Minor update on projects, moving servers, and the fundamental problem I have with the way some people think.

Well, my webhost finally ticked me off one too many times. So I pulled up stakes, and moved my virtual tent somewhere else. I never realized how much stuff I’ve put on MidnightRyder.Com over the years until it was time to move it all. Wow. I started the process on an ISDN line, and finally had to give up and move to a much higher-bandwidth cable modem to do the job for parts of it.
I can already say, DAMN I’m much happier already! I haven’t even finished moving things yet, and I’m already having a great experience with the new hosting company (DreamHost, if you are currious.) Thier control panel app is friggin’ amazing, as are thier options. Right now I’m just using thier second tier of hosting. After a while, I’ll move to the 3rd tier, which includes CVS access on the server. MMmm… wonderful :-) 
One of the REALLY wonderful things about this – I can finally allow post a resource that I’ve always wanted to, and create a couple o’ things that I’d love to introduce people to from the experts in game development and game design. Ever wanted to talk software development with guys from almost all of the top game shops (Sony, EA, Microsoft, etc – name a name, and with the exception of Id, they have at least on person subscribed on it. And no – I’m not kidding.) The SWEng-GameDev and the GameDesign lists are great resources I’ve been keeping hidden – mainly because the mailing list sub/unsub broke so often, and I was having to handle things by hand. That gets PAINFUL after a while, so, I didn’t want to see a rush of people sub’ing to it or something.
Plus, one of the things that goes on the SWEng-GameDev list from time to time is ‘Surveys’ – where everyone pipes up about thier professional experience about a subject. (The latest one was how many of the big boys are actually using reusable engines or licensing other engines, rather than rewriting from scratch for every product, and what the final success level of that was based on product made.) Some of this information is gold-mine type stuff at times. I’m going to be digging a lot of the information, and putting together articles from time to time, and the Survey results for people to see and talk about. Any advantage an Indie can get… 🙂
It should be noted that very few of my ideas on marketing, distribution, etc. are novel concepts. Instead, I listen to what other developers are sayin’ about thier experience doing ‘x’, and start researching it and playing mental chess with the idea. David “RM” Michael told me a lot about what he was doing, and I downright stole his ideas within a week after getting some time to think about that. (Well, that’s not completely true – I had thought about it a bit before, but after talking with David I changed my mind on a couple o’ points, and started moving that direction for my smaller project stuff.)
Maze Panic! is picking up steam now. This is a ‘filler’ project – basically, a quick money maker. I needed something to replace the slowly dwindling sales of Boulder Panic! 2 DX and Tile Panic!. They have just been around too long now, and interest in them is starting to be lost. No problem – the served thier task. I learned a whole boatload about game development, customer relations, etc. And I made money. I proved that part could work 🙂 Heck… I never even met my release shedule (dissalusionment and distractions part of the time is what happened), but I actually continued to make money. Had I been SMART, I would have finished up a couple more games, and shipped them.
*BLINK, BLINK* Oh heck… that hurt. I just had a thought. I’ve got a nearly completed game setting in a directory, just waiting for the title character. Gremlin Panic! is a puzzle game with a SERIOUS twist – all I needed to finish it really was add the twist. Suppose I should find someone to finish off the 2D graphic for the main character (the Gremlin) and ship it one o’ these days!
Anyway… Maze Panic! looks like it could be a really interesting, different, and fun game. Four play modes, and I’m not sure how many inital mazes that it’s going to be released with. However, every month we’ll release new mazes, new skins, and whatever new toys I feel are appropriate 🙂 Should give the game a fairly long lifespan with it’s user base.
After I get done with it, and release things, I’ll go back to TZ, and continue hacking on it. I’ll be splitting my time a little bit – I’m not sure which of the next ‘small’ projects I’ll be picking on after that, but, I’ll figure it out sometime soon.
It looks like one of my favorite ‘pet projects’, Jumpman: 2049, is probably going to move to Torque. I started looking at how to implement something like a 2D game, and realized it was rather easy to be honest. So, I’ll do it in there – I can make the animation oodles nicer, have access to the particle fx (one of my favorite toys – if you’ve ever seen a screenshot of TZ, or saw it briefly at IGC, you can tell ;-), etc. And… cross platform 🙂
I’ve also started the wheels turning on the next ‘big’ project – it’s quite a ways off yet though. Heck… it’s too far away to really start even talking about it much yet, since so much of the design is still up in the air. Better yet… forget I mentioned it 😉 It’s definitely not getting any serious attention until after TZ is release, and some of the smaller money builder projects are released.
WARNING: For those who are overly sensitive or easily offended concerning being an Indie Game Developer, you might want to skip this part of my .plan. You’ve been warned 😉
Ok, what the hell is it with people who have decided to program games for the first time thinking that they know EVERYTHING. I mean, I totally understand comin’ into the situation with some ideas of your own. That’s not a bad thing – someone has to at least try to innovate.
But if you are plannin’ on trying to sell games, do yourself a favor: do some research before you run your mouth with facts. You might discover they aren’t facts.
Here’s some interesting facts for ya… Hardcore games don’t nessiarily make the most money, and don’t spend the most time at the top of the list.
The following is based on August 1999 – September 2000, 8500 retail and mailorder stores. Ranking in this case is based on information I compiled – each title gets 1 point based on being in the top 10 selling games for a month.
So what was #1 for that time period? Age Of Empires 2. #2? Roller Coaster Tychoon. #3? The EXPANSION for Roller Coaster Tychoon – Roller Coaster Tychoon: Corkscrew! #4? Who Wants To Be A Millionare? (!!!!) There’s a whole list o’ games, all ranked, in my research paper.
I had to do all the marketing research. But, I think I know what I’m gonna do – once the MidnightRyder.Com move is complete, I’m going to add that set of facts to the new section for development stuff, and throw it on here as a resource. It will blow your mind, if you expected to see Unreal Tournament (released in that timeframe) to be on top, along with Half-Life and the other hard-core gamer titles. 
The basic facts end up being this – a lot of the big names DID make it onto the list. Just not in the ranks you expect. Why? There’s not as much money to be had for a big sales item in the hardcore area as there are to be made in the casual gamer market. I still question to myself if some of them I put in the HardCore category belong there – AoE2, for instance, I listed as HardCore, but, I think it actually falls into casual area too. You could debate a lot of items on the list like that.
Anyway – back to the real point of all this. It’s amazing to see someone with these big ideas fail to do something important: Listen. Guys like Jeff Tunnell have been there, done that, have the T-Shirt, and the damned shirt is already older than some of the Indies on here 😉 So when someone who has shipped enough gameboxes to more than fill your house, what should you do when he gives you advice? Listen, and politely think about it. 
Heck, if the person has made MONEY, period, as an Indie, you should probably listen if your plan is to make money. They might be on to something. (Again, referencing to my conversation with David Michael, and to some of the other Indies I’ve talked to online in the mailing lists I host.) If they did it, so can you.
Now, I’m NOT saying you have to do thing thier way. I’m not saying that these people are ALWAYS right. They aren’t – everyone is human. But at least listen, and think before you hit the reply button. Do you REALLY want to discourage someone from trying to give you information a second time? I normally don’t bang my head against the wall, and continue having an conversation with someone who isn’t listening to what I say. (Hell, there’s something that was cool as hell about IGC – people LISTENED to each other. Of course, when you spend a boat load of cash to listen to other Indies, I guess it’s a really good idea to listen. But it really was impressive to hear the free exchange of informaion and opinions, and watch people stop, get thoughtfull looks, reply in a thoughtful manner, etc. Heck, I was doin’ it too 🙂 Instead, I just walk off. And the next time a conversation involves that person, I usually won’t bother. It works the same for most other people.
So listen up – if you haven’t done a game before, be sure to listen to the people who have. You can ignore it if you want to, but, at least listen and think about what they say.
My other pet peeve is these huge plans I keep seeing from people who haven’t dealt with large projects before. I AM NOT saying none of these projects will ever be completed. Just a small percentage will be. A very small percentage. Jeff Tunnell has tried to explain on more than one occasion. David and I just spoke to the crowd about it at IGC. Other people have spouted the same stuff. Is there a trend here? You bet. There’s a reason why the say it – if you do something that’s HUGE, you’ve got more likelyhood of failure. Really. SERIOUSLY. I already dumped my first massive project I was considering just after Boulder Panic! was released. I decided I didn’t know enough yet to take on something that large, once I realized how many YEARS it would take a small team to develop the project. (I may have mentioned this before, but, Jeff Tunnell stole my plans. I’m sure he had to have had listening devices set up in my house, or copyin’ my email or something. My original plan was to create an engine, sell the SDK for cheap, and collect somewhat small royalties on the engine from small game developers (didn’t know the term Indie at the time). I’m tellin’ ya, he stole the idea. Of course, having a finished engine laying around might have had something to do with his decision to create Garage Games 😉 (And, just so there’s no mistake – that was a smiley at the end. Of course he didn’t steal my idea – it was something that was bound to happen within the market! 🙂
But… why not big huge projects? I mean, you are a kick-butt programmer. You can do something that’s on par with Everquest, right? It’s simple. 
Not really. How do you plan on funding a team? Content development (that stuff takes a lot longer than you might imagine!)? How many months can you support yourself while you develop it? And the months of beta testing? 
Anyway… that’s my rant. And keep in mind, I’m not saying that this applies universally to every Indie on here. Far from it. I think some people have really got it together, and understand how to pull this off. There’s even some people with some big projects that I think are really gonna get the job done after havin’ seen what they are doing and how they are doing it.
But there are just some people… *SIGH* I try and tell ’em what I know for fact, and what I know based on my experience and the experience of others that I have talked to in the field, and my opinion (for what it’s worth 😉 on what I think that means for future directions to take. I never had anyone who gave me a supportive or informative word about things until after I had released my 2nd release of Boulder Panic! (BP!2). There didn’t seem to be as many resources to work from that I could find. So, every chance I get, I pass on my brand of ‘wisdom’ (again, for what it’s worth 😉 I try to do what I can to fix that informational gap. Granted, I do it between programming tasks most of the time ;-) 
Oh well… now I’m just rambling 😉 Sorry about the rant, but, it still stands. And for people who do bother to read .plans, I’m probably preaching to the choir. (Hehehe – makes sense, I am a Reverend after all 😉 The people who should be listing probably won’t be. And if anyone feels personally offended by my comments – well, you might want to think again. People usually only feel offended by comments like this when they fall into the categories the comment refers to 🙂

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