Not many updates of late. Sorry. It's been a bit hectic recently.
I've moved to Brixton to look after my sister's flat. Nice place, and I've got it all to myself. I'm managing to see a few friends, which is good for the soul.
A couple of weeks ago Tommy showed Goo to our MS Account Manager at PartnerDay. Our original worry was that he thought the gameplay was too slow (sorta confused us when he said this - we think it's pretty fast paced), but as it turns out, he was just referring to the fact that he was running it on a slow computer. Tommy's got this insanely fast laptop which runs the game faster than either of our desktops, so he managed to kill any notion that the gameplay itself was sluggish.
The other issue he had was that the game was too abstract for people to understand when they were coming to it for the first time - if you plonk someone in versus mode, and tell them to play, they won't know what the point of the game is. That point still stands, but I've just finished the voice over for our pitch video which explains in quite a lot of depth the goals, controls, and basic strategies of the game. We're heading off that issue, essentially, and I'm not too worried about it.
We're still not greenlit as a result of the face-to-face. Right now, we really need to put forward a convincing demo, video, and design document, but Tommy says that the reaction to the game from everyone he talked to/showed it to was really positive. Tommy met some other cool indie devs like Ninja Bee and Gastronaut, and said that their expression was always the same upon hearing about the game... wide eyes, and jaws dropping [Correction: these reactions were not from those two, but from people from Activision, Sierra Online, and MS]. We got comments from MS like "This is THE game for live arcade!" and "I've loved this concept since I first heard about it".
This is all lovely to hear (if a bit hyperbolic) since we've been working on this game for over a year now with no real breaks, and you can lose all sense of objectivity. I saw a good video of a talk from one of the fun-motion guys, where Matthew said something along the lines of "With physics based games, you have to change the physics to what you want before the physics changes what you want". In essence, he's talking about the transition between platonic ideal and practical reality. This game is such a simple concept, but the work which has gone on researching and developing an engine for a very different kind of game has been extraordinary. Trying to remember what I originally wanted from the game takes some effort when your nose is to the grind-stone, tweaking endless variables and attraction/repulsion models.
I digress. The problem is, all the positive energy Tommy got was a bit like water off a duck's back for me. We were getting a lot of stuff ready for PartnerDay (and actually didn't end up showing it), and so went into some rather mental crunch. There I was, coming right out of jetlag, and punctuating the crunch by knackering myself hobo-ing around London to find a decent place to work. I was completely exhausted, and incredibly low. I love the game, and love making it, but there's a point where your mind physically refuses to work.
Last weekend I went to my neice's christening. There was a big family party afterwards: around 30 people, family mainly. I was low... maybe not quite as low as when I left my last job, but certainly thoughts of suicide were becoming more frequent. I could barely talk to anyone without feeling like I'd snap, and insult them. I didn't want to do that, so I stayed in my room until the party was over. Social anxiety mixed with depression, and I went into meltdown.
I'm a pretty depressive person at the best of times, but the momentum of tiredness, and the knowledge that we had to go straight into another crunch took its toll. The next day, I went to see a Doctor, and now I'm on some anti depressants and looking for local therapists. I'm not looking to become dependant on pills - depression is a desease, and you have to cure it. I want to get on with life and enjoy my work, so I hope this is just a phase.
At the same time, we're in a pinch right now, and are working harder than is probably healthy. Feels like we don't have much choice but to suck it up and keep working, or the development will last forever - neither of us can afford that. We'd have to lean on our parents way too much.
I guess we can be thankful that it's our choice, rather than some boss or publisher forcing us to stick to impossible deadlines - the difference being that if we really don't feel like the game's up to snuff, we won't force it out of the door. I really just hope, in the long run, we have enough time to give the game the attention it deserves without killing ourselves doing it. Seems like there's no point in this endeavour if we can't do that.
On the brighter side, Jamie Parker, an old war-buddy, is helping us out with some of the art. Right now, our demo has no real cohesive artistic direction. This is because we've been all about getting systems and gameplay working - functionality first. Everything's been placeholder and proof of concept. Right now is a good time to have someone with artistic talent take the reigns. I'd love to do it myself, but... I sort of have enough to worry about.