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Tinker Gearcoins

Yes, I still have things I’d like to write about games, game design, art and photography… but I’m neck deep in the whole “finding a job” thing.  I promise, we’re not going dark here at the blog, we’re just really busy.

In the meantime, though, I have a new Kickstarter campaign fired up!

Tinker Gearcoins

Tinker Gearcoin Wall

There are some other photos kicking around on Pinterest over here, if you want to see some more details of the prototype coins.  I’m really looking forward to getting these little gems made and sent out to people.  They have a lot of tinkering potential, I think, being coins that can actually function as gears.  The Gearchips were toothed well, but these Gearcoins have a hole in the middle for a pin, so they can be pinned to something and spin freely.

It’s going to be fun, seeing what people come up with.

Thanks, everyone!  Please spread the word if you have a moment.  This one, like the Tinker Dice campaign, will definitely benefit from stretch goals, so the more the merrier!

Oh, and we got some word that the Gearpunk Dice should be done soon.  We’re getting the latest prototypes in the mail Monday, and I’m hoping we can approve them for full production.  They sent us a photo to tide us over, but I’ll post some beauty shots as soon as I can.

new dice samples (2)

Next time, I’m going to try to finish up a bit of a rant about Marvel Puzzle Quest… again.

OK, not so much “morbid” as… depressed, but that would have killed the alliteration.

For a little bit of context, I was laid off or downsized from the video game company I worked for just about two months ago.  It’s been… stressful.  Really stressful.  It’s part of why I haven’t posted here for a while.

For a bit more context, there’s this fellow’s insanely large video game collection that hit the news:

Guinness World Record video game collection

Anyway, there’s also this article from Kotaku that made the Facebook rounds recently:

Why Game Developers Keep Getting Laid Off

It’s a decent article, but I wanted to chase down a couple of implications that they didn’t get to, and tie a few things together.

As might be noted by the Kotaku article, or by speaking with veterans of the industry, there is a lot of churn in the video game production world.  Staffing woes aren’t uncommon in many industries, so it’s not like we’re super special snowflakes or anything, but it’s worth noting that the industry isn’t a stable one.  It’s a wildly profitable one on the whole, an entertainment medium that isn’t going away, but it’s not financially stable, nor is a career in the industry going to be a stable one.

I read an article a while back (though I can’t find it now), and this thread seems to echo the same thoughts, that careers in the video game industry are short on average.  As in, five years short, or about two big game dev cycles.  It’s true that we don’t live in a world where you get one job right out of college and stay at it until you retire or die, so again, this isn’t all that unusual, but it’s somewhat sobering.  Or it should be.

I’ve worked in the industry for eight years.  I’m an old hand at it, in some ways.  That’s… weird.  (Not as old of a hand as some, but still, it’s weird to think of myself as statistically over the hill, career wise.)

Anyway, this does have effects on the industry beyond what the Kotaku article notes.  Because companies are always fluctuating around, “redistributing assets” and such, there are convenient excuses to drop older, more expensive employees and pick up fresh meat from colleges.  The passion in these younger, unattached employees (mostly male) is exceptionally easy to exploit, as I’ve railed against before, and as the EA Spouse kerfluffle illustrated all too well.  Conditions haven’t improved much since then, though some managers do a good job.  Death marches and crunch might be the backbone of a production schedule, but they aren’t healthy.

Tangentially, this explains a fair bit of the “boys’ club” mentality of the industry, for those of you who are up in arms about Blizzard’s recent public relations black eyes.  People who grow up (and actually mature, unlike the ESRB’s definition of the word) and want stable careers for their families don’t last long in the industry.

This is part of why the indie scene is important, as veteran developers try out new ideas that would never fit into the studio or megaentertainment company mentality.  Games are an important artistic medium, but they are hobbled by the realities of the industry.  Indies are opening up the scope of the medium, but like so many artistic avenues, it’s not really a solid career choice.

I could get bitter about this, but really, I’m just noting the realities of the industry as a voice of… not warning, exactly, since I still see great value in games.  It’s more of a voice of pragmatism.  The industry is not a place for long term stability (relevant to those who wish to make games), it’s not a place for actual maturity (relevant to devs and gamers), and it’s not going away.

I’ve been applying to studios around the world, but have no real leads.  I may well be out of the “official” video game world now, more or less “retired” by circumstance, and left to do indie games with friends on the side as I scramble for other work, whether freelance art or some other art position somewhere.  Again, this isn’t a desirable position to be in, but it’s not too surprising or unique.  I’m disappointed, but then, as I noted in that NBI article, I believe that a job or career is just something you do to pay the bills so you can afford to do what you really want to do in your spare time.  I don’t have anything yet, but even if I pick up a new video games job, I can’t really see myself in the industry for decades, just because of how it works.

I’ll work on indie games because they interest me.  I’ll make my Shapeways, Zazzle, Kickstarter and other projects because I just can’t stop creating.  I may well wind up with a completely irrelevant job, but games, art and creativity are something I will always be involved in.

But… yeah… I’m busier now than I ever have been, working hard on a lot of different things, but making very little money.  This blog, as great as it is to write here, isn’t my priority.  I’ll be here now and then again, still, I’m not closing shop, I’m just busy.  Really busy.  I’m updating my portfolio (seen over here), working on my own projects (novels, games, art, photography, all sorts of things) and looking for freelance opportunities.  If any of you have leads, I’d certainly love to hear about them.

See you around!

Tinker Oddments

This is a simple enough post… we’re just looking for a little feedback on what future projects we might windup doing in the Tinker stable of fun metal gaming oddments (well, all but the potential plastic Tinker Dice).  If you’ve a moment to opine for us, we’d love your input.

Thanks!  (If the surveys aren’t showing, this is an alternate link to the PollDaddy version:  Tinkering with the Future)

Aerial Perspective

With a new World of Warcraft expansion in the news cycle, it’s only inevitable that the Flying discussion cycles around again.

I make no secret of the fact that I love flying in games.  I am a Bartle Explorer, through and through.  Flying is perhaps my favorite activity in WoW.

So, when there’s a view that says “flying is bad“, I can’t help but think that they have a different perspective on what this World of Warcraft is.

(Caveat:  As I noted on Twitter in a comment to Big Bear Butt when he mentioned his article and that WoWInsider piece, I don’t mind waiting until the end of an expansion to be able to fly through it.  I think it’s a sledgehammer solution to the perceived problem, but I can live with it.)

One of the most repeated rationales for this worldview is that “flying makes the world smaller“.

To me, this is a completely alien way of looking at it, and completely backwards.

Yes, flying makes it possible to travel around quicker.  It makes it easier to plow through content.  It makes it easier for players to ignore enemies stuck on the ground and forces players to jump through the developer hoops and pacing.

(Aside:  When a game monetizes time, I consider it a cardinal sin for devs to waste my time, trying to find ways to slow me down.)

Also, from a technical standpoint, it does make something look smaller if you increase your distance from it, so flying up in the air will make something on the ground look smaller.

And yet, from my perspective, the ability to fly makes the World of WoW much, much bigger.  This is true for one simple reason:

I can explore more of it.

Flying opens up new camera angles, new places to go and see, and new ways for me to see how places relate to each other.  It’s a new perspective on what’s already there, a way to see things that I simply can’t get when I’m stuck to the ground.

It’s similar, in a way, to how I see the real world.  Yes, digital photography has allowed for more of the world to be captured and shared than ever before, and the internet makes it possible to “see” places around the world from the comfort of home.  In a way, it “made the world smaller” inasmuch as you don’t have to walk or ride out to see the sights yourself.

And yet, from where I sit, if I could never see those places, they may as well not exist.  (At least as far as my own personal experience, anyway; I’m not arguing any sort of absurd anthropic “China doesn’t exist because I didn’t hear a tree falling there” or any such nonsense.)  Being able to see, even just a glimpse, of what’s out there doesn’t make our world smaller, it makes it much, much bigger.  There’s all this stuff out there.  The more I see, the more I want to see, and the more aware I am of just how much there is that is there to see.

This is the beauty and fascination of the National Geographic magazine, or the Cosmos series.  They help us open our eyes, just a little, to what’s out there.

And when I see that, the only thing that feels smaller is me.

I stumbled across this article today, and thought it worth sharing:

The Best Final Fantasy Music

I love game music.  If I could only listen to three composers for the rest of my life, I’d be happy with Nobuo Uematsu, Yasunori Mitsuda and Yoko Shimomura.  Of course there are other greats, both in the game industry and in the rest of the music world, but those three shaped my music sense in ways only Mannheim Steamroller, Enya, Mozart, Beethoven and Bach can match.

Uematsu is particularly important because of his work on the Final Fantasy games, which had a marked influence on my spare time as a teen and my present career in video games.  I’m not making epic RPGs, but I see good potential in games, which is why I’m doing what I’m doing instead of pushing for a career animating in movies, like I thought I would when I was a child.

Anyway, here are a few of my favorites from Mr. Uematsu.  Easy picks, perhaps, but still, ones I’m very fond of.

To Zanarkand (the simple piano version is still my favorite, though the orchestral version is really good, too)

Aeris’ Theme (one orchestral version is here)

FFIX Overworld

Piano arrangement of Fisherman’s Horizon (the original game music is good, but I really love the guitar and piano arrangements, and the orchestral pieces are most excellent)

Terra’s Theme

Troian Beauty

And then there’s this gem, which isn’t entirely in English.  I actually prefer game music with lyrics to be in languages that I don’t understand.  That way I listen to them purely as music.  This one isn’t even Japanese.

Home Sweet Home

Entropic Appeal

I’ve written about this before, in my Broken Down article.  Old things fascinate me.  There’s something both sad and heartening to see the effects of life as time goes on, both human life and all the other forms that we share our spaces with.

Anyway, this is a link repository of some more fascinating photo collections of beat up, run down places and things.

Abandoned Areas (Twitter feed)

Abandoned Olympic Venues

Abandoned but Beautiful

Abandoned Places

Abandoned Places 2

Abandoned Places Around the World

Abandoned Places LiveJournal

Abandoned Places.com (navigation is a bit wonky, but they have more details about the places, which is cool)

Expoland

Keelung Taiwan

Maunsell Sea Forts

Nara Dreamland

Spectacular Abandoned Places

Swallowed By Nature

Gearchip Poker Case Surveys

Just a few questions on potential cases for the poker-chip sized Gearchips, now rolling on Kickstarter thisaway:

Wood or Aluminum?

(Wood cases would be laser engraved, aluminum cases would be printed right on the metal.)

How Big?

Fancy U.S. Based or Bulk Chinese Order?

This one requires a little bit of explanation.  We could get custom cases here in the States (lower shipping to us, since we’re in the States, likely high quality, can order only as many as we need… but more costly per unit), or we can get a bulk order from a Chinese manufacturer (unknown quality, more costly shipping to us, must order 100 units minimum, but should be a lower price per unit… if we can get enough orders together).  Of course, we’re certainly open to other sources, if you happen to have a lead on a great deal.

I’m afraid that I don’t have hard numbers yet, we’re still researching… but as a guesstimate, for the U.S. Based cases (just the custom case, with a Tinker logo… though we’ll throw in a pair of decks and a pair of Tinker dice since there’s room for them), a 100 chip case should run around $100, 200 chips around $120, 300 chips around $140 and 500 chips around $160, end costs to you.  The Chinese numbers are up in the air a bit, but I’d hazard an estimate at $25 less in each case.  We’d also have to have enough orders to make it a sensible proposition, or else getting the minimum order quantity put together would probably put the project in the red.  Yes, we’re overfunded so far (thanks, everyone!), but there’s really not a big profit margin on the Gearchips, so it’s not like we’re dealing with a big slush fund to go crazy with.

For all cases, it would be an additional $30 to ship to Canada and an additional $50 to ship pretty much anywhere else (shipping in the U.S. is part of the base cost noted above).

So… it’s almost as if the cases should really be their own project, unless we’re going to go with the U.S. based ones, where we can just get as many as we need for those who are interested.  The prices are… high.  There’s no disguising that.  This is why we’re seriously considering just offering a graphic for you to use to put on your own case.

Anyway, thanks for your time, and we welcome your feedback!

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