Right now, I’m taking a break from massively overhauling the website. In fact, this might be the last blog post I make on Blogspot, and will otherwise be moving all previous blogs over the last two years to the new site. The new site is going to be created through Drupal. And though I've used Drupal briefly before, it’s a lot to learn. I’m pretty comfortable with php and MySQL, css, and object oriented principles in general, so I think I’ll pick it up pretty fast, but it’s still going to be a colossal amount of work. So what’s the point?
Up until now, I've modeled the public image of Stigma Games after a big time game publishing company. We’re working on multiple titles at once right now. And though we’re not funded, the idea is when we’re close to releasing, we’ll announce our games, have tons of stuff to show off, send press releases about it to game journalists, get exposure, and hopefully things take off. But I've been wondering if that’s not the way to go.
I recently read an article about Chris Roberts and how he recently broke the crowd funding World Record. He’s at $25 million. Most of that is through PayPal donations. Now, Chris Roberts is obviously famous. Just about every PC gamer I know about my age has played the Wing Commander series, so if he asks for money to make a space sim, people will pay attention. But putting that aside, he said in the article that Notch was his inspiration.
Now, no one really knew who Markus “Notch” Persson was as he was building Minecraft. But instead of building up content and unleashing it upon the world, he invited people to come in so he could bounce ideas off them and ask them what they wanted to see in the game. In that regard, gamers became part of the creation. And because of that, 3 million of them bought Minecraft while it was still in beta for $20 bucks a pop.
Ok, so what does all this mean for Stigma Games? We have boatloads of content to show off and talk about. With the new site, we would be able to start showing it off while it’s still unpolished in an effort to get feedback from other gamers outside Stigma Games. Anyone would be able to log in and post their feedback in certain sections. We’ll have alpha builds of our games available to be played directly through our website. I’ll be building a public forum as well once we have enough users signed up. I hate seeing dead forums. But otherwise, the point of the site would be to engage people.
I've mentioned what’s good about letting people in, but there’s danger here. Just ask Richard Garriott how great an idea it was to let people in early for Tabala Rasa. Or the lottery winner who hit Kickstarter to pitch his MMORPG idea using his 2nd grade reading and writing skills who then insulted the many people that pointed out how terrible his ideas were by telling them how they were just jealous of his money.
Aside from being obnoxious and insulting fans, the more realistic danger for us is to make promises, have to back track or completely abandon things. We could also have fans that make suggestions that are either unrealistic, bad, or won’t work with our overall theme. Such fans could feel like we’re not listening to them when we don’t implement those ideas.
Also, we might be long term gamers, but having great ideas for games and knowing how to make them are about as different as knowing how to drive a car and how to build one. We make mistakes, have to pivot, and change. I’m not as excited about the idea of letting people in and watch us first hand as we screw up and have to make radical changes.
All that aside, where we’re currently at: Raygun Rocketship is now playable on the Ouya. Once the Drupal site is up and running, I might start holding events at various pizza places around town to get random gamers to check it out and give us instant feedback--hopefully convincing them to go to our website and get involved there. I mean, I could essentially do this every night. I've already talked to a Round Table in the area about it, and they like the idea.
Our casual game is playable. I might have mentioned, I don’t remember, that we parted ways with the programmer on that project and threw out all the code he did and started over. Well, it’s playable (again) and completely in HTML5 like I wanted it done in the first place. We’re planning on following a Candy Crush Saga model with it--Facebook and Mobile platforms where you solve puzzles as you move along a board. If you beat a level on your phone, you can pick up where you left off on the Facebook version. It’s pretty rough right now and just got basic functionality, so still a long ways to go.
Our fighting game hit a big snag. We have a theme song for it, which is good. But art wise is not coming together how we’d like. We made this mistake before--spent way too little time in pre-production, jumped into production, and things fell apart. This is a really common mistake that new developers make--have a cool sounding idea, jump into making it, realize they’re making a design or art style mistake, but feeling like they’re locked into it since they’re so far into production. Rather than feeling locked in, we’re starting over and throwing out most of what we have so far--about 6 months of work. This fighting game has changed radically from a simple and funny fighting game you could play on your phone to a complex game for the console (starting with Ouya). Why are we mostly walking away from the massive mobile game market to move to the tiny Ouya market? Maybe I’ll explain why in another post.
As for Dawnshine, we’re close to finalizing some game play mechanics. The next step is to make a prototype out of index cards and see how the game plays. It’s good to know that there’s a local community of table top game designers who get together though a Meetup group to test out their prototypes. We’ll see. Ok, back to Drupal.