Life at our start-up: From bartender to game animator

We thought that our life at our start-up series had ended…but we thought wrong.

Today we want to introduce you to one of our team members whose story inspires us and proves that we are in the right industry with the right people.

Grigor is the oldest member of our team, some of us call him the 45 year old lost viking due to his aggressive (at first glance) nature. He is also the only one who’s married. He has four kids and has a BBQ at his house every Sunday.

lostvikings2ps-2

When he was 25 he was working as a bartender and had nothing to do with gaming or animation. One day one of his clients who was an employee at an advertising firm told Grigor that they use illustrator to create animated ads. Grigor asked him to show the software while the client was having a drink at the bar. He played around a little bit and right after the client left he decided that he was going to learn illustrator. In less than a year Grigor learned 3D max, Illustrator and number of other animation softwares.

Luckily he had an understanding and supportive wife (we know that a lot of  people in gamedev find it difficult to keep the work life balance). Grigor worked for the largest gaming company in the country and even did some freelancing for Russian gaming companies. Thankfully we got in touch with him through mutual friends and he agreed to be part of our team.

Grigor’s story is a true inspiration for us as some of our team members do not have game development or programming background. His story serves us as an example of how one can always turn the things around in life and career to pursue something that they are really passionate about. Although, at the beginning he worked with us as a freelancer, we saw him as a team member from day one. We are grateful to have such a person in our team. (And his Sunday grilled steaks are to die for).

Thanks Grig

Take a look at some of Grigor’s works for Pluxon.

He made the Wizzard Race trailer
He designed the Circuit Mode level:circuit_flanagan

And our favourite…the wizards taking a stroll down Abbey Road:

abbey road

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook to keep up with all updates.

Advertisements

They all have a story

Name: Flanagan
Race: Leprechaun
Age: 245 years
Height: 132 cm

Weight: 34 kg

20140708-222019-80419328.jpg

Flannagan is a free spirit, going and doing whatever he wishes to do. Everyone knows him as the sarcastic leprechaun, who only listens to himself.  He can destroy someone with mere words though he prefers to destroy others with powerful spells and enchantments. His true purpose however, is to win the Race and not for glory or fame.

When he was young, Flannagan found a worn out journal written eons ago by his ancestor.  It described what might be the essence of the magic in Certamen. His interest grew and the little scriptures were not enough to satisfy a curious little leprechaun. So he set out on an adventure to find the full story, maybe gain a few friends and enemies along the way, strengthen his magic, have a few laughs and of course, if fame and glory result happen to come his way, he will take that too. One more thing, if you want to get on his good side you should know that he will never decline a drink of strong Lernon Ale.

Name: Anabel
Race: Men
Age: 25
Height: 153 cm
Weight: 58 kg

20140708-224250-81770091.jpg

She discovered magic in herself when she was a child of only five years. Anabel exploited it to dangerous degrees, resulting in numerous wildfires and deadly lightning strikes. This was tolerated until she became of age. Anabel was sent out from her sheltered village at the ripe age of 16. She soon discovered that life was clearly not a fairytale. Females were looked down upon and mistrusted, especially ones that carried even a little speck of magic. It frightened and disgusted her when she witnessed what was done to a woman who accidentally let her magic loose while out in public.

In order to stay alive, she hid her powers, appearing as an ordinary person. There were times when she went hungry for days. Once she overheard the matrons discussing the famous Race and the participants. That day her life took a new turn and her priorities changed – she had to win the Race. She had to show them that women can also carry that power. She had to prove to everyone that she was the strongest of them all.

Name: Mad Joe
Race: Men (mix Lenær)
Age: 21
Height: 192 cm
Weight: 74 kg

20140708-222807-80887618.jpg

They called him strange, he snorted. They called him freaky, he grinned. They called him Mad, he knew he was.

From a young age, he and everyone else around him knew he was different, special. Everyone saw it, and everyone despised it. He began doing magic from this age and would create small storms with his tiny magical toddler fists, an unacceptable fate for the Royal Family of the Feth. As punishment for bursts of magic, they denied him many things. When none seemed to work, they took the most precious, his everything: his mother.

His name was Juo-Rin by birth. He became Mad Joe by fate.

A deadly assassin who has no human feelings. A killing machine who downs ale by the gallon every once in a while in an attempt to feel something…anything.

Some say he will win the Race and ravish in the feeling of winning and obtaining unbelievable power. Others claim that he has an assassination order.

Few know that the Race is just another obstacle for him.
No one, but him, knows that the Race is a chance for him to be able to hear the words his mother uttered before the last breath. It is his chance to be whole again.

Name: Marquis
Race: Unknown
Age: 47 (in human years)
Height: 174 cm
Weight: 86 kg

20140708-223133-81093778.jpg

An aspiring doctor at heart, Marquis is the famous troublemaker in the Land of Certamen. As his wish is to heal, he sneaks into houses and seeks out the patients before they or their guardians realize he was there. He sees this as his fate, after all he is not technically a human, a leprechaun or any other known race.

He is part bird part human, so naturally, he is feared by many. His dream is to change that, make people see that he is not a monster, just a soul who wants to help. He knows his healing hands could save countless lives. And the one and the only fast way to be noticed in Certamen is to win the Race.

Name: Emah Vuir
Race: Men
Age: 29
Height: 167
Weight: 52 kg

20140708-223314-81194034.jpg

As an archeologist, Emah always had a special interest in magic and its history, however there was little she could do but find archives and immerse herself in reading and research. But at the age of 27 quite unexpectedly she discovered that she herself carried the magic in her. Her goal became more real. She could see her way plainly as if it was drawn out in front of her.
She doesn’t need the gold or jewels or fame which are all promised to the winner of the race. She knows those material things don’t matter when there is a question of finding out the True History. That is the only jewel she needs.

Name: Louis Velmont
Race: Men
Age: 26
Height: 183cm
Weight: 74 kg

20140708-223444-81284721.jpg

Cold and collected, prideful and calculated. He has had this drilled into him since the day he volunteered to join the Orme Betta Guards. He despises magic to his very core, even though he himself carries magic in his blood. It was the only reason he was denied entry to the Alpha guards, who frequently went out to explore the Dark and Unknown lands of Certamen and beyond. He is not a man of many words, but a man of action. To prove his capability of fully controlling the magic, Louis Velmont decided to participate in the Wizzard Race, firmly believing that he will gain all the control needed along the way. He knows that he can and will be the first man to ever ride with the Alpha. The first man since the legendary Kithaer, who will be able to have full control of his magic.

Find out more about our magic story on Twitter and Facebook

Aside

First Round of Game Testing…

On Sunday, we decided that it was time to expose our still buggy game to innocent strangers at a nearby cafe.

First, we spotted the waitress.

As you can see the waitress was quite grateful for the break and enjoyed playing the game saying that it was fun. Though she said that as a casual gamer she found that there were not enough hints for the timestamp and massacre modes so it took her a little while to get the hang of it. Once she got into it she said that there was a lack of action in the massacre mode (though one of our team members stated that this was due to the AI bugs as the game is not yet complete).

20140629_120021

Then we saw another young woman who seemed like she needed a break from her studies. So we went over and her face lit up for the opportunity to procrastinate a little. She said that she thought that the circuit mode was very similar to Temple Run, but then she changed her mind. She also mentioned that it would help to have checkpoint notifications in Timestamp mode to know if you’ve reached the time limit and how to stay in the race. Also, the game started too suddenly for her and she didn’t get why. Also, similar to the waitress, she mentioned the lack of action and her need for speed…we think she just wanted to play the game for longer, but alas, her thesis on human trafficking was more important.

Student falls asleep in library

And of course, due to bugs, the game crashed and we had to wait a little while for our developer to fix it. In the meantime we spotted some dude who was reading “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. He was our next target.

How-to-win-friends

He found it a little bit challenging initially, then he got really into it…at one point we were worried for the team iPad as he was going a little bit crazy with the swiping and shaking it. We found out that it was because he thought the afterburner wasn’t enough so he thought by tapping the screen continually, this would make it better. (We’ve decided to change this and make it unlimited with a refill time). In massacre mode he mentioned that it was taking too long to actually cast a spell as it was taking a while for the wizard to take out his wand. Then he said he wanted a custom made wizard and he wanted to name him/her. THEN he said the track is too narrow. AND THEN he said that he needed more direction/instructions…I don’t think he won any friends in us…though he has influenced us to change a few things.

A 9 year old girl approached us and asked if she could play too. Her first comment was that she didn’t like Annabelle’s style…she actually liked the bugs in the game as she thought they were fun…if only the rest of the world thought that way, gamedev would be so much easier. Her favourite thing was casting spells and she was almost as enthusiastic as the previous guy. The tunnel in timestamp mode was a little scary for her and she said it was the most difficult game she’d ever played…but then again her favourite game is Pet Shop Story.

petshop

So, we came to the conclusion that we are going to:

 

– Change hints in our existing loading pages

– Change some minor details in Annabelle’s style

– Continue working on the AI to increase action

– Create checkpoint notifications (even though we were going to anyways)

 

Follow our progress on Twitter and Facebook.

World Cup vs. GameDev

Football, or sports in general, may not be the most common interest for gamers or game developers, but it is for Pluxon. We don’t just like it, we are absolutely obsessed with it. FYI, it is football and not soccer as some of our American team members like to call it. That statement especially holds true during the world cup.

 

Image

The World Cup is a great global event that is loved by millions of people. As a startup team, we have been both positively as well as negatively affected by it. Let’s talk about the negative side first. The thing is that World Cup has a total of 64 matches played and each lasts at least 90 minutes. That adds up to a total of 5760 minutes or 96 hours of completely watchable and exciting action in the course of a month. As a result, we have been very much distracted by football and the time spent on developing Wizzard Race has gone down…slightly.

Image

On the positive note the World Cup has brought our team even closer together. Although we all support different teams, we really enjoy watching the games together and having a fun discussion afterwards. And thank god we haven’t had a fight over a football game…yet

.

Image

 

Nevertheless, just like with video games, our preference in football varies from person to person. It is no surprise, as we are such an international bunch. Vahe (CEO at Pluxon) loves England which made it impossible for us to talk to him for two days after his team lost two consecutive games and were out of the tournament. Simone (Concept Art at Pluxon) is a great fan of Italy and keeps telling us how great Scuadra Azzura is. We are yet to witness that…and Pouya (3D artist) is a hardcore Iran fan and was convinced that his team played better than Argentina and only lost due to bad luck.

We also have people who are boycotting the world cup due to amount of human rights abuses which took place before, is taking place now and will continue to take place in Brazil. This team member is otherwise obsessed with Brazil and it’s culture, but when it comes to the World Cup, she even sits with her back to the screen while the other team members are watching it.

Regardless of all the unquestionable problems that the World Cup in Brazil has had, we hope that it will encourage people from all over the world to seek peace and unity as it definitely should. For all of you fellow game developers, we hope you enjoy the tournament and not let the world cup distract you from work too much as we will still need good video games when this is all over…

Image

And for those of you who are into sports video games, check out this article about the hottest World Cup 2014 games.

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

 

This week from Pluxon…

We’ve had an incredibly busy and pretty fun week.

We finally finalised our icon!

20140618-212054.jpg
(How awesome does Flanagan look?! Look at those beady eyes!)

Unfortunately we got so excited about finalising it that we missed a meeting, which brought us plummeting back down to earth. This was the first and last time that this will happen. We have to remember that although we want to celebrate our successes we have to be careful of messing up because of them. We had another meeting with a venture fund and we’re honestly not too sure how it went. Fingers crossed for another success. In terms of game development, we have been working hard to make the characters look human and so far this is what we have.

20140618-212313.jpg
Last but not least, we finally made it out as a team. Usually half of the team is up for a night out and the other half is busy working and we never quite manage to get the whole team together, but we did it!!! There were toasts, confessions and a lot of interesting dancing. We’re hoping to keep reminding ourselves that we have to make time for down time to be able to maintain productivity.

Here we are…before all the drinks…

20140618-212630.jpg
We’ll be doing weekly updates to keep everyone in the loop on our progress (or lack thereof).

Team Pluxon

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Work hard, Game hard

Here are some of our favourites right now…

Lilith

My favorite game right now is The Sims 3. I love the idea of being able to play the game with your own rules and create any story line you can think of, unimaginable mansions and different people. I have played all the versions of the game since it came out in 2000. I’ve seen the progress from game to game and it’s getting better with each new release, starting from the graphics, to the expanding human actions and interactions, locations and objects you can use to build your houses and decorate the interior.

sims3

Simone

The game I’m playing a lot these days is Mario Kart 8. I like this game because it is a racing game but completely different from the others (like Wizzard Race). First of all, it is possible to ruin years of friendships/relationships just because of a red shell, this game is highly competitive both against friends and against online players. It’s cool to use objects that you can find in other Nintendo games; you can dodge the turtle shells (Green shells) using Bananas from Donkey Kong games,for example,right now MK8 is one of the best games I ever played so far.

mariokart8

Armina

The game I am playing most at the moment is probably League of Legends. The reason I like it is because it has a lot of champions to choose from, the game style varies from game to game and so does the build I choose for the characters. The gameplay is nice and exciting and despite the typical collection of rather bad players who play in each game, I enjoy it a lot, especially when I play with friends.

league_of_legends

Annie

Plants vs. Zombies. I’m not a hardcore gamer and occasionally play around on my iPad when I’m in the mood and have been playing Plants vs. Zombies on and off for a while now. I like that I have to think about a strategy for each new level/game. Also, I like the combination of 3D AND 2D gameart as it feels a bit more like retrogaming and I really love to play the old school stuff.

pvsz

Nare

Clash of Clans is my current game of choice. The reason why I love this game is that it introduces you to a whole new world full of adventures. It includes strategizing during clan wars and everyday activities. Also, I love the fact that it’s a multiplayer game and I can play it with my friends.

clashofclans

Pouya

My favorite game at this time is World of Warcraft , it’s not just a game , it’s another world in which you can communicate with people, find friends, spend more than 10 hours a day and still be interested in everything in the game . I have seen many relationships which started in world of warcraft . Another reason that i like this game is because this game is endless.

worldofwarcraft

 

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Life at our startup: 5 “don’ts” for gaming startups

For the last couple of months, we’ve tried to give you updates on what we’ve been doing and our perspective on different aspects of a gaming startup. To conclude the series, we will address some things to avoid when you start. Please note that some of these mistakes were actually made by our team and some were fortunately bypassed.

 

1. Financial planning is important:

Some entrepreneurs think that once they receive the seed funding, they are then not required to do financial planning. There is also the myth that startups do not need to be disciplined and do financial planning. It is absolutely crucial that you plan every step of the way and If you don’t plan, you can pretty much expect to fail. Luckily, we figured this one out earlier on but some damage was already done.

Image

2.  Choose the company or product name wisely.

Remember, Facebook will not allow you to change the company/product page name after you have more than 200 likes. In the beginning of March we started our social media marketing and in about a month we had acquired more than 400 likes on Facebook. A month and a week in,  we realized that we need to change the name of our Facebook page. We got in touch with facebook three times, asking them to change the name of our page. Unfortunately, it seems that Facebook doesn’t have a customer complaints service so we got in touch with them on the topic of advertising, as we were advised that this would be the quickest way to get a response. This proved to be a wrong solution to the problem, since Facebook is very slow and got in touch with us until a month after we had initially gotten in touch with them. Eventually we had to go through the list of Facebook members who’d liked our page, contact them and ask them to unlike the page for a day. We brought down the number of likes down to 200, changed the name and asked everyone to like the page back. In the process we lost over 150 followers. And that, my friends, is a horrible feeling!

Image


3. Stop thinking about strategies and tactics, act!

It is very easy to sit down with the management team and discuss marketing strategies. Hundreds of sheets of paper and tons of ink can be used to draw diagrams, write down tools and gather resources to start promotion. The truth is none of this matters unless you act. Instead of going through a vast number of marketing tools you need to choose the ones that are effective and more importantly you have the skills to deal with, everything else will move forward on its own.

Image

4. Team building is important but don’t waste your whole time on it

As with any other startup we have worked tirelessly to bring in the best professionals and people to our company. During the process we realized that bringing in new employees can be very time consuming and you have to make sure that you have the time and the resources to . At the same time, don’t forget that team building is a non-ending process and you should never stop looking for the best talent.

Image

5. Don’t announce a Launch date if you have doubts

Game developers understand that even after completing the initial project, lots of changes will be made. All of us, game devs, strive to create that unique and perfect game and that is why sometimes we delay the launch to make changes, but remember the customer doesn’t understand this and if you have promised something to consumers you have to deliver. Thus be careful with launch dates, relax and do your best to deliver the best product.

Image

Please note that these are only some of the mistakes we’ve made or things we have realized that we could have done better. Please tell us about mistakes and failures that you have made, as we want to learn from you and also provide useful guidance for future gamedevs so they don’t repeat our mistakes. Here is another great guide on things to avoid when making a mobile app.

 

Pluxon Team

GameDev Unite

 

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

 

Every child has the right to play…video games

Article 31 – United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child

‘Every child has the right to relax, play and take part in a wide range of cultural and artistic activities’

Many critics argue that video games are bad for children. Though there are others who are avid supporters of video games and its importance in the development of a child. Many games are especially designed to develop certain skills; strategy, math, rational and critical thinking and so on. Gabe Zichermann argues that it strengthens children’s decision making skills and gives them impressive multi-tasking skills which go beyond hand-eye coordination.

Some parents of kids with Attention Deficit Disorder have even said that their kids could only focus on video games for a long period of time and nothing else. This has the potential to help kids concentrate on other things through video games, for example with a proliferation of games, there are many educational games targeted at children which can assist them with their school work. Yet, Dr. Christopher Lucas from NYU has stated that it doesn’t teach kids the right kind of attention skills. The debate on whether video games are good or bad for kids continues…

As mentioned by some of our team members, once upon a time, playing video games meant being at home, with a controller attached to a console attached to a TV.

20140601-221840.jpg

Nowadays, video games can be played in many different ways, the Wii was an innovation in motion sensing through a controller, which wasn’t attached to a console, so it gave you freedom of movement. The Kinect was a step up, as you can use your whole body to play games rather than through a controller.

20140601-221942.jpg

Yet, the most popular platform for gaming is mobile phones. Almost everyone in the developed and emerging world has a smart phone, on which millions of apps can be downloaded. There are thousands of games catered for different interests which has contributed to the development of mobile gaming. It is easily accessible and easily affordable. This is why many parents download suitable apps for their children to play on their phones and tablets and many game developers make their games specifically for this market.

20140601-222124.jpg

On international children’s day, we would like to say that we believe that every child has the right to play and we hope that every child will have access to video games suitable for them to aid them in their development.

20140601-222712.jpg

We hope that children will enjoy playing Wizzard Race!

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Life at our startup: Sketching the Dream

For as long as I can remember I have always been drawing, probably from the very day I learned to hold a pencil. As a kid I had two main sources of inspiration: Batman and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and I would create scenarios and draw the characters all the time. When I was 4-5, my older brother showed me how to play Super Mario Bros and Street Fighter 2 and suddenly I had more inspiration and began to draw the characters from these games too. But I was still looking for more and wanted to create my own personalities and characters. Growing up, at some point, I discovered comics and fell in love with them! At the age of 16 I decided that I wanted to become a comic writer, and after finishing the School of Art and Graphic Design, I entered the Academy of Comics in Turin; and I have to say that playing video games has helped me a lot in designing new characters for my comics.

When I was little, playing a video game meant being at home, sitting on a couch or the floor, with a console attached to the TV and a controller in my hand. Then the handheld devices came, but they were still for serious gamers and not everyone had them. Nowadays games are integrated into everyone’s phones and tablets and we use them every day. There are millions of casual gamers now, with various preferences. This gives independent game developers a huge opportunity to enter the market, since there is demand for all kinds of games. But it also means a lot of competition.

As video games have always been a part of my life I always kept an eye on opportunities to enter the industry. I recently saw a competition announcement on social media networks; a team called Pluxon had an open call for designers and artists from all over the world, and after reading the brief, I decided to give it a try. I had never heard of Pluxon and because of this I was even more excited to take part in the competition, as I thought that if I was to win I would be part of a developing team and could have an impact on the industry of mobile app games. But honestly, I was not expecting to win and it was the best surprise for me when I received the email from the Pluxon team! I can say that a childhood dream of mine has come true: I am working as one of the game designers in a great team and I feel like I am already part of the family. I couldn’t be happier.

20140525-133505.jpg

From a young age I have continously looked for inspiration. When I was young I was inspired mostly by Akira Toryama, Eiichiro Oda and Ken Sugimori. I still observe the way they draw, because they always find a way to improve their skills. I am inspired by Japanese animated movies, Japanese and American comics, and video games. I always buy the latest issues of comics and watch the latest news about video games on the internet and in specialized magazines. I do a lot of research about games I like as I want to know everything about the artists and the whole team that worked on them. I hope that one day kids will be looking at my drawings and researching my drawing style.

20140525-133214.jpg

My advice to anyone who wants to get experience in the field would be to always keep a pencil and a piece of paper on hand. Draw all the time. It’s really hard to find a job as a comic writer, cartoonist or character designer, but my advice is to never give up and most of all believe in yourself even when nobody else does.

Simone a.k.a Adam
Concept artist at Pluxon

20140525-134733.jpg

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook