Two wonderful weeks of full-time indie game development
Let’s get done with the boring part first. Boring but important.
Working at home on your own when you don’t have hard deadlines to reach is not for everyone. It’s so much easier to decide to go swim for 10-15-20 minutes in the pool when it’s 30 in your basement. When your incomes are a direct result of your work it means you have to work really hard to make it happen. Money is hard to get and hard work does not guarantee in any way that you’ll get some.
That’s the boring part. That’s the part I’ve been imposing myself for now 3 years. Why? Just because I wanted to. I never really tasted huge victories but I had a lot of fun doing it. Sure it was hard but I somehow believed that what I was doing would one day get me somewhere. Where? I still don’t know but the ride is exciting.
For the last 2 weeks I’ve been working full-time on an indie game project with Brian ‘Psychochild’ Green. How I ended up working with Brian is a nice special story to me and the last 2 weeks have been a blast.
Back when I was just a the point of showing a very basic prototype of Golemizer Brian commented on my blog giving me some feedback and some advice based on his experience. That was totally random and I was really excited about it since I was following his blog for about a year. The best thing? He told me “Feel free to drop me a line if you have questions.”. Real quote by the way. That was amazing. I was just getting started and someone who meant something for me didn’t mind that I’d harass him with some questions. I’m not sure he had the word “harass” in mind but I think I’ve been careful to not push my luck
So I started to send him mails every 3-4 months to tell him where I was at and to share and “validate” how I felt. He never told me that I would have an easy ride and it wasn’t what I was looking for either. Writing to him was always special as I knew he would read every single word and would answer. I felt like I wasn’t alone in my long trip to build an MMO as a newbie. All I needed was to share some words.
I’m not sure when he started to think that I might actually get to the end of this and me not knowing was great in a way. It would have been easy for him to tell me “kid you have no idea what you’re getting into, better to give up now”. It’s like he gave me a chance to prove him that I would do it. Now I wasn’t only doing it for myself but I knew at least 1 more person was looking at it.
At some points past release he even offered me his help to find a way to make some money out of it. Me I’m just a programmer. I know I can do pretty much anything I want to and if I commit to it. That doesn’t mean I can do it in a business-wise way but I get things done. That’s a start. He must have seen that I was lacking a lot on the business side so that’s why I guess he offered me his help. The Altus Store in Golemizer and the currency exchange were his ideas that so far have helped to turn some random project into a project that usually pays for itself each month. That’s a lot. Remember that I said that money is hard to get? …
So I launched one project after the other (Blimp Wars, Dungeon of Loot) and my mails to Brian were on a more frequent basis as time was passing by. We learned to decipher a bit of what kind of person was at the other end of the mails and one day he sent me this by Skype: “Once you’re done with Dungeon of Loot, before starting your next project drop me a word”. Another chapter of a story with a still unknown end was about to begin …
He offered me to work on one of his project that was in need of a programmer that would stick until the end. Something in the same line of thought as my previous project so a multiplayer online game. Only problem … the server is in Python and the client in Flash. Two technology I knew nothing about. I was not one to let this opportunity go away however so I accepted and warned him that he was getting a newbie on his project but he took me anyway.
Even though I was really excited about this new project I must say the timing was terrible. I was now on my third project in a row with no real signs that it could get me significant revenue. For 2 and a half-year I was piling up weeks of 70-80 hours of work and couldn’t see when it would get to something more than just a fascinating hobby. On one side I had a day job paying for all my expenses but it was really starting to get the best of me and on the other side I had something I was really passionate about but that wasn’t bringing enough money for me to allow more time to it. Based on my wife’s advice I allowed myself to slow down a bit and hardly touch my computer when I get home at nights. I came to the point I feared … burning myself chasing some kind of dream I wasn’t sure how to reach.
So on one hand I needed a break from the mad schedule I imposed myself for quite a long time but on the other I had committed to someone I highly respect. I was feeling like I was letting him down very soon after agreeing to participate to his project. Something needed to be done.
Call it faith or total randomness but about the same time I really hit a wall at my day job. I really realized that I just couldn’t keep up with it. A lack of challenge, a lack of evolution, too much repetitiveness, a bit of all that. That’s when I decided to take 2 weeks off last-minute to work on Brian’s project.
That meant a loss of money for me and it also meant saying out loud that I would change my professional path in a not so distant future. Tell your boss that you will probably leave soon but are not sure when and see how he reacts … I’m lucky though as after about 10 years working there my boss can understand my state of mind. It might sound like a risk but it was just where I was then. I needed that. After clearing that up with my boss I had my 2 weeks ahead of me to work on that AS3/Python project.
I never did anything in AS3 so in 2 weeks I had to learn and learn fast. Not a problem that’s my job. This is what I’m suppose to be good at so now was the time to show it. For 2 weeks I enjoyed what it could be like to be a full-time indie game developer. It was amazing. Working with Brian was delightful. It’s always tricky to get new coworkers but I can say that working with Brian just felt natural. We had our fun, we worked hard, I learned and we made quite some good progress. Of course if I’d had more experience with AS3 we would have done more in these 2 weeks but we still did enough to be happy with the progress.
So what is this project? The name is Interspace. It is a simple space strategy game that is meant to build the base of more ambitious projects. It is a client-server architecture and we did a lot of work to improve it and prepare for even more exciting projects.
Here’s a screenshot of the screen where you get to customize your ships. Click for full-size!
Interspace as we speak is almost ready for beta so I’m expecting that soon we’ll be able to tell you more about it. In fact I’ll leave this part to Brian as he’ll be much more skillful to explain it and to let you know everything behind this project. It’s his project to start with so I recommend you add his blog to your RSS reader if it’s not already done.
These 2 weeks of work has led us to exchange further about what’s next and I’m really excited about it. I think that Brian and I are mixing together a good set of skills and that we can achieve really nice things together. What’s next? That will be for another post later. Right now we need to finish the work on Interspace and finally get some people trying it!
Those last 2 weeks were really amazing and now the only thing I can wish for is that these 2 weeks become a full-time experience sooner or later. Hopefully sooner but some stuff about money (yep, always money) need to be figured out first. Wish us good luck until then!