(This was originally written as an email to the above mentioned addressee. But then I thought, “I wonder if that busy guy would ever have the chance to actually read mail from a stranger?”
Then I thought that except for a few details, it’s really a letter I should write to a bunch of leaders, teachers, and encouragers we’ve been lucky enough to brush shoulders* with over the last couple of years. Folks like Ralph Bagley, Gary Barkalow, Georgian Banov, David Cook, John Eldredge, Michael Hyatt, Rick Joyner, Morgan Snyder, Rick Warren, and many others. (yeah, that list is alphabetical) I’ll still send a genuine letter to all these folks but maybe a Google alert on their name will be more likely to catch their attention.)
Roughly a year and a half ago I briefly met you in McMinville, Oregon. You were speaking at a local church and we had a few minutes to talk between sessions. I own a company making video games with a Christian worldview. Not educational bible games for kids but rather mainstream games for adults with Jesus in the mix. More Lord of The Rings than Thomas the Tank Engine.
At the time you shared some great ideas and some good advice. I have no illusion that you’d remember that 5 minutes but I did say I’d let you know how we were progressing and I reckon I owe you a quick update.
Soma Games launched its second mobile title called Wind Up Robots (http://thatwinduprobotgame.com/) just before Christmas. It’s on iPhone, Android, and AppUp but we all know that the iPhone is the only platform that really matters.
Dad opened some awesome doors and the game has received some really great pickups and reviews including a Kotaku feature, an Amazon feature and Apple even had it listed in their “hot” category over the Christmas holiday – we really couldn’t have asked for a better launch.
The game is an allegorical tale of a young boy with a big destiny who is haunted by bad dreams. But really it’s a story about Calling and the spiritual warfare surrounding that. The game also touches on themes like spirit vs. flesh, our position ‘in the heavenlies’ and divine healing.
Our next project is a take on the Noah’s ark story but set in a Sci-Fi, Steampunk space world. Rather than a flannel graph story featuring a bearded old man with lots of pets, we’re tapping into the very grown up features of the story…chapter one, G Prime, should be out later this year.**
On top of the games we’ve also been fired up by a wide range of speaking engagements to address increasingly large groups on topics like Gaming for Good, Games with a Moral Compass and similar topics. IDF, Elements, Casual Connect, NRB, and Serious Play are just a few of the conferences we’ve spoken to – and the invitations creep coming. Our dad keeps on making things come together that we could never do for ourselves and that’s been pretty darn exciting. In “seven mountains” terminology we seem to making many great contacts on that entertainment mountain as well as folks from many other sprees of influence. On top of exciting…its darn humbling.
I’ll wrap this up as I’m certain you’re busy. But I wanted to keep my word to let you know how we’re doing and also to say thank you. The advice, encouragement and prophecy we’ve received from people like yourself has been immensely formative and words like those are what keep us pushing when things may look dim. Thank you again and may the Lord bless you an keep you.
* Just to be perfectly clear, except in a few cases I don’t “know” these people in any deep sense of the word. But I have been lucky enough to trade a few lines of conversation with each of them, and all have been influential in one way or another. So no, I can’t get any autographs for you.
** Technically, G Prime is a reboot of the first chapter that we published in 2009 but that’s the kind of detail I probably shouldn’t expect a (mostly) stranger to really have to worry about.
In 2008 we released G: Into the rain as our first installment of the Arc game series. Now we are revisiting it with new art, new technology and a new look. In this weeks Flurry Friday Chris Skaggs talks with our art director Nat Iwata and our technical artist Gavin Nichols about the early stages of G Prime development.
We’re in the middle of a fantastic but unexpected experience. We were planning on running a promo for our iOS version of Bok Choy Boy with OpenFeint this week but due to some unforeseen complications we had to change horses at he last minute and we swapped G:Into The Rain into the slot. Even though G is over 2 years old now (which is like 407 in app years) the game popped up out of the ranking basement and rose to a high of #23 in puzzles, #38 in arcade and #143 in all games.
Look – I know those aren’t like astronomical numbers, but without any real effort or preparation on our part and a last-miunte promo with OF the game proved to still have legs and we continue to get great reviews from folks who are discovering it for the first time.
The conventional wisdom in the app world seems to be that an app’s shelf life is something like 3-months if you’re lucky. But I think the most compelling lesson of the Angry Birds saga is that they had a hit and then they stuck with it instead of moving on to something else. Perhaps one of the most powerful but generally overlooked aspects of the long-tail economy is the persistence of a product and the ongoing ability for new users to find your game, share it, and become new fans. We certainly never expected G to keep on living the way it has but it’s the app that just wont die…and we kinda like it that way.
When we set out to make G: Into The Rain, we came to understand that sound design was an area we did not want to neglect. This is not to say that we were immediately aware of the importance of having good sound. In fact, to be honest, we knew that G was going to be first deployed on the iPhone. The on-board audio playback hardware on the iPhone is not exactly high quality – unlike the netbooks which we eventually ported G to late in 2009. During the development, we started to realize that we weren’t necessarily tied to one platform, and that devices like the netbook could impart a much richer game play experience in terms of sound.
In the early conceptual phases of our development, we decided to have a look around at the games that we all liked. Sound design wasn’t something that jumped out as a priority. Frankly, the first non-visual game element that most people notice is music; and while we were blessed with a very talented composer for the musical score of G, that is a topic for another post. Sound, as a game element, is often overlooked. If you ask many people what they enjoyed about a particular game or application, more often than not you will hear about how they liked the gameplay, or that the art was stunning, or that the storyline moved along really well, or that they really liked (or hated) a particular character. Sound design, or rather good sound design is not something that is in your face. It’s subtle, and most often it’s only really noticed after the visual. For instance, when you walk into a room, unless there’s a buzzsaw running, most likely the first thing you’ll notice is what it looks like. We are visual creatures, and hearing most often is employed after sight.
Now I don’t want to convey the idea that because we’re primarily visually oriented, that good sound design can be left for the back burner. Quite the contrary. When we looked around at the games that we all liked to play, we started to catalog and attempt to define what it is that we enjoyed about those games. Eventually, we began to pay close attention to the sound design. In doing so, we had to look beyond the iPhone, and plan accordingly. We came to the conclusion, that one of the reasons we liked the games we did was because of the sound. In most cases, it wasn’t an obvious, in-your-face sort of revelation. Sound was used here as a way to augment the look and feel of the games. Looking ahead, we made the choice to take sound design seriously – which is especially vexing considering the less-than stellar (external) speakers on the iPhone. But if we had taken the approach that “nothing will sound good on the iPhone” and had half-hearted sound design, then G certainly wouldn’t have sounded as good as it does now on a netbook. Continue Reading…
When Soma was first looking at the video game business about four years ago the biggest barrier to entry was cost and distribution. That may look like a subject-verb-mismatch but the two things are so intricately related that they might as well be seen as a single issue. Indie games cost less to make but had no realistic way to get to the public; to get out there you needed a big distribution channel, to get distributed you needed a publisher and to interest a publisher you needed to spend $500k or more.
But as I was coming to grips with this problem something new was just appearing on the scene – digital distribution. Continue Reading…