The GBGames’ Blog Year in Review

It’s the one year anniversary of my blog! Since January 27th, 2005, I’ve made over 250 posts on topics as varied as game development, game design, general geekery, health and fitness, marketing, politics, and books. There have been over 200 almost 300 comments on my blog, and I’ve gone from 50 accidental hits a day (people leaving within milliseconds) to somewhere between 450 and 600 hits per day depending on which web stats package I use. w00t!!

Here are a few of the posts that I think were significant:

January 29th, 2005: I wrote My Ability to Create in which I wrote about…well apparently Steve Pavlina if you didn’t get past the first few paragraphs. I think I’ve improved my writing and blog posts since then. You know what the heck I am writing about by the time you hit paragraph two at the latest. B-) Anyway, I also talk about how, objectively speaking, I did not have the skills to create a product. I couldn’t really prototype, let alone make something to sell.

I noticed at the time that a big part of the problem was that I was expecting to improve my skills by squeezing time in between all of the other aspects of my life. I was going to grad school AND working full-time. I was making plenty of time to be with friends, and dropping other tasks to do so easily. I was driving to a train station in Chicago and then taking a train downtown in order to get to work, which meant that I was commuting 10-20 hours a week!

I have since been taking a train that has a stop near my house. It’s a little more expensive, but being able to get to work on a train that I am almost always guaranteed a seat on is great. I read books, articles, and otherwise make good use of my commute. It’s also quicker. I get to work within 30-45 minutes. Getting to leave my house later and getting home earlier really frees up a lot of my time. Money well spent.

I also stopped going to graduate school. My thinking was, “I already have a degree. I don’t have professional experience in software development, so what good would it be to spend another couple of years getting another piece of paper that says I went to school?” Not having to worry about classes, homework, and exams, especially for topics that have no direct relation to my game development, has been great.

Now I dedicate certain nights to coding and development. Those are MY nights, and I will only occasionally allow some other event to interfere, such as an IGDA or Chicago Indie Game Developer Club meeting. I’m not always great about making optimal use of my time, but it is definitely better than hoping I can squeeze some time in.

Looking back, I’m very happy with the decision to stop going to grad school. I’m also happy with the amount of time I freed up with the other decisions I made. Now, I just need to be more vigilant about guarding that time. For a good example, part of this blog post was written on a development day, which shows I need to set a goal to be more efficient with my development time. B-)

January 30th, 2005: How I Want to Make Games just pointed out that I wanted to make games available for Gnu/Linux. Some people think I want to do so exclusively, but I also understand that I’ll need to make games available for Windows and Mac OS X. My main point, and I still maintain this point, is that I don’t want to ever release a game that isn’t also available for Gnu/Linux. I never want to release a Gnu/Linux port months or years after the Windows release either.

March 21st, 2005: Learning Kyra was the first part of a series of blog posts in which I write about the Kyra Sprite Engine, a cross-platform library for handling 2D images in games. I found that writing about the experience was good for helping me to clarify my own knowledge, and I hope it has been helpful to anyone else who is trying to learn about Kyra. I’ve learned a lot since this first post. For instance:

#include “SDL.h”

All well and good, but why not use the system include instead of a local one? If you know, please let me know why the first way would be preferable.

Since then, I was informed that “SDL.h” is used instead of <SDL.h> because it is what the libSDL documentation and examples use. It is more cross-platform friendly. I’ve also learned that my concept of system includes vs local includes was muddy at best. You link SDL using the compiler. It is sort of like having the libraries brought to the compiler. I was under the assumption that if you were using system libraries, they would never use quotes since those were for local files such as your own code.

It’s little experiences like this that show that I’ve improved as a programmer, if only marginally.

April 15th, 2005: The Courage to Take a Seat is about the importance of courage in business and in life. If you don’t play, you’ll be forced to stand on the side and watch as other people play instead.

May 23rd, 2005: Out of Touch with Games was about the idea that novelists can’t write great novels until they read lots of novels, good and bad. Maybe it was written around the time I read Stephen King’s On Writing? Anyway, game developers can’t expect to make great games if they work in a vacuum. They need to play great games. They need to play bad games. But they need to play games. A lot of developers will be asked “What games are you playing these days?” and the answer will almost always be, “I don’t have time to play games.”

I can’t say that I’ve made too much headway in this regard. I still rarely play games, although being a staff reviewer at Game Tunnel has helped by providing me with eight to 12 indie games a year. I schedule time to play those games, but I feel guilty scheduling time to play other games when I could use that time to make my own. But let me never say, “I don’t have time to play games” since it is more accurate that I haven’t dedicated the temporal resources to them. B-)

June 10th, 2005: June’s Game in a Day Theme: Fusion was the first of a number of updates of my progress from Game in a Day. My project wasn’t exactly a big success. It wasn’t anything like I wanted it to be. TomB was right when he said I would spend too much of my time buildig infrastructure instead of a game. I had eight hours left before I finally had ANY kind of gameplay.

It was surprisingly fun for what it was, but the main thing was that I did it and survived. I need to participate in a few more of those this coming year. Heck, I even get my name up in lights!

July 27th, 2005: Simple Game Project for August: Oracle’s Eye was a description of a game project that was supposed to be simple enough to be completed within one month. I finally got it to a playable state at the end of November, and spent December tweaking it as I could. I learned a bit about project management, but not nearly enough! I decided to keep working on it even after “completing” it. The first 90% was complete. I just had to work on the remaining 90%.

I also enjoyed all of the feedback I was getting from a number of game developers. People were quick to give me encouragement and one was apparently bored enough to spend the time porting it to Windows. B-) I’d like to say thank you to everyone who has been so supportive of this game. If I ever code it so that credits appear, I’ll be sure to add your names.

August 7th, 2005: Secret to Getting Results wasn’t exactly a huge or popular post, but it seemed important enough to mention here. I found that the link to the referenced article was broken, but it is fixed now.

August 22nd, 2005: In Incorporating GBGames, I realized that I couldn’t just keeping thinking about forming a company. I had to actually DO it at some point. That realization made a huge difference in my thinking and, as a result, my actions. I have since decided to go with an LLC instead of an S-Corp, but it doesn’t change the fact that I am now much more dedicated to starting this business.

August 27th, 2005: I’ll Look for Anthony Salter’s Name links to an inspiring article about taking action towards your goals.

September 21st, 2005: Report: Grand Rapids Schmooze 2005 documents my contact with a number of people from the ASP over the course of a weekend. It was definitely one of the best trips I had ever taken.

September 22nd, 2005: Returning from Grand Rapids, I learned about the The Death of John “overcode” Hall on September 17th. I basically wrote about how surprising it was that John was only a year older than I was and had accomplished so much. It really made me think about what I was doing with my life.

October 14th, 2005: IGF 2007 declared my intent to enter the Independent Games Festival for 2007. I felt a bit discouraged by the lateness of Oracle’s Eye, but I decided that I might as well aim for a big target. I got quite a few supportive comments here, too.

November 20th, 2005: On this day I announced the “completion” of Oracle’s Eye.

November 22nd, 2005: On this day, I announced the continuation of Oracle’s Eye. I’ll finish it.

November 30th, 2005: Action vs Waiting, Practice vs Talent was concerned with the idea that experts become experts through practice, no matter what the subject matter. By doing something more, you learn more. Experts do 10,000 hours worth of more than non-experts, but even dedicating 10 hours to mastering a topic can only help you.

December 2nd, 2005: Somewhat Interesting Game Idea: A Buggy Game was just a fun exercise in creativity, but a number of people responded with comments and concerns. I plan on posting other Somewhat Interesting Game Ideas in the future.

December 20th, 2005: Forming an LLC in Illinois documents what I had learned about forming an LLC. I figured that putting it up would be useful to others, and it inspired a similar post for Wisconsin.

January 4th, 2006: The First Law of Motion discussed the idea that until I take action, I won’t change my course in life. At the same time, once I take action, it will probably be very easy to continue to take similar actions.

January 9th, 2006: The Thousander Club follows along the same lines as the November 30th post on the importance of practice. 1,000 hours in a year is aggressive for part-time practice, but by accomplishing it, you would have no choice but to improve. Even if you don’t do 1,000 hours, you should show some definite increase in knowledge.

I’ve made many observations about game development, some that seemed to be insightful, some that betrayed my lack of experience, but looking back, I see that I’ve definitely grown in this aspect of my life. In fact, I can look back and generally say that I’ve improved in a number of a different areas. That’s not to say that I don’t have a long way to go.

Here’s to a second year!

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