2020 Was a Good Year

2021-07-11 - personal

It’s hard to think about 2020 without mentioning Coronavirus. It’s the reason this retrospective is happening so late. It’s upended the world and hit poor countries who couldn’t get vaccines so hard. All things considered, I’m super grateful for how well 2020 went.

Jammin 2020

In 2019 I hosted Jammin for the first time. Honestly, I nearly didn’t make it in 2020. A crazy workload that denied me any meaningful free time… the typical vacation period in the Caribbean wasn’t enjoyable at all. With changes to Caribbean Developers and the pandemic, without some late motivation from my partner and close developer friends, I wouldn’t have put the effort. But I did, and I got smarter with it as well.

This time I was more familiar with the platform. And now that I’ve taken part in more game jams, I had a better idea of the experience I wanted. From listening to game dev talks, I also knew better ways to promote it: the secret ingredient is Reddit. Reddit is the prime social media hub for game dev content. And I reached out to prospective participants far beyond my network of friends and closed Facebook groups.

Check out Jammin 2020. While we still ended up with only 3 submissions, we got 5 more registered participants. I don’t mind being small, once we’re making progress.

The theme for that year was 1-bit, and there’s a reason for that… let’s talk about my games.

Game Dev

This was a really great year for me in game development. I’ve got a long way to go but improved by leaps and bounds. Especially looking back and what I created in 2019, I’m really proud of the developments. And unlike last year, this year I participated in game jams!

Let’s start with the first game I created:

The Social Distance Game

The Arduboy is a tiny 1-bit handheld console that’s entirely programmable. I saw it while perusing some game dev websites and fell in love as soon as I got it. It made me use C++ after a lengthy number of years away from it, and I really enjoyed the language! As someone who mostly creates APIs, it was so cool to code for a device.

You can read more about it in this blog post.

Aside from giving me the theme for Jammin 2020, this game did 2 major things for me. It lit a spark, playing my game on a console was an immensely encouraging experience. After tasting it, I bought many Arduboys for other developers to play with. I knew as soon as they made something for it, the spark will be there too. The community for the Arduboy is also amazing. I shared my game with them, and got such great feedback! Really constructive with criticisms and lots of encouragement. It was exactly what I needed to go harder into game dev.

Cuadrado’s Trials

This game was special, it was my first game jam entry! It was also the largest game I made in scope thus far. Cuadrado’s Trials is a fun but maybe annoying little platformer where you play as a little square robot trying to get by. I built it with Phaser 3 and Tiled and honestly had loads of fun making it. I got a lot of feedback as well, which was really great for me. My game dev community expanded a lot through this game - I even got job offers because of it.

You can read this for a recap of the game.

It’s a short game, but it required a really long 2 weeks to make it happen. I’m proud, and this really gave me the confidence to continue this journey.

Hyper Match

Coming off the high for Cuadrado’s Trials, I made another Phaser 3 game - Hyper Match. This game was intentionally meant to be less taxing than Cuadrado’s Trials. It was also when I went fully into TypeScript. It started with game dev and then crept into almost all my JS projects. The development experience was beautiful. The game itself was a simple mobile game, something super casual that a person would idly play on their phone. My friends enjoyed it, and that made me happy. I got really good feedback from the JS game dev community as well.

I didn’t write a blog for this game on my website, but I got some devlogs you can check out if you’re interested.

This game was also created for a game jam. From none to two - I’m getting the hang of this.

Games

I still have too many games downloaded or sitting on my desk that I’ve never touched. I’ve gotten better at buying new games… I think.

Here’s the list of games I played and finished in 2020:

  • Zelda: Link’s Awakening - Nintendo Switch
    • Super cute, loads of fun, it was cool to beat a game I didn’t know how to as a child.

Well, that was an abysmal return of games. When you spend time doing game dev, you have less time playing games. But it wasn’t all bad, lots of games were started and are continuing into 2021:

  • Oxenfree - Now on PC, as I changed my laptop
  • Untitled Goose Game - Nintendo Switch
  • Lego City Undercover - Nintendo Switch
  • Zelda: Breath of the Wild - Nintendo Switch (making lots of progress, I just get distracted by the world)
  • The Touryst - Nintendo Switch
  • Kentucky Route Zero - PC
  • Shadow of the Colossus - PS4
  • Nier Automata - PS4
  • God of War - PS4
  • Uncharted Collection - PS4
  • Octopath Traveler - Nintendo Switch
  • Cyberpunk 2077 - PC
  • Pokemon Sword - Nintendo Switch

Books

No books this year! A bit of a shame, so my list from last year transfers over.

  • Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair - Pablo Neruda
  • The Power of Corruption - Dan Fulani
  • The Sellout, Paul Beatty
    • Still having a hard time reading this.
  • Fight the Right - Warren Kinsella
  • Believe in your Own Fairytale - Kay-Marie Fletcher
  • The White Woman on the Green Bicycle - Monique Roffey
  • The Goat Woman of Largo Bay - Gillian Royes
  • A Hologram for the King - Dave Eggers
  • Homegoing - Yaa Gyasi
  • Lord of the Flies - William Golding

Online Courses

This year was as rough for online courses as it was for books. Unlike books, I didn’t complete any in 2019 either… Thankfully this isn’t the narrative for 2021, quite a few things have changed.

That being said, these were my original goals for 2020:

For 2021, here are my new course goals:

Time permitting, I’ll be doing some art courses:

There’s a real shift in the courses I’m pursuing. For one, almost solely game dev. I started the C# Godot course because I love the engine. After some advice from some awesome game devs, I’m pivoting to Unity as it’s a more desirable skill. So my Godot course will be with C# as that skill is more transferable than GDScript when moving to Unity. At the time of writing, some courses are already ticked off!

Writing

I still love writing. A book is in progress, and I’ll keep blogging. I’m cool if I write 5 blogs, when I write for me I don’t want it to feel like work. I also got a mic and webcam, so if I’m lucky I’ll get a few YouTube videos out with game development content.

It’s Coming Together

2020 didn’t go exactly to plan, and I’m OK with it. It’s been a pivotal year in my game dev journey so far. I didn’t mention it earlier but I also got contracted to work on a Phaser 3 job. I made a few small minigames and wrote tutorials for them - leveraging both my game dev and writing skills. It was an awesome feeling, and I’m looking forward to growing my skills. Cheers to whatever comes next!

Happy hacking everyone!

© 2021 Marcus Sanatan