Worth Reading #6: Doing it right

Worth Reading is a weekly rundown of interesting stuff I've found. Sharing is caring! <3

This week's offering is a little text-heavy. Sorry I didn't find more pictures. :P

Newly-launched IndieDevKit provides resources for indies

IndieDevKit is a new site which provides resources for self-publishing game developers. It includes:

  • A list of vendors that provide services like QA, localization, art, and audio recording.
  • A calendar of industry events and big-budget game releases.
  • A library of expert guides on PR, marketing, crowdfunding, and legal topics.
  • A set of "wizards" to walk you through processes like building a budget or establishing your game's messaging.

Their guides are paid but everything else is free (although they also appreciate donations).

2D animation methods in Unity

On Gamasutra, Joe Strout has published a really comprehensive article covering three different approaches to managing 2D animation in Unity:

  • Manually swapping a sprite over time to advance through some animation frames
  • Using Unity's built-in animation system, but managing animation states with custom code
  • Using the built-in animation system alongside the built-in animator state machine editor

Each method has its pros, cons, and quirks, and Joe's article gives a deep dive into all the details of each, complete with lots and lots of code samples. If you want to do 2D animation right for your game, you definitely need to give this one a read.

(For what it's worth: for Legacy of the Elder Star we use the built-in animation system but we manage animation states ourselves in code.)

An in-depth look at color in games

This Gamasutra article by Herman Tulleken and Jonathan Bailey is a ridiculously in-depth examination of the many functions of color in games, from evoking emotions to establishing branding, creating a visual hierarchy or a sense of progression, clarifying game mechanics... it even touches on old-school color technologies and techniques, as well as colorblindness. It's jam-packed with useful reference images and written in a clear and straightforward way, so even if you're not an artist, you'll still get a ton of value out of this.

The handmade manifesto

Let's talk about programming. More specifically, let's talk about how much bad programming is out there.

Why does it take your operating system 10 seconds, 30 seconds, a minute to boot up? Why does your word processor freeze when you save a document on the cloud? Why does your web browser take 3, 4, 10 seconds to load a web page? Why does your phone struggle to keep more than a few apps open at a time? And why does each update somehow make the problem worse?
— The Handmade Manifesto

The Handmade Manifesto seeks to change all that. Will you join the handmade software movement?

The interim strategy

Seth Godin is one of my favorite writers because he has a particular talent for getting to the heart of things most people gloss over or take for granted. In this short piece he takes on the concept of the interim strategy, the idea that we mean to act on our principles but for now we're going to allow ourselves to fall short:

Exactly how successful do we have to get before we stop cutting corners, making selfish decisions and playing the short-term game?
— Seth Godin, "The Interim Strategy"

I saw a lot of this kind of short-term thinking during my time working in big commercial studios. The phrase "we'll just do it this way for now" became nauseatingly familiar; of course, we never got around to going back and doing it the right way, because there's always another short-term crisis to get distracted by.

Breaking out of the cycle of short-term thinking is a key driver of Kickbomb's core values and a big part of why I decided to go indie in the first place.

Can crunch ever be fixed in the games industry?

Now that we're on the subject of "things about the AAA games industry that suck", let's talk about crunch:

Anyone thinking about what it would take to create a strong team that is equipped for long term success ought to give special consideration to crunch. Like other easily measurable short term performance boosts, crunch can and does have hard to measure long term negative side effects.
— Andreas Papathanasis, "Can crunch ever be fixed in the games industry?"

In this article, Andreas Papathanasis takes on most of the major pro-crunch arguments with the thesis that, sure, crunch can yield short-term gains, but short-term gains with long-term costs are not the foundation upon which strong studios are built. He then goes on to discuss how what's preventing us from solving crunch isn't just an industry-wide disagreement on whether making people work themselves right into the hospital is actually bad (sigh), but also that crunch is still seen by many as a badge of honor and a mark of passion and dedication, and that telling those people that crunch is a bad thing is tantamount to calling their passion a bad thing.

"Sustainable development" is one of Kickbomb's core values, and a big part of that sustainability is the avoidance of crunch at pretty much any cost. One indie microstudio isn't going to change the world, but if enough of us publicly commit to sustainable development, maybe in aggregate we can start to move the needle on one of this industry's most deeply-entrenched issues.