Sunday, January 13, 2013

"a peek into the punk rock style of indie game development..."

Heyyyyyy, it's Sunday Night! What if I actually updated this blog once again more regularly than semi-quarterly? Would that blow people's actual minds? This, coming from an increasingly-inappropriate blog title "retrogame of the day," which has not been particularly retrogame-centric for years, and certainly not a daily affair for almost at least as long. Still - there was a time in my life (a few, even) where I had reasons to be quite a bit verbose. The allure of typing in a journal has long-since been gone to me, but I feel that there are certain things going on in my life which would benefit from the therapy of transcription. Benefit me, anyway. The other side of it is, this blog still gets hundreds of hits per day. I am not sure why, really, although I can begin to guess a couple of reasons I suppose. Supposing the majority of those aren't just robots or whatever - perhaps it would do me well to put some content back in here a little more frequently. I'd also like to shift the purpose/focus of this blog as well (again). So here goes nuthin'.

2 weeks into 2013 and it's off with a bang; I've been incredibly busy in all respects. As noted recently, efforts are being continued to "get indie games made" and while they are not at so hectic of a pace, I am still happy with the progress, and the rhythm.  My big concession in the past year is that I've been struggling to find steadier gigs, which has slowly been getting easier (although of course that eats very much into my personal development time). Also not trivial is that my personal life has been undergoing some pretty significant upending, which has been difficult, but also necessary. Between everything it's been difficult to sit down and find the time to power through the raw asset creation and design work that I've needed to get through, but it's still moving, so I've found much solace in that.  When I used to work at Neversoft many years ago, the head honcho over there was fond of likening his management style to that of running a rock band (pun unintended, this was years before they took up Guitar hero development). Therefore, for independent game development, I feel it is very appropriate to compare it to running a (prototypical) punk rock band, or a garage band - you have no money, you're hungry as hell, you are oozing angst out of your fingernails, nobody in the industry cares about you because you are an infinitesimally insignificant speck, yet you are driven to get your voice heard and all you can do is use all of that to power your engine and put your art (or product) out there.

My current daytime gig is a good one, it's a funny story (aren't they all) and I am lined up to be there for a couple more months, which is good news. I've been commuting for about a month, which is always interesting in LA, and now I feel justified in fixing my car. The damned thing has been sitting parked in disrepair in my back lot for not less than 2 YEARS. That's a long time in this town to be without a car, but I won't lie; it's been nice, in some ways, having to find other ways to get around without being just another car-centric commuter in this auto-overbloated town. Anyway, I plan to get this thing up and running in the next week and change (needs a new transmission, this will be the 3rd one!) Hopefully sitting in the back there, the engine hasn't just rotted completely with the few remaining drops of gas which have been sitting in there all this time. I dunno anything about cars :/

It is cold in LA! Not unbelievably, but way more so than I am used to. I am a hardy New Englander, but it's true I've got soft in the 13 years since trekking out this way. I do believe I've actually caught myself a nice little cold for the first time in I dunno how many years, I must have gone through an entire box of kleenex today. Also this morning, I accidentally thrust the very top of my head into a very sharp, heavy corner of a mirror glass shortly after waking up. Yes it has been an excellent day.

Video Games: It is funny, or sad, but really I play almost no games these days, too much other stuff to do. This is a lie; I play games EVERY day, I have a Game Boy Micro and it's a permanent fixture in my jacket pocket. It's got a flash cartridge installed with a ton of old NES and GameBoy roms. It makes the 1.5 hour bus commute wayyyyy more stomachable!  I have been working my way through Super Mario Bros 3 for the first time since playing/beating it upon it's original release.. argh what was that, like 26 years ago or something? Playing on the Micro is far from ideal, control-wise, but it really brings me back and reminds me just how perfect the design of this game was handled. Such a great job, I would say it might be the peak of 2D character action/platformer design. Definitely the best 2D Mario, at least. Also I put in a healthy amount of time with OG GameBoy Tetris. The original (-ish) and still the BEST. Tetris has been rebuilt in billions of incarnations since then, but never have I enjoyed it even close to the way it performs in this version. I am addicted all over again.

Otherwise, I get the most playtime with my 3DS more than anything else these days. It's nice to just kick back on the couch next to the heater and while an hour away or so. I feel kinda like a soccer mom, or a grandma, or something.. but I downloaded the demo for Art of Balance - Touch after hearing it mentioned in a thread on NeoGAF. It looked like the boring-est game ever, but 3 minutes into the demo and I was hooked, I bought it instantly and have poured hours into this game already. Even my no-gamer girlfriend is addicted to this -

I also picked up a few other titles recently, nothing that I am too entranced with, I will play a bit more and report back as is necessary. As casual a gamer as I am these days, I am really digging the 3DS and looking forward to getting my hands on some more great games this year. Space Harrier I am looking at you!

That's all for now. Late and I'd like to try and get at least a little work done before calling it a night. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Headcase in 2013

Tap tap tap  - is this thing on? Gads, I hate it when people write that crap in their blog, to signify that they are unsure if anyone out there is listening 'cause their mic is broke. I suppose it is not entirely inappropriate however.

It's week 1 of January 2013 (sorry, Manuary) and as it's been some months since I've updated, I figured I was due. And so, a brief look back, and forward as well - what the heck is going on over here?

2012 was an interesting year for me (aren't they all?) Very nearly made it an entire year without a release, although we did manage to squeeze a port of iFist out on Android at very nearly the last second. Yes, that game is ancient, but a release is a release so I will e thankful for what I've got! Going into 2012, both Trapdoor and GunHead were coming along quite nicely. A ton of work has gone on during the course of the year (particularly in the case of the latter) and that game's focus shifted dramatically from mobile to PC-centric (although I'd still very much like to release on mobile as well, but at this point I am noncommital).  The game got to a healthy point in development before being shelved, temporarily, for good reasons which I am not unhappy about. Although it's coming to a phase where it may well be too late to release it on ay platform, I still believe we can get it out in time before all the heavy-hitting competition launches this coming year (there's a lot of retro-themed run-n-guns coming soon!)

Trapdoor, sadly, doesn't have as heroic of a story, it's been "nearly done"since it's inception but for lots of reasons it's kind of limped along in development, to put it kindly. It's a shame - the game still feels quite fun to play, and I do see some potential for a very solid and unique release of this game.  My biggest issue has been lack of time to devote to it, to give it the TLC it deserves. I really don't wanna release another "difficult to market" product, especially one which is so friendly to pick up and play and appropriate for the mobile format, and have it just go thud.  I have been thinking a fair bit about what I need to do to put a bow on this thing. I have some good ideas.. ultimately, what matters is that the game is fun and the people attached to it are good folks, so I am not worried about wrapping it up. Release this quarter is not unimaginable.

Hop Cop was another game in development, something I'd still love to pick up but it's going to be a lot of work. 2012 saw a very unusual/unorthodox path for development of this game. Still a good idea, but if you ever hear me mention it again it should be surprising at this point.

Blast Rover started development late in 2012, and it's the closest we are to releasing anything at this point. The game is simply very fun to play (again, well-suited for the touchscreen) and I am working hard to make it look the part as well. My usual excuse "I'm too busy to devote the time to it" so it's late-phase development is dragging as well, but it's getting there. I know this game will be a tough sell on Android in some ways, but really I am excited to see it ported, potentially, to iOS, I think we could get some healthy downloads for a title like this.

That's all that is going on, title-wise, really. As usual I have some other things brewing in the background, but as my plate is more than full I just try to keep focus (such as it is) on what's already at the fore and chalk everything else up for "down the road." 2012 was a huge shift in my own focus and path, and I really (necessarily) had to re-aim from indie development back toward just paying bills and scrapping for work to keep the lights on. It's been really difficult, and it's cost me a lot in all of the ways you'd expect. At this point, I am honestly working toward getting myself properly fixated back in the larger industry as a production grunt of whatever caliber, I cannot afford to continue on hand-to-mouth "at my advanced age" for reasons economical, mental, and physical (my tooth huuuuurts!)  I'd like to think that if that happens, I won't have to deep-six my plans to continue operating as an indie - I'll do whatever I have to.

Hopefully this is not too somber of a tone, as always I am optimistic and happy with how things have gone. I've worked on some great projects with some really good people, and I am proud of what we accomplished. There's plenty of things in motion which can only keep me excited - and that drives me to continue on, happily.