other types of posts. From critical analysis to designer talk. I made a video review using footage I captured from in game, and I started a podcast with some of the most trustworthy and charming people I’ve ever met. That’s a pretty big week. Over the next week I have even more plans and even bigger ideas. With any luck I’ll be coming through on my promise to deliver something pretty exclusive this week. We’ll have a few more reviews, another episode of the podcast, and definitely at least one more video review.

If there’s anything in particular that you would like to see, definitely follow me on Twitter or Facebook, and I will do my best to take all requests. With that being said, I know today’s post is a little short, but we’re diving back in tomorrow with all new content. So for more on things you could only find here, come back for more from the GAME ROOM!!!

That’s right! My big announcement for the day was that starting Wednesday, May 18th, at 6:30pm, I will be broadcasting live along with my buddies from the Massive Hawk team. We will be discussing video game news, as well as climate in our industry! For your fix on creative and entertaining discussion around all of your favorite things, this is your place to get it!

Wednesday’s show will be themed around summer time killers! You students out there probably have a lot of free time, given that it’s summer and all. We’re going to take things back and show you some of the best summer games you might have missed. Games that are heavy on content, and will certainly require quite an investment! Links to view and so on will be provided as the week goes on, so stay tuned, as I will likely be adding a new page to the blog just for this podcast. Thanks again for reading and for more on the podcasts and other upcoming additions/segments keep checking the GAME ROOM!!!

The Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) came and went, but my, what a wonderful time it was. This will serve as an exclusive look into how I spent my PAX weekend.

Going in, I had two primary goals. Network as a content creator, and have fun as a consumer. It’s often hard to find a balance between the two, but without the pressure of being an exhibitor I was able to achieve that.

 

The show floor in its glory!

The show floor in its glory! A true celebration of Game Culture!

The good thing about these sort of conventions/expos is that you always get a feel for the sort of climate and direction that this industry faces. For instance, this year at PAX East two very prominent themes were virtual reality and multiplayer.

For VR, it’s obvious that with consumer versions of the Oculus and HTC Vive now being available, developers are getting all over the new medium. Even my school, Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) had an HTC Vive demo available to play. The Playstation booth had appointment only sessions with Playstation VR. Unfortunately, with limited time and quite a bit of ground to cover, I had to miss out on that experience.

From left to right, Jeremy, Myself, D.Va, James, Tracer.

From left to right, Jeremy, Myself, D.Va, James, Tracer.

If there were ever one company that you could say honestly knows how to take PAX by its horns and ride it for miles, it’s Blizzard. Every year they do something spectacular and attention drawing, and this year was no different. On many fronts, Blizzard exhibited some super interesting projects in the works, as well as keeping the emphasis strong on their pre-existing titles such as Hearthstone and World of Warcraft. One panel I went to was actually focused in its entirety on the upcoming Warcraft film. We got a special inside look at the upcoming film, and got to have a Q&A with the director where we were able to figure out his direction, as well as his sense of very deep obligation to keeping the franchise’s sanctity while still following his instinct as a film creator. At the end we got a never before seen trailer which really showcased these beautiful sets and incredible action sequences. I had never seen anything quite like it, and after attending that panel, I am fully convinced that Warcraft may be the first truly amazing video game movie. It’s a large cross to bare for certain, but if that goal could be achieved, it would pave the way for generations of fantastic film storytelling for games.

Elder Scrolls Legends made its debut at this stunning booth.

Elder Scrolls Legends made its debut at this stunning booth.

Perhaps the biggest thing Blizzard had going for them this year was the Overwatch booth. For those who weren’t crazy about long lines, with a lot of ground to cover, there was immediate satisfaction in seeing the incredible Blizzard sanctioned cosplay of many of Overwatch’s unique characters. But that’s not all. They managed to cram two huge decked out cars into the show floor as well. Their booth was simply incredible. Some friends and I actually got to chat with the cosplayer for Tracer for a little bit towards the show’s closing time. After that discussion it was clear to me, that Blizzard above all else, knows their audience, and has a marketing team most companies could only dream of.

Blizzard aside, Bethesda actually had quite a bit going on too. Showing off Doom, which has been a title of excitement for many dating back to last E3, though hype died down quite a bit after the multiplayer beta. Perhaps the more exciting game was Elder Scrolls: Legends, which had just been unveiled a mere day or two prior. This Elder Scrolls spinoff title seems to be heavily inspired by Hearthstone. Despite this, the game seems to be foregoing the deceptively simple marketing approach and wishes to create a complex digital card game experience using the Elder Scrolls IP.

Of course, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t stop by the Nintendo booth. There were many interesting titles there, from Metroid Prime: Federation Force, to Kirby: Planet Robobot, and the new Star Fox. Star Fox Zero was the main title of the show, given that it launched that very weekend. Perhaps my most interesting Nintendo game from the show was actually Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE. Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem has reached its final form in this musically themed RPG. It was without a doubt one of the most unique games at PAX this year.

Rocking my Luigi hat between Kit and Krysta from Nintendo Minute!

Rocking my Luigi hat between Kit and Krysta from Nintendo Minute!

My experience at the Nintendo Booth was much more exciting than I expected however! While waiting in line to play Tokyo Mirage Sessions, I was asked to be on Nintendo Minute. Which for me, was a really big deal! I got to answer trivia questions about Nintendo IP’s such as Kirby, Star Fox, and Metroid. Some of the questions were genuinely tricky even for an aficionado like myself. I also won a cool Mario lanyard. I don’t know how they guessed I was a Nintendo fan. To see me on Nintendo Minute, click here.

Now onto the indies! I saw three titles in particular that I’m interested in highlighting.

Moon Hunters, which I plan to write a full article on, is an RPG personality test. That’s right. I just said that. The game brings you through trying combat scenarios and guages your personality based on the way you resolve conflicts. Hands down the most interesting game I played.

Bacon Man, which I already highlighted in a previous article. If you’d like to read more on Bacon Man click here.

Another game I got to see was Due Process. I actually got to talk with the lead animator about this game, and it was incredible. While I’m not much for tactical shooters myself (I lack the coordination) I found the games concept to be very unique. So much goes into planning each phase of combat, making it arguably one of the more intellectually demanding shooters I’ve seen.

That about concludes the exciting stuff I got to see and do at PAX! For more exclusive coverage of events like PAX, keep reading, and stay tuned for more from the GAME ROOM!!!

 

Skymap Games has been developing the independent title “Bacon Man” for some time now, and with the game nearing its completion, Neal Laurenza agreed to be interviewed by me, Mustapha Price, to afford him the opportunity to highlight some of the game’s defining traits, as well as share some insight on the development process and the team’s overall experience.

The Quirky visual style is one of Bacon Man's many highlights.

The Quirky visual style is one of Bacon Man’s many highlights.

When asked to highlight features that Bacon Man offered that gamers could not find elsewhere, Laurenza confidently delivered those three things without hesitation. “Bacon Man offers a sense of humor that dates back to Ren and Stimpy…a lot of games can be funny, but not in a way that is subtle and maniacal.”

“Bacon Man” is an action-platformer where players control the wide-smiled Bacon Man as he travels the land hoping to reclaim his stolen throne. The complex platforming style of this game calls back to such familiar classics as “Mega Man X” and “Super Mario Bros” while also managing to forge a unique style of its own. Laurenza says, “Bacon Man will offer complex controls, but will not hold your hand. Bacon Man encourages the unique combination of exploring the world, and exploring mechanics.”

Neal Laurenza of Skymap Games with the Bacon Man booth at PAX East.

Neal Laurenza of Skymap Games with the Bacon Man booth at PAX East.

Another unique aspect of “Bacon Man”, is that the developers at Skymap chose to forego the option to add online multiplayer. Local multiplayer will be included as an all but primary feature in the game. When asked about the decision to remove online play, Laurenza said, “There is a disconnect when you cannot turn to your friend and see their teary eyes. We’re big believers in keeping that competitive element.”

Being at the heart of the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) season, the stressful yet rewarding process of preparing a booth is all too familiar to the developers at Skymap. In preparation, Laurenza gathered a group of Southern New Hampshire University Game Design students to test the demo, and track down in game glitches and bugs so they can be removed in time for the expo.

“A successful PAX is a lot of things to a lot of different people,” Laurenza says. His team will be trying to find a healthy medium between media attention, and the approval of the consumer. They are also exploring the middleground element that makes up consumer media, such as YouTube and other social media platforms.

“Bacon Man” is going to launch in 2016 on Steam, Xbox One, and one other platform that has yet to be announced. Stay tuned for more details. Special thanks to Neal Laurenza for taking time to interview with me! For more EXCLUSIVE indie interviews and more coverage stay tuned for more from the GAME ROOM!!!