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Games and Business…

Found a new game online that’s worth playing (being the puzzle game fanatic that I am) – PopCap Games Dynomite (a really really bad pun – if you look at the game, you’ll understand.) It’s another Puzzle Bobble / Bust-a-Move clone. However, it’s got tons of options, etc. Very slickly done – better that just about anything else that PopCap Games has done yet.

PopCap Games is pretty much where I’d like to be with Midnight Ryder Technologies. They went a different direction when they started out – instead of trying to sell games online, they did game development for corporate sponsors (like MSN’s Game Zone) where you get money up front, but no money from a continuous stream of sales. What that gave them though was something I lack – a VERY large following of people who know thier name and are more likely to check out anything they release. Well, now PopCap Games has adjusted thier model – first they did corporate sponsor only, then moved to corporate sponsor for online versions (Flash or Java based) and released full Windows versions that people could purchase, then have now released Windows only versions with no free online version. A nice slick transition over the span of a couple of years, and probably soon they will try and move into the retail market (which may actually be thier downfall if they do.) Needless to say, I’m jelous of thier success – I wish I could do the same! Midnight Ryder Technologies doesn’t net me a lot of money at the moment – I’ve got a fan base, but, not nearly as much as they have and I don’t have enough games released to keep people’s interest for extremely long periods of time.

And I’m supposed to actually have software on the shelves one of these days, if I listen to the publisher I’ve been dealing with. I don’t listen to them anymore – they have been dicking me around for so long now it’s not even funny. I keep hearing from them ‘Soon’. Rrrrriiiight. I can’t figure out WHY they would want to dick me around and keep my hanging around asking when – if they really want to get things moving, they should do it. If not, they should drop it. What they don’t know is I’m getting ready to try and turn things around and sell the products (Tile Panic! and Boulder Panic! 2 DX) out from under them to two other publishers. That way, the next time they start talking like they are ready to go, I’ll politely inform them that unless they want an non-exclusive contract for the games (which is what I’m trying to do with the two other game publishers) they will have to wait until I have a new release. It may seem petty, but, ya know what – spending a year convincing me they were going to publish my games and doing nothing but setting on them is pretty petty to. I consider this a lession for both parties – if it starts smelling a bit fishy, well, it probably is and I should start getting out of it quick instead of waiting around (of course, I never intended to publish BP!2DX anywhere but online anyway, but that’s beside the point.) And they hopefully will figure out that you don’t treat your potential contractors this way.

I’ve noticed that the game industry is starting to catch up with my original Business Plan that I drew up nearly two years ago. Figures – it also means I won’t be able to pull off the stuff I wanted to do now. One of my big plans was to fill a gap that exists for smaller developers. To license the Unreal Tournament game engine, for instance, costs $300,000. Most game develoepers balk at that (however, you can make a special deal with them and increase your royalty to them and decrease the upfront cash. Brings it down to something like $150,000, and they have to approve the game you are designing.) I figured there was a better way, and it looks like Garage Games did just that with thier Torque engine – you can license it for $100 per programmer, plus royalties. If you contribute back to the engine, they reduce the amount of royalties you owe them. Pretty close to what I had in mind (a bit cheaper actually – mine was in the $1k range for licensing, but, it was a site license that included all programmers. And there was a way to license it for free up front, but some special conditions would have had to be met.) *SIGH* Well, at least I had the right ideas – which unluckly seems to be the case on a frequent basis. I’ve got the right ideas, and don’t have the resources to pull them off before someone else does. Kinda pisses me off – if I had enough money, I could quit CEI and go to making games and engines full time, and start pulling off these ideas. However, $42k/yr is quite a bit to have to cover, something Midnight Ryder Technologies can’t do right now. So I’m still stuck in that fucking circular problem – I can’t make games fast enough when I’m working two jobs (IE, CEI and MRT) and trying to do things like rebuild the house and have a social life, but, I can’t quit CEI since MRT doesn’t have the income levels to pull it off. My Business Plan requires so little money for investment (about $100k max investment) that no one will touch it really – you need to be asking for $1 million before you get to be interesting, so that sort of thing is out of the question. It’s a fucked up situation that after two years of fighting with it, I’m still stuck there. What really makes me angry about all this though, is to look at Fucked Company and see the Dot Bombs that friggin’ were waisting $100,000+ A DAY, on Business Models that never had a fucking chance to make a profit in the first place! What were people thinking?! Ok, if you GIVE STUFF AWAY FOR FREE, you are NOT going to make it up on volume! AAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGG!!!!!!!!!

On the flip side of that, things aren’t THAT bad. I’ve got a following of people that really enjoy my games. The money trickles in slowly – it’s nice to be running my Palladium game on Saturday night and find out that I’ve made $30 while I was doing anything but working. I’ve got Microsoft somewhat on my side (Summit Software, actually, who handles the Visual Basic for Applications contracts and all that good stuff) for marketing the next game (Jumpman: 2049), and I’ve got a couple of sites that follow updates to my games now. So, it’s not like things are horrible – I’ve got things slowly workin’ out and all. Just things are too fucking slow!

And, of course, it could always be worse – I could be some stiff and not botherin’ to look at the future, but instead just trying to have a career in Industrial Automation for the rest of my life. *SHUDDER*

I do, however, need to get my home office cleaned up (worked on that a bit last night) and try and figure out how I can fit more hours of computer programming in per day so that I can get Jumpman: 2049 done one of these years, and hopefully I can get someone to do the Gremlin for Gremlin Panic! and get that out the door (that’s one that I’ll actually start showing off to publishers and seeing who bites. Same with Jumpman: 2049 maybe. Then again, developing my own publishing title has it’s own appeal, and advantages. And of course, it’s got some serious risks involved. I know a couple of people who are volunteered information, but, that only goes so far – experience of actually doing it is what will tell me what I really need to know in the end.)

One of my problems with all this type stuff is that I keep feelin’ a bit guilty. I’ve got so many things that I do that aren’t work related – for instance, gaming on Saturday nights, going over to Clayton and Tisha’s for ‘Buffy Night’ every Tuesday night, and watching Enterprise on Wednsdays. This is time I could be working – but I know if I do, then I just end up burnt out and worthless eventually You know that thing, all work and no play? Well, it’s true. I don’t see how some game developer do 80 hour weeks, have no social life, all that stuff for a year to year and a half and still get a game done. Of course, the game industry also has pretty much the highest churn rate and burnout rate of any of the computer related industries. Most people only do one game with a company, then move to the next company and do another, until they finally quit the industry entirely. (I’ve had one friend, Ryan Hagan, who closed up the company he ran, and left the game development industry. Kind of a sad thing from from multiple viewpoints.)

And for the last week, it seems most of my time at home has been spent reading a book (which I finished finally), doing spell research for my character in Jeff’s AD&D game (also done now, I think), revamping MidnightRyder.Com (which has been desperitely need – one of these days I’m going to start advertising, and I need a relatively professional looking site to back up those ads. Things are starting to look very sharp now!), and deploying a game on MidnightRyder.Com (A web based version of Tradewars 2002, for those who were into the BBS thing way back when. Pretty awsome really – works fairly close to the original, and I’m going to offer it for free to everyone and just sell ad space. Ads don’t make squat, but, it’s another small revenue stream to work from.) In other words, very little actual programming. (And, of course, I’ve been writing in my live journal – forgot about that time waster πŸ˜‰ So now I’m starting to feel really gulty πŸ˜›

But, without some time to do other things, and without Heather, I’d probably get burned out again, and quit programming for long periods of time. I guess I shouldn’t bitch too much about it.

Ok, back to work – done bitchin’ and whinin’ for a while. Time to get some Real Work done.

(Original Blog Comments)

darkswanΒ 

2002-02-28 01:40 pm UTC (from 207.18.199.140) (link)Β  Select

I guess this would be a bad time to talk about Ideas I had for games huh? To bad I’m doing it anyway. πŸ˜› I was sitting inn CHick filla looking at their add “EAt more Chiken” With the cows and was thinkign about a RTS WIth Cows VS chickens and maybe pigs or whatever it could be called Barnyard WArs or something and the main resource would be feed of some sort. Every once in a while a giant farmer would come stolling through the battlefeild dispersing feed and all the battle units would have to hide thier weapons or have them destroyed by the farmer. πŸ™‚ THe porblem is I have barely gotten past The HELLO WORLD! program so I don’t have a hope in hell of doing it. πŸ˜›

(Reply to this)(Thread)

COOOOOOOOLLLLLL!Β 

midnightryderΒ 

2002-02-28 01:59 pm UTC (from 208.34.45.132) (link)Β  Select

Actually, I like that! Alot!

I worked on an RTS engine for a while, but, the problem I had with it was this – I really didn’t have anything new to say on the subject. I don’t want to just make the next WarCraft, or what have you. I like things that are different. If you could see the visual imagery in my head at the moment, it’s just insanely funny! This is something I’ll probably chat with you about outside of the Journal for a while – it has potential, and no one has done it. Iso RTS engines are dead simple to program (I’m surprised anyone ever gets it wrong, but, they manage it sometimes ;-), it’s the game tuning that tends to be the harder part – IE, making sure one group isn’t more powerful than the other, and that there isn’t a unit that’s always the trump card, etc.

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