Sunday, February 5, 2017

"Just Keep Swimming..."

Sorry for the long hiatus in posting. But I'm kind of stuck in the boring phase of development. Doing little stuff here and there that adds up to a lot, but which doesn't easily lend itself to a full post.

So what have I been doing?

1) Having My Time Chopped Up

Ever since July, somebody in the family has been sick. Or has Cub Scout meetings/campouts to go to.  Or I'm building a pinewood derby car. Or I'm writing up an adult Sunday School lesson on Abraham that takes me 2+ days of concentrated work. Or the kids are home on break and I can't focus for longer than 20 minutes on anything. Or vacations and holidays.

So a lot of the time that I'd normally be spending head-down on rules-writing has been spent ferrying my parents, the wife, myself, my kids, or the pets to the doctor. Sometimes 4 times in a single week. Or I've been obligated to do other things with it.

The net result is that the vast majority of my free time has been chopped up into little segments of 20-90 minutes that isn't sufficient to get into the flow of writing. Or I do have the time, but I'm too tired to concentrate on anything. So instead...

2) Editing Rules

I've fixed tons of typos, reworded various rules for clarity, redone or optimized images, and written down dozens of quick ideas for rules or changes. But none of that really deserved a post. "Oh look! I changed these three words!"

Just some of the comments from Stelek that I've saved for consideration/editing of the rules.

More recently I've been sending sections of rules over to Stelek of the "Yes The Truth Hurts" blog for his opinions. There's been a fair bit of arguing back-and-forth, but he's been really great at spotting small errors, game-able elements, and places where I'm not being consistent. You can see the results of this on just one pair of pages, above.

He's also motivating me to get rules sections properly written and presentable (before pointing out things I'll need to change). It's also motivated him to start posting again and throwing out his own rules ideas. So win-win. :)

2) Outfitting A Better Studio

New furniture to properly organize things in. Proper lighting (and light-blocking blinds). A new DSLR camera that actually is better than an iPhone 6s. A green screen. A new good-looking felt desert surface for the table. A wall monitor for when I need to see myself demonstrating something while recording video after the Alpha launches. A good microphone for voice-overs. New terrain. etc.

All acquired over the last 6 months in bits and pieces. The current state looks impressive, but posting about every bit of gear? Not really worth it. "Hey! I bought this cool felt today!"

3) Learning The New Camera

So what's actually better than an iPhone 6s? A full-frame DSLR like the Nikon D750.

This is the camera that I'll be using going forward as we refine and upgrade the visual look of the book. It's also the camera that I'll be using to shoot video guides, KickStarter promos, etc. It's detail and low-light performance are top-notch.

Which means that I've had to take it out and use it to shoot photos and videos of various things to test it out. Which showed that I needed other stuff too. A shotgun mic. An external video recorder. Various brackets. An HD monitor that faces me while I'm recording. A new lens for certain kinds of shots. You get the picture.

Add to that a studio-quality mic for voiceovers, and practice-time on pro-level audio/video editing software. That means doing side projects for church, scouts, and my older kid's YouTube dreams to figure out the best workflow. At this point the camera is completely figured out, but I'm still updating my rusty audio and video editing skills.

4) Learning The New 3D Printer

I spent a good part of the summer wrestling with my first 3D printer, a filament deposition model. I figured out how to print decently, which filaments to use, how to deaden the noise (which required building a soundproofed cabinet), etc.

I even printed out some pretty decent downloadable terrain on it.

All the while I was waiting for my other printer to arrive (9 weeks late, in October). A resin model, this printer promised high-resolution miniature-quality prints with a minimum of fuss.

Um... yeah. About that...

It took even longer to master this printer than the first one. First I had to find out that using the highest-resolution setting almost guarantees a print failure.

Partly because of some kind of odd scaling bug. All three of these teleport pad prints are the same height. But only the Good and Better settings print it at the correct depth proportion. The company is still trying to figure it out. But the Better setting looks fine for 28mm models, and succeeds 11 times out of 12 instead of the other way around. Add in resin difficulties, figuring out how to cheaply re-line the resin tanks instead of buying new ones at $100, and it's been a real trial.

There's also the time it took to learn a new 3D program to model with, because I couldn't justify paying 4x more for the software I already knew.

But I finally have the whole process down, so that I can quickly crank out whatever game bits I need. Which includes generic soldier miniatures. But while I can (and have) bought some nice 3D models to use, they invariably need extra work. Because most have been designed for video games, and not for printing.

5) Making Better Terrain

Gone is the brown felt cut into two halves.

Now I've got a nice desert-y felt wrapped around a full 6x4 foot piece of particle board. I've also created new hills (I made the old green ones when I was a teenager), and made my palm-tree woods much nicer looking with the addition of painted Teddy Bear fur, and multicolored lichen boundaries. The fur lays down when you put a model on it, and you can pluck it back up to really hide them in the grass. The trees have their bases covered with lichen to make them fit in, but they're still removable during play. The lichen also bulks them up to make them believable as placed obstacles.

This, and the other buildings/obstacles I'm working on are to: 1) Make the book look better in the future, and 2) Avoid using recognizable non-generic products in our book and marketing materials.

6) Reaching Out To 3rd Party Mini Makers

I've now got agreements with 4 independent miniature studios in the UK to use their stuff in our game. They are Anvil Industry, Zealot Miniatures, Wargame Exclusive, and Ramshackle Games.

Anvil Industry

Ramshackle Games

Wargame Exclusive

Zealot Miniatures

Some of what we need has been ordered and delivered already. Some still needs to be ordered. But I'm probably going to need some help with the assembly and painting.

And... That's what I've been up to. It doesn't seem like much until I write it all up. It's easy to feel like I'm not getting anything done, even though I'm doing something on the game nearly every day.

"Just Keep Swimming..."


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