End Of Year 2021 Status Update

by | 2021-12-31

2021 was another interesting year. Somewhat calmer and more collected than 2020, but with its own challenges and surprises nonetheless. It was also, unexpectedly, a very productive year.

Since the last update…

Almost immediately after the last status update was GBTK Jam #6. This is a parody of the GMTK jam where the objective is to make the worst possible game. I’d done it twice before and taken first place, and my challenge for the third time around was to make the worst possible browser-playable game. I made Das Underseaboat, which is ostensibly a submarine game, albeit one with a terrible UI, ear-piercing sounds, nonsensical gameplay and a tendency to crash tabs and lag out browsers.

This is an actual screenshot of the game

I accomplished what I had set out to do and taken first place again with my monstrosity of a browser game. It was a fun, quick project, but although I feel I could make a worse game I think that’s pretty much it for me and GBTK Jam. Some entries are fun and interesting in their own way, but some border on malware, and my own entry felt dangerously close to the latter. In other words, I don’t feel I could or should make a worse game. Still, it’s always an interesting challenge to do something completely out of left field once in a while.

Fire With Fire, released as At The Break Of Dawn, was pushed forward because things just lined up: MGGJ4 was a thing, the themes would fit, and I had some extra time to do it. This was a sequel to my MGGJ2 game, In The Middle Of The Night, following on a month after the first game. I’ve had a general storyline and some other ideas in mind since I’d done the previous game, but just hadn’t had the opportunity to turn it into a game until that point.

It all makes sense in context

I’m pretty happy with At The Break Of Dawn. I wish I’d managed to fit in a boss fight, and I wish I’d managed to get the gameplay a little bit better, but overall it was a pretty major improvement over In The Middle Of The Night in the way a sequel ought do be. I’d done a lot of thinking and spent a lot of time on the narrative, and that part was very well received. The length and pacing was also something I’d really wanted to improve and I think I pulled that off as well.

BC Game Jam did happen in 2021, albeit in the fall instead of the spring and as a virtual rather than in-person event. I had other commitments that weekend which left me with well under 48 hours to actually work on my game, so I kept the scope small. I made an infinite runner called Glowstick Deliverance Infinite, the premise being a reference to the yearly distribution of glowsticks at the in-person event. It was fun to do a completely different kind of game in a genre I hadn’t touched in a long time, and the end result turned out well especially given how little time I had to work on it.

Simple but fun

I have a few ideas for a post-jam version, but haven’t gotten around to implementing them yet. Like my previous BCGJ entry, the source is available on GitHub.

I did Inktober again, once again approaching it in loose way: ignore any rules about ink and paper, focus on drawing something rather than drawing perfect, don’t overthink it and try to experiment. This time, I worked in some other styles, including pixel art, a pen drawing, and a painting. Once again, you can view the full gallery here, but some favourites are below.

Project Takagi, which I’d been dropping hints about since the end of last year, was released as The Crystal Tower at the very end of November. It’s a holiday special in the Magical Girl Gina series, and really only makes sense after At The Break Of Dawn which is one of the reasons I wanted to get that project finished so badly. When a fancy holiday part goes wrong, it’s up to Gina to save the day and her girlfriend… if you know your Christmas movies, you probably know where this is going already.

Now I have a machine gun…

To be honest, the response was a lot more tepid than I had hoped. I think this comes down to releasing at an awkward time and doing a seasonal special that isn’t clearly labelled as a seasonal special. The game itself also has more rough patches than I’d like, since I had to cut scope and rush a bit to finish it in time. I’ll be back with an update next year, though, and hopefully every year going forward!

The best laid plans?

I completed every jam I wanted to do in 2021 and finished two games that I was really keen on making but wasn’t sure if I’d get the chance this year. In fact, by sheer number of games this might be my most productive year yet. Here’s the list:

I figured I’d do a few jam games and either The Crystal Tower (aka Takagi) or At The Break Of Dawn, not both, so I’m pretty happy with what I was able to put out. Unfortunately, I had to put Shattered 2, which was supposed to be the big game of 2021, on the backburner to make room for everything else. I think this was the right decision, especially since I really wanted to release Takagi this year and At The Break Of Dawn really makes sense to release before Takagi, but there’s still a little bit of disappointment in not finishing Shattered 2.

About as far as we got on Ascension III

I ended up pulling the plug on two major projects. Ascension III had been stalled for years, and I finally called it quits. You can read my full thoughts here, but in short it stopped being the dream project and I lost interest in huge projects in general. I learned a ton from that project, though, and its technological underpinnings became CommonCore. It was sad to see it go, but at the same time, also a relief to finally close the book.

Character designs were slightly revised even since this, but that’s about it

The other project, known only as newip, never made it off the ground. Part of that was solely because I didn’t have time to work on it, and part of that was because I could see it exploding in scope into something I’d never be able to manage, and I didn’t want to have something like that on my plate. This was early on, though, before I’d radically changed my other plans.

I’m happy with the things that got made, but I have mixed feelings about how much my plans changed. I went in knowing I’d have less time in 2021 and intending to do less game dev, but instead ended up spending a greater proportion of my free time on it instead. I’ve also put the Shattered series, which I have fairly firm plans for, back a year. On the other hand, I definitely had shifting creative priorities (some of which I’ve talked about, some of which I haven’t) and I’m satisfied with how I was able to navigate that maze.

There was one goal I’d managed to mostly succeed in. I’ve created so many one-shot IPs over the years, many with sequel hooks left hanging, that I really feel I should get back to but just can’t do anything with for one reason or another. For 2021, I said I would not create any more, sticking to existing IPs, and for the most part I succeeded. The two big games- The Crystal Tower and At The Break Of Dawn- are both part of the Magical Girl Gina series, which now has a name: Outliers and Outsiders. I did relax this a bit for non-narrative projects, and I probably won’t keep to it in 2022 for the smaller projects either.

Back for more less!

With so many projects, I was pretty much in jam mode the whole year. I love game jams, but they’re stressful, and I need time to relax and do other things. It’s something I can do for a few weeks here and there, but not something I can do ad infinitum. I’d been hoping to do more non-game projects and actually play more games, but all that had to take a backseat in 2021, and I was definitely more stressed than I needed to be throughout most of the year.

So in 2022 I’m doing less. I’ve laid out tentative plans for 2022 in the past, but you can forget those- I’ve changed my mind.

I’m doing fewer game jams in 2022. I do SBIG Jam every year, and this one will be no exception. BC Game Jam, if it happens, as well. There are two Magical Girl Game Jams planned for 2022, but I’m only going to do one of them at most. As mentioned above, I’ve already retired from GBTK Jam after three winning entries; you can read my rationale here.

The big project, for real this time

I’m really, really going to try to avoid having one major project for the year creep into two and a half major projects. Shattered 2 was supposed to be the one big project of 2021, but at the very end of 2020 I added Takagi to the mix, then rearranged things halfway through the year so I could release At The Break Of Dawn (then unnamed) before Takagi. This time, I’m very confidently ending 2021 with only Shattered 2 in mind as a major project, which is a better starting point. Time will tell whether I’m able to stick to that.

The Crystal Tower will get an update, of course, as the plan is to add a little every year. It’ll probably be a very modest update, maybe adding in some of the scripted sequences I didn’t manage to get into the initial release.

The roadmap for CommonCore 4.x Downwarren is a lot shorter than Citadel. It’s a cleanup and a rationalization more than anything. I’ve decided I’d rather spend time elsewhere than work on the sandbox, which might come in 5.x Edgewater.

There are a few experimental projects I have in mind. I’d like to try building a real-time strategy game, and I’d like to trying building networked multiplayer. I’m also thinking of doing something with turn-based RPG battles. I’m not going to commit to any of this, though, and these will definitely be tech demo type things rather than fully complete games.

If I can stick to my plans, it’ll be a much more sane year than 2021 was, with approximately half the releases and a lot of them smaller. If.

What else am I thinking of doing in 2022? I might actually manage a webcomic, finally, though I’m still working through that concept. I have some video projects in mind, and once again, I’d really like to spend some more time drawing. I’d like to do some writing, though I’m not sure what. All this is very much if I feel like it, as I feel like it- I don’t want to commit to stuff that isn’t thought through and may not happen.

I’d like to say that I’m doing less so I can do more quality stuff, but that’s not what this is- I’m just straight-up planning to do less. Ultimately, all of this stuff is a hobby for me, I still have a life to live, and if I’m not enjoying it, there’s no point to it.

More odds and ends

I skipped the fall update this year, partially because I was too busy and partially because there wasn’t a lot to announce at that time. Going forward, I’m only going to do two status updates a year: one at the end (like this one) and one around the halfway point. I think that’s a better balance, especially since there will be less to talk about next year.

The archive site is up and the contents are mostly complete. I still consider MediaFire a stopgap solution, and I’m hoping to move to something more robust in 2022.

The logo is still not vectorized. Sorry. It’ll happen someday.


In summary:

  • Made possibly the worst browser game ever for GBTK Jam #6 and retired from GBTK Jam
  • Released Fire With Fire way ahead of schedule as At The Break Of Dawn, for MGGJ 4
  • Made an infinite runner, Glowstick Deliverance Infinite, for BCGJ 2021
  • Project Takagi is The Crystal Tower, a holiday special with Magical Girl Gina
  • Did Inktober again, view the gallery here
  • Overall 2021 did not go to plan, though I made more games than expected
  • Cancelled Ascension III and newip, pushed Shattered 2 to 2022
  • Fewer games planned for 2022: Shattered 2 is the only major project, less jam participation
  • Potentially more non-game content, maybe a webcomic, but might just relax more
  • Two status updates per year going forward
  • Better archive site in 2022
  • Still no vectorized logo

Thanks for coming along this journey with me so far, and I hope to see you all in 2022!

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