The Adventures of El Ballo

Inside Mac Games has published an interview with ProRattaFactor, the developers of a new Mac game called The Adventures of El Ballo, soon to be released by Ambrosia. I was aware of the project before, but not in any detail. It seems like a fascinating game with a unique story.

What really got me interested though is their development log. Cudos to Ambrosia and ProRattaFactor for this gem. It’s a great read filled with an enourmous amount of information. The developers really allow us to follow along in every detail of development.

Ivan Milles, the programmer, reveals the secrets behind the game engine design and its use of cell-based animation instead of the tradional tile-based approach for side-scrollers. There are tons of screen captures showing game graphics, game play, and even some interesting bugs.

Casey Gatti, designer, artist and owner of ProRattaFactor, reveals his work on the graphics and design side as well. We get a look at the level designer, his work flow, and a hint at what tools he uses to produce his art and the cell-based animation that gives this game it’s unique and fun look.

Not only a great learning experience for interested readers, but a great marketing tool. It worked on me, I plan on checking out this game when it’s released.

The Escapist on The Games Industry

The Escapist has two great articles on the state of games in 2005.

The first, Death to the Games Industry, Part I covers game development and publishing for the big guys, the AAA titles. It covers topics like the problems of dealing with publishers, the technology arms race, and cautions us about games looking and playing the same since everyone started licensing the same engines and technology (I wrote something similar in my Common Component Syndrome post).

The second covers the Indie game developer: Casual Fortunes, Getting Rich Slowly witch Casual Games. The article covers many interesting points, drops plenty of indie developer names, and mentions some game developer web sites. But, the most interesting item to me were the market numbers.

The 125-page IGDA 2005 Casual Games White Paper pegs the American casual market at $600 million in 2004 and projects growth to $2 billion by 2008. (Source: “US Online PC Gaming Forecast & Analysis, 2004-2008: Growth Continues,” December 2004, by business think-tank IDC.)

The piece goes on to quote some developers and estimates that some of these guys are making a very comfortable living — some even millions.

These are encouraging numbers; they certainly help support my previous post on the Mac Gaming Market.

No Regrets

The other day my wife and I were invited to a floor party in our apartment building by a couple in their sixties. We’ve been friendly with them ever since we moved in three years ago, but have never really gotten to know them.

We spent an amazing evening listening to their life stories. They shared adventures about working in the movie industry in California; about following their dreams and not having any regrets about how they spent their lives; about doing what they love and spending their time with the people that they love and enjoy.

Neither one followed the typical path of working for a large corporation, toiling away in a dingy gray office complex. They shared photographs of themselves with people such as Mariel Hemingway, Lyndon Johnson, and Frank Sinatra. They told us stories about the Gabor sisters and working on movie and theater sets. They took us through their adventures of marathon races and moving across the country simply for a change of scenery as their eyes would light up as they shared their memories and life experiences.

It was an amazing, inspirational evening. Not only did we create a stronger friendship with our neighbors, but it strengthened my resolve to follow my dreams and not someone else’s; to aim for a full life with no regrets.

Power of Passion

I’m amazed at what I can get done when I’m passionate about something.

I’m an independent software contract developer during the day. The majority of work I perform for clients is firmly planted in the corporate financial world. It pays pretty well, but I find it extremely boring and unfulfilling. I spend many hours a week developing software that will make or save other people and corporations a ton of money, but these projects rarely inspire me. Infact many days I wish I could leave the industry all together. Maybe it’s the mystical burn-out that I’ve heard so much about, but I believe it’s just the lack of interest, inspiration and passion.

Since I decided to take on this game development project and to write about it here, I’ve found an incredible amount of energy, inspiration, and enjoyment. In a word, passion.

I routinely jump out of bed in the middle of the night to jot down game design ideas. I can’t wait to wake up in the morning to work on my design documents, event though I hate writing them for my clients’ projects. Every Friday, I can’t bear to sit and look at C# code on a Windows PC another minute, but as soon as I get home, hug my wife hello, I attack my Mac keyboard to either record game ideas I had during the day or to tackle another Objective-C programming tutorial. I used to have nightmares about corporate code, now I dream about solutions to how I’m going tackle my projects. At work I hate my incredibly uncomfortable Aeron chair, at home I love my Aeron chair that has been set just perfectly for my body shape.

There’s an amazing abundance of power and energy coming from me that is all generated from the passion and excitement of working on my own software projects. Every day I feel my momentum get stronger. All this makes me feel like I can’t fail. The steps to success feel like they are all laid out right in front of me, I just need to pick them up and put them in the right order.

Obviously, I have not succeed yet — far from it. But when “experts” say follow your passion, do what you love; I believe they are right.

Game Design: A Drunken Review of Lux

Drunken Batman has a superb writeup on Lux, a Risk-like game that was originally developed on and for the Mac. It includes a raving review and a short history of the game’s life by the author, Dustin Sacks.

I love reading about shareware author’s success stories, especially Mac developers. This one is particularly special to me because it covers a successful Mac game developer.

One of the most interesting items is Sacks’ decision to go with Java for his game engine. It’s great to see that he’s been successful using Java and was able to port his game easily to other platforms and not lose the Mac feel.

I’ve been toiling with what technologies to use for my game engine for some time now — something to think about?

More from Wil Shipley

Drunken Batman has a great interview on his Druken Blog with Wil Shipley and all things Delicious Monster. Wil is an interesting personality who has a great perspective on the software industry and is very willing to share his experiences gained by founding two incredibly successful software companies.

Wil has also posted a followup to his first code review post that caused such a heated debate over class initialization in Objective-C and Cocoa.