Tuscany World Demo - Fenix Fire

Working With A Small Startup Called OculusVR

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I met Brendan Iribe in January 2013, shortly after Oculus won their Kickstarter campaign, to discuss building a special environment for Oculus. They had a good sized office, filled with boxes and parts everywhere. It looked like they just moved in but were too busy working to make it any tidier.  There was a station where a couple of guys were fabricating new prototype sets to test, which were largely taped together with black tape.  Even though these prototypes were make-shifted together, the headsets still looked really well made, although with a homebrew feel.  There was also a table that had a graveyard of old VR headsets and helmets, which was really nostalgic and cool.

In order to demo their existing prototype, Palmer needed to come out and set it up.  I was immediately impressed.  They had a few demos working, admittedly with a few flaws, but you could see the potential.  I immediately starting thinking about all the new games I could make with this thing.  Suddenly I was filled with both excitement and fear, this is going to be BIG, I better not screw this demo up!

We then sat down with Nate and Micheal to brainstorm what this new project would entail.  They heard of me through my reputation as an environment artist from my time at Blizzard, Midway, and High Voltage Software.  I went in with a small portfolio, just a few images of different types of environments to show some range.  One of them caught their eye, a fantasy themed location that was bright and colorful.  “Everyone expects the dark, gritty sci fi, ” Brendan explained.  “Let’s do something bright, cheerful, and inviting.  This way, we’re open to more than the core gaming audience”.

I then suggested a Mediterranean themed location, something that was a tinge fantasy but still largely based in reality.  It would be realistic, but very idyllic at the same time.  Also, it had to be low poly to avoid any frame rate issues and contain some real world objects like desks and chairs. It was an easy suggestion for me: my wife and I had just returned from a trip to that area and took thousands of photos while in Rome, Tuscany, and Venice. They loved the idea and we went work.

I left the Oculus office with probably the first headset they’ve ever loaned out to any developer.  It was a taped together model in SD format with switches taped onto the front.  They wrote out the installation and operating instructions on a pink index card.  There was no box, just loose items, parts, and cables we threw into my wife’s purse.

We worked mostly with Nate while creating the first version of the Tuscany World Demo, interfacing with one of their first employees, Peter, on the Unity integration. There was a lot that was being figured out on the tech side, especially considering we were also making a C++ version of the demo that needed to have stripped down shaders.  It felt like developing for PS2 specs and materials to ensure maximum performance.

Over the next 14 months we’ve worked with Oculus on a handful of projects, including the EVE Online demo for CES this year.  I’ve watched Oculus grow from a few guys to a couple of hundred in a really short time.  Each time I go into thier office I’m impressed on how well they’ve adapted to their continually expanding growth.

Something else worth noting is the positive attitude that seemed to exude from every Oculus member, especially Brendan and Nate. After having worked at a few AAA console studios, you get a bit used to the cynicism that developers in our industry sometimes slide into.  I never got any of that from the Oculus guys.  From day one they all seemed to have a certain serendipity to them.  And a mission – to finally bring VR to the masses.  I could tell that they sincerely love this mission.

Gates Of Osiris Crab

Announcing Gates Of Osiris

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So a long time ago, after we finished and launched Roboto, Anna and I were thinking about what to do next. Our game was in the top of the App Store charts and we were on cloud nine, loving every minute of how mobile was drastically changing the game industry. During that month we went off and developed a handful of prototypes of possible follow-up games to our debut hit. One of these prototypes went on to become Gates Of Osiris.

Much of the inspiration for Osiris came from my time at Blizzard Entertainment, where I worked on Starcraft Ghost for a number of years. Anna and I loved Starcraft and we had a great art team on Ghost.  I was absolutely devastated when the game became “indefinitely postponed”. In fact, just two years earlier I moved Anna and myself across the country from Chicago, where I was working at Midway on Mortal Kombat, to Orange County – home of the Blizzard empire (known internally as “Blizzard HQ”).  Anyway, I always loved the idea of defending a base against an onslaught of creatures.  In many ways, Gates of Osiris is my Starcraft Ghost.

After some early tests on mobile, back in 2011, it became clear that the hardware was too limited for the type of game Osiris needed to be, so we put it on hold for a couple of months.  At that time, Roboto fell rapidly out of the charts which created an immediate panic for solvency. Luckily, we were contacted by Red Bull to do a racing game and from Wow Wee to create an app based toy line. We were forced to put all the games from our game jam on hold, including Osiris.

When we had time between milestones and deliverables on the client projects we kept coming back to Osiris, which was now a PC game. It was sooooo much fun using all the graphic bells and whistles that Unity has for the PC platform and a relief to not worry about the limited hardware performance of mobile. The game quickly began to take shape, centering around a vehicle similar to the Warthog from Halo.  As the “hero” you are able to build and repair structures and engage in combat from one multipurpose unit.  We call this unit the “GAV” or “Ground Assault Vehicle”. We also set up multiplayer and began testing deathmatches online with our friends.  I also sent a copy to our friends at Unity.

Over the next year we kept working and tinkering on the game, off and on, between client projects, which were now John Deere, Chevron, and Oculus (the Tuscany World Demo). About 6 months later, after we were finishing our Source prototype I got a call from Unity about Osiris regarding a possible publishing deal with the new Unity Games Publishing initiative and a technology partnership with Qualcomm. After a few conversations and meetings with the Unity and the Qualcomm guys Fenix Fire began officially converting Osiris from a PC game back into a mobile game, as a really high end mobile game – perfect for Osiris.

That was back in December 2013. Shortly after we started Anna and I went back to Chicago for Christmas with our 6 month old son for some much needed decompression and family time. This time also gave me a chance to finish the design of Osiris, which we did by cutting RTS style units from paper and acting out gameplay scenarios. We used these scenarios to create our rules set, unit types, mission sets, and gameplay loops focusing on the mobile version first, which has a very aggressive launch date of June 2014. With a dev cycle this fast for a game of this magnitude we needed all the design locked down early so we can focus on the content.

January and February were a complete blur of quickly converting all the assets from PC to mobile, bench testing the Qualcomm SnapDragon hardware, creating the creatures and programming the gameplay with the focus on combat. On March 3rd we needed to stop producing content and polish our demo for GDC as we were scheduled to co announcing the Osiris with Qualcomm and Unity. Even though it’s still a bit early I’m hoping that the style of gameplay and art style resonate with an audience. I personally love playing it, even in it’s crude current form, and can’t wait until after GDC to continue back on the game. Of course, I hope you like where it’s going too.

As a way to stay in touch with updates and progress on Gates Of Osiris, be sure to like the game on its brand new Facebook fan page here.

 

GDC 2014

Fenix Fire To Present At GDC 2014

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Hi everybody! I wanted to give an update on what’s happening at Fenix Fire and some sneak peaks of what’s to come.

Some super exciting news is Brian was asked by Qualcomm and Unity to make a 30 min speech about the game Gates of Osiris that will be shown as a significant demo within the Unity booth at GDC (Game Developers Conference) March 20th at 2:45pm. How Awesome is that! For those of you who aren’t familiar with Qualcomm, they are an American global semiconductor company that designs, manufactures and markets digital wireless telecommunications products and services according to Wikipedia. The Qualcomm Snapdragon processor is in such devices as the Samsung Galaxy NotePro 12.2 and the Amazon Kindle HDX 7 and many more. So what this means is, Fenix Fire has a once in a lifetime opportunity to create a game to be played on these great tablets as well as other devices AND to be a featured game. WOW! Amazing! We’ll be putting up highlights for the GDC speeches with an update on how the conference went.

So, as many of you know Fenix Fire is made up of a husband and wife team – Brian and Anna. But, have you ever thought about what that means? Have you ever had to work with your significant other? At home? With a newborn? It makes for some interesting and juicy conflicts. Most couples go to work, have some time apart from each other, then come home and talk about their individual days to one another. They tend to cherish the time they spend together since they might now see each other that much. Well, at the Fenix Fire household it’s more of a constant saga of two highly talented artists making incredible video games while taking care of the house, the cats, the business and don’t forget the baby. We would like to share these awkward moments of the marriage and work dynamic with a new mini series we’re going to call The Fenix Fire Saga. Every week we’ll publish a new episode on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter so keep an eye out and get ready to laugh!

Finally, Brian has been inspired by the recent hit game Flappy Bird to start a Weekend Developer Challenge. He’s going to give himself one weekend to create a game, complete it and launch it and see how many downloads he gets. It’s his way of illustrating what the gaming industry has come to and how much things have changed. No more does the public want high quality. thought provoking, original video games. They are more interested in a simple, repetitive free game that involves little effort on the developers behalf. So why not make a fun challenge out of it? Through Game Design Dojo Podcast, Twitter, Facebook and maybe some live streaming of this genius challenge taking place it will be fun to follow and see what happens. I know I’m looking forward to it.

That’s all I have for now, I think it’s quite a bit of good news, but I will be sure to keep you informed on all these upcoming events and video game developments. I already knew it was going to be an incredible year, it’s just such a phenomenal feeling seeing it all come to fruition. Be sure to follow us on Twitter, on Facebook, on YouTube, on Instagram, on Pinterest and on Vine @ FenixFireGames. Goodbye for now and have a great day :)

2014

Happy New Year from Fenix Fire

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I hope everyone enjoyed their holidays and were able to spend some quality time with family and friends. I know it’s hard getting back into the swing of things after having so much free time and fun, but what can you do? And here in Chicago this polar vortex is not helping. With the high being -8 degrees, a wind chill of -45 degrees and schools getting canceled allowed us an extended two day vacation…yay. Ok, enough about that. It’s going to be an awesome year…I can FEEL it! Just a friendly reminder, if haven’t already, like us on Facebook :) Fenix Fire Facebook Page

How is it going to be an awesome year you ask? Well, let me tell you. Fenix Fire is growing and has some great projects in the works. First and foremost we have Source. We’ve received some positive feedback from the Source Facebook page and Twitter which is very encouraging. Check out the Source Facebook page and give us a like!  PS4 and Xbox One are interested in this game to be played on their consoles. WOW! That is an indie game developer’s dream! So, that alone helps us get some momentum for an awesome year. But that’s not all!

We have multiple projects with Oculus. How cool is that! Oculus is a virtual reality simulator and the future of video games. The work is really cutting edge and can be challenging at times, but all the hours and hard work is always worth it in the end. To create something that is visual stimulating and just plain cool is what it’s all about. As a developer, if you don’t want to play it then it’s not worth making. There is so much that goes into the development of a video game, I had no idea until I started listening to The Game Designer Dojo podcast. I find it overwhelming. However, I now have a new appreciation for indie game developers.

Now, let us not forget about The Game Designer Dojo Podcast. That has been an outstanding experience. We are so looking forward to continuing with it and sharing knowledge with other game developers while working through challenges we might be going through with our own games. We could use more feedback about what topics we should cover or go more in depth with. Since there is so much and so many directions you can go, Brian and Ike could use fan guidance. If there is something that you’re curios about or want to know more about, reach out to them on the Facebook page or leave feedback at the itunes store. The Game Design Dojo website  The Game Design Dojo Facebook

Time to recap. With so many great projects in the works, there’s no doubt in my mind this is going to be a fantastic year. We also plan on updating Roboto, another exciting plan for 2014. I have a feeling this year is going to fly by because it’s going to be that awesome. Keep in mind Fenix Fire has a newborn baby too. So all this work is happening on an infant sleep schedule. Those of you that have kids, you understand and can appreciate the hard work that lies ahead. But we’re ready to take the bulls by the horns, so to speak. We’re just so ready for 2014!!!

We’re Growing! Introducing Our New Marketing Director

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Hello. My name is Deanna and I like long walks on the beach…oops wrong blog, sorry! Just kidding. Hi. I’m the new marketing/social media/PR/support for Fenix Fire. I love people and being creative so I am really excited about my new job! I’m going to do my best to get out the latest and most interesting news for the Fenix Fire fans. And hopefully gather up some more fans along the way!

I have to be honest, I’m new to the gamer world. I suck at video games. I never graduated from Super Mario Bros. on the Super Nintendo.  But I did enjoy watching my brothers, Brian the CEO of Fenix Fire included, playing them. He made it look so easy and fun. Then I tried playing and just kept dying….sad. Well, that is why he is the designer and I am the marketer. And he is darn good at what he does!

So, I’ve been doing a LOT of research and getting to learn some of the gamer lingo. After listening to Brian’s Podcast-The Game Design Dojo, I realized I still have much to learn! He is very knowledgeable and passionate giving great insight into classic games like Tetris and even Dungeon and Dragons-calling it “roll some dice” instead of D&D. He got his whole co-ed dorm floor in college hooked! He learned so much about game design from it and suggests it for any game developer-“artist, programmer, and especially designer”.  You should definitely check out the podcast, you will enjoy it!

I’m looking forward to getting to know the Fenix Fire fans and being involved on Facebook and Twitter. This was my first blog post, so I would appreciate any comments of what you thought or any questions you might have for me. Also, I’m up for any suggestions of what you’d like to know or see in this blog. I hope you enjoyed reading and have a great day!

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Ready, Fire, Aim – A Fenix Fire Update

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It’s been a crazy year for us so far, and I can’t believe it’s already half over!  We started out this year with this new website as a way to better connect with our fans, and it has actually been doing a pretty good job of that.  You have been commenting in the forums and on our blog posts, which is really cool for us to see. Thanks for reaching out.  Anyway, I want to give you a run down of what we’ve been up to and where we’re going. Read More

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Operation Giant Coming To Ouya

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Fenix Fire is proud to announce a new type of brawler for the Ouya game console titled Operation Giant.  We’ve only been working on the project for just a few days, and generally don’t announce something so soon, but Operation Giant is different.  This game is our official contest submission to the CREATE Game Jam for the Ouya Game Console.  If we Read More

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Fenix Fire To Develop On Ouya

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Happy New Year everyone! We can’t think of a better way to bring in 2013 then with our own Ouya dev kit, which we’re happy to announce has just arrived, and it looks good.

When we first caught wind of the Kickstarter campaign about a company attempting to make a new kind of game console, we instantly fell out of our chairs from the pure Read More