“Some people try to turn back their odometers. Not me. I want people to know why I look this way. I’ve traveled a long way and some of the roads weren’t paved.” - Will Rogers
A lot has happened since I last posted here. We had one major project slowly grind to a halt, abandoned by the publisher. Not a fun story, even if we did learn a lot. And we had another flash briefly, just long enough to prove out the design and technology, if not long enough to make back its production costs.
Social games have continued their astonishing fast-forward pace. The game industry changes faster than any I know of, and I have never seen things change this fast. One of my new mottos is
If you don’t have whiplash, you’re not paying attention.
What was a wide open blue-ocean part of the games industry a year ago is quickly consolidating and stratifying into Huge Players, Big Players, and Everyone Else. There are good games and money to be made at each level, but on different scales and with different difficulties. And game designs or production practices that worked less than a year ago have to be discarded now to stay current with the market.
For myself and my company, Online Alchemy, the latest blows we endured were too much. I’ve rebooted the company before — after a triple-play debacle in 2007 (DARPA project killed by world events, development contract pulled at the last moment, and the long-lamented demise of the Firefly MMO at the hands of Fox and Universal), so I know how to do it. And I have an amazing team of people to work with. But the costs of rebooting again now seemed too high and too risky.
So, time for a pivot: I have joined Kabam as an Executive Producer. This is a terrific company with a clear focus and top-notch talent all around. I’ve been very impressed with the blend of agility and process I’ve found there. I can’t yet say what I’m working on, but as with everything in this part of the industry, all will be clear soon enough.
Online Alchemy will be sticking around, but will be returning to its focus on “social AI” research and development. This is definitely an area for research, building on the company’s existing work in artificial emotions, relationships, and reputation, but as yet no real consumer market has appeared for such AI. I still believe one will, but it may be ten or twenty years before it happens. I’m content to be patient, and persistent.
So, what’s next?