July 28th, 2013
I don’t often write about other games, but maybe I should. If you follow me on twitter, or talk to me about video games, chances are you’ve heard me talk a lot about Proteus over the last year or so. Proteus is a game about exploring an island. Proteus doesn’t have most of the goals or objectives many players expect from games, but I find it to be a wonderful game to play. It’s a game I come back to over and over, because it reminds me of exploring the country as a child. I talked about this in more detail in the Ignite Guelph talk I gave on art and games.
A few months ago I sat down to write down some thoughts on Proteus. What came out was not what I expected. It was much more personal that I thought it would be, even though there’s really nothing expressly personal in the piece. But I felt strange about sharing it publicly for some reason. I guess the experiences we have as children feel special and private sometimes. But, in the end, I still feel like this piece best describes why I love Proteus so much. I decided to publish it on the blog because I feel like other players might have had similar experiences.
And so, without further ado, here are my thoughts on Proteus:
I am 12 years old. I’m at the family cottage; a formerly abandoned place on Georgian Bay that my parents have been fixing up. I spend my summers here.
It’s hot today. The grass seems to be giving off heat in the mid-day sun. The air feels thick and heavy in the humidity. Even the wind feels hot. I stand at the edge of the road looking into the field across from the cottage, wondering if the bull is in there with the cows today. I can’t see the cows from here, but they’re in there, I know it. I cross the road, climb over the old wooden fence, and drop down into the tall grass.
I look ahead to the line of trees in the distance. The buzz of cicadas rings in my ears, over and over. As one winds down, another starts up, filling the air with their perpetual song. I start pushing my way through the grass, on the look out for the cows. I walk to the creek, but it’s dry. We haven’t had rain for a while. I turn and head toward the trees at the back of the field.
A flying grasshopper bursts out of the grass in front of me and its loud buzz startles me. I stop to watch where it lands and I creep towards it. As I approach it launches again and buzzes. I chase the grasshopper through the field until it lands in a pile of rocks and disappears.
I clamber up the pile of rocks – a pile left over from when this land was first cleared – to take stock of where I am. I’ve come about half way across the field. The trees are still a ways off. I start climbing down from the rocks and, as my foot moves one, a garter snake slides out and moves through the grass. I follow it.
The snake weaves its way through the tall grass and I have a hard time keeping up. Every time I get close, it seems to get away. Finally it burrows itself in a bush. I sit down next to the bush and wait to see if it reemerges. After a few minutes I move on.
I’m nearly at the tree line now. I can see the hill the trees growing on in the shadows of the forest. I pass into the shade and immediately feel cooler out of the intense sunshine. The air smells different in here, damp, and alive. I climb up the hill, following an old cow path up the slope. I still haven’t seen the cows. Maybe they’re in the back field near the pond trying to stay cool.
I come out of the trees at the top of the hill into another field and follow the path to the pond, but the cows aren’t here either. I stop next to the pond and stand motionless, listening. The air up here is still, the wind blocked by the trees. The buzz of the cicadas continues. As I crouch very still by the pond the frogs begin to croak. I listen carefully. I can hear one nearby. I look through the cat tails in front of me and see a big green leopard frog. I reach out my hand and, just as I’m about to touch it, it dives into the water.
I stand and look around to get my bearings. The cow path weaves off up the hill. I follow along the path for a while. I reach the big pile of rocks in the back field I’ve been looking for. I clamber up the rocks to look around. I still haven’t seen the cows. Maybe they’re in the back forest, but I can’t see them from here. I turn left, climb down the rocks, and hop the fence into the neighbouring field. In the distance a group if poplars grows on a small hill, rising above everything else. I make my way towards it.
As I start up the hill, I turn around. From up here I can see back down across the fields, all the way to the water. The lake is a deep blue in the sun. White caps from the wind dot the blue expanse. Water extends to the horizon. Islands in the distance hint at new things to see and places to explore.
I circle around the hill until I find the stone foundation from a house that is long gone. I drop down into grass at the bottom. I lie down in the grass and close my eyes and listen. Here there is no wind and the cicadas’ buzz fills my ears. The sun is warm on my face. This is Proteus.
July 8th, 2013
I can hardly believe it myself, but Streaming Colour is five years old today! Five years ago today I arrived in Toronto after moving back from Vancouver, sat down at my computer, and started my indie career. When I started Streaming Colour I had no idea if I’d survive for five years. It was a gamble. I had a left a good job as a senior programmer in the console games industry and I was taking a big risk. My goal was to build the business to the point where I was making a livable income after five years. Not be rich, just making enough to keep doing what I wanted to do.
It has been a very long and very short five years filled with lows and highs, and everything in between. Being an independent game developer definitely hasn’t been easy. In fact, it has been a huge struggle at times. But it has also been incredibly rewarding on a personal, professional, and creative level. There are few things as creatively rewarding as taking an idea in your head and turning it into something that people can experience for themselves.
Over the past five years I have taken on some really interesting contract work. I’ve spoken at conferences in Guelph, Toronto, and San Jose. I wrote a chapter in a book on iPhone development. I moved to Guelph, Ontario with my amazing wife, and we’ve had two incredible children. Through it all, I somehow managed to release seven games/apps. I’m not releasing any numbers today, but these are those games ranked from most revenue to least, for those curious:
- Finger Tied (Oct, 2012)
- Baby’s Musical Hands (July, 2011)
- Dapple (Feb, 2009)
- LandFormer (June, 2010)
- Monkeys in Space (Nov, 2009)
- Dirty Diapers (Dec, 2010)
- Finger Tied Jr. (May, 2013)
Update: A couple of people on twitter were curious about relative revenue. Here’s a graph showing each game/app as a percentage of total revenue earned on the App Store:
I have learned some hard and important lessons about developing games on my own. I’ve learned some very hard lessons about marketing and PR. I feel like I’m getting better every day at what I do, and I intend to keep learning and improving with every game.
After releasing Finger Tied last fall, one thing I realized was that I really missed working with other people. Working on one’s own gives you a lot of creative freedom and choice, but it’s also really difficult to see the big picture at times. Late last year, Matt Rix and I teamed up and started prototyping some game ideas. He and I had worked together a couple of times at TOJam in Toronto, and we decided we’d see if we could make a game together. Earlier this spring we founded a new company called Milkbag Games and we’re currently hard at work on our first game: Snow Siege. It has been a fantastic experience working with Matt so far and I think Snow Siege is going to be a really great game.
Finally, I wanted to extend a big thank you to everyone who has supported me and Streaming Colour over the last five years. If you bought my games, offered encouragement, talked with me about game design at GDC or 360iDev, or just sent a friendly message of twitter, thank you! Nobody can do this alone, not even those of us who work alone. I wouldn’t still be doing this if not for all of you. Here’s to the next five years!
May 23rd, 2013
If you’ve been waiting for a version of Finger Tied that you can play on your iPhone or iPod touch, your wait is over. Finger Tied Jr. is now available on the App Store! You can go by it now for only $0.99:
Finger Tied Jr. has the same great gameplay you loved in Finger Tied for iPad, but it has been redesigned for the iPhone and iPod touch. It features over 85 new levels, designed to be fun to play on the iPhone’s smaller screen.
If you’re curious about what went into redesigning the game for the iPhone, I wrote an article for Gamezebo on the process:
Finger Tied Jr. – Redesigning Finger Tied for the iPhone (gamezebo.com)
I hope you enjoy the game!
May 14th, 2013
Even though I’ve been hard at work on a new game (Snow Siege – I should really post about that…), I’ve also been working on Finger Tied Jr. What’s that you ask? Finger Tied Jr. is Finger Tied for the iPhone and iPod touch. And it’s going to launch on Thursday, May 23, 2013.
Finger Tied for iPad turned out to be quite popular, and was launched to much critical acclaim. Apple even picked it as one of their “Best of the App Store” for 2012 in the “New Ways to Play” category. Many people asked me if I’d consider doing a version for iPhone and iPod touch, because they didn’t have iPads. After Finger Tied launched, I started working on a version for iPhone, but I just couldn’t get something I was happy with. I didn’t want to just do a quick port that didn’t work, I wanted a game that was as good as the iPad version.
A bit discouraged, I put the project aside and moved on to other things. However, this spring I got the game out again and realized there definitely was potential in it. I started thinking about the game differently, and I redesigned the game for the iPhone. Finger Tied Jr. has all new levels that are designed to be fun on the smaller screen of the iPhone and iPod touch. I had to change the “rules” I had about what made puzzles in Finger Tied fun, because what was fun on a big screen wasn’t necessarily fun on a small screen.
In the end, I’m really happy with how Finger Tied Jr. turned out. It has the same feel as Finger Tied, but I think it really works on the smaller screen. So keep an eye out, and grab the game on launch day for only $0.99!
April 24th, 2013
Last night I gave a 5 minute talk titled “In Defence of Art Games” at the 1st Ignite Guelph event. The talk was about embracing games that push the boundaries of the definition of “games”. Videos of the talks will be posted online at some point, and I’ll post a link when they are. Several people after the talk asked about the games I had on my slides, so I thought I’d put together a list, in case anyone want to learn more about some of these games.
So here they are, a list of indie games, posted without much context. The context will come when I can post a video of the talk. 🙂
For those of you who attended Ignite Guelph last night, I hope you enjoyed the talk!