That First Quarter - 2017

Prologue

It is the middle of March. Many of our New Year's Resolutions have already been cast aside and we return to the humdrum of day to day. Now feeling the strain of our efforts as the promise of a clean slate that the New Year brought starts to wane.

So what has Q1 of 2017 held for you? For me, it has been a period of highs and lows. Lows predominantly coming from lack of sunlight and general burn out that accompanies a long form project that is still hibernating from the public eye. The highs have been pretty good though and are what I want to focus on in this three part blog.


Part One

Games that Itch(.io)

Mama Seuss, the game I mentioned in the previous post [click click], is now available to download. It’s small and silly and perfectly mine. Which means the controls are a little broken on Xbox controller but works pretty well on a PS4 controller. So if you are even slightly interested, go give it a download for free… for me. I spent a long evening setting up the page for it, making gifs and the like and I must say. I’m pretty proud of myself for getting it all done. There was a time pressure to get it uploaded before the group closed for adding it to the Code Liberation page. While an arbitrary deadline, it worked wonders for me as a motivator to finish the game as much as I could in the available time. I recommend anyone who has troubles finishing things, try and make yourself accountable to someone, for a specific date. Humans are lazy by nature so it’s an excellent way to check your biology.

On a separate issue. I shut down the old website I used to have my own game content under. This was called Indieful Entertainment. A name I hated but was such a brain worm I couldn’t think of anything else. I have instead opted now to release all my personal game work under HollyPixel, my internet moniker. For a long time I didn’t have the confidence to do this. Code Liberation gave me enough confidence in my own abilities to do this and that’s a really good feeling. So if SALT; A Social Story comes out of hiatus later this year, look out for it on the HollyPixel Games social channels. Enough people have told me I need to finish it so I would hate to disappoint them!


Part Two

You, Me and GDC

I attended GDC again this year, my third in four years and certainly the best one I’ve had so far. This year was astronomically expensive however, due to the rock bottom pound sterling thanks to the Brexit Brigade. Making it possibly my last GDC for a while unless a big financial shift happens in the markets. So I was determined to make the most of it. For me, that is mostly going to a lot of talks. It’s honestly one of the main reason I even go. That’s just my opinion and I’m very uncool, I’m fine with that. I have found I meet a lot of really awesome and like minded people at the talk, more so than at the party scene after hours. But as with everything, everyone is different. That’s just one introvert’s humble opinion.

Since I’m such a proponent of the talk I thought I would share some recommends from this year that I think folks with vault access should check out:

Jeff gave an amazing talk last year about giving effective critique (I recommend you watch that if you haven’t already). He is an excellent speaker and applies his knowledge gained as a teacher to his work as an Artist at Harmonix. He’s a truly empathetic human and has insights that can easily be applied to everyone working within games, not just artists. This talk is especially helpful to those looking to get into or are in a more managerial role in a team. A role where you need to feedback to others on their work or talk to other departments about how the work you are both creating needs to work together. Or anyone who wants to work better with others, which hopefully is everyone out there.

Snap to Character is about making characters that Players will be attached to. It’s not about creating likeable character, but one’s that players will be interested in. Harrison breaks this challenge down into simple parts that are easy for anyone to understand and how you can apply them in your game. He breaks all his examples down with case studies from the projects he has worked on over the years and a lot of pitfalls that games make. Anyone who is interested in Narrative in games, especially when it comes to characters. This is one you need to watch.

While a fairly simple talk, covering the tech art side of making Abzu, this is exactly the kind of art talk I like. I have a secret dream of being a technical artist, I love solving problems more than most. So being given an insight into material setups with vertex offset nodes to make fish swim animations was a total joy for my brain. It also covered some quick tech used for fog and lighting. If you are someone who is interested in the more nuts and bolts side of the art in someone else’s game, this is a good watch.

I love puzzles and I know I’m not alone in that fact. This talk was placed at an annoying 3:30pm slot, just as my brain was hitting it’s Afternoon Slump. So I will have to go back over this one to fully retain the knowledge that Laura imparted. The general topics about covered how designing for physical and VR is very different to designing for a traditional video game. Things like physical tiredness, immersion and player attention.

This was the only talk I decided to miss my last session of the day for in order to stay back and chat with everyone afterwards. This was a really warm an eye opening experience. So many people are interested in how we can bring magic of escape rooms to more people. Not to mention a great chance to geek out about ARGs with like minded folk.

This talk isn’t really a practical one and the vault video really doesn’t do this talk justice.The atmosphere of the room was really palpable and it was great to be there in person. This talk spoke about how you can invoke empathy with various techniques. More importantly Martin also speaks of WHY we should do it. That the world is cold and hard, that we all have a platform for saying something, so we should aim to say do something good with it. A lesson I’m sure we all can get on board with in these uncertain times.


Part Three

And then came a website.

A website went live a few weeks ago. It’s a weird one. Keep an eye on it if you’re interested to see what I’ve been doing with myself for the past two and a half years of my life.


Epilogue

It is the middle of March. The days are finally starting to warm a little. Blossom peaking out and bluebells rising from the earth. You realise, the sun shall be here soon and it all doesn’t seem so bad.