Saturday, 13 July 2019

P1 SELECT

Some folk from the brough games discord organised a 7 Day Broughlike jam last month. A bit confusing but an honour. Heart emoticon.

I'm never sure how much people are joking when they call things broughlikes? Like roguelike was already a silly genre name so whatever (& whatever meaning it once had has been totally lost and sometimes reversed), I guess I just have to embrace it at this point but I still try to remind people I don't just have one genre ok. And also I'm far from the only person making smaller-scale roguelikes, e.g. Jeff Lait has made way more.

But obviously I do like them whatever we want to call them.

I made a game for the jam, what else could I do? I flirted with the idea of doing something completely utterly different from anything else I've ever made just to show, but honestly that would take too long, I have a baby now (who is amazing) so doing a jam would have been unrealistic if I hadn't been able to reuse a lot of work. So I just did the obvious thing of making a game like the games I make for the jam about making games like the games I make. And it turned out okay! In fact it was really good for me, I haven't released a game for a while and I found it really freeing to just make the kind of thing I've made before and not worry about pushing boundaries or whatever. I realised how much that feeling that I ought to do something new isn't really inside me, it's about what I think other people are going to perceive as being worthwhile. Fuck that. I can just make whatever. It's the apocalypse and sometimes we feel a lot of pressure to be doing something meaningful, heal the world or go out in glory, but that's too much to take on, stress doesn't help anything, and anyway doing meaningful work isn't something you can quantify like robots maximising utility to create something 5.1% more artistic and 33.4% more effective at melting the corrupt hearts of rich men. Just like things that you like and make things you like because you like them. Imagine your lungs filled with soft moist earth, green roots growing through them spreading out along your arms reaching towards the horizon.

And celebrate achievements even if they're not like the maximum best thing you ever hope towards. My baby is so determined to get to crawling and walking that they'll keep trying and getting frustrated and crying but still trying, and if we pick them up to stop them overstraining themselves they just struggle to get back down and try some more, so we throw a parade in their honour and all dance around the house in a conga line to help them celebrate what they have already done instead of being frustrated at what they can't do yet. I try to remind myself the same. There's a real technical craft in making these games, making them actually work as game, and having mastered an aspect of that it's worth exercising it with joyful making and not always having to be expanding to try encompass more, there's still plenty I can do with variations within the space I've already explored. Appreciate small differences, maybe they look the same if you look from distance and squint but actually playing them is a different game, minor concept variation expands into bigger differences when you grow it into full soul, like every person or tree is the same basic structure with the same types of features but it's worth getting to know individuals. And trust, trust that if you grow in self then what you create will express more and be worthy without frantic trying to make sure it is. Just be and make and making will be. Do art for the artist not for the art, art will take care of itself.

Now in my usual way with jam games I got a bit sucked into spending more time on it. But now it's done, for good, I think. So I release an iOS version:
P1 SELECT on ios appstore
P1 SELECT on itch.io

THE REST HAS SPOILERS.

It's basically a variation on concept of Imbroglio: grid of different weapon types and moving through the maze also moves through different weapons. Main difference is that attacking in a direction also moves on the weapon-selection grid, so it's not equivalent to maze grid. This is "glitch mechanic" too, I tried to tick as many boxes as possible in what someone listed as characteristics of my games. I try to create the fiction that it could be a real game without this "bug", it sort of works, with luck (and the hp banner) every hero except MIDAS could conceivably complete the game, and MIDAS could get a higher score, maybe I should have just made that game instead of trying to be fancy haha.

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

quiet blog year

someone asked on twitter a few weeks back if i was planning to update this blog ever. i guess i have been pretty quiet on here, last year had the fewest posts since i started. well i've usually written some kind of "summing up" post for the start of each year, so here we go.

i released Cinco Paus on iOS at the end of 2017 (appstore link), and on PC in May (itch.io link). since release i've been continuing to update it, fine-tuning the balance and fixing rare special-case bugs people find, there will be another update soon and it will be even better than it already is. i'm really proud of it, i'm still playing it quite a bit, i'm glad i made it. it's sold 2185 copies on ios and 163 on pc.

imbroglio: i released another expansion pack, Phlogiston, it has sold 606 units which is in line with expectations of diminishing returns (the game itself sold 13184, first expansion 2059). the game design is very flexible for adding more stuff and i still have a bunch of ideas implemented and partially tested which i'd like to get into releasable form sometime, the expansion model might not be the best way to fund this, probably there's no way, anyway i'll just do it sporadically when i feel like working on that game at times.

so, a quiet year financially. watch my career as a game developer grow from total obscurity to the merely quite-obscure 868-hack, then gradually sink further back toward nothingness with each subsequent release. but somehow i'm still here? it's actually slightly confusing, my partner is also earning significantly less than at her previous jobs but somehow we are not running out of money. like it would be nice to have more but we have everything we need. i try not to question this too much.

vivafringe started a discord channel for discussing my games: brough games discord. there's some really nice in-depth discussion there, particularly of imbroglio and cinco paus but a bit on 868-hack and others too.

i went through several prototypes that showed initial promise but had fundamental problems and didn't quite come together. this happens, sometimes an idea just works but there are a lot of things that you try and they just don't come through, for every game i've released there's several failed attempts; but here there were many in a row and i've been working more slowly than i did a few years ago so there weren't as many successes to keep me motivated and i got a bit demoralised. but now i've solved the problems in one of them and so i'm building it up into a complete game, it's not very complex so it shouldn't take too long. it's different from what i've done before so don't go expecting another deep roguelike thing, but i think it's a good example of what it is and i hope people will like it. for a while i wasn't playing a lot of games by other people (trying to reduce my screen time) but recently i played a few (i won't name them) which are popular and successful despite having fundamental problems and never quite coming together, so maybe people don't mind if you don't solve these problems if you just polish things up anyway? maybe i should reclassify some of my failed prototypes as "good enough". anyway i have something to work on for now.

when i was feeling bad from prototypes not coming together, and maybe some other things in life not being clear, i decided to just take some time out for self-development and not feel any pressure to produce work for a while. this didn't stop me producing work (during this time i came up with this new game) but it let me feel good about spending more time doing things that don't directly lead to work. i felt that a lot of the things i was making were just variations of what i've done before and maybe i need to grow something new in myself to be able to really make something new again, but i have deliberately not set this as my goal - i'm expanding my self for my own sake, not so that i can be more productive, this might be a side-effect but it's also okay if it's not. making games is just a part of my life, and its place in my life can shift over time - it would be very surprising if it ever went away completely.

since i got into dancing a few years back my relationship with my body has changed a lot (even that phrasing doesn't seem right anymore - i identify myself as a complete organism, rather than as a mind who inhabits a body). dance has for me been a powerful window into self-awareness and growth (different people find different windows work for them, find your own). i never before was able to keep a sufficient exercise practice, but now i'm continually becoming fitter, stronger, softer, suppler, now i'm effortlessly running and climbing just for the joy of it too. i'm changing shape, my posture is completely different from five years ago and it's still improving. some change is slow and gradual but for me more often it's sudden insight, the visualisation of how things want to be aligned becomes clear and then they shift very quickly and overnight i move completely differently. and with this there's sometimes emotional release, i am my body and how it feels to be me is a reflection of who i am, tensions in the body correspond to tensions in the mind and opening either one will open the other. some things very weird but i trust; maybe for a few moments i can't walk or i can't breathe because something deep realigns itself but always it comes back and everything functions better than before. and the freedom of working by myself lets me exercise when i need to without having to conform to office convention, i'm balancing on a ball right now, if i'm stuck working on something maybe i roll on the floor for a bit or i get up and dance or just shake it out, if people see me maybe they think i'm strange but it feels a much healthier way to be than always looking normal. and i realised when i was living in scotland i was walking the coastal path every day without thinking about that as being an important part of life, it was just something i did without needing to think about it, and then it went away because i wasn't there anymore. now i've implemented this again in my life as a deliberate daily practice: i go over the road into the abandoned property and climb trees, walk, make noise, sometimes i balance on a branch and do tai chi. overall i feel amazing, i take joy every moment in the simple experience of movement, the everchanging sensations of embodiment, even a couple of weeks ago when i got food poisoning and felt awful i was still able to find some delight in the uncommon experience of my gut wisely doing what it needed to do to cleanse itself.

in some ways a difficult year, but a year of internal growth and becoming always more myself. not sure what comes next but good processes are continuing so i trust good outcomes will eventuate.