Project Management (someone joins up with Midnight Ryder Technologies), Things that got Sqeak in the Night, I HATE Hardware, Contract work, Market Research and Other Lies, and the Death and Birth of TorqueIDE

Well, Midnight Ryder Technologies grew by one. Bryan Edds and I have been talking, and we teaming up to do some game development work – any Engine modifications that need to be done are my job (in this case, basically just droping in some stuff from the Resources – very little ‘new’ development), scripting and game mechanics are mostly his (I say mostly, because it’s still a team effort, usually with Bryan pitching the idea, and then me providing feedback), and management headaches are mine (Yep, I’m the A**hole producer on this ;-). So far, that project is going slow because it’s only at the “ok, we’ve got a game design” point so far, now it’s time to evaluate technology, what content is going to be required, and then any modifications to the plan based on the previous questions. 
This is pretty fun, because of the very very lean game design that Bryan developed – I expected to see a grandous first-time designer type deal. Instead, it was a well thought out design that didn’t try to throw in the kitchen sink. Whenever the project hits about 90% done, I’ll see if I can’t get Bryan convinced to release the design doc he sent me – only a couple pages, but it hit all the highlights, and was clear and concise. Good enough that I’d love to let other people take a look as one possible example of a way of doing things.
Of course, Bryan is getting used to finishing a task I asked for, and waiting on my slow butt. TZ Beta 3 STILL isn’t out the door, and that’s the priority item right now.
I have began to develop a deep hatered of PC hardware. Seriously. I’m tired of having hardware die left and right (though I admit that part of it was ancient hardware!), or when I do get it running, getting everything service packed and up to date on drivers, and watch it promptly fall over and die. (Thanks Nvidia. I knew there was a reason I switched to ATI for my primary development machine!) 
But tonight it’s up and running again, and I kicked back to take a look at how the Beta had shaped up. Ya know, when you step back and look at things from a distance, you notice stuff you missed. The scoring is a bit whacked (Nuke someone, and you don’t get points!), and there’s no Quit button (I’m so used to being in a middle of a game and typing quit(); that I totally forgot to put a quit button on the main menu!) I’ll do what’s (hopefully) the last Mac compile for the beta tomarrow, kick it around again, and release it. Finally. UI still stucks. πŸ™‚
The Midnight Ryder Technologies family also grew by three more. These are the Things That Go Squeak In The Night. Three baby geese. Right now, the peep and squeak – only once has one of them produced the characteristic “Honk” noise of a goose (and it was very quiet) It’s been a while since I’ve had a baby animal around now – it’s no wonder Tamagochi and similar “grow your creature” games had managed to be such a big fad at one time. It’s a lot of fun to watch these little buggers learn (and quick learners they are) 
Me, being the greedy game developer type, keep wondering: “Hm, how can I turn the experience of growing Geese into a profitable game? ” (This is the real reason why Larry, Moe, and Currly got mentioned in my .plan – and yes, that’s thier names) Just about anything I do results in similar questions these days – how could what I’m doing be applied to game design. I don’t bother with that question when I’m doing household tasks though – The Sims have been out for quite a while πŸ˜‰ Does anyone else find themselves doing that – looking at really odd mundane stuff and wondering how it could be turned into a game worth writing? Or have I finally just went ’round the bend? (If your opinion is the latter, don’t tell me – I don’t want to know if I finally lost it πŸ˜‰
Just to make life more interesting, I got contacted about doing some game development work. This is nothing new – I get contacted about doing a game or work for someone every other month. (No insult intended, but, a good number of people looking for a programmer are kids with an idea. I tell them what my rates are, and I never hear back again. Aparently in fantasy worlds, programmers are very cheap.) What IS different is that so far, the whole thing hasn’t just fallen through. As in, I probably will be doing some contract game development work. That’s cool. What’s really nice is that it’s a pretty cool game design to boot – some interesting elements in there.
But lighting might strike twice. Three days after the first one, a second company contacted me looking for contract work also. Hm. That’s pretty cool. But the timing couldn’t be better, in some ways – since I’m out of contract work to do, I wouldn’t mind some more paying work (just finished up with a website development project this weekend, and have some contract work out on the horizon – otherwise, nothing.)
So just as I’m looking to do a little financial work to scare up cash to fund the company (rather than my usual in one checkbook out the other existence – though most of that was in an attempt to get everything we own paid off) these show up. That would be nice. I could stand a little dose of luck right now.
On the financing front, I just had a meeting with Wichita Technology Corporation last week to figure out how to handle the funding issue. Pretty good meeting, IMO, though the guy I’m dealing with is a little poker faced 80% of the time (I’m fairly good at reading people’s expressions. Granted, sometimes I don’t care what they think, but I’m sure to process the information – knowing what people think can be important later) Of course, after talking with him, I discovered that he played poker with his friends every week – figures, I’d have to run into a poker player in a situation I think it’s important to know what the other guy is thinking! πŸ™‚
I revealed my plan to them (which isn’t quite as simple as “write game, market game, sell game” – I never do things the easy way when I see a much harder way I could do things πŸ˜‰ which I won’t reveal here just yet. But there were no cries of “You’re nuts!” or similar dislike for the plan. In all honesty, I believe it was well recieved. Most importantly he pointed out an error in my thinking – I don’t need as much money as I thought I did! We discussed the profit margins, expenses, my pay, blahblahblah – the usual stuff. And when it was done, he pointed out ho much financing I needed. Almost 1/3rd of what I was thinking. When I got home, I started running numbers up a couple of different ways. He’s dead right – I don’t need a big ol’ bucket of cash. A nice small one will do nicely. Of course, I still need to get my hands on one of those buckets. Anyone happen to have an extra one laying around? πŸ˜‰
Even without getting any cash, it’s one step closer to completion of the dream – I’ve only reached half the dream so far. Setting at home, doing pretty much nothing but working on game development (instead of CAD work, Industrial Automation work, etc.) Now I’ve just got to make enough money to support myself on it, rather than bilking off my wife πŸ™‚ It’s hard to not get just a little more excited right now – things look pretty good. I’ve still got a Business Plan and Marketing Plan to complete, “little” nagging details like that (both are in a partial state right now – before completing them, I felt the need to talk to WTC and get some input from them.) Building the Business Plan and Marketing Plan from solid data is rather difficult – since I’m not taking the route that’s most common, finding applicable data isn’t a trivial excersize. 
Since becoming a GG member (and before) I’ve seen the question “how many sales should I expect from a game?” I’ll tell you – between 1 and 500,000. Lean heavily towards the ‘1’ side. There’s a nice little thread going on about this, but, the sum up is – that’s not enough information to go on. SERIOUSLY. I could tell you how many copies of BP! I’ve sold. But what good does it do you? None. In fact, it hurts you – it gives you a false expectation. Without the supporting data, you’ll assume that for each copy I sold, my profit must be (x). But without knowing that indeed, I made (x), how does it help you? If I sold it through Real1Arcade, and made $2 a pop, that’s a lot different than selling it through your own website and making $10 a pop. 
But no matter how many times I beat people with the Mythical Sales Figure Club, someone else pops up and asks again later πŸ™‚ (And it’s really not a bad or stupid question – just one that doesn’t result in the answer they expect.) Someday I’m gonna find myself with too much time and too little to do, and write an article on the subject – how someone else’s sales figures factor into your Business and Marketing plans. Then I can just post a link to it everyime it comes up. Sure… I’ll get to that one as soon as I’m not busy, and manage to cover all those other To Do’s.
Eventually, I will be releasing information about sales data for Midnight Ryder Technologies. But I’ve got a specific, self serving business reason for doing so πŸ™‚
Speaking of To Do’s – ever wonder what happened to my baby project, TorqueIDE (not to be confused with TorqueIDE or TIDE πŸ™‚ TorqueIDE 2, that’s what. I dumped almost everything I had, and started from scratch. And didn’t bother to mention it. Why in the world would I do that? Well, I failed in my goal for the first one – have it all be script changes, that way it was just drop-in. There’s just no way around the problem that some things the UI controls are designed to do. I could continue to keep extending the existing controls, but, sheesh – then I’m taking something that’s fairly stable, and potentially destablizing it or breaking backward compatability. So I chucked it. (Well, not ALL of it – where applicable, the old scripting stuff is still there.) A new Editor control is being developed – something that handles context highlighting internally, along with all the stuff needed for a reasonably good editor. So… when it this marvel of modern IDE programming coming out? “When It’s Done.” No eta what so ever – in fact, I probably wouldn’t have mentioned it if it wasn’t for a recent email I got on the subject. I won’t have it ready for Trajectory Zone’s release unluckly – of that I’m sure (unless for some reason a publisher were to pressure me and say I had to do it!) However, I feel very strongly about this becoming a standard part of all Midnight Ryder Technologies games – then it’s much easier for me to provide detailed (crossplatform) instructions on how to get started hacking on the game, and garantee that the end user has exactly what I need them to have. After I have the new editor done, I’ll move to the other areas of the IDE that I’d really like to tackle. I really want something that’s not just a hacky script editor – I want a solid editor with some Torque-specific needs (Eric Forhan had a great suggestion for instance – right now, TZ has umpteen million little pieces of content. Most are in use. Some are not. Do you know how hard it is to resolve which pieces do get used and which dont?!)
Ok, it’s 5 AM and the geese are trying to get me to go to sleep… they sound like little squeak toys. I know I’m gonna miss that when it’s replaced with HONK! at 4 AM!
Matt Fairfax   (Apr 19, 2004 at 07:22)
I drive my family and friends batty b/c I also look at everything through the filter of “how would this make a good game?” They flinch now anytime I start with “You know what would make a good game…” =)
John Vanderbeck   (Apr 19, 2004 at 07:32)
Another great .plan as usual Davis πŸ™‚
[quote]Does anyone else find themselves doing that – looking at really odd mundane stuff and wondering how it could be turned into a game worth writing? Or have I finally just went 
Jay Barnson   (Apr 19, 2004 at 10:21)
Aparently in fantasy worlds, programmers are very cheap.
I remember back in my MUD development days (while I was working full-time as a ‘real’ game programmer, too) – half the posts on a programmer’s message board were requests to the effect of, “Hey, I’ve got this INCREDIBLE design, it’s gigantic, it’s wonderful… I just need someone to code it up for me. Don’t worry about being creative, I’ll do all the creative stuff.”
Then every once in a while someone would ask, “Why can’t I get any programmers to program my MUD for me?”
In frustration, one day I wrote a pretty lengthy explanation to this latter question.
I haven’t noticed it being quite so bad here. There seems to be a lot more programmers, and those who aren’t generally seem to understand how it works – contracting a programmer to code your game isn’t quite like hiring a plumber to fix your sink. If anything, It it often seems like the shoe’s on the other foot… programmers begging for artists (though I’ve yet to hear anyone begging for a designer… but I may not be listening carefully enough).
Davis Ray Sickmon, Jr   (Apr 19, 2004 at 11:47)  
LOL – ok, It’s nice to know I’m not alone πŸ™‚ Luckly there’s a support group – IGC ’04 πŸ˜‰
John: Yeah, I do similar with notes, except that I use David “RM” Michael’s The Journal. Cool product, and I had set it up so that I could VNC into the machine remotely when I was at the day job. Worked out pretty well. (I’m a big fan of The Journal πŸ™‚
Jay: Yeah, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a “Game Designer Needed Badly!” post on GG. Artists always seem in short demand (oddly enough – I was involved in an Open Source OS development project. Artists? No problem – everyone wanted to do logos, UI mockups, etc πŸ™‚ But you’d be surprised how often I’ve gotten “program my game” emails :-/
Jay Barnson   (Apr 19, 2004 at 12:32)
I think that the problem is the average self-appointed game designer has no idea what the job entails. They think the job’s done at the 5% mark – basically doing the easy and fun part. So I’ll only work with a game designer whom I really trust… not someone who replied to a “Game Designer Needed” post on a message board.
And the sad part of being a game designer is that you usually get handed the project AFTER the easy & fun part’s already been done, too!
Josh Williams   (Apr 19, 2004 at 13:01)
Hey Davis, just wanted to chime in real quick and say that I remember reading some interviews with both Miyamoto and Yu Suzuki where they talked about how every day things now inspire their game designs. I remember specifically that each of them mentioned the experience of raising a dog. Also, I think Miyamoto said that his main inspiration for Pikmin was the fact that he took up gardening as a personal hobby.
So, you’re in great company when it comes to the fact that everyday things lead you to think about game designs. πŸ™‚
Game design grudge match: Davis vs Miyamoto, SimGoose vs Dog Trainer Chapter 1, FIGHT! πŸ˜‰
Bryan Edds   (Apr 19, 2004 at 13:42)
This is just a wonderful experience altogether! I’m even writing up my first .plan file in response to this one.

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