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!

Dev Blog #43 – Is there anything I could have done?

A couple of days ago I had a bit of disappointing news. The company I partnered with for the Chinese release of Wonderland Nights and Nine Lives is discontinuing their release of translated indie games, and it looks like they are discontinuing their support of the already released games too. So this means that if there is anything wrong with the translation of Wonderland Nights, I will not be told by them, and the work on Nine Lives, which was in my view 95% done, is over. Was there anything I could have done to have changed this situation? So far as I can see, I doubt it. It seems like a decision that comes from on high. I am investigating my options now for finishing the work myself with the help of an independent translator, as only the title, marketing blurbs and achievements need translating, and a test run by a Chinese reader is necessary. Thankfully the company representative I am speaking with says it I get to keep the Nine Lives translations in their current state. And the full rights to the translation of Wonderland Nights comes back to me at the end of our contract period, so at least I will eventually regain control of that.

So that news has put a bit of a damper on an otherwise really nice week. Being back at my old job has been great. It’s refreshing to be back testing other peoples’ work and not my own for a bit, though Nine Lives still has a great deal of testing to do before the voice acting re-release. I haven’t touched the latest build in over a week as I focus on prepping for our trip, but soon I’ll be popping back to it with fresh, or at least less-stressed, eyes.

James is plugging away at Dragons of Tirenia, trying to reach his elusive 100k word goal before we go to Wellington for the NZ Games Fest. Will he make it? I believe in him! But it’s disheartening when his editing takes his word count backwards every now and again. Still, I reckon he’ll make it, since we don’t leave until April 18.

Other things we have done lately include the Pokemon episode of the podcast, which was very fun to record and edit and is now up on Spreaker and YouTube. I have finally had a chance the last couple of nights to sit down and edit the Ravenloft podcast we recorded over a month ago. Have I talked about this before? I can’t remember. But basically we recorded two hours of Ravenloft talk which we were really happy with, and then when I actually listened to the raw track it was HIDEOUSLY DISTORTED D: ! Through a series of mishaps, and perhaps the age and heavy use of our microphone, I was not able to get live playback during the recording and so I didn’t realise that the mic was recording us at utterly blown-out levels. Over the last month I have experimented with fixes suggested by lovely people on Audacity forums and reddits, and while I am not proud of the result, I have got the sound down now to where it will not blow out your ears. I still find the effect on our voices rather brassy and semi-robotic. I have to cut a lot of my voice and especially my loud laughter as that is still truly ear-shattering despite the fixes. Thank goodness though for James’s lovely deep voice, which doesn’t sound as bad. I hope the end result will not hurt the ears of our dear listeners!

A visual representation of how mad the distortion got 😦

Dev blog #42 – Where everybody knows your name

I don’t often talk about my day job, the one that I have been at for the last five years, not counting the previous five weeks. Straight out of programming school, I was hired as a software tester by Aderant, a company that develops software for lawyers and law firms. The HR Manager told me he was taking a big risk employing someone with no background in software. It was a bizzare sideways step from my arts and teaching background. But a few months later after delivering my graduation project he told me he had absolutely no regrets.

My first manager there realised that as someone a little less technical in background, I had a knack for sympathising with the user, and as an ex-English teacher I was perfectly nitpicky with spelling and little details like that. Often devs don’t want to worry themselves with little details like that, but let me tell you, a simple spelling mistake can utterly ruin your product’s professional image! Also, over time as I became more familiar with the product and became a bit of an expert in my particular area, I got to use my teaching and presentation skills when leading tutorial sessions, be they small or large. All of the training on the job, as well as the natural attention to detail I have, mean that I have been able to test both my major game releases in-house. And while any tester can tell you that, ideally, no dev should be testing their own work, so far there have been no bugs found in the English versions of my two major releases. So that’s something, until I can afford a tester of my own 🙂

When I got the job offer in theatre, it caught me at a particularly opportune moment. I was feeling a little worn out from over a year of working at home at various times, having a toddler on my hands and all that. All of this added up to a general dissatisfaction with life, and so a leap to theatre, my first passion as a young adult, was an extremely attractive prospect. What can it hurt, I thought. I even said in my exit interview, if this new career doesn’t work out, I’d love to come back to Aderant.

And so after a five week VERY MUCH NOT A HOLIDAY HAHAHA… here I sit back at my desk at Aderant. I am so, so, so happy to be back. My wonderful colleagues have all welcomed me back warmly. People are already asking me questions and treating me like an expert in my area of the product on only the second day back. I’m straight back into the swing of things as if I never left. I am so at home here. I forgot, when I thought theatre would be a nice change, that I am at heart an introvert, and that even while I might enjoy playing the extrovert on stage from time to time, I actually get healing from working on my computer all day amongst other introverts, occassionally stopping for a chat with the colleagues then getting back down to work. Everyone here is respected and trusted to be competent and responsible. It’s absolutely the best, most supportive workplace I’ve ever worked at, and I am so, so grateful to be able to come back. Earlier this week I felt a little like the spouse who strayed, then came back begging because I never knew what I was missing until I left. But I haven’t been treated like that, instead I’ve been welcomed back with no reprimands and that’s… honestly just refreshing, to have such honest and mature dealings!

All my little desk friends are back where we belong!

Ok so that’s my little non-gaming bit over, thanks for reading. This week things have been a little higgeldy-piggeldy as I have gotten back into the swing of things. My first sweep through the fully voiced and sound effect’ed Nine Lives presented a few bugs here and there that need fixing before I continue, so I think realistically I’m not getting this release out until the end of May. That will be a nice two year anniversary for the game!

I also have some feedback from the German build of White Rabbit to look at so there’s more work when I can get to it. Thank goodness it’s Easter this weekend, so I’ll have a little extra time to work on these!

Tonight James and I are recording an episode of the podcast where I will be leading the discussion for once! It’s about Pokemon. I am pretty hyped 😀

James has been plugging away at his Dragonlance reviews and working on Dragons of Tirenia. I’m so excited for his next roleplaying campaign. He has more ideas than either of us are reasonably able to produce as fully realised content… and I have more game ideas than I can possibly make too… Not trying to brag, just saying!

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 #39 – Back at it and loving it

Before I get into how my week has been, let me just advertise right up front that James and I are doing a livestream tonight at 7pm NZ time over on www.twitch.tv/skybeargames . Please join us for a live reading of the game book Ring of the Ruby Dragon which is bound to be a cringey experience of what TSR in the 80s thought would appeal to girls.

I am very happy to say that last Friday I finally managed to knuckle down and get some work done on The Nine Lives of Nim. James could see I was freaking out, so he made some arrnagements so I could focus in the evenings, and now I can say that 10 out of 12 actor’s voices are completely in the game now, all the code changes I wanted to make have been done and tested, and I am now in the process of creating the translation build. There’s some 6000+ strings or lines of dialogue to be copied into the code, so it will take a few more evenings before I have a working build ready to send to China for a first pass. And not only is it a relief to get back to all of this, but I am actually just loving the act of coding again after being far too busy to do any!

The next steps for that process are: to finish getting all of the voices in, and the few sound effects I have decided would enhance the game; finish putting in all the translations plus the Chinese font and the ability to switch languages; await feedback on the Chinese translation build because there is always changes in something like that, you never get it right first time; once all the voices and sounds are in, do a full regression test of the English version of the game, which at the very least means running through enough times that I hear every line of dialogue spoken, and through every new line of code that was added or changed; then when the Chinese team is happy with the game, a full regression test of the Chinese version, which for me means making sure I hear every line of dialogue again, since I can’t read Simplified Chinese!

And then finally after that, hopefully the multiple European and Japanese White Rabbit versions will be complete enough for me to do a full regression on them too! There is a lot on my plate for the next while! And eventually, goodness knows when, I’ll get back to Her Jentle Hi-ness! One day, I swear…

James meanwhile has reached 91,500 as of yesterday. He’s optimistic as he gets closer and closer to his target! But it is a little bit like climbing up a sand dune, as he does delete chunks out of his previous work every time he sits down to start writing. Still, he’s nearly made it!

Hope to see you at the livestream tonight, otherwise catch it later on Twitch or our Youtube channel, which has been gaining subscribers every day since we talked about Magic last week. I should have known that would happen!

Dev blog #37 – Nothing doing

Hey all, so not much news on my front this week. Starting my new job has kept me super busy. The European and Japanese translation team are working hard away. The Chinese team are waiting on me to hurry up, but I have been so busy. I feel really bad about that, but I am barely doing anything outside of working and mothering. There just isn’t enough time in the day! Is this the end for Claire’s development career? Well, I hope not, and I will tell you more later but I am hoping to program some web games to do with my new job! But more on that when I have something concrete to talk about.

James meanwhile has met the challenging goal of 90,000 words on the Dragons of Tirenia. As you can see in posts before this one, he continues on his mad quest to work through all of the Dragonlance canon. He’s getting his game on tonight with a bunch of friends playing a D&D session set in Auromia, the counterpart to Rome in Tirenia. I’d say that plot is squarely in Act Three territory now, and hopefully one day he’ll turn it into an adventure module.

Anyway, the show I am in is almost over! So hopefully I get more time to wrap up the translation builds in good time for my translation partners. We banked an episode on Dark Sun last month and just released it, but we’re back to fresh recordings next week, with another session with the Bundle Buddies (this time for their podcast, not ours) and the first new episode of ours in over a month. We were thinking about doing an episode on Magic the Gathering since we play it all the time, but there has been new Ravenloft news as well! And uh…. yeah, I am super excited about that!! So we’ll see what we come up with next recording sesh. James also reckons its time for me to finally do a video game spotlight episode. I guess I should, but I have a bit of impostor syndrome, because honestly it comes so naturally to me to just let James talk and talk, since he holds onto information much better than I do. Well, we’ll see!

Catch ya later!

Dev blog #36 – So, about those changes

Correction to this blog post: I have subsequently left the Classic and returned to my old job for my health, and as the commute and the time commitment expected of me was too much for me as a mother

As I have been saying for the last few weeks, things have been changing in my life. The big change I have been hinting at is a change of job. Actually a complete change of industry and profession! I am no longer going to be a software tester, but am going back to my first love, theatre. I am going to be the Operations Manager at the Classic Theatre Company in Auckland, New Zealand.

What does this mean for Sky Bear Games? Well actually, hopefully it’s going to be a good thing, because my new boss wants me to create games to promote the upcoming programme on the website. Sometimes they might just be little quiz like games, like the game for Sherlock Holmes coming later this year. But the next production after the current one is Alice in Wonderland. Obvious crossover there, right? I am going to be creating a new free chapter for Wonderland Nights. The concept artist for the show is going to be Rose, so the style will be continuous there.

I am also hoping that it will give me greater access to voice actors, and perhaps give James an opportunity to develop the roleplaying webseries he’s been thinking about for years. But more about that later.

Life continues as normal behind all the huge changes. I’m making improvements to the translation builds for Wonderland Nights, putting in the voice work and code changes for Nine Lives and getting ready for the translations there, and James is plugging away at Dragons of Tirenia, reaching 88,000 words now! Coming this week we’ve got the next Dragonlance review and the next podcast episode going up. So don’t worry, we’re going to keep going 🙂

Dev blog #34 – Never rains but it pours

So just after saying that there was nothing on the White Rabbit front, I got given the Japanese translation! But that was actually super easy to work on because I had basically done all the groundwork already with the Chinese translation. It was the matter of taking one night out of my busy schedule, sitting with James while he watched Hamilton and I half listened while I imported all the translations. I will need to run some QA still but first, the more pressing issue…

The Chinese translations for Nine Lives have arrived! But we still haven’t finished the voice work yet! AHHHH!!!! So Lauren and I are scrambling to get things done ASAP. I’m cutting up the clips from the master voice track recorded by Laura who plays Nim. Straight after that I have a collection of small fixes to code – hopefully they are small! – and then I will be able to split the game into two different builds, one for English, one for Chinese, and finally import the Chinese translations. I can at least do that before importing the voices fully if they aren’t done by then. And that’s not even stopping to consider the changes that are going to be needed in the art… But at least there is no major rush at the moment, there is no release date planned as yet because they are still coming up with what the Chinese title will be!

And just in terms of personal life, this is coming at a crazy time for me. I’m changing jobs, I’m in the first theatre show I’ve been in since having my child. Things are just so, so busy hence the title of this post. I really only have myself to blame! I am just so very glad that James and I pre-recorded and banked the two podcast episodes that are coming out this month on the 8th and the 22nd. Thank goodness we were so wise! They are very fun episodes, so I can’t wait to hear what you think of them, and I hope you’ll forgive the illusion of them being current at the time of release.

Between all the extra load of childcare James now has to do because of my absences for rehearsals, he has been getting a little bit more work done on Dragons of Tirenia, but mostly he has been enjoying the little nostalgia journey of re-reading the start of the truly intimidatingly large Dragonlance canon. I’ve been enjoying contributing to and editing his reviews. Check out the review of the end of the first trilogy this Sunday!

One little nice thing that has been happening in the past week… for some reason my games have been getting a little more attention lately. I have no idea why! Because Nine Lives was in the Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality, so thousands of people own it, I get a couple of views and downloads trickling in every day on Itch.io. But last week there was one day where suddenly Nine Lives got 60 views, and almost a total of 80 views on all my games! Since then I have been getting new followers almost every day. I’m not quite sure what has happened, but hopefully it keeps happening. Wish I knew how to encourage it!

Dev blog #33 – Lots of movement, plus Dragonlance news!

Since we seem to have become the Dragonlance news blog, let’s cover that first, shall we? Something new and interesting has been revealed that complicates our theories further. Remember how last time we thought perhaps they might be going back in the timeline? Well our suspicions are even stronger now that we see the title of the new series is Classic Dragonlance. There are also rumours of a new female protagonist! What could it all mean? Well, we’re excited to find out eventually.

Source: the public Facebook account of Tracy Hickman

In Sky Bear Games news, this week James got back on the writing horse and has reached the whopping total of 87,000 words out of his (completely arbitrary) 100K goal for the first major release of Dragons of Tirenia.

As for me, nothing new on the White Rabbit front, but Grand Vision have been back in touch with me and the Nine Lives translation will be ready to work with on Tuesday!! So I am hauling butt now to get the extra work I wanted to put in Nine Lives done, particularly any extra strings that will need translation. The quality improvements I am working on will improve the gameplay for the English language players too. I intend to make the tutorial a lot smoother and a bit quicker, improve the functionality of the menus, add in extra events that reward you for working on certain stats, and to make the hidden stats of Public Opinion and Connection to Faerie a little less obscured.

We had a great time recording our last podcast with the Bundle Buddies, so please check that out, or better yet check their podcast out. They are laugh out loud funny! More episodes of both podcasts coming out soon.

Right, back to work!!

Dev blog #31 – Conejo Blanco! ホワイト・ラビット!

That’s right, it’s time to talk about the Spanish and Japanese translations for Wonderland Nights: White Rabbit’s Diary! I am currently working on those, helping the company who are implementing these translations and other upcoming versions to put all the translations into the code. It’s faster for me to do it, rather than them, since I have done it once before for the Chinese release. Currently I am waiting on more translation work to come in and then I’ll have a fully testable build.

Bit of work to still do though! Title still English, and left hand side too small for the Spanish word for Settings!

James meanwhile is taking a bit of a break from Dragons of Tirenia still. Last year he got very burnt out not just on Tirenia from having run almost every game in that setting, but also just being burnt out on the mechanics and drama surrounding Dungeons and Dragons even more so. But he is planning his next steps to move forward: he needs to do a bunch of research into some Italian Renaissance cities he knows little about so he can be re-inspired. Also I might play Assassin’s Creed 2 to help inspire him!

Meanwhile, I hope you are enjoying his Dragonlance review from the other day. He’s busy reading the rest of that first trilogy. Even though I have much less of a connection with Dragonlance, having not grown up with it, I am really getting into how excited he is about it. I might have to read the first trilogy after all! But in fairness, James is trying to get into Elder Scrolls, which is a big thing for me from my late teens. Maybe you’ll see us streaming Morrowind, or even Daggerfall Unity sometime soon!

Exciting podcasts coming up! We just released one, as you may have seen in our earlier post. The next one we have slated for Monday after next is with special guests Alex and Eric aka the Bundle Buddies! Check out their podcast here, and stay tuned because we’ll be guesting on their podcast too!