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An Exercise in Social Game development

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Been the better part of 7 years since I've been on GameDev. And yet somehow the site has managed to persevere without me... :) My professional carreer has been front and center for me for the better part of the last decade. I have tinkered around here and there with some indie developments. Working with others to forward their products and sometimes diving back into my own little creative pools to forward my coding and design work. I'll tell you one thing though, game design still inspires me. It calls to me and every time I start it back up I come up with great insights and proof of concept ideas that really get the creative juices flowing.

So here we are once again. I've reopened the studio and Aakrana is back on the table. Not because it's some kind of sacred cow that is awesome and the concepts I've been fussing over for the better part of a decade are going to make the next great MMO... More specifically because I know there is something awesome that I can provide gamers. And let's be clear not all gamers. My professional carreer has taught me something over the years. Focus on something you are great at. Find your market for it and embrace that market like no tomorrow. I don't want the next great "WoW killer", I just want to provide gamers my version of enjoyable online gaming. Ive been focussed on it for years, I know many others have been looking for it, and I think Aakrana is ready to be that outlet for a niche of people. 

Indie game dev is exciting. Every 3-5 years when I come back to the table, the middleware is so much more advanced, the talent pool is so much broader and the resources to run servers and online games is so much more affordable. I have been working with Unity for the better part of 5 years now. It's a great platform. There is a strong community of developers and a tremendous ammount of succesfully released products. Coming back to this now I spent the last few weeks firing up my server farm, upgrading to the latest mySQL and getting servers rebuilt in the latest version of Unity. The servers have been up for a week without a hitch. My character is level 6!!! (which is amazing considering Aakrana will be a level-less world ;) ) but most importantly I am ready now. I am ready to make the investment once again in time and money to take this little beast to where it needs to be for people to start enjoying it.

Stay tuned fellow indies. More to come :)

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I work pretty hard in my 9-5 job. (Yeah right. I wish it was 9-5, more like 7AM to 6PM *bleah) But don't we all these days... Last summer, out of the blue I get a call from a marketting director at Big World Games. "Hey Mark, how's it going? This is so-and-so from BigWorld Technologies in Australia. I was wondernig if you have some time to talk about Aakrana..." Well needless to say that was like a bolt of lightning from out of no where. We chatted for a good 30 minutes about Aakrana, indie development, Big World's new moves into the indie market etc.. I walked away with the opportunity to look at the BigWorld engine (Which was cool but just not modular enough for an indie in my opinion) and sort of chalked up the encounter as very cool but now let's get back to my real work..

Fast forward 6 months and I get an email from IF Studios about HeroEngines new indie offerings.. "Hey Mark, how's it going? Cooper here, lets talk..." I have to admit the opportunity to work within the HeroCloud technology is pretty intresting. Anyways after a bit of back and forth and a clear understanding that I am in no way ready to step into a full development re-launch or engine migration, Cooper hooks me up and I am now developing in the HeroEngine. I've spent the last week or so kicking myself to make sure this all wasn't some wierd twilight zone thing but nope it's real :)

The site I havent touched in 2 years.. The code I dabled with a bit last year but really it's got layers of dust on it at this point.. Am I really ready now, some 9 years after I set off on this great adventure to make the next great indie MMO, to embark on a full relaunch of development?? Really?! Uh ... no :) I was honest with myself and honest with Cooper from IF Studios. I know what kind of work is involved. I know the odds of success based on the lack of dedicated indie developers. I know the lack of dedicated developers is compound by the utter plethora of star struck dreamers who can't figure out even where to start in game development never mind what kind of chaos ensues when you add the acronym MMO infront of it. Aside from all of those challenges though I also happen to know what a person is capable of if they set their mind to it.. One small step at a time.

Aakrana was a fantasy based MMO. I had some great features built into the game (Dynamically controlled AI to create a non static MMO world.) but in the end it was simply YAFMMO. (Yet Another Fantasy MMO) Fantasy MMOs still have a following, but the market is saturated. Social Gaming is the next BIG thing. Hell even that is already blosommed pretty hard. Truth is though, simple social apps (Facebook, twitter,etc) integrated into a simple but fun and kitchie interface are all the rage. 100 million people all paying you $1 a month is a hell of a lot of dollar bills.. Although I love fnatasy MMOs and the stories and worlds that drive them, social gaming is what pays and if you want to be in game development you better the heck know what is going to bring in the paychecks.

Getting the last swift kick in the pants from IF Studios may have been just what I needed to get off my lazy backside and see what the heck kind of crazi awesomeness I can create in The next 3 months. Think I can't do it? Dare me :)

Mark

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