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… or pivoting as they call it in the business lingo. Well, OK, the two things are actually fairly different, and this post is about a kind of mix of the two really… I guess… maybe.
This post is going to be a bit more of a story in nature than my usual matter-of-fact status update sort of posts. Also probably a fair bit longer too. At the end of last week, I had a very different post in mind, brewing away in the organ I keep behind my face, and I was going to post it here whenever I had the chance this week. Then, the course of events of last weekend very much changed that, and the post I had planned took new form as this little reflection on life, the universe, and everything… and video game development.
To give some context to the story, I/Shane (Artist/Designer/Director of Level Machine, and the one who makes the majority of posts on this blog) had planned a trip to Sydney for the weekend to go to the Soundwave music festival. Music is my second love along side video games, and with the tendency of indie game development as a thing being juggled on the side with full time work and/or other activities involved in staying alive to become an “all work and no play make Jack a dull boy” type situation, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a breather and take in some different scenery for a few days. So, I spaced out my travel times as much as possible so I would end up with almost 2 full days in Sydney on top of the day set aside for Soundwave, to spend as I saw fit. In typical form, I decided to pack a notebook and sketch pad so that I could spend my leisure time away sitting by the harbour and catch up on some outstanding design and concept stuff for Blastronauts. Yes, apparently given I wide open blank slate, I choose to spend even my leisure time with my face in this indie development thing.
So, as I was getting ready for my trip, I kind of had in mind that when I returned, I would make a post here about doing some design and concept work in the refreshing change of scenery, and how nice it was to sit there with the wind in my hair, doing what I love, but taking it to the road. This is what I had planned anyway. The universe however, noticed I was planning something, and laughed in my face. See, the thing about the universe is, it doesn’t give a single crap about your plans. It just does whatever the hell it wants, and you just have to do the best you can with that. Last weekend was a very sobering reminder of that, and I think it’s helpful to look at all things that occur in this life set in that context.
So, as I was leaving for the trip, I was packed light with just a small backpack, mostly filled with
notebooks, and for once I hadn’t forgotten a single thing. Going well so far. That’s about where it stopped going well though. In the interests of keeping this post to less than the length of an encyclopaedia volume, I will simply list some of the things that happened over the next few days, each one resulting in it’s own little butterfly effect; My flight was cancelled. Lots of flights were cancelled. I was told that the travel insurance I had paid extra for was a waste of money and wasn’t worth squat. No other airlines had any open flights until the following Tuesday (a bit late to catch the concert on Sunday). I was fortunate enough to find a seat on a coach that would get me to Sydney 3 hours before the concert started. This in turn meant my first night’s accommodation was a write off. I called to inform where I was staying that I wasn’t going to make the first night and needed an early check in the following day at 8 am. Yep they said, no problem, someone will meet you there. I arrive at the address that was on my booking confirmation. No one there. Half an hour later, still no one there. I call them up to ask what is going on. They say, oh yes, I will send someone around now. An hour later, still standing in the street, no one there. I am starting to get suspicious looks from people who have walked past me multiple times in the last hour and a half, and am badly in need of a shower at this point. I call again to find out what is going on. They (on this, the 3rd phone call mind you) tell me that I am at the wrong address. They have 2 locations, and I am at the wrong one. So I finally check in at the other location, about a half hour walk away, have a shower, ditch my stuff, and head to Soundwave. The train station is about another half hour walk away, so I’m going to be a bit late at this point. No big deal, it’s a music festival, all the best stuff is always on last. I get on the train and realise that in my haste, I have left my ticket to the festival in my bag. 1 hour later, on the train again. OK, finally home free. Not quite, due to bad weather, several bands were delayed, and one was cancelled. The one that was cancelled just happened to be one of the 2 bands that I was going for in the first place. Then, as I stood in the pouring rain in the food queue that seemed to be the only one not moving, I figured at least I’m not getting sun burnt. Then I get to the front of the queue and they are out of food.
It’s funny, writing this all down now, I am actually laughing to myself remembering it all. No one of these things in isolation was all that big a deal. All of them put together added up to a very, very different weekend than what I had planned, but a hell of a memorable one that’s for sure.
So, what does this have to do with game development? Well, nothing more than an allegorical connection really. Apart from the fact that my plans for getting some harbour side design time in was thwarted with a vengeance. See, after all this was over and done, and I had to get up at the crack of dawn, merely hours after getting back from the concert in order to get back to Melbourne in time for work the next day, I now had a 14 hour bus ride ahead of me to reflect on the weekend’s events. I also still had my notebooks with me, so while not harbour side, I managed to get in several solid hours of pen to paper time. I even drafted this post while on the bus (but I’m only just posting it now because I have a very irregular relationship with the internet at the moment). I did however learn though, that trying to draw a straight line while on a bus is like trying to perform brain surgery on a bouncy castle. So the quality and quantity of what I managed to get in was a bit stifled, but nonetheless, the opportunity was there.
So the summary of my reflections on that long bus ride home were how similar the experience felt to my experience so far in pursuing the goal of turning Level Machine into an indie game studio. Not one thing has gone to plan. Most things have looked at the plan, said bugger this and gone in the complete opposite direction. But the things that have happened, have nonetheless been valuable in their own right, and if things had not happened the way they had, many good things would not have come to pass. People would not have been met, friendships would not have been forged, and lessons would not have been learned.
So I guess the point of all this rambling is, if you ever wonder to yourself what the correct direction to be moving in to make progress is, as long as you are moving, something will happen. It may not be what you planned, but who wants everything to go to plan? That’s so boring.
One of the biggest changes that Level Machine is experienceing in 2013, is no longer having access to the premises that we were using as office space for the majority of 2012. As a result, since most of us prefer not to work from home as much as possible, we have been becoming quite the regulars at The State Library, and some local cafes in order to keep the gears of game development turning.
Since we also have various jobs that we need to hold down to support ourselves while Level Machine is still in it’s infancy, this can make for some logistically complicated collaboration. It also often means we are working solo for the most part, and exchanging work when we come together. Things are progressing well though, but at this point, circumstances are making it difficult to work to any kind of schedule other than “what we can, when we can”.
I guess these are the unique challenges that you face as a burgeoning indie studio working on your first game, with a budget of approximately nothing.
So, the holiday period is over, and people all over the world have spent the last couple of weeks groggily emerging from a haze of overfed good cheer, back to reality, and getting into gear for 2013.
As for Level Machine, we have also been embracing the potential of the new year, and are continuing development on Blastronauts refreshed and with renewed vigour for the months ahead. This year will see Blastronauts take shape from its current status as humble prototype to a fully fledged product that we will be releasing into the wild, for all the world to enjoy.
And then? Who can say what the future holds. Well, more video games, that’s what. Not only are we excited about seeing the continuation and eventual conclusion of development on our inaugural title Blastronauts, we are also itching to make even more crazy and exciting games in the future.
So watch this space for Blastronaut filled goodness.
To say it’s been a while between updates would be a dramatic understatement. The last few months have involved a fair bit of unpredicted turmoil for Level Machine. As a result, development on Blastronauts slowed to almost a complete halt not long after getting back from Avcon. Level Machine itself has felt a bit like trying to play chess in a tumble dryer. Now though, things are slowly getting themselves back on track. The spin cycle is winding down, and we are all warm and fluffy for game development…. ok, maybe that analogy breaks down at some point.
Either way, time has passed, continents have been roamed, courses of study have been undertaken, and new friends have been made. We are now working with some cool new people, and development is continuing with renewed vigour. Perhaps its something about this time of year. Maybe if it was December all year ’round the game would have been finished 5 times over by now.
It is hard to believe that it has been almost 2 weeks since AVCON. Wow the time has been flying lately, but progress on Blastronauts gets more and more exciting every day, and we are already looking forward to the next big event in September, when we take the game to Freeplay here in Melbourne. We will make a more detailed post about that soon.
For now though, check out how AVCON went in the album we just posted on the Blastronauts Facebook page. Feel free to let us know what you think in the comments of the photos.
Also, Adelaide was awesome, and Level Machine will definitely be making an appearance there again next year… just try and stop us (actually, we would rather you didn’t try to stop us, it’s just easier that way)
Well, maybe not invade as such… but they will certainly be making an appearance.
Yes, that’s right, Level Machine will be demonstrating Blastronauts in the Indie Games Room at this year’s AVCON in Adelaide. That’s This Saturday 28th July for any of you who might be in the Adelaide area this weekend. It should also be a great opportunity to check out some other local indie games.
Also, a huge thanks to James Greenaway of Kumobius games for the guest illustration on our promo banner pictured above.
Will post some pics from the con when we get back.
So, last Saturday Blastronauts was shown off to the public for the first time at Melbourne iFest. The response and feedback was fairly positive overall, even though the demo build is still in what feels like pretty early stages.
We are looking forward to seeing what kind of reaction we get when the game is closer to the finished end of the development spectrum.
Some photos from the event can be found on the Blastronauts facebook page here;
Level Machine is excited to announce that with the iFest 2012 event drawing near that a pre-alpha, development preview of Blastronauts will be available to experience at these events!
When and where?
1st July in Canberra at the AIE Campus and 7th July in Melbourne at the State Library of Victoria.
So head over and see Adam in Canberra or Shane in Melbourne, get hands-on with the game, give us some feedback – Stay for some presentations about the video game industry, and most importantly, have fun.
So the move down to Melbourne has brought with it a great deal of change, which was of course intended. Not least of which is the fairly obvious fact that Level Machine will now be calling a new office space home.
The above photo depicts the humble little space that will see Level Machine find it’s feet and finish our first game Blastronauts.
Now, time to do some game development things.
So it would seem that today is a noteworthy day for the ol’ Level Machine… one to remember anyway; somewhat of a turning point in our present history. Today marks both the day that Shane has finally moved to Melbourne permanently, where he will be pursuing establishing Level Machine as a business, and also Adam’s last day in his current job. Now, in his new situation he has like a million % more time per week to work on Blastronauts, and do whatever it is that programmers do… I think it has something to do with computers.