Week 114 – A new job

This is a weekly recap of what has been going on in my professional life. It’s to keep track of what I’m up to and to give you a peek at what it’s like being an independent creator. For illustrated depictions of these events, visit my daily comics page.

After finishing the crunch for Vrije Vogels last week, I spent the first few days of last week embroiled in Metal Gear Solid V. It’s a wonderful and weird game, I dig it.

On wednesday I visited the Yoast offices again for my second interview, and I was practically hired on the spot! So starting soon I’ll be illustrating their blogposts and ebooks four days a week. It’s fun that I’ve been using their wordpress SEO plugin on the Off-Stage site for a while before I even knew they were dutch.

The next day, after my (soon to be ex-)side job in the morning and a sprint retrospective at Hubbub, I went by Radboud again, where I spent most of the afternoon in a meeting to sort out the work I have to do. The deadline for it is the day I start working at Yoast, so that schedules together really nicely.

Next week: First day on the job.

Week 113 – Snap back to reality

This is a weekly recap of what has been going on in my professional life. It’s to keep track of what I’m up to and to give you a peek at what it’s like being an independent creator. For illustrated depictions of these events, visit my daily comics page.

Last week I returned from vacation to find a bunch of things I had to do had accumulated. Eventually I spent most of my time on the final sprint for the Vrije Vogels game, culminating in me going to the Hubbub office at 5 pm on a friday to work out the last few bugs before the deadline. It was fun though, having everyone in the (virtual) office and punching out the last few things, improving things for a few hours and seeing it all come together. Especially marking off everything on the todo list was a satisfying way to start the weekend.

Inbetween I did some logo sketches for a client in the UK I had worked with previously, and I added a few things to the lighthouse keeper game, with the intent of showing it off at friday night’s PlayDev meetup. Eventually┬áI couldn’t attend due to the aforementioned crunchtime, but working on it was nice, it’s been on the backburner for too long.

Over the weekend I finally finished The Witcher 3 with over 100 hours on the clock, and immediately moved on to MGS V, which I expect will eat my free time in a similar amount.

Next week: more interviews and working at the university.

Week 110 – 112

This is a weekly recap of what has been going on in my professional life. It’s to keep track of what I’m up to and to give you a peek at what it’s like being an independent creator. For illustrated depictions of these events, visit my daily comics page.

In week 110 I finished up the last things for the Vrije Vogels beta 3 sprint, then spent the rest of the week doing other things. I helped a friend move, we thought more about moving ourselves, and spent a day at the beach. Lots of things occupied my mind so I didn’t do much on personal projects.

Week 111 started off with an interview for an illustration job in Nijmegen. I’m keen to get back into illustration proper, although the decision is bittersweet as I’ll have less time for personal projects. But then again some stability (and a pension) would be nice!

On tuesday we did a retrospective at Hubbub to review our past few weeks of work. Everyone was very pleased and proud and compliments were passed around, that was nice. We also came up with a few points to improve on in the next sprint. It took some doing but the whole process there feels very streamlined now, and though it requires some active attention there’s a lot of flexibility and we really get things done. I like working with these guys a lot.

I closed week 111 out by dropping by Embodied Games at Radboud again. We discussed the future and did some planning for the next upcoming project, which includes some fancy motion sensing tech that I’m excited to design for.

And then I left for vacation with my girlfriend, which occupied all of week 112. It was great to get away from it all and we had a lot of fun on the island of Texel.

Next week: Back at it with a full plate.

Week 105 & 106 – Downtime, wireframing and job prospecting

This is a weekly recap of what has been going on in my professional life. It’s to keep track of what I’m up to and to give you a peek at what it’s like being an independent creator. For illustrated depictions of these events, visit my daily comics page.

Week 105 was mostly used to decompress after my adventure in De Torenkamer (see the week 104 blog). I caught up on sleep, saw my family, wrote some words, updated my portfolio and then re-aquainted myself with The Witcher 3.

On thursday I met up with Niels ‘t Hooft and Saskia Freeke to discuss the next steps in Niels’ Geometry Girl / Hybrid Writer’s Toolkit project. The day after that I did something completely different and went into an abandoned hospital with some street art friends. I’m glad I went along; you see this kind of thing a lot in games and other stories, but to do it yourself is an exciting experience.

Last week was more of the same. On Monday Niels stopped by to catch up and talk through the Geometry Girl wireframes. During the week I made a prototype with the Marvel app, and built the same thing in Invision to compare (Marvel still came out on top for me even though Invision has a bunch more cool features). It’s a great way to get a feel for your (app) design on the target device really quickly.

I also started slowly looking around for a new job, something with more hours as my current side job, and where I’m actually doing something with my creative skills and mental capacity. So if you or someone you know could use a great 2D artist/animator/designer/writer/developer, I’m over here.

Week 104 – One man game jam

This is a weekly recap of what has been going on in my professional life. It’s to keep track of what I’m up to and to give you a peek at what it’s like being an independent creator. For illustrated depictions of these events, visit my daily comics page.

Last week was a little different from my usual weeks, as I spent a week in a little room in the Vondelpark in Amsterdam to work on a new personal game project, courtesy of dutch radio. Come to think of it, it was also the two-year anniversary of me going independent, so I guess that was a fitting way to celebrate it!

You can read the details about the game here. The week was organised by dutch late-night radio show Opium op 4, which lets a creator use their office each week to build a passion project. This week was my turn, and I had a really good time.


Also just realized I posed like the caricature on my businesscard here. Weird!

I basically started from scratch on monday. I had an interesting backstory, and a vision in my mind of what the game would look like. So I started by researching the backstory: in 2013 the Lyubov Orlova, a decommissioned cruiseship, breaks off its towline in a storm and disappears onto the ocean. In 2014 its radio pings off the coast of the UK, but it is never found. I figured I’d make a game about that. The news articles about it have been in my Pocket for a while now, so this was a good opportunity to do something with it.

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I researched the timeline, all the owners and places it’s been, and more specific stuff like what the deck layout looks like and how cruise ship engines work.

After that I started on the prototype. I had something working pretty quickly, courtesy of Unity and its many prefabs. After that I struggled for a while to get an interaction system working. I started off coding it all myself, but quickly realized I’d better use something pre-made. I fiddled with Pixelcrusher’s Dialogue System for a good while before deciding to just import Adventure Creator. At that point it felt like I changed from Tony Stark banging on some metal in a cave to Tony Stark jumping into the Mark 45 Iron Man armor. Everything was at my fingertips.

To my surprise AC also integrated pretty well with Unity’s 2D Controller, which was essential, otherwise the character couldn’t walk up slopes anymore. Now I was ready to start on the narrative content. It was early thursday by then, and I was getting nervous, but I managed to put together a pretty cool vertical slice in the end, even though it sort of stops short of the actual gameplay, which is exploring the ship’s interior with your map and axe. But for a week of work it was pretty cool.

On friday I presented the demo on the air, and everyone loved it. The main guest of the show called me a singer-songwriter gamedesigner, which is exactly how I like to think of myself, telling interactive stories and focusing on the delivery and the experience.

At any rate, I had a great time, and you can read a more detailed (dutch) blog and listen to the show segments on their website.

Week 103 – Released a new game

This is a weekly recap of what has been going on in my professional life. It’s to keep track of what I’m up to and to give you a peek at what it’s like being an independent creator.

Last week was hard. Not because I had a lot to do but because it was so damn warm. We measured the highest temperature and the hottest night so far in the history of this country – even though compared to places like Italy or Indonesia it’s not that big a deal. But it makes sitting down and doing this hard enough.

Regardless, I started the week off helping out at the warehouse of a friend. It ate up most of the day, and I liked it better than my side job, which by comparison is very monotone and boring. After that I had a Skype call with Hubbub to plan out the tasks we’d like to tackle in the last batch of work on the museum game.

On tuesday I decided that if I was going to start on a new game (which I will next week in De Torenkamer), I should really finish one of my open projects. Finishing Black Feather Forest was impossible, and the astronaut game was nothing more than a tech demo yet, so of course the choice was clear: Reconquista.

Reconquista had been in limbo for a few weeks because the last few tasks were too vague or I couldn’t decide on exactly how I wanted to tackle them, but I decided to just sit down and figure it out. In the end it was easier than I expected to fill in the blanks and deliver a game that felt fairly done. It had a good starting and ending point, and the stuff inbetween seemed bug-free and cool.

So! You can download the game off itch.io for free right now!

After that I mostly just surrendered to the heat and made a plan for my time in De Torenkamer next week. A plan that changed near the end of the week after the announcement of De Pont, an open call for game devs or filmmakers to make a short game/film set on the ferry that runs between Amsterdam Central Station and Amsterdam North. That could be a very interesting idea to run with.

I also played through Her Story, which is an incredible game and I finished it in one sitting. On saturday I went to a concert and on sunday I helped out my girlfriend sell her illustrations at a local market, while the Tour De France ravaged the very same city we were in.

Next week: gamedev in the Vondelpark in Amsterdam.

Week 100 – milestones for all

This is a weekly recap of what has been going on in my professional life. It’s to keep track of what I’m up to and to give you a peek at what it’s like being an independent creator. For illustrated depictions of these events, visit my daily comics page.

Last week marked the end of a few running tasks, which thankfully cleared the board a little bit.

On monday we submitted the grant application for our literary game idea. Somewhere next month we’ll receive word on whether the judges think it’s cool enough (and thus receive the first batch of funding for a prototype), so for now we sit tight and await the result. It was weird to submit something based on an idea without any kind of prototype or concept art, but I think even in this form it already sounds pretty cool.

The rest of the week was mostly spent on the last bits of art for the current sprint of the Hubbub game. We had some trouble contacting the client because of changes in their management etc, so we didn’t quite end up where we wanted to be, but we still made huge progress and have a version you can play through from beginning to end. Next week we’ll probably kick off one more polishing sprint and then get ready to deploy it in the first museum. I’m looking forward to sharing what we’ve been working on.

Halfway through the week I also got the input I needed to start working on a few illustrations for returning client Hoog+Diep. I only had until today to work on them, but the scope was exactly right for me to work on comfortably, and I delivered the final bits this morning pending any final feedback. Little assignments like that are great to fill up the empty space in your planning, easy and fun to work on and done quickly, allowing me to enjoy the great weather on friday.

Over the weekend I did some work on Deck 5, a small scifi game I’ve had lying around for a while – you may remember it from weeknotes past. I went back and forth on its design a lot, going from 2D adventure game to firstperson exploration game to isometric 2.5D puzzle game. I think I finally hit the look and feel that I envisioned when I drew the first mockup back in 2010, and I’m excited to start making content for it once I finish Home Rule and Reconquista.

Below you can see the progression of the game since 2010. I’m particularly excited by the billboarding-shadowcasting-sprites in the latest prototype.

Bonus: the doors from the 2014 early early Unity prototype.

Next week: Home Rule polish sprint kickoff.

Week 99 – clients coming out of the woodwork

This is a weekly recap of what has been going on in my professional life. It’s to keep track of what I’m up to and to give you a peek at what it’s like being an independent creator. For illustrated depictions of these events, visit my daily comics page.

Last week started off with a promising meeting with Sytze Schalk, a writer/designer who is working on a grant application for a multi-year transmedia experience including theatre, graphic novels and games. He was looking for someone to develop his adventure game idea and ended up on my portfolio, so we met to discuss ideas and possibilities and decided to go ahead with the application together. He wrote it during the week and I checked it from a game designer point of view. We’re submitting it today.

Besides that I kept working on Home Rule for Hubbub, filling in the various placeholders with final artwork. It was a lot to slog through and it went slower than I anticipated, but the game is starting to look really good. On friday I was in the Hubbub studio to work on some things, but man it was hot. I hope we don’t get a tropical summer like that or productivity is going to suffer.

Halfway through the week I also got a call from Hoog+Diep, for whom I did some artwork a while back. They had a new project that needed some illustrations. And a friend of mine wanted to schedule a meeting about some artwork for her new project, so all of a sudden assignments are coming in from all over the place. The question will be which ones actually end up going through, but I feel a lot better about the next few months now.

Inbetween all that I spent a morning writing out the rest of the storyline for Offstage chapter 2, and I hope to start drawing it in a few weeks time.

Over the weekend I enjoyed the sunny weather, meeting family and friends, and some Witcher 3.

Next week: finishing up the third Home Rule sprint and more gamedev.

Week 97 + 98 – Keep on truckin’

This is a weekly recap of what has been going on in my professional life. It’s to keep track of what I’m up to and to give you a peek at what it’s like being an independent creator. For illustrated depictions of these events, visit my daily comics page.

Week 97 was mostly spent truckin’ forward on the artwork for Home Rule. We tried coming up with a better name for the project but nothing really jumped out just yet. It was tough to have everyone scattered all over the place and working on the project at different times, but this week things are coming together.

Over the weekend I saw some movies and spent time with friends, something I had been neglecting a bit due to all the work lately.

Week 98 started off with me helping another creator, namely my girlfriend, in selling her artwork at a market on the second Pentecost day (yeah in holland we pretty much double down on every national holiday). She sold a ton and we had fun, the very direct contact with customers is always nice. The rest of that week was more of the same.

Inbetween I sowed the seeds for some new projects in the latter half of this year and early next year. If even one of them goes through it’s going to be a good year. But they’re largely dependent on subsidies so we’ll see how it goes. Just the fact that I’m being asked for these things more and more is a calming thought in the black void of freelance work.

At the end of the week I decided to make work of upgrading my legacy hosting account. I’ve been displeased with the speed of my websites for a while now and considered switching to a different provider, but then I decided to call Godaddy support and see what I could accomplish. And I came out with an upgrade to their latest server technology, locked in for 5 years for the price it would normally cost for 2 years, and a free file and database migration worth another 150 bucks. Plus a fun conversation about art with the tech support guy, an amateur artist living in Dublin.
I was surprised that nothing broke in the process; the only thing I had to do over the weekend was re-hook-up the posts database to the off-stage wordpress. So now all my sites are back online and working spiffy.

I’m going to stop doing dailies for a while, or at least discard the backlog when I pick it up again.

Next week: Home Rule beta 2 wrapup.

Week 96 – lights, camera, UX

This is a weekly recap of what has been going on in my professional life. It’s to keep track of what I’m up to and to give you a peek at what it’s like being an independent creator. For illustrated depictions of these events, visit my daily comics page.

On tuesday we started the third Home Rule sprint at the Hubbub studio. New addition this sprint is Niels ‘t Hooft, who is taking care of the story content. On friday we had another meeting to discuss our progress. Alper and I mostly worked on designing new features this week and setting everything up so we can get going once the full storyline is ready this week.

Inbetween I worked on Reconquista some more, getting it ready for release. I added some extra props to the level, optimized the performance a bit and experimented with gamma color space vs linear color space + tone mapping, and I’m still not sure I understand it exactly but the colors look much better now at least.

RQ04

I also spent an inordinate amount of time researching a new laptop powerful enough to play The Witcher 3 on, which comes out this week. Not since my days as a young gamer with a desktop PC had I compared graphics cards so thoroughly, or thought about clock speeds, teraflops and heatsinks. It was awful, but I found a good one that I might buy sometime soon.

I closed the week out by celebrating my birthday in Amsterdam at a small festival. Seeing how happy and kind everyone there was, and the artists having fun, and supporting each other from the crowd, it felt like such a far cry from the worries and the vitriol in the games industry lately. It definitely lifted my spirits, and I hope we can all be a little more like those people.