Buzz Software

(Jan. 1997 - Oct. 1998)


Background:

Buzz Software was a software company founded by myself and two ex-Presagians, Jon Benton and Bruce Von Kugelgen. Together, we banded together to form a company to make games like WE wanted to play. Our business model was a simple one: work as a software consulting firm for anyone that would pay us, and use those profits to fund our internal development of a game title to a level where we could find a publisher to continue its development, or until such a time as we could self-publish in the Shareware market.

In my role as CTO of Buzz Software, I wore many hats. In conjunction with the efforts of my partners I was responsible for finding and developing business clients, developing internal technologies, working for company clients on and off site, hardware and software purchasing and installation, game design and pitches, technical documentation, financial issues and anything else necessary to keep the business afloat.

Unfortunately, after nearly two years we decided to close the doors on Buzz. It had been a good run and a great learning experience, but the stress of working two full-time jobs for others and for ourselves proved too much for me to bear. Buzz dissolved amicably, we walked away wiser and with an excellent C++ cross-platform game development code base for use as we saw fit. A demo game utilizing this code base is available for download below.


Buzz Corporate HeadQuarters

 

 

Further Information:


Programming:

Programming at Buzz fell into two camps: programming for others and programming for ourselves. For others, each of us at Buzz contracted to a variety of instutions in the game, education, and business worlds. Many of these contracts were covered by NDA's, and cannot be deeply discussed. However, those companies we did work for can be listed and a partial client list of those I personally worked for follows:

  • HeadSpace (Development of the Windows Beatnik editor)
  • Animation Science (Analysis of internal technologies for Internet applications)
  • Genuus (Port of Macintosh multimedia application to Windows)
  • XCaret (Corporate representation, development of various Java e-commerce solutions)
  • Forte Systems (Subcontracting for various MFC and SQL tasks)
  • Broderbund (Assisting other programmers at Buzz with tasks as needed)

Programming for ourselves took the route of developing OPAL (Object-Oriented Platform Abstraction Layer) and a game that would proof the technology. The plaform abstraction layer covered all major issues between the PC and Macintosh, including Graphics, File I/O, Memory, Resources, etc. This effort led to the development of Rexx Copiously, our first and only "completed" game title.

This and other developed technologies are discussed below:

Developed Technologies

Rexx Copiously

Purpose: Technology Testbed
Languages Used: C++
Technologies: Windows 95, DirectX, OPAL

Mobile Artillery

Purpose: Self-Taught Java Experiment
Languages Used: Java
Technologies: Browser Applet

Java Technologies

Purpose: Pure Java E-Commerce Technology
Languages Used: Java
Technologies: AS/400, Applet, Servlet, JavaScript, SQL, JDBC, DB2


Game Designs:

While at Buzz we created a large number of designs for the games we wanted to make. Some of these were polished and presented to various publishers for consideration. While we received positive feedback about the designs themselves, no publisher was willing to sign an unproven development company without at least a prototype game in place. This inspired our business model: work by day for others in order to finance one's game prototype by night.

Of the designs we worked on, a few are listed below:

Game Designs

Dune

A solicited design, we were asked by associates at Interplay to come up with a new game interpretation of Frank Herbert's Dune novel for submission.

It didn't win the contract, but it was certainly a fun exercise...

The Breed

A fun concept utilizing the concept of genetic "breeding" of units in a 3D RTS, The Breed went through a period of life as a boardgame before we ever set down to write a line of code.

Other Designs

I've worked on many other designs, both under my own initiative and for various companies I've worked for. For a more complete list of these design efforts please follow the link above.


Buzz's Philosophy:

Our philosophy never was to "get rich". While it would have been nice, we sacrificed the big-dollar computer-consultant route (though tasting of it in our consulting work) for the sake of developing games we believed in. The following philosophical statement about where we saw Buzz was presented on our web site:

Playability is the key.
We believe it is important to recognize and exploit new technologies, but too often we see playability sacrificed in the name of innovation. We strongly believe that an approachable, playable game will succeed against any competitor that sacrifices fun, no matter how technologically advanced. For a game to be approachable and fun to play it is necessary for its creators to understand what makes games tick. This knowledge must be exploited in the creation of the initial design, and then used to measure the timbre of the game at every step during development. True playability derives from proper game balance: the involvement of multiple human players, responsive computer characters, and compelling game mechanics all must be weighed to achieve the level of playability that is the key to success.

Technology is the method.
Riding the wave of innovation engulfing consumer electronics, home-computers and console entertainment are constantly changing in new and spectacular ways. This presents opportunity for faster, more immersive, and more entertaining products to be produced. Technology, and the capability to harness it, is the method by which a good product is further enhanced. Technology should be exploited whenever it will enhance the maximum enjoyment of the product. It is not an end unto itself, but it has many good uses that should not be overlooked. Ever-improving technology can be harnessed to provide better connections between multiple players scattered across the world, to increase the realism and reactivity of the world presented by the game, and to blur the boundaries between human and computer opponents.

Experience is the solution.
To make a great game, you need to combine technology with mechanics, and follow through on the design in the development phase. All too often a great design is crippled or left incomplete by inadequate attention to detail during development. To avoid this pitfall it is necessary to not only understand the reason why a game is great, but to understand how to deliver on the promise of that design and see it through to completion. The solution to this problem is experience. Execution is a function of experience, which shows in each step along the way. Software in general, and games in particular, are not cooked up from a recipe, they are crafted individually. Experience guides the developer through each step, and the result is an expression of the developer's ability to use their knowledge of the development process. The end product is a great game of which creators and customers alike can be proud.


 
 

 



 

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