Hey Guys

This is from a series of posts I wrote about Fantastic Contraption when I originally released it. They were originally published on our travelogue but I have back dated them and moved them over here where they fit in more.

This is a post I wrote on the Fantastic Contraption forums. Someone (OfficiallyHaphazard) asked me a few questions and I ended up writing a whole thing.

It was an attepmt to sum up this particular life-altering experience.

The original thread is here: http://fantasticcontraption.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=1212&st=0&sk=t&sd=a

Hey guys.

Sorry I don’t post much. Sorry I don’t get more bug fixes out.

This has been an incredibly overwhelming experience for me. Weasel’s bang on in all his answers. But I can offer my perspective. Come with me on a trip down memory lane.

Imagine yourself a corporate web developer. You are a .Net and SQL server ninja. You hate microsoft but accident and the world have made you really good with their web-dev suite. Which is not an easy thing to be good at.

So, my young ninja, you decide to move to San Francisco after taking a year traveling in asia. You end up in a job really quickly. There is a ton of work in this city. The job looked really good on the packaging. But after you sit down and start taking on projects you realise most of your day is going to be hacking asp and tweaking existing sites. “can we add another item to that dropdown?”. And every time you drop a wicked prototype for a database-enabled flash front-end on them they look at you like you just dropped a turd on their desk.

Seven months pass. You are a thoroubread greyhound (who can’t spell) forced to jog beside a fat owner. You are the bazooka swatting flies. You are bored out of your gord. You listen to the entire back-log of “this american life”.

But then you get this idea. Out of the blue, an idea. A game. Kind of like Armadillo Run, kind of like the Increible Machine. But with a twist. Instead of making an environment that the armadillo moves through, you make an armadillo that moves through the environment. You’re pretty sure this is a good idea. You run it past a few friends who’s opinions you respect (weasel) and they also think it’s a good idea.

So, what the hell, you’ve got alot of creative energy left at the end of the day. Pretty soon every spare waking hour is writing code and learning flash. No weekends for four months. Hoping to get sick so you can stay home and write code.

Ideas are considered and rejected, flash is puzzled over and solved, bugs come and go. A game begins to take shape.
Eventually menus and graphics are made, everything ends up actually working pretty well. And your family and friends doing the beta-testing are hooked.

Time to put it out into the world. Forget ads. Ads suck. And forget selling it to a portal. You made it, you’re going to host it. So try charging a few bucks for the level editor and mabey it will buy us all a round at the pub.

And up it goes. You bootleg some bandwidth off of a friend for 10$ a month. Announcing this momentus event are two blog-posts. One on your travel log that gets zero traffic, and one on weasel’s bloggy web-space-thing. That gets alot more traffic than yours but not a ton.

A few days pass. Life goes on as expected. The game gets a few small blog posts. A small gaming site links to it and the users rate it pretty well on that site. Then, one fateful sunday, you come home to 20,000 users on the server.

Stumble-Upon has found you and likes what it sees. From then on it’s a roller-coaster ride to over 1 million views in the second month of release (august). This rollercoaster is punctuated by constant server meltdowns. A steady stream of server upgrades and massive database changes are the only thing keeping the hungry behemoth at bay. Even with all your best efforts the servers still spend the better part of some days offline and when they are up it takes 3 minutes to save. People start writing you emails: ‘how much money do you want to put it on our portal?’, ‘how much to make an iphone version?’, “we’re discussing the possibility of a DS version of your game internally. Are you interested?”. Pretty heady stuff. And you’re getting these emails while trying to write asp code at the day-job.

So the day job has to go. The game is making more money than your day-job is at this point anyway (thank you everyone, and a bunch of it gets kicked back to almost everyone in the credits page).

The last day of real in-the-office work is August 8th. Just under a month from the day of release. Not that now your life is easy. This is in the middle of the server meltdowns. But eventually you switch hosts, become a reasonably skilled DBA, and things start running smooth.

But behind the maelstrom crazy things are happening. People are playing the game hard. They are doing amazing things, mind-blowing things. You have now gotten your head around 1 million page views in terms of server resources. But not in terms of actual people playing the game. And mabey that’s a good thing. Mabey you’ll pay a good friend to get his head around it instead. Mabey if you spent too long on the forums or too long flipping through levels and solutions your life will be paralyzed by the idea that _millions_ of people are playing, loving, and hating, your game.

Can you really imagine what that means? Millions of people? I can’t.

I know when I went to PAX the Wizards of the Coast guys treated me like a rock-star. I know people at Blizzard play my game. Gaming heroes know Fantastic Contraption.

And all of it leaves me just stunned.

It’s hard to think about Fantastic Contraption now. About the things that need improving. I probably won’t be spending alot of time on it. It is wildly succesful as it is. There are things that could be much better. But I might leave those for Fantastic Contraption 2. Or some totaly different game. I can let my imagination go wild and play with game ideas _full time_ now.

Interesting times though. Even if I don’t spend a ton of time on the game from now on it looks you guys might get the game that you deserve anyway. The polished game with a good level browser and graphics that took more than two weekends to knock out. I don’t want to jinx it but there could be some very exciting news in the future indeed.


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