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Now That’s What I Call 2014

January 11, 2015

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Just trying to make sense of 2014. Read it if you care. Cat unrelated.

It started pretty well, but then quickly fell apart. Regular work is the priority when you freelance, and in January I was given a guarantee of work that would cover my bills. PC Gamer had some Early Access columns, and I was asked to do one a week for the site, and a spread per month for the magazine. I was happy. I could also pitch to places like IGN, RPS, and Kotaku, so I had a spread of sites to add to the money I was making. I wasn’t relying on pitches for everything, which is an exhausting way to go through life.

A few weeks into January, Future Publishing—PC Gamer’s owner—cut budgets. The mag and site reduced my workload and kept me in work, but Future’s troubles ran deep, and the idea of relying on them for money seemed perilous. Then I started having trouble with Future’s accounts dept.

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There’s a whole article to be written on Future’s accounts. I can’t quite figure out how something so obviously broken, and staffed by people who are completely unconcerned that your ability to live was in their job remit, exists. Though I won the fight with them, it sapped all my strength. If you’re lucky enough to be paid, it will be late. If they make a mistake, they never notice it. They are not proactive in anyway, and if the problem is ‘resolved’ the payment will be sent ‘on the next payment run’, meaning more waiting. I caused such a fuss about how ineffectual they were that Future’s newly appointed CFO phoned me. At the same time, Future put all their employees on a 45 day consultation period. You’d think the accounts people would be eager to be seen being effective at that point?

Future’s new guard might’ve shuttered a bunch of websites and dragged people to Bath, but they at least tried to fix the company. I gathered a lot of feedback from other freelancers, which the CFO promised would lead to a better experience for anyone invoicing them, but it was too little too late for me. To add to that, IGN were paying out in weaker and weaker dollars, and RPS hired more staff. I started to consider my options.

One option was Frontier. I started working as a freelance copywriter for them. I had written about Elite a lot for RPS, and the PR asked me if I could help them out. I’m not even kidding when I say that writing the phrase ‘Uncy Dave’, and occasionally referring to his ‘giant space head’ got me work. I recused myself from any further critical work about the game and started to wonder what the fuck a copywriter does. Here’s what: They needed language for slogans, and the site, and to just drop into things like documents, apps, and whatever else needed words, so I was asked to just do that.

I only ever wrote a few pieces for them, and they were largely unused (though I was told it gave them a clear direction), but I can say that the game’s slogan was mostly my work. People were walking under banners at E3 with my words above them. There was talk of a job, and I felt that I could do what was being offered, but I then sent an email that changed everything.

I’d been playing a lot of Rust, with a view to pitching a diary to somewhere, and noticed that a lot of the item descriptions in the game hadn’t changed in the first few months of the year. I was lucky to be on friendly terms with Garry, so I emailed asking if Rust needed a writer. He said probably not, but that Facepunch had a bunch of prototypes that might need writing, that the game’s site and Steam page could probably use some work, and that they could do stuff with the community. I wrote back with a bunch of plans that were mostly wibble and full of ideas that were really just brain spam. He responded with “Let”s find something for you to do.”

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I’ve still no idea how I got a job by sending an email that included “blah blah” in it, but I started at Facepunch on the last week of June, writing a community blog post in the style of Garry’s Dev Blog, and three months later I was an employee, being paid the sort of money that is impossible to live up to. I’ve been watching my savings account slowly tick back up for a few months, feeling the knot in my stomach slowly unwind.

My current job is ridiculous: I get to explore a game’s community for the content they create, and I get to write about how awesome it is. I decided to not be terribly snobbish about it, because I want to encourage people to share things. I also wanted to keep covering Legacy Rust, because people still make things with it and about it, and that’s good enough for me. I’m not a community manager, because managing something as large as the Facepunch community is impossible. I want to take my instincts for editorial and work from there. The post we put out is pretty monolithic, so we need to set up the site to spread it around a little. I wanted to write a bunch of them so I had a good resource to look at what people create. I’m pretty happy with that part, and now the game is starting to come together again (following a reboot), it’s time to start working on that. Garry’s Mod also needs a site, but I’m not sure it’d be possible to capture the community’s contributions adequately.

I’ve also been writing for some of Facepunch’s games. I intend to give Rust’s item descriptions a pass, but for now my main creative outlet is Adam’s space shooter. You know, the one we cancelled Rust for? His plans are for a game that leaps around between wacky levels, so my job was to come up with a story framework for that and to keep it out of the way of the bullets. He asked for a Brit sci-fi sort of style (scarily: a bit like Red Dwarf or Hitch-hikers…), and I came up with something that he said was fun. That’s coming along, and each level will need a self-contained story, but I’m pretty confident it’ll work.

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I was also there at the start of Arcade. It was something else when I started, and though I quite like the writing I did for it, the game has since taken a completely different direction: it’s a game where players will be able to design and host their own arcades, complete with bespoke games shared through the Steam Community. I’m waiting for the components to come together before helping with the story, but it was fun being there are the start with Ryleigh as we chatted about the sort of game it could be.

I also tried Unity, but it was mean to me. I think my goal this year is to have one game thing made, but probably not a game. I’m going to try Game Maker, and want to work on making a dude fire a gun, but making that gun feel super satisfying.

2015: get fit (again), feel more productive at work, work on one of the two story ideas I have, acquire cat, acquire better flat, one beach holiday.

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