Psychochild's Blog

A developer's musings on game development and writing.

5 January, 2011

Looking forward in 2011
Filed under: — Psychochild @ 12:28 AM

I’m not usually one to put a lot of significance on the new year, but it’s as good a time as any to contemplate change. So, allow me some time to do a bit of tidying up here in the metaphorical sense.

So, what will 2011 bring?

Your desires

Let me start with the question I usually ask around this time of year: what would you like to see? More or less of anything in particular? More creative writing? More behind the scenes stuff? More analysis of individual games? More dissection of game mechanics? Less vitriol and bitterness because of the depression from looking at the industry I try so desperately to love despite all it’s agonizing problems?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments, or send me an email if you’d prefer. I do tend to get busy with my own stuff and sometimes posting on here isn’t a high priority (as you might have noticed in the last few months of last year). But, having a list of requests might get the creative juices flowing.

Finding personal balance

So, what do I want to focus on in the new year? An interesting question.

As I’ve said before, the last few years have generally been pretty awful for me on many levels. I’ve felt drained and frustrated for multiple reasons. I’ve spent the last year starting to get my life back in order, primarily taking care of my neglected health. I threw myself into running my own business with the understanding that I was still young. I’m not exactly “old” yet, but I can’t help but notice I keep getting older. I’ve got a wonderful and loving significant other who cares about me, so I need to stay healthy for her sake if not just my own.

I also need to get mentally “back in the game” you could say. I think one problem is that I’ve yet to find something that truly inspires me. Not to wax too poetic, but I need to find the spark to reignite my interests. That’s much easier said than done.

Looking long and hard at my career

Unfortunately, things are not too rosy on the professional front. MMOs are currently out of fashion, which is unfortunate given that I’ve spent the past decade or so developing my programming, design, and business abilities around that type of development. Yeah, yeah… when life gives you marmots make marmalade or something like that, I guess.

As much as I hate to say it, I’m kind of glad to not be responsible for Meridian 59 anymore. Even though I love the game, it did take up a lot of my time even before I closed the company down and transferred ownership of the game. Being forced to make a break with the game is possibly a good thing in the long run. But, I’ve spent the better part of a decade with it at least partially on my mind, so it’s not an easy habit to break.

So, now I’m looking for something to reignite my passion. The problem is that the things that really interest me seem not to be what will bring success. As I said, MMOs are out of favor for investment right now. In the past decade, indie MMOs have failed to ignite a lot of interest from people. The majority of the audience willing to pay for stuff has said that they are more than happy to stay with WoW, and only show even passing interest in similar games. So, it’s hard to get others motivated enough to tackle a self-funded (read: sweat equity) project.

Now, I’m not exactly sitting on my hands. I’ve done some work in the past few years that I was interested in, but ultimately nothing has come to fruition. Two projects (both from German companies) that would have focused on Explorer gameplay instead of Achiever gameplay were canceled and I was let go. One project that was going to meld Explorer and economic gameplay with a lesser-known work from a famous science fiction author seems dead in the water. One contract ended when the company played “sacrifice the contractor” when getting scrutinized by an investor. My most recent engagement, working with someone to raise money for a startup to focus on a role-playing focused MMO, has had troubles getting investors to even listen to the pitch since MMOs are out of fashion currently. A lot of work for not much to show for it, sadly. Unfortunately, with these projects have come bouts of being “between jobs”, as any consultant knows. I get paid well enough when I work, but it’s the lulls between jobs that hurt.

Getting a job at a large company working on a massive MMO might be an option, but there are problems there. As I’ve lamented before, I often feel alienated from the larger industry since I’m essentially on the fringes as an independent. My primary work has been improving an old game without appreciably growing the playerbase, and that work is now a few years stale. I’ve also probably pissed off a fair number of people with my attitude and opinions, which is toxic in an industry as small as the game industry. So, people aren’t exactly beating down my door to offer me work lately.

Many MMOs “fail” but continue to generate a fair amount of money, so there might be some steady work maintaining those. But, I’ve already done that work for a while and it’s not necessarily something that would spark my passion again. At some point, though, I might just take a job to have a steady paycheck. (“QQ more, n00b, and welcome to the real world,” I can hear some of you say out there. My loving fans… ;)

Looking beyond MMOs isn’t exactly heartening. I don’t own a “smart phone” and I am not in the target audience for social games, so I the current hot trends are not things I’m deeply involved with. After having a few years of meager to no success, I’m not exactly eager to spend a few years trying to anticipate the next major trend and follow it for more years before possibly seeing if I bet on the right horse. My most recent personal project, The Fae’s Wyrd was pretty interesting and a real joy to work with the team, but the economics of that aren’t looking good from what I’ve read. We’ll see if we can make more from a sponsor than we did from donations.

Heading toward the light, but not in a “death metaphor” way

It’s not all depression on this side, though. I’m still involved in that promising MMO idea, if it can find funding. I’m evaluating potential projects for the near future, one involving paper RPGs. I’ll announce something once I think there’s something more than a vague hope to announce.

So, I must find something to ignite my passion. Get me motivated to do something and take the world by storm. That’s the first step in toward my renewed plans for world domination.

So, what do you think? What are your goals for 2011? Anything you’d like to see on the blog here? Any exciting projects you think would be interesting to me? :)

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  1. Personally I always like seeing development blogs, I find it interesting seeing the problems which crop up during development and how people solve them.

    On the career front, have you thought about educational games? I’ve always thought they suffered from a lack of actually enjoyable gameplay, so it might be a productive field for an experienced game developer to look into

    Comment by SolidSquid — 11 January, 2011 @ 3:43 AM

  2. I don’t know if you worked for eGenesis from that vague comment about a dead in the water game, but if you did, and that’s the truth… /sad.

    Good luck in 2011, I hope things turn around for you, and you find what you want. :)

    Comment by Ravious — 11 January, 2011 @ 5:05 AM

  3. My desires: your blog is fine as it is :)

    I can’t exactly help you with your career, but I can suggest that getting into Android development will be very easy for you. Decent Android phones are cheap enough to get, the documentation is great, the source is open if you need to look up something that isn’t documented, and the number of good games available is still relatively low (though rising fast). Of the two platforms iOS and Android, Android is still the less contested, and the easier to get into IMO.

    Other than that, it’s pretty much like developing for a PC these days. Substitute screen touches for mouse clicks, and compensate for the fact that there’s only a tiny amount of hardware buttons, and you’ve pretty much covered the basic changes. Doing clever stuff with location or device orientation is mostly a bonus if you feel inclined to exploit these things.

    One huge section of mobile games appears to be to port/reimagine stuff from other platform. Doing something like the Fae’s Wyrd on a phone is going to be fairly easy, and I can’t say I’ve seen many games like it (though I loved playing Undercroft on iOS because it reminded me so much of a fan-made Eye of the Beholder, it’s pretty much the only RPG worth mentioning that I’m aware of).

    At least the RPG part of games on mobile devices should be easily achievable to you. The MMO part is going to be a bit unlike what you’re used to, as you can’t really rely on connectivity, sadly.

    As for whether it’s the right horse to bet on, I think it is, at least for the next decade or so. That gives you a fair amount of time to think about what you want to do afterwards ;)

    Comment by unwesen — 11 January, 2011 @ 7:04 AM

  4. More analysis of individual games? More dissection of game mechanics?

    Yes and yes! Your analysis are deep and insightful and we don’t get nearly enough of this on the interweb. You know reading someone that knows what he’s talking about is refreshing compared to a lot of the ******** (word here can vary) we see on some websites that pretend to be informative.

    And as a consultant it surely can’t hurt to display such understanding of games on your blog :) Just like we are what we eat we also are what we post in this strange world so call it something like enjoyable passive job hunting :)

    Comment by Dave Toulouse — 11 January, 2011 @ 7:19 AM

  5. Just keep on keepin’ on. Whatever it is, I’ll be reading! :D

    Comment by Ysharros — 11 January, 2011 @ 9:50 AM

  6. To add to what unwesen wrote, you SHOULD take a long hard look at either the iPhone or Android (I have an iPhone, so it’s what I’m familiar with). I’m playing Kingdom Conquest right now, and while it’s not terrible, it’s not great either. But since it’s basically the only online RPG (and um, I use that VERY lightly), it has to do. The game has a ton of people signed up (300k I believe, if not a whole lot more), and I have no doubt some are paying for the cash shop stuff.

    I can’t imagine it would be impossible to do some interesting RPG/strategy stuff here. From what I’ve seen, people either make quick ‘gimmick’ games, or horribly designed cash-ins (or port SNES/Genesis games). The few quality titles that are released, most seem to sell very well (at least according to the top earner chart) The door is wide open for some solid design work, and with one-man teams making games, it can’t be all that difficult to get in and test the waters.

    Comment by Syncaine — 11 January, 2011 @ 10:59 AM

  7. Thanks for the feedback, all.

    Ravious wrote:
    I don’t know if you worked for eGenesis from that vague comment about a dead in the water game

    Nope, not talking about the Alvin Maker project. Something different with a different author. About as big as Orson Scott Card, if not a bit bigger. Was excited to potentially meet the author, but it just never happened.

    Comment by Psychochild — 11 January, 2011 @ 1:00 PM

  8. You can offer a lot of insight into what it’s like to be a developer for those of us on the outside who might be curious but otherwise not looking to get into the industry.

    I imagine it could be cathartic to get some of the frustrations off your chest too, and ranty but honest posts are often a good read for any one of a number of reasons.

    Hopefully you’ll write about whatever you’re passionate about, as you always provide an entertaining and insightful point of view.

    Do we, uh, like, hug now or something?

    Comment by Melmoth — 11 January, 2011 @ 2:06 PM

  9. I’ll just chime in to second a bunch of what’s been already been written…

    Blogging: Game emchanics and industry insights are good, but, that said, I’d agree with unwesen, you’re already in a “sweet spot” as far as mix of blog topics go, IMO.

    Android/iPhone development: I guess the missing datum is, does the lack of a smartphone indicate lack of a resource or lack of interest? I’d be happy to pitch in to help rectify the former, to see a version of The Fae’s Wyrd on the Android Market, for example…

    Paper RPGs are in a bit of a renaissance at the moment, due at least in part to the (relative) ease of electronic publishing, I suspect. (Just did some playtesting for a potential new system called Novus this last weekend, as a matter of fact.) I hope you’ll keep us up to date on any exploits in that arena?

    Comment by DamianoV — 12 January, 2011 @ 7:25 AM

  10. Nothing’s been more exciting and inspirational to me lately than the watching and, but perhaps finding inspiration is not really the problem you’re experiencing?

    Comment by Anders — 15 January, 2011 @ 10:42 AM

  11. DamianoV wrote:
    Android/iPhone development: I guess the missing datum is, does the lack of a smartphone indicate lack of a resource or lack of interest?

    A little of both. I’ve never really liked having my cell phone. Most people I care to talk to are online and I’m near a computer 75%+ of my waking hours. I’ve got a few games on my (decidedly unsmart) cell phone, but it’s not been anything to keep my attention.

    If I do decide to bite the bullet, I’ll drop you an email, though. :)

    Anders wrote:
    …but perhaps finding inspiration is not really the problem you’re experiencing?

    No, I don’t think it’s inspiration. It’s more motivation. As I said, the things that fire me up seem to be marginalized, to the point now where even MMOs are out of favor in many areas. The stuff that looks to be profitable in the short to moderate term don’t really interest me. So, I either need to find the motivation to push forward on things that interest me and hope that the great wheel of fortune eventually comes back to favor me, or find the motivation to dig into social games, mobile games, or whatever’s on the horizon, to make some cash.

    Comment by Psychochild — 15 January, 2011 @ 11:20 PM

  12. What I’ve been up to, and going to Gen Con!

    [...] I lamented earlier this year that MMOs were currently out of fashion. Hell, they're two generations out of favor, with social games on the decline. But, I still think there's a lot of opportunities to explore. Just because we've got one type of game that has dominated doesn't mean other avenues no longer exist. (Could probably say the same thing about social games, too.)[...]

    Pingback by Psychochild's Blog — 27 July, 2011 @ 12:47 AM

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