Progress since 2011
Most of the preliminary efforts at fundraising, recruiting a team, and promoting the Planet Postmoderna project for Entropia Universe’s Partner Planet Program were slow-going. Building a demo to use as a pitch platform was where most of the development emphasis was placed.
In 2011, my life changed a lot on the personal and professional fronts. Because of all the stress resulting from the changes, I actually stepped up my efforts. I used my new available free time after being laid off from work to spend more time trying to fundraise. The period between late 2011 and 2013 was spent doing a lot of pitch presentation and networking. I also believe the existing team put forth some of their best effort during this time.
I learned even more. I had dived into CryEngine and Unity both to find the best platform for the demo. Initially, it seemed CryEngine was the best option since that’s what Mindark was using for Entropia Universe. But as the months turned into years and we still weren’t getting any closer to building a demo, I became a bit discouraged with CryEngine and more encouraged by using Unity. It was just a lot easier to work with. With that said, the realism of the CryEngine graphics were pretty impressive.
Going Back to School
Out of my frustration from failing to get funding interest, I went back to school. Even though it was not voiced, it was apparent that my lack of experience and personally invested funds into the project, had a lot to do with the lack of investor interest. I get it! If I were an investor, why would I want to put money into a project that lacks a track record or proof of work. Even though the project was planned to use an established game platform that already had a working economic engine, my leadership (in spite of my crazy level of passion and commitment) did not show results. I enrolled in the Game Art & Design Program at the Art Institute in Denver, Colorado.
Going to the Art Institute
I was really excited about going back to school. I would be getting a formal education in something I enjoyed and was passionate about. It was also a nice perk to receive grant incentives from the school for doing well. I can do this, I thought.
I did well with most of my early classes and was having a lot of fun. I only needed to occasionally drive to Denver from Colorado Springs. Many of my initial classes were online so that helped. A later challenge was when those online classes went by the wayside and I had to attend in-person for all the rest. In addition, I soon learned that those performance grants were only for students enrolled with a full load of classes. Now, that would not work, I thought. I had to earn a living in order to keep up with my house payment and my bills. I was between jobs/1099 contracts so had no income. I was actually having a hard time finding a job due to not having a college degree.
The director of the department tried to help me by offering me an intern position with the department. That was a good idea but the income would barely cover my fuel and driving costs for traveling between Colorado Springs and Denver. I still had to pay the rest of my bills and I was already falling behind.
It was sad to leave
Needless to say, I ended up leaving the degree program to try and find a full time (non-contract) job. Quitting the program at the Art Institute was a hard decision for me. It was not inexpensive to go there but it was worth it to me. I just could not afford to go. I tried for grants but contrary to what I was told, I could not find ones for my age. Most of them were for kids right out of high school, single mothers or minorities. I bet I would have found something had I tried a little harder and for a little longer. At that time, all that made sense was that I needed to find a good full-time job. In hindsight, I do sometimes wonder if there were some other choices I could have made.
Along came SolarCity
After a series of 5-8 month remote contract jobs with various technology and systems companies abroad, I found something right up my lane of interest. I was interviewed for a sales job at SolarCity in February of 2015. I loved sustainable energy and believed in it. How much I did, I would learn more over the next chapter of my life. I was hired.
I worked as a solar energy lead-generator for the energy consultants. I worked out of a well-known home improvement retailer called Home Depot. I was responsible for generating interest in going solar and setting appointments for the Field Energy Consultants that met with customers in their homes and signed them up for solar. I did this for a couple of months when the opportunity to become an energy consultant came about. Exciting! That’s what I really wanted to do. Besides, I could make more money doing what I preferred doing anyways.
Although, this opportunity came about in a more indirect route. There were no openings in Colorado for this position at the moment and management did not know when that opening would happen. I was presented with the option of moving to Las Cruces, NM to help open SolarCity’s market in southern New Mexico. This was SolarCity’s 15th State. I countered with, “I’ll move if you promote me to Energy Consultant.” They agreed, so move I did.
The move was exciting, but I was also leaving behind my family and friends. In the beginning, the impact of this was not so prevalent. That was not for long though, I started getting really home-sick. To compensate, I tried to stay very busy with work. For a couple years, that seemed to be working. I was doing well and my residential solar business accounts were growing. I loved SolarCity’s mission. I also met someone special, my wife That helped a lot. I was then spending a lot more time in the neighboring El Paso, TX for those combined reasons.
There were a lot of ups and downs in the solar business, especially with a company that was aggressively pursuing market-share. The utility like many others, was not very solar-friendly. That caused a couple of instances where SolarCity thought about pulling the plug in El Paso, TX. New Mexico was covered by a different regulatory body so they would have left Las Cruces open. The downside was that the nearest SolarCity warehouse was in Albuquerque, NM which was over 3 hours away. There were more than a few of these hard adjustment periods where I wondered if I made the right decision to move out of Colorado. Thankfully, my now-wife, Pamela, helped keep me pretty grounded. I owe her a lot.
Eventually, Tesla took over SolarCity entirely. Elon Musk was the chairman of the board and it made sense to acquire SolarCity and make it permanently part of Tesla. Besides, we were already selling Tesla Powerwalls. During the initial acquisition, most of us were pretty excited. We thought rebranding SolarCity to be part of Tesla, was a positive. Due to pressures to roll out the Model 3, Tesla laid off a lot of the salaried sales positions and cut costs. That started quite a ripple effect of uncertainty.
Tesla closed the market and left me with some decisions to make
After several ups and downs in Las Cruces and El Paso, TX , Tesla made the decision to close the ground-based sales team in the El Paso area. I stuck out most of the ups and downs, in spite of recommendations for me to think about relocating. I just could not believe that Tesla would close such a potentially strong market. Sadly, that day did come. I was given the option of relocating with Tesla to another office/Tesla Showroom (where solar would still be sold from), or take a severance and leave the company. Had there been a local Tesla Service center in El Paso, I may have stayed with the company, but there was not. I took the severance and stayed in El Paso. It was a good decision.
Here are some “aha moments.” The day of the announcement to officially close the Tesla Solar Sales Market in El Paso, I broke my foot stepping off a curb at Starbucks. I was working on my calls follow ups with customers. Starbucks was kind of my office away from the office. It was also the day after my fiancee’s favorite dog, Dave, a very energetic and fun-loving labrador retriever, passed away. It was a really sad day to say the least. It was during the month after this, I made the decision to take the severance.
Pamela and I were engaged to get married in August, 2018. We also had already bought a house and started to “make it our home.” I was glad I took the severance. It was not long afterwards that the other Tesla Solar sales office locations across the country, were closed too.
After getting married, I started working for a local solar company in Santa Teresa, NM, close to the border between New Mexico and Texas. It was an easy transition and quite a blessing. I knew the sales director. We previously worked together at SolarCity. I also knew the owner of Solar Smart Living from the various home shows SolarCity/Tesla and Solar Smart Living had both exhibited at. I have been at Solar Smart Living since then and am currently acting as the Director of Business & Market Development. It’s a great company. They are more than a solar company. They sell, install and service solar and other sustainable energy technologies. Don’t ask me to explain all the details of what I do because currently, the lines are really blurry and I would have a hard time explaining it quickly. COVID, labor and sales issues, and an invasion of the area by unethical door to door solar sales companies with poorly trained sales reps, have not been good to us nor the industry.
Why am I sharing all this?
In spite of the move to Las Cruces and El Paso, a new job, ups and downs with the solar industry, SolarCity and Tesla, I still hold onto the dream of Planet Postmoderna. I even tried to have someone help me edit the background story for the project, the book I finished in 2014. That did not work out as planned and I had even more editing work to do than when I first started. I did a final rewrite to about Chapter 17 then gave up. I lost my mojo.
Children of Arla was born
I recently decided to pick up the story again and finish it. With the help of a very talented editor, I published the story. Thank God!!! Truthfully, I actually believe it is kind of an act of God. I can’t help wondering if timing was a big part of why the airbrakes were applied to moving the project forward quickly. Today, the world is more ready and accepting of virtual worlds, virtual economies and currencies. It seems it is time to pick up the reigns again.
If you would not mind, I would love to hear from you. Post your comments about the project below. Also, take the time to download and buy the book. It will help support the project and bring it closer to becoming reality.
As originally planned, I am hoping that Children of Arla will generate a renewed interest in the Planet Postmoderna “Big Project.” I am planning to use most of the revenues generated from sales to help fund the further development of the virtual game project. It is unlikely that the virtual world project will be part of Entropia Universe. I think came to that realization a long time ago. Growing as a stand-alone project will be better in the long run. Integrating a virtual world economy the way we were planning during early development will work better under a separate economy/currency model. Whether that be by creating our own crypto currency or piggy-backing on another “established” currency, only time will tell. Now, if an angle is revealed that I have not thought of yet that works better, I will consider that too.
The goal right now is to continue with my learning Unity, C# and game design. I am also learning more about Crypto-currencies and some of the games being developed with them. I am also not burning any bridges for any opportunity that may come up with Entropia Universe. It is still an awesome game platform. Also, there are a lot of merit to building on top of an existing platform.
Only time will tell.
Read More in the next installment of The Planet Postmoderna Journey – Pt5