n-Space Blog

3DS One Month In…

Posted in Editorial by Dan O'Leary on April 23, 2011

today’s blog entry comes from Studio Creative Director, Ted Newman…

This blog entry was originally going to be my personal impressions of the 3DS after its first week on the market. Fortunately, I’ve been pretty busy at n-Space writing all kinds of other docs, so this article sat on the back burner. A week turned into two which turned into three and now here we are at nearly a month since the US launch of the platform. My impressions haven’t changed exactly, however they have evolved a bit.

It sure is pretty

n-Space was lucky enough to have received 3DS devkits shortly after E3 of last year. With so many of us being blown away by the 3D screen and the overall capabilities of the system, it was great to finally have kits in-house. But March 27th 2011 marked the first time many of us had a chance to sit down and spend time with a production model of the hardware, the launch titles, and the final version of the in-game interface.

As soon as I started up the 3DS, I was immediately impressed with the presentation. Nintendo has a special, even magical way of putting the player at ease. The Home menu is simple to navigate, pleasant to look at, and easy on the ears, with soft, gentle tones and bright, cheery notifications. Right off the bat, I was smiling.

There’s a lot to play with!

I don’t think anyone expected so many built-in games, tools, and toys to be included with the system. That first week, many of us spent more time noodling around with AR Cards and StreetPass collection and raiding Faces than we did playing any of the launch titles.

But with so many other 3DS owners around me every day, there was no shortage of games to try out. I dabbled in just about everything, but spent the most time on the two titles that excited me the most – Steel Diver and Pilotwings. I remember playing Steel Diver WAY back at E3 2004 and thought it was a great showcase of what made that system unique, but for years I wondered if it was destined to becomes one of those great tech-demos that should have been developed into a full title but never was. I was happy to see its return and very pleased with the results.

Pilotwings brought me back to the good ol’ N64 days of peacefully gliding through the air or gingerly landing a jetpack on small, circular targets. The 3DS follow-up was exactly what I was hoping it would be. But oddly enough, Pilotwings gave me the most trouble when it came to focusing on the game in 3D. It was the only title that had me dialing the slider back or even turning the 3D effect off entirely from time to time. With everything else I’ve played, I was surprised at how much I used the 3D, keeping the slider on full the entire time.

A slave to the green light

Get your StreetPass on!But what surprised me most was how well Nintendo pushed me to power on my 3DS, leaving it asleep in the dock on my desk or carrying it with me anywhere and everywhere I went.

With other handhelds like the DS, DSi, and PSP, I’d go through my honeymoon phase of playing it every day for the first few weeks or longer, but then my interest would wane and become divided between that and other gaming outlets like consoles, iOS games, etc. But no other handheld has ever made me put it in my pocket before heading out to lunch – or grab it before going to a meeting on the other side of the building – or stick it in my back pocket as I went for a quick walk around the parking lot. For the first few weeks, I carried it with me everywhere I could, driven by this strange desire to generate footsteps, collect puzzle pieces, and build a wardrobe of goofy hats. StreetPass was one of those features that had a few people scratching their heads when it was first announced. But now those same people are walking around the office twice a day, waving their 3DS around as they try to make new connections.

StreetPass even inspired some friendly competition. Shortly after release, Dan and I visited Full Sail here in Orlando to see some student presentations and give a talk about n-Space. We both went armed with our 3DS systems in Sleep mode, hopeful that we wouldn’t be the only ones. To our delight, we proceeded to pick up stray Miis as we walked around campus, both of us periodically (if not frequently) checking for the little green light that indicated a StreetPass had taken place.

By the end of the day, Dan and I were comparing the number of collected people. Dan even accused me of being “very competitive” which I never thought I was. True, I was thrilled when I had collected 1 more Mii that he somehow missed – and it’s also true I considered powering off his sleeping system when he left it unintended on the podium during our presentation – but me, competitive? No way!

As much as I was impressed with StreetPass and Nintendo’s support of it with the built-in software, I was equally disappointed that more games didn’t support the feature at launch. Simple things to share like ghost data or high scores for Pilotwings or Steel Diver would have been great.

It was after that trip to Full Sail that Dan started thinking about a way to do a meet-up of 3DS owners in the Central Florida area, with the sole purpose of making more StreetPass connections (who’s the competitive one now?!). As we started brainstorming about how to organize such an event, we stumbled across the StreetPassNetwork.com site and learned that we weren’t the only 3DS owners excited by this feature and looking to use it to its fullest potential.

So what’s next?

We know n-Space is a special case. Not everyone out there comes into contact with a dozen of other 3DS owners 5 days a week, each one turning their system on at the start of the day and even walking around the office fishing for connections. Therefore the StreetPass experience featured in Mii Plaza was somewhat accelerated for us. Within two-and-a-half weeks, many of us had completed all of the puzzles and finished the “Find Mii” RPG not once but twice. By the end of week 3, my Mii plaza was crowded with 46 Miis, a quarter of which were sporting purple demon heads (sorry if that was a spoiler!).

All of us are hoping Nintendo is already working on (or even sitting on) new content to share via StreetPass. New puzzles, new quests with new hats, or even new game modes entirely would be a welcome surprise and put everyone here back in the habit of walking around looking for connections. Right now, my 3DS is on my desk sleeping and I can see the little green light it on, but it doesn’t have the pull it used to. Still, I have a few more games to try and a couple more to finish, but I have to admit I’m a little sad I don’t feel the need to grab my system before going to the bathroom (that sounded awkward).

That’s not to say we don’t care about meeting new people! On Saturday, April 23rd, n-Space is hosting what we hope to be the first of many StreetPass Orlando meet-ups, this one taking place at Downtown Disney [Event page]. We’re not only excited to make new friends and new 3DS connections, but we’re most interested in seeing what other people think of the 3DS and their experiences and specifically their impressions of StreetPass. As developers, the info we gather at an event like this will ultimately help us design the best features for the games we are presently working on and the many more to come in the future.

I only wish I had some puzzles to complete or new hats to collect…

Scan Me!

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Meet n-Space – Art Directors…

Posted in Our Staff by Dan O'Leary on April 20, 2011

Today and tomorrow, n-Space will be supporting an Art Summit hosted by the Game Development program at Full Sail University here in Orlando. Two of our Art Directors will be attending a Q&A panel this evening, where they will be joined by team members from Rockstar and Vicarious Visions. They will also be participating in open art critiques both days. The goal is to help students and alumni grow, improve and connect.

It seemed like a great opportunity to introduce them to you, and talk a bit about what an Art Director does. Without further delay, I’m proud to present Chris Bromby and Seung Kim! We’ll start with their professional bios…

Chris has been working as an art professional for over ten years and has held a wide range of artistic roles. For the past 4 years Chris has worked at n-Space, Inc. where he currently serves as Art Director creating games for multiple top selling consoles including the Nintendo Wii, Xbox 360 and Nintendo 3DS. He holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree specializing in animation and is an alumnus of the University of Central Florida College of Art. He came to n-Space, Inc. with 3 years of experience gained at Electronic Arts, where he worked as both a Character Modeler and an Environment Artist. Prior to his years at EA, Chris worked in the film industry for 4 years as a Special Effects Animator at Walt Disney Feature Animation working on major feature films such as: Lilo and Stitch and Brother Bear.

Seung is presently working at n-Space in Orlando as an Art Director and Concept Artist. He is responsible for establishing the visual look for a variety of games of different genres, target markets and visual styles. He contributes in many ways, including Concept art, Storyboards, Cinematic and Graphic Design. Having been in the entertainment, animation and video game industries for over 16 years, Seung worked at Walt Disney Feature Animation FL, Project Firefly, various oversea CG animation studios, Digital Magic Entertainment in South Korea and Electronic Arts Tiburon before joining n-Space. He graduated from the School of Visual Art, majoring in Illustration.

Here is a gallery of work samples with notes from them on the content and process:

Standing Out in the Crowd

Posted in Career Advice by Mrs. Cheryl O'Leary on April 12, 2011

This year’s GDC was a new experience for me; I had the privilege of representing n-Space in our first ever career pavilion at the show.  It was a whirlwind of resume gathering, handshaking, and introductions.  I learned so much from the three days I worked the booth that I wanted to share a few tidbits that might help with the search for your job in the Game Industry. Hopefully these will help those searching now, and, as was the case for many of you, sometime in the not so distant future.

The one consistent question we were asked was this: “What can I show / do / learn to make me stand out in the crowd of applicants?”  It is a complex question and yet a very important one to answer.

The reality of the world is this:  ideas are many, but being able to make something concrete with your idea is very rare.  In other words, the doing part is the most important part of any resume, or life, for that matter. n-Space boils this down into a three phrase philosophy:

Results Matter – Character over Credentials – Expert is a Skill

Let’s break this philosophy down and see how it could apply to your resume, website or portfolio to make it stand out in the crowd.

I will begin with the most important part, in my opinion, “Character Over Credentials.”  The Gaming Industry is a relatively new one, with an incredibly magnetic pull on new talent. While the energy and enthusiasm that comes with being young is definitely a plus for most Game Developers, the lack of professional experience is definitely a drawback.  What to do?

When we review a resume or a portfolio or website we can usually tell almost immediately if you have what it takes to make it.  How so you say?  By seeing what you have actually done.  How much care and attention to detail have you given in crafting this website / portfolio / resume?  n-Space wants to see that you have a life outside of school and that making art or coding or designing is your passion.  Sure school projects are great, but have you made a game on your own or with a small group of friends?  How entrepreneurial have you been?  “With my schedule,” you say, “how could I possibly fit in school, work, parties and personal projects?”

People that stand out… make it work.

I have seen many great resumes from young people with things that make them stand out: a would-be Game Designer that started his own food delivery business in school, a Programmer that had actually coded games on the side and you could download them from his website, an Environmental Artist who cared enough to show many, many examples of High Poly and Low Poly models and fly throughs of scenes that weren’t part of her senior group project, they were done on her own for her own pleasure.  These people show Character and Passion for what they do, a willingness to go above and beyond, just because they love doing it.

Having lots of formal education is not the only way to make yourself stand out, nor is it a guarantee of success. We have people on staff that are mostly self-taught and are some of our most skilled experts. They show a love of learning, self determination, initiative and well… great Character!

The other two parts of n-Space’s philosophy really branch from the root of Character:  Results Matter and Expert is a Skill.

Let’s look at Results Matter as it would apply to a resume / portfolio / website.  You are your own best judge. Do you think your work is outstanding?  If not, what can be done to improve it? Hone your skills and put the time in to make your work outstanding.  Be selective and show only your very best work. Make sure to look and see the work of those you are competing with and strive to do better. Seek out and accept constructive criticism. Potential employers have looked at thousands of renderings, millions of lines of code and have read hundreds if not thousands of ideas.  Nothing looks outstanding by accident or miracle, so put the time in to be the best.  On that last note, let’s transition into the last bit of n-Space’s philosophy:  Expert is a Skill.

For most people, being an expert at what they do does not fall into their laps wrapped in glittery paper and tied up with a bow.  There are always exceptions, of course, but most of us have to work really hard for great lengths of time to even be good at something.  Skills are learned, step by tedious step, one at a time.  It is perseverance and overcoming the tedium of the tasks that gives you expertise, shows great results and builds a resilient character.  One of the best lines I can see on a resume/portfolio cover page, or website is a simple one:  I have a love for learning and am willing to do whatever it takes to make myself the best at whatever I want to become.  This is important, it shows humility, knowledge that there are always others that are both better at what you want to do and worse, but you want to push yourself to be the best.

A couple of last ideas to make yourself stand out in the crowd:

  • Always follow up giving your resume or card to someone with an e-mail or call. Always.
  • Make sure everything is spelled correctly, is grammatically correct and functions on your resume, portfolio or website.
  • Be clear and concise.
  • Be aware of, and gracious for, time that is given to you by a potential employer.  Everyone’s time is precious to them.
  • Remember to give a personal touch to your introduction, pointing out something you like about the potential employer, and why you would fit in nicely.
  • Research potential employers thoroughly. Use the many tools at your disposal today to make contact with decision-makers long before sending a resume. Building relationships like this takes time, so start early. Use LinkedIn and twitter professionally. Avoid contacting professionals via Facebook and be mindful of what you share on your own pages as most potential employers will use them to get to know you.
  • Present yourself and your work in the most professional way you can.
  • Be yourself, be confident.

Remember nothing happens by accident or miracle, just a whole lot of hard work.

Over the next months I plan on blogging more on this subject going into greater detail about specific skills and abilities that stand out in websites, portfolios and resumes, with video advice from some of our in-house experts.  Check back for Environmental Art Advice, Creative Director Advice, Technical Director Advice, Art Director Advice and more!

Alive and Kicking

Posted in Analysis, Editorial by Dan O'Leary on April 6, 2011

Six months ago I wrote about n-Space “hitting the wall.” In October of last year, a perfect storm of circumstances forced me to do the unthinkable – layoff the entire staff after almost 16 years in business. Things have changed a lot since then and it’s well past time for an update…

n-Space is still very much alive.

The week after the layoff many of us were back in the office, putting the pieces back together and finalizing deals to rebuild the company. We now have 5 titles in development – three on 3DS, one DS and one for 360 Kinect. We have rehired as many previous employees as possible, and picked up several new ones as well. Our total headcount now almost 60 and climbing, and we’re all very excited to share with you what we’ve been working on. Look for more on that front in the run-up to E3.

None of this would have been possible without the hard work and sacrifice of our staff who have, through it all, showed great strength and done amazing work. Coming back from the dead is hard to do and it left n-Space somewhat fragile, but with our reputation and capabilities intact. Later this year I intend to roll out plans for employee profit sharing and stock options, among other new benefits. Until then, irreverent t-shirts, carmel apple lollipops and an upcoming retreat are how I show my thanks for their hard work and undying support.

Disappointingly, but not too surprisingly, our recovery has received no significant coverage by the local or game media. It’s funny how quickly bad news spreads, especially in this internet age, and how many ignorant, hateful people rushed to dance on our grave that day. Sour grapes? You bet. Thanks to our fans, friends and family that have supported us through this challenge.

The industry seems to have turned the corner. <Knock On Wood>

Both DICE and GDC were very good conferences from a business development point of view. n-Space attends these shows to meet with potential partners, pitch concepts and discuss their upcoming development needs. We had nearly such 20 meetings at GDC alone, with a variety of publishers. All were anxious to place products on console, handheld, web and mobile platforms. This is a welcome change from the last two years, when meetings felt more like obligations than opportunities.

I believe that established independent developers like n-Space who have managed to survive the recent bloodbath are set to flourish. It’s not a return to normal, but establishing a new normal as the industry has fundamentally changed. Here are a few predictions / observations:

  • The traditional console and retail box product approach still faces many challenges in the coming years as consumers spend more and more of their precious money and attention in other spaces.
  • Mobile and browser-based gaming are here to stay, supported by powerful new price points and monetization methods. There are some really great games out there that cost absolutely nothing to play, unless you want to accelerate your progression, improve your character, etc. This isn’t something new, of course, but it is gaining a lot of traction as evidenced by TenCent’s recent $400m acquisition of Riot Games, creators of the popular multiplayer online battle-arena game, League of Legends.
  • Almost nobody in the industry, except maybe Nintendo, wants another console before 2014. Most are very thankful for the success of Kinect (especially Microsoft!) as it will extend the lifespan of the 360 and this entire generation. Expect to see Microsoft and Sony both delay a new console launch as long as they can.
  • 3DS is hot. Publishers see the staggering success of DS, with over 130 million units sold, and can’t help but get in line to support this platform. The hardware is awesome and the launch has been Nintendo’s best in history. The 3D visuals are very compelling and provide immediate WOW factor, but also create a dramatic improvement to the overall visual aesthetic and quality that lasts well past the initial impressions. Combined with the significantly improved graphical capabilities, the games look fantastic and the whole system totally delivers on the “magical” experience that everyone has touted since E3 2010. Look for more of our impressions in an upcoming blog entry.
  • Impressions of NGP are mixed. As gamers we love it – awesome hardware is something Sony does best and they have a great slate of titles planned. As developers with tremendous handheld experience we are rooting for it – more business opportunities and new challenges. As a business we’re curious how viable it is financially. Games will be very expensive to develop, requiring high unit sales to be profitable. Publishers will likely look to minimize those costs by porting PS3 titles, with as few changes / improvements as Sony will allow. I’m not sure the result will excite consumers enough to drive sales. A classic Chicken and Egg scenario may play out. Publishers we’ve talked to mostly share our position of cautious enthusiasm, but a few are enthusiastically supporting it.
  • Kinect is hot. Hotter than anyone (Microsoft included IMHO) expected. With more than 10 million units sold it has gone from niche accessory to bonafide success and a bandwagon that everyone is looking to get on. How long it will last is the bigger question now, but it’s clear that Microsoft is committed to it for both core and casual markets and retail as well as XBLA. If the sales trend continues and some must-have software titles emerge it could become a real force to contend with. Oh, and it sells 360s too. At Christmas 2010 my home 360 popped the RROD, sending me to secure a replacement before the family had new games and no system. The first three stores I went to were sold out! Impressive.
  • Next, next gen is around the corner. CryEngine, Unreal and Frostbite have all shown us what’s to come and it’s pretty amazing. I just wonder how our industry will bear the cost of development.
  • Apple may win it all. iPad 2 is a warning shot. Most initial analysis of its hardware have focused on the additional memory and dual core processor, somehow glazing over the fact that the GPU is 9x as powerful as before. That kind of jump is unheard of in a single generation. What would it take for Apple to roll that into iPhone 5? How about the next revision of AppleTV? Add App Store support and Bingo! You’ve got a $99 console with virtually unlimited games for $5 or less. Oh, and it also does anything else you want. Want more? There are rumors that Apple is looking to license AirPlay to TV manufacturers. No AppleTV needed – play games on your near-360/PS3 powered smartphone or tablet (using the devices touchscreen, gyro and accelerometers for WiiMote+ style controls) and push the video to your living room set. All of this could happen in the next 12 months. In fact, it will very likely happen, and maybe sooner. I don’t think there is any coincidence at all that Apple arranged to have its last big announcement at the same time as GDC, nor that WWDC 2011, their big annual developer conference, is scheduled at the same time as E3. Also expect more on this in a future blog entry.

The job market in the game industry is flooded with entry level talent.

As part of our hiring efforts, n-Space hosted a space in the GDC career pavilion this year – a first for us. It was a positive experience and worth it for PR and Good Will alone. Jen, Cheryl and Erica worked the booth for three long days and kept smiling throughout it. They met a lot of great people, collected some strong resumes, gave out n-Space t-shirts and carmel apple lollipops.

The overwhelming majority of candidates were entry level. Thanks to a recent surge in the number of schools selling the dream of a job in game development, there are a tremendous number of kids looking for a start in this challenging industry. I’m afraid this will end badly for many of them, who are often poorly prepared by opportunistic programs and are competing with many other experienced candidates affected by rounds of recent layoffs around the world.

If you are in this group, you better know your craft and be prepared to work very, very hard to make yourself stand out and get noticed. We’ll do a separate blog post on that topic very soon.

That’s all for now. Sorry for the long-winded post, but I have a lot on my mind after 6 months of silence. Look for more activity here from now on, with posts from myself and other n-Space staff.

Thanks for your interest in n-Space.