Now that I think about it, 2015 was an amazing year for Nonadecimal Creative.
- In January, I shared a booth with 3 awesome indie devs while showcasing Social Justice Warriors at PAX South. This was my first time attending a convention and also my first time running a booth. I did a video interview with IGN (another first for me) and the game was greenlit for Steam.
- In February, I released Social Justice Warriors on Steam after an intense month of no sleep and constant work to add achievements, trading cards, and all the other necessary Steam elements.
- In March, I flew to San Francisco for a single day at GDC followed by a midnight flight to Boston for PAX East where I was very grateful to have been sponsored booth space by Cooler Master. I met so many great people that week.
- In May, I released the final update for Social Justice Warriors a year after it was first released on itch.io.
- In June, I started working on a cyberpunk plot generator for Black Ice that would create branching stories involving randomly generated characters.
- In July, I left my day job and created a new game, Automata Empire, during 2 weeks of a game jam.
- In November, I finally participated in PROCJAM and made a demon generator that I’ll expand into a full game, Souls & Accounting, in 2016. Meanwhile, Automata Empire was greenlit for Steam, clearing the way for its release in early 2016.
So much happened in 2015 that I hadn’t even realized it was still the same calendar year!
What did I learn?
Looking back on it, the year was marked by a continuing trend toward smaller projects with tighter constraints that began in 2014. At the start of 2014, I was 2 years into development of Afterdeath, a platformer where you controlled the angle of the characters’ jumps (and for some characters, bounces). Fed up with an endless project where I felt like I had already learned all that I could, I took 4 weeks off to make and release Social Justice Warriors as a project to learn Unity and the basics of releasing a game. While I ended up updating SJW for a full year in an attempt to refine its message in the face of an ever-changing internet war, it left me feeling smaller games that offer focused lessons for me as a developer was the right idea.
This challenged me to create the Automata Empire prototype in just two weeks and the demon generator in less than a week. While Automata still has some work remaining to finish the multiplayer gameplay and some menus, I feel confident it will be finished within 7 months of the initial game jam. Likewise, I think I can finish Souls & Accounting within another 7 month dev cycle. If I can hold myself to those targets, that means I’ll be able to release 2 games in 2016. Hopefully as I continue to gain experience as a game developer, I can keep shrinking that development cycle in successive years. Now that I’m self-employed, I may need those rapid releases to stay afloat too.
This year has also made me realize the importance of structuring each game as a learning opportunity. Just as I used SJW to learn Unity and BIKE GAME to learn Unity’s 2D physics in 2014, I used Automata Empire to learn about managing large amounts of data (thousands of monsters traversing tens of thousands of grid cells) and tackle multiplayer synchronization for the first time. I used Black Ice and Souls & Accounting to test procedural generation theories and further my long-term goals for generating quirky, yet believable characters. And even more important are the game ideas and prototypes I’ve abandoned during the year simply because I didn’t feel I’d learn the right things from them relative to how much work they’d require to finish.
I think that’s a useful lesson for all developers. Keep asking yourself what you learned and what you will learn going forward.
After a brief break from dev to get married (!), I’ll be going back to PAX South in January. I’ll be helping out at the Black Ice booth so feel free to stop by and talk to me about the plot generator and my long-term ideas for procedural narrative. I’ll also be debuting Automata Empire at the Indies Need Booze party, if you’d like to play my new game before everyone else. With both Automata Empire and Souls & Accounting gearing up to release in 2016, I’m already looking ahead to my next game that I’ll inevitably start prototyping in 2016. After asking myself what I need to learn, the obvious answer is the grammar and methodology for using semantic networks, which I will need to make more complex generative simulations, as well as the basics of long-term planning agents. With such complex subject material, you can bet that whatever kind of game it is, it’s going to be scoped small!
I’m really excited for 2016 and with so many opportunities ahead, I think it will easily be an even more eventful year than 2015. Happy new year everybody!