Week 52, or Year One

This is a weekly recap of the goings-on in my professional life – to keep track of what I’m doing and to give you a peek at what it’s like being an independent creator.

It’s hard to fathom that it’s been a year since I started working for myself.

Said goodbye to my desk job designing games for someone else (honestly it was a sweet job, what was I thinking) and started my own thing.

I got some assignments pretty quickly, thanks mainly to friends/colleagues putting in a good word, and thus I started incing my way up. I’ve been able to carve out a pretty okay living so far, struggling some months when the work dries up for a bit, but enough to move up to a nice studio apartment with my girlfriend and pay the bills (and jump into a Steam Sale every now and again).

And now, 52 weeks later, I announced my first solo commercial title! Holy cow I hadn’t even thought of that. When people asked me around week 45 what I was going to do for my ‘anniversary’ I shrugged. Turns out week 52 was pretty special after all, thanks to the fellas at Warpdoor. More on that in next week’s update.

But for now I want to thank the fine folks that offered their support, good conversations, and/or advice this past year. Some names that come to mind: Jens, Michiel, Adriaan, Bojan, Benjamin, Ilona, Lowen, Anke, Alwin, Niels, Esther, mom and dad, Ralph, Anne, Matt, Chris, and ofcourse you, dear reader .

A few pieces of follow-up then: to get back to the poll about the name change for my game a few weeks back, the results were pretty clearly in favor of keeping the name Highway of Tears. It’s nice and strong, abbreviates well and tells you exactly what’s up. So thanks to those who voted and helped make the decision!

Then, presskit! I am perhaps disproportionately excited to have this bit of php code, but if you as a journalist or what have you ever needed any info on my company or my games, the presskit’s the place to be.

So now, back to the daily grind.

Before HoT started getting picked up by the media I found myself mostly doing small tasks – a subconcious way to avoid having to deal with the large and nebulous tasks still in the backlog. However it wasn’t without its merits, the demo segments are a lot more polished now. “But,” I thought on tuesday, “what actual new content was added to the game? None!” So I got to it and started doing animations, and made a start on a new scene. Then over the weekend I went on a small vacation with friends, during which the social media coverage really fired up.

Next week: tales of exciting new improvements to the interface, and great feedback on the demo from cool people.

Highway of Tears update

Well, cat’s out of the bag – Highway of Tears appeared on Warpdoor, a curated site for interesting indie games run by smart guys from indiegames.com and killscreen. So if you want to check out what I’ve been (mainly) doing for the past month or two, grab the demo here, and let me know what you think.

The demo is a rough early version with some features missing or partly implemented, but any feedback or suggestions are appreciated; bug reports too, either here or in my email.

And now seems like a good a time as any to tell you about the website for Highway of Tears. There’s not a lot there yet but it’s a nice place to go, a sign that it exists for real at least. The mainly useful thing about it now is that it links to the presskit, which I am excited about!

Presskit() (pronounced as “do presskit”) is a nifty invention by fellow indie Rami Ismael of Vlambeer fame, to help indie gamedevs and journalists alike to gather up the most salient info about a studio and their games for easy publicitimations. It’s included in my portfolio site now, or if you want the direct route head here.

It’s weird when something ends up in the ether outside of your own involvement (I only posted to a forum for feedback), but at the same time it’s somehow reassuring when it gets picked up, that you’re on the right track with what you’re doing. I wasn’t going to drop the demo publically until I polished it up to my satisfaction, coinciding with an upcoming showcase at a festival, but I realize that when you are making things you always want to hold onto it until it is ‘just right’. There’s always something more to polish, to improve, to add, to tweak. So heck, let this be the way that I get over that and let you guys in on what I’m making here. I hope you dig it.

Week 51

This is a weekly recap of the goings-on in my professional life – to keep track of what I’m doing and to give you a peek at what it’s like being an independent creative.

Last week the heat had me beat a little bit, but I came back and did some animation for Highway of Tears.

This is the title card shot after the intro of the game. I painted it on tuesday and animated it on wednesday. A classic case of ‘make a plan before you do something’, because after I had finished making it in After Effects, it turns out Unity Free cannot play video files (without excessive hacking or plugins). But it was fun to do so I guess time wasn’t completely wasted. I’ll redo it in-engine this week, which should only take a fraction of the time.

Inbetween on wednesday I jumped through the final hoops to hand off my old apartment, so now that chapter is closed. And thank heavens, all the stuff I had to arrange around that ‘project’ ended up tripling my phone bill this month. Let’s hope the next person enjoys it as much as I did.

At the end of the week I stayed at my parent’s house for two days (came to see them, stayed for the wifi ha), and got to spend some time sitting next to my dad at the kitchen table while we both drew. Check out his facebook page with space age art over here.

father and son

Stool life

Something I rarely do anymore is paint something mundane that is in front of me – a still life. It’s great for practicing colors and composition, but it’s not something that I think about very often. This week I was visiting my parents and I saw some nice dusk light fall in through the back door, so I decided to make a study of that.

Week 50

This is a weekly recap of the goings-on in my professional life – to keep track of what I’m doing and to give you a peek at what it’s like being an independent creative.

I know I said I would work on the Fawlty Towers game, but shortly after that I saw a call for submissions from INDIGO, a dutch games convention put on by the Dutch Game Garden, and it is in association with the Dutch Film Festival. So that put a revision on Highway of Tears at number one on the todo list. Niels once described the script of HoT as being very filmic, so that makes this a good crossover venue to show the game.

On that note, I’m considering several titles to replace the working title with. What do you think fits the game the best? You can read up on it here, and for context:  Highway 16, aka The Yellowhead, runs past the town of Augier’s Peak, where the game takes place.

Besides that I set up the new version of Trusted Soil, my graduation project with Anne Bras, in Adventure Game Studio. Having worked with Unity exclusively for a while now had made me forget how easy it is to get something basic up and running in AGS. With a bit of luck I can copy a lot of code from the original demo over to this version.

Anne and I decided a while ago to make the full version of Trusted Soil (read more about it here) and try to sell it on Steam. We’re doing it in Lucasarts pixel-art style now, and I’m concerning myself full with the programming side. For that reason we attracted Misja van Laatum (artist on Indiana Jones and The Fountain Of Youth) for the backgrounds, and Molly Carroll (recent HKU graduate) to do the animations.

Week 49

This is a weekly recap of the goings-on in my professional life – to keep track of what I’m doing and to give you a peek at what it’s like being an independent creative.

Amidst calling plumbers and garages and landlords, I returned to porting my Fawlty Towers game to Unity. An update in the Adventure Creator package made it much easier to work with the built-in Unity 2D stuff – especially the Polygonal navmesh feature, which allows me to map out where the characters can walk by drawing a shape, a galactic improvement over using a bunch of rectangular to map out the area.

Navmesh rectangles vs a polygonal navmesh:

The sensible thing to do would be perhaps to work more on Highway of Tears (which I did do some GUI design for), but seeing the Monty Python Ministry of Silly Walks game appear in the App Store, with narration by John Cleese (meaning he condones it) made me hopeful he might look kindly upon my Fawlty Towers game aswell, so I felt the breeze of my attention go in that direction presently. Also because the scope of that game is so compact that it could realistically be finished in a sprint or two.

I also completed Wolfenstein The New Order which is rad.