2016 is looking up

5 03 2016

It’s about a month since this year’s GGJ, and so I guess it’s time for my usual yearly update to this page! (which I’m fairly certain nobody has ever read anyway, so I’m probably just talking to myself. But whatever. It’s cathartic)

I actually have a lot to talk about this time around, other than just GGJ stuff, but we’ll start with a rundown of this years Jam and my project for it. Good news! My team and I killed it this year. Absolutely, unquestionably, the best GGJ year for me yet. Here it is:

The theme this year was “Ritual”, and so our team settled on making a retro-styled shooter involving memorizing and completing patterns. We had a small team of 4 programmers, but fortunately a few of us had experience modeling and even composing music, so we were actually fairly well-rounded. The idea we picked was (for once) scoped very appropriately for the time we had. The premise was simple, so we were able to get it playable by the afternoon of second day, which left us with an entire day for iteration and polish until it was actually fun to play! We made a list at the beginning of all the features we wanted and classified them as critical, should-do, and nice-to-have, and we actually continually updated the list as we went which kept us on track the whole time. By the time we were finished, we had actually checked off all 120+ items on the list, including the nice-to-haves like a boss fight and custom made music. Considering that for two of our team members this was their first Game Jam, it’s amazing how disciplined we were, and how well we worked together. We were never really stressed out, and had plenty of time to get some sleep and food, which I think shows in the final product being more coherent than is usual for GGJ games. All told, it was an awesome time this year and I can’t wait for next year!

So now that the obligatory GGJ stuff is out of the way, I wanted to talk about some of the happenings of the last year, and what is coming up this year. 2015 was a roller-coaster of a year for me, but a really s***ty one that mostly goes downhill before it slams into a wall 😛 I started off the year by getting my game “Secret of the Pendulum” released on the Google Play store for Android, to some pretty decent reviews. Which felt pretty good because it was getting out to more players and I felt like I was actually making progress on the game. We then ported it to Windows Store, right around the time of Windows 10 being launched, which was also pretty cool because there wasn’t a ton of competition for us, but the game was starting to feel pretty stale. So I pushed for doing a new, standalone pc/mac version that was more like how the game originally was intended to be, rather than the f2p cash-gouge it became. Somehow, this actually got agreed to, and I was riding high for a bit because I got to finish up the game I always wanted to, and release the last of the content for it so players could actually finish the story. We even started a Greenlight campaign to get it on Steam.

Naturally, that’s when everything exploded. Only a couple of weeks before we were finished the game, I was pulled into a meeting and told that after 5 years, the project was cancelled and I was out of a job. Not totally surprising, as we had been losing money for some time, but still pretty heart-wrenching for me. So for the first time since finishing school, I was jobless, and with my project unfinished, I felt like I had nothing to show for it. Calgary is not a big hub of game dev work, so finding a new studio was going to be tough. I started doing some remote contract work through the Unity forums, but after dealing with several bad clients and for little money, I realized that wasn’t going to pay the bills.

I decided to switch focus and try looking for a job locally outside of the game industry. There are tons of tech companies in Calgary looking for devs, and I know I’m a good enough programmer to work on anything given a bit of time to train with a given language or toolset, so why not? Well, as it turns out, since we’re in a recession and a ton of people in the city are getting laid off, the competition out there is brutal. It’s really hard right now to convince someone to give me a chance, when they have a dozen other applicants with the exact experience and qualifications they are looking for. After getting destroyed at a few interviews, I left 2015 feeling pretty down about myself and my prospects for ever finding work. (“pretty down” is an understatement to be sure).

BUT! I’m happy to say that 2016 is looking up finally! After struggling a bit more through January, I found a few good contracts in February. Again, it wasn’t enough to pay the bills, but it did get me some referrals to other people that were looking for a more permanent developer. Things are going well with them, and (without saying too much, because I don’t want to jinx it) I am fairly confident I will have a new full-time job before March is up.

So YAY! Here’s to a better year than last, and to new beginnings!

 

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