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A little bit of soapbox time, Shaders & Licenses, The Death Of Consulting / Birth of Nothin’ But Game Development, and my wife’s deeping association with the company, all in this week’s suspense novel of game development! (Ok, so they are just my ramblings – sue me for false advertisement ;-)

Wow – GG’s rapid-fire release of information has been interesting lately. The new Indie and Commerical licenses are just cool. These just potentially saved me a buttload of cash. What amazed me was the amount of confusion this caused – even I was a bit shocked at the advertising clause (However, the only reason I dislike the advertising clause had to do with astetics, rather than giving credit where do. I’m a big Torque supporter – I already have a spot in my game interface for the Torque logo. I just hadn’t planned on a full screen version of it πŸ™‚
Then GG releases information about TNA (er… TNL? I like TNA better πŸ˜‰ and TSE. And I thought the license change produced confusion. These two produced so much crud… it’s just amazing.
Which leads into my SoapBox… if you have to complain that TSE is too expensive, or that GG is being unfair, then your project is going to FAIL. It’s that simple. The investment in TSE is incredibly small compaired to the investment in time to create shader fx, test ’em, etc.
How many games have been developed in the GG community? I can only think of a couple of successes (and I don’t count Trajectory Zone as a success. It hasn’t been released yet): Orbz, Think Tanks, Marble Blast (probably shouldn’t count since GG produced it ;-), Legends, Lore, and a handful of others. Now, how many active game projects are in development (or, at least have shown off concept art, put up help-wanted postings, etc.) And, in the last two years – how many have simply gone away? A lot.
Why? Producing a game is hard work. LOTS of hard work. Heck, Torque gives ya a big ol’ short cut, and it’s STILL hard work. Even some of the big guns in the community have had moment where they weren’t sure if they could get the job done. Adding shaders to a game just increases the amount of work to be done – making it even easier for the project to flake out and die. Why add more to your workload? Now, I’m not saying every project that adopts TSE is going to die – I’m planning on adopting TSE at some point too (just not on this project – TSE isn’t ready for primetime, so that’s no surprise). I just think a lot of inexperienced developers have no idea what they are getting themselves into, and just adding more work is going to add to the failures.Β 
I’m sure someone is going to point out that resources like CgShaders.org exist – well, those don’t always fit your needs, and there’s already free texture libraries that exist and going unused by most small groups (why use an existing wheel when a new one is so tempting? I’m guilty of this too, and you DO still have to make new content.) And there’s still integration and testing time, adding to the already heavy amount of work to even do simple games (or the unbelieveably huge amount of work to do 75% of the games I’ve seen described.)
It makes me happy to see a new game release. It makes me a little sad when I run across a resurrected thread that mentions a game that hasn’t been heard of from a year now. I want more happyness and less sadness – more games, less failures πŸ™‚ I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – make a small game, and build from your successes (both financially and in your game dev education πŸ™‚ I know no one ever wants to hear that they could fail, but, I’m telling ya – I’ve written more than one game so far, and the bigger the task, the more likely ya’ are to burn out, have the team leave, etc. It takes a lot to get a game completed, it takes very little to cause failure.
Oh, and I’m still incredibly happy that GG actually did TSE – probably be a while before it’s useful for cross platform work (what I want – and I could be wrong on how long it’s gonna be) but when it is – I’m all over it! πŸ™‚
Still not done with my soapbox here – one more thing was the incredibly crappy responses I saw from various people over TNA, TSE, and the licenses. I’m not saying you need to STFU, but, how about taking a deep breath, and read what you just wrote before posting. Many posts looked like someone failed to enguage thier local mental resources (IE, brains) before nearly attacking GG (or other community members – and some of those were outright attacks.) Yes, there are always loonies in every community – it happens. But the community has grown considerably over the last two years, and recently the number of people who attack others is going up. This isn’t isolated to people who are new to game development – there’s a couple of places where people who are pros at game development lashed out. Look – if you’ve been doing it for a while now, you know how to act properly in a forum. Be a role model to others.
But the best one I saw (as in, worst offender) that really sticks out in my brain was when someone asked a question pointed towards GG (keeping in mind that GG is getting ready for GDC, among all the other stuff already going on with thier announcements), and someone else piped up with an answer (which was correct.) Instead of a thank you, they got what could be sumed up as “STFU, I didn’t ask you.”
News flash, folks – some people do know what’s going on, and will happily step up to provide information. GG is busy as heck, and I’m sure they appreciate an extra hand with that sort of thing (but I could be wrong – they could just be massicists πŸ˜‰ I knew the answer to that particular question too, because of the people I keep in contact with. It’s a community, and some people here are fairly well informed. Accept thier help with a smile when they try and clarify things for you. If the answer should happen to be wrong, someone like Ben will clarify the issue for you. So STFU πŸ˜‰ (Yes, last word is a joke – I almost submitted this with just the smiley. They realized that probably wasn’t enough. So I bolded it. Then I added this note. Jeezzz… too much work to try and have a sense of humor about things anymore πŸ™‚
Ok, putting away the rather large soapbox now, and moving to slightly more mundane things.
It finally had to happen – I’m almost out of work. Like, I’m now working at the moment at all – instead, I’m waiting on parts to show up so I can finish some control electrical work I was doing for my ex-Day Job. After I finish that, I’ve got no more income until the next consulting job comes along (in a couple of weeks, but, it’s a very short job).Β 
I had seriously considered getting a job to make ends meet for just a little longer until TZ is finished off and some sort of income is seen from it. However, my wife has encouraged me to set around the house and be a game programmer. What a woman πŸ™‚ We’re not in bad shape really – my wife had been preparing for just this sort of thing. But the idea of zero income is rather disconcerting.
But one thing the whole budget lacks – there’s no marketing money in there. At all. This is all survival money. No new tools, no marketing cash, no replacement for the development machine if it dies. No money to go to IGC ’04! It probably goes without saying – survival only money doesn’t help a company prosper.Β 
So right now we’re exploring a small business loan. This gets me tied to full time Indie game developer status, in a big way. If I still had a consistent income, I’d avoid this like the plague, and continue with the slow build method – it’s the lowest load, lowest risk way of doing things. But since I’m not afforded that option anymore, it’s time to go a different route. Sure, I COULD go get another job to continue my current path, but how fair is that to a potential employer?
I’ve pulled out the old business plan, and started cutting out old cruft (it’s been a while since it’s been updated) and updating to reflect the current plans. I’ve got to go through the normal painful research process for the third time. Bleh. But that’s ok – it’s for a good cause πŸ™‚
Consulting isn’t COMPLETELY dead, just close – I’ve got some customers tapping me to do some fairly high-profit jobs at the moment, but all of those are still in bid situations. Which means they may or may not happen. I’m betting on not, and proceeding with just doing games – if they happen, then it’s just a bonus πŸ™‚
During our conversation about what to do about the current situation, my wife pitched me a game. Now, it’s not uncommon for us to discuss game development topics. It is uncommon for her to dominate the conversation with something of her own design. The discussion was quick development games, and juggling short term income producers -vs- bigger long term development games I’d like to do (like Jumpman: 2049 – that’s the next longer term dev game.) Thus was born:Β 
Joe Nobody And The Temple of Uncertain Doom
(Working title, but, that may be the final version of the title.) She managed to describe in about 10 minutes a perfectly simple gamestyle, translated into 3D using Torque. I expanded it a bit and we hammered out some rough areas. But over supper we managed to work together and complete the design. I was fairly impressed. My wife has talked about working with the game company many times, normally as a modeler / texture artist. But discussing and designing the game – that was just plain cool. Not sure when work on such a beast would begin since TZ isn’t done and there’s other irons in the fire (though I did start writing down my asset list for it), but it’s gonna be a lot of fun working with her on it πŸ™‚
Davis Ray Sickmon, Jr Β  (Mar 23, 2004 at 11:26) Β 
One additional note from my soapbox section…
There are people who only want to experiement with TSE – they aren’t interested in creating the next UT2k4, or even really any game in particular. They just want to play around with it, learn how things work, study engine design, etc. For those people, ‘specially since they are not going to derive any income from the engine, I do make an exception about complaining about TSE’s price – though, where else would the get access to Shaders for such a cheap price?
Michael Cozzolino Β  (Mar 23, 2004 at 11:42)
I always enjoy reading your plans Davis. That is way cool that your wife wants to work with you on game development. It will give you time together. I wish my wife was interested. We don’t get to spend enough time together.
Steven Jackson Β  (Mar 23, 2004 at 12:00)
Well said, sir. And hopefully TZ is out before long, I’ve been waiting for it πŸ™‚ Good luck with everything plus JNATTOUD (man, that’s a lot of initials for a game name.. I can’t think of a longer one)
Jerane Alleyne Β  (Mar 23, 2004 at 12:31)
Hey Davis,
I’m looking into small business loans as well, for advertiseing and other minor/major expenses. I checked out the SBDC and they gave me some good info on one of their smaller loans (5K – 20K). Also helped to get one of those Lesko books.
I look at the loans as a kind of last resort, as I’m doing a bit of consulting myself, hoping to use the scrapings from that. Let me know if you want any additional info on what I found out…not much, but maybe something πŸ™‚
Looking forward to TZ too!
Davis Ray Sickmon, Jr Β  (Mar 23, 2004 at 13:16) Β 
Michael: Thanks πŸ™‚Β 
Steven: Heheh – I hope TZ comes out before too long too πŸ˜‰ I’ve got other things I really want to move on to. Too bad I’m not quite smart enough to pull off a similar game name, and have it’s acronym work out as well as EPROM (Escape from the Planet Of Robot Monsters πŸ™‚
Jerane: If I go the loan route, I’m guessing that I’ll be shooting for double the cap on an SBA micro-loan ($20k, IIRC) I’d rather shoot for over funded than under funded – you can always pay back easier than you can get more (plus, under funding when dealing with loans is one of the easiest ways to garantee you don’t get the loan. Underfunding is deadly to startups.) But sure – pass it on! πŸ™‚ Heck, go one better – why not write up some of the information you’ve found about small loans as a GG resource for people to better understand what they are facing when they start talking about getting money to finish a game, etc. (I keep intending to do that one o’ these days myself, but never get around too it. Too many other things to do πŸ™‚
Josh Williams Β  (Mar 23, 2004 at 13:34)
Yay for TZ! Yay for cool Wives!
Looking forward to seeing your stuff, Davis. πŸ™‚
Jay Barnson Β  (Mar 23, 2004 at 15:16)
I think you are a lucky man to have such a supportive wife, Davis. Here’s hoping TZ pays off in a big way. Well, at least well enough to keep the wolf from the door and pay off the debts you picked up putting it together!
Your talk about FINISHING a game strikes a chord with me. I think it comes down to the 80/20 rule… 20% of the job takes 80% of the effort. And its always the last 20%. (I’ve heard a variant of this rule.. “The first 90% of the project takes 90% of the effort, and the remaining 10% takes the other 90% of the effort.”) Even as a former professional in retail game development, I get surprised by how much remains to be done even after the “hard part” of getting the core game running and playing seems done. That’s where the real “work” comes in. If you are only satisfying your own ego/curiosity, you reach a plateau. It’s where you have to quit making a game for yourself and start serving your audience / customers.
Up until that point, you can run on excitement and enthusiasm. After that, it takes DISCIPLINE and strength of commitment. It’s not something people readily associate with creating something fun.
I guess it behooves all of us… and GG specifically… to encourage folks not to give up, especially after a project completely folds. Start smaller the next time. Look at Orbz (my favorite GG game so far…) – the thing is hardly a massive, bleeding-edge giant. But it’s successful, and very fun. There’s nothing stopping any small team of motivated individuals from creating a great game on a similar scale. But it still takes more than a couple of weekends of hacking to build something like that!
Davis Ray Sickmon, Jr Β  (Mar 23, 2004 at 15:39) Β 
I agree with ya, Jay – we all should provide encouragement. I do feel however that we should also share our experience – when someone shows up with an MMORPG idea they want to develop, I don’t feel it’s right to tell them not to do it, but I do feel it’s right to tell them what they are in for.Β 
Plus I’d love to see more informational stuff geared towards just starting Indies or people trying to span that last 10% of the project – that point where they run outta steam and the project dies, or they start realizing they haven’t addressed marketing, or the realize they don’t have the money to market the project (thus my comment to Jerane about writing up the info he has on micro loans), or… well, you get the idea πŸ™‚ But that’s just me bein’ over talkative, and wishing we all had all the information we need at our fingertips without havin’ ta’ dig deep for days finding it πŸ˜‰
Jerane Alleyne Β  (Mar 24, 2004 at 03:19)
Davis: Yeah, I thought about doing this as well, but same as you, just a lot of extra stuff going on πŸ˜›Β 
I’ll try to consolidate the info and post it…hopefully it’ll be at least partially helpful πŸ™‚
Sebastien Bourgon Β  (Mar 24, 2004 at 07:51)
“95% of the problems are caused by 5% of the people.”
or in this case 95% of the workload is caused by 5% of the bugs/features.
etc, etc.
Although I’d just to like to say I always prefered my own wheel to using someone elses wheel. There are just so many less legal issues with it. I dont want SCO sueing me because some part of Unix through Linux through the Open Source Movement made its way into my code πŸ™‚
Frankly if people are going to get TSE just to look at how its implemented, they’re better off buying a few computer books on DirectX9, Shaders, etc which depending on the books may just well pass the TSE pricemark. But I’ve always found a book to be a much better reference material then a bunch of code on my PC. Books come with explanations, code does not πŸ˜‰
Oh, last month marked my joining the Lore team back when it wasn’t Lore… It wasn’t even the same game (It was basically the Torque demo at that point with 2 custom player models) Year later and here I am bashing on the last 5%.

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