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 itch.io.

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: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLWQj9GCj5V0ABAcXicO4Qh9l8oIaH8j3h

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, https://www.tumblr.com/blog/skybeargames 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: https://skybeargames.itch.io/her-jentle-hi-ness and answer the survey questions here: https://forms.gle/SgaeazCmjfjGB9836

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: http://tirenia.blogspot.com/

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

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

Dev blog #6

Hey team, so:

  • James hit 66,667 words the other day – 2/3rds of the way through his arbitrary 100,000 word goal for writing the Dragon Princes sourcebook. Will he have enough topics to cover to hit that goal? Probably! The dude knows a lot about history and roleplaying, so this is the perfect amalgamation of that.
  • Recording the next podcast episode tomorrow! You can probably expect it to be all edited and finished by Tuesday.
  • The next Bitsy jam starts tonight at 7pm, and the theme is frog. Will Ratto be spending the entire episode in frog form? I dunno, maybe 😀
  • Our first major episode finished on our roleplay server, and we’re slowing getting into the next one. If you roll up a character now, you can join us! Here: https://discord.gg/bWauN2t . Also, here is the log of the first adventure! (very unformatted sorry)
  • I can’t wait for our creativity holiday starting next Friday… in which I will hopefully finish Her Jentle Hi-ness code-wise, and then it will just be a matter of testing, refining and getting all the art from Sean.

See you… well, sooner than next week, I’ll be letting you know once Street Rat VII is done, and the next episode of the podcast, whichever comes first!

Dev Blog #2

Hope the new week has been good to you in these crazy times!

What have we been up to this week? Slowly making our way forward:

  • Art continues to come in for the next PC game release, Her Jentle Hi-ness. See below!
  • James continues blogging at http://tirenia.blogspot.com/. He passed 50,000 words this week in the gathered document which will eventually become his D&D setting book!
  • We’re developing our podcast, hopefully to come out next week
  • We’re also developing our Discord channel, which will feature several Dragon Princes roleplay channels alongside general gaming discussions
  • I’m working on my next Bitsy jam episode of Dragon Princes: Street Rat https://skybeargames.itch.io/

Dev Blog #1: State of the SBG

So here’s the thing. I am so crap at self-promotion. Seeing the abysmal sales of White Rabbit, a project I poured so many hours of heart and soul into, I’ve spent the last few days scrambling around trying to get some traction somewhere, anywhere! Someone on one marketing website was like, you’ve got to have a dev blog and always be writing about what you’re doing next. That cuts so against the grain for me. I prefer to only talk about projects that are 90+% done, so I don’t look like I’m tooting my own horn and then not delivering. I see so many people talk big and then… nothing. I don’t want to be that person.

But ok, fine. Dev blogs work? They build up hype? Ok fine, let’s see then. I’ll do a dev blog every Thursday and we’ll see how it goes.

This is probably an appropriate time to start this right now, because we’ve reached the natural finishing point of some things, and other things are about to jump off. Let’s talk about them, project by project.

Released projects: White Rabbit and Prince of Cats

So I’ve built a small following through successful Kickstarter campaigns and two good quality major releases. I also have been taking part in game jams on itch.io, specifically the Bitsy monthlies and Nanoreno. I’m not sure where to take it next, except for mobile. Yep, White Rabbit and Prince of Cats are going to come out on Android at the very least, and iOS if I can borrow some equipment to do that too. My goal for this is asap, but particularly before the end of October. Why? I’ll explain soon. (And I think if I do that, I really need to probably pay someone to give me a slick advert to promote those releases!)

Also, I would like to add more art and possibly a few other features to White Rabbit. I’d love to put voice acting in both White Rabbit and Prince of Cats. But we’ll see on that. It may be a while. That’s going to require significant financial outlay.

Some positive news on Prince of Cats. Even though I’ve made no money off it, the Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality on itch.io sold brilliantly, and 1000+ people have downloaded Prince of Cats from it. It was nice to be a part of that. I love the itch.io community.

Future projects (Claire)

My immediate current project is my deluxe remake of my Nanoreno project from earlier this year, Her Jentle Hi-ness. It’s going to have full colour art by local artist Sean Miller. It’s going to have a soundtrack by me and my brother. It is going to have more plotlines and better mechanics than the demo version (here). It is NOT going to have a Kickstarter, because it is a much smaller project which is basically done, and the art budget is manageable without funding this time. And it is going to be out on Steam and hopefully mobile too before the end of October. Why? Read on…

My mid-term goal is my next project, working title Super High. I’ll be working with my high school best friend (appropriately) Law Baker for the art. It will likely be my first non-Renpy based major release! I’m still deciding for sure on the engine. I am very slowly working on this, writing the script a bit at a time every day. I’ll pepper more details in future posts, but this time I will say my major influences for this one are Persona (game series), Twin Peaks (TV series), and The Luminaries (book/TV series). How on earth do those all fit together? You’ll have to wait and see.

What’s James up to?

I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, but James has a major project going on too. You can find his main Dragon Princes blog here: http://tirenia.blogspot.com/ . He is going to turn all of this into a D&D setting and Kickstart it at… you guessed it… the end of October. Why?! I’ll tell you soon!

To get to this point, and drum up more publicity, he’s going to start posting regular D&D vlogs to our dried-up husk of a Youtube channel. Look out for that in the next couple of weeks!

What, pray tell, is at the end of October?!

I’m so glad you asked. Sky Bear Games is going to have a stall at the Auckland Armageddon Expo. James will be demoing scenarios and mechanics from Tirenia, I’ll be selling my two/hopefully three games at special expo prices along with merch, and Julia from Cheeky Parrot Games will be with us selling Cat Capers and other titles from her collection. Hopefully an artist or two from my games will come along and sign prints. We’ll see.

We’ve set ourselves this challenging deadline to, well, challenge us! I love love to be able to do this full time one day, and you know what? Not to toot my own horn too much, but I think I am worth it! I think my games are pretty fun and unique, and I think there is a bigger audience out there I just haven’t reached yet. All I need is a leg up from someone big, just a day on someone’s front page or something, for people to hear about Sky Bear Games! It is hard to get noticed these days. But delusional or not, I am going to try, and I want to do it honestly, ethically, and for the sake of art and entertainment. For the love of gaming itself.

Geez, sincerity sure whiffs, huh? 😀