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Interview with Blog Of The Living Dead

We talked with The Blog of the Living Dead about balls, booze, and our coming update! Check it out!

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Blair Thorburn: Game Designer

Blair Thorburn: Game Designer

When did you decide you wanted to become a Game Designer?

I’d been introduced to games by my older brother at a young age – I was five when we got our first computer, the Amiga 500, and we used to sit and wonder at how these worlds could be realized right in front of us. Since then, gaming has always been a big part of my life but at the time there wasn’t really an obvious way into the industry outside of becoming a Programmer, which I didn’t want to do. 

Instead, I went to university to study my other passion, music. It wasn’t until I’d finished and earned my degree that I started to learn more and more about game design and ways to begin a career in it, so it may have taken a round trip to get there, but I decided when I was five and again at twenty-two!

How did you get your start in the video game industry?

My first stint in the games industry was as a Focus Tester at Rockstar North in Edinburgh. It was a three-day job working on the first expansion pack for ‘GTAIV’, essentially just playing through the game and writing a report on what I thought of it at the end. Being amongst the development team there, seeing the work in progress, it made me realize this was what I really wanted to do. A month later I was moving to England to work in Dev Support at Codemasters and the rest has been a bit of a whirlwind since.

What has been the most exciting project that you have worked on?

It may seem strange having worked on ‘Grand Theft Auto’, but working on our new title, ‘The Bowling Dead’, was a real experience. It was the first time anyone on the team had worked on a mobile/tablet game, it was the smallest and most collaborative team that I’ve ever worked with and it was the first time I’ve had substantial creative input on a project as a whole. We were trailblazing a lot of new concepts, technologies and workflows within the company – this was new for us all – and it was extremely exciting to be working on something created by us that was wholly ours, especially after being a part of such massive projects in the past.

We’re still learning, creating and improving the game based on all the feedback and data we’re getting from the public, which will feed back into updates to the game. That whole process is new to the team as well, as we’re all used to releasing a console game that is practically out of our hands after it hits the shelves. Now, we’re able to quickly turn around on things we want to change and get a new version of the game out to the public in a really short amount of time.

Tell us which game has you hooked on your mobile device right now?

I’ve been playing a lot of ‘Plague Inc.’ recently. The goal of it is essentially to wipe out the human race by creating and evolving your own strain of plague and unleashing it on the poor inhabitants of Earth. It has a similar feel to it as ‘Defcon’, a PC game from a few years back by Introversion Software, where you were sat in a cold-war bunker, waiting for the world to start throwing nukes at each other. All very cheery stuff, but I assure you that I’m not really a genocidal maniac. Makes a change from Angry Birds though, doesn’t it?

Going back to the old school, what was your favorite childhood game & why?

I was a big fan of many of the old point-n-click adventure games from the 90s, but ‘The Secret of Monkey’ Island was truly my favorite and probably the game that started me off on my dreams to create games. The humor, puzzles and story just worked so perfectly together and there were a lot of really clever twists in there that poked fun at the genre conventions and mechanics of the time. One of my favorite game mechanics of all time is the insult sword-fighting from Monkey Island. Rather than resort to overt violence, the combatants instead had to insult their opponent to the point of humiliation, when they drop their sword and admit defeat. 

The player spent time collecting all of the insults and retorts in a hilarious trip around the island, but then had to defeat the Sword Master who had a repertoire of insults the player had never heard. The challenge then became matching all the retorts the player knew to these new insults and was just a brilliant example of toying with player empowerment and challenge in a way that involved a lot of laughing.

 If you were offered the chance to work on any game franchise in the world, what would it be?

Fortunately, I’ve had the chance to work on a couple of them already – Grand Theft Auto and Resident Evil. We had a lot of exciting ideas and stories we wanted to tell beyond ‘Operation Raccoon City’, so to get another chance at Resident Evil with the lessons we’d learnt from the first game would be something I’d jump on in a heartbeat. I think though, the most exciting creative prospects lie in working on something entirely new, but having the strong support of a talented team and a publisher willing to take a few risks.

Do you have a nickname? How did it originate?

I’ve had a few! My most recent – “Oi Blair” – came from one of the Producers on ‘Operation Raccoon City’. We’d been sharing some post-work refreshments one Friday night with a few other colleagues, and given our international origins began talking about (and with) different accents. We ended up discovering that every attempt she made to imitate a foreign accent ended up sounding like Dick Van Dyke’s terrible Cockney accent from Mary Poppins and so for the remainder of the night we all decided to join in. This continued for pretty much every conversation we held for the remainder of the project and every time I was greeted by “Oi, Blair”. Enough people heard it and joined in that it’s stuck with me ever since.

If you’re not making or playing videogames, what would we find you doing?

I’m very passionate about my music and will often just put on my headphones and chill out, or to soundtrack whatever else I’m up to. When it’s not raining, I enjoy going out for walks and seeing the city, as Vancouver is a seriously beautiful place to live! Otherwise, I could be cooking, reading, watching a movie or being experimented upon by my girlfriend Tara for her latest special-FX make-up job. I’ve been bruised, battered, zombified, burnt and even turned into a lady as the test-dummy for her projects, so it keeps life entertaining!

Finish the sentence “my day is not complete unless _________”

I get to have a good laugh with my friends.

 What is your motto or personal mantra?   

“My name is feared in every dirty corner of this island!” – The Sword Master, Monkey Island. 

Not only is it from my favorite game, but as a person and a designer, it reminds me both of my childhood and how far I have come. If there’s one lesson I’ve learnt in life, it’s that you get nothing if you don’t fight for it, and striking terror and fear into all that I meet is one way to get ahead in life.

If you could have a drink with anyone, (fictional, alive, dead, famous, non-famous) who would it be?

Probably Tim Schafer (Head of Double Fine Games and my design hero). His life’s work is what inspired me to get into the industry that I love and the culture that he’s created at Double Fine seems to foster some really fun and challenging game designs. It’d be great not only to meet him, but to pick his brain on his own philosophies and ideas over a crisp, cold beer.

Tell us all something about yourself that nobody knows.

I had a brief stint as a trombonist when I was seven or eight.

 

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Attack of the zombies: Bowling Dead help resurrect Vancouver's video game industry

 Vancouver studios that previously relied on designing console games go mobile

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The Bowling Dead Review – AppSpy - 4/5

Perfect blend of arcade sensibilities; easy to pick up, but challenging to master.

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The Bowling Dead (iPad) Review – Modojo - 4/5

A slick and original zombie game, that combines flick gameplay with a suitably silly story and upgrade system.

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The Bowling Dead Review – Arcade Sushi – 8/10

The Bowling Dead is well worth a download. It is a fun new take on zombie and bowling games. 

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The Bowling Dead Review – Bunch of Gamers – 4/5

It’s a never before seen and surprisingly working combination of bowling simulator and a first-person zombie shooter.

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The Bowling Dead™, a free-to-play zombie bowling game, created by Slant Six Games, is launched worldwide for iOS.

VANCOUVER, BC, November 29th 2012 – Slant Six Games Inc. today announced the release of The Bowling Dead™, a free-to-play, zombie bowling game, universally available for iOS devices and will be available for Android early 2013. In the post apocalyptic setting of The Bowling Dead™,  the world is overrun by undead hordes of zombies, all governments have fallen and there are few survivors, but one such survivor is Jimmy Skidmore, a rebellious loner who has discovered that weaponized bowling balls and beer are the only effective defence against the zombies. In The Bowling Dead™, one man stands in the way of the complete annihilation of the human race. One man and his…balls. 

The Bowling Dead ™ is a 3D game, offering state of the art environments and characters, with over 40 stages in Campaign mode, and unlimited Survival mode. There is a huge arsenal of weapons to unlock, including specialised balls such as the disco ball and chainsaw ball. Players can also fight epic zombie bosses, ranging from clowns to cheerleaders, with a variety of brawling weapons, including the elusive pink unicorn sword. The Bowling Dead™ provides hours and hours of fun game play, allowing players to uncover the true story of the outbreak and the Government’s secret weapons program. 

The Bowling Dead™ is created and developed by Slant Six Games Inc., in association with Activision Mobile Publishing Inc. and Flurry Inc.

To learn more about The Bowling Dead™ visit www.slantsixgames.com or download for iOS  https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/the-bowling-dead/id569213771?mt=8 

About Slant Six Games

Slant Six Games is an award winning, independent video game development studio specialising in creating original IP for iOS, Android, PC and consoles. Based in Vancouver BC, Slant Six Games was founded in 2005, and has developed AAA game titles for the world’s leading video game franchises, including: Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City™, SOCOM:Confrontation™ , SOCOM: Fireteam Bravo™ and SOCOM: Tactical Strike™. For more information visit www.slantsixgames.com 

About Activision Publishing Inc

Headquartered in Santa Monica, California, Activision Publishing, Inc. is a leading worldwide developer, publisher and distributor of interactive entertainment and leisure products. Activision maintains operations in the U.S., Canada, Brazil, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Sweden, Spain, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Australia, South Korea, mainland China and the region of Taiwan. More information about Activision and its products can be found on the company’s website, www.activision.com.  

About Flurry
Flurry helps companies build, measure, advertise and monetize mobile applications in the new app economy.  Flurry operates an industry-leading mobile app measurement and advertising platform powered by app usage insights from more than 700 million iOS, Android and other devices per month.  In combination with Activision Mobile Publishing, Flurry also helps game developers build better apps, audiences and business models. The company is venture-backed with main offices in San Francisco, New York and London.

Press Contact:

Ruth Spink, Marketing Communications Manager, Slant Six Games

rspink@slantsixgames.com

1.604.637.9800

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