PRE-SPRINT 12 – MERRY QUITMAS – RETROSPECTIVE

MERRY QUITMAS

Week of December 25th, 2016

OVERVIEW

Well, it’s official, then. I’ve put my two weeks notice in. Quitmas has come and gone, and now all that remains is a two week limbo before things really hit the fan.

I’m excited. I’m nervous. I’m somehow both thrilled about how much money I saved + dismayed that I didn’t save more. It’s complicated.

In terms of laying a foundation this week could not have gone better. KanbanFlow has been fantastic and I’ve developed a real repeatable system almost overnight. I love it.

The decision to use GameMaker Studio was also an important one. I’ll begin learning the ins and outs in earnest and will hope to have some actual dev progress screenshots up.

MEGA-MONTH is officially over after tonight. As is 2016. The end of my employment and old life follow soon after that. Then…uh, well, then it’s onto something new. Exciting!

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Laid a fantastic foundation for work via KanbanFlow and Pomodoros in general
  • Set up a new YouTube channel, VGM Pomodoro, for both myself and the general public
  • Decided (officially!) to use GameMaker Studio for my development language
  • Continued to find success in focus and meditation, though the latter has also been putting me to sleep a bit too frequently
  • Played, beat, and analyzed Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Inside, and a few demoes
  • Christmas was rad!
  • Oh yeah, and I quit my job
  • MEGA-MONTH HAS BEEN SATIATED

LOWLIGHTS

  • Still no dev, but this is likely the last week for that to be the case
  • What is game…?
    • UPDATE: I dunno
      • UPDATE: TBD

On Work

My life is a cliche.

Each day, I get up and commute to my job. I don’t hate it, but I feel immensely unsatisfied. I’m smart enough, and have done well for myself. But is this really it? Is this my life?

Am I really just on autopilot until I retire or die?

I accepted this. I figured these are thoughts that everyone struggles with, and that accepting them is just something that adults must do.

But I’ve had doubts I can live my life like this. I’ve dreamed of early retirement, and as I got older and those thoughts became less realistic, I instead contemplated escape. I thought about suicide. I thought about ‘running away’ from home, abandoning my wife and dog and house and living in my car. These are crazy, escapist fantasias, so clearly something was wrong.

Over the summer an incredibly dumb thing happened to me. So dumb, in fact, I can’t even bring it up – not out of shame, but more because it wouldn’t make any sense.

It sent my life to rock bottom. I’ve since learned to be thankful for this dumb thing, because it forced me to realize that my mind was real fucked and that I needed to a) go to therapy, b) get on some medication, and c) figure my life out

I did all that, and it has all worked. Better than I ever could have expected, in fact.

As the fog that surrounded me all my life began to lift away, I was left with a surprising realization…

Maybe I do hate my job?

Not the job itself, mind you. Certainly not my coworkers or my boss. I love all of them.

What I hated was the idea of my job. The idea of giving up on my dreams immediately out of college and working at an office. An office! God, hadn’t I read enough Dilbert comics and watched enough Office Space to know that I would be unhappy there? “Nah, that won’t be me”, I thought once upon a time. But it was. It was exactly me.

I gave up on my dreams for this? 

From one cliche to another, right? But I can at least keep a straight face saying this one. It feels true.

So what exactly are my dreams?

My entire life has orbited around video games. My earliest memories? Playing Secret of Mana co-op with my dad. Having my family wake me up when they finally beat the Vanilla Dome castle in Super Mario World. Playing Fire & Ice with an ear infection.

I know game companies better than I know most people. I own every console, every game I feel worth it. I have spent tens of thousands of dollars over the course of my life on games, books about games, art about games, games about games.

I went to school for Computer Science – why? To make games!

I moved to Seattle – why? Because that’s where games are made! 

I worked at Nintendo in the crappiest position imaginable – why? Because it was my foot in the door to – you guessed it – games!

Then, I got laid off. I got scared. I went down to $35 in my checking account and began looking at Craigslist for something, anything. I settled for an office job – my current job.

I figured dreams were unrealistic, that I should just grow up.

Well. No more. I mean, I’ll still probably continue growing up, but that other thing? The giving-up-on-dreams thing? That’s over with.

Starting today.

Today’s the day I put in my 2 weeks notice.

Today, I begin my life anew – before it’s too late. Today I officially ‘launch’ WARP DOGS, whatever that means. Today I begin my new life creating video games, analyzing video games, writing about video games. Today is terrifying. Today is exciting. Today marks a change.

My last day will be Friday the 13th – a pretty fitting day to start making my own luck.

I’ll need it.

PRE-SPRINT 12 – MERRY QUITMAS – PLANNING

MERRY QUITMAS

Week of December 25th, 2016

WARP DOGS’ CORP LOGS

  • The state of our WARP CORP is holding steady at almost freakishly strong
  • The Extinction-Level-Event (ELE) is holding steady at a remarkable 28 weeks away. Still unbelievable!

Not much to say at this point! Everything is happening so fast…this Friday is the day I put my 2-week notice in. I have a lot of thoughts on the matter – too complicated, too personal, and frankly too boring to share even here.

I will say this: I am grateful for the time I had with this job. I am very grateful for the time I had with my coworkers. I’m grateful for the money I was able to save up.

Most importantly, though, I’m grateful that I figured out things weren’t working before it was too late.

It’s hard not think of it in terms of one life ending and another beginning – cliches, but they feel true.

This is the last week of MEGA-MONTH. This is the final stretch, the last chance to cut spending and save as many pennies as I can find.

Let’s do it.

Thank you.

SPRINT GOALS

I usually list out multiple goals here, but this sprint has one major one:

  • Figure out which engine I’m using!

Since November I’m been futzing about with Love2d and Lua. I’ve flipped flop mightily on this, as while I love (pun intended) Love2d and Lua as a language, it’s not exactly future-proof. It runs on PC, Linux, and Mac, but what of console ports? What of support generally? Do I feel comfortable enough basing my entire life on a relatively unproven platform?

The other engine in contention is Gamemaker – specifically Gamemaker Studio. Why? Well, it’s an engine I know how to use. I feel pretty comfortable with it. And I know it’s proven with other commercial games – a huge point for me.

We’ll see. It seems like Gamemaker is the ‘obvious’ choice, and at this point I think I’ll need to be talked out of it to change my mind.

PRE-SPRINT 11 – CASE OF THE MONDAYS – RETROSPECTIVE

CASE OF THE MONDAYS

Week of December 18th, 2016

OVERVIEW

After months – like, literally months – of saying I was going to focus on (ironically) focus and concentration, I finally go around to doing it. And it’s been great! I’ve studied up and practiced meditation. I’ve re-incorporated the Pomodoro system, this time with some legit success.

The end result? I’m getting stuff done!

My work to improve concentration also yielded a surprising side benefit: I discovered a new tool called KanbanFlow. I have fairly specific requirements when it comes to workflow tools – as a single developer who loathes bloat, it’s hard to strike a balance between features I want and a bunch of crap I don’t.

KanbanFlow is wonderful. It’s everything I want and nothing I don’t. It’s free. It’s fast. It’s going to legitimately help me from here on out.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Discovered KanbanFlow, a new tool to manage my work
  • Good work done on (mostly) keeping my blog updated and in running order
  • Began to find success in meditation, something I hope to use to improve focus, among other things
  • Finalized the pitch, which can now be found here
  • MEGA-MONTH CANNOT BE STOPPED

LOWLIGHTS

  • Still no dev, and contemplating a major engine change which may unfortunately set me back even more
  • What is game…?
    • UPDATE: I dunno

SHOW & TELL

WARP DOGS Game of the Year…?

Image result for ghost of christmas present

Games.

Video games, to be specific. Seems like nary a year goes by without seeing a release or two that are rather quite good.

I had originally made this post to talk about my game of the year. It’s always a fun to think about and, hey, everyone is doing it.

So I began scrolling through the releases this year and compared it to the games I played. It only then that it hit me:

I didn’t play any good games released in 2016.

I played No Man’s Sky – bad game. Paper Jam – terrible. The Witness – pretentious garbage. Infinite Warfare – fine, but not GotY.

Clearly I know that a ton of good games came out this year. I just…never…actually got to any of them?

That doesn’t even seem possible. Surely I played at least one of them, if only by accident. Like, maybe I fell onto a controller and began to play Dark Souls 3…?

Turns out that the games I played – the good games, GotY contenders, anyway – were largely from last year. Or the year before that. Or like 20 years ago.

Well, this is going to be awkward, huh?

WARP DOGS’ GAME OF THE YEAR,

(ASSUMING IN THIS CONTEXT “OF THE YEAR” REFERS TO WHEN I PLAYED IT,

NOT NECESSARILY WHEN IT WAS RELEASED),

2016,

GOES TO:

The Witcher 3

If you sat me down in front of some very smart, very capable game designers and asked me to describe my perfect game, the end result would have probably still been less enjoyable than the Witcher 3.

It’s sublime.

It nails the humor and tone I want to see in video games. It absolutely crushes it with the world and the efforts it goes to build it up into something real. The story is fantastic. The combat is fantastic. Geralt – fantastic. All the characters – fantastic.

Graphics – gorgeous. Voice acting? Wonderful. Music? Oh my god.

Quests? Otherworldly. They’re all so good. Every single one of them – in the way they subvert your expectations, in how they play with your emotions, the themes they explore, the callbacks to the most obscure lore and myth.

And so on, and so on, and so on.

It’s also gigantic, but always in the right amount. It’s open world without quite rubbing your nose in it – no towers or minigame icons and checklists.

Don’t get me wrong, I still wanted to complete everything, explore everything and, indeed, check all the boxes. The difference is that it was always on my terms.

I did it because this world, these characters, deserve help. I cared. I did it to see the next thing – it was like Civilization’s “one more turn” syndrome, only it was the entire game.

What more can even be said about this game that hasn’t been addressed by countless others much smarter than I?

All I know is that as a game designer I am at once in awe and jealous of this world. There’s so much to be inspired by in the Witcher – not just 3, but the entire Witchering series generally – and I am overjoyed that they exist and are successful.

There are few games out there that can be said to have improved the entire industry by just existing. The Witcher 3 is absolutely, without a doubt, one of them.

Anyway. The Witcher 3: didn’t release this year, but gosh darnit it is easily my Game of the Year 2016

PRE-SPRINT 11 – CASE OF THE MONDAYS – PLANNING

CASE OF THE MONDAYS

Week of December 18th, 2016

WARP DOGS’ CORP LOGS

  • The state of our WARP CORP is almost freakishly strong after a last-minute push of savings
  • The Extinction-Level-Event (ELE) is now at an incredible 28 weeks away. Unbelievable!

MEGA-MONTH lumbers past the halfway mark and aims its way forward to the finish line. With two paychecks and a birthday under its belt, you would think its insatiable hunger would, indeed, be satiated, but the look in its eyes is anything but satisfied…

SPRINT GOALS

There’s less than two weeks until I give my two week notice. Assuming my math checks out, that leaves me with just under four weeks to prepare for a graceful and prepared exit.

Unlike previous attempts at sticking to a series of goals, I’ll instead just dump out a stream-of-consciousness about what I hope to accomplish between now and the end of the year

  • A fully realized ‘pitch’ of what this game actually is
  • Mind Maps!
    • Mind Maps for the various features, themes, and emotions of the game
    • Mind Maps for the various loops of the game
    • Mind Maps, generally
  • A social media presence that’s not super embarrassing
  • A final name, and probably a URL to go with it
    • Also maybe look into rules and standards about names
  • Comment and cleanup existing code
  • Do some “fun coding”
  • Document coding procedures to better iterate over them
  • Write more posts. Write more everything
  • Focus on focus
    • BUT SERIOUSLY THIS TIME
  • Read as much as I can
    • Books on games
    • Books on game design
    • Books on life
    • Books generally
  • Cleanup and prepare
  • Hangup pictures and other decorations
  • Think real hard about scope
  • Do more pixel art
  • Learn how to do pixel art generally
  • And much, much more

Time to get to it.

PRE-SPRINT 10 – 33 DAYS – RETROSPECTIVE

33 DAYS

Week of December 11th, 2016

Overview

Another week of little dev work, but a lot of analysis. I think I’m just about done the analysis stuff and with just a bit of time remaining (less than 33 days, you might say…) these next few sprints will be big

I’m also incredibly tired tonight, so this post is going to be really bad. Sorry.

Highlights

  • Rediscovered mind maps and have really enjoyed the way they help me think through problems
  • May have seriously come up with the game title…oh my!
  • A lot of progress on the game’s overall pitch, scope, and key ideas. Or, uh, something
  • MEGA-MONTH MARCHES EVER ON

Lowlights

  • Having a hard time concentrating and staying focused. I need to really, uh, not be bad at that. I think I’ve put this in every single lowlight since I was born
  • What is game…?
  • Too tired, sorry

Show & Tell

HOW TO QUIT YOUR JOB AND GO BROKE MAKING VIDEO GAMES – THE BURN CHART

It takes some real skill and precision to quit a good job making lots of money to pursue a career in which you’ll make very little. It requires strategy. Foresight. A willful ignorance of consequence.  I’m here to talk about my own process so that you, too, can self-destruct your finances

Today, I want to talk about my burn chart, which you’ve may have seen after reading one of my WARP DOGS CORP LOGS posts.

There may be other, more accurate names for this style of chart, so let me show you what I mean:

So, what exactly is this thing?

In short, the burn chart is the primary method to measure when exactly I’ll be out of money and broke as all hell.

It performs this tremendous service by looking at my current cash reserves each week and compares that to both a fixed and moving estimate of where I predict my cash reserves should be each week.

It then plots this all on a nifty graph so I can visualize how fast I’m spending and when exactly I can expect to run out.

Make sense? Well, let’s dig in some more…

FIXED ESTIMATE

This is the grey line.

The fixed estimate is simple. I took a look at our average monthly expenses and compared it to our average monthly income after I quit my job. I then simply looked at the difference between the expenses and income, and called this difference the expense delta. 

Said a different way, the expense delta is what’s needed to break even each month – for example, if average expenses were $5,000, and average income was $3,000, then the expense delta would be $2,000.

The Fixed Estimate is simply this delta subtracted from my cash reserves on a weekly basis. It’s a steady, consistent march to $0, and it’s also the line I want to continuously “beat” each week if I want to elongate this project.

CASH ON HAND

This is the blue line with stars.

At the start of each week I’ll record how much cash on hand I have left. The difference week to week will be reflected by the steepness of the line.

They key here is to beat the estimate. It’s sort of like racing where you want to beat your best lap times – only it’s exactly the opposite because you want to go slower, not faster.

But what happens if I do go slower? Or faster? I mean, it’s extremely unlikely I’ll spend exactly $500 a week over the course of many months, and the move I deviate from the average the less useful the fixed expense line will be.

To solve this problem, I added the moving estimate line.

MOVING ESTIMATE

This is the yellow line with the circles

Like the fixed estimate, the moving estimate steadily marches to 0 by subtracting an expense delta each week.

Unlike the fixed estimate, the speed it marches is not forever constant, but rather is based on a moving average of my actual expenses each week

Let’s use an example.

Week 1: $400 spent

Week 2: $300 spent

Week 3: $500 spent

Over these 3 weeks the moving estimate would come out to $400, and it’d look like so:

Lookin’ good! My thriftiness has bought me more time to work on my projects

Now, let’s say week 4 and 5 look like this:

Week 4: $900 spent

Week 5: $900 spent

Now, obviously I know that spending more per week means I’ll run out of money faster, and vice versa, but it’s one thing to know something and quite another to visualize it

You can see how it shaves off 2 weeks from the fixed estimate – that’s a lot of to give up!

In conclusion, this graph does two things main things:

  • It gamifies the otherwise dull task of tracking weekly expenses, encouraging me to stay under spending goals and beat my previous expectations, plus,
  • It allows me to apply principals of Agile to my financial situation, adjusting my strategies and focus on a weekly basis

So, hopefully this has all made sense. If you’re looking to quit your job to pursue some passion then I strongly encourage you to make something similar – never discount the power of visualizing the speed in which your money is running out

PRE-SPRINT 10 – 33 DAYS – PLANNING

33 DAYS

Week of December 11th, 2016

WARP DOGS’ CORP LOGS

2016-12-04-11_45_42-burn-chart-google-sheets

The state of our WARP CORP is strong. MEGA-MONTH is halfway over and boy are the results promising already!

The Extinction-Level-Event (ELE) continues to hold at 14 weeks away. Astonishing!

Our team of highly respected accountants are slacking off, but are ready for the call to action later in the week

The astute among you may have realized that despite the rather salient header image Christmas is, in fact, not 33 days away. So what is…?

We shall have to find out together!

Thank you.

SPRINT GOALS

This is likely to be the 3rd week of very little programming, though the hope is to begin to ramp up as the week goes on. As has become typical, lack of time and overall concentration has contributed to a very slow pace. This pace is expected to increase dramatically in, oh, 33 days or so.

Here’s this week’s TOP 3 P O W E R * G O A L S

  • What even is this game? Continued from last week, we’ll be focusing on what this game is and isn’t. I’ve also scoped in work on an actual, real-life, honest-to-goodness pitch that I can start to share people so they can make fun of me
  • Let’s read! a bunch of stuff. I have a huge amount of stuff to read that I’ve bought over the last few months and years. Books on game design, Lua programming, inspirational books, books on self-employment, and a whole lot more. So much, in fact, that it’s become necessary to create an entire POWER GOAL for it so I can begin to actually read the darn things
  • Improve your concentration with these ten easy steps. Well, maybe it’ll be more than 10 steps, but I really need to address this problem, so I’m making an entire goal for it. I must be better at concentrating and minimizing distractions…or I’ll be in some big trouble when I’m eventually on my own

Time to get to it.

PRE-SPRINT 9 – LET IT SNOW – RETROSPECTIVE

77180_nsmbwiiu_snow-04

LET IT SNOW

Week of December 4th, 2016

Overview

What is “game”? This question has plagued mankind for generations. Can it be answered here? Answered today? Can it be answered at all? Is answer even the right word? Is answer spelled right? Why the ‘w’? What purpose does it serve in that word?

All good questions.

None of them were answered in this sprint.

Highlights

  • Thought a lot about what my game is and isn’t. Ended up with a nice foundation with which to begin analysis on
  • Continuing to enjoy Evernote. I ended up building a ton more notebooks and stacks of notebooks and tags and all sorts of other crazy words and phrases
  • MEGA-MONTH MARCHES EVER ON

Lowlights

  • Having a hard time concentrating and staying focused. I need to really, uh, not be bad at that
  • A bit worried that I may be spinning my wheels the closer I get to my quit date. It’s easy to do and redo things at this stage, and I’m afraid I’m refactoring too much
  • What is game…?
  • Ate too much

Show & Tell

 

 

 

PRE-SPRINT 9 – LET IT SNOW – PLANNING

77180_nsmbwiiu_snow-04

LET IT SNOW

Week of December 4th, 2016

WARP DOGS’ CORP LOGS

2016-12-04-11_45_42-burn-chart-google-sheets

The state of our WARP CORP is strong. MEGA-MONTH has only recently dawned, yet we’ve already been able to put away a lot of cash into the WARP DOGS coffers. Our current extinction-level-event (ELE) is a record-breaking 14 weeks away. Incredible!

Our highly respected accountants are celebrating by taking the rest of the week off.

It’s likely to snow here at WARP DOGS HQ in beautiful, behind-the-Safeway, North Bend, Washington. As Founder, CEO, and Chief Meteorologist of WARP DOGS I have been asked to provide a comment on these situations. My response is thus:

LET IT SNOW.

Thank you.

SPRINT GOALS

The nice thing about sprints is that you can change your mind often. Last sprint was proof of this: I took a break from programming and pivoted to lore and world-building. A fun diversion, and I got a whole lot done.

This sprint is more of the same. One thing that my brainstorming sessions taught me was that I needed more constraints. Before I jump back into programming I plan to take an entire sprint – this sprint – to really narrow down the scope of what I’m working on. I enjoy editing and taking a knife to my own work, so this shouldn’t be too bad.

Here’s this week’s P O W E R * G O A L S

  • A logo and name and it’s all good, dog. This PG was from last sprint and continues through this one. It’s related to the company itself – naming, logo, that type of thing
  • What even is this game? Ah, a good question! Is it Animal Crossing meets Zelda, or Zelda meets Animal Crossing? Is it truly inspired by Undertale, or is that game so deeply rooted in my brain that essentially everything I make or think about is inspired by Undertale? Tricky quesitons to answer.
  • An unexplored world full of possibility. I enjoyed this brainstorming quite a bit and think I can provide even more details and context. I’m on a roll, so it’d be crazy to sto now

Time to get to it. The hope is to have some visuals to share before the end of this.

Pre-Sprint 8 – DAWN OF MEGA-MONTH – Retrospective

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DAWN OF MEGA-MONTH

Week of November 27th

Overview

The nice thing about sprints – really, one of the most defining things – is being able to  change gears quickly. After weeks of programming I essentially spent an entire week where I didn’t open up my IDE once…and it was the best decision I’ve made thus far.

An entire world poured out of my head, complete with a map, lore, context, and a whole bunch more. I can’t share a whole ton of it right now as it’s still being shaped into something coherent, but it’s rad.

Highlights

  • Sketched out a map across several mediums + had a bunch of fun
  • Came up with names and backgrounds for a lot of areas in-game
  • Brainstorming sessions went much better than expected
  • Incorporated much into ever-growing Evernote
  • MEGA-MONTH MARCHES EVER ON

Lowlights

  • Spent some more money I probably didn’t need to 🙁
  • Learned I’m still not an artist despite everything – oops
  • Ate too much

Show & Tell

map

2016-11-28-12_20_14-_map-v1-svg-inkscape