History of uDevGames

Posts: 1,142
Joined: 2002.04
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Today, a concerned developer who is entering uDevGames for the first time, took time to write to me. Since he took the time to comment on uDevGames, and sense there might be other newcomers to iDevGames and uDevGames, I thought I would go through his comments to help provide a perspective on uDevGames. Perhaps by doing so, we can see where we have come from, and even consider, where we must go.

Quote:uDevGames, the registration, the management, the downloads page, and

In the first year of uDevGames, 2001, we kicked off the contest wondering if anyone would join. The prize pool was very small, and most of the dev community didn't have it on their radar. At that time, we used our own Content Management System, out together by our, then, guru webmaster Griggs. If memory serves me right, the only true functioning section for contest management was the voting system. For the most part, everything else was done by sending emails. Developers couldn't edit their own game's info, etc. I was a great bottlekneck.

In 2002, our webmaster improved the uDevGames system. I know had the ability to add the content pages without uploading html to the server. The voting system was improved a bit as well. But if I recall, there was a bug which was keeping us from getting the correct vote results. In the end, I managed to patch Grigg's code, and we got the results. Griggs was in the middle of leaving us, so this had a profound impact on the management of the site -- his CMS was good, but working on it for anyone else required a good amount of effort.

In 2003, our assistant webmaster, Josh took over. He learned the API of Grigg's code, and added some features to our backend. We added the "Entrant Login System", which finally allowed developers to manage their own downloads. We had bugs along the way, but somehow managed to get the contest finished. Though I realize that our backend system, and CMS was really killing us.

It was in 2003, when we were plagued with server problems. Not being a guru system administrator, and not being able to spend 24/7 (this is a HOBBY after all) were sure signs that we were in for trouble. Sure enough, trouble came our way, and the contest was hit by various delays.

Some time later I made a choice to get away from a proprietary CMS, and after a great deal of research settle on Mambo. It is far from perfect, but with many active developers, it meant that I could find various components (like plugins) to handle my needs, rather than waiting for a lone coder to write it, as we did before.

Now to cover 2004. Our main site was using Mambo. However, migrating all our downloads (for example the past uDevGames, and postmortems) was a bit of work. This work was often interupted when I moved the server from my home, to this place, and that place. A site, or shall I say a permanent home for uDevGames was suggested by the community. Up until then, all our moving was playing havoc with links to various content, and placing a backlog on getting content up. In the summer of 2004, we had a very long downtime period. So long, that once the site was back up, I was nearly 2 months behind in contacting sponsors. With so much to do to just get the site back up, and being behind schedule, I talked about not having uDevGames this year. One side issue in the summer was my own personal problem with a health problem, someone brought on my stress from the attacks, and running uDevGames.

After iDevGames was back, but really without having iDevGames up in a way that made the site complete, I decided to not to disappoint the community, and not to lose our momentum of the contest (2003 was a record breaking year for prizes, and coverage) and run uDevGames 2004. So the site was set up (after first starting off as a sub-domain.) The credit goes to many people in the community for helping with proofing, creating a mascot, to tweaking the CSS. This has always been a great point of uDevGames -- when the community was most threatened with extinction, and turmoil, people stepped up and lent a hand. (Very true in 2003.) That said, and I take nothing away from the people who help, uDevGames remains a one man operation. THIS is the main problem.

We have had threads in this forum on dividing work. Some of its has worked out, and some has, to my disappointment, gone no where. Some people have helped behind the scenes (you know who you are), and they have commented that it is a tremendous amount of work. It really really is. Imagine in 2001 when we were in the stone age, and I had to walk 100 miles, in the snow, barefoot, just to deliver the prizes. Wink (Strike up th violins for the next part) I want to stress that I have given up a great many weekends, and time with my wife, and even battled 3 flus each year at the end of uDevGames.

Ok, enough about me, and the terrible burden I carry like poor little Frodo.

The uDevGames site is based Mambo 4.5. As I said, Mambo isn't perfect, but I have yet to use better CMS. Speaking of which, CMSs are popping up each day. To me, this "technology" is very young, immature, but a godsend to busy people like me. Mambo has moved on to 4.5.1 but I dare not upgrade during the contest.
When building th uDevGames site, myself and other people who came with their tools to help build it, looked at what we needed. We needed an Entrant System, a Download System, a Voting System. First, we looked at components from the Mambo community, so we wouldn't have to reinvent the wheel -- especially since we were extremely behind schedule. Joseph D., got the Entrant List working, and Justin got th sponsors section working, based on such code. For other sections, I was faced with needing to purchase a component, for example to handle forms. In the end, I picked a free form tool that got the job done, though it isn't perfect.

Last two items were voting and downloads. There are two download components for Mambo. Both of which have good and bad points. I tried and tried to tweak them to our needs over the course of the contest. As a backup, I posted third party download systems we should check out. Outside of two people, I don't recall much help. I suppose this isn't a web forum, so I shouldn't expect everyone to be a LAMP guru. No problem. In the case of our voting system, I pretty much followed the same path of the Downloads. Looked for Mambo solutions, that would integrate well with the backend, found none, tried to adapt something, couldn't, asked people to look into other open source solutions. I think only Justin B responded in this area, but I need to check the thread.

Now time to strike up the violins again. One month ago, my "real world" took a nasty twist. No longer could I devote oodles of time to iDevGames -- its been a real challenge to say the least. Remember, since we lost our Sponsorship Manager, I had to take care of this job during the contest. Which eats up a great deal of time. If not, then we all would be running out and getting $30,000 worth of prizes each day right? Wink

I would guess that 4 weeks ago was about the time I started to look at Voting Systems closely. I made a list, checked it twice. Hence started installation, and testing of everything on my list. It is true that I should have been done 2 weeks prior to the end of the dev cycle for you all. I'll use my work, health and wife as an alibi here. Sad

Anyways, over the last few days, a member of the community stepped up -- SkyHawk, a person who has helped tremedously in the past with Matt D in getting out the prizes, and we worked on the Download section and Voting section. It was pretty nerve racking testing, and I think we lost a great deal of time trying to get various scripts to work... hey, this sounds like a postmortem! In the end, I had to make "the call", which was, to purchase a 3rd party download and voting system. The funds came from uDevGames/iDevGames. SkyHawk was "with me" (but on the otherside of the planet) during this hard decision. But I think in the end, I made the only decision that I could. I think it is a good decision. Here is why....

The voting and download system are not part of Mambo. At first, this sounds like a step backwards. However, I see the positive aspect. Mambo is a CMS, which to me, best handles article-type content, links, and such. Downloads and Voting are the most crucial components of uDevGames. By having them outside of Mambo, should we ever need to move to a new version, change CMS, etc, these two systems can continue to function independently. Let me talk about each system now...

The Voting system, from the backend is a DREAM. I think the test that I created looks professional, and best of all, it allows for stable performance. I will also be able to provide results in various formats, like CVS, Excel, etc. The ability and flexibility to make any type of "survey" shouldn't be under estimated. True, the system cost us an arm and a leg (more on that later), but to pay someone to create the same level of usability would cost much more. Some of you might now be saying, but I could have whipped up something... OK. But we needed such volunteering months ago. (And we don't want to end up where we were after Griggs left us!) The Voting System Developers are working on this script for a living. Next year, thankfully, we won't have to scramble for a voting system. That is one thing off our scramble list.

The Download system was a tough challenge itself. Since Joseph has been too busy to continue work on the Entrant List system, we HAD to find an alternative. I would have liked to have kept it within Mambo, but as I said, the two current download systems wouldn't have made you all happy. ie, no mirrors, and features which would have confused people (eg. They tend to have have a star rating which CAN'T be turned off.) The system we have I admit is not nearly as slick as the Voting system (price shows). But of the 100 plus scripts on hotscripts.com, it was the only one within our budget, and that could do what we needed for uDevGames. True, SkyHawk and I cursed the developer 100 times while we tried to figure how to set it up. But in the end, it is working. Next year, you all have accounts, so just a matter of adding your new game to the "Games / 2005" folder. And yes, the 2004 folder will stay up, and when I have time, the 2003, 2002, and 2001 folders will come online. This system doesn't look pretty at the moment, and the navigation is a tad crude. However, once I get better, and have time off, I promise to get it to look as good as sites like macupdate. If you have php skills, and design skills, then you are welcomed to help out. Grin (The room grows silent.)

Ok, now for a quick summary. Each year, uDevGames grows up a little more. We add some new features to make it easier for the developers, gamers, and the staff<-- me. Each year, it isn't perfect, but we do out best. Those of you who are long timers, will know how far the uDevGames contest and its supporting systems has come. Of course, the long timers know that uDevGames is like an entry in itself -- trying to make deadlines, having bugs, and so on. Overall, I am happy this year because it looks like we will have a solid period of voting. Knock on wood. And at the end of the voting, we can gather the data, and march on. Unlike in years past.
I expect by next year, the systems that seem to be "taped together" will have a front end that presents a very enjoyable experience.

Now to try my best to answer some of you direct comments...

Carlos A. Camacho,
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I will of course mirror the data on my own webpage as I have done every year since 2002.

I'm also saving this and archiving it into my documents... too long and worthwhile to be lost
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Quote:but one great example is on the downloads page, some people added their download to the Games category instead of the 2004 category
This point amazes me, and I've learned about human nature in many ways since uDevGames 2001. Especially about developers. I think much of my stress comes from needing to tell people the same thing over and over. I though the directions were very clear that games be placed in "Games / 2004" I understand, that the system is new, so there was bound to be some mishaps. A small bug in the backend is keeping me from fixing such a case. Ideally, all games would be forced into the correct folder automatically. I will have the developer of this system add this.

Quote:That's really counter-intuitive, and the fact that people can move

I'm not aware that people are moving there game from "Games / 2004" to "Games" in order to get more downloads. I think they are honest mistakes. I would be VERY disappointed to find out that was true. But I will assume they were mistakes because for the most part, the members in the community are very very good people. If you are new to uDevGames, please be assured that I put my foot down on abuse of our system. Overall, if your game is good, people will know, and it will get the downloads it deserves.

Quote:I hope you hold this competition next year, I really really do.

It is my intention to keep running uDevGames forever -- providing that (1) it supports the original mission (2) people participate in terms of entrants AND assisting me (3) my day job, where I actually earn the money to eat doesn't keep me from not being able to run the site correctly.

Quote:But I would like to emphasize the NEED for a workable, flexible, functional,
thought-out, planned, and completed website before the competition
In a perfect world, it would be like that. In a commercial site, it had better be like that. We aim big here, and try our best to be professional. We don't always pull it off though. But in some respects, "We are getting respect." The prize pool, and the feedback says so.

Quote:You seem to have all the industry backing you need

It wasn't was handed to us/me. It has taken a long time, well... since 1998, to get to this point. We have a ways to go though. Believe me, if I could earn enough to just work on iDevGames all day, things would shine. Grin

Quote:But, if an Apple exec came to your website, attempted to navigate and
download our games, etc. do you really think he would be impressed,
especially if he was (or his son, lets say) an entry in your competition?

If? They have been. Smile I think the Apple exec would think, "This is a great grassroots effort that is making a positive impact on the Mac platform." True, they would see that behind the "front", we don't have the resources like Inside Mac Games, or Apple. But in the end, if we haven't made a good win-win for everyone, then we wouldn't be showing the winner at MacWorld, nor get the sponsors we get.

Quote:uDevGames, as is, seems to be a clobber of different open-source php projects thrown together in one big mess. It's almost unmanageable, I really don't know how you do it.

iDevGames and uDevGames have been under construction for some time. Yes, it can be a mess, and somewhat baffling for newcomers. But we have a great community. Of course the problem is getting people who are 100% commited to this as I am. We get people, but we lose people. I manage because I feel I am makign a difference, and because people give me the odd kudos now and then. But I suppose, I'd much rather be making games, then sitting on the sidelines.

Quote:What I would like to offer, before next year's competition, is let me
and a friend develop the site. I would like to take it over...

That would be up to the community, since they have a large stake in iDevGames, and uDevGames.

Quote:So maybe we can work together, and make uDevGames a intelligent, intuitive site that is easy to manage, and is very usable for its users and the
Macintosh gaming community.

That's always the goal. But things take time IMHO. I look back and see we have come a long way. I expect we will go a long way. Of course, I am always keen to get help from anyone in the community, especially if they can come through, and now leave me, the site and the community hanging after promising to help.

Quote:As it is, you can't find any of the games from your past competitions, no one has links from them, and the small developer groups that competed in those
past competitions mostly seem to disappear. This is horribly depressing! I want to go download last year's winner, and compare it to this year's entries. That kinda thing!

See above for why the site is such a mess. In summary, I thought having a uDevGames 2004, even if it was rag-tag, was better then no contest. I do agree, that we need to get the old content up. Again, it is a matter of getting the help.

Quote:For future uDevGames competitions, I'd like to see a very interactive
feel for the people competing. Encourage them to put up blogs, make a
nice interactive blog system, that posts the latest 5 entries right to
the front page, so passerby's can see that there is activity, and will
click on it and get info on that developer and his or her game!
This is a great suggestion. I think this year'S blog was a "test." I almost didn't do it because I didn't feel our blog system was that great. But some devs said it was better than nothing.

Quote:The new downloads site, it looks kinda neat. I know it's some
open-source php-based software, but it looks neat. But, it is a
independent database and software, which sucks... and it really needs
comments! If people could come, like versiontracker, and comment at
the bottom, it would really ROCK! A link to submit some feedback to
the developers (and/or a form) and a area to add public comments to the
game would rock. If you have to, require user registration so you
don't get some lame spambots posting. But comments are the single-best
thing for independent developers like ourselves.

I might be wrong, but I think a good number of developers here dislike how versiontracker or like sites have comments by people who can have a huge impact on its downloads. Actually, our download system has a public commenting system. But I have gone to great lengths (wit SkyHawks's help) to remove it from the public view. I've run the contest for 4 years, I think this is the best track. Please note that our voting system allows gamers to give the developer feedback. Everyone will be their feedback, and read it in private. If I am wrong on this, then I'd like to hear from others.

Quote:So, a download area, more like versiontracker, would rock,

I am aiming for the best of all those download sites... it will come. But I am not sure I am sold on comments DURING voting for the public. It is like posting the TOP 10 games rated by users, or top 10 downloaded, or even, god forbid showing the voting results. Trust me, we want to keep that information away from the public DURING the voting. I ALMOST didn't show the download stat as it is. But there is no way to keep it hidden from the public but visible to the devs. Anyhow, I get your idea...and we, you, everyone can pitch in to make that happen. Grin

Quote:Also, the links on the left at udevgames, they're just... there. I
mean, the media kit doesn't have for example vector-based graphics for
the media to use to advertise, report, etc.

I should probably turn off the links to content that isn't finished. You are right. I was kind of hoping though that someone would step forward and complete that section. No one did.

Quote:The news should be posted on the front page somewhere, instead of always putting up what udevgames is. Let people know whats going on!

This is just a preference. I've made a decision that when people first come to the site, they see what uDevGames is. But yes, "news" of the start of voting will be shown. Normally, iDevGames is running and providing the news updates. But that is anothr can of worms, which I almost have worked out.

Quote:Last but not least... The friends I have linked to udevgames.com
directly to try and download our game got COMPLETELY lost, and confused
as how, or what to do to download the games. That's totally not cool.
If you're having a competition, especially seeing as how it's going on
right NOW, people need to be able to get to it, to see it, to be
exposed to it, in their face, click here to view the current entries,

I'm open to ideas for renaming text links. I'm open to getting some very nice icons to put just below the Google link to send them to voting or downloads. Just waiting for people to send them to me....

The rest of the email concerns the creation and running of a uDevGames site for us..

I'm glad to get such email from entrants. I felt it important to share it with the community, because newcomers (and old timers) might share the same thoughts. Discussion in an open forum can lead to fresh ideas, and will help to include everyone who has s stake in our community. This developer started by apologizing for his rant, but I feel no aplogize are required. I do ask for some understanding that iDevGames and uDevGames are my hobbies, and I am not always able to run them as I'd like to. But for the most part, I am happy. I've many many offers in the past to help me, but I guess I have grown to be cynical based on past expriences. So forgive me in advanced for my whit.

Well, lets focus on the positive (as my shrink says), and get over uDevGames 2004 first. But all comments to this thread are appreciated. Smile


Carlos A. Camacho,
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Ya, you've been dieing the most... and also exploding during these uDevGames. If I recall, you were doing all that when you weren't even entered. What's going to happen now that you are actually putting your whole future as a game developer on the line with uDevGames 2004? Remind me to stand very far from you during the awards ceremony -- in case you go off like a nuclear nova.

Carlos A. Camacho,
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...and I know I keep saying this once every month: I really, really long for the time to work for iDG again. As you know, uDG2k2 got me hooked up with Casey Gatti on El Ballo, a project that has been eating all of my free time for the past two years. For next uDG, I will be around to enter and run whatever crap pile of work you have for me. This is a promise from my end, Carlos, to make up for all the times I've let you down. (Which is something like four times this last month, I feel...) Please do hold me to it.
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There, I read the posts too. Smile My comments are that this developer, while showing exactly the kind of energy we need, still seems to be new to iDG. Thinking back to the start of this year, when we were hacked down time and time again. Since then, I've sadly lost contact with the book publishers that hung around, just to mention one thing. The way I see it, iDG has been marching on its (Carlos', actually) knees just to move along.

Still, managing the web site is a behemoth task. I see no problems with using thirdparty backends (Mambo feels great now), and I feel that any efforts that the poster would want to share would be better used to tighten up Mambo, Mambo modules and the uDG backend.

Carlos, I was thinking, what are your plans for iDG in 2k5? Now, I'm not interested in reasonable thoughts - what if you could make all your iDG dreams come true? Would you really want to do iDG full-time? Are you dying to bring iDG to a stable point and leave it to the community? Do you want to get back to development yourself? Apple official backing? Making iDG's news coverage better? More of the devs around here getting 'real' game dev jobs?

I'm just curious, what direction would you want to take iDG in, were there no boundaries?
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Quote:Carlos, I was thinking, what are your plans for iDG in 2k5?
Pulling off uDG 2005 is going to be VERY tricky for me.

uDevGames debates start around June. I start looking for sponsors in May and June too.
In July/August, I plan to stop my job contract in Japan or they are going to stop it for me. Thus ends my 5 year cushy job and the fantasy life I have made for myself. Either way, the writing is on the wall to come back to the U.S. Of course I will be preparing for my move in Spring and early Summer. If you think moving state to state is tough -- try country to country! I'm sure my stress will be high at that time.

July is when we get ready for uDevGames traditionaly, and the contest kicks off in August. As explained above, we have slowly moved to improve some aspects of management of the contest, but in 2005, it will REALLY take a team effort. Some of you are keen to work on the backend in Spring, which I think is a smart thing to do. (BTW. Moving the contest forward is VERY VERY hard.)

As I return home (to Connecticut) I will stay at my parents home, along with my wife and cats. (Oh boy!) Obviously my first thoughts will be .... EAT A REAL PIZZA! And after that, find a job. I'm at the stage in my life where I am trying to figure out which direction to head in -- creative work or business work. (I'm also considering a Master's Degree, so I'm spending time now creating a list of the top 10 schools to scout.) In addition, my wife and I will need to look for a permanent place to live. She is keen on any place where people won't shoot her with a gun, the home costs are low, doesn't have 15 feet of snow, doesn't get hammered by typhoons, has a good vet for her cats... OK, so maybe she is aiming too high.)

Thankfully, we have money saved, so I can spend time to land the job that fits me best. Donations of course to iDevGames will be even more appreciated from here on out. Not sure if America has broadband so doing iDevGames/uDevGames work might be tough during this period. (Just kidding, I know Americans have at least 1Mbps service. Rasp)

Quote:Are you dying to bring iDG to a stable point and leave it to the community?
Do you mean, do I wish to get things running well and then pass it over to some suc..errr, I mean someone? I feel that iDevGames & uDevGames may play a part in landing a job, so I would say no, I'd like to keep managing it. So in the Spring of 2005, I will double my efforts to make iDevGames stable and to have it shine.

Quote:What if you could make all your iDG dreams come true?
You gonna let me enter uDevGames 2005!?!? Cool, I will sweep the contest, and if not, then da voting system's a scam!

Quote:Would you really want to do iDG full-time?
I have started two things from nothing thus far in my life - iDevGames, and Takamatsu United Football Club (TUFC). I love both dearly, but as my wife will tell you, it was a big challenge keeping both going. I handed over the daily work of TUFC to others, and announced my retirement at our last meeting. I leave the club with the honours of: 1st non-Japanese director in my state (in Japan?), Championship Title of Chusan League (played on TV Smile ), and Championship Title of Kagawa League & promotion to 2nd Division. Many many great memories, and friends made. (And injuries!) Sadly, I never finished our website, and I won't be around the day when they get promoted to 1st Division Wink Along with taking over the local stadium (http://www.worldstadiums.com/asia/countr...koku.shtml) and playing in the pro leagues, and signing Brooklyn Beckham when I am "old." Wink

Back to iDevGames... sure it would be a dream come true. I would love spending all day working on iDevGames. I could see myself doing a better job at editing, and popping out high-quality game assets for everyone. I thought hosting & distribution could have been the "ticket" but as you know, I'm not really ready for that.

Anyways, I'm a Business Major so I know the reality is -- the Mac is still a niche platform, games are a niche area of the Mac, and game dev an even smaller niche! Writing a business model to work full-time at iDevGames would be very difficult, unless one of you are Steve Jobs undercover, or hit the lottery. (Please don't rob a bank, or sell your kidney for my sake!) It might be possible though that given time, I could release enough artwork, web templates (for Mambo), game assets, and so on (ie. not JUST for games devs) to consider a way to spend more time with iDevGames. Perhaps if I lived in a 4th World Country where my living costs were so low, that $5 would get me by each month. Grin Of course site updates would need to be mailed by post to someone. Wink

Quote:Do you want to get back to development yourself?
That's hard to answer. I have many books on it, as you can guess, and I surround myself in this community by people doing just that. So in some ways, I am envious, and dream of it. But it is like Star Wars -- a sweet childhood memory, but if you explore the new current state, it might bring a bitter feeling to the senses. I last truly programmed in college, for C.S. minor, and it kind of took the fun away. I'm sure many of you understand that. My programming life was born in a time of 16kB, when you could turn on your system, and 3 seconds later be in your IDE Wink

There is web development, but I think that far far too many people have talent beyond mine with web technologies -- I might standout in Japan, but in the US, it seems everyone is Internet savvy. Ironic when my home in Japan will soon have 100Mbps fiber optic Internet, Phone, and TV service for $50.

Quote:Apple official backing?
This has been brought up again and again. But I think shall never happen, and if it did, would we "be sorry for getting what we wished for"? What I mean is, there is a certain community vibe here. We are professional and don't tolerate "flies", but not so uptight not to joke around. The culture is like early Apple, today's Apple, which is a great company doesn't really fit with this community. (Or am I wrong Steve?) In terms of support, I feel that while we have lower-level support from individuals inside Apple -- who happen to like gaming or work in the departments that touch on gaming, upper Apple management is still focused on the scoring the occasional "media hype" with AAA developers, and content with waiting for ports. There isn't any true effort (outside of placing Brian's and GG games on some Macs) at Apple to court or focus on Original Mac Gaming. (Not to put down ADC's support!) This is a shame because if you consider what Apple has done in other media, they have created a platform that makes people (designers?) feel they can't get the same on other platforms. (ie i-series) You follow my logic?

Thus I think, we shouldn't really count on Apple helping out the future generation of Mac gaming. Of course if I were smart, I would walk into Apple with a businss proposal explaining exactly what they could do for Mac gaming, which would pay big future dividends, and only require a "small" investment, but I live in Japan, Apple is far, and me gots no time.

Quote:More of the devs around here getting 'real' game dev jobs?
I feel that slowly, this will happen. A few of you are moving in that direction. I hope that unlike many "professionls", you won't forget your roots.

Quote:what direction would you want to take iDG in, were there no boundaries?
It would be run like a magazine. With true editors working with authors to produce high quality articles and tutorials. From guys like Andrew, Ian, and others. More like O'Reilly. Our file section would be immense. uDevGames would run smoothly, like the other two major game dev events. I would work hard towards finding ways to increase exposure and contacts (and revenue) of community developers. We would want to have some presence at E3, MacWorld, ADC Conf. We would foster small independent developer startups, and see them succeed. Organize the community to have a more powerful voice, at Apple, and other companies/organizations. Take a lead in getting rid of SerialMacJunkie and the other leeches, and cockroaches. Have our own mini-conferences/camps (ie like MacHack) -- in North America AND Europe. Offer iDev/uDev-wear that doesn't suck. Offer scholarships to extremely promising young Mac game developers to study C.S. Our own Playboy-type ranch where even a game developer could be loved.

OK, one of the items in the list is just a pipe-dream.


Carlos A. Camacho,
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