It’s lovely to know someone else sees the potential in my little game baby especially after working on it for so long all by myself. Recognition like this rekindles my fire to keep adding new features and story lines (not to mention balance and bug fixes) to the game! So thanks to the folks at GamesKeys.
With Fair Weather in the App Store I thought it might be nice to share a few cheats to help along any players who find themselves stuck.
I built a hidden console into the game inspired by the Sims. You can access it by repeatedly tapping on the app version in the settings menu. (Yeah, Android, I took your thing. What you gonna do about it?) Once there you can enter commands to give you a boost in the game!
Running low on fuel, but you gotta go fast? Try fillherup
Got the munchies? Try nomnomnom
Can’t wait for Trader Ruth to show up? Try ruth
Did you kill your crew and now you’re all alone, huddled around a trash fire with nothing but your thoughts to echo off the cold empty hull? Try friend
These are just a few and surely I’ll be adding more in the future, so stay tuned. 😉
Look at that Trello board. It’s beautiful. Clean. Sure, it’s not empty. What you don’t see pictured above is about six more lists filled with ideas, bugs, features and enhancements, but don’t kill my vibe. This post is a celebration and we’re living in times very much in need of some good news. I finished all the tasks I planned for IndieCade and submitted an alpha build to the App Store. Go get it! Get it now!
It’s been a long time since I wrote an update of my progress. I’ve been very busy on the game. I did an overhaul of the interior artwork. I added a bunch of quests. I added some animation. I fixed a lot of bugs–and I mean a LOT of bugs. At the end there, I was finding bugs that had me questioning things like: How LONG has this thing been broken? Has it always been broken? How did I not notice? Am I a ghost? I also started testing with a group a friends, but it’s clear that I need more internal and external testing. (And if you’re interested in helping me test, click here.)
IndieCade is a yearly festival celebrating independent game development. How it works is: you submit your game, it gets judged by a panel and if selected, it gets showcased for the festival. No matter how IndieCade turns out this is a big win for me personally. It’s a milestone that I’ve worked very hard to achieve. I’ve spent practically every weekend and countless nights for several years working on this game. It feels scary showing the game to people. I keep saying “oh it’s not finished”, “I’m still working on getting the perfect balance”. It’s hard not to be intimidated by these other amazing solo dev projects that you see popping up all over the place. I don’t have any answers yet on how to get over that. I’m trying to tackle my insecurities. All I can do is try to get a little better every day.
I got iOS working for IndieCade. I wanted to release Android as well. I got a closed alpha testing track working in the Play Store several months back, but I had to give up on it in the last week or so leading up to the IndieCade deadline. I simply didn’t have enough time to wait on their approval process which was experiencing delays due to COVID-19 whereas the App Store turn around was super fast. But on the positive side, I can do updates for Android while my iOS build is frozen while IndieCade judges look at it.
“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.”
― Douglas Adams
IGF deadline was yesterday! Did I make it in time? No. Obviously. Come on people, context clues!
So this is the second deadline I missed this year. (The first one was for Indiecade, whose submission window had been moved up.) I don’t feel that bad about it though because I got really far in the submission process. My app is up in the google play store awaiting approval. A few days before the deadline I realized that the chance I’d finish in time was very very low, so I chilled out a bit. I don’t want to stress out for no reason. Additionally I’m going on a trip this week and I’ve done next to zero preparation for it, so I knew I needed to carve out a large chunk of my weekend to devote to that.
Where I went wrong:
I didn’t code freeze early enough. I was still making tweaks and bug fixes up until about a week ago.
I underestimated how long it would take me to figure out the Play Store’s upload process and decipher error messages.
I didn’t think I’d need app approval for an internal release (but I suppose it makes sense).
I didn’t plan ahead far enough for my vacation which mean running out at the last minute trying to buy the right clothes and items which if I had done earlier wouldn’t have impacted my pre-release weekend.
The IGF deadline wasn’t on my radar until submissions were already open. It was pretty low stakes target. I basically used it to push myself because someone else’s deadline seems so much realer than your own.
Where I went right:
I didn’t kill myself trying to do it. This is my hobby and something I’m doing for fun. I’m usually working on it after a full day of work so I’m already 70% exhausted when I come to the table. I kept thinking to myself, am I trying hard enough? I could stay up til the wee hours of the morning and bang this thing out. I’ve done it plenty back in school, and even at work to hit deadlines. But over the years I’ve learned that it takes so much longer to complete any task, even a simple one, when you’re super tired, and the work isn’t your best, AND you’re gonna be super cranky tomorrow at work. So will I ever push myself that hard for Fair Weather? Sure, probably. But it’s not necessary right now. So I’m going to choose the healthy and sane route as long as I can.
I used Divinci Resolve for the editing and plain old Quicktime for screen recording.
I LOVE the song I found from the site Nihilore.com. It’s called As Nihilism Gives Way To Existentialism.
I’ll probably do another cut in the future with more details on where and when the game will be available and also hiding some things (like the debug menu up there in the top left corner…oops!), but I’m liking how it turned out. Hooray!
I’m getting the app ready for the Play Store! I heard the Independent Games Festival, or IGF, submissions were open and thought, why not go for it? I missed the IndieCade deadline earlier this year, and while I wasn’t planning on submitting to IGF, I don’t see why I shouldn’t try.
So, what is IGF? IGF is a yearly competition of Indie games for sweet sweet glory (and money if you win big). They also have a huge Indie Megabooth set up at the Game Developer’s Conference which is one of the best booths each year. Submitting the game for others to check out is a big milestone for me.
The game has come really far in the past few months. I added some polish and tuned the tutorial based on the limited play test feedback I’ve conducted.
I do have tons of concerns still:
All the art is my own shitty pixel art (with the exception of a few assets such as the mining minigame’s monsters which I purchased from an itch.io artist). I know my game will be compared to games that are extremely pretty. I’ve tried to keep the aesthetic “minimalist-ish pixel” but there’s tons of room for improvement.
I am concerned that I haven’t tested it with a wide enough audience. One of my playtesters throughly broke the tutorial within the first two minutes. I think I’ve patched up those holes but I know there’s more. There are always more.
I’m scared by all the horror stories I’ve heard of people’s apps being plagiarized off the Google Play Store. This might be a premature concern, but the idea that someone could take what I’ve spent years working on and pimp it out makes me sick.
There’s a million things I want to add that I’ve had to delegate to future updates. Oh and there’s also..Am I a huge idiot for thinking anyone would want to play this? Could I have spent the last few years becoming fluent in Spanish or working through my bookshelf’s backlog instead? Have I done everything wrong? I’ve done everything wrong! I waited too long to release it! They’re all gonna laugh at me! You know, all the usual self doubt suspects.
So that’s where I’m at. But I’m still going. I gotta put those fears behind me and soldier onward. To Valhalla!
A lot of time has passed since my last update. The IndieCade submission deadline has come and gone. I decided about a month before that happened that I wasn’t in a great position to show the game and while I still used that date as a personal milestone, I just didn’t want to kill myself getting a demo done that wasn’t going to stand up to the competition and that I wouldn’t even get any feedback on (as indicated by the IndieCade documentation). I still had a lot of temporary art that needed to be replaced, barely any sound integrated and I haven’t had a chance to throughly playtest. So my current goal is to get playtest ready. I’ve done a few quick tests with friends from work, but I’ve got a ways to go.
So where does that leave me?
Feature wise the game is in a good position. I’m tweaking things now for playability, but trying not to give in to the feature creep demons. There are currently two minigames in the game which correspond to the mining signals and the ambush signals. I have plans for a third minigame for the rescue signal but I’m thinking it would be integrated as a later update so that I can stay on track. I may start slowly building it in my free time (my what?) in isolation of the rest of the game, but my main goal is polishing and playtesting what I already have now and getting it in the Google Play store.
I’ve started using Trello for task management! Wunderlist was working alright, but it wasn’t good for tracking tasks that were in progress. Tasks were either done or not done, and since I sometimes dabble in one task then dabble in another, that wasn’t working out for me. I still use lists for things like keeping track of what actions I need sounds for, or high level goals but I’m really liking Trello.
I promise I’ll update more often. But, you know, don’t hold me to that.
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.