Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Middle of Week 3

I went to high school in the late 80's. Now, I'd been playing Dungeons and Dragons since I was 10. My parents bought me the original red box starter set when it first came out in an attempt to encourage me to read at a young age--which obviously worked. But the stigma associated with people who played D&D at that time was grossly inaccurate and very negative. So when we used to play during lunch in high school, I was always the kid saying, "Hide the books!" when a group of girls would walk by. My friends would respond, "Huh? What?" totally oblivious. It's nice to see the social acceptability of being a game obsessed nerd change. Today, it's not nearly as embarrassing to wear a World of Warcraft shirt around, for example. But still, I'm old school and I still carry around a bit of that hesitation.

As just a coincidence of how things turned out, most of the artists on the Dawnshine team are women--either recent college grads or graduating seniors. I still remember the first meetings I had with each of them separately and later as part of the group. I was a little nervous about how to bring up the Neg Wath. So the Neg Wath are this ethnic group. They're sort of like the Celts, but far more cannibalistic. Even more disturbing, they use necromancy to preserve the bodies of the dead. That's a fancy way of saying they raise zombies, then eat those zombies when they get hungry. Yeah, pretty gross. So how do you bring that up in a conversation with a young lady that you don't know that well without coming across like a total weirdo?

Well, turns out the exact opposite happened. The artists on the team love the Neg Wath and have pushed the concept to even more disturbing levels. We had our art meeting sunday and they're drawing up concepts of Neg Wath with human bones weaved through their hair, of armor made of human bones, and all sorts of disturbing things. I announced to the team something like, "You're all sick puppies and need help."

Seriously though, I'm really happy with how the Neg Wath concepts are coming along. The art team is doing a fantastic job. We're getting really close to starting to model some concepts and having our first 3d art assets in the game.

On the programming side of things, we're mostly testing the engine and seeing what we can do with it. We don't have much of our own systems working yet, just the default HeroEngine stuff. Last night, I recruited another programmer with a 4 year Game Programming degree from Devry. He's going to have to be the last programmer I recruit on the team or else the programming team is going to be too large to manage.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Middle of Week 2

I looked back at some of my older posts and cringed at a few typos. A lot has changed. The team has grown quite a bit. A few instructors at the Art Institute have been talking to me about some of their students and asking what roles I need filled. I've had so many programmers want to join the team that we just can't fit any more. I think we're at around 15 people, with more I'm scheduled to meet with. We'll be recruiting a lot of animators and modelers soon, though there's not much for them to do now.

Where we are in development?

I had planned to spend a month with the programmers just learning the engine, but they're moving faster than I thought they would, so we're already putting in the combat system. It's not done or working, but some of the stats are in. One of the programmers I recruited was only in his first semester in college and had never programmed anything other than some simple class assignments. I was obviously hesitant to recruit him, though I could tell this was really important to him. But he's already gotten a part of the combat system working, so I was right. This really is what he wants to do and he's adapting fine.

Technical Art
The technical artists are testing polygon limits of the engine, animation importing, and setting some standards. I made our two technical artists the gate keepers. Not a single art asset gets into the engine without going through them to make sure it's imported and working properly. When I start modeling some assets, they'll be telling me how many polygons I can use. If this is too technical, I'll explain it this way. The better the graphics, the more it slows down your computer. So we need to work within our limits to pack the best amount of graphic quality while ensuring good performance on as many machines as we can. We have two technical artists on the team that know how to find that balance at different parts of the game so they're in charge of that.

Concept Art
We're working with some widely varying schedules from some of the concept artists, so this has been a little rough. We have some initial concepts of the four playable factions from one of our concept artists that makes every meeting. I like them so far, but I want to see what some of the other artists have so we can mesh some ideas.

There were several business people I was talking to about the project, though none of that has materialized, so I've been handling that on my own. We've partnered up with Loki's Planet and they're using their marketing resources to lay some ground work for us. They haven't even launched yet, and they're already getting over 10k hits a day. They're doing something right. We're getting 20-200 hits a day right now. I've also been made the Editor at Loki's Planet, so I'll be recruiting writers looking to write game reviews. Btw, writing for a game magazine is an excellent way for writers to break into the game industry, so any writers interested in that, email me at brian at lokisplanet dot com But back on topic, so Loki's Planet wants to start using their promotional prowess to help us out. There's some other things in the works, but not anything I can talk about at this time--hopefully something that turns into something cool. We'll see.

Also in business news, last night I went to a meeting being presented by the project manager of SARTA. SARTA is a non profit organization whose purpose is to develop the tech industry of the Sacramento region. They were founded by venture capitalists and angel investors who are looking for tech companies struggling to get off the ground. Stigma Games is exactly the kind of business SARTA would be interested in and they seemed pretty interested in the Dawnshine project when I sat down with their Project Manager after the presentation. Does that mean that funding is right around the corner for us? No. No, it doesn't. These investors want to give us too little money and take too big a percentage of our profits.

But laying the ground work now and starting these connections can possibly lead to the right deal for us. In the mean time, we need to get the concepts down to where we're happy, start building 3D assets, then work on putting out a demo.

Once the demo is out, hopefully we start attracting Likes on our FB page. That will show investors that we have a marketable game worth investing in.

Not much to report there yet. Our composer on the team is working some things out. I can't wait to hear what he has so far.

I've been getting behind on this. I want to start posting some fiction about Dawnshine. The brief descriptions on the site right now are not terribly interesting. Nor do they mention anything about the characters struggling in the world--which is the bulk of the story. Quests are going to be character driven rather than event driven. In other words, you're doing quests because this person did that, not because some event happened. It's a different approach. It's subtle, but I think players will find our quests a lot more interesting even if they're not sure exactly why.

I think Star Wars does a good job of this approach. With my Sith Sorcerer, I wanted to collect the Artifacts because I wanted to know why they were so important to Zash. Well, now I finally know and I wasn't disappointed. BioWare's writers did a fantastic job.

Web Development
There's a web guy that I've talked to. Not sure what's going on with that. It's not a big priority. But I've had a few people politely tell me that our website sucks. Yeah, I know it does. Don't worry. It will look pretty cool one day. Right now we're low on 2d artists, so I can't justify telling them to stop working on concepts (that we need before we can start building graphics for the game) so they can work on the website that's not really important right now.

Ok, that's it for now.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

First Meeting

Tonight was the first step of our journey. We mostly talked about how things have been going with the engine and what we need to establish and work on. I had NDAs for everyone to sign and gave everyone a peek into the story of Dawnshine. I had typed up about 12 pages of the history of the world and each faction, as well as each of the four classes of each four factions. That's 16 classes total that will each play fairly differently from each other along with the back story on how each class fits in with lore of the world. The concept artists want even more information from me, so I'll be preparing design documents to detail the culture, religion, and goals of each faction in much greater detail. Wow, this is going to be a lot of work, but this is exactly what I love doing.

At the meeting, we started some of the delegating. It's a little scary to give people I don't know that well complete control over something. But it's also inspiring. All of the people working on this project have the skills to be at a traditional, well funded game company doing their thing, but would never be given that chance--not right out of college, or while still in college atleast. So we're the outsiders. There's power in that.

I think it's important to stress this. Yes I started this project. Yes it's based off a stories I have been working on for over a decade. But it's important to realize that I'm just putting in one piece of the puzzle. The story of this effort is not about me, but rather a story about Sacramento and making our own opportunities. We want to make the games we all grew up playing and continue to play. That's what we went to school for. That's what we spend most our free time doing.

We still have some pitfalls. I don't have a character modeler recruited, and although we don't need one right now, I'd feel happier knowing one is lined up. We also don't have an Art Director. This is something I'm concerned about. I'm a "I know what I like," kind of guy when it comes to art. That's not good enough. The Concept Artists on the team need better feedback than, "Hey, that looks cool," which is all I can really provide for them. I can say what I like and don't, but we're not making a game for an audience of me. So whether I personally like it is a little irrelevant. I'm really just concerned with if it fits culture of the civilizations or not. In the meanwhile, the hope is that the Concept Artists on the team can collectively decide what they like and don't like and work out a consistent style from there.

All and all, a way more productive meeting than I thought the first meeting would be. This is really exciting. I can't wait to start posting some stories and concept art for people following this project to check out.