Stream Team, Assemble!

Greetings, Internet!

Good news everyone! We’re reviving our YouTube channel! Praise the sun!

After a quick discussion with the higher ups, everyone’s favourite ‘Newbie’ will return to the online trenches with an ongoing YouTube series wherein members of our studio will play games to highlight some of the great indie content from Toronto.

The finer points are still being worked out, but essentially we’re coming out with short form (5 minute) videos playing games from small-ish studios with the hope of showing the public the kind of games we’ve got in the works here in Toronto (including the surrounding area). We’re also hoping to invite some of those game developers into our own studio to play their games with us; the intent being to build a larger and more well-knit local community.

So if you’re a developer from the GTA (or from the southern Ontario region) and you’ve got a game you’d like to see us play, send the following info to this address: Charlie[DOT]Barangan[AT]ZeMind.ca

A) Link to your game on Steam
B) Credits (Dev team, etc)
C) Contact information
D) Relevant social media

Please note that we may not always have the resources to commit to a solid release schedule. Rest assured that we will try to get around to as many games as possible, but we also need to make time for the production of our own titles. If you’ve got any further questions/comments don’t be afraid to get in touch with us on social media. The channel itself won’t be updated until we have more content, keep an eye out for us in the coming weeks!

We’d love to hear from you!
-Charlie Ze Newbie

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Meet a ZeMind Artist!

Greetings, internet!

It is I, Charlie Ze Newbie with a new kind of blog post.

A lot of work and love goes into the games we make here at the studio. For our upcoming game, VERSUS, we’ve gone in a delightful cartoon style that is absolutely adorable. This week I sit down with Gus, one of our artists, and talk to him about his background and his thoughts about working here.

How did you get started in art?
I watched a lot of cartoons as a kid. I used to come home from school and lay down in front of my tv and watch cartoons. I used to draw fan art of the cartoons I was watching as I was watching it [laughs]. I lost it (drawing passion) in high school, although I got it back in college because I wanted to make a career out of it. In high school it didn’t seem like a possibility. Afterwards, I went to college and took art fundamentals from there.

What are your degrees?

I have two diplomas. Diplomas? Certificates? I don’t know. I have two of them since I graduated from Sheridan with the Visual Creative Arts program and I also graduated from Mohawk College with one in graphic design/animation. I thought about doing a game design program that focused on art and design programming at one point, but art still feels like an ‘Enterprising’ part of the game design field. In video game art, it always feels like we’re reaching new… Well not “Heights”, but like, “Heights”, you know? [laughs].

Influences?
I shouldn’t call any of them out. It’s funny because I’ve met a lot of them. I’m actually friends with some of them now. They’re people I aspire to, whose art I found online. But growing up, I found my influences in cartoons a lot of the time. Megaman, Yu-Gi-Oh! and Medabots. Those were great.


Speaking of which, what are your Favourite games?

My favourite game is Final Fantasy Tactics Advanced! It inspired my art style a lot. That as well as Megaman battle network. My dad took me to Germany once and I never looked up from my Gameboy (due to Megaman Battle Network). Those and of course the classics, like Ocarina of Time and Majoras Mask. I have really fond memories of them all.

What are you playing right now?

Breath of the wild. Everyone’s playing that right now. Everyone who has a Nintendo Switch, anyways. I’m also playing some PC games. I like Blizzard games, like Overwatch, Heroes of the Storm, and Hearthstone. Those kinds of games.

What is the best part of working at ZeMind Games?

This is a pretty good environment. We have a dog, so what else is there? I have a computer, [laughs] The people are pretty cool. Various types of people. I’m trying to un-dig this hole that I’ve dug for myself (laughs), I don’t think you should include that there’s beer in the fridge. That’s a secret perk.

Thanks for chatting!
Thank YOU!

Hope this let you all get to know the sort of people who work here. If you’ve got the chance, we’d love it if you followed us on social media! Stay tuned for more of the people who make ZeMind Studios such a fun place to work.

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Calling all Toronto Artists!

These faulty prototypes turned out a little smaller than we expected… Pen for scale.

What’s that? You’re a local Toronto artist interested in card games? Well step right up!

We’re on the hunt for a few extra hands for our upcoming card game. Just so anyone interested is aware, it’s based on the growing sport of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) that takes place in a cage (think the ‘UFC’). Players will build a deck of punches, kicks, wrestling and submission techniques to help reduce their opponent’s health to zero in as fast a manner as possible. Many card game lovers who are/were familiar of games such as the Pokemon Trading Card Game, Yu-Gi-Oh! As well as Magic: The Gathering should find some of the elements in our game familiar.

If you’re a Toronto artist who just so happens to to enjoy card games, MMA or both, drop us a line! Here’s a soft list (by no means set in stone) of what we’re looking for.

In no particular order, here’s what we’d like to see:

We’ve only just begun our hunt for local talent (we love supporting our homegrown pals!), but it’s very important to us that the art on our cards be action oriented. The style has yet to be nailed down in its finer details, but we’re imagining something with heavy inks and a dynamic perspective.

If possible we’re going for something along the lines of what ‘The Big 2’ comic publishers (Marvel or DC) would publish in one of their larger titles. Exaggerated hands and feet as well as combat in motion are all a huge plus here, so don’t be afraid to showcase your style when it comes to the ‘Art’ part of mixed-martial arts.

Preferably, we’d like to include two characters per card locked in mid-strike or in the heat of combat. Art that highlight all sorts of punches, kicks, knees will all go to the top of the stack. Combatants can be on the ground, in the air or standing as long as the violence/exaggeration levels don’t reach the ‘Mortal Kombat’ level of gore. Think less in the realms of ‘Fatalities’ and more in line with the ‘EA Sports: UFC’ series.

Don’t worry so much on background as much as getting the spirit of combat just right. We also LOVE dramatic angles, so if you’ve got a few pieces lying around that fit the bill, we’d love to see them (Via link! No files please!).

When it comes to colours, we’re hoping to see a lot of de-saturated pieces as well as heavier, comic styled inks. Inspiration wise, there are plenty of manga titles up for grabs that would help, but try and take your inspiration from fighting video games such as the Street Fighter franchise.

Don’t worry if your art doesn’t fit the requirements list perfectly, we’re still working things out so details may change. Send us what you got!

You can email a link to your portfolio, and some notes about yourself to me, Charlie Ze Intern, here charlie(DOT)barangan(AT)zemind.ca or reach out to us on social media accounts listed below.

We can’t wait to show you what we’re coming out with next!

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Git Into my Game!

I’ll be the first person to tell you that coding is hard. I’ll also be the first person to tell you I can’t code to save my life. That’s why, of course, the lovely team here at ZeMind has introduced me into the cold and murky depths of Xcode (lucky me).

Yes, your favourite newbie has descended into the flame-broiled heart of heck itself, past the rings of Unity and into the pits of Git.

So, what am I doing here, you may ask? Turns out that while writing the script was a team based and often times humorous trip into the realms of puns and fantasy, actually entering the thing into the game has proven to have a bit of a learning curve. Those of you who follow our social media pages (which you all should be, duh) know that since I’ve begun my tenure here at the studio I’ve given Unity a try, with uh, mixed results.

That being said, I clearly had not-the-worst point collection ball game here in the studio, and the experience went well enough to say that I’d give coding a go in the future.

Fast forward to now, where thanks to our tightly knit team of developers, I’m working with an (explicitly for newbies) customized chunk of code which essentially plays as a mad-libs for entering the script and dialogue into our game. For Versus, we’ve gone with a traditional JRPG dialogue setup, that is to say we’ve got a shared dialogue box between all talking head characters on the screen.

On my end, I’ve gone about not just entering the dialogue but also selecting the talking head portraits themselves as well as filling in sound effects for dialogue (while we won’t exactly be going with english, we may change it up to have a sort of ‘Sim-Speak’ kind of tone.

It’s definitely eye-opening to see the amount of sheer, hair-raising frustration and terror that goes into coding something. Even with my custom set up, I’ve had several follicle ruining moments that have tested my patience. Not to mention all the times I thought I completely wrecked the game when pushing it.

*Shudders*

The game is now in an incomplete but playable state. We’ve got a ton of the art assets set in (which, while still being awesome, still have a few left to go) as well as the majority of dialogue and story from acts 1-3. Most of the characters are playable, save for a few that need a touch more tweaking. We’re still in the process of finalizing certain aspects of the story as well as selecting final music and additional effects, but overall this game is turning out to be a lot more fun than anticipated.

That’s all for this week, don’t forget to follow us on social media for more updates, contests and giveaways!

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So you want to sell a card game…

With ‘Mega Fighters’ (working title of our MMA fighting card game) hopefully coming out sometime this year (we’re thinking fall-summer), the time has come to try and solve the logistic issues between getting the game made and getting the game out there.

Hold on to your butts.

With only a projected few months to go, we’re buckling down and making the most of our precious play testing time as our self-imposed deadline draws near. We’re testing. A lot. The first thing we’re hoping to do is release a starter pack containing the basics of what two people would need to play a basic game of Mega Fighters (includes an awesome introduction to the game as well as a few rare cards to get their collection going).

The second thing we hope to do is release another ‘Deluxe Edition’, complete with several more playable characters, un-lockable abilities as well as a plethora of moves you won’t find in any other card game. These extra cards will of course be available in booster packs we plan to release as well, keeping in tradition with many of your favourite childhood (or adulthood) trading card games such as Magic: The Gathering.

We’re also hoping to include a few accessories (such as dials and score cards) to keep track of certain statistics like hand size, health totals, etc. We feel like these add to the speed and overall enjoyment when included but don’t detract from the experience when playing without them.

As with any fighting game, the level itself will provide much of the flavour. What we’re aiming for is a cage-like play mat that simulates the circular ring you’d find in many MMA fights both on TV and at the amateur level. Speaking of flavour, we’re now on the prowl for local (Toronto) artists looking to get out there and design a few cards (with compensation, of course). It should be noted though, that we’re on the hunt for something along the current Marvel Comics style and that we’re looking to review portfolios in the upcoming weeks.

Got any hot tips on an artist looking to get in on a card game? Shoot them our way!

-Charlie Ze Newbie

If you want to keep tabs on us don’t forget to follow Zemind Games on social media!

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Nerf This! A Mega-Fighters Update

When it comes to balanced games, chances are you’re not thinking of fighting games. Chances are even better, that you cringe at the idea of a fighting game being ‘Balanced’. For the average person catching a high level eSport or watching a competitive fighter, it’s essentially a blur of movement, rapid framerates, endless combos and an audience/broadcaster commentary track using what is effectively an alien language.

To an extent, these things are part of the experience- The ‘Alien’ language of a fighting game commentary is part of the community, and the endless combos with an obsessive counting of framerates is what separates contenders from pretenders. However, when designing our own fighting card game (with a digital expansion in mind) it became plainly obvious that many of these things can be entry barriers for new players, or, in our case, players in a new game.

As a bit of background, our card game (currently in early development) is a mixed martial arts fighting card game sitting the line somewhere between the Street Fighter series and the EA Sports UFC franchise. Using punch and kick cards, as well as submission and wrestling cards, you’ll also need a solid gameplan to reduce your opponent’s HP to 0.

This is what the team looks like when designing games.

One of the advantages to a paper-prototype is that it inherently strips away frame rates by slowing the game down. For future fighting game developers, I would strongly recommend breaking down your game down into a card game for the sake of understanding how fighting commands (and their interactions with each other) work. In doing so, we’ve discovered what moves could be considered over powered and what needs a little extra heat behind it to keep its usage up.

As a personal note, when it comes to balancing the game out, I’ve always erred on the side of nerfing, as opposed to buffing attacks (in both fighting and card games) so as not to provide any potential game-breaking strategies. This however, has changed over the course of balancing the games as buffing cards increases the game’s pace and overall excitement. When trying to emulate the chaotic feel of an MMA fight, it should always feel like any fighter could win at any moment, conversely, it should also go without saying that the more skilled combatant should win more often than not. Essentially, what we’re going for is the feeling of a potential upset victory but reward those putting the time in to learn the game’s intricacies and strategies. It’s definitely been eye-opening going from player to designer, but overall it’s easy to say I’ve gained an entire mountain of respect for everyone in the testing department.

We’ve actually just printed out a new set of cards to expand our original 16 card lineup, and we can’t wait to test them. This game is going to be awesome.

If you want to keep tabs on us don’t forget to follow Zemind Games on social media!

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What’s the story, morning glory?

Our approach to crafting the tale behind VERSUS is a simple one. Build the world, fit the tone of said world, and above all else, be fun.

As I was brought on a little later in the project (it’s been in development for over a year), there was already quite a bit of narrative headway made. Effectively, most of the gameplay mechanics, main story beats and character designs had been carved out, but needed a few extra pieces to tie things together. So, what did we end up doing? Using the loose story bits, I mapped out the placements of characters on our large colour maps. From there it was a matter of charting the movement of the main characters’ large armies (or factions, if you will) into a place it made sense for them to run into each other, facilitating the conflicts and ultimately, the game itself.

This, of course, came after a huge development of the worlds’ back story, complete with huge time gaps and characters you’ll never meet. Now that the movement of the large groups of characters is accounted for, it was time to build the individuals. The character ticks, mannerisms and speech patterns have gone through a myriad of changes, and to chart them all would take forever- but we decided to go for a more caricature oriented character lineup, and it’s pretty obvious we made the right choice. With each one of our main factions assigned an identifiable personality trait(s), we can now get down to the brass tacks.

From there we took the main characters, and we decided to give them all light, silly back stories. Using a variant of the heroes journey (that splits considerably from the formula at the end), we’ve given each character a neat little 3 act story arc that promises to be enjoyable and suit the game well. We’ve also made it a note to give each character their own sense of humour, which hopefully adds to the personas you’ll meet in the land of ‘Charloggia’. Sorry to have been so vague, I’ve yet to get clearance to reveal the final details, but I’m sure you’ll enjoy it once I do.

At any rate, enjoy your weekend (in our case, a long weekend!).

-Charlie Ze Newbie

Can’t wait to get you another update! Don’t forget to follow us on social media!

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Wish you were here!

Some of you may have noticed our social media accounts occasionally post updated pieces of art (or at least you should have because you’re following them, right? …Right?).

In keeping with our new snowball of enthusiasm and commitment to getting more games out in 2017, we’re full swing into designing the user interface aspect of our tower defense title, VERSUS. Several members of our team have committed to themselves to a full time overhaul, which sees many new designs and art assets arrive on the scene. Not only that, we’ve separated a larger chunk of the team into developing the animation effects for characters as well as promotional art (we love our interns, and they do some amazing work on their own free time- check some of it out here onelink.to/f4xbv4).

At any rate, we’re at warp speed for getting this game out very soon! In case you’re in need of a visual update, take a peek at one of our promotional posters soon to be released on our campaign here:

Alright, so we’re a bit of a weird bunch, but let me explain some of what’s going on in here (there’s a lot, I know, but at least let me dispel some of the BDSM undertones).

Our game features playable factions who battle with each other for dominance over all the land. You may have guessed that certain factions (like, I don’t know… The ‘Circus Folk’) don’t always get along with everyone. They also may need to cross certain terrain and occasionally butt heads with the other factions when doing so. VERSUS Players will get the chance to vent their anger at other factions in silly and gratuitous ways; Not quite what you’re seeing here (in-game at least), but you get the idea.

We hope the art gets you psyched for the feel we’re going for. Silly, fun, and just a little cute. If this picture reminds you of a vacation postcard, you’ll see why once we’re in a full marketing swing! But that’s another story.

Charlie Ze Newbie

If you’d like to see more of our art, follow us on the social media!

 

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VERSUS: BIG UPDATE!

Greetings, ZeMind Game fans!

Alright, alright. I know you’ve been waiting on them, so take a peek at some of the new stuff we’re throwing into VERSUS!

Some of our early drafts of the menu for our next big release, VERSUS!

We’ve asked a few friends to join us and add a little extra art muscle around the studio. Everything from the characters to the level select menu is getting a fresh coat of paint, a little lip-gloss and their eyebrows on fleek looking very nice.

But seriously though, we’re adding a few extra features. It’s pretty cool seeing everything come together this quickly now that we’ve got a few extra hands on things. Right now we’re looking for an easy method of adding the game’s lighthearted story via text boxes (think the standard JRPG styled talking heads) into the pre-fight banter. There’s also quite a bit of evolution in terms of character design, with many playable and non-playable characters becoming more expressive in their faces and gestures. While the game will keep its cartoonish charm, we’ve amped up some of the tonal details and made sure some characters look more menacing than others.

Our preliminary draft for the character select screen in VERSUS!

We’ve also enlisted our interns (who are very talented) in bringing our art to life. They’ve begun to add key frames and effects to our more demanding animations, and everything is going smoothly. Don’t worry folks, VERSUS is high on the priority list and we’re pretty excited to show you what’s happening.

This game already includes over 3 different comics, as well as over 20 different levels for you to play in. While you may have noticed we often release smaller, pet project games from our interns/co-ops, rest assured that our next big release, VERSUS, is going to knock your socks off.

Charlie Ze Newbie

If you’d like to see what we get up to on a daily basis, follow us on social media! We promise you won’t be disappointed:

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We Are… VR!

Hello ZeMind blog fans!

It is I, Charlie Ze Newbie updating you on the latest in our studio. I know, I know. You’ve been dying to know when the next official game is coming out. We hear you, and we know it’s been a while since you’ve heard any news on VERSUS, our lovely RTS/Tower Defense game.

Good news! VERSUS hasn’t gone anywhere, It’s still very much in development. Our art department just needed a little more time in the oven to bake up our tray of assets.

Very soon we’ll have some extra screengrabs for you to take a peek at. Nothing huge, just a few menus, but it will give you a taste of the aesthetics we’re going for.

In other ZeMind game news, we’ve gone ahead and jumped on the VR bandwagon. Join us! There’s plenty of room. Earlier last week we picked up the well designed and incredibly comfortable MERGE VR headset. Light, made of a memory foam and featuring some soft straps around the head, we can’t recommend this headset strongly enough for game developers looking to make waves in the land of mobile VR. Heck, it even features an adaptable flap for all your AR (augmented reality) games.

We haven’t quite  pushed it to the limits yet, and as of late we’ve mostly just run stereoscopic 360 video, but all in all it seems like a pretty cool experience. Catching music videos where you’re part of the set as well as taking VR trips in flight seems like a great way to experience the medium.

That about wraps it up for us this week, follow us on social media for more updates!

Charlie Ze Newbie

We promise you won’t be disappointed:

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