NOT ABSOLUTELY ZERO WORK BUT CLOSE ENOUGH
I am trying a new thing! Alongside any specific game updates that go out I am going to do a quarterly report which looks at the business as a whole as well and why things are going the way that they are. A look at what is working, what is not working as well as the reasons for me not doing anywhere near as much work as I should be doing (probably). Anyway, here is the first one!
As previously mentioned, 2020 was balls. In every way. Just total balls. While at no point did I expect 2021 to miraculously be amazing by January 5th I was certainly hoping for some more significant progress on the games front than has turned out to be the case. I am sat on Hampstead Heath in the glorious sunshine writing this on March 30th so I can fairly confidently say that nothing major will happen between now and midnight tomorrow. Probably. Before getting into what was actually achieved this quarter I am going to reflect a little on why I am already disappointed with those achievements but also why there is quite a lot of scope for optimism around the rest of the year.
Where did it all go wrong then? Well, I think most of the issues can be traced back to the fact that Lockdown 3: Tokyo Drift has been absolute crap. Stuck indoors in the cold, I have found it pretty damn hard to keep on top of fitness, my actual job, and not drinking myself into a coma to also try and work on anything 4MB related. There have been plenty of times I sat at the PC but just could not muster up the energy to open Unreal and start tackling some of the outstanding work. It is possibly not helpful that lots of the tasks at the moment are the very unsexy part of game development. No cool prototypes or new ideas. It is all adding polish and testing on the existing suite of titles for various reasons. Absolutely essential. But so dull and not the type of task to reignite the fire.
OK so life has gotten in the way of any truly significant game development for the first three months of the year, why then are there some vague reasons to feel cheerful? I have to admit it is very hard to feel anything other than cheerful while sitting in the sun so there is obviously that. The improving weather and loosening lockdown restrictions (for now) will be a boon for millions around the country, not just me. But it is not just that. Life Stuff has been getting in the way as well as general lockdown fatigue but finally, that life stuff seems to be sorting itself out. Another roadblock is being removed. It means that going into Q2 I should be fairly free to crack on with work (apart from when I potentially have to move house), finish the outstanding work on the released games and finally get back to work on Danger Tank and The Nightwatchman.
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly than any update for quite a few years, I have a BRAND SPANKING NEW PC. And oh my is she is beast. I am not going to list out my specs like a nerd but it is powerful enough to destroy the sun. Don’t ask me how.
This has been purchased as while my previous PC is very solid, it did take a while to do certain tasks within Unreal such as building lighting. Building the engine itself was also a bit of a chore at times. The new PC absolutely smashes these tasks. Secondly, this has been done with one eye on Unreal Engine 5 which is due to launch in Spring sometime. It is Spring now! Basically I am ready.
OK so we are set for the rest of the year, but what did we do in Q1? Anything at all? Well, I managed to finish 11 games so far this year which I think is a fairly solid amount (download GG App it is very cool). But more importantly some actual work happened.
- Undead Blackout 3.0 released on PC This was meant to be the Xbox One version (well, it still is) and was due to release at the exact same time that the game released on Xbox but that project has gotten stuck. Not abandoned, just stuck. And so I decided that on the 4th anniversary of the games original release I would actually release version 3.0 a little early.
- We have cracked Japan! In a manner of speaking at least. We have released a game in Japan! BallzOut on Nintendo Switch is our first release in the territory and I fully expect it to do absolutely nothing but I just love the idea I have released a game in Japan. Thanks, Nintendo! Omvorm is on the way in very early April.
- New PC has forced me to finally organise ALL THE THINGS! So many files, so many project backup folders (even though I have GitHub). All finally organised and properly categorised. A task I have been putting off forever because it is just so dull (almost as dull as reading about it) has finally been completed. The coolest thing about this is finding old builds of games, which I am going to build and keep for lovely historical purposes.
- Bug Fixing Progress Specifically on GDS and Urban Jogging. Both of which are currently in the approvals process on Nintendo Switch (for a new patch and first-time release respectively) and so they should both land in April. But the bulk of the work on the two has been done in Q1. A few of the tasks being of the variety that you put off for weeks and weeks assuming it will be long and boring only to actually polish it off in fifteen minutes.
- Proper Finance and Sales reporting Finally I have put together some super exciting Excel sheets to reflect the exact(ish) number of games I have sold and which games have driven the most sales/revenue. The results surprised me somewhat! Still fairly short of my first million (by nearly a million) but the number was actually not quite as sad as I thought it might be. That in itself has been a bit of a morale boost.
What the above ‘positive’ points are really saying is that I am basically where I wanted to be at the end of 2020. Just surviving that year with your health intact is a win (mental and/or physical) but I did want 4MB Interactive to be ready to pounce on 2021 as soon as it kicked off. A three-month delay is actually not the end of the world but I really, really need to continue the small amount of momentum I have built up and increase it. I have a PC that could become self-aware at any moment so I need to take this time that I have and just use it for building games before it obliterates us all.