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Now would be a good time to look at 2014 in retrospect and see what I achieved. This includes going indie full-time, 7 finished games, and establishing a new local game developer community.

Taro Omiya, Blogger

January 5, 2015

9 Min Read

[Cross-posted from my own, personal blog]

Now would be a good time to look at 2014 in retrospect and see what I achieved, and what I haven't.  So without further ado, let's get right to it!

Major Projects

In January, I've visited and teamed up with various friends from IGDA DC and new friends from American University to create a new game for Global Game Jam 2014.  That game? Ichabot Crane, a first-person puzzle game where you can through the lead character's head to activate switches and have better perspective of the level.  As with the usual game jam rules, it took 48 hours to develop with 5 people to develop this game. The unique premise of the game got a mention as one of the best free games of the week by PC Gamer.  While I moved on to other projects, the rest of the team has been keeping the game alive with an appearance at Smithsonian's Indies In The Middle event.

In July, I worked with e4 Software to make one last game with them: ZUP!  It's a tilt-based arcade game where you have to swerve Top Hat Joe away from spikes and other obstacles while collecting power-ups to help his journey up to the stratosphere and beyond.  The project was in development for 1.5 years with 4 people.  Since it's a mobile game, it's available in a few app stores, including iPhones, iPadsAndroidsAmazon Kindles, and Barnes & Noble's Nooks.

In September, I developed a game that speaks loudly of my experience with making mobile games: Not a Clone.  The minigame collection of cloned mobile games signifies the shallow and frequently short nature of clones.  It's heavily critical of the mobile app stores allowing clones to become popular without providing any highlight or care to the original product.  It took about a month working solo to create this game.  It was featured in GameJolt, and also got a mention in Warp Door.  Thanks to the GameJolt feature, it's one of the fastest growing game I've created, with a strong Let's Play following.

In October, I developed an application intended to help developers create more engaging games with Make it Juicy: Easy Methods to Make Your Game More Engaging. It was created in 2 weeks solo for a presentation at Capital Region Unity Developers.  Hopefully, other developers had found the application to be educational as the Unity Developers had during the presentation.

Also in October, I participated in Bacon Game Jam 08 to create a game in 48-hours again.  As a result, I had an innovative accident, and developed Suddenly, Thousands, a game about controlling multiple synchronized characters at once while traversing levels and solving their puzzles.  Shockingly enough, I've managed to create it in solo within the 48-hour time limit.  Despite the short development time, this game had the highest critical praise: it was the highest rated game in Bacon Game Jam, had a mention as one of the best free games of the week in PC Gamer, and a positive review in Jay Is Games.

In November, I've started on Prototype: Murakami, an on-rails third-person shooter with point & click puzzle elements inspired by Killer7, but due to poor scoping, I haven't been able to finish it in the one month schedule I originally estimated.  The prototype is still in development right now, so it might see the light of day...

In December, Robert Denner and I teamed up with Indies Need Booze to create a Indies Need Booze patron-exclusive Letters From Secret Santa, a narrative platformer where the words are your platforms.  It took about a week to make the game, with Robert as the writer and level designer, and myself as developer.  As it remains a patron exclusive for a few more days, the only reception we've received were from AbleGamersTwitch live stream interview.

In December, a number of Tech Valley Game Space members gathered for Ludum Dare 31, and created Laundry Day, a laundromat simulator.  8 people participated, mostly on-and-off, to make the game in 72-hours.  Instead of using the Unity engine to make the game as I usually do, we decided to learn how to use Construct 2, as this was the first game most of the team members has ever developed.  With a game engine like Construct 2 that doesn't require programming, it would make it easier for others to contribute.  Despite being a completely goofy satire of social and free-to-play games, we ranked within the top 100 games for humor, so many thought it was an interesting game.

With 7 projects finished, and 1 in development, 2014 was quite a productive year for me.  Here's to hoping that I can finish Prototype: Munch pretty quickly.

Major Events

There were some major events going on in 2014.  After a long 4 years working as a regular software engineer, I've decided I've had enough saved (and endured enough stress) to go independent.  On August, I quit the company I was working at, and started working for my own company, Omiya Games, full-time.  Furthermore, I moved from Maryland to New York to rent a cheaper location.  There, I was able to get in contact with Albany IGDA, and re-establish a few contacts there.  I happen to meet with Jamey Stevenson in one of their meeting, who was working on establishing a game developer community near the area.

Sure enough, late October, Jamey managed to secure a co-working office, and we both moved in to the new Tech Valley Game Space.  The office has been spectacular so far, and we're both really enjoying it.  I've showcased Suddenly, Thousands at the Rensselaer Game Showcase on November, along with Jamey Stevenson and Keith Morgado from Binary Takeover.  Lastly, I helped Tech Valley Game Space conduct the Ludum Dare game jam.  Overall, it was a busy, exciting year.

On To 2015

So what's there to look forward to in 2015?  A lot, it turns out.  With Tech Valley Game Space established, a large part of my time will be spent helping them out as they gather more developers and create a more inviting environment for those curious in joining in.  The projects I'll be working on at the start of the year are already fixed: there's Global Game Jam going on at MAGFest that I plan to attend, and I still have Prototype: Murakami to finish.  Right after those two projects, I need to figure out how to make Omiya Games sustainable.  Given the large number of game jam games I have in my disposal, I simply need to look for the game with the best balance between popularity and simplicity to reduce development time.  In this case, Not a Clone and Suddenly, Thousands seems to be the most ideal, although the former is expensive to develop despite short development time, and the latter will require a lot of experimentation.  If I don't make any progress in making the business sustainable, well, it might be time to seek a new way to make income.

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