Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Middle of Week 15

There's not a lot of news this week. Basically, we're a little further than last week and close to recruiting 3D Modelers now that we just about have concepts for them. We should have the male and female character model done and rigged soon, which means recruiting animators next.

There's a few other things I've been wanting to talk about. One, the Valve Employee handbook has been circulating around a bit on the internet. Valve is probably best known for Steam (a game portal), Team Fortress 1 and 2, and the Half Life series. What's interesting about the handbook for new employees is that it makes clear that there are no managers, no bosses, and no leadership in the company. Everyone is equal. They started as a small company and now employ hundreds, but they still let their employees do whatever they want. It makes a point about how each desk has wheels on it, so employees can pick where to move their desk to based on where they should be to do the most good, what needs to be done, and who they need to work with to accomplish it.

This is a bizarre way to run a traditional company. Most people hate their jobs and do the least amount of work they can unless they want a promotion. Most people have no idea how to do the job they're hired for and have to be trained and molded. Employers often complain about the enormous cost and loss of production it takes to train people and how they need that employee to make that money back for the company within a certain time frame.

But the game industry is different. It's an extremely competitive industry where finding very experienced and skilled people are much easier. And despite the fact that people in the game industry often earn less money for comparable work, game developers are often self motivated and driven to make the best product they possibly can. Because of these unusual characteristics, a game company need not operate the way others do. Though as a side note, breaking into the incredibly competitive game industry against people far more experienced and skilled, is a scary thought. How do you get experience if no one will hire you? You do exactly what we're doing.

Of course, I can't really develop Stigma Games into the next Valve right now. We don't have any funding, nor do we have a physical studio yet. So people stress out about their day jobs, paying off student loans, and all that. But we are getting close to that idea.

What else? This isn't really Stigma Games related, but I'm finishing up the game lore for another game studio--one that's actually paying me. And I'm going to pitch a game idea to Loki's Planet that I think will bring in a lot of traffic. I have no idea if Loki's Planet will pay me for developing it for the site. But again, I'm one of those self motivated people that just wants to make games so that's not as important to me.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Middle of Week 14

I tend to write these posts when I get some spare time. That seems to be happening less and less these days. Things are going to get worse. Cutting into sleep, kind of worse soon. But busy is always better than not busy.

The art team has been doing much better. I know we've spent three months on concepts, but it's really important we get this down so tight that players will instantly be able to recognize a Neg Wath building from a Sherite one. I want that sense of dread when a Kaynish player is exploring the forest and they round a corner, and see a Neg Wath building close by and know they might be in trouble.

The character concept artists still have a lot of clothing styles to design, but I think it makes more sense for them to move around faction wise. They work on pretty much what ever they want. What I like about that is they're able to build contrast. After all, it's hard to establish what something is without establishing what it isn't.

As for character models, we're still working that out. Our options are to take a low poly model, map it, smooth it into a high poly mesh and use that to get a normal map for the low poly, game friendly version, or start with a high poly model and retopologize it down to low poly. In either case, I'm hoping to get done with that in a month. I'd like to be able to start recruiting animators and replace the default characters the HeroEngine comes with.

Also in art news, I've been tinkering around a lot with the flora in the game. I went on a field trip a couple days ago to a nature reserve and took a lot of pictures of stones, sand, grasses, and flowers. Since a "green screen" wouldn't have made sense, I took a pink sheet of paper with me. For flowers and blades of grass, I'd put the sheet behind it, then take the picture. Once I got home, it was easy to go into Photoshop, select for the color pink and delete it. That's essentially how a green screen works. Now I have 2d pictures of plants cut out from a background. That makes it much easier to put in the engine to give a photo realistic look to the terrain. I'm still playing with compression types for .dds files and bump maps, but it's coming along.

Not much to report on the programming front. There's some things brewing on the business side of things, though it's hard to predict how it will all pan out. Lot's going on with Loki's Planet, but again, hard to see how that's all going to go.

I'm still looking to expand the writer team for Loki's Planet. I think it's a little frustrating. The game industry is incredibly difficult for writers to break into. I'm offering a way for writers to get some publishing credits and a journalism portfolio, plus have the opportunity to make contacts--what better way to get game companies to know who you are than to give them free publicity by reviewing their games--and it's still a struggle recruiting people. Game journalism is one of the best ways into the industry for writers.

Ah, speaking of writing, I got a little side job. No big deal. It's only about a day and a half of work, but it pays well. A new start up company is making an RPG in the Unity engine and they hired me to write the lore and back story for the world. Anthropologist / game writers are pretty rare. Most people don't care about writing lore that's the least bit realistic. So I was inspired by the fact here's a group of professional game developers with AAA titles under their belts that don't really know me, but wanted to hire me to write up a lore design document for their game to get the story off to a proper start. Is this part of a trend of game companies starting to care more about having stories that aren't stupid? I hope so.

I'm still uncomfortable with the "So, what do you charge?" question. The more you ask for, the better they think you are and more they want to hire you. I don't care about that though. I just like creating worlds. I'm happy to charge whatever the bare minimum I need to be able to scrape by as long as I can keep tinkering on game lore and story.