51 Almost release ready

I had to rant a bit, about myself. About my unnecessary expectations of myself that destroy me if I don’t pay attention to it. I spotted them this time before they did damage, but still. I don’t like it when I see a train hurling towards a ravine, even when it gets redirected a bit before its doom. Thats what you will read between the lines of the ‘upcoming release’ part.

But to balance things out: I had some very pleasant working weeks. Thats what you will read on the other parts of the blog. Fun work on Find the Gnome 2. And a new consultancy job that also excites me.

Upcoming release

First, the upcoming release of Find the Gnome 2.

The release date is set on December the 13th, the release time is 12:00 CET. The game will release on Steam only. You can find it here https://store.steampowered.com/app/1855160/Find_the_Gnome_2/. There is also a demo available right now on the Steam page, for if you want to ‘feel’ how this game plays. And: don’t forget to wishlist! This really helps me out, it pushes my game up in the Steam algorithm.

I am currently finishing up work on the game. The release is going to be an ‘Erik style’ release: I like to update a game after release, so expect not everything in this game to release at once on the launch date. My sub goal is to have a fun and engaging game up on release date, my main goal is to have a game up and then to making updates for it.

Also: I am not going to have an emphasis on marketing, for FtG2 its not my goal to make my investment back. I appreciate all the help and buzz. But its not something I am going to actively spend time and money on.

You might be asking: “hey Erik, why spend all this time (and money) on this game, and not do this big of a marketing? Do you expect this game to sell on its own?”

No, I don’t expect this game to sell that good at all. Because, to have an (almost guaranteed) chance of good sales, you need to spend a lot of upfront time on marketing. I don’t want to do that for Find the Gnome 2. This game is just a demonstration to myself, and potential game devvers that want to hire me. I have reached all my goals when this game is available in the Steam store.

A reasonable follow up question might be: “but hey Erik, if you just did x and y, will almost certainly get a few additional bucks”. Yes thats totally possible. But my time is limited, as is my focus.

I am currently being coached by Jonathan (Like I said in my previous blog), and we are working on a better focus for me and me enjoying my game dev more. I am fully aware of the possibilities that marketing bring. But its just not the right time. For a next game, I can set new goals, and marketing could be one of the things I will take a look at for that game.

To put it even stronger: if I don’t focus right now, I will almost certainly freeze up as the release date gets closer, and thats no fun for nobody. If I am put on extreme stress, this is apparently what happens. And that needs resolving. But time is limited for a rework on my mind patterns. There are still a few dev and administrative things left to do before the release, and I am applying my focus on those things. So thats why we are cutting down on what my own expectations are of the release, so I keep being able to work on my game and enjoy working on it.

I want this release of Find the Gnome 2 be a fun and happy day for myself. A bit of backstory: My previous launch, of the first Find the Gnome, wasn’t fun and I did burn out on game dev for almost a year after that. You can find my writings about this in the beginning posts of my blog.

Right now I am still enjoying working on Find the Gnome 2. So getting the priorities right has helped so far.

Current state

What did I work on the last weeks?

This is an interesting one: tutorials. I started working on this a bit earlier. But the UI part needed cleaning up, as well as applying it to all levels that needed a bit of explanation. It now looks like this:

I want to direct your attention to the ‘image’ of the narrator. Meinder created these lovely images. These images are also in the subtitles now when the parallax cartoon cinematic play, and add even more feeling to the story. Also, by using the same looks in the tutorials as in the subtitles, the different parts of the game blend together even more.

Here is a peek at the last level:

This is 60% of the level, I am keeping the last part secret for now. There is a lot to find in this last level, to unlock, to interact with, and interesting things to look at.

Technically I had to add a new system in. In this level, there are some area’s that gnomes can’t traverse between. In previous levels, I always had some kind of connection between area’s. My AI wasn’t ready for some hidingspots being out of reach in certain parts of the game, so I had to get this in at the last moment. But I think its well worth the investment, I might even change up earlier levels to include this also there. It turned out that there is gameplay in that, because I can also use this to limit gnomes to certain hidingspots, these patterns that you can create with it making some early levels more interesting.

For now, there is still work for me to do on this level. It has now 4 gnomes in it, but this level is going to have more than 25 gnomes in it. I will make sure this level is play-able when the game releases.

Additionally, 5 of the 12 levels are going to get some rework that will add even more things to do. I have had Meinder and Syoma work on creating additional content in the past weeks, and I still have to integrate and animate all of that. So I expect this to be available after the release, in one of the first content updates.

What kind of content is still being worked on and will be in the release version?

  • I need to make a gameplay trailer for Steam to complete my profile. Otherwise I can’t release on Steam. I will use a few simple cuts of me playing the game, and including the most fun moments.
  • I need to finish up work on the last level of the game.
  • There are 2 additional drone models that you will receive (the bird will be replaced by drones in later levels, there is a story to how and why). Models and animations are ready, but i need to integrate them and tune the gameplay for them.

That should be all.

Those 3 points are enough work to pull off before the release. Thats because while I am finishing up work on Find the Gnome 2, I have switched over my main job.

Thinkwise

For those that are new: my main job is consultancy work for 32 hours a week. I spend my ‘best’ daily work hours on this job, pay for the bills, and maintain my family.

The kind of consultancy work I do is mainly on business software development. But I also work at game dev gigs, if this options presents itself. From the remaining hours in a week (and a bit more), these go to my own game dev company.

So me working on a new job is a big thing. Especially new work takes more mental energy away: I need to connect to new people, understand the business quickly, and get up to speed on development quickly.

The new company I am currently working for is ‘Thinkwise’. They have a low code platform that promises you to solve the ‘legacy software problem’ once and forever, and transfer your business from your previous vendor over to their platform within 1 year. I am getting ready to work at their low code platform. So I don’t implement features with low code, I work on the actual low code platform itself.

Normally, my consultancy job I get through ‘agents’ that find job openings for me. This one, however, I did myself. With the help of a few connections. That last part is a bit ‘new’ to me: it takes a lot of courage to ask around, at old acquaintances, to see if they could put my skills to good use.

This job ended up being even more ‘fun’ in the first days than I intended it to be: I know at least 4 people on this organization. Some of them I worked with, others I know from back when I was a child. This made the first days a real breeze. Connecting with old acquaintances, talking about their lives and how we ended up in the here-and-now.

So I am exited to be in a new company, with new things to work at. The position is more ‘technically’ demanding than the last one. But that is something I am looking forward to. I am not that much into ‘specific domains’ like finance or something (unless its games), but another thing I really like doing is just technical complex stuff. ‘Solving puzzles’ each day.

So yeah, interesting opportunity. Still have to prove myself here on the technical side of things. But that will be something that I think is fun to do.

This whole ‘new job’ thing will take some focus away from my game. But that’s good. I think. And I expected it to do so, and prepared for it. The gamedev time that I am spending on Find the Gnome 2, are on things I like doing. (And not things that are out of my reach like marketing)

That’s it for today! See you next time.

50 Real relaxation

Hey, we are at blog 50! No, nothing special lol. But thats a lot of blogs; blogging for almost 5 years now. About my (Erik) his stuff, game dev, and his life in general.

This blog is, you guessed it, also about a lot of stuff. I am having a planned month ‘off’ work currently, as in: no consultancy job at the moment. With that, I have a lot of time on hand to do (seemingly random) stuff.

Let me clarify what I mean with ‘seemingly random’ stuff:

Life improvements

As you all know, I like to explore life. See what kind of things help me out to make my work more fun, to make me a better person. (And then to share these findings with you, through this blog)

I am using this month off to do things I normally would not do. Like helping out my wife and her father on their gardening company (more on that later in this blog). Or to just jump into my car and drive to Utrecht to attend to the ‘game dev cafe’ (I ask a few questions onto the end, on 33:55). Or to start a whole new chapter in my business by scheduling a meeting with Jonathan to see how we can help each other out (later more on that in this blog).

Interesting part about all this is that I didn’t plan that much of the previous work. Yes I wanted to explore working together with my wife. But wasn’t planning on doing a large time investment there.

My original plan was to work my ass off. Yes, I admit. That was the plan. To work on Find the Gnome 2, make CI/CD video’s, and spend a bit of time to find a new consultancy job.

But as soon as I was ready to start working on the CI/CD video’s, I just wanted to do easy stuff. Like helping my wife out at her company with just physical work. Shoveling sand around on a job site of them. Things like that. This stuff is so much more easy (for me) to start work on. It gives instant gratification, is very visual in what you need to do and what work you already finished. And yes its hard on the body, but I honestly do like a workout like that. Just start up slowly and take a rest when you need it, and physical work like that is ‘easy’ to pull off.

Also, finding a new consultancy job proved to be a lot more work than I initially counted on. This is important for me, so I gave it all I had. Most of my precious ‘mind’ energy did go to talking with intermediates, doing introduction talks with the teams, and then even make a test. This all was a lot more demanding on me than I initially accounted for.

So I decided to just ‘go with the flow’. Take a step back. See what my mind and body needs. Rest a bit between the different activities. Play a few games (that I hadn’t touched for months due to pressure on work: that should have been a sign lol). And above all: accept that I was doing the best I could. Even though I wasn’t “making CI/CD video’s like my original plan”.

That is real relaxation for me. To do a bit work. Find things to do. Explore new opportunities. And accept that ‘there is a time for everything’.

Those CI/CD video’s will come with time. I am already writing the video scripts. Have 1 finished. But I think I need to cut the content up differently (than I originally planned for). But that’s okay. Good things need time to grow.

On to the other two subjects of this blog.

Lets start with the ‘Jonathan plan’:

Jonathan plan

The basic premise is simple: he helps me out with my business, I help him out with his business.

He currently is the account manager of Basys. They make BI data warehousing solutions. In his work at Basys, he helps out companies get better business results by providing them BI solutions. But Jonathan is also quite technical himself. He loves automating stuff, helping people out on websites, things like that. He even has his own business ‘TG4’ that he runs on the side for 6 years now.

He wants to ‘spread out his wings’ and take off with his own business. He is building up his client portfolio with his side-business, and is on the brink of getting more technically demanding projects to do so. Our view on how business should operate and treat each other align very well. And I could help him out with my tech skills if he starts landing those more demanding projects.

At the same time, I do have things of my own that I need assistance with. Jonathan is already helping out companies streamline their businesses, and I would like to hire him for exactly that: help me get GameFeelings more profitable. And / or how my game development business could interfere with or empower my software consultancy business.

There is a lot of stuff I think that he can help with. But the basics are:

  • Accountability: have someone to account to if my plans go wrong. (And: how to recover from that)
  • Focus: gamedev, software consultancy, so much stuff to do. What do I need, what do I want to get out of this?
  • Find the Gnome 2: Release in December. Lets make the best of it.

So yeah, expect some more on this in the next blog!

And that brings me to the last part of this blog:

Working together with my wife

Another thing I had planned for this month ‘off’, was to help my wife out. She and her dad started the gardening business https://www.groenhoutvdhulst.nl/ this year.

Her dad has very extensive experience with woodwork, landscaping and likewise projects. She was looking for a new job opportunity. And they both really enjoy gardening. So they joined forces.

Currently they are working on a client project that requires a lot of manual labor due to work site accessibility restrictions. And I was like: hey, I really like that work vibe you have going on with your dad. I would like to join in. And they where like: yeah, please! This project can use some additional hands.

I personally had some moderate feelings about this:

  • My wife and her dad work together for 10 months now. If I join in, maybe this changes relationships on the worksite? I have worked with her dad before and we got along fine. But that was never ‘under pressure’ of a contracted job.
  • Would my contribution even matter? I am planning to work 1 day a week at most, and probably less. Getting me up-to-speed could negate the benefits of having me.

But things turned out to be quite different.

  • I really enjoyed the physical labor. I do have a lot of muscle strain to not being used to this kind of work. But I love to push myself. To put that manly human body of me to good use.
  • I am much less influenced by the weather than I initially thought I would be. Sun, rain, warmth, cold: it doesn’t matter. Just keep an eye out on what my body needs, and keep a pacing that matches the circumstances. There is a hot shower waiting for me when I get home.
  • I am getting along quite nicely with her dad. I am a bit all-over-the-place and have a higher pace of working. But thats okay it seems, its ‘me’ and they know that I am like that. I also tend to understand what he wants me to do, so that he can trust me. That also a good thing.
  • My contributions do seem to matter. And I am quick to learn. Or so it seems lol.

So yeah, this is turning out to be a very good experience for me. Its always good to know that I have some other job opportunities I can fall-back on if my main job would suddenly stop existing… no, just kidding. I think the physical exercise is really good for me. And I just love doing things with my hands, its very pleasing for me to work on something that i visually see being altered by my own doings.

A big part of landscaping is: carrying stuff around.

Another thing I wanted to do is become more proficient at using tools. I really enjoy working with tools (all kind of them, but the more noise the better). But I don’t have that much use of them in my personal life.

So that’s why I was very pleased with the opportunity that I got to ride this machine:

Still need to get a lot of experience and learn a lot of tricks to get good with these machines. But I like it a lot already!

So yeah, a very inspiring month so far for me. Probably going to be a bit sad when this month is over and I have to get back to ‘the usual software consultancy work’… just kidding, I now know a bit better what ‘Erik’ needs to enjoy life. So I plan on weaving a few of these newly discovered findings into the patterns of my life.

See you next time!

49 Work and such

Time flies when you are having fun! Past 4 weeks I went to Gamescom 2022, and just before that, we had the demo launch of Find the Gnome 2.

Back 2 work

These months are always strange months. One moment you are out on holidays, next moment you are back in the 9-to-5 rhythm with kids attending school.

For me, these months are more intense than normally. On the end of Juli, I got a notice that my consultancy job at Topicus is coming to an end. However, they asked me to join another team in the remaining time, and help out with an important project. So I had the pleasure to quickly adapt to my new team (like a real consultant lol), and get this project up to speed.

This new project is expected to deliver on 1th of October. I am the main engineer and analist at the same time. The team helps out with project management, testing and quality assurance. And this is an upgrade on an existing system, so they need to maintain this solution afterwards.

But hey, change of scenery! This is always something I enjoy. I also added a month of rest afterwards, between this job and the next one. So that’s also something I like working towards.

Find the Gnome 2

A progress update on Find the Gnome: I have been working on getting as much of the content ready for the final game. 9 of the 12 levels are ready now. And 8 of the 9 cartoon sequences are ready by now.

There is still a lot of finishing touches left to do. Like I said in earlier blogs, I need to do rework on the tutorial and on the controls. But I also need to do a revision of the levels, to make sure the content is engaging and of high enough quality.

The final release is planned in December. That’s 16 weeks from now, 3 months.

I think the game is on track with all the stuff coming together now. All levels will be finished by December. Tutorial and control stuff will be fixed by then. Maybe the level revisions aren’t completed by then, but that’s okay if that isn’t perfect on launch date. Its always nice to do a content update after release, to show that I am caring about my games.

That’s all for today!

Gamescom 2022

On Thursday the 25th of August I went to Gamescom 2022 in Köln (or ‘Cologne’ as some name it)

This photo here is typical for what I found most on the ‘customer’ part of the Gamescom: playing games is a booming culture right now and all kinds of companies want to jump on that band wagon. The exhibition floors are larger than ever, but there is now a majority of non-game-dev booths.

Preparing

But back to the preparations. My main reason to go to Gamescom was to get a better sense for the industry. I have been a solo game dev for 5 years now, but I want to connect more to others. So I signed up for a trade pass, so I could access the business part of Gamescom.

Further more, I booked a hotel. So I could drive there on Wednesday and attend the exhibition the next day. These hotels knew there was an event going on because they TRIPLED they prices. It is crazy omg. But that is how it its.

The day before

I took Roan, Mirthe and Alise with me on this trip. We spend the Wednesday together and did a tour around the city center of Koln. Enjoying the scenery. When it got late, we went back to our (air conditioned) and very spacey family room. And while they got to bed, I enjoyed staying up in the hotel launch. Talking to the people there, and finishing up with some personal time on the Steam Deck playing Vampire Survivors

Getting ready to enter Gamescom

On Thursday we parked the car next to the Zoo. So Alise and the kids could enjoy their stay at the zoo while I would attend Gamescom.

Why didn’t I bring them with me? There are family tickets available for Gamescom. But for now I think they are too young to enjoy a exhibition like this (its most of the time walking around and waiting in line to play a game, not that much actual gaming).

I got an electric scooter from the parking lot, and went over to the Gamescom entrance on a 5 minutes drive.

First stop: business booths

When I entered, I went straight for the business booths. I have been to Gamescom before but never as a trade visitor. So that part was much more interesting for me. Wanted to see what I missed out on all those years lol.

They had partitioned the business halls in sections. Every country (that wanted to represent itself) had a section. And there were some ‘generic’ sections like for game support and such. But here I am at the Dutch section. Did see Valconeer over there and a bunch of other Dutch games. Very inspiring for me!

In this business area there were also a lot of indie games present with a small area on a larger booth from like a country or a networking organistration (like the DGA for the Netherlands).

The Unity booth

I also went to the Unity booth. They had a few games on display there that utilized their cloud systems. Like Plastic SCM, Unity Cloud Build, Unity Cloud Server. But also other CI/CD stuff like Unity Test Framework.

I asked these game devs for their experience with best practices and such, how Unity was facilitating their game workflow for them, etc. Funnily enough, they admitted that it is still hard to set up a good workflow. They still have a hard time dealing with merge issues, keeping the build time low (full build 2 hrs anyone?), a lot of regression (so whole teams of QA testing for bugs all the time), etc. They are having a hard time getting good practices, especially because of how games start small and then scale up but processes don’t keep up. And there is ‘no easy way’ to make this al work fluently. Even with Unity’s own tools its still hard. These companies even call on Unity to help them with practices and advice on how to cope with these issues.

Then I talked to a Unity representative about this: where do we find examples of good CI/CD practices. Or how do we set up a scene so it can be tested and have as little regression as possible? In the business software development space, practices are common knowledge. But with gamedev its much and much harder. I would love to help get the message out on how to do this properly. I am already doing this with my Azure DevOps Unity build guides. And I would love to also cover the Unity cloud build. Or just ‘in general’ how Unity envisions CI/CD. This representative said he would reach out to me, helping to find these answers with me. He said that most of the studio’s ask them or other experiences game devs, but there isn’t that much to find on this stuff online. So yeah he could help me out with that.

So that’s my first business win for today!

After that I walked around to see if I could find Microsoft. The floor guide said that had a booth in hall 3 somewhere, but after some digging around it seemed like they where included in the UK booth and had an on appointment-base visit only. That’s a pitty. So I had to move on.

Back to the ‘real’ games

After that I went on to find the ‘real’ indie game booths. I have seen these business to business indie ones, but the consumer facing ones are the real deal (to me). These consumer facing ones probably are a lot more expensive to get (I have heard from prices starting from 7000 dollars, including travel and hotel expenses, rent of the stand space, the design build up of the stand, etc).

The indie area! I had to look around a bit to find it. But at last.

So many games are on display there! Imagine all these developers. Solo or with a small team. Preparing months in advance. And then having to stay besides your game from 10:00 until 22:00 from Wednesday to Sunday. The preparation as well as the actual presentation must be exhausting! I wish them all the best, I hope they get out of Gamescon what they wanted to get out of it. (Probably feedback on how to improve their game and marketing to get people to buy their game)

Erik the Indie Ninja

I would not be Erik if I didn’t have something prepared in advance:

I wanted to use the opportunity to reach out to visitors on the Gamescom to get feedback on Find the Gnome 2. So I prepared my Steam Deck in advance, as well as little cards (thank you Alise for this) to give them a link to my game.

I didn’t know if this was allowed, so my plan was to not intervene with people attending other booths (like staying in line). So I went to a large outside area next to the Indie area. People where resting there, smoking a cigarette and things like that.

I asked a few attendees to play my game. And rate it. Their responses were much more kind than I anticipated. They really enjoyed the game. Find it ‘refreshing’. Even a guy that was into point and click himself (and liked relaxing games) did find it very interesting and fun to play.

And there wasn’t that much critique either. Only a bit on the controls and some parts of gameplay not being clear from the get-go. This feedback is really welcome, it strengthens the need for the upcoming changes (Proper intro tutorial with controls, tutorial on gameplay elements when introduced, help button for when stuck).

With this feedback recorded, I had achieved my second business goal of this day. I was very happy with the overall result of the day by then.

On my way out

With 2 business results in my pocket, and a lot of my energy drained, I went on to walk around a bit. And mentally preparing myself to leave.

I really liked this area:

All kinds of cosplay people are over here. Helping each other out with their sets.

I took a side entrance exit and was on my way very quickly. An electric scooter was placed nearby very conveniently. So I took that scooter and rode it back to my car.

On they way back, I spotted this thing:

To my knowledge, this is an event you can order yourself. Did see it advertised a few years ago. Something about a floating dining or so. Thank you but no thanks, I will skip on that and let others enjoy an attraction like that lol.

So, that’s it for now!

Thank you for reading. I hope you had a great time. And see you next time!

48 So much cool stuff

There is so much cool and fun stuff to share with you this blog!

I want to tell about how the demo launch went. And what I want to do after the demo. And that my vacation provided me with a bunch of new things to think about. And, as a proper ADHD person should do, I stumbled upon my game dev CI/CD video statistics and jumped on the whole thing thinking about even more things to do. And… and… and…

Okay I calm down. Lets start off with the demo launch.

The launch of the demo

On the 29th of June 2022, I published the demo of Find the Gnome 2 on Steam. As you can see, its now visible on Steam. You can search for it, or you can access it directly from the Find the Gnome 2 store page.

In the days preceding the demo launch, I worked hard to optimize the demo for the best gameplay experience. Most of that work was improving menu’s, UI and fixing bugs.

Did it pay off? How did the launch go?

In short: I am not sure how the launch did go. I for myself are relieved I got to the point of launching and having something to show. A stable game with no bugs (that I am aware of).

But in expectations: I had setup some links in my demo to get people to wishlist the full game. These links are from Steam and are unique so that I know what link was used. These links did generate no traffic. So or the system is broken, or the demo isn’t making people wanting to wishlist the game so much. But I think that there is a 3rd option in play: a game demo has a very low yield in general (that is what other game devs also point out) and my demo is just not marketed enough by me to get the numbers going.

I did find someone on YouTube covering my game:

Thank you RuneSnow! Appreciate the time you put into this and the feedback you provided! You did go some length to make the game work for you, even looked up the controls to tune them to your liking (but sadly, you didn’t find the options you were looking for).

I promoted this game also to my colleague’s on my current job at Topicus on the Friday of the launch. And a few people did play my game there just when I packed my bag to leave. I really had to leave because we were going to go on 2 weeks of vacation right then, so I could not gather feedback on the demo.

So yeah the planning of the demo was a bit off. Didn’t combine well with my vacation.

What is next? Well I am going to include a feedback form in the game. So it is easier for people to get back to me and state what is up with the game. Also, I was working on a tutorial. That will also help I think. And I have to keep working on the controls. First fix that mouse issue, and add an option for ‘full mouse control’ that is off by default.

Next on Find the Gnome 2

When the demo fixes (the feedback form, tutorial and improved controls) are done, I will continue with the ‘normal’ content work of Find the Gnome 2.

Here a selection of level content that is already available in the full version, or that I am integrating right now:

There is a lot of work that goes into this game. Just to make every level feel fresh and interesting to explore. And these aren’t even the final designs, because each of these levels needs an additional overhaul to add more hidingspots and even some interactive machines to suit the theme.

To give you an idea how a level is created, here is a peek at how the final level (level 4.3) is being created right now.

First, I think of a theme, a level size and the amount of things to do. Then Meinder (from meinder.nl) creates a sketch/concept art based on these instructions.

From there on, Syoma gets to work (see his ArtStation for more of his work), and creates a low poly diorama from it. Currently, it isn’t finished yet. But this is the state as it is right now with roughly 2/3 of the level completed.

To give you an idea of what work it takes to create a level: Syoma put already more than 40 hours into this level. Meinder did also a few hours on this sketch. And when I get to integrate this level, it will easily take me another 20 hours to make it all come to live and add interesting features to it. After that, we probably need to do some rework too… so yeah, a lot of hours go into making just 1 level.

I have to say though, that this final level is the biggest one yet. So there is relatively more hours that go into modelling this level than that went into other modelling other levels.

With having said that, lets move on to the next subject of this blog: my vacation and the learning’s that I had.

Thinking when on vacation

When on vacation it is always a good moment to reflect on past life and make new commitments for a better future. Vacation is a good moment to rest for the body and the soul. And be with family. And reflect on things that matter the most in life. Or at least, that is how I use my vacation.

On of the most memorable moments is when I came by this sign:

It reads ‘Welcome to national park De Groote Peel. Watch out! Gnome crossing.’

Nah, just kidding. This wasn’t the most memorable moment. But it was fun to see a reference to gnomes. And I also noticed a lot of garden gnome statues in gardens of homes and in the front of mobile homes on camping sites, especially in Germany. So maybe I should do a German translation of my game soon?

But back to the topic of the vacation: we went out with our folding trailer (dont know if this is the right translation for ‘vouwwagen’ but I will continue this name to reference our method of camping). And we went to camping sites in Germany, Luxembourg and The Netherlands.

Before I share my thoughts on a good book I did read, lets revisit a few of the highlights of our vacation.

Preparations when at home. Its a six person folding trailer. Its old but still very functional. And most important: it still keeps us shielded from rain. Here we are doing maintenance on it. Its missing its inner canvas because we are repairing some connections that got severed during its lifetime:

Lets skip a few days. Here you see is my daughter building stone sculptures like the ones next to it. This is during a roundtrip around our first camping site at Monschau, Germany:

This is at Kiischpelt, Luxembourg. A very nice and child friendly camping spot next to a stream. My wife had to book this weeks in advance to be able to secure a spot:

And here our ‘packaging’ setup when we are ready to move again. With a small coffee brewery on top of our car for a nice brewed coffee for when we are hitting the road again. And the kids are enjoying some of there ‘digital time’ so we have our hands free to pack everything up. This camping spot was next to the Mousel in Germany, at Krov. This camping site had a lot of room left, but thats probably because they just got new owners and the facilities where in the process of being overhauled:

And yes the weather was extremely hot. Every camping site was much more dry than usual (and less green in the process). The last camping site we went to was situated in Melderslo in The Netherlands. Here we are at a local beach:

And on the last day, we went to a nearby amusement park. Never heard of it, but it had some very nice roller coasters and other attractions. Its called ‘Toverland’ and is very child friendly. And they have a lot of playgrounds with water features, especially fun for children when its so hot like right now. And I went into the most cool looking coaster I have seen:

One last note on coasters in general: I don’t know if I am alone in this, but I like wooden coasters much more. They feel ten times more intense. At Toverland they also had a wooden one called ‘Troy’ and I did enjoy that ride the most.

(By the way, I didn’t include too much personal details on the pictures on purpose. I want to give my family control over their own privacy.)

So enough talk about Erik the Tourist enjoying family life when out camping. Although that is very important (maybe even the most important thing in life). Reflecting on life itself is also very much worth the time you put into it. So lets move on to the book and my thoughts on it.

The book I read was ‘Hoe je vrienden maakt en mensen beinvloed’ or in English ‘How to win friends and influence people’. I did read specifically this book due to it being referenced by a YouTube guy I follow.

Alexander Grace is his name. I really like his content because he shares his insights on positive masculinity among other things. And does this in a very uplifting and constructive way, with his main goal being that man and women have better and lasting relationships that benefit both parties equally. So when this guy referenced this book, he referenced it in a way like ‘This book teaches you the basic stuff on how to be a good, healthy and fun person to be with.’. The book itself is very old, like from 1915 or so. But the lessons in it are timeless.

One of the reasons I wanted to read this book and see if I could try to practice what it preaches, is because I had some insights in the months preceding my vacation.

At my work at Topicus, I seem to be limited not by my technical or analytical skills but at my skills on how to influence people and getting my message across. Further more, I came to realize that I am much more on my own then I would like it to be. To state it harshly: I don’t have that many friends. But to get somewhere in life, I need guidance and help. Living life is much more difficult than it has to be if there aren’t many (different) people around me to help me get through certain hardships in life.

I am fully aware of the ADHD and authistic part in me thats just more ‘rigid’ in thinking and makes me to be more on my own and have a smaller circle of people around me. That good and okay. But I also have other parts in me that aren’t that rigid and really like to just be talkative and connect with other people. So what I think is happening to me right now, is just a small shift in the balance of my personality. I want to open up more to the world around me. And I am looking for guidance on how to do this ‘properly’.

So that is where this book comes into play. The book itself takes a very ‘American’ approach: 5% theory and 95% of accounts of people practicing the theory and having very good results.

I am tempted to write a summary here, but that’s not my expertise. Look this book up on Bol.com or Amazon. And see it for yourself.

But my main take away from this book is that my ‘rigid’ thinking about things in life gets in between relationships and hampers communications. Its not about ‘factual truths’ but more about relationships between humans. And the reality of life is that we are often busy with our own problems, so its very hard to open up to someone else. So if I want to connect to someone, its much more easy to get into their world, then if I would make them to come over to my world. ‘Seek first to understand, then to be understood’.

So I have set myself the goal to be more understanding in the coming half year. Even more than I am comfortable doing. In that way I ‘really tried’ to make this theory work. And if I don’t like the results in February 2023, I will try a new approach by then.

By the way. I also moved over to Notion for a new way of note taking. Previously, I wrote all my findings down in documents. A separate document for each moment that I had some insights. I do look back at these document once a year or so to see where I am making progress and such. But its getting harder to connect the dots over the years. Especially if I have interesting sources like YouTube video’s or books that I want to recommend to other people, and I cant find them again, thats really frustrating. One purpose of note taking is to clear up my mind, but another purpose is to make learnings of it later on and to share these learnings.

Why notion? I was thinking about using an offline tool. But then I realized a lot of the times I make/take notes, is when I am walking somewhere in the wild making up my mind. I always have my phone with me, but not that many times my laptop. And I looked into other online tools as well. But notion seems to be the most clean one and flexible one, not railroading me in some direction.

With having said that, I get to the last subject of this blog. I am writing for 4 hours now so that probably not that smart. Most people won’t read that far into this blog. But lets continue, my ADHD brain had some smart brain farts (or that is what I thought when I got them lol) and wants to share them.

My CI/CD video’s

As you might remember from older blogs: the most successful pages on this website are about my CI/CD video’s on Unity build pipelines. Like 2 out of 3 outside visitors come to visit these stand alone pages. I also think 50% to 75% of the readers of my bi-weekly blogs content are people that did find me due to this CI/CD content.

For 2022, my website traffic looks like this:

On YouTube I have the GameFeelings channel with 31 subscribers at the moment. These are my video view numbers (sorry for the Dutch interface):

I personally do like it that people find me because of this CI/CD stuff. I like working on that kind of content. And I want to help out people with this stuff, because I struggle a lot to sort things out myself.

The Find the Gnome 2 content is also doing good. Or that is what I think it is. I am not actively marketing anything yet. Only some post on twitter, facebook and reddit but those are mostly for friends and family or for fellow game devs. But this Find the Gnome 2 content is also dwarved on my YouTube channel with 0.5k views compared to the 9k views on my CI/CD and Unity stuff.

So I am going with the flow on this. And going to invest time in new, updated and fresh CI/CD and Unity content.

Thats it for this blog post! Hope you had a fun time reading my content. Wish you all the best an see you next time. Bye!

Find the Gnome 2 Demo is out now!

The Find the Gnome 2 Demo is out now on Steam!
https://store.steampowered.com/app/1855160/Find_the_Gnome_2/

The Find the Gnome 2 demo is available starting today, and this article contains everything you need to jump into the action.

This demo version will be available alongside the full version from now on. And keep up with the updates on the full version.
It features 4 levels from the full version.

You play this game by looking for the gnomes, clicking on objects to find hidden gnomes, and if you see a gnome running click on it to send out your helper to catch the gnome.
A gameplay trick is to click on the object the gnome is heading to, so that it has to stop and redirect course, and thus buys time for you helper to catch this gnome.

Find the Gnome 2 is built for playing with mouse and keyboard, or with gamepad. The gamepad uses a virtual mouse to mimic mouse movement.
The camera controls from a top-down perspective and rotates around a certain position on the level that is bound within the level bounds.
If you have difficulties controlling the game, post a message on the Steam board or contact me on Discord. I am gathering input to tune the controls and camera movement and give the ability for multiple input settings so that it plays flawlessly. The SteamDeck control set is currently problematic, so I advise you to play this on other platforms.

47 Demo is even closer

So much stuff to tell about! That is a good thing I think, that means the demo release is closer than ever.

Here is a link for if you haven’t wishlisted the game yet. You can use this same link to get onto Steam to install the demo when it releases. https://store.steampowered.com/app/1855160/Find_the_Gnome_2/

New ideas for existing problems

I am currently working on finishing up the last things that make the demo ‘good’. I came to find that this pressure had a very positive effect on me. Let me try to explain this.

There are all kind of things that I know aren’t perfect. Coming up with a good solution is hard. So in the past I have delayed to work on solving these issues until I came up with a simple but smart solution, or simply had more time to work on a ‘more complete’ solution.

However not fixing these things before the demo release will very likely result in people pointing these issues out. And even worse, the demo is there to make people want to wishlist the game & buy it later on. So a bad performance would hurt in the short term and long term.

So with the limited time, I have to try something. Preferable the simple solution I had already in mind but that weren’t ‘complete’ enough to my preference before.

Funny thing is, this deadline really helps coming up with even smarter solutions than I had previously come up with. That fit within the time boundaries of the demo release. And these solutions aren’t limited to ‘its fixed for the demo’, but these often are also really fixing the problem for the full version of Find the Gnome 2. This makes it that there are even less hurdles to take before I can release the full version. And that on its turn makes my mind a lot less stressed about the full version release because all the hurdles are magically disappearing.

The mind is a crazy machine. And I probably have ADHD (because thats a thing apparently: they work a lot better under a deadline)

Controls

So I got a SteamDeck last week. Ordered this thing like a year ago, and it finally was delivered at my home. I took the opportunity to install the Find the Gnome 2 full version on it (its a beta build, not completed yet). And showed it around to a few people.

However, the controls were lacking massively. It wasn’t play-able on the SteamDeck. I hoped the mouse emulation did work, and it did, but the total set of controls (mouse emulation, touch screen, gamepad contollers) didn’t work together at all. So imagine touching on the screen to catch a gnome, only for the screen to move around on touch and you missing the gnome. And if you hit a button of the gamepad controls, all kind of unhelpful movements where made.

This is one of the long standing issues with Find the Gnome. The control scheme isn’t that great, and I don’t have gamepad support. I know a lot of people play games similar to Find the Gnome and get really frustrated with the control schemes of these hide-and-seek games. So I had controller support and a good control scheme on my backlog for years.

So I set out and added the new Unity input system. Had to tune a lot of things to get it going with the different situations the game can present. But it turned out to be a very good and extensible platform to build upon. I have now a simulated mouse for when you pick up the controller. And you can switch now between mouse&keyboard, gamepad or touch. On the fly.

Still need to finetune a few settings. But it looks really promising currently.

Steam platform integration

While I was on it (getting the game to work better on the SteamDeck) I also continued on to integrate the Steam platform by adding the Steam API.

This API will enable more fluent startup of the game and the Steam overlay. Later on, I can extend the achievements from in-game to also be reflected on your Steam profile.

But for now, I mainly updated Steam to also include Cloud save support with Find the Gnome 2.

Another small touch I added, specific for the demo, is the inclusion of a wishlist action in the menus of the game. It isn’t as shiny als the old demo games from back in the days, that had these ending screens with elaborate collages of levels and things from the full version. My wishlist button suffices for now.

Up next

There are a few remaining parts to work on. These are the following:

  • Tutorial section on start
  • In-game feedback form
  • Improved responsiveness for menu’s
  • Basic game setting menu
  • Credit menu

I don’t know if I get all these things completed before the demo is released. Most important is the tutorial part.

Interesting detail: From that list, 3 things are menu related. I really seem to struggle with all kind of menu systems. Have a hard time coming up with good solutions, and struggle to get myself to work on these things. I had this back in the day of the first Find the Gnome game. And other game projects. And now with Find the Gnome 2. Well, I just keep trying. Adding little improvements. Until its ‘good enough’.

46 Demo is close

The demo is very near to release. Finally!

If you want a sneak peak watch this post from 2 weeks ago.

Rework

Finally, my list of things to do before releasing the demo is getting manage-able.

Past weeks I completed reworks on levels 3.1 and 4.2. For 3.1 that is the ‘village’ theme level for the demo, 4.2 is the ‘city’ theme level for the demo. Added small puzzles (machines to fix), reworked some level layout issues for more interesting searching of gnomes, added a more granular difficulty to make earlier levels more easy to play (and thus start with), and a ton of other fixes.

Still some replay-ability issues that I have to fix before the demo launches. Thats the most important gameplay thing that is left to be fixed.

And I have still a whole backlog of menu systems to work on. Achievements is a major part of that. But also a lot of accessibility issues, like key remapping, enabling controllers or touch input, graphical options, etc. Even a main menu is still not in the game.

Regarding the menu systems, I think I will launch the demo with a limited set of features. Achievement UI will be disabled, but achievements will be collected in the background.

Roadmap

A demo release in 1 month is currently my plan.

After that, I will continue on completing the 12 levels in total. Add the menu systems (and retroactively update the demo with it too).

It will take at least another 3 months after the demo release to do a first full version release. So a December release would be the first viable date for a full release (that you can buy) on Steam.

I will keep you updated. See you next time!

Find the Gnome 2 Upcoming demo

Sneak peek at the upcoming Find the Gnome 2 demo on Steam. This video is shot on a development environment. Shown two levels are in the demo, accompanied by two other levels for a total of 4 levels.

Not shown here, but in the demo there will also be 2 high quality cartoons that show a part of the story element of this game. The first release of the full game will feature 12 levels and 9 cartoons.

Find the Gnome, a hidden object game about gnomes trying to rebuild their home. Find it on Steam: https://store.steampowered.com/app/1855160/Find_the_Gnome_2/

A note on the development part of this video: the UI overlay shown is a debug UI, not available in the demo or full version. The sounds are being reworked at the moment and so is the music. Other than that this is pretty much what the demo will be. Between the demo and the full version, gameplay will not change. Full version will contain slightly different map and menu systems.

45 Simple update

I am having a hard time getting my thoughts on paper for this update, so this update is simple and straight forward. Not the usual format. Just some interesting things that happened.

Overall, I am still working on Find the Gnome 2. Trying to get the hours in, but I am having a hard time getting myself to actually do the work. (ADHD kicking in I guess).

Sounds

On the sounds, I am working together with Tobias. The same guy as from the music. He is going to supply a full set of sounds and help me out making it a balanced sound mixture.

I switched over to FMOD for the sound handling. I kept having things to solve with the sound system in Unity that are just not an issue in 3rd party sound solutions. I was looking at Wwise or FMOD, and choose FMOD because it looked simpler out of the box and simpler with its licensing structure.

Rework

In the previous update I stated that I was going to do rework. Here are some pictures of things we are going to change to the levels:

And this one:

There are more changes to come. But hinting them here would spoil the fun of you exploring these mechanics.

Workplace and ADHD

I am still looking for ways to make myself more productive.

I know that ADHD is something that can be solved using medication combined with behavioral changes, where the medication helps to enable these behavioral changes. I don’t have meds since they started to have side effects when I was 16. But it seems as if I still struggle with some of the ADHD specifics, like knowing what to do and how to do it but not getting to actually do it. My original examination was over 25 years ago and these documents are not around anymore. So if I want to get some help with this, I need to go through the whole medical thing again. And I am unsure if I want to go through that medical thing again.

So in the mean time I am optimizing the way I work. In the hopes this enables me to perform more consistent and get to the actual ‘doing’ of work more easily. My current idea is that working from home is not optimal. Too much things require my constant attention here and remind me of (parental) duties I have to fulfill.

With that I am actively looking for some working places in the near surroundings that have this mixture of solitude (if I want to) and connection (if I want to). But without the mixing of private concerns and work things. In the hopes this makes it easier for me to get to work on stuff.

Roan’s game project tricks me

I work on Roan (my son) his game. Not that much though, Find the Gnome 2 has my focus. But I can use these 2 projects to ‘trick’ my brain to get to actually work on something.

This is the way I do this: I work on a project (for example FtG 2) until I run into some difficulty. Then I switch over to the other project (for example Roan’s game). While I work on Roan his game, eventually things get more difficult there too. But in the mean time, I had time to think about my ‘problems’ on FtG 2 and they don’t seem to be that hard anymore. And before I know it, I am working on FtG 2 again and fixing that issue, because I then dread to work at Roan his game. These projects trade places every so often. And while this isn’t as fast as working on 1 game, it works for me because its better than not getting to work at all.

It keeps being funny to trick my brain.

O, by the way. I made a ‘turret’ for Roan his game and he is loving it! He has made 3 turret types and just runs around in the game placing them. Because they are that much fun:

Turrets like these aren’t going to end up in the final game. Because this world has a magic system, and miniguns with bullets don’t fit. But it looks cool and plays fun.

Thank you for reading this blogpost! I finally came to write it down so I am happy that I did. So now I hope you got something out of it too.