Downsized: The Wake-Up Call

On April 2, 2010, in Business & Industry, Experiences, by Steffen Itterheim

Today i learned about Downsized Games through an interview on Gamasutra: The Upside Of Downsized And Desperate.

It wasn’t in Gamasutra’s newsletter, it wasn’t on Facebook or Twitter. I was on Gamasutra for a different article as i glimpsed over that article’s headline and was immediately interested to see if that was really the kind of inspiring article i hoped it would be. And it was.

Downsized Games is a group of 4 people, previously employees of Pandemic who got shut down … well, not the people but the company, although the downsizing effect obviously has been a huge wake-up call for them. As Manny Vega puts it:

“You can see when developers are just making games for the paycheck, and no matter how skilled they are the game lacks that ‘sparkle.’ If we ever get to that point, I hope EA buys us for a ton of money and then shuts us down. It’s a hell of a wake-up call.”

I can totally understand them poking fun at EA and the person we only know as “JR”. The mystical ruler of the empire if you will. The one and only. He, who we would be watching on Livestream when he gave his quarterly earnings speech to the company. A ghostly appearence of the man we never knew. Joking aside, what i found interesting during my time at EA is how my colleagues started making fun of him in a way that was both ridiculing yet still expressed admiration. Maybe that’s because he was never as blatantly evil as that other man Bobby Kotter. Or it was because he was a good man fighting a lost cause. Or none of that. In any case i remember that he was present throughout, everyone knew who he was and they were talking about him or what he had said or done. Sometimes his image was used for evil purposes, like if you wanted a colleague to do something and who then pointed to JR’s image on the wall – where he was portrayed smiling and looking handsome – then saying in a creepy, mysterious voice: “Oh no, i can not do so, the JR would not want this.”. All in good fun without hard feelings – as far as i can tell. I bet it must be a whole different story for the people at Infinity Ward though. I can only hope for them to find the necessary comical relief in a common enemy but their target is too easy, i just hope they don’t fall for the dark side.

Err, anyway, as far as i’m concerned, i can’t wait to see their game BulleTrain hit the App Store. Because there we have another couple of former EA game developers who suddenly start doing their own thing and learn how many details go into making even the simplest of games. Our Black Hole game is no exception and i just hope that in April we’ll finally see it on the App Store – it has been basically finished since i don’t know … probably at least 3 months if not more. But we still keep working on it on the side whenever we find the time to implement required changes, fixing bugs and doing the final polish to a codebase that – admittedly, looks nasty to me now. It was a learning process after all, and not just learning the iPhone platform or the iPhone SDK but also Objective C and the cocos2d engine, Xcode, the Mac OS and above all trying to start a venture-capital funded game development business.

Here’s to Downsized Games. Cheers, guys! Game long and prosper!

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What it’s really like to be in a startup

On February 25, 2010, in Business & Industry, by Steffen Itterheim

I just skimmed over Paul Graham’s post: What startups are really like.

I nodded a couple times – as far as i could relate with my little startup experience. What makes this such an essential post is that it contains lots of good excerpts from actual startup founders. I’ve read all of them and each of these small sentences is a little gem.

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Why to not not start a startup

On May 10, 2009, in Good Advice, by Steffen Itterheim

For startup founders Paul Graham’s essay “Why to not not start a startup” is probably the most inspiring and encouraging post ever written.

Here are just a few quotes to “get you started”…

If you’re smart enough to worry that you might not be smart enough to start a startup, you probably are.

How do you tell if you’re independent-minded enough to start a startup? If you’d bristle at the suggestion that you aren’t, then you probably are.

You don’t need to know anything about business to start a startup. The initial focus should be the product. All you need to know in this phase is how to build things people want. If you succeed, you’ll have to think about how to make money from it. But this is so easy you can pick it up on the fly.

One reason people who’ve been out in the world for a year or two make better founders than people straight from college is that they know what they’re avoiding. If their startup fails, they’ll have to get a job, and they know how much jobs suck.

This leads us to the last and probably most powerful reason people get regular jobs: it’s the default thing to do. Defaults are enormously powerful, precisely because they operate without any conscious choice.

I wouldn’t be surprised if one day people look back on what we consider a normal job in the same way. How grim it would be to commute every day to a cubicle in some soulless office complex, and be told what to do by someone you had to acknowledge as a boss—someone who could call you into their office and say “take a seat,” and you’d sit! Imagine having to ask permission to release software to users. Imagine being sad on Sunday afternoons because the weekend was almost over, and tomorrow you’d have to get up and go to work. How did they stand it?

Which, obviously, turns into the follow-up question: if your startup succeeds, will you become that kind of boss everyone says makes dumb decisions, is prone to run the company into the ground, doesn’t know what he’s doing, and on and on and on … ?

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