My goal for January was to create and release one game a day.
I managed to get 22 of them done so far, and you can see them here.
Here’s what’s been happening – what’s gone well and what’s gone awry.
The first thing I would like to say is that this endeavor has been many, many times more fruitful than I imagined it could be. There really is a certain amount of experience that you get from finishing and releasing a game vs tinkering with one. I didn’t know this fact before discovering Ludum Dare, and I’ve come to an even greater understanding of it now.
However, because I didn’t reach my goal of one game a day in January, and worse-still, because I retreated from my goal and my passion altogether for a period of time, this post has a bit of a defeated tone. I want to make VERY clear that nobody who wants to embark on this or any similar quest should be dissuaded! In fact, not-doing was the biggest source of my undoing, and it’s just part of my own baggage that I know I need to shed as I traverse the path of my life.
Also, I’m going to try to offset the fact that this is a huge wall of text by interspersing screenshots of some works-in-progress. I’m adding these after all the writing, so, apologies if they break the flow.
At first, I was able to keep up with releasing a game a day, thanks to a buffer of nearly-completed, previously-unreleased games I was starting from.
I assumed that the process of posting the games would quickly become routine. In some sense it did, but in another, there’s a lot of tedium in the building / zipping / posting process that never got faster. Maybe I can automate some of that in the future.
I was hoping that building and posting the games would get to the point where it took 30 minutes. I could get the process down to one hour in the best cases, but those were rare.
At the same time, these “almost finished” games weren’t as finished as I’d thought. Slapping on a menu and win / lose conditions and / or score was taking muuuuch longer than I’d anticipated. Like posting, it did become more routine but it never became instant.
Somewhere along the way I tweaked my goals. When I began, I’d said these games would mostly be incomplete. However, I started to feel like posting incomplete games wouldn’t be very fruitful – especially if a game was “only” an hour or two from what I would consider complete. So, I shifted my focus to posting one complete game a day – at least a minimum viable game. Actually, I would say a lot of “polish” went into the games I have posted so far; I think you will just have to take my word for it though.
This polishing meant I was able to do very little making of new games; most of my time was taken by completing and posting the ones in my buffer.
I don’t think that alone was too bad. I was getting faster and it was totally feasible to make and post a simple game in a day – I managed it for a week or so after my buffer ran dry. Although, I did start lagging bit by bit before I ultimately hit a meta-wall in the project. (I’m drawing on McFunkypants’ excellent wall metaphor here)
What killed my momentum were some factors in my life that were a bit out of my control and that I’d rather not go into – and the fact that I didn’t handle them nearly as well as I’d have liked. Once I lost this momentum, I made the mistake of playing catch-up, which overwhelmed me.
Making a game a day is hard enough, but once I started telling myself I needed to make more than one a day to catch-up to where I “needed to be,” it become unrealistically hard. I started avoiding the project, which turned into more catching-up, which lead to more avoidance. I’m not saying I did an awesome job so far this year; I’m just honestly saying what I’ve been up to. :/
And as I’m learning, saying publicly what you are up to is REALLY important for keeping yourself honest and motivated. At least it is for me.
In hindsight, what I should have done after I started falling behind was to look at each day as a new challenge to make (or finish) and post one game. That’s it. And that’s what I plan to do from here on. After all, I really, really LIKE making games! Somehow, I seem to forget that when I’m not making them. I know it sounds bad, but I need to gain more mastery of not-caring.
Okay, So I have 22 games posted (I still can’t believe it’s been so long since I posted one!). For me, I really feel like I need to finish getting the 31 games posted that I said I was going to do in January. They’ll be very late but I don’t think I’ll feel good about moving in any other direction with game development until I finish and post them.
While I’m on the subject of direction, I should mention that I’ve decided earning $1 is not really what I want out of this. It is a worthy goal to be sure, but after looking at a wall of completed games on the website (whereas before I had only a handful of mostly-incomplete jam-entries), I’ve started to feel like I’m closer to being a professional game developer than I thought possible at the beginning of the year. Not just “earned-money-professional” but actually, full-time-development-professional. Honest comments regarding this idea are welcome.
I’ll be frank, this massive upgrade of my goal is part of what overwhelmed me. I don’t know how to transfer from where I am to where I want to be, and it’s scary as hell.
From here, I’ve
decided realized that the best way to move forward is to break this big, scary goal up into chunks and only focus on the chunk immediately in front of me. I know for a fact this is a strategy that works for me when it comes to rapid game development; hopefully it will work as well with rapid career development. I’ve realized that’s a big part of why October Challenge is so awesome to begin with – it intrinsically chunks up the road to professionalism.
Okay, so what does that mean, practically? Right now, I’m going to focus on getting those 9 more games out the door, one at a time. To start with, I have at least 6 unreleased games that are works-in-progress. I would say three are each within the scope of being finished in a day. Two are not and I won’t invest any more time in them right now, and one I’m unsure of.
I’m going to REALLY try to make myself stick to one game per day but at the same time, I’m not going to sweat it if I fall behind. In fact, there is no such thing as falling behind.
Immediately after those games are finished, I want to use the momentum and credit of finishing these 31 games to launch a kickstarter campaign that will fund the 32nd MagicCarpenters.com game of 2013. The target of this campaign will be the same $1 I wanted to earn by the end of the year. I don’t think this is unrealistic at all. From there… I will know more later
My other immediate goal is to become more entrenched within the indie gaming community. I’ve found that crawling under a rock is a surefire way to accomplish nothing, so taking an opposite approach seems reasonable! To me, that means dedicating at least half an hour a day to Twitter or some indie gaming blogs / forums. There’s a few I’ve been lurking on anyways, so, I suppose it’s about time to come even further out of the woodwork.
I still struggle with Twitter. Twitter is a great way to see what the indie gamedev community is up to, and it was a huge source of inspiration to know that people were actually following me – meaning they cared about what I had to say and what I made! When I was keeping up with Twitter, it forced me to maintain momentum and really helped in making a game a day.
Unfortunately, my difficulties with Twitter lead me to stop using it. Avoiding Twitter was really the first step towards shelving the project the way I did.
For one thing, I want to be a good Twitter citizen and not just use Twitter as a means of self-promotion, but I really don’t quite understand how to do that. I know that a big part of it is retweeting things which are of particular value but most of the time I assume anyone following me heard it the first-time. I mean, partly since I’m coming to Twitter so late, I feel like anyone who’s following me already follows everyone I do, and therefore knows what the people I follow tweeted. I don’t want to spam my followers’ feeds with retweets. I think maybe I’m worrying about that too much(?).
The bigger problem with Twitter for me is, I suppose, one of discipline. I can imagine spending 30 minutes a day catching-up via Twitter. What I have difficulty with, is keeping those 30 minutes from ballooning into all of my free-time budget. I guess it’s a problem of moderation.
I think I will try sticking to 30 minutes of communicating a day, no less and no more via Twitter, and see how that works.
Wow, that’s a lot of text. Thanks for reading! Any advice or encouragement is greatly appreciated!