...and by that, I don't mean that we're getting close to release. In some ways, I mean we're getting close to getting started. We've officially incorporated (Wonderspark, Inc. is now a thing), and later this week, we'll be having our first "board meeting". I should probably not have that in quotes, because it will be an actual board meeting which is an actual thing you actually have to do when you have an actual company. Actually. But not long after that, we'll have a bank account, and we'll have actual investors, and we'll be on our way to hiring an artist to work with us. Which is just about the most mind-bending, stressful, and exciting-HOLY-(!@#*$!(&!-YES!!!!! kind of moment we're going to have in the next few weeks. It's very exciting. :D Stressful, of course, because the moment you hire someone, you're now responsible for their livelihood - you really do change gears from a "Well, let's try some stuff!" to a "We need to earn some $$ to make this sustainable!" pretty much instantly. Which is fine - one thing that we've been working on for the last few months is prototyping enough to make sure that we're comfortable making that switch. If we weren't, we wouldn't be considering hiring anyone until we were. So it's really nice to be in this position - to not just feel like we can hire someone because we'll have the resources to do so, but to do so knowing that we're starting with a strong foundation we're confident in.
The other thing that's really neat is seeing stuff like Three Fields Entertainment - ever since Fiona Sperry and Alex Ward left Criterion, I've been looking forward to what they're doing, because I've loved their previous work. Even if they're not making a successor to Burnout, I'm excited because they've got a long, rock-solid track record of delivering things that were super fun. I even enjoyed Black (at least until the final battle, which I was never able to beat). They launched their website today, and it's clear that one thing that they're focusing on heavily is removing the hard launch date and focusing on the team first.
For us, that's been a priority for Wonderspark, and it was one of the things that I felt was absolutely critical to how I ran Self Aware Games. I'd spent way too long working in console games where the integrity and health of the team wasn't just an afterthought, it wasn't a thought at all. For me, having not just an engaged team, but an engaged, excited, well-rested, and energized team was the most important thing. It makes every day a pleasure, even when everything's insane and on fire (which it is a good deal of the time). It means that everyone is a "product person" and ideas are bouncing around constantly, and constantly improving. You've never got a "That's not my job" mentality, because everyone knows that their job is to make the best game possible, and that means that if they see an opportunity to improve things, it is their job.
I think the beautiful thing about stuff like TFE's culture being a huge focus of their website is that it's clear that this is not what has happened in a lot of companies over the last decade or two, and that it's clear to a lot of people that this stuff matters. Not just to the developers, but to the players. Not all players - I think most people still don't know or care who makes the games they enjoy, but to a lot of the most engaged people, they want to know their games are being made in a sustainable way by creatively engaged, happy people that they want to support. That they want to evangelize. I've got no problem at all linking to TFE because if someone else finds out about them through me, that's fantastic, and little would make me happier than finding them a new fan. Knowing that they focus on treating their people properly makes this an effortless thing to do.
Part of the reason we started Wonderspark was that we believe our development philosophy is a driver of success, not a byproduct of it. That players know when the people who are creating their games love making games - that it shows through in the end product. Even in something potentially as mercenary as a casino game, ours had personality and humor, because we loved working together. Now, we're going to be making something totally different, and we're going to be bringing an even greater level of passion, craft, and most importantly love. Not just of the medium, or the process, but love for the team, for our teammates, for our players, and for what we're building.
It's great to see others out there who put that same focus on the things that matter.