A productive few months

By | April 8, 2018

OK, so first things first, I still haven’t finished that Twine game. But for once, and completely sincerely, I have a really good excuse.

I came home from AdventureX ready to be super-productive, kick ass and take names. Some people saw the game I made, rough around the edges as it was, and they had a good time playing it. I felt ready to push on, get it finished after those months of work, and put it out for the world to see.

Obviously I haven’t yet, but that’s because, thanks in no small part to some of the people I met at AdventureX, I got really into Bitsy. Bitsy is an engine created by the magnificent Adam LeDoux. It’s pretty light-weight and can’t do much technically beyond moving low-resolution sprites around a screen and pop up text boxes when you interact with things. But it is super easy to work with, and a lot of very clever and creative people have done some amazing things within those constraints. It’s got some pretty mainstream attention, including this brilliant Rock Paper Shotgun article which is a good place to start.

Adam runs a monthly Bitsy game jam with a crowdsourced theme on itch.io, and I joined in with the December one. The theme was “Snow” and I made Service Disruptions, a game about being stuck at the station after your train gets cancelled. Service Disruptions bears the distinction of being the first project since my teenage game-making years that I actually completed (given that Ruination Keep is still an unfinished alpha). It got some feedback about how it was charming and evocative of the British public transport experience, which I was very happy about. The creative experience was smooth; I’ve discussed my protoplasmic game making experience on the BBC Micro, and Bitsy’s 8×8 monochrome sprites are identical to the BBC’s hardware sprites, so I was making characters almost from muscle memory and hours spent drawing sprites on graph paper (without having to add up my own binary values).

Then one day I came home from a very depressing day at work to find some Twitter notifications, and I found out that someone was playing my game on YouTube.

Jupiter Hadley is an indie games journalist-YouTuber-fan-new media person of that nebulous type that does masses of hard work. One of her specialities is playing games from game jams, if only for thirty seconds or so per game, but that’s still more than I ever expected to see. Service Disruptions featured in part three of her video series for the “Snow” Bitsy jam, and it was a huge boost to my self-confidence. I’ve been pottering with Bitsy since, making ever more complicated games as I get my head around the engine, and working up to doing something more impressive. I had a couple more mental health downswings but I wrote a game about one, so at least that was productive

One of the regular contributors to the Bitsy scene, and mentioned in the RPS article, is Mark Wonnacott, who among other projects has a custom Bitsy console running on PocketChip-based hardware called the Bitsy Boutique. They show this around at various local shows, and they announced in February that they were taking it to EGX Rezzed, and would people be willing to give permission to show their games. My answer was of course very restrained:

A typically restrained answer

…because if you’re suffering from impostor syndrome, perhaps a good way to combat it is to maybe go and play your game on the floor of a major indie show, even if it’s part of an exhibit with a hundred others. And then Mark asked for volunteers to help staff the booth, and I said sure, I was planning to go, and now I’m going to be at EGX Rezzed with a booth pass in a room with a lot of gamemakers I very strongly admire and it’s a bit scary, but frankly it’s quite impressive how far I’ve come on in a short period of time.

Also I’ve got a fancy game coming out soon, which is why I thought I’d better update this blog, and it may well be here by the time you’re reading this, so that’s nice.

Time to see what the next few months brings!

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