Creative types often talk about the projects in their life: successful projects, nascent projects, abandoned projects. Most don’t see the light of day. In my own work, I’ve realized I’m not great at finishing projects. This year I’ve attempted to make “completing projects” a fundamental focus. It’s… er… not gone as well as expected, and not for the usual reasons.

But because this gnaws at my soul so much and for so long, I thought it might be worthwhile laying bare that repository of projects. It’s maybe cathartic (or a jolt to more action for myself), but also might be interesting for other people who have successfully completed projects and can spot something to focus on, or for other creatives to be inspired by. At the worst, I can be like the guy at a Unfinished Project Anonymous that makes you feel better because, well, at least you’re not as bad as that guy…

Reading through the descriptions you might find my flaws and idiosyncrasies. Please be gentle. I’m happy to discuss anything on Twitter: @BrettWitty

These are all the projects I can find or remember since 2000. My mental model for my projects is there are some that are front-of-mind, some that are laid to rest, and some on the backburner that aren’t in either state but might transition.


The Day After

Genre
Video game
Pitch
Narrative-driven and character-focussed modern zombie game, played like a comic book.
Started
2004?
Current state
Backburner
Why is it in the current state?
Complexity of ideas, world events and minimal ability to make assets.

I can’t tell the whole story of this game because it would take forever and have so many side-alleys. But I’ll try to give the gist of it.

The basic idea of this project was a modern take on the zombie game. Zombies, at least in film, are supposed to represent the fears of the day: nuclear war, genetic manipulation etc. My take was on early social media. Over its different conceptions, it was a board game (more-or-less to do Arkham Horror, but better), and a variety of video game versions (C++ with Ogre3D, some 2D library, UE4…)

Eventually I wanted it to be something between Arkham Horror “explore the city”, the Walking Dead, and an interactive comic book.

I got a bunch of concept art done via a friend of mine who is a spectacular artist. That part was amazing — I had random prose sketchings of characters and inspirations, and she turned them into really unique characters. I love them to this day. I also paid a local dev to make me a 3D model of a character. I put some real money into this.

I designed a website. I reserved a Reddit forum. I made Twitter accounts for the characters to do some faux game re-enactments. I wrote many design-related blog posts and did research on various ideas. I learned After-effects to try to make a video ad. I did almost everything except make a game.

But I put a lot of time into programming and design. When I was making my own engine, I spent a lot of time on minor stuff. When I went to UE4, there was the learning curve of how to get it to do what I want, within the constraints of its own engine.

I got a bit disillusioned by my own scattered focus, and that some of the core ideas had to be abandoned because simply the world had moved on. I had a spy character based on 9/11-era politics, but spycraft in the US now with Russia etc just seemed too gross. Social media had become an entirely different beast.

I love the characters and I think the melange of ideas are good. I just need to be better at making things.


RogueAgent

Genre
Video game
Pitch
International spy roguelike.
Started
???
Current state
WIP
Why is it in the current state?
Almost laid the project to rest after too much reworking, but I liked my previous work on that and might continue from the best point forward.

Slightly disillusioned where I was with The Day After, I decided I needed a small project. The 7 Day Roguelike competition was coming up, so I decided to attack it. RogueAgent is a roguelike spycraft game, set in the broad expanse of time that James Bond was active. Initially it was a game where you infiltrated secret bases build into tropical islands, blew it up and called it a day. The main game loop would be like Heat Signature.

I got characters walking on the screen by the end of the 7DRL, but wanted to continue. Over time I played with tcod, bearlibterminal, pygame and panda3d, getting something sorta working, but nowhere near a game.

At some point I did a dive on other roguelikes. I realized that I primarily like exploring and having interesting interactions rather than kill thousands of monsters in a dungeon. I wanted to make a roguelike that was different from that formula.

I sorta got stuck with that constraint. On a whim I did some more pygame programming and got a lot more working in a couple of hours than I did previously. So I’m interested again, and am attempting to grow the game from the ground-up, rather than specify too much from up high.


Hand Me Down

Genre
Interactive Fiction
Pitch
Interactive fiction about fathers raising kids and trying to finish creative projects.
Started
January 2019
Current state
WIP
Why is it in the current state?
Slowed down with life events and crisis of faith in the project. Post IFComp2019, it might be workable if I manage my expectations.

This is a complicated little IF game idea that thankfully is pretty straightforward in its implementation. It’s a memento mori of sorts, and a way for a father to have a conversation with his daughter without talking. It combines my hopes and fears of fatherhood, with my hopes and fears of making something creative and successful.

I’ve already discarded some ideas that I like but aren’t worth the bang for buck. For example, the father attempting to make a Minecraft city for his daughter to play in. I had started on that, but after a good investment of time, had very little of a city made. Not. Worth. It.

I hope to write this quickly and simply, and test the bejeezus out of it before IFComp2020.


Apogee

Genre
RPG
Pitch
A city-based RPG about success, power and responsibility.
Started
2014???
Current state
WIP
Why is it in the current state?
I wrote most of the material in 2014, but abandoned it when I didn’t think I could run it with my group. In 2019 I decided otherwise and have been running and reworking the content each week with my D&D crew.

This is an urban D&D campaign centered around a single city. I’m kinda sick of D&D campaigns that are all wars or dungeon crawls. I shelved the idea of running it with the original D&D crew. But people left and people joined. I’m currently (late 2019) running this campaign and it’s going well!

I hope to be able to package it up and turn it into a saleable campaign.


Yoko’s Basilisk

Genre
Twitterbot
Pitch
An art critic Twitterbot inspired by Roko’s Basilisk.
Started
April 2019
Current state
WIP
Why is it in the current state?
Almost finished, but the code was flaky and I don’t know if the bot was fun or understandable.

I was off work for a month and I used the time to learn Docker. I also stumbled across too many people on Twitter writing Twitterbots, so I decided to give it a go.

The basic premise is an art critic who rates your picture submissions. It got very close to launching, but some of my implementations were over-engineered and not quite working right. When I had to go back to work, this floundered. If I get a bit of time, I could re-make it simpler and in short time.


Giftboxbot

Genre
Twitterbot
Pitch
A Twitterbot that gives you themed gift boxes that might be puzzles or generative art. Collect, open or trade boxes!
Started
20 November 2015
Current state
Abandoned
Why is it in the current state?
I wanted players to be able to view their collections on a website, but that exploded into way too much work. Not even considering the vast amount of disposable content I needed to make (the boxes themselves).

Every few moons I want to make Twitterbots (mostly because it’s the last good place to make bots). This was an idea that ballooned out of scope.

The idea: A bot that gives gift boxes. Each gift box is a poem, or a riddle, or something like that.

Then I thought about people collecting them and sharing them, and recycling them for box-parts to get more gift boxes. That overhead was way too much. I have better skills now and could do a better job of it, but I’m unsure if it’s worth it.


Runner-RL

Genre
Video game
Pitch
Cyberpunk roguelike.
Started
22 October 2017
Current state
Abandoned
Why is it in the current state?
The lead for this project moved house and communication went dark.

Almost all my projects are solo projects, and (maybe consequently), have major issues in finishing. I volunteered to join this project to get runs on the board and let others guide the project.

I joined as a writer. I wrote a few short stories to scope out the world-feel. I read Snow Crash, as instructed. In the end, the lead had to move universities or something, and I never heard from him or the artist ever again.

Shame, because he had a minor working prototype so much faster than I ever could. I wanted to learn from that.


Trendy Roguelike Tutorial

Genre
Book
Pitch
The Complete Roguelike Python tutorial, but with modern and trendy sensibilities.
Started
2019
Current state
Backburner
Why is it in the current state?
Unsure if there’s a market and whether the project is worth shelving something else to make space for this.

There’s the famous Python roguelike tutorial, which is really great and helped a lot of people into roguelikes. But the Python is not ideal. And the tutorial stops short of some interesting points. I want to write a book-form tutorial using only trendy things like Python 3.7, entity-component systems and performance management.


GM’s Guide to Pathfinder

Genre
Book
Pitch
GM’s often need an inverted version of the Pathfinder core books: when can a PC fly? What’s the wealth curve look like? What’s an average monster at level 11 look like?
Started
2012?
Current state
Abandoned
Why is it in the current state?
We moved on from Pathfinder 1, and I was unsure of the legality of such a book.

I worked on this idea concurrently with Apogee mostly to get a feel for when to run certain adventures and not have them trivially spoiled by characters. This book would be an inversion of the Pathfinder books. You would look up topics like flight and could know when PCs could first conceivably gain flight, likely speeds, and the impact on travel.

Our group has since moved away from Pathfinder, and Pathfinder 2 is imminent, so there isn’t much call for this book. Also, since it’s basically a reworking of the core materials, it might be legally murky.


Limen’s House

Genre
RPG
Pitch
A campaign-long dungeon crawl through a madman’s house spread across planes, planets and time.
Started
1 October 2014
Current state
Completed
Why is it in the current state?
I ran the campaign (sometimes by the seat of my pants). I haven’t yet turned it into a saleable module.

This campaign is a mega dungeon crawl with a difference. Instead of some super-structure under the ground, the House of Limen is a series of interconnected areas through space, time and planes. Think Monster’s Inc’s door chase scene, but as a dungeon crawl.

I ran this campaign and it was a lot of fun. It wasn’t super-coherent and the finale was a letdown, but after many years we still talk about funny incidences.

I’d like to turn my notes into a saleable campaign.


Limen’s House (the roguelike)

Genre
Video game
Pitch
Limen’s House, but as a roguelike.
Started
2019
Current state
Backburner
Why is it in the current state?
RogueAgent has to be completed first.

RogueAgent was spinning off in different ways and there was a new 7DRL around the corner. Insanity is doing the same thing twice expecting different results, and so I thought I might make a small roguelike, based on my Limen’s House campaign.

I normally don’t enjoy the dungeon crawl roguelikes, but this one might be interesting.


Breathe

Genre
Novel
Pitch
Coming-of-age story about a woman finishing university and figuring out what to do with her life.
Started
2001
Current state
Abandoned
Why is it in the current state?
I took so long on this, early-20s culture radically changed, making the book out-of-date and weird. I also couldn’t get the social side and the Zen buddhist ideas to merge.

The Black Christmas bushfires in Sydney inspired me to write a story. At that time I was in my late university years, and exploring Zen Buddhism. Everyone wrote stories about people starting university. I was interested in the horrifying prospect of life after university and growing up and becoming responsible. I was quite the Romantic at that stage, but never fallen in love. I spun all these ideas into a story about a woman named Charlotte finishing university and dealing with life. She’d meet this Zen Buddhist guy who had different ideas and would give her a way of embracing the problem of life. They wouldn’t hook up, because that’s dumb.

The novel was to deal with: Charlotte’s boyfriend breaking up with her; her friend Maggie being struck with tragedy; her mum pulling some sort of shady subterfuge about her father dying when he hadn’t; and the Zen guy becoming famous for helping people in a bushfire rather than play to the media narrative.

It was a bit of a mess. The characters I really liked (Maggie was a stand-out). All my attempts to rewrite it just made the whole thing crumble. I spent a number of weeks over the years doing writing retreats, which were fantastic and pushed the novel along, but work and life ground me down so I abandoned the project.

I might borrow Maggie for something else.


Prince/Princess or Meet-in-the-middle

Genre
Card game
Pitch
A prince-or-princess has to resuce a prince-or-princess from an evil-doer’s castle. As the person breaks in to rescue them, the prisoner is also escaping. They meet up and fight their way out together. Two-player cooperative card game.
Started
2016
Current state
Prototyped
Why is it in the current state?
Couldn’t get the main gameplay to mesh.

This was always to be a card game, which was its strength and weakness. I had never heard of a meet-in-the-middle kind of mechanic, and two-player cooperative card games are very rare.

I made up a set of cards as an alpha test. The gameplay was okayish, but it needed a lot of work. I discussed the game with a real card game maker, and had a great idea come out of the discussion. I subsequently forgot that idea, and now I don’t know how to fix the game.


Kung Fu Chronicles

Genre
Video game
Pitch
Open-world kung fu movie, inspired by Shaw Film age of kung fu films.
Started
2000
Current state
Abandoned
Why is it in the current state?
I wanted to do too much. Deep simulation of the world and combat, dynamic narrative structure, vast customization… Way too much.

Not many people do kung-fu RPGs, or if they are, they don’t really care about the martial arts. I wanted to care about the martial arts and make something like a Shaw Brothers film but as a simulationist RPG.

I had a lot of ideas with no sense of importance or priorities amongst them. I hadn’t made a game before. I knew in theory how to achieve most of it, but the specifics were beyond my skills. Maybe they still are.

One day in the distant future I might pick this up with wiser eyes and more crafty hands.


Kung Fu Chronicles Mobile

Genre
Mobile game
Pitch
Idle mobile game of a kung fu guy wandering the world, occasionally making choices.
Started
2016
Current state
Abandoned
Why is it in the current state?
The mobile space and dev platforms changed too much and was too much of an embuggerance.

This was a little like a kung-fu Tamagotchi idle game. Your guy was a kung fu student wandering the world (literally left to right). You could check in on him periodically and make a choice for him. Very minimal gameplay, but maybe enough story and interaction to be a nice pet.


ThenomicaBot

Genre
Redditbot
Pitch
Bot to run Nomic games on Reddit.
Started
6 May 2014
Current state
Abandoned
Why is it in the current state?
The Nomic game I was playing had a schism and I didn’t want to play any more.

For many months I was involved in an organized Nomic game. It was cool, but might have benefitted from automation. I attempted to write something like that, but by the time it was nearing completion, the game had a schism and it was no fun to play any more.


Sushi train

Genre
Mobile game
Pitch
You run a sushi restaurant, making gourmet dishes and trying to keep afloat.
Started
2010?
Current state
Abandoned
Why is it in the current state?
I couldn’t figure out how to make a mobile game (Java was a pain).

Inspired by the Kairosoft games, I wanted a simple strategy game that you could play on your phone. The idea here was you ran a restaurant with a sushi train. You would make ever-more-complicated sushi via a minigame. You could build up customers and vendors (I had seen Jiro Dreams of Sushi at this time).

In the end, at that time the only way to make a game for Android was with Java, and the initial hurdles of Java made me quit.


Mixtape

Genre
Interactive Fiction
Pitch
A break-up phrased in the form of a mix tape.
Started
2005
Current state
Completed
Why is it in the current state?
I submitted it (bugs, warts and all) to IF Comp.

This was an IF project somewhat inspired by the movie (not book) High Fidelity, and the song Smoke by Ben Folds Five. I basically viewed a relationship and breakup via a mix tape. The music choices were very idiosyncratic, and my writing quality was erratic. Worst of all, I ran up against a time constraint and rather than holding on until next year and polishing the game, I entered it into the comp.

While I learned a lot from this, it haunted me and somewhat chased me away from IF for many years.


Convolution

Genre
Interactive Fiction
Pitch
Philosophical exploration of a weird building.
Started
2003???
Current state
Abandoned
Why is it in the current state?
Wrote most of it, got worried about the finale, rewrote it, remained skeptical anyone would like it. Especially since it was very early-20s philsophy wankery.

Your classic amnesiac protagonist who wakes up in a weird location and goes exploring. I thought I had good twists on that old trope. Unsure nowadays. I did have a few good interpretations of the concept of convolution.

My implementation was detailed and dense. I know I spent ages coding up a payphone that played out a scene but also reacted accordingly if you dropped the receiver, noise simulation and all. Every room had every noun described and implemented. But really, the gameplay was an undirected mess.


Puzzle University

Genre
Interactive fiction
Pitch
You accidentally get stuck at the wrong university’s open day. You have to solve a lot of puzzles to graduate and go home.
Started
2005
Current state
Backburner
Why is it in the current state?
I wasn’t sure if anyone liked big puzzle games any more, and moreover, whether I was any good at writing them.

I love that subgenre of university-based interactive fiction, like Return to Ditch Day. I wanted to create something absolutely chock-full of puzzles, and some environmental simulation. I had a lot of puzzles planned, but very little programmed.


Troubadour

Genre
Interactive Fiction
Pitch
Love-letter to IF via a Monster’s Inc-style chase through games past and present.
Started
2004
Current state
Abandoned
Why is it in the current state?
Unworkable and probably un-fun idea.

I was very keen on this idea for a little while (I think there was a reference to this in the actually-published Mixtape). Interactive fiction seemed hip and rich with shared experience, so why not have a chase through it all? Well… chase scenes don’t work in interactive fiction. And it’d probably be fairly silly and wanky.


Lovecraft University

Genre
Video game
Pitch
You run a university in the Lovecraftian 1920s. You have to manage your staff’s sanity, whilst pushing them ever onwards to uncover secrets of the universe.
Started
2017
Current state
Backburner
Why is it in the current state?
Still trying to find a good gameplay loop for it, slightly different from all the other management games.

I believe this was me liking Renowned Explorers and Arkham Horror, but wanting something slightly different than both. You could do this as a standard management game with a Lovecraftian twist, but it’d be better to make the cosmic horror fundamental to the game. But I can’t figure that out.


Synaptic

Genre
Online game
Pitch
Present-time cyberpunk online game like Kingdom of Loathing, but serious and fascinating, rather than funny and clever.
Started
2012???
Current state
Abandoned
Why is it in the current state?
Didn’t know how to write such a thing, find a good gameplay loop or keep up with technology.

I played Kingdom of Loathing for a very long time (and still do, to an extent). I liked the browser-based, casual RPG feel of it. I was also waist-deep in near-future fiction at the time (Accelerando by Charles Stross, probably) and wanted a stable of interesting characters and ideas based on current/future tech. For example, a young Irish guy who runs his own supercomputing farm and seems to perform very well on the stock market. Or purely digital Internet celebrity that no-one knows who it is. Or a telnet server you can ping with deep questions and sometimes get an answer back from.

I had a meta-game loop very vaguely like being reset in The Matrix, but the minute-to-minute game loop seemed to be minigames or choose-your-own-adventure-style interactions.


Practical Procedural Generation

Genre
Book
Pitch
Explicit python tutorials to create a variety of procedural content from the ground up.
Started
20 January 2016
Current state
WIP
Why is it in the current state?
I’m working on it currently.

I can’t seem to find many instructive tutorials on procedural generation. Some general techniques explained at a high level, or a breakdown of ‘this is what we did’, but very little as a tutorial. I’m okay at writing tutorials, so hopefully I can chain together a few into a nice book. The chapters can be independent, so it makes it easier to write and edit.


State of Address

Genre
VR game
Pitch
You’re the president. You have to brief the public. There’s the podium, go on out and don’t screw up… in VR.
Started
2016
Current state
Abandoned
Why is it in the current state?
VR/3D games are hard. Also, the current US president has just made the whole thing distasteful.

I described this project to friends who liked the idea, but figured it would be a horror game. Public speaking is a top fear for people, and a game centered around that (and things going wrong) could be terrifying.

I had some very basic things set up in UE4 for this. But VR is hard, and the specifics of this game is even harder. Even when I tried to keep the assets really simple, it was a lot of work for broken results. Would be cool, though.


Think Tank

Genre
Video game
Pitch
Manage a think tank and influence the world!
Started
31 December 2016
Current state
Abandoned
Why is it in the current state?
Just a management game with politics, which probably makes it a nightmare to sell.

I had some interactions with think tanks for a little while, and I thought about how they might translate as a management sim game. I think it’d be pretty dry, maybe like that old game Democracy.


Textbooks e-Commerce site

Genre
Website
Pitch
I’m decent at writing tutorials. Turn them into books and sell them!
Started
2012???
Current state
Abandoned
Why is it in the current state?
e-Commerce is a pain.

When I was in university, a friend and I were working on writing a whole bunch of digital books and maybe trying to sell them (we noted Schaum’s outlines and thought we could do way better). We wrote a bit, but then it all got too hard. I remained enamoured of the idea of slow-writing some notes with my own tweaks and opinions on subjects, and sell them.

I dug up this idea a number of years ago and actually pushed forward with some PHP code. e-commerce is a nightmare, and I couldn’t even hack up my own store.


In(tro)spection

Genre
Novel
Pitch
NaNoWriMo novel about a scientist who gets an AI helper from his ex. Present-day sci-fi about AI and love.
Started
2014
Current state
Abandoned
Why is it in the current state?
Too many disparate ideas. Didn’t have an ending.

In the past I’ve wanted to do NaNoWriMo. I am an okay writer who a) needs to get better, b) needs to learn to vomit out words onto a page. In 2014, I put together some ideas about a near-future scientist who gets an AI assistant from his ex-girlfriend. It was going to be my take on AI, but based around human relations. But all I had were beginnings of ideas and not any good characters. My NaNoWriMo attempt faltered, and this project was abandoned.


Transatlanticism

Genre
Short story
Pitch
A magical realism story inspired by the Death Cab for Cutie song Transatlanticism.
Started
2007???
Current state
Completed
Why is it in the current state?
I wrote it.

I was introverted and single, listening to music on my computer all night. I got some weird idea from the imagery in Death Cab for Cutie’s song Transatlanticism, and over two nights, smashed out this story. I didn’t write with my head, I wrote with my heart. As such, it’s weird but has some beautiful words and images.

I shared it around and a bunch of people really liked it. One even went out with me because of it. I still like it, but don’t know what sort of audience (or competition) would appreciate it.


All The Way

Genre
Short story
Pitch
Three short stories inspired by Ladytron songs.
Started
2011
Current state
Completed
Why is it in the current state?
Written, edited and it’s okay.

I tried to recapture the success of Transatlanticism with three short stories inspired by my then-craze, Ladytron. These weren’t as good, but I felt like it might be one of those short stories a writer uses to get ideas for a proper novel. That novel hasn’t eventuated.


Lovecraftian Short Story

Genre
Short story
Pitch
A traveller stumbles across a struggling temple to an evil god.
Started
2008
Current state
Abandoned
Why is it in the current state?
It’s hard to write cosmic horror with a straight face.

This may have been another NaNoWriMo attempt. A traveller comes across a temple to an evil god that hasn’t really maintained itself and is in its dying days due to mismanagement. A monk attempts to recruit him and show him around. Turns out there’s evil everywhere.


Saboteur

Genre
Video game
Pitch
Hard sci-fi simulation game where you have snuck aboard a last-ditch, years-long effort to get across the galaxy to decide the war. You are a saboteur and have to stop them before getting caught.
Started
2009
Current state
Abandoned
Why is it in the current state?
Focussed on other projects, another game called Saboteur came out during dev, and I wasn’t sure how to make the game.

The first inspiration for this was the modern Battlestar Galactica, and Singularity Sky by Charles Stross. It was me exploring hard sci-fi, simulation and emergent narrative. In today’s context, it’d be a serious Untitled Goose Game in space.

This was a few deep on my backlog when I was actively working on it, but I really didn’t have the skills to make it real. I still like the idea and hope that sufficient time has passed to disambiguate it from the AAA game of the same/similar name.