Dev Log; Reflections

I started work on this project officially in August of last year; when hiking the trails of Parys Mountain with my family, the desolate and sprawling landscape inspired me in a flurry I had not experienced for some time. The vivid contrasts between veins of copper, iron and the chiselled precision of man-made structures immediately began fuelling my brain and, even on that hike, as I walked I conceptualised. 

That night, when we got back to the cottage, I sat down and wrote a good 8 pages in my notebook, all of it characters, plotting, story. Of course, as time went on the characters became fewer, the plotting and story sparse as the landscape that inspired it as I sought out minimalism in lieu of complexity. In the past, working on projects, I'd nearly always fallen at the first hurdle after envisioning grand complex deconstructions of genre or games that would probably - at this stage - be far beyond my coding know-how. So, I decided -and realised- I needed to lessen my grand creative vision, both in terms of pragmatics and in terms of simply biting off more than I could chew time and time again and thus giving up. So, the grand project in three-arced narratives with branching story options and multiple endings became a simpler, smaller, more personal project and that decision I have not looked back on since. 

I did not properly start making the physical assets for the game till November; before that I had been wrangling the plot elements into place, writing, and sketching. For some reason, in my head, neither of those things "count" towards the design process which, I'm sure you and I can agree, is dumb. I've struggled as of late with my work-output and feeling guilty, as though I am not doing "enough", especially not six+ months into development, with nary an alpha in sight and a good 50% of the assets still to make. 

It might sound a stupid realisation, but in my head if I wasn't doing a minimum of [x] amount of assets, animations, tiles, or sketches per day I wasn't "achieving" enough. For whatever reason, my internal processing of how much progress I was making didn't factor in time spent researching engines, or code, or writing out the dialogue and encounters in-game even though all of that has been an important part of development. And whilst I enjoyed, and in fact, am enjoying, development and all that it encompasses I was putting undue stress onto myself that meant I wasn't enjoying it like I had. Suddenly, quality came before quantity- if I was producing a lot, I was successful; even when it meant I had to go back and correct a lot of mistakes I had, and am probably still, making. 

If I felt I hadn't done enough during weekdays, I was working over weekends. Indeed, I definitely wanted to, and sometimes still do, but I am only now really understanding the importance of rest as part of the process. Now, on weekends I take a step back - perhaps I write a bit of the other projects I'm conceptualising (and, I do); perhaps I sketch or refine out a design that I was unsure of; perhaps I have a look at my reference books and consider if I think the design is uniform or needs improvement, but I take a step back from my laptop and don't allow myself to work at anything at all over the weekend. 

Partially, so I can rest and recuperate, and partially so that I can sit and reflect on the week- think on the assets I was happy and unhappy with, sit and think about where I was to improve. Then, on the Monday when I get back to it, it is a lot easier to look at my work objectively and tweak and modify as I see fit and on the whole, improve my work. That tends to be how I spend my Mondays now - improving and tweaking my works as I see fit, and it has helped, overall, with my process. 

Additionally when I factor in my long-term illness over the 4 months that I have been making assets, I am in fact, quite happy with progress. In that 4 months I have roughly produced 39 individual animations and 500+ pieces of unique art that will be in the game. This isn't including the outtakes, bits I revisited and revised, concept art I made, and so on. And, this is in addition to the fact that I was 3 years out of practice, teaching myself and learning as I went on, and almost entirely new to animation not based in RPG-Maker sprites.  

It is a weird place, being self taught. I have only my own opinion to fall back on as to whether something is good and so it became a habit to go back and look at old assets, realise they were not up to the standard of my current output, and thus have to redo a good bunch of them every few weeks. Of course I ask for input and critique but at the end of the day it is entirely in my hands as to how much of that I take on board. On the whole, I err on the side of listening to what other people tell me, and incorporating that in but that is a double edged sword - I need to, also, be confident in my abilities. Sometimes I sit and doubt myself yet when I go back and look at it objectively, compared to bigger and more "professional" games, it is actually on a par. I think taking on board criticism is important, but, so is believing in yourself. I simply think that perhaps, it is a fine line between confidence and arrogance; were I too confident, I would ultimately be unhappy with the final product. 

Up above is all of the art and assets that I am happy with including in the game - those 540 pieces of art and animation that I mentioned earlier - and it both feels like a lot, and not as much as I had hoped for at this stage. But, I think, putting that pressure on myself leads to nothing but illness and misery, and to my feeling apathetic about all of this instead of - as I should be feeling - excited and enthusiastic. 

This might sound obvious but it has been plaguing my head as of late and  I find myself drawn to introspection and looking inward as I move on to the next stage of development- I am in the final stages of making assets, all I have to do is make backgrounds and the final, unique flourishes to my game world and then I can move on to music and putting it together in-engine. I think, for my first proper game in years, to be at that stage after 4 months of physically working on it is quite a feat indeed, and something I should be proud of.