Archive

Monthly Archives: December 2013

Okay I’m actually finding it completely impossible to keep up to date on the blog while dealing with holiday stuff. I was hoping I could get up one or two things but I think that was just overly optimistic. Regular posts will start again at an indeterminate date in early January. I’m just going to skip this week’s devblog since, uh, frankly not a lot of progress happened anyway.

Sorry I’ve been taking so many breaks. I may have to spend some time re-evaluating how I schedule my life.

EveHeader

So many distractions. So much winter. So much sleepiness.

Finishing up the map editor is taking a slightly absurd amount of time. Admittedly, that’s partially because I spent all weekend and most of my free energy working on Ludum Dare, but it really goes past that: My head’s just not in the game right now.

I’m hoping this is just a phase. Just a slow period. I’m hoping that in a few days or a week I’ll hit a stride once more and start getting a lot done. But, before that can happen, I probably need to start changing my habits. I need to start getting to work earlier in the day instead of leaving it for the last minute, I need to have a concrete idea of what I want to work on next, I need to control the amount of time I spend on recreation and laziness.

Of course, before I can change my habits, I need to be motivated to do better, and motivating myself to do better will require a change of habits.

It’s kind of tricky.

Anyway, map editor is like 99% complete. All that’s left is a bit of debugging and testing, and then going out and making sure all of the special features that are now editable actually work in-game. It’s not a ton of work, but I’ve been having so much trouble focusing that it may yet take me a while to do it.

Hopefully not.

Once I get all of that stuff up and running, I’ll probably work on getting the detail editor polished up and ready for action. That should be good. Frankly, these tools are coming far enough along that there’s no reason I can’t start making levels… so, perhaps, I should begin taking steps in that direction next.

HomerIsTheBiggestManInTheWorldAndAlsoMadeOfSolidGold

Let’s talk about success.

I’d like to say that everyone has their own definition, that each individual has their own set of standards by which they declare a pursuit a success or a failure – but, by and large, that is unfortunately not true. In reality, everyone means basically the same thing when they say success, and they mean profitable. Even people who aren’t that invested in the ideals of moneymaking tend to default to that definition.

Those of us who question the concept of money as measure of personal worth intuit that this definition of success is unjust. It is telling that we mean something so different when we speak of ‘good’ art than we do of ‘successful’ art. Surely, art should be considered successful if it succeeds at what it endeavors to do – and yet, no, the only success is financial success It’s built into our very language: We assume everyone is just in it for the money.

Anyone who pursues anything else, if they don’t happen to find money along the way, is just a failure by default.

This also leads to unnecessary conflict. One well-known independent game developer stated that, so far, there hadn’t been any hugely successful indie games developed by women. This is, as far as I know, the case – given the horribly misleading and limiting currently popular definition of the term ‘successful’. However, some people take umbrage to this declaration, since there have been many women who are successful in indie games by the standards of expression, influence, and aesthetic. Neither side of this conflict is really incorrect, but the word they’re both using is sabotaged, is suspect, is broken.

The word success doesn’t need to be tied this closely to this particular meaning. We already have the words ‘lucrative’ and ‘profitable’ to describe such financially rewarding endeavors – and isn’t it curious how different the colloquial associations we have with those terms are? ‘Lucrative’ and ‘profitable’ have an edge of immorality, of mercenary greed, of cold calculation, that “successful” just doesn’t seem to share.

Why, it’s almost as though some person with a keen eye and ear for marketing opportunities, at some point down the line, sneakily substituted ‘successful’ in for places where we would normally say ‘profitable’. It’s almost as though it were a cold, clear, concerted effort to re-brand greed as something inherently good.

After all, would you begrudge someone their success? What kind of person would that make you?

We must either redefine the word ‘success’ and bring it back into line with our personal aspirations, or those of us who defy having our worth measured in dollars must cease to use the term to describe our goals.

As things stand, I am determined to succeed – even if I must give up ‘success’ to do so.

LudumDareThis wasn’t a good weekend for me.

Here’s the thing, and maybe I didn’t entirely acknowledge this, either publicly or personally, before I started: I didn’t just want to participate in this Ludum Dare, I wanted to win. I wanted to make the best dang game possible, and prove I could hang with the big boys. Now, there’s nothing wrong with this per se: However, it really would require me to be at the top of my game (so to speak) and, boy, was I ever not at the top of my game this weekend.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning. Let’s start with the theme selection.

You only get one”

As I mentioned before, I wasn’t too wild about this theme. It strongly suggests either only getting one of an important item, as with Portal’s Companion Cube, or only getting one life, as with roguelikes. Neither of those are bad as far as gameplay contrivances go, but neither do they get me particularly inspired, or spark my imagination, or really restrict my creativity in any particularly interesting way. So I started thinking about what that could mean from a story sense, and in order to help myself in this endeavor I found a random word selection tool and just kept pressing it until I came up with something interesting.

The word I stopped on, and started thinking about, was “Parents”. Though obviously appending that to the end of the provided theme is not correct grammatically, it is semantically, and opens up an interesting and evocative realm of thought. I think a lot of people ran with the them of “you only have one life”, but I think most people only think of that in terms of how precious that life is. Very seldom does the idea of how personal, unique, and powerful the history behind that life is: Each one is unique, a trail of events and relationships that together define the greater part of who a person is. And, from there, the idea for the game began to come together.

In this game, you played the disconnected spirit of a man who is having a recurring dream. The dream starts with you controlling a flickering point of light in his childhood bed room, where he as a child is asleep. You can look around his house at the different things, his childhood possessions, his sleeping parents, and by interacting with those objects learn about his history. As the game progresses, you move on to other rooms and buildings he has slept in – his college dorm, his desk at work, his home as a married man, his room living alone after a divorce, and eventually back in his childhood home which he inherits. You find that this is an old man, grown disconnected from the world, and everyone connected to him long dead, staying alive mostly out of habit.

There are a few decisions I made over the course of this project that are worth noting. Originally, I’d considered looking at a certain number of objects a certain number of times or exploring all of the rooms to be an appropriate way to progress the game, but I disliked that idea because there was no intuitive connection between the progress of the game and the actions of the player. A player could get stuck having not explored one area quite enough, which would totally kill the pacing and intent. On the other hand, since it was a dream, there was no more logical way to make things progress. Eventually, I hit upon the idea of a timed progression, flicking over to the next chapter of the game at set time intervals, probably a minute per section. This is an idea I still really like: It essentially means that the player is likely to feel frustrated at their inability to completely explore certain denser areas, such as the childhood home, while getting stuck longer than they’d prefer in more boring areas, such as the office or later apartment. This dovetails perfectly with the theme of mortality and personal history, where the moments we treasure never seem to last long enough while the time we wish we didn’t have to endure last an eternity.

The big other decision I made I’m not as big a fan of. As I started developing the project, more horror aspects started creeping in, taking a melancholic theme and turning it into something unworldly and disturbing. The alarm clock, which I had originally intended to be the one recurring prop, ended up being a grotesque emblem of mortality. While this is certainly an evocative image, it feels like the end result is more brutal and less honest than the original. more truthful and sad, image of mortality.

That was the concept behind the game. So why didn’t I finish it?

There are a few reasons.

First, and I think I want to give this special emphasis because it’s a mistake I seem to make frequently, it was depressing. I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing when art is depressing, but I mean that literally it made me depressed to work on it. I was already prone to this due to the weather, holiday stress, poverty, etcetera. Feeling shitty simultaneously makes me more likely to come up with depressing ideas and makes it a really bad idea to pursue those ideas. While there are certainly elements of melancholy and sorrow to Everending, the fact that overall the story is one of rebirth and awakening has made it possible for me to work on the game for more than a year without getting excessively bummed out. Depressing games may have their time and place, but I need to be sure I’m up to it before I start working on them.

Second, um, fuck content-heavy games. It didn’t seem like much when I was concepting the game out, but the sheer amount of drawing it takes to create the floor plans of several houses and apartments was daunting and exhausting. Moreover, because I was drawing from a perspective I wasn’t used to and because I was limited to 15-20 minutes per picture, I hated the end results. They looked to me like something I would have drawn when I was 13 or 14… which, you know, may have actually been appropriate to the game. I tried to tell myself that, anyway, but I wasn’t convinced. I couldn’t stand the idea of putting them out there with my name on them.

Now, all of that being said, the project is all public and available if you are interested in checking it out. You can play as much as I got done, which is basically everything except for the text for interacting with anything outside of the first room. There’s also no sound or music – perhaps if I had written the music first I would have been more motivated to follow through on the rest of the project. Perhaps not. Maybe I’ll try that next Ludum Dare.

Well, I won’t pretend I liked how this Ludum Dare went for me. I’ve felt really discouraged over it. So it goes. The life of an artist has ups and downs, and all I can do is learn from it as best as I can.

I think I might just spend, you know, a little bit of time just lying down for a while, though. I think I might just need a bit of time to myself.

Regular updates resume tomorrow.

LudumDare

This entire competition, I’ve been fighting against my own exhaustion and apathy, and I think I just lost.

I guess It’s not so bad. I got a ton done, and I proved to myself that I can get a ton done even when I don’t feel motivated at all, but still. I really wanted to finish something I could be proud of.

It turns out it’s really hard to finish something you can be proud of within 48 hours. Particularly if you’re of a perfectionist attitude and seldom feel proud of anything you do. Particularly particularly if you’re also struggling with depression and anxiety due to holiday stresses and seasonal shit.

Well, whatever. I don’t intend to make excuses, but I also don’t intend to beat myself up over it. So many events in our lives end up not providing quite what we wanted from them, and if you focus too hard on that you end up not appreciating all the good things those events DO bring you. So it’s not so bad.

Maybe I’ll finish the game over the next week, if I decide it’s something worth doing. Probably not. I’ll write up everything I did on it tomorrow, where I was intending on taking it, why I thought it was good, etcetera. That will probably go up sometime in the afternoon. And, after that, starting Wednesday, it’s back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Which sounds kind of nice, actually, at this point.

LudumDare

Well my procrastination capabilities seem to be in working order. I’ve probably spent as much time reading articles and watching youtube videos as doing actual work while I ‘work’ on this project.

Um. It’s all part of the process. Probably.

Anyway, I finally pulled all of my meandering bits of code together into something that will actually build and run and do basically everything I need it to. From one perspective, this project is basically code complete now, but from another I still need to do a lot. That is to say, a lot of the content for the game will require me to add it in with code since I’m obviously doing things kind of quick and dirty here. So, very little actual code left to go, but lots of manual entry of dialogue and stuff.

Here’s what it looks like now.

LD28 - 01

I spent a bit of time getting in some quick and dirty lighting effects and a bit of interesting visual noise, so even with placeholder graphics it looks kind of stylish. There are two main tasks left to do at this point: Draw all of the rooms and write all of the interaction lines. I also need to get music written, get some special case code done, and probably add a bit more in the way of sound stuff. It shouldn’t be an insurmountable challenge or anything, but it’s a big chunk of stuff to do and I should, uh, really get on it soon.

LudumDare

The theme for this Ludum Dare is: You Only Get One.

To be quite honest, not really a fan of this theme. I tend to dislike the ones that imply a really strong gameplay focus since that feels restrictive. I suppose restrictive is exactly how the themes are supposed to feel, but certain kinds of restriction seem more beneficial than others. I don’t know, I’m not feeling awake enough to express the difference cogently at the moment.

Anyway, moving along, despite not loving the theme I have figured out an approach to it that I think speaks to me. As I’m envisioning it now, it should be an EXTREMELY simple project from a programming standpoint, which is good. It will take a fair amount of custom writing, and also a fair amount of custom drawing, which are what I’m going to be doing for most of tomorrow.

This is going to be one of those “not a real game” games.

Anyway, I’ll get into more detail later. I’m really tired right now for now good reason, and am strongly tempted to go to bed nowish and get an early start tomorrow rather than try to force my way through this. I’ll have a bite to eat and then decide on that one.

Getting real tired of being tired.