What is good, what is bad?
Next Tuesday, October 31st marks the four-year anniversary of the first public release of Natural Selection. On Halloween of 2002 we released v1.0 of NS and it’s been a roller-coaster ride ever since. While the 18 months before release steadily increased with tension, excitement and workload, I unreasonably assumed that the release would be the "end" of NS and the start of something new.
Instead, the first few months after release were non-stop work. We release four urgent patches over the next couple months to fix server performance, network performance and balance. Then came a big reworking for v2.0, then a big reworking for v3.0. We tried to get NS on Steam, I spent almost two years spending far too much time on a business plan, talking to investors and trying to make a sequel with no money in the bank. I moved, hired people with money I didn’t have, and to let them go, built a new website, saw said website get hacked, and rebuilt it. We shopped some ideas by publishers, had business guys come and go, and did contract work to bring in cash. All the while I was living off player donations which (barely) paid the bills and not much else.
Sometimes I feel frustrated that we put in so much work and progress feels so slow – but this year is different. All the while my plan has been to establish ourselves with NS by building and giving NS away for free then selling the sequel. It seems so simple. But this anniversary is different. Pieces have fallen into place.
Strangely, things seem to have worked out perfectly. For even if I had money to fully fund a game before making NS, I wouldn’t have known how to do it right – I didn’t know how to design and execute a vision. The ups and downs with NS taught me a great deal there. Then if the website hadn’t been hacked and some money was still coming in, I would’ve continued on our current course, which I can now see wasn’t as good as it should have been. I also had some urgent personal development that I needed to do during our investor-downtime that I wouldn’t have happened if things had gone "better".
My "last attempt" to move the company forward was to make a casual game, which has been a complete blast to work on and looks very financially promising. We’ve got pending deals with four of the biggest portals out there and it will at least partially finance Unknown Worlds’ next game (below).
There’s an old Chinese proverb that explores the idea of seemingly-bad things actually being good and vice-versa. In the end it can be more useful (and much less stressful) to simply not evaluate a situation and just believe that everything is working out perfectly. Life is perfect, no matter what happens. Given enough time and hindsight, you will see this as true. This may or may not be true, but it’s a great model.
This Tuesday we’re planning on re-opening the Unknown Worlds site to the public and announcing the next Natural Selection game. We’ll also be announcing Unknown Worlds new lead programmer (and partner!), who has already made stunning progress on a sticky feature in the next game. He’s an amazing person, we get along great and he’s the perfect person for the job. I’ve never been this optimistic about our future and I have our serpentine history to thank.