Week 96 – lights, camera, UX

Freelancing

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. For illustrated depictions of these events, visit my daily comics page.

On tuesday we started the third Home Rule sprint at the Hubbub studio. New addition this sprint is Niels ‘t Hooft, who is taking care of the story content. On friday we had another meeting to discuss our progress. Alper and I mostly worked on designing new features this week and setting everything up so we can get going once the full storyline is ready this week.

Inbetween I worked on Reconquista some more, getting it ready for release. I added some extra props to the level, optimized the performance a bit and experimented with gamma color space vs linear color space + tone mapping, and I’m still not sure I understand it exactly but the colors look much better now at least.

RQ04

I also spent an inordinate amount of time researching a new laptop powerful enough to play The Witcher 3 on, which comes out this week. Not since my days as a young gamer with a desktop PC had I compared graphics cards so thoroughly, or thought about clock speeds, teraflops and heatsinks. It was awful, but I found a good one that I might buy sometime soon.

I closed the week out by celebrating my birthday in Amsterdam at a small festival. Seeing how happy and kind everyone there was, and the artists having fun, and supporting each other from the crowd, it felt like such a far cry from the worries and the vitriol in the games industry lately. It definitely lifted my spirits, and I hope we can all be a little more like those people.

Week 93/94 – Unwinding and maintenance

Other

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. For illustrated depictions of these events, visit my daily comics page.

Week 93 had a late start due to Kingsday, a dutch national holiday. On wednesday I had a call with Hubbub to plan out all the features we want to put in the next Home Rule beta (including a better name for the project), and on thursday I had a call with a potential new client, an illustration rushjob.

I spent the rest of the week doing administration and updating my portfolio. Google’s new policy is to give priority in their search results to sites that are mobile-friendly, so I dove into the world of responsive design and media queries to make my portfolio site adapt to all kinds of resolutions. It was a nightmare of weird glitches and quirks but it works now!

Last week also started out mellow because of the national war remembrance days. I made a little character animation for the folks at mindbreaker games who are working hard on their demo. It was nice to open After Effects after a long time and animate a little something using the latest version of the DUIK plugin, which is UHH-MAZING. Highly recommended if you do a lot of character animation.

Later in the week I finally sat down and upgraded Black Feather Forest to the latest version of the game engine. Miraculously nothing broke! There were a few weird thinhgs in transitioning from Unity 4 to 5 while simultaneously updating two plugins, but I managed to solve 90% of them in an afternoon.

I’m itching to continue developing Black Feather Forest. I realized a few weeks ago that it’s been a year since I started working on it. And I think almost half a year since I stopped development to rethink a few aspects. That stung, so I’m determined to carry on with it in the next few months. A Kickstarter may be inevitable.

But first Reconquista! I started that project up at the end of the week to add a few features and get it ready to launch. I expect that will happen in the next few weeks. The game is practically done, I just need to figure out one thing and then I can push it out the door. It makes no sense to leave it lying around for much longer.

Next week: new dailies and the kickoff of the third phase of Home Rule.

Week 92 – Three deadlines and a playtest

Freelancing

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. For illustrated depictions of these events, visit my daily comics page.

It’s been a busy week!

Hubbub was finishing up the first beta for Home Rule on monday and tuesday, and at the same time I was drawing hard for the Suitkees project, as that soft deadline turned into a hard deadline for the end of the week. And in the meantime I had to finish up my #wizardjam entry. Luckily I had been smart and done most of the work on that over the weekend, so all I had to do was make some promo art and write a description for the itch.io page. I did that on wednesday morning and launched the game before heading to the war museum in Oosterbeek with the Hubbub guys to playtest Home Rule.

Tim and Alper

It’s been a while since I did an actual in-person live playtest on location. The target audience is kids 8-12, and they are always fun to work with. And to our surprise they really picked up on what we were trying to do and had fun playing the game. It was nice seeing them contemplate aloud the moral dilemmas people in a warzone have to face. We came away with a bunch of good feedback and happily dug into some pizza at the end of a succesful day.

On thursday I finished up the Suitkees drawings, sent them out and then went to the housewarming for the Dutch Game Garden in their new home next to Central Station. I ran into some old friends and made a few new ones, and generally felt glad to be part of this industry. It was nice to be among peers again and I considered one day getting an office there when business gets good enough.

Once that was all behind me it was time to unwind. I spent most of Friday making my portfolio website responsive and mobile-friendly, and I got pretty far with it. And over the weekend I fired up Shadow of Mordor with the intent of finally finishing it. When you’re purely interacting with its mechanics and ignoring the story, that game is so good.

Next week: A late start after Kingsday and planning new ventures.

Week 91

Freelancing

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. For illustrated depictions of these events, visit my daily comics page.

Being your own boss is no field trip. One week it feels like the business is on fire, the other like I’m living on borrowed time. Especially around tax time when I can hand 21% of what I’ve earned back to the government. But one of the big improvements to my business I’m instituting this year is time tracking. I used to track my time with just a txt file for client projects where I had billable hours, but I never tracked all the hours I spend on my own games, comics etc. And those are far and away most of the hours I put in. So I’ve started using Toggl. It’s free and perfect for what I need. I worked with it before at Paladin, and I saw Kars using it at Hubbub recently and thought oh yeah that’s smart.

Speaking of Hubbub, we’ve been whittling away at the beta for Home Rule. It might have been kind of ambitious to try and recreate the iMessage interface in Unity, but Alper got pretty far with it. This week is more tweaking and improvements to get everything ship-shape for the playtest tomorrow.

I figured I’d have more work of Home Rule this phase, with the concept redesign following the alpha and all that, but Kars did a great job doing the heavy lifting on the game design. This freed up some time to work on the Transavia illustrations for Hoog+Diep. I sent out a test illustration previously which was liked, so I sketched out all the illustrations in greater detail. On friday Transavia and Neckermann looked at it again and they were very positive.

Inbetween I found some time to start on my #wizardjam entry, a gamejam held on the Idle Thumbs forums. I had wanted to participate in #adventurejam but the timing didn’t work out, so this was a nice way to still get jammin’, and the Idle Thumbs episode titles proved ripe ground for ideas. I’m working on a small topgun-jetfighter-switches-flipping game called MaydayMayday Cockpit Freakout, which I plan to be releasing tomorrow.

It feels like I’m jumping from project to project, but since MaydayMayday is tiny and has a definite deadline it takes precedence over Reconquista, which I’ll also be releasing soon. Reconquista just has a few loose ends in the design which make it hard to finish.

On top of that I also got an interesting call from Menno at Mindbreaker Games. They’re working on a P&C adventure game and are crunching out a demo for a grant proposal, and if that goes through they might want to work together, as our interests and goals are similar. So more on that in the future perhaps.

Next week: bustin’ to get all these projects done on time.