I just got done posting in the New Years Resolutions thread, and I think that's gotten me near the mindset to write this entry. I should probably make this one A Reflection on Year 1 as well as A Reflection on Month 12. We'll see what happens. (You'll also notice this didn't get posted until the following day. I tend to let my Reflections sit overnight and do a quick proof-edit before posting them.)
Around mid-November, Pandoya got me playing on a virtual pet site. I've spent a fair chunk of time recently joining various games (briefly or for the long run) and seeing what can be learned from them and applied to Sparkbomb (as well as the usual having fun with a new game). Turf War came from the thought of creating a simple-to-play daily turned into a more detailed multiple-times-a-day thing, and most of the games I've played (however briefly) in recent months have given me something that might be applied to Sparkbomb someday. This particular site feels noteworthy because it's the first one I've given serious playtime to besides Neopets, even though I quickly garnered all that I felt could be garnered from it. Meanwhile, I continue to neglect my backlog of video games, which continues to be disappointing in its own way. It's an interesting contrast to notice. A year ago... no, probably two years ago, I made a New Years resolution to finish one game each month. I certainly didn't do that in 2014 (and only did it for a while in 2013).
December was a good month for dancing. We had one of the more memorable swing finals at the college, as well as a more memorable group of people than usual. Normally I forget the faces—they all blend together after a while unless they do something to really stand out—but there were a fair amount of people I spent time with this time around. And the class at the community center is going well. The group tends to be small, which probably doesn't bode well for job security, but it's a good group and tightly knit as a result of its size. The transition to being in an official teaching position (rather than planted as an experienced lead in the class) is going well too. I'm getting better at narrowing down to a single piece of advice to help people improve and ignoring the dozen others my mind is swimming with. (There are about a million and a half different elements to dance technique.) The New Years Dance I went to last night was a lot of fun. I didn't get as much dancing in as I should have, but it was one of those dances where everything felt right.
Christmas was enjoyable, and I learned how annoying it is to only have a smartphone to access the Internet. It's very convenient for reading and keeping up, but typing takes too long. It always made sense that chatspeak developed as a shorthand, but I had never realized just how much the time requirement plays into it. I've never been much of a texter. I probably still spent more time on my phone than I should have, but it felt like I was more present with my brother and his family than I might have been if I was checking my laptop every so often. This was the first year in a long time where my brother and I didn't find a game to play together. Nor did we really have a serious conversation about anything. It's not particularly common for us to have one, but as I think back on it now, I'm trying to figure out what we spent our time doing. I think I might have spent more time with my niece and nephews than usual. Perhaps that's where the time went.
I was very amused by one of my brother's comments about the Dragon Quest games being released on Android: “I have a dream that one day we will have all Dragon Quest games on one device that we carry with us at all times.” Dragon Quest is probably his favorite video game series, and it's one of my favorites as well. It was also the first time I really started to understand the shift of gaming to the mobile device.
It's interesting how Christmas changes with age. The gift-giving part of Christmas seems to be for the children, about the excitement of what you get and how many gifts you get and such. Adults get each other one gift each, sure, but the emphasis for us seems to be on being decent people this time of year, and this sense of being decent shifts to becoming better when New Years resolutions roll around. It's an interesting transition and approach to the season.
I had hoped to find some time during the holiday to sit down and properly reflect on Sparkbomb. Even as I'm writing this right now, I still don't feel like I've really found that time. Some ideas started to come together with Turf War. But consolidating them has been difficult. Coming up with a correct implementation. I've been withholding an announcement thread (which may end up being an announcement video) to properly discuss things moving forward. That's what I'm trying to figure out right now.
As for Turf War's beta run (as I consider it), I think it had mixed results. The response seems to have been positive overall, but I don't think the game fills the role I had intended. The original goal was to have a daily (or multi-daily) on Sparkbomb, but Turf War is insufficient at providing this for more than a handful of players. The unbalance found in the two team version will only be amplified in the three team version, and this contrasts with the fact that I think the three team version will have the strength to stand on its own if I can implement it properly. I think the necessary approach will be to run one or two hour games of Turf War, perhaps during Sparkbomb Hour or the like. The alternative of having a longer cooldown period (8 hours, 12 hours, or 24 hours) seems like it would make gameplay too slow. Another game with 4 hour CD will probably need to be done on a shorter run (perhaps two weeks).
In the meanwhile, I need to get the updates coded, and I'm hoping that updating the ACP settings and the skin isn't going to be as much of a nightmare as I expect it to be.
I hadn't really reflected on the year as a whole until now either. I've been taking things in one month or two month sized bits since last January. I've gone from relaunching the community and working on The Mansion and SparkWiki to regrouping more people than I thought could be found for All-Stars to developing and releasing Turf War. I remember wondering around this time last year if the donations would cover more than hosting costs. Right now, the site is financially sitting very close to break-even (including 2015's hosting cost). Break-even was my goal for six months ago (and it was accomplished then), but if I'm not earning more in six months I'm not going to have the time to be actively involved with the community. That's something I'll talk about more in the announcement.
This past year has been one of the most rewarding of my life, and a large part of that is due to Sparkbomb. I may not have done any work on The Mansion recently, but the episodes I did write were some of my favorite pieces of writing, especially in how the story steadily came together over time in ways I didn't expect. The creation of Turf War makes it clear that, in The Mansion, it's the project Rift is working on while the treasure hunt is going (as well as a smaller project that'll be shown when I get around to Episode 6). Getting such a large group together for All-Stars was a great experience as well, despite the bumpiness along the way. And the coordination and camaraderie for Turf War made the past month one of the best of the year.
I don't have the 2015 game plan completely figured out just yet. I need to do more work on SparkWiki. I want to finish Series 1 of The Mansion. Turf War needs to be updated and become a regular event. And more beyond that needs to be done. I'll do my best to get my thoughts sorted out and have that announcement up by the end of next week.