Time to start the year right. After much folley and a good chunk of contract work last year, I started working on a new project. Some of the early-most efforts can be seen in the Quack tech demo video. No gameplay to see there, but you can see one of my prouder achievements in action: Live Coding/Live Content. Change a source file or an asset, and it updates in game immediately.
In the grand scheme of things, I do feel somewhat horrible that my last real game came out in late 2008. I did spend a few years after that porting the game to other platforms, and I have released several smaller games (Ludum Dare Jam Games), but I am frustrated that I’m still best known for a casual game released 5 and a half years ago.
* * *
Actually that’s not true. I’m best known for Ludum Dare, which has been a lot of fun. But I’ve been developing games professionally since 1999; I left my job so many years ago to create something great, not to be a community manager.
That said, Ludum Dare is great. I certainly plan to keep running it, because it’s important to a lot of people, myself included. Even if all I ever do for Ludum Dare again is schedule events and push the buttons, it still makes an impact. The look of the website may be old, clumsy, ugly, the rules may be unrefined and confusing, but the message and the intent is still there: inspiring people.
Earlier this year, myself alongside folks behind Global Game Jam and Molyjam were discussing putting together a GDC talk about Game Jams. That didn’t happen (partially my fault as I was too busy doing my contract work, very little free time to help out). An interesting point came up that, to be honest, I was a bit too speechless to respond to: Apparently the other events don’t have enough “Pro” gamedevs participating.
To me that’s weird. *cough* It might be because all the “Pros” are doing our event instead (oh burn!). But seriously, I think maybe we just have different opinions of who “Pros” are. As a developer that “did his time” at AAA game studios, and chose to go Indie, I umbrella everyone that does good work on both sides as a pro. I know a lot of gamedevs, and while it’s not a requirement that you have entered Ludum Dare to know me, I’d say most gamedevs I know *have* participated in a Ludum Dare event (and almost everyone at least one game jam). Almost everyone I know I consider a Pro. Maybe my expectations were just lower, but Ludum Dare has certainly achieved way more than I ever expected it to. We used to get excited about just 100 people participating.
To me, Game Jams are about inspiration. We might not be aiming for Guinness World Records, but for damn sure we’re inspiring people.
* * *
Admittedly, I’m not putting much effort in to improving Ludum Dare. It’s more, if there are problems, I’ll fix them. Ludum Dare takes up a lot of my time. It is distracting though, no matter how much I like it, and hoo-boy I’m easily distracted.
So, I try to think of Ludum Dare as my hobby.
One thing that’s kind-of popped up from Ludum Dare is the idea of Live Streaming game development. I think this is extremely cool. It’s something I personally want to do more of. And as far as the internet is concerned, aside from us there really is no hub of gamedev Live Streaming.
So me personally, hobby speaking, I would love to do more to facilitate the gamedev streaming community. The widget I made is somewhat small, only fitting 4 streams. That’s fine for us developers, but I would love to have a proper hub for viewers that want to see games made. So in the back of my mind, I have this idea of a tv.ludumdare.com website I would like to create. None of the fat of the compo website, just our livestreams. A nice easy URL you can give viewers that just want to watch games made.
In theory, it probably should be a combination of our Twitch Live Streams, and the various Youtube videos people have posted (Timelapses).
Honestly, it’s something I don’t know if I have the time to do, but it’s something I would love to have. Ludum Dare TV.
* * *
A couple other things I did, before we get to the meat of this post.
The first, a relatively minor thing, I moved this very website (my blog) on to a different cheaper webhost (Namecheap). I used to host it on Hostgator, where I was spending ~$10 a month. As it stands today, this is a very low-traffic website of mine. Again, nothing cool to show. So I decided to save myself a few dollars by moving. Back end of November, Namecheap had some flash-deals for Black Friday. Long story short, I bought 2 years (YEARS) of hosting for ~$21. Since it took time to migrate everything over, I wont have my regular hosting costs covered until February (oh darn). But then ya, assuming this website doesn’t get busy, I basically just saved $220 over 2 years. Yes it was minor, perhaps not worth the time, but I’m cheap. I like saving money.
On the flipside, I bumped up my internet speed.
So for a few dollars more per month, I now have 20x the upload I used to. Yes, I’m well aware some people have numbers that eclipse mine (damn you Jonny!), but having lived with .6 Mb for so long it’s like a dream. I can now Live Stream in outstanding quality.
And to throw a wrench in to that Live Streaming, ha, I just switched to Linux.
Hey wait! That’s Windows 7! Oh weird, how’d you get that sidebar?
This was a long time coming. I’ve been a Windows user for gawd knows how long (20 years?). But at the same time, ironically, I’ve been a Linux/Unix developer. I’ve been using GCC since the late 90′s (DJGPP YO!), I prefer makefiles to project files, Cygwin and MSys, and I use a glorified text editor instead of an IDE (UltraEdit). Plus, for the past few years, I’ve always had an Ubuntu VM on my work machine. So it was bound to happen eventually. I just had to wait for all the stars to algin.
Obviously as an iPhone Dev, I tried the Mac route, but I just couldn’t do it. Both Microsoft and Apple are notorious for doing things that break things for developers. At least in Apple’s case, they stop charging for the OS. I do like Apple though; I’ve made some pretty good money from them. It’s just the Apple’isms don’t feel right to me. At my core, I’ve always been more of a Unix developer. That mean scripts and madness. So switching to Linux feels right to me.
I’d by lying if I said the process of switching to Linux went smoothly. I have a whole super-long post dedicated to the steps I took to get various software working on this laptop of mine. But despite the difficulty researching and getting things working, it does feel oddly rewarding. Switching to Linux IS NOT for the feint of heart. But if you’ve been using computers as long as I have, and find them stagnant and uninteresting, it can be very refreshing to jump head-first in to something like this.
Similarly, about 10 years ago I switched to DVORAK keyboard layout (from QWERTY). It honestly took me a good year or so until I was comfortable typing again, but it had the added benefit of teaching me to type properly. Growing up, I created my own very strange freestyle typing style. I was fast, but I dunno, haha, something felt kinda wrong about it. My point though: it was an interesting challenge. Like me with Linux right now, it kept things interesting. A way of challenging myself to work differently. More efficently? I have no clue. But it was definitely more interesting.
As things stand, I think I have everything figured out and working now on my Linux. I’m using the latest OpenGL drivers (newer than what’s in Ubuntu 13.10). I can build for all my currently supported platforms (Linux, Windows, Android). I can make and export usable assets in both Blender and Spine. I’ve learned that GIMP is less terrible if you switch to Single Window Mode. I’ve gleefully learned that when your host OS is Linux, and you run Windows in a VM, you can reboot that VM MOFO as much as you want, and your music doesn’t have to stop playing!! F yeah! It’s the little things like that which are making this process fun.
Things I have lost out on, being able to fullscreen a Youtube/Twitch video on a seperate monitor while doing something else. Adobe basically stopped making Flash for Linux back in 2012, and it looks like this never got fixed. It’s unfortunate, but it’s mostly a slacking thing anyway. If I really want to work and watch, I do have another PC in the other room that I can always play something on.
Another thing, I have a large library of VST instruments. VST’s, for the most part, run on Windows. Linux isn’t really well known for its audio production skills, but things like Renoise do run on Linux. That said, I should still be able to run Renoise on my Windows VM. I haven’t tried it yet, but it is something I know wont be as elegant now.
And finally, I have taken a GPU performance hit switching to Linux. GL features, on Windows I get all OpenGL 3.1 features, and a good chunk of GL 3.2 and 3.3 features as well. On Linux, thanks to a driver released a month ago, I get OpenGL 3.0 features (plus a few more). Phoronix has been doing some outstanding work benchmarking and comparing driver performance. Thanks to them, I did know what to expect. And thanks to the SteamBox and SteamOS craze, this is only going to get better. I’m a little sad to have lost GPU features moving to Linux, but I’ll manage. This is probably the one thing that would have kept me from switching to Linux. But because it is still close to what I had, I still did it.
Oh, and I guess the fonts don’t feel as nice as they did on Windows and Mac. Minor complaint, as this only really bothered me the first couple days.
That’s all that comes to mind.
* * *
Okay, on to the meat! Lets start with this.
So yeah, a self serving tweet basically declaring my intent. For me, this year is all about #MRK. It’s an abbreviation of the true name of the game I’m working on. Like I said, this is a brand new game I started just a few months ago.
For me, I’ve been trying to work on a game called “Alone, The” for the past few years. As Indie game developers, we often talk about the idea of creating very personal games. For me, “Alone, The” was this. It’s a concept I absolutely love, but to truly realize the vision of the game, there’s one big problem: I have to make it alone. It’s totally silly, but over the years “Alone, The” evolved in to a game I literally cannot share the work. There’s a distinct sound, vibe, mood, everything about it. There are strong inspirations from my childhood, nothing I’m afraid to share with with people playing the game, but a very specific set of feelings I’m looking to create. The excitement of gaming to me as I was growing up. We as Indie Developers are directly tied to the games we create. The games we create define us. And I, somewhat proudly, found “me, the game”. Regrettably though, I’ve discovered I lack the time and the vocabulary to create “me, the game” right now.
So really, I had to shelve it. It’s the one constant these past few years that I could point to. I’ve come up with a lot of concepts for games I like, but my passion was always in “Alone, The”. It is time to move on though.
#MRK was born out of a look at my own gaming habits. I literally, sat down and forced myself to play games, just to see what I even liked anymore. That’s something crazy that’s come up lately. Despite how passionate I am about games, as the years go on I’m playing less and less of them. I needed a reboot. I thought I knew what I liked, but I had to sit down to find out if that was still true. Perhaps my tastes have changed?
After a few weeks of playing, I definitely wasn’t wrong about my tastes, but I’d forgotten about a lot of things. As it turns out, I’m a lot more forgiving and fanatical about games than I thought. I assumed I didn’t like grinding in RPGs, or working hard for something, but as it turns out I’ll do some some really repetitive stuff if the reward is worthwhile. Heh, gaming masochism.
As it also turns out, I really like tweaking (not twerking). I actually really like looking at my play style, changing something, either how I play or a piece of equipment, and finding my best balance. I like strategizing. I like little challenges that get me thinking. I could really care less about puzzles (basically, pure mental challenges). What I care about is results, not the mental challenge itself. So again, in a small way, I like strategy.
That said, while I do really like games like Starcraft, Civilization, I don’t think that’s specifically my niche. I care a bit about the macro game, but I think I only really have the patience for the micro game. Tweak and adjust one, or a small group of things.
So these ideas helped shape #MRK. Also, that I really wanted to do a 2D platformer again. To compare, “Alone, The” is a top-down action adventure game (where part of my struggle was how 3D to make it). There’s definitely a lot more to it than this.
Most importantly though: It’s a game I can share.
About a month ago, I had a lunch with good friends HalfBot. I did something as simple as sharing the idea with them, and HOLY F*! Just one little off hand comment made a WORLD of difference. It took this weird piecemeal amalgamation of many ideas and refined it in to a easy concise idea. I’m not going to say the magic word just yet, but suffice to say, it makes so much sense. It’s an almost obvious idea, but the execution is somewhat … okay, very difficult.
So I am excited. “Alone, The” was a game, to be honest, I wasn’t even sure would excite people other than me. This one I know will excite people. Hell, I saw it excite some friends at the lunch table. The question is now: can I pull it off?
.. Fuuuahhh… well we’re going to find out!
Hello 2014, lets do this! #MRK 2014!