Posted on December 18, 2014, Phil Hornshaw Frogdice’s Stash on Schedule as Programmer Codes From Atlantic
When his lead programmer announced he would need three months off to sail across the Atlantic, Frogdice CEO Michael Hartman’s thought it would spell doom for the game.
He also couldn’t very well say no.
Indie development studio Frogdice had recently completed a Kickstarter campaign for its upcoming RPG, Stash, and development was going well. But then Sean Lucas asked to speak with Hartman and his wife, Pang, the owners of the eight-person indie studio, to reluctantly tell him that he needed to venture across the pond to help his brother.
It wasn’t good news. Sean was already essential to the game’s development, managing the entire coding process and the architecture of the game. Losing him could sink the entire project, right after Frogdice had accepted money from backers to create it.
“My first thought was, ‘Holy crap, we’re screwed,’” Hartman said in an email to GameFront.
But it wasn’t like they could tell Sean not to go — his brother, Tim, was in a bit of a jam. Tim had sailed around the world by crewing his boat with people who wanted to go places, essentially giving them a free ride to wherever in exchange for helping in the process of getting there. Somewhere around the Mediterranean on his return trip, however, he’d run out of people to help with the passage back.
Tim had asked Sean to come to Europe and help him sail the boat home. Without Sean’s help, Tim would have to do attempt the trip solo — an extremely dangerous proposition. So Sean secured the time and flew to Gibraltar.
That was more than two months ago, but Stash hasn’t been cancelled. In fact, its development is proceeding on schedule.
Sean never stopped working on the game, even as he and Tim were sailing out of the Mediterranean and down the coast of Africa. He’s been banging away at Stash’s code whenever he can spare the time, or when the pair are anchored waiting for favorable weather or currents.
He sends his work along whenever the boat hits a port or gets close to shore and they can snag a Wi-Fi connection. Thanks to tools like Google Hangouts, email, and the Unity Asset Server for Stash’s engine, Unity3d, the Frogdice team has been able to continue development even with their lead programmer a world away. And on a boat.
“If something as crazy as this can’t derail (Stash), I am more confident than ever it is going to be awesome.”
Hartman told GameFront that Frogdice is making one small adjustment to the timetable it set up for Kickstarter backers of Stash: It’s delaying the backer alpha test it had originally planned for December 2014.
“It would be a waste of an alpha for him not to be here to get real time metrics and load testing information, make adjustments and bug fixes, and see how they work,” Hartman said.
Sean is due back around Christmas, if the actual crossing of the ocean goes according to plan. He’s kept a blog about the trip, available here, and a tracker on the boat makes it possible to see the trip in its entirety — including where Sean and Tim are right now.
Meanwhile, Hartman said work on Stash is proceeding well, with the company hitting every planned milestone. It seems like it’ll take a lot more than 1,600 miles of Atlantic Ocean to stop the game.
“My takeaway from all of this is that I am thankful the tools exist to make this possible and thankful that we have such great team members that they didn’t let this discourage them or lower their morale,” he said. “Stash is the game I’ve been dreaming of making for 10 years. If something as crazy as this can’t derail it, I am more confident than ever it is going to be awesome.”
Disclosure: Frogdice CEO Michael Hartman is a personal friend of GameFront Managing Editor Ron Whitaker.
Images credit: hardlyanythingworks.com