Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Interview with Trevor Cram of Touch Paper Press

12:37 PM by Mike · 0 comments
Trevor Cram, designer and hopefully soon-to-be publisher of Seeking the Gift, was kind enough to give us a little interview about himself, his company, and his games.

Can you tell us a little about how you got into game design?
I started designing games when I was a child.  It was never more than a creative outlet though, as I had no intention of playing them, or showing them to anyone.  There was no motive beyond the joy of creating.  It wasn't until my mid-twenties that I even considered designing professionally.

How did the idea for Seeking the Gift start? Can you walk us through the process from idea to actual game? What was your main objective or goal with the game?

About a year ago I began considering the best subject matter for a religious-themed game.  I wanted it to appeal to more people than such games usually do, and I hoped to use the game as a means of developing local support for our publishing efforts.  I spent time considering this and finally decided that "the 3 Wise Men" was both universally familiar, and contained the correct ingredients for a game. The early concept was a 3 player game with the working title 'We Three.'  However, the more I studied the subject, the more I realized that confining the number of wise men to three was an error, for more reasons than the historical inaccuracy.

The next step was conceptuallizing the presentation, as that too needed to appeal to a larger audience.  It was during our local convention, SaltCON, where I was discussing the idea of the game with other gamers, that I thought of using a rolling scroll as the board.  This was a large motivator for me to finally put pen to paper and bring the game to life.  It wasn't until this point that I finally approached the mechanical nature of the game, but now that I had mapped out a clear idea of who the game was for and what it was supposed to accomplish, I knew exactly which direction to move in; family-friendly, fast-paced, and light european mechanics.

Other than pledging, what can someone do to help you and the Kickstarter campaign be successful?

The best and easiest way to promote an idea is to talk about it, whether face-to-face or through social media.  Any mention on facebook, twitter, blog, etc. is very helpful, and we well know that finding the one right person can lead to much greater outcomes.

Can you tell us about Touch Paper Press, how it came to be, the games you’ve developed, how many people work for Touch Paper Press, etc.?

Touch Paper Press is a two-man show featuring yours truly and the creative genious of Joshua Butterfield.  We met at the BGDG (Board Game Designers Guild of Utah meeting) early last year and decided to collaborate on a game design, which became Ninja Family Picnic. We worked well together, complementing each other's personalities, and the experience was very enjoyable.  I had been looking for a partner to help me form a publishing empire and ultimately take over the world, and Josh fit the bill nicely.

Since combining our powers we've co-designed a handful of games, most of which are waiting on the shelf until we can afford artwork or manufacturing funds.  Some of the more complete games can be found on our website;

Do you collaborate with designers from outside of Touch Paper Press or do you take game design submissions from others?

I have collaborated with one other designer for a board game, but do to time constraints, the project fizzled.  Josh and I are also part of a larger group of collaborators working on a much bigger project *cue mystery sound.*  We aren't in any position to accept submissions, as we still have more games than we can produce, but we hope to get there at some point!

At the moment, what is your favorite game?
This question is always impossible for me...  although I like the way you've worded it.  Truth is, the game I am most attached to, and want to play, is the ones I'm working on.

What do you think would make for the best theme for an LDS game?
Hmmmm... Perhaps something to do with the Displacement / Gathering of a people? :)

Hopefully you enjoyed learning a little more about Trevor and his ventures in game design. Don't forget to look up his Seeking the Gift game on Kickstarter (here). They've only got 10 days to go to reach their goal. Pitch in and give them a hand. It would be great to see this game become a reality! I've added a widget to the blog here so that there is easy access to what is going on with his Kickstarter campaign.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Help Kickstart "Seeking the Gift"

Seeking the Gift is a new game coming this Christmastime from Touch Paper Press (here). The idea is to bring the gifts of the 3 Magi to the Savior. It looks like an interesting, fun, family game.

If you have never heard of Kickstarter (here), then let me explain it a little bit. If you have an idea, a product, whatever it might be, you can get set up on Kickstarter and market your idea, looking for people from around the world to invest in/pledge to you, sometimes referred to as "crowdsourcing." You can set up different levels of pledge, for example, with Seeking the Gift, if someone pledges $34, then they'll receive one copy of the game once it's produced. In addition to levels of pledges, you also set up a money goal and a deadline. If you meet the goal, then the money is transferred; if you don't meet your goal by the deadline, then everyone who pledged keeps their money.

I think that Kickstarter is a very cool way to get your projects off the ground and going. I wish Touch Paper Press a lot of success with their game, Seeking the Gift. If you find the game interesting and would like to contribute, you can pledge on Kickstarter (here).

Here's a video review of the prototype version of the game:

Friday, June 1, 2012

National Game Development Month

The month of June is National Game Development Month!! Here's the general idea from the website (here):

Have you always wanted to make a game?
Do you already make games, but feel stuck in a rut?
Have you tried to make games before, but have no idea where to start?
Do you like the energy of game jams, but want more time to actually finish your work?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you should participate in National Game Development Month in June!

We're building a community of game makers who can encourage you to start and help you finish the game that's been dancing in your imagination for years. Come give it a try.

So, by the end of June I am going to have a pretty well finished game, and I'm going to do the best that I can to document the process, even though I am traveling and on vacation. I've always wanted to design a deck-building game (here's an explanation of what that kind of game entails), so that is where I am starting. I'm also pretty excited about The Book of Jer3miah (here) online web series, recently released by Deseret Book on DVD, so I am thinking that will serve as the theme for the game.

The plan right now is to give quick updates via Facebook, with weekly updates popping up here on the blog. I'll do my best to document my thought processes, the methods I use to test the ideas, etc. I am very interested in getting others involved as playtesters, and am not completely opposed to the idea of collaborating with someone on the design itself. That being said, if you have any inkling to contribute, please let me know. I would also love to hear from others who are interested in participating by designing their own games during the National Game Development Month.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Chad of React! Games Talks Helam

1:39 PM by Mike · 2 comments
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With the recent release of Helam: A Stripling Warrior Quest from React! Games (link) and Deseret Book, I thought it would be great to hear a little about it's design and development. Chad Lee, owner of React! Games agreed to an interview. Our questions are in italics, followed by his answers.

Can you tell us a little about how you got into game design?
Quite by accident. One day, back in 1994, I was having a really bad day at work and for no reason I can explain, I looked in the want ads for another job (while still at work) and saw a small ad for a video game company looking for an artist. I took a couple pieces of paper with drawings on them and applied. They called me a few days later and hired me as a character designer and that is how I started. Since then, I went on to be an animator, which is my favorite. After video games, I went into advertising, then started my own animation studio called Studio 4d1 (link)…which is a dumb name, I know. I did that for about 8 years then started React! Games.

Can you tell us about React Games, how it came to be, the games you’ve developed, how many people work for React Games, etc.?
I started React! Games back in 2008 to remake a game called “Archon” (link) which was developed in 1983. That was our first game, which was released in 2009 and we’ve released over 25 games since then. Our latest, which we’re very proud of is Presidents Run (link)…which started out as a test project and was initially finished in 16 days. We currently have 20 people working here and our projects are quite varied from mobile to PC and Facebook.

How did the idea for Helam start? Can you walk us through the process from idea to actual game? What was your main objective or goal with the game?
I’ve always wanted to do a Book of Mormon game. As a Native American, the Book of Mormon was an essential part of growing up. I learned, as an early child, the stories of Alma, Ammon, and Helaman. We wanted the Book of Mormon to come to life for young kids and what better way to immerse someone than by way of a game. Our designer and co-founder Brad Moss headed up the design and storyline for the game and we pitched it to Deseret Book. They were ready for it and it wasn’t much of a struggle on their end to decide to do it. It was a low budget game in the beginning, but we put in our own money, heart, and soul and went way beyond the budget, but it was something we had to do. At one point, near the middle of production, we almost cancelled it because of various reasons, but a few miracles happened and we were able to finish it all because of the team that was working on it. If you think working at a video game company is all fun and games, I can tell you it is hard work…some of these guys worked 16-19 hour days for weeks at a time to finish the game, and they did it. Since this was going to be the first legitimate attempt at a Book of Mormon game by a studio, we had to make it look and play great. I think we exceeded our goal given the amount of time and budget we had. We finished the game in less than a year.

Any possibility of seeing Helam on the iPad?
If there are enough people who would want it on the iPad, we’d make a version for that too…the game mechanic would suit the iPad very well and that is where I play most of my games.

(So, if you want to play Helam on your iPad then you better let React! Games know!)

Will there be any other LDS themed games coming from React Games?
There is a coloring and puzzle app on the iOS called “Heroes of the Book of Mormon” which is on the store now, but we’ll have to see how the market evolves. Unfortunately, our games need to make money and since the LDS market is niche, there isn’t a lot of demand or an easy way to recoup money for a high cost game.

Do you collaborate with designers from outside of React Games or do you take game design submissions from others?
We generally do our own design within React! although there have been situations where we’ve collaborated with clients and their designers, so yes…we’ve done both.

Thanks Chad for your time. We appreciate it!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Helam: A Stripling Warrior Quest: A Review

Excel Entertainment and React Games teamed up to bring us "the first major Book of Mormon video game." Helam is an exciting adventure game set in the Promised Land in which you will ENLIST allies, SEARCH and COLLECT clues, and FIGHT (probably my son's favorite part).

The game begins with Helam (you the player) trying to help his sister escape from the cave and make her way back home. You must do your best to protect your sister as you encounter enemies and help her cross dangerous terrain. You do this by moving the mouse pointer where you would like to go and clicking. Once you encounter enemies you only need to approach them and then combat will ensue.

In close combat you select your moves first, (as do your enemies), after which the battle takes place. You have the option of attacking (red), powering up (yellow), or defending (blue). Enemies start out easy and progressively get more difficult and more powerful! That tiger is quite powerful with 519 hit points. But this same idea applies to the player. As you defeat enemies and complete quests you collect experience points which help you level up and become more powerful as well. It's very important to collect as many herbs as you can carry, as these help restore hit points that you lose during battles.

Additionally, you can collect tools that help in your quests. For example, in your village you collect a shovel from the guards, which allows you to dig and find several other helps in your quests. One exciting event in the village is the burning synagog, you have to help put the fire out. It was very cool to see how they had portrayed places of worship for the Nephites. It's also cool to see how they wove aspects from the Book of Mormon history into the game. For instance, you encounter a man in the village, Amilon, who is telling the people that Pahoran needs to be removed from the Judgment Seat. He believes that a king should be set in Pahoran's place, someone like King Mosiah, who will do a better job of protecting the people. I guess I had just never thought about the fact that there were probably some who wanted a king for "righteous" reasons, or what they thought were righteous reasons.

I only had one problem with the game. Many times on the levels throughout the game there are places where it is fairly easy to get "stuck" or it is hard to move Helam around because of un-walkable areas jutting out or narrow passages that make it difficult to stay in the walkable area. This is fairly annoying, but it can be somewhat alleviated by just holding down the mouse button while moving the cursor around the screen. In this way, Helam just follows the cursor and it is easier to guide him around.

Overall, I think the game is a lot of fun and that many people will enjoy it. The artwork of the game is beautiful, and like I said, they did a great job in portraying the Promised Land. It is also fun fighting enemies and working to figure things out (be sure to find all 3 relics on each level).

My 7 year old son also enjoys the game so I'll leave you with his thoughts (embedded below).

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