Now that we’re nearing the end of the year, it’s time to look back and reflect a bit. This has indeed been quite challenging for our team and in this post we’ll go through some of those challenges, areas where we aim to improve next year and also the achievements we were able to reach.
This is a somewhat beefy “end of the year” post and if you’re in a hurry please scroll to the end to check the TLDR SUMMARY (Too Long, Didn’t Read).
Our current goal is, and has been for all year to release a set of tools for the tabletop game industry that allows a cost efficient way to create and publish interactive tutorials. This Tutorial CCT (Content Creation Tool) has been our main focus in 2019 and the original goal was to get the tool released already in September. We however could not reach that goal due to reasons explained further on. Good news is that we have made progress all year long and even though we’re behind our original schedule, we are nearing the moment of releasing the tools.
One area where we wish we could’ve done better is our Communication towards our audience. It has been lacking this year and we apologize for that. We’ve tried to keep up with monthly updates for our backers and tell of our doings every now and then in social media. Obviously the burning question has been (and is) “when is Dized out?”. We haven’t been able to give out an accurate answer because we ourselves haven’t been able to account for the variables that have strongly affected the development schedule.
One thing that’s obviously clear is that we have been way too optimistic about our timelines. We did make progress all year long and things looked good, but suddenly it was September and tools weren’t ready to be released. During our initial scheduling we even accounted for the usual hiccups that come with software development, but this year has hit us with several big challenges, some of which took a long time to solve. So, in hindsight, we can say that our initial schedule was close to a best case scenario. With the numerous challenges this year we weren’t able to even kinda live up to it.
With Dized we’ve been having to do more greenfielding than what we were planning to. In other words, we’ve been having to develop many features no-one has done before. This means there’s no-one to really guide us when we have had questions and we have had to figure it out ourselves. One example of this has been building a smooth union between React and Unity 3D technologies. Dized content is built online using the React based Dized Portal with a web browser. Dized App on the other hand uses Unity 3D for better performance and user experience. In order to create the WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) style content creation tool, we needed to bring Unity 3D to be part of the React environment. Might sound simple enough, but it took time to make them work together.
Another example of an unexpected issue was activating the In-App Purchases (IAP) function. This is an important feature as IAP is on of the main methods how Dized will make revenue and stay in business in the future. We activated the IAP and built the app but… it had turned off in the building process. We couldn’t figure out why. We contacted Unity 3D, and despite them trying to help us out the reason for it was not found. The final suggestion we got was to try and create the project from scratch, adding code line by line and see where it breaks. We didn’t really have the human resources to do this and as the app has thousands of lines of code plus the many libraries it uses, this indeed turned out to be one of those challenges that took a lot of time to solve. This had not been accounted for in our estimations and roadmaps.
We’re happy to say that human resources is one thing where we have been somewhat blessed. We have awesome employees and didn’t have any changes in the in-house development talent. However, due to financial reasons (more on that below) the crucial outsourced talent went through a few changes this year. This caused extra delays, not just because there were times when we lacked important talent, but it also takes quite a long time getting a new talent into the platform and service (if we haven’t stated it enough times yet, Dized is a big project). We’ve been trying to find and hire these talents to be in-house, but finding the experts we require has turned out to be quite a challenge. (In case you’re a Senior React or Full Stack Developer do check out our open positions!)
Raising necessary funding turned out to be particularly challenging this year as well. It’s pivotal to note that even though the crowdfunding campaigns have been (and are) really important to us, in terms of funding the campaigns themselves only cover part of the total cost of the development. The campaigns do however work as proof of concept for private investors and other funding sources. With the campaigns we’ve been able to show that the audience has an interest for a service like Dized, which has allowed us to raise the rest of the needed funding. There was actually a hiccup this year when during late spring it looked like we have all the necessary funding coming in from one investor, but in the end they asked for conditions we couldn’t offer. This meant that the deal was off and we had to start raising the funds from scratch. This caused a delay in our funding, but luckily we’re now almost at the goal.
Then there were things like moving offices, which is time consuming especially when you have to do it twice in one year. Our first move in March was to a smaller office in order to save money on rent, but that office turned out inhabitable due to noise from the downstairs gym and daily dose of sewer smell from an unknown source. Trying to solve these issues took time and since no resolution was in sight we had to move again this fall. We tried to navigate the moving around the development team so that their work wouldn’t slow down, but getting into and setting up in a new space always takes some time. For example, our development environment runs on our local servers, and moving a server room comes with some time consuming activities, such as reconfiguring the cable connections in a new place and figuring out cooling solutions for the new server room. But, we’re now in a great space (knock on wood) and ready to tackle 2020!
This brings us back to communication, as during all the mayhem this year we weren’t really able to focus on our audience’s needs — the audience who continues to support our cause! We had a person helping us out with social media and marketing during our successful Kickstarter campaign a year ago and some time after, but due to money saving efforts we had to cut back on marketing and focus our financial resources fully on the development. This meant marketing and communicating fell on people who were unable to take the proper time to handle it well. We aim to do a lot better in our communication next year.
Now, even though we had a lot of obstacles and problems, things are not at all that bleak as we’ve hit several important milestones and had a lot of accomplishments worth mentioning!
The team we already mentioned, but can’t stress enough. We have a fantastic team whose talent in interactive tutorial systems is world-class. There have been and will be unknowns but nothing we haven’t been able to solve.
Dized has been steadily getting ready to be released officially. We’re already testing the Tutorial CCT internally and soon they’ll be in the hands of the industry! We’ve brought our back-end up to date to support our creation tools and an update to the app itself has also been in the works. Releasing this version is just another milestone on our road and the development of new features continues.
During this year we’ve communicated actively with industry operators and publishers are excited to get their hands on interactive tutorials! This year alone we’ve met with over 300 publishers, and they are in a key role in getting the content out there. This is one of the main reasons we attend expos: to prepare the industry for Dized, along with meeting up with our community.
That’s our year so far. We’re not there yet, but we’re very close on achieving the dream we’ve had for a long time. We have hit many blocks on the way and had uphill battles, but with our dedicated team and support from our awesome community we’ve been able to overcome everything that has been thrown at us. We are excited to bring Dized out next year and get more tutorials!
Until then, thank you for this year! We wish you all Happy Holidays and a Wonderful New Year!
TLDR SUMMARY OF 2019
This year was challenging for us and we unfortunately couldn’t stick to the schedule we had set for ourselves. However, we were able to progress all the time and Dized is getting very close to being ready for serious action. For more information on the below points, please read the full post.
- Lack of Communication. We weren’t able to present reliable roadmaps and sometimes even delayed communications in hopes that we would have good news to tell soon. We’re working on ways to give our audience a better idea where the project is going exactly. We aim to do better next year with at least monthly updates to our backers and weekly updates on social media.
- Failure to predict schedules accurately. We started this year aiming for a best-case-scenario release in September, but encountered more issues on the way that what we had been expecting. These mainly included limited resources in outsourced talent and several “bigger than usual” challenges in development. Also we had to change offices twice during this year.
- Delayed funding. We weren’t able to raise funds in the intended schedule causing delays to the development.
- Motivated staff. There were no changes in our in-house developers this year. The team’s skills on interactive tutorials and the creation of them is already world-class.
- Funding. We were able to secure necessary funding throughout the year.
- Progress has been made steadily all year long! Dized tutorial tools are already being tested internally, to be followed by external testing and then publishing of the tool — We’re closer every day.
Thank you for this year! We wish you all Happy Holidays and a Wonderful New Year!