Brunette Games Nominated for a 'Business of the Year' Award - Vote Now!

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Brunette Games has been nominated for the Business of the Year Award sponsored by our Mid-County Chamber of Commerce, of which we are a member. About the award:

Established in 2011, the Chamber Business of the Year Award is an award that recognizes a Chamber business who demonstrated an exceptional contribution to their industry or community within the past year. Nominated businesses should be a model business, with a reputation of excellence in one or more of the following areas: Industry Achievement, Revenue Growth, Outstanding Customer Service, Innovative products and services, creative marketing endeavors, and community involvement.

We're honored to receive the nomination and proud of our Chamber membership. Through a very difficult year for many small, local businesses, we've been impressed by the communal spirit, innovation, and unflagging entrepreneurship of our fellow Chamber members as they've weathered lengthy lockdowns and a host of new processes and procedures during the pandemic.

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We're also proud to support St. Louis as a place for game industry jobs and of our role in providing valuable employment locally, as cited in our nomination letter:

Brunette Games has [nearly] doubled its revenue in the last year and hired local students from Webster University and St. Louis University. The opportunity to get experience in the exceedingly lucrative game industry is a huge opportunity for local students.

You can VOTE for Brunette Games by December 9. Wish us luck!


Brunette Games Founder Lisa Brunette Named 'Top Influencer' in Game Industry

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Our head honcho here at Brunette Games was recently named a 'top influencer' in the game industry by UserWise. Lisa Brunette was included in a roundup of experts, along with the likes of Rovio lead designer Harshal Karvande and industry vet Lloyd Melnick. "Gaming experts know it takes business, math and engineering skills to make a great game," writes author Mike Moran, "but the real pros have made the industry into an art form." 

A couple of corrections to the piece: She hadn't quite logged 30 years (more like 15) in her career by the time Nintendo drew her to the game industry, and that was in 2009, not 2007. If those two things were true, she'd be positively ancient today, which she isn't, although she's certainly logged enough experience to be considered a veteran game professional. Moran highlights a longtime trajectory in interactive writing and design, beginning with a science exhibit back in the late 90s and culminating in the narrative-focused work we do now at Brunette Games.

"It's an honor to be included," says Lisa. "Especially as the only woman of eight to be named as influencer." It's a distinction Moran highlights:

She has game-writing credits on hundreds of titles (not to mention a trilogy of novels) and has been leading the way for women in a male-saturated world for years. 

Read the full article over at UserWise.


'Power of Storytelling in Blockbuster Casual Games' - A Data-Driven Collaboration with Om Tandon

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Brunette Games Founder Lisa Brunette recently co-authored an article with popular industry analyst Om Tandon of UX Reviewer on the subject of why and how narrative fuels the rise of many blockbuster casual mobile games. "Power of storytelling in blockbuster casual games" is part of a series in which Om takes a deep dive into what makes top tier games in this space tick. In part 1, Om looked at how to crack the match-3 code, part 2 featured an interview with the Playrix team behind the Gardenscapes and Homescapes phenomenon, and here in part 3, Om interviews Lisa.

You can read the full article at GameRefinery, but here's an excerpt:

It's like the old saying goes: Trying to design a major hit game is like trying to capture lightning in a bottle. If there were one sure formula, everyone would have a hit, right? While many ingredients make a game popular with players - from a well-designed match-3 puzzle to the right blend of customization and progression pacing in the decorating element - it's our opinion at Brunette Games that a quality story is key.

With so many match-3 games on the market, and so many decorating games as well, story could be one of the key distinguishing factors you have at your disposal. 


Meet Our Voice Actors, Part 1: American Voices

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Cammie Middleton is an accomplished stage and screen actor, voice-over artist, jazz and blues vocalist, and stand-up comedian. She's worked with Brunette Games for more than a year, with credits in both Jam City's Wild Things: Animal Adventures and Pride & Prejudice: Jane Austen Solitaire by Super Gaming. She's actually an old friend of Brunette Games founder Lisa Brunette; the two go waaaay back.

Fun Fact: They once caravanned from the Midwest to the Florida Keys with a crew of friends and two VWs... the Bug broke down on the way there, necessitating a trip to an Atlanta junkyard, and the Bus stalled out on the way back. It was resurrected with the help of a Greek fisherman, who painted the hub caps gold!

What Cammie Loves About Voice Acting

I love that I get to create a whole world of characters from my very own soul. Characters that are vibrant and polarizing. I get to go work in a special playground, my imaginative heart.

Read Cammie Middleton's bio.

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A highly experienced game industry voice actor, Andy Mack's worked with Brunette Games for more than a year as well, with voice-over credits in three different games: Uken's newly released Ava's Manor: A Solitaire Story, Pride & Prejudice: Jane Austen Solitaire by Super Gaming, and Wild Things: Animal Adventures, a Jam City title. Players love Andy's utterances for the dog character in Ava's Manor, Marlowe, so much that they rank the dog as their top favorite, just under main character Ava!

Fun Fact: Andy and Lisa have credits in many of the same hidden-object puzzle adventure games published through Big Fish.

What Andy Loves About Voice Acting

I love VO because it’s a cathartic form of playtime and allows players to connect more with a game and its world. It gives me the opportunity to be other people, creatures, monsters, and everything else I got in trouble for in school.

Read Andy Mack's bio.

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New to the Brunette Games team, Ernest White II writes, produces, and stars in Fly Brother, a debut travel docu-series airing on PBS in the United States and CreateTV worldwide.

Fun Fact: Ernest is also an old friend of Lisa Brunette; the two met around the, um... turn of the millennia when attending grad school for creative writing at University of Miami. They've been writing buddies ever since. "I've enjoyed watching Ernest's written storytelling branch into multimedia projects," says Lisa, "and we're thrilled to get his silky voice into our clients' games." 

What Ernest Loves About Voice Acting

I love connecting with people through my voice. I love engaging the listener, surprising the listener, seducing the listener, pleasing the listener. I get joy out of knowing that people enjoy my voice. That's what makes it fun.

Read Ernest White's bio.

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Also new to the team, Nicole Perez comes from the interesting world of Chicago comedy theater, voice over, and teaching and has made a career by striking a balance in all of them. Her improv theater background guides her voice over sessions to be experimental and open to discovering something unique in projects. She's a fan of learning and narrating complicated medical jargon.
 
Fun fact: Nicole's first live-announcing job was for an awards ceremony for a multi-networking marketing company. She remained behind the curtain for most of it unless she poured tea. It had that "great-and-powerful Oz" feeling, but was really just 5-foot, 3-inch-tall Nicole standing in a corner.

What Nicole Loves About Voice Acting

I love voiceover because no matter the script, you can find a story and a character in anything. If it isn't stated in the script, I get to cook up the world inside my mind and let the mic do the rest. I love exploring characters on mic because I can be inside their mind, as their consciousness. The joy of this even comes to having this moment in commercial copy. It may be an ad about toothpaste, but really... like a good drama... it's always more than just about the toothpaste. 

Read Nicole Perez's bio.

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Also new to the team but certainly not new to game VO, Marqui Maresca is a pro at bringing characters to life that you’ll really care for. You’ll find her voice in the smash hit game franchise Angry Birds, cawing and screaming as the character Silver in the game release Angry Birds Evolution. If you fancy yourself a bit more of the mid-evil game play, you’ll run into her again, as the voice for Sultana from the game that was awarded “Best Family MMO of the Decade” by Massively, Wizard 101.

Fun Fact: Some of Marqui’s favorite performance moments include flying through the air as a stunt swing dancer for the Trace Adkins music video Honky Tonk Badonkadonk and rapping on the MTV sketch comedy Scratch and Burn.

What Marqui Loves About Voice Acting

I love the process of developing a character’s voice. By the time a voice-over artist comes in to work, the writers and graphic designers have already put so much time and consideration into carefully crafting these complex characters. It’s such an honor to be trusted with one of the final phases of the character creation process. There’s nothing like voicing a character for the first time in a room with the creative team and the moment everyone smiles and say…. yep that’s it!

Read Marqui Maresca's bio.


Punchline: How to Use Humor to Bridge Player Connection

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Sam always has something to say in RollerCoaster Tycoon Story

By Dexter Woltman

Who doesn’t love a good joke? Here at Brunette Games, we’ve always believed in three pillars of game storytelling: conflict, mystery, and connection. While there are various forms of connection, one of its cores is the emotional investment players form with the characters and story in a game. One way to bridge this connection is through the use of humor. 

In the casual mobile game market, humor is essential to storytelling. It sparks an authentic connection between the medium of entertainment and the audience. Earlier this year, I wrote about Scoops, the comedic sensation in Redemption Games’ hit title, Sweet Escapes. While Scoops has been a long-time fan-favorite, the key for me is pushing Scoops beyond the traditional comedic relief role by using his humor to bring conflict, mystery, and connection to the narrative.

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Scoops is the comedic sensation of Sweet Escapes

Comedic characters aren’t just there to make audiences laugh. They can cater to the storyline and world of a game, as well as the goals of the developer. When done right, humor lassos in a player’s retention just as Scoops does in Sweet Escapes. Since mobile games are often played in short bursts, a good joke is key to making that time memorable. However, writing effective humor is no easy task. Not only does a writer have to continuously produce high-quality punchlines that are certain to land, but the execution has to be flawless, or else the scene will flop.

So how do you write a good joke? Prepare to open Pandora’s Box. The first step is to establish what genre of comedy caters to your target demographic. Brunette Games has worked across a variety of titles, each with their own unique brand of humor. In Matchington Mansion and Sweet Escapes, characters’ lighthearted quirks are on full display. Solitaire: Farm & Family finds its jokes grounded in more down-to-earth storylines, and RollerCoaster Tycoon Story puts eccentrics on center stage. Vineyard Valley is more raunchy and in-line with shows like Friends, and Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff capitalizes on abrupt antics. Each of these titles has its own audience, making it important to realize what kind of people play your game.

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Working Squirrel has an idea for Lois in Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff

The next step is execution. It’s not enough to have an idea. As John Cleese says, “It’s not that an idea is funny. It is that an idea done exactly right is funny.” If a joke feels forced, audiences may simply roll their eyes or ignore it. To form a true connection between players and a game, the humor has to flow naturally.

And what if the jokes just aren’t coming to you? There are two ways to assist with writer’s block. The first is character compatibility. If two or more characters are in a scene and the humor isn’t coming through, you may be using the wrong characters. The best jokes blossom through genuine chemistry, whether it’s positive or negative. If two characters aren’t compatible, you may consider opting for a stronger pairing. This is especially true in titles like Sweet Escapes or Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff, where there’s a whole town of differing personalities. Some match-ups work perfectly, and others simply don’t. There’s a reason the hit show How I Met Your Mother produced a full episode on why main characters Robin and Marshall don’t pair together.

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Joy and Duncan have great chemistry in Sweet Escapes

The other way to help is by finding inspiration through real references. By comparing your character to a comedic source you’re familiar with, you’re laying out your own groundwork. For example, actress Betty White has such a strong personality. We used her antics as inspiration for the scene-stealing grandmother in Solitaire: Farm & Family. This isn't copying or stealing a character, but rather using them as inspiration for your own unique vision. Then, once you’ve had experience establishing engaging characters, you can work to create your own brand of humor with someone new, much as we did with Aggy in Sweet Escapes.

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Aggy is the new character introduced in the second season of Sweet Escapes

The key to a good joke is the element of surprise. Humor isn’t just about finding a punchline, it’s doing the unexpected. Audiences laugh because the joke doesn’t fit the norm of the conversation. With Scoops or Aggy, it’s nearly impossible to predict what either of them will say next, and that’s what makes them so funny. So, when you’re brainstorming ways to punch-up your joke, consider how you can make it even more unexpected.

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Meemee says the unexpected in Wild Things

When it comes to connecting players through humor, it’s not just about making the right joke. It’s about building a world that caters to its comedy. Even when writing for already-established IPs and worlds—as we do for Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff—you can still find a way to make their established humor your own by expanding your creativity to new audiences. Once the humor flows naturally, so will audiences’ connection.