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Treating Strangers like Friends

When you travel with someone for a year or two, you pick up their habits. One of Todd's habits that I most admire, and am thankful to have picked, up is the practice of treating strangers like friends. When he goes to a restaurant and the waiter asks him how he is, he tells him what's going on in his life and returns the question in such a way that it obligates a genuine response. When we leave a restaurant, everyone we know gets a hug.

I get nostalgic, mostly for times I wasn't alive for. Like the middle ages. And, more relevantly, like the days before computers and cell phones, when neighbors actually recognized each other, and maybe even talked to each other. Shopkeepers were called shopkeepers, and they knew their customers by name. Their conversations extended beyond a scripted sales pitch for a rip-off extended warranty. I miss these times because I've seen them in movies and read about them in books, not because I've really experienced them.

Simple habits can be profound. One such habit that is more important than ever is to treat strangers like friends. Facebook, cell phones, and other "social" technologies have done to friendship what laminate flooring did for hardwood floors. It made things easier and more accessible, but did so at the cost of substance. In fact, this is happening in pretty much every area of life, something I've realized more fully now that I'm trying to find meat with substance; it's almost impossible. So I try to treat everyone as though they're a real person, just in case they actually are. Unfortunately I can't answer all my email anymore, but when I do I try to write to the person as if they're my friend, rather than use stock replies (which I could do, since a lot of the things people write about are similar). Once in a while I even fill someone in on secret future plans or send them a draft of something. When interacting with random people in everyday life, I make an effort to actually listen to them and to talk about things that they may not have talked about with every person they've interacted with that day.

Budgeting and Feature List

On Gorilla Tactics

So Monday marked the start of my work on a new Kickstarter project. I stopped working on game development, and started putting my full effort toward creating a Kickstarter project which I will launch a day or so before the Boston Festival of Indie Games, which I'm showing King Randall's Party at. Yesterday I started out with one of the more important aspects of running a Kickstarter: figuring out your burn rate.

For those of you unfamiliar with the term, a burn rate is simply the amount of money you use per month in order to sustain yourself at whatever your standard of living is. The burn rate could apply to an entire company or, as is the case here, just to me. The real challenge involved in figuring out your burn rate is taxes. Say you need $20,000 per year in order to survive. Well, you can't just make 20k and be all right, you need to earn some amount that, after you remove taxes, is over 20k. Since taxes vary greatly based on what state you live in, and what kind of deductibles you can apply to your revenue, this can quickly get complicated. Add in Self-Employment tax, which anyone who is part of an LLC, Sole-Proprietorship, or Partnership that makes over $400 in revenues must pay, and things can get out of hand pretty quickly.

So yesterday I spent the day putting together an Excel spreadsheet that does a pretty good job of approximating how much taxes I will pay based on any particular income. When figuring out how much I need in order to finish King Randall's Party, I can test out different incomes until I find one that provides the correct amount of funding to finish the game, and then use that as my Kickstarter goal (factoring in Kickstarter's cut of the funding).

Having finished that yesterday, today I'm working on revamping my feature list for the game so that I can estimate how much time I'll need to finish the game, and how much money I'll need for hiring artists and animators to finish off the games visuals. That's a pretty tough task in itself, but the challenge is mostly about making sure to dig down as deep as I can into the guts of the feature list and listing as much as I can. As with all game development, there will be some features or assets that I either can't think of when creating the list, or their need won't become apparent until further into development, so it's also important to build some buffer into the projects budget.

More updates coming as I get further into the process. Also, here is the latest video of the game!

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