Well, we're more than a week into 2024 and I'm finally posting a recap of last year. That tells you how productive it was and the break I needed!
Let's take a quick look at what I accomplished since this time last year:
- The Essence System Reference Document, a tool for making tiny (I mean really tiny) games
- Be A Cat, a one word RPG
- Dumb Small Dog, a one word RPG
- Alone In The Fury, a solo journaling game based on anger management
- Alone In Serenity, a solo journaling game based in mindfulness
- Alone In Reflection, a solo journaling game based in CBT
- I, The Land, a solo world-building RPG
- Grim Accoutrements, a supplement for D&D 5e, Pathfinder 2E, and Old School Essentials
- Progress continued on Bug & Claw
- Finishing many of the core rules
- Getting illustration help from Hodag
- Items galore
- Many iterations on character and referee sheets
I guess that is quite a bit, isn't it! I'm going to answer a few retrospective questions like we do at my day job to dig into things.
Who helped you most in 2023?
- My friends Karyl and Jason helped give me a ton of feedback in 2023 on the things I was making.
- My Thursday night gaming group helped test things for Grim Accoutrements (whether they knew it or not).
- My buddy Neil helped discuss game design-related problems and inspired me aplenty with numerous systems and mechanics I had never even heard of.
- Hodag kicked butt on illustration for Bug & Claw.
- And my wonderful wife helped encourage me all along the way, checking out what I'd created, asking questions, and cheering me on. She also helped with some game design items!
- One of my sisters, Marcie, was probably my biggest supporter, and all of her praise and encouragement definitely helped keep me going.
What’s one word I would use to describe 2023?
Did anything about 2023 go better than you expected it to? If so, what?
A few things went better than I thought they would. I didn't expect the interest in my mental health-based games as they got. I didn't think the little game jam that birthed I, The Land would bring as much traffic as it would.
And, I was just saying to my buddy Neil that I didn't expect to enjoy letting go of my Bug & Claw baby and accepting help as much as I did. I think that means I need to do it more this year. Seeing Hodag's illustrations and interpretations of the world I've been creating only helped inspire and drive me more.
Another thing that surprised me was how vastly different the things people would be interested in across social media channels would be. For example, my one word games are very popular on Tumblr (not viral or anything, but popular for me), whereas my original games like I, The Land are more popular on Mastodon.
What about2023 was the biggest source of stress or difficulty for you personally?
- Managing social media.
Let's break each of those down.
Time: I feel like I hit my stride in the summer time and definitely slowed to a grinding halt around October. Things shifted at my day job and I had to help wear a couple of additional hats temporarily. At the end of each day, I just need to power down right now. I'm hoping that starts to change soon within a month and I'll be able to get back to Bug & Claw. Aside from a couple smaller game jams and print versions of what I've already made, I think Bug & Claw will be my focus this year.
Deadlines: My deadline for Grim Accoutrements was a stress for me. I could have easily let it drag and drag. I learned so much working on that supplement, whether it was how to translate rules across systems, how to quickly generate ideas for the TTRPG space, or what might work well page layout wise.
Money: I want to enjoy what I'm creating, absolutely, but I am also perpetually stressed about money. To see people starting to pay for my creations means so so much.
Managing social media: Holy heck, I hate it. I was doing well at the start of the year on Twitter, but the more Musk destroyed the space the worse my performance seemed to get. I started to pick up on Tumblr but I don't always have something visual to share. If I could outsource or hire for anything in the coming years, I think I would easily accept help with social media.
What tools, techniques, and/or resources helped you during 2023?
- Buffer for scheduling social posts.
- Slowly switching to the Affinity product suite over Adobe.
- Textures.com for illustration work.
- True Grit Texture Supply for illustative brushes.
- Building Blocks of Tabletop Game Design: An Encyclopedia of Mechanisms for exposing me to new game mechanics.
- Asking friends pointed questions for feedback.
- My PlayDate for being the biggest gaming inspiration of what a game can be.
- So many Youtuber that break down game mechanics and review other games.
- NaNoWriMo for pushing me to write a TON for Bug & Claw.
- The Story Engine: Deck of Worlds for helping me generate ideas.
- Rory's Story Cubes for also helping me generate ideas.
- My Scrabble tiles for helping me generate ideas.
What should you be proud of in 2023?
Well, I think doing this retrospective was healthy because I realize now just how much I accomplished. It's more than I thought. I think I'm proud of it all for different reasons. I, The Land, for example, I'm proud of how well it turned out in such a short amount of time and for being an original system. Grim Accoutrements I'm proud of for the sheer amount of work that went into it and finally getting it done.
Grim Accoutrements was also mentioned in the Necrotic Gnome newsletter and blog (creators of Old School Essentials), which surprised and delighted me.
What did you learn in 2023?
- New ways of breaking down projects and problems.
- How similar game design can be to user experience design.
- To enjoy drawing again.
How can you build on what went well during 2023?
I think I need to recruit and accept more help! As my work/life balance eases up in the new year I think I'll also carve off smaller pieces and working incredibly iteratively. As Bug & Claw gets closer to the finish line I'll also be asking for more feedback. If I want the launch to go well, I should probably start building up or asking for help with social media, too.
What would a successful 2024 look like?
For an alpha release of Bug & Claw to knock people's socks off! Monkey's Lunch is sponsoring the Ennies, I'm going to play in a few other games to help playtest for new creators, and have fun digging into the community. I'd also love to do another small game jam if I can. I just want to carve off small chunks and keep building up the worls of Bug & Claw and the Wilds.