Happy new year, everybody! It’s been a little while in coming, but I’ve finally got to the point where I want to announce the project I’ve been working on privately for the last few months. I’m heading after a dream, and I want to share it with you.

But first some background.

I love designing games

I started my career in software development working on PC games back at the turn of the millennium. I worked for a fantastic little company called Elixir Studios, which sadly closed in 2005. I’ll never forget them: they gave me my first break into software development and I studied my craft under some fantastic mentors, notably Achim Stremplat and Jamie Doornbos. These guys taught me a love of good code, and a love of doing things right.

On leaving Elixir, I moved away from the games industry and into web programming, leaving C++ and Microsoft Visual Studio far behind me. I spent a few years shifting through a number of languages (Perl, PHP, Java, Python) before settling on Ruby as my interpreted language of choice. I’ve never lost that love for building and designing games, though, and I’ve kept my hand in over the years. I’ve always been more interested in designing games, rather than playing them: as a kid I was always the Dungeon Master, or the guy designing the adventure. As an 11 year old I used to write games in BASIC on BBC Micros and sell them to my friends for 10p each. I guess you could say it’s built in to my psyche.

Sol Trader

Another realisation: one of the things that I’ve learnt in the last year is that I’d love to spend more time working on my own products. I have done this in a half-hearted fashion over the years, but my motivation tends to die off when the initial rush of enthusiasm fades. To help myself see it through to the end, I’ve decided to try to realise a long held dream. Alongside working with clients this year, I’m going to spend some of my remaining time building and releasing my first commercial game.

I’m therefore very pleased to announce Sol Trader - an open-ended space trading and exploration game set in our solar system in the near future.

The game itself has been in development since the end of October last year: it started as a side project with my kids (we originally named it Spacestuff) but has blossomed and grown into something much more. There’s some info on the website I’ve been putting together, but more will be forthcoming shortly. I’m aware that I’ve not got any screenshots yet, but once the first artwork goes in I’ll put some up. It’s already playable: my kids are already having great fun travelling between Earth and Venus via jump gates and landing on the planets.

When I’m ready for beta testers, I’ll put an announcement out on the mailing list: sign up at soltrader.net.

Motivate me!

One of the things I need to work on is the ability to complete my own projects. Working on a game is a great motivator, but I need help to keep my motivation up! I’d be very grateful if you’d drop me a note asking me how I’m getting on if you don’t hear from me for a while. Write a comment on a blog post, retweet something, sign up to get emails, ping me on twitter: every little bit of feedback I get (even if critical) helps to motivate me to work on it.

More on the game in future posts, including some thoughts on architecture, language choice and whether or how to release the source code. Crafting this codebase has already proved a treasure trove of interesting thoughts on code quality and testing, which I plan to share on this blog over time. I’m also aware that I’m breaking a few “indy game developer” rules: I’ll share my opinions about that, too.

Will I finish? Will it be a success? I’ve no idea, but I plan to learn as much as possible from doing it. At the very least, I’m shooting after a dream, and I’ll be pleased to finish 2012 having attempted it, whatever the outcome.

Have you got a half-baked dream you’re going to turn into reality this year? If not, why not?