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.

Black Feather Forest update

Well, cat’s out of the bag – Black Feather Forest appeared on Warpdoor, a curated site for interesting indie games run by smart guys from indiegames.com and killscreen. So if you want to check out what I’ve been (mainly) doing for the past month or two, grab the demo and let me know what you think.

The demo is a rough early version with some features missing or partly implemented, but any feedback or suggestions are appreciated; bug reports too, either here or in my email.

And now seems like a good a time as any to tell you about the website for Black Feather Forest. There’s not a lot there yet but it’s a nice place to go, a sign that it exists for real at least. The mainly useful thing about it now is that it links to the presskit, which I am excited about!

Presskit() (pronounced as “do presskit”) is a nifty invention by fellow indie Rami Ismael of Vlambeer fame, to help indie gamedevs and journalists alike to gather up the most salient info about a studio and their games for easy publicitimations. It’s included in my portfolio site now, or if you want the direct route head here.

It’s weird when something ends up in the ether outside of your own involvement (I only posted to a forum for feedback), but at the same time it’s somehow reassuring when it gets picked up, that you’re on the right track with what you’re doing. I wasn’t going to drop the demo publically until I polished it up to my satisfaction, coinciding with an upcoming showcase at a festival, but I realize that when you are making things you always want to hold onto it until it is ‘just right’. There’s always something more to polish, to improve, to add, to tweak. So heck, let this be the way that I get over that and let you guys in on what I’m making here. I hope you dig it.

Black Feather Forest

Time to pull the lid off a project I have been working on for the past month:

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BFF is a 2D adventure game inspired by true events and Haida mythology, aswell as things like True Detective, Fargo, Detective Grimoire, Kentucky Route Zero. It brings together many threads of ideas for games I’ve had over the years and ties it together with real-world influences.

You play as Sofia, a documentary maker, and together with your cameraman Caleb you travel to the town of Augier’s Peak, up in the wilderness of rural Canada, where three people have gone missing recently. You are free to travel around town, where you will meet a handful of inhabitants that all have their own reasons to help you discover what happened – or not. You gather clues by talking to people and combining pieces of evidence and statements to slowly try to figure out who or what is behind all this.

For now I’ve completed a demo that shows the first few locations of the game and sets up the story and gameplay. With that I hope to generate some interest that could lead into the further development of this title. I’ll keep you guys updated on the progress and share some more insights about the development as I go along. Let me know what you think in the comments.

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