Middle of Week 5

I used to play DnD a lot as a kid and up until my mid 20s. I was just about always the Dungeon Master. I would continually weave stories and mysteries into the plot lines for the players to unravel. But I also did something else. I stuck to the rules completely. What worked well because if there was a mystery to solve, the players could use the rules as a tool kit to solve puzzles. If there was a murder mystery and the body was found with three arrow wounds but no arrows were present, they knew the murderer had to be a Magic User, and what level range they would be in to be able to cast a Magic Missile Spell to produce three arrows.

Every now and then, I'd check out other gaming groups. I never met another DM that played strictly by the rules like I did. It hampered their creativity, they'd say. And when there would be a puzzle to solve, their players would give up. Why? Because since their DM didn't go by the rules, they knew there was an infinite number of solutions to the puzzle so why bother? The DMs would get frustrated and dumb things down for their players. With no challenge, there's no sense of accomplishment. Meanwhile, I literally had waiting lists of people wanting to get in our gaming groups purely from word of mouth.

I think about this analogy as I consider Epic Fantasy versus Hard Fantasy. Hard Fantasy has been around a long time. I feel as though it's slowly coming to the forefront. When it does, I hope to see Dawnshine be part of it.

Ok, enough of that. Let's talk about the project. So we had our first stumble. About a week ago, I logged into the engine to find the following problems: the screen was completely gray with only the UI rendering. If I selected objects in edit mode and moved around, I'd find that the camera wasn't moving correctly. And I couldn't enter Character mode to run around with my character.

Ok, so... one of the programmers was working on getting NPC dialogue to work. Another is working on player statistics and getting them to show on the UI. Two others are still working on tutorials to learn the engine. And the last programmer is working on the Character Creator system. I figured out that if you manually put an Area to the Default view, the gray screen went away and you could see stuff. Why wasn't it defaulting to the Default view automatically anymore? But you still couldn't enter Character mode and the camera controls were all messed up. It seemed obvious to me that the programmer who was working on the Character Creation system messed something up since he was trying to figure out how to move the camera to different character creation screens depending on which faction the player selected. No brainer, right?

Now, through the life of this project, we're all going to mess the engine up at some point. That's not a big deal. But I was irritated that someone screwed up the engine and didn't tell anyone what they did or where we needed to start looking so we could fix it. I stayed calm. And at the Programmers meeting, I tried to politely say if you screw up in the engine, you need to tells us about it. I repeated that I wasn't mad it happened, but when something's broke and no one can work in the engine until it's fixed, it's kind of stressful for a Project Manager. The programmer that was working on the Character system wasn't at that meeting, making it a little more irritating.

But that programmer contacted me the next day while I was at the Art Meeting telling me that the engine was broke. I was like, "Um, yeah," so he stopped by the Art Meeting to talk to me about it. It was clear, if he is the one that messed it up, like I assumed, then he wasn't aware of it. He's done a lot of work on the project so far, and really cares about what we're doing, so I felt a little bad that I assumed he was careless.

I got home and started looking into things. There were three files that got changed around the time the problem happened, all by this same programmer. They were part of the Character system--the system that seemed broken. However, I looked through the code of all three, and I couldn't see a problem. They were part of the character system, but they established base ability values. Not really anything that would make sense to cause the issues we were having. Then I looked more closely at the error messages. I noticed two of them were talking about missing art assets, so I mentioned that to the team. One of our technical artists on the team then noticed a huge chunk of art assets where missing. They must have gotten deleted accidentally. Art assets are things like the 3d models and animation files. So he spent 7 hours straight manually restoring each one. As soon as he finished, the engine reverted completely back to normal. Crisis averted, other than the fact that I blamed a programmer for something he probably had nothing to do with. Not cool.

In either case, I'd still like to get to the bottom of why a missing art asset was shutting the Default Room view off and reversing the Camera controls. It does give you some insight into why games have such weird bugs that can take a while to fix. I never would have figured out which art assets were missing because that's not something I'm keeping track of. I would have been lost trying to figure that out. All the art assets that come with the engine, we'll be replacing. But we're not quite ready for that yet.

Not much new going on with the team other than that. With our lack of Environmental Concept Artists, the modelers have been moving forward without them. So we're getting some rough models made right now. I recruited a couple Character Concept Artists, so that should help out. Otherwise, I haven't done any recruitment meetings this week, nor do I have any lined up til next week. Because of that, I've been able to get a fair amount of writing done. Nice for me to finally be working on a task in my comfort zone.

Off topic: So Loki's Planet is going to have a booth at GDC. The Game Development Conference is one of the biggest Game Industry events of the year. About 27k people are planning on attending. This isn't for game fans. This is for people that want to find out about the latest game development tools coming out and how to use them. GDC is also a giant job fair as well as a massive networking convention. Loki's Planet will be the only social networking site there looking to monetize. So game companies looking to advertise will want to stop by. Last year at GDC, I was going booth to booth trying to get hired by game companies as a writer. This year, I'll be behind a booth trying to hire writers looking to do game news and reviews content for LP. Nice switch.

Although it's too early for us to be talking about Dawnshine at GDC this year, there've been a couple companies that have contacted me and set up meetings with me. One of them specializes in monatization strategies. Another is one of the largest MMO game server companies in Europe. To be honest, I really have no idea how much server hosting for games costs. Yeah, I know. That's one of those, "Um, why am I in charge of this project?" moments. I do actually really like business. It just seems like it's so early on this project to even consider that side of things, but that's just my naivety speaking. Putting together a solid business plan is something I should do as early as possible. It's the first thing any investor will want to see, and the sloppier it is, the more the investor will assume we don't really care about this project. So I have to get it tight. When I took a Business Management class in college 10 years ago, I wrote up a business plan for a night club, and I had it detailed down to how much it would cost to wash the forks. That's exactly the type of thing you need to do to be taken seriously. I need to come really prepared for these meetings to get exactly the details I need to make a serious business plan or this project will never get off the ground.

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