A lot of artists I know do warm up sketches and thumbnails... do programmers have warm up exercises or is it best to just JUMP RIGHT IN? (Today)
Why do I get so mad when I see DLC advertisements on the Steam store page of a game that isn't even out yet? (2 days ago)
2013 - 12 - 31 / 8:17 pm / general
Continued from Part 4
Now it's time for some reflection, and time to think about what my goals are coming into the new year.
I feel like I leveled up significantly in 2013 as a developer. At the same point last year I was still just using FlashPunk and AS3 to create games, and I didn't really have an understanding as to how all the internals of FlashPunk worked. A few months after that, my understanding of the core of the engine went way up as I was tinkering around with the internals, and then somehow over the course of the year I was able to create my own engine from (almost) scratch using SFML and C#.
I think back to almost 5 years ago in 2008. I had just released Bonesaw: The Game, and I had just made the transition to Game Maker from Multimedia Fusion shortly after. Scripting in Game Maker instead of using the check boxes of Multimedia Fusion opened up a whole new work flow for me. I hadn't programmed a game with actual code since my days of scripting enemies and items for Graal Online... but that step to Game Maker set me on the path that got me where I am today.
It's hard to believe that in just a few years I'm now making my own game engine using a programming language that "real" programmers use. I'm really proud of all of the progress that I've made, especially because I would've never believed I would make it this far. I remember back in 2008 I also tried doing my own engine using SDL and C++ (before I tried Game Maker) and it was an absolute disaster. I looked at the project recently and had a pretty good laugh at how I thought game loops were supposed to work.
When it comes to programming I think I'm shaping up fairly well, but as a game designer I don't really know if I made any progress at all. I feel like I'm pretty much a complete novice when it comes to design still. Whenever people start talking about game design I don't really feel like I can keep up with the conversation. The only way I know how to make games is to kinda just fumble around until I get something that I think feels pretty good. When it comes to complicated systems and interactions and all that kinda stuff I get pretty lost, and I'm not sure how I can go about fixing that other than just trying to study games.
Even though my programming ability has somewhat increased, my ability to just make stuff hasn't really improved. When I find myself in a game jam I somehow conjure up this insane creative energy where I'm just in the zone for 48 hours straight and I'm just making stuff. I don't have any huge expectations or plans for whatever game jam game I'm making, so it all just comes from whatever feels right. A lot of times the details of any given game jam game shift every hour, and it all just depends on what my current trajectory is. I just go with the flow.
I struggle finding this flow when I'm not in a game jam. When it comes to my current project, Gaiaden (still searching for a new name), I easily get overwhelmed thinking about all the details involved in the grand vision I have for the game. I have pages and pages of drawings and notes and I think that stuff is going to help me... but I don't know if it does. I get a bunch of pages of ideas and I start to think about how I could possibly implement them all in an amazingly perfect system and I get stuck in a phase where I'm just fantasizing about this perfect game that doesn't exist, and when I open the code window I can barely move. I'm paralyzed by the huge amount of tasks and I feel like if I make one wrong step now it's going to mean a huge headache down the road, so I think about how I can possibly avoid that wrong step. I end up analyzing every possible thing, or worse not even knowing anything close to what the right step is, and I lock up. A classic case of analysis paralysis!
Perfection is dumb and unobtainable, and I need to keep that in mind... but it's very tough when I'm surrounded by so many amazing games and developers that seem to achieve perfection all the time. So many super smash hit indie games coming out that people love, and I feel like they must just be so much better at this than I am that they can think of all the right moves, and I just get stuck because I don't know what the right moves are.
With my recent restart of Gaiaden, I feel like I'm making more progress. I'm ignoring any potential issues and I'm trying very hard to treat it as a game jam scenario. I'm trying to be less afraid of just barreling down a path that seems right, even if it means I end up being wrong and I have to back out and try a different one. I'm getting more used to writing a bunch of code, playing around with stuff, and just deleting it all. It doesn't feel as bad as I thought it would. I've written the code and learned from it, and I don't need to keep it around if I'm not going to use it, or if I'm not going to go down that specific direction.
This could all just be a load of crap though. I don't know! I've never really felt like I've known what I'm doing, and I feel super jealous of the people that seem to have it all together, but I'm sure I'm making unfair comparisons with what goes on in the deepest parts of my mind with just the surface of my idols. I don't know if jealous is the right word now that I think about it... I look up to a lot of people in the game development world, and I hope that I can be as successful and cool as them some day, and I try really hard to just get anywhere close to their level. I'm incredibly fortunate to be close to so many amazingly talented people in the game dev world, and they are all sweethearts.
Although I need to be careful with that ideology though... If I'm constantly comparing myself to others who are way more successful to me, then I'll never be happy. That's another thing that I need to work on in this new year. I've accomplished a lot of things, and I try to keep that in mind, but I always catch myself comparing myself to other super successful or popular indie developers and of course I'm going to fall short in that comparison. This can go two ways though. Sometimes it's motivating to see what is possible and what others have accomplished, and I think "If they did it, then I can do it too!" But other times it can be a mood killer. It can be very easy to slip into the mind set of "I'll never be as cool as that person, I'm doomed to obscurity," which ultimately can lead to depression and totally kill productivity for awhile.
In order to fix this I feel like I need to be more heads down, and not pay attention too much to the outside of world, but I also need to be aware of the current climate of video games, and what the current trends are and all that kinda stuff. I don't want to fall behind by not knowing what the latest and greatest innovations are in the various categories of making games, but I also don't want to feel like I can't keep up. I don't really know what the solution here is other than trying to not compare myself to others, and keeping a positive attitude about everything, and never slipping into the poisonous realm of actual jealousy.
Every year though I continue to realize that the indie game community is one of the greatest groups of people I've ever encountered. I wouldn't be anywhere close to where I am today if it weren't for the support of some of my closest indie dev buddies. I owe a lot to all of those around me that have helped me get here, and I can only hope that I can help others out the same way that they helped me.
That's actually a big reason that I opened up more about myself and what I'm doing. Over this past year I studied a lot of different technologies and programming languages and all that kinda stuff, and every time I did something new I would try to document it and report about it with a step by step guide. I want to share the knowledge that I'm gaining with others in the hopes that it makes us all smarter and better, and that's the main attitude I see in the community. Everyone is usually very open, and is more than willing to share their knowledge and expertise with others, and its incredibly inspiring to see. During the whole development process of Offspring Fling I had a lot of help from other developers, and I can't imagine what I'd do without that help.
I'm pretty proud of myself for being able to keep up the pace of posting almost 15 times every month on my blog. Anything from just doodles or quick thoughts, to full step by step tutorials or guides on how to set up Adobe AIR for iOS. Although not all of my posts are probably worth reading, it feels good to be able to look back at all the posts through the year and see what I was doing, and how far I've progressed since then. For 2014 I'm going to try and keep up the pace of posting 3 or 4 things a week, and hopefully between updates to Otter, and progress on Gaiaden, I'll have enough stuff to keep talking about somewhat interesting things.
Going into the next year I also want to push myself out of my comfort zone more when it comes to a lot of things, but one thing I want to focus on is my art and drawing. I know that I need to do more studies, and branch out way more, and not focus so much on my "style" that I revert to every time I'm feeling out of my element. I don't know if this means actually going to some kind of drawing class, or maybe just working really hard at it with online resources, but it's something I definitely want to improve upon during the next year.
My comfort zone also includes not leaving my bedroom a lot, so I want to try traveling more next year. I'm starting out by going to Seattle and Vancouver for awhile in January, and of course after that San Francisco for GDC, and then after that I want to hit up PAX East in April and also visit some places in the northeast when it's not -15 degrees outside. I'm getting better at not freaking out while flying, but it's an on going battle and I'm making progress little by little. I want to get more comfortable working on just my laptop, and not my huge desktop at home with 4 monitors, so that I can remain productive as I buzz around the country. Making some kind of over seas trip would be fun as well, but we'll see if I dare venture into that territory in 2014.
I should also quickly mention the usual stuff: diet and exercise. I've been doing really well with this since around 2010 when I decided to take the paleo diet for a spin. Long story short through changing my diet and adding cardio to my daily life I was able to drop 50 lbs, and I went from wearing large shirts to small shirts. It feels pretty awesome, but I need to make sure I'm still on top of my diet and doing some kind of exercise almost every day to keep it up.
It looks like I have my work cut out for me in 2014. I have a lot of improvements to make, and I also want to make a decently sized complete video game. I'm confident that I'll make a lot of progress over the next year, but how much progress I make depends on how disciplined I can be, and how far I can push myself.
I think that about wraps it up. Thanks for sticking around for all of this! I hope that 2014 brings a new year of new opportunities, leveling up, and good times for everyone out there. See you next year!
Hi there, my name is Kyle, and I'm a 27 year old kid with adult powers. I'm making video games and living the indie game developer life in Tempe, Arizona. Here you will find my thoughts, games, websites, doodles, and other stuff like that. I worked on Snapshot, Offspring Fling, and a whole bunch of other games. I also created and maintain Otter, a 2d game making framework. If you want to get a hold of me use the form on the bottom of the page, leave a comment, or just tweet at me. I try to post three times a week. Thanks for stoppin' by! You're the coolest.
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