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 #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: https://pokemontimecapsule.wordpress.com/2021/05/10/pokemon-4000-season-1-episode-1/

Podcast Episode 23: Our recap of the NZ Games Festival

Today we break down Claire’s experience at the NZ Games Festival, with all the workshops and talks, and how it felt to win the Pav for Excellence in Narrative! Listen to the episode here: https://www.spreaker.com/episode/44594024

Note: I forgot to say one name in the podcast because I launched too quickly into the content of the talk, which was Tana Tanoi whose talk was Life in Three Dimensions, about spaces being lived in through the actions players could take.

Also I refer to Rose as the artist and Dave as the proofreader when I mention them at the Pavs, but to clarify, those were their roles on Wonderland Nights. They are even more talented in their full careers! Rose Northey is an illustrator and poet amongst many other things, and Dave Agnew is an editor as well as being a great roleplayer.

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 ^_^

Podcast Episode 22 – Ravenloft Again!

With a new 5th edition Ravenloft book coming out next month, we thought it was high time we did another Ravenloft episode. This time we go deep on the metaplot of Ravenloft during it’s main run in 2nd edition, and give our Top 5 adventures/supplements that can still be found on DriveThruRPG, though the Top 5 sort of turns into a Top 20, sorta. SPOILERS, like ALLLLLL the way through the episode! If you think you’re going to be a player in any of these 2nd edition metaplot events ever, maybe skip this episode.

Also sorry about the recording quality. I really messed up with the recording this time, but with some Audacity magic I was able to make it somewhat listenable. Sorry for it being a bit sub-quality though.

Here is the episode!

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!