Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Starting 2013

So, so very much to talk about.  First off, I’ve mentioned in the last post about two investors putting together a game studio in Roseville.  I've since been in the physical studio still in construction.  It's not even sheet rocked yet and probably won't be ready until March.  But they've decided to get some game projects going now, so starting next week, myself and two people I’ve picked from the Dawnshine team will start prototyping out our first game.  If that works out, it means bigger and better things, including the possibility of me hiring more artists and programmers from Dawnshine to work professionally for a funded studio.  I've worked for game studios professionally before, but always as a telecommuter.  I hate telecommuting.  I like talking to people face to face and seeing what people are doing when ever I need to.  So this will be a new experience for me, one I'm excited about.

As for Dawnshine, I’m very glad that I reached out to Professor Matthew Stoehr, chair of the Art New Media Department of the second largest college in Sacramento--American River College.  He's been sending me his students.  I’ve been really impressed with the quality of work they're doing.  I actually went to ARC myself starting in the 1990s back when I was determined to major in every single subject ever created before I finally settled transferring to CSUS in 2005 to get my degree in Psychology and graduated 4 years later with my Anthropology BA(and now I’m back at ARC getting a Business AA degree).  But in all that time, I don’t think I’ve ever met an instructor that was as passionate about improving the skills of his students as Matt is.  He’s a hard teacher though from what I’ve heard.  He expects a lot from his students.

In addition to sending his current and former students our way to work on the Dawnshine project, he’s been helping out with some behind the scenes stuff.  There are a lot of technical art issues we’ve needed some help with.  Just knowing that I can turn to Matt for help on those issues is a relief.  Plus having an artist of Matt's caliber associated with this project really gives us some credibility.  It's really tough saying to people, "Hey, I'm just some random guy with a dream and no money.  Please take me seriously."  People like that are a dime a dozen.  And although I know Dawnshine is a stand out project, it's hard overtly showing that to others.

I get about 1-3 emails a day from people interested in joining the project.  That sounds awesome, though most of the emails I get are basically, "I don't know anything about programming, but I play a lot of games.  When can I start?"  And that's great.  I love it that people are excited enough just from seeing what little is on our website about it enough to write me.  But trying to attract people of a high enough skill level to be useful on this project is pretty tough.  All of the people on the team right now are talented enough to be working at a game studio professionally.  And even though we don't have funding, we still need skilled people to make the type of game that will attract investors.

Aside from that, the art team has been working on concepts.  I know, here we are a year later, and we still haven’t modeled very much.  But the more time we spend on concepts, the better looking the game will be.  I’m really happy about the direction the artists are taking now.  I feel like we’re a lot more organized than we’ve ever been.  Despite having a smaller team, we’re getting far more work done than before.  It makes me think I should have started out small from the beginning and added people slowly instead of trying to start off with a big team.  Starting out with a big team just made things really chaotic and disorganized.  The first artist I recruited told me that if I didn't recruit a big team right off the bat, she'd quit.  So I did, and she quit right after anyways.  Lesson learned.  People that are hard to work with and demanding don't want to be there in the first place.

Our Programmer team has been pretty stable as well.  In fact, we haven’t parted with a programmer since August, though we have added some, making it as large as the art team.  My father owns a small drafting company and he’s going to let the programming team hold our meetings there.  That’ll be pretty cool to be coding side by side with the rest of the team instead of meeting at a pizza place and just talking about the coding we've been doing.  The downside is that it’s in Roseville, which is even further away for the Elk Grove, Vacaville people.  But we might carpool.

I formed a third team consisting of a 2d artist, a programmer, and our audio guy.  We started jokingly calling it the A Team.  Their task is to come up with spell effects.  The HeroEngine already has a cool FX system in place, though there’s a few ways we want to adapt it to the Dawnshine Project specifically, hence why the programmer on that team.  We had our first meeting as a team at my dad’s office.

As for future teams, I’ve split off a Level Design team from the main art team.  It’s still a little shaky.  We need more artists and level designers, then it should be ok eventually.

I’m also looking to put together a management and business development team.  I need help with organizing tasks, so an Assistant Producer would be useful.  That would give me more time to focus on recruiting and writing design documentation.  If I recruited a recruiter, that would save me even more time, though they’d have to be really good to replace me.  Finally, I’d like to recruit a grant writer.  Believe it or not, but the game industry is one of the most heavily subsidized industries in the US.  First off, it’s considered IT.  And anything relating to technology, the US wants to keep in the US.  Since tech jobs tend to pay a lot higher, that means more tax revenue.  Considering that the Canadian government pays American game companies big money to relocate to Canada, the US wants to do what it can to keep those jobs state side.

The other reason is that game development can cover so many other mediums: tech, education, music, art, research and development, the internet, commerce, and a few I’m probably forgetting, a single game dev company can qualify for multiple, otherwise unrelated, government grants and tax subsidies.  Now, I’m not the least bit a fan of taking government money.  However, I’m a pretty big fan of being able to actually start paying my peeps.  The idea of walking through the middle of an office full of happy artists and programmers plugging away at one of our game projects, that’s probably the most awesome thing I could imagine.