Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I grew up in North Carolina and attended UNC Chapel Hill where I got a BA in History with a Creative Writing minor before moving to Austin, Texas. After a brief and painfully boring stint in the IT world, I began working as a digital artist and have been an artist/web programmer for 11 years now. The ride has been amazing and I'm continually grateful for the opportunities being my own boss has presented.
How did you get started in the digital arts?
I played with the first Poser software while in college and found it fascinating. I had also been doodling with Corel Photopaint back then and was fired up about learning more. After moving to Austin I began dabbling in Photoshop, Poser, and Web Design.
So, tell us a bit about your new game, Ninjazon. What is the objective of the game?
Ninjazon is a fighting game with RPG elemets - persistent stats and abilities, unlocks, secret characters, and story pieces.
Is there a backstory to Ninjazon?
In a mythical land of female ninja clans, the evil Empress Prismazia has invaded and captured the magic of the Color Clans for her own. Only the White Clan stood up to her, and she had them destroyed. Players take the role of a rebel White Ninjazon as she seeks revenge against the the other clans and the Empress.
What requirements are needed to run the game? Is it a mobile or desktop game?
Ninjazon plays on either PC or Mac, it works best on a desktop/laptop. Flash Player (free from Adobe) is required to play.
What plans might you have for future levels and how will they be released/packaged?
Additional Ninjazon levels will come packaged featuring 2-3 new characters per pack; with new fights, new magic to unlock and new puzzle pieces to collect that can be later used to uncover hidden characters. With each level pack I will also be including illustrated character bios and strategy pages for how to tackle the new Ninjazons and what sorts of powers they have.
Are you already thinking of creating a sequel to Ninjazon?
I have a lot of ideas for a sequel to Ninjazon, and several characters already designed. The first game was finished only recently, and has ended up with six secret characters and lots of bonus content. The final boss for Ninjazon 2 is introduced at the very end of the game.
What sparked your interest in creating a game?
I have been a story teller and sci-fi/fantasy buff as far back as I can remember, and as an adult became fascinated by 3D art, animation, and sound editing. Writing Flash games has been a natural and rewarding way to put it all together.
How long have you worked in game development?
I have been working with game design and programming for four years now.
With four years in game design/development, what have you worked on?
When I first began using Flash for design, I was making animated slides and movies, and did some website work. At first it was mostly snore worthy corporate stuff - brand identity, product blogs and such, but in the background I was hammering out my first game. My first successful designs were all fighting games, small and rather clunky, but I did some basic shooters and side scroller games as well. To date, Ninjazon is the largest and most comprehensive game I have finished, and the first game I made on my own, rather than for a client.
What are the biggest challenges you face in your work?
I would say total creative control can be a blessing and a curse. Without energy there's no inspiration and without inspiration the idea fountain dries up. I have many projects every month and I have to keep myself active and inspired or procrastination rears its ugly head. As far as game development is concerned, I spend a lot more time debugging a game than I do on artwork, sound, or programming. Once the testing phase begins I can uncover all sorts of oddities that were never intended... much like a mechanic working on his car I suppose.
What resources might you recommend for those interested in game development?
That depends on your approach. I love programming in Flash because it's an integrated solution that offers keyframe and timeline animation, artist tools, video editing, layout and a nifty scripting language all in one package. Other programming languages like C# and Java are fantastic for game dev, but don't feature the front end interface that Flash has; meaning a steeper learning curve and a lot less to look at. As far as Flash design goes, there are some great sites out there to get people started, such as Kirupa and Brighthub.
What software is currently in your digital toolset and why?
The software I use most often now depends on the project. For Renderosity content such as poses, skins, and characters I am using Poser Pro 2012, with Photoshop CS5 constantly running as well. I also use Zbrush 4 quite a bit and then Flash, Illustrator, and Dreamweaver for web design and game work. I still fiddle with Rhino on occasion, but lately I've been using Zbrush for modelling and morphs, and it's been a blast to learn.
How long have you been a vendor on Renderosity, and how has your experience been?
Hard to believe it's been 11 years! I can still remember my early projects in 2001, such as a chess set and gothic table and chairs made as I was just starting to learn Rhino. The Demon Wings I made back then are still in the MarketPlace today, and have got to be one of the longest running products, lol... I am thinking I should do a major update, to thank my customers for a decade of buying the wings.
I noticed on your homepage you also wrote a book. What can you tell us about it and where might we find it?
Well, that is only partially true. I am in the process of writing a book now, of sci-fi short stories that are all interconnected; but it probably won't enter the realm of Epublishing until the end of the year. The largest project I have written to date can be found on my blog site, called Blog the Witch, which generated quite a bit of traffic as a fan/resource site for a game called Warhammer Online, and specifically the Witch Elf class. I wrote a 40-odd page book opener focused on the bloody adventures of my dark elf assassin character, Taransula. The blog, along with artwork, funnies, and the Bloodkiss (the story) can be found here: http://darkworlddesigns.com/public_html/
Do you have any final words or advice for other artists, or someone looking to develop games?
Monetizing games isn't easy, but at the same time there are more ways than ever to do it. Mobile games, xbox live, Steam, and web based games are exploding; and I'd say the secret really is just finding a catchy idea and turning it into an addictive game. Playability is always more important than complexity, and the power of replay value can't be overstated. I'm looking forward to doing a lot more games, and I hope when the time comes for me to go mobile I'll be ready!
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