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!

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!

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.”

Not-so-Free Agent

There’s a hole in my schedule, Dear Liza, Dear Liza.

For the first time in years, my game development time is entirely my own.  Today was the first day of business since late 2001 on which I did not have a time obligation to a consulting client.  Feels weird. 😉

Having made arrangements with our largest client to take a short hiatus (while we weather the vicissitudes of App Store reviewers), we did have an interesting quasi-game project penciled into the schedule.  Unfortunately, as happens all too often in this industry, as we were warming up the fountain pen, the prospective client proved to be yet another “tire kicker” not actually serious about having the project produced professionally.

So, this means that…

You, yes you, can retain a professional game developer with more than 30 years of industry experience to design, program, or consult on your project.

Currently, I am actively working on Windows, Mac OS X, and iOS projects, with C++ and Objective-C code, though my abilities range far beyond those.  I have particular knowledge of quality control, artificial intelligence, and traditional games.  For more information [serious inquiries only]: seelhoff@sophsoft.com

Of course, I am actually reveling in having the extra development time for Digital Gamecraft projects, starting with Demolish! Pairs, for which there will be a number of announcements in the coming days and weeks.

The only thing (and the real point of this post) is…  I need to get used to having all of my time for these projects.  At the moment, I still habitually kick into time management mode, making sure that I stay on top of everything that needs to be done for each client.  For now, I suppose, I am my only client.  That works. 🙂

Lack of Ideas? Really?

Ideas are easy.  Execution really matters.

I somewhat regularly read about “game designers” who are lacking ideas, usually via posts from the individuals themselves seeking good ideas for a game (from others).  Mind you, I cannot lay claim to being the best game designer on the planet, but I can certainly tell you that anyone who says that they have no game ideas is definitely not a game designer.

The truth of the matter is that any real game designer always has too many ideas to be able to execute all of them, or even a significant percentage.  If you do not have this problem, you best not fancy yourself a designer at all; instead, take a job with a game company where you can develop the ideas of somebody else, and maybe add a little design input every once in a while.

Here are a few characteristics of pseudo-designers that I have encountered over the many years I have been in this business:

  • they think that “Quake, only with bigger guns” is an interesting idea;
  • they focus on a single design idea to the exclusion of other approaches;
  • they believe that their one idea is so valuable that others are just waiting to “steal” it;
  • they think that an idea is somehow the same as a game design; and
  • they have no idea how much effort is actually involved in building a game.

Whenever I hear one of these stories now, I just have to shake my head and sigh.  Granted, early in my professional career, I was more likely to be swayed by somebody with a grand idea and (at least) a partial game design but, of course, the conversation usually ended with “you create my game and I will split the profits with you, 50/50.”  Even when groups are formed to pursue a particular game design, unless they are properly funded, it almost always ends in failure.

I can hardly believe that people will claim they are a “good game designer”, but they cannot come up with a good idea to turn into a game design.  When I worked at Quest Software, and we were wrapping up The Legend of Blacksilver (Apple II version, circa 1989), our entire development staff (of 4!) sat down at a local Burger King and brainstormed at least four game ideas to consider before the end of a fast food lunch; I still remember one of the ideas that was not chosen to pursue.  Given that, I am astonished when somebody thinks that my company would bother to take their basic game idea, when we have a backlog of our own designs yet to be done, and could easily devise more when/if necessary.

When I first heard about the One Game A Month challenge, I was intrigued at the idea of trying to start clearing out the backlog of those designs (full and partial) we have wanted to create.  Although I am not officially participating, primarily because after 30+ years, my game development goals are not congruent with the bulk of the “indie scene”, I realized that the way to get this done was to actually think less about game design, and focus on execution: actually getting the projects completed.

Execution is always the most important part of game development, because “wouldn’t it be cool if…” is always much easier to say than to do.  Somebody has to program, somebody has to create artwork (likewise, sounds, music, levels, documentation, etc.), and it all needs to be put together and, most of all, finished.  It is not an exaggeration to say that almost all (i.e., more than 90% of) games are never actually completed.

To give you some numbers on the extent of the Digital Gamecraft backlog, I spent an hour or so simply writing down the names of projects for which some design work had been done, including games that had been partially designed and researched, games which had fully documented designs, and several products in various stages of development.  I stopped when I reached 32 projects, though there are certainly more.

The reason that 32 was a good place to stop was that I wanted to prioritize them using a simple binary selection process (a bracket system, if you will), knowing that all of the higher priority projects would spring immediately to mind.  I went through the pairs of projects to generate a rough priority list, and then I manually tweaked the development and release order to create some variety in our lineup (i.e., not producing two games within the same genre back-to-back).  Now I have a list of projects that, even if we could finish one per month, would take us almost until 2016, and that does not even include any of the four AAA games we pitched at E3 (and CGDC) back in 1997.

Our current project list, as it currently stands, contains 30 games, in 6 different genres, spanning approximately one dozen platforms, plus a productivity application and an information web site.  If we can accomplish even half of that in the next 5 years, I will probably be extremely pleased (or, possibly, cloned 😉 ).

However, if your problem is with finding ideas, rather than actual execution of game designs, then it may be time to give up the concept of being a game designer.

2013: Year in Preview

Happy New Year!

Digital GamecraftWe at Digital Gamecraft have emerged from our two-week “break” into a new year with a fresh sense of optimism, renewed productivity, and an almost overwhelming prognosis of much greater success in 2013.

There are three major factors that play into the very positive outlook for this year:

  1. We had a strong finish to last year, with a large number of product updates shipped and a significant stabilization of our development platforms and processes.
  2. Despite officially being “out of the office” during the break, I actually fell back to my love of game programming, hence Demolish! Pairs made fantastic progress.
  3. The first day back in the office saw us ship another major update to Pretty Good Solitaire Mac Edition, adding another 20 games (to be published very soon).

After a certain amount of adjustment during 2012, we are not making any changes to priorities for the new year.  However, we did map out our course of development for the foreseeable future, and just seeing the project list is fairly exciting itself.  We have four brand new game products to launch within the next six months, as well as a new web site project and a productivity application.  Of course, success begets success, so new clients are also contending for SophSoft, Incorporated game development resources.

Personally, I am resolved to both read and write more; my desire to spend more time programming games is handled nicely by the facts in the above paragraph. 🙂

So, here’s wishing all of you a great deal of success (however you choose to define it) for the coming year, and a nice recovery for the game industry in general.

Featured Tweet (#441)

Details: I dropped the iOS Deployment Target to 3.2, and the project built (seemingly) properly for all iPads, but Xcode 4.4.1 refused to actually send the app to the device.  It ran the existing (older) version on the device the first time, and when that was deleted manually, it threw error messages about not being able to find the file. (!)  Cleaning the project did not seem to work, but erasing the intermediates folder did the trick.

Featured Tweet (#424)