Monday, August 15, 2022

Game Portfolio -- War Goonz

Continuing a review of discontinued games where I had a hand in their development, War Goonz was a fun romp through post-apocalyptic America with a really competitive PvP element: build your base and defend against the attacks of others!

War Goonz

  • Release Date: November 2017
  • Current Availability: Cancelled during soft launch March 2019
  • Release Credit Category: Marketing Credit
  • Company: KingsIsle
  • Business Model: Free-to-Play
  • Category: Mobile Game
  • Genre: Strategy, PvP
Personal Development Notes
  • Fun Fact: Just like with Get Jiggy, the current Marketing Manager for KingsIsle, one Kayly Ginsberg, also used to write quite a bit about the War Goonz Beta on her blog The Untold Spiral. (I think it was me that actually pulled her into the Beta. Community Managers have pull like that.)

  • Job Highlights: Besides getting super fans like Kayly into the Beta, I also did some work on the War Goonz social media sites and assisted with the creation of a trailer video

  • Best Memory: I playtested the heck out of this game! One of the best compliments I received was when Chad Brown, aka Red Five of now DCUO fame, played through the town I had designed and commented on how well put together it was. I'll never forget that! 

  • Other Comments: War Goonz was another game where, unfortunately, the metrics didn't warrant a full release. The art assets for this game have been kicking around for a while, and they're so good that they continue to be reused in other prototypes. They're begging to find a home!

Sample Gameplay:

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Game Portfolio -- Get Jiggy

Continuing a review of discontinued games in my portfolio, next up is surprisingly not a Will Smith song, but a PvP Puzzle game named Get Jiggy!

Get Jiggy

  • Release Date: July 2016
  • Current Availability: Canceled during Canadian Soft Launch in 2017
  • Release Credit Category: Marketing Credit
  • Company: KingsIsle
  • Business Model: Free-to-Play
  • Category: Mobile Game
  • Genre: Puzzle
Personal Development Notes
  • Fun Fact: The current Marketing Manager for KingsIsle, one Kayly Ginsberg aka Vanessa Mythdust, was originally a super fan of KingsIsle's games until she made the jump to paid employee. Back in the day she penned a magnificent blog post about it from the outside looking in. Honestly, it's a really a great breakdown about what the game was all about. 

  • Job Highlights: My contributions to Game Development came from setting up the social sites, playtesting the game, helping review the images in the puzzle picture packs, and working with our videographer Damon to create the game's trailer.

    Speaking of the trailer, TJ O'Leary and I still laugh about the line, "If you like puzzles. prizes. and fast-paced, live, multiplayer battles . . . then it's time to Get Jiggy!" On first read through, our voice actress made the delivery of "Get Jiggy" very Jessica Rabbit-esque. We had her re-record the line because, as the joke goes, we were looking for 30% sass instead of 80% sass.

  • Best Memory: My best memories of this game come from when we'd play PvP matches with other people in the office.  Look, we used to get pretty competitive about these puzzle battles in KingsIsle's old Domain building! 

  • Other Comments: It was a very unique game idea that never took off, and the game's metrics were such that it couldn't make it out of soft launch. Perhaps the hyper-casual puzzle category of the app store wasn't quite ready to add some PvP to their jigsaw puzzles?

    BTW, the soundtrack for the game was crafted by Bobby Moen, and it is some absolutely fantastic, lounge jazzy goodness. The music is what I miss the most! Thankfully most of it is still on the web on Bobby's Soundcloud page.

Sample Gameplay:

This footage comes from the aforementioned blog post of Kayly Ginsberg! Enjoy!

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Game Portfolio -- AlphaCat

Continuing a review of games in my portfolio: It's time for AlphaCat! 

AlphaCat

  • Release Date: June 2015
  • Current Availability: Game removed from stores in 2018
  • Release Credit Category: Marketing Credit
  • Company: KingsIsle
  • Business Model: Free-to-Play
  • Category: Mobile Game
  • Genre: Puzzle, RPG
Personal Development Notes
  • Fun Fact:  Typically there is a cap to the number of ads you can watch in a day in exchange for energy in a game, but when we launched AlphaCat you could watch ads infinitely for some reason. Because of this, I played all day and all night to beat the game in a weekend. After that it was simply logging on to attempt to get an epic character and playing through the Invasions feature.

  • Job Highlights: One of my favorite social media campaigns was the use of the hashtag #KnowYourCrewMembers on Twitter. It was a chance to show off some of the fun characters in the game.

    As it turns out, it can be very difficult to get reporters to write about your latest and greatest mobile game, so many times I'd have to reach out to the roads less traveled, for instance, helping craft a top ten tips article for Heavy.com, reaching out to mobile gamers on the Touch Arcade forums, doing interviews with Scifi sites, and rubbing elbows with good ol' bloggers. 

  • Best Memory: I loved watching people play AlphaCat in person at the SXSW Gaming Convention! The game at the time was in its beta phase, and there was one particular girl who would not stop playing it at our booth. She had found "her game," which made me very happy. Sometimes in Marketing you'll pay to have customer profile sheets made up for your target audience -- This girl would have been a perfect profile for Alphacat.

  • Other Comments: This will forever be the game that I "gave an arm and a leg" to promote thanks to a viral video gone bad where I dressed up in an AlphaCat costume and accidentally fell out of a tree during filming, fracturing an arm and a leg in the process. Yup. That's a true story. It was great going to the SXSW Gaming Convention, but being there on crutches in a huge convention hall with no handicap parking nearby . . . not so much. 
     

Sample Gameplay:

Friday, August 12, 2022

Game Portfolio -- Rise and Destroy

Continuing a review of discontinued games in my personal Game Portfolio, today I talk about a fun game full of awesome, yet strategic, destruction!

Rise and Destroy


  • Release Date: June 2015
  • Current Availability: Game fully removed from app stores on February 17, 2021
  • Release Credit Category: Marketing Credit
  • Company: KingsIsle
  • Business Model: Free-to-Play
  • Category: Mobile Game
  • Genre: Action Strategy

Personal Development Notes
  • Fun Fact: Frankie Forearms can still be found in Wizard101 as a wandering animal in the Arcanum and as a pet. As a pet, it is now an extremely rare find since it was unable to be hatched with other pets. It's been argued that it was a bad decision, but it did create a rare pet that drives collectors crazy! (Maybe KingsIsle will retroactively change that now that the game has gone bye bye?) To get the pet originally, you had to complete the first three levels of Rise and Destroy as a part of a limited-time cross-promotion with Wizard101.

  • Job Highlights: The Community Team at this time went through a lot of work trying to develop fun things we could do to help promote the game. I loved how passionate our social media manager was about the game even though she didn't fit the typical gamer personality you'd find working in the game industry. We hosted a special Launch Party KI Live around Rise and Destroy and Julia destroyed us all in a simultaneous game as we played through level 4 of the game.

    Responding to players who left app store reviews, researching where our game was being talked about online, and coming up with creative marketing were all job highlights for me.

    After Rise and Destroy launched, KingsIsle also held an internal game jam for its developers. The Community Management team put together a web-based achievement hunting game idea surrounding Rise and Destroy that could have been an amazing promotion for the game, but unfortunately we lacked an available web developer to help us make our dream promotion for this game a reality. I remember Josef Hall coming up to the community team after game jam and congratulating us on using game jam to creatively do our jobs of coming up with ways to promote the game. That felt pretty great!

    As a part of that game jam pitch, I also created a really basic dance game in Construct 2 that featured Frankie Forearms rocking it out! It was your basic up, down, left, right dance game with a space bar move to enter "disco mode." Good times! 

  • Best Memory: I had a blast dressing up as a T-rex to make our "What a T-rex can't do / can do" social buzz videos. Actually convincing KI to drop money on a T-rex costume has got to be another job highlight.

  • Other Comments:  Rise and Destroy was KingsIsle's first mobile game that wasn't an IP related to Wizard101. Marketing went through a lot of work and research understanding the Mobile Game Market and translating the game into several languages -- way more languages than was really necessary. 

Sample Gameplay:

This is a walk through video I made of a particularly difficult level to help one of the fans who was struggling to beat it.

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Game Portfolio -- Grub Guardian

The past three games on my Game Portfolio posts were about those that are in current operation, but I have a much larger list of discontinued games that are still a part of my work portfolio. Over the next week and half, I'll be talking a little bit more about each of those. First up is a game that is . . . kind of . . . still in operation, but mostly not, so I'm lumping it in with the discontinued games list.

Grub Guardian


  • Release Date: January 2012
  • Current Availability: Limited availability on iOS
  • Release Credit Category: Marketing Credit
  • Company: KingsIsle
  • Business Model: Free-to-Play
  • Category: Web-based and Mobile
  • Genre: Tower Defense
Personal Development notes
  • Fun Fact: Originally Grub Guardian appeared in its beta phase on the now defunct freekigames.com website. Apparently you can currently still play this game if you have an old enough iOS device (try an iPhone 4 or 5). 

  • Job Highlights: At some point in 2012-2013, I was given the job of handling social media responsibilities for Grub Guardian and also managing the prize distribution. Updating the master list for prizes was an enormous undertaking as each puzzle had a tier list associated with it, and the prizes were different for each tier. To update the prizes, we used a Web-based content management system. Eventually the knowledge I learned from working with Grub Guardian allowed me to pivot the Dueling Diego minigame on the FreeKIGames website to instead distribute Pirate101 items in place of Wizard101 prizes.

  • Best Memory: For some reason I have a very distinct memory of talking for a long time about the tiers of Grub Guardian with Sean McIntosh, KingsIsle's (and now WIMO's) Director of Art. I believe this was the first time I ever worked with Sean. We work much more closely now that I've pivoted to Design, so it's fun to look back at these times for me.

  • Other Comments:  Ultimately, I'm really happy players of Wizard101 had a fun game on Mobile that could also earn them rewards in their favorite MMO and also be an alternate method for leveling their pets.

Sample Gameplay:

Back when Grub Guardian launched on FreeKIGames, I made this video showing one of the early levels of Grub Guardian.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Game Portfolio -- RPG Dice, Heroes of Whitestone

Continuing my Game Portfolio posts for Blaugust, it's time to move to a game I haven't written much about here on my blog, but it's one I play daily. In fact, my wife and I run a guild together in the game! 

RPG Dice Heroes of Whitestone


  • Release Date: January 18, 2022
  • Current Availability: Available for download on iOS or Android
  • Release Credit Category: Design / Writing Credit
  • Company: WIMO Games
  • Business Model: Free-to-Play
  • Category: Mobile
  • Genre: RPG Board Game

Personal Development notes
  • Fun Fact: After Dice was launched into the app stores and ended up doing really well, WIMO responded with some fun swag for the employees. The coolest swag was a big set of lawn dice where the number one was replaced with the RPG DICE logo.
     

  • Job Highlights: I was originally brought on to the Dice Team to help with the tutorial and other tasks until I was assigned to work on another game. Some of the enemy team compositions in Chapters 3 and 4 of the Campaign were originally pieced together by me, and I had a hand in crafting a couple of the tutorial sequences for the game. I also assigned the tiles to one of the Relic Adventure boards, but I honestly can't remember which one it was.

    Later, when Dice was transferred to WIMO upon the sale of KingsIsle and without a full-time creative writer on staff, WIMO turned to me to help them with writing in addition to my other duties as the Senior Designer for Outsourcing. The Main Campaign Story for Chapter 7 was written by me as well as the Relic Adventure stories for Chapters 3 through 6. The Goblin Tile text and several Skill Check Tile texts were written by me as well.

  • Best Memory: I was invited to participate in the first internal playtest of the game, and you could just tell there was something different about this game that made it special. Everyone was excited about it. I remember being in a meeting about the playtest results, and my only comment was something to the effect of  . . . Congratulations, this game is really good! 

  • Other Comments: There's a great team at WIMO behind this game, and they continue to work hard by bringing new, and regular updates to players! I can't wait to see where this game is in a year from now! It just keeps getting better.

Sample Gameplay:

I sat down the other day and recorded video of the first half of the Chapter 5 Relic Adventure. At the end of the video there's some summoning, hero leveling, and a fight with the Guild Boss, which should give you a good idea of what you'll find if you play RPG Dice, Heroes of Whitestone.

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Game Portfolio -- Wizard101

Continuing a review of my Game Portfolio, next up is the game that started this blog! 

Wizard101

  • Release Date: September 2, 2008
  • Current Availability: Available for download from Steam or Wizard101.com
  • Release Credit Category: Marketing Credit (2012-2018)
  • Company: KingsIsle
  • Business Model: Free-to-Play
  • Category: PC
  • Genre: MMORPG
Personal Development notes
  • Fun Fact: I'm the voice of a smack-talking bear in Wizard101! It's my one and only voice credit in a game.

  • Job Highlights: After a couple years at KingIsle, I was asked to lead all Communication, Public Relations, and Social Media for the company. While I maintained most of my Pirate101 Community Management duties, we hired Leala Ulrich and Julia Delay to help with Wizard101's Community Management and KingsIsle's social media outlets. It was this Community Management team that launched KingsIsle's forays into streaming with KI Live.

    When KingsIsle suffered a round of layoffs, Community Management for Wizard101 became my responsibility in addition to my other duties. The job of Community Manger for Wizard101 meant that I basically ate, lived, and dreamed all things Wizard101! When it was Christmas Day, I was there moderating the forums! Every day was Wizard101 day! If there was a major bug happening in the game, it was my responsibility to make sure it was elevated straight to the top so we could fix it and then communicate our plans back out to the players.

    Of course, keeping the monthly newsletter running and writing Update Notes were busy times, but I was very happy I could institute a "Zone of the Month" article and get a little discount going for individual zones as well. As the main "free code generator" for the company, I sometimes wonder how many free crowns and gifts I was able to give to our players! Helping the fan sites also help our players enjoy the game to its fullest was key.

    Ultimately, the job was really a blend of Customer Support, Public Relations, Social Media Management, Marketing, and of course, Community Management. You're there to help both sides of the fence in a fast-paced environment where creativity is key.  

  • Best Memory: My best memories, and the ones I'm most proud about, are those where I was able to work with the Make-A-Wish kids who wanted to become a part of our game. Spending a day dedicated to each of them is one of my proudest and happiest moments in the gaming industry. Outside of this, making videos like the KingsIsle Office April Fool's video was where our Community Management team shined best.

  • Other Comments:  I've written a lot about Wizard101 here on my blog! In fact, this blog came about because of Wizard101.  It's the game that changed my professional life. If you want to read more about my adventures in the game, scroll all the way back to 2008 and have a trip down memory lane

Sample Gameplay:

It feels a bit silly adding Sample Gameplay for Wizard101 when a simple search on YouTube will reveal thousands upon thousands of videos. That said, I was among the handful of players that were there at the beginning, uploading Wizard101 gameplay videos to YouTube. My very first gameplay video was uploaded on Sept 21st, 2008. I was playing through Krokotopia for my very first time with some awesome breakbeats in the background.