Week 93/94 – Unwinding and maintenance

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 93 had a late start due to Kingsday, a dutch national holiday. On wednesday I had a call with Hubbub to plan out all the features we want to put in the next Home Rule beta (including a better name for the project), and on thursday I had a call with a potential new client, an illustration rushjob.

I spent the rest of the week doing administration and updating my portfolio. Google’s new policy is to give priority in their search results to sites that are mobile-friendly, so I dove into the world of responsive design and media queries to make my portfolio site adapt to all kinds of resolutions. It was a nightmare of weird glitches and quirks but it works now!

Last week also started out mellow because of the national war remembrance days. I made a little character animation for the folks at mindbreaker games who are working hard on their demo. It was nice to open After Effects after a long time and animate a little something using the latest version of the DUIK plugin, which is UHH-MAZING. Highly recommended if you do a lot of character animation.

Later in the week I finally sat down and upgraded Black Feather Forest to the latest version of the game engine. Miraculously nothing broke! There were a few weird thinhgs in transitioning from Unity 4 to 5 while simultaneously updating two plugins, but I managed to solve 90% of them in an afternoon.

I’m itching to continue developing Black Feather Forest. I realized a few weeks ago that it’s been a year since I started working on it. And I think almost half a year since I stopped development to rethink a few aspects. That stung, so I’m determined to carry on with it in the next few months. A Kickstarter may be inevitable.

But first Reconquista! I started that project up at the end of the week to add a few features and get it ready to launch. I expect that will happen in the next few weeks. The game is practically done, I just need to figure out one thing and then I can push it out the door. It makes no sense to leave it lying around for much longer.

Next week: new dailies and the kickoff of the third phase of Home Rule.

Week 74

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.

Week 73 wasn’t that notheworthy. I mostly worked at my parttime job and caught up on games and tv shows.

Last week I drew a new Off-Stage page of course, and I spent some time re-wwriting the plot for Black Feather Forest. I believe I’ve told you that I came up with s handful of new angles, and I’ve been trying to write those out into full summaries. Coincidentally the podcast Stuff You Should Know did an episode on the phenomenon one of the new storylines is based on, so that added some motivation to the process.

Other than that I’ve been emailing some more, trying to score new leads. And I engaged in a game of Subterfuge with the guys at Game Oven. It’s a really nice take on Neptune’s Pride.

Next week: Christmas.

Week 72

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 started off well with getting hired for a part-time job. It’s enough to cover the rent each month and it only takes three mornings a week, so by noon I can be back behind Photoshop. I’d like to do more but for now this is okay, it’s not a well-off market out there it seems.

The rest of the day and into tuesday I worked on a new Off-Stage page as usual.

In the meantime I emailed another potential Black Feather Forest publisher on the recommendation of a friend, and this at least was the first one that wasn’t full/unavailable yet. I’ve been brainstorming story ideas for them and I managed to come up with five or six alternate angles to the second half of the game that are exciting me more than the original story draft, so I’m looking forward to writing those out.

On wednesday I went by the Dutch Game Garden networking lunch and caught up with some industry friend. I should really hang out with them more.

Thursday was filled up with Sinterklaas crafts, making cardboard constructions, a nice change of pace from the digital world.

On friday I booted up the Trusted Soil adventure game project again and implemented and linked up all the rooms that we had in the previous version, so you can walk around all the locations again. It’s a bit of a mechanical task, porting old code and going through the same motions again and again, but the result is fun to click around in.

On saturday I returned to an old favorite of mine, audio production. I was overdue to do a voiceover for a friend’s game trailer, and while I was at it I recorded the first episode of a new podcast I’m thinking of starting. Due to the traffic noise outside my window (even when it is closed), I had to set up my recording studio in the bathroom (and leave the light off otherwise the air purification fan would kick in…)

On sunday we celebrated the Sinterklaas holiday with my family. It was very gezellig. (check out my construction below)

Next week: getting up at dawn to do a job!

Week 66

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 a bit disappointing. I did get the BlaFF storyline plotted out fully in Twine, which was great because it gave me an instant visual overview of which parts were too linear and which had too much going on at once. I added one location and everything feels better balanced now. The added bonus is that I now have an accurate count of all the clues you can collect during the game and where they are referenced. I was afraid I had planned for too many, but the total number came up short of the space I had reserved for it, so that’s good, I can pad some things out and add more info to find.

twine

But then, bad news. Indie Fund reviewed my submission and decided that it didn’t quite fit with what they were looking for in their portfolio. I hadn’t expected much but it was still disappointing. The next day I heard back from Double Fine too – they really liked the game, but with two guys manning their publishing department part-time and three projects on their hands already they didn’t have space on their docket, but it was still nice to hear. I’ve got a few more emails out, so we’ll see how that goes in the coming weeks.

Mostly it shook me awake to the fact that the core game needs work. I’ve been caught up in polishing what I essentially made in one month, but it needs new features. I’ve just been afraid to break the whole thing open again. But it has to be done. I got some good tips from people that played the demo, some of which I had already thought of myself, so it’s time to put stuff like that in and make the game match up with the promise.

The only problem is I don’t have much leeway to spend time on it right now. I’d love to, but life costs money, and making games is not exactly a quick return-of-investment. So I decided to pivot back to illustration for a while. I could do a Kickstarter for BlaFF, but setting that up would take me another month, and there’s no guarantee that it will work out, especially in the current sour climate in the games industry. I needed to step away from all that anxiety and get back to what I know I can do well: drawing. (I have more thoughts on this that I’ll put in a seperate blogpost.)

But for now I’m good doing illustration. I got two emails recently for interesting and substantial projects. They’re both international, so it’s also a new challenge in figuring out how to process that in my administration. And if you’re reading this and have a nice assignment for me: I’m available for hire!

next week: drawing drawing drawing.

Week 65

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.

Another week of battling the flu, though by the end of the week I conquered it and got back to work.

On wednesday I dragged myself out the door to have lunch with Richard Ram about him possibly doing the audio for Black Feather Forest. Richard is a cool guy and I think we were on the same page regarding what the soundtrack should be, and we were even wearing the same shirt, so clearly he is a man of taste. So I think we could work together well when the time comes to get started on the audio, somewhere around the end of the year. Richard is currently still working on the audio for Penarium, made by my friends over at Self Made Miracle.

Safely back in my quarantine zone I got to work on the proposal for the possible investor. Luckily I had a design document ready that I only needed to strip some irrelevant parts out of, and I had a solid demo, so all I needed was one bugfix and a rough estimation of the budget. I think I kept it pretty reasonable, so we’ll see how it goes once they get back to me.

Once I felt good enough to do some real work again I drew a few cartoons for dutch news site Fresh. They had an open call for illustrators and they liked my work so from now on I’ll be drawing some news-related spot illustration for them every week. You can check that out here (if you’re dutch).

I also tinkered with different materials for my sprites in BlaFF following a suggestion on the Adventure Creator forum. It allows me to tint my characters, which will be useful in later scenes where it’s dark or where there are hard shadows that the characters travel through. The effect is subtle but I like it. I might hit up SpriteLamp at a later stage to really make the lighting dynamic.

spriteshading

I’ve taken to the abbreviation BlaFF now, as BFF reminded me too much of, well, the term BFF, and having the ‘la’ in there makes it sound more like the full title – but maybe like you were slurring it ha. What do you think?

Inbetween I also made good progress in Alien Isolation, and I checked out A Golden Wake by Grundislav Games, a cool retro adventure game that pushes my 1920’s-loving button pretty hard.

Next week: plotting out the plot, one scene at a time, in Twine.

A former drug addict, a priest and an investor walk into a games expo…

Stop me if you’ve heard this one.

INDIGO, the games expo put on by the Dutch Game Garden, was pretty intense this year. 32 local devs gathered on the spaceous ninth floor of music palace TivoliVredenburg for two days to showcase their games in development. I was there too with Black Feather Forest.

I saw some familiar faces, some fresh new ones, and talked to a ton of people. Seeing visitors take the time to play through the entire demo and most of them raving about it afterwards was a really great experience, and a much needed refreshment after the past few weeks. Thank you to everyone who came out and stopped by! My parents, uncle and some good friends included. Also dinner with my Game Oven friends was a good time, and my booth neighbours from Wolfdog Interactive kept me going through the long hours. And a special shout-out to Benjamin who came to help me out on friday evening after work when my legs had turned to jelly. You rock dude!

It’s hard to describe all the moments and conversations from those two days, but I wanted to highlight a few that really stood out.

As a kid I used to read Power Unlimited, the biggest games magazine in the Netherlands. Of course like any publication it’s run by normal people, but having looked up at these guys in my teens it felt pretty special to have them stand in front of my booth checking out my game and following me on twitter now. Check that off my bucket list.

Speaking of nostalgia, the memories left behind by the game Broken Sword are what compelled me to start making my own games, and then all of a sudden I run into a programmer from Revolution Software, and a dutch one at that, on the show floor. It was really cool to meet Joost and exchange adventure gaming stories.

Near the end of the VIP night on thursday an older man came up to me. He started on the demo as I explained what the game was about, then he turned to me and asked me why I cared so much about this particular true story. From there we got caught up in a passionate exchange of ideas, where he revealed that he was a recovered stock-broker-turned-drug-addict who just started learning about computers three days ago. After getting clean he had set out on a quest to learn about himself, and had become a very joie-de-vivre carpe-diem kind of guy. He wasn’t even on the guest list that night, he had just wandered in and was having a blast talking to people. We spoke for about half an hour and at the end shook each other’s hand with a well-meaning I haven’t experienced in a long time. Like we were both genuinely excited to see the other enjoying life, and wishing eachother well.

The second day of the expo was also punctuated by an unexpected meeting. 5 minutes before the end of the show a man dressed in a priest’s garb came up to me. I recognized him as Roderick Vonhögen, also known as the podcast priest. He hadn’t played the demo yet but had read all about the project on my website before coming here and went on to tell me how incredibly cool he thought it was. He was even familiar with The Walking Dead games, which was perhaps even more of a surprise. It was super cool to have had a chance to talk with him before packing up and heading off, and I took his encouragement to do a Kickstarter and get on Steam to heart.

I’d been on the fence about Kickstarter for a while, but after I left the hubbub of INDIGO behind that night and checked my email on the bus home I saw that perhaps a Kickstarter was not even going to be necessary…knock on wood. More info on that very exciting email soon.

All in all INDIGO was a great succes and I want to thank the Dutch Game Garden for letting me be a part of it.

Week 59

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 started off right: I got a job offer the friday before (for a freelance project), and we went to have lunch and talk it over. It went well I think, we’ll see what comes of it when everything is sorted out.

On wednesday I showed Black Feather Forest at the Dutch Game Garden networking lunch, to positive reactions. The people that played loved how it looked and played the demo to the end, so that’s good. I also met the good people from Wispfire who are working on a cool narrative adventure game too.

2014-09-03 11.58.49

Following the lunch I fixed a few bugs I noticed (a restart button isn’t very useful if it doesn’t reset your progress on the map), and refined the cursor system based on an interesting observation made by Game Oven‘s Adriaan. Now I just need to hack Adventure Creator a bit so it actually works too.

On thursday I pulled out my ol’ Yeti mic to do a voiceacting test for the game a friend of mine on the AC forums is making. It was fun to do, especially because it’s a kind of Monkey Island comedy game so the voices can be very expressive.

I am planning to make a trailer for Black Feather Forest soon so this was a nice reminder that I could probably do the voiceover for that myself. Besides that I also did some illustrations for a calendar that’s coming out in a few months.

Then the week closed out with some good news: Black Feather Forest was selected to be part of the INDIGO showcase put on by the Dutch Game Garden during the Dutch Film Festival. It sounds like a complicated construction, but what it boils down to is that I’ll be showing the demo at the top floor of the new TivoliVredenburg music venue in the center of Utrecht at the end of this month. Exciting times! Another things I can cross off my bucket list. I’ve exhibited at game shows before but never with my own game.

Next week: how to cut a trailer for a game that’s only about 15% done.

Week 56

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.

A strange week in indie land.

At the start of last week I was moved by Dom2D’s post about the state of his life. I admire Dominique‘s artistry and optimism, so it’s not great to see he struggles with things. I can identify with a good number of his sentiments from various periods in my life, about making ends meet and feeling like an imposter sometimes, which I wrote about before. But it was heartwarming to see all the nice responses he got. I hope he’ll feel better at the new studio he’s working at now.

Further good vibes were obtained at the Idle Forums, were responses to Black Feather Forest were positive, and some great constructive feedback was given in terms of writing and character development. I was stuck in a rut a little bit, because once you have a project that shows promise it’s sometimes hard to decide in which way to proceed with it. Especially in games there are so many variables, and everyone has a preference for a different thing. But discussing the narrative got me going again.

During the week I edited some dialogue, converted each existing scene to a new workflow method that solved a few strange bugs, and I reworked the interaction icons. I’m ashamed to admit it but I completely overlooked those when polishing up the demo, I was so focused on other things I forgot they were still using the low-res default icons supplied by Adventure Creator.

gui

I was quite pleased, then over the weekend a shitstorm broke out. It was like everyone had to get their bad vibes out at the same time. Zoe Quinn, Phil Fish, Rami Ismail, they all got mangled on the social media. A delegation also decided to hate on me for even trying to tell a story a subject more grounded in reality than your average videogame, which shook me up pretty bad on Sunday. I wish people wouldn’t make assumptions based on a headline and a cursory glance at my blog, I’ve done my research.

Anyway, new week, fresh vibes.

Next week: fresh vibes.

Week 55

This is a weekly recap of the goings-on in my professional life – to keep track of what I’m doing and to give you a peek at what it’s like being an independent creator.

Last week I took some time to decompress after the deadline. I pulled up my Steam backlog and finished The Wolf Among Us (so good), caught up with Team Fortress 2 and played the shit out of State of Decay Breakdown. I loved State of Decay but the story in the main campaign had me beat at some point. My main dude kept dying and critical missions failed. Breakdown lets go of all that and just lets you build a home base somewhere and then survive infinitely. Unlike for instance DayZ, they’re very good at creating narrative around these random characters, by generating missions where they get lost or spot a special zombie. It’s really fun to play, even though the AI is sometimes absurd.

I also binged on The Killing’s final season. That show has also been an inspiration in how Black Feather Forest came to be, and I’m glad to have more of it, even if it is just 6 more episodes.

Somewhere along the week I took a look at the intro of my game, where you are introduced to the main characters, and went to rewrite it. I realized it was the only conversation free of player choices, so I made it a bit more engaging and flavorful.

On twitter I saw Fork Parker tweet an image of someone who had reimagined a scene from True Detective as a Lucasarts adventure game. It looked awesome, and I hope the people who crave that to be real can find some satisfaction in my game when it comes out. The creator, Lazerhorse aka Arthur Doyle, was even Canadian himself, a nice coincidence.

Next week: some actual work???