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July 1, 2021: Fast Start, Slow End - Progress Report Twitter Facebook

Tags: General, DevDiary, ProgressReport

The start of this month was a rush. I left myself a long TODO list at the end of last month, and I was enthused to get started. First was the hex libraries: done and looking good, ready for an example project. Next was a second IPO prototype: that went well and showed promise, although there are still serious gameplay problems. Then I started working on improving the screen sizing libraries.

Which is where everything ground to a halt.

Not because I got stuck. I got demotivated. The sizing work is boring and just needs to be ground through. But it was hard going. Then I got sick (not Covid), and now there is a lockdown (Covid) here again. I’m not feeling much va-va-voom.

Also still thinking about what to do. SAAS seems like a nice idea and something technically well within my abilities, but now I’m concerned by maintenance/support issues if I’m not around. Similarly, I’m having second thoughts about Unity3D. Working on the sizing stuff reminds me of various issues I have with it and how I am using an old version. I will probably just keep with it as I can’t think of anything better which doesn’t invole a lot of learning/rewriting (other engines like Unreal) or the same issues as SAAS (HTML5). Hmmm.

Over the next month:

  • Extract and improve common code & prefabs from AHB, mainly the card libraries. Then work on examples in the form of simple games (like AHB v2).
  • Try a third IPO prototype.
  • Decide which projects to pursue immediately, and which to put on pause.


June 1, 2021: The Only Constant Is Change - Progress Report Twitter Facebook

Tags: General, DevDiary, ProgressReport

Last month I announced the cancellation (postponement?) of Abstract Hex Battle. Now I am full of new ideas. Anyway, this month I extracted and improved possibly common code from AHB. There is still some work for the hex library, but that can be done in combination with starting another project.

I also prototyped IPO and then played it. It has some problems (unsurprsingly). The game is too fast at the start and too fiddly at the end. I still think it has promise, so a second prototype is in the plan for this month.

I might be taking on too much between: the common library; Concealed Intent 2; AHB v2; and IPO. Actually it is worse than that, because I have had another couple of ideas. They are: another card game I’d like prototype if there is time; and a SAAS procgen system. I really like the procgen idea, it fits my strengths and avoids weaknesses very well (except for trying to sell the product itself). I really need to decide upon a focus.

I have also decided to start month-to-month plans, the adjustable time plans are just unnecessarily unwieldly.

Over the next month:

  • Extract and improve common code & prefabs from AHB, mainly the hex and card libraries.
  • Try a second IPO prototype.
  • Decide which projects to pursue immediately, and which to put on pause.


May 4, 2021: Abandon and Restart - Progress Report Twitter Facebook

Tags: General, DevDiary, ProgressReport

I have abandoned the Abstract Hex Battle project, for now. I started working on the AI and I just couldn’t get it to work properly. The problem was caused by some unfortunate design decisions made early in the project in order to get it up and running quickly. Now those were blocking forward movement. I started reworking the internals for a day, but then stopped. I was not sufficiently excited by the project to put in the effort required to fix it.

For the last fortnight I have been extracting the useful common code and prefabs from Abstract Hex Battle to use as a base for future games. That has gone quite well. Good enough that I extended the work to build in localisation and other extras. There is a little more to do on this task. After that I plan to start a couple of games (maybe a quick rewrite of AHB and/or CI2D) to prove the common code works before starting the next proper project.

I also started prototyping a card game, IPO. I had the original idea for this game several years ago (see here), but couldn’t get it to work in playtests. A couple of weeks ago I had an idea which may fix the initial problems. Now it is time to see if the game can be saved. I hope so, because it is a cool idea combined with an interesting mechanic. Plus, it can be paper prototyped so iterative improvements will be fast and easy to test (much better than a PC game!).

Over the next 5 weeks:

  • Extract and Improve common code & prefabs from AHB, including simulation engine and card libraries
  • Prototype IPO
  • Restart AHB as proof-of-concept for the common libraries

Then:

  • ??? (profit!)


March 15, 2021: Getting There - Progress Report Twitter Facebook

Tags: General, DevDiary, ProgressReport

It has now been just under 11 months since I started work on this “little” 3-5 month game. It doesn’t even have a proper name yet! However, over the last 6 weeks quite a bit of progress has been made. I spent 5 weeks: completing all the remaining planned animations; fixing all known bugs; adding music/sfx; handling screen sizes up to 1080p (my screen size); and improving the game progression model. The missing week was spent on writing a simple logic library for scripting and organising an almighty mess of downloaded assets into something reasonable so I could find the sounds needed. Of course now there are 2 new bugs and 2 new animations on the todo list, but despite that it feels like the game is moving forward.

I’m about to lose a week to Easter holidays, so I’ll add a week to make a 6 week block next. That will be a year from the start. Fingers crossed, most of the work will be done by then. Looking at the todo list, this is possible. The last big item is fixing the AI. Then error handling, cleaning up the menu and making it prettier wherever possible. And a proper a name of course!

Over the next 6 weeks:

  • AI
  • Error handling
  • Make the game prettier (especially the menus) and come up with a name

Then:

  • Build system
  • Prepare marketing materials & limited buildup with a plan
  • Release to testers. Setup on Itch.io & create a build system


February 5, 2021: New Year, New Progress Report Twitter Facebook

Tags: General, DevDiary, ProgressReport

As expected December was a bad month for progress on my new game. However, January went much better. All the animations I wanted to add plus some extras have been completed. Of course along the way I thought of some more, but they will be for later. The gameplay UI has been cleaned up and looks reasonable now (for a programmer anyway). As a result the game is now 2-player only (originally it allowed upto 4 players) as I couldn’t work out how to do a nice UI for more players. Also, I fixed some annoying bugs. There are still a couple of bugs outstanding, but nothing that should crash the game.

Abstract Hex Battle WIP

We are back in lockdown here in Perth. Based on previous experience this gives me more time, but less productivity. So now is the occasion to start the slow work of cleaning up the menus, screen sizing, tooltips and audio - not hard, just time consuming. Then think about balance and feel, since moving to 2-player has made the gameplay feel flat in places. It needs to be amped up with various modifiers. I have some ideas.

And the game still needs a name!

Over the next 4 weeks:

  • Improve balance and feel of the game
  • Make the game much prettier and come up with a name.

Then:

  • AI, build system & error handling.

And after that:

  • Prepare marketing materials & limited buildup with a plan
  • Release to testers. Setup on Itch.io & create a build system


December 14, 2020: Progress Report Twitter Facebook

Tags: General, DevDiary, ProgressReport

I am just back from a fortnight’s holiday on WA’s Coral Coast, so time again to look back at what was done and what is coming up.

The couple of months leading up to the holiday were focussed on animations. This has taken much longer than expected, and there are still a couple to be finished, but the hard work has been completed. I have relearnt an important lesson that had been forgotten. Game systems which allow delays in actions for animations to occur are quite different to systems where everything happens instantaneously. Converting from the latter to the former took the unexpected extra time. In future, unless I am developing a definitely throwaway prototype, it will be best to start with the system that can handle delays. Doing that from the start will take much less time overall. There were a couple of other similar things discovered the hard way.

The next two weeks are going to be a write-off for decent work time. Between Christmas, New Years, and some required home maintenance, I doubt much progress will be made. I’ve decided not to stress about this and instead start the next 5 week period from the week after Christmas. Same targets as before.

Over the next 2+5 weeks:

  • Finish animations.
  • AI, build system & error handling.
  • Improve balance and feel of the game
  • Make the game much prettier and come up with a name.

This means the period after should be:

  • Prepare marketing materials & limited buildup with a plan
  • Release to testers. Setup on Itch.io & create a build system


December 14, 2020: Progress Report Twitter Facebook

Tags: General, DevDiary, ProgressReport

I am just back from a fortnight’s holiday on WA’s Coral Coast, so time again to look back at what was done and what is coming up.

The couple of months leading up to the holiday were focussed on animations. This has taken much longer than expected, and there are still a couple to be finished, but the hard work has been completed. I have relearnt an important lesson that had been forgotten. Game systems which allow delays in actions for animations to occur are quite different to systems where everything happens instantaneously. Converting from the latter to the former took the unexpected extra time. In future, unless I am developing a definitely throwaway prototype, it will be best to start with the system that can handle delays. Doing that from the start will take much less time overall. There were a couple of other similar things discovered the hard way.

The next two weeks are going to be a write-off for decent work time. Between Christmas, New Years, and some required home maintenance, I doubt much progress will be made. I’ve decided not to stress about this and instead start the next 5 week period from the week after Christmas. Same targets as before.

Over the next 2+5 weeks:

  • Finish animations.
  • AI, build system & error handling.
  • Improve balance and feel of the game
  • Make the game much prettier and come up with a name.

This means the period after should be:

  • Prepare marketing materials & limited buildup with a plan
  • Release to testers. Setup on Itch.io & create a build system


September 30, 2020: Progress Report Twitter Facebook

Tags: General, DevDiary, ProgressReport

Five more weeks done, so how is “Abstract Hex Battle” going? All the originally planned functionality is done, including game progression. Balance is a little better, but the game can descend into a battle of attrition towards the end. I think more balancing and maybe some more powerups are required. The game is looking a lot better now and I’ve started work on various animations.

Abstract Hex Battle WIP

There is still so much to do. Now I hope to finish by the end of the year. Especially considering some events I know are coming soon and will absorb a few weeks of attention.

Over the next 4 weeks:

  • Complete animation, AI, build system & error handling.
  • Improve balance and feel of the game
  • Make the game much prettier and come up with a name.

This means the 4 weeks after should be:

  • Prepare marketing materials & limited buildup with a plan
  • Release to testers. Setup on Itch.io & create a build system

When back after a holiday:

  • Release “Abstract Hex Battle” with initial business plan (squash bugs, cleanup stuff) to Itch.io


September 23, 2020: The Business Model of Jarrah Technology Twitter Facebook

Tags: General, Games, Marketing

Last time I wrote about why I want to make games. The key takeaway being that I will make games first for myself and secondly for an audience. That will greatly inform my initial business model, which is detailed here. I should mention that this is not necessarily a forever plan - I may tweak, change or completely abandon it as time and circumstances change.

I believe the main reason my first attempt at gamedev failed financially is that the game took too long to develop. Concealed Intent, was not a hit, so did not make enough money to cover its costs and my living expenses during its over 4 years of development. If I was able to finish it in under a year, then the situation would have been much closer to sustainable. Now I know more about gamedev, and what a solo dev can reasonably achieve. My next games will be smaller and simpler. If I can make two games per year with each making on average about half (or a little less) than Concealed Intent, then I should be fine.

So how do I manage this? The reason why I suggest two per year, and not one per year is because I want to maximise the chances for a hit. I plan to produce decent small games stripped down to the gameplay basics. The problem is limited resources. As a solo dev creating a fully featured game will still likely take well over a year with all the usual extras expected by customers and marketing time. If it is not a hit, then it will not recover is expenses. Smaller, simpler games can be turned out much faster, and if they do badly, well there is another coming soon after. A fail-fast system. If they do well then more time and effort can be applied with a greater chance of success. I’ll throw up lots of ideas and see which get traction.

The games will be kept small by: keeping them 2D or fixed camera; singleplayer only (no online play); PC only; minimising story (but some storylets are ok); using proc-gen over handcrafted levels; and reusing old assets. I will aim for an “interesting” graphical style - ideas will be prioritised over graphics. If further development is warranted then all of the above can be revisited. Plus extras that may include better AI, daily challenges/scoreboards, better graphics/UI/SFX, more configuration options, modding support, wider platform support, more content, accessibility, internationalisation/localisation, DLC, etc. If the smaller game does not sell well enough to become a larger game (which I expect most will not) then no extra effort will be applied and I’ll move onto the next one.

With time, the speed of developing these smaller games will improve as better, reusable tools are created and my skills increase. I should also hopefully learn more about what is desired by the community, so just make better designed and marketable games from the start.

Time to keep going until I find something …

Next, what comes next, the Roadmap (coming soon).


August 28, 2020: Progress Report Twitter Facebook

Tags: General, DevDiary, ProgressReport

Another 5 weeks done, but with slow progress. The plan was to have Abstract Hex Battle largely complete. It is not. There is a little more to do with progression mechanics, balance and animations. The plan now is to do all those plus the AI during this 5 week block. The delay is caused by a week of low productivity, another week given over to tax and other life problems, and more time than expected on the (hopefully) common tools. On the plus side I did manage to write the 3 blog posts (here is the first on The Philosophy of Jarrah Technology).

Over the next 5 weeks:

  • Abstract Hex Battle should be complete. Including AI, full game progression mechanics & animations.

This means the 5 weeks after should be:

  • Any last minute prettying up of the game and bugfixes.
  • Release (probably to Itch.io initially)


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