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 GOG.com!

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

IMAGE(http://bluebottlegames.com/img/screenshots/screenshot-2017-03-06.png)

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!

Website Preview? And More Biz Admin

Hey Folks! Another busy day of phoning, emailing, and accounting. I finally started digging into tax documents for 2016, and it's going to be another "fun" year :)

In more exciting news, Josh (video trailer Josh) may have found our first official bug! I'm not counting the billions of bugs Tiago and I found during internal testing, of course. It appears his iPhone 6 has zoom/cropping issues making the game hard to play. Since neither Tiago nor I have that particular handset, this is a good thing. It means we've detected it before an actual customer with that screen size and/or device pays money only to find it breaking!

And in even more exciting news, the website is ready! (?) Or close. I think, anyway.

The Jibe emailed me to let me know the new site is ready to demo, so I have a call with them tomorrow afternoon to review. I'm sure we still have some stuff to sort out (not the least of which is email servers). But this is pretty cool! I figured it was a ways off yet before I'd see the new site. Looking forward to it!

I guess we'll know what I think of it in tomorrow's news :)

Email Frenzy

Hey Folks! Hope everyone had a good weekend. I apologize for the missed news post on Friday. We took possession of our new home, and well, if you've ever bought a home before, you know firsthand what kind of blast radius that has on your schedule :) Needless to say, this is going to be an interesting next couple of weeks.

When I wasn't hauling garbage, cleaning, or stuck in traffic, I've been constantly on the phone or emailing. Between the upcoming mobile game launch and the house, I'm suddenly the hub of dozens of communications streams.

The game trailer is a "go," and we'll be kicking that off in the following week. I've already started accumulating potential notes, quotes, and ideas with Joshua, and I'm hoping it turns out as cool as we think it sounds. Should be quite an upgrade over the old, 2012 one!

Tiago's got the achievements up and running again, and identified some new UI elements I need to create. Plus, some UI stuff that can be hidden on mobile needs hiding.

I had another afternoon wrestling with Apple's iTunes procedures, as I try to advance the build status to the next ready/review state. I swear, there have got to be hundreds of steps involved, many of which I accidentally discover along the way. I don't think I could've done this on my own. (Thanks, Tiago!)

The future likely holds more of the same. I have some achievement stuff to integrate into Tiago's code changes, new button graphics and UI layouts to do, and then another metric boatload of emails and decisions to make.

You know when you're a kid, and you think about what it's like being an adult with a grown-up job? You picture getting up early in the morning, getting the newspaper, and then sitting down to a desk to start making "important decisions and phone calls?" Except, as a kid, you can't imagine what the heck all those decisions and calls would be, and how could they be that hard?

I found myself thinking about that this afternoon. And as a kid, I think I would've been like, "oh, I see. That's actually not exciting or fun at all." My to-do list literally looks like:

  • Pay one guy for work done
  • Review a contract.
  • Sign contract and send it back.
  • Send down payment to different guy for work started.
  • Call the bank to complain about payment system malfunctioning
  • Pay self, and withhold taxes.
  • Briefly wring hands about upcoming game launch revenue.
  • Feel better knowing people are asking about said game launch all the time.
  • Figure out which IRS forms I have to file to remit my withheld income taxes
  • Send those IRS forms in, along with remittance.
  • Figure out which forms I need to send to my tax accountant.
  • Send said forms to accountant.
  • Review list of old and possibly dead URLs on website.
  • Inform web developers of said dead URLs
  • Review list of issues and bugs for game project, looking for which has priority.
  • Send email to developer confirming plan for the week.
  • Reply to some fan/social/press emails.
  • Take a few moments to envy those that went to GDC and PAX.
  • Email videographer about some footage I need.
  • Write daily news post.
  • Fail to post news due to 403 error.
  • Start bisecting my post for the magic text that broke the site.

Somewhere in that list, I'll clear a bit of time to actually open coding or art applications and do "actual work." But man, running a business is not sexy at all.

I think the one thing helping me put up with it is knowing it'll all calm down in a while. Once the game is out, I'll still be busy with support and press. But there will come a quieter time where I get to sit down and code the space game. Make systems and worlds. Tinker in my shop, and show off glimpses from time-to-time. Oh how I yearn for those days :)

Memory Lane

Hey Folks! Despite not touching an ounce of code today, it actually felt pretty productive. Not having errands really helped :)

First order of business was to get trailer inspiration and materials together for Josh to digest. Since a live action establishing shot is on the table, I collected some of the old cosplay photos as well as the PAX East photos, for reference. I also started digging through old quotes, reviews, and other commentary on the game for hallmark moments.

This led to me re-reading the RPGCodex NEO Scavenger thread. And as I mentioned on Twitter, what a nostalgia trip that was.

The thread begins as NEO Scavenger is in early beta. Still just a baby Flash game and an unknown quantity. It evolves into a desktop game, gets more and more features, until it becomes recognizably what it is today. And it all happens over the course of about 30-60 minutes of reading. Multiple years of work crammed into a dozen pages of funny anecdotes, feature discussion, and some hilarious fan art.

Got me itching to start an NS2 project to add new features. But I had to slap my own wrist before starting, because I have homework to finish first!

I've sent over that idea-fodder to Josh, and I'm awaiting his feedback.

In other (unrelated) Josh news, the latest spaceship editing track is a "go," after a few dedicated listens. This one feels a bit like a mix of 80s and 90s sci-fi music. Technical, yet ambient and unobstrusive, like reviewing schematics.

And while we're on the topic of 80s sci-fi, it appears the new Alien: Covenant Prologue debuted today. Talk about setting the tone. It feels more like the original, and close to how I'd like the new space game to feel. Banter in the breakroom, and blue collar industrial. Maybe I'll figure out a way to see this one before it's out on DVD :)

Trailer Kick-Off, and Errands

Hey Folks! Bit of a light news day today, as most of it was spent in various meeting rooms and banks. Necessary errands, unfortunately, but at least they were one-time things and are done with now.

On to the exciting stuff!

I had a phone call with Josh Cauller (note: not Josh Culler of NEO Scavenger's OST), and we discussed preliminary ideas and notes about the new mobile trailer. So far, it's pretty exciting! My homework is to collect some of the more interesting and share-worthy story bites from fans to see if there are things we can portray in the trailer. Hooks that grab the viewer's interest and create a context for the UI shots that will follow and show the game in action.

Meanwhile, Joshua is going to assemble a couple of proposals for the trailer treatment, and we'll go over each to see if any stick.

I already have some ideas as to stories I'm most often told by new players. The hallmark moments many fans seem to go through and mention. (E.g. realizing plastic bags are treasure, and the first time it breaks to name two) But there are likely many I'm forgetting, too.

Also, I noticed Josh (yes, this time the other Josh :) sent over his latest composition for the spaceship editing screen. So I'll have to check that out tomorrow.

So I guess there are some exciting developments after all, just not a lot I can take credit for :) Hopefully, I can do something more useful tomorrow!

All Cylinders

Hey Folks! Hope everyone had a good weekend. We had the pleasure of playing Pandemic Legacy with some friends the other day. Interesting evolution of the boardgame! Almost feels like a really structured (rules) role-playing campaign session. So far, a couple rioting cities, 1 scarred character, and an incurable disease, and we've only finished January.

Tiago's still hammering out the achievements code, as well as sniping smaller bugs here and there. Things are still looking pretty good on that front. The game is mostly ready for public consumption, and I'm turning my attention outward to some public-facing assets.

First on that list is a trailer. I've decided to have one professionally done, and I'm speaking with the producer tomorrow. His enthusiasm is already a welcome addition, as I think both Tiago and I are wearing down a bit. And having some eye-candy at the tail end will be a nice reward for all the hard work :)

Also, the website team has kicked into high gear, as their developers begin implementation of the designs. This could mean a new site up and running in the foreseeable future! Unknown yet if this will time well with the mobile launch, but if there's room for coordinating, that's definitely worth adjusting for.

And apart from those, our lease ends next month, so we're prepping for yet another move. We toured the property today, and all appears well. So next steps are to get things moving.

As a result, I may be slow to respond at times as things get taken care of. I'll still be able to check-in fairly regularly, and even work normal days much of the time. But I may disappear suddenly. Just a heads-up: this is normal :)

Anyway, it's nice to see things finally taking-off all around me. Feels like Blue Bottle Games is shifting into a new phase!

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