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Guns of Icarus Online Costume Design Contest

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DESCRIPTION OF CONTEST: Muse, an indie game studio in NYC, is sponsoring a costume design contest for the upcoming Guns of Icarus Online title! Submit a concept like the example in #IcarusSteampunk group at Deviantart.com or via email at contest@musegames.com. If you win, you get 1) the ultimate tribute of having your concept be made into an in-game costume, 2) your name immortalized in developer credits, 3) a handful of free copies and other goodies!

Contest begins on 10/24/11 and ends on 12/5/11.

HOW TO ENTER/REQUIREMENTS: Submit your costume concept art in .jpg or .png formats with the resolution of 1280×800 by uploading to Deviantart.com and tag with #IcaruSteampunk or emailing to contest@musegames.com. Muse Games will create a contests album on facebook/gunsoficarusonline, repost all contest submission in the facebook album, and post updates of the contest, including finalist selection announcements, on facebook/gunsoficarus. If submission is made via email, please provide your name, age, address, phone number, and email address, and write Guns of Icarus Online Costume Submit as the subject.
Muse Games Corporation (“Muse Games”) will evaluate the submissions to determine the 10 best submissions as finalists, from which 3 winning submissions are awarded. The prizes for finalists and the winners are described below.
Entries may NOT contain, as determined by us, in our sole and absolute discretion, any content that:
i. is sexually explicit, unnecessarily violent or derogatory of any ethnic, racial, gender, religious, professional or age group; profane or pornographic;
ii. promotes illegal drugs, (or the use of any of the foregoing) or a particular political agenda;
iii. defames, misrepresents or contains disparaging remarks about other people or companies;
iv. contains trademarks, logos, or trade dress (such as distinctive without express written consent of the rights holder(s) or a reasonably apparent lawful basis for your use(s);
v. contains copyrighted materials owned by others (including photographs, sculptures, paintings, and other works of art or images published on or in websites, television, movies or other media) either without express written consent of the rights holder(s) or a reasonably apparent lawful basis for your use(s);
vi. contains materials embodying the names, likenesses, voices, or other indicia identifying any person (other than a member of your family or community for whom you have received consent) including, without limitation, celebrities and/or other public or private figures, living or dead either without express written consent of the rights holder(s) or a reasonably apparent lawful basis for your use(s);
vii. contains look-alikes of celebrities or other public or private figures, living or dead either without express written consent of the rights holder(s) or a reasonably apparent lawful basis for your use(s);
viii. communicates messages or images inconsistent with the positive images and/or good will to which we wish to associate; and/or violates any law;
ix. packaging or building exteriors/interiors) owned by others either
We reserve the right to investigate and verify, conditionally reject, or reject outright any tendered Entry, in our sole and absolute discretion, that we in good faith determine may not, or does not, meet the above criteria or any terms and conditions in these rules.

WINNER SELECTION – Muse Games will evaluate all the submissions received. Winners will be selected on or before [ENTER DATE]. By participating, entrants agree to abide by and be bound by these official rules and Muse Games’ decisions. Finalists and winners will be notified by email. All federal, state and local taxes, insurance, licensing, registration and title fees are the sole responsibility of the winner.

PRIZES:
Finalists:
• Feature on Muse Games website
• Developer credit in Guns of Icarus Online
• Three free copy of Guns of Icarus Online
• One copy of Guns of Icarus Online poster
• Advance game sneak peaks

Winners:
• Concept art be made into final in-game costume
• Developer credit in Guns of Icarus Online
• Five free copies of Guns of Icarus Online
• One Guns of Icarus Online t-shirt
• One copy of Guns of Icarus Online poster
• Advance game sneak peaks

NO MONETARY PAYMENT NECESSARY. Multiple entries shall be accepted.

Contest eligibility is open to worldwide participants over the age of 18 at the time of entry who may access the world wide web. You are not eligible if you are:

1. An employee, agent or representative of Muse Games, its respective affiliates, subsidiaries, advertising or promotional agencies.
2. A member of the respective immediate family (defined as mother, father, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters and husband or wife) or household of any of the above persons.

This Contest is void where prohibited by law and is subject to all federal, provincial and municipal laws and regulations. Muse Games reserves the right to request additional information to confirm eligibility.

By entering, you are representing that you are eligible for this Contest and that your submission(s) do not include any of the prohibited items under the above official rules. As the contest entrant, you will retain full intellectual property of your submission(s) but grant Muse Games a worldwide, irrevocable, fully-paid, royalty-free, non-exclusive right, including the right to sublicense rights to Muse Games’s subcontractors, to reproduce and publicly display your submission(s), and to prepare derivative works based upon the submission(s). If you are selected as a finalist or winner, you agree to waive any and all intellectual property rights including the moral rights to all such submissions so that the submission(s) are available for use by Muse Games Corp.

Muse Games is not responsible for lost, late, or misdirected entries, prizes or releases; or failed, incomplete, interrupted or delayed operation or transmission, or other Internet entry problems; problems with computer equipment, software, on-line systems, servers, online service providers, telephone network/lines or online communications; failure of any entry to be received due to technical problems or Internet traffic. Proof of connecting or logging on to the musegames.com or the deviantart.com site is not considered proof of delivery or receipt. In case of dispute as to identity of a winner who entered online, winner will be the authorized account holder of the e-mail account, and, if a prize is won and such authorized account holder is a valid entrant, the prize will be awarded to the authorized account holder. The “authorized account holder” is the natural person assigned an email address by an Internet access provider, online service provider or other organization responsible for assigning email addresses for the domain associated with the submitted address. The potential winner may be required to show proof of being the authorized account holder.

RELEASE AND WAIVER – By entering this Contest, you forever release and waive any and all claims that you might have against Muse Games and its subsidiaries, affiliates, successors, licensees, agents and assigns, and the officers, directors, members, shareholders and employees of the foregoing (collectively, “Muse”) from (A) any and all claims or liability, including but not limited to damages, losses or injuries, (COMPENSATORY, DIRECT, INCIDENTAL, CONSEQUENTIAL, OR OTHERWISE suffered by the entrant or any third parties in connection with participation in this Contest or acceptance or use, misuse or malfunction of any prize awarded and (B) any printing or typographical errors in any materials associated with the Contest. You further indemnify and hold harmless Muse from and against any and all third-party claims, liabilities, costs and expenses (including attorneys’ fees reasonably incurred) arising out of or related to (i) any breach or alleged breach or violation of these Rules by you, (ii) your acceptance, use or misuse of any prize or parts thereof, and (iii) your participation in this Contest.

Non-compliance with these requirements may result in disqualification, and the prizes may be forfeited and an alternate winner selected. In the event that a prize or prize notification is returned as undeliverable, such prize will be forfeited and an alternate winner selected. Entrance into this Contest constitutes permission to Muse Games and their representatives to use, distribute, reproduce, modify, redistribute, and display your submission(s). By participating, you agree to the official rules and judges’ decisions. In the event that any dispute arises regarding the meaning or interpretation of these official rules, participants agree that the dispute shall be resolved by applying the laws of New York and that it shall be resolved by and within the courts of New York, and you consent to the exclusive jurisdiction of, and service of process by, such Courts for the purpose of resolving any disputes, and further consent to the propriety of venue in such Courts.

Muse Games reserves the right to terminate further Internet entry in the Contest if technical difficulties, including but not limited to infection caused by computer virus, bugs, tampering, unauthorized intervention, fraud or other technical failures, compromise the integrity or ability to continue such Internet entry. Unless otherwise set forth herein, Muse Games’s Privacy Policy shall apply to this Contest; provided, however, in the event of any discrepancy or inconsistency between or among the Privacy Policy and these Rules, these Rules shall govern.

WINNERS LIST: Winners will be posted on Muse Games’ website at musegames.com/news/.

Sponsored by Muse Games Corp., 11 Broadway, Suite 333, New York, NY 10004.

THIS CONTEST IS VOID WHERE PROHIBITED.

Guns of Icarus Post-mortem

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This post-mortem an account of learnings and struggles during and after the development of Guns of Icarus. Hope it’s useful for others developers and indie studios. The We first released Guns of Icarus in late 2009 to early 2010. Later, the game was featured on Steam, Mac App Store, and other distribution platforms. It was not a wildly successful game but enough for us to now make Guns of Icarus Online. The entire story can be viewed here.

Guns of Icarus became the first 3D, Unity game on Mochi Games

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Guns of Icarus just went live on Mochi Games, becoming the first 3D, Unity game to launch on the site and platform, which is one of the coolest and best casual, Flash portal in the industry.

We are really excited by the opportunity to integrate Guns of Icarus with Mochi’s awesome game service. While Mochi will still be Flash, this could be the beginning of something really exciting, as Mochi’s always been known for quality games. Thanks to Justin and Jamison for the adventurous spirit! And the stickers too :) The stickers are awesome.

Guns of Icarus Online site Live!

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After a few days of collaboration and late nights between Brian and Tim, we finally have the first version of the new site for Guns of Icarus Online ready to go!

On it, you’ll find the latest development news and artwork. We’ll also be posting things to share, such as wallpapers, videos, trailers, along the way. If you are interested in getting updates from us and participate in alpha and beta testing, feel free to leave your email with us on the site as well. From now on, anything going on with the Guns of Icarus Online project you can find out here at gunsoficarus.com.

What is Guns of Icarus Online?

Guns of Icarus Online is a multiplayer airship combat game where you will attempt to survive and thrive in the post apocalyptic wasteland, moving from town to town, trading and collecting resources, outfitting your ship, and battling deadly pirates.

Every ship can have multiple human or NPC crew members. With a flexible skill and leveling system, every crewman brings something unique to the ship. No one sits idly during a firefight. Expect to find your pilot putting out a fire or your mechanic manning the guns at any moment. With many airships to outfit, each with its own strengths and weaknesses, it will take a competent captain to make the most out of each trip. Dangers will be lurking everywhere, and they won’t just be pirate ambushes. Expect to find opposing players out hunting for your cargo as well.

Each town competes and trades with its neighbors to survive in the wasteland. Your reputation will rise and fall with your actions in each town, opening and closing new options elsewhere for profit. Don’t like how the towns run things? Soar into the unknown and find new resources to establish a town of your own. Join other players to make your town prosper while defending it from raiders who want to plunder your riches.

Marshal Madness

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Working on games, especially a game  the scale of Guns of Icarus Online, often demands stepping out of your comfort zone. My personal game programming background and preference is C++ but working with Unity has given me the opportunity to learn C#. While not a monumental difference there are times when things can get a little nasty, and ironically this weeks hurdle has come in the form of two worlds colliding… C# meets C++.

Interoperability

The act of getting your C# code talking to a C++ DLL involves what is called Marshalling . Using various syntax attributes in C# you have to make sure that your variables/data in C# are treated the same as they will be in C++. This mainly comes down to things like byte alignment and type sizes but also encompasses function calling conventions and mastering managed vs unmanaged memory use. Here’s a tidbit of code showing how we make sure a struct we want to use in the C++ DLL can be passed to and from C# safely.

By explicitly telling C# how we want the bytes aligned and matching with how C++ will organize them we can be sure that when this struct gets pushed around we end up with the same values for each variable. It takes a bit of digging to get through all the subtle nuances of C# and C++ interoperability but in the end being able to leverage native code through a C# app is extremely useful. Thanks to all of this we are able to mimic the Unity PhysX support in our server side code as well! Woohoo! :)

Experiencing the Steampunk World’s Fair

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The Steampunk World’s Fair took place in Sommerset, NJ this weekend, and we were on hand to experience it all. The con featured ornate, crazy, amazing outfits as well as the people who wore them, and lots of eclectic Steampunk Gear. The venue was small, but that had advantages, as it made the event more lively, for it was jammed packed! The turn out was amazing. We got a ton of costume and gear ideas, and we met with some fans of Guns of Icarus. It’s always gratifying when people who have heard of or played the game give support and compliments.

Here are some photos from the event
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Thanks to everyone who stopped to post for pictures!

Snazzy Concept Art for Guns 2

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I just got the “art pack” for Guns 2 and since I am the new guy I hadn’t seen much yet: But this one was jaw dropping awesome. I plan on twisting someone’s arm to turn it into a wallpaper for everyone to enjoy. In the meantime, get a load of this monstrosity you’ll likely be facing in Guns 2.

Bring on the cannons!

Texturing the Apocalypse

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The vision of Guns of Icarus, from the beginning, has been strongly tied to the idea of spectacular vistas: dramatic sunrises and sunsets, towering formations of clouds, and sweeping post-apocalyptic landscapes.  We’re thinking a lot about how to manifest this vision in our upcoming sequel.

Terrain needs dense texture detail over a large area, usually way too much to be covered by a single large texture.  A fairly typical technique – this is what Unity uses for terrain out of the box – is to have a set of tiling “splat” textures for different types of ground (say, one for sand dunes, another for rocky cliffs, and another for fields of gravel) plus one or more splatmaps that use the color channels of an RGBA image to control the influence of four such textures.

Sample splatmap

A typical splatmap texture



This works reasonably well, but the technique has a couple of nasty catches that I set out to solve recently.


1. Two-dimensional projection.

The splat textures are simply projected top-down onto the terrain mesh, blending between the four based on the values in the splatmap.  This breaks down for sharp cliffs, where the textures suffer massive vertical stretching.

Stretched cliff texturing

A cliff using only vertical texture projection


For a broken post-apocalyptic wasteland, this is clearly unacceptable.


2. Excessive hand authoring

To build the terrain of a truly massive, sprawling world, your artists need to author a huge quantity of terrain, and a huge quantity of splatmaps to texture it.  So much of this terrain, however, ends up using the same set of fairly simple rules that it’s truly a tedious waste of an artist’s time.

Automating tedious tasks, of course, is one of the things computers do best.


The solution

So there are two parts to the solution.  First, the splatmapping can, in perhaps 90% of cases, be handled completely automatically, based on combinations of elevation and slope.  We’re typically fill-bound, so this can even be done in the vertex shader without any significant cost, which saves us the need (in a web game) to download splatmap data on top of the heightmap.

For the small number of cases where we do need hand-authored splatmaps, it’s easy to swap this automated method out for the texture-controlled one.

Second, two of those splat textures get devoted to cliffs.  But instead of projecting them from above, they’re projected from the sides (one splat along the X and one along the Z axes); the same slope values used to calculate which splat to use can blend between the vertical and horizontal projection modes in the pixel shader.  The results are pretty cool.

Fixed cliff texturing

A cliff blending between vertical and horizontal texture projection

The Art of Guns of Icarus 2

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The concept of Guns of Icarus has always grabbed me as an artist: A lone airship captain braving the vast unknown to deliver precious goods to the remaining survivors of an apocalyptic catastrophe. If this senario doesn’t speak to a game artist, I don’t know what will! So when our team at Muse decided to develop a sequel, you could feel the excitement start to build, especially among the artists. We all knew the first game was the tip of a much larger world and we were excited to figure out just how far down the rabbit hole our ideas would lead.

So without further ado, here’s an inside look at some of the Muse Games artwork for our upcoming title, Guns of Icarus 2!


-Tim

First Year of Muse – Progress, Screw-ups, and Lessons

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This month begins the second year of Muse. While we started making games in 2009, we formed the company and started selling our games in 2010. So 2010 was really officially our first year.

And how was it? Well, everything was hard. What else could we have expected! Of course it was hard. Looking back, we made some great strides. We started in 09 just making free games, still finding our way with the technology, the distribution, and building the team. In 2010, with Guns of Icarus and Creavures, we established a lot of great partnerships. A bit of luck was definitely involved, but looking back, it was also a lot of hard work. I think what made it all worthwhile was not just that we had opportunities to make money. It was also about the people. Through it all, we met some amazing people who genuinely took interest in what we did and believed in us.

We’ve always taken the approach that relationships are to be built to last. In business school, negotiation was always taught to not leave any money on the table. Here, we’re the complete opposite. How can taking all the money off the table all the time be the foundation to building lasting relationships? It can’t. We want to be treated fairly of course, but with the partners that we believe in, we’ve learned not to be hard-assed or near-sighted. Sometimes, too much negotiation of the minutiae can make people lose sight of what is really important and jeopardize what can be long lasting. With the help of our partner to feature our games, we had some success with both Guns of Icarus and Creavures. Guns of Icarus was a profitable project, and Creavures had good initial sales on Steam and Mac App Store.

With the help of our partners, we finally felt that our games were out on the market, for people to see and judge. Our games were finally being tested in the marketplace. With a game truly out in the market place, the customer support was critical. We had a few screw ups, but I’m proud to say that we didn’t let what was hard get in the way of what we believed in. Pretty much from day 1, we made a conviction to get back to everyone as fast as we could and address feedback as much as we could.

When Guns of Icarus was released, we had a lot of great support, but of course there were also tough feedback as well. We spent about 4 months developing the game with a small team, because that’s really all the resources we had. When people got a feel for the multiplayer, they invariably wanted more – campaigns, pvp, etc. And so there was a perception for some that the multiplayer for Guns was half-assed. That was pretty tough not only because we invested a lot emotionally, but also because it hit the mark. And we knew that it was right, but we didn’t have the resources to do more. That was really frustrating. And with each update, there would also be bugs – compatibility issues with some old graphics card we didn’t have the means to test, multiplayer server going down, level balancing off, etc. We felt that with customer service, we couldn’t slip. After all, this is people’s hard earned money we are talking about. Once this point became crystal clear, trying to accommodating wasn’t hard. We just had to understand where people were coming from.

As an example of us still learning and not always doing things as well as we could be, just look at Creavures on the Mac App Store for the last 2 weeks. We released an update, and people had trouble downloading the update. Fresh installs worked, but updates? Not happening. 1-2 star reviews started coming in, and we really didn’t have a good way to reach out to or interact with people who were having trouble through Apple’s interface. At the same time, we struggled to find a fix. As a result, our sales suffered a bit. Lesson? Find a way, any way to communicate faster. Our response was to find a fix fast, but we didn’t communicate fast enough. No excuses. We are now nearing a solution, but it will likely take another week to go through the review process. In the meantime, we just really have to focus on communication to frustrated customers. And apologize. If we screwed up, of course we should apologize. That’s the least we should do.

In 2011, there are a lot of exciting opportunities in store. We are returning to the iOS with Creavures. The Nest is close to release. Guns of Icarus online is full steam ahead. We’ll take what we learned last year, and do better this year.