Viszlát Magyarország (Goodbye Hungary)

It's been eight weeks already! Oh my, how time flies. I will soon be bidding Budapest bye-bye, and so I think it's time to do a summary post. Let’s reflect, and look back on what we've learned.

It’s time consuming to make a computer game

My time working on sentenced has been as much about learning as doing. As a result, I’m behind on my initial plan, but I’ve picked up some useful skills that I didn’t have before, especially when it comes to logic and scripting. I’ll never look at a AAA videogame again without marvelling at the sheer amount of work it must take. Nevertheless, I’m extremely proud of what I’ve done so far.

Motivation is not a problem

It’s been harder to stop working and spend time as a tourist here. I’m incredibly passionate about this game, I believe in the idea, and I’m having fun making it. What could be better? Following my own creative vision feels so fulfilling that I really can’t put it into words. I wish I could do this forever, but hey, gotta bring in them dollaz. At least I’ve got another month of full production in London before I need to take on paid work again.

Social media is a hard game

Simply put, if I don’t tell people I’m making this game, nobody will play it. Interest has been growing somewhat since I started posting the artwork online, and if anything a slightly protracted development might give me more time to build up interest. However, growth is still slow, so retweet me I will do anything, pleeeeaseee.

Budapest is rad

The longer I spend in this city, the more I find. There are so many cool bars, restaurants and friendly people, it’s a city with real depth. There’s no way you can see it in a weekend getaway… if you visit Budapest, visit for longer.

The experiment works

Before I made this trip, I wanted to discover two things. Firstly, is it really feasible to quit my job and live off my meagre savings for an extended period of time? Yes, it absolutely is. Budapest turned out to be a great choice; as the cost of living is so low, my £ stretched pretty far. After Brexit this plan might not be as viable, but we’ll have to wait and see with that one. 

Secondly, I wanted to discover if I could actually make a VR game on my own. The answer, once again, is absolutely YES. In the last few weeks, since I added in character models and animations, the game is starting to have the effect I dreamed it would when I had the idea late last year. Standing in front of Convict A, he really feels like a living, person. It’s uncanny, and frankly the results are far better than I thought I’d be able to achieve on my own. I gave a demo of the most recent build to a friend last night, and she was genuinely reluctant to behead poor Convict A. Which is good, because it means that the game is affecting her, and this is what I want to explore with VR. There are plenty of people making horror games, shooter games or sports games, but I want to challenge the emergent psychology we’ll see in a world with VR. That’s my niche, and I can’t wait to see this project to completion. 
 
So, without further ado, here’s the result of my first eight weeks working on my first computer game. I recorded some new dialogue to better represent the tone and feel of the game. Enjoy!
 

I’ve thoroughly  enjoyed writing this blog during my time in Budapest, and hopefully you’ve enjoyed reading it. Of course I’ll be continuing it after I return to London, so until then,
Keep it weird.
Sam
 

I'm Going on an Adventure

Here it is! First blog post here on the newly minted Phantom Magazine website. I thought I’d use this opportunity to give you a little update on my life in the present, and what lies ahead.

I’m ready to start development on Sentenced, my upcoming VR experience that puts you in the role of executioner for an authoritarian government. For the last six years I’ve been deeply entrenched in the Visual Effects industry. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job, but balancing a 9-6 work day with a healthy social life doesn’t leave me a lot of time for game dev. However, about one year ago, I had my first experience in Virtual Reality with HTC’s Vive, on a work-in-progress version of Star Wars: Trials on Tatooine, at my current workplace, Industrial Light & Magic.

It was love at first virtual-sight. Since then, I’ve been teaching myself the mysterious and arcane ways of Virtual Reality. I bought myself a Vive. I experimented. I absorbed tutorials like Donald Trump absorbs criticism. My job specialisation in VFX is Digital Modeller, so I already had a pretty good grasp of the art & asset side of development, but my skills in programming were sorely underdeveloped. I downloaded a copy of Unity and the Playmaker visual scripting tool, and got to work filling in the gaps in my knowledge.

Eventually, I arrived at the stage where I felt I was ready to put my skills to the test. Inevitably, I was up against my diabolical nemesis, Time, once again.

I made the difficult decision to drop out of my secure job and take a chance with my new passion. After coming up with detailed work-plan, I decided that two months was the minimum time I’d need to develop Sentenced, while living on my savings from my VFX career. Staying in London wasn’t an option I liked. It’s an extraordinarily expensive city to live in and it’s full of the lovely distractions I call my friends. And why not turn this experience into an Adventure? So I found accommodation and booked flights to Budapest, a city I’ve never visited before.

As I write this, I’m preparing to moving out of my converted warehouse flat due to a fickle Landlord and a stratospheric rent increase, putting me in the role of reluctant couch surfer for the next month of March. I’ll be counting down every impatient second till April, when my flight and VR dev adventure begin.

So that’s it! I’m going to keep posting here regularly, and when I start development proper in April, I’ll be keeping this blog and my twitter updated daily.

Keep it weird.

Sam