I want to start by saying, I don't usually do these New year write ups, but if there was ever a year worth remembering, 2020 is it.
A lot has happened in these 12 months. A global pandemic. The US election. Brexit. And after today, the death of Flash.
Despite all of that, I have to say, it's been a pretty decent year for me, despite so many low points.
I made a game!
I started this year the way I'm ending it (more on that later), by working on a game.
In January, we hosted the Phaser Game Jam, which was a good opportunity for me to work on a game I started in the Wick Editor jam. The theme for that jam was to make something you might find in a classic Flash game, so I went with a cannon/toss game. Unfortunately, it was too ambitious for Wick's capabiities at the time, but it ported perfectly to Phaser. While it isn't as fully-featured as I would have liked, I was still happy to publish Fish Cannon in mid February!
Some day I really want to go back and update the game and make my original vision for it a reality.
Working on NG, Feeling Burnt Out...
For the last 5 years, I have primarily been focused on updating NG pages to the mobile-friendly design. It's been a long grind, and full of super tedious updates to get all the smallest details feeling just right.
And while I am SUPER proud of all the work I have done, UX design is probably my least favorite thing to do (I'm, much happier doing the engineering side of things).
I can't even remember all the little things I worked on this year.
I know I started the year handling fixes for the project system update we rolled out at the end of Dec 2019. There's a fuzzy period, and then I updated the PM system to be mobile friendly.
More fuzz, and then I added some updates to the playlists, including the construction of a new video player, just in time to host a watchalong party for the Among Us Jam (more on that later).
Fuzz.. fuzz... and then I put more work and features into the new video player, officially implementing it on the portal view pages.
More recently I've been trying to work on the game API pages, but there's always something higher priority popping up it seems (which has been quite frustrating, since the API has been neglected WAY too long).
I partnered up with @liljim several times to do UX updates on a bunch of the cool updates he put out. We just recently updated the movie and game hubs to use a new icon format (oh yeah, I updated that too lol), and now you can actually watch videos on the movie hub directly! (There's still some work I have to do there so you can also vote and review those without leaving the page, so look for that at some point next year.)
Anyway, all this work (especially the UX stuff) had me feeling pretty burned out a few times this year. It's something I've been experiencing pretty much since we started implementing this design in 2015, and had actually resulted in me looking at NG as nothing but work, and kind of pulling away from being a part of the community.
The thing with UX design is 90% of the interaction you get about it is criticism. When you are engineering new things, people are just as excited that there's a new feature as they are critical about any flaws it has.
Now, I'm not saying criticism is a bad thing. We've taken a lot of that, and really made the site a lot more user-friendly thanks to the feedback. But when you see the community as being nothing BUT critical for years, it's not really an enjoyable place to be.
I'd become pretty withdrawn for several years, but that has changed a lot this year...
The Newgrounds Podcast
My re-engagement with the community actually started last year, when @Will (aka WillKMR aka Will Koomer) asked me to come on his GroundsPatrol podcast to talk about a post I made in the BBS (I think we had been discussing the future of the blam/scouting systems or something).
I had no fucking idea who this guy was, and couldn't fathom that a NG-oriented podcast was going to be all that interesting. It was surely just the same critical people I was tired of hearing from, or the lame crowd that has nothing better to contribute than memes. But, I decided to check out his previous episodes before I blew him off, and I'm so glad I did.
Will's interview with @Troisnyx was the catalyst for sucking me back into this community. The way they talked about NG and how important it is to them, and how it's affected them was just so touching to me. For the first time in years I actually felt like what I was doing was not only appreciated, but it actually MATTERED.
So, I got on with Will, and used the platform to kind of pour my heart out a little, and it was super cathartic.
I followed the podcast and eagerly anticipated each new installment. And because I was enjoying that so much, I gave the A Couple of Crickets (by @GoodL and @Littlbox) podcast a listen. That one was a different vibe, but had that warm 'hey hang out with us' vibe, and just re-affirmed that a lot of people appreciate a lot of the things I've done on the site.
I ended up installing Discord to catch the live Crickets shows, and chat with the GroundsPatrol crew and found myself actually hanging out and chatting with NG users on a much more regular basis.
Later that year, I was asked to be a part of a crossover podcast with all 3 of those guys, called Operation 2009, where we talked about NG 10 years ago and we had a blast, and it was nice to see that people were recognizing me as more than the guy you @ for tech support.
So, when 2020 rolled around, I had a handful of friends I'd made on Discord, and I had fallen in love with the whole idea of NG-themed podcasts.
In early 2020, both GroundsPatrol and A Couple of Crickets decided to end their respective shows, which really bummed me out, but Will promised it wasn't the end, and in February, after a bunch of trial and error, both Will and GoodL announced a new, joint podcast called The Newgrounds Podcast. I was pretty stoked for that.
After they had done a couple of episodes, Will approached me about being a guest host from time to time. Since I'm usually a pretty busy guy, I said I could do it on a part time basis, doing shows on a few weekdays here and there at most. I was supposed to just pop on a few times a year and maybe help interview some game devs or whatever.
When March rolled around... well... I suddenly had a lot more free time to jump on podcasts for some reason....
I went from being an occasional guest host, to being on like 17 episodes since March. I've had a blast hanging out with all of the other hosts, and catching up with old friends/peers like @photonstorm, @almightyhans, @Mike, @Rucklo, @entropicorder, @Glaiel-Gamer, @matt-likes-swords and @puffballsunited, as well as meeting new artists and devs like
The COVID Era
So, 2020 had started pretty positively, and I had a lot of cool things going for me. I was getting back into the NG community, I was gonna hang out on the podcast sometimes, I got to work on a game, and things were looking up.
My family had plans to travel to Canada over the summer and visit family and hit Canada's Wonderland. We had bought season passes for our local theme/water park, Elitch Gardens, and we were even talking about a road trip for spring break.
The first shitty thing to happen was my grandma, who had been battling COPD for a while, was hospitalized (up in Canada), and things didn't look good. I booked a flight so I could go see her, and literally the day before I would have left, the first wave of COVID was hitting.
We decided it was a terrible idea to risk bringing a respiratory disease to someone with a terminal lug disease, and I had to cancel that trip. It's a good thing I did too, because the US/Canada border got closed before I would have come back.
My grandma did recover from that hospitalization enough that I was able to video chat with her on Facebook Messenger a few times, before she passed away in August. I was gutted that I couldn't be with the family or attend the funeral, but grateful we have the technology that enabled me to visit with her virtually those last few times.
When the US started doing lockdowns and quarantines, I found myself with a lot more free time, and a lot of boredom. That's when I started Party Games & Chill (that's next), and started doing more projects around the house.
Since we wouldn't be going to water parks or anything this year, we got an above ground pool just in time for my daughter's quarantine birthday party.
We spent a ton of time going on LONG walks and bike rides around the neighborhood and various parks. Since the gyms were closing, we spent a day cleaning the shit out of our garage and making it into a home gym. I'm still using that now, even though it's cold as balls.
With covid wrecking so man of our traditions, we decided to roll with it a few times. Instead of Turkey for thanksgiving and xmas, we spent all day on TG making a massive Italian feast from scratch. Xmas we went the other route and ordered a ton of Chinese food. Both meals were pretty epic.
Party Games & Chill
I love going out and socializing, and decided I was going to create some kind of environment where people could hang out and have fun. I'd always loved having game nights at my place, and we'd usually play card games or bust out a JackBox Party Pack on the TV. I figured the JackBox games would translate really well to a Discord group, since anyone could join in without ever having to buy or install anything.
So, I created the Party Games & Chill server. I spammed the link all over other Discord servers, on Facebook and Twitter, and on NG itself. I wasn't sure how many people would be interested, or what types of people would show up, so I was pleasantly surprised at how many fun/talented people popped in right away.
I can't even remember who has all come and gone from the group, but I know I have drawn a LOT of dicks with the likes of @xinxinix, @albegian, @nickconter, @jacob, @spadezer, @rgpanims, @realmrsnuggles, @lobstermango, @shitonastick, @oddlem, @will, @goodl, @littlbox, @splatterdash, @holden-liu, @deluca2400, @ninjamuffin99, @voicesbycorey, @octong, @johnnyguy, @bigtexastony, @jatmoz, @buhlboy, @brandybuizel, @bobbyjenkins, @slightly-crazy-dude, @thedyingsun, @enzocordeiro42, @luckodastars, @bluryach, @snailpirate, @vryskull, @zj, @nicksenny, and a few people who's NG names I do not know...
We have a core group that's grown to be really tight, but we're always happy to see new people pop in and hang out with us. A lot of these people I had never met before, and now it feels like we've been friends forever. Others have been friends for years, but had drifted away from NG, and got sucked back in. Not only has everyone there helped pass the boredom of COVID, but they have been pretty inspirational/motivational for me. I've collaborated on a few projects with the crew, and have simply been rediscovering how much I like to make art.
Earlier this summer, a bunch of us were joking around on the old GRNDSBreaking Discord (which has merged into the Newgrounds Podcast discord), about making a boy-band style song called "I'm a Simp for You". I forget who exactly was there, but I know @Fro and @voicesbycorey were part of it. Anyway, a few weeks later Corey asks me if I wanted to make the song for real as part of the Voice Acting Collab, along with Fro. So we bullied @RealMrSnuggles into making the music, and got a few other guys together and actually made a... song?
I also ended up making a cartoon for the NG Among Us Jam (more on that later), recruiting a bunch of people from Party Games & Chill to do all the voice acting and sound production. The animation was super cheap, but the VAs and MrSnuggles' audio production made it come out really great. The theme for the Jam was "The Purple Impostor".
Our group had been playing the game for a while, and I was notorious for making my name a color that didn't match my space suit, so I used that as the basis for the whole thing.
And, I even recorded some lines for @RGPAnims to use in an upcoming xmas collab, so that kinda counts as a 2020 collaboration.
Summer Block Party
This could have been filed under The Newgrounds Podcast, but it was such a huge event I think it deserves it's own spot on my list.
What started out as just a simple idea of inviting members of the NGP audience to hang out and maybe stream some art and stream some NG videos and music, without a lot of major fanfare, turned into what was, arguably, the biggest NG event of the year (SUCK IT PICO DAY!).
We invited @Xinxinix to help plan the artist side of the party, because of all the great work he had been doing with his Art Talks podcast, and when he saw we were thinking of putting together a halfassed event in like 1 week, he was all "Hell yeah, I'm in, but we need more time to set things up, omg *Eddie Murphy laugh*".
So with more time, we started concocting ideas like having a giveaway... but then we wanted to have BIG prizes, so we decided we should do a raffle to help cover costs. We recruited volunteers to run some party game rooms, got some DJs to play full sets, all while Xin was lining up groups of dope-ass artists. And we got really aggressive with promoting the event, to the point we decided we needed a big ticket item for the raffle; a Nintendo Switch.
You guys have no idea how much stress was involved (mostly by Xin and Will lol), getting things set up. For my part, I built a whole webpage for selling the raffle tickets and handling the random drawings in just a couple of days, and even made it mostly drunk proof (which Will laughed about until he almost fucked up using it a few times... then he truly appreciated it).
The party itself was amazing. Hundreds of NG users showed up to watch their favorite artists stream, to catch the DJS and play the games, or just hang out and mingle. It was so much fun, and everyone was super excited for the raffle results. We gave away so much stuff, thanks to generous prize donations from @luis, @wavetro, @ninjamuffin99, @brandybuizel, @TheDyingSun, AntonioMabs and @TomFulp, plus all the ticket sales and cash donations from the NG community.
It was probably the closest you could get to a Newgrounds Convention without having to leave your house. And apparently we have to go through all that stress again next year, so look forward to that...
We started playing a LOT of Among Us in Party Games & Chill late summer, early fall. The game was exploding everywhere, and it was cool to see the InnerSloth team seeing so much success.
Eventually, Tom announced that we were going to do an Among Us Jam (I mentioned my submission earlier), and we were able to get the whole InnerSloth team on The Newgrounds Podcast right after the jam deadline.
To help hype it all up, we ran Among Us party rooms on the NGP Discord all the way through Halloween. EVERYTHING was Among Us for like 2 straight months.
On the Jam's deadline, I hosted a watch-along party on the NGP Discord so everyone could see all the submissions (using the updated playlist system I had just finished at the time!). It was over 5 HOURS LONG, but there were so many great submissions. So many people showed up that the Discord stream actually got full and I had to dust off my Twitch account to stream.
Shortly after that we got to hang out with all 3 InnerSloth devs on the podcast, for one of my favorite interviews of the year.
I had tried doing Inktober a few times and could never find the time or drive to commit to making 31 ink drawings in a single month. This year, I decided to give Octobit a try instead, focusing on pixel art. Rather than letting it become overwhelming, I decided to force limitations on myself. I was only going to do small art with a limited palette, that could fit in a single image collage.
This was a very fun project and forced me to get some long-stagnant creative juices flowing. There's a good chance I'll be doing it again next year.
The Death of Flash
One other thing I put a fair bit of work into was getting Ruffle working on NG before the plugin officially dies today. There was a lot of small tweaks and updates to get things working well and secure, plus all the pestering of Mike for help or reporting issues.
But now that Ruffle is working well for a lot of older flash, NG is hosting a Flash Jam to give Flash one last hurrah. And this is where I'm ending my year. Using an old copy of Flash 8, and an even older @MindChamber, I am balls deep in building a new game. It's the first Flash game I've coded in like 13 years or so, and it's been a real trip getting re-acquainted with ActionScript 2.0.
The game is going to be kind of a hybrid of Alloy Arena and Super Crate Box. Basically the melee combat of Alloy, but the arcade style of SCB. I really hope you guys like it when it's finished, I can't wait to share it with you all in 2021, and also give the finger to all the Flash haters by releasing a working Flash game after the plugin is dead.
Well, that's about all I got. I'm sure other stuff happened, but I've been writing for way too long already, and I have to get ready to get drunk as hell tonight. So with that...