I Need to Prepare for Anniversaries Better

Today marks six years since GBGames, LLC was officially formed.

Since last year’s anniversary post, I hit a major milestone.

I had my first sale.

My casual strategy game Stop That Hero! is available for GNU/Linux, Mac OS X, and Windows. When I released the initial alpha in December, I had little idea of what to expect. This one-month project became a one-year-plus project, and while the game wasn’t anywhere near finished, I was getting some good feedback from play-testers. I figured the worst-case was that no one would buy the game, but if I didn’t offer it for sale, no one would have an opportunity to say otherwise.

I now have actual customers, and some are even providing feedback to make the game better! It’s gratifying, and I’m looking forward to getting them my next update for “Stop That Hero!” Unfortunately, it’s been slow to develop, partly because my efforts aren’t focused.

As I mentioned at the beginning of the new year, I’m out of savings, and it wasn’t very clear how to proceed. I wanted to continue to work on “Stop That Hero!” and other games, but I couldn’t continue what I had been doing since it wasn’t paying the bills.

I was torn. I wanted to persevere and not give up too soon, but I can’t ignore reality (and my lack of money). I wanted to continue until “Stop That Hero!” was finished, but I wondered if working on a much smaller project would get a quick win out there. I want to spend time on game development and marketing to increase sales and revenues, but I wondered if doing so meant more of the same and therefore the same results, and so instead I should spend time on finding outside work, which makes it a self-fulfilling prophecy since I’m not spending time on the things that would make my business earn me money. And all through this turmoil, I had no forward motion because I wasn’t sure where forward was anymore. It was like I was lost in my life without a compass and no idea how to find my way back out.

Today is not only the anniversary of GBGames. It’s also been one year since I proposed to my girlfriend. My fiancée is incredibly supportive, and in the roller coaster that I’ve been on since going full-time indie, she’s helped me keep things in perspective, especially when I’ve been stressed out and was beating myself up for things not working out very well in my business.

In my mind, I had a deadline to get my business turned around before I need to find an alternative and stable form of income. Something I’m incredibly aware of is that we’re getting married in a matter of months, and we have plans for our future life together. Each day that my business isn’t making me money (and there’s a lot of those days) added pressure on me to do even more before the day comes when I’d feel I had no choice but to give up.

The truth is, I don’t have to choose between continuing to run my business and a happy marriage.

There are plenty of options. If my business becomes a part-time endeavor again, it’s not the end of the world, even though I’ve been trying to avoid that situation.

I was way too attached to the idea of being a full-time indie game developer. The idea that I would need to find outside work felt like a huge failing. From that perspective, I found myself looking back and second-guessing every decision I made. What if I had stopped work on “Stop That Hero!” after that first month and switched to a new project? What if I stopped focusing on making games for Linux-based systems so I could use non-portable tools such as Unity? What if I got a smartphone earlier so I could work on mobile games? What if I was paying more attention to cash flow and would have taken on part-time work earlier? What if, what if, what if?

“The first step to acceptance is to give up hope for a better past.” There are variations on this sentence that I first heard from my friend Alex Myers, but the point is that what’s done is done. Learn from the mistakes, but move forward with those lessons. From this perspective, I’m always learning. I released an alpha of my game and found that there weren’t a lot of people interested. This was always the case, but now I know because I see the results. I could focus on how few customers I have, or I can focus on how many new customers I now have and how to grow that number by providing good value.

It’s odd. Even though things are much more urgent these days, I’m somehow feeling more positive about everything. I think it is because my old perspective made me feel powerless, but my new perspective makes me feel empowered. Even with less time to work on games, I’m somehow getting more done. I know what my goals are, and instead of stressing out that I don’t know how to accomplish them, it’s actually fun coming up with ways to do so. My cash flow is still negative, and yet it is months after the point when I thought I had no more money and I’m still able to pay rent.

As my fiancée put it, it’s natural to feel disappointed in things not working out as you hoped. In a way, I went through a mourning period, and perhaps now I’m out the other side. It may be another anniversary where I didn’t prepare a fun sale or have exciting news to report, but GBGames is still here, and I am, too.

2 comments to I Need to Prepare for Anniversaries Better

  • Lex

    I think a short promo video, or just a gameplay video, and a very limited demo without DRM would help your sales page. Are you open for affiliate sales?

  • Never give up, and know in your heart that the true measure of success is not tallied in dollars. You are an incredibly skilled indie developer, and even more impressive is the fact that you have the discipline to have made it to the finish line on STH! An accomplishment worth of being very proud of.

    I went through this exact same kind of year on 2010 and though the $ side was heartbreaking, the skills, knowledge and self confidence gained from a real game release is priceless.

    As they say, you only make money from your tenth game. The weak give up after the first is not a resounding success, and those with the will and fortitude to forge onwards are inevitably rewarded.

    Start a new game. This time around, you will code twice as efficiently, your marketing will be twice as effective, and your sales numbers will double.

    Then, repeat with the third, fourth and fifth.

    Soon, you will remember these days fondly: this year was you “paying your dues”. You are officially a professional indie game developer. You did it! Be proud and know that there are many of us who think that you, sir, are awesome.

    – Christer Kaitila aka McFunkypants

Twitter: gbgames