Looking back on development in 2015

Looking back on development in 2015
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The year 2015 ended a while ago now, and I think it’s time to reflect on one year’s worth of development on my not-so-little project. Some things went right, others not so much; but in the end, valuable lessons were learned to take into 2016 and beyond.

Things that went right

First test run

At the end of September, I visited my best friend at his family’s house just outside of Chicago. It was the first time we’d seen each other in a long time, so I let him have a go at it while I stood by and supervised the playthrough.

It was in extremely rough shape– the game was somewhere between concept and pre-alpha (and still is, to be honest). Normally no one but the devs would be playing a game this early in development; there’s a reason I’m not letting anyone else play it yet.

Despite the much-too-early access, he enjoyed what was there and agreed it was a good start. I was especially pleased when he got to a bit of dialogue with one of the bad guys and muttered, “Well, THAT was creepy…” My instant reaction was, “YES!!! Success!!”

Staying positive

This one has always been difficult for me over the last couple of years. I’m surrounded by so much negativity on a daily basis that it can be hard to ignore your surroundings and just focus on what’s important, but I think I did a good job of that. I don’t feel as depressed or stressed out as I used to.

Switching it up

As I had suspected, switching up disciplines (art, design, coding, etc.) kept my mind more elastic. Taking a break from placeholder sprites to draw that high resolution image of Serena was a nice change of pace (and it also made my blog headings look nicer). Switching things up had a few drawbacks as well (covered below), but I think this is the way to go forward with a few modifications.

Things that went wrong

Switching too much

As mentioned above, switching stuff around was good for some things, not so good for others. It made production go a lot slower, since I had to readjust my mindset every time I had to switch gears. This was especially noticeable when switching from game dev to marketing, or from setting up logic in Unity and then going back to art mode.

Behind schedule

That’s a bit of an understatement, to say the least. Although I’m pleased with what’s done in the game itself, I was not happy with the amount of work that was completed in 2015. I had hoped that the Prologue chapter would be in alpha by this time. I had also planned to write up twelve blog articles (one every month) throughout the year, but I only ended up writing six since I fell so far behind.

There’s a number of factors getting in the way. As much as I’d like to work on this game full-time, twelve hours a day, seven days a week… I have to work a part-time job to keep on top of my bills. There’s also the insane amount of time I spend on research and education– everything from new development tools to business legal knowhow. Then there’s keeping tabs on what’s going on in the game industry so very far away from me. Oh, and let’s not forget coming down with a chronic, incurable disease that had me in pain and constantly running to the bathroom for months; that didn’t help either.

Where to go from here

Working in themes

Going forward, there are some things I want to adjust with the whole switching up disciplines. Instead of bouncing around for the sake of not getting too out-of-practice with any one given thing, I’ve rearranged my production backlog to follow themes.

For example, I’m currently working on the levels. It’s mostly layout design, but there’s other things that need doing as well: like getting the level’s music to trigger at the right times, writing up dialogue for the NPCs inhabiting the newly created levels, and writing a script to handle dynamic sprite layer sorting.

After that, I’ve got the “characters” theme lined up, which will include things like:  3d modeling/animating each character, refining the player/camera movement functionality, and adding in some basic behavior AI for the NPCs. So there’s plenty of variety in each category, plus I get the benefit of having whole sections of the game in a much more finished state.

Need a schedule that works

What I really need is a regular, consistent schedule… Unfortunately, I’m not going to get it. Irregular hours comes with working in retail. Either I’m trying to squeeze in game dev hours before the part-time job or after it– sometimes both if it’s a really weird shift. To make things worse, working from home doesn’t help. There are always chores that need to be done (or a roommate yelling at me to do them), breaking up valuable work time. Dividing up my concentration like that isn’t as easy as it used to be. Somedays I don’t know how I ever got through college.

I also need to put my health at the center of my attention now. I’ve got a pesky disease that I happen to be allergic to the medications used to treat it (found that out the hard way); so I’m on my own as far as getting better. A healthy (yet very restricted) diet and regular exercise have been working wonders for me, but as soon as I slip into old habits, symptoms comes back in full force.

It feels like the world is out to destroy me, from both the outside AND the inside. I need to figure out a good work schedule to stay on task long enough to get through this incredibly tough time. I haven’t quite figured that part out yet.

Bonus update

I wouldn’t leave you guys hanging without giving an update on what’s new in the game. There will be more on that in the next article, but for now… check out that furniture!

Screenshots_2016-03_06Screenshots_2016-03_03

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