Hi, I'm Blake. my big project is a tower defence game called 'Forgive Me My Henchmen'. you play as a typical head 'bad guy', deploying henchmen and sabotaging a building to delay an unstoppable one-man army.
I not only tackle my game with the enthusiasm of a 6 year old, I sometimes act with the strategic insight of a 6 year old as well. This, of course, has led to me making all the mistakes on my game dev journey - ALL OF THEM!
Becoming a guru on mistakes has given me the necessary experience to write an article warning other game devs about perhaps THE MOST SERIOUS MISTAKE you can make along your journey. See if you can relate to this story:
Not long after I fully committed to making game dev my career, I started to spend a LOT of time on it for three reasons:
1) To be successful you gotta work hard. There are no shortcuts.
2) I was doing something I completely loved.
3) Many of my hopes and dreams banked on the success of this project.
Because of these three reasons, I can spend close to all my waking hours on game dev without a second thought. From 2014 to 2015, this is exactly what I did.
My daily routine during this time was extremely Spartan (not in the shirtless with abs kind of way, but in the highly disciplined and vigorous way). I would wake up early, cycle to my part-time job, finish at around 3 and cycle home, then work on my game from 4 until whenever I would fall asleep. I was not completely unbalanced - I still made time for exercise, and I would occasionally go for brunches and hang out with friends - but for the most part, game dev was my life, and I was okay with this.
I was okay with this lifestyle because - like with farming - game dev has a harvest season. To expand on the farming comparison, farmers don’t lead fully ‘balanced’ lives in the traditional sense. There are seasons where they live a leisurely life and have plenty of time on their hands. Then comes harvest season, when they are up early, work hard all day, go to bed late, and then repeat until the harvest is completed. They have to live this crazy, unbalanced life for a short time because they know that if they give it their all over harvest time, they can live the rest of their year with ease. In contrast, if they slack off during harvest season, then the rest of their year will be a hard one. Similarly, there are times in game dev when you’ve got to give it your all and you cannot take breaks. Sometimes, there are deadlines to be met, targets to be hit, and you have to work hard to hit them, with no excuses. For ages, I had the ‘this is harvest season’ mentality.
The thing is, what I have learned is that game dev takes 5 times as long as you think it will. Personally, I thought that this game was going to be released over a year ago...that obviously hasn’t happened. There have been a million things to do, each one taking a lot longer than I possibly imagined it could...SO if your game takes a lot longer than you think it will, how long can you maintain the ‘this is harvest season’ mentality before you begin to question it?
I kept up this hyper-focused mentality for over a year. Although I enjoyed working on my passion, and my drive never wavered, there came a point in mid 2015 when I reflected upon the past year. Not only had I not released my game, I had also not lived the kind of life that I wanted to. I had been so focused on a future goal, that I had forgotten that life was happening in the meantime.
When you focus on the future so much that the present only becomes a means to an end - that is when you have to begin to question your priorities. Life is amazing and it happens everyday, so if you focus too heavily on the future, you end up losing this perspective. It was only after realizing how much many experiences I had deliberately missed, how many relationships I hadn’t properly developed, and how much fun I hadn’t had that I realized that game dev couldn’t be my life. Game dev could be (and is) a fantastic PART of my life, but it is not my life. Personally, this revelation has put me in a healthier headspace - working on my game has never been as fun as it is now.
So all in all, I would advise people to work hard, focus intently, BUT also make sure that your project isn’t the only thing giving your life value. Whether your project is a success or not, either way, life will happen in the meantime - it’s best to make sure that you are living a worthwhile one regardless.
Follow the game's development on twitter (@FMMHenchmen), on facebook, or follow me on twitter @BlakeMcDeezy
As I'm uploading animations/sprites into the project, these are the kind of problems I end up dealing with! Hahaha.
What a month it has been!
I had originally hoped that October would be the month that I could create and release an official trailer for Forgive Me My Henchmen (FMMH). Well...that didn’t happen. Despite that, all in all, this month has been a successful one.
The withdrawal of my character artist (for the foreseeable future) meant that for the first time, I got to try my own hand at pixel art (See Blog Entry for 7 October). Completing the remaining sprites has been what mostly kept me busy for this month and I am happy to say that now - as a result of a ton of work - about 99% of the art/animation needed for this project has been completed. VICTORY!!!
This is a major landmark, so I am really happy it has been hit. To celebrate, I was going to spray champagne everywhere like they do in Formula 1, but then I remembered that champagne is expensive, and I am broke, so I decided to just have a glass of water instead. Party like a rockstar.
I also feel that I stepped up my PR game this month. I think my new approach to blogging (see Blog Entry for 27 September) has helped me to have a lot more fun with it, and now media / PR is something I no longer fear. That being said, I’ve realized that marketing is going to be the biggest challenge that I will face. I currently have about 35 twitter followers, and don’t exactly know how to get heard in a very noisy world. I will need to think about this challenge more and learn how to improve at this essential aspect of game dev. Hopefully, creating a good game trailer will help.
Speaking of which, creating a great trailer will be the mission and focus for the month ahead. I would also like to create a gameplay trailer because trailers - albeit awesome - don’t always give a great idea of how a game will actually play. I want people to know what they can expect from FMMH.
I really enjoy creating the fictional autobiographies of my henchmen. For example:
Henchmen are people too...
Cheers - Blake
I can’t speak for everybody, only for myself.
Most of the time, I don't care that nobody's heard of what I'm working on. Everyday I get to work on a project that I completely love - that is something I am incredibly grateful for regardless. There is a certain peace that comes along with following your heart and getting to work on something you do for its own sake.
Other times, I fear that following my heart into this endeavor - like I have - might all be for naught. There is always this looming, potential threat that all the time and all the life I’ve put into this project might not make an impact at all...like tears...in the rain.
In short, being a no-name game dev is like riding a pendulum between utter bliss and existential dread.
It’s like taking a leap of faith while being strapped to an anvil.
It’s like getting a Swedish massage which is sporadically interrupted by kicks to the nuts.
This week, I encountered a unique challenge.
I have been working on the 'get up' animations for all my different henchmen. The get up animation is about 5 frames, transitioning from the henchman being on his back to standing upright. For example:
The challenge is that a lot of the henchmen look undeniably sexy during one of the transition frames:
All attempts to correct this have just led to the henchmen looking even sexier.
I feel that fixing the sexy problem is beyond my capability, so have decided to just let the henchmen shine - afterall, henchmen deserve to feel sexy too.
Went for a cycle today - it was great. Life can't always be about game development.
PS - back to business tomorrow
To make a long story short, my character artist has had to take a break. While working, he produced some of the coolest looking concept art I can imagine, as well as completed three (out of 9) of the sprite sheets. I’m very grateful for that.
And the show must go on...
The dilemma I faced at the beginning of the week was that there are still 6 characters to do, but I don’t have a backup character artist who could replicate the current style. In addition, I didn’t want to go through the great effort required in finding another artist all over again.
So what I decided to do was to give it a shot myself.
I bought asesprite and then learned how to use it by watching a few youtube tutorials. Then came the tricky part - looking at the concept art that the character artist produced, and then somehow manipulating it into different positions/poses etc. What I found is that using the spritesheets as a guide, and doing lots of cutting/pasting/alterations of the concept art, I was able to start creating sprites that (at least in my opinion) are looking great. Check out the results below:
The top row was completed by the character artist, the bottom row was completed by me. Not too shabby eh?
This whole process has taught me two things. First of all, pixel art is hard! It’s really hard! Sometimes it feels like the repositioning of one pixel can instantly transform a fun piece of art into a hideous abomination! My respect for pixel artists has gone through the roof - you guys are gods among men.
The second thing I’ve learned is that you’ll surprise yourself by what you can do if you just try.
Anyway, I’m glad this is working out. ‘Forgive Me My Henchmen’ is once again moving forward, and I look forward to unveiling some character art this week!