Recent Articles

The Only Thing That is Constant is Change.

September 25, 2016 | By | Add a Comment

I don’t update this site often, and I always get a kick out of reading the last few posts, sometimes years old, and having a laugh at my sincere naivety. It also makes me cringe a little, to read about stuff that just never panned out for one reason or another. Oh well, such is life.

Take my post about being a “Born Again Indie”. All very true, no dispute there, but shortly after that, things changed yet again, and then again and god knows how many times after that. Opportunities arose, and distractions tugged at me from every direction. Shiny, interesting things that all demanded little pieces of my mind, to greater and lesser extents.

The game I mentioned in that post was a top down, 2D, Egyptian themed dungeon crawler, RPG. It was actually going quite well, and then I had some problems with the artist I had teamed up with, and the whole thing just sucked all the wind out my sails. I sulked for a bit, and then, despite myself, I dipped my toe back into iOS and mobile for a few months, finally releasing one of my shelved iOS games. And then the game got swallowed by the App Store, and I got sad about mobile again and went back to the drawing board.

Then, about 8 months ago, I was having coffee with my good friend, and we were talking about the games we’d like to make. We do this regularly. We sit and torture ourselves with fantastical ideas and fantasies of RPGs and Dungeon Crawlers, and we always say we need to make something, but circumstances are always against us.

This time was different. This time, we were both in a position to commit some real time to a long project. We kicked around ideas and we toyed with making a small, quick game, and even a mobile game. But we kept coming back to our favorite things. Playing D&D, RPGs and Dungeon Crawlers. So we started to define our ultimate dungeon crawler game, constrained by the limitations of our dev resources (just 2 of us). We came up with something we both got excited about. By the end of our coffee, we were totally into the idea and decided to proceed by making a fully playable, polished prototype, to prove out the game’s viability as a full project.

We chose Unity to make the game, and we spent the next 3 months on the prototype. Quite a long time for a prototype, but our mandate was for all the system created would be production ready and usable in the actual project. No cutting corners and no temp or bought code and art. We developed a custom toolset around the Unity editor, and I built a number of highly flexible systems and game mechanics, that allowed Damon to do his thing, and put all his energy into making art and building dungeons and enemies and puzzles.

We quickly realized that Unity was a fantastic choice, and our strategy for simplicity with massive flexibility, was the correct one. Things came together quickly and easily, and we were both having a blast. Once the prototype was ready, we enrolled a bunch of people in a play test. We set up a SurveyMonkey questionnaire for our testers to fill out, rating everything we could think of and offering the chance to give us real, honest feedback. The play test went very well and the data we got back was incredibly valuable. We got some excellent insight into some of our best and worse mistakes and assumptions. Based on the feedback we got, we decided to move ahead with the full project, and spent a few weeks making adjustments to the design and laying out story and detailed design for the entire game.

We kicked off the project officially at the beginning of August. We’re coming up to 2 months in and the project is going really, really well. We’re both still excited about the project, which for a couple of cynical old gits like us, is something new. We meet for coffee and plan and design and figure out problems. We’re heads down right now, building and testing and refining our tools and systems. In a month or so, I’ll be putting a website together for the game, and I’ll be doing some sort of regular game blog update thing. If you’re a real person, and not a bot or an Eastern European or Korean spammer, I hope you’ll join us and follow along. I’ll let you know when things kick off.

Meanwhile, here’s a couple of videos from the prototype.

Advice For People Wanting To Make Games

July 15, 2015 | By | Add a Comment

What advice would you give someone wanting to get into the games business?

I get asked this question a lot.  My first thought is, don’t bother. But that’s just my evil, English sense of humor talking. I recently did an interview where this question was asked again. This pretty much boils down everything I think about the subject ..

I’m a programmer and have always been a programmer, but I’ve worn many different hats over the years. There are a number of really important things you need, in order to succeed in the games business. First and foremost, you need to be good at something, be it programming, design, art, whatever. Obvious right?  You’d be surprised. You need to be smart and be able to problem solve and talk intelligently to other people. You need to be flexible and adaptive and be able to turn your hand to things outside your skill set or comfort zone. You need to be resilient and able to cope with stress and long work hours. But most of all, you really, genuinely have to love making games, and really want to do it. In fact, I’d say, unless you live and breath making games, and carry around a notebook where you sketch design or art ideas, or write programs, while on the bus or sitting waiting for your latte, don’t bother.

There’s a BIG difference between playing games and making games.  People often get that mixed up. Playing games is fun, and if it’s a well made game, you don’t see the complexity or pain that went into making it.  Making games is also fun, but it’s not all fun. It’s hard and there’s a ton of BS you have to deal with and there’s a massive amount of really tedious stuff to do, especially towards the end.  It’s not glamorous at all, despite what you see in the indie dev documentaries, and a lot of people don’t realize that or understand that until they give it a go.  That’s why most people who try and make a game, never finish one, or eventually make something that’s kind of crap.  You have to have a genuine—and I hate to use this word, but it’s appropriate—passion, to make a game from start to finish.  It’s the only thing that will get you through the process when things look bleak or get too difficult.

Beyond that, if you’re looking at this as a career, then start with a computer science degree.  It will give you a solid, academic foundation to build on.  Then go to vocational school, or college that has a games program, and learn the basics.  Experience what it’s like to build something from start to finish in a team.  Make friends and network.  Get involved with the local game dev community.  This all ties back into my first point about living and breathing game dev.  It really is a lifestyle.

Finally, be good at something. The games industry is a meritocracy.  You have to be good to succeed (unless you’re a manager  I kid, I kid), and if you’re not good, it will be apparent very quickly.  Specialization adds value.  As a coder, if you’re a 3D guru, a math whiz, an AI savant, or a physics genius, you’ll always be in demand.  Don’t get me wrong, good, solid gameplay programmers are equally important, but there’s more competition for those roles.  As an artist, you better be good.  No other discipline wears it’s skill on its arm than art.  If you can’t draw or code, most likely you want to be a designer. You better be a damn good designer if you want to succeed, because it’s highly competitive, and the game dev schools spit out hundreds of designers each year. If you want an edge as a designer, understand the other disciplines, and learn how to talk to programmers and artists.  Learn to code or script.  Be good at communicating your ideas verbally, and through drawings. Good, technical designers are worth their weight in gold.  If you can’t do anything, but you’re good at communication, organization and making other people do you bidding, become a producer or manager.  Do a business management course and learn about project structure.

Batman Returns (Sega CD) 3D Driving Game Source Code

March 27, 2015 | By | Add a Comment

Hey gang!

I finally found the source code to the Batman Returns project on Sega CD.  Yay!  I know I’ve been teasing you with the dead link on the archive page for so long, and I’m sorry.  The package is now live and ready to download for you delight and amusement.

Please link to the page and not the file.  For educational purposes only.  Yadda, yadda, yadda.

Cheers and enjoy!

Classic Console Magazine Interview

February 24, 2015 | By | Add a Comment

I did an interview for Classic Console Magazine.  Check out some scans below .. And make sure you go and subscribe to the magazine!

CCM - Chris Shrigley Interview - Page 1

CCM – Chris Shrigley Interview – Page 1

CCM - Chris Shrigley Interview - Page 2

CCM – Chris Shrigley Interview – Page 2

CCM - Chris Shrigley Interview - Page 3

CCM – Chris Shrigley Interview – Page 3

CCM - Chris Shrigley Interview - Page 4

CCM – Chris Shrigley Interview – Page 4

Classic Console Magazine

Retro Video Gamer Interview

September 20, 2014 | By | Add a Comment

I did an interview with the good people at Retro Video Gamer.  Check it out here ..

Chris Shrigley Interview on Retro Video Gamer

 

Born Again Indie

August 14, 2014 | By | Add a Comment

For a good year and a half now, I’ve wandered around, trying to figure out what it is I want to do and what I would like to accomplish with my Indie dreams.  First a little back story.

I left a high paid, high stress job as a director of technology at a large media company in April 2013.  The change was forced on me after my eyesight began to deteriorate rapidly, and I could no longer execute my role effectively.  I was at the top of my game, and I was kicking butt, and then it was all over within a short two week span of days.  I sat at home and thought, OK that was interesting.  Now what?

I decided to do what I do best. The one thing I truly enjoy. The one thing I’d NOT done the past 5 years. I decided to dust off the old programming skills and make some games again.  I did a quick port of an old Mahjong game I made for PC a few years back, to iOS, as a warm up.

My foray into mobile / iOS development was pretty typical.  Basically a waste of time and energy (although, as a generally positive person, I did learn a lot and I did make some pretty cool code).  To date, I’ve made around $500 from the Mahjong game. I put this failure down to a couple of things.  First and foremost, it’s just too damn difficult to get a game noticed on the app store, unless you have some serious marketing dollars, or get lucky.  I don’t think it was a quality issue.  The game was polished and played well.  And looking at what does do well on the app store, quality doesn’t seem to be a factor, always.  No, the key is exposure, plain and simple.  Getting your game ranted at by PewDePie, or one of the other sweary, game celebs on Youtube seems to be where it’s at.

Additionally, making stuff that people actually like is also pretty key.  Now that sounds a bit obvious, but if you’re wanting to tap the mass market, then you have to make mass market stuff.  Mahjong isn’t mass market, and it doesn’t have Kim Kardashian in it.  Like any sort of media, you can be an artist or a boy band, and you can make niche stuff, or crap for mass consumption.  Now, having said all that, there are always exceptions and a seemingly, unfathomable random element to all this. Sometimes a game comes along that’s so good that it just captures the imagination and actually attains a small level of success, or not.

After my experience with Mahjong, I tried a number of other tactics. I got distracted making some web sites, which was somewhat interesting, and then I decided to sell out and try to make small, playable, highly commercial, mass market games .. like a million other devs.  I spent about 2 months making a couple of cute, fun little games with kittens and hampsters, and by the end of it, I was so down about my day-to-day existence, that I couldn’t even bring myself to upload them to Apple for approval.  I still haven’t, months later.

I realized I was completely disillusioned with mobile and specifically iOS.  It’s a mugs game.  It’s heartbreaking to make something you’re invested in and see it immediately buried, or worse, sell your soul and make crap shovelware, hoping to hit the lottery.  I completely stopped developing for 2 months, and moped around doing contract work.  The break did me good, as did the money.

And then, one day, I woke up and knew what I wanted to do.  If I was going to put ANY time or ANY money into a new project, it was going to be a project that I wanted to do.  Commercial or not, it doesn’t matter.  All that matters is that I am entertained, and that I am making something that I want to make.  Now that view of things sounds a little self centered, and it is, and it’s OK.  It has come down to a simple fact.  I really, REALLY enjoy programming games, and the twisty, ill-conceived adventure I’ve spent the last year on, has sucked all that love and enjoyment out of it.  I have lost the thread, big time, and it has basically ruined the process of making games for me.

So I sat down and gave some serious thought to what I’d like to do.  Do I just throw in the towel and concentrate on contract work, or go find another full time job?  Do I take up gardening? Do I become a Naturopathic Doctor (don’t ask)? Or do I quit whinging and make something for myself?  I decided to make something for myself.

I have a list of genres and games I’d like to make.  I’ve had the list for a long time.  Over the years I’ve made a lot of commercial games, professionally, and some of them hold very fond memories, and some genres are very dear to me.  I posed myself a question.  If I could make ANYTHING, what would I make?  A platformer? A text adventure game?  A classic scrolling shoot em up?  An RPG?  Why yes! All of those, of course!  This was a revelation to me.  The notion that I could basically sit down and create anything I fancied was like someone pulling back a blindfold.  I started to get excited about programming again, and so I picked one and began.

So, here I am, four weeks into my first game as a born again indie.  I am writing the game for desktop computers only (although my code is basically cross platform, and could work on anything later on, with a bit of platform specific work), and I am excited to get to work in the mornings.  I feel like I am free of the shackles I imposed on myself the past year and a half.  I have no agenda other than to make something I like, and have fun doing it.  I’m doing some of the best coding of my long career, and every day is a blizzard of problems to solve, good and bad.  For better or worse, every day is a challenge in the best possible way.

Introducing MUSED.COM

April 9, 2014 | By | Add a Comment

Hey pop pickers!  I launched another new web site a couple of weeks ago.  It’s called Mused and is full of all sorts of silliness I find on the web.  There are movies and video and music and pictures, and pretty much anything else I find entertaining.

Be warned, my tastes are somewhat eclectic, and some say mildly offensive at times, so there you go.

Mused Logo

I’ve Been Blogging on Gamasutra

February 11, 2014 | By | 2 Comments

I’ve been writing the occasional article on my experiences becoming an indie developer, and posting them over at Gamasutra.

Rather than cross post them here, feel free to check them out over on the Gamasutra web site.

Staying Focused and Motivated as an Indie Developer Working Alone.

Mentoring And Why It Matters To The Games Business.

It’s Not All Rainbows and Unicorns. Thoughts on Life, The Universe, and Indie Development. 

Enjoy!

Larry Niven – Tales of Known Space, Reading Order

February 3, 2014 | By | 2 Comments

I’m a big Space Opera / Sci-fi fan, and an equally big Larry Niven fan.

I recently decided to re-read a bunch of Larry Niven stories from his Known Space Series, but was at a complete loss about the read order of the various stories, short stories and novels that encompass the timeline.

So, after a fair bit of research (before I found a great reference here), I put together a solid read order for all the main stories on the Known Space timeline. There is a bit of jumping around and pulling chapters out of certain books, but this is what I ended up with.

  1. The Coldest Place
  2. Becalmed in Hell
  3. Wait it Out
  4. Eye of an Octopus
  5. How the Heroes Die
  6. The Jigsaw Man
  7. World of Ptavvs
  8. At the Bottom of a Hole
  9. Intent to Deceive
  10. Death By Ecstasy
  11. The Defenseless Dead
  12. Phsstphok (from Protector)
  13. ARM
  14. The Patchwork Girl
  15. The Woman in Del Rey Crater
  16. Cloak of Anarchy
  17. The Ethics of Madness (start thru “2583.8 PLATEAU”)
  18. Interlude (from Protector)
  19. Vandervecken (from Protector)
  20. A Gift From Earth (novel)
  21. Protector (from Protector)
  22. The Ethics of Madness (“2583.8 PLATEAU” thru end)
  23. The Warriors
  24. Telepath’s Dance (from “Man-Kzin Wars VIII”)
  25. Madness Has Its Place
  26. Choosing Names (from “Man-Kzin Wars VIII”)
  27. Neutron Star
  28. A Relic of Empire
  29. At the Core
  30. Flatlander
  31. The Handicapped
  32. Grendel
  33. Juggler of Worlds (Chapters: “They” thru “Besieged”)
  34. The Borderland of the Sol (from “Crashlander”)
  35. Juggler of Worlds (Chapter: “Besieged”)
  36. Fleet of Worlds (novel)
  37. Juggler of Worlds (Chapter: “Becalmed”)
  38. Procrustes (from “Crashlander”)
  39. Ghost (8 sections from “Crashlander”)
  40. Juggler of Worlds (Chapter: “Betrayed”)
  41. Fly-By-Night (from “Man-Kzin Wars IX”)
  42. The Soft Weapon
  43. Juggler of Worlds (Chapters: “The Outsiders” thru “Epilogue”)
  44. Destroyer of Worlds (novel)
  45. The Color of Sunfire (short story published on LarryNiven.net)
  46. Betrayer of Worlds (novel)
  47. There is a Tide
  48. Ringworld
  49. Ringworld Engineers
  50. Ringworld Throne
  51. Ringworld’s Children
  52. Fate of Worlds: Return from the Ringworld
  53. The Hunting Park (from “Man-Kzin Wars XI”)
  54. Safe at Any Speed

Enjoy!

Introducing Indielicious.com

January 10, 2014 | By | Add a Comment

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I just launched a new website called Indielicious. It’s all about the Indie Game scene, something very close to my heart. In case you don’t know, Indie Games are cool. They are made by super creative individuals and teams, who mke games for the right reasons. Believe me, I’ve been involved with enough companies and projects over the years, that were all about the wrong reasons.

The indie game scene reminds me of back in the day, when I first started writing game, in the early 1980s. It was all young guys and gals, working for themselves in their bedrooms, making games that they wanted to make. I guess that this way of making games has never really gone away, rather I think I was the one who went away. I went on a wild journey through corporate, big box, sometimes AAA video game development. I got lost in the weeds for many years, chained to big companies, suckling at the big publishers teats (eew!). But now I am back. I’m full time indie again. I”m working from my home, listening to Radio 1 over the Internet, drinking cups of tea, hanging out with my dev buddies, and MAKING GAMES!

I’m also running this new website. Go check it out!

Indielicious.com