Sometimes it’s hard…

Hey guys,

I typically try to share news and progress on this blog to help show people the actual in’s and outs of indie game development. Usually it’s pretty upbeat and fun. Most of the time it actually is…but…sometimes it’s hard.

To say that it’s “hard” has several meanings.

First, the technical hurdles of creating a video game are definitely not “easy”. Not to say with hard work and dedication it can’t be mastered…it certainly can. What I want to stress is that they are of varying degrees of difficulty, the learning curves are not all the same, and some of the information you need is buried deep in on-line forums and tutorials…or the cost to learn them in an academic setting is not cheap. Be prepared to get down in the trenches to learn all you need to know.

Second, the sheer amount of work needed to be done can actually be staggering if you aren’t fully prepared for it. I am personally into my fourth year working on this game IP…with some of my contributors into it almost nearly as long! There is story to be written, concept artwork to be drawn, assets to be modeled and textured, coding to be written, websites to be created and maintained, (blogs to be posted..hehe), legal trademark and copyright work to be done, marketing, social media, game testing, etc. I’m sure the triple-A studios feel this pressure as well, but when you have hundreds of people to help shoulder the load, I’m guessing it feels a bit different than when you are a group of about half a dozen people doing the majority of the work in their spare time.

Third…the cost. That in itself has multiple meanings. There is the monetary cost…which being a “no-budget” endeavor means having to work a regular job to keep yourself afloat while trying to create something that you most likely will never see a dime come out of until it is at least completed, if it sells at all. All the while there are legal costs, website costs, marketing costs, and occasional miscellaneous costs that you never see coming until it’s there. There is also, and in some respects to more of a degree, the time cost. All the people working on this…including  myself…do so in whatever spare time they can find between full and part time jobs, school, family commitments, etc. Time is a currency we all share and have a limited amount of. The fact that we, the LEGACY team, choose to spend some of that precious resource on this game should tell you something about our expectations of it’s potential.

Lastly, but certainly not leastly (is that a word??)…and this I speak for myself , is that it is hard to sometimes focus on the project at hand when so many other factors like the ones above continually weigh on my shoulders. That and the self-proclaimed duty to see this project brought to completion. In the last four years I have probably taken an actual “vacation” with my wife once…which lasted two weeks. I have a shelf full of video games that I never play because I won’t allow myself to take the time away from the project. Every night after I come home from my day job, I eat dinner, hang out with my wife & play with the dogs for about an hour,  then disappear into my home office for the rest of the night. That has been most of my days…for the past four years.

I don’t say all of this to make anyone feel sorry for me, I say it to show that along with the great, fun, exciting side of indie game development, there is also a grueling, exhausting, commitment-filled side as well that goes along with the first part like two sides of the same coin. That coin is the price of admission to the game development community. I just want to show you exactly what it will take to make that investment.

In the end, that coin will be the best money I ever spent!

~SF

 

 

Trademarks…and the headaches that come with!

Hi guys!

I will keep this short’ish (since the actual legalities of trademarks can take quite a while to delve into), and stick to my specific story regarding the hoops I have jumped through with our game.

Previously I had posted that our game’s name (LEGACY) was officially cleared through the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office). They had even published it in their official gazette…which was pretty darn exciting, I won’t lie. That was a few years ago. One of the things that one needs to do to make the mark “official” is to use that mark in commerce (ex. on a sold product). Since the scope of our game, coupled with the lack of funding, and the limitations of having to work on the game in our spare time were all working to delay it’s release…that requirement had not been met by the standard deadline.

We are still a bit away from having a product ready to ship…and that probably won’t change much until we are able to get some funding behind the project. In regards to the trademark, it wasn’t that much of a big deal to reach the deadline, or so I thought. Once the mark lapses into non-use, you can just re-submit a new application. Since the mark was still available, and I had been approved so easily the last time, I figured this would be a piece of cake! I was wrong.

Here’s where it gets funny. The new mark application for LEGACY doesn’t seem to hold up to the existing search and comparison criteria…so it was denied! Mind you…NOTHING has changed from the last time. The existing marks that they say are contestable to mine now WERE ALREADY THERE the last time I went to apply…and succeeded! So…what happened?! I’m still trying to figure that out. I have messaged the designated trademark attorney working on my application, and have since contested the denial. I can only hope that they see the failed logic in denying what had already been approved once before.

That said, there is a slight possibility that the name of the game may have to change. We’ve been batting around some ideas, but none of them really convey the epic scope or obvious (once you know the story) tie-in that makes “LEGACY” work so well. I know that in the grand scheme of game development, the game play and story will ultimately define the work. The name is just the dressing…but it is really tasty dressing..lol! Anyways, I thought I would let you guys know what I’ve been working on lately. Not as fun or exciting as the stuff I’ve posted before I know…but still a part of the whole indie game dev experience. I’ll let you know how it goes hopefully soon!

~SF

 

 

Exploration!

Hey everyone! Gen here!

SO – the game is still in progress, but moving along quickly! There is indeed a pre-alpha version available to staff as was mentioned in a previous post, but there are still scripts of chatter and communication direction in the works as the levels are edited. Still, it’s amazing to be part of a project and see it coalesce into a cohesive product!!! It’s an exciting time!!!

Personally, I’m also having a bit of fun exploring new skills and practicing existing ones. Currently taking a Python programming class with MIT through edX…so will see how that turns out. (Obviously you can all see I’m all about online learning and alternate education along with the traditional. It’s helpful, especially when you have a busy schedule.)

But besides that, I’m exploring some concept art and perspective practice…if you wish to follow what I’m doing art-wise, my Instagram is primarily for that sort of thing: g.d.franco. Check it out if interested! Currently trying to improve with environment sketches and three-point perspective.

Speaking of art and games…very soon, I will be broadcasting a Twitch series on concept art, writing and a handful of reaction Let’s Plays. Mostly art and storyboarding, though. Upon the startup, I’ll be creating content for Legacy’s universe, specifically. Again, if you are interested, keep an eye out for the channel gdfrancoart. Coming soon!

Haha – lots of self-promotion in this post. But it’s an FYI, if you all are interested. No pressure!

Also, a question for anyone: does anyone want to see Legacy on a particular social media platform? There is Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook already, but is anyone particularly interested in a Legacy-centric Instagram? Or even later on, a newsletter production booklet of some type? Just throwing about some more ideas.

~G

 

 

Momentum!

Hey everyone! Gen here!

Just an update on the writerly side of things – everyone is working hard to complete Futuretech: Flight Academy, and already there is a pre-alpha (or rather, first-playable) version out to internal staff, which is awesome and exciting! So progress has taken a tangible step!

As always, the story is never, ever finished – and even now there are scripts being written for intros, radio chatter, reactions and briefs! The game flow and voice actors’ considerations dictate a lot of how that process goes, too.

And along with the writing comes new storyboards! Working on the trailer and changing an outcome for a character!

As people know, the game design document, comprised of pretty much everything that goes into the design process – art, writing, assets, published announcements, flow charts, info/lore sheets, controls, etc. etc. – is always changing, even up to the last second. Currently, the Legacy universe expands to its main game as well as Futuretech‘s, so a lot of its production is along the same story foundations. There’s a substantial amount of art and planning done already, and I’ve been looking into publishing processes for books lately – specifically art production books.

So, the question is…if our team could compile, publish and distribute a production book of sorts for Futuretech, would players be interested in it for an affordable price? Just an idea I’ve been kicking around for some time. All up in the air right now and ultimately up to the director, but it is something worth considering, what with many fans (including myself) being avid collectors of their fandoms’ production art books…

~G

Getting close to an Alpha test for FFA!

Hi guys!

Just wanted to check in and let you know that we are getting some major progress done on FUTURETECH FLIGHT ACADEMY (the smaller “mini-game” set to release ahead of LEGACY proper). I’ve recently been able to incorporate some much needed functionality for the mission selection and ship selection UI screens. Now that it is in place, the game is actually starting to feel like a “real game”…if that makes any sense.

Within a few more weeks I hope to have it at a point that will allow some early game testing for people outside of the project. I will keep you all informed so that when the alpha is ready, the criteria for applications for alpha testers will be made available for anyone who might be interested.

Ok, that’s it for now. Back to blueprint coding!

~SF

Tribehacks with Todd Howard!

Hey everyone – Gen here!

SO yesterday was very exciting for me – visited my alma mater, the College of William and Mary, to see the keynote speaker for the third annual three-day tech development bonanza: Tribehacks.

Wonderfully, the keynote speaker in question was none other than Todd Howard, College of William and Mary graduate of 1993; also a top designer, director and producer working for Bethesda Softworks, specifically the Fallout and Elder Scrolls franchises.

Needless to say, it was thrilling to see him present a humor-filled, educational talk about technology, games, and the development processes and preparedness goals for those trying to break into the industry.

I have a video clip here of not quite ideal quality, so mea culpa on that; I did not prepare adequately…but CWM should ideally have a recorded file of the keynote in their archives. I have contacted them for the recording, and they will release it once it has been approved in its entirety.

But for now, my little clip is on Youtube, if you would like to get a glimpse:

Tribehacks 2017 Questions

All of us were thrilled to go and see this talk; it was just a lovely event. Wish I was still eligible to register for Tribehacks, but that’s okay. Got some tips from the presentation in any case.

As always, Howard spoke of his philosophy for developing games, the three points of which are readily available online through Wikipedia and other sources like recordings from other talks:

  1. Great games are played, not made. Game design documents are constantly changed when played at the final.
  2. Keep it simple. Simple systems acting together create complexity.
  3. Define the experience. Design the game so that it provides the experience you want people to have.

And above all, to follow passions and keep learning. Know how to do a multitude of things so you have more to offer, even ideas-wise. Brainstorming was a key element to the process on which he placed high importance; he mentioned that at Bethesda Softworks he and his team often take part in one or two-week brainstorming sessions that he calls “Game Jams” in which they would just come up with ideas for elements that could be potentially included in the games being worked on, whether it be a storyline, a set of character or personality functions, environments, quests, etc., and then present it to the rest of the design staff. Just to keep their creative juices flowing, so to speak.

Some questions that I didn’t manage to capture on film here included an emphasis on education that is not directly applicable to the game industry. Traditional art, writing, science, psychology, philosophy, etc. Specifically for those who may feel that they have made an off-path or unwise choice in their studies considering their intention to enter the gaming world. Howard emphasized that it all came down to what you do with those skills. That the experience and education you have is just as important as the application and not to regret it, but to use it.

Just keep at it, even when it seems discouraging. Learn as much as you can, try different things and figure out how you want to fit in the gaming world – what interests you about it the most. And then acquire the useful know-how, like some scripting languages because, as he had said, “at the end of the day, it’s all just computer code that needs to be written.” However, he stresses that the focus should be what you love most in the creation process, because conversely, “there is always time to go back and learn the computer.”

(Fiddling with Creation Kits and Mods and being active on coding or workshop communities always helps, too. It was nice to see how knowledgeable and curious he was about different mods people came up with, noting that it was the little ten-minute practical fixers to the games that really impressed him.)

But I know now I’ve got to get on those C#, C++ and Python classes now, despite being a mostly right-brained creative type. Blerg! 🙂