Who I am, the journey so far, and what's next? - Six Month Retrospective

Who I am, the journey so far, and what's next? - Six Month Retrospective

If you're looking for my usual quick progress reports made up of mostly gifs this is not one of those. Maybe check back next week? I want to get just a little bit serious, reflective, and personal today.

Six months of daily game development, the year turning over to 2018, and pivoting away from education to starting a serious project; all of these seem to be enough reason on their own to do a retrospective so let's get started.

Who I Am

My name is Alice Robinson and I am a professional software engineer working in the Seattle area. I've spent six years with my team attempting to push forward on processing ever increasing amounts of data in a short time frame and present it in an actionable format that can drive a business. That's what brings in money but that's not a dream, it's not a life long passion.

Ever since I was little I've loved getting absorbed by video games. From exploring an ancient and magical world in Drakan: Order of the Flame to building impenetrable lines of Basilisk tanks in Dawn of War, games have always been the great adventure.

Sometime in early 1996 my cousin showed me Warcraft 2: Tides of Darkness, the game had a built in map editor and I think that was the moment something started growing in me. You could actually make games, it wasn't some nebulous thing it was real. From that time on I idolized Blizzard and to this day still do. Blizzard has defined what gaming and game development is to me. With Warcraft 3 came an incredibly powerful World Editor that you could make entire campaigns in, story and all!

In the 2000's I went off to college and game development fell by the wayside, after graduating and starting work at DDI everything became about being the best engineer I could be and games still had very little place. In 2016 I started to make small attempts at getting into gamedev including doing game jams, going to events, and being more active socially which resulted in meeting some wonderful people in the UE4 community. (honestly too many to link so I'll stop the link clutter here) Still I didn't feel like I was making the sort of growth I needed to and so from March through June this year I cut myself off from the world (outside of work) and sat in reflection, to find complete honesty in who I am, what I was doing, and to see what paths forward were possible. July of 2017 I decided to take action.

The Journey So Far

It was tempting to try to just jump in to a big project but I knew I had to get my mind in the right place and to train until Unity's systems were familiar and second nature in as many ways as possible. To use actual patterns and solid design rather than purely hacking things together at a game jam level.

From July 1st, 2017 to today I have worked on game development every single day and have written a blog post on the journey once a week. From July 1st I gave myself six months to complete seven courses on Udemy primarily taught by Ben Tristem's team at GameDev.tv. I treated it as if I were back at the University, following along with every lecture, completing almost every challenge assignment, and where possible going just a bit beyond what was asked for. I completed the final course on December 9th, 2017 just within the six month goal.

In those six months I made 16 games including one in-depth one that was engineered to the point that it could potentially become part of a full complex RPG. In that time I also worked with VR (virtual reality), creating custom physics systems, and Unity's wide array of services. With impostor syndrome sometimes it is easy to doubt if you are really working hard or accomplishing anything, but when you document yourself by using a task board, or writing blog posts it starts to sink in that you're really working hard.

What's Next

There is so much more to learn and practice, but you can only stay in a school mindset so long. Eventually the best way to learn is to let go of the teachers hand and make your own way. Running into problems and being forced to find your own solutions. For me that means working on Star Cinders.

Star Cinders is a game I first started thinking about in 2015 when Jaemie and I were bingeing on a new show (to us), Babylon 5. At the time the idea was still so vague in my mind that I wasn't sure how it could work and dropped it. Later we plowed through Farscape and still I felt like maybe there was something special here. Following this we marathoned through Space 1999, Battlestar Galactica (1978), The Expanse, Dark Matter, Killjoys, and more recently Roddenberry's Andromeda (still in progress). There is just something so special about these energetic and often positive one-crew-against-the-world style scifi shows, unique episodic adventures at times yet interlinked with galaxy spanning narratives. I wanted to make a game where you could set out to either plunder the galaxy in wacky heists, unite the systems into an Interstellar Alliance, or wage war with your own mighty fleet. No matter which path, all the while meeting unique people and bonding with your crew.

In the last few months I've been cobbling together a design that is somewhat of an odd mix between Endless Sky, Gradius 3, Solar Ascension, and Stardew Valley. It's rough, overly ambitious, and probably doomed to failure but I'm going to take a shot and hopefully learn something along the way. Now it's time to start getting busy compiling my notes into a proper GDD. I hope you will continue to check up on my progress occasionally as I continue to document my gamedev journey via these blog posts.