Making A Game Company – Part 1: How To File An LLC in Georgia

December 23rd, 2009

Well, I’m officially incorporated. Amazing… After years of not doing it because I didn’t understand the process at all, I finally had a buddy boil it down to the very basics and walk through the process with me. Fruitstrike Games LLC was born on December 22, 2009! Hurray! Super kudos and thanks to my friend Ryan for helping me get this set up. I still don’t understand everything from a tax perspective, but I’m sure I’ll eventually figure it out.

Anyway, here is the detailed step-by-step process for anyone else who is interested in forming an LLC in Georgia. Amazingly enough, there’s only 16 incredibly easy steps that you could easily finish in under an hour. You’d think government bureaucracy would require more, but apparently creating an LLC is easier than creating a cheesecake…

STEP 1: Navigate to http://www.sos.ga.gov/corporations/
STEP 2: Hover over the button “Online Services and Registration”, then in the drop down menu click the link “File Your Corporation Online” (it’s a little more than halfway down the list)
STEP 3: Select the “Limited Liability Company” radio button and press “GO”
STEP 4: Choose a name for your company (you have to include “LLC” or something similar in the name, it lists the possibilities in the instructions for that step). You can skip over the second part that says “Name Reservation Number” since that isn’t applicable.
STEP 5: Fill out the Filer Information with all of your information. I’ll assume you can do this since it’s nothing you haven’t done on Amazon.com or some other online store. :)
STEP 6: Fill out the principle mailing address. 99% of the time this is going to be the same address that you put in Step 5 if you are a freelancer working out of your own home.
STEP 7: Select “Individual” from the drop down list.
STEP 8: Type in your name, and press “Add New”
STEP 9: Fill in your information AGAIN. Make sure it’s YOUR information as an individual, and not the company address if you had a different address for Step 6.
STEP 10: Fill in your information YET AGAIN!!! You are both the Registered Agent and the LLC Organizer.
STEP 11: You should see a chart with your info on it. If you have partners or other people who are involved, you’d need to add them at this step, but you probably don’t so simply click “Save & Proceed >”
STEP 12: I don’t even know what an Optional Provision is, so don’t type anything in the next page’s box and simply click “Save & Proceed >”
STEP 13: Double check all your info, then press “Continue”
STEP 14: Click the checkbox to verify everything is true and correct, then click “Add Signature”
STEP 15: Change your title to “Member/Manager” and put your info in again
STEP 16: Put in your credit card info to pay the $100 filing fee. Again, I’m assuming you can handle this step without hand-holding since you’ve probably done this on Amazon before. :)

That’s it! Save every PDF you get (you should get an Invoice from the GA state government for the filing fee and another PDF with “Articles of Organization” on the top). A few days later (or maybe longer) in email you will receive your Certificate of Organization. Make sure you save that too! This might be a good time for you to secure whatever domain names you would like as well. Remember to nab the .com, .org, and .net versions of them if you can afford it. If you can’t, just grab the .com version.

As I learn more things about this process, I’ll be making more blog posts. Hope this was helpful!

I’m Still Addicted to Puzzle Quest

September 20th, 2009

So am I the only person that still whips out Puzzle Quest every couple of months to beat it all over again? I’m working on my 4th run through now, this time with the last character I haven’t tried – the Knight. There’s something incredibly fun and addictive about the game that never gets old even though I know the whole storyline. Let’s look at the features I love:

  • Multiple character types to select from, each with unique powers and several possible choices for gender/looks.
  • Addicting and clever battle system based on Bejeweled.
  • Decent storyline, a bit stereotypical and overdone, but the unique battle system makes it feel fresh somehow.
  • Lots of side quests and activities outside of the main quest – build up your citadel, gather Runes, forge Rune Items, capture and train Mounts, capture enemies and research their spells, and conquer cities to add to your empire.
  • Leveling system for the player, with standard RPG stats and such. It’s addictive like crack. Just… one… more… level!!!…
  • Tons of pre-made items to purchase and equip, though I generally find I stick with the same kinds no matter what my character is.
  • No death condition. Instead you just retry battles

I could have added that there is a multiplayer element to the game – you can battle other people with the character you have created – but I’m not really fond of it. It feels like it was tacked on because they could. I suppose that’s better than excluding it since I’m sure there are others out there who enjoy that part of the game, but I am not one of them.

I think the DS version is my favorite. I’ve played it on Xbox 360, PC, and DS, and by far the DS version was the most fun because I could take it with me. Puzzle Quest is perfect when I have 5 min waiting at a restaurant for my friends to arrive or when I’m in sitting at the doctor’s office for my appointment. The ability for the DS to pause the game and hibernate by shutting the lid without losing progress is invaluable. I can’t tell you how many time I’ve been engrossed in the middle of a battle when I hear my named called and have to instantly flip the lid down to greet someone or go do what I was there for in the first place. Man that would piss me off if I lost my progress whenever that happened.

I am a huge fan of both casual and hardcore games. I like casual games because they are usually more forgiving on time-requirements – I can play for 5 minutes or 5 hours, and either the gameplay sessions are individually small enough that I can complete them in that time or it’s easy to save and come back later. I like hardcore games because I’m constantly searching for that immersive experience in which to emotionally invest myself. Puzzle Quest satisfies both of these urges for me. It’s also a great introduction into hardcore games for any casual players you know. My sister LOVES Bejeweled, and while she normally has no interest in video games (which for some reason she doesn’t count Bejeweled as one) she was really interested in Puzzle Quest when she saw me in a battle. It makes a great gift for a birthday or holiday – the game is priced very reasonably so you could buy several copies for the price of a regular hardcore game.

Overall, the game is clean, fun, and really expansive given its premise. Puzzle Quest is addictive and unique and polished, which is probably why I still play it a year after I bought it. Kudos to Infinite Interactive and D3 for making a brilliant game I can’t put down!

Indie Review – Puzzle Farter

April 9th, 2009

Introduction

Puzzle Farter is a 2D platformer created by Pet Tomato in which you have to help a character with a goldfish for a head navigate through each level to reach the exit door. How do you do it? By propelling him through the air with gravity-defying flatulence.

That’s right. You fart to fly.

I’d love to say that I am above immature fart jokes and the fact that you pass gas to pass levels didn’t factor into selecting this game to review, but then I’d be a liar. There’s a lot of crude potty humor in games out there, but most of it is done poorly. Puzzle Farter does it right. I’ve played dozens of times already, and I still snicker every now and then when my character cuts a big one trying to launch himself to a high platform. The game humorously incorporates toilet humor in a thematic manner that fits in the game world without making it overly gross or disgusting.

Puzzle Farter - Main Menu

Puzzle Farter - Main Menu


Gameplay

Juvenile theme aside, the game itself is expertly-crafted. The physics have been tweaked to perfection, and the controls are simple enough for anyone to grasp quickly but still allow for a large range of motion. Press up once to jump normally, then press up again while in the air and hold to fly. Right and left arrows dictate horizontal movement whether on the ground or airborne. That’s it! There are no special attacks, no key combinations, no complicated instructions to think about. Just move, jump, and fly. You only get a few seconds of total flight time before you run out of gas (literally) and fall to the ground, so you can’t fly endlessly. Your supply recharges quickly however, allowing you to get back in the air almost immediately after touching the ground.

Along the way you’ll be required to navigate through a maze of platforms that get increasingly complex. You’ll encounter five different enemies that will up the challenge quite a bit as well. Touching an enemy or something it attacks with results in losing a health point. You get three health per life and three lives per game, though there are some extra life power ups scattered throughout the levels. If you lose a life on a level, you have to start that level over. This structure forces players to get through every level with no more than 3 hits, while allowing them many more than 3 cumulative hits over the course of the entire game.

Puzzle Farter - Gameplay

Puzzle Farter - Gameplay


Level Design

Puzzle Farter really shines when you examine its levels. The first couple levels are built in tutorials–there aren’t any enemies so you can take all the time you need to get the hang of the flying mechanic without fear of failure. The levels then slowly introduce easier enemies first in simple-to-avoid positions, followed by more and more complicated level and enemy setups. Soon you’ll be dodging fish on stilts and spiked sea anemones while flying up through a maze of paper airplanes thrown by kitties in jars. The difficulty curve ramps up very smoothly and the challenges increase proportionally to your skill level as you progress. That’s not to say you’ll likely beat all 50 levels on your first attempt, however. Getting through the entire game is no small feat, and once you do that Pet Tomato has another 50 levels waiting for you in the “New Levels” selection at the beginning of the game. They should have been called “Brutal Levels” as these will really put your methane-powered acrobatics to the test.

Room For Improvement

One minor quibble is that it’s not immediately apparent that you can safely land on the frog enemy’s tongue. You have to avoid the tip, but the middle part of the tongue is safe. This goes against every other enemy behavior you learn in the game, and it was only after I had beaten the entirety of the first 50 levels that I accidentally discovered this fact. Boy, would that have made some of the previous levels easier.

Conclusion

Puzzle Farter is flawlessly executed and really shows off the game development expertise of the creators, especially level design. The cute, cartoony art style and fantastic sound design compliment the game perfectly. Puzzle Farter is a joy to play, and I would recommend it to anyone who wants a fun casual game and a good laugh.

Indie Review – Tone Matrix

April 6th, 2009

Tone Matrix is a really nifty little Flash app that lets you compose an awesome-sounding synthesized music loop in real-time using a giant grid. The x-axis represents timing. There’s 16 equal increments of time, giving you 4 beats at 4 notes per beat. The y-axis represents pitch, with each tile being a different note on a pentatonic scale. For those of you who don’t know what that is, basically it means no matter what combination of notes you play they sound good with each other. I’ll let the wikipedia link explain it in more detail if you are interested.

I know it’s more of a toy than a game, but these kinds of projects frequently lead to really nifty ideas being adapted in games. Just browsing through the comments I saw some people mentioning various games (Tetris, etc) that would benefit from an added mechanic of something like this. I know I was mesmerized by Tone Matrix for a good solid hour, and I’ll show most of my friends. It’s fun to draw a picture of something with the matrix and see what it “sounds” like. Thanks again to Scottae for sharing this.

TONE MATRIX URL: http://lab.andre-michelle.com/tonematrix

Google Reader Is Amazing

April 4th, 2009

If you’re like me, you have a lot of websites that you want information from each and every day. If you’re even more like me, you don’t have nearly enough time to read it all, and it’s a pain in the butt to remember which ones you’ve already visited.

Enter Google Reader. A few months ago, I was a schmuck who manually visited about 10 or 12 gaming/Flash/funny websites daily to see if they had any updated content. A friend introduced me to Google Reader, and it literally changed my online life. Google Reader performs the extremely useful service of aggregating all content from the web sites I frequent into one easy place. It’s especially useful because I don’t have to visit the sites to see if there is new content – Google Reader keeps track of which items I’ve read and marks the others unread just like emails. I already had a Gmail account, so it was a cinch to setup my Reader account by simply clicking the “Reader” link at the top and logging in for the first time.

Any website that has an RSS feed or something similar is easy as pie to add to your Google Reader. Simply press the “Add Subscription” button in the upper left corner and type the main address of the website.

In fact, why don’t you sign up right now and add my blog to your Google Reader? :) Simply press “Add Subscription” and type “www.georgeskleres.com” in the pop up that appears and press “Add”. Then you’ll see Game Dev Overload in your list and be happy knowing that any time this blog is updated, you’ll know immediately. :)

There’s a GDC Canada?

April 2nd, 2009

I opened one of my daily Gamasutra digest emails yesterday while catching up from not having read a week’s worth of them at the GDC, when I was suddenly intrigued by the ad at the top. GDC Canada? I’ve never heard of such a thing, but it piqued my interest so I followed the link: http://www.gdc-canada.com/.

Wow! That’s pretty cool! When I visit websites, I almost always ignore the top and sides because most websites reserve those spaces for ads, and I HATE ads (unless they are making me money in my games). But now I see that there’s a whole bunch of GDC events that happen all around the year. There’s five in all – the main GDC, GDC Austin, GDC Canada, GDC Europe, and even GDC China! I knew about the first two, but the last three are new to me. It looks like they all have volunteer opportunities as well!

As I mentioned in previous posts, I have an absolute blast when I volunteer at the GDC in San Fran every year. I also serve as the volunteer coordinator for SIEGE Con in Atlanta. If these other conferences are even one tenth of the fun of GDC, I would have a blast AND get even more networking opportunities. Plus, I’ve always wanted to go to Europe. Can we say “business trip?” :)

If any of you readers out there have attended or volunteered for any of these additional conferences, please post a comment and tell us about it. These seem like fantastic opportunities, especially for those students in Europe and Asia (and maybe even Canada) who can’t afford a plane ticket to the US for the main GDC event.

IceCream – Open-Source XNA 2D Engine

April 1st, 2009

OFFICIAL SITE: http://icecream.epsicode.net/

Well, now this really excites me. Not only is IceCream a nifty little 2D engine for XNA games, but it comes with a convenient authoring tool called Milkshake! To quote from the site, “This editor allows you to easilly design all the elements of your game, from the texture selection to game object’s components edition.” That’s pretty darn cool if you ask me! Looking at the videos they posted, it reminds me of the in-game editors I’m used to from games such as Warcraft 3 and Unreal Tournament 2004.

This puppy hasn’t launched yet, but I am eagerly awaiting it’s release. Anything that makes XNA development easier, especially by turning it into more of a drag-and-drop or selection-box kind of environment, earns major kudos in my book. Go check it out. I think this one will be well worth the time.

Enjoy!

– George

GDC 2009 – Final Thoughts

March 29th, 2009

The week is finished, and another Game Developers Conference has come and gone. This year was a delight as always, mostly due to the CA program. It never ceases to amaze me how amazing of a networking opportunity this is. In fact, this year during each of our daily morning meetings, we had “celebrity” CAs (both former and current) such as Matthew Wegner (Flashbang Studios) and Kim Swift (Valve Software) speak to us. It’s always inspiring to hear these stories. Who knows, maybe I’ll be up there doing the same thing one day.

On a negative note, the floundering economy seems to have had a noticeable impact on the GDC. The Expo Floor was smaller than last year and had far less awesome swag up for grabs. Also, the Career Pavilion seemed to have the same number of exhibitors as last year but about four times as many applicants. I’m not sure why people are saying that the game industry is recession-proof. It was slightly depressing, but I am one of the fortunate ones who still has a job at this point.

Someone once told me that the best time to network for a future job is while you still have one. I learned the meaning of that this year, as this was the first GDC I attended while employed in a stable, full-time, games industry position (ironic what with the economy, eh?). I didn’t have any stress of job-searching, and I wasn’t trying to meet people who might help me join a studio. As a result, I made more new friends than ever before. That’s not to say that all the friends I made in previous years were solely for the purpose of my ulterior motives, but the lion’s share of them at some point or another received some kind of inquiry about jobs. This can frequently be a turn off to people, as they are there to make friends and network as well but don’t necessarily want to be obligated to answer questions about employment. Also, if you think that you can force a friendship with someone just so that you can get an “in” to their studio, think again. People can smell insincerity a mile away. Instead, focus your best efforts on just being yourself and make friends with whomever you come across. You never know if that student you met last year will be a big name industry professional next year (*cough cough* Kim Swift), so it’s best just to have fun and establish true friendships with people you like and get along with.

On a more personal note, I am slightly bummed that I did not get to meet Alex Rigopulos & Eran Egozy (co-founders of Harmonix). I got the chance to be one of the 15 VIP ushers for the Developer’s Choice Awards, and I was in line waiting as Alex came up to the registration table. Unfortunately, a couple of other people happened to finish before him, and so I had to escort them instead. Sooooo close!!! I wanted to thank him on the walk to the table for his dedication to bringing music to everyone. Rock Band is one of my absolute all-time favorite game series. I have a fairly rigorous music background – my major in school was Music Composition for several years before I switched to Game Design. Music comes fairly naturally to me, but not to all my friends. Rock Band gives me the perfect opportunity to include my less musically-talented friends in a fantastic experience where we can all rock out and enjoy the game. I might be on Expert and they are on Easy, but it still feels like we are living the awesome dream of being a real-life rock band!

In conclusion, it was another awesome year at the GDC in San Francisco. I’m already looking forward to volunteering again next year! For those of you who aren’t familiar with the volunteer CA program, please see my previous post at the beginning of the week. It’s an experience you will never forget!

GDC 2009 – CA Program

March 17th, 2009

The GDC is upon us once more, and once again this year I was accepted into the GDC CA volunteer program. The GDC has thousands upon thousands of game developers and game industry professionals attend each year, making it THE premier event of our industry. For those of you who are trying to get your foot in the door, the CA program probably the best way to network you could possibly hope for. This is my 4th or 5th year volunteering and I plan to do it every year that I possibly can. You will meet so many amazing people and form friendships that can last a lifetime. An added benefit is that you never know if one of those people will one day turn into an in for a job opportunity. After all, the game industry (just as most things in life) is all about who you know.

In brief, when you sign up as a GDC CA volunteer, you are asked to do up to 20 hours of work over the course of the entire week and you are expected to be in attendance from the Sunday before the conference starts through the last Friday sessions. The exact work you’ll do is described on the volunteer page (http://www.gdconf.com/volunteers/index.html) so I won’t go into it here, but it’s pretty much basic stuff anyone with a friendly attitude can do. In return, you are given a free “All Access” pass (a $2200 value – nothing to scoff at), reduced hotel costs (about $100-$200 savings a night over regular hotel costs), and most importantly the networking opportunity of a lifetime. This is absolutely the best thing you can do for your career if you are a student or a newbie trying to break in. If you are lucky you may even have a chance to meet your favorite celebrity game developer while working at his/her session. Also, the CA leaders, Tim Brengle and Ian MacKenzie, are two of the most amazing leaders I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. They make the CA program feel like a big happy family and tirelessly work to make your job easy and fun. I can’t say enough good things about them!

Obviously, with the GDC already upon us, all the volunteer slots are already filled for this year’s conference. However, the volunteer applications open up between September and October of year for the next year’s conference, so in 6 to 7 months time you should keep your eyes peeled to the GDC site for this announcement. The CA program is one of the most fulfilling and amazing times I have every year. I always reserve one of my 2 precious weeks of vacation from work for it, and I’ve never been disappointed. What could be better than spending a fabulous week in San Francisco surrounded by fellow nerds and game makers, and more importantly my big CA family? Nothing! Trust me, once you try it you’ll never want to go another year without volunteering.

Global Game Jam – Coming Up Jan 30

January 23rd, 2009

For those of you who may be interested, the Global Game Jam is coming up on January 30 to Feb 1. Basically a bunch of developers get together and form teams to make a game over the weekend. I’ve never been to one of these, but I have participated in the Game Design Workshop for the past several years at the GDC and it’s a lot of fun every time. I will be attending this event and I strongly encourage any aspiring game developers out there to also attend. You’d be amazed at how much you learn, but more importantly you’d be amazed at how many contacts you’ll make. And we all know getting a job in the game industry is all about who you know.

Just to prove that point, John Sharp is running my local Atlanta Game Jam. He and I were co-speakers on a panel about kid’s games at 2008 Siege Con (which is basically the GDC of the southeast). It amazes me how small the game industry is. I still consider myself a fledgling and I’ve already recognized quite a few of my friends’ names in the list. It’s very important to remember that your reputation will follow you everywhere in the form of people, so make sure you don’t ever burn bridges.