July 15, 2011

A Short Break

Hey, readers! I have some slightly bad news which is the result of one awesome chunk of good news.

The bad news: I'm taking a short break from Skybrawler. By "short" I mean another week or two. As a result, I won't have a Friday video blog up to showcase anything this week. That means you're going to have to read!

The good news: The Saint Louis Game Jam went so well that my team and I decided to push Lanturn to the next level. I've been working on it all week with a bit of help from the rest of the team, and we now have 23 levels (with seven more on the horizon), unlockable challenges, and some pretty insane gameplay. By some stroke of luck, one of my team members at the game jam was David Whatley, CEO of Simutronics. He also has his own indie studio, Critical Thought Games. Since he's been in the games industry for over 25 years and has all the know-how and the contacts, he's our main man when it comes to IP, distribution, and the general business side of things.

The game jam made me realize a few things. First, making games in a group is even more fun than making games on my own. I've been doing this by myself since around November, and while it has been a blast, the more tedious parts of game development can wear on me -- when I'm alone, that is. Over the weekend, it was a whole different story. I was completely energized by having a team of people helping with every aspect of the game -- special effects, artwork, and sound -- to the  point where I only slept for four hours on Friday night and it didn't phase me one bit. After the jam, I left at 8:00PM to start the 4.5 hour drive back to Iowa City. By the time I arrived, even though it was midnight, I had to force myself to get in bed and sleep because I was still so pumped.

Second, I discovered that I was able to learn way more in a group than I ever could by myself. I've been self-teaching every aspect of game design through reading various books and trial and error, but the one big problem  is that I have not been around anyone who understands this stuff. I've been living on an island, basically. So when I encounter some new problem that I need to solve, I have to do it from scratch because I have no point of reference and nobody to guide me down the right path, which puts me at a lot of dead ends and takes a lot of time. But over the weekend, I learned more about game design and development than I have learned over the entire summer. And it all had to do with being around people who knew about the things I'm trying to learn.

Both of these realizations have forced me to acknowledge that my number one goal right now should be to find a couple people to join up with and make more games. It makes the process so much smoother when people on the team can specialize and when I'm not doing everything alone. It also serves as a motivating factor. Have you ever gone to the gym by yourself? It's easy to shrug off workouts because nobody holds you accountable. The same thing applies to any activity -- when you are part of a team, the motivation of every person combines into a snowball effect for the team as a whole.

And last, after talking to David Whatley, I realized that I've been going about establishing myself as an indie developer completely backwards -- and it's the main reason why I'm taking a short break from Skybrawler. Skybrawler is a massive project. If I continue at this pace, doing everything but the music by myself, it'll take at least another three years to finish. And when it's all said and done, maybe it will sell, and maybe it won't. With a huge development time like that, and with such an uncertain payoff, Skybrawler could turn out to be a total disaster (financially). If it does, then I'll be at square one, which is that I'll have nothing to show for my game development career.

Instead, I should be spending a lot of time developing smaller games that are easier and faster to develop, with addictive and fun gameplay that can capture a wide audience. If I can crank out one of those each month and get it distributed, even if none of them sell well, I'll start to see a trickle of income. Over time, that will add up, and I can use that income to assemble a team to work on bigger projects like Skybrawler. In finance terms, this would be "diversifying my portfolio." As it stands, Skybrawler puts all of my eggs in one basket, and the future of that basket is uncertain.

So... Lanturn will be the first of those small games. I'll post more updates on it as we continue to refine the concept and as we get closer to distribution.

To say the least, this has been a life-changing week.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds exciting Stozy.
    I'm so glad you had a great weekend and it turned some new leaves for you.
    I love reading about how passionate you are.