Adventures in Coding: November in June

In the world of my current game project, it is November. The town centres have put up their Christmas trees and the shops are full of tinsel and cut-price fireworks. Every day is cold and wet. It is the UK in the run-up to Christmas. It is a few unspecified years in the future, and life has returned to pre-pandemic levels of normality.

In the real world, it is June. The shops are full of summer holiday clothes that nobody is buying, because it’s still too much of a risk to book a summer holiday. The heat arrived a week and a half ago and despite the clouds today it is endlessly muggy. It is the UK in the throes of uncomfortable summer. It is still the very early 2020s, and we are not out of the woods yet.

As such, is it any wonder that I’m preferring to spend most of this month in my game world rather than the real one? 😀

I kid, mostly. I’m spending most of my time coding because I’m working to a tight deadline for ParserComp. I need to be really disciplined with it in order to give myself some breathing room in the last couple of weeks before the deadline, so this week is going to be a really big push. Lots going on in my other life areas as well, but that’s okay. Madness is sometimes enjoyable!

Marie
A Christmas tree in a rainy town centre. The opposite end of the year always feels like a different world…

I think I’m going to feel a bit bereft in July! I am going to enjoy playing other people’s games again though…

Seeds of normality

I have a race tomorrow. An actual real race, not a virtual. There will be COVID-secure measures (we are starting in waves and have to wear face coverings at the start and finish), but it’s an actual race with other people, and I’m really excited. It’s a trail race with lots of hills, and it’s going to be hot, so I will be taking it very slowly and walking a lot. In some ways it should be easier than last week’s virtual half. I hope! I’m also going to be getting on public transport for the first time in fifteen months, which will be interesting.

This last week has been very busy between coding and day job work. It’s going to be like this for the rest of June while I finish my game. I’m doing really well with it on the whole, but I am looking forward to a bit of a break in July!

Summer has hit now, and it just doesn’t seem to get dark at the moment… especially seeing as I’m falling asleep so early. I always feel a bit out of sorts at this time of year as I’m not really built for it. Autumn is my time.

Excited that I’ll have another medal for my collection this time tomorrow. They’re coming thick and fast at the moment!

Whitley Bay
Geth took this photo of a very muggy and foggy Whitley Bay for me earlier this week.

This week’s earworm playlists (still very Duran-heavy):

Saturday

Duran Duran – ‘American Science’
Duran Duran – ‘Invisible’

Sunday

Harry Belafonte – ‘Jump in the Line (Shake, Señora)’
Pitbull and Christina Aguilera – ‘Feel This Moment’

Monday

Duran Duran – ‘I Take The Dice’
Traditional – ‘Kookaburra Sits In The Old Gum Tree’

Tuesday

Dee Cooke – ‘Outside Building’
Duran Duran – ‘Secret Oktober’
Pointer Sisters – ‘Automatic’

Wednesday

Duran Duran – ‘Secret Oktober’
The Midnight – ‘Endless Summer’
Cornershop – ‘Brimful Of Asha [Norman Cook Mix]’
Stephen Duffy – ‘Kiss Me’
Duran Duran – ‘Hungry Like The Wolf’

Thursday

David Guetta and Sia – ‘Flames’
Duran Duran – ‘Five Years’

Friday

Duran Duran – ‘I Take The Dice’
The Wonder Stuff – ‘Golden Green’

Getting the ball rolling

Geth and I went away last weekend to visit family for the first time in months. We met our sixteen-month-old niece for the first time, which was really special, and generally returned to a world that we’d left behind a long time ago. In some ways, being with people and eating a pub lunch felt strange, but in other ways, it felt completely normal, like we’d never been away from it. It was really nice.

Since we got back, it’s been a thankfully quiet week, and so I’ve been happily ensconced in my coding most of the time. The exception was Wednesday, as I had my appointment for my first jab of COVID vaccine. Other than the standard sore arm I’ve not had too many side effects – I’m a bit tired and achy, but I’m hoping I’ll be fully recovered by Sunday as I’m running a virtual half marathon that day!

Fingers crossed for a similar experience next week (minus the vaccine stuff)…

It's a start
First dose down. I feel a lot happier now this process has started, and look forward to being fully vaccinated in August.

This week’s earworm playlists (which this week have been CONSTANT DURAN DURAN with very occasional lapses. I’m not complaining):

Saturday

Arcadia – ‘Say The Word’

Sunday

Harry Belafonte – ‘Jump in the Line (Shake, Señora)’

Monday

Duran Duran – ‘A Matter Of Feeling’
Duran Duran – ‘Invisible’

Tuesday

Duran Duran – ‘A Matter Of Feeling’
Duran Duran – ‘I Take The Dice’

Wednesday

Duran Duran – ‘American Science’
The Beatles – ‘Drive My Car’
Duran Duran – ‘Violence Of Summer (Love’s Taking Over) [The Story Mix]’
Duran Duran – ‘Invisible’
Mr Mister – ‘Broken Wings’

Thursday

Duran Duran – ‘Violence Of Summer (Love’s Taking Over)’
Duran Duran – ‘Union Of The Snake’
Destiny’s Child – ‘Survivor’
Duran Duran – ‘Meet El Presidente’
Duran Duran – ‘Too Late Marlene’

Friday

Duran Duran – ‘Union Of The Snake’
Duran Duran – ‘All She Wants Is’

Adventures in Coding: Remembering Other Parts Of The World

I’m reluctant to share too many details about the plot of my upcoming game, Marie, as I want it to be a surprise when people play it. However, I can say that it largely takes place in and around London. I used to visit London probably once or twice a year, but I’ve not been there during the pandemic and so my last visit would have been in 2019 (I was there in April 2019 for the London Marathon and November 2019 for the Andy Taylor gig). As such, I’ve been racking my brain a bit when describing what locations look like!

London, 2019
In London in April 2019, with the former Millennium Dome (now part of the O2) in the background. It may well appear in the game…

I’m planning to release a short teaser / extra scene from the game at some point in the next couple of weeks. The teaser is a result of my first fumbling experiments using PunyInform, which has been a bit of a learning curve as I’m so used to Adventuron. It’s been really fun to start learning that though.

Graphic work for the main game will be starting soon, so maybe I’ll have some early pictures to share with you before long…

Phone Box Thursday: Barry Basic and the Quick Escape

I’m out of real-life phone boxes, so here’s the interior of the one I drew for my game Barry Basic and the Quick Escape.

Red phone box
Red phone box, a small village somewhere in England, summer 1969.

I based it on an image of a mid-century phone box interior I found online, as the game is set in 1969. The A and B mechanisms were to do with coin return (explained here under ‘Coin Boxes’).

Most of my planned games for the next year have phone boxes in. I think I’ve just been missing seeing real-life examples!

Adventures in Coding: The Halfway Point

So the reason that I’m taking a hiatus from my running vlog is because, fun though it is to make videos, the editing process does take a lot of time – and I need to prioritise other fun things at the moment, namely the frighteningly large text adventure game that I’m making for the next big competition. As such, in lieu of my Monday vlog share, I’ll be doing a weekly update on here about the game project.

Last year, I made the first section of this game – an excerpt called Pre-Marie that I entered into IntroComp. The full game is called, perhaps unsurprisingly, Marie, and it has turned out to be an absolute behemoth. All my games start out as behemoths but most of them get ruthlessly hacked down to size due to the time constraints of the game jams I make them for. I had three months to make Marie, starting from the beginning of April when I finished Barry Basic and the Quick Escape, and believe me I have found I need every spare minute of those three months. It’s an ambitious project, but I’m so determined to get it finished.

Marie
It all starts in an attic on a rainy night.

I’m halfway through the project now. I spent April planning out the game, am spending May coding, and will be spending June making the bells and whistles (graphics and music) and doing as much playtesting as possible. I expect it will get a bit tight at the end (game projects always do!) but I’m so invested in this game and it will be so worth it when it’s complete.

I’ve been getting a lot of very good reception for Barry Basic and the Quick Escape, which has been really lovely and encouraging and has spurred me on to keep working really hard on my game creation! The game came second in the jam, which meant that as a top five game it was entered into the ‘Scott’s Choice’ award shortlist, judged by adventure game legend Scott Adams. I’m thrilled to say that I won the Scott’s Choice award, and will soon be the proud wearer of the prize t-shirt!

The halfway point feels a bit scary as I’ve still got so much to do, but I know I can do it!

July will most definitely be a month spent playing other people’s games instead…

No room at the inn

My week has been very busy, in the way that a lot of my weeks have been very busy during lockdown. Lots of day job work, lots of working on my own creative projects (writing and coding), a bit of running but not as much as is ideal due to a bad hip, quite a lot of strength training to try and fix said hip, and a lot of playtesting and competition-judging other people’s text adventures (the most fun part of my day and a good way to give back to a community that is giving me so much joy at the moment).

I’ve been working really hard recently and it’s been paying off. There have been a few developments in my editing business that I’ll talk about later in the year, I’m starting to get bits and bobs of writing published, and my text adventures are doing well and getting a good reception. I hit RED day 500 this morning – my 500th day running in a row – which is enabling me to feel like I’m still achieving things with my running even though I’m having a bad time of it with my hip and a general lack of energy at the moment.

All of this has been made possible by the pandemic allowing me to sit on my sofa all day long and get things done. I am one of the people for whom lockdown has, on the whole, been beneficial – of course I’ve had my anxious moments like everyone else, as I really don’t deal well with uncertainty, but in general I have been really, really happy having an excuse to stay home. I’ve realised more than ever that I don’t actually like leaving my house, and that it’s okay not to like leaving your house. The real anxiety I have now is adapting to the world going back to normal again. I’ve said for probably a year now that I won’t just be able to jump back into my life as it was pre-pandemic; there were a lot of things I used to do that, I have realised, caused a lot of unnecessary stress. Constantly going out to group activities and classes, gigs and races every week, travelling every other weekend… I can’t go back to all that. My personal return to normality is going to have to be very gradual, and there are a lot of things I probably never will do again.

Learning to say ‘no’, to myself as much as to anyone else, is probably going to be my biggest challenge this year. I’ve found out how important it is to feel in control of my own time. It’s a precious thing, and I’m not going to give it up.

Lego USB stick
Life is starting to fit into place, gradually.

This week’s earworm playlists:

Saturday

Michael Land and Clint Bajakian – ‘Opening Credits Part #1’
Whitesnake – ‘Here I Go Again ’87’*

Sunday

Patti Smith – ‘Because The Night’
Dee Cooke – ‘Control Room’

Monday

Dee Cooke – ‘Outside Building’
Fisherman’s Friends – ‘Sailor Ain’t A Sailor’

Tuesday

Whitesnake – ‘Here I Go Again ’87’

Wednesday

Fisherman’s Friends – ‘Haul Away Joe’

Thursday

Pet Shop Boys – ‘Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots Of Money)’
Duran Duran – ‘Tel Aviv’

Friday

Michael Land and Clint Bajakian – ‘Crete’
Duran Duran – ‘Save A Prayer’
Talking Heads – ‘Once In A Lifetime’
Ed Sheeran – ‘Lego House’

*RIP Tawny Kitaen.

RED week 71

Taking a running vlog hiatus for a few weeks (my vlog is quite time-intensive and I need all my spare hours for coding my next game right now) so I’ll be posting something different for the next few Mondays!

Text from today’s hiatus announcement vlog:

Going on hiatus for a few weeks. I’m very busy with a creative project at the moment and the vlog will have to take a back seat, unfortunately! I’ve got a slight hip injury at the moment so most of my runs are shorter, but I’m working on strengthening the hip with targeted exercises. I will manage my long races at the end of May / beginning of June, even if I have to walk a lot of the way! Hoping to feel better by then, though. I expect to be back vlogging in the summer, by which time I will be training for the London Marathon! Very exciting. I really hope to run it well. In the meantime, you can keep up with my news – both running and non-running – at spiritofdee.com, where I blog every day. See you in the summer! Dee xx

A long week

I can’t believe this working week has only been four days! It’s felt like forever. Geth and I have both been really busy and the weekend is very welcome right now.

I’ve had a bad hip all week and so have only been doing short runs. I’ve done a lot of yoga to try and sort it out, and it is getting better, but only gradually. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to do my planned weekend running and walking but we’ll see.

I’m thoroughly ensconced in the coding for my next game, which is really, really enjoyable. It’s a fairly big project though and I’m already looking forward to going back to experimenting with smaller games over the summer.

Still doing a fair amount of day job work too. Lots going on at the moment!

Local elections 2021
COVID-secure polling station selfie! It had just started to hail…

This week’s earworm playlists:

Saturday

Michael Land – ‘Upstairs At The Hotel’
Fisherman’s Friends – ‘Haul Away Joe’
Bee Gees – ‘First Of May’
Duran Duran – ‘Burning The Ground’

Sunday

Michael Land – ‘On The Hill’
Men Without Hats – ‘Safety Dance’
Michael Land – ‘The Brimstone Beach Club’

Monday

Fisherman’s Friends – ‘Sailor Ain’t A Sailor’
Aloe Blacc – ‘I Need A Dollar’
The Running Channel – ‘Run With Me’
Fisherman’s Friends – ‘Haul Away Joe’

Tuesday

Michael Land – ‘On The Hill’
The Undertones – ‘My Perfect Cousin’
Fisherman’s Friends – ‘Sailor Ain’t A Sailor’
Michael Land and Clint Bajakian – ‘Monte Carlo Hotel Entrance’

Wednesday

Levellers – ‘Julie’
Eric Hammond – ‘Into The Catacombs’

Thursday

Michael Land and Clint Bajakian – ‘Barnett College’
Lisa Lougheed – ‘Run With Us’
Eric Hammond – ‘Berlin (Königgrätzer Marsch)’

Friday

Fisherman’s Friends – ‘Bully In The Alley’
Michael Land and Clint Bajakian – ‘Opening Credits Part #1’

Making space

I found myself burning out a bit this week. The last couple of months have been very productive but also a bit manic, and I’ve realised I need a bit of a break, so I’ve pared down a few of my activities. I log daily or weekly streaks for just about everything I do, because I find it’s the only way I can keep up with things – I’m very obsessional about my hobbies but also very fickle, so I’ll spend a few weeks obsessed with playing videogames and then a few weeks obsessed with making games instead and then a few weeks where running is my main passion… Maintaining daily streaks such as my run streak is the best way I’ve found to make sure that hobbies don’t get neglected during times when they’re not my main ‘thing’. However, when I have a lot of these streaks going, they become overwhelming and take over my life. As such, sometimes I have to decide to let go of some of them, and that can be really hard when I’ve put so much effort into keeping the streak going for so long.

This week I had to quit the Fetchpoint game again. The game involves going out every day and collecting tokens, including a red bug token that appears daily in your local circle and needs to be collected and taken out of the circle in order to be ‘squished’. You get bonus points for a bug-free circle at the end of the day and minus points if there are any bugs remaining. If you squish your bug for thirty days in a row, you get a badge. I have been chasing this badge for a long time and very nearly had it in September – unfortunately, after I ran the Virtual GNR, I felt too ill to collect my bug for that day and so the attempt came to an end. I started playing again in March to make a fresh attempt, but other areas of life have meant that some days I just don’t have time for the two-hour walk that a bug hunt often requires. It’s been a frustrating experience, and so I’ve given up again for the time being. Hopefully there’ll be a time in the summer or autumn when things are a bit quieter.

I’m looking forward to a quiet bank holiday weekend. A bit of running and walking, but mainly just sitting on my sofa with my game code 🙂

Next door's cat
It really makes me laugh when I open my front door to find this familiar figure sitting on top of my car and staring at me balefully! He was still there when I got back from my run thirty-five minutes later.

This week’s earworm playlists:

Saturday

Michael Land – ‘On The Hill’
Sia – ‘Cheap Thrills’
MC Hammer – ‘U Can’t Touch This’

And a bonus track that Geth was humming that day:

Michael Land – ‘Phatt Island Waterfall’

Sunday

Michael Land – ‘Upstairs At The Hotel’
Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballé – ‘Barcelona’
Public Image Ltd. – ‘Rise’
Levellers – ‘Julie’

Monday

Dee Cooke – ‘Control Room’
Michael Land – ‘On The Hill’
MC Hammer – ‘U Can’t Touch This’
Michael Land – ‘Upstairs At The Hotel’

Tuesday

Michael Land – ‘Upstairs At The Hotel’
Princess Superstar and The High & Mighty – ‘Bad Babysitter’

Wednesday

Dee Cooke – ‘Control Room’
Pride & Fall – ‘December’
Michael Land – ‘On The Hill’

Thursday

Michael Land – ‘The Barbery Coast’

Friday

Cole Porter – ‘Anything Goes’
Michael Land – ‘On The Hill’