Sunday, 24 August 2014

The Life/Work (im)Balance

In the past couple of weeks I've read a couple of very interesting articles which have got me thinking a lot about how we work and the future.

Becoming Super Mom

First up I read this article from the Selfish Mom blogzine.  Having it all, living the dream, being a super mom.

Now most days I don't have the energy to get dressed in the morning let alone spend all day playing, feeding, looking after Willow, feeding Alex and myself, general chores AND all evening working on Super GQ, but it looks like the trick to having it all is working your butt off.  It makes sense really.  And it's not about the short term, this is all about paying it forward because in the short term you're going to be tired, irritable and to busy to notice that it will all be worth it.

Of course things will get easier as she gets less dependent on us, and it's really in my best interests to make sure I've 'feathered by nest with more than just fluffy chicks'.  I'm already dreading the moment we have to send her to a nursery and then school, and before we know it she'll be off and carving her own path...  OK the last two are a long way off, but there is the prospect of day care.  One of the awesome things about the both of us working from home is all the time we spend with her, it's also the single reason why it's taken us so long to get to this point with Super GQ.

me, not working...

If Alex and I can keep making games, I'm sure the 'empty nest' feeling will be less of a blow, as I'll have my other 'babies' in development. I think that's one of the best things about being in a creative industry and getting to make things you love.  And I don't think I need to worry so much about 'having it all', I'll be happy enough keeping what I have.  I could just use a few more hours in the day...

We are not alone.

And then I read the second article that got me thinking a lot.

It was doing the rounds on my facebook so I had a read and saw a very familiar story.

Another couple choosing to take the plunge and go indie, working from home and balancing bringing up their daughters and working on  a new game.  It's slightly different in that their kids are significantly older than Willow is now, raising different issues to what we have on a day to day basis, but the thing I was really interested in was how they planned to make the work/home life happen.

In the article the couple talk about how they wanted to keep work and home life separate, even though their stations where now in the kitchen.  Working their normal work hours and not spending all their work time talking about family and all their family time talking shop.  This failed spectacularly though as life gets in the way, not to mention that their girls are into gaming and so are naturally curious and wanted to be involved.

Alex and I didn't plan.  Sometimes I think we really should have planned what we were going to do, but you know what?  I'm glad we didn't.  At the time we just rolled with the punches.  I couldn't get a job so we started a little side project then Alex got fired so we up-scaled the side project.  If we had sat down and made a 'sensible' plan where we get 'proper' jobs to give us some security* for our soon to be family, we wouldn't have gone indie and released Glyph Quest.

In the end they include their second daughter in the development of their upcoming game Ninja Pizza Girl, a game about much more than delivering pizza! I think it's awesome that they are working with her to make this game.  It seems they were fighting to keep the two worlds apart and really it was better to let them combine.  In the future I hope that we will get to include Willow in game making (if of course she wants to be involved in making games).

Now this is Agile development!

the living room walls are covered.

We've never tried to separate work and family.  In reality it would be almost impossible.  Instead we work around Willow.  When she sleeps we work, when she's with me Alex works, when she's with Alex I work.  We have lists of all the things that need doing on post-it notes, spread sheets, and note pads.  It has taken over our living room.  It means some days more gets done than others and some days one of our lists won't get ticked off at all.  But when you're working all day everyday it's OK to sacrifice an hour to play practicing sitting up or experimenting with eating pear, or having a really long nap.

We've set ourselves a mid September deadline, so now more than ever we need to be on top of this family/work balance.  Despite not having a 'plan' or really much of a balance I don't think we're doing half bad.  I guess we'll just have to see if we make this deadline or not.    

*Not that there's ever much security in the games industry, small companies live and die by their games, medium companies close all the time and even the industry giants cull staff when they need to cut costs.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Game dev, Mommy guilt and not blogging.

So, I haven't done this in a while...

Actually I've written a bunch of posts between the last one and now, just never actually published any of them!  The main reason being because on rereading them, they were all quite negative, ok some of them were very negative.  I don't know why.  Possibly I needed to vent a little, possibly the fact that it was taking me three days just to get one post finished, possibly because my hormones/emotions/energy levels are all over the place most of the time.  Could be any reason really.  But here we are, and I've promised myself I'm going to publish this post.

Two devs and a baby

The bunny's for scale, not eating.

Here's a thing we didn't consider; game development with a baby will be harder than game development when 6,7,8 months pregnant.  And by harder I mean almost impossible.  I mean we knew we would have less time, Willow needs us for absolutely everything (even getting to sleep) but how little time we had was something we just hadn't seen coming.  It's a steep learning curve this parenting lark.

The first few months Willow was very needy (and as I write that line the guilt creeps in, but more on that to follow), she wouldn't be put down, for the first month not even to sleep.  Sleeping involved taking it in turns to have baby sleeping on our chests, soon after she would sleep on the bed with us (she had to lie on her side tho), and this resulted in me not really sleeping and doing the night time feeds.  Once we figured out that she needed to sleep on her front things got much easier, but we wouldn't have let her before she got to the stage where she could lift and turn her head, thankfully she's always been really strong at holding her head.  In this time I did zero game development and Alex did very little.

Once Willow started sleeping through the night (8pm to about 6am) I was able to start getting some work done.  By this point I was of course well behind Alex.  It's a good job we decided to go with Super Glyph Quest as Alex is able to use all of the old art as place holder!  Of course this meant working on assets for Super whilst she was sleeping, going to bed around 2am, waking up at 6am, and then 8 or 9am when Willow will proudly announce that she is awake and therefore so must we be.  Naps when she sleeps are essential.  
Now at six months old, Willow is far happier to entertain herself for chunks of the day.  Her travel cot is a makeshift playpen (we've a proper one to come) to contain her as she rolls and shuffles around, and she will feed herself a bottle freeing up my time a little more.  At this stage we are able to go (almost) full crunch.  She still demands some of our attention, especially with her first teeth coming!

Mommy Guilt

See where I write 'demands' and 'needy'?  I feel just terrible about this.

Becoming a mother has certainly made me a much soppier person.  I well up without any warning, am incredibly sensitive about almost everything (don't get me started on my figure) and I feel guilty anytime I put my own needs before Willow's.

Right now she is feeding herself a bottle of formula.  Until very recently she was exclusively breastfed, but now we are entering the weaning stage I need her to stop associating me as the source of the food.  As my mother puts it 'she looks at you like you are food'.  Now she is happy enough with it (she wolfs it down!) and formula is developed so babies who cannot be breastfed grow up just as strong and healthy, and to be fair she has two tiny teeth (sharp as razors) so it's a dice with death every feed, but still, I feel I'm letting her down because I use this time to do something other than look after her.

Even when we put her on the play mat, she is happily gurgling away, chatting to Camelopard and Zeblim (yes we have named her toys for her) and having a roll around, but I feel bad, like I'm ignoring her.  Or even worse, when we leave her with a family member for a few hours an evening (and she will be sleeping almost the entire time) so Alex and I can have a night off, man that racks my heart strings.  And it's all because up to now I have been playing with her, helping her roll and crawl, feeding her all of the time!

So I feel guilty, when really I should be feeling proud of her!  She's growing up so fast and learning so much, including how to not be so attached.  Something I need to learn.

Super Glyph Quest

New logo, new motto

When I'm not feeling like a terrible mother for letting my baby grow and develop, I am trying to get as much work on Super done as I can.  Because there's a lot that needs doing!

Super is an opportunity for us to add lots of things that we didn't have the time to add to Glyph Quest, like a proper narrative.  Adding actual quest lines and story arcs is something I feel we were desperately missing (thankfully peeps were happy enough to go around slaying monsters), and I'm really happy with what we've come up with but it does mean more characters to draw.

Then there's avatar customization.  I would have loved to have added this to Glyph Quest but we just didn't have the time, as it turns out it requires a hell of a lot of work.  But it's worth it!  Also coming to Super is more gear (not just two robes upgrades), which players will craft from monster parts and have the ability to mix and match (possible set bonuses if I can convince Alex it's a good thing).  

And there's the new monsters.  Alex didn't want me adding some of the more obscure beasts from the depths of mythology in the previous game, but this time he's letting me go nuts.  Partly I feel this is due to our new found love of Pointless, where the obscure answers win, but mostly I think he's fed up of monsters that are part this thing and part that thing - with wings.

The town of Helmstone for Super Glyph Quests' map

The bit that I'm dreading however is the UI art.  I am not very good at it.  It's taken me about a week just to draw the new map (it's a lot bigger than the old one) and that's before I get into buttons, pop ups, text boxes and health bars.  I can draw a new beast in a couple of hours, it takes me the same amount of time to do a button.  Maybe I over think it?  I mean, it's just a button right?

Well there we go.  Man has it been a busy and rewarding few months!  But there is plenty to get on with, so I'll leave this post here and try to update again sooner.  Much sooner.