I tried to make a video game by myself and ended up learning a lesson in life

Everything is a work in progress.

I remember the moment I began development on my project. I was bored one night about a year and a half ago sitting alone in my studio apartment messing around in MSPaint. I made something that resembled a cloaked wizard.

“This isn’t half bad.”

Suddenly a flood of imaginative game ideas raced through my head. That was all it took for my runaway project to get underway. I had always wanted to build my own video game, I just never found the right opportunity to begin. I never surrounded myself with people enthusiastic enough to join me in my quest. So one lonely afternoon I decided to go in alone. Making a video game would be hard work. The many components necessary for the video game process would be tough to fill with me alone. The thing is though, just because I had never found the right opportunity, never found the right people, that didn’t mean that I couldn’t give it a try. I think that’s an important part of life. You’re never going to be primed and ready in the best position for anything you want to do. I know I’ve never been.

Going in solo was a hell of a task to undertake, and there was no way of knowing what I was getting myself into until I was already wading through months of solo work. Something I came to realize early on in development was that just because I didn’t have a team to manage didn’t mean project management and organization was any easier. I became the project leader, the design leader, the lead artist, the lead musician, the lead programmer. I learned that while I had to wear many hats, I could only wear one at a time.

  

For instance, I found myself putting on the hat of the art director for months at a time, only to switch off to the lead programmer for another few months. I can remember a particular time when, while programming some of the scripts for the enemy navigation, I noticed some very small imperfections in some of the artwork I had recently ported into the game. The obsessive part of me felt the need to switch off the programmer hat and put on the artist hat, and while I did, in fact, fix those tiny imperfections, as well as add new content in the game, switching hats had pushed my goals back for that week and made me miss a lot of my deadlines.

Speaking of deadlines. I, of course, had to wear the hat of the project leader, which perhaps is the hardest one to wear of all.

The part of me that dreamed of creating the perfect game had to be constantly reigned in by the pragmatic side of me who understood that with each additional feature came additional time and workload, all of which needed to be distributed to the various hats I had to wear. I realized that even though I was in control of the entirety of the project organization, cutting features that I really wanted to be in the game with the understanding that there were not enough resources to cover them was a hard lesson learned. I suppose that was one of the benefits of going in solo though. The ability to be able to say no to features is easier learned when you know you are going to have to eventually put on the corresponding hat that has to deal with the consequences of the additional workload.

 

I’m still a long way off with the production of my game. I make progress every day, and one day soon I’ll be able to finally release it and look back on my work with admiration. So what have I learned from this? To reiterate, everything is a work in progress. There is never a perfect time for anything. I’m a harder worker than I like to give myself credit for. And I can accomplish my goals as long as I apply persistence over time.

Recently I’ve been working with my wife on curiousdisposition.com. I’m certain that all the different hats I had to wear have taught me a wealth of information on how to make this project successful. The thing is, anyone can be successful. The problem is finding a way to see through the fog in the road and continuing forward even when your project doesn’t “seem” to be going anywhere. I say seem in quotes because when you are in it, and working hard, it’s almost impossible to see where you are going. I can say for certain that there were times working on my game when I wanted to give up when I thought everything I had been working on was terrible looking and that no one would appreciate it. I think that’s a commonality in all of us though. There is a part of our brain that doesn’t let us see the end of the road. I think it’s important in times like those to just acknowledge that you are probably wrong about it and move forward.

So here I am, about a year and a half after started my game, hundreds of art and animation resources, several project restarts and revamps later. What have I taken away from it all? Everything is a work in progress, every time I add a little bit to a project it gets a little bit stronger. I tend to think that nothing is a step in the wrong direction as long as you learned something from it. It might sound cliche, but sometimes cliches are cliche for a reason.

A spontaneous trip to Portland, Maine

Just get up and go.

I’m a little hazy on the details because it all happened so fast. I think it went something like this:

“Let’s go on a road trip.”

“Where?”

“How about Portland, Maine?”

“Alright.”

Within minutes, my wife Elly had a smile on her face. “I just booked a motel,” she said.

Suddenly a typical lazy Sunday afternoon turned into a frantic scramble to pack clothes and supplies. We hadn’t thought out how long we were going to be gone, we didn’t have much money on hand, and we didn’t even know why we were going, but in a brief and manic moment we had both made up our minds.

In a short time, we were packed and ready to go. We put the leash on our pup and headed out the door.

Anyone can go on a vacation. The intent of this story isn’t to simply highlight the benefits of going on vacation or even to explain the exciting things to do in the City of Portland. Instead, I want to convey what was going through my head, my wife’s head, and to express to anyone out there that might be like me (mid-20s and still a little lost in the world; the kind of person who has never really had a chance to do something wild): sometimes you just have to break some rules and be spontaneous.

The drive was about five hours long and I didn’t mind any of it. Driving through the rugged Vermont mountains and seeing the quaint little farms and communities that dotted the landscape was so much better than sitting in the office as I had been just an hour or so earlier. The thing is, I had never really done traveling the “right” way, and by that I mean the way that I wanted to do it — on my terms. I always wanted to just go to a place (somewhere, it didn’t matter where) and just explore. I don’t care about the on-rails tours, the theme parks, you know, the typical tourist things. I just wanted to be able to pick myself up and go to a new place and explore.

  

So several hours later with an almost empty tank of gas, we found ourselves pulling off the highway and into Portland. We filled the car up in a questionable part of town and, exhausted, checked into the motel, ordered a pizza, gorged ourselves on said pizza, and fell asleep. It really hadn’t set in yet that just a few hours ago we had no inclination that we would be here. “We’re in Portland, Maine! How weird,” Elly said to me as we drifted off. It was really truly strange. I hadn’t done anything like this before.

For those of you out there that have had the luck to make travel a major part of your life, this might all seem silly. But it really was amazing what we had done. We had transformed an ordinary day into something extraordinary.

  

The following morning we woke up around 7 a.m., took a shower, packed our things, and headed out with the pup.

Pretty much all the research we had done on Portland was done during the car ride in between the spotty coverage allotted by the rural mountains of Vermont and New Hampshire.

“Oh, there’s a downtown district with old cobblestone roads!”

“Nevermind, I don’t have any data.”

Between pit stops, I scribbled down the names of restaurants and other things to do in Portland. We used bringfido.com to see what we could actually do with our dog coming along for the ride. I was surprised to see a lot of interesting shops downtown that were pet-friendly.

We parked ourselves on a street in Old Port in downtown Portland, paid the parking meter and stepped out to begin our adventure. It was a small, quaint little street with cobblestone roads and was lined with very hip storefronts.

“This is the start of our adventure,” I thought. And while absorbed in the moment, I barely noticed our dog pooping the largest poop I had ever seen on the sidewalk. To make matters worse, a large group of people was making their way towards us! Suddenly our anxiety skyrocketed as we quickly tried to clean up the mess before they arrived.

“Hurry they’re coming!”

Success! With not a moment to spare we had cleaned the sidewal- “oh wait they crossed the street already.”

With that minor hiccup out of the way, it was time to begin our adventure.

 

With the car in the center of downtown, we surveyed the sites of Portland for the next few hours. This was exactly the way I always wanted to travel: no itinerary, just true exploration with the girl of my dreams and our dog. Darting in and out of alleyways, going to the wharf, saying hi to all the strangers that wanted to get a closer look at our pup. It felt like we had tossed away all of the rules. So what if we were supposed to be in the office working? So what if we had a dog with us? So what if it was a Monday? None of that mattered. We weren’t going to let artificial constraints on our own happiness get in our way today.

  
  

When the parking meter was set to expire, we headed back. Elly had never seen the Atlantic so we had made it a goal to go to the ocean. We looked for directions to the nearest beach, said our goodbyes to downtown and drove off.

We stopped at “Eastern Promenade” at the northern tip of the city. We parked at the top of a tall hill near the ocean.

It was surreal.

I can’t say that this was my first encounter seeing the ocean. But this was more than just simply seeing the ocean. I was seeing the ocean in a particular time in my life that was perfect. I was in a place in the world with the person I wanted to be with the most. It took me by surprise. Seeing the ocean with her really captivated me. We made our way down the hillside, winding down the pleasant hill on a pathway towards the beach.

I’d like to take a second and share what my wife thought when we crested the bottom of the hill and made our way to the water:

“We saw a rocky part of the beach that was completely vacant (and ahead of the ‘NO DOGS ALLOWED’ sign) — it was perfect. Immediately, I knew I wanted to take my shoes off and dip my toes in. So we did. The pup even got his feet wet, and soon he was exploring the salty waters just like we were. I felt like a kid again. I followed a few rocks out to this peninsula-like part of the beach, being careful to not step on snails and seaweed. It was the first time I really saw a complete view of water. And it made me feel so small. It just kept going, and going, and going. It really put things into perspective for me, and honestly, I think it changed my life. I want to move there now.”

I couldn’t agree with her more. Here we were, both totally immersed by the moment unfolding before us. We were virtually alone. I waded in the little artificial lagoon and tossed stones about and breathed the sea air. I was totally engulfed in the present moment. We both traded moments sitting out at the far end of the rocks alone, taking in the scenery. Throughout the day we had been toying with the idea of staying for another night. We didn’t have enough money for another night at the hotel, but we were committed to the possibility of sleeping in our car.

But as we got ready to leave, we both realized we were totally satisfied with our experience. After collecting a few keepsakes, we made our way back to the car to begin the journey home.

It was a quick, spontaneous trip, but it was everything we wanted.

  

Vegan stuffed peppers recipe

Being a vegan doesn’t mean eating just carrots and wheatgrass. Most of us eat savory dishes, just like these stuffed peppers which are full of flavor. And surprisingly, it doesn’t take too much work — it just looks like it does.

Scroll down to skip to the list of ingredients, or follow along with the recipe below.

Cut your peppers in a T-shape, but not all the way through. This is so you can stuff them later. Remove the seeds and the other pepper guts, but be careful to not cut off the stems.

Heat them up until they’re almost black and toasty — we used our gas stove, but you could also grill or bake them.

Prepare a batter by whisking 2 cups of masa flour, a pinch of salt, and enough water to make the batter thin enough to stick to the pepper. Eyeball it and trust your gut.

Bathe the peppers in the batter until they’re covered.

Heat up oil on low-medium to medium heat in a pan with high sides. Fry the peppers for a few minutes on each side, until the batter is crispy and golden. Keep an eye on them.

Here’s how they should look when you’re done.

Now prepare the stuffing. We used a bag of cooked vegan ground “beef” crumbles, 2 cups of cooked white rice, a can of heated vegetarian refried beans, the juice of a lime, and some spices to taste, like cumin, chile pepper, and ground pepper.

Thoroughly mix the ingredients together in a bowl, then stuff your peppers.

And that’s it! You could even top it with some vegan cheese if you wish.

Vegan Stuffed Peppers

Serves 4

Ingredients you’ll need:

For the peppers:

8 poblano peppers, de-seeded

vegetable oil, enough to fill 1″ of the bottom of the pan

2 cups corn masa flour

~water

pinch of salt

 

For the stuffing mixture:

1 bag of vegan ground “beef” crumbles

1 can vegetarian refried beans

2 cups prepared white rice

1 lime, juiced

Chile pepper

Cumin

Black pepper

Vegan cheese

 

These peppers were fantastic, very filling and not too spicy. We served ours with a side of grilled Mexican street corn, a guacamole puree, and a black bean puree.