Posts Tagged ‘Cogswell Alumni’

Former Cogswell Alumni Finds Success in the Solar Energy Industry

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

Former Cogswell Alumni Dean Sala, 52,  has found success in the alternative energy industry. He is both the Founder and CEO of Suntactics, a company that specializes in producing portable Solar Chargers and Solar Panels. Dean’s company and products have been featured and covered by Forbes.com, Mother Earth News, NBC, ABC, CBS, The Mercury News and The San Francisco Chronicle. The following is an interview as it appeared in a November issue of the magazine Kiplinger, Personal Finances, and is credited to Patricia Mertz Esswein.

You worked in high tech?

Yes, for 23 years, 15 of them as a software engineer for Hewlett-Packard. In 2008, HP shut down my whole division, and I was out of a job. I didn’t see myself going back to software, so I returned to school to finish a second degree, in electrical engineering.

Why Suntactics?

Solar power has interested me since I was a kid. When I returned so school, I teamed up with a partner to power a full size glider with solar energy. We worked on other projects, and in 2009 we formed a general partnership to focus on making a portable yet powerful solar panel to charge a phone. In 2010 my partner said, “I don’t think this is going to work,” and left amicably. Since then, I’ve developed three products that can charge devices with a USB connection. I have provisional patents on my designs, and I’ve sold almost 10,000 units, mostly via our website (www.suntactics.com) and Amazon.com. Our chargers range in price from $140 to $240. They’ll charge an iPhone in two hours or less in direct sunlight, as fast as a wall outlet. They’re popular with outdoors enthusiasts, among others.

You made the panels yourself at first?

The cheapest solar panel laminator I could find cost $50,000 and was full size. I needed a pint-size one. So I built my first one out of parts from a pizza oven that  bought at Goodwill. I cranked out 2,000 panels in my garage.

Did you get any outside help?

To perfect my process, I picked the brains of a scientist and a couple of engineering PhDs. But in my previous career, I never saw the sales and marketing end, and now I was trying to run a business. So I appealed to Score [www.score.org a nonprofit group that mentors small businesses]. When I told them I couldn’t keep with with orders, that’s all they needed to hear. I have two counselors- one is an expert in manufacturing and the other in marketing. They helped me find a small manufacturer to produce more units under contract.

How did you finance your start up?

I took out a home-equity line of credit on my house and borrowed about $42,000. More recently, I got a line of credit that’s backed by the Small Business Administration.

Do you make a living?

In 2013, we did more than $500,000 in sales, and I paid myself about $65,000. That’s a lot less than the $100,000 I made at the peak of my career as a software engineer, but because I’m a sole proprietor I can write off a lot of stuff on my tax return.

What’s ahead?

Our next product will charge laptops. I’m gradually bringing production into my own facility because contracting it out is expensive. We need to get into retail outlets. Our products are sold in Batteries Plus stores, but it’s a struggle to get into sporting-goods and big-box stores.

Is your work rewarding?

I’d rather do this than anything else. My customers are my bosses, and I like to make them happy. Plus, I bought a company car: a Chevy Camaro that replaces the ’68 model I sold to go to college and the ’98 pickup I had been driving. It’s my dream car.

Dean’s story is proof that it’s never too late to go back to school or follow and pursue your dreams. All it takes is a bit of patience, hard work, and determination. Congratulations Dean!

Concept Art Process for Award-Winning Short Animated Films

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

Kong Vang, Cogswell alumni and Art Director of two short animated films

Kong Vang, Cogswell alumni and Art Director of the two short animated films “Driven” and “Worlds Apart” – both created in Cogswell College’s Project X class – shares his process of creating character concept designs and more.

While working on the films created in the Project X class, I learned that it takes a very dedicated team to make a short film in four semesters or less. Many of the students on this team are attending classes full-time in addition to contributing their talents towards making an awesome film.

Here’s an overview of what happens during the production process of a short animated film: First the script and storyboards are completed and approved, within the first semester. Meanwhile, the concept team begins creating concepts for characters and environments.  Approved concepts are sent into the modeling pipeline as soon as they are approved where our artists create 3d models. As each model is approved by the Director, they are sent into the texturing and rigging pipeline. Technical artists create animation rigs for each model and prepare them for animation testing.  Animation is a long process so it is important to get the rigged 3D models to the animators as soon as possible. Animation takes almost a year to get all of the shots approved.  After the animation is polished, the first test of the film timing is created, approved, and sent off to the sound effects and music score team.  Also during the process of animation, approved shots are sent to the lighting team for light set and test render. When the finalized lit shots are rendered out, they are sent to the compositing team for the final clean up. After the composite shots are cleaned up and finalized, they are sent off to the film editor who creates the final cut of the film and music score.

On the latest film ‘Driven’, each member of the team wore different hats depending on which stage of the production pipeline the film was in.  For instance, initially I started out in the concept design pipeline, then moved to the animation pipeline and finally to matte painting for the final stage of the film.

One of my jobs as a concept designer was to collect the approved designs from the other artists and finalize them. Because most approved designs are from different artists, each with their own distinct style, the finalization process ensures a consistent look and feel. After finalizing the look and stylization of the characters, I would render each character in 2D using Adobe Photoshop so that it would represent its 3d counterpart.  This allows the Director to easily visualize how each character will look before it gets passed along to the modeling team.

Digital media is the fastest way to work and Photoshop offers the perfect tools and work flow for this demanding field. With infinite tool presets, custom brushes, and limitless iterations, it allows me to work more quickly and easily compared to traditional mediums like paint or ink.

To block out the initial character’s silhouette, I like to use a standard round brush, which I adjust into an ellipse shape, then angle it 45 degrees. This style of brush setup creates a line weight that flows much more nicely than the standard round brushes. Once the silhouettes and internal shapes look good, I create a new layer in Photoshop and start to block out the forms with one color value. At this early stage, I prefer to work in black and white.  It makes it easier to focus just on values and form rather than getting caught up about the colors. My preference in digital painting is to work from dark to light values, or shadows to highlights. It has been my experience to get results much faster using this method than trying to paint from light to dark.  I push and pull (lighten and darken) the values until the character forms are clear.  During this process, I maintain a wide range of values to create depth and realism.

Once the characters have been sketched out, it’s time to experiment with color palettes. I like give a slight color tint to the values before painting on top of the black and white image. The tint layer acts as a color wash so none of the black and gray value show through later. I create a new layer and set the Layer Mode to “Color”. I start by painting over the character with the color palette that the team agrees on. By using multiple layers, I don’t lose my original black and white image – and I can test out different color schemes.  Once I’ve added general color blocks to the characters, I use a new layer to start painting in details. For the final detail stage, I use textures and custom brushes to polish the look of the characters.

The development stages from concept to finished product vary from character to character; it all depends on what the Director is looking for. For example, secondary characters may be approved before main characters. Main characters are often challenging as they have to be visually pleasing and have the right visual attitude. On the other hand secondary characters have far less restrictions, allowing flexibility for designers to explore their creativity.

The concept team spent almost an entire semester designing characters. After four months and multiple iterations, all nine characters were finally approved. Once approved, I took the concepts and started finalizing each character’s look. It took me roughly four or five hours to render out the first pass of each character to show the Director.  One character in particular – the adult Biff cop – took almost ten hours to design.  After multiple small changes, the final designs were approved.

One of the most surprising and challenging characters to design was the Jet Bike that the main character rides.  Its importance in the film is equal to the character that rides it. Although there were many great concept designs shown to the Director, none of them were approved. That’s when I was given the tough task of designing the bike. After fifty designs, we started to narrow down the concept. Once the main silhouette was chosen, I mixed elements from the best three designs together to get the final jet bike concept. The process for this single ‘character’ took three or four weeks, from start to finish, working with traditional mediums like graphite and paper.

This is just the front-end of the production pipeline for a short animated film. It takes a strong team and lots of man hours to complete the film. In the end many people had come and gone, and lots of talented people contributed to the film. We were all so glad that the film was finally finished. It took the PX team about four semesters and two summers of hard work to accomplish the short film, Driven. The Project X class has given me the best hands-on experience possible. It has definitely changed my future and life for the better. Thanks Project X!

Kong Vang

Cogswell Reaches Out!: Designers Wanted

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

Hey Cogswell current and Alumni!

It’s high time we get back to the way these blogs were handled before my time: Consistently. In doing so, I’d like to let our Cogswell family know that Albert Chen, our current assistant professor that heads the Game Development Degree Program, has a job offer for you all! Here is a message from him that details the specifics of the job position:

“Looking for any and all Cogswell students/alumni who would like to work with 5 CUC students from Beijing, China (all programmers) who are coming for three intensive weeks to work with me on some games using Unity.  They will be on campus starting July 25th.  Email me directly if interested.  We’re looking for anyone who can commit to at least a couple of hours of work per week.  Experience with Unity a plus but not mandatory.”-Albert C.

I would advise any and all students who fit the criteria for this position and are currently looking for work to take this opportunity. Not only is it good industry experience, but you get to work with people overseas which is a grand experience all in its own! Don’t worry if you don’t fit this position exactly though. There is always a chance that a job offer comes up on the Cogswell Blog that fits your exact qualifications so be sure to check back!

-Davain M.

You can contact Albert Chen about the job offer at Achen@Cogswell.edu

Two Cogswell graduates have officially checked out.

Monday, December 6th, 2010

Two recent Cogswell graduates have officially left the Sunnyvale campus to join some other graduates in Los Angeles. To be more specific, they are joining fellow Alumni Andrew Jennings, Ryan Rogers, and Joshua Cogswell at Rhythm & Hues, an Academy Award winning visual studio that specializes in animation and visual effects. The two Spring 2010 grads are Jessica DeLacy and Chris Evart., both in the Cogswell’s Digital Art and Animation program.

Pictured (counterclockwise): Chris Evart, Andrew Jennings, Josh Cogswell, Ryan Rogers, Jessica DeLacy

Both were working on the current Project X Film and have nothing but accolades from professors. On behalf of everyone in the online Cogswell world, congratulations to you both! You have the support of the faculty, students, and staff.

Also, stay tuned tomorrow for another installment of Cogswell Insiders!

-Rachel

Back from the break, did you see any Cogswell alumni films?

Monday, November 29th, 2010

Welcome back from the short Thanksgiving break!  With a lack of warm bodies last week, the campus is a little bit chilly today, but will soon be warm and bustling as students come back for classes.  There are only three weeks left in this semester, so many students will be completely booked with final projects, exams, and making plans for the upcoming winter break from Cogswell classes.  Some will fly home, some will embark on epic road trips, and some will stay close and spend the holidays in the bay area.  Whichever happens, I know the break will be well-deserved and definitely needed!  You can tell by the picture that it’s definitely crunch time.

In the world of the alumni,  Cogswell had representation in the latest Dreamworks film, Megamind.  Alumni on board were: Carrie VanEtten (1998) Paint Fix Artist, Amy Jones (1999) Lead Lighting, Marc Miller (1999) Lead Lighter and Steven Sorensen (1998) Layout Artist.  The film debuted at the top spot, and is still enjoying a run in the top spots of weekend movie-goers and a favorite among current Cogswellians as well.  It is really motivational to see Cogswell graduates in the credits of feature films, and in places that we all wish to be.

-Rachel

Back from successful weekend of Cogswell events!

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

This past weekend, we had tons of buzz on the Cogswell campus, and the energy has overflowed into this Monday!  First, the Entrepreneur’s Workshop was a major success!  So many excited students with their parents came out despite the heavy downpour/monsoon that raged on outside.   I had the to opportunity to speak with a few of the high school students, and they were equally inquisitive as they were willing to share their own goals.  Much to my delight, and surprise, there were quite a few prospects who were interested in the Digital Audio Technology program, in addition to the Entrepreneurship and Innovation program, and they were coming from high schools that were already laying down foundations of audio work.  Very cool to hear that other levels of academia are moving toward the goal of infusing more technological programs into their curriculum.  The panelists were really insightful, and made themselves available to everyone for talking or even as a mentor.

After the day’s event passed, the night life sprang up in the Dragon’s Den at around 8:00pm.  The lighting system pulsed, the DJ beats were thumping (and you could feel it in your stomach), patrons danced, and the energy was through the roof.  I saw some of the most dynamic dancers on Saturday night, and those images are burned into my mind, but definitely in the best way possible.  There were sodas, water, and Redbull on sale to keep the dancers hydrated and hyped. Among the lineup stars, we had Cogswell’s very own DJ Zombie, aka Josh Hodges, getting the crowd pumped for the main act Vendor & Battery.  In addition to the happening environment at Cogswell in the Dragon’s Den, the Radio Club streamed the show for those who couldn’t brave the continuing monsoon outside.

Being one of the original creators of the Radio Club and wanting to get shows off of the ground, I have to say I was in awe of the success that these guys had.  The show was definitely proof that the Radio Club has “it.”  Whatever “it” is, they have it.  They upped the ante, and the next show is going to be more awesome that this one, and this past show was unbelievably good!  Check back for more pictures soon!

Entrepreneur’s Workshop… begins!

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

Trish Costello, director of the Entrepreneurship and Innovation program, just welcomed everyone to the  event.

She says that the new program has been well received and has a lot of potential for all involved.  The digital programs (Digital Art and Animation, Digital Arts Engineering, Digital Audio Technology, Computer Engineering, Software Engineering) at the school can be incorporated into the Entrepreneurship Program.

Now there are screen shots showcasing the last ESAL project with Boeing that highlights the fusion of all of the programs incorporated.  Technology is joined with artist vision to create something innovative, like the previous project worked on by students, a flight simulator for new aircraft.

The agenda for the day has been revealed!  First up? Market simulations hosted by Professor Bret Sweet. Then lunch, panelists, products, a QR Code scavenger hunt, and an admissions Q&A.

An entrepreneurship video is being played and the room looks rather inspired and eager.

Now Bret Sweet is heading up the market simulation.  Everyone gets a bag with a secret inside.  Five rounds of observation, voting, and gauging of importance is going to happen.  We even have some parents involved in this.  Running the simulation, he asks, “how satisfied are you with your item?”

More directions revealed:  “Put your item on the table, walk around the room to scope out what else there is, then compare your item with the others.”

Now he askes, “how do you feel about your item?” Everybody trades!  What will people be willing to give up, and for what?

Now the room is divided into hemispheres, and it’s time to trade their goods.  Will people be satisfied, less satisfied, or in love? A round of trading happens again.

Now the “market” has expanded to be the whole room!  Players can now trade “globally.”

Results:  Round one, people were less satisfied.  Why?  Audience member says, “They didn’t have a choice with their items.” As the rounds continue, satisfaction increases, parallel to the openness of the markets and how big the trade pool is.

“I can only sell it to you if there’s a limited amount,” Bret just said. “As things are harder to get, the more expensive they are.  That’s supply and demand…rounds one and two are economics, round five is macroeconomics.  You have something that other people across the world really value.”  Brett adds that entrepreneur’s try to find a value for something that people want.

Trish takes the stage once again.  After taking a field trip yesterday, she found Hackers Dojo, Y-combinator Incubator company: Anybots, and another incubating space, Plug-n-Play.

Who are a few of her favorite entrepreneurs? Richard Branson, Mother Teresa, Russell Simmons, Steve Jobs.  Trish notes: Richard Branson didn’t graduate high school and has a learning disability, and he’s incredibly successful!

Now a little information on our degree programs:  Bachelor’s in Entrepreneurship & Innovation with a specialty in Digital Media, join degree in Entrepreneurship and Digital Media or Engineering, any degree with an Entrepreneurship Minor,

“All of our professors have experience both in teaching and their profession,” Trish says.

Trish adds, “Hands-on experiences occur everyday… students experience a method and learn the theory…  Students create Cogswell Ventures, and Cogswell provides the safety net for risks for learning…  We can be the most influential Entrepreneurship school in the country!”

Now it’s time for lunch!  Looks like everyone’s mingling, high school students, Cogswell students, panelists, parents, and professors..

Continuing along, the panelists are taking their places onstage.

Panelist Dan Marques, 25 year old entrepreneur, just flew in from Boston to join us today.  He’s head of marketing for Gemvara, a company started when he was in college.

Describing his slides: Network For Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) involvement inspired him.  He went to Babson College and started a few companies, one being a network of IM users who were paid to post ads in their away messages.  Company got purchased.  Paragon Lake, the predecessor of Gemvara, started to be a method of custom jewelry.  Later, he helped rebuild the Entrepreneurship program at Babson.  He also began a dollar store in his hometown.  Later he invested in another Entrepreneur involving the “handyman service.” He then became NFTE board member of Boston chapter.

“Don’t take shortcuts because you’ll get cut short,” says Dan. “Just because you’re young doesn’t mean you can’t.”

Trish is now introducing Lee Cohen.

Born of immigrant scientists, she found she was passionate about cooking after undergrad.  Worked for Naked Juice, marketing in various cities.  She then went to Harvard Business School and got her MBA.  This is where she really got passionate about startups.  She now works with Become.com.

“My life isn’t the traditional Harvard grad life… I took a completely different route,” she says. She then adds advice, “Figure out what your passions are and get into them.” She says to the students that when they’re young and in school, they should try a lot of paths and make mistakes, it will be beneficial.  She adds, “Be open to things you aren’t really interested in,” and “work for someone who is great, not good, GREAT.”

Ash Monif is up next.  A Cogswell alum, he started the Game Development Club that is still going strong after ten years.  He started a game-making business while he was still in student housing, selling stock because he couldn’t pay anyone. Second, he started another game, IDI, a flash game about good health.  He had received a grant for it.

During his time in the Game Development Club he produced various games, even a GDC winner. He has worked at EA and Atari.  He developed with guys from SubAtomic when creating a game for the Wii.  Also, acted as a consultant with them while working for Atari.  The game they developed, “Field Runners, “was in top 20 in the Apple App store for six months.  It also maintained the Top 10 in Japan, reached the top ten in PSP marketplace, and was recognized by TIME Magazine.  Now they have a hub in Boston, looking to establish one on the West Coast. His company has relationships with developers worldwide.  Ash says, “I hadn’t realized I was an entrepreneur until I kept creating.”  He found mentors in the industry.  Also adds, “Pursue your full passion.”

Back to Trish, “Find someone who is where you want to be in ten years.”

Fun fact: “40% of HS Students have the goal of starting their own company.”

The panel is now open for questions from the audience.

Q: “What was the most challenging thing?”

A: Dan: “Manage the highs and lows of being an entrepreneur.” Expect good times and bad and stick through it. Learn from it.

Lee: “Managing survival.”  She says use the people you have. “Adapt.” “Constantly be a cheerleader… even through the bad times, be the chearleader to push forward… be the optimistic one.”

Ash: “Team, Funding, Vision.  If you’re missing one, it will most likely flop.” Also, “having a very clear vision” is very important.

Q from audience member, John, for Ash: “Do you have your dream and your day job?”

A: Ash: “There isn’t one way to start a company correct/incorrect.”  He’s tried many ways, there is no one way to be successful, so you have to do what works for you.  “When you’re a team, you have to work out each individual’s ideas for the whole.”

Trish interjects and passes the mic to the other two.

Dan: “Activities require different amounts of your resources.”

Lee: “If I were you guys, I would have taken advantage of all of the ideas and student resources.  Bills to pay shouldn’t be a limiting factor.  We all have our day jobs.”

Q from same John:  “I want to get into games, like what you’re doing, how can I start?”

Ash:  “You already did.  You’re here.” Get connected.  Get a mentor.

Q: What’s the difference between a small business owner and an Entrepreneur?

Dan:  “Entrepreneurship is a way of thinking an acting.  You can do it either in a big corporation or a small business.”

Trish: “I would agree….  so much as changed over the years, that making your own career is becoming more popular…  we’re in an environment of change… we’re teaching students that they are constantly evaluating, they have the ability to create for thmselves instead of having someone else provide.”

Q:  “What’s the biggest obstacle, and how did you overcome it?

A: Lee: “Hiring people.  It’s an art, not a science.  People who are paper perfect aren’t necessarily perfect…  you have to be able to let go and let people take over responsibilities.”

Ash:  “Founder’s Syndrome.”  You tell people to “please continue to create this beautiful thing…  like an anxious parent, but you have to be able to share the vision and let other people run with it.”  He also adds, “For me, creative conflict.  Some companies like Microsoft want you to argue… the idea wins, not the ego, not the person, the idea wins.”

Dan: “Struggle with what to optimize for, get your priorities straight, define your goals.”

Q: “What do you look for when you’re hiring?”

Dan: “Data driven people.  People who can look at data, interpret it, and go.”

Lee:  “I look for enthusiasm and brains.”  She says that if she can teach you and you’re eager to learn, you have a better chance than someone who is “paper perfect.”  “Don’t be shocked if someone says, ‘I want you for this job, not this one.’”

Ash:  “I make sure these are people I can trust.  I get to know their personality.  Honesty is a much better option.  Problem solving is also a defining factor.”

Q:  “What’s the biggest factor to help you get to the place where you were doing something that seemed to work?”

Ash: “My failures. You have to gain a sense of market activity and learn so you don’t make the same number of mistakes over time.”

Q: “What prepared you the most? Courses or experence?”

Lee: “An institution like Cogswell gives you a lot of resources.  College teaches you how to think.”  She adds, “I had to stop being afraid of failure.

Dan: “The hands-on pieces were really critical to what I’ve done.  Being in company with other entrepreneur’s was a source of motivation.”

Ash:  “Confidence.  You will encounter those who say ‘you’re crazy,’ but have confidence in yourself.  Even if I fail, I want to do this.” Also adds, “It’s better to have tried and failed than to never have tried at all.”

Trish asks the panelists to give the audience a closing thought.

Dan:  “Start something today. Start working toward something.  Move from talking to taking action!”

Lee:  “Just do it.  Whatever you’re passionate about, you enjoy, just do it.  Meeting people is very important.  There are so many resources here in the bay area.”  She adds, “if anyone wants to reach out, they can contact me through my site:  leecohenonline.com”

Ash: “Follow your passions, keep pursuing them.  Whatever happens, keep on trying and learn from your mistakes.  If you don’t know how to do something, ask.  Utilize your resources:  family, friends, teachers.  Not only do they provide initial funding, but they also provide emotional support.”

Trish thanks them for coming, and invites the audience to talk to them after the workshop.  Now there’s a ten minute break.

Back in session… PX film, preceded by Michael Huber speaking about the Project X class.

After the viewing of the film, “The Offering,” Trish thanks everyone for coming and introduces the launch of the Entrepreneurship Competition! Groups of up to four students create a business plan and have the chance to win a scholarship.

Ending the workshop, she introduces another activity, a QR code scavenger hunt.  She also adds that there are admissions representatives on site to answer any questions they may have.  Attendees disperse, with much buzz still in the Dragon’s Den.

Great showing, and lots of participation.  Looking forward to the next event!

Are you going to the Entrepreneur’s Workshop?

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

It’s only two more days until the Entrepreneur’s Workshop.  Are you going?  If you have the entrepreneurial spirit, it’s not too late to RSVP.  Just fill out the form on the Entrepreneur’s Workshop page.  At the workshop, you’ll learn by doing. There are simulations lined up to give students experiences in marketing and exercises in product design.  Following the interactive activities is a panel with Cogswell Alum Ash Monif, COO and Executive Producer of Subatomic Studies, and serial entrepreneur Dan Marques, who has seen much success with his involvment in online marketing for Gemvara. The panelists are there to answer any questions you might have regarding your own ventures, so come out to the Entrepreneur’s Workshop and learn how to make your goals reality!  The event is free, and is also open to current Cogswell students, so this may be prime time for prospective students to ask questions of current students as well.

In other news, today is the Thanksgiving potluck!  This has been a highly anticipated event for everyone on campus.  What’s the excitement about food, you may ask?  Everyone from student, staff, and faculty can show off their culinary prowess.  Where else can you get a taste of the best macaroni and cheese in the world made by the Assistant Admissions Director?  Or the most phenomenal green bean casserole from your Professor?  It’s fascinating to see who is equally talented in the kitchen as they are in sculpture, programming, or music composition.

Cogswell College Alumni Resources!

Friday, April 9th, 2010

Hey Alumni!

gradsDid you know that we have two special web pages just for you?  Check out our alumni page on our Cogswell site: http://cogswell.edu/alumni.htm And see more by clicking on “Alumni and Partners” link in the navigation bar near the top of the page!

We also have an entire site dedicated to alumni!  Check us out at http://www.cogswellalumni.com

Want to get connected with Cogswell again?  Sign up for our newsletter and let us know what you’ve been up to.

Alumni’s Company Publishes His Global Game Jam Game

Friday, March 19th, 2010

sumo_title_clickDuring the Global Game Jam here at Cogswell, one team decided to create their game for the iPhone.  After 2 intense days of creating the game, the team published the game Sumo Stealth through team member and alumni Tobiah Mark’s company Yobonja.  We caught up with Tobiah to ask him about his experience both with the design and the publishing.

Your name, your position on the team and other members of the team?

Tobiah Marks – Design/Voice of Skunky

Other team members:

George Lam – Programming

Seth Robles -  Art

Madison Parker – Art

To read the team’s blog during the Global Game Jam, click here.

What is the name of the game and what is the game play like?

The name of the game is Sumo Stealth (available for free on the Apple App Store: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/sumo-stealth/id353642050?mt=8). The game only has a simple one button control scheme, tap the screen to change disguise. The story is that a sumo wrestler is trapped in a shopping mall full of roaming gangs of Punks and Monks, and he must sneak past them by disguising himself as one or the other. The game speeds up and gets harder over time, and goes on until you’re caught in the wrong disguise. Your score is the number of seconds you lasted before being caught.

What was your inspiration for the game?

SumosarusGoing in we all wanted to make a simple game, focusing in on one or two gameplay elements and just trying to make that fun. The idea we came up with was a player trying to sneak past groups of Monks and Punks. We boiled the whole idea down to its simplest form where all you do is change your character’s disguise. After we told the idea to the rest of the Game Jam groups, somebody mentioned the Gamma4 competition going on at the same time looking for one-button game submissions. This had been going on for a while, but the deadline happened to be that same Sunday night Game Jam was done. So we ran with the idea and made it a one-button game so we could also submit to it.

In case you’re wondering “Why Punks and Monks? Why do they hate each other?” Well, at the Global Game Jam 2010 at Cogswell College, one of the requirements for the game is that the game must contain a Monk, a Punk, or a Skunk. So we decided to go with Monks vs. Punks. Why make it a sumo wrestler? Because it’s funny. We named him Skunky though, just so we can say we hit all three.

At what point did you decide to make an iPhone game?  When did you decide to submit it to the App store?

Within the first 15 minutes of starting work on the game, we decided to make it for the iPhone.  One of the first things we thought after setting up was “This game would make a cool iPhone app”. Well, George had a copy of Unity iPhone, and Yobonja (my company) has a developer account, so everything just worked out too nicely not to do it.

What was the most rewarding part of making the game?

The team. We had a great team, and we all had similar visions of what we wanted out of the game. It was great to just have everything click and fall into place without any last-minute drama or design arguments or struggle to complete the game on time.

What was the most challenging?

I’m not sure. I’m still impressed that Madison made a whole 3D mall full of assets in 2 days, or that George had the whole game working in prototype form late Friday night, etc. But I’d say probably turning Seth’s awesome drawings into a animated character, and trying to set to look correct in Unity since none of us were animators.

Tell us a little bit about your newest game, Snack Time for Caterpillar?

My company, Yobonja, just released Snack Time for Caterpillar. It’s an iPhone game where you move around a cute little caterpillar on a leaf trying to eat as much food as possible while trying to avoid dragonflies that come to bother you. You control the caterpillar by tilting your iPhone/iPod touch/iPad then once you’ve built up enough energy by eating you can engage monster mode and turn into a dragonfly eating machine!  The game has social features like global highscores, awards, and facebook/twitter integration powered by AGON Online.  It is available now for free on the iTunes app store.  http://apps.yobonja.com/snacktime

Caterpillar