I Promise I’m Still Alive

Hey guys! Sorry I have been so quiet recently. My life has gotten pretty busy these past few weeks and I had to rearrange priorities a bit so I can get everything done. I’m currently working on finishing a hefty project for one of my clients (due by EOD today). I am also studying for the GRE because I want to start working towards getting a masters in creative writing, preferably with the help of an assistantship/fellowship. I take the test on the 26th. No pressure.

I have been doing some reading and writing recently, but I have not had the time or brain space to give you a good quality blog post. I have a few mentally in the works, though, so you will have some excellent content soon.

Once I get through this particularly crazy period I should be able to better balance things out. That means I will have more time for my blog, more time for my podcast, and more time for my writing. I just need you to bear with me for a bit. I’ll for sure be back to posting regular content in September.

I’m also planning to create a podcast where I interview people’s D&D characters (still working on the title and all of the other details). That will likely start happening in September as well when I am done with the GRE and have my grad school application in.

Until then, if there is anything you want to know about me and my projects or anything you want to see me talk about, feel free to let me know in the comments. Also, if you have an interesting day job/side hobby and want to talk about it,  let me know and I will set up an interview for my podcast.

Lessons From Life on a Dev Team

It all started April 9th with the Demo Disc Game Jam, put on by the Dallas Society of Play (DSOP). That was my first time getting to work with a team to create a game. Usually game jams only last one weekend, which doesn’t really work when you work in retail.

This one, though, lasted for a month. I was thrilled to actually be able to participate for once. We ended up with a pretty good group of programmers, artists, a sound designer, and a writer (me). I knew some of the people from other meetups, but a few of the faces were new. It didn’t take us long to settle on not only an idea but an art style.

And we were off. We affectionately dubbed the game Woofenstein (since we borrowed some inspiration from Wolfenstein) and it was a 3D, low poly barroom brawler.

Not going to lie, half of the things that were included in the game started off as jokes. Some of them worked surprisingly well, especially some of the dog puns.

There were so…many…dog puns. It was ruff.

Along the way, though, I learned a few lessons.

Different skills are needed at different stages.

As a writer, I didn’t have much to contribute during the game jam. We didn’t have time to integrate a story or any sort of dialogue. I felt pretty useless at times, but I tried to make up for it by being supportive whenever I could.

I was also nominated as the project lead, which was awesome. My team was even more awesome, though, and practically led themselves. I couldn’t help but feel like I was nothing more than moral support. Imposter syndrome kicked in pretty hard.

Everyone was incredibly proud of how the game turned out, though, and most of our team ended up deciding to keep going. Now that we are no longer merely creating a demo during a short time period, I find myself with more to contribute. We are adding in a story. There are more moving parts now. We are starting to talk marketing and showing off at conventions.

Even though I did not have much to contribute in the beginning, since I stuck around and did what I could I find myself in a position to contribute even more. I am glad that I chose to stay along for the ride.

Because the ride just got a lot longer, and now I have something to bring to the table.

Be prepared for things to go wrong.

Things will go wrong. Technology will refuse to cooperate. There will be lapses in communication. Things will not be finished on time. That is just a fact of life. And you need to be prepared for it.

That is why you always need someone keeping an eye on everything. We almost didn’t have the game completely finished by the end of the jam (thankfully the end event was pushed back due to bad weather). We bumped into issues where people would be working on the same file and it would not save correctly.

Heck, my laptop died in the middle of the demo and we had to switch to someone else’s because I was a genius and forgot my charger.

The key thing is to stay flexible. Have plans in place for when things go wrong. Have people outside of the project who have more experience than you do that you can go to about any issues you may have.

And above all, communicate with people. If you make a mistake, own up to it. People may be frustrated with you at first, but it is better to deal with it now than later.

Note: there were no major hiccups, just a few small issues so far. Most of this is just general life advice.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew (especially if you are still on the last bite).

Feature creep is a real thing. One of the organizers at DSOP, Storm, stayed in communication with all of the teams to help keep an eye on things and make sure feature creep did not happen.

For those of you who don’t know, feature creep is when you keep adding cool little bells and whistles onto your project instead of focusing on the core fundamentals of said project. It is a slippery slope that is very easy to slide down, but it can tank your project.

By adding on so many new things to tackle you can easily find yourself completely overwhelmed with everything you have to do, especially if you are trying to do it in a very short time period.

Also, if you are not comfortable taking over a certain aspect of the project, don’t. Do not overcommit yourself. If there is someone else more qualified to handle something, let them handle it and offer to assist them. There is no shame in admitting that someone else is better than you at something. No one is the best at everything.

Don’t be afraid to share the load. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. That is what your team is for.

Things will change and that’s okay.

If I am remembering correctly, the original idea that was pitched was to play as a dog in a helicopter fighting another dog in a helicopter. So, dog fighting (the term for when two helicopters/planes engage in aerial combat) dogs. Then our lead programmer mentioned wanting to do something that felt like the older Wolfenstein. Then another game was referenced. A few other ideas were pitched as well.

The game we demoed was very simple. There were four players with identical (and very stylish) designs. You ran around beating up the other players, occasionally picking up health and weapons. We actually had a lot of fun designing the weapons.

When we decided to keep going with the game, things changed. We have been talking about updating and stylizing the art. We obviously renamed it, because if we published it under Woofenstein things would not end well for us.

We have started talking adding more levels, including some that were mentioned at the beginning of the demo development. I think we have even settled on a basic story for the game. There is still a lot of work to be done and I have no doubt there will be a lot of changes between now and then.

That just comes with growth.

Whatever happens, though, I will always be thankful for this experience. I have learned more about programming, development, and working on a dev team than I ever could have outside of this. I am very excited to see where this road leads.

If you want to follow along our journey, check out our Tumblr or follow us on Twitter (there isn’t a whole lot on there now but there will be in the future, I promise).

 

Living a Life on Fire

When you describe something as being ‘on fire’, that can either be really good or really bad. It all depends on the context and the amount of exasperation or sarcasm packed into the sentence.

This is especially true when it comes to life.

I noticed a few weeks ago that I was constantly referring to my life as being “on fire”. What I meant was there are so many things going on all at once that I often feel completely at a loss when it comes to what I should do. The past few months I have felt like I am being pulled in a thousand different directions.

You have experienced that, right? Being torn between who the world tells you that you should be, the person the people around you need you to be, and the person that you want to be? That constant friction between desire in duty? It is a tough place to be.

If you leave your ‘duty’ to follow your dream you face the disappointment and disapproval of those you care about, but if you never allow your dreams to flourish you run the risk of living the rest of your life in regret, wondering what would have happened if you did.

So many people choose to play it safe, sticking with what they know because it is certain. And they spend the rest of their life ignoring that burning desire to do something different, the call to become who they were created to be.

This is something I have been struggling with for a while. The voice in my head tells me that I can never make it on my own, that I need to stick with what I know. Yet the voice in my heart is crying out that I can do this. It may take some time and it will not be glorious at first, but I may just be able to live the life I want.

I don’t want to live my life silently, suppressing that fire inside of me until it eats me alive. I don’t want to be that perfect girl who lives the way the world tells her too.

I want to let that fire loose. I want to live loud. I want to be so unapologetically myself that when people look at me they think “if she did it, maybe I can too.” I know that I was born to create. To craft stories that hold a mirror to the world to show people how things could be. I am done living my life with the thought that I could never make a living doing so. I am going to find my way and I am not going to let anybody stop me.

I know it is not going to be easy, but I am willing to try. This is the kind of ‘on fire’ I want my life to be. I want to live my dream while showing others that they too can live theirs. Too often have I seen other creators struggling with their insecurities, trapped by the thought that they will never be able to live that dream.

The fear that they will never be good enough.

The fear that all of their work is inferior, not worthy of attention.

The crippling pain of knowing their gift will never amount to anything. (which is a lie)

Everyone has a dream. Everyone has a desire to create something to make the world better. And I could geek out about this for HOURS.

That is why I want to create a podcast so I can share my passion and knowledge. I also want to help others share their passion and knowledge.  And I do plan on creating this podcast. I have some work to do to get things ready, but it will be happening sometime this year.

Because I am tired of waiting. I am ready to live my life.

Are you with me?

My Dreams for 2019

2018 was an…interesting year for most people. Very little went as I had planned it, so I had to do a lot of learning on the fly and adapting to uncertain situations.

I’m not going to lie, it was tough. It all worked out, though.

I can say with confidence that I am in a better place now than I was when I graduated. I have a good, stable job. I’ve made a lot of connections. I have learned a lot about business, entrepreneurship, and life in general. I honed my writing skills by delving into game writing and completing NaNoWriMo (for the first time in 7 years).

Now I am looking to the new year. And I have plans.

First off, I want to publish blog posts more consistently. I was going pretty steady for a while, but sometimes I get busy and it throws me off. I want to be more intentional about my posting. I want to start working on posts earlier, so that not only will they be done on time but they will be done well.

I also want to write more games. While most of my focus will be dedicated to my work with the writing team for Fallout Cascadia (relatively new project), I want to work on some ideas of my own. Most of these will be simple little games, but they will be good practice. Given my desire to one day work for BioWare as a game writer, I should probably get started somewhere.

Another goal is to finish the first draft of my novel. After NaNoWriMo, I realized that while I had learned a lot about the world and the characters, what I had written was a giant mess. I learned a lot about the world and the characters, but the flow needed a lot of work. I started rewriting it about a week ago and have almost hit 1,000 words. I want to have this draft done by the end of the year.

During Thanksgiving break, I got an idea for a project that I fully intend to pursue in 2019. I want to help authors with their social media marketing, both for themselves and their novels. Whether this ends up being on a purely freelance thing or grows into something more, I’m going to do it. I am still working out some of the details, but once I’m ready to roll I will definitely be sharing it.

I know that I have said before that I would be doing a podcast. Truth is, I still very much want to do one, I just haven’t decided how/what I want to do it on yet. I have a few ideas I am playing around with. I am hoping to have one of them ready to launch sometime this year.

There are a few other things I want to do as well. I want to get better at pixel art to the point where I can create animations. I want to try my hand at graphic design. I want to teach myself how to play piano on the keyboard we for some reason bought a few years ago and never used.

For me, 2019 is going to be a year of opportunity and growth. A year to try new things. A year to chase old dreams.

Whatever this year throws at me, I intend to live life to the fullest.  

What about you?

The Origin of Solitude

The Origin of Solitude

A fairytale

Once upon a time, there lived a dragon name Solitude.  Solitude was born to two very old dragons, their only child.  From the start, all of the other dragons knew there was something different about Solitude.  While he very much enjoyed the company of the other dragonlings, Solitude was just as happy being on his own. Since his parents died while he was still very young, he was mostly raised by another dragon family who adopted him, surrounding him with half a dozen siblings he got along with relatively well. He also had a peculiar interest in the small village that laid within a day’s journey of his home, of which he knew very little but loved to daydream of.  It was an unwritten rule among the dragons that they were not to have any interaction with the village’s inhabitants.  Being a good little dragon, Solitude did as he was told.  In fact, it was not until the village had grown so large that the two groups were forced to communicate that he even knew who the inhabitants were.

Once the leaders of the dragons realized there was no avoiding the villagers anymore, they set up an envoy to reach a peace settlement.  The villagers were already aware of the dragons, having seen them many times flying overhead, and so were very curious to speak with the amazing creatures.  The leaders of the dragons thought long and hard about who they would choose to be the intermediary.  After a period of debate, it was decided that Solitude would be the dragon representative.  With his gentle yet pensive nature, they decided that he would be the one most suited to communicate with the strange new beings.  At this point he had grown to be quite the intelligent dragon, studying and observing everything.  His community had come to respect him as a source of great wisdom, despite his relatively young age.  He still preferred to spend time on his own, observing the world around him, but was more than willing to help anyone in need.  When the elders came to him with the offer of allowing him to be their representative, he accepted it immediately yet humbly.  Soon after this, the humans selected their representative and it was time for the two to meet.

The human representative turned out to be a young girl who, like Solitude, was different from the others.  At first, the meeting was rather stiff and formal, as this was the first time either of them had ever spoken to one of the other kind. After a while, though, they settled into a comfortable conversation, each intrigued to learn more about the other.  Hours went by in the same manner, questions being passed back and forth and answers being listened to eagerly.  Each day they would discuss and decide on certain points that their elders put to them, as well as more personal things.  As time went on Solitude and Serenity became the best of friends, despite their differences.  They were among the few, though, once the council came to be.  Half human, half dragon, the council was created to negotiate and enact the peace between the two groups.  It was soon discovered that on the whole, humans and dragons did not get along.  Months of tense negotiation went by with both Solitude and Serenity watching with great concern the proceedings.  They did their best to act as intermediaries so as to keep hostilities to a minimum and decrease the likely hood of conflict.  After about half a year, it was decided that both groups would separate and no longer have direct contact.  The dragons would move up into a nearby mountain range while the humans would remain on the other side of the foothills.  Upon hearing this, Solitude and Serenity pushed for a neutral land to be made in between where humans and dragons could intermingle if they so decided.  It took much convincing, but eventually, it was agreed upon that the small forest between the mountain and the plain would be reserved as a neutral ground.  As both sides retreated to their lands, Solitude and Serenity began to set themselves up a home in the forest.  Serenity had several of her human friends come and help her build a house, with Solitude helping to supply the lumber and anything else they needed. Some of his adopted siblings came to visit as well, interested to see his new home.  The humans and the dragons interacted some, but none became as good of friends as Solitude and Serenity.  As time went on, the dragons’ visits became less and less frequent, to the point that most of their company was human.  This suited them just fine.

They settled quite comfortably into their new homes, happy to still be able to spend time together.  Every so often, some of the people Serenity grew up with would come and visit her, bearing supplies and news from the village.  Solitude was surprised to find that she too, had grown up an orphan, practically raising herself.  They took turns regaling their guests and each other with stories from their childhood.  Sometimes Serenity would return to the town to visit some of her older friends, and Solitude would use this time to look in on his adopted siblings or explore the woods.  Years passed in this manner, and Solitude began to grow distant from his dragon relatives.  Even Serenity’s visits to town became less frequent.  With Solitude’s help, she had become quite self-sufficient, growing her own food and herbs.  She took in and raised several of the orphans from the town with Solitude’s help.  It was as if they had a family of their own, and Solitude was content.  The children would grow up and eventually return to life in the town, sometimes even traveling to far off lands.  Before long, Solitude and Serenity found themselves along once more.  This suited them just fine.

As the years went by, though, Solitude began to notice a problem.  Even though he was still quite young, Serenity was beginning to grow old and was having trouble caring for herself.  He helped her out as best as he could, but one day she grew so ill that he knew what he had to do.  After much urging, he managed to convince her to return to the town to get help.  She wrote to one of the boys she grew up with, asking him to send someone to collect her.  Solitude waited with her patiently, carrying all of her belongings that she might need.  She was rather reluctant to leave her beloved Solitude alone, but he reassured her that he would be fine.  He promised to tend her garden while she was gone and to be there when she returned.  When her ride finally arrived, Solitude recognized him as one of the children Serenity had raised.  He was surprised to see Serenity so ill and expressed his thanks to Solitude for taking such good care of her.  Before he left he told Solitude that he did not know how long it would be before Serenity was able to return.  Solitude assured him that he would be just fine on his own and that he was to content to wait for Serenity, however long it took.  Without any more conversation, the man hopped on his horse and started off, Serenity comfortably seated in a cart behind him.  Solitude watched her and she him until both were out of sight.  He remained there long after, calmly observing the world around him, reveling in the silence.

Months passed by and Solitude did exactly as he had promised, caring for Serenity’s garden, guarding her house, and every day waiting for her to return.  Each day he found some way to entertain himself, stretching his wings, exploring the forest, going for a swim in the pond in the middle of the forest.  He rarely hunted, for he needed very little food to survive.  For the longest time, he had no company at all, yet he was content for he knew that one day Serenity would return to him and all would be as it once was.

When the months turned into years, Solitude grew concerned.  Part of him wanted to fly to the town, but he kept his promise to Serenity, waiting for her in the spot where she had left him.  One day, many years later, Solitude discovered a young man waiting for him in the woods.  Curious at this change, he slowly approached him and asked if he was in need of assistance.  The man explained that he was here to deliver a message and asked where he could find the dragon named Solitude.  Knowing that this could only mean one thing, Solitude quickly explained that he was that dragon.  The man sighed in relief, apologizing for not being there sooner.  It had taken them a long time before someone realized that ‘solitude’ was indeed a dragon.  Once they had figured that out, he grabbed the letter and ran out to the forest to find him.  He explained that the letter was from none other than Serenity, and thus began to read it aloud.

My Dearest Solitude,

It has been many a month since I left your care, and yet I fear that I will not be returning to you any time soon.  You see, I have become very old and very ill, and the doctors have been telling me that I am not long for this world.  I do apologize, my dear friend, that I am not able to deliver this message to you in person.  My health is failing me and it takes all of my energy to pen these words.  The boy caring for me has promised to deliver this to you immediately upon my death.

Of all my friends in this world, you are the one I hold most dear.  With your great wisdom and kindness and devotion, you are one of the rarest, most beautiful beings in this world.  You have filled my life with light and I only hope that one day you will meet someone who does the same for you.  I do hope that you have not waited too long for me.  Now that I am gone, it is time for you to go home.  Return to your people.  Start a new life filled with adventure and wonder.  You deserve nothing less.

My only regret in life is that I was not able to see you one last time.  I will forever cherish the memory of our time together, and have already passed down our story to my children.  I hope that you will one day do the same.

All my love,

Serenity

It was a while before Solitude was able to respond.  The man waited patiently.  He asked of her last days, whether or not she was any pain, which the man assured him she was not.  They briefly discussed her life and Solitude asked if the man needed a place to spend the night.  He stated that he did not.  In fact, he needed to return home to his family, for his children were expecting him.  His youngest was in bed with a fever, but upon finding the letter he had felt compelled to ensure that it was delivered promptly.  He remembered very well the stories his grandfather had told of being raised in the woods by Serenity and her dragon.  When he asked what Solitude would do now that Serenity was gone, Solitude replied that he would follow her wishes.  After arranging to have someone come and take care of her garden, he decided to leave for the mountains.  With that they parted ways, Solitude wishing the man and his daughter well, thanking him for his kindness.

Solitude spent his last night in the forest curled up around Serenity’s cottage, mourning her loss.  The next day he left to return to his mountain home, to his people.  When he arrived he was surprised to find the mountains completely empty.  The dragons had left without Solitude.  He wandered around for hours, looking for any sign of where they could have gone, but it was fruitless.  Eventually, he realized the sun had gone down, and so he slipped into one of the empty caves and slept the night.  The next morning he flew back to the forest.  Back at the cottage, he was pleased to see someone was already there.  They were surprised to see him approach but he told them that they had no reason to fear, he was only there for the moment.  He proceeded to instruct them on how to handle some of the more precious of Serenity’s plants and belongings.  The young man looked at him in awe, finally explaining that he had never seen a dragon before.  This puzzled Solitude.  He went on to share of how there were stories of dragons in the sky, but no one had seen them since his great grandfather’s time.  This saddened Solitude, but he did not let it show.  When the boy asked if he would be staying, he thanked him for his service and said that he would not be.  He asked no more questions, and Solitude disappeared into the woods.  Without considering where he was going he wandered, eventually finding himself wading into the pond.  He went for a brief swim, allowing the cool water to soothe his mind, the sounds and feel of nature lulling him into a state of relaxation.

Making up his mind he climbed out of the pond, shaking the water off.  Lifting his head to the sky, he took a deep breath.  Without another second’s thought, he leaped into the sky and took off, heading away from the village, away from the mountains.  Away from Serenity.  With no particular destination in mind, he flew, enjoying the sun on his back as he went off to his new adventure. In his own way, he was honoring his beloved Serenity, whom he would always keep in his heart, until the end of his days.  Solitude was content.