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How King Steven’s Games Almost Died Part 2

Ever have one of those things you needed to do, but everytime you finally had a moment to do it, you were like “I’ll do it tomorrow”…apparently that is my philosophy about my blog posts…

I taunted last week about my story around how I almost quit my company! And when I say “quit my company”, I really mean, quit my dreams. Then a miracle happened…

This video came out (I encourage you to watch the whole video, but I fast forwarded to my point)

That’s right! Markiplier mentioned me inside one of his videos! 😀
So let me rewind a little bit: I’ve been a fan of Markiplier for years now – he’s funny, he’s caring, he genuinely tries to put himself behind other’s, and ironically we are the same age, in fact our birthdays are one day apart. I was drawn to him for perhaps the same reason many people were – each video was like hanging out with a friend. Well…a friend that likes to curse alot, not always been a fan of that, but hey, his actions have spoken louder than his words more times than I can count.

So around the time I felt like quitting, he came out with a video about buying a new van, and in the same video he talked about going to Cracker Barrel (one of – if not the – favorite restaurants since I was young (get the Rib-Eye with Sweet Baby Carrots, Country Green Beans, and Dumplings plus a Shake if yours still sells them <3 <3)) He asked people what he should call it, but instead kept getting flamed by his fans. I was going to make a tweet about it too, at first I thought of a crude joke which I thought the fans would like and when I tag him, they'll see it and like it too, but then I thought, "I wouldn't like it though, that's not the image I want of me or my company" So I posted what I wanted to say thinking, "He probably won't see it anyway..." A few days later I'm watching his video like I always do (laying on the couch with my TV off), when he says that line, "But there was one of you...King Steven Games" and I saw my tweet slide onto the screen! I kid you not, all sense of feeling left me. Once my mind caught up with my body I started freaking out! I couldn't believe it! He gave ME a shout out! And not because of some crude joke, but because I posted as how I wanted to post. It was my idea he was showing. This taught me a lesson - In the business world, we are taught to always appeal to the customer base to gain the most market advantage, but that is not how the best ideas are made. You have an idea, but think the mob wouldn't like it, that shouldn't stop you from trying. Not everyone can be successful, but if you don't try, then you guarantee that you won't be either. This gave me a needed confidence boost, Markiplier doesn't know who I am, nor will he probably ever read/see this blog post; however, that only makes him giving me a shout out more special. It was purely based on the quality of my idea. That meant a lot to me (even if it was just naming a van, lol). This is what gave my company a second life. I decided to start making my own "Lets Plays" (where I never curse). I became much more active on social media. Best of all, I have faith that my ideas might be truly great afterall. Hope this sharing of my story helps inspire at least one of you out there too. Thanks for reading everyone, and keep on playing!

Idea Overload!!

So over the past couple of months, I’ve had to face a growing problem with me: I have too many ideas!

Like, this is getting ridiculous. Within 1 week I came up with two new games and short while later I came up with a mini-film I would like to make. At the same time, my work load from my 40hr/week job increased dramatically in late January and school semester started in full swing…makes me tired just thinking about it all. So that is why the blog hasn’t been getting the attention it needs.

I bet I’m not the only one with this issue, right? There are thousands of people in school, working, while having an ambitions that they would like to improve; so how do you deal with the overload? Well, from my experience as being a professional overload-er, the first thing I learned is to not get overloaded…

Sounds obvious right? But in fact it is very hard to do. In an age of technology we find so many things we want to do, and believe we can take on more than we really can. This forces us to have lists long enough to drive some insane. That is why it is important to cut down on that list and prioritize what is really the most important to you? A technique I’m trying right now is keep my list to a top-4. So I have at all times 4 high priorities that I hold myself responsible to. Anything else is just extra. This way every week I can look back and ask, “How well did I help these 4 priorities?”

For now, my 4 priorities is, my 40hr/week job, my education, my KSG company, and my home.

Now I did kindof cheat there…my KSG company can mean a lot of things, it could be making a game, or working with my artists, or even posting a blog post. So just saying “focus on my game company” is probably something not specific enough. If I just keep working blindly, I’ll never get anything put up on Kickstarter, or my social media will never grow, etc. This means I need to focus in on just a few projects/responsibilities if I want something to succeed.

What will those things be? Not sure yet. There is a key game I really would like to get on kickstarter soon, and I would like our social media to remain active. And as I mentioned, there is a mini-film I would like to make ~ completely unrelated to gaming, but when I get inspired about an idea, it is hard for me to focus on much else. No matter what happens, I’ll be sure to keep all of you in the loop, and continue to share some of the lessons I learn along the way.

Keep on gaming!

Take a Pick-Axe to Business!

One valuable business lesson I learned can also be applied to anything in life – from game design problems to arguments on Facebook. “PPPICACC” (pronounced “Pick-Axe”), it is an acronym for reminding yourself how to enhance your critical thinking skills. In short, it teaches you how to process a problem from everyone’s point of view then solve the problem that benefits everyone. Be sure to bookmark this page so you can always come back for a refresher! Here is what it stands for:
Points of View: Did you seek out and identify all relevant perspectives for the situation being evaluated? If you don’t consider every perspective, you may miss out on important, relative, information.

 

Purposes: For each point of view, did you explore and understand what you and the others want to accomplish and care about? In other words, did you dig deeper than just the surface of what they want, and do you really understand what you and the other parties want? If not, then you should continue asking questions until you fully understand. A good way to make sure you are all on the same page.

 

Problems: Did you formulate the problem or challenge from more than one point of view? Remember: A problem for you may not be a problem for someone else.

 

Information: Did you gather sufficient, accurate, and relevant information to solve the issue? If you don’t have enough information or the wrong information you may never come to a good conclusion, or you may all end up agreeing but to a bad idea. It is also essential to research information that opposes your solution/approach as well. Two reasons, first is it will help you reach a good conclusion that will be more likely to succeed. Second, this way when others come to disagree with you, you can have the information you need to explain how it is a good idea and address their concerns.

 

Concepts: Did you identify and explain the main concepts used as part of the formulation or solution approach? If you give a solution without re-stating what the solution is supposed to solve, then you may end up accidentally coming up with a solution that in reality doesn’t make sense. Plus it clears any confusion others might have ~ the other parties may think the solution is supposed to solve one thing, but in reality you mean for it to solve something else. This prevents a lot of unnecessary arguments.

 

Assumptions: These kill the potential for good conversations. So when you make business cases, marketing strategies, perform analyst, etc. always state what your assumptions are within your idea. Then ask yourself, “Did I question the validity of these assumptions?”,  “Did I examine the assumptions that allowed me to eliminate particular solutions?”, “Did I justify or can I justify otherwise hidden assumptions in the development of my solution?”

 

Conclusions: Is your solution clear and supported by logical deductions so that people can understand your approach? Is it consistent with your earlier points/inferences?

 

Consequences: One of the most important and probably hardest is: what are the potential positive and negative long-run consequences of your solution? This can be easily skewed by biases. I can’t tell you all how many times I’ve seen people come up with inconsistent ideas or presentations just to end it with, “As a result we are certain to succeed with little to no chance of failure.” This is because when we think of solutions and come up with one – of course we don’t think it will end up badly, it’s our solution! That is when you have to look at people’s incentives. Ask yourself, “If I was the other person, and I saw this solution/strategy get implemented, how would I respond?” And if you want to plan for worst case scenarios, just assume the other parties are going to be as profiteering as possible.

I’ll write more about how to think of incentives of others and better come up with possible consequences, but that will be for another day.
As for right now, just keep on playing!

Back Story – Back Story – Back Story

To quote a wise man:

“The Back Story is the why he does what he do.” –Dr. Doofenshmirtz (evil scientist from Phineas and Ferb)

Although a fictional character, the line is genuine. It is important in games to have back stories if you want your players to be drawn in for years to come. Many games base themselves on simple concepts such Clue (figure out who killed the host, where, and how), some games go into great detail such as Magic: The Gathering, where they actually produce novels to go with each set of cards they print. This gives the players a sense of what is happening, why they are doing what they are doing, and what to expect.

 

In my Summoners the Board Game, the story is very simple, you are a wizard, you don’t like competition, go eliminate that competition.  In my World of Anastroc TCG, it is founded on a story that feels like it is ages old now, with so many plot twists that even Alexander the Great would have issues. That what leads to this post today, the importance of back stories but also to smart on how to use them. For example, in World of Anastroc TCG, I need to be able to get across to the players what is happening in the world at that current moment, and be able to guide them gently through what is happening during the time of the set. So in the first set “Beginnings” I designed it to act like a prequel to what the real story is about to be about.

 

This means the Necromancer is introduced and the destruction of the Land of Chaos. Also that there is tension between Representative Malgear and the other 8 Representatives. It gives hints about an “Oskota Clan” but doesn’t go into detail because they really are not important at that time. Machine Emperor X is the boss of machines (and a self-obsessive jerk) which I think is made clear in his flavor texts. The Forest Council is having issues of losing a bunch of land, but it doesn’t say to whom. What we can be sure of though is that a young elf named Fysi is up to something (this is made bluntly when you see she is the only Minion that cost a star fragment).

Lucky for me, setting up the back story for the game was easy because I have thought about it so many dozens of times and began to write short stories about them. What is more challenging is the set “Fate Begins” which goes into:

Tthe Necromancer’s failure to invade the Republic because Archi warned the Representatives about him, and told them how to defeat the evil sorcerer. But the only reason why they took Archi’s advice is because Malgear betrayed the rules of the Republic which is, no action can be made by the Representatives without certain majority of approval; Malgear saw how long it would take for the other 8 to discuss the matter and knew the Necromancer would win if such time was wasted.

This lead the 8 to be angry at Malgear, not just for breaking the law but also for showing them up. So with the advice of their advisers and the Order of Agnatia, they arrested Malgear on accounts of treason. Archi and the gang busted Malgear out of jail, fled to the towns he saved where he would be safe by popularity. However, Herna and her son Tor were captured in the process then held for ransom ~ Malgear for the two of them. The 8 were hoping Archi would betray Malgear in order to save his friends. Instead, Archi went to the Necromancer, begged for help, in which the Necromancer agreed if afterwords, Archi would provide him with 10,000 corpses. Archi agreed.

The Necromancer invaded the capital so Archi could save his friends. Little did they know the Oskota Clan was in that same capital, so they fought against the Necromancer’s invasion. He killed 3 leaders one of which was Grimtasha. The Republic was about to fall until Cardinal Frederik cast one final spell and vanquished the undead army. Archi, Herna, and Tor were able to escape. As for Archi’s end of the deal, he provided the Necromancer with 10,000 corpses ~ all of which were dead rats. 

This doesn’t even touch what is going on in the Machine Empire or the Forest Council! Can you see the challenge? The way to work it out is by making the cards with the most flavor text commons, and have their effects reflex the comment. This way the player is more likely to get the key cards to your story line. If the player cares enough they will begin to piece the story puzzle together; if they don’t, well at least you made a funny card which they can enjoy.

More on this another time. Until then, keep on playing and stay productive!

Always have a Backup Plan – But Not Too Many!

You know the biggest mistake villains seem to always make? They never have a plan B in life.

The common bad-guy puts all of his eggs into one basket, then some goodie-to-shoe comes over and knocks over the whole thing! What does the villain do? Cry and cry until he dies or goes to jail. Although those are just fiction stories they do deliver a lesson: be smarter than the average villain, always have a plan B in life.

Throughout my life I have always had a big dream, an end goal for my legacy before I die, now how I get to that point is a mystery. That is why I always am coming up with ideas for how to achieve this dream. Along the way many of them failed, evolved, or (on the off chance) succeeded so then I could focus on the next step. But my point is that as the world reacts to your actions you must have a plan B (and if you can a C never hurts).

So for example, lets say you want to become a Digital Artist for a gaming company, then when you begin to look at how to achieve that goal, you should also be thinking, “What if this doesn’t end up being what I want? What if in 2 years I want to change my mind? Or what if the market chances and it becomes a struggle to get this job, what do I do then?” With this thinking process in the back of your mind, you should keep an open door for alternative paths, say that during college you meet someone who wants to give you an internship…as a secretary at his gaming company! Not exactly your dream job, but you say, “Thank you for the offer. I would be happy to. But just to be clear, when I am done with college I would like to try to start as a Digital Artist as that is what I am studying.” And he would probably say, “I completely understand! That is why I want to give you this job, so to get your foot in the door and meet our artist department.”

Now even if you don’t get to work for them as a digital artist in the future, you will at least be able to put down that company as someone you did work for, and it might evolve into working for a different company at a job more suited to what you are wanting. Or if the market is bad (like it is today), then it will mature into a really good full playing job. This makes it an excellent plan B.

A year ago I left my retail job of 8 or so years to work for a great paying job where the President of the company knew me very well. I could have dropped my retail job all together, but I really enjoyed it, respected the owner of the company, and wanted to keep doors open. So for the following year I worked for both companies, the retail job was a good Plan B should my new job not work out. After a year of trying to adjust and listening to many different advices from non-bias sources, I decided to leave that job and go back to my first job. My pay at the small business is 2/3rd of that great paying job (and soon to be 1/3rd after Christmas), but my job description was upgraded to Business Consultant; a dream position to me. I might be eating ramen noodles instead of steak every night, but at least I’m much happier. I was glad to have that Plan B.

And even now I have more plans in the works to keep my income up, but I cannot rest with just one, so I have several of them. Now the down side to having back-up plans is you end up with too many options! It is like trying to spin plates. The more plats you have, the more impressive you are to people but the harder it is to keep them all spinning. It makes for very little free time and everyday you end up exhausted even if you didn’t really do much. This is a tough lesson I’m learning right now myself.

Solution? Restrain yourself to only having so many projects, then zoom in and focus on those projects. When new opportunities come along, weigh it not based on itself but based on how it compares to your current projects. If you are like me you will see the potential in many many things which makes you want to pursue every idea out there. Do that and you will fail at all your projects (they will never get done).

Last thing I would say is stay realistic to what you can and cannot do, you are not superman, but you still have talents. Find them, focus on them, and stay organized.

Till next time!

-King Steven