International Success July 11 in Atlanta

One thing that has always made me proud about the games I have worked on has been the international audience they reach. One of my HDI partners likes to tell the story of when he got a call from China in the early 90s, where a raid on a warehouse of pirated software revealed a trove of unauthorized copies of HDI’s first game, “Battles of Destiny.” He used that to get BOD’s then-publisher to release a Mandarin version of the game.

However, international success requires a lot more than just having a translated version of the game, and we are exploring a number of these factors 6 pm July 11 at the Atlanta Technology Development Center (ATDC). This meeting is open to the public and includes a number of great participants:

The meeting’s focus is on startups and game studios, but really applies to companies of any size. International partners play an important role for any company wanting to do any more than the bare minimum to export its games. With Fading Suns, we always had great distributors in South America and Europe who would promote our translations through their networks. Now Ulisses Spiele, a German company, and GOG, a Polish company, take that role for Fading Suns and Emperor of the Fading Suns, respectively. We are fortunate that Blair Lucas, Group Commercial Director of Acclime, will share his experiences both on interational sales and partnerships.

We also have Joe Rubagumya from the Integral group to talk about localizing your game or product. Localization, which requires greater understanding of foreign audiences that just the language, is much more valuable than simply translating your game.

Since many of our attendees are startup founders, we also expect this to be a great opportunity for anyone looking for work, as well as for investors hoping to meet innovative young companies. Make sure to register HERE if you want to join us.

Questioning Startups

With Game Tech Hub, we have been interviewing startups to join our first cohort. This is similar to how we have interviewed companies for our long-running SIEGE Investment Conference. I heard a lead for another accelerator talk about how he did not like to question startups about their ideas. He thought that investors who did so, trying to poke holes in it or offer other suggestions, were mainly trying to make themselves look good and were failing in their role as mentors. In my experience, the purpose of these questions is exactly the opposite. It is the investors’ attempt to determine how open the founders are to feedback, how ready and able they are to take advice. Other investors have told me that one of the greatest threats to new companies is the owners’ hubris and inability to accept input from others. How founders respond to questions about their central idea, often one of the concepts that means the most to them, is a great indicator of how easily they can accept feedback and coaching across the board.

Hasbro and the D&D Open License

The news that Hasbro is considering significant limits to the Dungeons and Dragons Open Gaming License is not a big surprise. Holistic Design used the OGL for WOTC’s D20 Modern system long ago (no, not for Fading Suns). We wanted to explore some modern themes (terrorism, the impact of war on individuals, clash of cultures, etc.) and it provided an easy way to do so. Our Colombia, Afghanistan and Somalia books were not big financial successes, but creating them gave all of us greater insights into those complex situations as well as what people who fought there suffered.

While I worry about creators who risk having their main income sources curtailed, I do look forward to what they might come up with if they reject whatever terms the new OGL requires. We used the Modern D20 system both for its ease of use, and so we could focus on creating source material instead of rules. However, had we developed our own rules for these books, combat would have no doubt been deadlier (leading more players to try to resolve conflict without fighting); it would have caused significant trauma; and we would have tried to more accurately represent the chaos of combat.

Good luck to all the OGL creators. I can’t wait to play what comes next.

For our unreleased FBI book

More Thoughts on AI and Fading Suns

In one recent conversation of current artificial intelligence trends, the discussion turned to how AI would contemplate religion. This is on of the robots I enjoyed designing for Fading Suns – a golem programmed to both accept and analyze the precepts of the Universal Church. PCs who encountered it would find it the most fervent adherent to its tenets, even while trying to legitimize its contradictions. I never got to have PCs point out that its own existence is anathema to many in the Church 🙂

I look forward to seeing how people put AI to use analyzing belief, and not just having it describe religion and spirituality.