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Friday, 25 May 2012

Strange Dreams and Cold Beer

The last thing you guys want to hear is how there’s nothing concrete to show this week, and how our tasks are moving along, but are moving along a bit slowly. So let’s talk about something else! 

When I’m not laying awake and worrying about this game and turning into a full-time insomniac (not the wonderful games company), I’m dreaming that we're stuck in a blizzard (not the wonderful games company), with snow whipping through cold air, lashing our faces, trying to get through to safety, but not knowing where it is. Or I dream of the team being in a house, and we’re not getting a lot of work done, as there are bugs all over the walls and we have to deal with those. As you can tell, my subconscious mind is not hard to work out. Developing this game is often great, but sometimes does not make me feel fine, let alone double fine productions incorporated south of market district san francisco (no relation).

I did get together with Stu this week, which was GREAT, and we worked over some of the issues I was having with my prototype tweaks. This is us, in a pub, working (not pictured: 500 nearby bulldog-type people wearing rugby shirts, who had flown to Melbourne for a rugby game between Brisbane and Sydney and were desperately trying to get hammered before heading off to the game. Why come here? We’ve got nothing to do with it!) 

Stu solves problems with a pint of 'problem-solving juice'

One thing DID happen this week, and that’s us deciding that there is too much coding to be done in too limited a time for Stu to handle on his own. So we’re going to call in another programmer to help out, oh yes! We need someone with time in their schedule, Unity in their head, and hope in their heart. We’ve sent our four fastest ships, one in each direction, to deliver our message. It’s a big ask, but we hope it’s all worth the asking. When the ships return, we’ll let you know what they bring. Until next week, maintain your noticeably high levels of tastiness! 

Friday, 18 May 2012

Of love and paying the rent

You often hear, “If you love your project, it will happen. Love will find a way.” This is great, positive thinking, but you can’t pay your landlord with ‘love’ (or can you? … no… no, no, no, we’re not stooping to that yet…) So the realities of a self-funded project mean having to spend sweet, sweet game-making time doing stuff that’s more to do with rent and bills and food rather than making the game.

Stu’s other programming job (until we start rolling in PILES AND PILES OF MONEY (and other various fantasies)) is taking a chunk of time, so Grandpa progress is moving at the pace of a grandpa, but a spritely grandpa. My own progress has slowed to the crawl of a baby this week as I look into ways to get money that don’t involve creepy people asking me to ‘just take this suitcase across the border, quick, QUICK!’ 

The task board grows, even as time shrinks

Matt has finished up his saxophonist season for the stage production of Annie (even SAYING the word ‘tomorrow’ to him makes his eye twitch) and can now focus more time on adding audio to each of Damian’s animations. Damian himself is doing well, but he’s definitely in that stage where the fun ‘drawing cool art’ gives way to ‘wrestling with tech to make it function in the game’. And Tracey? Well… having finished the background paintings and handballed the dev diary over to me, Tracey is now full time with her writing job at Polygon, until she’s reactivated like a Terminator when it comes time to spread the word to the far reaches of media.

So the lesson to be learned here, I guess, is that making games is as much about work as it is about fun, and as much about the realities of day-to-day living as it is about the dream. Stephen King started out doing laundry for a seafood restaurant for an income, while he lived in a caravan with his family, typing up his stories each night. Sometimes, you gotta gather warm, day-old prawn heads if you want your dream. We want the dream. 

Friday, 11 May 2012

Saucepans and mathematical shortcomings

When I was 16, I was pretty good at maths. When I was 17, I became obsessed with a girl in maths class and my grades dropped. These days I fail at maths (and as an aside, those days I also failed at ‘girl’). So anyway, I mention this only to explain why a simple maths equation could have solved my question of how big the Tasty Tasty Grandpa circular world needs to be to house all of Tracey’s canvas backgrounds. Instead, I had to go low tech with scissors and paper and saucepan lids WHICH IS MORE FUN THAN MATHS SO SUCK IT MATHEMATICIANS.

Level design equipment or 5 year old's art and craft?

What are those rectangles in that photo? They’re representations of Tracey Lien’s background canvases, which she finished painting in a mad rush to coincide with her trip to Melbourne. Hoorah! Then we went to Blue Print Photography and photo maestro Chris Bekos photographed them all to bring out the lush canvas and paint textures. What a sweet morning! Here’s Tracey at the studio: 

"Photograph my paintings like you photograph the paintings of your French girls," said Tracey.

What else has happened this week? PROTOTYPES, my friends! Stu McVicar came through with the goods and has provided the most wonderful playground where we can rustle up a ruckus. I can now play with scales of things, speeds of things, rates of things… in fact, all the things which will hopefully add up to FUN. When it’s all fun, Damian can tweak animation frames to fit the ideal speeds, and Matt can come out of his mattress-stapled soundproof booth and start hooking up sound effects to individual animation frames. THIS IS TOTALLY EXCITING!

So yes, progress is progressing. Things are falling into place. The game, by increments, is starting to feel REAL. Huzzah!

Friday, 4 May 2012

The Joy of Sax

Change can be unnerving. But also delightfully nerving! Is that a word? Let’s ignore it. The change I’m talking about here is the change from having made games for publishers and licence-holders over the years, and now just making a game for ourselves. The unnerving part is having all the responsibility on the team and not having someone else bankrolling us and occasionally giving us SpongeBob toys. But the joys are awesome -- we can do whatever we like! We can release art ahead of time, so you fine people can checkit (such as Tracey’s background experiments over at her tumblr) without going through a crazy chain of approvals and time zones. Our project will live or die on our own decisions. We’re yet to see if this is a good thing, but we’re really hopeful. :)

This week, stuff happened. The most exciting stuff was that Matt Christensen finished recording the 4-part saxophone soundtrack that he composed. It’s awesome! We’ll surprise you with this one on release, but just know that Matt somehow managed to record himself playing 4 different saxophones in a tiny room in his house. He may or may not have stapled a hundred mattresses to the wall. Audio people do strange things.

On the art front, Tracey finished painting the backgrounds! With PAINT! We’re going over to Blue Print Photography on Monday to photograph them nicely to bring out the sweet textures of canvas and chunky paint. And Damian is almost finished tweaking all the character animation, ready for Stu to work his code magic and get them in the game.


And there were FLOWCHARTS!!! Okay, they’re not exciting, I tried to sneak that in there to make my design role seem as glamorous as the others. But hey, if you’re a programmer, you’ll know that a flowchart is as tasty as a chocolate covered bar of pure chocolate. This flowchart explained all the logic behind the non-player character behaviour. What do they do when they bump into other characters? Ignore them? Get annoyed by them? Or maybe just go ahead and completely eat them in a disgusting but adorable way? The flowchart tells all.

And that’s it for this week! I shall spend the upcoming week trying to find some more blog-worthy tasks for myself to do that sound better than flowcharting. Until then, thanks for reading, YES!