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Extra Life Recap – Nov 3rd, 2013

The Boston Indies team worked with the fine folks at Intrepid Labs to put on an AWESOME Extra Life fundraising event on Nov 3rd!

There were board games abound, tons of video games, even an Occulus Rift! Gamers came from all over to spend their time raising money for Boston Children’s Hospital.

All told, we raised nearly $2000!

HUGE thanks to Intrepid, who provided free pizza and drinks for all the hungry marathoners! We can’t wait for next year!

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Check this out — December Boston Unity Group meetup – Robot Rising with Stomp Games

Boston Unity Group has announced their next meetup, which will be held on Tuesday, December 18, 2012 hosted by the Mircosoft New England Research Center (NERD Center) in Cambridge, MA.

Featuring Robot Rising:

Robot Rising is an visually stunning 3D Facebook game created by Stomp Games and made with unity! Come and watch Chris Winters, Art Director at Stomp Games, and members of his creative team present on the artistic evolution and technical challenges involved in the making of Robot Rising.

Speakers:

Chris Winters | Art Director
Ian Wells | Lead Environment Artist
Tong Chen | Senior Technical Artist
Eric Campanella | Lead Animator & FX Artist
Matteo Stronati | Sound Designer & Composer

B.U.G. organizers Elliott and Alex say:

This is an event not to miss! Check out Robot Rising at https://www.facebook.com/RobotRising

After some initial networking and the speaker’s presentation, a contingency of us will head to Cambridge Brewing Company (CBC) for some libations, possibly food and more networking!

Please register if your planning on attending.

Thanks!

Extra Life Game for Charity Marathon

Join the Boston Indies team and game for charity!

Extra Life is a 24-hr gaming marathon on Saturday, October 20, 2012.  We start playing at 8am sharp and keep going for 24 hours! Bring your friends, play any games ever, livestream it, tweet your progress!  All proceeds will go to Children’s Hospital Boston.

April Game Developer Mega Month

The month of April has been unreal for game development events and news.   I’m here writing this article now and I still probably have a good week of things to do before I can truly say things are back to “normal”.  So lets get on with it!  ;)

“What would Molydeux?” Game Jam kicked off the month with an epic trailer we got to watch at the start of it…  Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab hosted the 48-hour game jam.  In that time eight games were produced in Boston alone, some 302 games were made over the course of the weekend across the globe!

MIT Business in gaming (BIG) was a one-day session full of panels and a “fireside chat” with Strauss Zelnick, which was really amazing.  I scored a last minute ticket thanks to the generous donation from MIT via the Boston Indies google group.  There were some great panels.  One of the earlier ones spawned this article about how steam has “devalued” video games.  They fed us, there was a post-event after party that we attended as well till it was time to run over to the NERD building and setup our booth.

I need to mention too that I had a complete stranger with me from London, ON, Canada.  He had good referrals from other Boston Indies who knew him personally so that was good enough for me.  Mike Kasperzak was in need of a place to stay coming down to PAX for the weekend so I offered our spare bedroom to crash for the weekend.  I was able to score him a ticket to BIG also, so it was great to have company, plus he was a gracious guest.  Was really cool to meet a stranger and part as friends.

Made In MA Pre-PAX Party happened that night, since MIT and NERD are pretty much neighbors it meant one long day out on the town.  The Made in MA party was a game industry-centric event with some 1200 tickets sold.  (Pro Tip, happens every year and there is a code to make the $50 event free, just him me up next year or any other Boston Indie for the code ;) I had a table there.

It was my first booth and it was amazing.  I did a drawing for a free iPod Touch for folks who submitted their business card for our email list (I still have to plug in the 100 or so cards I got to mail chimp).  I was also very fortunate to have several indie friends lend a hand and two great interns also help us man the booth because, man it was a whirlwind from 7pm-10pm.  I believe there was an after party there as well, but they all kind of blurred together over the course of the weekend.

PAX East this was amazing across the board.  There were so many industry events going on.  This is an amazing event that while is largely consumer driven, has a lot of panels and opportunities for game developers as well.  I found myself meeting a number of fellow indie developers over at the Indies Megabooth, which featured a number of local developers as well as out of towners showing off their wares.  There were also a number of other locals such as Hip Point and Lantana studios showing off their products as well.

I was also really happy to get the word out about www.bostonfig.com, which we are looking to do this summer.  It is a Festival of Indie Games where unlike IGF and others, will be a gamer-centric event where gamers will do the voting not developers.  We wanted to make something grassroots and transparent when it came to the judging process and allow developers to directly interact with the public.   So I handed out a bunch of these cards.

I was also really excited to meet with some of the folks demoing games, especially the guys from unknown worlds who were demoing their game “Natural Selection 2”.  The first game was (and still is) a free Half Life 1 mod.  It was one of those games that in its heyday a few years ago, I lost sleep playing.  I was very happy to see the new game really captured the core of what made the original great, but now they could make the game do things the original could do with the tech it was built with.

Tencent Boston and Greatestern Tech held a great pax party on Saturday, which showcased all of the art submissions from area game artists non-game development art.  There were prizes for the competition.  I was fortunate to be invited and really enjoyed seeing the works that were submitted which ranged from 3d stills to oil paintings.  It was a very diverse collection of work.

Later that night there was an awesome PAX party hosted by a number of indie studios such as TheTapLab, Viximo, Brass Monkey and more.  It was kinda funny because after about 10pm they had some kind of dress code.. which many of us didn’t fit so they moved us down into the basement which was awesome.  I got a chance to get to know a couple of other Londoners who Mike knew well known as Halfbot who besides just being two cool guys all around, they shared some really great stories like the time their game got completely cloned and released by another developer forcing apple to change their developer policies later that week.  Not every day you meet someone who does that.

Also PAX (who just renewed their commitment to Boston for PAX East for another 10 years) was kind enough to donate space to the commonwealth to have a lounge to promote the game development scene in the state of Massachusetts.  Each day had a 3pm roundtable session to discuss topics related to the state of the industry, the future and other topics revolving around game development.  It was really great to participate.

MassDiGI Game Challenge finished on Sunday afternoon.  It was a three-day event where various established and aspiring game developers got the opportunity to pitch their games to industry folks for feedback and the opportunity to win some prizes.  I got some awesome feedback on several games I was considering proposing and opted to pitch a unique spin on the tower defense genre and won a runner-up award for best design so that was great, but more importantly was the chance to connect with some really great people.  I had a blast and learned a lot.

3D Stimulus Day 2012 is an annual thing that just happened to unfortunately land on the same weekend as the Game Challenge so I couldn’t attend it.  Fortunately both events were at the NERD building so we ended up joining forces for lunch sharing the same space and getting to catch up with developers where were there that I knew where were just there for the one day stimulus event.

BIG Expo (Brown University) Although I didn’t attend this I definitely felt it disserves mentioning.  Props to Nathan and his crew for pulling together their 2nd annual event.  It was a tough call to choose to speak at BIG or participate at the Game Challenge, but regardless, Ichiro and others attended so I know a good time was had by all.

Indie Game: The Movie was showing at a local theater for one night with two showings.  Needless to say they were both sold out.  It was an interesting movie watching these indie developers struggle with all too familiar problems many of us face.

Boston Indies Demo Night was one of the biggest turnouts I’ve seen in some time.  A lot of great games were being demoed.  I showed off a couple of recently launched titles and got some great feedback and know what things I may need to include in upcoming updates.

Boston FIG Planning is also in full swing at this point.  We’re working to get the web page fully setup as needed for the event thanks to Caroline, Dan, and Justin’s collaboration with others.  We are reaching out to any / all media contacts we have as well as potential sponsors to help us make this event classy from start to finish.

 

Whew what a month…

Indie Showcase Coming to PAX: Their Thoughts

PAEast, coming to Boston this April, is arguably the biggest gaming convention on the East Coast, and, every year, they honor local indie developers with their Boston Indie Showcase. The six games showcased this year each have interesting production histories, and their developers have high hopes for how the showcase will impact their games and companies.

The origin of many of these games comes from contests and game jams that turned out right. David Sushil of Bad Pilcrow (Not Without You) and Zach Gage of stfj (Spell Tower) both created the cores of their games under a time crunch.

Not Without You began as a Ludum Dare forty-eight hour development exercise back in August of 2011.” According to David Sushi, “Out of 500 entries, it placed in the top ten percent in terms of fun, so I decided to continue exploring it.

I like to work fast and reasonably blind. SpellTower was put together in 2 weeks,” said its creator, Zach Gage. “So those two weeks were filled with playing other word games, learning as much as I could, and rapid rapid iteration and testing.”

Once a rough concept is established, the process of turning it into a game can be a harrowing task.  Rami  Ismail  of Vlambeer (Super Crate Box) says “The [game] industry is a rough place that really requires an absurd amount of emotional investment and energy to flourish in.”

Persistence is often at the core of game production.

“The process for developing Lawnmower Challenge,” according to Peter Choi, its creator and founder of Lunar Enigma, “has, from day one, been an iteration of design, implementation, and testing. We set up and aimed for several milestones…and hit each one on time.

David (Not Without You) made a point to talk about how the process is subtractive; game play and features are evaluated and streamlined as necessary, in many ways an effort of trial and error.

“[In the end] There’s nothing that doesn’t belong, and the result is a tight, solid, and highly re-playable piece of entertainment.”

With PAX just around the corner, all of the developers are excited about their coming debut at PAX East. Nearly 70,000 people attended the event last year, filling The Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. The opportunities for these designers will be numerous.

“Having a booth at PAX will be a great way to observe first impressions of GLR.” Said Ziba Scott of Popcannibal. The studio is bringing the puzzle game Girls like Robots to the showcase.

“Most people will have never heard of the game or heard very little, so we can try to gauge what effect our visual and verbal presentation has on a gamer.”

Ziba Scott has brought Girls like Robots to many Boston Indies demo nights; blind play-testing has given his game a lot of polish. Rousing grass root support and visibility will be very important for these games. Peter Choi reiterated,

“As a first time indie developer, the most important thing for me is gaining supporters. Although our Kickstarter campaign was unsuccessful in a sense of not being fully funded, we were successful in gaining supporters who have an interest in seeing the game to completion. This is exactly what we’re hoping to gain at PAX as well.”

With such an attention to quality, these games seem likely to garner a lot of support. The passion that these developers show for their games and gaming is admirable and ought to be echoed throughout the industry. With more people realizing their abilities to create games, it is fantastic to see small developers rise up with good polished products. We’re especially glad to see it happening here in Boston. These developers deserve the best of luck on the production process between now and PAX; be on the lookout for them at the expo and beyond.

December 2011 BUG Meeting

December 12 was a good night for meetups here in Boston. I was lucky enough to end up at the Asgard, where the eager indie masses gathered for the December edition of Boston Unity Group. Organized once again by Elliott Mitchell of Vermont Digital Arts and Alex Schwartz of Owlchemy Labs, this BUG meeting boasted not one, but *two* tech talks, for twice the Unity goodness.

Elliott started off with a talk sharing Tips, Tricks & Blackholes of Lightmapping in Unity. The talk included a great overview of various light techniques, and explained how lightmapping can help achieve better performance by reducing the number of dynamic lights and shadows. Basically, instead of computing an accurate lighting simulation for dynamic objects, which can seriously bog down your game, lightmapping saves time by using prebaked maps to compute a good approximation. He also described the features and performance tradeoffs of the different rendering paths that Unity offers, and gave advice on how to choose for different situations.

 

Of course lightmapping does come with a few caveats and pitfalls, many of which Elliott was able to share from firsthand experience. In particular, UV-mapping becomes a little hairy, since the technique generally requires that the artist provide two sets of UVs. However, if you can manage to hammer out the kinks, the results are worth it. Elliott pointed to Shadowgun by Madfinger Games as a particularly shiny example, and also showed off his own live demo scene, accompanied by much “ooing” and “ahhing” from the crowd.

Next up, Sean Neville from Wicked Games gave a talk entitled Plugging Unity into Analytics. He talked about the merits of two different analytics toolkits, TestFlight and Flurry, and showed how to integrate them with Unity projects. The TestFlight SDK allows developers to add analytics to their beta tests by setting up “checkpoints” to monitor progress and insert questions to prompt user feedback. Most notably, TestFlight makes deployment of new builds easy by removing the burden of managing provisioning profiles, presenting testers with a one-click install. On the other hand, Flurry is a more detailed analytics service that provides extensive metrics. With Flurry, developers can set up events to collect arbitrary data, allowing for greater flexibility and gritty detail.

For me, the takeaway message here is that TestFlight is great for quick and painless beta testing, while Flurry is great for pulling loads of detailed data from your release builds. Best of all, Sean pointed out that because TestFlight checkpoints and Flurry events are so similiar in nature, writing an analytics service to combine and switch between the two is relatively straightforward. In fact, Sean has written a slick little Unity plugin that does exactly that, allowing developers to switch between the two services in the editor before a build. He’s offering the plugin code for free on his site, along with some great tutorials on how to get things up and running, so take a look if you’re thinking about adding analytics to your projects.

That about wraps it up for this meeting, but stay tuned for the next one. The BUG meetups are always a blast for anyone looking to socialize and absorb a little Unity knowledge, so if you’ve been missing out so far, be sure to check it out!

GAMBIT Game Lab – Indies Will Shoot You in the Knees: Redux


From contributing writer Alex Schwartz.

For those not lucky enough to attend the July 2010 meeting of the Boston Post Mortem, you sure missed a good one. Our very own Scott Macmillan, Ichiro Lambe, and Damian Isla gave a hilarious panel discussion moderated by Eitan Glinert on the in’s and out’s of running an indie game company. This panel dubbed “Indies Will Shoot You In The Knees” was in fact so hilarious and informative that it went through three iterations: a popular panel at PAX East 2010, a Post Mortem talk, and most recently at MIT on August 4th. In a slight personnel change-up, Damian was unable to attend the event (read: wimped out), Eitan joined the panel, and yours truly performed moderation duties for this latest shindig. It was a day to remember. Did I mention there were free cookies?

The two-hour session hit on topics ranging from monetization models to indie beards. As always, the panel remained highly opinionated with many differing opinions. Those who know the panelists well wouldn’t argue that each has their own style and mantra that they follow. Eitan likes to talk about the business end of creating an indie game – the hard and fast comparison of money = time = money and good games require plenty of both. Ichiro has one foot firmly planted in the marketing end of game development, while his other foot is possibly kicking a baby or doing something else noteworthy. Scott is of a more methodical mindset with a more forgiving stance as compared to Eitan, surmising that good games can be made with little to no money in your spare time if you have a strong support group… until you burn through your cash, that is.

The group quickly became heated over the first major topic of distribution platforms. Ichiro was quick to mention the dynamic nature of the PC market and the versatility of Steam, if you’re able (read lucky enough) to make your way into their good graces. Eitan had some cautionary tales about putting all of your eggs in one basket, while Scott also had some cautionary tales about the Facebook market and diving in too soon. With lots of caution, remorse, and tales of woe, the group moved on to how ‘git r done right’ with advice to getting serious advisers in your target space, multi-platform distribution, comments on when to try to go for a publisher, and the ever-present question of pricing.

Before you could say ‘freemium’, the hour was up and Generoso began wrapping up the session by fielding audience questions. After covering some good questions about self-publishing on iOS, and methods of funding side projects, the session was up. A sizable group headed to CBC (Cambridge Brewing Company) for some ‘light refreshments’.

Ichiro Lambe’s answer to the final question of the night pretty much sums up the overall feel of the evening.

Q: If an Indie could shoot you in one body part, what would it be?

A: “The beard.”

Bocoup Loft – New space, same great crowd

Having outgrown The Betahouse, and then The Asgard, Boston Indies has most recently relocated to the Bocoup Loft in South Boston. Apart from being the home of some extraordinary HTML5 developers, Bocoup offers a larger, more comfortable space. Those of you who have come to some of the meetups at The Asgard this year must have noticed just how crowded that space was getting with the great presentations and talks we’ve had this year. At certain times, even standing-room was hard to come by. Even though it was a great convenience to have food and beer served to our tables, it became clear that the back room of The Asgard could no longer accomodate the growing interest in the Boston Indies meetup. Bocoup solves this problem with ease and offers several improvements on top.

The Asgard

July 2010 meetup at The Asgard

The arrangement of the meetup room at Bocoup lends itself perfectly to presentations. Speakers should find it a lot easier to address the crowd in front of them. On both sides of the room, there’s extra space to sit or stand, so before and after the talks the crowd can easily expand to fill the spacious area offered by Bocoup, making it effortless for all of us to move around to different conversations throughout the evening. Bocoup being a development house and not a pub, we have switched back to the golden days of BYOB. For those of us who are too lazy to bring their own beer (raises hand), Lucky’s right downstairs and many other pubs in the area accomodate the food&drinks needs quite adequately.

Bocoup Loft

September 2011 meetup at the Bocoup Loft

Being very close to South Station, Bocoup is also very easy to get to, although it feels like we’ve lost a few people during the transition from The Asgard. We can only hope that they can find the time to join us at the new location. It certainly feels like a great home for Boston Indies. You can find the directions to Bocoup, along with the details of our next meetup, at the Meetups page.

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Studio Happenings – The Origins of Fire Hose Games

Here we present one of two parallel posts that provide an insider view of the successful Boston Indies company Fire Hose Games. In this post you can read about the foundation of the company. In the other post you can read Ian B. Murphy’s comparative coverage of two different versions of Eitan’s recent post mortem talk on PSN release Slam Bolt Scrappers.


 

A bunch of Boston Indies folk are here on MIT campus right now. We’re at the East Campus BBQ pits for the 3rd anniversary of Fire Hose Games. Founder, Creative Director and Fire Chief Eitan Glinert is prepping the grill and dousing a bed of charcoal in lighter fluid. Nearby on the bench sit stacks of frozen hamburger patties, packages of hot dogs, blocks of cheese slices. I’ve just asked if there is anything I can do to help. After a quick look around at the folks gathering at the benches, he looks to me and says “If you can handle grilling for a first shift of an hour or so, that would be awesome. I’ll look for someone to relieve you…”

Photo courtesy of Elliott Mitchell

He sees Alex Schwartz of Owlchemy approaching in the distance. “We’ll have Alex take over whenever you’re ready. Let me go chat with him.” And he’s off and I’m ready to do some grilling as soon as the coals are ready. And yet, somehow in the middle of all this Eitan has also taken the time to greet and chat with longtime Boston game dev Jerry Wolosenko who hangs out nearby. Can Eitan multi-task? You bet he can.

In a very short time, Eitan has led a small group of three to become an independent game development team of seven with national visibility and a shipped title on the PlayStation Network. But he’ll be the first to tell you he didn’t do it alone. When you meet Eitan you find that he is wildly outspoken with strong opinions — it would not be strange for him say that the letter X is going out of style and soon no one will be using it anymore — which is a fun trait that goes naturally with his off-the-wall humor.

Yet there is also at his center a very grounded humility, an extreme self-awareness of the greater rules at play within the Boston area, the indie community, and the industry. He clearly knows his own place within those larger systems and finds strength within his relation to it. That’s why it’s only natural that their annual celebration takes place here on the MIT campus with his fellow independent game developers. This is where it all began.

To explore the origins of Fire Hose we must travel back to the summer of 2008 at MIT. Eitan was finishing up his Masters in Computer Science and a thesis on computer user interfaces focusing on accessibility in computer games. You can read it here. He was involved with the overlap between The Education Arcade and then-newly-formed Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab, and there he met fellow grad students Dan Roy, Ravi Purushotma, and Kristina Drzaic.

Photo courtesy of Elliott Mitchell

Dan and Ravi were working on learning and language games. About a year and a half beforehand, in 2007, Dan had helped to organize the first Boston Game Jam at MIT, and in 2009 he would be involved in the first IGDA Global Game Jam by assisting with the MIT location. For more background, Kristina and Dean Tate were dating (still are) and Dean was then working with Ken Levine at 2KBoston on the original BioShock. Kristina would go on to become Narrative Designer at Irrational Games (formerly 2KBoston) and work with Ken while Dean become Lead Designer at Harmonix to work on Rock Band and Dance Central. Yeah, Boston game development is a small world and it changes fast.

Eitan wasn’t exactly sure what he wanted to do after graduating. He had looked around and was considering some jobs in the area. At the time, in mid-2008, the idea of “indie” was new. One could point to Geometry Wars as a title. Folks were kinda buzzing about this guy Jonathan Blow who was making something called Braid that would release in the summer on XBLA along with Castle Crashers. The concept of a one-person studio was a complete myth, but still an exciting aspiration. Can a “studio” exist with lower numbers of people while retaining ownership over their own IP?

Photo courtesy of Elliott Mitchell

Little did Eitan know at the time that Ichiro Lambe and Dejobaan had been releasing games as an independent company since 1999. Eitan sought advice from a friend of his, Jenova Shen, with whom he had worked on educational games for the Federation of American Scientists in Washington D.C. during 2005-2006. While Eitan next went to grad school at MIT Genova immediately started a little venture called thatgamecompany (Cloud, Flow, Flower) with former USC schoolmate Kellee Santiago. You could say they’ve had some success releasing as independent game developers via downloadable games on PSN.

While at GAMBIT, Eitan joked around with Matthew Weise about Eitan starting his own company. He considered it the opposite of getting a job for someone else and being forced to do what someone else wants him to do. He kidded around with others as well, kinda toungue-in-cheek: “What if I really did that? What if I formed my own company? Wouldn’t that be crazy?” After saying it enough the thought changed to “Well, why not?”

By the time he was serious about starting his own company, Eitan already knew Sharat Bhat, who at the time was finishing up his undergraduate degree at MIT. When Eitan decided to go for it he held a cookout at the East Campus BBQ pits to celebrate his decision and vowed to hold a cookout event each summer as an anniversary party. Though Sharat couldn’t make it, the two began to talk more seriously about him joining the company. Soon after this they met Ethan Fenn of Harmonix through an introduction by mutual friend Trey Reyher. And so, in the summer of 2008, Eitan Glinert formed the Boston Indie company Fire Hose Games, initiating its first growth as a studio with a pair of fellow MIT graduates.

Photo courtesy of Elliott Mitchell

Three years later in present day 2011, I pop my head up from the grill, eyes tearing from the smoke of dozens of hot dogs and burgers, and I spy countless Singapore-MIT GAMBIT students and instructors mixing with whatever Boston devs caught the last-minute word about the event. I’m having a blast and Eitan drops by every so often to throw frozen patties onto the sizzling grill before saying for the fifth time “Thank you soooo much, beer is on me next time out” and jetting off to be five places at once. My shift is almost over and I’m about to hand off the responsibility to Alex. I can’t flip the burgers fast enough to keep up with the line of folks waiting with hamburger buns on paper plates.

So it’s obvious: immediately everything worked out perfectly and happily ever after and all that, huh? We’re talking the indie Cinderella story, right?

Not so much. It’s never that simple. Even now, with the good fortune and recognition they’ve received at Fire Hose, Eitan will tell you that just as life has its uncertainties the games industry has its share of the same and then some. He tells me that he still has to worry and think about the next steps every day. I hope that is self-evident if you followed the PSN outage.

The fledgling startup obtained seed money by selling the company on the strength of the team rather than on a particular project in queue. All of the support came from family and personal investment. Initially, their motto was “Games With a Positive Impact” and they thought primarily about games that benefit the user. However, they also decided early on that longevity is more important. If it would be necessary to choose between initial goals and survival, they agreed to always go with the wiser fiscal decision. They knew even then that adaptability would be crucial to running an independent game development studio.

They started out in a humble basement directly off Kendall Square, close to MIT. It was the exact space in which Ms. Pac Man was developed, lending to some trivia and a sense of following in the footsteps of great classic game production. Fitting for the beginnings of an indie studio, but the reality is also that Fire Hose had to deal with overhead pipes and noise while the space configuration required that they walk through another company’s office just to get to their own. They were also not sure what to do about roles and titles because to start off everybody did a little of everything. They adopted the tradition, still in place today, that an employee comes up with their own title. They can have any title they want, except that it cannot be lying (i.e. saying you’re a programmer when you’re not) and cannot choose anything related to a stupid internet meme. This is how Eitan became “Fire Chief”, Ethan became “Programmer and Principal Trombonist” and Sharat became “Programmer and resident Tales of Vesperia expert.”

Photo courtesy of Elliott Mitchell

With two other programmers, Eitan shifted to a design and business focus. Naturally, they immediately ran into the problem of not having an artist. And the problem of not having the money to pay an artist what they are worth. Or the problem of not having the money to pay themselves, really. Eitan is pretty staunch on this: “You can only eat Ramen for so long.”

So they took on people as necessary and as they could afford it. They first brought on Jason Wiener as “Super Artist” and they knew even at formation that’s what they wanted. But they needed to fund the hire and convince someone as good as Jason (who likewise has a fitting personality to be on their team) to have faith in a small endeavor. This always comes up with indie companies. Why spend time developing for peanuts when there are well paying positions out there with AAA companies?

Fire Hose began contract work for others to both keep themselves going and enable necessary hiring for their own projects. This was not exactly a decision. They did what was necessary and if an opportunity came up, they took it. Eitan looked for anything, including publishers. Those earlier small-world-Boston connections came through. Although unable to speak about it at the time, Fire Hose worked for months on the Kinect launch title Dance Central for their friends at Harmonix. This also gave them a break from their own work so that when they came back to the project they could look at it with fresh eyes. From the point at which they hired Jason and then expanded further, Fire Hose would never return to a staff of only four employees again. At one point during the development of Slam Bolt Scrappers they had a staff of ten; today they have seven.

Photo courtesy of David Bolton

Etian admits that at times they have had to let people go. There are downs to go with those ups. When I ask him about the downs he’s hesitant, which is normal because you have to stay positive and you can’t wallow in those moments or you won’t get by. He then tells of a time near the end of 2009, when Slam Bolt Scrappers was in its fourth iteration (see here for SBS development history) and they had poured four months of time and work into it. They submitted to IndieCade, IGF and “all over the place” but didn’t get into any of them.

He knew the game wasn’t good enough. He knew he needed to get the full team on board for a completely new iteration. He was understandably worried about team mutiny, about failure, wondering “what if the fifth iteration is crap?” The scope had ballooned, they were running out of money, the apocalypse was nigh and the Earth was going to be destroyed in a ball of flames, possibly preceded by zombies!1!!1 However, Eitan’s co-workers and community gave him a proverbial slap across the face. In particular, he and Ichiro went out and had a beer so he could relax. With some advice and consolation from friends, Eitan realized zombies can’t even climb ladders, and SBS would survive. Even smack talk from Macguffin Games wouldn’t keep them down.

And the down was then followed by an up. Call it luck, talent, drive, spirit — call it whatever you like — but it happened. Fire Hose began the fifth iteration with the goal of doing one completely different level to see what improvements could be made. It took only one month (Jan 2010) to make that new level, test it out, and decide to completely go in the new direction. And then they scrapped that first new level for a second level, and that second level became the game. It would be accepted into the first PAX East Boston Indies Showcase that spring of 2010. From this, Eitan gained the insight that it’s harder to refuse to settle on something when it’s mediocre or “okay” but not good enough. It’s tougher to say “it’s not great” and to keep going until it meets the highest of standards.

Back at the cookout, Eitan drops by the grill again as I’m about to finish my shift. He points to three burgers near the upper left and says “Okay those three are done.” He turns to the line of expectant folks to his left, “You, you, and you — regular or veggie?” They nod and jump forward as I drop the burgers onto the buns with the spatula. “Have you had any yet?” I reply nope. “Once you’ve grabbed a plate and buns come back around this side to jump in line first. You deserve it. And thank you sooooo much. Your help has been incredible. Beer is on me next time.” I turn and hand the spatula to Alex, happy to have helped. There is something about Eitan that makes you want to help. You want the people around you to succeed as a team.


 

Jonathon Myers is a writer but he can barely keep his portfolio website up to date alongside his creative writing and Reactive Games. If you are interested in covering events for BostonIndies.com, contact [email protected].

 

The Past, Present and Future of Boston Indies


There are some changes in the air at Boston Indies. Before explaining them, I would like to take the opportunity to record how the group was founded, and why. But, if you want the tl;dr of what’s going on, skip to the bottom.

Boston Indies began back in early 2009 when Jim Buck – a great friend, contract programmer, and fellow indie – cajoled me into coming out for beers with him. Both of us were spending most of our time locked up in our houses, coding… Jim mostly working on contracts and me puzzling my way through the poorly documented BlitzMax language as I taught myself how to code. Jim knew I was going nuts all alone in the house all day. He kept bugging me until we had a semi-regular beer rendezvous going on.

Photo courtesy of Dejobaan

We aren’t quite sure who – I think it was Jim – but at one of these, we decided that we should see if others were interested in getting together as well. I got up at Post Mortem (Boston’s local IGDA chapter) that month and announced that Jim and I would be having beers and that people were welcome to join us. We had two hardy souls show up – Kevin O’Brien and Ray Wallace III. We were somewhat disappointed that only two people showed up – we figured on at least five or more.

The next month, we moved what we were by then calling Boston Indies to Betahouse. Betahouse was a co-working space near Central Square in Cambridge where entrepreneurs and freelancers of all kinds shared desks, as well as each other’s time and company. I also made a point to post the meet-up to the Post Mortem blog. We had over 30 people show up.

Jim and I were floored! Apparently, we had tapped into something potent. There were a lot of people working on their own stuff in their free time. There were others who wanted to make it into games or just wanted to make their own game, like I did. There were also a lot of people who simply wanted to support the folks doing that. In no time, it was an honest-to-God community. We were a group of people with a shared identity and purpose: people that loved games, the craft of making them, and shared an ambition to do so.

After that, we were off to the races. Boston Indies remained at Betahouse for many months. We ended up filling it to the rafters on a number of occasions. The energy was – and still is – amazing. I met people every month that I hadn’t known before and that were doing crazy awesome stuff.

Photo courtesy of David Bolton

We also set up a Google Groups mailing list for the community. It rapidly hit 100 people. These days, we’re up over 300. It quickly became a hub for discussing all things related to independent development in the Boston area.The more experienced members were quick to share their knowledge. We were always welcoming new members into the fold.

The community grew and changed along the way. Some of our more established members began to attend less frequently, casualties to their success and busy lives. Some folks moved away, more people showed up. Some people stopped attending as their priorities shifted away from making games.

Early on, Jim stopped being active with BI because of his own over-committed schedule, so I started flying solo. More recently, I admitted that we’d outgrown The Asgard. With a little help, I found our new spot over at the Bocoup Loft. The email list ballooned and eventually became a bit unwieldy.

Much more recently, Jon Myers and Darren Torpey finally got the Boston Indies website up and running. It rapidly became an ongoing concern, with a small cadre of excellent volunteer writers covering everything Boston Indies related that they could find.

Photo courtesy of Elliott Mitchell

Eventually, Jim moved out west, back to California. My life ended up changing a lot as well. I became a father. I also shut down Macguffin Games and found a new job working at a great social games startup here in Boston, Viximo. And Boston Indies, because of all the growth and success we have seen, became a bit more than one person could easily handle. And so, this all leads up to one more change.

Starting this month, I’m stepping back from organizing Boston Indies.

I’ve had a fantastic and incredibly rewarding time helping everyone come together. It’s now time for me to pass the baton to people that can continue to grow and nurture BI – to those who will help it keep up with the demands of its larger and more diverse membership. I do so happily, knowing that the people succeeding me are both extremely competent and thoroughly committed to the idea that Boston Indies is here to help its members make some frigging games.

It is with great pleasure that I introduce Caroline Murphy (formerly Himmelman), Darren Torpey, and Yilmaz Kiymaz as the new organizers of Boston Indies. All three are competent, passionate, and utterly community-oriented game developers. I don’t think I could leave the community in better hands.

Jon, the current Managing Editor of the BostonIndies.com site, has told me repeatedly that I downplay everything I’ve done for the community. I think he’s full of it. The only things I’ve done are to channel and guide the incredible energy that all of you folks bring with you; I’ve just pointed in a direction. You’ve all done the work. Please continue to meet, code, talk, and help one another.


 

Scott Macmillan is the co-founder of Boston Indies, now a sometimes indie developer, and a jack-of-all-trades. He can be found on twitter as @MrMacguffin.