The centrepiece of September was definitely Voices of the Past, an interactive fiction game made using the Winter's Wake engine (Icicle) and created for the first TasJam game jam. Having another use-case for Icicle is a big deal, and even though Voices was made in a hurry, the impact of having a second game has highlighted a few important things that could have been easy to overlook.
I had hoped to give Voices of the Past a post-jam polish pass, but unfortunately, time (and health) hasn't been on my side and that's going to have to be prioritised around the Winter's Wake development that I want to achieve in October. I had planned to use scene design from Voices as a base for the third Winter's Wake dev stream, but hurdles during the jam got in the way of a lot of conscious scene design work that I wanted to do.
During September, I had the opportunity to demo Above The Waves at two local events. The first was a small anime/pop culture convention called MAICon where my partner Mim and I were running a Two Lof Bees booth (selling prints, stickers, t-shirts, cushions, etc. with our own designs on them). I set up a laptop with a mouse at one end of our booth where people could just walk up and play. Initially I'd planned to just let people walk up and play the game in whatever state it was in from the last person, but it quickly became apparent that people were more likely to sit down and poke around when the instruction screen was up, so I reset it after each person. The response was generally positive and a bunch of people hung around to finish the game, which felt like a significant time investment given that there were panels and events happening all day. As expected, there was a bit of confusion about the puffer fish and its role, but most seemed to be accepting of the rubble being cleared regardless of whether they understood what was going on.
The second event was a local Software Freedom Day celebration. I set up Above The Waves as an example of something that could be made with Free/Open Source Software, highlighting Inkscape and SLUDGE as usable tools. SFD was pretty quiet this year, but there were still a few people who thought that Above The Waves and the tools used in its creation were interesting.
As mentioned in the August update, I've been poking around with bringing Head Mounted Display (HMD) support into the current engine (previously it'd only existed in early prototypes and a lot's changed since then). Prior to TasJam, I put HMD stuff on hold and did some refactoring of the input system, extracting it out into its own class and starting to abstract out device specific code. This was helpful for some of the in-game content editing functionality that I squeezed in before TasJam, but it's still only partially complete and there's still a bunch of separation and abstraction I need to do before I can comfortably plug arbitrary numbers and types of input devices in and have them behave well together.
On the writing front, I managed to squeeze out a nice Cheese Talks article that reflects on my experiences as an early access player of Assault Android Cactus, a twinstick shooter with bullet hell inspirations that I've always found to be impressively well designed.
Following on from the previous Airscape stream I did, I've been discussing with Daniel (the game's creator) the idea of doing a series of "Dev Insight" videos that focus on the design and intentions behind the game. Not sure on a timeframe for this yet, but things seem positive.
I also found time to write a short not-quite-deep-enough-to-be-a-Cheese-Talks article for GamingOnLinux.com on a quiet, meditative game called Expand. It does some interesting things with music and minimalist colour use to support emotive and atmospheric states (in vastly different ways to Winter's Wake) that I admire.
I haven't been able to move forward with any of the in-progress Cheese Talks articles that I have on the go, but they're still waiting in the wings for me to have time to follow up and write some words. I'm not hopeful for the chances of getting any of them published in October, but I'm hoping to get the review scores piece and the Adventure Jam retrospective out before the end of the year.
Looking ahead, I'm going to try to smooth off the rough edges in the Icicle InputManager and get HMD support up to a point where I can include it in new demo builds. Right now, my goal is to achieve that ahead of PAX Aus so that when discussing it with people, I can highlight VR support as something that can be poked around with right away.
So far this month, I've already spent time backporting Icicle engine changes from Voices of the Past to Winter's Wake and have started integrating previous HMD headtracking work with the new InputManager class. I also put together some Winter's Wake "business card" designs a couple of days ago so that I have something with a web address on it that I can give people when talking about the game (hopefully these will turn out to be useful at PAX Aus).
I'd really like to get a post-jam update for Voices of the Past out, but that's lower priority than getting Winter's Wake HMD ready.
I had some unexpected contributions (Thanks Cat-Ion!) to Hover Drive earlier this week, which resolve a lighting bug caused by bad normals. If I find myself with spare time across October (ha ha ha), I might give Hover Drive some more love and see about adding some new features.
General Patreon Stuff
All postcards have arrived safe and sound so far as I'm aware. Woo!
Primary Project: Winter's Wake
- Refactored input handling system
- Added in-game content editing tools for adjusting position and rotation of scene objects
- Started work on adding HMD support
- Across October, tidying up the InputManager and finishing HMD support are my primary focus
- Third Winter's Wake dev stream will focus on scene design, but has no set date
- Created Voices of the Past for TasJam (post-mortem in this post)
- Demoed Above The Waves at two events with positive reception
- Across October, I'll update Voices of the Past, give some attention to Hover Drive, and get FLAT builds up to itch.io if I have time
- Published Assault Android Cactus early access retrospective piece
- Began discussions/planning for a series of "Dev Insight" videos looking at Airscape: The Fall of Gravity
- For my Adventure Jam retrospective article, I've been reaching out to organisers and judges to get their thoughts on the game and its outcomes (still waiting on responses from a couple of people)
- Given how little time I've had to track down more respondents, the Another World survey deadline has been extended to the 25th of October (if you know anybody who's played it, please pass the survey on!)
- Article on numeric ratings in game reviews is still coming - sorry for the wait!
Thank you so much again to every single patron for your support! September has been pretty crazy, and October looks like it will be too. The support and encouragement I receive from you is super important and keeps me going!