A Very Different Kind Of Blog Post
Mario Got Sad
I have been sat in my bed trying to figure out how to write a blog post about how I have not written any blog posts for ages and (shockingly) I don't seem to be able to get started. Well, until this little burst anyway. But this is just incoherent rambling isn't it? This isn't updating you on Undead Blackout or Omvorm or announcing a new game. This is just waffle. Maybe that's what I need right now. Maybe you just need some waffle right now. Maybe the idea of reading about an awesome new mechanic I spent hours and hours on just bores you to death. I am just going to keep typing crap and see if we can't shape it into something decent afterwards. Or I will just say 'fuck it' and hit that big blue Publish button. WordPress looks different. Has anyone else got this? I think it is because I installed something called Gutenberg. Apparently this is just the beta for the next proper update to WordPress. Seems fine. Just different. OK this is not interesting to anyone. Right. A question from the audience...
Why haven't you actually bothered to write any blog posts or tweet much for the past four months?
Wow. No messing about there. Straight for the jugular. Well it is complicated. I mean, it isn't really. I could have done. But I haven't done. OK I am making it complicated now. Let's go back to the end of summer. We were all sad about England having lost in the World Cup, it was 150 degrees during the day and everyone was on fire. And I lost my job. Not because I am rubbish or anything, no this was me being made redundant as my former employers were not doing so well. Initially I was very relaxed about this. I got a very solid redundancy package and decided to spend the time working on Omvorm's Switch port and then would finish the Undead Blackout updates, all while casually searching for a new job. The first part of that happened and Omvorm landed on Nintendo Switch in early September but the job hunt wasn't going particularly well, I had had a couple of dodgy interviews and then it happened - my confidence just disappeared. Why? Can't tell you. Perhaps a combination of struggling with job, running out of money, having some kind of existential crisis and trying to plan a wedding. Perhaps. Also the lack of routine was messing with my head. I missed my routine.
Before I knew it October had arrived and I was very aware that I had not done a great deal of game development since the very start of September and the already sparse Tweeting was pretty much non-existent and. I found I was in this ridiculous cycle of guilt. Guilt for not working on updates for Omvorm or the Undead Blackout reboot but then the second I went to do something I would get guilty that I am not searching for a proper job. Gotta pay those bills. And so I would go back to LinkedIn/Glassdoor/Guardian Jobs and apply for a few. But that low confidence had got me thinking "Why am I even making games though? Clearly no good at it" and so even after pinging out some applications I wouldn't do any dev work. All the while the guilt got bigger, the confidence got lower and the days trickled on by. I tried a few things to get my creative juices flowing, the tricks I often use when I feel distracted or unable to work. I reorganised my desk. I cleared all the clutter and had a nice, clean workspace. I made lists of all the tasks I wanted to complete before the end of the year. I backed up all my work and files properly. Cleared a load of space from my various hard drives. All useful little things to accomplish but none of them sparked me back into life. The bizarre mental paralysis just continued. There should be a specific word for the very specific kind of guilt that comes from spending an hour trying to get going on some work only to give up and then play Rocket League all day before realising you have wasted the day and then sit there wondering what the hell you are doing. That kind of guilt. Maybe there is. It is somehow almost November. Time has stopped working properly and weeks are passing by in mere hours. So it seems. At this point I became very aware I was just being a miserable piece of crap and needed to snap out of it somehow. Tidying stuff didn't work. I was unable to go jogging due to a knee injury (worst timing ever for that one, jogging is my absolute No.1 Stress Reliever) so I decided there was only one way to solve the horrendous lack of time I was spending in Unreal Engine. Brute Force. Not the original Xbox squad shooter, though I do own it and maybe that would have helped, but sheer force of will to break through the wall.
First thing I did was to break up the tasks I still had in Hack'n'Plan into stupidly small, easy tasks. I usually prefer to have lots of sub-tasks within one larger task but I changed this up. Easy wins. Just do a couple of them and then you have achieved something today at least, I thought. And so I tried one - Add the Ammo Box mesh. Simple! The ammo box was currently a white cube and just needed replacing with the already made wooden box thing I had knocking around on a hard drive somewhere. DONE. One game dev task down. Time for another one. And another one. After a little while I realised I had been working for a couple of hours straight, the first time in almost two months I had managed to do that and it felt amazing. I continued working in this fashion, minuscule tasks just to make some dent in the backlog. And it worked. Before long I could feel myself having ideas for new games, a sure sign that the creative juices were flowing again. In fact I even started working on a new project, which is of course the dumbest idea ever as I am still working on other stuff. But in this particular instance I have used it as another way to get me properly back into the correct mental state to work on the games each day. No idea if that project will ever see the light of day but we shall see, certainly a different type of game than I have worked on before. So what of Omvorm and Undead Blackout then? Omvorm will probably get an update at some point in the near future but there won't be a great deal in it to be honest, mostly optimisations and fixes. Or maybe a Coop mode if I actually decide to do it. Undead Blackout is very much in the final stages of the total rebuild, the mechanics are nearly all done. Additional levels need sorting out. I will probably write another blog post on this specifically as there is a hell of a lot to cover. Point is, updates are coming. Well, this is quite a long post isn't it? I am not entirely sure what it is even about. Perhaps it is the final part of my game dev rehabilitation. Have a rant about not doing any posts via the medium of a post. I guess the lessons to take from this are that, you will go through periods in your life where things are harder than you would like. I had to figure out a way to get through that and keep on working on my games and I think I have just about managed it but it has not been fun. I am hoping 2019 is going to be a massive one for 4MB Interactive. I just need to crack on with the work.
Tom Gilchrist - Founder/Creative Director
Founder of 4MB Interactive and chief game maker person, Tom taught himself Unreal Engine 4 while working in a normal day job.
By day he now works in the Social Commerce business (t-shirts!) and continues to make games whenever he can find the time.