Sunday, July 12, 2015

End of the Road

Hello Headcasers! What brings you by this way?

Lots going on lately as life has been extremely busy for me. It seems nearly ridiculous to consider the fact that I am submitting 2 blog entries within a single month's span of time, right? (This, from a guy who used to write daily updates.. sort of).

Anyway, we finally released our second game this year (again, inside of a month!) as JumpBurger has been approved for sale on the Apple App Store. You can get it here - it is free, if you like it please rate and review, and tell you friends even. I'll be straight, the launch of a game is hardly ever easy  especially a game like this one. We got a good 170 downloads after three days (peaked on day 2, dropped off considerably on day 3) with shy of 200 clicks on the link provided above (not all DLs are through that link, of course). For a free game, with adMob monetization, that nabs me less than $3 in profit for a game that took a year and change to make. Worth it? Business-wise, not very much, but I have never really thought of this as a moneymaking proposition. The majority of referred clicks were through a Facebook promotion that I ran - I paid @ $27/day for 2 days. Now with all of that gone, it will be interesting to see if there is any leftover energy or if it completely dries up..

I have yet to finish my campaign (still building it) and if things were different, that would have been done by now, as well as a trip to Comic Con in SD (event took place during this weekend) to distribute, schmooze, and promote. That didn't happen for a bunch of reasons, mostly time and money. While I regret that, I also stress that I am just a guy with a job and some semblance of a life still. In all honesty if I did push to the 9s and try to accomplish all of that as well - WITHOUT cocaine, I don't know if I'd even have doubled my download numbers.

So what, then, to take away from all of this? It's a good time to be analytical. The takeaway is that the mobile arena is as harsh as it's ever been, if not substantially gnarlier than it was a few years ago (already a minefield, then). There's something to the tune of 500 apps released a week, or so, and trying to envision a real-world counterpart to that is like a Walmart the size of Downtown LA, and it's something like 300 stories high. Also, each app is the size of a deck of cards. And the lights are dim. You get the picture.

Other than that, I've had some reliance on social media to bolster my chances. Between twitter and facebook - I've spent countless hours building up & maintaining both - I see that they are mostly useless, as far as my utilization of them. Unless you have something particularly captivating to showcase, and do it properly in advance and with some kind of appropriate production budget, even the well-est of wishers will not be there to electronically high-five you on a low-profile product launch. "Why should they?" Well, there's the perception that the social networks are more than the merest of echo-chambers for ADD memes and hype-train and such - but unless you live and die by it, and produce constant product for consumption (of a considerable quality), then it's just almost like a big waste of time to expect anything from it. If one tries to do things surgically, of course more prper use can be made of such resources.

Where does this leave me? I've got 2 apps freshly out with not much revenue to show for it, and likely that's how it will stay for some time. I've got another app that I'd like to release in the coming months as well, with little expectation for a different result. I'm also considering to release some other smaller things before the year is up, if possible - and hopefully get back on track with "my dream project" as well at some point that is not too far off.

But WHY?

Because I love to do this. I love making games, good ones. The mobile and (some of the) indie markets are harsh environments, but there is still something very special about this place and what it affords a creator. Even with the crazy launch conditions, it is such a charge to see your own little project go out there into the world, see that some strangers are enjoying it, getting that feedback. Even if it is small, even if it nets you no $$ - and not even any goodwill - it feels good to put positive things out there in the world which might make people happy.

Would I love to strike it rich with this, get better feedback, get some bonafide support from the community beyond a couple of kind-hearted souls and close friends? Of course I would. Furthermore, is that reality even a possibility? Well, sure - we will find out, won't we?

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Light up, and let GO!

Greetings programs! A lot has happened lately, so let's just tear into it like savages, why don't we.

BLAST ROVER released on Android - yes this has finally happened at last. The game was begun in Q3 2012, and expected to release by the following summer. Well, a ton of things happened preventing such a thing, and the whole project wrapped up a good deal of time later. To be honest I've basically been sitting on it for a good 6mo now, waiting for a sensible time to release. Actually, to be fair it's a "soft launch" as the iOS version is still being ported; when that wraps up, I'll make some proper noise trumpeting the release of the game. Hopefully that shouldn't be more than a month out, but it's hard to say right now.

Anyway if you are a supporter of Headcase Games, please grab the game and rate/review on Google Play. And tell you friends to do the same! (I know, no one actually does this)

You can grab Blast Rover from Google Play here.

JUMPBURGER submitted to iOS - damn it is a hat trick! Yes, just this afternoon Dan and I went about the final sweep of testing/bugfixing and last-minute prep, and submit a build of the game to Apple. Unlike Android - which resolves in hours - Apple has a vetting process as many of you may know, and that could take weeks before we are notified if the game is ready for sale or not. Anyway at this point we are planning to launch around the 4th of July, if the stars align (get it??) Watch this space for more news as this develops, or for a link to the game when it is actually available.

E3 - yep the biggest annual gaming event in the world was held here in Los Angeles last week, and I did attend it, however briefly. In the past several years my E3 experience has been kind of erratic, for numerous reasons. I barely spent any time on the floor this year, and while I was there it was mostly claustrophobic and annoying, too many people! I actually didn't really have time to get around and see much of what I would have liked to, but I did hit the important things - meeting up with some friends, checking out Indiecade (however briefly) and of course distributing a bunch of flyers for the just-launched Blast Rover. That may have been in vain - for the moment - but all part of the show, and in fact it was still useful for me in the after-hours parties I attended which were just really good times.

DAY JOB - I am still at DAQRI, and it is interesting and going fairly well. I am finally trying to throw my hat into the ring and start attempting to learn some C#, which is way out of my wheelhouse - but very necessary. So we will see how that all goes..! I have lots of AR plans in my head which I want to spend more time fleshing out, hopefully I'll be able to show off some of that stuff in some capacity at some point.

SO - WHAT'S NEXT? Good question! I am still working on the promo materials for Blast Rover, which are currently presentable if incomplete. I've been living in that stuff for ages! But very proud if how that is all looking. Also, I will throw my weight back toward Trapdoor, which has been untouched for quite some time now but I'd still love to wrap up and release. Now that the other two games are mostly off my desk, I can put more energy toward making this happen. And remember GunHead? Yes well I still think about this game all the time, and the various permutations it's existed in. As I get further through code deciphering, well let's say now that I do have a project to start sandboxing with.

And you! Thanks for following along, please help out and spread the word about our games. It really means a lot.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Games on the griddle

June 1st? Here we go again..

What the heck is going on, everybody? Playing some games lately? Interested in some games? Anybody, anybody?

Well things have been busy over here. As usual a lot of work going on, and things are all over the place as ever. Still putting some late-game touches on Jumpburger and hoping, very badly, to get that submitted this month to Apple. Also talked with the coder from MTMB Studios about putting a bow on Blast Rover and just putting it out the door. He's porting the Android build over to iOS right now and as soon as that is done, it will be submitted as well (following a bit of test, natch). I'd imagine it is a few weeks out. On that note, he is finishing up another game (no involvement from me) on his new game Mute Crimson + which just looks awesome, see the trailer for yourself here. Check out his Steam Greenlight page also. This game deserves some attention and I know my audience will love it!

Trapdoor? Well hey it's getting on a year now since it has seen any progress - which is painful - but I still resolve to see this thing get released! Actually I met with the Android programmer recently and we had some talk about how to potentially kick that end of it back into gear. I've been slow to move on it since the other things, noted above, have been demanding a lot of my time. As it's summer now, my attention turns more fervently on "get unfinished things finished" and my blog feels a bit heartache to look at as it's been some years since I've actually put out a new damned game :) I'll reiterate that making indie games is really my hobby more than a bonafide business agenda for some time now (obviously), but that frees me up to want to create things to the best of my ability and deliver what I consider are labors of love- because I do truly love doing development! - rather than just trying to meet some business deadline and "get something out the door." But as with all things, the more they linger, the more they weigh you down, so wrap-up would be key, for sure.

I'll take this opportunity to ruminate on GunHead for a moment. The game has purposefully been shelved for years now, which has been upsetting since it still is my "dream game" to make - but I don't regret it. I would prefer to put the entirety of my energy into building that rather than back-and-forth with so much else going on. Meanwhile, once in awhile I do come up with some great ideas to help set the game apart, and it makes me happy to still feel that the creative juices are flowing in that particular stew. It does sting to think about how long it's been since I have touched it, and how much work had gone into it. But yeah - in due time.

There's much to say about the world outside of this 2D mobile game development I do. I work at an augmented reality-facing studio in my day job, and it has been a couple of years now. It's been fascinating to be at the front of that sector of the industry, and I've learned so much by switching gears in that regard. We are coming into a strange period with AR right now however. As E3 is upon us (2 weeks away, I believe) and lots of talk about VR in the media, the buzz gets one thinking about where all of this is and where it is going. These new formats and media, the way we compute and interact with the digital and physical worlds - it's all changing and advancing so rapidly that it feels nearly impossible to keep up with things, so often. Especially when you are a creator (and an old man like me) you tend to want to dig your heels in, concentrate on your tools and process, and hammer away at trying to build and define methodologies and philosophies and specifically mechanics about how and why all these things will work together. It's a more elaborate departure that has been in play since this whole new mobile wave took off, designing for and controlling with these new interfaces (touch screen, gestural, movement controls, etc) - never mind how the marketplace and all of the business infrastructure has dramatically been evolving and reinventing in this time as well.

It is so fascinating, so exhausting, so overwhelming. But it is very gripping and I cannot help but to constantly be swept up in my own little part of it.

I think back constantly about what brought me to this point as well, it's a direct draw from my time as an independent developer and freelance artist,business-person - and also as a studio grunt/artist from the days before all of that, as well.  And so I look at where things are now, and my part in it, and where it looks like things might be going. Ad I say "fascinating and exhausting" all the time and it becomes a broken record, but there's really no better way to sum it up.

And now I find myself at a precipice once again. Every year in my life is different, with all of this stuff. With my business, my know-how and experience, even my immediate and long-term goals, it is all constantly and steadily shifting, and getting good footing is constantly elusive (yeah, thanks to the nascent industry and the peculiarities of my role and history with everything). And through it all I reflect back on the immediate things that brought me here, a blossoming love of design and desire to innovate and control how interaction and feedback and results work - to manipulate how people experience things on both conscious and subconscious levels, in a way to get past these current caveman-days where much of it is still seated and to a more active and participant and meaningful integration with how we look at and understand and communicate with each other and everything.

So I am not truly sure what I am saying. Making games and interface design and direction is the tip of a larger iceberg, and it's impossible to fathom what shape everything will take as it keeps expanding out. So much of what I touch feels tremendously humbling in the current phase, and that accounts for all these independent projects as well - but it does absolutely give validity to their necessity, and what they mean for whatever is next. And that is why I am still inspired to work hard and find out what is the next step for me, in all of this.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Development and Life Update

Greetings programs! "It's been awhile since I rapped at ya.." Lots of thins going on over here, usually I just get so very swept up in it and writing about it has not really been of interest to me for a very long time. But for reasons known only to me, it seems that it is worth reversing that trend. So here goes, with a (hopefully) brief entry.

1st things 1st - let's talk games...

Blast Rover is done. I don't recall if I have mentioned much on it's status in recent entries, and too lazy to check, but yes it is complete - has been for several months now.  Well as complete as things get around here anyway. It's an Android native application, and will need some seeing-to in order to run on iOS, but that was in the cards. So it ought to work! Anyway "when can I play it?" you may wonder. Soon, soon. I'd love to see it get out there by E3 at the latest (said I for many past E3s) but really I am being realistic. Actually I have reason to make that happen in the next five weeks' time, honestly.. I am still doing a ton of work putting the promotional campaign together. It's really this whole other project in itself. So fear not, the game will come at some point. Hey! If you are an Android user, and are reading this, and want to play the game - just hit me up and I will send it to you right now!

Trapdoor - I partied in Vegas with one of the co-creators of the game, much was said. I showed him the iOS version, which he dug, and we discussed ways to get this project back on track. Like the above game, this on is fairly close to completion and it's getting on a year since I've really made any assets for it... so it's a matter of plugging things in. I have it kind of on the end of my short list, since it kind of requires the most finesse. But I am happy to say that there is still locomotion with this.

Jump Burger - actually I have been putting a bunch of hours into this one lately. Dan has been doing a stupendous job wrapping up the coding and such. I've been tuning the background graphics quite a bit lately, going to sit in on that for another hour following this blog entry and see if I can get something to at least hand over to him. Finally I am starting to feel pleased with the aesthetic of this game. Like the others I feel it is very accessible and fun & exciting to talk about.

There you have it concerning the main Headcase projects. Much other work has been going on with other game development as well during my day job, which has nothing to do with the above discussion. Needless to say it's all very exciting stuff and I am really happy to be getting my hands dirty doing more experimental work, and putting together the logic and play control on my own. That is all part of a much larger conversation, but for now I will leave it as a footnote.

Had dinner tonight with a couple of friends, we worked together...uhhhhmmm... 2002! Oh crap, that was a long time ago. So much has happened in each of our lives since then. They are both doing extremely well (coders) and well on their way to becoming millionaires - if not so already. Me, I am more in line with a hundredaire route - oh wait - what is the jargon for someone who has tens of dollars? Anyway my payday will come! Perhaps.

Lots more to say, as usual, but I wanted to keep it brief and so I'll hold to that. 1am and I'd like to get some artwork done. I'll be back soon - thanks for reading!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Happy 2015!

It is 4:15am, exactly 2 weeks into the New Year. I've been sort of passing in and out of consciousness on my couch for the past couple of hours; finally dragged myself up, should turn to bed, but what the hell. I'll throw out a little blog entry.

Lots of my mind (when isn't there?) I had some haunting dreams (when don't I?) and plenty of unfinished business to attend to (when don't.. ok, ok, I'll quit it!) It'sa litle sobering to look at that date. 1/14/15. It's been 6 years now since my career changed drastically, and with that the path of my life. So much happened that first year of the new path. It was an exciting and tumultuous time. "If i knew then what know now" well I'd sure be much richer for it :) But I like to think I am somewhat prescient then, as now as well, that I can realize there are so many great things to be done in this period with the opportunities and tools I have been given, and have earned. Don't think I haven't tried...

It's been 5 years now since a legit new game was brought out under my label. That's always somewhat harrowing to consider in whatever capacity, but it feels empowering to consider how hard I have been working with my partners to reach another release milestone. It feels quite good to start this new year with the knowledge that Blast Rover has finally been completed, at least the proper game itself has; still working on the behind-the-scenes stuff, and that's nearing completion (and still so much work that no one ever talks about, even in these indie circles - but more on that shortly). I'm still regularly working many late hours building and planning with my other projects as well. Yes they are all coming along at a snail's pace, but they are coming, and that is all that really matters.

The independent development world is so, so daunting. It's been elastic for years, and each turn around the sun yields many strange stories, of success and sorrows, drama, ups and downs, shots in the dark and shattered dreams and everything in between. It's an emotional journey. I was inspired to write this blog post after reading some neogaf forum discussion about "Minecraft" creator Notch's success, sell-out, retirement, and resulting lifestyle extravagance (buying a $70 Million Beverly Hills mansion, partying with gaming and entertainment celebrities). Yeah here's a dude who came from a not dissimilar place (absolute obscurity in the indie gaming sphere), put something out that captivated and changed the world, and is now on the other side. We other devs like to look at this stuff and play the "what if?" game. We look modestly at our own work and wonder what it's purpose is - what does it mean for us, what could/should it do for us, what the reality will be.

Reality is bitch. It really is. Living in Hollywood and working on the digital creative end of the entertainment industry, in what is still a very young aspect of it, I've sure seen and heard many crazy things. I've seen some friends go from very quaint means to being millionaires. I regularly chew the fat with such people on a day-to-day basis; maybe most of them aren't quite "millionaires" but they are doing quite well for themselves in such an important, prosperous, and prestigious place in the world as Los Angeles. And of course I look at myself and compare what I have got, what I am, what I have earned, what I have squandered, what I have paid, what remains. I'm 40 in a couple of weeks... I have a pretty pimp bachelor pad the likes of which almost no one I've ever met/will meet gets to enjoy.. I work for a decent salary at a great day job surrounded by awesome people, in a relatively stable capacity, on the bleeding edge of tech and I've got myself worked into a good situation with it. My head is always exploding with ideas and I am surrounded by the means with which to actually execute on those that I cherry pick (even if sometimes it takes a long time to execute!) I have good people and good health and no shortage of things to do.

On the other hand I am usually pretty skint, every couple of weeks I pick through my change jar to see if I have enough money to get some fast food as I have too many bills always keeping me down. The years of "fighting the indie fight," sometimes aimlessly, have taken their toll (along with my insistence on not relinquishing the pimp bachelor pad, which if relinquished would make it much easier to get on top of my bills, but dammit I have one really nice thing and won't let it go until absolutely necessary!). My spirit is a bit dented, my mental state is quite exhausted in some ways. I've kinda got busted some time way back, not to the point where it'll ever stop me, but it certainly colors my outlook on the world.

Ah, things you write in the wee hours. Anyway now it's 15 years since I have made my life here in LA, away from my birthplace, my family and all the close friends I grew up with during the formative years. And my close friendships have changed a few times over, quite dramatically actually, since I have been out here (from age 25 to 40) in so many regards.


Pushing every day as a Unity designer for augmented reality during the daylight hours, and a planner/producer/artist/schemer for games and promotions during the hours when it is dark.  All the years have been interesting, and this one will be no different. Carry on.

And watch this space - as usual.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Beta Testers wanted!

 Help us beta test our game!



Attention fans of Headcase Games - and lovers of fun, near and far!

After a lonnnnnnnnng gestation period, my 2 cohorts and I are nearly ready to unleash Blast Rover on the world(s).

We are at the 98% mark and need to get a little feedback from some testers now. I have a PC build and an Android build to submit. If you are interested, please email me or give a shoutout to twitter @headcaseGames. All I request is that you give the game at least 10 minutes of your attention, and fill out a brief online survey following your experience. Be harsh, but fair!

Please only participate if you are interested in providing useful feedback. Thank you :)

ABOUT THE GAME:  Blast Rover can be described as a cross-breed of Super Meat Boy and Moon Patrol.

You must pilot an Armored Planetary Rover across the 8 planets of our Solar System, recapturing 20 levels in each World from a menacing Alien Empire.

Each level is filled will countless alien monsters to destroy, mind-bending puzzles to navigate, and dubiously-placed treasures to capture! A true test of reflexes, skill, and wits, Blast Rover is perfectly suited for pick-up-and-play or long sessions of action-packed exploration.

- 4 challenge modes per level
- Insanely detailed graphics
- Incredible electronic soundtrack
- Simple controls for both keyboard or touchscreen
- Unique Mechanics that evolve as you play
- Loaded with content, this game will challenge you for HOURS!


- Pat Derosby/ MTMB Studios (Design/Coding) - (Null Divide, Mute Crimson)
- Ron Alpert/Headcase Games (Art/Concept/Production) -  (Lords of Magic, Caesar III, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, Alpha Protocol, 180)
- Sad Sic (Music)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Abandon Hope!

...all ye who enter here! Oh just kidding, I've not given up the ghost. Not yet, anyway.

It's a little disconcerting to note that so much time has passed since my last entry, but then that is how these things go. Writing in my blog has simply not felt terribly compelling to me in a very long time - this is a lie - I am just really busy with all of the other things in my life. But it is true to a degree, 10 years ago I was fairly prolific and it built up speed for some time after that before sort of crashing following my philosophical evolution ("spend more time producing content, not promotion"). It doesn't mean I don't miss doing this however.

I think the larger issue is, in independent development, one grows weary of talking about "up and coming projects" after a certain statute of limitations has expired. It's now been years since I've last released a proper Headcase Games production, and that feels rather lame - especially if I am going to come in here, and say, well, anything.

Ultimately I am not going to feel too terrible about it; I would had my production completely ceased, and it has certainly not done that. It's not been deep-freeze'd either. Things of such a nature have just been on an extreme back-seat as my career has changed focus (discussed at length elsewhere in this blog) so, those things go, not too terribly surprising. And although I was fairly certain I would release 3 games over the course of the summer, now we are staring almost dead in the cold eyes of the end of 2014 and I am still empty-handed. I still hold that at least ONE game MAY see release before light-out... I know better than to make such a promise. But we will see.

On that end, I'll make some noise about the current state of affairs (because, I can!) Blast Rover has been "close to done" for well over a year now.. I accept most of the responsibility for the fact that this has not turned into a reality. The game simply was HUGE and the amount of assets that needed to be built for it were enormous. Also, I became strict with the idea that the game needed to support 4K - "future proofing" and all of that (as if there could ever be such a thing in tech, grump). Supporting 4K + HD + SD for all assets involved, it's been a nightmare. Mind you this is a game with a fair amount of 2D tilesets/sprite work in it. I built a fair amount of the assets (characters) as 3D models and rendered with a toon shader, but the lion's share of everything else were painstakingly and anal-retentively rendered as vector graphics which were trying very much NOT to look like vector graphics (because I hate the vector flash look that so many games use today). So it's been a long slog to say the least. But it has also been very much a labor of love. Regardless of what this thing is once it releases, it's been pure joy to work on the project. I won't lie and say there weren't periods where I got burned out and simply wished it would go away, with such a long and involved development I would be lying - but between the presentation and the gameplay I am very pleased with what we have accomplished. For me that is a huge reward.

Anyway the game is fairly wrapped up at this point, I am putting some "icing on the cake"assets together and getting ready to ship it out for testing/etc. A couple serious issues to address still, but it can't possibly be much longer now (heh heh... heh heh.... heh hehhhh-hh-h-h)

Trapdoor has always been on-and-off'ing in the background, I feel somewhat ashamed to realize it's been unfinished for like 3 years as well. Such a simple little game.. why? But again it's been a victim of circumstances. It pleases me to say that this past year, late spring actually, it started to get quite far along and a lot of the pieces finally snapped together. Along with everything else, of course, it tends to gather dust when I look away for more than a few minutes... but I believe most of it's assets are done as well. I still need to regroup the UI and touch up some ingame stuff - and ALSO convert everything to run properly with Android (that's pretty close, just not.. done.. yet). The coming weeks will see if we can get this thing into a presentable state such that it might have a candidate to submit by the year's end. We will see.

Jump Burger is kind of the tragedy of the group. The app that started the furthest out (2014 in fact) and got the most work done, the quickest.... but it was supposed to be wrapped up in the middle of the summer. At this point I have little expectation that it will ever see a release, at least in it's current trajectory. It was intended as a kind of throwaway experiment, but it actually turned into what I'd consider was really an ideal little mobile experience in many regards. It's a little depressing. So I can wholeheartedly promise that it won't release by the year's end. I have no idea when, or even if. Maybe I will learn to program myself, and just take care of it.. who knows...

GunHead must be mentioned, if only because it has been so long since it has been on my mind and I still consider it a "dream project" of mine. The working prototype was actually really excellent, and I miss having it very much. Not true either - I am glad it no longer resides on my phone, because that is a depressing reminder that we were on course with something quite fun (a 2D side-scroller run and gun that FELT GREAT on iOS!) If I ever get some cash together, I will just hire someone and give them all the assets and designs and get it made exactly how I want it. Even if the thing bombs in the marketplace, I don't really care, I just want to have a Contra on my phone that makes sense and is FUN!

Anyway there's the state of things. I have a billion other things to say about mobile/games/tech/industry/society/augmented reality/drama in my life/getting old/etc and would love to go on ad on in this journal, but it is late and I want to get back to designing Blast Rover icons. See ya later.