Week 109: Burn down the chart

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.

Last week we were hard at work on the Vrije Vogels beta at Hubbub. The task management software we use offers a useful ‘burndown’ chart, and we were indeed burning down tasks hard, the angle on the chart was pretty steep.

burndown

I stopped by the studio on wednesday to check a few things on the iPad build and finish up most of my open tasks.

Inbetween I upgraded the Adventure Creator plugin to its latest version in all my personal projects. Every new release brings some great features, it got me wanting to work on all these projects at once! I’d better continue working on Orlova first.

On friday I went to Nijmegen to talk with Embodied Games again. The first assignment packet was ready so we talked about that, and I got to know some of the other folks in the department over lunch.

Over the weekend the girlfriend and I planned a vacation in two weeks for some hard-earned R&R.

Next week: finishing up this Vrije Vogels sprint, and my first assignment for Embodied Games.

Week 107 & 108 – Ramp-up

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.

In week 107 I worked on a prototype for Geometry Girl, the reading app that Niels ‘t Hooft is developing. I built in Marvel, which is a great way to mock up an iOS app. Especially having it right on your phone is great to quickly try things out. It wasn’t easy to put all our ideas into their framework, but it should be enough for the programmers to get started on the real thing.

Once that was done, the new sprint for Hubbub’s museum game (now titled Vrije Vogels) was on the doorstep last week. It was good to see the Hubbub guys again, the last sprint had been a while ago now.

During that week I also went to Nijmegen to talk with a group inside the Radboud University calling themselves Embodied Games. They’re working on gesture-based games to help kids and youngsters learn a variety of skills. And they were looking for a freelance artist and designer! So I went there for an interview, and it looks like we’ll be working together soon. It kinda came out of nowhere, but I’m excited to start working with these people, they have a lot of energy.

Next week: going hard on the Vrije Vogels to-do list.

Alina3

Other

Trying out a more detailed color-only style this morning and practicing hair rendering with my new custom Photoshop brush. I’ve tried a bunch of custom brushes in the past (Kyle’s are great) and I finally figured out what all the options do kinda, so now I have a brush called the Hedgefield which is perfectly tailored to my drawing style. And paired with the Lazy Nezumi Pro plugin my linework looks better than ever.

Week 105 & 106 – Downtime, wireframing and job prospecting

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.

Week 105 was mostly used to decompress after my adventure in De Torenkamer (see the week 104 blog). I caught up on sleep, saw my family, wrote some words, updated my portfolio and then re-aquainted myself with The Witcher 3.

On thursday I met up with Niels ‘t Hooft and Saskia Freeke to discuss the next steps in Niels’ Geometry Girl / Hybrid Writer’s Toolkit project. The day after that I did something completely different and went into an abandoned hospital with some street art friends. I’m glad I went along; you see this kind of thing a lot in games and other stories, but to do it yourself is an exciting experience.

Last week was more of the same. On Monday Niels stopped by to catch up and talk through the Geometry Girl wireframes. During the week I made a prototype with the Marvel app, and built the same thing in Invision to compare (Marvel still came out on top for me even though Invision has a bunch more cool features). It’s a great way to get a feel for your (app) design on the target device really quickly.

I also started slowly looking around for a new job, something with more hours as my current side job, and where I’m actually doing something with my creative skills and mental capacity. So if you or someone you know could use a great 2D artist/animator/designer/writer/developer, I’m over here.

Week 104 – One man game jam

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 little different from my usual weeks, as I spent a week in a little room in the Vondelpark in Amsterdam to work on a new personal game project, courtesy of dutch radio. Come to think of it, it was also the two-year anniversary of me going independent, so I guess that was a fitting way to celebrate it!

You can read the details about the game here. The week was organised by dutch late-night radio show Opium op 4, which lets a creator use their office each week to build a passion project. This week was my turn, and I had a really good time.


Also just realized I posed like the caricature on my businesscard here. Weird!

I basically started from scratch on monday. I had an interesting backstory, and a vision in my mind of what the game would look like. So I started by researching the backstory: in 2013 the Lyubov Orlova, a decommissioned cruiseship, breaks off its towline in a storm and disappears onto the ocean. In 2014 its radio pings off the coast of the UK, but it is never found. I figured I’d make a game about that. The news articles about it have been in my Pocket for a while now, so this was a good opportunity to do something with it.

p01qg79h

I researched the timeline, all the owners and places it’s been, and more specific stuff like what the deck layout looks like and how cruise ship engines work.

After that I started on the prototype. I had something working pretty quickly, courtesy of Unity and its many prefabs. After that I struggled for a while to get an interaction system working. I started off coding it all myself, but quickly realized I’d better use something pre-made. I fiddled with Pixelcrusher’s Dialogue System for a good while before deciding to just import Adventure Creator. At that point it felt like I changed from Tony Stark banging on some metal in a cave to Tony Stark jumping into the Mark 45 Iron Man armor. Everything was at my fingertips.

To my surprise AC also integrated pretty well with Unity’s 2D Controller, which was essential, otherwise the character couldn’t walk up slopes anymore. Now I was ready to start on the narrative content. It was early thursday by then, and I was getting nervous, but I managed to put together a pretty cool vertical slice in the end, even though it sort of stops short of the actual gameplay, which is exploring the ship’s interior with your map and axe. But for a week of work it was pretty cool.

On friday I presented the demo on the air, and everyone loved it. The main guest of the show called me a singer-songwriter gamedesigner, which is exactly how I like to think of myself, telling interactive stories and focusing on the delivery and the experience.

At any rate, I had a great time, and you can read a more detailed (dutch) blog and listen to the show segments on their website.

Announcing The Last Voyage Of The Orlova

Game Design

Today I’d like you to meet my next game, The Last Voyage Of The Orlova.

Orlova, for short, is a 2D sidescrolling exploration game about an Irish lighthouse keeper that comes across the ghost ship Lyubov Orlova. The MV Lyubov Orlova is a real (decommissioned) cruiseship that was lost in a storm in 2013, when it was being towed to a scrap yard. Since then, nobody has succesfully rediscovered the ship. In 2014 its radio blipped off the coast of the UK/Ireland, and later disappeared again. This game is an exploration of what could have happened if someone on the coast encountered the ship during that time.

In the game you control the lighthouse keeper as he discovers the ship off the coast of his island, and goes to explore it. Ultimately, he wants to get the ship away from the coast and from the shipping lanes he oversees with his lighthouse. Armed with a map and an axe, you can walk up and down all the decks of the ship in search of clues about the history of this ship. On the way you will encounter obstacles that need to be overcome, such as barricades to be chopped down, flooded compartments, and droves of rats blocking your progress.

The game will come out for PC/Mac/Linux somewhere this year. More info coming soon.