The Challenges Of Game Development: An Amateur’s Perspective

Before I get started, I’d like it made clear that everything I write here is purely my own personal opinion, based off my own experiences. This is my blog after all, this is where I write to express myself when no other outlet feels appropriate at the time. Nothing I say in this space should be taken as being representative of Chucklefish or its staff. With that said, I hope you find this perspective interesting.

Like many things in life, I’ve found my work as a game developer to be a constant learning experience. Often it has involved learning practical things that are directly relevant to my work, like honing my understanding of JSON and Starbound’s systems in order to get the results I desire. Sometimes it has meant learning more difficult lessons, like knowing when and how to distance myself emotionally from negative feedback, and trying not to take it personally.

Honestly, this can be difficult at times. When negativity is directed at something you’re so passionate about, something you’ve spent years of your life working on, it can feel like someone is criticizing you directly as a human being. When faced with negative attitudes, I try instead to focus on the legitimate criticisms that often lie behind them, and then assess whether or not they are something I can reasonably address.

A good example would be simply looking at Starbound’s steam page. At time of writing, 92% of the reviews given to our game are marked as positive, which is great! It makes me happy to think so many people are enjoying our game! But you wouldn’t think that to be the case if you scrolled down and saw the large number of negative reviews dotting the front page. My first reaction naturally being to ask, why?

Upon deeper investigation, the criticism of these reviews largely seems to stem from the total decline in stable updates for the game. As we’ve continued to work on Starbound behind the scenes, the people who have supported our game are eager for more content as soon as possible. This criticism comes from a place of passion, and our players simply want what they were promised. This is a criticism I can understand, and even empathize with.

Those who have been following the game for some time would likely know that we tried doing updates on a weekly basis at first. It led to many expressing dissatisfaction with the amount of content they were receiving in this piecemeal fashion and honestly, it limited us as developers in many respects, especially having to make sure that anything we put out to the public was working without disrupting the cohesive and otherwise-functional whole. These weekly updates were ultimately scrapped in favor of our current system of writing regular daily updates and our nightly build that allowed people to peek behind the curtain, if they were so inclined.

I for one have quickly begun to see the benefits of the “when it’s done” philosophy that many higher caliber studios like Valve and Blizzard have been using for years. The upside of this approach is that when our next stable update does hit, it’s going to be packed with loads of new stuff for our players to check out. The downside is it that it can mean a lengthy wait, as it has done, which understandably can be frustrating to our players. I’m still waiting for that Half-Life 3 announcement myself!

I think the greatest lesson I have taken away from this whole experience, and the thing that I want to convey most, is that game development is hard.

But boy do I love it.

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Life, Work & Games In London

It’s been nearly four months now since I moved to the UK. I’ve settled pretty completely into my new London lifestyle, and honestly I’m a little surprised at how easily that change has come about. I guess I didn’t feel like I’d handle the transition as well as I did, being away from my family and friends in Australia is a big change after all. Luckily I already had a bunch of good friends waiting for me when I arrived.

My work in the Chucklefish office has been an absolute pleasure. I never go in feeling like I don’t want to be there, and often hang back late to finish up whatever I’m working on. My productivity on Starbound has improved markedly, especially since I’m now able to get support for any issues I run into very quickly because I can turn around and ask a programmer right then and there, rather than waiting for a fix to come several hours later. Everyone’s honestly just been really great to spend time with, in and out of the office.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Chucklefish, Games, Life, Starbound | 3 Comments »

Halfway: Hitting Steam in less than a week!

So I’m finally free to reveal the trailer I’ve been working on, and talk about the game said trailer is promoting! This is Halfway, a turn-based strategy title developed by Robotality, a two man team (of brothers, in fact) who have done some truly exceptional work. Check out the trailer for a quick primer!

It’s not really possible for me to give an unbiased opinion, seeing as I was the one who put this trailer together. That said, after having played the game through in full I wouldn’t feel right saying nothing when I had such a great time with it, so let me just put my two cents out there. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Chucklefish, Games, Videos | 1 Comment »

Got some ideas. Could use some feedback!

I’ve been super busy the past few weekends helping another game developer in producing a trailer to promote the launch of their game later this month. I’m looking forward to being able to share that trailer and tell you a bit about the game soon, but all I can say for now is that I played the game through in full, and it is very good.

With said trailer done and dusted, I’m hoping to spend my weekends focusing on my YouTube channel again. I realize my viewership is very small, but it’s been a fun side-project for me this past year, and if nothing else it gives me an excuse to play more games while also being productive with my free time. I’ve even got a few Starbound videos planned right now, but wasn’t sure whether they were things people would be interested in seeing, so I’d love to hear your thoughts. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Chucklefish, Games, Starbound, Videos | No Comments »

London: My New Home

Trafalgar Square

So here I am in my London apartment. Sitting at my laptop late in the evening, not feeling tired or particularly restful, I thought perhaps I could use this as an opportunity to catch folks up on how I’m doing after having moved from my Perth home in Western Australia to my new home in the grand capital city of England.

While the decision at the time was a relatively easy one to make, I don’t think I really felt the gravity of that decision until I stepped through the departure gate of Perth International. Having said goodbye to my family and friends, it took everything I had not to tear up as I queued up for customs.

“I’m actually leaving,” I thought.

At this point, I’m fairly accustomed to travel. I’ve enjoyed a number of trips over the past few years, and I consider myself very fortunate to be in a position where I can afford moving to a city like London. But as I got on the plane, I began to second-guess my decision. This trip wasn’t just some two week excursion to a foreign land. This was me moving off on my own for the first time to start a new life in a new home far from many of my loved ones. In simpler terms, I was scared.

As the plane began to take flight, I found myself thinking about all the exciting possibilities that lay ahead of me. I would get to experience a culture that is both foreign yet familiar in a far more intimate way. I would, for the first time, have my own home away from home. I would finally be able to work directly with my friends on the dream game that has forever changed my life.

I sighed. My heart had settled. And I had found my resolve.

So how have things been going since I arrived almost two weeks ago?

Honestly, it hasn’t been as big a shock to my system as I thought it would be. I’ve been super busy sorting out a lot of stuff, and my apartment is mostly taken care of at this point. (It helps that I wasn’t bringing much with me to begin with.) It’s going to take me a little while to get used to being considerate of our neighbors and to keeping my voice down in the evenings, since back home we weren’t really in such close proximity with our neighbors.

It does pose a legitimate challenge to whether I can continue my Sven Plays stuff, as there can occasionally be a fair bit of noise from outside sources, whether it be people, gentle thudding footsteps from above, and even distant planes.

I won’t have my PC and internet for a little while yet, so I’m looking at all my options (soundproofing, unfortunately, is not one of them). I have some big plans for the series, so I’m determined to make it work somehow. We’ll see how that goes.

So what about Chucklefish?

The last of our team arrived a few days ago, and the office is almost completely set up now save for a couple of desks and computers. I’m delighted that none of the chemistry of our group has disappeared since last August (where we met for the first time at Multiplay’s Insomnia gaming festival). Everyone is clicking really well with each other, which can only mean good things for morale and productivity in the long run.

Hands down, the biggest boon will be having the ability to get instant feedback and support on everything. With the bulk of the team working standard office hours, and no longer in entirely different time zones, there shouldn’t be any more situations where I run into a simple bug that hinders my work and not being able to have it addressed until the next day. This, among other things, should speed up our efforts a great deal (even if you might not see it immediately, because we have some pretty big stuff lined up).

Starting tomorrow, we plan to kick back into full gear on Starbound, and we’re all very excited for the days to come. It’s too early to say I unquestionably want to stay in England for the long term — there’s too many factors I cannot possibly predict in my current situation — but at the very least I’m here until Starbound is finished.

So how am I fairing overall?

Very well I think. While getting set up has been stressful in some ways, I’ve had a lot to be happy about as the team has come together. I’m very keenly aware that I’m privileged to be in my current position: having a job I’m passionate about, working with some truly talented and awesome people. It’s a position I wouldn’t even have if it wasn’t for the support of the amazing community that’s built up around our game, and I will never forget that.

To those of you who have supported Starbound up til now — whether it be in the form of screenshots and videos, fan art and stories, mods and add-ons, criticisms and praise, even just the passing shout-out to our team — from the bottom of my heart, thank you! Thank you for giving me this opportunity to make something of myself, and to be a part of something special. It means more to me that you can ever know.

Until next time guys, take care. It’s time to get to work.

Sunset Over London

Posted in Chucklefish, Games, Life, Starbound | 2 Comments »