310 Days to go

Categories:Shadow of a Soul:Chapter I

Well it’s been a crazy day. I’ll update this post when I have the time.

Ok here’s the update. It’s a bit late unfortunately :)

This has been a very mentally and physically challenging day. First, let me talk what makes today so important. This is the day before my grand opening. Everything, from website, to trailer, to images, to design, to photos, to press pages, should be completed today; including the press release. I don’t think I’ve talked about the importance of the press release. So let’s start with that one.

I consider a press release to be a beginning and an end in itself. I consider it the only means independent game developers have of getting the word out there. So I’ve always felt it was a make or break thing as far as the marketing side is concerned; it’s probably the only tool at your disposal.

Editors are basically the gatekeepers between gamers and developers. It is, IMHO as an independent developer, very important to get in touch with these folks, because they sure as hell won’t be getting in touch with you. Now, it did cross my mind to go to each and every one of the gaming websites and collect the editors’ emails and stuff, but then it struck me that perhaps that wouldn’t be very professional. As you’d expect, there are folks out there with these contacts; they’ve collected this information and they offer indie companies a boutique press release service, but I’m yet to hear of any press release they’ve sent out being jumped on by the media. So I don’t know, maybe editors only read news from newswires or some other thing, but it didn’t sit well with me, so I knew that if the world was going to learn more about the game, first of all I should use the official channels.

How to write the press release, how to distribute it, which company to use, just three of the thousands of decisions that had to be made (gross exaggeration but it sounds cool). In the end I decided to go with one of the bigger press release companies. Only time will tell whether or not I was right.

Time has also told me that I’m usually good at what I do. I pay attention, and I do my homework carefully, but, if past experience is anything to go by, this getting-the-word-out thing has been the stage where I tend to fuck up big time. With little money to get the job done, I really didn’t have the luxury of failing, especially on this front.

Another aspect of getting the word out is getting attention. What do I mean by that? Well, working on your game 24×7, enduring thousands of problems, is tough. But the toughest part is the isolation. Especially in my case. Living, as I do, at the top of a mountain away from my parents, friends and any resemblance of a social life, it can get a bit tough (but, just a bit). The isolation that I really feel is that between myself and the people I’m making this game for. The toughest thing about working in isolation is that you don’t get any feedback, praise or criticism, and you have no way of showing off your work.

I’m not talking about building a buzz or something for your game. I’m just talking about a couple of people visiting your site, looking at your stuff, telling you it looks like shit and so on. That’s about all I wanted really. It didn’t really happen with my earlier projects. I think it’s very wise to work as hard on getting the word out as you do on the game itself. Especially at the beginning of the journey.

All of this is hypothetical of course; coming from a man who has pretty much fucked up at this stage every time; but this is my latest understanding of the situation. Making a game is a gigantic undertaking. And I think it will be a major source of motivation for me to share some progress with others if I’m to be successful.
Now I’ve got that out of the way, I can move on to what happened today.

Welcome to Ferzan’s little shop of horrors!

Well, after opening the computer first thing this morning, with a head full of a thousand things left to do, I saw that one of my hard disks had failed. A very very nice way to begin the day. And an omen of things to come.

After overcoming the initial shock, another one popped its head around the corner. I noticed a couple of errors in the trailer, especially in some of the new stuff I’d rendered just the day before. Took me about 3 hours to sort everything out, and lost quite a bit of hair.

English is not my native language so, two days ago, I decided to send my press release to one of the editors of an editing service. I’d assumed this would give me a healthy buffer if something went wrong. And went wrong something did.

I received the edited press release towards evening and saw that my dear press release had been royally gangbanged. Now this is 100% my fault. This is what happens when you select a literary editor (however accomplished) to edit what is essentially a business document with its own idiosyncratic conventions. Since I myself am no stranger to being royally gangbanged, I remained calm and sent some emails, and a friend rose to the occasion and re-edited the press release, but this time making it much better instead of a lot worse.

I also had some very serious issues with WordPress. Took me a long while to fix everything. At some point the admin panel broke. Spent an hour trying to fix it. In the end I figured that WordPress was fine but Firefox’s cache was fucking everything up. Opened the admin panel with Chrome, problem solved.

Another huge time waster was Flowplayer. Flowplayer is basically a flash video player with a lot of features. It was a pain in the ass to configure for embedding into other sites and video sharing. It was especially excruciating to configure embedding to work with multiple browsers. In the end I got everything working. After some time, I decided I’d better give it one more check, since it’s one of the most important things, perhaps the most important. Everything was working fine until I decided to click the full-screen icon… Holy shit! It didn’t work, as you might have guessed. Took me another half an hour to fix it.

Then I sent the press release. Triple checked everything again.

In the end I was up for 30 hours with no sleep, nearly 95% of that time was spent in front of the computer working. I didn’t have time to cook so I just ate some fruit and stale bread, and drank lots of water.

And on the verge of fainting I crawled into bed.

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