By Jason Free, Executive Editor
The last time I spoke with Gregory Avery-Weir, he was planning to balance a day job along with the tremendous amount of work needed to advance the development of two new releases by Future Proof Games. Along with his new job, he and his partner, Melissa Avery-Weir, have had to deal with the realities of trying to put 25 hours of work in a 24-hour day. In this Living Case Study update, I spoke with both Melissa and Gregory not only to gauge where things stand with their projects, but also to learn about how they plan to adjust their work loads and expectations.
Jason Free: Gregory, let’s start with you. How are things going with the day job?
Gregory Avery-Weir: It’s fine. It is serving its purpose. It’s looking to be what I expected. There is not much of a creative challenge but it is satisfying to do good work and to do work well. The project itself isn’t particularly interesting.
Free: How has it been impacting your progress? One of the things you were concerned about the last time we talked was developing a routine and sticking with the routine.
GAW: It is definitely a challenge. I am running into the situations that any person does when they have got a day job and a passion job, which is that I'm spending eight hours a day working on something, and then when I get home, it is late and I have expended a lot of my energy at the job and my drive is gone. It has been a challenge to continue progress but I have managed to at least maintain forward velocity. It is at a slow pace, though. One of the things that has helped in maintaining that slow and steady pace is that we do what is called a weekly sprint planning meeting in Agile methodology. It is a weekly meeting where we review our tasks that both myself and my Co-Founder Melissa have done. We look at whether we have accomplished what our goal was for the week plan what we want to do for next week revise goals and so forth, having that periodic check in means that you can’t really get too far away from your goals.
Free: Melissa, where do things stand right now with LORE since the last time we spoke?
Melissa Avery-Weir: LORE is in a low priority so not much work has been done on it. We are trying to get Exploit: Zero Day into a state where it can be shown to other people, that Alpha: Zero state that we discussed last time. That is currently our primary focus. That has been going along very well. We are doing a lot of dotting i’s and crossing t’s right now. There aren’t any really huge features left to implement. There is a whole lot of miscellaneous stuff left. Making sure people are able to sign on, or ensuring that there is functionality in the puzzle editor, just little assets in the game. Those sorts of things are a lot of what we are working on right now.
Free: Even though you haven’t made strong progress, the plans haven’t changed in terms of moving forward with LORE, correct?
GAW: We are still planning, at least it is the tentative plan, to release a basic version of LORE with the complete rules and text.
MAW: It won’t have the presentation of the final form, but we hope to release it sometime in the near future.
Free: Let's discuss Exploit: Zero Day. Where do things stand with the alpha version?
MAW: The pace has slowed down as much as we have feared it might. It certainly hasn’t stopped, but both of us are proceeding slower than we would like to right now. That hasn’t changed priorities very much, but it has given us a more realistic or more accurate picture of our timescale and scope and so on. It has actually helped to solidify some of our understanding of our priorities.
Free: In what way?
GAW: In our planning meetings, we look at everything and we say, “So, we have only done this much work. We are not proceeding at a fast enough pace. This is going to take a while longer than we originally thought, so these are the things we really want to see done sooner rather than later, so that we can present a solid foundation of the game."
MAW: One of the things we have prioritized are the features that will help us develop faster. There are a lot of user-interface elements in the project that need to be present so that the end user, or player, has a pleasant experience, but they also make our jobs easier. We don’t have to go all the way around Jack's barn in order to access a part of the site. Instead, we have easy access to it and that is become something that has become higher priority as we begin our pace slowed down a bit.
GAW: There is the old adage of "killing your darlings" in creative work and we try our best to abide by it. It helps us say, "Okay. This feature doesn’t need to be in an alpha version. We want to get feedback as soon as we can, so we are willing to hold off on building this until later, and focus on what is important in this release."
Free: Would you say that the two of you divide things from the stand point that Melissa, you seem to be more of the game design side, and Gregory, you more of the creative side?
MAW: We try not to. Sometimes we run into instances where Greg will spend six hours trying to fix a server problem that I can fix in one. We only have so many hours in the day for the most part, so we are both trying to learn things that we are not good at yet. It has been really interesting and challenging. I think we are both trying to step outside our comfort zones and bubbles. The next big hurdle for me will be art. I am not an excellent artist and I am not very practiced at art but I want to be. I have to make the time for that.
Free: Explain how you deal with conflict. Given that there are only two of you, there is not a third vote to balance a conflict. How does that work?
MAW: It depends. Many things are surprisingly easy for us to settle. If it's a financial matter, we tend to go towards the conservative direction and hold off until we have more information to make the decision. If it is a softer conflict, like when I think a feature should be included and he doesn’t, or vice versa, in a non-emotionally-violent way, we argue. We say, "Convince me why, or why not we should build this element." It doesn’t become a battle. It's not about winning or being right. It is about talking out loud and painting the picture of the scenario each of us see happening, and it gives us a different and better understanding of what it means to having the element, or what not having the element might be. Usually, we decide that the issue can wait until the beta version, if users ask for it.
GAW: It helps that Melissa and I have known each other for a very long time and have worked together for a while. We are pretty comfortable exerting our viewpoints and understanding the priorities of our project. Also, kind of ironically, it helps that neither one of us has experience with business and business prioritization. We are learning and studying up on these sorts of things as we go. That being said, when we begin to get feedback from the alpha zero version, Melissa and I will have to listen to what the users say and want. That will be interesting considering the fact that all of the decisions up to this point have been made on our own.