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Untold Entertainment at Casual Connect Seattle 2012

The kind folks at the Flash Gaming Summit have invited me to speak at Casual Connect in Seattle. My topic is AS3/AIR to iOS in 157 Easy Steps. During the talk, i’ll be clearing up a few misconceptions. My hitlist of shocking revelations is as follows:

  1. You can target Apple’s iOS devices with Flash as your development platform.
  2. You can develop Flash content for Apple devices for free, without even purchasing Flash.
  3. You can do all of this without even owning a Mac (except for the very last step of the process).

The talk goes on to back up these wild claims. Attendees will leave with knowledge of the process of porting Flash content to iOS and Android using FlashDevelop, an open source Actionscript IDE.

If you’re attending Casual Connect, you’ll be thrilled to hear that Untold Entertainment will have the playable demo of Spellirium to show, as well as the alpha version of Head of the Gorgon, a charitable game which we’re publishing for developer Project Overboard.

About Spellirium

Spellirium

Spellirium

Spellirium is a point n’ click graphic adventure game, in the style of LucasArts classics like The Secret of Monkey Island. This genre is mashed up with the word puzzle genre, so Spellirium has players spelling words to defeat monsters and to discover secrets. The game takes place in a gorgeously rendered “trashpunk” world, where the world is rebuilt from the discarded garbage of the 21st century.

(Spellirium) just shot to the top of my “can’t wait to play” list. – Gamezebo.com

beyond gorgeous … gloriously grim and quirky. – JayIsGames.com

About Head of the Gorgon

Head of the Gorgon

Head of the Gorgon

This is a retelling of the myth of Perseus, the hero of Greek mythology who slew Medusa the gorgon, a snake-haired monster whose mere gaze could turn a man to stone. The game is refreshingly told in the style of ancient Grecian pottery. It’s a short, simple adventure that’s fully voiced by professional actors and comedians, with a dramatic orchestral score and sharp, funny dialogue. All proceeds from sales of the game will send at-risk Toronto youth to computer camp.

Both Spellirium and Head of the Gorgon are built on UGAGS, the Untold Graphic Adventure Game System, which powered the company’s break-out hit Sissy’s Magical Ponycorn Adventure. Send an email to book a meeting with Untold Entertainment’s president Ryan Henson Creighton at Casual Connect in Seattle: info (att) untoldentertainment (dott) com.

Untold Entertainment’s Work Nominated for a 2011 Digi Award

NextMEDIA has announced its list of 2011 Digi Awards Nominees. While our viral hit Sissy’s Magical Ponycorn Adventure was overlooked, Corus Entertainment placed in the Best Cross-Platform: Kids category with Babar and the Adventures of Badou. Untold Entertainment worked with Corus to develop a preschooler-friendly patterning game for the show’s website.

Babar and the Adventures of Badou

Congratulations to Corus. Our trunks are crossed for a win!

Sissy’s Magical IndieCade Adventure

Sissy’s Magical Ponycorn Adventure, the game i co-authored with my 5-year-old daughter Cassandra, was a finalist this year at IndieCade 2011. You’ve seen plenty of pictures from E3, GDC, Tokyo Game Show and other more well-known video game industry events, but what’s IndieCade like? Come with me – it’s my magical IndieCade adventure!

Ryan Henson Creighton of Untold Entertainment Inc. at IndieCade 2011

Our Arrival in LA-LA Land

IndieCade takes place in Culver City, a close suburb of Los Angeles California, the Most Horrible Place on Earth. i don’t care for it. Ever since getting dumped out of a cab at two in the morning somewhere in LA, and asking some nearby police officers to help point me towards my hotel, and being denied, i don’t much enjoy traveling there. Culver feels a little bit smaller and a little bit homier than LA proper, but it’s still carved up by vicious six-lane mini-highways threatening to Frogger you at every crossing.

i traveled to IndieCade with fellow indie game developer Michael Todd (@thegamedesigner), whose antics i hope you’ve been reading about on my Twitter account (@untoldent). In case you missed it, here’s a taste:

Michael Todd Goes to IndieCade

Michael Todd Goes to IndieCade

Michael Todd Goes to IndieCade

Good times.

Despite the chaos, Michael Todd managed to spot someone on the plane who was going to IndieCade as well, zeroing in on a guy who was playing SpaceChem on an iPad. That’s how we made friends with Matt from NVIDIA, who agreed to split a cab to Culver with us.

Michael Todd and Matt from NVIDIA

Michael Todd, looking like he’s going to set Matt from NVIDIA on fire.

Michael Todd and Matt from NVIDIA

Michael Todd, after setting Matt from NVIDIA on fire.

We stayed at the historic Culver Hotel, an early 20th century joint situated just up the street from the former MGM (now Sony) studios. Apparently Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr and Jack Haley used to whoop it up there while filming Showgirls.

Culver Hotel by Day

The Culver Hotel by day …

Culver Hotel by Night

… and by night.

Travel-weary and hungry, our first order of bidness was to beeline for the nearby In-N-Out Burger, which certain folks on Twitter can’t stop raving about. My hopes were high for what many were calling the best fast food burger in existence. My concierge told me to order a “double double, animal-style” from the secret menu. This being LA, i made absolutely sure that we were both referring to a burger.

In-N-Out Burger

My meal. Thankfully, my chASStity remained intact.

Of course, no Earthly burger could live up to that amount of hype. You couldn’t find a more pedestrian burger. And American cheese sucks. i took special note of the burger wrapper:

In-N-Out Burger

If the very best thing you can say about a burger is that it’s been wrapped in paper since 1948, you’ve got yourself a shitty burger. Here’s a list of other bullet points the restaurant could have printed on the wrapper:

Since 1948, In-N-Out Burgers have been

  • round
  • legal in 48 states
  • made from 100% stuff
  • found only at In-N-Out
  • edible

Aim high, burger joint. Aim high.

Spectacles, Testicles …

The night we arrived, IndieCade held its big awards show. It was much bigger than i expected it would be. The invite suggested we come dressed in “cocktail” attire. This was the best i could muster:

Ryan Henson Creighton suited up

i’m ready for my cocktail, Mr. DeMille.

Many of the other indies, being primal savages, managed to squeeze themselves into pants for the event (which is more than i think most of us hoped for). At the awards show, we were met with a bona fide red carpet entrance.

IndieCade Red Carpet

Jim and emmie McGinley

Jim and emmie McGinley from BigPants games were agog … but not as agog as they’d become when they won the Audience Choice Award for The Depths to Which I Sink a few days later.

You never really get to see a red carpet photo from the perspective of its intimidated subjects, so here you go:

IndieCade Photographers

Rob Manuel

G4TV’s Rob Manuel does his best impression of an Oreo.

Inside, the place was lit up like a Christmas tree. A … Chinese-lanterned Chinese Christmas tree from China.

IndieCade 2011 Awards

IndieCade assembled a list of Hollywood actors from geek-related movies and shows to present the awards, which must have seemed like a good idea at the time. Freaks and Geeks actor Samm Levine (famous also for his leading role in Showgirls) brought his A-material, including “programmers never shower” and “gamers live in their moms’ basements and masturbate a lot”. i mean, granted, but i’m sure there were one or two folks in the audience who resented being lumped in with the rest of us.

Samm Levine

i swear this guy’s been cryogenically frozen since his show got cancelled.

At one point, two young starlets joked that they should start making out at the podium. i could feel the room bristle uncomfortably. Know your audience, kids.

Ponycorns got a few unexpected shout-outs from the mic, and was nominated for the Community Impact award, but ultimately lost to Johann Sebastian Joust. But it’s an honour just to lose bitterly.

As the party drew on tipsily into the wee hours, more than a few people asked me where my daughter – my five-year-old daughter – was. i had no response. My Twitter pal Ian Bogost cooked up an appropriate comeback:

“Fuck if I know. She got trashed and went home with some 8 year old.”

The Lay of the Land

Aside from the Santa Monica-staged awards ceremony, IndieCade took place within a 3-block radius of our hotel. In the parking lot across the street, they’d erected some neat puzzle buildings designed by a local artist, whose nearby gallery hosted some of the finalists.

IndieCade Puzzle Building

IndieCade Puzzle Building

IndieCade Puzzle Building

They’re cool and all, but i’d hate to see the IKEA instructions.

One of the venues was the Ivy Substation, a local theatre:

IndieCade Ivy Substation

The park on the way to the Ivy had a really kickass climbing tree, if you’re into that sort of thing. i mention it in the off chance that you are:

Kickass tree

Most of the finalists’ games were on display at a nearby firehall which, to my surprise, continued to operate throughout the weekend.

IndieCade Fire Station

IndieCade Fire Station

In front of the fire hall, you can see people playing the cardboard box-based “real” game Ordnungswissenschaft.

IndieCade Fire Station

Alienware donated the equipment for the showcase. Somewhat unfairly, certain developers were assigned desktop machines with proper monitors, while others of us were assigned little 14 inch laptops. Ponycorns was squished on to one of these diminutive little screens, and shared a cramped table with an interactive geology textbook. “HELL naw,” said i, and grabbed an extra table. Then i proceeded to pimp my table out, Untold Entertainment style:

IndieCade Ponycorns Table

Thaaaaat’s RIGHT.

After the first day, the IndieCade organizers shut down my merch sales, claiming that i couldn’t sell anything because the firehall was a public place and i didn’t have a vendor’s permit. At first, i was asked to remove the two price tags from the shirts and plushies, and was later asked to remove the T-shirt rack entirely. It was kind of a bummer, but one day of T-shirt sales was enough to pay for my cab rides and meals at the event. i can’t help but think that if i had produced a valid vendor’s license for the organizers, they still would have asked me to shut down my merch sales … but that’s just conjecture on my part.

Patty Wagon

i was asked to speak on a Family Friendly Games panel on Sunday, which was a real thrill. Soon after, some of us piled into a car with my friend Joel from Riot Games (@lowpolycount) to hit up the rarified East coast burger joint Five Guys.

Five Guys

i washed the In-N-Out taste out of my mouth with a proper burger from this place.

Everywhere you go in California, there are these vague “shit be causin’ cancer” signs:

Cancer Warning

(They must be talking about Cinnabon?)

Conferences are exhausting, and IndieCade was no exception. After being on my feet for twelve hours on the concrete firehall floor, i was wiped. Thank goodness – three tall, frosty glasses of Cherry Coke came to my rescue.

Kids Play the Darndest Things

On Saturday and Sunday, the firehall was open to the public to just wander in, try out the games, and meet their creators. This was, by far, my favourite aspect of the festival. i just loved talking to Joe and Jane Community Member, and it was especially exciting whenever a little kid played the game:

Kids Play Ponycorns

Kids Play Ponycorns

Kids Play Ponycorns

Kids Play Ponycorns

i caught this girl petting each of the ponycorns in turn, giving their manes a test drive. Protip: Fluffybuns has the nicest hair.

Next to our booth was Johann Sebastian Joust, the game that edged us out in our award category. It drew large crowds with lots of clapping and laughter.

Joust

Okay, sure – if all you’re looking for in a game is for it to be fun and exciting for large numbers of people.

Each player gets a Playstation Move controller. The players must move around the arena in time to the Bach soundtrack – if you move too quickly, you’re out. So the game is all about swatting someone else’s remote to make it move too quickly and knock that player out of the game. It’s a neat idea, and people loved it.

i met a fellow wearing a paper tie whose father was the subject of Deepak Fights Robots, a Pac Man/Bubble Bobble mash-up that took home the award for best game design.

Deepak Fights Robots

They really managed to *curry* favour with the … no, never mind.

That’s a Rap

The festival concluded with the Audience and Developer’s Choice Awards. A stunned Jim and emilie McGinley accepted their Audience Choice award, but not before the crowd tried a few rounds of Local No. 12′s the MetaGame.

In the MetaGame, each player gets a deck of cards. Most cards depict video games, while some cards pose a comparison question, like “Which game is a better waste of ten minutes?” or “Which game deserves to be locked in a vault for 1000 years?” The challenger chooses a discussion card, and both players throw down a game card. Then they debate. It’s all very Socratic.

Myles Nye in the Meta-Game

Never debate a man in a moustachioed shirt.

i squared off against Myles Nye here on the left, who wound up trouncing all comers. He later brought down the house while defending Parappa the Rapper by freestyle rapping his rebuttal.


Indiecade 2011 – Dragon’s Lair vs Parappa the Rapper from Sokay Man on Vimeo.

IndieCade 2011 was capped with a backyard barbecue at Robin Hunicke’s house. Robin is a producer at That Game Company (Flow, Flower, and the upcoming Flowest: Flow Harder).

Robin Hunicke's backyard barbecue

Set phasers to “mingle”.

Robin's bbq

Ed from Twisted Tree Games (Proteus) toasts a marshmallow, while other bearded men and women make s’mores nearby. The non-bearded gentleman in the background was quickly expelled from the party.

Phil Fish and Richard Lemarchand DJ'ing

Phil Fish, developer of the Best in Show winner Fez, spun tunes with Richard Lemarchand, of Uncharted fame

i sat down next to Richard to reclaim my key drive, which Phil had borrowed to transfer some music. He introduced himself, and then said “i loved Ponycorns.” i had to admit that i got stuck somewhat early in his game when i was shot repeatedly in the face. He assured me i could play Uncharted 2 without missing important plot details.

Richard is a very nice guy. Very British. This is confusing, because his last name is “Lemarchand”. He makes frequent, almost self-conscious references to Dr. Who. i have a sneaking suspicion he’s an imposter – a Frenchman posing as an Englishman for some bizarre reason. You can’t fool me, Lemarchand. Blood will out.

The Voyage Home

It was an exhausting five days. By the end of it, Michael Todd had learned that hotels not only charge exorbitant amounts for in-room phone calls, but also for in-room death threats.

Michael Todd Goes to IndieCade

Michael Todd Goes to IndieCade

Interview with Newly-Elected Lesley Phord-Toy, Toronto IGDA Prez

The IGDA (International Game Developers Association) is a global group with local chapters in various cities, including Toronto. The IGDA Toronto chapter has been running largely on life support for the past few years, by the admission of outgoing president Josh Druckman. It happens. Other commitments get in the way, and your passion dies down. I feel the same way about that matchstick Taj Mahal model i’ve been trying to build for the past twenty-three years.

Matchstick Taj Mahal

Ryan Creighton from the future sent me this picture of himself to show me that i’d finish the bloody thing some time around my 65th birthday.

The Toronto IGDA committee, hand-picked by Josh in recent years to help keep the ball rolling, recently elected a new president at the wild-eyed urging and general rabble-rousing of TOJam founder Jim McGinley. The new prez is Lesley Phord-Toy, an Ubi Soft employee and Montreal ex-pat who officially takes over in 2011. Lesley will be speaking at GamerCamp Lvl 2, discussing her plans for the IGDA Toronto chapter, and eliciting feedback from the attendees on what they’d like to see from what is arguably the most well-known video games association in the city.

Ubi Collage

Clockwise from top-left: Lesley Phord-Toy, her terrifying Russian bodyguards, Ubi Toronto studio head Jade Raymond, and the woman in every pharmaceutical commercial before she’s taken the prescription that’s being advertised.

Lesley’s been taking the time to meet with each member of the IGDA Toronto chapter steering committee one-on-one. We had a cup of coffee at Toronto’s new board game cafe Snakes and Lattes, and I took the chance to ask Lesley a few questions to help introduce her to Toronto.

[distraction: check out my review of Snakes & Lattes]

Q: What’s your role at Ubi Soft?

I am a Producer at the Ubisoft Toronto studio for an unannounced project. As a Producer, my primary responsibility is to ensure the successful delivery of a high quality game, and to build and foster a team of people who have the skills, experience, and talent to execute on that objective. In the special case of the new studio in Toronto, I am also involved in areas associated with studio-building such helping to define policies and processes, and establishing and promoting our values as a studio.

[read all about the Ubi Soft Toronto grand opening shindig]

Q: Have you always worked at Ubi?

I’m actually pretty new to Ubisoft. I joined in February as (I believe) the first official production employee! Prior to Ubi, I worked at Artificial Mind & Movement (A2M) in Montreal for 6 and a half years. And before that, I was a software engineer at Sony Electronics in the special effects industry in Los Angeles.

[Did U Know? According to the characters in Clerks II, you never do A2M.]

Q: Why did you run for IGDA president? Was it a directive from Ubi, or was it your own initiative?

I’ve been a member of the advisory board of the Montreal chapter for the past two years, and I’ve always felt that a vibrant community of peers is a valuable part of being a game developer. I really enjoyed sharing with, and learning from others in the Montreal community, and I was hoping to find something like that in Toronto.

After attending a few IGDA Toronto meetings, I was left both pleasantly surprised, and disappointed at the same time. On the positive side, I met some really interesting people, and it was clear that there was a contagious enthusiasm for making games. On the negative side, it seemed that many of the local game developers don’t actually go to the IGDA, thereby creating a huge gap in the local community.

Hand Eye Society

(Lesley has keyed in to a palpable anti-IGDA sentiment from Hand Eye Society die-hards. Can’t we all just get along? – ed.)

Knowing that the committee was looking for a new president, I felt it was a great opportunity to try to mend that gap. Together with the committee, I hope that we can strengthen Toronto’s IGDA so that it can become a valuable resource for the community, and be inclusive to all who are interested or involved in game development.

Q: There has been a lot of uncertainty in the Toronto game community – especially the indie community – about the ramifications of Ubi Soft moving into Ontario. What do you think the move means? How do you think Ubi’s presence will affect the Ontario games industry?

A healthy industry is one that is diverse, sort of like a natural ecosystem. Speaking with people at Ubisoft, it’s clear that there is a motivation to learn about what is already in place so that they can add to the diversity, and continue to help strengthen the local industry. I’m really excited about that idea because I feel that when there is a stronger industry, it can lead to a stronger community. With a growing population of game developers, there is an increased potential for our community to be more supportive of each other, learn from each other, and collaborate together. It’s really more a question of whether the community will be able to embrace this idea, capitalize on their diversity, and apply it to their craft of game development.

Q: If everything works out perfectly, what will a typical IGDA Toronto chapter meeting look like?

Toronto IGDA Chapter

(this is what it it looks like currently – ed.)

In the most ideal case, you would show up at a meeting and feel a sense of awe that you belong to this great community of peers, all sharing in the same passions that you do. You would also have a sense of relief that you are not the only one struggling to make your project work, and that everyone has similar challenges as you. You would spend an hour or so learning about something that could help you in your own project, and maybe be able to share a little of your own wisdom with others. You might make some new friends, but you would definitely catch up with some familiar faces. And at the end of the evening, you will come away feeling lucky for being a member of an incredibly diverse game development community.

(Ryan says: i have a slightly different vision of a successful chapter meeting…)



Q: You’ve lived in every major city in Canada, and you’ve seen this industry from different angles. What are some of the differences between the Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto game scenes?

I can’t really comment too much on Vancouver. When I was working there in the late 90s, there was really only EA and Radical and maybe a few other small companies.

Jackie Chan Stuntmaster

(Stuntmaster saw a 2000 release. Did Radical secretly hire Lesley to perform their kung fu mocap for the game? It’s pure conjecture at this point.)

For Montreal, one of the unique things is that many of the studios are actually within walking distance to each other. In the case of Eidos and A2M, they practically share a wall! With that kind of close proximity, it makes it easy for individuals to get to know each other. You always get this feeling that everyone knows everyone even though there are in fact thousands of developers in Montreal! There is competition between companies to attract the best talent, however, there is also a collective sense of grief if you hear that a company or project is not doing well.

Considering Toronto, the geography is vast in comparison, and everyone here faces some amount of commuting. Despite this, there seems to be a shared passion for games here that I had always thought reserved for only a few select hard-cores. I think it’s really a defining characteristic of the Toronto game industry and it really is contagious! On the down side, it simultaneously feels like the community is very divided between some indie hard-cores, and others who are also trying to make a living while pursuing their passion.

Q: What’s your favourite game of all time?

Of all time? It would have to be Super Mario Bros. on the NES. In terms of modern games, however, the games that have captured my imagination the most are Bioshock, Portal, Braid, and Limbo.

Super Mario Bros.

Super Mario Bros., a moderately successful game based on the smash hit 1993 blockbuster film of the same name.

Q: What are you playing right now?

<sheepishly> About 150+ hours of Bejeweled Blitz. </sheepishly>

Do you have a dream game that you’ve always wanted to make? Can you tell us anything about it?

There are two diametrically opposed games that I would love to make. One would be something silly and funny (kind of like the humour from those old LucasArts adventure games). The other would be some sort of intense psychological “game” that would make you question whether you were actually sane or not in real life. Ultimately however, my dream project would have a strong focus on creativity and be something unique and different from the status quo.

Q: What non-game-related things do you do for fun?

If I had the time, I would be traveling the world. Short of that, I like visiting modern art galleries and installations and getting lost in their surreal environments. If I could, I would spend a whole afternoon squishing my feet into those millions of sunflower seeds at that new exhibit at the Tate Modern.

Have Your Say!

Catch Lesley Phord-Toy, 2011 president of the IGDA Toronto chapter, at GamerCamp Lvl 2 in November. Don’t forget to check out the IGDA in its new and improved format, and thank Josh at the next social for all the hard work and effort he’s put into the group for the past ten years!

Ryan Goes to Camp

i think i only missed one Toronto game community event last year. It was called GamerCamp, and it was on a Saturday. i skipped it because Saturdays are family days, and i wanted to spend some quality time with my wife and kids.

i’ll never make that mistake again.

GamerCamp

GamerCamp : worth forsaking your family for

People came back positively RAVING about GamerCamp. i knew this year that i just HAD to be involved.

Thus Spake Ryanthurstra

i am thrilled that Jamie and Mark, the awesomazing organizers behind the event, invited me to speak (after a teensy bit of grovelling). (… from me, not them.) They wanted someone with experience in educational game development, and Untold Entertainment’s got it. In addition to the educational preschool games we’ve built for Sinking Ship Entertainment, we’re currently working on a project funded by a high-ranking ministerial body of educational governance. i admit it sounds a little dull, so i wanted to spice it up a bit.

Here’s the advice the event organizers gave on titling my talk:

You can call your talk whatever you want and by no means self-censor. Try and make your title a declarative statement or provocative question.

(For example, Dragonette has a song called “Get Your Titties Off My Things” and if they wanted to speak at Gamercamp and call it that, I’d high-five them.)

So without very much deliberation, and because i absolutely love high-fives, i decided to call my talk “Get Your Titties Off My Things : Adventures in Educational Gaming.”

Titties and Education Don’t Mix

hot for teacher

Apparently, no one’s hot for teacher.

In updating the site, the organizers had a last-minute change of heart and decided to censor the talk title. Since it didn’t make much sense any more (not that it made any sense to begin with), i decided to re-title the talk “SCUMM-Sucking : Adventures in Educational Gaming“.

What do you do when you LOVE building LucasArts and Sierra-style graphic adventure games, but you have to take boring educational service work to pay the bills?

>Get MONEY.
>Use MONEY on GAME.
>Give PRESENTATION to GAMERCAMP.

SCUMM Bar

Time to nip in for a pint of Grog™.

The educational project is an experiment in teaching deadly-dull guidance counselor material by speaking the students’ language – the language of video games!

i’ll also be talking about how i leveraged the educational project to add features to UGAGS (the Untold Entertainment Graphic Adventure Game System), which is my attempt at building a Flash version of the LucasArts SCUMM engine. (They used SCUMM to make Maniac Mansion, The Secret of Monkey Island and others.) The client benefits from our increasingly feature-rich engine, we get a better product that we can use to make awesome games in the future, and everybody wins!

Including you! Come out to GamerCamp in Toronto November 13-14 to hear the tremendous line-up of speakers, eat some cupcakes, jam out to a crazy nerd party, and battle your hangover to hear about UGAGS the afternoon following the big bash.