Hey there! In the Hedgefield Quarterly Review I look back at the work I did in the past three months, both as a diary for myself and a way to consistently update you on what I’m up to. I talk project details, achievements, and the highs and lows of self-employment. Come follow along!
You can find older entries here.
Better late than never! Last year really flew by, and it felt like it was all about one project, but looking back, I did quite a few thing, so it’s good that I’m writing this recap. Let’s dive in.
My first release on Steam
The first quarter started off with the remaster and release of The House On Holland Hill on Steam ? Steam is the premier PC games marketplace, so having my games on there feels like I’m ‘officially’ a gamedev. It’s nonsense of course, I’ve uploaded many games to itch.io, but still, Steam feels different. And boy was the amount of work different!
On Itch you could upload in an afternoon, on STEAM, man, I think altogether I spent a few weeks on it? There were all kind of store images that need to be made, I needed a trailer (and eventually I needed two trailers), there was marketing copy to write, I had to go through the build review process a few times to solve an obscure bug just cause I was hellbent on having full controller support, and I decided to add Steam cloud saves and achievements too.
At the same time I started working on UX design for the Immer app, version 2. After lauching the first version last year, we took a lot of the learnings and redesigned the app from the ground up. So lots of wireframing, interactive prototypes, demos, mockups, etc.
This was a great testdrive for Adobe XD. I previously worked in Sketch, but I didn’t have a Mac anymore so I had to switch. And the one thing we were really missing in Sketch was animatedd prototyping. And Adobe XD is really good at that. Honestly I’m impressed Adobe managed to catch up to the other UX design apps out there.
It was also great to experience a startup from the inside. Keeping a small team running focused and lean takes a lot of work, and it impressed me seeing the founders wearing all these hats. The devteam also expanded so we could move faster, and it was great collaborating with people directly on features again – as opposed to getting a brief handed down, designing it, then shipping it off to the next department in the pipeline to see it ship in maybe six months; which is what my work had turned into at my last job.
We went through highs and lows, had a lot of laughs inbetween, and built out a pretty complete MVP. Later in the year the business pivoted to B2B, and got to talking with some cool prospective clients for our tech, but since the design for 2.0 was done and dev needed time to catch up, I got off the train around that point to focus on other things.
Project Art Thief grant
Meanwhile, I submitted a proposal to make a prototype for my next game to the Creative Industries fund. And it was accepted! Which meant that I received a grant to work on this project fulltime for a few months, with the goal of developing a demo that I could use to secure further funding. So midway through the year I went full steam ahead!
One of the things I was most excited about was the setting. Many stealth games take place in dark, grungy and unwelcoming places, where you’re not allowed to be. For this game I wanted to turn that on its head and go the way of Hitman – the defacto museum experience takes place in gorgeous open spaces, with sunlight pouring in during the day, and lots of other visitors around. This allowed me to indulge in one of my most recent obsessions: architecture. I trawled architecture blogs for hours to collect the most amazing ideas for rooms, stairs, facades, all the ordinary functional parts of a building that many museums manage to make so extraordinary. God I can’t wait to build all of these imposing spaces.
I wrote an outline for the story with my intern, and talked to an old colleague that studied art history about ways to get real art into the game and possibly collab with museums in the Netherlands. I’m excited to work on that more, but I decided not to spend too many resources on that for this first phase.
I contracted a 3D artist to work with me on developing the style of the characters, and together we designed the protagonist, Birdie. It was really cool to see the sketches turn into an animated model in the game over the course of a few months. I wrote more about that in the Project Art Thief newsletter, which you can subscribe to here. Sadly the budget only allowed for one character, but it is a great template to continue working from once we get to the production phase.
Meanwhile I built a lot of the gameplay logic and environments. This time I wanted to write a lot of the systems from scratch so I would understood exactly how they worked and they would do exactly what I wanted. This went really smoothly in the beginning, but around the third iteration of the enemy AI system things started to get pretty complex. I learned a ton from doing this, but it did delay things.
I had hoped to have enough budget to also contract a programmer, but unfortunately I needed to redirect those funds to survive:
Then, right in the middle of Q3, our first child was born. I don’t think I have to tell you that everything else pretty much grinded to a halt then. It was an amazing rollercoaster, and I can’t begin to describe everything that this brought, so I’ll try to curtail it to the impact on my work life.
My whole daily routine changed, obviously; I didn’t even really work at all for about a month. I lived much more in the moment, but I also had great difficulty focusing on more complex tasks because of the sleep deprivation and lack of routine. Once that started improving I got around to some work again, though sadly the well of freelance work had kinda dried up at that point. I got by on savings and the occasional drop of freelance water in the desert of soaring energy bills, daycare fees, etc. It sucked, but in a way I am also thankful for it because it allowed me to spend so much time at home with my wife and son.
By now things have stabilized, and I feel like I can kinda plan ahead again. It’s forcing me to change my work habits too. I can’t spend endless afternoons contemplating and experimenting, I need to be intentional with my time and choose what I dedicate time to. I’ve been documenting my code a lot better. And it has shown me that through it all, the thing I still wanted to do most was work on Project Art Thief, so that project is solid.
I created another animated video for dutch engineering innovator Contronics, to celebrate their achievements in fighting food waste. I took a bit of inspiration from Gigi D’Agostino for this one! #ifyouknowyouknow
I designed another shirt for public speaking coach David JP Phillips. It was a tall order to capture all the facets of his brand in a visually interesting tapestry of illustrations.
I finished a set of illustrations for the rebranding of consulting firm AppSpecialisten.
I drew a set of illustrations for a presentation by life coach Julia, who I met through my work for Contronics. They featured one of my facorite subjects: dogs!
I consulted on UI design for the indie game Eloquence. It was an interesting challenge to design a dialogue system for a game without words!
I stopped by the Utrecht School of Arts a few times this year to help judge student projects, which was a lot of fun.
I started rethinking my online presence after the shakeup at Twitter. I moved to Mastodon, stopped using Instagram as a business tool, rebooted my newsletter, and in general spent far more time in small communities on Discord than I did ‘engaging’ on social media, and I liked it. Still, I’m all over the place, so much so that I needed a Linktree, so I want to simplify that stuff even more.
And my final client of the year I had to fire, because of creative differences. I’ve never done that before, and it felt kinda good ? It sucks that it had to be done, but thanks to that I had a nice quiet Christmas break 😅
All in all, 2022 was a pretty good year.