Monday, 20 February 2012, 21:57 - Starcat

About writing and indie game development

Winter is here, the temperatures leave no doubt about that. In the last weeks it was as low as -15 °C here in Munich. It’s already mid February and still, this is my first blog entry of the year.
The next months will be a very exhausting and stressful time for me. By the end of February I have to write the mid exam of my apprenticeship as application developer. School is slowly ending as well. There is another two week block in April and then that’s it.
The remaining time I’ll have to study. Until May I have to create my final project and write the final exam. Wish me luck!
The work-part of my apprenticeship continues until March 2013.

So far this year brought some great things for me.
Job-wise things are going fine and what’s even more important to me, on a private level, things are going great again. My better half is by my side again and we’re very much looking forward to the time that lies ahead of us. :-)

What’s probably most interesting to you, as visitors of this site, are my creative hobbies. Writing and my indie game projects.
Well, I have some news about that, too, even though I hardly find the time to blog about it.
Since working life started, time is short and I prefer to use the spare time that I have effectively, rather than just blogging about what I plan to do or what I could do.
A lot has changed the last year and I got a new perspective on the things, that are important in my life.
I really enjoy my work as application developer and I believe it’s the perfect compromise between hobby and profession.

Retrospective 2010: Eerievale
I dedicated the year 2010 mostly to my dream of working on my indie game projects. Especially Eerievale. I hoped to build a future based on my own game projects. However I had to realize, that some things which may sound great in theory, only rarely work in daily life.
What worked and how it would work, I had to find out first.
On one hand it’s of course a dream coming true, to do something you love for a living and to be able to work by your own schedule.
But it’s very different to enjoying it as a hobby.
When you do something as a hobby, you can jump into it and put as much time and energy into it as you like and it can be very fulfilling. It’s great fun!
When such a hobby turns into a profession, it’s not just fun anymore. It’s serious and there are difficult and frustrating times, when something just doesn’t work. It’s tough and sometimes the daily-life was full of worries. How should I earn my living or pay my invoices? I didn’t need much, but even if I could live of my savings in a tiny place for a little while, I always knew, it would only work for a limited time.
Soon I realized that the time I had wouldn’t be nearly enough to get something finished. Especially not at the level of quality I had in mind.
In fact, I saw that from the necessity of earning a living sometime in the near future, the progress on the project seemed rushed and actually was slowing down. It just couldn’t go on like that. It was bad for me and bad for the project.
So what went wrong? I had quite some experience from previous projects, a great idea and a tiny, but great team (in fact the core consisted of me and my better half) and a dream we shared. There even was, judging by the website, a community looking forward to Eerievale.
I realized, most indie developers who actually released something, had something I didn’t have. They had a daily job to earn their living and they worked on their projects with an energy and ease I just didn’t have anymore, after working a whole year without break on my projects.
When something is really important to me, I pour my whole heart into it. I’m a perfectionist and I fight for my dreams. That’s my blessing and my curse. But I’m not a moron, I know when enough is enough. It’s good to know your weaknesses.

The year 2011 meant a lot of changes for me and I had to reset my priorities entirely. I decided to look for a new profession after my painful experiences in the game industry. As creative person I had just been exploited and I couldn’t earn a living with my own projects either. I had to find a new profession.
There are many things that interest me and many things I’m good at. As I basically grew up with computers, it was self-evident to stay close to it. 😉
I started an apprenticeship as application developer and moved to Munich.
I also dared an experiment. I put all my previous homebrew games as free downloads on my website. Whoever appreciated them was welcome to donate something to support my projects. The result was something like 5300:1.
It was great to see that somebody appreciated my work enough to donate, afterall it was voluntarily. It was the exception that proved the rule. However I had hoped for a little more support from the community to cover at least hosting costs or something.
Well, that proved what I had only assumed before. Indie game development can only work for me as a pure hobby. And that’s exactly how I’ll handle it in the future.
As projects created entirely out of passion, created in my spare time and maybe they will be completed at some point, so I can put them on my website for others to enjoy.

I especially love the 2D games of the early 90ies, because they have a certain charm, a passion and attention to detail, that the developers put into it and that I can feel as I play those games.

Video games are not a consumer good to me. They are art and craft and nothing that is improved by industrial manufacturing processes. It’s a creative medium, possibly the most promising creative medium there is, even if most developers and players of today have long forgotten about that.
I just remembered this and it’s exactly this thought that I will keep alive as I continue to follow my indie game development path in my spare time from now on.
I already have some ideas what I want to try. I want to experiment more and do more for the fun of it.
As soon as there is something to see, I’ll post it on the website. :-)

Also as a writer this year began great so far. My resolution was to write regularly from now on.
Every day I get up early, to get my quota done. This way each day begins with a sense of achievement, even before I leave for work, which is just great. There also is the pleasant side effect of my story growing and progressing each day without having to invest that much time into it.
In November I started a new novel project by the working title of Lilar Canea. It’s a fantasy story with retro-futuristic elements about two orphan kids, who grow up in a remorseless industrial world. Together they discover a terrible secret. The orphanage, the only home they knew, will never be the same to them.
So far I’ve written about 80.000 words, the story is about half done and my preview readers really enjoyed it so far. They said, I really made great progress since the last year. :-)

For me personally, writing is really a great way to find creative fulfillment, it’s good for my well-being and as a nice side effect I create something exciting.
I would especially like to combine my storytelling with my indie projects a little more. Maybe I’ll find a way to do just that.
Well, that’s it for now. Until the next blog entry! :-)



Saturday, 23 July 2011, 12:45 - Starcat

Grab those Goodies!

I finally put some of my games up for download.
This includes PC Windows demos such as the cartoon graphic adventure game HalMock FurBall, the 2 player strategy game Jar.War and on the Atari side of things, several of my Jaguar releases.

There are my CD releases, Ocean Depths, JagMIND: Bomb Squad, Lost Treasures, Eerievale Demo 2004.
Ocean Depths is a compilation consisting of an underwater slideshow, a basic mastermind-like game and the first Eerievale demo ever shown.
JagMIND: Bomb Squad is a logic game that is easily overlooked. It may not look like much, but if you like this kind of thing, it can be addictive. It also has a fun 2 Player mode.
Lost Treasures is a compilation consisting of a lot of work in progress demos and little experiments for the Jaguar. Sadly most of the original projects were lost, thus the name lost treasures, but at least this release gives you an idea what the games might have been like.
The Eerievale Demo 2004, as the name suggests was shown on Euro JagFest 2004, to give people an idea of the progress made. It features a more advanced game engine and new assets.
Next to these CD releases there also is JagWorm. A cartoon game that is my interpretation of the classic nibbles. This game is compiled to run from ram. So you either need a dev kit of some sort, or a CD wrapper such as ULS by the Reboot team.

Of course none of these Jaguar projects would have been possible without knowing Jaguar programming. The best way to get started is the official Atari Jaguar development manual, which is for download, too.

All of these goodies are free to download, but I release them as donationware. So if you like them, please consider supporting my hard work with a donation. This helps cover hosting and development costs in the future. (the donate button can be found in the sidebar of the navigation)
Your support is highly appreciated!
Have fun with the downloads, please leave feedback if you like and enjoy!

Best Regards,
Starcat