LT & Josh are Both Alive and Well! / "Why the half-year silence!?"
*crackle* Incoming Transmission! *bzzzzz*
Warmest greetings Limit Theorists! It's been way too long since we last spoke, so this is going to be a rather massive update to finally fill you all in on what's going on with life, LT development, infinite universes, and me. Please bear with me since I've got a half-year to catch you guys up on! Before we get started, two things:
First, I'd like to say that I'm sincerely, deeply sorry for how long it's taken me to work up to this update. It'll be by far the most personal update yet (which scares me), since the com silence and derailment of RTB was due entirely to personal issues of a serious nature. It's a really rough subject for me to talk about, especially to an audience of 5,500. But I'm ready, and you all deserve answers. When I explain it all, I hope some of you will find it in yourselves to forgive me for the time it took me to step out of the shadows.
Second, as a bit of a TL;DR before we even get into it, I want you all to know right now that LT development has been and is continuing at full speed, as of several months ago. So let's just get it out of the way right now that I've not abandoned the project! In fact, I've been working hard to create a healthier, more productive, and more professional development atmosphere for LT. More on that later....but first! Story time.
What follows is a cringingly-personal account of what's been going on in my life (hence, in LT development, since that's my life). But in the spirit of full transparency, I'd like to share it. I've already shared gory details on the forums, primarily because I felt more comfortable disclosing preliminary info to a smaller circle until I made it back into good enough shape to step back into the light of KS updates. So. Let's get into it.
Chapter I: The Dark Days
The last time you heard from me was during RTB. The Road to the Beta was designed to be the beginning of the end for Limit Theory's dev cycle. Ultimately it, along with a solid year of unhealthy work habits, spiced up with the onsetting of some pre-existing conditions unknown to myself, ended up backfiring and, ironically, was the beginning of the end for my sanity. I wish that were a joke, but it's not really.
In preparation for the third chapter of RTB, I was pushing harder than ever to deliver several new pieces of game content that I thought would really please you all (it included a working custom ship editor...to give you some idea of how hard I was pushing). Unfortunately and much to my surprise, roughly a week before the deadline on RTB 3.0, I very suddenly started to experience new, strange, and scary things, mentally speaking. I'm not going to go into more detail than that...but the point is that it threw me into a world of panic. It also disconnected me from objective reality for an extended period of time (again, I won't go into detail about what that entails).
Retrospectively, I can basically summarize it as such: the mental health issues that had been creeping up on me for about half a year, combined with my drive to wrap up LT finally came to a head and set off a mental condition that drove me into a very scary place. Again, I don't want to dwell on that too much, but in hopes of making my absence a little more understandable, I'll just say that these weren't garden-variety anxiety or mood issues -- what I experienced was frightening and ultimately disabled my ability to work effectively for roughly three months. I still woke up every morning attempting to code, but, to be perfectly honest, my mind was so far gone that I accomplished little.
In what seemed at the time like just a matter of days, three months of my life blew by without any sign of the Josh that you've all come to know. Not surprisingly, I've very little memory of that time.
Chapter II: The End of the Dark Days
By some miracle, the thought "something is very wrong" entered my head one day. It must seem so overwhelmingly obvious from an outsider's perspective. But from inside the belly of that kind of situation, and being in total isolation, it's nearly impossible to actually recognize and do something about it -- hence three months seeming like days. But finally, the realization hit me. The very next day, I moved home to Louisiana and told my parents that I needed help from medical professionals.
The next two months were consumed by trying to get that attention and make headway in figuring out how to diagnose and 'fix' me. Towards the end, after long last and with the right treatment, I started to feel Josh coming back again. It was a long and arduous process, but the moment that I felt the first flicker of light return to my mind was one of the most beautiful moments in my life. I'll never forget it.
The dark days were over. The recovery to full-speed was far from complete, but the shroud had been lifted.
Chaper III: The Beginning of the Golden Days
Fast forward another two months or so -- more doctors appointments, new treatments -- and I was back. Back. Not back to the frantic Josh that had taken hold of LT development during the last few updates and RTB. Back to the calm and inspired Josh that wrote the original KS pitch. Back to seeing the beauty of the big picture. It was incredible. If any of you have ever been through something similar (and, statistically, out of 5,500, some of you almost certainly have), you may know what a cathartic feeling it is to be 'back' and only then realize how far you'd drifted from being yourself.
Despite continued treatment, I knew I had to change my habits to make sure this kind of thing would never happen again. I needed to keep my eye on the finish line, not lose track of the big picture. I needed to keep the full vision and beauty of my dream game in the forefront of my thoughts at all time, and make sure I never slid backwards.
Rather coincidentally, it was at this exact time that I learned of an organization in my very own hometown that was looking to give small tech companies the facilities, mentorship, and office space that they need to succeed -- all for next-to-nothing (it's all part of Louisiana's push to bring the entertainment and tech industry down here.) Two weeks later, I had applied to this organization, been accepted, and had moved all of my equipment into my very own office to dedicate purely to LT development.
And so began what I now call the Golden Days -- the days in which LT development as well as the developer are both being handled as they should be. Work and life are now separated, work hours are reasonable and fixed. If it's Monday through Friday and between 8am and 7pm, you can bet that I'm in that office plugging away to finish this wonderful project!
Hindsight is 20/20, but I know now that this is the paradigm shift we needed. Not a different update cycle, not a new technical gizmo to make development faster or more elegant, and certainly not MORE ALL-NIGHTERS! No, what we needed was for me to act like a sane person, separate my work from my personal life, establish a normal sleep schedule, surround myself with mentors and friends who tackle similar problems, and act like a professional working on a professional project rather than someone hacking on a smaller indie game.
I've got to give a loving shout-out to the Louisiana Tech Park, whose existence and support has changed everything about LT development. I love them. And to think, I'm paying about half of what my rent was in Tennessee for everything they provide. Wow.
Moving Forward at Full Speed, Albeit Quietly
So now that you all know the full story, let's talk about what's happening from here on out. I'm going to stay in touch, (much more so on the forums than on KS, so if you'd rather see me more often, get on the forums!) But I'm not going to establish a regular update schedule. Right now I'm in the thick of finishing development, and I'm going to keep my focus split about 95% on development and 5%ish on community interaction. In other words: I'm playing this part close to the vest.
I'm sure some of you still miss the monthly videos and the daily dev logs, but, looking back, part of my problem was that my burning desire to see smiles and happiness from you guys in response to my updates shifted my focus away from the thing that's most important: producing the game of my dreams. Yes, it was my standards that caused me anxiety, so I take full blame for maneuvering myself into an unhealthy place, but that's just part of me that I can't get rid of. So, for now, my solution is to keep my focus where it belongs!
Phew, is anyone else tired of serious talk? Me too! I think it's time for some fun stuff, yes? :)
Tour of Limit Theory Headquarters!
As I said above, I'm playing it close to the vest right now for good reasons. Which means I don't have much eye-candy to share with you. The next time you really see LT will be...a happy moment for everyone ;)
Still, I can't leave you all without something pretty to look at! So instead of LTcandy™, I took some time to take a few shots of the 'LT Headquarters,' aka my office where I get in the LT zone every weekday. Naturally, the graphics monkey wanted to decorate the office a bit to make it inspirational for coder Josh ;) LT HQ is chock-full of positive space vibes! Don't forget to read the captions!
Grand Opening of LT Flickr Gallery to the Public!
I've slipped up once or twice on the forums and mentioned that I've got a massive, private Flickr gallery of LT shots dating back to the prototype. Since then, I haven't heard the end of "how 'bout a glance at that gallery?" :P So...why not! A lot of it is stuff you've all seen before, but some of it is new (new as in old shots that weren't released publicly). There's also a bit of content that was coming with RTB Chapter 3 (yes, I'm going to let you all puzzle over what "Observatory" means, and why there's colored paint on some ships).
Despite it not being exactly 'new,' it's most definitely shiny, and it's also pretty neat to travel back in time through what has been. I'm still trying to locate all the LT development shots from before the prototype (I mean, like, going back to day one). Hopefully they'll turn up at some point, and when they do I'll upload them as well! So, without further ado...enjoy the 600+ shots!
It's been a rough year for me and LT. But now you all know the truth behind my disappearance. I really hope you'll grant just a teensy bit of empathy with regards to my failure to communicate effectively during the past months. But let's look at the positive side. I hit my wall, I hit bottom, I hit the point at which I thought I'd never get back and never be able to write a coherent line of code again....and, with the help of professionals, conquered it. In a big way.
If ever there was an 'ultimate test' for Limit Theory, it was the first half of this year. And yet, here we are, on the other side, still alive, and with a better development set-up than ever before.
All I ask now is that you all keep doing what you've been doing for so long -- trust me. LT is my passion, my full-time job, and my greatest dream. It's coming, way later than any of us wanted it to, but by God it's going to be something truly special. Once more, with every fiber in my being, I thank you all for making it possible. Now let me get back to my dev machine so I can go fulfill my end of the bargain! :)
PS ~ Anyone else find it weird that the last update was #42? And it was the one that took so long to recover from? Weird. Also, anyone else notice that the place where I work has the same abbreviation as LTP, the Limit Theory Prototype? Ok ok, enough reading the signs for now.