Evolution of Video Games with Shereef Morse & Abraham Morales

Let’s talk about the evolution of video games! Shereef Morse and Abraham Morales are experienced game developers. They compared the games from the past with those from the present.

© Tic Toc Games

© Tic Toc Games

 

Shereef Morse is a video game producer, businessman and occasional programmer. He started in the game industy in the early 2000s. He is currently the CEO of Tic Toc Games.

© Tic Toc Games

© Tic Toc Games

 

Abraham Morales is a Game  Producer of Tic Tic Games. In general, he is a software engineer and a game producer for the past 10 years.

How the games evolve nowadays? Can you tell more about your latest game and how it’s evolving?
 
Shereef: My team, they all like the old school late 80s early 90s shoot ’em ups, but there haven’t been a lot of shoot ’em ups that show up lately in games. They’re trying to figure out a way of kind of paying homage to their favorite late 80s and early 90s shoot ‘em ups and at the same time make it very accessible so that anyone could play it. And one of the ideas was to give it this really cute aesthetic and beautiful adorable art style; cute dogs and cats, rabbits and bears inside this game each one of them having their unique abilities and each of these abilities come from old schools shmups. The dog has a strong Gradius feel to it. Some of the enemies have a Gradius feel to it. There’s a lot of love for games like Ikaruga. At the end that helped inspire us. But not as hard at the beginning they kind of ease you into those games to make it more accessible. I had the motivation to make an accessible shoot ’em up that everyone could enjoy by themselves or together.
Who wrote the script? Is there any story-driven related element going on here with these animals?
Shereef: These animals are Earth’s beautiful white cats, basically, right? And they were put inside of a ship to escape the destruction being caused by an alien invasion. It’s really about these animals once they went out into space they were found by another alien race that trains them how to defend themselves and come back and fight to get the Earth back. Your job is to liberate each of the planets in the Solar system with your team of adorable pets that are in battle suited up in mech suits and liberate each of the planets from the invading armies of the dark type. But you can see some of this clever banter happening below. It’s very much homage to games like Star Fox 64 where you get the mission briefings.

Is there a symbol behind those animals?  

Shereef: There is a little bit of symbolism in there. We do kind of have an unlockable story that has players progress through the world if they find all the hidden memory, it will tell them a little bit more about the backstory of the dark type. So your journalistic instincts are right in asking but some of that we were trying to keep as unlockable so that players are surprised by it.
© Tic Toc Games
© Tic Toc Games

It’s weird that the art style and the design is not unified to the dramatic theme of the cutscene.

Shereef: Neither was Bambi, right? There is a strong reason behind it. First of all, we wanted to make art style that everybody felt approachable and accessible to them and also really have those Saturday morning cartoon vives emanating from the cool cast of characters put them in an adventure really to save the Galaxy and motivate them to go through all those shoot ’em up levels and feel that the stakes are really high. So yeah, it’s all with its own intention of having a design go along with a gameplay and keep players immersed in this universe that we created.
Abraham, can you explain what exactly did you do on the game?
 
Abraham: I’m currently the game director and that means that I was in charge of a lot of the creative decisions that went around gameplay and with choosing some of the art style for some of the bosses, a little bit of about the level design and just overall how the ships for each character are unique. I made a lot of those decisions. Right from the beginning of the project there was a couple of other directors who worked with me as well. I was also acting as a producer. I wear many hats. I’m getting used to it throughout my career.
How many people are working on the game?
 
Shereef: I think the core team in total was around 10 people that were part of this project throughout the development of the game but as we were scaling up for having animations done and QA and having additional enemy attacks and all of that we scaled pretty big to a certain point up until 30 people more or less. Just because as you can see the animation quality on the bosses is hand-drawn and animated. So there’s a lot of people that need to be involved in that pipeline from drawing out the drafts of the animation, making sure that they look good, reviewing them and then working on the in-between, sending the colouring. All of that requires additional people.
Did you use freelancers or those people are only from the game’s team?
 
Abraham: The people that pretty much designed the enemies and the sequences, the storyboarding for the key frames, that was done in-house. We got them on the amazing team of artists and animators in-house and then we were able to hire people from the States. Also from our sister company in the Philippines we have a lot of artists that are super talented over there and from other parts of the world like Mexico team.
What is your story, guys? How did you get here in the gaming industry?
 
Abraham: I have always been fascinated by games since I was very little. I started game programming since I was six years old. I absolutely love game programming and I made my first few games back in… I’m not going to say the year but I’m going to say QBasic, C++… I did it back then using those weird tools as we didn’t have such a friendly user interface. I started my career in game programming professionally while I was still in college just published a small indie game for Xbox Live indie games around 2010 and then I moved to Mexico City to work at a publishing company on a few titles in Latin America. And in between I did a lot of software development, I worked in games for education and now I’m here where it’s been a year.
Shereef: I’ve been in the game industry for probably about 20 years; maybe more than that now. I started in Game Boy Color with a company called WayForward Technologies. Then started working for Sony Pictures and went to Disney Nickolodeon and decided to start this company about 11 years ago. We were doing some work for hire, but we were doing it with the idea that we were saving money so that we can make some of our own titles and we’ve been saving money and making our own title now for about 10 years.
Well, you are experienced gamers and game developers so let’s talk about gaming communities. What was it back in the days and what do you think the kids and the gamers now prefer?
 
Shereef: That’s a really good question! They evolved quite a bit I think at its core. I’ve seen a lot of people that are true to prioritizing the right thing like gameplay first, they’re the ones that stick around and our troops like the old school culture of really focus on who your player is and make sure that you’re delivering them a great experience at most of the time. Back then we were developing games for ourselves because we were thinking about what games we wanted to play that nobody was making. I think indies are still where all the innovation is showing up because of less risk in terms of like your concept not getting approved or something like that. You can really design and develop whatever you want and you can bypass a lot of that corporate world that was like how many units is this going to sell, is this going to be for the right target demographic, or can you slap a movie brand on it, can you ship it before its launch date, etc. All that stuff have changed over the years and the community is becoming more and more tolerant overtime like I remember going to conventions a long time ago and you know there was definitely a certain kind of profile that you would see at all conventions and they’re still there which is great but now there is a lot more people, a lot more diverse talent, a lot more diversity in terms of who you see in these events. So it’s evolving really nicely and I wish it was that from the beginning. That’s a really great question nobody asked us before!
Thank you for this answer!
 
Shereef: I’ve never been asked that ever in 20 years.
What are you planning for your studio?
 
Shereef: There is the upcoming release of B.ARK very soon and we plan to continue supporting the game in the future and hopefully the reception will be good and we will get a lot of positive reviews. But let’s see how this works in the near future.
According to our research, there are more multiplayer games right now and game studios choose to make more co-op games, what would happen to the single player gameplay? What do you think about this in the future?
 
Abraham: We really make sure that single player gameplay is also very strong in our game. A lot of the power ups that you see inside in the single player mode of the game are representative of the different abilities and attributes that you will be able to get from playing a cooperative version of the game. So we don’t totally subscribe to you know “hey it’s got to be a multiplayer game”. We really wanted to make sure that we had a strong single player game because a lot of us do play single player games so we did love the idea of doing something cooperative in the space but it had to be a strong enough experience to stand on its own. One of the motivations that Abraham mentioned that I love was the idea of having the feeling of going to the old school arcade and being able to join somebody’s game by just dropping a quarter in and having a really fun experience playing with that person but then still wanting to play it by yourself too and I’m feeling good about how the game felt. So the goal of B.ARK is really to feel good enough as a single player and multiplayer together. We knew this is achievable because we’ve had that experience growing up.
My final question is do you have any advice to a person who wants to start their indie game studio right now?
 
Shereef: Don’t get discouraged! This is the biggest one. Be ready to have positive and negative experiences. And don’t let the negative experience push you away from your goal. Just keep pushing!