5 January, 2011
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?
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? :)