Beast Boxing Turbo is up on Steam Greenlight!

If you’re on Steam and would like to see Beast Boxing Turbo there, please head on over to our Steam Greenlight page to vote for us!

Beast Boxing Turbo page on Greenlight

Greenlight is Valve’s way of crowdsourcing interest in upcoming games submitted by independent developers and others. They’ll be looking at the aggregate ratings for a game to determine whether to let the games sell on their service, and it just opened to the public yesterday. It seems like it’s a great way for indies to test the waters and see if the Steam market is accepting of their game concepts, even before launch. I can see it being very possible to develop some game test screenshots and description and figure out whether there’s community support, way before even starting development of a game. Beast Boxing Turbo is pretty far along, so there won’t be too many changes, but it’s very interesting hearing the feedback (both positive and negative) to the limited number of screenshots that I posted yesterday. I’m excited about working on a quick gameplay vid today to give the audience there an idea of what it’s like to play!

P.S. I’m also excited to report that I’ve been secretly at work adding in a customizable gear system with Jason Caffoe, and the concept art for it is badass! It’ll be a fun way to do more stuff and build up your character in the way that you want. Can’t wait to post more info!

Kids Eat Whatever They’re Being Marketed

Our new iPad game, Yum Num’s Galaxy, was mentioned in this roundup of healthy eating games for kids. If you’re a parent, you need to see this AMA article it referenced: Use of Advergames to Promote Consumption of Nutritious Foods and Beverages by Low-Income African American Children. In the study, researchers from Georgetown University used multiple variations of Pac-Man in which the yellow dots were replaced by either nutritious snacks or unhealthy snacks. After the kids got to play, they then had them make snack choices. Here’s their eye-popping result:

With only 10 minutes of exposure, our results revealed that children selected and ate whatever snacks were being marketed by the advergame, healthy or not. In other words, if the game promoted less healthy foods and beverages, snacks of poor nutritional quality were chosen and eaten. By contrast, if the game promoted healthier foods and beverages, snacks of better nutritional quality were chosen and eaten. Our findings advance the current knowledge base about advergames by expanding the literature from a preference for a product marketed by an advergame to actual selections and consumption of foods and beverages marketed in the advergame.

The fast-food industry knows that when they make their own food fun, exciting, and addicting in their ads, kids will naturally want it. This study shows that we can use that tendency to drive kids towards healthier options! “However, as demonstrated by this study, advergames may be used just as easily to promote healthier snacks, an approach recommended by the Institute of Medicine report as a way to help curb the obesity epidemic in the United States.” In your daily decisions as a parent, this study shows that you may be able to use advergames to your advantage, as long as you consider their content and select the right games that guide kids towards good decisions.

With Yum Num’s Galaxy, our goal was to create a fun game with content themed around food that you can prepare out of common ingredients at home. Seen in this context, it’s an advergame for healthy eating! We hope to compete against the presence of fast-food advertising in almost every form of mass-media. We had a hunch that if we made a game that included snacks like celery with peanut butter and raisins (“Ants on a Log”), we’d give kids some healthier options to consider. Seeing studies like this one makes me feel like we made the right choice! Please check out our Yum Num’s Galaxy trailer if you’d like to see it in action!

Hello New Website! Goodbye “Responsive” Design!

One of the biggest struggles I’ve faced as a backend web developer heading into game design was spending time on our website. Most backend web devs I know dabble just a tiny bit with web design, and we usually prefer to stay as minimalist as possible. As we had more and more stuff to share, though, the minimal approach to our website just wasn’t working all that well. With the Beast Boxing Turbo launch approaching, it just didn’t feel right to do direct sales from a site that felt kind of sparse and bland!

The last revision used Twitter Bootstrap, but in the process it became my opinion that responsive design is simply the “new fluid” design, requiring custom CSS to handle a variety of form factors. Getting reflowing to look “right” on every platform (and through browser resizing) means you still have to test and correct for differences on every platform. I’d much rather be spending time on my games, so seeya in my copious free time, Responsive Design!

In addition, because the previous website was all custom code with WordPress tacked onto /blog, I really felt it was time to take advantage of a modern CMS. My friend Tim Ganter at Studio Ten Four has been a Drupal advocate for quite some time. My first few attempts with Drupal theming (around version 5) were way too overwhelming. This time around, however, I locked myself in at home and went through the Drupal 7 – the Essentials guide to really see how Drupal wants you to use their system. 

Nearly everything in this new website was built without custom code, using combinations of Panels, Views, Content Types, and Blocks. The theme is a subtheme of the default Bartik theme with lots of custom CSS and Adobe’s excellent Source Sans Pro, their first open-source font, from Google Web Fonts. I’m simultaneously impressed and horrified at Drupal 7 – not only is it the most module-driven architecture I’ve ever had the pleasure/pain to work with, but it also seems to have evolved surprisingly well, with the more general-purpose functionality being pushed ever further into core. In any case, it worked for me, allowing me to rapidly develop panels-based layouts, barely touching CSS to get column widths right. 

The main advantage of working with something like Drupal is the ability to define content that fits your application, then reassemble the output into reusable chunks across the site. In our case, being able to define Games and Platforms separately, then link them to article content is important, and something that just wouldn’t feel right in a blog-oriented system such as WordPress. 

You’ll notice that our Games have a standard page format, with important facts and latest news displayed side-by-side, and new lightboxes for displaying image galleries. We’ve also got a new frontpage layout, and articles about a game link directly there. It’s not going to win any graphic design awards, but it gets the content across clearly and makes it easier to check out different games. Adding in some custom colors, backgrounds, and patterns lent the theme its own look, and I hope our visitors will enjoy poking around to see what we have to offer!