How It All Started – Part 1

In 2009 my husband, Howard, and I were living in Tamworth, NH, in a little house on a river. I was working remotely for a company in Seattle for 10 years, as their Webmaster, Graphic Designer, and Trade Show Coordinator. My husband, Howard, was working for a small web design studio as their Lead Developer. When the company he worked for started having financial issues, Howard was offered a job in CA from one of the studio’s main clients. We jumped at the chance to go back to the west coast. Howard was made the company’s CTO and when I lost my job with the company in Seattle, shortly after moving, the new company brought me in as Creative Director. We sold our house. We have some regrets about that, but it was the best thing to do at the time.

Off to Film Another Event

CA was fun! We were making great money, and spending it too. We rented a huge house on a hill in San Carlos overlooking all of Silicon Valley. We made friends and spent our weekends eating, drinking, and exploring San Francisco. We worked hard. We build a social network, from the ground up. We traveled to events where we did live web broadcasts using cool new equipment. We made TV shows.

The house in San Carlos had some issues though, a rat infestation and a landlord who didn’t want to fix anything, to name a few. When our lease was up we moved down the hill to another huge house in Redwood City. This house had a pool, hot tub and sauna. It was the perfect house for parties and guests. We furnished all the bedrooms with the latest from Ikea. A friend was staying with us and my cousin came down to intern with our company for the summer. Later my parents and Howard’s parents came to visit and watch our dogs while we finally, after 5 years of marriage, took our honeymoon. We spent 10 days at an all inclusive resort in the Dominican Republic. Of course every day we had to go to the business center and check in with work, but the rest of our time there was spent relaxing by the pool, or on the beach drinking rum and cokes. It was a nice break.

The rest of that year Howard and I were alone in that giant house. It had some problems too. The kitchen appliances were starting to break and the roof in our office started leaking. There’s nothing more annoying that trying to work with water dripping into a buckets all over the room. One day a foreclosure notice appeared on the front door so we decided it was time to move again. This time we chose a smaller house with a small back yard for our dogs, right in San Francisco.

This house had an interesting story. It was the “Home of the Future” at the 1939 World’s Fair on Treasure Island, an island in the bay between San Francisco and Oakland. After the fair, the house was transported to a lot in San Francisco’s Sherwood Forest neighborhood. The landlords were great. They owned a construction company and had fully renovated the kitchen. They also wanted to know right away if anything went wrong in the house so they could send someone over to fix it.This was a nice change.

About this time things at our company started to change. We stopped doing events and filming, and to cut costs even more, our hours were cut back. This was only going to be for a few months though, then we were going to refocus and take the company in a different direction. It was going to be a little tough for us, with how stupidly expensive everything is in San Francisco, but it was also a welcome break. The stress of having to always be available had gotten to us. This gave us time to work on our own thing too, which was making a game!

Goat Traders: The Card Game

Making games was not a new idea for us.  Howard had worked for a major game studio in the past, and back in 1999, when we were first together, we made a game called Goat Traders. Howard needed to learn PHP for a new job, so in the evenings and on weekends we came up with this game. Goat Traders was a turn based, web game where you could breed goats and trade with other players. It had some popularity. We even got a few donations from our players. Since then, we talked about doing something else with this concept. We finally decided on a card game. We worked out the game play with hand drawn cards, I put together the artwork, and we had a few demo packs, complete with boxes and play mats, printed.

This was the winter of 2013 and around this same time we went to an RV show. We had gone camping recently and realized we are too old to sleep comfortably on the ground. Maybe we would find a little popup camper we liked. The first set of RVs we came across were some travel trailers made by Cruiser RV, called Fun Finder (yes, we think that name is dumb too). A guy from the manufacture was there and gave us a tour. He told us to check out the cabinets, touch the walls, and look at all the little details. Then he told us to go look at some other RVs and do the same thing. So we did. We check out the cabinets, touched the walls, and looked at all the little details of many other RVs on display. The Fun Finder was nicer. The other great thing about these RVs is they are super light weight. The 26’ one has a dry weight of 4200 lbs. We would be able to tow it with our Ford Ranger! We went back to check out the Fun Finders again.  Sitting at the dinette, I looked at Howard and said, “We could live in this”. We bought it. And two months later, after our hours at work had been cut back even more, we were living in it.

Life on the Road

Our plan now was to live in our little RV with our dogs and make games. Unfortunately it took us about two years to de-stress from our life in Silicon Valley. We still worked for the same company here and there, and had a few other clients we manage websites for, I even got some work from my old company in Seattle, but now we were traveling too. We went to Las Vegas for a friends birthday, then down to Austin, TX for SXSW and the Gaming Expo. We spent some time in Oregon and Northern CA. It was then that we looked into trying “work camping”. Work camping is where you work for an RV park in exchange for you site, utilities, and sometimes a small salary too. We were hired by Austin Lone Star RV Resort, the park we had stayed at during SXSW. So back to Austin we went.

We stayed in Austin for almost a year. I worked in the office, checking in other guests and taking reservations. Howard worked out in the park driving around in a golf cart, collecting trash, and helping people park and set up their RVs. A lot of people think RV parks are full of older, retired people, and while that is the case a lot of times, this park had a large group of young to middle age people who worked in Austin. We made friends there and had BBQs where we tried to impress each other with the delicious dishes we would make. We had midnight pool parties. Howard and I explored Austin and marveled at how cheap food and beer was compared to San Francisco. Austin was great but we still hadn’t made a game.

The Goat Traders card game was not finished. We needed to work on the instructions and needed more people to beta test it. The other problem was if we did finish it, what would we do with the physical inventory we would need to distribute the game? We certainly couldn’t put a pallet of boxes in the RV. We had so much stuff in there we were certainly over the tow weight of our truck. Plus with two large dogs, there wasn’t much room for anything extra. So the game was put on hold. Maybe some day we will come back to it.

Hanging Out in Austin

Since we had been in California, Howard had taken an interest in Bitcoin. He did some mining and occasionally would do some trading (kind of like day trading on the stock market). While in Austin he wrote a piece of software called MarginBot. MarginBot manages margin lending on Bitfinex, a cryptocurrency exchange trading platform. The returns are better than just about any other type of investment. It’s insane! Shh, don’t tell anyone. If too many people knew about this it would flood the market. The software is open source on GitHub though. We’ve received some donations from other investors using it, and get a small percentage when people sign up using Howard’s affiliate code.

After Austin, we wound our way up the east coast to New Hampshire. My parents had a house on 20 acres in Freedom. Since they had traveled and lived in an RV for many years, they had an electric, water, and sewer hook up too. We would be all set for the summer, or so we thought. Turns out my parents had just sold their house and had to be out in a month. We took advantage of that month and used my Dad’s tools to built a custom table for the dinette. This gave us a much better work space.

For the rest of that summer we stayed at Owl’s Landing Campground, right in the lakes region of NH. We talked about making games. Maybe mobile gaming is the direction we should go in?

(Cont. in Part 2)

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