22 – Business as usual

A new project, kids @ home due to COVID: business as usual.

Enjoy the read!

Rework on Find the Gnome

First I will share with you some juicy screenshots of my work. Here I am reworking a level on Find the Gnome.

Rework in progress on Find the Gnome

In the past months I did a lot of remodeling to create new low-poly model replacements for the original models. Here you can see the old and new vegetation side by side. As you can see I need to adjust a few of them to increase their size, but other than that I am pleased with the results so far.

Gun model improvements for Manage the Universe

I am not working on Manage the Universe currently, and I use this to look at it from a distance. One specific thing I want to decide on before continuing is the art style.

So when my daughter asked to join her with drawing, I happily accepted it and took it as an opportunity to experiment.

Experimenting on Manage the Universe

There are a few things to notice here:

  • Unit types: I am thinking about how to create more units without having to create models from scratch. Giving factions 1 base type and then create a few variations, is a thing common in other franchises. The hover boat would be one base type, that walker with the external control pod on top would be another base type. Same goes for giving factions ‘preferred’ gun types, like rocket based vs laser based.
  • Adding details to units: I created a hover boat but I am not satisfied. The current model feels lifeless and rough. So I added the green stripes, those would be ‘radiating’ light. And I added a few ventilation panels on the side. And I worked the wings open, like wings present in the old Lego sets. Same goes for the turret’s hull, there I added a few nuts and bolts to give it an interesting shape.
  • Gun types: with the idea of having base units came the idea of having base gun types for factions. If they have rockets on their units, they should have rockets on their ships. And these models should look and operate alike. I am not totally sure yet because this will probably make the factions a-symmetric, but I could counter that by having faction specifics while also providing some generic guns and unit models.
  • Adding details to guns: inspired by the Star Wars franchise and the game Forts, I tried to create a few interesting gun barrels that had more to them than just being sticks that point to the sky. Moving parts, visible internals, interesting shapes, outside wiring/tubing, heavy muzzle flash effects and of course totally different types (laser, rocket, gun/mass, fluid).

New projects

Creating new projects is a healthy entrepreneurial practice. So when people come to me with a project they like themselves, I always listen. If their project resonates with my own capabilities and my own vision of my future, I will gladly join their efforts.

I can’t talk much about the specifics yet (because these idea’s aren’t mine to share) but I can share a few details on how I handle requests like this.

  1. I like talking about random stuff, and I like to solve problems. So I have always time to talk about an idea.
  2. When I talk with someone about their idea’s, I understand that us talking is already valuable for both of us. I get inspired, they can sort out their thoughts and reflect on it. Because of this I feel no pressure to actually do something with their requests, I already helped them by listening.
  3. While talking I use my work-structuring skills to help them get to the core of their issue. This is always a healthy balance of empathetic listening and technical checks. You could argue that there needs to be listening only, but there is a reason people get to me the engineer: they understand that their vision on the subject is limited and just want to know if it has a chance of succeeding or not. The sooner I point out issues the better.
  4. When pointing out issues, I always offer alternatives. I have very diverse interests and a very diverse knowledge base, and I use this to our both’s advantage. I just as much want their idea to succeed as they do: I know how hard it is to bang your head against the wall trying to make something work. Our combined experiences can make from 1 + 1 = 3.
  5. And then, when it is clear what the root issue is that needs solving, I have to find out if giving it my time makes a difference.
  6. If that is the case, I have to decide if I like this type of work (short time benefits) and where this gets me in life (the long run benefits).

The funny thing is that my available time and the costs of this all is not in this equation. That is because this early on it is much more about being smart and to try out some key concepts, and those require much and much less time than the creation of the ‘actual’ product. Later, when things are validated, it is clear what the actual benefits are so the justification of time and effort can be made.

2020, A very fruitful year

2020 was for me a very rewarding year. I started freelancing on the 1st of January, and tried to pursue both a career in Game Dev and Software Dev at the same time.

This blog is a look-back at what 2020 has brought me and has taught me.

Where to start

I had this idea in my head that the game development scene needed someone like me because there were some apparent issues with working conditions, and I could be of help with my knowledge from software development. So I did some initial market research in November and December of 2019, and continued in January 2020. I tried to position myself as an independent researcher and journalist.

This continued through January and a bit of February. I attended a game jam, got to a game dev conference and attended 2 game dev meetups. I wrote a few articles on my blog. And I met a lot of people during this time and talked with them about game dev.

However I learned quickly that I was completely wrong. First of all, I want to be a business and needed to make money. That is very hard with research and journalism, it is a difficult product to sell. On top of that, to be good at it I needed to have experience and I very much lacked actual experience with the industry working condition issues and writing about it. Making it worse, it turned out the issue wasn’t that common especially in the Netherlands with our work culture here.

So: there was no real issue (here in the Netherlands at least), I didn’t know what I was talking about or what I needed to look for (lacking experience and connections), and it turned out to be the most difficult way to possibly make money of game dev.

On to: Plan B

When I started with GameFeelings, I already had planned to work 24 to 32 hours a week on software dev. At least for 3 years, until I had enough customers in freelance game dev to provide services to.

I landed a job with Strukton (through an intermediary) and enjoyed my work there as a backend software development specialist. It made good money, my first actual hard earned money as ‘a company’ of my own.

This ended abruptly by a let-go due to COVID hitting the streets. They had planned to utilize me for at least 2 months longer, but since they did not know what was coming at them they closed all flex contracts.

Renewed: Plan A

While working for Strukton I concluded that while the research wasn’t a good plan I really did want to do actual game dev work. Strukton was ‘just sofware dev’ and I have been doing this for the last 10 years already. This was not my idea of how I wanted to fill my time while freelancing.

So this brought me to Escaperoom 071. They needed someone cheap but with game dev experience and knows about how to make a multiplayer game.

I was really exited: within 5 months of my freelancing I landed my first actual game dev job, that I personally acquired by looking at the right places and talking to the right people.

My first ‘own’ freelance job turned out to be a massive learning however. It was organized very amateurishly, but nonetheless I really enjoyed working on ‘an actual game’. I had organized the contracts very badly so there was no real money to be made, but I was able to contain the damage and get away.

While working on this game dev I concluded that I had made substantially easier money with software dev. So much actually that I was able to live the whole year together with my wife and kids while my wife worked part time. We had to carefully look at our expenses, but that was totally worth it. We both enjoyed my newly owned freedom and that I had the ability to do whatever I wanted.

Back to: Plan A

With COVID really hitting hard, even the software dev turned out to be having a difficult time. In all kinds of business the freelancers where the ones that had to search for new opportunities, so the market became very crowded very quickly. With that, hourly prices fell at least 15% and the working conditions became much more requiring.

I did not want to work 40 hours a week again (for a contractor). I wanted to do this 24 to 32 hours max per week. And do short, max 3 months, contracts. But the market said ‘nope’.

So I concluded that I would be better off working on my own games. It was sure to make me more happy: better working hours, working on games, and being my own boss.

Happy times

While working on my own games I lived the best times of 2020. While everyone was experiencing a rough year due to COVID including me, I at least had something to look forward to every day.

I started the year working on a small project with Bart. That quickly turned out to be too difficult to continue due to the whole COVID thing and personal energy levels. So i put this project on the shelf again.

I started working on a new game idea of my own. However it turned out to be very difficult to start a game project. Especially since I wanted to do it professionally and make money out of it, I had to take it serious. I think I overdid the seriousness part there, because it caused a lot of stress. Thankfully, I ended up accepting that I only could give so much and that my efforts where sufficient.

During the work on the various game related things I was a bit stressed but I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I could do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. And I could spend time with my family whenever I deemed necessary.

With my wife working as a nurse at the hospitals lung ward, there was much more pressure on her to deliver due to COVID. So I was happy that I could ease the burden and could actually ‘assist with something’ during this whole COVID thing.

All in all I think I am made for building software and are extra motivated by the software being games… at the only requirement of being in control of my own life and spending time with my family.

Aaaaand, back to: Plan B

But with the end of the year approaching, the COVID thing became a dark cloud on the horizon again. This time however the money had dried up and I needed to get a new job before February 2021.

I really did not want to work for a boss again if things didn’t work out in February 2021, so I was extra motivated to look for alternatives. The hourly rate I received while working for Strukton was a very good pay, but I learned during the months living off my savings that I needed a lot less. Another thing I had learned, was that I have very valuable experience in software dev that is worth a lot more money per hour than my game dev experience.

So I turned to the worldwide market to land a software dev contract myself, on my own turns. And that turned out to be waaaay more easy than I thought it would be. I got a contract at Tevent for a reasonable hourly pay, fully remote work, flexible hours, and only a minimum of 25 hours/week.

And that was the end of 2020! Happy new year everybody!

2020 In numbers

I like numbers, here are a few numbers of GameFeelings in 2020.

I did log 304 days of work:

  • 6% writing articles
  • 6% traveling and commuting
  • 8% of administrative tasks like logging hours, planning, and setting up and changing my work place
  • 11% talking to recruiters and doing all kinds of marketing for game dev
  • 33% worked on my own projects
  • 36% worked for clients

I started 12 of my own projects. Cancelled 8 of them. Completed 1. And 3 are still ongoing.

I attended 1 game development conference. I joined 1 game jam.

I release 1 game to 2 platforms. This game is ‘Gearful’. It was played 54 times on Itch.io and installed 5 times on Android.

‘Find the Gnome’ still sold some units, around 25. And I got 50 wishlist’s for it.

My Gamefeelings.com website: 863 visitors, 1615 views. I made 33 posts with 19,689 words in total.

My best content: The Jenkins Unity 3D CI/CD article with 207 views (released in January) with attached video, seconded by the same content but then applied to Azure DevOps with 147 views (released in August). Their YouTube statistics: Jenkins had 948 views with 3998 previews and 66 hours of content watched with a click-through of 13,3%, DevOps had 338 views with 1225 previews and 30,4 hours of content watched and a click-through of 8,2%.

Summary of my learnings

There are a few things I learned I want to share with you. I tell them from my perspective, but maybe it resonates with you. Think of your own learnings and accomplishments of 2020: even with the COVID disaster, 2020 was not a lost year.

  • Family: to have a place to call home, to be able to reside in it/with them for days even when in lock-down, that is something to cherish. I started to like my kids and wife even more for who they are.
  • Having my own business: I really like the business side, being my own boss.
  • Working on my own: I need other people around me, to stay mentally healthy and to let them do the work I am not good at. For instance, hiring a bookkeeper was one of my best decisions and worth every penny.
  • Constant change of plans: It caused a lot of headache, but it lead me down the way of the least resistance. It learned me to let go of control, trust my own skills, and make more of the here-and-now.
  • Inventing games: I don’t have to overdo it, I just need to make sure I can feed my family while I enjoy creating games. I will eventually get better at my craft, just have to give it time.
  • Software dev: I am good at my craft, enjoy it, and can make good money with it. So I should continue doing this kind of work.
  • Research and journalism: I don’t think this is my calling…
  • Writing blogs: fun thing to do, really resonates with my way of thinking and structuring my thoughts. And it makes sure I stay on track with game dev and deliver something interesting every 2 weeks.
  • Making YouTube video’s about development: very time consuming, but a good way to show off my skills and get people to know me.
  • Escaperoom 071 failure: It was no failure. I learned so much about communication and expectations. And how I could better trust my own gut feelings.
  • Part time work: there are very few companies that liked me working part time. Especially in software dev and game dev. If I want to work 24-32 hours a week on software dev, that is very hard to accomplish. More accepted is to work a few months full time on software dev, and than switch to full time game dev for a few months.
  • Remote work: There were few to none Dutch companies that allowed remote work, but that (luckily) changed a lot during COVID. Still, they insist on physical contact being the norm. However, I discovered that globally oriented companies are much more freely structured when it comes to working times and thus the feasibility of remote work.
  • Hours of work: I am a person that is easily exhausted by my work. 5 hours of work a day seems to be the max. While I can be available 8 hours on-site I always tend to work max 5 hours efficiently. While writing my own hours I am very strict in only writing what I actually work. But you could argue that this is equal to 8 hours of work for other people.

So, I am still searching for my place in all of game dev. But after one hell of a year, I am still in business with a healthy projection for the future. That alone is something I can be proud of.

21 – Other business

I have spend the past week working for the company ‘Tevent‘. They are a startup company based in the UK, currently in their first funding round and making an MVP. They are a platform for organizing events / conferences, but provide this completely online:

tevent.com

A new contract

With me working for them as a Freelance (business) software developer, I am able to fund my game development efforts.

I am very happy with this contract. They allow me to work on my advances software development skills because they use the beautiful Microsoft Service Fabric platform. They are a tech savvy company. So there is much emphasis on the use of the latest code practices, for instance next level C# 9 features.

My local development Service Fabric cluster

I love Gigs

In the weeks preceding this contract I had to work tirelessly to get a new contract. I tried a lot of my known contacts with software developers in the Netherlands but that did not work out. Eventually I got my ‘gig’ accounts up n running again on platforms like Upwork and Fiverr, and there I had more success.

These international gigs nets me less revenue than the usual ‘local’ contracts, but they are much more flexible and way more suited for remote work. I like these international contracts, they suit my needs much better.

Back to game development

So when will I get back to development on my games? Well, it depends on two factors: 1) I have to replenish my financial buffers, and 2) Tevent has yet to launch their platform, so there is pressure to deliver.

I think I will be able to squeeze a few hours per week in when I am fully up to speed, probably end December. It always takes me a few weeks to acclimate and get my schedule aligned. And there are a lot of holidays in December with a lot of (exhausting) social stuff happening.

So, stay tuned! See you next week.

20 – Putting in the hours

I am currently working my ass of modelling stuff. My main goal is to get an art style for ‘Manage the Universe’, my new game. However for me to be able to create this, I need to have some proficiency in modelling. So I am modeling all kinds of stuff currently.

Size comparisons

One of those things I need to decide on is the sizing of things. Like how big is a spaceship compared to a human? Do I use ‘real’ sizes or do I allow for some per-situation scaling?

So to analyze this I modeled a few ships:

In the front is the very rough outline of the U.S.S. Voyager (340m) and in the back my own interpretation of a Star Wars battlecarier (1625m). In between the falcon heavy (70m) and a prototype of the players personal spaceship (10m). As you can see this will give some visual issues if you would allow ships of these sizes to be in the same battlefield, if you use actual non-scaled sizes.

Ship shapes

The ship shapes I used in the size comparison are all very distinctive. Using distinct models/shapes from merchandises can look cool but will probably problematic on multiple levels. My game will not be recognizable on its own, and there will be possible copyright issues.

So I decided to try out a few shapes of my own. This is the ‘hover-line’ multi purpose class. This is the transporter loadout with full armament. It uses anti gravity rings for floating and steering, and some warp capable engines for propulsion. Its main use is for invasion of planets. It’s length is 40m. For comparison: the middle cannon is 4m high.

I’m still working on the color schemes. I do like this greed/grey/black/red color scheme. Combined with the wings it reminds me of the old Lego space sets.

Re-modelling Find the Gnome

I am using the re-modelling of Find the Gnome as a tangible way to make more hours. And it seems I really like this kind of work. It feels the same as refactoring old/bad code. Additionally, I can use this opportunity to finally deliver on a promise I made to myself: to once get Find the Gnome to a better place.

One interesting thing to note here: The road is a system where the pieces are made to work together and nicely fit. This is where my previous experience with level design in Find the Gnome comes in handy. The houses use predefined sizes, as do the garden fences. This will speed up level design immensely.

Working on Find the Gnome feels very satisfying: It doesn’t matter what I deliver, the game will always be in a better place after this. With ‘Manage the Universe’ I feel much more pressure to deliver.

19 – Having fun modelling

I have been working on 2 complementary things at the same time: improving my modelling skills and finding a suiting art style for Manage the Universe.

I love the process of modelling with Blender, it is really satisfying for me. And I find it easy to get myself to work on modelling, so I that is a good indication that I might be able to pull off a content rich game.

On the finding of an art style: this one is difficult. The amount of polygons or the color schemes don’t appear to matter so much. I tried to find a satisfying result while working in blender with changing model poly count, texture color maps and scene composition. But feels not right. I need the whole picture. So I think I have to get this into Unity and add more things like animation, direct and indirect lighting, and other effects.

So I did some more modelling. A few trees for the nature side of things, and eventually a few planetary bodies for the galaxy overview.

It is with these planetary bodies that I imported them into Unity and tried to get a good looking composition. So I created an actionblock and added a sun (with light effects) and rotating bodies (planets) around it:

I like this fiddling in Unity: with this being in the engine I know if it works I can pull this off, unlike animating stuff in Blender and hoping it compares when imported in Unity.

By the way, there are a few improvements I could think of. First of all the sun has to be bright yellow, than I have to find something better than these 2 point lights currently in the sun, and of course adding clouds & atmosphere on the planets. But what do you think I could do to improve this scene?

Bi-Weekly update 18

Hi, Erik here. A solo game developer doing his ‘thing’. Currently I’m writing this on the evening of my weekend. For me writing this article is a fun way to get me thinking about all the things I accomplished the past to weeks. And for you a way to keep notice of the interesting things I come up with.

I learned from my mistakes

My ‘asking for a buddy’ a few weeks ago is still influencing the things I do. I did some more talks, and this time it was about my way of prototyping. The designer pointed out I was going too fast and not ironing out the necessary things needed before you go to production. With his background coming from EA he said ‘game companies do this all of the time, no hard feelings’.

But I realized that I was making the same mistakes I made with ‘Find the Gnome’ back in 2017/2018.

Let me take you back in time. Back then I had some things worked out, like using gnomes and doing hide-n-seek with funny mouse interactions. But that is just a very small part of the game. I had not looked into level design and story design, and how these would amplify the funny game mechanics. But I started production, happy that I did find some kind of core game loop. So I ended up working myself into the corner, not being able to recover from it. Eventually I came at a point in the production that if I wanted to make the game better, I had to start all over with all the level design, assets and story. But 75% of the time spend was already in those parts of the game…

(Interesting detail: If you play ‘Find the Gnome’ you see that there are some levels ‘under construction’ still to this day. That is where I gave up hope.)

Back to current day. With ‘Manage the Universe’ I have everything still open. I can still make a great game out of it. All assets that are created currently are technical/mechanics only and can easily be dropped or repurposed.

So I made a whole new plan, this is for the prototype phase only:

If you want to know a bit more about how I salvaged the progress, see this in depth article. There I explain what the end-product of the prototype phase should be, and from there on you can work back and create steps on how to get there.

Let me introduce ‘Actionblocks’

Another experimental technique I am currently using is an ‘actionblock’.

What is the official idea: it is an isolated ‘main’ game mechanic, but with enough added small helper mechanics so that you have a mini game around this ‘main’ game mechanic. Make like 40 or 50 of these, and from there on you can easily play with different mechanics and mash up a few of these ‘main’ mechanics and find out if an interesting core game loop emerges.

I did add my own twist to it. I want my game to be more component based even during production. So I see use in this as a combination of prototyping, game-play testing, and component testing.

So, in practice. For a new mechanic I first create an actionblock and work out the details of this mechanic, and then add it to the core game loop. But the two are interconnected in that I use clever interfaces. So if isolated correctly I can than easily tune the specific mechanic in its actionblock without having to fire up the whole game. And preferably do some automated testing with it in the build pipeline.

Actionblock ‘tech tree’

A big portion of my previous 4 weeks went into this actionblock thing, and specifically the ‘tech tree’.

During working on the actionblock of the tech tree I found out I was creating all kind of production ready UI elements. So it was then that I decided to get back to prototyping. Hence the prototype look:

It is all about the tech tree, the additional stuff is there to extremely simplify the remaining game loop. My current goal with this actionblock is to determine how the tech tree interacts with you while doing your usual stuff of exploring the world. It is still a WIP, the idea is that you find items with technology on it and that this unlocks your techs. But sometime you can’t unlock tech because you have to advance other parts first before you can do ‘better’ item finds, and with this actionblock I am trying to work out a good way to get this interesting.

Prototype phase 2

Product development is a hard thing to do. It is so easy to want to go too fast. The reasons don’t matter: if you don’t have enough information on your product and its market yet, you are in for a bumpy ride if you push through.

I know all this stuff from business software development, and from developing my first game ‘Find the Gnome’. It seems I got myself trapped again.

In this article I shed some light in how I continue to keep the speed and agility in my product development.

First prototype

While working on the first prototype of ‘Manage the Universe’ I slowly came to a halt.

A few things that happened:

  • I hadn’t decided on the art style of my game yet, nor experimented with it, nor researched how to get a good looking art style in my game engine.
  • I started needing models for my terrain, I needed design guides for my UI elements.
  • While modeling my terrain I was not happy with the results. Partly because it didn’t look good, but also because I had no idea where to aim for.
  • I was slowing down. Since I was building a vertical slice I got things thoroughly connected and reaching certain parts in game while developing became hard. I was countering this by creating debug screens.

Don’t get me wrong. This first prototype phase was a very fruitful one because I could explore the possibilities of the idea that is ‘Manage the Universe’. I now have a more clear understanding of the core mechanics, that they work, and that this product is worth dedicating more time to.

The thing is that with me trying to make a slice is based on the assumption I know what is in that slice. I do know about the outlines of the mechanics, but not their relations and I certainly have no idea what I want to do with the art.

So, there is my problem.

Second prototype

A lot of stuff still needs refining and exploring. But now the components are clear. So I have redefined my plan.

It was this:

I revisited it to this:

As you can see there are now 28 items with prototyping art vision or an ActionBlock on a certain aspect of the game. Finishing each part will result in a delivery of a test scene (with art or game-play) or a code improvement.

There is still a lot of work to do, so I probably need to scrap more features. But I like it that the roadmap is a lot more clear now.

Next phases

The end goal of this phase is to have a clear understanding how things ‘work’:

  • How does the game look like.
  • How much time would it need to create certain content.
  • The relation between the amount of content and the amount of playtime this will get.
  • A code base / architecture that is not likely to see drastic changes.
  • A good working pipeline with tools, a clear understanding how to easily add content.
  • Good QA tools to see if the game-play still works out.

So then I could make calculations on how much content I want to have given the time available. And to layout the needed assets to be created.

Then the production phase starts. This is where all these assets get actually build and put together. While testing and fine tuning. And with the help of other freelance developers I want to hire.

Somewhere in the beginning of the production phase, early alpha builds will start to get available. Probably on Steam Direct or/and funded through Kickstarter.

And when all content is created, the product is ‘final’. Then I can look at what is created and how well the community responds to this game, and decide on adding additional content.

The competition

Tell me, do you often experience something like this: you have a great idea, start working on it, and one day you stumble upon a video and it seems as if the whole world is already creating the idea’s you had in mind. And they where doing this for like the past 2 years already, so it seems as if you where sleeping these past 2 years…

This blog is about the competition I face while building ‘Manage the Universe’ and what I think of my chances.

First of all 2 nice videos worth watching if you are into strategy games / city builders. These are the competition I’m talking about, especially those in the strategy 4X section.

My first notice is that most of the games have decent to excellent 3D graphics. Yes a few are cartoony but even then quite polished.

A bit more on the looks of the game. My aim for the game would be to place it in a space sci-fi setting with gameplay balancing between strategy and first person action. That brings another set of competitors in view:

There are a lot of good looking competitor games in the market. I did know this already. But every time I look at the competition I see very well thought-out and nice looking spaceships. I want at least well thought-out space ships, but even that requires a lot of work to pull of.

Back to the strategy video. A thing I noticed was that a lot 4X strategy of games use generated maps with hexagon tiles. And they have interesting approaches on how to make the terrain fit these tiles and still look natural. See this for instance:

Look at the water body on the right: these are nicely hidden hexagons. Or the mountains. Or the nice transition between the plains and the farms in the bottom left. It gives me a nice reference to what is possible, but I do know from first hand experience that getting it to this level is quite a feat on its own.

Now on to comparing other parts of the game. My game would fit quite a bit in the 4X genre: ‘eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate’. A few of these games are 4X and do also have real time battles, so that is about the same. Most of these strategy games have progression systems (upgrades, tech trees). A few of them are in a space sci-fi setting. A few of them have hero units. And a few of them are story driven. But not all of them have it all at the same time. And no one of these play from the eyes of a main protagonist, as in: your strategy control is centered around your protagonist. And none of them have the unfolding gameplay, progression system and replayability system.

A lot of comments that accompany these video’s do complain about these upcoming titles to be more of the same. But at the same time people refer back to Age of Empires 2, Dune, Supreme Commander (1), Total War series, Empire Earth 1, Black and White, Star wars Empires at War, Populus, Civilization series, etc. Deep inside them they want to relive their old experiences over and over again.

In 1990-2000 there was a golden age of strategy games. But it seems as if there is a revival happening with a lot of upcoming titles. The question is however: are these new titles compelling/different enough to compete with the other new stuff when they compete at the same time with the old legends. And is this revival a good or a bad thing for my title… only time will tell.

On the positive side I do have a few interesting tricks up my sleeve. While I have to watch out with the graphic side of things (and possible look for support of other devs), my interesting gameplay mechanics will save the day! (If executed well)

Bi-Weekly update 17

Manage the Universe

Last update I wanted to create a holographic view of the second world detail level. But I would not be me if I worked on something else. I had a hard time determining how it should look like so I decided to let the idea mature a bit more.

Asking for a buddy

What I ended up doing was asking Reddit to help me out again. This time more serious: I asked for a game dev buddy. That is because while determining where to work on I realized I was doing a lot of work on my own and I need someone to talk to. I need someone to mirror my behavior and help structure the thoughts I have.

I got an overwhelming and heartwarming response. A lot of people can relate to the issues I have with finding like minded people in these COVID times. It is hard to work from home, alone.

Core game loop

‘buddy’ game designer CALSYTHE took the limited information I gave him and turned them into a core game loop. This is a major step: it means that all needed components are already in place and they have the potential to work together to create a working game.

This is what the core game loop looks like:

God games

Another game designer that contacted me on the Reddit post did send me this video. It is about the ‘god game’ type of game where you use indirect controls to let people do stuff.

Well, after watching this game I found out that I did not want my game to be a pure ‘god’ game. Yes the ‘god’ mechanics is a fun one, and yes I think I will use it partially. But more as a secondary mechanic than the main one. This is a game and I want the player to have more direct control over stuff than in real life, to enhance the power fantasy.

A ‘god’ mechanic I would like to implement is one where your environment makes their own decisions independent of you. But they still use your ‘set way’ or ‘blueprint’ to subconsciously guide their decisions.

And yeah power is relative, it is the contradiction that makes you feel the power. So I know I need some helplessness in the game to emphasize the power. But that could be naturally achieved by adding stuff you really don’t control (even in real life never ever) like love/adoration/faith.

Identity

Identity and the search for identity is something many people can relate to. With me having a real ‘business’ I have had a few boosts in my own search for identity.

One of my latest findings is how to align all of my identities and get 1 ‘backing’ personality out of it. So me being a father, me being a lover, me being a software engineer, being an Indi game dev, me playing computer games, etc. Getting all these identities together will solve a lot of contradictory feelings and energy drains. The main thing I discovered is what my inner child is a ‘manly energetic problem solver that really likes to fiddle with stuff on his own’. So next on the to-do list is to align more of the things I do to match up with this profile, and to find out how I can implement an (emotionally) mature version of this inner child.

A concrete example of this is that I am making decisions about how I would like to shape the future of the company GameFeelings if things take off. This is not about dreaming of a future, but it is really needed if I want to take running a company seriously, as said by Joakim Achrén from elite game developers. I follow his blogs for a while now and I am subscribed to his mailing list, and there he speaks a lot about how to found game companies and still enjoy your work as the founder even when things change. It comes all down to deciding on identity and always aligning the things you do and plan to do with your identity.

Procrastination

I think the long time readers of my blog figured this out already, but I am very good at procrastination. I think it has something to do with my ADHD as explained in this YouTube video.

Procrastination could be a bad thing and I usually interpret it as a bad thing, however I am on a discovery that most of the time there is an underlying issue that can act as a signal on things that are not working out. For instance, me not wanting to start working on the level 1 and level 2 is more an issue of knowing that I can’t deliver on the art, animation and effects. And that relates more to having issues with a time deadline than that I don’t believe in me being able to learn some sufficient basic skills.

So yeah I am currently wondering if I am going to make the game I want and take the time it needs, or to just push for it…

Bi-Weekly update 16

Business

A quick overview of the business side of things.

Due to the whole COVID thing there is still much uncertainty in the market. Especially on the freelance / consultancy side. And since I am a single developer with no profitable game released yet, my money comes from savings of the freelancing I do in business software development.

My idea is to put as much time in my game ‘Manage the Universe’ as possible before having to put that project on halt and doing some freelancing to get the finances to do another take on ‘Manage the Universe’.

For this reason I’m looking for a new freelance project starting in December 2020 / January 2021 with a duration of 3 to 6 months. If you do happen to know someone that can use my skillset, please let me know.

I’m looking for:

  • A full remote project all over the world, or partially remote if it is max 2 hours driving from Zwolle (Netherlands), or on-site if it is max 1 hour driving from Zwolle.
  • Or a C# Unity project, or a C# .Net (Core) project.
  • Hourly rate is negotiable depending on travel and working conditions, seniority required, using an intermediate party, etc. Range is 65-80 euro/hour (ex btw).

What do you get:

  • An expert developer of C# .Net with a lot of experience on back-end heavy projects. Experienced in both full-stack as in solution/enterprise architecture. I have 10 years of professional experience, besides building software as a hobby for over 22 years now.
  • People recommend me because 1) I love my work and I naturally inspire other developers, 2) I can be build upon and deliver what I promise.
  • My expertise shines when doing technically heavy projects or being in a complex environment. Very skilled at dividing workload, solution architecture, databases, (multi)threading, networking.
  • Technologies used recently: .Net Core, Azure services, MsSql, Message queue’s, Azure DevOps, Azure IAM (AD/OpenID), Unittests, Postman.
  • Methodologies used recently: Agile, Scrum, CI/CD, Dev(Sec)Ops, TDD.
  • Languages: Native Dutch speaker, work level English.
  • For my full resume see https://www.linkedin.com/in/diederikjohannesderoos/

I am open for companies that want a long term relationship with small projects or assistance on a 1-2 days/week basis. With work like this other contract types like payment on a project base are possible.

Manage the Universe

With the commercial talk out of the way, here is an update on ‘Manage the Universe’, the game I am currently working on.

The major progress is on the ‘galaxy’ overview. If you watched my socials I did put this on my twitter:

As mentioned in previous updates this game is going to be a strategy game. The hexagonal style is communicating this very well I think. And the hexagon tile enables me to simplify the game mechanics.

The game has several levels of gameplay. To sum those up:

(By the way, layer 3 has the most appealing looks yet. That is because I started with layer 3, did some work on layer 2, more on layer 1, and then re-imagined layer 3. When I get the other layers another pass they will look a lot more appealing and consistent.)

The hexagon and gameplay levels system ties in into the progress. The idea is to unfold it like this:

The whole galaxy is generated from a seed. That is where another benefit of the hexagon comes into play: it makes for an easy building block system.

Where to work on next?

I’m still deciding on the art direction. A lot of the 3rd person level 1 planet view is depended on assets being made, and with the art direction not clear yet I don’t think that is where I will be working on next.

But the level 2 region overview of the planet is something I’m comfortable to make a few decisions on. I’m thinking about making it a holographic representation like thing, to emphasize the strategic element of it. With it being a representation only I can use a few shortcuts like non-realistic building placement and low effort assets. It would be cool if in the next 2 weeks I can get to the point where I can show off buildings, units and unit command.