Cut scope or park?

I had an idea for a project a little while ago that I’ve been slowly working on in bits and pieces at a time amongst other stuff.  It’s slowly growing and I’m at a point whereby I’m trying to decide whether to cut it back down to basics or park it until I have more free time to work on it.

I always intend to not get carried away but think of improvements and want to try and make things better and then…

The thing I’m working on is using Ink and was supposed to be just a small narrative thing, but then thought about expanding it out to be like a linguistic RPG with a GBA Pokémon kind of aesthetic, but obviously that takes greater time to do.

As well as this I’m working on a project with some friends and I am still trying to figure out how to balance these with my part-time job, other commitments and trying to do stuff that will ultimately lead to some kind of career so that I won’t need the part-time work.

2017

2016 was a big year for me personally/professionally.  I left a job that was draining me in February to pursue video game development.  I said at the time if needs be I’ll find some kind of work come January, although in June I got offered some part-time work that was still not in a field that I wanted to be in, but helped keep a roof over my head.  Two steps forward, one sideways.

However, I did release my first game (Robbing HUD) back in August.  Work on it started around May and I decided to try and do a simple self-contained idea to start and finish something.  It was a great feeling to finish that (even if I never got round to the Mac port as I don’t own a Mac) and it taught me a lot about aspects of Unity, but also general project planning.

Since then I’ve begun working on a visual novel with some friends.  Making decent progress with the programming side of things and we’ve pretty much got the story side sorted.  We’re writing it in Ink and I’m trying to build tools to then more easily build interactive fiction stuff in the future.  Had an idea for a small game recently and might try and do that soon.

In 2017 I’m hoping to release the games mentioned above and I also want to do more art.  Spent a lot of the last few years on the programming side of things but I want to try and do more art.  I’m out of practice and I know I’m going to be self-conscious about that, but I need to rip the bandage off.  Similarly, I’d like to do more writing.  Did some for the game mentioned above and felt great to exercise those muscles.

One thing I did achieve in 2016 is to keep this updated somewhat regularly.  No more posting every year saying “I should post more”.

All in all 2016 wasn’t too bad for me personally (let’s ignore what happened in the world), and I hope 2017 will be the year things really take off for me professionally.

Whatchu talkin’ bout Willis?

I’ve spent most of my weekend trying to sort out a system for parsing text from an Ink script to display paragraph-by-paragraph when the user presses a button.  Easy enough in itself as the Unity integration allows you to call each individual line that makes up the body of the current ‘continue’ (i.e. all text before the start of the next choice list).  However, it becomes more problematic if the text is longer than the text view area.

What I essentially wanted was the following:

  1. If the line of text is shorter than a defined length (a variable found through trial and error) display that
  2. If not then split it into smaller chunks…
    1. If the text has a defined punctuation (. ? or !) then split it there
    2. If not…
      1. If there’s a comma roughly halfway through replace the comma with ellipses and split there
      2. If there’s not,  do the same but with a space

Again, doesn’t sound particularly problematic but had issues with trying to get it to work.  Such as:

  1. For some reason I went through this whole process of taking the text Unity/Ink automatically supplies and split it up myself initially, which took a fair while figuring that out.  It’s only when I started writing this I realised I could take the Unity/Ink currentText call and dump that into the string list instead.
  2. It took a while to figure out how to break up longer text based on punctuation and keep that punctuation in place (the Split function I was using was removing the character it was splitting on).
  3. Likewise, figuring out how to break long strings into shorter ones using ellipses took a while
  4. Had to figure out how to work around ‘unwanted’ punctuation.  The one that cropped up in my example text (entirely coincidental it was in there in the first place) was an e.g. which it was reading as being a full stop.  Similarly, don’t want it picking up duplicate or mixed punctuation (??, !! or !?!?).  Turns out the easiest way is to temporarily replace it with some dummy text and replace it back again.

When I write it down like that it makes me realise how little I know as that seems simple yet took me a fair while!

There’s still more to do though:

  1. Get the flow working as per the user input.  At the moment any non-broken line is printing when you hit enter, but anything broken up prints all the parts at once (mostly for me to test it is breaking up correctly)
  2. Currently doesn’t account for if a broken piece of text using ellipses is longer than two screens (for the purpose of testing I’ve just split it into two chunks, but in reality it could be more if its a very long piece of text with no sentences).
  3. Need to test with different text.  I set up a test text script, but want to check it is working properly using some more test scripts.
  4. Allow flexibility of the line length value depending on language
  5. Need to allow for a dictionary of sorts for the temporary text replacements and have Unity run through that and replace as/when it finds them, rather than just a series of hand-written replace functions at the moment.
  6. Ideally also have some way of knowing if punctuation is strung together (!?!?!) without having to write each possible variation

I’m sure there’s probably an asset or something I could have downloaded to do all this, although having a quick look most of the things I could find seem to predate Unity’s new(ish) UI system.  Although I didn’t look too hard.  Plus they’re not designed for Ink (although undoubtedly I would have been able to middleware it myself).

However, it was educational (if at times painful) so I’m happy I stuck with it.  Just need to finish it off, preferably before I go back home for Christmas.

Balance

We often talk about balance as only having two things to maintain; work and life, good and evil, credit and debit.  In terms of pursuing creative interests that is often unnecessarily reductive.  My life isn’t just about balancing the work I want to achieve with everything else, it’s about balancing all those components.

Life isn’t a scale of two equal containers that you try and level out, it’s one of many containers of various sizes that change frequently.  At presently I’m trying to balance the creative work I want to pursue with actual paid work along with trying to learn Italian, socialising/networking, exercise, resting (be it sleeping or just chilling out), general adult responsibilities and other responsibilities.

I have a tendency to try and do it all, to try and push ahead to do all sorts at once.  It leads to burn out and its where I’m heading to at the moment and guilt pushes a lot of it through.  I know things need to give, and unfortunately at the moment that’s primarily exercise and sleeping (the latter isn’t necessarily intentional as much as it is a consequence of being a bad sleeper anyway).

I constantly feel like I could, and should, be doing more to achieve my creative pursuits.  It’s an inferiority complex mixed in with impostor syndrome – look at that person, they’ve achieved so much and are younger because they work harder/smarter.

My “paid job” (as it gets known) recently asked if I want to extend my contract through to the end of July.  It’s easy work, well paid and flexible and part-time so it’s silly to say no, but every time I take on something like this it feels like I’m taking away from what I want to do.  It feels like I’m admitting failure.  “Oh yes, I’ll do this work because I’ve not been successful with the work I wish to do instead”.

I know this isn’t true.  I know that we often don’t see the toil and work people go through and focus on the end goals and the logical part of me can tell myself this, but there are still weeks where I look at what is ahead of me and how much time I’ll have to do my own stuff and feel guilty; guilty about having other plans, guilty about not doing enough.  It also doesn’t help that I’m still learning and still at the development stage of projects so there is little tangible output.  Little I can post for #screenshotsaturday and it doesn’t sound particularly exciting when someone asks me how my personal work is going if I say “not bad, managed to figure out how to parse particular phrases from a JSON query which I’ll then use to trigger actions”.  Even though this is an achievement it fails to look as impressive as a nice shiny gif.

I’m trying to take responsible steps to ease my workload and to keep my mind in a positive position, but self-doubt is a hard one to squish.  I guess I’m just typing this out to acknowledge how I’m feeling and where I’m at.  I’m my own biggest critic after all.  Since starting this pursuit I’ve been thinking a lot about mental welfare when it comes to creative pursuits.  There’s still this toxic attitude that success has to come at a cost to one’s state of being.  Suffer for your art.  Crunch is essential.  It will be worth it.

I guess I need a support network and even just thinking that makes me wonder how one would go about setting that up in the interest of the creativity community and I have to stop my mind from thinking about all of that.  I get distracted easily.  I have a desire to do too much at once.  I want to prove I can.  Prove I am as good as I want to be.

Where I’m At

Been a while.  I went on holiday for two weeks and have been fighting a cold for the last week or so.  Been trying to do a few things but I’m exhausted most of the day.  Fun times.

However, trying to figure out where I’m going next.

Working on a project with some others and they’re focusing on the creative side and I’m trying to set up some Unity Editor scripts which is an interesting challenge (read: confusing and not as documented as I’d like) but not getting that creative itch scratched quite as much.

Considering doing a NaNoWriMo maybe using something like Ink.  That might occupy me and maybe I’ll finally finish one.  Who knows.

Also considering doing a series of small self-jams on occasional weekends to work on a side project.  Got an idea for one and just trying to figure out scope and requirements at the moment.  This is where I wished I was working with others in the same room as I have conflicting ideas and I’m trying to work through them so I’ve ended up here, obviously.

What’s happening?

It’s amazing how days can go by without you really noticing.  Think it’s been a few weeks since I posted anything here and I told myself I’d keep this updated more than that.

Started working on a new project with some people.  It was agreed that the other ‘main’ project will slow down a bit because it is quite ambitious and it relies a lot on various people that are doing it in their free time (and work full-time) so it is not going to move fast and be good, so decided to make it a slow burn.

I’m also conscious of the fact I’m still learning the programming side of things.  In an ideal world someone else would be doing it but I don’t know anyone else willing to.  Some things are fine, but sometimes I come across something that really stops me for long periods of time and it’s frustrating.  I wish I had someone I knew in real life I could pester about it.  The internet is a great resource, but would be good to have someone (or several someones) to ask.  Oh well, it’s a learning exercise.

That’s part of the reason why we’re working on this other thing.  The project is smaller in scope and I want to do various things like this to gradually build up my skills.  Or find a time machine and start learning this kind of stuff about a decade ago!

I don’t know if its “the wise” thing to do having these various projects on the go, but it’s what I’m doing!

Schedule and balance

Since finishing Robbing HUD I’ve been trying to pause for a bit while also finishing off a few things I’ve been putting off for a while. In doing so I’ve been thinking a lot about my commitments and how I’ll try and balance things going forward.

At present I’m currently:

  • Working 24 hours a week (with another 3-5 hours travel depending on mode of transport)
  • Learning Italian (an hour a day typically)
  • Various writing responsibilities (time varies)
  • Gym (around 3 hours a week)

Then of course there’s sleeping, socialising and that kind of stuff.

So between all those I’m trying to progress what I wish to turn into a career. There’s a lot I want to do and I often find myself alternating between feeling like I don’t have any time to do it and cursing myself for ever giving myself a break.  Quite often at the end of the day I’ll feel “I could have done more today”.

It’s a tricky one to balance; the drive to progress and the need to look after yourself.  Maybe it will become easier with time, or maybe I’ll become more successful and can leave work behind (one can hope!)  I’m trying to think what I can cut, other than sleep which is kind of needed.  I might swap the gym out or cut down on my Italian.  I’ve had quite a progressive pace in the six weeks since I started it, but I don’t know how sustainable that is going to be.

I’ve always been one that wants to skip to the good part.  That’s not to say that I don’t put in the hard work, I just grouse as I do!

Halt and Catch Fire cinematography

Halt and Catch Fire returned and the show’s cinematography has always struck me.  There are numerous times when watching an episode where I’ll think “that’s a good shot”.  Sometimes it’s just because it’s different from most TV shows.

Thought I’d go through the first two episodes and randomly choose a few.

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Infamous 2’s New Marais

I love cities.  There’s something so intriguing to me about how they evolve to handle the people within it, and the people within it shape and are shaped by it.  When I tend to go on holiday it is typically a city break.

Some of my favourite pieces of fictional work create cities that feel real.  Whether these are entirely fictional cities or existing ones set in the future.  One thing I love about Akira and Ghost in the Shell, particularly the mangas, is that the cities real realized.  There are areas, boroughs and a sense of people living (or in some cases, avoiding) these areas.  Unlike sometimes where cities are nothing more than landmarks and spaces between them.

Infamous 2

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Scene muck around

Decided to just play around with low poly models and terrain stuff for a bit this afternoon in Unity3D.

Most of what I’ve done in Unity has been 2D based so I thought I’d give it a quick bash.  As you can tell, when it came to the terrain stuff I didn’t even bother adding a text.  It’s a snow scene, okay?  Or maybe clouds…or who knows.  Just trying something different.

Low poly test
Low poly test
Low poly test
Low poly test
Low poly test
Low poly test
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