I've touched down in London. Now that I have some "micro-funding", I'm able to hobo around various friends'/family's abodes for a small amount of rent money. Right now, I'm at Tim and Chrispy's, stealin' their internets. I couldn't be here without the money I'm getting - It's already solved the issues I had being in a broadband deadzone while working in the countryside, and also the problem of having no social life.

It feels as though for about 6 years I've been detatched from my friends: first there was university, and then there was my previous job abroad. After that there were the trips to America to work with Tommy in his secluded family house, as well as working from my parents' home in equally secluded Exmoor.

We had a small reunion the other night. It felt a bit as though I was coming out of hiding... all these faces I hadn't seen for years.

So much has happened: One friend got a PhD, another was part of a Think Tank, and another turned out to be working at SCEE (which only became apparant after I, erm, "commented" on some of Sony's recent PR problems. Oops). Another came back from his new home in Iceland for a visit. It was great to see them all again, as well as meeting new people, but after years of feeling like a hermit, it was a little overwhelming. I think I had a mild panic attack after someone said that I moved like a robot, and made fun of my clothes (this was at about 4am after my cousin and another friend sorta crashed a party which had already run its course. It felt like we walked into freezer, such was the welcome.)

I'm still pretty poor, here, and the overwhelming sense of capitalism driving London means that I have to make a concerted effort not to make lots of impulse buys as I travel from place to place. Food and cost of living are expensive enough as it is without the constant temptation of the game du jour. I'd love to shell out for some new clothes, but there's no way I can afford them, and also, I get a fantastic false sense of superiority telling people that I'm being ecologically friendly by wearing my clothes for as long as possible. These trainers are over two years old, and are the only casual footware I have.


We showed our Demo (see previous post) to our man at MS. Unfortunately, we think he may have been playing it on a single core machine (and our engine requires multiple cores to work). As a result, the game ran incredibly slowly, and he wasn't really able to see what was going on. Then again, he may be referring to the general pace of the game, and that he couldn't really percieve what he was supposed to do, or what the draw of the game really was. He still likes the concept, but as we already know, we've got a ways to go before we have the core mechanic properly framed by a proper user experience (the "beginning, middle, end" of games).

The feedback creates some confliciting feelings for me. On the one hand, he still loves the concept, but on the other hand, pushing 2 sets of 20 crunch wasn't enough to make a convincing demo - it's frustrating to know that hard work doesn't necessarily equal success. Never work hard at the exclusion of working smart, is the moral. We know where to go from here, though...

Tommy's going to an invite-only event on the west coast on the 16th which our guy at MS is also going to (I can't really afford the tickets). We're polishing up what we have so that we can show him the game as it's supposed to be presented.

We're working on this polish-up based on the feedback we've been getting from all over about the video. We've been finding that people who see the game for the first time fall into two categories: the first set of people immediately understand what to do "Oh, I see... you surround their goo with your goo!"; The second set simply get a mental block, and need help understanding what the game's all about.

I'm a bit annoyed with myself: I've seen people wander into development myopathy many times before - so concentrated on what they're doing that they can't have any empathy for the outsider. I promised myself that I wouldn't fall into that trap, and make sure I step back and look at the game with fresh eyes as often as possible. I feel like if people don't get what is a really pretty simple concept ("surround their goo with your goo") I failed my duty there.

We've been in it so deep for so long that when AdamAtomic from TIGsource forums told me "the only reason I really understand it is because I've read your blog", I was taken aback. I'm annoyed at myself for not explaining the game better, and for assuming that everyone should just understand it, and know what "Go" is, and know about Sun Tzu's art of war, and Bruce Lee's "Be water, my friend" quotes. I thought I knew better than to be so presumtuous, but apparantly I fell into a spot of denial about how obvious the game is.

Then again, it is a fairly different game, as buddy JP says "If people aren't lining up colors, or shooting baddies, you're immediately obligated to a lot of explanation."

So, perhaps I shouldn't be too mad at myself, for two reasons: it's par for the course to have a lot of effort put into a tutorial for a game with a non-typified mechanic, and also, tutorials are not the foundation to rest your game on... we needed to make the game before we could explain it. Illucidation will come in time.

Before the 16th, I hope to have a better in-game explanation of what the goal of the game is, how to use the controls fully, and how to maximize your points. I want to do this without putting players through example videos/replays, or by forcing them to jump through hoops. I want something more akin to BattleField 2's wonderful "Teach it as you use it" system... but with Goo rather than helicopters. It's certainly harder to do, but far more satisfying for the player when they aren't boxed into the classroom from the get-go.

It's funny how much of good design is just about thinking hard so that others don't have to.


Dave said...

I understand your desire to do this game full time. The truth is you might not have that luxury. It is going to take a very long time to finish; longer than you think! It is *very* difficult to get money out of publishers. I understand your desire to be a starving artist, the pragmatist in me thinks you should get a job and work evenings, weekends. Finish your game and then its much easier to convince a publisher once you have a proven track record. Oh and buy some shoes!

I remember some of the interviews you gave about kickme/leper/matrix quake... I think you managed to completely confuse most people ;)

Perhaps you should get someone on board who is a confident sales person. Network, find someone that you know, that understands you, has a passion for games, but isn't necessarily on the same wavelength as you. (oh and will do it on future sales)
Also I'd recommend trying to get a laptop capable of playing your game. That should really help the sell.

Try some other places too. Just send speculative letters to publis with a nice video demonstrating gameplay. Try aim your sales pitch at a child, you need to be enthusiastic. Not your mum, your mum would never buy the game.

You'd be surprised at how plenty in the industry just don't get games.

Bez said...

I think your advice makes sense for anyone just starting out, but since we've already been working for a year full time, and somehow making our way, it seems weird to stop now. Maybe if everything goes really badly, we'll have to think about going at it another way. We're fine for at least the immediate future, though.

"It is going to take a very long time to finish; longer than you think!"
I already figured it will take longer that I think. Nice to know you think it'll take longer than I think it'll take longer than ;). I heard somewhere that on average, software engineering jobs take 400% of the initial time proposed.

"I remember some of the interviews you gave about kickme/leper/matrix quake... I think you managed to completely confuse most people ;)"

When I gave interviews about those mods, I was pretty young. I'm sort of living down those times now... regretting that exposure.

"I understand your desire to be a starving artist, the pragmatist in me thinks you should get a job and work evenings, weekends."

It's not really that I want to be a "starving artist". If I wanted to be one, then, wayhay! Misson Accomplished! Scraping along is the only way I know how to get the game made. I don't think I'd have the energy to do a job as well as this. Then it REALLY would take forever.

The funding I'm getting is not from a publisher. It is from a patron. This is not very standard, I know, but it should give me just enough to get by.

"You'd be surprised at how plenty in the industry just don't get games."

Nah, I'm fairly used to meeting people with no real love of games, in and outside the industry. It's a breath of fresh air when people really are into them.

JC Barnett said...

"I feel like if people don't get what is a really pretty simple concept ("surround their goo with your goo") I failed my duty there."

Part of the all pervasive "development myopia" is the false idea hat a game must appeal to everybody. The fact a group of the people you showed the demo to "got it" and another didn't puts you well ahead in the race to market. I just hope you don't kill the concept in your unrealistic drive to get everybody to "get it", because that is simply impossible. I know you know this, UI'm just warning you not to lose sight of this. If part of your increasingly valuable development time is to go anywhere it is to go on completing the core of the game, not so much on adding tutorial after tutorial in the vain hope of converting the group of people that would never "get" this game.
Apologies for my over-use of quotes. I myself get easily confused about the meaning of "get" in written form.

Tommunism said...

Our guy’s words were “It is really slow...the controls are slow, gameplay is slow”. Anyone who has played the game knows that the controls are extremely responsive, and the gameplay isn’t slow…that is..unless you are playing the game at 10 or 15 frames per second…then it IS slow! I don’t think it’s so much a game issue here, I think it’s a hardware issue. I know for a fact that they are running this game on a machine that is below the system requirements we set forth..that’s why I’m going to show them on my laptop on the 16th. It’s a totally different game at 60FPS…anyone that has played the game knows this. This won't be a problem at all on Xbox (6 3.2Ghz processors = GG stalls). It is however a huge problem on ANY single core machine..even low end dual cores it poses a problem (low end being Centrino Duo). The key here is we need at least two physical processors. I do physics and collision voodoo on those…they need their own processor (I want more detail on 360..so I’ll be extending it to 2 or 3 processors....but even then I won’t be lacking processors there). I have recently had the delight of using the Lumines hack to revert the firmware on my PSP. If you don’t think speed makes a difference try playing Tetris Attack at 5 FPS...you'll put it down real quick.

That being said, the game does need much more explaining…but my boy Aubrey has it nailed down how he wants to do it. So I have all the confidence in him that what he’s working on now will eventually explain the game perfectly.

Dave, I agree with your advice to an extent, however I think bringing in a sales person when we desperately need another programmer and an artist first is a faulty business move. Now, I know all the artists and programmers in the world won't sell a game..but I'm of the opinion that you have to have something to sell before you hire a sales person. Besides, we are a two man group…why do we need a salesperson to pitch the game to one guy at MS who we’ve been in direct contact with for several months? No one can explain the game better than myself or Aubrey..and taking the time from development to take a sales person through every aspect of the game that we wish to have highlighted without making crazy promises would cost too much, both development and money departments. Grow too quick and you fail…happens a LOT….I’ve seen it. This isn’t my first job…I’ve been doing Software Engineering professionally since I was 18. I’ve worked at start ups and big companies…the start ups that try to grow too fast fail even faster.

I also disagree with Aubrey getting a weekend/night job..I think it would take away from his work. There is no set schedule with what we do, we have deadlines, but the working hours during the day aren't set in stone...a night / weekend job would just interfere. We’ve been going strong for over a year now…with Aubrey’s funding coming in and my cache of drug money…We can go until it’s finished. Plus, if I don’t need new clothes HE doesn’t need them!!!!!!!! I wear the same thing for months at a time…just like Einstein…but he had several pairs…I only have one.

Oh, also…that 400% extra time it takes for software engineers to get a job done that you quoted Aubrey, that’s the whiney bitchy lazy programmers…mostly open source. I hate web developers…they piss me off. But…I digress. The game will take a while longer to finish….but…I think the biggest stall will be waiting for a 3rd party. Aubrey and I work till it’s done!