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Wings. Part 3 - Free Fall

Third part of 'Skydive: Proximity Flight' story.

crossposetd from here
Part 3 - Free Fall 

Having decided to take part in the exhibition, we got to work.

Our self-financed company had just $10,000 in investments (which company founders borrowed from relatives and friends) and 9 employees who couldn’t put everything aside to work on the new project. However revolutionary our project, it would yield no money, and people had to pay their bills.

So we scheduled 3 weeks to work on the project. At first, there were only 4 of us (another joined later), the company founders: myself, my brother Anton, Alexey Volynskov, and our reliable technical director Nikolay Savichev.

First, we had to complete the project before the exhibition – that is, in three weeks’ time (the smaller the team, the faster and more agile it is). Second, we had no other resources.

Actually, the company founders and our skeleton staff were used to voluntarily working round the clock, spending weeks at work. An 80-hour working week was nothing new for us – we were a startup back then.

But working on Flight of Fancy proved to be an even greater challenge.

First of all, getting no rest and neglecting your family for weeks is a lot easier when you’re confident in the results of your work (at least when you know that the project will finally be released). Yet no one knew whether anyone needed what we were doing or not; our project had no commercial prospects. Besides, we were the smallest and youngest company at the exhibition (or, at least, one of the smallest and youngest companies).

2 weeks later (280 hours at work, many lost days and nights), the project was mostly complete. We created a fantasy world, vaguely resembling Pandora from the recently-released Avatar movie, in which a dragon was flying, obeying the movements of a player’s arms in front of the screen. We’d done an incredible amount of work – for instance, improved lighting calculation in a Global Illumination engine to make the image convincing enough, making realistic dynamic clouds (as in a flight simulator), and so on.
FoF screenshot 2004 
At that point I stopped believing in the success of our project for a while. It was a condition similar to what freedivers experience when they dive 100 m underwater without any oxygen equipment and sometimes lose their sense of direction. Our project had no equivalents at all. EyeToy (at the moment) gave players access to new ‘toys’ using the camera (the ability to play with different aspects of an interactive world, but not a solid gameplay experience with a plot and internal logic), just like the butterfly-art project that had inspired me in the first place. In our project, the player actually played a real game, controlling a dragon in the world where giant dinosaurs were grazing. Was this really a game that anyone could play? Would it really be interesting? Wouldn’t it be boring to just fly around and look at the world? This led us to create other dragons, enemies that players had to fight by breathing flames. However, it just added to our doubts; fighting other dragons would’ve been easier with a joystick.

I was feeling quite low – having inspired people to make titanic efforts, I myself had lost faith in the project.

However, my team said that no one would be upset if the game isn’t well-received. Everyone believed that it was worth trying.

 










to be continued...

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