29 Jul

ChromaWaves is now out on the Apple App Store!

“ChromaWaves is an ambient color mixing game for the iPhone and iPod Touch.”
-Description on the App Store

This was a great project that I am proud to have been a part of.  It’s difficult to understand the necessity of teamwork in the video game industry until you participate in a project like this, even as small as it was.  13 various artists, programmers, and musicians put their heads together in the Game Design Seminar, a class shared by the Cleveland Institute of Art and Case Western Reserve University, in the fall of ’09.  As a testament to our perseverance and dedication, we continued work on the game after the class ended, working well into the spring semester of 2010, which happened to be the final semester in college for many of us.

And on July 27, 2010, all that work finally paid off.  Well, not literally, for us anyhow.  As the description says, “All profits that iGameTeam would otherwise earn from ChromaWaves sales will be donated to Child’s Play, a charitable game industry organization, ‘dedicated to improving the lives of children with toys and games in our network of over 60 hospitals worldwide.'” So donate 99 cents and receive a complimentary game!

Players shoot colored bullets at abstract, colorful enemies by flicking a water droplet through a ring of pigment.

Check out the website, hosted and designed by fellow CIA Game Design Alumnus Andrew Kuhar, who also wrote and produced a series of podcasts that might give you an inside listen into the trials and triumphs of our project.  I highly recommend part 2, where you can get to know the crazy guys that taught us everything we know about game design (and a lot of other stuff that shouldn’t be repeated in a family-friendly environment).

Also, CIA’s website has a news report about the team, if you’re curious about the rest of the guys (and gal) that helped develop ChromaWaves.  For many of us, it is the first published game that we have had a hand in creating.

Congratulations, iGameTeam! Continue reading

I’m a Game Designer

10 Jul

(On an elevator ride)

Lady: How’s patent law?

Me: Hmm?

Lady: Patent law. You work in patent law, right?

Me: No, actually I don’t.

Lady: Oh – it’s just that you look stressed out. Patent law people always do! No. You know, I bet you’re an IT guy then, huh?

Me: Nope, but you’re getting warmer.

(We reach her floor. She steps out.)

Lady: Ah, computers it is. I knew it.

Me: I’m a game designer.

(The elevator closes.)

It took a couple of weeks, but I soon realized after graduation that I can no longer hide behind the prospective title of “Student”. Yesterday morning I ran into the above scenario. It was probably the first time, in a position where I’m being paid to work on a video game, that I’ve said out loud ,”I’m a game designer.”

I don’t want to bring a ton of unnecessary attention to such a simple moment, but one of the most unexpected transitions from education to profession was just that: losing the identity of a student for the first time. It’s a feeling Jim first mentioned to me weeks ago, but this was the first time I had to do anything about it.

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The Escape Route Leads to Another Maze

28 Jun

This post ended up being a bit more personal than intended, but I hope it sheds some light on a topic that many people have questions about: “What happens when I graduate?” -Cory

I’ve recently begun to survey my situation after four years worth of ashes and debris has mostly settled.  I’ve graduated from college, exited the paradigm of life as a student.  I will never again pay gratuitous amounts of money (that I don’t have) to be bombarded with information and expectations.  Instead, I will be paid to get bombarded with information and expectations.  So far, so good.

When life as I knew it ended, I felt unprepared.  I had demolished my website after a lengthy period of neglect.  My resume was out-of-date.  My BFA Thesis was not in a format that would carry over easily after the installation was torn down.  I still have as-yet-unfulfilled promises hanging about in regards to hosting my BFA as open-source code on my defunct website.  And ChromaWaves, the most publicly recognized game that I’ve had a part in, is still unpublished because of a bug that none of the members of the art team have the tools to fix.

But things are not what they seem.

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Maps – Level Design: Concept, Theory, and Practice

28 Jun

Taking on new projects often comes with picking up new books. Research becomes a key ingredient to approaching game design for the long-term, and when you’re just starting to get a grasp of how to develop games its value is reassuring.

Considering we’re often on the lookout for good reads about design, I chose to go ahead and introduce a new category, Maps, which is essentially a less formal annotated group-bibliography. Maps list the reading material we come across and why they’re helpful to a particular train of game-making thought, to better find our way around the medium. -Andrew

Rudolf Kremers, co-creator of the ambient real-time strategy game Eufloria, had his book Level Design: Concept, Theory, and Practice released in November last year. Considering the name The Escape Route itself is a reference to level design in the Source engine, picking this book as the first “Map” felt appropriate, even if I haven’t fully read it myself. While we’ve spent a lot of time with a number of world editors and level designs, each game needs a different genre of levels, and Kremers’ overview appears to be incredibly thorough from  the descriptions, reviews, and excerpts I’ve read.

In the meantime Gamasutra has an excerpt from the book that’s worth sampling if you’re interested in the full read.

Here’s the description that Amazon provides:

Level design is the creation of levels, locales, stages, or missions in a video game. Level design is as much an art as it is a science; it requires artistic skills and know-how as well as an extensive technical knowledge and is an extremely important part of computer game design. Good or bad level design can make or break any game, so it is surprising how little reference material exists for level designers. Beginning level designers have a limited understanding of the tools and techniques they can use to achieve their goals, or even define them.
This book is the first to use a conceptual and theoretical foundation to build such a set of practical tools and techniques. It is tied to no particular technology or genre, so it will be a useful reference for many years to come. Kremers covers many concepts universal to level design, such as interactivity, world building, immersion, sensory perception, pace, and more, and he shows how to apply these concepts in practical ways, with many examples from real games.

Size: 408 pages | 23.4 x 18.8 x 2.5 cm
Best Deal: Barnes & Nobles ($47.20, 20% off)
“Look Inside!” Preview: Amazon

In Limbo

27 May

It’s that time again.

I’m stuck in limbo between two game design projects: one that’s just closed a chapter of itself, and another that’s only beginning to sort out its ingredients. As I’m slipping into yet another undetermined space between significant points in my life, mixed feelings emerge. Feelings of reprieve — from escaping another crunch period, while retaining some of my sanity. Feelings of liberation — to play with ideas I haven’t had the time to think about. Feelings of fear — that I don’t know when the next good idea will make an appearance, and when or how it might manifest.

There’s a lot of things to be concerned with even in the lull’s of productivity. After talking with a number of people, I found that not only do few people talk about this creative hibernation between projects, but also from personal research have I rarely come across much in the field of game design journalism.

Continue reading

Repaving The Route

17 May

If you happen to visit The Escape Route from time to time, you’ll surely notice that things all of sudden look much different around here. If this is your first time here, then the above never happened – we’ve always looked this cool, really.

Changes are being made throughout the week, so any tweaks, colorations, font sizes — any formatting in general is a short-term growing pain as we break in the new duds. Unlike fixing highways, however, we won’t divert you with big machines, piping-hot tar, and/or detours. See, I told you we were always this cool.


7 Apr

Some small updates in this rather informal post (then again, how formal are blogs anyways?):

1. Last episode of the Modcast I said we’d be back for Pt. 3 of our current mini-series in a couple weeks. That was more than a few weeks ago by now. I decided it’d be best to hold back on Pt. 3 & Pt. 4 until after ChromaWaves is officially released. The game has been finished for a good month now, ready for submission to Apple, but processing and opening accounts to get the process started has been taking longer than we anticipated. Just know that the game is indeed set to be available, and as soon as it’s within our capacity and officially approved for release, it will be.

2. Cory was nice enough to update one of our most popular posts on the site, regarding the generation of NAV files in L4D. He’s thrown a disclaimer on it at the beginning explaining that the list he made there is dated by now, and to proceed using it in your experiments in Source with caution.

That’s all for now. Stay tuned for more podcasts, posts, and updates after our Spring semester comes to a close.

The Modcast – Episode 5: ChromaWaves, Education

12 Mar

How two college professors from Cleveland, Ohio have gone about making Game Design educational for students, bringing young artists and programmers together for their first time each year. In part 2 of this mini-series, we explore a perspective of student game development that seldom is.

– Direct Download –
– iTunes Link –

(Click to stream, right-click to save)
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Spring Cleaning, Check

11 Mar

There’s been a lot of list-making going around lately. I have one of my own for all the things I’m personally attending to this spring break – checking things off on a dime as soon as they’re accomplished. With as much micro-managing as we might perform on our weekly tasks, it’s easy to let our long-term endeavors slip by unnoticed when we’re neck-deep in them. For the first time in months, it’s above thirty or more degrees in Cleveland, and I can’t help but take a few minutes to reflect on things before moving forward from the frying pan and into the fire of BFA thesis projects.

It’s closing in on a year since we opened The Escape Route last April. Since then, a lot has passed, hit a dead end, completed, and most of all begun from scratch. Admitedly, we haven’t done the best job of logging all of that here. There’s a lot to do before we achieve any sense of closure on our experiences attempting to pioneer game design at CIA this coming May, so I thought this might be the time to make a list of all the things we’ve taken on these past few years – where they’re at now, and why.

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The Bane of our Adolescence

4 Mar

A few photographs of a night’s work/play in the TIME studios.

Foreground to background: Matthew, Andrew, Cory, Jim - Another Powerpoint Marathon.

Cory & Jim embed warnings around our studio lair - newly painted walls for chalk-drawing. At this point in the night, cabin fever has already set in.

They have all too much in common – college: the abominable snowman of growing up.