The continuing story of Gamer Zone, my wife goes back to work?!, why one should never bother going to bed early, and Indie phone calls. Oh, and game development too ;-) All in this weeks spine-tingling .plan file!

I should never bother trying to go to be early. I’m writing this after chatting on IRC way too late (and getting too absorbed in the conversation again) after handling business email, and getting the framework for a new (contract) game up and running. Always seems when ever I try, I end up finding 1.5 million things that need to all be done, all Right Friggin’ Now. And of course, I should probably never be logged into IRC during something like that, otherwise I run the chance of an interesting conversation happening πŸ™‚ And for some strange reason… I was suddenly compelled to do another .plan file. Oh well – no need for sleep, I’ll just be doing PR work in the morning πŸ˜‰
Yep, I’m still dealing with Gamer Zone related stuff off and on now – the place is open, our first ad went out (which I thought was a bit ugly, but, I only had something like 8 hours without benefit of sleep to do. Oddly enough, it looked much better in print than it did in Illistrator.) But since the construction and opening phase of the place is done, things on that front has slown down to a reasonable pace. Thank goodness for that πŸ™‚ (Actually, there’s one construction related item still being worked on at a slow pace – the bathroom. We have the coolest bathroom in Wichita, KS – it gets a LOT of comments already. I mentioned it in the last .plan, but, when it’s complete I’ll post a picture of it. It’s damned cool! My wife is very creative πŸ™‚
Josh Ritter brough up an intersting question when I posted the pictures of the LAN center. (And continued in an almost accusatory tone in IRC for that matter.) If you are thinking of opening a LAN center by just throwing some machines in a room, going down to CompUSA and buying some games… don’t. You’ve gotta license it for LAN center play. This isn’t a simple process either (though, it should be noted that I’m not in charge of licensing, except for Indie titles.) Different companies have different licensing requirements, and some games are REALLY expensive, and some games just plain CANNOT be used in a LAN center. That’s not just talking about PC games either – same goes for the console games and the consoles themselves. All of it has to be licensed. We have a selection of about a dozen PC games – simply put, that’s all we can afford to license at this time πŸ™‚
This also increases the expense of each of the GamerZone’s that we open (this is Gamer Zone #1) I think some of the licensing requirements are a little too high, but, that’s from the perspective of someone putting one in, not from the perspective of the guys who wrote the software πŸ™‚ And iGames does help with some of that – but, it isn’t a magic bullet that makes all of the licensing issues go away. I would REALLY love to see some standardization of the licenses for cybercafe’s – but I’m just dreaming, it won’t happen anytime soon. What would I like to see as a standard? Oh, a CyberCafe licensed version of all games – make the cafe version something like twice the cost of a single copy of the game, and you’ve got to buy one version for each machine in the place. Yes – the developer is going to loose some money in sales, I think – each customer who spends all thier timeon a game is probably going to not buy it, thus the doubled cost to help aleviate that a bit. (I found it interesting that some of the people who are showing up for our first tourny already own copies of the game – but playing it in person for a competion is great for them, even if they have to pay!) But as it stands now… as Gamer Zone grows, eventually there will probably end up being one person who’s entire job will be to negotiate licenses, and check each site for compliance (what a job – go from site to site to do onsite checks of license compliance. But given how much it could cost to get sued, it’s probably worth it.)
So, my wife is now retired. It took exactly two days for her to get an offer she couldn’t refuse. The only issue is WHEN the job starts – along with Gamer Zone is a second phase to the plan that feeds Gamer Zone’s pockets along with it’s own. This is resteraunt type stuff – something Heather and I had always wanted to get into. However, I’m not really involved in this project – I’ll help get the first store running from a construction standpoint, but after that, I’m out of it. I was there for the meeting that let up to the job offer, and was asked if I was also interested, and I had to flatly turn it down. I’m tapped on the resources (time and brainpower) nessisary to do much to help out. So, I guess this won’t really be a completely Indie house after all.
One of the things I’ve been having fun with lately is that anymore I get a phone call about once a week from the group that I’m doing contract work for. This isn’t a “where are you at on things” phone call either – a lot of it is marketing, development, etc. strategy talks – how do we build this, then how the heck to do we get it to sell. More and more I’ve been considering setting up a time to do the same sort of thing with other Indies – maybe not a conference call, but, using something like Teamspeak or similar (preferable inexpensive / free, crossplatform application – suggestions? πŸ™‚ online to get everone who’s interested to get together once a week, and just shoot the breeze about Indie game development. There would probably be a suggested topic, and we’d make a little effort to actualyl stick to the topic, but I’m sure it would ramble off course from time to time (just like every conversation πŸ˜‰
But – if IRC is there, why do something via voice? IRC only communicates so much – even the phone can’t replace face to face meetings, but, there’s a lot that you hear in a person’s voice (like Nicolas’s froggy accent πŸ˜‰ that doesn’t come across on IRC. And it always feels more… natural to talk voice to someone rather than online.
Anyone else game for such a thing? If so – what time(s) / day(s) work best for you so something could be coordinated for a weekly Indie Chat Session.
Damnit, I’m hyped about a game again. Sure, it’s not my design, but, it’s a cool concept… the Mystery Contractor who’s provided me money and phone calls has a game concept I like (actually, I did contribute some to the concept also, but the core is thiers). The art resources are already getting completed, and I’m starting on the core programming for it. I’ll tell more about the project, but, I mention the game because it’s short (VERY short dev time – it was engineered from the ground up to be a short development cycle), and will be a lot of fun to work on. We had a phone conversation today about it, and what we wanted to do, what the schedule of art resource were, and to get the final “Go!” for it πŸ™‚ Look for a screenshot probably next week πŸ™‚
Is your spine tingling? Well, it’s not because of the .plan file – you need to get up and walk around a bit, you’ve been setting too long or have too much caffeene in your system πŸ™‚
Davis Ray Sickmon, Jr
Owner, Midnight Ryder Technologies
“Push to test.” “Release to detonate.”
Bil Simser   (Jul 09, 2004 at 01:42)
Interesting post. I was driving by an internet cafe here in Calgary the other day that offered game playing and I was thinking about this. What was the cost of setting one of these up? Could you just buy the computers, rent the space and head down to Future Shop (or wherever) and buy 20 copies of Unreal Tourney? Guess not. Now I really have to wonder how many internet cafes here are licensing a LAN version (or whatever it would be) or just buying the games and installing the software. Microsoft has volume license versions of their software so you install it on 10,000 machines. We have it at work so it bypasses things like the XP activation that usually happens. Didn’t realize that some games would do the same?
On the weekly indie chat front, I think that’s a cool idea. You might get resistance from others where they’ll say “Well, you can join the IRC channel anytime”. Yeah sure, and we all know how valuable that can be (sometimes it’s informative, but more often than not it’s a very quiet or someone is talking about their dog). Teamspeak would be an interesting idea. IRC is very impersonal and it’s hard to really get your idea across (although the idea of 20 developers screaming at each other isn’t very enticing either). In any case, I’m for the idea as long as it had some kind of focus and not just a weekly bitch session about life. The idea of “what are you working on” or “what challenges are you facing” could help this, or a directed topic like “AI, good bad or indifferent” or “Why Torque is better than peanut butter”. You get the idea.
Prairie Games   (Jul 09, 2004 at 02:24)
I would be curious how much PC Games, WindowsXP, XBox Machines/Games, PS2 Machines/Games site licenses run. It seems like the amount of $$$, red tape, and time would be insane.
I am sorry if I tweaked your nipples…
Rock on Rebel Warrior,
Edited on Jul 09, 2004 02:38
Stefan Lundmark   (Jul 09, 2004 at 03:05)
Interesting plan Davis, good read.
Edit: And oh yeah, teamspeak/ventrilo/rogerW whatever is pretty nice for discussions as long as you keep the numbers down. How would this work? :S I dunno. When my team is communicating it usually get’s a bit messy when 6 or more people are in.. we end up talking in one anothers mouth. That’s partly because of the latency but also because everyone has something to say.
For GG, there would be a lot of more people, and I think a problem too.
Edited on Jul 09, 2004 03:11
Jay Moore   (Jul 09, 2004 at 03:07)
When we talked about every indie should find a LAN center to partner with for play testing their games, I didn’t have in mind getting a job building a chain, but leave it to Davis to blur the vague line of partnering as an indie entrepreneur. 
Good luck on the LAN Center licensing and don’t forget to check on the GG LAN Center Mega Licensing deals.
I’ve been researchng ‘webinar’ tools as well as phone broadcast and VOIP solutions. For pre-sales TGE seminars, mini-IGC type training sessions and ways to re-launch the Indie Developers Round Table chats from a couple years back. So far I’ve found a get what you pay for quality to price correlation that fits corporate B2B type budgets more than indie. A Teamspeak type technology would be well worth exploring – I’d love to support this with some GG resources. I’ve never reviewed a log of a teamspeak session (i assume it could be done even if it was just saved as an ogg file), but archiving these sessions for those who can’t attend, but want to have the benefit of reviewing later is worth giving some consideration to.
Jorgen Ewelonn   (Jul 09, 2004 at 04:11)
Hey again Davis!
Funny thing, just flipped over to after reading this .plan and the top news item was this MSNbc article
Here is an excerp of that artice:
Citing problems with truancy and youth violence, the Los Angeles City Council Wednesday approved an ordinance restricting the hours during which minors can visit Internet cafes and requiring the shops to install video cameras for security.
The ordinance targets 
Jorgen Ewelonn   (Jul 09, 2004 at 04:13)
Ohh, and I forgot to quote the really interesting part:
A report found that 86 percent of people arrested at cyber cafes were juveniles, and 93 percent of the arrests were for truancy or curfew violations.
X-Tatic   (Jul 09, 2004 at 06:10)
*We would definatly not have such strict LAN licensing on our products.
Frogger   (Jul 09, 2004 at 06:59)
Hehe, you’re an employee of Gamerzone, you don’t sleep, you can stay on IRC and talk to us about pointless crap anyday! πŸ˜‰
I think a voice chat/visual/IRC type thing would be cool…
Davis Ray Sickmon, Jr   (Jul 09, 2004 at 11:40)  
Jorgen: “Police Permits” sounds a little odd, but, you have to have a permit from the city, licensing, insurance, etc. to open ANY business in the US, no matter what, where, when, who, or why. It’s just a part of the cost of doing business – we paid $74 just for a permit to hang a sign for instance. While I don’t particularly like the idea of adding yet another layer to the already copious layers of red tape that exist to get a cyber cafe type thing opened, you just chalk it up to the cost of doing business and go on.
However – we’ve already discussed the hours for Gamer Zone during the school year. We most likely will be scaling back to opening up right after school lets out – simply put, we can’t be a part of helping kids skip school. Back in the 80’s arcades had the same problems (not that I EVER skipped school to play games πŸ˜‰ and the solution was pretty much the same – adopt hours that reduce your liability for such a situation. Pretty simple. If you are encouraging kids to skip school to go play games – shame on you. (Note: There’s a chance that we may start opening at 11 AM, moving our hours in the opposite direction, because of our next phase of the business plan. But we still have an issue with kids in that case, and are going to have to put plans in place to address this issue.)
Jay: I’m always interested in GG’s Mega Licensing deals πŸ™‚ Getting THIS deeply involved in Gamer Zone wasn’t something I had planned – it was sheer luck and them having the right plan, right amount of money (as in – JUST enough money. These things are a bit expensive), and right ideas at the right time. But because I am here, I’m going to be able to present a lot of possibilities to Indies. I’m pretty happy about that πŸ™‚
Bil: Yes, the cost of doing this is more than just buying hardware and software off the shelf. Of course – it costs money to make money, as the saying goes. Even after you get hardware and software (and all the required licensing) out of the way, you now have a building to deal with. You have marketing to deal with. You have labor, expenses, etc. This isn’t something to enter into lightly – just like anything, it requires exploring the market, creating a realistic plan that at least works on paper, and executing the plan. We’ve spent a lot of resources JUST getting the building up to par (note: the next one gets cheaper. Things like how to most efficently, rather than the chaos they were dealing with πŸ™‚ Part of getting Gamer Zone #1 up and running was watching the expenses very closely so we had a model of what the next ones look like.
Just like game development – this isn’t all fun an games. It’s hard work.
Josh: I may post (in the near future) a breakdown of what it took to start Gamer Zone #1. However, that’s pending approval.
While you read my .plans and hear that this was done on a shoestring, realize that the guy who’s backing this does have pretty good resources (which got temporarily depleated – but after next week should be back up to the norm.)
Paul Dana   (Jul 09, 2004 at 14:18)
I know someone who setup a cyber cafe and I think sold it and moved onto another business. I will put you in contact with him if you are interested in getting some details from the horses mouth.

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