January 14, 2017


Shadowhand Developer Vlog #9 – Enemy AI, bombs and potions

from Grey Alien Games

In this developer vlog Jake looks at how the enemy AI makes decisions about what weapon to use, or if they should throw a bomb or take a potion.



January 12, 2017


Episode 453: Videogame Piss-Take

from Casual Gamer Chick

No Gravatar

Unfortunately, there’s no Donald Trump in this podcast – you’ll have to wait for an outtakes episode to listen to THAT discussion. However, there’s plenty of news culled from the past two weeks to enjoy.

The news includes:

  • Rumor: Beyond Good & Evil 2 Switch exclusive for first 12 months
  • ‘Game Mode’ for Windows 10 will power Xbox One and Project Scorpio games too
  • Square Enix strongly hints at Dragon Quest XI heading west
  • Xbox boss says Microsoft will still “take risks” after Scalebound cancellation

Let us know what you think.

Unfortunately, there’s no Donald Trump in this podcast – you’ll have to wait for an outtakes episode to listen to THAT discussion. However, there’s plenty of news culled from the past two weeks to enjoy. The news includes: Rumor: Beyond Good & Evil 2 Switch exclusive for first 12 months ‘Game Mode’ for Windows 10 will power Xbox One and Project Scorpio games too Square Enix strongly hints at Dragon Quest XI heading west Xbox boss says Microsoft will still “take risks” after Scalebound cancellation Let us know what you think.



January 06, 2017


Shadowhand Developer Vlog #8 – New Enemies

from Grey Alien Games

Shadowhand is an RPG card game for PC/Mac coming soon to Steam.

In our 8th vlog, Jake talks about the new enemies he has added to the game such as the Broken Bard, the Drunkard, the Sea Tar, the Coachman and more!



January 05, 2017


Shadowhand Dev Diary #10: brawling with a Sea Tar

from Grey Alien Games

In her adventures as a highwaywoman, Shadowhand has to fight for justice on a regular basis. As well as coming across land-based enemies, she may also fall foul of sea-going foes. Smugglers were incredibly common, and plied their trade along the moonlit shores of the English Channel in the late 18th century. Britain was also busy building its empire and had created a strong navy.

Sea Tar Ahoy!

Our Sea Tar character is based on a stereotypical sailor type, sometimes known as Jack Tar. Here is an illustration of a few from 1770.

When we first see him he’s armed with a Woodcutter’s axe:

But as the game progresses we see him gradually upgrade his melee weapon to include a Boarding Axe. This was a weapon used by sailors boarding ships in a combat situation, and it is a lot like a tomahawk.

Axe upgrade

Naval firearms

The Sea Tar also uses guns. He starts out with a Sea Service Pistol, which later gets upgraded to a Firebomb Blunderbuss.

This second firearm is based on a real weapon from around 1770, made by Henry Nock of London. According to International Military Antiques:

What makes this pistol so interesting is the large size of the bore, an inch and a half at the muzzle, sounds small but it isn’t! For the size of the pistol the bore is enormous! From what research has been done we suspect this was a British Naval Specialized weapon intended as a pyrotechnic devise that could fire a flaming projectile onto the sails of an enemy ship. The recoil would not have been as substantial hence the diminutive nature of the grip.

That being the case, this pistol is extremely rare and may have seen service at some of the great Sea Battles of the era including The Battle of the Saints 1782, Howe’s Victory Glorious of 1795, Nelson’s Battle of the Nile in 1798, the Battle of Copenhagen in 1801, and of course Nelson’s Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

Fully Upgraded

This is clearly a superior weapon – a blunderbuss that shoots firebombs! In his most upgraded version using the Firebomb Blunderbuss, he also swaps out the Boarding Axe for a Sharp Cutlass, for maximum swashbuckling:

Finally, our Sea Tar has the ability to throw a variety of bombs, which he does like this:

Shadowhand also has the ability to wield all of these weapons – if she can beat him and get her hands on them!



January 03, 2017


Episode 452: Goodbye Princess Leia, Hello 2017

from Casual Gamer Chick

No Gravatar

The year has ended, as the last podcast of 2016 was recorded last week, and released today. There’s much discussion that was cut out and saved for a future outtakes episode. Regardless, there’s plenty of show to go around, and the sound quality is also far better than ever thanks to Jonah getting a professional headset and mic.

This week’s news includes:

  • Nintendo registers trademark that could point to a SNES Classic Edition
  • Windows 10 may be getting a new “Game Mode” option
  • The next game by That Dragon, Cancer‘s dev is not what you’d expect

This week’s Question of the Week is “What game in 2017 might you buy that you normally wouldn’t?”

The year has ended, as the last podcast of 2016 was recorded last week, and released today. There’s much discussion that was cut out and saved for a future outtakes episode. Regardless, there’s plenty of show to go around, and the sound quality is also far better than ever thanks to Jonah getting a professional headset and mic. This week’s news includes: Nintendo registers trademark that could point to a SNES Classic Edition Windows 10 may be getting a new “Game Mode” option The next game by That Dragon, Cancer‘s dev is not what you’d expect This week’s Question of the Week is “What game in 2017 might you buy that you normally wouldn’t?”



December 30, 2016


2016 Review and 2017 Goals

from Grey Alien Games

Blimey, it really doesn’t feel like a year since I posted my 2015 review but somehow that time has passed in a flash!

Summary

Er, I have mostly failed at achieving my goals this year because the primary focus has been working on Shadowhand and it’s taken a lot longer than planned. I know why it’s taken longer (overscoping, complex art requirements, and some slow patches) and that has resulted in me putting a lot of my other goals on hold. Thus I pretty much need to copy paste my 2016 goals as my 2017 goals! :-D

That makes my year sound like a failure, but it’s not because Shadowhand is going very well and it’s enjoyable to work on. I really think it’ll be our best game to date. Our finances are definitely stretched a bit thin as we finish off the game, but we have managed to pay ourselves (Helen and I) a good monthly salary for the 3rd year in a row!

Also despite launching no new titles in 2016, Grey Alien Games turned over in excess of $100,000 from back catalogue titles, investment, tax relief etc. Furthermore, because of Brexit, each of those $USDs are actually worth more £GBP now!

To be honest, the very fact we are still in business a year later and are about to launch a new game is a success in the current climate of indie game development…

2016 Work Goals

1) Ship Shadowhand (sub goals of continue to enjoy working on it, and make it really damn good) (FAILED: It has not shipped but it’s pretty close now. I have enjoyed working on it and I believe it’s my best work, so the sub goals were a success.)

2) Shadowhand makes a healthy profit on top of the investment. Let’s put a number of $100,000 on that. (FAILED: It’s not out yet!)

3) Ship some Shadowhand DLC or start work on a related game (sequel/prequel/game using same engine) (FAILED: Although we have actually done some preliminary planning for a couple of different games using the Regency/Shadowhand engine.)

4) Regency Solitaire gets some kind of IGF and/or BAFTA mention (I have entered into both) (FAILED: Sadly this was not to be, though I have higher hopes for Shadowhand.)

5) Get the British game cultural tax credit thing for Shadowhand. Could be about £10000. (SUCCESS! Phew, one success, even if it was only an accounting success. But business cash flow is important and this helps a lot.)

Success rate = 1/5 = 20%. I guess setting multiple goals based on shipping a game on time isn’t a good idea :-D Also I shouldn’t set goals based on external bodies giving us an award as that is largely out of our control.

Stretch Goals:
1) Make $200,000 net revenue from all my games. (FAILED: Though as I’ve mentioned above, we made over $100,000. If we’d shipped Shadowhand I think this goal would have been in the bag.)

2016 Personal Goals

1) Get my mortgage under £100,000 before I’m 41 in the summer. This should be pretty easy tbh with a small overpayment, but it’ll be a nice milestone. (SUCCESS: Yep, done. Having a five figure mortgage feels like the 1980s except interest rates are *way* lower. For me it’s a nice psychological thing to have a five figure mortgage as it somehow seems more managable to me.)

2) Do a gamejam (can be an online one or an in-person one) (FAILED: Well there’s about 24 hours left in 2016, so I could try, but I think I’ll roll this goal on to 2017 instead. I love gamejams, but I just couldn’t justify spending the time on one this year whilst still working on Shadowhand.)

3) Go on holiday in Scotland with my wife (maybe with the kids but maybe not) (FAILED: This didn’t happen. In fact we didn’t even go on any holidays due to working on the game. I will need to fix this big time in 2017 or I’ll be in deep trouble.)

4) Continue to improve my art skills and make 6 pieces of art from scratch. (SUCCESS: One thing I’ve done this year is a lot of art direction including making mockups, and also a *ton* of art editing, by which I mean getting assets from the artists and tweaking them until I’m happy to plug them into the game. I’ve also made 4 pieces of art from scratch which are in my Flash mini adventure game called Star Seer. I know that’s not 6 as per my goal, but it’s pretty close and the sheer volume of other art-related stuff I’ve done more than makes up for it.)

5) I can’t announce this goal yet, but it’s quite exciting! (SUCCESS: This goal was actually “Do a really great speech at GDC which loads of people tell me was awesome”. Well, I knocked that one out of the park. My talk (originally titled “The No Hit Wonder”) went really well at GDC, and then later in the year was put on youtube where it has amassed an incredible 118,000 views so far. It seems like most days I get a message from someone who found my talk inspiring, which is pretty cool.)

Success rate = 3/5 = 60%. Not stellar, but I’m happy with it.

Stretch Goals:
1) Pay off my mortgage (or be in a position where I could do that, but for tax purposes it may be sensible not to do that in one go…)
2) Go on another holiday with my wife (probably better take the kids on this one too!)
3) Make more art, let’s say 6 more for a total of 12 pieces. The equivalent of one a month.
4) Get back into playing guitar and play at least one song at a public gig.

All FAILED.

Bonus Points
- We exhibited Shadowhand at the PC Gamer Weekender in London, and also at Rezzed in London, plus I showed it to some journalists at GDC. This resulted in some coverage from PC Gamer, RPS, The Guardian and Eurogamer! All good stuff.
- Helen and I spoke at Rezzed and Develop about working together on Regency Solitaire and Shadowhand. Helen also did a speech at Wordplay London.
- Regency Solitaire was in a Humble Indie Bundle, which was pretty cool. It brought in some cash at a much needed time and many more people got to check out the game which will hopefully mean they might buy Shadowhand when it launches.
- Through a weird fluke I was able to launch Holiday Bonus GOLD on Steam without having to go through Greenlight. It launched on the 27th of December as it was all a bit last minute. This game is technically 10 years old (though the GOLD update was made in 2012), so it really is the gift that keeps on giving!
- I managed to enjoy the sun this summer, went to some great Aikido courses, listened to lots of music, read lots of books, played lots of games, spent time with my family. It’s been a good year!

Mistakes
- Well the major one is overscoping the design for Shadowhand and spending way too long editing/fixing the art. However, this may not prove to be a mistake if the extra work pays off in terms of people recognising and enjoying the effort we have put into it. But generally, if you take too long on a game, you probably won’t see a return on the investment. It’s a common indie mistake. Even with the overscoped design, I think I should have hired some kind of art “fixer” to handle all the art assets so that I could focus on the coding, although I have learned a lot in the process and enjoyed quite a lot of it.
- Not going on holiday with my family. Because we have a publisher for Shadowhand and because it’s late, I feel under constant pressure to get the game done and not do anything else that might delay the launch. At one point we thought we might launch in the autumn so we didn’t go on a summer holiday, but the reality is we probably could have gone because the game has been delayed further anyway.
- I’ve come to the conclusion that events like exhibiting at shows or going to GDC ruin my productivity for a while afterwards. Far from being a “break” from development, they basically interupt development and I find it hard to get going again afterwards. Post GDC jetlag sucks, but even for UK events I feel really knackered afterwards for days. Of course there are plenty of benefits from attending these events, and I still believe they are importantant but I need to factor in recovery to my schedule accordingly.
- Probably we should have done some MORE marketing for Shadowhand in the second half of the year such as go to PAX, or arrange a US press tour for early 2017. However the publisher has a fixed budget and we have already done several shows, so unless we are willing to spend our own cash on more events (which we can’t afford to do), it’s not going to happen. At least we’ve made several developer vlogs and will be making a bunch more in the run up to launch, which is something we can do for no cost and without being exhausted afterwards :-)

2017 Work Goals
1) Ship Shadowhand (sub goals of continue to enjoy working on it, and make it really damn good)
2) Shadowhand makes a $100,000 profit on top of the investment.
3) Ship some Shadowhand DLC or start work on a related game (sequel/prequel/new game using same engine)
4) Get the second part of the Video Game Tax Relief for Shadowhand. This should be quite a lot, more than last year, and will be very helpful for cash flow.
5) Make $150,000 net revenue from all my games/tax relief/investment. I’ve been very close to this before, so I believe it’s achievable if we ship Shadowhand plus one more game.

Stretch Goals:
1) Make $250,000 net revenue.

2017 Personal Goals

1) Make another mortgage lump sum overpayment at some point in the year.
2) Do a gamejam (can be an online one or an in-person one or just an ad-hoc one I do on my own)
3) Go on holiday in Scotland with my wife (maybe with the kids but maybe not)
4) Host a successful Aikido summer school in my town.
5) Make 6 pieces of art from scratch.
6) Get back into playing the guitar.

Stretch Goals:
1) Pay off my mortgage (or be in a position where I could do that)



December 28, 2016


BackDoor Door 2: The Job

from Jay Is Games

Platform: Flash — BackDoor Door 2: The Job Well, it seems that some nice sequels are coming out at the end of this year. So if you remember finding yourself waking up in a bedroom, after a long fall; If you remember answering a strange phone call... Tagged as: adventure, browser, escape, flash, free, game, puzzle, solarvagrant, surreal



December 27, 2016


Episode 451: The Very Late Paul S. Nowak

from Casual Gamer Chick

No Gravatar

In an hour-long epilogue to last week’s landmark episode, Paul Nowak shows up for a guest appearance, and is very late. He discusses the previous week’s podcast notes – and talks about his new job and Dungeon Keeper.

This is the last episode of 2016. See you in the new, hopefully less awful 2017.

In an hour-long epilogue to last week’s landmark episode, Paul Nowak shows up for a guest appearance, and is very late. He discusses the previous week’s podcast notes – and talks about his new job and Dungeon Keeper. This is the last episode of 2016. See you in the new, hopefully less awful 2017.



December 25, 2016


Merry Christmas!

from GBGames

When I was younger, I loved the challenge of sneaking around the house during the holidays to find my Christmas presents before Christmas Day.

I like I think I was pretty good about it, too. I would sometimes find the already-wrapped boxes above the china cabinet or in my parents’ dresser.

Once I located the packages, I would slowly peel back the tape, being careful not to rip the wrapping paper. Then I would peek at what was inside, and after seeing the picture on a box or a name in big, bold letters, my curiosity would be satisfied. I’d replace the tape, and no one would be the wiser. Or at least I thought so. Maybe I believed I was sneakier than I really was.

One year, however, I went a little far. Well, ok, a lot far.

At that time, what had just been released for the N64 was The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.

I didn’t preorder it, so I didn’t get the cool gold cartridge, but I knew my mother had gotten me the game for Christmas.

But who could wait that long?

So I found the box, peeled back the gift wrapping on one end, sliced through the shrink wrap, opened the box, took out the game, and replaced it with another to ensure that the weight of the gift felt the same. I believe I used Body Harvest since I wasn’t playing that much at the time.

I think I played the game for two weeks before Christmas, and as far as I know, no one noticed that I was playing a game that I wasn’t supposed to have yet. When I opened my gift on Christmas day, I showed a lot of gratitude, and when no one was looking, I put Body Harvest back in my collection of games and continued playing Ocarina of Time from my last save point.

At some point, my family started double-wrapping my presents, which meant that I could no longer carefully peel back the tape and wrapping to see what I was going to get. I would just see more wrapping paper, and I wasn’t going to risk ripping it and giving away the fact that I had found the presents.

Today, my own home is preparing for the holiday. As of this writing, the stockings are stuffed, including the ones for the cats.

Christmas 2016 - Stockings Stuffed

Christmas 2016 - Cat Stocking

Hopefully Diego and Gizmo don’t sneak a catnip toy before the morning.

May you enjoy sharing tales with loved ones of the glories of Christmases long, long ago. Merry Christmas, and happy holidays!



December 24, 2016


Merry Christmas!

from A Shareware Life



December 23, 2016


GBGames in 2006 vs 2016

from GBGames

There’s been a meme going around in which indie game developers have posted photos of themselves today juxtaposed with photos of themselves from 10 years ago.

GB in 2006 vs 2016

It took me forever to find a 2006 picture of myself.

Let’s go back in time.

10 years ago, states were passing laws to ban the sale of video games to minors. It was after Bush was elected and everyone was falling all over themselves to prove they had “family values”, so a lot of governors were posing with moms and demonizing the great scourge of video games. In the end, each state had its law struck down as unconstitutional (which is to be expected when you base your law on versions from the other states that had been declared unconstitutional already), and it cost the states a lot of money.

I ended up voting 3rd party that year.

Roger Ebert was claiming that games could never be art. Again. And some high profile people in the game industry were arguing the same. I gave my thoughts back then in What Are Games Good For?.

Games were projected to double in revenue by 2011 driven by online and mobile gaming. Keep in mind that the iPhone wasn’t introduced until the next year, and so everyone was thinking mobile meant Java and Brew or Palm Pilots.

Digital Rights Management was in the news, whether it was about computer hardware, games, or things like the Broadcast Flag. I made my opinion known about how annoyed I was that people were so cavalier about it.

Nintendo’s Wii was released, and there was a day when everyone was talking about how ridiculous the name was. Then almost immediately everyone was used to it. I wouldn’t get one until 2009.

Steve Pavlina’s Dexterity.com shut down that year as he completed his transition from the game industry to the personal development industry. His game developer forums eventually became the IndieGamer forums, and his old game development articles turned up either on his site or elsewhere.

People were already comparing game development and photography. The indiepocalypse was quaint then.

The World Cup was in Europe, and the United States had one of their most epic matches against Italy, with both sides losing players before the final whistle. The US was defeated by Ghana to be eliminated in the group stages. Super disappointing. It took two more tries before they would beat them.

What was I up to?

In 2006, there were a lot of firsts for me. It was the one year anniversary of my blog.

I set New Year’s resolutions, and while I didn’t accomplish all of them, the major one was the formation of GBGames, LLC.

Back then, I was living with a girlfriend in an apartment in Chicago. I was working as a paid intern at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange in the UNIX group, and shortly after I formed my company, I got a software development job at WMS. It was across the street from Midway Games, and I worked on slot machines.

My cats, Diego and Gizmo, entered my life that summer. Before them, I never even had so much as a goldfish as a pet, unless you count the rooster my father brought home one time which I later realized was the dinner my mother prepared the next day.

They do this all the time

During crunch time, I would get home feeling dead, and the next thing I knew I would have both cats curled up on me as I lay on the couch. I hated crunch time, but I loved those moments with my cats.

Nap time

As someone interested in becoming a better indie game developer, I joined the Thousander Club. Back then, everyone was recently introduced to the idea that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert at something. Seriously, everyone who was blogging was blogging about it. If you work on your craft for a few hours a day, over the course of a year you would do about 1,000 hours, well on your way to becoming an expert in 10 years.

The Thousander Club was a way of tracking my hours and publicly holding myself accountable. Aside from the person who originally started it, I don’t remember too many people joining this club, but I would keep it up for a few years, although I never spent that much time in a given year on it. By the end of 2006, I had only 262.25 hours, only a little more than 25% of the goal.

I was working on a game I codenamed Oracle’s Eye, and I can’t remember what the game was about at this point. I remember a ball that could be bounced around the level by the player.

Oracle's Eye

Oracle's Eye It was a stick figure in 2005. I actually like the look of the tiles. Eventually I created a business man sprite.

Since I was writing the game from scratch using libSDL, I encountered and had to solve issues most kids these days get for free with their Unity3Ds and their GameMakers. I had to solve my own hit detection issues, such as the ball or the player entering and getting stuck in walls. I spent time learning the wrong and better ways to write code to make objects move around. Thanks to those early efforts, today I recognize certain issues before they become issues. That’s experience.

But I was bad at finishing my projects then. I had plans to submit a game to the Independent Games Festival that year, but I eventually started over with Oracle’s Eye Prime, which I also don’t have much of a recollection of. It was one of those “I’ve learned so much! This time I’ll do it better!” kinds of restarts. I never finished it, and I never ended up getting a game submitted to the festival. I was super frustrated with myself about that failure.

I switched to creating a Pong clone (I should write another one just to see how much faster I could do it today), and later a Space Invaders clone.

My Space Invaders clone.

I created this desktop image to inspire me to finish my project.
Note the orange “ship” which was originally blue.

I learned about accommodating color blind players when a tester asked me why my spaceship and background were the same color when they most definitely were not, and it has been something I’ve tried to be aware of ever since. See Game Design for the Color Blind Player and Making Your Game Accessible to People Who Are Color Blind.

I was just starting to learn about Agile software development and wondering how to apply it to my own efforts to make me more effective.

I joined the Association of Software Professionals the year prior and wanted to become more involved so I could get more out of my membership. A lot of indies joined back then, and many of them let their memberships lapse, which was too bad. I attended the Grand Rapids Schmooze and met a bunch of great people I’m still friends with. Eventually I became a board member and then president of the organization, something I didn’t really anticipate back then.

The next year’s resolutions included the goal of selling my first game, but I woefully underestimated how much I still had to learn about making games, let alone selling them.

And today?

Since then, I had saved up a chunk of money, quit my job, moved from Chicago to Des Moines, Iowa, all to go full-time indie and live the dream. I got quite a bit of feedback from people in the industry which I promptly ignored, then ran out of money and got a day job again after about two years. So, GBGames is back to a part-time effort for me.

So four years as an employee at a company making slot machines, two years being a full-time independent game developer, and now another four years as an employee, only now I don’t work on slot machines and the devices are quieter.

I went to GDC in 2011, so I could check that off my list. I met a lot of people I’ve only ever known through the Internet, including a bunch of people from Ludum Dare or the IndieGamer forums.

Ludum Dare meetup

These days when I learn that someone’s kid is really into Minecraft, I find that half the time they get super impressed when I say, “You know, I met Notch once.” The other half of the time they say, “Who?” That meeting, by the way? We talked about our Ludum Dare projects before he had to go handle some email emergency.

Shortly after GDC, I proposed to my girlfriend on the balcony of a castle in Europe. We got married. I still have two cats. I’m a home-owner now.

My four years working on slot machines taught me a lot about working on big projects, but my experience working on Stop That Hero!, writing and designing everything from scratch, turned me into a pretty good software developer. I leverage the knowledge and expertise I gained from game development at my current day job, which pays me well.

Stop That Hero!

I spent way too long working on this project, but I’m still very proud of what I was able to accomplish with it. It’s currently on the backburner indefinitely.

So, in general, I’m doing great. I’m fairly healthy. I’m getting paid very well to apply my skills and training daily. I’m fortunate to be married to a wonderful and incredible woman. I am living in a comfortable and spacious home. And again, I have cats.

And yet…

But my business isn’t doing well at all.

Part-time efforts means that things run slowly. What I thought would take me a matter of weeks ends up taking many months. And being slow in this industry is death when there are dozens of games being released daily. I learned about the importance of speed at GDC in 2011, so I knew this fact even before the market got flooded.

I once went to a talk by an entrepreneur who said working part-time on a business just isn’t sustainable because by the time you put something out there, others with more resources and time on their hands might have gotten there first. He said there’s a reason why many entrepreneurs end up divorced.

Well, that sucks. My priorities put being a good husband above my business, and I know other people make different choices in this regard, but I love my wife and can’t see ever deciding that my Limited Liability Company is more important than our partnership.

When I was single and younger, I could work a full-time job, then work for hours on my game development without too many worries. I was just undisciplined and unfocused then, so I didn’t take advantage of it as much as I should have.

Today, I’m better disciplined and more able to focus, but now my time is split quite a bit. I’ve learned that I can’t work on my business too much before I start getting rubberbanded back towards other responsibilities or my health starts forcing me to pull back.

The year prior to 2006, I assessed my ability to create at a very low value and identified it as my major weakness. It’s why I joined the Thousander Club, and I wish I put more time into it back then.

In 2006, I did 262.25 hours of game development. That’s about 1.4 hours a day, which isn’t much, but it can work. It didn’t really result in much that year, though.

This past year? I only did 259.5 hours of game development so far, although that number doesn’t include the 40+ hours of writing and 40+ hours of business planning and marketing I’ve put in. Yet, I had a plan, and I managed to publish. 10 years on, and I am still taking too long to work on a game, but at least I finish my games now.

Toytles: Leaf Raking

My three month project that took me 10 months to publish. I think it’s a pretty good business strategy game, and I’m REALLY proud of finishing this one.

Yes, it was meant to be finished in three months and took about 10, and even though I spent a lot more time on game design and balance as opposed to infrastructure and technical details, I still felt very frustrated with how slow this project went.

My wife pointed out that had I worked on it full-time, I easily could have done the almost 260 hours within three months.

Fair enough. I felt better. A little. It’s easy to get frustrated when you compare your struggles and efforts with the successes that other people publicize, or with the future possibilities. Saying things like “I’m a failure because I spent a year making a dinky game while this highly polished mobile game is making millions” is a good way to get yourself stressed. I went through that with my previous project.

You need to measure your progress looking back at where you came from. And compared to how I was in 2006, I’m way more capable as a game developer, as a software developer, as a partner in a relationship, as a business owner, and as a leader. I mean, I know terms like “the Dunning-Kruger effect” now.

10 years goes by quickly

But in 10 years, I’ve only published less than a handful of games commercially? Oof. I still haven’t submitted a game to the IGF. It’s not that I haven’t worked on games, but unless I take my Ludum Dare or One Game a Month projects and polish them up for release, they kind of don’t count except as ways I’ve gained experience with making games.

But again, when I think about what I have accomplished since 2006, it adds up to a few commercial attempts and over 20 different published projects that are more or less playable. Each Ludum Dare game jam or experiment adds to my expertise. Each finished project makes the next one that much easier.

So, I’ve grown quite a bit. And I did it my own way. And doing it my own way was part of the appeal of going indie in the first place.

I don’t know too much about what my life will be like in another 10 years. My wife and I will be middle-aged then. My cats are getting old and may not be there with us, which makes me sad when I think about it. I’m getting old, and I worry that I’ll fall behind in terms of my technical expertise with artificial intelligence and automation threatening once-secure jobs. I worry about continuing to miss out on opportunities. I feel out of touch with the game industry as it is. I worry about becoming a sad old man who refuses to acknowledge the futility of what he’s doing.

Frankly, I don’t have an exit plan. I don’t have an idea of a situation or point in time when I say, “Well, that’s it. I’ve hit the limit of what I will accomplish in game development for my lifetime.”

Ever since I went back on “corporate welfare”, I’ve been working slowly and trying to build up my business, with the expectation that it will all come together. I don’t mean getting lucky with a hit game, but that the business will eventually become sustainable as my full-time employment.

I have been aiming to build up streams of income, rather than hope for a big jackpot. But for a few years now I’ve been worried that the premise isn’t workable, that it’s not possible to do what I’m doing and expect great things eventually. I’d hate to think I’m limiting myself to mediocrity.

But I chose my current approach because there are certain things in my life that I value as more important. I’m trying to be the tortoise and shouldn’t get frustrated when the hares around me are sprinting by, often off cliffs.

Many of the game developers and blogs I followed back in 2006 are no longer around. Some retired. Some switched industries. Some gave up.

I’m still here, though.

And I expect to be here for another 10 years. In order to have more to show for it by then, I’m making plans to do more rapid and focused learning and hard work now to get me there. Part of that is rereading some of the advice people gave me in the last 10 years and reconsidering what I’ve ignored or misunderstood then.

Wish me luck!



December 21, 2016


Worldbuilding with words

from Grey Alien Games

Helen was fortunate enough to be invited to take part in Wordplay London in November at the British Library: a festival of interactive fiction and writerly games organised by the Hand Eye Society.

For those of you who missed it and would like to get some insight from a host of experts about writing in games, the Hand Eye Society has put together a video of some of the panels from the day.

Helen was part of the panel called “Worldbuilding with words,” along with a lovely panel with varied backgrounds ranging from dystopian Twitter fiction (Nate Crowley) to choose-your-own-adventure style game books (Jon Green) with a bit of dating Twine fiction (Hannah Powell-Smith) along the way. Helen spoke about facilitating different levels of depth that work for a range of play styles in both Regency Solitaire and Shadowhand. She also talks about connecting with as many of the player’s senses as possible to build a game world; and how a limited plot scope and richly researched lore can help with effective writing. You can catch this panel at 5:00:00 (5 hours) into the video.



December 19, 2016


Vacation Adventures: Park Ranger 5 Review

from Casual Game Guides

Vacation Adventures: Park Ranger 5 offers the exhilarating experience of the great outdoors! Tons of fun and challenging mini games are waiting after every hidden item scene that you encounter! Get your peepers ready to locate the hidden items and enjoy the sights and sounds of the beautifully illustrated settings of this enchanting game!



» Vacation Adventures: Park Ranger 5 Walkthrough & Forum

» Vacation Adventures: Park Ranger 5 Free Trial & Related Games




Episode 450: Game of the Year Awards 2016

from Casual Gamer Chick

No Gravatar

It’s the landmark 450th episode of Gaming Podcast — and the end of a very disappointing year in videogames (among other things) for 2016. These aren’t your usual awards though – Jonah gives the “Best PS2 Game” award to The Last Guardian, for instance. It’s an extra long podcast at almost 2 hours, so enjoy all of the banter.

There’s also news, of course, which includes:

  • Torment: Tides of Numenera and Yooka-Laylee get release dates
  • New Age of Empires 2 expansion out next week
  • Final Fantasy‘s 30th anniversary plans to be revealed soon

Let us know your favorite games of 2016!

It’s the landmark 450th episode of Gaming Podcast — and the end of a very disappointing year in videogames (among other things) for 2016. These aren’t your usual awards though – Jonah gives the “Best PS2 Game” award to The Last Guardian, for instance. It’s an extra long podcast at almost 2 hours, so enjoy all of the banter. There’s also news, of course, which includes: Torment: Tides of Numenera and Yooka-Laylee get release dates New Age of Empires 2 expansion out next week Final Fantasy‘s 30th anniversary plans to be revealed soon Let us know your favorite games of 2016!




Delicious: Emily's Christmas Carol Walkthrough

from Casual Game Guides

Our Delicious Emily’s Christmas Carol C.E. Walkthrough is an incredible resource to help guide you along with the O’Malley’s through a delightful wintery adventure! Chock-full of easy to follow tips and illustrated screen shots our guide will help you solve the 92 levels of challenges! Join them as they set out on a winter holiday in search of the elusive Santa Claus while spreading peace – harmony and creating delicious culinary creations! Our guide will help you to keep moving forward through this cheerful and fast paced holiday time management game as we all eagerly await Paige’s 1st Christmas Musical!



» Delicious: Emily's Christmas Carol Walkthrough & Forum

» Delicious: Emily's Christmas Carol Free Trial & Related Games