So now what?

Em – this little rant does go on a bit. I’ll just summarise it at the end in case anybody wants to see what I’m up to, but couldn’t be arsed reading all this 😀

Ever since I got back from Spain on Sunday, I haven’t so much as thought about doing any coding. It’s amazing how tired a holiday can leave you.

I don’t think it’s really hit me yet – that I won’t be going back to work, that I won’t have another paycheck coming – or that I really should be working on something, instead of lounging around the house browsing the internet and playing the new Phoenix Wright.

So here we go. I think it’s high time I put my plans together in a more concrete form.

    An overview of my approach:

I’ve had a change of heart. A couple of months ago, I was able to motivate myself into quitting my job and giving this a shot by convincing myself that I could realistically make a living as a full-time indie. And I don’t think that’s a good idea anymore.

Going full-time indie means that I’m completely dependant on my savings. It means that I need to pay my way by selling my games – and as a consequence, it sorta implies that I shouldn’t be working on anything that I don’t intend to sell. Not if I don’t want to go bankrupt, at least.

I really don’t like that idea.

Also, as much as I’d like to insist otherwise, it does put a limitation on what I can work on.

Without getting into the details of my savings and living expenses, I estimate that I can live for about six months or so before I need to look for a new job. That’s like, next March. Let’s be realistic here. Even if I was to spend every day from now to then working on a masterpiece, it’s a huge gamble – if the game doesn’t work out, I’m in serious trouble. On top of that, I’ll have spent all my savings – which really leaves me with no option but to don a shirt and tie and go back into the working world.

Hey, it could work out, I suppose. But there is a better alternative.

    The part-time route:

Working one 9 to 5 day a week at the Irish minimum wage would pay a little under my weekly living expenses (provided I start getting a bit stingier with my money). Working two days a week would cover my rent. This would stretch out my survival time to between 10 months to a year an a half, depending on whether I work one day a week or two. And if I can find a job that pays more than minimum wage, the numbers get even better. Obviously, this is all just roughly speaking, but it’s something to think about.

I have no idea what kinda job I’d get yet, but I’m not picky. There are supposedly nearly a thousand pubs in this city – I’ve done a bit of bar work before and wouldn’t mind doing it again. Anything would do though. Tescos, McDonalds, whatever. I don’t think I’d have much luck finding a part time office job, but that’s worth a shot too.

Aside from the money, there are other benefits to this approach. Having to go do something every Saturday (or whatever) would be a nice way to mentally keep track of my progress. Or, to put it another way – it would keep me from slacking off.

But the main benefit is the obvious one – I’d no longer have to worry about money. This means no obligation to make a living with every little game I try making, and it means no worrying about how I’m going to pay my rent a few months down the line. It’s not that I particularly want to work in a chipper or something, but this approach just makes the most sense to me. Still, if anybody out there’s got some better suggestions, I’d love to hear them! 🙂

Right. Enough of the approach – here are my actual plans:

    My short term plans:

First thing I need to do is to get into some kind of sustainable lifestyle. I need to find a decent part time job first of all, and this may take some time. I also need to start budgeting, like, right away. And the longer it takes me to get a job, the more money I’m going to waste.

However, I won’t be any position to get a job for another couple of weeks, at least. I arranged a few holidays for myself in the last few months of the job – the week in the Spain with my trad band being the biggest one, but I’m also off to Galway this weekend for a friend’s house party, and then to Amsterdam with a few friends the week after that. And then, I’m going home for a few days. It’ll be October before I’m really ready to start.

But enough of that! My immediate concern is my next game: for TIGSource’s B-Game contest. Or, I should say, the game I was making for TIGSource’s contest. Given that I’ve only till Thursday, and given how lethargic I seem to be at the moment, I just don’t think I can do it justice. Instead, I’m officially dropping out, but I’m going to casually work on it over the next few weeks with whatever free time I can muster up. I had some pretty cool ideas for it over in Spain, and I still think the game has at least some potential!

But don’t worry. Not all my games are about kicking someone in the crotch or jumping around naked. I have some serious games in mind down the line:

    My long term plans:

The full-time indie thing cornered me into what I’ve been calling the Sound of Music scenario – or to use a gaming analogy, the Final Fantasy scenario. It meant that I would squander every last cent I had on one big project that was either going to make or break me. Since I’m now going down the part time route, that’s no longer essential, and I can think about taking on a couple of smaller projects instead, and leaving the big ones till later on.

Here are a few things I want to try:

A puzzle game: Unfortunately, Puzzle Games have been hideously abused by the casual gaming sector of indie gaming. It’s disgusting. Anybody who’s played any of my early QB games, however, may note that aside from the failed RPG attempts, they’re almost all puzzle games. But not in the Bejeweled or Tetris sense. They’re real puzzle games, where you have to sit back and carefully consider your next move – where you have to think ahead and there’s a deliberate logic at work – not just a momentary trigger finger reaction to whatever damn piece you’ve been served.

I would love to make a good puzzle game. Something cool and addictive that people want to play five minutes of before they start working on something, with a level editor so people can create their own stuff and levels that actually require you to sit back and think about what you’re going to do. I think there’s a lot of room to make something really cool within this genre. And it so happens, I have something in mind.

A flash game: I’ve had an interest in doing something in flash for a while now – people who work in flash seem to be able to work quite quickly, and it appears to be a fairly nice development environment. Flash games also seem to attract a lot more attention than the average indie game, though they do attract a different kind of attention.

The main reason I’m curious about flash, though, is because you can make money with it without charging a cent for it. I don’t really like ads, but hey – if some stupid company selling smileys or whatever wants to pay me for putting an ad in the loading screen for my game, then I guess I don’t really have a problem with that. They can go right ahead.

Fundamentally, I really just don’t want to have to worry about money in the slightest. I don’t want to cut down my game and ask people to pay for the rest or anything like that – so a system like sponsership or the less intrusive ads (like MochiAds) is pretty interesting to me.

It is a little on the dark side, though. I’m not sure if it’s something I really want to explore. Especially after reading articles like this one:

Generic Defence Game: The Experiment

A few little freeware games: Back when I was in school I used to make little free mini-games, just for the hell of it. I haven’t done that in years, even though I’ve learnt a lot from all the big projects I’ve worked on in the five years since. It would be really cool to go and revisit that mindset: to take a random week and work on a random game idea, and just see how it goes. There are a lot of indie developers out there at the moment who work like this, and it really seems to help them develop an individual style (compare one of Cactus’s old games to Clean Asia or Burn the Trash, for example).

I kinda worry that I’m not able to make games this way anymore. That’s probably irrational, but it would be nice to finish something again, at long last. This untitled naked platformer I’m working on seems like a good place to start.

Major Arcana: I’ve abandoned a lot of projects over the years – but there’s something to Major Arcana. I dunno. It might be nice to have another look at it, at some later point.

Summary: I’m going to get a part time job. I’ve won’t be around a lot for the rest of the month, and I’m dropping out of the TIGSource contest, but I’m still going to work on my contest game over the next month with whatever free time I can manage. I also have some vague ideas about what I’m going to be doing down the line.

* 4 Comments

4 Comments so far

  1. N-TRAC on September 11th, 2007

    Hi,
    Been following you since you left work, there is a lot of logic to what you are suggesting, like the idea of the short games, but also think you need to keep some bigger longer term project in the burner – best way to do justice to the original decision to leave work. Would love to see your puzzle games – would they be as hard as trying to make cubes by folding paper???

  2. Terry on September 12th, 2007

    Hey 🙂

    I have a few long term big projects lined up as well, but there’s some other stuff I want to try before I start dedicating all my time to that. There’s one in particular that I’ve been planning since about third year in college. Maybe in January or thereabouts…

    As for my puzzle games – I think they’ve all dated quite badly, so I don’t have them on my site anymore – but you’re not missing all that much, trust me 😀

    How’s work going, anyway? 🙂 Any gossip? Has my replacement started?

  3. Verious on September 15th, 2007

    I tend to think more community excitement is generated by larger scale projects as opposed to small scale mini-games; however, mini-games may help to drive traffic to your website and create “buzz”, which could increase overall exposure for your commercial projects.

    If working one or two days a week will allow you to develop for a longer period of time before financial issues arise, it is probably the best route. While not glamorous, pursuing a job as a waiter may provide a better return for your time than working a minimum wage job and the schedule tends to be flexible. The hours also tend to be centered around a typical work-day, so you won’t be excessively tired and blow-out the following day, which you will need for development efforts.

  4. Terry on September 17th, 2007

    Well, waiting tables is a minimum wage job over here – since (a) the minimum wage is a bit higher and (b) there isn’t a tipping culture in Ireland. It’s among the type of jobs I’ll be applying for 🙂

    I tend to think more community excitement is generated by larger scale projects as opposed to small scale mini-games; however, mini-games may help to drive traffic to your website and create “buzz”, which could increase overall exposure for your commercial projects.

    I hoping that once I start working on something big, word’ll get around. Probably not the smartest tactic, but I guess I don’t have to worry about it just yet…

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