Challenges with Solo Development

The last couple of weeks of work has been really challenging and the root cause is basically being the sole coder. I have finished my restructuring and I am now moving forward again but I’m now a bit preoccupied with making sure that things are done right so that I don’t need to reorganize my code in such a big way again. The problem is that I’m finding it difficult to come up with ‘the best design’ without having anyone to bounce ideas off of or point out weaknesses in my logic. What ends up happening is that I become hesitant in making a final decision on which direction I should take and end up doing nothing but thinking and weighing pros and cons. When I have made the decision and I know what to do my productivity is very high which only means I get to my next roadblock faster!

I have searched online for code architecture ideas but unfortunately 99% of tutorials online are aimed at beginners or fairly simple situations. There are very few high-level practical examples to be found. I understand design patterns, and they give great direction, but sometimes it’s nice to get a solid view of how, for example, the best way to handle sliding or animating menus on/off a screen in succession where one menu won’t start until the next menu has finished (which is my current problem by the way). At this point I have a pretty good idea of what I want to do but I’m not fully confident I won’t be revisiting this again at some point.

So, if there are any indie devs (or programmers in general) reading this, what strategies do you have to push through complex decisions? I’ll return to this topic as I do some research and come up with some solutions that work for me!


The restructuring continues

Alright, so remember when I said I was back on track?  Well, it turns out I had more work to do on the restructuring than I thought.  The problem was that I was creating a bunch of custom objects and special cases for each menu, and since the game is heavily menu-driven, I was increasing the complexity of my main classes and cluttering them up with massive amounts of code.  Luckily I stumbled up on this beautiful little article: by the guys at Riverman Media which gave me a bunch of great ideas on how to handle my menus. So now I have a system that handles switching and tracking of menus easily and each menu is its own self-contained class which keeps my code a lot more manageable.

The ideas I gleaned from that article I’m also applying to a bunch of other things like events and widgets. I would be a bit worried that I was over-engineering things if I hadn’t already coded myself into a corner and these steps are rapidly solving all of the problems I was having. So I have yet to actually start on the data layer but my re-worked system is much easier to modify and expand upon. I’m actually nearing the same levels of excitement and drive as I was before my laptop was stolen, so I’m very happy about that!

Have a good weekend everyone!


I/W: Banner Illo

Here is a banner illustration I have been working on. The drawing itself is complete, it just needs additional work with the logo and info, so it can be used by us when posting on forums and the like. I’m sure Tyson will do something to spiff this up. :) I just quickly dropped the logo in there.



This actually took a very long time, for such a small thing. The format was challenging though. I’m not used to working with a long narrow composition, and coming up with an idea for the subject was what challenged me the most. I wanted it to be dynamic and detailed, but it also needed to look good shrunk down to a banner size and still be understandable. So, I set my usual stippling technique aside in order to keep the ink work as clean as possible.


Reworking Code

Alright, so I obviously I haven’t put up any new screenshots lately.  What has happened is that I have reached a point in development where I basically have coded myself into a corner.  It has become very difficult to add new features with the way the code is structured.  I have spent the better part of the last two weeks restructuring the code and creating more re-usable and maintainable sub systems.  I’m back on track though now and I have reworked the entire event system.  My next task is going to be reworking/expanding the data layer to get all that data into the game.

In other news, I am now on Tumblr!  I was recommended by a friend (Thanks Sarah!) about how awesome the community is and she is certainly right!  I have been reading blogs from a bunch of other indie devs and have taken a bit of solace in the fact that other devs are also struggling to keep motivated and balance life, work, and game development.  Check me out if you are on Tumblr:



Calgary Expo 2013!!! Belated.

Okay, a little late but still awesome.

We had such a great time at the Expo, and met some great people.

Our tables in the Artist Alley. You can see Tyson, and our helpers Beth and Sara. They were a BIG help.

Over all the weekend was a big success. We handed out a ton of posters and cards, and there seemed to be some real genuine interest in our project. Tyson was totally overwhelmed by the whole experience. It was his first time at a Con, and I know he is a big convert.

I had a great weekend too. I sold lots of prints, and I was really pleased with the response to my illustration and painting. Plus, the people watching was amazing!

All of us had a chance to get away and take in some of the celeb photo ops, the panels, and visiting with the other artists of the alley. I have to say too that the organizers did an amazing job with the show. I was really pleased with the smart decisions they made to fix the problems of 2012. The whole weekend went really smoothly from my perspective. There might have been a glitch here and there (what show doesn’t have some of those), but overall I think everyone attending was happy. All I know is I definitely need to save up some more money, so that I can spend more money next year. 😉








Over the weekend I was able to do a little bit of sketching. You can see me working with my trusty (and fast) colored pencils. I know I always like watching artists at work.


Back in Black

Hey everyone. Sorry for my long neglect. My Illustration Wednesdays have not been updated for a while. Life is just not cooperating at the moment. Between an ongoing basement renovation, illness, and a bit of artistsic burn out, I havent been working very much on the Game. Im trying my best to plug away at my list of illustrations, but its slow going at the moment.

One thing I should have done a while ago is blog about the awesomeness that was the Calgary Expo. I WILL be making a post all about our adventures on the last weekend of April. Gosh!


Second Screenshot

Officer Assign Screen

This is where you assign officers to a task.

Here is the second in-game screenshot.  This screen is where you assign officers to a task. In this screenshot we are assigning Hoyce to work on Agriculture in the province of Auleer for one month.  You can scroll the list to the left of all the officers who are currently in Auleer.  The list isn’t big enough to scroll since there are only 3 officers, but it does scroll if there are more than what fits on one screen.  All of the data here is completely arbitrary, so it doesn’t represent the final game.  I’m also missing a couple of small elements like the button that moves the officer from the list on the left to the list on the right.

I also want to mention that Erika has been very sick all week, which explains her absence on the site. Hopefully she’ll be feeling better soon.

I made a post on about the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo, so check it out!



First Screenshot!

It has taken a while, but here is this first in game screenshot for Sunset Over Lievnos!  This is the main screen from which you will start navigating to all actions.  The four large icons on the right are the four major categories of actions.  Each of those will have one or more sub menus.  For example, choosing develop on this screen will allow you to choose whether you want to develop agriculture, economy, or fortification.

The portrait on the left is the character who is the current vassal for the province you are currently looking at.

The column to the right of the portrait contains information relevant to that province.  The province name as well as the crest for the ruling family are at the top.  The stats for this province are below.

This screenshot is using the map that is going to be in the ‘lite’ version of the game and contains only 5 provinces.  The full map contains over 25 provinces.  You can touch and drag on the map to scroll it around.

Any questions?  Stay tuned for more screenshots that will be coming soon!

Sunset Over Lievnos Main Screen


I/W: Finished Poster Illo

Here she is. All painted. :)

She still needs some text and the logo and whatnot, but this is what you will see when you visit us next weekend (April 26,27,28) at the Calgary Expo.


Art Process

As I was browsing over some of Erika’s posts I realized that for someone who isn’t familiar with this game and how we are creating the art, it doesn’t look like we are making a game at all!  Most games are made with art created digitally, which is not what we’re doing at all!  I decided to fill you in on our process we are using for our art.

Firstly, I’ll should discuss how this game came into being in the first place.  I worked with Erika for at least a couple of years before I knew she was an artist.  After seeing some of her art my imagination went crazy.  I have not seen a style like hers in a game before and I thought that such a unique look would make for very appealing visuals in a game.  Of course, Erika is a classical artist and does everything on paper and didn’t have much experience digitally.  Another consideration of her methods were that we would have to make a game that didn’t rely on animations.  I have a huge stock of game ideas and one that popped into my head was one that is based off of KOEI’s Gemfire game.  The only thing that KOEI has released any time recently in this genre  is Romance of the Three Kingdoms but I am tired of the setting and characters after some 12 iterations and I wanted a game with a more fantasy feel.  Also, when I played Gemfire and ROTK I really wanted to know more about the characters and stories and KOEI wouldn’t deliver on that.  This style of game has lots of portraits and very few animations and its a style of game that hasn’t been done to death and it hasn’t been done exactly the way I want, so it was a perfect choice for a game idea for us.  We got to talking and decided it would be a great way to get her art out there and for me to create a game in less time since I wouldn’t have to do the art myself.  Erika’s art really gets my imagination going and her characters make perfect subject for stories and development which I could use to make my game stand out from similar KOEI games.

There are several challenges we had to overcome.  The biggest was at what size did she have to do her art so that when we scaled the art down we wouldn’t lose the detail and style of the art while at the same time making it large enough for her to actually work comfortably and to fit the detail in that she likes.  We actually did numerous tests to get something we are both comfortable with.  We also had to figure out the digitization process.  We wanted to keep the paper texture visible and we also wanted the colors to come out close to what they are on the page.  We tried several scanners and found hers to work for most cases.

After her images are scanned I take them and tweak them for the game.  Occasionally I need to do a color balance, modify the brightness or contrast, or tweak the rotation if they weren’t scanned perfectly level.  In the case of icons I have to carefully cut out backgrounds to create transparencies.  It works best when we scan at super high resolutions so that the line width is some 20 pixels.  Its fairly time consuming!

Once I have tweaked and re-sized the graphics in Photoshop on my PC, I move them to my Mac where I add them to their sprite sheets that I then import into the game.

There are several challenges with this approach.  For example, ff I find a mistake or I need something changed, we have to go through the whole process from the beginning.  She can sometimes modify the original but other times she has to create a new image from scratch.  This means she has to draw it, paint it, scan it, then I have to clean it up , cut it out, put it in the sprite sheet, and put it in the game.  Sometimes all of this because the ratio of width and height on the original image wouldn’t scale perfectly to fit the spot for the icon.  This is bad enough for smaller graphics, but for large ones, like the map (which is 14″x17″ in real life), we have to get it right the first time or we waste a lot of time.  By the way we did actually already mess this up and we now have a (wickedly drawn) map that won’t work for the game.

I think that these challenges are definitely worth it once you see the final product.  Sunset Over Lievnos is going to have an amazing style that is really unique in games.  By now you must be asking, “when can we see it!?” and I promise I’ll have the first screenshot for you to look at within the next week!