A game by Heather Logas and her friends

Creative Process

A new day…a new scene!

Dearest Dreamers,

Its 6:53 am in Santa Cruz and the sky is starting to lighten.  

 

I am very excited to announce that I have a new scene complete and ready for debugging.  I’m excited for all of you to check it out.  It has my favorite character of the game in it, Sully the Innkeeper.  She’s a no-nonsense kind of lady.  Inspired subconsciously a bit by Grandma Ben in Bone.  She has some great stories to tell to a traveller.  I can’t wait to let you all meet her!

 

A new day has been dawning on my life as well.  A few weeks ago I was diagnosed with sleep apnea, after struggling my entire adult life (and teen life as well) with chronic exhaustion.  I have been on a cpap machine at night.  It has changed everything.  I still feel sleepy much of the time (this may continue to improve) but its only a teensy bit sleepy, like in the background of my brain.  Speaking of my brain, I feel like it is working better.  Less fog settles on it at different points of the day.  I stay full longer after meals (I know…weird…).  I come home from work and have energy for my family.  I have been experimenting with setting the alarm a little earlier.  Today I woke up at 6 and was out of bed by 6:15.  I didn’t get any work done I think because I was sort of startled at being up that early.  My usual routine on days when I can drag myself out of bed before 7am is to single-mindedly focus on the shortest path between me and my laptop.  This morning my brain was actually somewhat alert, and was bouncing off in a bunch of different directions.  So I have to adjust a bit before.  But I’m confident productive mornings await!

 

I also just FEEL more, in a very good way.  I have been feeling love more strongly, and I see it everywhere.  I have more patience.  Little unplanned annoyances (getting a parking ticket, cleaning up the milk my toddler deliberately dumped on the floor) don’t wipe me out and make me want to crawl back into bed.  I also feel less edgy, more even keeled.  I think I only had about 3 energy levels before I started therapy — tired, totally wiped out, and hyper from caffeine.  Now I’m feeling more subtle shifts in my energy level.  There’s more gradation, more texture.  

 

And I’m also feeling much more productive — more like DOING.  Unfortunately, I feel like DOING everything at once.  So that is going to take a bit of adjustment.  But I think if I PLAN on getting up at 6am instead of taking it like a fluke, I’ll be able to focus on the things I want to do at that time.  Like work on my fabulous game.

 

I can’t wait till tomorrow morning.

Dream well,

Heather

 

ps. I did not know this before getting treated, but sleep apnea untreated is very detrimental to one’s health over the long term.  As in, makes you more susceptible to strokes and all kinds of nasty things.  Also: consistent loud snoring isn’t just a nuisance: its a symptom of sleep disorders.  If you think you might have sleep apnea you really should go get it checked out!


An update, an interview

Dear Dreamers,

Still working on it.

I’ve discovered one technique that’s been very helpful.  I’m not sure why this occurred to me, but I bought a nice pad of drawing paper and a quill pen and have created a physical work log.  Every day I work on the project, I write in the log what I’ve worked on and what I need to do next.  In addition to helping me jump back in where I left off (vital when your life is one interruption after another) there is something incredibly satisfying about just writing with the quill pen on the nice paper.  The physicality of it is delightful and soothing to my soul.

I’ve been trying to focus on BYCYE as my primary pursuit in many ways.  I have been putting off most art and craft projects (unless they are short one-session things), not wanting to start anything that might distract me from BYCYE.  Most of my relaxation (when that can happen) is geared towards keeping me in a BYCYE mindset.  I’ve been reading more fiction and playing fewer time-waster games.  Its hard.  I want to finish the game, but I just don’t like working digitally as my main mode of expression.  I think that’s part of the reason bringing in the physical pen and paper as part of the process makes the sailing smoother.

Also, here’s an interview in which I talk a bit about BYCYE, and my journey through life, games and motherhood.  I’ve gotten very positive responses to it so far, which is quite gratifying. 

On the Border Interview

 

Dream Well,

Heather


Re-thinking character growth

I had a really terrific meeting this week with a member of my cohort*. Duncan Bowsman, an IF creator of some prolificity (that’s a word — really) had played the existing BYCYE demo and sat down to chat with me about it, and talking through one aspect of the game with him opened up an intriguing new idea.

The most common question of people when I describe BYCYE to them is “Can characters change over time?” The ability for characters to change and develop is what makes for good stories, after all.

I do have a scheme designed to allow for character growth. While I want characters to be able to change over time, I don’t want their stats to ping-pong around. If a character’s personality stats are constantly changing, my concern is that there will be no consistency and a coherent sense of playing another self will be lost. So the way I have it designed currently, character stats do have the opportunity to change — but only occasionally, at certain dramatic moments. Much like the Cowardly Lion in the Wizard of Oz suddenly finds the courage within himself to help save his friends, certain moments in BYCYE give players the opportunity to select a character choice which is divergent from the character’s expected behavior. If the player selects that option, the character takes that action and the character’s stats shift.

I still like how this sounds on paper. But here’s the issue — in the game right now, this almost never happens. These types of moments should be momentous and dramatic — but the meat of the game is smaller, less tense choices. If I continued with this design, there might be three or four of these moments in the whole game. I don’t think this would fulfill players’ desires for character growth.

But speaking with Duncan may have suggested another way to tackle this problem. So currently the player only gets to see a subset of the possible spectrum of choices available based on his/her character’s stats. What if, sometimes (I don’t know when yet), the player sees their possible choices and then sees an option like this:

*I’d prefer to do something else.

Now, possibly the player gets to see some of the choices that don’t go with the way their character is currently set up. After they pick one of those (of course, they can go back to the first set of choices) but before the action is taken, the game might ask them something like this:

“That seems more selfish (or courageous, or compassionate or what have you) then you tend to be. Are you sure that’s what you want to do?
*yes
*no”

So if the player selects yes, they want to be selfish, the action they have selected activates and their stat changes. Players can therefore shape their characters more actively as they go along, but are also given an “out” to keep from changing in a way they don’t want.

Of course, I could do the original plan as well. These ideas could work together.

I’m still mulling this over. It will take some work to implement so I want to think it through before deciding to dive in with it. But it is encouraging that, even this far along in the process, I can improve on the game system to make a more satisfying experience.

*I know this sounds like we’re minions of evil masterminds, but actually we are just in the same year of the same Master’s Program.


Dev Diary #33 — Momentum

If you have something you want to get done, it helps if you work on it every day. Momentum is a huge force for human beings. I know for a fact it is a huge force for me.

Since what I am now terming the “Kickstarter Cushion” has ended, I have been working on BYCYE every day. (Ok there were three days when I got really sick and didn’t do anything, but other than that, everyday). Some days I only work on BYCYE for five minutes. But I do it every day. Our good friend Dan F. not only suggested this, but pings me once a day to make sure I have done my daily work and keeps a running tally of how many days in a row I have worked. Currently we are at 78 days in a row (we skipped the sick days because I really was super sick).

I crawl along on this game, but things do get done, even at a glacially slow pace. But more importantly I think, my brain is in the habit of THINKING about BYCYE. Which means when I do get a slightly larger window to do some work, I’m ready. I know where I am in the project and don’t have to spend 15 minutes – an hour just looking over notes and remembering where I am.

For awhile when I was working at Telltale, I would be working on half a dozen projects at a time. Occasionally one or two of these projects would have to be on hold for a couple days while I focused on priority concerns. When I returned to the project it would take so long just getting myself re-caught up to where I was.

I’ve noticed too that since I’ve started writing the blog “once a week” instead of every day, it slips. Its not a habit anymore. So I am going to try an experiment where I keep a little daily log and then post the week’s worth of logs at the end of the week.

Momentum and habits. Possibly the keys to productivity. But how many things can you do every day? I wonder….


What would you do?

Occasionally I post queries to the community of “What would they do?” in a given situation. The results help me brainstorm for the game.

Here’s one I just posted:
The king wants you to undertake a perilous quest that will save his people. His people are downtrodden and depressed, and the kingdom is very poor.

He tells you to choose your own reward. What will you ask for?

Go to http://www.forums.bycye.com/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=21 to respond!


Bonus post — The nature of motivation (input requested!)

Hi. I should be asleep. But I had the most startling revelation and I wish to share it with you.

So instead of going to bed early like I should have (given my illness) I spent the evening poking around on Concept Art .Org. I was looking for potential illustrators for BYCYE, but became fascinated with some of these artists’ processes for improving in their craft. In particular, I became entranced with this gent’s sketchbook forum topic. You can see his evolution from his first couple sketchbook posts all the way to his recent work, and it is amazing.

But what’s really amazing is the format of Concept Art.org. I love that people post their art, get feedback, and then can use that feedback to learn from. I’d love to be a part of a community like that. And then I realized what it was I was missing from my process:

Collect, Create, Critique

A diagram of the creative process -- at least, what works for me.

When one is working in a studio, or even is at school, one has access to plenty of opportunities for critique. You can take this critique, learn from it, and use it to keep you motivated to keep rolling and doing better.

This is harder when you are making a game all by yourself. Its hard to know what to show, for one thing. I can’t show a finished game because I don’t have a finished game. I don’t have any concept art (except my own doodles — maybe I should share some of them). I am nervous about showing too much of the game in progress because of my background making adventure games. (Adventure gamers hate anything that could be construed as a spoiler).

So I would like some input from you folks. What sort of things would you like to see and “critique”? I could dole out bits of the game here and there if that’s not too spoilery. I could post my own doodles and diagrams more often.

Do you have any ideas? Post them here or look for the topic on the forums.

And now, I REALLY DO have to get to sleep!