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/

Podcast Episode 20: Asian Creativity in the Wake of Anti-Asian Hate Crimes

We had our friend Benjamin Teh around for a social visit, but given the events of the last week, it turned into an impromptu podcast episode: https://www.spreaker.com/episode/44011021

In this episode, we discuss Asian Creativity with Benjamin Teh, in the wake of the Atlanta shootings in March 2021.

Please note regarding the list of names: The version of the news story that Ben found and read misspelled the first name of Delaina Yaun. The story also misspelled Xiaojie Tan’s last name based on information provided by the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office. The story was also updated to include full and correct names for Yong Ae Yue, Hyun Jung Grant and Soon Chung Park.

Here is a charity to donate to to support the Asian American community in Georgia during this difficult time: https://actionnetwork.org/fundraising/support-georgias-asian-american-community/

Here is another charity cause to donate to from artist Shaun Yu Yong Jian: https://fortifystr.myshopify.com/products/standard-postcard

Here is the Spinoff’s article about Anti-Asian hate in New Zealand: https://thespinoff.co.nz/society/22-03-2021/anti-asian-hate-and-violence-is-not-confined-to-america-it-is-right-here-in-nz-too/

Recommendations made in the episode:

Golden Threads can be purchased and downloaded at: https://allanxia.itch.io/golden-threads

Jiangshi: Blood in the Banquet Hall is available here: https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/338920/Jiangshi-Blood-in-the-Banquet-Hall

Asians Represent podcast can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/c/aznsrepresent/featured

More info about Ten Thousand Coins can be found here: https://www.tenthousandcoins.com/

The Islands of Sina Una is available here: https://hitpointpress.com/the-islands-of-sina-una-campaign-pdf/

You can find the Dumplings and Dragons podcast, hosted by our friend and guest Benjamin Teh, here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCoRRuYeg0Eqbu9vsl2TYfWg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We’re on the Bundle Buddies podcast!

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

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

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

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!