Now that Recap: 2018, part one of this little duology, is done, so is 2018 itself in my book! Definitely won't forget about it, but I won't let it get in my way either; it already happened!
Keeping my eyes forward, not up or down (remember, don't want to drive off a cliff), I've taken a look into my possible future and written its achieved goals down for your perusal. I'll be working to transform that hypothetical timeline into this timeline as the year proceeds.
If only I actually could see the future...well here's Roadmap: 2019. Onward and upward!
Release the Tennis RPG's vertical slice
Of all the projects I want to complete in 2019, of all the goals, this one is at the top. I really don't know how feasible this is, at all...but *I aim to have a fully complete, released vertical slice for a large-scale project by year's end: the Tennis RPG. * By its completion it will have a name, its own page on the upcoming EnMod Games website...I have plans for this one.
I won't talk about plot or concept here, except for this: imagine adventure mode in Mario Tennis on the Game Boy Color/Advance, but in a much larger scope and accompanied by a plot that goes beyond "I wanna be the best!". I know I can't be the only one dissatisfied with the original games' adventure mode scopes, so this game's for anyone of a similar mind.
It's also for a 17-years-younger me, who wished he knew how to make his own game and carry out this vision himself. Little did he know current me might actually have a shot at it!
If you want to join me on this, our inbox is always open at firstname.lastname@example.org. To quote a certain egg-shaped villain, "You know what they say: the more the merrier!"
Realize my domain's original vision
Way back in 2015 I envisioned a version of my portfolio/landing site with div transitions for each page, a row of labeled icons as a nav (that would stay a row of buttons on mobile and not collapse into a burger), and bold, stark contrast. A few attempts to achieve this vision properly would dominate much of my free time that year, the following year being the same when I had time to devote to it. Check out the source for this vision here, and a live demo here.
Eventually, I scrapped those failed attempts in favor of a solution that was much more practical, albeit not really what I had in my head. It was mobile-first, single-page scroll, proper contrast...very much a by-the-book landing page with my information presented. I've kept it since then and modified its color scheme for this blog, because of the newsprint-like readability I get from it...but it still has me wanting more.
With the development of my new, true-to-self identity design and more tools and knowledge under my belt, I'm now confident that I can finally, properly implement my original vision for my landing page and all of its sibling pages. I'll be doing this with a dramatic shift in design to match my new identity design, in both UX and aesthetic, through a personal design system. More details on that later!
As you might expect, upending my entire domain to replace it with a new one won't be trivial. To assist with this I'll be using Gatsby.js (a React-oriented static site generator) along with my site's existing DatoCMS backend thanks to Gatsby's data source plugin, as well as trying my hand at
The key here is Gatsby's facilitation of rapid React development through its opinionated workflows and patterns, much like Nuxt or Next, but focused on static generation. While I could use the amazing static site generator Spike and PostCSS, proven tools my body of work owes a lot to, Gatsby and
styled-components are the practical choices for this project considering my intent to focus heavily on developing my React skills in 2019.
Publish more portfolio projects
To stay on top of evolving landscapes in software development and advance one's career, portfolio projects are paramount. This is the next most important item for 2019 for that reason: Without a sufficiently large roster of polished projects under my belt I'm not competing at a level that would foster progression. Like the muscle in your heart, if it's not being pushed it's not getting stronger. These projects are how I'll push.
Game jam submissions
If I want the larger projects like the Tennis RPG done, I need my skills at a level I can be confident in relying on for large projects. Ideally I'll be working with a team of devs who all excel in their craft, and that will lessen my cognitive and creative load. Until then I have myself and those who support me.
Thankfully, what I can do to sharpen those skills is release small, focused games from beginning to end. This year I want to tackle the following seven jams, releasing for at least one occurrence of each to grow the repertoire I described in Recap: 2018. Links are to either the jam's homepage, or the current/most recent jam page on itch.io:
- Godot Wild Jam: There's mutiple chances for entry throughout the year, I'll likely have this one done first.
- Godot Game Jam: Been meaning to submit to this since last year! There's going to be four in 2019 if I recall correctly.
- GitHub GameOff: Every time I think of submitting to this one something always comes up. We'll see this time.
- Ludum Dare: Almost like a rite of passage, this jam. Hoping to pull it off at least twice.
- Weekly Game Jam: If any of these are unavailable and I'm itching to jam, the Weekly Game Jam can serve as a nice stopgap.
- Twine Games Jam - This one's mainly for writing and narrative progression practice, but also to defend my title
- 48 Secret Jam: Always liked the topics of this one, they seemed to be a good challenge.
This should keep release cadence steady as well as generate some buzz for the team (assuming they go well). To get these projects out I can't let my circumstances dictate when they'll be made, I'll be making the time for them. Progress in other areas will allow some time to be allocated here in the long run.
Tech-specific web development ideas
I can definitely apply the title "generalist" to my skillset in almost every endeavor I've embarked on. Web development, unfortunately, has been one of those endeavors, although it's a field (especially with web applications) where being a skilled generalist is lauded, almost encouraged! We call it "full-stack", a title often used to refer to those who are adept at both front end (browser-side) and back end (server-side) development.
I say this is unfortunate, because it's misleading. While "full-stack" seems generalist, I'd say it's really dual-specialist; you need to be on top of your game on both "sides" of a project to develop a truly strong full-stack solution. Skimping on the front end makes user experience suffer (among other things), and developing a lackluster back end means the solution doesn't work as expected to begin with.
How does one gain the skills they need to compete on both the front and back end? More importantly, how does one improve at using both together? Practice, practice, practice!
- EnMod Games landing page: Given all of the great things I've heard about Gatsby it can't hurt to try a few projects with it. I've also wanted to use Contentful's GraphQL API in a project just to see it in action, so this one will be both together.
- Deliveroo clone: The idea is to follow this exact guide, but using Next instead of Nuxt! Having already rebuilt my SO's site in Nuxt I think it's time to try the React equivalent, this time with a real-world eCommerce-esque use case. Additionally, Strapi has looked very appealing as a concept and I've been eyeing it for a while. Time to tackle it!
- React Native application: I have no idea what I want this one to be, but I've been fascinated with the idea of sharing a codebase across various platforms. What better time to give it a go than the present?
- Sortedvania: This is a Castlevania-themed project I first attempted with Ractive.js years ago. Now I want to actually finish the idea using React, for practice.
These are just a few of the projects I've had sitting on the backburner, simmering...more will be added to my "queue" as I either finish these or come up with more projects. The goal is to not let anything simmer so long that it burns.
Complete and open-source my personal design system
In development since reinventing my identity design has been my personal design system, the "Noel Quiles framework," if you will. For too long I haven't had a design "voice" one could point out and identify as mine. I needed self-expression in my personal web/visual work, a fact I didn't realize until I designed my new logo. I thought I found the voice I had been looking for.
With the identity design changes in mind, I went forward with developing my personal design system. Followed CodyHouse's series on the subject as a loose guide, even made a repo for it...then spare time was cut short.
This year, the spare time will be made and the system implemented, then open-sourced for everyone to use! That means a solid CSS foundation, iconography, a suite of components in both React and Vue, the works! It's the library of resources I wish I had, and the one my future self will thank me for making. There will probably be a series of posts on this coming, or they'll just be series-less. But they'll come.
Improve my overall health
Honestly this goal should be a higher priority this year, but the idea is to have this being worked on between all the other goals, be it at rest, between work sessions, at meals. If it's weaved in and becomes second nature, my health will take care of itself.
To achieve this in any reasonable, efficient fashion, I need to train my body and mind together, and really take control of the latter. Much of my 2018 stress came from brain fog, burnout, forgetting major details...my mind was a mess, and my body wasn't being cleared of the stress my mind brought on. Here's my plan for preventing those issues in 2019.
Achieve level two of taijiquan
Taking up a martial art is a method of wresting command of one's mind and body from oneself, of bringing mind and body into union and under conscious control. Furthermore, the internal martial arts demand a transfer of conscious control to the subconscious and eventually, the unconscious. Offloading my various mental dilemmas and problems from my conscious mind is already done through sleep (as various studies have shown), but there's just too much there for sleep and my free workout time to handle. That's where being proactive about it through practicing an internal martial art comes in.
In researching the philosophies and ideas behind many internal martial arts, those of taijiquan resonated most with me. The ideas of operating from stillness, from balance, from the twining of action and inaction were very close to how my mind has processed, well, life up to this point. That kind of balance, an ebb and flow of movement under one's control is at the core of taijiquan, to my understanding.
Taijiquan has five levels of mastery according to Chen family grandmaster Chen Xiaowang. The first two are where the foundations are laid: form and posture, followed by honing chi flow. While I don't believe in chi as a physical or chemical "life force", it makes total sense to me as a concept of movement and action flow, as well as mental control and energy in the scientific sense, the type measured in Joules that does work. Therefore, level two is the one I should aim to achieve this year at minimum, training in level one along the way. To train to that level is to apply the proper control to my emotions, my thoughts, my body...my self in its entirety. I didn't do nearly enough training last year, so 2019 is when it has to happen.
Get my mind and body in gear
Supplemental to practicing taijiquan (and really, peace of mind) is maintenance and improvement of mental and physical health. The former took a major beating last year due to both external and internal stressors, lack of rest, lack of meditation, despite warnings given by others (sorry!). The latter improved dramatically over various years and especially in 2018, but still leaves a lot to be desired, especially as of late.
Of course, taijiquan itself does wonders for the needs of meditation, physical exercise, and relief of built up stress that comes from those two aspects of the training. What training can't do wonders for are external forces, especially those inflicted consciously on myself like bad behavioral habits or lackluster nutrition.
It will take my own specific variant of cognitive behavioral therapy to bring those habits in line, habits like bad time management outside of work or getting little sleep...definitely the latter more than anything. As for nutrition, while it hasn't affected my health that severely up to now, I know that if it ever gets out of hand I can consider my weight loss and cholesterol improvements to have been for naught. Without getting too personal I know these are some issues I can (and will) prevent.
Mark my words!
With the path set, the road mapped, the list laid out, and the goals for 2019 written down, I know I have a boatload of work to do. Looking back though, it doesn't seem as bad as it did when I first had the idea for this post. No...this list actually seems...doable.
Just have to remember to keep the fire fed, and it'll keep burning.