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An image from Lords of New York.




Recommended playing

 
A.J. Evarts of Level Up Gaming
Top 5 Retro Games
Super Mario 3 - NES
Battletoads - NES
Mega Man X - SNES
Super Mario World - SNES
Mortal Kombat 2 - SNES
 
Top 5 Modern Games
Grand Theft Auto V - Xbone One, PS4
Halo 4 - Xbox 360, PS3
H1Z1 - PC and Mac
Battlefield 4 - Xbox One, PS4
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare - Xbox One, PS4
 
The Team of NeonBomb
Top 5 Retro Games
Final Fantasy 6 - SNES
The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time - N64
ICO -PS2
Super Mario Bros. 3 - NES
Castlevania - NES
 
Top 5 Modern Games
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Team Fortress 2 - PS3, Macintosh, OS X, GNU/Linux, Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360 
Portal 2 - PS3, OS X, GNU/Linux, Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360
Bioshock - Microsoft Windows,Xbox 360, PS3,OS X, Cloud, iOS
Fallout 3 - PS3, Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows.
 
Upcoming events
• NeonBomb is in the process of starting an adult club dubbed the ManchVegas Video Game Club. A small group has started up on Facebook, and the goal is to have people come play in the store on a regular basis.
• The annual Queen City Kamikaze, which features video games, comic books, anime, sci-fi and other pop culture elements, will be held at Memorial High School in Manchester on March 7. One of the highlights will be a video game tournament.
• NeonBomb has teamed up with Extra Life, a gaming program where you play games in a 24-hour marathon and receive pledges to raise money for hospitals in the Children’s Miracle Network. People come to the store to participate, and events will be starting in the Queen City in February.
 
Game Play
Designer: Ed Brillant, instructor at SNHU in the game development program
Previous Work: Sim City, Disney Spotlight
Current Project: Lords of New York
Game talk: Brillant has worked on the uber popular Sim City, as well as the karaoke game Disney Spotlight during the past 14 years in the industry. His current project, Lords of New York, is a poker RPG, where when you level up your character unlocks poker attributes.
“It’s pretty exciting. It’s a cool game. That’s [for] Lunchtime Studios,” Brillant said.
 
Game Play
Designer: David Carrigg of Manchester, co-founder of Retro Affect
Previous Work: Snapshot
Current Project: Upsilon Circuit and others he can’t yet talk about
Game talk: Carrigg’s work on Snapshot, a puzzle platformer, has seen over 300,000 copies purchased since the end 2012 on Steam, as well as outside of Steam, in either bundles or discount packages. Snapshot was born of other puzzle platformers, old and new.
“It’s really all over the place. It’s kind of a mix [of retro and current]. I grew up playing video games, so that’s where my roots are and what I enjoy playing,” Carrigg said. 
Now, Carrigg has teamed up with Robot Loves Kitty on Upsilon Circuit, an action RPG meets game show, which is still in production. He has two other projects in the pipeline, but was unable to reveal anything about them yet.
 
Game Play
Designer: Neal Laurenza of Skymap Games
Current Project: Bacon Man
Game talk: Bacon Man is a three-year project slated for completion between October and December of this year. It’s a side-scroller in which the main character fights his way through the other food groups on a revenge mission. It’s inspired by classics like Earthworm Jim and Mega Man. Bacon Man already has the greenlight for Steam, and a console announcement may be coming soon.
Bacon Man is a side-scrolling 3D platformer where you can fight your way through the food groups. Bacon Man is the rightful heir to the meat throne and he is framed for the murder of his grandfather, Old King Roastbeef,” Laurenza explains. “So Bacon Man is on a revenge story, pursuing those who dethroned him. This involves going through all the food groups and beating up fruits and vegetables so there is only meat. It’s totally over the top.”
Laurenza also does contract work for larger game companies.
 
Game Play
Designer: Calvin Goble and Alix Stolzer of Robot Loves Kitty based in Mancheser
Previous Work: Legend of Dungeon
Current Project: Upsilon Circuit
Game talk: Upsilon Circuit is an action role-playing game with swords that slice and dice monsters. And there’s a twist: There is only a single server in the world and only eight people can play at a time. When someone dies in the game, they can never play again and are replaced by a new a player. The game will only be played through once.
“The game actually broadcasts out to a live audience. It’s like a TV show, but for the Internet, and it will only broadcast for a couple hours a day,” Stolzer said.
“When someone dies, they are replaced by a new audience member, kind of like a game show,” Goble added.
The live host of Upsilon Circuit is Ronny Ragon, who resembles former President Ronald Reagan and Max Headroom from the 1980s sci-fi show.
“There’s a lot of retro stuff going on in this,” Goble said. “That’s what most creativity is, taking two things you like and making them one.”
“Dinosaurs and jetpacks,” Stolzer added.
 
Game Play
Designer: Greg Walek
Previous Work: Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, Batman Begins (mobile)
Current Project: Regional organizer for Global Game Jam
Game talk: Walek has been a professor at New Hampshire Technical Institute for eight years in Animation Graphic Game Programming. He was previously at Raven Software, which is responsible for games such as Wolfenstein and Quake 4, among others. At Raven Software (part of the giant Activision), Walek worked on Marvel: Ultimate Alliance for all platforms. He also worked on the Batman Begins mobile game. 
Currently, Walek serves as the regional organizer for Global Game Jam, a three-day event that recently took place at Southern New Hampshire University and NHTI. Global Game Jam is an event for game designers, where they are presented with an idea for a game and then have 48 hours to develop it. Games can range from pencil and paper RPGs to video games, and each school has a site dedicated to the participants’ work.




Game on 2015
How NH does video games

02/05/15



The video game culture in New Hampshire is gaining steam, with gaming clubs and conventions throughout the year. Coming soon to the Granite State is Game Assembly, which is part incubator, part workspace for video game designers — an effort to retain the local talent that’s graduating with degrees in programming and game design.

As the industry grows, old is new again, as ’80s kids become game developers and today’s youth play retro video games on computer emulators. Inspired by the games of yesteryear, modern developers are influenced by the games they played as kids. 
“Right now there seems to be a resurgence of ’80s stuff. There’s been remakes of various arcade games,” said game designer Calvin Goble of Robot Loves Kitty. “I think it’s partially because all the people who grew up in the ’80s are kind of the content creators of the 2015 space.” 
 
Retro modern mix
With next-gen consoles — Playstation 4, Xbox One — over a year old now, there is a resurgence among young gamers wanting to play classics.
This resurgence isn’t entirely new, says Mike Stulir, vice president of The American Classic Arcade Museum in Weirs Beach. He said emulators on computers have been around for about 15 years, enabling people to play old arcade games.
But the love of retro  is still growing, and store owners are seeing it too.
A.J. Evarts, owner of Level Up Gaming in Manchester, hosts Flashback Friday, a free tournament where players have been gravitating toward the old.
“The kids are getting into emulators, which are things on the computer. They emulate [retro] games. After they do that, they actually want the original thing. It’s actually grown the market — the prices are going up,” Evarts says.
Kids are playing on consoles like Atari, Super Nintendo and N64. Popular throwback games include earlier iterations of Mario Kart and Mortal Kombat, Evarts said.
NeonBomb in Manchester caters to those fancying new and retro games. Owners Jeff Normandin, Jason Paige, Artie Eliakos and Christian Porter offer a wide selection of retro games and game systems, including various Nintendo, Playstation, Sega and Atari consoles.
Normandin teaches English at Memorial High School in Manchester, where Paige teaches social studies. The two head up the Memorial Video Game Club, which has a bunch of old systems and games along with some newer stuff.
“You can go in and pick up a controller and play a Gamecube or Genesis, whatever you want to play,” Normandin said.
There are 30 students in the video game club, and Normandin said the most popular games are Super Smash Bros. on Wii U and Mario Kart. Normandin said while the club can’t play shooters, games like the Call of Duty and Battlefield series are popular, along with Skyrim and the Dragon Age series.
“Those are always the go-to games for a lot of people. Fighting, racing and shooting for the most part,” Normandin said.
 
Meet the makers
Here in New Hampshire, independent developers are earning their place alongside the much larger development companies.
“The industry is starting to change a little. The landscape is starting to change. In the past, they had a lot of large companies and a couple of small independent companies, that consist of 5 [to] 10 employees,” said Ed Brillant, a game design coordinator, game artist and instructor at Southern New Hampshire University in the game development program. 
“What you’re seeing now is the indie companies, these small groups, balancing out the larger companies.”
Calvin Goble and Alix Stolzer, the husband-and-wife tandem of Manchester-based Robot Loves Kitty, draw on the games they played as kids, with the goal of designing games they can enjoy playing together. They played different games as kids — while Goble was at the arcade hacking away at Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Stolzer was playing Rogue on an Apple IIe she got for free because it had a mouse nest in it.
“This is the best time to get back into PC gaming, in that there are so many independent developers,” Goble said. “All the indie games that are available, they are more interesting and they harken back to retro stuff.”
Goble and Stolzer are self-taught — Goble a self-proclaimed college dropout and Stolzer a massage therapist. Before coming to Manchester they lived for a while in a treehouse in Vermont and worked on games like Legend of Dungeon, which is available for PCs on Steam, an Internet-based digital distribution platform, and has sold over 200,000 copies.
“Steam, you make a game and get approval, then they throw it up on their site and take 20 percent of the sales,” said David Carrigg, who runs Retro Affect from his home in Manchester.
“I’m very, very fond of Legend of Dungeon. We made it because we wanted to play it. It’s just another reason we enjoy doing [this] so much, because we get to make games we want to play,” Goble said.
Legend of Dungeon is a combination of the duo’s childhood favorites, featuring the randomization of Rogue and the beat-em-up style of TMNT.
“We don’t have a publisher to answer to — it’s just us and our fans,” Stolzer said. 
The team moved to the Granite State about a year and a half ago and connected with Manchester developer Neal Laurenza. Laurenza introduced Goble and Stolzer to Carrigg and the two have since teamed with Carrigg on their current project, Upsilon Circuit.
Laurenza’s current game project is Bacon Man. It already has the greenlight for Steam on Mac and PC. And while Carrigg’s current work is on Upsilon Circuit with Robot Loves Kitty, he has another project up his sleeve he can’t yet talk about.
“It’s going to be pretty cool when it’s done,” he said of Upsilon Circuit.
As for combining retro inspiration with modern technology, Carrigg pointed to games like Mario Kart, which has been remade using improved physics and platform mechanics.
“As we are making games now, we are kind of pushing the envelope. In addition to getting inspiration from retro games, we are working with new and better technology,” Carrigg said. 
Ed Brillant, an instructor for the SNHU game development program, has spent 14 years in the industry and has worked on titles spanning Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PC and iOS. His background is in art, and he has worked as an art director, lead artist, animator, environment artist and lead character designer. The most famous game he worked on was on Sim City, and he’s contributed to lesser-known games like Disney Spotlight.
Greg Walek, a professor for Animation Graphic Game Programming at NHTI in Concord, said his most well-known work was on Marvel: Ultimate Alliance. He worked at Raven Software, part of Activision, a nationwide company with locations all over the U.S. Walek also worked at Klear Games (no longer in business) on a Batman Begins mobile game.
Walek is also a regional organizer of Global Game Jam, which was held in January at both NHTI and SNHU. Global Game Jam is the world’s largest game creation event. Teams are given a theme, and then they brainstorm what could make good games, then they have 48 hours to execute it. It could be board games, paper and pencil RPGs or video games. All the games can be downloaded from the Global Game Jam website (globalgamejam.org — NHTI and SNHU have pages).
“It’s not a competition; it’s a collaborative event,” Walek says. 
 
Game Assembly
Laurenza and Carrigg, who have their own companies (Skymap Games and Retro Affect, respectively), are spearheading a sort of video game incubator called Game Assembly, which, in February or March, will open in Manchester, either on Elm Street or in the millyard. It will provide office space for a network of New Hampshire game developers to work in. Carrigg says there is a handful of developers who live in New Hampshire but currently have to commute to Massachusetts for similar office space.
“It will be an open office for any up and coming game designers, for experienced game designers, and anyone else who is looking to get more information about the video game industry in general,” Carrigg said.
Game Assembly already has some serious fans.
“We are huge supporters. We’re in. We’re not technically part of the not-for-profit that he’s making, but we are helping out whenever we can,” Stolzer said.
Walek hailed the arrival of Game Assembly too. 
“Thats a huge, huge game-changer. When he gets that going it’s going to change things in the state. The soil is extremely fertile,” Walek said.
Laurenza and Carrigg’s work to establish the International Game Developers Association New Hampshire Chapter kind of spawned Game Assembly. The IGDA meets once a month with guest speakers and demo nights, with over 75 people in attendance every month. Laurenza hopes members from that group will want to pool their resources at Game Assembly. 
Carrigg said Game Assembly’s goals include building a game industry in New Hampshire by retaining local talent and growing game-related companies. It will also promote education with classes and free workshops and by forging connections between local schools and the industry.
 
Getting schooled
So where are local developers getting their education? Some, like Goble and Stolzer, are self-taught, but others are taking advantage of programs at schools like NHTI and SNHU.
Laurenza graduated from SNHU with degrees in game design and development and business, and Alex Quin is currently a junior studying game design. 
“[At SNHU] we teach both for the low end, for mobile and the high end — for consoles and PC. We teach for as many platforms as we can,” Brillant said. 
He said the program is always evolving to stay up to date and is revamping some programming to include artificial intelligence, graphic game engines and physics engines.
Quinn is a programming major, with a minor in game art.
“One of the big things we try to push here is students taking minors,” Brillant said. “We want them to be as valuable as they can.”
Quinn is the president of the game design and development club on campus and is responsible for organizing a number of events. The club holds Game Jam in the fall, when over 50 students break up into 16 teams and design games over a 24-hour span, with the goal of making the best game.
Over at NHTI, Walek said, the programming degree starts with computer science, adds in-game development, and focuses on technology and game development techniques. 
“[It’s] how to build a game, basically,” Walek said. “We are using the latest technology in the industry.” 
Walek says the school works on Unreal Engine 4, Unity 3D and HTML5, and can port to many different platforms, including iOS and Android. 
Since Christmas, the school has acquired two Oculus Rift development kits, which you wear over your eyes. Walek said said students haven’t played a game on it yet, but the school has been using Microsoft Kinect in the Emerging Technologies class, and he’s looking forward to seeing what happens when someone combines Oculus Rift and Kinect.
Walek said that while credits don’t transfer to the prestigious DigiPen in Washington state, , students have been accepted there after enrolling at NHTI. Each year DigiPen, which works closely with Nintendo and offers specialized degree in video game production, takes about 250 students, and last year two NHTI students were accepted. Walek also said students transfer to SNHU very well, and to UNH, as well as out of state, whether it’s for more programming or designer art. 
 
Starting younger
RoboTech Center in Nashua offers programs for students age 7 to 17 who want to explore video game design. One class teaches students how to design their own Xbox game. Naveena Swamy, the technology engineer advisor at RoboTech (and author of Basic Game Design and Creation for Fun and Learning and Collaborative Game Creation), said it can be played on iPhones and Androids, too. The week-long program teaches the game design process and how to build a simple game with original characters and background. 
RoboTech has been in operation since 2002 and, for more intense learning, offers a summer residential program at RoboTech Center Labs, Rivier College in Nashua, the Boston Museum of Science and Minuteman Career School in Lexington, Mass. It’s an all-day program held in addition to the day camp program.
“We want to encourage middle school and high school students to take this course and develop skills in AP computer science,” Swamy said. 
She said RoboTech also offers internships and had six MIT interns last summer. She said people who worked with RoboTech back in 2002 still come back looking for referrals, and former students are encouraged to come back for internships. 
“Being a student, coming back in college, taking an internship and going on to teach is very powerful,” Swamy said.
 
Preserving history
Carrigg grew up in Meredith, about five minutes from Funspot, the world’s largest arcade, in Weirs Beach.
“So, there’s really, as far as the culture goes, we have some great things like Funspot, the largest arcade in the world, in the Lakes Region,” Carrigg said.
Stolzer and Goble both have fond memories of playing in arcades.
“If you went to an arcade when you were younger, it’s a wonderful place to go,” Stolzer said of Funspot. “Arcades have their own unique culture.”
Mike Stulir is vice president of The American Classic Arcade Museum, which, though a separate entity from Funspot, takes up almost its entire third floor. It was founded in 1998 to preserve arcade games and educate the public. 
“We’re like an attraction within Funspot,” Stulir said. “It’s a labor of love.”
Stulir said the museum has a massive collection of games. In the last 15 years a collection of over 300 games has been built, with more in storage waiting to be restored as time and funds become available.
There is one question, Stulir says, that he gets asked a lot: “Why would you put a video game museum in New Hampshire?” 
“I always respond to them, ‘Video games got started in New Hampshire.’ The first video game console was developed by Ralph Baer, who lived in Manchester,” Stulir said.
Stulir met Baer in 2001 and remained friendly with him until Baer died in December. Baer was the inventor of the Brown Box, which the museum has one of the few replicas of — the original sits in the Smithsonian. The Brown Box was the first console that allowed you to control what you did on the TV, Carrigg said. It’s not on display at the museum; instead, it is used in education programs for college students around New England.
“We have what we believe is the last replica, which he built for us prior to his death,” Stulir said.
Another item the museum uses in education programs is Video Toss, which Baer invented in early 1990s to make video games more interactive. Baer took a Nintendo Entertainment System and built a sensor to sit on top of the TV. Instead of using the gun for the popular NES game Duck Hunt, you could fling Nerf balls at your TV and the sensor would detect when you hit a duck. 
“It’s not any different than Kinect on Xbox or EyeToy on Playstation,” Stulir said.
Stulir called Baer a “very forward thinker.” In July the Smithsonian will be opening an exhibit celebrating American inventors, in which Baer’s ideas will be on display.
“His entire basement is going to be recreated down at the Smithsonian, just as it was,” Stulir said.
As for the future of arcade games, Stulir noted an explosion in mobile gaming on cell phones and tablets and called the popular games “no different than the arcade games.”
“There are so many similarities with the games of the arcade with what we are seeing now on phones and tablets. Instead of a stand-up [arcade game] you’re playing it on a mobile device,” Stulir said.
He did say, however, that while these mobile games are similar, they lack the social aspect enjoyed by those who frequented the arcade.
Stulir said the return to retro isn’t a new phenomenon in consoles. He was one of three people, from 2004 to 2006, involved creating the Flashback and Flashback 2, which were self-contained miniature replicas of the Atari 7800 and Atari 2600. Each sold over 1 million copies, and they were sold in big stores such as Best Buy. He said Flashback 2 recreated the 2600 motherboard on a single chip, and the system came preloaded with 40 games. He said you could also solder it and play original cartridges. 
“There definitely has been some degree of explosion in [going back] to the old games,”Stulir said. “Simple can be fun.” 
 
As seen in the February 5, 2015 issue of the Hippo.





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