Category Archives: Behind the Scenes

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PAX East 2014

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The IndieMEGABOTTH Experience

After an intense couple of months, we pulled it off and PAX was a success! Well, every success story has it’s fair amount of drama and bumps in the road. It wouldn’t be much of a story if everything went smoothly and the way it was planned, right?

Let’s back up a little to first considering going to PAX. My brother, Brian forwarded me an email about information from PAX accepting applications for their IndieMEGABOOTH and asked what I thought about it. So, I responded with why not? Let’s do it! I helped him write and send out the application with a write up about the game and Fenix Fire. Along with screenshots and a video of Source. Then we waited.

This was a month or two after submitting Source to IGF, which was sadly not chosen to be a nomination for the awards ceremony at GDC. But as it turns out, Source was chosen for the IndieMEGABOOTH! I think Brian got the news within the same month. So, just when he received some harsh news, good news comes up and now it’s time to get ready for PAX East! I have to add the irony of Brian thought he had no chance to make into PAX but did think he had a fighting chance with IGF. It just goes to show you, you never know and something better might be waiting for you so don’t worry.

Ok, so now the emails from PAX are pouring in with paperwork to be filled out and so on. Thankfully the IndieMEGABOOTH has a heart for Indie companies and helped out Brian to make sure the paperwork was filled out properly. Next, him and Anna (the other half of Fenix Fire) wanted to come up with a call to action during PAX…a Kickstarter campaign!

Brian sought out and hired Game Promoter.com to help with this task of putting together a successful Kickstarter campaign. Long story short, Brian had only about a week to make an epic trailer video with new creatures and enemies along with filming a personal segment to put on the campaign page. His time was cut down to a week because of being at GDC where he spoke at the Unity and Qualcomm booths then after coming home,  had a nasty 7 day flu. Can someone say stressed?

Now, it’s time for PAX. All the videos are made and turned out nicely, the prints and buttons for PAX were ordered and are being shipped to the hotel, the travel arrangements are taken care of, press have been emailed with announcing ‘Source’ at PAX and some press even reached out to schedule interviews; everything is looking like it’s falling into place. Brian, his twin Dan and myself all made it safely to Boston and were ready for PAX and the Kickstarter campaign.

Thursday morning, Brian receives an email that Amazon payments which is tied to Kickstarter needing to verify further information about his business before going forward. Great. So, Brian had to call Anna on Skype so she could show him and ask what papers they wanted faxed in. They figured it out and sent in what they were asking for. Brian gets the email that says thank you for submitting the information will be 2-3 days for verification. What?! We were planning on launching the campaign that day to be ready for PAX! Brian sends out an email explaining the situation and we go over to the convention center to set up our booth.

When we get to the convention center, which is awesome, we wait in line to get our badges. Surprise, surprise they can’t find them. Really?! So, Brian has to go through all his emails on his phone to find the invoice for the IndieMEGABOOTH. While he’s searching he gets an email from Amazon payments that he’s good to go on Kickstarter, yay! He finally finds the email he needs for the badges, shows the guy in charge and it turns out they just never printed our badges! Seriously? They gave us some extra badges and we’re now ready to set up the booth.

Of coarse when we get to our booth there’s nothing there, only a sign and some chairs. One of the workers of the MEGABOOTH, Chris, came up and said don’t wait for things to come to you, seek them out or you might never get them. So I stayed at the booth while Brian and Dan went out searching. In about an hour and a half we had our TV, computer, speakers, table and wastebasket. We were all set and ready to go.

That night, Brian was ready to hit the launch button on the Kickstarter page. Too bad they sent an email that said we’ve received your request and your campaign will be put in the queue for review about 3-5 days. You’ve got to be kidding me!!! Brian couldn’t believe it. This was devastating and there was nothing he could do but write an email to tech support. What made matters worse was he was scheduled to go on Twitch TV Friday afternoon and wanted to mention the Kickstarter campaign, but now he couldn’t.

It’s finally Friday, the first day of PAX East. My brothers and I are eagerly waiting for the sea of people to come to our booth and check out ‘Source’. We hear the roar as they come in. The day goes by pretty fast. My brothers leave to go on Twitch TV while I handle the booth and it went ok except for the computer crashes from time to time but everyone was very nice and understanding about it. All in all it was a good day and mostly everyone’s response to the game was positive! They really liked the art style and concept of ‘Source’. As PAX day one came to an end, Brian check his emails on his phone and BAM the Kickstarter was approved and he was good to go for real this time! When we finally got back to the hotel, Brian hit the green activate key and the ‘Source’ Kickstarter page was now live and ready for Saturday.

We’ve made it to day two of PAX East. We’re down to just me and Brian since Dan had to fly back to Chicago for work. We had to make a stop at Staples to pick up more postcards for the day and when we made it to the convention center, the parking lot was full! I dropped of Brian so he could set up the booth since it was almost 10 AM and that’s when the doors opened. And I was re-directed to an overflow lot far away. I had to take a shuttle bus back to the convention center and tried a few times to use my exhibitor badge to get inside, but was sadly denied. Forty-five minutes later I was at the booth helping out. Saturday flew by and ended up being a great day with a great response for ‘Source’. Some people even backed us on Kickstarter right there! It was awesome :)

Sunday, PAX day three, was a little different. Since it was the last day most people had an agenda and wanted to see the games they knew and came for. But nonetheless, we still had a good day with meeting some great supporters and just nice people. Brian even met a listener of the Game Design Dojo Podcast and videotaped an interview with her. It made his day. He actually video interviewed a few people that played the ‘Source’ demo with their thoughts of the game. It ended up being a great 3 day experience.

Well, the story can’t end there, come on you should know better. So, Sunday night Brian and I are BEAT. We get to the hotel room and our keys don’t work. We go down to the front desk and they said that they had our reservation only to that day and didn’t see an extended reservation. Wow. Brian found his booking paperwork and the front desk apologized and gave us a free breakfast for the next day. So that was a score with a little drama of coarse.

Our PAX journey in Boston was now officially over. We ate our free breakfast, checked out of the hotel, stopped at the UPS store to ship some stuff, dropped off the rental car (which was an awesome SUV since they gave my brother a free upgrade), and went our separate ways to our designated airline terminals. I was flying back to Chicago and Brian had a connecting flight in Dallas. We both eventually made it safely to our homes and ready to promote the Kickstarter campaign to hopefully reach 100% funded.

Thank you so much for reading my mini novel. Believe me I could have added more details but I kept it to the main ones and most amusing. We hope to make it to PAX Prime this October in Seattle. Whatever happens we just have to remember “The struggle is part of the story.”

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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!!!

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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