Ok I haven’t updated the blog in a while, but rest assured, dear reader things have been moving along at, I dunno…let’s call it lilting speed.
Let’s see what’s happened:
I got a new computer back in August and it is sooooo much better than my old Sony Viao. I mean that thing was Bad with a capital B.
I took off some of October to deal with Halloween costume preparations (It’s my favorite holiday, and it’s kind of a big deal) and most of November to participate in Nanowrimo.
I’ve started incorporating audio into the game. I haven’t quite pinned down a musical style. I thought of having jazzy rifts play, after finding a baritone sax sound pack that I liked, but I don’t want to be accused of trying to be a Cowboy Bebop rip off. I’m not sure if this is a valid concern, but I have it none the less.
Unbeknownst to me, IndieCade moved up their submission this year to March 15/April 15 (late submission date) rather than the summer so I’ve advanced to full on panic mode, cutting features and trying to figure out art.
I did a reworking of the Mining minigame just to make it a bit more complex. Perhaps I’ll make a separate post about that.
Speaking of art, I’ve been experimenting with pixel art a bit more because I need to start replacing all the temp art in the game with assets I can actually use. And while pixel art in games is, if not already, quickly becoming played out, it’s an art style I, as a programmer, can create on my own. My pixel art is pretty basic, but I can improve on it as I go.
And that’s pretty much it…well, it’s not…but I gotta get back in the game.
I upgraded Unity recently. I guess time got away from me because I was seeeeveral versions behind.
The reason for my upgrade was stupid. I’ll admit that. I ran into a problem. A stupid problem. I accidentally hit the close program button instead of the stop running in editor button (because I was distracted) and it borked my project so horribly that I couldn’t recover. I tried throwing away my changes in source control and restarting. That didn’t work. I googled the errors I was getting and tried all the suggestions there but that didn’t work either. Then I decided to reinstall unity. And while I was at it I was like, yeah, let’s go ahead and upgrade.
I’m a list-oriented person. I carry around a small notebook for jotting down ideas, and laying out my tasks for the day. I also have a digital version of this list, the master list, that I keep on Wunderlist. It’s easy for me to spend more time sorting my todos into lists and sketching out designs, than actually coding on the tasks. This is partly procrastination but mostly because I can plan from anywhere (at lunch, on the train, in line at the store), whereas I can only realistically work on the game for a couple of hours each day if at all.
My schedule goes like this: I get home from work around 6:30 pm. I decompress for an hour or so. Then I go for a run or work out, which I don’t do everyday, but I’m trying to do more often. That lasts until 8:30 or 9. Then I have to make dinner and eat. (Yes, I know I shouldn’t eat so late, but I can’t do it before working out). That gives me approximately 2 hours to work on the game before going to bed around midnight. That’s all assuming I didn’t stay late at work, or go on date night with my beau, or have to do my taxes or whatever. I try to catch up on the weekend, working for long stretches at Starbucks, but there’s plenty distractions and chores to do on the weekends as well. Life, am I right?
As I near the end of what I’m going to call phase 1 of the project—that’s something like an alpha build I suppose—it’s easy to get off track and start adding features to make the game more fun or alive. The feature creep is real, and the lists keep me centered. When I come up with a cool idea I let it live on the ‘Eventually’ list so that it’s not forgotten and I can think on it for a while before jumping in head first.
I try to keep the lists sorted with most important tasks on the top and using Wunderlist’s starred items to indicate which tasks that I should do tonight or before the week’s end. As every programmer knows, every task takes longer than you think it’s going to. Very recently I’ve decided to put time estimates on tasks. This is with the hope that over time I’ll get better at estimating and maybe gain some insight into why things take as long as they do. Also sometimes it’s nice to pick a short task so I can actually see some finished progress.
There are a lot of programs and methods I’ve tried to improve my work process. I’ve considered using a Kanban board but it doesn’t seem useful for a team of one. I used Evernote for a brief period but their newish business model has driven me away. At least once a year I think a day planner is a good idea and then after a month or so the pages go empty.
Side Note: I’m a total office supply freak. I love notebooks and the feel of pages and I have too many. I find bliss walking through the pen aisle of Office Depot, letting my fingers linger too long on highlighters and smooth-writing pens. It’s a problem because it’s so easy to get carried away. This is why the small pocket sized notebook works best. You get immense satisfaction from filling one completely. I try to keep one solely for Fair Weather notes but sometimes life stuff sneaks in and that’s alright too.
So here’s what’s working: I like Wunderlist because it is polished, cross-platform, and free.99. I keep my documents/spreadsheets in Google drive; I use dropbox and a flash drive to keep my files. It’s pretty simple. I might have to adapt when/if someone joins the team, but that’s a bridge I’ll cross later.
The process is working for now. It’s nice to see my ‘Must Have’ list getting shorter despite a few large tasks still to do like find an artist, incorporate art, find audio. The code itself has a lot of TODOs scattered around it, but for now the focus is on getting something that works, while acknowledging systems that will need optimization or redesign when there’s time.
My game is called, well for the moment anyway, Fair Weather. I just came up with this name about a month ago. Until then it was Space Game. Clever, I know.
Fair Weather is a casual-ish resource management game where you captain a mining vessel named Fair Weather in deep space. You find and investigate signals which can be resources or sometimes enemies. Maybe it sounds familiar because there are a thousand other games where you do the same thing. I’ve struggled with this several times during development. Is this too much like FTL, or Halycon 6, or insert indie game here. Only mine is sure to be worse, because I’m all on my own and I’m making up shit as I go along. I’m trying my best to not let that get to me. I mean where would we be if we never did anything that had already been done?
Anyway, in the game you manage the crew of the Fair Weather as ship captain. When you die you come back as a different captain to the same ship with a slight resources loss. At times I worry the game is too easy. I may, if time allows, create a difficulty toggle but the other side of the coin is that I’m not one of those people who likes punishing difficulty. Still, I know that without a challenge the game is bound to be boring. Time will tell. These are just a few of my doubts, but I must continue. Tiny steps are better than none at all!
I’m finally doing it. I’m starting a devblog. I’ve been meaning to do this for some time. That is, start documenting the process of developing one of my game ideas. I have a full time job so I only work nights and weekends. It’s already been two years since I started, which is crazy, but I think I’m getting close to the finish line.
I’m full of ideas. I start and abandon projects on a whim. But this one, I want to finish. It’s really important to me. And when I finish I want to release it in the various app stores and submit it to Indiecade (more on that later). My goal isn’t to make money—at least not at the moment. A finished project I can be proud of is the goal. I feel like I’m in the home stretch feature-wise, but the game consists entirely of programmer art and the bugs are abundant. Also, there’s no sound. And I haven’t even thought about optimization. Well, maybe I’m not in the home stretch. I’m working on my own so things go slowly. But I know intimately how things can drag on forever if you can’t just draw that finish line in the sand. (Ask me about my always in progress novel.)
Anyway, let’s do this. I hope to get some audio posts in too, because hey, why not?