Indie and India
Happy new year! I’m sorry that this post is so late, but my life has undergone some major changes recently. Chief among them is that I’ve landed my first professional job as a game designer… in India! I moved out here with my PS3 and a suitcase full of clothes on New Years Eve and I’ve been learning the ropes at work while navigating the tangled web of immigration bureaucracy ever since. It’s taken this long just to have the time to write. With that said, my new job means there’s a whole load of red tape surrounding what I can and can’t say now – I’m not even sure if I can name my employers without landing myself in hot water. Having a job I really care about takes some getting used to!
Moving on, I’d like to post a quick update about the rise and fall (and rise) of the DarkZero podcast. Anyone who cares about DZ will probably have heard at least one version of the story by now. As far as my experience goes… I joined the show at the start of 2011 because I wanted to get involved and do something with all the knowledge swilling around in my head. Predictably my INTJ tendancies drove me to research other podcasts and tinker with the show format, whether that meant teaching listeners how to cook a nice soup or experimenting with pre-written show scripts. By the time the summer came round, we were pretty happy with our methods and approach. The widely-reported Team Meat interview was a sort of prototype of where we saw the show heading – a podcast that talked about videogames in a way that nobody else did. Instead of jostling for attention among all the other independent podcasts out there, we would simply create a show that our rivals could not compete with, separating ourselves from the pack.
The problem was, outside of the podcast, DZ was going in a different direction. The owner of the site wanted it to be more family-friendly and was kinda embarrassed about the podcast, and there were some huge differences in attitude and approach within the small team of writers. The main reason why the written content became so slow at times last year was because there were too few editors around to proof-read and publish articles, and our relationship with PR departments waxed and waned according to how many times Andi went out drinking each month. New staff were brought onboard, which was good, but the reviews they started turning in were some of the worst I’d ever read, and their comments in the private staff forum seemed heavily slanted towards selling out their integrity in order to improve their relationship with PR reps. We didn’t feel comfortable about continuing the podcast in that kind of environment, so we decided to leave the site at the end of the year and start our own little site: Midnight Resistance.
So, where is it? That’s a good question! We’ve been dealing with a chain of setbacks for about six months now, but I think the site is almost ready! We’ve started posting content up within its little test area, but there’s still some work to be done on the web design before we can open it to the public. My new job also means my contributions to the site will also have to change. I don’t feel comfortable writing reviews when I work in game development myself – there’s too much of a conflict of interest – so I’m going to restrict myself to writing occasional features. I’m hoping to write some instructional articles about how to make games and the experience of entering the industry and stuff, although as with my blog I need to stay away from talking about things directly related to work. I may even have to leave the podcast, potentially! But we’ve had a lot of new content ideas over the last seven months, and I’m sure it’ll keep me busy even if I’m taking a back seat. This is an exciting time for all of mankind!
That aside, let’s talk about games in 2011. I spent most of the year playing Monster Hunter Tri, which is a totally excellent game. My hunting group seems to have collapsed without me, but I don’t think I can really commit to playing while I’m living here – and it was already difficult enough to get everyone online before there was a 5.5 hour time difference to take into account. I finally gave up on Persona 3, and bravely struggled through about 40 hours of Final Fantasy XII before I got sick of nothing ever happening and called it quits. I completed Bully and Metal Gear Solid 4 and wrote about my experiences, played far too much Magnetic Billiards during a frantic summer high score battle with DarkZero podcast co-host Sean Bell. I reviewed Portal 2, D&D Daggerdale, The Binding of Isaac, From Dust, Mega Mall Story and Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine for DZ. Also I wrote a few features (my favourites are the e-sports coverage of the UK Pokémon Championship and Insomnia 43), and co-authored a series of witty and insightful articles dissecting Pokémon Red/Blue with my bubblepipe-smoking canine chum Noel Oxford over at Demon Pigeon, but I’ll spare you the details for now since we’re planning to finish the game together in the next month or two. AND DID SOMEBODY MENTION TRAINS?!
Also, I went to GDC! I was crazy busy all week and gained a huge amount of inspiration from talking to other designers. I kinda felt like a fraud surrounded by so much talent, but I came away buzzing with inspiration, and with a whole load of new friends. It’s disappointing that I never got round to working on my Winnitron projects, but I haven’t forgotten them. Aside from the half-dozen Klik of the Month Klub games I made this year, most of my development time has gone into my still-unfinished Dog Game (hopefully I’ll finish it off sometime in the next few months). I also poked around with my even-less-finished Witch Game and submitted Generic Turn-Based Video Tennis Game into the 2011 IGF Pirate Kart.
Looking ahead to 2012, I forecast a lot of PC and old console games over the coming months (since my laptop is pretty much my only available gaming platform right now), the terrifying launch of Midnight Resistance, and a string of wildly popular professional games and heart-rending personal projects. Sometime in the second half of the year I will fulfil my wager to complete the Mass Effect trilogy in under 24 hours, and I can already tell you that this year’s Metal Gear Solid Christmas spectacular will be focused on Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty.
I AM EXCITED! ARE YOU EXCITED?!