DevLog #2 - Art, HacknPlan, Radical Honesty Dot Collector, and Indie Games, oh my!


Super excited to share our second DevLog with you all!  Over the past two weeks, the team has been hard at work on Shadow of the Moon and we have even added a new concept artist to our illustrious crew!

Joe and I have been hard at work on the game's story, we've done some great planning for the engine, been interviewing some super talented candidates for sound and composing, and have even been prepping for Baltimore Comic Con! It's been kind of a crazy few weeks but very exciting! 

Oh, and did I mention we also got some super cool art from Darren Soto? No? Well check it out! This awesome piece was commissioned by a very good friend of mine who wishes to keep his identity a secret -- just like a super hero he can't let the reptilian overlords he works for know he is such a passionate geek!

I'll just say this, his name rhymes with God, when we saw this image we both were awed! Oh, and he also travels a lot abroad, and has a work ethic many applaud -- and his girlfriend appropriates his sculpted bod!

Huge thanks to both our mystery man and Darren Soto -- this image is awesome! You both rock! I'm excited to hang out again at Baltimore Comic Con in a few weeks!

New Team Member David Granjo - Concept Artist

I'm so happy to announce that we have bolstered our ranks here at Apotheosis Studios with a super talented concept artist named David Granjo. David, in addition to being an artist par extraordinaire, is also a super nice guy and great team fit for us.

David Granjo is a concept artist, illustrator, and author of The Last Amazon. In his spare time, David is a master Kebabs maker and video game aficionado. A native of Portugal, David currently lives in France with his wife and cat, and if anyone ever kidnapped his cat, he says he would take down the Eiffel Tower to get it back! (This is a Last Amazon joke, go read it!)

David’s dream is to work with an Indie Dev Team as they grow into a AAA Video Game Studio. So, now that David works for Apotheosis Studios, his dreams are coming true! Yay! (He did say, however, that if Apotheosis Studios does not go AAA, he can always sell-out and work for Naughty Dog, instead! Lucky for him, we already have one A in our name, so  the second two letters are enviable! That's how it works, right?!?)  

David's book The Last Amazon will be released next month (keep an eye out on the Apotheosis Studios Blog for its official announcement) but I've read it already, and loved it!

Brief Synopses for The Last Amazon: In the near future, Azureus Island is advertised as the last oasis on a war torn planet. Only the lucky few can afford this land of opportunity and experience “Paradise on Earth.” The Last Amazon follows the story of Danni Winters, a young woman who wins a beauty contest allowing her a coveted position to live and work on Azureus Island. This is a dream come true until after a horrible kidnapping, Danni discovers that Azureus Island is not a “paradise” as advertised.

We will be hosting The Last Amazon's press release right here on this blog, so stay tuned. While this book's art style is a little more "sexualised" than Shadow of the Moon, David has extraordinary artistic range and in this DevBlog I will be posting addition pictures he has created. Directly below is a re-imagined White Walker from HBO's Game of Thrones.  Pretty awesome! 

HacknPlan Update

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We have been very busy on HacknPlan and have have some updates about the platform for both fans of Shadow of the Moon and fellow IndieDevs, alike! First off, HacknPlan is awesome, and secondly, it's getting better every day!

I just found out today that HacknPlan will be releasing a new feature: Next week HacknPlan will launch an update which allows referencing design elements directly into both "Tasks" the and the GDM (Game Development Module - what HacknPlan calls the GDD) 

This will be a huge time saver!  Let me explain:

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Currently, HacknPlan has a lot of cross platform integration between various facets of its tool. This allows a user to link a specific section of the GDM directly to a task (which is profoundly helpful for workflow and project management) but until this new feature is implemented, there was not an easy way (other than a hyperlink) to link and cross reference specific design elements within the GDM and/or Tasks. 

What this will now allow us to do is reference specific game mechanics, features, or elements within a Task or GDM section. Instead of unwieldy hyper links and or "see object x" tags, we now will have a simple drop down selection tool which will automatically connect it. I am really excited about this! This cross platform functionality is one of the many features what makes HacknPlan so powerful! Keep up the good work, guys!

HacknPlan suggestions:

In that same theme of cross platform functionality, our IndieDev team uses Slack (if you are not, check out this Gamasutra Post "Why do devs love Slack, and how do they get the most out of it?" ) and while HacknPlan does have some really helpful slack integration, while we work on Shadow of the Moon we keep seeing ways it can be even better. Currently, there are some great configurations for Slack message integration which you can see in the image below, but I was MOAR!!!  Here are a few examples specifically for Slack:

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#1 I REALLY want there to be a way to signal the mention ability from HacknPlan into slack, so when I "@" someone in HacknPlan, they get a push notification highlighting that message in their Direct Messages on Slack. Currently when I have a question for a team member I must ask it both in HacknPlan, AND message the team member on Slack to get their attention in the real world. If this push notification was automatic, it would save everyone on my team a good deal of time. (Yes they do get an email, but, as the Gamasutra post states single chat platform is ideal.)

#2 I'd love some kind of Slack integration which features notifications for hours logged only (within the Admin "Integration" Tab) so team members and I can see hours logged. On larger teams it can become cumbersome to see all changes in “Development notations” or “General Notifications" so a way to select when either anyone, or even a specific team member logs hours would be awesome. I Looked into setting up a slack forwarding bot for hour info forwarding from #hacknplan_changelog to #hacknplan_hours but it requires some API and I don’t know if it’s worth my time to either find a bot within a GitHub library or code the API myself.

Again, HacknPlan already has good integration, but as the tool evolves, I hope additional functionality is added in the Integration tab. 

While I am talking about HacknPlan features I'd love implemented, here is a HUGE one which will be a massive time saver: I would LOVE for a way to for team members to be able to rate meetings, other team members, and specific objects right in the GDM. (This can be sued for concept art, features, sound fx, etc.) Currently we use slack, and that is good, but I want something integrated which saves everyone's vote and have tied into the GDM, itself.

To be able to do a survey and have it be radically transparent among the team would be epic. Let me give some context:


Ray Dalio, the founder, chair, and co-chief investment officer of Bridgewater Associates (and one of the 100 wealthiest people on the planet) has an awesome decision making tool in his company called "The Dot Collector." I think implementing some variation of "The Dot Collector" would be absolutely perfect for IndieDevs and Hacknplan. This would help not only for meetings, but also for getting feedback on elements of the GDM. Need to get feedback on that new death animation? Well, easy fix with the Dot Collector! People can see their own rating and see what everyone else thought, too! that way they don’t let their personal bias get in the way of the final product!

In the below video Ray Dalio first talks about the very painful lesson he learned which changed his  thinking about decision making and leadership. This eventually led him to adopt "Radical Honesty/Transparency" and "Algorithmic Decision Making" within his company (skip ahead to 6:20 if you don't want the backstory -- and skip to 9:16 for info on the "The Dot Collector"). Basically he gained enough humility to balance out his audacity, and has built his company culture around this new form of radical honesty.

In sum, Ray Dalio needed to create an environment where his team felt comfortable to disagree with him so that he could stress test his perspective -- an "Idea Meritocracy" not an autocracy where one person leads and others follow, AND not a democracy where everyone's points of view were equally valued. But instead an idea meritocracy where the best ideas would win out. In order to this, however, he needed to create "Radical Truthfulness" and "Radical Transparency." AKA, teams needed to say what they really believed, but also see what others were saying, too. 

For Indie Game Devs this is a huge game changer (sorry, horrible pun!) which will not only allow all team members to quickly offer feedback on new features, art, game mechanics, sound FX, or meetings, but also do so in a way which balances this feedback based on each person specific skill sets and subject matter expertise.

Additionally, by allowing EVERYONE in the discussion to see what other people feel and say (after they cast their vote) it give that much needed perspective allowing each team member (including the Creative Director!) to see their own opinion as just one of many. This causes people to naturally start asking themselves "How do I know my opinion is right?"

This shift in perspective is like going from seeing in only one dimensionto seeing in multiple dimensions, and shifts the conversation from arguing over opinions to figuring out objective criteria for figuring out which opinions are best! There are a lot more details about The Dot Collector and for those looking for more info on how it works, and how Ray Dalio and his company uses the system, check out this Quartz article: 

"At the world’s largest hedge fund, 24-year-olds use “dots” to critique their CEO." 

To have a simpler version of the The Dot Collector in HacknPlan (linked to the GDM, and scheduled meeting times) would allow IndieGame teams, and the Creative Director, to have a quick and easy way to quickly come to a collective decision on a new features versus individually making it on their own. Collective decision making is much stronger than individual decision making when its done well and paired with strong leadership, and Ray Dalio states it has been the "secret sauce" behind his company extraordinary success (and his vast personal wealth.)

While we strive for "Radical Honesty" at Apotheosis Studios, other Creative Directors and/or IndieDev Teams might not find this transparent approach to be a good fit for them. According to Ray Dalio's company's research, this aproach does not work well for 25% of the population.

According to neuroscience, there is a part of our brain, the prefrontal cortex, which would like to know our mistakes and weaknesses so that we may do better personally and professionally. 

BUT, there is another part of the brain which views this whole process of honesty and transparency as a "tax," and that's the amygdala. Basically, there are two "you"s inside of you. (This is explored in CGP Grey's Video "You Are Two" which is trippy AF!)

But to sum up, there is an emotional you, and an intellectual you and often they are not only at odds, but are actively working against not only each other, but the system that is "you" as a whole. Some people can bridge this gap and some can not. 

BUT don't lose hope, because with mindfulness, teamwork, and good leadership, this battle can be won in the majority of team members to the betterment of not only one's self, but also whatever project you are working on, Indie or otherwise!

Shadow of the Moon Progress Update

Wow. OK, that was intense! Reeling it back a bit, I want to relay a super quick update on our engine from our programmer: On the coding front we have planned out a very unique method for storing and handling game objects (level design elements, enemies, and objects). Our feature tracks unique aspects of those objects even if they are not onscreen. Importantly, it does not limit what our objects are able to do when they are off screen (which is usually limited due to efficiency issues). Lucky for us, our engine won’t suffer slowdowns despite tracking relevant information about the object. We are happy about this for obvious reasons :)

On the GDD and Story front, Joe and I have been hard at work fleshing out the GDD and breaking down the golden path of the game, allowing us to better refine gameplay and character development. We have a log way to go, but are making great progress!

In our next DevLog, we will highlight our new Sound Director, but for now will have to bid you all a fond farewell. I have a bunch more work to do and can't DevDiary all day, sadly!

Again, we are so excited to welcome David Granjo to team Apotheosis Studios! We are really excited to see the concept art David creates for Shadow of the Moon in the coming days!

Here is a quick glimpse below and to the right of what you should be expecting in the next few weeks, concept art wise! After some preliminary sketches we will then have full color drafts to share, too!  We have a lot of exciting art headed your way and are stoked to hear what you think! 

In the meantime, please follow us on: Twitter @ApotheosisStu and sign up to our Apotheosis Studios Newsletter by clicking HERE so you don't miss our next DevLog! See you soon!