Big veiny Dan

Happy 1st year of Indie/Freelancing life.

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Hello Tiebreaker fans its Dan :)

Will I last another year as an Indie/Freelance dude?

Will I last another year as an Indie/Freelance dude?

On this date a year ago I was getting fired from my last job for “Financial” reasons.  Happy 1 year of Indie/Freelancing life for me!! :)

If you’re in the corporate world you’re used to yearly evaluation, at least I was. Now having no boss to report to aside from my wife, I thought it would be a good idea to have a quick look back at 2012, see what I did and what I learned during that first year as Freelancer/Indie developer.

What I did.

Looking back at it I did a bunch…some would even say I was involved in too many things this year. I guess I could have done less and focus more on certain things, but quite frankly I think most thing I was involved in needed to be worked on. Here’s the list.

  • Freelance contracts: Got to pay the bills
  • Taking care of the family: This is priority for me. What’s the use of successful if you have no love in your life?
  • Taking care of the house: Somehow working from home equal doing more cleaning up. You take the Bad with the Good :P
  • Taking a business class: Not sure at this point if that one was necessary…the future will tell. Good thing its finished.
  • Shape Invaders development: My pride and Joy, and after 1.5 years invested in it I want to finish this game.
  • Tiebreaker Studio community management: I’m not the best at it but, PR has to be started way before the game launched in our case we’re ok. :p
  • Other personal project development: It’s a personal project I feel can help me bring some money in later. This one had to be worked on. More on that later.
  • Training: At 41, I’m not getting any younger. I have to stay in shape to be able to keep up at that speed. It also helped me get my mind of the job.
  • Having a social life: Seeing “real” people and having none Skype discussion is good.
  • Give Game design class: That one came up late in the year. At this point it takes me a lot more time that expect to prepare all the class material. But I’m investing in the future as next year will be easier once all the class material is done.

Looking at the list only the business class and the game design class is kinda not necessary. Sure I could have stopped training, having a social life, or taking care of the family and house, but I strongly believe that doing these things kept me happy and in good health, which is the most important thing to me. Doing all this, I learned/Realized/Re-learned a couple of new things.

What I Learned.
Have not drawn in years...it's good to be doing it again.

Have not drawn in years…it’s good to be doing it again.

  • Charging a lower fee, to get a new client is ok, but at some point you have to charge what you think your worth. So try to charge as close to that amount as soon as possible.
  • Help people as much as you can. Someday they will help you back.
  • You can’t expect everyone to share your dream/plan. You have to accept that and move on.
  • Having an awesome wife that believes in you is invaluable.
  • I have great In-laws! Thanks Jacques and Denise for all the food.
  • It’s surprising how going somewhere to work is expensive. If you count gas, the time you go out for lunch, the snacks you buy it adds up to lot and helps balance the budget.
  • Construct 2, Unity and ASE sprites are awesome software.
  • I still got some drawing skills.
  • Completing a game part-time takes a loooong time.
  • Doing PR is not that easy.
  • Making a business plan takes a long time…
  • …but nothing sells more than the actual product.
  • Preparing class materials also takes a long time.
  • Sometime helps come from unexpected person.
  • Site blocking plugins like StayFocusd are life saver.
  • Writing Blog takes time. (How can people work and Blog at the same time?)

That’s how 2012 went.
The plan for the 2013 stays the same, complete Shape Invaders, launch this new product, continue Freelancing and giving class. Hopefully all this will allow me to generate enough money to stay independent. Otherwise, I’ll have to go get a job…It could be worse, but I’d like to keep it that way. :P

Thanks everyone for the help and the support.
-Dan

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Dev Blog: We survived the Apocalypse

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If you’re reading this chances are you survived the 2012 apocalypse, so congrats and Happy new year!

We hope 2013 will bring you joy and happiness as well as the release of Shape Invaders. :P
On that front here is where we’re at with the development, what we’ve done recently and what’s left to be done.

Recently the focus has been on creating and integrating new art and tuning the gameplay.

The Shape Invaders Crew

The Shape Invaders Crew

Rich has xreated five environments ranging from Farmland to the Big City, working with Mike they made a tile system allowing us to create varied environment featuring these themes.  They are almost finished and we can wait to see the result in the game. Rich also worked on the 3 main characters of the game, these portraits will be mainly used during short funny dialogues. Art wise we still have some assets to create to say we have everything we need, but Rich told me yesterday he was close to the end. After that he’ll start adding some “juice” to the game so don’t be surprised to see some new special effect video soon.

Farm_Clear1

That’s where the cows go MOOOOOO!

Suburbs01

Frank the tank is you friendly neighborhood watch.

Aside from the environment system, Mike worked on Vick’s Shop which is now almost fully functional. It’s pretty cool finally be able to spend shape meat to buy new weapons and power-ups. It gives a bit more depth to the game which is really nice. Once the environment system is completed Mike will tackle the bug base.

Vince, he’s been working on making sure the weapons and power-ups are functional in-game. Some are, some aren’t so Vince job isn’t done on that one.  After that, he’ll take some time cleaning up the bug base before starting to work on the end boss fight. :D

As for myself I’ve been playing the game a lot, trying to go from the first to the last level without using cheat while making sure every level are hard enough. This my main job until the game is released. So far I went up to level 21 (Baie-Comeau) before being forced to stop due to a bug. This bodes well for the future; I’ll let you know once I finish my first complete run. Aside from that it’s bug base and community management. Fun stuff.

One last thing. for the past year or so we’ve had the privilege to work with Francis Boucher. He’s a composer trying to get into the game business and he is giving us a hand with the Music and SFX. Francis has worked on almost 10 tracks for the game, all of them are awesome. If you got a minute check out these 2 samples and let us know what you think.

That’s pretty much it for today.
As most of you know we’re doing this part-time, so bear with us as we’re doing as fast as we can to release the game in 2013. :D
Thanks a lot for following us

-Dan

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Dev Blog : Production Blitz #11

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Hi Guys!

With the game getting closer and closer to completion we met at Rich’s place last week-end for another production Blitz. Although everyone was in a good mood there was not much goofing around as we put our best effort to get as much work done as possible in the 24 hours span. Something very cool happened during the blitz. For the first time ever we were able to play a complete vertical slice of the game. This means that we can of course kill shapes and collect meats, but we can now spend that meat on weapons and power-ups in Vick’s shop. With the shop feature integrated we can now balance the levels to make sure they can be played by all and not just us.

Of course a bunch of bugs were opened and fixed, and Mike fixed on HUGE slowdown bug that was making the game unplayable around level 10. Rich took good care of us and worked on two new environments that we should be able to show you guys soon. As for Vince he continued his work on the Shape attack pattern. Aside form the end boss, attack patterns are the last feature being implemented in the game.

We’re very excited about the state of the game and are very confident that the game will be released in 2013. Thanks for you support, have an awesome Holiday Seasons and stay tuned for more updates.

Dan

motivation

5 tips to stay motivated during a part-time project

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Hi guys, its Vince :)

Many of us have projects we work a few hours a week working on. But often, we lose interest in a project and leave it or shutting it down. If it’s your case the question you must ask yourself is: How can I stay motivated and complete a part-time project?

I am currently developing a game with 3 friends, we call ourselves Tiebreaker Studio. The game is called Shape Invaders, it’s been in development for more than 2 years. Hopefully we will be able to finish it in the next few months. That said, I had developed a few tricks to keep me motivated through all this time and I’d like to share 5 of them with you.

Tip #1. Surround yourself with a good team

Before starting a project, you must be sure to have good teammates. Your friends are not necessarily good teammates. You must know each of them enough to be sure they will put as much effort as you during the various stages of the project. Teammates must have good communication skills and a good understanding of others expectations. As in a couple, the communication is very important in a team. A good team will be able to discuss problems and find solutions quickly. You should also setup some tools to help maintain good communication. In our case, our team has a Wiki, a bug base and we often use TeamSpeak to talk together remotely.

Tip #2. Keep a good pace (good frequency)

It is important to have good routine. You should book a few times during the week to work on your project. What is important is to work each week. You must be consistent and continue to invest efforts again and again until the project is completed. Personally, I often worked the weeknight and Sunday evening. I work when the children are asleep and when my wife listens to her TV series. In this way, I make sure to work a certain number of hours each week without losing quality time with my family.

Tip #3. Be well organized

In the team, it takes a person who is monitoring the project. It takes someone who plays the producer role. However, I do not think this is a full-time job. Using tools such as Jira from Atlassian or Trac from Edgewall Software, it becomes easier to empower every team member to keep their tasks up to date. Thus, monitoring is easier to perform for the person who is the producer. When every tasks are clear and the project planning is well organized, the team can clearly see the progress of the project and remains motivated.

Tip #4. Set goals every week

It is important to give you short-term goals to complete each week. Personally, it keeps me motivated because I set goals that I am capable of achieving. This way, it’s easy for me to see what I’ve done. Be careful, it’s better to attain a smaller goal than to miss normal one. So think small when setting your goal.

Tip #5. Meet from time to time to maintain a good team spirit

Remote working is great when doing a part-time project. It allows each team member to work when they want. However, it is important to stay in touch with all team members. I suggest planning meetings at regular intervals. These meetings allow the project to progress but they serve primarily to solidify the team. Meetings that are fun and productive forge a strong team spirit.

So I hope these tips will be helpful!

Here is a list of the tools we use at Tiebreaker Studio:
- TeamSpeak (http://www.teamspeak.com)
- Confluence (http://www.atlassian.com/software/confluence)
- Jira (http://www.atlassian.com/software/jira/overview)

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Dev Blog: Production Blitz #10

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10 what a great number!
It was Guy Lafleur’s jersey number, as well as the amount of plagues of Egypt and the amount of inkblots in the Rorschach inkblot test.  Last week-end was Tiebreaker Studio 10th production Blitz. So lets see if we were able to live up to the awesomeness of number 10

The event was held at my place. I had conveniently kicked-out my wife and kids for the night and most of the Saturday so it was us, with beer, chips and Bacon. Nothing could stop us for completing another big chunk of the game. Little did we know that evil had already struck in Mike stomach. Yep Mike had contracted a disease so vile that even with all his will he was unable to attend the event…we took it on the bright side as it meant more food for us. :D

Rich and I were up and running pretty early Friday and Vince caught up with us later that night…then it was work/fun/work all evening and most of the night. We missed Mike a lot so we decided to hire a Donkey Kong has is replacement (See pictures below). It turned out we almost didn’t see the difference.

We hammered at a couple of things this week-end.  Here’s the lowdown

  • Integration of all the Visual FX for the special weapons
  • Designed the game background for the 5 regions
  • Play tested the level and did some level balancing
  • Reviewed some Music track
  • Cleaned up the bug base
  • Created another teaser video (see at the end of post)
  • Played some Torchlight 2 and Super Meatboy
  • Wished Richard Happy birthday
  • Talked like old men by the fire
  • Tried Bacon Tex-Mex Bacon twist

In the end Blitz #10 was good and fun, but I got the feeling that with the last few features implemented Blitz #11 will be even better.
Speaking of next time… blitz #11 is already scheduled for the end of November. But for now enjoy the awesomeness of these few shots and new teaser video. :D

-Dan

 

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Indie Game: The Movie – Dan’s review

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Hi Guys

A couple of weeks ago I watched “Indie game: The Movie”. After seeing the trailer last year I was really looking forward to the movie and I must say I was not disappointed.

“Indie game: The movie” follows Edmund Mcmillen and Tommy Refenes (the guys behind Super Meat Boy) the weeks leading to the launch of the game on XBLA; and Phil Fish (the creator of FEZ) a couple of weeks before PAX 2010. Throughout then movie there are comments from Jonathan Blow the maker of Braid.

What I liked about the movie is that it focused more on the emotions and motivations of each team instead of the technical aspect of development. In doing so it connected with me as I recognize myself a couples times in these guys.

  • Like Mr. Blow, I was tired of “not doing the things that I thought I would with my life.” or at least try doing them. That’s the main reason we started Tiebreaker Studio…to do the game we wanted.
  • Like Mr. Refenes I don’t really care if Shape Invaders sales or not. I’ll be happy if does, but if it doesn’t it does not matter, I’ll be proud of what we accomplish nonetheless.

As the movie continues you get to learn more about their personal life and how the dream they are pursuing affects it. Being a family man I could more than relate to that because I know how being focused on a project like that can affect the one you love. But don’t worry, by the end of the movie things turned out OK for both teams. :P

While watching the movie I found myself wishing I could be 20 years younger. Not that I would trade my life for anything else, but just for the fact that it’s much easier to create and distribute video game today that it was 20 years ago. If I had access to the tools and distribution method we have today, my professional life would have been different I can assure you that.

To end this short review I’ll say that If you are involved or interested in indie game development you must watch that movie. If you’re like me, it will motivate you to keep working on your game, or it will push you to start working on one.

-Dan

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Dev Blog: Production Blitz #9

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Hello Tiebreaker fans :P

Last week-end was our 9th production blitz and for the first time Rich hosted the event.

It started very early Friday morning and ended Saturday afternoon. Rich did everything in style, the place was nicely setup and the food was excellent. Another first this week-end was our first visitor during a production blitz, a friend and former colleague our ours Miguel came to visit. It was great to have him give his opinion on our work and of course being together again is always a blast. Aside from goofing around here’s what was accomplished during the week-end

  • Talked about our progress and our plan for the future
  • Integration of art assets. The nuke among others
  • Completed first pass of level tweak (more pass to come)
  • Reviewed sound effects (done by a secret friend of ours)
  • Fixed bugs
  • Creation of a video to announce the winner of the weirdo poll
  • Started on a new type of tile that will allow us to keep shape formation throughout level
  • Designed Shapes attack patterns
  • Drank beer and ate poutines
  • Laughed at this way more than we should.

Our 10th production blitz will be held in the end of october, we can’t wait for it. In the meantime here are a couple of pictures to enjoy.

-Dan

 

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The people have spoken

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Hi guys :)

After a week long vote, and a gruelling elimination process that involved flame throwers, we finally know which of the three candidates will be Shape Invader’s space-trader. Check the video below to see who won.  Don’t worry if your favorite didn’t win, we’ll still use the other two characters in less glamorous spots in the game.

Thanks a lot for voting in such a high number, you guys are awesome!

-The Tiebreaker crew

 

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A vote that matters

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Hi Guys
We’re currently working on the Space-trader character and we need your help.

We got this character in the game he is called “The Weirdo” he arrived on earth a short time after the invasion began and between each level he’ll sell you cool interstellar weaponry, gears and power-up. But be aware, that he don’t want your stinking money, instead what “The Weirdo” craves for is some sweet juicy Shape-Meat, obtained by blowing up Shape Invaders. Isn’t that great :D

So we got these 3 guys(or girls, who know what they really are?) that we love very much and we’d like to give our great fans the choice and let you choose which design will be used for “The Weirdo” character in the game.

Please go ahead cast your vote NOW, we will reveal the winner at 15h00 this Friday. Thanks a lot.
The Tiebreaker Crew

This poll is currently disabled.
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Dev blog: Summer slackers

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Hi guys,

This is just to let you know that we’re not dead..we’ve just been slacking off that’s all.

Hey kid it’s nice outside go out and play!..Ho you’re playing Shape Invaders, it’s ok you can stay in.

The thing is that here in beautiful Québec we get to have nice weather only 1-2 months each year, so when it happens we usually try to go outside and enjoy it (read play with the kids or cut the lawn) instead of being in front of the computer. Rich and I also got to  find some freelance work to be able to pay the bills. But while we’re working on our contracts we don’t have much time to work on Shape Invaders and even less time to write about what’s going on. That explains why we were on the quiet side for the last month and we’re sorry about that.

Summer and BBQ goes together.

That does not mean some stuff didn’t get done. Rich created some awesome tank animations, explosion sprites and shapes’ helmets. Vince and Mike fixed a bunch of bugs to make the game more fun and more stable, allowing me to start balancing the levels. With summer now in full swing we’ll probably continue to enjoy the warm weather a bit, but soon we’ll be back on the saddle working to complete Shape Invaders. Here are some of the big things left to do:

  • Completing all the art asset
  • Implementing the shop
  • Tweaking all the levels
  • Implementing the final boss :D

Our target is to complete the game for the holidays 2012. Hope we can make it.
Thanks a lot for all your support and keep checking us out, we’ll be posting some new stuff soon.

-Dan
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