Gaming is also a big focus of the Ottawa Comiccon, featuring video game developers, gaming merch vendors, and a hall set up for an array of tabeltop gaming battles. We interviewed some folks in the gaming industry that caught our eyes this year at the con – a Canadian game developer and a gaming apparel designer.
Gaming merchandise is huge. T-shirt designs are where you see the strongest and deepest ties, and sometimes dyes, into the gaming universes and realms. Sometimes it’s just logos and characters but very often the tee designs represent true fan art, bringing obscure characters and elements to the forefront or just making an “oh that’s really clever” slogan.
Quentin Clark worked at Disney in product development for 10 years. Wanting more creative control and ownership of his work he started Glitch Gaming Apparel, a Florida based tee shirt design company focused on video game culture and fandom. Glitchgear.com, AKA wearthegames.com, started about seven years ago with a few custom designs. Clark is the CEO and Creative Director.
“There was the ‘My Whoopin’ Stick’ design” with the image of a console controller, said Clark, “and ‘FPS’ that looked like the MLB logo, but many designs have either evolved since then or been retired.” The ‘Hadoken’ shirt, a play on the Street Fighter special attack name in the Heineken bottle design, has been around since the beginning and always been one of their top sellers.
Original designed tees worked well for Clark, but when they acquired licensing from Valve they broadened their offering and their appeal. Once Valve tee sales ramped up, other licensing tumbled in. The addition of licensing rights for Ubisoft and 2K Games allowed Clark and the team to create and distribute designs for some of the most loved and most played games of the last few years: Left for Dead 2, Portal 2, Team Fortress 2, Borderlands 2, Half-life 2, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, and Bioshock Infinite.
Online sales are what they primarily desire, but right now they are driving sales where they can. Clark and his guys do 65 conventions a year just like the Ottawa Comiccon (they have two booths this year). They hope to expand their offering and their exposure this year with some website enhancement. They just got licensing with Sony, allowing them to develop ‘Uncharted’ and ‘The Last of Us’ shirts, and they are hoping to grab Microsoft licensing in the near future.
An Ottawa based game developer group, Breakfall Inc., featured two of their creations at the con this year for attendees to enjoy. We spoke with Jan (Yon) Kozlowski, a level designer at Breakfall about their two biggest games: Starwhal: Just the Tip, and Marvin’s Mittens. According to Jan and the marketing for the game, Marvin’s Mittens is a 2D platformer with a focus on exploration and collection. It’s a non violent single player game with no real enemies to fight, so gamers of all ages can enjoy the experience, and it has an appealing look and “soothing world,” as the developers describe it, and original music to accompany gameplay.
Starwhal: Just the Tip is their newest game and described as a retro, epic narwhal battle in space. It is a 2 to 4 player head to head challenge with neon narwhals fighting to the death. Despite a more violent sounding premise it is actually quite appealing to younger players as well, with no blood splatter or real gory visuals. “It was built in 3D,” according to Kozlowski, “and then the image was flattened” so it has a real unique look.
Starwhal was originally conceived and developed in a 48 hour sprint with the focus of making something “competitive, creative and immediately fun.” Games like “Smash Bros. and Mario Kart were our inspiration, for their simplicity of gameplay,” said Kozlowski. Starwhal‘s fluid, simple party friendly appeal, and Youtube featured gamers fighting it out attracted Valve to request putting the game on Steam. For a group of student architects and web developers who had never done gaming before, this was a major breakthrough.
Marvin’s Mittens is available for download on Desura and will be available on Steam in the Fall.
Starwhal: Just the Tip is on Steam now for $9.99 and will be coming soon to PS4.
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