At the start of this year I set out on my road to creating indie games. I gave myself a personal goal of selling at least 1 copy of a game to a stranger by March 2016. Now I’m about halfway there in time, how close am I in progress?
What’s gone wrong?
I’m sure any indie game dev who’s been around for some time could have told me the things I’d do wrong. But a lesson experienced is more valuable than a lesson taught.
The most obvious lesson is to realise when your ambition outstretches your ability and experience. The idea I began working on in January required a highly indepth AI for relationships between yourself and characters in the game. While there was a tactical combat portion of the game, the core was always how you manage the expectations of other characters and their reactions to your choices within combat.
I love the idea of this game, I still deeply want to make it. But realistically speaking it would be a massive task to design and develop a game of this nature. Without the experience of shipping a non-trivial and commercial game prior I could feel it was going to be a failure.
I know I could theorectically sit down and work through the programming challenges, but the timescale and hit on motivation would be too great to continue.
The second major mistake I made was choosing a new technology to develop in. I love learning, but when trying to make a commercial product it’s not the right time. I chose to use Elm, which is a fantastic approach to reactive web-based apps. However it’s a functional programming language which is the complete opposite approach of basically every existing game, and more importantly every game dev tutorial. When I was trying to solve common problems like path-solving, no one has written about them from an FP point of view. I’m not experienced enough with these things to be able to come up with the solution from scratch myself so that was a major pain for a long while.
I never quite solved that issue and it really killed the momentum I had for the game. I’ll still use Elm for other future non-game projects but for games I’ve gone back to well trodden technology stacks.
What’s gone right?
Since my day job is in web dev I don’t have any actual industry experience in the game dev sector. As such I felt it would be important to meet other devs and try and absorb as much of their stories and advice as I could.
I’ve actively attended events and passively absorbed an inordinate amount of twitch dev streams and video blogs.
Earlier this year I went to Rezzed to do three things: network with other devs, listen to the dev talks and to scout it out with the potentially not smart idea of exhibiting there in the future. It was fascinating meeting other small indie devs doing the same.
It was also good in a way to see the “famous” indie devs milling around and essentially doing the same thing. It helped remove the little bit of jealousy and realise they are just people who work hard.
I also took some holiday from my day job to spend the days working in a shared “office” with other indie devs as a taster of what it might be like. There were several interesting take-aways from this, such as the amount of chat / distraction / downtime and the huge drop in my general stress levels. That is probably largely attributable to simply a change in environments, but I don’t doubt the stress accumlated working for oneself is much more preferable to that when working on a project that you… have less interest in.
I’ll continue to work on my current, more realistically ambitious project with the first proper updates coming in couple of months, perhaps videos or streaming.
In March 2016 you’ll see the first commercial release by gelatindesign.