Saturday, June 30, 2012

Recruiting II

Have you ever met someone that's had bad luck with people?  They tell you about how many times they've been burned and how they keep working with crazy people that are unreliable or drama queens.  You get to know the person a little longer and become friends and you start to realize that all the people they don't like are actually good, decent people and it's your new friend that's the crazy one?  I've been in that situation a quite a few times.

I've always been drawn to unstable, unique, and interesting people.  I was friends with a woman for about a year who suffered from Schizophrenia, and although she was stable 95% of the time, she'd tell me stories of what life was like before the meds--stories of hallucinations of monsters coming to life and trying to kill her and her running through public streets screaming for help from them.  I've been friends with quite a few crazy people, now that I think about it.  I'm fascinated by alternative interpretations of reality.  Such associations with people I've had generally ends pretty badly.  Now, here I am complaining about all the crazy, unreliable people I've met and how I've been burned.  Uh oh.  *looks around*

That's my segue into saying that Loki's Planet and myself have parted ways.  I have a lot to say about that, but it's probably best if I don't.

I've certainly worked on quite a few large projects run by poor and incompetent leaders in the past.  It makes me question my own leadership style.  Is there someone on our team thinking, "Man, Brian's an idiot.  It's stupid that we're doing things this way"?  No one on the team challenges anything I say.  That really makes me nervous.  I thrive on negative criticism.

I've admitted before that I'm not doing a very good job leading the programming team.  But I've been wondering if the issue is more that I haven't been doing a good job recruiting programmers.  I keep recruiting programmers that don't really want to be game programmers, but rather are just looking for something to put on their resume and get by doing the least amount of work for us that they can.  I need to start weeding those people out.  I've found, it's always better to have a small, dedicated team than a large unmotivated one.  Unmotivated people sap the morale from motivated people.  So even with an unfunded project like ours, recruiting "hanger on-ers" can do damage.  I'm learning this stuff as I go along.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Week 23

So much to talk about.  So our programming team has all but collapsed.  We have one strong programmer on the team, a few that show up to the meetings every now and then but don't do much, and the occasional person that really, really wants to join the team, finds out it's actual work, and quits.  I think I'm going to start going to colleges and talking to deans / career counselors to recruit people.  With all the people that want to get experience in the game industry, recruiting shouldn't be this hard.

On the art side of things, we're doing really well.  We have about 20 artists, some of which have experience working at AAA game studios, which is always nice.  Only about half the team tends to make the meetings on a regular basis though, but Jared and Micaela are doing a good job keeping everything organized behind the scenes with the people that can't always make the meetings.  So I'm pretty happy with the direction things are going in.  I'm also really happy with with the look of the Neg Wath in terms of clothing, weapons, and hair styles as well as their building styles.  We're close to uploading some of it.

Now, I'd said since the beginning that funding would be a long shot.  I'm going to officially change that to "likely."  I'm not going to get into too much details as to that publicly here, just to say that E3 had some unexpected surprises.  In case anyone wonders why I have people sign NDAs before they can join the team--this is why.  We're not going to be talking about it until it happens or it could spoil things.  It's also likely it completely falls apart on its own.  The skeptic in me is leaning towards the latter, but hopefully I'm wrong about it.  I'll celebrate when the check clears.  Until then we're just going to keep focusing on making a great game in our free time.

I've been pushing the team to send me their time sheets for the work they complete.  I've had some interest from other studios about having work out sourced to us, so it might be very likely I can at least get the team some money doing work outside the Dawnshine project.  This is tricky, because not everyone would be working on the out sourced project, so it will be a little weird when some people are getting paid and some aren't.  The team doesn't seem to stress out about stuff like that, though I do.

Aside from all that, let's talk about E3 for a bit.  So plans got changed.  I was lining up interviews with game companies so I could cover their games in articles I would then write about, but Loki's Planet wanted me to interview game developers on their separate list on camera at our booth, so I had to stop booking interviews on my own.  We set up an interview location at our booth with lights and a video camera.  All that work and it only got used once, and not by me.  That was a little disappointing since I could have lined up more off camera interviews had I known I'd have more time.  I call this "Loki Planning."  To be fair, Loki is the God of Chaos, so I've gotten pretty used to plans radically changing with them.

I did get to interview quite a few people there and I'll be writing articles on that soon.  Right now, I'm stalling because next on my list is an article about a kids game that I'm not the least bit interested in talking about.  But not everything I'm going to cover as a game journalist is something I find interesting.  It goes with the territory.

Some of the stand outs: I got to ask the lead designer of Ninja Theory and Lead Producer of Capcom some questions about the new DmC coming out.  Myself and the other journalists sat down in a press room to have it unveiled to us.  It's a pretty cool looking game.  I like the idea that you don't have to spasticly spam attack buttons to kill stuff.  It's a rhythm game.  You can relax and time your button pushes evenly and generate more stylistic attacks that way.  I'll be finishing a full article on it for Loki's Planet in a little bit.

But before that, I need to get back to writing that kiddie game article.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

End of Week 21

I've had a really busy week so far.  Next week is going to be even more hectic.  First, let's talk about the project.  So I've added a few more artists to the team this week and one more programmer.  First time this has ever happened, but I met with a guy that decided not to sign our NDA.  He wanted me to give him access to all our game design information before he would decide to join the project or not.  Obviously, I'm not going to do that.  Maybe he's just one of those people that's spooked about signing things.  I've signed quite a few NDAs, so it doesn't phase me.  But maybe it's for the best.

So I'm going to start bringing in printed out design document stuff in to the programmer meetings so we can all look at things and discuss them.  I've laid out the numbers and formulas on how our strange combat system will work.  It's going to need a lot of testing and rebalancing.  I think our combat system is going to really throw people off at first.  We give people far more freedom than any fighting game has ever given a player, but I know players are going to die a lot until they get used to it.  It's not arcade skill based.  It's more fast paced strategy based.  So more thinking and less button twitching.  You will not be able to casually hit buttons while watching tv like you can in every other MMO on the planet.  There's not a name for Dawnshine combat, because it doesn't exist yet, so it's hard to describe without laying it all out.  But maybe we can start doing that a year from now when we might have game play footage to go with it.

I completely redesigned one of the classes: the Neg Wath Necromancers.  They do summon zombies, but they're not exactly a pet class.  They're closer to Elemental Shamans from WoW, only with death magic instead of natural.  They have a lot more interactions with their zombies than WoW shamans have with their totems, but it's otherwise the closest in similarities.

We might be close to having the combat system working in the engine, which would mean we'd be able to start alpha testing soon.  We'll fix the most obvious things first, then start letting our friends test.  We have a huge number of people wanting to test, so that will come in helpful.

Aside from that, I'm going to be at E3 all next week with Loki's Planet.  I've got some pretty big interviews booked.  I'll admit, I'm not very familiar with console games, so I'll be interviewing developers that make games I've never played.  That has me a little nervous.  When I'm not doing that, I'll be hanging out at our booth interviewing people on camera.  I've interviewed bands before, but not on camera.  So this will be the first time I've ever interviewed game developers.