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.

BUT.. I AM STILL HERE.

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!

 











CALL FOR HELP!

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!

Staff:

- 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.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

ARBITRARY BLOG ENTRY

I have a feeling like writing in a blog that you seldom maintain is a lot like shooting small capsules of air out into space. Technically, you are doing something interesting, but you are the only one who will ever be aware of it, and it will never yield any kind of result whatsoever, and if anyone ever caught you doing such a thing, they'd believe quite strongly that something was probably wrong with the chemicals in your brain.

That being said, I am going to make good on my promise to update this blog in a daily manner, and also to keep up the steady stream of releasing a full game every fortnight. I can't believe I've already released 14 games in the past month's time ALONE. "Super Headsquisher" has been tearing up the charts, and "Help My Knees Are Asleep" is performing surprisingly well in the zombie survival action category. I'm putting the final touches on the "Facebook Murder Racer" RPG which is Headcase's first foray into the foreign markets, it will be interesting to see how that one performs. Make sure that your keyboard is hooked up, though, because we are really having a tough time tracking down this nasty crash bug which seems to wig out pretty badly if you've not yet done that.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Late Summer 2013 Development Update

You know, I stated to write this update twice in the past 6 weeks already. I'm just going to do it. Inspired by my fellow developer's efforts to put up their own blog posts, or at least talking on the matter.

...I'm still here, Headcase is still moving along. 2013 has been an extremely productive year in many respects, and working very hard to get Blast Rover ready for delivery. Coding and design has been done for ages now and asset creation is probably 80-85% there if not more.  It's a big game with probably way too much detail put into it, but I'd prefer that than the other way around. I'm really aiming to wrap it up in the next month, but there's still much to do. Steady as she goes. Testers will be necessary, hint hint.

The sleeping monster that is Trapdoor was also awoken recently, I had designs to finish it up over a short period but it was like opening a can of worms (this is what happens when a project goes untouched for well over a year!) Still it was good to revisit it and put some more thought into it's design and execution. I've decided to attack it with fervor following the completion of the other project; it gets hard to focus on many things at once! Releasing both games before the year's end is my goal. Following that I'd like to turn my attention back to our run-n-gun shooter which has been frozen in carbonite for what seems like decades now, at least...

I've had a day job for some months now, which I've discussed in this blog before. It's been interesting and very educational; I've worked in many situations the past several years, and this one seems like it's the best and most promising in I don't know how long.  I've learned quite a bit about designing & implementing with Unity3D and it's been quite refreshing; Augmented Reality is something that is still very much in it's infancy, but it is fascinating to be a part of all of that. I cannot wait to see what 2014 will bring!

New consoles are on the horizon, in fact within a couple of months this new dawn will be upon us. More than ever it feels very lackluster, I honestly can say I don't have any interest in seeing any of the immediate fallout of the system launches of either the PS4 or the X1.  I am thirsty for some innovation and I suppose I have just got quite far away from being a traditional gamer in the modern sense. Meanwhile, mobile and casual gaming still intrigue me greatly. I have a head full of plans that I'd love to experiment with; in due time!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Mid Spring Development Update

Hey folks, I just wanted to put out a little update since things have been quite on The Official Front (TM) for some time now. First and foremost, work has been continuing in earnest on our new game "Blast Rover" - I was hoping to get it wrapped by E3 (one month away); this looks to be impossible, but I don't mind as the project is in very good shape. I'm planning to release a couple of screens at some point soon - my impetus has been to push this game really, really heavy graphically, I feel there is no way to get an indie game out there nowadays without having a strong production quality to the artwork. As such, it's been taking a very long time to create all the art assets, but the payoff will be huge. I just gawk and gape at what I am creating, it looks really slick and I am proud of it (oh, just let me have my moment)

Gameplay-wise, the experience is really tight and lends itself so well to the touchscreen. I think I prefer playing it on-screen than with a keyboard (haven't tried controller yet but I do believe we've got the hookups in place by now). Pat has done an exceptional job with his design work on the game and I feel like we have a very fun, addicting (yeah, I said the A-word) game which will keep people glues to their devices.

One thing which I spend an inordinate time agonizing over is the pricing model. This is were it all gets really sticky. At this point I feel that we just have to give the game away for free, and expect that we can make some money with IAP. Like many I am profoundly anti-IAP but the indie market is so ridiculously crowded right now that I feel there's no way we'll make enough $ on this thing to justify it's development (been going since last October or so!) if we go for straight sales. We could flop hugely with IAP of course, but I do think we have a decent scheme worked out which will be generous enough to provide the average player with plenty of free-experience, without forcing them to feel crappy and "that they have to pay to get an enjoyable game."  The caveat being that of you DO pay up in some way or other, you will get a very different experience with this game. It sounds funky but I have seen it done well in the past. The only way it could really fail is if we simply don't get a strong volume of downloads, and that's why I am working so damn hard to make sure the artwork is compelling!

* * *

GunHead has been out of my mind for some time now (it's halted development while we concentrate on Blast Rover) but I still intend to pick it up later this year. Occasionally I load up the prototype on my phone and tool around with the simple 1 level I'd built for the game. There's a good 50% of work left to do on this thing (at LEAST) but even the little prototype is just fun for what it is. I feel like it's got some horrible issues (the control is slick but not very intuitive in it's current incarnation) but even as-is I just wish there was more actual game in there to play. It just feels good and satisfies the desires I had for such a game when I went out to begin creating it. We'll see how things go in the meantime, but rest assured, it will get released at some point!

* * *

I've been busy as hell during the days, I've been doing design work at daqri for the past couple of weeks (and a couple more are ahead of me). We're cranking on a bunch of things and it's a bit exhilarating.  Working in Downtown LA is really nice!  We are right across the way from all those huge financial towers, it's pretty fascinating to be in the middle of all of that. I wish it didn't smell so uriney however.  As for daqri, augmented reality is certainly an interesting premise and I do feel that they are going to be making some interesting waves with this stuff as the tech progresses.  I have definitely had a couple of thoughts influenced by the culture over there, and making some AR experiences could be compelling. At any rate, my gig should end just before E3 and then it's off to look for more work. The never-ending hustle continues.

***

On a more personal note, there's definitely been a lot of huge changes in my life as of late. I'm recently single, and it's been a long time since I've been in this position (almost a decade!) Considering that the majority of my 20s and 30s were spent in (longer-term) relationships, it's definitely an adjustment period for me in many ways. As I am staring down the barrel at 39, the last thing I wanna do right now is go back out and "do it all again..." The thought of it is just very exhausting, and honestly it's such a huge fight right now with keeping my career on track, continuing with my independent development, never mind trying not to be crushed by all of the financial issues which we all know and love. It just doesn't seem that there's room for anything else in my life, but we will see. At this point I never have a clue what the hell will be going on in any capacity of my life 6 months down the road..  In spite of my tone, I am happy to have several positive things going on. Like I said, it's very tough financially but I don't regret the fact that I've done a ton of work getting my name/projects out there and with so much passion and excitement for the things that are currently being done. Rather a tough time managing it all, than to be middle-aged, hating my job, disinterested in my career, just consuming the factory-formula drivel that passes for entertainment in the modern age (no offense to those of you dedicated fanboys who just can't get enough of sequel this and predictable that, but I just have no interest in so much of it anymore!)  If things aren't new, different, and exciting, then it's up to those of us with the creative spark and powerful tools to make them, ourselves...

Monday, March 25, 2013

Post-PAX 2013

Yeah so, it is late March and I am still stuck in Boston for one more day. My workstation is 3000 miles away and in order to remain productive that means I will post in my nearly mothballed blog for a change.

 I arrived in Boston a few days ago for PAX (also Passover is tonight, it's my yearly visit to the family.. why doesn't this stuff happen in the summer?) Spoiled by the eternal sunshine and warmth of the beautiful west coast, I anticipated freezing temperatures and miserable precipitation, although it looks like I've been fortunate to avoid both so far which really seems like a miracle. Just gotta hold out for one more day!

 PAX was a great time. To be honest I've never really been a fan of any such event I have attended for various reasons, I am there usually to promote or make connections or what have you. This show was notable in that I met with my current programmer for the 1st time (in person) after nearly a year of collaborating on a few projects; that's always unusual but it went off well and it was good to hang out in reality for a change! We'd come off of a long stretch of seriously crunching hardcore on our current project, I feel like we are both extremely proud of the state it is in and it feels great to see that the finish long is within sight. It's a painful thing to dwell on how long it's been since last Headcase Games has released a new project (I really don't wanna think on it!) so this is long overdue; there's a fair amount of work to get through yet, but the game looks great, it's very fun to play, and very importantly our production pipeline is very well-situated which is no small feat. It is still difficult to say when to project for a release owing to various reasons, but I'd like to think we can be approaching a candidate inside of 1 month's time so long as we can continue on with this rhythm; on the contrary, I can honestly count on two hands how many times I've said similar things in this very journal about X amount of productions, so I will officially hold my tongue regarding the matter, any further.

 However, the call for beta testers has been put out and though we've got a decent pool, I'd like a few more and if you can really dedicate to trying to beat the bejeezus out of our game, please don't hesitate to contact me. We're close to a releasable Android beta, and I don't think an iOS version is more than a few weeks out potentially? As for the game, it's called "Blast Rover" and I currently describe it as "Moon Patrol meets Super Meat Boy, with a dash of Blaster Master tossed in.."

 Other projects! Let's mention them while we are at it.. well, I joined the "'I got drunk and lost my iPhone' Club" several months ago, and with that my ability to play any iOS games was kaput. This was secretly a good thing, as it forced me to quit my years-long Drop7 hardcore addiction cold turkey; and thankful for that as I was still playing it for hours each day, and haven't reinstalled it on anything since. I miss that game but I hope to high heaven that I never lay eyes or fingers on it again. This also means that I haven't touched any of my WIP iOS projects in such a manner either (specifically Trapdoor and GunHead) although both also exist in other forms on other platforms: the GunHead build, although stalled for many months, was still in a good place and a constant reminder of what I wanted to push forward with. Fast forward to now, my Trapdoor programmer had recently hooked me up with a 3GS and I've finally JB'd it and got my old .IPAs running again. So it is a nice refresher to pick up with the old WIP and get my head back to where things were at. Although that game had a long way to go, there was a lot of nice work done and the build felt really good to play with. It's a nice jostling reminder that this is still waiting for me to continue on with, someday. Meanwhile, Pat and I are mindful of what's been going on between Kickstarter and the larger "retro-revival scene" and it feels very appropriate to launch a KS to pickup development with GunHead once Blast Rover wraps. I've mentioned it before, we have a strong amount of material already to assemble a decent video promo for the project. I'm tired of talking about it and just really want to move on with it, although the downtime has allowed our tech to progress considerably so it's been far from a wasted opportunity.

 Immediately following BR I'd also like to attempt a quick production and release for the 180 "sequel," or side-story, whatever you want to call it. I look at it not so much as a money-making proposition, but rejiggering of the assets and attaching some new gameplay rules to deliver a fresh experience. If we can output it in a manner similar to iFist on Android (very low-impact) than it will be a worthwhile venture, and I suspect some of the thousands of current 180 players will at least appreciate the effort.

 Trapdoor is kind of my shame at this point, the game is very fun and it's sad that the game has just stayed put in stasis for so long. I feel awful that the programmers who've given me the time of day to bring it to such a state have seen me just leave it lingering in the wind for so long; the brutal truth is that life has just been kicking my ass and there's been no room to pick it up. I was planning to make some decent progress with the game in time for PAX, but obviously it's not happened. And I still would rather let it sit unfinished for however long it's gonna take, as opposed to packing it up and pooping it out in a half-baked state. E3 is the next blip on the radar so I guess I will say that's my next date to be hopeful for some progress; now that my iOS device is back in action that should spur on some development on my end as well, but..

 ...the brutal truth (as mentioned above) is that I am pretty miserably destitute and my main focus right now is on finding some kinda steady income. I was fortunate to be employed with a good gig for the last quarter, but my income and output are pretty 1:1 so it's fairly impossible to work professionally, save up, and then fall back with an eye on using downtime to catch up on too many of these side-projects. I am working as diligently as possible to turn my indie business profitable enough to spark it into such a state that I can do more than merely tread water with it, but until I release something that can actually make money, or get a legit Kickstarter campaign finished and funded (no small task for sure!), then my professional life is just a constant ping-pong of DO A BUNCH OF PAID WORK and TRY TO SQUEEZE IN SOME INDIE STUFF IN THE MEANTIME. I wanna stress that this is how it goes "when one pursues the independent game developer life" however, and I know what I have signed up for; likewise just trying to make a living following one's passion. The verdict, as far as I am concerned, even with all the heartache and stress and soul-crushing neurosis, aggravation and general tsuris brought on by such decisions is that it is all worth it. I have worked too long and too hard, but also I really stand by the quality of what I've worked on, and the people I've been involved with, across the board. If it all ends tomorrow and nothing further gets done, well that is a shame but at least I've been trying and can look at the body of work we've produced (complete or otherwise) and feel satisfied that some excellent, passionately-produced effort has been put out, across the board.

 And don't worry, I am not going anywhere. It may be a protracted period, but Headcase Games will always trickle out, so long as I am still here :) Thanks for reading, and thank YOU for playing!