Archive for the ‘Plans’ Category

2013 Review and 2014 Goals

Thursday, January 2nd, 2014

Every year I set myself work and personal goals and then I review how well I did at the end of the year. Here’s last year’s post.

In this post I’ll review how well I did with 2013 goals, discuss extra cool stuff that happened, set 2014 goals, and review my big mistakes of the year.

In summary though, this year has been pretty damn awesome. Probably the best year in at least 5 years. I’ve really enjoyed being back in my house in the UK after living in Canada for 4 years. It’s a great house in a lovely area and we’ve fixed and improved various things around the house, which feels good. Also my workspace is really good, just how I want it. The main success of the year was Spooky Bonus, which turned out to be a much-needed hit game. I’ll do a proper postmortem on it in February or thereabouts. Also my family life has been very nice and things just seem to be going well for a change after a few difficult years.

2013 Work Goals

1) Ship Titan Attacks port for iOS. (FAILED: I’ve made good progress on the port but due to desperate finances at times, other projects and, if I’m honest, slackness on my part, it didn’t ship. It will ship very soon though.)

2) Expand Dying To Live and ship as a Flash game. (SUCCESS: Yep, I did this and you can play it here. It now has more mechanics and 10 levels. I actually originally planned to put in at least 20 levels, more mechanics and get sponsorship for it, but the bottom has fallen out of the Flash sponsorship market and so I just shipped it as one of my #onegameamonth games instead.)

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. (MASSIVE SUCCESS: Downloadable casual games for PC/Mac have been my bread and butter for years and so this summer when I got desperate for cash I made Spooky Bonus in about 3 months. I managed to get a lot of things right with this game and it turned out to be a massive hit and even won “Best holiday-themed game” on Big Fish Games and best match-3 game on another site. It’s given my company a much-needed cash-injection that will help me to go into 2014 in much less of a financial panic than normal.)

4) Ship a new casual game that I’m helping another developer with. FAILED: This didn’t happen. I was too busy and he was too busy with other stuff. It might still happen but I’m going to remove it from my goals list for now. Weirdly, I have ended up helping another developer with a casual game and that should ship in early 2014.)

5) Ship Oz mobile, hopefully with BFG publishing it. (SUCCESS: It shipped! I haven’t had much luck with BFG publishing my mobile games despite them publishing all my PC/Mac games, and now they only want Free 2 Play games, which I don’t make. So in the end GameHouse published the iOS version and they were great. I’d recommend partnering with them if you have a suitable casual game for mobile.)

6) Relaunch Spring Bonus mobile. (SUCCESS: Yep, we did this. The relaunch involved putting it on the App Store myself this time and that meant setting up IAP stuff (for extra levels, not evil stuff) on my iTunes account and some rejigging of various code which Damien Sturdy did. It was published by Appy Nation and they were great to work with – very indie friendly and no-nonsense. The game got featured in Europe and weirdly appeared in “What’s Hot” for a week during December!)

7) Maybe make another GOLD game, probably Oz GOLD. This can be a bonus goal. (FAILED: Didn’t do this and don’t think I ever will despite the success of Holiday Bonus GOLD. I just want to focus on new games instead. As this was a bonus goal I won’t include it in my success ratio for the year (see below.))

8 ) Complete the #onegameamonth challenge. Ideally this will be 12 completely new indie games and the other stuff listed above will be extra. SUCCESS: Yep, I did it, I shipped 12 games in 2013!! In fact I “won” #onegameamonth in that I got the highest XP of 7000 devs who took part :-O. I tried to make sure that every entry was a good quality entry and not a rushed game. I also made sure that none of my games were ports from earlier games in the year, or slightly enhanced versions, or something like that. My profile links were fully completed, with art, music, game uploads where applicable instead of just shell accounts. I met all of the themes solidly and there was no ambiguity or cheating. I also met every one of the various achievements except for using Rami’s PressKit() thing. I could have slacked off on any of those points, but it’s important that I put quality into everything I do and if I was going to win it, I wanted to be satisfied with that win and not to beat someone else who deserved it more by doing a crap job. So yeah, I’m immensely proud of this and it was great fun too as well as a learning exercise. It was very TOUGH though to keep banging out a game a month and I’m not sure I’ll do it this year as I need to focus on my main work, although I’ll probably still do a few gamejams.)

Success rate = 5 out of 7 = 71%. Much better than last year and two of those successes were pretty huge (3 and 8). Note that goal 7 was optional and thus not included in the calculation.

2013 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. (SUCCESS: I didn’t visit until September but the weather was still great and I went on an epic road trip to The Rockies.)

2) Improve my guitar playing some more and put at least one video on youtube. (SUCCESS: I feel like I really improved my electric blues playing this year and I posted several videos on youtube like this one. In fact I even gigged 3 times with a friend!)

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. (PART-SUCCESS: I did make a couple of pieces of music that I put into a minigame but I didn’t do enough this year.)

4) Boost my Aikido club membership now that I’m running the local club again. (SUCCESS: Club membership has been boosted and stablised. Not by much but it’s a start.)

5) Set up Full Indie UK! This will be a meetup group for indies like the one I co-founded in Vancouver. (SUCCESS: Yep I did this! Here’s the website. In February I became Chief of Best of British, an existing UK-based indie group, and then when my 6 month term expired I offered to continue running it but as Full Indie UK instead. Everyone liked what I had been doing and supported me in the changeover and so it happened! Since then we’ve held several meetups and will be doing even more cool stuff in 2014.)

6) Explore the UK and possibly Europe some more in the summer. (PART-SUCCESS: We did quite a lot of local exploring including Dartmoor and Sherborne Castle as well as lots of local walks, but not enough. This was partly due to me working most of the summer on Spooky Bonus. More effort will be put in during 2014!)

7) Make a dent in my indie game collection and my Steam game collection. (PART-SUCCESS: I’m mostly too busy to play long AAA games these days but I did manage to complete a few old ones like F.E.A.R. and RAGE. I did play quite a few indie games – however, they weren’t ones from my backlog but rather ones that I bought (often due to recommendations) and played immediately. My indie game backlog did also grow a bit too but I’ve mostly stopped buying and hording games now because it’s getting ridiculous.)

8 ) Loose some weight and boost my fitness to and beyond previous levels. FAILED: I did actually loose some weight for most of the year and got reasonably fit in the summer with lots of walking and cycling, but then I put all the weight back on this Christmas, sigh. Still, at least I didn’t get any fatter.

Success rate = 5.5/8 = 69%. (note that part-successes are counted as 0.5) Not too bad. Overall I feel I had a good life/work balance this year.

Bonus Points

OK what other cool stuff did I do this year?

- I managed to get Spooky Bonus on some major new portals and some smaller ones and then I got them to take my older games too, which will generate some nice extra revenue.

- I made a couple of retail deals for German versions of my older games. Wasn’t big money but was nice.

- I made some more UK indie developer friends and hung out with old friends.

- I got a government grant from GamesLab South West (Creative England) for my next game. This is pretty damn awesome, but was hard work to get.

- As well as lots of small home repairs/improvements we renovated a room in our house to make an office for my wife who is helping with my next game as a researcher/writer/administrator.

- At the beginning of the year I made some digital artwork with a mouse, then bought a new tablet and made even better artwork. You can see it here. I surprised myself with what I was capable of and enjoyed it immensely. It was very time consuming though and fell to the wayside but I hope to pick it up again in 2014.

- I got awarded 3rd Dan in Aikido for my many years as an instructor and running Bridport Aikido club. This was a proud moment for me.

- I paid a lump sum off my mortgage early in the year. This felt amazing as I’ve never done it before.

2014 Goals

I’m going to keep things simple and specific this year to ensure more focus.

Work goals:

1) Ship Titan Attacks mobile in the 1st Quarter.

2) Ship Regency Solitaire in mid-summer. This is a new casual game that I’m working on with my wife.

3) Optional Goal: Ship another casual game before the end of the year. The reason this is optional is that it depends a lot on how well Regency Solitaire does and how the casual game market is doing. Also there’s a possibility that I might make an “indie” game instead and that might not get done until 2015.

4) Add some more levels to Techno Zombies. This was my December #onegameamonth game that I actually started in January. It’s not as complete as I’d like it to be, so I want to work on it some more.

5) Take part in at least one game jam. I love game jams and want to try out my improved Monkey X framework on another minigame.

6) Stretch Goal: Show over £125,000 ($200,000) gross income/revenue on my company’s books including grant money. Based on 2013 this should be achievable if everything goes to plan.

Personal goals:

1) Make at least 6 new pieces of digital art.

2) Do another gig either on acoustic or electric guitar.

3) Make at least 3 pieces of electronica.

4) Go on a family holiday in the UK or Europe.

5) Play at least 20 indie games from my backlog.

6) Reduce my weight from 69Kg to 65Kg by end of June and don’t put it back on at Christmas.

Mistakes

- Not shipping Titan Attacks mobile: This game really should have been done by now and it’s a bit embarrassing that I haven’t finished it yet.

- Working on Titan Attacks mobile: I like the project, it’s fun and I’m learning a lot but I’m not particularly confident that it will make much money on mobile. Of course I hope it will, but past experience of the mobile market and other data I’ve seen doesn’t bolster my confidence. So I that believe working on this project could be a large financial mistake in terms of opportunity cost. For example I could have made another hit casual game by now instead. “But it’s not all about money!” I hear some of you say. Well when you have a wife, 2 kids, 3 pets, a mortgage, a car and lots of bills, money is pretty damned important – not to wave about and go “woohoo”, but just to survive. If you don’t understand this yet, then you probably will do one day. Having said that, I do make games just for fun, which is why I took part in #onegameamonth. It’s just that if I’m going to spend time on a commercial project, it should be one that maximises revenue as well as being satisfying to work on because this is my day job, not just a hobby. Of course if Titan Attacks mobile does really well then I’ll take all this back :-)

- Shipping casual mobile games: I shipped two casual mobile games this year: Spring Bonus and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Other people did the ports so it was just a case of me directing the developers, testing builds and dealing with publishers, which didn’t take that much time. However, it was distracting from my main work and in the scope of things they didn’t make that much money. That’s why I didn’t make a mobile version of Spooky Bonus – I just wanted to focus on the PC/Mac versions instead, which proved to be a good decision. I don’t have any plans for further mobile games at this point.

- Doing #onegameamonth: This is only a minor mistake from a work point of view, not from a personal point of view. Instead of doing #onegameamonth I probably could have shipped Titan Attacks mobile this year (maybe), and I could have spent more time on a commercial casual game instead. However, the total time spent on #onegameamonth wasn’t that much, probably no more than one month in total and it was hugely rewarding.

- Not working hard enough: I slacked off early in the year and during some good weather in the early summer. I enjoyed myself but it wasn’t great from a work point of view. Also once Spooky Bonus shipped I wasn’t super-productive afterwards for a while. Any of you who have shipped a game will know that experiencing a “dip” after shipping a game is normal though. Normal it may be, but I wish it didn’t keep happening to me! I plan to fix this by switching back to caffeinated tea in 2014 because that seems to work great Cliff Harris ;-)

- Emptying my company bank account: At the start of the year I had quite a lot of money in my company account and I knew that it was making me complacent. I decided to take it all out and pay off some of my mortgage, even though I had large debts on 0% credit cards from moving back from Canada. “Why would I do something so dumb?” you may ask. Well, unfortunately I get motivated by running out of cash and I knew that stick works better than carrot with me – I wish this wasn’t the case, but it is. However, paying off some of the mortgage means that in the long term I’ll pay *way* less interest and that money isn’t being wasted now on something else. The 0% credit cards aren’t a big deal, in fact when one deal expired I just transferred it to another card for a small fee. They are gradually getting paid down and if the bank wants to offer me practically free credit, then I’ll take it for cash flow purposes. What became a problem was that I didn’t earn any new money quickly enough and so we had to live off credit cards in the summer and hope that Spooky Bonus did well (which luckily it did – to be fair it was a gamble with good odds). Anyway, I seem to have found new motivation in just wanting to repeat the success of Spooky Bonus and so I don’t feel the need to use the stick any more. I’m trying out a new system of paying myself a regular salary instead of irregular dividends and if I need any credit, then I’ll try to get it through my company instead of personally (it’s way easier to get personal debt than a company loan by the way).

- Not improving my fitness: It’s getting fairly obvious as I approach 40 that my body isn’t as fit and healthy as it has been in the past and letting it slip for year is clearly not a good idea. I can’t let it keep on slipping otherwise it’ll be too hard to get back…

And thus another year ends! It’s been a great year and I think 2014 is going to equally, if not more so, awesome!

I wish you all both work and personal success in 2014.

Please tell me how your year went in the comments.

2012 Review and 2013 Goals

Tuesday, January 1st, 2013

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.

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!