BLOG : Dark Acre
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DARK ACRE INDEPENDENT GAME DEVELOPMENT

Day 1,681

Dailies

To Do

  1. Review & edit comic book proposal.
  2. Open, review, & add to Unreal Invaders.
  3. Test vertex weighting script (3ds Max).
  4. Make progress on humanoid rig.

tl;dr

Started making headway, blew most of the productive hours playing a videogame.

Verbose

  • Awake again at 0410, no desire to open GTA V as the story mode has some horrific game-breaking glitch (can’t swap characters). I’ll fix it eventually but at least it’s killed my interest in the game for now.
  • A friend has asked me to look over a proposal for a comic book, & do a bit of editorial. This takes around 90 minutes to review 15 script pages. It’s a good story, I hope it “wins” or whatever the term is.
  • Considered setting up a proper editing pipeline for clients. I enjoy the work, it would be nice to have it synced so that I can receive Word ’13 docs & use Word’s in-built edit & review functions, then back-load via OneDrive.
  • Did the monthly budget. Operating Dark Acre in April cost 500 bux, & earned roughly 2,500 bux. Also of note is that every time the budget clears I reach inbox zero. Since this happens every month it’s a good feeling; also motivation to spend less.
  • Dealt with the Feedly/Tumblr.
  • Checked out GoG’s “Galaxy”, their new overlay system similar to Steam. It’s nice to have a conduit to my GoG library (some 100+ titles in there) but at the same time it’s just another chunk of software to load to get at the games. Some genius needs to come up with a Trillian-like interface that’s capable of handling all the storefronts (Origin, UPlay, Steam, Galaxy) & their associated functions.
  • Went to the gym for the Friday chest/back lift, brought the writing kit along.
  • Stopped in at the McD’s just long enough to check the social networks & drink a coffee. One of those days where I’d rather work exclusively from the Acre.
  • Arrived home & caught an hour siesta.
  • Was about to settle in to something work-related, got a notification from a Steam Friend that a GTA Online heist was going down. That proceeded to obliterate the next 5 hours.
  • Crashed late without having done the daily drawing.

Done

✓ Edited comic book proposal.
✗ Everything else.

Day 1,680

Dailies

To Do

  1. Draw.
  2. Open, review, & add to Unreal Invaders.
  3. Test vertex weighting script (3ds Max)
  4. Make progress on humanoid rig.

tl;dr

Ran, wrote, drew. Watched TV.

Verbose

  • Awake at 0410, at the machine by 0420, in GTA V a few minutes later. I have a problem.
  • GTA V was bugging out, divine providence?
  • Got side-tracked in mucking around with this site’s CSS. Noticed some headers & the list format margins were sloppy. Ended up half-fixing them; one of these days I’m just gonna make an ultra-clean CSS & reboot the whole deal.
  • Copy-pasted yesterday’s to dos, might as well try, try again. Added “draw” to the top of the list since it got neglected.
  • Dealt with Feedly/Tumblr.
  • Decided to go for a dawn run (0600) to try to shake out the cobwebs & supercharge the brain a little. Took along the writing kit with intent to drop in at McD’s for a post-run session.
  • Excellent run. There’s something special about being on the track as the sun is coming up. Had quite a few ideas for both game development & writing, considered porting the DEMO project.
  • Made the write-in. 500 more words into the unnamed new story.
  • Was ready to work by 1230.
  • Checked Steam; Activision “publisher’s weekend” sale is on. The Calls of Duty I’m missing from my Steam library are still not at a steep enough discount to justify adding them; picked up GUN & TimeShift instead.
  • Though it is none of the things on the to do list, I decided to open the working draft of Parlow’s Choice & make some progress there. Gumroad is planning to add PayPal support soon, & I’d really like to have the storefront ready ASAP.
  • After drafting more of Parlow’s, I took the rest of the outstanding writing projects & converted them into working drafts via a new ebook template I’d been working on. Everything is now up-to-date & properly formatted for easy access from the writing kit in Word. Updated the Trello board to reflect this.
  • At 1430 I opened Mischief & started drawing.
  • Put the stylus down at 1640 & rendered the final image to the 1AD site. Learned a lot, still a day behind though.
  • Started watching “The Fall” after dinner. Finished the 1st season & did a random sketch in SketchBook Pro with a JotTouch stylus. It’s janky, but only slightly less so than the Intuos. My biggest weakness with drawing, both physical & digital, has always been in making confident strokes. Hopefully the dedicated practice will help.

Done

✓ Drew.
✗ Everything else.

The volume of publishing-related work was significant, & satisfying. The quality of the drawing, less so. Would be nice to get some gamedev done one of these days.

Day 1,679

Obstacles & Detours

There’s a saying, you may have read or heard it: “The only limit is you“. The more time I spend on monitoring my behavior and habits, the truer and truer this rings. Once I realized that there was nothing physical standing in my way, preventing me from fulfilling my dreams, I started to wonder why my dreams weren’t getting fulfilled. Reviewing the last few days of this journal, it’s clear that I’ve fallen into a productivity trap. I’m still trying to pinpoint why, though I suspect it has something to do with my propensity toward self-sabotaging boredom. I need more data.

Dailies

To Do

  1. Open, review, & add to Unreal Invaders.
  2. Test vertex weighting script (3ds Max)
  3. Make progress on humanoid rig.

tl;dr

GTA made a complete wash of the day; possible sickness coming on.

Verbose

  • Woke at 0400 again, this time feeling fresh & alert. The long siesta & 2230 sleep were key factors.
  • Dealt with Feedly & Tumblr, took about an hour.
  • Opened the Unreal Launcher. Saw an update to 4.7.6, while it was downloading played a little of the new version of State of Decay. While the graphics aren’t mind-blowingly better, they’re a significant improvement. The aliasing bothered me before, that seems to have been solved. It’s a good game, very atmospheric. The import of the old save was a pleasant surprise.
  • The update to Unreal took about 15 minutes, & when it was done I checked the forums for the release notes… something I should’ve done before updating. The hotfix only addresses a crash issue on OSX, & as I’m a Win 8.1/64 user it doesn’t affect me. Oh well.
  • Opened Unreal Invaders then decided to catch up on Unreal’s Audio & Blueprint livestream from the 22nd. I’d asked a question on the forum thread & wanted to see if it had been answered. Zak Belica gave some solid instruction on the usage of dynamic audio, & I documented it in the shared Unreal Notes. Watching the recorded livestream on YouTube reminded me of how much more efficient it is to review at 2x speed vs. watching it live. Made me think too about devs who livestream their process; the only way I could do that is by making it non-interactive (ignoring the chat stream) & unfortunately that’s not a very good way to build community & relationships. I just can’t deal with distraction very well; hell, look at how my interest in videogames has destroyed my productivity these past couple of weeks.
  • With 30 minutes to go before having to leave for the gym, it was time for some GTA V. When upcoming commitments get close, I find it very hard to concentrate on creative tasks, perhaps through fear of getting too involved in them & then having time run out on me.
  • Gym was excellent.
  • Felt a sudden deep fatigue upon returning home; rested.
  • Woke at 1200, about to settle into some Unreal dev when a friend pinged me on Steam for a GTA Online heist. 5 hours later…
  • Biked to the McD’s for a writing session, as I wasn’t getting anything done sitting at the PC. Looks like I’ll have to disable Steam tomorrow, see if that helps. Put 700 words into the new (non-Solarus) story. Felt some overwhelming ennui, creeped myself out, went back home.
  • That feeling of fatigue returned. Decided to crash early, without finishing the daily drawing.

Done

✗ Unreal Invaders.
✗ Vertex script.
✗ Rigging.

I hope I’m not coming down with something.

Day 1,678

Of Mice & Lists

Motivation and inspiration are easily confused, but not interchangeable. In the past I’ve used one when I meant the other, and that’s led to some irritation. I think it’s fair to say that most creatives are always inspired, if we take that to mean that there’s a pre-existing desire to create something. It may not always be right at the forefront of things to do, but it’s always bubbling away at some level of the brain. Motivation is the level of effort that gets put into actually creating something.

It’s easy to fall into the mental trap of believing that these two work factors depend on each other, and I’ve found it helpful to look at motivation as how hard I’m pushing down on the gas pedal. Almost invariably, if the overall mental and physical health are in good order, I can get to state where I recognize that I’m the one responsible for how much gets done. This diary is going a long way to cement that as a scientific fact, at least in my mind.

Self-motivation is a real thing. Willing oneself to supercharge the productivity engine is a real thing. And if a creative can get on the right side of things, visualize that mental gas pedal, and learn to put it to the floor, things can get accomplished. There’s more to be said about recognizing the value of just doing work, even if it’s coming out feeling like crap, because of all the micro-improvements that get made when that happens, but that’s a topic for another discussion.

Time to step on the gas.

Dailies

To Do

Adding this section for additional “goals tracking”, and as a way to do a more comparative and quantitative study on my work habits.

  1. Write.
  2. Draw.
  3. Open, review, & add to Unreal Invaders.

tl;dr

Did the automatic things; murdered self at gym; another “no gamedev” day.

Verbose

  • Asleep by 2300, awake at 0400. Felt like a bit of chore dragging my ass out of bed; did it anyway.
  • Gaining an extra hour seemed to translate into an extra hour of GTA V. 50% gold-complete the story mode. Maybe once that hits 100% the itch to play will subside a little? Here’s hoping…
  • Got the Feedly & Tumblr out of the way.
  • Sat down & drew a pose using 1000toys‘s “Synthetic Human”. Really happy to get that done, as I’d purchased the “toy” ages ago with the intent of drawing it. Felt really comfortable, & was nice to have a “live” model in front of me. More of this in the future.
  • Noticed that State of Decay: Year One was ready to go. WWE 2K15 also unlocks today, so that makes 3 games pushing the distraction buttons.
  • Dropped 500 words into the Solarus project. 500 “good” words per day was the average from the 1st year of the 1AD project, so I hope I haven’t conditioned myself into some arbitrary limit. I’m going to bring the writing kit to the gym; though today is a big session with the run & the lift back-to-back (normally they’re split between days) I’ll see how I feel afterwards, possibly ride up to McD’s & either add more to what I’ve written today or that new story I started a few days ago.
  • It’s gorgeous outside, & a very clean breeze is blowing. I can’t leave for another 45 minutes, so I decide to take a bit of time to tidy up the studio. Such domestic chores are the most neglected activities on the Dark Acre; it’s fortunate that I’m generally tidy or the place would be a nightmare.
  • Did a combined run & lift as repayment for missing yesterday’s run.
  • Stopped off at McD’s post-gym for a write-in, but couldn’t focus.
  • Spent an hour with WWE 2K15. Created a career wrestler & tried the mode, it’s an interesting departure from Yuke’s formula. Feeling a little buyer’s remorse, but it has been the 1st high-profile pro wrestling game on PC in forever so there’s some historic significance. Whatever, it’s hard enough to justify purchasing a new videogame at retail price these days, especially considering my current financial situation. Let’s just say that GTA V has felt like a far better investment so far.
  • Took siesta from 1200 to 1600. Not sure why it went as long as it did, woke super-refreshed but a little disappointed at the lost time.
  • Posted last night’s completion of CounterSpy to Facebook.
  • Picked up the Humble Might & Magic Bundle for reasons unknown. 15 bux seemed like a good deal, maybe? Then spent 90 minutes redeeming the games across Steam, UPlay, downloads & browser. The browser-based game was a no-go as soon as it revealed itself as a Farmville-esque F2P. Not a fan of those systems. The downloadable card game was competent, though I’ll be sticking to Magic: The Gathering for that fix (no Hearthstone for me, I prefer MtG by a large margin).
  • Took an early night, despite not opening Unreal, & read more of the 3 Musketeers.

Done

✓ Wrote.
✓ Drew.
✗ Opened Unreal.

I feel like the writing & drawing should be on the same level as running and lifting; automatic habits that just happen without expectation. If that’s the case, then absolutely nothing of importance in regards to advancing my career as a game developer happened today, and that’s sad. It’s even sadder because I see it happening in real time, there’s a record of it, and it’s tracked. It’s arguable that the writing is an important contribution to Dark Acre as a digital publisher, but the overall volume is almost insignificant in terms of work.

Nothing else to do other than try again tomorrow.

Day 1,677

Dailies

tl;dr

Words, colors, GTA V. No gamedev.

Verbose

  • Woke at 0500 despite crashing at 2230. Need to rekindle the desire to wake at 0400 somehow.
  • Coffee, fed the cat, a couple of hours of GTA V. 40% through completing the campaign, gonna be sad when it’s done (again).
  • Still need to finish the Pins, haven’t looked at the Feedly for a few days. Things are starting to back up, & it’s all because of a videogame. Interesting to see that even in my 4th decade of life on planet Earth I can still let them get in the way of my responsibilities.
  • Needed to get away from the PC in order to write. Had to make up for missing Sunday’s session, so headed to McD’s for a coffee & wordsmithing.
  • Stopped by a distraught dude in a truck who’d had his tools stolen. I couldn’t help him, but it was a good reminder that even in idyllic a place as Nanaimo there’s still the dark desperation of thievery. Always be insured, if you can afford it!
  • Dropped 500 decent words into the Solarus thing. It’s a rainy, misty, grey kind of day, perfect for sitting in a warm public place & trying to craft something interesting. It’s gonna suck going to the gym later, though.
  • Found out Kelly’s computers were a no-go for GTA Online, then started feeling a little down. Took an hour nap & missed the gym window. I’ll make it up tomorrow, when the times go back to normal.
  • Killed another couple of hours in GTA V. Logging all the time like this it’s starting to look like I’m getting nothing done. Which is true, in regards to game development. Hoping this GTA V thing burns itself out soon, as I’m approaching the point where I can’t afford to blow production time on recreational activities.
  • Long nap in the afternoon, then finished coloring 1 of the asset views in the evening.
  • Got a request to edit some pages of my friend Shannon’s webcomic, “Horror of the Khor“. I’ve been doing this whenever needed, it’s a fun exercise.
  • Ended the night with more of the 3 Musketeers.
  • Really need to make a point of opening Unreal tomorrow, even if just to poke around.

Day 1,676

Dailies

tl;dr

Lazy Sunday, Pins, improved lines, GTA, & some musketeers.

Verbose

  • Asleep last night at 0130. This is normal for a Saturday night/Sunday morning, as there’s never been any hard scheduled obligation for Sundays.
  • Woke at 0520, even though I could’ve slept in. A couple of hours in the GTA V campaign to start the day.
  • Carried forward with yesterday’s plan to produce a 3D model of a character for Unreal Invaders. Started with the 1AD sketch & refined it with the help of some reference.
  • Put on UFC 186 for some background noise. I’m a big fan of MMA.
  • Spent 90 minutes placing & cleaning the initial lines. My 2D rendering process is still very much a WIP; if/should it become a static thing I’ll document it. Until then, I’ll say that it involves a lot of shaky lines & erasing in Mischief.
  • Took a break to deal with the Tumblr & work toward the week’s Pins. I must’ve missed a few days, as it took an hour to go through the updates until I started recognizing images I’d seen.
  • Went back to the sketch, another 2 hours & the line work was done on front, side, & bottom views. I know I should do a 3/4 but wow was my hand tired, & I still wanted to shade & color the concept. I also know that the cheat of copy/adjusting the legs makes them look wrong in the front, but I figure as long as the general idea is there it’s plenty for this exercise.
  • Cleared the deviantArt Pins. There’s always 2 or 3 real gems in my Watched there, a Following curated over 3 years of image-sourcing from Tumblr & beyond.
  • GTA V & Online.
  • Closed out the evening by starting Alexandre Dumas’s “The Three Musketeers“. I’ve been trying to work through one of those “Top 100 Books You Should Read Before You Die” lists since late last December, this is book 4.
  • Will take care of the Tumblr/Flickr Pins tomorrow. Home alone for a couple of days, & Kelly just acquired GTA V. I suspect there isn’t going be much productivity on the Acre until Wednesday.

Day 1,675

Dailies

tl;dr

GTA Online, mostly. Writing & 1AD done.

Verbose

  • Crashed close to midnight for the 1st time in months, woke up just after 0500 as a result. A sunrise run meant leaving home less than an hour later, so just tooled around in GTA V for a bit.
  • Had an excellent run, decided to spend the day cooking up an asset for Unreal Invaders.
  • Stopped in at McD’s to take care of the day’s writing. Started a new, non-Solarus story & dropped a few hundred words into that & 1 of the Solarus books.
  • Further family business & a crippling addiction to GTA Online ate almost all of this Saturday.
  • The game gets so much better with a supportive crew.

    The game gets so much better with a supportive crew.

  • Cooked up a quick sketch, dual-purposed as today’s 1AD. Hopefully use it as a stepping stone to some actual work tomorrow.
  • Next steps: reference adjustments, volume shading, color. Then on to 3D.

    Next steps: reference adjustments, volume shading, color. Then on to 3D.

Day 1,674

Dailies

tl;dr

Did the dailies, updated some plug-ins, ended up with a half-day.

Verbose

  • Woke up at 0510. I neglected to mention it yesterday, but I was asleep by 2230. I guess my body needed a bit of extra rest; learning to listen to & accept that was the hardest part of my adopting my sleep discipline.
  • Pretty sure I had a GTA V dream, so I didn’t start the day with it. Instead, I cooked up the 1AD entry. The hand is less sore, but the eye becomes evermore critical. It’s more painful to publish these images than it was the writing, even though both are horrible & unedited sketches. Just another barrier to punch through, I suppose.
  • Spent some time in email. I use a really old, almost feature-free webmail software. I used to be a Google-head, using all of their products with evangelical zeal, but at some point last year I decided I wanted to remove as much of my fingerprint from their services as I could. I just had a nagging, dirty feeling about it, so I switched to non-cloud services. I check my email once every few days, I don’t get notifications, and I only keep a month’s worth of billing & receipts in there (for regular budgetary archival). It’s pretty much the same way I went with the telephone: I let it ring & the machine silently collects messages that I review at my leisure. I’ve never missed an opportunity using these methods; if it’s that important, the callers/senders will wait. I’ve also managed to keep a spam-free zero inbox since the switch, so whatever protections GMail was supposedly offering were probably based more on who I gave my primary email address to than anything else.
  • Updated PolyTools & XFormer, a couple of the core plug-ins I use with 3ds Max. I don’t know much about UV unwrappers aside from Max’s built-in stuff & PolyTools, but I started using PolyTools very early in my career & swear by it for the overall efficiency bump it gave me. There could very well be better tools out there; I think with a lot of the development-related workflows most of us will stick with what we get comfortable using & then if it doesn’t break we don’t seek to fix it. There’s probably a lot of stuff that gets overlooked because of this mindset, but there are really only so many hours in the day for learning & adopting new methods of doing things.
  • Updating the plug-ins showed me that the OpenSubdiv system is now part of the standard Max install. For some bizarre (likely business-related) reason, Autodesk walled that features off behind the subscription system in ’15. Now that it’s “free”, I guess I should spend some time figuring out how it works, as I recall being very interested & then very frustrated about the crippling of the standard version.
  • Grabbed a quick 15.
  • Tested PolyUnwrapper & found that it needed a serial code. Found that I’d lost the serial code. Contacted Jorge, the creator, & am waiting on a response.
  • Decided to open the Trello board I was thinking about yesterday, will be nice to have all the todos collected into a single convenient dumping ground.
  • Started in on the day’s writing session, as prior engagements mean I’ll likely be occupied for the afternoon following the gym, & I dislike writing in the evenings.
  • Checked in with Steam. Aside from seeing that GTA V still on top of the Top Sellers charts, I was reminded of Valve’s (&, I would imagine, Bethesda’s) decision to allow paid mods for Skyrim. Though I didn’t mention it in yesterday’s ramblings, I did spend time here & there gauging the response to that move on various forums. A lot of folks made their entitlement known, though it’s not unusual to find a lot of Internet-based commentary on videogames devolving into “it should be free/cheaper”. All that Valve & Bethesda have done is apply the principles of a free market to a single videogame, yet many folks believe it’s the end of the world. I wonder if there was this much open revulsion when the original idea of the free market was proposed? At any rate, a topic far outside the bounds of this little diary, though I suspect I’ll be reminded of it on a daily basis going forward. As much as some folks revile Valve/Steam, they really have been groundbreaking in the way we perceive digital sales of videogames.
  • Finished up the writing session. So distracted by this dumb paid mod issue. Should record a podcast about it in a week, after it’s floated around a bit more.
  • Headed out to the gym for the 2nd-to-last afternoon session. So glad that’s almost over with, & it’s back to 0800 starts from next Wednesday. That’s been the only drawback to using the university gym: you’re beholden to whatever extra-curricular events they need to hold on the floor. So far it’s only been a couple interruptions like this per year, so it’s a small sacrifice to make to paying next-to-nothing for an Olympic class facility.
  • As expected, family business ate up the remainder of the day. Did manage to have a nice session of GTA Online with some of the crew from Colony of Gamers. Did a couple of heists & had a great time.
  • Not certain about how to approach the coming weekend. #ScreenShotSaturday always feels like it’s something I should do, & I’ve been meaning to set Saturdays aside for modeling & rendering assets for that. We’ll see how it goes.

MONTH 55 REPORT

Monthly Breakdown

  • Game Development: ongoing Unreal Engine study with a focus on Darkade #1 “Unreal Edition Invaders”.
  • Writing: Re-formatting & ret-conning existing works for re-release. Data entry into articy:draft 2 for continuity & visualization. First-drafting an “interlude” novel for the core Solarus series, currently 10K+ words.
  • Misc: Web development for new Dark Acre storefront page. 1AD art entries. Autodesk ’16 study (3ds Max, Mudbox, Motionbuilder).

A Year of Words

This is what a year's worth of random wordsmithing looks like. Report courtesy of Word Stats Plugin for WordPress.

This is what a year’s worth of random wordsmithing looks like. Report courtesy of Word Stats Plugin for WordPress.

Back in April of ’14 I decided to start writing every day. It was a simple decision to make, one with a binary output: either I’d write or I wouldn’t. So I chose the former, every day, for 365 days.

It wasn’t easy at first, & like most new disciplines it was excitement that quickly devolved into drudgery, & took quite some time until a regular rhythm developed. Early on, there were days where I’d “bank” a handful of entries, just to ensure that something got published every day. After a while that felt like cheating, so I’d restrict myself to publishing new content on the day, & only pre-write if I knew that other things would be getting in the way of the practice. One thing is certain: engaging in a daily creative task raised a keen awareness of exactly how long a year is, & it is long indeed.

The end of the first year of the project doesn’t mean the end of regular writing; quite the contrary. Now that I have a vast body of precedent that shows I can produce at least 500 fresh (& hopefully “good”) words every day, there’s been no reason to stop. In fact, the 1AD exercise was a bit of an unfocused mess (aside from the attempt at completing last year’s NaNoWriMo in November) & rather than a coherent piece it consists of little fiction fragments, poems, character sketches, & random quotations. Going forward it’s critical to direct that energy into crafting more publishable work.

Furthermore, the 1AD project continues in a somewhat mutated form. As the base practice has been to demonstrate a tracked improvement in a given skill, so now it turns to visual design & rendering. I’ve started spending the time I previously allocated for the writing on drawing. I’m looking forward to seeing the difference a year of this kind of focused study can have, & I hope you are too.


Unreal Developments

I think I burned out around the 40th day of constant pounding through the Unreal Engine. I’d done a lot to try & avoid that condition, as it’s one that I’m intimately familiar with, yet I still managed to fall victim to over-working.

As of this writing I’m trying to restructure my daily work schedule to find a comfortable balance between writing, drawing, & game development. In addition to those 3 core disciplines there’s a lot of work to be done with 3D modeling & Substance-based texturing, as well as remaining healthy & building strength through physical training & running.

I pushed for the lifestyle of an independent creative developer because I felt it would be something that would challenge every fiber of my being. If anything, 2015 is proving this 100% true.

As always, thanks for your continued attention, & I hope I’m providing something of value to your own life.


The paradox of maintaining global constraints while being free from local ones in the moment-to-moment act of creation.

Day 1,673

Preamble

Strange to think that, had I done this every day since founding this lunacy, I’d have 1,672 of these littering the website; a trail of dried and drying blood droplets marking the long trek toward solvency as an independent creative developer (I don’t mind the term “indie”; it’s amorphous enough to fit my circumstances, regardless of whatever the stigma du jour is).
I have no idea if I represent any kind of norm when it comes to gauging the success of an indie; I doubt there even is one. Some of us make it early, and young, while others die having never recovered their sunk costs. It’s the nature of the business, where hard work is the baseline requirement and a mere prerequisite for “winning”, not a guarantee. The only certainty I’ve found is that, no matter how much you love the work, there’ll be days when it hurts so bad you just want to give up.
That’s when the lunacy starts, for there are times when giving up is the best option, and ignoring the opportunity to escape is madness.
For 42 days I tracked my progress with the Unreal Engine. I’d felt a little saner for the daily recordings, and the response from the various communities was positive and encouraging. The thing with that, though, was that there was a lot more to my day than just sitting in the engine and trying to make a videogame happen. I started to wonder how much of the other flotsam and jetsam of my life as an indie would be of interest to people. Once I ran out of enthusiasm for plugging away at the project I’d started, I realized that my days were less about Unreal and more about survival. To accommodate the new technology I’d put a lot of what makes Dark Acre what it is on the back-burners, things that require regular attention if I’m to make it through the next couple of years. To that end I’m converting the Unreal Diary into a Dark Acre Diary, and will be attempting to do a daily exercise of chronicling my indie activities. If that’s not up your particular alley, you can feel free to skip these entries (they’ll be obvious, the ones marked “Day X,XXX”). If this is interesting to you, and you’d like more detailed insight into this lifestyle, feel free to drop me a line at daj@dark-acre.com.


Dailies

tl;dr

Some solid writing, decent progress in 3ds Max MCG, organizational stuff.

Verbose

  • Woke up at 0440. A little late these days, been going to bed late for whatever reason.
  • Mucked around as Trevor in Los Santos. Working on 100% completion (for the 2nd time) mostly to have full access to the video creation assets. Not gonna lie: this game has mangled productivity.
  • Just another day at the office.

    Just another day at the office.

  • Considered the day’s tasks. Acquired the 2016 offerings of my Autodesk trinity (3ds Max, Mudbox, & Motionbuilder) a couple of days ago, & found out about the Max Creation Graph yesterday, so it’s been on my mind. Also struggling to assemble a proper storefront for Dark Acre, spent a lot of yesterday massaging a broken WordPress template & not managing to get it to work. Added that to today’s todo list, a thing I manage in Momentum. Contemplating shifting that to Trello, along with more of Dark Acre’s overarching tasks & micromanagement.
  • The gym’s been dealing with exams since last Wednesday, which means it’s only accessible for an hour at noon then from 1600 to 2000. I’d been going up after the morning runs for a stretch, & to take advantage of their foam rollers, but with such a late start it would mean starting a run around 1120, & there’d likely be some sports activity on the athletic track. I decided to go for a dawn run, & that meant leaving at 0550.
  • The run was good, solid performance. It seems most of the issues I’d had with the pull in my left calf are gone, & I’m averaging 400 meter laps at 2:20. This is about the same pace I was setting when I was 27.
  • After the run I stopped at the local McDonald’s for a write-in. Penned the intro to this post & put a couple thousand more words into the 1st draft of the current Solarus book. It’s going OK, as far as these things go, & after spending an entire year writing every day I find it’s fairly easy to “slip into the flow”, even typing on a Zagg folio into Word for iPad at a busy McDonald’s (though, to be fair, Nanaimo busy is closer to a Vancouver Sunday night). Had a medium coffee & a sausage & egg McMuffin with extra bacon.
  • Took care of some grocery shopping. While in Japan I developed the habit of not stockpiling food, & instead buying fresh every couple of days. It’s a nice routine if you can manage it; since it’s time spent away from the “development cave” at Dark Acre it’s important to enjoy it. Apples were on sale. My personal food spend for the last decade has been under 200 bux a month, sometimes under 100. There are times when I miss being able to eat out at nice places as often as I did when I was last earning a decent salary, but for the most part it’s nice to know that it’s possible to survive, & thrive, on a very limited budget.
  • Cleaned up & was back at the desk at 1030. Checked the Steam sales, more out of habit than with an actual interest in buying something. I find it good practice to study the movement of the markets, & Steam is one of the most accessible sources of info. Interesting to note that Steam (Valve) launched paid mods today, that’s something I’ve always thought they should’ve had. I think way too many creators give their stuff away for free, but that’s a topic for a whole other article. Ended up pre-purchasing WWE 2K15. I’ve been a fan of the spectacle of pro wrestling for ages, & I think this is the 1st time a major licensed WWE game has been on PC. Should be fun.
  • Spent 45 minutes catching up on whatever was sitting in my Feedly & new posts on Tumblr. I get a minimum of industry news this way, & a maximum of design inspiration. I mostly collect news via Facebook these days anyway, say what you will about that (I find it efficient, after years of curating my Timeline & organizing my notifications).
  • Grabbed a quick 30-minute nap. There was a time when I felt guilty about sleeping in the afternoon, & there was a time when it was an actual symptom of diagnosed depression (long since dealt with through professional help; if you’re suffering or even suspect you might be depressed, go get yourself looked at. It might save your life.) I’ve found one of the best ways to combat those feelings of guilt is to get up early & have a super-productive morning. Then it’s not so much an escape from responsibility as a much needed recuperation from exertion. 30 minutes in exchange for an hour of physical training & several hours of writing is a pretty fair deal, in my books.
  • Clocked a few of the MCG tutorial videos & added more to my 3ds Max notes. I’ve made these public (as with the Unreal Engine notes) because why not? Not sure if they’ll be of any use to anyone, but there might be some treasures hidden in there somewhere.
  • Took a Daredevil break. This show is pretty good.
  • Cooked a few days’ worth of bean salad while polishing off more of the MCG tuts. Though not completely wart-free, it looks like MCG will do what all visual scripting does for code: make custom tool-writing more accessible to the visual-minded & script illiterate. I like it.
  • Once the beans were done I also cooked up a batch of stir-fry. That’s the meals taken care of for a few days, all for pennies & less than 30 minute’s attention.
  • Spent the rest of the afternoon clearing out the rest of the tuts up to the “Make a Baseball”, will deal with that one before working out tomorrow. Grabbed another nap before the evening stretch.
  • Finished up the work day with the 1AD entry, a figure sketch using a grid transfer method. Turned out pretty close, will do more like this in the future for practice.
  • Totalling the morning prep, the McDonald’s writing, the afternoon of MCG, & the evening drawing session I got about 7.5 solid hours of work out of the day. Not so much straight gamedev (not any, really) but all valuable contributions toward Dark Acre’s success.
  • Posted about beating CounterSpy on Facebook. This is a thing I do, marking beaten & completed games as “Life Achievements” with a little mini review. I only review & recommend games I’ve beaten, too. I think that’s only fair.
  • Threw another hour into GTA V, bringing completion to 31%.
  • Finished reading Hamlet to close out the day.

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