November 2019 In Review

Retrospective of the last month.

This month was all about acquiring and applying practical knowledge. Both new skills that I had known of but never used (in art) and the refinement of old ones (in code).

I've spent a long time making video games professionally, surrounded by people who have dedicated their lives to their craft. I have always enjoyed being able to talk to a designer about design, and understanding the ideas, and concepts from those interactions. However, it wasn't until I attempted to seriously attempt to build a commercial game on my own that I realized the difference between theorycrafting and practical experience.

These last two weeks has been a similar revelation with art. I have known about these techniques for over a decade (especially since I'm still doing things like you did them in the late 90s and early 2000s) but knowing what they were, how they worked, and conceptually how they fit into the pipeline is now enriched by having actually worked across the stack. I can see that I still have a long way to go, but I'm excited and happy to have put in the time to get started on this path, and seeing what I believe is meaningful progress.

Similary, with programming, I didn't write anything I haven't written before, but now that I'm doing it for the second, third, or sometimes what feels like maybe the hundreth, I am still gaining new insights and finding opportunity to optimize or improve my approach.

Overall, I'm incredibly satisfied with the last two weeks, and am looking forward to making similar progress through December.

Building This Webpage

I haven't talked much about it, but this webpage was started roughly two weeks ago, after experimenting with several static site generators. I have really grown quite fond of Vue and Vuepress, and I have been extremely impressed with Netlify. Just like all my work, I cant help but see all the things I wish I could do better (or left undone cough tags cough, but constant improvement through iteration isn't just an ideal, it's a way of life!

Improving my art

I really wanted to improve my skills with art, specifically 3d modelling, but also with basic digital sketching, texturing, rigging, skinning, and animating!

I feel like there was some pretty honest progression in the 30 hours I've spent doing 3d art the past two weeks.

When I started this was the state of the art of my skills:

I had already invested a lot of time in getting this far, but I knew I had to do better! I'm really encouraged by the progress I've made, even if there's still a long way to go.

My next box model came out much better, in lots of subtle but meaningful ways.

The obvious improvements like better hands, symmetry, and general shaping are definitely there. There are also some wins that are only evident when in animation.

There are also some more subtle differences that only make sense once this model is used in the full pipeline. Better topology makes skinning and animating more pleasing, as well as making it easier to unwrap and texture.

And I also got to practice with some non-humanoid meshes

As mentioned, I also learned some new skills, like UV unwrapping and texturing:

As well as continued to improve my skinning and animating.

Not to mention things like sketching...

... and even a little music =p

I tried to tie it all together learning more about doing environment art, from terrain generation, texturing, painting, prop building, and placement. Not to mention lighting and effects (both in world and screenspace). I spent an entire day developing a pretty so-so environment, even with the help of a handful of third party assets.

I learned so much in building out this environment, and it helped clarify a lot of things I thought I knew but couldn't fully appreciate until I did it myself.

Exploring Character Controllers

I also wanted to explore various character controller styles and ideas before committing to a larger project. A side effect of this effort was improvements to my general workflow. Things harder to demonstrate but make development much more enjoyable like workflow tools (progen) core library development, and integration with new utilities like an open source graph library which I used to make a basic visual behavior scripting tool.

I developed several 3d third person controllers, from platforming games...

... adventure games ...

... cover shooters ...

... and action RPGs ...

Oh yeah, and I made my favorite character customization code to date (if not my favorite customizable character =p)


So, am I ready to start my second major commercial game development effort?

I'm not so sure! But I am having a ton of fun expanding my horizons and hope make even more progress as I move through December full steam ahead.