Week 53

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.

Last week I got some great feedback on the Highway of Tears demo. Articles ended up on warpdoor,  indiegames.com, rockpapershotgun, badogames, indiegamemag, and I even got a call from Canadian radio! I’ll be on their morning show later today.

When you’re working on a thing in isolation for a while you start to lose sight of whether it’s any good or not. I hadn’t expected people to get so excited about it yet, so this definitely cements that I’m going to finish this game. Working on it is so satisfying that sometimes I forget I’m not earning any rent money this way. That will have to be stage two of this campaign. Patreon, Kickstarter, ahoy!

Sadly there was a problem with my new internet connection at the new house so I’ve had to subsist off of the wifi of parents, friends, cafe’s the past week. Not having reliable internet is such a burden, and when emails pour in and you have to participate in heated discussions in comment threads that’s a bad position to be in.

There was a bit of discussion that I was cutting too close to the reality of the highway of tears, which led me to decide to de-emphasize the influences in the final game. Anyway you can read that post here, and I think we came to a good solution.

In terms of progress, I’ve been working on a new iteration of the ingame GUI. I’m still having problems hooking a few menus together the way I want to, but at least they look good now. A big issue I had before was that the dialogue GUI didn’t scale well on lower resolutions. I finally sat down and adjusted everything, so now the look is unified and works at any size.

menu

Aside from that I’ve been mostly doing polish on existing content, and adding new animations for all the characters to make the whole thing feel more alive.

Next week: radio interviews and the premiere of the new demo build.

Regarding the subject of my game

Now that I’m getting eyeballs on the announcement and demo of my upcoming game, I’ve heard concerns about my ability to adress the subject matter the story is based on. I hear you loud and cear and I’d like to adress these concerns with this post.

First off, thank you very much for all your replies, they have really made me think about how to approach this story. I never meant to offend anyone, but I can totally understand from your replies that someone feels that way, and if so, I’m honestly sorry.

When I first heard about the Highway of Tears I was as horrified as anyone to learn that so much evil can exist, and that it repeatedly struck in a place already full of tragedy. I’ve read through the official Board of Inquiry report on the murders, plus a lot of articles about the events, the situation around Vancouver, the psychology of serial killers, and I’ve watched several documentaries, so I am aware of the poverty, drug addiction, survival sex trade, aboriginal discrimination and downright indifference and failure on the part of the RCMP in taking decisive action, especially in the Pickton case, where so much tragedy could have been avoided if they had taken it seriously.

As I read more and more about it I felt like I had to somehow raise awareness, and tell a story that at least introduces people to these events. As an outsider I concede that I do not have the personal connection to these events that would give me credibility in writing a story like this, but I would never use the outline of these events as a cheap way to create a ‘cool mysterious story’. But you raise a valid point that perhaps because of that I had better no try in the first place as it risks offending people or not doing the tragedy justice. And that would be the last thing I want to do.

So in that light, I agree with the suggestions that it is better to distance myself from the real-world connection. The story in my game was already fictional, not referencing any real victims or specific cases, and set in a fictional town, so in effect the story could already stand on its own without the true story angle. I want people to be able to enjoy my game and learn something from it, without feeling personally offended by it because of the weight of a cultural trauma hanging over it.

I was also aware that the Haida people live in a slightly different region, so changing locations should also mitigate that disparity somewhat. There is only one specific fable from their heritage I am referencing, not a sweeping generalization of their culture at large or anything like that, so I have faith I can handle that well.

Do you guys think that would ease your worries, or is there more I should reconsider? Right now the game is still quite malliable, so I am 100% open to suggestions, or if someone wants to be a consultant on the narrative part to make sure I treat a subject like this with the gravitas it deserves, I’d be thankful.

I hope this is a good solution, and if anyone want to discuss anything related to this or trade thoughts on the subject, feel free to comment or email me.

Regarding the feedback on game-specific stuff like art and GUI: thanks too for the kind words and the constructive criticism, I will respond more in-depth to those things once the matter of the story and subject has been resolved. I won’t move forward with those things too much until I know people are content with the new direction.

Thanks,
~Tim

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.

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