I am a great believer in the Bible, that is, the Game Design Document. Although the urge as a programmer is to get coding as soon as possible, I know the benefit of a good design document from experience. Without it, your ideas get fuzzy and you end up doing a lot of programming that is wasted on fleeting ideas.
So, my first step was to start creating a game document. I found that completing the design document helped me turn my fuzzy ideas into a set of concrete specifications.
The accomplishment of getting that first page of the game design document inspired me. Now there was something concrete to show for my game idea. The more I wrote the more progress I saw. This is another benefit of creating a design document first: instant gratification.
Once I finished the game design document, I had a solid reference to use to begin programming. I'm the kind of programmer that tends to work in spurts. One weekend a spurt happened and I created the first prototype for the game.
The more I accomplished, the more I was invested, the more I was motivated.
I don't want to give you the idea that this has been easy and that I have achieved all of my goals. The reality of survival has side-tracked me several times. It's too easy to spend all of my time on projects that actually make money.
Being independent is the world's most complex balancing act. If you aren't careful, you'll find yourself back in the place where you are doing everyone else's projects but not your own. Once you start down that path, it's easy to get detoured from your game. If you find yourself detoured, get back to the main road!
I'm not suggesting that anyone be irresponsible. I understand that human nature (and sometimes survival) means going for the money first. However, with discipline and planning, I have always been able to get the game project back on track while I survive.
One final word. Just last month I had another spurt and created a web page for my new studio. I immediately sent word to all of my friends, family, and colleagues to check it out.
Twitter. Facebook. The whole deal.
Frankly, I was scared to death.
Going public meant that this was more than just a dream or idle fancy. Now everyone that is important to me knows that I am trying to make it as an indie. Some of them probably think I'm crazy. Others will understand and respect my decision. But the fact is, the word is out and I'm really not good at failure. Now, more than ever, I am motivated to succeed because, in a way, I am accountable to those who are rooting for my success.
If you're unemployed and wondering what happened to your game development career, I hope this article inspires you to do something more. Even if you already took that job programming for an accounting firm, you can still make a way to do what you love--make games. Make your own game.
Independent by default. For me, it's either this or boring. I now work just as many hours as when I was employed, if not more. The sense of accomplishment and the satisfaction that I am still doing what I love more than compensates for the extra time.
3:00 A.M. Tired, crazy, happy!