Dev blog #53 – More accolades, and facing the future

On Sunday it was announced that Wonderland Nights: White Rabbit’s Diary is a finalist again, this time for the Across the Ditch category in the Australian festival Freeplay. I am super stoked to be in that list with some amazing devs and dev houses which I sorta look up to like senpai. Once again humbled to be on a list with people like this! I think we might even need to do a Freeplay winners/finalists stream once all this is over because hot damn there are some games I am super keen to play on that list!

You might remember lats week I mentioned I had been attending that festival remotely, and I need to catch up on my viewing still, but it was a lovely wholesome experience, with a digital hangout zone which was a little 2d game. Super cool! Definitely want to go every year now, and hopefully one day in person!

Another fun thing that happened this week was I caught up with Rose for the first time in a while. Aside from hanging out as friends, I let her know some of the ideas I have for follow-ups in the Wonderland Nights series. I have four different ideas for a sequel. We’ll see which one is more realistic closer to the time, but it’s something that I’m pretty keen to start hyping closer to the console release of White Rabbit’s Diary. We both had a laugh when we thought about the future and how people will look back and call WRD our ‘early work’ one day, for both of us as artist and game dev/writer.

What else is happening this week? Planning for the Her Jentle Hi-ness KickStarter continues. I expect to launch that in a month’s time, but the main thing this hinges on is making sure my colleagues are 100% comfortable with the process, especially since I am thinking of offering way more custom options for rewards that my last two campaigns had. Some of these will be in-game content, but more than before, I’m thinking merch. So… more on that soon.

James continues developing the next Dragons of Tirenia zine. In fact, he’s actually got three going at once, but he’s focussing mainly on the Fiumenze City Guide and ‘Death of an Artist’ adventure, which has already been playtested multiple times. The other thing he is considering is running another convention adventure at a gaming convention… not Armageddon this time… but we’ll let you know the details on that once our attendance is confirmed. I personally feel like all the offerings James is preparing are very strong and I am confident in our ability to release two or even three zines before the end of the year. Partly this is because much of the content comes from his 100K+ words he finished writing earlier this year, which he is able to take from and improve on, so half of the content is already written. But also the adventures themselves have largely already been playtested over the years. It’s nice to have a backlog of prepared material we can simply improve on and roll out!

What else am I feeling goal-wise about the coming year, since this blog post officially starts year two of the devblog…

  • Her Jentle Hi-ness KickStarter approx July, release the game before the end of the calendar year
  • Two or three Dragons of Tirenia zines released by end of year, at least one convention game either this year or early next year at a major tabletop roleplay con
  • Development of a secret project in partnership with an organisation which I cannot yet reveal (currently at the prototype stage so I can hopefully be offered a contract and funding! That’s all I will say about it for now)
  • Continuing professional development through attending conferences, meetups, and when possible jams (hard because toddler! but I want to try), and something I am just about to undertake, a certificate in Maori business management
  • Expansion of peripheral content offerings, particularly improving the streaming quality and frequency
  • Whatever the next video game project is, whether it is a follow-up or a new title, I want to make sure I am responding with agility to the needs and desires of my audience, and with sensitivity to the characters portrayed (my particular goal here is making sure I include – and pay for the labour of – people with actual experience with certain lifestyles or life struggles before I try to depict them with any air of authority or claim of “representation”)
  • To take this all seriously as a business, with an eye to one day making it my full time job!

All right, that is a huge list… I’ll examine it more finely over the coming weeks and months to make sure I am aiming for realistic goals with actual deliverables so I can see if I am attaining them. But for now, I have my thoughts down on (digital) paper, which is always a big help to start with. See you next week!

Dev blog #52 – Interest from many angles

Good morning! What an interesting little week it has been. There has been growing interest in Sky Bear Games in a few different directions:

  • With the Indie Bundle for Palestinian Aid, which you should totally buy by the way, because it’s 1000+ games for $5 and for a good cause! White Rabbit’s Diary has been getting more play, but even more than that, the Dragons of Tirenia adventure Double Cross has been getting HEAPS of attention. And this has spurred James into wanting to release a small adventure module as a follow-up, so watch this space!
  • A group of LARPers in USA is going to be trying out Royal Flush next month, the award-winning LARP which was the ancestor of White Rabbit’s Diary. The guy running it has been in contact with me. So thrilled to hear that other people are getting to enjoy my old work! I still love this LARP and I really should run it again someday!
  • I’m getting emails every now and again asking about the possibility of collaborating over porting my games to console… and to those I have to say sorry, I’m already working on that with Ratalaika Games! But it’s nice to have the interest shown anyway.

Like I said, James is getting a lot more attention now with the inclusion in the bundle and a sudden influx of people interested in Dragons of Tirenia. There is some work to be done between the two of us, but we are reconfiguring our plans for this so we can respond more dynamically to the needs of the people showing interest. Expect to see a lot more smaller releases to drum up awareness and build a loyal fanbase for our work before the eventual Kickstarter. We’re going to kick that process off with a follow-up small guide and adventure module along the same lines as Double Cross, this time with an adventure we have been refining for the last two and half years, Death of an Artist. For more specific updates, check out my update here on

I’ve been watching the Freeplay Independent Games Festival talks this week, starting yesterday. It’s over in Melbourne, but they are in lockdown right now sadly, so it is all online! Check it out over here if you’re interested:

I’m honestly so excited about the potential in Dragons of Tirenia right now that I don’t really know what else to say! Sorry I am so back and forth in this blog post. Too much coffee! But other than that, this week I have been tidying up a few things with Nine Lives, such as updating the Steam library assets (the pictures you see when Nine Lives is in your Steam library), adding to the Chinese test build, and trying to fix a possible bug (see here if you want to follow along with it, it’s a real mystery!)

I guess since this is the 52nd dev blog, I should do a little year retrospective now! So what has happened this past year?

  • June – started this blog and the podcast, released Wonderland Nights: White Rabbit’s Diary
  • August – made contact with Ratalaika Games about translations and ports, and was contacted by Grand Vision about Chinese versions
  • October – ran our stall at Armageddon, released the Dragons of Tirenia Double Cross module and the White Rabbit’s Diary voice acting update
  • December – released the Chinese version of White Rabbit’s Diary
  • April – won the Excellence in Narrative Pav!
  • May – released The Nine Lives of Nim: Fortune’s Fool with full voice acting, took part in the Indie Game Showcase

Wow, what a year! No wonder I’m feeling a little bit stressed out right now!!!

I’ll wrap up with a quick mention of my tumblr blog, and share my Pride Month mood board, which is VERY nerdy indeed!

Dev blog #51 – Little bugs, big fun

Since the re-release of Nine Lives, a Twitter friend of mine let me know about two bugs they found. One, it seems that the Achievements page in the menu has been wiped at some point, though when it comes to Steam all the achievements are still unlocked there. Very strange! It shouldn’t be possible! I will have to investigate further. And two, it seems like some of the images in the Steam store still have Prince of Cats as the title. That should hopefully be easy to fix if I just have a dig around in Steamworks.

So otherwise, the voice release went off without a hitch!

The big fun thing that happened this week was the Indie Game Showcase. I took along Her Jentle Hi-ness and stood there nervously waiting for things to happen. But then people started to play, and some people even laughed at every line of text! I got to meet:

– the guys from [Sample Text] Studios whose game Frame of Mind is the one I raved about on the Pavs reviews podcast episode, the winner of the Student Slice. They all made the time to come and play my game and send their friends to it, and I got some real good reviews and pointers from them
– Cynthia from TL-Tonic, whose game Ten Thousand Coins I was alpha testing for a little bit at the end of last year, and she was there with her game Kunekune Shopkeeper which is CUTE AS HECK
– Nam, whose game Darkness and Haven was a project for his university (Masters I believe? Or was it doctorate?) and for a game about depression, the script was funny as all heck!
– I met the guy who makes the Scorpion Engine for Amiga – you can build games to play on old Amiga hardware, or an emulator if that’s not an option
– An awesome team of three students from the Media Design School who made a game caled Cybr in just two weeks! Couldn’t find any links, sorry.
shadestagramm, whose name I did not catch, but we had a cool conversation about the different directions that we came at game development from

There were lots more people there who I didn’t get a chance to meet, and I didn’t even get the chance to try any VR, or the game Denari which was there and I really wanted to play it ever since the Pavs. Big thanks to Coby and all the others at GridAKL and the associated people who made the day happen. I had an amazing time. Here is the one photo I remembered to take:

If you missed out, don’t worry! I’d still love to hear your opinion, and reward you with a credit as an early tester. Please try the game here: and answer the survey questions here:

Over the weekend James had his mates around to play the next installment of his Dragons of Tirenia: Ruins of Auromia campaign. He’s maybe two sessions from finishing? Then we might be playing another one with me involved. You can see his session reports (eventually) here:

Also, just on a personal note here, I am raising funds for health services for the LGBTQIA+ Community right now at: . Please consider donating!

See ya next week 🙂 it will have been a year! Time for a retrospective probably 😛

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: . 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 #49 – Getting back on track

Phew! I’m mostly over the cold now, as is the rest of my household. The title refers to that, and also to the fact that the Nine Lives of Nim regression testing is going very smoothly. It looks like I’ll be finishing around the June 11th mark, unless I somehow get a bunch of free time in the next four weeks. Only 36 test runs left out of 46!

One of the things that is biting into my time a little, but I feel is worth it, is the Indie Game Showcase on Saturday 29th May at the Wynyard Quarter in Auckland. Come along if you can, as it’s sure to be quite interesting. I’m going to be bringing Her Jentle Hi-ness to get some feedback on it.

All the little things in the background continue as usual: the podcast, James working on Dragon Princes, the Pokemon Time Capsule Blog. Sorry that there isn’t more to really remark on this week. It’s really just head down and working time for now!

Dev blog #48 – Live from the plaguehouse

I had a moment where I was like… what have I done this week that I can talk about? And then I remembered, oh yeah! In the few times where I haven’t felt too sick, I have been able to get some bug fixing and testing in for the re-release of Nine Lives! It’s actually going really well. Have I said this before… I dunno, I’m too drugged up on cold medication, but I have got permission to release the Simplified Chinese translation myself, and so I will be QAing that seperately from the voice acting release with some help and releasing it when it’s ready. But the voice acting release… I still feel too sick and unsure of my availability to promise when it will come out 😦 I wanna say…. one more month at the latest. I haven’t finished writing the full test plan yet but we’re talking at least 32 more playthroughs before I can fully sign off on this! At least those playthroughs take 30-40 minutes each 🙂

Ooh, a different language menu screen ^_^

By golly I am ready for Nine Lives to be done! I can’t wait to work on Her Jentle Hi-ness instead.

Before I lost my voice a couple of days ago James and I managed to pre-record some podcast episodes, so those are ready to go for the rest of May, which should help me focus on Nine Lives I hope!

While we are recovering from our colds, we’ve been trying to relax with a bit of Pokemon Shield for me, and Zelda Ocarina of Time for James, or sometimes he flicks through his Legend of the Five Rings card collection and thinks about making a new cube. Hasn’t been the most relaxing time though while our child has been sick at the same time!

Remember to check out my pokemon blog over here:

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: . 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: 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!!!

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 #45 – A Short One

Hey folks, just a short one today as I am writing from my phone and I hate doing that. I always told people I wanted to stick to the big chunky number buttons on phones for writing, even if it meant more key presses. Now I’m stuck in the age of smartphones with my fat fingers and way less control over my spelling mistakes. Progress!

I’ve been having an absolutely lovely time with my family on this mini holiday, but today was just the start of the conference, so I will have way more to say next week. Today I attended two workshops at the NZ Games Festival. The first was How to not Suck at Selling Games with Tim Ponting which was a real eye opener and perhaps too confronting for a first session for someone like me with massive impostor syndrome? But seriously no, it was great and has given me lots to think about. I haven’t digested it all yet. The second was Boost your Leadership Skill Tree with Jess Woodward who is an old friend of mine, and it was great to see her in her element. I learnt a lot of new frameworks for communication and thinking about working relationships from her, and it really helped me actually sort through a lot of lingering concerns I’ve had over things I have seen in the workplace in my various careers! Again, more in detail on that next week!

And I got the NZGF pins to add to my funky businesswoman jacket

Dev blog #44 – Good news and excitement!

So the good news, following up on last week’s blog, is that Grand Vision have given me permission to release the Simplified Chinese translation of Nine Lives by myself! So I am speaking with some translators here in NZ for the last few bits of translation needed, and later this year I’ll be able to get that out in the world, and completely under my wing. Yay!

Other than that, I am naturally getting very hyped for next week and going down to Wellington to attend the NZ Games Festival! I’ve got my workshops booked, I’ve seen what the talks are going to be at the conference, it’s all very exciting. Also I get to catch up with numerous friends and family members down there, and also just have a break from the daily grind – not thinking so much of my job which has actualy been somewhat of a refuge, but more of the daily chores at home and the sometimes insane pressure I put on myself in terms of Sky Bear work I do in my free time! And it’s time spent with James, our toddler, and my Mum, which is excellent quality time. And besides, we love road trips. Can’t wait!

At the moment, it looks like James is going to miss his 100k word count goal for Dragons of Tirenia Draft One before we go to Wellington, but given some of the unforeseen situations we’ve been in this week (such as a growth spurt causing our toddler to stay up til 10pm the other night – no adulting time at all!!!) we’ve been super busy actually. But I am trying to contribute some words myself in the form of myths and theories. We’ll see how far we get before Sunday morning, but wish us luck!

I did actually manage to edit the ‘Ravenloft Again’ podcast episode to a mostly listenable thing so while not feeling all that proud of it, I am at least relieved, I guess is the best way of putting it. It’s done, it has a warning/apology before the episode about the recording quality and the spoilerific content, so yeah, I think we might be good!

Anyway, there’s been lots of little things happening here and there, preparation for future games and stuff… lots of little plates spinning! But as always, I’ll tell you more when I feel more certain of things getting finished. This nearly a year of blogging sure has been a learning process for me, especially in terms of deadlines and overpromising!

New Zealand Games Festival postponed to 2021 - Gameplanet New Zealand
See you there, Wellington!