Friday, 4 September 2020

Be good to yourself when nobody else will


With game launch and patches out of the way I took a vacation to recover from the usual stress of the release period, but I couldn't really switch off and just watch TV or laze around.
Instead, I've been wondering what to actually work on once I pick up my tools again.

Am I going right into level 2 of Stellinavra?
Would now be the time to pivot to that Lateshifter sequel idea I've been toying with?
Should I spend a while getting together a Deluxe, expanded Steam version of this new, latest game?

So many potential directions I could take next, but also a sense of urgency to decide soon, so that I don't waste anyone's time or support money.
And whatever I choose, it has to be a choice I can live with for the next year or more.

So I've actually been spending all of my relaxation time thinking about how I want my life to be for the next little while, and it's made me reflect on how much has already changed.

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When I first got started with all this, all I wanted was a quiet place away from real life where I could build my own little world.
I wanted to be in charge of something that nobody could take from me, I wanted to be good at something, I wanted other anons to play my game and I wanted them to be impressed.
I wanted other anons to like me, I think, most of all.

With that as my highest ideal, you can probably guess how pathetic a character we're talking about :DDD

I had no control over my life and my routine, I wasn't being paid well, I didn't like my job, I didn't like the city I was in, I lived in this apartment I could barely afford, my neighbours were all really loud, their cigarette smoke seeped into my living space, to the point I couldn't stand to go home, man.

I ate badly, I dressed badly, I felt no good, I felt like I'd been prepared wrong for life, like I'd become the exact man my teachers wanted, and like I'd done everything I was told to, but somehow gotten nowhere.

I felt like I'd been tricked, I felt like things weren't fair, like nobody warned me then, and nobody wanted to help me, now, and I couldn't talk to anyone about it, they'd think I was a loser.
I wanted to opt out, I wanted to do something else, to be somewhere else. I had no plans for the future, thinking about it made me feel sick, I'd get this thudding in my chest and I'd burst into treats on public transport and genuinely wonder if I was even going to make it back home.

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All I did have was a lot of downtime and I placed no value in it, so I spent years 27 through 31 in one room, living this same one day over and over, sat in front of my computer.

And It didn't come together overnight, and it didn't really feel like much of anything for a few months, 
it didn't stand out at all, nothing that made it feel so special to me was readily communicable to others, who were showing off much more impressive work than mine, but it was my little escape, it was this sandbox of possibility that I could master if I put the time in.
I'd figure out how to make little dice games, branching choices and dialogue that reflects things you'd done.

And I learned a little bit of pixel art by sticking to 4 colours on a 16x16 grid,
I got out my old music software and started writing again,
I tried to write a short story for the first time since I failed English class ten years before.

And drop by drop, the bucket fills, it slowly becomes something, then slowly it becomes something you can show to others, and you work with it, and you shape it and you guide it somewhere you couldn't have taken it even a few months before, and so slowly you become something else, too.

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It's crazy, man. I have goals again, it's made me remember how much I love learning new things, it's switched me back on, and now I want to try, I want to struggle. I want to grow, I want to make something great, I want to be great.

And so I'm working out and people are actually noticing. And I got this new place, and I got this great new job on the back of all the stuff I picked up. And I'm standing up straight and I'm saving up my money and I'm making friends and I'm disconnecting from the culture wars and I'm cleaning up my act and I'm telling the truth and I'm not sad anymore, it doesn't hurt anymore, I'm not Oko anymore.

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I used to say all I wanted was to make lewd games forever, but I'm scared of waking up one day at forty, struggling to write an adventure story because the last fifteen years of my life took place in this one room.

And I don't want to stop. It makes me cry, man.
I stay up for hours at night trying to make it all fit, trying to find a way to reconcile what I want from life and the time I have at my disposal, I've written this post 3 times from scratch and scrubbed it each time because I cannot take the idea of just quitting, I'm not done, yet, but I have to be.
I don't want to turn it off, I don't want to let this go, I don't want to admit I'm not that guy, anymore, but I have to, I have to.

I want to spend more time with friends and family. I want to go hard on fitness, I want to go to bed before midnight, I want to have a career, I want to work on a normal little game on weekend mornings, and be able to just stop, walk away from it and take my girl to lunch.
Not blowing off social occasions to write fictional conversations, not calling in sick to pull a double shift at my secret second job, and not surrounding myself in pornography, because for the longest time it's felt like second-hand smoke.

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But it's so hard to regret anything I might have missed out on, because it gave me back a whole lot, an outlet, a diary, a project, and everything else that I didn't even realise I'd been missing, and I'd recommend it to anybody.

The world's not in the habit of encouraging you, I know, so I'm saying it right now.
The barriers are getting lower every day and so if you're not already, you owe it to yourself to create something, because you're good, you are really good, and you can bridge any knowledge or skill gap with enthusiasm, because you're smart, and you're capable and maybe it's been a long time since you heard anyone say it, maybe it's been forever since you actually believed it, but you have to, you have to.

And maybe for the first little while you'll have to pretend, but that can be fun, too.
You pretend you're a big shot, you pretend you've got something in the pipeline that's gonna blow the fucking lid off this joint, and you go to bed with a big smile on your face because the world doesn't even know what's gonna hit it.
There's a song, there's a story, there's a message and a game and a world that only YOU can make, and you CAN make it.

And it can be however you want, you don't need to copy anyone, you don't need to stick to a genre, you don't need to include or deny features to fit others idea of how it ought to be.

Anything anyone has ever seen before is just a suggestion, so go hard on the parts you like and don't be afraid if not everyone is going to get it.
If you have a choice between making it more (you) or making it more popular, there's no wrong answer, but after the release hype dies down, your work goes back to just being yours, again, and you're gonna like it a lot more and for a lot longer if you're true to yourself.

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I wanted to make something that was just a bit better than it had any business being.
A game that had sex scenes and swear words just because I was in charge and I said so.
Something like Heavy Metal or Vampirella, that looked like it came out for a late 80s home computer.
I'm very proud to have made something by myself, that only I could have made, and I can't tell you how grateful I am that you stayed with me throughout.

Thank you for all of your support these past 4 years.
Your comments, your well-wishes, your time, your donations of energy; it all kept me going.

That's it from me, I have to go.