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March 2017

Still Alive! Just Unpacking

Hey Folks! I'm typing this in front of an impressive stack of boxes from the new Blue Bottle Games, LLC headquarters: the basement of our new house!

Unfortunately, I literally only have the PC's basics hooked-up so far, and plenty of unpacking yet to do. Also, I am as far from the cable outlet as humanly possible in this house, meaning I'm on a tenuous wifi connection. Quite the step down from the old hard-wired connection. Might be time to upgrade to a better wifi router and adapter.

Anyway, not much to report since the last update, since it was literally all move-related shenanigans. I guess I did do some urgent tax review and signing, plus some feedback on the trailer. But certainly nothing akin to actual coding, drawing, writing, or other fun stuff :)

The good news is, however, I should be gradually more at work, and less packing/moving as time goes on from here. And with any luck, that'll be the last major interruption for a long time!

Item Padding, Trailer Preview, and OOO Early Next Week

Hey Folks! Spent a good chunk of the day working on updated sprites for mobile items, as well as checking out video-Josh's first draft of the trailer!

Even though it's just a first draft, the trailer is already impressive. I was surprised at how intense it was. One of the goals we were hoping to hit in the piece was a sense of gravity, and man, we hit it. I'm even a little concerned it might be too strong!

But the more I review it, I think it could be one of those things that starts out shocking, and gets better with time/review. Provided it moves in that direction, even very slowly, we may have struck just the right balance.

Most of the rest of the day was spent reworking certain item sprites to have a faint (10% alpha) padding around them, so touchscreen selection is easier. Certain items, like lockpicks, bows, and other "wiry" items had holes in them or were too slim to hit with a touch input. At least, whenever they were slotted. (Grid is fine as it uses a different method to hit-test.)

I'm about half done now, with a large chunk of the time used to re-export the wound images. (So many wound images!) I think I should be able to get those integrated next week.

Which segues into my next point nicely: I'll be OOO early next week since we're moving!

Usually, there's a day or two as we get necessities unpacked and setup, and I'm expecting that to be the case here. And one never knows if internet will be up and running in the new place on time. So if it gets quiet here, you know why. I'm here, just disconnected or without a desk :)

Have a good weekend, and talk to you soon!

Hardware Install, Bug Triage, Trailer Footage

Hey Folks! More loose ends tying-up today, plus a hardware upgrade!

The hardware maybe isn't too exciting to anyone but me. It's a 1TB solid-state drive (SSD) for my work PC. But since my old 500GB SSD was 90% full, space was getting tight. And recording game footage was making this painfully obvious!

So I spent about an hour with a dissected PC on the floor today as I installed and configured the new SSD. And I'm now in the process of copying the largest blocks of data I can over to that one, so I can free up the 500GB SSD for OS use and frequent work files.

The bug list got a huge triage today, with a lump of new user-experience (UX) tasks bumped to the top. I'm going to see if we can add some more swipe input support for certain UIs, better hit registering on UI elements, and some context-specific tutorials. Not the most glamorous work, but it'll hopefully make a big difference. Especially to new users!

Finally, I recorded one more in-game scene of crafting some specific items. This covers all our basic needs, except for maybe getting ambushed in sleep by a dogman. "Video-Josh" (thanks, Malacodor!) says he has what he needs for now, and will keep me apprised of progress.

It feels like things are in order and nobody's blocked by me for now, which is a nice change!

Game Footage, Store Page, and Admin

Hey Folks! Bit of a mixed-bag today, as I tied-up some loose ends.

One of the top priorities was to get some game footage to Josh (trailer producer) for cutting into the trailer. Yesterday's tests left us with some workable settings for capturing mobile game footage, and I had about 5 files to upload. Some crafting, map movement, freezing, bandaging, scavenging, and combat. There's still more to record from our wishlist, but this is a good start, and gives him a chance to test drive the footage for issues.

I also reviewed Josh's (composer) latest ship-editing track. And as usual, he delivered the goods. I told him it conjured images of a draftsman hovering over backlit ship schematics with a cigarette into the wee hours of the morning. Which also inspired me to scribble some new notes about the space game.

I stumbled upon the Google Play developer page settings today, which is a bit alarming. The amount of stuff I accidentally discover in publishing a mobile game is worrisome :) But I guess the good news is that I discovered it now instead of later, and there is a nice blurb, logo, and background image for my company now.

In the meatworld, I managed to get my internet service scheduled for the new house, as well as post office change of address/forwarding. Both were a lot less painful than expected, though I reserve judgement until both are actually in process :)

It was actually a pretty productive day, in retrospect. Not any coding, but a whack of stuff that needed doing got done!

Game Footage Capture, and Script VO Read

Hey Folks! Mostly another day of trailer prep, here, as Josh and I work out the best way for me to record in-game footage, and we read through the script with Nelson and Phil.

The game footage was a bit of a mystery at first, as no matter what settings or codecs I used, it seemed to have compression artifacts. Even lossless settings at 7GB per minute!

However, I think part of what we were seeing was in fact game-asset artifacts resulting from me scaling-up gradients used in the UI. The banding/dithering is literally built-into the graphics. So we're mostly squared away on settings, and I've started capturing scenes from the game to be used.

On the audio side, the four of us (Josh, Nelson, Phil, and I) held a conference call in which we had them read lines to each other. Each had their own audio setup for recording that we can splice together later, so this was mainly to have faces/audio to act against.

And man, was it good! After a few runs, you could really hear the weary vet's impatience and savoring the kill, while the upstart stuttered, begged, and babbled in fear. I think it's going to be an awesome match for the footage we shot.

It's going to be a hard couple of days of waiting to see the rough cut :)

So the Mobile Trailer's Coming Along Nicely :)

Hey Folks! Sorry for the several days of missing devlog. I was on an important business trip. And by "business," I mean this:



Braving 45°F (7°C) Vancouver rain in nothing but a hospital gown and pink flip flop, we set about filming the new NEO Scavenger mobile trailer. Let me just say, I have a newfound appreciation for what Philip Kindred must go through in every early game. And what's more, how a film production works!

Digital Cyclops ran the production up in Vancouver, and did an amazing job. Especially considering the cold, rainy conditions! And what's more, they brought in Dalias Blake to play the veteran scavenger! You'll see soon enough how imposing this man can be, decked-out in layered attire and strapped with tools and optics for the wasteland. He had some great suggestions about the various shots, as well.

The footage is currently being uploaded to Josh for editing, and he's already lined up none other than @WritNelson and @ElConquistadork to do VO.

That's right folks. This trailer is going to be a pretty stark contrast to my first, game-footage-only trailer back in 2012.

I'm pretty psyched!

NEO Scavenger Is Officially Updated to v1.15

NEO Scavenger is now officially updated to v1.15! Since the test builds have been relatively stable, I've just finished updating the default builds to 1.15 on all sites. The "test" links are no longer necessary, and have been removed for now.

This updates the following builds:

New changes include:

  • Fixed a bug that caused misplaced/missing items and camps when autosave is enabled.

It's not a big patch, but based on feedback so far, it solves a couple of really annoying autosave bugs. It definitely seems to have solved missing camp item issues. And whether coincidental or not, the number of corrupt save reports seems to have dropped as well.

It seems to be a net improvement, in any case, so it's finally time to make it official.

As always, if there are any issues with the new build, let me know on the forums!

Website Nearly Done, Taxes, and Mobile Woes

Hey Folks! Feeling a bit worn out today by taxes and mobile issues. But at least there's one glimmer of good news: the website is just about done!

I'm currently reviewing the last handful of fixes from the developers, and after that, it's just migrating email services from the old to new providers And then...launch the new site, I guess?

I might want to wait and see if there's a way to time it with the mobile launch. But it might also just be good to get it over with so the kinks are worked-out before more visitors come. Hmm.

Taxes are, well, taxes. Suffice to say it feels like every year, there's a new layer of annoyance to deal with no matter how many other layers of annoyance we've cleared in years past. This year in particular feels a bit like that scene where Gandalf knocks the balrog off the ledge, and just when you think it's dead down the hole, a firey whip zooms up and grabs Gandalf's ankle. Except the balrog is the CRA, and Gandalf is our retirement funds.

And if that wasn't enough, NEO Scavenger mobile is stumbling hard on certain devices.

On one hand, small screens are frustrating some test users (legitimately), and I'm really worried it might not make the cut. We've tried to mitigate a lot of that pain, but when you get down to it, NEO Scavenger is a fiddly game with lots of precise UI. And small handsets are not a good pairing for that.

On the other hand, iPhone screen sizes are just annoying. Apple has this "logical vs physical" difference in the reported screen sizes, and it's playing havoc with UI. The game engine thinks the iPhone 6 has a screen res of 667x375, while the actual screen is 1334x750. Apple wants people to measure things in "points" for consistent UI sizes on screens of varying sizes, but the game doesn't work that way. It just places things on the screen at certain pixels, and that's that. (Seriously, look at this mess.)

At one point, I was like "F-it. This is the straw on the proverbial camel's back. No more smartphone support." But I'm going to try and sleep this one off. There are more than a few smartphone users out there who want it, and it's worth me at least trying.

But seriously, Apple. Kick me in the gut some more, will you?

Scavenging Supplies

Hey Folks! Hope everyone enjoyed their weekend. Ours was yet another one of cleaning and repairing the new house, as will likely be the case with many future weekends :)

Today was a bit of an oddball in that I spent most of it out "in the field." Namely, sourcing props and costume items for the new trailer!

Items on the list include an olive hoodie, pink flip flop, kids' backpack, and other dress-up stuff. I think I managed to find each of those after two trips out to thrift stores. And at the same time, Kevin and Vicki (photographers) have found us a location, additional props and simulated campfire, and even bona fide actors!

Josh (trailer editor) is back from PAX has started reviewing the stories you all have submitted. He's also watching via Google docs as we add notes, photos, and drawings of the film shoot, and is pretty happy with how everything is coming together.

Whatever happens, this is shaping up to be a fun experiment :)

Leaderboards, and False Performance Bug

Hey Folks! Been quietly working on some more code the past couple of days. I managed to carve out almost a day and a half of coding to work on the remaining leaderboards for mobile.

It was fairly straightforward stuff. I needed a few bits of info from Tiago, but most of the lifting was formatting the data to the (sometimes different) types needed by Google and Apple. That, and setting up the receiving end on the relevant game centers with names, units, display formats, and unique IDs.

Also, our discussion prompted Tiago to work on an offline data saver in case the server couldn't be reached when submitting scores. It'll simply save the file and try again later.

As of this afternoon, we'll be tracking shortest and longest survival time, shortest times to reach the DMC and end game, most distance traveled, most hexes revealed, and min/max temperatures experienced. Should be an interesting bunch of stats to peruse! (Even I'm curious what we'll see.)

Unfortunately, there was also a good chunk of the day lost to a performance bug.

Around midday, the game started taking an enormous amount of time to load. Simply starting a new game would take updards of 30 seconds to show the skills screen. Framerate started tanking when the mouse moved. And at one point, the game just gave up while loading and crashed.

I started retracing my steps, looking through recent commits for clues. I also fired up hxScout to see what was causing the lag. And strangely, it was instantiating lots of point data types in the hex map. Stuff which should be near-instantaneous, not half-a-minute.

Well, Tiago came to the rescue and suggested clearing my build and starting fresh. (Think of it like clearing cache in a browser.) And sure enough, the game was smooth as silk again after.

Crisis averted! Though there was a bit of panic in there for a while :)

Anyway, leaderboards still require testing, but I think they're basically done. The trailer is still in "info gathering" mode. The website team is probably overdue for feedback from me. Lots still to do.

But first, I think I'm going to set aside some time Monday(ish) to finally update all builds to v1.15 for the PC version. It's been in beta/test mode for a while without any major issues, and folks like those on don't have access to its fixes yet.

Until then, have a good weekend!

NEO Scavengers: Tell Me Your Stories!

Hey Folks! As many of you know, I'll be launching the iOS and Android versions of NEO Scavenger soon. And along with it, a new and improved NEO Scavenger trailer!

However, I need your help.


We're planning to showcase some "NEO Scavenger moments" during the trailer, describing some of the more dramatic, funny, or even confusing experiences players have had. This will (hopefully) show new players what they've been missing, and why it's worth their time to take a look.

Ideally, we need examples of the following:

  • Gravity (1 sentence): What was an example of your early, pitiful death?
  • Storage (1 sentence): What was your first "eureka!" moment related to storage/carrying items in the game?
  • Triumph (1 sentence): What was your most triumphant moment in the game?
  • Unnerving (1 sentence): What was the most messed-up thing you did in the game?

The more interesting the story, the more a viewer will want to have similar experiences. But remember, it has to be short enough to fit! If it takes a paragraph to set-up and get to the point, we can't fit them all into such a short trailer.

So if you've got an interesting story to tell, post it here! I'll be monitoring each of the social channels where this is posted for feedback. And even if you don't have a story, please spread the word so we can reach others who might!

Thanks, guys!

New Shipbuilding Track, Web Update, Trailer Prep, and Taxes

Hey Folks! The parade of management tasks continues today. And despite getting to work a bright and early 1.5 hours early (thanks baby daughter!), I still managed to go a complete day without being caught-up.

Josh's latest shipbuilding track was one of the first things on the list. He sent it Monday, but I only got around to really giving it some time today. I try to listen to each track a few times to get him some useful feedback, even if I'm completely happy with it. I'm hoping that helps him recognize the bits that make the difference for me, and smooth future work.

In this case, it was the 3rd shipbuilding track. This one's another looped format, so we can start and stop at arbitrary points to get a bit more mileage out of it. And the mood is a good technical/fabrication one, suited well for the purpose. We have one more of these before turning to other soundtrack needs, such as more in-flight track variety, or some special case tracks.

The web developers made a few fixes overnight that I had to test out. And due to my overly complex business logic, I had to do a little code editing to get it just right. (Namely, differentiating what users see if they're game owners or not, combined with logged-in or not.)

Josh (Cauller) made some adjustments to the trailer script, and came up with a plan for what's next. And I think we're about to switch into high gear soon. He's off to PAX East soon, and after that, we're in the chute!

And finally, taxes. Ah, that time of year again. And always a huge crater in my productivity. And with the cross-border move last year, incorporation of the business, and a number of other complicating factors, this is going to be a profitable year for my accountant. (Which is still preferable to a stressful one where I work on taxes for weeks personally! Not to mention, probably cheaper in the long run as they know more about tax code than I.)

So another day of being Mr. Businessman. The good news is that taxes were kind of a silent time sink over the past week or two, and that should now be mostly out of my hands. The other tasks are ongoing for a while yet, but will probably also be getting lighter over time in aggregate. (Not to mention, resulting in some pretty exciting content to share!)

The days of gamedev may soon be upon me again!

Trailer, Mobile, and Web Work Continue

Hey Folks! Still a whirlwind of activity here as three of my projects converge.

I was finally able to review the demo website in more detail, and provided a list of feedback and bugs for the developers. And while I was poking around, I tried to figure out how to make edits in the various parts of the new content management system (CMS). I was starting to get pretty frustrated/disheartened as I struck-out in menu after unrelated menu until I stumbled upon the right one. This repeated a few times until I had enough little victories that I was starting to feel like I was gaining competence.

Sometimes you need a small victory before you have the confidence to try for a bigger one.

So why am I using this "confusing" CMS? Well, technically I've been using it since day 1. I just used it wrong. I hand-coded a bunch of things instead of learning the CMS, and the CMS has certain built-in ways of handling things. Think of it like your grandma only being able to open a file by launching an unrelated app, navigating to a recent file, downloading it, and opening the new icon from the desktop. That was about the level of competence I had.

Except maybe in my case, grandma wrote a .bat script to automate the above :)

On the trailer front, I finally was able to send a batch of creative assets to Josh for perusing and inspiration. And also, a more formal script review and feedback. We're considering using actual player quotes as a sort of narrative/dialogue between two characters. But one question I have is whether we can make this flow in a way that doesn't sound weird or unlike the world of NEO Scavenger.

And finally, Tiago's finished some new builds that fix several of the bugs we've identified recently. One of which is a special mute button for the music that actually bypasses loading it at all. We're going to see if this is a viable fix for really low-end devices that have no room in RAM to load music files while the game runs. And at the very least, it might be a useful field-debugging feature to see if end-user crashes are due to memory.

As I said, lots of parallel work going on! And I really dislike being the manager! I miss coding pedantic, detailed simulation systems :)

NEO Scavenger -75% at!

Good news, everyone! NEO Scavenger's on sale at, and it's the biggest discount yet!


Time to spring-clean that wallet!

For the next 5 days (plus some bonus hours), NEO Scavenger is available at the lowest price since plastic bags were sanctioned by the US Government. So if you still haven't picked up a copy, you're running out of excuses! (Except if it's not your cup of tannin tea, I guess. In which case, carry on.)

I Did It! I Did Actual Gamedev Today!

Like, in a code editor and photoshop, with debugger and config files and everything!

Actually, let me back up and apologize for yesterday's lapse in blog posts. Something I ate Wednesday decided that night it wanted to be un-eaten, and spent the next 16 hours in a staring contest with me. After a day-long diet of almost only water, it finally won, and I was able to start eating solid foods again. Interestingly, the only remaining symptoms today appear to be muscle fatigue from the vomiting. I chalk it up to an Alien: Covenant publicity stunt.

Now, back to gamedev. Which I did! I swear, it's been weeks since I've done anything involving code or pixels, and it was nice to be back. I had just enough time today tackle some tasks, and at 4:45pm, I was able to check-in my work.

It's nothing terribly exciting, mind you. Some new button art, rearranging some UI placement on the main menu, and some configuration changes. Really, some of the most pedestrian of game changes. The most exciting bit might've been some on/off display logic for user status. But even that is closer to what I signed-up for than inbox-juggling and phone-management.

I am so looking forward to the next time I can write actual game logic for days on end :)

I did some other non-gamedev stuff, too. (I mean, of course it couldn't be an all-gamedev day :) Updating some new achievement text on the stores, some more business emailing, script review for the trailer...after a day away from computers, it would've been hard to justify skipping another day of business admin responsibilities. Particularly with a weekend upon us.

And likely, Monday will see me back at the admin helm. So it was a brief fling. But on the plus side, it definitely feels like we're sewing this thing up!

Rapid-Fire Management

Hey Folks! Today was a whirlwind of activity, as more management tasks came to important junctures.

First of all, I saw the new website! Like, the actual living, breathing new site. And it looks pretty good!

It's still Blue Bottle Games. And it still has pretty much the same pages and structure. But it's been streamlined a bit, polished, and a few areas reorganized, particularly with an eye towards more games in the future.

And it does still require some work. A few cosmetic fixes, functional changes, and the email system is missing. But it's there and really real! It could be publicly available in...a month-ish?

Also, I spoke to my friends over at Digital Cyclops Productions about the upcoming trailer, and I'm starting to get excited about it. I think this is going to be fun, and importantly, in good hands! Josh is going to put together a script, and once that's ready, we'll go to work on filming. ETA about 4 weeks until ready.

Tiago's pretty sure he's found a fix for the iPhone 6 issue Josh saw the other day, so that'll be coming down the line, too. I still need to get on that UI design homework he assigned, though :)

It feels good to finally be seeing movement on pretty much all fronts. After months (close to a year!) of work and coordination, mobile is nearly done, the new site is nearly done, a new trailer will be done...April may be an interesting month!