2012 Review and 2013 Goals

And thus a new year begins! I find it interesting and useful to review my past year and set goals for the new year. Here’s last year’s post.

2012 Work Goals

I’ve been setting goals for many years now and I find that some of them I meet easily because they are important to me, but others I don’t meet. Sometimes that’s because circumstances change and perhaps a new opportunity arises. Another factor is that we change and grow during the year and sometimes our original goals aren’t as relevant any more.

I think it’s OK to take on new goals if they are right for you even if it means ditching some other goals. Of course this must be done in moderation otherwise you could end up constantly changing goals and never meeting any!

So how did I get on?

1) Ship Eets Munchies in the Spring(ish). Working on this as Producer/Designer/Script monkey with Klei Entertainment and Alex Vostrov. (FAILED. It didn’t ship in the Spring or Summer or even at all this year! The project went slowly, grew in complexity, and goals changed, all of which contributed to the delay. Also I moved continent in the summer (more on this later), and as of December I’ve stopped working on the project and Klei is finishing it off in-house)

2) Make $250K+ and pay off a large chunk of UK mortgage. (FAILED. Because Eets didn’t ship, meeting this goal was tough. However, I did still make a good sum of money from Eets and my own projects, although unfortunately there isn’t much spare due to the cost of moving back to the UK. We may still be able to make a small extra payment towards the mortgage though, which will be the first time I’ve done that since buying a house in 2000.)

3) Make an “indie” game. (might only be a small Flash game, might be something larger) (PART SUCCESS. I made Dying To Live at the Full Indie gamejam in the summer and then improved it some more after the jam. I plan to keeping working on it and release more levels with more game mechanics/puzzles, so that’s why I’m only calling this a part success.)

4) Make a new casual game (working as Producer/Designer whilst someone else does the rest using my existing engine). (FAILED. I got the ball rolling on this; I had a developer lined up, sent him my engine and designed the game but after a long delay he said that his life situation had changed and he couldn’t make the game. Shame, as I was looking forward to working with him, but it wasn’t to be. I do plan to get the game made in 2013 though!)

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. (PART SUCCESS due to shipping Spring Bonus. I contacted BFG at the end of 2011 about publishing Spring Bonus but they spent a long time getting back to me properly, and when they did I realised that there wouldn’t be enough time to ship it by Easter. Luckily I made contact with Hothead Games and they published it quickly on iOS and Android (including Nook and Kindle). However, the game wasn’t a huge success and Hothead were kind enough to give us back the publishing rights so we can try again. I’ll see if BFG will roll with it this year and if not then I’ll self-publish. Oz did not ship but should do in 2013.)

6) Make at least 3 jam games. (PART SUCCESS. I made two. Was part of a GGJ team in January, and made Dying To Live in the Summer. I could have made another during a Ludum Dare compo, but failed for a variety of reasons, which was a bit lame. This will change massively in 2013, see my new goals for details!)

7) Do some Game Design consultancy work on great projects (have a couple lined up already) (SUCCESS. I helped out Zeros to Heroes with a game called Animism and also Anawiki Games with a new casual game that is going to be released imminently. Originally my involvement with Eets Munchies was going to just be design consultancy but it grew into a lot more than that, so I could include that. I also have some more consultancy work lined up for 2013.)

8 ) Complete secret project in January or February. (FAILED. OK I’ll come clean on this one. During the summer of 2011 I lined up some games for an indie bundle and got someone to help with a basic site, and then sat on it for a while due to other commitments. By the time I was ready to finish and execute this it was November and all of a sudden there was a glut of bundles that has never stopped since. I thought I’d wait until early 2012 to see if there were less bundles, but if anything there were more! We could still do this, but I’m worried that bundles have (mostly) had their day and this one would just get lost in the noise…)

Success rate = 2.5 out of 8 (part success is counted as 0.5) = 32%. Not great but a bit better than last year!

2012 Personal Goals

1) Do lots of walking and do the Grouse Grind in under an hour. (PART SUCCESS. Certainly did lots of walking which was great, also bike riding in the woods which was awesome. Only did the Grind once though (with friends) and it wasn’t under an hour like in my glory days)

2) Continue to improve on guitar and post something on Youtube. (SUCCESS. Yep, I definitely improved my guitar a lot, both acoustic and electric, and I posted this video of me playing a bit of Peter Green stuff.)

3) Do one or more road trips in Canada/US. (SUCCESS. Did two epic road trips! 1 week on Vancouver Island, which was amazing, and later on 3 weeks driving all around BC (3000+ km). At the end of July we emptied our house and shipped our stuff back to the UK and all we had left was a car with our clothes etc. in it. Then we proceeded to drive all over the place including up round Whistler via Pemberton, Osoyoos, The Rockies (camped there), Kimberley (where we sold our car to friends). It was a hugely memorable trip in stunningly beautiful world-class scenery. Highly recommended.)

4) Have a great relaxing summer with my family. (SUCCESS. I was still working on Eets, which I had planned to finish by the summer, so it wasn’t as completely relaxing as I’d have liked, but it was still pretty good. Being an indie meant I could choose to go outside on sunny days or sit on the porch and play the guitar.)

5) Play a bunch of the games I have stockpiled on Steam :-) (SUCCESS. I didn’t play a ton of games, but I did have great fun. Unfortunately my Steam stockpile has probably grown not shrunk in 2012 (mostly with indie games), although I suspect I may not be alone in that.)

Success rate = 4.5/5 = 90%. Wow, well I guess I did pretty well at meeting my personal needs in 2012! If I combine that with my work goals, the combined result is 54% which is more respectable.

Bonus Points

Here are some other things I did that I’m proud of:

- At the end of 2011 I localised Holiday Bonus to a bunch of languages and got it on some new portals. Then I did the same with Oz in January 2012. These projects weren’t mentioned anywhere as specific goals but so far that work has generated $37,000 and it will keep going up! So, for an ad-hoc goal, I think it was pretty successful.

- I got the portals to re-promote Spring Bonus and it made another $18K on PC/Mac in 2012, which is nice.

- I had a sudden inspiration to make Holiday Bonus Gold at the end of November, and I quickly did the work and got it shipped on several portals (as a new game on some and an update on others), and on iOS/Android with the help of Sturdy Games who did the port. I haven’t received any sales figures yet from the portals but I think this has breathed some new life into the game and should generate some pretty good revenue for what amounted to 49 hours of work spread over a couple of weeks).

- I moved back to the UK. Making the decision to move back was not an easy one and there were many factors at play. Moving a family of 4 and a cat to another continent is a huge undertaking, but luckily it all went well, although it did cost a fortune in terms of a) lost revenue, b) shipping costs, and c) buying stuff for the new house including a car. Now I’m settled back in my old house in my old office I feel really at home and ready to tackle some awesome stuff in 2013.

- Full Indie in Vancouver was going really well when I left Canada. The meetups always fill up with 100 indies with 100 more on the waiting list, which is a pretty good indicator of success. I had a great time running it with Alex Vostrov and the other organisers and I miss going to the meetups dearly.

- Got my photo taken with the actors who played Q, Worf, and Deanna Troi in Star Trek: TNG. Pretty hyped about that :-)

- Met a bunch of cool Mojang people and their friends at their epic party during GDC in San Francisco. The whole of FGS/IGS/GDC was really great, met loads of nice indies.

- Reconnected with some British Indies and met some new ones since moving back to the UK.

- Improved my uber-spreadsheet that logs the sales/revenue from all my games/projects and made some blog posts that proved popular on Twitter (I now have over 2400 followers). It feels good to be blogging a bit more so expect to see more interesting posts in 2013.

2013 Goals

Work goals:

1) Ship Titan Attacks port for iOS.
2) Expand Dying To Live and ship as a Flash game.
3) Ship a new casual game developed by me. Probably a match-3 again. Have already planned several so it’s a case of picking one and running with it.
4) Ship a new casual game that I’m helping another developer with.
5) Ship Oz mobile, hopefully with BFG publishing it.
6) Relaunch Spring Bonus mobile.
7) Maybe make another GOLD game, probably Oz GOLD. This can be a bonus goal.
8 ) Complete the #onegameamonth challenge. Ideally this will be 12 completely new indie games and the other stuff listed above will be extra.

Personal goals:

1) Visit Vancouver in the Summer. I hope that Full Indie will run another game jam and, if so, I’ll fly over and spend some time with my good friends that I miss a lot.
2) Improve my guitar playing some more and put at least one video on youtube.
3) Make some electronica now I have my MIDI keyboard set up again. Probably I’ll make some music to use on my own mini-games.
4) Boost my Aikido club membership now that I’m running the local club again.
5) Set up Full Indie UK! This will be a meetup group for indies like the one I co-founded in Vancouver.
6) Explore the UK and possibly Europe some more in the summer.
7) Make a dent in my indie game collection and my Steam game collection.
8 ) Loose some weight and boost my fitness to and beyond previous levels.

2012 Mistakes

Perhaps the most important part of my review is acknowledging my mistakes and figuring out what lessons I’ve learned from them:

- Shipping Spring Bonus on mobile has been tough. I was working with a company in Vancouver to get it shipped in 2011 but that didn’t work out and I’ve learned some things from that. Then working with another developer to get it done for Spring 2012 was stressful due to the extra stuff we needed to get done in order for Hothead to be able to publish it and the porter was only able to work on it part-time. Also it was a shame that Big Fish Games didn’t publish it as I believe they would have been able to reach a good audience, but the timing of me contacting them during an internal reshuffle of their mobile department and me changing devs for the port just didn’t work out. So I’ve learned to have seasonal stuff totally ready WAY in advance of the ship date (well I knew this anyway from past experiences but thought I could make this one happen more smoothly; but hey, shit happens.) Also I’m beginning to come around to the idea of doing mobile ports myself (to avoid any 3rd party delays) especially now that I’m more experienced with what is involved and my Monkey (cross-platform language) framework is coming along nicely. However, I’m also considering not focussing too much on mobile in 2013 as a recent analysis of my revenue showed that 91% of it comes from PC…

- When I agreed to help with Eets Munchies in 2011 it was supposed to be in a producer/designer role in order to update it and get it out quickly. However, my involvement grew beyond that through necessity due to the parameters of the project changing and I spent a lot longer on it than I was comfortable with, which meant I wasn’t able to work on my own stuff. Also two friends were involved in the project and when you work with friends your relationship can change in ways that don’t always feel great. Then, just as the project had good momentum and seemed close to completion, I had to move back to the UK which threw a bit of a spanner/wrench in the works. I don’t feel good about having to stop working on it as I’d have liked to have seen my commitment through to the end but it just wasn’t possible in a simple way. I did learn a lot working on the project and enjoyed the design challenge and found it interesting to see how other people approached things. Also seeing people playtesting it was great! I’m sure that Klei will finish it off very nicely and it’ll do well in 2013; I wish them all the best with it! I’ve learned not to involve myself in other people’s projects beyond some basic design consultancy unless I know for sure that the project has a small scope and won’t take up too much of my time (not always easy to gauge at the start!)

- Was moving back to the UK a mistake? Perhaps the timing of it was but we had to for family reasons and other complex reasons that I won’t go into. I have many great friends in Vancouver and loved the city and surrounding area. We got used to living there pretty well after nearly 4 years and it was a huge shame to say goodbye. What would have happened if I’d stayed? Well that’s an alternate reality now from my perspective :-) Still, it costs less to live here in my house in the UK, my house is a lot nicer than I could afford to rent over there, and West Dorset is also a beautiful area. I am very isolated from other indies though, so thank goodness for Facebook/Twitter and the various game dev-related conferences/meetups that go on all year round.

- I didn’t make enough of my own mini-games and didn’t ship any commercial indie games which I have been meaning to do since I went indie again in January 2011. This is a pretty big fail but I’m now in a good position to make this happen in 2013 and that’s why I’ve committed to the One Game a Month thing. If I hadn’t moved continent (and spent a long time settling in) and if I hadn’t spent time on mobile ports then perhaps I’d have succeeded in making more mini/indie games, although I may have just spent more time working on Eets.

- Still failed to scan the photos of my dad who passed away in 2010 and digitise his music. I’ve been playing his guitars a lot though, which is cool. If he hadn’t passed away, I probably wouldn’t have spent all the extra time I did over the last couple of years playing guitar…

- I put on weight after returning to the UK through a combination of not having a standing desk any more (something I’ll be correcting very soon) and enjoying eating all the English food that I’d missed over in Canada. Pretty sure I can fix this in 2013 with an improved diet and some more exercise, I’ve done it before.

And that, my friends, is it! It’s been a weird year but pretty good on the whole and I have a good feeling about 2013.

I wish you all lots of success in 2013.

Please tell me about your year in the comments.

4 Responses to “2012 Review and 2013 Goals”

  1. Leo Says:

    wow that are a lot of goals! My list of goals is somewhat smaller with the most important one being “Ship my first game” :-) I find having too many goals only distract you from your main goal.
    Anyways I wish you great success for 2013!

  2. Jake Birkett Says:

    Good luck with shipping Leo, I’m sure you will. Well yes it’s a lot of goals but they are mostly linear so I can just work through them as the year progresses which is fine.

  3. ApLai-Lai Says:

    I recommend expanding to BlackBerry Playbook ports; Sure it’s a small niche market, but I heartell RIM can convert from Android ports & you’ll have considerably less competition. & make another solitaire game; All the Bigfish customers disappointed by the sequel/remake & all the other lackluster solitaire games that fall short on your original Fairway’s delivery will jump on it. Unwell Mel was really popular, maybe for it’s strange sounds, sense of humor, comparatively unique theme, & the “holy crap, it could take months for me to actually beat this game” sensation that turned it into a welcomed daily addiction. The games don’t actually need to have months of gameplay, but just be difficult enough that winning isn’t a cakewalk. I’d like to see Dieing to Live give you brain a little workout with some long tricky levels that are easy to mess up so I have to really think about how to pass each level. Or enemies & traps would work too.

  4. Grey Alien Games Says:

    Thanks for your comment. Well it’s doubtfull I’ll try out blackberry playbook because I’m fed up with wasting time on ports on devices with crappy performing sales e.g. Android, WP7, XBLIG (even iOS to a certain extent!) My main focus for commercial games will be PC for sure now. Glad you liked Fairway and Unwell Mel. There is a new card game in the works. Also yeah I’ll spend more time on Dying to Live. It’s tricky to know whether to make it fiendishly hard or a pleasant easy to finish game as there are people out there who want different things.