It’s funny that I thought I’d have MORE time to blog once I started Quantum Soup and was working for myself. Hah! Running a business is a continuous effort of working towards long-term goals while also grasping at short-term opportunities as they arise – funding, conferences, training. I’m doing a lot more biz dev than I expected and a lot less programming.
But it is also glorious. For the first time in my life, I’m working on a commercial project that is my own idea (well…just over 50% mine). But it’s certainly nowhere near 50% my work. After six months we have the core team together and everyone is bringing enthusiasm and ideas to the project, creating something I couldn’t hope to accomplish alone.
An enthusiastic team really raises your energy. We’ve built a bunch of stuff, some of which didn’t work and had to change, but the game’s better for it. We’ve bounced ideas around and made unexpected creative connections. We’re getting into what is – for me at least! – a really enjoyable working routine.
And soon we will be ready to show some of that work, which is both exciting and terrifying. It won’t be long now…
I’m leaving Traveller’s Tales to do a new thing which I’ll post about later. This piece is about saying goodbye to a studio I’ve worked at for over 15 years.
It’s a strange thought that I will no longer be working within the familiar (and sometimes orange) walls of TT Knutsford. But it’s only just sinking in that I will no longer be surrounded by a horde of supremely talented friends. When I started at TT, I had four or five years experience, but it feels like it was here that I really learned my craft – sometimes from my own mistakes, but chiefly from the wisdom of colleagues. It has been an absolute privilege to work with so many expert developers.
TT has been a huge part of my life, and I’ll never be able to look at LEGO again without a wistful smile. I wish the many teams at TT towers every success in the future – and I’ll be watching with interest to see what my old friends get up to…
I really need to post more often…
So…you probably noticed that our ambitious Kickstarter didn’t reach it’s target. Disappointing, but we’ve learned a lot from our mistakes. We’re looking at a number of alternative ways forward – more detail as and when…
On the plus side, LEGO Batman 2: DC Superheroes won a BAFTA for the Best Children’s Game…which was nice!
And I recently did another Ludum Dare game jam, producing this shallow but reasonably elegant effort: Winter’s Bane. As usual, I spent a lot of time on feel and polish, but not enough on content – nevertheless, it was thoroughly enjoyable to make. I’m working on a post-compo version incorporating some of the features that didn’t make it into the 48 hour version.
Wow, nine months without posting a thing. Epic downtime. It has been a busy year what with LEGO Batman, LEGO Lord of the Rings, LEGO City and preparations for the steampunk webseries I’m shooting. More on that shortly, plenty of filmmaking news to come!
I did manage another Ludum Dare weekend in the run-up to Christmas – that game is a stealth-’em-up called Infidel. I’m still too ambitious in these weekend challenges but at least this time I stayed focused on mechanics and gameplay over art. It’s all good practice.
I have been neglecting this blog again – happens when things get busy at work (or outside work!).
It has been a very eventful December. Ludum Dare 22 generated nearly 900 games in a weekend, but due to some technical problems and a healthy dose of repeating my previous mistakes, I didn’t quite finish mine. Play “Lonely Island” here.
Then Unity released a beta build that exports to Flash’s new Stage3D, and announced a game jam…with prizes. Shame they announced it just before Xmas when everyone’s busy. I mulled it over until new year before settling on a steampunk space dogfighting game set in the Voidships universe. It made sense to use the contest as motivation to produce something that could generate a bit of an audience for our fledgling IP. It was a late start, but with some invaluable model work from an artist friend (Thank you, Liam!) I managed to cobble together something that’s very rough but fun nonetheless.
I’ve called it Voidships: Pilot Error.
My other game projects are temporarily on hold while Liam and I give it a proper polish ready for people to play in earnest.
One hour is a bit tight, but at least it’s all over quickly one way or another. Here’s what I managed within the deadline…and here’s what I intended it to be, which took an extra 3 hours.
I love these short events. You’d think more time would be beneficial, but it’s harder to sustain an hour or two every night for a week or month than to commit to one hour or even a whole weekend in one go. I wonder if I can break down my more ambitious side projects into bite-size chunks like that…
Sigh. After being ill this weekend I’ve decided to abort the October Challenge – rather than rush out a substandard game, I’ll take my time and finish it to a quality I’m happy with. This is definitely the right decision – while tweaking the anims in Blender I realised I need to re-rig the main character so stop his IK knees skewing sideways. If I’m not extremely careful, this may mean re-animating the handful of anims I’d already done. With a week to go, I didn’t need to be redoing work. But in the long term, it’ll mean better and more animations. I’ll have some free time over christmas, so new year would be an excellent alternative target deadline!
However, in the short term – Ludum Dare have come up with ANOTHER game dev challenge that I can’t resist: The ZERO Hours Challenge!
It takes place during the hour when the clocks go back. This appeals enormously to the Faction Paradox fan in me.
Seriously though, the extreme time limit will force participants to focus on a simple design that works – the challenge is more about spending the intervening week imagining a game simple enough to implement in one hour, but still fun. It’s interesting that with modern game dev tools, classics like Pong, Breakout, Joust, or PacMan could all be cloned easily in that time. But coming up with something so simple and original is going to be much harder than actually implementing it…
LEGO Harry Potter years 5-7 is done, so I have a little spare time again, and there’s a week left of the Ludum Dare October Challenge. I’m going to expand Fireflies into a full game – still a short one, but I’m going for quality over quantity.
I’ve been mulling it over for a few weeks without having a chance to do much, but this week I actually sketched a rough layout for the game and made a few decisions that will simplify the core mechanics considerably.
It’s an odd feeling designing level layouts – normally my job is making gameplay mechanics work within a level designed and built by other disciplines. I’m enjoying stretching these underused game dev muscles…
Ludum Dare 21 has come and gone, and I managed to squeeze some game dev into a busy weekend. My entry is here.
It’s extremely short, but I’m very happy with it, because it represents my first fully modelled, rigged and animated character. I’ve learned plenty about Blender and about rigging in general. Best of all, although I didn’t get much gameplay in during the weekend, the concept I had in mind has enough mileage that I can expand it into a full game, which is what I’m working on currently (in-between late nights on LEGO Harry Potter years 5-7). It’s also excellent practice with Blender – although Voidships will use different features, my familiarity with the interface and core tools is improving.
Check out some of the other 599 LudumDare entries while you’re there. It’s a monster event and there’s a lot of little gems to be found…
I’ve knocked up another little micro-game for mini Ludum Dare #27: “All Talk”. My effort is called “White Flag”. It’s just a dialogue tree with a measly 3 or 4 branch points, but I’m quite pleased with the implementation as it’s my first go at writing ActionScript within the StencylWorks Flash dev tool.
It needs a few extra bits before I could make anything worthwhile with it though – I didn’t have time to write line-wrapping code, so I had to place every line break manually. This was a nightmare, because the only way to know where the break should go was to see it ingame…a slow process even with so little text.
I need to read the text in from a file, rather than typing it into the script directly. Not sure if StencylWorks will allow that, though.
And finally, I wanted to have internal vars so that choices could accumulate over time or set flags for later in the dialogue. Ran out of time for those too.
But with those tweaks in place I’ll have a neat little dialogue engine which could easily be ported to Unity. Not bad for a couple of evenings’ tinkering!