Personal Development

Facing Reality

As I said in my weekly Thousander Club update, I was worried about making a game for IGF 2007.

Last year, I posted about my decision to enter the competition. Rereading the post, I found I became angry at myself. In October, I said “I’ll obviously need to have a game to submit, but I have the rest of the year to make one.” Well, a year is almost up, and it’s been a year since I first started working on Oracle’s Eye, and I have nothing to show for it but an engine that doesn’t play a game yet. According to my records, I’ve worked over 170 hours on game development-related tasks. I have created a simplified text-based boardgame simulation, which helped to secure my current day job and teach me about component-based development, so I guess that counts, but I am upset with myself for not having better results.

Something prevented me from acknowledging this anger at first. I think the problem was that I didn’t realize it was self-directed. It’s easy to get angry at the world, other people, or inanimate objects when you aren’t aware that your current situation is the result of your own actions. Blaming others is easy, but when you realize that you can take responsibility for your own actions, you feel empowered.

I get that. I might have taken it too far, though. I was angry at myself, but as soon as I even felt a hint of anger or frustration, I would dismiss it. “There is no point in getting angry as it is your own fault you are in that situation.” Meanwhile, my subconscious was probably screaming, “YES, YOU BEAUTIFUL MORON!” and then became even more frustrated since I wasn’t paying attention.

Sure, being angry with yourself isn’t going to be fruitful by itself, but you need to realize that there is something to be angry about in order to do something about it.

Now that I know that I am angry, what can I do about it?

I can face reality.

Last year I said would make a game and submit it to IGF, even though I had no specific game in mind to create. Months into it, I was thinking that I would make a game after I finish Oracle’s Eye. Months ago, I thought that OE might be the game to submit because there wouldn’t be time to make another. These past few weeks, I was hoping to have anything completed by the due date. Now, I think I will need to give up on my goal.

Was it too much to think that I could create a single game in a year? I don’t think so. If Game in a Day is possible, and it is, then I should be able to come up with something over an entire year. Was my project too ambitious? Maybe, but I cut a lot of features and left it with some really basic gameplay. I couldn’t seem to pull it together anyway.

Part of my problem was that I didn’t have a single focus. First I was working on OE. I found that small changes would require a lot of rework. After some time I decided that I should create a new engine to make development easier. A component-based framework would make game development almost as easy as editing a configuration file. Of course, creating one is more difficult than to hack away at a single game. The work is still there. It’s just moved from one end of development to another. I also took a little over a month to complete the boardgame simulation. While it was a good experience, I shouldn’t have taken such a long break from OE.

The bottom line: I’m not satisfied with my performance for the past year.

I’ve been taking some time to think about what I am really trying to do and how I am going to do it. I will post at least some of my plans on this blog. I’m not sure how I am going to improve my situation, but I am going to find out, and then I am going to do it. Wish me luck!

8 replies on “Facing Reality”

Good luck. The first year is always hard. This is something almost everybody goes through. It’s also something nobody can really help you with; you have to find your own way to deal with this problem. Just stay with it and I just know that you’ll do fine in the end.

I’m in a fairly similar situation… the key thing, at least as far as I’ve been able to piece together, is to look at the numbers.

170 hours — THAT sounds like somebody who works as a programmer full time and is working on their game on the side. I’m doing the saaaame thing, and I feel your pain. Just think, as a full-time “dedication to growing your new business” type of job, that number could have easily fallen out of THREE WEEKS of last year. It hurts my brain when I think about it. Obviously we can’t just go full time whenever we’d like, but I think it’s important to consider just how little time you really have to contribute to coding on the side (along with how much energy you have for the idea when you get home each day), and plot a course for full-time status that is as short as possible. I wish I knew the best way to go about this instead of just knowing how important it is… : (

At any rate… good luck to ye! Keep us posted on strategies and thoughts you come up with!

Thanks for the comments, guys!

Tim: If I kept track of the work I do at my day job, it could easily be 35-60 hours a week, so you’re right about that. 170 hours would be nothing if I was doing it full time. I suppose I shouldn’t feel so guilty about not having over 600 hours for the Thousander Club, although I was able to work for over 10 hours in a week a few times. A few more of those, and I would have been at 250 easily, I think.

Doh, there’s that guilt again.

So part of facing reality is recognizing that so long as I have a full-time day job, I don’t control a huge chunk of my time. I can’t just decide not to work at my day job one day like I do for my business.

Becoming financially independent of a day job is a good goal to focus on. For a couple of weeks I had that idea in my mind and was able to wake up at 5:30AM so I could work for two hours before leaving for my day job, then work some more when I came home. My motivation: by working on my business for that hour, I’m one hour closer to success. Even though I worked a lot more than I usually do for those weeks, I didn’t feel as tired as when I work overtime at my day job. I think it is just the fatigue of working on something for hours and hours and not knowing if you are any closer to finishing it. B-)

Don’t mean to make you feel even more guilty, but I think 170 hours is still enough time to have a playable game done. Although its been said 100 times (at least 20 by me :)), the biggest issue is you’re still working on an engine, not a game. You need to figure out exactly what you’re making or even make a clone of your favorite game. I know you have a task list, but are those tasks related to the actual game, or related more to coding features? You might want to try writing a design document or milestones.

If you consistently work 10-20 hours a week over the course of a year towards some goal, averaging 12-15 hours a week, you will be able to complete anything. There was a thread on indie gamer about how many lines of code your project is and it seems like your average indie game is about 20k-40k LOC. Even at a low 50 LOC per hour and assuming you write everything from scratch, you can easily make the highend of this target within a year. The problem is making a game is not just coding. Design requires a lot of iteration and experimentation. Creating content will take up a large portion of your time also. Unless you want to learn how to draw and use various art tools (and even then your art will probably suck) you’ll also have to find someplace to get artwork from.

Btw, don’t worry about it too much, we all have the same problems. The only reason I can tell you this stuff is because I’ve been there multiple times (and am still there sometimes :)).

Thanks, Impossible. Surprisingly, I’m not too depressed. I guess I am too optimistic about what I will do. I’ve already done the “worrying about the past” thing. B-)

[…] Just finished reading GBGames’ latest blog entry, Facing Reality. In it, he speaks about his guilt for once again having nothing to enter into the IGF, and in general laments the fact that he’s accomplished so much less than he expected in regards to indie gamedev (though he has gotten a real, full-time job in gamedev, so he’s obviously been doing something right). […]

“If you consistently work 10-20 hours a week over the course of a year towards some goal, averaging 12-15 hours a week, you will be able to complete anything.”

This might be true for many things, but it is BS when it comes to game development.

One of my game industry friends started working on his own project full-time awhile back. This guy is pretty much one of smartest and talented guys around and his game is running almost A YEAR LATE right now.

Game development is just a fucking hard thing to do.

“This might be true for many things, but it is BS when it comes to game development.”

Its not BS. You might not have a great, or even a very good game, but arguably you should have figured that out in early prototyping before putting in a year of 20 hour weeks. You will have something though.

Also when I say “anything” I mean “anything within the scope of a single programmer.” I don’t expect any single coder to make WoW in a year working part time, but most indie and casual games out there are doable. Slip is expected, but if you put that much time into the project you’ll have something finished. If you don’t you picked a large scale project or your project has no direction or both.

I would be curious to know the scope of your friend’s project. You said he was one of the smartest and most talented guys you know? It seems like a lot of very good programmers get caught up in implementing “perfect” tech and never really get around to making a game.

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