God is Good – Even When You Have No Idea What’s Happening

This post was actually something from my personal blog back at the end of 2011 but I found myself going back over it and it seemed germane for today, so we’re reposting it.

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Proverbs 21:31 says “The horses are prepared for battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord.”

Coming home from work today caps off a lot of hard work, a lot of sacrifice and stress – and a “couldn’t be better” entry to a much needed week and a half of rest, family and recharging.

A week ago today we finally released the game that we’ve been working on for about nine months. It’s probably fair to say that four of those months were pretty light duty as we planned and tweaked and were at least partly distracted by other things but from July to December we were hard at it. And while the game was first imagined as something small and light and shallow it took on a life of its own. It morphed and deepened and grew a soul. Suddenly, a game we thought was a tiny time waster was recognized as something else. I remember the day we all sat down and started a prayer time and we all started looking at each other thinking – this isn’t what we thought. This is a Soma Game and a prequel to GRoG.

From there the metaphors, the details, even the delays started to look different in the light that God was actively engaged in the design process and now we were off making a game about spiritual warfare and destiny and guardian angels. It was awfully exciting. But it was also taking FOREVER. We were way over budget and a July launch got pushed to September, then to Thanksgiving and finally to Dec 15. To be true, by that time we were all freaking out more than a little. I’d love to say that we all had “peace beyond understanding” but we didn’t. We all knew this was taking way too long and costing way too much money and the stress was building. But we also knew that we needed to get it right – it had to be solid. And the truth is, the bug list seemed to grow every day instead of shrink. Features were still being added even after we were supposed to have code lock and the project just refused to be finished. Now on the bright side it was truly getting better and better. Not only were bugs getting fixed but all the finer details were being polished. Lightning bugs in the backyard, Photon pushing monsters and Lamplighter healing the friends near her, these and more were all last minute adds that made huge differences. We also kept experiencing that joy of serendipity. The Bonchows, giant versions of the enemies, started as a joke from a typo and become a built in feature on accident. The game was taking on a shape that we only barely glimpsed at the beginning and the time stress was counterbalanced by a real sense of discovery and excitement. Wind Up Robots was going to be a cool and well polished game.

The G We Always Wanted To Make

PtolemyShotsThere’s an old saying that you never really finish a poem, you just give up on it.

At the risk of getting ahead of myself, sometime this month we expect to submit G Prime to Microsoft and call it “done.”  – I’m practically giddy.

When we started our first game, G: Into The Rain, we had no idea what we were doing and the “how hard could it be” attitude came crashing into the complex reality of video game development like a raw egg meeting the cast iron skillet. When we finally launched several months later it was bittersweet. On the one hand I was happy with what we’d done but many, many compromises had to be made along the way and there was a part of me that was sad at all the things that we couldn’t do or had to be left out.

Harvest Moon and Redwall

As the recent news about our progress on funding makes the circuit and…some other news (ahem) looms nearer and nearer, we are understandably being asked questions about the game’s scope, mechanics and genre. We’ve been deliberately coy on specifics and the biggest reason has been to minimize the misery for the fans if things never gelled. Now that we’re feeling more confident in the way things have shaped up it seems fair to start sharing our thoughts on the game itself.

One of the strongest themes I’ve heard from fans of Redwall is easiest to describe this way:

We want to live there.

Redwall News – It’s Big and We Need Your Help…

So we’ve got some good news and some bad news regarding Redwall. And when that’s all done I’ll be asking for your help.

First: the good news…which is really very good. If you were watching closely a few months ago you would have seen the pitch page we put up that revealed we were seeking $1.2m in funding for The Warrior Reborn. The timing of that page going live was deliberate for two reasons. First, we were just starting IDF in San Francisco and for the first time we were going to show one of our “final-ish” character designs in the public – Neebrock the Badger. Up to that point it had all been concept art and sketches but this was the real deal. We were a little anxious to see how people responded but we anticipated positive response and we got it. So riding that wave just a little to our pitch page was an easy link. But the second thing was much more tangible. When I left IDF and the City by the Bay I flew to beautiful, downtown Chattanooga, TN to meet a big potential investor.

We pitched, we ate phenomenal fried chicken, and then we waited…until last week.

I am extremely proud and excited to announce that one of the most well known names in the world of philanthropy has decided to honor us with their friendship and material support…and this is a huge break for us. (It’s also considered tacky to mention them by name…or so I’m told.)

Monetization, Marketing and MST3K

Or Our Attempts at Innovation in Magic & Magnums

M&M Splash ScreenIn a recent post I described the long and winding road that got us to the launch of Magic & Magnums and how its weird development path allowed us some atypical freedoms than if we were concerned with things like…oh, say…making money.

The biggest effect on gameplay came from our work with RealSense and the effort to really reimagine a spatial game interface. But all of that has been covered elsewhere so I won’t do it again here. (But yes, there will be a RealSense version whenever that hardware hits the streets…hopefully that’s RealSoon.) I want this blog to be about the money stuff.

Monetization and the Curse of Free2Play

We’re in no way out in front of this conversation. Many folks, including some friends, have written on their decision to forsake the Free To Play model. But It’s worth saying that I don’t hate F2P. There are F2P games that I quite enjoy. But despite liking them and investing time in them, I realize that it’s vanishingly rare that I convert to a paying customer. Now of course I don’t feel guilty about it…much. After all, it’s the developers choice to offer the fruit of their hard labor for free – right? So it’s not exactly like I’m stealing or taking advantage of them…am I?

And that’s where it all falls apart for me.