Nowadays, I’m reading a tiny HarperCollins book called “Blood, Sweat, and Pixels”, written by Jason Schreier.
It is a journey through ‘development hell’ – a media industry jargon for a project that remains in development (often moving between different crews, scripts, or studios) without progressing to completion. In other words, ‘a never-ending project’.
So, if you have ever wondered what it takes to be a video game developer, don’t read this book! It must be the very last introductory document you should be referring to. – Just kidding! 😉
“If I ascend up into heaven, you are there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, you are there.” – (Psalm 139:8)
Jason Schreier takes readers on a fascinating odyssey behind the scenes of video game development. Ultimately, a tribute to the dedicated diehards and unsung heroes who scale mountains of obstacles in their quests to create the best games imaginable.
Life is hard for video game developers. Very hard, indeed… Thanks to nice small touches and heavenly surprises, life is more bearable. This book is certainly one of them. Thank you Jason!
December 1, 2013 marks the beginning of my new video game project. The math is simple; I have been working on it for 2 years, precisely. Designing, developing and co-producing… A lot of work has been done, and many more still in progress. All tough tasks. Mostly game design related, such as 3-bit node graph architecture. Plus, a lot of coding…
It has been a busy year, indeed. – So, what’s new?
The most distinguishing element of this project –optimized game development workflow– has been upgraded to version 3. This is something that I’m really proud of. Simply because, it is;
more cost- and time-efficient,
more artwork/cinematography oriented,
100% compatible with bothold & next-gen workflows.
This year, I mostly concentrated on the last item. As we all know, global video game industry is having a hard time trying to make a quantum leap to next-gen video games, as well as keeping the cash flow pumping. Let’s face it, upgrading a business model while doing business is risky! You need to educate developers, reorganize teamwork and improve asset management, while keeping an eye on the ongoing projects and meeting the deadlines. A kind of “make something new, and keep the business running old-fashioned way” situation.
“…using both current and upcoming tools/assets.”
This is exactly where my upgraded workflow comes handy. In simple terms, it is a next-gen game development workflow offering an optimized way of making games for less money/time, using both current and upcoming tools/assets. Because it is backwards compatible, a veteran game development team/company can still use their old-fashioned workflow and make a smooth transition to next-gen video game development process using this workflow.
So far so good, but…
Why on earth is that backward compatibility thing so important? Simply because, when we say “workflow assets”, we are actually speaking about human beings! People with families, children, and responsibilities.
During the last 30 years, I have witnessed the highs and lows of the game development industry. It has always been very harsh on developers on critical occasions. When a “next-big thing” is in, managers start headhunting for next-gen guys. Current developers instantly turn into “old-fashioned guys”, and most of the time get fired. The turnover is so high that most experienced video game developers hate working inhouse for AAA companies. Instead, they prefer freelance business, just like me.
Frankly speaking, I upgraded my workflow to version 3 for a better human resource management. The first 2 versions favoured the management and income aspects of business. Now, the final version concentrates on developers. – Yep, something for my teammates!
We don’t work in a vacuum
Our environment feeds into the work we produce, particularly when that work is creative. Every piece of “thing” in our working environment affects us. What we see, listen, touch, and even smell, stimulates our creativity and in a way gets injected to our piece of work.
So, I made a radical decision. In order to increase my productivity, I decided to split my home office activities into two. Thanks to a painstaking and backaching performance, I moved all my coding/artwork related books, tools and computers from my mom’s house to home. Using some modular equipment from Ikea, I built a custom table wide enough for my desktop monitor and Wacom tablet, and spent a lot of time for cabling and ergonomics. Keeping things tidy, certainly served well. As I promised my beloved wife that I will use less than 2 m² of our living room, I have finally managed to create a wide open space using only 1.98 m². – Oh, that is optimization 😉
Within just a few days, I have realized a positive impact in my productivity. Now, my process is crystal clear. I do all my coding/artwork at home, and music related stuff in mom’s house. And the bonus is, I spend less time in traffic and more with my family.
“Creativity is a gift. It doesn’t come through if the air is cluttered.” – (John Lennon)
Actually, I have so many things to tell you. I really would like to tell more and give you under the hood –technical- details of my upcoming project… I am afraid, I can’t. Until the official announcement, there are things not meant to be known or seen by public. Well, you know, this is how video game business works!
So, I’ll keep you posted whenever I can…
Regarding the latest annual update and current status of my new video game project, I’m planning to open a bottle of wine and enjoy rest of the evening with my family. I think I deserved it.
The new video game project that I started working on a year ago, precisely, is going great! With respect to maintaining confidentiality, I still can’t share specific details with you, but I am more than happy to say that everything is going on “as planned”. – Something quite contrary to the nature of game development in general 😉
One for all, all for one
As the co-producer of the project, I have many responsibilities in addition to the usual things that I have to do. Game design, story development, programming, conceptual artwork design, 3d modeling, texturing, music production, etc. Although sounds like a one-man-army project, actually it is not.
“Only one artist takes all the responsibility…”
In order to preserve game’s artistic style, it is quite normal that only one artist takes all the responsibility of designing & planning everything, and making sure that things will be kept/done in that way. And, this is exactly what I am doing nowadays. – (At one point, we will have developers and artists contributing to the project, naturally. Until that moment, everything must be “well-defined”.)
Instead of creating detailed game design documents, some game development projects begin with “conceptual coding”. Same goes for this project. Contrary to traditional game development workflow that begins with documenting the game design, I decided to start with implementing a proof of concept.
Similar to LEGO building bricks, I have been coding fundamental elements of “gameplay”. As a result of these coding sessions, I have clearly envisioned a number of next-gen features that can possibly enrich our game.
We are currently evaluating the options. When the gameplay implementation is over, I’ll go back to game design document for sure. – (Yes, I know that it sounds a bit unorthodox, but I have my reasons. Sometimes it’s good to break old habits for the sake of creativity. In this game, I will let “gameplay” define and drive the game design!)
Spinners and Probability
Coding is all about making decisions. Getting your hands dirty in Mathematics has always been rewarding. Going back and forth between Calculus and Geometry is more than a stellar experience. Not because it makes you a better programmer, but simply because it turns you into a “wise decision maker”.
In terms of design and implementation, this game development project is full of complex decisions. Thankfully, “coding” is the glue between questions and answers. When used wisely, coding offers new ways of dealing with decisions that you derive from Mathematics, and this is exactly what I’m trying to achieve throughout this project.
Content is King!
I spent a lot of time creating a narrative hook, which I believe is the most underestimated element in today’s game design trends! With references from 16-bit retro gaming era, I am quite sure that a well-defined hook creates a huge impact on gameplay.
“Admittedly, I had to make 7 revisions for a ‘great’ hook…”
It was a tough job. In order to fine-tune the hook, I had to rewrite it again and again for many times. After each rewrite, I left it on my bookshelf at least for a few weeks, so that I can completely concentrate on other things as well. When I picked it up weeks later, I was objective enough to assess the tension and come up with fresh ideas. Each iteration added more flavour to the previous version. Admittedly, I had to make 7 revisions for a great hook, which later turned out to be “Level One”. – Worth every minute spent!
Hidden Treasure: “Workflow 2.0”
The most distinguishing element of this project is the optimized workflow that I have been working on as a side project for many years. Thanks to this workflow, our project will have the luxury of really dramatic cost savings, a more “talent oriented” development process, and the competence of keeping game design/style integrity throughout the development process.
So far, so good…
Still thousands of things to do, so I’m going back to work now.
I’m excited to officially announce that, I’ve just started working on a new video game project! Without going into details, all I can say for today is that I will be designing, developing and co-producing the upcoming game within the next 2+ years.
More details coming soon…
The Blog of Mert Börü: Selected Works, Ongoing Projects, and Memories