Paper prototyping… At work

My new day job is going well.  I’m really enjoying being in the operations side of Financial Services.  Six months in sales has taught me that I am not a sales guy.  Call volume was slow for my first two weeks, so I’ve had some time to paper prototype a card game.  Entrepreneurs always say you have to quit your day job, but there might be a case for not doing that under specific circumstances.  The game is intended to be an HTML5 online CCG.

Online CCG’s are surprisingly fun, although there’s room for improvement.  And I say that as a former M:tG pro tour hopeful.  I’ve been playing Clash of the Dragons on Kongregate.  The single player game seems like a bit of a grind, but if you want to draft you have to endure it or spend money.  I think the intent is to have a big PVP focus, but like most MMO’s, I’m just playing the single player campaign.  There seems to be some needless complexity in terms of having a game world, player stats, and inventory.  After playing four or five other Kongregate card games, Clash is the best of the bunch in my opinion.

Status update

My experience of job hunting has been true to the old adage “Finding work is a full time job.”  My dream of game design does not seem to be turning into a career in game design.  But you know what, that’s not a terrible thing.  Perhaps ‘hobby game design’ would be better for me.  Or maybe even just ‘gamer with inside knowledge’.  Besides Financial Services pays way better and helping people with their financial troubles is really rewarding.

So if you know anyone looking for a Fund Accountant, Credit Analyst, Underwriter, of Customer Service Representative let me know.  Actually I’ll take just about anything entry level in financial services at this point. Probably not sales (unless it has salary plus commission).  Got to update my worker bee resume on the Zorts page.
At some point I do want to have enough time to be able to blog more.  Thank you all for hanging with me (all 30 of you).  And my G+ followers (of which there seem to be many more).

Diablo 3 Commodity App

What am I working on?

My last post was about the VERY few apps in iTunes specifically for the Diablo III Auction House.  By the way, if I missed an important one, post a comment and link to it.  I’ll take a look at it and add it to the list.  There seems to be a great many apps for the perfect build, dps, lore…  But what about tracking all that Auction House Data?

There’s nothing.

It occurred to me that I know iOS developers…  I know how to document a project and set up a wirefame/pretotype…  And I know exactly what information I want to track and how I want to track it.  I am sick of alt tabbing out to an excel spreadsheet.  I want it in my hand.  I want it on my phone!

So I am building an app.  It’s an extremely simple first version/prototype at the moment.  The goal is to make an app that you just cannot live without.  An app that makes you say “Excel sucks for my Diablo 3 Data! Give me something better!”

Talks have started with a iOS game development company to do the coding.  By the end of the week the Design Document and Wireframes are going to be finished and sent to the developer.  Actually they can see it live via Google Drive, which is an awesome tool for get a team on the same page. At that point we’ll know more about a time frame for coding it.

The iPhone prototype app is going to allow you to record the normal gold value, the hardcore gold value, and the US Dollar value  for each commodity you care about on the Auction House.  At least Exquisite Essence, Iridescent Tear, Fiery Brimstone, each of the pages, and each of the Tomes.  There are no plans to include commodity items!  I am specifically avoiding valuation of weapons, armor, etc.  Although unidentified items are possible (cause they don’t have tons of crazy stats yet!).

If we finish the app, and there is demand, we’re considering creating more apps or alternate versions.  Also plans to make it more robust by including Gem Market Trackers, Unidentified Market Trackers and perhaps Dye’s (if there’s really a market to make there.  Is there?).  There is even a phase 3 to the plan, which may include aggregation economic data, submitted by you, scrubbed for market manipulation, and then presented on a website.

What Diablo III Market information would like to track in a database?  What HAS to be in there?  What HAS to be left out?  What causes you pain when dealing with the D3 Auction house?  What do you hate about it?

Taking the blog Ad Free…

You may have noticed some of my last few posts have been ‘filler’; not stellar resources.  Well an unfortunate thing has happened recently.  I have maxed out the time that I can spend searching for the ‘dream job’ in game design.  I have had to spend time getting ‘a job’.  Fortunately a great career came along at just the right time.  I have accepted a job with New York Life as a Financial Adviser.

Most of my professional experience has been in financial services.  First as a Credit Analyst, and later working in the Transfer Agent at a mutual fund company (for those not in the know, a transfer agent is the department that processes buy and sell orders for brokers, dealers, and shareholders).  Being a financial adviser would be a great opportunity to talk about money with people who need advice…  And these days everyone seems really willing to talk about finance in ways they were not in the past.  The recession has opened the culture to want to discuss personal finance.

Additionally I found a volunteer program at Action for Boston Community Development, where I would be taught how to file taxes and volunteer to help low to low middle income families file their tax returns.  Both positions would add value to the other and are really great opportunities.  So much great stuff to learn with much potential to be lucrative in the long run.

What does this mean for game design?  Well for the next five years or so I really will not be able to focus on the industry that I am passionate about.  I do intend to keep going to the conventions, the un-conventions (GameLoop), the community events, and keep making games…  Just a lot slower then before.  I still want to be a part of the community of game development.  Networking with folks in the game design industry and just generally being helpful is fun in and of itself.  I do not intend to stop doing that.

The Contracts signed by my new employer state that I shall focus on learning their trade.  I should have no other job (it’s going to be at least a 40 hour a week job, maybe more).  None of my contracts say that I have to stop blogging.  I feel that it’s within the letter of the contract and the spirit of the contract to keep the blog open and keep writing, but to turn off adsense and to stop the affiliate program.  In other words this blog is going ad free!  You might also notice less frequent posts, and some changes in content.  For example it might become more about game reviews.  Or more about reports from the various events in the Boston Scene.  I want to keep bringing information that helps developers, but talking about game design when you aren’t actually experiencing it is not truthful.

For now this blog is going to change to better suit my current career.  Who knows, five or seven years down the line I might make a really great Chief Financial Officer at a start up game company.  So you all better get cracking making a kick ass company to entice me away from Financial Planning.  😉  In the short term it also means that my day to day activity be involve advising small business about financial concerns.  I would rather build my business helping this industry…  because I love it, but also because quite frankly game designers need a lot of help when it comes to long term financial decisions.

I’m clearing out a couple blog posts that have been sitting around for a while.  A piece on RTS eSports, then a book review on “Headfirst Java”.  After those two posts comes one that I’m really proud of.  I had a chance to sit down with Dave and Ralph at The Tap Lab and talk with them about the wire frame version of their game TapCity.  Paper Prototyping of games was on my mind a lot before my interviews with New York Life and I put together a great post on wire frames and paper prototypes.

Gaming Chops

Back during the time when parents were still afraid to let their kids sit at a table and exercise their imagination role playing games became very important to me. This would be Jr High, somewhere around 1992, playing Dungeons and Dragons.  DM’ing a good game and the creativity it required was a real passion for me and I was considered the best DM of the group of friends that I played with. Through Jr High, High School, and college I was the go to guy for world building and storytelling in my little troupe of outcast gamers filling my and their worlds with nuanced detail and character.

Magic the Gathering didn’t really stop or change any of that, but it was a fun addition.  Around the time that The Dark and Ice Age were being released my brother and I started playing at a local game shop in Nashua.  Ball lighting Decks were all the rage back then, and constituted the first deck lists copied verbatim.  It seemed so wrong at the time.  The game increasingly sucked me in until I was playing semi Pro at the tournament level and working in Card Shops on my summer vacation.  The guys from The Silver Dragon were great to hang out with.  Ah memories.

The moment when D&D and M:tG were no longer enough is etched clearly in my mind.  While indoors playing a M:tG tournament at Hammers Comics in Manchester NH, during a beautiful sunny day, I was inside at a table eating take out food from the 99 next door.  I was loosing that day, and in a bit of a downward spiral self esteem wise.  Why sit there when I could be outdoors LARPing?  On that day, that moment, sparked a real commitment to being less sedentary and more active.  Practicing on Wednesday nights in the Commuter Parking lot in Nashua NH with the Realms of Wonder crowd was no long enough.  Going from one practice a week to three I never looked back.  I became much healthier and lost weight because of that change.

Being a part of The Imperium LARP was a wonderful experience; playing an amazing game, helping it grow and mature with people that I had looked up to for many years.  The guys who created the Imperium were legendary LARPers (in NH), and it was great working with them.  This was my first real experience working with a team of people creating a product.  Also it was the first place where I found a passion for something that really drove me forward.

After the break up of the Imperium LARP there wasn’t too much else that really seemed all that interesting.  World of Warcraft seeped in and filled that gap, but not the passion.  There were other computer games as well, but mostly WoW.  Steve (Pelvis Costello), who was one of my LARP hero’s, suggested that I come down to Boston and apply for a job with a private student loan company.  I got a job there and discovered Finance as a topic.  Personal Finance and Business Finance, really the study of Money, became my focus and even impacted my game playing.  PVE in WoW was ok, PVP bored me.  But playing the Auction House, now there was something really fun!

While working at the big corporation, I started to take some business classes.  After having been out of college for at least 5 years it seemed like a great idea to try out the Harvard Extension…  Not so much.  I was way out of my depth, but still fascinated by the Finance class.  After, ehem, not passing there it seemed reasonable to take some more basic Financial Accounting and Financial Management classes at Umass Boston.  These classes got me back into the swing of college life, and into Boston University.  For which I have just finished all my finals!  I’ve been putting my project management skills to work, and have even started to pick up coding for the project.

Through all this time ideas for games are being recorded in my various journals.  Idea’s for card games, ideas for LARP mechanics, and an idea for a computer game.  The Goth club scene in the Boston area is filled with gamers, coders, and people with ideas and dreams.  Starting conversations with people about games is a natural and fun topic.  From that I found a group of people who had a passion for game development.  From there we started the ZoRTS Project.

Pax 2011 was a big turning point for me.  It forced a realization that the Computer Game industry might be a really good industry to break into.  It’s kind of odd that it was never really a goal before.  It would seem like a logical assumption that if you love business and you love games, start a business making games…  But fortunately it has been a much longer and much more interested journey then that.