Jigsaw

“I can’t fit this jigsaw back together”

I dunno, I’ve tried. Really I have. I’ve got folders and folders of things. Things. That’s what they are, see. They’re things.

They’re things I did inbetween things. Things done hoping to scrape out a whole from parts. A year and a half of things.

That’s Death Ray Manta’s prolonged development. That’s why I’m heading into 2015 with bits, pieces, things and not anything coherent to show. Actually, that’s not why. Why is far, far more complex.

The why is that things got difficult.

When I signed a contract with Sony, I knew I had an operation coming up. The doctors had found a lump in my throat and well, you don’t really want to keep a lump like that in your throat just in case so out it comes. I’d read everything I could on the operation and it all seemed fairly straightforward. I mean, as straightforward as slashing someone’s neck open can be. Oh, did I mention that I really wasn’t looking forward to someone slashing my neck open? But hey, this is a regular thing that people do and it’ll be alright.

Fuck me, they don’t mention quite how much it hurts after it’s done. It’s the weirdest sensation, you move too abruptly and it feels like your head is going to tear itself off. I’ve talked about this before because making videogames is hard. Making videogames when you can’t pick your daughter up without it feeling like your head is going to drop off is really, really fucking hard because at that point, fuck videogames, I want to pick my daughter up and not want to scream out.

I’m looking at that post with its slight optimism about being able to sit down and write games again and kinda laughing a bit. A week later and I’m necking antibiotics like they’re going out of fashion. I dunno what happened but for a while, I had a run of illnesses. Ever since coming out of hospital a few years back, I’ve had a tendency to get kicked down a bit harder by little things and whatever this thing was, it kicked me down hard. Weeks of trying to shift it, weeks of discomfort, weeks of exhaustion as my body fought off whatever the fuck this thing was. There were other things too. It’s just been one of those years when things happen and you just ride it out to the next breathing space. And in those brief spaces, I made parts of a videogame because that’s what I do, yeah?

The second half of the year was spent getting work done on the house. It’s a long story and not mine to tell of how we got there but we had one shot at improving our lot and we took it because we’d have been crazy not to. Before, we were all cramped up, 2 grown ups, 2 kids, 2 cats in a small room. My desk in the corner, the TV over the other side. The travel cot somewhere inbetween. We got chance to change that so we did. I’m still in the same corner but that’s OK because no-one else is in here now. Mrs B can sit in the front room that wasn’t there before and watch the TV, read a book or batter Bejewelled 3 for hours on end (Poker Bejewelled is her current Bejewelled of choice), there’s cats everywhere now. There’s 2 in the conservatory that wasn’t there before and they’re meowing at me right now, there’s 2 somewhere else about the house I have no idea where. We’ve got a summer house and a bathroom that’s not falling apart. It’s weird. We have no money again but fuck it, right?

I’ve got a chair that’s really comfortable to sit on and has a high back so I can prop my head up and it makes the remaining discomfort I have not quite as discomforting. We threw everything at doing this and the difference it’s made to everyone’s life is tangible, noticeable and something I’m thankful for every single day now. But it took up the entire second half of the year to get here and I tried making videogames around that but looking after kids at the same time as dealing with your entire house being torn apart and new bits bolted on? I just wanted to nap, y’know? And nap I did but when I got chance, I made parts of a videogame because that’s what I do, yeah?

I went away to a spooky house and doodled my heart out for two days and it was great. I got stuff done there and I enjoyed being out of the house for a while with amazingly good company too. Long overdue, y’know? So much I’m hopefully going to be able to do it again next year.

But it’s things again. Jigsaw pieces, I guess.

Because all this time, I’d never really stopped working on DRM or anything, it’s just its development was constantly broken up by other things happening. By operations, by illnesses, by what I do when I’m not making games, by looking after kids, by four or five months of none stop work being done on a house. It’s jigsaw pieces but there’s bits missing from the jigsaw and I don’t know where they’ve gone. To be fair, there’s parts of the past two years that I don’t know where they’ve gone either. Illness is weird like that.

Whatever coherent plan, whatever 2013 me was planning… well, it’s nearly 2015 now and I have genuinely no idea. I’ve looked at the notes, I’ve looked at what I have and it’s not going to work. Not like this. I can’t put the pieces together to finish that jigsaw because how can I do that? I just can’t. It’s going to drive me insane.

Not that I haven’t tried. I’ve spent the past few weeks going right up against it, trying to fathom out what the DRM I started writing in 2013 was going to be and truth be told, I don’t know and it’s not worth pursuing anyway. It was always meant to be a game that would exist in the absence of a new Geometry Wars and yeah, I don’t think the new Geometry Wars is all the Geometry Wars that it could be but it’s not my job to fix that shit, someone else can have a go. I wanted to write something that’d fill that void and well, that’s filled now.

That’s kinda what you get when it takes you a year and a half to get nowhere fast.

Regardless, I sat there just before Christmas and figured one last push at piecing these bits together to try and make them work but I already knew they wouldn’t. Not really. That’s why I started preparing.

It turns out that having to take long breaks means things do become fractured, parts harder to put together and well, as a person you change. What you want to make changes.

Sort of.

Because all I ever really wanted to do was make the best game I possibly could.

I just want to write a really good arcade game and one that I’m proud to put out there and you know what? I know I can write that really good arcade game because the bits Andy and I have fucked around with over the past year or so, I’m not one to brag but we’re fucking good at putting this shit together when life gets out the way.

And yeah, life hasn’t really gotten out the way but it never really will. I don’t lead the kind of life where peace is a thing I get for long. Not unless anyone has a magic “make people better” wand going cheap or whatever. But my health is the best it’s been in a few years. I’ve got space, my own space, to work in. I’ve got two extra cats to jump on the keyboard and really muck stuff up and they’re so good at that.

So that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to make the best game we possibly can.

It won’t be the game I thought of in 2013 because I don’t even know what that game is anymore. But it’ll be Death Ray Manta. It’ll be BEST Ray Manta, y’know? I hope you’ll like it because I’m going to like making it because that’s the thing, no matter what happens and a lot has happened and parts of 2014 really made me want to throw in the towel and say “fuck this”, I really like making games. So that’s what I’ll do. I can’t make these jigsaw pieces fit anymore but I can take everything I’ve learned in crafting these pieces in the first place and do something great with them. That’s what I’m going to do and I’m not going to ride this one out without help when I need it this time. I’ve already asked for some and I’m excited to see what comes from it.

And yeah, it’ll have all the fucking colours. ALL OF THEM. I don’t really know how to do this any other way.

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