Imagine if you could give someone a game for their birthday instead of giving them a card. Imagine if instead of getting chocolates for valentines day, you could receive a personalized game from your significant other. Imagine a child's birthday party where children get a personalized video game in their goody bags. This is the concept idea behind Gamester.
As game development becomes more accessible and easier, one can only imagine that we will reach a point when making a short game will be no different than shooting a short video for Youtube. This opens up a door for new possibilities of how we can use games the same way we use cards to express affection, or give to a friend as a gift.
Gamester's ambitious project creates a very simple system that will grant players the opportunity to personalize a game. I had the opportunity to speak to Jaime Fraina, one of the minds behind Gamester, at PAX East.
Who are you? How did you get into game development? What other projects have you worked on before?
I'm Jaime Fraina, the founder of Giant Fox Studio. I've worked in the game industry for about 8 years now.
I started out as a QA tester in Montreal, then I became a Content Manager for Bored.com in New York, but was promoted to Lead Game Designer/Project Manager and lived in Dubai to manage the internal game development there. Then I went back to NY to work at high5games also as a project manager, which was nice but I really wanted to focus on my own thing, so I quit and have been traveling the world/working from my laptop on Giant Fox Studios since then.
I've worked on over 180 games ranging from small stickman flash games, to real world slot machines, to mini-games for FOX to go with Independence Day 2 coming this summer, to tons of casual mobile games. It's been a pretty busy career for me so far haha.
How many people do you have on your team? How did you all get together?
I'm the only full time employee, but I have a team of freelancers that I've built up over the past 4 years. I'm currently working with about 15 people on 7 different projects at the moment.
What inspired you to create Gamester?
About a year ago, my friend Jackie asked me to make a game for her and her boyfriend. I've made games for my friends in the past, and loved this idea so I wanted to do it for sure. When I asked her what budget she could do, she said $50, which is a really small amount for game development (obviously).
That wasn't going to stop me though, so we made an indie game, Princess in Peril, that starred them as the main characters. (It's on new grounds and soon will be on mobile). On their anniversary, she showed him it, and he played through the whole game in 2 hours.
We started to promote it a bit and had a huge demand for personalized games for people to give as
gifts to each other, so we started to work on Gamester.
Can you briefly describe Gamester? what are the basic steps to set up a game with your own content?
Gamester is an app that anyone can use to make their own mobile game about themselves or someone they know. It's kind of like JibJab or MabLibs for games.
The user can upload a photo and either use a cutout photo, or have us drawn them for the main character. Then they pick a genre, enemy, art style, collectible, and environment for their game.
They can then create their own custom story line, and record their own voice acting. Finally, they can play an entirely personalized custom game that they built, and can share it with friends!
What is the design process for implementing custom content? How has this affected how your game plays?
For actual game assets that would be used in the app for any user to select from, our cartoon artist draws an initial one, and then pixel artist create the same thing in their style.
For assets like the users custom character drawn, they get to select what art style they will be drawn in, and then it gets added to our list of things for that artist to take care of.
At the moment, he's usually done within 5 hours of getting the order. I expect that to increase as we scale though, obviously.
Why do you think people would be interested in this? What would people use Gamester for?
We've had a lot of orders for kids birthdays, graduations, some anniversary gifts for gamers, and even one order that said he's going to use it to propose to his girlfriend with. It's a great personalized unique gift to give a gamer.
What is the future for Gamester? What other features or content are you interested in adding?
We have so many ideas on ways to expand it, I don't even know where to begin. Mostly adding in more selections first, then maybe a level editor and supporting other platforms. We have tons of other things we can add in but those will probably be the first.