Matt's Podcast 7: SITREP

Matt Barton's picture

Hi, folks! Probably not the best time given the recent public flogging I've been getting over my Gothic retrospective, but what the heck. Here's my seventh podcast. This one is admittedly a ramble, but generally focused on making games with Gamemaker and the trials and tribulations of becoming an indie game developer. Is making a "serious" indie game worth the effort if you know your work will make little to no money--and, worse--may only be seen by a dozen or so people, tops? Is the love of making games enough in and of itself to keep you motivated all the way through a year or more of development? In my case, the answer is no.

Download the podcast here.

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Rowdy Rob
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Rough stuff, Matt.

Man, I come here to AA to relax a bit, and between the "Gothic" trolls, the "lost love" thread in another topic, and now this podcast.... I'm really bummed out now!

The thing is, I don't think "Thrust Lifter" was given much of a chance. I just did a Google search, and all the results lead to the blog post about it here! That blog post is already buried under all the newer blog posts since then, so no casual web surfer, or even occasional AA reader, is likely to know it exists!

Actually, my Google search included a bunch of strange hits on Thrust Lifter, including this one: "Announcing Thrust Lifter: A New Game by Matt Barton - Hide My Ass!" I kid you not.

Anyhow, it seems the key to getting some traction is somehow in the marketing aspect. "Thrust Lifter" is hidden under a rock right now. Maybe, at least, put an ad for it on AA under the Amazon book links. Heck, put header links on AA for your games.

What happened to "Mythcore," by the way. Didn't you guys use to have a site for it? It might be time to resurrect it, or at least have a "Mythcore" section and forum on AA.

I don't understand the resistance to 100MB downloads either. In an age where people are routinely downloading gigabytes worth of files a day (movies, games, music, etc.), 100MB is hardly a barrier. That sounds like crazy talk to me, but I don't know everyone's situation. But MOST people wouldn't even bat an eyelash at a 100MB file, I would think.

Other topics that came up in the podcast:

Whoever that guy was that misinterpreted your "miniatures" comment in the forums should be shot. What a moron. :-) At least you got a good idea out of it. (P.S. I think you were talking about me!)

I'm tempted to want to help you with these projects. Heck, I think I can throw together a bare-bones prototype of "Rampin' Rescue" (the side view and car physics) rather quickly in Unity. It might not be the "right" way to do it, but it should be at least a "proof of concept" template. I'm not sure how you'd feel about me jumping in, though. It does kind of tie into the project I was contemplating, which was also a side-view arcade game.

About the "Kinect" scanning.... There is software for the PC that's out there that can do some similar things (perhaps much better) using digital photos or a webcam. The one I had (which came on a magazine disk!) I can't for the life of me remember the name of it, but here's a link to a similar program, "Strata Foto 3D."

http://www.strata.com/products/strata_3d_cx_suite/strata_foto_3d_cx/

How these programs work is this. You lay your object on a sheet (which has several calibration marks on it) and take photos of the object from many different angles. The software then "builds" the object using the calibration marks on the sheet as a guide.

Strata Foto 3D is fairly expensive, but there may be other similar programs out there. Some of the other ones, like "Photomodeller," are far more expensive! (There's a "Lite" version that I think is free, though.) The results look very good, from what I've seen.

Anyhow, whatever you decide to do, even if game making isn't for you, don't give up being creative and productive. Otherwise, you'll end up like me, sort of a washed-up old fighter trying to get back into the ring after years of being out of the game.

See, told you that you depressed me.

Matt Barton
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Thanks, Rob! Your post

Thanks, Rob! Your post finally got me the jolt I needed to redo our "GAMES" page here to offer our various games for download. I'm hoping you guys will have some up there soon, too.

Mythcore is pretty much a cool name at this point, though we have plans to use it if we start publishing games or other things. Bill can talk more about it, but it seems unlikely unless we decide to invest money, incorporate, and do all that kind of stuff. Maybe if Graph Paper Dungeons really comes together well, we can talk about taking the steps to become a real company and find some way to sell boxed copies with cloth maps (yeah, I know, living in a fantasy world here).

Actually, I know you've said before you want to help me with this stuff, I say go for it. There's not much point in trying to talk to brass tacks before we have anything created, but if you're at a point where you can get a prototype started, go for it. I'm still working on the basics here, so it'll be awhile before I have anything substantial to show.

I looked at the Strata page. It looks neat, but at $700 it's just not in the cards. I'm actually "sticker shocked" that it's that expensive. I'd definitely need to find a cheaper alternative, since realistically I can only expect to recoup maybe a hundred bucks from sales and/or donations.

I've been trying to think of a good way for us to cooperate building something. It's hard because we have to be on the same page at all times with the development of something, otherwise we'll end up at cross-purposes or with a mess neither of us understand. I guess this is why pros are so in love with "object-oriented programming," since they can work on individual parts and not have to worry about how they interconnect until the end. I guess with Unity there would be lots of room for stuff like that, especially once you got over the initial hurdle and was doing level designs, adding scenery, aliens, etc.

A recurring joke in my how-to books is cloning--just make 100 clones of yourself and set them to work on all the various parts of a program. Funny! But you can't just take 100 people like us and expect to be able to make anything easier; might even make it harder. Obviously the way to succeed here is to have a good plan and excellent communication.

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Bill Loguidice
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Yeah, Myth Core Productions

Yeah, Myth Core Productions no longer has its own site, but like our other property, www.videogamesandcomputers.com, www.mythcore.com redirects back to here for now. I'll probably in fact redirect Myth Core to our "Games" page now that Matt put his games there. Depending upon who else in the team gets around to making games (hopefully I'm one of them), this may grow and we'll do a more formal setup and/or a stand alone site. Baby steps.

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clok1966
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Gothic (one) is the only one

Gothic (one) is the only one i havent played. I must agree the Gothic series is quit good, I'm suprised the 3rd one gets thouhgt of as a mess. I liked 3 quite a bit and wouldnt say it was that much worse then 2. It does tend to feel a bit "lets make it do everything" and feels a bit unfinished in spots.

As for RISIN .... HIGHLY recomend it (in fact i did here about ayear ago)! I really liked it and though I never finished it I want to revisit it again.

hate to hear your disapointment in game makeing. We all want people to like what we do. But i think your problem can be fixed.. as Rob says, people cant look if they dont know. Make an account on yoyo and put it there. You have a great point, there are just pure overload on this type of stuff, people wont find it without you pointing it out.

I love the creative part, while i love to hear people enjoy it, i get quite a bit of satisfaction from simply creating it.. I ahve mentioned I have wrote some, drawn comics, made game levels etc.. of them all the comic got almost no notice (but i broke even) other hten comics where the "hot" collector item at the time or I wouldnt have even made my money back (i commited a HUGE chunck of change). My level desigens for games got a few notices for a few weeks, some emails from people in actual game making companies (yes, wow.. but they where the "nice work, keep trying, some day you will be good" not "we love you, please designe level for us!' type. My writing is far more personal pleasuer then anything as anybody who has read my posts knows.. im not a writer in any stretch of the imagination. but I enjoy it so i do it.

i think your mistake is expecting anything out of it. most indepndenets do this as a HOBBY and we all know HOBBIES cost lots of money, and time. Now.. maybe sometime you can expect it.. but your first few tries? Thouhg i must admit your creativity is far better then 90% of the games i see. Just a wierd little side note.. when we did the BORG levels for Quake2, we kept track of hours, there where 4 of us. I made 4 levels and averaged almost 300 hours on each one (that does involve many hours of play testing!!!!, and yes it was all related to making the levels not just goofing off, but we maybe playtested a few times far longer then we should have). I have just a little over 1200 hours into 4 levels.. basicly a just short of a year of EVERY minute of my freetime (almost). We got publicity being on a cover disc for Electronic gaming, we got reviewed well.. and.. I think i got about 20 total emails on it (good or bad). I wont lie, i expected more input, more of anything.. but .. eh.. I loved every minute of it when I did it and would do it again even knowing the results.

keep at it, keep inproving (if you enjoy it at all) i think in the end you will be glad you did.. but you do have alot of irons in the fire, podcasts, mattchat, and the AA endeveors..

Matt Barton
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Hehe, yeah, I'm probably

Hehe, yeah, I'm probably weird like that. When I first started out with Mayhem and such I had no expectations at all. I figured somebody might like it, but *my* fun was in the making of it and learning to use the tool. That's still largely why I'm tinkering with game development; just having fun doing cool stuff and seeing how it all works. That's fine for now.

However, if I got serious enough to make Graph Paper Dungeons, which I think we can all agree would take at least 6 months if not a year or more to finish, that's a whole different ballgame. I imagine the fun part would wear out fairly quickly, and then it'd be a huge amount of work (not fun, just plain work) getting all the assets produced, levels designed, kinks worked out, bugs found, etc. I don't honestly know anyone who could do that amount of work for nothing. At least, nobody with any sense would do that. The reward might not be money, mind you, but I think any sane person would at least expect to have his work acknowledged and appreciated by other people.

I know there are nuts who will slave over a project for decades and have no expectation or even desire for anyone else ever to see it. Notice I say "nuts."

I remembering hearing a professional author say once that you should never write anything for free. That was his advice: Don't ever write for free. Doing so cheapens the profession and could even destroy it. Obviously I've not followed that, but it does make me wonder if I've made a horrible mistake writing so much on this site and elsewhere. I could've put this time into some kind of paid work, I'm sure, although I doubt it'd be writing this kind of stuff (probably stuff I'd consider boring or pointless). According to this author, even if you just get paid a small bag of peanuts, at least you got that. Once you start doing stuff for free, everybody expects that, takes it for granted, etc.

On the other hand, I've heard that if you do pay people, you get a different sort of attitude and possibly less creativity. People volunteering their free time to something may have more fun doing it. That's been shown with wiki experiments; pay people to work on a wiki, it goes nowhere. There has to be other kinds of rewards in there, mostly social--acknowledgment by other wiki folks, merit badges, whatever.

Of course, there's also the problem that others have pointed out--if nobody knows Thrust Lifter, a podcast, or a show even exists--that's the killer. I mean, if you're talking numbers, I'm pretty much nuts to be writing this message now, since I'd be surprised if three people read it. It just so happens I really like those three or so people, but looking at this logically, I'm nuts.

A lot changed with me attitude-wise after I interviewed Jay. I figured he'd be a lot more excited about his game's reception, but instead he was disappointed. I look at his game and am very impressed! It's obviously a helluva lot better than anything I could do. So if he can't even get a satisfactory reception, who the hell am I kidding here? I just see myself putting a year's worth of hard work into something and getting a pittance in return, and that just seems like insanity to me. It might turn out as I get more into Unity that making the game might turn out to be so much fun that it's no big deal whether I get any attention or money or anything, but it definitely doesn't look like that at the moment.

Not to compare myself to an actual genius, but imagine Mozart. Would he have composed all of his music if he had no audience? If only a handful of close friends ever bothered to listen to it, and even a few of those complained that they were too long? I somehow very seriously doubt it. Of course, you could say "Well, with music like his, he didn't have to worry about attracting an audience," but there could be a chicken and egg element here. Maybe having an audience is a prerequisite to making something good, since then you have a clear incentive. If you've got nobody to impress, how can you get up enough incentive? I just don't know.

I feel like a bit of a butthead saying some of this. I keep feeling that it looks like I'm taking the audience I have for granted, which is not true AT ALL. In fact, I am very, very grateful to know you guys. It's similar to my feelings when I had a rock band back in college. OF COURSE I loved the few fans we had and was so happy to see them at our shows. It's not like it was their fault we never drew a bigger crowd. Stepping in their shoes for a moment, though, I can see why they'd get upset if they heard the band complaining about the small turnout. I mean, THEY showed up, hello, what are we, chopped liver? Etc. You gotta walk a fine line. You need to build up a bigger audience without alienating or pissing off the existing one.

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Bill Loguidice
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Said this before...
Matt Barton wrote:

I remembering hearing a professional author say once that you should never write anything for free. That was his advice: Don't ever write for free. Doing so cheapens the profession and could even destroy it. Obviously I've not followed that, but it does make me wonder if I've made a horrible mistake writing so much on this site and elsewhere. I could've put this time into some kind of paid work, I'm sure, although I doubt it'd be writing this kind of stuff (probably stuff I'd consider boring or pointless). According to this author, even if you just get paid a small bag of peanuts, at least you got that. Once you start doing stuff for free, everybody expects that, takes it for granted, etc.

You know, that might have been true once, but in today's world we're all competing with nearly limitless and easily accessible paid AND free content, so not generating free content along with the paid stuff puts you at an even greater disadvantage. I suppose if you reach the level of say, a Stephen King, you can easily get away with only paid content, but that's true of the top people in any profession--the rest of us have to do whatever it takes.

We've had this discussion time and again, but I think it bears repeating that did we really think we'd accomplish all we've accomplished since Armchair Arcade was founded back in late 2003? I know I never imagined it would have led to books, the film, interviews, general recognition, etc., and the ability to continue to get work in those areas, but it has. Has it made me (or you) rich? Absolutely not, but that's OK because I love doing it and I'm willing to take the chance that maybe, just maybe, something will catch on and hit big.

With that said, you and I have taken slightly different paths with this stuff. I continue to focus on books primarily, while you continue to focus on Matt Chat and creating games, primarily. In short, I'm putting most of my creative efforts into something that is guaranteed to bring me some money (albeit, a pittance for the actual amount of work), whereas you're taking the much harder path of "build it and they will (hopefully) come", with no guarantees of even a pittance. It's admirable, certainly, but in choosing just such a path you have to expect financial "failure" since there are so many variables out of your control. In other words, it seems to me that's a risk you have to know going in. With that said, the more you - the more we - put stuff out there, make ourselves known, etc., the more the odds are in our favor of getting noticed.

By the way, if things break right and that AA project gets done, that can give us four or more new books out in 2012, along with (fingers crossed), the documentary. That's success by any definition and who knows what that could in turn snowball into...

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MazokuRanma
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New Book

This is something I was wondering about and I'm certain either one of you can answer it: When Matt mentions working on a new edition of Vintage Games in the podcast, are you guys actually revising that book, or is it more of a volume two type deal, where it's a similar theme but entirely new content.

Also, is the movie you guys are talking about the one that was once titled Woot? I had been wondering what happened to that. It's great to hear that it's still on track. Will that be available digitally only or will there be an option to purchase a DVD?

Finally, and this is directed only at Matt, I have a note bout your Graph Paper Dungeons game. You mentioned having the 3D miniatures, which is a really cool idea, but you stated they wouldn't be animated. I think this would be a huge mistake. Think of what Battle Chess would have been like without animations. I really think you should be considering doing this as a Battle Miniatures type game. You could even put a more humorous spin on the animations instead of making the battles feel incredibly serious.

Ok, I think that covers everything I wanted to cover after listening to the podcast. I look forward to you guys getting the books and movie out there, and good luck with the game. I enjoy these podcasts and look forward to hearing more of them.

Bill Loguidice
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VG and film
MazokuRanma wrote:

This is something I was wondering about and I'm certain either one of you can answer it: When Matt mentions working on a new edition of Vintage Games in the podcast, are you guys actually revising that book, or is it more of a volume two type deal, where it's a similar theme but entirely new content.

Also, is the movie you guys are talking about the one that was once titled Woot? I had been wondering what happened to that. It's great to hear that it's still on track. Will that be available digitally only or will there be an option to purchase a DVD?

Vintage Games is going into a second printing, and separately we're presently in final negotiations for a completely new book inspired by Vintage Games, but more targeted to high school/university courses, a sort of linear videogame history rather than individual game chapters.

The documentary formerly titled Woot! is now, "Gameplay: The Story of the Videogame Revolution": http://www.armchairarcade.com/neo/node/3029 . Fingers crossed it will finally be finished in 2012. The latest director appears to be a good one, though. As for release, probably small film festivals, on demand/PPV, DVD, etc. Nothing is finalized in that regard, but most of the production company's other films go that route.

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Matt Barton
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Bill answered the questions

Bill answered the questions except for the miniatures one.

I could have animation in the sense of the pieces moving around, but nothing like Battle Chess. That would require rigging and such, which I doubt I'd be able to pull off without some outside help. As I get more into it, I might be able to figure out some very basic animations, such as moving an arm down to hack, etc., but definitely nothing fancy.

I'm not sure it'd be a dealbreaker not to have the animation, though. You don't have animation in real chess and miniatures games...why is it a must in a videogame?

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Rowdy Rob
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Animation not critical in this case, I think.
Matt Barton wrote:

I'm not sure it'd be a dealbreaker not to have the animation, though. You don't have animation in real chess and miniatures games...why is it a must in a videogame?

From what I am picturing of your vision, I think this is a case where you can break the rules. Normally I'm all over animation and stuff, but I think the vision you have can work in this case.

Perhaps a swap out of different "poses" of the character pieces might be appropriate in certain situations. Like swap out a "Sword-holding" piece to a "Mace-holding" piece. Or a Standing piece to a laying down (dead or unconscious) piece.

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