EA Sports Active isn’t just fun, it’s beneficial too!

One small step for fitness, one giant leap for the video games industry...Okay perhaps not, but regardless, it’s nice to hear that EA Sports Active has been recognised as beneficial rather than just some kind of gimmick.

The University of Wisconsin has done research that involved 16 physically fit adults performing two of the pre-set EA Sports Active workouts. They were measured in heart rate and calorie expenditure, amongst other factors.

The American university was so impressed with the results that it declared EA’s fitness game conforms to guidelines from the American College of Sports Medicine.

EA were pleased and said it proved the software did provide a "real, challenging workout."
It’s a shame that we don’t hear much about video game research in UK universities. I think it would be good to hear about different kinds of research other than the “does video game violence affect children/people” type of research we seem to be hear every year.

Do any of the Train2Game students see any value in the fitness games like Wii Fit, Your Shape and EA Sports Active? I haven’t had the chance to play either of those so I can’t give my opinions on them. I also wonder if any of the students have thought about making their own fitness game. It would be interesting to hear about it if any of you reading this do.

Could this be the start of the rise of the fitness/workout genre? Last year saw the NHS officially endorse Nintendo’s Wii Fit and include it as part of the national Change4Life healthy living campaign. Soon we could be seeing other studios getting in on the act and try to gain a piece of the market share.

If this does happen, hopefully they won’t lose sight of the benefits that fitness games have the potential to bring; a fun workout that goes well with gym/daily exercise routines.
What do you think about this? Send me your comments below.

Want to read up on EA Sports Active receiving scientific backing? Click here: http://www.train2game.com/Games-Design-News/Gaming-Industry-News/EA-Sports-Active-receives-scientific-backing$19816660.html

Best laid plans? Video Game Industry has no time for such things

Can of Relentless in one hand, mouse in the other, it’s 3am and your body is telling you that you need sleep, but your mind tells you to stay awake as you work in sorting out a glitch that could cripple your game...Finally as you become more tense you finally manage to fix it and breathe a sigh of relief before reminding yourself there are other tasks at hand. With a groan you sit there deciding whenever to get started on what needs to be done or call it a night...

That ladies and gentleman, is the dilemma that Games Designers, Games Artists and especially Games Developers face. Try as you might to come up with a schedule and stick to it, most of the time sod’s law will kick in and something will make you go behind schedule which will lead to many all-nighters just so you can move on.

That was the problem Ruffian games faced when they were developing Crackdown 2, sequel to one of the Xbox 360’s first AAA titles.

The studio was thrust into the deep end almost immediately. The experience, according to Ruffian producer James Cope has been somewhat bittersweet: “It hasn’t gone very smoothly. We’ve had to learn very quickly...We’ve been lucky but it’s also been down to insanely hard work from our team; they’ve worked themselves ragged.”

Still, it looks like all that hard-work, tension and stress will pay off when Crackdown 2 is released on July 2nd. As a huge fan of the first instalment, I simply can’t wait for this game and have been looking forward to this game ever since it was announced. I’ve also enjoyed the mini-episodes that Ruffian Games have released, detailing how the world of Crackdown 2 is in such a mess – it simply adds more flesh to the story of the game. Train2Game students should consider using this as a way of promoting their games in the future.

Speaking of the Train2Game students, some of them are already use to this kind of stress, having been part of events and conventions that have the participants create a game within 48 or 72 hours. I believe Train2Game students should try to attend at least one of these events as a way of building up experience and preparation for when it comes to creating their video game. That way they will be able to handle the more stressful moments of developing their game.
What do you think about this? Send me your comments below.

Want to read up on how Ruffian Games worked to the bone to develop Crackdown 2, click here - http://www.develop-online.net/news/34983/Ruffian-recounts-surviving-unhealthy-crunch-phase

Red Dead Redemption? More Like Red Dead Domination

Surely by now even the most secluded-hermit like gamer has heard of Red Dead Redemption. I’d even say that those who don’t usually take notice of video games have heard of Rockstar Games' latest hit. The hype behind it was huge, ever since screenshots behind it were unveiled years ago. From then on it got bigger as the video game journalists finally got to have a play test; they were impressed kept saying this was going to be one of the best games in 2010.

Come review time and those opinions did not change one bit. It gained favourable reviews from 1UP.com (A Grade), Computer and Video Games (9.5/10), Edge (9/10), IGN (9.7/10) and VideoGamer (10/10). Even media like The New York Times, who you wouldn’t normally associate games with, couldn’t help but be impressed by it, with writer Seth Schiesel saying: “In the more than 1,100 articles I have written for this newspaper since 1996, I have never before called anything a tour de force. Yet there is no more succinct and appropriate way to describe Red Dead Redemption."

But would the consumers fall in love with the game the same way the critics did? The fact that the revenue sales manage to generate £10 million within two days sounds like consumers couldn’t wait for this game. Hell, Danny and I are still waiting for it to be restocked so we can experience the game for ourselves.

Rockstar’s current momentum makes it look like a company that Train2Game students should try and work for. Not only is the studio reaching its potential and growing bigger, but they also seem to be having a lot of fun, which can help productivity if harnessed correctly.

It’s quite amazing that a wild west game did this well in Europe, especially when you take into account that Redemption is a spiritual sequel to Red Dead Revolver, which is a) not a sandbox game and b) not remembered much (though it’s a fun game).

There are two main reasons why Redemption did so well. The first one is that review scores may have helped consumers decide on their next big purchase (check out MCV’s news story ‘Reviews ‘more important than price’ to see how consumers value reviews over pricing).

The second reason – and something Train2Game students will have to take on board – is branding.

You could say that video game studios can potentially become recognised “brands” through successful hype/marketing and providing games with good quality; Capcom did it with Street Fighter 2, Mega Man and Resident Evil and Square Enix did with Final Fantasy.

Rockstar is well known thanks to Grand Theft Auto. Sure it’s made other games before and since the first one, but it is the series that has established Rockstar. Because of that, consumers feel assured in buying a game that has Rockstar’s label attached to it. Other studios such as Nintendo, EA and Activision are also the video games equivalent of popular brands.

Perhaps the best indie examples are The Behemoth, with Alien Hominid and Castle Crashers helping them become very popular, especially thanks to Castle Crashers taking advantage of online play, Introversion Software who’s three games (Uplink, Darwinia and DEFCON) gained them critical indie acclaim, Jagex, responsible for the British-developed (and very popular) MMO Runescape, Q-games who made the loved PixelJunk series and thatgamecompany who are responsible for some of the most innovative indie games (flOw, Cloud and Flower).

For a Train2Game student, creating a good game isn’t the only important thing, establishing a brand connection with the consumers is another major part of developing and publishing a game.
What do you think about this? Send me your comments below.

Click here to see how much of an impact Red Dead Redemption has made: http://www.train2game.com/Games-Design-News/Gaming-Industry-News/Retailers-hail-performance-of-Red-Dead-Redemption$19807966.html

Also check this link to read on Red Dead Redemption retaining the #1 spot for the second week in a row: http://www.train2game.com/Games-Design-News/Gaming-Industry-News/Rockstars-Red-Dead-Redemption-retains-chart-lead$19811135.html

See! Video Games can be good for you

Definition of Cognition: is the scientific term for "the process of thought" to knowing. Usage of the term varies in different disciplines; for example, [Cognition] is the process by which a person learns; it involves strategies for processing information, prior knowledge about content, and problem-solving and thinking skills... the psychological result of perception and learning and reasoning...

And now that I know what that word means, we can move on and talk about the benefits that playing video games can provide.

Yes it may come as a surprise to some of you that video games aren’t just fun but can be very good at helping you develop your perception, learning and reasoning skills.

At least that’s what researchers at East Carolina University's Psychophysiology Lab say. The intelligent people at the University decided to test casual games (such as Bejeweled and Peggle) on “test subjects” of those who were aged at least 50 years old. The results were “marked improvements in both cognitive response and executive functioning.”

If that’s not a good enough image boost for video games, the industry also brings the potential for health benefits, as Dr Carmen Russoniello, the lab's director, in a Train2Game news story, explained: “future applications could include prescriptive applications using casual video games to potentially stave off Alzheimer's disease and other dementia-type disorders.”

NHS also saw the positives in video gaming, when they endorsed Nintendo’s Wii Fit as part of their national Change4Life healthy living campaign. Clearly it helped boost sales as well as the game went on to be one of Nintendo’s biggest sellers

It seems like casual games are more than just good at helping you pass the time. This is good news for Train2Game students as many of their current projects could certainly fall under the “casual gaming” category.

For those creating games that are slightly more complex than a casual game (such as RoboBuddy) then not to worry as Russoniello says that it’s still possible to gain positive cognition from playing “more complex hardcore titles” but with the catch being that “these benefits will less widespread due to the difficulty of learning how to play such games.” Still, Train2Game Games Designers and Games Developers students should relish a challenge of making a game not just fun but the gameplay educational in a sense.

There are many commercial games out there that educate gamers in one-way or another. A good example is the Civilization series. Not only are they are addictive, with that “one more turn” factor helping it be very fun, but it’s packed with so much information that if you take the time to read through it, I dare say it could be just as effective as reading through historical textbooks!

The main lesson from this is that while not all games go beyond simple mindless fun, video games in general are far from a waste of time and instead they provide a great educational experience.

Want to read the full news story on how video games can help with your cognitive potential? Click here: http://www.train2game.com/Games-Design-News/Gaming-Industry-News/Study-establishes-potential-cognitive-benefits-of-gaming$19805043.html

Striking the right deal

Longtime developing partner for Sony, Insomniac Games recently inked a multiplatform publishing deal with Electronic Arts.

Insomniac Games are behind some of the most loved gaming series, with Spyro the Dragon, Ratchet & Clank and Resistance having been developed by the studio. They’ve also been a very helpful ally for Sony, helping their PlayStation 2 and 3 appeal to more to the younger and family audience while their Resistance games helped retained the hardcore FPS fans.

Now, their new deal with EA allows Insomniac Games to release multiplatform titles. There is no confirmation if this is just for one brand new Intellectual properties or several, how long the deal is and other contract information.

What is known however is that Insomniac Games are very excited about the deal: “...We want to reach more gamers. And the relationship with EAP [Electronic Arts Partners] allows us to do that.”

Joining a publishing company with the reputation that EA has will be beneficial for Insomniac to reach a much wider audience. Before the deal, Insomniac’s previous titles sold for a combined total of 35 million units around the world. With this deal – and if Insomniac’s next titles are as popular as their previous efforts – could see this number double or even triple in the future.

What it comes down to is finding the right publisher for you. In reality, it doesn’t matter what genre that game is. A perfect example is Square Enix who is well known as developers of Role Playing Games (most notable the Final Fantasy series). However, they have recently published Just Cause 2, which is far from being an RPG and instead is a sandbox action game.

Train2Game students can learn from this, they need to make sure that there game has a good gimmick/hook (see my previous blog “Right time, right console, right gimmick” for more details on this) and also that it can be marketed very well. If they do land a publisher it would be good if that studio has a good reputation.

Of course, many Train2Game students – especially because they are independent – may have to publish their own games themselves, which initially makes it harder for them to gain a fanbase but also gives them the chance of building up their portfolio and securing loyal fans.
Remember, even EA and Insomniac started out small so the reward for making it and helping to increase the business is worth the risks and challenges.

What do you think about this? Send me your comments below.

Want to read about EA and Insomniac Games striking a deal? Click here for the full story: http://www.train2game.com/Games-Design-News/Gaming-Industry-News/Insomniac-agrees-multiplatform-publishing-deal-with-EA$19801923.html

Video Games Industry - A priceless treasure that’s worth more than you can imagine

In 1997 the video game industry was worth $5.1 billion. In 2008 it was estimated to worth $22 billion. That is a $17.1 billion increase in eleven years, which is a $1.5 billion increase every year. That sounds a lot doesn’t it? Well it doesn’t stop there since analysts predict that by 2012 the total worth will be around $68.3 billion. That’s right, in four years the industry is expected to have increase by $46.3 billion, which means so far the industry has grown by $11.57 billion. Not bad for an industry that almost ceased to exist twice (at least in North America anyway). If anyone can be kind enough to convert those figures to British currency it would be much appreciated.

All those numbers and the mention of the word “billion” have got my head spinning (and jealous that I’m not worth this much). Regardless the number crunching comes from Professor Maple on the Anti Game Addiction blog (http://anti-game-addiction.blogofoto.com/2010/05/23/the-games-industry-casual-and-serious-reasons-for-continued-growth/), in which the professor goes to great lengths to explain the continued growth for the industry.

After 1985 (the arrival of the NES in North America) the industry has gone from strength to strength. The key areas in where the video game industry has been growing are profit, technology, acceptance and its influence in the entertainment industry.

Profit has already been covered in detail, so there’s no need to expand with the exception that thanks to competition (specifically the two great console wars – Nintendo vs. Sega and now Nintendo vs. Sony vs. Microsoft) have only helped the industry. Competition forces hardware and software companies to provide games and consoles of the good quality that improves on their last project, which in turn gets consumers to spend money. And speaking of ever improving, that leads me to the next factor...

In terms of technology, it just seems that every time we see a new console, it’s amazing how they can improve on the last generation. When Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft (and for that matter, anyone else who fancies their luck in the hardware market) unveil their new consoles, we know it’s going to be more powerful than their latest current generation consoles, but it’s still very hard to imagine how much so.

With the improvements in hardware an ongoing basis, this has lead to games being able to take advantage of those benefits, with games increasingly getting better graphics, more effective ways to tell a story less boundaries (which has lead to the success of the “sandbox genre” and improvements in Artificial Intelligence.

Acceptance came during the arrival of the PlayStation. It was the PlayStation that signalled the rise of the casual gamer and made video gaming look less of a geeky activity, instead proving to be a system that everyone could enjoy, hardcore and casual gamer alike.

As time went on, gaming became more and more accepted, thanks to the casual games market. What was once a niche in the video games industry has now become a dominating genre thanks to the rise of Peggle, Bejewelled, Farmville and Mafia Wars. Nintendo also did their part, with the Wii and the DS tapping into the casual gaming market. This helped the company become #1 in the industry again but more importantly made gaming more accessible than ever to everyone – name a console that has seen use in retirement and care homes?

Finally we come to the influence in the industry. Video games and Hollywood have always maintained a steady relationship, but with the comic book boom having occurred over the last few years (starting with Bryan Singer’s excellent X-Men) that relationship has started to become more productive. There has recently been a green light for the production of films based on CastleVania, Mass Effect and (surprisingly) Rollercoaster Tycoon. There’s also been a movie that’s based on the Prince of Persia: Sands of Time game (which is very good I might add)

There are also numerous books and comics based of video games as well, with franchises such as Halo, Gears of War and Resident Evil getting the novel treatment.

The series with the largest media crossover belongs to Street Fighter series, which has had numerous films (live action and animated), comics and art dedicated to the series.

It’s no wonder then that the video game industry is perhaps the biggest entertainment industry in terms of profit. Its ability to appeal to the masses as well as being able to use the power of convergence to its full potential is the many reasons why the industry is so huge and continues to grow.

Interestingly the blog does address the notion that the United Kingdom is losing ground due to no “adequate labour market”, which has seen Canada take over the UK as the third biggest manufacturer in the UK.

But in a way This is somewhat of a blessing for Train2Game students; it shows there is a place for them in the UK video game industry and not only is there still time for them to make their mark, but doing so will help the UK become an even bigger force in the industry.

What do you think about this? Send me your comments below.

The UK is still the place to be for video game studios

Even with the lack of tax breaks for UK video game industry preventing the country from solidifying its dominance alongside Japan and North America, there is still something that Games Developers and Publishers see in Britain that makes them want to set up shop here.

Perhaps it’s the wealth of talent that the UK tends to produce, with many talented Games Developers, Games Designers and Games Artists having originated from here and going on find success in major developing and publishing companies (either at home or overseas) or have had their studios purchased by a bigger studio who sees potential in them.

This is why it’s not so surprising for 4mm Games to have set their sights on the UK, as MCV explained: “Early in May the group expanded its business to Europe by launching a sales and marketing office in London, under the leadership of newly-appointed advisory board member Geoff Heath.”

4mm Games is a new studio formed by Gary Foreman and Jamie King, who if you aren’t familiar with are the founding members of Rockstar, the juggernaut developers behind Grand Theft Auto, one of the most influential gaming series in history.

If the two founders of one of the most successful studios see it as good business sense to expand in the UK, then Train2Game students who are thinking of setting up their own studios should see it as a sign that there’s still a huge amount of potential to be found in the UK video game industry.

The main project that 4mm Games is working on is Def Jam Rapstar, which is a hip-hop version to SingStar (which was designed by Paulina Bozek, who incidentally has gone on to start her own studio). If 4mm can get the presentation and gameplay as tight as SingStar managed to achieve, then it will have a hit on its hands.

If anything DJ Hero showed that Hip-hop has its place in video games. In fact, many of the games that have bore the “Def Jam” name on the PlayStation 2 have been entertaining. I for one am anticipating Def Jam Rapstar.

I wonder if any of the Train2Game students have any future plans to create a rhythm or lyric based game in the future or if they are any titles that they enjoy playing. If so I would like to hear your thoughts.

What do you think about this? Send me your comments below.

You can read the full story on 4mm Games and Def Jam Rapster here: http://www.develop-online.net/news/34882/4mm-Games-in-bid-to-open-UK-studio

Rubbing shoulders with the stars

Rufus Hound is seen as a future star in the world of comedy; an upcoming talent who can be seen on Celebrity Juice and Argumental and for Sport Relief did an entertaining parody of Cheryl Cole. He’s also going to be the host for the 2010 Develop Industry Excellence Awards.

Celebrities aren’t shy to get involved with the games industry.

The best recent examples of this are Lionhead Studio’s Fable II and III. Stephen Fry (OI, Harry Potter, Blackadder and Jeeves & Wooster) and Julia Sawalha (Chicken Run, Absolutely Fabulous and Jonathan Creek) lent their voices for the second instalment of Fable. The third instalment sees the return Fry while John Cleese and Charlie Brooker makes their debut. Stephen Fry was also the narrative voice behind Media Molecules LittleBigPlanet, the PlayStation 3 game that personifies the Sony’s motto of “Play, Create, Share” for their console.

Another game that got the celebrity treatment was Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, which featured Samuel L. Jackson, Ice T, James Woods, Danny Dyer and Chris Penn

Other notable actors to be have lent their talents to the industry: Liam Neeson (Fallout 3, Star Wars series), Ricky Gervais (Grand Theft Auto IV, Scarface: The World Is Yours), Jack Black (Brutal Legend, King Kong), Vin Diesel (The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay, Wheelman) and Michael Ironside (Spinter Cell Series, Timeshift, Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars).

Vin Diesel even has his own video game studio, Tigon Studios, who have released three games to date - http://www.tigonstudios.com/index2.htm

Train2Game itself has recently had the pleasure of working with a well known celebrity figure in technology circles, The Gadget Show presenter Suzi Perry to promote our new Games Art and Animation course. Read more about Suzi Perry here.

The fact that celebrities have no problem being involved with video games is proof that the video game and entrainment industry are converging more and more.

What do you think about this? Send me your comments below.

Click here to read the story on Rufus Hound hosting the 2010 Develop Awards - http://www.develop-online.net/news/34888/Rufus-Hound-to-host-Develop-Awards