The Long March
So I'm in a rough spot right now. You might even say that I'm screwed, but that kind of talk only leads to defeatism. I've got to get a better job, because for the last few years-- frankly since the dot com crash-- I've been struggling to stay afloat. Although I've got tech skills, I'm really learning that the game industry was a unique, open-minded environment unduplicated elsewhere. Whereas I rose through the ranks in gaming because I could show talent, the business world seems to rely exclusively on connections or credentials. Either you know someone or your school's name gets you in the door.
Unfortunately, what this means is that if I don't want to be doomed to a slew of risky temp jobs (i.e., no insurance / not knowing if you can pay the rent), I've got to finish school. And that means that, now that I know nobody will fund indie game development, that it's going to be even harder to finish Straylight.
Harder, but I refuse the word impossible. It seems to me that the first mistake people make in independent game development (besides biting off more than they can chew, which I plead guilty to) is focusing on externals first. You get the concept artists and work on the engine so that you can show the screenshots. The screenshots create the buzz so that you can recruit volunteers and maybe even paid talent. Everyone asks to see how far you've gotten because nobody wants to be attached to a falling star, and your screenshots prove your progress.
Graphics age far more quickly than code, however. The next multimillion-dollar game is going to raise the bar for everyone, commercial and indie alike. Go back and play Doom 1 if you don't believe me. What I remember as clear, amazingly crisp, stunning detail is now a pixelated mess. How did it change? Our perceptions were radically altered at a fundamental level, and now, save for retro games meant to look old, those graphics aren't good enough.
So if graphics age far more quickly than code, and you have a big job ahead of you, it seems to me that, recruiting be damned, the worst mistake you can make is to start working on graphics. I knew this at a fundamental level, but let some people talk me into walking the "create a website / post artwork / get artists" path. That's only smart if you're going to finish soon, because I guarantee you that most people who sign up with you will quit unless they're compensated. By now, that's the dominant theme I hear in indie game development involving medium or large projects.
So it occurs to me that if a person has the willpower (fanatical, at this point) to keep the dream alive no matter what, then the strategy has to be long range. You keep working as much as possible on the material that won't age until you finally build up enough critical mass to burst through to completion. You keep searching for stylistic graphical representations, such as iconic, mini-game or static graphical representations, that will still be popular. And you save the wow-cool engine stuff for near last (in as much as you can create content / gameplay without an engine, that is).
As I've been exercising for hours each day, the nature of motivation, willpower and limits has become more clear to me. Sure, there are a great many things that we simply can't do; but there are a whole lot of other things that we say we can't do, which are nothing more than competing constructs of the mind. False thoughts, or undermining motives, if you will. I say to myself, half-way through my exercise program, that I can't keep going, but when I focus on something that consumes my attention, time evaporates, and I'm done. Obviously then, the mind lies. [smile]
What the hell does this have to do with completing Straylight? Given everything that's on my plate, it's going to take laser focus and an iron will to keep moving forward. I've got to do school, I've got to find a safer job, and I've got to finish this damned book (that they've asked me to rewrite, by the way). And the mechanism to do so derives, I believe, from motivation.
It's interesting how much energy we can discover within ourselves when we have the proper inspiration. One of the most amazing examples I can think of is from Chinese history: The Long March. Mao Tse-tung somehow managed to march 100k people over 18 mountain ranges to escape defeat. Now, I don't know about you, but I have no idea what it's like to march over even one mountain range, let alone 18. What does that take?
Proper motivation, I'm sure.
Now, yes, I admit it's stretching credulity to even compare the Long March to developing a video game, but I'm only using such an extreme example to show that we can do the impossible when properly motivated.
And I'm very motivated to finish this game.