From late 2014 until early 2017, I maintained a weekly development blog for my action-platformer-roguelike Gunmetal Arcadia, accompanied by weekly video logs and somewhat less frequent dev streams and playable builds. This spanned the entire development cycle, from its initial inception following the launch of my previous Super Win the Game all the way through to Gunmetal Arcadia‘s own launch. That content can still be found at https://gunmetalarcadia.com/wordpress/ for anyone curious what the process of making an indie game as a solo developer and new parent looks like.
Following the release of Gunmetal Arcadia, I effectively went radio silent on the blogging front. I’ve still maintained an active Twitter account (@PirateHearts), but I only occasionally use it to discuss development. Mostly I make jokes about Dark Souls on there.
All right, so flash forward to two years later. (That’s now. I’m talking about now.) So much has happened in that time, and I’m finding myself itching to write about it. I’d had a blog at this same URL that was going on ten or eleven years old, but it was bogged down in custom CSS and widgets, and it felt like every time I wanted to post something there, I found some broken bit of formatting that I’d then have to spend a while addressing. None of that sounded like fun, and very little of the content on that blog was still pertinent, so I nuked the whole thing and set up a new one. (That’s this one. I’m talking about this one.)
Let me be clear: I have no intent of adhering to a strict blogging schedule this time around. I’d guess these entries will be arriving less than once a week and more than once a year. That being said, I do have a comfortable backlog of topics to explore, and I’m looking forward to giving each the time it deserves — something I rarely had the opportunity to do when I was cranking these things out weekly.
For this introductory post, let’s just walk through the timeline chronologically and take a high-level view at what’s been going on. I’ll dive into these topics in more detail in future posts. Or I won’t! Who knows? Not me!
By the time I launched Gunmetal Arcadia in February 2017, I’d already been taking notes and doing some exploratory rendering tests for the next thing. This was to be a small-scale open-world-ish LSD: Dream Emulator-inspired narrative-forward walking sim called Codex Cadentia. It was an ambitious concept, one that would probably be termed “execution dependent” if that bit of filmmaking vocabulary were common in the the games industry. My design documents contained phrases like “experiential gaming” and “hypnagogic gaming.” If this sounds like pretentious arthouse stuff…I mean, you’re not wrong. I had no illusions of this game being commercially viable. It was clear even before Gunmetal Arcadia shipped that — barring some unexpected good fortune — I would only be able to afford to make one more game at my current burn rate. Rather than make a half-hearted attempt to cash in on current trends, my goal was to make something artful and personally fulfilling.
Ultimately, I put Codex Cadentia on hold indefinitely for a number of unexpected reasons. Earlier in the year, I’d signed up to exhibit a game at the August 2017 Let’s Play Gaming Expo. About six weeks out, it was becoming apparent that Codex Cadentia wasn’t going to be in any sort of presentable state. I’d spent most of the preceding months building tools and tech, and I had only the barest bits of content ready at this time. Rather than rush to put together a demo, I chose to spend those six weeks jamming on a totally different game. This led to the creation of Regulation Pool, a very silly game that in some ways calls back to my 2008 arena shooter Arc Aether Anomalies.
Around this same time, a friend and former coworker pitched me on a potential future project. It was an exciting opportunity and one that arrived at the right time, as I knew I wouldn’t be able to fund the development of Codex Cadentia much longer, but it would also mean stepping away from indie development entirely for the foreseeable future.
I did accept this offer, but with my start date still a couple months away, I found myself with one last opportunity to make something personally fulfilling and potentially capitalize on some of the best elements of Codex Cadentia in a smaller scale with more manageable content requirements. This led to a marathon development session in which I concepted, prototyped, implemented, and launched EPONYMOUS: In Which a Work Is Known by Its Reading in a mere eight weeks. I was able to leverage some of the lo-fi PSX-era 3D rendering tech I’d previously developed for Codex Cadentia, but the vast majority of this game, including the entirety of the voxel implementation, was built in that short time.
I stealth-launched EPONYMOUS: In Which a Work Is Known by Its Reading on Halloween 2017. I had zero commercial aspirations for this one, but I do feel that it met its goals. Maybe someday I’ll speak publicly about what those goals were, but today is not that day. Suffice it to say, any time I get the itch to start doing something weird and artsy, I can breathe a little easier remembering that EPONYMOUS exists already.
Following this launch, we immediately packed up and moved to California, where I was employed by Activision from November 2017 to June 2018.
Following this tenure, and looking to relocate back to Texas, I accepted a position at Gearbox Software, where I’d previously worked from April 2007 to July 2013.
I’ve had a mostly-unspoken goal of shipping at least one small indie project each year, and I’ve mostly kept up with this goal, although I’ve had to fudge the rules a little for 2015. (Despite being busy with countless projects that year, the closest thing to a new game I shipped was an update for Super Win the Game which added new features and new content.) In keeping with this trend, I phoned in an entry for the LSD: Dream Emulator-inspired Emulated Dreams game jam, reworking tech and content from EPONYMOUS into a very short experience I called PONY MOUSE: In Which a Dream Is Known by Its Waking. (I’d been sitting on that name since EPONYMOUS launched, and I have a few more silly variations in mind for any future spinoffs I choose to make.)
Somewhere in there, I also took an interest in leveling up my art and dove into color palettes. Inspired by Lospec and GrafxKid’s Today Land Palette in particular, I wrote a C# tool to assist in authoring color palettes. This is still in a very rough form, but I’ve already found it to be useful in prototyping future concepts, and I’m hoping someday to make it something I could release and/or open-source.
At the end of 2018, over Christmas break, I took some time to go back to the HTML5 builds of Super Win and You Have to Win the Game I’d developed a year earlier and generalize this work in order to facilitate future HTML5 ports of more of my work.
Looking to the future, there are several projects I’m hoping to undertake at some point. My next magnum opus is something I’m calling “Project Verse” as a codename. It’s a weirdly obvious blend of genres that’s also weirdly underserved, and I’m really hoping no one else jumps on it before I have the chance. (The subtext here is somebody pay me to make this game already!) I also have no fewer than three pretty strong ideas bouncing around for small-scale HTML5 projects, including a third Win the Game entry.
I’ll go into depth on these topics in future entries, but for now, that brings us up to the present. It’s now 2019, and I have most of the year to figure out what my small indie project this year will be. I’m sort of torn between whether to spend my limited time on The Next Big Thing (Project Verse) or something that I might be able to finish as a side project (Win the Game 3?). It’s unlikely I’ll be able to return to full-time indie game development for a while, but that is ultimately my goal.
In the meantime — and this probably warrants its own blog too at some point — I’m also finally getting back to the gym and trying to level up my physical form again. As of the time of writing, I’m heavier than I’ve ever been in my life (although arguably still in better health than I was at the end of 2016 — that was bad times), and hopefully by this time next year, I’ll be in better shape.