A new journey

· by Steve · Read in about 5 min · (900 Words)

I’ve thought about having a proper go at making games of my own for quite a while. There’s always been some reason why I’ve never quite gotten around to doing it seriously; all good reasons but when you line them up in serial, you suddenly realise a lot of time has passed.

I’ve decided it’s time I stopped just thinking about it. As of today, I’m stepping down from most of my other responsibilities to dedicate serious time to making games. 🕹🚀👾

Are you insane?!

Let’s be realistic: today, the chances of success as an indie game developer are pretty small. The quantity and quality of competition is daunting. On a more personal level, I’m older than the average game consumer now so my tastes are different, and I’m somewhat out of practice having been away from games / graphics development for quite a few years. I’m well aware that my chances of making a profit in the next few years aren’t great.

But, I’m going to do it anyway. 🎲🎲😱 I’m sticking two fingers up to the odds, and locking my raging imposter syndrome in a cupboard with a sock in its mouth for a while.

Didn’t you do this before?

Not exactly; I’ve made prototypes, demos, modded existing games, created engines including one that grew quite big, and I’ve worked on the graphical bits of other people’s shipped games. I’ve never shipped one of my own though, and most of my experience is confined to the graphical side.

Ogre was supposed to be a short-term means to an end, which I could use to power my own game ideas, but ended up dominating my life for 10 years all on its own. 😁 It was fun, but there was no time for games.

What about spare time?

Doing gamedev in my spare time would be a lot safer, but unfortunately I destroyed my health a few years back trying to combine making a living and running a busy open source project. It took me the best part of a couple of years to come back from that. 🤕 Developers: look after yourselves better than I did!

I tried to fight reality for a while, went through all the classic stages of grief, including a ‘bargaining’ stage where I tried standing desks, weird chairs, and many other coping strategies to avoid giving up my long working hours. I still use the Capisco BTW and it’s a great chair, but it can’t change the laws of physics Captain simple fact that working evenings and weekends just isn’t compatible with my good health any more. I’ve learned the hard way the consequences of ignoring that.

So I can either do this during normal hours, or not at all. My advice to other people is do it when you’re younger rather than getting distracted writing engines 😉 Although that is still fun.

Why now?

Mainly because if not now, when? ⌛️

In the past when doing independent development I’ve chosen non-game projects, simply because that was the best use of limited funds given the chances of success and my burn rate. Writing your own software versus, say, work for hire is a gamble; success is never guaranteed, and the result may not end up earning back the money it cost you to make it for any number of reasons.

Many of us take that gamble anyway, but you have to pick your projects carefully to avoid a flame-out; at least if you don’t have risk-tolerant investors, or like me you don’t find that route attractive. Being self-funded means balancing ambition and pragmatism if you want to stay solvent. Fortunately, enough of the projects I picked cleared this bar to get me to this point. Not all of them of course, but you have to expect some failures. 😉

But, after a lot of years, one busted spine, some luck, collaboration with awesome people, and an understanding wife, I’m finally in a position where I can pretend not to care about my chances of success as a full time indie game developer for a while. I’m putting my finger on the risk/reward scales and pretending that they balance. 😜

There are plenty more sensible things I could be doing, but you only live once, right? To quote Ferris Bueller:

😎 It’s possible this is my mid-life crisis; if so, I’m going with it. 🙃

Keeping a line open to the real world

I said I’m stepping down from most of my responsibilities; I’ll still be working occasionally for Atlassian, because they’re lovely people (on top of having built an amazing company) and there are a few loose ends I can still help with, like Git LFS.

Staying in contact will probably also help keep me sane while I spend most of my time being a terrible game developer. 😂

More to come

Don’t expect a flood of game announcements or anything, I have a lot of learning and experimentation to do over the coming months, which I intend to take my time over and have fun doing, until I figure out what to double-down on.

But, I’ll occasionally post updates on this blog. I have a couple of posts in mind about the kinds of games I want to make and why, and what tech I’m considering using. So watch this space if you’re interested in that sort of thing. 🙂

Onward! 👣