I'm glad you asked!
Synthetic Reality is pretty much just me, Dan Samuel, but a lot of the ideas in our games come from the mind of my son, Ben. He's an accomplished Nintendo addict (and I say that with a father's love) and Ben knows games.
His little sister is starting to come up with some ideas as well, so don't be surprised if the next space ship zooming past you looks a little like a kitten or a puppy.
My lovely wife does the dirty work of standing in line at the Post Office to mail those international orders.
Or Check out the Synthetic Reality FAQ for more general questions.
Well, now, pull up a chair and listen to my tale. Once upon a time, I was a programmer at a real honest to gosh company. I worked there for many years and had a wonderful life. I enjoyed my work, but found that I had this hankerin' to be working on games. I also was stressed out to the max (real companies do that to you).
Then I met this nice feller on Compuserve, Ken Winograd (name revealed without permission -- but he's a contract macintosh and PC programmer and he's the best, so send him some money). Anyway, we got to be pen pals (and it turns out, small world, he was the author of an article written when personal computers were a new deal -- did I mention I'm all old already? Anyway, his article was one of the reasons I had this hankerin' to be working on entertainment software) Anyway, so Ken is a real wise guy. I mean, as in full of wisdom. And he also watched that PBS series about Myths and such (I mean the Joseph Campbell one).
So one day Ken tells me I have to "Follow My Bliss" (yeah, I saw the PBS thing too, but it sounded real deep when Ken related it to me). Anyway, I interpreted this to mean I should spend every moment of my evenings and weekends (did I mention my lovely wife?) writing a game. The result of that was Warpath, which is a surprisingly enjoyable game, given its humble origins, and 'quaint' artwork. And you know what? Ken was right! I was in bliss.
Then I put out a call for Beta Testers and right away had the good fortune to run into Dave "DangerDave" Wolverton. He's like this amazing evangelist for multiplayer games, and full of good ideas to rip off, too. Before I knew it, I had a whole passle of friends and life was just better than it had ever been. And then all of the sudden I started receiving letters in the mail -- often with checks included! Well, I'm as greedy as the next guy, but I hadn't really expected to make a profit. So I was very excited.
Now before you get all excited, too, let me tell you young people that you have to get into this for FUN, not money. Unless you write something on the order of DOOM, you are NOT going to particularly earn your living doing just this (at least not and still find yourself enjoying it). The real gold comes when you get a letter from a 12 year old kid who likes your game and wants to try writing some programs on his or her own.
As it turns out, another side effect of writing shareware is that sometimes people who are looking to hire people see your work and offer you a job. That's why I am now an employee of Mpath Interactive (a cool new startup in Silicon Valley) and my official day job is as fun and blissful as my night job. Drop on by www.mplayer.com and check out what we've built.
Anyway, here's the Executive Summary:
A small followup as of 11/1999... Mpath Interactive has changed its name to HearMe Incorporated and gone public (nasdaq symbol: HEAR), so I guess I don't work for a startup any more. Be sure to buy lots of stock so I can retire completely!
Well, sometime around May 2000 I got the idea that maybe I should take some time to smell the roses as it were, and now I pretty much work on my bliss 24 hours a day. I still need you to buy lots of HEAR stock so I can extend my holiday from the working world. Alternatively, you could just buy a LOT of mugs, mousepads, and T-Shirts from the Synthetic Reality Company Store. It's your choice!
Unfortunately, the stock market didn't decide to play along with that plan, c'est la vie. I missed financial independence by about 3 months. I could be bitter about it (ok, for a year I *was* bitter about it :-).
When I think about how my life would be different if the stock market had held in there for a few more months.. well, I pretty much already spend my time doing what I enjoy. I have never craved expensive cars or fancy restaurants. I just like to go to the movies and eat hamburgers. And I like to work, so I never wanted to just sit around. Yes, I would prefer to work 100% of the time on my very own projects, but you can *almost* have that sensation while working for someone else, so long as you can pick a company doing something you personally find interesting. And hey, most of us are in the wage-slave boat, so I have lots of company :-)
If you've registered your copy of a Synthetic Reality product by sending us a check, you are probably asking yourself: "Hey, what happened to that check, anyway?" and "Is my checkbook EVER going to balance again?"
Well, wonder no more! We at Synthetic Reality have harnessed the power of the web and installed expensive equipment to provide you with a LIVE VIDEO FEED of the Synthetic Reality Shoe Box. This shoe box is actually a hi-tech storage device where your checks languish until Old Uncle Dan is able to get his rheumatic knees to carry him to the bank, where he stands in a long line and dreams of retiring to Hawaii.
So, when the LIVE VIDEO FEED shows the shoebox is empty, get ready to balance your checkbook!
Well, more games of course! We have requests for more card games and enhancements to Warpath. But we're also working on some new titles. We want to eventually do at least one game in each genre that we enjoy. Right now we're working hard on an RPG (Role Playing Game) with a couple twists. In the pipeline to follow Well of Souls is a project which I am calling 'Arcadia' which is a reusable 'shell' that makes it easier for me to generate small multiplayer games more quicly, without having to reinvent too many wheels. The preliminary games on that platform are synPool and synJet.
I have also started work on my first true 3D game (i.e. you'll need a more expensive computer) called Rocket Club. It's going to be pretty cool in a year or two, I think.
You can expect our games to always be a bit behind the curve in the sense that we are not likely to have a big budget or an art department. But hopefully you will come to associate Synthetic Reality with quality, entertainment, and multiplayerabilityness.
Be sure to let us know what you'd like to see, and we'll see if we can't accomodate you!
People occasionally ask how I pay the bills, raising a family and things like that... sometimes they think that income from Synthetic Reality handles that. No, no, I chuckle, Synthetic Reality pays for itself (thank goodness, and thank you!), but I work full-time in the real world as well.
For the last little bit I have been working for a startup called www.there.com (check it out! the world's first metaverse). It was top secret for a few years so I couldn't talk about it, but the cat's out of the bag now. At first glance it looks a bit like a massively multiplayer online role playing game... but the more you see of it the more you see that it is something quite different and new. We have a lot of grand dreams about it, but most of its value is going to come from what the individual members do with it.
It's a place where you can create things and share them. We have a lot of marketing explanations for it, so you should go check out the link and make up your own mind. But I promise you it is super cool. It's not really a game though (you don't kill stuff.) It's... an experience. It's... a safe, friendly, place. It's... an opportunity to express yourself. It's an online party. It's a second home.
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