Week 36

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.

Week 35 was pretty quiet since I was mostly occupied with doing other stuff and hanging out with people.

Week 36 I spent working on my own project in Adventure Creator. It’s pretty cool to see that plugin taking shape and a community forming around it. A dedicated forum was finally opened to post bugs and feature requests and showcase projects. I have high hopes for this software turning into the perfect suite for me to make narrative-driven games in.

Initially I was on the fence about switching my project over, but I decided this week to leave practicalities aside and just dive into the software and get to know it, so I set up a local SVN repo and went to town. Some things are the same, some things are better, and some things are a bit more cumbersome, but overall I almost feel like this is the way to go. For years I’ve fantasized about having all of these pixels and cameras that I could zoom and pan on the fly, plus cross-platform compatibility makes this a shoe-in for my affection.

On tuesday I had dinner with old classmates and colleagues Bas (Sophisti), Tim (Ronimo) and Bojan (Game Oven) to catch up and to discuss some secret heat brewin in the Game Oven kitchen. On thursday I had dinner with fellow illustrator Ming to catch up and dive into Unity. If Ming would apply his unique art style to games I have no doubt something cool would come out of it. Something to think about. In the meantime go check out his work.

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.

Week 11

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 indie.

This is the first week where I felt like I am no longer incapable of sitting alone for days to just work. Right after I quit my office job I had a hard time sitting still and not going places and seeing people. It made me kind of homesick for being able to work comfortably in solitude. I think I’ve struck a good balance now where my days do not become monotonous, yet I can turn off my phone for a day or two and get down into it.

Last saturday I swung by the INDIGO dutch games expo to meet up with some old friends and check out what everybody was up to. Every year they have some really cool indie games on the show floor, and talking and having beers with all the people afterwards reinvigorated my passion for game development. We also celebrated that my pals at Game Oven were awarded a sizeable grant by Gamefonds towards developing their next game.

On Monday my friend Adriaan from Game Oven called me up and asked me to do the art for a small game based on Miley Cyrus. We talked before about doing some small, news-relevant games, and Adriaan found some guys who were thinking the same thing and had some money to throw at it to boot. It’s a very silly project but it had a very gamejam-y feeling which I liked, just coming up with things on the fly and polishing it later. We’re finishing the game up this week so I’ll be able to link to it soon.

On tuesday I went to help some friends move. I had to be there at 8 AM, which meant getting up at 6:30. Crawling out of bed and jumping in the shower while it was still dark outside and then heading out into the cold gave me flashbacks of having an office job, and I felt so thankful that I don’t have to go through that every morning anymore. The knowledge that it was a one-off thing eventually made it quite enjoyable and I didn’t feel tired at all. My friends and I talked previously about how nice it would be to have one day a week for doing some manual labor in the open air. It puts you back in touch with the world.

On wednesday I inked the Off-stage page that I couldn’t complete due to other projects on Monday.

Thursdaymorning I met up with Anne Bras and Misja van Laatum (and Hessel van Hoorn in spirit) to discuss the revival of our graduation project Trusted Soil. We had built a demo and had big plans for the story and tech, but we never got around to it. Now that we all have some time to spare we decided to try and make it a full commerial game. Expect to hear more about that in the coming months.
We met at The Park Plaza restaurant in Amsterdam, which is in the Victoria Hotel across from Central Station and a great place to sit quietly and work, so I stayed behind to do some writing for a bit. I considered going to the Unity meetup that evening but decided to hang out at home with friends.

On friday I trekked down to The Hague to pay a visit to my old buddies at Paladin Studios. I distracted them from work for a few hours to see what they were up to and exchanged indie experiences with a freelance programmer who was also visiting. It’s cool to see their games all having a recognizeable unified style now. There are interesting things coming out of that studio real soon, keep an eye out.

On saturday I did some more polishing for the Miley game, and made a few mockups for an interactive ebook app that Niels ‘t Hooft is developing.

Week eight

Two months, christ.

I couldn’t work on Off-stage on monday on account of coming back from London, so my buffer is dry now, I’ll have to double-time it today.

sketch for off-stage page 29

Now that I’m updating it regularly and it is an ‘active project’ in my repetoire, I’m looking into ways to monetize it. At the most basic level I’ve activated Google Adsense; There is a lot of empty space on the site for those kind of things. I really don’t enjoy ads generally, but as long as you don’t plaster the site with ’em I like it as a low-intrusive way to generate a bit of revenue. With the advent of adblockers it is becoming less and less of a viable solution though.

The rest of the week I got back into the Fawlty Towers game, pushing out one background a day.

Merlin Mann pointed me to an interview with Joss Whedon, who shared his tips on Getting Thing Done (even though he couldn’t come to finish the book). And he said “absolutely have your dessert first.” I’ve never really worked super sequential on my own projects, but I tend to try and get dull but important things out of the way first so there are only fun tasks left. But as Joss points out this might actually burn you out on a project before you get to the really good stuff. So I’m going to try it his way.

On friday I set off for the PinkRoccade offices in Apeldoorn for the 2013 Games For Health Dev Camp, together with my pals from Game Oven. From that afternoon until Sunday mid-day we were tasked with creating a playable concept for a game that will help some part of a mentally handicapped person’s life. We created a multiplayer game where you place three ipads next to eachother and each player has a small view of a kitchen, each with a specific task, and the objects to accomplish these tasks with (find a pan, fill it with water, boil an egg) can be passed around between the screens. Besides teaching these kids how to prepare food it encourages communication and bonding.

gamejam bruddas

Congratulations to Menno Deen and his team for winning!

Week six

Pretty much why I went indie.

Monday (or technically tuesday) marked the official return of a consistently-updating Off-stage. I would like to go twice-a-week, but at the rate I draw a page and the days I have allocated to the project (one) I’m comfortable staying at once a week for now. My next step will be ramping up the advertising a bit, both outgoing and incoming. It’s time to dust off my old friend Project Wonderful (where I also found 25 dollars in old Dinerdate ad revenue collecting dust!)

On wednesday I went to Niels’ book presentation for De Verdwijners. It’s a cool what-if story about the near future and Google’s growing grasp on the world. Hearing about his process was also very interesting. Pick it up if you’re dutch or enjoy this trailer while you wait for the translation.

My thursday evening I spent by tinkering around in Unity, with some help from my buddy Jens. Things seem quite daunting in there sometimes, but taking things one step at a time often yields surprisingly fast and fine results.

This is all to emulate an old prototype I did in Adventure Game Studio, which the game and my ambitions for it have since outgrown.

On friday I went to see two of my friends graduate – Bojan of Game Oven fame with his research on cloud simulation, and long-time friend Twan on SCRUM management tools – which gives me an opportunity to point everyone at the excellent Trello again.