Goodbye 2016

I didn’t do any blogging this year. That’s probably for the best. This year has had a lot of ups and downs. For my kids, mostly ups. They are doing fantastic. Though they are behind on some milestones, they are intelligent and super happy. What more could a dad ask for?

In other aspects of my life, 2016 was not so great. And for the world at large, 2016 was horrific. Our next President is already hard at work to make the world a terrible place before he’s even in office. We saw more high profile celebrity deaths in any year I can remember. The world is showing many more ways that climate change is hurting us. Things were just rough.

But let’s not dwell on that. I’m trying to focus on being positive, even if that means ignoring the negative things I have no control over. Looking back over the year, here are some things I find are worth a mention:

  • My job at Lyons didn’t work out, but I am now a contractor with Moku Collective. There are a lot of great people there (great clients too). It’s a good place for me.
  • My pirates-themed Pathfinder game fell apart, but we are now having a lot of fun playing through Mummy’s Mask. I don’t foresee any problems with us finishing this at this time. And my 3D terrain and lighting is better than ever.
  • I didn’t read many books this year, but Brandon Sanderson gave me my two favorites of 2016: The Bands of Mourning, and Mistborn: Secret History. I love the Mistborn series. Go read them so we can chat about how great they are.
  • I helped out my friends at Ding develop some video game ideas. We didn’t publish anything but I learned a lot and had fun.
  • I played many video games and even finished nine of them. Of those, I have to mention three for different reasons:
    • The Stanley Parable. It’s best to go into this game with no knowledge of what’s within. Just play it. You can beat it very quickly and there are multiple stories so you will enjoy playing it numerous times.
    • Ultimate Chicken Horse. Single screen multiplayer games are mostly a thing of the past. So when a good one comes along, I have to mention it. This is a great party game that I can’t rightfully explain. Look up a video to see the mayhem and then pick it up.
    • Dark Souls 3. I’m still torn on whether I consider this one better or worse than the first Dark Souls. I’m still tempted to put the original on top, but they are quite close. I can’t wait to dive back in for the DLC once it’s all released.
  • I played two dozen tabletop games. The one that deserves the biggest mention is Pandemic: Legacy. It’s a story version consisting of 12-24 games of Pandemic with the rules changing every game or so to reflect the story progression. It’s one of the highest rated games on boardgamegeek and for good reason. I highly recommend this to any group of seasoned tabletop gamers. For the relative newbies, pick up the original Pandemic which is also great.
  • For TV, movies, and anime, a few things deserve mention:
    • Evangelion movie 3 was just not good. I keep trying to think of a way for it to be good because of my love for the series but I can’t. I hope movie 4 gets back on track.
    • One-Punch Man is my favorite anime in years. I highly recommend it for fans of humorous action.
    • Zootopia is one of my favorite movies in a long time. It seems like this year had a lot of good animated features but I’m quite behind. Hopefully I’ll catch them next year.
    • I caught up on quite a few movies I missed out on: Rumble in the Bronx, Way of the Dragon, Spies Like Us, and Training Day. All worth a watch
    • The new Voltron on Netflix is surprisingly good. I didn’t expect that, but I highly recommend it.

So 2016 wasn’t all bad. I’m planning 2017 now and I’m trying to double down on the things that make me happy (time with friends and family) and cut way down on the things that don’t (wasting time on the internet mainly). I don’t call them resolutions any more, but I’ll post about my 2017 plans in a few days once I’ve finished them.


Game development pause

I do still want to learn more game development. But my life has taken some turns since earlier this year. The biggest one is that the boys growing older (13.5 months now) means they need more attention, or at least more invested attention. It’s not just holding, feeding, and diapers now. And that mental energy means I may not have the desire to learn something at 9pm after everyone has gone to sleep.

The other huge change is that I now work at Lyons Consulting Group. I’m still doing e-commerce sites and I’ll be able to announce the one I’m working on when it launches.

I suspect I’ll get back to learning game development soon as the itch is returning. But I won’t be working on the mini-MOBA idea. I still think it’s a good idea and something achievable by a very small team, or even one person. But as I researched online functionality, I realized that’s not my interest. I don’t enjoy coding those features as much as the rest of a game (i.e. the actual game).

I have a few other ideas for things to work on. I just have to pick one that I’ll be happy doing as a tiny (and probably ugly) game.

Concept art begins

I designed four heroes for my mini MOBA as well as a base, towers, and two creeps. Since I’m not talented with art and I’m new to Unity, I of course would be sure to design things simple to develop and animate, right? Well, not really. But I can always dial back on the designs when I build them.

Despite that I’ve played in a few MOBAs, it’s actually not hugely difficult to come up with unique heroes. There will of course be some easy comparisons to make. There can only be so many archers, fire mages, big hulking tanks that have their own unique kits. It’s a fun challenge to try to break out of those molds and come up with something new.

Instead of looking into MOBAs or other video games for inspiration, I thought about some interesting ideas I’ve had in my tabletop Pathfinder games. That opens up many concepts I might not have otherwise considered.


This is my first update without progress in the training. I came up with an idea for a game. I’ve actually always maintained a folder of game ideas despite not being a game developer. Some are good, some not so good.

The idea I had today is for something to prototype with Unity 2D. It’s achievable, though perhaps not easy. I’m going to make a mini MOBA. A MMOBA. Of course, since I may not get past the prototype phase it probably won’t be online, so just a MMBA, pronounced “mmmm, bah”.

Halfway through Unity 2D training

I’m about halfway through the training now and it has indeed been quite fun. The training helps you build a simple 2D platformer featuring a spaceman collecting crystals, alien artifacts, and avoiding enemy aliens.

The 2D tools in Unity are really simple to use. There are some quirks to look out for though. Even though the tools make building a simple 2D game almost drag-and-drop, you’re still working in a physics engine so every component comes with a certain amount of baggage, which may be good or bad depending on your goals. I suspect after spending more time in the tools this will be no big deal as I’ll always know how to work around or change the existing behaviors.

One thing I’m proud of so far is that while the training has you build keyboard input, I added on controller input. Unity makes this simple of course, but this is the first thing I wrote myself in this endeavor.

It begins with Unity 2D

I’ve been curious about making a video game for a long time now. I made some tiny games in college, but that feels like a lifetime ago. The tools have changed completely and there is now more support online than there ever has been with an amazing indie community as well.

Unity logoToday, I signed up for the free trial on Lynda so that I could take the Unity 2D Essential Training. I haven’t had much time to get through the course yet, but the tools in Unity are really powerful. This will be fun.

But not too fun. This sobering article on Gamasutra has some harsh truths about indie development myths. It’s worth a read if you have delusions of grandeur. I just want to make something for myself so I don’t mind if I fail or nobody likes (or even plays) it.

With each of these entries in my private files, I’m keeping track of the time and money I spend on this project. In future posts, I will collect the data and publish it, perhaps with pretty graphs.

Game Development Log

In my last entry I promised I would write a post about Zack’s heart defect. I have it in draft form already but I really want it to be informative and useful to those who might come across it so it needs some more time and care before the world sees it.

In the meantime, I’m making a video game. Very slowly. I was going to keep a private journal detailing the whole process but decided to go public with it instead. I’m documenting the entire process. That begins tomorrow.

Welcome to the world, my babies

It’s been a while since I posted here. But now, more than ever, I have things to talk about. On October 14, 2014, Christina and I welcomed our beautiful twin boys to the world, Zachary and Julian. It was a day both wonderful and stressful, amazing and terrifying. Most days since then have been the same.

It’s been almost three months since then and the little guys are now experts at smiling, eating, and peeing. They also excel at stealing my sleep time, and free time, and time in general. But it’s worth it.

This site isn’t turning into baby central, I promise. For that, you have to know me and friend me on Facebook. But you will see the occasional Brownell boy post, particularly if they do something awesome or adorable.

My focus will be on saying something with meaning, something worth saying. To me, anyway. You all may still find it quite boring. And that’s fine. My next post will be about heart defects, in particular the one my boy Zachary was born with and the experience we went through to fix it.

Resolution: lose weight

I managed to keep my weight steady in 2013 but in the early days of this year gained some more. Several days ago I was at my highest ever: 240.

I’m going to have a series of goals this year to get to a lower weight. I don’t want to have an overall goal for the year because if it looks like I won’t achieve it due to early year setbacks, it will discourage me.

I set my first goal a few days ago to lose 5 pounds. I only have 3.3 pounds to go.

Farewell 2013

Yes, I waited a year or so in between blog posts. And this despite that I had resolved to blog more. Silly me.

It turns out blogging is pretty much dead, at least in the sense that many people maintain personal blogs about themselves or whatever they feel like talking about. Even Twitter now has more niche services aimed specifically at teens or other groups fighting for its supremacy.

But I do still want to post here and much more often. And I don’t even care who’s reading.

2013 was a good year for me. The most important event was buying a house. This has been a dream for Christina and me for years. We saved and saved, even more than we needed, and ended up with a fantastic little house. We’re in a great location and it’s perfect for entertaining or just having a quiet night at home.

The main thing I really made no progress on this year was losing weight. According to my records, I lost .4 pounds, so no change at all, but at least I didn’t get bigger.

I also recorded every game, TV show, anime, movie, and book I read. This is fun for me. Yes, really. I actually didn’t finish any new video games this year, which is strange. I have a habit of leaving games unfinished but this year was particularly bad. I blame League of Legends as it took a lot of my gaming time.

I finished 13 books, mostly setting/rules books for my Pathfinder games. The most important book I read was The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. This book and the lecture that preceded it went viral several years ago, but it’s never too late to take the core messages away from Randy’s words. Have fun, follow your dreams, and make the most of life. Sappy? Sure. But still correct.

I watched quite a few movies this year, though I wanted to make more trips to the theaters. Call me old-fashioned but I enjoy seeing movies with the public. I can’t pick just one movie to comment about to here are a few:

  • Star Trek: Into Darkness. I enjoyed this, as a popcorn movie and as a Star Trek movie. The original Star Trek series and some of its movies get put on a pedestal that no new movie could ever reach. I think the original series was corny as hell. I enjoy the original and reboot for different reasons.
  • Thor: The Dark World. Christina is a major Loki fangirl. But beyond that, I liked this movie, especially as an action comic book movie. Film critics and average movie-goers alike commonly forget that comic books are typically about people punching other people. Almost every plot in Marvel/DC comics are an excuse to have people punch other people. In that sense, this movie delivered. And the plot behind the punching was good enough for me.
  • Evil Dead. This reboot was great. Highly recommended for fans of classic horror with a bit of a gruesome twist.
  • Someone’s Gaze (Dareka no Manazashi). An animated short that I found super touching.

To wrap up my 2013 resolutions, I didn’t go hiking or do as much cooking as I wanted, though Christina has cooked quite a bit since we moved into the house. 2014 is looking bright. With the house out of the way, we can focus on saving money for whatever surprises await us.