Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Gridiron Solitaire #122: Marketing and Ideas

I've gone through about 800 of the 1200 entries in the Game Youtubers Megalist, which is a massive list of YouTube gaming channels.

I've learned some stuff.

First off, only a tiny fraction of these channels play sports games. A slightly larger fraction play indie games, but slightly. Minecraft is staggeringly popular, though, as is Nintendo.

Out of the 800 channels I've checked, I've found 16 that might be appropriate locations for a Gridiron Solitaire inquiry. Yes, that's 2%.

If even 1 out of 5 are willing to make a Let's Play of the game, or even mention it, that would be a nice outcome. That would be a final hit rate of .4%.

Such is marketing an indie game.

That's okay, though. Like I said last week, I'm okay with the long haul.

Gloria was in Dallas Saturday night, and Eli 13.1 was spending the night at a friend's house, so I was by myself. I had a list of things I was going to do, but at some point early on, I tried to remember the last time I was alone in the house and wasn't working on something.

For the life of me, I couldn't remember. Four years, at least.

So on Saturday night, I sat on the couch and watched football, reading when the commercials came on. Played NHL 15 on the PS4. Consciously did nothing that could even resemble work (even though, funny to say, it was hard).

On Sunday, I had a wild idea out of the blue that I immediately loved, even though it's highly unlikely that it will ever make its way into the game. What if those "big images" shown in the game were "big animations" instead? So instead of an image of a receiver catching a touchdown pass that displays for 5 seconds, there would be an animation of a receiver catching a touchdown pass. It would display for the same 5 seconds, but there would be so much more energy coming from an animation than a still image.

There are lots of practical objections to doing that, though, and like I said, it probably won't ever make it into the game. It's a sexy idea, though.

I talked to DQ Legal Advisor Lee Rawles last week, and he asked if I had ever considered adding a college variant of the game.

I have, actually. I've thought about adding a 32-team college version and integrating it with the existing "pro" version, with a relegation mechanic that would shuffle two teams a year.

The relegation mechanic in soccer is fantastic. It's entirely fascinating, and as a game mechanic, it would be just as good.

This would be set up so that if you won the college championship, you'd have the option of taking your team to the pros. You wouldn't be forced to play at one level or another, though. It would be entirely flexible.

Structurally, I think that works very well.

What doesn't work well is that I have no way to distinguish the gameplay of the college version from the pro version, and without that, there's no reason to consider doing it. College football has distinct gameplay from the NFL--faster, higher scoring, and more wide-open offensively, and I would have to capture that same feeling for there to be a reason to add the college structure.

So far, I haven't, so for now, it's an interesting but ultimately unworkable idea.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Notch

Notch sold Minecraft today.

He put out this statement, and here are a few excerpts:
I’ve become a symbol. I don’t want to be a symbol, responsible for something huge that I don’t understand, that I don’t want to work on, that keeps coming back to me. I’m not an entrepreneur. I’m not a CEO. I’m a nerdy computer programmer who likes to have opinions on Twitter.

As soon as this deal is finalized, I will leave Mojang and go back to doing Ludum Dares and small web experiments. If I ever accidentally make something that seems to gain traction, I’ll probably abandon it immediately.

...I’m also aware a lot of you were using me as a symbol of some perceived struggle. I’m not. I’m a person, and I’m right there struggling with you.

I was sitting in my "satellite office" (P. Terry's) reading his statement, and the song playing in the background was Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" (one of my very favorites). So I was reading, but I also heard this:
Did you exchange a walk-on part in the war for a lead role in a cage?

I know this is going to sound odd for someone who just sold a game for 2.5B, but I've always felt a kind of sympathy for Notch. Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik created Penny Arcade, and it's become so vast that it's hard to even conceive, but it happened over a period of years. The relative speed was tremendous, but not so great that they became unmoored. Minecraft, though, was different. Notch created a tiny thing that became so vast he was almost entirely swept away.

There are certainly people who court fame, who desire everything it brings. For someone who never sought it, though, fame can be incredibly destructive. If anything I did ever became remotely "big", there is no way I could handle it properly. I'm too furtive to stand in the center.

I wouldn't walk away. I would run.

Here's another part of his statement:
I was at home with a bad cold a couple of weeks ago when the internet exploded with hate against me over some kind of EULA situation that I had nothing to do with. I was confused. I didn't understand. 

A few weeks ago, someone who said they were a long-time reader of DQ wrote to me. In elaborate detail, he told me that I used to be good but now I sucked, and I wasn't worth reading anymore. I understood that--actually, I share his feeling to some degree, and I've written about that before--but his anger was so personal, like he wanted to punish me with his words.

This was just one e-mail, but man, his intensity shook me. I accepted that when I decided to make a game (seriously, how did that ever work out?) the blog was going to suffer, but I didn't want to stop, so I didn't. I still don't want to stop. I'm just going to write and people can read what they want.

That's a long way of saying that to be in the public eye, even in a very small way, requires a kind of armor that some people don't have. I don't think Notch has it, and I think he was smart enough to understand that and get out before it destroyed him.

I'm not talking about Minecraft as a franchise, or what it means now that Microsoft owns the game (well, here's a one-word comment: ick). I'm just talking about one guy writing code in his apartment late at night, thrilled by what he's creating, not realizing what is going to happen to his life.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Friday Links!

We're light on quantity this week, but extremely high on quality.

I'm leading off this week with a very serious link from Jim Bradley that some of you might find disturbing, so please be warned. Here's a description:
A video released online by the family of a man killed in a crash is gaining traction for what it’s doing for motorcycle safety awareness.

38-year-old David Holmes was killed in a crash in England. He was wearing a helmet cam when he crashed his bike into a car. He was going 97 mph hour at the time.

Holmes’s family has released the video in hopes to warn both bikers and motorists will be more attentive when driving.

Here's the link: Family’s emotional video shows shocking fatal crash; Goal is to raise awareness.

And now, because that was a disturbing video and very difficult to watch, I'm going to follow it up with the silliest link of the week, just to even things out: Lil Baby Bear Has Itself A Good-Ass Time On A Golf Course.

From Sirius, and this is a spectacular find: Dreadnoughtus: The Behemoth dinosaur that makes the Tyrannosaurus rex look puny.

From C. Lee, and this images are fantastic: 48 Unexpected Views Of Famous Historic Moments.

From Meg McReynolds, and this is fascinating: The 100 Books Facebook Users Love. Also, and these pictures are amazing, it's Striking Aerial Photos Show the Unfathomable Hugeness of Industry.

From Marc Klein, and this is a terrific read: The Simple Technology That Accidentally Ruined Baseball.

From Jonathan Arnold, and sadly, this is no surprise: Just Six Months After the Olympics, Sochi Looks Like a Ghost Town.

This is the longest title ever, but it's a great read, and the title explains it all: The Escape Artist: West Virginia frat boy, hippie expatriate, big-time drug dealer, prison escapee, millionaire mortgage broker—Jim Sargent was many things before he arrived in the idyllic Hawaiian town of Hawi and established himself as a civic leader. But it was only a matter of time before his troubled past would catch up with him.

Ending this week, from Steven Davis, and this is a long and utterly brilliant article: JEFF HENRY, VERRÜCKT, AND THE MEN WHO BUILT THE GREAT AMERICAN WATER PARK.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The iWatch

I don't get it.

I haven't worn a watch in fifteen years, at least. I have a phone. It tells the time. It does all kinds of nifty things. Why do I want another device that performs a subset of functions of the device in my pocket?

People send e-mails explaining why the watch is cool. I read them very carefully, and when I'm finished, I immediately say, "I don't get it."

Fitness tracker? Why do I need a fitness tracker? I know that when I've reached a certain level of fatigue in a workout--fatigue that is easy to fell--then I've had a good workout. I'm a big data person, but do I need minute by minute data about my workout? No.

If I want to know how I'm recovering from workouts, or whether my workout routine is working, all I need to do is take my resting pulse when I wake up in the morning. That gives me every piece of information I need.

Notifications? Doesn't my phone already do that?

Can it replace my phone? No way. And if it can't, all it does is riff on the existing functionality of my phone.

If Apple (or anyone else) can sell a smartwatch in volume, then they can truly sell anything. This is the ultimate test case for marketing and brand over functionality.

Through the Front Window

I'm probably not going to write about this anymore, but here's a very easy way to see what's really happening in the Ray Rice/NFL situation: read Peter King.

Peter King, even though he's a respected journalist, is a mouthpiece for the NFL, and whatever the NFL wants to present, he will do it for them.

You have to read a bit between the lines, though.

Here's how you interpret what King writes: whatever he says, that's the desired position for the NFL. It's the NFL establishing its borders. So a few months ago, he said that the NFL had seen the tape, and he used it in the context of finding support for a two-game suspension of Rice.

A few days ago, he changed his tune, and said he had been "told by sources", not the NFL, that the tape had been viewed, and that couldn't actually prove it had been viewed. This was to support the NFL suddenly going from a two-game suspension to an indefinite suspension.

Here's what King wrote today:
The sense I got after talking to six prominent team executives Wednesday night was that Goodell’s job would be in trouble only if he was found to have participated in a coverup of the Rice investigation, or if he lied about never having seen the videotape of the former Baltimore running back’s assault of his then-fiancée Palmer in an Atlantic City elevator last February. 

What he's writing is not exactly what it means.

What it really means is that the NFL is hoping to draw a line with the public that it's reasonable to retain Goodell unless he participated in a cover-up. That's not what the NFL would have said two days ago--Goodell's possible removal wouldn't even have been mentioned--but the news yesterday that a "female NFL executive" had left a voicemail indicating that she had received and viewed the footage moved the borders.

Here's the most important takeaway, though: NFL executives are now acknowledging a potential situation where Roger Goodell would be damaging "the shield", as they call it. In the NFL, damaging the shield is unforgivable. This clearly means that his support right now is very shaky. He may survive, but he is clearly at high risk here.

One other thing: the phrase "domestic violence" needs to go away. It's such a sanitized term. It's almost as if the term itself was created to neutralize an emotional response to men beating women (and, in considerably rarer cases, vice versa). Maybe this would be more important, and the legal system's responses more appropriate, if the words used to describe "domestic violence" incidents were more visceral.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

In Shocking News

Well, to absolutely no one's surprise, the NFLs transparently obvious lie has blown up in their faces today. Details: Report: NFL Received Ray Rice Video in April.

Of course they did. To somehow believe they hadn't, we'd have to believe that one of the most ruthlessly efficient organizations in the world was--just in this one case--incompetent buffoons, investigating the case with all the skill of the Three Stooges.

The next domino, since there's very solid evidence that an NFL executive did see the tape, is that someone below Goodell will take the fall and resign.

This isn't going to go away, and it shouldn't.

Optomap (your e-mail)

I wrote last week about the Optomap, a device that takes a high-resolution image of your eye. The next day, I received this e-mail from Chris Price:
I’m all for the Octomap. My wife is Type 1 diabetic and needs to get one of these every year. I typically didn’t bother ($30 is $30), but she encouraged me to get it done a couple of years ago.

Note, this is after the exam, and like your experience, I was told I didn’t need to be dilated with it. I remember my Doctor looking a the image, and repeating all the questions about floaters and flashes that she’d asked 20 mins earlier during the exam. 

Intrigued, I asked what she’d seen and she showed me a picture that clearly had a large blister in the lower left. The poor Doctor was a little freaked out and sent me immediately off to a Retina specialist. They took one look, take a bunch of their own pictures and shoot a laser into the back of my eye - thanks…

Turns out it was a retina schesis (one of the things on the poster)--textbook case and unusual size. Over the next year, I end up being dilated every quarter and after a weekend of being pulled behind a boat on a lake, the schesis grows and needs another bout of Star Wars “pew pew”. 

The next conversation with the retina Doctor is a “When your retina detaches”, not an “If” and we decide to fix it once and for all. Do a search for Vitrectomy for the details - but it’s where they suck the gel from your eye and place a gas bubble in for a while. It took 3 months for the gas to dissipate--for a while it's like looking through a fish bowl. Part of the recovery was to keep the eye dilated 4 times a day for a month--now that was a pain in the arse.

Anyway, all is good now - vision returned to 20/25 as my pupil doesn’t contract as well as it should. I’m told it’s because they’re blue and it takes a little longer.

Long message to simply say that the Octomap is well worth the money. The regular exam completely missed the problem and I’d be at risk of a sudden detachment without it. I’d recommend any of your readers to get it done.

So this is definitely a thing, and it may catch problems that otherwise might be missed.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

The NFL and Ray Rice

Really, this makes me so angry that I don't even want to write about it. I think there's a point to be made, though, that other people don't seem to be making.

If you don't live in the U.S., here's a quick summary. Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was in an Atlantic City casino with his fiancee. They argued outside an elevator. They stepped into the elevator, continued the argument, and Rice knocked her out with a straight left.

Until yesterday, the public had seen the video outside the elevator, but not what happened inside the elevator. What was particularly incredible, maybe even more so than the punch, was that after he knocked his fiancee out and she's unconscious on the floor of the elevator, Rice doesn't pay any attention to her. He's not checking on her condition, even though she's unconscious. It's horrifying in every conceivable way.

When this video broke on TMZ yesterday, the NFL was very quick to take action. The Ravens cut him, and the NFL suspended him indefinitely. The NFL also issued a statement saying that when they issued the original two-game suspension to Rice, they had never seen the footage inside the elevator, only the outside footage.

This is 100%, absolute bullshit.

The NFL has a security operation that would make the FBI blush. Actually, quite a few of the operatives in that operation are ex-FBI agents. They would clearly have had a longstanding relationship with local and state police in one of the most prominent casino cities in the country. They are 100% hooked up.

So when the NFL says they "asked for all relevant footage" and weren't given the video, that's an absolute lie. Roger Goodell is a control freak. The NFL is a bulldozer when it comes to these kinds of investigations. There's no way they would decide that their investigation could be completed without that footage.

Rice's defense attorney had a copy of the footage, but the NFL didn't?

It is entirely implausible to think that the NFL didn't see the footage. Of course they did.

What IS the most plausible scenario? It's not complicated. The NFL, in collusion with other parties, attempted to bury the video. They were certain that the footage would never be seen. Then TMZ blew them up yesterday, and they had to take action.

If Roger Goodell saw this footage--and in all likelihood, he did--he should resign. That probably won't happen, though. What will most likely happen is that some underling will suddenly admit to having seen the footage, not sending it further up the NFL food chain, and he will resign instead.

The fall guy.

This entire episode is just sickening.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Gridiron Solitaire #121: Marketing

1.2 was released Thursday afternoon, and the response has been very positive. Difficulty was reduced on Rookie level, plus a custom difficulty option was added, and that should make it possible for everyone to find the right degree of difficulty for them.

I made a mistake in putting 1.1 together. I wanted to make the game more realistic--and I did--but I also inadvertently made it less playable for some people. Bad move. So with 1.2, the high degree of realism is still there for people who want it, but for the non-hardcore players, it's much more accessible.

Plus, the new changes and features are a nice addition. Goal line stands are much more possible now, presentation has been improved with the halftime/end of game "TV style" box score, and the new team museum is interactive and absolutely full of information.

There are still a few minor things I'd like to do (adding selectable weather profiles when a user changes a default team name, for one), but essentially, the game is complete. It's done. Instead of building out content, I'll be doing maintenance updates to fix all reported bugs, and really, the number of bugs is very small.

So let's turn our attention to marketing.

Quite a few of you e-mailed me since the game launched and wanted information on the marketing process, but hell, I had no information to give you, because I wasn't actually marketing the game.

Well, that's changing now.

GS is a unique game, and it has extremely long-term play value. Instead of making a game to fit a certain market, I just made the game I really, really wanted to play. In any kind of economic sense, this was insanity, but I also have an affection and commitment to the game that I wouldn't have otherwise. So even though I really don't like the marketing aspect--at all--I'm going to work at this. Hard.

Here's the order I'm going to work with:
1. YouTubers
I know how popular and important YouTube is for getting a game attention. And I have a terrific list of just about everyone (thank you, Brightside Games), but I don't want to spam these guys. So here's a request: if any of you have watched a YouTube gaming channel and remember seeing them talk about sports games, would you please let me know?

The list has about 500 channels, and I'm going through them and seeing if any of the posted videos refer to sports, but it's going to be slow going.

2. Gaming websites
I'm not exactly sure how to do this, but I figure a polite e-mail asking for consideration, along with a Steam code, can't hurt. Plus there are a few sites I've read for years (like IndieGames and Jay Is Games), so I do have a few in mind to start with.

3. Advertising
I'm not going to do much of this, but there are a few places (like Football Outsiders) that have very inexpensive advertising rates. It won't cost much (under $500) to do a few test ads and see if anything happens.

Here's the cold, hard reality about marketing, and I wish someone had explained this to me: I have to be as methodical and patient about marketing the game as I was about making it. It could take years to develop a sizable player base.

On my side, though, the game isn't time-dependent in terms of content. Nothing will be obsolete six months from now.

Also on my side is that I am very, very patient.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Friday Links (supplemental)

Boy, this is a fascinating story: The Stubborn "Nail Houses" That Refuse to Get Demolished.

Friday Links!



From C. Lee, and this is both very funny and very true: Be Good To Each Other, Folks. Because This Could Happen. Also, and this is a terrific idea: a translated fiction blog. See it here: Words Without Borders. Next, and this is a wonderful story: Grandma and the jogger. He's still going, and this story is discouraging: Is there a creativity deficit in science? If so, the current funding system shares much of the blame.

From Jeff Fowler, and this is entirely fantastic: The Most Symmetrical Objects in the World.

From DQ Fitness Advisor Doug Walsh, and the link title says it all: Insane Blue Angels Footage Takes You Inside the Cockpit.

From Eric Higgins-Freese, and the amount of time it took to create this must be staggering: Destiny Interactive Map.

From Allen Varney, and fortunately, "A killer bear seeks Scotland's Loch Ness Monster" has been topped many times here: Summary Bug.

From DQ Reader Me, and I find these paintings entirely wonderful: Cool paintings show the everyday life of a post-futuristic world.

From Marc Klein, and I have no words, but this is a crazy read about a huge retirement village: Seven Days and Nights in the World's Largest, Rowdiest Retirement Community.

From Guy Byars, and this is a heartbreaking, beautifully written opinion piece: When a Child Kills: Reflections on a Shooting Range Death, From One Who Knows.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Gridiron Solitaire 1.2 is Live

Okay, the NFL season starts in three and a half hours, so I made it. Barely. For those of you who are playing the game, thanks very much and I hope you enjoy the new version. With custom difficulty, I think the game will be more accommodating to players of all skill levels.

Streets of Chaos

Derek DiBenedetto of SimProse Studios sent me a note that his new game, Streets of Chaos, has just been released. Here's a description:
A unique strategy/board game hybrid where you become the leader of a rising resistance in a world gripped in crime and anarchy.

Recruit randomly generated members of your posse with 7 different stats forming their skills, equip them with weapons and armor and send them on missions of various types, hire lawyers, bribe judges, and more, all in a totally randomly generated world. Features full original music, an attractive and intuitive interface and tons of strategic options and paths to victory. Take over a randomly generated city using your gang, deal with vicious HQ attacks, make side deals with rival gang members, and more! No two games are ever the same.

I've played this, but because I've been working so hard on GS 1.2, my time with the game was less than an hour. However, I liked the interface and the board game feel, and there's a demo you can download. Just hit the link at the top of this post.

Carving Out The Light

Owen Faraday (of the indispensable Pocket Tactics) put up a piece this week that I can only describe as masterful. It's an interview with Eric Sabee, who does the card art for Ascension, and it's a revealing and rewarding read (alliteration!). You can read it here: Carving out the light: Eric Sabee, the artist of Ascension’s weird, wonderful world.

A Hall of Fame Kickstarter

If every Kickstarter I back from now until the end of time blows up, I don't care. It was worth it, to get this:

Yes, it's a two-volume, encyclopedic guide to Glorantha, Greg Stafford's wonderful and legendary fantasy world that was used as the setting for King of Dragon Pass (which I have happily written about on many occasions).

The two volumes are 800 pages in total, and the art and information is absolutely stellar. Here are a few more images:


I was having a lousy day on Wednesday, then the doorbell rang. A minute or so later, Gloria carried in a box that was clearly quite heavy and said it was for me. A big smile broke out on my face, because I knew immediately what it was.

I knew this would be good--very good--but it's far, far exceeded my expectations.

Here's the funny thing: I don't think I've read a physical book in at least three years. It actually feels strange to hold the book in my hands instead of a tablet!

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Ophthalmologist!

Why the exclamation point? Keep reading.

[I'm listening to Rodriguez's album Cold Fact while I write this. I demand you purchase this album immediately, as it is one of the greatest albums of its or any time.]

I went for my eye checkup today.

I always dread this, because getting your eyes dilated is a giant pain in the butt. Driving home with black sunglasses because your eyes are so sensitive to light, not being able to work for a few hours, and just the general strange feeling in your eyes is definitely not anywhere on my bucket list.

Today, though, it was completely different.

My ophthalmologist had a new device called "Optomap". It's a machine that takes an ultra-high resolution picture of your eye.

Previously, the standard technique your ophthalmologist would use involved seeing your eye in sections. My doctor said it was like using a flashlight to look in a darkened room. He saw a 10%, rectangular slit of my eye, then he had to move the "flashlight" to another section. Plus, all these sections were upside down as he viewed them. So to get a complete picture of the eye, he had to visually assemble ten different images in his mind. It was as much art as science, and he said it takes quite a lot of experience to do it well.

Now, though, he can see the eye in one image, at a higher resolution. And he can even separate the image by layers.

Here's the picture he took of my right eye:

He could zoom in on any part of this image and see it in much greater detail. It was amazing, and he even showed me a few pictures of eyes with macular degeneration. He also said there were two kinds of macular degeneration--"dry" and "wet". "Wet" degeneration is caused by leaking blood vessels, and there's a treatment for that now that is remarkably effective. Since it's new blood vessels that are leaking, a drug is used to stop those new blood vessels from forming.

Great, right? Well, here's the downside: it requires a monthly injection. Into your eye. Agghhhhh.

Even with this new technology, there are certain situations where dilation is still required, but it wasn't for me, and walking out of my appointment much sooner than normal, without pupils the size of basketballs, was a real pleasure. So if your eye doctor has this available, you might want to check it out.

Oh, and I took a picture of a poster in his office that shows images of different types of eye diseases as seen through Optomap images. You'll need to click to enlarge, but it's very cool (sorry for the reflections):


You can also do a Google image search on "Optomap" and see all kinds of interesting images.

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