My Year In Review: 2020
Tom mentioned in a site newspost that more people should post their yearly achievements. I just lost several ranked tetr.io matches in a row, including one to someone well below my rank, so I figured it was time to stop doing that for the night and move on to something else. Can't go to bed yet though! So here are a few little notes about the stuff I did in 2020. I guess in a way I feel weird about making a post like this, but maybe it'll be cool to look back on months or even years from now.
My first major project of the year was the release of World War Wizards, a game I made with @GallowJolt . We made it for Pixel day, and had plans to continue the project afterward that never came to fruition due to a bunch of factors. It didn't make a huge splash or anything, and didn't place in the top picks for Pixel Day, but it was the first game project that I had ever done that I was really, truly proud of. A lot of the reason it didn't get much in the way of high reviews was simply the fact that I really dropped the ball on the programming side of things. In all honesty, it was a buggy mess. But looking back on it I do still feel that it had a certain kind of charm to it and GallowJolt killed it on the art side - especially with the bosses. That robot bird boss thing in the castle level looks really damn good.
The other notable thing about WWW was that it definitely ranks among the projects that I have spent the most time on in my life. I had started the project an entire year before it was released, after being inspired by Pixel Day 2019. I had taken a few months off from it before reaching out to GallowJolt about finishing it.
I followed that up with another two game releases, both for the Phaser Game Jam.
The first was a little game called Roadside Boardin'. While certainly not entirely bug free, it tended to function better than WWW on most devices. I still like this game in retrospect, but it became clear to me very quickly that people just... didn't get it. Which, to be clear, is on me. It's a sign of bad game design. The highest medal in that game didn't take me a whole lot of time to unlock during testing, and I thought everything was good to go, but the scores I was seeing on the leaderboard were... Lackluster. To me it just made sense that you do a trick every time you jump and you get pretty high scores pretty fast, but that obviously didn't come across to most players, and thus, the game was a flop. But I still had time in the Phaser Jam...
...so over the course of 48 hours I managed to cook up another game to enter in the jam. Closing In. This game did WAY better. I remember being super excited that people seemed to understand it better, despite it seeming more abstract and a little harder to grasp to me. That just goes to show that a game developer's perception of their own games will always be different than the perceptions of the players. Anyway, that game did pretty well, placed in the Jam, and won me the very first stack of cash I had ever earned from anything I had ever done on the internet.
I never cashed that check. It has more sentimental value to me than the money ($100) was actually worth. @TomFulp messaged me months afterward to ask if I never received it. I got it, but I like it more as a trophy than I would like the money itself, and so - as a trophy it stays.
Speaking of Tom...
In early February, my good friend best buddy ol' pal @littlbox and I interviewed @TomFulp on A Couple of Crickets Podcast. It seems kind of silly looking back on it, but I was incredibly nervous about that interview. Even by that point I saw Tom as someone I could reach out to if I ever needed something, but I think he was still fairly mythologized in my mind. In fact, it's probably fair to say that he still is. Tom, you probably know in a sort of abstract way that you've impacted a lot of people's lives through your work on Newgrounds and through your games, but I don't know if you feel the sort of concrete nature of the way that you have impacted people like me. I owe so much of myself, and as strange as it is to say, my place in the world, to you and to Newgrounds as a whole. If things go well, I might soon be staring down a career in the animation industry - something that I don't know I would have the mental fortitude, the connections, or even the drive to pursue had it not been for my last 8 years of being a user of this site. I don't know what I am to you (I imagine something along the lines of "one of those people on my website"), but to me you are someone that - despite us never having actually met - has had a huge influence on my life. Hell, my girlfriend of 7 years now and I first bonded by playing Castle Crashers on my laptop in between rounds of debate tournaments when we were in high school. That means more to me than I can even put to words.
Enough sappy shit.
That Tom Fulp interview we did was the actual and literal last episode of A Couple of Crickets Podcast. littlbox and I had been making jokes for a while at that point that each episode that we were doing along the way was going to be the last episode, but in reality we had decided a couple months prior that we were going to do 50 episodes, and the last episode had to be the Tom interview. We had a number of reasons for ending the show, and I don't even know if we really knew all of those reasons at the time, but the one thing we did know... We had to get Tom on the show before Grounds Patrol got him...
...speaking of Grounds Patrol...
...by the time that littlbox and I had decided to end ACOCk, we were already in talks with @Will - who had approached us to say that he wanted someone else to take over Grounds Patrol, and he wanted us to become the new hosts! Of course, that wasn't going to work for littlbox and I. That would mean that Grounds Patrol won the Newgrounds podcast war. No way.
Instead, we decided to join forces and make a new show, the definitive Newgrounds podcast. In fact, it would even be called @TheNewgroundsPodcast . We workshopped the idea for a few weeks, then recorded a test pilot episode...
...and it didn't work out. We landed on the idea that any show hosted by littlbox and I was just going to be A Couple of Crickets, and we wanted this show to be something new. A distilling of all the best elements of ACOCk and Grounds Patrol combined. I approached littlbox about it, intending to let him take the show and I'd move on, but the tables done got turned on me - and littlbox told me to take it over while he dealt with things going on in his real life. So that's what we did. Will and I assembled a little team of some additional people and The Newgrounds Podcast was born. We released the first episode near the end of February (a lot of this happened concurrently with littlbox and I planning and orchestrating the end of ACOCk), along with a little announcement animation.
Things went pretty well with that for the most part. We brought in a few more people. Some in our circle or the circles of the people we had already recruited, and some who, to us, seemed to come out of nowhere but made really wonderful additions to the team.
NGP became my main project for the majority of the year.
On April 10th I uploaded a little 15-minute EP I made called Now Normal. This, as you might be able to tell, was about the time when the COVID-19 pandemic began to weigh heavily on my mind. Completely coincidentally, and this is true, The Strokes released their album called The New Abnormal on the same mf day. Thought that was kinda funny. I had no idea about it prior to that. I imagine they didn't know about my EP either. Probably still don't actually... I got robbed.
And after that, well... I honestly didn't do much for a lot of the year. Work started getting really intense as my bosses tried to keep fewer people in the office. I worked. I also worked. And I worked a fucking lot. All I did was go to work. Go home. Go to bed. Go to work. And somehow in all of that do my best to keep the Newgrounds Podcast afloat, although I will be the first to admit that at some point there I started shirking my responsibilities with the podcast, which I still feel bad about.
I did manage to pull off a few other things throughout that time though. I participated in the Chutney Glaze Finale. I drew a picture here and there. I uploaded the one song I managed to finish from what was supposed to be a full length EP I had planned to make in the summer. I hosted and edited a bunch of NGP episodes.
But mostly, from the period of like May until November, I was just working like a walrus.
Some Redemption at the End
I'm still working way too much. I'm still feeling way too drained from my job. But at the end of November I managed to get myself a case of COVID-19, and ironically that turned somethings around for me. During my quarantine while I was sick, I made a game.
It only took me a few days to put together Chucan Fall in Construct 3. Got some great reviews on it. People in my real life seemed to like it. I was happy with it. Still am. See my last newspost to read more about the game and my experience with COVID.
I actually managed to put something together for this year's Tankmas ADVENTure. It's a little song I called Holidays Under Construction, because, well, it sounds like construction mixed with Christmas music. I was worried it was too noisey for the ADVENTure, and maybe it was, but nobody complained about it to my knowledge so I guess it was fine. @Cyberdevil left me a real nice review on it.
I also started getting paid to edit a few podcasts that a coworker of mine who runs a media management agency on the side put me in touch with. Pretty cool!
And finally, this is my first time speaking publicly about this, I stepped down as a host of NGP. My failure to fulfill my responsibilities to the podcast continued to worsen over time and I finally decided it wasn't fair to the other hosts. I changed my role to "regular", and I will continue to edit and occasionally be on the show, but I will no longer be nearly as involved as I was early on.
Closing Thoughts and Other Stuff
Garbage year for most people, mediocre year for me, I say piss it away. Though, this list of, I guess, "accomplishments" I just put together looks pretty nice. I'm glad I did this. Probably a pretty good thing for my mental health to have done this.
I'll leave y'all with a chart. If you know anything about me, you know I'm something of a music nerd. So, here are my top 9 favorite albums that came out in 2020, in order, plus a few honorable mentions afterward.
Honorable mentions (no particular order): Holy Fuck - Deleter; Bright Eyes - Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was; Khruangbin - Mordechai.
One of my favorite yearly traditions is sharing my yearly music listening habits as charts and such with my friends who are also music nerds. Maybe I'll post those here too, if I already feel like covering this post up come January 1st.
If you read this whole post, thanks! Feel free to talk about some of your accomplishments down below or make your own newspost and link to it here :)
Love ya, NG.