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slayemin

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About slayemin

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  1. I'm a VR developer working with Unreal Engine 4. I've worked with Leap Motion and Android + GearVR, and very briefly touched the hololens for a weekend at a microsoft sponsored hackathon. There's a couple problems with your intended use for hardware platforms. 1) The leap motion requires a USB connection and as far as I know, the current generation of hardware doesn't support mobile VR/AR. The next generation will be built into the HMD, but that may be a ways out. 2) Hololens already comes with gesture recognition. It's not close to as good as Leap Motion. 3) If you're also targeting android for AR, you're going to be using the camera for pass through AR (similar to pokemon go). That means people are going to have to hold the phone at the same time. If they're holding the phone, how will they also do hand gestures? Also, most android phones come with a mini USB port, which is usually used by an HMD. If you're sold on AR but are a novice as you say, my recommendation is to start super simple and just support one platform for now. Choose Unity + Hololens and get some experience working with the hardware and medium. You can always add complexity later.
  2. Opinions on cryptocurrencies

    I'm not touching crypto currencies with a ten foot pole. No way, no thank you. 1) It's not an investment. The "value" of crypto currency is driven purely by speculative hype. Hype is never a sound or stable investment strategy. Warren Buffet is wisely staying far away from it because he doesn't understand it. That should be a red flag. 2) Valve pulled their support for Bitcoin a month or two ago. They said that the reason was for the volatile price fluctuations. That makes sense. You can't build a stable business when your bottom line is so volatile and unpredictable. How many other businesses will stop accepting the currency as a valid form of payment for the same reasons? What does that mean for a "currency" when its not accepted as a form of payment in a transaction? That should be another red flag. 3) There is a small number of people who have put their fortunes into Bitcoin. A very small number. I believe they're operating a pump and dump scheme, and anyone who buys into the "currency" is going to be left holding the bag when the floor drops. That's the last red flag.
  3. Backups (online and image)

    Generally, a backup is used for disaster recovery. If a disaster happens which causes you to restore from a backup, its going to come with costs (time) to get data back. If you have 7 workstations, and each takes about a day to install a fresh slate, it would be worth taking the time to create an image so you can restore from a baseline workstation build. It takes 1-2 hours to rebuild from an image and you can do this in parallel instead of synchronously, so your 7 workstations are up and running again in hours instead of a full week. This is what sysadmins do in the enterprise world... I've used Acronis and Ghost Image in the past and been happy with both, but you can probably google around for your preferred imaging software tool.
  4. Monday News #4: Hard drive failure

    You're only as recent as your last backup
  5. I'm always interested in the hidden impacts social media has on our lives, particularly the negative impacts which we don't realize are affecting us. A month ago, I decided that I was spending an unhealthy amount of time on social media and I needed to put it to a stop. My daily routine was to wake up, check twitter, check facebook, and maybe check the front page of reddit. By "checking" them, what it really means is I consume all of my news feeds. What's going on? who's doing what? What's the latest that's happening? etc etc. It's fine to want to know these things, but the problem comes when I realized that it took me an hour in the morning to do this, and then later on in the day, my news feeds would change, and then I'd spend another hour or two trying to keep up. In all, I could accidentally spend three hours of my day, spread across 15-30 minute intervals, trying to stay updated on social media news feeds. When you add up all that time, and then look at how much time that adds up to over a month, it's a LOT of time! 3 hours a day * 30 days a month = 90 hours! That's like two working weeks with some overtime added in. I was starting to feel mentally unhealthy, like "this isn't the kind of life I want to live or how I want to spend my precious lifes time." The follow up question I had to ask myself: "Okay, does this make my life better or worse?", "Is this a habit or an addiction?", "what would I spend my time on if I got those hours back?" I didn't know the answers, so I decided to conduct an experiment and find out. I would not log in to facebook, twitter, or reddit for a month straight. Completely cold turkey. Now, the results are in. 1) I read the entire Stormlight Archives book series by Brandon Sanderson. Each book was about 1000 pages, so I read 3000 pages in a month. I really enjoyed reading these books and found that it filled a need for me to find wisdom and enlightenment. If you look for it, you can find it sprinkled throughout the series. Here's a rough idea that resonated with me: "It's easy to not fail. If you never try to do anything, you can never fail. But people who never try anything aren't worth a damn, so to fail in life is to live a good life." There's a lot of very carefully thought out dilemmas in there as well, which I really enjoyed. When I was in my teens, I used to be quite a prolific reader and went through a book a week. I think I'm going to return to my love for reading good literature. My intuition says that fundamentally, writing improves with reading a lot. 2) I felt really off balance. Whether social media was a habit or an addiction, I don't know, but if you do something drastic to change your lifestyle, there's going to be some readjustment to the new life. 3) I felt a bit more isolated. Anytime something remarkable happened to me, or I had a profound thought, I couldn't write a social media post about it. In a way, I suppose that's better. It showed me that I need to find other outlets for self expression, like telling people in person. Or, keeping it to myself and just enjoying the moment before it fleets away. 4) I played a bit more video games. 5) My sleep schedule was relatively unaffected. I still hate waking up early and still love staying up until 2am. 6) I feel an order of magnitude less grumpy and irritated. I don't know if its caused by the lack of social media, but it does make me feel happier and my relationships feel a little less strained. 7) I got more work done while I was at work. Instead of habitually opening up social media while I was waiting for something to compile, I just wait for it to compile. I felt a lot more focused. 8) This month feels like it has been very, very long. It feels like 3 months, whereas the normal month feels like a week or two. It's interesting how the perception of life pacing changed. 9) I don't miss reddit at all. Anyways, I was reflecting on the state of my own mind without social media or news media. We are very careful about what sorts of food we consume because it directly affects our body. If you eat garbage, you feel like garbage. Likewise with the mind and what it consumes. Social media feeds are McDonalds for the mind. I'm really curious about what would happen if I cut off all technology from my personal life? No cell phones, no video games, no television, no netflix, no laptop, etc. Cut out anything with a screen. I don't know if I'm brave enough for that right now, I would need other hobbies to fall on. What is your relationship with technology, and do you feel its a healthy one?
  6. Game design career interview questions

    $40k is barely anything. Let's say rent costs $2k/month. There's 12 months in a year, so you're looking at spending $24k just to pay rent. Add on top of that any car payments you may have, food, entertainment, etc. If you ever plan on having a family, kids are expensive so you can expect to pay a lot for clothes, food, activities, etc. Also, you get taxed on your income, so expect a 30% reduction on your income which goes towards paying taxes. 30% of $40k reduces your annual income to $28k, of which, $24k goes towards rent, leaving you with about $4k left to pay for everything else. It's not really doable. Some of these expenses can be lowered by the city you live in and its cost of living, but... $40k is nothing. You can find other jobs which are easier and lower skill which pay more than $40k. An indie developer salary income from $0 to $2 billion (See: Notch). The median and average are quite low, and the income is a function of many variables, which mostly depend on the indie developers themselves rather than external factors. Most indies don't make enough money from their own sales so they have to take on contract work or do their indie projects on the side while the hold down a day job.
  7. Contract Work

    Yeah, it may sound like a high hourly rate for a contractor. But I think comparing me to a typical contractor is sort of an apples and oranges comparison. A typical contractor would be someone who hops into an existing project and contributes code to it, progressing the project forward a bit. In my case, people give me the whole project and expect me to finish it from beginning to end. It's comparable to contracting a company to produce a commercial vs hiring an individual to be a part of the film crew. People will pay me to deliver a product to them -- they don't care how I do it or what it takes, so long as I can deliver it on time, on spec, and on budget. If I have to hire a crew of people to help me, they don't know & don't care. They're contracting a production company, and I just happen to be the sole staff member for the time being -- they don't need to know that, but it also won't always be true either because larger projects may require me to staff up. So, if I quote someone $10k for a project, my actual hourly rate will not really matter. In some ways, I think that thinking in terms of an hourly rate is more of an "employee" mindset than an entrepreneurs mindset, and I need to break myself from that habit because its holding me back. Note: I'm in Seattle, which is like Silicon Valley 2.0
  8. Contract Work

    Yeah, that's exactly what I'm thinking. I may eventually use a template to create products for people, but it's a template I created based on common use cases and needs and I have to be careful to not let the capabilities of the template limit what I can offer to clients. I'm going to switch to charging by project instead of by hour, and the cost is going to be a function of specs and complexity, and my hidden cost variable will be how much R&D I think it's going to take. The R&D costs are going to be the mystery box in terms of time costs and the biggest risk for cost overruns, so charging by project will insulate clients from that risk (as you mentioned). My girlfriend also tells me that if I charge way below the going market rate, people will assume that I'm not very good. There's an implication of "higher price == higher quality", and "higher price == more serious".
  9. Contract Work

    I need to make money to fund the further development of my game. So, I've been doing paid contract work in VR. Most of the work is pretty easy for me and consists of producing VR applications which run 360 videos with some interactive GUI elements embedded into it. I also have been helping other game developers produce their games. Initially, I charged $50/hour for my early VR programming work. I believed that I needed to figure out the development process and it would take a bit longer because it was new to me, so I felt bad charging a higher rate. I got it figured out now, so I raised my rates to $75/hour. I... think I made a mistake. The way I came up with $75/hour is pretty straight forward. I took my previous annual salary and divided it by the number of hours in a full working year, and that gave me a rough ballpark on my hourly rate. The flaw in this approach is that I was assuming that the amount of work I have would be constant, that I would be working a full 40 hours a week with billable hours. The reality is that I have huge gaps between projects, so that means I have huge gaps between billable hours. So, the general intuition would be to increase my hourly rate, right? I think that's also a mistake. The problem is that I've gotten too fast. It used to take me something like 10 hours to produce a 360 VR video app. That's because I built it from scratch. Now, I have a code base and template I reuse. It takes me about 2 hours to produce a simple video app. With an hourly fee structure, it's more profitable for me to work slow so I can charge higher bills. But I can't do that, I'm an honest man and my integrity is priceless to me. I'm also a lazy engineer which causes me to strive for efficiency so I don't have to do tedious, wasteful work. Spending 10 hours on a 2 hour project would feel like a waste of time and an antithesis to common sense. So, I'm tentatively thinking that the correct fee structure is to charge a per project cost. If I quote someone for $5000 to complete a project, that's what I'll charge regardless of how long it takes. If I can finish the project in 5 hours, congrats, I just made $1000/hour. If it takes me 50 hours, then I made $100/hour. Now, I'm properly incentivized to work fast and efficiently. The faster I work, the more rewarding it is. This comes with some risks as well. What if I estimate that a project will take 15 hours, bid accordingly, but it really takes me 30 hours to complete? I'm making another mistake here... I'm not taking profit into account. If I step outside of myself for a moment and pretend that I'm an employee to myself, and employees are paid an hourly rate (let's say $75/hour) and I'm bidding on the cost of a project based off of just my raw production costs, then I make $0 in profit. All of the income goes directly into paying for the employee salaries, leaving nothing for the company, meaning growth is impossible and I lose money over time due to overhead costs. Instead, I should be taking the employee salary ($75/hour) and multiplying it by a factor of at least 2.5x. If I replace myself with a hired employee and keep the same fee structure in place, then the company is equally profitable because I am interchangeable with other workers. If I add more workers to the team, then of course my bid estimates will change. So, the total bid = sum of all wages * 2.5x; For clients, this could be a pretty good system as well. Instead of having runaway costs inflate a project budget, there is a fixed cost of production. My biggest challenge will be to accurately estimate the scope of work and bid accordingly. If I underestimate the scope, then I eat the cost difference. If I overestimate the scope, more profit, more reward! But then, I also come full circle to the original problem I had: If I originally took 10 hours to finish a project and bid accordingly based off of that time estimate, but through experience, innovation and increases in efficiency I now reduce that same work to 2 hours and bid accordingly, I would still be losing the hourly difference. So, do I bid as if I'm starting everything from scratch because my competitors would be in the same position? Or do I look at the requirements of a project and use that as an input parameter into a piece-wise defined function to assess estimated cost? Or, do I just pick high numbers in a random ballpark and hope to get lucky? Obviously, if requirements change, then the cost should change proportionately as well. If I charged a flat $10,000 for a project given its requirements / feature spec, and then a few weeks later the client decides to add/subtract a requirement, how would I figure out how to proportionately adjust the pricing to reflect the change in scope? I... don't... know... One other thing I'm finding annoyance at is that some clients aren't good clients to take on. Indies and startups are bad because they often don't have money, no matter their good intentions and promises. If it's going to break the bank for them to have me work for them, it's likely they'll be unable to pay me or that it will take 6+ months for me to get paid. I owe people money, I can't keep them waiting because I'm waiting to get paid. If they're sweating over my up front fee of $150, I shouldn't take them on as clients. My policy should be, "If I think they can't afford me, they can't afford me.". It may be better to risk leaving money on the table than taking on bad clients. Maybe I should increase my fee to weed them out? Another factor I hadn't considered are the non-billable hours I put into project efforts: Responding to emails and answering phone calls. On some projects, I've put more hours into phone calls, conversations and emails than actual, billable hours. Now, I want to be a nice person and to be easily accessible to my clients, but every hour I spend on email or phone calls is an hour I'm not spending making money. Every hour I'm not making money is also an hour I'm not working on Spellbound. I'm tempted to charge for my time here, but I don't want to start a stopwatch every time my phone rings or I get an email requiring a response. Maybe I should just pad my estimated hours to account for time spent communicating? Or maybe I should measure the average amount of time I spend doing administrative stuff on behalf of a project, and adjust my multiplier accordingly? Instead of a 2.5x hourly rate, maybe 3.5x? The last few factors I also hadn't been considering is that I'm a freelancer, with talent and experience, ready to hit the ground running, today. I'm not an employee, so I don't get "company benefits". No medical. No dental. No vision. No retirement fund matching. No overhead costs (HR, managers, office space, parking, cafeterias, admin staff, etc). When the project is complete, I am done and go away -- an employee would still incur costs afterwards. No employee liability. Don't like me or my work? Fire me, no mess, no HR hassle, no legal wrangling. That means I have to pay for all of that stuff out of my own pocket, so I need to charge more as a contractor. My girlfriend has taken ample opportunities to remind me that I'm not charging enough. She told me that based on my skill set, I would be equivalent to a "technical editor" in the Hollywood film industry, and they charge something like $175/hour. Based on my background and experience, and how niche my industry is, she believes I should be charging at least $300/hour. That... makes me a bit pale to consider as an hourly rate. I have a hard time believing I'm worth it. But hey, if I can complete a project in hours which would take other people 5-10x longer, if not more, than maybe I am worth it. I recently went and visited a motion capture studio near my office to figure out how I can use them and what their rates are. They charge $3750 for 4 hours, or $8000 for 8 hours. That's a lot of money for a poor indie like me, but... really, it's not a lot of money at all when you think about it. I should be charging roughly in that ball park, right? Deep down inside, I think I feel afraid to charge a lot of money for what I do. But I think I need to reframe the way I think about this. People aren't hiring *me*, they're hiring *my production company*, and for now, I just happen to be the sole employee. If I staff up in the future, I wouldn't feel bad charging high rates to cover my costs. But staffing up would also mean I have to dedicate a significant chunk of time towards staff training, and I'm capable of training staff, so... that means I'm pretty good, right? I guess I just see the work that I do as "easy" and "enjoyable" and I shouldn't be getting paid for this. But, the work is only easy for me because I've got 18 years of experience and the projects I take on are 10x easier than writing my own game engine from scratch, or building enterprise systems for the military. Truly, the biggest risk for me is that the work is such a cakewalk for me that I am bored by it. I was realizing this afternoon that I'm most incentivized to work on other peoples' projects when I'm getting paid really well for them. $75 per hour is not enough money to motivate me to overcome my boredom, but $150/hour is. My girlfriend also tells me that I'm terrible at business, that I don't really have the head for it. I half believe her because she's a lot more experienced than I am, and she's bringing in a lot more money than I am. I've been thinking carefully about what I'm currently doing, how it's not profitable, and what I need to do in order to make my work profitable and worth my time. With my current flow of contract work and my billing rates, I don't make enough money. Honestly, it's just barely enough to pay my cheap office rent. I'm practically treading water, getting nowhere even though I'm working hard. For the last few weeks, I've been thinking that I need to get more proactive about getting money. I need to get out of my chair, put on a nice dress suit, take my VR goggles, and go door to door at every company and show them what I can do for them and how it can help their business. I need to figure out my sales pitch, refine it, and go get myself some big work. I believe in VR, I think its the future, I am bullish on its prospects, and I can sell. I have proven to myself that I have the personality and capability to sell, I can build what I sell, so... I should just get up and go do it. I'm optimistic that I could do well, but I'm sort of holding myself back somehow. The dream is that I do well enough at bootstrapping that I can work myself out of every job and become more of a CEO/producer type, hiring people to replace me. Programmer? Hire that out. Sales guy? Hire that out. Film guy? Hire that out. Hire people for everything -- delegate -- don't get my hands dirty, don't get into the weeds. If I do, I'm still doing it wrong. While I'm fully capable of writing code and producing everything myself, I can't scale. I would be just one guy, taking on projects with a scope of what only one guy can complete. Big projects = big money. I also sort of think that I should split my time 50/50 between providing services to clients and creating my own software applications and releasing them online. The problem with exclusively doing work for clients is that it fixes my scalability to whatever workload my production company can handle. My throughput is fixed, and thus my income is limited by my throughput. It would be a trap which limits my growth potential. However, if I build and release my own apps at the same time, my growth potential is limited only by my marketing and sales capabilities. Once an app is completed, I can make an infinite number of copies in an instant and sell them. If I diversify and make several apps in several different market categories, a few of them are bound to succeed. I have been particularly infected by an idea which could potentially establish a new market category for content in the VR market (I'll share details after I execute). If I can produce it, market it, and sell it, and it thrives, then I could scale it out and go big. I'm planning on creating a working prototype this spring and releasing it to the market to see how it fares. Anyways, the point is that it would be easier to make $1m by scaling out a successful app than by scaling out client services, but a successful app could also be an additional service category offered to clients. However I do it, I will fund the production of Spellbound and I will have a well funded team working on it...eventually. Anyways, I did something cool the other day. I integrated Leap Motion with 360 videos, so you can use your own hands to pan the camera around. I'm also going to add in finger taps for pressing buttons, so people can feel sort of like Tom Cruise in Minority Report. The placeholder video was shot a month ago at a Dell factory in China as a part of their effort to be transparent about their production pipeline. Check it out:
  10. Advice on forming my own company...

    Forming a company is actually really easy. You just have to fill out some paperwork with the government, pay a registration fee of something like $250, and off you go! You could form an LLC to sell lemonade on the side of the road, if you wanted to. Running a company on the other hand, is a pain in the ass. Forget about games for a minute and just think about a company in the "acme widget" business. What does the company do? They sell acme widgets to people. How do you tell if the company works? Their income exceeds their expenses, year over year. How do they get income? They sell acme widgets to people who want to buy them. So, the task for the company is to produce acme widgets and get them in front of people and make them want to buy the acme widget for a price which is higher than the total cost it took to get the widget in front of the purchaser. That's a dense sentence, so let's unpack it a bit. First, you have to worry about manufacturing your acme widgets at a factory. You have to worry about the total cost of production at the factory. Let's say you operate on a large volume basis and your manufacturer can produce one acme widget for $0.10. Now, you need to get that widget into a place where people can buy it, such as a store. You have to physically ship that acme widget to a retail store and they have to stock it on a shelf. The cost of shipping is your logistical cost, added onto your production cost. Let's say this adds an additional $0.05/widget. You sell the acme widget to a retailer with a significant markup from the raw cost of production, so you sell it to them at $9.75/widget. The retailer will then mark up their wholesale cost by 300% or so, and sell it at around $29.95 + tax. But, simply getting your acme widgets onto a store shelf isn't enough. Nobody knows what they are, why they need it, or where to buy it. So, you have to spend lots of money doing marketing and advertising across multiple media channels so that the average joe knows what an acme widget is and what it's for. Avg Joe may not leap out of his recliner to run to the store to buy an acme widget, but maybe the next time he's in the store and he sees one on the shelf, he'll pick one up. He goes to the checkout stand, opens his wallet, swipes a credit card for a transaction, and walks out the store with an acme widget. The retailer, wholesaler, and manufacturer get paid a portion of the final transaction cost. Now, multiply the Avg Joe by 5 million, and you start to see some significant profits, provided you did everything correctly. This is a perfect scenario, but there are a LOT of risks here. What happens if the product is faulty and you paid for 100,000 units? What happens if you can't find a retailer willing to sell your product? What happens if you don't do any marketing or advertising? What happens if you miscalculate the actual costs of production? What happens if you get sued for one reason or another? What happens if the products sit on the store shelves and never sell, and then the retailer sends it back to you? What happens if you took out a loan to fund the production and shipping costs but you didn't make a profit to cover the principle? You can't do all of this on your own, so you'll need employees and partners. What happens if an employee isn't productive? What happens if a partner fundamentally disagrees with the direction of your company or your decisions? What happens if another company finds a way to produce a competing product for less and they undercut your product offering? Running a game company is even harder. Traditionally, the model was very similar to an acme widget because a company would ship out physical discs to retail outlets. However, the hardest part about making games is that you have to pay the total cost of production up front before you can sell any units. A game can cost you 3 years to produce and take a staff of 10 people, each who need to get paid every pay period, and you don't make any income until the product is finished. That's three years of surviving without income, but shouldering costs. What happens if you budget your finances so that you run dry on the last day of the third year, but you find out you need another six months? What happens if you produce your acme game and release it, but nobody buys it or likes it? What kinds of actions can you take to identify and mitigate risks? The great thing about games is that since its a digital good, you can make infinite copies in an instant and the logistical costs of delivering goods is zero, so you can scale as fast as you can sell. This means that there's a certain point where the number of sales will break even with your initial production costs, and every sale afterwards is profit (a lot of game companies don't break even). Anyways, if these kinds of things get you excited, start a business. If you don't want to think about any of these kinds of problems, work for someone else who does.
  11. Game design career interview questions

    What experience might you need for this job? That depends entirely on what your employer is looking for. Generally speaking, you should have prior experience designing games. Almost nobody hires someone to be a designer who has zero experience with design. What experience might you get from this job? Well, I would hope that by working as a designer, you get better at your profession. What are the Hours like for this Career? This depends a lot on who you work for. I would expect a minimum of 40 hours/week, and maybe an average of around 50-60 hours/week. Is there anything extra that you would recommend to learn in order to get better at this job or something to learn before going to college? "Game design" is both about designing a game, and designing software. You *always* need to keep in mind that you're designing for human beings. That means you need to center your design around the human experience with your software. How will they interface with it? What user interfaces will they use? What game mechanics are you going to invent? How do you know if its going to be "fun"? How do you get to testing a design for fun factor with minimal effort? I was designing a real time strategy game and my way for testing the design and mechanics was to play a turn based table top version of the game, using cut up index cards, markers, and measuring tape. It took a long time to play, but it was fun and I was able to identify design issues early and fix them. Zero code was written. The point here is that you can design a playable video game which doesn't run on a computer, so there should be nothing stopping you from starting today. Is there anything you know now that you wish you knew when starting out? The work of making games has very little to do with playing games. It's work. Hard, hard, work. And its not very financially rewarding. Being good at playing games has very little to do with making games (though, it helps a little bit). If I was 18 years old today thinking about a career in the tech industry, I would skip the game industry. Long hours, low pay, hard work, toxic/abusive customers... there are better sectors in the tech industry to work in.
  12. Unreal 4 - Procedural Terrain (GIS)

    Okay, I think I have a rough idea on what you're doing. Is this ultimately going to be a military simulation used by the US military or foreign militaries? I'm assuming US. Do you have a contract already? Have you gotten funding? What branch of service are you targeting? What unit types are going to be your customer? What classification network are you going to deploy to? (niprnet, centrix, siprnet, jwics, etc) Have you looked at competing products which already overlay high res satellite imagery with elevation data from GIS databases? Can your app connect to a map server such as GCCS? Are there going to be any licensing/EULA restrictions you need to be aware of with UE4 in regards to military use? If this is ultimately going to be used for military use, information security is going to be important at your org, and you'll have to be very careful about technology export controls and arms export controls. Most of what you build won't be shareable online, especially if it becomes a part of a classified system. Do you have any military personnel as subject matter experts to help you design the app? If you're going the military route and using real life map data, why are you also doing procedurally generated fantasy world maps? That sounds kind of like a distraction from the main mission.
  13. Multiple projects

    This is mystifying to me. What's the point of going through all the effort in making a game and then never letting people play it? That's like... writing a 300 page novel and then hiding it on a bookshelf so nobody can read it. Or painting a picture and then leaving it in the basement to collect dust so nobody can see it. Or making a movie and then putting the cassette tape in a box, never letting anyone watch it. Or working for a paycheck but never cashing it. Or composing a beautiful song, but never letting anyone hear it. What's the point of doing anything creative if its not shared? How can you hope to get better at your craft without reactions from others? If you're a novice and you think your work is garbage, that's even more reason to show it to people -- you want to learn from feedback so you can do better.
  14. Multiple projects

    If its a good idea, I write a page about it in a google doc. I try to capture the essence of the idea and why its exciting. Then I forget about it and get back to work. If it's a really good idea, I can't forget about it. That's a good sign, but I get back to work anyways. If the idea doesn't go away, then maybe it's time to spend a few extra hours exploring the idea and its feasibility. What would it take to create a rough prototype? How much would it cost? What are my resources? How would I fund it? How does it fit into the market place? How do I sell/pitch it to customers? How do I distribute it? Does the idea pass through all of these filters? Good, keep it cooking, but get back to work. Okay, I made a really rough prototype. The idea isn't dumb. It works. How much time and effort do I want to dedicate to further developing this? Is it better than the current project? Is it more profitable to stop my current project and develop the new project? Can the idea wait for the current project to wrap up? Do I have a habit of leaving half finished projects laying around because I can't maintain the motivation and drive to finish them? If yes, then what's to say that the new exciting idea won't meet the same fate? In my eyes, this is a ranked list of what's most important: #1: Do I have a product customers will buy? How do you know? Are you sure? Really sure? #2: How will I market my product to customers? #3: How will I distribute my product to customers? #4: How will I create the product that customers want? #5: How will I manage the project and walk it through from beginning to completion? My questions are customer oriented and project management focused. Ideas are a dime a dozen. They're essentially worthless. What matters is creating something tangible which you can sell. The creation process is making an idea happen -- executing. As many of you know, simply completing a game and releasing is not enough. Lots of great, polished games are released every day and still fail because nobody buys them. Find out why others fail, and don't do whatever they did to fail. You will probably still fail, but at least you didn't fail for the same reasons. Success probably happens not because you did everything right, but because you didn't do anything wrong. So, when I think of an idea, I write it down and it has to pass all of my filters designed to help me avoid doing wrong things. Good ideas float to the top, bad ideas stay in the pile of ideas and probably never see the light of day.
  15. Here's a few things I see happening in the VR ecosystem: -Facebook bought out Oculus because they saw the future of VR and they want to have a big part of it. They released Oculus Rift and created the Oculus Store. Facebook has billions of dollars piled up, so they have the patience and ability to play the long game. They're looking at a 10-15 year outlook for their investment to grow and mature. Their money maker is NOT to sell VR headsets -- that's not their play. They want to make money by controlling the marketplace for VR content and by creating and controlling social VR. Facebook wants to make sure that wherever social media goes, it's on a platform owned by the facebook company. That's why you see Oculus Store and Facebook Spaces today. With that in mind, Facebook can actually afford to sell their hardware at cost or below cost because it helps slant the market share into their favor. -Valve is not really a hardware company with the capability to mass produce hardware. So, they partnered up with a company like HTC to take care of the hardware production and manufacture. Valve wants to create an open and accessible VR ecosystem. It's a good philosophy which follows free market principles. They already have Steam, so they don't need to worry about controlling market share for a digital store. They already have it. So, they can focus on connecting customers with content from VR developers. I think Valve is more driven by a vision for what they think VR needs to be rather than being profit motivated, so you see them taking gambles and embracing open source ideals. -AAA developers are getting into VR. Bethesda recently released Skyrim VR exclusively on Playstation VR, which caused PSVR to sell more units in the christmas season than the last 18 months combined. They also released Fallout 4 VR for PC on Steam. Bethesda and its parent company Zenimax are betting on VR, and SkyrimVR and FO4 VR was just the companies getting their feet wet before they dive in. AAA companies take 3-5 years and millions of dollars in budget to produce a game. If you put yourself into the shoes of a high budget game company and you're deciding on what projects to fund with millions, you have to look very carefully at your return on investment and whether the market will get you where you want to be. The VR market today is still very small. In todays market, you can't make a positive ROI on a $50m game, even with 100% market saturation. However, keep in mind that the development window is 3-5 years, so IF a triple-A company was going to make a VR game, they wouldn't be able to release it until 3-5 years from now. They actually have a much bigger game of risk to play with: Do they start funding a $50m VR project now, hoping that the market will be ready when they release in 3-5 years? Or do they sit, wait and see, and let another AAA company be first to market? Their best strategy right now is to modify existing AAA content to make it suitable for VR and release smaller projects, and let budgets scale with the market size. -VR development is twice as hard as regular game development. On the performance side, you have to hit 90 frames per second all the time or else people start getting motion sick. AAA content can have variable frame rates and the average audience can't tell the difference between 30fps and 60fps. Hitting 90 fps 100% of the time is really hard and requires a lot of sacrifices to visual art quality. You can pretty much forget about dynamic point lights, dynamic shadows, lots of translucent materials, etc. For high end games like RoboRecall and Archangel to hit 90 FPS is a testament to the skills of the teams who worked on those games. On the hardware side, you have to account for really weird stuff. How tall is the player? How do you calibrate for player height? What happens if they walk through a solid game object? How do you handle player movement within a room? How do you handle multiple input devices? How do you track changes in the players body position? On the design side, there's even more tough challenges. How do you handle artificial locomotion? How do you design an experience so its not too emotionally intense? How do you make the best use of virtual realities unique capabilities? How do you design an experience which doesn't tire people out too fast? In skyrim, I can shoot a bow all day long with mouse clicks, but if I have to use motion controllers to draw and release an arrow, I can do about 10-15 minutes before my arms are dead. I think designing for VR is probably the biggest challenge right now because this is a new medium for experiencing content and nobody is an expert at it yet. We're all fumbling our way forward, big and small guys alike. -The actual cost of a GearVR experience is $100 for the HMD + $700 for a Samsung phone, which puts you at a total of $800. If you already have a samsung S6, S7 or S8, the total cost is just an added $100. The problem with mobile VR is that you're severely limited by the capabilities of a phone and the lack of input devices. Oculus is releasing the Oculus Go for $200, which is supposed to be a big improvement because its a self contained mobile VR hardware platform. It's an upgrade to the GearVR hardware, but doesn't require an expensive android phone. The S6 has some major problems with overheating the battery, so I'm really hoping that the Oculus Go eliminates that problem. The other potentially cool thing about Oculus Go being a complete standalone hardware platform is that suddenly we know exactly what hardware the users will have, so we don't have to make that our VR app works on multiple hardware platforms. The Oculus Go is like a console platform for mobile VR. It makes QA so much easier. -In the coming years, I would expect VR hardware to make some rapid advances. We'll get better hardware input devices. Better haptic feedback. Faster GPU's, dedicated to supporting VR, hopefully with hardware pipelines ready to support stereo cameras at the metal. We'll get ligher headsets, possibly without tethered cables, possibly with long battery lifespans. I think if you really want to understand the ecosystem of VR, you should be asking the following questions: "Where will VR be in 10 years from now? Who is looking at that future and building for it today? What actions are they taking today, with the 10 year horizon in mind? What are their current business fortifications and what steps are they taking to enhance or protect them from competitors of the future?"
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