Since the release of Maia things have been a bit hectic. Although the game made some money on launch it didn’t really offset the huge amount of time and money I put into it to get it over the line. I took up a bit of contract work to recover from that blow, and have been doing that since Febuary.
I’ve been working for a company in London called Preloaded. I work 2-3 days a week in London and the rest from home. The travel is gruelling, costing me almost five hours of the day I do it on (I leave the house at 7.50am and get home at 10pm). The work however is interesting and quite varied, and slightly more meaningful that regular games. The team are good people too, with a good working environment. I've really missed working with a team since disbanding the office.
I’ve had my hands in four shipped projects already, which is a big change from working on Maia (and a bit of Lazarus) for years and years. I’ve also become entirely proficient with Unity, and have worked with all sorts of interesting new technologies to produce some cool output. I’ll be able to share some of that with you soon!
The nice thing about doing client work is you actually get paid for it. As of last month I cleared the company’s overdraft that the Maia launch generated. I am still in a moderate amount of personal debt from it too, but it’s manageable. This month I’ve (having accrued a small financial buffer to allow it) taken some time off as I haven't really taken anything close to a holiday since 2016. It’s not the most effective time off as I’m not doing anything with it, I was too tired to organise much more than travel to Develop conference and seeing a bit of family. I’ve ended up working on some loose ends. Hence this blog!
Develop was useful to me as I got some time away from work to discuss plans with fellow developers. I’m facing a crossroads of sorts at the moment, with a few options to pick between, although as always cash is the overriding factor in my decisions. I’m not motivated by money at all, but being able to afford food and rent is, I’ve found, somewhat useful.
I have a contract with Preloaded until the end of August, I think for the moment it will be wise for me to continue with that. Now the overdraft is cleared every day I work for them generates enough money for a spare day of funds at my current burn rate. After August I am currently considering taking something close to a month off for personal work (Maia and Game 2).
So the next key thing will be completing Maia’s modding. Work on that peaked in February, but trailed off as I took on the contracting. The good news is all the hard work on that is already done, with a Squirrel language interface hooked into the game’s core allowing anyone to open up notepad and start adding new items to the game. The remaining work is mostly making setting up mods user friendly and documenting the APIs modders will need to use. I’ll be working on this for the rest of this week so I’m hoping to get a big chunk of that done before my “holiday” ends.
Maia: Dead Planet
This is the working title of an expandalone for Maia. The core game touched on the wider impacts of the climate change hitting the planet and the problems of abating it, the expansion will focus on them directly. I’m looking to create a five mission campaign (with voiceover) for it, with new items and world simulation. I don’t want to give away too much, but it will deal with the smaller scale, things like reversing desertification, soil stabilisation, reforestation, pollution and water sources.
It won’t require a copy of Maia to play, so might be useful as a way to draw new players to the main game. I will keep them on the same codebase though, so fixes and improvements will go to both versions (I’ll probably give crowdfunding backers a copy anyway). A lot of my problems with selling Maia have come from bad perceptions of Early Access builds, so it would be nice to have a fresh slate in that regard too.
It’s going to be a very fast project, as I won’t be touching too much of the core simulation or anything. So could potentially have it done by the end of a September push.
If you’re in the Discord Patreon channel you’ve already seen my pitch for Game 2. Having shown it to people they get really excited about it. However, being realistic and barring Maia: Dead Planet suddenly selling a million copies, I won’t be able to fund development of another game. To get Game 2 made I will need to accrue about 14k and set aside two months to build a prototype, and then take that to Kickstarter or a publisher. I feel at this point, given a strong prototype, I should be able to get backers or a publisher on board without too much stress. Just finding that initial budget will be the issue, I am resisting the urge to do it on the company overdraft.
No, I’m not adding a pointy ears shader.
Vulkan is a graphics API like OpenGL or Metal. Maia is written in OpenGL 3.1-4.2 and it looks good, performs well, and should remain compatible for a long time. That said GL is getting clunky and driver makers will let their driver code start to rot eventually. Porting my engine to the Vulkan API would reduce CPU load, give finer grained control over the rendering system, and also potentially bring the game and my future games to new hardware. To make it more worthwhile I would likely document the process in detail to make it entertaining and provide people with a case study of porting an engine.
It’s not something that will make money though and would take two months to do well. So it would need to be funded outright before I start on it. The option here is crowdfunding or some sort of sponsorship if I can make the documentation useful enough for other developers.
I get serious job offers a lot, and very occasionally for some very good jobs! I want to remain indie, but I am very aware that I rent, have no capital, no car, no pension, no partner, no safety net, moderate debt and no savings. So I am mulling over a six month contract doing Vulkan porting at a major hardware manufacturer, a few senior programmer jobs and several lead technical artist roles. I do get a lot of smaller contract offers, so I’m holding out hope for some of that work that pays well enough to fund my projects and is sporadic enough to not burn me out!
I also have the AI videos still in development. Sadly my main Workstation died early this year and I only just had the cash to replace the parts to keep it limping along. I'll probably hold off on them until I can afford an entirely new workstation though, as capturing and editing video on dying rig is an uphill battle. I do want to get them done though, I really enjoyed the Half Life one, just a shame they don't make money.
Hard to make plans whilst the world is burning though.