The school holiday doldrums

Next week is the half term school break for my son, which means a week of me having to keep him home, keep him fed, and keep him entertained, all the while itching to get back to Mood Flip.

Life is about balance, sure.  And I will enjoy taking a break from game dev here and there to play Pinch Monsters with him or read a book together or take him to the cinema and afterwards explain for the umpteenth time why McDonalds is a poor nutritious substitute for “real food”.  But as anyone with kids can no doubt attest, the demands of a child – and particularly a bored child in search of attention – are never sated.  Matthew loves to play, and that generally means playing with dad any opportunity he can get.

These days we are all addicted to gazing into our black mirrors.  TV, phones, computers and tablets become de facto babysitters, giving mum and dad a few moments of blissful quiet so that we can spend time fiddling with our own such gadgets.  When I was growing up, my parents used to steer me to get some balance of playing outdoors despite my nerdish preference for a book or computer game indoors.  Those were different times, of course, when kids could more readily go outside unsupervised, and I spent many hours playing in the forest with my neighbours or riding my bike down the track alongside the local creek.  That sort of freedom doesn’t really exist anymore – the world has changed and nobody wants to risk letting their kids out of their sight anymore, even though the level of actual danger probably hasn’t changed all that much and it’s just increased awareness instead.  And so, the rise of the gadgets and “being alone together” lifestyles.

Anyway, philosophy aside, next week won’t be all lost productivity, I’m sure.  The new PC will finally arrive and I’ll spend a day or two configuring that and moving my Unity development over to it.  I intend to get the tutorial UI to 100% completion with the addition of a few more tweaks and tweens (although no doubt I’ll change my mind a month from now and rework it again).  Then it’ll be back to my targeted checklist to complete before I head back to Australia for a visit at the end of March:

  • Get the level editor/playtest components to at least functionally complete state, so I can use them to create most of the game’s campaign levels while I’m away
  • Add ability to save those editor levels to their own file and then replay them from the Load Level menu option
  • Fix up ParticleHandler and EmoterHandler final two handlers so that their code is clean and a few known bugs are resolved

If I can manage all that, I’ll consider the game about 75% finished and still on target for mid-year release.  Most of the hard bits are done now, with the exception of two remaining Hard Maths Headscratchers I’ve talked about before, and the need to draw a whole bunch of sprites for my three remaining Moodies despite my inherent lack of artistic skill.  And lots and lots of testing.

It’s all coming together nicely, I hope, and regardless of whether the game is successful or not once it’s released, I’ll have made something, and that’s enough.  Not only that, but Matthew always has a kind word for the game, whenever he sees me working on it, and I’ve promised him he can help with designing some levels and a few sound effects.  Perhaps he’ll grow an interest in programming games himself one day when he’s older.  Or perhaps he’ll buck the trend and become an outdoorsman and shun the black mirrors entirely.


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