Friday, 14 August 2015

The Secrets To Self Publishing and Indie Development Startups

After much procrastination and absence on my blog, coffee in hand I am awake and back at the keyboard.After completing my first self publishing title to launch on Amazon Kindle I decided to pursue the non fiction route writing about what I know.

I've worked in video-games for over 20 years, Atari, Midway Games Meteor Entertainment and now Plan of Attack, a video games PR agency and its baffling to see that no one appears to helping the little guys much, the startup guys, the breakaway studio startups craving to unleash their pent up creativity with an app or game into the marketplace.
(Prepare for shameless self promotion in next sentence) That's where Front Towards Gamer : Videogames marketing & PR for Indie Startups and Kickstarters was born, more out of the fact that I see the same mistakes being made now that were being made by development teams at Atari and Midway Games several years ago. For the most part development teams don't need to be told what works and what doesn't work because invariably they are made up of people with lots of experience, they also learn quickly in a volatile marketplace like video games what doesn't fly so good because when you flop with something that doesn't work so well it costs $$$$$.

However, there are teams and individuals out there who clearly need some guidance, speaker conferences are good sharing platforms for hints and tips by educated and experienced industry speakers but what of the group of coders who are starting out with little or no backup from a publisher?
Most of the speaking panels at GDC, Develop, Pocket Connects and Nordic Game conferences promote the same tried and tested 'do's and don't' aspects of self publishing, marketing or PR, in fact you'll be hard pressed to see anything radically new offered up by speakers and what they found worked as a best practice way of working in the marketplace. And yet the same mistakes are being made because creative teams are not geared up for talking to the consumer because they are too busy working on the product. This is nobody's fault, developers are passionate about their product, and rightly so,this book is aimed at guiding bedroom coders,startups, and small dev teams through the myriad of issues and potential pitfalls of taking their product to market.

My very good friend and former boss Mark Long, bestselling author of The Silence of Our Friends provided me with a compelling foreword which was the much needed catalyst to self publish this book. Long has fingers in so many pies creatively with apps,books,graphic novels, games and start ups that it's wonder he finds time to sleep. Former CEO of Zombie Studios who developed Blacklight on PS4 and former CEO of Meteor Entertainment who published HAWKEN, the amazing FPS Free to Play Mech game Mark has produced many different forms of transmedia marketing in the course of his career which provides some great insight into spreading the PR and marketing voice of your product to a consumer.

Front Towards Gamer is available to buy on Amazon priced $9.99

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Holy Smokes Batman! - The Official Limited Edition Batman Moleskine!

I'm a total sucker for cross promotional partnerships, you know the kind, when two well loved brands combine to deliver something you just gotta have.
Well this happened with Moleskine and DC Comics, Moleskine have just announced a partnership with Warner Bros and DC Comics to release a limited run of Batman Moleskine note books.
Needless to say I immediately pre-ordered one over at Amazon!

They come in two sizes, a pocket size at 192 pages and large size at 240 pages and come in either plain or lined versions.
The covers also feature some truly great two tone artwork and stickers that comic book fans would love.

Available from Amazon and Moleskine from May 5th

Gotta have them all! - the full range of Limited Edition Moleskine Batman notebooks.

If you've seen the keen doodler and artist Kirby Rosanes work then I'm sure this stuff will feel right at home inside a Batman Moleskine, got a creative urge?

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

San Francisco Heroes, a Roadtrip.


Early in March I got the awesome opportunity to visit San Francisco for a week on a business trip to GDC, my first proper trip to the Bay Area where I got boots on the ground and had a good sniff around.
Being a movie fan I thought it would be fun to explore a couple of places where my favorite cult movies had been shot, namely Bullitt, starring the late Steve McQueen and Escape from Alcatraz starring Clint Eastwood. Using a cool photo technique inspired by the website Dear Photograph where an older photo is merged into the real life setting the original photo was taken I took the following shots.

This shot is on the street corner of Taylor and Clay Street, in the film Bullitt, Steve McQueen parks the Mustang just across from the corner shop and steals a newspaper before going into the store to buy groceries. The fire hydrant, sign post and red cornerbox are still there to this day.

A shot of the actual apartment used by Steve McQueens character Lieutenant Frank Bullitt is literally across the road from the grocery store.

This shot shows the Dodge Charger driven by the hitmen heading West at the corner of Taylor and Union Street as it gets some air.

The 1979 movie Escape From Alcatraz starring Clint Eastwood is another of my cult favorites, the movie recounts the infamous June 1962 jail escape by Frank Morris played by Eastwood and 2 inmates. This was by far the coolest place I think I've been to on any of my business trips. I took the early bird booking which leaves in the morning at around 8.45am, it was on a Saturday and I didn't fancy fighting my way through hundreds of other visitors. The trip also gave me a very cool opportunity to dust off my Canon DSLR which I don't use nearly enough.

This shot is taken outside in the exercise yard where Frank talks about acquiring some items for his escape.

The knife attack by inmate 'Wolf' on Frank Morris takes place in the exercise yard here, I've tried to match the shot up exactly by using the steel door as a guide. You'll have to take my word for it that its still there!

Alcatraz all to myself - probably the photo I am most proud of, I got in ahead of the main tour crowd and had a good ten minutes before they showed up to crowd the walkways.

Useful Links: Dear Photograph  Alcatraz Cruises

Thursday, 26 February 2015

WARBIRDS: The Aviation Art of Adam Tooby

WARBIRDS: The Aviation Art of Adam Tooby

RRP 29.99

My growing collection of coffee table books just increased by one today, and I have to say its an absolute corker of a book. If you're a fan of combat aircraft, combat paintings or aviation art in general then this is a must buy.

Warbirds: The Aviation art of Adam Tooby is a visually stunning presentation of combat aircraft in a variety of scenarios from World War 1, World War 2, Vietnam and beyond.
The art is created digitally so presents some very clean lines which might not sit well with certain aviation art purists who prefer the more organic and traditional paintings from masters like Robert Taylor. That being said this is still a book to get excited about, the page design is really thought out and on occasion provides extended fold out pages for the larger planes and scenarios. Composition wise all the paintings deliver an adrenaline fuelled visual attack.

Tooby lends his talent to providing Airfix model kit ranges their dynamic box covers, Warbirds is his first book.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Live Streamers Get Swatted Live on Video Cam

Swatting is defined in Wikipedia as "the act of tricking an emergency service (via such means as hoaxing a 9-1-1 dispatcher) into dispatching an emergency response based on the false report of an ongoing critical incident. Episodes range from large to small — from the deployment of bomb squads, SWAT units and other police units and the concurrent evacuations of schools and businesses, to a single fabricated police report meant to discredit an individual as a prank or personal vendetta."

Basically it's a more lethal form of knock, knock with a steel battering ram and eight tactical Police officers raiding your home. Its the ultimate troll, or at least that's what certain malevolent internet trolls think it is, the act of getting revenge on someone you envy because of their livestreaming success or simply because you want to mess with their head but primarily it's nothing more than an attempt at boosting ego and getting bragging rights.

On 27 August 2014, YouTube user Jordan Mathewson, known online as Kootra, live streamed a game of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive on Twitch. A viewer called 911 claiming that there was a shooting in the building with hostages. A SWAT team raided the office that Mathewson's gaming company, The Creatures LLC, was operating out of. Mathewson was thrown to the ground and searched as officers searched the room. The events were broadcast live on the internet, until law enforcement set the camera lens-down on Mathewson's desk. Videos of the swatting went viral, gaining over three million views on YouTube and being reported on news programs all over the world.(The YouTube clip below shows that incident)

Above: SWAT raid as caught by livestream cam on Jordan Mathewson aka Kootra.

A 16 year old boy from Ottowa has recently been charged with 60 Swatting offences. One of the alleged incidents was a bomb threat which happened April 30 just before 10:30 a.m. at Jean Vanier Catholic Secondary School in Milton, Ont., west of Toronto. An anonymous 911 caller said he had placed explosives near the school that he was going to detonate — creating eight hours of work for more than 30 officers, and prompting an evacuation and search of the three-storey school.

Another story you may have heard about is 15 year old Paul Horner getting 25 years to Life for swatting, the story was in fact a hoax. A website called National Report reported that a 15-year-old Louisiana teen had been sentenced to 25 years to life when he “swatted” a fellow player who had beaten him repeatedly in Battlefield 4. The story includes sufficient fabricated information to convince casual readers of its authenticity, including a photograph, comments from “Judge Arthur Digsby," fake player IDs, and a vague reference to provisions of the Patriot Act that supposedly justified the decision.
The sobbing teen you may have seen in the YouTube video is actually being convicted of murdering a baby he was supposed to be looking after.

The hoax article details were clearly enough to convince a broad audience of its authenticity. Since its publication, the article had 200,000 shares on Facebook and nearly 400 comments that roundly applaud the decision.

Add caption

Above: The article posted in the National Report about Paul Horner being convicted of Swatting used a picture that was actually from the sentencing for a murder conviction in an entirely different case.

Above: The actual event of sentencing was for Murder of a toddler the teen was supposed to babysit.

Swatting goes as far back as 2008 but seems to have come to the forefront of late as prankers take more risks to increase the ante on their victims livestreaming accounts. In fact recently Joshua Peters, a Runescape player was swatted live in front of 60,000 viewers, he then tried to make a video about the incident where he describes how Police pointed guns at his younger brother.

Above: Videogamer Joshua Peters just prior to being Swatted on his Runescape livestream channel.

The fact no-one has been seriously injured or killed either shows a superb example of the high level of training that SWAT teams undertake or perhaps it's just nothing but pure luck.

One to Watch: Jeff Lafferty

If like me you're a sucker for killer artwork or just love the whole creative process of drawing the traditional way via paint and pencil then here's an artist you might just like.
Jeff Lafferty is an American artist who's style isn't too far off Drew Struzan (Struzan did the original Raiders of the Lost Ark and Back to the Future movie posters).
Lafferty has a subdued manner to his YouTube videos when talking about his artwork and his process of working but makes up for the lack of media prowess with his stunning artwork. The use of colour, highlights and cross hatching make for addictive watching and he clearly loves his movie heroes. He does commission work too, so if you want one of your heroes drawn for a fee this guy could be a great choice to make that happen for you.

Check out Jeffs Blog here
His Deviant Art page here

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Boba Fett to Return in Star Wars Episode VII?


It always bugged me how Boba Fett met his fate in Return of the Jedi, like thousands of other Star Wars fans around the world I happily went along with the initial comedic value of his accidental and grisly demise at the time, I was after all only 12 years old. But now, older and wiser I look back on how utterly cool this character is and have since joined the massed ranks of fans who feel that his accidental ending robbed him of a hero's fight to the death he so richly deserved.

At first you think that slamming into Jabba's sail barge and falling into the Sarlacc pit couldn't possibly be the end of the Fett story and he'll just ignite his jet pack and fly out of trouble, but alas, Han put paid to that when he smashed said jet pack with the lance when he swung it into Fetts back.

Death of an anti hero: Solo smacks Fettt's backpack as he turns around oblivious that the bounty hunter is behind him.

Wire work: Fett is rigged with wires by ROTJ crew members for the sail barge battle and his ultimate demise.(Photo by Mike Davis)

(Photo by Mike Davis)

The death of Boba Fett in Jedi ultimately became a catalyst for his popularity, In Empire Strikes Back he was the only man to have survived answering back to Vader, he'd also got his bounty in the form of a frozen Han Solo. Fett had quickly became a fan favorite, the cool bad dude in the helmet and cape and a man who's nod was the coolest ever caught on film, not even Eastwood or DeNiro had a nod that cool. George Lucas has even gone on record to admit that had he known the popularity of the character after Jedi he would have created a more heroic death, to go out in such a bum way remains a subject that's been hotly debated for decades.

Jabbas Sail Barge from the set of return of the Jedi   (Photo by Mike Davis)

(Photo by Mike Davis)

Personally speaking, Fett's backstory in the new prequels did little to appease me, on the one hand it answered the rumor that he was indeed a clone.Unlike other clones, Boba did not undergo the gene tampering that would lead to docility and growth acceleration. Jango Fett accepted Boba in addition to payment for services he rendered to the Kaminoans and he raised Boba as his own son. However, on the other hand Lucas' grasp on storytelling had plot holes the size of sink holes ( Leia remembering her mother fondly in Jedi, yet Lucas killed her off giving birth to Leia??)
The expanded universe had given Fett a new lease of life but recent statements by Disney in resetting (basically ignoring the expanded universe ever happened) the Star Wars Canon at least allows Disney to explore new ground for the character.

So Star Wars Episode VII is underway, Solo has a broken foot and websites the world over publish the first on set photo's, one of these appeared to be doctored with a photoshopped Boba Fett helmet, a surefire way to get traffic to websites and raise the rumor.

Above: An on set image of Star Wars Episode VII with 'photoshopped' Fett Helmet.

Above: Artist Livio Ramondelli own beautifully illustrated depiction of Fett emerging from the Sarlacc pit.

The latest news is that Fett could get his very own movie and the rumors are growing by the week. Lawrence Kasdan has been connected the Star Wars through the years, having penned Star Wars: Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. He’s a director in his own right, having helmed The Big Chill and Grand Canyon. But we already know that Disney and LucasFilm have hired Josh Trank (Chronicle) and Gareth Edwards (Godzilla) to helm the standalone films that Disney wants to fill the gaps between the main Star Wars movies of episodes VIII and IX.

Right now though we'll just have to keep our fingers crossed that the Sarlacc doesn't eat Bounty Hunters and pray for at least an episode VII cameo of some kind.