Thursday, March 24, 2022

The State of The Game

Believe it or not, a computer created this image from a text prompt.

Welp... It's been almost three and a half years since my last update. So for whoever is still interested (because I do get asked about the game from time to time) here's an update on where things currently stand, and what has to happen to move this project forward again.

Are You Still Working On The Game?

I think about the game constantly. Every. Single. Day. Mostly about the game's backstory/fluff. 

I just haven't been actively working on finishing it. The last major edits that I made were immediately following GenCon 2018 and the very successful tests that I ran there. I bought a Facebook ad to test how well that would work, and it definitely (as opposed to Twitter/Instagram) boosted interest and engagement. But everyone who was interested wanted a book to download. Problem is, the book is only about 85% done. So I decided not to run any more ads until the book was more complete.

Why did the work stall? Because at this point in the game's development I really need a business-focused person to help me raise money to fund further development. We need proper art and the software application that would be used to monetize the game. We need some people who can come up with reams of troop and weapon stats, which is a daunting task all by itself. I need someone other than me to paint up miniatures. I also need help on little things, like: "Hey! We need to book hotel rooms for convention X six months ahead of time, and not 2 weeks before!" That kind of thing.

Over the six months following GenCon 2018, I thought I'd found that person 3 times. But they all fell through. Turns out, it's FAR harder to find a businessperson who both knows games, and is interested in helping to run a game company than it is to write a game.

So Why Not Just Finish The Book?

Because... Life. This project started because of a particular family situation that both dominated 75% of my time, and also paid for the tools and materials I needed to build the game. That situation ended about the same time as GenCon 2018 did. At that point I had about 3 months to find some paying work or put the game aside. Because I needed to start paying bills again.

I'm a 3D Graphics expert by trade, and I'd been looking for work for a couple of years and getting nowhere. This is Indianapolis, not San Francisco. There were a few good opportunities that I could have gotten, but thanks to incompetent recruiters I wasn't able to take advantage of them.

As a consequence of the then-poor job market for 3D work, I figured that I would go back into teaching. But credential inflation since my last teaching gig meant that I needed to get a Masters Degree to even be considered for a teaching job. So I enrolled in a computer graphics Masters Program at IUPUI. Where I did extremely well.

And... COVID Strikes

I caught the original Chinese strain of COVID on January 28th of 2020, during the 3rd semester of my Masters program, before the US media was even taking it seriously. It took several weeks, but I recovered without having to be hospitalized. In October, I got Omicron. But that one's so mild in comparison to Alpha that it's barely worth talking about. Three days and done.

However the big game-changer was not COVID itself. It was the lockdowns, social unrest, and every other screwy thing that it sparked off. Because suddenly the job barriers between cities broke down, and I could work anywhere in the hemisphere from my home office. 

As people have fled the coasts for the Midwest and South of the USA, all of the major graphics companies are going either partially or totally remote. VASTLY increasing the amount of work available to me, and doubling the rates I could charge. Because if you can work remotely, the pay scales have equalized across the hemisphere.

Long story short... I got a remote job as a Product Manager at a San Francisco architectural visualization startup, and suddenly I was making 3x what I thought I could reasonably expect to make from WarStrike. While also locking me into a contract that explicitly forbid outside work, such as publishing your own book/game.

The Current Situation

I've recently been laid off from that startup, and so I've got time to think again about WarStrike, and where I might go from here. But I've still got to find a day job first. One that won't put limitations on what I can work on outside of office hours. Right now that job hunt, like last year, is taking up almost all of my time. It also doesn't help that I recently had a basement flood that has my home studio in complete disarray. Fixing that will take another month, at least.

Is There A Plan?

Oh yes, there's a plan. Whether I can do it all myself or not, and how long it takes, is another matter.

First, the rules in the book need to be completed to a beta release state. I can leave out vehicles and other advanced stuff. That leaves completing the missions section, and the creation of more test units for the Republic and the Fallen. The quick reference guide also needs an update.

Deep fluff needs to be written. I've got outlines for about 5-6 linked short stories that would introduce players to the WarStrike universe. But I still need to write them.

We've got some initial fluff for the factions, but it needs to be improved upon. For the factions that won't get an initial set of test units, we need to have some design notes that describe our intentions for how they're going to be different/unique.

And then there's the software...

It's always been the plan to make the WarStrike rulebook a free download, as that's the best way to drive adoption. But monetization means creating subscription software that can handle army creation/customization, player rankings, etc.

While working my last job, I was exposed to a cross-platform development environment that would make this easier. But I'm a graphics coder by trade, and there's some stuff, like database interaction, that would take be forever for me to learn poorly. Ideally, I'd design/code the interface and let someone else handle the back-end. 

But that requires money.

I probably should have jumped on the Patreon bandwagon years ago, but I didn't want to promise something that I couldn't deliver a strong beta product for first. Nor did I want to have the pressure to simply kick out a poorly tested and non-iterated game design simply for the sake of hitting a funding goal. I still feel that way, because too many games have died doing just that.

So ideally... Finish the first beta. Write some fluff. Release the Beta. Get some funding. Write the software needed. Start real production.

Just as soon as I can find a day job and get my studio rebuilt.

Or... I get another offer I can't refuse from a company that wants to pay me six figures for 100% of my focus, and the project goes on hold again. 

Long-time readers might remember conversations on this blog about why most game designs are so poor, and the answer was that the best people work in much more lucrative fields. Well... That's where I find myself currently.


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