Category Archives: Business

Spring Cleaning

Spring Cleaning

Well, it’s Spring, so I suppose I should clean out my backlog of things that I should have posted since my birthday. Here’s a quick preview of the stuff I’ll be writing about soon. I’m not going to bother with pictures in this post, since it’s just a preview.

Cartoon Network Game Jam

First of all, the week after my birthday I participated in the Cartoon Network Game Jam in Portland. This kind of derailed my blogging, since I wanted to post about it but wasn’t sure if I could legally. Since Cartoon Network posted about it here: JAMMIN’ WITH OK, K.O.!, I suppose it’s OK for me to post about it now. In fact, the finalists are going to be announced this Sunday (5/1) and the winner will be announced next week.

Game Releases

I did post about my game releases, briefly. I’ll post more about some of the implementation and update details. I suppose it’s mainly for my records, but it may be interesting to somebody else as well.

I made a decision to release the games with the basic gameplay remade in VR, and as close to the functionality of the arcade games as I could get. So, basically they have all of the features, save high scores locally, are fully functional, and will always be free.

I’ll be doing some small updates to all of them to add analytics, extra controller support, and some other minor fixes and tweaks. I even added a leaderboard and achievements for VR Battletank on Android. I’ll be adding them to the other games soon.

After getting the basic framework done, I’ll be adding enhanced content to each of them as time allows.

Pipeworks Labs

The main reason that I’ve been slow to update my games and make blog posts is because I started a year-long project at Pipeworks new division, Pipeworks Labs, in March.

It’s a therapeutic VR project, which means it’s not technically a game. The great thing is that Pipeworks is cool enough to not have a non-compete clause,  so I’ll still be able to work on my own projects during my spare time.

Oculus Rift

The consumer version of the Oculus Rift finally started shipping at the end of March. I got mine the first week, and it’s awesome. I’ve played several games and experiences, and I’ll go into more detail in a later post. The game I’ve played the most so far is Elite Dangerous. I bought a Thrustmaster Flight Stick for this game, and it’s been a blast. I’ve played over 20 hours so far, and I think I’ve accomplished 2 or 3 tasks. I still don’t have much of clue what I’m doing, but it’s so fun flying around I don’t really care yet.

Oregon Game Project Challenge

I spent a day up in Salem last Saturday being a judge for the OGPC 9.0. I was a Game Design judge for several game projects that were made by teams of High School, and some Middle School, students. It was quite impressive to see what these kids came up with, and I’ll point out some of the stuff that stood out to me.

I’ll be pestering you with social media posts soon enough. In the meantime, go play my games:

VR Meteors

VR Missile Control

VR Battletank

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AR/VR Tech Talk And A New Laptop

AR/VR Tech Talk And A New Laptop

What a quick week and a half it’s been. My progress was slowed a couple days when I went up to Portland last week for an Augmented Reality (AR)/Virtual Reality (VR) Tech Talk. Unfortunately, my previous laptop decided to blue screen again, so I didn’t get much work done those days. My new laptop arrived yesterday, so I’m glad to have that taken care of. Let’s hope that the 4th time’s the charm with this laptop situation.

Dell Inspiron 17 5000 Series Touch

Dell Inspiron 17 5000

I ended up with a Dell Inspiron with an AMD graphics chip. Once I have everything installed, I’ll see if I can use the DK2 with this beast. This is easily the largest laptop I’ve ever used, and it’s heavy. I believe it may be about 7.5 lbs. If it works with the VR hardware, it will be worth it.

AR/VR Tech Talk

The tech talk that I attended was held at the Nike Decathlon Club Cafe next to their campus in Beaverton. It was 2 1-hour talks and some time before and after to socialize. I went over a few hours before the talks and did some work while I waited. I met a few other devs who showed up early as well, and showed them my new View-Master Cardboard viewer. Surprisingly, that viewer generated a lot of interest from several people who were there. The bright and familiar colored plastic probably has a lot to do with it.

AR Talk

The first talk was about augmented reality (AR), and the speaker was from Meta. He was more of a business guy instead of a developer, so his talk was about a lot of the things that he had seen, the potential of AR, and info about their product. He showed several examples of their product being used for education and other non-gaming applications. He spoke quite a bit about how AR will allow for medical training in developing countries and remote locations, which was pretty cool.

Meta 1 Dev Kit

The development kit is available for less than $700. Though this is much less than the $3000 for the HoloLens, it does require a computer to run the software and it is tethered. It was nice to know that there is a HoloLens competitor that already has hardware out in the world though. Here’s a picture of their upcoming Pro version, which looks pretty slick.

Meta Pro

VR Talk

The second talk was about VR, and was given by Kent Bye, who has been attending dozens of conferences and gatherings the past couple of years and has hundreds of interviews. He hosts a podcast called Voices Of VR. He also organizes monthly meetups and is active in the Portland AR/VR community.

His talk was a little more interesting to me at least, as he has been a little more involved with the community at large and has seen a wide range of the hardware and talked to a lot of people in the industry. I did ask him what he is currently most excited about in the VR space, and he mentioned: Tiltbrush, Oculus Medium, Super Hypercube, and Fantastic Contraption. I’ll be checking out whatever info I can find about these soon.

Fantastic Contraption - Vive

That’s enough for now. I’ll have another post shortly with updates on my current projects.

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Indie Game Con!

Indie Game Con

The Indie Game Con starts today. It’s all taking place in downtown Eugene. There is a Business Summit this afternoon and Art Show this evening. The Expo and Pro Talks are all day tomorrow. Followed, of course, by After Parties.

VRoom! Getting Up To Speed With Virtual Reality

As a bit of self-promotion, I’m giving a talk at 4:20, called VRoom! Getting Up To Speed With Virtual Reality. I’ll be talking about various topics related to virtual reality, as well as a little bit about augmented reality. I’ll cover the various popular game engines that support VR, the hardware that is currently and soon-to-be available, best practices for VR, and share some of my personal experiences with working with all of the above.

I’ll make another post to supplement my talk, and I’ll share a link to my presentation as well. I’ll do this after the talk, so that I can make sure to cover things that I missed, provide further info, and integrate any Q & A information.

I’ll even have a small game that I’m putting together to demonstrate what not to do in VR. It’s called: VR You Make Me Sick.

Business Summit

This is happening all afternoon today, at the newest addition to the downtown bar scene, The Wayward Lamb. It’s several hours of information from members of the local startup and indie game community, as well as some guest speakers who are in town for the IGC. I suspect there will be quite a bit of useful information for those of us who are new to running a business.

Art Show

Immediately after the Business Summit ends at 7, the Art Show begins at the LCC Downtown Campus. There will be art from and inspired by video games, as well as a DJ playing music with a video game theme. I’m not sure where I saw that info, so I don’t have a link to it. Sorry.

Expo

The expo is the main part of the Indie Game Con, and there are over 25 indie games being shown this weekend. Come down and take a look at them, play them, and talk to the developers. This is a chance to get any questions you have about game development answered by developers who don’t have to watch what they say, since they work for themselves. If you can’t find a game that you like in this bunch, I’d say it’s likely that you didn’t look hard enough.

Pro Talks

I already talked myself up earlier, so I’ll focus on the other talks here. There are 18 talks and a panel discussion on LGBTQ issues in games and the game industry. The speakers range from business people, to full-time game studio developers, to online personalities, to indie developers. 6 of the talks are free to attend with the basic expo pass, so you have no reason not to check at least one of them out. The other 12, require a pro talk pass, so be sure to get the correct ticket if you want to see any of them.

After Parties

After the expo ends at 6:00, or 6:30 if you attend the panel, the party begins at 8:00 at 3 locations nearby.

Big City Gamin’

This will be where you want to go if you’re under 21, since it is the all ages party. It’s just over 3 blocks away, so you’ll be able to walk there in a few minutes. I’m not sure what all will be happening there, but I expect games and music at least.

Shoryuken League

If you’re 21 or over, and want to play some more of those awesome indie games that you didn’t have time for at the expo, this is where you will want to go. It’s less than 2 blocks away, and will have plenty of demo stations set up for developers to show off their work. They’ll have drink specials and happy hour starts at 5, if you want to head over early.

The Wayward Lamb

If you’re 21 or over, got your fill of playing games during the expo, and just need to dance, head over to The Wayward Lamb. This is the dance party. There’ll be DJs and drinks and it’s right behind the LCC building.

Come support your local game development community. It’s going to be a blast!

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He Who Talks Loud Saying Nothing

He Who Talks Loud Saying Nothing

I’m not sure I believe this myself, but I’m actually giving a couple of talks in the next couple of weeks. I should probably be figuring out what I’m going to say instead of writing about the fact that I should be figuring out what I’m going to say. Or something.

In any case, I’m done with my contract work tomorrow, and it’s going to be back to full-time Out Of My Mind VR game development. I’ve got so much stuff on my to-do list, I just kind of shake my head and laugh at myself when I read it.

The Big Mix

This week I’m presenting at The Big Mix. It’s a gathering of people from the local business community and each of the presenters is given 3 minutes to introduce their companies, explain their existence, and ask for whatever it is that they want. This is going to be a good test run for whether or not I can articulate what I’m doing.

Indie Game Con

The big talk is coming at Indie Game Con on Oct. 3. I’m giving a talk: VRooom! Getting Up To Speed With Virtual Reality

I’m going to basically regurgitate a bunch of information that I’ve collected regarding various hardware and software for developing VR experiences. Then I’ll pretend to impart wisdom that I’ve attained from developing the various games that I’ve mentioned on this site, which only a handful of people have actually seen. It’ll be a lot of fun.

Game Progress

On the game front, I’ve actually made some progress. I have standalone builds running for Cardboard and Oculus. I’m going to work on WebGL builds to show demos on my web pages. That seems like a no-brainer now that it has occurred to me. I still have to finish various polish tasks and make the games behave correctly, which is why I haven’t released them into the wild yet. I’ve learned quite a bit from showing them to people. The fact that I have to explain so much to them when they play means that I still have work to do.

I tried using stereoscopic support in Unity, but it doesn’t work on my computer. It only supports DirectX 11 3D, which my video card doesn’t handle. I’m an AMD Quad-Buffer guy, apparently. Perhaps when I get my new computer built, I’ll be able to try it again.

With the Indie Game Con coming up and some free time on my hands, I expect to have the first playable versions of my games available to check out by the end of the month. Whee! Your patience is about to be rewarded. Not that you were actually waiting, or that anyone is reading this besides me, but I’m feeling pretty excited about it.

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SEO And Analytics

SEO And Analytics

I’ve had a couple meetings with Nick at the SBDC regarding SEO and Analytics for my web site. Here is a brief overview of what I learned.

First Site Guide

Since I’ve written this post, I’ve come across this site that has many tutorial videos and useful information for setting up and running a web site for small businesses. If you have questions or need a quick refresher on web hosting, web design, online marketing, blogging, registrars, service reviews, and more, check them out. If you’re just starting out, it’s also a good place to learn about how to set things up.

Google Analytics

Use this to track your web site traffic. It’s a free tool from Google, and it seems like it is probably about as good as any other solution. There are plenty of other analytical tools, but I’m going to try this out first, since I’m using Google Apps for Work for most of my web services.

Google Tag Manager

This is a new tool from Google that uses a script on your web pages to dynamically generate analytic events, so that you can change tracking info without having to update the actual page source every time. This seems like it could be useful if you had a lot of traffic and wanted to be able to customize your stats on-the-fly to get more specific feedback.

Google Search Console (Webmaster Tools)

This is a tool from Google that connects to your web site and analyzes it for you to recommend improvements and alert you to any issues that Google finds. There are also tools and information about how to optimize Google’s search results and organize the information that is presented to users.

Yoast SEO

This is a WordPress plugin that helps with SEO (Search Engine Optimization). It analyzes your posts and rates them. It gives detailed information about the rating along with suggestions to improve the rating. It also allows you to directly modify the meta data in your posts to customize your search result data. Apparently it ties into WordPress SEO data, so there are probably plenty of alternatives to this as well.

Yoast Analytics

This is another WordPress plugin that connects to your Google Analytics account and allows you to access some of the data from the WordPress dashboard. I haven’t used it much yet, so I don’t know if it offers anything over Google Analytics aside from convenience.

I haven’t really used these tools to their full potential, since I still need to generate some content and post some links to my social pages. I’ll be doing this soon, since I’d like to have some experience with these tools before my next meeting with Nick.

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Open For Business

I’m pretty much done with the preliminary steps of setting up the business. I feel confident about knowing to whom to talk about various business issues, and when to do so.

Sole Manager

Basically, I’m the only person working for my company. For all intents and purposes, the company and I are one. I can contribute to and draw from the business account freely. I have to make sure to withhold 25-30% of any revenue that I get to cover various taxes (federal, state, self-employment, etc.). My accountant recommended opening a savings account and automatically putting the tax withholding in there whenever I make a deposit.

I can hire contractors, but there are very specific rules for somebody to be considered a contractor.  The Oregon web site has the relevant info.

SBDC

I’ve been told by multiple people now that the SBDC is a great resource, which should be used as much as is helpful. I got some good info out of my first meeting there. I learned about the flow of money as it comes into the company, covers costs, and pays me. I also was told about the various services that the SBDC provides and some of the people who I should meet with. One of those people is the marketing/communication guy, who I met with on Thursday morning. He’s helping me to make sure I have my branding and presence intentionally planned out. My consultant also extolled the virtues of RAIN, the Regional Accelerator & Innovation Network, and suggested that I try to get accepted into their next cohort.

I’m also getting set up with a bunch of free services that I can use to work on my business plan. One of which is LivePlan, which is apparently the de facto standard for developing and structuring business plans. There are also various resources for learning about different aspects of running a company.

Basically, if you’re starting a business, go talk to the SBDC. Especially if you haven’t done this before. You can meet with them as frequently as you need, and they have several people who specialize in different aspects of operating a business. Plus, it don’t cost nothin’.

Accounting Stuff

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the accounting is actually a lot simpler and more sensible than I expected. I was expecting to have to keep track of all kinds of information for tax purposes. It turns out that you just need to document as well as possible, using whatever method works for you. The primary number that the government is interested in is the gross income. The other numbers come into play when you deduct business expenses. As long as you document it, and it’s an acceptable business expense, you’re golden.

Another thing to consider is setting up my back room as an office. Apparently, that’s not so hard to track either. The percentage of the household expenses that apply to the business is pretty much the percentage of the floor space that the office occupies. You just need to make sure that you document it. It does have to be a legitimate office space though, so make sure it’s separated from your personal use, much like the business bank account.

Marketing and Branding

I met with another consultant at the SBDC who is familiar with marketing and branding for businesses. He had some interesting ideas and suggestions. He seemed pretty excited about the name of my company and is going to send me some rough concepts for logos and presence. He also recommended that I meet with another guy from the SBDC, who knows about SEO, advertising, and linking various services together. I made an appointment with him, it’s only about 3 months out.

Legal Representation

My last meeting for the week was with Endeavor Law. This was just a casual meeting to get to know each other. I basically wanted to know when I would want to contact them. The legal aspects are mostly related to ownership. Before I sign a contract, hire a contractor, or publish a product, I want to ask them to review the details. They’ll give me an initial estimate before I agree to go forward with the consultation. They certainly seem to know most of the game developers in town and they have worked with a lot of startups, so I trust that they know what they’re doing.

Business Cards

front back

I got my first batch of business cards. I don’t have a logo yet, so I went with a QR code that goes to the contact page of my web site. It looks alright, but I’ll be ordering more when I have a logo.

What’s Next

Back to the games. I’m going to be working this week to finish up VR Meteors and VR Missile Control to take down to E3 with me. I’ll also be putting up a static web page with the information that people will want to see when they visit. I also need to work on my business plan so that I can send it in to the SEA program within 30 days.

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Taking Care Of Business

So, I’m just about done with the preliminary steps for getting this business off the ground. I’m going to document the various steps that I’ve taken so far, along with some of the advice that I’ve received from people who know much more about this process than I do.

First of all, I registered Out Of My Mind LLC with the state of Oregon. Apparently, the LLC designation is a state thing, and doesn’t really mean much to the feds. It took several minutes online and I was done. There isn’t much else to do at this point, if you’re the only person working for the company. I was told that I would want to have an Operating Plan in place before bringing on any other employees. Otherwise, there is the potential for all kinds of unexpected bad things. It was also stressed to me that the first thing I should do is open a company bank account and keep my personal and business finances separate. Otherwise, if there is ever an audit of the company, it becomes a personal audit automatically. Point taken.

After registering my business, I requested a EIN (Employer Identification Number) from the IRS, which took a few minutes online. After filling out the form and submitting it, I was able to download the document after a couple minutes of processing. During the application is also when I was told that I’m still considered a Sole Proprietor by the feds. I suspect that I may have to get another EIN if I ever hire any employees, but I’ll save that question for my accountant.

With my business license and EIN, I was able to open up my business bank account. Since I hadn’t done much research into banking options, I ended up going with the same bank that I use for my personal accounts. Some advice I received was that it is much easier to make contributions to or draws from the business account if they are at the same bank, which can save some frustration. In addition, it is a national bank, which could also save some headaches if I’m ever traveling for business or dealing with non-local entities. Eventually, if I have time to research banking options, I can always move the account(s).

I’ve also been trying to get all of my web sites and online presence set up, but I’ll leave that for another post.

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