Jai close to Beta!

Last night, Abner announced on his Twitch stream that Jai is close to beta release. He showed a list of items that Jon Blow and the Jia Team have agreed need to be completed and then they will release the beta. No date or timeline was specified but based on the visible todo list, it is my opinion, this will happen before the end of the year.

I’m pretty excited for this to happen. I think I’ll enjoy programming in the language and believe it will be very productive to use. Not to mention all the useful game-related libraries the Jai Team has built.

Day 1

Today is a special day for me. It is Day 1 of my Indie adventure! I’m pretty excited and a bit scared!

I’ll be blogging about my experience, and I think I’ll do some streaming as well.  I haven’t made any solid decisions at this point and this was intentional.  I’m a bit burned out from my day job and I need some time to rest and rejuvenate.  I don’t want to make any decisions until those stressors have passed because the context of these new decisions is completely different than the mental space of having an energy consuming day job at a large corporation.

I can share that the decision that’s been most on my mind lately is, “What technology to use?”  If you look at my gamejam history you’ll see I’ve tried a lot of different technologies but never settled into any one in particular.

I wish Jai, Jonathan Blow’s C-style language, was released because I’d probably just jump into that and see what it was like. I quit using C/C++ back in 1999 because I hated how insane things were getting with std, macro hell, DCOM, COM/+, Apartments, BSTR and the whole UTF-guess-the-number game etc.  Jai seems to be a solution to all that craziness and even adds some really powerful features like compile-time execution. My gut instinct is it will fit my natural workflow and how I think about problems.

I’ve been using Unity for the last 5 year professionally and so that seems like a natural choice, but I’ve never had a gamejam go well with Unity.  I think this is because of just how complex Unity has grown.  It works well for medium to large teams, but as a solo indie, I worry that complexity undermines workflow and productivity.  It also doesn’t respect Data-Oriented Design and often hides data from you.  And even though they are “cross-platform” you still run into native compiling features that aren’t supported like android’s multi-dex to get around the 64K method count limit. I love what Unity has done for the industry by opening game development to way more people but they often fall into the trap of fixing the easy problems, not the hard ones.  I’m also worried that complexity is ramping up instead of down now that the film industry has become a target.

I’m sure I’ll expand on all of this later.  Thanks for listening!


Unite Austin 2017

 Neill Blomkamp being interviewed on stage

I attended Unity’s Conference, Unite, in Austin this year. There are a lot of interesting improvements coming down the pipeline but nothing ground shaking. I think the biggest announcement was for artists: direct integration with Autodesk’s Maya and Max. Other things I’m looking forward to are:

  • the integration of TextMesh Pro
  • the new Asset Bundle system
  • the new Entity framework
  • the 2D Tile system

The main focus of the show seemed to be film, but I think most Unity users are not that excited about those features. It’s a completely different audience, and one Unity is still trying to capture. The interview with Neill Blomkamp, the writer and director of Distrik 9, during the keynote was exciting and important feeling but at the end I felt underwhelmed by the interview. It didn’t come across as a strong endorsement of Unity specifically. It felt more like rough vision centered on how real time movie making might be important to up and coming indie film makers. The short film also was kind of confusing to me because the story didn’t fit with what I remember from the original Adam movie. The original short implied that their crimes didn’t matter, hence the screens on the chest going blank, but Blomkamp’s follow up seemed to emphasize their crimes but didn’t give you a strong sense of how the characters felts about the crimes, good or bad.

While the Unity party was high caliber and fun as always, I didn’t really meet a lot of new people. I’m not sure if that was because of the large size or because I just know so many people now that they absorbed most of my time and energy. But, it was great to see some folks I hadn’t seen in a while and catch up.

Unity Subscriptions, What You Need to Know

Update: Unity has announced some changes here: http://blogs.unity3d.com/2016/06/16/evolution-of-our-products-and-pricing/  I’ve made edits below to reflect them.

  1. There will not be a Unity 6, just continual improvements.
  2. All Platforms
  3. All Royalty Free
  4. All Engine Features
  5. Personal will remain free, limits revenue to $100,000 a year and you must show a Made With Unity splash screen.
  6. Plus is $35 a month and gives you nice to haves, like priority in the Cloud Build queue, limits revenue to $200,000 a year, the Made With Unity splash screen is optional and the dark theme is included.
  7. Pro, after 24 months of paying for a subscription you can quit paying and keep your current version (but you don’t get any more updates, support or services but you do get the next three patches.)
  8. If you have a subscription now and/or a perpetual licenses:

We will launch the new products soon, for new customers to buy. As an existing Unity 5.x perpetual license customer, you will no longer get new updates after March 2017. However, you have a few options if you want to keep getting updates:

  1. For up to five seats, you may subscribe to Unity Pro at the special price of $75 per month for a limited transition period, after which the price will revert to the normal subscription price of $125 per month:

    • If Unity 5 Pro is your first version of Unity, your transition period is one year.
    • If you owned Unity 4 Pro, your transition period is two years.
  2. If you make less than $200k per year, you may choose Unity Plus and pay $35 per month with an annual commitment.

Check out this nice graphic (Out of date):

No Unity 6

Notes on How To Design Deep Games with Jonathan Blow

I watched Jonathan Blow’s talk How To Design Deep Games with Jonathan Blow which is actually kind of a misleading title because the talk is about the concept of “Deep Work” and how to sustain work on a long project.  This is one of those talks where you need to watch it a few times, so these notes are probably not capturing the full picture.

What is “Deep Work“?

  • Changes you, you are a different person in a substantial way and a unique specialist in something at the end.
  • You are follow a Guiding Compass, a feeling, hunch or vague notion that seems like the right direction because the destination is unknown, it’s an exploration not a journey with a fix end goal.
  • The work is Deep to you, this isn’t about meeting someone else ideas or standard:

The day is coming when a single carrot, freshly observed, will set off a revolution. – Paul Cezanne

  • It is built on first principals, what makes it special is your technique and view of the world.
  • It is not working on fundamentals, you need to be ready and already done training to get good.
  • Avoid burn out, take care of your Human Animal (see Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.)
  • Sometimes you need to take a break, a good rule:

You’re only allowed to take a break to work on something smaller than what you have already shipped.

  • Take Showers – you have to rest, make yourself open to ideas aka invite a visit from your Muse

Notes on Jiro Dreams of Sushi

I watch Jiro Dreams of Sushi on Jonathan Blow‘s recommendation, he calls it an example of “Deep Work.” Jiro Ono makes sushi, and has been doing it for 75 years. Jiro has seemingly limitless passion and commitment to the craft of sushi. He is on a literal life long journey exploring, reaching, testing and experimenting with all elements of what great, perfect sushi IS. He pursues this perfection of sushi knowing it is bigger, greater and blindingly impossible to contain. Jiro is not an emotional man, he seems serious almost always, but you find his passion in the film through the juxtaposition to his son, Yoshikazu. Yoshikazu is obeying the Japanese tradition of flowing his father’s footsteps, carrying forward the mantle of the family, being a dutiful son (I believe the word in Japanese is oyakoukou). Several times in the film, Jiro says he is “in love with work.” Yoshikazu does not even hint at such things, he’s seem empty of passion for sushi, and full of a deep sense of respect for tradition and duty to make his father proud.

In the film, the Japanese term Shokunin comes up several times as a way to capture the essence of Jiro. This seems to mean master craftsman and life worker. Googling the term turned up this article talking about the film, Shokunin Kishitsu & The five elements of true mastery,  which does a good job of capturing the five elements food critic Masuhiro Yamamoto describes in the film which make Jiro a true master at his art:

A true master:

  1.  is serious about the art.
  2. always aspires to improve oneself and one’s work.
  3. works in a clean, fresh and organized space.
  4. is stubborn, obstinate, impatient and individualistic in his pursuit of excellence.
  5. is passion and enthusiasm.

look ahead and above yourself.
Always try…
to improve on yourself.
Always strive to elevate your craft. – Jiro Ono

Notes on Jonathan Blow’s Reddit Ask Me Anything

Jonathan Blow did an Ask Me Anything on Reddit Friday: I am Jonathan Blow, game development person; ask me stuff.

I was specifically interesting in advice type tidbits, here are my notes.

Who Is Jonathan Blow?
Game designer and programmer for the games Braid and The Witness; Partner in angle investor Indie Fund; And creator of programming JAI.

What advise do you have for aspiring game designers?

  • #1 advice for the creative process, do “Deep Work” as explained in this lecture: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d0m0jIzJfiQ&index=3&list=PL_c7zXuU-zzfg3nxNmQp8IYpR_TO0UNj3
  • Ideas aren’t worth much, it is execution that matter.
  • Learn to program, because then you can create your vision. (see above)
  • Take on ambitious projects
  • Design is an interactive process, try stuff, keep what works, throw out what doesn’t.
  • In fiction writing, there is this concept that you want every sentence to do more than one thing: you want to describe the setting and set the mood and introduce the character. You want to say what happened and show how a character feels about it and foreshadow a later consequence.
  • Video’s that go in depth about the puzzle creation process (some is universal to game design):
  • Do not listen to the Internet: “The internet is an extremely distorted lens. It is basically useless for understanding how your game is really reaching people.”
  • How did you keep at it for so long without giving up? “There are low points, as with anything, but you just know what what you are working on is good, and you keep going. 7 years is not that long. If you watch a movie like Jiro Dreams of Sushi you’ll see someone who is very serious and for whom 7 years is no big deal.”
  • How much time do you put into the craft of making games?  “Most of them.”

What games to you recommend?

Let’s Play: Horse Lords of Bolighar


I decided to do an experiment this month and make some Let’s Play YouTube videos.  I’m playing Crusader Kingdoms 2 with the Horse Lords DLC and playing House Dulo, the Khan of Bolghar who is related to the King of Bulgaria.  Here’s the playlist: Horse Lords of Bolghar

I’m up to 70 total videos now and my Let’s Code, Following Catlike Coding’s Tutorial Swirly Pipe, Part 1 , is still the most popular by far.