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Copperhead

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The Beginning
About ten years ago, I quit my job as an engineer.  It wasn’t that I hated engineering; I just found my job limiting and found my workplace very depressing and demoralizing.  Right around the end of my employment I played Shivers 2 by Sierra.  I was enthralled with the game.  They used real video and placed it in a computer environment.  There was a weird spookiness that emanated through the whole game.  It also had a cool soundtrack. 

It wasn’t that I never played a video game before. I was a big Atari-head in my youth and constantly wanted to break my records in Centipede and Missile Command.  The problem was that after constantly trying to get my skills sharper, the reward was less and less (change in the high score.)  I grew bored of the experience.   When I played Shivers 2 and subsequent games, this new wave of video games had a mental aspect to them I hadn’t seen before.  Plus, a real story got me hooked.  The sounds, graphics and the fact that you could play them on a PC was just gravy (as opposed to needing the right console.)

I remember sitting down at lunch with a few of my former work buddies, and they asked how I was doing.  The topic eventually turned to games (as it turned out they were gamers), and I told them how great Shivers was.  Then, I blurted out, “I want to make one of these games.”  At the time, I was just excited.  Who knew that it would be prophetic?

What Happened Next
At the time, I didn’t really think of making a game, to be honest.  My job had burnt me out of engineering, and my wife and I saved enough for me to go back into school to study art.  I always loved to draw and look at paintings.  I never pursued art because my first college did not have it as a major, and my family was very practical when it came to education.  a job future in art seemed like a pipe dream.  So, I didn't pursue.

However, as a mature adult, I did want to pursue art at this point.  I took some classes.  They ranged from basic drawing to painting to color theory to computer art.  It was all very fun.  Not only did I get caught losing track of time in endless hours of painting, but I also could go to Borders and read about the masters.  I still to this day paint, draw and read on art.

The big thing with art was that I could do it 10 hours a week, maybe 20, maybe 25 with no problem.  I just couldn’t do it for 40 or more.  I know that sounds silly.  Most people would love to enjoy 20+ hours a week of their job.  At the time, I felt similarly.  I didn’t feel like it was the end either.  I figured that I would just adapt to the tedium.  I kept up with my studies until I got an A.B.A. in Fine Art.

What happened after my degree would be what ultimately changed the path that I am on now.  I taught Physics and Engineering at the college that I received my degree.  So, when I finished my degree I just kept doing the same with the idea that I would now focus more on Copperhead.   Then one summer they offered an animation course using Maya.  I already was knee deep in playing video games by this time, and I knew that I wanted to do this at one point.  I jumped on the animation train and took off.

I loved animation and spent much time on it.  You can still see some of earliest work on my computer art page.  It was good that I spent time on it because I was pretty average in class.  I got a second chance to do animation when a 3DS Max course was offered at a different college.  As it turns out, it was taught by a lead artist at Big Huge Games. 

When I took this class, I was very taken by his explanation of the actual parts of making a game.  It wasn’t long before I started redirecting time and money at Copperhead to the making of games.  Moreover, I realized that I had a lot of the tools to make a game.  I had learned between 10-15 CAD packages which helped me to understand 3D space as well as animation (I had technically computer animated in 2D and 3D ten years before I learned Maya, using Finite Element codes in engineering.) 

Most game physics is mechanical in nature, and since I hold a degree in Physics and Mechanical Engineering, most of it was easily understood.  I’ve also coded in 5-10 scripting and programming languages. 

Furthermore, my Masters involved an advanced AI class and a thesis that revolved around reverse engineering.  Reverse engineering is the taking of a real world object and digitizing it (or something similar.)  Then, you take those points and construct a virtual object with identical dimensions (hopefully.)  That really helped me understand 3D and computational geometry.

I now (at the time) had learned art and art software including the major 3D animation packages.  Mostly all of the rest, except for maybe audio, I had at least touched on in some fashion.

When all this occurred, I even built up enough courage to apply for a teaching position at Hagerstown Community College.  The opening was for a Simulation and Digital Entertainment Instructor, i.e. gaming.  I applied and they said yes.  That’s what I’m doing today.

 

What Happens Now

Currently, I’m trying to involve myself in all things gaming.  I am involved with the International Game Developers Association and the North American Simulation and Gaming Association.  I do the conference circuit.  I am involved with a couple of art associations.  I even have been offering my services to companies over the summer.

I also give you the benefit of free games.  In my work with my company and school, I’ve made little games to either build my skills, work out issues for larger games, learn various languages better, help students with questions or just to have fun.  Check out our games page.  We will eventually offer larger games.  The bad news is that they will cost you a little money.  But, we’ll always have the free stuff, no matter what.

Our end goal is to put out a full fledge AA game (notice I did not say AAA).  We are on the way with a Turn Based Strategy and an Adventure game. We have working titles but nothing is announced as of yet.

   

 
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