Our First Week

The first day of any new job can be nerve-racking. Five individual first days with a brand new company … perhaps even more so. But that didn’t keep the Reactuate Games (RG) team from expressing their eagerness to start building a video game from scratch. On the fifteenth floor in Abilene’s tallest building, the Enterprise Tower, Ron introduced the team to the RG command center, a two-room office with red couches, five Ikea desks, and a great view of West Texas. Here we would develop a game from nothing. Here we would create what was once only a mere thought.

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For most of us, our first week at Reactuate Games was a learning experience. Not only is working in a business environment with elevators different for some, but producing a game of this magnitude with a handpicked team is a special experience some of us have only wistfully daydreamed about until now.

Throughout the week, we studied design tutorials, coding, andIMG_6847 photo-editing programs, learning skills we will need for everyday tasks during this intensive summer launch. Humbly, we even looked to the Google-gods for help with a few of our problems. After our Agile-Scrum development training, (a relatively new workplace methodology we will discuss in another post), we transformed the office into a productive and “stream-friendly” atmosphere. We moved around the furniture, created a Scrum Wall, and had our first Scrum meetings, which were a lot less painful than any Rugby player may presume.

We had a lot of questions at first– Where do we start? How does this game development stuff work? What are our goals, and how long will it take to reach them? It seemed as if we had more questions than answers.

But questions are not necessarily a bad thing, especially for our new company. Asking means that we care. It means that we are excited and willing to work. It may even mean we are all a little anxious about the journey ahead of us. However, despite not knowing the territory we will venture into in these upcoming months, we are all packed and ready to go.

Ready Player One, Our First Fiction Library Addition

I can’t remember the last time I purchased a paper fictional book. I’ve gone totally digital for a number of reasons that I won’t go into here, but tonight, with much help from a friendly staff member at the Abilene Books a Million, I found and purchased two copies of Ernest Cline’s novel Ready Player One.

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Ernest Cline and me at 2012 Austin Comiccon

I already own both the Kindle version and the Audible version — which is read by Wil Wheaton, who is the perfect reader for this book. Matter of fact, when I met Ernest at an Austin’s comic convention a few years ago, I didn’t have anything for him to sign. So I got a picture with him instead.

Why is this the first book added to the company fiction library? Well if you are asking that, you haven’t read the book. It’s an obvious addition and the OASIS is an obvious influence on Colony Manager. Just like how Snow Crash would be.

And why do we have a fiction library? Because of the article, “No Dickheads! A Guide to Building Happy, Healthy, and Creative Teams.” That was the first article I made my team read.

Interestingly, the things I remembered out of the article were the “wall of fame,” as I called it, where you print and post work people do in the studio, the cooking, the families, and the meetings where people can listen in. Stephanie remembered the books and the reading. She’s the word-lover in the company. I have little doubt she’ll be the first to pick up one of these codexes and read it.

If you haven’t read Ready Player One, let me include the words on the back here. It does a much better job of telling you about the book than I normally do.

         In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them.
But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

If you haven’t read it, go out and do so now.

My 2012 Review of Ready Player One

About the Team

Reactuate Games has hired its team! Get to know the crew …

Group Pic July2

Ron Davis, President and Creative Mastermind

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Ron Davis, Founder

It’s always been Ron Davis’s dream to write and create video games. With degrees in both Mass Communications and Computer Science, Ron leads Reactuate Games to becoming the first game company in Abilene, Texas. The company’s Creative Mastermind enjoys creating in general, but games are special to him. “Games are the narrative of our age,” says Ron, believing games are simply stories that people play and interact with. Games like Starcraft, the original Warcraft, and Borderlands have all made an impact on Ron. Tiny Tina from Borderlands is his favorite game character because she’s 13-years-old and blows stuff up.

Austin Graham, Code Artist

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Austin Graham, Coding Artist

Hailing from Jacksonville, Florida, Austin Graham originally had interests in marine biology, but upon moving to Corpus Christi, Texas, Austin’s passion for video games took over, leading him to the field study of Digital Entertainment Technology at Abilene Christian University. At a young age, Austin was intrigued by fantasy and sci-fi storytelling, The Magic Treehouse and Star Trek among his top two influences. Games like Civilization and the Zoo and Rollercoaster Tycoon series impacted Austin’s love for games, which stems from his view that games create powerful and needed escapism for players. A nice strawberry-spinach-banana smoothie refreshes him after a long day of programming.

Katey Bluel, Digital Artist

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Katey Bluel, Digital Artist

Katey Bluel has many homes–Indiana where she was born, Rowlett, Texas, where she grew up, and her new apartment in Abilene. Gaming is a family hobby for Katey as her step-dad introduced her to video games and her sisters and mother play regularly. Katey developed an early passion for art and drawing but disliked the painting and coloring techniques; this led her to drawing and creating digitally. As a student in the Digital Entertainment Technology program at Abilene Christian University, Katey hopes to use her talents as a digital artist to create games and maybe teach others about the field. Katey’s other hobbies include Netflix, playing with her puppy Peyton, and snacking on cheese quesadillas from Taco Bell.

Stephanie Whitlow, Marketing Producer and Podcast Host

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Stephanie Whitlow, Marketing Producer

A native Texan, Stephanie Whitlow recently graduated from Abilene Christian University with a master’s degree in English. Though she gets sweaty-palmed playing video games, she loves the storytelling within them and the control players have to evolve the plot. When she isn’t writing and broadcasting for Reactuate Games, Stephanie enjoys competitively playing volleyball and basketball, watching the San Antonio Spurs win, and eating Mexican food. Her favorite video games include Sims, Just Dance, and Mario Party.

Angel Rodriguez, Podcast Host

Angel Rodriguez, Podcast Host
Angel Rodriguez, Podcast Host

Angel Rodriguez is currently in the U.S. Air Force but leads a fascinating double life as a game enthusiast and competitor. Angel speaks regularly to groups on how gaming can benefit communities and individuals, and he also travels the world, playing his favorite games in international tournaments. Angel knows his stuff and is an experienced gamer.

Reactuate Games Mini-Business Plan

This is the business plan that won the ACU Springboard Idea Challenge 2015. I was asked by some of my GDC Conference Associate friends if they could read it, so I’m posting it. Reactuate_Games_Business_Plan_Edit_for_Publication_pages
Posting it was actually kind of hard for me and I’m not sure why. I did take out the financials because they included salary numbers and some people don’t like that being public. Plus the income numbers were mostly just pulled out of my butt, but those forecasts are required by VCs.

We’re going to do development in public and that is ultimately why I just decided to get over my discomfort and post the plan.

Notes about the plan

It’s a mini-business plan, meaning it was limited to 10 narrative pages. There could have been a lot more detail. Matter of fact I have a note in Evernote titled “Business Plan Expulsions” where I put stuff I took out.

There are lots of different outlines and templates you can find for business plans. This plan is based on very loose guidance given by the Griggs Center about what they wanted to see in the plan. It is also focused for the Springboard competition and talks a lot more about the Summer Launch than I think a plan aimed at other angel investors would be.

It assumes the readers don’t know anything about the games industry or software development. People with a deeper understanding of the industry may think some of the explanations were simplistic, and they are.

Things evolve, already there are changes. This plan had changed before I’d even pitched. A big change was the name of the “Summer Intensive” in the plan to “Summer Launch” now. I found people thought “Intensive” meant internship and it would only last 3 months. But what it really means is 3 months of intense focus that will lay the foundation of company.

Finally describing an art business like a video game company in a business plan is like describing a woman by her gym workout. Those number may be somewhat related to her beauty, but they miss the magic and transcendence that is beauty.

Why did I win?

The short answer is “I don’t know”.

The less short answer is there isn’t one thing that made the difference. I get this a lot, where people try to guess what it was that made them pick me. But if I put myself in their place, I’m sure it wasn’t just one thing.

I could write a whole blog post on what was thinking as a wrote it, and all the value I got writing the various parts of the plan. Maybe I will if I think people are interested.

My final answer is always, all I know is what they said when they presented the award to me which was, “Ron has a lot of experience in the game industry and he’s got some really innovative ideas about how to use students.”

The Reactuate Games Mini-Business Plan

Reactuate Games Business Plan 04-2015

Summer Launch

Form a team. Build a game. Attract an Audience. Launch a company.

These are the goals of Reactuate Games’ Summer Launch. We’re going to build a team of coders, artists and producers from local colleges and universities, then spend three months creating a working playable prototype. While creating this we’ll be live streaming our development process, working with our community and building something awesome. At the end of the process we’ll launch a Kickstarter and allow the community to decide how we move forward.

We’re hiring four full-time positions starting at the end of May in Abilene Texas.

Code Artist
Digital Artist (2x)
Marketing Producer

If you are passionate about creating cool, beautiful video games we want to hear from you. Look over the position responsibilities and apply.

Digital Artist

Reactuate Games is not hiring at this time.
Digital Artists are jack-of-all-trades artists with a wide variety of skills to create assets for actual use in games. They will have knowledge of the tools needed to create the art work and the ability to quickly learn new tools.

Responsibilities:

  • Create beautiful art work that wows everyone that sees it.
  • Deliver game artwork in formats needed for use in the game.
  • Obsessive use of the source control system.
  • Always create art assets with an eye to how it may serve multiple purposes in the game and allow customization by other artists.

To apply send you resume or a link to an up to date LinkedIn profile, as well as samples of your work to jobs@reactuategames.com.

Applications are due by May 1, 2015

You might want to check out the Jobs FAQ, especially if you are applying from outside Abilene.

Image by Intel Free Press

Code Artist

Reactuate Games is not hiring at this time.
Code Artists write the computer code that brings our games to life. Code includes not only those things written in a language like Python or C#, but logic created in development environments like Unity.

Responsibilities:

  • Create elegant, beautiful and effective code to bring the Game Design to life.
  • Conform to the Reactuate Software Coding Standard for the language code is written in.
  • Obsessive use of the Reactuate Games Source Control System.
  • Always write and document code with an eye to how someone else may have to expand, maintain or otherwise interact with it in the future.

(This is not a technical artist position, rather the name reflects that game code is an art and a science.)

To apply send your resume or a link to an up to date LinkedIn profile, as well as samples of your work to jobs@reactuategames.com.

Applications are due by May 1, 2015

You might want to check out the Jobs FAQ, especially if you are applying from outside Abilene.

Image by Caboodle Media

Marketing Producer

Reactuate Games is not hiring at this time.

The Marketing Producer tells our story every day and connects it with the stories of our community. We’re living and producing a documentary of the birth of a game company in Abilene Texas and the Marketing Producer leads this vision.


Responsibilities:

  • Establish and manage the Reactuate Games online presence.
  • Produce content documenting our lives building the company and broadcast daily via social media.
  • Coordinate and inspire other team members to participate in telling our story.
  • Plan and execute Kickstarter pre-launch and launch campaigns to allow others to be part of our story.


To apply send your resume or a link to an up to date LinkedIn profile, as well as samples of your work to jobs@reactuategames.com.

Applications are due by May 1, 2015

You might want to check out the Jobs FAQ, especially if you are applying from outside Abilene.

Image by Sean P Anderson

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