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Monthly Archives: September 2008

I suppose if I have to find time to post, it means I’ve been keeping myself really busy. At my age, I have to play to my strengths.

I look at building a good development team the same way the owners in the NFL look at constructing a solid football team; sign talented people, put them in the right places, and then hope you can lead them all the way. In this case, to publication.

In the world of indie game development, Modern Magic is definitely the expansion team; its head didn’t arrive here by learning code, and we’re actually trying to break into mainstream development.

Luckily, despite a few delays, things are swimmingly back on track. Shan actually handed in a demo featuring very basic gameplay fit for the Xbox 360! Jake is the one who gets to test it out. I have to take my ego out of the equation here; I’m developing a game for a system I don’t own, nor can I afford right now. It hurts that I can’t play my own game.

But the point is, we have accomplished enough to put something playable together, even if it’s not fit for public consumption.

But it was my idea, we can play it, and I have full faith in Jake’s judgment. That’s huge.

I’m also pleased to say I have no shortage of personnel suddenly. I’m abysmally broke, but things are getting done, and that’s what counts.
Modern Magic Enterprises isn’t only about video games; it’s mission is to tell great stories. I’ve had a script ready for Epic’s Make-Something-Unreal competition for a few months now, and I just signed a weapons and character concept artist to begin preproduction. According to the rules of the contest, the film has to be under five minutes, and we are ineligible for the grand prize. To be honest, I could probably take Trista’s concept art and make the film myself using MovieStorm, but Epic will give us way more exposure. It’s always nice to be able to put “Honorable Mention” or even better “1st Place” beside your title.

The film, “Universal Warrior: Faithless” deals with a small paramilitary unit and their leader, Ann Dalloway as they try to recover the spikes used to execute the son of the universes’ creator, and make a miraculous discovery. How this discovery is dealt with will have alter the lives of everyone involved forever.

I’ve also begun work on “Universal Warrior: The Last Campaign” as a work of print. Everyone keeps telling me that the best way to hold onto your rights is to create them as a novel and then go from there. The hardest part for me is disciplining myself to see this through to completion, as I can envision Universal Warrior in every form of media on the planet. But it has to get it’s start somewhere. The story revolves around the first Archangels as they battle their way from Valhalla to the gates of Heaven in a final attempt to hold off the armies of Lucifer.

So that’s it. One week, things are bleak, the next, you’re in the high life. This is a good moment, so I’m going to capitalize on it and keep things moving forward. Until next time…

-Avery

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Ugh. It’s Wednesday, and it’s not been a good week. First of all, on a separate project, I have to get thirty pages done by next Monday. Thanks to congested nights at work and just plain laziness, I’ve struggled to reach four. I always have one day a week where I seem to be invincible; capable of keeping my mind at warp speed for hours on end. That usually happens on Monday, but I’m hoping for a few more of those. But right now, entire pots of coffee can’t clear the exhaustion from my mind.

I suppose I really shouldn’t complain; I was able to purchase Torque on schedule and get it uploaded, and I can write that off as a business expense next year. On the other side, Jake’s internet went down, and it’s down indefinitely, effectively cutting me off from my partner. We’re able to stay in touch via phone, but I can’t transmit documentation over the phone, now can I?
And to top it all off, Dylan backed out today, leaving me without a sprite artist.

Of course, my mind goes into overdrive; I already contacted a few backups and placed an ad. If worse comes to worse, I have to learn to do the work myself. I’ve been studying up on tutorials and I realize I at least need to provide better concept art. That much I can do.

You know, in the end, you can bitch, moan, and complain, but the work still needs to get done, even if you have to do it yourself. I’m not one to complain about my losses, rather focus on what I have. I still have a very competent programmer, and with his schedule, I figure we can actually begin production at the beginning of next month. By this time, I’ll have the whole engine and—God willing—a full staff.

If I have no one, I have to do it myself.

In the meantime, I’ve begun planning my entry into the Make-Something-Unreal competition hosted by Epic. I’m entering in the machinima category, which makes me ineligible for the grand prize, but that’s not the point of entering; win or lose, if the film gets enough attention, then people will want more of the story. Desire, done right, can translate out into demand. Blessedly I was able to renew a contract with very competent manga artist I know, and the script for the film has been done, and reviewed, for months. If you want a copy, drop me a line.

Not a lot to complain about. This is all part of it, so I take my licks and move on.

Overall, I don’t have a lot to complain about. My dev team is volunteer; luckily, the way they tailor their schedule syncs up with my financial situation. I don’t like to waste anything, so when I found a decent facsimile of the ship I want to use for our first title, I took the asset Dylan already created and turned it into another enemy. I think he’s a little mad at me now, since he has to start from scratch…

Jake is generally a good kid. He’s young, but he’s dynamically creative and my flair for drama has nothing on him. I chose him not only because he supplied one hell of a writing sample, but he knew what it was like to develop a story and have it grow beyond you.
Anyway, Jake is professional way beyond his years, so when I send email after email, it’s uncharacteristic th at I don’t hear back from him. A little worried, I drop him a line and after confirming that he’s okay…I wonder why he hasn’t responded to any of my messages yet. What he says makes my heart skip a beat;

What messages??
In game development, the most precious commodity you have is time, not money. You can recover lost finances.
I’m curious as to why Jake hasn’t been receiving my messages, so I open my outlook and with him on the phone, I ask him to confirm his email address. Turns out I was off by a number…and he hadn’t received any of the updates I had been sending for the last week.

Jake often gets the extremes of my emotions because it’s very rare I can talk to someone and be completely myself. He must’ve listened (very patiently) as I beat myself up for over ten minutes. I compiled and forwarded all of the messages that he’s missed, and he should be back up to speed come Monday.

I am relentless on myself when it comes to these thoughtless errors for so many reasons. Game development is a cutthroat business, and only the best survive. The best of the best succeed. Right now, there is undoubtedly someone in the world who is doing the exact same thing as I, who will not make the mistake I just did. I also wonder who has been receiving all of my mails, since I haven’t been getting daemons back. Jake is good, but now he has to spend time catching up. This was time that could’ve been spent fleshing out the story of the human race’s battle against the Tethoy. Don’t worry, you’ll know soon enough.

The point is, this is a stupid clerical error that could’ve been avoided with just a little proofreading, and I was so caught up in multitasking that this one mistake cost almost a week worth of development time. I beat myself up so it won’t happen again.

After I finished ranting, Jake suggested (calmly) that he can pick up the slack; pick up what I miss, as he’s meticulous when it comes to details. Going along with this, he’s going to get a copy of my office pro so we can keep the same files. We are partners, after all.

In some eyes, this is not a costly mistake, and I understand. I just want to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.

I won’t be trying to guess what I’ll write about from week to week anymore. I do better when I shoot from the hip. Thanks for reading along and bearing with me.

 

-Avery

 

 

In my opinion, this is one of the toughest obstacles any entrepreneurial game developer will ever overcome. If you’re smart, you have a pretty good idea as to how you want your development process to flow (if you’re a genius, you have it all planned out, down to the slightest detail and contingency), but getting people to fill your positions can be a monster task, especially when you’re not paying people. Gone are the days when people will come in droves, gladly sacrificing their free time and falling on their knees for the privilege of having you lead them to greatness. In the age of multimillion dollar budgets and in which EA and the Sequel Rule All, the two most important words anyone looking to recruit are; “Prove it.”

I didn’t do much posting this time around; unlike previous attempts in this business, I had a pretty good idea as to what I wanted to accomplish (HINT HINT!!) so I knew where to go looking. It still blows me away that people post ads like; “I’m pretty sure this idea will make millions of dollars” and then bump their ads all to be damned when no one responds. My favorite has to go to one response I got; I prefer that people respond to my ads via email, rather than risk long, drawn-out negotiations in public. So I get this one email (hang on, lemme dig it up) from someone who says that s/he’s “happy that I’m making games.” They go on to say that they would “like to hire me to help them with their game.”

Now, DESPITE THE FACT they have a yahoo email address (usually an indication that they’re starting this out of their own home. Not a problem at all, because this person might have something plausible in mind) I’m actually getting a little excited because I could always use the extra income. But then they have to step over the line. Mr. He-Who-Will-Not-Be-Named goes on to tell me that they’re a “parent company of Nintendo”. But oh, wait, they’re smart; they anticipate my skepticism. They tell me that if I “don’t believe them” I am free to check out their MySpace Page!!!!

I can blog about it here, but needless to say, they didn’t get a response. I can’t believe that anyone would still be selling the same shit; oh, I work for insert-big-name-here, yet I have no concept art, no portfolio and not even a frikkin website to show. Why am I getting flamed all over the message boards?

My approach is a little different, but requires a lot of patience; I’m completely honest. I tell people right up front that I can’t afford to pay, that I’m working on a small, doable project with a relatively short dev time table, and I need these two slots filled. The most I can do to prove my professionalism is list a domain name I actually had to pay for that people can respond too.

In all my dealings, no matter how seemingly trivial, I try to be up front, and honest. Before you have your first deal, first design doc, or hell, even your first idea, all you have is your reputation.

I went into this armed with something I hadn’t had before. Usually, I tried to create a title that rivaled Grand Theft Auto even in its demo stage, and even writing the design document can be a daunting task. So I came up with a small idea that seemed both fun and doable on a budget, as well as stayed true to the vision of the company; I completed a design document before I went recruiting. I think it helped.

I had no responses in about a week and was about to throw in the towel when suddenly I started getting emails from very talented and driven people. I have to admit I breathed a sigh of relief.

And, a week later, I’ve begun pre-production.
Shan, my programmer, comes off as having done this before. He works fast and he seems to know what he’s talking about. He completed a technical design document inside of a day, so yeah, I’m happy to have him. Dylan comes off as the eager kid who just wants to make games, and I admit I grin a bit when I get one of his emails. He has quick turnaround time, he knows his stuff, and he’s ambitious as all hell; he and his friend are creating their own engine, called Omega.

Now, I’ll be honest. I’ve been at this for a long time. Creating your own game engine is probably the developer’s equivalent to scaling Mount Everest. I’ve come across tons of people who had the next big thing in mind and for whatever reason, it never got done. Then again…I’ve also known people who managed to complete their engine and are living pretty well right now. Guess it all depends on how badly you want it. This is part of why I enjoy meeting people, though; you never know where someone will be in ten years. It’ll be interesting to see where Dylan and Omega go.

But for now, that’s it. Honesty, so far, has paid off. There has been some slight revisions to the game but everything is going pretty well. Till next time..

 

Next week: A New Indie In This Industry