Scratching that itch

Hey there blog denizens!

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of itch.io, thé online marketplace for interesting indie games these days, but I never added ALL of my projects before. And it would have been weird to upload unfinished games to a webstore, but itch has evolved tremendously lately, offering support for limited betas and early access games. So now you can find all of my personal projects of note at hedgefield.itch.io.

But wait, there’s one more thing.

Last year I stopped blogging weekly about my indie escapades and created a once-in-a-while newsletter, but I noticed that I then also shared less little gamedev insights, something which the blog was perfect for. So I’m bringing that back. As I wrap up work on the first Orlova beta for an upcoming event, expect more work-in-progress posts. It’s time to turn this place back into a proper devblog.

Starting with the new title screen for Last Voyage of the Orlova.

OS0.png

Week 100 – milestones for all

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.

Last week marked the end of a few running tasks, which thankfully cleared the board a little bit.

On monday we submitted the grant application for our literary game idea. Somewhere next month we’ll receive word on whether the judges think it’s cool enough (and thus receive the first batch of funding for a prototype), so for now we sit tight and await the result. It was weird to submit something based on an idea without any kind of prototype or concept art, but I think even in this form it already sounds pretty cool.

The rest of the week was mostly spent on the last bits of art for the current sprint of the Hubbub game. We had some trouble contacting the client because of changes in their management etc, so we didn’t quite end up where we wanted to be, but we still made huge progress and have a version you can play through from beginning to end. Next week we’ll probably kick off one more polishing sprint and then get ready to deploy it in the first museum. I’m looking forward to sharing what we’ve been working on.

Halfway through the week I also got the input I needed to start working on a few illustrations for returning client Hoog+Diep. I only had until today to work on them, but the scope was exactly right for me to work on comfortably, and I delivered the final bits this morning pending any final feedback. Little assignments like that are great to fill up the empty space in your planning, easy and fun to work on and done quickly, allowing me to enjoy the great weather on friday.

Over the weekend I did some work on Deck 5, a small scifi game I’ve had lying around for a while – you may remember it from weeknotes past. I went back and forth on its design a lot, going from 2D adventure game to firstperson exploration game to isometric 2.5D puzzle game. I think I finally hit the look and feel that I envisioned when I drew the first mockup back in 2010, and I’m excited to start making content for it once I finish Home Rule and Reconquista.

Below you can see the progression of the game since 2010. I’m particularly excited by the billboarding-shadowcasting-sprites in the latest prototype.

Bonus: the doors from the 2014 early early Unity prototype.

Next week: Home Rule polish sprint kickoff.

Week 87

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.

Having finished the first phase of the Museum Game project, this week was a bit of a breather, and an opportunity to get into gamedev on my short game whole-hog.

I started by drawing some dailies, but the antics of the cat that night had left me with a bit of sleep deprivation so it didn’t go so fast. On tuesday we ran errands and enjoyed the spring weather, and wednesday I got into knocking out some features. I’m really enjoying working on a 3D game, but the danger in that is that you can endlessly tweak little details and move them around, whereas in 2D you generally want to sketch that all out in advance and then Just Make It™. So I did at least one big feature still on the to-do list a day, from a win / lose condition to building geometry and constructing the general game flow. It’s mostly an exploration game and it’s quite short, but it does need some structure.

This is a moodboard I made to illustrate the tone and look I want to go for. It’s a challenge to figure out exactly how to replicate the different aspects like lighting and contrast, and getting that dense foliage feeling without sacrificing visibility or performance.

moodboard

And a look at a WIP area.

Next week: Hopefully beta-testing, and writing a Black Feather Forest proposal for the Creative Europe open call for game funding.

Week 82

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.

After the Hackathon last weekend we got some nice press about our concept. I took a day to recover and went to help a friend in their warehouse, unloading new merchandise. It’s nice to do something physically intensive every now and then to break up the monotony of sitting at a desk.

dailies_20150209

On tuesday I started working on a small game based on the dream I had the friday before. I never made a fully 3D game by myself, always some kind of 2D because I’m not that good at modelling and rigging (pretty bad actually). But this idea needed 3D, and it was small enough that I figured I could manage – it didn’t need complicated systems or GUI, just a character walking around an island. So I pulled open the bag of Unity resources and assets I amassed over the years, and putting all those together actually made something cool pretty quickly.

dailies_20150210

I started thinking about whether anybody had attempted full body awareness for the player character, and how cool that would be, and before I knew it I had a mecanim-ready character that I pulled off the asset store walking around with a camera in his head; it worked really well!

I continued by building terrain using the Unity Terrain engine, populating it with foliage, and I grabbed Prototype (a plugin by the ProBuilder guys) to make some basic geometry right in Unity. The buildings don’t need a lot of complex shapes so for that purpose it is ideal for me. I continued tinkering with it during the week until I fell down a hole of performance optimization. You could spend hours tweaking the run speed and grass density and draw distance into perfection…

Luckily I managed to climb out of it to build the enemies. All week I had been wandering around the island by myself, shaping it bit by bit, getting to know every corner of it. And now suddenly there was this awkwardly textured sphere, hovering a little above the ground, and ominously following me where ever I went. It was bizarre to me that even adding this abstract shape immediately created tension, and a feeling of dread, like I wanted to get away from it. I can’t wait to replace the sphere with the actual enemy character as I start building out its behaviour this week.

In between I continued work on KLM where we had to change gears to process some new feedback, worked at my part-time job, drew more daily comics, and dug up a few threads that might lead me to new assignments. And I closed the week out nicely by going stargazing at the observatory with my girlfriend.

Next week: new assignments and old friends.

Week 39

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.

It’s strange how much you can disappear into a hole when you’re deep in gamedev. I’ve been working on it all week, but it doesn’t feel like work. I’m having fun.

Even butting up against a problem that grinds things to a halt was fun because such a situation promises a mental exercise, pushing my problem-solving skills to the max. Each problem is a puzzle, and in an almost detective-like way, again, you have to put the pieces together.

So that was thursday, when I spent about an hour lying on the carpet here trying to unite the design that I had with the tools that I had. The days before that I worked a lot on setting up the basic infrastructure of the gameplay mechanics. Talking to people is an important aspect of this game, and so that system needs a lot of thought and effort. It’s not all the way there yet but it’s taking shape.

The final thing I did this week was work on some idle animations. It’s cool how a few blinks and a head-turn already do a lot to make a character seem alive. I’m looking a lot at Puzzle Agent, or Grickle’s style in general. I’m pretty good at animation but at some point it just becomes such a timesink that I’d rather do things as efficiently as possible. And this is not a case where I have time for tweaking the bounce in a walkcycle – in three weeks I need to have a solid demo to submit for an event. Let’s see if I can make it!

I realize this post does little to clarify what the actual game is, and I’m keeping it that way for a little while, so in the meantime have a moodboard.