Tuesday, December 25, 2012

So this is Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone,

So this Christmas break is the longest time off I've had since the Dawnshine project began.  More specifically, it’s the longest break between meetings.  We’re not going to start meeting again until January 2013.  It gives me a chance to reorganize.  Two things here.  One, I’ve been meeting with investors lately.  And two, I've recently completed a semester of management classes.

The investors I've been talking to, I haven’t talked to them much about Dawnshine.  Why?  Because it would be a waste of time to do so at this point, this early in.  But what has been helpful is to learn the investment side of things by talking to angels, going to VC seminars, and reading as many articles on the subject as I can.  You can set up your interests through LinkedIn and read a new article or two on funding a day.

I have a completely different game project that I think would be hugely successful and highly disruptive, and I’ve now had two completely different investors tell me they’d be interested in it, but I need to set up some infrastructure and solve some technical issues for it.  But that’s something I’d also like to get started.  I just haven’t had time.

Taking management classes has been helping as well.  Want to hear something pretty embarrassing?  Not long after I graduated Sac State with a BA in Anthropology, I applied for a large tech company looking for a Culture Change Instructor.  Well, I had just gotten my Anthro degree with a Culture shift and I have over a decade professional experience as an instructor, so I applied.  Yeah, um, now that I actually understand what “culture change” means from a business stand point, I feel pretty dumb.  I bet they looked at my application and shook their heads.

A friend of mine graduated with me.  She was telling me about how her Anthro degree should help her get a marketing position because she better knew how to market products to a diverse group of people based on her better understanding of cultural values.  It made sense to me at the time, but yeah, I understand a little better how completely wrong that is.  People into marketing only spend a part of their time trying to sell stuff.  They spend the majority of their time analyzing trends, mapping out strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to individual businesses, and trying to predict changes in entire markets.  Anthropologists can't do 1/10th of what a marketer can do in the business world.

Speaking of business, I might be landing another opportunity.  I've been talking to an up and coming game company.  If I were to get involved with them, it would not deter my time spent on Stigma Games.  In fact, I think working for another game company could actually make things better.  I haven’t signed anything, so of course, it may or may not happen.  But in light of these events and some reflection, I've decided to fundamentally alter the course for Stigma Games.

Right now we’re a group of people working on a game for the fun of it, with the hope that it could one day turn into something.  Most of the people on the team are just here for experience to help them get a job elsewhere.  And that’s fine too.

While this approach has been fine in the past, I will instead start treating Stigma Games as a serious company currently bootstrapping, but moving towards a strong proof of concept with Dawnshine that would allow us to start attracting investors.  I say this due to the fact that there are people currently on the team taking Dawnshine seriously, investors taking us seriously, and other professionals from tech companies in the area that I meet a mixers and things taking us seriously.

On the other hand, there are people on our team that see this as a fun project to drop in and out of when they have time.  And I’ve thought in the past that if I start taking this too seriously, those people might quit.  Considering how extremely hard this project is to manage with people coming and going and maybe doing 10 hours worth of work this week or 3 months from now, I need to start taking a more hard line approach.  I’ve been afraid of getting the “You know you’re not paying me, right?” line if I try and push production too much and we might start losing people.  But more importantly, if I don’t start pushing the team, we’re going to start losing the top performers that get frustrated that the project isn't serious enough.

I’ll list another example.  There is a concept of a hut.  It’s an unusual concept, and one I think will be really awesome once it’s modeled.  I believe it was created back in March or April.  I first passed it off to a modeler who never finished it and faded away from the team.  I assume she’s no longer part of the team because she doesn't contact me any more.  So I passed it off to someone else, who also disappeared.  Finally, we recruited another person who wanted something simple to work on.  I passed it to him and never heard from him again.  Will the fourth person I pass it to do it in a week or will this simple hut take years before someone finally does it?

Now, if I wanted to recruit a level designer to design the capitol city for the Neg Wath and I had a whole list of assets needed first and some of them could be completed next week and others years from now(who knows?), I have no idea what to tell the level designer when he’d be able to start.  It sucks to say this, but I’m going to have to remove people from the team who are given tasks and either don’t do them by next week or don’t keep me in the loop on their progress.  Managing this project is an impossible task if I can’t rely on people to do what they tell me they’re going to do or keep me informed when they have problems.

I don’t think people on the team are flaky or bad people.  Mostly, I don’t think I've done a very good job at explaining to the team the importance of being organized or how tight our pipeline is as we start creating different specialized teams that need A done before they can start on B.  This is especially hard if A and B are done by different teams.  Why rush to finish something that’s needed by someone you haven’t even met or are aware of?

I have photographers taking pictures of things we need for the modelers to do their thing.  They've never worked on a game project.  They don’t come to the art meeting.  They don’t understand that when I need something by next week before a modeler can finish their asset, emailing me 3 months later asking if I still need it done, isn't going to fly.

But again, I don’t blame the members of my team.  I blame myself for not better communicating how interconnected everyone’s work is, even to other members of the project that they haven’t even met because they go to different production meetings.

2013 is a new year.  Hopefully each year gets better for us.  We’ll see how it goes.