Changes Ahead

“The only certainty is that nothing is certain,” – translated from Pliny the Elder.

Roman author Gaius Plinius Secundus was a noted philosopher of his time. One of the reasons so many of us endured Latin in high school was so we would have the pleasure of reading various motes of philosophy in their original form, then struggle to make sense of them since it has been a long time since anyone has actually said anything in Latin.

This quote of his, and I lost whatever meager ability I ever had to translate Latin about ten minutes after tenth grade ended, has endured, often accompanied by Benjamin Franklin’s exceptions of death and taxes, which he was far from the first to notice.

It endures because the older you get, the more you understand that even when you make decisions based on solid reasoning and expectations, life often throws you a proverbial curve-ball. All you can do is embrace the uncertainty of being and do your best to find a new path, not get into ruts, not dwell over things you can’t control.

I find it interesting that Pliny the Elder died at the same age I am now. Would he have found certainty if the Romans had better health care available?

“Carpe Diem,” – Horace.

Roman poet Horace is best known for this simple, two-word phrase that doesn’t require high-school Latin to translate. Seize the Day (though carpe is not exactly Latin for seizing). When opportunity arrives, recognize it and go for it, because you don’t have that many genuine opportunities in life.

Twenty-three years ago, I was sitting in a restaurant on Bourbon Street in New Orleans with a few of my co-workers, enjoying the French Quarter’s signature drink – the Hurricane. It’s often served in a Mason jar stamped with the name of the restaurant, which you can take home as a souvenir to prove you have experienced a significant milestone in the life of a well-traveled tourist.

Faded lettering, still inspirational?

I enjoyed spending time with my co-workers. It was a good group of people. Our office was in Bellevue, Washington – I believe Steam, today, is headquartered in the same building, though I could be off by one high-rise. The 1990s was a great time to be a computer programmer, and the “Eastside” of King County was programmer central. But the work was uninteresting and this was my third job in the field after graduating college.

I remember musing about how nice it would be to try something new and original. Many of us were attaching ourselves to new opportunities. That summer, about half of our office left to join a tiny start-up in a Seattle warehouse. Some guy named Jeff was trying to build an on-line bookstore and was hiring almost anyone who could code. Many of those start-ups failed, but some of them didn’t. That one didn’t.

The previous day, we had gone through our routines demonstrating our company’s products in the New Orleans convention center. Dressed in identical logo-stamped tee-shirts, showing off technology that did nothing more than allow our customers to connect their computers and handle their businesses seamlessly. From time to time, the company CEO, impeccably clad in a designer suit and sunglasses, would travel the center’s halls in a golf cart with a personal driver, flanked by security guards on foot. I have no idea how they handled escalators or elevators.

Was he the Rock Star we all wanted to be? He was rumored to be in the process of purchasing an NHL franchise, of all things. I didn’t particularly like the image, but I appreciated the display of primacy. That night, the highlight of the experience – he brought in Penn and Teller to perform their routine for the thousands of employees who had flown in for the conference.

As we sipped our Hurricanes and waited for our Blackened Redfish, we complained about the routine. Someone had heard a story about the CEO noticing an employee sitting by the pool at their hotel when he should have been on the convention floor. Allegedly, fired on the spot. Stories like these are often twisted or invented to keep the rank-and-file scared and focused. It’s not an approach that works well with programmers, so it was having the opposite effect on our group. I remember talking about sports gaming and my side-work at the time, which was reviewing games for Computer Gaming World. It may have been the first time I spoke aloud about wanting to leave the cubicle world. At least not in Latin.

The Redfish was spicy and a bit uncomfortable, but new and delicious.

A few months later, after discussing my ideas with editors at CGW, I decided to take the plunge and got a business license for Solecismic Software. I left that job on February 20, 1998. Freedom Day. I carpe-d. It worked out well.

Obviously, the gaming industry has changed a lot since 1998. I have been saying for years that the days when a single person could do everything for one product are over. There were several of us who got into sports gaming in the ’90s. We all had different approaches, and some of us were able to sell enough games to do this for a living. I’ve been lucky to be one of that group. Markus Heinsohn and Andreas Raht have done the same with OOTP Developments.

One thing that might surprise you is that we don’t really view each other as competitors. We’re all people who have had similar dreams, interests and abilities. The success of one of us only helps the genre. It’s not an either-or. Our products are, and remain, different enough that those of you out there who enjoy the simulating side of sports gaming have many options.

Markus and Andreas have focused their efforts more on growth. I have tried to avoid growth. But their vision fits more into today’s reality than mine. We’ve all remained friendly over the years. In early 2017, I contacted Markus and asked if he had any interest in joining forces. My initial thought was to write the sequel to TCY. But the timing was right for OOTP to start over with pro football, and a new FOF would be the better choice for the marketplace. A few months later, we formed a partnership to produce FOF9. I would re-write my game with expansion in mind and to fit an entirely new GUI system. They would provide graphics, a framework and marketing.

Any good business arrangement requires timing, opportunity and hard work. In 2017, we had all of that and were making great progress. We felt it likely we would have a great new product out in the fall of 2018. We felt good enough about it that we announced the partnership – not coincidentally on the 20th anniversary of Freedom Day.

Fast forward to today, as we announce that we’re ending the partnership. What happened?

The opportunity remains. The game we were creating would be a good fit for the current marketplace. Certainly, we’ve put a lot of hard work into it. What we lost was timing.

I can’t speak for Markus or Andreas. What I can say is that after OOTP 19 came out, with the promise of the Perfect Team 1.0 beta a few months later, OOTP had to carpe diem. We tried to continue with the football, but once momentum is lost with a project, it’s hard to find a new rhythm. We still hoped that 2019 was a possibility, but we didn’t do a good job redefining responsibilities. That was straightened out, and we had a good road map for 2020. We only needed more resources. And when it comes down to it, this is OOTP’s opportunity, with their primary product, to become a much bigger player in the sports gaming business. What made perfect sense in 2017 no longer fits their company.

I understand and respect their decision. It’s tough. I can’t lie about that. I have most of FOF8 and a good number of exciting new features completed and a new framework in place. Almost all of the UI is completed. But we don’t have anything in the way of graphics, so it’s not something I can show off or finish in time for a 2020 release. I’m still using place-holders, mostly from FHM as the UI is the same base as theirs, not OOTP’s.

Markus and Andreas remain friends. We are not ending this out of anger or because we’re not making progress. It simply doesn’t make sense for OOTP to have a new football product right now and they have to seize the opportunity they have now, without distraction. They are letting me use what we’ve created without restriction, and that is because all of us in this business root for and try and support each other. I’m genuine in my hopes that OOTP and Perfect Team and the upcoming mobile product help their company reach new heights. I’m sure they will feel the same way if I return to FOF development and am able to get that project together.

Will that happen? I don’t know. I am taking the time right now to evaluate Solecismic Software. Does growth make sense? Is it feasible to continue work within this new framework or would I need to start over? Do I leave the business entirely and get a “real” job. Everything is on the table right now and I honestly don’t know what the future holds.

Thanks for reading. I will post again once I have a better idea of what form Solecismic Software will take.