Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Tech Time w/ Justin

Hello, Everyone!

My name is Justin and I am the CTO of Raid Plus Interactive.  Besides being the CTO and a programmer for Raid Plus, I also am a pretty big tech junkie.

So my plan for my blog posts is to show off some of the projects I am working on.  This will change from day to day as I am always starting new projects and finishing others.

Sometimes these posts will cover work I am doing on our new game Super Fun Battle Time (working title), other times it will cover some fun projects I am working on.

For my first post, I want to share one of the newer projects I am working on.  This project is my Raspberry Pi handheld game console!

My goal for this project is to create a battery powered handheld game console that will fit inside of a Gameboy color case, but still include a larger backlit screen, decent battery life, dual analog sticks and an awesome d-pad for fighting games.

To do this, I am going to need a couple of extra things with the Raspberry Pi.  I will attempt to list the hardware items as I go, that way if you want to build something similar you can!

The project is still pretty early.  So you get to see all of the ugly steps as I go along.  My latest goal was to slim down my Raspberry Pi and relocate the GPIO pins.  To slim down the Raspberry Pi(or make it a diet Pi), you have to remove the large dual USB ports and the ethernet port.  This will decrease how thick the Raspberry Pi is at it’s thickest point and if you do it right, you can maintain all of the functionality.  I wish I had some pictures to show you of this process, but it can be difficult because of the lead-free solder used to attach these ports, but if you take your time you should be able to remove them.  I use a desoldering iron for this.

Next, I needed to relocate the GPIO pins.  This isn’t always needed, but if I want to keep the system thickness down, I don’t want to just stack the screen on top of the Pi, but I want to have the next to each other to save on space.

My first step was to remove all of the GPIO pins and then cut some solid core wire, strip it and feed it through the hole that used to house the GPIO pin.  I then solder it and continue until you get what is visible in the second picture.

Lastly, for testing, I fed the other ends of the wire, stripped, into the holes that used to connect the GPIO pins and I saw the last picture.

So what does this mean?

It means that if I remove the connector from the screen and then cut the wires to the proper length and solder them to the screen, I should be able to make this really thin without sacrificing any parts!

That is all for this tech time with Justin, see you all again soon!

Monday, January 9, 2017

Raid+ Dev of the Month - January 2017

Raid+ Interactive's Dev of the Month

Shane Schultz
Art Director and Game Designer

To get the new year kicked off right, this month's Raid+ Dev of the Month goes to none other than Shane Schultz!

Shane is the Art Director and also a Game Designer here at Raid+ and he is one of the OG developers on the team.

He is by far a tremendous asset to our team and you are going to love getting to know this guy!

Let's get those developer questions rollin' !!!

1.) How did you get involved with Raid+ Interactive?

I got involved with Raid+ by going to MATC in Milwaukee going to school for the computer simulation and gaming (design) degree. I was randomly selected to be on my very first development team named Fire Helm studios. Once portfolio night came along where the two different teams show off their games Fire Helm did not do so well and was then merged with Raid+. Over time people either dropped out or just were not destined for video game development. I have had to go through so many tests, classes, hours, retrospectives about me personally to get to where I am today. Fire Helm was a team of 13+ people and only two made it this far. Jack Cieczka and I were the only two that are now fully merged and well respected on Raid+. We were just put on a random team and happened to be on Fire Helm instead of Raid+ at the get go. I have had no regrets and it was an experience I will never forget. My team at Raid+ is like family to me and sometimes I forget I was ever a part of another team.

2.) Considering everything so far, what has been your most memorable moment at Raid+?

The most memorable moment here at Raid+ for me is not just one instance but many actually. Every time my artwork is shown in our game I get a rush of butterflies and a good feeling like I did something great. The compliments also help when you are not sure if it is good or not, but once you hear the feedback that is always the best moments for me because it knows I'm progressing and doing something right. If I had to pick one though it'd be my first paycheck I ever got for something I am passionate about. When I got the piece of paper I  didn't know how to react. I felt overjoyed yet stunned that this was happening of how I finally received money for something I love to do.

3.) How has your experience as an Indie Developer in Milwaukee been so far? 

So far for being a developer in Milwaukee it has its ups and downs. This is not the best area by no means for a game developer but it's also not the worst. We have places like Madison and Chicago with a pretty decent amount of places one could work at. Me personally I'd say it's hard, but I've been noticing that it is getting better and it is becoming more of a demand in this area, especially for children programs and things like that. If you start in this area your best bet would be to get started at an indie team that you've known for a bit or know someone who knows someone. I got my way in by going to school and making the team there as like an incubator sorta speak.

4.) What are you currently working on right now for Raid+?

I am currently working on the Slaughterhouse and am partnered up with fellow artist DJ Davila. I am testing out how to properly use realistic textures and put them in the engine on assets we have been modeling. We are going for realistic textured environments and cartoony players/things the player can interact with. With these tests for the environment, I can then piece together the level and get a cohesive look.

Testing out the Slaughterhouse in Unity3D

5.) If you had the opportunity to watch any two characters (ex: Comics, Video Games, Movies, etc.) fight, who would you choose and why? Who would win?

Random question.....should ask me what my dream MMO would be. Psstttt I want an MMO that has mermaid people as a playable race, change hair, scales, everything!!! Seriously though if I had the chance to see two characters fight I'd have to say Lulu from FFX and Bayonetta. I just think this fight would be aesthetically pleasing to watch and see if speed really trumps overs raw power of magic. They both are sassy beautiful girls and I'd love to see this. From Lulus grade A magik skills to Bayonettas crazy magic hair AHHHH I'd love it.

Who would win this fight, well if we are basing it off of speed it'd be Bayonetta, but for raw damage Lulu. So usually speed trumps power so I'd have to say Bayonetta would win, but Lulu wouldn't surprise me if she won instead, I favor her anyway. <3

*Remember* - If you have questions you would like to ask our Developers that you would like to see in the next series of questions, feel free to send us an email! Any feedback is greatly appreciated and taken into consideration! -

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Raid+ Art Director Discusses the Importance of Concept Imagery

Post by Raid+ Interactive's Art Director and Designer Shane Schultz

Giving examples and concepts is one of the most important things you can do as an artist.

When you have an idea or have something pictured in your head it is always a great idea to jot it down or find a reference. Me personally I had issues showing exactly what I wanted when it came to environments. Over the years of building different environments, I have been getting better and better due to repetition. What also helped me was by doing repetition while adding something new to the mix. I do this so I am not overwhelmed with constant new things. I've noticed when I 100% am out of my comfort zone workflow becomes slower, and I was not getting the results I wanted. So by doing what you know and adding fresh knowledge of something, will do wonders for your experience in making environments or general art.

Test 1

I wasn't always one for new things, but over time I found it to be very rewarding. I feel like I'm bettering myself because of learning something new every sprint in a project. Oh, I know how to do custom cartoony textures, ok add another step. I keep on adding new steps once I fully understand the previous ones. When I'm making my textures I used to just color and blend, now I take it another step further and add normal maps and soon occlusion maps which, give your textures baked lighting.

Test 2

I'm getting ahead of myself but if you do not have a concept or a reference the above only makes it that much harder for you to achieve what you are visioning. If you cannot get what you have in your mind onto paper or model it out, find some reference images so you and others get a general idea and base it off of that. By using reference images you can then alter and tweak to how you want it to look to further show your vision. Me personally I do a lot of concept work in Photoshop now that I know the basics of the program. All I can say is by teaching myself the basics of Photoshop I have had a much easier time of getting my ideas and concepts across.

Test 3

Lastly, if you choose not to have references or concepts keep in mind that you are the only one that will know what you are trying to get across. This is going to be a big problem if you are part of a development team or any type of job that requires some sort of art. Since I have been doing art it seems to me that this is the standard and is required for most if not all companies. Makes sense why they would require concept work, how else are you gonna show that amazing vision you have without at least doodling a little bit?

These are testing images showing the different looks and feels. You can tell this is something new I'm trying to add to my ongoing knowledge of color/contrast/aesthetic. As you can see the first couple pictures I didn't really have a reference, but then when I had one it starts to slowly but surely take form. Keep in mind too I'm just learning how to properly use realistic textures, so in this, they are not the best, but it's all a matter of repetition and patience to get better!

Test 4

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Raid+ Dev of the Month ... Engage!

Greetings fellow gamers, dev's, and friends!

My name is Jeremy Lecus and I am the Marketing and Community Manager here at our wonderful company! I have been in the process of giving our ole' Developers Blog a face-lift and you can expect more updates from us on a more regular basis here!

To get things kicked into gear, I am going to introduce a new monthly post for our developers for our company blog. We are going to be interviewing our developers with a series of questions each month and post them here for your viewing pleasure. As of right now we have a relatively small team of 6 developers (possibly 7 or more in the near future). Once we have gone through all the developers with a particular series of questions, we will rinse and repeat with a new series of questions!

These questions will revolve around our company, local indie game development scene, video games, technology, come from our players and even some funny questions! This will be a great way to get up close and personal with your favorite Raid+ developers, artist's, and more! So to get things started, I will do the honor's of going first! Stay tuned in next month to see who our next lucky Raid+ Interactive's Dev of the Month will be!

Raid+ Interactive's Dev of the Month

Jeremy Lecus
Marketing & Community Manager

1.) How did you get involved with Raid+ Interactive?

I initially joined the team back before Raid+ turned into an LLC at Milwaukee Area Technical College, where Raid+ was born. I wasn't one of the original crew, but the team I was on at the time merged with Raid+ to work on a project they were doing in our Computer Simulation and Gaming program in College. It was nice to finally be apart of a team that had a great group of leaders running the show. Although it was a learning experience for everyone, out of all the teams I was apart of in College, this was by far the best one. Not just because everyone was extremely passionate, but also because we all got along really well. Well, most of us did that is. *Laughs* We were able to stick to our scope, pivot when needed, maintaining our sprint goals, all while still having fun and goofing off every now and then. After most of the team graduated College, Raid+ went on to become an LLC, and I had to step away for a little while as I still had not graduated yet. Now that I have graduated, my break is over and I was invited back onto the team to help out with Marketing! I will also be helping with the design process and some coding for our upcoming new game currently in early alpha.

2.) Considering everything so far, what has been your most memorable moment at Raid+?

Wow, that's a great question! There are so many moments I have had with this crew that I can look back and laugh on. If you are one of our developers reading this, you know exactly what I am talking about! We are one small dysfunctional happy family! *Laughs* I would have to at least give my top two answers to this question as they both deserve it! My first most memorable moment was when Raid+ participated in the Global Game Jam in 2015 at MATC. We didn't have our team that we have now, but most of us here today participated. During that Jam, we had literally NO artists on our team. However, we came up with a clever idea of using the dry-erase board to draw our assets. We then took pictures of our phone and imported them into Unity3D. We ended up winning the local competition with our game How to Game Design, which you can play on Kongregate! It's a little buggy, but overall, we were extremely happy with it. The second most memorable moment was the 1st time I received a paycheck from Raid+. It was the 1st time in my career I had been paid as a game developer and who wouldn't be excited about that! I even framed it and it sits on my office desk at home. With the game we are currently developing, I know that there will be plenty more memorable moments to come.

3.) How has your experience as an Indie Developer in Milwaukee been so far? 

In one word. Unexpected. When I moved to Milwaukee originally, I was a little worried that my career options for game development would be limited. I ended up being totally wrong. When I found out about MATC's Computer and Simulation program, I was stoked! I had to wait a few years to get into school, so I started bar-tending while I waited. Long story short, one of my bar patron's I became good friends with ended up being step-brothers with the Head of the CSG department at MATC. At that moment, I knew it was meant to be! As corny as that sounds! *Laughs* When I decided that I was going to pursue a career in game development, it was at that moment I decided what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. If I was going to be successful, I had to give it everything I got! Well, 5 years later and a ton of failures, I wouldn't have changed one bit of my experience. I have had the opportunity to be apart of some wonderful events, expos, lectures, meet-ups and so much more. There is TONS of talent here and a lot of passionate people. People outside of Wisconsin tend to forget that Madison is only about an hour and a half away from us here in Milwaukee. There are some pretty big studios in Madison, AAA and indie. I have taken full advantage of my local surroundings, attending everything I can and connecting with everyone I can from here to Madison. I am honored to have met so many wonderful people who share the same passion for games and software development. Milwaukee has been a wonderful city to learn, grow, and gain experience in game development and the local indie scene.

4.) What are you currently working on right now for Raid+?

Having such a small teams kind of forces us to wear multiple hats. Even though I was originally brought on back in August to take over Marketing, and my title states that, I have just recently taken on some small programming task's. Everyone on the team is involved with the design process of our games. So at the moment, I am running a monthly event with a local business partner, running and updating all our social media sites, programming a split screen camera function for our upcoming game, attending our weekly meetings and getting things ready for some upcoming future events. I am not going to go into every little detail because a lot of it is boring administrative social media marketing work, but that is basically everything. Enjoy a screenshot and some links below to a few of the things I am currently working on.

Screenshot of my very basic 4-player split screen. More updates to come in the near future!

We are partnered with the 42 Ale House where we hold the Local MKE Game Developers Night!

Raid+ wants to participate in the GGJ 2017! Working out the details now, stay tuned!

Raid+ has been at the MWGC the past 2 years! Showing off SFBT in 2017!

5.) If you had the opportunity to watch any two characters (ex: Comics, Video Games, Movies, etc.) fight, who would you choose and why? Who would win?

Well, now that is a tough question to ask! There are so many different possibilities! Part of me is thinking about Comic Book heroes, as I think back to that one fight scene in Civil War. The other part of me is thinking about real life heroes, while the other part is thinking of my favorite video game characters. Considering I would have the opportunity to watch, I am going to have to say, I would honestly pay to see Bruce Lee and Royce Gracie both in their prime in real life! That would be one epic fight! Who would win the fight? That would have to depend on the circumstances of the fight. If it was a MMA style match, then I believe Royce Gracie would win by submission. If it was a fight to death, I think Bruce Lee would come out in the end victorious due to his ridiculous speed. Either way, it would be a great match of different martial art styles battling it out! What's even better about this, is that you can actually play as both of these characters in UFC2! I'm not the only one it seems who would pay to see this. It's on my list of games to check out but I just haven't gotten around to it. I just may have to get it after having this conversation. *Laughs* Check out the image below from the video game!

Image from EA Sport's - UFC2 (Left: Bruce Lee, Right: Royce Gracie)

If you have questions you would like to ask our Developers that you would like to see in the next series of questions, email us with your ideas! Also, let us know what you think about our new updated look here on our Developers Blog! Any feedback is greatly appreciated and taken into consideration! -

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Necessity Is the Mother of Development

Raid+ has had a problem with dedicated artists in the past.

Don't get me wrong - we've worked with some wonderfully kind and talented individuals that were dedicated artists, but our issue has always been getting them to stick around.  In fact, that seems to be an issue for the majority of companies in the area.  Obviously there could be any number of reasons why an artist would choose to leave a studio, but I can't help but think that at least part of it has to do with how hard it is to keep most indie devs happy.

See, when you're running a studio on $0 income, you rely on your team's unwavering belief in the project they're working on.  Without that, exhaustion on a game can set in pretty quickly when a significant amount of work isn't getting done at regular intervals (which, incidentally, is hardest to do at the beginning of a project).  So you have a tired developer, and that's likely going to leave them feeling uninspired, and trying to create art without inspiration is agonizing.  All of that, combined with the fact that there are a bunch of developer opportunities with all of the other companies in the area, and it's easy to see why artists are the most likely to look for something else so early.

Our pain with these experiences (it happened more than once) was in beginning development of a game with certain art considerations because we were promised a loyal, motivated artist, then having to cease development because they left for different projects.  That explains the picture in our latest Facebook post:

The lesson we learned isn't just about not allowing your pipelines to be dependent on a single person.  It was also about never making your project dependent on ANYTHING that cannot be changed quickly and easily.  People and technology are both fickle, and those are the two things you're working with - if you can't have a backup, make sure to have an alternate solution.

So, back to that picture.  After starting and scrapping two different projects due to art concerns, we took stock of our team.  What we had were strong programmers and designers, but between the six of us remaining, we didn't have enough art talent to produce assets quickly enough and of a high enough quality for a big project.

Everyone at Raid+ has an idea for an incredible game.  We have guys who have the idea for the next big Western RPG.  We have guys that have pitched the next open world mega-hit.  I, myself, have been designing a game for years I refer to in my head as my "opus."  Raid+ has big ideas.

What we don't have is money, time, or art.  So what do we do?

The answer is simple: we sat in a room and brainstormed ideas  Every idea was vetted by our real-world resources; we have design and tech talent, but not much art, and after working hard for a year with nothing to show for it we need something that would be relatively quick to develop.  If a pitch didn't fit within our resources, we didn't consider it.

In the end, we decided on a simple title in which you play as a thief.  We'd aim for a minimalist art style and focus the game's design on a puzzle piece mentality where we could basically create a bunch of objects and mix and match them in many different ways.  Up above is the first alpha-level player model (a model made for early testing purposes, in no way intended to be final) we drummed up, and the first in game asset we developed.

Will we be making the prettiest indie game of 2016?  Certainly not, but since we got rid of dedicated artists, development has been humming along much more quickly.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Who is Raid+?

So, who the heck are we and why should you care?

As mentioned in our introduction post, Raid+ is a relatively new, independent game development studio.  All of us got our start working together in school about three years ago as members of the Computer Simulation and Gaming program at the Milwaukee Area Technical College in downtown Milwaukee.

MATC's Downtown Campus

The Computer Simulation and Gaming program (or CSG for short) took a project-oriented approach to education.  In addition to learning the ins and outs of a chosen discipline (art, design, or programming), each student was required to take a couple of classes each semester where they would work as a team with students from the other disciplines to create a working game, fully-fledged or prototype.  The program emphasized learning from mistakes and pushed Agile and Scrum as key software development methodologies ever developer should familiarize themselves with.

Semester 1 was… interesting.  The core team classes, as mentioned above, were very large.  The class was divided into two groups and we were told that we were competing corporations.  Our job was to learn how to set up and run successful project pipelines, teach ourselves about Scrum, learn the importance of iterative software development, to actually produce our first game (when most of us had zero knowledge on how to do so), and develop another title that would later be pitched to actual investors who would determine which of the two teams had a more financially viable product.  The ultimate objective was simple: win the class.  The team who won would absorb the other team and move into the next semester developing the project that was pitched.

Raid+ was born from this semester.  Dane Reimer, our current COO and lead programmer, volunteered to lead the team in those early days.  When trying to think of a name for our company, members looked around the room for inspiration.  Dane’s coffee cup said “Raid Leader,” and so we took a spin on that.  We had always intended to change the name if we decided to become a real company after we graduated, but to say it grew on us would be an understatement.  Our rivals named themselves “Fire Helm.

At the time, Dane, Justin Martin (another of our programmers), DJ Davilla (a 3D artist turned designer), and myself (Noah Hildebrandt, programmer and designer) were on the Raid+ side along with many others who are no longer with the team.  We had a pretty easy semester to be honest while poor Firehelm suffered.  We understood the importance of tools and communication, created a solid Business Model Canvas, developed a Contra clone called “Deez Nutz” in which you played as a marine squirrel fighting ninja girl scouts, and pitched a game we called “Lucidity” – basically the Legend of Zelda in a Victorian era London as opposed to a fantasy world – and handily “won” the semester.  To be honest, we chalk it up to the average age of our team (most of our leadership was in their mid to late twenties at the time) compared to Firehelm’s youngsters.

Poor, poor Fire Helm...

So, we moved into our second semester.  Having absorbed Firehelm, we went to work on developing Lucidity as a proof of concept (our pitch at the end of our first semester actually interested an investor as a real project, but negotiations eventually fell through).  The biggest positive of having taken in the members of the previous team was that we got Shane Schultz, our current art director, and Jack Ciezka, our jack-of-all-trades.  Along with other students, we created over 12 levels worth of 3D content, a fluid climbing system, a functional day/night system with NPC scheduling, an inventory system, and a potion crafting system.  We were on top of the world!

Now, the interesting thing about that second semester is that we weren’t competing with another team within our class.  Instead, we were competing with students who were taking the semesters of classes opposite ours (as everyone gets funneled into a final “Capstone” class that lasted 2 semesters).  Victory wasn’t dependent on another successful pitch, but rather the quality of the team and their project after both of the second semesters were over.  We handily won again.

Here’s where things get interesting – going into our final Capstone, we began development on a game that I’m not going to talk about much here (it’s still being developed internally at Raid+).  Needless to say, the team that we absorbed was more interested in playing politics than creating an actual project.  Our first semester, therefore, turned into an almost complete waste, and it wasn’t until we could jettison the majority of them going into the second that our project really started to form.  We learned a lot about “cutting the suck” and when compartmentalize, but the damage had been done; we didn’t have our game playable by the end, and we tasted our first (of many) failures.  This blog will likely go into more detail on these events in the future.

We still ended our Capstone with our heads high, though – after all, we had accomplished a great deal in a short time.  Taking on any student that was interested, we became a fully-fledged LLC a little over one year ago, May of 2015.

This would be a good time to explain briefly the landscape of the game development industry in Milwaukee.  Two teachers in the CSG program have their own studios and often intern MATC students to work for them.  Students who had graduated before us, and some who have graduated since, form their own studios to give it a go.  Basically, there are a lot more options for developers in this area than one would think, as there are several startups working on projects at any given time.
That said, the community is incredibly small.  Many developers have worked for multiple companies, and the “grass is greener” effect is in full force.  As no video game developer in the area can yet offer salary to their interns, folks jumping ship without a second thought or bailing when the going gets tough is common for every studio in the area.

When we started our LLC, we were full of hope and optimism, a team of 18 members strong.  Nine months later, after multiple starts and stops on projects, losing key members that would make it impossible to continue working on what we were working on, we are down to 6 impossibly dedicated team members (all from that very first semester), and the amount we have learned makes us feel battle-hardened.

Born January, 2013.  Became a man May, 2016.

For so long, we hadn’t tried to engage a community because we always felt like we were dancing on thin ice and one misstep would lead to an entire project tanking.  But now, we’ve decided on a different approach – as we’re essentially restarting a year after we began, why not pull back the curtains and invite those who would be interested to continue the journey with us?  How much could prospective game developers learn, how much could WE learn, with such an approach?

If you’re interested in content updates and announcements, check us out on Facebook (/raidplusinteractive), Twitter(@RaidPlusTeam) and Google+ (Raid+ Interactive).  Only interested in art?  Give us a try on Instagram (RaidPlus).  Want to get to know us as a team?  We’re working on a YouTube channel as we speak.  Want in-depth discussion on specific projects?  You’re in the right place with the dev blog here.  Would you like something a bit more candid in regards to what Raid+ is currently going through?  We’ll be announcing our podcast soon.  Once we get our new website up and running, we’ll be able to consolidate all for you there.

So that’s who we are.  That’s what Raid+ is.  We’re gamers who decided to chase this development dream.  We’re a bunch of dudes.  We’re geeks.  We’re nerds.  We’re likely just like you.

And we can’t think of anyone better with whom to share our experiences.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Hello, World...

...and welcome!  We're happy you chose to stop by!
What you've found is the official developer blog from Raid+ Interactive, a small independent game development studio located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Three years ago, every member of our current team chose to start a video game development education at the Milwaukee Area Technical College.  Throughout our time there, we worked as a team to produce video games each semester while learning our respective specialties.  A year ago we graduated and a few of us decided to do this thing for real.  We've shared ups, downs, great victories, and brutal disappointment.  And now we welcome you along for the journey!
Here at the blog, we'll talk about our trials and insights in regards to game and software development, as well as the business of making and publishing games - everywhere we stumble, and every time we learn.  We're happy to share what makes us tick, and we hope this focus will give insight into the life of an indie game studio.
So why don't you come along on the adventure with us?  Who knows, it could be fun!
Oh!  And don't forget to check us out on Facebook (raidplusinteractive), Twitter (@RaidPlusTeam), Instagram (RaidPlus), and Google+ (Raid+ Interactive)!  Things are a little bare now as we're just starting off, and while we don't have a posting schedule set in stone, we're committed to updating each at least once a week.  Also, stay tuned for announcements about our forthcoming YouTube channel, Snapchat, and revamped website!