When I first graduated from Northcoders I was full of excitement and energy, ready to start a role as a junior developer, and until I did, full of ideas for projects I wanted to work on.
Six weeks later, I’m less excited and less full of energy. Covid has had this effect on a lot of people, so I’m not really ashamed to admit to feeling down and disheartened, and as time has gone on my motivation and schedule have gone out the window. Over the weekend I hit a low that I haven’t hit for a few years, back when I was a freelance writer also without work or purpose.
I’ve come a long way since then, and I’ve learned how to dig myself out of that hole, so here I am with spade in hand to get digging.
Firstly, I’m setting myself two new schedules: a daily schedule where I know what I’m going to focus on, and so I can feel good about what I’m doing in the moment without worrying about the other things I feel I should be doing. Everything has a place and time, and with a daily schedule I can commit fully to everything when I’m supposed to and rid myself of those worries.
Secondly, and more relevantly for this blog, a weekly schedule. More precisely, a weekly project. All those ideas I had when I graduated? Some of them I worked on for a while and was happy with the result, some I started on and got distracted, and plenty more just never saw the light of day. So now I’m going to give myself the time to work on them.
Each week I’m going to pick a project, new or old, and commit to working on it for a week. Sometimes it’ll be something small, just to test out an idea and see how viable it is, or to learn something new. Sometimes it’ll be part of a grander design, something I can keep coming back to. Each day I’ll post about what I’m working on, the progress I’ve made and my feelings on it all. At the end of the week I’ll summarise where I am, and maybe what my plans are going forward for the project. Then over the weekend I can figure out my next week’s task (even if it’s more work on the same project) and start again on Monday.
With all that out of the way, here’s what I’m going to be working on this week: a mod for Paradox Game Studios’ space grand strategy game Stellaris. This represents a few different goals for me:
In the short term, it represents some feelings I have about one of the late-game paths in Stellaris. Without going into too much detail, I’ve been unhappy with a while about how genetic modification works in the game, and so I’m taking this opportunity to put a few of my own ideas into practice. In this sense, it’s mostly a bit of a thought experiment, with the longer term goal of creating a better game experience.
In the medium term, it’s a great way to start modding, making games better for myself and others, especially Paradox games, which is where I spend a lot of my time. I’m starting small, but my hope is that what I learn here will help me to mod games in future in more drastic and interesting ways, and then perhaps even move onto modding other, non-Paradox games.
In the long term it gives me the opportunity to practice being a game designer without having to write every system from scratch. Relying on an existing game allows me to have thoughts about how things work and interact without having to first build an entire game. I’d like to work in game design in future, and in particular I’d love to work for Paradox, so this is a chance to showcase what I know, what I can learn and my willingness and desire to work towards that goal.
So I actually started this project last week, though a lot of it has been browsing the Stellaris modding wiki and the game files trying to find the relevant variables and the right language to use.
So far I’ve invented a few new habitability traits, and today’s breakthrough was ensuring that each starting race would replace their old traits with my new modifications.
Since this blog is already quite long, though, I’m going to leave it here and do a deeper dive on my actual work in tomorrow’s piece, bringing you up to date on the documentation I’ve been using, my learning methods and what I’ve achieved so far. Hopefully including screenshots.