personal

Life goes on pt. 2

Wow... I just realized that the last time I wrote anything here was nine months ago, and what's worse, almost every word that I wrote is no longer true. The only thing that remains pretty much the same is my job, which is still the same as 11 years ago. I found that at this moment I'm much closer to what I wrote in April 2014, in the previous Life goes on post. So who knows, maybe it will become a new series?

First of all, I'm officially divorced, once and for all. I tried to fight against it, but when your life becomes an endless war, it means that something went terribly wrong. So in the end it's a big step forward after all the turbulences from the past three years. Still, much time has to pass before I can even start thinking about being with someone again, and I must admit that's something that I really miss. It's really ironic that in 2014 I wrote that I'd already gone through all the denial-anger-regret stages, because so much has happened since that time that now I'm in yet another stage of profound sadness.

Also, the project that my company has been working on for almost a year, failed miserably for reasons beyond our control, just like the previous one. Ironically, the reasons were pretty much the same in both cases - the people that we relied on exhibited a very harmful mixture of greed and utter ignorance. We still have to decide what to do next, but honestly, none of us is willing to go through this once again. It surely wasn't a waste of time, working on this project was a great experience and I'm extremely proud of what we have accomplished as a team. However, seeing things that you've created burn and fall because of someone's bad will doesn't feel so great.

So what remains? Not much for now, I must admit. Obviously I have to start working on something again just to remain sane. The most logical thing would be to return to one of my open source projects. For example, there's a pile of feature requests for WebIssues. I don't rule it out, perhaps I will do that next year. However, at this moment I need to start something new and a bit more creative. In my case typically that means creating a game. I still remember the lessons I drew from Mister Tins, so this time I will take a slightly different approach. It will be a simple 2D browser game. There will be stronger focus on graphics and level design, and the game engine will be as simple as possible. Generally the goal is to create a nice looking and fun game with reasonable effort. Recently any plans I make tend to backfire, but on the other hand it's always important to keep trying, so time will show how it goes this time.

Filed under: Blog
Tags: personal

Happy 10th anniversary, mimec.org!

Today is a very special day. Excactly ten years ago, on December 15th 2005, I wrote the first post on the mimec.org website. It's become a tradition that I write a short summary of the past year on each anniversary, and I will do it again today, because it was also a very special year for me.

First of all, there were a lot of round anniversaries this year. Almost exactly 10 years ago I graduated from college. WebIssues turned 10 years old in November, although technically it wasn't officially released until September 2006. Fraqtive turned 10 years old in January. And in March it was 10 years since I started my first job - and after those 10 years I still work for the same company, although it grew in size from a few developers to a few hundred, changed its name and relocated its headquarters. Even my primary day job project is still the same after 10 years. So, looking at those numbers, one might think that my life is very stagnant, and I will most likely spend the rest of it in the same place, doing the same things…

But even though a lot of things remained the same for such a long time, the last year also brought a lot of substantial changes. I overcame a serious crisis in my family, and we are back together, although a year ago nothing indicated that this would ever be possible. I think that this is my greatest personal accomplishment, and I simply owed this to my son. Obviously it doesn't mean that it's all a bed of roses now, quite on the contrary, but it was a very valuable lesson for all of us, and I will definitely not let the most important things get out of control again.

Today is also the first anniversary of Bulletcode, a software company founded by me and two of my friends. At the moment it's still more of a hobby than a real business, we put more money into it than we make, and we try to put as much work into it as our day jobs allow. But the whole year was a huge, invaluable experience for us all. We started the company to work on a very promising project, which unfortunately failed miserably for reasons that were beyond our control. So we ended up with a company which generated costs, without any projects, with no business partners, and with no idea what to do next. But instead of shutting it down, we took the challenge and started looking for new ideas and opportunities. I cannot reveal yet what we are working on, it's all a bit of a mistery and conspiracy, but it's definitely the most interesting project I've ever participated in, and we're all waiting impatiently to release our first product.

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Life goes on

Mister Tins is now officially in sale, which means it's officially dead, and that's not a big surprise to me. I guess it's time for a brief post-mortem summary of what went right and what went wrong. Well, the good thing is that I finished it, and it was fun, not to mention that my long time dream to make a game has come true :). I still think it was quite a good idea, and a bit underrated, but looking back I think there are at least three reasons why this whole project was doomed from the beginning:

  • Modern games are driven by artists, not by developers. It's just no longer "let's do the hard work and write the whole code and then we'll just throw in a few textures and the game will be ready". On the contrary, you take an existing engine like Unity, and then all the hard work is graphics, models, animations; the programming comes down to scripting a few events. I'm oversimplifying, but you get the point.
  • Modern games take a lot of work. Even a simple indie game requires a team of at least a few dedicated persons and often takes years, especially when people have another full time job. I spent six months, but in reality only during the first few weeks I spent significant time on this project. It's good that I started with something simple enough that I was able to finish it, but it can't compete with all the professional games in the market.
  • Another thing, which is perhaps not a strong requirement, but certainly helps, is when you can participate in various events and shows, contact other game developers, potential players and especially the press, long before your game is finished. Obviously, it's easier when you live in a large city in USA or Canada, not in some shithole in Poland…

In conclusion, if I'm ever going to get involved in another game, I'd certainly be joining an existing, dedicated team of artists, who need a coding monkey, and I'd teach myself Unity. Anyway, it's not going to happen very soon :). The good news is that now I finally have some time to release a new version of Saladin and WebIssues, work on redesigning my book, and simply read and play some games.

Also in my personal life there have been some changes recently; for example, I'm getting a divorce. I could make a similar list of things that went wrong, but I will spare you the details. Let's just say that one day you think you know someone, and then it turns out that your goals and values are so different that you simply can't go on any further. At first I was really upset because I hoped our son could have a "normal" family, especially that I din't have one, but the truth is that now I spend much more time with him than before we separated, and I'm definitely going to do everything I can to make it up for him. So I went through the whole denial-anger-regret stages and in the end I think it's for the better for all of us.

Luckily, there have been some positive changes too. I renewed an old friendship and made a new one, and that's something you can't overvalue. It also may have bigger consequences, because I think that I finally found a team of dedicated people and we have a chance to work on a very interesting and promising project - maybe it's not a game, but it's not one of those boring warehouse/financial/enterprise kind of applications either. So, life goes on…

Filed under: Blog

Going Indie?

I spent most of the last six weeks sharing my free time between two projects: the upcoming 1.1 release of WebIssues and the final chapters of the second part of my book. So the next logical step is... to start a new, third project. It's been a long time since I last started a completely new project and at some point I even though it's not going to happen anymore... But, as usual, in the least expected moment, an idea came to my mind and formed quite a clear shape. Within a few days I hacked together a proof of concept of what's supposed to be a combination of classic logic and arcade games.

The idea of the game is that there is a simple labyrinth which you can see from above, but it's three-dimensional, with multiple levels, so you can jump and fall, go up and down stairs, etc. So far the player consists of just a helmet which I modeled using Descend and some crazy math. Within an hour I added an export function to Descend which saves the model into a very simple file format which can be then imported by the game engine. So far it looks very cool :).

I know that a lot of people are waiting for WebIssues 1.1. I promised that it will be released by the end of this year and I'm going to try hard to keep that promise. I'm really very close, especially that I've already cut off a lot of unnecessary things and I'm only focusing on the most useful features. After it's done I'm going to take a longer break from it, especially that now I understand that I was fooling myself thinking that as it becomes more and more popular, someday I will be able to make some profit from it.

The book is unfortunately going to have to wait for now, even though it's probably about 75% done and there are a few people waiting for me to finish it as well. But the question whether I can expect anyone to ever publish it remains open; not because it's not good enough, but because publishers don't invest money in a book written by completely unknown authors, and it's quite understandable. But next year I'm definitely going to finish it, even if it's going to end up as a few xeroxed volumes for friends and family.

The game, if I'm really ever going to create it, most likely won't be open source like my other projects. Not that I expect to make any real money on it. I'm aware of the fact that there is a lot of competition in indie games industry and it takes a lot of PR and marketing effort to achieve even a moderate commercial success. I'm only going to do it as long as I feel it's fun. After all, I've been into making computer game since I was a child. Perhaps I'm feeling a bit nostalgic lately and somehow I feel that this is the last chance to revive those old inclinations.

All projects I've done so far I did entirely for my own satisfaction. The process of creation is in most part a great experience by itself, kind of like exploring new unknown lands. And the biggest satisfaction comes from the realization that someone is actually going to use my program, read my book or play my game, and experience the same thing from a completely different perspective. We're more like artists than businessmen; it's the individual opinions that matter, not the numbers. That's why I can make decisions regarding my personal projects which not always seem rational, but often end up with something really interesting.

Filed under: Blog
Tags: personal

Writing

I want to write. Well, of course, I do; but I don't mean programs and technical documentation, but novels. My New Years resolution is to finish the book that I started some time ago and get it published. Why this sudden change of mind? Just a few months ago I wanted to start a business based on WebIssues. I even managed to briefly bring the attention of the management of the company I work for to it. But their idea of investing very little in order to hopefully get some profit wouldn't make too much sense. My own vision wasn't downright rejected, but considering all the political aspects that rule a corporation like this, and my complete lack of influence on these things, I can't realistically expect that this is ever going to happen.

Obviously, making a living from writing is an even more insane idea. It's a very demanding market, and in Poland also quite a narrow one. It also requires a lot of pure luck, probably even more than running a successful business. Not to mention that writing a novel requires huge amounts of time. But the real problem is that I'm really starting to hate programming. Commercial or open source, it's tedious, repetitive and rarely creative. And writing is not a new idea. I wrote some stories as a child. In high school I started writing a book with two friends; it didn't last long, but it was a lot of fun. But this time it's different, because I already have most of the plot in my mind, so the ideas are there waiting to be put on paper.

I already mentioned the novel I'm writing once or twice, but perhaps this time I will shed some more light on it. The idea came to my mind in summer 2011, while I was reading Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash, but it was also influenced by Lev Grossman's The Magicians which I read shortly before. It's basically a cyberpunk story, taking place largely in two different virtual worlds, but it also has some elements of contemporary fantasy and techno-thriller. The main characters are a few students of a school for young hackers, which is called the Academy of Magic, because in a virtual world, the boundaries between hacking and magic are blurred for the uninitiated. As my younger brother described it, when I told him about the novel today, it's like a "rolled pancake" :). I admit that mixing genres is risky, but if I do it well, maybe something interesting will come out of this.

And by the way, yesterday was my son's first birthday :). I must publish some new photos soon because I haven't done that in a while.

Filed under: Blog
Tags: personal
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