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A Reflection on Months 10 and 11

Shattered Rift

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With all the excitement of Turf War, I nearly forgot that it was time for a Reflection. There wasn't much to say during October: I worked on Turf War, and a side project fell through a bit harder than expected.

There's something surreal about having finished Turf War. I was completely out of practice with programming when I started working on it, not having coded in three years and not having written anything substantial in four. There were a few rough points while coding where Rex's help was invaluable (in addition to his help with game balance and numbers), and there was a day long nightmare at the end as a result of the shortcomings of IPS's documentation.

I can't say that I've ever enjoyed programming. I've admired the power of programming languages, and I respect the talent it takes to write code, but the art form (if I can call it that) has always been a means to an end for me. I wanted to work on the Spark Game years ago, so I learned to program. I wanted to implement Turf War now, so I spent two plus months and some 200 hours on it. Now that it's done (so to speak), I'm simultaneously exhausted and excited. It's difficult to say that the Spark Game wasn't my game. Nearly every item was custom designed and written by me. I even put tweaks on most of the standard items to make them unique. But the concept of a forum economy long predates the hand I took in shaping one on Sparkbomb. Turf War, on the other hand, is entirely mine from start to finish. Rex's thoughts were absolutely invaluable to the process, and I couldn't have designed the game without him, but a large part of what he did in helping me design it was prompting me with exactly the right questions to help me shape an idea that was already formulating in my head.

I said it in the announcement, and I'll say it again here. I also owe a thank you to the Sparkbomb Supporters. For the past year I've been crowdfunding in a fairly vague manner. The only direct reward for donating was inclusion in The Mansion. But my vision was incomplete. The Mansion was a far cry from the length and number of stories I had hoped for at the start of the year. SparkComic was put on hiatus. Werewolf, despite sporadic downtime over the years, was nothing new. Turf War fills the gap. To those of you who donated more than simply to help subsidize hosting, this is the project your money went towards.

I'd also like to thank those who were patient with me these past few months as I dealt with medical issues and neglected the forums to work on Turf War.

I'll have more to say about Turf War over the coming weeks. For now, some might find it interesting to know that I consider the current release to be a sort of late beta version. The core game is functional and complete, but minor improvements still need to be made. A handful of log errors have already quietly been fixed since the game launched. Issues still exist when players heal or clean themselves. (The log displays twice, and it displays incorrectly on both counts.) Balance tweaks are going to need to be made. And then there's the back-end... the ACP is a complete and total mess that's only good for starting games. Quite a bit of work on that still needs to be done in the back-end.

For now, I'm enjoying the camaraderie of my teammates and the friendly competition with Red Team. It's good to jump back into the social side of Sparkbomb. All the while, the thing I most hope is that enough people become interested in Turf War for us to be able to play the three team version of the game. I think that's when things will get really interesting, but I think we'll need at least thirty players for that.

Meanwhile, outside of Sparkbomb, I got a part-time job teaching dance at one of the local community centers. A few other friends have started teaching over the years, but despite having five years of dance experience, it feels weird to be teaching. I never competed, though not many of my friends who live here have. And the majority of my time has been spent helping beginners rather than dancing for myself. I know that's the most suitable experience to have for teaching a beginner class, but it makes me wonder where my limits and blind spots are. I've had an excellent teacher who has all of those experiences I lack, and she's my best frame of reference for what's expected of me.

Halloween saw an updated take on Hipster Rift at a harvest dance. Sadly, I spaced on getting any pictures taken, so there wasn't anything for the People Thread. Sorry guys.

I picked up Digimon All-Star Rumble for PS3 a few days after its release. It's the first game I've picked up in months (the last being Mario Kart 7, I think, or maybe something via Humble Bundle that I probably haven't played yet). I'm still not sure how my opinion of it compares to its predecessor, Rumble Arena 2, but I was able to get a dozen enjoyable hours out of it. As an aside, when did GameStop stop having sealed copies of new games? Or is it just the copies they keep on the shelf that aren't sealed? Copies of ASR were few and far between, and buying a “new” copy only to see them pull a mildly worn case off the shelf and slapping on a sticker to “seal” it doesn't really inspire me with confidence.

I realized going into the holiday season that it's been a slow year for gaming in general. I'd love to own a Wii U if they were cheaper, or more specifically, I'd like to play Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, but there's nothing on the X-Box One or PS4 that's caught my eye. I normally look to video games to fill my holiday wants, but all that's catching my eye this year are a scant handful of 3DS titles. Maybe that's what happens during the first year of a new console generation, but I feel like there was a lot more catching my eye around this time last year. Or maybe it's just that I picked up a 3DS at that time.

Thanksgiving was spent with a quiet meal with my parents, followed by several nights of leftovers. And a cold that can't make up its mind about whether or not it's going to make me sick.

I reread Death Note recently, and I was subsequently (re)disappointed with the second plot arc. More than that, I'm disappointed that there doesn't seem to be a good analysis of the series on the Internet outside of discussions about the philosophical elements. I'd really like to read something about the logic flow, believability of certain interactions, etc. It's bizarre that such a rich story seems to be lacking that kind of analysis from the fanbase. Or maybe I just don't know where to look?

I'm looking forward to December. Turf War's commencing its first run, which is already giving me a lot of insight into just what I've created. And it's great to be back into the social swing of things, both in Turf War and in looking forward to Sinical and Rox's game. It might be strange to say, but it feels like the end of Year 1 (or Year 9, depending on how you want to count it) is going to be peaceful. And after two months of pouring time into programming, peaceful's just what I need.



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