State of the Union 2012

Well holy mackerel, 2012 has hit and we’re already 12.5% of the way through. I’ve hit the ground running and am chugging away at my projects. I thought it might be a good time to tell everyone what I’m up to.

Cognitive Discodance

First order of business is setting up Cognitive Discodance, the official name of my creative outlet. The idea is that it’s an indie games studio. Currently consisting solely of me. There’s no deep reason to set it up this way. It’d be nice if my stuff had its origins in something I could somehow distinguish from myself. CD can be the business end of things and I can be the same ol’ crazy guy.

I have a very basic website set up, a Facebook account and a Twitter account. Mostly for land-grab purposes. At some point I’ll split off project news onto a CognitiveDiscodance site, but it’ll be here for the present.

I’m working on fixing up the website, which leads into…

The Day After

My primary goal this year is to get The Day After in a good state. The Day After is my attempt at post-disaster video game about trust, selfishness and survival. You play one of a ragtag bunch of people trying to survive a bizarre outbreak of city-wide homicidal violence. Rescue is coming in a few days, but before then you need to band together and help the city. Characters in the group are unique in their strengths, weaknesses and hidden agendas. For various reasons, the game will have a semi-boardgame aesthetic. By this I mean

Many of the game component are coming along nicely – at least on paper. There’s a nice tension between self and group.

I’m writing the engine at the moment, mostly scavenging from another project, but getting a lot of the new setup right. It feels right. It feels like I have the structure that I crave, but the freedom to explore new ideas.

I have commissioned an artist to do some character concept art. She’s really awesome and I’m super-pleased with the current batch. It’s bizarre being able to suggest something that feels vague but have them absolutely nail the idea. The style is comfortable to me. I’ve already given you guys a sneak peek, but I hope to have something proper in the near future. I’m going to commission more art soon.

I’m going to launch a website with the concept art and more discussion on the game. This will be  a part of the Cognitive Discodance website. The web design is taking me a little while, but it should be straightforward.

Kung Fu Chronicles

Kung Fu Chronicles (aka Kung Fu Legends, aka “your Kung Fu game”) has been put on hiatus. I love the game and keep thinking up stuff for it, and doing research. However it is a significantly harder game to program than The Day After. I want to do a bunch of new things with the RPG genre, and give it a really awesome kung fu feel. However, that stuff is tough. I need more experience, hence the refocus on The Day After.

As an example of the technical difficulties, I want combat to feel like Hong Kong cinema kung fu movies. I don’t want the standard RPG abstraction of “punch man, kick man”. There’s a drama in kung fu movie fighting. It’d be great if I could steal from genre cliches like the whip-zoom and that rhythm of bl0w-block-blow. Animating that sort of stuff is insane. Add in the camera and figuring out how to get user control… well you’re looking at something pretty difficult (although I have a neat idea for the last one).

A lot of the ideas I had for Kung Fu Chronicles have simpler versions in The Day After, especially with AI. So I can test some of them whilst learning how difficult it is to write a game, rather than betting huge straight up.

Breathe

I started writing my novel too many years ago. It was going great guns for a while, but work kinda got in the way. The point where I stopped writing I had a lot of difficulties with the different ducks I was trying to get into line. A whole plotline had started too late and I didn’t like how it put the rest of the book on hold while it’d be resolved. A bunch of the emotions and mental states I was relying on weren’t ringing true. With more life experience behind me, I’ve figured out how it needs to be changed. I think I can write a much tighter, cohesive book now. I think I have a better grip on the main character Charlotte now. Maggie will always be my best character, but I’ve found a way for Charlotte to do more yet keep true to her character.

The main unresolved issue is kinda the original reason I started writing Breathe – the collision of Zen against the modern form of romanticism. I can probably write a character piece with much of the same events happening, but without the underlying philosophy, nor a proper way to end it. I’m going to give the original idea a try and just move some chronology around. If it doesn’t work, I’m ditching the Zen angle and it’ll just be a character piece. I’m good at characters, so it can probably survive.

So yeah, I’m trying to get some writing in this year. I’ve learnt better skills at just getting stuff down and not trying to be a watchmaker about my plots, characters and themes. I don’t know if I can emotionally front up to another stint at Varuna, having still not finished Breathe.

My family and friends keep bugging me about the novel so I’ll have to finish it. That, or flee to South America and start a new life.

DevBounty

I haven’t really discussed this in detail, but this is a side project for Cognitive Discodance. An early form of the idea was discussed in Motivations II. DevBounty is already part-way done. The idea is as a force-multiplier for later games development, I combine crowd-funding, bug fixing and creator-community communications into one little website.

The idea is that across the entirety of development I have a bunch of tasks, called Bounties. If you have supported the game (via a donation, or bought the game), then you are given a bunch of “bounty points”. You can assign these to specific tasks or in general areas (graphics, bug-fixing, new features). When a developer does work on the game, they claim these Bounties. When patch notes come out, people are given credit for specific fixes as a way of recognizing the support and telling people “you can make a difference to this game”. There’s a bunch of other interrelations between things, but that’s the main idea.

I’ve got 95% of the backend design done and the front-end stuff is pretty easy. Adding Paypal support is non-trivial, but it’s fine.

This project probably won’t help The Day After get off the ground, but might be useful later on. At a guess, once I get a “buzz-creating” version done, I can use the DevBounty system to help me commission art and get sounds.

In any case, I’ve put minimal time into this project so it’s no big loss if the idea doesn’t pan out.

Miscellaneous

I’ll still be working, so pace won’t dramatically change. I’m learning to sketch. This should be fun and useful. I’m hitting the gym much more nowadays and using it as brainstorming time when I’m not threatening myself with suicide-by-treadmill.

So, busy times but I’m not going to stress about anything. I like the pace I have so far and I’ve been kicking goals thus far.