A time for change

Yes, the site looks very different and I've had to prematurely switch to this new theme that I'm working on for a few reasons, the main one is that changing certain aspects of the site to fit the new theme will affect how the old one looks for everyone else. Can't work on the new stuff while the old one is still there, unfortunately.

There's a fair bit left to be done, so I'll be gradually working on it.

Getting burnt out on tsumea

So, for the most part, I've been the sole person doing all the news item writing, article gathering, website updating and maintenance, and email correspondences, week in, week out, for this site for over 11 years now, and I'll have to admit that for the last few weeks, I've felt pretty burnt out. I just didn't want to do this anymore.

While on the surface, it probably doesn't seem like much is being done, but for the last 8 or so months and in addition to all the things I normally do for the site, I've also been neck deep working on a few things including the tsumea app for iOS (and Android later). It's currently about 95% complete, but getting to this point has been an exhausting journey involving learning all the nuances of a new framework (jquery mobile), building the app and configuring the site to work with it, and then deciding to scrap the whole lot to start again with a better framework because jquery mobile was just too slow, clunky, and feature incomplete (the version I used didn't even do static navigation bars - I hacked it in via css and it surprisingly worked, but an odd bug appeared where the nav would simply disappear afterwards).

So, it was off to learning another framework which does everything entirely differently, building the app and again, reconfiguring the site to work with it, and then rewriting the whole lot when a major update hit the framework. Configuring the site to work with an app shouldn't be understated, btw, I've done that three different ways already, and I've read in a blog elsewhere by another app developer who lamented on clients that didn't understand that making an app which works with a website/server is a sizeable chunk of an app project, and I can absolutely concur with that. Things are made a bit more challenging when I have to figure out how to do that portion myself since examples and tutorials were/still are pretty scarce for my particular set up. There's also another new big feature that I've been implementing on the site and app which has been fairly time consuming, but more about that sometime later.

With the news of iOS 7 and Apple's requirements for apps to fit the new screen size and all the additional things I wanted to implement further down the line for the app, I've realised that this project will be yet another thing I have to constantly maintain, update, and look after in addition to all the things I already do on the website. The other issue is if anyone is even really going to use it in the end, so I've doubted whether all my time spent on it will have even be worth it.

A time for change

I've entertained the idea of simply shutting it all down, and this choice would be ideal for me, but it would seem like a massive waste due to the time I've already spent on the app and the website. So, I'm making one last push to get the app finished, finish the features I wanted on the site, and then eventually reduce the amount of stuff I do on here so I can work on other things not related to tsumea. The things I need to stop doing include:

1. Writing daily news items on tsumea. It just takes too much time. I really do make an effort for each news item I write, adding some backstory or thoughts in addition to covering the news in question rather than providing brief summaries, but while other websites have many editors producing news for theirs, there's just one of me here. I've hired additional news editors in the past and paid them an amount based on how many sponsors we've had, but it wasn't very much, unfortunately. There's also the option of getting volunteers to write news on the site for free, but that's not an idea I've ever really felt comfortable with.

There's a lot of news that I would love to have on tsumea that simply doesn't appear because I just don't have the time or resources to cover the kickstarter efforts, blog updates, mobile games releases and updates etc from the hundreds of independent games developers we have locally now. And why shouldn't all this stuff be on tsumea?

That's why I've decided to leverage the services of Reddit as our main news source. It's as simple as posting a title and link in our tsumea subreddit, and it'll appear on tsumea. Anyone can do it, and it takes less than 10 seconds. While I'm saddened that our own news system will no longer be in service, tsumea's news is quite a nicely refined feature where each news item is categorised and linked to the developer and section that the news is related to, it's certainly a whole lot better than having no news on the site at all. In fact, if its potential is realised, this stream of news on our sub-reddit would serve as a better way of spreading information to a much wider audience.

2. Posting job ads. I'm planning to remove myself from the bottleneck of posting job ads and I'll be setting up accounts for verified local games developers to directly add and remove job ads on their own without any approval needed. This also applies to others who want to add events to our calendar. Just post it yourselves!

What am I gonna do then?

After the app and the new site features are completed, I will still be looking after our games developer list, as well as doing general maintenance issues. I also do hope to put up an article feature once every fortnight or so on any particularly interesting topics that come to mind. The goal for me is to stop working on tsumea all day and night, 5 (and sometimes 7) days a week, which I have been doing for so long now.

When I started tsumea in 2002, I had every intention to make games. I was a pixel artist and modeller once. My pixel art appeared in the Australian Commodore and Amiga Review (ACAR) magazine in the 90's. My big regret has been that I've spent so much time and energy on tsumea and so little on what I initially wanted to do in the first place, and that's making games.

Last year, I made a pengo clone with C# in Unity and I had a great time doing it. I haven't been able to do anything games related since I've been so busy with tsumea. Unity is so incredible now that making games is easier than ever, and I really don't want to be on the sidelines watching games development anymore.

Comments

David Coen's picture

hanks for all your hard work on this, sorry for it to be 'ending' on such a low note for you..

Have confidences in your decsision, your in the best place to know what you need to do.

David

Cody's picture

This website is amazing, and pretty much got me setup for the games industry, cheers heaps :)

Helen Stuckey's picture

Hi Souri,

Thank you so much for all the work you have done over the years in facilitating, celebrating, documenting and preserving the story of games design in Australia. Your work has been hugely significant and leaves a great legacy. I will contact the NFSA and ask them to preserve the web site so that scholars and historians of the future will have access to your important work. All the best for your future ventures.

many thanks for all you have done

Helen Stuckey

souri's picture

Thanks Helen,
I'm not actually closing down the site completely, and everything here will still be accessible for the foreseeable future. I'm just transitioning the site so that I don't have to spend all my time working on it anymore. The hope is for tsumea to be something like Linkedin for our local games developers (better personal profiles, jobs, finding other local developers and available contractors), so that it just runs on autopilot on its own.

The days where I'm writing news items and content are certainly over.

Helen Stuckey's picture

If the NFSA grab it will hopefully survive in some form in perpetuity.
Digital archiving is a nightmare...
If you can keep it alive for your lifetime that would be awesome.

Giselle Rosman's picture

Hi Souri,

You've been a stalwart in Australian game development for so long, thank you.

I'll miss your direct interaction (you always write such great articles, even when the source information was less than stellar) and hope you do make the games you want to. I'm glad you've found a way of keeping Tsumea ticking over whilst giving yourself time to pursue other things.

Never forget - you're ace!

G

StuAngel's picture

say it isn't so - I was sitting here tonight thinking to myself - hmmm, I would really like to get involved in a group of like minded people who are willing to share their talents of different skills and areas for the common good of video games - so my search of "indie game developers Australia" got me here but I kinda feel like have just rolled up to a camp site where there are barely smouldering embers in what looked like a really awesome bonfire and I can see some ute pulling away in the distance with 'Souri' on the custom plates - please tell me you are just going off to get some more stuff for the fire!

on a serious note - if you don't have time for the site, why not just open the content management up to the people who use the site - I know you said you didn't like the idea of that, but which of the 2 evils is greater? letting the site die a slow death or allowing people to create some colourfull articles? it would be a lot easier to kick back and read news / items that people submit and click a publish or rubbish button than sitting saying 'I cant be fagged writing anything today' - btw, I was an amiga nutcase - demo scene all the way, I wrote some stuff for um, lol, I cant remember their name now - some nl group - anyway throw some more wood on the fire man.

Stu

souri's picture

But that awesome bonfire went on for nearly 11 and a half years though!! When I started Sumea, I was a strapping young lad in my mid 20's, but as I rush towards my forties (holy crap!), I've really gotta start pursuing what I really wanted to do in the first place. I was watching an interview on youtube with Greg Kasavin of Supergiant Games (Bastion) and I've always known him as a senior Gamespot editor for yonks, and it really hit home when he described in that interview how he always wanted to make games, that games development is a young persons field, and that if he never took the leap now, the opportunity will pass him by pretty quickly. And for me, it would be impossible to dedicate the same amount of time I spend working on this site I usually do and make games as well. It's been over a month since I wrote about slowing down the work I do on this site, but I've actually been spending more time working on tsumea than usual (reconfiguring the CMS here, redesigning and css stuff with the new theme that was required (which if anyone even noticed, is adaptive/responsive), and working on the tsumea app).

Your suggestion on user submitted content is great, and tsumea accepts all that already. You can submit your artwork or post your own articles through your personal blog/journal on here. It'll appear on the front page and creative sections for everyone to access.

Over the last few years, I've gradually been offloading work over anyone interested in contributing. Games Developers listed in our list - their information can be updatable by anyone via our wiki, news items can be submitted onto the site by anyone via our Reddit subreddit, job ads can be posted by anyone. Our media section is automatically aggregated from youtube. There's still a whole lot this site does really well - it's still an awesome place to find and post local jobs, a great resource on developers, their games, and local game dev media, and I've slowly been fixing member profiles and the creative and talent sections to make it a great place to find other local talent or promote yourself for projects. And that may just be the key areas that the site should concentrate on rather than also being a news resource too. Being just one guy, it's insane for me to continue writing and posting news content everyday with all the amount of work I already do in all the other areas. I'm actually fairly pleased that I have a final end goal with tsumea, to have it as a self running site with minimal maintenance work by me (once this is all done) when, for years, there really was no end goal. Phil Fish worked on Fez for 5 gruelling years and I thought that was brutal, but then again, I've worked on tsumea for over twice that time.

StuAngel's picture

gah, don't say "games development is a young persons field", I am 42 and a full time dev, although not in the games industry, its something I have been looking forward to doing when I get more time and can talk my mates into helping out, or waiting for my son to realise there is more to video games than just playing them - if we really want to go down the age path, someone should tell people like David Braben and Peter Molyneux to act their age - but in short, I do know what you are saying, time really does fly, and it seems to go faster and faster each year - over my years I have always kept up on coding the machines I love, these include home brew dreamcast, xbox etc, and am really looking forward to the mantle api and MS opening up the xb1 dev system - I cant help but get more excited with all the new stuff coming in the next few years than thinking about slowing down ;)

souri's picture

ah, yeh, that term has sort of become a bit outdated these days with the rise of indie development, but yeh, it refers more to the commercial side of the games industry where most stay in for an average 5 or so years before getting burnt out and moving on. So, you graduate from your studies, enter the games industry, do all the crunch times and death marches before you can no longer do any more because your priorities in life change (marriage, start a family etc) - so the industry keeps on seeing this constant churn of young developers.

Of course, the rise of indie games is why this term is not as highly applicable any more, if you can manage to maintain a living out of it. There's still the pressure to work long hours and late nights, however, and I do wonder how indie games developers with families manage to make that balance between life and work.