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Managing Your Iceberg

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At 9:30am on 4/23/2017, I attended Managing Your Iceberg, presented by Cory Miller, at the 2017 Wordcamp Conference in Raleigh, NC

Managing Your Iceberg

Cory opened by telling us that we’d be hearing some very personal things. Entrepeneurship is the hardest and most rewarding job there is. When looking at the important info, he came to this idea of the iceberg.

The tip we see is seunchine and success – everything is awesome. Below the waterline, struggle and suffering – all the stuff I bury & hide from everyone. Anger, stress, frustration, jealousy, competition,. conflict, loss, insecurity, criticism, failur, fear, etc. You’re not alone.

For the man’s life in 2010-2011, so much was going on in his business life, that everything was coming up roses. However, there were numerous items under the surface which was tearing his life apart.

Today, things are slightly different. He has a 4-year old child just like him, and a 2-year old child just like his wife. And, certainly being a parent is the most frustrating job which has ever existed. They are the greatest joy in life, but they are also the greatest trouble. 🙂 Its worth it though

Same Problems, Different Names

We have to learn to be human. You’re a real person, you have emotions. Let’s not hide the human experience, lets not sweep it under the rug (let’s NOT do this on facebook). Be Human with others, and you’ll get human back. SOmetimes its not always awesome, but it is real. There are too many opportunities to be robotic or inhuman. If you aren’t being human or acting it, you’re missing out.

What holds us back

Self defense, fear, ego, pride, shame, embarrassment, guilt… these things hold us back. In short, a superhero syndrome. That he may not want anyone to help him, that he could take it all on. The right people rushed in to help him when he let it out.

How to navigate the iceberg NOW

Its all about relationships and people. Those who rush in, while everyone else runs out. Those are the helpful ones. For us viewers, if everything in your world got turned upside down, WHO would you need? Things will go wrong. When everything hits the fan, who is there to help you make it through.

Your significant other- your first and essential partner. Your counselor- someone who you may not have to ask to pass you your favorite dish at thanksgiving.

My iceberg group

Safe group of like-minded, value-aligned people on a similar path. What’s the why? The learning, growth, accountability, support you need to keep you afloat. Its ok to have a uniform group #2, and iceberg friends that help to keep you afloat. I hate the term “mastermind group”. To get them, find those who are trusting and respect, confidentiality, no pillow talk. Learn and grow, not there to sit and gloat, and able to receive Empathetic support and not be jealous or judgemental. Empathy is not sympathy. its walking in one another’s footsteps without judgement.

Wysiwyg, shed the masks and costumets. Share the iceberg, the higest highs and lowest lows. Parallel stories offered, but not arrogant advice. More often than not, we want your story, not to be told things as advice. Give me the story and I’ll draw my own conclusions.

It starts with you

Be proactive and start herding cats. Start today. be open and honest, but have mutual trust and respect with CIA-level secrecy. There are plenty of support groups for problems which are specific, but not exactly one for LIFE.

Start simple and build from there. Dedicated meetings regularly. Monthly by phone, zoom, whatevery works. Once a year, have a retreat, and add new members.

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. THis has been tweaked to:

if you want to go miservable and lonely, go alone. If you want to go supported and happy, go together.

Success = 3 things you’re grateful for, and your support team.
Struggle = what’s holding you back, your fears, whats keeping you up at night or giving you heartburn

Cory Miller is a former newspaper journalist turned full-time entrepreneur. In 2008, he started iThemes, one of the first commercial product companies in WordPress, that now offers key products like BackupBuddy, iThemes Security and iThemes Sync. Named the 7th fastest growing company in Oklahoma City in 2011 by the Metro 50, iThemes employs over 20 people around the globe with headquarters in Oklahoma City. In 2011, he co-founded The Div, Inc, a nonprofit tech foundation aimed at inspiring and training the next generation of web developers through its kid’s program, Div Jr. He is the co-author of WordPress All-in-One for Dummies (Wiley, 2011) and is a member of the Oklahoma chapter of Entrepreneurs’ Organization, a network of over 8,000 entrepreneurs in 40 countries with companies that have revenue over $1 million dollars annually. He blogs regularly about entrepreneurship and career advice here at CoryMiller.com. He is married to Lindsey Miller, who is the Partner Manager at Liquid Web. They have an adorable son named Caloway and a little sweetheart daughter named Lillian.

ECGC Conference: Keynote Speaker — Mike Laidlaw

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At a 2:00pm Keynote session in the East Coast Gaming Conference held in the Raleigh Convention Center, Mike Laidlaw spoke to the attendees about …

ECGC Conference: Keynote Speaker— Mike Laidlaw

The ECGC conference will be held on April 19,20,21st next year 2016. Be looking for that.

We began with a the trailer for dragon age inquisition.

What is a creative director? What is it that they do? They are responsible for All games, all creative products, our spinoff animated series, comics, and anything related to Dragon Age. Every item must be coordinated so they are in the same world and follow canon. For the games things are different, but every aspect of the game must gel with everything our readers know from comics, fit with every animated episode, and match up to every idea already placed about the series.

Dragon Age Inquisition was ambitious. Our initial idea: Let’s run on 5 platforms at once and use this as the new game plan, OH, and let’s also use a brand new engine. The game would include everything that you’ve come to know and love about the series, but also include massive use of exploration, a new facet of getting lost in the world.

Agenda:

inspirations for open world gameplay
open world content
the power system

Throughout the agenda, we must always fulfill this razor: “the challenge: immerse yourself in a vast world of companions choice and consequence”

Inspriations:

Who else is doing it well? It’s good to be inspired by other games, but you cannot rip them off note for note. Then you’re just copying. And that’s obvious to everyone. Every 2 weeks Our team would pick a game and play through it. They’d discuss what the game did well, and what they did not. Communication is key. If there isn’t a shared vocabulary, things begin to fail.

  • SKYRIM: incredible freedom of space and role. the joy of cresting a hill and finding something cool “down there”
  • SID MEIERS PIRATE: the power of theme. self-directed goals & multiple vectors of success. Multiple playthroughs are often required to make everything work through.
  • FALLEN LONDON & SUNLESS SEA: the power of abstraction and allowing players to create their own connections. If something is not supposed to be available yet, the note which springs up might say: “Has the player met constable bob?” vs. Connected: the constables.
  • XCOM-ENEMY UNKNOWN: Example of a counter-objective: EU added more story to the xcom formula. Story beats reward for gameplay. Story brings more story rather than achievement bringing more story

Strategy1: Multi-region open world.

Advantages: Strengthen each region with its own narrative. Create diverse, distinct visul palettes.

regional narrative:

We sought to answer the following questions: what the overall feel of this locale? Why would I, the inquisitor, come there? What is special about it? How does my presence here advance the inquisition or hinder its foes?

Emerald grove- A wonderous forest. A band of refugees here have information for you and at the end of the day you cut off supplies to foes, and gain an ally.

We repeatedly ran into the problem that the first 5 or 10 minutes people didn’t understand what to do. A character sets the first camp, lets you know what to do, and where to go. This narrative character seem contrary to your role in the story, but keeps the theme strong.

Diverse palettes. You needed to move from region to region with no visual trouble. A series of choices make the game fun is what is seems from the outset. However, a series of compromises are what the builders will experience.

Strategy 2: shared content strategies

Content for the levels consisted of three major types:

  1. Placed, crafted content.
  2. Shared, systemic content.
  3. Designer hugs.

Systemic content used shared libraries of assets for consistency and ease of maintenance (pre-fabs could be placed, but our team could alter each instance). One update to the search system would allow all objects that reacted to that system to instantly respond to the changes without touching individual instances. In effect, one edit would allows for many updates, instantly and simultaneously.

Designer hugs: nooks and crannies of exploration that gives you a fun, neat reward. Big games that allow for an open area, and have neat effects will generate a buzz. It rewards you for making the right choices.

Strategy 3: Reviewing content.

Issues with in-room content reviews:

  1. long play length of area.
  2. Reviewing one path/perspective.
  3. out of context issues.
  4. directing player experience.
  5. content was at different levels of completion.

The best way to circumvent these issues was to ask open ended questions to the team. We took those focus testings to the team and their ratings. By offering what they COULD do, players wanted to reach those goals. The team used inhouse heatmaps to see where people spent time on each level, where fights happened the most, where people died. This allowed them to tweak the areas, distributions of bad guys, and power levels.

Areas for improvment- plots

Open area plots were sad and lame. It was new to them and new to the team. The company budgeted lots of time and writing for plots, however,the quests very, very simple with little or no trouble to complete.

Variety

There was several systems. The systems appeared repeatedly in several sessions. People came to expect them, to prepare for them, and to be bored by them.

Jump

Put the jump in the game. Seriously. They put banter in the system to help keep the game live. However, players were more engaged by the ability to jump while moving.

POWER

How can you make it so that as a player you can progress the story without doing exactly as you’ve been asked to do? The Advisors within the game are smart, but help you understand that you’re still making the decisions. They took a complicated GUI and added bickering and resonance to the gameplay.

Operations were the core objectives, things that must happen.

Power had been earned, so it could be used to open new areas. Any area you opened should have enough power to open another area, so that you never achieved a zero-sum power solution. Power mechanics allowed you to continue buying and getting awesome armor, wtc. without hoarding. It allowed for a fluid economy. The open world idea allows the spoilers will not occur if they share the experience.

Completionist players had far, far too much power. And our team had to deal with that. As did the hinterlands pacing.

WHile it was a major struggle, looking back I feel:
It was a big game, the team worked hard, we did well.

Mike Laidlaw is Bioware’s Dragon Age Creative Director

Capstone Courses Roundtable with Walter Rotenberry

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As part of Wake Tech Community College’s professional development seminar, I attended the Capstone Course Roundtable presented by Walter Rotenberry. Walter Rotenberry is the lead for Wake Tech’s SGD department (simulation and video game development).

In the roundtable discussion, Rotenberry laid out his procedure for a capstone course, which I have vaguely outlined below:

  1. Establish the course as a capstone for your program. Inform students prior to entering and upon their first day in the class the details involved with the planned courses of action. Include all expectations, all contingencies, the level of quality required, and how their potential employment may be affected by their level of commitment. Remind them that they will get out of the course whatever they put into it.
  2. Set a final date for presentation. Plan that date and make sure that the course centers around the expectations required on that date.
  3. Focus on what is achievable. Students in Rotenberry’s class presented all their materials to the class in their first week, each choosing their best project to work with, fleshing it out over time to a perfect, finished project to present.
  4. Involve the community. Rotenberry contacted his closest contemporaries at surrounding colleges (in his case, NCSU and their graduate program in Game Development) and had a few joint sessions in which his team and their team could exchange ideas, discuss current projects, and discuss current topics, trends, and ideas in the industry. This was instrumental in achieving a program in which questions would be posed, answered, and attended to BEFORE presentation
  5. Pitch your programs to the best in the business. OK, we presented to CEOs and presidents of video game companies in our area, Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill. Walter Rotenbery lined up the individuals and set their dates to attend, reminding them prior to the festivities, and following up with each one.
  6. Make an event of it. Students came prepared to discuss their work, networked with the individuals present and enjoyed snacks. After a short time had passed, each student presented their projects to the group, and in some cases individual computers were opened so that industry folk could try out each game on their own.
  7. Don’t let the music stop. Walter’s students passed out business cards and links to online portfolios and games. Students followed up with individuals, and several made appointments to meet with industry designers. Several employment opportunities came out of the presentations, and it has become a permanent addition to the SGD (simulation and game development) track.

In attending this training, I could clearly see how our Graphic Design IV or our Portfolio classes could easily become capstone courses. Portfolio could easily transition to involvement with local organizations such as AIGA here in Raleigh, NC or TIMA (triangle interactive Media Association). Graphic Design IV could easily ally with the Addy Awards or with GDUSA and other magazine contests. I look forward to discussing this with Damu Murray, Woody Hayes, and Marsha Mills.