I mean... if it's not work, it's likely not a productive way to be burning your time, right?
Beyond 'Paying the Rent'
Followers of my action-packed life story will recall that I work a regular office job as a Game Developer for the vast majority of my time.
And that effort was a huge one in 2014. I lead up the development of Far Cry 4: Arena Master - a companion app for Far Cry 4.
It was a massive project - and working with Ubisoft Montreal was a hugely educational experience.
I think we killed it, in the end. I 100%'d Far Cry 4 this month, and the companion app was... actually useful, which ticks the major box for justifying the controversial existence of companion apps.
And the team made the Far Cry 4 credits under "Ubisoft Montreal Development Team" which made the twenty or so minutes watching the scrolling names with my aching finger over "Print screen" totally worth it.
Far Cry 4 is a whole different topic. I'll leave it 'til the "GOTY-ish Post About Games in 2014" that inevitably pops up in any early-January blog.
So there was that. It was a good project. Intense. Long hours. The regular project things.
It kind of... occupied a good amount of my energy reserves. Usually I'm all about the "Get home, work on a whole different thing" mentality - but man... I'm getting old, there's a limited amount of energy available.
Crossing Media... Mediums? Media.
November is "National Novel Writing Month". It's exactly what it sounds like. One month, 50,000 words.
I'd been waiting for this since January, 2014.
I've got this not-so-secret aspiration to be a writer. Game development has been my way to explore writing in a way that is a little more relevant to the modern world and... has an industry that will... pay me.
This is why our games are so text-heavy. It's a whole thing.
And so November rolls around and man... writing a novel has been my almost life-long aspiration.
So we (@TheDopplerDuck and I) buckled / knuckled down and did it.
1,666 words a day.
Sounds easy, right?
Man, I went into November so full of... ignorant confidence.
There is this ... tendency of people who have built skills in one field (say, development) - to assume that the hard work from one field translates to another.
"I do OK at making games, so I should be just as OK at writing".
I don't have a name for it. Arrogance. Hubris. Something.
But man, it doesn't work that way.
1,666 words a day is hard. Writing is hard. I've written, man. I've written a good amount. But... regardless, it's heavy and tricky and there is a really strange "forest for the trees" psychological challenge in that you can't objectively read your own work.
I can't... emphasize the difficulty enough. The things that you take for granted as a reader: tense, perspective, dialogue, characterization. Consistency. Eliminating plot-holes. It's hard. Enormous respect to authors everywhere.
NaNoWriMo does an amazing job at motivating you. Their website is nicely gamified. Check out this business. My 2014 NaNoWriMo novel profile.
|For the click-averse. This is what you see during NaNoWriMo. It will be the thing that energizes you, more than likely. Potentially it even resuscitates you.|
Achievements, stats, bar graphs? Come on man - that's amazing. Endless competition against a diagonal line. What more could you want?
It's called Blue Meat Blues. It's a... post-apocalyptic splatter-punk piece of pulp and social cynicism. It's heavy and violent and dirty and the characters are consistently unlikable and ... it gets so dark that even I thought "Man, too far".
And there's a sort of... back-of-the-cover summary here and a terrible synopsis for a contest that I didn't come close to winning here.
Synopses are hard! Capture the plot, tone, raw emotion of 50,000 words in 500 words? Dude. I might use Twitter, but I'm not that level of concise yet.
But hell. 50,000 words. We did it. And... that is just an amazing thing. NaNoWriMo. Get into it.
Building Momentum... in Life
And so work wraps up and Xmas rolls around, and I'm here in the final four days of my vacation.
The goal for any vacation - I figure, is to build up enough momentum on a project that it organically continues to roll when your vacation is over.
Our conceptualization process here is pretty... chaotic. Not even just "pretty" chaotic. It's wholly chaotic. We plan out these grand game designs, we concept them up, we make models and assets and such, and then... they die.
And I think it's just something about me. It's my issue. Once something is planned too thoroughly it loses the excitement and spontaneity of exploration and discovery. Something like that.
Cube & Star came from an off-the-cuff disagreement on Skype.
The Game for 2015
And so we did the same thing during Xmas of 2014. We planned out a game. We made models and ... figured out the game loops.
And then I stood in the kitchen one day, thinking about air hockey, and build up a voxel-style, Crossy Road-inspired prototype.
And it felt... fun. It was active and game-y, polar opposite to Cube & Star. And so we kind of... started on it in earnest.
And this time - inexplicably, we've been... using proper prototyping. You know... one of us plays, the other tweaks gameplay values until it looks and feels right.
We're usually so systemic. Everything is emergent and AI'y and not really rapid prototypable.
And the prototype that I'm talking about is illustrated in the following barrage of GIFs.
GIFs, huh? What a comeback! It's like... internet speeds escalate, GIFs become a fast way to convey moving content.
I remember thinking: "Once websites start using MP4s or such instead of GIFs we're really onto something" - and man, Twitter does exactly that. The bold new times, right?
Anyway anyway. Here are some chronological prototype GIFs. Evolution, huh?
|"The Three Cs"
Camera, Character, Control.
From Ubisoft's game dev theories, expounded in this Gamasutra article.
I like that, man. It's super valid. Get it looking, feeling and responding nicely first. No AI. No systems. Even if they are the most entertaining thing to develop.
That's going to thrash this page's load times.
And so that is where we stand as at the 1st of January, 2015.
Building up the prototype into an alpha in time for the festival / contest season. Editing our respective NaNoWriMo novels. Ageing at the regular daily rate.
Next up... What I learned from Games in 2014. Which is kinda of... my "GOTY 2014" post. Except learning from and liking are often different things.