As an independent developer, I depend on contract work to make an income. That means that I spend a lot of time working on other people's stuff. Not that I'm complaining. I enjoy the work. It is challenging and still allows me to flex my creative muscles.
I'm currently in a lull where I only have one contract project (instead of three at once!).
That means I actually have time to do other things like blog and WORK ON MY OWN GAME!
The Contract Trap
I have read it in other people's blogs and heard it on other people's podcasts: Once you start taking on contract work then work on your own game will suffer! The truth is that you have to meet the milestones on your contracts (if you want to get paid) and you don't have to meet the milestones on your own projects. So, my own game keeps sliding while other people's games get done.
Don't get me wrong...I love contract work because I love things like food and cars and having a roof over my head. Being able to do contract work means that I get to stay independent, make a living, and still do what I love which is program games.
When I look back over the last several months I am struck wondering where all the time went. I think the most difficult part of being a self-funded Indie is trying to maintain the balance between making a living and working on my own game, which is the reason I decided to go Indie in the first place.
So, now that I have some time, I also have some time to re-group and re-evaluate. I'm getting 'back in the game' and ramping back up on development.
Keeping the Flame Burning
It's easy to get discouraged. Over a year has gone by since I started my game project and I don't feel like I have enough to show for it. I remember last year thinking that I wanted a playable demo done by the end of 2010. Now that is my goal for 2011!
However, I keep reminding myself that I'm in this for the long haul. Obviously, I have to survive and that means taking on contract work to have an income. So, I just remind myself that no matter how long it takes I will finish my game.
Connecting with People
It can be really easy to fall into the trap of never interacting with other people. After all, I work from my home and my development team is distributed and online. Weeks can go by without hearing another developer's voice!
One thing that has really helped me is making it a point to regularly interact with other people involved in the project. My designer recently "forced" me to setup regular meetings so we can talk about the game. My initial choice was to work in isolation to 'get some coding done'. The truth is that talking with others about the game always gets me more motivated to actually do some more work on it.
Isolation bad. People good.