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DUST CITY, my first ever completed 3D game, is available NOW at itch.io!

CLICK HERE TO GO THERE AND DOWNLOAD IT AND PLAY IT AND LOVE IT AND MAYBE DONATE TO ME IF YOU WANT BECAUSE I NEVER HAVE ANY MONEY AND GLOWING STONES AREN’T GETTING ANY CHEAPER

Also, i guess now’s a good time to mention that I have an AMAZON WISH LIST!  Click that and maybe consider sending me something nice if you want to support me but donating cash isn’t your cup of tea!  there’s a super good chance i’d love you forever!  please only do it if you can ABSOLUTELY afford to though!

thank you so much for your continued support and attention, little birds.  i hope you enjoy.  <3

see you soon…

There are two things I have that make being a creative person more difficult than it might otherwise be: legendarily poor self-discipline, and clinical depression. It’s a shitty, crippling combination that turns many things into a downright crapshoot, from working on personal projects to getting out of bed at all some days. I have struggled for years and years to maintain good creative habits. I’m still struggling. However, recently I’ve managed to stay more productive by keeping a few things in mind. If you’re at all like me, hopefully this can help you. FWIW these tips apply mostly to game design, but with tweaking you could likely apply them to any creative endeavor.


1. START WITH A PLAN

I used to get so jealous thinking of all of those passionate creators out there who could sit down at their notebooks, laptops, typewriters, DAW’s or whatever and just make.  It was a romantic ideal, and one I wanted desperately to embody.  More often than not this resulted in me crashing and burning, leaving a long trail of abandoned half-starts.  I decided to take a new approach the other night when I sat down to start a new game: I started with a notebook and a pen, and I listed every texture I thought I might need, all of the models I could imagine using that I needed to make, all of the characters that might appear, all the different areas of the world.  As soon as I did that I proceeded to sit at my laptop, notebook beside me, finding and optimizing texture after texture, crossing each one off until that entire portion of my project was done.  In one night.  Don’t be afraid to do a little planning; it doesn’t make you less inspired or imaginative.  Even just a few simple notes can be invaluable in providing you direction, and crossing things off the list is a rewardingly visible measure of your own progress.  It might just keep you going when you’d otherwise stop.


2. SET A QUOTA FOR YOURSELF AND STRIVE TO MEET IT

A while ago I watched a talk that Nifflas , creator of the beloved Knytt series, gave about how he stays productive (sorry I can’t remember it or I’d link it here).  One of the things that stuck with me was this idea of creating a ‘points’ system for himself.  Here’s the idea: everything you create is worth points.  A sprite or prop might be a few points, a sound effect might be a couple, a full level or piece of music might be a half-dozen each.  Come up with a system of values for each thing you need to make, more points for more time-intensive or difficult assets.  Then tell yourself that every day you will gain no fewer than points.  A quota can be an exceedingly rewarding way of keeping yourself on-track.  Also importantly, meeting but not exceeding your quota each day can keep you from burning yourself out and leave you with things to work on the next day.  Of course there are simpler ones; 1000 words a day, two hours of work a day, a short story a week, whatever.  But game devs (presumably) love games, and what gamer doesn’t want points?  Experiment is key.  If a quota doesn’t work or stresses you out, try another one.


3. REMOVE DISTRACTIONS

A tired cliché as far as ‘how to get more done’ tips go, but nevertheless an important one.  Distraction is the greatest enemy of poor self-discipline.  Being a game maker is especially difficult, because we rely on our computers which, most of the time, are connected to the internet.  That means you’re never more than a second away from email, twitter, tumblr, youtube, Steam, whatever.  That makes it more important than ever that you get good at removing those distractions.  Exit Steam.  Close your browser.  Tell your twitter followers and facebook friends that you’ll be working for a while.  This last serves a double-purpose for me, as fear of disappointing others is a big personal motivator.  If I communicate to people I care about that I’ll be working for the evening, I’m more inclined to follow through for fear of reneging on my quasi-promise.  “Hey Twitter followers, if you see me tweeting at all in the next few hours, tell me to get back to work.”  Who knows, you might even end up with people cheering you on, and that’s always an ego boost.


4. MAKE YOURSELF AS COMFORTABLE AS POSSIBLE

Unfortunately something of a black art, particularly if you’re dealing with a less-than-ideal living situation.  It is impossible to overstate the value of being comfortable while you work.  Experiment with everything within your power to control: the lights in the room, the position of your laptop, the amount of covers on your bed, the angle of your pillows, the tilt of your monitor.  The more comfortable you are, the less distracted you’ll be by petty physical nuisances.

Something else that might help here, particularly if you’re as scatterbrained as I am, is to use a white noise generator like http://simplynoise.com (with headphones, obv).  I used to think I was a “works best with music” type, but this has proved completely false.  However, stark silence doesn’t help either.  White noise is an excellent middle-ground that’s surprisingly helpful in increasing concentration.  Play around and find what configuration feels the most natural and comfortable; I’m partial to low-volume brown noise with a weak oscillation.


5. OPEN THE PROGRAM IMMEDIATELY

As soon as you decide to start working on something, open the program.  Be it Unity, GameMaker, a word processor, FL Studio, Photoshop, whatever open it as soon as you think of it.  I’ve lost count of the nights I got some wild creative urge, told myself I’d work on it later, and proceeded to spend a week not working on anything.  If you open the program before you talk yourself out of it, you’ll be less likely to close it.  With most people, but especially in people with depression, beginning to work is the hardest part.  But if you can do that, continuing to work is comparatively easy.  But you can’t start to work if the program is closed.


6. REMIND YOURSELF THAT YOU COULD BE WORKING

Often, despite our best efforts, distraction finds a way.  Many times I’ll work an hour, hit a block or find myself fatigued, and without thinking I’m suddenly watching YouTube videos or scrolling up and down my Steam library.  However, as is the way with depression, most of those times I don’t end up really doing anything.  I don’t play games, I just think about playing them.  I don’t really pay attention to the videos, I’m just clicking on them.  At those times I find it helpful to remind myself that I could be working right then, that even if I don’t think I have the energy, I might as well have the program open and be toying around, because I’m not doing anything else anyway.  There’s nothing wrong with leaving a youtube playlist on in the background if that helps you tune out, but try to catch yourself in these moments of ennui and tell yourself “you won’t hate yourself as much if you fuck around in Unity for twenty minutes.  Not like you’re doing anything better.”  Sometimes you’ll just end up staring at your program, and that’s okay.  But think back to step 5.  You have a better chance of getting something done if it’s open than if it’s closed.


7. DEVELOP A HABIT

Similar to setting a quota, turning productivity into a habit is an important part of staying creative.  Unfortunately, this is also probably the most difficult step for people with depression.  Many non-depressed people are capable of getting ‘addicted’ to creation; writers will write every day for long enough that if they go a few days without writing, they start to get twitchy.  By contrast, depressed people operate based on rare flashes of pathos and inspiration; this can mean two-day islands of productivity punctuated by whole weeks of nothingness.  Do not beat yourself up about this.  Do not compare yourself against those people who can work every day; you will only make yourself miserable.  Instead, try to follow their example, but in your own way.  The quota thing might help, but even setting aside a particular time each day to try and be creative can help.  You might not always meet a quota.  Sometimes you’ll just stare at your monitor and come up dry.  That’s okay; those nights will happen.  But if you can make a habit of attempting, you’ll be in a much better position.  For whatever it’s worth, I can say from personal experience that it’s nothing short of stupefying how much easier it becomes to stay productive if you can keep it going for the first few days.  Try your hardest not to break your streak, even if you’re not getting something big done every single night.


8. BE WILLING TO ABANDON PROJECTS

Here’s where we start to get into the more psychological stuff.  Often when dealing with creativity, particularly self-motivated creativity, depressed people will lack the energy to finish a project.  This is fine, this is natural, but we tend to internalize this as a surrender, a defeat, proof of our weakness, proof that we are failures as creative people.

Knock that shit off.

There’s nothing at all wrong with abandoning a project.  Sometimes an idea seems amazing at first, but you get halfway through and run out of energy, or realize there’s nothing you can do to salvage it, or real-life stresses derail your creative impetus.  This happens to everyone, I imagine.  The important thing is, it’s work you did.  If you still love the idea, keep trying; but learn to pick your battles and don’t be afraid to cut your losses.  Besides, at the very least, it will remain on your hard-drive for you to return to if inspiration ever strikes again.


9. REWARD YOURSELF

I used to get so jealous and self-deprecating when I would read about creators who experience nothing but joy whenever they sit down to do whatever it is they do.  It made me feel like maybe I wasn’t meant to be a writer, or a game dev, or a musician, or whatever, because I rarely feel joy when creating.  Satisfaction, certainly, and yes, sometimes it’s a lot of fun, but just as often it’s strenuous, sometimes even agonizing.  Yet I’m still compelled to keep making things.  If you feel the same compulsion even despite feeling the same apprehension, you are a creative person.

So what does that mean for us, people who need to create but don’t always want to?  One possible solution is to establish a reward for yourself.  Try to stick to intangibles for sake of your health (i.e. avoid thinking of smoke breaks as rewards if that’s already a problem you have).  For instance, if you find yourself playing video games more often than making them, tell yourself that for every two hours you work on something, you’ll take an hour break to play something.  Be careful with this though, because you could just end up inviting distraction.  Put the work before the reward in any case.  Giving yourself an incentive is a good way to ease those nights when your work truly feels like work.


10. FORGIVE YOURSELF

It’s okay if you miss a night.  It’s okay if don’t quite meet your quota.  It’s okay if you don’t have as much fun with your work as everyone else seems to.  It’s okay if some nights you just can’t make it happen.  It’s okay to have unfinished projects.  It’s okay to work slowly.  It’s okay to struggle to find inspiration.  It’s okay if you don’t fly out of bed every morning and hit the keyboard with the thunder of the gods in your fingertips.  You can still create.  Having depression does not make you a failure, or passionless, or uninspired.  The most important thing you can do is remind yourself of these things.  Forgive yourself of your faults and defeats.  Sometimes it can be impossible to see them as anything else, but they are going to happen, and the best thing you can do is wash your hands of them and move on.  Depression is a parasite that saps us of our will and our drive, but we are never truly without those things.  Forgive yourself for the things you can’t control, and remember the things that you can.

You can be productive.  You can create.  You are capable, no matter how it feels sometimes.  Each hour you spend in creation is further proof of that.  Don’t ever tell yourself otherwise.

In a sunken maze, a mutant child is howling.  A wayward hero from another city is placed before a bitter king.  “Child of Athens,” accuses Minos, “city of filth.”  The hero is thrown down into darkness, swallowed by the labyrinth.  The labyrinth is alive.

2014-06-28_00001Adrift in a churning sea of Slender clones, a clever, bizarre, immersive dungeon-crawler is drowning.  Ostensibly the same sort of neo-survival-horror experience as such games, wherein the player flees from a single immortal antagonist through shadowy halls, Depths of Fear :: Knossos (Digital Tribe/Dirigo Games) distinguishes itself with dungeon crawling elements, highly effective theme and style, and a hand-full of roguelite elements for replayability’s sake.  The mythological backdrop of King Minos’ Labyrinth lends itself more effectively to the ‘immortal pursuer’ horror game idea than most other games of its like, and the aesthetic is pleasingly unique; a special filter makes reds and greens bleed faintly, as on an old television, and the soundtrack is something Goblins might have composed for an early Dario Argento sword-and-sandal flick– this not being a poor description of the entire game’s general motif.  It is a game with problems.  Some leniency is earned considering it is largely the product of a single person, but it is hardly a good game in strictest terms.  Crashes are frequent, screen resolution changes randomly on startup, physics glitches abound, volume settings are consistently forgotten, enemy AI alternates between vapid and insurmountable, rooms spawn into one another.  At its core, while functional, DoF::K is a fundamentally broken game.

It is the best game I have played in 2014.

 

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The labyrinth has many branches, each with its own resident beast.  A Hydra slithers through red-white corridors.  A Centaur holds his torch aloft, endlessly patrolling a ruined prison.  Medusa herself bathes in displaced, sourceless moonlight in one of her many wide stone chambers.  Each of them must be slain, their medallions claimed, before the Minotaur can be approached.  The hero, Theseus, is unable to kill these creatures before he claims their individual medallions; this amounts to a routine three floors of hiding, skulking, and running from his immortal pursuers, until finally confronting them in wide arenas that rapidly fill with lava, where he has his chance to silence them for good and all.  Beast slain, he returns to the central garden of the labyrinth and looks to Apollo for guidance as to his next goal.  The game proceeds.  However, something is not quite right.  The more of the Labyrinth that Theseus sees, the more strangeness he notices.  It begins small; tables placed precariously atop bookshelves, rooms filled with undead monsters half-buried in walls, treasure chests in strange, improbable places.  But the strangeness soon escalates, and now it is not furniture stacked precariously, but whole rooms.  Hallways slice through one another.  Rooms exist without visible walls, looking out into starless black nothing.  One might descend a ladder to depths of a scant few feet beneath the floor, then turn and find themselves in a lightless chamber hundreds of feet high and deep, filled with stone steps that seem to hover in darkness.  This place should not exist, thinks Theseus.  No waking place could twist itself so.

So then… does the labyrinth sleep?  Does it dream?

 

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A realization comes to Theseus.  He has been sent on this journey to slay the Minotaur, who dwelleth at the Labyrinth’s heart devouring children year after year.  But it is not the Minotaur who harasses him, disorients him, threatens at all turns to swallow him whole or lock him away.  Even the pursuing beasts, Medusa and the centaur and the satyr and Cerberus, act along straight lines, patrolling and reacting, deadly but basic in function.  It is the Labyrinth that collapses, folds into itself, attacks him with its reckless geometry.  It is the Labyrinth that plunges him into darkness, or drops off into lethal infinity, or places keys on floating pedestals flanked by bladed pendulums.  It is the Labyrinth that seeks to undo him.  The beasts are its antibodies, primitive destructive agents that seek to purge a threat from a greater organism.  They would serve no purpose elsewhere, but in these shifting halls they ride like leukocytes through veins, waiting indefinitely, existing only to protect the Labyrinth from Theseus.

The Minotaur, waiting in the Labyrinth’s heart, is the Labyrinth’s heart.  It is not the true enemy, but rather the core that the true enemy must protect for sake of its own continued existence.

 

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Time passes.  Theseus wanders, sneaks, runs, leaps, keenly aware now that the greatest monster of all is all of the stones beneath his feet and all of the walls against his hands.  Each medallion is gathered in turn, spotted by the blood of their wardens.  Eventually, returning to the garden, Theseus finds the mythic sword unlocked for him.  He takes it with him to the Minotaur’s lair, where for three more floors he must continue to flee the great beast’s strange and terrible red searchlight gaze.  But with time he makes it to the final arena.  The Minotaur destroys whole stretches of floor beneath Theseus’ feet in hopes of sinking him into the glowing lava, but Theseus is swift, and after enough slashes of the wickering blade, the Minotaur finally lays slain, weeping black smoke.  A screen appears, describing to Theseus his own victory, Ariadne’s devotion, their heroic departure from Knossos.  But we do not see these things.

Instead, we see the garden.  Theseus is returned, though all the beasts lay slain.

We see a red door, adorned with a great stone skull.

We see a sheet of papyrus pinned to the shadowy door, a bold number ‘zero’ written upon it.  A nearby note explains that the number represents the deepest level of the labyrinth to which Theseus has been.  Stepping close to the door, a voice tells Theseus, “This is a one way trip.  You will not survive.”

Descending the steps, Theseus soon hears the reverberating snarls of not just one beast, but two.  Both of which he had, to his knowledge, already slain.

The Labyrinth, it seems, does not need its heart to survive.

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hello, pretty things.  i recently wrote for a COLLABORATIVE TWINE PROJECT with some exceptionally fine people.

it’s called YOU WERE MADE FOR LONELINESS and you can click that to play it.

if you enjoy it, please consider donating!  we worked for tips, more or less.

i hope you like it.  my stories are relatively long, and involve a torturous AI who constructs an elaborate virtual reality for the one she loves, and a horror video fetishist who meets their soul-mate online at the end of the world.

i will also likely have another little twine project of my own up soon, so stay tuned~

LISTEN UP SLIMEWORMS

i’m starting an ezine called GUTTER for people who’ve been treated like shit to publish new, exciting, horrifying, sexy, cutting-edge horror

basically modern horror sucks and i feel like the good shit’s going to come from people whose lives are horror stories, because they have something to say

GO TO HTTP://GUTTERHORROR.WORDPRESS.COM

LIKE RIGHT FUCKING NOW, SRSLY

this could be important.  this could be beautiful.  this could be dangerous.  you could be a part of it.

i love you.

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