How to Network If You Suck at Networking

If you’re anything like me, when you hear the word networking, you’re already out the door. Yes, it’s important and one of the best ways to meet other developers, potential investors and fans, but it’s not something that comes naturally to most people. For some, the thought of talking to strangers might be a terrifying thought. For others, it might just seem insincere to network with people only for potential benefits. In the end, many of us end up shrugging our shoulders and say, ‘I just suck at networking’ and pretty much avoid it at all costs. However, going down that route can lead to tons of missed opportunities. So how can we grow our network?

Talk to People

This might sound obvious, but you can’t network if you don’t talk to people! For the shy folks, this can be a herculean task. For those who aren’t natural socialites try this trick: pick a color. Once you step into the room talk to all of the people wearing that color. You can only leave once you’ve spoken to each of them. If no one is wearing the color you had in mind, pick a number and stick to it. It can be awkward, especially if someone has a crowd of people around them, but you’ll never meet the right people if you don’t talk to them.

The best rule of thumb – try approaching groups of three or larger. It can be a bit awkward, but it’s a bit easier to infiltrate larger groups than smaller ones. After all, there will always be people in larger groups who aren’t talking at the moment, so try to strike up a conversation with them based on the general topic of the group conversation.

Try to Help Others

There’s always that one person at networking parties who schmoozes to the big guns, laughing at all their jokes and trying to butter them up. More often than not it’s the same person who leaves disappointed. Don’t be that person. Never go into a networking event expecting people to help you. Instead, find ways you could help others. Maybe you can provide some good sites for a new developer just starting off or maybe you can recommend an artist to someone else. Whatever it is, the key is to ask, “How can I help.” Instead of “What can you do for me?”

Treat People Like People

The person you’re talking with is just another human being no matter how successful or unsuccessful he or she is. So treat them as such. Listen to them and respond thoughtfully. If the conversation isn’t going anywhere or if you have nothing in common, excuse yourself politely. Networking is about human interaction and building relationships. Treat everyone, regardless of how successful they are, the same. You never know who might have a valuable connection or information.

Follow Your Passion

While meeting other game developers at places like PAX or GDC can be great, don’t limit yourself to attending only industry events. Most people have multiple interests so why not take a break and follow up on these other hobbies? Take part in a local club or meetup group for something you’re interested in. It could be anything from cooking to photography. The best part? It’s usually easier to talk to people at these events because you already have a shared interest. So while you’re chatting about the latest culinary technique, ask the person with whom you’re chatting for their name and about their work.

Follow Up and Follow Through

Once you’ve gotten the contacts, don’t let them collect virtual dust in your contacts list. Reach out to them a few days after the event and reiterate how much you enjoyed meeting them with a request to meet up again in the near future. If you already set a date for a meeting, always re-confirm. Most importantly, show up. While there’s not much you can do about last minute emergencies, try your best to keep your appointment. Like you, these people are busy and if you reschedule too much, it looks like you don’t value their time or their insights. No shows are even worse. Again, you don’t know who these people might know, so standing a contact up could potentially burn a bridge you might really need.

More importantly, keep in constant contact with these people. You don’t have to email them every day, but it’s a good idea to check in one or twice a month. Maybe you found an article that might interest them, or perhaps you want to comment on an article they wrote. Always keep it professional and useful whether for their work or hobbies.

Networking isn’t easy and for many of us, it can be a nightmare. However, if you approach it more as making friends instead of business partners, it might be a bit easier.


37 Great Resources for Game Developers

As game developers – we’re always striving to improve our craft whether by finding online tutorials or videos. However, it can be difficult to wade through the large amount of information and tutorials. Whether you’re just getting started or want to improve your skills in an area – we’ve gathered some of the best resources we could find for the many different areas of game development.

Game Design

Extra Credits – Insightful look at games throughout history and why the do or don’t work

GDC Vault – Excellent library of videos from various GDC panels about game design and development. They have a free and paid section.

Game Design Dojo – While they haven’t released a podcast since 2016 – their backlog offers some excellent insights and is hosted by two game industry veterans.

Lost Garden – Although the author doesn’t update often, there are tons of great articles on how to improve core gameplay and even some free art assets!

Gamasutra – If you aren’t visiting this site already, time to bookmark it and check out the articles at least once a day. Not only will you get some great info on game design, you’ll also be more informed about game news in general. And since you’re in the game industry, it’s good to keep an eye out on the news and trends.


Udemy – If you’ve got a little extra scratch, check out some classed in Udemy. Almost every month they have a $15 sale on some of the most popular courses so you can quickly learn how to create a game in Unity, HTML5 and more for a relatively low cost.

Learn Unity – What better place to learn how to use an engine than from the creators of the engine itself? Unity offers plenty of tutorials both standalone and as part of a series where you will actually complete a full game.

Game Programming Patterns – This free book shows you some common patterns you’ll often use when programming a game complete with pictures and sample code.

Game Code School – You can pick and choose some lessons or take a full course to take you from beginner to intermediate coder here. Even better, you can learn different engines like Unreal, Game Maker and more. While you won’t be able to download the sample projects for some of the tutorials, the site does provide you with some written explanation and the final code.

Envato Tuts+ – Here you’ll find a variety of tutorials ranging from programming to art to game design. It updates at least once a week and there’s a pretty hefty back log of tutorials. With that said, some of the older ones might not be useful, especially for engines, so be aware of new coding conventions if you choose to use something like Unity or GameMaker.

Lazy Foo’s Tutorials – When getting started with programming you want to learn the best practices and mentality of coding. That way you can easily transfer this to other languages like C#, Java, etc. Lazy Foo’s Tutorials has been around for years, but it’s still a great starting point for those who want to start good habits.

Game Art

2D Game Art for Programmers – Not an artist, but don’t have the time/money to find one? No worries! This site teaches you how to make attractive and simple vector art for your game. The author does a great job providing step-by-step guides and occasionally provides the actual files for you to use. Best of all, he uses free programs like Gimp and Inkscape so you can easily follow along.

Opengameart – If you need some assets quickly (maybe for a game jam or just for prototyping), then this is the best place to go. While the quality of the artwork varies, you can definitely find some that will blow you away. Before using it in a commercial game, make sure to check the licensing and, for good measure, contact the creator if you have any questions on usage.

Kenney – I can’t say enough good things about Kenney. Not only does he provide top-quality assets, he also provides the majority of them for FREE! Kenney also has developed a program – Asset Forge – where you can easily create your own 3D or 2D sprites.

Spine – If you want to create your own 2D animations – this is the program to use. It focuses on 2D skeletal animation so you can quickly and easily create all of the animations you need.

Blender – If you’re looking to make 3D models and don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on another program then Blender is definitely the go-to program since it’s free! There’s definitely a learning curve here, so make sure to check out some tutorials and find some sample projects before you get started.

Game Music/SFX

Audio Tuts+ – Want to make your own game music? If you’ve got the time and patience, try out these tutorials to get you started.

SoundJay – Don’t want to deal with recording sound effects? Then check out SoundJay. There are dozens of different sound effects and they are free to use!

Stock Music – If you don’t fancy yourself a composer, then you might want to go ahead and purchase some music instead. Stock Music has a wide variety of genres available so hopefully you’ll be able to find a few you like.

LMMS – Want to try you hand at creating your own stuff? LMMS is a free tool you can use on Windows, Linux or Mac. It even offers instruments, plugins and samples.

DSK Music – need some more instruments to create that epic feel for a final boss fight? You can find most of them at DSK Music.


Indie Game Girl – While she doesn’t update her site much anymore, there’s still a lot of great resources and information here from how to create a great landing page for your game to creating a buyer persona. The creator now works at an indie game publisher so you her tips are definitely legit!

Pixel Prospector Marketing Guide – This handy-dandy guide covers the marketing cycle from initial conception of your game to release and provides some excellent links to articles on each step.

tinyBuild list of Streamers – Twitch streamers and YouTubers are the biggest influencers in the game industry today. Many people trust them over game journalists and reviewers. So if you want to get your game in front of a captive audience, this list will definitely help. Just prepare yourself for potential negative backlash if your game just isn’t that good.

Big List of YouTubers – If you’re not a fan of Twitch, then why not look at some top YouTubers. This list is a little out-of-date, so click on the link of the YouTuber you want to contact to make sure it’s still the same person.

HubSpot Marketing – While this doesn’t focus specifically on game marketing, it is one of the leading blogs for marketing in general. These blog posts can help you with your marketing strategy and up your content marketing game.

Presskit() – Created by Rami Ismail (one of the co-founders of Vlambeer), this useful template lets you create a press kit template in under an hour. It also has seamless integration with their other app Promoter and Google Analytics.

Promoter  – If you’ve got Presskit() why not integrate it with Promoter? This app allows you to seamlessly track any press mentions, send out Steam keys, and even provides event reminders. It’s not free, but saves you a lot of time to focus on your game.

IndieDB – An indie game news site where you can submit your own game and have other game developers and indie game enthusiasts find it. If you follow all the rules (at least 5 pictures or a 30 second long video) – you’ll get featured on the first page. What does that mean for you? You’ll get your game in front of thousands of people.


TIGSource – A great place to get some feedback and keep others updated on the latest updates to your PC or mobile game.

Toucharcade Forum – Quite possibly the best place to post your work in progress if you’re an iOS developer. The writers and editors of the site are in the forums often so it could very well lead to a feature. – Another excellent resource for game developers to learn from each other, ask questions and even find some people to work with.

Gamedev Subreddit – If you know how to work Reddit, then this is a great place to post your WIPs especially in the screenshot Saturday thread.


Promoter Calendar – Okay, so we already mentioned it up above, but the calendar is another very handy tool as it shows you the deadlines for upcoming conventions and contests. Bookmark this page.

Game Confs – Another great resource for game conferences around the world.

Indie Game Jams – If you’re looking to get some experience with game making and work well on tight deadlines, this site provides a comprehensive list of all the game jams going on.

One Game a Month – Need a bit more time to flesh out an idea? One game a month is for you! Like a game jam, you have a theme, but where you take it depends on you!

Score – Although there may not be game developers at Score, the mentors here can help guide you on a path to being a small business owner and provide some insight into marketing, business development and more. While most require you to go into the offices, there are some that provide email or Skype meetings.

Are we missing some of your favorite resources? Let us know in the comments below!

Cover image via wccftech



4 Reasons You Need a Game Design Document

Whether you’re working alone or in a group, the most important thing to have on hand is documentation. Enter the game design document (GDD). If you’ve been a part of any game development group, at some point you’ll run into a discussion about whether people should use a GDD or not. At this point you might be asking yourself the same thing. Do you really need one, especially if you’re a solo developer?

The answer is YES. You should absolutely have a GDD. It doesn’t have to be 100 pages long, but a good GDD is a lot more than just guidelines for your game.

Organize Your Ideas

GDD organize

Studies show that our memories aren’t very reliable. While this study focuses only on our recollection of events, it’s also true of our own ideas. You might have come up with an amazing idea in the shower, but as the days or even weeks go by without writing it down, the less you’ll remember. A GDD is an excellent way to keep track of your ideas on paper.

More importantly, it’s a way for you to reference certain features or aspects of your game. When you’re working with a team, a GDD provides all team members with a deep understanding of the game’s overview and how it works. This makes communicating between different departments much easier and reduces confusion and the amount of back-and-forth saving you a lot of time. If you’re a solo developer, a GDD is still useful because it serves as an excellent reference. No one’s memory is 100 percent so it’s likely  you’ll forget some details. With a GDD, you don’t have to worry about that (unless you somehow delete it).

Keeps You Focused

Some developers suffer from feature creep while others don’t have enough features. A GDD could solve either option. In the case of feature creep, a GDD keeps you focused on your goal. All of the features you need are already in there and you’ve already laid out how everything interacts with the various systems. You can look at the GDD and ask yourself if that feature you want will really add to the overall game or if it’s fun, but unnecessary. More often than not, it’s the latter.

A good GDD can also reveal missing features and functions in the game. Perhaps you have a platformer game but you didn’t include a jump feature. Unless that’s part of a conscious design decision, it’s definitely something you should add.

The GDD should serve as your master checklist. Checking off the various items on the list can be hugely motivational because it means you’re one step closer to finishing your game.

Sets a Schedule

I used to just assign deadlines in Trello without a second thought about timing. But after looking over various sample GDD templates, I found they all include a schedule. When I tested it out, I realized setting milestones for each item forced me to really think how long a task would take and where exactly I wanted the game to be in 1 month, 6 months, a year and so on. It made me more conscious with the interaction of each separate task from art to sound to programming.

While not everyone will feel the same way, I think it’s worth a try, especially if you find yourself starting game projects but never finishing them. Really take a good look at all of the features in your GDD from the art assets to programming and honestly think how long each task would take. That means you need to factor in other things like your day job, family and other items, then give yourself even more time. If you think something will take one week, give yourself two or three weeks and so on. Development ALWAYS takes longer than you think.

Great for Marketing

When done well, a GDD is pretty much a goldmine for PR and marketing. It contains all of the unique features of your game, concept artwork, general theme and more. From it, you or whoever handles your marketing can put together screenshots, trailers, press releases and more. And since a good GDD generally has some information on the target demographic, you or your marketer should know exactly how to create these items to make sure it catches their attention.

Interested in creating a GDD but don’t know where to start? Here’s an awesome template you can use from Nikkona of VitalZigns. It’s free, but why not show your support and donate a couple bucks?

Cover image via Tuts+


5 Ways to Beat the Green-eyed Monster – Envy

As an indie developer, it’s almost impossible NOT to compare yourself with others. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t do it within my own NYC circle and among game developer friends in other parts of the world. I think the worst was when we launched our campaign on Greenlight and just…crickets.

Before launching I was confident we’d get Greenlit in a week or maybe a month. It took us seven months and only because Valve was closing Steam Greenlight for Steam Direct. Since our game was still in the Greenlight queue we got pushed ahead. It felt like a hollow victory. Especially when seeing other games that managed to get through in a day or less and also reading on almost every forum how “any half-decent game will get through Greenlight.” It was demoralizing to say the least. And for a while, I mentally checked out from The Painter’s Apprentice especially after more and more games sped by me on Greenlight all while griping about them.

In truth, I was just jealous they were able to make it and not me. And why not? We’d spent years working on the game, gotten positive feedback at all the events we showed it and were chosen to showcase at MAGFest twice and be a part of the PAX Rising booth at PAX South. All of this wasn’t enough validation though because at the time it seemed like every other indie game developer, besides us, were just breezing through Greenlight. It wasn’t fair!

That’s what I thought. It took a couple months of grousing and pouting, but eventually I realized I was just hurting myself, the game and the company by sulking. If you’re in a similar place, here are some tips to get you out of that rut.

Stop Making it a Competition

image via Pixabay

It’s so easy to fall into the comparison trap. And once you do that, game development becomes a competition. While some comparison is necessary (you have to stand out from the thousands of other games in your genre so you need to know your competition), once you’re comparing the amount of social media followers, positive reviews, graphics, etc. you get caught in a downward spiral. The solution – stop competing with other indie developers. Just like in life, every indie game studio is at different points on their journey. It’s ridiculous to compare because you have hardly any context besides metrics. Sure, maybe they’re just beginning, but they may have other resources you don’t know about that gives them a leg up. There are a thousand and one different reasons that you might not know about so stop comparing yourself.

Celebrate the Success of Other Indie Developers

image via Pixabay – Celebrate like these kids!

When a developer you know or follow makes it big, be happy WITH them. If you wanted it, chances are these developers wanted it as well. Earnestly congratulate them and rejoice in their fortune. Next time it might be you! This goes back to main point that this shouldn’t be a competition. While not all games or studios will make it big, it’s important to derive happiness from the fact that you are doing something you love. Plus, won’t you want other people to wholeheartedly cheer on your success once you make it?

Focus on the Methods not the Metrics

All right, so you made your first $1,000 on a game. That’s awesome! But then you hear that Joe Shmoe of Shmoe Productions made $50,000 on their first day! There’s goes whatever self-confidence you might have had. So here’s the trick – don’t let your brain lock when you see a big number. In fact seek them out. Find those games that got 1 million downloads or made $500,000 their first week and then see how they got to that number. Maybe the developers have a post mortem blog post detailing their methods. If they do, read it. If not, reach out to them and see if you can’t pick their brain on how they achieved this kind of success. What kind of marketing did they do, how did they make their game trailer, what “influencers” played their game? Dissect their success and see how you might be able to emulate it.

Boast a Little

If something awesome happened – give yourself a pat on the back and post it on your social media channels. Keep a regular tally of the awesome things you’ve done. Heck, keep an ongoing list as to why your game is so awesome and refer back to it when you’re feeling down.

The point here is to boost your confidence to the point where you can actually provide a good pitch to reviewers, streamers and gamers. If you have zero confidence in your game, no one will play it. Just remember, don’t go overboard with the bragging on social media. People tire of that very quickly.

Get Involved with the Community

Game development can be very isolating. You spend hours in front of your computer working on some code or a level. While logically you know other people experience the same thing, it’s another thing to actually meet with fellow developers and discuss the woes of making games. If there’s a local game developer meetup or IGDA chapter near you, join it. You’ll meet a lot of people in the same boat and even meet others who have been able to work their way up. Once you actually get to know the people behind the studio, it’s easier to celebrate their successes and put away the yardstick. You’re all working towards a similar goal after all. Plus, it helps that these communities are generally very supportive of each other. If there’s isn’t a place nearby, join a virtual group on Facebook or LinkedIn.



Were Retro Games Really that Great?

When you take a look at Steam, you’ll notice a plethora of 8- and 16-bit inspired games. Many try to recapture the essence of games like the original Ninja Gaiden, Contra and, of course, Super Mario Brothers. There’s a strong sense of nostalgia in the video game community especially for the “Golden Age” of gaming. I occasionally fall into the same trap. Heck we all do in certain aspects of our lives whether we’re talking about movies, books or just ‘the good old days.’

It’s easy to get nostalgic. We tend to look at our past with rose-tinted glasses because we’re holding onto the good memories while the bad memories fade away. It’s one of the reasons why so many people look back at bad relationships with fondness many years down the road. I’d wager it’s the same with video games.

The Golden Age of Gaming

For many gamers, myself included, the NES was the first console we had. Sure, we played at the arcade, but having a console at home was an entirely different experience. You didn’t have to wait in line to play your favorite games, you only had to pay once for a game instead of spending all your hard-earned quarters, and, most of all, you had all the time in the world to beat a level…well as much time as your parents allotted.

There was a sense of wonder associated with playing games on the TV. Who would have imagined it! I know I played Mario and Duckhunt for hours. Then later we got Nobunaga’s Ambition, Tecmo Bowl and Tetris. Even my parents loved playing. In fact, they’d put us to bed and secretly play Tetris while we were “sleeping.”

As time passed, technology evolved and games became more complex. Soon we games evolved to 3D and now we have VR/AR. Yet despite all of these advancements gamers seem to be even more unsatisfied than before. More often than not you’ll hear them wax poetic about a retro game like the first Ninja Gaiden or, of course, Super Mario Brothers. Even game developers look to these older games for guidance on how to make a “great” game. While that’s not a bad idea in and of itself, there’s a lot that has changed – not just graphics and processing power.

Tutorial Levels

One of the biggest complaints I see today with new games is that they “handhold” you through the intro experience. You’ll often have developers point out Super Mario Brothers or Mega Man as great examples of how games taught users through gameplay the basics of the game. While I think that’s true to a certain extent, they also forget these games came with instruction manuals on how to actually play the game.

Console games still have these manuals, but more and more people are turning to Steam to digitally download their games. These don’t come with any instructions! That means the developer has to provide in-game prompts to introduce the button schemes. Of course, there are games that take this to the extreme, but ultimately what might seem like “hand-holding” is how developers teach users how to play.

If there were no obvious instructions, I’m pretty sure gamers would complain the game didn’t work. For example, when testing out The Painter’s Apprentice we showed people how to jump in our tutorial world. We then provided their first obstacle, a jump too high to reach with a single one. I can’t tell you how many players couldn’t figure out the double jump. Some did, after a couple tries, but many stated I should have it printed out. Where does  hand-holding begin and end?


The above is just bad level design. Apparently you need specific shoes to make the jump, but they appear randomly in shops…
I know there are people that thrive on frustratingly difficult levels. I’m not one of them. With that said, there needs to be a certain amount of challenge. Again, many gamers point to older games as perfect examples of difficulty. When you actually play older games today though, many are way too hard and punishing. Games like Mario and Ninja Gaiden rely on pixel perfect jumps to extend the gameplay. As well, there are just some levels that are meant to act as filler to keep you from progressing to the end too quickly (looking at you World 7-4). I’d even complain about the controls being a bit too touchy and the jumps a little too float-y. Certainly, you could say that it takes some time to get used to, but I think this is where the trouble comes in – we have thousands of games we could be playing right this second.

This is where the problem starts. There are so many choices available to gamers today. Back in the NES days there were only 712 games TOTAL for the system. The PS4 alone has aroudn 1,300 games. When you add in Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and Steam, you’re looking at almost 20,000 games and that’s not counting previous generation consoles or mobile games!

With NES games, we would spend hours and hours trying to beat a level because 1) we had time since we were kids and 2) THERE WAS NOT MUCH ELSE TO PLAY! I know this isn’t a popular opinion, but I think most games today are better balanced than older ones. Sure, some might be a bit on the easy side, but there are plenty that offer a good mix of challenge and fun.

And that’s what I want when I play a game – fun. I’m okay with a bit of difficulty, but I have zero desire to replay a level 5, 10, 20 times to build up “muscle memory” so I know how to do a jump just right. And while I think there are people who don’t mind it, I’m sure there are many more who are like me. Today, game and level design has evolved to the point where something can still be difficult, but not punishing. And I believe it’s because there’s more competition. While there will always be a special place in my heart for Super Mario Brothers, I don’t believe it’s the pinnacle of gaming.

The Power of Nostalgia

Nostalgia is a powerful thing. In fact, marketers use it as a way to get people interested in a product. What makes it such a great tool? As Forbes states, “Reliving positive memories and beloved icons from the past feels good.  Alongside hectic work schedules, unrelenting responsibilities, and more, fond memories make us smile — and that leaves us open to brand messaging.”

So were old games really that good? In one sense, yes they were. At the time. When it came out Super Mario Brothers offered an entirely new gaming experience. While it didn’t create the platforming genre, it certainly exemplified it and ultimately brought the genre into the spotlight. For that reason, Super Mario Brothers was and still is a great game. When stacked against today’s games though, I’d say many older games only remain in high esteem with gamers because it was one of the first games they played. And that’s okay.

For many game developers, like us, these games inspired us to start creating. We daydream about providing an experience on the same level as Super Mario Brothers or Contra. That’s the goal. And, of course, we can still learn quite a lot from older games whether it’s level design or working within the confines of budget or technology. So while I don’t think we should hold “retro” games as the shining example of what games should be, I do think they’re excellent resources.



Journey of Once Upon a Runner

With Once Upon a Runner now out for both Android and iOS (go download them now, it’s free!) we wanted to give you a look into our creative process as well as the ups and mostly downs we had during the entire creation process. We’ve given you some snippets into our process on a couple other articles, but we figured it would make it much easier for you to have it all in one place. Despite the many, many mistakes we made along the way, ultimately we learned so much from shipping our first game. The biggest takeaway we want you to have is this: Don’t ever give up. Even if things aren’t going your way, even if the final product isn’t what you expect, keep moving forward. You’ll have learned so much more and, at the end of the day, you’ll have something you can call your own.

The Journey of Once Upon a Runner

Once Upon a Runner grew out of a necessity to provide some sneak peeks and teasers into a PC MMO ARPG game called SaltyPepper. I joined the team as a writer and helped world build with another writer. At first, the progress of the game seemed to be relatively smooth; however, soon people started losing motivation. We were a small team so everything just seemed to take longer in terms of programming, artwork, you name it. The producer had already started fanning the flames of hype of the game, but without any interesting developer articles, people lost interest.

In order to keep our name on the radar I suggested we release some short games for mobile so gamers would start recognizing our name. It didn’t take too long to get the greenlight for the project. That was the easy part. The hard part was just beginning.

The Process

We ended up going with a story about one of the characters from SaltyPepper – Ella – and her origins as she seemed like the most interesting and versatile character to base a standalone game on. Our initial target goal for completion was six months, so we needed something simple enough to finish. We initially toyed with the idea of a platformer, but decided to simplify it even further with a runner game. At the time, there were only endless runner games with no story so we decided to stand out with a runner game that actually has an end. Our use of fairy tales weaved into SaltyPepper so we decided to choose some of the more well-known stories.

The addition of Ella, the spunky fire mage, helped shape the fairy tales in a different way. We wanted Ella to have a big personality and charm. We also wanted her clothes to communicate a story as well and kind of place her as a wandering spirit despite her young age. Her clothes are drab and plain, but her bright expressions and hair make you kind of forget all of that.


Of course, having Ella in the story completely changed how the fairy tales played out. There wasn’t a prince anymore. So we had to adapt the story to fit around Ella. With the help of our previous lore writer we drafted several comic book panels to tell the story. We ended up going without dialogue as we wanted people to focus on the illustrations and come up with the dialogue themselves. It made the story more open to interpretation.

I created a game design document that outlines the basics of the game mechanics, gameplay and more. Looking back on it now, it lacked a lot of necessary details. Still, once we got everything into place we started working. We didn’t have any project management system or processes in place for this game. Something I do NOT suggest. For the most part we were adding in details and explanations as we went along. Which ultimately led to:

The Snags

Without proper oversight and direction, the team fell apart. The programmers were split between working on Once Upon a Runner and SaltyPepper. Eventually we ended up dropping SaltyPepper, which led to several core team members dropping out from Once Upon a Runner.

It also took much longer to get the artwork than expected. We couldn’t find a decent animator and by the time we did, two months had already passed since the inception of the game. It took another three months to just get the basic animations for Ella. From there, it was just one mishap after another. The background art didn’t suit the more cartoony style of the animations. It was my first job as lead designer, but I didn’t have much authority at least in the beginning. All of the approvals went through the producer who would often disappear for weeks on end. This led to poor communication and, unsurprisingly, unhappy team members.

The Depths of Despair (Anne Shirley Fans Will Get It)

Eventually the two programmers who started with us left and we had to put the project on hiatus until we could find some who would stick with us. That took several months of searching multiple times. Programmers would join and then disappear just as quickly. Eventually we found three people who could finish the game, but that still took quite a while as soon after the animator left the project. So we had to search once again for an animator.

By this time, a year had already passed and we hadn’t made any significant progress on the game. People lost motivation and even I was ready to give up. It just seemed like finishing the project was not going to be possible.

Wisely or not, we had also started another project – Fairy Trails to keep the momentum going. I hired some artists to get started ahead of time so the programmers would have assets to work with once they moved from Once Upon a Runner to Fairy Trails. It was going well, that is until the producer pulled out suddenly. As the only source of funding, it meant we couldn’t keep paying our artists – something we had promised them. It was a huge disappointment, but there wasn’t much I could do. We tried to raise the remainder of the tab with a Kickstarter, but unfortunately that failed. At that point, the only thing we could do was stop the project.


Despite that cloud of negativity, I decided there was no way we would let Once Upon a Runner die. With the help of the Ray, our VP, we formed a new company and created a plan. Eventually, I moved everyone over to Trello to assign tasks and track progress. I even created a pretty pie chart for even more visuals so we could see how far we’ve come. I’m not sure if they helped others, but they motivated me and it seemed like every week we started to make progress again.

Meanwhile, Once Upon a Runner was making slow but steady progress. I focused my attention on that and started showing it off at local events in New York City. Even with this, I was still pretty unsatisfied with the way it looked and played. There were some major issues with the background and memory leaks on iOS and the game size was just way too big. We kept pushing forward though until we finally released the game 2.5 years later.


Once Upon a Runner poster

There wasn’t much fanfare around our release. In fact, I didn’t want to reach out to press just because I was a little ashamed of the final product. Don’t get me wrong, I was happy we finally got it out the door, but there were just so many issues. With that said, we did still manage to get some good press. Two years after release, we didn’t crack 1,000 total downloads. It’s a bit sad, but not unexpected.


While there are a lot of articles out there that advise against revisiting old games, I can’t really help myself. We’re updating the programming and artwork for Once Upon a Runner. Hopefully we can manage to condense it into a smaller package, too.

Why? Because when I list the games on our site, I want gamers and prospective clients to see we can produce quality work. I also plan on reusing some of the new artwork here for a sequel. But really, I want to look at our released games with pride. Maybe it won’t affect how many people download it, but at least I’ll know the final product now matches my standards. I’m excited to see how it looks in the end and hope you are too!


Why Indie Game Developers Need to Make a Schedule

Source: Pixabay

As an indie developer, it’s all too easy to get off track with a project, especially when it’s something that you do in addition to your normal day job. It’s even harder when you’re not making any money currently on your game. So you let the days go by, and that turns into weeks then into months. A half year later and you realize you haven’t made any progress on the game at all. It’s demotivating. Even the most talented developers can fall into this trap. If you want to prevent your awesome game from collecting virtual dust in the back of your hard drive the best thing you can do keep a schedule.

Wait, Seriously?

Yes. I know. The advice isn’t earth-shattering. It’s common sense and probably something you’ve heard a hundred times before. Heck, maybe you’ve even tried a schedule and somewhere along the way it just fell apart. Or maybe you’re one of those amazing people who doesn’t need one to stay productive. If you’re the latter, then I envy you.

For the rest of us, creating a schedule might take the ‘fun’ out of game development. In the past, I figured I would just work on a project when I had a flash of inspiration. Unfortunately, this meant I’d often go months without touching the game because I wasn’t ‘inspired.’

It’s interesting that I fell into this trap with game development. As a freelance writer, I’ve always been excellent at meeting deadlines and working consistently. But for whatever reason, this habit didn’t transfer over, that is until recently when it hit me. Game development is just like any other creative pursuit. To make progress and improve you need to put in the work…every day. And as any good author would tell you, the best way to finish a book is to glue your butt to the chair and just write. The only way to do this is to set aside some time during the day to focus entirely on your work. Some of the best writers focus on word count or pages rather than the amount of time writing.

As I’ve come to discover, it’s the same with game development. If you want to get something done, you need to put in daily effort. It sounds easy enough, but it’s much harder in practice.

How Will this Help?

Besides moving your project forward, setting up a schedule allows you to focus entirely on one task at a time. Forget about multitasking. Sure, it might be necessary sometimes, but overall we’re less efficient and more prone to errors when we try to concentrate on too many things at once (there’s a cognitive cost if you switch tasks too often). Carving out blocks of time where you can focus on each task will help you be more productive and combat stress as you’ll be able to finish up more work than before.

Besides this, you’ll be more mentally prepared for game development when you create and stick to a schedule. You know exactly when you need to start working on your game at least 15 minutes beforehand so you can prepare accordingly, whether that means cleaning off our workspace, making some snacks and drinks or just removing all distractions.

Okay So About This Scheduling

A lot of us are resistant to schedules. I know I am. I hate having to follow a routine and have this idea that I’m better when I have unstructured time to work. While in some cases it might be true, for the most part we humans actually crave routine. It’s one of the reasons we end up picking so many bad habits. They become a part of our lives because we keep repeating them. There’s a comfort in routine and breaking it takes a lot of willpower. Luckily, you can use this part of human nature to your advantage with scheduling.

Okay, so how do you actually stick to your schedule? Maybe you’ve already tried it a bunch of times but it just never stuck. You bought all the planners and tried different tricks, but somehow you just fall off the wagon. So what’s happening? Are you just not meant for routine?

Create a List of Essential Daily Activities

Source: Pixabay

What do you have to do everyday? For must of us that’s getting ready for work, commuting, working, commuting home, eating dinner, etc. Put all of this into your calendar and add in some buffer time for each one. If it usually takes you 30 minutes to get to work, list it as 45 minutes or even an hour in case you run into bad traffic. The same can be said for your day job. While most might be 9-5, there’s always the possibility that projects will keep you in work longer. Fill in the time slots generously so that you have a good idea of time allocation.

Add in Activities You Need to Do

This is where you add in game development, exercise, personal hygiene, shopping and chores. It will probably be the longest list, but it’s also the most flexible in terms of timing. In order to find the best time slot for your game development you need to know your habits and quirks. If you’re not a morning person, scheduling in game development for 5 AM might not be the best idea. With that said if you work in the morning, you probably shouldn’t schedule it for 1 AM. You need to find a good balance that works for you and allows you to also get in the other essentials.

When scheduling, make sure you honestly assess how much time each item takes and then schedule in some additional buffer time between the end of your task to the next in case it runs over. Make sure you also account for travel time. You might only spend an hour at the gym, but if it takes your 30 minutes to get there, that’s an hour you’ve lost due to travel time.

Schedule Time for Relaxation

You can’t be in go mode all day. Mental exhaustion is real and if you don’t give your brain time to rest, you’ll be burnt out in no time. Whenever you have some spare time, book that time for self-care. This might mean catching up on the latest episode of your favorite TV show, playing a game or hanging out with some friends. Even if you can’t find an hour for fun, try and squeeze in 10-15 minutes to practice mindfulness.

No, mindfulness is not just some woo-woo hippie word. In essence, it’s a way for you to clear your mind of distracting thoughts and focus your awareness on the present moment. You don’t need any special equipment to practice. All it takes is some time and space for practice. How do you do it? Simple! Just observe the present moment as it is without any judgement. Take notice of the sounds, sights and even the way your body is reacting. When thoughts bubble up in your mind acknowledge them and then let them roll by. The more you practice the more benefits you’ll notice such as better attention, less stress and better memory.

Take an Honest Look at Your Schedule

You can’t fit 100 activities into one day, no matter how much you try. If your schedule is packed, you might need to alternate the days you complete specific tasks. This might mean you do game development Monday, Wednesday Friday or maybe even just Saturday and Sunday and that’s okay. So long as you make progress and stick to your schedule you’ll still see forward movement. However, if every day is jam packed, you might need to honestly assess everything on your plate. This might mean dropping some activities, at least for the time being. It can be a hard call which task to drop, but ultimately you’ll be much happier with a little more breathing room.

Avoid Distraction

Source: Pixabay

Distractions can appear in any form from social media to text messages. When you focus on a task, try to avoid anything that might take away your attention. This might mean using a plugin to block offending sites, turning off your phone and even as far as turning off your router. Basically do whatever you need to do to make sure you’re completely focused on the task at hand. At first it can be difficult, with smartphones, social media and other sites it’s all too easy to take a quick peak at our profile. When that urge hits you, just tell yourself no and keep working. The longer you practice avoiding distraction, the better you’ll get.

Give Yourself Some Leeway

Even the best laid plans often go awry. No matter how much you schedule there’s always the possibility for some event that will throw you off track. If that happens, don’t stress. Just take a deep breath and move on with your day. If it looks like something that will become a regular occurrence, schedule it it.

Hopefully this advice helps you on your game development journey. The most important piece of advice, however, is this: Your schedule should be tailored to you and your life. While looking at other people’s schedule might help give you an idea of how to start, don’t copy someone else. We all have different lives, habits and quirks so create a schedule that’s right for you!



PAX South 2017 Post Mortem


Incredible. Amazing. Those were my thoughts as I left PAX South 2017 the last time. From the incredible gamers of all ages with the enthusiasm of teenagers to the amazing friendships I made with fellow developers at the PAX Rising booth, PAX South 2017 was an amazing journey.  A journey that happened almost by a dare.

What is PAX (South)

PAX (originally known as Penny Arcade Expo) is a series of gaming festivals held in Seattle, Boston, Australia, and San Antonio, TX.  PAX was created in 2004 by the folks at Penny Arcade because they wanted to attend a show exclusively for gaming.  From that idea spawned a small 4,500 person event in Bellevue, Washington, focused on the culture and community that is gaming.  Since then, the show hasn’t looked back.  The San Antonio location was added in 2015.  From tabletops, a console freeplay, a handheld lounge, PC areas and to the informative panels, PAX has something for everyone.  I cannot forget to mention the phenomenal cosplayers and famous YouTubers attending either.


Why PAX South 2017, why us

The Painter’s Apprentice has been kicking into high gear for the last 6-8 months.  We had just been selected into MagFest in Maryland and the game has demoed very well the last few months.  So, as I was about to purchase my PAX South 3 Day passes and I saw the exhibitor button. Jasmine (President of Luminosity Mobile) and I had not discussed entering but I thought, why not try to show off the game at PAX South.  The game was getting positive early positive reviews from gamers. Sure enough, we get a reply asking for more information about the game. I reply and we’re in!

We were selected into the PAX Rising category!  PAX Rising is an entire space dedicated to the rise of the independent game developers.  This year, 8 indie game developers were selected to showcase their respective games. 


We started a small Kickstarter campaign to help with costs and it was worth every penny (pardon the pun)!  It was non-stop action from 10am – 6pm. We had people visit our booth constantly. I may have had a 10 minute break spread along 2 days. It was that incredible. Word of advice, make sure you have someone with you on those days so you have time to grab some food and take a break.

What drew people in? The colors of the game, the design, the artwork. What kept them playing? The story line of our hero, The Apprentice Painter as he battles paint blobs on his way to escape his Master’s artworks. Each artwork depicts a different period in art history from the Painterly to Neo-Expressionism. Naturally the backgrounds match these art styles. We also went the extra mile to make sure the music resembles composers of said time periods.


Who knew? People love free stuff! 🙂 I gave away countless Painter’s Apprentice Pen Paintbrushes. If you received one, you are one of the lucky few (hundred) I ordered.  However, if you decide to showcase your game with a booth, do not forget the power of candy! I can’t tell you how many people stopped by to grab some Starbursts then stuck around to play the game.

Mailing List

Thanks to the overwhelming support of the PAX South crowd, we were able to double our mailing list. Soon, we’ll spam you … hahaha…. jk. Really, we just plan on sending regular updates so you know what we’re working on.

Thank you

Thank you to all who stopped by to play the game and signed up for the newsletter. I had a blast showing it off!   The positive feedback makes us work harder to get this game to you as soon as possible. Look for it Summer 2017 !!!

Ray Flores
VP & Music Composer
Luminosity Mobile



From Writer to Game Designer

from writer to game designer

I had always had an interest in games. Like so many in my generation, I grew up with the the classic NES playing Mario, Tetris and Ninja Gaiden. I loved these games, but it never actually crossed my mind that I could one day be making games. There was always an interest in programming to some extent. I messed around on my Mac Classic first moving around a ball on the screen, then creating an animated storybook about a pair of scissors. It had Venetian blind effects and everything! Later on, I got into some HTML and, like many kids my age, started a Geocities page. Eventually, I even helped set up a website for my parent’s business.

While these were fun pass times for me, I was more a fan of stories. I loved writing. It not only provided an outlet for my creative energy, but it also gave me a sense of pride. I had created something that didn’t exist in the world before. While no publishing houses printed my work, I often showed it off to my friends and teachers who would provide feedback. A lot of my pieces was pretty silly and just meant to entertain, others were more introspective and still others, well, like all teenagers I had an emo phase.

Later Years

It wasn’t until I got into college that I picked up gaming again. By then, the graphics had improved drastically, and many of the games I played had an actual story. Now don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of classic games that had a story (Secrets of Mana, Final Fantasy, etc.), but I had just never played them. At that time, it seemed like a revelation. Hey, maybe I could take my love of writing and make games. Then I immediately forgot about it.

Fast forward several years and game development just started becoming more accessible. It still seemed impractical for me to do, I had no experience with programming and wasn’t very good at art. Still, I loved the idea of working on them. As a writer, it offered a novel approach to storytelling. It’s built-in interactivity made people experience the story more deeply. Players can also shape the story based on how they play. The character takes on their attributes. Even in a simple platformer game, there are multiple ways to play it – speed running, finding all the hidden objects, etc. – it makes the connection to the character and game stronger.

Getting into the Industry

With a little bit of searching, I found a site that had job postings for people interested in game development. I applied to several and got my first gig as a writer for an MMO project. It was pretty awesome! I shaped the world. I created the entire history from how it started to the “modern” period. After that, I helped outline the webcomic and even helped create the plants and animals of the game. It was an amazing experience. Of course, like with all ambitious MMOs, it eventually fizzled out due to lack of focus and a small team.

After that, I joined another group as a writer. I was brought on to help flesh out the backstory of the world and the characters. It was a lot of fun coming up with a story that matched the title. Eventually, I spoke with the producer, and we decided to create a smaller game to help build up some hype for the larger game we were making. At first he acted as the lead designer, but eventually, he passed the torch to me as I had a greater understanding of the story and setting. It was pretty scary! Having never taken on this role, I had no idea what to do, how to communicate my goals and issues. Add on to that internal struggles, and it was a nightmare. But eventually, it did get done.

And Now…

With each new game, I improve. It’s a learning process, and it can sometimes be painful, but it’s worth it.

Recently, I took part in a mentorship program where I created my first game from scratch. While it certainly isn’t a masterpiece, it proved to me that even without any art skills or experience with programming I could make something that was playable and had some interesting features. Learning more about these aspects also helps me a become a better game designer. I’m planning on putting some time aside to work on personal projects so that I can test out some mechanics that I might later include in other games to see if it’s any fun.

I didn’t become a game designer by following a traditional path. While I think there are benefits to getting a degree in game design from schools (connections, familiarity with game engines, etc.), it’s not for everyone. So, if you’re mulling over whether you want to jump into game development or not, give a try. You don’t need to study computer science in college to make a good game. What you do need, however, is perseverance to push through.


Game Development Resolutions

game development


There’s nothing quite like a new year to really turn over a new leaf. There’s a lot we weren’t so great about in 2016, but 2017 is the year to take a step forward and make some changes. While you don’t need to wait a full year to up your game, it certainly does help to have a fresh 12 months ahead of you. So here are a few of our resolutions for 2017:

Game Development Resolutions

  • More consistent blog posts – we plan on posting twice a week. One of those posts will be a game development blog.
  • Finish up The Painter’s Apprentice this year! We’re pretty excited with how things are going and while we’re certainly looking for ways to improve, we’re also pushing ourselves to get the game out. Finger crossed!
  • Prototype faster. Hopefully we can actually get a steady game development cycle in place so it doesn’t take us so long to produce games.
  • Maybe take part in a game jam. I’ve been looking at the 1 game a month jam for a while now. No better time to start like the present.
  • Contract work. It’s something we’ve been looking into for a while and we actually got our first last month. If it goes well, we can go on to take on more work of this kind. Not only will it increase our repertoire, it also will help us fund future events and keep our company rolling.
  • Get our game through Steam Greenlight! (Hint, hint: vote for us)

That’s pretty much it for us. What are your new year’s resolutions for your game or company? Let us know in the comments below!