Week 84

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 busy one. It started off bad – on monday morning the power went out! Luckily by the time I was about to relocate to a cafe it got fixed.

On tuesday I worked my part-time job and finished the second round of KLM mockups before doing tech support for my grandpa. In an instant I realized the depth of the knowledge I have accrued about spyware and what you shouldn’t click on on the internet.

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On wednesday I went to the Hubbub office to kick off our new project. It’s an interactive experience on iOS for select museums in Holland. Aside from the art I’m also doing design work on this one. We had a productive day and built a working proof-of-concept.

On thursday I went by the home of Niels ‘t Hooft to discuss his character design assignment and do some initial sketches, and ofcourse to catch up. Ran into Roderick Vonhögen‘s film crew there as well, whom you may remember as the geek priest that was excited for my game Black Feather Forest. Later in the week I also found out he mentioned me on the Gamecowboys podcast (~1h25m), and we made plans to brainstorm someday about making a ‘Bible Mysteries’ adventure game.

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On friday I was back in the Hubbub office to continue on the museum project. Alper and I made good progress on the prototype, despite having to solve a bunch of nonsensical Github merge conflicts. We then decided to upgrade our Unity version to the latest, but this introduced a bug that blocked building to iOS for a bit. And then we found a huge bug in the location-based code, which was also fixed. It was a technically-challenged afternoon, but the prototype has improved greatly.

We closed out the week with drinks at De Klub, and I went home with a warm feeling, only to realize I had to get up early the next morning to do the boring part-time job before my weekend would start. What a bummer. Back when the only work I did was at home, I relished having a job to go to three mornings a week, but compared to the satisfaction of working in your chosen industry with fun colleagues it suddenly seems quite bland.

Luckily I was done quickly and could get back to working on my own game the rest of saturday afternoon. I finally fixed the occlusion culling code that I broke by adding a proper 3d model to my enemy prefab, and built a little pause menu with a brightness slider.

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I decided to upgrade to Github for version control and backup of my personal projects too, instead of zipping up the project folder each evening and uploading that to dropbox.

Hours spent watching progress bars this week: 3

Week 83

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.

Working irregular schedule is fucked.

On monday I went by the Hubbub offices bright and early to figure out the new storyboards for KLM. After that I went to lunch with Niels ‘t Hooft, which I hadn’t seen in a criminally long time. We talked productivity, planning as freelancers, cool apps and how to create new reading experiences in the digital world. I look forward to seeing what he comes up with.

On tuesday I got asked for another short illustration assignment, and I again struggled with what I should set my hourly rate at. Or rather I have one but I tend to scale it down for friends and longer assignments. It’s hard putting a value on yourself.

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I knocked out the new storyboard sketches and then on thursday Skyped with Kars to review KLM’s feedback and set up the final tasks.

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The next morning I was back at the Hubbub office again to kick off the next project I’m doing with Hubbub, this time one that runs for several months where I’ll be involved in a more intensive manner, doing design and prototyping as well as art. It’s a cool project and I’m excite to get started on it.

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On saturday I spent all day in Amsterdam to watch Oscar-nominated movies with friends, and spent a quiet sunday with my parents and girlfriend.

Next week: new project kick-off.

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.

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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.

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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 81

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 busy one. It started off rough with some anxiety about money after the topic of moving to a new place came up. It’s not exactly dire, but when you’re in this sort of vunerable position where there’s no automatic paycheck every month it’s easy to get swept up in a bit of hysteria. I was hoping the part-time position in Amsterdam would solve that, but that fell through unfortunately. Still, I’m already doing much better this year than the latter half of last year, so things are looking up. And I shouldn’t forget that my job at the post brings in enough to pay the rent. (I’m talking to myself now through this blogpost, can you tell?)

Once the worry abated, I returned to doing the mockups for the KLM project. I finished them all by tuesday and sent them off to Kars to show to KLM. Then I caught up on daily comics, and went for a swim with my pal Lowen.

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Wednesday evening I went to a concert at Paradiso, and after that I honestly can’t remember what I did until friday, when I went to Amsterdam for the Hackastory hackathon.

I was well-aquainted with the concept of gamejams and hackathons, but what would happen when the goal was to create an interesting form of storytelling, and there were journalists and such participating, I didn’t know what to expect. But things turned out great. There were some concepts floating around to get started, and you could form your own team based on common interest for a particular idea, so pretty quickly I ended up in a team with Lotte Belice from Beeld&Geluid, architect/designer Bart van Lieshout and Andre Goncalves, a programmer who also works in the Dutch Game Garden at INTK.

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Our idea was to create a website/webapp that would let you explore news stories in a non-linear way. Our shared frustration came from having to scan through entire articles to get to the bits you were interested in, and a lack of context to the stories.

So we created Storyweb, a network of nodes with nuggets not much bigger than a tweet, which together form a complete picture of a story, and you can explore them in any direction you like. The nodes are connected by questions, kind of in a choose-your-own-adventure kind of way. You can follow the thread that you find most interesting. It’s not unlike a wikipedia binge in that way.

We came up with a fictional story to demonstrate the concept, and you can try the webapp for yourself over here.

I mostly worked to hash out the interaction design and then helped Andre put it together. We were pretty proud of what we managed to do in two days, and the other teams had great ideas to that you can check on via the Hackastory blog. It was an inspiring weekend and I met a bunch of cool people. A+ would hack again. Well done Albertine, Nienke and Emiel.

Week 80

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 is a bit of a haze. I can feel that I’m doing too many things at once, and stuff is starting to fall through the cracks. Working on saturday has effectively wrecked any idea of what part of the week I am in, and so the plan in my head for what I’ve done and what I will be doing is a little jumbled. I don’t like it. Thankfully I draw daily comics! There’s a memory aid for ya.

On monday I finished the sketches for Kars. It was fun storyboarding again, I like to do it and I’m glad that people are starting to find me for jobs like that.

On tuesday I rushed to finish an Off-Stage comic. I wanted to do a full page but I just didn’t have the time, so I pushed it to next week (tomorrow – hopefully!). The new countdown widget on the site is definitely helpful in these case.

On thursday I visited Kars after work again to discuss the feedback KLM had given on the storyboards the day before. I was pleased to hear they pretty much liked everything, and Kars and I brainstormed some cool design ideas for a few instances. Now I was ready to move on to ‘production’. These won’t be the final assets, but rather more elaborate mockups of how the game could look. I’ve worked out a few so far, of which you can see a WIP version below.

I don’t often use such detailed rendering, and I’ve noticed that I quickly put too much effort into it. The idea was to paint fairly realistic scenes (just a bit of a Pixar slant) in quick brushstrokes. I find that I blend too much; still gotta practice throwing down gradients with just sharp opaque strokes, like the style reference I used:

I closed the day out with a concert and continued working on the mockups on friday and saturday. Then I spent some time with friends together with the girlfriend.

Next week: anxiety and deadlines.