Category Archives: Games

The Hunt for Steam Greenlight: August 22, 2014

As an indie worried about our Steam Greenlight campaign, we know just how big of a role promotion plays in getting your game onto Steam. (People can’t vote Yes if they don’t know it exists, right?) We thought it would be fun to dig around Steam Greenlight, find some really cool projects, and help spread the word about them!

Here’s how it works:

So without much further ado, here are our inaugural picks in something we call, The Hunt for Steam Greenlight!

All similarities to any other graphics are completely... "unintentional."

Chad’s Pick

Nefarious

Look at that evil villain!

http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=302864808

We had a chance to play what was the basis for this game while we visited PixelDash in Baton Rouge for Episode 3 of the show. At the time, it was still pretty nifty. (This was in early January.) Even then it had a lot of polish from the weapons and projectiles to the decorations placed about the levels.

Diego’s Pick

Relic Hunters Zero

Oooh! Wavy stuff!
I really dig the gameplay style which is an isometric run and gun style action game with a really fun visual style. Combat looks fluid and fun with a lot of attention given to tactics and positioning. Now, the name suggests there might be some exploration and discovery… I sure hope so!

Scott’s Pick

The Phantom PI Mission Apparition

Wail out, ghostly apparition!

Someone on their Greenlight page described it as Animal Crossing meets Ghostbusters!  The trailer does a terrific job at establishing setting, atmosphere, conflict and some of the mechanics you’ll use to stop the booooolies. (See what I did there?)


Thanks for reading! Please check out the projects on Steam, give them a thumbs up, and spread the word! Every bit helps.

The Making of Indie Van Game Jam, Part IV: Editing

Let’s wrap this up and talk about post-production and editing!

How long does it take to edit an episode of Indie Van Game Jam?

The short answer is two months.   In the spirit of being completely transparent about our process, here is the editing schedule for episode two:

Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 11.06.17 AM

Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 11.06.36 AM

What’s your editing setup/process look like?

I edit on a Macbook Pro laptop w/ Premiere Pro.

The first step I take is to create a folder structure for the project:

Screen Shot 2014-07-25 at 12.46.24 PM

I’ll then import all the audio and video footage into PluralEyes in order to sync them.  PluralEyes is exceptionally good at syncing — I’d say about an 80-90% success rate — and the rest usually needs to be manually synced (possibly because the camera audio is too low for the program to detect or that either the camera or H4n stopped recording, so PluralEyes can’t find the companion clip).

Next, I’ll set up bins in Premiere Pro like this:

Screen Shot 2014-07-25 at 12.47.42 PM

Then I import the footage.  I’ll also create a few Google documents and share them with the team: (1) Master Assets, (2) VO Scripts, (3) Master Schedule, (4) Color Keys, and (5) Treatment.

After organizing the bin structure, Chad or Zeb and I meet up for several days to cull through the footage and sort it all into folders or sequences.

All unsynced footage resides in a bin called RAW FOOTAGE.  All synced footage is placed chronologically onto a timeline called THE WELL.  Between those two places, we cast our fishing lines and scoop material into folders, giving them scene names.

Screen Shot 2014-07-25 at 12.48.50 PM

I think one of the fundamental theories of editing is that it is easier to work from a micro to macro level than from a macro to micro level.   Simply, this means that it’s easier to build up than to have to remove. (Maybe this holds true to part of the human condition as well; it is easier to forge bonds than to destroy them?  Who knows.)

How do you pick and choose what to add to the timeline?

We’re both watching and listening for funny lines, important game development stories that progress the narrative forward, threads we want to keep or move into the Detour bin, etc.  It helps for me to sit down with a developer to understand some terminology and note the difference between things that were actually carried out during the game jam and things that were part of a wish list.

For each clip, we try to consider sound, image and story as three equally important components to the episode (e.g. Will it be possible to improve this sound later?  Does he go into too much depth here on the topic of free-to-play?  Should we move it the Detour bin?  Let’s grab this bit because of his facial reactions when he plays the game for the first time.)

It’s very important at this early stage to go through all the footage together not only so that we know what we have but also because filtering footage into as many bins as possible puts us ahead of the game when we’re trying to find it again later.  For example, general travel footage can reside in the ‘Travel Bin’ and also ‘Whiteboarding’.  If it sounds tedious, it’s because it probably is — but uber helpful down the editing pipeline.

While we’re sorting, we will also start color coding clips based on their content:

Screen Shot 2014-07-25 at 12.49.42 PM

Screen Shot 2014-07-25 at 12.50.30 PM

After one or two passes through sorting, I’ll group the colors together, then make edits into the clips, almost like creating a radio cut without paper.  What we’re doing here is eliminating the time that it takes to transcribe interviews, strike out sentences, and build an editing script.

Sometimes though, I will take story notes in a document I call ‘Treatment’.  It is a prose version of how scenes progress, but I generally use bullet points.  For example, there is a scene in episode 3 where I wrote down:

Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 11.28.06 AM

After we finish sorting, hopefully the cut is down to a little over an hour.

Then we kind of attack the editing from all sides.

There is a document that’s called ‘Master Assets’.  It’s a list of things we think are necessary for the episode to stand on its own.  That includes Diego’s artwork, character animations, Chad’s code footage, Zeb’s level design footage, Zeb’s music, gameplay footage, VO scripts, After Effects Map Animations, nameplates, game jam scorecard design, etc.

Everyone pitches in to create the assets while I attempt to cut a scene down to its projected run time.

At this point,  I’m thinking a little about pacing, maybe music and moving assets around, but mostly just trying to get through one scene pass from start to finish through trimming.

I am trimming up the uhs, ums and pauses, making everything sound quick and deliberate.  If there are any design ideas that come to mind, I’ll jot those down, too.

At the end of the day, I’ll rig a time code stamp on the video and ship it to the team via Dropbox.  I’ll usually receive feedback the next day but won’t look at it until I’m done doing first passes on all scenes.

The notes from the team are extremely helpful.  They consist of suggestions for assets we need, comments on confusing lines, etc.  The master asset list is updated again.  Zeb made a very interesting observation one day that there’s this kind of ebb and flow happening where the timeline and list of things to do will expand, then contract, and finally we’ll start to see what the episode wants to be about.

We’ll kind of all have this instinctive feeling when we are one or two weeks out from finishing the episode.  Backers are sent a rough cut and encouraged to email us with comments on the upcoming episode and suggestions for improvement.  I do read all of them and take these into consideration!

There are more choices made with regard to music, sound effects, animations, title designs, fonts, etc.

I’ll spend the week leading up to release sound editing in Audition and color correcting, tweaking visual and audio transitions, moving around key frames in Premiere and/or After Effects.

The day before release, I render all the effects, export and upload the master sequence to YouTube on a private channel, type in the episode description and search tags.

On Friday, the episode is out there, and I am like the parent waving goodbye to the kid at the bus stop on his first day of school.

That’s it, folks!  I may edit this series and include more pics on the process at a later time.  I hoped you enjoyed that insight into the making of Indie Van Game Jam!

Ride on.

-Scott

This is the final part of a four part series. Check out the first part on our gear, the second part on pre-production, or the third part on filming.

The Indie Van Game Jam is a comedy documentary web and video game series in which we travel around the country, interview independent game developers, and make games along the way in our van. You can check out the series on IndieVanGameJam.com and vote for us on Steam Greenlight.

The Making of Indie Van Game Jam: Filming an Episode

Hey everyone,

If you’ve been following these Behind the Scenes posts, you know that Indie Van Game Jam oscillates from a one to two-person filming team.  That means I need to be on my toes most of the time monitoring what’s happening on camera and checking audio levels in order to not miss the moment — it’s a tight rope act of juggling three people (a programmer, level designer, and artist) where staying focused is paramount to success.

It ultimately means editing in your head and at the speed of thought.  Much like the editing process, here I am also making difficult choices about who to capture.  I am trying to give myself options in the cutting room while I am filming (for ex. by pointing the camera at someone who is not speaking, I am editing in a reaction shot — a dart of someone’s eyes from left to right — to break up the speaking section.)

HOW MUCH FOOTAGE WAS SHOT?

Shooting for episodes typically begin the weekend before travel, and everyone goes to Zeb’s place to film the Binary Solo HQ scene.  They play a smorgasbord of the developer’s gameography and then pretty much can not leave the apartment until they agree on a game design question that is interesting and exciting.  This process/filming lasts for about 4-5 hours.  Episode One’s Binary Solo HQ raw material totaled about 27GB.

Then early Monday morning, we’re on the road.  Zeb writes the design question on the top of the whiteboard, and I begin filming.  Whiteboarding usually lasts anywhere from 2-3 hours (8.33 GB *I’m using info from Episode One).  And I must keep rolling because who knows when someone is going to say something that turns out to be a gem sound bite?  Who knows when that moment is going to happen when someone is suggests the game premise?  I suppose I could’ve stopped filming, then have someone notify me that to film, or pickup the conversation (which happened a couple of times — people would have to tell me they’re about to have a conversation or redo it because I wasn’t either there or prepared to film it (#RealityShow problems)  Other times, when I was tired, I let anyone who was game jamming in back use the GoPro to record (it was mounted to a TV screen.)

After whiteboarding, there’s usually a pit stop to switch drivers.   Now Zeb will drive; Chad and Diego will break out their Surface and Wacom tablets, respectively, and begin generating scripts and character/map assets for Unity.  I’ve decided to stay in the front passenger seat as opposed to hop back to the furthest seat in the van in order to record OTS (over-the-shoulder).

I’ve decided to stay here because I can pan the camera to see everyone’s face rather than have everyone in profile.  And I don’t want to slow anyone down by asking to stop the van so  I can move to the back seat.  Ultimately, the van scene is shot from two positions (front passenger seat and Go-Pro shooting at a high angle pointed down) so I could see the developers speak, react, then pan around to grab B-roll of the road, cityscapes, etc.

The driving scenes are kind of a big fog to me.  I was in and out of filming, sleeping, staring out a window, driving and reflecting on the vastness of the open road.  I definitely had a different operating schedule than the developers; I would be awake for certain moments, then sleeping for others.

Looking at episode one, it seems like there are 11.9 GB of footage for driving, excluding the white board and journey home scenes.

MEDIA MANAGEMENT

Disclaimer: I am by no means an expert of media management!  This is what worked for us.

I cut small squares of gaffer tape and labeled my 5-6 CF cards with letters A-F.  I’d make a note that all the whiteboarding material was on CF card A, for example.  Once a card filled up, I’d deposit in into a small compartment in my camera bag, separate from the empty cards.

We’d arrive in a city at night, and put our stuff in a hotel.  I would take all the filled cards and back up the footage twice: one copy would go on my Macbook Pro and another would reside on a 500GB external hard drive in my suitcase.  I’d also keep footage on cards as long as possible as a third temporary storage unit.

Ideally, you need to back up your stuff three times, minimum, and each storage backup in a different place (there’s little sense in having all three drives in the same room in case of a fire.)  You can read here how the Indie Game: The Movie filmmakers managed their media here (it really is an interesting post):

http://www.indiegamethemovie.com/news/2011/10/3/shooting-saving-on-the-road.html)

In the mornings, I’d try to email an itinerary to the team that I discussed with Zeb the night before in order to give everyone an estimation of call and wrap times at the studio.  This  day was usually a full day of interviewing, studio tour, b-roll at the indie developer’s place.  At Klei, for example, we arrived super early, and I was able to take advantage of that time to shoot B-roll.

When we rolled up to an indie studio, I would make an effort to quickly location scout and think about the most visually and appropriate spots to film.  Interviews typically lasted anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour.  In episode one, I suppose the interview was part of a lunch with Rob and Ryan.  That scene was 7.52 GB (about 1/2 hr.)

Either the same day in the afternoon or the next day, we’d have a game jam playthrough with the guest developer(s).  We’d find a room (hopefully with a TV so we could use an HDMi cable and El Gato device to capture gameplay footage) and I’d set up the frame.

We spent a great deal of time explaining to the guest developers that this was the Tim Gunn moment on Project Runway, the part where the seasoned pro checks in with the designers and gives feedback and caution.  He doesn’t tear it to shreds.  We wanted everyone to feel like was a safe environment to provide candid thoughts; this was a supporting zone.  To bolster this idea, we tried not to stage guest developers on opposite sides of a table.  Everyone was allowed to sit where s/he’d like.

The playthrough for episode one lasted about 40 minutes and was 9.25 GB.  Sometimes we asked developers to sample game jam prototypes from other episodes, and this took a little longer.  They were true sports about that, despite their hectic schedules!

At night we’d go sometimes go out to a Barcade to celebrate with the developer(s) and we’d film there, too.

Finally, there was the Journey Home.  In the Journey Home scene, the developers wrote down any feedback from playthrough, began to improve the games on the way back to Austin, and then had a post mortem summary at the end.  This scene was the toughest part to film because it typically took place at night.  We used Diego’s camping lights and strung them up for sidelight.

There’s also pit stops that we take along the trip, where we film hypothetical situations.  Hopefully, you’ll see what I mean in episode three.   So factor that in as well.

Each episode contains anywhere from 70 GB to 100 Gigs of camera footage.  (the conversion is a~10 hrs. = 166 GBS, so each episode has a little under 10 hours).  Additionally, there are several GBs generated from asset recreation (I’ll get into this more in Part V.)

MOTIVATION

How does one stay motivated and focused during such an intense filming and game jam schedule?  During all of this, I was training for the Austin Marathon in February.  My schedule consisted of waking up at 6AM and running around the cities (Vancouver’s run was the coolest in terms of scenery!)  These runs allowed me to assess the day’s goals and challenges.

I could not have gotten through both filming and running without the unwavering support of my coworkers, friends and family who thought that a road trip/video game web series was seriously an awesome story to film.

Another source of motivation has been the responses we received from our Steam Greenlight campaign, which we kicked off last week at SGC.  The responses have been mostly positive, and I’m extremely glad to see a demand for the series.  Here are some of the comments that have been coming in:

http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/comments/279095382

I think part of the reason we’re opening up our process (both in terms of filmmaking and indie game development) is to really show people how easy it is to take the first step into doing something new.  Three developers set out on a road trip and in 3-4 months made 7 game jam prototypes.  We want to open up that process and experience.

In episode one, I chose to include what is perhaps the most important image of the series:

experimentfail

 

In case you’re wondering about the marathon:

marathon

This is Part III of IV on the making of Indie Van Game Jam.  Check out our previous posts on the gear we use and about our pre-production phase. Next week is the final post on editing!

The Indie Van Game Jam is a comedy documentary web and video game series in which we travel around the country, interview independent game developers, and make games along the way in our van. You can check out the series on IndieVanGameJam.com and vote for us on Steam Greenlight.

The Press Tour: May 14, 2014

While the entire team is hard at work on episode two of Indie Van Game Jam, that does not mean we have not been making the rounds from time to time on the press tour. It is an important part of promoting the project for sure, and one would be remiss not to take part. However, over the last few weeks it has also allowed us a venue to talk about some of the behind the scenes details on the creation of Indie Van Game Jam and our long-term goals. So as a way of thanking the press who took time out of their schedules to interview us and also to give our loyal fans some content to nibble on as we polish the next episode, we present to you – The Press Tour.

Articles

Interviews

Podcasts

The First Episode of Indie Van Game Jam Is Here!

Hurrah! After four months of work, it is finally here: The first episode of Indie Van Game Jam!

You can also see it and download the game over at IndieVanGameJam on the Episode page. For today, I thought I would give a little bit of background information about the process of making the first episode and the game, “It’s Not Me, It’s You.”

The Making of The First Episode of Indie Van Game Jam: Rob Lach and Two Smoking Barrels

Quick Stats:

  • Pre-production: 2 weeks.
  • Filming: 1 week.
  • Post-production: 2 months.
  • Amount of Footage: 96.776 GB of raw video.
  • Arguments: Many

Pre-production

The process of making the first episode started in early October just before our failed kickstarter for Indie Van Game Jam. (That’s indie, right?) We pretty much picked out spots on a map we thought we should hit and sent a bunch of emails. We knew nobody. We were new to the scene. We had no track record or examples to show anyone. Luckily, Rob was humble enough to let us come see his work set-up and open up as a guest on our show.

It took us a while, but we decided to film in mid-December for the Chicago episode. Our thought process was kind of crazy (because it was Chad’s.) It would probably be snowing and miserable, which would make for great television and an entirely different color palette than our other episodes. After quelling Scott’s fear of an Ice Road Truckers scenario we were not equipped to handle, we planned our route, rented and purchased a mix of cameras, stands, and audio. (More on that in another post.)

Production

We left on a Monday (at 9 AM) heading through St. Louis. We planned our route so that we could see our friends, Butterscotch Shenanigans, and check out a St. Louis IGDA event. It took us a day to get there and, surprise, it was awesome. So awesome,  in fact, that we have a whole boat load of footage and will be creating a special “Side Quest” out of the ordeal showcasing the St. Louis Indie Game scene.

Afterwards, we took off towards Chicago. We were over an hour late getting to the Indie City Co-Op. We had pictured some sort of ideal schedule that slowly dissolved. Rob was more than accommodating. We arrived, got lunch, then to brass tacks. We were luckily able to capture everything in a single half-day, which allowed us to depart the next morning without needing any re-shoots. We barreled home as quickly as possible.

Post Production

This was easily the hardest part as a team. It’s easy to think that everyone is on the same page before you start to discuss what the product actually looks like. That’s when you learn everyone has different ideas about the tone, the shots we need, the order, and everything else. For starters, we don’t all have a background in film. Quickly, we realized we had to get the basic structure sorted out. This is when we made our extremely rough outline.

[A whiteboard outline of our first episode.]
The first outline of our episode.
After that, we were off to the races editing. We had begun editing without getting anything transcribed, no comprehensive log, nothing. We knew what scenes we thought we needed and had a plan to get a 10 minute episode. The game development part was supposed to be about 1 minute and 30 seconds. After an awkward rough cut of this, it was back to the drawing board.

[Rough draft on the timeline.]
The first finalized rough of the episode.
We went though each scene meticulously categorizing and sorting. We re-envisioned the episode. Redid almost very scene. Eventually, we decided the longer cut was fine and fleshed it out. This allowed us to tell multiple jokes in each scene. It let some scenes have a little air. It let us convey some of the awkward or tense moments that existed. That gave us the episode we have available on the web today.

[The final cut for the web on the timeline.]
The final cut for the web on the timeline.

Making The Game

The game would seem to be a much simpler process. At Zeb’s apartment we came up with the prompt. When we first took off, Chad drove as he couldn’t yet code. We brainstormed, picked the second person shooter idea, and then started jamming. The basic process, is Chad codes features, Diego makes art, Zeb makes sound, and then Chad makes sure it all works as one. Then he hands it off to Zeb to finalize and level design. Game finished, right?

Not quite. When we get back to Austin we have to make sure everyone has access to the game. We make sure the game is built for PC, Mac, and Linux. We also do a quick playtest through these builds just to make sure you can make it through the game. If there’s a crash bug that would stop people from getting the basic game experience, we have decided to fix those.

And THAT is the basic behind-the-scenes info. Stay tuned and we’ll be publishing more information such as our equipment list, editing process, and more on the games themselves.

From all of us at Binary Solo, we hope you enjoyed the first episode and the game. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or on our mailing list for information on the rest of the series as it’s available. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

[The crew in front of the van.]