Dev blog #50 – The voice acting re-release is complete!

Oh my gosh, I cannot believe it is finally over. Seriously, it has been around about nine months to get this voice acting re-release out into the world. Largely we can blame the expanded lifespan of White Rabbit’s Diary getting in the way, and my very busy life, but I am happy to announce that The Nine Lives of Nim: Fortune’s Fool has now released with fully-voiced dialogue and additional quality-of-life improvements. Big thanks to my voice actors: Laura Kvigstad as Nim, Tom Tobin as Felix, and the wider cast of Brent Ahuriri, Kristen Devine, James Dunning, Samuel Hatch, Tom Kereama, Jade de Preez, Benjamin Teh, Vitas Varnas, Lauren Wilson (who is also the sound engineer, big thanks and love!) and, well, yes I am in there too 🙂

So what’s next on the slate for everything?
– The Nine Lives of Nim: Simplified Chinese translation should be all ready to go around September 2021. It’s very close to done as it is right now but I am giving my tester lots of time (which also means I get some breathing space!)
– Wonderland Nights: Waiting on the results of the Sir Julius Vogel Awards still, but other than that multiple language translations and console ports are being worked on still as we speak!
– Her Jentle Hi-ness: Something is happening this weekend, as I will explain below, but I definitely intend to Kickstart this soon. July, probably.

I think I need to give myself the month of June off! Because guess what? I got a secondary infection after recovering from the cold two weeks ago. My throat glands swelled up and I could barely swallow without crying in pain. I’m heading back into the workplace today, I’m maybe 90% better now. I can at least eat, drink and talk, though I am reluctant to do that last one cos I sound pretty husky.

Also, I had better save my voice for this weekend, because I am going to be showing Her Jentle Hi-ness at the Indie Game Showcase, at GridAKL in Wynyard Quarter, Auckland, this Saturday 29th May from 2pm-5pm. It is free to the public, so why not come along and try a bunch of indie games and support the community? (Also don’t worry, this thing I am currently recovering from is not infectious!)

James is super hyped to record tonight (hope I don’t have to talk too much!) and review the new Ravenloft guide. We’re going to record our attempt at using their rules to make our very own Dark Lord! Exciting times. Less exciting, for him mostly, James is trudging through the next Dragonlance review and dragging his feet on it. At least for the next one he gets back to the more digestible medium of novels.

And the final word for this week, let me remind you to subscribe to our mailing list here: https://forms.gle/Z1EWrDP8KRMNZ5o2A . You will still get most news from us here on the blog of course, but the newsletter will be less granular, more promotional, and have occasional giveaways too!

Dev blog #47 – White Rabbit is a Finalist again!

Hey all, so the news has actually quietly been out for a couple of weeks now, but I only realised the other day that I was allowed to announce publically, Wonderland Nights: White Rabbit’s Diary has been shortlisted for another award! It is the Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best Professional Publication/Production and you can find out more about the award and my fellow finalists here: https://sffanz.nz/the-sir-julius-vogel-awards/sir-julius-vogel-award-finalists-2021/ . Super stoked to be amongst this amazing group working in diverse fields!

So what else has been on my plate this week? Well, we are unfortunately a sick household this week. But James has been using his time well. Before he fell ill he attended an amazing event at a marae. I wish I could have been there! The event was Te Reo o te Rēhia and it was all about Maori gaming, be that a historical perspective, or an invitation to new cultural perspectives, or using gaming to celebrate Te Reo. He took a lot of inspiration away and met new people who are keen to collaborate and share knowledge. We’ll definitely be going next time they run an event!

James has also been working on our next board game idea, which I will keep under wraps for now 😉

I have been working on this: https://pokemontimecapsule.wordpress.com/ which I hope you will consider following if you are interested in Pokemon at all. James has been taking some amazing photos in Pokemon Snap, which has been very entertaining for us over this past week. And I get the sneaking suspicion that I am getting Pokemon Shield for Mother’s Day ヾ(=`ω´=)ノ”

I have also been working on White Rabbit again, specifically in regards to the Ratalaika Games release. German and Japanese have been regression tested, and I have made a bunch of improvements there. I still need some more files before Spanish is complete. But one day soon hopefully I’ll be testing the Switch release! Eeee!!!

Pavstream! 5pm NZ time tonight

Hey all, we’re going to do a stream of games from the Pavs/NZ Games Awards tonight on our channel www.twitch.tv/skybeargames

If you don’t know the games already, here is an article with the list of them: https://www.artshub.com.au/news-article/news/digital/jini-maxwell/nz-games-festival-the-pavs-awards-winners-and-nominees-2021-262423

We’ll definitely play the winners that are digital and are released to the public, and if we have time we may play a few of the finalists who interested us.

Dev blog #46 – Winner Winner!

I sorta can’t believe it’s real, but yes, Wonderland Nights: White Rabbit’s Diary won the Poetic Serving – Excellence in Narrative prize at the Pavs!

Hoo boy, there is so much to write about this week! I’ll try and get through it in a sort of summary fashion, as the bulk of my reflections on the NZ Games Festival are coming up in our podcast episode which will be out on Monday.

I started off the conference part of the festival last Thursday with a 3-hour workshop on marketing with Tim Ponting. I had to keep constantly reminding myself that it was ok, I wasn’t an impostor! I had released two games, while maybe 80% of the people in the room hadn’t released any yet, and we were all allowed to be there, we were all valid. But yeah, the impostor syndrome was real!

The second workshop of my first day was Jess Woodward on leadership and communication strategies. I’ve actually known Jess for maybe a decade now, and it is super cool to see how she’s an integral part of this whole festival! I learnt a lot from her session, though a lot of my brain was taken up on relfecting on misleadership and miscommunication I’ve experienced in the past, since Jess was finally giving me the language I needed to give voice to my feelings about my past experiences. It hit pretty deep… again, more on this in the podcast episode!

I’m only going to touch on each of the rest of the talks very briefly, but stay tuned for a full breakdown coming next Monday.

Day One:

  • The Opening Keynote: Bigger Than We Know by Amber Taylor – Got me really excited to know more about her company ARA Journeys who are doing amazing things with AR and Te Ao Maori
  • Good Goods for your Game by Steven Thompson – Definitely a few things for me to think about there… do I keep doing middleman merch, or do I try and find a third party to work with?
  • The Long Life-cycle of a Game by Philip Buchanan – I felt this one in my bones. Philip gave a pretty bracing account of everything that actually goes into developing and releasing a game as a solo dev
  • My Players Won’t Stop Romancing the Bartender: An NPC Design Primer by Andy Astruc – this was fun! Like the marketing workshop the day before, got me thinking about are my stories and NPCs grabbing your attention enough from the get go?
  • Swiss Army Producer by Calliope Ryder – I could really relate to Calliope’s talk, as someone who has to be a bit of a Swiss Army knife herself. And also as someone who just left an industry…
  • Applied Immersive Games are Bigger than you think! by Heide Lukosch – big opportunities here! Going to bookmark these ideas to look into in the future
  • Navigating Networking for Neurodiverse Folks by Cameron Hopkinson – This was the one I needed to hear the most at that particular moment. It’s ok for me to feel anxious in social situations!
  • Beyond D&D: RPGs as Skills and Growth by Josh Kamau and Rick Stemm – At first, I thought I knew what they were saying, because I’ve been a teacher, I’ve been a player, I’ve been a dungeon master… but then they blew my mind with the fourth dimension that roleplaying can aid in… you’d better listen to the episode if you want to know!
  • Be your best you by critiquing everything your workmates do by Hannah Mackintosh – so this talk actually ended up being way less dickish than the title sounds, and in fact was a really good look into iterative processes that I will no doubt end up using myself
  • Show me your passions! by Juan Alejandro Morais – the perfect way to end day 1! Juan was super charming and had us all laughing and feeling hopeful, and turning and chatting to each other which is a hard ask in a room full of game devs!

Day Two:

  • Putting the Noble Savage to Bed by Timothy Russell – This was great, just straight up bringing the facts to the table about things I am really done with seeing in representations of Maori. Gave me some useful strategies for if I want to include Maori themes in my future work.
  • Burnout and me by Gabriela Roque Lopez – I needed to hear this one too. It’s really important we all look after ourselves!
  • The Power of Content Creators and their Communities by Lorien Gugich – Dang, this one honestly is probably going to change a lot about the way I advertise.
  • A Programmer’s Swansong to Designers in UE4 by Ben Carnall – This is the one talk that maybe James would have struggled with, every other talk was so general and less techy. For me, I was able to take away ideas about organising game data where it has ballooned out to huge proportions
  • A Short Introduction to Video Game Sex by Robert Yang – Hands-down the funniest talk of the weekend, and yes part of me wants to go and play Robert’s games now… but a really good theme throughout here was that games are actually more than we just programme them to be! There is a metagame level where games can transcend what the developer originally saw them to be.
  • Rolling the Dice: The Game of Life as a Gamedev by Ben Tuhoe-Kenobi and Rich Durham – this was a pretty bracing look at the randomness or whims-of-fate sort of feeling that comes with seeking funding in the games industry.
  • Life in Three Dimensions by Tana Tanoi – a lovely reflective, philosophically-grounded look at how spaces in games feel to be in
  • Art for Small Teams with Big Ideas by Brianna Fromont – so apart from the usefulness of the talk this was like a huge ad for Best Friend Forever and I WANT TO PLAY IT SO BAD RIGHT NOW
  • The Real Secret of Mana: Māori Representation in Video Games by Lisa Blakie – this was such a good place to end, looking again at appropriation in games and how we can truly get past that. Sure there was overlap with the first talk of the day but it approached it at a much different angle, so the two felt complimentary to each other rather than repetitive.

For a more in-depth overview join James and me on Monday when the podcast drops!

Then it was time for the Pavs with our mates Rose and Dave, the artist and the proofreader of White Rabbit’s Diary respectively. I knew I missed them but I had no idea how much I missed them until I actually saw them and felt my heart at rest to be with them again. We had a great night, did a bunch of networking, and then of course there was the surprise of winning the narrative category! And then, to bring the whole weekend to a complete narrative arc for me, when Tim Ponting won the Te Maunga Kai Kapua (Tuakana) award for being a pillar of the industry, he said in his speech that HE HAD IMPOSTOR SYNDROME! So like… that finally made it hit home for me that these dumb feelings we have all the time about not belonging never ever go away, and we just have to try our best!

A huge congratulations to all the winners and finalists! It was a massive honour to be counted amongst you all. Thank you so much to all the speakers and organizers. I hope I get to go every year from now on!

So just to quickly wrap up everything else… oh yeah, god, I completely forgot one other major thing that happened in the rush of all of this. Yes, James did hit his 100k word goal just before we left Auckland. Yay!!! So that’s Dragons of Tirenia Draft #… ok so he’s saying this is Draft Zero now, he has so much more work to do before he’s happy! Fair enough really.

Now that life is maybe finally settling down again… knock on wood… I have a few fixes to White Rabbit in Japanese that have just come through in the last week. Since that’s nearly all done I had better give it a quick regression test! And then once that’s out of the way it’s back to the voice acting release regression test for the Nine Lives re-release. So close and yet so far! I actually have the draft version of a kickstarter page planned for the next project… but it is NOT going live until Nine Lives voice and Nine Lives Chinese are released! End of story!! Who would have thought I would be spending so much time on maintenance of past releases (well, Philip Buchanan would know!)…

Thanks for reading ^_^

Dev blog #41 – Excellence in Narrative Finalist too!

At last, I can finally announce that not only is Wonderland Nights a finalist in the Excellence in Visual Arts category, but also in the Excellence in Narrative category! I am so, so happy. I feel absolutely validated as a writer of video games.

In further good news, I finished putting all the voices I have in to the Chinese version of Nine Lives, and all the current translation strings are in now. I’m just waiting on some approvals before I go ahead with finishing everything and preparing to test it! And for the English re-release, I’m just waiting on four characters’ voice files, and I’m still making the sound effects files. Gosh, I might finally be close to the re-release! You might notice on instagram I’ve started the ad campaign already. I think the English version will be out in a month’s time!

As for the podcast, we did our planned recording on the topic of Ravenloft again (almost two hours) and found that the audio was a bit messed up. Something might be wrong with our mic I think! But while I fiddled with that, our friend Benjamin Teh from the Dumplings and Dragons podcast came over and he wanted to do an impromptu podcast episode with us on the topic of Asian creativity in the wake of Anti-Asian hate. So we did that! And since the audio was better and the topic was fresh, we dropped that one instead on Tuesday. I’m still trying to salvage the Ravenloft one, but in the meantime I highly recommend Episode 20 which has serious discussion and a few good recommendations.

James has added more to the Dragons of Tirenia blog, so please check that out if you haven’t already. He has been thinking more and more about the next steps to take after his current campaign is over, and he has an exciting convention adventure planned. Check out the blog here: http://tirenia.blogspot.com/

Dev Blog #40: White Rabbit’s a Finalist! Excellence in Visual Arts in the Pavs

Hello dear readers! I have been champing at the bit to tell you our bit of news ever since we heard it, and the day to announce has finally arrived!

We are thrilled to announce that Wonderland Nights: White Rabbit’s Diary has been selected as a finalist in the category ‘Excellence in Visual Arts’ in the NZ Games Festival’s Awards known as The Pavs.

Congratulations and big thanks to our artist Rose Northey! @whenpoetsattack

If you’re in Wellington April 19-25th come and play the demo version!

Now obviously we’ve known about this for a while, but honestly the shine has not dulled off for me at all. I mean, what a thing to help me not feel impostor syndrome about my role as a game dev, right? We’ll be down in Wellington for the exhibition and the awards ceremony, so hopefully see you there if you’re local!

I am also please to announce that the first test build of The Nine Lives of Nim has been sent off to Grand Vision in China for them to take a gander. It was an epic workload, getting 6000 lines of translation in, and the work isn’t over, as I need their approval on font and layouts and to redo any text in the artwork, and there’ll be tons of testing after. But for those of you who only speak English, we’ve just got one more actor’s lines to master (around 150 files out of about 2500) and then a few little sound effects to throw in, and it’s done! Well, except for the testing, which I like to be particularly thorough about, so I will be going through and personally making sure every line of dialogue is correct! And that’s not to mention the code changes that mean huge improvements to gameplay, including the ability to play the whole game more easily from your keyboard now if you wish.

James and I did a livestream of an old gamebook from the 80s last week, which was flirty and fun if you want to laugh/be disgusted, over on our twitch and youtube channels. We’re recording our next podcast episode tonight, and we’re doing another Ravenloft special because we’re in a gothy mood and Ravenloft has been the most popular topic on our youtube channel for getting views and subscribers. Unlike here on the blog, and twitter, which are havens for Dragonlance!

Other than that, we’re just keeping on keeping on between this, parenting, and our day jobs. I’ll keep working on Nine Lives, James will keep working on Dragons and Tirenia, and we’ll keep you posted!

We’re on the Bundle Buddies podcast!

After two months of trying and failing to record, including multiple lockdowns stopping us from recording, we’re finally here. I met Alex and Eric from the Bundle Buddies podcast when they followed @SkyBearGamesNZ on twitter and sent them an email saying I was a creator of one of the games in the bundle they were reviewing (if you weren’t here or don’t remember, it was the Itch.io Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality) and I would love to talk to them on either/both of our podcasts.

As you might remember, our SBG podcast episode with them came out in January, but there was a problem with the recording of our episode on their side, and with two lockdowns in Auckland meaning we were stuck with our toddler who is faaaaaar too noisy to record around, it took us around two months to actually finally wrap the episode.

I’ve really enjoyed getting to know these guys over the course of the two months, and I’ve listened to every episode of their podcast so far. Even if you don’t own the bundle I think it’s still worth it for some hilarrious moments and good recommendations both for indie games in th bundle, and gaming nostalgia from them and their guests. You can check it out here: https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-9d387-fdc56b

Upcoming livestream: Choose your own adventure but giiiiirly

Choose your own adventure and find love because you’re a giiiiiiirl! uwu

If you didn’t already know, James loves game books and they influenced him a lot as a child. He found a set of the girly game books that TSR published back in the 80s and he is going to subject me to it on Thursday night 7pm, NZ time. I look forward to cringing a lot.

Join us on Thursday night 7pm for a livestream of the giiiiirly romance game book ‘Ring of the Ruby Dragon’ at www.twitch.tv/skybeargames