From Doggydog to Wuhwuh to this day

Hey everyone. I have been out of the pictures for over a year now. This update will cover all of the time I’ve been quiet.

After my last post in 2013 I did go to work with Taru Saukkonen and her company Pink Rose on a game called Doggydog. The game idea was simple and good: Make a tamagotchi type of game for children where they need to take care of a dog and get some real life questions and missions. a Good tool for parents to see if their kid can really be given responsibility over a real dog, or just for fun. The estimated release date was christmas 2013. The game platform was, of course, Windows Phone 8. I programmed it with XNA 4, which only supported Windows Phone 7, but those games would work on 8 as well so we didn’t think it was a problem at that time and I was confident with my skills.

I went to AppCampus for a month with Taru and learned a great deal about the gaming industry, marketing, costs, time requirements and of course programming. Also, the place was amazing. Sadly I left there about a week early while also hurting my foot on the way back to Kajaani but that’s besides the point.

AppCampus is this innovative thing from Microsoft, they take in applications with good game ideas and if they like it, they give a month of training on being a businessman/woman and also a funding if you release your idea to their platform for a certain amount of time before moving it to more platforms. My boss had an idea they approved of and I was wanted as the man to make that game a reality. It was the biggest responsibility I ever had in my life till then and I was pretty nervous.

Our project had a rough start. I was originally supposed to be the lesser programmer and only do as told. It took a week while in AppCampus that I found myself promoted to the team leader and given responsibility about so many things that I had no idea how to do. I took that as a chance to learn and did my best while doing mistakes here and there. My biggest fault must’ve been my lack of courage on speaking my mind aloud. This also started to slowly affect my coding work forcing me to take shortcuts where I could making the code a lot harder to edit after if it was needed to. And it was.

Our team consisted of me programming the game, my old boss from Kajaani Game Studios programming the connection and database related stuff and two graphics artists, and our boss Taru giving the picture of what the game needs to be of course. There were some changes on the team during the developement but I wont go into detail as it mostly stayed within those lines. And I can’t really remember everyone as I worked from home on my own time.

At some point early in developement we had to change the game name as it was already in use for some pet food shop and our Doggydoggame turned into Wuhwuh. It’s a nice name and I like it.

Right at the end of 2013 when the game was ready to be released, we noticed a lack of things that AppCampus requires from the games that teams work on. These things required editing a huge portion of the code and with the deadline closing in I had to redo and add code enough to match 1/3 of what I had already done. And I did in one week, editing and adding stuff equivalent to two months of work with the pace we had been able to keep up with till then.
These missing parts consisted tombstoning, way to return to the game if it was suddenly put down due to a phone call or other reason. A pretty important thing to forget, but for me that was the very first real project and my very first mobile app project at that. I had no idea what it required, neither did Taru.

We managed to release in time and I had a week-long break trying to sleep off my exhaustion from the allnighters I had to do to pull it off only to hear that the game was denied by even more missing parts that were impossible to add with pure XNA. Yes, really. I had to switch to SLXNA, Silverlight + XNA combination. It took me a LOT of time to get that working, never before had I used Silverlight so I had to learn in quickly and hope it didn’t break the code too badly, which it did.
At this point my code was a total mess, barely holding up patches here and there, building up and all I could do was to keep at it. Since our deadline was moved I had more time and I spent some of it trying to edit my old code to be more versatile and user-friendly, also reducing the load our game took into the battery life of phones. It ran smoothly even though there was no difference from the outside, the code was slightly better. By far, it was the worst AND the best code I’ve ever written after my very first game that I made but it worked and after fixing it, it looked decent.

It took half a year more after christmas to actually get the game in a state where AppCampus approved it and the work was finally done. Since I was to be paid after the work was finished I was pretty much hungry each day, worrying till I planked out for a weak amount of sleep each night. When the game was complete I wasnt really partying, I slept my first real night of sleep for the last half a year. THEN I partied for a day! You did see that coming 🙂

Long story short, I took on a half a year job that stretched into a full year, got paid for that half a year and lost all my motivation on game developement. After the game was released I could barely think about programming without the need of hiding into a corner and doing something else.
I did force myself to comment the code for Wuhwuh as much as I could but did a poor job out of it. Never forget to comment your code while you create it, makes up for a lot of time lost from the future!
I also did some small patching on different bugs and then parted with Pink Rose and started my Civil Duty, which I’ve been at for the last 10 months. And it’ll end in two months.

This year with no programming was what I needed after all the stress I had. At the start of my Civil Duty just thinking about code made me shut down but that didn’t stop me from planning game ideas after game ideas, only the part with programming was hard to think of.

Right now as I am writing this, I am still unsure of my future. I love games, I love creating games and programming is fun again, but programming for work still feels like a distant nightmare to happen. I plan on practicing some Unity3D after my Civil Duty ends and I am thinking on what to do in the future.
I am hoping to get a chance to give this forward to others, maybe even teach programming. But as for making games for living, I am considering on leaving it as a hobby that wont add stress.

The lack of writing in my blog is due to me pondering and still processing about the past two years but I haven’t disappeared. In fact, I’ve been streaming regularly again for the last four months or so. My new-found enthusiasm is from I Wanna Be The Guy fangames, there are thousands of them! They are hard, simple, fun, and the most of all, full of innovative game ideas!

Within the next two months left on my Civil Duty I will be deciding what the future holds for me on the gaming industry. Hopefully a lot of fun. 🙂

I am very proud of Wuhwuh. It is so far the biggest and most detailed game that I’ve been a part of making and it was also a success. Apparently it is in the top in finnish educational games and decently popular.
My time with Pink Rose taught me a lot of things that I never expected to learn and it helped me to see my own limits and weaknesses.

Now all I have to do is to face them in order to move forward.

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