Too Long

Earlier this week, indie game developer Jake Birkett of Grey Alien Games published the Youtube video “You are spending too long making your game” (Alternate reddit source):

Since watching it, I’m taking a moment to step back and look at what I’ve done and where I’m heading. I estimate that it will take me another 2 years to finish the project that I’m currently working on.

My first reaction to this video was, “He’s right”. I’m a believer in “starting small”, and I would even preach it. But I can’t help feeling like a hypocrite if I can’t even follow that. Well, when I went full-time indie for a year, I did my best to make small projects with short dev cycles. I ended up releasing 3 mobile games: Power Tic Tac Toe, Number Crunchers, and Horde Rush. Each took progressively longer to implement, but also with increasingly better visuals and production quality. While Number Crunchers gets some downloads to this day, most likely due to the familiarity of its existing source IP, Horde Rush was pretty much dead on arrival. It had a few downloads at launch, but soon after, did not gain a following, and it eventually got buried by all the hundreds of other games released on a daily basis. Of course, I didn’t do any marketing for Horde Rush, and that’s definitely one of the many reasons it hasn’t taken off.

After starting to work full-time again, I changed gears and decided to work on a game that is a lot more ambitious than the three titles that I’ve released; something with the level of quality of say, a Gameboy/DS game. So far, it’s been moving along, and I’ve been having a lot of fun building it. I figured that if I’m going to work full-time again, I might as well work on something that I’m absolutely passionate about, and that may or may not take a long time to implement.

And then Jake’s video comes out. And he mentions that “spending too long developing a game” has exceptions. The first one being that if you currently have a day job, and you are working on your game on the side, the overly long dev cycle does not apply, as the income is flowing. Regardless, the thought of spending two more years on a game sounds daunting. And having more than one release in two years sounds more beneficial. You’d have the satisfaction and experience of finishing games, you’d have a lot more visibility with whatever audience you have, and/or potentially gain an audience, and generally, I would think it would result in a better quality of life, because you’re not slogging away on one game, not knowing exactly when you’ll be done. Let’s face it. Anything that’s 2 years out can’t accurately be determined to have a certain level of quality, features, or dev time. It’s simply an unknown.

I was eventually going to start a dev blog about my current game. That way, I can stay visible with the game dev community, possibly gain a small audience, and hold myself accountable. But I think I’m another 6-12 months out until I would feel comfortable exhibiting my work in progress. So, I thought of starting up another smaller project that would take a much shorter time to build, and would allow me to reuse some of my existing assets. I’ve planned on eventually working on this project, but after watching Jake’s video and reading all the comments about it, I’m highly considering moving this up on the schedule. As protective as I am over my current project, I don’t think I’d feel that secretive about the development of this new game based on Horde Rush. The IP (intellectual property) is already out there, and my initial gameplay ideas aren’t all that revolutionary. So, I would be more comfortable releasing dev updates, which can help out the gamedev community.

And while I’m trying to convince myself that this is the right way to go, I still have a lot of drive, passion, and some momentum going for my current game. Do I just kill that momentum? Will it be a refreshing change that will help me better see the vision of the game when I return back to it in a few months? Maybe I can try implementing both games in parallel. Not really. That never turns out well. I have limited time as it is with the full-time job. I couldn’t possibly ping-pong back and forth between both projects. Whatever path I choose, I don’t want to dwell on it for too long, because doing anything is better than doing nothing at all.

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