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JustinSonicBloom

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About JustinSonicBloom

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  1. JustinSonicBloom

    Project management tool Trello vs DropTask ?

    I've used Jira, spreadsheets, Trello, Asana, and YouTrack. All of them are capable of running large teams. All of them have needs in order to use them effectively. Here they are:   Jira, Asana, and YouTrack are all highly structured, and frustrating to set up workflow tools. The forced structure is useful when having to do the minimal work necessary to keep users from messing up the flow. It takes a lot of time to set up the way you would like it, and it causes a team to conform to the way it functions. For some, this is perfect. It tells you how to organize. It forces users to do it the way it wants. It's cumbersome to change it.  It's constraining.    Trello is a blank canvas. It provides you the tools to create an organized work flow. It's flexible, it highly graphical, it's easily broken. While I prefer Trello due to its lack of constraints, it's also its Achilles' heel. Without strong organization, and persistent upkeep, Trello can very quickly go awry. This becomes more difficult as it scales, and more users can use it incorrectly. This requires team commitment, and a person designated to maintain the boards. When its working, its wonderful. When bad management sneaks into it, its horrible. '   Choose wisely.
  2. JustinSonicBloom

    reBERth: A musical shooter

    @MKSchmidt, Thanks for the feedback. We're grabbling with sound, vs music that is driving the game events, and associating those sounds with the game events. We dont get a definitive "like" or "dislike" of the audio design, but we definitely get a "this is interesting." We're working with a SFX guy, and we'll balance from there.    Maybe there's a way you could queue the player to let them know they have to take control and start playing.    Yup, definitely. We are going to use dialog to prompt user input. The whole beginning progression will focus on teaching the firing mechanics, and a few more systems that are not present in this build.   In general, I also felt the level was a bit too easy, nothing really stood out as challenging, even the boss.  In my favorite games, it's nice when you have to discover HOW to overcome an enemy, and very satisfying when you actually do it.   We hear you on this. We're looking at increasing enemy engagement, and changing the boss fight patterns. The weapon system is getting 3 weapon firing modes that change its functionality. We intend to teach its usage, and then challenge the player to use the weapon tools to clear through the game. Hopefully that will address that. We've heard it from a few sources, so it's high on our list for revision.    Thanks for the feedback! We definitely appreciate it!
  3. JustinSonicBloom

    reBERth: A musical shooter

    Hey Everyone, We just opened up the build for people to download and play. It's technically a Beta of our vertical slice, so it's at the point we want to hear people's thoughts.  The big areas that we are looking to hear more about are: General gameplay - Does it feel tight? Are the mechanics engaging? Do controls feel like they have purpose? Direction - Do people feel like they are lost? Where are things not clear? Story - Are the characterization understood? Are the characters compelling? Do their motivation start to come through in the story? What would improve story telling for you? We already have a bunch of things that we are targeting to change, but it would be good to hear more perspectives to either reinforce the changes we want to make, or target new changes. You can access the build here: https://jstaniz.itch.io/reberth
  4. JustinSonicBloom

    reBERth: A musical shooter

    Hey Everyone,    We're going to start a small user Beta test based on our vertical slice of what you see in this video:   [media]https:[/media]    If you want to sign up, you can do so here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/179hkrZeSqa65PDthQT98ys8WeFSzVj85Si_oW0ITdf4/viewform
  5. This story was written by our own Mark Lawley concerning why our team  (which is all dudes) could possibly write a female protagonist and do it any kind of justice.    You can read the whole thing here or read below, or follow us on twitter at [twitter]reberthgame[/twitter].   Why are a bunch of dudes creating a story about a female protagonist?   We should begin with the eloquent words of Pulitzer-prize winning author, Junot Diaz: “The one thing about being a dude and writing from a female perspective is that the baseline is, you suck…I wring my hands because I know that as a dude, my privilege, my long-term deficiencies work against me in writing women, no matter how hard I try and how talented I am.” In that same interview in The Atlantic, Diaz goes on to detail how male privilege gives us “atrophied muscles” when it comes to creating representative female characters. Indeed, feminist critics like Judith Fetterley and Anita Sarkeesian have explored the many problems that can arise when we writers feel entitled to stories outside of our experiences. They have frequently shown how the subtle but deadly undertow of our culture leads us again and again to sexist and racist depictions in our narratives.     So why is Team reBERth, currently composed of six men, writing a story centered on a young woman? Do we even begin to have the authority to write such a tale? Are we, like so many people, merely trying to profit from an ongoing feminist movement and the increase of female gamers in the market? And are these issues actually important? After all, what we’re making is “just a game,” right?     But as Fetterley explains in “On the Politics of Literature,” to adopt the stance that narrative is apolitical is to “posture,” to put on the “pretense that literature speaks universal truths” by excising the “merely personal.” We cannot so much as present a blank document or an empty canvas without committing a political act. As soon as we create the label “art” pointing to any object in the world, context immediately imbues that object, that pointer, that label, and the system that binds them with the hue of politics. And Fetterley knows the stakes are high because “power is the issue in the politics of literature…to be excluded from a literature that claims to define one’s identity is to experience…the endless division of self against self.” With narrative–no matter how seemingly blithe or low-brow, no matter if it comes with pew-pew bullets and cheat codes–the stakes are always high.     It is true that limiting authors to their own experiences might filter out a lot of harmful depictions of marginalized groups. After all, if narrative is one of the most dangerous disease vectors for hatred, it might seem reasonable to take CDC-like precautions. But we as a culture value freedom in the arts. We balk when we see censorious barriers put on the imagination and its expression. That is why instead of censorship, I believe in discussion. Instead of arguments, I believe in co-exploration. And art, including electronic narratives (a fancy term for “games with stories”), is a particularly fruitful ground on which to embark on those co-explorations.     When Eric first approached me with the reBERth project, the first thing that struck me was that he’d created a pan-vitalist mythos that wasn’t merely derivative. And to live and breathe inside that rich world, he’d created the character of Mel. He didn’t want her to be sexualized. He didn’t want her to be the sci-fi stereotype of the Super Strong Woman, the kind who has no dimension and is strong in a one-dimensional, masculine way. He didn’t want her to be an antiheroine. Instead, he wanted her to be one of those people who could confront tragedy while still maintaining a purity of heart through the strength of a loving family. We’ve defined “purity of heart” to mean moral conviction. In our conversations, something about Eric’s energy for this character and her Campbellian Hero(ine)’s Journey sparked my imagination. I began to feel that crucial feeling of creative co-ownership, of co-authoring, of co-exploration happening with the material. I know to never proceed with a project without that feeling, but when I have it, I can’t stop thinking about it. I began to feel confident that Mel wouldn’t just be a placeholder; yet another player’s Link not to the Past but to a game; yet another Platonically perfect and therefore featureless shape, like a sphere, on which we’d write our stereotypes. Instead, she would step into the world of Spira Firma with agency.     I now feel compelled to tell the story of Mel, her mother Medea, and her grandmother Sycora as I understand it. To me, they are manifestations of the triplicate goddess archetype, the Hecate, theMoirai or three Fates, complete with a maiden, a mother, and a crone. And yet they also feel like real individuals who go through the rupture of their family and must work, throughout the course of the game, to reunite once more. Mel’s incorruptible moral courage, her desire for everyone to be together and to be happy, her dedication to her family: all of it speaks to me. Her mother Medea’s fear that the universe’s infinite possibility is actually a crippling limitation to one’s course in life, and yet her contrapuntal drive to realize some ultimate goal strikes me as a very real existential crisis. Sycora’s desire to feel both the lightness of freedom that a long, accomplished life should earn her, and yet her desire to also take on the heavy burden of responsibility once more is something I think many people will identify with. I don’t believe that these characters are merely ornamental to the game. I don’t believe they are designated as female for the sake of acquiring narrative “flavor.” And so I find myself exploring not just their stories, but how their inner lives can be metaphorically represented in game design, in level elements, even in the code itself (the topic of a future blog post featuring Zeno’s Paradoxes).     While I work on these characters with the team, I certainly feel that hand wringing that even the likes of Junot Diaz feels. I worry about our collective blind spot. In our meetings, I try to adopt a zero-pretense approach and talk about the sexist and racist tropes I have replicated in my own work. I hope this will contribute to a safe space for us all to own up to our own prejudices, a space where having one’s work called sexist or racist doesn’t have to come with the connotation of “morally bad, close minded person.” But I still keep thinking about how unlikely men are to write good female characters, and I feel discouraged.     That is why I am grateful to have brilliant artists like Toni Morrison to lead the way. She tells us writers to “forget writing about what you know; write about what you don’t know.” Of course, when we do this, we must still adopt the humility of the outsider. We still must listen more than we speak, and we must write from the most vulnerable places within us to have any chance at success. And I am grateful to critics and artists like Anita Sarkeesian and Alison Bechdel, who have so clearly and succinctly given us guideposts to follow as we try to create experiences for people to enjoy, hopefully without their having to suspend their ethical sensibilities.  Because such an endeavor requires a daily recommitment to its core values, there is a near guarantee that we will make mistakes. When we do, I hope we will keep committing ourselves to listening to our collaborative critics and to fixing our missteps. And I certainly hope that if the reBERth project succeeds, we will expand our team such that it has a balance of gender and race, of perspective, of dimension. I hope it will be the kind of creative endeavor where narrative becomes not a disease vector for hatred but a medium for reinvention, empathy, and humanity–all those difficult things that so often benefit from the sugar-coating of an awesome game experience.
  6. JustinSonicBloom

    reBERth: A musical shooter

    This story was written by our own Mark Lawley concerning why our team  (which is all dudes) could possibly write a female protagonist and do it any kind of justice.      You can read the whole thing here or read below.   Why are a bunch of dudes creating a story about a female protagonist?   We should begin with the eloquent words of Pulitzer-prize winning author, Junot Diaz: “The one thing about being a dude and writing from a female perspective is that the baseline is, you suck…I wring my hands because I know that as a dude, my privilege, my long-term deficiencies work against me in writing women, no matter how hard I try and how talented I am.” In that same interview in The Atlantic, Diaz goes on to detail how male privilege gives us “atrophied muscles” when it comes to creating representative female characters. Indeed, feminist critics like Judith Fetterley and Anita Sarkeesian have explored the many problems that can arise when we writers feel entitled to stories outside of our experiences. They have frequently shown how the subtle but deadly undertow of our culture leads us again and again to sexist and racist depictions in our narratives.     So why is Team reBERth, currently composed of six men, writing a story centered on a young woman? Do we even begin to have the authority to write such a tale? Are we, like so many people, merely trying to profit from an ongoing feminist movement and the increase of female gamers in the market? And are these issues actually important? After all, what we’re making is “just a game,” right?     But as Fetterley explains in “On the Politics of Literature,” to adopt the stance that narrative is apolitical is to “posture,” to put on the “pretense that literature speaks universal truths” by excising the “merely personal.” We cannot so much as present a blank document or an empty canvas without committing a political act. As soon as we create the label “art” pointing to any object in the world, context immediately imbues that object, that pointer, that label, and the system that binds them with the hue of politics. And Fetterley knows the stakes are high because “power is the issue in the politics of literature…to be excluded from a literature that claims to define one’s identity is to experience…the endless division of self against self.” With narrative–no matter how seemingly blithe or low-brow, no matter if it comes with pew-pew bullets and cheat codes–the stakes are always high.     It is true that limiting authors to their own experiences might filter out a lot of harmful depictions of marginalized groups. After all, if narrative is one of the most dangerous disease vectors for hatred, it might seem reasonable to take CDC-like precautions. But we as a culture value freedom in the arts. We balk when we see censorious barriers put on the imagination and its expression. That is why instead of censorship, I believe in discussion. Instead of arguments, I believe in co-exploration. And art, including electronic narratives (a fancy term for “games with stories”), is a particularly fruitful ground on which to embark on those co-explorations.     When Eric first approached me with the reBERth project, the first thing that struck me was that he’d created a pan-vitalist mythos that wasn’t merely derivative. And to live and breathe inside that rich world, he’d created the character of Mel. He didn’t want her to be sexualized. He didn’t want her to be the sci-fi stereotype of the Super Strong Woman, the kind who has no dimension and is strong in a one-dimensional, masculine way. He didn’t want her to be an antiheroine. Instead, he wanted her to be one of those people who could confront tragedy while still maintaining a purity of heart through the strength of a loving family. We’ve defined “purity of heart” to mean moral conviction. In our conversations, something about Eric’s energy for this character and her Campbellian Hero(ine)’s Journey sparked my imagination. I began to feel that crucial feeling of creative co-ownership, of co-authoring, of co-exploration happening with the material. I know to never proceed with a project without that feeling, but when I have it, I can’t stop thinking about it. I began to feel confident that Mel wouldn’t just be a placeholder; yet another player’s Link not to the Past but to a game; yet another Platonically perfect and therefore featureless shape, like a sphere, on which we’d write our stereotypes. Instead, she would step into the world of Spira Firma with agency.     I now feel compelled to tell the story of Mel, her mother Medea, and her grandmother Sycora as I understand it. To me, they are manifestations of the triplicate goddess archetype, the Hecate, theMoirai or three Fates, complete with a maiden, a mother, and a crone. And yet they also feel like real individuals who go through the rupture of their family and must work, throughout the course of the game, to reunite once more. Mel’s incorruptible moral courage, her desire for everyone to be together and to be happy, her dedication to her family: all of it speaks to me. Her mother Medea’s fear that the universe’s infinite possibility is actually a crippling limitation to one’s course in life, and yet her contrapuntal drive to realize some ultimate goal strikes me as a very real existential crisis. Sycora’s desire to feel both the lightness of freedom that a long, accomplished life should earn her, and yet her desire to also take on the heavy burden of responsibility once more is something I think many people will identify with. I don’t believe that these characters are merely ornamental to the game. I don’t believe they are designated as female for the sake of acquiring narrative “flavor.” And so I find myself exploring not just their stories, but how their inner lives can be metaphorically represented in game design, in level elements, even in the code itself (the topic of a future blog post featuring Zeno’s Paradoxes).     While I work on these characters with the team, I certainly feel that hand wringing that even the likes of Junot Diaz feels. I worry about our collective blind spot. In our meetings, I try to adopt a zero-pretense approach and talk about the sexist and racist tropes I have replicated in my own work. I hope this will contribute to a safe space for us all to own up to our own prejudices, a space where having one’s work called sexist or racist doesn’t have to come with the connotation of “morally bad, close minded person.” But I still keep thinking about how unlikely men are to write good female characters, and I feel discouraged.     That is why I am grateful to have brilliant artists like Toni Morrison to lead the way. She tells us writers to “forget writing about what you know; write about what you don’t know.” Of course, when we do this, we must still adopt the humility of the outsider. We still must listen more than we speak, and we must write from the most vulnerable places within us to have any chance at success. And I am grateful to critics and artists like Anita Sarkeesian and Alison Bechdel, who have so clearly and succinctly given us guideposts to follow as we try to create experiences for people to enjoy, hopefully without their having to suspend their ethical sensibilities.   Because such an endeavor requires a daily recommitment to its core values, there is a near guarantee that we will make mistakes. When we do, I hope we will keep committing ourselves to listening to our collaborative critics and to fixing our missteps. And I certainly hope that if the reBERth project succeeds, we will expand our team such that it has a balance of gender and race, of perspective, of dimension. I hope it will be the kind of creative endeavor where narrative becomes not a disease vector for hatred but a medium for reinvention, empathy, and humanity–all those difficult things that so often benefit from the sugar-coating of an awesome game experience.
  7. JustinSonicBloom

    Organizing a Team - 101

    Thanks. I would be happy to extrapolate on any more experiences I have, if anyone has any requests.
  8. JustinSonicBloom

    Organizing a Team - 101

    This comes from a blog post I did for our r.e.B.E.R.t.h. game we're building up for a Kickstarter:   A Team That Works Together, Sticks Together   You could call me the team Producer, Project Manager, or some other form of team unifier, but my responsibility is to make sure the team is organized and marching in the right direction. The position often gets misunderstood as "the annoying guy that makes everyone follow an arbitrary process."* While this can, unfortunately, be true at times, what I want to do today is outline how my role has brought a bunch of people together to bust their asses for a year for a pretty rad project.   *Quote is for emphasis, and not what anyone on the team has actually said.   I'll start by offering a bit of advice...A team, or any organization, needs the same things to work together: Goals Trust Consistency Rewards If you're still onboard with this rousing topic, then keep reading. By the end, it should give some good insight into how an effective team works together.   Goals   A good project has an outline of what should be accomplished by the end. Even if you're not certain that you'll hit every target along the way, its really important that you set goals for the project and the team.   Most people start with an idea that makes practical sense.   "This jumping mechanic be super cool if this was a game."   It's great to hold onto those kind of ideas, but it isn't the rallying cry to gather the troops. You'll discover, as the project progresses, that no one person has the same idea about what the end product will be if that's the way you start development. This should be swiftly addressed.   The way we've handled it on reBERth is to summarize what the ideal game will be in a succinct paragraph. It should answer the 5 questions (who, what, when, where, and how), and address the need for the project. It should capture the imagination of the team, if otherwise compel someone to be interested in the idea. If you have the team's attention, then you can go into a breakdown of the details: What kind of game is it? Where does it take place? Who are the characters? What kind of gameplay should I expect? How is it original?   Most importantly, sell it as a story. The idea has to really paint the same picture in the team's head. Use flowery wording. Write it in the voice of the movie trailer guy. Invoke inspirational sources when selling the big picture.   Next, take the time to set some parameters by outlining 3 (or more) facets of the project that should always be respected in decision making. You may, for instance, choose story telling, atmosphere, and core mechanics. With those set, you make sure to never betray those concepts. In other words, if a decision would make it more difficult to tell the story, but would be a super game play mechanic, you may have to be on the cutting room floor.   With all of that set up, set a semi-arbitrary date for when you want to get it done. Perhaps PAX Prime is when you want a playable vertical slice of the game. Set the date, and work the schedule backwards. Take into consideration release build time, QA testing, polish, code freeze, feature lock, content completion, Alpha, and Beta (yes, even for a vertical slice). Plot it out. If it doesn't work out, reset your schedule and keep building.   I promise you, winging it brings a ton of unmanageable headaches.   The last step is to sell the schedule to the team. Do they agree? Good! Use that to move everyone forward. Voice the goals often and reassess it frequently.   Trust   When we started reBERth, we brought on two people that were familiar enough with the game concept to want to jump in and start working with out Goals. We received good grace from them not because we had a strong idea of what we were building, but because we built trust amongst them. Trust can generally be earned by not being a jerk (i.e. not throwing anyone under the bus).   It's also very important to provide value to their work by either complimenting their workflow, or supporting what they do. More so, it's important to not hinder it. Additionally, listening and acting on input from the team ensures that your team will believe the things you say in the future.If you aim to do right by each person, then trust can be maintained.   Warning: Do NOT ABUSE THIS. IT IS EASILY LOST, AND VERY DIFFICULT TO REGAIN.   Consistency   This one delves into some fun Pavlovian behavioral training. Essentially, people learn fast when the framework (or rules) are consistent, and the reward and reaction are predictable. Make things unpredictable and people become real irritated real quickly, and lose whatever momentum was in place.   The first thing to do is to set up simple processes that happen at consistent times, and have a consistent format. Enforce the format, and don't change it unless people agree to a change. Make sure the processes are scheduled at a time that can reoccur. For our team, we have the same weekly meeting that follows this format: Start with goals review Summarize what work is completed r Reviews the completed work by each team member Sets goals for the next week We do this every week, and we try to maintain it to the best of our ability.   The second part of this brings me to...   ...Reward   We all want to be acknowledged for the good things we do. Without it, its like working in an echo chamber. Even if we work solo, we will eventually show off what we've done, or talk about it. Why? Because it's reaffirming, and presents validity to why we spent the last 14 hours of your weekend working to make sure the build was functioning for the rest of team come Monday.   Reward doesn't even have to be some kind of physical gift either. It can be as simple as understanding the value of someone's output. This is why systems like code review work so well. One person provides output, another person provides input. It's a cycle that can be immensely rewarding.   To make sure the reBERth team has rewarding work, we've made team review part of our weekly meetings. Everyone is given a chance to show what they've done. Everyone is given an opportunity to give constructive feedback. Everyone gets to walk away with some feeling of accomplishment.   This can also be done for larger goals as well. Did the team meet an important milestone date? Was the build passed through cert with flying colors? You might want to think about throwing a pizza party to the dulcet tones of the Slow Jams Pandora station (trust me, its an awesome station).   Conclusion   You have to run your team like anything else: give them something to look forward to, build trust, set expectations and deliver on them, and reward good behavior. If you can manage that, you would be amazed at how a team can gel around an idea and deliver beyond expectations.   The whole site can be seen here: http://reberth.com/, or you can follow me on twitter [twitter]jstaniz[/twitter]
  9. JustinSonicBloom

    Unity Asset - Koreographer - Synching Game Events to Music

    We're getting ready to release version 1.3 of Koreographer for Unity!   With it, we will have a hand full of new features that should help make the work flow easier to work with. The list is:   Official support for SECTR Audio Official support for PlayMaker Increased support for Fabric Audio RMS auto event generation Payload and event information on hover   With the new build we are increasing the price to $120.00 USD from $98.00.   Purchase now to secure lower pricing on upcoming updates!   https://www.assetstore.unity3d.com/en/#!/content/44270
  10. JustinSonicBloom

    reBERth: A musical shooter

    Our composer audio composer, [twitter]hey_lune[/twitter], did a great write up about his process for developing the music in our game. It focuses on music theme and how to vary it to create cohesion in the score.    Here is a small preview:   The scale motif is even reflected in both melodies practically note for note! If that’s not recurring, I don’t know what is. “But Larry,” you might ask, “isn’t just rehashing familiar tunes going to be boring?” WELL. A composer has ways of spicing up recurring material by varying other elements of the music around it. We’ve pointed out how they’re similar. Now let’s see how they’re in fact different: Time Signature: The first melody is in 4/4, while the second is in 3/4. Whoa. Totally different feel! ....   Get the rest, with music samples, here.
  11. JustinSonicBloom

    reBERth: A musical shooter

    We've just updated our website with a ton of concept work and storyboards that we've been using to guide the development of the level. Check it out! http://reberth.com/reberth/art/
  12. JustinSonicBloom

    Unity Asset - Koreographer - Synching Game Events to Music

    We're on sale today for 50% off! https://www.assetstore.unity3d.com/en/#!/content/44270   Update: Sale is over.
  13. JustinSonicBloom

    reBERth: A musical shooter

    We've plotted out our vertical slice (which will likely lead up to a crowd funding round). We've given it a 4 month timeline with a team of 5 (designer/developer, developer/writer, composer, artist, project management/marketing). We now have our storyboard for the demo, and a sketch of the music.    The music is up, so take a...listen!   https://soundcloud.com/hey-lune/introduction-excerpt-1/s-eNiOq   You can follow along at http://www.reberth.com or [twitter]@reberthgame[/twitter]
  14. JustinSonicBloom

    Unity Asset - Koreographer - Synching Game Events to Music

    We just got this video up showing the Unity 5 Survival Shooter with Koreographer. The process took a better part of an hour, but the results are great.   The overall process had us create a few Koreographer event tracks (effectively metadata tracks) that marked where different rhythmic audio events were happening. We linked the different tracks to object scaling (background objects), object spawning (gun fire), and IK movement (linking IK positions to land on the beat).    Koreographer acts as an event system parceled by audio time.    [media]https:[/media]
  15. JustinSonicBloom

    Unity Asset - Koreographer - Synching Game Events to Music

    We've released version 1.3:     You can get it here: https://www.assetstore.unity3d.com/en/#!/content/44270
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