Wow, it’s already the end of the year! This will probably be a shorter status update than the one from 2021. Some of that might be down to laziness, but most of it is because there’s just less to talk about than last year. I expected that, and I think I made the right choices overall, but looking back it’s still something I have mixed feelings about.
A quick recap
The first half of the year- arguably the whole year- was dominated by Shattered 2 – The Promise. It’s the long-awaited (maybe) sequel to Shattered, broadly similar in concept but expanded, improved, and open world. I’ve already talked about that project at length in various posts and devlogs, but to recap, it’s a big game with a tumultuous development history that was conceived in 2020, started in 2021, and really pushed to completion in 2022. I’m happier with the result than I thought I’d be, but this isn’t the end of the story for Shattered 2; I’ll get to that near the end of this post.
The first game of the second half of the year was Jennifer of Vandenberg, for So Bad It’s Good Jam 2022. It’s a prequel/spinoff of my first SBIG Jam entry, Ja Wizardman 4, and once again is a hacky RPG Maker adventure. The pitch this time was “starts out like an epic fantasy adventure, but is actually about lying to your boss and stealing office supplies.” I had a lot of fun making it, and to me it has a special charm to it, but it did terribly in the jam, placing twentieth. I think it missed the mark with a style of humour that didn’t resonate with most of the audience, although it also is quite long and doesn’t have much for gameplay which probably didn’t help either.
For Magical Girl Game Jam 6, I did something completely different. See Who I Am is a visual novel about a transgender magical girl. Technically, it’s part of the Outliers and Outsiders (Magical Girl Gina) universe, but it’s more of a side story or spinoff. It’s pretty janky, with the usual programmer art I’m known for, but I tried to polish and clean up the UI and make it feel a bit more like a real visual novel than previous entries. If nothing else, I can finally say I’ve completed a visual novel!
I skipped BC Game Jam this year. That was a tough decision to make (I’ve been participated in every previous one), but after two jams in rapid succession, I wasn’t really ready for a third. The timing just didn’t work out well this year.
I did Inktober again, and blatantly flaunted the rules again. This will likely be the last time I participate. In previous years, I’ve had the opportunity to experiment a lot, but this year I often found myself scrambling to draw something as quickly as possible at the last minute. I didn’t really have the time to do it, and it often felt more like an obligation than an opportunity. Still, I did get a few interesting drawings out of it.
CommonCore development continued quietly in the background. It’s on more or less a yearly cycle, and the goal was to get the first 4.x.x final release out before the end of the year, which I met. The scope of it has shifted a bit, although this started before the last status update. As I move away from making more or less the same FPS-with-RPG-elements every time toward making a wider variety of games, CommonCore is evolving to be a more flexible base. I’ve also worked on adding support for more platforms as I take a second look at web and mobile. I talk about this a bit more in the CommonCore 4.0.0 announcement.
Finally, at the very end of the year, I updated The Crystal Tower, as planned. This iteration wasn’t a dramatic overhaul, but fixed some of the biggest issues with the first version. Gameplay segments were overhauled, dialogue was rewritten, and various odds and ends added or fixed. There are definitely still a lot of things I wished I had time to change, but those will have to wait for next year.
I mentioned doing some housekeeping on this site, and I got a good chunk of that done.
There are a lot of new pages for games that previously only had pages on itch.io, as well as landing pages for several series (serii? serieses?) and ongoing projects. I’m still trying to figure out the best way to link each game’s presence on itch with its presence on this site, but for the most part, each game has a page here that links to the page on itch, and the itch page has a link back to a game-specific page on this site. Notable exceptions are the jam games that didn’t already have pages, which I didn’t feel generally warranted pages of their own.
There still isn’t a vector version of the logo. I know, I know… However, I am starting to play with and learn Illustrator a bit, so we’re slowly making progress toward it!
Aside from that, a few things have been cleaned up and moved around, particularly in the Hardware and Creative sections which are relatively new compared to the Games section.
I’ve also launched a blog! It’s still very rough, but I’m already using it quite a bit. I go into why I launched the blog and what my plans are for it in a post on the blog itself, but in short, it’s more or less a straight replacement for my Twitter feed, created due to the uncertain future of that platform, but might also feature some longer-form content from time to time.
I released the source code for Shattered and Bang Ouch Infinite, as well as an art pack for the former. This is something I’ve been trying to do on an ongoing basis for years, but often gets pushed to the bottom of the priority list. I like sharing my work in a form that others can reuse, but it often requires a lot of prep work to get it into a state I can actually release.
In the past I’ve always tried to spin these updates positively, but I feel I overpromised and underdelivered in 2022. I did say there was going to be less in 2022. But while I finished almost everything I said I had planned in writing, there was a lot of stuff I wanted to get to that just didn’t happen and that was a personal disappointment for me. Unfortunately, I’m just at a point where the things I want to do are well in excess of the time and energy I have available to do them.
In particular, I never got to any of the experimental projects I’d hoped to tackle in 2022. In truth, I knew they were large in scope and likely wouldn’t get finished as completed games, but I did think I’d at least have an opportunity to try some things out. As it happened, all the time and energy I was willing to devote to game development went into “production” projects instead, and there was nothing left to do the crazy stuff.
In general I was trying to spend less time working on projects in 2022 and more time doing, well, everything else. It’s definitely been a net positive for me personally, I feel that it’s been a healthier year for me, and I don’t regret it in general. There are projects I really wish I’d been able to get to, but at the end of the day I only have so much time and energy I’m willing to commit. While games and other creative projects are the focus of this site and my online presence in general, they’re not what my entire life revolves around.
I think if there’s anything I might change about my approach in 2023, it’s cutting back a bit on those big, important, “production” projects and spending a bit more time doing stuff that’s weird, experimental, silly, and fun. But we’ll see.
I’m definitely continuing the trend I started of spending less time in front of a computer working on projects, and more time outside in the real world. There are a lot of projects I’d like to do, but I don’t want to spend too much time and effort talking up stuff that may or may not ever happen. With that being said, I do have a few mostly firm plans.
There are two games that I plan to start working on in 2023. I’m not setting a goal of finishing them within 2023, but I’m hoping to at least make some significant progress on them, and possibly release one of them. Again, I’d like to emphasize that this depends on how much time I end up having and how smoothly the development process goes.
One of those is Shattered 3, which probably isn’t a surprise. I’m still ideating and not ready to announce the details yet, but it’ll be a significantly different game than Shattered 2, with completely different mechanics and a different overall style.
I am willing to announce the (admittedly still tentative) title, though: Shattered 3 – Queensreign.
The other game is SE7ENGOKU. It’s kind of a fangame/spinoff of Dogtopius’s Tengoku Project, although the details of that require a bit of explaining (and are a bit silly). Someone made the joke on the MGGJ Discord server that if there is Tengoku, there must be One- through Nine-goku, one thing led to another, and the next thing we knew people were claiming a number to eventually make a game. So far, there hasn’t been a lot of activity since the initial plans, but I’m hoping to change that, or at least be the exception to the rule.
Strictly speaking, I’ve already started work on SE7ENGOKU, though I only got as far as the main menu. I was hoping to work on the mechanics this year, but that didn’t happen. Unless something goes catastrophically wrong, though, there will at least be a mechanics demo out by the end of 2023.
Odds and ends
I cut back dramatically on the number of game jams I participated in for 2022 (versus 2021 and 2020), and though I don’t intend to cut back even more I’m not planning to go back to my previous level of participation, either. I skipped MGGJ5 and did MGGJ6, and I’ll probably only do one of two MGGJ in 2023 as well. So Bad It’s Good Jam remains a perennial favourite, and maybe I’ll return to BC Game Jam after skipping it this year, or maybe not.
Early in the year, I quietly ported Glowstick Deliverance Infinite to UWP and published it on the Microsoft Store. For 2023, I’m considering porting a few other games to mobile, UWP, and/or web, but it’s very tentative at this point. I don’t really enjoy the porting process- it’s often tedious and frustrating, and doesn’t feel like you’re creating anything new- but I think there’s potential to reach some new audiences with some of my games and it might be worthwhile.
There are also a few games I’m looking at possibly making some updates to. For the most part, these will be minor if they happen, and probably not worthy of a full announcement.
However, I am planning a fairly major update to Shattered 2, as I alluded to at the beginning of the post. The details are still being worked out, but it’ll add some new areas, probably a quest or two, some new dialogue and some bits of lore that didn’t make it into the game the first time. I’ve had this planned since the initial release, and I’m pretty excited for this one, though I am worried it’ll pull time from other projects.
CommonCore 5.x “Edgewater” will largely be a continuation of 4.x; more rationalization, cleanup, quality of life, and flexibility. I don’t really have any major features planned to talk about. Depending on the needs of the Shattered 2 update, we may see a CommonCore 4.1.1 or 4.2.0 as well.
There will likely be a few source code and art pack releases in 2023. Some projects just aren’t practical to release because of the amount of third party content that has to be stripped out, but See Who I Am is already planned to have a source release and Shattered 2 is a possibility as well. Both of these will likely get art packs, too. I still have a backlog of older art to sort through and possibly release, but that’s been on the backburner for a year now and I’m not going to promise that for 2023 either.
I’m taking a break from making videos, largely for personal reasons. I won’t say simple time and energy isn’t a factor, but there are other reasons why I don’t want to get behind or especially in front of the camera. That means Project NOVA is on hold and some of the other content I was thinking about doing probably won’t ever be made. This hiatus started in 2022, will continue into 2023, and maybe beyond. I don’t know, and that’s all I’m going to say about it here. It’s possible some of the content I was thinking about doing as videos will come out in other forms.
Although I’m not planning to do a game in the Outliers and Outsiders series in 2023, that doesn’t mean there won’t be any Magical Girl Gina content. In-universe, there’s over a year between At The Break Of Dawn and The Crystal Tower, and I’ve been planning something to fill this for a while now. I have a tentative storyline in mind, but I’m still vacillating a bit on the medium. At one point it was planned as a webcomic, but I feel that will be too much work, and I’m now leaning toward a quartet of possibly-illustrated novellas. This project is codenamed Gap Year but does not have a title yet.
I am hoping to do more drawing and other art in 2023. I said that about 2022, and didn’t really accomplish it, but I’m setting the goal again for 2023.
It’s possible the archive site will finally get replaced with something better in 2023, after a few years of stating my intent to do so and not actually doing anything. That being said, it’s still pretty low priority. The current setup isn’t the most professional, but it works well enough.
As the saying goes, nothing more permanent than a temporary solution.
I know better than to promise the vector logo again. I don’t really have anything planned for this site next year- I did a lot of cleanup in 2022- but I am going to continue to clean up and improve the blog, probably including better tagging and categorization as well as some visual/UI tweaks. I’d like to open up comments on the blog, but the last time I did that spam was an insurmountable problem, and I’m still looking into solutions for that.
Last but not least, did you know there’s an XCVG Systems Discord? It hasn’t been advertised much, it’s pretty much dead, and it’s not well organized, but I’m hoping that changes in 2023. I’m going to revamp and reorganize it, add some branding, add more channels, actually use the Policies and Announcements channels, and push it a bit more on other platforms. I’m not sure if an XCVG Systems centered hangout spot is really a thing that’s needed, but I want it to at least be fit for purpose.
Summing it all up
Going into 2022, I made a deliberate choice to spend less time and energy on projects, and I stuck to that. Shattered 2 was definitely the main project of 2022, but I was able to do a few of my usual jams and build a few games for those, as well as an update for The Crystal Tower. There were a few more experimental projects I wanted to try, and I am a bit disappointed I wasn’t able to get to them. I also launched a blog, did some cleanup on the website, did Inktober again, and even managed to sneak in a port and some source code releases.
In many ways, 2023 will be similar to 2022. Less time and energy spent on projects overall; those are the focus of this site and my online presence, but not my life as a whole. A few big projects: Shattered 3 and SE7ENGOKU, though actually finishing them in 2023 is not a firm goal. Plus a few game jams, a few updates, some housekeeping (including relaunching the Discord server!), steady work on CommonCore, and hopefully some time for art. Finally, though I’m not planning another Outliers and Outsiders game, I am planning another project in that universe, as well as another yearly update to The Crystal Tower.
See you in 2023!