By Alpa Agarwal

It no longer requires a big budget to design, develop and distribute a commercial, online game. Wild Pockets, a spin off from Carnegie Mellon University’s Entertainment Technology Center, is democratizing game development and making it accessible to everyone. Its development platform provides an easy way for anyone to create, publish and monetize 3D games. It is free to use and simplifies all elements of game development, making it an ideal platform for independent developers, hobbyists, students, and game enthusiasts. “Our vision is that people will use the technology for things I have never dreamed of in the realm of games, education, training, visualization, architecture, art, design and much more,” says its founder and CEO, Shanna Tellerman. The company currently has over 5,000 registered game developers. Fifty game titles have been published to date and the company estimates hundreds more to be in development.

The Wild Pockets game building platform, like all finished Wild Pockets games, runs entirely online, in a web browser. The builder uses a renderer written in OpenGL, which works across all browsers, with Mac support coming soon, and provides hardware-rendered 3D content in the web browser. It also includes a built-in particle system, a graphical GUI editor, saved game support, and a performance-tracking analytics system. Wild Pockets games are written in the scripting language Lua and easily tested using a script mirroring system. Games can be displayed on any website that allows embedded content, similar to embedding a YouTube video, which allows for the viral distribution of any game. Art can be imported and exported using software plugins, and a global library of content, populated both by the Wild Pockets team and Wild Pockets users, makes it easy to get a game built quickly. The library includes models, animations, textures, sounds, and fonts, as well as collections of scene objects and their properties, game scripts, script modules, and sample code. In all, this development ecosystem now includes over 25,000 assets.

Wild Pockets also offers an integrated monetization system that makes it easy for developers to offer virtual goods and embed micro-transactions into their games. Monetization methods can be added to games easily with a single line of code. By invoking a simple Wild Pockets API call, a developer can charge money for content within a game, including new levels or new items, or for a game itself. Players can purchase Wild Pockets virtual currency coins and spend them on any game content in any Wild Pockets game, and Wild Pockets shares a small portion of the revenue with the developer. The company is in the process of developing a network of partner distribution sites that will make it easier for independent developers to showcase and market their work.

Wild Pockets’ revenue is derived from a revenue share on commercial games that incorporate micro-transactions or advertising and the soon to launch developer marketplace. “We do not make money until the developer makes money and even then we take a small cut so that the independent developers can thrive,” says Tellerman.

The company has taken a grassroots marketing approach, hosting both on and offline events. One of its most successful events has been a series of Game Jams – free, two-day live events where small teams compete to create the best game in 24 hours. The second annual Bay Area Game Jam, sponsored by Microsoft, will be held May 15-16 at Microsoft’s Silicon Valley Campus, 1065 La Avenida, Mountain View, CA 94043.