Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Phase 3 - Deficit

Dear diary,

In my last entry we'd got to the second half of 2012. I'd formed C117 Games but was having a little trouble sourcing additional employees. Before we begin I feel it's only fair to issue you a warning; phase 3 may be a bit of a downer. No kittens were killed but it wasn't the most enjoyable part of the process.

Phase 3 - Deficit

The last half of 2012 was a shocker for me. It all started when Mum died in June; she never even heard Julian's Rosebrooke theme :(. Emotions aside I was executor and, as my Dad died in 2006, this meant all the paperwork and "headfuckery" was left to me. Luckily I get on real well with my family so there were no internal hurdles... just the usual back and forthing with banks, insurance companies, the super supreme court, etc. Actually I have an interesting story about that. Do you mind if I digress? Of course you don't, you're a diary!

For one of the documents I had to declare that I was who I am and that everything I'd written was true. I sat down with the legal witness who passed me a bible and asked me to swear on it. I told them that would be pretty pointless as I didn't believe in a god to which they responded that it was just a formality really. I should have just left it alone but I was annoyed. I asked what the point of having a legal binding process was if the "deal sealer" was me swearing on something I didn't believe in! I also didn't see why they had a verbal swearing on a bible as part of the legal system in the first place. Religion and state? Not on the same plate! Anyway the short of it is that I ended up making a declaration instead of swearing an oath but the whole thing took 2 hours instead of 15 minutes and I missed lunch!

Funny thing was, when I signed my name in the Super Supreme court for probate, the judge didn't even ask me for proof of who I was! So the verbal swearing on the unsigned document was critical but written confirmation to ensure probate is granted justly is irrelephant!?

Anyway, back to the story. In addition to the 10 months of document back and forthing that was to occur I also needed to sell, empty and store the contents of a house, disperse assets, and a bunch of other stuff I won't bother going into detail about. As well as that a few of the essential servers at work bit the dust so I had to convince the financial powers that be to purchase new ones... actually we upgraded them but that's not important. Unfortunately this meant months of meetings whilst I spent a few hours a night doing maintenance to ensure they'd stay up another day.

Add to this a few more family deaths, 7 day work weeks with around 4 hours sleep a night, and financially supporting my family of four...well... it suffices to say that I was a very and tired and busy boy indeed. What's absolutely amazing is that my wife put up with and was supportive of me the entire time! With three kids to look after and dealing with the emotional side of the family deaths herself! She's pretty damn awesome (and that's not just me sucking up coz I KNOW she'll never read this blog)

Now back to C117 Games... you thought I'd forgotten hadn't you? Work had slowed to almost nothing as everyone had loads of stuff happening. I understood this 100% as our gratis/fun job must come second to things that actually pay our bills. New team members would join but then submit no work or not participate in discussions... one person even joined, submitted work, then asked for a ton of cash! It was all very depressing as I could feel the team drifting apart but was too brain fried to figure out what to do.

It was at that point I decided that money was the answer. I figured that, if I paid my existing guys, then I'd feel better as I'd not be ripping them off. Their name in the credits and "game art" for their portfolio was good but hardly decent compensation. I also thought that providing a monetary incentive for new staff members might be the draw card I needed to get some keen, dedicated new workers.

So I trundled off to Bendigo Bank to see about getting a loan... well, probably not trundle. I don't even know how to trundle. If someone has a vid of a person trundling please link it below for me. Any lawyer will tell you the right way to do things is to create a holding company and take the loan out in that name. That way, if things go pear shaped, you're not directly liable and your assets are safe. That just felt morally "wrong" to me... which seems kinda stupid now I write it down.

After a bit of back and forthing we nutted out a basic contract everyone was happy with. I changed the name of the company from C117 to C117 Games, got a new fancy pants logo and we were away. As I owned the artwork now I was able to do a little bit of merchandising so a bunch of T-shirts and things went on sale. Surprisingly we've sold around 12 T-shirts and 5 baby grow suits. I only get just under $2 a shirt but it's nice that people want 'em! If only I'd remembered to put the company name on them...

I'm not sure if you're aware of this but, in order to get money in a business name, some financial institutions ask for this thing called a "mission statement". Now I know mission statements are important however, in my experience, they'd just been airy fairy marketing nonsense that didn't mean much. I was determines to make C117 Games' mission accurate and indicative of the company I wanted us to be. So I put a lot of work into it, ran it by the guys and here it is for your viewing pleasure. I'm quite proud of it so, if you don't like it, bugger off.

Anyway, with tentative contracts in hand, I went on the hunt again. After a bit of searching, and a few more failures, I found Morty, an illustrator who posted work on deviantart. A PM followed by some email back and forthing resulted in a sample image for my lead character Shae and, before long, Morty was part of the team. Great work aside Morty was a perfect fit and has been active in our conversations and idea discussion.

This was a real turning point for me. The game was starting to look how I'd imagined, we were all working well together, my programming was improving and I was figuring out more efficient ways to do things. I felt like a "real" business able to sufficiently reward team members and with a unique, marketable image. 

As the game was "feeling" different the way I'd set it up wasn't working any more. Something felt "off" so I decided to start over and re-write the whole thing from scratch. After brainstorming a bit and reading up on some scripting I was able to make most of the ideas we had happen. It's mostly little stuff like having drawn maps instead of generated, changes to sprites in battle so, when you're dead, your character looks like they're lying down, picture fading in and out instead of popping... all basic stuff that people probably won't directly notice... but that makes the game complete.

Believe it or not that's the summary version of how C117 Games was formed. There's a bunch of other stuff in there about how I tried to get the C117 Games name out there, how we got and lost an interested publisher, and so on but they weren't overly crucial to the crux of the story. I'll tell about my marketing ideas and plans once we reach Stage 4 : Kickstart!... which will probably be "Stage 4 : Anything pozible" as we don't have Kickstarter in Aus :)

The plan from here is to work our asses off and get a demo ready. Once the demo is ready I have a bunch of marketing ideas which we'll put into place and start a crowdfunding project to see if I can get enough money to finish off the project. I could do that now but I want to make sure there's plenty for you all to see when we put it up there. No point asking for your help if we've got nothing to show right?

In the meantime, follow us on Facebook or Twitter if you want to see snippets of what we're up to. I'll keep updating this blog as well and, hopefully, some of the other team members will post a bit about how they do their bits of work too. If you're going to PAX Australia be sure to keep your eye out for people wearing the C117 Games T-shirts. Simon, Michael and myself will be there so, if you see us, feel free to come say hi :)

Goodnight diary


Phase 2 - Preparations for Chickan

Dear diary,

It's just me again, don't get up.

So far my previous diary entry has remained a secret with 0 views and 0 comments. Whilst some may take that as a bad sign I just assume all my readers are part of an underground cult who don't want their visits monitored (probably Americans). Anyway I've taken that as a huge dollop of inspiration and am here to enlighten you on the next stage of, what will come to be known as, the C117 Games phenomenon!

Phase 2 - Getting the band together

Where were we? Oh yes, I'm working as an IT Manager to pay the bills whilst writing and recording podcasts for Stevivor on the side. I've tried starting a magazine, a website and a book all without success and am still trying to find "that thing" to make my stamp on the world! Pretty nice roundup eh? Wonder why the lat blog entry was so long... hmmm.

So it's now July 2012 and I've got an idea. Remember that book I told you I wrote? And the proof of concept video game I made and was selling for $0? Well it took me a while but I finally put two and two together and decided to make a game of the book! Wow. I should put that on the front cover! "The game of the book"! Will confuse the crap out of people as there's no such book. I could even make a Wikipedia entry for the book and say that the book was the book of the game! Then I could get Julian to write a song about the game that's about the book and make the book the story of the song!!! Or I could just get on with this blog.

It's time for some truth nuggets.

I think the reason I failed with my home businesses is that I have unrealistically high expectations. I know how good things can be and, if they're anything short of perfect, I'm not happy. As a result, if I can't do something, I outsource it or learn it myself. If I try myself and have trouble I spend an inordinate amount of time achieving nothing. If I outsource, my expectations and price point are usually disproportionate to what others expect so that doesn't work either. It's not the best way to be and I was constantly setting myself up to fail (at both my private ventures and my professional job).

Luckily for me I met a gentleman by the name of Steve Wright; the man behind the Stevivor website. For those unaware is a successful Australian video games website run totally pro bono. During my time at Stevivor I watched how Steve worked with people, how he ran the site, how he communicated and came to realise that my approach to work was totally wrong. The way I did things was great if I wanted to work alone but terrible for someone who wanted to work as part of a team.

That's Steve on the left. I did a google search for him but could only find a pic of him naked cuddling a boulder. 
Not sure what's going on there. Guess he likes boulders.

It was at this point I decided to form C117 Games and start the game HIVE : Not by Design. I'd look after the bits I knew I could do and try to find volunteers to help with the rest. Steve had shown me that this model was possible and that, by having an open, sharing environment we could feed off each other's ideas and enthusiasm to create something great.

My first recruit was a Brazillian chap named Julian Ozuka. I'd know him for a while as we chatted regular on the GameSpot forums (we have similar video game tastes). When I mentioned what I was doing with C117 Games he offered to help out with the sound track. I'd only listened to a small portion of his portfolio when I realised that he was perfect for the role. This was further cemented when he sent me some sample music for Rosebrooke Village. I won't go into this in detail but Rosebrooke Village is named and themed after my Mother. She was a flute teacher most of her life and it was very important to me that the Rosebrooke music had a particular "feel". Ozuka nailed it first go. Quality of work aside he was a pleasure to work with and, as we chatted about the game, the ideas flowed and it made a transition from "my game" into "our game".

The next to join the team was Simon Sherry. If you've ever seen his work on Redbubble you'll know that he's an extremely talented gent who can think up some pretty fucked up concepts. I mean that in the nicest possible way. His work is amazing. It's just, if I hadn't met him in person, I'd probably wonder what sort of person had this kind of thing rattling around in his head. We hit it off straight away. We're very similar minded when it comes to religion, humanity, life... everything! We both have the same number of kids all around the same age and we're both in a similar stage of our lives. He joined the virtual office as our monster designer and, before we knew it, it was like he'd been with us all along.

I still had a few more holes to fill in the team. I needed sound effects, portrait art (Simon's monsters weren't exactly suitable for "goodies") and maps. I could design how I wanted them to function but I was terrible at making them look good!

Member #3 was a man by the name of Michael Alesich. He'd worked in the art department at one of my  previous jobs and had been a friend ever since. He also posts work on redbubble and is an accomplished artist and photographer. I posted a personal favourite sketch below. Anyway one night, after many beverages and games of Kinect Sports we got to talking about C117 and HIVE. Michael expressed an interest in the game and offered his services for making my crappy maps into super maps. Back then we were doing it a little differently to the way we do now but, again, his work was amazing and he fit into the team like a buttered hand into a latex glove. Please don't draw any lines between that and a night of too many bevvies and Kinect Sports. They are not related. Actually upon reflection, and after checking with Mike, it seems he responded to a Facebook post abbout HIVE. So I shared the Kinect Sports story with you for no reason whatsoever. Still it bulked up the paragraph so "job done" I say!

Unfortunately the next four team members for C117 Games didn't work out. C117 Games had become as much about the work as it was about chatting, sharing ideas and trying things out (again not referring to rubber gloves here) and that model didn't suit some people as well as it did the existing members. We also lost a couple of members due to other projects they were running and other things that came up in their personal lives. Fair's fair and doing free work with me isn't the same as a paid job somewhere else. Chatting about and sharing ideas doesn't repair your flux capacitor!

We added one other member to the team but I'll talk about that in phase 3 as Morty didn't join us until after some other, significant changes had been made.

Hope you enjoyed this entry diary. It had some pretty had some pictures this time so that should have  broken up the wall of text a little bit. 

I'd best be off now. I have other books to visit before home time.

Take care diary

love from Dave

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Phase 1 - Collect Underpants

Dear diary,

As today marks the momentous occasion of my first post I suppose I should fill you in on events so far.

Phase 1 - Pre C117 Games

As a young and inexperienced chickan I was always led to believe that video games were just a hobby; certainly not a viable career option for a young man. Strangely enough this wasn't from my immediate family so I'm not entirely sure where I got that impression from. Probably school. My parents were very supportive and even funded a couple of my early entrepreneurial ventures... erm... attempts.

Luckily my experience trying to get games to work on my IBM XT paid off so, after both these ventures failed, I was able to get a job in IT support. I enjoyed helping people and was "good with computers" so it made sense and, whilst not making me rich, has certainly paid the bills over the years.

A few years ago I discovered a program called RPG Maker VX. It seemed like an easy starting point to make a video game so I created Nick's Quest - a proof of concept game to see if I would be able to do what I wanted to. It seemed to work ok and the feedback from people playing it was great.

Unfortunately Nick's Quest never made it to the shelves and is still just free to play or download. I'm not sure why but I never got around to developing the sequel and poured my creative juices into two new ventures instead; writing a book and writing for a video games website... actually is that just one thing isn't it? As they're both "writing"

It didn't take long before I realised that I wasn't a fantastic writer. Hell I wasn't even a passable writer however I really liked the concepts and the world I'd created so I didn't want to just dump it. My mate Simon said the concepts were good which, as every awesome writer knows, meant it would have made me a fortune had I published! 

So the book was a no goer... although I continued to take notes and add to the concepts/stories whenever inspiration hit me.

Luckily my creative appetite was sated by my other unpaid job; writing for Whilst my news and reviews weren't great, I felt it was doing an ok job and earning my place on the team. As a backup plan, in case they decided my writing was crap, another team member and I started up a podcast. We loved to talk about games and it made sense, in our minds, to record it and see if people enjoyed listening to it too. Turns out they did and we had nearly 1,000 subscribers by the time it finished (Stevivor merged podcasts with MMGN. It's still going. Just not in the old format)

I know this is going to seem abrupt but I'm going to stop here as the next stuff really falls into "Phase 2" ... which I'll do as a separate blog so it looks like I post more than I really do!

Hope all's well with you diary. Write back some time.

love Dave
xxx ooo