Wind Catcher Games

Games by Josh Raab

Life Update

Well, it’s been about eight months so… time for an update!

I’m still at Big Huge Games working on DomiNations. So far, I’ve led the design on Expeditions and a few other small features. I also manage two-thirds of our live ops design, specifically our events and limited-time discounts (another designer handles sales).

Adjusting to free-to-play design has certainly been a learning experience and sometimes a struggle, but there’s a lot to like. The company environment is wonderful, and I love working on games based in history. I also enjoy being responsible for a lot of the new text that comes out, including historical descriptions for all sorts of things.

Sumer has been coming along nicely following the successful Kickstarter. We’re constantly adding polish and improving the tutorials and readability. The biggest remaining tasks are an overhaul of the voiceover and adding online play.

The game is currently in closed beta for our Kickstarter backers. We intend to release it Early Access within a few months, and hope to be able to do the full release (including online play) sometime in late 2017.

In more adorable news, I’m now the proud owner of two sweet little kitties! I got Freya and Persephone as kittens back in May, and they’re now playful adolescents. Here they are being silly (Freya is in the foreground):

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I don’t really know anyone in Baltimore outside work, but I’m never lonely with my little kitty sisters around. Gotta say, moving around a lot was fun but I’m grateful to be in a more settled situation where I can take care of kitties!

That’s about it for now. Until next time!

Josh

Big Huge Games!

I have very exciting news to share: I’ll be starting as an Associate Game Designer at Maryland’s Big Huge Games in April! This will be my first long-term full-time position at a game studio. I used to love their first game, an RTS called Rise of Nations. Their current game, DomiNations, takes that concept and builds a quite fun free-to-play mobile game around it.

They seem like a really great company, and I’m happy to be going somewhere that will combine my love of strategy games with my love of history. Can’t wait to start!

As for Sumer, we had a great showing at the Indie MEGABOOTH at GDC. We’re expecting to be launching a Kickstarter relatively soon, so keep an eye out! Of course I’ll have to take on a much smaller role now that I’m going to be working at another studio full-time, but I will remain involved with Sumer and Studio Wumpus to some extent.

One of the first orders of business after I get settled in Maryland will be to get a kitten, so hopefully kitty pics are coming up soon.

– Josh

Indie MEGABOOTH

Major news: We’re going to be showing Sumer at the Indie MEGABOOTH at GDC this year!

The MEGABOOTH is a showcase that appears at festivals and conferences to highlight exciting new indie titles. Only 15 games were accepted into their GDC showcase, so it’s quite an honor and a great opportunity for us.

It’ll be up and running all week, so if you’re going to GDC this year, stop by and check it out! I may not be there myself, since I was lucky enough to be selected as a Conference Associate again, but the rest of Studio Wumpus will be around.

Check out this Gamasutra post to see a full list of this year’s MEGABOOTH games.

See you in March!

New site!

The site overhaul is finished! I’ve done away with a lot of stuff about older prototypes and added more info and screenshots about my newer games, including my MFA work. Check it out!

Restructuring…

Time for an overhaul! The new version of the site will do a much better job showcasing my more recent work. I’ll be removing some old stuff and structuring things a little more cleanly in general.

It’s going to take a little while, but as every game designer knows, sometimes the best course of action is just to throw everything out and start over from scratch. Here we go!

Back in the US

Iceland is an amazing place. Almost anywhere you are, even in the heart of Reykjavik, a majestic vista of snow-capped mountains is no more than a few minutes away. The people are warm and welcoming, and they definitely know how to celebrate the holidays. I got to experience some of its natural beauty close up just before leaving, venturing into a lava cave and snorkeling between continental plates.

A few more pictures from my time there:

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On Sumer, we’re gearing up for Steam Greenlight and Kickstarter campaigns. We’ve been busy preparing our promotional materials as well as continuing to polish the game. Artist Jet Landis has been working with art director Sig to create striking new versions of the goddess Inanna, the central personality of the game: she’s the one demanding sacrifices and bestowing her favor on the best divine servant.

On a personal note, as much as I love and am proud of Sumer, funds are low and I’m currently seeking full-time employment. It’s a stressful process, but I’m hoping this new game design MFA degree of mine (plus those sweet sweet NYU connections) will hold some weight. I’m also not a winter person; I expect the next two months to be rough, emotionally. But spring always comes in the end, right?

– Josh

Iceland!

Hey there! Since the incubator ended, I spent a month just sorta working on Sumer and then gallivanted off to Iceland.

I’m currently living on a tiny farmhouse in the remote north as the first participant in the Kollafoss Gamedev Residency.

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The guy who runs it, Johannes, is a sound designer and experimental musician, and a great host. If living out in the middle of nowhere with no distractions and two sweet, adorable kitties sounds like something you’d enjoy, I highly recommend it. Plus, even including all the transportation costs, I’m actually saving money over a month in NYC.

I recently visited Akureyri, the biggest town in Iceland outside Reykjavik. I say “town” because it’s still fewer than 20,000 people, but it’s a cultural center and an extremely beautiful location. Mostly mentioning this trip so I can have an excuse to show these pictures:

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As for Sumer, we made a big push to polish it up for our IGF submission. The art, animation, and audio all received major improvements. Special thanks to our super-talented new artist, Jet Landis, who stepped in when our super-talented original artist, Adam Alexander, got a full-time job.

We’ve begun overhauling the tutorial and adding actual menus, and we’re also redesigning the narrative to be more dynamic and appropriate to a digital board game. We’re also pushing toward a Steam Greenlight launch with an eye toward early access, and discussing the possibility of a Kickstarter. As part of our ongoing efforts to get the game out there, we’ve showed at various festivals including the Boston FIG, Metatopia, and Gameacon.

Oh, and since I’ve been here I started working on a secret side project as well. It’s not even interactive right now and probably will never be developed into a full “game,” it’s just kind of a cool system I’ve been wanting to make for a while. As much as I love collaborating, it is nice to work on a solo project for a change!

And that’s about it. I’m not expecting any big announcements anytime soon, but maybe once we put up our Greenlight page. Until next time!

— Josh

 

The Incubator and Beyond

This summer has been devoted to working on Sumer in NYU’s incubator program along with Geoff, Sig, and Misha. We’ve made huge strides after 3 months of full-time work: a visual overhaul (courtesy of new artist Jet Landis), new design features, mouse and keyboard controls, a tutorial, and even the beginnings of online play. It’s been a great experience, with help from a huge number of people.

Currently we’re looking around for publisher funding so we can continue working full-time and finish the game. I’m considering a move to Iceland as well, but everything is pretty up in the air. It’s scary not to know what’s next, but it’s exciting to be pursuing this game we so strongly believe in.

We’ll be showing it at the Boston Festival of Indie Games on September 12th, as well as more local events, including possibly regular showings at PAG’s I Got Next (Nevada Smiths, every other Monday). We’re also sending out alpha builds to pretty much anyone who asks, so if you’re interested in playing, stop by an event or send me an e-mail!

– Josh

MFA Complete

As of this May, I am officially a Master of Game Design! A huge thank you to the students, faculty, and administration at the NYU Game Center for two amazing years. You’ve made me a better designer and a better person.

My life now is distilled down to three games: Sumer, the Nika mobile app, and Crystal Brawl.

Sumer is what I’m doing full-time now at NYU’s summer incubator program. We got an incredible reception at the end of year Student Show, and we’re hoping to release in about a year. We’ve recently added AI (!) and are continually iterating on the visuals and design. It’s coming along very quickly, and has a special aura around it – I think it could be a huge success.

Nika is quite close to release. The main hurdle is AI, which has been improving but isn’t quite good enough yet. Otherwise, it’s just polish and QA. We’re aiming to release (on a ton of mobile platforms) before our Kickstarter for Crystal Brawl, most likely in September.

Crystal Brawl development is more or less on hold until we finish Nika, but we’ve got plans. If our Kickstarter succeeds, we’re hoping to add a couple new character classes, a whole new mode, and AI (see a pattern?) The timeline should be fairly similar to Sumer, releasing in about a year.

It’s awesome to just be able to work on these projects with few other distractions. All three are in large part my own babies, which makes me both proud and extremely grateful. Here’s hoping they all succeed.

– Josh

Spring!

Just checking in. Some updates on the games:

Sumer is coming along great. The design feels close to complete, with only relatively minor changes to come. We have a ton of work to do on the art, UI, narrative, tutorials, and audio, but it’s good to know that we have such a strong core.

Crystal Brawl has undergone major refactoring and optimization in order to make it run at an acceptable frame rate on the Wii U. It’s mostly up and running, though we have some significant bugs to work out. We’re looking at ways to fund full-time development so we can finish it in a reasonable time frame, we’ll see how that goes. We’ve also started to design a single-player mode – exciting!

Nika has also been getting refactored, so there’s nothing too exciting to report, except that the AI is definitely making progress. It hasn’t become sentient and gone on an apocalyptic rampage just yet, but it can move pieces around the board in something approaching an intelligent pattern. Lots of work still to do, but we’re hoping to have a decent AI (as well as final in-game UI) in time for the Playcrafting Spring Expo on April 29th. Fingers crossed!

Otherwise, I had a lovely GDC as a third-time Conference Associate. I’m graduating in a couple months, which is both exciting and frightening. Hopefully I’ll have some news for my summer plans in not too long, but until then I’ll just have to wait and see. Until next time!

– Josh

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