Hey guys, Eric here. Been a while since I did one of these... let's see if I can remember how to do this. Ahem. Welcome to the Wraith Blog! Wait... no, no... this is a topic much too serious for all the joking around I'm usually known for when I do these. This is about the current direction that free-to-play puzzle games, but really all free-to-play games, are going in lately. So yes, this may come across a little preachy on my end, but I promise I bring this up out of love for the industry.

For about six years now I've been what one could consider a “developer.” I think Jay may think I should claim a bit longer, but I wouldn't feel comfortable with that. But six years in not really a long time if one thinks about it. But when something is in one's life as much as design can be in an indie dev's life things become all the more noticeable, and when one project has been one's focus as long as some of ours have been the other titles our game would be compared to seem to grab my attention all the more.

Now, I'm a believer of the sentiment of “don't bring a criticism up if you can't suggest an alternative.” So when I begin to say that the current trend of how most free-to-play games using its “stamina” system or “lives” system is a poor way to monetize a game, I've thought long and hard of alternatives. These systems drain a bar or counter generally that must “recharge” over time... that is unless you want to drop real cash on their shop to refill said bar or counter. An amount of real cash that has NEVER once seemed fair in value. By the time a consumer has had to buy a recharge once or twice it generally amounts to one of the premium titles, if not more! Even trying to be wholly objective on this idea, I simply cannot see how this is at best borderline anti-consumer, or at worst something even put into a game so that the player will need to “recharge” often... or be forced to wait sometimes an entire day before being able to play again.

As I said before, I have suggestions... suggestions Wraith even considered before we decided Collapsus would simply be a low-cost premium title. Most of the suggestions I'll give generally has a means to implement no matter a game's engine or suite used to design it.

The first I would say is how about having an ad play every few stages or puzzles completed? It can be done while the next stage loads, so there's no down time in play. Such ads could even mask long load times if your game is having them, it all depends on the API used. Next I would say why is it so horrible to take a small portion of the screen, no more than ten percent, and allow banners to roll? Yes, it may be annoying to the player, but it would only be an issue at the start. The human mind if HIGHLY skilled at turning out of information not wanted. Besides, I think we would all agree that a small banner out of view from the game's main focus is much more enjoyable than the constant use of time gates being used in most games today. What about solely cosmetic DLCs? I've even seen a game on Steam that is free-to-play but once fans wanted to give the developers SOMETHING, the devs implemented content-less DLCs for their players to buy. The DlC literally does nothing, but it's a way the player can play the game and objectively “pay what they want.”

Too often games design themselves for the “whales” of indie game... the players with more money than time. These whales drop hundreds, and even thousands, on a single game and the developers know it. So they design the game around the smallest minority in mind and bring the largest population of their game to holding naught much else than by annoyance and even contempt for the devs and even other players.

We all want our games to survive and make it out there in the wild. To be successful... and yes, to bring income. But can't we do things a little more consumer and industry friendly? Games are becoming more and more scrutinized by critics and news shows. We need to have our best foot forward when addressing the public and growing our industry. It takes more than on company doing this... we need to stand united in building the industry and indie scene!

In short, stop with the whale hunting. Let the game be itself...
Hey guys! Wow! It's been a pretty crazy week for us! Not only did Kristy, Natalie, and I spend all Wednesday night (and Thursday morning) setting up for the Artspace Hamilton Grand Opening (Kristy and I live there and I'm the chairman of the resident committee) but then, after spending all day Thursday actually at that event, I took a Greyhound at 3am to Louisville, KY for IdeaFestival!

Now, I'll get back to that in a second, because not only was that all going on, but our friend Glenn (Glenntai) was busy hammering away some awesome music for us, Mark was putting some finishing touches on the first Collapsus weekly build, AND we got a new version of Radarkanoid up on Kongregate (seriously, go play it... we need some ratings! http://www.kongregate.com/games/wraithgames/radarkanoid).

The awesome interview with The Orange Bison was also posted (here: http://orangebison.com/entrance-collapsus-puzzle-gaming-interview-jay-kidd) so you can go give that a read. The interviews with GameDev Cafe and The IndieView Podcast should be up sometime this week as well.

ALL this in addition to Lance, Dwayne, Steve, and I finishing up the mural (Nat and Eric worked on it earlier, but not this week)! It feels so nice to get that all done! We may still have some minor touch-ups to work on as things go forward, but as far as the Collapsus Kickstarter is concerned, it's finished! Now we just need to clean the place!

Lastly, we just struck a distribution deal with Coca-Cola, too. This means cheaper Monster delivered to the studio, a wider selection, more of it and... WE FINALLY GET OUR MONSTER MINIFRIDGE! It's coming on Tuesday. We're all pretty excited! Now, it wasn't all sunshine and roses. Adam, Natalie, Cody, and Kristy have all been sick (not sure if they caught what I had last week or what), so I actually went down to IdeaFestival all on my own Friday.

IdeaFestival was amazing! Going to events is always a blast, but there's really something special about events dedicated specifically to education. Gotta say, Collapsus drew the biggest single crowd in Wraith history. Look at this!

Our buttons and stickers went like hotcakes, people kept competing against one another for higher and higher scores, heck we even had the most people come back multiple times (nearly all the people in this large crowd came back at least 2 additional times... often for longer than 15 minutes per return). There were a couple of kids who spent more time at the booth than anywhere else at the event... This is the kind of stuff we live for!

One of the members of event staff liked the game so much that she not only memorized my usual pitch, but started dragging her friends and coworkers over to make sure they played. Heck, one of those kids I mentioned earlier (seen in quite a lot of these shots) actually managed to get to Level 6 on Hard... the highest anyone has gotten to at one of our events! We'll be sending him a shirt for that once they're printed up.

What more can I say? There were some great people at the IdeaFestival! It'd be great to come back if we get the chance! This was another one of those "one developer per day" deals rather than a whole bunch of us all at once. On top of that, IdeaFestival isn't usually about gaming, so only time will tell. Maybe next time we can bring the demo of Physix we planned to have ready this time. Who knows?

Our new tablet setup seemed to work out well, too, by the way. We were short 2 tablets, but this trial by fire (Kindle Fire?) really worked out!

So... what else happened? Well, oddly enough, at the Greyhound station in Louisville, there was a little arcade! Who would have guessed?

I even got to land the #1 and #2 spots on some Tengen (Atari) arcade Tetris!

But that was the trip (and the week) in a nutshell. We're headed off to EKU this week for their job fair, and after that we start filming for the Collapsus Kickstarter! We have more events coming up soon, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it! See ya!
Hey guys! Sorry that I haven't posted much lately. Every time we felt a good post in the making, it just slipped by. We'd thought that over the last couple weeks the press interviews we did would have been posted, but it looks like it may take another week or two for those. On the other side, we thought we may have some event announcements, and we do, but those only just came in. Then there's the Collapsus Kickstarter. Well, that's still on track but we have to finish putting this mural up...

Say! You know what? Even if the mural won't be finished until next week, we can still make an update post about it! Yeah! Let's do it!

We decided to do this mural WAY back in October of 2015, but didn't announce it until January of 2016 (in this post, to be specific: http://blog.wraithgames.com/2016/01/initiating-phase-2.html), but WOW has it taken a long time to get it off the ground! It was supposed to be the big lead-in to "Phase 2" of our remodel, the phase where we got the new furniture and new floor as well (with Phase 1 being the "normal" studio painting). The furniture and floor are now firmly in place, but the mural? It was basically a whole "Phase 3" in its own right!

For a quick refresher, here's what the mural wall looked like back when we started:

Yuck! Man, I gotta say... we are all so glad that our ugly "beige box" of an office is now a bright, creative studio! Anyway, Lance T. Miller stepped up to take a huge chunk of the concept art we'd done for not only the projects we were currently working on, but for a lot of our planned projects as well and whipped (or WIPed?) up a pretty killer mockup of what the mural should look like (here):

It also looks spiffy on this tablet:

Only problem is, that when we actually came in and started sketching it (we started documenting that in March, here: http://blog.wraithgames.com/2016/04/remodel-updates-blogging-about-blogging.html), we had a LOT of new concept art to work with, so things needed to be added (wow, feature creep happens in real life, too! Who knew?!) So, by the time we had it all sketched out, it looked like this (well, that's most of it, anyway):

Getting this all sketched out took Lance, Steve, Natalie, Eric, and I (usually working 3 at a time) a few months to get done. Then we needed to paint! The problem with that, however, was since sketching took so long to do, we all needed to get back to work on other things (*cough* Collapsus *cough*). We needed some outside help!

Well, luckily, our buddy Dwayne from JamaicArts (a link to his Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/JamaicArts-1073463189383414/?fref=ts) was more than willing to take up the challenge! He's a brilliant caricature artist and budding comic book artist, so we knew we had our guy! This is him, hard at work:

He's been in the studio working on it for a couple weeks now, and we think it's coming along great! We've even been taking a timelapse video of him working to mirror the one of Lance doing the digital painting of it (Lance's video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gLfc64-ygUI). We're pretty sure at this point that it shouldn't take more than another week or two to finish up (if that).

Here are some great shots of his progress:

You wanna know the best part? THESE AREN'T EVEN CURRENT! These pictures were taken last week! The mural looks even better now than they do here and it's STILL not done! How cool is that?! Right now, all we're really waiting on is some printouts from Lance and Steve to clarify a couple things for Dwayne before he continues and then that's it... mural accomplished! After that, we're launching the Collapsus Kickstarter (since about half of the video is being done inside the studio), and the weekly builds to accompany it! Isn't that exciting!? 

From there, we move on to other projects (a few of which have actually already been started by the non-Collapsus team members). In fact, we had to find a new place for some of our actual paper concept art (yuck... paper!) so we moved it to the green screen until we need it. Maybe you can get a sneak peek of some of our other projects from these pictures *wink* (though keep in mind that Steve has yet to put up his concept art, but it'll be up there soon).

Well, that's all I know for now! Don't forget that we'll be at the IdeaFestival in Louisville, KY on the 30th! Our next blog post will either be about that, the finished mural, future events, the Collapsus Kickstarter, or the 3 press interviews we were in recently (or maybe some combo therein)!

Lately, we've been doing a lot of interviews. It's been great! A while back we even had a whole blog post about them (you can read that here: http://blog.wraithgames.com/2016/04/if-were-being-pressed.html)! Now it's probably high time we do another post of that nature, but until a couple of the interviews we did actually hit the web, that will have to wait. No, this time I'd like to highlight an interview we did back in February for the website Gamer Problems that's no longer online. Well, until now, that is! See, they had some sort of massive server overhaul and all their content before May was wiped out. Bummer! Thankfully, we just so happened to have that we had a backup of the interview and wanted to share it with you all.

So, without further ado, I present to you...

Tell me a bit about yourself and how it all started?

My name is Jay Kidd and I’m the founder and lead designer of the indie game studio, Wraith Games. I founded the company back in 2005 with a few of my friends because we just wanted to make the type of games we liked to play. I realized when I was just 9 years old that I wanted to make video games when I grew up.

I went to the Butler Tech School for the Arts where I specialized in graphic design, though I also have a programming and game design background. I currently live in the Artspace Hamilton Lofts with my fiancĂ©e (Wraith’s lead programmer) Kristy Iwema. I’m a pretty old-school nerd, really. I spend most of my time either playing or making video games, playing D&D or Magic the Gathering or consuming some sort of media (usually either cartoons, anime, comic books, or fantasy novels).

Do you idolize any other game development studio?

Quite a few. Nintendo immediately springs to mind. It was the combination of playing Super Nintendo games and playing on my old Windows 3.1 that made me want to get involved with development in the first place. Every time they come out with something new it always brings me back into my living room as a kid, but with a twist.

Valve is another big one for me. It’s not really necessarily because of their games either, though their games are most definitely some of my favorites. No, it’s more about how they run things over there. They have this kind of creatively-driven, flat management-thing going on. We’re really striving to be a Valve-like place.

There are tons more: WayForward, Retro Studios, DoubleFine, Naughty Dog, Bossa Studios... the list just goes on and on. We could be here all day! Other than that, though, I mostly idolize individual developers like Notch, Pixel, Terry Cavanagh, Connor Ullmann, the amazing duo that is Team Meat; so many talented people! I’m usually not one to buy wholly into auteur theory, but they make a powerful argument for it.

From where do you get inspiration for your games?

Everywhere! I know it’s kind of a clichĂ© answer, but it’s true. There are some times I’ll just be sitting around and something will catch my eye and I’ll think “that needs to be part of a game”. Most of the time, though, it’s media. I consume a lot of media. I love film, music, animation, comics, novels and, of course, games. Classic games, especially. Collapsus, for instance, came to be because I wanted to make a game for my mom. She loves puzzle games, so I just reached into my knowledge of games: Tetris, Bejeweled, Puzzle League, some of the first things you think of when you think “puzzle games” (at the time, at least). I didn’t just want to remake those games, though. So many people would have settled with just making a Tetris clone or something, I just wanted to make something original using some of those ideas as stepping stones.

I also play a lot of tabletop RPG’s. I’ve been running the same weekly game for a little over 10 years now. That’s always been a great way to get out some of my weirder ideas and refine them. Add a little Star Wars, a little Fullmetal Alchemist, some Death Gate Cycle, maybe some Steven Universe and shake. Who cares if it started out as high fantasy. After playing that for a few months, boiling it down to the stuff that matters, then we add more inspiration. After playing, I usually jot down the best parts, the stuff that really made an impact, and I try to save that for my real game design.

Which one of your games did you most enjoy making?

That’s a hard one. It’s a bit like asking who you favorite child is. If I’m really being put on the spot about it, I’d say Physix. It’s nowhere near done, but already it’s been such a blast to work on. It actually started out as an entirely different game. We had been working for a few weeks on a first-person, point and click-style mystery game. Like with this stage of Collapsus, Kristy and I were working alone on it while everyone else was doing other things. It was set in a mansion and while we had that most of the way done, the bulk of the work was on a dynamic dialogue system. We hadn't even started on that part and were due to show it off at a convention in a couple weeks.

While messing around with the dialogue system, I’d gotten so put off with one of the characters, I picked up a nearby object (I think it was a chair) and tossed it at him. Of course, it just bounced right off, because he wasn’t programmed to respond to something like that, but that’s when I kind of realized that the physics engine was way cooler than anything I was doing. I ended up making a kind of maze where I just ran around tossing chairs at people. That’s when I started adding physics based puzzles. We ended up taking that to the convention instead. The gravity manipulation came later, of course. You can’t imagine how much fun playing around with anti-gravity is. Hopefully you won’t have to wait too much longer to experience it, though.

Which game that you have made so far was the biggest challenge?

Early on, especially, we had quite a few projects that didn’t get anywhere. Projects that we literally just stopped and never picked back up again for one reason or another. It’d be pretty easy to say one of those, because their lack of completion wasn’t for lack of trying, usually.

The truth is, that it’s probably Collapsus. We’ve all had quite a good time working on it, but there have been so many frustrating parts, to say the least. Over the course of development it’s changed engines four times and has had a total of seven programmers working on it at one point or another. Now, this was in the early days of the studio, well before any of us were doing this full-time (before we were a “real” company, for that matter), so trying to work on a game while juggling other responsibilities on top of that can be difficult especially having to adjust to a changing engine (a decision made by a programmer who is no longer with us) while working off of a predecessor's code (and their predecessor doing the same, etcetera), you can see where things fall apart pretty easily. There were times where keeping team morale up was a pretty daunting task and to say that some people didn’t leave over it would be an outright lie. In the end, we’re proud of what we made and learned quite a lot, so really that's all that matters.

Favorite game that wasn't made by you?

Another hard one! I don’t really have one true favorite. I’m a huge fan of nearly all of the Mario games (yes, even Sunshine), but I’d have to say that Mario World wins out, I think, but just by a bit. For some reason, I’d have to say the version on the GBA is slightly better than the SNES, but not by much.  Zelda is another huge franchise for me. A Link to the Past (also the GBA version, though again, not by much) and Wind Waker HD are pretty much tied for me on that front. If I stayed with just Nintendo, we’d be here for a while, so I’ll just say those.

Portal and Portal 2 are simply masterpieces. I actually pre-ordered the stand-alone copy of Portal for PC when the Orange Box first came out after seeing the trailer. I was a bit too low on funds at the time to buy the whole thing and I knew I had to have this amazing new game. It was like nothing I had ever seen before! Most people don’t even realize the standalone boxed copy even existed, but it does, and I still have it.

Cave Story is another favorite. When I first played it, I didn’t even know it was only made by one guy. This was before the various plus versions came out and I was floored. It’s just so charming and oddly moving. Since then, I’ve bought every version that has come out.

I have a pretty big gaming shelf and well over 1000 Steam games, to boot, so narrowing it down is very hard for me. I guess I’d have to say that the Batman Arkham series, Tetris, Minecraft, The Elder Scrolls series, and Super Meat Boy also deserve special mention. Other than those, I’d be kicking myself if I didn’t mention a very small, web based game that really pulled me in. I know it’s probably a bit silly, but Seedling from Connor Ullmann is honestly one of my favorite video games of all time. I have no clue why, because, objectively speaking, it probably shouldn’t speak to me on the level it does, but hey you can’t really help what you love, right?

Where would you like to be in 5 years time?

Tahiti. No, I’m kidding. Probably. In all honesty, I just want to be making more games. Maybe hire on some more team members, maybe move to a bigger studio space. Even those are just maybes. I’m doing what I’ve always wanted to do with people who want to do the same. So I guess, I just want to do more of it.

If you could go back in time to when Wraith Games was founded in 2005 what advice would you give yourself?

I’d tell myself to stick with it. There were so many times I wanted to give up and either friends or family would push me not to. They saw the passion in me. Growing up, I would be in computer lab or in programming class and I wouldn’t work on on my assignments, I’d be working on making little games. I’d carry around notebooks and sketchbooks of ideas. They knew I couldn’t live with myself if I ever gave that part of me up, I just wish I’d known that, too. It would have made the harder parts easier. Of course, it’s easy to say that now with how well we’re doing, but looking back, it was always so uncertain.

Any hints of what your next game will be about?

Oh, now that one’s easy! There exists a document that has been dubbed “The Phone Book” containing all of the projects I’ve ever wanted to work on. It’s called that because of the sheer volume of content in it (and it keeps growing). We should never run out of projects, especially since I’m not the only designer here who has ideas going forward. Other than finishing up our current projects (of which there are always more than we had planned on working on at one time), we’re going to be picking the temporarily shelved “Jet Pack Hero” and “AAAAH! A Giant Freakin’ Cave Worm… RUN!” back up.

After that, we have plans for a more traditional side scrolling platformer, a musically inspired Metroidvania, and a game that I’m not actually allowed to talk about right now. When that one’s done, those reading this interview in the future will know why. Those are really just the tip of the iceberg on what we have planned for the future!
Hey guys! Wanted to a rather short blog post about the Fitton Center's Season Launch that we attended Friday. Let's waste no time and dive right in!

So, as you may know, our Radarkanoid arcade cabinet was at the Fitton Center for the Creative Arts (a local art museum here in Hamilton) for their Hindsight exhibit until the end of next month. In fact, the whole reason we made this particular cabinet was for the exhibit in the first place. Well, to celebrate not only this exhibit, but the big launch of this new event season for them, they threw a big party! They had people counting at the door, and well over 1000 people came (which I believe is their biggest season launch yet). It was pretty darned cool. That also meant that a lot of people got to play Radarkanoid at this event alone.

Cody, Kristy and I by the Radarkanoid machine

It was only Kristy and I here for this one (though Cody did swing by for 10 minutes near the end). Most of the team are from the surrounding area (the Greater Cincinnati Area) rather than being in Hamilton specifically. Lance was there, though, since a couple of his pieces were there, as well as some Artspace and Hamilton Mill people; so we were among friends if not surrounded by team members.

I had to duck out of there after a couple hours since I was participating in the Hamilton Dragon Boat Festival on Saturday, and practice was the day before (for those who are interested, my team did lose, but it was a blast anyway). Practice only lasted about an hour or so, so I was back pretty quickly. The Fitton Center is on the river with practice starting at the RiverEdge amphitheater just a block away. The Hamilton Mill, and by extension, our studio, is actually right between the two. For context, Kristy and I live in Artspace, which is only 2 blocks away from all three, so our commute is just a few steps (jealous?). Kristy stayed at the party through the whole thing so she could answer questions since she was the programmer and all.

It was a great event! Some seriously great art and people were there. Since you're on our blog, though, I guess you want to hear more about Radarkanoid, though... I was able to get some pictures and video of people playing the machine, but only after I was back from practice and only while I was near the cabinet. I really wish I could have gotten more (or that Steve, Lance, or Natalie were there to take some awesome footage as well). Oh, by the way, we DO have an Instagram where you can see stuff like this (shameless plug): https://www.instagram.com/wraithgames/


We hope to be able to do more events of this nature here at some point. Until then we still do have at least three larger, convention-style events coming up. So that'll be cool. Hopefully one of us can edit the video we got from this one and get it up on YouTube soon, but we are still needing to get the new Collapsus trailer (and GIFs), and Radarkanoid trailer (and GIFs) as well, so we'll see.

As a little bonus, here's an interview we did with Slickster Magazine! Check it out: http://www.slickstermagazine.com/collapsus-physix-developer-interview/