Week 104 – One man game jam

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 was a little different from my usual weeks, as I spent a week in a little room in the Vondelpark in Amsterdam to work on a new personal game project, courtesy of dutch radio. Come to think of it, it was also the two-year anniversary of me going independent, so I guess that was a fitting way to celebrate it!

You can read the details about the game here. The week was organised by dutch late-night radio show Opium op 4, which lets a creator use their office each week to build a passion project. This week was my turn, and I had a really good time.


Also just realized I posed like the caricature on my businesscard here. Weird!

I basically started from scratch on monday. I had an interesting backstory, and a vision in my mind of what the game would look like. So I started by researching the backstory: in 2013 the Lyubov Orlova, a decommissioned cruiseship, breaks off its towline in a storm and disappears onto the ocean. In 2014 its radio pings off the coast of the UK, but it is never found. I figured I’d make a game about that. The news articles about it have been in my Pocket for a while now, so this was a good opportunity to do something with it.

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I researched the timeline, all the owners and places it’s been, and more specific stuff like what the deck layout looks like and how cruise ship engines work.

After that I started on the prototype. I had something working pretty quickly, courtesy of Unity and its many prefabs. After that I struggled for a while to get an interaction system working. I started off coding it all myself, but quickly realized I’d better use something pre-made. I fiddled with Pixelcrusher’s Dialogue System for a good while before deciding to just import Adventure Creator. At that point it felt like I changed from Tony Stark banging on some metal in a cave to Tony Stark jumping into the Mark 45 Iron Man armor. Everything was at my fingertips.

To my surprise AC also integrated pretty well with Unity’s 2D Controller, which was essential, otherwise the character couldn’t walk up slopes anymore. Now I was ready to start on the narrative content. It was early thursday by then, and I was getting nervous, but I managed to put together a pretty cool vertical slice in the end, even though it sort of stops short of the actual gameplay, which is exploring the ship’s interior with your map and axe. But for a week of work it was pretty cool.

On friday I presented the demo on the air, and everyone loved it. The main guest of the show called me a singer-songwriter gamedesigner, which is exactly how I like to think of myself, telling interactive stories and focusing on the delivery and the experience.

At any rate, I had a great time, and you can read a more detailed (dutch) blog and listen to the show segments on their website.

Week 91

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.

Being your own boss is no field trip. One week it feels like the business is on fire, the other like I’m living on borrowed time. Especially around tax time when I can hand 21% of what I’ve earned back to the government. But one of the big improvements to my business I’m instituting this year is time tracking. I used to track my time with just a txt file for client projects where I had billable hours, but I never tracked all the hours I spend on my own games, comics etc. And those are far and away most of the hours I put in. So I’ve started using Toggl. It’s free and perfect for what I need. I worked with it before at Paladin, and I saw Kars using it at Hubbub recently and thought oh yeah that’s smart.

Speaking of Hubbub, we’ve been whittling away at the beta for Home Rule. It might have been kind of ambitious to try and recreate the iMessage interface in Unity, but Alper got pretty far with it. This week is more tweaking and improvements to get everything ship-shape for the playtest tomorrow.

I figured I’d have more work of Home Rule this phase, with the concept redesign following the alpha and all that, but Kars did a great job doing the heavy lifting on the game design. This freed up some time to work on the Transavia illustrations for Hoog+Diep. I sent out a test illustration previously which was liked, so I sketched out all the illustrations in greater detail. On friday Transavia and Neckermann looked at it again and they were very positive.

Inbetween I found some time to start on my #wizardjam entry, a gamejam held on the Idle Thumbs forums. I had wanted to participate in #adventurejam but the timing didn’t work out, so this was a nice way to still get jammin’, and the Idle Thumbs episode titles proved ripe ground for ideas. I’m working on a small topgun-jetfighter-switches-flipping game called MaydayMayday Cockpit Freakout, which I plan to be releasing tomorrow.

It feels like I’m jumping from project to project, but since MaydayMayday is tiny and has a definite deadline it takes precedence over Reconquista, which I’ll also be releasing soon. Reconquista just has a few loose ends in the design which make it hard to finish.

On top of that I also got an interesting call from Menno at Mindbreaker Games. They’re working on a P&C adventure game and are crunching out a demo for a grant proposal, and if that goes through they might want to work together, as our interests and goals are similar. So more on that in the future perhaps.

Next week: bustin’ to get all these projects done on time.