(I’ve never done this before, but I’m typing this on the plane, so I have time for some detailed thoughts. Long post ahead!)
I’m returning from the first steam dev days conference (they will surely become regular). By now you will have heard all about attendees getting steam boxes & controllers, and the major announcements. I bet journalists have that stuff covered. I’m going to write up more strategic thoughts, combined with some thoughts on business in general that have weighed on my mind.
This is the big takeaway for me. I’m not a big Linux fan. Nothing ‘political’, I’m just so used to windows. I’ve used windows constantly since windows 3.11. I don’t know anything about Linux, and I now have to learn. Valve have made this clear. Not ‘Linux is growing’ more ‘learn Linux now… today…’. Personally, I’m not too bothered by this, especially now I have a steam box. What this really means for me is OpenGL. My hand-coded directx engine is now looking like a bit of a dead end. This is unfortunate…
Actually not a big deal for me, this shores up the PC gaming market share against console erosion, which is great. Will PC’s migrate into the living room? maybe… but not for text-heavy strategy games that I make. I think the impact for me may me minor. Ditto the steam controller, although this might be worth using for GSB 2.
I didn’t attend a demo. I should have, stupidly assuming that being stereo-blind would rule me out, but fellow stereo-blind devs assure me its still amazing. I don’t make first person games, I make totally abstract ones, so again, maybe not a big impact for me.
Fascinating stuff, brilliantly presented, and a bit of an eye opener for me in how to do this stuff in a *nice* way. I am hugely motivated about doing work in this area in future. These were the most interesting talks for me, although I hear that the marketing panel was also amazing :D
This is kinda separate. I need to add a disclaimer here so I can put these thoughts into context… Positech Games in recent years has become very very successful. I used to publish sales figures back in the day, but I don’t do that now. Things have ramped up big time. I am still basically a one man company, but with an increasing army of contractors and also automated systems and methods to boost my efficiency. As a result, things have gone kind of huge. Not notch level, but damn good.
This isn’t meant to be bragging, this is to put this next section into context.
A lot of things are happening in games. A lot of people are getting into the industry. The industry is growing, but also changing. There is a lot at stake. A well-placed solo indie developer can make or lose a million dollars or more based on a good or bad call. This is high stakes poker, or in some cases roulette. We are playing with live ammunition now. I love metaphors.
I have decisions to make about company growth, platforms, investment, languages, genres. These decisions will make or lose those millions of dollars. The stress and pressure related to those decisions is massive.
Intuitively, I know that I’m fine. Positech has a great financial base. I’m not about to bet my house on a game release, or lose everything if I get things wrong. I have no employees I might have to fire. In many ways I’m lucky, and can relax… but frankly, I like to win. That doesn’t mean at the expense of anyone, I don’t need others to lose, if that makes sense? The most adrenaline-packed and rewarding strategy game I play is called ‘running positech games’. I want to make the right calls and win, it’s burned into me at some primeval level. As a result, I take these decisions incredibly seriously. This leads to intense pressure and stress, that is outwardly completely invisible. I take from this two things:
1) Company executives earn their money. It’s very easy to look at people who run a bank or huge company, in their chauffeured car and executive hotel suite and million+ dollar salary and think that life’s easy for them and anyone can do it. No. There is more to an easy life than having great food and a nice car. Those big salaries come with epic responsibilities and incredible pressure and stress. I cannot imagine how much worse it is at the billion-dollar 10,000 employee level. Get it wrong there and you can kill of thousands of jobs. Intense Pressure. I don’t begrudge anyone in that situation their big salary and aston-martin. I’m surprised there are not more CEO suicides, to be blunt.
2) This can’t be healthy. I’ve taken the opportunity in the last year to have my heart and blood pressure checked. Both were absolutely fine. I could maybe lose a little bit of weight, but generally I’m healthy. This is great, and also very surprising to me. It’s something I try to keep an eye on. I am acutely aware of the fact that high stress and pressure is bad, and I don’t want to be the guy with the highest sales figures in the morgue. So far I seem to be balancing it well, but it isn’t easy. I slept for just 3 hours last night, purely due to stress and pressure. Rare, but still bad. I guess I’m trying to max out all my Kudos 2 stats at once, I want to be healthy, happy and successful. Not easy :D
So there you go, my first post-steam conference thoughts. Maybe a bit scattergun, but I thought I’d jot them down while they are fresh. I have a lot more to say about Linux, but I’ll save that for the next post…
TL ;DR: Linux is coming, Positech is selling lots, This is stressful and creates pressure, but I’m somehow still healthy!