Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Late July Post

Hey guys,

This is always a super busy time of the year.  In addition to ramping things up for Sac Anime, I also teach the Stairway to Stardom program.  I got a temporary office job that lasted a couple weeks that I recently finished, wrecked my car and got it fixed, and violently threw up from eating a sandwich that didn't agree with me (when I throw up like that, all the blood vessels in my face burst) so I got to go to a house party a few hours later looking like a hardcore meth addict.

I still don’t get why my face does that.  My skin is fairly clear, but yeah, it looked like thousands of little hickies all over my face.  It was kind of embarrassing, but the party was for someone on the team who turned 40, and even though I was feeling terrible and stressed out about my car in the shop without me knowing what exactly was wrong or what it would cost, I wanted to let her know I appreciate her.  I think it’s important to do that stuff, even if it means riding a bike through the Sacramento summer heat after throwing up and looking like a meth head to a group of people that you don’t know.  It was a fun party though.  Really nice people.

Stairway is stressing me out more than normal.  If you've never heard of Stairway to Stardom put on by Skip’s Music, it’s a music program where kids audition, are put into bands, given 8 weeks to write 3 original songs, and perform in front of about 1,000 people at the final concert.  The last several years, this concert has been at the Crest Theater.

What’s stressing me out is the drummer of one of the bands I coach isn't practicing, doesn't know the songs, plays sloppy and out of time, and messes up all the transitions.  His band members are openly hostile to him because of it and amazingly frustrated.  He doesn't seem to understand what the big deal is.  With less than 2 weeks before the final concert, I decided to go to his house every day for 3 hours a day and babysit him while I make sure he practices.  I blew off another temp office job because of this.  I have way too much going on to be using my time for this, but I take pride in my ability to shape a group of young, inexperienced musicians and turn them into a professional sounding band.

When I was about 13 or so and started laying brick with my grandpa 50 hours a week each summer, I walked into a record store and bought Kill ‘Em All--Metallica’s first record.  I listened to Pulling Teeth (Anesthesia).  The song starts with the engineer saying, “Bass solo, take 1.”  I didn't really know what a bass was, but much to the disappointment of my parents, I took the money I saved up from laying brick over the summers and weekends and bought a bass, an amp, and bass lessons instead of using that money to buy a car.  My grandpa said, “Well, let’s see this guitar that you wasted your money on.”  My dad told me it was just a phase and that I’ll wish I still had the money so I’d be able to buy my own car when I turned 16.  But it wasn't a phase nor did having to walk everywhere seem to bother me.  Band practice was always at my house.

I practiced 8 hours a day, and eventually dropped out of high school because it took up too much of my practice time.  I went on to be a professionally musician until I gave it up at age 33 or so, went through a serious bought of depression for a few years, and decided to switch to being a game developer. I really never went anywhere with music despite being so driven--mostly because I could never find band mates as serious as I was.  But in either case, I guess I just don’t understand where this drummer is coming from.  I mean, not even practice at all?  He wants to be a drummer.  His mom was telling me how she’s always trying to get him to practice.  I guess I just don’t get people who want what they don’t want to work for.

My car… so I ran over two huge speed humps that I didn't see and didn't slow down for.  They were on the on ramp of an overpass--pretty much the last place I’d expect them.  What is the possible, conceivable point on having speed humps on something that looked just like a freeway on ramp that’s elevated so you can drive over railroad tracks?  I mean, there’s no pedestrians around it.  I still pissed about it.  I hit them driving home from a temp job.  I got paid half the money from that job than what it cost to repair my car… that I never would have wrecked my car had it not been for that job.  I bent the frame of my car, so yeah, it was pretty bad.

Moving on to game stuff.  Most gamers I talk to have never heard of the Ouya.  Go online where it’s mentioned and you’ll find a mix of love and hate for it.  I mean, it’s like an Xbox but a fraction of the cost and a fraction of the power.  For $99 bucks, what do you expect?

As a company, they've made PR missteps and has owned up to the fact that they’re not perfect and are still trying to figure things out.  Personally, I can respect that.  I don’t mind mistakes as long as I understand where a company is coming from.

I wrote them about 6 months ago to talk about Raygun Rocketship.  We have game play footage which we haven’t made public--it’s on a privately listed youtube channel.  They had good things to say.  So recently, I told them about Granny Wars, and that would be releasing that for the Ouya too and showing both off at Sac Anime.  They offered to send us an Ouya device to help us develop our games faster.  I had already bought one a year ago, but having a second one is really useful.  They also told me they thought Granny Wars sounded hysterical.

I know that Ouya sometimes funds companies that make games for them.  So this is a very possible funding option for us.  But otherwise, I’m hoping that we’ll get great Sac Anime footage of people playing the game, get tons of signups on the site, and be in a good position for a Kickstarter campaign.

We don’t have a lot to show with Raygun Rocketship in terms of how far the game has come visually.  We've had fairly unreliable artists, and that’s been frustrating.  This is especially frustrating when we’re trying to get a cohesive look and we never know when someone’s going to bail.  But it’s allowed us to focus on story lines and added game mechanic features.  The fact that the game changes story lines and difficulty based on player performance / skill, it’s going to be a very time consuming thing to test and balance.

I’m hoping our luck with artists for Raygun has changed.  We picked up an amazingly talented 3d modeler, and we have a really good illustrator.  We have a college art professor that might also be joining the team.  Plus one of the other artists on the team has been helping out with concepts.  I think we’re a couple months away from showing off a very different looking game.

About Sac Anime, I might have solved some of our set up dilemma.  A friend of my dad’s owns a computer store and is willing to let us borrow two of his huge flat screens in exchange for us putting up a “flat screens provided by…” sign.

I have more to talk about, but a ton to do tomorrow and I’m running behind on sleep.  Talk to you all later.

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