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Anything related to developing the business is posted here.

It is the mission statement of Modern Magic Enterprises LTD;

  • To use the book, the game, and the film to present the best stories in the world.
  • To offer quality writing services at exceptionally competitive rates.
  • To become a preeminent developer of story-based multimedia in the American Midwest.
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Video games have gone soft.

I mean this generally; avid victims fans of the Ninja Gaiden games, for instance, would argue against any leniency in modern video games, and may very well be correct. However, I am looking at games over all. There are some subtle, and some obvious, ways in which games have gotten easier on us. The rise of “casual” games being too obvious an example to discuss at length, it still protrays how video games are now designed to appeal to people who don’t play video games. Video games used to be for gamers.

However, my favorite example is the end-game screen. In the old days of arcade and some early console games, what happened when you lost all your lives? In most cases, you saw a screen that said two words.

GAME OVER”

How often in the last.. three to five years, have you seen that screen? Here and there, I’ll admit, but when you consider the sheer volume of games? Not terribly often.

Those were powerful words. They meant that you had lost, failed, and you had to start from the beginning and do it all over again. Everything you had been working towards was suddenly brought an abrupt and heart breaking halt. That, however, was the addiction. You lost, so you try again. And again. And again. You kept going until you beat it and you’d feel damned proud when you did. You had to work for it, which brings us to another end-game screen. These days, when you beat a game, you’re treated to a cinematic, a cutscene, or some visual display of your epic heroic awesomeness. It made you feel special, while at the same time, made it so that it was a natural thing. You saw the conclusion of the story, because you beat the game. But really, you were always going to get there, the story had to end somehow. Go back to some of those crazy-hard games that would take a dedicated gamer months to beat, and quite often the only thing you’d see would be along the lines of:

You beat the game! Congratulations!”

Maybe some kind of cutscene, maybe a little victory video, but mostly it was just the credits rolling.

And oh, how good that felt. The feeling of accomplishment and victory that came with that screen. Modern gamers are spoiled, because its getting easier and easier to get to that screen. It’s almost unheard of to play a game that you can’t beat in under a month, maybe even a week. Continues, save points, extra lives and health bars all contribute to this.

Another trend in gaming: regenerating health. Halo, Gears, Call of Duty, so many recent games have a system where you can take a few hits, and if you can manage to remain unhit for a little while, you gain your health back. Arcade games? One hit, you are dead. Extra lives were a blessing, a gift. You would sometimes risk your current life in order to get an extra one, or something to help you along.

Galaga, anyone? Do you take out the alien ship nice and safely, or do you let it take your ship, so that you can try to get it back and have 2 ships, thus increasing your firepower? It was always risky, and you had to have an extra ship in reserve to do it. But if you miss and hit your ship, you just lost a life, and what a blow that felt like. Especially since it was all your fault.

Modern games don’t have “game over” screens. They have “Continue?” screens, or “Go back to the last save point” options. Tools that would enable you to progress with only a slight hindrence. Games used to be made to be hard to beat. Now they’re designed to be easy to beat. They even have difficulty settings, so that if you can’t beat the game, they will make it easier to beat.

Today’s gamers are spoiled by games that are made to be beat. I mean, come on, dynamic difficulty? Automatically adjusting the difficulty of the game to custom cater to the individual gamer. It will change the difficulty for you based on how badly you’re failing.

The thing is, all this is smart investment. As games are becoming increasingly popular and more “casual”, even the hardcore games need to be able to be played by a wide variety of gamers.  After all, most gamers will not admit to having to play a game on easy. Everyone wants to be able to beat a game on its hardest setting; the appeal of that top “elite” ranking is what sells games to a lot of people. People don’t want to have to work for their achievements anymore; you can purchase, for cash money, MMORPG characters that have already been upgraded and leveled up for other people. You can skip the work and get right to the part where you’re awesome.

I play games because they’re challenging. They make me think. However, its less and less common to see Game Over. Now there’s always a backdoor.

Modern gamers are spoiled. Video games have gone soft.

Think Deeper”

Good morning, afternoon, or night, depending upon the time you are sitting down to read this. Or, standing up on a crowded bus, checking blogs on your iPhone or Blackberry or whatever new doohickey you all use these days. Maybe you’re at home, or a local library, or a coffee shop, enjoying the benefit of free wireless access.

See, the thing about the internet and the modern world, is that you never know who is going to be reading your content, as well as the context of their reading, and the individual themself. Really, its a very vulnerable thing, a blog. However, Avery and I are here to expose ourselves. We are going to try to tell our story, share our thoughts, our feelings, and most likely our frustrations as well. By reading this blog, I do not promise to provide insight, or wisdom. I do not promise it will have the usual dose of snark or sharp wit that keeps the masses entertained. Nor will I ever say an unfair criticism of another individual or group. (Which is not to be confused with fair criticism). So let me make it clear; this is a blog about video games, as an industry, as an art, and our progress in trying to make one. We are not video game critics, and while I will often make comments about trends or games individually, its not with the purpose of being cruel; of luring in readings and commenters by breaking down a piece of art that I had no part in making.

I merely want to make my intentions clear. So now that we know all the things I won’t be doing, what precisely will I be doing? I will be providing my opinion on games, trends in gaming, individuals in gaming, as well as general writing/story ideas, thoughts, tips, and reviews on books, movies, and games as they relate to a particular point. I will also probably be singing the praises of my partner, Avery Tingle, from time to time.

Moving on, now, to the actual point of this particular post. To introduce myself to the readers, let you know who I am and what precisely I am up to.

My username is jsnf. That is because my name is Jacob Steven Nicholson-Fitzgerald. I am the President and Co-Founder of Modern Magic Enterprises. I am also one of the creative writers, though that title may or may not be official. In any case, I am one of the forces behind Modern Magic’s current project, Flight 271, and the primary force behind the sequel, Survival Instinct.

I am nineteen years old, with a science fiction novel currently on the backburner while I work two part time jobs and get myself through college, majoring in Multimedia Design. With only one day a week off (which is usually spent with the girlfriend, which really doesn’t count as a day off), the majority of my posts will be written late at night; tonight’s 4 am draft tonight is evidence of that. So if you get lost in the cornucopia of words, don’t blame yourself.

Basic information covered, I think that’ll do for this post. I thank you for your patience and your time, and I hope you enjoy reading along with us as we try to find our way along this winding path.

-Jsnf

President/Co-Founder

Modern Magic Enterprises

“Think Deeper”

In my opinion, this is one of the toughest obstacles any entrepreneurial game developer will ever overcome. If you’re smart, you have a pretty good idea as to how you want your development process to flow (if you’re a genius, you have it all planned out, down to the slightest detail and contingency), but getting people to fill your positions can be a monster task, especially when you’re not paying people. Gone are the days when people will come in droves, gladly sacrificing their free time and falling on their knees for the privilege of having you lead them to greatness. In the age of multimillion dollar budgets and in which EA and the Sequel Rule All, the two most important words anyone looking to recruit are; “Prove it.”

I didn’t do much posting this time around; unlike previous attempts in this business, I had a pretty good idea as to what I wanted to accomplish (HINT HINT!!) so I knew where to go looking. It still blows me away that people post ads like; “I’m pretty sure this idea will make millions of dollars” and then bump their ads all to be damned when no one responds. My favorite has to go to one response I got; I prefer that people respond to my ads via email, rather than risk long, drawn-out negotiations in public. So I get this one email (hang on, lemme dig it up) from someone who says that s/he’s “happy that I’m making games.” They go on to say that they would “like to hire me to help them with their game.”

Now, DESPITE THE FACT they have a yahoo email address (usually an indication that they’re starting this out of their own home. Not a problem at all, because this person might have something plausible in mind) I’m actually getting a little excited because I could always use the extra income. But then they have to step over the line. Mr. He-Who-Will-Not-Be-Named goes on to tell me that they’re a “parent company of Nintendo”. But oh, wait, they’re smart; they anticipate my skepticism. They tell me that if I “don’t believe them” I am free to check out their MySpace Page!!!!

I can blog about it here, but needless to say, they didn’t get a response. I can’t believe that anyone would still be selling the same shit; oh, I work for insert-big-name-here, yet I have no concept art, no portfolio and not even a frikkin website to show. Why am I getting flamed all over the message boards?

My approach is a little different, but requires a lot of patience; I’m completely honest. I tell people right up front that I can’t afford to pay, that I’m working on a small, doable project with a relatively short dev time table, and I need these two slots filled. The most I can do to prove my professionalism is list a domain name I actually had to pay for that people can respond too.

In all my dealings, no matter how seemingly trivial, I try to be up front, and honest. Before you have your first deal, first design doc, or hell, even your first idea, all you have is your reputation.

I went into this armed with something I hadn’t had before. Usually, I tried to create a title that rivaled Grand Theft Auto even in its demo stage, and even writing the design document can be a daunting task. So I came up with a small idea that seemed both fun and doable on a budget, as well as stayed true to the vision of the company; I completed a design document before I went recruiting. I think it helped.

I had no responses in about a week and was about to throw in the towel when suddenly I started getting emails from very talented and driven people. I have to admit I breathed a sigh of relief.

And, a week later, I’ve begun pre-production.
Shan, my programmer, comes off as having done this before. He works fast and he seems to know what he’s talking about. He completed a technical design document inside of a day, so yeah, I’m happy to have him. Dylan comes off as the eager kid who just wants to make games, and I admit I grin a bit when I get one of his emails. He has quick turnaround time, he knows his stuff, and he’s ambitious as all hell; he and his friend are creating their own engine, called Omega.

Now, I’ll be honest. I’ve been at this for a long time. Creating your own game engine is probably the developer’s equivalent to scaling Mount Everest. I’ve come across tons of people who had the next big thing in mind and for whatever reason, it never got done. Then again…I’ve also known people who managed to complete their engine and are living pretty well right now. Guess it all depends on how badly you want it. This is part of why I enjoy meeting people, though; you never know where someone will be in ten years. It’ll be interesting to see where Dylan and Omega go.

But for now, that’s it. Honesty, so far, has paid off. There has been some slight revisions to the game but everything is going pretty well. Till next time..

 

Next week: A New Indie In This Industry

PART 1: THE DREAM

I walk into my building, a skyscraper that’s almost indistinguishable from the other skyscrapers in the immediate area. My building, complete with a large, heavy stone placard emblazoned with the name “Modern Magic Enterprises LTD” is a part of a business park, and there is a large circular fountain that decoratively shoots upwards as surrounding streams of water arc outwards. It’s a west coast summer; the skies are blue and it’s warm, but not unpleasant.
I think to myself, dressed in jeans, a T-shirt, and walking in between noon and one, that I probably paid too much for that cement sign in the front. Maybe it can double as my tombstone if this game doesn’t do as well as I hope.
I enter my building and am greeted by the receptionist my Human Resources department hired. Naturally, she’s hot. It’s my dream. Back off.
There are two new appointments waiting for me; a studio that wants to discuss bringing one of my visions to the silver screen and an outside idea to continue the story of one of my titles, a story that I personally brought to a close. I’m a little iffy on both; I do my films in CGI for a reason, and I fought like hell to retain creative control over my titles. The stories end the way I want them too; but I’m open to ideas.
I enter the elevator as people exit. I notice as they walk by, I don’t know who they are. I make a mental note to rectify that.
The elevator takes me up to the thirty-second floor, my home away from home, and I never cease to be amazed by what I see; an entire floor bustling with imaginative life. One section is devoted to concept art, another to 3D work, another to programming. I like having all of these departments on the same floor; I’d rather have everyone close, and able to access each other at a moment’s notice if necessary. Audio and motion capture is on another floor. Adam Fielding runs that department. Even now, he is the only person I am willing to do anything to secure.
I exchange pleasantries with everyone I pass, who calls me by my first name. Probably because I will fire and blacklist everyone who dares to call me by my last name; I am not my father.
I step into my corner office, where one corner wall allows me to overlook the entire city. I take a seat at the glass desk I didn’t pay so much for, open my Outlook, Word, and get the day started.

It’s almost happened.
I’ve come so close that I was actually searching for office space. I was leading a team of approximately twenty people—all of whom were working for free. I lead them to successfully create the demo to me-too action game I had planned. They were split into two teams; one worked on the animated film, the other the game, and I had publishers waiting for me to come through.
In hindsight, I don’t know how I screwed that one up, but I did.
In fact, I’ve failed more than four times at this venture. I have decided, at thirty-one, this will be my final attempt to raise my own multimedia firm.
I call it multimedia because game development is not the only avenue I want to pursue. My ambition is to tell great stories. I would like to do this through all mediums; film, video game, even comic books, but for now, I will focus on video games and animated movies.
I’ve been at this for more than ten years. My strengths are writing, foresight, and networking. I can learn anything, but this is where I’m at my best. I also have this indomitable mentality that will not accept defeat.
With the inviting models a lot of businesses now have, I don’t think the time has been better to try to break into the business on your own terms. So now, applying every hard-won piece of knowledge I’ve acquired over the years, transitioning from “the child of the digital age” to the “old man”, I will make my last attempt at founding my own business.

And to hold myself accountable, I’m going to blog every minute of it.
So if you’re young, starry-eyed, and ambitious, understand that what you’re attempting will require more work and dedication than you can possibly imagine. If you’ve been around the block a few times and see where I’m about to screw up, I’m always looking to improve, so feel free to comment or drop me a line. I hope you find this both educational and entertaining, and thanks for following along as I try, again, to do the damn-near impossible. If this becomes a guide for your own success, I was glad to help…but mostly, I’m hoping people who’re fortunate enough to be young and growing into this business will learn from my mistakes.

Thanks for reading. Keep me in your prayers!

My First Blog Entry;

Avery K. Tingle

Founder/CEO/Creative Director
Modern Magic Enterprises

Next Week: Recruiting