Week 60

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.

I hit a bit of a funk last week, which made me realize I haven’t quite gotten past the GamerGate thing yet. I was simply curating my game’s existing content like some kind of digital janitor instead of making new content. It somehow had me scared a little, which I realize is bullshit and I should get started on it again, but my mind was not ready yet. In fact it was actively distracting me whenever I tried to focus. To help ease myself back in I unfollowed a bunch of people on twitter who keep discussing it, and followed some new people who just talk about the cool things they are making. My feed is a safe place again.

Discontent with my malaise I decided to go work at Seats2Meet at Utrecht CS the next day, on everything that was not related to The Game. It was pretty amazing. I fired up Photoshop and worked on a new page of Off-Stage, which has been in limbo for far too long. Great designs flowed right out of my pen and I got excited. Expect that soon.

sdg

I also played through Lili Child of Geos. It is out now on PC, and is vastly improved over the iOS version which I never got into. It looks absolutely amazing and is a joy to play with lots of fun characters and things to collect and discover. Really looking forward to Bitmonster’s next game.

Over the weekend I helped my girlfriend sell some of her art on a market in Den Bosch. It reminded me that illustration is cool and I should do more of it.

Next week: who even knows.

Week 59

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 started off right: I got a job offer the friday before (for a freelance project), and we went to have lunch and talk it over. It went well I think, we’ll see what comes of it when everything is sorted out.

On wednesday I showed Black Feather Forest at the Dutch Game Garden networking lunch, to positive reactions. The people that played loved how it looked and played the demo to the end, so that’s good. I also met the good people from Wispfire who are working on a cool narrative adventure game too.

2014-09-03 11.58.49

Following the lunch I fixed a few bugs I noticed (a restart button isn’t very useful if it doesn’t reset your progress on the map), and refined the cursor system based on an interesting observation made by Game Oven‘s Adriaan. Now I just need to hack Adventure Creator a bit so it actually works too.

On thursday I pulled out my ol’ Yeti mic to do a voiceacting test for the game a friend of mine on the AC forums is making. It was fun to do, especially because it’s a kind of Monkey Island comedy game so the voices can be very expressive.

I am planning to make a trailer for Black Feather Forest soon so this was a nice reminder that I could probably do the voiceover for that myself. Besides that I also did some illustrations for a calendar that’s coming out in a few months.

Then the week closed out with some good news: Black Feather Forest was selected to be part of the INDIGO showcase put on by the Dutch Game Garden during the Dutch Film Festival. It sounds like a complicated construction, but what it boils down to is that I’ll be showing the demo at the top floor of the new TivoliVredenburg music venue in the center of Utrecht at the end of this month. Exciting times! Another things I can cross off my bucket list. I’ve exhibited at game shows before but never with my own game.

Next week: how to cut a trailer for a game that’s only about 15% done.

Week 58

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.

Not a lot happened in week 57. I think we were mostly recovering from the weird badness the week before. Waking up to a twitter stream filled with #welovegamedevs tweets was very nice. I set up a Patreon and sent out some emails for research and new business opportunities, but other than that it wasn’t super productive.

On Saturday Swordfish and Friend, a record store and art shop started by some friends of mine, opened its doors in downtown Utrecht. My girlfriend has some of her paintings up for sale there, I am super proud.

Last week I was a bit of a mix of all kinds of things. I redesigned the menus in Black Feather Forest, upgraded Adventure Creator to version 1.38 and dealt with the bugs resulting from that, wrote a bit about a very old adventure game I used to work on, set up an itch.io storefront and uploaded 15 Minutes to it, got some Kickstarter advice from Sam Farmer and continued to get worked up over #GamerGate.

On saturday I spent all day in town with my girlfriend, away from the internet. That was very nice.

Next week: a high-profile business offer!?

From the vault: The Majestic Conspiracy

One morning in 2004 or so, I got up and decided I wanted to make a video game.

I was about 15 or 16, I had just finished Broken Sword, and went in search of a program that could let me make an adventure game myself. I tried a few different ones, and eventually settled on Adventure Game Studio. With it I started my first game, based on a 44-page comic I had drawn the years before. It was called The Majestic Conspiracy.

It even had a dvd case sleeve ready to go.

For the next ten years I worked on it off and on, through several iterations of the script and the art style, through multiple versions of AGS, four years of game design college and an internship. It was the classic too-ambitious-to-finish first project. So today I thought I’d write about it, to honor its demise.

TMC was a celebration of all the 90s cop stories I loved – Lethal Weapon, Die Hard, Rush Hour, Turner & Hooch, 48 hrs, Max Payne, and even some special agent fiction like Mission Impossible and Metal Gear Solid. The protagonist was the default wavy-haired, leather-jacketed badass detective, with the double-crossing partner and the gorgeous female colleague. It told of a grand conspiracy by a shadow organisation, led by a white-haired man with a scar over his eye, trying to take over New York. Why and how exactly changed many times over the years. It was basically every trope ever.

Cutscenes based on the original comic, an idea borrowed from Max Payne

an early dialogue tree in-engine

The big bad was based on Majestic 12, a secret government agency I had learned about in Deus Ex. After I was working on it for a while I saw that there was another game about a shadowy organisation called Majestic. I cursed a little under my breath. But back then I wasn’t too serious in thinking about marketing and things like that. The game was going to be free anyway, so I kept going. I was mainly making it for myself.

old and new versions of the three main characters

When I started out, I used a mix of photo paintovers for the backgrounds with pixel art characters at a resolution of 640×480. Over the years I started to understand how spaces and geometry worked and so the art became more and more hand-crafted. When a new version of AGS came out that supported widescreen I decided to completely change the look to my signature comic-like style I had grown into by then. It definitely looked better, but by that time I was almost graduated and I had so much other stuff to do. There was no way I was going to rebuild an entire full-length adventure game AGAIN. And so the folder has been collecting dust in my dropbox ever since.

all those walkcycles...

Maybe someday I will revisit this universe, see how things are going with Adam, Jennifer and Frank.

old and new versions of Adam and Frank's office

The evolution of the NYPD bullpen

lights off, lights on

But as big failed projects usually go, I learned a lot from it. About puzzle design, compositioning, game assets and resolution, writing, dialogue trees, and mostly about programming. When I started I knew nothing of game development or coding in C#. By the end I was writing my own editor extentions, and pushing the boundaries of the engine with my graduation project. Even today that knowledge enables me to make the games I want to make in Unity.

So whatever you’re working on, if it doesn’t pan out, don’t fret; you probably learned something that will make your next game much better.

You can still visit the old TMC website here, including a handful of screenshots from its pixel art days.

Patreon

Today I’m trying something new:

If you like my work and want to see more of it, you can choose to support me by becoming a patron. This means that you give me money not based on any single thing I put out, but for my work in general. It’s like you’re buying yourself a subscription to me. This means I don’t have to put up annoying ads or do dumb assignments that you don’t get any benefits from.

My work will always be freely accessible, I’m not hiding things behind a paywall, but with your patronage, I will be able to produce even more, games, comics, illustrations, books, and keep a roof over my head to boot! That would be pretty rad.