End of Week 7

Hey everyone. Sorry if my last post was a little on the depressing side. It was therapeutic at the time. Anyway, let's talk about what the team is up to.

On the art side of things, we have a couple of building concepts for the Neg Wath and several more character concepts. We're almost two months in and we haven't even decided what concepts to use. This is a very important step. Rushing this part is only going to lead to a mismatched style later on. So I'm ok with us taking out time here.

Programming side of things... so I had a plan. That plan essentially went that we would spend the first month of development learning the engine. Those that learned it faster, could write tutorials and help the rest of us learn it. That way we would all stay at about the same pace. Makes sense, right? Yeah, but that's not what ended up happening.

What happened was those that learned it really fast wanted to learn it even more and get even further ahead of the rest of the team. Those that didn't learn it fast have been left in the dust and discouraged. Some people just don't learn well on their own. Others that do learn well on their own aren't always interested in stopping what they're doing to catch others up to speed. So essentially things are more chaotic on the coding side of things.

We've had some issues of one programmer tweaking something and it breaking the entire engine and the rest of us not knowing what happened or where to begin to look for the issue. This is becoming a weekly problem. I'm starting to have a lot more sympathy for game developers that have strange bugs constantly popping up in their code. It's just so easy to have 5 different programmers all poking at different scripts that all use the same basic systems and have something break the whole engine.

To combat this, we're going to start requiring all the programmers to make a detailed account of everything they change to a script when they recompile it. Yeah, yeah, I know what you're thinking. We should have been doing that from day 1. But I didn't really want to hit the team with a ton of rules and regulations when we're still at the, "I'm fine, thanks for asking," stage.

It was only a couple weeks ago that I got the team to start filling out time sheets. Speaking of time sheets, you might think that people on the team would be dishonest here. I mean, the plan is once we get funding, we back pay everyone on the team for the time they put in. Well, we're not in an office. I can't see when they punch in and punch out. Maybe they will exaggerate how much time they spent to get more money. That's actually not an issue. In fact, the opposite problem is what ends up happening. The pay in the game industry is crap and there's tons and tons of competition. So the people on the team are more compelled to claim a 10 hour job only took them 5. When I've worked for game companies as a contractor, that's what I did. Why? Because I wanted them to think I was awesome and want to hire me full time. So those of us in the industry will race to the bottom, each trying to do a job for a little less than the next guy.

I don't want to have that kind of environment in Stigma Games. I want people to work 8 hours and then go home. If we make less profit that way but can still pay our bills, then I'm fine with that. Long term employee sanity and stability is worth more.

There's another dark side with time sheets. Since we're not a funded company, people are volunteering their time. The plan is everyone will get back paid, though that's not the motivation for anyone on the team. They're all hoping this will be fun, give them experience, and look good on a resume. There are a couple people on the team just as determined to see Stigma Games take off as I am. But until then, everyone still has to work a paying day job in addition to working on this game. That means their creative energy is being hampered by their stress over worrying about student loans and other bills, while much of their free time to relax is instead being spent working on Dawnshine. Add to the fact that now they have to fill out time sheets and maybe they're putting in a lower number of hours that week then they would like to and it makes them feel like they're not contributing enough, and that adds more stress.

I've had a couple artists on the team elude to that issue. They weren't being passive aggressive hinting that I need to work harder at getting funding, but rather they wanted to let me know they wish they could be putting in a lot more work at a higher quality if they didn't have other work commitments.

In either case, this sounds like an easy project--get a bunch of talented programmers and artists together, make a game in our spare time, and maybe it takes off. Sounds easy, right? Make no mistake, it's hard, stressful work making a game. Luckily, we've been able to keep a casual, easy going pace with this to make sure people don't get burnt out. It's easy to be pumped up about making a game. Still being pumped up about the same game 3 years from now? That's not so easy. But for now, so good, so far.

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