End of Week 8

Hey guys,

GDC is upon us and everyone's freaking out. I have lots of meetings planned. I'll mostly be doing stuff for Loki's Planet and doing a little recruiting for another game I'm working on called Tower22 ( www.tower22game.com ). There's not a lot for me to do for Dawnshine right now. No company will invest in us this early on, and those that will would offer too little seed money and want a massive chunk of our profits to make up for the risk. Not a good deal for us.

I don't think a lot will come out of GDC for Dawnshine other than to make some in roads connection wise, get some figure quotes for me to put in my business plan, and check out the latest in middleware on the market. I've been looking at a few other engines aside from HeroEngine. Though in terms of what all HE does, and the fact that the license is cheaper than what the other guys are doing, I don't know if we're going to switch. I had to sign an NDA to find out how much BigWorld charges for their engine. Wow, is all I can say. It's worth it, but wow.

There's a few things about HE I'm not happy about. The water is really limited. If you play SWTOR, you can see what I mean. It's not very realistic. It also does cube mapping for dynamically created shadows. Every time I play SWTOR, that really stands out to me ( aka, notice how the shadows are in squares ). I keep thinking, "This game cost over $300 mil to make and they're using the default cube mapping from the engine?" Ironically, the HeroEngine development team is planning on upgrading the shadow mapping rendering system, so future MMOs using the engine will have better graphics. So Dawnshine will have smooth shadows, while SWTOR will probably still have shadow squares.

Let's see. The artists are taking two weeks off from meeting. About half our team is going to GDC and they're going to be showing off their portfolios. So I didn't want them skimping on their portfolios because they're working on Dawnshine, nor did I want them feeling guilty about not working on Dawnshine because of GDC, so yeah.

No rest for the programmers. This brings up another issue. The engine is broken again. We're building a zone just for character selection / creation. You probably don't realize this when you play World of Warcraft or most MMOs out there that if you click on your character, it instantly moves you to a camera in a little room that has art assets that symbolize your character's race and/or faction. Click on a different character, and the engine moves you again. It happens so fast that you don't know the camera is switching around.

Well, this is what one of our programmers is creating right now. The other programmers are working on other things, but this is the area that's broken.... I think. All I know is there's an error with the camera systems and it causes the engine to crash. None of us seem to know how to fix it, and I'm so busy doing everything else on the project. For me to squeeze in time to do a crash course in the camera systems to try and figure out how to fix things, yeah, pretty frustrating. But we'll figure it out, just like we've figured out the last two game stoppers. Eventually we'll break the engine in every way possible and find new, impossible ways to break it. In the end, we'll be masters as fixing it and pushing it to the limit and throwing in our own curves to extend that limit. So I'm not freaking out about it. Still, I don't like that the programmers have been at a dead stop for a week now because of it.

Aside from that, we're starting to work on marketing. Several business related people outside the team are trying to work with me on how to pitch Dawnshine. Now, the finished game will be awesome, but what do we say about our game now while we're still working on art and game play features and don't yet have anything to show people? There's a few options here. Calling this the first hard fantasy MMO ever made is really awesome.... to me... and the 12 other people that know / care what Hard Fantasy is. Um, ok, so that's not really going to wow anyone. Hmm, in a male dominated game industry, half of our art team is female. That doing anything for anyone? Girl power? I think that's sort of interesting to some people. Not bad, but not enough. Well, the graphics will be amazing... just like every next gen game out there, so that doesn't stand out. But our awesome graphics aren't going to be ready for some time. We're going to focus on multiplayer content and strong community. That's cool, but still doesn't really strike people as something awesome. Our combat system is really, really cool. Our class system is really, really cool. A lot of other game features we have planned, I feel, will revolutionize the industry. But none of that is stuff we can talk about any time soon. So what do we have left?

Then there's another angle, though I'm not sure if this is a selling point or something we should down play. We're all inexperienced. Um, that can be a good thing... sorta. Well, I've worked on some game projects making a splash, one of which is an MMO, but I did so as a writer. This is the first time I've worked as a Project Manager or a designer. It's not a whole lot of industry experience, but it's all we have on the entire team. Well, one of our modelers interns at BioWare. I'm not sure what she does there since that particular studio doesn't use 3d models in their games, but it's still pretty cool. Otherwise, our team is essentially recent graduates or current college students with game related majors. Two of our programmers have game programming degrees from DeVry. Our sound guy has a degree from Pinnacle College, which is an audio school. And then most of our art team is from The Art Institute.

What's cool about this is the fact that, in a world of MMO clones, we can put something together that's really unique. We don't have to bow to publisher demands to put out a flavor of the month game. We can truly do what we want. And I can tell you, a lot of what we're doing has never been done before. Usually when something's never been done before, it's because it's not a very good idea. Time will tell on that. But the bad thing, of course, if big studios full of experienced programmers have tons of bugs in their games, what's going to happen with a studio filled with inexperienced game programmers? That doesn't sound promising, does it? Do gamers respect underdogs or do they respect studios with proven track records of quality products? I think it's the latter.

But one thing I can tell you, we're not going to let a deck stacked against us win. Dawnshine is going to be an amazing game, and we're not going to release it until it really shines.

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