Vision ision bo bision banana fana fo fision a me my mo mision Vision

Vision is another one of those big mysterious words.

If you’ve ever had an idea, it might have been a vision.  But a vision is different from just an idea.  A vision will answer questions you haven’t asked yet. Ideas don’t do that.

For instance, you start working on a game and then you get to a design issue and you’re like “What do we do, now?” Having a vision can answer those types of questions.

A vision is like a set of rules. Whenever you have an idea, you run it by the rules.

Here’s how having a vision saved a really good idea from being a really bad idea:

In Grindcraftia, the world map is literally all the matter in the game universe.  So I thought it would be cool to warp time, like relativity or something.  As you zoomed out, time sped up, and as you zoomed in, time slowed down.  People didn’t like it.  Plus most of our in-app purchases are things that speed up time or reduce the number of clicks.  So it was a bad idea. But there was something driving it, and I couldn’t figure out what it was.

So I go back to the drawing board, and look at the vision.

We want to be able to speed things up and slow things down.
Why?
Speed things up so the game is not a total grind.
Slow things down so you can manipulate on a granular scale.

Brainstorming:
One theme in the vision behind Grindcraftia is “multi-dimensionality.”
1.) You can go back in time.
2.) You can visit parallel universes.
3.) You can do molecular-level crafting.

Another rule in our vision is that if something can be in-game, it should be.  In order to get a map of the world, you have to craft it in the game.  And in order to get those multi-dimensional features, you have to build a time machine, or a quantum tunnel, or some kind of shrinkinator thing.

So putting that all together, we see that we need to also make a craftable machine that speeds up and slows down time.  Not just jump around in time but alter its speed.  Making it craftable means that it’s optional, so players have control, rather than forcing time to warp whenever you zoom.  And we can create an in-game store that sells them, or sells blueprints + raw materials (kits) to make them.  So we (the developers) win, too.

A vision answers questions  you can’t think of yet, and avoids bad ideas, sometimes even turning them into good ideas.

What’s This Thing about Passion?

For me, passion is like stacking the cards in your favor, so when difficulty comes along, you automatically plow through.  For me, passion comes at a cost. But the cost is not “hard work”.   The cost is being super honest with yourself about yourself.

I always thought passion was some magic thing, and only cool people knew what it was.  Like, if you’re successful, then you can talk about passion.  But if you’re not successful, then you obviously don’t have it and you can’t talk about it.

Lies!

But I didn’t know that, so I would think about passion as if it were another word for “will power.”  If I worked hard enough or believed in something enough, eventually I’d get what I wanted.  Not true, in my experience.

This is what I’ve been told:

  • Get up early. Eat well. Get plenty of sleep.
  • Never give up. Always be ready for a new challenge.
  • Have a good attitude. Be positive.
  • Be excited about life.  Have confidence.
  • If there’s a problem, go talk to yourself in a mirror and tell yourself you can do it.

Nothing from this list has ever worked for me.

  • I stay up late, eat sugar, and get 6 hours of sleep.
  • I give up frequently, frustrated in seconds.  But then frustration goes away. Sometimes I have hope that defies logic. But then that goes away, too. Sometimes dull, sometimes a rollercoaster.  Some things are enjoyably challenging, but I’m not “always ready for a new challenge”.
  • I’m not positive.  I’m not skeptical.  I’m critical.
  • I appreciate being alive, but its frequently circumstantial, my bad.  I have moments of confidence, and moments of stupidity and embarrassment.
  • Whenever I talk to myself, I create problems and then tell myself they’re unsolvable.

I don’t mean be “meh” all the time.  To the point, I fit the passion checklist like 25%, but it hasn’t stopped me.  So, I think passion is something totally different than what people tell you.

I think you can discover your passion by being honest with yourself.  I think you can discover a much deeper and stronger passion.

One that doesn’t need to constantly avoid obstacles but can weather any change.

One that doesn’t have to always be positive, but is strong enough to accomodate any emotion you may have.

One that doesn’t make you into a dream junky, but helps you to enjoy the pursuit.  It can fail as many times as it needs, and still keep going.

I think you can discover that thing in you that can hold its breath for years until circumstances change.  It can die and respawn. It can survive extreme adversity.  If it gets chopped up, it grows back.

Specifically, its taken me a long time.  After years of working “even harder,” it suddenly dawned on me that pure hard work was not working.  Staying busy was preventing me from taking an honest look at myself.

Because if you can get to the core of who you are, and be cool with that,
then you can say what your passion is in terms of who you honestly are.
And your passion will be as strong as your very existance.
Where you go, it goes.
What you go through, it goes through.
It never goes away.

I haven’t gotten there, but I’ve gotten closer by being honest than by doing anything else. I’m just talking about my experience.  The pursuit of looking in the proverbial mirror (and not talking) has had a greater and more immediate impact on how I develop games than any amount of hard work, or positive attitude.

I realized:

I’m not someone who shovels games out the door.
If that’s what it takes to be successful, that’s not me.

I don’t like catering to the latest fads and trends.
But if they fit what I’m doing, I like to use them as tools — a means to an end to create an Experience.

And shockingly, I’m not actually a game developer. My passion is not tied to a certain technology in a certain time.
I’m someone who crafts experiences and transports people into another world.

Some ‘Splainin To DO

I feel like fans of GrindCraft are wondering if I’m ever going to make another game.  Short answer: yes.  Big question: When?  When are we going to release another game?  Well, last month I made 20 games.  They’re very bad, purposely made in 3 hrs each, just to get some frustration off my chest and say I did something.  (If you really want to see them, ping me on discord.)  The real question is  “When are you going to make a good game?”  Good games are subjective.  I have to think that a game is good, otherwise I’m kidding myself that its going to get done.  Even if everybody else thinks its good, I’m the one coding it.  So I have to think its good.  There’s rules to make it the best it can be.  I understand the rules.  But if I’m not into it to begin with, its not going to happen.  I don’t always throw it out.  Sometimes it has to incubate.   I’m probably not going to make “Barbie Makeup Simulator.”  But I do want to do a dungeon crawler.  We’ve been planning on it for a long time, thinking about knights and archers and things.  Life got in the way (hospitalized family members, loss of job, etc.).  Investors came and went.  And during that time, the dungeon crawler was incubating.

Then, Tom Lintern, the artist behind Girrion, came up with an amazing idea.  My biz partner Seth took it and spun it into a card game.  And then everything started clicking.  So we’re back to our dungeon crawler, which is now a post-apocalyptic 1980’s mall crawler, DeathMall.

If you like StrangerThings, or TurboKid, or Danger5, then you know what I’m talking about.  Our game takes place in an endlessly-sprawling mall.  Shoppers browse for the best buys.  And vicious gangs are there to prey on them.  You play Fred, a buffet manager, and you’re fed up.  You decide to clean out the mall with your trusty party of fry cooks.  But instead of fighting a bunch of orcs, skeletons, and zombies, it’s The Killer Punk Assassins, The Suburban Mom Death Stalkers, and the Arcade Creep-Freaks (and more).  And instead of breaking open chests of gold, its glass displays, storefronts, and kiosks.  You might get a +10 nailgun from the hardware section of the department store.  Or you might get a Magic 8-Ball from the novelty shop that gives you a random item.  Or maybe a cool t-shirt that allows you to have even more followers in your gang.

The first release will be a short run of 4 or 5 levels.  If the game is well-received, we’ll continue on with more baddies, levels, in-app purchases, and multiplayer.  Here’s our Fred walk cycle:

So, that’s where we’re at.

Goodbye!

We’re the guys who made GrindCraft.  It’s been played 50+ million times since its release back in 2015.

 

GrindCraft was a perfect storm of opportunities and ideas.
Seth brought me the idea of idle games, pointing to the success of Adventure Capitalist.
I had just finished up a 2-year Minecraft build.
It was Christmas break and I had 30 days, so I decided to program an idle game based on Minecraft.
We released it, and people liked it.

We have the fans to thank in a huge way. Thank you, fans!
You all spread the game far and wide, made videos about it. There’s even a remastered version now.
But I have to mentally say goodbye to all of that and move on to other games.
I had a lot of plans for GrindCraft — more levels, a mobile version — but I have to let that go.
It’s easy to focus on a success and not be able to move past it.  So goodbye, GrindCraft. It was fun.

We’re still planning on releasing Withering Heights, a small GrindCraft sequel, and Grindcraftia, an idle mmo.  We’re working with an artist that has a card game on Kickstarter.  One of its stretch goals is a video game version, which we will make and use that time to also finish up Withering Heights.
Without finances (or an extra 30 days), there’s zero creative momentum, and projects usually die or dwindle.  Better to wait for the next perfect storm.
Welcome to my dev blog btw.