Archive for the ‘Plans’ Category

2015 Review and 2016 Goals

Saturday, January 9th, 2016

Right then, how did I get on with my 2015 goals and what am I planning for 2016?
Here’s last year’s post for reference.


Overall I’m happy with how the year turned out.

Regency Solitaire has had a great reception and done pretty well financially. We didn’t ship a second casual game in 2015, but we made good progress with Shadowhand (which is more of an “indie” game). Also I did lots of bonus achievements (see list below) and didn’t make any big mistakes (as far as I know).

As for personal goals, I did pretty well there due to keeping them simple and focused.

So yeah, overall good, roll on 2016!

2015 Work Goals

1) Ship second solitaire game before the summer (first one is due out in Jan 2015) (FAILED: Totally didn’t do this. The plan was to make a quick solitaire game for the casual market using the Regency Solitaire engine but instead we are making a bigger game for the “indie” market e.g. Steam and direct sales market.)

2) Make $200,000 net revenue from my solitaire games. (FAILED: Regency Solitaire did pretty well, but not $200,000 well, and there was no second solitaire game released to help boost the figures.)

3) Successfully get the new cultural tax credit for Regency Solitaire + the new game (so I’ll get back 25% of salaries paid from April 2014-Mar 2015) = £15,000 (~$23K) (SUCCESS (in theory): Our application was approved by the BFI and we’ve sent off all the accounts to HMRC and are waiting for them to send the money. So unless something goes wrong, that’s in the bag. It has taken a lot longer than we expected though.)

4) Do a game jam. (SUCCESS: I took part in One Game a Month again in 2015 so I shipped 12 games, some commercial and some free. I wasn’t sure if the free ones counted as doing a game jam (even though they were often intense projects that lasted for a couple of days), so I asked on Twitter for people to suggest some game jam themes. I chose Ryan Clark‘s theme of “Seer” and made a game called Star Seer.)

5a) Ship another casual game, either match-3 or solitaire, in late summer/autumn. Got tons of ideas, it’s just a case of getting them out the door.
5b) Mostly complete (75% minimum) a new indie game (9-12 months dev time).
(PART SUCCESS: We didn’t make another casual game but we teamed up with indie publisher, Positech Games, and began work on Shadowhand. It’s progressing well, though I wouldn’t say we are 75% complete, more like 50-60%.)

Stretch goals:
6) if 5a) then ship another casual game in time for Christmas, possibly Holiday Bonus 2.(FAILED: Nope, didn’t happen.)

7) Do another game jam.(NOT SURE: Er, I didn’t do an official game jam, just 12 games as part of #1gam, so I guess that’s probably a fail.)

Success rate = 2.5/5 = 50% (Note that part-successes are counted as 0.5 and I have ignored the optional and stretch goals) This isn’t too bad. We had a good year with Regency Solitaire and Shadowhand is going well, plus I did #1gam, so I’m happy. $200,000 would have been nice though…

2015 Personal Goals

1) Go on a non-UK family holiday for at least a week. If I don’t do this my wife will probably kill me. (SUCCESS: Well actually I think it was for 6 days not a week, but it’s close enough. We went to France and it was nice!)

2) Buy a new guitar that I’ve been hankering after, get back into practicing, and do a blues gig.(FAILED: Aww. Well I had promised myself a fancy guitar for when I finished Regency Solitaire, but when it was done, I just didn’t feel like spending the money! I’ve hardly been practicing this year and didn’t do a gig, so that’s a bit lame.)

3) Do something cool for my 40th birthday.(SUCCESS: Yep! I stayed in a fancy Georgian hotel in Bath with my wife, went shopping for old coins, and had a posh lunch at the Pump Rooms with friends (the bill was :-O). Then we stayed in Thornbury castle (in the gatehouse actually) and had a baronial dinner. On the way home we visited a location that featured in Regency Solitaire, which was pretty cool.)

4) Get at least one of my students through their 2nd Dan Aikido grading. This is, of course, quite a lot dependent on them.(SUCCESS: Yep, he did great in fact. Also another student got 1st Dan.)

Success rate = 3/4 = 75% I’m happy with this. I kept it simple and completed most of them.

Bonus Points

It’s not all about the goals because sometimes cool unexpected things happen. I already made a blog post about Grey Alien Games’ 2015 Achievements, and I’ve listed the non-goal-related achievements here along with some personal achievements:

- The Android port of Titan Attacks which I coded launched in the Humble Bundle and sold 80,000 copies. Pretty neat.
- Regency Solitaire launched on Steam! It got through Greenlight and has done OK on there. This also meant we got some mainstream press which was cool.
- We got a publishing deal with Positech Games for Shadowhand. They are funding it and handling the marketing, which is rad.
- We exhibited Shadowhand at EGX in cosplay as a highwayman and highwaywoman. It was tiring but fun!
- Spooky Bonus launched on Steam! It took nearly a year to get through Greenlight. It’s not a hit on there, like it was on the casual portals, but it’s still nice to be on Steam.
- Regency Solitaire got mentioned in quite a few mainstream GOTY lists, which was really nice. I feel like 2015 was the year we finally received some kind of recognition for what we have been doing all these years.
- I did #1gam and shipped 12 commercial games/demos/free games. I love doing #1gam though at times it can be stressful when there are other deadlines too.
- I paid my wife and I a proper salary all year long for the second year in a row. We haven’t really had any financial worries all year which is fantastic. Long may it continue!
- I helped organise a two day Indie Game Conference in London which had some fantastic speakers.
- I didn’t get distracted with too many low priority game dev/biz dev tasks (er, apart from #1gam, but that’s for personal growth). I was pretty much focused on Regency Solitaire marketing and getting it on Steam, and making Shadowhand.
- I made a German retail deal for Regency Solitaire. I’m looking forward to seeing it in a box!
- I played quite a lot of games on Desktop and console, including Dragon Age Inquisition on PS4, which was very enjoyable and good for research of course! ;-)
- I feel in good health and my Aikido is going well.
- I’ve read some good books about game design and art this year.


Looking back I don’t feel I made any major mistakes this year. Maybe I’m getting the hang of things finally! ;-) But there were some areas of improvement:

- We tried a lot of marketing for Regency Solitaire early in the year but didn’t get very far. Once it came out on Steam people took a lot more notice, as if Steam is some kind of “validation” for indie games, which of course it isn’t. So we did another round of marketing but because we are relative noobs at marketing indie games I don’t think we did a great job (in the casual market, the portals do all the marketing for you to their existing customers, so we never needed to do anything). To be honest, we should have probably hired a PR company to do the legwork and leverage their contacts.
- Regency Solitaire, though much loved, is a bit of niche game, and that’s pretty obvious when I look at it’s sales on Steam (which are low) compared to sales on casual portals (which are a lot higher). That’s why we’ve tried to make Shadowhand have a broader appeal but without losing the unique vibe we think we can bring to games.
- I slacked off a bit at various times during the first half of the year before we started work on Shadowhand, mostly because the next project wasn’t finalised yet, and just because after working on a game for a year you kinda burn out a bit.
- I did a lot of research and pitched a game idea at Positech Games which got turned down. So in theory that was lost time, though I enjoyed the process and learned from it. Luckily, Shadowhand was the second pitch, so it all worked out in the end.
- I got stressed because I found out some other devs had copied various aspects of my games, sometimes really blantantly. However, I don’t want to go into now as it’s best left behind me as I move forward.
- I probably should have tried to go on another family holiday or gone on more days out. You can never really do enough of this but balancing it with work (and sanity) is hard.
- I wanted to pay a small lump sum off our mortgage, but we didn’t make enough money to do that. Hopefully we will be able to do that in 2016 due to Shadowhand!

2016 Work Goals

1) Ship Shadowhand (sub goals of continue to enjoy working on it, and make it really damn good)
2) Shadowhand makes a healthy profit on top of the investment. Let’s put a number of $100,000 on that.
3) Ship some Shadowhand DLC or start work on a related game (sequel/prequel/game using same engine)
4) Regency Solitaire gets some kind of IGF and/or BAFTA mention (I have entered into both)
5) Get the British game cultural tax credit thing for Shadowhand. Could be about £10000.

Stretch Goals:
1) Make $200,000 net revenue from all my games.

2016 Personal Goals

1) Get my mortgage under £100,000 before I’m 41 in the summer. This should be pretty easy tbh with a small overpayment, but it’ll be a nice milestone.
2) Do a gamejam (can be an online one or an in-person one)
3) Go on holiday in Scotland with my wife (maybe with the kids but maybe not)
4) Continue to improve my art skills and make 6 pieces of art from scratch.
5) I can’t announce this goal yet, but it’s quite exciting!

Stretch Goals:
1) Pay off my mortgage (or be in a position where I could do that, but for tax purposes it may be sensible not to do that in one go…)
2) Go on another holiday with my wife (probably better take the kids on this one too!)
3) Make more art, let’s say 6 more for a total of 12 pieces. The equivalent of one a month.
4) Get back into playing guitar and play at least one song at a public gig.

How was your 2015? Have a great 2016!

2014 Review and 2015 Goals

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

OK it’s time to review how I got on with my 2014 goals and set new ones for 2015. Here’s last year’s post for reference.


In summary I failed pretty badly with most of my work and personal goals. However, I didn’t set many goals on purpose so that I could have more focus and what I actually did was *super-focus* on finishing two games: Regency Solitaire, and Titan Attacks mobile.

I did finish both of those games and they turned out great, but it meant that other goals fell to the wayside. Both games will launch in early 2015 and I aim to follow up quickly with two more games, so 2015 should be a bumper year!

2014 Work Goals:

1) Ship Titan Attacks mobile in the 1st Quarter. (PARTIAL SUCCESS: I did finish it in 2014, it just hasn’t shipped yet, for “reasons”, but should be out in early 2015. So I’ll award myself half a point. This was a tricky port because it is a complex game that needs to well on Android devices with low memory and slow processors. I learned a ton of stuff and have ended up with a great new game framework in Monkey-X which I hope to make use of in the near future.)

2) Ship Regency Solitaire in mid-summer. This is a new casual game that I’m working on with my wife. (PARTIAL SUCCESS: I did finish it and shipped a beta version of it on my site at the start of December. However, it officially launches on Jan 2nd 2015, so I’ll award myself half a point. It’s probably the best game I’ve made to date – we’re really proud of it.)

3) Optional Goal: Ship another casual game before the end of the year. (TOTAL FAIL: Both of the other games took longer than I expected, which is to be expected :-) So, yeah, the nearest we got to this was thinking up some cool ideas and game names. This was an optional goal so I won’t include it in my success rate below.)

4) Add some more levels to Techno Zombies. This was my December #onegameamonth game that I actually started in January. (FAILED: Nope, just didn’t have time due to working on the other games. Shame, as I’d still like to do this.)

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. (FAILED: Disappointed I didn’t do this but I guess I made tons of minigames in 2013 when I “won” #onegameamonth, so I can still bask in that.)

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. (FAILED: Jan to Nov revenue is $64K and I think that when I receive the distributor royalty reports for Dec it could go over $70K, but that has still fallen *way* short of my target. The reason is pretty simple, I didn’t ship Regency Solitaire in 2014! If I had shipped it in the summer as originally planned then perhaps I could have hit this goal. Spooky Bonus has made $128,000 since its launch in 2013, so this wasn’t an unrealistic goal.)

Success rate = 1/4 = 25% (Note that part-successes are counted as 0.5 and I have ignored the optional and stretch goals) Well this is a really sucky success rate, my worst in years, or maybe ever! But I don’t mind too much because I did actually finish two really great games this year, it’s just that they haven’t come out yet!

2014 Personal Goals
1) Make at least 6 new pieces of digital art. (PART SUCCESS: I made some crappy digital art, some good digital art, and a bunch of mockup art for Regency Solitaire. In total I did way more than 6 things and got lots better at Photoshop, but really I wanted to paint 6 new things from scratch, so I’ll award myself half a point.)

2) Do another gig either on acoustic or electric guitar. (FAILED: This should have been an easy task as I did a few gigs last year and was playing a lot of guitar. But this year I hardly played guitar as I was focusing all my time on finishing the games I was making. However, one of the rewards I’ve been holding off buying for myself (until I finished my game projects) is a fancy new guitar – so 2015 should be a good year for playing guitar!)

3) Make at least 3 pieces of electronica. (FAILED: Nope, didn’t make any. No time, yada yada. I did the sound engineering (sound effects and overseeing the music) for Regency Solitaire and that turned out well, so that was good.)

4) Go on a family holiday in the UK or Europe. (SUCCESS: We went camping on Dartmoor for a few days, that was it. Not exactly an epic family holiday, although it was nice. We also had quite a few day trips to places, which were good and cheap and not too distracting from my work. The main problem this year was that I felt constantly under pressure to make progress on projects and that resulted in me prioritising work above going on holiday, much to my wife’s disappointment. I really hope I can fix this in 2015.)

5) Play at least 20 indie games from my backlog. (FAILED: Nope, don’t think I touched a single game in my backlog although I did buy and play some great *new* indie games such as Crypt of the Necrodancer and Guacamelee. I probably even *grew* my game backlog by buying some more bundles, sigh. My only comfort is that I know I’m not alone in this situation.)

6) Reduce my weight from 69Kg to 65Kg by end of June and don’t put it back on at Christmas. (PART SUCCESS: I got to about 66.5Kg by September and kept it off until the last few days when it has crept up a bit due to Christmas excess, so I’ll award myself half a point).

Success rate = 2/6 = 33% (Note that part-successes are counted as 0.5). Not great. I failed at my musical and gaming goals but did OK in my art, health and family goals – but could have done better in them all.

Bonus Points

But did I do anything else cool this year worthy of note? Well…

- I hit a milestone of 250,000 units sold since I went indie. That’s quite a lot and proves I must be doing something right :-)

- I paid my wife and I a proper salary all year long, which is a first. We haven’t really had any financial worries all year. I hope this continues into 2015 with the success of my forthcoming games.

- I stayed focused on my two main projects and didn’t get distracted with gamejams or new projects.

- I made a good German retail deal for Spooky Bonus and they send me some boxed copies, which was cool.

- I didn’t do anything mobile-related (except for finishing Titan Attacks mobile, which was already in progress.) Back in 2013 I decided that mobile was a fools-errand and I should just focus on PC, which is why there’s no mobile version of Spooky Bonus. This meant I was able to focus on making Spooky Bonus and Regency Solitaire great instead of getting distracted with low-value mobile ports of my games.

- I went to Steam Dev Days in Seattle and stopped off in Vancouver before and afterwards, which was nice.

- I had a really great year of Aikido. A former student of mine who was teaching in Weymouth came back to Bridport club and now teaches on Wednesday. This means I get an extra day of training per week. Also we’ve got some new members and the club finances are doing well. Furthermore, I went on several great courses this year including one in Cambridge called Pushing for Peace and one in Kendal with Sensei Maruyama – both of which were a bit mindblowing to be honest. A great and very enjoyable year for self-growth in Aikido.

- We got a wood burning stove fitted to the living room. In February the bad storms caused water ingress into our living room and whilst we were getting it fixed (expensive and noisy), we decided to get a wood burner as a treat. Well actually I wanted to get a cheap gas fire but my wife persuaded me. She really wanted a Skyrim-style firepit, but obviously that’s not quite practical. It’s been lovely to light a fire this winter and play Dragon Age: Inquisition in a cosy living room.


So am I now infallible or did I make a few boo boos? Well..

- I said the same thing last year but I shouldn’t have taken on board the Titan Attacks mobile port. Same reasons as last year. Even though I’ve learned a lot and it was good fun at times (it’s a cool game), it was a really big time sink and distraction from my casual games which are a proven source of revenue. I hope that when it comes out in 2015 I can get some half decent money from it to make the time spent a bit more worthwhile. We’ll see…

- I definitely slacked off at different points during this year. This was partly due to the fact that I was financially secure for a while due to Spooky Bonus doing really well and also due to the grant I got to help make Regency Solitaire. The slacking off was nice though; I had some lovely days off and walks with my wife etc. but it meant that my projects got delayed and I felt more pressure at other times and didn’t achieve as many of my personal goals as I’d have liked.

- I was working on two games at once and was beholden to third parties. Sometimes when I knew I should be working on one of my two projects I just kind of went into a dejected mood and ended up doing neither! I’m going to try to avoid that in the future and just focus on one thing at a time. Regarding the third-parties: I promised Puppy Games that I’d get Titan Attacks mobile done, and didn’t want to let them down, and I also was required to have regular progress meetings with Gameslab, who part-funded Regency Solitaire. Now for some people this would probably motivate them to get stuff done, and it kind of did for me at certain times (I did a few mega crunches to hit some deadlines), but at other times it just made me feel bad (for weird internal reasons) and I was unproductive as a result. I really need to remember this in the future and try to only be beholden to myself, like I was when I made Spooky Bonus, my most successful game to date.

- Regency Solitaire took too long to make. There are several reasons for this, one being that I had to program an entire special solitaire engine with bells and whistles from scratch, and predictably it took longer than expected. Another is that because we wanted the game to be historically accurate we spent a LOT of time doing research and directing the artists and musicians. Also I spent a lot of time obsessing over small details (which is a habit of mine anyway). Plus I had to coach my wife on the whole process of making a game from start to finish. So for our next game we want to give the artists and musician more freedom by picking a theme that can be a bit more flexible in terms of historical accuracy. My wife will also be faster at her tasks and I’ll try not to spend so long “noodling” over tiny little things that no one will notice anyway!

- I got some weird health complaints for a couple of months in the late summer. I was getting headaches like *every* day for weeks on end and also my lower right eyelid starting twitching a lot (and then my left eyelid joined in) which made it hard to look at small stuff on my screen. I also got some really bad neck and shoulder pain and had to go to see various people to help sort it out. This went on for ages and really affected my work. I think the eye thing was due to reintroducing caffeine via tea and coke, and the shoulder issue was caused by overwork with a bad posture. It also seems likely that the headaches were tension headaches related to my shoulder problem and maybe stress and maybe the caffeine too. Basically I probably caused myself a bunch of health problems. I tried to fix them by altering my diet to cut out FODMAPs, by getting a new ergonomic keyboard, and by boosting the font size on my screen and moving it closer, all of which seemed to help – though of course, the problems may have just gone away on their own! It’s hard to say.

- I didn’t host very many Full Indie UK events, which is disappointing. Not only was I focusing on finishing my games but after GDC in March I decided to go to less networking/social events and just focus on making games instead. This was because in some ways I became jaded with certain aspects of the indie scene, and I also realised that networking with indies doesn’t help sell my casual games at all, fun as it is. Hopefully I can find the time to run, or delegate, some Full Indie UK events in 2015.

2015 Work Goals

The problem with my 2015 goals is that around April I’ll make a big decision about whether I carry on making casual games (aiming for 3+ a year) or try to get some funding to make an indie game suitable for Steam (and direct sales OF COURSE!) In fact I might even make that decision in Jan once I find out how well Regency Solitaire is selling. This is reflected in my split goal 5 below.

Regardless, I’m keeping the goals simple and focused. They basically involve shipping games that do well.

1) Ship second solitaire game before the summer (first one is due out in Jan 2015)
2) Make $200,000 net revenue from my solitaire games.
3) Successfully get the new cultural tax credit for Regency Solitaire + the new game (so I’ll get back 25% of salaries paid from April 2014-Mar 2015) = £15,000 (~$23K)
4) Do a game jam.

5a) Ship another casual game, either match-3 or solitaire, in late summer/autumn. Got tons of ideas, it’s just a case of getting them out the door.
5b) Mostly complete (75% minimum) a new indie game (9-12 months dev time).

Stretch goals:
6) if 5a) then ship another casual game in time for Christmas, possibly Holiday Bonus 2.
7) Do another game jam.

2015 Personal Goals

1) Go on a non-UK family holiday for at least a week. If I don’t do this my wife will probably kill me.
2) Buy a new guitar that I’ve been hankering after, get back into practicing, and do a blues gig.
3) Do something cool for my 40th birthday.
4) Get at least one of my students through their 2nd Dan Aikido grading. This is, of course, quite a lot dependent on them.

How did you get on in 2014? I hope you have a great 2015!

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.


- 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 for 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.