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Saturday, June 16, 2007

The First Day of Origins

STEVE COLE REPORTS: We had the official "first meeting about Origins" today. It's been an agenda item at a dozen previous meetings, and a lot of stuff has been done about it, but this was the official "first meeting". Of course, the first "day" of Origins is 5 July, and a lot of stuff will be going on during 4 July and some even on 3 July, and people are already playing electronic on-line tournament games. And come to think of it, we had extensive origins planning meetings on 1 May and back in January and a week after Origins 06. So "first day of Origins" is a concept easy to define but hard to nail down.

Years ago (1999), we made a list of things to do for Origins (and a separate list of things to take to it). Being military-trained, after Origins was over, we had an "after action review", updated and revised the lists, and filed them away for next year. Every year, we have a meeting after Origins to update and revise the lists, and another meeting in January and another about 1 May. When the official count-down begins (today, for this year) the "final" revision to the list is printed out and handed to everybody involved. That happened today. Whenever anybody has extra time (and we all MAKE time every day) we do some of the stuff on the list. (The list is broken down by when it can be and has to be done. Some things cannot be done until literally 5 minutes before we drive out, others earlier that day, others the Saturday before, others the week before, others any old time.) We have scheduled the afternoon of 20 June to "do all we can to shorten the list". Such a specific schedule is needed because about 1/3 of the list cannot be done by a single person, but requires a team of two or more people, and everybody has to clear Wednesday afternoon so that whatever pair or triad of people we need is available. All of us have already done some of the stuff on our personal lists, and will do more and more as we move forward.

This year is shaping up to be a good one at the show. We have an experienced team and hot new products. It's also shaping up to be one of the easiest years, since we are about two weeks ahead of schedule. Not time to burn, but time to do things right, and time to do things that normally wouldn't get done (like full nights of sleep). This is due in no small part to Vanessa forcing us to do pages of CL35, pages of R11, pages of FCBA, months ago. We always wanted to run the company that way, and always knew how. The problem is that there was no "boss" to decide where the priorities were. (I am of course the boss, but I also have other jobs such as customer support and deal making and running the company. It is just too easy for somebody to argue with me that I need to put aside game design "just for today" (this happens every day) and do some non-design stuff. Since I was "the boss" who had to decide the argument between "the designer" (me) and the person wanting to rob the designer to pay the other problem, there was nobody to argue in favor of the designer (me) and it was too easy for the boss to get talked into assigning the designer non-priority items. Vanessa, bless her heart, agreed to pretend to be a total bitch (which took some effort as she was really a sweet person, but she watched DEVIL WEARS PRADA for a point of reference), and we agreed to pretend that we were actually afraid of her. (That part didn't take much doing, we WERE afraid of her. I still cringe whenever I hear high-heeled shoes.) So, every day and every week, "doing pages for Vanessa" came FIRST because she blew a fit if we did not fulfill her quota. (She might have been pretending, we were never sure, which is a good thing.) The result was that CL35 (the best issue ever) got done on time instead of late, and the two weeks every previous issue has been late (and the week it took to catch up after two weeks of 16-hour overtime days) is why we're ON schedule instead of behind it right now. So, once again, God Bless Vanessa. We needed somebody to pretend to be a total bitch and she took up the challenge. Now if we can just get her to drop by once a week and threaten us, we should stay on schedule.