Thursday, September 20, 2018

It Takes A Team

It takes a team to get stuff done.

I don't think I've typed down many sentences that were as simple as the one above.

It doesn't matter how ambitious you are as an aspiring game developer. It doesn't matter how many ideas you develop in your brain. It doesn't matter where you live nor what your current living condition is. It doesn't matter how much money you have to spend.

What matters is that you have a team surrounding you that supports your vision, willing to help you when you need it. It takes a team to realize a vision. It takes a team to take positive moves forward. It takes a team to properly determine what parts of a vision make sense. It takes a team to define the road that is up ahead for a project, no matter how big or how small it is.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not at all an advocate of the principles of nepotism. People who just happen to know other people, by way of family relations or they're just friends of people who have family that own a company. That's basically nepotism. Sometimes given the right circumstances companies manage to make this business philosophy work. Most of the time, however, things are bound to go wrong for companies that dwell in nepotism.

In this year of 2018 alone I have quickly realized just how important it truly is to have a team of aspiring game devs be there for you and to do their part in moving a vision of yours forward. I can't reveal the specifics of what I've been doing with my team (and I think it's best that I keep it a secret for now), but what I can say is that I have never felt more confident about a game project working out as much as I do with the one I'm working on right now.

As the Project Head of this game I have had my fair share of ups and downs, but through it all I can tell that I have gained such a rich learning experience. Here is what I have basically learned.

1) Never think that you can make a 100% finished game all by yourself without having any kind of help along the way.

2) Communication is key. Especially if you form a team of devs you all need to be on the same page.

3) Actually plan out in advance what you set out to do for your game. So many times have game projects failed because there was no clear vision.

4) Keep track of the progress that's being made in the project. This is much more important than you think.

5) Don't be afraid to make changes when they become absolutely necessary. Edits inevitably happen and you have to learn how to adapt with these edits.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The Conditioning Aspect of Game Development

I have been very busy doing a lot of things related to my game project, and busy enough to the point where this blog, the Gaming Journalist Gazette, has had to take a step back. To be honest with those of you who still read this blog, I'm very glad that this has happened. I'm glad that I'm not filling this blog with dozens of monthly posts because this proves that I am making progress with what I want to be doing down the road.

Piggy-backing off the last blog post I wrote, which was last month, the emotional side of game development can take some sort of toll on you physically. In some cases it can get pretty severe. In my case it seemed to be that of a fatigue-related issue. My sleeping patterns were getting out of whack, and my exercise routine during some days was being hit as well. This month of July has been nothing but an adjustment period of sorts.

The last few weeks have really hit me, and more than what I initially thought. While it's normal to adjust one's sleeping patterns and schedule (people do this all the time), it has taken me a while to get used to the fact that I don't need to stick with the same routine that I've had for nearly 4 years. When I finally have to make a considerable change to core activities of my everyday life, it leaves an impact.

Proper conditioning is another part of getting through things in the game development process. You have to make sure that you stay in good condition for what you are about to take on. Your health matters at the end of the day. Protect your health, maintain it, and find ways to improve it if you can.

When scheduling things I'm rigid. Sometimes I can be too rigid. I am often too hard on myself, and that comes back to bite me. I get flustered when I don't meet my intended scheduled event, mainly being that of going to bed and sleeping. For almost 4 years I have had a thing about going to bed at 11:30 pm and getting up at 6:30 am on weekdays.

Hey, it was impressive that I kept this routine up for almost 4 years, but now it's at a point where I need to make a change. I have started to make that change.

So now I'm intending to sleep in a little more in the morning so that I'll get more Z's in my system, so to speak. I think in the long run getting this extra sleep will pay off. I've worked hard in doing my part of the game development process for my team, but there comes a time when even the Project Head has to take a step back and delegate responsibilities to others.

It's the little things like this that can develop into a big thing if it doesn't go addressed. I'm glad to have caught this issue while I still can so that I can fix it, not just for myself but for my teammates who care about me and the fun project we're all working on.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Emotional Side of Game Development

At the end of the month of May I experienced something that I thought I wouldn't have to face. Unfortunately this was something that I suppose was just around the corner because I had set myself for it in a way. For those of you who are very technical in what you do on the computer, you would understand what I'm about to describe.

When learning something new for the first time, especially if it's something like Source Control and Git for a game project, you're bound to experience many bumps in the road. In my case I was trying to "cram learn" Git over the span of a night. This took place on a Tuesday night and needless to say it didn't go over well at all. Honestly, it was a disaster. I kept screwing up typing out Git codes and I was beginning to feel the pressure as the night went on.

After nearly 2 hours straight of trying to get the Git right, I simply stopped. I broke down and I cried. 

There is an emotional side to game development that I believe doesn't get talked about often enough. You can be prepared to do all the right things and you can pick out your path as to what you're gonna do to move the project forward. Sometimes, though, certain things can't be helped. Some things are bound to go wrong in game development. We need to expect these things.

I was a wreck for days following this event. I was so emotionally drained and out of whack that I couldn't focus on even the smallest things anymore. I had to take a step back and regroup. I had to re-evaluate where I was as a creative person and how I was going to get past this Git issue. Sometimes that works out for the best. You need to take that time away from your big problem and just let things come to you naturally.

Fatigue is a real thing that occurs in game development. Fatigue is something that I have felt while working on my game project in particular. Maybe it was the time of night that I chose to take on this Git challenge, or maybe it was how much work that actually had to be done... but whatever the case was it ended up being too daunting a task for me to take on. I just couldn't do it.

I'm no stranger to putting pressure on myself. Sometimes it's really unnecessary for me to do so. I don't know why I put pressure on myself in certain situations, but it just happens that way for me. Taking a step back for a few days following my emotional meltdown did me some good. I got back my focus and eventually regained my creative juices. 

Above all else it's important for you as a person to take care of yourself. Your project, whether it's a game project or another kind of project, will always be there waiting for you. Your health is important. You don't neglect your own health. You don't put yourself through some unnecessary stuff just to figure out a code. Stress hasn't been kind to me in many ways in my life. I freely admit that. I don't deal with stress very well. In fact, stress has led me to some conflicts that I didn't foresee happening, especially in the workplace.

I am also reminded of how understanding of a game dev team I have. How much my teammates care about me and understand what I go through matters to me. I've been in dark places often in my life, and in many cases I have not had the reassurance of a teammate or friend who could pick me up and say "It's gonna be alright, Steven. You'll be just fine." Very rarely have I ever had that in my life, and if I did it ended up being half-hearted and taken away from me in an instant because that teammate/friend stopped caring about me.

It's okay to discuss business and making money in game development. It's okay to dive right in and just be a gamer. It's okay to discuss "serious gaming" issues in game development. I just wish that it will become okay to discuss the emotional side of game development and real it actually is.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Finally Got C# Codes to Work!

To the surprise of no one - meaning everyone I have mentioned this fact to - I have had an amazingly difficult time handling C# programming, one of the key components to game development in Unity 3D. I have said multiple times that my brain shuts down when trying to grasp even the simplest on concepts in C# codes. It's never been a matter of me not trying. It's always been more of a thing where I can't seem to understand the core of what's being told to me when I read these codes.

It's a steep learning curve. There is no doubt about that. For me to even think about C# programming it has been daunting. It's been hard for me to muster up the courage to evaluate a single code and actually try typing it out myself in Visual Studio. The amount of work that goes into these codes to do what they do in game engines is astonishing, and it reminds those who want to get into the Gaming Industry that the title of Programmer has to be respected.

After years of not being able to get anything out of studying code, I recently went back into Visual Studio and gave some codes a try. Of course, these codes I have gotten from tutorial videos on YouTube, so it's not like I came up with these codes myself. Nonetheless I tried them out. I typed the codes out the way they were intended to, and wouldn't you know that these codes actually work?

I can't describe just how happy I was when I got my first ever code to work. This code happened to be a Moving Platform code where you can redirect a platform by simply moving around the tagged points of the platform's destinations. You can click and drag the tagged points anywhere you wish and the Moving Platform will go to those points.

I also tried two other codes that are tied with each other in some way. These two codes involve getting a low poly water plane to move as if it has waves. These codes were especially interesting since my current game project will have the low poly art style. It took some tweaking and tinkering, but I managed to get a plane to function as low poly water. With these codes I can be able to adjust the noise as to how aggressive the waves look and I can make the water plane as big as I want.

Programming is tough. Learning how to code in C# is steep. There are many programming communities out there, and the learning experience is invaluable to those who want to dive into the core technical details of game development.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Working on what you want to do...

I chose this picture because I'm too lazy to find an intro pic.
I'm working on what I want to do, and boy does that ever feel good? Has it tested me? Yes. Has it made me tired on some nights? Yes. Game development is a process that can't be seen as an overnight thing. When I started my fangame project (just look a couple posts below this one) I knew what I was getting myself into. I didn't have much help going into this, but I recruited teammates. I asked around to see if people were interested, and guess what. There was a ton of interest and I dove right in.

To be honest that's how success is achieved sometimes. You won't be given anything. You won't be given a pat on the back when things start. You won't be able to copy those who inspire you to start your game project. In my case I can't be another Lake Feperd, the one who helped create HedgePhysics. I can't be another Christian Whitehead, who started out as just a Sonic fan but helped make one of the best Sonic games of all-time, Sonic Mania. I can't be any of the great game dev minds that came before me, like Yuji Naka, Shigeru Miyamoto or the late Satoru Iwata. I can't even be someone like Nolan Bushnell, who helped build a gaming empire in Atari in the 1980's.

The thing is I'm totally cool with being myself. I make my own way, I take my own risks and I try my best to lead by example.

Game development is hard work. In at least one aspect it always has been hard work. I know that but it's something I want to conquer. It's something I want to do so I can look back at a project and say "I did that with a team of people who shared the same passion as I did." 

At the end of the day this is all rewarding to me. It will be rewarding when gamers get to play a game I help make. No matter what the reactions of gamers will be to my games, I will be able to tell stories to other people. I will be able to say that I did something special with people and that we got together and made something gamers will like.

I want to put smiles on people's faces, and for the right reasons. I want people to believe that creativity can still be a good thing. I encourage creativity. I encourage people to reach out of their comfort zones and find a part of them that they previously didn't know they had. I encourage people to chase their own dreams just as I am chasing mine.

As a game dev I want my legacy to be read like a story, and here's a little paragraph of what I'd like that story to be;

"Here's a guy who was willing to take a chance, despite what harsh critics of his ideas said. This is a guy who challenged the Status Quo of game development and didn't apologize for doing so. This is a guy who wanted to bring people together and make something that gamers would like and appreciate. This is a guy who loved to create, inspired others to create, thought outside the box and stayed true to himself."

Friday, March 23, 2018

Whatever You Do, Give It All You Have

Probably not the blog post title you were expecting, but it's something I think many gamers should think about. Whatever you do, give it all you have. Leave nothing on the table when it's all said and done. Do whatever you have to do to get the job done. Put it all out there for everyone to see.

Fight for your dreams. If you fight for your dreams, then your dreams will fight for you. You have to be willing to make the right adjustments to get a project started as a game dev. You have to be willing to communicate with your teammates. You have to be able to trust your teammates. You have to establish common ground and let your team know that you're gonna be there for them.

Any game project that you start takes on some sort of meaning. At least that's how I see it. The game project I'm running right now takes on a great meaning for me as a game dev, but it's also something really cool for my teammates. This is a fun learning experience for us as a team, to not only grow and improve our skills but to also become more aware of what it takes to get stuff done in game development.

I have fought to even get the chance to work on a game dev project. It's taken me years to get noticed, a few years longer than what I would have hoped. Nonetheless I'm finally getting my chance in game development, and to all my nay-sayers who think I'll never make it in the Gaming Industry, I'll gladly show off the finished results of this game project when it's ready to be played by gamers. Nay-sayers who don't like guys such as myself who used to just write stories, prepare to eat crow.

Whatever you do, give it all you have. Put your name out there. Show off your skills. Show the masses what you can do. Show people your willingness to improve and get better in game development. By doing this they will remember you one way or another. "What we do in life echoes in eternity." Russell Crowe's character in Gladiator said that, Maximus Decimus Meridius, and that's true. What game devs do in making games will echo in eternity, in one way at least.

I've read all the encouraging stories in game development, from people like the late great Satoru Iwata, former Nintendo President, to Nolan Bushnell, a visionary who helped run Atari in the 1980's, to the other names in game development such as Charles Martinet (Mario), Kevin Miller (Sly Cooper) and James Arnold Taylor (Ratchet), voice actors who have a knack for bringing game characters to life. They all got their starts somewhere. Someone else took notice of them at some point.

It's one thing I told my good friend Wesley Adams, one of the co-founders of Multivarious. "How bad do you want it?" At this point in time, in 2018, I want it so bad. I want to prove to many game devs out there that I can hang around, that I can help make a cool game for everyone to play. Hopefully most people will end up really enjoying this game my team and I will put out there.

I'm thinking about my name, my reputation and my legacy as a game dev going forward. I'm also thinking about my love, passion and dedication to the Gaming Industry as just a gamer and a fan. I'm thinking about the knowledge I have as a gamer, what I know about video games and what I can apply in game development. I'm thinking about all the people in my life who have inspired me and helped me progress along the way.

This project is for those who have believed in me and didn't stop believing in me.

Whatever you do, give it all you have. Leave nothing on the table.

Concept Art by Arrzee

Monday, February 19, 2018

Busy Working

Readers of the Gaming Journalist Gazette,

Hello. I'm still thinking about this blog and I'm still intending to post more things about my fan game project and about other game development-related things. My time has been limited because I have been dialed in. I have been super focused on game dev stuff, and so much so that I haven't had time to write any blog posts here.

Having said that, though, I'd be glad to show you guys some things I have been creating lately. I will give you guys a small sample of what I've been able to make. The software I use to make these things is a familiar brand and it's easy to use. Here's the beginning of my graphic art gallery! Until we meet again...

-Steven Timothy Vitte