The Year of Change

2012 was a year of fighting for recovery, even survival. Last year, my year-in-review post centered around some of the good people that had influenced my life. I could rewrite that same post today, because there is no doubt the fight would have failed, had it not been for the help of friends and family. There were some insanely tough times, and a few hard decisions were made.

I’m not going to write a long sob story, but 2012 sucked on several levels. We were hit hard with financial trouble, and dealing with the aftermath of Kelly’s Cancer treatment and surgery. Not just the bills piling up, but also the fact that she was out of commission for several months after the fact (radiation treatment is a bitch to recover from, throw in abdominal surgery for a few months of not being able to bend over or lift anything). At the same time, continually dropping sales in stock photography only made each month bleaker than the one before.

It was time to make a radical change, so I gave up on full time freelancing and got a part time job (in a coffee shop of course, I do live in Seattle after all). I’d been working for myself for about a decade, and making that change was not easy – but definitely worth it. The stress relief alone more than makes up for having to be somewhere, not in my pyjamas, several times a week. Having a reliable, base income has allowed me to focus on the things I want to do, instead of always running down the next client.

Speaking of clients, 2012 was a year full of lessons. I realize now, that most of my stress from freelancing comes from client relations. I do not like dealing with sales, and so I have promised myself two things to compensate for that in the coming year. First, I’m raising my rates. Second, I will strive to only accept client jobs that are fun and interesting.

Unless something irresistible comes along, the priority will remain my personal projects, designing games, telling stories and learning. I have many, many ideas, including photos I’d like to take – for a while there, I wondered if I had lost interest in photography altogether, but it was working in stock photography that had nearly killed my love for the medium. In relation to that, I finished off 2012 by canceling my exclusivity agreement with iStockphoto. Wow, what a liberating feeling that was!

I’m hopeful for 2013. The world didn’t end in 2012, though it felt like it was getting close a few times. What follows are a few links that mark points of interest from 2012.

  • A Nerd Comes Home – I started the year by proclaiming that 2012 would be the year I let my nerd out. I did. It’s been fantastic!
  • The Fork in the Road – in the beginning of 2012 I still had savings, still ran Another Passion and still thought I might make it.
  • It Gets Better – I was asked to be part of making this video by Mike Selinker and Stepto. It was a ton of fun to do, and the message never gets old.
  • Nebula Rescue in the App Store – my first video game to ever be sold anywhere! Launching Nebula Rescue was a major accomplishment for me. I’m a proud game daddy.
  • Hard Booting Life – from when things were pretty much their worst, financially, I wrote about looking for work.
  • “Natural 20” – a set of three songs I wrote and recorded, inspired by my love of gaming (old skool pen and paper style, specifically).

Making a Sim Game with Gamesalad

Sim game, list of rules
One of my favorite game genres has always been simulation, starting the first time I ever played Civilization II. I’ve always wanted to make my own sim game, and I felt the time was right to start working on one now. I’m using the tool Gamesalad, which is amazing for people like me, who aren’t especially code savvy, though having some understanding of basic programming principles, can still be quite helpful.

The game, which is still untitled, lets you found and build a city, starting with a tribe of just a few individuals. You have to balance the local economy, keep your people happy, and develop advances for your settlement. Along the way, events happen and you will be forced to make decisions that will affect your people. There are quite a few factors to track, many of which depend on one another, and so building a balanced game is the greatest challenge here.

Sim game, making a choice
It is still very early days, but I wanted to share the news and a couple of screenshots, so you can see what it looks like in this extremely primitive pre-alpha version (as in: without any artwork whatsoever), as well as get a glimpse of how the game is organized into blocks of instructions, within a timer. These screenshots are all from within Gamesalad, which is the only place the game lives for now. I have yet to decide on a platform; for now it’s just about piecing the basic elements together.

I will be posting more about the progress of my first sim game. Stay tuned.

Nebula Rescue 1.1 is Live!


It’s a happy day! The first update of Nebula Rescue – my debut game for iPhone and iPod Touch – is live in the App Store today. This update is important to me personally (here’s why), but still would not have happened without the encouragement and support of people who play the game, like it, and wanted more!

The update includes 20 in-game achievements, ranging from the easily obtained to ones only the most hardcore fans will unlock, and a statistics screen. The stats part was inspired directly by requests from players who liked the old end game screen, which told you how many UFOs you’d shot down, how much space gunk you’d collected and so on. More stats were requested, so I made it keep track of averages and totals across multiple games.

Nebula Rescue 1.1 is available in the iTunes App Store for $0.99. If you enjoy it, I would very much appreciate a rating/review there. Or better yet, gift a copy to a friend.

Here’s what the achievement screen looks like, showing what I’ve managed to unlock between updating the game and writing this announcement.

Several people have asked about an Android version. One is in the works – a beta version has been compiled, but not yet tested. I am taking my time with it, partly because I don’t have much time to spare, and because I don’t have any Android devices of my own to test on, and thus I’m relying on helpful friends. For that reason, there is no official release date for Android (yet).

Show your support by liking Nebula Rescue on Facebook.