Friday, 10 November 2017

I'm back!

That's right, after like a month and a half of not doing anything game or YouTube related I've decided that I can come back now and not have a mental breakdown.

I've still got a lot of schoolwork coming up and that's not going away any time soon, but I've finally cleared my current backlog of work and I'm feeling a bit more confident now.

Anyway, yeah, I'm back. How do I do this YouTube thing again? Videos. Something about videos? I don't know. Let's get a few things clear because I did some stuff over the past month that I want to advertise in a mainline video, so here we go.

First off, I made a Discord server for Mass O' Kyzt, that game that apparently I'm working on. If you want to join it you can, I made it primarily because it sounds fun. Don't go there expecting any serious events, formal announcements or particularly well-enforced rules.

I will however be posting a checklist of things I do with regard to my game. You'll get a (potentially boring) list of small changes constantly being drip-fed to you through the #dev-diary channel. I'll post these just as I do them(or plan to do them) and just sift back through them to make sure I cover everything in my Devlog videos.

This means that anyone on my Discord channel will be kept slightly ahead of the curve, able to see what's going on in my game before I tidy it up into a nice clean format. Also, if this proves to be too annoying for you, there is a mute channel option if you right click on it.

So yeah, all around a fun time. I said there wouldn't be any serious events but hey- maybe I'll organize something if there's enough interest in it. Who knows, currently there's like nobody in the server so I'd appreciate it filling up a bit before I propose something like that.

There's a never-expiring Discord invite link in the description of this video, and it's also linked in my channel header. Both of these will grant you access to the esteemed Mass O' Kyzt Discord Server.

Anyway, let's move onto the other thing.

I made a small arcade-y game called "This Game Is Not An RPG"! I only spent about a week of on-and-off working on it, but it's been received fairly well and I'm personally quite proud of it. From a self-analysis point of view, I think it's quite polished compared to my previous work and it holds up with a simple and intuitive premise- "hit the squares".

It's got a nice scoreboard integrated into it, and as usual almost everyone beat my high score of 144 already. Again, the link to this is in the description, I hope you enjoy it. Oh yeah, there's an easter egg somewhere in this game. I won't tell you where but someone found it within like 5 minutes of the game being published so maybe it's easier to find than I thought.

Anyway, thanks for watching and stay tuned for more videos now... that's right, I have to make more of these. Exciting.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Preparing for the DreamHack Jam

Since all I do is procrastinate and then do game jams I've decided that I would participate in the DreamHack Jam.

For those of you who don't know, DreamHack is an e-sports event where a bunch of amateur and professional gamers alike go to play some video games. It's somewhere in America and consequently there's no way in hell I could ever actually attend it, but I can still participate in the game jam!

GameJolt (the indie game website, I'm sure you know the one) are hosting a game jam specifically for DreamHack. I've been unproductive lately, so this is a great opportunity for me to stop being so lazy and actually get something done. This video should go out on the evening before the jam actually starts, at 5AM GMT on Friday.

So how am I going to prepare this time?

Well, I'm going to make sure I sleep for an appropriate amount of time, I'm going to make sure I eat healthy enough so I don't feel like I'm dead the whole time, etc. The biggest change I'll make from Ludum Dare 39 is that I'll spend a lot more time on the planning phase. In Ludum Dare 39, I spent most of my time actually making something without being sure what it was that I was making.

The fact I was time constrained had gone to my head and something that didn't directly result in an actual game in my hands was for some reason registering as superfluous. This time I'll have to plan a lot more carefully. Besides, I'll have more time. The DreamHack Jam lasts for 72 hours or 3 days, whereas the Ludum Dare Compo only lasts for 48.

Additionally, in the past two Ludum Dares my time has been divided into planning, programming and creating most of the art all on Saturday and then getting burned out on Sunday and just barely managing to create UI and sound.

Hopefully this Jam will make me manage my time a lot better, since as described just prior- my time management leaves a lot to be desired. I'll have 3 days so I definitely can't do what I just described. I'm not going to go with any rigid schedule, but I'll hopefully have a very solid idea of what my game will be before too late on Friday, the first day of the Jam.

This Jam almost fits perfectly with my school schedule, since it runs through the 3 days on which I don't have any lessons- Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Only problem is that I have a lot of schoolwork that I'm forgoing in order to do this, but hey, I'll get to that eventually.

The DreamHack Jam is a great way for me to redeem myself after my particularly underwhelming Ludum Dare 39 submission. Also, it'll be a nice break from my main project. As much as I enjoy the game, the universe and working on it- it can be a pain. Even as I write this I'm absolutely exhausted from schoolwork alone, having done nothing productive to my game in days.

Again, this might not have been the most well written, well presented or well delivered script in the world but I hope you enjoyed. Thanks for watching and stay tuned for more videos about the DreamHack Jam, but as usual probably not since I don't know if there will be another one. Even then, who knows whether I'd want to take part in it, let alone make an entire video on it. These are some verbose closing lines, aren't they?

Friday, 22 September 2017

Creativity

Almost a year ago, I wrote a text post on my website titled "Creativity". While it was one of my more interesting text posts from the time period, it doesn't carry much in the 200 words I spent complaining about not being creative enough.

However, there are some things I expressed in that post which no longer reflect what I believe today, and some more things which I feel I need to expand upon. Consider this video (or for those of you who still follow my text posts, one of those) a re-make of that old post from December, 2016.

Creativity is something which I don't believe is possible to pin down as a single, definite attribute. A so-called "creative person" is not necessarily a person who is inherently creative, but rather someone who believes themselves to be creative. Maybe you'd disagree with this quasi-post-modernist view of creativeness, but just bear with me.

Creativity is ultimately a function of familiarity with your chosen medium and how much you're willing to come up with a hundred awful ideas before you get anything good.

In order to be really creative, you have to know the exact limitations and boundaries of your tools. Your tools might be the Godot Engine, FL Studio, Sony Vegas or some bizarre combination of all 3. This means you'll have to spent a lot of hours learning how to use them. It's taken me six hundred hours on Godot and I'm still learning new things about the engine even now as I work on Mass O' Kyzt.

Once you know how to use them, it's a lot easier to allow your mind to wander into territories that you might otherwise never have thought to even approach. Certain media such as game development are particularly obtuse in that regard, which bit do you work on first? The bare-bones mechanics? The art direction? The codebase? The story?

After creating a game or two, it gets easier to see exactly what you can do and where you can go from each starting point. If you want to create a game where mechanics take the lead, you can write out the mechanics first. It gets easier to recognize what kind of idea each idea you have is- "something involving glowing blue mushrooms" is an idea where the art direction and style takes the lead. "A game wherein you upgrade your enemies" is an idea where the mechanics takes the lead.

Imagination and creative thought does need to be trained, but I don't believe it's in the same way as a muscle needs to be exercised. I think that a lot of people will get better imaginations the more they try, but not because their imagination somehow "became bigger", but rather because they're more comfortable with the process as a whole.

Here's an exercise in imagination: pick a random word(preferably a noun, verb or adjective, don't be a dork and pick a preposition) and think about literally the next thing that comes into your head. Even if it's not related whatsoever to your initial word or its a random fleeting thought, grab it and do the same again. If I'm making any sense, you'll be led along a random path of neural connections and associations and maybe come up with some ideas.

Don't get frustrated if you don't come up with anything, that's part of creativity. Coming up with like a billion bad ideas is almost required in order to come up with one or two good ideas.

Spending your time pursuing a bad idea is usually not wasted time, since you're practising your "making-the-thing" skills so that you can become more confident coming up with a better thing to make.

This is getting really quite rambly, which is impressive because it started off rambly but I'm going to cut it here. I have a cold, so my script-writing is pretty rubbish. Anyway, thanks for watching and stay tuned for more illness-induced rambling about something which a lot of people either realize already or don't care about.

Monday, 18 September 2017

The State of Steam

Anyone watching my videos is presumably already familiar enough with the current state and reputation of Steam. Steam is often described as a dumping ground with little-to-no curation or care as to what gets shoved to the storefront.

This comes as no surprise since let's face it- that's exactly what Steam is and has been for the past few years.

For context to what I'm about to say, I'll give a brief background into Steam.

Steam launched in 2003, and it was pretty humble. Initially only sporting Valve's own titles, the platform carried on for a while and gradually accrued more and more games. The submission process was manual and personal. A developer would have to speak to a real representative of a real company in order to get their game considered for release on Steam.

Getting something on Steam was a serious mark of prestige, where it would have been sold alongside Valve's own titles as well as the best the industry had to offer.

However, in 2012 Steam made a radical change to how their store worked. They introduced Greenlight. A year later, Steam's prestigious status on the industry had all but disappeared and getting a game on Steam was practically commonplace for any realistically competitive product.

The reason that I explain all this is because Steam has greatly changed as a service. The Steam that was a prestigious place for reliably high-quality games is gone, and little trace of it remains today. The Steam that has taken its place is what some people would call a dumpster fire full of snakes and vomit.

So why on earth did they do that? They ruined their own service and reputation, right?

In February 2013 - or about 7 months after Greenlight launched - Gabe Newell expressed his desire to make Steam a "networking API" rather than a "curated process". He spoke of his boredom with the Steam store, calling it a "middle-ground marketing thing".

Clearly, Gabe Newell's vision for Steam has evolved since 2003. Steam appears to be going in the direction of a kind of open marketplace for games. A massively more popular and consumer-friendly version of itch.io, if you like.

Steam is moving away from being its own ecosystem for games to be sold, bought, discussed and critiqued. It has become a centralized platform for the distribution and purchase of games and little more. Marketing today is primarily done outside of Steam, whereas in 2010 having your game on Steam was marketing in itself.

Communities are primarily built on external forums, chatrooms, or in my case a YouTube channel.

Steam no longer wants to be a one-stop shop for all things developer-related. Steam wants to be a smaller part in a larger and more varied toolkit.

Of course, the motivation for this change is very likely because they want money. They're definitely making a lot more money as a distribution middle-man than they would have been as a prestigious curator.

However, this makes being an indie developer a lot harder in the process. The advent of the asset flipper and associated low effort or low quality games on Steam makes getting noticed a lot harder than it was in previous years.

Independent developers are in a tricky spot right now. We have Steam and Google Play which are both great for distribution, but we're at a loss for a curated platform. Getting a game noticed is hard and only getting harder, both due to market saturation and large players in the field taking a back seat.

Currently, sites such as GOG need to be successful in order for indies to be successful. GOG is currently what Steam was 7 years ago, minus a whole lot of DRM.

The Humble Store is also making good progress to shutting out the gutter-trash masquerading as video games that pollutes the Steam store.

In short, yeah, Steam isn't what it was and has ceased to make things easy for indie developers. Now, they're something entirely different but useful in its own right, for the limited scope of problem they're intent on solving. It's been a long, gruelling gauntlet of a changeover but Valve are closer than ever to making it a reality with Steam Direct.

Thanks for watching, and stay tuned for more videos, either scripted, unscripted, whatever, I don't know. I even scripted this last little bit at the end, that's how scripted this video is. God, script-writing is a pain.