Month 26 Report

by Jack

Bullet-list update for those in a hurry:

  • Technical Alpha One of The Child delayed by 8 weeks.
  • NaNoWriMo ’12 in its final week, and I’m irrevocably behind.
  • New Darkade entry, Portal Drop.
  • Less than 3 weeks until Ludum Dare 48 no.25
  • Achilles tendons have reappeared, meaning the GAMEPLAN is working.

A Week In the Life

By popular request I’ve detailed the average week on the Acre. These are rough estimates under ideal conditions. In the end, the schedule of any solo independent should be as flexible as a Cirque du Soleil performer.
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Monday

0530 Alarm rings.
0545 Awake, 2 cups of coffee with milk & sugar, social network scan & reply.
0600 Gym, weight training.
0630 Gym, running.
0715 Breakfast, single serving of protein powder.
0720 RSS news scan & repost.
0800 Writing, 1500+ words.
0945 Mid-morning snack, fruit.
1000 Visual design development. Concept art, 3D modeling, procedural texturing.
1200 Lunch, chicken & veg. Social network scan & reply.
1300 Game development. Programming & iterative testing/implementation.
1500 Mid-afternoon snack, nuts.
1600 Gaming, siesta, & yoga.
1730 Dinner, chicken & veg. Social network scan & reply.
1800 Monday Night RAW.
2100 End of day. Pre-sleep meal, cottage cheese & avocado.
2200 Sleep.

Tuesday

0530 Alarm rings.
0545 Awake, 2 cups of coffee with milk & sugar, social network scan & reply.
0600 Gym, weight training.
0645 Breakfast, single serving of protein powder.
0700 RSS news scan & repost, gaming.
0800 Writing, 1500+ words.
0945 Mid-morning snack, fruit.
1000 Audio design development. Sound effects, composition, tools training.
1200 Lunch, chicken & veg. Social network scan & reply.
1300 Game development.
1500 Mid-afternoon snack, nuts.
1600 Gaming, siesta, & yoga.
1730 Dinner, chicken & veg. Social network scan & reply.
1800 Game development.
2100 End of day. Pre-sleep meal, cottage cheese & avocado.
2200 Sleep.

Wednesday

0530 Alarm rings.
0545 Awake, 2 cups of coffee with milk & sugar, social network scan & reply.
0600 Gym, weight training.
0630 Gym, running.
0715 Breakfast, single serving of protein powder.
0720 RSS news scan & repost.
0800 Writing, 1500+ words.
0945 Mid-morning snack, fruit.
1000 Visual design development.
1200 Lunch, chicken & veg. Social network scan & reply.
1300 Game development.
1500 Mid-afternoon snack, nuts.
1600 Gaming, siesta, & yoga.
1730 Dinner, chicken & veg. Social network scan & reply.
1800 Game development.
2100 End of day. Pre-sleep meal, cottage cheese & avocado.
2200 Sleep.

Thursday

0530 Alarm rings.
0545 Awake, 2 cups of coffee with milk & sugar, social network scan & reply.
0600 Gym, weight training.
0645 Breakfast, single serving of protein powder.
0700 RSS news scan & repost, gaming.
0800 Writing, 1500+ words.
0945 Mid-morning snack, fruit.
1000 Audio design development.
1200 Lunch, chicken & veg. Social network scan & reply.
1300 Game development.
1500 Mid-afternoon snack, nuts.
1600 Gaming, siesta, & yoga.
1730 Dinner, chicken & veg. Social network scan & reply.
1800 Game development.
2100 End of day. Pre-sleep meal, cottage cheese & avocado.
2200 Sleep.

Friday

0530 Alarm rings.
0545 Awake, 2 cups of coffee with milk & sugar, social network scan & reply.
0600 Gym, weight training.
0630 Gym, running.
0645 Breakfast, single serving of protein powder.
0700 RSS news scan & repost, gaming.
0800 Writing, 1500+ words.
1000 Free. Typically gaming, reading, or random skills development.
1700 SmackDown
2200+ Sleep.

Saturday

0800+ Awake.
0830+ Writing, 1500+ words.
1030+ Free.
2200+ Sleep.

Sunday

0800+ Awake.
0830+ Writing, 1500+ words.
1030+ The Darkade Project.
2100 End of day. Pre-sleep meal, cottage cheese & avocado.
2200 Sleep.

The writing has been a constant since mid-2009, though for most of 2012 I used that time to stare at a blank page, surf the Internet, or play videogames.

The Sunday Darkade has been a thing since November 13th of 2011, but it’s been hit and miss for output.

The Monday to Thursday mornings may look rough, but if you consider the 3-day weekend it all balances out nicely. I’ve been using the 4 on/3 off system since June 21 of this year, to great effect. Overall my productivity has been higher and skills retention stronger. I’m certain the focused efforts at the gym on the GAMEPLAN have had a lot to do with that as well.

There might be some question around the very slim breakfast and mid-morning meal, but the pre-sleep load gives more than enough energy to get through the morning training, and as the work is sedentary it doesn’t make much sense to load up on carbohydrates. This nutrition system has worked for me since mid-2005, so I’ve stuck with it. The weekend feedings tend to be a bit more flexible but still as clean and regular as the weekdays.

While the current schedule is radically different from the original 6-day workweek I started with back in September of 2010, it’s still something that’s detailed out in a calendar filled with alarms and reminders. I’ve found it important to have a written record of the expected work, which then becomes a chronicle of how the time’s been spent. Some people work better with less formal time management, others require even stricter methods. As always, your mileage may vary. I find that with plans, goals, and dreams it’s absolutely critical that they’re physically sketched out in some form, and revisited and revised from time to time.


A Growing Child

As you may know, the Child is currently the primary game development project here on the Acre. At the end of September I’d formulated a plan for having what I call a “technical alpha” release around this time. What that meant was I’d have all the main interaction systems such as movement, object manipulation, and dialog programmed by now. Unfortunately, National Novel Writing Month threw a bit of a spanner in those works and caused something of a crisis of confidence.

It was a week into November when I started to feel much better about the writing than I did about the game development. I was making steady progress on the novel, clocking an average of 1700 words a day and they were coming together in readable and coherent sentences. An actual plot with interesting characters was forming, unlike the 2010 & 2011 attempts, both of which had ended up as random gibberish.

On the game development front I was finding myself spending weeks working on single systems. Now, this is not unusual. Especially in cases where you want the systems to be robust and provide the best possible experience for the player, you may find yourself iterating over and over until you end up with a version that you’re satisfied with enough to start sharing.

So, to juxtapose the writing and the game-making, I was getting a lot of immediate feedback and reward from the wordsmithing, whereas I wasn’t really getting much of anything but grief from the Child.

I started to question whether I really wanted to be a game developer. Yes, it was that bad. I stepped back, sought the advice of friends, relatives, and professionals, and re-gained my perspective.

I hadn’t worked nearly 9 years to get to a position where I was the master of my own destiny only to throw it away because pumping out pulp fiction felt better than doing what I thought I was born to do!

In the end I decided to focus on getting the novel written. To accommodate that, an additional production cycle was added to the Child. As long as I have the luxury of adding more time to a project, and I feel strongly enough about it, I’ll do so.

The irony in all this is that shortly after making a firm decision to focus on the writing, I found myself suffering from a case of writer’s block. The previous deluge of words has become a thin and strained trickle. While I would really like to avoid failing this year’s attempt, I’m not going to sacrifice the quality of the existing narrative to meet the arbitrary word count and deadline of the NaNoWriMo. I’m going to make every attempt, but should the end of the month pass and I haven’t succeeded that doesn’t mean the novel is dead in the water. I plan to edit and publish it, and it’ll be my first non-pure science fiction book.


Thanks for reading, being a Friend, Liker, Follower, Circler, Pinner, ‘tuber, Steamer, or any other outlet you’re tracking Dark Acre’s progress from. It’s appreciated.

Until next time!