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Animation/Gaming : Innovation + Job News

12 Animation/Gaming Articles | Page:

Mindgrub Makes Big Play in Mobile Games Market

Mindgrub Games next week expects to release its third mobile game, “Escape! From Detention,” developed under its own brand and in conjunction with the Howard County Library System. Mindgrub Games, a division of Catonsville mobile application developer Mindgrub, plans to release more mobile games by the middle of this year. 
The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Institute of Museum and Library Services gave the public library a $100,000 grant to establish a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) laboratory for middle and high school students in the Savage Branch. Howard County then approached Mindgrub about the project.

“We created a basic game scenario and the kids were active participants in developing the game,” says Alex Hachey, lead Mindgrub Games designer. The game is downloadable for free from links on the Howard County Library System’s website.
The division is currently working on three new mobile games. One is a game for a client that may be announced later this month and two games under its own brand for a mid-2013 release.

Since Mindgrub Games was launched last summer, it has released two games. One, “Rescue Jump,” is its own brand. The second, “Scuba Adventures,” was done for a client, Discovery Kids, part of cable TV channel Discovery Network, and Zap Toys, a manufacturer in Hong Kong.
Mindgrub considered starting a games division two years ago, after an interactive festival showcased a mobile game that incorporated location technology, Hachey says.
“It was a spin on what Mindgrub had been doing. It got us thinking about games,” he says.
For “Scuba Adventures,” the division analyzed the market for competing games and worked with the client to develop a game to its specifications. The result is an educational game that sells for $1.99. Like all of Mindgrub Games’ products, it is available through Apple’s iTunes and the Android marketplace’s Google Play.
“Rescue Jump,” Mindgrub Games’ first product under its own brand, is a free download. It received over 1,300 downloads in its first two months.
Asked how the division makes money if the game is free, Hachey says, “Right now, it’s more of a learning objective. We are getting our feet wet in the game market. We are getting our name out. We can always add to or refine it [later] and then charge money.”
Since inception, Mindgrub Games has grown from three to seven full-time staffers. It is looking to hire Corona mobile applicaiton developers, illustrators and designers, depending on client contracts.
Source: Alex Hachey, Mindgrub Games
Writer: Barbara Pash

Political Strategy Game Pits Obama Vs. Romney

Exis Interactive has built a business helping Warner Brothers, LucasArts and other companies develop video games. This month, the nine-year-old TowsonGlobal Business Incubator company is trying something new. 

For the first time, it made and released a product of its own, a political strategy game called “Execuforce" that involves President Barack Obama and former Gov. and Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney. Participants role-play Presidents Obama, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan or former Gov. Mitt Romney to travel to distant planets and prevent aliens from destroying Earth.

For $20, the game is downloadable from its website. Exis Interactive Founder Peter Kojesta says it usually works for larger companies on the graphics for their games, including Warner Brothers' "Fear 3" and LucasArts' "Fracture".  Northrop Grumman Corp. and General Dynamics Corp. are also among its clients. 

There is no lack of games related to politics, but they “get into the minutiae of government,” he says. "Execuforce" is a multi-player game that does so entertainingly. 

Calling the game “a labor of love,” Kojesta says it took Exis Interactive three years to develop because it had to build the game technology from scratch while working on other projects.

Exis Interactive has four staffers, including Kojesta, all of whom have known each other since high school. He describes the company as the “epitome of the American dream,” he says. “We have team members who came here as immigrants and we have members who’ve been in the military. We feel it is important to talk about politics but to do so in a fun way.”

Half of the proceeds from its sale are being split evenly between the Obama’s Democratic Party presidential campaign and the Wounded Warrior Project, a nonprofit that benefits American soldiers. The game will remain on the website beyond the November election for an undetermined period of time.

Source: Peter Kojesta, Exis Interactive
Writer: Barbara Pash

Mindgrub Adding Second Catonsville Office

Mindgrub Technologies  is adding new clients, hiring more staff and adding a second office to handle the growth.

The company is in the midst of renovating a second office across the street from its new office in the historic First National Bank building in Catonsville. The 45-person firm will relocate the management team there, Mindgrub CEO Todd Marks says. The firm expects to move into the renovated 1,400-square-foot office next month.

Mindgrub is hiring 10 -- programmers, game designers, web and gaming developers, iPhone and android developers, information architects and technical production managers. It is particularly seeking people with expertise in Drupal, an open source web development platform. 

One of the new clients is the B&O Railroad Museum, a popular Baltimore City destination for tourists and student groups, for which Mindgrub is developing an "augmented reality"  tour. Mindgrub CEO Todd Marks describes augmented reality as taking digital content and superimposing it over the real physical world.

The tour will spotlight the historic railroad engines in the museum’s roundhouse. If you hold up an iPhone in front of an engine, Marks says, an animated cartoon character will pop up and talk about its history.
Marks says that besides the B&O Railroad Museum, other new clients it has added this year are Yamaha Motors, for which Mindgrub is developing a downloadable app with service information, and the University of Las Vegas, with an app for its alumni with deals and discounts in Las Vegas hotels and restaurants.
Marks founded the company in 2002 and was its sole employee until 2007. Mindgrub provides mobile and web application development and creative services. It has founded a spinoff product company called viaPlace.  
Source: Todd Marks, Mindgrub
Writer: Barbara Pash

GBTC Appoints New Board Members

GBTC, Baltimore's main networking group for the tech community has unveiled its new board, to be officially installed later in the month. It's the latest of changes at the group in recent months, starting with Jason Hardebeck's appointment as executive director late last year. 

Of the 30-member board, half are new while the other half are holdovers from the previous board.

Known as a community for innovators, entrepreneurs and startups, GBTC is in the midst of other changes as well. Among them are the introduction of a weekly video show talking about events for that week and a regular newsletter, to be published every other week.

The show airs on GBTC's blog every Monday at 3 p.m. It can be viewed and download from the blog and/or linked to Twitter. "We're hoping it will become the central place people go to find out what is going on," says Sharon Paley, a GBTC staffer.

Hardebeck says the new board reflects gb.tc's expanded vision for the innovation community to represent a broader mix of members. While the new board is a mix of new and continuing members, the real difference is that the GBTC board will be more active, Hardebeck says.  

The moves comes just months after the appointment of Hardebeck last December as executive director of the nonprofit amid criticism about declining membership and declining revenue from dues.

"This is not a place where you come to a meeting every couple of months to catch up on what has been going on," Hardebeck says. "Our board will be engaged and active with all facets of gb.tc's mission, including cultivation of shareholders and participation in events and programming. There is way too much to do and too many opportunities for gb.tc to make a difference for just the GBTC team. Our board will be an extension of our efforts." 

Gb.tc eliminated its physical office and changed its membership model. Instead of charging membership fees, anyone who wants to be involved in GBTC can.

Paley says the membership group focuses on metro Baltimore, and anyone involved in the “innovation industry,” including software, hardware, the internet, gamers, developers and designers, as well as those affiliated with the industry like accountants, attorneys and marketers.
Since doing away with its physical office, Paley says the four-person staff will be doing more outreach, visiting places where tech companies work and getting an idea of the kinds of programs they want to attend and that sponsors are willing to support.
Sources: Jason Hardebeck and Sharon Paley, GBTC
Writer: Barbara Pash

PlayScreen Launches New Poker App

Baltimore based social media games company PlayScreen is continuing to expand its product lines with new mobile gaming apps. 

The company's latest product, PlayScreen Poker, is available for download for free in the Apple App Store. In addition to the traditional game play model of most poker apps, PlayScreen Poker allows users to connect with their friends through Facebook Connect and Apple Game Center. The game also allows players to score achievements and find hidden objects.

PlayScreen is continuing to expand its offerings in 2012.

PlayScreen has also developed a successful app centered on bocce ball. The PlayScreen app is the most popular bocce ball app for iPhone and iPod Touch, and the top sports game in Italy. The company is currently developing a tournament version of its bocce ball app that is scheduled for release in late 2012.

Writer: Amy McNeal
Source: Vasilios Peros, PlayScreen

Sensics Introduces SmartGoggles

Sensics Inc. is launching their first consumer-targeted 360-degree goggles at the 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show this month in Las Vegas. SmartGoggles are designed to provide gamers with an immersive view of their gaming environment.

Sensics had been selling exclusively to the defense and professional markets, says Sensics CEO Yuval Boger of the 360-degree goggles. "By adding the power to run Android applications on board, as well as allow these applications to use the location of the user’s hand, we believe SmartGoggles are changing how people think about virtual reality goggles much like smart phones changed how people think about phones.”

SmartGoggles differ from traditional virtual reality goggles in the way that  they run applications that track the user's motion. Traditional virtual-reality goggles rely on an external device for video and track the user's head motions. SmartGoggles run applications locally and track the user's hand motions.

The Columbia company is also looking to partner with a major consumer electronics company to help deliver SmartGoggles to the consumer market.

Writer: Amy McNeal
Source: Yuval Boger, Sensics Inc.

Pure Bang Games Is Hiring

Baltimore's Pure Bang Games is growing. The social games developer recently added star game designer Eric Ruth, developer of Pixel Force, to their roster and they're looking for more help as they launch new projects.

The company is looking for a top user interface designer as well as “rock star” front-end and back-end programmers, says Pure Bang CEO Ben Walsh. Ideally, the new hire will know AS3 Flash and/or PHP and MySQL, but if they know object-oriented programming, Pure Bang can teach them what they need to know to be mobile and Facebook programmers, Walsh says.

Pure Bang Games has a busy 2012 planned. The company is planning to launch their third mobile app game in the first quarter of this year. Pure Bang Games also plans to launch a new game by Eric Ruth.

Writer: Amy McNeal
Source: Ben Walsh, Pure Bang Games

Maryland Live Casino to Open Recruitment Center

Maryland Live Casino will open a new recruitment center on-site mid-January.

Near Arundel Mills, the casino developed by Cordish Co. will hire 1,500 workers. The recruitment center will feature computers to allow job seekers to access the company's applications. Maryland Live recruiters will be on hand to answer questions.

The recruiting site currently features openings for several management positions. Listings for other positions in the new complex will be posted in the coming months. The company expects to offer positions in all areas of operations and all shifts. Casino positions will be available as well as positions in food and beverage, environmental services, security, retail, marketing, IT and finance. Interested job seekers are encouraged to register at the company's website now to speed up the applications process as more positions become available.

Opening in the summer, the complex will feature 4,750 slot machines and electronic table games, restaurants, retail stores and a live entertainment venue.

Writer: Amy McNeal
Source: Carmen Gonzales, Maryland Live

Gamescape Showcases Growing Maryland Game Industry at Artscape

Maryland's growing game industry was on display at Artscape this weekend. Sponsors MAGfest and Innovate Baltimore helped put together the showcase, held in the Pinkard Gallery at the Bunting Center on the campus of the Maryland Institute College of Art. Innovate Baltimore co-founder Ben Walsh organized Gamescape to encourage area video game fans to take a look at what Baltimore's game industry has to offer.

"I was inspired to create Gamescape because I love video games and wanted to share what the local community is creating. This gives us a chance to highlight the creative artists and technologists working in Maryland to create video games. We're hoping to inspire more people to pursue it as a career, and possibly follow the artists they see this weekend," Walsh says.

Over a dozen game designers and companies from Baltimore and other areas presented displays and demos of their most recent games, from iPad applications and Flash games to first person shooters and interactive story games. Gamescape also featured a fine arts display from prominent area game designers, and workshops by professional game developers to connect with artists considering game development as a career choice. Classic arcade games were also on display.

"With all of the great universities around, Baltimore has a ton of great emerging developers. However, historically, many of those graduating students have left Baltimore, so it is hard to find veteran experience. But Baltimore has many wonderful amenities, including affordable housing, that make it an appealing place for aging developers to come and raise a family," Walsh continues.

Walsh is currently launching a new Baltimore-based game company, Pure Bang Games. Their newest game, "My Pet Rock", was demonstrated at this year's Gamescape.

Writer: Amy McNeal
Source: Ben Walsh, Innovate Baltimore

Ben Walsh Launches Pure Bang Games Social Gaming Development Firm

Ben Walsh, co-founder of the popular Innovate Baltimore technology-centric networking events, has launched Pure Bang Games, a social gaming development company.

Walsh, a veteran of two local gaming firms, Bethesda Softworks and Big Huge Games, has developed games both personally and professionally for over 15 years. He was responsible for producing multi-million dollar blockbuster console games, including AMF Bowling Pinbusters, Star Trek : Conquest (Winner of IGN's Game of the Month), Age of Empires 3: Asian Dynasties, and WET.

"I'm hoping that Pure Bang will become a catalyst for more gaming companies coming to the city. And as we continue to grow we'll definitely be reinvesting in our neighborhood and the city. I love Baltimore and want to see more creative tech companies get started. If I can help bring more young professionals to the city that is definitely a side benefit of being able to do what I already love -- create video games," Walsh says.

The new gaming firm, based in Highlandtown, will release its first game, My Pet Rock, on the Facebook gaming platform in December. The virtual pet game offers social gamers of all ages fun times as they adopt a pet rock. They can chose from a variety of shapes, then customize the rock's look and its garden home. According to Walsh, players will be able to interact with friends through rock battles or dating their friends' rocks which will eventually lead to a baby rock.

Players will be able to purchase items for their pet rocks using "game money" or more unique items and extra energy for between $.10 and $1.70. A new Halloween pack of costumes has been released enabling players to dress their pet rocks up as Frankenstein or Bride of Frankenstein, etc. Anyone interested in playing the game before it is released should "like" My Pet Rock, and send Walsh an email requesting an invite.

"We want our games to represent our sense of humor and our belief in quality. This is our first game and it will be the best game that we can make. I think a lot of people will enjoy it. They'll smile when they see it. Laugh when they play it. That's definitely success for me, seeing and hearing people enjoying our game," says Walsh.

Pure Bang is also working on a simple arcade game it expects to also release on Facebook by the end of the year. The company will also partner with less-tech savvy individuals who have an idea for a game but no programming experience.

The company is currently hiring for a variety of positions, including engineers, product managers, artists, and marketers.

Source: Ben Walsh, Pure Bang Games
Writer: Walaika Haskins

U of B IT geeks put state's budget in citizens' hands with new online videogame

Undergraduates in the University of Baltimore's Simulation and Digital Entertainment programhave come up with a novel way to help state legislators and the governor balance the budget -- educating the public.

The students have designed a Web-based videogame that will help ordinary citizens learn how Maryland's budget works�including the all-important and legally-required task of balancing it�as part of a public education effort by the Maryland Budget and Tax Policy Institute.

The "Maryland Budget Game" was unveiled by the institute on Monday, Jan. 18 and is be available online and at no cost to the user.

According to the institute, "Maryland Budget Game" players assume the role of the governor in making decisions to balance the state budget. Players travel to different locations to view budget options related to different policy areas: the schoolhouse for education, a clinic for health and so on. Based on the player's decisions, the state's near-term and long-term budget status improves or deteriorates. At the same time, 10 different simulated interest groups react to the players' every decision.

"Our students developed this project with the classic learning-game goal in mind: to provide an experience that replicates much of what goes in the real world, and do it so that it stays with the player in tangible ways," said Stuart Moulthrop, professor and director of the Simulation and Digital Entertainment program in UB's School of Information Arts and Technologies.

Source: University of Baltimore, School of Information Arts and Technologies
Writer: Walaika Haskins

Bethesda Softworks scoops up legendary game studio

Rockville-based ZeniMax Media, parent company of Bethesda Softwworks, added id Software, legendary game studio behind "DOOM," "QUAKE", "Wolfenstein" and other games, to its gaming roster in June. Bethesda Softworks will publish the titles of Texas-based id Software except for any upcoming releases already committed to other publishers.

The marriage of the two companies is being heralded for combining the first-person shooter expertise of id Software with the role playing game prowess of ZeniMax Media's Bethesda Game Studios, the team behind "Fallout 3," the 2008 Game of the Year and "The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion," the 2006 Game of the Year. The cost of the acquisition was not made public, but media reports have placed it at around $105 million.

"This was a unique opportunity to team with a smart, sophisticated publisher like Bethesda Softworks where the interests of the studio and the publisher will be fully aligned in the development and marketing of our titles," says id Software CEO Todd Hollenshead. "In addition, we will now have financial and business resources to support the future growth of id Software, a huge advantage which will result in more and even better games for our fans."

id Software will continue to operate as a studio under the direction of its founder, John Carmack, and no operation changes will be made in the development of id Software games. All id Software principals have signed long-term employment contracts stating they will continue in their roles at the studio. Carmack, a member of the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame, says he relishes the opportunity to "to grow and extend all of our franchises under one roof, leveraging our capabilities across multiple teams while enabling forward looking research to be done in the service of all of them."

Writer: Lucy Ament
Source: Todd Hollenshead, id Software
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