Wind Catcher Games

Games by Josh Raab

Archive for the category “General Ramblings”

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

 

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

Hello Again, World

Alright! Quick runthrough of the last two months. First, I completed my third out of four semesters at NYU Game Center. Games I worked on include:

My thesis project:

1. Sumer (temp title): A video game inspired by board games, we’re calling it a “worker placement platformer” – Mario meets Settlers of Catan, or (more accurately) Agricola meets Killer Queen. Co-designers include Misha Favorov, Sig Gunnarsson,and Geoff Suthers. Art by Adam Alexander, sound by Seori Sachs. Not the last you’ll hear of Sumer!

For Rob Daviau’s board game design class:

2. Jefferson: A deck-builder using a standard deck of cards. Designed solo.

3. Lia Frank’s Rainbow Road: A real-time math game using a board and a standard deck of cards. Designed with Jesse Fuchs and Elyse Lemoine.

4. Train-a-saurus Wrecks: A game for preschoolers where you stack dinosaurs onto an electronic train. Designed with Vanessa Briceño, Misha Favorov, and Geoff Suthers.

5. Ratnakara: A Euro-style board game where you play as a merchant captain in the 1400s plying the Indian Ocean. Our final project, and a pretty fun game! Designed with Bruce Lan, Wynn Chen, and Jason Schoenfeld.

I also wrote a feature on Keith Nemitz, founder of Mousechief and creator of 7 Grand Steps and Dangerous High School Girls in Trouble!, for Chris Plante’s’ journalism class.

With Studio Mercato, the most exciting news was showing Crystal Brawl at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in early December. We’ll also have it at MAGFest later in January. As for Nika, you can purchase the board game version online here, and we’ve been putting the app on all kinds of new platforms as well as working on the AI and polishing up the look. I expect it’ll be available for release within a couple months.

That’s about it! See ya next time.

– Josh

Catching Up

Well! It’s certainly been a while. Most of my time has been going into my thesis project, a sort of digital Eurogame/spiritual successor to M.U.L.E. whose working title is Sumer. The core team of designer/programmers is myself, Sig Gunnarsson, Misha Favorov, and Geoff Suthers. Seori Sachs is our sound designer, and we’ll hopefully have our artist nailed down within a week or so.

For my other classes, I’ve been learning journalism from Chris Plante (Polygon, the Verge) and board game design from Rob Daviau (Risk Legacy, Betrayal at House on the Hill). Moving into final projects now, in the form of a feature article and a hobby-market board game. Details to come.

At Studio Mercato, we’re continuing to iterate on and playtest Crystal Brawl and the Nika app. We brought CB to the Boston FIG and Maker Faire in September, and are most likely planning to have it at MAGFest in late January. As usual, people enjoyed the games but there’s always lots more work to do.

I went 0 for 3 in terms of IndieCade submissions, but hope springs eternal – we submitted Geneses to the IGF Student Showcase. We did get good feedback from the IndieCade judges, mostly on issues of UI, legibility, and learning the game. Hard stuff, but super important!

Lastly, I applied for my third stint as a volunteer at GDC. I won’t hear back for a while, but I’ve loved volunteering there in the past and hope to be able to do so again.

That’s about it! I’ll have more updates when I hear back from various places, and as my school projects continue.

– Josh

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