2019: A Year In Review

by | 2019-12-31

We’re now at the end of 2019, and it’s time to look back and reflect on how it went.

The past year has been a bit of an odd one, rubberbanding back and forth. Some things went well, some things really didn’t. I made some goals, didn’t even get close to others, faked my way through a few and abandoned some. It seemed to fly by and seemed to crawl along like molasses. It was insanely busy and insanely relaxed. Things moved fast and things moved slow.

I think I did overextend and overpromise in 2018 and early 2019, but by the second half of 2019 I’d committed to focusing on just a few core projects and leaving a lot of other things by the wayside. I feel this was a good change, but it unfortunately meant that some things had to be let go.

Ascension III started off in an uncertain state going into 2019, but the plans had firmed up a lot by the second half of the year. Most importantly, I finally nailed down what I wanted Ascension III to be. I now have a vision for the core of the game, and all the design flowed from there. I didn’t make as much actual progress I had hoped- putting out an abbreviated demo instead of the envisioned one- but I still consider it a good year for this project. I’ve written up a post on itch.io that goes into all this in a lot more detail, and talks a bit about future plans as well.

I’ve occasionally mentioned a new IP, and I made some progress on that this year but not enough to formally announce it. I was hoping to have something substantial by the end of the year but that just didn’t happen. It’s still at a very early stage in development, without a title or even a real codename. I did put out a teaser of sorts and a post talking about it a little.

I alluded to an “all-new project” in my initial 2019 post. This wasn’t newip, but a game project. It was going to be a post-apocalyptic shooter/RPG inspired by Fallout and Metro- much shorter and much cruder, of course. The idea was to work on the technology behind Ascension III on a separate, smaller project, but once plans for Ascension III firmed up I decided to just forge ahead and build a prototype/vertical slice of that instead.

Project Katana was officially unveiled and officially cancelled in 2019. This was a ridiculously silly visual novel that I had been working on on-and-off since some time in 2017. Its status had become a bit of an injoke among my friends. I took another shot at it and released a short demo before deciding to give up on it for good.

I participated in two game jams in 2019- the same two I’ve participated in for the past few years. The first was BC Game Jam 2019, a 48-hour in-person jam. I created STARFURY, a top-down space shooter with a few unusual mechanics, for that one. The second was So Bad It’s Good Jam 2019, a one-week-and-change online jam. For that one I created Beach Defend 2000, a late-90s style turret shooter with fake microtransaction mechanics. That one took third place! Both of these projects were solo projects, and both leveraged the same CommonCore base being developed for Ascension III. I found that it made development just a little bit easier, but the big gain was getting quality-of-life features like menus, pausing, settings, and a development console out of the box.

The original Ascension received an update, over five years since the last one. Most of my mobile games also received updates for GDPR and Google Play policy compliance, but Firefighter VR+Touch was retired. The upcoming 64-bit requirement would require significant rework to comply with, and Google has pulled the plug on Daydream, leaving it without a platform. I’m really torn on the whole update-versus-deprecate issue. On one hand, I would like my games to remain playable on modern systems in as close to their original form as possible, as long as possible. On the other hand, it can be a lot of extra work to keep things up to date, which means less time to work on new exciting projects.

In 2018, I talked up my YouTube efforts and put out quite a few videos. In 2019, I didn’t post any videos except one half-baked status update and a few Ascension III demos. It turns out making videos is somewhat difficult and very time-consuming (who knew?), and I decided to focus my efforts elsewhere this year. There are still a few things I want to explore and make videos of, but it’s definitely taking a backseat to other things. If I make any more videos, the focus will be on the subject of the video rather than making videos for the sake of making videos.

2019 simply hasn’t been a good year for writing. I mentioned my book, The Fallenstar Prophecy, and the companion piece for Ascension III, a few times. I’ve made very little progress on those- my muse has gone off somewhere, and I’ve been too busy with the other projects to really get into either of those. I am still writing fanfiction, but only a little bit, and playing in some new fandoms.

I changed my open-source strategy a bit this year. The Ascension III repository was made private, with work occasionally transferred over to a public CommonCore repository. The downside is that progress isn’t as immediately made public, but it’s a lot easier to manage. Ascension III is full of third-party assets that can’t be publicly committed, and includes a lot of stuff that isn’t necessary at all for the core code and basic demo. I’ve also released a few more things as open source, which you can find on my GitHub.

In addition to code, I released a few new assets on OpenGameArt under permissive licenses. These are all things I created and used in my projects, some of which are new this year and some of which are quite old but haven’t seen the light of day before.

I did a lot of drawing this year. I’m still not a great artist but I feel like I’ve come a long way since my first truly awful drawings- the people I draw are now recognizably human! I did Inktober, minus the ink, which was a fun opportunity to try a bunch of different things. I also did a little bit of 3D work in Blender, which I still am not a fan of, but I can usually do what I’m trying to do now.

I rolled out a new avatar for 2019. It’s the same weird-looking chip as the old one, which I like way too much to replace with something normal. I redid it in 3D this time. I also finished rolling out the new (2018) logo across all my sites and accounts. Finally, this website received a bit of attention, with a bit of cleanup on the game pages, a new sidebar widget with links to other sites, and a move to a faster but cheaper webhost.

I think my biggest regret of 2019 is that I wasn’t able to strongly engage with the community and really get my work out there. I did try to brush up my strategy a bit, but it’s still something I struggle with. I have several channels of communication to use and I haven’t been able to dial in what to push through each channel. This is something I’ll probably write a long post about in the near future.

Despite the roller-coaster ups and downs of 2019, I feel better about my various projects coming out of 2019 than going into 2019. There was a lot of experimenting, some reorganizing, and a little bit of soul-searching. Maybe I didn’t get as much done in 2019 as I could have, but I now have a much clearer picture of what I want to accomplish in 2020 and how I’m going to get there.

The next post will be next year- hopefully within the next few days- and will talk about what I’m hoping 2020 will entail. See you all next year!

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