Doing Something Every Day of 2017: COMPLETE

In 2016 I undertook a project to learn something every day for the entire year. But what to do in 2017? Should I call that good, or continue for another year, or do something different? I decided not to do exactly the same thing, but to continue to apply the same routine and tools that had worked for me on the learning project towards a single larger creative project.

From Orbit

And so 2017 was for me a year spent working on my indie game From Orbit. Here’s what it looked like at the beginning of the year:

From Orbit - Dev Build - Jan 2017

And this is what it looks like at the end:

From Orbit - Dev Build - Dec 2017

A lot better, but still a long way to go. There’s also a lot of work that one screenshot doesn’t capture, notably the music and sound effects, but also more screens in the game flow, gameplay, and so on.

Check out the From Orbit dev log if you’re interested in more detail.

Tentacle Head Games, Inc.

In service of beginning preparations for selling and distributing From Orbit, as well as my general curiosity and desire to see how things work, I incorporated my company, Tentacle Head Games. While it involved a lot of reading and a decent amount of paperwork, it wasn’t that difficult to get everything set up. Maybe I’ll change my tune when I do corporate taxes for the first time in a couple of months, but for a company that has spent a few thousand dollars and not made a dime yet, I’m hopeful that won’t be too bad either.


Valve shut down the indie game channel Greenlight this year, and replaced it with Steam Direct. Once my company was set up and Steam Direct came online, I signed up ($100) and got From Orbit deployed for private testing. There’s no public Steam page visible for From Orbit yet, but that $100 has already reaped the benefit of being able to use Steam as a build distribution system for testing and previews. It sure beats sending zip files on Dropbox (no offense) for game build deployment.


To really ensure I could knuckle down and spend a good solid amount of time working on my game, I took a full 6 months off (unpaid) from work in the middle of the year. I am incredibly fortunate to be in a position where I am able to comfortably do this without having to fear for my financial stability, as well as having a flexible employer that was willing to support such an arrangement.

I was a bit concerned at the beginning, would I really be able to make use of that time off to work on my project or would I slack off the whole time and come out of it feeling frustrated and disappointed with myself? But it worked out, in large part I believe due to the experience with my 2016 learning project. I was able to keep a regular rhythm, essentially the same work week as usual, Monday-Friday 10-6.

Doing Things

During Learn A Thing Every Day Of 2016 I posted updates every month, but that takes quite a bit of time. Time is money, friend. I didn’t post throughout 2017, but I did still keep track of what I was doing day to day in a google sheet.

A representative month from my 2017 tracking sheet.

How’d that turn out?

I used Toggl to track my time spent on From Orbit as well as on side tasks like writing blog posts, practicing 3D modeling, etc. I wasn’t as fastidious with tracking time on non From Orbit tasks, so Learning is probably lower than actual, and Art was clearly way off, so I’ll just go by the days I spent time on some art.

I started tracking Outside during my sabbatical because I was concerned I might become a hermit. Turns out I did not, but I am curious how much making a conscious effort to avoid it made a difference.

Weekly Goals

I kept a new list this year, of weekly goals…


This was an interesting exercise, and what I learned was that it’s very hard to convince myself to sit and do absolutely nothing, even for as little as 5 minutes a week.

How’d I do? 8 times. I sat quietly for a few minutes, with no task or goal all of 8 times, I’d basically given up by August.

I am by no means a workaholic. I have spent the past 2 years getting better at working more (on the things I care about). I will gladly spend hours reading or noodling about in World of Warcraft on a whim. I’m more than happy to go camping out of cellphone coverage and sit with some tea by a fire for a few days.

But I still find it very difficult to put everything down and sit for even a few minutes when there are entertainment and productivity machines close at hand. Interesting.

Should I give this another go in 2018? I’m not sure. I didn’t get any particular satisfaction out of the times I did successfully do nothing for a while. Maybe I should have chosen an absolute minimum… say 1 minute a day. Like the 1 push-up workout challenge, once you’ve done 1 it feels silly not to do a few more. It’s getting started that is the hardest part.


Went reasonably well, audio books helped a lot (gyms are boring places). I started to look forward to the “reading” time, and could think of the exercise as incidental.

32 weeks succeeded, I tailed off at the end of the year in particular. A couple weeks in a row interrupted by travel, family or colds and it becomes easier to put off the next time.


This went really well, although it was still surprisingly difficult to talk myself into carving out some time every week to play a game that I wasn’t certain I would enjoy.

I played 44 new games this year, even if only for 20-30 minutes (in some cases, that was all that was warranted).

About 15 of which I can say with confidence that I enjoyed enough that I felt like going back to them again later, and a few more than were enjoyable and I’d like to play more of if I had more time.

All in all it was a great way to see more of the great creative work being done in games. I feel like I should probably expand on this routine in the future, and spend some time thinking more critically about each game that I try in order to improve my own skills and understanding of game design and production.


What can I say, I did a few things. 21 tasks checked off over the year which is… not that many. But I also have a pretty chore free life in general (eg. no kids). That being said, it was a good motivating tool to just get things done and not leave them lying around longer than needed, weighing on my mind.


And finally, I kept track of what I read (or listened to) throughout the year. I read 8 books and listened to 4 audiobooks. Many of which were ideas from my friend Roger’s excellent write up of what he has read the previous year, because he invariably chooses tons of great stuff.

I’d like to write up a similar list, in the hopes it is similarly useful to someone.

Onward, 2018

2017 was all about making progress on From Orbit. And I was about to write that 2018 will be about finishing it, but I don’t know if that’s right approach to take.

My lessons from the past two years of projects have been to focus on progress, and taking each next step. It is my goal to finish From Orbit in 2018… that’s what I’ll be shooting for… but it’s probably best to focus on the day to day.

Each day I’ll work on the next thing that needs to get done. What I can do is make decisions about what needs doing next by considering whether it will help complete From Orbit in 2018.


Since almost all of my creative effort this year was aimed at From Orbit, I didn’t spend much time on anything else, but did manage to sneak in a few things…

Low Poly Game Tiles

From brainchildpl’s youtube tutorial 3d Isometric Game Tiles

2D Baker Lip Sync

From the CG Cookie Course Demystifying Lip Sync Animation