Yes, it has been awhile since I wrote an update about what has been going on with this project. There have been a lot of developments and yet nothing, if that makes any sense. A lot has happened to me on a personal basis which relates directly to the project and that has had some significant impact (at least from my perspective since I am the one stuck in the mire). There have also been some developments on the game platform and environment front with Entropia Universe and the Entropia Partner Planets Program which has also affected the current direction of the project.
The most challenging aspect of this project has been the issue of finding funding. Over the last year and half, I have done everything from launching a project on Kickstarter to joining networking groups such as Angelist and Peak Venture Group. I went to Meetups such as Pitch Night, Startup Colorado Springs’ Open Coffee Club, and others. I even signed up for the internship and startup mentoring program through Techstars and followed Startup Colorado which is a chapter of Startup America. All of these organizations are great sources of information and guidance for Startups. I learned a lot about pitching the project, about startups and did more than a fair share of networking but still no success on the funding front. Yes, I admit, I can always do more. Mind you, my lack of success really has nothing to do with the quality of these organizations and I would strongly recommend any startup business looking toward them (and those in your community) for support and help.
I was also able to get sponsorships over the years from Autodesk, Pixologic, Teamwork Project Manager, Vastpark and others. These partnerships and sponsorships made it possible to get a lot done on my near-scarce budget and to learn even more about game and virtual world development. I can’t imagine how much harder things could have been without their help and support. Of course, I cannot emphasize enough the value and importance of the contributions made by the team members. They put in long volunteer hours over the years to make fleshing out of the original story concept into the game model the project uses today.
I also have to admit and share that part of my poor success came from my own personal, family and financial hurdles which have taken their toll on me over the years. These challenges have not crippled me though and that is a good thing. On the whole, I am a pretty positive and optimistic person. I am not much for giving up on anything but have to admit that over repeated hurdles and failures I have had a lot of power sucked from my engines. Persistence can be good too (a strength gained from my challenged upbringing and my sales and marketing background) but also is the need to pivot and adjust one’s project and business plans. That is something I gained from reading Eric Reis’ book, The Lean Startup. That book was another great find from my being involved with the Peak Venture Group and Startup Colorado Springs.
Another factor that has created obstacles for me has been my lack of game development expertise and experience. I don’t have a degree in game design and development nor any experience working for a game studio. Not having those has created its own challenges for me. I was even removed from a group of Colorado Studio heads because I was not a formal studio and had no formal experience. I know I have learned a lot from the team members on the project as well as from what I have done on my own (which represents a lot over the last 5 years). I am grateful for that. I have learned how to use tools such as Autodesk’s 3dsMax, Blender, Terragen, BundySoft’s L3DT, Photoshop and Game Engines such as Crytek’s CryEngine3, HeroEngine, Unity 3D and others such as Multiverse which is no longer around. I learned about 3D modeling, Textures, Level Design, Lighting (to mention just a few game design elements) and even learned how to write a Game Design Document. ‘Goes to show you what you can learn if you put your mind to it. Still, not having formal experience has seemed to be a detriment in the process of my finding funding for the project.
I even went so far as assembling a really good team. That had too its own challenges being that they were a team mostly on paper. They would only officially come on board when the project was funded and when they could get paid. Understandable I know but finding people to volunteer and put in sweat and tears for the promise of future benefit (the backbone of most startup companies) is a lot harder than it sounds especially when the company and/or project is led by someone with little or no formal game design experience–me.
Another part of the funding challenge was that we were trying to develop Planet Postmoderna within an existing game and established platform, Entropia Universe, under its Partner Planet Program. Doing so made a lot of sense to me since development time would be a fraction of what a conventional MMO game and virtual world would be. We would be using the framework of an existing game (eg. Game Engine, Economy, etc) and merely needed to come to the table with a good concept and proof that we had the money to fund the development of assets (characters and creatures, storyline, environment, etc) for our game and for the marketing needed to attract new players. Mindark, the creator of Entropia Universe, had a pretty attractive platform and plan for the Entropia Universe Partner Planet Program. They even liked our concept at the time so I was charged up and felt good about our success.
When I first embarked on this journey, the price tag for being considered for this program was about $2 million. Wow!! I thought. I still was diligent though and spoke to many organizations, Venture Capitalists (VCs) and Angel Investors. Unfortunately, my lack of experience, the price tag and the fact that Virtual Economies were still a pretty new concept in the USA, became a whole lot of obstacles. Now, almost 5 years later, the price tag is about $6 million. A lot of that is due to the lack of success of the existing partner planets (save a few). Too bad too, I think Postmoderna would have been one of Mindark’s successes. Who knows though? I just know that coming up with the that level of funds would be near impossible today based on my experience over the last several years. With all that said, potential investors looked at this leveraging as more of a risk than a benefit. Even if they gave us the money, they would still not own the project (sort of) and if Entropia went belly-up, what recourse did they have? And, that was just one of their concerns. Even though I had shared the Partner Planet Program Plan, which alleviated some of that concern, my lack of experience was still a hurdle and the project was still too new in its development. Thus, there was no money, no progress, no game.
Now in spite of all of what I have shared so far, I am not halting this project. In fact, as I look for a job again (yes, I am unemployed once more and yes, it leaves me very scared and uneasy being that I have not had a steady job since I was laid off in August of 2011), I have decided to go back to writing. It has been decades since I have touched my short stories and the storyline for Planet Postmoderna, based on the story concepts of The Advent and The Children of Arla. Both titles are based on a fictional race of beings that influenced many of our Earth civilizations and who created a planet just for us to find someday. It’s planet that is a living virtual world of sorts, hence the name Planet Postmoderna. Postmodernism is based on the idea of countless copies upon copies of an original and what’s essentially behind virtual worlds and simulation games, DVDs, iTunes, etc. You can read more about this on our out About Us section.
In any case, I have gone back to writing and as part of that, joined a couple of groups to help counsel me and give me creative and moral support. Pikes Peak Writers is one and Writers Write!, a local meetup comprised of many members if Pike Peak Writers, is another. Both have great resources and and are comprised of members with much talent. I am hoping that not only going back to writing and getting involved in these groups will not only get the stories published and possibly create a foundation that I can stand on for the further development of the Virtual World and Game, Planet Postmoderna, but also make me better in my craft and my skills.
Outside of the above, I have also started a new Meetup group of my own, here in the Springs. It will cater to game developers and their projects and do so more locally. There are a few similar groups up in Denver but I felt I should take the lead and see if there is enough interest for representation and networking locally. The Colorado Springs Online and Digital Game Designers is brand, spanking new and hopefully it will draw a following.
Now hopefully, after I get some writing under my belt and possibly even some formal game design experience (from more networking locally) I may be able to get back to driving the “Postmoderna Train.” Stay tuned. I plan to write a lot more here as well.