Happy Thanksgiving 2017!

Why I Am Thankful This Year

I have many reasons to be thankful this year:

  • On the business side, I am thankful that my company (SophSoft, Incorporated) continues to survive in a difficult and challenging industry.
  • On the development side, I am thankful that I have a large list of interesting projects on which to work and that I still get excited about programming games.
  • On the marketing side, I am thankful that I have been able to restore the new server and this blog site to something resembling its prior glory.
  • On the employment side, I am thankful that I have an excellent team of elite programmers who can pull off amazing projects and from whom I can still learn.
  • On the social side, I am thankful that I have some astonishing friends who are truly wonderful, giving me something to which I can aspire.
  • On the family side, I am thankful that my family remains so wonderful and continues to support me and each other, even when times are tough.
  • On the personal side, I am thankful that I am still healthy and active and that I can be comfortable without compromising my values or integrity.

I wish great happiness for all of you on this special holiday.

Gregg Seelhoff

35th Anniversary!

SophSoft has been in business for 35 years as of today.

Digital GamecraftOn Wednesday, January 13, 1982, thirty-five years ago today, Sophisticated Software Systems was officially founded.  That company was later incorporated as SophSoft, Incorporated (because that domain, sophsoft.com, was still available).

Five years ago, I wrote a post, 30 Years in Business, giving more information.  You can also see the About SophSoft and Digital Gamecraft page (and sidebar).

Over time, some years have been more productive, and some have been more “interesting” than others.  Notably, back on the 25th anniversary, I actually posted about the results of our annual off-site meeting, rather than the major milestone; in that vein, I will keep this celebration limited and generally mark the occasion with more development. Still…

SophSoft, Incorporated is the oldest indie game development company in the world!

Ha!  Beat that. 🙂

Fifteen Years with Goodsol

We have been working with Goodsol Development for 15 years now!

Goodsol DevelopmentOn this date back in 2001, SophSoft, Incorporated made our first software delivery to Goodsol Development.  Since that time, we have never stopped working together, producing the best solitaire software ever created.

I posted about this collaboration 5 years ago in my post, 10 Years of the GDcard Library.  We have continued our progress since then, adding an entire line of iOS products and 400 more games to Pretty Good Solitaire Mac Edition, along with much more.

For fun, I thought that I would take a look at some of the numbers:

To save everybody a little bit of math, this means that, on average, we have delivered a new product version once every 10 days, and we have added a new game of Solitaire every two days, for the entire 15 years.  Amazingly, the number of delivered versions for Pretty Good MahJongg and for Pretty Good Solitaire Mac Edition are currently exactly the same: 88 of each.  [Spoiler: PGMJ will take the lead with a macOS Sierra bug fix.]

In lieu of anniversary gifts 🙂 , just tell your friends about our excellent products!

SophSoft Relaunch

SophSoft, Incorporated jumps back into the fray.

SophSoft, Incorporated - custom game developmentAfter a respectful (and necessary) period of readjustment, while SophSoft, Incorporated and Digital Gamecraft™ added a second office on the west coast, we are making our public reappearance.

It has, admittedly, been a while since I have made any concerted effort to market our development services or published games, or to comment on industry events.  Instead, I have retrenched to focus on our core concerns: key clients, business organization, and (of course) financial stability.  Having made significant progress on all fronts, it was time for us to again perform those functions that go beyond simple maintenance to actually growing the company.  To that end, I am not only committing time to this effort but getting more assistance in areas that I can efficiently delegate.

Here is a quick roundup of the news (past and upcoming):

SophSoft, Incorporated

Over the past year, we have continued our previous development work, most notably for Goodsol Development, with whom we have been working for 15 years (later this month); there have been several releases in that time, and many more are still scheduled to be shipped (for Windows, Mac OS X, and iOS) during the rest of 2016.

We have added to our collection of mobile devices (iOS, Android, and Windows) for development and testing, as we have continued to improve our knowledge and experience on all three platforms.  (I can neither confirm nor deny reports that Apple Watch, Android Wear, Apple TV, and Android TV are included in our forthcoming lineup.)

As a departure from games, development is underway on a new line of productivity tools that aim not only to enhance our bottom line, but also (actually, primarily) to significantly increase our internal efficiency and organization.

Digital Gamecraft

We have continued to support (albeit not promote) Demolish! Pairs for iOS, while we have been making progress on an Android edition.  This progress on a new platform for Demolish! Pairs has gone from fitful to steady, and it is now increasing in velocity.  We have some new marketing prepared, including an online playable version (in HTML5).  Expect new features and new platform announcements fairly soon.

In addition to that title, our next game is already under development.  This one will be the first of our “Gamecraft Classics™” series of classic board and card games, and it represents an early step along our roadmap of upcoming titles in five major genres, as well as a few experimental (‘one off’) titles.  All of these games feed into our SophPlay™ System for robust game development, strengthening its foundation.

Finally, plans are in place for renewing and enhancing our presence on social media, expanding from Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ into more places for community.  Follow us via these links now and experience the resurgence as it happens.

Still More…

As noted, we now have offices in both East Lansing, MI and Los Angeles, CA, and it has been a chore getting our infrastructure working (together) in both places.  Now that we have stability, we are enhancing our capabilities with new, faster servers.  Although the switch-over and retirement of older hardware is still in progress, users should experience more responsiveness and better reliability (if not now, then within a couple of weeks).

As ‘no battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy‘ (in this case, the challenges of limited resources and product discoverability, primarily), there is no doubt that our goals are ambitious and our priorities will change.  However, as an entrepreneur, I find that merely maintaining the status quo is more stressful than risking failure.

SophSoft West

Now (also) coming to you from Los Angeles.

SophSoft, IncorporatedDigital GamecraftIt has been quite a while since I posted a Gamecraft update.  The last six months have been filled with “opportunity”, and the upshot of it is that I have relocated to Los Angeles, California.

Structurally, SophSoft, Incorporated and Digital Gamecraft still continue to operate from our Michigan office, and nothing substantial has changed in terms of client services or product development.  Practically, of course, having the company principal living a couple thousand miles away from the home office presents interesting challenges (some of which are still being resolved).  I am definitely in a period of adjustment, both personally and professionally.

So, what am I doing in California?

I am out here to pursue a great opportunity in the burgeoning field of augmented reality, bringing my years of experience in game development, coupled with my abilities in quality assurance and robust programming, to bear on a young industry that is just beginning to show its enormous potential.  That, however, is a topic (well, several) for another post.

For the moment, though, I am still transitioning from living in the Midwest to residing in the second largest city in the United States, and now that my West Coast office is up and (mostly) functioning, we are looking to resolve the remaining logistical and technical challenges inherent in running a business with offices in two different states.

Please stay tuned!

2015: 10% Done

No news can also be bad news.

It has been a couple of months since my last blog post, and in that time, there has not been a lot of encouraging news about the game industry, business, or life in general.  We have often heard, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything.”  More specifically, I do not want to spend a lot of time and effort whining (or whinging, if you prefer) and filling this Gamecraft blog with negativity.  However, that can result in a very quiet site sometimes.  That said, it is past time to provide an update, despite its somewhat unfavorable tone.  (Besides, with 475,830 spam comments rejected and very few actual comments, and fewer informed opinions, evidence is that few will read this anyway.)

The positive is that we are still alive and kicking and, with Goodsol Development, we continue to publish and improve the best solitaire games on the planet.  Nevertheless, what has been appreciated in the past as fantastic fun, quality workmanship, and excellent support is now just expected from us as par for the course, and rarely recognized nor appreciated.  If “the squeaky wheel gets the grease“, then perhaps by eliminating any squeaking wheels from our products, nobody cares anymore. 🙁

Winter of disappointment

The overwhelming feeling over the past several months has been one of disappointment.  Nothing catastrophic has happened, but the total weight of one minor setback after another, and one dissatisfying interaction after another, without many positives to offset them, is definitely sapping my remaining optimism.  At first I was interpreting most of this solely in terms of the game industry, or even just our little part of it, but it is now clear that the same type of problems run throughout our society and culture.  This realization does not inspire a hopeful mood in me.

Still, the Richard III interpretation of this section title provides something on which to hang my hopes.  After all, there has to be a thawing in the spring (whenever that comes), and if my general expectations have fallen low enough, it makes it much easier for me to be pleasantly surprised.  There have to be more people out there who do not automatically approach every interaction with the thought, “what’s in it for me?”

In other words, there is nowhere for my attitude to go but up.  Actually, I have fallen to a very succinct phrase that describes it perfectly, but since the command verb is an expletive, I will go ahead and leave that to your imagination.

Practical adjustments

Given the current situation, we are making a slight switch away from “business planning” and toward “take things as they come“, especially since something significant is likely to change our course in the short term anyway (or else there may not be much of a long term at all).  Independent game development has become (practically) unsustainable.

As part of this shift, I am reorganizing my general schedule, compressing the business functions (which have been generally unsatisfying) into just a few days each week, leaving the majority of my time for pure (hopefully, uninterrupted) development work, which is what I truly enjoy.  After any client needs are met, I will be focused on designing and building the kind of games I want to make.

The next game industry crash is already underway, but I will not go down without a fight!

Anybody who wants to prove me wrong can do so, easily, by hiring me for game development.  You can find my résumé linked from my online portfolio.

Developer for Hire

You have a game idea.  Let us create it for you.

SophSoft is available for game development now!This week marks 20 years (!) since we first took our company full-time.  In that time, we have developed more than 25 products for a variety of clients.  We have published games for Windows, Mac OS X, and iOS, and we have extensive experience.

Now, we are available immediately for new development contracts.  We have a significant opening in our schedule, which we need to fill soon.  This is your chance to have a world-class game developer working (or consulting) on your project.  If you want to explore this opportunity, please contact me directly at seelhoff@sophsoft.com.

For more information on SophSoft, Incorporated, please visit the web site, and you can also download our brochure [PDF, 2 pages] to find out how we can help you.

All clients get to deal directly with me, and if you are interested in my 25+ years in the game industry, please feel free to look at my résumé [PDF, 4 pages].

Act quickly!  Do not miss this opportunity.  It may not last long!

Summer Slump

Mobile games may not play by the same rules.

We have now entered summer (in the Northern Hemisphere, anyway), which is traditionally a slow time for sales in the game industry.  The explanation over the years has generally been that this is a time during which people take vacations and spend more time outside, so they spend less time at the computer or game system and play fewer games.  This certainly makes sense for desktop and console games, but in this day of increased use of mobile devices and handhelds, the traditional explanation may not hold (as much) water.  When one of your game systems (i.e., phone) travels with you everywhere, it makes sense that it would get used as much as usual; in fact, it is likely used more in places like airports, the back seat of a car during a long drive, and the hotel room after the swimming pool has closed for the evening.

Of course, if summer shifts play to mobile games, where the (dubious) profits are marginal, at best, this is still likely to result in an overall slump for companies who support more than one type of platform.  Nevertheless, I expect that consumer behavior changes differently in the summer with respect to mobile games.  I would hope for extra game purchases in preparation for a vacation or while waiting during travel.

Interestingly, our limited data (with a little squinting 🙂 ) can fit that scenario.  Since the holiday weekend at the end of May (Memorial Day in the United States, Late Spring Bank Holiday in the UK), downloads have changed.  At the start of that weekend, we saw a spike in downloads which mostly persisted through the (holiday) Monday, after which they essentially flatlined for a few days.  Then, last weekend, we had another (smaller) spike on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, then (now) back to zip.  Alas, our total download counts are too small to draw definitive conclusions (or even be statistically significant 🙁 ), and it has only been a couple of weekends.  (Our sales do not definitively correlate with downloads.)  Also, many schools around here are still in session, so we are not really into the heart of summer vacation season either, though the weather is definitely much improved.

Demolish! Pairs 1.11Operating more on the assumption that mobile sales may persist through the summer, and the knowledge that sales really need to improve, than on the need for experimental data, we have decided to put Demolish! Pairs on sale for 50% off throughout the month of June, and we have likewise discounted all IAP products in Demolish! Pairs FTP similarly.  Sure, it may skew the data, but in a good way. 🙂

As a reward for reading this blog post (assuming that you have done so in a timely manner), I will tell you that we are approaching the 1 year anniversary of the Demolish! Pairs release, and to celebrate, we plan to make the game absolutely free for one day only, on June 18, 2014.  You can download the game on that day (two weeks from today) and keep it forever.

“There’s a hole in the cat bag!”

SophSoft.com Relaunch

Our game development consulting site is back online.

SophSoft game development and consulting servicesEarlier this week, we relaunched our SophSoft web site, which lists some of our quality game development services and professional game contracting experience.

The site is sophsoft.com.

Historically, this site has been the main web site for SophSoft, Incorporated, our parent company.  We have had and used the domain name since November 14, 1995, and the official corporate name was, in fact, taken from the domain name.

The site has been down for a while, though.  Honestly, we found ourselves in a bit of a weird and unfortunate situation.  When our business partner and artist, Rick Tumanis, died back in 2011, it was a huge loss.  Not only did we need to regroup from the sadness, but we also no longer had our Art Director to draw upon.  This meant both that the services we offered would need to change and that the person in charge of web design and appearance was, shall we say, unavailable.

After more than two and half years, with the site having been pulled when we replaced a web server quite a while ago, I finally made the move and built the new (albeit small) site and published it for those who have been looking for our game development services.  I kept a few items from Rick on there, but realigned the focus.  At some point, I will add pages specific to our various contracting projects, but for now, the site is back.

If you need game development assistance, either with technical programming challenges or with higher level management and design, or want to have an entire game created by a professional team with decades of experience, be sure to check out SophSoft.

“Nothing Short of a Masterpiece.”

2013: Year in Review

Overall Performance Grade: B

Digital Gamecraft / SophSoft, IncorporatedAs the number of hours left in 2013 dwindles down to minutes, it is a good time to look back on the past year and do an honest performance review for the work we have done at Digital Gamecraft and SophSoft, Incorporated.

Major Events

#10: Lack of Ideas?  Really?

We created a roadmap of our upcoming development projects, which list “contains 30 games, in 6 different genres, spanning approximately one dozen platforms, plus a productivity application and an information web site.”  Toward the end of the year, we also did a reevaluation of our company purpose, vision, and mission, confirming our goals and how each of the above products help fulfill them.

#9: iOS Development

We finally released our first iOS titles this year, and once we started on the new platform, we shiped 12 SKUs for iOS (7 titles and 5 updates).

#8: Goodsol Solitaire 101 Touch Edition 1.0 / GSCITE 1.10

We released the initial iOS version of this collection of 101 favorite Solitaire games (plus 34 bonus games) on June 3, and we released a significant update on September 27.

#7: Most Popular Solitaire Touch Edition 1.0 / MPSTE 1.10

We released the initial iOS version of this collection of 30 most popular Solitaire games (plus 13 bonus games) on April 25, with a significant update on August 14.

#6: FreeCell Plus Touch Edition 1.0 / FCPTE 1.10

We released the initial iOS version of this collection of 8 FreeCell type Solitaire games (with 4 bonus games) on April 2, and a significant update on July 31.

#5: Pretty Good Solitaire Mac Edition 2.50

We released this update to the premier Solitaire program for Mac OS X, bringing the total to 500 games, after two previous updates, PGSME 2.42 (420 games) and PGSME 2.44 (440 games), earlier in the year; we also launched a major upgrade project to make the next version of PGSME, due fairly soon, even better.

#4: Pretty Good Solitaire Touch Edition 1.0 / PGSTE 1.10

We released the initial iOS version of our flagship Solitaire product with 500 games, the biggest Solitaire package available for iPad, on July 16, and then followed that up with a significant update on October 22, with 520 games (plus 72 bonus games).  We also refined our upgrade development process for this title.

#3: A Little Solitaire Touch Edition 1.0 / ALSTE 1.10

We released the very first version of this collection of 9 Klondike, FreeCell, and Spider Solitaire games, for iPad, on March 22, and published a significant update on July 26.  This was a major event not only because it was our first ever iOS game, but also because, on March 27, it became the #1 card game in the App Store.

#2: Demolish! Pairs FTP 1.0.1 for iPad

We released a free-to-play version of our arcade/puzzle game, Demolish! Pairs, on November 6.  This was the second SKU from Digital Gamecraft, and our very first venture into the “free” section of the App Store (with decidedly mixed results).

#1: Demolish! Pairs 1.0 for iOS

On June 18, we released Demolish! Pairs 1.0, our puzzle/arcade game for iOS, thereby reentering the self-publishing arena.  It was the first title published by Digital Gamecraft, and the last to contain fully custom artwork (and sounds) from our late artist, Rick Tumanis.  Although it was not the runaway success that it should have been, it provided a positive first step and, along with Demolish! Pairs FTP, gave us some very useful information about the iOS market.

What Went Right

Digital Gamecraft has remained a full-time independent game development company for (now) the 19th consecutive full year (stretching back into 1994, as Sophisticated Software Systems); this alone is a significant accomplishment.

Our product development continued apace, as did our strong affiliation with Goodsol Development, resulting in 15 SKUs released in 12 months.  We firmly established ourselves on the iOS platform, and Digital Gamecraft has published its own titles.

What Went Wrong

The video game industry, as a whole, is in a period of crisis, even though some “evangelists” continue to preach the opposite.  Continuing to survive in this depressed climate is a true challenge (though we strive to thrive).

We have seen falling sales and reduced revenues, and our entry into the iOS market with products on the App Store has done little to stem the negative trend.  In fact, it distracted us somewhat from Windows and Mac development, where the sales are slowing, but which are still a better investment than mobile platforms (for now).  Our experiments in free-to-play marketing suggest that it is not a general solution.

Final Evaluation

On balance, I awarded a grade of B (again) for overall performance in 2013.  My initial inclination was to grade our efforts as a C+, but when I looked back on what actually happened in the year, we met most of our development goals.  Digital Gamecraft released its first two games, and we broke into the iOS market with numerous titles.  Although reduced income does cast a pall over the year (and my mood), I determined that it should not count against our productivity grade.

That said, though, things will clearly need to improve in 2014, and we have already taken steps to achieve that, but this is a discussion for another post. 🙂