Weekend Whimsy

This is the tiniest of tiny updates. Feel free to pelt me with rotten cloudberries if this post¬†gets you unduly excited. ūüėČ

If you visit our homepage, we now have a favicon – it’s a symbol from one of our beloved giants! I can’t tell you which one, because it’s going to be different every time you refresh the page!

Thank Tii!

We thought it would be a fun¬†way to honor our giants, who are still out there adventuring. ¬†We’re hoping they return for a nice long sleep soon, so we can fill their dreams once again.

Many thanks to Veralidaine for designing the icons!

Unique Challenges

Seems your chief chicken tamer has been quiet for over two months.  Seems a good time to change that.

We’ve been asked with increasing frequency about a time line for an alpha test, and, while my previous post highlighted some of the tasks that sit between us and opening up, I haven’t touched on some of the challenges that a team like ours has to face which make even rough estimates on a timeline neatly impossible until we’re much closer to that goal.¬† What I’m talking about here is at the very nature of this project; we’re a volunteer only operation made up of rabid fans.

Volunteers
Every single person on the team is working on it as a labor of love. We don’t get paid for it (nor do we want to be currently, before offers of funding start flowing in), and just about anyone with a desire and applicable skill sets are welcome to contribute.¬† This leads us to a few of our major challenging points; availability, disappearances and missing skills.

Availability
Most of the team hold down full time day jobs (myself included) or attend school at the university level full time, with at least one notable exception. Bundle that with some having familial (I’ve got a wife and 2 small children, personally) or other outside obligations, and some of us are lucky to find spare time to work on the project in a given week. If we had even a handful of skilled people that could dedicate their efforts full-time to the project, things would move along a lot faster. In fact, Aroha has recently had the fortune to be able to devote nearly a full time effort, split with a personal project, and has helped advance several tasks much faster than would have otherwise happened. On the flip side, final exams, school projects, moving and starting new jobs (something I’m personally in the middle of) have caused several key team members to lessen their contributions significantly over the past few months.

Disappearances
If you look at the number of people we’ve brought into our team (91), you’d think we’d have enough people to move things along at a decent pace. Unfortunately, only 20 or so have actually continued to contribute past their initial excitement. It’s hard to say what exactly causes this to happen. Perhaps they find they don’t have as much time as they thought they did, aren’t quite as skilled as they thought, or maybe they just lose interest.¬† Either way, it can be difficult to deal with someone disappearing without notice, especially if they had a desired skill or had committed to a task already.¬† Unlike a paid job, the incentive to keep us up-to-date on what’s going on doesn’t seem to exist for some. Fortunately, we haven’t had to deal with this situation too many times, but it has caused some setbacks.

Missing skills
There are a very talented group of people committed to getting this project completed, which is amazing; there are a few areas where the skill sets are missing or held by too few team members (or team members that aren’t able to contribute a significant amount of time).¬† A couple examples of this situation are graphic design and significant AS3 experience.

Butting heads
I honestly think we’ve been incredibly lucky with regards to how well our team gets along, even though the occasional disagreement had occurred. So, while this hasn’t been a huge issue, there has been at least one notable exception where someone didn’t mesh well enough with the group that they felt they had to leave the project. It was an unfortunate situation, but I was quite happy that it was able to be resolved in a very peaceful manner, and I’m quite hopeful that we won’t see any worse situations in the future.

Internationalization
While it seems most of the team is based in the US, there are a good number of team members hailing from other countries around the world, including, but not limited to, Germany, the UK and Brazil. You’d think the time zone and language barriers would be a bigger obstacle, but aside from some people mentioning where they’re from or that they don’t know the best way to say something, you’d hardly be able to tell.

Managing expectations
Everyone is excited, probably our team more than most. Truth is, this is a massive undertaking, and, especially when you take some of the above into account, it’s going to take time. We have some¬†talented and driven people working on it, but that won’t make it go that much quicker. The only realistic way to get things done faster would be to have all of us quit our current jobs/school and find a way to get paid fair wages from this project, which isn’t something that we want to do and don’t feel is viable long term. If you look closely at the discussions that Tiny Speck had regarding the shut down, you’ll see that the game had to not only support a current staff level at a fair wage, but also compensate for the time in development when no money was coming in. This is a hole we’d prefer not to get ourselves in, and if we decide to build up a paid team at some point, it would likely be under a different kind if structure to help make the game more viable.

So, while we know you’re all excited to get in and play, it’s going to take some time. Don’t worry though, our key contributors are very committed to making this happen; when we finally let you in, be certain that we’re giving you the best built game we can. Tiny Speck gave us a great starting point from which to rebuild Ur.