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 #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!

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 #38 – Busy work

Did I say there was nothing doing last week? Well. Addressing you from the middle of a Level 3 lockdown in Auckland NZ, there really is nothing doing this week.

You see, unlike other people who get bored with all the time during lockdown, we have a toddler. So there’s actually less time for us during lockdown. We, the childed, go to work to get a break. So this week has been full on. Even the times that my mother has been able to help us this week have been nutso busy, with James having meetings and with me having meetings and getting as much work done for my new theatre job as we scramble to address the covid situation with audiences who missed out on the show.

Look, it’s not all doom and gloom. I’ve actually really appreciated the time with my toddler. After seven weeks of rehearsals and performances, my son was actually really missing our nightly routine being stable. He’s really appreciated having me at home, and I have been appreciating his joyfulness at simple things. We’ve had time at the beach, we’ve had music time. He loves to sing Credence Clearwater Revival to himself while happily eating blueberries. He is obsessed with the skull symbols of the Nine Houses in the Locked Tomb Trilogy, which James and I are obsessed with right now, though for more literary reasons than our son (by the way read Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir, it is the best thing ever). I miss his face even now when writing this while he’s sleeping.

But Sky Bear Games has been suffering. I simply can’t wait to get back to work in the daytime so that my nights can be reserved for the mad hustle of getting the translation builds done. I hope the translation companies are not getting upset with me. I would be getting upset with me if I were them! Last time around, I managed to get Wonderland Nights back to China in about two days I think it was? Then there were a few more weeks of fine tuning. This time it’s been three and a half weeks and Nine Lives hasn’t even begun properly as I’ve stalled on getting the voice work in, let alone putting all the translation work in.

At least James has gotten over 90,000 words and just has 10,000 to go until he hits his target! And we did our first podcast recording in two months (sorry if you thought you were listening to fresh podcasts! We actually pre-taped all our February content in January!). That should hopefully be up on Monday.

There’s something really exciting for Sky Bear on the horizon which I will be allowed to announce soon, but I have been sworn to secrecy. But I feel like in order to do the announcement justice, I want to clean my act up and actually get Nine Lives done! I feel so terrible about it all.

And all through this, honestly, is just the constant reminder not to be too hard on myself. I’m only one person. I don’t have a time turner, but man I wish I did!

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 #35: Wunderland-Nächte: Tagebuch des weißen Kaninchens

Why yes, that is a German title you are reading up there ^_^

Just after writing to you last week, the German translation for Wonderland Nights arrived, and over the weekend I put that into the game. It’s really quick now that this is the fourth translation I have put in.

Then I got straight back to Nine Lives. I have finally crested a major hill in editing the voice files, and now I am importing many of the finished files and making the code changes I have been so desperately keen to get to. Today I finally felt confident enough in a release within a month that I asked my actors for their headshots and biographies for the publicity campaign. Once all of these things are in, I need to get a crack on with the Chinese translation! Having done it once before, it should be fairly easy for me to set up the translation infrastructure, but I should probably focus on getting any art translated that needs it (or just getting empty versions is probably easiest!).

James meanwhile has been getting back to some fun basics, playing Link’s Awakening on the switch, and board games with friends while I’m busy rehearsing this awesome show I am in. I came in to find them playing Battlestar Galactica last night. I was so jealous! But I might get to play with them next week. Maybe we can play Mysterium, since there will be seven of us!

We’ve also been geeking out over the new Magic set, Kaldheim, and I have been geeking out over Pokemon lots lately. Maybe a pokemon related post is needed soon.

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!