Thursday, November 29, 2012

The publishing thing

So our latest game Primordia, has just hit the Gold Candidate stage. This means the game is pretty much done.  Sure there might be a minor bug or two, but they aren't worth potentially breaking the game over in order to fix.  So unless the testers find a bug that's absolutely critical (an unavoidable crash or freeze, for example), we're leaving it to slowly bake until launch day.  

Primordia marks our eleventh game, and the third game we launched this year alone. It is also the fifth game we are publishing, instead of developing or writing it ourselves.  It was developed by a group called Wormwood Studios, and it's a gorgeous piece of work. There's a free demo available right now, and you can pre-order it for 10% off.  You can also vote for it on Project Greenlight, if you'd like to see it on Steam (the Greenlight thing is a subject for another day entirely). 

Anyway, publishing. I suppose the "indie publishing other indies" model is a pretty rare thing. It worked out well with Gemini Rue, and so I sought out other games along the same lines. Games that had tons of potential but where the developers lacked the time, experience, or motivation to finish it and get it out the door. Or they just didn't want to deal with any of the marketing/sales stuff after it was done. Or for any variety of reasons. Either way, we got involved and it's been a whirlwind.

One interesting thing I've learned about publishing a game is that it takes just as much time, effort and concentration as a game I develop myself.  That might sound weird, but what I mean is that the effort and concentration comes from a different part of my brain. It's turned me into more of a business guy than a developer guy, which has left me very little to talk about on this blog (which is why it's been so empty lately - er, not that I'm making excuses or anything). Business talk is boring, and I wasn't knee-deep in the creative process enough to feel comfortable talking about the development process. It's also left me in the complete wrong mindset to focus on my own games, which is why the next Blackwell is taking much much longer than I would have liked.

Regardless, I feel very proud that we managed to get Puzzle Bots, Gemini Rue, Da New Guys, Resonance, and Primordia out into the game-o-sphere. They are all great games - games that we (meaning Wadjet Eye) couldn't have created on our own.  I've worked with some wonderful developers and learned so much from seeing how they all  work. We are  much more financially stable - having lots of new games allowed us to pace out our releases and spread out the risk, so if one game failed we wouldn't go down with it.  Before we were just squeaking by, but now we have actual savings and enough of a "long tail" that we don't have to worry about going bust anytime soon. 

But still. I miss designing. I miss sitting in a cafe with nothing but my notebook and a bagel. Getting into publishing was AMAZING, but for now I want to get back to doing the thing that got me into game development in the first place. 
Hello, left side of the brain. It's been awhile. Have some coffee. Let's talk.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

More fun with placeholder art!

So awhile ago I announced Primordia, the next game we are publishing. It's unique in that I am not directly involved with production, aside from project management and dealing with the voiceovers. It's got the biggest team we've ever had on a single game - with a dedicated writer, artist, composer, and programmer. So it's been an interesting experience.

Since my involvement is so minimal, it often leaves me with large chunks of time where I'm not doing anything. So what to do with this extra time? Work on the next Blackwell game, of course.

It's slow going, because I don't work well when I'm constantly shifting gears, but it's definitely taking shape. I am tentatively calling it "Blackwell Epiphany" and like Deception before it, it's becoming the largest Blackwell game yet. No art assets exist for the game yet, but I am making some good headway using a combination of sketched backgrounds, MSpaint, and sprites from the previous game (which I will be replacing).

So while I can't reveal any details, I CAN reveal these lovely programmer art scenes that I've programmed!

The red bits are graffiti. That's how you know it's EDGY.

Tactile puzzle!

Mashup of photo and MSpaint.

If only I could get away with making games that look like this. My productivity rate would skyrocket. In any case, it feels really good to see Joey and Rosa up on my screen again.


Monday, July 23, 2012

Dude, where's my boxed edition?

I talked a few months ago about my "ocean marketing" moments. Moments where I did something wrong, or something just WENT wrong, or in general things didn't go as smoothly as I would have liked. One of those moments has come to pass again, and as a cautionary - albeit a bit embarrassing - tale I have decided to blog about it.

When Resonance first went on sale, I offered a digital version and a physical boxed version. I've done the physical version thing before, but that was usually just a CD in a snap case. The process in making those was always quite simple, as I always use a local duplication service (called Landshark CD, who always do a really great job).  All I needed to do was give them the art for the disc and case, as well as a memory stick with all of the files on it. Then they would create a proof for me to take a look at, and once I gave the green light they would take care of the rest. A week later, they'd call me to tell me the job was finished and I could come pick it up. They are a ten minute subway ride away, so it was a simple matter to zip over there and bring back all the packages by taxi.

However, this time around we wanted to do something different. A snapcase was all well and good, but we wanted to make an actual BOXED EDITION. A box which contained the disc and a poster, all professionally done with nice art and everything. The hype behind Resonance seemed to call out for it. If we were going to do a boxed version, now was the time.  So I went ahead and struck a deal with a manufacturer called Coral Graphics who specializes in this kind of thing. They were recommended by people I know at TellTale, so I knew they would do a good job.

But... what I did not take into consideration was how painstakingly slow the process of making these boxed editions would be.  Every piece of it has to go through an approval process, and Coral Graphics was located several states away. No longer could I just hop on the subway to take a look at the proof. It had to be mailed to me, and I would have to mail it back with my approval or rejection. If I didn't like it, they would redo it and send it back.

The disc alone took three weeks to get approved, since for some reason we weren't burning the data in the correct way. When I asked what the correct way was, we were told "We just duplicate the disc. We don't create it." While it would have been easy to get annoyed at them, the truth is they were used to dealing with much bigger companies than mine. Companies which usually have a whole department dealing with this kind of thing. In any case, a few tries later we got the data burning process right and the disc was approved. The poster was sent to us for approval, and it was much too dark. So that was sent back and we received another one, which was fine. That was another week lost. Then there's finding a warehouse to handle all the shipping, which is another logistical process that I had to learn about as I went.

The end result? It's been a month since the game was launched and the boxes are only JUST starting to be made. And if you ordered the box during the pre-order phase, you have been waiting almost two months for your box to arrive. For this, I can only say I'm sorry.

However, I promise - your boxes are coming. I have seen an early-production sample and it looks AWESOME. They just... are taking a lot longer to produce and ship than I thought they would.

An early production proof, propped up by coffee.

I have never done anything quite like this before. I should have done more research and determined how long this would actually take, and again - for that I can only apologize. Rest assured I will let you know as soon as the boxed editions are produced and ready to ship. And I will also be sure to start the process much earlier next time.


Wednesday, June 20, 2012


We launched Resonance yesterday, and with that launch came an interesting realization. This is the tenth game that we've released since we've been in business. Tenth!! We've released ten games. That's double digits, man. Crazy.

So Resonance, than. It's out and doing well. I don't do a lot of bragging on this site, but I'm happy to say that it has broken all previous sales records by, um, a lot. We're all pretty proud of it. I'm hardly unbiased, but folks in general are saying nice things about it so I think I'm justified in saying that the game is pretty darn good. It is the longest and most complex game we've ever worked on, for sure. Four player characters, a memory inventory system, and some truly devious puzzles which thank God I didn't have to program myself. Credit for that goes to my wife, who was coding away till 3am every night for the last several months.

So now that it's out I've been catching up on various things. I finally have the time to make some headway on the design for the next Blackwell game. The design stage is always the most nebulous part of the process, where I create and discard ideas like tissue paper. An idea I think is awesome one day just seems trite and stupid the next. I do have a core plot concept, and a framework to hang a game around. It just needs fleshing out. I'll be writing more about that soon.

We're also publishing another game in the Fall - a post apocalyptic cyberpunk adventure called Primordia which is looking pretty sweet. I've been pretty silent about that one because we were aiming all our PR guns at Resonance. But rest assured you'll be hearing more about Primordia before too long.

And... that's about it, I guess. Now that the game is out and crunch time is over, I suppose we have to relearn what having a life is like.


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Tales from the cafe!

This post doesn't have much to do with anything. Just some weirdness that happened to me a few hours ago.

Today was such a gorgeous day that I went to Cafe Pick Me Up to do some design. I grabbed an outside table and an iced coffee and began scribbling away in a notebook. It's been awhile since I've been able to do the cafe thing, so it was nice to get back into it.

I was sitting there for maybe a half hour when one of the baristas came up to me and asked if I could move. "Some guys want to film here. Is that okay?" Eh, sure. This is New York, after all. There was another table nearby, so I moved my stuff over. He even gave me a free drink to apologize. Yes, I have mentioned that I love this place.

Anyway, the film looked to be some kind of interview segment. Three ladies sat at the table and began chatting with each other. The man with the camera told them to "just talk and pretend I'm not here." Pretty common enough, but then I noticed that one of the ladies was wearing a hot pink pants suit with matching blazer and - I kid you not - pointy elf ears.

Not long after, a middle-aged woman came up to me and asked if I could hold her dog's leash while she ran in to grab a coffee. She was wearing a multi-colored tie-dyed shirt with hair to match. I took the dog's leash and she came back within minutes. She instantly asked me, "Dude! Did you see the naked guy?" Naked guy? "Yeah! Yesterday, there was a naked guy hanging around here. Everyone was talking about it!"

"I haven't seen any naked guys." I told her, "but there's an elf girl being interviewed over at that table."

"Pff," she scoffed. "I get interviewed all the time."

And with that, she took her dog and left.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Kickstarter thing

So this was a long time coming. I'm afraid this blog post will be all sorts of confusing and contradictory, but here goes.

For those who have tuned in late, Kickstarter is a crowdfunding service that enables struggling projects to get off the ground. Let's say you have a Great Idea for a product, but you lack the money to make it happen. You pop onto Kickstarter, write about your project and include a pitch video, name your funding goal, and then send the link to everyone you know. Anyone who likes your project can donate money in exchange for various rewards (like $25 for a t-shirt, $50 for concept sketches, or even $10,000 for a free dinner with you). If the project doesn't meet its funding goal, than the money is returned to the backers. If the project makes its goal, then the money is transferred to you and you (presumably) begin work on the project.

Various video games have been funded on Kickstarter for a few years now - even the developer of Resonance had a modest-but-successful campaign a few years back - but the mad rush didn't begin until a few months ago with Tim Schafer and his Double Fine adventure game. To make a long story short, the game received over a million dollars in funding the first day and became the bone fide Video Game Kickstarter Success story. This was big news. The fact that it was a point-and-click adventure game made it even bigger. Seemingly overnight, Tim Schafer proved that the old genre still had life in it. The fans were willing to put their money where their mouth was.

It wasn't long before others joined in. Al Lowe of Leisure Suit Larry fame started a Kickstarter campaign, as did Jane Jensen of Gabriel Knight. Tex Murphy is back, and the two guys from Space Quest. Now, four months after Tim Schafer's debut, so many games are being Kickstarted that sites like Rock Paper Shotgun had to start a weekly column to keep track of them.

And through it all, I have been kinda silent about it. I've been asked numerous times about what I think about the resurgence, and if I'll be doing a Kickstarter of my own. The truth is, I wasn't sure but I couldn't say why. So I hemmed and hawed and avoided the subject, but my feelings basically boil down to: "I think it's great, but count me out for now."

To expand on the first part, the fact that we're getting a new Jane Jensen game, a new Brian Fargo game, and a new Tex Murphy game blows my mind. These are all franchises that we all thought were dead, and nobody is more excited than me to see them coming back (and with such fantastic fan support behind them). As a pure consumer, I am full of nerd joy at these games existing. As a pure capitalist adventure game developer, I figure that anything that gets more people excited about playing adventure games can only be a good thing. So I'm all for it.

But... I can't help but worry that this is a bit of a gold rush. I got into the gamedev biz at the tail end of the Casual Game Gold Rush, and I got sucked into it. Then it died and was replaced by the Facebook Gold Rush. That didn't last long and then we got the Mobile Gold Rush. And let's not forget the Flash Gold Rush, which predated all of them. All these gold rushes made a lot of money for a lot of people, but it wasn't long before they died out and left those same developers in the lurch. Myself included, for awhile.

Now we've got the Kickstarter Gold Rush, which is a whole different animal. The developers aren't trying to sell you a game, they are trying to sell you the idea of a game. The amazing thing about the Tim Schafer project is that he never once told us what the game was about. Just saying he wanted to make one was enough to earn over two million dollars.  The Jane Jensen project, the Al Lowe project, and the Tex Murphy project all asked for and got about half-a-mil each. Smaller developers are now hopping on the bandwagon with lofty funding goals of $20,000 and above. And the bizarre thing is... it's working.

Addendum: It's working, for now. Kickstarter is all the rage. As were casual games. And facebook games. And mobile games.

I've written before that I'm a craven coward. I like being a self-sustaining business. I put my games together with spit-and-staples, but even so I am confident that they will sell enough to earn my living as well as fund the next game. It's a system that has worked for years. I like being able to pay my mortgage and eat food. Why rock the boat?

But even still... I see all this magical Kickstarter money and ohh boy, is it tempting. It's easy to fantasize about using the service to fund a fully HD game, and you know what? I could probably do it. Once. But what about the game after that? And the one after that? Will Kickstarter still be a viable option a year from now?

During the casual game gold rush, many game developers relied on Big Fish Games for 90% of their income. When that bubble burst, most of those developers went out of business. If I start relying on Kickstarter and that dies out, could the same happen to me?

We're already seeing a few cracks forming. The debacle between Leisure Suit Larry project and the Sam Suede project was appalling to watch, and noted game journalists like Jim Sterling have gone on record saying they will no longer respond to emails with the word "Kickstarter" in them. Kickstarter fatigue is obviously starting to set in. Will it get worse, or better? Think about how many times you read about games that go way over budget, or get cancelled, or never get finished. When some of these Kickstarter projects inevitably don't surface - or turn out to be not what players expected - what will happen? Will people lose faith in the system completely?

And that's just it. I have no idea. Maybe it will, maybe it won't. A few years ago I wrote that I wouldn't consider doing an iOS port of our games, and I've recently changed my mind (more on that later) so my opinion of this could change. But for now, I've got too many questions and not enough answers. All I know is that I've seen several Gold Rushes and I want to be sure that this one has long-term stability before I join the fray.

In the meantime, as a consumer I am very happy and excited for the games that sought funding and succeeded. Like that new Tex Murphy game. I really want to play that one. So get on that, guys.


Too long; didn't read version: Kickstarter is awesome for consumers. A bit iffy for business owners seeking long-term stability. This opinion is subject to change pending future developments. Gimme Tex.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

More doodles while designing

So I've been away from the blogosphere for awhile. This is mostly because we've entered crunch mode on the aforementioned Resonance and time spent away from the computer is a rare and precious thing. I have stuff to write about, but in the meantime here are some more doodles from my design notebooks:

Promise to have a "real" blog post soon!


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Resonance announced! ... kinda

So if you follow me on Twitter or on Facebook or on the AGS forums you might have already heard the news. But if not, here's the skinny. Wadjet Eye Games is going to be publishing Resonance, a game by XII Games which has been in-the-works for almost four years.

From the developer's page:
A particle physicist’s mysterious and spectacular death sparks a race to find his hidden vault and claim his terrifying new discovery. The player will take control of four characters whose lives become entangled in the search for the scientist’s vault. They will have to learn to trust each other and work together to overcome the obstacles in their way and to keep this new and powerful technology out of the hands of a dangerous organization.

We've been involved for about eight months now. And by "we" I really mean my wife Janet. She took over as lead programmer and has been working on it full time, and it is nearly complete. We've also recently started recording the voiceovers, which have been truly stellar. New to our cast is Logan Cunningham - known as the "narrator from Bastion" - and he is joined by Wadjet regulars Sarah Elmaleh (Jamie from Blackwell Deception), Daryl Lathon (Theo from Puzzle Bots) and Edward Bauer (Jeremy from Blackwell Deception).

Since the cat was let out of the bag recently, we figured it was a good time to let you know what else we've been working on. And while we don't like to commit ourselves to a release date until we know for 100% sure when it will be finished, we are aiming for a May of 2012 release.

That's all on Resonance for now! More news will revealed as it develops.


Friday, February 10, 2012

Dang it, Internet. Look what you made me do.

I am so sorry. Been a bit writer's blocked lately and this is the crap that I come up with.

Edit: It's a reference to THIS, incidentally.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Where I play The Old Republic

So in my last entry I described my attempts at buying this game and the brick walls I ran into just trying to download it.  Suffice to say, I finally managed to get it to work.  After a four hour installation, where it downloaded 25GBs worth of files and patches from the internet, I was ready to play.

Let me preface this by making two disclaimers.  First, I was a HUGE fan of the original Knights of the Old Republic (hereafter called Kotor), which is the main reason why I've been chomping at the bit to play this. The original Kotor is, in my opinion, one of the best RPGs ever made.  Wonderful design, wonderful characters, great moral-choice system, and a roundhouse kick of a twist that I never saw coming.  It's the first game I ever played that upon finishing it, I instantly began again with a new character.  It's the game that inspired me to get into game design.  It's the gold standard, as far as I'm concerned, of how to blend story and gameplay and has yet to be topped.
Oh, you.

Second disclaimer, I know nothing about MMOs aside from what I've gleaned from popular culture and watching The Guild.  I've heard terms like "aggro" and "flashpoints" and "instances" but have no idea what they really mean.  So I was going into this a total MMO newb, knowing nothing except that I liked the franchise.  So this "review" such as it is, is for people like me who don't care about MMOs but really want Kotor 3.

So let's dive in.  The first thing I do is create my character.  I do this very weird thing when creating characters these days.  Whenever a game lets me customize my avatar's features, I will often choose the female option and make her look as much like my wife as I can.  So here's my lovely Sith Inquisitor, Janet:

I am either the best husband ever or the worst.

(Sith Janet also joins the ranks of Janet Shepherd, Janet Hawke, Janet the Grey Warden, Janet the New Vegas Courier, and Janet the leader of the Third Row Saints.  I'm sure there's a psychological reason why I do this, but I'm not equipped to figure it out.  It doesn't bother my wife (she is actually flattered), so I keep doing it.)

Anyway, the Sith Inquisitor campaign starts on Korriban, which made me happy because Korriban was my favorite area of the original game.  Korriban is the birthplace of the Sith Empire, and the Sith have recaptured it after a bloody battle.  The Empire needs raw recruits, so they offer slaves the chance to earn their freedom by training at the new Sith Academy on Korriban. I, or rather my character avatar, am one of those former slaves.

Right away, things look good.  I walk out of my shuttle and into the academy, where I am greeting by my new instructor who is not impressed with me at all.  I am presented with several dialog options during this conversation, where I am given the usual opportunities for role playing.  I can bow my head and say "Yes master" and take the abuse, I can lash out at the instructor and threaten to kill him when his back is turned, or I can relish my new position to kill for the Empire.  It's all very Star Wars, and a nice way to introduce the game.  Either way, I am given my first task: to enter a tomb and speak to a hermit who has sequestered himself in there.  He's going to give me some kind of test.

So I wander off into the valley where the tombs are.  Let's see what kind of trouble I can get into...

Eat lightning!

K'lor'slugs.  Lots of them.  They fall quickly to my force lightening strikes and trainee lightsaber thing.  I make my way towards the tomb, slaughtering K'lor'slugs as I go, feeling pretty badass.  I realize I've gone the wrong way and turn around, only to come across my first difference between this and the original single-player game.

All the K'lor'slugs I killed have are now back again.  There's not even a dead sluggy body as a reminder of my victories.  I suppose I should have expected that (the other players need something to kill as well), but it's hard to retain that that sense of accomplishment when I clear an area of foes, only to have them pop back into existence again. But no matter.  Off into the tomb I go...

More K'lor'slugs, but bigger!

I'm beginning to see a pattern here.  Lots of small and easy enemies to kill to get you used to the mechanics, with the occasional bigger and slightly harder one to make you feel more powerful.  As I make my way into the tomb, I find a message on a datapad.  It says that there are looters in the tomb and to dispose of them as you see fit.

Hm.  In thinking about it, all the quests on Korriban involve going into tombs and looting what's inside.  What makes those looters any different from me?


So yeah.  I won't take you through the game step-by-step, but the rest of Korriban is pretty much like this.  Get a task from your instructor, which usually involves going into a tomb, and bring back some ancient artifact.  There's a bit of intrigue involving your instructor and his master, which is all wonderfully told.  All the lovely original Kotor conversation/character goodness is definitely present; the only problem is that you have to work so much harder to get there.  There's a lot more emphasis on combat, for good or ill.

The game really picked up when I got my first companion character. Much like the original Kotor, you can have companion characters that fight alongside you.  Not only that, you can have conversations with them and influence their approval of you by what you say or do. 

My companion character is a hulking creature named Khem Val. He was the proud servant of a Sith Lord who existed a thousand years ago.  I found him trapped in a tomb vault on Korriban, where he was waiting for his long-dead master to return to him.  In freeing him, he became bound to me and began to fight alongside me.  We made a good team, as he was a close-quarters fighter and I preferred blasting my enemies from a distance with lightning.  He's also completely insane - his approval of me goes up everytime I do something particularly evil or bloodthirsty.

Just a Sith Apprentice and her pet psycho

This was what I was looking for.  My favorite part of Bioware games (and the original Kotor especially) was having party members I could talk to. And Khem Val is a pretty interesting character.  He hasn't said much so far, but he does pipe in during conversations and offer to eat my enemies for me, which I definitely appreciate.

There is a side-effect of having a companion character, and one that I can't help but think is odd.  This is a multi-player game, so often you will see other guys running around and doing their thing.

Like this guy, Margol. On the same quest as me, I assume.

I've never been what you'd call a very social gamer, but it was an interesting experience seeing other players running around the landscape.  Sometimes I'd be throwing lightning on a higher-level monster and getting nowhere, only to see another player leap in and come to my rescue.  I'd often pay the favor forward - zapping away on a monster that another player is fighting.  I don't talk to the players and they don't talk to me, but it's kind of cool in an esoteric way.

But there's one REALLY weird side-effect of having other players around.  That companion character of mine, that ancient monster who slumbered in a tomb for a thousand years only to wake up and join forces with me... ain't so unique after all:

What? I didn't tell you about my 962 twin brothers?

You want to feel special and cool because you've got this awesome character to pal around with, but then you see dozens of other players are running around with identical clones of him. It's one of those MMO-isms, I guess, but it does ruin the immersion just a tad.

So that pretty sums up my three days of playing this game.  Is it Kotor 3? No. But is it fun? Yeah, I'd say so.  I'm enjoying playing it.  The ratio of combat to character interaction is higher than I'd like, but it's not ridiculously so.  There's a ton of content on offer, and lots of ways to play through the game.  When I get tired of the Sith path I will probably try the Jedi path, just to see what it's like.  So for what it's worth, consider it a recommendation from me.


Thursday, January 5, 2012

Where I try to review The Old Republic

When I heard the news that Bioware was making my beloved Knights of the Old Republic RPG into an MMO, I was dubious but hopeful.  The trickle of press reports that reassured us that yes, yes, just as much effort was being put into the single player campaign as the MMO mechanics, and it would be just as satisfying.  And when the game came out, I read every review.  But each review hit me with disappointment, because they didn't tell me what I really wanted to know: What about us folks who don't care about MMOs, but just want Kotor 3?  I know diddly squat about MMOs, aside from maybe watching Felicia Day in The Guild.

So after a few weeks, I could take the suspense no longer. I decided to take one for the team, buy the game, and write that review myself.

Or rather, I tried to.  Here is a chronological list of my attempts to just download the game, let alone play it.  Honestly, you'd think this would be an easy thing for a company like EA to deal with.  If an idiot like me can do it, you guys can.


2:10pm - Here we go. Biting the bullet and buying the game.  Happy belated holidays to me.

- Still waiting for email confirmation.

2:31pm - Got an email saying my EA Master Account was ready, whatever that is.  I go to the site, give myself a username and password, and sniff around.  No download link or any way to get my game.  After clicking around a bit more, I finally see a button that says "My games" and dutifully click on it... only to see nothing listed.  There's another button called "Orders and Billing", so I click on that.  Aha!  There's something listed under "pending orders."  I click on it and see that my order has been "submitted and pending"  I guess the payment process takes a little longer at EA than at Wadjet Eye?  Eh, no problem.  I can wait.

3:35pm - One hour later.  No download link.  Okay, maybe there's something I am supposed to do myself.  I go to the Customer Support page and click through a bunch of items.  Apparantly there's some newfangled software manager called "Origin" that I have to use to get the game.  What, seriously?  I'm just getting the hang of Steam and now I have to have another software manager eating up my system memory? Bleh. Okay, fine. It was too late to back out now.  I dutifully click the download button and wait for it to install.

3:50pm - Origin is installed.  I open it up, enter my login info, and... nothing.  "No games detected for this account."  Okaay.   I check the "Orders and Billing" page on the Mastar Account site.  It still says pending. Getting a bit annoyed now. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but a customer coming to my store would have been playing their game for an hour by now.  But still. This is EA we're talking about, and one of the biggest games to hit the interwebs in a long time. I'll give it a bit more time.

4:10pm - Bam! Two hours after I paid, I get an email confirmation that I paid. Patience is rewarded.  "Downloadable products may be accessed by looking up your order."  I'll check the Master Account website first.  Hopefully I can bypass using that Origin manager completely. 

- Um... it still says "Order pending" with no download link.  Right.  That's a no go.  I take another look at the confirmation email.  Waaaay at the bottom it says go to "" and enter a code that's at the bottom of the email, and then I'll get download instructions.  Why does it tell me to do one thing and then another?  Meh, whatever.  Being a dutiful drone, I go to the website.  I enter my login info and the code.

4:13pm - LOGIN FAILED. @#$@#$@#.

4:20pm:- In trying this a few times, I notice a message at the top of the page that says "Log into your SWTOW account." I've been using my "EA Master Account" login, and now it's dawning on me that this is something entirely different. Welp, okay.  There's a little link that says "Create SWTOW account" so I'll click that and see if it works...

4:25pm - I created an official SWTOR account.  I click OK and this message pops up: "An email will be sent to the address you registered with shortly.  You must verify your address for your account to become active."  Sigh.  I go make some tea.

4:30pm - Email verification has arrived!  Not a bad turnaround. "To complete your registration and activate your account, simply verify your email address by clicking here."  I click here.  It asks for my login info and a new password.  I dutifully come up with one.

4:31pm - "Password must contain 1 uppercase letter, 1 lowercase letter and 1 number; must not use special characters."  Screw you game! I like this password.  Siiigh, fine. Have it your way...

4:32pm - "You have successfully validated your email address and completed the account registration process. Welcome to the Star Wars™: The Old Republic™ community.  Press OK to continue."  Hooray! I press OK to continue.

4:33pm - I have been redirected to - the homepage for the game where I started this journey over two hours ago.  And... still no download link.  But.. aha!  I see a "login" link at the top.  Perhaps logging in with my spiffy new SWTOR username will let me get the game?

4:35pm - It's asking me for my security code. Ah, right! Duh.  I need to enter in that code that came with the email.  The one that I needed a SWTOR username in order to enter.  Which is why I made a SWTOR username in the first place. I enter the code.

4:36pm - "Sorry, we couldn't find your code. Try again?"  BLARGH AND DOUBLE BLARGH!

4:40pm - Okay.  The original confirmation email said I needed to redeem my game at "" and enter my security code there.  Maybe if I enter my login and security code on that page it will magically work?

4:42pm - "Sorry, we couldn't find your code. Try again?"  Guess that's a no.  Lacking any other options, I leave the security code field blank and click OK.

4:43pm - I get another prompt to "Enter my security code, exactly as it appears" in my email. Um, didn't I already do that and you told me it wouldn't work?  Meh, whatever. I enter my code and I click OK.

4:46pm - "Congratulations! You are now registered for the following items: STAR WARS(TM): The Old Republic(TM) Digital Standard Edition.  Press OK to continue." Hooray again!  I press OK to continue.

4:47pm - "Get ready to play!  In order to play Star Wars™: The Old Republic™ you must first answer a series of security questions and provide your contact information."  Um, buh? Seriously? You know what? Fine. FINE! BRING IT ON! I'VE COME THIS FAR! I'M NOT GIVING UP NOW!

4:59pm - I finish the survey, hit OK, and come to a games page with this gorgeous sight:

I dutifully click that button.

5:10pm -

FINALLY.  Let's do this.

5:11pm -

I'm going to go cry now.


Monday, January 2, 2012

The Post about the New Year

Normally I would have written about this yesterday, but I was delayed for totally legit reasons. So, here are my thoughts on the last year, one day late.  It's interesting to look back, because we entered 2011 a bit wary and battle-hardened.  I wrote last year about how we lost the backing of PlayFirst, so while we had much more freedom we were also completely on our own. 

It turns out that our worries were unfounded.  In February, we launched Josh Neurnberger's Gemini Rue and it was our biggest success by far.  It cemented us as a serious publisher and caught the attention of mainstream gamers and major league websites like IGN and Rock Paper Shotgun.  It became our first game to be localized into German and Polish thanks to the wonderful guys at Daedalic, and given a boxed-and-retail release in those areas.

The success of Gemini Rue has prompted us to publish other games, and 2012 will see three new games published under the Wadjet Eye banner.  The first one is earmarked for a February release, and we'll be doing the usual announcement at the end of this month.  It's been a blast working with all these developers, and a major learning experience as well.

This year also saw the release of the Blackwell Deception, the fourth game in the Blackwell series.  And personally, I think it's the best one yet.  I feel like this is the first time I "got" what Blackwell was about and I was just blundering my way up through until this point.  The reviewers and customers seem to agree, as it became our highest earning game ever. 

This was also the year of Steam, with Blackwell finally popping up on the service.  While it's true that we have other games on Steam, it was hard for me to be personally as excited about them.  There was the game I wrote but didn't own (Emerald City Confidential), the game I own but didn't write (Puzzle Bots), and the game I just owned the sales rights to (Gemini Rue).  But what about poor Blackwell, the games I both wrote and owned? Steam kept rejecting them, but tenacity prevailed and they finally changed their mind in 2011.  Getting that acceptance email about Blackwell made me giddy with glee.  Like it or loathe it, Steam has the hearts and minds of mainstream gamers and it feels good that my own games have been accepted into their ranks.

The month of December alone was a game-changer, with the first three Blackwell games being sold as part of Indie Royale's Christmas bundle.  As a result, over twenty thousand new people were playing our games, and my inbox and forums exploded.  It's overwhelming and awesome, and dealing with it all has forced me to be a lot more vigilant about keeping up with my emails.

So all-in-all, it's hard to think about how 2011 could have been any better.  We have two smash hits under our belt, three more games coming out this year, and more people are playing our games than ever.  And really, I owe it to all of you.  Whether you have followed my work since the beginning, or you are a new fan who has just hopped on the WEG bandwagon, it's hard to know how to express how grateful I am.  As I've said before, I love doing this, and you guys let me keep me doing it. So thank you, and happy (belated) New Year!