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Jeff

Time for my annual update lol A few changes in my life since the last time I wrote: Last winter I hopped a flight to Ottawa to visit a friend for a few days and fell in love with the city. The amazing scenery, the unbelievably friendly people, the “big small town” vibe, the seemingly weekly fireworks shows, the beautiful French girls…I was instantly hooked. As I sat on my friend’s couch getting ready to pack for my flight back to Calgary, I day-dreamt about how someday it would be nice to live here in our nation’s capital. Then I glanced around and realized hey, I’ve got a backpack full of clean underwear and my laptop with me, what else do I really need? So I cancelled my flight home, spent a few weeks sleeping on my friend’s couch while I looked for an apartment, and had my few meager personal belongings shipped across Canada to me. As a single guy who has no kids, no responsibilities, and makes his living off a laptop, I figure it’s alright to make a drastic impulse decision toward new adventures now and then.

The incredibly beautiful city of Ottawa. Now that I live here I totally understand why this is our capital.

The other big change is a bit more personal, but hey I’m sure no one is actually reading this anyway lol The past few years I’ve been struggling with having low energy. It was difficult to even get out of bed, and I’d sleep through most of the day. It got so bad that I couldn’t stay awake for more than a 4-6 hours at a time before my eyes would get too drowsy to stay open and my head would get foggy and feel like I had been up for days…then I’d sleep for like 10 hours, wake up for another few hours, and then pass out again. It made it unbelievably hard to get anything done. I would basically be able to keep myself awake long enough to get my work done, but I would have to break it up throughout the day and it was a struggle. If I managed to get anything besides work done, like grocery shopping or doing laundry, I was completely wiped out.

I chalked this up to just being lazy and not having solid self-discipline. I’d read all these inspirational stories of indie devs who are working 3 jobs at a time and coding till 4am to bring their dream to life, and watch all these motivational videos on YouTube with guys shouting about how you have to forget to eat because you’re so busy working and you have to work while the other guys are sleeping and you have to be willing to stay awake for 3 days straight to become successful, and I’d just think “how are these guys DOING this?? I can’t even stay awake and focused for a full 8 hours in a row! If I was working a day job for 8 hours, I would come home and instantly collapse till the next morning. Why am I so lazy compared to everyone else?” I had all these good intentions of developing my games and getting them out there but just kept hitting this wall.

It was pretty frustrating…looking back it seems obvious that there was a problem but this all crept up on me slowly over a few years and I was just barely managing to work around it enough to get by and somehow managing to pay my rent, so I just kind of accepted that I was getting old or something and tried to adapt.

It wasn’t depression, because I was happy with my life all this time. I’m a pretty upbeat optimistic guy day-to-day and I don’t have much to complain about, so when I was awake I was psyched and ready to be productive and take on the world…but a few hours later I’d be curled up on my bed passing out.

Our cold dark snowy winter has just begun and a friend texted me to tell me to remember to take some Vitamin D because we won’t be getting as much sunlight. He had his Vitamin D levels tested and they were extremely low so his doctor had him load up on it. I didn’t really know anything about vitamins and was going to brush his advice off until I started Googling what Vitamin D does. I kept reading all these stories from people who were describing the same kind of problems I was having and how it turned out they were Vitamin D deficient and when they started taking Vitamin D they suddenly had a new zest for life.

Here's a giant mutant turtle for you for making it this far. This was from a game that didn't pan out...the dude hiring me vanished a couple weeks in without paying me. :'( But at least this guy was fun to draw lol

I was skeptical, but kept reading and realized that because I live in Canada and I’m cooped up in my apartment with sun-blocking shades pulled over my windows all day, and most of the time I work at night when the sun is down (I’m naturally a night person) and grab food at convenience stores in the middle of the night, and if I go out to a bar it’s at night, etc. I really don’t ever see the sun and don’t get any Vitamin D…and if my friend who works a day job, goes for walks in the sun now and then, doesn’t have any energy problems etc., is extremely deficient, then I must be even worse off than him.

So I grabbed a bottle of Vitamin D3 to try, and holy CRAP. I can’t even fully explain what a life-changer it is!

I’ve only been taking it for a couple weeks but even in the first couple days I noticed an immediate difference. I’m typing this blog post at the tail end of being wide awake and clear-headed for 16 hours straight which is something I haven’t been able to do in literally 3 or 4 YEARS. Like even the notion that I’ve been awake for that long today blows my mind. It was so bad that I have all these weird habits built up where like, after a few hours I instinctively FEEL like it’s time to go over to my bed to lay down and sleep except then I realize “oh wait, I’m not tired at all…wtf do I do now? I guess…I’ll…uhhh keep working? Is this how normal people live?? No wonder everyone seems so much more productive than me!” and then I just keep doing productive things instead of sleeping lol I went from consistently only being awake for a groggy 4-8 hours a day (with naps separating those hours) to consistently being awake for a sharp focused 14-18 hours a day with no need for napping. I feel like Bradley Cooper in Limitless where he’s suddenly tapping into his full brain-power. From my perspective it’s like time has slowed down, or days have extended in length because I’m now getting 3 or 4 times the day I was getting before.

This is basically me right now, except I'm obviously way more handsome.

If you’re reading this blog about gameDev, then you’re probably a nerd like me. And if you’re a nerd like me, then you probably don’t go run around in the sunshine all day like normal people apparently do. If that’s the case, hit your doctor up sometime and get your Vitamin D levels checked, especially if you feel like you don’t have much energy or if you get really lethargic and demotivated in the winter (which you might just have chalked up to Seasonal Affective Disorder and assumed you have to live with it). With the abundance of indoor cubicle jobs and the popularity of working from home these days, a huge portion of the population is said to be Vitamin D deficient and a bottle of Vitamin D3 is super cheap. Give it a try and see if it helps…the difference between my days now and just a few weeks ago is a complete 180.

It’s hard not to sound like a fanatic but man, if I had figured this out a few years ago I would probably have a respectable library of my own personally designed and developed games floating around out there. Can’t change the past so no point dwelling on that, but now that I’m firing on all cylinders I think 2015 is going to be an awesome year for me and my adventures in gameDev.

I’ve got some plans coming up for this winter, so stay tuned! ;)



Jeff

BAM! I’m back! I actually forgot how to log into my blog, it’s been so long…how embarrassing lol Alright, so here’s a super-brief summary of what’s been going on: the Zombocalypse Kickstarter unfortunately didn’t pan out (though since then Ironzilla found funding and they and Juicy Beast have teamed up to develop Zombocalypse 2, so keep an eye out for that!) and I started working with Ravenous Games again, on the next installment in the LOE series: League of Evil 3, launching on the App store today:

One drawback to keeping a devBlog when you’re an indie dev working on other people’s games is that with Non-Disclosure Agreements you can’t really talk about what you’re working on. Also the deadlines tend to be stricter because you’re working for someone else who’s determining schedules based on various priorities on their end, so taking time out to do quality blog updates with pics and such, and chatting on Twitter can start putting you behind on your work over time. I tend to be the type that likes to just stick his head down and plow through working without distractions because I get side-tracked easily, so that’s why I haven’t been updating much.

That said, I’m finishing up a little extra work left for LOE3 and I have a bit of completely non-game-related freelance work to do up, but then I’ll be starting on my own game. I picked up Game Maker: Studio a while back but haven’t had a chance to do more than mess around and learn the ropes and do some rough prototyping/tests. It’s a great program, and a lot more powerful than I expected. Vlambeer used it on Super Crate Box (which my good buddies over at Halfbot ported to iOS), Hitbox Team used it on Dustforce, Liam Barden used it on Ninjammin Beat-Jitsu and most recently Tom Francis used it on Gunpoint. You can make pretty much anything you want in it, and you can port it to other platforms pretty easily. All in all it’s really impressive gameDev software to an artist who’s overwhelmed by stuff like Unity and X-Code lol

I’ve got a game idea in mind, but I have to flesh it out some more and narrow down the details and all that. I’m hoping it’ll be a short little summer project, I’m doing it mainly to learn the full workflow of development to distribution via Game Maker, and I’ll post some behind the scenes stuff as I go. I won’t be doing daily updates like I did with Elusive Ninja because that was insane lol but I’ll do weekly updates.

That’s it for now! Time to go dust the cobwebs off my Twitter account and see what I’ve missed on there lol



A ton of Zombocalypse Art Updates!

Jeff

We’ve added a bunch more art and information to the Zombocalypse Kickstarter! We’re focusing more on showing the RPG elements of the gameplay because that’s what’ll add the replay value to the game. There are a bunch of weapons and upgrades and perks to equip and your experience accumulates over time so you build up a character instead of just playing random one-offs. There’s only 16 days left for the Kickstarter, so even if you can’t back us please share the link with your friends! If we don’t meet the goal in 16 days, we don’t get any money at all and that would be tragic. I’m really excited to work on this project and can’t wait to officially get cracking on the art for it. :)

Here’s a collection of new art-stuff I threw together for the Kickstarter. First up is another character, a mysterious guy in a suit:

“Caught in the midst of the zombie apocalypse, he is trying to escape the city just like our other characters. However his background is much more mysterious and convoluted. We know he is experienced and skilled with handling all types of weapons, and boasts a very focused demeanor, one that only a man on a mission would exude. However it’s not quite clear what his true motivations are…that’s up to you to find out.”

Ooooo, how mysterious! I did a zillion color swaps up just to see how he’d look in various colors but in the end we went for the classic black suit in the top-left. I always like to mess around a bit with different looks just incase we hit something unexpectedly brilliant!

Next up is some rough ideas for levels. First up I’m just playing with color swapping art elements that are already there to make scenes that feel different, but in the final thing we’d have a bunch of custom art and details for each level. I wanted to make sure we’d have different color schemes so it wasn’t just “green trees, grey sidewalk, blue sky” for every level:

And finally I did up some diagrams to show our weapon, upgrade, perk, Kill Combo, etc. trees because we felt like the Kickstarter needed more instant visual “look how much STUFF we have!!!” appeal compared to the initial Kickstarter that was primarily just blocks of text.

First up is the weapon upgrades:

Each weapon upgrades 5 levels and then you get a gold version of it. I was thinking I could do some cool glowing effects with Additive Blending in-game that’d look pretty sweet. It’d be nice to also add details to the weapons as they upgrade, like scopes on the top or larger ammo clips sticking out etc. I have ideas for how to have little bullet shells flying out of the guns and stuff that I haven’t tried before but I’m eager to see how it’d look.

And here’s a ton of ways to mow the zombie hordes down:

I like the Perk system we’ve got going on a lot, I think it’d add a ton of replay value to the game:

Since you can only choose a few at a time, the combination you pick will change how you approach slaying the hordes of zombies. Choosing “One Man Army” + “Commando” + “Knock Out” means you could chill in a clear area of the map and just slay the crowds to your sides, but you’d still have to be careful not to get hit. Whereas choosing “Recon” + “Bulletproof” + “Juggernaut” means you could dash through the crowds with your machete hacking them down like a Wolverine berzerker barrage. And an “Assassin” + “Overkill” + a Perk that increases the damage your Kill Combos do would mean you’d want to focus more on letting the screen fill up with a crowd so you can rack up combos instead of picking zombies off one by one so you can use your Kill Combos to their full potential!

Last up is the Kill Combos, which let you radio for help after killing enough zombies in a row. These’d be fun to animate because I could use the whole screen for them, having missiles drop in and huge explosions and all that jazz:

So there you go! Once again, please help spread our Kickstarter link around so we can get the funding to make this game! I’ll heart you forever haha :)

- Jeff



Next game: Zombocalypse for iOS!

Jeff

With League of Evil 2 done and kicking butt on the App Store, I’ve been hunting down my next project. John Futanilla from Ironzilla saw my art in Elusive Ninja and gave me a shout about teaming up for a project. Our scheduling finally worked out and I’m psyched to be posting up the Kickstarter for Zombocalypse! It’s a really successful Flash game by Ironzilla full of zombie-destroying mayhem that we’ll be revamping for iOS and adding a ton of new content to. So for the next few months I’ll be drawing brain-eating zombies being obliterated by various overpowered weapons…needless to say, I’m excited! :) And finally I have a reason to update my blog again haha I’ll be posting up behind-the-scenes development stuff as we go!

We’ve got an awesome team, with John from Ironzilla running things, Chris Hill from Enemy Hideout bringing his iOS expertise to the programming, and a bunch of cool cutscene and menu art from Mike Puncekar. On top of that we’ve got Symphony of Specters, the group who did the music for Castle Crashers handling our tunes.

I haven’t used Kickstarter before, so this’ll be interesting. I love the concept of crowd-funding (I threw down $200 to back Spriter because holy crap if you’re a 2d game artist you should be in on that thing), so I’ve wanted to try it out and see how it all works. John has been handling setting it all up and writing all the blurbs so I might give it a go myself on a future project but he did a sweet job. Our video looks good and the blurbs are all slick sounding.

There’s a bunch of cool rewards for Backers, so check it out. I did up a pic for t-shirts/posters with the main character from the game surrounded by zombies. This was fun to work on, I think I’ve got a good style narrowed down for this game:

When I choose my projects, the first thing I look at is how fun the project is going to be to work on. I used to get paid pretty decently working at a company in the actual game industry, but I was always working on games I didn’t really care about and that didn’t really push me in terms of my art skills. It was nice having a regular paycheque, but when I started Bulletproof Outlaws I decided that I wasn’t going to take projects I wasn’t excited to work on. It affects your day to day happiness overall and I spent long enough doing that.

On Elusive Ninja I got to work on doing big anime style backgrounds and just learn the general ins and outs of working on iOS. On League of Evil 2 I got to work on full-body character animations and tightened up my animation workflow in general. Plus I got do animate some really huge boss characters.

On Zombocalypse I get to do some full- body character animations that are HUGE. I’ll probably take a video of my workflow and give some details on how large I’m working to do art that we can scale down from iPad 3′s crazy retina screen all the way to the iPhone 3GS’ tiny little screen.

I also get to revisit my animation tool that I used for Elusive Ninja which is going to let me do full-screen animations for the Kill Combos and the main character will need to have separate parts that can be switched out so we can replace his head and change the weapons he uses…there’ll be a big variety of anims to do from sword swinging to flame throwers and some of the rapid-fire guns will get awesome motion blur effects. This is pretty much a big art-fest free-for-all playground for me to make it as cool and flashy as I want. :)

So check out our Kickstarter and please Tweet the link around even if you can’t afford to back us. If we hit our goal we’ll be set for gettin this all going. I’ll probably be starting early just cause I’m eager to get doodling zombies and machine guns haha

- Jeff



Jeff

I’m writing a bigger “What’s happening and what’s coming up for Bulletproof Outlaws?” post, but I just wanted to update quick to say that I’ve made Elusive Ninja: The Shadowy Thief 100% Free forever on the App Store! Granted, if you’re a reader of this devBlog then you’ve probably already bought the game to help keep me from having to sift through dumpsters for food, for which you have my eternal appreciation and I apologize for pulling the rug out from under you by now making it Free, please don’t hate me forever haha If you’re a reader and you didn’t buy it, why do you hate me so much? You monster! How will I afford to send my kids to college?? I mean, I don’t HAVE kids, but if I did I’m sure they would be devastated.

Anyway if you haven’t tried Elusive Ninja or League of Evil 2 out yet, give ‘em a go!



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