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Automaton-a-Thon #3


2020 has been a pretty awful year what with the pandemic and the world on the verge of collapse, but during this time, I've been hard at work on all my games to some extent. I've also taken some time to learn new skills and develop my current ones. So, with that out of the way, let's take a look where I am at with all things Atomic Automaton.

Free time and me time

Hours at the real job have been shortened and my weekend gig has been closed until further notice. This has given me more free time, which I have used to learn Blender. I strive to make the best out of a bad situation, so I knew I could make this an opportunity to expand my skill set.

Although the process has been irritating and at times table-flip-inducing, I have learned just enough to start making the 3D renders needed for my Kickstarter pages. The current difficulty is learning to optimize renders for time vs. quality (a skill I have not remotely mastered). As of now, I've opted to stick with higher quality renders at the expense of time. Oh boy do these renders take a ton of time. This has been difficult on the progress front as I do not have an extra computer to do both renders and other graphic design work. Nevertheless, I have been making progress on my games.

I have also been working on animation with Photoshop. This process has been aggravating for the simple reason Photoshop is not really set up to animate as well as programs like Aftereffects. The animation interface is messy, not intuitive, and not even remotely as powerful as it needs to be. The only reason I have even attempted to work in Photoshop is my Aftereffects skills are very limited and self-teaching myself two intensive programs at the same time just isn't going to happen effectively.

This is why I have decided to enroll myself in an Aftereffects class at UCSD, which starts in July. There are definitely benefits to teaching yourself programs i.e. saving money, but for the sake of time and my sanity, I am going to need a more structured learning environment. Hopefully the class will help with the animation process and speed up my workflow.

Like I mentioned, I have also been taking some me time. This means getting some naps in, gaming, movies, art, reading - anything that will help fill the inspiration well once this pandemic settles down a little bit. It turns out working full time, at two jobs no less, and cranking away at board games with every free second is probably not too healthy. Despite the chaos in the world, I have been able to let out a small sigh of relief as I wind down.

Reaching out to the community

As I gear up for my own Kickstarter, I've been more of a ball of anxiety than normal. It's the fear of the unknown, failure, and the thought of all those hundreds of hours of work for nothing. I wanted to dispel some of the fear over me by reaching out to other creators. I wanted to learn about their projects, their excitement, and the difficulties they ran in to along the way. That is why I started the Community Connection interviews. By hearing and sharing other people's stories, I hope that it empowers people to get out there, ignore fear, and create great things. I plan to expand this on the website and continue it, as I feel it's a great way to share what others are doing in the community.

Kingdoms of Immacus updates

Since Protospiel, things have been a little quiet with Kingdoms of Immacus as I ramp up my work on Fate Weaver Zadarra and Her Unfortunate Misfortune and Trolltem Poles. I currently have an artist working on art for the game, and I plan to hopefully add another artist on the project in August or September. We are now at over 30% completed with the art, and this will move quicker as I bring on more people.

Part of the reason these other games have taken priority over Kingdoms of Immacus is I really need to sit down and think about how I want to package this game. It's large - 300+ pieces of unique art, a lot of components, and will require massive dedication to the metagame. I'm debating if this is better suited as a retail game as opposed to Kickstarter, but if that's the case, I need to get a few games under my belt before I jump into those deep waters.

Trolltem Poles updates

Just before COVID19 I was on track to finally completing the game. I finished all the stretch goal art, reworked the hero boards, and was down to two hero paintings. Once COVID19 hit, my after hours stomping ground was closed, and I found myself at home with a lot more time, and that's when I jumped on the Blender learning kick.

After some reflection and the realization that Zadarra was going to be released first, I decided to put Trolltem Poles on hold as I moved to complete that project. The only thing left to do in Trolltem Poles is those last two hero paintings and reworking the hero abilities for balance. This game has been through the Protospiel ringer and playtested to death, so I feel comfortable where it stands in that regard. I still want to spend a little more time on polishing those heroes so they can shine.

Fate Weave Zadarra and Her Unfortunate Misfortune updates

This is where the bulk of my labor has been. I have been cranking on this game since COVID19 has gotten bad, and I am happy to announce I am nearly done with it! Zadarra has one more round of development, and then I think she is good to be sent off to random strangers across the globe for playtesting.

The major highlight of development is allowing Death Card runes to be refreshed once they have been exhausted through rotation. The reason for this is at higher levels of difficulty, it becomes almost mathematically impossible to rotate all Death Cards unless they can be used to match even after rotation.

The relic Coberus will now be able to refresh these exhausted runes. This will make Coberus pretty much required for higher difficulties, but that's not a bad thing. The lower levels allow for a lot of freedom in regards to relic choices. I plan to go into more detail in a Zadarra post later on about how Zadarra has changed over time.

Now that there are only a few loose ends regarding development and art for Zadarra, I have poured all my effort into building the Kickstarter page. This process has been extremely sloooow. Combine learning a new program, learning animation, and optimizing renders, this has created a Kickstarter page progress that has moved at a snail's pace. I'm currently rendering 1/4 of the "How to Play" section. Once the render is done, I'm going to shift my efforts to parts of the page that require less rendering for progress' sake haha.

Atomic Automaton updates

The company itself has been safe and stable from everything going on, and I've used this time to do a little bit of web development and social media efforts. Granted, I haven't put as much effort as I should in the realm of social media, but as of now, the top priority is continuing to polish the website and make it a nice space to browse.

Final thoughts

2020 has been a crazy year, and it's only halfway over! Over the next 6 months I plan to have Zadarra's Kickstarter page complete (maybe released pending the economic environment) and Trolltem Poles complete as well. This will allow me time to develop my secret game starting fresh in the new year as well as ramp up the art on Kingdoms of Immacus.

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