Dev blog #32 – The times they are a’changing

Today I got a nice message when I logged in to make this blog post. It’s the six year anniversary of my making this blog site! Where were we back then? January 2015, James and I had left high school teaching and were working frankly rubbish part time jobs while we tried to figure out what it was we wanted to do with our lives. We tried for a few months to get this whole Sky Bear Games thing going. In February we got in touch with Julia from Cheeky Parrot Games and kicked off the process of getting Cat Capers published, and by the end of the year, it was. In March 2015 I started making The Nine Lives of Nim, or as it was known back then Prince of Cats. But we had no real idea what we were doing when it comes to getting our games out there (nor do we still, really), so soon enough we went back to regular jobs and this stayed being a side thing, taking various shapes over the years.

For the most part, before my decision to do a weekly dev blog last July, this was just an occasional RPG session report blog. Will it go back to that after a while? Well, to be honest, I am not sure. Things are changing rapidly in our lives. More on that when I have more concrete things to say.

In the meantime, what have we been up to? James in still on his break from Dragons of Tirenia, and is starting a new Star Wars d6 roleplay on our discord, so please join in if that sounds interesting to you. He is also steadily making his way through the Dragonlance canon to make his reviews – one coming up this Sunday!

As for me, I am currently a bit stalled, waiting for the extra translation work needed for the Spanish and Japanese translations. But it gives me more time to work on the future podcast episodes, and tinker with the voice work for Nine Lives as it comes in. We recorded something rather exciting with some new friends from overseas, but I don’t want to get into that too much as we had some technical errors. We’ll likely have to re-record, so I don’t want to hype it too early!

There is actually more news, as I said before, things are changing rapidly. But I don’t want to jump the gun on anything before it’s official.

Dev blog #29 – Resolutions

I’ll try not to double up on information that I gave on the podcast the other day, but it is time to reflect and think about what the next year holds in store for Sky Bear Games.

DRAGONS OF TIRENIA – James will continue to work on this, as will I where needed. I have a bit of a goal to get it on Kickstarter by at the very latest October 2021. But I also am flexible on that. No point just creating stress for myself and James.

WONDERLAND NIGHTS is wrapped for now! I might need to lend additional help for the further translation releases of course, but until I hear more from the company I’m working with in Europe, nothing is happening there. And of course I may need to make small corrections on the Chinese version when asked, but I have done that so many times now that it’s easy.

NINE LIVES OF NIM however is back in full swing, or at least back in full swing for me, because it has been playing second fiddle to Wonderland for a while now. I’m doing additional coding and helping with voices and translation, Lauren’s on the voices side of things, and Britney is translating. I expect to be able to release the voice acting update in Jan/Feb. I would estimate a second quarter release for the Chinese version but that’s pure speculation based on how fast Wonderland Nights was.

HER JENTLE HI-NESS will sadly not get focus until Nine Lives is thoroughly out the door, let’s just be honest. I have been doing bits and pieces for it here and there but there is only so much time in the day! But a major question I had for it is now solved, thanks to Lauren, and if you want to hear what she came up with for the problem of what to do with the voices, you can hear that on the most recent episode of the podcast.

SPEAKING OF THE MOST RECENT PODCAST, if you haven’t listened to it, we are running a competition there. On the episode, we cover 7 different game ideas for what I could do next after Her Jentle Hi-ness. If you would like to win our back catalogue (Nine Lives, White Rabbit and the Dragons of Tirenia intro guide) then write to us here or on any of our social accounts before 8th January with what you’d like to see next out of those options, and you’ll be in the draw!

SMALLER PROJECTS, HOME CAMPAIGNS etc. – I am about to finish and release the final chapter of Street Rat. That’s the game/s I have been making since January as part of the monthly Bitsy Game Jam. I have learnt a lot from working with a limited platform and engaging with other people’s creations on the same platform, but now is the time, at the end of the 12-part story, to call it quits. The monthly jams have been fun but they have also been a source of stress as other things in my life have often lead to me leaving it to the last minute and working until the wee hours of the night/morning to get them done. Speaking of other things being a source of stress, James has made a resolution to stop starting new RPG campaigns (haha, good luck!) but rather to finish the ones he has started. I for one am looking forward to getting back to Dirwin, now that baby is sleeping better at night. We won’t be streaming that, but I will be keeping up the Dirwin blog as I always have since the start of it, right here!

PODCAST, STREAMING AND OTHER PERIPHERAL MEDIA – we’ll see how this all goes. James and I have been having fun doing the podcast, but if it becomes a hassle, we might drop it after reaching the one year mark. We’ll see, because he’s got a lot of RPG content he can talk about (we’ll be doing Dark Sun sooner or later!). We have vague plans to do more streaming, especially bi-monthly charity streams. But we do sort of want to wait a bit to improve our production quality a bit before we do any additional dedicated streaming. I dunno, it’s a chicken/egg problem, because what’s the point of expending time on money on improving the stream when there are few viewers, but then also there are few viewers because of the low quality of the stream… But basically the end of that train of thought for me is always that James and I are more interested in doing creative work first and foremost, rather than streaming for the hell of it. If I was able to work on Sky Bear Games full time, perhaps we would become a lot more serious about streaming.

I think that about covers it? But basically we are keeping on keeping on, and hoping that 2021 brings us a little relief from some of the stressors of this year. What were those, and how can we avoid them? Well, I have spoken already about shedding some of the extra commitments, so that will help. Sinking a bunch of money into Armageddon was a rookie mistake, but we have learnt that the hard way. I feel like finally we are starting to bounce back from that both emotionally and financially. I think for both of us, we need to be a bit more serious and say no to each other, especially when whatever grand scheme we come up with involves too much money or time used. We are both waaaaaaaay too good at coming up with exciting new ideas, but I hope that the negative lessons we learnt this year will help us to mature a little past the drive to immediately launch into weak or ill-conceived projects.

But make no mistake, or enthusiasm to get our projects out there for your enjoyment has not diminished. Hopefully we have just improved our ability and capacity to do these things and do them well!

Many blessings for the new year from us!

Episode 14: SBG’s plans for 2021 with special guest Lauren Wilson

This week we have our special guest Lauren Wilson – producer, voice actor, sound engineer, work wife, cheerleader, you name it! – talking with me about the plans Sky Bear Games have in store for 2021. I’ll break it all down here as well on Thursday. We had a fun conversation, but unfortunately large chunks of it got corrupted through me being terrible at all this recording guff. I’ve learnt a few lessons, that’s for sure! But I have stitched together what I could, so please enjoy! https://www.spreaker.com/episode/42689001

Dev blog #28 – Countdown to China

That’s right, Wonderland Nights is about to be released in Chinese! The release date is the 28th, or rather then 29th for me here in little Aotearoa.

I’ve actually got nothing left to do for it so far as I am aware! So I have been focusing on the next thing, which is the Nine Lives of Nim re-release with voice acting. I’m helping Lauren by cutting up some of the larger uncut voice files, and she is editing the cut files to make them sound more uniform and nice on the ears. Once I’m done helping her I will be making a few improvements to the code and general user experience, and then importing all the voice files in once they are ready to go.

Starting to look more and more like I’ll miss my February goal for releasing Her Jentle Hi-ness because of how much work I still have to do on Nine Lives. Oh well, these things happen.

Later on this week, the final Bitsy jam begins. The theme is candles. I’ve got to let that sit with me and let it inspire me for the content of the final chapter of the Street Rat story. I think I know a few things I have to include, but as always the jam theme has to inform where I go with that.

We finished Apprentices of Tirenia last week and wrapped it up with an epilogue and retrospective. Here it is in its complete state: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLv-uX03VmexJxjHebLgo-tCNDKtGX3vuQ

James is sick, so he hasn’t been able to progress any further with his word count on Dragons of Tirenia this week. I think he needed the break anyway, but I wish it could have been for more relaxing reasons, rather than bronchitis!

So my usual partner for podcasting is missing in action, and tonight is recording night. What will I do instead… well, I think I’ll get my friend, and someone who has been very involved in the process of many of our games, Lauren Wilson, to come on the podcast and we’ll just chat about what we think the year 2021 is going to look like for Sky Bear Games. I’m really looking forward to it! Especially because I feel like I need some outside guidance for my future after the current three games are wrapped.

Dev Blog #27 – Half a year gone!

Hey, it’s been half a year since I started doing this whole weekly blog thing. Has it been helping? Well, not yet, seems to be my feeling. There’s a little bit of awareness of who we are and what we do, we get a little bit of love from followers/supporters every week, and I appreciate that. Thank you! Like I say to James, I believe that if we just keep being ourselves and posting our blogs, podcasts, and livestreams, our audience will find us one day. If we can have a proven track record behind us of regular content, then new audience members coming in will see that they can have a certain level of trust that we won’t just vanish next week. It might seem pointless at times, but in time I think we’ll thank ourselves.

Well, there are important things coming up which are going to expand our audience. Obviously, Wonderland Nights: White Rabbit’s Diary coming out in less than two weeks in China is going to be potentially quite big. I’ve never done anything remotely like that before, so we’ll see how it goes! I have high hopes, but perhaps I need to tone those hopes down a little so they don’t get dashed. But the latest update with White Rabbit is that I have finished my testing 100%, so now it’s up to the Grand Vision team to finish their testing, and then we are good to go!

The translator I am working with there has gone straight into The Nine Lives of Nim, and I need to go straight into that too now that White Rabbit is well underway. I need to do a bit of sound editing, pop the finished sound files into the game, and I need to make a few fixes and improvements. I need to hurry up and do that so I can give my translator any new strings I come up with!

Meanwhile, James continues with Dragons of Tirenia (17,000 words until he hits 100k!) and I am continuing with adding slowly to the new Jentle Hi-ness storylines. We’ve got a new podcast episode out: https://www.spreaker.com/episode/42497198 , in which we dissect James’s childhood nostalgia for Dragonlance. It’s a good time!

What else is going on… we’re almost wrapped on the Discord, and have an announcement about what is happening next there coming up once that is done. We are wrapping Apprentices of Tirenia tomorrow in a daytime livestream! The final Bitsy jam I will take part in will be very soon, if not this weekend then the next presumably. And I think that about does it for this week. Thanks for reading!

Dev blog #26 – Go time

Hiya folks, another week and it’s still all on! What’s up this week with all the projects…

DRAGONS OF TIRENIA: We have the penultimate episode of the Apprentices of Tirenia live play happening TONIGHT 7.30pm NZT on www.twitch.tv/skybeargames . Check out the map I am planning below. I have been looking forward to this for A LONG TIME. Also, James is working away at the first draft, and our current Discord adventure is wrapping up. We’re probably going to be instituting some major changes to how we roleplay on Discord after this, so watch that space.

WONDERLAND NIGHTS: WHITE RABBIT’S DIARY is now being tested by Grand Vision and myself for release in China. That’s right, the translations are done, the art with Chinese text is all done, so we’re just testing now and making any small changes we need to make. It should be out in China by the end of December!! So exciting!!!

My next focus after Wonderland Nights needs to be THE NINE LIVES OF NIM: FORTUNE’S FOOL, especially because they are now translating the dialogue for that! Lauren is chipping away at the recordings and getting them ready for me to import. I’ve got some art additions from Jade to put in, and I want to make some small improvements to gameplay, especially around the introduction of the game, as was pointed out by the guys at the Bundle Buddies podcast. It’s actually a wee bit intimidating! But that might be because I am deep in White Rabbit brain right now, and I just need to shift my brain back when I can.

Last but not least on my list of work to do is HER JENTLE HI-NESS which, believe it or not, is still being worked on despite being lower on the pile. I am writing the extra storylines I want to put in. There’s still a lot of overhauling to do, especially in terms of UI, gameplay difficulties, and other feedback I’ve gotten. If you’d like to give me more feedback and get into the credits of the final release, playtest the demo here!

After that, well, we’ll see. I would still quite like to Androidify the back catalog – remember when that was briefly my main thing back in July? Haha, how time flies. I want to get back to that in time. In the meantime, though, thanks for reading, and catch you tonight at the livestream!

Dev blog #24 – A time for patience

Waiting. That’s the theme for this week. Like tonight – no livestream sorry, you’ll have to wait until next week to find out what happens at Valentino’s wedding. Sorry, I’m still so worn out from my brief stomach flu last weekend, every night at 8.30pm has turned into a hard stop for me. I wonder when I’ll get my energy back? At least this didn’t happen before the charity stream! Sadly, it meant we couldn’t make it to the Retrospace board game event. Hopefully we can have another in a month or so.

I have all the Chinese translations imported into Wonderland Nights, including placeholders for the art that needs changing. Now that is just waiting for Rose’s schedule to have an opening, so she can update the places where there is text in the artwork. But I’m also waiting for them to decide what the Chinese title of the game is, which she needs to know so she can update the title artwork. So that’s waiting.

December awaits. November was supposed to be my month of rest, before picking up Her Jentle Hi-ness again. But I think I may be too busy working on the Chinese release, and the voice acting release of Nine Lives. So Jentle Hi-ness will wait more.

You know what isn’t waiting so much? James actually got back to working on the main Dragons of Tirenia release again this week. So that’s positive. It’s slow going, but every little bit counts towards us kickstarting next year.

So what is going on, meanwhile? Well, James and I will record our podcast episode tonight before early bedtime. It’s going to be a nice juicy one tonight. You’ll find out on Sunday what we’ve got in store.

We’ve been playing Pandemic Legacy Season Zero and hooottttt daaaaamn it is fun. So at least the waiting has had something nice in it.

The last thing I have to say for this week is check out Bundle Buddies podcast! They are playing EVERY SINGLE GAME in the BLM bundle that was on itch.io earlier this year, which Nine Lives was a part of. Nine Lives is coming up soon, and we’re in talks to guest in each others podcasts sometime. They also promote different charities every episode, which is awesome! Looking forward to getting to know these guys.

Dev blog #23 – Quiet before the storm

Hi all,

Taking it easy because James and I are sick. Don’t worry, tests came back and it’s not covid. Hopefully we are well enough to do our board games event on Sunday. We’re definitely not well enough to do our livestream tonight. I need to keep this short so my headache doesn’t get worse looking at a screen for too long.

Whether we are there or not, Julia from Cheeky Parrot Games and the team from Retrospace will be at the board game day on Sunday, so if you’re in Auckland please come and enjoy some chill board games in sunny Takapuna.

James will hopefully resume Dragons of Tirenia next week. Meanwhile, I am lying in wait to pounce next week, when the Chinese translations for Wonderland Nights arrive and then I have to implement them all. I have set up the framework for toggling between Chinese and English, and now I am just waiting for the finalised translations before I continue. Exciting times!

I hear word that the Nine Lives voices are getting closer to completion. I expect to have that out by the end of the year. And then I guess I am getting back to Jentle Hi-ness, finally! My brother even hinted he might have time to work on the music with me. That really fills me with joy. I love his music. I was listening to the music he wrote for my play Dracula yesterday and I just sat there and smiled to hear it all again.

I hope I recover quickly so I am ready to leap into action once those translations are here!

Dev Blog #22 – Join us in a good cause!

Before I get started on how our week has been, let me first point out that tonight, for 24 hours straight, James and I will be livestreaming kid-friendly games as a part of Gaming for Charity. If you donate at www.gamingforcharity.nz/skybeargames , that donation will go to Heart Kids NZ, supporting Kiwi kids with heart conditions and their families in their time of need. You can also suggest a game for us to play, and if you take part yourself, we will donate to your cause too!

So, what has been up all week?

Well, James is feeling like he’ll get back to work on the Kickstarter drafts not this week coming, but the next, because he feels like he needs more of a break (I agree). As for me, I am actually on a little bit of a break too, and that’s only because I am waiting for the last few things I need to finish implementing and testing for the re-release of Nine Lives. I can’t do anything while I’m waiting. And I have pledged to myself to do no more work on Her Jentle Hi-ness until December!

Is that pledge going to last the month? We’ll see. I’m going a little bit crazy without any major project to work on. There are three things I am waiting on other people from. Nine Lives is one, and the other two I can’t speak about just yet. But I am champing at the bit to know about those ones so I can tell you what’s up, and so I can know what my month is going to look like!

There’s really not a lot else to talk about, sorry. Hurry up and wait, that’s the current status! We are continuing on with our livestream D&D for potentially 3 more weeks, as I have at a minimum 3 more cities I need the characters to visit. We’ll see if we get around to a podcast this week, because we are a little busy with the livestream. I would really like to. I really enjoy doing the podcast, especially when the conversation is on a roll and people really know what they are talking about.

Anyway, that’s enough dithering. I hope to see you at the stream tonight!

Dev blog #20 – It’s finally over…

Well, it feels weird to finally be able to say it, but Armageddon is over, and we came out the other end. I’ll do a bit of a recap here, but if you want to hear how the weekend campaign went storywise, you’ll want to tune into our livestream tonight on www.twitch.tv/skybeargames or after that on YouTube. If you want to know what went on behind the scenes in the campaign e.g. mechanics, cause and effect etc, then stay tuned for our podcast episode which will be released on Monday. And if you want to know the inside baseball, besides just the little bit I am going to say below, then sign up to our Patreon for the real goss.

What I will say here is this:

  • It was utterly exhausting and we ate waaaaaay too much fried food and spent more money on merch than we should have
  • The weekend campaign went really well and James delighted players all weekend long
  • The viral marketing idea with the stickers and the voting was all right. Many people found it more confusing than it should have been, but some people got addicted to it and would drag people over to us to vote. So mixed result there.
  • It was lovely to spend the whole weekend with our board game publisher Julia from Cheeky Parrot Games. Pretty rare for me to be able to spend a weekend with someone in a high-pressure situation like that and not get a bit annoyed by them, but I never felt annoyed at Julia, she was a perfect stall-mate.

I think that’s all I’ll say for now, here, and for free 😀 If you want to know the more brutally honest reflection, you can find our inside baseball episode on our Patreon in a day or two.

So what’s next?

The next three things on my plate are: make a Bitsy game for the jam which is due on Monday; add in all the voice acting, do a regression test and re-release The Nine Lives of Nim; and do the charity stream. Not sure I’ve mentioned that before, so check out this little ad below, or www.gamingforcharity.nz/skybeargames

For James, he is taking a break, and when he is ready he will get back to developing the campaign setting guide for the Kickstarter. He has some really exciting ideas of how to publish it. More on that closer to the time.

There’s more planned, but I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself for now. Maybe next week, we’ll see.

Anyway, I hope you’ll pop over to our livestream or podcast to see what happened on the weekend campaign. It was epic. James will break it all down for you so you can understand what happened. See you there!