Hedgefield Quarterly Review 2021.2

Hedgefield quarterly review

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.

At the start of the month I wrapped up work on the second book from The Recharge Company. They’ve been a longtime client, and this time they bundled all their wisdom to help you get the most out of life. I drew a series of more abstract illustrations and mental models to make the book more visually pleasing to read through.

https://worksmartplaysmart.nl

I was also asked to make another animation for Contronics Dry Misting, which you may remember I created an elaborate animation for last year. This year was their 40th anniversary, and this time they commissioned a motion-graphics-esque video to celebrate their accomplishments.

It wasn’t a style I had worked a lot in before, and the deadline was tight, so I was a little worried, but in the end I managed to bang this thing out in about three or four days, surprising even myself. Pretty pleased with the result!

And for the final project in the work-for-hire category, a local marketing agency asked me to create some comic pages to promote a shoe brand. The scripts were prepared for me, so I could do what I do best and create some cool page layouts and linework. At least, I thought so, turns out the client was too smitten with the tight vector style of the concept mockup made by the agency, and that’s not a style that suits me particularly well. So unfortunately after trying a bunch of designs I had to pass on that one, but hey, that also happens sometimes. I knew drawing honest-to-god comic pages for an ad agency was too good to be true 😉

And of course work for app startup Immer continued as well. We shipped an update that adds reminders, and next quarter there will be a long-awaited update that adds discovery and search, along with a bunch more books, something I’m personally very excited about.

So I think it’s safe to say business is good. And while all of that is fantastic, it was also eating time away from the further development of my game idea that I mentioned last time. And from what time I could put in, I started to get the idea that this was going to be a big undertaking. Like applying-for-funding-and-assembling-a-team big. And then there’s my part-time day job too! So I had to make a decision that I’ve been considering, pondering, and putting off for quite some time now.

I quit my job.

I’ve spent more than five great years doing UX design and branding for Yoast, and it’s been a wonderful safe haven, but faced with all the possibilities in front of me currently, I had to admit that SEO just isn’t where my passion lies. I enjoyed solving the design puzzles it threw at me, and it taught me a ton, but I have no ambition to dive further into that world and master that product or domain. So it was time to move on.

That was a scary decision! And I’m going to miss having my co-designers to bounce around ideas with, but getting to spend more time with the projects I love is already giving me much renewed energy. I look forward to the months to come, getting settled into this crazy new routine, and I’ll take you along for the ride!

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 one

Week one has been a quiet one, as I expect some weeks to follow will be too. Although the first gig is a fact: I’m working on a series of cartoons to accompany the thesis of a friend of a friend. They’re fun to draw and don’t take a lot of time, so it’s a good way to start.

After watching Star Trek First Contact again an idea for a scifi story popped into my head, tentatively named ‘Deck 5. I’m not sure yet whether it should be a game or a comic, but I like where it is headed. I will continue to explore it further with my bro Ralph who has a penchant for these kinds of stories.

On tuesday I met with Niels ‘t Hooft (ka-pow, pingback) to chat about narrative games and the craft of being a freelancer. After that we visited Digital Dreams to take a look at Metrico, a very intruiging game that uses inforgraphics as platforming puzzles, really smart and cool. It also gave me a chance to wonder what the hell Sony was thinking with that PS Vita UI…

After that I drew some things here and there which you can see below this post. On Friday I visited the Human Adventure expo by NASA with my family and witnessed all facets of the museum experience at once, as my dad and his friend are super knowledgeable about this stuff and the rest is not really, right down to my cousin who just wanted to press some buttons. Had a good conversation with my uncle about the absence of an engaging narrative in most museums.

Other than that I’ve mostly been surrounding myself with media to extract inspiration from. I’ve watched more movies this week than the past 3 months I think, a lot of them scifi, and I dove into Fallout New Vegas, which I was initially not too excited to look at or play with, but some great mods helped me get past that so I could get to the masterful Bethesda/Obsidian storytelling which has engrossed me once again.
Funny enough the best quest so far was one that was unmarked, so it had no tell-tale markers to tell me exactly what’s what. It was the story of Vault 11, a shining example of environmental storytelling without any real reward other than knowing what had happened in the depths of that Vault, which turned out more satisfying than any old XP boost or weapon upgrade. Something to remember.

As the week wraps up I’m staring at my Trello board with the page scripts for Off-stage. I want to get back into the swing of releasing at least one new page a week again.

Week Zero

Last week I decided to return to being a freelancer after a year and a half as a game designer at Paladin Studios. I had a great time there among fantastically talented people, but I felt the need to make the games and the comics that I want to make.

I like stories and what they can do to/for people. Interactive stories make that experience even stronger for me. But I realize now that maybe that means that I don’t want to make what is traditionally considered a ‘videogame’. I like those just fine (my Steam library has 230 of ’em) but I don’t think I want to make something that has scores or in-app purchases etc. I want to tell stories. And games like Kentucky Route Zero, Papo & Yo and Gone Home prove this is as good a time as any to try.

So to track my progress I’ve decided to steal copy a blogging idea from colleague Niels ‘t Hooft, who has been doing weekly recaps of his independent adventures for 757 weeks. Woof.

Week zero has mostly been about slowing down to a pace where I can think at again. I was in an office for the last 1,5 years and had to travel quite a distance to get there, so everything was very… timeboxed. It left little room to wander and contemplate. I noticed my well of story ideas evaporated. So I’ve been nurturing it back to health by spending time outside, catching up with friends and family and absorbing media. There are about 6 uncompleted games on my desktop and double that amount in my movies to watch folder, so finally working through that has been nice. I’m starting to feel some ideas well up again. And I also completely lost track of time, holy shit. I think it’s monday today, right?

Anyway, tune in again next week to follow me along on this adventure and see if I’ve lost my mind yet!

~Tim