- Oct. 1998)
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
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
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
- 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"
This and other developed technologies are discussed below:
Purpose: Technology Testbed
Languages Used: C++
Technologies: Windows 95, DirectX, OPAL
Purpose: Self-Taught Java Experiment
Languages Used: Java
Technologies: Browser Applet
Purpose: Pure Java E-Commerce Technology
Languages Used: Java
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
Of the designs we worked on, a few are listed below:
A solicited design, we were asked by associates at Interplay to
come up with a new game interpretation of Frank Herbert's Dune novel
It didn't win the contract, but it was certainly a fun exercise...
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.
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.
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.