This *should be* the part of the blog where I say: ‘OMG! NANA IS OUT! BUY NOW!!!’. Yes, I should be doing just that, but I won’t; well, not just yet. First I want to log my progress while having my hands deep in the guts of Nana’s Pettin’ Emporium. Previously, in Blogging with Cake n Iron, our fair writer expressed her plans for the initial Nana Vertical Slice; art style, marking meanderings and general puppy gifs to get her point across. Said vertical slice had bugs, but no show stoppers and game play proved to be simplistic and easy to digest.
Yay, you awesome developer you! Pat yourself on the back for building a solid build!
Whoawhoawhoawhoa, Hoss. You didn’t finish Nana, just her skeleton. Let’s talk about your ups and downs while running pass the Alpha finish line!
Yeah, let’s talk about that, ‘Hoss’. I am at a loss for words because, hey, I’m not that smart. Smart, as I define it, is talking a bunch of code protocol gobbledygook that a lot of tech people do to show off that cerebral penis of theirs. I should talk about ray casting, procedural map generation and all that, but that’s a waste of time. For coders reading this, I am not smart; what I am, though, is persistent. Persistent enough to write a post mortem about what I did right and wrong to get to this point and how said post mortem will direct future deliverables and milestone reflection. Maybe a new developer will learn from my missteps or a seasoned developer will offer feedback. Either way, I am pleased with my current progress.
Nana’s Pettin’ Emporium Alpha Post Mortem
Concept | What I did right:
Was Not in A Creative Bubble: When I first started Nana, I didn’t go to my work machine at all. I took note to a lot of boargame developers around me and went the old fashion route: Pen and Paper. I drew out Nana’s general game play and started to spit ball before I touched a keyboard. I talked it over with a few friends who are close enough to give brutal feedback and ask difficult questions to see if the idea had legs before I invested hours into building it.
Wrote A Single Page GDD Summary: After I saw excitement and inquisitiveness from my feedback, I got down to work with the paper work. Hold on! I did say paper work but not a lot of paperwork. I wrote about basic functionality, expected end results of game play, ideas about user base, scoring rewards and user interface flow from beginning to end. These subjects only took two or three loose paragraphs on a single typed page. I scanned in my spitball sketches and logged both articles as a ‘Starter GDD‘ that I could come back to as I build and wrote a more refined GDD.
Concept | What I did wrong:
I Listened To Too Much Outside Feedback: I learned to be selective about receiving feedback. That’s the politically correct way to say it. Bluntly, I stopped listening to people’s feedback when they wanted *me* to rewrite my entire project to reflect *their* vision. I will admit being naive at first; taking so much feedback to heart did dishearten me and warped my thinking that my own idea was not good enough. When I had the same people state they were ‘pushingback’ during the concept phase, I suddenly went a full 180 degrees and start throwing shade. ‘Pushback‘ is wonderful when working collectively in a team environment; ‘Pushback’ is not wonderful when one person is doing the lion share of the work and the deliverer of feedback hasn’t looked, let alone wrote, a single line of code. It was then I perfected the art of throwing shade. Lesson Learned: Everyone has an opinion until it’s time to do work. Learn to know the difference between critique and someone living their goals through you.
Working | What I did right:
Kept A Schedule and Stuck With It: When I really got on the ball about Nana, when I really believed in what I was doing and enjoyed it, I wrote my goals for Nana down. Just one big goal: ‘I Want Nana’s Pettin’ Emporium To Be As Big As Flappy Birds but for Kids and Their Parents’. So then I asked myself: ‘How can I do this everyday, no matter how small?’ I made a simple weekly calendar and I filled out a small list of things to do each day. I made my tasks small and succeeded finishing them. Next thing I knew, I was at Alpha. It went quick.
Made Lots of Game Templates | Boilerplates: Anyone who knows me also know I taught myself how to code. I do not say that lightly. I started during the Great Recession when I was 30 and here I am still at it at 36. The result is lots and lots of failed projects, but PLENTY of solid boilerplates. Gabe Newell states that Valve’s success comes from quick iteration. He’s not lying. I learned that rebuilding Rome every single time is a waste of time. In my private Github repository, I have the following boilerplates: Endless Runner, Procedural Roguelike, 2D Platformer A and 2D Platformer B. Now, I have Nana as an Incremental Boilerplate. They all work, they are all solid and all I have to do is pull one down, modify, re-skin and release.
Shamelessly Asked For Help: As you can tell, I’m not your typical developer: I’m sassy, black and a woman. That is a recipe for social interaction disaster when talking to your average developer. I didn’t care if they insulted me (which many did passive aggressively), or mocked my skills (which many did and still do), I still asked for help. Between their salt, discouragement and general self inflated circus acts, I got nuggets of wisdom, which I ran with. Those who offered aid, without the salt, thanked me for investigating my own bugs, being humble and following up with my changes to prove they weren’t writing the entire thing for me. In fact, they asked me for Project Management advice, Budgeting tips and legal resources for their projects; so we had a fair exchange!
Went from Full Time Employee to Freelance Consultant: During my tenure as a full time office bee, my bosses stole my work and got promotions. Corner office, pay raise, the works. They kept me close to keep their corner of fiefdom, but I never got to see the cash or appreciation for it. There were comments of how they loved that I was ‘their subordinate’ and how they were glad I didn’t ‘go rogue‘. This was a continual occurrence in my career until the day came when I said: ‘You know what, I’m cool with this. I quit.’ This is where I should be bitter and spew, but honestly…it was a great revelation for me and a great lesson. Not everyone is made to be an employee . Not everyone is built to be a corporate politician. I wasn’t being true to myself and my work style, so when I decided not to get a full time gig and become a freelance consultant, it improved my life greatly. Granted, it’s tough, but I want something bigger and that takes rejection, sacrifice, humility and work.
Wiped Out All Social Media & Reddit: Trump is in office. North Korea is losing its shit. China is pissed, South America is starving and people are taking selfies in Pink hats. I cut out all social media with the exception for what I’m doing professionally. I no longer go to r/gamedev because it’s a distraction. Social media is a distraction. There is fun to make, folks to laugh with and things to finish. My personal opinions and preferences do not matter; my work, and the smile I give to people who need a break from reality, does.
Took Breaks: I wake up at 6 am every morning and, after coffee, I work until 12 or 1 pm. Then I’m done for the day. I workout, I have lunch, shower and the rest of the day is mine. I run a podcast, I do voice acting for Video Games and Visual Novels. I answer questions on Quora, I play games, I read books and comics; I do not worry about game development work until the next day. I’m more productive and sane.
Working | What I did wrong:
Forgot That Learning A Skill Is Not Fun…At First: Success is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Learning does not become pleasurable until you are comfortable with the material. I forgot this during my game development cycles and questioned myself constantly at first. This slowed me down, distracted me, made me reach out and do work that I hated but was good at. I thought I was never going to make any money. I was embarrassed I didn’t have a full time job but my friends and former coworkers did. Then one day, the world clicked. C# made sense. Unity made sense and then the long term goal made sense. It became fun. Lesson Learned: I stopped comparing and started coding. I saw what I was doing was bigger than making games, I wanted to make a business out of it, so now…this is the goal.
Life | What I did right:
Saw Cake N Iron As A Business, Not A Place Where Games Are Made: When I decided to really go hard in the Cake N Iron Paint, I knew that I wanted a business, not to make a few apps; thus I prepared. I bought an LLC, I learned how to do my taxes, took my knowledge from my other business adventures, investigated trademarks and copyright, asked questions to people doing this, built a website, had the proper social Identified myself as a brand. I automated everything and now, here I am. In Alpha. Ready to clean and polish for Beta.
Knew My Market and Did Not Go To Mobile First: I’ve done multiple cellphone games. I am not a fan of mobile; I understand people are in their devices, hell…I’m in my device a lot, but I know it’s very hard to be found in mobile. Also, I want players to interact IRL, not be glued to a tiny glowing screen. So I decided to take a polished Nana to itch.io and Gamejolt first. It’s smaller and polished titles stand out. My marketing plan is not sending Nana to reviewers, but talking to my neighbors, my friends, anyone with kids and letting them play it on their laptops. It’s not what everyone else is doing, but I love talking to people and sharing my creations, so I don’t mind that Nana and I hit the road and meet the kids who want to pet puppies. Mobile and Steam will come later.
I Kept Frugal, Kept A Social Life and Kept Positive: Pay off all your debt if you can. It makes life so much easier. Also, I learned how to video edit. If you’re a developer, trust me, learn to edit video and audio first. You’re going to need it.
Life | What I did wrong:
Let Negativity and Negative People Dictate My Path: People are going to say whatevs. They are going to tell you to your face that you won’t succeed. That your ideas don’t matter. I believed it at first. Then I got super hype. Seriously? I don’t matter? No. They don’t matter. Seriously, they don’t. They are afraid; my confidence with my course made them question their own. Lesson Learned: Cut negative people out of your life. Do you, Boo Boo.
Ending Shot from Eric at StarDew Valley: