Three Year Retrospective

Posted On: 2021-10-04

By Mark

It's hard to believe that it's been three years since I started solo development. Looking back at last year's retrospective, it feels like I wrote it just the other day. It also feels overly optimistic: much of what I'd expected to accomplish in the short-term has proven far more elusive than expected. This year was supposed to be dedicated to developing content*; instead, much of it was spent dealing with long-standing issues - each of which played a large role in slowing down the development of said content.

This Year's Highlights

Much of this year's progress was tied up in (finally) addressing problems that I'd repeatedly avoided - both consciously and not. I began the year by explicitly writing down the story outline - one that, up until then, had only lived in my head. In so doing I finally let go of some ideas that seemed too precious to give up, but were actually harming the story. I also switched writing tools (despite spending a great deal of time building up my old ones), as I found the newer tool helped me achieve higher quality writing faster.

Finally, and most recently, I've been working through how to deliver on autonomous agent movement. With that, I'll be able to enhance dialogue scripts to use something similar to stage directions - allowing characters to move about and interact with the world. This is something I've worked on (off-and-on) for the lifetime of this project, but I think I've finally found a way to potentially achieve that (albeit by working around the core problem* rather than solving it directly.)

That's It?

One of the odd things for me is that, despite that previous list of accomplishments, I don't feel accomplished. All three of those major successes were focused on clearing the way for writing - for the work I'd originally expected to achieve throughout this year. Until that writing actually appears - in game, fully functional - it's hard to feel like I'm making progress.

Although this feeling is discouraging, I also know it is fleeting: where I am, right now, I'm not quite done - not with the changes, and certainly not with the writing. In a month or two, however, I expect I'll be in a very different place. In light of that, I'm looking forward to my (usual) January planning session - by then, I (hopefully) should have a clearer perspective on my overall progress.

Keep Forging Ahead

My short-term plan is pretty simple right now: I've got to finish my work in progress, and get back to writing. Fortunately, my medium and long-term plans are also pretty straightforward: I've got my outline written down, so I can clearly tell what I need to accomplish from a writing standpoint from here on out. Gameplay and coding are less straightforward, but I expect the needs of the writing will largely drive which features I tackle and in what order. There are, of course, other factors that will keep making things interesting, but I still think this is the general shape of my project's trajectory for the foreseeable future. I hope you'll join me, to see what the next year has in store.