February in Review

Eww.

Eww.

Current Stats
Working on:
  • Scripting Engine
  • New website?
  • Placeholder maps
  • Getting art contractors
Reading: Peter Pan
Wedding stuff:
  • House hunting
  • Honeymoon planning
  • Order of the ceremony

It’s time to tally up the results again. The big winners this month in terms of progress were various wedding-related tasks, and reading. I finished two books this month without actually spending any time reading recreationally. My cell phone e-reader turns dead time into reading time. By the way, when it comes to cell phones, borrower beware.

I did get in a pretty good stab at the scripting engine, though it appears that I’m being outpaced by our friend Michael Morris at Blue Booth Studios. He doesn’t know it yet, but we’re having a race to see who can finish an RPG engine first. En garde!

As for other exciting developments, a very talented friend of ours offered to help spruce up our website. I’ll have more info on that for you soon, and hopefully a link to his professional page so y’all can admire his handiwork!

Once our scripting engine is finished, it’s time to start playing with it, and to do that we’ll need to start prototyping our maps. I think I may be the one who will be drafting them initially, and as a result I expect them to be ugly as sin. Oh well, I’ll still take it as an opportunity for gratuitous screenshotting!

Lastly, Lewis and I are pursuing a few leads for finding an art contractor to create some finished assets for us. We’ll be drawing on experience from our arty-type friends to come up with some reasonable estimates, then making a plan of attack. We prefer local people. Feel free to give us a shout if you know somebody.

None of you schmucks gave me any suggestions for Friday Cinema. Now we all have to suffer…

Posted in Friday cinema, Month in Review, News, Personal

If you’re not a robot, please stand up

pinocchio

I’m not holding my breath.

A couple of times per week, I get an email notification that a new user has joined our website. That might be a cool thing, depending on whether you’re a real person or not. So if you’re a real person, I encourage you to post a comment below. Maybe give me some suggestions for Friday Cinema (because I’m a boring fuddy-duddy and I’ve just about run out of things to showcase). Heck, I bet you robots have some pretty cool flicks, so you guys can feel free to make a few suggestions, too.

Current Stats
TS project: Scripting engine part III
(script execution)
Reading:
Enjoying: Les contes d’Hoffmann
Working on:
  • Wedding invitations
  • Tuxes
  • House hunting

I’m afraid I can’t report any progress from last week. Got swamped with wedding stuff. On the bright side, I watched an opera, finished a book, and got soundly thrashed by Lewis and his dad in a match of Axis & Allies Air Force Miniatures. Why must plastic tanks, planes, and soldiers bewitch me so?

Regarding the books, I’ve discovered that my phone has an alternate use as an e-reader, and pretty much all classic books are free in digital format from websites like Project Gutenberg. More on that in a future post.

Well, we all know the real reason why you clicked the link. If you haven’t looked up the Saxxy Awards, you owe it to yourself to give ’em a watch. Here’s my favourite:

Posted in Friday cinema, News, Personal

Month in Review

Current Stats
Working on: Scripting engine part III (script execution)
Playing: Planetside 2
Working on: Wedding invitations

Making resolutions only works if you hold yourself accountable.  It’s good to take a moment to step back and see how you’re doing in each area, and make adjustments if necessary.

Here’s a brief summary of how things went down last month:

Resolution Result
Read 1 book/month
  • Heresy
  • The Mythical Man-Month
  • Byzantium
Play 1 game/month
  • Puzzle Quest
  • Thirty Flights of Loving
  • Bastion
Watch something enriching each month
  • David Copperfield
  • No Country for Old Men
Weekly blog post Check! (mostly)
Weekly TS accomplishment
  • Website update
  • A few dents in the scripting engine
Weekly Exercise Maybe once or twice (Boo! Hiss!)
Other
  • Painted 5 Dwarf Thunderers
  • Some wedding stuff
  • Finished my submission for a co-authored book with some friends
  • Finance course

Not half bad.  I blew some of ’em out of the water, and recorded at least some progress in all of them (which is far more than I can say for, say, August through December last year).  If anything, I think I need to limit my time reading, playing games, and painting in order to make room for more coding and exercising.  We’ll see how that goes 😉

Anywho, that’s enough business.  If you haven’t seen these yet, you’re in for a treat.

Posted in Friday cinema, Month in Review, Personal

House Rules

Current Stats
Working on: Scripting engine part II (Behaviours)
Reading: The Goodman of Paris
Watching: No Country for Old Men
Learning: Personal finances

Not too much progress on Tainted Sword to report. I’ve spec’d out the first basic classes, but have yet to see them all working together (which is a must before I’ll really grok what it’s doing).

On the personal front, I’ve finished reading The Mythical Man-Month (one of the closest things that Software Engineers have to classic literature), and snuck in Byzantium (it’s hard to know whether I devoured the book or it devoured me).  I also finished painting my first Dwarf Thunderer, which I’m proudly/vainly displaying anywhere that pictures can be posted.

Beards are delicious.

Beards are delicious.

Lewis and I had a rousing discussion on some of the board games that we have played recently, particularly Quarriors and Memoir 44 (among others).  It’s funny how accumulating board games can make a person see potential improvements and cross-overs from games in similar veins.  Quarriors, for example, feels like it can be over with just a few lucky rolls, while Thunderstone (a close analogue) can be unwieldy and time-consuming.  We’ve been trying out house rules to patch up their shortcomings, but some things are systemic to the design.  For my part, I’m positively itching to try and mix my Axis & Allies miniatures with Memoir 44 for greater detail and variation in units.

On the surface, it seems like a board game would be easier to create than a video game, in terms of assets and expertise required.  The prototype would consist of mostly printed materials and simple stand-in game pieces.  The real challenge, of course, is designing and producing a cohesive package — disciplined thought-stuff mixed with artistic vision.

Lastly, I witnessed a fascinating debate on Extra Credits regarding Religion in games, in which Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem featured prominently. Here’s an amusing explanation – you’ll be surprised how often it comes up once you know it. Enjoy!

Posted in Friday cinema, Personal

A Line of Dominos

Creative Director’s Notebook
Working on: TS screenplay
Researching art contract costs
Reading: Sylvie & Bruno
Playing: Corrosion: Cold Winter Waiting
Experiencing: Cosmopolis film soundtrack

Wow! Looking back through the archives, it appears that I haven’t posted since August 8… 2011?! We can’t have that… and since Kevin has done such a fine job revitalizing this website and posted some interesting um… posts, I feel it is only proper that I do the same.

This past year felt somewhat underwhelming for me due to many reasons which I won’t get into here. Regardless however, I have determined to see that 2013 is a marked improvement. To that end, I also have some goals set of varying sizes; some small and relatively easy to accomplish (read at least one book a month, finish at least one game a month) to the more challenging and meaningful ones.

In particular the following: To push over the first domino!

One of the biggest challenges that any would-be game developer/artist/writer/filmmaker etc. faces is the “Unfinished Project”. A project that starts off strong and passionately, yet stalls midway through. At which point it becomes a type of zombie project; staggering around, convinced it’s still alive but with no end in sight. It turns out that finishing a project is hard, it truly is. And currently I’m sitting on a small pile of unfinished projects: not all of them have stalled, but some are dangerously close to doing so. So what is the solution? To push to over the first domino in a line of carefully balanced dominoes (and not be like this guy)!

Yes, each domino represents a project (I’m sure that was obvious). My intention is to focus on the first domino in line and push it over. Finish a project (yes, totally completely finish), so I have the experience and knowledge that project completion is possible. From there, each domino in that line will topple one-by-one. Complete one project and all other projects will follow! I’m not saying that project completion will be automatic, but with the experience in my belt, I know I’ll be able to avoid the pitfalls of the zombie projects.

With that in mind, this blog will become a sort of accountability for me this year as efforts are made to move things forward. Stay tuned!

Posted in News, Personal

Celebrating Success

Current Stats
Working on: Scripting engine (callbacks)
Reading: The Mythical Man-Month
Playing: Bastion
Painting: Dwarf Thunderers

If you’re reading this, the website migration worked mah-velously. Hurray, progress!  There are still a few tweaks to make, but I’m shelving them for now.

I strongly believe that the key to confidence and happiness is to set yourself up for success and celebrate the victories along the way. To that end, I beat Puzzle Quest (le gasp!), watched David Copperfield (mmm, eye-literature), and finished reading Heresy (he’s a bit ranty, but he has a nice compilation of Christian do-gooders and their writings).

I’ve also dusted off my miniatures and got some encouraging comments from friends.  One even offered to pay me to paint his minis for him (lol!  I guess he was impressed, but he didn’t realize that my current track record of painting would get him less than one figure a month).  Once I finish the regiment, I’ll post a picture of some dwarf awesome-sauce.

My next Tainted Sword goal is to work on the scripting engine.  I’m building the script image in the likeness of the Scripted Event System from Riverman Media.  The system is simple and powerful, but I have to wrap my mind around how to implement it using C# and delegates.  This time next week, I expect to have the base classes mapped out and functioning with callbacks.

Matt, Mark, and myself are also getting together this weekend to try out some of our ever-increasing stack of board games.  I expect a good design analysis to fall out from at least one of those games, so stay tuned!

Oh, and because we can:

Posted in Friday cinema, News, Personal

More new habits (and a new website template)

Current Stats
Working on: Website fixes
Reading: Heresy (Michael Coren)
Watching: David Copperfield (BBC)
Playing: Puzzle Quest

I mentioned some Tainted Sword related habits in my last post, but there are some personal habits I’d like to form, too.  Here’s a short-ish list:

  • Read a book every month
  • Play a game every month (note: play, not finish)
  • Watch something enriching every month
  • Exercise weekly
  • Accomplish something for TS weekly

I honestly think that with some careful planning and scheduling, I’ll be able to blow those goals out of the water.  I’ll be using the handy indicator in the corner of my weekly blog post (which will probably land on Tuesdays) to help me keep track.

I’ll also be likely to bring my other hobbies into these blog posts for some thoughtful discussion.  I enjoy board games, especially ones that involve miniatures (I have a peculiar weakness for small plastic tanks, dwarfs, and orcs).  Thankfully, playing games goes hand-in-hand with making them!  A person can’t expect to make anything brilliant without first experiencing and critiquing game design of all kinds from a player’s perspective.  I’ve been missing out on this for at least the past couple of years, so I’m looking forward to playing catch up.

In other news, take a look at our shiny new WordPress template, based on the Responsive theme.  It’s still a work in progress, but it’s quite functional and should be easier to maintain.

Posted in News, Personal

Ahh, the new year…

Time for new year’s resolutions.  Go big or go home.

2012 was a year marked with personal and professional achievement, paid for with stagnation in Tainted Sword.  I hereby declare 2013 a year of developing habits to support those achievements.  For Tainted Sword, the habits that I’ve recognized as personally important are:

  1. Communicating frequently (at least weekly)
  2. Planning our time (weekly)

My theory is that progress without communication is infinitely worse for building a community than communication without progress, and with a hobby indie project, community support is everything.  This blog has a fairly underwhelming readership, and I think that in order to be successful, we should have a goal of interacting (via blog, forums, or email) with at least one new person outside our immediate circle of friends over the course of the new year.

Also, I’m going to set a new priority for myself: our website needs to be fixed.  Our WordPress template doesn’t let us show flash videos on our front page – and a blog where you can’t post videos of cats is not a blog, it’s a waste of internet real estate.  The current template’s one important feature is our flashy logo at the top, so I don’t imagine that it will be too difficult for us to migrate to a better one.

Anybody else have any resolutions to share?

Posted in Development, News, Tainted Sword

Game Design in the Field

When our noble and distinguished contemporaries talk about what it takes to be a great designer in the video game industry, I feel that one point is consistently missed: games are everywhere, and in the majority of cases, they don’t need a computer or console to play.  While good design utilizes the constraints of the platform being designed for, great design is technology independent.  I will always be skeptical of a person’s design acumen if they can only produce a fun experience in one narrow field, such as mobile or social gaming.

A lottery is a game.  Fast food promotions like McDonalds’ Monopoly are games.   These corporate efforts are generally crude and less sophisticated than most playground games designed by children, but are nonetheless ever-present and popular.  Can you imagine what would happen if the body of knowledge for game design and reward psychology were utilized by all consumer industries?

Back to playground games.  If you want to exercise your game design skills, the only platform you need to understand is a space to play something in and a group of people to play something with.  Add some deliberately chosen props, or modify the rules to a time-honoured classic like Capture the Flag.  Go nuts with team sizes, constraints, and win conditions.  Try to make the experience rewarding for all, and watch for lulls in energy or activity level — these will be the indicators of your success.

Lewis and I have been blessed with a vibrant group of friends who are graciously (or unwittingly) our guinea pigs for such exercises.  This past weekend, Lewis put together an epic, 12-person water fight in a public park, and an excellent time was had by all.  I’ll leave it to Lewis to provide you with his design notes and lessons learned 😉

Oh, and some of said friends have been bugging us for another alpha release of Tainted Sword.  There’s a few things I’d like to make sure have been implemented before I send this version out.  But if you’re interested in seeing it, feel free to holler at us and let us know!

Posted in Game Design, Rants, Tainted Sword

Monday Night Cinemas…

The slightly more annoying brother to the Laid back Friday Night Cinemas, this brother occasionally pops in his head to see how things are going. In this case, hope this brightens up your evening.

Posted in Friday cinema, Uncategorized