Axis Game Factory
I am not a game developer, although I have tried to develop games. In Ye Olden Tymes (the 1980′s), I used to write programs in BASIC on the Commodore 64, including games. Since becoming a developer of Non Game Things, I’ve turned my spare attention to XNA and, more recently, Unity. In between, I’ve tried some of the off-the-shelf game design packages that claim to allow you to make great games with as little sweat as possible.
Thing is, sweat is a necessary evil because unless you have a Team, or are stupidly gifted to the point of freakishness, you will have a very demarcated division between developers and designers. Developers make things work; designers make things look good. The kicker is that anyone can be a developer. I mean, look at me! I have no formal training, am entirely self-taught, and I currently work as a full time, in-house web and application developer. So anyone can learn to develop, but design is another matter entirely. It’s art. It’s recognizing and replicating proportions, understanding how what your eye sees isn’t what it really sees, but you have to understand it as your eye thinks it sees…see? Splines, vertices, textures, meshes, UV…I have a better time trying to decipher tax codes than I do in trying to wrap my head around 3D modeling and all that it entails. Even when UI understand the book-stuff, actually doing the thing is another matter entirely.
So with that rambling pre-amble out of the way, I want to talk about Axis Game Factory.
This is a project in the throes of it’s own Kickstarter. Don’t let that dissuade you. The project is moving along, and I know this because the fine folks at Heavy Water have opened their builds to anyone who backs the project, not just those at the nose-bleed tiers. I’ve been playing around with it, and I’m enjoying it so far (inasmuch as I can, being that it’s a very early stage in development and is lacking a lot of usability features and polish).
What does it do? Well, it’s one of those off-the-shelf game builders I mentioned in the intro. Using assets from a warehouse, you throw down art, arrange it just so, set some parameters, and press play. No seriously. That’s what you do, which makes it’s stupidly easy to make a side-scroller or a platformer, or an action/adventure game. You can share your creation with other players, or collaborate with friends and compatriots to build and link zones, making a huge game world (so say the Kickstarter pitch materials). And just recently, Heavy Water announced a partnership with Exit Games to bring Photon Server support for multiplayer games. I’ve tried Photon, and I like it a lot, so this is some pretty swanky news.
But queuing the Sara McLachlan music, the KS campaign isn’t doing so hot right now (theoretical projections only, and not for gambling purposes), and I’m at a loss for why, so I’m going to chalk it up to a lack of exposure. Kickstarter, as we all know, can be a dumping ground, and finding meaningful projects can be difficult. AGF, I think, is one of those projects that is unfairly buried because it is moving along nicely — I’ve got the app on my desktop to prove it! — and could really use the boost in visibility.
But why AGF and not something else new, or more established? Remember in my intro, how I went on and on about how I’m a developer and not a designer? That wasn’t just my usual busy-talk; It was to set the stage for explaining that AGF is focusing heavily on getting assets into the hands of AGF users. Hit up any hobbyist game developer forum, and there will be loads of developers, but only a few designers, and those designers are literally the belles of the ball. Must be nice. But they can’t handle all the requests, and even if they could, not all hobbyists could afford to “rent a designer”. Heavy Water is providing asset packs for purchase that can be used in AGF to create a soup-to-nuts vidja game. Hell, you don’t even need to know how to develop to produce something this time around! Sure, Unity Proper has an asset store, but with the assets provided by Heavy Water, you get consistency, ensuring that your product has a uniform aesthetic that you can’t get by cobbling together assets from different artists.
If you’ve got a hankerin’ to make some kind of game, or better yet, if you have children (or are an educator, because they’ve got a deal for you!), and want to get them on the path towards creating, consider getting involved with Axis Game Factory‘s funding campaign.
(In an attempt to ward off troll-bait, I am not affiliated with Heavy Water or Axis Game Factory. As a backer, I do have a stake in seeing the project receive it’s funding though, though, so I’m pimping this of my own volition. End of line.)