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Soma Games winds up in the news here and there, now and again. Keep an eye out here for the reviews, interviews, and chatter that cover what we’re doing.

Christian Games and Grown Ups

There are a number of unspoken assumption in the burgeoning sphere of Christian gaming and most of them are both harmful (to the effort) and inaccurate. One of them is that the only way games and Christ could be in the same room would be in didactic preachy games, a kind of specialized edutainment where…

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Liz Vice now singing soul in G Prime

I’ve always imagined Soma Games as a transmedia company. In fact I have a version of our logo that says Soma Media. While we’ve spent the majority of our time making games we’ve also dabbled in comics, fiction and video all along the way. For example have you seen the G inspired music video and…

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Soma Games GDC 2016 Wrap-up

  Recently we sat down as a team to look back on our experiences at GDC 2016. Our immersive G Prime booth was a big hit at the conference, though being non-immersive, our booth stood in stark contrast to the almost inescapable promotion of VR (make sure to check out our micro-documentary, “People Wearing Headsets“!) For…

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My Unity Android Building Problem

    I was tasked with making an Android build of a project I worked on.  During the ‘Repackaging Resources’ step, a dialog box appeared with an error message: “CommandInvokationFailure: Failed to re-package resources. See the Console for details.” In the console were two errors, which were identical except one had a Unity error prefix…

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Flurry Friday Ep. 41 Soma goes to GDC

This week on Flurry Friday… What did we see at The Game Developers Conference (GDC) 2016? VR headsets, tons of foot traffic, VR headsets, overwhelmingly positive feedback on our immersive G Prime booth, and headsets for VR! We also added in a dash of our micro-documentary: “People Wearing Headsets”. 0:20 – Set up 1:30 –…

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Flurry Friday Ep. 40: Ballot Barrage on iOS

This week on Flurry Friday… “In Redwall, will you be able to choose the gender and species?” Come find out. Come take a walk in Erin the Art Director’s undoubtedly stylish shoes – this is what it’s like to see your work at last up on the iOS store. Chris explains why intentionally trying to…

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Flurry Friday Ep. 39: G Prime Booth for GDC

This week on Flurry Friday…short and sweet. Can you make everything out of anything? Our friend Elizabeth Hudec can. Cat food tins, cinnamon, and hot glue coalesce to create this year’s Soma Games booth for GDC (Game Developers Conference 2016)! So who’s going to be there? Come check it out and meet us. We will…

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The Official Soma Games 2015 Gift Guide for Gavin

It’s Christmas time and as it our custom, it’s time to pool all of our cash we made from selling video games all year to fulfill our sole purpose — lavishing a suffocating mountain of gifts on Gavin for Christmas. Below are a few titles Gavin has been drooling over, as well as some real-world…

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G Prime Press Kit

    Welcome to the G Prime Press Kit Page! Download our full Press Kit here. If you need more info or if you would like to request a game key, let us know.         Quick Info Developer:  Soma Games from Newberg, Oregon Release Dates:  November 12th 2015 (Windows and Mac), November 20th 2015…

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Flurry Friday 33: Redwall Food and Intel Real Sense

This week on Flurry Friday… Luke Pilalas asks a great question: Do you think there will ever be a Redwall MMORPG? Also how involved will food be in the current game? Answer: The first question is a lot easier to answer, which is no. MMORPGs are huge undertakings taking massive teams and gazillions of dollars.…

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Flurry Friday 32: Halloween – It’s All About Story

This week on Flurry Friday… Happy Halloween! Chris answers a great question about The Redwall game asked by Thomas Moloney on Facebook. Thomas:”I think adventure style would be a good way to gamify the individual books. Are we talking original content here or the gamification of books here?” Chris: The answer is both. We felt…

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God is Good – Even When You Have No Idea What’s Happening

This post was actually something from my personal blog back at the end of 2011 but I found myself going back over it and it seemed germane for today, so we’re reposting it.

Screen shot 2012-01-06 at 3.52.53 PM———

Proverbs 21:31 says “The horses are prepared for battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord.”

Coming home from work today caps off a lot of hard work, a lot of sacrifice and stress – and a “couldn’t be better” entry to a much needed week and a half of rest, family and recharging.

A week ago today we finally released the game that we’ve been working on for about nine months. It’s probably fair to say that four of those months were pretty light duty as we planned and tweaked and were at least partly distracted by other things but from July to December we were hard at it. And while the game was first imagined as something small and light and shallow it took on a life of its own. It morphed and deepened and grew a soul. Suddenly, a game we thought was a tiny time waster was recognized as something else. I remember the day we all sat down and started a prayer time and we all started looking at each other thinking – this isn’t what we thought. This is a Soma Game and a prequel to GRoG.

From there the metaphors, the details, even the delays started to look different in the light that God was actively engaged in the design process and now we were off making a game about spiritual warfare and destiny and guardian angels. It was awfully exciting. But it was also taking FOREVER. We were way over budget and a July launch got pushed to September, then to Thanksgiving and finally to Dec 15. To be true, by that time we were all freaking out more than a little. I’d love to say that we all had “peace beyond understanding” but we didn’t. We all knew this was taking way too long and costing way too much money and the stress was building. But we also knew that we needed to get it right – it had to be solid. And the truth is, the bug list seemed to grow every day instead of shrink. Features were still being added even after we were supposed to have code lock and the project just refused to be finished. Now on the bright side it was truly getting better and better. Not only were bugs getting fixed but all the finer details were being polished. Lightning bugs in the backyard, Photon pushing monsters and Lamplighter healing the friends near her, these and more were all last minute adds that made huge differences. We also kept experiencing that joy of serendipity. The Bonchows, giant versions of the enemies, started as a joke from a typo and become a built in feature on accident. The game was taking on a shape that we only barely glimpsed at the beginning and the time stress was counterbalanced by a real sense of discovery and excitement. Wind Up Robots was going to be a cool and well polished game.

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The G We Always Wanted To Make

PtolemyShotsThere’s an old saying that you never really finish a poem, you just give up on it.

At the risk of getting ahead of myself, sometime this month we expect to submit G Prime to Microsoft and call it “done.”  – I’m practically giddy.

When we started our first game, G: Into The Rain, we had no idea what we were doing and the “how hard could it be” attitude came crashing into the complex reality of video game development like a raw egg meeting the cast iron skillet. When we finally launched several months later it was bittersweet. On the one hand I was happy with what we’d done but many, many compromises had to be made along the way and there was a part of me that was sad at all the things that we couldn’t do or had to be left out.

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Harvest Moon and Redwall

As the recent news about our progress on funding makes the circuit and…some other news (ahem) looms nearer and nearer, we are understandably being asked questions about the game’s scope, mechanics and genre. We’ve been deliberately coy on specifics and the biggest reason has been to minimize the misery for the fans if things never gelled. Now that we’re feeling more confident in the way things have shaped up it seems fair to start sharing our thoughts on the game itself.

One of the strongest themes I’ve heard from fans of Redwall is easiest to describe this way:

We want to live there.

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Redwall News – It’s Big and We Need Your Help…

So we’ve got some good news and some bad news regarding Redwall. And when that’s all done I’ll be asking for your help.

First: the good news…which is really very good. If you were watching closely a few months ago you would have seen the pitch page we put up that revealed we were seeking $1.2m in funding for The Warrior Reborn. The timing of that page going live was deliberate for two reasons. First, we were just starting IDF in San Francisco and for the first time we were going to show one of our “final-ish” character designs in the public – Neebrock the Badger. Up to that point it had all been concept art and sketches but this was the real deal. We were a little anxious to see how people responded but we anticipated positive response and we got it. So riding that wave just a little to our pitch page was an easy link. But the second thing was much more tangible. When I left IDF and the City by the Bay I flew to beautiful, downtown Chattanooga, TN to meet a big potential investor.

We pitched, we ate phenomenal fried chicken, and then we waited…until last week.

I am extremely proud and excited to announce that one of the most well known names in the world of philanthropy has decided to honor us with their friendship and material support…and this is a huge break for us. (It’s also considered tacky to mention them by name…or so I’m told.)

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Monetization, Marketing and MST3K

Or Our Attempts at Innovation in Magic & Magnums

M&M Splash ScreenIn a recent post I described the long and winding road that got us to the launch of Magic & Magnums and how its weird development path allowed us some atypical freedoms than if we were concerned with things like…oh, say…making money.

The biggest effect on gameplay came from our work with RealSense and the effort to really reimagine a spatial game interface. But all of that has been covered elsewhere so I won’t do it again here. (But yes, there will be a RealSense version whenever that hardware hits the streets…hopefully that’s RealSoon.) I want this blog to be about the money stuff.

Monetization and the Curse of Free2Play

We’re in no way out in front of this conversation. Many folks, including some friends, have written on their decision to forsake the Free To Play model. But It’s worth saying that I don’t hate F2P. There are F2P games that I quite enjoy. But despite liking them and investing time in them, I realize that it’s vanishingly rare that I convert to a paying customer. Now of course I don’t feel guilty about it…much. After all, it’s the developers choice to offer the fruit of their hard labor for free – right? So it’s not exactly like I’m stealing or taking advantage of them…am I?

And that’s where it all falls apart for me.

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Peripheral-Free ASCII Input Using Intel® RealSense™ Technology

(This white paper is also published in Intel Developer Zone here)

If the goal of virtual input devices like those that can be created with Intel® RealSense™ technology merged with an appropriate Natural User Interface (NUI), is to be competitive with, or a replacement for, established physical inputs like mouse and keyboard, they must address the matter of text input. Where current-gen NUI technology has done a reasonable job of competing with the mouse, a visual and spatially contextualized input method, it has fallen notably short of competing with the keyboard.

The primary problem facing a virtual keyboard replacement is speed of input, and speed is necessarily related to accuracy. However, as sensor accuracy continues to improve, we can see other challenges arise that may prove more difficult to address.

In this paper I start with the assumption that sensor accuracy does, or soon will, allow the detection of small hand movements of a degree similar to that of keystrokes. Then I examine the opportunities, challenges, and some possible solutions for virtualized textual input without the need for a physical peripheral beyond the camera sensor.

A Few Ground Rules For This Discussion

For the sake of this paper, I’ll be discussing the potential replacement of a western style keyboard. The specific configuration, QWERTY or otherwise, is irrelevant to the main point. With that in mind, keyboards can be considered in an hierarchy of complexity, from a numeric 10-key, through extended computer keyboards that include letters, numbers, punctuation, and various macro and function keys.

As noted above, factors most likely to make or break any proposed replacement to the keyboard are speed, followed by accuracy. Sources disagree on the average typing speed of a modern tech employee, and Words Per Minute (WPM) may be an improper measure of keyboarding skills for code writing, but it will serve as a useful comparative metric. I will assume that 40WPM is a reasonable speed, and methods that cannot realistically reach that goal given an experienced user should be discarded.

I will also be focused on using the Latin alphabet; however, other alphabetic languages are similar in application. What is not considered here, though well worth exploring, is the virtualization of logographic input. It’s conceivable that gestural encoding of conceptual content would be faster and superior to gestures that encode phonemes and may even represent a linguistic evolutionary advance from logographic systems like Kanji. That said, a very likely use case for this kind of technology is writing computer code, in which case letter-by-letter input is an overarching consideration.

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The Long and Tortured Road to Magic & Magnums

This week we wrapped up V 1.0 of a new game and soon, Lord willing, Code-Monkeys will launch Magic & Magnums. (Dec 5 update: we locked up beta late last night and submitted to iOS. Now we’ll get various other builds wrapped up and submitted in the following days…just in time for Christmas..yippee!) It’s a goofy, spoofy, arcade game that is also an evolution of our game Santa’s Giftship (on iOS and Kindle) from 2011. And, as a sad matter of fact, this is the first real game release we’ve had since Suitor Shooter (iOS) in 2012…yikes!
But we have a good excuse…we really do…and it’s all connected.

Shortly after Suitor Shooter was in the store we got a call from a friend who was working on a project that sounded pretty fantastic. He had inked a deal to make a few games based on the Stargate SG1 TV show and he needed a quick and simple game that could be set in the Stargate world and be ready for ComicCon…in 3 weeks. It was meant to be a wham-bam quick project for marketing purposes, not a thoughtful, deep exploration of game design principles. Given the parameters we thought an SG1 version of Suitor Shooter could be put together quickly and off we went on a 3-week sprint without any expectation of it going any farther. ComicCon went off as planned but our friend wasn’t able to put the rest of the details together in that short time and wound up staying out of it – and so did our game. That was the first of a long chain of ‘almost launch’ events for what was then being called Stargate Gunship…a game that would, in the end, never come to be.

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RealSense And The Uncanny Valley

IDF 2014 was not the first time we’ve been honored to have a tech demo on the floor. And as we’ve been to the rodeo we’ve learned a thing or two about floor demos. First among those things: Keep It Simple Sherlock. So with that lesson in mind we created Cloak&Badger – a very simple game mechanic that splurged on the eye candy (a Cloak&Badgerwonderfully animated badger guard) and did exactly one thing: it used the recently updated RealSense (Beta) SDK and its emotion sensing API. The entire game worked as you made faces at the camera…that’s it…and it was a blast!

Cueing the player to what emotion drove the RPG-Style dialog tree in a particular direction was straight-forward and folks had tons of fun trying on the various emotive states that the API supports. (Includes:  Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Contempt, and Surprise plus the more general “sentiments” that are Positive, Neutral, and Negative.) By the rules of our KISS constraint it was an unqualified success and we had tons of smiles, laughs and genuine fun all week


Almost…
And then it went sideways.

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Mobile is Dead. Long Live the PC!

Soma Games wrote our first line of game code at the tail end of 2008, just as the iPhone was really blowing up and as it happened, we were in the right place at the right time. It wasn’t on purpose, it was partly opportunistic, but it worked out. We rode that mobile wave for years and were part of the Indie Game Renaissance it helped generate. (See: Polygon, GDC, Wired)

What made mobile so attractive was, of course, the low barrier to entry but that was only what got us interested. What kept us interested was the demonstrated market for indie games. Hardware constraints initially leveled the playing field so big studios had a much less pronounced quality and scope advantage over small shops so nimble little shops like Soma Games could compete and still land a feature from Apple or get covered by Kotaku.

Now it’s 2014 and as far as I can tell, the mobile space is no longer interesting for indies. I’m not the only one either. (See: Gamasutra, and this…for a start.) In fact, just about everybody I got to know as other indie mobile developers in the last several years is coming to the same conclusion. Mobile is over, let’s do PC games.

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IDF and My Wireless Dream

IDF is always a great place to get a glimpse of upcoming technology and while some portion of what you see there never quite makes it to the real market a trained eye can start to sense what ideas really have legs and are likely to keep going. This year, the stars that caught my attention were the consumer scale robots with Edison tech, and wireless everything.
CoolOffice

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That Long-Overdue Redwall Update…

It was sixteen months ago that we posted our first blog regarding Redwall, or Project Mouseworks. Shortly thereafter we launched our AbbeyCraft kickstarter, it funded, and then roughly a year ago this month AbbeyCraft was released. All going well so far. The plan at that point, as far as we could see it, though shrouded in some pretty dense fog, was to wrap up a modest private funding effort, build a modest adventure game and then see what happened. It was a pretty straightforward plan and while Redwall was obviously a big thing, our goals were fairly short term and limited. But something happened on the way to that pivot and while it’s cost us some time I hope you’ll see it as something overall quite positive – I know we do.

Setback #1: If I’m honest, I was just horribly naive about how the private funding world works. I’d never done it before but with all things considered it felt like the right play as opposed to either a traditional publishing deal or taking a second draught at the crowd funding trough. I’ll certainly write more about this experience in the future but suffice it to say that I underestimated the time this was going to take. On its surface that sounds like a bad thing, it was certainly wretchedly frustrating at times, but as I’ll describe below I think it was actually a blessing in disguise.

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RealSense Gestures: Reality and Wish Lists

As part of the continuing series covering our experience with the RealSense technology from Intel, I’ve been thinking about gestures…

I’ve been saying for a long time that one of the keys to Apple’s success in getting developer buy-in for iOS was the very approachable and well designed tool kit they provided in X-Code. It was as if they polled 100 random potential coders and asked, “If you made an iPhone app, what’s the first thing you would want to tinker with?” and then they made all of those APIs easy to find and easy to use. The result was a tool kit that rewarded you early for modest effort and thereby encouraged developers to try more, to get better, to learn more again and keep exploring the tool kit for the next cool thing. It made adoption of something totally new feel manageable and rewarding. That not only encouraged the curiosity crowd, but also the business-minded crowd who has to ask, “How long will it take to adopt this tech? And is it likely to be worth it?” So long as the first answer is “Not too much.” then the second question is less acute.
The point being: it enabled early adopters to show off quickly. That drew in the early followers and the dominoes fell from there.

RealSense would benefit greatly from this lesson. Hardware appears to be in the pipe and were adequately impressed by the capability – check. A Unity3d SDK (among several others) is looking really sharp – check. So now I’m thinking about the question, “…What’s the first thing I want to tinker with?” and probably 75% of my ideas revolve around gestures. In fact, gestures are probably the essential component of this input schema and as such, it will be make-or-break for Intel to make gestures easy to get started with and also deep enough to explore, experiment, and mod. But Easy needs to come first…

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Expression or Outreach

StreetPreacherComing back recently from CGDC has me thinking again about something I always think about at CGDC – whether or not we’re the “black sheep” of that group…and if we are, is that a good thing or a bad thing.

Last year at the end-of-conference Town-Hall part, where everybody can basically bring up anything they want, Mikee Bridges from GameChurch said something that brought this idea back to the front of my mind. I don’t remember exactly what he said but it was something along the lines of “Are all of our [game projects] actually serving the function of outreach[1]?”

It’s a perfect question for Mikee. After all, GameChurch’s mission statement is one of outreach – specifically an outreach to gamers. But I was surprised at how quickly my mouth popped open and I said “that’s not what we’re doing…” And I’ve been pondering that brief exchange ever since.

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RealSense Rubber Meets the Road

Continuing our series on Intel’s new/upcoming RealSense technology we recently got the alpha build of their Unity3D enabled SDK and a much improved version of the camera. While the package is cool and opens up a lot of interesting theoretical possibilities it got us thinking about the practical question surrounding this tech.

RealSense is, at its bottom line, an input device. In that sense it will be measured against things like joysticks, mice and game controllers and as a developer trying to make a living with this software we’ll be looking at several things beyond the “cool” factor. Things like:

  • Addressable audience
  • Typical hardware profile
  • Time/cost to implement
  • Processor overhead

When we’re being compensated to experiment and do basic R&D (And – full disclosure again – we are.) then we can ignore basically all of these considerations but when we move past that and start to explore actually deploying such tech…suddenly the calculus for deployment changes dramatically.

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Redwall at GDC

I should have written this months ago, while all the memories were fresh, but sometimes you need a little time for an idea to find its place in your mind and sort itself out – perhaps this is one of those times.

A few months back we were at GDC in San Francisco. For the first time we took a risk and bought some booth space on the Indie floor sharing a slot with our friends at OmegaTech. Not being exactly organized we brought three things to show: a working build of Stargate SG1 Gunship, an alpha build of G Prime and a banner for Redwall. (Memo to self: next time try ‘focus’) G, for all the pretty screenshots, really wasn’t a good choice for a booth show – it’s more of a thinker really, and only alpha. SG1 showed pretty well. People seemed to like what we’d done with the UI, but far and away we had the most response to Redwall…even though we had nothing to show but a banner.

Seriously I was shocked…again. At times we had folks four and five deep around our tiny little table and at other times people were literally throwing resumes at us. Tweets and posts and selfies, all because of the way this series of books has touched people. There was a no-man’s-land of open seating adjacent to our booth and I could sit there inconspicuously watching as people would come up to the banner and take long pauses as if they were reliving fond memories. Sometimes they’d want to ask us questions but more often they just looked wistfully on at the sandstone walls and the setting rose-colored sun and seemed to be moved, almost to reverie.

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Realsense & Unity3d : A First Look

(by Jon Collins, on behlaf of Soma Games and Code-Monkeys)

This article is part of a series that documents our ‘Everyman’ experience with the new RealSense hardware and software being developed by Intel.

Full disclosure, Intel does pay us for some of this stuff but one of my favorite aspects of working with them is that they aren’t asking us to write puff-pieces. Our honest, sometimes critical, opinions are accepted…and even seem to be appreciated…so we got that going for us.

A First Look

There’s no denying that the Pre-alpha SDK is exactly what it says on the box, a pre-alpha, that said there’s a surprising amount of useful functionality which can be gleaned from looking deeper into the C# samples that are present and taking lessons learnerd from previous SDKs.

First off, the kit includes a Unity3D sample (there is just the one in the current package) is the Nine Cubes sample within the frameworks folder of the samples directory structure.

This gives us a good starting point to look into how to take advantage of the camera & SDK, although a few red-herrings are present which may be hangover from development versions, it gave us enough of an idea to further explore and adapt some of the separate C# samples bringing that functionality into our initial Unity3D project. (CS: We use Unity3D almost exclusively here at Soma Games so having this bridge to RalSense was a practical pre-requiste for us to consider adoption of RealSense)

RealSense Hand Joints and BonesFor this exercise we were primarily concerned with being able to track & record finger joint positioning within Unity3D. The available methods and documentation suggest there is an planned ability to load, save, and recognize gestures from a pre-defined library but after a little digging and running questions up to the dev team it appears that feature has been ‘delayed’ 🙁 So with our hopes dashed at not finding the C# gesture viewer sample we wanted to see how, or even if, we would be able to access the joints to explore developing our own approach to logging finger & hand poses.

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Getting Rolling with the RealSense SDK

(by Jon Hogins, on behlaf of Soma Games and Code-Monkeys)

This article is part of a series that documents our ‘Everyman’ experience with the new RealSense hardware and software being developed by Intel.

Full disclosure, Intel does pay us for some of this stuff but one of my favorite aspects of working with them is that they aren’t asking us to write puff-pieces. Our honest, sometimes critical, opinions are accepted…and even seem to be appreciated…so we got that going for us.

I recently got the fantastic opportunity to use a a pre-alpha version of Intel’s new RealSense camera to build a full-fledged app. It’s still a work in progress, but let me share my experiences and a few tips on getting the most out of RealSense’s video APIs.

The App

My mission has been to create a video conferencing app with a few interesting finger tracking interactions using the RealSense camera. After a bit of research, I decided on the Intel Media SDK for real-time H264 encoding and decoding and OpenCV for the initial display, moving to Unity/DirectX later.

Getting Started

Getting the RealSense SDK installed and creating projects based on the samples is straight forward, even in its Pre-alpha state. The installer adds the RSSDK_DIR environment variable and each VC++ project using RealSense only needs to add a property sheet via Visual Studio’s Property Manager. The documentation and samples are fairly comprehensive, and the APIs are the most accessible of any of the Intel C++ API I’ve worked with.

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Gaming and Intel’s RealSense

If you were watching at CES you may have seen Intel unveil their RealSense initiative. This is really an evolution of the Perceptual Computing initiative they pushed a year earlier but now with (vastly) improved hardware and software. We’ve been involved with this program for a while now, but wearing our Code-Monkeys hats, and we’ve…

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Redwall Step 2: Ship It

Redwall AbbeyRedwall AbbeyCraft : The Corsair’s Last Treasure is live.

In case the point of that is lost, that means that the very first officially licensed Redwall video-gamish-thing is now out there in the wild. Bam!

If step one of our journey was to Shout It then step 2 was clearly to Ship It. In other words, we needed to come out with a win. When we were working on all the license deal for Redwall we found that the internet was littered with 15 years of false or failed announcements of various shows, movies, games, merchandise…you name it. Some of them were very professional and ‘real’ looking. Others were more plainly false. I can only speculate on the motives of those folks but whatever was intended we saw that the past as preserved on Bing presented us with an uphill PR challenge where fans were likely, and reasonably so, to say “I’ll believe it when I see it!” And while the success of the Kickstarter campaign was a good ‘win’ it ultimately only proved that we could rally some eyeballs and left open the question of whether or not we could build something that respected and embodied the spirit of Redwall.

To those Doubting Thomas’s out there – reach hither thy mouse and behold: Download The Corsair’s Last Treasure now!

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Iliad House and an interview with Phil Lollar

A couple of days ago I had the pleasure of ‘meeting’ Phill Lollar via a quick phone interview. We don’t typically review games or upcoming projects here but this one seemed like a special case and I reached out to see if I could chat with the the gentleman. If you don’t know him, Phil…

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Soma Games Selected by Praxis Labs

Praxis

We just got some great news: Praxis Labs (FB/TW) has selected Soma Games as one of their 2014 ‘not-just-for-profit’ Fellows – and we’re…

Well, we’re a lot of things. We’re humbled. We’re jazzed. We’re honored. We’re incredulous. We’re proud. We’re scared.

Praxis Labs was launched in 2012 during Q Idea‘s annual conference when it was in Portland, OR – our backyard. Q is a kind of Christian TED, or a think tank that tries to make some ancient concepts practical and relevant to modern times and they have a central notion (which I agree with) that America, and probably the world, is in a ‘post-christian’ time and that insight requires people of faith to think about things in a very different way then we maybe did just 20 years ago. Praxis, like Q, also puts a premium on the ideas of ‘impact’ in a very practical incarnation – talk is cheap and spiritual feel-good talk can be both cheap and ultimately do more harm than good. Praxis Labs has seen ink in several high-profile publications like the Washington Post, the Huffington Post, and on Fox Business. Previous fellows include cutting edge enterprises like FigMatchbook LearningRare GenomicsTegu, and Care for AIDS just to name a few. And while I’m dropping names, the list of mentors who participate reads like a who’s-who list with a significant tilt toward toward high tech, including a partner at Kleiner-Perkins, and a co-founder of EA. In short – this accelerator program stands to put Soma Games in front of some really influential folks…can we handle it?

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One Million Downloads! Now what?

One Million downloads…

When Soma Games was started I don’t think we had any idea that such a number was even a possibility. At other times, as we saw certain titles explode onto the scene with huge download numbers, a mere 7 figures seemed like a gimmie. Today, with both extremes more tempered by poise, we recognize the milestone as significant…but we’ve only just begun.

As I write this, the ‘news’ o the number is at least a few months old and it was something I’ve been meaning to note ever since then. No matter what it’s an auspicious event and worth pointing out. But have you ever come to a place that you thought was a destination only to find it was simply a checkpoint?

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Redwall AbbeyCraft

Sometime in the next 72 hours, unless something unforeseen slows us down, we’ll pull the trigger on a small kickstarter campaign.

The immediate goal, and the actual deliverable, is something we’re calling AbbeyCraft – a build of Redwall Abbey inside Minecraft and, at the lowest funding goal, distributed as an adventure map.

To be crystal clear: AbbeyCraft is NOT the adventure game we’ve been talking about. It’s just a small step along the way…but a way fun one.

As we mentioned in the previous post, the various descriptions of the abbey across 22 books cannot be reconciled in 3D space. One way or the other a few tweaks, bumps, and cuts will need to be made as we ramp up for an explorable space and  we feel like Minecraft is an ideal tool for that work.

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Redwall and Some Ground Rules

Last week’s announcement took me by surprise – or rather, the overwhelming response to that post took me by surprise. I knew the Redwall community was big…really big. What I hadn’t accounted for is how active you are, how connected, how ENGAGED!  And of course many of you are asking questions that I can start to answer here, though for many of you this post wont tell you all the things you’re really looking for. Still – it’s a start.

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Project Mouseworks

For several months we’ve been hinting, being coy, posting images here-and-there but not really saying anything concrete about what we’ve been working on. There’s good reason for that and no small part is simply the legal things where any cart-before-horse announcements would earn us some well-deserved hot water, but all of that is over now.

It’s time to start talking about Redwall.

Redwall at DuskSoma Games has officially optioned the rights to make a Redwall video game – and now that my hyperventilation has begun to wear off I’m ready to start sharing some of the details. But before I get to anything technical I really want to tell a story, cause that’s just the kind of guy I am.

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Getting Technical: Best Practices for UV Unwrapping

This post was originally created by Nat Iwata for another site but never got posted. Today we’re sharing some “master’s secrets.” The examples shown are all from Wind Up Robots. 1: Use a good UV grid texture A good UV texture can easily be found online. Using a texture with multiple colors and numbers, as…

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Marketing Here and Now

Introducing Troy Parker. Troy is our current development intern at Soma. We feel like the fortunate ones to have Troy around. When it comes to learning the ropes of the video game business, Troy is like a sponge. Beyond that he is a tremendous addition to our team. Troy one day plans to have his own game company. In that pursuit we have been giving him the full amount of what is needed to succeed today, from marketing to writing elegant code. 

This post was the result of an assignment Troy was given. The assignment was to read Meatball Sundae by Seth Godin and then apply what was learned to the video game business. Feel free to ask Troy some questions, challenge his approach or comment on your agreement. 

 

By: Troy W. Parker

Have you ever owned a business? Have you given it much thought? I used to believe that there was a special formula to running a successful business, but recently I read a book called “Meatball Sundae” by Seth Godin that totally tipped my perspective. Now I believe it is an equation that is ever changing and this article will help explain why.

I work at Soma Games as an intern and have come across many questions that I’m sure most companies are faced with. Here is a list of those questions and a formulated answer. I hope you will enjoy this information and that it will inspire and motivate you deeply.

How can the business communicate best with the customer?

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The Seam Between Hoorah! and Amen!

JB and I were recently interviewed for an upcoming article. As usual, there were the typical WhoWhatWhenHow questions, but it isn’t every writer who asks the more important question:

Why?

Once that question hits the table, I get riled up. I start talking faster and louder, and my hands start gesturing widely like my Italian grandfather’s. It gets me talking about ‘calling’ and ‘inspiration’ and ‘The Kingdom.’ If you let me ramble, and this gentleman did, I’ll start using military metaphors and words like ‘infiltrate’ and ‘mission.’ Whatever else the listener has gleaned at this point, they certainly have an answer…and an insight into Soma Games that they probably didn’t expect.

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Seasons and Lifespans

In 2011, the folks behind the CGDC were gracious enough to allow us to put that year’s conference together. Of many great things to come from that experience, one of my favorite was the BarlowGirl concert.

For one thing, I’ve been a shameless fan for years. Second, it was such fun to put on a concert so it was a win in my book from jump street. But then there was so much more. We told them at a pre-set meeting that that our hope was something at least as worshipful as entertaining that seemed to change their expectation a little. When we told them that we really didn’t have any guidelines or boundaries but rather that we just trusted them to do what they were really good at – well let’s just say they took that invitation and ran with it.

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The Loss of Beauty

“Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.”
George Eliot

Few things pierce my soul like the glorious beauty of autumn. Driving up Rex Hill on a day like today when it’s aflame with a glistening golden fire…it makes me cry for the glory of it all.

The other day I was taking a contemplative walk around the neighborhood with JB and we both stopped as we turned a corner and stared. The maples, elms and oaks we screaming in colors so vibrant and varied that every attempt to capture it with a camera was thwarted. The whole scene was like a living Parish painting. I felt so ALIVE to simply stand there and breathe it all in.

Two days earlier, I’d walked that same street – and didn’t notice a thing.

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Telling a Deep Story in a Casual Game

When we first set out in creating Soma as a company we had console games as our target. What we did not expect was that we would start telling our grander stories with casual games. G Into the Rain launched our journey into telling the Arc saga. Wind Up Robots and now the even more…

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Soma Culture :: Friends are Better Than Money

We had a post a while back where I was reflecting on something Seth Godin (allegedly) said,

…it’s pointless to have 1000 people ‘following’ you if you can’t call any of em to crash on their couch when you’re in town.

The week of the cruise there were lots of reasons to do it differently. We had deadlines, we were busy, it was  long drive. So really the logical thing to do would be to grab a quick flight, stay in a hotel, and jet home the next morning – easy peasy. But instead we decided to take the road less travelled, all 636 miles of it. Bill Johnson has this great bit about how most of the really good things we want out of life, especially in the Kingdom, are just beyond the veil of inconvenience.

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Ultimate Coder: Ultrabook Challenge Week 3

Here we are in week 3 of the Ultimate Coder: Ultrabook Challenge and things are heating up. (To catch up you can see the other updates for week 1 and week 2.) Game development is challenging on its own. This time we are throwing in brand new technology into the mix. It has given us…

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Flurry Friday 29

This past week we were invited by GREE to attend the Pirates of Silicon Valley Cruise in San Francisco. On the trip we were once again treated like kings by friends. Lana and Matt Vaughn hosted us and we got to do a bit of exploring at Pixar. Chris recaps the trip and the hospitality…

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Ultimate Coder: Ultrabook Challenge Post #1 Wind Up Football

Soma Games along with five other developers have been chosen to participate in the Ultimate Coder: Ultrabook Challenge being held by Intel. For the contest, we are building Wind Up Football for the new Ultrabook with Ivy Bridge technology, touch screen, and accelerometer. We have been enjoying the first generation Ultrabook coolness through an Asus…

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I Suddenly Love Street View

This will be quick, but I just had one of those magical experiences where a technology  gobsmacks you and moves you to the Happy Dance. I was in Seattle Wednesday and Thursday for Casual Connect and I was talking with Tony from GREE about the Pacific Northwest. Long story -> short, as I was walking…

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Flurry Friday 27: Kickstarter Film Shoot

This week we had a blast shooting our first Kickstarter film for a game we are publishing through Code-Monkeys.com soon. On the set we had John Bergquist (Flurry) as the director, Cinematography Sean Brown of www.seandbrown.com as the director of photography and Red Camera operator, Amy Hunter as sound engineer, Nat Iwata as art director…

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An Open Letter To Kris Vallotton (et al.)

(This was originally written as an email to the above mentioned addressee. But then I thought, “I wonder if that busy guy would ever have the chance to actually read mail from a stranger?” Then I thought that except for a few details, it’s really a letter I should write to a bunch of leaders,…

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Education Negatively Correlated to Income

20120528-143642.jpgThere have been several times where we’ve been asked to talk to students about job opportunities in the gaming industry. In most cases, these conversations are hosted by a teacher or administrator who has a vested interest in Academia as a pursuit in and of itself. I think in most cases those folks wish we hadn’t come…

A recent article in Game Developer Magazine confirms what I’ve been saying for years:
…if you want a job in gaming, don’t go to college.

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Flurry Friday Episode 23 May 25th 2012: Game Sound

This Friday JB gives a glimpse at the sound creation and process at Soma for game development. We use a lot of fancy equipment but often find some interesting everyday solutions for game sound assets. This is just a taste of the world of soma game sound engineering. Have a great weekend. The tools we…

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Flurry Friday Episode 22 May 18th 2012: Job Shadow

Today Flurry Friday is about a great group of young men who came to our shop for a job shadow. Eight guys from four local high schools spent the morning with us and we showed them basically every aspect of our work around here, from art and code to making a video. We laughed, we…

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The Thin Line Between Faith and Stupid

One of my favorite lines to (mis)quote is from This is Spinal Tap: “there’s a fine line between clever and stupid.”

Today I’m thinking about the fine line between faithful and stubborn.

We had a dismal Q1 around here and when I say “dismal” I mean something like the “Oh wow. There’s a good chance we won’t survive this” kind of dismal. Between scuttlebutt and news stories I know we weren’t nearly alone on that, plenty of folks saw the same kind of sudden contraction we did, but really that’s beside the point.

When you find yourself in a place that makes you wonder if the thing you’ve dedicated your heart and soul to for several years is about to die it makes you look at things in a rather stark light. You start asking yourself troubling questions like:
Did I make a huge mistake?
What did I do wrong?
Was all my effort a waste of time?

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Flurry Friday Episode 21 May 10th 2012: Ultrabooks

We have been using an Asus ZenBook Ultrabook thanks to our friends at Intel like Bob Duffy for about a month now and wanted to share what we think of this new category of mobile computers. Intel has categorized these as ultrasleek, ultralight and ultrapowerful. They really stand up to that in our workflow test…

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Gaming for Good

One of the best streams we’ve been able to swim in over the last year has been the growing conversation called “Gaming for Good” or “Serious Play.” in that vein I had the honor of speaking at Serious Play in Seattle, the NRB conference in Nashville and now we’re scheduled to speak at Casual Connect…

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Soma Games at the LA Games Conference

We’re just wrapping up the LA Games Conference here at the Hollywood Roosevelt and I thought I’d share some snap observations. 1. This hotel is SO cool! Ultra groovy, old Spanish mission architecture updated with modern awesome – just beautiful. 🙂 2. On the still growling desire to see an effective bridge between Hollywood and…

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Flurry Friday Episode 19 April 13th 2012: G Prime

In 2008 we released G: Into the rain as our first installment of the Arc game series. Now we are revisiting it with new art, new technology and a new look. In this weeks Flurry Friday Chris Skaggs talks with our art director Nat Iwata and our technical artist Gavin Nichols about the early stages…

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Mobile Game Developers No Longer Pining for Console Love

by Chris Skaggs I’ve been going to the annual GDC in San Francisco every year since Soma Games launched the first title in 2009 while the world of mobile gaming exploded into existence virtually overnight. Every year those of us who make mobile games have seen ourselves (and have been treated) as the younger upstart…

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Flurry Friday Episode 14- February 10th 2012

Are you dreaming. If not why? Last week the Soma team explored yet another possible new office space or as many of us would call it a play space since, well our work is play. We have been confined within what we have come to call a box that is now too small. In nature…

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Flurry Friday 12 – From a whisper to a scream

I try to make a semi-regular habit of getting away from any and all technology, usually in the wilderness somewhere, and spending a day alone with The Spirit. We call it a DAWG day – A Day Alone With God. Two years ago I came back from that bonfire with a strong sense that the…

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Flurry Friday 11 – WUR featured by Kotaku

No video today.  A few weeks have gone by since our last update. We took some much needed time away over Christmas and New Years. Wind Up Robots and Santa’s Giftship was featured for the third week in a row on iTunes as New and Noteworthy.  Today we were pleased to see that Wind Up…

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Flurry Friday Episode 10 – Double Feature…and rest

Today was just a great day to set us off on a long needed period of rest. Wind Up Robots launched last week and today it was featured on Apple’s New and Noteworthy section of iTunes. On Tuesday we launched Santa’s Giftship (under our Code-Monkeys label) and it too was featured. That’s two featured apps…

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Keys To Your Calling

This Saturday I had the great honor of being the commencement speaker for the mid-year graduation at George Fox University (my alma mater BTW). It was very uncharacteristic of me but I wound up writing the whole thing out whee I always just go on outline notes. For some reason this one didn’t come out that way. Anyway, the text of what I wrote is below and we’ll post the video as soon as its available. (though you’ll see i drift from my own notes quite a bit…)

The Keys To Your Calling
For GFU commencement Dec 17, 2011

I remember this moment very clearly though I’m not certain how old I was – probably about ten.

I was lying on my stomach on the living room floor and the family was watching CHiPs.
At some point a commercial came on and I saw something that totally captured me – a computer generated 3D model of a corporate logo spinning in nothingness. It was as if I was a space ship grazing a massive chrome artifact in deep space – and I was so hooked. I made up my mind right there that I wanted to be a computer graphics animator. I told my folks, then and there, what I would be doing with my life and they smiled politely…but not exactly enthusiastically.

Through school plenty of interests flared up and receded, always fascinating in their time, but by graduation time I was still fixed on CG as a career. So I started junior college with that field in mind and I was very excited. One day I sat down for lunch and struck up a conversation with the guy next to me…”what’s your major?” he asked.
“I want to be a computer animator!” I beamed.
He looked me straight in the eye and said “why would you want to do that? That must be the most boring, tedious job I can imagine?”

…I was crushed.
I’d been going so far on pure enthusiasm. I really didn’t know anything about the actual work of CG. For all I knew he was right. And for lack of knowledge I believed him.
..and my spirit died. Or at least went off for a long winter’s nap.

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Flurry Friday Episode 8- Dec 9th: WUR Approved!

We are excited to announce that Wind Up Robots has been approved by Apple and will be available in iTunes for the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch December 15th (next Thursday). We also are about to release our Christmas Game Santa’s Gun Ship through our sister company, Code-Monkeys. For more details on both, please watch…

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Just Saw the Kindle Fire and I’m Impressed

So we’re all hard at work getting Wind Up Robots ready for the store and as we were doing that I was thinking we ought to look at the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablets as additional platforms. So I hurried on over to Best Buy and picked up the hardware so we could test it…

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Meaningful Social Media

There was a video clip I watched over a year ago now where Seth Godin was saying something like “it’s pointless to have 1000 people ‘following’ you if you can’t call any of em to crash on their couch when you’re in town.” Of course he was speaking to the strangeness of having all these…

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A Return to Beauty

As I was driving to work this morning I looked out and saw a wetland. The rising sun was reflecting off the surface and little islands and peninsulas of reeds broke the water up into seas, rivers and tributaries. As I watched, a massive flock of birds took to the air, leaving the earth in…

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God Games Never Sell – NOT!

Journey of MosesThe last session of CGDC this year was a roundtable discussion that opened with Mark Soderwall’s observation that where faith-laden works had made real headway in movies and books, when it came to games Christian content had scored a “big Goose Egg.” Now to be fair, Mark’s assertion was not accepted by all the members as accurate but I certainly agree that from the purely ‘sales=success’ metric used in basically any other conversation on a game’s success then we ought to be candid in saying that even the best-selling Christian games have come far, far short of  secular games we’d call hits…but perhaps that’s a’changing.

Hexify recently released their hit Facebook game Journey of Moses as the first Bible-based game on the platform – and its success has been self-evident. A whole raft of articles have been written in both religious outlets like the Christian Post but also secular sites including CNN, Inside Social Games, and One News Now. But press coverage is one thing – what’s really impressive is the game’s track record. On October 4th Hexify released some ground breaking news:

Journey of Moses had surpassed 1 million users in just 8 weeks!

I had the chance to have an informal interview with Brent Dusing* of Hexify to discuss some of the less-publicized aspects of the game. His insights should be of interest to anyone thinking about adding religious content to their video games but it should be of particular interest to the folks who want to add God to the game and ALSO make a profit.

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Flurry Friday Episode 3- Oct 28th: What WUR playing

This has been a week of rediscovering some of the games we love to play. We would like to say that we are regularly involved in all of the game communities we love. Busyness sets in though and many of those interactions fall to the side. These past two weeks we have been revisiting forums…

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Flurry Friday – Oct 28th: WUR Bestiary

So every good tale has a bestiary highlighting the monsters and critters of the tales told. So as we near (only days away) the launch of Wind Up Robots (WUR) we wanted to supply you with all you need to get to know the monster that invade Zach’s dreams. In the game it is your…

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Minecraft Moodiness

I was playing Minecraft with my son the other day and we were exploring a cave. As always there is the anxious advance-n-light process of posting torches around vacant spaces while you try to be prepared for a lurking creeper or skely. But at one point we turned a corner and found our first abandoned…

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Who Says Apps Are Short Lived

We’re in the middle of a fantastic but unexpected experience. We were planning on running a promo for our iOS version of Bok Choy Boy with OpenFeint this week but due to some unforeseen complications we had to change horses at he last minute and we swapped G:Into The Rain into the slot. Even though…

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MeeGo5 is what you meant to say Intel

Announcing MeeGo5I have about eight blog posts I wan to make coming out of the Intel Elements 2011 Conference, most of them positive. BUt one of these seems pretty time sensitive and I want to be part of the conversation out here so I’m going to do this now even if it’s only half baked.

Whoever is in charge – you cannot use the name Tizen – it’s about the worst possible marketing move possible at this moment.
Instead – call it MeeGo5 – and you’ll be celebrated instead of mocked.

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On The Future of Game Publishing

by Gavin Nichols

The other day, Soren Johnsen posted a tweet that really caught my interest. He said
“The next console generation will be won by whoever understands why the Xbox Indie Games Channel did not become the iOS App Store.’
This is true in so many ways.

The iOS App store has enjoyed an unparalleled level of success since it launched a few years back largely because it managed to hit a golden combination of approachability by both developers and consumers, while simultaneously lifting the best to the top through a natural feeling review system. For the first time Joe Schmoe could take his idea, build it himself and publish it to millions of potential customers, all from his living room. Customers had access to hundreds of thousands of apps at their fingertips, instantly, anytime and anywhere, for an affordable price.

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AppUp – A Big Idea That Takes Time

We’re here at Intel Elements 2011, a “one year later” event from where we first heard Peter Biddle lay out a rather large vision for the Intel AppUp Center. Without going back into the history and our previous thoughts on AppUp I find myself feeling increasingly invested in this thing. Far more than getting tied up in what AppUp is or is not, I’m fascinated by what AppUp wants to become.

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Developing AppUp Games Using Unity 3D

One of the most exciting and powerful tools available to the indie developer today is Unity 3D (http://www.unity3D.com), a wildly popular game engine that exploded in popularity when the iPhone app store roared into public prominence. The Unity 3D engine has become so popular in part because of its ease of use, powerful tools, and too-good-to-be-true pricing. We’ve raved about Unity as a tool in the past though so I wont get into all that again. Instead I’d like to look at one specific aspect of how Unity and AppUp work together in beautiful unison.

Big Lesson #1: Multi-platform is not an either-or concept. It’s emphatically an also-and concept.

One of the most valuable aspects of Unity 3D is its ability to deploy a single project to multiple platforms. By installing various plug-ins or a little ninja coding you can build one game that runs on everything from Mac and PC desktops, all manner of mobile devices and even in a browser. Today’s case in point will be our recent release of Bok Choy Boy and how we brought it to Intel AppUp (here) at the same time we launched to several other platforms including iPhone, iPad and a browser based mini-game.

IMHO the profound magic of the app store model, specifically places like AppUp, iTunes and the Android marketplace is a massive, instantaneous, global distribution network. So long as you plan for it up front there is no reason not to target ALL of these platforms at one time in order to create the widest possible exposure for your game…and in so doing try to take over the world…again. The reality is that you never know where a game will catch on. For example, when Bok Choy Boy launched we never expected the HUGE audience we garnered in China. Over half of the total downloads have been in a country that we weren’t even thinking of. In hindsight we can guess why the Chinese market liked it, but we would have lost a ton of customers if we hadn’t taken advantage of the globe spanning power of app stores like AppUp and planned for multi-platform distribution and used a tool like Unity 3D. So I could keep beating that horse but seriously…do this.

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Imagine a World Without Advertising

I find myself (Chris) dealing with an ethical dilemma here at Soma Games as we get ready to launch Wind Up Robots. Should we include ads in the game as a way to help pay for the development costs – and hopefully keep Soma Games in business long enough to make another game or two?

On the one hand is the reality that the app marketplace expects rock bottom prices ranging from free to maybe $2.99 for a slick tablet app. Very few companies without serious brand recognition can charge more. So that forces us to find creative ways to pay for this endeavor – ad revenue is a real possibility. And in a world where so many apps are consumed and tossed in 30 seconds, our generally story heavy games might play at a disadvantage. All that just to say that I really do see why it makes sense.

The problem is – I hate and resent advertisements.

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Celebrate good times, come on!

We are used to planning for disaster, disappointment, failure or bad news. How often do we prepare to celebrate? Celebration is such a critical part of business and company culture. Today we are celebrating our Code-Monkey’s title Bok Choy Boys game we made with A&A Global being featured by Apple’s New and Noteworthy section on the…

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Morsels Of Memory Management

So if there’s one thing I’m learning in my career shift to “mobile developer,” it’s that computer programming is a science and that I’m not a scientist.

Previous thesis statement: memory is a magical unlimited resource.  200 mb webapp?  No big deal – my desktop has plenty to spare.  Zombie objects?  Let ’em be, they’re not hurting any one.

New thesis statement: memory management stinks. Texture memory?  Draw calls? GPU? Power of 2 Textures?  This is starting to smell a lot like the low lands of computer science and less like the flowered fields of Scriptable Mesa in the land of GigaBytes O’Ram.

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They Don’t Call Him The “Creator” For Nothing

The premier entertainment electronics show in the world is going on as I write this and one of the feelings coming out of this year’s E3 is that it’s decidedly underwhelming. Dig this quote from a Wired article:

“As the E3 Expo, the videogame industry’s annual bombastic show of force, begins anew Tuesday, it’s getting harder and harder to tell one game from another. This is not simply because of the unceasing epileptic blasts of light and deafening cacophony of sound that fill the darkened halls of the Los Angeles Convention Center all week — although those help. It’s because as gamemakers come to grips with the ever-riskier business of building big-budget entertainment, more and more of them are playing it safe just to survive, feeding in the same narrowing pool of game genres.

The article goes on to make some observations about why gaming finds itself in a creative rut and the most persuasive idea seems to revolve around simple economics. Gaming has become a riskier and riskier industry (the AAA space anyway – more to that point in a moment) and studios thinking about investing $50M tend to play it safe. I can understand that.

But this observation of E3 makes me think about something else that has been scratching at the back of my mind for years, something that’s been hard to put words to but it comes to something like this. As Christians we claim to be in contact with, indeed to be individually lead by, the Creator of Creation. How is it that the state of Christian art has suffered so much diminution that with precious few exceptions Christian creativity has become almost entirely an enterprise of copying secular art and then pasting a fish over the top?

The majority of Christian history has included a strong impulse to truly and universally excellent artwork in every discipline. Paint, architecture, music, playwriting, literature. I’d bet that a majority of the truly great western artists of the last 2000 years were either Christians themselves or they were largely creating Christian art. But somewhere, perhaps around the time of the Reformation, that vein started to run dry in the church. There’s probably a great and fruitful conversation about why that happened but it’s beside the point for me today.

In “On Moral Fiction” John Gardner states that all true art is moral. That its function in a civilization is to beat back the trolls of chaos and darkness and futility that constantly threaten to unravel society. He also suggests that in the relatively recent past we, as a culture, have forgotten what art is for and therefore resort to portraying the simply entertaining or the plainly trivial. To build on Gardner’s thesis I say that art can be, at its best, one of the Truest and most Spiritual things we can do as human beings.

By virtue of our identity in Christ, Christians ought to be the most creative, innovative people in the world.
To be less is to live beneath our station.

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MeeGo + Photon = Genuine Game Platform

So were just wrapping up the 2011 MeeGo conference (#meegoconf) down here in San Francisco and we’ve seen some really cool stuff, heard some interesting news, and met some awesome people – but the first thing I want to write about is a bit of news I just heard from Tom Sperry of Exit Games.…

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Dear Blackberry, Welcome to the tablet space

If you have hung around with us at any trade shows in the last year you probably would have heard one of us, at some point, as “Where is BlackBerry?”

Ever since the iPhone started to eat into the smartphone space like one my famished coffee-bean-headed farm zombies we kept waiting for RIM to respond and as months turned into years we started to think they’d lost it. “it” being both the HUGE advantage they had worked hard to gain with the brilliance of the click-wheel and also their collective minds. By January this year I had crossed my confidence tipping point and figured BlackBerry for the walking dead – still shambling about but done nonetheless.

Then at GDC I got a very pleasant surprise – the soon-to-be-released BlackBerry Playbook.

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Hunger and the Video Game Cheeseburger

by Ryan GreenThe Goat InThe Room

“So, what is it that you do with computers?”

“I make video games.”

“Oh! … cool!”

“Yeah, I think so…”

This is why I got into computer programming.  To make games.  Any nerd worth their salt in high school wants to make video games.  It’s nerd currency.  You make games for a living, and while the life of the indie game developer may consist of working for mana during the day, we spend nights, weekends, and 3 am working sessions at Perkins crafting our vision for the glory of nerd riches, that is, players spending quality time with our creation.  We want them to love it, spend time with it, discovering the jewels we lay into it.  We want them to have fun.  We want it to have meaning.  We want the badge; “Achievement Unlocked: Game Developer.”
Skill +5
Strength +50
Cred +100
Level Up.

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The Seduction of Striving

Our own John Bergquist recently posted a great blog about his observations from our first night here at GDC where we attended an after-party hosted by Facebook. (BTW – thanks FB. Cool event…) His post and our time there got me thinking about the way we are all so powerfully tempted to “make it happen”…

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Which Way Gaming

Reality Is BrokenI’m sitting here reading Jane McGonigal’s new book “Reality is Broken” and right in the front she says something like “…[a year after her 2008 GDC rant] everywhere I turned I saw evidence this movement to harness the power of games for good was already happening.”

Right next to her book I’m looking at some of the reviews for Bulletstorm plus our own recent rant about the advertising for Dead Space 2 and I find myself wondering…

Which way gaming?

Will the next 10 years bring gaming up into something more relevant, more mature, and more important that feeds our souls and inspires us to live well or will better technology only drive gaming ever deeper down into our id with hyperrealistic gore – always feeding our basest nature?

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Dead Space 2 is the new Joe Camel

EA’s new ‘Your Mom Hates This‘ ad campaign for Dead Space 2 is one of the stupidest, most short sighted marketing moves I’ve ever seen. It will come back to bite EA almost without question, but more importantly it will come back to bite all of us who want to see the gaming business mature and garner respect.

Back in the late 90s there was a huge broohaha when the FTC said RJ Reynolds’ Joe Camel ads were a deliberate attempt to market cigarettes to minors. That single ad campaign quickly created a perception in the American mind that cigarette companies were flatly evil and astronomical tobacco settlement cases are part of the 90’s zeitgeist. What EA is doing with this ad campaign is even more blatant and is likely to launch a whole new barrage of class-action lawsuits from the folks who are already convinced that video games create Columbines.

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Intel AppUp 1 Year Later

It was exactly 1 year ago that we got our first taste of Intel’s AppUp Center when they launched the beta store at CES 2010. It was received with mixed reviews and nobody really knew what to expect from it.

What a difference a year makes.

Today you look at the AppUp Center and right up front is what must be the biggest runaway hit game of 2010 – Angry Birds. What a huge coup! What a great “I told you so” moment. Congratulations to Intel – Peter, you called it man.

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Microsoft is in a Death Spiral

I saw this link on Fox today where it asks “Has Microsoft Lost Its Tech Edge?” and my only response is “You Just Noticed?

My personal realization of this started over a year ago but was then repeatedly reinforced over and over again at trade show after trade show lat year. MS was there at all of them, CES, Computex, IDF – that’s no surprise. What was shocking was how pointless their presence had become. An example – at Computex I saw a dozen or more tablet computers in the Microsoft booth as if they were coming out with a bunch of new and interesting hardware. But 80% of them were locked away in boxes (more here) and the rest were just retreads of 8 year old tech. Beside the useless hardware was the pointless revision of Office. To see more of the same at CES this week doesn’t surprise me at all.

The worst moment was when MS joined Intel during the tech keynote at IDF. When asked “Does MS have anything exciting you are working on?” in front of thousands of tech fanboys and media reps the woman literally said “no…not really.”

I was shocked!

Nothing? Really? You can’t even lie about it and say “…nothing I can share. [wink, wink]”? It was embarrassing and it sure looked as though the answer took the Intel guy by surprise…but there it was.

In short – Microsoft appears to have completely lost any sense of vision for the future. Yes, the landscape has changed and new technologies have emerged. Can that possibly be a surprise?

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Brotherhood

About once a year the core team at Soma try to get away on a kind of group DAWG day (day alone with God). We drive up the gray north woods where cell phones cease to chirp and the still, small voice seems at least a little louder. It’s fellowship, it’s prayer, it’s strategy…but it’s mostly a check up for all of us. We need to periodically stop and make sure we’re still on the scent. Basically, we all feel like Soma Games is, and always has been, God’s idea and we are doing our best to steward that vision with integrity. But that can be a tricky thing to do as weeks and months go by, as opportunities rise and pass away. In fact, few things are more disruptive to the goal of following the Spirit than success.

So this last trip, about three weeks ago now, one word really popped to the front of mind and tinted everything else we did – brotherhood.

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TRON: Legacy – What’s in a worldview?

by Ryan Green
heckling by Chris Skaggs

This last weekend, some of the guys at Soma took a field trip to the theater to experience TRON: Legacy in its full IMAX 3D glory. (I have it on good authority that for true awesomeness and full rumble effect, rows 4-7 front and center is the sweet spot.) Mike and I, who are stationed up here at “Soma Games : High Altitude Command” in sunny Colorado, were pretty disappointed to miss this event with our fellow mouth-breathers and resolved to plan our own nerd-outing.

Quorra is HAWTFirst, however, I had to come clean with the boss. I had never seen the first TRON. His response reassured me I wouldn’t be kicked to the virtual curb: “The original Tron was a bit like the first [name withheld for boss protection] movie – it kind of sucked. You’re not allowed to SAY that in geek company but it’s the truth we all know about. We still love you Ryan.” – (Chris: The movie in question is Star Trek. C’mon, you know I’m right.)

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The Myth Of Multitasking

Multitasking and iOs 4.0 – What it is and what it is not.

For a while there it seemed Android phones really had the iPhone beat with a certain feature known as Multi-tasking. It was all over the news and yadda yadda yada. Then Apple announced an upgrade that now includes – wait for it – multitasking. But it may not be what you think it is. We want to take a moment here to answer a few FAQs about the multi-tasking mystique and to speak another obvious question – what’s this got to do with AppUp.

First, lets talk about the concepts here. When an operating system can multitask this is its ability to run more than one program at the same time. (Not to be confused with threads which are different) This gives each running program access to important system resources simultaneously and the user gets the ability to do several things at once. For example an MP3 player bopping along while your email client checks POP3 while you’re editing a text document. When it comes to our desktop systems – we’ve come to expect this kind of behavior as minimal requirements. But prior to iOS4 the iPhone didn’t allow any third party processes (read: your app) to continue running after it lost focus. In fact, the iPhone “single-thread” experience has become a marketing point in many places and people started rediscovering the mental clarity of doing one thing at a time. It should be noted however that Apple always kept certain classes for their own use and apps like iCal were treated as a special case, often behaving in a multi-tasking kind of way. It just was something mere mortals were forbidden to do.

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An Open Letter to Intel on The AppUp Center

The app store concept is not a product or a service. It’s a complete reset of the way ALL intellectual property will be sold, shared and distributed. It will completely reshape the world of books, music and software.

How can Intel’s ApUp Center thrive and dominate?
1. Make it Cheap
2. Make it Easy – More importantly, make it LOOK easy.
3. Improve on What Apple has Already Done Well
4. Never Mention MeeGo
5. (After you never mention it) Make MeeGo Beautiful and Bulletproof
6. Apple is Not Your Enemy – Google Is
7. Show Us The Money – But In Secret
8. Support MeeGo and Air. Drop Everything Else
9. Leverage and Cooperate With Existing Services
10. Encourage Other Forms of IP

And 11 – Embrace and celebrate the huddled masses of
disempowered Flash developers – they are your future.

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When and How Backgrounding Is Stupid

We generally like Apple and the iThings. Shoot – that’s been our bread and butter for about two years now. But a recent update is just lame. In all their glorious confidence, Apple believed that the new multitasking benefit would be happiness for all. Well guess what? We hates it – for the most part.…

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On Porting from iPhone to Netbook with Flex – Understanding the Syntax of ActionScript and MXML

by Ryan Green

I’ve spent most of my career on the web. Well, my first real job was as busboy at a local mexican hole-in-the-wall restaurant (love the salsa.) Then as proud crew member of a certain fast-food burger joint with golden arches (click here to skip to the meat of this post), then, as up and coming young web designer. It is amazing the job you could land in the dot-com bubble with some decent photoshop know-how and a copy of Microsoft Frontpage…

Flex BurgerAnyhow, what I quickly learned in my stint as web master, besides the art of pixel perfect nested HTML table layouts so that my webpages could load inside the 1990’s on a 28.8 baud modem, was that if you wanted to give your customers any value besides a relatively accurate re-creation of their 4 page full-color brochure, you needed to know databases and some form of server side scripting.

I chose Cold Fusion. At the time this was due to the fact that it was the only book in our little office that didn’t have the letters ‘CGI’ and ‘Perl’ in the title. Cold Fusion provided some nice tag based syntax for connecting with a database and displaying tractor parts in a webpage. Then came Javascript and DHTML and VBScript and PHP and then, at last, Actionscript 1 & 2.

Now, lest you fear I die a quick death stuffed to the gills with obscure scripting language knowledge, Actionscript 3 arrived with Flex just in time to spare me the wrath of Java nerds hailing the death of ColdFusion and other “non-languages.” The language of the User Interface has steadily matured into Object-Oriented like syntax and smarter uses of XML to define the UI, and the “real-programmers” have moved native with Objective-C/C++/C#/C-flat and C#-minor. Oh, and don’t forget Java on that little mobile platform called Android… and how dare I forget ruby and python.

All this to say that, in this day-and-age, we face a fragmented amalgamation of languages and platforms all vying for title of “most-awesome-real-language.”

Well, my nomination for new entrant into the “real-language” lexicon is Actionscript/MXML, a syntax that gives Javascript its Object-Orientation and the HTML tag actual namespaces and custom tag names.

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Sound Design in AppUp Games and Apps

by Matt Fox

When we set out to make G: Into The Rain, we came to understand that sound design was an area we did not want to neglect. This is not to say that we were immediately aware of the importance of having good sound. In fact, to be honest, we knew that G was going to be first deployed on the iPhone. The on-board audio playback hardware on the iPhone is not exactly high quality – unlike the netbooks which we eventually ported G to late in 2009. During the development, we started to realize that we weren’t necessarily tied to one platform, and that devices like the netbook could impart a much richer game play experience in terms of sound.

In the early conceptual phases of our development, we decided to have a look around at the games that we all liked. Sound design wasn’t something that jumped out as a priority. Frankly, the first non-visual game element that most people notice is music; and while we were blessed with a very talented composer for the musical score of G, that is a topic for another post. Sound, as a game element, is often overlooked. If you ask many people what they enjoyed about a particular game or application, more often than not you will hear about how they liked the gameplay, or that the art was stunning, or that the storyline moved along really well, or that they really liked (or hated) a particular character. Sound design, or rather good sound design is not something that is in your face. It’s subtle, and most often it’s only really noticed after the visual. For instance, when you walk into a room, unless there’s a buzzsaw running, most likely the first thing you’ll notice is what it looks like. We are visual creatures, and hearing most often is employed after sight.

Now I don’t want to convey the idea that because we’re primarily visually oriented, that good sound design can be left for the back burner. Quite the contrary. When we looked around at the games that we all liked to play, we started to catalog and attempt to define what it is that we enjoyed about those games. Eventually, we began to pay close attention to the sound design. In doing so, we had to look beyond the iPhone, and plan accordingly. We came to the conclusion, that one of the reasons we liked the games we did was because of the sound. In most cases, it wasn’t an obvious, in-your-face sort of revelation. Sound was used here as a way to augment the look and feel of the games. Looking ahead, we made the choice to take sound design seriously – which is especially vexing considering the less-than stellar (external) speakers on the iPhone. But if we had taken the approach that “nothing will sound good on the iPhone” and had half-hearted sound design, then G certainly wouldn’t have sounded as good as it does now on a netbook.

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On Porting from iPhone to Netbook with Flex – Interacting with the UI: Cocoa Delegates and Flex Observers.

by Ryan Green

Today we explore the emerging zeitgeist of two companies that I love. I submit to you that embedded in the very code of their developer SDKs lie the underpinnings to a complete corporate world view. I know, profound stuff. I thought so myself while typing this in the airline terminal of Denver International Airport while waiting for a friend to arrive. Perhaps I’ve waited too long and those funnel cake sticks from that other burger chain have started to affect my brain chemistry. We shall see.

Interacting with the UI: Cocoa Delegates and Flex ObserversMy new working theory is derived by examining the use of patterns in the User Interface components of Cocoa and Flex.

Exhibit A: Apple believes the world and developers must be controlled and well managed. This is why the primary pattern for talking to User Interface (UI) Components is the delegate pattern. The delegate pattern means that when a user does something to a component, like clicking on a Picker, that Picker UI Component delegates responsibility to a delegat-ee. In other words, the Picker tells the delegate what to do and when to do it. There are a few benefits to the use of this pattern. Delegates clean up well (memory-wise), delegates have a clear and predictable function, and there is one and only one responder for any action by a UI component.

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Rubber Meeting Road

So it falls to me to break the bad news to you all – after much ballyhoo we will NOT be at Creation 2010…at least not in any ‘official’ capacity. And while that might be news worth posting to Twitter and Facebook, why does it rate a blog post? Well it’s like this: We first…

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CGDC 2010 – A Pleasure As Always

It’s midnight on Saturday and we’ve spent the last three days at the 2010 Christian Game Developer’s Conference in Portland, OR. Once again I come home with a lot of things in my head that really span the gamut of available emotions. In many ways, Soma Games was born at the 2005 CGDC. And I’ve…

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The Mouse is Dead! Long Live Touch!

I’l never forget the moment I first understood that the iPhone was something magic though at the time I wasn’t sure what it was I was observing. My pastor, who is one of the most dedicated MacHeads I know, had an iPhone without 38 seconds of them being released. A few days later he was showing a photo of his grandson, on the iPhone, to Beth. Beth is one of those people who maintains a kind of  love-hate relationship with all technology. She’s not a gear-head by any stretch, but nor is she a Luddite like Rebekah. (I do SO love you sweetie, even if you resent my livlihood.)

Beth took the iPhone, cooed appropriately at the charming picture and began to hand the phone back to Bill. As she did the photo rotated and scaled and Beth gasped. She pulled the phone back to herself and the photo spun around again. Eyes like saucers and her mouth agape she starts spinning the phone back and forth back and forth in awe until Bill snatches it away from her with a protective ‘give me THAT’ kind of look.

Without any expectation and no penchant for TechWow Beth had seen something that connected with her emotionally and intuitively. In that instant I think I glimpsed the future.

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Computex: The Buzz, The Bombs, and the Booth Babes

“I just flew in from Taipei and boy are my arms tired…”

I wrote that line a month ago when it was hoped to be at least slightly true…So the “just” has now become a distant memory and I’m only now getting to this blog, but better late than never right?

Taipei 101The whole point of this article is to give a report on what I saw at Computex which was in Taipei (as always) June 1-5. Now in the spirit of full disclosure I should say right off the bat that I was only in Taipei because I was invited to go by a large semi-conductor outfit you’ve no doubt heard of. And since I really never read those NDAs I sign I really don’t even know if I can mention then by name here…but you’ll read between the lines no doubt (where Google will not). Anyway, it’s worth saying that these folks were very generous to lil’ol’ Soma Games, took great care of me and didn’t EVER stop feeding me! I swear I ate 13 times a day over there…which was a good thing.  I stood atop the 2nd highest building in the world, the Taipei 101 and was shocked to see that a Starbucks in Proto-China looks exactly like a Starbucks in Seattle – I just couldn’t really read the menu. But who cares right? ’cause I just know where “Americano Maximus Quad Shot” is on the menu anyway and everybody understands a pointing finger.

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The Lament of a Flex Developer

or “Why Apple broke my heart and Adobe is holding the pieces”

by our very own Ryan Green

April 8, 2010 was the day the first salvo was fired, all out war declared, and the following day an Adobe employee named Lee Brimelow had his emotions get the better of him. His blog post told Apple collectively to… well… ahem. Apply screws to themselves.

See, the following Monday, was a day that I, as a Flex / Flash developer, loyal Apple fan-boy and AppStore developer had eagerly anticipated with bated breath. Monday, the 12th, was the day when the world would open up. When those, like me, whose livelihood depends largely on the Adobe Flash Platform would finally be allowed into the mobile space; unencumbered; invigorated; and empowered.

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Coming Down Off The Flash Fence

For the last several weeks (or has it been months now?) I’ve watched the Flash wars from a distance. Not for lack of interest but for lack of time. It’s been a busy season around here and for all the rhetoric I think I sensed that for all the headlines I really didn’t have the information I needed to make an informed decision. But I’ve had the chance to get more-or-less caught up and I think I’ve come to a place where I’m willing to come down off the fence.

I think Steve Jobs is right.

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App Development and The Fuzzy-Wuzzy Fallacy

In wargaming there is a principle known as “The Fuzzy-Wuzzy Fallacy” and without going into excruciating mathematical detail it’s premise is that quantity relates to quality at a better ratio than you might think…specifically a unit with 2X firepower is not worth 2 opposing 1X units but rather the square root of two because the guy with the BFG9000 can still be pwnd by a single low-tech arrow. [see: Pippin’s comment on Boromir].

How this applies to app development is simple:
App customers are absurdly cheap.

Ergo: multiple, inexpensive, interlocking projects stand a better  chance of making a profit than a single expensive project.

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Can they share?

So you have built a community or tribe around your games. You’ve uploaded some great trailers and teasers as well as some funny clips from your trip to PAX last year. You even have a blog with readers. With that alone you are way ahead of some in this industry in that you are creating…

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Legion Goes Way Beyond Heavenly But Kicking

LegionSo I ducked out out of house way late the other night to see the new movie Legion. I’m a big fan of Paul Bettany but to be perfectly honest I didn’t go in with very high expectations. I knew there was some mix of angels and demons and guns and you know, that sounded like it might be kinda fun. But I wound up seeing a movie much deeper and much more thoughtful than the previews suggest.

At its heart, Legion is about the line between following God’s heart and following His command. I’m going to just skip any theological issues I might have with the movie because it’s really not a theological movie at all, and yet it’s deeply about the meaning and cost of faith and obedience.

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The Book of Eli Pulls No Punches

I slipped out late on Sunday night to catch this new Denzel Wasington movie The Book of Eli. I didn’t really know what to expect but walked away really impressed with a movie that shot unerringly straight at deep divide between faith and religion. And I hope this aint news to you – but the two have nothing in common.

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Where the Intel App Store Fits In

Soma Games was in Las Vegas this last week to attend CES whereIntel announced the beta launch of their new app store aimed at netbooks. (Check it out here) For Soma Games, this was a singular opportunity but I’m seeing a lot of ink out there this week by folks who don’t get it. The refrain…

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What Happened to the Wild Things?

When my son was born a little over three years agowhere-the-wild-things-are my good friend Mark brought over a selection of books he thought to be essential “must read” tomes for any little boy. Where The Wild Things Are was in there and I’ve read those 200 or so words to Odin  probably a thousand times. We love that book and we love the pictures and my toddler sees no psychological complexity to a boy in a wolf suit. Why then did Spike Jonze feel it necessary to turn it into something all Jungian and dark and disturbing.

Look, every once in a great while I can appreciate a movie like this…once in a great while. My real problem is the way a piece of joy and sweetness and innocence from my life has been hijacked to sell some kind of overburdened hyper-symbolic look into the pathos of a troubled tween.

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Arkham Asylum Nearly Flawless

Batman: Arkham Asylum is far and away the best super-hero game I’ve ever played and one of the ten best games overall. This game is what I have always wanted a super hero game to be with a little Tomb Raider, a little Zelda, a little Splinter Cell – these folks did everything right. I’ve…

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Manifold Publishing

There is no way that any video game or series of video games can possibly tell the stories we want to tell at Soma Games.
Neither could a graphic novel,
…or a book,
…or a movie.

If ‘the medium is the message’ then we will only have told our stories properly when they are told across multiple media, each used in its proper place to express the proper part of a manifold expression of creativity that ought to transcend any single medium.

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Keep Raising The Bar

Christian game developers have toiled in obscurity for all these years largely because we’re broke and making a video game is an expensive proposition. With little access to capital games have struggled with older technology that doesn’t compete with current expectations and anemic (…or totally absent…) marketing budgets. The two factors make the whole enterprise of building a Christian game a daunting task. The Catch-22 of course is that investors want to see some proven indication that a title has a reasonable chance of making a profit but it’s been next to impossible to prove the point when nobody can make a realistically funded effort. (Left Behind notwithstanding…ahem)

But two recent releases have me smiling about things to come. The first is Heaven The Game (which we reviewed here) and the other is Adam’s Venture. Neither game is what you would really call a AAA title and neither plays on a console which is where most of the gaming market is right now, but neither title could have been cheap to make, and that means somebody is starting invest some serious dollars into this niche I’ve been talking about for years.

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Serialized Gaming Requires Rapid Distribution

When Soma was first looking at the video game business about four years ago the biggest barrier to entry was cost and distribution. That may look like a subject-verb-mismatch but the two things are so intricately related that they might as well be seen as a single issue. Indie games cost less to make but had no realistic way to get to the public; to get out there you needed a big distribution channel, to get distributed you needed a publisher and to interest a publisher you needed to spend $500k or more.

But as I was coming to grips with this problem something new was just appearing on the scene – digital distribution.

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The Centrality of Beauty

Herman Melville once said “The reason the mass of men fear God, and at bottom dislike him, is because they rather distrust His heart and fancy him all brain, like a watch.” Alas – how true this is that so many folks have really only heard about God’s seemingly insensitive expectations, his rules, and they have no experience with his heart.

A scene From G

I have a deeply held belief that our universe is far more beautiful than it is functional. I also think that God made it that way as a reflection of his own nature; that Beauty is a fundamental aspect of all reality because it is one the most essential parts of God’s heart.

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Why Video Games are Important

If you’ve ever received the dismissive glare of your mother-in-law as you talk about the mad exploits of Master Chief or Marcus Fenix the you know that there is a major awareness gap in America that lies somewhere between 40 and 50 years of age. On one side of that line are folks for whom video games are a common and integrated part of their lives. On the other side are folks who saw a 2600 a while back and ‘were not impressed.’ For the most part, the people in charge of the mainstream media and the capital allocation structures are all on the ‘not impressed’ side of the equation.

Those people are wrong.

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Mass Effect Does ‘Epic’ Right

Trying to learn what we can from such an excellent game I found their execution of the Hero’s Journey tale brilliant. It also hit all the themes John Eldredge would appreciate: A battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue. Except here the beauty is a space marine who’d just as well deck you as kiss you. (Never mind Liara, she’s odd) ME was able to hit all the points of the classic hero formula without ever feeling formulaic and that is hard to do. As I was playing through the game I found myself watching cut scenes that were so classic in their direction that it reminded me of some old hero movie like Sparticus or something, and BioWare wrote this borderline melodramatic tale without any hint of the self-aware post-modern junk I see so often these days.

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Newberg Game-Makers Get Positive Reviews

(The Following is a reprint of a story from the October issue of Christian News Northwest) By EDWIN OUELLETTE – CNNW intern reporter NEWBERG — After releasing its first iPhone app game G in April to rave reviews, local indie game development company Soma Games is working on a sequel. The thinker-puzzle game G is set in a futuristic,…

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Heaven: The Game

This post is gonna be a little tricky. I just finished playing a new release called “Heaven” by Genesis Works. It’s a puzzle type game in the style of Myst that lets the  player explore the Throne Room city described in Revelation.

Here’s why this is gonna be hard, Heaven sits firmly in the class of video games that I deliberately want to avoid with Soma Games and it steps into several of the traps that I think have plagued this niche from the get-go. That said, I think I can take a pretty good guess as to what drives the folks who made this game and I expect it’s good stuff – they take their faith seriously and were driven to bring something they are passionate about to the medium they are passionate about, I get that. So there is this balance I want to have of honestly reviewing a product that is now out in the public in an industry I aspire to contribute to without just taking pot-shots or tearing down people who I would probably enjoy hanging out with…not an easy line.

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Shades of Gray

Dark Glass will lean toward the darker and morally ambiguous aspects of life as it examines grittier subjects than Soma’s previous games. Will our audience accept this state or will we be criticized for ‘loving the darkness’ too much?

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Portraying Good and Evil

I ran into an interesting post the other day that asks whether or not the Nazi’s are forgivable.

The post is up and over too quickly to really chew on the question but it raises some thoughts to mind about how a story portrays good and evil. It sure seems to me that growing up and going to school was a long walk with anti-heros and deeply flawed protagonists in more or less every medium I encountered. Whether it was Frank Miller’s deeply broken Dark Knight, Lestat or Angelus – it just seems in my memory like everybody has been actively deconstructing the lines between good and evil for a long time.

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The Seven Mountain Prophecy and Soma Games

A book about Christians being active and influential in various social ‘mountains’ really whets Somas whistle. We’ve always seen ourselves as change agents in an industry that lacks any Christian voice…looks like we’re not alone in that mission.

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Publishers Are Missing What Gaming Is About

There is a natural and obvious place where book publishing and video games should overlap. But for this connection to thrive, publishers will need to break out of some old patterns to see what gaming really brings to the table instead of seeing this bigger-than-hollywood business as just a marketing add-on to books and magazines.

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Nite Beat Interview with Portland Helmich

This interview was held in the immediate shadow of the Hot Coffee controversy surrounding Grand Theft Auto. The other guest on the show has a book called ‘Everything that’s bad is Good for You’ and it was clear that the interview was designed to provoke the ignorant bible-thumping Christian…it really didn’t work out that way.