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Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

Purdy company develops video games

Friday, July 16, 2010

The portability of technology allows ideas and products to be developed anywhere. Coby Utter is doing just that, developing a video game in Purdy for international marketing as part of the Genesis Project.

Utter's company, Pixelscopic, is one of three new businesses operating under Ed Mareth's entrepreneurial program. A 2002 Purdy High School graduate, Utter welcomed the chance to come back home to develop an idea that he hopes will become a keystone in his career.

Speaking in his office in the historic Purdy hotel renovated for the Genesis Project, Utter said the video game business is well past the "flash in the pan" status. The industry now generates more money annually than the movie industry in Hollywood.

Utter has been in the business for several years. He graduated from the University of Missouri-Kansas City as a chemist then went back to school to finish a degree in computer science.

Utter got a job at Black Lantern Studios in downtown Springfield and worked there for three years, eventualling leaving the position of director of programming. Black Lantern is the only video game developer in Missouri.

"I got sick of corporate culture," Utter said. "The company doubled in size and lost the creative focus it had."

Utter began working with David Loomis, whom he had met working on an independent video game, and they formed their own company Two Tonic and they worked together long distance. Utter lived in Mexico with his new wife, a Mexican national, while Loomis lived in Tennessee. They finished a game that will be released in the very near future.

Mareth approached Utter about bringing the new business to Purdy. Initially, the pieces didn't all fit together, but the conversation continued. Utter and his wife decided it would be a good time to return to the United States.

"I believed in (Mareth's) vision," Utter said. "It was a good opportunity for us. I took it."

Utter found a new business partner, Ryan Baker, who had worked as director of art at Black Lantern and who had become a freelance artist. Together they formed the company Pixelscopic and created a new game called "Wispa Forest," now in the final phases of development. They have two other products in the works and other work-for-hire products started.

"A video game makes income for four to seven years," Utter said. "The big gain comes on the back end when you have several games marketed."

"Wispa Forest" is set in a fantasy world, shaped by friendly cartoon-like graphics. Utter called it an "I Spy" game where the player looks for visual elements on the screen. The game is set in a fantasy world where the bad fairy queen has been trying to cross into the real world. Her actions have brought pollution and a lot of garbage into the fantasy world. The player's goal is to spot the garbage on each screen and clean it up. Extra points are earned for picking up several pieces at once.

"It's a casual game," Utter said. "It's not for 17-to-25 year-old males who will play all night. There's no violence. The age range is from reading ability up, young to old, including families. It's a single player game, but many people can help find the lost objects."

"Wispa Forest" will be available on Amazon.com and game sites like BigFishGames.com. Amazon is working with Big Fish on setting a release date. The game will come out in English and eight other languages.

"People are usually surprised that creating video games is a job," Utter said. "At its core is math-driven software development melded with art and design. The game is a combination of the two. Ultimately, entertainment is an integral part of keeping society together. We may not cure cancer, but we will make people smile."

Utter moved back to Purdy on April 17 and had his office up and running by the end of May.

"It's really good to be back around family and friends," Utter said. "It's a good feeling to walk down the street knowing everyone. There's something to be said about being home."

Utter has been impressed with Mareth's vision and the support he has received in getting established, including providing help in finding a place to live.

"Ed looks out for people in the program with expectation that we look out for the community," Utter said. "When you get to do something you really enjoy, you do whatever you need to do to make it succeed. I'm proud to be part of [the Genesis Project]. I hope the community will be proud of us too." 

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