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2013, Where Are You Now?

cheese

So, remember how my belated 2012 retrospective post was excessively gargantuan and showed my focus on art stuff slipping a bit? Well, both of those have continued on into 2013. Read on for another wall of text that covers the highs and lows of last year!

2013 and Me

White Whales2013 was an even bigger year for me than 2012. The pressure of the previous year's house related uncertainties was replaced with the pressure of a mortgage and balancing paid work with awesome volunteer stuff.

My continued recovery from my hand injuries have allowed me to feel more comfortable taking on additional stuff, but inconsistent work schedules at my day job had me oscillating between feeling comfortable and insanely overloaded. I don't really recall much of what went on during the year, but I know that I spent my time trying to make sure I didn't miss out on unique opportunities, didn't neglect communities that needed me, gave my day job the attention it deserved and trying to stay sane.

Cheesy ChaliceProbably the first thing that 2013 started with for me would have been the Double Fine Game Club (think of a book club, but for games). We opened with Police Quest 1 on the 5th of January and closed 25 titles later with a double session of Hostmaster and Hostmaster Deux. It's been great to coordinate a community thing like this. Encouraging people to discover, play and talk about interesting games is super rewarding, and getting to interact with developers including Josh Mandel, Ben Ward, Dan Marshall, Ron Gilbert, Jake Rodkin, Brian Moriarty, Chris Remo, Daniel Herrera, Jake Elliot, Tamas Kemenczy, Ben Babbit, Marco Rosenberg, Tasha Harris, Gabe Miller, Anna Kipnis, Mark Hamer, David Gardner, Hal Barwood, Steve Gaynor, Johnnemann Nordhagen, Marius Winter and Klink Honeychurch has been fantastic as well. I had thought about listing my favourites, but that ended up being all but three or four of the titles we played through, so I'll just link to our full list of stuff we've done.

To help celebrate the two Double Fine titles that we played through, I did live voice interviews with Ron Gilbert (for The Cave) and Tasha Harris (for Costume Quest). Both of these were daunting and intense. My interview with Ron was the first live interview I'd ever done, and I found it really challenging to divide my attention between my interviewee, my fallback questions and the live chat that I was meant to be relaying questions from. As I write this, I've just come off doing a Game Club interview with Tim Schafer (for Broken Age, Act 1), and I feel that I've definitely improved over time, but listening back to the archives of the older ones, I can't help but feel that I presented myself as dismissive as I put more effort into making sure that I didn't miss questions or fumble than I did into engaging with the person I was talking to. That said, the feedback we've gotten on them has been great, so it's also possible in that in listening to them over and over whilst transcribing, I've gotten an exaggerated sense of the rough areas.

Two Headed Baby ChefAlso on the Double Fine front, I coordinated another fan meetup to coincide with my visit to PAX Australia in July. It turned out that Ron was a keynote speaker and he graciously agreed to join us for a "typical Aussie BBQ" with Double Fine fans. It rained, of course, but that didn't stop thirty plus people from gathering under a shelter and celebrating their shared enthusiasm. Ron was inspiringly genuine and approachable (we can assume that this was a special exception from his famous "grumpy" demeanor), though I ended up spending most of my time making sure that everybody was happy and encouraging those who seemed shy to say hi to him, and didn't actually end up getting much time talking with him myself. Either way, it was a lot of fun, and I'm hoping to do something similar around PAX 2014 (though this time with less rain).

After averaging about three hours' sleep a night during Game Masters thanks to doing daily writeups, I decided to just do PAX Australia as an attendee. Unfortunately there wasn't quite enough talk content for the number of attendees (upwards of two hours' worth of queue time for a forty five minute talk made it seem like an inefficient use of time), Assault Android Cheesenessand we ended up only being able to make it into Ron's keynote, the live Penny Arcade comic drawing/Q&A session, and a panel on mainstream media portrayals of gamers with Nic Healey, Dan Ciappini, Anthony Burch, Seamus Byrne and Rae Johnston. Beyond that, we spent most of our time exploring the rest of the venue, and browsing the expo hall where I spent most of my time getting a feel for attitudes towards Linux from local developers (I had hoped to write something about this, but as yet have not found time). It was great to be able to catch up and make friends with some Australian developers. Most notably I feel like I've built a bit of a relationship with the guys from Witch Beam, who are working on Assault Android Cactus (an awesome game that Mim did a couple of pieces of fan art for - one of which I used as an avatar for some time).

After PAX, we allowed an extra day in Melbourne which we spent at the aquarium, admiring the assorted majestic sea steves.

In January, Dutch developer Two Tribes, whom I'd had a little bit of a rapport with cheekily answered "Not if you're the only one interested in it. #hint" when I asked them if Linux support was related to an announcement they were teasing. With a news post on GamingOnLinux.com and a SteamLUG forum post (interestingly neither had many direct comments/replies), I managed to accidentally get them inundated with encouragement. I was a bit worried that we'd accidentally turned them off, but they were jovial and good natured about it, and nearly one year later released a Linux version of Toki Tori 2+ for Linux after struggling with financial difficulties that would eventually lead them to dissolve and "reboot" the company.

Broken RazAlso in January I started to hang around the OpenParsec IRC channel. Parsec was a game that I was heavily into in the late 90s, and I had not previously heard that it'd been open sourced nor that people were working on it. I offered to help out and work on some UI background artwork and a few bits and pieces for social media stuff, but my free time started fluctuating madly and I didn't find time in 2013 to get anything done on that front. It's still an awesome project that I'm glad to be observing even if I'm not actively taking part though.

In March, I offered a hand and some advice to independent developer David O'Toole, who at the time was on the cusp of releasing 2x0ng. I talked him through getting things up and happening on IndieDB and Desura, and wrote what I believe was the game's first news coverage. It's an interesting mix of games from an older era (back when Atari was a platform) that creates something that is both a love letter to the past and is frantic and enjoyable in its own right in the present.

I didn't really have much time for photography in 2013, but I did manage to go out in June and shoot the "supermoon" with some friends, which was nice.

In July, Oculus released Linux support for their head mounted display SDK. I'd supported their crowdfunding campaign and had gotten my hands on their first round of developer kits, and decided to do an "unboxing video" which gave an introduction to the device and outlined my experiences so far. I wrote an accompanying article for GamingOnLinux.com which, so far as I'm aware, is one of the most viewed articles on the site. I have plans to do further Rift videos looking at different aspects of HMD design and implementation as well as my own development experiences with it, but didn't have time to get any done in 2013.

Also on the crowdfunding side of things, I'd backed a turn based strategy called Battle Worlds: Kronos, which I did another "unboxing video" for when my boxed copy arrived. Unboxing videos feel like fun and don't require a lot of effort or planning. I think I might do more of them in the future.

Eddie StacksLater in July, Desura was acquired by Linden Lab, who were intent on making significant changes to the at-the-time self-managed Desurium project. The biggest change which contributors seemed unhappy with was relicencing - a tricky topic that is very deep reaching and something that requires the consent of each contributor. They were also set on getting contributors to sign a CLA (Contributor Licence Agreement) which was heavily weighted towards giving Linden Lab control over community work. The justification for this was that it would help the company deal with unforeseeable circumstances should the existing licence (GPL) be found to not be enforceable in the future. Though we were told that the community would have input into these decisions, I felt that it was time for me to move away from the project. The company's attitudes and direction didn't align with my own, and if they would be taking a more active role in development, then the community management and upstream liaison type activities that I was doing would be fairly redundant.

Some of my fellow contributors asked if I could hang around to help work through the discussion of these changes (some didn't feel that they spoke English well enough to represent themselves, others had previously signed agreements which meant that they didn't own their contributions and couldn't stand up against things they were uncomfortable with, and others were hoping to gain employment with Desura and didn't want to hurt their chances), so I stayed in the discussion and did my best to represent the community's interests. Unfortunately, we were only successful in getting cosmetic changes made to the CLA and they wouldn't budge on the licence issue. They removed the community maintainers from the official Desurium repository (effectively preventing any further work from being contributed) and created a new project called desura-app based on the original Desura client source with changes from those who agreed to the licence changes backported across. It was hugely disappointing and disrespectful to see lots of weak "You're not legal people, so you can't tell legal people how to do their job," type avoidance of legitimate concerns, and having a single intermediary rather than being able to talk directly to people making decisions makes it hard to know how well stuff was being communicated. We probably could have made things legally confrontational, but at the end of the day, the project only existed to support Desura's services, so any outcomes which the company wasn't favourable toward weren't really going to go anywhere meaningful, and that wasn't something I had time or motivation to instigate.

Frozenbyte Gear!Also in July, Frozenbyte sent me a big box full of signed stuff. Those guys are so nice ^_^

Late in September, our hot water system died. I'd seen warning signs that it was almost ready to give up, and I'd just put a deposit on a solar hot water system. Unfortunately, it would take a month or so for parts to arrive. After a month of having cold showers or washing from a bucket, we finally got our new system installed and have been enjoying "free hot water from the sun" and lower electricity bills since.

Neverball has been getting some good development as well. We migrated our codebase to GitHub and I created a new Octocat ball based on the GitHub mascott to celebrate. I also put together a talk on how to create custom balls for Neverball for a TasLUG meeting, which I eventually found time to turn into a video and a set of downloadable example ball sources (which I plan to create a text/image based tutorial for as well). We also added Oculus Rift support to Neverball, and made good progress on a community project that I'd started to coordinate in 2012 (which is almost complete at the time of writing). It's been nice to see the community come together and pick up momentum with a 1.6.0 release now just around the corner, though it hasn't been without hurdles. We've had some language barrier issues and some problems with disruptive and unwelcoming behaviours that have been really disheartening, but I believe we've worked through them and are stronger for it.

DanceFLAT, the 7DFPS game I worked on in 2012, was ported to the OpenPandora by ptitSeb. It's difficult to describe just how exciting it is to see other people take a project you've made and move it out into a space you'd never considered before. Unfortunately I didn't get any time at all in 2013 to do any real work on FLAT (which also means that ptitSeb's changes haven't yet been merged into the trunk), but there were a few noteworthy commits from soeb and marcusmoller (powrtoch) and Trent Gamblin of Nooskewl (who I'd interviewed the year before).

For 7DFPS in 2013, I made a first person puzzle game called Dance. The core concept is that you play a participant in a progressive dance and must strategically choose to swap or not swap  with your current partner in order to control your movement through the dance and wind up with a particular partner. I wanted to create an interesting environment with a simple but interesting style that had opportunities for expressive interaction (I had wanted to allow players to perform dance moves to impress or irritate their current partner and perhaps tie that into the game flow and have some level of character customisation, but that fell by the wayside as I ran out of time). I really feel that it didn't quite end up being what I had envisioned, and as a game, it's nowhere near as enjoyable as FLAT. I lost a couple of days by not having solid tech set up before I went in. I initially started working with jMonkeyEngine which I'd wanted to check out for some time, but I had stability problems (I'm confident that the troubles I had were of my own making) and fell back to using Blender's built in game engine. HMD support for the Rift was something that had really inspired the game to begin with, and I just plain ran out of time to get that implemented (as it was, I only managed to get actual game progression and a menu in on the last day). I definitely plan to revisit Dance at some point and flesh it out into something more interesting and enjoyable.

The Lost LibraryI did document my progress and make a video overview, which can be found here. I also wrote an article looking at 7DFPS outcomes from a Linux user's perspective, and wrote some notes for developers wanting to support Linux.

2013 was a big year for SteamLUG as well. We saw the public release of Steam for Linux in February, continued with our regular gaming events (expanding to two events per weekend), built a new website, migrated that to GitHub, and started our own fortnightly audiocast called SteamLUG Cast. SteamLUG Cast has turned out to be one of the most enjoyable and rewarding aspects of running the group. In addition to discussing general Linux gaming and SteamLUG community happenings with my co-hosts, we also had guests from Screwy Lightbulb, Frozenbyte, Over The Moon Games, Eden Industries, Witchbeam Games, and InterWave as well as Linux porter and friend of the community flibitijibibo join us across the first season. I think that having the opportunity to do a regular live show has helped immensely with voice interviews, and switching in and out co-hosts (I was the only host to appear in all of season 1) gave many of the episodes their own unique tone and flair. It's been a fantastic thing to share with my co-hosts and with the community. I also helped out with a SteamLUG 7DFPS project, but the lack of working mapping tools on Linux prevented us from making a release.

twolofbees.com

Mountain Moon2013 was fairly quiet for Two Lof Bees, but still saw a little bit of growth, with us experimenting with hand made cushions and badges. We also pushed out a couple of new t-shirt designs and reworked some existing designs to be available based on some requests (Dignified Bat stickers and Hello Moon Friend post cards for example). I finally gave up the @TwoLofBees Twitter account (I can now be followed/stalked via @ValiantCheese) and implemented Twitter card support for images, which means that when a TwoLofBees.com URL is tweeted, the artwork itself will automatically be embedded in the tweet.

We did AICon and MAICon again, improving on what we'd learned from previous conventions and got a bit bigger response. It was great to meet so many old and new friends, and judging the art competition was (as always) a blast.

We had a little Art-a-thon on the first of January, and Mim created the first significant Big Bear and Little Bear picture. We also worked on Girl at the Pond and a few other bits and pieces.

Cushions really were the big thing for 2012. We spent a lot of time planning and experimenting to discover out the best workflows for getting art onto fabric and then getting fabric into the sorts of shapes we wanted. Our shaped cushions (Vintage Cat and Dignified Bat in 2012) were definitely the hot favourites, although our other square/oblong cushions seemed well received too. It's been rewarding and certainly has been welcomed by people at AICon and those who've reached out to us to order online, but it does feel like it took our attention away from making new art. That said, all of the R&D is out of the way, and future cushion designs will come together much more quickly. Although we haven't done so yet, we're planning to retire cushion designs frequently (particularly the shaped ones) so that we can continue to do new things without overloading ourselves.

Cushions!

Towards the end of the year we started working on a revamp of the shop page which will eventually expand to include the ability to order our hand made stuff. Mim did some sweet paintings to go along with each category.

Oh, and we inaugurated Dress Like A Walrus Day on May 18th. No idea if anybody else will do it, but we will :D

Cheesetalks

Dress Like A Walrus Day2013 felt like a slow year for Cheesetalks, with only one interview and eight other content updates happening across the year.

In January, I interviewed Greg Rice and Nathan Martz from Double Fine about their experiences with Linux, their crowdfunding success, and their attitudes towards cross-platform distribution, community and DRM.

Throughout the year, I wrote articles on the Steam Hardware & Software Survey, Assault Android Cactus, the 7 Day FPS Challenge from a Linux user's perspective, and the problems associated with positioning Linux as a stretch goal in crowdfunding campaigns (this one has some neat quotes from Double Fine, Hidden Path Entertainment, Corey Cole, Refract Studios and Atomhawk). I also found time to do an update to 2012's article on cross platform support in Humble Bundles, which included some thoughts from Jan Achrenius from Recoil Games (creators of Rochard), my musings on the impact of Humble Bundle promotions which didn't feature cross platform support, and a massive, massive chart showing the relationship between titles' release dates and the Humble Bundles they were featured in (something I really hope to be able to revisit and implement using D3 in the future).

Humble Bundle stats

I also co-launched a project to enhance the level of detail on Humble Bundle titles covered by PC Gaming Wiki. It was my hope that by publishing my research for my third Humble Bundle article and helping migrate it across to PC Gaming Wiki where it could be better maintained, that we could drive some enthusiasm which would help boost overall activity on the wiki. The project was fun and whilst it didn't change the world, I was happy with the outcomes - something I still need to get around to writing a follow up article on.

In June I completed my migration of the Humble Visualisations to D3. It's now more dynamic and exciting. There's still a lot more work to do, but it's much more maintainable and the raw data is more digestible now too.

I transcribed the Game Club interviews with Ron Gilbert and Tasha Harris that I mentioned earlier and popped them up on Cheesetalks as well. Having something that's more accessible and easier to cite than a video has been really helpful.

My Artwork

Humble Double Fan ArtWhen I sat down to write this post, I was pretty embarrassed to discover that I'd only uploaded 8 pieces of art to Two Lof Bees in 2013.

In part, this was due to two large scale pieces of Double Fine fan art that were possibly larger in scope than anything else on the site. In May, Humble Bundle published a bundle of Double Fine titles complete with new Linux ports for many of their games. To celebrate, I started work on a piece which showed main characters from each game included in the bundle drawn in the style of one of the other games (and the styles of the Humble Bundle and Double Fine logos swapped). When I started, I thought it would be a quick thing that I'd be able to finish in a fortnight, but all up, it took about a month to complete even with some help from Mim (when it was done, I printed the finished piece off on a card and sent that through to Double Fine ^_^). The second piece was inspired by a comment that Ron Gilbert made during my Game Club interview with him, in which he'd talked about the kind of influence the other leads within the project had had over the final game. In some ways it reminded me of the way in which Ronzo's CaveThe Cave itself changes depending on the characters you choose to enter with, so I sketched out a concept which depicted Ron as the "Clerk" (a manifestation of The Cave which sets the adventurers on their path and provides them with an opportunity for redepmption), and had the adventurers portrayed by Chad Dawson (lead programmer), JP LeBreton (lead designer) and Andy Wood (art director). With all the other pressures going on across the year and it being a style I wasn't comfortable in, I found this piece difficult to stay focused on and motivated for. I had wanted to finish it with time to give Ron a print when we met him at PAX, but I didn't end up finishing it till December.

Also Double Fine related, I did a cheese sculpture and a vector-like "Happy Boulder" to celebrate Massive Chalice, and a BBQ themed variant on the 2 Headed Baby image I'd created for Game Club for the PAX fan meetup that I coordinated.

Cloud NinjasIt was fun to revisit the ninjas again in Cloud Ninjas. I really want to do more with these guys and put them in as many weird and surreal places as I can get them.

Early in the year, I did a piece that showed a tiny Mim painting faces on fruit. It's cute and simple and might be the artwork from 2013 that I'm most happy with.

I did manage to get a little bit of origami in, and made some sea steves to keep Mim company as she studied.

The Linux Gaming subreddit, which had adopted a variant of Stycil Tux as its logo held a community competition to design a new banner. It was also used as an icon to represent Linux compatibility on the Arx Liberatis (an open source implementation of Arx Fatalis) and innoextract websites.

Whilst writing this post, I came across two unfinished sketches that I intend to finish off in 2014. The first depicts a mermaid in a sunken library, and the second is a piece of Planet-es fan art featuring Yuri, one of the show's core characters.

Beyond Two Lof Bees stuff, Dance offered some fun opportunities for set and character design (even though it's a shadow of what I'd hoped to get happening in both of those departments). I spent a lot of time drawing space ships for stuff that I can't really talk about. A few small scope freelance graphic design opportunities presented themselves, which are always nice (I couldn't take anything large scale on board with my availability being so unpredictable). I put up a short blog post looking at some of this stuff last year.

All The Fruit's A Canvas

Mim's Artwork

Pancake LofAcross 2013, I saw Mim using the Cintiq more and more. Her skills are always improving and leaving me in awe. It was also great to see her trying new things, both with focused efforts like her 30 Day Drawing Challenge in March, and with the help she gave me with character design for Sacrifice Girl in Humble Double Fan Art and Chad, JP and Andy in Ronzo's Cave. One overlooked highlight was when Mim put on some soundtracks from children's shows on and attempted to draw them without reference.

Her PhD kept her busy for most of the year, but she still found time to sew, work with me on cushion designs, do the odd comic update, and try her hand at pancake art.

As always, I can't wait to see where the coming year takes her.

Looking Ahead

DanceAs 2012 ended, my day job wound down. I was getting what I thought were positive indications that things would pick up soon, but as we move into April, I've found myself at a point where I need to start looking at other options. Some opportunities have arisen, and whilst they're yet to bear fruit, I have hope that they'll lead somewhere. It's tough to have to face giving up all the community work I'm doing. Two Lof Bees isn't yet at a point where it can support us, and we definitely won't be looking at advertising revenue to tide us through. Some have suggested that I should look towards accepting donations, but I'm not sure if that's a direction I'd like to go.

If things go well, reshaping my paid and volunteer activities will give me more time to work on art. Doing larger pieces of fan art and exploring new styles has been fun, but for 2014, I think I'd rather do smaller stuff and get some rhythm and routine going so that I'm more comfortable throwing something out there when I get inspiration.

Stuff I Lof - 2013

Here are my favourites from 2013 in no particular order: White Whales, Cloud Ninjas, All The Fruit's A Canvas, Humble Double Fan Art, Mountain Moon, Assault Android Cheeseness, Big Bear and Little Bear, Autumn Girl, Day 4 Significant Other, Easily Distracted, Girl at the Pond, Girl in the Brambles, Jellyfish and Vintage Lof Peas.

Jellyfish



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Posted By:
 cheese
Date Posted:
 9th April 2014
Loved:
 2 times
Tags:
 Cheesetalks(6), Double Fine(2), Life(13), Steamlug(1), Yearly Reflections(7)