25 Animating

When I started ‘Find the Gnome’ in December 2017, my goal was to do it all myself so I could experience what I was good at and what I was bad at. Creating a model for the gnome, texturing, animating: it was all part of that.

Now in 2021 modelling is much more easy for me to do and actually fun. Animating however is not something I enjoy doing.

If you take a look at the gnomes in my 2018 game, you will notice them being not that smooth on the animation. Further more, some are even broken. I ended up abandoning on fixing it back then. Even worse, I used a not-so-common way to record the animations in Blender, so all animations are broken by now.

That is the premise of this blog post: how to fix the gnomes?


First I did a remodel of the gnomes. I think it is an O.K. low poly model, but some dimensions are a bit off. And the texturing is not matching with a low poly look.

Gnome models in ‘Find the Gnome’

As you can see, the old models use a ‘smooth’ look but in reality they are low poly models. Further more I textured them without knowing how to do it properly, hence the white-ish lines you see on the models. For insiders: I didn’t know how to properly use UV seams.

Reworked gnome model, low poly

This is the same model as before, only with slight changes to the face. But now with smoothing off so it matches with the low poly look of the environment. And the texturing is now done using some sort of a color map technique, common for low poly models, so there is a very limited set of colors used in the scene.

The color map I currently use in Find the Gnome is the same as on Manage the Universe. The ‘ImphenziaPalette01’:



For animating the models, things have changed massively over the years. Currently, you can get at 90% without even lifting a finger. Ok, a few mouseclicks maybe.

Previously you had to give the model a ‘skeleton’, then attach the outside (the model) to the inside (the skeleton) properly, then make a few animations using keyframes.

Now you go to Mixamo, upload your model (without skeleton), point out a few key points in your model, and there you go. Then select a few interesting animations you want your model to have, see how it looks on your model and tune a few parameters (if any), then download it, import it into Unity, and: done.

Mixamo animation samples

It already looks sooo good, compared to what I had. Yes it can be even better than this, but that is when you want to do it yourself or to pay someone to do it for you.

Animation blend tree on Gnome

The fun part is: immediately I have a gnome that has a much more interesting idle/walk/run cycle.

So that is when I need to get to work. This previous image is a ‘blend tree’: it blends between different animations. That is another piece of Unity I didn’t use before but really helps with animating. It is part of a state machine that makes switching and blending between animations really easy to develop and debug.

I am still not finished. Yes the animations look way better already. But I can now also see that a few animations aren’t that well suited for my gnome and the type of walking he is going to have in-game. But that is the benefit of Mixamo: I now know what works and what not without too much effort, and can spend my time (or money) on animations that are certain to be useful. Or just switch them out with something else from Mixamo and see where that takes me.

24 Questionnaire results!

The results of the questionnaire are in! All of you want more game dev, so I am going to get my 1-hour-gamedev-a-day back in. Thanks for the answers!

The past 2 weeks I was still working hard on making money so I could support a few months off in the future to work on my games full time again. I have read a few interesting articles that I want to share with you in this blog. And on the end, the results of the questionnaire!

High quality budget marketing

Sometimes you come across someone that just seems to be good at his trade. This marketeer ‘Chris’ from https://howtomarketagame.com is such a person in my opinion. But there is a strangeness to his quality… he shares his insights for free!

His articles are all about applying his experience to real world samples, backed by a lot of data and the data analysis itself. See for instance this article on how to be smart in copying the marketing strategy of your competitors: https://howtomarketagame.com/2021/01/25/how-to-spy-on-your-competition/.

His down-to-earth approach is really inspiring to me. And his unconditional sharing of his insights is refreshing. I find myself temped by contacting him to do marketing on one of my games.

There is still place for new games

Sometimes I think by myself: wouldn’t be there a point in time that every possible game is invented? Every melody composed? Every painting painted?

I ran into 2 interesting stories on Reddit. They do show that there are still unexplored territories in gamedev. But at the same time, for these guys succeeding, a lot of others are failing.

So… pet simulators is going to be the next thing? Maybe I should create a garden simulator where you can place gnomes and watch it come to life in the evening? O my, others thought of that already

On the other hand, I came across a Sims clone lately. EA dropped the ball on ‘proper’ keeping up with this game, and now new games that do the same are enjoying a rich audience. Even reinventing games can be good business!

Questionnaire results

For those who where not able to do so, I have this form up where you can answer 3 questions to help me out. Very easy and quick to do.

Already 25% of my audience has answered. Friends, family, colleagues: thanks! You are by far my major supports. Over 50 people enjoy my content monthly already, but you are by far the most engaged, and thanks for giving something back to me!

With having said that, all(!!!) of you enjoy seeing me sharing my progress on game development. And half of you are interested in me sharing my experiences with running a business. Funny enough, non of you admit being a game developer yourself, but half of you like seeing tutorials about game dev. Interesting hehe.

So yeah, I have to get back on my game dev. I am still making money so I can fund a few dedicated months of game dev again. But your support for me means a lot to me, your answers gave me new energy! So I will put my daily game dev hour back in use so I work at least 1 hour a day on game dev.

23 – Redefinition of GameFeelings

Hello and welcome to this blog! The past few weeks I have been working on a couple of new concepts. One of which is Crowdkans.nl, a concept of a friend of mine. And I got a few personal and very insightful lessons from a great Dutch marketeer called TopPresentatie.

I will be exploring these and some other things in this blog post. I will be as clear as always, writing out my considerations on the subjects at matter, and give an insight in how I run my business. There is a big change you too can take something away from it!


Get a better interest rates while at the same time supporting the creation of a greener world, and do this by helping tangible companies with specific (local) projects.

That is what ‘Bart Kers’, a friend of mine, is trying to achieve with Crowdkans.nl. An interesting proposition in times where savings at the bank are next to nothing and you can’t spend your money.

You can find his own motivation over at his bio. As this bio is in Dutch, a summary of mine: he is an engineer with an entrepreneurial spirit and a knack for economics, and now he wants to contribute to the world by helping crowdfunded (local) green projects find the right people that want to invest.

This project of him is one of the counselings I was giving. He wanted my advise on how to start an online business and had a few technical questions. I was able to help him get to the core and make it small enough to start with. So that is what he then did: create a blog over at Crowdkans.nl. If you like his idea’s, message him or leave a comment at his blogs. We have a few nice technological tools in the pipeline to help you with finding and managing these crowd projects for yourself, but we need to know how much people are interested in this.

And then on to a disclaimer here. I need to add a few words from my own here because his website is about financial advise, or can be viewed as such.

I personally think there is a severe lack of education on finances in our current economy. The downside is that you are likely to not understand the risks of the information offered on this platform. On the other hand, Bart wants to educate people more so they understand how they can make a difference in the world with wisely choosing how to spend their money. And he want to give them the tools to make their own decisions.

I know from my personal experience while being an engineer for advieskeuze.nl that the area of financial advice is a heavily regulated one. The products are way too complex most of the time, the motives of people offering products and services are questionable, and when there is money involved suddenly even the mightiest of mind seems to bow to the wishes of the Mammon.

But I am also a fervent advocate of education. Finances is one of those area’s, where I think that regulating it by introducing advisors attributes to an even bigger downfall in education.

That is why I support his idea. And yes, he is an integer person, I can vote for that. He is a ‘real’ engineer from his childhood, just wanting to explore the options and give an objective overview of what is possible.


I haven’t blogging over my personal game projects for a while. Those who follow me over at twitter can see the long pauses between posts. And if you read about the business opportunities I am exploring, you might to come to think that creating games isn’t my passion anymore. But at the same time gamefeelings.com starts like this:

gamefeelings.com first lines

It is this discrepancy, among others, that the Dutch marketeer ‘Patrick van Gils’ (from TopPresentaties.nl) pointed out and tried to help me make more sense of it.

I learned this during an online training ‘Pitching and Presenting’ that was hosted by Qcredits. A quick insight into Qredits: I have a loan at this company. They provide government backed (EU) funding for starters, and their goal is to help you get a stable company running. To achieve this, they providing free trainings (currently online) and also provide a coaching service.

Back to the subject at hand. I was in this training together with 7 other attendees, and this Patrick held this amazing presentation. Without slides of course. And with a lot of questions involving us, the attendees, but always in control of where to go next. This guy was a living and breathing example of his profession.

His 2.5 hour presentation was already too short to get all his messages across. So me trying to sum this up in a few statements will fall short miles of his (even already limited) attempt. To help you better understand what to do if you want to do this yourself, I will show you the steps that I took myself.

  • It is all about introducing yourself efficiently. To do this, he gives you 6 points to work at to get a better introduction. Write it down each step.
  1. Who am I. (hint: present yourself as an A brand)
  2. What is it that I do. (hint: get it to 1 or 2 words)
  3. Who are my buyers. (hint: who do you aim at, 3 activities you do, the thing you solve for them)
  4. What are my questions. (hint: always ask something)
  5. What is their response to my service. (hint: pain, medicine, gain)
  6. How to get the message across. (hint: passionate)
  • A thing about introductions. If you are going to take 1 hour of time, give a proportional introduction of 5 minutes. If you are meeting someone for a few minutes, give a proportional introduction of 3 sentences. But ALWAYS reserve some time to introduce yourself. It is needed to establish a trust relationship between humans. It will massively enhance the effect of your talk if people know where you are coming from.
  • A thing about presenting online in services like Zoom, Teams and Meets: while speaking look at the CAMERA (not at the screen), position yourself well so that you are near to the camera and your eyes are at 1/3 from the top (2/3 from the bottom), make sure everyone sees the one talking by having them pin the main guy/girl talking, don’t use slides because they will hide yourself and a lot of the message is in the words (if you are doing this right) not in the presentation, ask everyone to have their camera and mic on all the time (so they have to pay attention).

This is what I got:

  1. Who am I
    I am Erik de Roos from Erik de Roos Software. I build good software and give good advice. (His comment on this was: elaborate on ‘good’, choose 2 other words that better describes why it is good. And get ‘game’ in, you need to add this. Even if you are still switching to it, you still need to get jobs in it to get proficient at it.)
  2. What is it that I do
    The trick here is to get more compact. 1 word that makes it clear: programmer. 1 word that makes it attractive: passionate. (His comment on this was: get back to ‘software engineer’ that is a more common word for the services you provide.) So I replied with: I am an expert and passionate software engineer. (His comment was: don’t call yourself expert. But my reply was: I build software professionally for 10 years now. And he was like: ah yeah that is something you should emphasize then. And everyone has the notion of an expert having at least 10 years under their belt.)
  3. Who are my buyers
    I help companies with custom software solutions, I aim at companies that need custom software solutions.
    I solve scalability, performance and complexity issues.
    (His comment was: that ‘custom’ one is a really really good addition there. It helps in defining your area of expertise, your value, and it will be immediately clear to the customer if you are a fit.)
  4. What are my questions
    This point is more about education me, the business owner, that I need to listen carefully to how people react to my questions. If I ask the right question, the answer of the client will tell more than just the plain answer. It will tell about their frame of thoughts. And this can then be a hook, where you use their frame to ask about how you could be of help. This will massively increase success because you are into their familiarity by using their frame.
    A think I could ask to start: how satisfied are you about …? (your software development process, the game ‘age of empires’, etc)
    A few things that I could ask at the end of a (sales oriented) conversation: how did this conversation go (we just had)? What appealed to you the most? What do you think of it?
    And even if I can’t sell my product to them, I could ask if they know someone that would benefit from my services. And then continue: keep that person in mind, how would he/she benefit from my services?
    It is all about the information that is in the reply to a question.
  5. What is their response to my service
    Part 1, the pain: At the companies I work for I see that their software gets more complex without it solving that much more of their problems, and with that adding more functionality becomes even harder.
    Part 2, the medicine: That is why I offer to give insights, make the (hard) decisions needed, and actively solve the problem.
    Part 3, the gain: Work faster, work smarter, and have happier colleague’s. (His comment: Use -er words here like happier.)
  6. How to get the message across
    In this part Patrick challenged us to get up to the mic and sell ourselves. So this is what I came up with:
    Hi I am Erik de Roos from GameFeelings.
    Faster, smarter, happier.
    Let me explain: I have 10 years of experience as a software engineer. And I see at my clients the recurring issue of their software getting more complex without really solving that more issues. So that is why I offer to give insights, make the decisions needed, and actively work myself at solving the real issues at hand.
    Because of this you can work — faster — again, is maintenance — easier –, and are the other employees — happier — with their working environment.
    Is there someone in the room here that needs custom software?
    (His comment was: that was a really good introduction. It had everything in it. You looked at the camera, talked enthusiastic. One thing you could add to it, is to append to the question: ‘or knows someone’)

My wish for you, my reader, is to be inspired by this and evaluate your own introductions. Even if you aren’t an entrepreneur, you could benefit from this in a normal company environment where you are introduced to someone new. Be honest, be personal, get the needed information over across to get a good impression about you and your services.

So back to the question I proposed earlier: where does this all fit into GameFeelings? Gamedev? Blogs? Am I going full software dev?

I have to change some introduction on gamefeelings.com. That is for sure. It is too much focused on the games itself, rather than the process of building them. The main thing I provide on this website is insights in building (game) software and running a business. This website has become less of a place to promote my own games or talk about them.

But I was, I am and I remain a software engineer. And my main service is to build software. I am switching this to be more into the game development domain, like the games, their back-end network services, their tools, the game development process itself. But both business software dev and game software dev go together if I keep emphasizing my own take at this:

a passionate expert custom (game) software engineer, out to help others get faster, smarter, happier.

More projects

With me spending more time on helping others and (re)defining my own strengths and weaknesses, I get idea’s about how to further improve my portfolio of services.

I do need to think about it some more. But I have had thoughts of setting up a fully automated mentoring website or app to get people to build software more easily.

Mentoring is currently available on a personal level and I think that is of so much value that everyone should have access to it. But there aren’t that much mentors to go around, there services aren’t cheap, and there is a high barrier of entry.

The emphasis is on mentoring, because I think the hard part in (software/game) product development isn’t so much about how to learn to code but more about the struggles you face once you need to make decisions. Or when you feel you are getting stuck, demotivated, time plans don’t work out, people seems to ignore you, things like that.

But first I want to finish my other game projects. After I have gathered some more money to pay for them. Hehehe.

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:


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.