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A blog is not a diary

I never had a diary as a kid. I was a boy and boys don’t have diaries, right? When I started blogging (before it was called “blogging”, I might add), I wrote for the explicit purpose of entertaining others. I knew that what I was writing would be read by others, so I crafted my entries that way…but that is not a diary. You could use a blog as a diary but just the fact that a blog is public changes the entire relationship between you and your prose. But what happens when you start a diary as a private thing but then make it public after the fact?

Lift Off
Not a story, not a guide. A dev diary.

One of my co-workers threw me a link to a developer’s diary of an iPhone game, The Last Rocket. My friend knows that I’m a gamer and made a few games here and there, so I’m sure that’s why he shared it, but the concept of publishing a developer diary made more of an impact on me than the game or story itself.

I have notebooks upon notebooks lying around the house that are filled with sketches, page designs, logos, database tables, level designs, web problems…the list goes on and on, but I never really annotate them in any sort of detail. In one way they are just visual brain dumps that I sometimes will go back to but not often (and certainly not as often as I should). I keep all the “thinking” in my head and after reading through Lift Off, I’m beginning to realize that’s a bad idea…and not just because you can sell it for $10 online (which is way overpriced).

Lift Off is not a story, nor does it have any guides or helpful information on how to make your own game. It is literally a diary that follows the author, Shaun Inman, on a 140-day journey to create an iPhone. He jots down what he did for each day along with questions he has of himself and often a few tweets. A lot of the notes are about the specific language he was using to program the game and otherwise aren’t very interesting, but what was most appealing to me was just following his moods while he designed and programmed.

In what is a really quick and easy read, he manages to hit every moment that any developer/designer comes across during a project. Excitement, fatigue, frustration, giving up, second guessing, quitting, procrastinating…they’re all there and it’s not only fun to see how he tries to handle each of them, but that here is someone that has the same problems I do! I’ve read many books about game design and web design but none of them get you inside the head of someone building a game. Sure, they’re great for info on theory and concepts but seem to deal within ideals…and few people get that opportunity.

Never too late to try an idea

I give up or cancel most of the projects I start. A lot of them don’t even get a release. Only a few have seen completion and even fewer of those have survived more than a month or so after launch, but all of them had a notebook full of ideas attached to them. And despite many of the projects being dead and long out of my head, the notebooks remain, scattered around my house in every nook and cranny possible. I’m now thinking about taking some of my very old notebooks and putting photos up and annotating them long AFTER their life cycle. Like I said, most of my notebooks are doodles, not words, so I think it could be fun to revisit them and see I can even figure out what I was thinking…of course, this is then another project that sounds good at the moment but may never come to pass (unless I make a notebook for my notebook).

However, one thing I hope I can start is a dev diary of my own, particularly as I continue working on my Redline Derby project. Redline Derby is something that I don’t see going away (ever) but something I will continue to support and improve, so while I may not have any early thoughts on record, I can start now and see what happens. What is likely to happen is I do it once and stop, which is fine because this diary will NOT be a blog. It will be a diary.