Battling Businesses and Bugging People

2 Comments | This entry was posted on Jan 13 2011

Okay, so today was the first day we were knocked out of the top ten list in the Love a Local Business competition.

We got back on, but I need to stop checking this thing. I am obsessing. Of course, obsessing is how you build a successful business, but it does take its toll. I’ve been impressed by how well we have done, especially since we didn’t exist until a couple months ago, and touched by all of the really nice things people have said.

But man, it has been a near constant struggle to keep our number up votes up there. I’ve been trying to thing of strategies to drum up more, but each requires more funds than I have available.

Here are a few sample ideas:

Idea: I will take a pie in the face for every vote. Voters can decide the type of pie in the comments. Post pie smashing on YouTube.
Problem: not a baker and pies can get expensive.

Idea: I will take a shock from a stun gun for every vote. Post stuns on YouTube.
Problem: No stun gun, though I would still put up with the pain.

Idea: Hand out candy in exchange for votes.
Problem: No problem really. I just have to get over my current, personal financial struggles. Every dollar counts.

Idea: Will perform stupid stunts voted on each day in the comments and post it on (surprise!) YouTube.
Problem: People are crazy and I don’t want to die.

Still, nothing really eye-catching.

I will think of something, though. I just have to keep at it. I will take suggestions, though.


Social and Cooperative Gameplay

1 Comment | This entry was posted on Jan 11 2011

One thing I can count on Ant for is interesting a new things to read.

Recently, Ant sent me a link to an article about Asymmetrical Cooperative Gaming. It’s a really neat idea. Basically, it is creating games that are a fusion of genres in which players of different kinds of games can play together in the same space at the same time. It reminds me of a project that one gentleman at SIEGE was involved in.

In that project, players were supposed to assume different roles in which to command a starship. One person would be an engineer, another a pilot, another the captain, another a gunner, and so forth. All players had to be involved in order to play. As impossible as it may be to believe, the project didn’t get far.

And that is too bad. It’s a good idea. And the game talked about in the article sounds like fun.

It’s not a new idea, either. You talk to any gamer and ask them what their dream game would be, and it is almost invariably a game that does everything. They want to kill things, and build things, and they want the things they do to be persistent, and the want to own a shop, and farm, and solve puzzles, and run a town, and command an army, and take over the world, and be the bad guy, and take down the bad guy, etcetera, etcetera.

Of course, when you talk to game makers, the answer is that such a game is not possible, too hard to build, or simply not feasible.

Well, I think such genre-bending games are possible. There are no physical or mental reasons why they would not be. What I think is the problem with such games such as the one mentioned in the article and the unnamed starship project is one thing, synchronicity.

See, we don’t do everything at the same time in order to get things done. We do things when we are able to or when they are required of us. True, there are tasks in which things need to be done in tandem, but most things do not require that. Think of an office worker. Most jobs in an office are dependent upon other people in the office. Each person needing something from the others in order to get things done, but none of those things are ever delivered, or even worked upon at the same time. Each worker gets their piece to where it needs to be whenever they do, and usually by a certain time (hopefully). When the task at hand is completed, all of the workers share in the experience of having the task or project done, no matter when they contributed their piece.

Asynchronous cooperation and competition, I believe, is the future of (and, if you played games on BBSes, the past of) gameplay. For example, a friend of mine’s stepfather used to play the same RPG she did on the original Nintendo. She would go and further the story, but when she wasn’t playing, her stepfather would spend all of his time trading items from port to port. When she would get back to her game, she would have a bunch of money to help her in her quest and further the story. When she stopped, her stepfather would have more ports and goods available to trade in and with. They were both playing the same game, and they were both gaining the joy of accomplishment, but they were involved in two radically different activities.

Think of what this would mean if this principle were applied to modern MMOs and guilds. Many different players with many different gaming styles and preferred genres could share the same successes and experiences, without having to resort in gameplay that does not appeal to them, or during times that are not convenient to them. This would not only increase the audience of the game, but also increase the emotional investment of players, as they would have an even larger group that they are connected to within the game.

Now, imagine that same MMO, but now, everyone has to do their parts at the same time. Imagine an office where all tasks had to be worked on at the same moment. Both fall apart and are way to complicated to design elegantly, but, if you take the synchronous actions out, things slide into place. That is why I believe that asynchronous play will lead the charge in the future of multiplayer games.


Chasing the Dream

1 Comment | This entry was posted on Jan 07 2011

The good people at Intuit are having a competition for a $25,000 – $50,000 hiring grant. Being a new company, this would be a real boon for us and would allow us to come out with products a lot sooner.

The process to help us win is really simple, follow this link, enter in an email address, and say something nice. Every person who does this counts as a raffle ticket for the drawing.

Speaking of nice things, I looked at the page today, and a few of the comments really touched me. For example, LopeyK01 said, “These guys are revolutionizing the way games are made.”, and dracopervicax added, “Cliche is a company that is truly dedicated to enhancing the game industry, by doing something meaningful with games and expanding them beyond an entertainment medium.”

If people are already saying things like this, even if they are likely friends, since we are a very new company, it gives me great hope at our chances to succeed in this industry. Plus, it is truly motivating, for I do not want to let these people down. I know Ant and I have a good thing going here, but to hear it from others really means something to me. So, even if we do not get the grant, I’m okay with that, because this competition has already enough to keep on trying to make this thing happen.

So, to everyone, thank you.


Exciting Times

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Jan 05 2011

So, Ant has come forward with a status update for me, and I have to admit, I am very excited. He believes he has most of the back end stuff finished. We will see when he demos, but, I am confident. I am sure there will be some problems, but I doubt any will be insurmountable. He’s a talented guy, and I am lucky to be partnering with him.

I can only hope that our first game becomes a household, or at least newsworthy, phenomenon. It’s already a big hit in pools across the country, after all. Even if it doesn’t, it will certainly make some waves, as it shows what new and interesting things can be done with a smartphone.

And it’s only the beginning of what we are going to do.


More than an Inchstone

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Dec 20 2010

Though Ant refers to our recent internal demo as an inchstone, I see it as something bigger. At minimum, a full-fledged milestone. There are several reasons for my thinking:

1. First of all, it was awesome. Sure, it was nothing fancy, but it was the first time that the videogame portion became real. Before then, we had a couple of physical games we made for Mercury Retrograde. Sure, we had talked about, and Ant had even worked upon a video game for us, but this was the first time that we had something we could show and see work. That’s a pretty big deal, and it helps solidify our focus.

2. The demo fulfilled an important purpose in the game design process. Besides giving Ant a chance to show off, it also served as an inspiration for discussion and changes to the game.

3. It deepened the team’s working relationship. Though the team is nothing but Ant and I now, our discussions on changes went really well. When the idea for the first change appeared, we had a long conversation concerning feature creep, (believe me, I have a lot of random features in my head). Doing so led to a every talk concerning a possible change involve a separate talk about its value to the player, to ourselves, and how much work it would entail. This made it so very few changes made it through our talks, and others were shelved for later.

On weak teams, you can’t have talks like this. The product owner, or the marketing team, will come in and demand that changes be made or features be added, and the development team has to comply. That wasn’t the case here, and I am proud of that.

4. It shows that we are putting our money where our mouth is. Lots of people want to make games, and a lot of people will even go so far as to say that are going to, but very few people go out and actually try to make it happen. We are making it happen, and this demo helps show how serious we really are.

So, though the demo did not show a lot, and there is a lot of more work to do, this is still an important milestone for us, and a very nice Christmas present.


Why Cliche?

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Dec 18 2010

A friend of mine recently asked why we chose the name Cliche Studio.

Well, the main reason is that Ant and I like bad jokes.

But, there is more to it than that. Games are a powerful medium. They can do things that no other medium can do, and we are going to explore that.

Recently, a spate of games have been described as cinematic. But we don’t want cinematic games. I don’t want to have to stop and watch little movies with any regularity (like damn Xenosaga). If we want cinema, we’ll watch a movie. Instead, we want games. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good cut scene, but I don’t want to sit and watch what my character is doing. I am the character, so I want to decide what I do and how I react.

See, what games to do that no other medium can is create systems. In gaming, you can build systems for telling stories, systems of economy, and whole new sets of physics. True, in Star Trek they have Heisenberg compensators, but in games you can create rules for them that make sense and sets boundaries of their capabilities.

That is what we are going to do here at Cliche. We are going to create systems that play to the strength of games as its own, distinct artistic medium. Though that may be a grandiose statement, I am not going to make more of them by claiming that we are going to take over the world and do it all now. Rather, we are going to tackle this in pieces, so that we can perfect each aspect and make sure they are fun to play. We are doing it this way because fun is the main component of gaming. Gameplay is everything, and bad gameplay overshadows all aspects. Who cares if you have a great story if no one plays long enough to experience it? Who cares how you can change the world of the game if it is difficult or boring to do?

By taking the time to create and perfect gameplay for the many different aspects of gaming, we will create new narratives, new tropes, and new cliches that better suit the flexible and infinite medium of gaming.

Here It Goes, Here It Goes, Here It Goes Again…

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Dec 10 2010

…Oh here it goes again.

But I don't wanna!!!

I know. We’ve been remiss in updating. I don’t know about Ant, but the truth is, for me at least, is that I am not looking forward to all the promotion work that it is going to take to get this thing off the ground.

Don’t get me wrong, I love to talk about games, our company, our talent (yeah, I’m talking about you), our plans, and our philosophy, but doing it formally is intimidating.

Still, we are planning to do a panel at Fairy Atlanta Escape, where we will talk about games as a force in narrative media, as well as how games con be used to further explore creative properties, and about their use as a marketing, promotion, and merchandising tool. We will also be talking about our work with Mercury Retrograde Press (thank you Barbara).

Though it is intimidating, promotion is a necessary thing for business. How else will people know about the great things you do unless you tell them? So, despite my squeamishness about putting myself out there, I am going to do it, and I will drag Ant, despite his screaming and kicking, along the way.

(Hey Ant, you can chastise me later for saying that I will have to drag you. I already know who the more talented person is between us. You don’t have to rub it in, you jerk.)