Ch-ch-changes

A lot can happen in 8 months. Shortly after my last post on the day I left HitPoint I was presented with an opportunity to join a new startup in San Francisco working on deep reinforcement learning. Seeing as how I had just left HitPoint to finish up my PhD in reinforcement learning, and was a bit anxious to get out of western MA after so many years there, it wasn’t something I could easily pass up, despite the fact that it would mean having a full time job again while trying to find time to finish my dissertation. And so, after receiving a job offer, I packed up and moved out to SF in June.

I’ve liked living in San Francisco a lot so far. The weather is probably the biggest plus for me, with the metropolitan culture a close second. It’s great to be able to walk to most of the places I need to go in under 20 minutes year round without needing a winter coat or profusely sweating. The cost of living is definitely the worst aspect. My rent more than quadrupled moving out here, but I did manage to find a nice one-bedroom in a high rise just a five minute walk from my new office.

My new position is Research Engineer at Osaro, Inc. We’re developing deep reinforcement learning tech that we plan to apply to difficult real-world problems (e.g., robotics), so that our clients can reap the benefits of recent breakthroughs in machine learning. Our solutions are in the same spirit as some of the work being done at Google’s DeepMind, with notable differences that I’m not currently at liberty to divulge. 🙂 I’m very excited to be a part of this team, and I think we’ll be making big waves in the machine learning and robotics community in the next couple of years. It’s great to be back in the machine learning game and making use of all the knowledge I gained during my doctoral research.

Speaking of which, as expected, having a full time job immediately after leaving my previous one didn’t do much to help with finishing up my dissertation. Although I didn’t finish up this summer as I had hoped, I’m happy to say that just last week I successfully defended my thesis and can now legitimately ask to be called Dr. Vigorito. It’s a great feeling to have that accomplishment under my belt, and even greater to be able to move on to new and exciting things. It was a long time coming, especially given my five year hiatus, but it’s finally done.

So yea. 2015. New job. New city. New degree. Lots of changes. I’m looking forward to all of the exciting changes in 2016.

Onwards and Upwards

It is with numerous mixed emotions that I end today, my last day of work at HitPoint Studios. It’s been a pretty wild ride for the last five years, and I truly appreciate everything I’ve learned and accomplished during my tenure there. Being a member and leader of such a great team has given me so many skills and experiences that I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life. I wholeheartedly appreciate all of the insanely hard work and assistance every member of the HitPoint team has put in over the years, and I hope to stay in touch with all of them.

I am leaving HitPoint to spend the next few months finishing up my PhD at UMass Amherst, which has long been languishing in the background of my psyche, and then moving on to new and exciting things yet to be determined. It’s a bit of an uncertain time for me, but I look forward to the challenges that uncertainty presents.

To all the HitPointers on the kick-ass team I’m leaving behind, I have no doubt you will continue to kick ass and turn out great games for tons of eager fans. Best of luck to you all!

Stay healthy. Stay hungry. Stay in touch. Ciao!

Finger Flickin' Fun – Try out Hell Marys!

Hell Marys

HitPoint’s newest game Hell Marys is now available on iOS and Android! Based on games like Hellfire and Rage of Bahamut, Hell Marys is a collectible card game that lets you battle vicious monsters with elemental magic. Collect and level up kick-ass minions and take on brutal bosses with simple flick-to-attack mechanics.

The art style of Hell Marys is its defining characteristic, drawing from sci-fi and fantasy themes and adding an over-the-top dose of heavy metal. The music is similarly intense and pulse-quickening. If you’re easily offended Hell Marys may not be for you, but for those that enjoy over-the-top entertainment we’re pretty sure Hell Marys will at least put a smirk on your face.

Those of you that are familiar with HitPoint’s other games will notice that it represents a bit of a departure from the rest of our repertoire, to say the least. The team definitely had a lot of fun making this game, and it’s our hope to branch out and show HitPoint’s diverse talents to new audiences.

We recognize that the artistic style of Hell Marys may be offensive to some people. We would never want to alienate or offend our existing players, which is why we’re releasing the game under our new subsidiary CriticalHit. This will let us maintain support for the Hell Marys community and continue to generate new content for it in a way that respects all of our players.

So if you’re looking for some fast-paced, bad-ass, quick-play fun and enjoy over-the-top heavy metal, try Hell Marys out on Android or iOS. It’s free to play!

Hell Marys

New Year, New HitPoint

The wheels are in motion! 2014 was a bit of a roller-coaster for HitPoint. We hit some pretty awesome goals, but faced our fair share of challenges and hardships as well. The upheaval at Microsoft earlier this year, particularly in their gaming division, hit us hard and was a major impetus for our decision to seek new VC funding. Thanks to members of the Western MA investor network River Valley Investors and the Springfield Venture Fund created by MassMutual, as well as other generous investors, we were able to secure enough funding to finish off the majority of our work-for-hire projects and focus the team exclusively on HitPoint-owned games through early 2015. This is both a liberating and challenging position for us to be in, but we’re embracing it with full enthusiasm and determination.

Our Facebook games are doing well and part of the team is heads down on making sure those experiences continue to be enjoyable to our players. If you haven’t checked out Seaside Hideaway, Jane Austen Unbound, Relic Quest, or Fablewood, the latter of which we recently released on iPad, give them a go and let us know what you think.

We have also licensed a mobile game that we developed for DeNA called Hell Marys, which we will be re-releasing this January. The game will be available on Android and iOS devices. The content is definitely a departure from most of the other game genres we’ve worked on, but it has been a great experience for the team to work on something different. While it’s definitely a game for mature audiences only, we’re excited to be tackling new territory and giving it the HitPoint level of polish it deserves. Look out for another post in January when we launch.

The most exciting part of our new focus, which the majority of the team has been working on the past few months, is our “next big thing”.  More details will be forthcoming in February when we announce the new product at Casual Connect Europe in Amsterdam, but for now suffice it to say it’s a very ambitious project we think is going to make a big splash in the mobile space next year. We’re all thrilled to be working on it and are doing our best to make it a fantastic user experience.

Finally, with the new year and our new direction come two other big changes for HitPoint. The first is our new logo, which is changing for the first time since HitPoint was founded in 2008. Check out the new hotness in this post’s featured image above, courtesy of one of HitPoint’s amazing artists Steve Forde. Our new branding really captures the playfulness and accessibility of our games while still paying homage to our old-school gaming roots, and we’re really happy for it to be a new way to get the HitPoint name out to the world.

The second major change is our relocation (again!). After just over a year and a half in our current space in Amherst, which we’re all quite fond of, we’ll be moving to a new office space located in the heart of Springfield’s financial district at One Financial Plaza. It’s a fantastic space with an amazing view that you can see somewhat in the photos below, which show our new suite as it is right now, under construction. What’s even more amazing is that all of this construction is happening over the course of just a couple of weeks, and we’re all set to move in this weekend! Thanks to our investors at RVI and MassMutual for making this a reality. Everything is happening very fast, but being able to start the new year in this awesome new space is a great way for us to kick off 2015, which we think will be a huge year for HitPoint. Stay tuned for more announcements as we bring all of these threads together next year to make some amazing products.

Under Construction

Under Construction

 

 

 

Fablewood is now on iPad!

HitPoint’s most recent independent game Fablewood is now available on iPad! Previously free to play only on Facebook, Fablewood is a hidden object game in which you banish evil from famous fairy tale stories you know and love, and build up your own enchanted forest. Now you can play for free on your iPad.

Our team has done an amazing job getting the game running smoothly on Apple’s tablet, and it looks fantastic on devices with retina displays. Fablewood is available on iPad 2 and higher, and requires iOS 7 or higher. You can check out some screen shots below.

If you’re already playing on Facebook, or want to play on both your iPad and your computer, Fablewood will keep all of your game data synced between your devices. Just sign into the app with Facebook on your iPad!

So if you’ve got an iPad, grab the game from the App Store and try it out. If you like it, we’d be super appreciative if you gave it a good review! If you don’t have an iPad, you can still play on Facebook, and visit our community page to leave your comments or like Fablewood. We hope you enjoy it!

Fablewood iOS Screenshot

Fablewood iOS Screenshot

Fablewood iOS Screenshot

Fablewood iOS Screenshot

Fablewood iOS Screenshot

 

Fun with GarageBand

I had U2’s “Running to Stand Still” stuck in my head for a couple of days. Last night I did this to try to get it out, courtesy of an instrumental version from karaoke-version.com and some messing around in GarageBand. Apparently adding a little reverb to your voice can make you sound halfway decent, even using a laptop mic. Now I just need to learn how to mix tracks properly.

Anyway the experiment was a failure. It’s still stuck in my head.

 

DreamWorks Dragons Adventure Takes Flight

HitPoint has just finished up development on a new mobile game based on the DreamWorks movie How to Train Your Dragon 2. The game, Dragons Adventure: World Explorer, is currently available as a free download on select Windows 8 tablets and Windows Phone 8 devices. Dragons Adventure is the result of a collaboration between HitPoint, DreamWorks, and Microsoft, and has been in the works for several months. The game has several pretty unique and innovative features, mostly centering around incorporating location-based, live data into an augmented reality experience.

In Dragons Adventure: World Explorer you play as Hiccup or Astrid and fly dragons from the DreamWorks franchise over a 3D-rendered map of the real world styled to look like Hiccup’s home island of Berk. Local points of interest show up in the world as medieval buildings. It’s not uncommon to fly over a Starbucks transformed into a medieval mead hall, or a Hilton styled to look like an ancient viking inn. You’ll even see different numbers of vikings milling outside those locations based on how popular the venue is. The game also factors in the time of day and weather conditions of the place in the world you’re traveling through, so while it might be a bright sunny afternoon outside your house, you can navigate your dragon though a rainy evening in Paris.

The most interesting part of Dragons Adventure though can only be experienced on a road trip. Hop in the car, select a destination, and the game will use your device’s GPS to plot a route out for you, complete with a viking ox-drawn cart that travels along with your car as you drive (just make sure you’re playing as a passenger!). Along your route you’ll receive quests to rescue stranded vikings, pick up lost sheep and bring them back to your cart, attack evil viking towers to free friendly imprisoned dragons, and explore the area around you to find new local hotspots you may not have known about.  Device sensor controls let you fly your dragon by tilting the device, just as if you were holding Toothless’ reins yourself! Check out some screenshots from the game below, and download it here if you’ve got a Microsoft Surface or Nokia tablet, or here if you’ve got a compatible Windows Phone 8.

Developing Dragons Adventure was both a huge challenge and a great experience for the HitPoint team. It’s the first real-time 3D game of this scope that we’ve developed, and there was no shortage of technical hurdles we had to overcome.  The biggest challenges came from the integration of the various real-world data streams into the game. The world map uses data pulled from HERE Maps to paint Berk-themed textures onto the game world’s terrain. The viking buildings that pop up throughout the game are populated based on local point-of-interest data from Foursquare. The local weather is obtained from a Weather.com live feed. Getting all of these features integrated, playing nicely with each other, and incorporated into the game’s quest design was no small task, but I think HitPoint did an amazing job pulling it off, and so far those that have played the game have had similar opinions.

We’re definitely proud of the product we were able to build with DreamWorks and Microsoft, and hopefully there will be some more interesting updates to come down the road. In the meantime if you’ve got a compatible device go check the game out and let us know what you think!

DAWE Screenshot

DAWE Screenshot

DAWE Screenshot

DAWE Screenshot

DAWE Screenshot

 

Fablewood – HitPoint's Newest Game Out Now!

HitPoint is extremely happy to announce the release of our latest game, Fablewood. Free to play on Facebook now, Fablewood is a hidden object game where you banish evil from famous fairy tale stories you know and love, and build your own enchanted forest! We’ve worked incredibly hard over the past several months to make Fablewood as beautiful and fun as it is, and we’d love for you to try it out and give us your feedback. Just click the image above to go to the app and play.

Please visit our community page to leave your comments, and click the like button if you have fun playing! Don’t hesitate to invite your friends either. We’ve got a ton of new content in the works for Fablewood that we’ll be releasing over the coming months, including numerous hidden object scenes from famous fairy tales. We’re also working hard on an iOS version of Fablewood that will be available early next year, so you’ll be able play Fablewood on the go!

If you’re still looking for a reason to check it out, take a look at some of the amazing artwork our team created for Fablewood below. There are tons more of these fantastic hidden object scenes, beautiful town buildings, and quirky items you can use to build and decorate your enchanted forest. We hope you enjoy playing the game as much as we had fun making it!

fablewood_rabbit_hole

fablewood_gingerbread_house

fablewood_enchanted_forest

fablewood_haunted_forest

fablewood_huntsmans_cottage

fablewood_reds_town

Disney Fairies – Fourth Adventure Available!

A new adventure in Disney Fairies: Hidden Treasures is now available. In North of Neverland, Tinkerbel’s ambitious plan to journey alone to the island north of Never Land soon runs into trouble when she finds herself stranded in the wilderness without pixie dust. Will Tink be able to find the Mirror of Incanta in the old pirate shipwreck in time to save the Autumn Revelry?

HitPoint has continued to put our all into making each new episode even better than the last. We definitely appreciate your feedback, so let us know what you think of it. Just purchase the new adventure from the game’s main menu and enjoy. Stay tuned for the next and final adventure of this season in the coming months!

Disney Fairies – Third Adventure Available!

The latest chapter in Tinkerbell’s adventures, titled Once in a Blue Moon, is now available for purchase in HitPoint’s and Microsoft’s Disney Fairies: Hidden Treasures. Follow Tinkerbell on her quest to create the perfect scepter for this year’s Autumn Revelry celebration. We worked very hard to make this new adventure super fun and would love to hear what you think of it. Just purchase the new chapter from the game’s main menu and enjoy. More adventures are on their way, so stay tuned!