So I’ve been considering starting up a proper dev blog for a while now. I’ve been dabbling in (hobbyist) game development for the better part of a year, and really enjoy reading game dev blogs from other developers about the cool projects they’re working on. I admittedly had some misgivings – Will this blog be interesting to read? Will I have time to update it? Who knows? But might as well stop overthinking it and give it a try.
For some background: I’ve enjoyed playing games since I was a kid, and imagined making games of my own for a long time. But I didn’t really get bitten by the “game dev bug” in a serious way until October of last year.
It started with a random conversation about mobile games, and making them, and the kinds of mobile games I wished existed. Games for people (like me) who once loved the sprawling 80-hour RPG titles, but drifted away as they became adults with jobs and kids and responsibilities… And at some point found themselves spending most of their gaming time on a phone in little chunks here and there, limited by what kind of “casual” games could fit into that play style.
What I really wanted in a mobile game was more like this:
- Classic RPG inspired gameplay with solid narrative elements and a satisfying sense of progression
- But with some kind of fun puzzle mechanic rather than repetitive battles
- Can be played with one hand while holding the phone in portrait mode
- Designed for play in short bursts – so you can pull it out for 5-10 minutes during your train commute or lunch break without worrying about losing progress
- But also allow longer play sessions – so if you actually do have a good chunk of free time, you can play as long as you want with no artificial limits
- No endless pay-to-win / premium currency / micro-transaction nonsense
Listing it all out now, it may it sound like a weird (and maybe impossible?) combination… But at the time, it just sort of hit me: If I really want a certain type of game to exist, why don’t I just make it?
Granted, I’d never made a mobile app or game before. But I had a strong programming background, and had worked with quite a few different languages, and figured I could research and expand my skills as needed to make it happen. I decided to start with iOS, using Swift and SpriteKit, and dove right in.
Progress So Far
A big part of the challenge so far has been building up skills in new areas. I’d never worked with Swift before this little project (though am absolutely loving the language so far)… And since I’d never created an iOS app before, I’ve been learning some roundabout lessons about how to structure one. Some painful refactoring has been necessary along the way.
On top of that, I also decided to take a stab at making all of my own graphics. Which meant getting up to speed in tools like GIMP, Inkscape, and Blender. I wouldn’t really consider myself an artist, but managed to stumble into a stylized 2D look that I’m reasonably happy with. Here’s a few screenshots of the game so far, showing some working tile maps with custom assets:
As time went on, though, I started to wonder if I was neglecting one of the most important skills: finishing and releasing a game. This seemed to be a common theme in the gamedev subreddit and everything else I was reading, and while I didn’t take it that seriously at first, over time I started to increasingly see the importance of it. It’s one thing to make a tiny slice of a game that you can take a pretty screenshot of… But quite another to make the full thing, with menus and a save system and all the other little pieces needed to really call it complete.
So that was a big part of my motivation to participate in my first game jam. I completed a submission for Ludum Dare #42 (“Running out of Space”) – certainly nothing spectacular, but finished enough to be playable. And now I’m branching off to try to fully finish and release a small, casual iOS game (likely based on similar mechanics as the game jam entry) just to learn the ropes of doing it.
It may sound like a bad detour, or even abandoning the first project. But the ultimate goal is to build skills, and gain experience… And eventually circle back to finish the bigger, more ambitious RPG-style game that inspired this whole journey in the first place.
As for what kind of future content to expect from this blog? Currently I’m envisioning it to be a mixture of posts about the following:
- Game progress updates! I’ve been posting screenshots and little random progress updates on Twitter since January, and plan to continue with those… This would just allow for longer form updates without being constrained by how much can fit into a single tweet (or even a couple of tweets).
- More general thoughts on game design - Exploring the types of things I enjoy in games, and trying to glean wisdom on what works well and what doesn’t (both in my own stuff and elsewhere).
- Behind the scenes technical posts - Probably not quite “tutorial” quality as far as the level of detail… But I figure it’ll be fun to share some notes on figuring out how to make certain things (particularly the visuals).
- Occasional random anecdotes and stuff - Most likely nerdy and/or tech related.
So many fun things to blog about! Though if I’m being completely honest… I have no idea whether I’ll be able to consistently keep up with this dev blogging thing. I’m a married mom of two, working full time as a software engineer, training for a couple of upcoming distance running events (including my second half marathon this November!) and all the while trying to actually make a game or two rather than just posting about it.
But I keep thinking it’ll be worthwhile. If I’m going to pursue this game dev thing as a hobby, it’ll be nice to have a game dev blog to go along with it – for motivation, feedback, and to have something to look back on my progress down the road, even if realistically I may not be updating it super often.
And so the blogging journey begins! This post summarizes how I got started in game dev, and the progress I’ve made so far… but there’s a long way to go. Will I be able to finish a simple casual game? Will I go on to complete the more ambitious game I originally set out wanting to create? Stay tuned for more exciting updates!
For anyone interested in following along, there is an RSS feed, and I’ll be continuing to post updates on Twitter, and I also set up a mailing list (though I’ll probably reserve that for more important announcements rather than spamming every little post).
Thanks for reading!