Jump to content
  • Advertisement
  • entries
    90
  • comments
    340
  • views
    122424

Stress and production

Sign in to follow this  
slayemin

2574 views

I'm feeling the stress of financial pressure right now. My face is a bit scrunched in deep concern right now. Where is this coming from?

I'm looking at my total savings and have calculated a monthly "burn rate", which is how fast I am consuming my cash per month. I need to assume that my project isn't going to succeed and have a little bit of cash left over in reserve so that I can spend a few months looking for employment to turn my cashflow back into the positive. If my cash is my gas, I have enough fuel to make and ship a great game in exactly two years which lots of people would be willing to play and pay for. What if my game is shit? what if nobody wants to play it? or pay for it? or if nobody even knows about it? What if on launch day I sell 1 copy and my only customer is secretly my mom? That two year deadline is a "no shit, you're done or you die." deadline, so there's no slippage allowed. No project overruns. What's worrisome is that developers are notorious for miscalculating how long something takes. I'm a developer. What if my project is too ambitious for two people to finish in two years? What if it really needs 4 years to complete and I just have no idea at this moment in time?

I've tried to come up with a rough schedule on a month by month basis for what parts of the game need to be done on what months. I have no idea if the sequence of events I've outlined will actually result in a game. It's just stuff I think may need to get done. I don't know exactly how long its going to take to implement some of these things, but my measuring stick is my current pace of development using my own engine to build a prototype version of my game. I've decided that I need to wrap up this prototype asap. Any extra time I put into glitter and polish is time I'm not only wasting, but precious time I'm not spending on the shippable product -- you know, the one that would actually make me money.

One other thing I'm not budgeting for is contract labor for things like music and sound effects. I'm sure the costs of that are probably equivalent to a months worth of fuel, and that's the first cost I can think of right off the top of my head, and surely it's not the only cost to ship successfully, so in truth I'm probably looking at a shorter timeline than two years exactly. Shit. That's got me frantically stressed out.

So, I tried to think long and hard about the "core features" in my game and ranked them by priority. The question to ask: If you have to cut this feature, will you still have the same game you envisioned? If you saw this game with this feature set on Steam, would you put money down to play it? Would you want your money back afterwards (because you were disappointed)? I already know that the top most important thing to do is identify these core features and do them well and polish them to a shiny gem-stone rather than trying to include a thousand different ideas but only execute them haphazardly due to resource constraints.

The wild-card in all of this is the capabilities of Unreal Engine 4 and how fast I can ramp up on learning how to use it to build a game. A veteran of the UE4 team built a flappy bird clone in a few days. Surely, I can build *my* game in two years with two people, right?! There'll probably be a few months of pain as I try to learn the engine's ins, outs, and bugs, but I'm going to have to go through that one way or another. I'm really betting everything on the engine, so the only difference between me and the veteran UE4 employee is a decade of experience in the tools.

Idea: Why do I need to prototype my game by writing it in code? Sure, it's going to be a real time strategy game with a back-end turn system. Why can't I just build a prototype using scraps of paper, a map, measuring tape / string and a stop watch? I could totally sandbox it in a conference room for a few hours and we can iterate on that until it's addictingly fun and then build that in digital form? All of the rest of the stuff would just be "balancing" and "play testing" rather than the design feasibility tests I'm wasting time trying to build.

Anyways, I've got an "alpha" version slotted out on my schedule for a year out from now. It should be good enough to ship, but doing so would likely piss off customers -- which would be terrible and unallowable. The intent is to get to a "feature complete" state by then and spend the following six months adding in content, and the remaining time is for polishing and buffer time for cost overruns / contractor fees. If the alpha is "sufficient", I can really consider shopping it around to a bunch of publishers to get additional funding and resource support (like marketing know-how!). The dream would be to get a publisher with deep pockets to see the vision, buy in to it with me, and give me enough resources to hire a team of 30 people to build it without cutting a single feature. Hell, I'd even get in bed with Microsoft if it means I can build what I want to play and be able to say I was able to lead a team to successfully ship a title to commercial success. One step at a time though -- that'll never happen without a great alpha to show around, and if no publisher wants to commit, it's 100% financed by me, make it or bust.

In a bit of personal news, I broke up with my girlfriend six weeks ago. We'd been together for two years. I had to find a new place to live while trying to work at the same time and keep myself emotionally stable. It wasn't easy, but I got through it. It does mean that I don't really have anything to go home to, so I can spend long days working in the office without any social consequences. I can also work weekends. In fact, considering the dire straights of my project schedule and that I have nothing better to do than work, I am tempted to work 12 hours / day, 7 days/week. If I don't and the project fails, I may think I didn't give it my all and blame myself for it. At the same time, burn out is very real and something to watch out for.

Anyways, this is really nuts to think about: I am getting old. At the age of 16, I decided I wanted to make video games and set myself on the path to do so. Now I'm 32, going on 33, making my own game. If all goes well and I release this game, I'll be 35! I kind of wanted to have a family by now, but it's becoming apparent that isn't going to happen at a minimum until I'm done with this project. If you're going to sacrifice everything to ship a game, you may unwittingly sacrifice things you aren't happy with. Heh, suddenly employment and the stability of a steady paycheck has a bit more appeal, right? What's weird is that I kind of had this unintentional assumption that once I reach adulthood, I'd stay in the exact same phase of life forever and have plenty of time to do everything I ever wanted, to have all the adventures, to see all the things, and always be the energetic 23 year old, where age is just an irrelevant number which has no broader meaning other than wrinkles and graying hair (not that I'm there yet). Nope... your phase in life goes forward whether you're ready to or not. You just get more stresses, like sweating over finances, project schedules and feature lists.

Oh god. I can't become homeless. It's time to shut up and code.

PS. I showed my game prototype off at a local game dev meetup. It went horribly. The game has a fixed windowed resolution which was hard coded in and it didn't gel well with the projector (which changes your screen resolution!), so I fumbled my way through that and a few resulting graphical artifacts. I also had a delicious beer from our sponsor and little semblance of what I wanted to say, so I did a moderately drunk demo. The game didn't crash though! I'll do a bit better next time ;)
Sign in to follow this  


10 Comments


Recommended Comments

Maybe you should have a softer start. Instead of diving head first, try to start while having a job. Yes, it is a lot of stress, but it has advantages:

1. It pulls some heavy financial burden from your shoulders.

2. The right idea doesn't come over night, you need to tweak a lot and it needs just time (no work, no money) to come up with an better idea.

3. Yes, you will underestimate the effort and eventually you will underestimate the underestimation :-)

4. Just to underline it again: a game needs time to mature.

5. Take your time off, once you have the feeling, that the game only needs polishing (=60% done),not when you think it is almost done (=15% done).

6. 12 hours / day, 7 days/week will break you, don't do it this way, not for 2 years.

 

I'm developing a game too, with a friend, for more than 5 years (engine for more thqn 14 years!). I never was, and most likely never will, be brave enough to drop out of my job to finish it. Still we made great progress (not displayed on my homepage yet), but I'm really overwhelmed how much work it is.

I'm now 41 years old and I'm quite happy with the progress.

 

Still, to go for a broke might be a better idea, but eventually it is a very risky way.

 

Good luck for your game smile.png

Share this comment


Link to comment

None of my business but I'm curious, if you want to share, whether starting up your own studio and breaking up with your partner were related or coincidence? Your thoughts/experiences outside the office could make for an interesting post alongside the regular content - that side of things is pretty important when considering setting out on such a journey so it could be valuable to others considering similar paths.

Share this comment


Link to comment

None of my business but I'm curious, if you want to share, whether starting up your own studio and breaking up with your partner were related or coincidence? Your thoughts/experiences outside the office could make for an interesting post alongside the regular content - that side of things is pretty important when considering setting out on such a journey so it could be valuable to others considering similar paths.

As far as relationships go, it ultimately ended because we weren't really compatible with each other (I think). There were lots of stressors on the relationship which didn't help. She felt I wasn't putting any effort and passion into the relationship anymore and I thought I was putting in plenty given the circumstances. When I was working from home, I'd only get about 5 hours of work done in the day before she got home from work, then I'd cook dinner and we'd spend time with each other, she'd go to sleep and I'd work for another few hours. When I started working from my new office in the city, that changed. I'd get home from work a lot later (7pm) and I wouldn't make home cooked meals anymore, and I was usually quite tired out and didn't want to go out. I wasn't exciting, lively or romantic, and that's what she wanted. It was a slow downward spiral to its inevitable conclusion. Knowing what I know now about my work, priorities and life situation, would I get into another relationship? I don't know, it's something I honestly hesitate on. While it'd be great to not be alone and have someone supporting me, I also don't really have much to offer in my current routine and I'd most likely just add to their stress levels. But, who knows what the future will bring? I feel like if I work hard and try my best, I can be hopeful and optimistic of good things to come in terms of personal and professional success.

Share this comment


Link to comment

Being concerned with finances is perfectly normal. Adjusting your plan as you go is part of the job, and always focusing on the MVP is something very few individuals manage to do well.

 

From your post however, one thing concerns me: how much have you actually put aside for actually putting the game to market? It seems the whole of your budget is being used for actual production, and that this is a hail mary to get in bed with a publisher. What's your second plan to get to market? What if you need to self-promote?

Also, have you started discussing with storefronts to see what you needed to get done in order to get on there, and if possible, get promoted?

Share this comment


Link to comment

If you do need to get a job - or a little contract work to pay the bills - gamedev is a good thing to have on your resume. If you have something sort of impressive, even if it's unfinished, even if it's barely related to the potential job.... it shows you have chops.

Share this comment


Link to comment

If you do need to get a job - or a little contract work to pay the bills - gamedev is a good thing to have on your resume. If you have something sort of impressive, even if it's unfinished, even if it's barely related to the potential job.... it shows you have chops.

Most indies then-turned freelancers indie friends I know eventually gave up on their project, so I don't suggest taking a side job, at least for as long as you can afford it.

Share this comment


Link to comment

 

If you do need to get a job - or a little contract work to pay the bills - gamedev is a good thing to have on your resume. If you have something sort of impressive, even if it's unfinished, even if it's barely related to the potential job.... it shows you have chops.

Most indies then-turned freelancers indie friends I know eventually gave up on their project, so I don't suggest taking a side job, at least for as long as you can afford it.

 

 

Agreed. I've done freelance work in the past and it's just not my passion, so I can't put my heart into it and do a great job. I've got enough finances to last me for about two years at my current burn rate, so the focus is to put 100% effort into making this game project a success. 

 

Being concerned with finances is perfectly normal. Adjusting your plan as you go is part of the job, and always focusing on the MVP is something very few individuals manage to do well.

 

From your post however, one thing concerns me: how much have you actually put aside for actually putting the game to market? It seems the whole of your budget is being used for actual production, and that this is a hail mary to get in bed with a publisher. What's your second plan to get to market? What if you need to self-promote?

Also, have you started discussing with storefronts to see what you needed to get done in order to get on there, and if possible, get promoted?

I haven't set anything aside yet for marketing :-/ Its something I need to spend more time on, but I think the optimal time to start heavy marketing would be around the 75% completion time frame. The marketing plan at the moment is to build a website, set up press kits, advertise on social media sites, and post launch, hope some popular online reviewers feature the game and the game is good enough to be featured on Steam (assuming we get on there). I think the most important marketing aspect is to build a high quality product which is fun to play -- that should help a lot, but still it's possible to build a great game and have nobody play it because nobody knows about it. What a waste that would be, right?

Share this comment


Link to comment

I can oly suggest to not stress yourself too much on your toughts about being social and having a relaitonship.

 

I mean, it would be detrimental if you SET constraints on it, blend in and go with the flow...let that happen as it happens, or in ither words: just be.

 

And don't fret about your age!

 

I'm following your articles since the beginning and I can only say that you seem perfectly organized, so this is extremely positive. Just don't get overwhelmed by bad toughts, and don't lose focus.

 

Keep up the good work.

Share this comment


Link to comment

I can oly suggest to not stress yourself too much on your toughts about being social and having a relaitonship.

 

I mean, it would be detrimental if you SET constraints on it, blend in and go with the flow...let that happen as it happens, or in ither words: just be.

 

And don't fret about your age!

 

I'm following your articles since the beginning and I can only say that you seem perfectly organized, so this is extremely positive. Just don't get overwhelmed by bad toughts, and don't lose focus.

 

Keep up the good work.

Thanks for the support! I'll try to keep your points in mind.

Share this comment


Link to comment

With today's early alpha on steam and kickstarter I think you may be going about this game all wrong. I feel like gone (or dying) are the days of developing 2 years on something and then releasing it to see if anyone likes it. It's just too risky. Kickstarter is a great way to see if anyone is interested in your idea. You could easily make a prototype so you have video in a few months. Then you set your completion required goal and if people are interested you'll hit it and get the money to complete it. If they aren't then you get nothing and maybe you need to go back to the drawing board on your game idea.

 

Early alpha is also a good way to reduce the risk and get a feel if people actually care about your game. Of course with this you have to complete it (to be ethical) but at least you'd get a feel for things and reduce your risk. You'd be more nimble and able to react to your customers wants while you are developing.

 


Anyways, I've got an "alpha" version slotted out on my schedule for a year out from now. It should be good enough to ship, but doing so would likely piss off customers -- which would be terrible and unallowable. The intent is to get to a "feature complete" state by then and spend the following six months adding in content, and the remaining time is for polishing and buffer time for cost overruns / contractor fees. If the alpha is "sufficient", I can really consider shopping it around to a bunch of publishers to get additional funding and resource support (like marketing know-how!). The dream would be to get a publisher with deep pockets to see the vision, buy in to it with me, and give me enough resources to hire a team of 30 people to build it without cutting a single feature. Hell, I'd even get in bed with Microsoft if it means I can build what I want to play and be able to say I was able to lead a team to successfully ship a title to commercial success.

 

I feel like these are some pretty unrealistic goals for 1-2 guys. Can it be done? Sure.  Is it likely? Probably not.

Share this comment


Link to comment

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Advertisement
×

Important Information

By using GameDev.net, you agree to our community Guidelines, Terms of Use, and Privacy Policy.

Participate in the game development conversation and more when you create an account on GameDev.net!

Sign me up!