The Yearly Post

Hello again! It’s time for the Yearly Post. I would post more if I had things game-related to talk about, but for a while now I’ve mostly been working on myself. I can say that I hope to work on something outside of my head in the coming year. I have a few ideas that keep popping up over and over again, so I just have to commit to writing them.

For now, I just hope everyone out there is doing well. I’ll continue pushing myself to improve in my daily life, my health, my mental well-being, and my programming skills. Maybe this year I’ll actually work on some games! Wouldn’t that be a change.

Otherwise, see you next year!

Once again, a year!

Hi there. Wouldn’t you know it, I haven’t written in a while. It’s a thing.

So Happy New Year to you and all that. 2014 has been interesting and different, both for society at large and me at small. I won’t dwell on the societal issues because those bring me down a bit.

In personal terms, 2014 seems to have been good on average. I’ve ended the year in a better place than when I started, so I chalk that up in the win column. But I’ve been severely lacking in my game development and, most importantly, game finishing. So that has to change in the coming year(s).

Over the past several years, I’ve thought a lot (and thought and thought and obsessed and analyzed and over-analyzed and thought) about motivation, positivity, negativity, and creative output. During this time, I’ve collected a lot of quotes and wisdom from various sources and compiled an ever-growing list of motivational quips that I’d like to share. They help me every now and then to keep perspective, and I hope you get something out of them as well.

  • Worry is not a talisman against failure. You can’t control everything. You can do everything right and still fail. – Conan O’Brien
  • If at first you don’t succeed, that’s one data point – XKCD
  • In baseball, if you hit 3 balls out of 10, you’re a star, you’re a Hall-Of-Famer. 3 out of 10. So there’s no shame or disgrace attached to “swing and miss.” You swing and you miss, never mind, try again! – Craig Ferguson
  • If you don’t practice being content with where you are right now, you’re not going to be content when you get what you want. Being content is kind of a discipline. – Tony Hale
  • Everyone has a plan until life punches you in the face – Tom Lennon
  • Self-consciousness is the enemy of creativity – James L. Brooks
  • Prove that you suck. Otherwise you’ll spend 50 years preparing, and you’ll still suck. – Dan Harmon
  • Do the work. Shut up, sit down, fight the temptation to do other things, to follow your distractions, and just work. Most of us know what we need to do. That’s what’s crazy! I think in any field, any person, what you need to do is usually painfully obvious. We’re all searching for distractions or reading yet another book with yet some more advice. But no, we’ve heard enough advice, we’ve all got enough advice. Really you already know what you need to do – Derek Sivers
  • “Whatever you’re meant to do, do it now. The conditions are always impossible.” ‘What am I meant to do, Greg?’ Whatever you know in your heart that you’re meant to do. If you’re an artist, do art. If you’re a writer, write. Fulfill your destiny. Don’t fucking wait. There is no time, you guys. There’s no time. In a year, you’ll be 50. In 2 years, you’ll be 70. In 3 years, you’ll be 90. – Greg Proops
  • The things you promise yourself you’re going to do, you ought to do. The 2 things you can work on in your life are the management of time and yourself. I would tell myself “knuckle down and write that fucking thing you’re supposed to fucking write and don’t waste time.” Time goes. so. fast. It goes faster than you can possibly imagine. Don’t waste a minute of it. Get in everything you can. The longer you’re around, you realize that 2 or 3 years went by when you were in one mood. And there’s no reason for that, there’s no reason to indulge yourself that much. Get the fuck up, dust yourself off, and get the fuck on with it. I wish I’d known that earlier. That’s the advice I would give myself. – Greg Proops
  • Don’t second guess yourself based on speculation because that’s like being imprisoned in your brain and your sentence is fear. – Marc Maron
  • You are not in this world to live up to other people’s expectations, nor should you feel the world must live up to yours. – F Perl.
  • Be yourself, not your idea of what you think somebody else’s idea of yourself should be. – Henry David Thoreau
  • Self loathing is just a big ego in disguise. Don’t compare yourself to others’ careers, because that’s not reality. Ask yourself ‘what would I do if I wasn’t scared?’ Keep quitting until you end up someplace where you don’t want to leave. Some days my work is just slaying the dragon that tells me I’m worthless. – Bobcat Goldthwait
  • It’s so hard when you get into your head. The important thing about writing is that you just gotta start writing, because you’ll pre-judge and kill things before they even get out of your head. – Chris Hardwick
  • So much of success is your interpretation. It has more to do with your disposition than anything else. I could argue that I’m a great success or a great failure at any point of any project, so it becomes a choice. I think that’s part of the human condition. It’s tough to look back…this forensic thing doesn’t help that much. Decisions were made for the right reasons at the right time. The best thing you could do is just bring your A-game, don’t get in your own way, and just do your thing. Leave the past on the field, do your thing, bust your ass, do things that challenge you, things that scare you, and things that connect to you. Run to that and run away from things that make you cringe. – Jon Favreau
  • Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live. – Norman Cousins
  • The exaggerated esteem in which my lifework is held makes me very ill at ease. I feel compelled to think of myself as an involuntary swindle to have been struck by it. – Albert Einstein
  • The solution to impostor syndrome is to accept that you are in fact a fraud and just get on with it. – Ian Bogost
  • We sometimes get very invested in and married to a delusion of what our life should be. And there are things that happen in your life that all of a sudden shatters that. And you’re basically given yourself. There’s this heartbreak of some kind that shatters it, whether it’s career-wise or emotional….and you either get bitter, which means you hold onto the delusion with no evidence of it ever happening, or you get fucking human and you realize who you are and do what you need to do. – Marc Maron
  • Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better. – Samuel Beckett

And with that, here’s to a new trip around the sun filled with prosperity, peace, and progress for us all!

New Year, Very Yes

Hello again!  Let’s start off this post the way I start nearly every other one:  ”It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything, sorry about that.”  It’s a recurring theme.

Fall and Winter 2013 were very busy, and there were a lot of changes.  I started a new job back in October as a team lead for 4 developers, so I’ve been getting used to that, the new office, new software and processes and people, and haven’t been doing much game development outside of that.  It’s occupied a lot of my mental processes.

Looking back on 2013, my brain and my feelings want to classify it as a tough year, even though I learned quite a bit and ended up better off at the end of the year than the start.  Tiff tells me that I was probably more stressed than I realized, and it showed.  The fact that she could see it in my face and my actions means that it was worse than I thought, since I’m generally pretty good at keeping my emotions in.  I’ve gotten a lot better in the past few weeks, and I’ve started looking further ahead and planning again, instead of just focusing on today and tomorrow.  Living a day at a time really messes with my motivation and sense of well being.

But anyway, enough of that.  I was just looking around today at one of my Oculus Rift demos, “Aurumancer”, and I found out that 2 completely unrelated Let’s Play videos had been made for it back in August.  I didn’t even know those existed!  One is in Spanish and the other German, and it was great to see those as I was thinking about making a video lately.  So here they are for your viewing entertainment.

Oculus Rift – Dungeon Run! from “German Let’s Play”

RPM: Aurumancer en el Oculus Rift

Maybe I should keep working on Aurumancer?  Hmmm.

Also, I should probably put up a page about Let’s Plays and other videos that use our game imagery, since that’s been a thing with game developers and Youtube lately.  In the meantime, anyone has permission to record and/or broadcast game content of any games, demos, or prototypes made by Perceptive Pumpkin Productions, LLC.

Here’s to a great year of gaming, and best of luck and success to all of you.  Happy playing!

“One word can bring you ’round: Changes!”

It’s been a weird and busy summer, and I unfortunately haven’t been keeping up with development, or with the website.  So let me tell you a little bit about what’s been going on.  From May to July, I was working on Aurumancer, my prototype Oculus Rift project. It’s the first 3D game I’ve attempted (and my first VR / Rift project), but even so, it received a good bit of interest from the Oculus forums and Twitter. Aurumancer could be a great little game for the Rift if I focus on it and continue developing it.

When August rolled around, the Oculus team and Indiecade held a 3-week VRJam to find new and innovative games for the Rift. I decided to participate, and started writing “Space Blocks”, a cross between Tetrisphere and Boom Blox set in space. I met the first two milestones, but due to lack of progress, I didn’t submit the game in the end. At the moment, it’s barely a game at all, but I may flesh it out into something more substantial later on.

I still struggle with the fact that I finished my first game project and released it, yet every project since then remains dropped and unfinished. I work on a new idea for a few weeks or a month, then lose interest and move on to something else. As a result, it’s been a year since my last commercial game release. This is something I have to change.

Within this past year, there’ve been many days where I came home from my day job and have had no interest in further programming. I’d been working fairly hard during the day, and on some days I had to commute 3+ hrs roundtrip (even longer when traffic was bad) in order to support one particular customer. It’s draining and it made me question the stability of my position. Looking ahead, I felt that my future would be much the same.

So, last week, I gave my resignation at my current company, after being there for 5 years.  It was a good run and I felt it was time to move on (and some of my team mates may be reading this right now.  Hi guys, welcome!).  I don’t have nearly enough savings or revenue to go full-time game developer at the moment, so I ended up accepting a new position with a government contractor.  The new position will allow me to run my own team, in a stable environment, for a substantially higher salary.  I’m always on the lookout for additional revenue streams! 8)

Those are the current goings on. It’s been a crazy year, especially this past summer, and the future will bring some big changes with it. I’m hoping these changes are going to be for the better, but ultimately, that’s up to me. While I’m not ready to be a full-time independent yet, I think I’m moving in the right direction towards that future. This is a long-winded way of saying that I hope to write and release more games in the near future. I think it’s going to take some time to settle into my new day job, so I’ll probably be in a bit of a game dev drought for a few more months. But who knows. The way I am with (lack of) decision making, I could start or continue a project next week.

Until next time, happy gaming!

Aurumancer Update

I’ve just updated the demo with several additions and fixes. You can download it from here: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/82214129/DungeonRun.zip. Here’s what’s in this update.

  • Added Xbox360 Controller support
  • Added a “Menu Room” that shows you controls and whatnot. Still trying to figure out UIs with the Rift.
  • Coins will now be drawn to you and be automatically collected. It’s almost as if you were a wizard with gold!
  • Added Fire Demons, which take a lot more damage, and added ice effect to Ice Demons.
  • Dungeons now have randomized light colors. Some people may hate having blue/green/red dungeons, so let me know your feedback.
  • Added sounds to the demon punches, so you’ll know you’re getting hit!
  • Fixed the doors. They’re now the correct size, perform the correct rotations, and you can leave doors open or close them again.
  • Cleaned up player, exit, statue and treasure chest instantiations. However, it looks like sometimes the player may miss the dungeon and fall through the world. Reset if this happens, and let me know if it occurs.
  • New spell effect blasts monsters with a cone of fire / molten gold in front of the player. The spell costs 50 coins per cast.
  • I probably forgot something, so we’ll discover it together!

Features that we’re looking to add are secret rooms, better exits, more creatures, leveling, skill / spell trees, and a home base / castle, among other things. Let me know what you think and what else you’d like to see!

Aurumancer – Sorcerer of Gold

Hi there!  Been a while, lots of busy stuff, you’ve heard it before.  I’ve been messing with the Oculus Rift quite a bit in the past month, and now have a small game demo available.  The game is tentatively called “Aurumancer”, and you kill demons with coins. Sound cool?  You can download the demo here:  https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/82214129/DungeonRun.zip

Keep in mind this is for individuals who have an Oculus Rift to use it with.  Although you can play the game without it, just by looking at one side of the screen.  It’s how I’ve been developing most of the time, anyway.

Here are the controls:

  • WASD - Move Forward, Back, Left, Right
  • Space - Jump
  • Hold Left Mouse - Fire coins!
  • Right Mouse Click - Push enemies away from you, costs 20 coins
  • I - Toggle the help menu (shows this information, pretty much)
  • E - Open doors
  • F1 - Reset level (helpful if you get stuck!)
  • Esc - Quit game
Let me know what you think on Twitter @ShiftyPumpkin.  Happy gaming!

 

Digging for Fun, and Not Finding It

As I’ve continued to work on Tiny Miner, I think we’ve finally come to the decision that the game is not very fun.  There are probably some things we can do to change the gameplay around, but what was supposed to be a one-month game, and now two-month game, doesn’t feel any more engaging than it did in the first 2 weeks.  That’s probably not a good sign.  As developers like Spry Fox say, “Find the fun quickly“, and I don’t think I have this time.  I think we should shelve it and move on to other projects.

Which raises the question of where to go from here.  Certainly I have pages and pages of ideas.  We should be getting a Rift fairly soon, and that may sway my attention.  I haven’t done much 3D development, though, and I don’t have a solid idea for a game that would take advantage of the Rift in a novel, innovative way.  Not yet, anyway.

In addition, my day job is ramping up a bit as we finally start moving toward the end goal at the client site I’ve been working in since August.  For the next 4 months or so, I’m probably going to be very busy.  That might put a kink in my game devving time, but I haven’t been getting much done lately as it is, anyway.  Optimism!

Still, I’ll have at least one game project going on, even if it’s a small one.  I just need to figure out what it will be.  Currently, Tiff and I are playing Bioshock Infinite and Luigi’s Mansion 2 as well, and some inspiration may spring from those.  I think for the next project, though, I might expand on the mechanic of Villagers Vs. Vampire and the world aesthetic of Tiny Miner.  Exciting?  Perhaps!

I’ve also been getting caught up on all the discussions surrounding Pax East and GDC.  I feel like a turning point has occurred in the past year or so with respect to ultra violence and lack of diversity in games, where developers and gamers alike have said “we’re tired of this stuff, we can do better” and good on them for it.  Perhaps I’ll write a longer article about those things later.

Anyway, Happy Easter for those that celebrate it.  For some reason, I’ve always associated Easter with playing Gauntlet for the NES.  I probably only played it on Easter once or twice as a kid, but the feeling and tradition (and level music) has stuck with me.  *obvious joke about wizards needing food*

The Whooshing Sound It Makes

I apologize for taking so long to post any updates.

It’s been a month since I started my current game project.  How did I do?  Well, progress was made, but not as much as I’d hoped or was shooting for.

The goal was to create a shippable game in a month, partly inspired by Christer Kaitila (@McFunkypants) and his One Game a Month challenge, and partly from the desire to finish more games.  The end result would be a game where I’m happy enough with the gameplay and the polish that I could actually put it out into the public and ask money for it.  Then, I would add on additional features and polish going forward.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get there in February.

The main problem is that I didn’t stick to a consistent level of output throughout the month. I was doing fairly well the first 2 weeks, but later in the month I started slowing down considerably.  I was distracting myself with my well-constructed creature comforts (watching movies and TV shows in the theater, playing a bunch of Fire Emblem: Awakening and Minecraft), and when you can only write games in your free time (outside of a regular 40-hour job), that time escapes you at an alarming rate.  There are some days where I can only handle having one job, though, and those non-productive fun things help me decompress and not go completely nuts.

Still, I did make some progress, and the second part of the “One Month Game” goal was to get better at finishing a game.  Lately I’ve been starting a lot of game projects and not following through on them, and that’s a disastrous direction to take.  All that time spent on working, and no real results to show for it.  I need to finish more games and get them out into the world, so I’ll continue working on this one, which I’m tentatively calling “Tiny Miner.”

In the game, you’re a tiny miner who must travel the lands in search of ore and gems.  There are several mines laid out on a map, which I created with Tiled and some Creative Commons art:

This might not be the final map, but will be fairly close.  Then I add mine objects, which are connected to other mines by roads (with placeholder images for now, automatically drawn with Vectrosity):

Each mine has a certain cost to open, types of ore and gems to be found, and a given depth.

When the mine is opened, you then select a type of pick to take with you into the mine.  You only get one pick, and each type has a certain number of uses.  For the Used Pick, it only has enough durability to get to the bottom of the mine plus 5 more uses, so you have to be careful if you want to get out of the mine without needing to be rescued!  On the plus side, a used pick doesn’t cost any coins.

After that, you jump into the mine, and try to get to the exit at the bottom while picking up valuable ore and gems along the way.

Again, I’m still in the “placeholder art” stage, so it doesn’t look pretty yet.  But the game logic is mostly done at this point.  The biggest feature I need to write at the moment is the one Tiffany came up with, where each mine actually has multiple shafts that you need to dig into.  Each shaft completed will give you a star, and you can see the star rating of each mine on the map.  It’s a sort of completionist guide, and I like the idea.  Plus, it will allow us to have more “mines” in the game without cluttering the map.

So that’s my plan at the moment.  Continue working on Tiny Miner until I have a Minimum Viable Product, put it out there on the various app stores (probably as a free title, with in-app payments, and no ads this time), then add features on a continuous basis.  I have to admit, I’m also kinda chomping at the bit to start on some 3D proofs of concept, as the Oculus Rift and Ouya are being released very soon.  But, I need to focus on finishing games first, otherwise there’s no point in having a game company if I don’t create revenue for it.  At least I’m getting better at this sort of thing.

Thanks for reading, and happy gaming!

Meanwhile, in the software mines…

Good day, peoples!  I know it’s been some time since I’ve written, so here’s what’s going on.

I’ve set a goal to write a shippable game in the month of February.  It’s a puzzle-like mining game where you have to carefully plan your path before your pick breaks.  You take a tiny miner across a world map, opening mines to gather the ore and gems within.  Each mine has an exit to find, and between each level you sell your loot, buy a new pick, and find more mines!  That’s the plan anyway.  We’ll see how it turns out.

As of now, the game is somewhat playable, with a miner (white square) moving in 1 of 4 directions through dirt (brown) gathering gems (red) and ore (gold) while leaving a path behind (blue).  A Durability counter shows the remaining number of tiles that can be mined.  The graphics will look better than this eventually, I just have to get the game logic nailed down first.

If you make it to the exit, you win and leave the mine.  If you don’t make it before your pick breaks, you have to be rescued and will lose 10% of your accumulated worth as a rescue fee.

Trying to keep it simple, straightforward, and most of all, fun.  My first game took 9 months of my free time to write, but that also involved a lot of Unity education and game design research.  So if I can get one done in 1/9th the time, I’m going to be fairly ecstatic.  Even if I miss the deadline, it should be a great exercise and learning experience, and nothing prevents me from continuing development.  I’ll try to keep adding more posts detailing my progress as I go along.

And I’ll try to ignore Fire Emblem when it arrives at my doorstep…

Introspeculative

Happy New Year everyone!  Hope your 13 is even better than your 12.

It’s been a while since my last post, so I felt like giving an update on things.  I’ve been working on game prototypes the past few months, but haven’t settled on any particular idea to develop further.  After releasing V Vs. V and the Halloween update, I’ve been a bit aimless.  Somehow I’ve fallen into the common programmer trap that I avoided during my first game: starting a lot of projects that sound interesting, and dropping them when the work gets more involved.  I suspect that my motivation has been affected by my day job, where I have greater pressure and workload than I did last year.  But I can’t let that get to me if I want to publish more games.

So here we are in the new year, and it’s a good time for gaining perspective and righting the course.  I’ve started designs for a new game that may involve bubble popping, word creation, and mining, so we’ll see how that turns out.  I’m also exercising again, to hopefully be more energetic and generally feel better.  Despite my normal pessimism, 2012 was a great and exciting year for Tiffany and I, and 2013 is looking to be shiny as well.  In addition to personal goals, we should also see mobile gaming expand even more, we’ll have the Ouya and the Oculus Rift to play with and develop for, more Kickstarters (I can’t tell you how many projects we’ve backed this year.  Dozens!), more indie interest and lots of great games to play.

Best to you and yours, and happy gaming!