Week 10 — Weeks 10, 11, and 12

2021-05-13

A quick personal update

TL;DR: I was super busy for 2 months, but now things are back to normal.

I have not blogged since week 9, and I don’t feel bad about it. Here’s why.

Even during week 6, things started getting a bit hectic for us: we’re selling the house and trying to find a new one in Cheltenham (which means driving down there from North London every weekend to do viewings); we tried to find a school which would take both girls (which was impossible, so we had to go private); I did a 7-day game jam; I was finishing up my previous contracting role, and those last 2 weeks are always madness; oh, and the house we found in Cheltenham fell through just a couple of days ago, so we’re back on square 1! Double-oh: and the new job started last week (but that’s super fun, and all R&D, and I’m basically messing around with shaders and stuff all day, so it’s not stressing me out).

But, I’m staying zen. I decided to forego the usual extracurricular activities in an effort to just focus on the 2 most important things for myself: get the module’s project done (the prototype), and not burn out in the process (I played a lot of games in my “spare” time to relax). Which means I stopped blogging, stopped participating as much with the cohort and in my SIGs, and I basically stopped reading for almost 2 months. (Suffice to say, my family is number one, so there’s plenty of face-time with the wife and kids, and my weekends belong to them.)

Anyhoo: I’m back, and I haven’t burnt out, and I’m ready to resume this blogging lark.

Week 10 - play testing

Since I haven’t interfaced with any people online, I haven’t shared much of the prototype. Regardless, I haven’t had anything ready for anyone to play for such a long time.

Also, having shared my prototype so late with the cohort means that I’m likely not to get any feedback any time soon, as we’re all busy with our assignments (video is due tomorrow evening, and the essay on the 19th). That said, I’m not holding my breath for cohort feedback, as you shouldn’t trust family, friends, or other developers for feedback.

I shared the link on Twitter, but you know how Twitter is: people scroll past; you didn’t tweet at the right time; people click, but the game is buggy and they close the tab just as quickly; etc.

So, let’s just say that my week 10 will drag on for a while yet. With the dust settling soon, and with the new job only being 4 days a week, I’ll have more time to gather feedback in the near future.

Week 11 - Shipping

I managed to keep a clean Trello board all the way through, and early on I applied the MVP mindset to every aspect and area of development. Taking the 7 creative disciplines we covered during this module in turn:

Minimum viable sound design

I recorded one song that is shared by the game menu and the first (and only) level. For SFX, I promised myself single takes on all recordings, and made quick work of mastering in Audacity. Even quicker would have been to made judicious use of freesound or its ilk, but from experience, I decided my own takes will be quicker, as I can endlessly scroll through these SFX sites and not find anything good or suitable, or otherwise have to edit what I find anyway.

Minimum viable narrative

I decided to tell as much of a story as the player needed in a couple of images, the first image already being on the game’s main menu. There were no written words for the player to read (yay, bye bye i18n!), and no recorded words for the player to listen to. Those 2 images told all the player needed to know, and saved me a bunch of time.

Minimum viable programming

I used the Godot card game framework and some jRPG code I had lying around, and mashed them together. Godot is also so super intuitive, it was just a breeze.

Minimum viable animation

I flash the characters red when they take damage, and I tween them back and forth on the X axis when they attack. And that was it. (The card animations came with the card game framework.)

No, wait: I also added film grain effect, and squiggle vision to the characters, but I cheated and did this with shaders. These effects gave the prototype some nice visual “juice”.

Minimum viable level design

The prototype has one level, and 3 cards, and one “boss”.

Minimum viable art direction

The palette has 4 colours (apart from an off-black for line work). All the art were really simply drawn in Krita with my Wacom Intuos 4 (the large one, and over 10 years old now!). There were no 3D modelling, no rigging, no key-frame animations, etc.

Minimum viable game design? I don’t know. I’m always designing in my head. It never stops. It’s just a matter of which ideas get done, which gets shelved, which gets jotted down for next time. I suppose the prototype lets you attack with cards, and that’s it. Quite minimal.

Week 12 - Finale

Well, here we are. (Not quite: we had a 2 week extension - thank goodness!)

This is the week during which we

  • Record a video of your finished Indie Game Prototype.
  • Write a report contextualising the development of your Indie Game Prototype with relevant research.
  • Prepare your assignments for final submission.

The video is done and dusted (and submitted), and the essay is next. 2000 words. Wish me luck!

I leave you with my week 12 spark forum:

What have you learned about your own strengths and weaknesses?

Unfortunately, I’ve had a massive personal spanner thrown in the works this semester, so I completely stopped all the usual activities late March (round about the time I got my first jab too): blogging, reading, learning, participating in the forums (only sporadically on Discord), and generally being available to others. The bit of spare time I had left had to mostly go to leisure activities so I don’t end up burning out (which I haven’t, thank goodness). But here we are!

Do you think you have improved in any of the disciplines?

There wasn’t time to purposefully improve, sadly. I’m aware that some might take a break now (start the next module a semester later) or opt to retake the module, and I have considered it, but I did jot down things in a massive TODO to get to later (during the break, during downtime, or perhaps when the masters is over) so I’ll just crack on with it all. No breaks.

What are the most important things you learned during the module?

The plan is to do a slow-burn of projects and build up a portfolio in my spare time while still doing a day job. I realised this is not going to work for tricky games which require long periods of deep thinking (e.g. intricate coding, or a game that has intricate mechanics and puzzles which require you to have it all in your head the whole time while working on it). I’m going to have to make simple games. Will those be successful? Most games are simple, right? And the market is flooded with those. RIGHT?! :-P

I’ve learnt that sticking to “me first, my mental health first” is still the worthwhile thing to do.

Which areas do you think you will focus on in the future?

Visuals. Those are the things people see first, and draw them in. I know the prototype (Links to an external site.) has a lot of scribbles in it which could have been done by a kid with a Crayola, but sadly that’s just my style, so there’ll be some work there to figure out how to boost this style somehow, or how to find the market for this style and nurture that.

Bibliography

(None yet - I’ll come here to backfill once I’ve started the essay, which will surely throw up a lot of material.)

    This post is part of my critical reflective journal and was written during week 10 of the module game development.

    Unlabelled images are Copyright 2020 Juan M Uys, and are for decorative purposes only.

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