I have successfully driven two podcasts into the ground.

I had previously mentioned one I did in college. It got us into GDC for free, so I don’t regret it. I don’t think anyone listened to that one. We were all punks with nothing meaningful to say.

That didn’t really change when I got around to my second one.

The Question Blocks

In the fall of 2010, at and Indie City Games meeting, a girl stood up at the end of the meeting and said she wanted to put together a podcast. She wasn’t content with the show-and-tell format that Indie City Games mostly sticks to. She wanted to talk about game theory. I was only working full time and doing the Hats at the time. That left me with two free evenings a week, so I signed up.

We gathered a crack team of people with too much free time and we called ourselves “The Question Blocks.” (I would have also accepted “The Question Blokes,” were it not for our female host.)

Curiously… when I Google “The Question Blocks Podcast,” It looks like someone else started something by the same name 4 months after we dropped the ball.

We made a facebook page. (It currently has 28 fans!) We got someone to make some cool chip-tune music for our transitions. We made a twitter account. We made a wiki. We made an email. I had just put together everything for the Hats so I was just going through the same motions for establishing a presence on the internet. We were totally ready!

Some of the topics we have on the wiki now, half of which we actually recorded, were:

  • Horror in Games
  • Timeless games (recorded 3 times? (I loved this topic))
  • Dealing with loss (in games)
  • Sex in games

We started by doing two practice sessions, recorded on a Mac, in an empty classroom. They were low quality and we didn’t really prepare, but our friends told us it was a worthwhile listen. So we pulled some strings and found out that her college had a recording studio. “Awesome!” We though.

We booked the room and showed up every Monday, for about 10 weeks. When all was said and done; we recorded 7 episodes of the Question Blocks. Only 2 ever made it out.

What Went Wrong

The first two recordings went alright. The problem was that we didn’t really prepare beforehand. Oh, and it was recorded on a Mac, which makes you sound like you are at the far end of a hallway made out of tin.

The first time we went to record in that sound studio, nothing was setup correctly. There were dozens of wires and boxes with blinky lights. Parts of the equipment had to be checked out from a separate room. I think we got a different mic each time we went there. It was a mess.

After a lot of messing around, we thought we had it configured correctly. Joke’s on us! It didn’t record a word.

  • -1 podcast
  • -20 morale

So the next time we recorded, we ended up with the same results for different reasons. We didn’t get anything. But, we spent the rest of the evening actually figuring out how to get it working.

  • -1 podcast
  • -20 morale
  • +20 know-how

This started a pattern where we would need to get someone in the room to “fix” it, every time. It was usually a different person each time. I think only one of them ever knew what they were doing. It added a lot of downtime and stress to the project.

When we decided we were serious and we knew how to get the actual recording going; we prepared. We populated the wiki with topics, reading material and questions for discussion. We had lists of people  that we thought would be great “guest experts” on each topic. It felt much more legitimate.

We got tired of re-recording the same topic over and over (the one we kept losing,) so we moved on to a Halloween themed podcast. We actually put that one out. We even got an interview with the lead from Amensia: The Dark Decent. Nice guy. (Great game btw)

Then Came the Layoffs

We were just getting settled in our skin when some tragic news hit Chicago. Robomodo had just lost their contract with Activision and a lot of people were out of a job. Including many of my friends and my brother.

We decided we wanted to talk to the people affected by this. What we ended up with, was a podcast that I am particularly proud of.

The Chicago Industry Special. You can listen to it here.

We had to borrow some expensive equipment from schools and friends to get out and hit the streets for that. I really loved editing it together but it also made me realize that I didn’t have the time to do the editing myself.

Everyone really loved the podcast. We were pretty stoked.

And Then We Died

I’ll cut to the chase. We lost the next… two or three recordings. Either because of a hard-drive failure. Or the computers got wiped (without warning). Or the file-server changed. Or the backup site we were using somehow lost or corrupted the files.

We almost always backed these files up twice. Yet, somehow, we lost everything from a solid month.

At this point… we were really beaten down. People were asking about the next episode and we kept making excuses for our bad luck. It was also hard to live up to the previous episode. Three punks, talking about games they like, can’t really compare to industry folk spilling their hearts out. Eventually we stopped meeting as often and the student-life of the other two hosts caught up with them. They had finals and vacations between semesters. Classes got scheduled during our regular meet-up time. We just never got it back together.

So now that’s dead.

Every once in a while I’ll see one of them and we say something like, “Yea! Let’s totally bring it back!” And although the sentiment is there, the time isn’t. Plus I don’t really know who even listened to it.

I actually just found an unreleased, alternative “episode 1” on my server. I wonder if I should do anything with it…

Anyway… back to making games.