Captain’s Log, 0210208.060

Well, the week of my nativity is over.

Time to actually get serious.

This last week I did what I wanted, when I wanted, and nothing else (except what was required to keep my family and their animals alive, of course). And what I wanted turned out to be the basis of a platforming sequel to my hit game Candy Raid: the factory.

This gif has a lot of little things worth talking about, but let’s get back to it.

I need to either search for a day job, or else gear up to pay my bills with my projects quickly. Option 2 means running a successful crowdfund ASAP. The only project I have that is close to ready for that is Awesome Moments, my Bible Story book.

Because of my social media fast, the earliest I can run the Kickstarter in question effectively is March. If I choose to work my butt off on Hat Trick, or my bestiary, or on this little Candy Raid platformer, I can hypothetically have either of these projects Kickstarter ready by then. But I have to be 100% committed to the project. And my history of underestimating time to completion on projects leads me to believe I’d need at least two months to get either of those ready. And even a successful Kickstarter wouldn’t disburse funds until April.

Which means I need to hunt for a day job.

Sucks to be me, but I’ve been employed at dead-end day jobs for 15 years, and I’ve done the starving artist thing for 6 months. Being jobless definitely helps my projects, but not by giving me more time, but rather by giving me consistent time. If I can get something with regular hours, I should be able to keep my productivity close to the same.

If not, such is life. So let’s talk about how we are going to change our approaches to Vargenstone and Everything Else as a result.

Vargenstone

Vargenstone is a riddle to me.

I went in less than 100% committed. I worked on a virtual pet on the side. I let imperial politics derail me.

The rest of the team has day jobs. I should be able to devote one or two days a week to Vargenstone and keep up with them easily, even if I have a day job of my own. I should have plenty of time to work on Vargenstone every week, and plenty of time to tinker with my own things. But I suspect if I go in less than 100% committed, I will founder again.

And that puts me in a position of having to choose between devoting myself to Vargenstone at the expense of projects I care more about because they are mine, or resigning. I don’t want to be in that position. I want to work on Vargenstone a couple of days each week, turn in excellent work, build good working relationships with game devs I respect, and still tinker with my own projects around the edges.

I am going to try and devote a specific day or two each week to Vargenstone for the remainder of February and see if I can pull the divided attention off. In fact, I’ll give it a whole month. We’ll try until a week into March. If, by Monday March 8th, I have not successfully worked on Vargenstone 2-4 hours per week, I will have to decide to go all in or pull out.

Everything Else: The Comic

From time to time, I tinker with the idea of making a sprite comic that serves as a basis for all my projects. Prototyping proper comics, children’s books, and games, as a low effort comic I can release for free on the internet and publish as monthlies or annuals in cheap, black and white paper. Going, as it were, from this to this:

If you think that pixel art looks familiar, it’s because it does. Remember our game art?

I have two color palettes I’ve developed over the course of the last two years. Both were developed specifically for print. One was developed by making kids’ books. The other was developed for this sprite comic, with the idea of having a slight tint for the internet, but looking good in grayscale.

Print uses ink to make colors; monitors use light. As a result, an image will always be paler and brighter on a screen than it is in print, and an image designed primarily for print will be paler and brighter than an image designed for screens. It occurred to me early on I could turn this effect to my advantage by using my print color palettes in games, but adding lighting over the top, thus making the colors darker in the game unless illumined by something. The above game prototype tests that, and in fact, proves it.

It also provides a platforming engine into which I can drag and drop the “gameboy” graphics for the sprite comic, and it turns them into “gameboy color” graphics, with a lighting engine over the top, thanks to the shaders I learned to make for theria. Which serves the conceit of my sprite comic as all of my intellectual property residing together in a Wreck-It-Ralph esque video game world. Half a shake of retro, and half a shake of modern. Yeah, I’ve got only four colors per palette, but I have parallax and lighting. Etcetera, etcetera.

Right now the setup is optimized towards Candy, but I can easily stick in other characters and give them different handling. The idea here is that work towards one project would be work towards all the projects.

But a Candy Raid videogame is kind of a bad idea and kind of a good idea at the same time.

Everything Else: The Comic: The Videogame

I have several game ideas that are extremely marketable. Making RPGs in the grand tradition of Paper Mario and the Alpha Dream Mario RPGs would be a great way to tell many of my stories, and serve an underserved audience.

Conversely, pixelart metroidvanias are overdone. They are a saturated market. Moreover, they are unsuited to many of the stories I want to tell (though they fit some).

But: I enjoy playing with physics. I enjoy tweaking platforming problems. I enjoy creating spaces designed primarily for exploration. I enjoy watching speedruns of action games. In short, a side-scrolling pixelart platformer, especially a metroidvania, is not only not terribly marketable, it is the exact game type I want to make; it and really no other.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with making the game you want to make instead of the game that will bring in the money. But that’s when you say, “well, that means this is my hobby and not my job.”

The flip side is that Candy Raid is an established video game franchise. It’s not one I’m super happy with. I’m very dissatisfied with how Candy Raid the factory came out. But it’s a finished game, some people like it, and a few people have spent money on it.

I’ve given the code-monkey who helped me make it a license to make sequels in that vein if he wants. But if I were to make a game more to my own personal taste, I have no doubt he’d publish it. And the two games would reinforce one another as products: people who buy the first are more likely to buy the second and vice versa. So this…

…actually has a dose of viability above and beyond me making Yet Another Pixelart Metroidvania. Not enough to live off of. But enough to create momentum to create a project that might be enough to live off of.

Again, I’d have to go 100% all in to get it ready for Kickstarter by March, (ditching Vargenstone utterly), and then I’d get no funds ’til April, and I don’t want to ask more than a couple grand, which means I’d have to design a game small enough to make in a single month… so this is side burner if not back burner stuff.

But every bit of work I do on this becomes something I can use for my comic, and every bit of work I do for my comic becomes something I can use for this. I’m very pleased with the synergy.

And damn the torpedoes, I wanna make pixel art metroidvanias. Even if they’re little’uns. Even if there’s no money in it.

I might, if I keep tinkering with Candy Raid, try having something to Kickstart in October. It would be thematically appropriate, I could aim for release the subsequent October,

So now what?

Vargenstone tomorrow. Let’s make it Tuesdays and Thursdays. Sunday and Wednesday will go back to being my dedicated days off where I only consoom, to replenish my creative juices. The schedule will be adjusted if and when I receive employment per said employment.

Today, I add object pooling to my particles before I forget; everything else in my little game can wait. And I’m going to try and get to the point where I produce 1 to 2 sprite comic episodes per day, with the intention of publishing them once I have a month+ of backlog built up.

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