I've been out of work for over four months now, and after participating in 25 different interviews only to endure rejection after rejection, I've decided that now is the time to take control of my own destiny and become an entrepreneur. I've spent the last few months working on my online handcrafted jewelry boutique, Sothriftication, which specializes in fully customizable Code Bracelets, and I'm excited to announce the Grand Opening is set for 11/11!
As I shift my focus to social media and marketing strategies for the store, I will also start work on my 2nd business, a venture I believe has considerable demand and one I am extremely excited about that will utilize my video game knowledge and expertise in a whole new way.
2023 has been an incredibly challenging year for so many reasons, as thousands in the video game industry have had their lives forever altered, and rather than continue slaving away in a volatile, unforgiving industry, I think this is the universe telling me, in the immortal words of Fleetwood Mac, to Go Your Own Way.
One of Panda Pop’s biggest problems is that even with the occasional introduction of challenging Obstacles to overcome as well as special Boosters and Power Ups to help players overcome them, the bubble popping gameplay eventually becomes redundant, not only because players have no special objectives to chase but also because there is no meaningful meta with which to engage.
In order to bolster Panda Pop’s D7+ Retention and overall Engagement, this spec details a Rules Based Events (RBE) system that encourages early goal formation by offering a wide range of Daily and Weekly Objectives players can accomplish for exclusive rewards including Costumes and Accessories for their Character(s) as well as a huge array of Decorations players can use to decorate their Panda World.
Click the image to check out my Jam City Panda Pop Assignment!
After 11 1/2 glorious years at Kung Fu Factory, I'm actually looking for work! So I'll be busy with that for the coming weeks, dusting off the resume, going on interviews, lying my ass off; you know, standard stuff.
I'll also be posting a ton of content for an unreleased Disney project I served as Creative Director for as soon as it's legally safe to do so.
(09/18/23) EDIT: I have updated the Clarkive to include a ton of my work on a match-3 project I was really excited about that unfortunately got shelved; it's codenamed Disney Puzzleverse.
During my tenure at Kung Fu Factory, I've been fortunate enough to have worked with some of the best companies and IPs like WWE and NBA as well as Sony's Hotel Transylvania and Nickelodeon's SpongeBob Squarepants. I've also gained a tremendous amount of industry experience across a wide variety of different disciplines including Designer, Lead Designer, Live Ops Manager, Product Manager, and now QA Lead!
Today I assigned my first Test Runs to our Quality Assurance team for Legends Reborn: Age of Chance. I had already created a couple QA best practices docs after seeing significant testing deficiencies as part of my ongoing effort to improve company processes, so this move made sense, as I've always been the go-to guy KFF could count on to plug in anywhere for success.
The second half of 2022 was a crazy, wonderful experience. It turns out I ended up writing close to 30 PRDs, Specs, and What Ifs as well as crafting a solid, challenging Prototype for Disney Puzzleverse, all the while I have now discovered, I was breathing in carbon monoxide all year!
Unfortunately, it seems that Puzzleverse has been put on hold due to Disney Mirrorverse not hitting its target KPIs, so since it's a new year, it's time for a new project...and a new heater!
KFF has been working on a Web3 CCG called Legends Reborn: Age of Chance, and I've been asked to help out as Designer. To start the year on a more lighthearted note, I decided to put my English and Creative Writing BA to the test by writing the Intro and Outro Bard songs.
Click the image to check out my Legends Reborn Bard Songs!
This brief details potentially low cost improvements that can help make the Puzzleverse prototype really shine, including brand-centric elements like Cutscene Text and Leader Ability Videos as well as other Audio, Visual, and UI/UX Enhancements. These are merely suggestions to add some real pop to the prototype and help secure funding, none are required to complete the gameplay experience, and all parties should prioritize core elements above all else.
It's important to know your stakeholders and what they are looking for in something early on like a prototype so they can get internal sign off. While a developer would normally not even bother with prototype polish on their own dime, when it's Disney, it's all about brand flavor. It's about showcasing their characters in an exciting way while telling a great story.
It's also about knowing all the rules in place of what can and can't be done. An example of this is not being able to use a character like Mickey to explain tutorial concepts. He can deliver narrative during a cutscene, but if a certain step requires exposition to teach a new mechanic, use a hand pointer or arrow.
Click the image to check out my Prototype Polish Improvements!
This brief illustrates all the elements that will comprise the three (3) Levels we are working towards for this prototype, including board size and background(s), Guardians, Bosses, and Enemies along with all their Ability information, as well as detailed information on all Boosts and Blockers needed including the newly introduced mechanics from the latest TMU Regal build.
In tandem with this wish list will reside all the RPG synergy concepts we aim to teach in an Ability / Counter format. Lastly, this document will call out any new art assets that need to be commandeered from DMV (if applicable) or created from scratch including but not limited to Boost / Blocker sprites, status effect icons and VFX.
Click the image to check out my Puzzleverse Prototype Plan!
Anyone who's worked for or with Disney knows a great deal of the production process is about adhering to standards and practices as well as knowing the process to get things approved.
Now that we have an idea of what our story is about with the Objects of Power idea detailed in the Proposed Narrative doc, and we also know what buildings will be involved per the Building Brainstorm doc, it's time to start drafting up the What If docs for each building.
This What If brief chronicles all the important Disney brand-related information for the Castle including Key Traits, Stellar Influence, and Divergent Point, as well as pertinent Notes.
This doc contains all pertinent information for the buildings found in Disney Puzzleverse including the Object of Power each is grown or built from, a criteria checklist to verify each building makes sense from several standpoints including Narrative, Gameplay, and Brand as well as a Building Layout Reasoning guide detailing the level unlocks for each building and why.
It also stresses that the base and its buildings should look seamless in its construction; it shouldn't look like a bunch of puzzle pieces snapped together, which will be quite the challenge!
Click the image to check out my Building Brainstorm Spec!
For each project, I try to research the source material as much as possible. In the past that has included watching every single episode of SpongeBob Squarepants and Breaking Bad as well as all three Hotel Transylvania movies. This is no exception, as I took a crash course tour through the Magic Castle, watching at least two dozen Disney films before brainstorming.
This doc proposes several narrative directions for Disney Puzzleverse and delves deeper into the top contender "Objects of Power" where players must secure items of immense power from across the Mirrorverse before they fall into the wrong hands!
Click the image to check out my Puzzleverse Proposed Narrative!
This doc illustrates the nine buildings included in the Disney Puzzleverse base, the ways each can be unlocked and upgraded, and the many different purposes they serve to grant the player many quality of life improvements.
While this builder (and all its current functionality) will be branching from NBA Ball Stars, we are also considering what other competitive products like Call of Antia have done while also determining what buildings (and functionality) this game will need to be on par with competitors and support the unique gameplay additions.
Click the image to check out my Puzzleverse Builder PRD!
My goal for the Puzzleverse prototype is to craft ten levels of increasing difficulty to prove the changes we are making to innovate on the Empires & Puzzles match-3 battle gameplay:
This spec contains all the elements that will be in the Prototype build including menu screens, the puzzle board components, characters and enemies, level designs, and more!
Click the image to check out my Puzzleverse Prototype Spec!
It's funny how relationships / brands in the video game industry can sometimes be cyclical in nature. I recently got to work on SpongeBob for Nickelodeon again after nearly ten years, and now I've returned back to the match-3 universe to work on a Disney title, my first collaboration with the Mouse House since 2008! Really excited about what I've named Disney Puzzleverse!
This brief highlights all of the features and market comps for Disney Puzzleverse, a mid-core match-3 puzzler that combines the hand curated saga map levels of Candy Crush with the turn-based combat strategy of Empires & Puzzles and adds the +1 of character skills being able to alter and manipulate the puzzle board in innovative ways to turn the tide in battle.
Click the image to check out my Puzzleverse One Pager!
We're still trying to find the fun for Nickelodeon Kart Racers, focusing on the race itself and how that can be made more interesting without a major overhaul of the controls or levels.
This document details a new track collectible, Pizza Boxes, their impact (quite literally) on the player’s Kart, how to collect Pizza Slices from them, and the rewards they yield. It concludes with the UI / UX ramifications this feature will add.
Click the image to check out my spec for Bonus Track Collectibles!
With Nickelodeon Kart Racers returning such abysmal D1 numbers, we speculate players are just not finding the game fun and appealing compared to genre leader Mario Kart, so the top priority is finding relatively easy ways to make the gameplay more interesting ASAP.
The purpose of this spec is to solve the problem that races start to feel too repetitive by adding fun, intuitive gameplay elements that are simple to learn but become progressively more challenging with track difficulty.
Click the image to check out my spec for Action Zones & Race Goals!
Today marks a momentous milestone in my life, as I have now been with Kung Fu Factory for 1/5 of my life and HALF the time I've been in the field! It has been an incredible journey so far, a rollercoaster ride of ups, downs, and terrifying screams. I have learned and utilized more than I could have possibly imagined, both as a Designer and Live Ops Manager, all the while meeting and working alongside some of the most quality, talented people in the industry.
While many have come and gone, taking jobs at other companies for whatever reason, I'm glad I stayed. Not only do I love being in a position where I know all the systems and processes inside and out, I know this company is destined to be hugely successful and I want to be there when it happens.
There's no telling what the future holds, but I am forever thankful for all the opportunities I've had to flex my creativity while making games the best they can be!