Week 44

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 creative.

A tumultuous week! On monday I got to view an apartment in Utrecht with my girlfriend, and we decided to pull the trigger on it right that morning. So that means moving soon! A lot to think about, but aside from the inherent boon of being together I’ll also be closer to the dutch games industry hotspot.

On tuesday Bounden was released to much fanfare. It’s incredible that the game came together with no delays or major problems and became something really special. I’m glad to have been a part of it.

The rest of the week I worked on some freelance drawing assignments, posted about Black Feather Forest in a number of places, and dug up some unused Bounden concept art for fans to gawk at.

I also updated my portfolio, not so much in terms of new projects but mostly the infrastructure. I had “NEW!” ribbons on each fresh project, but those were still scattered across the various pages so it wasn’t real easy to see that stuff at a glimpse. So I added a rotating banners at the top, much like the iTunes Store. And in doing so I broke the lightbox for the images, so I replaced that with something much more lightweight, slick and fast. And you can link directly to certain projects now! I had put in those anchors long ago but they never worked until now. I figured it out!

And the week closed out with some bad news: Black Feather Forest was not selected for the competition I entered it into. With 60 entries I can totally understand the high-quality and cool games they selected to showcase Dutch gamedev (Bounden is in there! And hooray for Westerado), but it’s still disappointing that the outcome of those weeks of hard work amounts to “Sorry, good luck hey.” But I’ll keep working on it and responses for other places are positive, so that’s motivating.

Unseen Bounden

While I worked on the concept art for Bounden we tried a lot of things. Mainly related to the world- and theme-building. We worked hard to distill all the level ideas down to the best possible ones, the ones that you can see in the game now. But for every ‘world’ that you see in the game, there were like fifteen more designs. Here are some that didn’t make the cut. (click on them for a slideshow with descriptions) :

Week 27

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 independant creative.

It’s been a pretty productive week, finished up my to-do list for the webgame I’ve been making assets for, did some logo design and mockups for two other projects, and spent thursday working at Game Oven again on Bounden. We looked at some new interface shapes and button layouts for various menus, and managed to push a Testflight build out the door so I can finally check it out on my own phone, which is quite useful when I’m designing at home.

I did some writing on friday based on a dream I had the day before, and the satisfaction I got from it was quite intense in comparison to the bigger tasks I’ve been doing the past few weeks. I forget what an instant high writing a short story can give you. It was a welcome feeling.

Your ‘job’ as an independant creator doesn’t just stop at doing the work and nmanaging your clients and finances, you also have to manage yourself and your own contentment in doing the work in the first place. It’s an aspect that often gets overlooked, and I read some good articles about it this week that made me realise again that we as humans are inclined to focus on everything that can be improved and all the uncertainty we face, and with that forget all the good parts.

http://zenhabits.net/down/
http://www.artfulgamer.com/the-albatross-of-incompletion/
http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/JamieFristrom/20131212/206951/How_To_Be_A_Happy_Indie_Game_Developer.php

It’s good sometimes to stop and take a moment to appreciate all that you have, even if it is an uncertain whirlwind. Getting up early to go to the office on thursday through the cold and the dark was one of those moments for me. Check out those articles, they’re a good read.

Week 25

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 independant creative.

2014! Time to start things up again.

Last week I drew a new Off-stage page, one that was half done when I took a christmas break but which honestly read like shit then, I didn’t like it. Now I came back to it fresh and found the missing piece that made it a nice rounded out page. Chapter two will be complete soon and then I think I’m going to take a break from it and plan a whole chapter in advance, writing a chunk a week is just not great for an ongoing story.

Between wrapping that up, my work for Bounden tapering off and closing out another project this month I have plenty of time coming up to devote to two things: a second pass at the ideas I worked up with Niels ‘t Hooft for his upcoming iPad novel Ninja Gimmick Girl, and diving into Adventure Creator for my own game.


Classic Jake and Toby, IN SPAAAACE (placeholder dudes). The scene is actually all 3D, textured planes with navmesh and collision

My meddling with Unity so far was all well and good but I was still a bit in over my head when it came to building things like a dialogue system (I hate the Unity GUI system, it’s bonkers) or competent 2D pathfinding. But Adventure Creator is basically all the features I already know how to use from another engine I used to use and love (because the maker did too), so jesus I was over the moon. Now I can start making the sort of game I want right away.

On wednesday I had an extremely productive day working on Ninja Gimmick Girl, and then I got VIOLENTLY ill. Just like that. I could tell you platitudes like ‘life can always intrude’ and ‘be prepared for anything’ but mostly being sick just fucking sucks. So better just submit and get it over with.

Week 22

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 independant creative.

We announced Bounden this week! After working on it for a month or two Game Oven was ready to push some press releases out the door, which means I get to talk about this cool project finally on the record. It was fun being in the office for it, everyone was energetic and in high spirits, watching the retweets and articles pour in. I’m planning on writing a blog post talking about the process of defining this visual style, but for now you can look at these pretty pictures – color tryouts for one of the many theme ideas.

If you want to know more right now you can watch our heads talking about the game in the monthly development videos we’re putting out, the first of which can be viewed here.

On wednesday I met up with Niels ‘t Hooft for lunch. Niels recently put out his first interactive book app for Toiletten, his first novel, and we discussed future plans for this format and the stories he wants to write for them. It’s a very different area than what I usually concern myself with making, but it’s very interesting to point my brain at it and come up with some cool ideas.

I’ve also been writing lately as I miss working on narratives now that I mostly do straight illustration, thanks to Writemonkey, a very lean and sexy writing app. I considered opening a seperate blog for those short stories but I might actually bundle them up eventually as an ebook. If you’d be interested in seeing some of them here on the blog from time to time let me know in the comments.

That evening I met someone who shook up my world a bit. Everything after that is a little foggy but let’s see… on thursday I worked from home on Bounden, finishing up the last few mockups for all the worlds we want to have in the game. We explored so many directions that there is almost nothing left but thanks to a crack art team we keep improving and honing the vision of the final product. I think I finished an Off-stage page somewhere inbetween there aswell.

That night I saw The Hobbit 2 for the second time, the HFR version this time. It’s still a great movie but I’m not sold on this 60 fps business. It looks like someone sped up the footage accidentally. Weird.

Friday I don’t remember.
Saturday was spent with good company exploring the city of Utrecht. I returned early morning the next day and slept most of sunday.

Week 21

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 independant creative.

Monday was once again the classic blogpost-offstage day. I’ve been letting the significance of that day as the start of the week slide, so I’m going to enforce it more as if that day is off-limits to anything else.

On tuesday I worked at Game Oven again and we’ve been zeroing in on the final visual look. Rami Ismael dropped by and concurred that it does in fact look quite rad. This week we’re announcing the game!

On wednesday I worked from home and in the evening took a friend to the special edition of De Mus, our weekly theatre cafe night, this time in the church at Waterloo square. Next to the music performances and interviews we also played folk games with Adriaan. Aside from a slightly rambunctious crowd it was a great night and these guys are destined for great things.

Thursday and friday I continued with creating assets for Gamesys. I’ve been doing more with interface design recently, something I’ve never really spent much time on, and I’m learning a lot. I’m still no UX designer but designing goodlooking and functional interfaces is enjoyable work.

At the end of the week I went to eat and see The Hobbit 2 with my old colleagues at Paladin Studios in The Hague. It was great catching up with them and they are working on something truly stunning coming out soon. The level of polish on that thing is amazing.

Week 20

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 independant creative.

On monday I swung by the Gamesys office here in Amsterdam to work on the assets for the game we’re making. I managed to up the catalog of items from 6 to 36 by the end of the afternoon so we made good progress. Their office is right in the middle of the Red Light district, so it feels a little strange walking into the building when all the neighbouring buildings have red windows. And I forgot my laptop charger when I started for home so I got to walk through there twice…

On tuesday I was back in the Game Oven office to film the first production diary for the unannounced game. That should be going online pretty soon so then I can finally talk about what’s going on. On wednesday I was in the building again for the Dutch Game Garden networking lunch where we demo’d the Sinterklaas game we made last weekend. Also caught up with some of my old classmates.

Thursday was the first day in a week that I could sit down at home again for my other projects. I caught up inking Off-stage, and spent too much time figuring out why the site was only displaying the new version when I adjusted the zoom level of the browser. Turned out it was some dumb WordPress CDN feature. I kinda liked the effect though, might be worth making that a feature of the site.

During the week I also sort of wrecked my Intuos4 pen. It still works but it’s all ductaped up, no good. I wanted to grab the new Intuos Pro right from the store but this model was 350! Thankfully with my comapny’s VAT number I managed to get it for 250 online. It came in on saturday right before I left for Utrecht to celebrate Sinterklaas with my family. For my dad I made a cardboard Xenomorph head as a gift container, and I like how it turned out (considering I started on it two days before). A ‘gezellig’ weekend was had!

Week 19

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 independant creative.

It’s been a busy week! I’ve been creating webgame assets for a company here in Amsterdam, which is progressing nicely. It’s a good exercise in setting a strict time budget for each thing to make, and the fast turnaround on all these chunks means you get a lot of those ‘completed something’ highs.

Unfortunately my busywork also cut into my time for drawing Off-stage, so I had to put up a sketch version of last week’s page. I’d rather get something up and have it be less polished than miss a post date completely. That’s the whole point of publishing on a schedule. I had hoped to finish inking it later in the week but no such luck yet.

On wednesday I worked out of Adriaan’s kitchen again, and we made great progress on the unannounced game. Feels like we’re zeroing in on a coherent style which is a great feeling after all this experimentation. In the evening we went to our usual weekly theatre cafe hangout, and the rest of the week I also continued working on aforementioned game at the Game Oven office.

Over the weekend we also gathered at Game Oven with current and past employees to do a self-regulated gamejam for Sinterklaas, a dutch holiday. We decided to try and make an HTML5 topdown procedurally-generated local multiplayer action game about the pepernoten prohibition of 2015, and the taskforce erected to enforce it. We got quite far for an engine we had never used before, and learned a lot in the process.



* the actual game doesn’t look as good as this yet.

Week 17

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 independant creative.

Monday went by as the classic blogging + Off-stage day. Took a trip downtown when I got stuck on drawing to get some fresh air and restore focus. Tuesday and wednesday I spent at the Game Oven office working on sexy visuals again.

Gilles van Leeuwen filming some dev diary action

By the end of tuesday my erratic sleeping schedule caught up with me and I basically fell into bed at 9 PM. Finding some sort of rhythm or schedule as an independant is so important because sometimes a bad sleep can sap all the energy I need to be creative in favor of just keeping this meaty husk up and running. It’s a struggle but I have an alarm set at the same time each day.

On thursday I did some sketches and interface design for a small webgame I’m collaborating on. I like these short projects where I can focus intensely on making art assets over a short period without too much back-and-forth and get a nice paycheck out of it at the end. If I reliably have two such projects each month I will be a happy camper.

On friday I was back at Game Oven again, and in the evening I was invited to a violin recital at the Utrecht conservatory. It’s not the sort of music I ever end up seeing live so that was a fun experience. It made me think a lot about what kinds of things I like about the music I generally listen to and how it fits in with my creative preferences.

Over the weekend I followed Sean’s advice and just ’embraced everything I love, idiot.’ I hadn’t played an actual goddamn videogame in weeks and I almost forgot how good that stuff can be. Found some new music. Read comics. Went to the cinema. Walked around Amsterdam. Planned a trip. The good stuff.