Tuesday, February 25, 2014

February Post

Hey guys,

Tons to talk about.  We are showing off Raygun Rocketship this Wednesday at Capsity for “Feedback Night.”  Other than my ill-fated AppNation trip, this will be the first time anyone outside of Stigma Games (and my relatives) have seen it.

The last “Feedback Night” at the offices of Capsity drew about 25 people(though Stigma Games didn't show off anything that night), so that’s a fair amount of people that will see it and give us an idea of what they think.

Speaking of that, I’ll officially announce beta testing positions soon.  I know a lot of people ask us about that.  Ryan, the programmer for Raygun Rocketship has told me he needs help tracking down bugs.

The other thing to talk about coming up is the Indie Arcade.  It’s weird for me to talk about because it’s hard getting a sense on how it will all pan out.  It’s all going down on April 12th.  Yes, I know I should be telling everyone how amazing it’s going to be.  How no one should miss it.  I hope it turns out awesome, but my expectations are pretty low.  It’s the first event of its kind, so who knows how that will go.  I’m hoping at least 100 people show--besides other game devs in the area that I already know.

So a few weeks ago marks the first time in Stigma Games’ history that I ever fired people from the team.  The people in question are really nice people, and I really, really hated doing it, though it was the right decision.  The problem was they need a lot of guidance.  Cool.  But we’re just not in a position to be able to sit down and teach people how to do stuff unless they’re self motivated.  Plus, as we near getting close to releasing some games, I have to realistically think about who I would hire and who is a benefit.

I think I've mentioned before that attrition can be a good thing.  You lose the less dedicated people, up your recruiting standards, and hopefully continue to increase the talent level of the team.  It doesn't always work out that nicely.  Sometimes talented people get impatient.  Sometimes you just can’t fill the positions you need with the right people.  Sometimes people just don’t work out, but you don’t have anywhere else to put them.  Sometimes, you don’t realize someone can’t do a task until months have passed by and they either didn't tell you because they thought they could handle it and couldn't, or they realized they didn't want to do it and didn't want to admit it.  And sometimes they don’t do anything because they think they had to wait for something else, and obviously don’t care enough to push the issue on their own.  These are the people that make me say, “I really need to get better at recruiting.”  Our recruiting methods genuinely are getting a lot tougher now, which is good.  Now we just need to get more people applying.

When I started Stigma Games, I still had this romantic idea that I would take a chance on the people that other companies turned down.  Give me your tempest tossed, and I would teach them to long for the sea.  Butchered mixed metaphors aside, this isn't reality.  People are often talented because they want to be.  People are often untalented because they don’t really care.  Everyone wants to work at a game studio, but not everyone is driven to.  Telling the difference between the two, as a recruiter, is pretty hard--especially in Sacramento where there isn't exactly a pool of experienced, available people.  Otherwise, I’d just say, “Must have 2+ years industry experience” like every other studio on the planet does.  I mean, there’s a reason why studios are willing to spend astronomical amounts of money on rent in LA and the bay area--that’s where the talent is.  There’s a reason why there are so few studios in this town.

You've probably heard talk about how important company culture is.  Working without an office, this isn't always easy to shape, but I do what I can at our meetings, through Skype, and on the forums.  When it’s a group of guys and one makes a sexist joke, I frown my disapproval and it doesn't happen again.  When artists fight, and they do, I try and listen to both sides and validate how they feel even if the issue isn't resolvable.  When people make poor suggestions, I try and facilitate a healthy, supportive environment where we can offer ideas without feeling embarrassed or intimidated.  That doesn't mean I’m able to accomplish this 100% of the time.  And sometimes, I’m the unintended cause of the drama--like when I mention one of our games is a better candidate for Kickstarter due to its genre, and those working on the other games think I’m saying the game they’re working on isn't as good or as likely to ever go anywhere and so their morale plummets--something they told me almost a year after I said it and two of them had quit.

A company should be a mix of the experienced and non.  Our artists are talented, but lack professional experience which can make issues of insecurity pop out.  This is a problem when artists are still trying to prove themselves to each other and things can sometimes, even slightly, turn to bringing each other down.  This happened a lot in the early days, but I've only recently noticed this happen again, and I wonder if it has to do with the artists being afraid they might be next on the firing list.  I hope not.  I made it really clear that wasn't the case and that no one else would be getting fired.

Otherwise, things are better now that I finally have some artists that can take lead positions.  I’m really glad I haven’t had to deal with any, “How come she’s in charge?” issues.  But every now and then a passive aggressive remark like, “I thought we were doing it this way, but whatever,” slips by and I’m not able to make attitude adjustments.  I can’t wait until we have a studio and a revenue stream to hire everyone.  Then we can hangout outside of work, do some movie night bonding, etc.  That would solve so many of our problems right there.

I've said in the past I was glad we didn't have funding because we’d blow through a lot of money, still making mistakes.  I feel as though we’re finally at the point where we’re made all the reasonable mistakes.  Now it’s time for us to make the transition to being a fully funded studio.  We’re just lacking the revenue.