Week 88

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.

This week I spent a good chunk of time filling out a grant application for Creative Europe Media, a European Commission that offers support for interesting video games. Though because it has to go through the European Commission there is a ton of procedure to follow – making accounts, registering my company, discovering that the registration system the dutch Chamber of Commerce used when I registered two years ago has been changed, googling to find the correct code for the new system, and then generating a fancy pdf form and filling that out. 21 pages of complicated questions, some of which I didn’t really have an answer to. One thing is that I got the feeling they are thinking in a waterfall schedule, where milestones and deadlines are set in stone. I’m doing this project by myself, so I can’t already estimate in hours how long I am working on each phase. The budget was a monster to wrangle as well, but I managed to fill everything out on time, and the guys at the Vechtclub were very supportive when I told them about it on wednesday.

The reason I was at the Hubbub studio on wednesday was to brainstorm about the direction of the museum game project (I’ll start using the official codename SHACHI from now on because I’m getting tired of typing ‘museum game project’). We had a cool prototype, but it kind of existed outside of the targeted museums, instead of being integrated in the exhibit. It was a tough nut to crack but we came up with something really interesting. More on that soon as we start the beta phase.

On thursday I sketched up some mockups for the new idea so that Kars could use them in the client meeting, and then I went to Amsterdam to have dinner with my old couchsurfing buddy Troy. This was the first time we were both back in Amsterdam again after I had moved away from there, so for both of us it was a welcome reunion with a lovely city, I thought that was interesting.

Friday I was spent, so I passed the time catching up on my backlog of games. I finished the Spiderman and Guardians of the Galaxy playsets in Dinsey Infinity, and reflected on how brilliantly simple their game design is. They get the core of the characters right, give you a playground to exercise their abilities until you have mastered them, and it’s exactly long enough that you don’t tire of it too much. Then I played some MGS Ground Zeroes (big fan also) and upgraded some of my other game projects to Unity 5.

Next week: Getting my short game into beta state for real and deciding whether I’m going to participate in the upcoming AdventureJam.

Week 87

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.

Having finished the first phase of the Museum Game project, this week was a bit of a breather, and an opportunity to get into gamedev on my short game whole-hog.

I started by drawing some dailies, but the antics of the cat that night had left me with a bit of sleep deprivation so it didn’t go so fast. On tuesday we ran errands and enjoyed the spring weather, and wednesday I got into knocking out some features. I’m really enjoying working on a 3D game, but the danger in that is that you can endlessly tweak little details and move them around, whereas in 2D you generally want to sketch that all out in advance and then Just Make It™. So I did at least one big feature still on the to-do list a day, from a win / lose condition to building geometry and constructing the general game flow. It’s mostly an exploration game and it’s quite short, but it does need some structure.

This is a moodboard I made to illustrate the tone and look I want to go for. It’s a challenge to figure out exactly how to replicate the different aspects like lighting and contrast, and getting that dense foliage feeling without sacrificing visibility or performance.

moodboard

And a look at a WIP area.

Next week: Hopefully beta-testing, and writing a Black Feather Forest proposal for the Creative Europe open call for game funding.

Week 86

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.

Last week was pretty productive. I finished a final drawing for Niels on monday morning in time for his presentation on tuesday (which went well). After that I spent some time tinkering with my own game until Kars was back in the studio late in the afternoon, and I went by to dicuss the progress of the museum game and determine what we would polish in the final sprint week.

Tuesday after work the girlfriend and I went to look at a new apartment here in the area, but size-wise it wasn’t exactly an upgrade while it costed more than we pay in rent right now, so we returned home unanimously convinced that we were doing pretty good right now actually. And we were hoping to pick up our new cat that afternoon, but his final checkup was proving to be a bit of an ordeal, so instead I tinkered away at my own game.

I started wednesday by knocking out some of the new tasks in the Hubbub sprint backlog. I like having small tasks with clear courses of action, like fixing bugs or implementing a design into the game, because you can sort of chain those together in a burst of productivity. Designing things or drawing always takes a little more time and thought, which isn’t to say I don’t enjoy that as well, but I’d rather have a huge to-do list filled with those small tasks you can do quickly than spend a day conceptualizing over three ethereal design tasks.

On thursday after work I stopped by the Hubbub studio to implement some of the final tasks in the museum game sprint. Inbetween I went to finally pick up the cat with my girlfriend, and we spent some time on an adventure in the forest of Zeist looking for an ATM. That area is pretty insane, nature-wise. We brought the cat home and watched him explore his new surroundings, then I went back to the studio and finished up most of my open tasks. The museum game prototype is looking pretty solid. More on that in Hubbub’s weeknotes.

I also got an offer to do illustrations for a design agency working with another dutch airline. They had seen my work for KLM and wanted to know if I was available.

On friday I did a few remaining non-essential tasks and got aquainted with our cat Poekie.

2015-03-12 19.45.50

He is pretty mellow, which I am thankful for because that means I can continue working from home in peace. Although at night he tends to get up and around, so I guess I’d rather see that reversed.

Saturdaymorning I went in to work again, then ran some errands and eventually visited my girlfriend’s mother for her birthday. And on sunday we ran more errands, looked for new apartments and generally took a break from an eventful week.

Next week: an attempt to get my own game into a beta-testing state.

Week 85

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. I realized at the end I didn’t make any notes for the daily comics, so I’ve decided to skip those and resume this week.

On Monday I had a call with Kars at Hubbub to review the current prototype of the Museum game and plan the next steps. I spent the day exploring the art style a little further, and I checked in on the Unity 5 release.

All throughout the week I was also chipping away at my own little game. I upgraded to Unity 5 on tuesday and spent some time playing around with the new features, and most importantly the previously-Pro-only features that are now free. The Profiler has been most useful to me, as it shows me in realtime exactly which things are causing a load on the CPU/GPU. Before, I had no way of knowing. But within minutes I could determine that it wasn’t the amount of trees and foliage I had placed down, but the ocean shader. I swapped it out for Unity’s own Water shader (now also free).

This project is becoming almost entirely filled with stuff from the Unity Asset Store. It’s amazing what you can do when you have Unity skills and about 60 dollars worth of pre-made assets.

On wednesday afternoon I went by the Hubbub studio again to work on things that were missing/lacking in the game flow, and we ended up with a pretty robust build at the end of the day. Then we marvelled at the swirling birds above the building.

It was also my first day working behind a standing desk, and I quite liked it.

On thursday I worked my part-time job, and then my girlfriend and I went in search of a cat. We found a nice one at a local pound, so get ready for cat pictures sometime next week. After that I worked some more on character designs for Niels ‘t Hooft’s novel/presentation.

On friday I was recruited by the girlfriend to sit in a nerve-wracking virtual queueu for concert tickets while she was at work, and in the meantime I called with the Hubbub guys to review the prototype. Not a lot was needed to get it feature-complete, and this was promptly executed. Thus, work on my own game continued.

Saturday was kind of a black hole of gaming, and on sunday, after finishing the drawings for Niels, I spent the day relaxing out in nature with the girlfriend.

Next week: spit-and-polish on the Hubbub museum prototype and more.

Week 84

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.

Last week was a busy one. It started off bad – on monday morning the power went out! Luckily by the time I was about to relocate to a cafe it got fixed.

On tuesday I worked my part-time job and finished the second round of KLM mockups before doing tech support for my grandpa. In an instant I realized the depth of the knowledge I have accrued about spyware and what you shouldn’t click on on the internet.

dailies_20150225

On wednesday I went to the Hubbub office to kick off our new project. It’s an interactive experience on iOS for select museums in Holland. Aside from the art I’m also doing design work on this one. We had a productive day and built a working proof-of-concept.

On thursday I went by the home of Niels ‘t Hooft to discuss his character design assignment and do some initial sketches, and ofcourse to catch up. Ran into Roderick Vonhögen‘s film crew there as well, whom you may remember as the geek priest that was excited for my game Black Feather Forest. Later in the week I also found out he mentioned me on the Gamecowboys podcast (~1h25m), and we made plans to brainstorm someday about making a ‘Bible Mysteries’ adventure game.

dailies_20150227

On friday I was back in the Hubbub office to continue on the museum project. Alper and I made good progress on the prototype, despite having to solve a bunch of nonsensical Github merge conflicts. We then decided to upgrade our Unity version to the latest, but this introduced a bug that blocked building to iOS for a bit. And then we found a huge bug in the location-based code, which was also fixed. It was a technically-challenged afternoon, but the prototype has improved greatly.

We closed out the week with drinks at De Klub, and I went home with a warm feeling, only to realize I had to get up early the next morning to do the boring part-time job before my weekend would start. What a bummer. Back when the only work I did was at home, I relished having a job to go to three mornings a week, but compared to the satisfaction of working in your chosen industry with fun colleagues it suddenly seems quite bland.

Luckily I was done quickly and could get back to working on my own game the rest of saturday afternoon. I finally fixed the occlusion culling code that I broke by adding a proper 3d model to my enemy prefab, and built a little pause menu with a brightness slider.

incamenu

I decided to upgrade to Github for version control and backup of my personal projects too, instead of zipping up the project folder each evening and uploading that to dropbox.

Hours spent watching progress bars this week: 3

Week 83

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.

Working irregular schedule is fucked.

On monday I went by the Hubbub offices bright and early to figure out the new storyboards for KLM. After that I went to lunch with Niels ‘t Hooft, which I hadn’t seen in a criminally long time. We talked productivity, planning as freelancers, cool apps and how to create new reading experiences in the digital world. I look forward to seeing what he comes up with.

On tuesday I got asked for another short illustration assignment, and I again struggled with what I should set my hourly rate at. Or rather I have one but I tend to scale it down for friends and longer assignments. It’s hard putting a value on yourself.

dailies_20150217

I knocked out the new storyboard sketches and then on thursday Skyped with Kars to review KLM’s feedback and set up the final tasks.

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The next morning I was back at the Hubbub office again to kick off the next project I’m doing with Hubbub, this time one that runs for several months where I’ll be involved in a more intensive manner, doing design and prototyping as well as art. It’s a cool project and I’m excite to get started on it.

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On saturday I spent all day in Amsterdam to watch Oscar-nominated movies with friends, and spent a quiet sunday with my parents and girlfriend.

Next week: new project kick-off.