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’s Zappos 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.