This past week we got a chance to have a great conversation with Slide To Play’s Editor in Chief Andrew Podolsky, about GotOats.org (Organization of App Testing Standards). The site was founded to bring some order out of chaos when it comes to game and app review standards. Check out the full interview and have a great weekend.
As indie developers we really, I mean REALLY appreciate this kind of stance. Over the years the fun of app development has inevitably transformed into more and more ‘business’ and its meant that everybody wants a buck. On the one hand, I don’t begrudge anybody making a living but I also got a really icky feeling whenever we catch a whiff of that ‘sure we’ll review your game…if you buy a banner ad thing that has started to creep in. A general policy like what they’re doing at GoOats is awesome but as a developer I know that the problem has to be attacked from both sides. So long as there are developers who are willing to pay for reviews then there will be reviewers willing to sell. For my part, I’m thinking about a parallel commitment from the developer side NOT to submit to that kind of bribery. While I’m at it…perhaps I can get developers to all agree that selling months of hard work for free is stupid…
We had a post a while back where I was reflecting on something Seth Godin (allegedly) said,
“…it’s pointless to have 1000 people ‘following’ you if you can’t call any of em to crash on their couch when you’re in town.“
The week of the cruise there were lots of reasons to do it differently. We had deadlines, we were busy, it was long drive. So really the logical thing to do would be to grab a quick flight, stay in a hotel, and jet home the next morning – easy peasy. But instead we decided to take the road less travelled, all 636 miles of it. Bill Johnson has this great bit about how most of the really good things we want out of life, especially in the Kingdom, are just beyond the veil of inconvenience.
This past week we were invited by GREE to attend the Pirates of Silicon Valley Cruise in San Francisco. On the trip we were once again treated like kings by friends. Lana
and Matt Vaughn hosted us and we got to do a bit of exploring at Pixar. Chris recaps the trip and the hospitality of friends in this weeks Flurry Friday.
This week we had a blast shooting our first Kickstarter film for a game we are publishing through Code-Monkeys.com soon. On the set we had John Bergquist (Flurry) as the director, Cinematography Sean Brown of www.seandbrown.com as the director of photography and Red Camera operator, Amy Hunter as sound engineer, Nat Iwata as art director and storyboard, Samuel Neff as editor, setup, sound and acting, Erin E. P. Morris running slate and acting, and of course our actors Peter Lund, Traiz Saenz and Chris Skaggs. Cascade Cigar & Tobacco Co gave us an awesome set location. Stay tuned as we get close to revealing the kickstarter this fall.
We have a lot more to do now but the final product is really looking great.
Also this week we were able to speak and attend CGDC 2012 where we got to see many good friends and meet some great new ones as well. Chris will give an update on that next friday though.
We have wanted to talk about this subject for a while. In this special Flurry Friday Episode Nat and Chris discuss the Smithsonian exhibit being featured through September 2012 called The Art of Video Games. Have a great weekend!
This week Chris discusses the culture of Soma and how we all enjoy work and life often within the same moment. If you ever want to work here it is something good to explore. Let us know your thoughts on company culture and the separation of work and life. Can it be the same or does that just rub you wrong. Let us know what you have experienced in your own work. About three years ago Chris, Rande and I (JB) visited our good friend Donavon Roberson who was at the time one of the key people behind Tony Hsieh’sZappos Insights. Insights was built to help other companies achieve and sustain culture within their own organization. We were all amazed what Zappos had built and what D was helping others do. That really stuck with us and it is cool to see that our own culture has grown since then. We hope you enjoy this weeks dev vlog. Please as always we would love to hear from you as well.
(The text below as originally written around Christmas 2011 but then never really got posted. In hindsight it feels like it was waiting for this video…)
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 – Wind Up Robots. It’s probably fair to say that four of those months were pretty light duty as we planned and tweaked and were heavily 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. It grew a soul.
Suddenly, a game we thought was a tiny time-waster was recognized as somethig else. I remember the day we all sat down and started a prayer time and we all started looking at each other saying, “…this isn’t what we thought it was. Wind Up Robots is actually 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 at CGDC got pushed to September, then to Thanksgiving and finally to Dec 15. 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.
For me (Chris), I had the pleasure of writing the script and I enjoyed that even as I labored over it. It exploded from three paragraphs to set a long journey that included the whole Hero’s Journey in miniature. A word here instead of there seemed suddenly important as it seemed crucial that I get every detail just right. In the middle of that process I had a very particular experience. In the middle of the night I found myself suddenly and completely awake. Somehow I knew that it was God who woke me up and I simply said, “Yes Lord?” and as plain as day I heard. “Your lives are the story.” In those five words I understood several implications:
It simply wasn’t that important that I tell this story “perfectly.” After all, I wasn’t writing scripture here. But more to the point, if anybody was going to be moved by the story, it wouldn’t be for my brilliant writing, but by His Spirit moving in their hearts. In other words – don’t take myself so seriously.
Also – that what God has been doing with Soma all along hasn’t been about our great games or my artful prose. It’s been about our interactions with other people. It’s always about people.
When we started Soma I imagined folks getting wrapped up in the epic stories behind the games and being moved or inspired the way I’ve been inspired by movies or books. And while I still hope for that, what we’ve seen (so far at least) is that our biggest impact seems to come from our individual stories as people who decided to follow hard after God’s call. It’s been in the handshakes, the interactions, or the stories about what God has done for us or through us – that has been where we sit back and go, “Wow- that was incredible.” And that’s also why I feel compelled to share our stories publicly.
So to circle back to the Proverb…
Along with Wind Up Robots we also found ourselves with a tiny window of two weeks and decided to throw together a silly little holiday game as a gag. It’s cute, it’s fun, it’s a joke.
Today, just before we all went home for a break, we learned that Apple featured both games in the app store just as we start into the crazy Christmas season. On top of that, Kotaku picked it as a Gaming App of the Day, AND Amazon also featured both games in their store.
Wow. What a wonderful blessing.
Look, all of us at Soma busted our chops for many months to get here – the horses were prepared for the battle. But what happens after that is 100% beyond our ability to influence or control. The victory belongs to the Lord.
Thank you Dad for all that you’ve done to, for, and through us this year as its been a powerful one for all of us. Whatever happens with this release is all to your glory – as it should be.
This Friday JB gives a glimpse at the sound creation and process at Soma for game development. We use a lot of fancy equipment but often find some interesting everyday solutions for game sound assets. This is just a taste of the world of soma game sound engineering. Have a great weekend.
Today Flurry Friday is about a great group of young men who came to our shop for a job shadow. Eight guys from four local high schools spent the morning with us and we showed them basically every aspect of our work around here, from art and code to making a video. We laughed, we cried, we consumed a LOT of sugar. One of the really neat things was a hash tag we started, #somajobshadow (see below for all the messages that came through), where our tribe was asked to share whatever single piece of wisdom they thought was important for a young man ready to jump into the world – the results were awesome. Honestly, we expected a half dozen quick lines but instead folks came all out of the woodwork and laid some serious pearls out there. Thank you to everybody who participated in that and thanks to the gentlemen who spent your morning with us – we hope we’ll see each of you again with crazy-mad game skillz.