The Null Newsletter - April 2024

By Matthew Rorie


Welcome to the one-year anniversary of the Null Newsletter! In America, April signifies tax season as well as a truly cruel ramp-up of my allergies. It is not fun trying to work while one of your eyes is constantly overwatered and the other is dry as a bone, but somehow we soldier on.

The Month In Null

It was a busy month of game development for Athena Crisis and Demon Spore! Athena Crisis shipped a number of updates, including manual unit pathing, a number of AI improvements, more animated portraits for characters, a health bar redesign, and a ton of balance changes. We’ve also been working with some of the members of the Athena Crisis Discord to sponsor a speedrunning competition, which we’ll be talking about more very soon - stay tuned to the Athena Crisis and Null socials for more information. We’ll have $1,000 in prizes to give out, so start polishing up your run strats.

Screenshot of Athena Crisis

Demon Spore has been accelerating work on its story elements with some really interesting details about the game’s world and setting. We’re looking forward to talking more about it when the time is right!

As always, you can stay up to date on the development of these games via the Athena Crisis Discord and the Demon Spore Discord.

In other Null news, we are shifting our streaming schedule to a weekly cadence! Please give us a follow on Twitch and tune in for some fun hijinks every seven days (at least).

Null Travels

While PAX is in the rear view mirror, the Null team has been discussing a number of other events to attend through the rest of 2024. A number of Null employees attended WASD Live in London this month to see what’s happening in gaming across the pond. Null also announced this month that we’ll be participating in the inaugural IGN Live event in L.A in early June. If you’re in the area, please swing by to check out the games on offer and say hello!

As for myself, well, there’s an old hair dye ad that features two clones of the same guy, one with grey hair and one with black. The grey one says “My hair says ‘experience!’” and the other says “My hair says ‘energy!’” The goofiness of the ad has stuck with me through the years, until today, when both the message (and the product) are frighteningly relevant to 45-year-old me.

I’ve been in gaming over half my life now, having started writing game guides professionally in my late teens. 25+ years later, and I like to think I know a thing or two about the industry, but I was thinking lately about the border between knowledge and ignorance and realized that the dangerous middle ground is assuming you know more about a subject than you actually do. As such I’ve been examining my own assumptions and am trying to commit to a bit more active self-training in 2024.

And lo, I recently found myself at a day-long seminar on community-building run by CMX. It was a long day with a lot of talks, but it was interesting to listen and talk to other community-focused professionals to get a temperature for the industry. As is not uncommon for pretty much any professional conference these days, there was plenty of talk about AI and how people in community management are using it, with one gentleman going so far as letting ChatGPT be his personal tiebreaker for content moderation: he said he’d feed his community rules into it, then whatever borderline offending post or content that he was intending to moderate, and let ChatGPT be the arbiter of whether it was actually moderation-worthy or not, as well as letting ChatGPT draft moderation messages for him when he feared burnout. Another presenter (who works on community at AI companies), showed off examples of generative AI art and text that she’d use in newsletters.

Image of a community convention

Needless to say, as someone who has done plenty of content moderation and is right at this very second writing a newsletter, I’m pretty wary (reasonably so, I’d say) about the rise of the machines in creative industries like ours. Consumers of entertainment as a whole seem to be almost wholly negative in their response to AI-generated content (in contrast to business users of the technology), but it certainly seems like AI is going to impact the industry in ways that are probably unforeseen and unforeseeable. Despite the odd assertions that “chatbots are not going to replace humans” and “AI will create even more community management jobs in the future,” it’s hard not to be a little trepidatious about the technology! There’s a creeping sense of inevitability to the whole industry, with the phrase “get on the train or get left at the station” popping up multiple times in Q&As.

At any rate, I’m at a point in my career where it feels appropriate to start brushing up on some old skills and actively learning some new ones. Never stop learning, as the saying goes. I’m also currently working on some newsletter marketing training with our mail platform (Mailchimp), so perhaps we can all look forward to some more bells and whistles in these newsletters going forward.