[BLOG] Where My Life is At

I have quite a terrible habit of disappearing for months at a time, but rest assured, I’m working away like a crazy, frothing squirrel even in my extended periods of absence! My own personal projects, namely the 2D platformer from the previous post as well as a revival of a failed Kickstarter project, are stepping out of the spotlight for some time as I hop onto some other promising opportunities.

First up, I’ve been recently picked up by a small two person startup company to assist with additional programming on a pretty awesome title! It’s a darker 2D action RPG – they have a publisher, and judging by gameplay videos and hands-on-impressions from gamers at exhibitions, they have a serious chunk of the game already completed. The game’s been featured on numerous gaming sites, including Kotaku and the official Playstation blog. Being that it’s a 2D action RPG, which is exactly my kind of game, this game isn’t only one I’m eager to assist with, but also one I’m absolutely stoked to play! A PC and PS4 release is slated for 2016. I’m excited to be joining their team for the remainder of development and having the opportunity to contribute to such an amazing game!

Secondly, I’ve recently (as in, less than a week ago) teamed up with an extremely talented artist for an ambitious collaboration project. Again, it runs very closely to the line of a 2D action RPG, but not quite as complicated – the level of customization isn’t necessarily placed on leveling up and maxing out your stats, but instead finding the best equipment, choosing the most suitable companion (pet), and exploring a massive procedurally-generated dungeon. Imagine Rogue Legacy with beautiful HD artwork, fluid skeletal-based animation, and a handful of disturbingly awkward pets! I’ve actually been a big fan of this artist, and I’ve been following his work for over a year – so being able to collaborate with him on a fun, fast-paced project is pretty cool! We’re both huge Castlevania fans, so we’re drawing a lot of inspiration from that series, as well as Rogue Legacy and some other similar titles. We’re working on this project in our spare time from the ground up, passing ideas left and right about gameplay, controls, design, features, etc., so as of right now, I can’t even begin to provide any sort of release date.

I can’t reveal much info about either project yet, as nothing is completely definite, but as soon as things settle down and I get into the stride, I’ll be sure to update more about my involvement with each project and the direction everything is headed.

Next up, my own personal projects. I’m always trying to think two or three steps ahead of where I’m currently at. The worst thing that could happen, in this context, is being out of work with absolutely no idea where to go next. A game project is temporary – once it’s done, it’s done, so it’s critical to plan ahead. I’ll be working part-time (or full-time) on the first project, and in my spare time, collaborating with the second, but I also need a third basket to toss some of my eggs into.

I’ve been playing with a few different ideas. First, I’ve been toying with the idea of taking a serious dive into HTML5 game development. The HTML5 game market is on the rise, and is certainly nowhere near as saturated as the mobile app market. I’d have much better odds at gaining some visiblity with HTML5 than I’d have with mobile. Secondly, the way the games are designed, I’d certainly have no trouble holding my own as a solo game developer. HTML5 games are usually meant to be played in shorter bursts, and a single game might present maybe 25 – 40 minutes of gameplay, total. The quality in HTML5 games aren’t quite as robust or deep as mobile, so it’d be an easier market to break into. In fact, a lot of HTML5 games that are generating revenue are slightly expanded versions of titles completed for day-long game jams. It all sounds like a win-win to me! But…

Monetization on an HTML5 game can be a bit tricky. I can sell my title to sponsors for an exclusive or non-exclusive license. From my research, one can generally be expected to earn about $200 – ~$1000 on a single title. This means to stay relevant and ontop, I’d have to pump out about 3 – 4 games a month. As soon as one is finished, I’d need to hop onto the next project immediately. The cycle would probably involve a day for planning, and then the remainder of the week working like a madman building and completing the project in under a week. For a solo dev, this is some intense work! And say you hit a slump and one game doesn’t meet expectations (monetarily), you’ve just been potentially set back $1000! Now please understand, I’ve never developed an HTML5 app, so maybe the market isn’t quite as unforgiving as I’m making it out to be, but from all I’ve read (so far), this is the general process, working at breakneck speeds to ensure you get the dough.

I already have a title up and running (pretty much complete except for some final polishing!) that’d be a perfect fit for an HTML5 app. I might rework the code a bit to be HTML5-friendly and use this app as a guinea pig to break into the market, some point before the end of the year. If it’s profitable, I have about two other games ready for an HTML5 makeover!

Another idea I’ve been considering (though not as seriously) is working my way up to becoming an HTML5 game publisher, basically opening an HTML5 gaming portal with a heavy emphasis on the social aspect and using advertisements as the main form of monetization. Being a game developer myself, I’d be pretty adamant about presenting only the highest quality HTML5 titles. But again, this is a very light consideration, but something I might possibly explore in the future.

So that’s my first idea: HTML5. My second? I started a project earlier this year that I was absolutely in love with. It was very basic, but the entire concept made me squeal like a little squiggly piglet. The more I considered starting serious development, the more the idea changed – the basic structure still exists, but it’s nearly an entirely different game now, and definitely for good reason! So what about my 2D platformer, why am I (temporarily) abandoning that one in favor of this new project?

2D platformers are a lot of fun, and romping through the Mushroom Kingdom in New Super Mario Bros. Wii with my siblings was an incredible experience. But, unless you add some mechanic to really shake up the gameplay, you’re essentially doing the same thing over and over again, except with new graphics and characters. My 2D platformer is definitely shaping up, and I’ve added a handful of nifty little features not usually seen in most games, but even with that, in addition to the four player co-op and HD graphics, it still doesn’t quite yet have that oomph to it. I’m adding even more variety through the awkward characters and the tongue-in-cheek humor, but I feel like I’m still missing that one little piece that’ll make gamers go, “Woah! This definitely doesn’t feel like Mario or Rayman or any other HD 2D platformer from this decade!”… once I can find what that missing piece is, I’ll certainly feel more confident diving back in full force, but for now, I’m leaning more towards my other project, Coffee.

Jumping off of above’s point, Coffee presents some new mechanics to really spice up the genre. It’s a 2D platformer of sorts, but it’s also a strategy game, an RPG, a fast-paced 2D shooter, and definitely takes subtle hints from a handful of other genres. I already have a prototype up and running, and it’s a blast to play! It’s missing two of the significant core gameplay mechanics right now, but I already feel really confident in the direction it’s heading! I started the project with just one very significant and precise image in my head – essentially a snapshot of gameplay that I wanted to bring to life – and everything is being built around that single picture from my mind, because I feel it captures the entire essence of what the game represents, the exact experience I’d love for the players to have.

I’ll admit, Frog (2D platformer) is much further in development than Coffee – as a matter of fact, I actually have all the social media pages up and running, an IndieDB page, and a short 30 second or so trailer presenting a demo that provides a good insight into the mechanics, artwork, a couple stages, and co-op mode (thanks to my sister for being my co-op buddy while recording the footage!). But Coffee has much more potential, albeit being behind in development.

Of course, for such an ambitious project, tackling Coffee all by myself would be a bit crazy, especially when it’s not generating any revenue (programmers gotta eat, y’know… ramen and water don’t cut it forever). That’s why I’ve decided that, once Coffee is in a playable state with a considerable amount of the engine completed, I’m going to either seek a publisher, attempt to receive funding through IndieFund, or launch a crowdfunding campaign through Kickstarter.

Woah, looks like I’ve been rambling for over an hour now! At this point, I start to slip out of coherency and my entry starts shifting over to a more of a “spew-a-bunch-of-thoughts-no-matter-how-incoherent-it-sounds” styled writing. But to sum it up, here’s what things will look like for the remainder of 2015 all the way through 2016:

2015

-Working on Project 1 part (or full) time

-Working on Project 2 in my spare time

-Converting and releasing at least 1 (minimum, but hopefully 2 or 3) HTML5 title(s) and selling via seeking a sponsor before the end of the year

Have a substantial amount of the Coffee design document (enemies, environents, weapons, general level ideas, etc.) completed before the end of the year.

-Buy a hippo

2016

-Working on Project 1 part (or full) time

-Working on Project 2 in my spare time

-Working on Coffee in any other spare time I might have, and seeking the assistance of a publisher, indiefund, or crowdfunding backers before the end of the year.

-Become a paleontologist’s janitor

2017

-Fulltime working on Coffee (but, we’ll see!)

-Setting the world record for eating the most blueberry waffles in one sitting

Of course, this is all up in the air. It could go exactly as planned, or nothing could go as planned. I just have to ride the waves and see where it takes me! Of course, through this journey, I’ll be constantly updating and keeping you guys in the loop. A lot of exciting things on the horizon!