My family joked that pretty much everywhere we went in Japan was a World Heritage Site (世界遺産). Certainly seemed that way in Kyoto. 


Leaving any place feels like a metaphor for death. Continue reading

Family, Games, and Inaction

Thank God for having a schedule, and needing to get a post out every Friday, barring exceptions (like last week when I was in Taiwan, or, unfortunately, next week when I’ll be in Osaka). It keeps me creating. While I can’t say I’m happy with what I write in the moment, I’m usually happy with it when I look back at it. And even if I’m not happy with it, perhaps it is useful for someone else out there. Hopefully, that someone is you.

On Tuesday, my family arrived from back home. It’s been great having them around, and with only a few days under our belt, we’ve already had some pretty big and serious discussions on topics ranging from government regulation of businesses to abortion. I forgot how easily political topics can pop up and how easily it is to debate them without anger in my family, in spite of some very opposing viewpoints.

Yesterday, my family came to the elementary school and spent more than half the day with the kids. It’s always a good experience for the students in this tiny town to be exposed to people from the other side of the world. Even though I’m also a foreigner, I’ve been in Japan long enough that my existence is essentially normalized. My family, on the other hand, was something new and different, and hopefully an experience that they’ll remember.

Next week we head out to Osaka. In order to go, I’ve had to use the rest of my vacation time. That means, from now until August, no vacation for me. Still, for most people, vacation is a rare privilege. When I think about that, I feel blessed that I had as much as I did to begin with.

I’m struggling to put the finishing touches on Shichikashuku II. I mean, it’s basically 99.95% done. I just need to play though the game once or twice more to make sure it feels even better. Then, I’ll write a postmortem on the game and what worked and didn’t with my students.

More than that game, though, is game development in general, and that fear that I won’t have enough skills in enough time. I’m really looking to push a premium game by the end of the year, but with less than 7 months to go, I feel as if that’s not really achievable. Regardless, I’ll keep trying.

My time in Japan is coming to an end, at least for now. There’s so much I still have left to do. Sometimes that list paralyzes me.

But I’ll probably be back. And that keeps me moving, because knowing I don’t need to do everything in the next two months means I can just take things as they come.

Don’t stop. Keep moving.

But, sleep when you can. Sleep is pretty sweet.

Jumping Around

Last week I had friends coming from America. This week I have no excuses. Still, I don’t have anything substantial this week.

In minor personal news, I signed up for the JLPT N1 in July. The deadline to sign up is the 28th of this month, so if you want to sign up, give it a shot! The website has some cool features when you sign up, like the fact that you can take a picture with your webcam. It took a while to load, but it worked. As for the JLPT itself, I started studying in earnest again last week. That means more books, more manga, more readthekanji, more nihongo-pro, more JapanesePod101 and more whatever keeps my interest.

In school-related news, the new school year started with a whole slew of new English materials. Most importantly, a fresh new edition of the New Horizon textbooks. Completely revamped. I’m such a fan that I started writing a post about them. Should be up next week.

In game-making news, Shichikashuku II is ever-so-close to completely finished. I’m pretty proud of how it turned out, even if it isn’t close to perfect. Aside from that, I’m getting back into Unity and working on LowRezJam 2016, which are actually unrelated tasks as I’m doing LRJ in Game Maker. We’ll see if I can finish on time, but it’s good to work on something small and short for my own sanity.

Anyway, I hope you all have a good week and accomplish your goals and live happy lives! 🙂

Oh, is it Friday again?

Hey y’all. It’s Friday again. Did you notice? TGIF and all that!

Just had the graduation ceremony for the elementary school today. I gave a little speech in front of everyone like every teacher did, except this time I was able to say something completely coherent. My road to Japanese fluency is… well, I’m not sure. I’m standing in a field somewhere. There are many roads ahead of me. Language, certainly, isn’t conducive to learning in a straight line.

This Tuesday I came down with 胃腸炎, which dictionaries tell me means “gastroenteritis” and symptoms tell me means pain and a high fever and vomit and diarrhea. I took vacation time to go home early because it’s hard to use sick leave in Japan. But I did get better. Still taking medicine, but I feel right as rain.

Speaking of Tuesday, on Tuesday and Wednesday this week the 1st and 2nd years (U.S. 7th and 8th graders) at the Junior High School played Shichikashuku II. The reception was super warm in spite of playing in a cold room on slow computers. By the end of Wednesday (we only got two days to play the game this year), most of the kids were asking for a copy of the game. They only managed to reach the end of Chapter 2, so there’s still a lot of game in front of them (the game is 6 chapters long + post-game content). Either I need to figure out how to write the game to a CD, or buy a lot of USB drives. 😛

Game’s not done, but it’s really close. I have 25 more English Gates to put in the game (maybe a few more?), a few tiny areas to finish, flavor text to add, and… well, I’ll just show a cutout from my word document:

Remainder Work

This is it. Almost done with version 1.00.

Anywho, this weekend two friends are coming down from Kobe for skiing and snowboarding, and well, there’s no snow. Well, not around here. Actually, I can still find a tiny mound in my neighborhood, but that’s not enough. We will definitely be able to snowboard this weekend, but it’ll be a drive.

So, that’s the past week. Next week on Thursday the school year ends. On Friday and Monday and Tuesday are various parties to say goodbye and good luck to all the leaving teachers. It’ll be sad.

OK, it’s 4:15. I gotta go. Party tonight. Pick friend up from the airport tomorrow morning.

See y’all space cowboys and cowgirls on the flipside.


It’s been so long since I’ve written something long-form and not about my current project. It’s hard to get back in that mindset though. It’ll happen, but a little more distance from my current project will help.

The game was a pretty good success. Aside from the fact that their time in class playing it was not nearly enough. But that’s where the USB gift will come in.

Shichikashuku II is more done than is necessary but less done than I’d like. There’s always something more to add. I guess that’s what happens when you make a sprawling world map first.

I’m finishing up the post-game content this week. I didn’t get time to put in the airship, not because it can’t be implemented, but because implementing it means I need to finish making the 3-4 areas you can only access with the airship. Could I implement it without those? Sure. But the game will feel less complete, ironically, even though it has more in it.

Next Sunday, I give the USBs with the game to the students. But, maybe not. If I feel like there’s still a little more work that needs going into it, I think I’ll do that.

Man, game delays suck. But it’s even worse being on this side of it.

The Finish Line Approaches

I sit at my desk on a Friday, awake, for the first time in weeks.

I got some decent sleep last night. Yesterday I had a headache and some pain in my eyes when I moved them. The flu has been going around, so there was some worry. But, eh, sleep does the body good. 久しぶり to an 8 hour sleep.

On Wednesday night I finished uploading a test version of “Shichikashuku II” to mediafire. On Thursday morning I sent an email out to more than two dozen volunteers to help test the game. By the evening, I’d already received some feedback. I like the fact that I can step away from the game and work on it is getting done in some form.

But, I can’t stop. Last night was good. Hopefully tonight is too. Regardless, the 3rd year students will probably play the game this Monday. That’s only 2-3 days left of work before they get a copy.

One thing I can rest easy about: Even if they played the current version, it would probably take a week of classtime minimum to complete the game. My last runthrough of the game, without completing all the sidequests or getting all the characters, took about 5 hours.

One thing that nags at me: I still have 4 more students to implement, all 4 of them 3rd year students. It would be a shame if they played and couldn’t recruit themselves in the game. Therefore, my focus this weekend is on making them playable.

As for the rest of the students, they’ll probably be playing mid-March, which gives me a lot of time to perfect the content and make some good updates. Every day I work on the post-game content, bit-by-bit. I hope the game will be fully done around mid-March, but at this point, I’m going to take things a little more slowly.

The game is in a good state. But even more than that, it’s in the hands of other people. And hopefully, being enjoyed.

The Small Things Add Up

Another week. Another post about how I’m working at a clip to get this game done.

This week I managed to crank out a lot of the changes I wanted to get done but didn’t feel like doing. Because I worked mostly at the junior high school this week, where my computer screen faces everyone, I’ve been focusing on what looks like boring work from afar. You know. Don’t want to arouse suspicion.

Originally, I had characters acquiring skills that went as high as level 125. But, as I play this short game, I realize that most players who play will only get to around level 30 or 40. It’s a result of low encounter rates and a focus on non-grinding, even in spite of the high EXP rates. My goal was that about every 3 battles or so, a character would level up. Given the short length of the game, this feels about right.

I found this level stuff out about a month ago, and while I know that I like high numbers and skills that most people will never see, I decided to bring down my numbers. Now, characters gain their final skills between level 50 and level 70. While it’s much lower, it still leaves some mystery for those wanting to really grind and level up, and for those attempting to tackle the unbalanced bonus content. Most people who play will probably never see these skills either, but it gives people who are level 30 or 40 more skills to exploy (each character still has the same number of skills, but instead of getting them at 55, 65, 75, 85, 90, it’s at 35, 38, 42, 45, 48, for example). Hopefully the high number and high acquisition rate isn’t too overwhelming. I fear it might be.

Anywho, as I sit at my desk waiting for the next class, I’m either writing more item/weapon/ability descriptions, changing ability levels, or making minor tweaks to something here or there. This is the kind of rote work that just needs to be done. Yes, I’ll probably mess up the balance a bit with the ability changes, but I’ll go and deal with that this weekend. In fact, the goal this weekend is a few playtests from start to finish, balancing random encounters and bosses. Having the ability levels changed is paramount for a successful test. Balancing before the abilities have been changed would likely make most of the balancing worthless and in need of a re-do.

After the game is relatively balanced, I’ll throw in a bunch of the “English Gate” challenges, which are like mini-translation-quizzes for players. Something to satisfy my English teacher as he watches a bunch of students run around weird places and fight random encounters. Putting in the English Gates right now wouldn’t be a problem, but they would slow down the balancing.

The game is now essentially complete in it’s basic form. Yes, it’s not balanced. Yes, there are still a bunch of side areas that aren’t yet implemented and quests that are incomplete. But, the game is playable from start-to-finish. From “New Game” to the credits.

That’s a nice feeling.

On Schedule

Phew. Even in spite of my shorter deadlines, and that 5 day break, I’m all caught up and on schedule. With the game I mean. Not the blog. Sorry about that. ><;

I’m working on the final section of the main game this week. Then there’s a wedding on the 20th. Then, if all goes according to plan, the game will be 90% done by the 25th, with most / all of the characters in the game. Also by this time, all the battles and “English Gates” will be in the main game and, to some degree (on the side of the game being easy), balanced.

With my own preliminary balancing done, I’ll send the game to friends and get their feedback / basic bug testing. During this time, I’ll be adding more to the post-game content, worrying less about the balance here. This content is likely to be the most buggy and unbalanced, perhaps, but it will be in the game, and that’s what matters. Not intentionally buggy of course, but with fewer eyes on it, it’ll be a little harder to get data.

It’s getting towards the home stretch. I’m looking forward to what the game is shaping up to be.

Daily Goals

Sorry. Not a long post here today.

I’ve been talking about Shichikashuku 2, my next game. It comes out in about 40 days, whether I want it to or not. It’s terrifying. Not paralyzing fear, but the reasonable kind of worry that comes the morning of a test when you haven’t studied. The kind that forces you into action. And, on occasion, stresses.

This is, on a personal level, perhaps similar to the crunch time faced by video game studios. That’s maybe an exaggeration. I haven’t yet ordered take out and stayed up all night working.

For the past month or so, I’ve been setting these half month goals. Implement xxxx character. Create xxxx area. Script xxxx cutscene. Follow the plan. It’s been good, and those moments that I finish goals before their deadline, I’m pretty happy. But, since I usually have a group of 50 things to do every two week period, some inevitably fall through the cracks.

Maybe I shouldn’t make such a long list of things per month? But then, these aren’t unreasonable things. Some of them are pretty simple as long as I get down and do it.

All this thinking led me back to an old staple: daily goals. Much stricter in the completion of, but much more reasonable in amount. That is, I can’t go to sleep until I finish the daily goals. But, I only have two or three or five things on there. So, it’s easier to focus on what I need to do.

Last night I didn’t get to sleep until about 1 am completing goals. Bad for my sleep and yet I managed to complete some elusive tasks. While I can’t keep up that pace, if I did, the game could be done in less than a month. Probably. It’s all speculation. But the unknowns are getting fewer and far-er between.

Of the goals that were supposed to be done by 1/15, only two remain. They’ll get done today. Then, I’ll be “on track”. It’s a good feeling.

With the game as my primary focus, I might have smaller posts here for the next month and a half. But they’re coming! No worries.