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DARK ACRE INDEPENDENT GAME DEVELOPMENT

Month 47 Report

FALLING

The Story So Far:
from the Private Journals of Dark Acre Jack

May 20th, 2011

The results are in. A videogame I didn’t think I’d be able to finish in the 48 hours I’d been given places 13th overall out of a field of 288 entries in the 19th Ludum Dare. I’ve been a full-time solo independent game developer, author, and publisher of digital content for a little under 8 months. It’s my second Ludum Dare entry. I decide that I should focus on building this game, The Child, into something bigger.

May 20th, 2012

It’s been a year since I made up my mind that The Child was going to be my “big indie game”. Since then I’ve competed in the Ludum Dare a few more times to lesser degrees of perceived success. I’ve attempted collaboration a few times but each project ended up fizzling out due to creative differences (or indifferences, depending on which side you ask). I’ve built and burned an equal number of bridges over social networks. People are starting to wonder if I’m ever going to make something of value. I haven’t actively worked on The Child for 10 months.

October 8th, 2012

After dabbling here and there with other smaller projects and completing a novel, I realize that I only have the capacity to either write books or make games. It’s a crucial issue, because I want to do both at the same time. Once more I make a conscious, focused effort to build The Child into a salable form.

November 28th, 2012

After failing to complete this year’s NaNoWriMo I decide to abandon all active projects. This is the lowest point of motivation that I’ve had for being an independent creative developer since I first had the dream some 10 years prior.

December 18th, 2012

I complete the 25th Ludum Dare challenge, my 8th consecutive entry. It provides a much-needed, if short-lived, lift in spirits. I start on Project Zero Eight, an unnamed project that I’ll learn much later is a subconscious effort to return to work on The Child. In the meantime it provides a framework for which I can complete two-and-a-quarter new videogames, two of which I’ll actually sell.

January 31st, 2013

I sell my first-ever commercial videogame, The Apartment. Using a donationware model I earn a small amount of cash that comes mainly from long-time followers, and a minor influx from niche YouTubers like RockLeeSmile who graciously cover the game.

February 15th, 2013

I give up trying to produce a third 1GAM. The relentless march of development has taken its toll, and my apathy toward marketing CONCRETE has produced exactly the results you’d expect. Motivation takes a dive and I retreat into a self-education hiatus, choosing to focus on developing my skills in 3D modeling, basic 2D art, and music composition.

The Happy Pill

March 31st, 2013

I’m 38 years old and being professionally treated for depression. If you’d told me that this was going to be an integral part of the “solo indie experience” I might never have chosen to come this way. But I’m getting help, and getting better.

April 30th, 2013

I manage to complete another Ludum Dare. It’s become routine, and I’m starting to hate it. I decide to remove my ebooks from Amazon, bouyed by the success of self-selling The Apartment through Gumroad. I reconfigure everything so that I have a proper Gumroad storefront. It might not be the best business decision I’ve ever made, but it’s one that makes for more independence and that’s all that matters.

July 15th, 2013

I relocate the Dark Acre away from Vancouver and onto the Island, to the port city of Nanaimo. It’s going to add years of survivability to the company, and hopefully provide a much-needed boost to the creative engine. I weigh 110 kilograms (242 pounds), the heaviest I’ve ever been in my life. It’s time for a fresh start.

August 1st, 2013

I re-release Ambia. I haven’t written anything new for ages, and the change of scenery hasn’t seemed to help much.

August 26th, 2013

I finish my 9th, and what is to become my last, Ludum Dare challenge. My interest level in rapid development has waned to almost nothing, and every morning my creative instincts tell me to think bigger. To build bigger. To stop messing around and get some real work done. I initiate Project Zero Nine.

September 7th, 2013

Fed up and disgusted with how much I’ve let my physical self go, I start walking. Every day, 40 minutes, up and down a paved trail next to the highway. I make a conscious decision to repair my diet which, alongside the sedentary nightmare my working life has become, has beaten my body so far out of shape it’s become almost unrecognizable in the mirror.

October 28th, 2013

It’s been 19 years since I died of a drug overdose and was almost committed to a mental asylum. I take stock, as I do around this time of year. It’s always a bad time for my personal relationships, and this year is no different. I suffer a bad breakup and start spiraling into depression again, but I keep walking.

November 11th, 2013

The walking becomes jogging.

November 30th, 20130

I start playing multiplayer Call of Duty: Ghosts. It’s to become a full-time obsession, distracting me from my unproductive state and giving me a weird form of purpose.

February 10th, 2014

I reach maximum prestige in Ghosts after a total of 290 hours played. I’m a decent player, again proving the “if I put my mind to it, I can do it” axiom. I play regularly with a decent group of folks from around the world. I haven’t done any form of game development or writing in months.

February 19th, 2014

The jogging has become full-fledged runs, of the pace I kept when I was 27.

April 27th, 2014

Our Ghosts clan wins its first platinum-level clan war. It’s a tough points-based trial where our team was pitted against other high-ranking teams from around the world. It’s a great accomplishment, and I feel like I’ve learned a ton about online shooters and clan-based videogame play.

March 14th, 2014

I re-subscribe to the World of Warcraft, something I swore I’d never do.

March 31st, 2014

I’m 39. The running has helped, but I still look and feel far from prime physical condition. I vow to get into the best shape of my life before 40, coming up with the hashtag #FUCK40 for social networking. A stupid thing, but every little bit will help.

April 2nd, 2014

I’ve been reported in Ghosts and had my statistics reset. After a discussion with Activision’s customer service I learn that there’s no appeal process, and no way for me to find out the reason for the reset. It’s a crushing blow to my esteem, and one that pushes me away from the clan and the game. World of Warcraft moves into the forefront.

April 15th, 2014

I start a “one-a-day” writing journal. It’s been almost two years since I’ve written any serious fiction, and this feels like the last gasps of a dying writer. Somehow, I start writing again.

May 25th, 2014

I join a local university gym, the first proper gym I’ve attended in over two years.

June 18th, 2014

For the first time in my life I make a serious effort to write in public, at a new local cafe called Buzz. It’s a hip place full of young people and noise and I wonder what the hell I’m doing here. In the past I’ve never been able to do any serious work in an environment like this, always preferring a silent solitude for any creative efforts. But here in the Buzz the words come, and they come fast and easy.

August 1st, 2014

A revised and updated design document for The Child, representing several years of frustration and thought, is feature-complete at 20,000 words. I’ve never written this kind of volume for any of my past game development work, and this only represents the framework. I have a decent shell of a videogame in paper form. I feel really good for the first time in forever.

Today

I’m down to 85 kilograms (187 pounds) and I can run over 5 kilometers (3 miles) in 30 minutes. I haven’t missed a gym day since starting. I haven’t missed a writing day since starting the one-a-day. I’m in love. Things are looking good, but I’m not taking anything for granted.

The Child: Episodes - "Mug Cup"

Tomorrow

The fifth year of Dark Acre is coming up. Most businesses fail in the first 5 years of operation, and I’m finally starting to see the planks under the gold at the bottom of the war chest. I don’t want to be fatalistic about my situation; when taken as a whole the last 6 years have been amazing. I haven’t had to draw a paycheck since October 2008, I’ve graduated from two intensive art and design programs, and I’ve produced a ton of creative content. I’ve learned the ins and outs of a wide array of game development software and had hands-on experience with digital publishing. In almost all regards it’s been “mission accomplished”, the only thing that’s missing is that commercial success. And, for better or worse, the only thing standing in the way of that is me.

I suppose that’s the real beauty, and the curse, of the solo route. In the end it all comes down to your own capacity and willingness to exercise it. I’ve never recommended it, and I never will. It takes a lot more than I believe most people are willing to give to keep going, but even for all the hard times I’ve had I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

So, with a little hard work and determination we should see the release of The Child at some point between the end of 2015 and early 2016. Yes, that’s potentially 18+ months from now. Good things take time and it’s critical to acknowledge this.

I’d like to personally thank you for joining me on this journey. I hope the words above have filled in many of the blanks that I’ve intentionally left over the last couple of years, and provide much-needed insight into the solo indie process. I invite you to add me on Facebook, as these days I’m most active there and always willing to chat. In that same vein, feel free to request an add on Skype (darkacrejack) as well. I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

HARD SURFACES

After more than half a year in documents & spreadsheets I figured it was time to see if I still remembered how to use Autodesk 3DS Max. Using a primitive collection for visual reference I constructed, UV’d, & rendered these parts over the course of a too-hot afternoon.

Simple open nut, unthreaded.

Simple open nut, unthreaded.

Castle tower tops or tactical flashlight edges.

Castle tower tops or tactical flashlight edges.

Basic insets at angles.

Basic insets at angles.

Tileable.

Tileable.

For such a simple form this one was a pain in the ass to harden up.

For such a simple form this one was a pain in the ass to harden up.

Looks basic but requires a fair amount of fiddling to get it to smooth correctly.

Looks basic but requires a fair amount of fiddling to get it to smooth correctly.

Basic technique.

Basic technique.

Removal of parts of loops & extrusion make these forms a breeze.

Removal of parts of loops & extrusion make these forms a breeze.

The most straightforward of the practice forms, basic inset & negative extrude with hardening loops.

The most straightforward of the practice forms, basic inset & negative extrude with hardening loops.

Getting a singular welded form from was tricky, but the result is worth it.

Getting a singular welded form from was tricky, but the result is worth it.

Sort of a combination of the techniques from the other exercises, fitting the bottom cylinder to the nut form was the hardest part for me.

Sort of a combination of the techniques from the other exercises, fitting the bottom cylinder to the nut form was the hardest part for me.

Reasonably simple to construct, pain in the ass to UV.

Reasonably simple to construct, pain in the ass to UV.

I think going harder on the flat sides of the cylinder would produce a better look overall.

I think going harder on the flat sides of the cylinder would produce a better look overall.


Checking on the blog I see I managed to miss an update. Progress on the Child has been slow, but steady. There’s been little writing done, aside from daily entries into this thing. I’ve been spending a lot of time on the road & in the gym, & I feel the return to good physical form starting to nudge the creative energy back into gear. Whether or not it will be sustainable remains to be seen.

Thanks for checking in.

Month 43 Report

The Workstation

In an attempt to break the long creative drought I’ve built a “one-a-day” website focused on putting words to paper.

It’s a writing journal of sorts, a forced-march repository that requires something, anything, to be published on a daily basis. The work there is more often than not first draft, raw, unedited garbage straight from the sludge swirling around in my brain, so don’t expect much. I’ve already noticed a benefit, though: the words are coming more readily and easily than they have in a long time. Now whether I can take them & fashion them into something worth reading & selling remains to be seen.

On the game development front there hasn’t been as much progress in the past 4 weeks. I’ve started to notice a trend in small-scale high-quality independent videogame developments, one that further confirms a pronouncement I’ve made time & time again in the past: good videogames take a crap-ton of time. I’m seeing more & more solo & small-team developments that I’ve been following for ages come to fruition that have taken 3, 4, even 5+ years to get commercial-ready.

I’ve a feeling that these other developers have gone through the same stages of productivity that I have. An initial burst of small-form work that very few people care about, nor should given the overall quality, followed by a long period of fits & starts while building up the confidence to tackle a larger scale project. Work typically starts on the “big one” with gusto, supplemented by a public development log somewhere, then varying lengths of silence. The closer the project gets to actual completion, the longer the periods of silence until a build-up & marketing push.

So it would seem I’m in decent company. With a stubborn refusal to seek collaboration I’m perhaps in a bit of a harder place than others, but I’m still leading a life where my hobby has become my livelihood. While it may be true that over the past few months the consumption side has overshadowed the production side, it’s been the pursuit of fun & enjoyment that’s taken top priority here at the Acre, & the fact that that’s even possible is something to be grateful for.

Thanks for your continued interest in my work, & I hope to have have something exciting & interesting to show in the not-too-distant future.

Month 42 Report

I’ve lost a true love. More accurately: I let a true love slip away through gross negligence.

It’s remarkable how much of an adverse effect this can have on productivity.

Though I doubt she will ever read this: I’m sorry. It’s all I have left to say.

Let’s see if we can’t turn this grief into some killer creative output now, shall we?


I hold it true, whate’er befall; I feel it when I sorrow most; ‘Tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.

Another 365 Days of Gaming

+ Month 40 Report

Sorry I’m late, I was busy getting head-shots (& getting head-shotted) in Call of Duty: Ghosts.

Here’s some of what I have to say about the past month(s) in easier to digest audio format (hit the little arrow to listen):

 

Also downloadable from the Dark Acre Radio page, along with the other 11 episodes to date. Check ‘em out if you’re really that bored.

In short: not much game development or writing going on in the last little while, but I’ve sure gotten good at online 1st-person competitive shooters. Good, bad, or ugly is irrelevant: I’ve been having a great time making new friends & learning the ins & outs of one of the biggest videogame franchises in history. Mostly because I finally realized it was something I could do without all the silly guilt I’d been self-attaching to it.

There’s a personal Twitch.tv channel that’s been documenting the Ghosts exploits, feel free to sub/like/follow whatever they call it. I might not notice the chat channel in there, though, as it’s rather hard to watch while playing. I also don’t do that silly picture-in-picture of my head, I find it distracts too much from the action in the game being streamed.

Okay, without further ado here’s my best-of list for ’13. Enjoy.


Click here for 2012′s round-up.

Spent a bit of time in '13 playing vidya

PREAMBLE

2013 carried on the “new” tradition of allocating large swaths of time to gaming alongside game development. I’m firmly in the camp of “one must play games to understand games”. It’s entirely possible to produce real paradigm-shifting content without playing games, but so long as I’m still capable of enjoying gaming as a hobby I’ll continue to devote my free time to it, & hopefully learn a thing or two along the way.

To qualify for this list, these games:

  • Were “beaten” in 2013, i.e. played to end credits roll and/or exhausting normal gameplay.
  • Were released at some point before January 1st, 2014.

Also some stats for you stats-mongers out there:

  • 210 video & boardgames purchased in 2013.
  • 20 videogames beaten.
  • $2500 spent.

Okay here we go, & in no particular order other than how I remembered them so there’s probably some scale of favoritism here. Click any of the images to visit that game’s website.


RPG OF THE YEAR

Grand Theft Auto V

Call it misogynistic, racist, a horrible example for today’s young people. That’s cool. You’d be right, but that’s only if you took it as a serious document by which to live your life. Fortunately, it’s a fantasy videogame that’s fun as all get out & has one of the best-written anti-heroes in recent memory in the form of the brutal & abrasive Trevor Philips.

Very nearly 100%’d the campaign but for some of the more tedious gold-medal qualifiers. All in all a spectacular outing by Rockstar that combined the open-world sensibilities of Red Dead Redemption with the acidic satire we’ve come to expect from the Houser Brothers. Also a massive technical achievement that runs flawlessly on 1st-generation Playstation 3 units, something the much-lauded “Last of Us” struggled to manage.


ADVENTURES OF THE YEAR

Tomb Raider (2013)

What made this videogame so addictive? Was it the perfect storm of collection, exploration, & action-adventure? Possibly.

The reduction of the actual “tomb raiding” to a mini-game left a sour taste in many long-term fan’s mouths, but I found the incorporation of it into a much larger narrative with well-rounded characters an excellent design choice. This was a Lara Croft I really cared about.

The only real negative takeaway was the many brutal death scenarios that the development team felt important to illustrate in the goriest of manners. Quick-time events that more often than not ended in Lara getting impaled, crushed, or otherwise horribly murdered could have been handled differently, perhaps with less punishing fail-states. Despite this gruesome aspect Tomb Raider still shines as a fine example of cinematic linear adventure gaming that incorporates the very best of modern game design & technical advancements.

Assassin’s Creed 3

There’s a lot of personal bias attached to adding AC3 to this list: I’m half Mohawk Native, & I’ve had a long-term love affair with Assassin’s Creed from the very beginning. I put in the time to 100% the main campaign & not a moment felt like it was wasted. The development team nailed the feeling of nature, so much so that I often thought I smelled fresh pine while parkouring my way through the treetops.

The narrative was very well written, with an exceptional surprise twist. If you’ve heard nothing about it, as I hadn’t before starting, you’re in for a pretty cool surprise. This also marks the introduction of the sailing mechanisms that play a prominent role in the also good Black Flag.


TOUCHTRONIC EXPERIENCES OF THE YEAR

Steamworld Dig

Short, sweet, & very much to the point. Steamworld Dig is a deep (pun intended) exploration of the “mine & upgrade” school of game design. It does what it needs to do in a very precise, workpersonlike manner that’s made charming by the colorful art & characters.

This was also the 1st videogame I bought & beat on my shiny “new for ’13″ Nintendo 3DS. Highly recommend experiencing it on that platform if you can, but it’s also available for personal computers via Steam.

Hotline: Miami

A late ’12 release, I bought it at launch back when I was blindly supporting any & all indies who achieved major release status. Nowadays there’s one every other day & not all of the content is super-compelling, but back then HM was a pretty big deal in the indie-sphere. I played a few levels, recognized its greatness, then left it alone. It wasn’t until it was made available on the Playstation Vita that I really managed to get sucked in.

It seems the Vita is the perfect platform for a lot of games that are otherwise somewhat tedious on console or personal computer. The ability to carry the game with you wherever you want to go (usually the bathroom or the bedroom) make continuing through to completion somewhat easier.

Hotline Miami is excellent. Yes, it’s an ultra-violence simulator but one that’s so satisfying it’s very hard to put down once you get a handle on the presentation. The background music alone makes it worth the purchase price.


BOARDGAME OF THE YEAR

Netrunner

In a year where I spent 3 months immersing myself in all things cyberpunk, Netrunner stood out as a perfect execution of that genre. It’s fast-paced play, asymmetrical design, & unlimited room for personal play make it one of the most enjoyable deck-building card-battle games I’ve played since Upper Deck’s version of the World of Warcraft.


EVERGREEN OF THE YEAR

Minecraft

The videogame that keeps on giving. I hadn’t played Minecraft in ages, & coming back to it felt brand new. What really made it an amazing experience this time around was the attempt at playing “hardcore” mode, wherein you’re only given one life. It made the game so much more intense & interesting.

Further to that I established a hardcore server & started playing with other friends & folks I’ve met through the social networks. While not “true” hardcore, you could still die & lose all of your stuff but you wouldn’t be able to come back until the server restarted, which could be any where from a few hours to weeks. This made for some very compelling play.

As always I point to Mojang/Persson’s creation a real case study & model to emulate for videogame development. Create something & continue to add value to it over time, increasing the purchase price to reflect those developments, & you’ll win. The steps are deceptively simple, though, & still require attention to detail & many hours of hard labor, but I believe that Minecraft has tread the noble path in caring for their player base – past, present & future.


GAME I PLAY EVERY YEAR OF THE YEAR

Red Dead Redemption

Rockstar Games's "Red Dead Redemption"
Along with watching “There Will Be Blood” & reading George Lois’s “Damn Good Advice (for people with talent!) on Dark Acre Day, I play RDR every fall.

Did playing GTAV to completion in any way alter my appreciation for Rockstar’s vision of the Old West? Not one iota.

& though another year has passed since I last moaned about it, there’s still no PC version. I’m starting to think Rockstar doesn’t even read my blog.


PARADIGM SHIFTS OF THE YEAR

Gone Home

Is Gone Home a videogame? Yeah. Yeah it is. I guess that ends that debate.

Gone Home’s success is important because, along with other notable indie trailblazers like Proteus & Dear Esther marks experiences that people will pay for that don’t involve killing monsters, upgrading characters, platform hopping, coin collecting, or any of the other myriad tropes we’ve come to expect from our digital divergences.

It’s an interactive story that’s really quite good, & provides a really high-quality visual presentation as well. As developers we should be celebrating the Fullbright Company for opening doors to new markets & viable designs. As players it’s a pretty good time to be standing on the bridge between “core” videogame experiences & more narrative/exploration driven ones.

The Stanley Parable

As above, really. A bit more of an extension on the burgeoning genre, & well worth playing through just to see how the development team handled the credits.

Also wow, is that Source Engine getting some mileage or what?


LUDUM DARE 48 ENTRY OF THE YEAR

I used this space last year to pimp what I’d felt had been my best entry into the 48-hour solo game-making competition known as the Ludum Dare. This year I had a heavy change of heart about the LD & game jams in general, so instead I’ll just point you to all the videogame work I’ve done so far & you can decide for yourself which of them is the “best”.


DISAPPOINTMENT OF THE YEAR

The Last of Us

I went on media blackout for Naughty Dog’s non-Uncharted venture early in development. I knew nothing of the fungal zombies, so you might be able to imagine my surprise when I found out that what I’d previously thought was a human-vs-human post apocalyptic vision of the future had become a zombie survival horror… thing.

The game has received universal praise from popular media, but in the critical circles I listen to (other gamers, many from Japan) there was a resounding tone of disappointment. Poor artificial intelligence, a rigid & linear plot filled with strictly scripted events, & very unevenly designed set-pieces sullied the overall experience. The art direction (aside from a few minor gaffes like the re-named landmarks & “borrowing” of an outside artist’s rail map) was fantastic, however the horrible anti-aliasing that seems to be a trademark of Sony Playstation games did its ready best to muddy the already ruined landscapes. Furthermore whatever technology Naughty Dog uses for rendering caused my Japanese launch PS3 to kick on its over-loud internal turbofan, destroying the last vestiges of game immersion that had already been torn to tatters by AI partners running circles around zombies & standing in lines of fire.

I will say this, though: Gustavo Santaolalla’s score for the game is phenomenal, & now enjoys a top spot in my permanent game development BGM playlist.

Now despite being a junk videogame, The Last of Us does tell a pretty darn fantastic & emotional story. It would be far better suited to television than the medium it was executed in, but what can you do? Oh look, you can watch it on YouTube:


As always there’s a ton of stuff that gets swept under the rug by recency bias & plain forgetfulness, but the opinions expressed above are as genuine as I can make them, & for the positive ones I can guarantee you won’t be wasting your time or money on those games.

Thanks for reading, & here’s hoping 2014 yields even more treasure from the nigh-limitless amount of videogame content that’s out there & continues to pour forth from the creative minds of published game developers everywhere!

Month 39 Report

It’s been a dark month. Perhaps I’ll talk about it next month, perhaps not.

New episodes of Dark Acre Radio & my comprehensive “Games of the Year” coming up in January, as well as a treatise on Infinity Ward/Beachhead Studios’s “Call of Duty: Ghost”.

Happy holidays from myself & Dark Acre to you & yours!

P.S. Dark Acre e-books can be “gifted”, if you’re scrambling for a last-minute digital present.

Month 38 Report

FRAGS

Holy crap, for the 1st time in ages—maybe ever, too lazy to do a lookup—I very nearly forgot to post a monthly update.

Maybe it’s the weekly Dark Acre Radios, they’re sapping all the news out of me.

Whatever. A videogame is being made, a novel is being written. 3 weeks until the next Ludum Dare 48.

Need some inspiration? Check out DARK ACRE ON.

Thanks for Following.

Month 37 Report

Project Zero Nine

INTO THE WIND (EDIT)

As the current main project builds toward what could be called a “playable alpha”, similar to the level of interactivity & demonstrable gameplay of say an Overgrowth or early Minecraft, so rises the temptation to begin pre-selling.

Patience is so important at this stage of development. While it becomes increasingly commonplace in this post-crowdfunding world to attemp to wring dollars out of unfinished promises, it’s not a light decision.

The only motivators for pre-selling are either the need for development capital or a desire to receive early cash compensation for work already done. The first is a genuine concern if the project absolutely cannot go forward without funding. If not, then it can be lumped in with the former as either shortsightedness or plain greed.

Project Zero Nine has a very clear roadmap, one that is revised & iterated upon just as often as the game design itself. There won’t be any money asked for until there’s a product worth paying for, & that’s a promise. It will also be “pay once, play forever”, though how much is paid will depend a lot on when & your generosity.


Radio Ga-Ga

One month ago I recorded 49 meandering minutes of talk, unscripted & unedited, & uploaded it to the Internet.

DARK ACRE RADIO

Rewinding further back in time to October, 2010, at the start of the “salad days“, it had seemed a good idea to offer regular (read: weekly) updates to keep the growing fanbase appraised of developments on the Dark Acre. That seemed to work for a shocking 17 weeks before deciding to pull the plug, deeming the scrambling to show work each week more detrimental than positive. There are certainly arenas where regular WIP (work-in-progress) reports are valued & even interesting, especially in visual art production, but for overall game development it can cause more harm than good as artificial progress is produced to make it seem like something’s happening. Rather than fall victim to that trap the decision was made to focus on the work & offer monthly/yearly blurbs instead.

It’s worked out pretty OK so far.

So we arrive at today, with 5 full episodes of Dark Acre Radio in the can & on the ‘net, & a growing list of questions both dev-related & non- to address. It’s a relaxing break from the weekly toil in the pixel & byte mines, & if it happens to offer some entertainment value for you, the listener, then all the better.


Dark Acre Year Two Report

Year of the #KINGINDIE

Hail to the King, baby.

Check out the Year Zero & Year One reports.

Major Events from Year Two

  • October: Returned to 8-week development cycle with The Child.
  • November: Failed to complete NaNoWriMo ’12, delayed The Child.
  • December: Completed Ludum Dare 48 no.25, started P08.
  • January: Completed #1GAM no.01, “The Apartment”, to modest commercial success.
  • February: Completed #1GAM no.02, “CONCRETE”.
  • March: Failed to complete #1GAM no.03, abandoned #1GAM as an exercise.
  • April: Completed Ludum Dare 48 no.26. Removed ebooks from Amazon.
  • June: Re-released “Tale of the Madeus”. Stopped reading Twitter.
  • July: Re-released “Ambia”.
  • August: Relocated the Dark Acre to Nanaimo, Canada.
  • September: Completed Ludum Dare 48 no.27, started P09.

Detailed chronicles of Year Two can be found on the pages & posts of this website.


Facts & Figures

Financials

All values in Canadian dollars, year total/monthly average (previous year)

  • Administration (licensing): $1,454.00/$121.17↑ ($375.86/$34.17)
  • Billings (@$20/hour): $25,935/$2,030↓ ($34,257.00/$3,114.27)
  • Delivery (postage): $291.21/$24.27↑ ($51.22/$4.66)
  • Donations (made to charities/NPOs): $228.58/$19.05↑ ($158.24/$14.39)
  • Entertainment (business meals and events): $317.09/$24.52↑ ($61.03/$5.55)
  • Hardware : $1475.53/$120.02↓ ($3,244.27/$294.93)
  • Marketing (press releases/advertisement): $219.44/$13.83↑ ($84.33/$7.67)
  • Training (DVDs/seminars): $195.29/$15.86↓ ($582.94/$52.99)
  • Memberships (IGDA, DigiBC): $70.99/$5.92↓ ($110.88/$10.08)
  • Research (“competitors” games): $1,992.70/$161.35↑ ($1,375.85/$125.08)
  • Software (development applications): $733.57/$61.13↓ ($2,285.39/$207.76)
  • Phone (business land-line): $242.20/$18.93↓ ($360.00/$30.00)
  • Rent (percentage for home office): $1,227.25/$98.58↑ ($1,200.00/$100.00)
  • Utilities (electric): $240.00/$20.00 ($240.00/$20.00)
  • Food: $1,550/$129.00↓ ($1,620.00/$135.00)
  • Rent (actual): $10,656/$888.00↓ ($10,800/$900.00)
  • Total Cost Minus Billings: $19,426↓ ($22,400.00)

Year Two saved a bit of money on operating costs, mostly because there wasn’t much new hardware/software to acquire. Like the previous years this is very much on target with the original ’06 projections.

The billings above are, as before, hypothetical. But something changed in Y2, something rather important. I launched two pay-for videogame experiences & moved the e-book business over to 100% self-published. Dark Acre now has an owner-operated storefront. While there’s been almost zero marketing done on the products available, there were strong sales throughout the latter half of the year.

I’ve always found it gauche to discuss earnings. I have no problem sharing the costs: after all, I think it’s important for folks getting into this business to know. What I can say is that Dark Acre only cost roughly 200 bux to run in its third year of operation. It’s also worth noting that I worked way less in Y2 than in previous years.

Another way of putting that is I was 200 bux away from breaking even in 2012-2013. Now, the nature of the videogame/ebook business being how they are this is no guarantee that the coming year will be better. Considering the current marketing efforts are a snarky Twitter account & hyperactive Pinterest, it’s unlikely that there’s going to be as much movement on the existing inventory.

So what does that mean? It means, as it always has, that I need to publish something I feel is worthy of a real marketing push.

Results

Primary Game Projects:

  • #1GAM 01 – The Apartment: Self-published & top-earner for Y2.
  • #1GAM 02 – CONCRETE: Self-published.
  • Project Zero Zero: Development ongoing. Undisclosed systems prototyping.
  • Project Zero Five: Development ongoing.
  • Project Zero Eight: Research ongoing.
  • Project Zero Nine: ???

Ludum Dare 48 Entries:

  • LD48 #25, “The Condemned”: Completed. #99 Overall, #13 Mood.
  • LD48 #26, “PRISMA”: Completed. #260 Overall, #16 Audio.
  • LD48 #27, “10 SECONDS”: Completed. #610 Overall.

The Darkade:

  • 4 new games (see below)

Writing

  • Parlow’s Choice: Revised & self-published.
  • Tale of the Madeus: Revised & self-published.
  • Ambia: Revised & self-published.

Year Two has been the best year so far with 5 pay-for products on the shelves.


What Went Right

1. Switched to Self-Published

While technically “self-published” prior to the move to Gumroad, it wasn’t until launching The Apartment that I realized there was a serious need for total ownership of product. We could argue back-and-forth about the merits of being on this or that pre-established storefront, such as Amazon or Steam, but I’m sticking firm with the belief that the largest dividends get paid when you own the store.

2. Quit Reading Twitter

I believe the use of Twitter as a two-way communication medium is toxic. I could write a paper on it & I’m not going to, but I can speak about how much better my life got when I finally stopped Following other’s minutia & restricted my own output to a handful of daily, pre-scheduled, cathartic one-liners. Again, folks may have all kinds of anecdotes about how much Twitter is helping them be better game developers or people, but for me it’s been good to be away from it.

I’ll say this though: I’m happy to come away from Twitter with the #KINGINDIE hashtag. It’s hilarious how many people Unfollowed because they found it “pretentious”. Mission accomplished, that’s one Follow closer to independence for those folks.

Taking Twitter seriously is a high road to hell.

3. Switched to Skype/Facebook for Conversation

So that’s not to say I abandoned social networking altogether, no. I think it’s still important to maintain a certain level of human contact, especially if you’re an isolated shut-in, but it’s far better done in a real-time space with room for fucking up & being human. Status updates are “curated reality”, while VOIP chat is the raw deal. I’ve had more rewarding conversations in the past year in chat channels than I ever did on Twitter.


What Went Wrong

1. Not A God-Damned Thing

I’ve been thinking about this for a month, & I can’t find a single thing really “wrong” with Year Two. The businessperson in me is a little angry that I didn’t market the #1GAM output more, especially The Apartment, but I know that it’s still too early for a major push. The shelves need to be well-stocked before opening the doors. So, yeah. A really exceptional year for the Dark Acre.


Year Three

Work continues on Projects Zero Zero, Zero Five, Zero Eight, & Zero Nine. I’m committed to the long haul & invested in the bigger picture, so it may be more than a year before there’s any significant visible output on videogame-related projects.

This seems to be the final psychological hurdle to leap in the quest for creative independence, losing the need to constantly show results for outside approval. It’s a far better discipline to trust in the work & believe that the finished product will be far more valuable when delivered to a waiting public whole & intact.

In last year’s report I promised to release Solarus III. That didn’t happen. I could re-promise that same thing but I’d rather keep my integrity intact. There’ll be words put to paper, no doubt, but whether they’ll see the light of day is something that will happen when the time is right & the work is done.

I also pledged to drop my weight back down to 80 kilograms. That didn’t happen either. I’m still on the #GAMEPLAN, though it has yet to re-manifest itself as a proper habit.

At least one of Year Two’s promises was kept: the Dark Acre was transplanted to Vancouver Island, & the living is indeed easier here. I’m wary of making any predictions on how the change of scenery & lifestyle will affect my creative output.

I guess we’ll know in 12 months.


I’d like to personally thank each and every one of you for taking the time to read this & if you’ve been following along via the other outlets, thank you for that too.

It hasn’t been easy going this year, but it’s been an important period of growth and learning. And most importantly, Dark Acre has survived.

Here’s to another 365 days of game development, authorship, & creative independence on the Dark Acre.


Just sitting here most days trying to figure out if the stuff I’m consuming is any good.

Month 35 Report

I’ve been full indie for 35 months.

When this goes live the 9th consecutive Ludum Dare 48 compo that I’ve participated in will be well underway.

As for the past month it’s been all about settling in to the new Dark Acre digs here in gorgeous Nanaimo, Canada. I recorded a little video tour of the place:

It’s been nothing but writing into various notebooks & thinking, thinking, thinking. These are things I neglected to do in the first almost 3 years of indie life. Now that I’m doing it all I can think about it production. Hopefully this LD48 alleviates some of that desire.

Okay, will post the usual post-mortem & site-related stuff once the compo is done. See you then.


If you give up, chances are you never wanted to try in the first place.


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