IGDA Detroit: April Meeting

An IGDA Detroit gathering is scheduled for Thursday.

April SocialIGDA Detroit, the Michigan chapter of the International Game Developers Association, will be having its April meeting tomorrow.  As per the recently established custom, every other chapter meeting (even months) is a social event, or “pure networking” if you prefer, at an area establishment.

This month’s meeting details:

Thursday, April 21, 2011
7:30pm to 10:30pm [editor: or so]
Lucky Strike at Twelve Mile Crossings
44325 W. Twelve Mile Road
Novi, Michigan 48377
[click here for map/directions]


Attendance has been on the rise for every IGDA Detroit meeting so far in 2011, and I hope for that trend to continue.  The newly elected Board of Directors is introducing door prizes for such things as traveling distance (to the meeting) and new members, so it could pay off in more ways than just the camaraderie, business contacts, and practical game development information.  Come join us!

To keep apprised of the happenings, you can follow IGDA Detroit on Facebook, too.

One topic of conversation is certainly going to be the IGDA stance against Amazon’s new Appstore Distribution Terms (and, specifically, how said terms are potentially very detrimental to game developers).  More about that soon…

RIP: Mike Dulin (1943-2010)

A friend and colleague passes away.

Last Wednesday, July 28, 2010, Michael Dennis Dulin died from complications of pulmonary fibrosis; he was 66.  [Here is his Obituary from the Janesville [Wisconsin] Gazette.]

Mike Dulin

Mike Dulin at SIC 2006

Mike Dulin was the founder of SharewareJunkies.com and other related web sites.  Within the shareware industry, he was perhaps better known as a perennially upbeat attendee at industry conferences, an advocate for software entrepreneurs, and the driving force (and voice) behind SharewareRadio.com.  (He interviewed me for his site back in 2007.)  Mike always had a story at the ready, including some amusing anecdotes from his previous career as an air traffic controller at Chicago O’Hare.  He qualified as a true “character” (in the best way), living and working in both Finland and Guatemala, commuting a couple of times each year.

At the time of his death, Mike Dulin was serving as the President of the Association of Software Professionals, a position to which I was instrumental in appointing him back in 2008 (when I was ASP Chairman of the Board).  Mike remained in that role and was still performing his duties for the ASP at the Software Industry Conference less than two weeks before his passing (and I am sorely disappointed that I was not there at SIC 2010).

Rest in Peace, Mike.  You will be missed.

SIA Foibles

The return of the Software Industry Awards is somewhat flawed.

As I wrote in a previous post, Software/Shareware Industry Awards are back, there were some questions yet to be answered about the Software Industry Awards under their new process and new name.  In particular, I wondered whether a list of nominees, or at least software categories, would be published prior to the conference, being especially concerned about how (or even if) game software would be handled.

Unfortunately, neither names of nominees nor a list of software categories appeared prior to the Software Industry Conference at which they were awarded.  This means that no software developers would attend the “Gala Networking & Awards Dinner” solely in support of nominated products.  Apparently, the overall conference turnout was noticeably smaller than in recent years, too (which is not any sort of indictment, as I prefer smaller, more intimate gatherings).

I did also mention that “all questions should be answered” after SIC, but that was almost not the case, as the official list of SIA nominees and winners has not, to my knowledge, been published outside the Association of Software Professionals (and only within the ASP by unofficial sources).  Aside from publishing the names of the software nominees beforehand, the conference organizers should also be proactive in promoting the results.  (After more than a week, the awards winners should expect to at least be able to link to an official results page.)

The good news is that “GAMES” was one of the categories in which awards were presented (of only eight).  The bad news is the nominees demonstrate a pretty serious misunderstanding of this segment of the industry.  I applauded the positive idea that “the nominators are asked to consider only software and services offered by MicroISVs”, a concept that seems to have been seriously ignored.  (I suppose that poor selections are better than none at all, which is what the educational software industry received.)

The SIA winner in the Games category was “Sam & Max” by Telltale Games.  The problem, of course, is that Telltale is nowhere close to being a MicroISV; they have had (literally) millions of dollars from outside investors, and 67 employees listed on their Our Team page (including an old friend, Tom Byron).  [I could also mention that “Sam & Max” is not a product, but rather a series of more than a dozen different episodes.]  One of the other nominees was “Family Feud” by iWin, which is also far larger than any MicroISV, listed as the #4 casual software retailer in 2009.

Therefore, the winner in spirit is “Fantastic Farm” by Kristanix, which is a fellow ASP member and, according to the web site, consists of only two people, hence a proper MicroISV.  Alas, this kind of victory comes with nothing of value, except perhaps this link to the Fantastic Farm page.

Here are a few more selected SIA results.

The winner in the “GRAPHICS SOFTWARE” category was “SnagIt” by TechSmith, a local company for which I worked briefly.  I was actually the sole programmer on SnagIt way back in 1992-1993, developing (only) version 2.1.  (They are now up to SnagIt 10, so I take zero credit.)

The winner in the “MULTIMEDIA MUSIC/VIDEO SOFTWARE” category was “Blaze Media Pro” by Mystik Media; our company once did some artwork for Blaze Media Pro (also many years ago).

The winner in the “PROGRAMMING TOOLS/UTILITIES” category was “Beyond Compare” by Scooter Software; this is a product that I use almost daily and is extraordinarily useful.  (As a coincidence, I happen to be wearing one of their “What’s the DIFF?” t-shirts at this very moment.)  I also use another nominee in this category, “CSE HTML Validator” by AI Internet Solutions.

Two nominees in the “ISV SERVICES” category also deserve mention: Freelance Works (Martha Seward), who helps promote our games published by Goodsol Development, and Software Promotions (Dave Collins), who use to do similar (but does not handle games anymore).

For those keeping score, the three remaining categories were “BUSINESS APPLICATION, DESKTOP”, “BUSINESS APPLICATION, SaaS”, and “INTERNET TOOLS”, for which I have neither the interest nor the time to write anything clever.

The ASP becomes the ASP

The ASP is renamed to the Association of Software Professionals.

After 23 years of leadership in (what was known as) the shareware industry, and now following the current trend, the ASP has dropped “Shareware” and officially changed its name to the Association of Software Professionals.

The change has been in the works for a while, but it was officially announced on the ASP blog in an article entitled, Shareware is dead – long live shareware!

A press release about the change can be found on Newswire Today, and proper coverage of the name change was recently published by Dr. Dobbs Editor, Jon Erickson, in a blog posting, Shareware: Thanks for the Memories.

When the ASP was formed back in 1987, it was out to promote the concept of “shareware”, a marketing method (n.b., not a type of software) where a user was able to try software before making a purchase (or not), and also to help independent developers/publishers learn how to use shareware (and other methods) to become successful.

The former goal was achieved long ago, as almost all mass market software now has a trial version available.  (See my Mission Accomplished! posting from a couple of years ago.)  The only skirmish remaining was that over the word “shareware” itself, but the ASP has now de facto ceded that control (for the sake of lasting peace, I suppose).  One only need look at this thread at The Business of Software to observe the rampant ignorance even among (nominal) developers, so I can certainly understand declaring that a losing cause.

The latter goal is actually an ongoing mission, and the ASP (regardless of the name change) remains the single greatest resource for independent software developers and publishers.  At only $100 per year, it is quite possibly the best money we have ever spent for our business.

Software/Shareware Industry Awards are back

After missing a year, the SIAs return for 2010, slightly renamed.

Recently, the Software [nee Shareware] Industry Conference unveiled a brand new web site design, which is much improved from the previous web site.  Kudos to Sue Pichotta of Alta Web Works for a job well done (and no disrespect for the previous designer, who I also know).

Perhaps lost in this story, though, is the fact that the updated web site quietly announced the return of the Shareware, I mean, Software Industry Awards and a new (hopefully improved) process for awarding them.  According to the Process & Rules page of the site, the awards are now determined by a score of unidentified “software industry insiders”, rather than by the whole of the industry, which should reduce the amount of bizarre results (from either manipulation or voter laziness) at the risk of making them less prestigious, no longer being truly voted by peers.  I do not know who any of these people are, only that I am not one of them and that I hope they appreciate our games.

One definite positive in the new procedure is that “nominators are asked to consider only software and services offered by MicroISVs“.  This means that products like Google Earth and Windows Live Messenger (Microsoft), both 2008 winners, should no longer be eligible, getting the focus back to the independent developers the awards were originally meant to recognize.  (We also go by the title, “the developers formerly known as shareware publishers“.)

The only obvious omission is a list of categories for which the awards will be presented, and specifically, whether any game categories are included (and if so, how many).  The last time games were recognized was 2007, when our own Pretty Good MahJongg won the SIA for Best Non-Action Game.  Hopefully, the list of nominees (and, hence, categories) will be announced prior to the conference; that would almost certainly increase participation in the “Gala Networking & Awards Dinner”, which attendance was reportedly dropping.

In any event, all questions should be answered in Dallas, Texas, where SIC will take place July 15-17, 2010.  Perhaps I will see you there.

10 Years!

One whole decade in the ASP.

On this date back in 1999, I joined the ASP (Association of Shareware Professionals), so this is the 10th anniversary of my membership in this important trade organization.  (As a side note, through some game playing, it is also the 5th anniversary of the second company membership for Sherry.)  I was the last member to join in the 1900s, having taken almost ten years to join in the first place, and I immediately regretted not joining earlier.

In the past 10 years, I spent nearly half of that time in a volunteer position, mostly the 4.5 years during which I was a Director, including two stints as ASP Chairman of the Board.  I do not currently hold any official job, concentrating on developing our company and products, but I still strongly believe in the value of membership for access to the private newsgroups alone, nevermind other benefits.  In fact, I am now a Lifetime Member to be sure to always have this wealth of information and experience available to me.  (Anybody who fails to join just because of the “shareware” word in the organization name is making a very poor business decision.)

Clearly, one of the biggest benefits of ASP membership to me was to network with successful shareware publishers, which led directly to our association with Goodsol Development, which involvement has now lasted more than 8 years and could easily have paid for annual ASP membership dues into the next millennium.  That is only one contact I have made, but I have both learned and profited from many of the other members of the ASP.  Join Now!

Speaking of Goodsol, in wrapping up the year, I had a chance to review the products we shipped during 2009:

That is not too bad a list for year, but I bet that we can beat that in 2010!  (We already have three products on the publishing schedule, and 5 more big projects in the immediate pipeline.)

[Note to self:  Press the ‘Publish’ button when the article is finished and proofread.]

Guilt by [non-]Association

There goes the “neighborhood”.

Going into the past weekend, one of our product sites had a problem in which accessing the page caused a very scary (and completely incorrect) “Reported Attack Site!” message in Firefox browsers, and a similar message in Safari (and Chrome as well, reportedly).  Of the major browsers, only Internet Explorer was allowing direct traffic to two specific pages, because it was the only one that does not (by default, anyway) subscribe to the StopBadware.org database.  To access our site, a user would have to click to ignore a message that said, more or less, “Run away from here and never come back.”

The problem began last Thursday, when FileKicker, a Digital River company that provides download bandwidth for many independent software publishers (including Goodsol Development, until recently), got blacklisted on the aforementioned database.  This meant that downloads from FileKicker generated the scary message, presumably because they delivered some “badware” somewhere, although I have no evidence (nor much doubt) that this happened.  The report was filed by Google.

On Friday, two of our pages that linked to downloads there were blacklisted as well because, I guess, Google assumed that if FileKicker was bad, anybody who linked there must be bad, too.  This is the “bad neighborhood” idea: we never linked to anything classified as badware or even any third-party software, but if we linked to a “bad” site, we must be bad ourselves.  Of course, the fact that FileKicker provided services for thousands of clients does not seem to matter.  This was bad on Windows, but devastating on Mac OS X, where Safari has the vast majority of the market.

By very early Sunday morning, due to quick action from Goodsol to remove all FileKicker links, and a subsequent retraction from Google, our pages were no longer banned, but all our direct links to FileKicker downloads (such as those stored at Apple Downloads) were still a major problem.  It took until yesterday [Wednesday] evening (i.e., six days) before FileKicker got this problem resolved for their downloads, with precious little information provided to customers in the interim.

This was a ridiculous episode, which produced many insights:

  1. The problem was first reported in the newsgroups of the Association of Shareware Professionals (by Dexter Bell of The Utility Factory, developer of FileBoss, an excellent file manager).  This is one of those situations in which ASP membership (and participation) was invaluable for rapid response.
  2. Digital River claims to be “the global leader in e-commerce”, a public company with close to $3 Billion in annual transactions, yet it took DR three times as long to fix the problem as Goodsol Development, a MicroISV, and never informed its clients until well after ASP members informed them.
  3. SWMirror, an independently operated download service run by Mitchell Vincent, was able to provide (better) services to affected publishers and have many downloads restored before FileKicker, part of a conglomerate with more than 1000 employees, even acknowledged the problem.
  4. The pattern of Digital River buying successful companies serving the shareware industry and turning them into garbage is intact; in fact, that record may now be unblemished.  Dealing with DR companies should only be done with due deliberation.  (read: “Do not touch them with a bargepole.”)
  5. The concept that Google can, with a simple electronic “report”, essentially shut down an internet business overnight, is more than a little scary.  Imagine launching a product that could compete with Google (or a blog being critical of them) and having most of your traffic cut off by a similar unsubstantiated report.
  6. The whole internet is a “bad neighborhood”. In fact, Google itself would be the worst culprit of all, since it provides links to nearly every crack site, domain squatter, malware distributor, and internet fraud out there.

Really, I am definitely in favor of a system to eliminate (or castrate) true spammers and distributors of malware, but when an honest company that has been doing business online safely almost since the inception of the web is economically impacted, things have gone too far.

Here endeth the rant.

Vote for Us

One of our titles is nominated for an Epsilon Award.

Epsilon Award

This year, Most Popular Solitaire 2.0, has been nominated for an Epsilon Award, the software award associated with the European Software Conference, which takes place November 7-8, 2009, in Berlin (Germany, in case anybody is confused about that).

Unlike other software awards, there are no categories here; only one award is presented each year.  This year (again) there are 25 nominees, and our product is the only game title nominated.  Accordingly, we would appreciate your vote.

Today is the last day of voting, so please vote (for us).

On the voting page, you will find the following description:

Most Popular Solitaire 2.0 by Goodsol Development, Inc. Most Popular Solitaire is a collection of only the 30 best and most popular solitaire games (selected from a collection of hundred of different varieties). There are versions for both Windows and Mac OS X, with combined high score charts and interchangeable save games. Its great popularity in Windows is even surpassed on the Mac, where it has been in the Top 20 at the Apple Store since its release. http://www.moposol.com/ Gregg Seelhoff

Voting is basically open to anybody and everybody (i.e., the “public”), so if you are reading this, you probably qualify.  To vote, simply go to this page, click on the (above) graphic with “[VOTE]” superimposed, and follow the instructions.

(Note that I would have included a ‘Nominated for the Epsilon Award’ image here, too, except that they are only available for 2006-2008, and those are really, really ugly.)


No SIC for me

Thus begins a period of inward focus for us.

At the last minute, I have decided not to attend the Software Industry Conference this year. SIC 2009 begins tomorrow night [Wednesday, July 15] in Quincy [Boston], Massachusetts, but we will not be represented there. Honestly, I was not as inspired to go this year and never quite got around to registering. I did book the hotel, which forced the choice as the cancellation date arrived.

It was a tough decision. I thought about the pros to attending: networking with colleagues, learning marketing techniques from the various sessions, staying in touch with the industry, and having a source of inspiration. We were considering using SIC as a prelude to our quasi-annual offsite meeting, where we discuss the direction of the business and refocus on adjusted goals. Also, according to rumor, this will be the last SIC in Boston, so it would have been a final opportunity to experience that.

However, there was a longer list of cons: many friends/colleagues chose not to attend, none of my clients would be there, none of the sessions even approached “must see” status, and there are no Shareware Industry Awards this year. Perhaps the renaming of the conference to remove that dreaded word, “Shareware”, also removed some of its purpose and relevance. Even the ASP Luncheon held little attraction for me, as the current leadership flounders and takes the organization off track.

Ultimately, though, it came down to total costs. The monetary expense of the conference is not bad at all, and I would have been able to attend with a total expenditure (including travel and accommodations) of less than just the registration for many other conferences. On the other hand, it would have required a commitment of five complete days, not including preparation and recovery time, and I felt that I could not justify that at a time when our projects are not where I want them to be. Had the conference been next week, the decision may have been different, but for now, my time is better spent on development than (potential) enrichment.

I will just have to see Boston under different circumstances.

Duke Nukem For Never

Surprise (NOT)!

As you have probably heard or read, 3D Realms, the developer of (the aptly named) Duke Nukem Forever, has gone out of business. The company website now features a big “Goodbye” message on the front page. The story was reported even in the mainstream media, including this BBC News article.

The release date for DNF has always been “When it’s done.” This scheduling choice seems to put a product on a slow train to vaporware, and I posted about it being way past expiration three years ago: A Long Time Coming. I could rehash the history, but game industry news site Shacknews has posted an updated article (originally from 2007), The Brief Long History of DNF: Post-3D Realms Edition, detailing a dozen years of unfulfilled promises and hype.

So, now Duke Nukem Forever is finally toast, all of the developers have been laid off, the company is gone, and the product is going to remain unpublished. The saga ends here, right?

Not so fast.

Next comes word that Take Two Interactive, who in 2000 (perhaps unwisely) purchased the publishing rights to this title (from another publisher) for $12 million, and reportedly (probably unwisely) renewed this agreement with 3D Realms in 2007, is now suing for breach of contract. Of course, they (definitely unwisely) never provided any development funding for the title, so there is not much left there to get…

… except the source code. Take Two immediately filed for an injunction to get a copy of the source code “to ensure the code is preserved and remains unharmed” while it prosecutes its lawsuit, as shown in this article about the release of the court documents.

Now it is revealed in this Gamasutra article that “3D Realms has not closed and is not closing” after all. They merely fired (sorry, “let go”) the entire Duke Nukem Forever development team due to lack of funding. Still, they (i.e., unnamed 3D Realms representatives) “believe Take-Two’s lawsuit is without merit and merely a bully tactic“. Really? Interesting.

Here is what we know:

  1. Company management did not do what it would take to ship this game.
  2. The development team did not do what it would take to ship this game.
  3. The publisher did not provide what it would take to ship this game.
  4. Incompetence reigns in this matter, and there is plenty of blame to go around.
  5. It will probably be another year before this matter is finally settled.

This whole story is a case study in poor choices and a wholesale failure of anybody involved to recognize and acknowledge the [situation] this has become. Trains wrecks are fascinating, though.

Always Bet On Duke.” – I don’t think so.