I’ve now registered for my third copyright! The second one will get used later, thanks to the beauty of creating games for myself I get to make that decision without many an hour spent preparing presentations then selling them both inside of outside of meetings. It’s really quite refreshing.

I took a stay-cation from creating games in the wonderful world of warcraft, whose new expansion has given a small group of friends and I the excuse to be online together almost every evening. The bulk of 2020 socializing has fallen right in December and we were loving it. Alas, it’s time effort gently shifted from friends and fun times back to growing my personal game library and the journey to become a truly independent game developer (this next one hopefully makes money).

I wasn’t idle in December on the creation front, I have some prototypes, tested theories, and settled on a clear direction where I’m headed (which was a ninety-degree turn from where I originally thought I was going before I relaxed my brain for the first time in the year). Game #3 I’m hoping will be much more accessible than Game #2 (numbered by intent to create thus now chronologically out of order) and I genuinely am shocked anything similar hasn’t been done before (I looked! In a lot of places, not just the first page of a google search!), I’m super excited to bring the idea to life.

Certainly more accessible than a whole bunch of text that then lets you pick an option out of small boxes of text, haha. Read Play Game, you were a joy to create, but I understand your financial unviability. It’s okay though, it served as a great launching-point for this grand new adventure. Learning, it can’t be converted to a direct ROI for an investor (and I don’t have to, ha!) and yet it is absolutely invaluable.

Due to several combined factors (including a decision months ago to stop purchasing alcohol – that stuff is expensive in BC) I’ve fairly dramatically expanded the time I can take to create games before falling back into a corporate environment to pay the bills. I’m going to use that advantage to not charge right ahead like I did with Read Play Game. Many decisions were made based on how to save time, like which GUI framework to use. Since then I’ve learned quite a lot, let’s continue with the GUI example: I own NGUI, and am familiar with it, so that’s what I used. Since then I’ve seen quite a few very handy and time-saving Unity Asset Store items that leverage Unity’s built-in GUI solution… and well, I’m kind of tired of not being able to take advantage of them. So perhaps I’ll make the switch, or maybe I’ll discover it was a huge mistake and run back to NGUI. Either way, I’ll have learned a thing, and I think that’s much more important than having something fully playable as fast as possible right now.

Speaking of the asset store, what a perfect time to be an independent developer. There are technical items I’ve seen senior developers take weeks to deliver (then more weeks to bug fix, then refactor because they weren’t happy with it, then bug fix…) that I can just straight up purchase for less than a skip-the-dishes order. They’re tested, have reviews, and are supported over time. There’s a whole freakin’ RTS Engine that I bought because why not?! (current dream: Next game can financially support my family and I can whimsically make an RTS with it, no profit all fun) Not to mention the art assets, things that not just save me time but give me something I couldn’t possibly create even if I had all the time. In combination with so much going open source, so many services having free tier options (like how I do Cloud Saving in Read Play Game), I really feel my options are quite broad to create something fairly complex/large in a reasonable timeframe.

My own personal optimism for 2021 comes from an excitement to create, and I can’t wait to see what comes out the other end of that process.

Not just released but it already has its first update!

Read Play Game is available on itch.io, and my entire experience with itch has been fantastic. If anyone reading this is ever considering working on a game to share with others I highly recommend it as a starting ground. I plan to migrate it over to Steam (complete with achievements!) but feel that can wait for the new year.

I’m enjoying that this means several things
– I can make games entirely from my own home by myself
– Those games can be supported (Demo and Full Version are two different projects on two different platforms and both received multiple updates, and will continue to get more!)
– I’ve identified a fantastic launching-pad platform for any new game
– Lessons learned in how to build for a browser playable WebGL game (or demo)
– Tech that I built for Read Play Game is already being reused in Game #2!

Ah yes, that final point, I’ve started Game #2! This game has slightly different goals, predominantly this is going to aim to be a source of revenue. I’m hoping to combine my experience with free-to-play game models with the freedom of not chronically chasing the demands of [insert executive or investor who is responsible for funding a full team] to design and build a monetary model that works for the game. A model where I offer ways to support the developer (me!) and family with tangible in-game rewards whose existence hopefully won’t detract from the experience for players who prefer to just enjoy things for free.

Compared to games I’ve worked on in the past I have incredibly humble financial goals. I would be ecstatic if next game alone paid the bills, and I do have contingency plans in place if that indeed does happen (games that have very low chance of recouping their costs, like Read Play Game, but are a joy to create and may have a small audience who has fun with them – like a full PvP RTS style game! I may have already purchased a Unity Asset explicitly to jump-start this potential)

…but Game #2 will not be an RTS. It will be built to be playable on mobile devices with a free download or potentially PC/Console platforms with a pay up front price that includes all “permanent upgrade” style purchases from mobile. This game has significantly higher scope than Read Play Game (it will take longer to make), but it will definitely be done before my savings drain entirely and I’m forced to rejoin the corporate world to pay the bills.

It’s exciting! As exciting as it is, I don’t see the value in sprinting right now to have something playable ASAP. It’s December and we’re almost a full year through a pandemic, I’ve put a ton of my energy towards Read Play Game over the last 5~ months. This last month of 2020 I’m hoping to relax, something I’ve learned can’t be forced but I find it helps to state my intent. Stave off that “you must always be productive!” guilt, and on that note, I hope everyone can find a way to relax before the big 2021 – I’m sure we all need it.

The political weaponization of social media means that some habits I’ve developed over the years to relax are now doing the exact opposite. It’s a rough time; a collision of poor governmental policies (regardless of political party in power) and some real serious immediate global threats is leaving everyday life a little extra tense.

Except New Zealand, wow are they rocking it. I’m beyond jealous and am seriously considering changing citizenship just to retire there.

Also, y’know, the totally random things happening on a daily basis


The pandemic has effected everyone in their own way, and families, speaking of which, here’s my local family in its full glory (taken 2019)

I live with the two wee-ones right in the center with their mom (beside-ish me and my pink shirt), the other two younger ones spawned from me and the other other mom-looking-person many a year ago. Due to the pandemic, family hang-outs between households have been 100% digital. Two auto-immune diseases already took out one liver in one person there (this was taken post-transplant!), no one in the family is willing to risk this virus colliding with post-transplant medications and auto-immune diseases with no known cure.

Tablets with video chat will go up in each home so we can shout across about a dozen kilometers in victory, defeat, or random hilarity over whatever game we’re playing (usually Ultimate Chicken Horse, though Among Us is a new favorite). It’s not the same as all sharing the same couch, but I’m still glad for the chance to have fun all together as a family since all the standard gatherings (Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc. etc.) are out.

Being adaptive, in general, is pretty important for many-a-reason. Doesn’t mean it’s easy, at this point we have three-quarters of a year of making these kinds of adaptations in our lives. Fatigue periodically sets in, and personally for me, I’ve had a tricky time learning that I can also take time and relax. In a workplace I have a 100% win rate at winning (always beer) bets with co-workers who didn’t think I could get something done in an amount of time. Productivity is part of my working personality, so when I have an amazing opportunity to grow my own personal projects, treating myself to some extended time (so from my perspective, more than an evening or weekend) away from being productive is… weird.

So that’s what I’m doing! I’m formally taking a break, today and probably tomorrow. Except for writing in this online journal, because of course I have to feel like I did something 🙄 😅

Also I’ve been thoroughly enjoying Ratropolis, now that I’ve finally had my fill of Hades I have a solo-thing I can indulge in for hours on end, a personal favorite method of relaxation.

I feel I’ve tied up the most dangerous and experimental ideas for Read Play Game (feel free to try the Demo!), so I feel the risk for my small first independent project is nice’n low. That feels good!

Experimental like the interplay I wanted between the Standard (coming soon?!) and Demo version, taking advantage of the Cloud Saving. I just released a Demo update with some final slippery bug fixes from switching between the two versions with all sorts of crazy rewards back and fourth. In fact, you can even use a Standard Theme while playing the Demo!

Then I look at how much content is left to create and I think, oh my, that’s going to take time isn’t it. My goal is to create enough that I would be happy myself purchasing it for a small amount, then keep adding more as I take a break from next project (or the project after that! etc. etc.). It’s getting there! I have all the Protagonists ready to go (there’s 5!), a whole bunch of perks, doubled the themes from the Demo, and roughly double Story content to navigate.

I’ll be honest, I am excited to start up a project with some 3d gameplay in it. I’ve set up a prototype to test a couple theories for the next project, as per my style I answered the hardest questions first (can I do thing?! … yes! Yay!) so now I feel I’m standing up my next development-date while I wrap up Read Play Game. Sorry Mystery Game 2, it’s done when it’s done, and I don’t dare fall down your early-times rabbit hole of exploration and fun.

Words/phrases can get adopted as jargon and begin to mean many different things depending on who you ask. I tend to be more verbose than catch-phrases (ex: Data-driven Design) cause I hope to keep what I’m tryin’ to say clear. When it comes to game development in my brain I’m rooted in the catch-phrases of “Data-driven” and “Systems Oriented”, which to me are philosophies I feel that are important. Combined and with buy-in I’ve both experienced and witnessed within entire teams…

  • Less code, more content
  • Larger creative box for ingenuity
  • Improved re-usability (within game, or across games)
  • Lower development times

So these benefits are pretty vague and generalized right? I can’t tell you that your team (or in my current case, solo-endeavors) will be 10x more productive, or that you’ll only need 10% of the workforce to accomplish the same output as [points at other team]. You won’t be able to magically shrink schedules by a determined amount by changing your philosophy, which is generally the priority when working in a corporate structure.

No, I don’t have metrics on these benefits, but I do have over a decade of anecdotal observation. Also, and more importantly right now, I have a personal story.

Last lil’ bit I’ve been working on my first personal project, Read Play Game. We’re together… basically almost always, so my partner is privy to many of my thoughts as I’ve been workin’ on it. Generally that flows something like:
Me: “I’m excited about this thing! It’ll mean this, and that, and because of these things I get to take advantage of…
Partner: “That sounds neat, but also most of this isn’t sticking with me, is that okay?
Me: “Yeah I just wanted to share out loud…
Partner: “Cool, long as I’m not gonna get quizzed, keep going

It wasn’t long til I had something to actually interact with (and now a demo available!) and all those ramblings I exposed to poor Angel connected some dots when they could be experienced. Out of the blue
Partner: “Do you think, using what you talked about, I could do … [idea]
Me: “Totally, easy-peasy, the systems don’t know or care that all I want to display is text, you could easily have images, animated bits, anything, it’ll all stack on top of each other – choices could be images too, frankly you wouldn’t need a single line of text anywhere and still use all the same underlying systems

Unintended consequence: My partner would like to make a thing with the framework I’ve been building for my own thing.

Angel is not a game developer, has no formal training in anything computer science or art, but with what I’ve built and what I’ve shown what it would take to create it (data for behavior, some tools for making the art), feels confident they can bring their idea to life.

I think that’s super cool, so I’m going to spend some time setting up an environment with examples.

Throughout my professional career I’ve tended to gravitate towards the experimental and new, I was jumping on the weird new projects that the more experienced developers tended to shy away from. Work on the mysterious DLC for Dawn of War 2? Sure! (that became The Last Stand). Convert a traditional RTS (the first game I worked on) into a Free-to-play model pre-2010 for the Chinese market? On it! That received a North American translation as well! Ah yes, THQ, known for its wise business decisions (killing a project that even by today’s standards had great KPI’s).

So while I say experimental, what that really mean is that it’s something that has a completely unknown outcome, which let’s be honest, is almost everything in gaming. Even if you think you’re making the next [insert well established genre here] and can point to all sorts of successes… that doesn’t directly translate to a successful game. So the way I figure it is – I may as well carve a path where I get to learn new things all the time! It’s not like being risk-adverse is a guarantee to success.

As I became one of the more experienced developers and fell into leadership positions I’ve continued my radical experimentation, like trading task-lists with ownership for developers at all levels of experience. My last (now sadly defunct game that we started from scratch) was unlike anything available on the market we could find (and despite that had the charming validation that it was “ROI Positive” from the business folk). I appear to be feeling hyper-linky this morning.

My latest learning involve the last hyperlink of the morning (hint, it’s at the bottom), to which I completed a demo of my first solo game! Read Play Game can be found only by clicking the secret hyperlink, and now that I’ve released my first major update for it (Cloud saving! No longer lose progress between browsers, computers, future platforms, etc.) I’ve gotten to know the itch.io environment a lot better. Things I’ve learned about itch:

  • Itch.io has a Steam-like desktop client that is actually quite nice
  • …you cannot play WebGL games through it
    • (womp womp, I put a lot of effort and did a lot of learning to make sure Read Play Game was play-in-browser friendly for easy sharing)
  • It has a deployment program called Butler that’s very smooth to use, updating Read Play Game was a breeze
  • Devlogs have lots of customization, and a really friendly interface
  • …Devlogs cannot be read while a project is unpublished… (results in 404 error for anyone but me – I found this out the hard way after tweeting my latest one)
  • Multiple files/builds can be offered and prices can be individualized per thing offered

Welp, I’m going to pause on the devlogs for a bit since, well, no one can read them. My next one will be “the game is available, not just the demo!”. I’m hoping to leave the demo up as web-playable and offer the full game (much more content) at a small price, see how that goes. After all, games these days are never really done. The nice thing about the structure of Read Play Game is that all content is very plug-and-play. If I get inspired to build a quick scenario, with quirky options depending on protagonist or perks, I can sit down and slide it in even years from now. I do feel I need to reach a point of “the game is live!” though before I go ahead and start on Project #2 (It won’t just be text! it’ll have 3d shapes and everything!).

Anyway, anyone who made it this far through all my web-words – if you have patience enough for this text please give the demo a try and let me know what you think. What’s working for you, what’s not working for you, whatever it is I’d love to hear from ya.

The final link in all its glory: https://cabadobedia.itch.io/read-play-game?secret=h4rjLDTjExfwBJRfaXnJpW2vs4

While Gilroy Games has transformed itself from an online journal into a solo-game-development effort, that doesn’t mean the family isn’t excited along with me. Thus far they’re my top source for feedback (and bugs reports, a knack my partner excels at while I embarrassingly watch’em get found haha 😮 ), but as a special birthday present my 9 year old daughter made some mascots for Gilroy Games!

So earlier this week (in what I’m guessin’ was the inspiration to these adorable presents) I was covertly asked what kind of “Mascot” I think would jive well with Gilroy Games by her mamma. I remembered there used to be a “Gilroy” clan… ages ago, so looked it up and found 3 completely different emblems/crests! So naturally my daughter ended up making… 3 😉

DeerLionDolphin

Since I decided to make a thing I’ve decided to stretch out my savings to potentially make more than one thing, so I’ve opted rather than throwing something out there and asking for money… that I would make a demo. If the demo gets any love, then I know that’s where I can put my energy!

…if it gets no love, it’s okay, it’ll still have my love, and I’ll definitely put the energy into filling it out to more of a full experience. Just may have to come after all this work I’m doing becomes ballpark financially sustainable.

So where is this demo?! Welp, I keep wanting to put more things in it. I have a loose target where I’ll say “okay, it’s ready, up it goes!” and probably pester people to please take a look and let me know what they think. Except I keep playing it, and I keep being inspired or wanting to improve bits, soooo… it’s still in the works. I feel I’m close, I’d give an honest estimate of 1-2 weeks. I *have* got all the tedious project and business setup out of the way, copyrights, paperwork, etc. etc. I now get to 100% focus on just finishing the demo then uploading it to some place people can click a link and play it!

For that I’ve decided to go with itch.io – my profile on there is bare minimum. It exists so I could go through and figure out how to get games up on it, which at this point I can be doing in minutes (so exciting!). If you clicked the link that bare profile… I’ll have to put some work into, please don’t mind it just yet.

As for the demo, it’s a game that doesn’t quite have a functional correlation, I couldn’t post links saying “it’s like this but with parts of that with smidgens of inspiration from over here“. I started from the ground up with my goals (previous post on that) and just kind of riffed on it from there. What I ended up with is a entirely text-based content RPG’ish game where you smash a Protagonist and Story together and see how far that tale takes you before the poor Protagonist meets its (mostly) inevitable demise, upon which the process starts over.

Stories are both a mix of a traditional “Game Mode” (unique mechanics) and a narrative wrapping, with completely divergent content. Protagonists are provided unique choices to make within the stories while also offering a variety of starting statistics.

The Demo will have 2 Stories and 3 Protagonists with a small-wealth of various permanent things to unlock that will let the player customize their limited aesthetics, provide them with tangible benefits, or even offer new paths within the stories. My hope with it is it provides a taste of what I’m envisioning without the additional months of work to do the everything – and extra hoping that it’s a good taste for the people that choose to try it out 🙂

One of the neat things about doing something on my own, as opposed to working for some corporate entity, is I can share whatever I want! Even ugly screenshots, even spoilers 😉

Here’s a snip of how this weeks roughly lookin’ like for new project

I don’t plan on doing regular updates or anything, I just realized *right now* that there was no one to stop me from doing something like this, muahahaha!

I’ve made a couple small personal projects before (one was when I got my first Android phone, made a simple native app with smiley faces that you could have bop each other, gradually making them become sadder and sadder emojis), but nothing outside the scope of a simple weekend-or-two. I thought I’d take the opportunity of unemployment time to make something a bit larger in scale.

First things first, I set myself up with a few goals:

  1. Gameplay that focuses on choices made
  2. Playable from a web browser
  3. Can be considered “Finished” within 2 months

Alright, goals. Good, I’ve set a loose framework to fit my next steps in.

I thought back to my early days, the days where I was standing up and doing presentations in front of the company with the fancy new things I wrote in C#. As a Systems Designer, it was important for me to be able to showcase the system working agnostic of the game environment. After all, on a team of people everyone has their prioritized tasks and it’s going to take many people doing many things before it all comes together in a lovely visualized game environment. So when I stood up and did my presentations they were 100% text from a custom C# Terminal program.

See, I would sit by people who spent their days working on their power-point presentations for their next meeting. Literally, days. I would estimate the ratio of work that was contributing to projects vs. the presentation of work they were doing for projects (images, dozens of iteration on wording, sometimes animations, etc.) would be around 2:99 – I’d watch this while seeing many co-workers pressured to achieve tangible results of very complicated or difficult things and think to myself… what a waste.

Myself, I would set a goal to invert that ratio, 99:2. Basically, I would build out my tools and tech and content in a way that I could do it live in front of the company. And it wouldn’t be pretty. But if the people who needed to be informed got informed, I felt it was a successful strategy.

There were many jokes and playful (or not so playful?) groans by the time I did my third presentation. In my mind, this was always offset by the thoughtful questions and genuine excitement I received from a few members of the studio – but, I’ll admit, when there’s 100~ people watching a presentation of just text it’s not the most exciting thing non-tech people will enjoy. Even if I can show cool things like: “Hey look, this combat system is 100% simulated and we can use it to shortcut reproduce bugs or tests faster than it takes to load the game!”. For the 6~ people in the audience who genuinely appreciated it, thank you, you were the reason I stood up in front of everyone 😉

As a call-back to those early days, and because it fits within that framework of goals I’ve set for myself, my first real solo project (that will be web-based, and I can send links out for people to play) will be a text-based game with an emphasis on choices.

As to what “Finished” means, whether it’s a solo endeavor or working for a company, games are never “finished” these days. If my text-based style doesn’t find an audience then it will probably just hang out in “demo” form. If I can find some people who enjoy it though, and are willing to pay for a more “complete” version… well then, maybe that’s how I’ll be spending my subsequent months.

One can dream!