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Going Social: Announcing Super Gunball

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I joined GameDev.net a couple months ago to see what I could learn about transitioning from a hobbyist game developer to a professional one. I'm still learning, but from what I can tell, it's not going to be easy or quick to do from my residence in Kentucky. Considering that I am unlikely to be moving anytime soon, (middle-aged with dependent family) I've decided to make things work from here. As such, I'm pushing myself to polish up a project of mine to professional-grade quality to learn more about game development in general and what it takes to market and publish a title.

The project I've chosen for this effort is Gunball: a game I've been working off-and-on for over a year now, not thinking that it would ever amount to anything. Originally made while I was using the GameMaker 8.1 Lite (Free!) IDE, it is a platformer game with a super-bouncey ball as the protagonist. Playing on the word "gumball" there is a weapon attached to this ball which swivels to point in the direction of the mouse position. About this time last year, I bought GameMaker: Studio Pro (on sale!) and ported the project to the new development environment. (Not too bad as the versions were almost fully compatible.)

So after making some training levels, some forest-themed levels, enemies, bosses, and powerups, I ran into a snag... making the sound and art components. Yes, I had made some art for the ball, platforms, and enemies, but they were (and still mostly are)... primitive. The whole game was completely silent, too. I hadn't made a single "wav" file. Sure, Gunball was playable and my youngest son thought it was "kinda cool", but it wan't going to become the talk of the playground by any means. Simply put: it was incomplete.

Since I had used GameMaker to make the game so far, I posted what I had in the Works In Progress thread on their forums and hoped for some feedback. I got none. Spent for the moment, life went on. I hobbied out a few more game ideas in GameMaker, learning the IDE and the GML scripting language, but I kept coming back to Gunball. A little tweak here. An inspiration there. It's stayed my most "possible" first game for personal public release.


The internet is a wonderful thing. Everything is so... connected. It is no surprise that I eventually stumbled across GameDev.net as I was browsing articles and comments on Gamasutra. The site looked established and well-supported. So, making myself at home after a few days of familiarizing myself, I jump right in to the forum conversations. The talk is inspiring! It feels... right. I'm among my own kind!

Reinvigorated, I get back to work on Gunball and make a little progress before hitting that damn wall that is still in my way to reaching a finished product. I re-realize that I just can't do this alone. (More truthfully, I don't want to do this alone as it would require me learning how to make my own art and sounds, which I could, but it just doesn't interest me to do so.) Enter the Classifieds tab... there is a Hobbyist Projects sub-category there! Look! I found a sound designer wanting to work on a project that has some potential to actually get finished! Hey! He responded favorably to my interest in using his talents! I'm back in the game, baby! And that is how I picked up my first (and only as of this post) partner for this project.

The feedback my newly-partnered sound engineer gave me on the state of the game was taken to heart. Gunball was rebranded to Super Gunball in the spirit of the NES/SNES feel we both played with growing up. Just having one person to talk to about the project made a huge difference in my personal motivation. More progress has been made on the development of Super Gunball in the past month than was made in the past year. It helps that his musical talent and interests coincide with the overall theme of the game. Now there is talk of this project being a demo for a much larger game with more worlds and levels. (and powerups, and themes, and gimmicks, and... feature creep!) I agree that this first outing with the levels I have already made is good to be a demo if we can get it polished enough to look professional. If this demo (which will be free) can catch enough attention to generate a large enough fan base , there may just be a future to this title. But to get a fan base built up, the word as to get out. Now that there is music, I have to face it: I have to go social.


Oh no! Marketing! Now I'm not a basement-dweller, but I'm not a bar-hopping partier either. My Facebook friends list is a few dozen names long, not a few hundred. I wouldn't call myself outright anti-social. I'm better described as... social-resistant. I don't care for crowds. It's not a crippling fear like in the movie Finding Forrester, but I do get cranky when I find myself in a crowded area. This tendency of mine makes it difficult to make a lot of relationships. Rather, those relations I do make are few and precious to me. The emphasis is on few. Therefore, my social contacts are limited and expanding them will take me out of my comfort zone. And that's what I am trying to do now.

In preparation of launching myself to the social world of raising awareness for Super Gunball, I made a personal site using Google Sites for my own brand: Meatsack's Workshop. (Feel free to visit.) There, I have posted some things about me and my personal projects and thoughts. I intend to add to it as my life goes on as a kind of portfolio. In addition to the Meatsack's Workshop site, I am writing this journal entry. If for nothing else, than to "put it out there" that I am actively pursing the completion of Super Gunball demo. (If there are any interested artists reading this that want in on the ground floor of this project, please message me. Anyone? Right. I'll try again when I get some cash to actually pay someone.)

Where to go from here? Well... I fully intend (paving stones, I know) to make a Facebook page for Meatsack's Workshop, Super Gunball, or both. More likely, I'll first make an advert* to go in the Classifieds -> Hobbyist Projects on this site begging for an artist to join me just like everyone else. (You can wish in one hand...) If needs be, I'll suffer through my own preschool pixel-art efforts (...in the other...) to give Super Gunball a semi-pro look and to show that I'm at least willing to put in the effort (even if it lacks talent). At least the demo will get to a "done" state that way. (...and see which one gets filled first.) And when will the demo be "done"? In no particular order: When the art is done. When the sound is done. When the playtesting is done. When I say it's done.

As a sign of personal gratitude for your having suffered through my rambling and whining first attempt at a development journal entry, you may follow this LINK to download and play the current version of Super Gunball. Please take time to read the INFO page accessible from the title screen to learn the controls. I swear that it's virus/malware/adware/spyware free or your money back. But it really is clean. Swearsies. All I ask in return is some feedback. Private messages or comments below are both acceptable. Please be honest, but constructive. I can take criticism just fine, but personal attacks will be ineffective and summarily ignored. Talk about the game, please.

Joshua Pickard

EDIT: 8/1/13 *I have posted the advert on this site. LINK Please refer any talented and bored artists my way, please.
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Sounds like a pretty cool game -- I'll try to remember to get back and give it a play later on when (ok, if) I have some free time!

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