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September 23, 2020
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Spilt Milk Devlog 02 - Black Lives Matter

by Andrew Smith on 06/15/20 11:34:00 am   Expert Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

The world seems to have changed a lot since we last posted - but I think on closer inspection actually it hasn’t changed; the veil has just been lifted a bit. White people like me get to see the reality that Black people face every day. To say we have no idea what to do is an understatement. It can seem like everything that is within our power to do won’t actually have any meaningful effect. It’s frustrating and paralysing… until you realise that lots of little things add up to a Big Thing.

So with that, I want to take every opportunity to champion the fight - including on here. If you feel this isn’t what we promised with the Patreon, I’d like to point out that this is supposed to be an honest and uncompromised look at the past month for Spilt Milk Studios, and ignoring it (and the effect it’s had on our productivity and mental health) would betray that promise. So that’s where we’re starting.

Black Lives Matter With the death of George Floyd as the inciting moment, the past week has been tumultuous, depressing, thought-provoking, and shocking.  We believe what is happening now - the protests and the public outcry - has begun to change the world for the better. People around the world are waking up to the reality of racism. People are making a stand against fascism and the far right. Trump and his fascist government will be toppled with any luck, and with a minimum of violence. In the meantime, we want to share some resources that we’ve found tremendously useful.

Black Lives Matter - Wikipedia

Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man A brilliant video talking honestly and without judgement about the kinds of problems that Black people encounter, that White people frequently don’t even think about. I consider myself fairly on top of this kind of thing, but it turns out that I’m not.

Thread of Police Violence & Brutality Content Warning, but I consider this important of value. These are unprovoked acts of violence perpetrated by the Police on peaceful protestors, and it’s hundreds of entries long. All caught on phones by the public, threaded by a criminal defence lawyer. We’ve posted this next part elsewhere before, but here are some places you can go to donate and support various important related causes:

Funds: George Floyd fund: https://www.gofundme.com/f/georgefloyd

Regis Korchinski-Paquet fund: https://t.co/MadTrrXQSv

Black Lives Matter: https://t.co/tOkyx98iAJ

Minnesota Freedom fund: Due to an influx of donations to the Minnesota Freedom Fund, they have publicly requested that people consider donations to one of the below causes that are desperately in need instead:

Black Visions Collective: https://secure.everyaction.com/4omQDAR0oUiUagTu0EG-Ig2

Reclaim The Block: https://t.co/cbEoT4iTt8

North Star Health Collective: https://www.northstarhealthcollective.org/donate

Louisville Bail Fund: https://actionnetwork.org/fundraising/louisville-community-bail-fund?source=twitter&

 

Petitions:

Justice for George Floyd: https://t.co/nXBx6epGfc

Justice for Breonna Taylor: https://t.co/7nsPcX5FVX

Hands Up Act: https://t.co/YunKJK6MiS 

No money? No problem. Here’s a decent list of places you go to give money via your ad-watching habits! https://www.esquire.com/uk/culture/a32763861/how-to-donate-to-black-lives-matter-without-money/

 

Things we think are great:

BLACK GAME DEVS This is an amazing resource to find Black game developers, for hiring or supporting in our not incredibly diverse industry. We’ve been trying our best to work with people who are not like us for a while now, but this resource is amazing and something we’ll be using going forward.

STREAMCAST These amazing youngsters (oh god I feel so old sometimes) are doing brilliant things. They first spoke to us at EGX where we showed off Stargrave for the first time, interviewing us about all kinds of important topics - including privilege - and since then we’ve been staying in touch as much as possible, and their smarts and positive attitude really struck a chord with us. They run a podcast, streams, and all kinds of great stuff. Their goal is “to build and promote diversity and raise awareness of black people in the games industry” and they are clever, motivated, driven and passionate - as well as hilarious.

 

Itch

So we've tried to take some small steps (and have been discussing some bigger ones internally) and thanks to Itch.io’s amazing team we were able to put Peck N Run into a wonderful charity bundle. We’ve Changed Peck N Run’s pricing from PWYW so that we could help increase the perceived value of this bundle, and even though it’s a small silly game, we’re proud to be a part of such a brilliant bundle that is already selling really well!

Here’s the ‘official’ itch bundle: https://itch.io/b/520/bundle-for-racial-justice-and-equality

And here’s another equally awesome one from some more established developers: https://itch.io/b/513/black-lives-matter-support-bundle

 

Development

This marks a sensible point at which to maybe talk about what we’ve been doing this month, aside from political activism. It feels odd to look back and celebrate what has been another really exciting and productive month for us. But it’s still worthwhile despite everything that’s going on.

Peck N Run

First up, why not give you a sneaky peek (or should that be peck?) at what we’re currently calling Peck n Run 2.0? Jake’s been hard at work, as has Steve (see below!) on working out what Peck N Run might be, should we take it to a full release.


SO CUTE

As you can see - and believe me this is just a small glimpse - we’re working on bringing the game up to the next level visually. We’ve done a lot of work to take the game from ‘simple and cute’ to ‘fully-fledged adorable’. We’ve got tons of ideas for what the full game could be (tufty grass, different molluscs, ‘regurgitating’ mechanics, etc), and are moving from the concept art phase and into blocking out, 3D tests and ‘in-engine’ part of the process.

It’s nice to be able to work on something like this - wholesome, amusing, cute - and without any real pressures other than those we put on ourselves.

 

Milky Family Reunion

Let me take you back a few years. Something like 30, to be precise (shudder). A nerd (me) met another nerd (Steve) at school, and over many years and shared interests (videogames, movies, music, Warhammer) a friendship bloomed! We took turns making single-player challenge room levels for the original Half-Life while watching SciFi channel over the summer holidays. My first experience of Command & Conquer was playing with him on his Dad’s laptop way back when. I even saw Predator 2 for the first time at his house… not to mention the first time I remember enjoying eating broccoli was at his table. That’s not to dismiss my Mum’s excellent cooking, but school lunches had turned me off the lovely tiny green trees, and my polite little 12-year-old self just couldn’t bear the idea of leaving them untouched on the plate! But I digress.

We studied games dev courses at University, though sadly not at the same ones (he went to Teeside, I went to Abertay). Since then, we’ve both had productive careers in games, and since Spilt Milk started we’ve had the pleasure of working with Steve on several projects - he’s a talented and very experienced 3D Artist and both A Verdant Hue and Lazarus itself wouldn’t be the same without him.

So now, in the year 2020, it’s really lovely to be able to say we’ve got an ongoing casual collaboration going! Steve’s happily helping us explore the 3D side of some of our prototypes and experiments, and we couldn’t be happier!

 

Crustacean Royalty

Those of you with your heads buried in the sand might not know we ran a very successful beta for King of Crabs this month! We also streamed the adventures (you can watch them here).


Love the key art, and it's clearly working!

It went really well with 400 spots being pinched for the private access beta, and we’re excited to say we’ve got a 45% conversion rate (banner views to page views) which bodes well for when it launches on Early Access sometime soon! We think it’s going to make waves!

 

Pitchin’

Despite the global lockdown, there’s been more pitching in our lives in the past 3 weeks than there was in the previous 3 months! Because all of the events normally taking place around the world are digital (and therefore nice and cheap/easy to attend) plus the fact a few organisations have set up event specifically to provide for devs stuck at home, we were able to attend 3 separate events!

- European Games BizDev Gathering (EGBG for short, and way too much fun to say out loud)

- GamesIndustry.biz Investment Summit Online

- Invest In Indie Games 2020

We totalled 35 pitch meetings over 4 days, which is pretty great going and incredible value for the money we spent attending (less than £80 between them, easily). We pitched Stargrave at all bar 3 of them, so I’m getting quite good at talking about it now!


Pew pew pew!

When the lockdown ends… I’m not sure you’ll be able to convince me it’s worth the money going to GDC etc. It’s going to be an interesting time for conferences!

 

Progress

One other event we were part of was UKIE’s Navigating the Now conference & showcase. UKIE is the UK’s best and biggest games industry trade body. They lobby the government on our behalf, offer all kinds of wonderful free resources (and even more to their paying members, amongst which we number). And we go way back  -we’ve frequently used their hotdesking space to our benefit, and they have our eternal gratitude and love.

Add to that the latest Awesome Thing - a publisher saw Stargrave’s pitch video as part of their showcase, and bloody well got in touch with us to talk about it! Wahey! You can see our video for yourself here (it’s only 5 minutes long) but I’d say that was an excellent result! Yay for UKIE! So this all means we’ve got a ton more leads for landing Stargrave a publishing deal, and already some of those have turned into a No, but more exposure and leads is always good and even if we don’t get a deal after everything, I think we can confidently say we’ve been impressing people with the game, the team and our pitch materials. Which all adds up and helps us in the future!

 

Waterworks for Waterways

We were in discussion for quite some time with a publisher who was HUGE fans of Waterways… and we got through to their second and final round of review… but this week we were informed that sadly they won’t be funding Waterways. It’s a real shame but we’re used to it at this point - not to be down on our hard work and the game which clearly strikes a note with everyone who sees it… but we’ve known for a while the work we need to do to take it from ‘really cool if’ to ‘absolutely yes’ so we’re not sad. 


Hnngg it looks so good!

There are no tears. It’s just more work than we can find the time or money to do right now, but it’s the reality of the situation and one we’re working hard to solve. One day you’ll be running around the canals of Silver City at full pelt, you mark my words!

 

Educational

We’ve been lucky enough to work the Abertay students on two prototypes. The University I graduated from has grown into one of the best places in the world to learn about game development, and more recently they’ve opened up teams of students to industry briefs.

We submitted two briefs because the way they set it up is that teams of students form around - and pitch to work on - the briefs submitted. We wanted to make sure we got one… and then as luck would have it we landed two?! This was towards the end of last year, and the teams have been working all semester on the projects. Then, through a series of borderline laughable happenstance - we were recommended to pitch one of them to a particular publisher. I won’t say who yet, though I am dying to… and I’d love to go into more detail on the project itself too but until we have something concrete I don’t want to jinx things. Suffice to say from out of nowhere I think we have a really good shot at landing something, and we couldn’t be more excited about that!

 

Dark Seas

In amongst all of this, we spent a week working on a game idea that our non-executive director Nicholas Lovell has been obsessing over for a few months/years/his entire life. Currently named Dark Seas, the idea is an ‘era of sail’ set RPG, where you play as the captain of a boat plying whatever trade you want (literal trade, or piracy, or just exploring) in a world where folklore and tales of mermaids are all true…

 


Day one it looked like this (but barely played at all!)

We spent the week before speccing out and designing a ‘core’ prototype, a playable section of the combat portion of the game, and then the week itself we supported Roper as he bashed together a remarkably thorough and robust little demo. The next step is to balance it and play with it, maybe do another round of tweaks… but the end result should be something that we have made fun enough and engaging enough to be part of a pitch for funding.

 


By the end of the week, it was much more complete and dare I say it, fun! Not pictured: AI-controlled enemy ships to fight against.

It’s always nice to work on something very different, and to flex different creative and technical muscles - an opportunity to learn and improve - and we think this idea has definitely got (sea) legs!

 

Super Doom Wall 

Since Crayta got announced as a Stadia First exclusive, things have been getting very exciting! We were overjoyed at the reaction to the dev-chat video that was put out about Super Doom wall. It gives you some insight into our creative process, the inspirations and dreams for the game, plus leaves a few key details out… details yet to be announced! Watch it here, and then come back here because since then, it’s been revealed on Games Radar that State Share is a key and exciting part of Crayta on Stadia!

 

Tango Fiesta

We’ve been talking about an update to Tango Fiesta, and we’re close to launching it! In fact, we're pushing the update THIS WEEK so I thought it’d be nice to give you an idea of what exactly it contains.

First up is Arcade mode, a new mode that lets you jump into a randomly generated series of levels from any World in the game, populated with a randomly chosen bunch of enemies, and then capped off with a randomly picked Boss fight… it’s endless, it’s hard, and it just keeps getting harder the farther you get!


Look at how many hours are logged here!

We’ve also spent a lot of time fixing all of the achievements and shall be incredibly upset (but also fast to respond) if you find any that aren’t working :P We’ve also fixed some rather interesting bugs, including but not limited to:

- Knife Melee Punks running backwards in Bionic Cop levels 1, 2 and 3.
- Objective Arrows pointing to dead Bosses in the Who Wants To Be A Killionaire? boss level
- The game, and I quote the ticket here, “shitting itself” if you boot it while a DS4 controller is attached - Invisible armoured rocket launcher toting bad guys. They should not be invisible.


Right here you can see some of the changes to the boss fight in WWTBAK, including which bosses are still alive, which you've killed, etc.

In all, we’ve fixed or tweaked or added over 88 separate elements of the game, and we can’t wait to push it live and see the response! Suffice to say we’ll be expecting (and nagging) ya’ll to leave nice steam reviews… if you’re so inclined that is :D

 

Miscellaneous

I’m not sure what heading to give this bit, but there was some more drama that’s less game-related and more business-related. Seeing as you’ve read this far, I’m guessing you care enough for the boring parts!

Boring Part 1: We nearly had to furlough Roper. Well, ‘had to’ is a strong way of putting it, but while we wait for our VGTR claim to be paid by HMRC, we were about 2 days from putting him on furlough to stretch our funds out and take the pressure off (all while training him in some crazy cool next-gen tech type stuff). It was a surprisingly complex time - lots of time spent talking about what-ifs and thinking about how to approach our situation… but in the end we didn’t need to! Because…

Boring Part 2: Both of us are engaged in work for hire, on separate projects! Thanks in part to being honest with people we know, and I guess in part because we’re known for doing good work, we’re both gainfully employed (well, hired as freelancers) on projects for other companies. It’s cool and exciting work, and Roper starts just as soon as we’ve pushed the Tango Fiesta update live while I’m about 2 weeks in, plus flexible enough that we’re still able to push our other concerns (landing funding for a game, working on fresh prototypes for the Next Thing) and we couldn’t be more pleased because it means we’re working with some extremely nice and cool people. Of course ideally one day we’d be in a position where the income from our games and our Patreon would mean we don’t have to, but while we do, we learn stuff, get better at our jobs, and bring some cash in. It’s all good!

THANK YOU!

Once more, I’ve written a lot more than I expected to. This is a brilliant exercise because it means we really get to look back and understand just how much has happened in a mere 4 weeks! Thanks for reading all of this, thanks for supporting us, and thanks for being the lovely person you are! If you want to check this out earlier than everyone else, why not support us on our Patreon?

Read Blog post 1.


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