Kickin’ Rad, Super Bad: Interview With ‘Hiveswap’ UI Artist Veronica Nizama

Hiveswap
Courtesy of What Pumpkin Studios

Homestucks kind of a big deal. Since its beginning in April 2009, it’s had over three and a half hours of animated content, close to eight thousand individual pages, and a word count teetering on a million. When it was announced that there’d be a video game, Hiveswap, the reaction was immense. The game reached its funding goal of $700,000 in just two days, and at the time, was one of the most highly-funded video game projects to come out of that platform with a grand total of $2,485,506.

Despite starting off as a parody of early text adventure games, Homestuck deals with a number of surprisingly mature themes. From alcoholism and sexuality to what it means to be a hero, there’s very little ground the webcomic hasn’t touched. Characters who revolve around these themes, such as the high-class megalomaniac Vriska or the isolated scholar Calliope, are handled with a surprising amount of finesse despite the story’s humble beginnings. Homestuck is a story that’s multi-faceted even at its core, and this is thankfully a quality reflected in What Pumpkin Studios. With a team made up of people from all types of backgrounds, the New York-based studio is surprisingly diverse.

One key member of the development team is Veronica Nizama, user interface designer and texture artist for What Pumpkin Studios. Veronica has a wealth of experience with both mobile and mainstream game development, having worked directly on over forty projects, and has carved a name for herself on the adult comic book scene. I had the chance to sit down with her and discuss her work on Hiveswap, as well as some of her own personal experiences in the industry.
Continue reading “Kickin’ Rad, Super Bad: Interview With ‘Hiveswap’ UI Artist Veronica Nizama”

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What Is a Video Game? How to Define a Young Medium

Minecraft

It’s an argument that most developers find themselves in at some point. With Telltale’s signature cinematic style and Metal Gear‘s 20-minute cutscenes, the line between films and video games are constantly being blurred. The team over at Extra Credits think it’s a bit of a moot point—the question limits our creativity, forces us to stay within our safe zone, and holds our medium back from what it could be. I agree.  Defining what a game is just leads to harsher boundaries and things we’re not “allowed” to do—but at the same time, it’s still important to be introspective. I still feel that it’s important to try and answer the question, even if it’s meaningless in the end.

So: what is a game? Luckily for us, we’re not the first to talk about this. 

It seems like a silly question, right? We all know when we’re playing a game. Mega Man, Grim Fandango, and Saints Row may have very little in common, but we can still point them out and say “this is a game.” Even if they follow different sets of rules, there has to be some overarching theme or mechanic that ties them all together. They wouldn’t really be the same medium otherwise.

The obvious answers are interactivity and choice. By picking up the controller and playing the game, we can influence its outcome. Sometimes, this is as simple as winning or losing, or it can be as complex as branching storylines and multiple endings—all that matters is that we have a say in what direction the experience goes. This works for all types of games, too, from board games to consoles. Is “an interactive experience” a fair definition for a game, then? I still wouldn’t say so, because this can include things that very clearly aren’t games. A Give Yourself Goosebumps book obviously isn’t a game, but we can still influence its outcome by following the branching paths. Is this any different from a visual novel? At what point does something interactive become a game?

Continue reading “What Is a Video Game? How to Define a Young Medium”

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