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2021 is Done… | DUST SCRATCH GAMES

Yes, I’m still alive and tinkering, despite not having posted anything here for six months. There will be many more posts in 2022. But as per tradition, here’s the “state of the Scratch” address that goes over what was accomplished (however little it might have been) in the past year.

I’m sitting quietly in my apartment in the middle of the night as I type. Despite the global health situation, I did travel to visit close family for Christmas, as did many millions more. I’m waiting patiently for my turn to be tested. In the meantime, I’m enjoying the break within reason (catching up on many movies, while staying distant from other lifeforms). I expect the world to be in a more stable place in a few weeks as we wait to witness developments.

About halfway into 2021, I finally “finished” and released “True King (prototype) – Heir to the Resurrection.” It can be found at the following link: . I say “finished” in quotations, because it is an unfinished game. The story, endgame, and certain more ambitious features are missing, and much polish in gameplay, art and music is lacking. After more than 5 years in development, I made the decision to cancel further development, based on how poorly progress had gone since 2020, which were as ideal as conditions could be for an indie developer working from home.

It was difficult to cancel development on a game after so long. I’ve learned hard lessons from that. Clearly, this was too ambitious of a game to program, despite seeming within reach at first: even though I was capable of programming it, the amount of time it took and the complexity of managing it was too much. I’ve learned the dangers of formally announcing a project too early, as it makes me feel locked into completing it, possibly wasting more time than necessary in something I can’t do. I’ve learned that making a prototype of the gameplay early, within a few months, before working on anything else (art, story, etc.) is necessary to have anything to show off when people ask about it, and to clue in how difficult the game might be to complete. And from now on, I’m trying to limit myself to a few months to complete future prototypes, or to otherwise assume the game is too complicated and to move on early.

Again, those lessons include 1) it was too ambitious, 2) I announced the project too early, 3) I should have prototyped the gameplay earlier, 4) if I can’t finish core parts of future projects early, give up and move on to something else. This is for my personal quick reference.

Despite being incomplete, the game exists as a free prototype on, a platform that I’ve increasingly decided is a perfect, less-stressful place for my past and potential future work, both in games and comics. Despite being incomplete, I consider “True King” to be the 3rd official release from Dust Scratch Games, in part because of how public the development was, and because of how much it would pain me to say I haven’t released a game since 2015. At least with this, I can say it’s been 1+ years since my last game, and can offer good stories and opinions from my last game’s development.

Around the time I finished development on my 3rd game, I purchased a new desktop computer for development. I even wrote a blog post about it, but ultimately didn’t publish it.

A summary on its specs: my old computer’s drive was starting to slow, signaling a good time to upgrade. Upgrading within 2 years of a new console generation (PS5 and Xbox Series launched in 2020) is also usually good practice to ensure I’m up-to-date on anything crucial. The new computer was slightly more expensive than I intended, not because of supply shortages, but because I really wanted a ray-tracing capable GPU for experimenting with, resulting in a system that’s a tier more powerful on every level than what I was used to. This gave me a mid-range gaming computer that’s more powerful than anything I’ve used, capable of 4K gaming (sometimes even with raytracing enabled), all for under $1,200 USD (plus tax). I’m enjoying using it.

Everyone still talks about how difficult it is to get computer parts, and how this has been true for almost 2 years now. And yet, it only took me a couple weeks to find an opportune computer for a decent price, and it remained in stock for several weeks after I purchased it. If you’re a developer, it’s a good time to start looking to upgrade now that the holiday rush is over. My advice is: 1) If your current computer is less than 5 years old, you probably don’t really need a new one and don’t need to rush, 2) Pre-built machines always offer better deals at expense of lower-quality (but probably still perfectly fine) parts, and are easier to buy (and upgrade in minor ways if necessary) 3) Don’t be picky for very specific components, be open to compromise for different brands or tiers of product, 4) Be patient and don’t panic if options are out of stock, things cycle every few weeks, 5) Don’t order stuff from Ebay, it’s not necessary and only fuels scalpers.

This has also given me an excuse to dive into my Steam and GOG game collection, to my detriment. GOG Galaxy is a decent cross-platform hub to show what games you have. And yes, you can install everything onto external HDD drives, even newer games run fine, despite being a little slow to load. Which reminds me how massive file sizes have gotten in the latest AAA games… this will probably quicken the need for cloud gaming than I’d like.

I lost track on my webcomic titled “Indie’d.” Its last update was in 2019. Until now: I’ve finally gotten around to getting back to it, just in time before 2022.

And it’s now available on! You can see it here: . It’s a free purchase, but you have the option to pay for it if you like.

My intention is to finish a “2nd series” of strips for it, finishing the adventure in indie game development. I’ll try to finish a strip per week, give or take, and expect to finish this series in a year or two, to be added for free to the same Itch page. I might add further series beyond that (the term “indie” applies to a lot of art forms outside of video games), but I promise nothing, now knowing how difficult it is to maintain a project long-term (ie: for 5 years or more).

And I’m witnessing the Michigan indie scene stay together and prepare to come back stronger. I’m proud to say I helped with the first GLGX online event, and that team is working hard to continue it while I move on (see why I’ll be busy down below). I’m a little concerned to see several other “events” pop up from other community members though, with goals that are parallel to each other. A frequent issue, I’ve seen subgroups eager to make new events and meetups that only serve to divide a community that’s not big enough to afford it, when a unified event or branding with all these ideas would be an easy success. Regardless of what happens, Michigan is exciting, and developers across the country should pay attention to it in the next few years.

I think that covers 2021. And 2022 looks to be a busy year already!

The slow development and work accomplished in 2020 and 2021 are a sign that I’ve long burned out, and desperately need a break. But I can’t quite afford that right now. My long term plan was always to keep working on this hobby for at least 10 years. That’d be 2024: if I can recharge myself and sprint for another 3 years, I might be able to reclaim some dignity here before re-evaluating where I am. So I’ll keep trying to do things in 2022.

GDC is back in March 2022, for now. I was meant to go in 2020, and sudden guest cancelations were my first sign that the world was going wrong, and the trip itself was ultimately canceled. I’m tentatively planning to go this year, in what will probably be the best chance for me to go. Both to learn from talks and to enjoy the experience, and to genuinely attempt to make connections with both publishers and other developers. I wasn’t able to make use of any connections or opportunities as a non-citizen, but moving back to Canada in 2022 will open up those possibilities again. It’ll be my first real attempt to seek ways to make indie development a viable business, although I’m not optimistic that what I’ve built here will ever be more than noise from another artist on the internet.

Which brings me to a big change: I’ll be moving back to Canada in mid-2022. Why this is relevant for Dust Scratch Games and how it operated before and after is worth a blog post next year after it’s done. Hopefully this will be a good change and will allow more time and energy on projects again, but this remains to be seen.

I mentioned I’ll try to work on the “Indie’d” webcomic throughout 2022.

I expect to receive my order of the “Steam Deck” in 2022, hopefully before GDC. It’ll be fun to run games on a portable-console-ish product, and possibly nicer to show my projects on the go. I hope this is the start of more handheld PC’s (hopefully in yet smaller forms) to play x86 games.

I am working on new games. Currently 2 at the same time, which might be unwise. The core gameplay for both is almost done, ready for tweaking and for working on art assets to replace placeholder objects. The goal is to make these playable in time for GDC for pitching. I’m not confident though: I had planned to finish one prototype by October, and I am only now on the cusp of completing the gameplay portion, when it should have been much quicker. I need to get my energy and focus back somehow. Anyway… that’s the last you’ll hear of these games or anything else I’m making, until I’m good and ready to at least release a public demo or something. I’ll quietly get feedback from Michigan developers in the meantime. We’ll have a better sense on where those stand, by this time next year.

That’s all. Stay healthy. Make something. I’ll do my best to do so too.

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