August 7, 2013

We have a new game coming out August 8, and to celebrate we're giving away free games. A lot of them. Seriously. Did you see the headline? We're giving away codes to seven of our games on the Nintendo 3DS eShop to celebrate the release of Smash Bowling 3D.

So then, here's the structure of this week-long contest. We'll choose five lucky winners each day to receive the game of that particular day. On the final day of the contest we'll put everyone's name in a hat and pull out three lucky Grand Prize winners to receive a code for every game.

So then, here's how you win:

Make sure you follow us on Twitter and Like us on Facebook.

Post this message to Twitter for an entry: I want @BigJohnGames to give me free #Nintendo #3DS #eShop games: #BJGgiveaway

Share our contest post on Facebook to gain another entry.

It's that simple. Only one share and Tweet is needed to enter the week-long contest, so please don't do it more than once. You'll be entered in each daily drawing until you win – and everyone will be entered in the Grand Prize drawing (which includes one copy of each game included in the daily prizes, plus Spot it! Mean Machines), regardless of past winning status.

We will contact daily winners every evening; the Grand Prize winners will be contacted after the contest ends on August 13.

Good luck!


Prize calendar below:

Wednesday: Big Bass Arcade: No Limit

Thursday (the release of Smash Bowling 3D): Smash Bowling 3D

Friday: Working Dawgs – Rivet Retriever

Saturday: Working Dawgs – Amazing Pipes

Sunday: Coaster Creator 3D

Monday: Kart Krashers

Tuesday: Grand Prize! Three winners take home a code for seven of our games.

August 6, 2013

Bowling aficionados will have cause for joy come August 8 -- Smash Bowling 3D will be released on the Nintendo 3DS eShop.

The game expands our sports line that has proven to be quite successful with the Big Bass Arcade fishing series.

With Smash Bowling 3D we aimed to create the perfect bowling experience, providing two control methods: touch screen and button. Accurate ball and pin physics were created to make it the most authentic bowling game on the eShop. The result? A wonderful bowling experience -- even if you have to contend with a 7-10 split!

A pass-around multiplayer mode allows everyone to get in on the fun, while our practice mode allows aspiring bowlers to set their own pin layouts.

18 trophies are yours to be won, as well as unlockable bowling ball designs, and vibrant bowling alleys. Bowlers can even track their career statistics!

Visit the game's page to find out more about Smash Bowling 3D.

July 30, 2013

Big John Games is proud to have reached another milestone – releasing its games in Japan.

By partnering with Arc System Works (Guilty Gear series, BlazBlue), the Edina, MN based studio will now see Coaster Creator 3D, renamed Let's Make a Jet Coaster 3D for Japan's market, available for download in the land of the rising sun.

President Ken Patterson sees it as a high point in the studio's history.

“Bottom line: we are happy about our partnership with Arc Systems Japan and Coaster Creator 3D becoming Let's Make A Jet Coaster 3D and becoming available in Japan,” Patterson said. “We consider it an honor to have our American made games available for sale and play in Japan.”

The game, released on July 24, won't be the last of Big John Games products to reach the country's gamers. However, the upcoming games to be released across the ocean are yet to be announced, but we'll keep you posted.

Aside from a name change and localization, Coaster Creator 3D received a new character design seen below. Those of you who've played the game will recognize the veteran coaster designer, though he is now sporting a Dr. Wily-esque hairdo.

Coaster design is tough work.

July 9, 2013

Today we chat with Ajani Boganey about what it's like to create art for Big John Games. When he's not working on perfecting his latest character design, Ajani is most likely chatting about the best games he's played.

What is your history with Big John Games?

I've worked here about three years. I came right out of college, actually; I was fortunate. I first went to the University of Wisconsin - Madison, and then I took additional classes at Savannah College of Art and Design.

Was entering video game development always your goal?

I enjoyed both computer and art fields, and I happened to discover animation which used both of those fields. Animation is closely related to the gaming and movie industry, so it seemed natural to pursue it.

What is your favorite game you've worked on?

Probably my first game: Thorium Wars. I was kind of thrown in the fire -- in a good way! I was coming in thinking about doing environmental art and I ended up doing more player form, vehicle creations. It was nothing I was expecting. I thought that was great; it challenged my creativity. And I also love sci-fi. I've worked on every game since Thorium Wars.

Do you have a favorite game?

I've played so many different games, so it really varies. I guess one of my favorite games is Baldur's Gate 2 just because of the progression, how you can go through and meet with different characters and how your actions would affect those characters. I enjoyed that environment. I also enjoyed Gunstar Heroes quite a bit. I mean, I could go down the list but we'll be here forever.

Are you playing anything right now?

I want to play a couple of games, but the last game I was playing was probably The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and XCOM: Enemy Unknown. I'm trying to get The Last of Us.

What have you learned at Big John Games?

The game industry is always active. Business is incredibly important, and you've got to be able to communicate ideas to people in ways they understand. A good work ethic and time management are incredibly important, and those are the key elements you need when you get out of school.

Expect the best, prepare for the worse -- especially in the game industry.

What's been a challenge for you working here?

Coming up with universal ideas on the fly is always the most challenging thing, especially when trying to work with clients or co-workers. Backtracking can be time consuming. Also trying to create stuff in a timely manner. Some situations will take longer, so you have to adjust how much time you will put in one feature over another.

What do you do in your free time?

I enjoy playing basketball and watching movies. I'm a big SportsCenter guy. Sometimes I do fine arts stuff on the side, and computer art. I just try to be a little active and do some volunteer work.

What do you think about the industry right now?

I think it's in a flux; the economy is not that great right now.

If you could work on your dream game, what would it be?

My dream would probably change over and over again. I like so many different genres. I would like to see a strategy game with RPG elements that has a little bit of interactive creativity to it -- a game like Dragon Force.

July 2, 2013

Matt Heinzen has a big role as lead developer at Big John Games. What does that mean? Well, a lot of programming. We chatted with Matt to find out more about him -- and how badly he'd like to make a sequel to Thorium Wars.

What is your history with the studio?

I started during the summer between my first and second years of doing a masters degree in computer science at the University of Minnesota. I started part-time and became full-time after I graduated. My first project was Trophy Bass 2007. At the time it was going to be Trophy Bass 2006, but it got pushed back.

I have a pretty strong math and physics background, so my first job was to work on the fishing line physics. After I did that I worked on a lot of fish physics and AI for that project.

Is this the first time you've worked in the industry?

Yes. Before then I didn't have any games experience. I hadn't actually intended to go into game development but this opportunity came up.

What's your favorite game that you've worked on?

Definitely Thorium Wars. That's our futuristic, sci-fi vehicle shooter that we put up on DSiWare. It's a game that is most like the type of game that I like to play in my own time. It's one of the few true action adventure style games that we've done.

Do you have a favorite game series or gaming experience?

My favorite game series is The Legend of Zelda -- I love almost every entry. I'm also a big fan of Metroid. They both cover a lot of the aspects of combining action with exploration and adventure. Those are the things I enjoy most in gaming.

What are you playing right now?

Xenoblade Chronicles. I started playing that last year when it came out, took a bit of a break once the Wii U came out, but then I decided I should get back and finish Xenoblade before the next big crop of Wii U games comes out. It's a huge game. I don't have as much time to play games as I used to -- probably a few hours a week.

What advice would you give someone seeking the a job as a lead developer and programmer?

Everyone has a different path. A good university degree program is a good idea. There's obviously been people who are successful programmers without that, but if you really want to get in a high development role where you can do not just game coding but things like engine coding [it's important]. We have to do a little bit of all of that here at Big John Games because we're a small studio. For our work on the DS and 3DS, there aren't a lot of commercial engines available which take care of a lot of that core engine code for you. A combination of a degree focused on math and physics and programming experience, whether that's working on your own projects, open source software, internships, or other types of jobs during school are all great ways to go.

What have you learned working at Big John Games?

Some of the business aspects and game design. I've learned more about what goes into making good gameplay, and good game mechanics, learned the value of respecting the mechanics that are in place. Some times it's easy to say that you should try something original. But without really understanding why certain mechanics get used regularly, you don't necessarily understand what diverting from those mechanics might do that might make a  game worse.

When you're a lower profile developer the name, the marketing, the screenshots -- those are the types of things that really sell the game.

What do you do in your free time when you aren't playing games?

I like reading fantasy and sci-fi. I have two small kids, so a lot of my time is spent with them.

What do you think about the industry right now?

I think it's a very exciting time in the industry. It's hard to see all of the studios that are closing down as it happens pretty regularly. I'm not as pessimistic as some people are about the industry. I don't see Triple A going away. I don't necessarily think that the big budgets are healthy for the industry, but at the same time we see very similar things happening with movies where budgets keep getting bigger. And while, at times, it may compromise the integrity of the art in the industry, it hasn't hurt the movie business in terms of making money or stopping people from wanting to see movies.

I think we'll see a continuation of big-budget, Triple A games, but maybe not as many.

If you could make your dream game, what would it be?

The games I've been dreaming about for quite a while now would be a sequel to Thorium Wars, or a spiritual successor. We've come up with a lot of ideas over the years since we've done Thorium Wars, and we have a lot of ideas for how to expand on the universe or create a universe with similar mechanics but expanded gameplay. I have ideas both for the 3DS and Wii U that I'd like to explore in terms of mechanics and controls.

June 27, 2013

In the inaugural edition of Meet the Team, we chat with digital artist Andrew Larson. He explains how he broke into the video game industry, what he's learned at Big John Games, and what he does in his limited free time.

What's your history with Big John Games?

I've been here for about two years now. Before getting hired on I interned for about three months when I was still in school. After my internship there's probably a good 10 or 11 months from when the internship ended before they contacted me asking if I wanted to come work here.

How did you get into game development?

I went to college at The Art Institutes International Minnesota in Minneapolis; I got a bachelor's of science in media arts and animation. It wasn't anything particularly focused on video games. It was more on the art side of 3D modeling, rendering, and things of that nature.

What is your favorite game you've worked on?

So far it's probably Coaster Creator 3D. It's one of the first games where a lot of content that I've made actually made it into the game.

Is there anything you're playing right now?

I've been working a whole lot, so I haven't had a lot of time to actually sit down and play. The game I have been playing is the most recent Halo. I played about 20 minutes of it, set it down, and I haven't touched it since. So I have to get back and actually finish that game!

Any advice for someone looking to get into doing 3D art for video games?

It's been told to me that your work ethic is key. You have to be able to produce work. You could have somebody who is super talented and be able to create a whole bunch of art, but cannot work with people. If they can't communicate with people and work in a group environment, then you're not going to make it.

If you're somebody who may not have the talent but you're working hard and it gets noticed, there's a lot of things that others within the studio can help teach you.

What have you learned working at Big John Games?

When I went to school a lot of the 3D models I was creating were higher-scale, bigger projects in general. For Big John Games I've learned to make 3D models in an efficient way to streamline the process for production. Smaller models with really high texture detail can provide the same as a large model with simple detail.

What are some challenges or triumphs you've faced at Big John Games?

The biggest accomplishment was finally seeing my name underneath the credits in one of the games. I think that's what everybody really strives for: to be credited for the work -- especially for something of this nature.

What do you do in your free time?

Not really a whole lot. A lot of sleeping between both jobs. I do a lot of freelance work on the side. Otherwise, I just got a grill, so I've been cooking a lot. That's probably been the therapy to get away from any work.

What do you think of the video game industry right now?

There's so much content that's out there. There's going to be a lot of great-looking games, but my hope is that the games will play well because you can only have so many variations of a Call of Duty and Halo before you get bored. I just don't want to see games get dumbed down. The industry has its ups and downs, but with the next generation of systems coming out we'll see a lot more people buying games.

If you could make the perfect game, or create models for your dream game, what would you want to work on?

A space shooter game similar to what Big John Games has already done with Thorium Wars for the DSiWare. To do some kind of sci-fi models, things a little more intricate, I think that'd be a lot of fun.