Archive for December, 2011

2011 Review and 2012 Goals

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

ShatnerAndJake

It’s that time again when I like to review how I got on with my goals for the year and set new goals for next year. Last year I had about a 70% success rate, but this year the success rate wasn’t so good for a variety of reasons that I’ll discuss at the end of this post.

2011 Goals Review

Here’s what happened to my 2011 goals:

1) Have great fun making Indie games for the entire year. (FAILED. Haven’t made a single commercial “indie” game. Made a casual game and 3 free games, did a bunch of ports of my older IP and started work on a big project. I’m OK with how it turned out though.)

2) Do some design consultancy for backend royalties. (PART SUCCESS. Most of this is still in the pipeline and due in 2012.)

3) Make at least $100K (I’ll aim relatively low for my first year back in the driving seat). (FAILED. Earned about $79K. That’s gross revenue so it’s before the cost of making games/running a business and, of course, tax. A small amount of that money is from my last month at Big Fish Games. Plus I lost money on the stock market .)

4) Build up the Vancouver Indie Meetup into something even more awesome. (SUCCESS! At last a success. The group has been awesome this year for sure and continues to amaze me.)

5) Finish my Toastmasters CC manual (4 speeches to go) – I took a break when things got crazy earlier in the year. (FAILED. Didn’t even go back for a variety of reasons. I’d still like to go again but I find myself speaking at game-related events quite often anyway.)

6) Keep fit and beat my Grouse Grind time of 56 mins. (PART SUCCESS. Didn’t do the Grouse Grind at all, but did do lots of walking and stayed fit and ate healthy in the Spring/Summer/Fall. Have rather let myself go this Christmas though, ahem.)

7) Go to Hawaii (FAILED. Just didn’t have the cash plus my wife got really ill for months, which is one reason why many things this year failed. Did go to England for my sister’s wedding though.)

8 ) Have an awesome Spring/Summer with my family in Vancouver and go on some roadtrips. (PART SUCCESS. Hmm. I did enjoy parts the summer because I was indie and on my own schedule so could go outside when it was sunny, but we didn’t go and do many things because my wife was super ill as I mentioned above. I also got depressed/burned out and didn’t do any work for months. This was very weird for me. We did go on an epic 2200km roadtrip in BC at the end of the summer though!)

9) Move back to the UK and have some money in the bank when I arrive. (FAILED. A friend offered to help me get residency here, which I thought I had no chance of getting as an indie. So currently my work permit is extended and the residency thing seems to be progressing well. There is some money in my company bank account, which is nice, but not much. So although I failed to go back to England, I don’t mind at all because there’s lots going on for me right now here in Vancouver.)

So in summary, uh lots of failures. Only a 28% success rate. Really not my best year for a bunch of reasons, although it did start well and has ended well. However things are lining up for a great 2012!

Bonus Points

Some other things I did that I’m proud of include (in no particular order):

- Made 3 mini-games via 48-hour jams (GGJ, Full Indie Jam, Ludum Dare #22) and started another one I aim to finish off at some point.
- Shipped 10 different versions of Holiday Bonus to mobile and web during 1 week!
- Spoke on a panel at PAX Dev and Casual Connect about being indie + at other local events.
- Began work on a great project with Klei Entertainment.
- Reached over 150,000 units sold for all my games.
- Continued to build the Grey Alien Games name via Twitter, Facebook, Blog, speaking and networking.
- Spring Bonus (my 7th casual game) turned out well and has made as much revenue as Holiday Bonus in under a year.
- Got Holiday Bonus and Oz on several new portals, shipped Holiday Bonus in 8 new languages, and did the groundwork for shipping localised versions of Oz in early 2012.
- Got a Provincial Nomination which means that the Canadian Government thinks I’m “worthy” and should help my family get residency here.
- Improved my acoustic guitar playing some more and brought my electric up from the basement so I play it more often.
- Looked after my family and the house whilst my wife was ill during the Spring/Summer.
- Was around much more for my kids this year.
- Deepened my friendships with some great indies.
- I got my photo taken with Shatner, and 3 other Star Trek actors!

2012 Goals

Work goals:

1) Ship Eets Munchies in the Spring(ish). Working on this as Producer/Designer/Script monkey with Klei Entertainment and Alex Vostrov.
2) Make $250K+ and pay off a large chunk of UK mortgage.
3) Make an “indie” game. (might only be a small Flash game, might be something larger)
4) Make a new casual game (working as Producer/Designer whilst someone else does the rest using my existing engine).
5) Ship Spring Bonus and Oz on iOS/Android and maybe more platforms. Ideally BFG will publish both because my own mobile marketing success is poor.
6) Make at least 3 jam games.
7) Do some Game Design consultancy work on great projects (have a couple lined up already)
8 ) Complete secret project in January or February.

Personal goals:

1) Do lots of walking and do the Grouse Grind in under an hour.
2) Continue to improve on guitar and post something on Youtube.
3) Do one or more road trips in Canada/US.
4) Have a great relaxing summer with my family.
5) Play a bunch of the games I have stockpiled on Steam :-)

2011 Mistakes

I like to be honest with myself about how I’ve screwed up each year so that I can learn some lessons and keep on improving. Here’s a few “lowlights”:

- I didn’t buy my Big Fish Games options when I left, then later in the year they paid out a dividend to everyone who had them. I didn’t buy them because I really needed to money to survive and to invest in Spring Bonus (which has yielded a 10x return so far).

- When I was working extremely long hours to finish Spring Bonus on time my wife became really ill. In fact on the day I was supposed to ship it I had stayed up until 9am working on it, slept for only 1 hour, and was just finishing it off when my wife said I had to take her to the hospital urgently. I was sleep-deprived and stressed about the game and then my wife’s health was like the world’s biggest straw on my camel’s back. It was one of the toughest days of my life. We found out my wife was pretty darn ill and she had surgery which failed, and then she had chemotherapy all summer. This meant she couldn’t work, and we ate up our savings at an alarming rate, although a friend was kind enough to help us out a bit financially. Also I couldn’t work much because I had to look after the kids and the house and my wife. The good news is that she has now finished her treatment and has recovered and has been working again; so life has returned to “normal”. This whole thing wasn’t really a “mistake” but it had a major impact on the year and my goals.

- After I finished Spring Bonus I felt totally burned out. I wasn’t just burned out from Spring Bonus, but also from working at Big Fish Games for the previous 2 years. Plus my wife’s ill health, our money worries, and uncertainty about where we were going to be living (UK or Canada) all added up to a huge mindfrak. I got depressed, although I didn’t admit it to myself until later on, and did virtually no work all summer. I moped around, played the guitar a lot, and considered giving up working in games altogether. At first I was worried about not doing any work, then I took some St John’s wort pills (a natural anti-depressant), and then I stopped caring about not doing any work and quite enjoyed parts of the summer. But I knew that I couldn’t carry on like that, so I stopped the pills and starting drinking coke, which somehow motivated me to get going on a bunch of projects, and now I’m pretty much fine (and have given up the coke). Strangely it helps that it’s crappy weather outside because I don’t mind working inside all day. It was a very strange time for me, one that I’m not keen to repeat.

- I haven’t made any games all year “for me” apart from a couple of minigames. When I went indie again I wanted to change tactic and make “indie” games and do stuff I was really into. I haven’t yet done that, although I’m proud of Spring Bonus and think the project I’m working on with Klei is going to turn out great. But I still have that major urge to make something for me that I’m going to have to deal with soon…

- I still haven’t sorted through the photos of my dad, who passed away in 2010, and processed his recordings (he was a musician). I still can’t handle listening to his voice or looking at photos of him. I was planning to do that this year and spend a week or so dealing with it all because I figured it would make me pretty emotional, but I’ve had quite a lot of my own stuff to deal with instead. I can feel that I’ve got some stuff locked up in me that I need to let out at some point, and the sooner the better.

So there you have it. Life certainly is filled with ups and downs! Here’s to hoping that 2012 has a few more ups.

I wish you all the best in 2012. Happy New Year!

Try Holiday Bonus for free!

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

appstoreicon rounded Lite

You can now try out our popular match-3 game, Holiday Bonus, for free!

We’ve just released a Lite version on multiple platforms as follows:

iPhone (Lite)
iPad (HD Lite)
Android phone (Lite)
Android tablet (HD Lite)
Windows Phone 7 (Lite)
Online Version (contains HD levels)

Of course you can still try out the classic game for PC/Mac too:

PC Demo
Mac Demo

Please tell your friends and family about this delightful relaxing Christmas-themed game. Thanks!

screenshot 800x600 2 screenshot 800x600 1

Always Alone – New Minigame

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

alwaysalone

Last weekend was the Ludum Dare #22 48-hour game jam and I made game and entered it into the competition.

I used a new language called Monkey which is by the makers of BlitzMax (which I used for most of my casual download games), so it was fairly familiar. However there were still many basic things that I had to figure out, so the weekend was almost more about learning Monkey and beginning to make a basic framework/engine as making the actual game. Because Monkey is cross-platform I kept building the game in HTML 5 because it was quick to test and then I made the final build in Flash so that people could get instant access to it online and it would be nice and fast.

The theme for the game jam was “Alone” and I decided I wanted to make a game that had a proper story because in the past my minigames haven’t every done that. In fact none of my games have ever really had a story.

The game tells a story about a boy/man named Jim and his journey through life and is an extrapolation of feelings that I sometimes get (and many other people have since commented that they feel the same too sometimes). The game starts off lighthearted but the tone changes towards the end (level 4), so don’t play if you are easily depressed. If you feel the need to cheat, you can press J to Jump to the end of the level.

Anyway, here it is.

Always Alone (Free online game)

I hope you like it – please tell me what you thought in the comments!