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The BeautiFun Team Stories - Pol Urós (Programmer) Part II

By : arie cell
Pol is not currently working on BeautiFun Games. However, he's an awesome guy and he's still our friend, so here's his story for you to read.

Click to read part I of this interview.

In this second turn of the interview, as it is usual in the series, Pol talks about his professional story.

Pol: When I was at high school I aspired to be part of the development process of a videogame. Programming is something I have always been interested in, and on the other hand I'm really bad at drawing. So I chose to study a Videogame Development Masters Degree after finishing my Bachelor in Computer Science. There I met Kevin, Aniol and Lourdes, with whom I founded BeautiFun Games.

Jesús: About the Masters, what was the most important stuff you learned there? Did you studied anything related to game development before, during your degree?

P: I had learned a considerable amount of stuff on game development during my degree, thanks to a subject that was focused on that matter, by chance the teacher was also the Masters director. They taught us how to create a game engine using low level APIs, like DirectX and OpenGL. That was useful to understand how things worked from the inside, but not so convenient if we wanted to create and publish our own games in around six months. Now most people use third-party engines, like Unity, Unreal Engine, GameMaker, etc. Perhaps the most important experience I carry on from the course was to have met really enthusiastic and hard-working people, and of course having released a full game! The Creature was the result of a lot of effort from Kevin as well as the rest of our team.

J: What can you tell me about The Creature?

P: The game was very complete, with twenty levels, a lot of features, several final bosses, secrets, also we implemented a mechanism in which you could unlock a parallel level as you progressed... I'm quite proud of it.

We also had problems during the project, since one of our team members decided to give up and abandoned the Master, and consequently the project, just when the final months of the development were starting. So we were only two programmers left, David Gallardo and me, we both became very good friends. Kevin, aside of designing the game, also did character design, and also we had Andreu Farré and Lluc Romaní (who also found a job before finishing the project) that were modelers. I remember the last day of the project, when we were due to deliver the alpha version of the game. I went to bed at 11 in the morning! It was quite simple, if I didn't finish the project nobody would do, so I slept 4 hours and then went to class to showcase the work...I almost fell asleep that afternoon. When I look at the game now, have to say it has aged quite well, but will always have the limitations of being a students project.

J: How did you experience the transition from the Masters Degree to kickstart BeautiFun Games?

P: After the Master, we started having meetings between several students with the intention of creating a game, this was after doing a first prototype that had potential but needed more dedication, then Aniol came up with the idea of using his savings to create a studio and turn our passion into paid work. As for the rest of the team, for me that movement was kind of surprising, but not so much, since I knew Aniol was a great poker and Magic player. I was following his progresses and knew he had a remarkable success in both worlds. I was also playing Magic and decided to try my luck in the poker scene and see how much I could make too. So I was playing regularly during one year, and especially very hard for one month. The result after all were around 10.000 euros. It was engaging since I started from the bottom with no investment at all, and step by step I saw how I was rising more money only with my effort. But once I made those 10.000 I thought it was enough for me, it took a lot of time and I didn't wanted to keep doing that for the rest of my life. So I focused completely on game programming.

J: And when you started BeautiFun, do you remember how the idea of Nihilumbra emerged?

P: I remember Kevin sit down with us one day and presented the idea of developing a game for mobile devices, something that was more mature than everything that can be found on the market at the time. Something that had nothing to do with the casual Angry Birds model everybody was trying to imitate. At the time (early 2011) there was nothing similar on mobile. We all agreed and then we embarked on a really hard but thriving adventure, the game took us significantly more time than we expected to be finished. I remember we were really tired after fourteen months of development, Aniol worked many days until really late in the morning, testing the game again and again. We wanted to polish it to the last detail.  

J: Now I would like to know something about your day to day routine, how do you work best?

P: I believe my case is not very common in this business, I use to work some days at home, especially when I need to focus on something that depends exclusively on myself, and also I concentrate much more when I'm alone. Other days I go to the office because I need to work hand to hand with another members of the team, or when we have meetings and we talk about common important issues.

J: What have you learned during this first years in the industry?

P: The most important thing I have learned, and perhaps the most obvious one, is teamwork. Working in a team is a technical challenge, but it also demands from you to have a high degree of empathy towards others. In the end we all are here to make great games that can allow us to earn enough money to make a living out of it. If someday we get rich it would be great, but that is not the main goal here.  

J: Can you tell us some details about the complexity in the programming when you are working in a team?

P: I try to put special attention in creating a code that will be as clear as possible for others to understand. Also, as our projects are more directed by the artistic and design aspect than the purely technical aspect, we try to make tools for the designers and artists to use during the development. In this way we put a lot of effort in creating those tools, but it pays off, since they don't need any technical knowledge and can start doing their job faster.

J: I would like to know what are the things you like the most about the other members of the team.

P: Aniol is a very straightforward guy. When he says things to others he goes right to the point, that's something good because he know what he wants to say. Also he is a great programmer.

Kevin has a lot of good ideas, he is always thinking about new ways to improve our games design, and also how to make our life easier by writing a lot of useful documentation. In addition, he is always supervising our progresses to see if we are doing things as he tought they should in accordance with the design document.

Lourdes helps us to focus, and he is always attentive to how we organize things, when something is not working well she is the first who goes out and try to put some order acting as a mediator.

Marcos is a really good programmer, he has adapted really fast to the rhythm of the rest of team. Is very active and interested in how to learn more and more things about programming in general, and to improve our project in particular.

Jordi is really talented, and he's working very hard in Megamagic character designs. He complements Lourdes' work perfectly. 

Jesús is a very motivated and passionated guy, he wants to learn a lot and always he's proposing changes and improvements to our team.

J: What would be a good and a bad attribute of yourself?

P: A remarkable flaw of mine is that I use to feel really bad and frustrated when things don't come out as I expected. And a virtue is that I'm quite calm, very much able to think everything in order to find the best solution, also I use to inspire this calmness in the people around me when problems emerge. 

J: And finally, what can you tell us about Megamagic?

P: I have to say I love the project, perhaps it's a bit ambitious for our small team, but we are all more experienced than when we started and also love challenges. The characters are looking great, very emphatic, and about the gameplay, I believe all the fans of the RPG and strategy genres will thoroughly enjoy it. I'm looking forward to see how it evolves and what people thinks about it.

You can get in touch with Pol on Twitter, he is @daiflys

The BeautiFun Team Stories - Pol Urós (Programmer) - Part I / II

By : arie cell
Pol is not currently working on BeautiFun Games. However, he's an awesome guy and he's still our friend, so here's his story for you to read.

This week we sit down with Pol, another of the four BeautiFun Games founders, to talk about his life and career as a gamer and also as game programmer. Welcome and hope you enjoy.

Jesús Fabre: How it all started?

Pol Urós: I love games since I was a really young kid. Up to the point that I wanted to create them even before I knew how they were made. Didn't know in which position I should aspire to work at, but later in High School I discovered I was good at Maths, Algebra and Physics, while, on the other hand, I was disastrous with with all things art-related. So I decided I wanted to be a programmer (I also enjoy to give some hints and feedback on game design issues to the team here at BeautiFun, though). Ultimately, that was the motivation to start studying Computer Science.

When I was a kid, I also remember how badly I felt when I asked a Nintendo 64 for Christmas and the Three Wise Men forgot aboutit, until they brought it year later. I remember I didn't ask them for anything else, only that, such a traumatic disappointment! To say the truth, I think my parents were a bit worried when they saw how much time I spent with games during my childhood. When I started my studies, they didn't truly believe game development was going to be something I could make a living of... but it slowly changed when they started seeing how big this industry is.

The first console I had was a portable one, more concretely a Game Boy, the classic white and thick model, on which I remember having invested neverending hours playing with Super Mario Land 1 and 3. I also played a lot the first Pokémon, up the extent that the cartridge's battery ended up draining. So I lost my savegame with all the Pokemons in the team at maximum level. Schoolmates told me I was the best player around, but it was not a matter of skill, but dedication and steadiness. Loved the stats and leveling system, also how to customize the attacks in order to find the ones that suit your character the best.

J: If it was during school season, I wonder how things were when holidays came.

P: I spent long summers with a Super Nintendo at my uncle's place, in a small village close to Barcelona called Sant Estevede Sesrovires. I have fond memories of Super Bomberman, a game with a great campaign, but what really shined on its own there was its four-people battle mode! I loved U.N. Squadron, a game so difficult that my uncle and me ended memorizing each and every pixel until we beated it. Remarkable games were also Aladdin, Looney Tunes and Magical Quest: Starring Mickey Mouse. But aside of arcade and platform games, I was a hardcore fan of RPG with deep stories like Terranigma, Tales of Phantasia, Secret of Evermore, Illusion of Time and Secret of Mana.

But if there is a gaming platform that has truly left a mark on me, it has been Nintendo 64. When I finally had it in my hands, together with The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, it marked a watershed in the way I saw games could deliver real magic, allowing me to enter immersive fantasy worlds and defy my logic with really intricate puzzles. I came back from school with the one and only goal of playing so hard I could get to the next dungeon. Until one day I ended it and I was so sad, perhaps this is a bit weird, but I hardly could cope with the idea of knowing there was nothing new to see in that game. It wasn't until I played TLOZ: OOT Master Quest when I got the chance to somehow relive that feeling, but I got stucked in the third dungeon. There was no way to progress for me, and at the same time I prohibited myself to look into guides, I wanted to solve the riddles by myself.

J: Games were pretty hard at the time, for how long did you keep that "all by myself" policy?

P: Well, later on, I started to use guides with games like the ones from Final Fantasy series, but in general I always tried to beat the games the hard way, without extra help, the feeling of satisfaction is much more intense, even if you didn't get to the end of the game, you know that everything you accomplished is only thanks to your own effort, and that feeling was (and still is) priceless.

J: Could you tell me more about your experiences with the Nintendo 64?

P: One of the best memories I keep about the N64, comes from the time when I played Mario 64 along with my father, who was a die-hard fan of 3D movies (as Toy Story, I remember it was the big thing at the time), for him it was unbelievable to see that world in movement. It was like interacting inside one of those movies worlds. I cannot forget to mention two great shooters, Goldeneye 007 and Duke Nukem 64 also a fighting game, Fighters Destiny, loved to play those games with my friends. For a more indivualistic experience aside of Zelda games, Quest 64 (Holy Magic Century is the name of the european version of the game) was another RPG I rented for innumerous times (I'm sure I could have bought the original game with all that money).

J: We talked about consoles, but now you play mostly PC games. When and how that started?

P: I never had a PC until I entered the University, before that I always had a Mac since my father was a Mac lover. He works in graphic design and I always inherited his machine when it was getting outdated. Due to this, I learned English by playing Mac games, at the time it was really strange to find a Spanish translation available for a Mac game. Monkey Island, Indiana Jones and The Fate of Atlantis were two of those.

So when I entered the University I started using only the PC to both program and play games, I think is the best choice. I didn't abandon game consoles, had the Gamecube and the Wii, but they will never substitute the PC as a gaming platform. I love RPG, MMORPG, MOBA and strategy games. Some of my favourites are LoL, World of Warcraft, and I have always been a huge fan of Blizzard games. In Diablo II I played a lot with friends, shared our discoveries in the game, in Starcraft 2 reached Diamond league, now I'm starting to play Hearthstone (that looks fenomenal by the way)... I remember my love for Blizzard started in the early nineties, when I started playing a Warcraft demo from a CD included with a Mac Magazine my father had bought. That demo consisted of only two levels, but I ended playing them over and over, in all the possible ways you can ever imagine.

J: To end this first part of the interview. As a gamer and a developer, what do you think about the evolution of game industry? Is there something that worries you at the moment?

P: Nowadays I have some friends who talk to me kind of worried about Free to Play games and how successful this model is becoming in contrast with the traditional one where you have a to pay only once for a game and then get the full experience. I don't see Freemium model as evil, it's simply other way to do things. Certainly is not the kind of model I want to work on as a developer at the moment though, but I respect as long as it is being well done and the player is respected (in addition, i play a lot of free to play games! Hearthstone being one of them). In the end, I feel it's good to have different models trying to make their way in the industry, gamers will have more choices and each will end up choosing the one that best fit to them.

J: I believe freemium games are, among other things, a response from the industry to avoid piracy and maximize revenues. Even with some of them, such as Clash of Clans and Candy Crush Saga, we can see how many people really play games, usually much more than official sales figures say.

P: Well, you cannot pirate them in the traditional way, but there are ways to "hack" them and artificially modify some accounts to have super-high stats (some of them thanks to items you normally have to pay for) or simply making fake inapp purchases, so in the end the game will be unfair to the ones who are playing in a correct way. But i also think that this "hacks" are going to slowly dissapear cause the experience for the ones who pay is not fair, and i can see companies investing in security to avoid this scenarios.

J: Yes, recently I read Rockstar punished this behaviour in GTA Online. There were even players who made real money out of their hacks.

P: I remember Kevin telling us a really bizarre situation: In GTA Online, a user bought game money with real money, and other user stole it from him in the middle of the game. As it was an assault, in the middle of the street. There was a big controversy surrounding this kind of situations.

Continues in Part II.

You can get in touch with Pol on Twitter, he is @daiflys

Other interviews:
Aniol Alcaraz (Producer and programmer)

BeautiFun Weekly: News and Discoveries Ep.7

By : arie cell

Nihilumbra available at Gaming For Good.

Now you can get Nihilumbra (and also the great Spanish indie Unepic) at Gaming For Good An Athene's initiative where all the money from sold games goes directly to the NGO Save the Children!

Ernesto, a different RPG, will get a commercial release.

Back in December I had the chance to play Daniel Benmergui's Storyteller, a game where your goal is to freely craft your own stories, only limited by having a certain set of characters and objects that you should handle in order to reach a conclusion. Definitely Storytelling has a lot of potential, it's quite innovative, but also very complex from the development side. Daniel is working really hard create a streamlined experience through the different situations that player has to face. Recently Daniel announced on Storyteller's webpage:
"It happened that recently I decided to take a week to make a small game and thus "Ernesto RPG" was born. After releasing it into the wild, I realized that there might be upsides to turning it into a tiny commercial game:

It will take my designer mind off of Storyteller for a while, allowing me to go back to it from a different perspective.

Releasing commercially means Ernesto will have to go through the same releasing pipeline that Storyteller will have to go through; by then, I will be more experienced. Ernesto reminded me how I felt when I started with Storyteller.

I have been in a very good mood since I started it."
Ernesto is Daniel's side project, a free pixelated click-based RPG where you guide the destiny of an explorer through dungeons filled with unexpected dangers, but also with power-ups to help you to survive. The game is pretty addictive, and Daniel is improving it up to the point he said it will be released commercially. Give it a chance if you have some free time, is really addicting!

Pokemon Evoas. A promising fan-made Pokémon Game.

From now and then we see some fan-made games based on very well known franchises. Today we have Pokémon Evoas, as the author, th3sharkk says:
"Evoas makes a lot of changes to the standard pokemon gameplay formula, with a focus on making battles more strategic and exciting."
The game is not only using the trademark Pokémon, it also takes art and sound assets from it. So that means Nintendo may take down the project any time... let's see. Meanwhile you can give it a try here.

Vía @truguers

Watermelon Games' RPB Project Y due to release in March 2014.

If you haven't heard about Watermelon Games, maybe if I tell you about Pier Solar it would be more familiar to you. The Canadian studio is now about to release their next title for the Sega Mega Drive, under the name Project Y there are lots of passion from developers and also many fans, who invested and helped to shape the game into its present form. The gameplay is a mixture between a Beat'em all with RPG elements (what they call an RPB). Recently has been some controversy since some people accused them of getting too much inspiration from Streets of Rage, but they quickly denied such suppositions. They said the influences on Project Y were very diverse and they aren't going after cloning any classic title.

Here is the game context, taken from the game's site:

"ProjectY takes place in a post-apocalyptic world, set in an Asian high-tech metropolis. The last survivors of the nuclear war are divided into several classes, where the most powerful have the others by the balls. This has divided the governing bodies into several fractions, where ethnic mafias and a corrupt corporation are just a few of them! As you can see, this story is filled with many possible scenarios. It will demand lots of exploring and several playthroughs to get everything out of it."

Impressive concept arts released after WARHAMMER: Age of Reckoning gets closed.

Sadly Warhammer Online servers were shutdown last December 18th, slightly more than five years left many gamers with a deep feeling of losing. As a tribute, Youtube user warhammerbp has created this amazing video, where you can contemplate its huge worlds, majestic creatures, and massive battles.

Also, one of the game artists called daaken, who worked on the title since 2007, posted many of the artworks he did for the game on his website, you can find them here:

Random stuff of the week:
Take it as a reward for reaching to the end of the post.

Vía @AniolAlcaraz

Here you can check out our previous issue of BeautiFun Weekly: News and Discoveries.

The BeautiFun Team Stories - Aniol Alcaraz (Producer and programmer) - Part II / II

By : arie cell

Link to Part I/II.

Jesús: How do you see the game industry at the moment in relation to the kind of games we are making at BeautiFun Games?

Aniol: About the videogame industry, I have to say at the beginning we were a bit skeptical about how successfully commercial an indie game could be. Everyone was talking about casual and social gaming for mobile and Facebook, but after our experience with Nihilumbra (that's making a game we would love to play as traditional videogame players), things changed very favorably! Now we trust that keeping our efforts and passion, we can make our own road as part of this vibrant indie scene.

J: Nowadays, BeautiFun Games has grown and added three members more, so it almost doubled its size since it was funded, back in early 2011. How those changes have affected your roles at the company and what are the biggest challenges you faced?

A: I started to work as a producer without noticing that "producer" was the name for that kind of task. Focused on coordinating everyone's work so we all can get all done with the least possible delay. I also make sure that the result has the level of quality needed. More than order "what" we have to do, my main task is about the "how" we have to do it and what to change in order to get it on time.

About challenges, as programmer, I think one of the most difficult situations we had to face happened while developing Nihilumbra. Firstly getting used to work with the tech capabilities of a cellphone, since we couldn't read the textures from scenarios pixel by pixel, we had to sort-of invent a method using tables in RAM memory. After this issue was solved, we had to program the game physics and also create a realistic "painting effect" when the player touched the screen.  The painting effect was specially tricky, since we had to recur to use polygons to represent paint stains, also those polygons had to be small enough in a way when the user is painting close to any surface border, there won't be any stain "half floating" where that border ends. Something curious that not many people know is that we had to add a limit to the amount of painting you had in the game. The purpose of this feature was to avoid a potential performance slowdown if the player started painting -filling with polygons- on all the surface available.

A: Surely we could have chosen an easier path to go and try to avoid facing those challenges, but in the end we followed the hard path since we believed that those features were sort of unique and nobody had technically created such experience with a touching device until that moment. In addition, the gameplay demanded it and it made full sense to all of us. Finally, we got our effort rewarded with good sales, and it was not only because of the technical achievements in the game, I believe it was thanks to the combination of great art, level design and narrative.

J: Aniol explained me some concrete dares he and the other two programmers in the team (Pol and Suey) had to solve, but trying to go for a more general question regarding programming, I ask him what part he loves the most of this side of his work.

A: I specially enjoy the starting and closing of projects. To create a solid technical base, and then polishing the details during last weeks of the development.

J: Can you go a bit into detail about what it means to create a solid technical base?

A: A videogame project is subject to many changes, that means you may need to adapt the implementation of some parts of the game depending on the variable needs of an artist, the game designer or even the musician. So to try to diminish the negative impact those changes have, as a programmer you have to code in a very tricky and strategic way with the goal of making your code as reusable as possible. This hability is very important here at BeautiFun Games, because our projects main direction are driven by the artists and designers, more than the programmers.

J: About Nihilumbra, is there an impressive moment for you when you look back at the first months after launch?

A: We received messages from people telling it was the best iOS game they ever played, that was mind-blowing. Also we got great comments about the PC version, something amazing who nobody expected was a fanart by a Russian fan called "~Nemesis~fierce", it mixes both universes from Nihilumbra and Journey! It is been a true honor to be compared with ThatGameCompany's masterpiece.

We try to leave a mark in gamers, like those movies you remember for a long time, if we achieve that, that will be a success.

J: I would also like to know how did you (the four funding members) met each other?

A: About Pol, as I explained before, I met him before thanks to our shared fondness for poker, but it was a coincidence that he also entered the same Videogame Development Course as me. In that same course I met Lourdes and Kevin... for the final project Pol went to work with Kevin's group and Lourdes was in the same working group as me. So it was only a matter of time until the core team of BeautiFun Games was born. 

J: Now you know the members of the team after a few years of hard work, I would like our fans to start knowing them too. So what is better than asking you about a good quality of each one?

A: Kevin always gets his way. That's not a bad thing, because I always put a lot of spokes on his wheels, and consequently we end up approving only the best of his ideas.

Pol is always making your day easier, he hasn't only good mood, he also knows when is the best time to use it. 

Suey works hard as hell, always running the extra mile to make a project go forward.

Lourdes is kind of a mother for everybody. I know it may seem weird to you, but its somehow like that. Aside of working really hard, she also takes care of the whole team. Something that makes her unique is that she is very versatile, working with the same passion on scenarios or an options menu.

Jordi is the fastests hand in the painting western! In a very short time he can draw something amazing.

And lastly you, Jesús, I think one of your best qualities is to be insistent and always wanting to get to the heart of each matter. I think that is a very good, since your job is to be like an explorer, somebody who stays alert about what we can do to spread the word out about our games and the studio, and at the same time putting an eye on the community to get feedback about how the world feels about us.

J: And what about your good and bad qualities?

A: I would say I work too much and also some people from the team tell me I have the bad habit of being tedious because I always remind them what is left to do. But I need to be like that, to try to establish a discipline that can be valid for everybody and some common rules in the team. This is the only way that, in the end, the processes will be streamlined. So my bad quality can be also my best one, since the purpose of that insistence is always to facilitate the work to others.

J: Before ending this interview, I don't want to miss the chance of asking what can you tell about our next game, Megamagic?

A: I can say we are going to showcase a few things about the game this March. Megamagic is nothing like Nihilumbra, well, somehow yes, since magic powers will be key. Gameplay-wise, it is going to be a mixture of action-RPG Zelda-like games and strategy mechanics... and also tons of awesome Magic! Won't be as dark and depressing as Nihilumbra, but we can warantee that the same "spirit" will somehow remain there. As it happened with Nihilumbra, we want to make the game accesible to all kinds of audiences. From the beginning, we will consider the casual and the hardcore gamer experience. Sorry, I cannot say many more things at the moment. 

J: How much involvement will have the community in Megamagic?

A: Nihilumbra was a closed title, and we don't discard a sequel at the moment. With Megamagic we are creating a world that we can expand in this and future games, so all the feedback we get along the development process will be used to try to improve the experience.

You can get in touch with Aniol on Twitter, he is @AniolAlcaraz

Other interviews:

The BeautiFun Team Stories - Aniol Alcaraz (Producer and programmer) - Part I / II

By : arie cell

Today we start a series of in-depth interviews called "The BeautiFun Team Stories" in which members of BeautiFun Games will be talking about their past, present and future from quite a personal perspective. Jesús Fabre, our community and PR guy, will be doing and publishing one of them per week. So lets start with Aniol Alcaraz, our producer and one of our programmers, talking about how BeautiFun Games started, back in 2011.

Aniol: At the beginning we were only four people, and our most important goal was developing Nihilumbra, so we put all our efforts in that task. We needed an extra artist so hired Freya Horn, and that new addition to the team changed a bit the rhythm of our daily work. Somedays she came to the office, where we commisioned her the tasks she had to do and the rest of the days she was drawing at her own art studio.

When Nihilumbra's development was in the final stages, we thought our workload was slowing down, but no! We needed to prepare all the marketing material, send out press releases, answer tons of emails, etc. It was a super busy time! Then we started to work on our new project, and in paralel we were porting Nihilumbra to other platforms. Now with the recent success on Steam Holiday Sales and having our next project Megamagic on track, we can say the studio is enjoying one of its best moments ever! We proved ourselves we can make a living out of our games, and that makes us really excited about what this 2014 holds for us!

Nihilumbra's BeautiFun Games team back in 2011
Jesús: To manage an indie studio is a very hard task, not only in financial terms, also when it comes about coordinating the work of several and very different people. All of this in the middle of an industry that's constantly changing. BeautiFun Games was funded in March 2011, but they didn't know if it could be profitable until now, almost three years later... 

A: Nihilumbra was expected to be finished in four months, but we didn't fully closed the project until the fourteenth! That was because we were unexperienced, but also its a proof of our philosophy as studio and an important factor that has brought us to be still here today: try to polish things to the maximum until we are truly satisfied with the result.

J: But, how to team up such a group of dedicated, self-exigent and hardworking people? Aniol explains me that, after finishing his videogame development Masters, he was really interested in creating something of his own, and eventually living out of it. So he went around to every classmate looking for the ones who also wanted to develop their own titles. Somehow he "recruited" a group of around fifteen students who met up each week to try to shape a game.

A: After some weeks of meetings, most people started to leave for several reasons. Ones found a job, others started to lose interest, and finally we were four people left, but still had the big problem that is the lack time to develop any full game with no money. Then I suggested I could invest my own savings to kickstart the studio. That phrase was something nobody was expecting, but as they gladly accepted, I did what I promised and in a month BeautiFun Games was born. Only four people composed the team: Pol, Kevin, Lourdes and me. We were quite lucky since we started seriously as studio once we had covered almost every position we needed, and also we were filled with lots of passion and dedication!

J: Aniol is now 28 years old, and Nihilumbra is the first commercial game with his name on the credits. Before that came to be, he did a Computer Science Degree and a Videogame Masters Degree. Something not many people know is that, during his Masters, he developed a prototype called "Once Upon a Night" along with Lourdes Nicolich (our art director and one of the studio founders) and also three other people, it was their final project.

A: "Once Upon a Night" was an ambitious project, clearly remember it was a hell of a work when we tried to close it. We used Ogre Engine, coding was done in C++, we had AI, shaders, I think they were too many new things to deal with at the same time! The main hurdle we faced during that project was the lack of coordination and timing. In addition, and as an advice to students that may be reading this, I would recommend everyone who is doing a game development course to always experiment with new ideas, and when it comes the time to create a full game, try to work on the features that can showcase your skills the better.

Also, one curious thing I discovered in that course was the role of the game designer and how important the design is as a discipline on its own. I clearly remember when Kevin (our writer and game designer) came up with a full design of a game he had been working at home, and that later became "The Creature".

While doing the MD course, one of the most important things I learned was how to technically polish a project and prepare it to reach the market. Also I enjoyed -aside of the game programming related subjects-, the 3D design and animation classes, in spite of not being my area. As programmer and producer it's always beneficial to know how this works in order to adapt yourself  in the best possible way to the particular difficulties that can emerge.

J: As our conversation evolves, I keep discovering more interesting things about Aniol's past that help me understanding his present. Now I wonder about his hobbies and how they could have influenced other aspects of his life, like his professional career. So lets keep going back in time and learn something about ... card games!

Source: Tiendaitaca.com

A: Since I was a very young kid I loved to play card games and board games. Was pretty good at one in particular called Magic, so started to participate in several qualifier tournaments for the World Cup. If you were good enough and got in, they flew you to the States to play with the best players worldwide, that was really a great experience! 

J: Researching on the web, I even found that Aniol was not only a card game player, he also contributed to create a board game along with other two friends (Joel Calafell and Omar Sagol) called "El Mundo de Águila Roja", that was inspired in a famous Spanish TV Series. After asking him, he explains me that, at the beginning, they were supposed only to playtest the game, but ended up making a new one instead. All thanks to their passion for Magic...

A: Then a few close friends noticed that some Magic players were jumping into Poker, and convinced me to try it along with them. The first thought that came to my mind was that negative and dark image we all have from movies of mafia guys smoky rooms. But I started reading some books and found out it could be done if I practiced a lot. So decided to try it seriously and after a few months our team was progressing quite well in the tournaments. Up to the point that we earned quite a good money and even found an sponsor that covered all the costs to be in the European Poker Series, live tournaments... so I kept playing until I started the videogame development Masters Degree.

Source: PKPQ.com
I want to remark that Poker is hard, you need lots of practice, and also enjoy playing it is a must if you want to win. I kept studying my Computer Science degree and playing Poker, until I finished my degree, and a bit later I decided I didn't want to play Poker for all my life, as wasn't enjoying as much as when I started and also didn't win or lose anything that year. In Magic, every now and then you can see new cards being released, but in Poker, in spite of being a deep and complex game, there was a point where it was too repetitive for me. So I started losing the enthusiasm, and in consequence decided it was better to quit and take on new challenges.

A: Challenges like videogame development. That said, the investment BeautiFun Games received was thanks to Aniol's success in Poker. But he strongly discourages anyone from following his path to fund their games.

I know it is hard to find funding for your game. You need to find out how to convince your potential investors to believe in your project and that, if they put money, its gonna make them get enough profits in return. Easy to say but hard to do, but never impossible, Aniol admits.

J: Next thing Aniol tells me is that he is not very aware of the decisions he took along his life, he always kept doing what he loved, and tried to do its best with the tools he had.

I cannot find the concrete reason why I decided to start studying Computer Science... As I loved games, I always loved computers too. When I was 13 or 14 years old (that's around 1999), I remember having developed a website where I posted game reviews. Also, due to my passion for videogames, I started to learn programming since my dream was to create my own game. I developed my own version of Mastermind, the problem was that I didn't know function parameters existed and it was quite harder than it could have been! -Aniol laughs- the programmers reading this surely will know how needlessly hard that was.

J: He recognizes to me that sometimes he starts projects that are too ambitious, being unaware about if he is gonna be able to finish them. But, in spite sometimes he can regret it, he always tries his best to finish what he starts and have something that he is proud of as result. Now I'm curious to know more about Aniol's gaming history. So I start asking him about how it started...

A: Videogames entered my life thanks to a Game Boy with two cartridges: Tetris and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2, both of them really good! I also had a Nintendo 64. I remember Super Mario 64 was one of the games I was more impressed with. I loved those 3D graphics and how fluid everything was handled on screen, even today the game keeps its charm unbelievably well. But if there is a game from my youth that left me the most memorable times, it undoubtedly is Super Smash Bros and its multiplayer mode. You can imagine how exciting and disputed every match was when I played with my friends, whom I also played Magic and Poker with. That was real rivalry!

Maybe, after the titles I said, you can think I was a big Nintendo fan, but not really! For example, I never had a Super Nintendo, since I was enjoying my Mega Drive. I remember playing Sonic games a lot, specially Sonic & Knuckles with Sonic 3 (by the way, at the office we still listen to Sonic music, Chemical Plant FTW!). Remember the originality and freshness of Dynamite Headdy or Streets of Rage with its amazing multiplayer. Also I had a PSX, where I played gems like Wipeout, with its amazing soundtrack that fits perfectly with the frantic gameplay and it's futuristic universe. More games I truly enjoyed are Final Fantasy VII, Tekken, I can tell you I like practically every game genre, as long as the game is well made!

J: How much influence those classics you played during childhood has on the games you are developing now?

A: My background as a gamer helps me a lot, makes it easier to visualize if something I program will work once added to the game. Also, like everyone, I have game ideas. Here at BeautiFun we listen to Kevin's (sometimes crazy) game ideas and then everyone of us adds his personal touch to the main purposal.

J: Curiously, Aniol is not the only Magic and Poker player in our team...

A: The first BeautiFun team member I met was Pol Urós, back at the university. We knew each other from Magic and Poker circles, since he was an amateur  player. He recognized me from a Magic website (recently Aniol had won the Spanish Magic championships) and one day he approached while I was at the faculty snack bar and we have a good friendship since then.

J: Is it something usual to do this transition from Magic to Poker?

Well, it is really not so usual. There are many other players who come from other games, like Chess, Backgammon, and for example, I remember that one of the best players back in the days was ElkY, who was really good at Starcraft. He liked Poker and started playing professionally, back then Poker was more profitable than games at the time, and also the skills were similar (high degrees of willpower and discipline). Now the egaming scene is much more important than it was 3 years ago and there are pro-gamers that can make a living out of it since the awards are much bigger. Playing Poker is not much different than playing a videogame professionally, you have to be very analytical and adapt to the other opponents, so it was attractive to professionals from other areas of gaming.

You can get in touch with Aniol on Twitter, he is @AniolAlcaraz

[The rest of this interview is available in Part II, where Aniol talks about the hardest technical challenges at Nihilumbra, and also will give us his feedback about the rest of the team and our future project, Megamagic.]

BeautiFun Weekly: News and Discoveries Ep.6

By : arie cell

Broken Age - Act 1 is out for backers!

Everybody freaked out when we saw the huge amount of cash that Tim Schafer got on his famous kickstarter campaign. Some people were extremely happy with the result, others were suspicious. Tim Schafer was like this:

But now finally we have the chance to try with our own hands and see with our own eyes what have been happening inside Double Fine. I can't imagine how hard must have been to carry the burden of having so many people expecting so much from your project. They had to do a great game, or get ready for the internet's punishment.
All this was in my mind when I started playing Broken Age a couple of days ago. And I fell in love with it in ten minutes. It's just beautiful. The dialogues are funny in that special Schafer way, and the plot seems really intriguing to me. It has a cute, cuddling, happy aesthetic with a somehow twisted and even creepy plot inside, something that reminds me a bit of Adventure Time (wich can only be good).

Right now I can't say anything deeper: I haven't played enough. But it's a game that my girlfriend is going to love as much as me, and that doesn't happen often. For god's sake, it's like watching a Disney movie. The good ones, I mean. I hope it has songs. That would be awesome.

Via @truguers

Grab it Magazine

Some weeks ago we got an email from Chris Stead, found ar Grab it Magazine, an iPad Magazine focused indie games and indie developers. I took my time to check it out and really found very useful information, also the information is showcased using quite stylized and intuitive interface. Also read more about interesting games like Simogo's Device 6 and République by Camuflaj and Logan. You can try the first issue for free and give your feedback to the editors.

Eggnogg: A Nidhogg parody

This week we saw the launching of Nidhogg, one of the most anticipated indie games in the last years, the game was shown for the first time in 2010 and also won the IGF Nuovo Award in 2011. With those precedents and being a cult favorite even before reaching the market, we can't get surprised to see this free parody by Madgarden we discovered thanks to IndieStatik. It is not exactly like the original, but it gives a similar vibe.

Objective Game Reviews

This week I discovered a site called Objective Game Reviews, it is full of sarcastic humor, you start seeing it when reading their About section. And then it goes on if you go reading the game reviews.
For years, gamers have called for reviews to be more objective. Every few months, there is some controversy about a new game that got a score that was too high or too low. Gamers blame the opinions of those who write reviews. Game journalists have their own ideas about what makes a game good or bad, and these ideas influence the score they give to games.  
Here at Objective Game Reviews, you can finally read a review without worrying about the opinion of the author. So, go ahead! Browse our reviews and discover a new game you will love!
Via @JesusFabre

Scorpion's Pride: A local Spanish soccer team anthem that may sound familiar to you.

What you are about to listen is the Orihuela Soccer Club Official Anthem, and maybe you will find out some similarities with Zelda Theme and also Castlevania SOTN Dance of Gold song. Surely it is pure coincidence, but for us its something worth to remark. This anthem sounds a bit game-ish!

Via @AniolAlcaraz

JAASS: Jordi's Acrobatic Art Style Showcase.

(Try to imagine what he can hold in his head when he is not working - on Megamagic -)

Via @truguers

Here you can check out our previous issue of BeautiFun Weekly: News and Discoveries.

BeautiFun Weekly: News and Discoveries Ep.5

By : arie cell

Daily Royale meets Nihilumbra

We start the New Year not only with renewed energies but also with memorable discounts. Repeating our best Nihilumbra discount to date with the 70% off deal you can enjoy at Daily Royale, the brand new platform kickstarted by the folks from Indie Royale. Consider the deal will be over in few hours or maybe less since the number of keys is limited (around 200 at the moment).

Cuphead, or how a run and gun videogame could have looked like in 1930s.

We cannot  deny about how much we loved the aesthetics from Cuphead. It's game mechanics rely on gun and run mixed with fighting, and the creators are the two brothers team StudioMDHR (Studio Moldenhauer). They are working hard to take us right to the cartoon animation series from the 1930s. As they told Joystiq, their main influences are the works from Fleischer Studios, "old Disney" and particularly artists like Mickey Mouse co-creator Ub Iwerks, Grim Natwick (Betty Boop) and Willard Bowsky (Popeye)). Late this year we will hopefully have the chance of playing Cuphead.

Via Kevin.


This platformer, developed Futurebeard, goes in the vein of Earthworm Jim and Wario Land evokes fun, cuteness and absurd humour in equal parts. I discovered it last month of August thanks to this TIGSource thread, and since then the game has constantly improved, now you can try for yourself thanks to its pre-alpha demo available on IndieDB.

Via Jesús

Internet Archive puts classic 70s and 80s games online.

"Internet Archive is a non-profit digital library offering free universal access to books, movies & music, as well as 376 billion archived web pages."

That is the current definition of Internet Archives, but it won't take too long until it will be updated to also describe they preserve digital copies of videogames too. From now, you can already enjoy a very respectable amount of titles from six of the first consoles thanks to an emulator. From Atari 2600 to SEGA SG-1000. Surely we will see more games and systems coming in the future.

Via Jesús

A tech demo that could revolutionize how FPS puzzlers can be in the future.

Objectively, when a team of students comes up with a proof of concept like this and the world reacts with half a million views of their video in three days, you can expect some important is going on. Recently we have seen FPS games experimenting with object resizing, like Steve Swink's Scale, but this technology goes a step further, since we not only can resize objects manually, it takes our distance to them into consideration (how big or small they are on the screen) to calculate the "new object physic properties" once you are manipulating it. We will keep an eye on Pillow Castle's Youtube channel, since they said some more videos will be published in the future as the development moves to full production.

Via Jesús

Music as a vehicle for creativity.
Have you ever wondered how important music is for an artist as a tool? it's not only useful to get inspiration from it, also to unleash its rage and free the contained emotions and frustrations... and ultimately, peace. Thanks to Jordi, our artist, for pointing us to this brief but intense piece of animation by David Besnier.

Via Jordi

Here you can check out our previous issue of BeautiFun Weekly: News and Discoveries.

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