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Old 12-24-2011, 01:34 AM   #1
Genocide1812
 
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Your Story

So with some crashing problems I haven't really gotten to play the game enough to praise it sincerely, but in just a few days seeking help with it I've come to have a pretty high opinion of you guys. Clearly loyal fans, instant friendly support with the problem. I know even if I don't end up loving the game I'll remember MinMax.

I'm a CompSci major myself, and the dream for anyone in that area is working on games, so it can be a bummer to see some of the greedier, corporate trends taking over the industry.

But this isn't going to turn into a rant. I'm just building up to say how much hope I get from and respect I have for little operations like yours, and the guys over at Terraria, who make a fun game, put it up on Steam, and support it like you really care.

So I don't know if this sounds cheesy, but I find myself interested in hearing your story. What background led up to this? What was it like getting a game from pencil and paper to the Steam front page with just the two of you?

*** I'm trying to condense the whole story into one post. Not much luck so far: ***

Quote:
Originally Posted by blorf View Post
Hi Genocide1812,

Thanks very much for the support and the interest. I feel a wall of text coming on

I knew that I wanted to make games since I was about 10 an got my first computer, 27 years ago. From that point, I pretty much spent all my free time playing computer games. I actually never had a Nintendo or Atari which I always thought was a great injustice, but it may have given me a different games focus growing up than my friends.

Eventually I made it into college, and then university (taking 7 years for a 4 year degree as to not interfere with my gaming) First years were super slack, but by the end I had gotten a job in the games industry and was working 40 hours a week with a full course load, while still keeping my gaming hours intact. I lacked a social life though, but who needs those. My degree was in CompSci as yours is, however aside from it getting me in the door, and providing some good math skills it has not been terribly relevant. This will not be the case for everyone though because my career path is odd, and I am very much a generalist programmer. I am not a guru at any particular aspect of coding... at all... but I can fumble by with all of them enough to build what I need at the time. Mostly I have always dealt with high level implementation. Now more about the interesting part. The industry job.

So how do you get into the games industry? Simple, it is like the Mafia and someone needs to vouch for you. In my last year at university, I found out that one of my room mate's friend's was a designer at Black Box Games in Vancouver (A pretty big game making hub because it was one of the early campuses for EA) So I proceeded to head out with my buddies and this designer and drink many many beers. We hit it off, I got an introduction and a shot at the possibility of becoming a tester. This was beyond a dream come true (i did not know then that this is the worst job in the industry and generally leads no where but management, which I may touch on later.) This was mid year 2000

The day of the interview arrives, and it is awesome. I am talking to the owners of a then 50 person company (grew pretty massive b4 EA bought and over the years dismantled it) Swearing, the promise of alcohol, everything you want in an interview. I was sure I had the job. Waited a couple days, and got a rejection phone call. I was not qualified. Keep in mind, I was in my last year of comp sci, had a 3.75 GPA and was beyond an avid gamer. Did I mention it is hard to get into games.

Broken hearted for a few days, and I get a call. During my interview I spent a lot of time talking about our Starcraft network in our university quad. This gets me a job in IT there. I am the one and only IT guy for a 50 person company. I jumped at the chance, but was pretty intimidated. I realize this story is getting long now, and we are no where NEAR SPAZ yet, so maybe I should pick up the pace. I proved myself in the IT department, and got a chance to actually run the QA (testing) department while still in school. I jumped at that and was then doubled up on jobs. Proved I could handle those, and got a job scripting AI on Sega Soccer Slam. So at one point I was full course load in school, IT department, QA Lead, and AI scripter for my first game all at once, and it was the best time of my life.

Quickly I was extricated from my other roles to focus on gameplay, and unbeknownst to me at the time, I had become a designer. As a programmer, I always felt slighted and thought "scripter" was a dirty word among programmers, and that I should be writing AI because that's where its at. Little did I know I was on the perfect career path for me. Sega Soccer Slam turned out to be a great success, and people all over the world were playing vs player brains that I had created (did all player scripting aside from goalies) This was absolutely awesome. Next I went on to programming defensive gameplay for NHL 2004 (Also, I hate hockey and it is my fault that game was too hard hehe) This gave me a programming half to my scripting half so I had a better idea of what goes on under the hood. But everything I did was always high level.

By the time NHL came out, EA had bought Black Box Games and it had gone from a frat house to a typical corporate office with suits galore, butt kissers, the whole bit. TPS reports anyone? I just walked in one day (after NHL shipped, as not to hurt the product) and told them that I couldn't do it any more and left. I didn't have a job waiting, I was just too heart sick to see my dream of the games industry rot in there.

Luckily, my mentor of sorts at BlackBox came with me and we started a company together called Quasar Interactive. There is actually a game called Statesmen that we made that never saw the light of day. it sits in a box on my self, but the company we made the game for, never decided on a means for distribution and it languishes. (It is a board game by the way) For this project we were paid about $20,000 each which gave us just enough to survive. The money ran out and I needed a job. (We are almost to the forming of MinMax, you said you wanted the story)

Interestingly, Statemen used Torque (what SPAZ uses) but Radical Entertainment was also working on a game called Scarface that was in serious trouble, and it also used the same scripting language as Torque. (Both engines were built off the tribes 2 engine, crazy eh?) I had an interview, told them that I had written in the order of 50,000 lines of Torque Script and was hired in about 15 minutes.

Scarface was in serious trouble and my role quickly went from bolt on gameplay scripter to technical designer as my previous high level experience and programming plus my familiarity with torque script and the fact that I am a benevolent (I hope) dictator lead me to begin to implement changes to that project that got the scripting team to use a common set of gameplay tools to bring the game into a humming machine. Scarface didn't come together until about 1 week before we shipped. But the most important part of that project was that I met Richard Clifford (other half of MinMax) This was his first job, and we became good friends and worked together a lot. I taught him everything I could and he was always willing to learn.

After Scarface's success, we were both put on Scarface 2 and in an office together. We began to work out the metagame for our opus. Let me tell you, Scarface 2 was going to be friggin awesome, and we designed the core of the game in a pub one night. We even made a board game for the metagame that we made each team member play when they joined the project as to infect their brains with the awesomeness of what they were creating. Oh, by the way, Activision and Videndi merged and Scarface 2 was canceled because XYZ executive bull. (So Genocide1812, I feel your pain about the industry's direction) We poured our souls into Scarface 2, it was awesome, the team loved it, it was to be the best thing any of us ever made, and they killed it.

This pretty much broke Richard's and my Spirit but we tried to persevere. Richard went on to work on Prototype, and I spent time on two undisclosed and ALSO canceled projects at Radical. Both were canceled after I left, but the writing was clearly on the wall. Dysfunctional teams and broken spirits all around in the company. Oh also, when they killed Scarface 2, they laid off half of the company. Great feeling that was losing all those friends.

So finally, I had enough and so did Richard. We were chatting in the same pub where we designed Scarface 2 and said #$@! it! after about 6 pitchers of beer, we didn't want to live that way and the next day we marched into work and resigned together. Note, I had a 1 month old first child at this point, and didn't want him growing up with a dad that was spiritually broken.

FINALLY WE GET TO MINMAX. A few days later, after the glow of quitting wore off, Richard and I thought, what now (at the pub again) and decided to make a game together. We had both dabbled extensively with Torque and decided to go for it. Richard's job in general is to run around with rainbows flying out of his head, and I chase him around dual wielding with a butterfly net catching the good ideas, and a baseball bat to smash the bad ones. We both REALLY missed games like Star Control, so we decided to merge all the favorite bits from our favorite games to make a "space game." In the Dev branch, our game is still called "Space Game"

We spent 1 whole week designing the game and scheduling out 6 month dev cycle. 5 races, persistent universe, random tech tree, epic story, ship construction, betrayal , hybrid races blah blah blah. FOOLS!

So we ended up with a design in our heads (never anything on paper to this day) that we decided we loved and was perfect (almost none of it is in the game today) and we instantly set to work.

Part II after breakfast and I see what's on sale on Steam today

Delay: Wife aggro, family time. Will continue when I can.
Quote:
Originally Posted by blorf View Post
Part II (The Making of Space Game)

So, Richard and I had quit our soul sucking industry jobs, and were in the midst of a huge wash of unbridled creativity, that was almost our downfall. Each day we would meet up and discuss our ultimate space game alternating coffee and beer consumption in his backyard, which was pretty awesome after being caught in a stuffy office for 5 years. Just about every sentence began with “wouldn't it be great if.” Please note, beginning sentences with this statement after alpha is punishable by death.

Initially we spent a lot of time on the story, none of which was used in the final version. There were 5 races. The Terrans (which later split into the UTA and Civs), Pirates, Plant race, Rock race, and a race of hybrids that eventually became zombies. Richard busily made art for the weird rock and plant races that you can still see whispers of in the game today. Rez crystals are actually left over bits of the Rock space ships. They were meant to break apart and merge into new ships as you fought them. Yes this is definitely in scope for a 6 month project... no problem.

Over the course of the project, Richard was a superstar making and recycling art. Every piece of wreckage or space junk was at one time, something that was part of the design. Richard does not have an art background, and the original ships for “space game” were rough to say the least, but as the project progressed, I had faith in him, and he got many photoshop levelups and we ended up with some really nice art.
Interesting side note: Most of the sound effects and chatter are Richard making noises into a cheap mic with his shirt pulled over his mouth as a pop filter

Early on, there was a lot of experimentation. In fact initially, you played the game as a Terran (cop) but as the game evolved, we realized that being the pirate is just a lot more appealing. After about 3 months Richard and I had a meeting, and sadly cut the Rocks and Plants, but we realized that it was better to make the Terrans, Pirates and what was then called Zombies into full fledged factions than to have a soup of half finished good ideas.

So now we had three factions, but realized, how the heck does the galaxy work with just cops, pirates, and zombies. We needed some “filler” the Civs were born. Initially, their job literally was to be picked on background filler for the pirates. Pirates steal from Civs, UTA warps in to stop it. Then there is a real fight. This was also all happening in an open world environment at that time too. Richard and I had worked a lot on Scarface and Scarface 2 which were both open world games, and it heavily influenced our initial thinking. So we build a fully functional open world with enemies spawning and flight from planet to planet etc. And you know what? Flying in space is boring. It is called space for a reason. AXE. So we started adding interface screens.

Here is probably a good time to describe Richard vs. Me and why we work well together. Even though we share a brain, our game preferences are kind of opposite. This forced each of us to test our ideas by the fire of the other person's preferences. Richard loves Diablo, explosions, bullet trains in head on collisions, sound effects, action, goofyness, and the ability to jarate off in a game to do whatever insane task he wants. Apparently he used to make trains of tow trucks in GTA just to climb mountains and drive them off. Me on the other hand. I love games like Eve, spreadsheets, numbers, tricks that “break” the game, building a home, nesting. The middle of the Venn diagram for Richard and I is probably procedural systems, and choices, and consequences. We have enough in common to build toward a common goal, but we also bring completely different elements of gameplay to the table.

So back to what we had. We were in a GTA style world with space cops, you were a pirate (no fleet just yet) there were some civs with terrible ships to kick around (the surplus tech in game now used to be civ tech) and Zombies were something in the back of our mind menacing the galaxy from a story perspective. Ding, space travel is boring, we need instances. Now Richard as described above being an action guy hated hated hated menus. I loved them. More more more. Richard won a lot more interface battles than me (thank him for the light interface, that I now also love) But after many tears, we got the System map. Removed the pointless travel time, and Space Game became action on demand. This we really liked and was a key turning point in the feel of SPAZ.

At this time, the galaxy was also a line of 8 or so Stars. You flew from left to right, get to the end of the line and you win. Somehow we thought this was ok. OH by the way were are now on month 7 and our savings are gone. There is no game yet, BUT we do know that we are building something fun. We must continue... For the children!

We tighten our belts and I start pulling money out of a home equity line of credit. I have an 8 month old son and a nervous wife at the time. Richard's life style was less expensive, so he was able to stretch his savings a little longer, but the point of being screwed was rapidly approaching for him as well. The only thing that let him continue in the end was a family tragedy that I won't go in to. Now the Mantra of Minmax was born. “3 more months.” For the next 18 months, SPAZ was always 3 months from being done, and we believed it and told that to our families. We just need to survive for 3 more months, make it awesome, and it will pay off. It will be done in 3 months, that is a long time. OH S!&T, Look at how much money we have spent on this, the game has to be really good and sell well or we ruined our lives. We need to make the explosions better or add some floating bodies, or something. More polish. We need people to buy this thing. Oh crap 3 months have passed polishing, we REALLY need it to be good now. That cycled about 6 times. It is painful to write.

Need to run for boxing family get together. I will try to continue later. Also thanks very much to everyone for the interest. This is fun/cathartic to write down somewhere and I will do my best to keep updating as time permits.
I had to cut part three because of the character limit. Suggestions?

Last edited by Genocide1812: 12-29-2011 at 11:22 AM.
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Old 12-24-2011, 10:57 AM   #2
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Hi Genocide1812,

Thanks very much for the support and the interest. I feel a wall of text coming on

I knew that I wanted to make games since I was about 10 an got my first computer, 27 years ago. From that point, I pretty much spent all my free time playing computer games. I actually never had a Nintendo or Atari which I always thought was a great injustice, but it may have given me a different games focus growing up than my friends.

Eventually I made it into college, and then university (taking 7 years for a 4 year degree as to not interfere with my gaming) First years were super slack, but by the end I had gotten a job in the games industry and was working 40 hours a week with a full course load, while still keeping my gaming hours intact. I lacked a social life though, but who needs those. My degree was in CompSci as yours is, however aside from it getting me in the door, and providing some good math skills it has not been terribly relevant. This will not be the case for everyone though because my career path is odd, and I am very much a generalist programmer. I am not a guru at any particular aspect of coding... at all... but I can fumble by with all of them enough to build what I need at the time. Mostly I have always dealt with high level implementation. Now more about the interesting part. The industry job.

So how do you get into the games industry? Simple, it is like the Mafia and someone needs to vouch for you. In my last year at university, I found out that one of my room mate's friend's was a designer at Black Box Games in Vancouver (A pretty big game making hub because it was one of the early campuses for EA) So I proceeded to head out with my buddies and this designer and drink many many beers. We hit it off, I got an introduction and a shot at the possibility of becoming a tester. This was beyond a dream come true (i did not know then that this is the worst job in the industry and generally leads no where but management, which I may touch on later.) This was mid year 2000

The day of the interview arrives, and it is awesome. I am talking to the owners of a then 50 person company (grew pretty massive b4 EA bought and over the years dismantled it) Swearing, the promise of alcohol, everything you want in an interview. I was sure I had the job. Waited a couple days, and got a rejection phone call. I was not qualified. Keep in mind, I was in my last year of comp sci, had a 3.75 GPA and was beyond an avid gamer. Did I mention it is hard to get into games.

Broken hearted for a few days, and I get a call. During my interview I spent a lot of time talking about our Starcraft network in our university quad. This gets me a job in IT there. I am the one and only IT guy for a 50 person company. I jumped at the chance, but was pretty intimidated. I realize this story is getting long now, and we are no where NEAR SPAZ yet, so maybe I should pick up the pace. I proved myself in the IT department, and got a chance to actually run the QA (testing) department while still in school. I jumped at that and was then doubled up on jobs. Proved I could handle those, and got a job scripting AI on Sega Soccer Slam. So at one point I was full course load in school, IT department, QA Lead, and AI scripter for my first game all at once, and it was the best time of my life.

Quickly I was extricated from my other roles to focus on gameplay, and unbeknownst to me at the time, I had become a designer. As a programmer, I always felt slighted and thought "scripter" was a dirty word among programmers, and that I should be writing AI because that's where its at. Little did I know I was on the perfect career path for me. Sega Soccer Slam turned out to be a great success, and people all over the world were playing vs player brains that I had created (did all player scripting aside from goalies) This was absolutely awesome. Next I went on to programming defensive gameplay for NHL 2004 (Also, I hate hockey and it is my fault that game was too hard hehe) This gave me a programming half to my scripting half so I had a better idea of what goes on under the hood. But everything I did was always high level.

By the time NHL came out, EA had bought Black Box Games and it had gone from a frat house to a typical corporate office with suits galore, butt kissers, the whole bit. TPS reports anyone? I just walked in one day (after NHL shipped, as not to hurt the product) and told them that I couldn't do it any more and left. I didn't have a job waiting, I was just too heart sick to see my dream of the games industry rot in there.

Luckily, my mentor of sorts at BlackBox came with me and we started a company together called Quasar Interactive. There is actually a game called Statesmen that we made that never saw the light of day. it sits in a box on my self, but the company we made the game for, never decided on a means for distribution and it languishes. (It is a board game by the way) For this project we were paid about $20,000 each which gave us just enough to survive. The money ran out and I needed a job. (We are almost to the forming of MinMax, you said you wanted the story)

Interestingly, Statemen used Torque (what SPAZ uses) but Radical Entertainment was also working on a game called Scarface that was in serious trouble, and it also used the same scripting language as Torque. (Both engines were built off the tribes 2 engine, crazy eh?) I had an interview, told them that I had written in the order of 50,000 lines of Torque Script and was hired in about 15 minutes.

Scarface was in serious trouble and my role quickly went from bolt on gameplay scripter to technical designer as my previous high level experience and programming plus my familiarity with torque script and the fact that I am a benevolent (I hope) dictator lead me to begin to implement changes to that project that got the scripting team to use a common set of gameplay tools to bring the game into a humming machine. Scarface didn't come together until about 1 week before we shipped. But the most important part of that project was that I met Richard Clifford (other half of MinMax) This was his first job, and we became good friends and worked together a lot. I taught him everything I could and he was always willing to learn.

After Scarface's success, we were both put on Scarface 2 and in an office together. We began to work out the metagame for our opus. Let me tell you, Scarface 2 was going to be friggin awesome, and we designed the core of the game in a pub one night. We even made a board game for the metagame that we made each team member play when they joined the project as to infect their brains with the awesomeness of what they were creating. Oh, by the way, Activision and Videndi merged and Scarface 2 was canceled because XYZ executive bull. (So Genocide1812, I feel your pain about the industry's direction) We poured our souls into Scarface 2, it was awesome, the team loved it, it was to be the best thing any of us ever made, and they killed it.

This pretty much broke Richard's and my Spirit but we tried to persevere. Richard went on to work on Prototype, and I spent time on two undisclosed and ALSO canceled projects at Radical. Both were canceled after I left, but the writing was clearly on the wall. Dysfunctional teams and broken spirits all around in the company. Oh also, when they killed Scarface 2, they laid off half of the company. Great feeling that was losing all those friends.

So finally, I had enough and so did Richard. We were chatting in the same pub where we designed Scarface 2 and said #$@! it! after about 6 pitchers of beer, we didn't want to live that way and the next day we marched into work and resigned together. Note, I had a 1 month old first child at this point, and didn't want him growing up with a dad that was spiritually broken.

FINALLY WE GET TO MINMAX. A few days later, after the glow of quitting wore off, Richard and I thought, what now (at the pub again) and decided to make a game together. We had both dabbled extensively with Torque and decided to go for it. Richard's job in general is to run around with rainbows flying out of his head, and I chase him around dual wielding with a butterfly net catching the good ideas, and a baseball bat to smash the bad ones. We both REALLY missed games like Star Control, so we decided to merge all the favorite bits from our favorite games to make a "space game." In the Dev branch, our game is still called "Space Game"

We spent 1 whole week designing the game and scheduling out 6 month dev cycle. 5 races, persistent universe, random tech tree, epic story, ship construction, betrayal , hybrid races blah blah blah. FOOLS!

So we ended up with a design in our heads (never anything on paper to this day) that we decided we loved and was perfect (almost none of it is in the game today) and we instantly set to work.

Part II after breakfast and I see what's on sale on Steam today

Delay: Wife aggro, family time. Will continue when I can.
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Old 12-24-2011, 01:05 PM   #3
snobeee
 
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Wow, pretty amazing story so far

Hope this is not too personal: If you quit before Minmax was making any money, how did you support yourselves? Wife?
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Old 12-24-2011, 01:23 PM   #4
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Just checking in on the story to see if there was any interest. Actually, I had saved up a nest egg to support my family for about 6 months if we tightened our belts. A 2D space game would only take 6 months to complete, right right?

My wife was at home with our new son so no supplementary income there, and I got to watch him develop with SPAZ which was pretty awesome. In the end, SPAZ was funded entirely on home equity. At the point when we began to sell the game as a beta (was emergency situation) I had $400 in the bank before I had to start looking at selling our place to cover bills. the first few days of beta sales gave us enough headroom for a while, so things became less dire in a hurry. But that it part of the next instalment I think.

TL;DR
Fear of living on a box is a great motivator to finish a passion project.
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Old 12-24-2011, 05:50 PM   #5
Genocide1812
 
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Heh it's weird every time you call me Genocide1812. Old, old tag from when I was young enough to think it was cooler than it was insensitive.

Didn't realize how many great games came out of Canada. I knew Relic was based in Vancouver, but not Radical. Prototype was pure fun.

Anyway I'm really loving this story. More interesting than I could've imagined so far.
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Old 12-24-2011, 07:26 PM   #6
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I had no idea we were so close, you and I, blorf. Well, maybe not that close, but doing the more or less the same stuff at the same time.

While you were notching your bedpost with Radical, I was planting the nose of my career trajectory straight into the ground like a potato mound. Twelvefield = animator jargon, and I was fresh out of school and ready to animate in the mid '90's when I moved to Vancouver just as Disney was gutting and filleting their big studio here. Hundreds of out-of-work Disney-trained animators flooded the talent pool, so it was hard to compete. While I did get to animate a bit, I only got steady work by teaching. The cliché about those who can do, those who can't... In any case, I ended up as an instructor at a largish rather shameless chain school famous in the States which shall remain nameless.

I hope you recall J. Solway, who would have been one of the Scarface artists. Mr. Solway's full name will also not be mentioned here lest I say something stupid about him. I think I remember the guy's name right. I threw his card away just a few months ago. He was a damned good artist, although not half as good as me, grin. He and I commuted from time to time on the West Coast Express, and we would talk art. The stories about Scarface I heard were not very happy ones, but then they did not sound different from the stream of lies and BS that comes from the animation studios.

Blorf's post brought back a lot of memories, which is why I want to comment. The work was the best in those days, but the environment absolutely sucked. One thing I will say about Solway over myself: he could stand the studios a lot better than I ever could. Unless you're on the top of the pyramid, a gaming studio life is best for someone who is young, has no family, and has no social life. The moment you put down roots, the harder it will become to stay in the industry (although production may be an exception).

If you really want the job, go to school, pay attention, and do all of the work. Any decent technical school with a gamer program will teach you some of the basics, but mostly they will teach you how to get used to the crazy long hours you are expected to be productive. Blorf should know that animators are the first to go into the studio and are the last to leave.

All I can do is artwork. I cannot program worth beans. If you can draw and animate and program, then you may have enough talent to land a decent job in gaming. If not, then latch on like superglue to the most talented kid in your class. When they go up the ladder, hopefully they remember you as well.
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Old 12-24-2011, 07:26 PM   #7
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Awesome story Blorf, lets you appreciate the work even more knowing the backstory and all. Got a little bit more money than last time and the game is on sale, so I will be getting it in a few days
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Old 12-24-2011, 10:56 PM   #8
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Ah, well I wasn't so much looking for insight on how to get into the games industry; wrote that possibility off a long time ago. But I'm sure other people are and the stories are damn interesting.

Oh and with the quick support I got to play the game, must say it's really fun.
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Old 12-25-2011, 02:05 AM   #9
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A great story, Blorf. I hope to make it in the industry myself one day, and your story is inspiring. Wish you the best of luck
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Old 12-25-2011, 05:32 AM   #10
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Great story so far, can't wait to hear the rest!
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Old 12-25-2011, 04:43 PM   #11
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Amazing story, I've been eyeing this game for a couple of weeks, watched the TotalBiscuit let's play, and some other random vids.

Got the demo and found it to be pretty fun, going to take the plunge now, 1 more sale for you, I like your attitude ;-)
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Old 12-25-2011, 05:00 PM   #12
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Great story sir, and happy holidays too. You've got good reason to be proud of SPAZ. I've been playing it since it was released on Steam, and its really been one of my favorite games of recent years, right up there with Minecraft and Terraria.

Regarding your story, maybe it seems like those years plucking away at projects that didn't work out was a waste, but in my experience where you're at depends greatly on where you've been. I don't know much about the games industry (I work in construction) but I've been with several companies over the past couple years that have failed spectacularly as the building industry has contracted, and though I sometimes wish I had been able to hold things together better, I also tried to learn from some of the mistakes we in the industry have made.

So, good job man. Hope to see more of your guys work in the future.
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Old 12-25-2011, 09:15 PM   #13
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Having heard this story, I'm way more happy with my purchase. It's developers like yourself that truly give me hope. As much as I might love a developer like, say, Blizzard, indie developers such as you guys are what make the gaming industry, and you guys deserve all the support. Great story, and keep doing what you're doing, and best of luck with all of your future ventures.
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Old 12-25-2011, 11:59 PM   #14
Genocide1812
 
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So I want to edit my first post to include the story as you tell it, but I'm not sure how to quote properly when it's an edit not a reply. Help me out?
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Old 12-26-2011, 02:20 PM   #15
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Part II (The Making of Space Game)

So, Richard and I had quit our soul sucking industry jobs, and were in the midst of a huge wash of unbridled creativity, that was almost our downfall. Each day we would meet up and discuss our ultimate space game alternating coffee and beer consumption in his backyard, which was pretty awesome after being caught in a stuffy office for 5 years. Just about every sentence began with “wouldn't it be great if.” Please note, beginning sentences with this statement after alpha is punishable by death.

Initially we spent a lot of time on the story, none of which was used in the final version. There were 5 races. The Terrans (which later split into the UTA and Civs), Pirates, Plant race, Rock race, and a race of hybrids that eventually became zombies. Richard busily made art for the weird rock and plant races that you can still see whispers of in the game today. Rez crystals are actually left over bits of the Rock space ships. They were meant to break apart and merge into new ships as you fought them. Yes this is definitely in scope for a 6 month project... no problem.

Over the course of the project, Richard was a superstar making and recycling art. Every piece of wreckage or space junk was at one time, something that was part of the design. Richard does not have an art background, and the original ships for “space game” were rough to say the least, but as the project progressed, I had faith in him, and he got many photoshop levelups and we ended up with some really nice art.
Interesting side note: Most of the sound effects and chatter are Richard making noises into a cheap mic with his shirt pulled over his mouth as a pop filter

Early on, there was a lot of experimentation. In fact initially, you played the game as a Terran (cop) but as the game evolved, we realized that being the pirate is just a lot more appealing. After about 3 months Richard and I had a meeting, and sadly cut the Rocks and Plants, but we realized that it was better to make the Terrans, Pirates and what was then called Zombies into full fledged factions than to have a soup of half finished good ideas.

So now we had three factions, but realized, how the heck does the galaxy work with just cops, pirates, and zombies. We needed some “filler” the Civs were born. Initially, their job literally was to be picked on background filler for the pirates. Pirates steal from Civs, UTA warps in to stop it. Then there is a real fight. This was also all happening in an open world environment at that time too. Richard and I had worked a lot on Scarface and Scarface 2 which were both open world games, and it heavily influenced our initial thinking. So we build a fully functional open world with enemies spawning and flight from planet to planet etc. And you know what? Flying in space is boring. It is called space for a reason. AXE. So we started adding interface screens.

Here is probably a good time to describe Richard vs. Me and why we work well together. Even though we share a brain, our game preferences are kind of opposite. This forced each of us to test our ideas by the fire of the other person's preferences. Richard loves Diablo, explosions, bullet trains in head on collisions, sound effects, action, goofyness, and the ability to jarate off in a game to do whatever insane task he wants. Apparently he used to make trains of tow trucks in GTA just to climb mountains and drive them off. Me on the other hand. I love games like Eve, spreadsheets, numbers, tricks that “break” the game, building a home, nesting. The middle of the Venn diagram for Richard and I is probably procedural systems, and choices, and consequences. We have enough in common to build toward a common goal, but we also bring completely different elements of gameplay to the table.

So back to what we had. We were in a GTA style world with space cops, you were a pirate (no fleet just yet) there were some civs with terrible ships to kick around (the surplus tech in game now used to be civ tech) and Zombies were something in the back of our mind menacing the galaxy from a story perspective. Ding, space travel is boring, we need instances. Now Richard as described above being an action guy hated hated hated menus. I loved them. More more more. Richard won a lot more interface battles than me (thank him for the light interface, that I now also love) But after many tears, we got the System map. Removed the pointless travel time, and Space Game became action on demand. This we really liked and was a key turning point in the feel of SPAZ.

At this time, the galaxy was also a line of 8 or so Stars. You flew from left to right, get to the end of the line and you win. Somehow we thought this was ok. OH by the way were are now on month 7 and our savings are gone. There is no game yet, BUT we do know that we are building something fun. We must continue... For the children!

We tighten our belts and I start pulling money out of a home equity line of credit. I have an 8 month old son and a nervous wife at the time. Richard's life style was less expensive, so he was able to stretch his savings a little longer, but the point of being screwed was rapidly approaching for him as well. The only thing that let him continue in the end was a family tragedy that I won't go in to. Now the Mantra of Minmax was born. “3 more months.” For the next 18 months, SPAZ was always 3 months from being done, and we believed it and told that to our families. We just need to survive for 3 more months, make it awesome, and it will pay off. It will be done in 3 months, that is a long time. OH S!&T, Look at how much money we have spent on this, the game has to be really good and sell well or we ruined our lives. We need to make the explosions better or add some floating bodies, or something. More polish. We need people to buy this thing. Oh crap 3 months have passed polishing, we REALLY need it to be good now. That cycled about 6 times. It is painful to write.

Need to run for boxing family get together. I will try to continue later. Also thanks very much to everyone for the interest. This is fun/cathartic to write down somewhere and I will do my best to keep updating as time permits.
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