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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

My Vision for Malevolence

So, now that Malevolence is out in the public and people are playing it, I'm finding that a lot of people are expecting it to be easy, or, even worse, expecting it to be like Skyrim, or, even WORSE, expecting it to be like Legends of Grimrock...

I can assure you that's not the case here. Malevolence is hard. REALLY hard. Just like the old CRPGs to which it is an homage.

I should probably explain my vision for the game...... This is how I envision an average new player experience might go in the final version:

Basically the idea would be that a new player would start, get the quest to visit Eddya Anic's Holdfast and head off in that direction, but then they'd find Shoba Nohr on the way there and think "what the hell, I'm a warrior!" and wander on down into the dungeon. They'd be beaten to within an inch of their miserable life by a pack of orcs and leave the dungeon, sobbing, after only having explored about 10 squares of it. Through their tears they'd see the urns in that graveyard and look inside, where they'd find a bottle of unicorn urine and a handful of coins. They'd notice that the sun was beginning to set, and, heeding the advice of Clergyman Al-aeks, they'd sprint for Eddya Anic's holdfast. Once there, they'd get a room at the tavern until the morning when they'd sell the unicorn urine and use the money to buy a decent weapon. They'd head back to Shoba Nohr to get some revenge and perhaps clear one floor of the dungeon, but be in fairly bad shape after it, so they'd be forced to wander the countryside, scavenging where they could, sneaking into dungeons to loot crates without being spotted by monsters, running where they could, fighting where they had to... But then one day they'd do something stupid. They'd get cornered by a minotaur. But by this stage they had some basic bits of armour, an OK weapon and a couple of health potions... They decide to make a final stand... An epic battle later, they are standing on the corpse of the fallen minotaur with a renewed sense of vigour. They've levelled up, they've EARNED the gear that they've found through sweat and blood and fear...

They are ready to start their adventure...

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Marketing Outside the Box

So, as an indie developer new to the scene, the thought of marketing my game has proven to be a daunting one. There are many avenues for marketing available through third parties, but indies rarely have the money for that sort of thing.
Many excellent blog posts before have gone into the various ways in which an indie can get their product out there on the cheap, but I want to talk about going a little bit deeper, and tell how you can use gamer psychology to your advantage to do a lot of your marketing for you.

But before we go into that, the first thing that an indie developer really needs to do is to have their product displayed in as many places as possible. When starting work on Malevolence I started out with just a simple BlogSpot account and did all of my updates on there. Guess how many people cared? None. And why should they? How could they even FIND the blog unless they were told about it?

Take a search engine like Google. It has a "crawler" that goes around the web, finding pages, and finding all of the links on those pages. It analyzes where the links link to, and finds which pages have lots of links heading to them. If a page has hundreds of other pages linking to it, and lots of visitors, then it must be important, right? Well, to make your game more visible, you need to have lots of people visiting your page - a bit of a catch 22 - but you can help it by having a presence in many different places. Oh, and good news everyone... The Internet has many, many viable, justifiable places where you can put your game on show.

For Malevolence, the first big step after BlogSpot was to create a profile on IndieDB/ModDB (creating a profile on one creates one on other other, too). They get quite a lot of traffic on there, and it will actually rank your game against others (a library of about 6000 games) in terms of how much traffic you get. It also rewards your dedication to the public by putting you on the front page whenever you write up a new update post. Given the way it works, and the attention that it gets, it's very much worth taking the time to make your profile page attractive and thorough. That's where a bit of the psychology comes in. I have noticed that gamers who browse ModDB for new indie games are a little bit like channel surfers. They flick through profiles quickly - bam bam bam - until they find one that appeals to them very quickly, and then they'll stop and take a deeper look. So having lots of nice, bright screenshots, thorough videos and lots of clear, solid information about your game readily accessible for them will entice them to stay and take a proper look at your game.

Once you notice that you're getting more traffic, you can make a move towards putting links on your IndieDB/ModDB profile to other networks that you're operating on. Some examples of which include YouTube channels, Facebook Fan-pages, Twitter accounts, etc. Any and all are good. Just be sure to make the links subtle. Some nice clean icons, perhaps. Gamers, I have found, dislike feeling like they are being bombarded. Do some research, take some time, look at successful pages and the way they've done things. It pays off.

The social media avenue was the next step for me with Malevolence. It started with a YouTube channel where I would make a point to do screen-captures fairly regularly showing the progress of the game's development. Many people either don't enjoy or don't have the time to sit down and read lengthy blog posts (he says in a lengthy blog post) and a nice, quick video can get the whole point across much faster and with more of a sense of interaction. Even taking the time to narrate the video can easily double or triple the amount of information translated in the same time frame. Things to think about there.

After that came the Facebook and Twitter. I actually expected these to be the most active of the network avenues for promoting the game, but in the end they fell into roles of keeping CURRENT fans up to date, and didn't really do much to draw new fans. Though it seems obvious now, it took me a while to work out why this is. Most people on Facebook and Twitter these days use them on their smartphones, rather than their computer. While it IS possible to go browsing for new content via the smartphone interfaces, they are much more designed to just keep up with what their already follow. That's not to say that you can't still make use of these avenues though, as they offer quick and easy mini-update portals for you to address your current fan-base en-masse, and quickly spread links to any major blog updates you do elsewhere.

For the longest time, Steam was one of the holy grails of indie games "making it" and their new Greenlight process has taken that from some dark, incomprehensible process to something more tangible. As soon as it went live I create a profile for Malevolence on there thinking "wow, I might be in for a chance", and things went fairly well for a time, but then started petering off quick quickly. Valve kept altering and adjusting the vote process for getting games approved and it was quite drastically affecting my game's ability to get noticed on there. It's been quite frustrating until it got me thinking... How WOULD you make an unbiased system for gauging a game's popularity in the middle of a firmly established community of over 50 million users? The more I think about it, the more complex it becomes in my head. Sure, I have lots of problems with the way the Greenlight process works, however, since I can't come up with a better one myself, I'm happy to leave it up to them to sort out. I've had many heated discussions with fellow developers about how the system should work... Mainly about the apparent pointlessness of having a "no vote" button (which I'm sure will create some lovely 'discussions' in the comments) however, as I said, I'm happy to leave the process up to Valve, as they would certainly know best. Of all the networks I've gotten Malevolence onto, that's the only one that hasn't really gone anywhere yet. As the owner of it I can watch the percentage of votes go up and down, and I can't really make sense out of it, so I'll just keep doing what I'm doing and hope for the best. The only advice I could give to other indies attempting it would be to make sure that all of your avenues (Facebook, IndieDB, dev blogs, etc) point to your Greenlight so that you can funnel as much of your traffic into it as possible.

HOWEVER, all of that only depends on how badly you want to get onto Steam. I'm aware that some people don't. Some because they just don't like how Steam operates, others because they're making mobile games and it's kind of useless to them. I, personally, am trying to get on there, but that doesn't mean that everyone SHOULD.

But I digress. What about the psychology mentioned earlier? Well, that is where your marketing plan comes from. Just sticking your product on some blogs and social network sites isn't really a marketing plan. It's just a means to give your game a 'presence' on the Internet. A solid presence is a powerful thing, but it takes constant maintenance. It's not something you can set and forget until you have a large, strong, dedicated community to do it for you. As an indie, that's just not something that's likely to happen straight up, so it's something you're going to have to do yourself. KEEP your blogs updated. RELEASE lots of screenshots. RECORD lots of videos. ANSWER lots of questions, and above all, MAKE SURE that your community is reminded regularly that you are still working on your game, lest they lose interest.

But what about expanding your community? That's where your marketing plan comes into play. You've got your presence sorted out, you're maintaining it well, but how do you bring new people in? That, in itself, depends on many different things:

TARGET AUDIENCE: What is the target audience for your game? You can't just say "gamers" because not all gamers like tower defence games. Not all gamers like FPS games. Not all gamers like RPGs. And then, even within the types there are sub-types. In the RPG player genre there are gamers who like first person RPGs, but don't necessarily like isometric RPGs or turn-based RPGs. So it's a matter of specificity. Take the time to work out precisely what your target audience is with your game and market mainly towards them. There's not much use in wasting energy trying to talk to people who aren't interested in listening!

ANALYZE: Take the time to analyze the way your target audience acts. Do they talk amongst themselves? Do they operate vocal communities? Is theirs a community of sharing, or of bragging? As an overly abrupt stereotype, FPS gamers tend to have communities that are much more vocal and aggressive than communities of RPG games. I realise that's a massive generalization, and it is most certainly not ALWAYS the case, but if you look into how the communities of your target audience operate, you can use it to your advantage when creating your marketing plan.

ACT AND REACT: As an indie, much of what you learn, you will learn on the fly. If you make a marketing faux pas, you will learn about it pretty quickly. Try not to be too stubbourn about things. While it can be trying at times, an indie game without fans/players, is nothing. It's like owning a coffee shop that has no customers. Don't be too hard-headed to change the way you operate if it's something small and it keeps people happy. You need to be adaptive, you need to listen and you need to communicate.

So, with these things, you can create your marketing plan. As an example, my marketing plan for Malevolence was to make use of the RPG communities idiosyncrasies. I did my research, joining forums and following blogs, doing the whole Jane Goodall thing and "living with the apes" so to speak (not calling RPG players apes, by the way. Just using a metaphor) and I found that a common trait among them is that they are excited about indie RPG development and will quite often share links to interesting indie RPG projects that they find. BUT, at the same time, while there is a lot of link sharing going on, there isn't much response to it. Many RPG forums will have an entire section just for sharing indie RPGs that people have found. These sections are often filled with lots of posts with links, but the posts won't often have many responses. That doesn't mean that people don't follow the links, but it means that there is more excitement about sharing the links than there is about the games themselves. RPG fans seemed excited about the IDEA of new RPGs, which is cool.

I made a note of this and built my strategy around it. I planned to start my marketing push at the same time that Skyrim came out. Sounds crazy, right? Well, there was reason behind my madness. I started pushing the links to my various blogs, etc, on forums and other hubs while people were busy getting fussy over Skyrim. The community saw my links and shared them around, but, as expected, not much action happened other than the spreading of the links. Because of this, there ended up being many, many sites with references to this infinite indie RPG. As it spread, more people heard about it, but they didn't focus on it because... Hey... Skyrim... But that was precisely my plan.

The excitement over every game, no matter how groundbreaking the game was, eventually wears off, and once the attention for Skyrim had started to dim, I was in the position where links to my game were ALL OVER the Internet, and a vast portion of the RPG community had heard something about it. Even if they couldn't recognise it by name, when someone mentioned "Have you heard about Malevolence, that infinite indie RPG being made" more often than not they would be met with a reaction of "I think I heard something about that, yeah... Can't remember where though."

This is where the psychology of my marketing plan came in. Having another person bring it up makes them remember seeing it somewhere which inspires them to look for it again. They hit the search engines and start typing in the word "Malevolence" since they have no idea how to spell "Ahkranox" and, since I have made an effort to have a VERY strong web presence, they see this:

They barely have started typing the word Malevolence, and it shows up. Marketing plan complete. That being said, they may go to the site, look at it and hate it. I unfortunately can't help you with that. Marketing is one thing, but your product still needs to stand on its own. I was lucky enough to have this strategy work quite well for my game, but sometimes even the most well thought out strategy will fail. Not having a strategy at all, however, will pretty much guarantee that you'll fall short, so start early!

But that's where I'll leave off, I think. In conclusion, when marketing your game, you need to take the time to establish a web presence, develop a marketing plan based on research and analysis of your target audience and attention to detail when looking into the psychology of the way they act as a community. Stick with it. If you believe in your game strongly enough, you won't have too much difficulty in translating that to your viewership!

Monday, November 19, 2012

What they DON'T tell you about being a game developer

So I'm in an interesting position. Malevolence, while not my first game by a long shot, is my first RELEASED game, and I've been lucky enough to have it gather a lot of attention (for an indie title) early on in its creation. From what people tell me, this does not normally happen. Normally, a developer will hit on gold after they've tested the waters with a few titles first, or had a hand in other game development, such as working for a AAA company.
Because of this unique perspective of having a relatively successful title (despite not yet being released) on my first ever attempt, I haven't yet developed the pessimism that often comes with being an experienced indie game developer. This has led me to want to write this new thought piece, which goes into all of the things that they DON'T tell you about being a game developer. If you want the short and sweet version, feel free to skip to the end.

Going through university I had the same delusions as most people that I would get my qualifications, build a folio and get a job at a AAA game company. Shortly thereafter, fame and riches would ensue and I would live happily ever after, making games that I love, and having everything right with the world.
I finished university to find that all of my hard work would get me on a "consideration" list for a baseline, entry level QA job which would mostly consist of me being locked in a cubicle for 70+ hours a week doing some of the most repetitve, soul destroying work known to man.

Sure, that would give me a foot in the door to have my true skills recognised later on, however, most game companies go through and trash their QA teams at the end of every project after smothering them in NDAs which make their soul now below to the company. So that's a minefield in itself.
If, and I really mean IF, I was to be plucked from QA and given a position within the company, one of two scenarios would have happened:

Programmer Position - I would be sat down and made to do scripting work for 70+ hours a week on someone else's proprietary engine, since using third party products "speeds development" and I would learn that there is such a thing as an "acceptible sacrifice of quality for speed" which would slowly destroy my integrity as a programmer. My passion for creating new features would slowly be vampirically sucked away, and anything I made in my spare time would be contractually owned by my employer which would sap my enthusiasm for innovation even further.

Artist Position - I might be lucky enough to get assigned work that interests me. I might be having a great time designing and modelling sci-fi assets for an amazing new shoot-em-up and enjoy watching them come to life within the engine. But one day the producer (who is computer illiterate and whose only gaming experience is with Bejewelled) would pop by and say "You know, my 10 year old niece is really into ponies right now. Change the game to be about ponies". Because he is the money behind the masterpiece, I would now be forced to abandon all of my work and create ponies and handbags all day every day. Also, everything I make outside of work would be contractually owned by my employer, limiting my folio and preventing me from moving to another company.

So, having this realisation, I then turned my attention to the indie game dev scene, which was far more attractive as I was beholden to no-one, I could work on what I wanted and do it in any way that I pleased (so I thought) but there were certain demons there which no-one told me about, either.
I got myself a day job to take care of living expenses and turned my spare time towards my magnum opus... Malevolence: The Sword of Ahkranox - the game of my dreams that was everything that I wanted to see in a game. I was out to show the world what a game COULD be. New technologies, new gameplay mechanics and a dash of old-school to reel in the retro crowd. It was going to be amazing and the world would be changed forever.

I was young. I was naive. And no-one had warned me what was coming.

First off, I had been playing around with a new method of procedural generation to create infinite worlds, and my favourite gaming genre was always RPGs, so I figured "why not make an infinite procedural RPG?" it seemed a good idea at the time, so I started work on it and found that it worked. I started a blog about it, more for myself than anything. Things were going fairly well.

It was at this point that I started meeting a couple of other game devs. Before this point I didn't really know any, and one with quite a long resume happened to start work at my day job. We got to talking and he introduced me to more people. They all seemed quite interested in my project and thought it was great that I was trying new things. This reaction gave me the motivation to make my development process a bit more public, so I started promoting Malevolence a bit more and getting more of a team together to work on the game's shine.

Much to my amazement, it got quite a lot of attention (for an indie game being made by a nobody in the industry) and that made me happy, so I kept at the PR. But with positive attention comes negative attention, and it was then that I learned two important things:
  • People, when given the anonymity and audience of the internet, can be truly horrible.
  • You can read 1000 praising comments, but if just one of them is bad, it will ruin your whole day.
The fact that I was trying to do something new with my game was evidently a horrible crime to many people and I would get utterly horrible comments ranging from put-downs to persanal abuse that would get them arrested if said in person... Even one or two death threats. It's a sad fact of life that people who are too scared to follow their own dreams will often try to talk you out of following yours. It's easy for people to say "just ignore those comments" but that's simply not possible.
Some people who disagreed with the game's concept gave thorough and well-written justifications for their feelings, which was good to see, but they were few and far between.
I had decided early on to keep an open-doors development policy and be extremely communicative with the public. I even developed somewhat of a reputation for answering every question asked of me. Many people loved this, others took it as justification to send more abuse, because they knew someone was listening.

At first, I thought it was because of my new ideas and concepts that I was touting, but after meeting with other game developers I found out that it's just what the gamer community is like. Full of angry, hateful, rude, abnoxious people who feel entitled to say anything they want to the developers who are making games for them. That's not to say that they're all like that. Far from it! Many, many people have been very supportive, communicative and encouraging throughout the entire process, and you have to really cling to people like that because, as a developer friend of mine once said "Those people hating on your game will always complain loudly. That's just what they do. The fact is, though, that they'll probably still buy your game." and that's what you need to focus on. It doesn't matter if other people like your game. What matters is whether YOU like your game. If you love it, other people are bound to as well. Just look at how much hate has been poured upon Minecraft over the years, but Mojang have sold millions and millions of copies regardless, and you can tell that they're super proud of their creation!

Being proud of what you've made is very important. Whenever something happens around your game that makes you feel proud, then you've gotta grab a hold of it and not let it go. I've had John Passfield sit me down and tell me that he believes that Malevolence has the makings of an epic game, I've been called a "visionary" by members of the Guild Wars 2 team, I've been recommended by RockPaperShotgun as a project to watch... These things make me glow with pride, and whenever I'm getting slammed by ignorant haters, I remember these things to help get me through it, and that's something you've just got to do to survive psychologically.

So, looking back, I've realised there are a lot of things that people just don't tell you about being an independant game developer:
  • A large, loud portion of the public will openly hate you regardless of what you do. Learn to live with it.
  • No-one will ever take your project as seriously as you, or fully realise what you're going through.
  • Everyone will think they know better than you about your own project.
  • Getting noticed at all is incredibly difficult .
  • The odds of you making money out of it are slim.
  • If you want to succeed, you'll likely have to sell out. Just how MUCH you sell out is up to you.
  • You have to develop a VERY thick skin.
  • Being open with the public isn't neccesarily smiled upon 100% of the time.
  • You will meet many "game developers" but very few people who are actually developing games.
  • You need to have the ability to listen to all advice given to you. Remember that listening to advice doesn't mean you have to take it. But listening can't hurt and you never know what you might learn.
I've also learned lots of things to never do again which may help upcoming developers:
  • Don't make an RPG as your first released game, nor any other kind of large-scale project. Start simple. Learn the lessons. Once you're experienced, THEN you can work on something big.
  • Never announce your release date until you are 150% sure of it.
  • Never let yourself get so enveloped in your project that other parts of your life suffer.
  • Never engage the haters.
  • Get a test team and follow strict testing practices.
  • Have a thorough plan before you start working too hard on it, and then stick to that plan come hell or high water.
  • Think carefully about having a public development process. Depending on the target audience and the project itself, it may be better to develop it silently and only open things up to the public when you're nearing completion.
  • Never let anyone cause you to stop being proud of your work. The moment you aren't proud of it anymore, the moment people will stop respecting you for it. If you make the game, and no money comes of it, at least you'll have work that you're proud of.
Some of them are hard lessons to learn, but learn them well before you venture into the murky waters of independant game development. Consider yourself forewarned! Obviously, other people will have other bits of advice, or revelations of their own, so I'd love to hear them, too! Share them in the comments!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Huge Progress

So wow... Progress...

As you know, I've been working on the quest system. Well, a big part of that has been getting the map system working, because I need to be able to show quest markers, and location markers. That in itself is quite a feat in an infinite world.

But in adding that functionality, I stumbled across a problem. For some reason things weren't displaying properly at all... I knew how the map code SHOULD work, but for some reason it wouldn't behave properly, even though the code was correct. I decided to look deeper and what do you think I found? I found the bug that had been preventing biomes and oceans from working!


Not only does this mean that the game's scope is now finally on track, but it means that the game world can finally be locked down!

I won't get too technical on the topic, but here are a couple of videos showing (very, very early and basic) biomes and oceans working!



I'm very excited... Expect to see BIG things happening in the game's development now that the world is locked down... BIG things...

Friday, October 26, 2012

Where I'm up to

So here's a little glimpse as to where I'm at.

I was hoping to get the beta out tonight, but things just didn't quite come together. The main reason why is because I REALLY want this beta build to have at least basic quest functionality in it. That, however, involves more than I realised.

Firstly, there's the map. You've all seen the country map, but what you've been seeing is what is called the "immediate countryside map" which shows the area around you for about 200sqm (650sqft) which is about your visibility range. However, a step up from that is your local world map, which shows the world around you for about three and a half square km (around two square miles). Then, if you're thinking of travelling further, you can go all out to the greater world map. That's a biggun. It shows the world around you for about 250sqkm (150 square miles)

I just want to point out right here that one segment of greater world is over 30 times larger than all of Skyrim.

But anyway... I digress... Every time you find something - a dungeon, a town, etc - it will go on your map as a dot so you can find it again later. In order for quest locations to be "marked on your map" or even held in memory until you discover it yourself, I have to have the map marker system in place. Doing this requires disgustingly large amounts of data to be processed very quickly (because people get angry at long load times). So my next major task is getting that happening.

Currently the local world maps are working just fine (even showing the biomes that aren't really there :P) but world maps I still have to do. Shouldn't be too much of a chore, however, as I already have them being stored in memory in order to calibrate the player's location (you may remember that in order to facilitate a truly infinite world I have to maintain the player's location within 6 dimensions at once. Yay maths!)

But once I have locations being marked on the map and stored in databases, I can get to work on having quest givers be able to "mark things on your map". That way, when you have an active quest selected, you can go to your map and maybe, if it's that sort of quest, you'll get a hint of where to go.

But the world of Ahkranox is quite big, so I also need a search function. Only for places that you've been to, of course, but still. To help facilitate this, you'll be able to pay cartographers to update your map for the local area, which should help your detective work quite a bit.

After that, I need to put in the system that recognizes when a quest is completed. Normally this would be quite easy as in most games the quests are pre-written by people, so the completion circumstances are equally written. But Malevolence comes up with its own quests, so recognizing if a quest has been completed is a difficult task...

Either way, I have a LOT of work ahead of me tomorrow. It's 1:30am right now and my eyes are having a hard time staying open, so I'm gonna get some rest, then wake up, have a shower, crack open a can of Dr Pepper and try and work some programming magic for you guys :D wish me luck!

P.S. Oh, and at some stage this weekend, the new site will be launching. I'm REALLY excited!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Something to Point To

I thought I'd do up a bit of a thought piece to do a sort of "bulk response" to a question that I get asked quote a lot:

"Where do you find the motivation/time to make such a large-scale game when you have a full-time day job?"

I get asked this question an unbelievably regular amount of times, so I thought it might be worth doing up a blog post about it so I can just point people at it rather than having to repeat myself. Plus, about 50% of the people I explain it to turn around and scoff at me afterwards, and having it in a blog means that I don't have to see them do that.

Anyway, it's true that I have a full-time day job. I work Monday to Friday, full-time hours and, as of the end of 2012, have been doing that for eight years (the same job, too. Woo!) yet for the last three of those years, I have also been doing 10 hour days, 7 days a week, working on Malevolence - an incredibly large-scale project. I've done this while managing two mortgages, finding time to spend with my wife and friends, and maintaining a number of hobbies.

To the people who ask how I do it, it comes down to four key things: pride, passion, desire and sacrifice. And what I do isn't something unique to me. It's not some bizarre, TARDIS-like device I keep in my garage. It's something that anyone can do, many people DO do, but not many people WANT to do.

Let me break it down into the categories and explain myself further:

PRIDE: Pride is a big one, if not the biggest. Pride is essential to success. Too many people, when contemplating something unique, will not even start on it because they aren't confident enough in themselves to do it. They start to fill their head with excuses before they've even begun, and then it doesn't happen. Others might START the project, but hit their first roadblock and shoot themselves down. They'll hit a bug they can't fix or get stuck trying to work out a method that they can't figure out and they'll tell themselves that the entire project will be like this and that they can't finish it. This comes down to a lack of pride. There are two types of people: those who seek to find out what they're capable of, and those who don't care, or are too frightened to find out. I haven't listed people who KNOW what they're capable of, because a true seeker of knowledge should always be surprised by new things that they are capable of. If you were to tell a younger version of myself the things that I would accomplish some day, I would have told you that you have the wrong guy. I've always been confident in a lot of areas, but terribly shy and unwilling in others. But the more I tried, the more I could do. When I failed, I tried again until I got it right. If you don't have self confidence, you'll never make it. So the first step is to believe you can do something, and believe that you have the skill, or can acquire the skill, to make it happen.

PASSION: This is a must. If the thing you are working on holds no passion for you, then it is the wrong thing. A big project is like a marriage. You must be dedicated solely to that thing, and see it through to the end. But before you can do that, you have to be WILLING to see it through. That takes some self analysis before you even get started, and that is where pride comes in. Find something that you have just got to do in life. Something that you can't help thinking about. Something that, when uninhibited, gives you tremendous joy unlike anything else. For me, that is making video games. Particularly seeing people PLAY the games that I make. I said earlier that it's like a marriage, and this may seem controversial to some, but a marriage that ends in divorce, most of the time, wasn't thought through well enough in the first place. The same can be said of a project. If you are willing to drop a project half-way through, that means you should never have started it in the first place, because the level of passion that the project needed and deserved was never there. When you start a project, it can be fun, but you need more than fun. You need that deep rooted love of the idea. The dreams of your future with that idea. You need to be so connected with the project, and so dedicated to it, that when times get hard, you stick with it. You work on it. You fight for it. When you hit a bug that is IMPOSSIBLE to fix, you step back from it. You take some time to think it over. You clear your head, and you go back to it. If you do this, you will see the problem from a fresh angle and it will get resolved. If you hit that wall and just quit, then you didn't have enough passion for it. If the passion isn't there - and I mean proper passion - then don't even bother with the project, because it may just end up as wasted time and resources.

DESIRE: The motivational speaker Eric Thomas tells a story of a man who visited a wealthy, successful guru, and told him "I want to be successful and make lots of money, like you. Please teach me how I can do this" and the guru told him to meet him tomorrow, at 4am, at the beach. The next morning, the man went to the beach in his best suit and met with the guru. The guru told him "if you want to be successful, then walk out into the ocean". The man thought it was an odd request, but he walked out until he was waist-deep in the water. The guru called out to him and told him to walk out further, so he walked until the water was around his shoulders. He called back to the guru, saying that he didn't understand how this could possibly make him successful. He already knew how to swim. So the guru waded out to him and forced his head under the water. No matter how hard the man struggled, the guru held him down under the water. Just before he passed out, the guru lifted him up again and immediately asked him "when you were under the water, what did you want to do?" to which the man said he wanted to breathe. More than anything he wante to breathe. The guru nodded and said "When you NEED to be successful as much as you NEED to breathe, then you will be successful."
And that's just it. When you're suffocating, all you can think of is to try and get some air into your lungs. You don't think about catching your favourite TV show, you don't think about the football final that's coming up, you don't think about work... Your entire existence becomes centered around getting some air. Everything you do - every thought, every action, goes towards getting air.
Until you think that way about success, it'll never properly happen. And that links strongly into the final topic...

SACRIFICE: This is the one people can never get past. When Friday night rolls around, everyone I know goes out for drinks, goes to parties, goes shopping, goes to the movies, goes to dinner... I go home and work on my game. When the football grand final is on, everyone's having mates over, doing beer runs and camping in front of the TV to watch it happen (or are at the game in person)... I stay at home and work on my game. When people finish work at their job they go home, grab a drink, put their feet up and watch TV, resting after a hard days work... I get home, turn on my computer and work on my game. When it gets to 10pm or so, people go to bed to get their healthy 8 hours sleep before work the next day. I stay up until 2am to work on my game. When other people have their project up on one screen, they'll keep checking their Facebook or getting distracted by Farmville or wanting to play games rather than work.... But I'm there, both screens taken up by my project, surrounded by notebooks full of equations, entirely focused.
And that's just it. You have to be willing to sacrifice things that don't mean as much as the project. You have to be willing to give up sleep. People will tell you it's not healthy but you can get by on small naps. You have to feel like you CAN'T sleep in case you miss a chance to do something awesome. You have to be totally engaged. There have been many, many times while working on my game that I have completely forgotten to eat and my wife has had to intervene and practically force-feed me. I am lucky enough to have an incredibly supportive, caring wife who thoroughly understands and respects my level of investment. Having that sort of backup is a HUGE plus in this sort of thing. It doesn't have to be a partner/spouse, however. Often simply being surrounded by like-minded people is enough, and you should stick with those people, and avoid people who distract you by trying to get you to go out and get smashed on your evenings. Many people will stop at this point and say "hold on, hold on. You can't expect me to give up enjoying myself!", but to that I say that if this project that you're supposedly passionate about isn't as important or more important than those other things, then you can't be that invested in it.

Now, don't get me wrong - and I know people are going to ignore this part of my rant in the comments, but I think it's fine to have a casual project, rather than a full-on life consuming project. It takes a very special level of dedication to have such a life-controlling thing like that hanging over you. But my main point is to the people who say that they just "can't find the time" or "can't find the motivation" to get anything done... I'm telling you. the time is there. The motivation is there. You just don't want it enough. Perhaps it's time to stop blaming other things and start taking a look inward.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Let's Play a Game...

So, after many many months of leaving them out in the cold, I've opened the door and let the test team back inside. But only some of them...... Now that we're finally in beta, we've narrowed the test team down even further. It used to be made of 10 members, but we've kept only the most hardcore and dedicated people to be beta testers. There are now four of them. Mark, Matt, Tim and Carl. Mark (otherwise known as HyFrydle32) has already inundated me with things to fix, and I fixed as many as I could, and as a reward he has uploaded the first two episodes of a series of new beta "Let's Play" videos. You can watch them here :D

As you can imagine, what you see in the video is all beta footage, so many things will still change before the end.
In addition to that, Carl (CamioTheFox) has done up a gameplay video (no narration, just gameplay) for you to watch as well:

I've also put together a little showcase video for all of the incredible art being made for the game by Rachel, Carrie and Mihaela. The backing track is one of the many amazing tracks that will be on the game's soundtrack. The music was composed and performed by our amazing Nicolas Lee, and the vocals were actually done by our lead programmer, Alex. The backing vocals are provided by none other than the incredibly talented Mr Steven Kelly, whose voice you will recognise from the trailer.

Aaaaanyhooo. We've been getting in the new voices for all of the extras for the game, as well as some very special new voices for certain new creatures, including the succubus, whose voice is being provided by the ever-so-beautiful Amber Lee Connors, who agreed to reach for her inner Marilyn and came up with an amazingly spectacular voice pack for her! So that'll all be coming in the next update :D

I hope you enjoy! And please remember to not only vote for us on Steam Greenlight, but share the link EVERYWHERE. Facebook, Twitter, Forums, neighbours... Shout it at people in shopping malls.... Everywhere you can!