Looking Forward to 2018

Happy New Year! 🙂

Digital GamecraftThe Roman calendar started in March (Mensis Martius), so by that measure I am not too late.

OK, so we are already two months into the Gregorian year, and this is only my second post.  Frankly, those of you who know me personally will appreciate that I often have a lot to say, but when it comes to setting aside time in my busy schedule to write it down, well, my preference always tends to actual development (and my task list reflects that preference).

So, SophSoft, Incorporated and Digital Gamecraft have been acting like a duck, appearing calm and quiet on the surface, but paddling like crazy under the water.

Yes, we have been ducking. 😉

That said, we have been doing a great deal of development work on a few fronts.

What We Have Been Doing

Recent development work has been divided pretty clearly into three categories:

  1. SophSoft has been continuing our long-term association with Goodsol Development, and there are a couple of products in the pipeline for release in the near future and, of course, more to come thereafter.  There is a major release scheduled for March 21st (stay tuned), followed shortly by our two products, the first of which is already “in the can”, and the other being completed now.
  2. Digital Gamecraft is going to be releasing Demolish! Pairs for Android soon, in conjunction with the refresh of Demolish! Pairs for iOS, which is currently in progress (as required by Apple).  Another game is prototyped and approved for full production once that simultaneous release is (successfully) completed.
  3. I have been leading a team, the Advanced Concepts Group, at DAQRI, to produce AR (augmented reality) software for enterprises (Professional Grade AR™), including the majority of the Worksense™ productivity suite, as well as the development tools necessary to build applications for the DAQRI Smart Glasses®.

With more than a dozen products actively developed already this year, not to mention also properly purchasing our Michigan home/office during the same period, perhaps that will put some perspective on my lack of blog progress.  Now…

What (else) We Will Be Doing

In addition to the work mentioned above:

  • SophSoft has another (unannounced) product designed and in the early (prototype) phase.  It is a slight departure from other projects we have previously done, but it should be groundbreaking.  The first version is scheduled for release in “late Q3”.
  • Digital Gamecraft has a planned and prioritized list of game projects to undertake, with four more expected to be developed during 2018.  However, we should probably emphasize the “agile” nature of this schedule.
  • With DAQRI, there are several exciting (but, alas, non-game) projects scheduled throughout the year and into 2019 and beyond.  I am not at liberty to reveal any of these plans, of course, but I have seen the future of industry.

Personally, I have two close family weddings and a big family reunion all scheduled during the summer (in three different months), so I should be increasing my air miles, too.

Conclusion

Everything is looking quite positive, and after Looking Back at 2017, I fully expect 2018 to every more productive and fulfilling.  In fact, composing this blog post reminded me why I should be doing it more regularly: it helps me increase both my enthusiasm and my focus.

Looking Back at 2017

Overall Performance Grade: C-

Digital Gamecraft / SophSoft, IncorporatedIt has been more than four years since we have done a proper ‘Year in Review‘ post and, frankly, it will be still longer before we do a proper one.  However, we should take a look back on the previous year and take an honest appraisal of our performance and the work we have done at Digital Gamecraft and SophSoft, Incorporated.

Overview

Excluding politics, 2017 was not a terrible year for us, and for the most part we moved in a positive direction, with no catastrophic setbacks.  However, it must be noted that our ostensible performance was disappointing.  While we made big strides with internal development, we did not publish enough product (nothing directly from Digital Gamecraft) and did a poor job of communicating and marketing.

When one is spinning plates, it does not take much loss of focus to allow things to come crashing down.  Right now, SophSoft is as “streamlined” as it has been since 1994, so with fewer manhours to utilize, we tend to focus on the crucial issues (e.g., paying bills) and the tasks that we perform best and enjoy the most (i.e., development).

What Went Wrong

Because I gave us a below-average grade, we will start with the negatives for 2017:

  • We did not publish any Digital Gamecraft products (or even updates).
  • One of our Demolish! Pairs products was removed (forcibly) from the App Store.
  • Our primary web server crashed (hard) in the summer and we are still recovering.
  • Time spent in Los Angeles is far less productive than East Lansing (for reasons).
  • The current US Government is attempting to destroy this country for generations.

What Went Right

Now, we can end this with the positives about 2017:

Conclusion

Ultimately, being disappointed with shipping an average of more than one product update per month is probably a good thing; however, we can definitely do better, and that will be the subject of my next post, Looking Forward to 2018.

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!”