Goals for 2018

Happy New Year!

My primary focus through 2018 will continue to be Funkitron and and our new unannounced project. But it’s important to me that even when I am off the clock, I do as much as I can to keep growing as a game designer.

So to kick off the new year, here are some of my indie game development goals for 2018:

1. Personal Tinkering

I’m bringing this one back from last year, but bumping it up to top priority on my list. This year I’d really like to dive in, and use my rapid prototyping skills as a healthy creative outlet. I want to test out some crazy ideas that have been banging around in my head, screaming for attention.

My wife (who is a great listener) anticipated this goal jumping up my list and gifted me a Paper Prototyping Kit (shown below) for Christmas. How cool is that?!

Paper Prototyping Kit

Success here looks like a personal collection of digital and paper prototypes. Many will be one-and-done, but each will make me a better game designer.

2. Broaden My Play Experience

Last year, I framed this goal as “Shrink My Games Backlog”, but I now feel that was a misguided approach. My true goal is to broaden my perspective by playing lots of different games of all different types.

This means trying out games old and new, digital and tabletop (and other), with preferences towards games that meet one of more of the following criteria:

  1. Takes bold risks with innovative new mechanics.
  2. Has made a significant impact on the game industry and/or gaming culture.
  3. Executes its gameplay (whether innovative or not) at an extremely high quality.
  4. Lives outside of my personal preferences and comfort zone.

Success here looks like a variety of memorable new play experiences to draw inspiration from, and a more open mind!

3. Develop my writing and presentation skills.

In the move to Rochester, I did a lot of reflection on what I wanted my longterm community contribution to be. I realized that in the end, I hope to pass on my learnings to next generation through teaching and public speaking at conferences like GDC.

But it’s a long road to get there, and a major friction point is my ability to articulate my ideas. So this year, I’d like to heavily focus on improving my writing and presentation skills with more practice.

Success here looks like 1-2 blog posts per month, and 2-3 presentations (lectures or workshops) this year.

More Goals

Although the three goals above will be my primary focus, I also have some other smaller rollover goals from 2017:

  1. Contribute to Roc Game Dev: Continue to actively participate in meetups, offer advice and support to aspiring indies, and give some talks.
  2. Level Up My Game Design Toolbox: Take more online courses, read more books and articles, clarify my thoughts on how it all fits together, and build a quick-reference toolbox.

Here’s to another year of making games!

2017 in Review

At the start of 2017, I came up with some professional development goals in this blog post: Goals for 2017. Specifically, these were “off-the-clock” goals (outside the scope of my Funkitron work and goals).

Now that 2017 is over, it’s time to reflect. How did I do?

1. Level Up My Game Design Toolbox

“Success here looks like a vastly improved toolbox by 2018; one that lets me quickly and effectively solve game design challenges.”

This year, I managed to consolidate and organize my existing notes. I also added some great new tools from Daniel Cook’s Lost Garden, Ian Schreiber’s Game Balance Concepts, and I am currently soaking in the many wisdoms of Kobold’s Guide to Board Game Design. I feel like I have a pretty solid framework for how my game design knowledge all fits together, and can confidently and efficiently draw tools from my toolbox.

However, it is a drop in the water compared to the ocean of knowledge and reference I need to amass. I need to find more tools by playing more games, reading more books, and just overall having more experiences.

Grade: B. Useful progress, but I need to do much more.

2. Shrink My Games Backlog

“Success here looks like an smaller and more sustainable backlog by 2018. I hope to be well-versed in 2017 hits, and get a few major classics under my belt too.”

I only made a small dent on my backlog this year, playing only a fraction of the games I hoped to play. However in the second half of the year (since moving back to Rochester), I have managed to play a bunch of tabletop games, both new and classic. These experiences have opened my mind to new kinds of play, have inspired me, and helped me deal with some of my inhibitions around learning new games. Best of all, they were a ton of fun.

Some other good news is that I recently purchased a gaming desktop and a Steam Link, so I am in a great position to shrink my backlog in 2018.

Grade: B. Not enough digital games, but way more tabletop gaming than I expected.

3. Tinker

“Success here looks like a personal collection of microscopic digital and paper prototypes, spanning a range of genres and taking interesting risks.”

On the “personal collection” side, this has been a failure. I spent most of my free time in 2017 vegging, socializing, or dealing with major life changes such as the move to Rochester and getting to know my new baby nephew.

The silver lining is that I did manage to take some time to rapidly prototype some casual game variants for work, which I developed on my own in HTML5 then pitched to my boss as possible new projects to take on. This hyper-focused creative brainstorming and problem-solving was extremely satisfying, reaffirming my desire to specialize in this area. And the reception was positive enough that my boss let me take a full work week to iterate on one of the prototypes with his guidance, which was a blast.

Grade: D-. No personal tinkering, but some rewarding work-inspired tinkering.

4. Get Involved With The Community

“Success here looks like a strengthened bond with the Boston community, improved presentation skills, and a positive impact on some younger aspiring game developers.”

I’m gonna give myself a bit of a pass here. Moving to Rochester mid-year made it near-impossible to strengthen my bond with the Boston community. I did however manage to:

  1. Cement some important relationships so they could continue in long distance.
  2. Give two lightning talks for Boston Indies, one of which I am very proud of.
  3. Serve as a judge for the Mass DIGI Game Challenge.
  4. Dive headfirst into Roc Game Dev and meet a ton of new people.

Grade: B. Given the circumstances, I am very proud of my 2017 community contributions.

The Verdict

Overall, 2017 was mostly productive… just not in the ways I expected. The big move to Rochester definitely disrupted some goals and shifted the targets of others. However, I am proud of my progress in spite of those hiccups, and feel positioned for success in 2018.

Coming soon – a blog post on my 2018 goals.