Week 103 – Released a new game

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 hard. Not because I had a lot to do but because it was so damn warm. We measured the highest temperature and the hottest night so far in the history of this country – even though compared to places like Italy or Indonesia it’s not that big a deal. But it makes sitting down and doing this hard enough.

Regardless, I started the week off helping out at the warehouse of a friend. It ate up most of the day, and I liked it better than my side job, which by comparison is very monotone and boring. After that I had a Skype call with Hubbub to plan out the tasks we’d like to tackle in the last batch of work on the museum game.

On tuesday I decided that if I was going to start on a new game (which I will next week in De Torenkamer), I should really finish one of my open projects. Finishing Black Feather Forest was impossible, and the astronaut game was nothing more than a tech demo yet, so of course the choice was clear: Reconquista.

Reconquista had been in limbo for a few weeks because the last few tasks were too vague or I couldn’t decide on exactly how I wanted to tackle them, but I decided to just sit down and figure it out. In the end it was easier than I expected to fill in the blanks and deliver a game that felt fairly done. It had a good starting and ending point, and the stuff inbetween seemed bug-free and cool.

So! You can download the game off itch.io for free right now!

After that I mostly just surrendered to the heat and made a plan for my time in De Torenkamer next week. A plan that changed near the end of the week after the announcement of De Pont, an open call for game devs or filmmakers to make a short game/film set on the ferry that runs between Amsterdam Central Station and Amsterdam North. That could be a very interesting idea to run with.

I also played through Her Story, which is an incredible game and I finished it in one sitting. On saturday I went to a concert and on sunday I helped out my girlfriend sell her illustrations at a local market, while the Tour De France ravaged the very same city we were in.

Next week: gamedev in the Vondelpark in Amsterdam.

Week 96 – lights, camera, UX

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.

On tuesday we started the third Home Rule sprint at the Hubbub studio. New addition this sprint is Niels ‘t Hooft, who is taking care of the story content. On friday we had another meeting to discuss our progress. Alper and I mostly worked on designing new features this week and setting everything up so we can get going once the full storyline is ready this week.

Inbetween I worked on Reconquista some more, getting it ready for release. I added some extra props to the level, optimized the performance a bit and experimented with gamma color space vs linear color space + tone mapping, and I’m still not sure I understand it exactly but the colors look much better now at least.

RQ04

I also spent an inordinate amount of time researching a new laptop powerful enough to play The Witcher 3 on, which comes out this week. Not since my days as a young gamer with a desktop PC had I compared graphics cards so thoroughly, or thought about clock speeds, teraflops and heatsinks. It was awful, but I found a good one that I might buy sometime soon.

I closed the week out by celebrating my birthday in Amsterdam at a small festival. Seeing how happy and kind everyone there was, and the artists having fun, and supporting each other from the crowd, it felt like such a far cry from the worries and the vitriol in the games industry lately. It definitely lifted my spirits, and I hope we can all be a little more like those people.

Week 93/94 – Unwinding and maintenance

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.

Week 93 had a late start due to Kingsday, a dutch national holiday. On wednesday I had a call with Hubbub to plan out all the features we want to put in the next Home Rule beta (including a better name for the project), and on thursday I had a call with a potential new client, an illustration rushjob.

I spent the rest of the week doing administration and updating my portfolio. Google’s new policy is to give priority in their search results to sites that are mobile-friendly, so I dove into the world of responsive design and media queries to make my portfolio site adapt to all kinds of resolutions. It was a nightmare of weird glitches and quirks but it works now!

Last week also started out mellow because of the national war remembrance days. I made a little character animation for the folks at mindbreaker games who are working hard on their demo. It was nice to open After Effects after a long time and animate a little something using the latest version of the DUIK plugin, which is UHH-MAZING. Highly recommended if you do a lot of character animation.

Later in the week I finally sat down and upgraded Black Feather Forest to the latest version of the game engine. Miraculously nothing broke! There were a few weird thinhgs in transitioning from Unity 4 to 5 while simultaneously updating two plugins, but I managed to solve 90% of them in an afternoon.

I’m itching to continue developing Black Feather Forest. I realized a few weeks ago that it’s been a year since I started working on it. And I think almost half a year since I stopped development to rethink a few aspects. That stung, so I’m determined to carry on with it in the next few months. A Kickstarter may be inevitable.

But first Reconquista! I started that project up at the end of the week to add a few features and get it ready to launch. I expect that will happen in the next few weeks. The game is practically done, I just need to figure out one thing and then I can push it out the door. It makes no sense to leave it lying around for much longer.

Next week: new dailies and the kickoff of the third phase of Home Rule.

Week 89

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.

On monday I started out helping my friends unload containers at their warehouse again. It was a nice way to start off the week with some physical activity. Then I ran errands and updated the blog and such. There was a terrible storm that evening and I was glad to be inside.

On tuesday I worked my side job and then stopped by the Hubbub studio in the afternoon to kick off the new beta phase of Home Rule, the game for war museums. We came up with some rad ideas to start working on, and after that I stuck around to fiddle with my game a bit. I also thought of a concept for the Adventure game jam that starts next week.

On wednesday I sketched out some designs for the Home Rule beta and pushed a few fixes and features down the pipeline for my own game, and sent a beta version out that evening. I didn’t receive any bug reports, which is also an interesting contrast to the sort of games I usually make. 2D (adventure) games are strung together by interdependent logic and a specific flow of events, something which is ripe for things to break or execute in the wrong order, while this game lets you roam free and really only has two spots where it forces some rigid code on you, so essentially there are no bugs. That feels weird.

I think I’m going to call this game Reconquista, a suggestion by Alper. It communicates the theme and the setting nicely in one catchy word.

This game poses a dilemma though, because on the one hand the experience that I wanted to communicate with the game is there and I want to release it, but on the other hand my game developer instinct wants to add more actual gameplay and make it a real ‘game’ that I could charge for. I think I’ll have to trawl itch.io a bit to see how other people are handling this. If you have sage advice feel free to share in the comments.

On thursday I had a call with Kars and Alper to discuss the designs we had done for Home Rule so far, and on friday I called with Alper again to see what the next steps would be for the beta. He was going to work on that into next week while I went of a short Easter vacation with the girlfriend to the island of Texel, which turned out fun and relaxing. I tried to catch up on dailies before then but holy shit I was far behind. The backlog should go up today or tomorrow.

Next week: a return to civilization and a new assignment.

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 Itâ„¢. 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.