Okay so this is a little late going out. the main reason for the delay has been good news, and I wanted to make sure it stuck before I wrote up something on it.
2014, In Review
My previous post wrapped up my later projects for the year quite nicely. I just want to give you a rundown of the numbers for the year. Sorry for the general lack of pictures.
2014 was a great year for me on the gmod and SFM workshops. I more or less ‘cashed in’ by releasing the bulk of what I had been working on for the past few years, and saw a terrific response. By the numbers, this was 2014:
Gmod – 7 Addons
- Visitors (to workshop page): 169,446
- Total Subs: 219,388 (129% of visitors – 29%+ thumbnail only downloads)
- Active Subscriptions: 129,111 (59% of people still have the addons installed from first download)
- Favorites: 2,753
- Positive ratings: 2,851 (~94% positive)
SFM – 7 Addons (85% Overlap with gmod workshop, or one ‘exclusive’ and one excluded for technical reasons)
- Visitors (to workshop page): 9,926
- Total Subs: 18,734 (189% of visitors – almost half never visited the desc. page.)
- Active Subscriptions: 17,160 (92%)
- Favorites: 318
- Positive ratings: 289 (~99% positive)
Other mirrors (Platform agnostic – sfmalb, direct download, etc): ~16,000 downloads
Takeaway: These are some impressive numbers – there were just about 250 thousand downloads of something I made this year, and I have seen my work used in projects more then ever before. None of this is monetized of course, and these combined are a fraction of the single file downloads of some of the headliner addons, but a few of my more popular works have landed in the top 250-300 downloads on the workshop of a wildly popular platform. All of the trends I noted last year, like thumbnail downloads and the fractional audience of SFM vs. gmod are still true. I had to omit this year’s most popular gmod download from the SFM workshop for purely technical reasons with the uploader, which, I contend, is one of the reasons why the platform is so anemic compared to it’s sandbox cousin. I sent an email to the support team, but emailing valve expecting results is about on par with praying to a deity and expecting a miracle.
Youtube has awesome analytics. Most of my views have been and will continue to be driven by embedded links from the steam workshop. Here are my ’14 numbers:
- Views: 13,305
- Minutes Watched: 11,344
- Subs: 97
- Likes: 151
Takeaway: My best videos were promos for workshop addons with a direct correlation between the workshop popularity and the video’s performance. I made one ‘offbeat’ video that was an hour long recording of a streaming video tutorial in SFM fundamentals, which got over 1000 views, but given its hour+ running length, only an average of about 2:30 watch length. I would like to do more tutorials, but it’s time consuming, and I feel that in the future, I’d like to do a better job then that offering. Overall, these numbers are twice that that of my previous youtube performance to that point.
All of this still feels a little moot as I don’t monetize videos and I see youtube as a secondary source of creative output at best. Still, it’s nice to see a slowly building audience. I just don’t want to get people’s hopes up when my average upload is an 11 second video of some technical proof of concept.
Clearly it’s a transcendent artform and if you don’t get it you’re just uncultured.
I started using twitter in 2014. I use it as a news aggregator, a platform to push my game art, and as a game job search tool.
My numbers aren’t all that impressive, but I like posting things and seeing visible progress over time. I’ve made about 100 tweets since May and have about 30 followers.
Believe it or not, it’s actually pretty successful as a job tool provided you follow the right bots – I got a job offer that I found through the service, no joke. It was a serious commitment that had some detractors and after a little soul searching, I passed on it. In retrospect, I’m glad I did decline the offer.
Well there you go, another site to network on sometimes.
— Ben Bickle (@BenABickle) May 16, 2014
With my slow but steady exit from source, I doubt I’ll be putting up these numbers again in 15. I’m okay with that though. What these numbers don’t talk about are the number of incredibly dense comments and outright spam that I have to contend with on a daily basis. One other side effect is that I get more or less a constant stream of unsolicited requests for custom content and private tutoring from people. I’m not hurting for work now that I have two jobs, and what little time I get I like to enjoy. As of writing, I have 5 friend requests on steam, and this just after clearing them out last week; it’s to the point of avoiding launching my steam client if I can get away with it. I really wish valve would revamp the friends system and/or the workshop system to add a layer of privacy between my workshop releases and my personal profile.
Even if only 1 in 10 people that download something I’ve made look at my profile (and given the trend of popular downloads leading to download spikes on other addons, they clearly do) that’s still on the order of 25 thousand people looking at how many, what, and how often I play games I own, plus screenshots and a litany of other info. On the other hand, I can’t just close down my steam page because I do business through it and I do have actual friends I keep up with only through steam. I’ve even had to deal with a personal stalker that has connected the dots and found things like my resume, facebook, and linkedIn profiles – things that – as an adult in 2015 – I need online and searchable but don’t want every ’13 year old kid that liked that thing I made’ knowing.
I’ve made a concerted effort to put my best foot forward with my online presence regardless of the platform or website, but I try and compartmentalize my digital presence – it’s why my steam handle is still Lt_Commander and not Ben Bickle, it’s why I’ll never connect my facebook there. I get that we all live in digital fishbowls, but there are times that I don’t want to be directly connected to a stream of people begging for me to make more things for them to download or to teach them the ways of photoshop or 3dsmax. It’s not that I don’t like to interface with new people or meet fans (or accept the fact that I have fans, that is still weird to think about), but I just want to enjoy my nights and weekends without having to compose responses to why I’m not interested in making a custom map for a server or why I don’t have time to sit down and hold somebody’s hand through the basics of content authoring. Regardless of how much I deal with, I’m still a teeny-tiny fish in a huge ocean of content creators, and there are scores of people that are better then I am at what I do. I know others have it way worse, but what I deal with now is enough for me to get frustrated to the point of writing about it on a blog. (heh)
2015, Going Forward
Within the first few hours of the new year, I was given a job offer as a contract artist for Giant Enemy Crab, AKA the guys that are working on Due Process. As part of the deal, I have been in a trial period for the past month, and as of this writing, my position on the team is solid enough to talk about. This means that for the first time, I’m actually a (paid) game developer of some sort!
It’s a part time job on top of my dayjob, but it is awesome! It feels like being in a band, working night and weekend gigs and doing the best you can with a group of peers which happen to be some pretty fun dudes. There’s a lot of talent and passion on the team, and I’m happy to be a part of it. Due Process is already a well constructed and fun game – I’m just there to help make it prettier.
As such, my time and effort are going to be focused around this project. Everything else is essentially on hold until I’m done with this. I’m still going to use this blog to do writeups, and I’ll still keep you up to date with things I have the greenlight to show off. The art style is …stylized, so what you’ll likely see out of me for the next several months is going to be like this:
Just a quick comparison of a prop I made previously directly converted to the artstyle, another primer to get a feel for the texture design theory. Here, the texture went from 1024×1024 to 128×128.
This is much more in line as to what you’d see in game – as a matter of fact, this rooftop HVAC might end up in the game!
For now, keeping track of my work means keeping on top of Due Process. I believe in the game and heartily recommend keeping up with it – We have a subReddit, a Facebook page, a Twitter account, and a thread on Facepunch (which is how I found out about the project).
My Plans for 2015
At the end of my last rollover, I laid out some goals. I’m actually pretty proud, I did well in meeting most of them.
Last year, I wanted to explore high poly baking in max. It is now integrated into my AAA asset pipeline, and I’m able to leverage the skill to generate better quality models across the board. This year, I want to branch out and explore Maya and zBrush in order to boost my studio hireability. I also want to learn Substance Designer and Painter. They were given to me as gifts for Christmas, and I promptly accepted a job where they’e useless! That doesn’t make the suite any less awesome or less worth learning though, and I should keep myself practicing with more traditional artstyles since my current work is fairly unique.
I wanted to explore animation. I still consider it a secondary skill, but I do have at least a baseline ability to rig and animate a model, although it’s not much better then were I was at the end of ’13. This year, I’m not planning on focusing on animation more then required as I move away from source (and by extension SFM). I feel I’ve found a specialty in environmental art and having given it a shot, don’t really enjoy animating. That said, I would love to explore and improve my rigging and ‘animation prep’ stage, to make my content more animator friendly.
I still have small source projects I want to release, some of which I talked about in the last update. However, they take a backseat to my job related obligations. I have a few models that really just need to be polished for release. I don’t want to work with source unless I *have* to, and getting those assets out the door can signify a gracious shutdown of my source engine/last gen pipeline. I understand that most of my following is centered around my work in source and I’ll likely loose a few people among the way, but after a solid decade working with one engine, I am tired. I love the prospect of exploring new engines and self improvement through diversification. That just can’t happen if – after finishing this game – I jump right back into source.
My last rollover talked about starting a mod. That was before Unreal Engine 4 and everything that brought to the table, and I’m now working on a game using the Unity engine. My goals for 15 are to provide the best work I can for the project I’m a part of now and when that’s over, who knows – I’ll just need to see what’s out there. I’m optimistic about what could come next. Here’s to a new(ish) year!