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About TheFuntastic

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  1. This is the second of two part series about failure. In part I we analysed how the Cadence (a.k.a. a musical playground of beautiful puzzles) crowdfunding campaign fell short of its mark. In this second part, I'm going to take a deeper look at the emotional impact of enduring failure, and the subtle ways in which it undermines your ability to stay productive and share your creativity with the world. I remember the lead-up to our Kickstarter campaign (early 2015) as being a time alive with optimism. Not only was I earning some welcome breathing room on a well-paid contract gig, but it felt like doors were finally starting to open for Cadence. In a way, it felt like the Kickstarter was going to be the thing that would break the dam wall and be the beginning of the rest of my life as game developer. Along the way we started to pick up a few award nominations, bolstering the sense we were pointing in the right direction. In short, I was flourishing and things were bright. I mention this because it's important to acknowledge how feeling emotionally high enabled a destructive behaviour that paved the road to emotional burnout. Unlike traditional methods of funding, Kickstarter success is cut and dry. Either you get the money, or else everyone very publicly sees you get nothing. Psychologically speaking, this makes for a very high stakes game. In fact I can remember looking at other failed Kickstarters and thinking: "thank god that isn't going to happen to us". But perhaps this sentiment is best described as posturing, because I was still deeply anxious about how things would pan out. Consequently this made it was very easy for me to slip into a pattern of "let's work just a little bit harder on this, you know, to make sure". Of course, if you keep working just a little bit harder here and there, you eventually end up in a situation where you're horrendously overcommitted, and the only fuel left for the fire is your sleep and physical well-being. As much as I've learnt to recognise the symptoms and swore I'd never let it happen again, I was undone by that very simple thought: "imagine how much better life will be afterwards". In the same breath, collaborating with a small team of awesome people with a common goal can be a wonderful feeling. In this case we'd camped out in our video guys' home office for the final days of the lead-up to optimise communication time. The looming deadline for something we cared about created a bold sense of camaraderie and brotherhood - in fact I can remember Rodain, my development partner, saying he'd never felt indie fellowship as fiercely before. But this can seductively encourage you to push even harder, because now you don't want to let down those around you. When we eventually, exhaustedly, flicked the switch to go live I was totally shattered. The following hours were a hazy blur that could fit right into a drug-addled Johnny Depp biopic. I can't remember another time I've so desperately wanted to sleep, only to be denied by an adrenaline hangover pushing thoughts around my head. It couldn't help that I knew my silenced phone was simultaneously blowing up with notifications. 24 hours later, a modicum of sleep acquired, the gravity of what happened started to dawn on me. The support from friends and the local community was amazing. But I was caught off guard when some friends and family started making very sizeable contributions to our Kickstarter. My first reaction was pang of guilt, that people I care about were spending so much on my silly game - but then I realised that actually this was their way of showing me that they really believe in me. Considering game development is so often filled with self doubt and anxiety, this was an overwhelming feeling that bought more than a tear to my eye. There wasn't much time to catch my breath however, as I was soon on a plane off to San Francisco for Game Developers Conference (GDC). I was at least smart enough to plan in a few days to recover from jet lag once I arrived (I may have also nabbed an airport-priced massage during my layover that was money gladly spent). I can't say my rest was peaceful though, as it was rapidly becoming apparent our Kickstarter was losing momentum and the path forward started to look increasingly steeper. My stomach was in double and triple knots. GDC is a massive conference: thousands of people, parties, events and meeting personal heroes by the minute - more than enough to make your first time completely overwhelming. But conferences are also what you make of them, the reason you spend so much money and travel halfway around the world is because this chaotic environment has the ability to create connections and introduce you to people you might never otherwise have access to. Of course, no one is going to hand this to you - you must be open to possibilities, network like a demon, and always be selling because you never know who is listening. As a recovered introvert, this is already a tough ask, and I'm always envious of anyone who could shamelessly perform in this manner. But against the backdrop of a flagging Kickstarter, the pressure to create some "magic" was immense. Besides, I'd come too far to not give it my all, so time and again I'd throw myself into the fray and pitch Cadence to people I'd only just met. Ideally in such situations you want to be friendly, energetic, and most of all believe you're making the other person's life better by sharing your awesome thing with them. But instead, being so emotionally depleted, it always felt like I was operating with a very obvious ulterior motive. That I was the noise distracting them from what he or she actually cared about. This felt particularly brutal when that someone was a person I deeply admired and respected. Often I left an interaction feeling like my psyche had been raked over a bed of hot coals. At its worst I remember taking a few minutes to lay spread-eagled on my hostel dorm-room floor, just trying to recapture a little bit of myself. Even though they didn't know exactly what I was going through, I was immensely grateful to have friends, both new and old, at GDC. By simply being around and caring about my cause they lifted my mood and I managed to leave GDC having had a good time. But I think this points to one of the most insidious things about feeling unsuccessful: it tends to make you cower, to want to hide yourself - to not see opportunities where before there were none and sabotage your own luck. The remainder of our Kickstarter campaign was a slow death, but it didn't take me long to accept the outcome. I was exhausted and simply had no more fight left in me. It seemed far wiser to simply lick our wounds and save our energy for the next scrap. Nevertheless the post mortem was really difficult. I remember people, with the best of intentions, trying to give constructive criticism - but it was almost impossible to hear it without getting very upset. Thankfully, I'm old enough to know when it's time to go for a walk, but I think here lies another clue. Clearly, over the hours of hard graft I had invested countless little pieces of myself. This meant that when the campaign failed to meet its goal, it felt like I had failed. Additionally, when people analysed the campaign, it felt like they were picking apart my actions and personally attacking my motivations. But I tried my best to keep the right perspective, to remember the many positives of the campaign and to try and frame the failure as a learning experience. In the months that followed I noticed another knock-on effect. Do you know any friends who love a particular restaurant but then after a bad experience suddenly it's the worst? The psychological term for this is 'splitting', which acts as a defence mechanism to protect you from unpleasantness by writing it off wholesale. In this case I found myself trying to get as much psychological distance from the Kickstarter as possible. This isn't to say I went around trashing Kickstarter as a platform, but it made it very difficult to look at our own page or to back any other Kickstarters. Alarmingly, this effect spilled over into Cadence as well. I found myself far less enthused about the game, despite all of positive feedback we received during and after the campaign. This points to a crisis of confidence that makes it hard to take those half chances. Competitions don't seem like they are worth entering anymore. Keeping your followers engaged with regular updates is a chore you can't manage. Your productivity wavers, and it becomes hard to put your head down and focus on any one task because it's hard to believe you're still heading in the right direction. Lately, I've been asking myself a valuable question: did we actually fail? The story of Cadence is a long way from done, so who knows what might happen when we use our hard won experiences to launch on Steam early access or do a full release. This is a curious thing I'm learning about the relationship between success and failure - in the two years I've been working on Cadence, my failure rate has gone up significantly. I've been rejected and fallen short of expectations more times than I ever did academically or as an employee. But in between, we've also had amazing experiences and been presented with opportunities that could only be won by walking this path. One perfect example happened during that crazy GDC week. One of my hostel dorm mates innocuously mentioned Stugan - a non-profit accelerator for indie developers to work on their game in Swedish country side. And now, four months later, I'm thrilled to be writing this article from a lakeside cabin, one week into my two month long stay. Being surrounded by 22 other indies so far has been an incredible boost to morale. Maybe it was a mistake to try and promote a Kickstarter during GDC? But then again I wouldn't be here, and right now the view is pretty great! Look out for Cadence on Steam Early Access by the time Stugan ends in mid August.
  2. Creating a video game where once there was nothing can be incredibly difficult. And it doesn't end there - getting people to care about your game once it's made can be even harder. It's no surprise that making games is a journey with many missteps and failures along the way. In this two-part series we'll be looking at circumstances of our unsuccessful crowdfunding campaign for the music puzzle game Cadence (part I - skip if you aren't interested in crowdfunding) and the emotional aftermath of this failure (part II - relevant to anyone working as a creative professional). For a long time we were dead set against the idea of Kickstarter. We'd heard tales of how much energy and effort they take, and of course there is a huge risk factor. Regardless of how we chose to fund the game, we were ultimately convinced by the realisation that most of the effort would be spent on crafting our marketing message - something which could only ever benefit the game. Self confidence was also part of the equation, for why should we be scared of running a Kickstarter if we truly believed in the game? We were however adamant that if we were going to do a Kickstarter, by Jove, we were going to do it right. We did our research, and then did our research some more. We knew that it would be a full time job for at least two months. We knew that Kickstarter saturation was real and that we'd have to bring our very best in order to succeed. We even went so far as to build a scraper tool to analyse public info, like reward tiers and funding goals, to make sure our own assumptions were on point. And so we set about preparing our campaign in time for GDC 2015. Creating a great video with high production values was a top priority, as we believed that a slam dunk video had the potential to make or break the campaign. To this end we enlisted the awesome cats from Cool Your Jets and were thrilled with the final product. Many late nights were sacrificed as they honed the video and we put huge amounts of energy into crafting our page. And so it was, almost collapsing with exhaustion, we flicked the switch and send out our message out only hours before I boarded a plane headed for GDC. Initially things seemed to be following the script perfectly. Our followers and local community rallied behind us and my phone started going ballistic with notifications. It was awesome to see the outpour of enthusiasm and the show of faith from friends and family was beyond overwhelming! We hit our initial targets with ease and it seems like we were on track for a great campaign. However, 48 hours after I'd landed in San Francisco it was clear that we'd already reached everyone who cared and our campaign hit a brick wall. Whilst alarmed, we weren't deterred - we knew about the infamous Kickstarter trough. So it meant we weren't going to have a fairytale campaign, but that was something we were ready to accept as we settled in for the long slog. And besides, I was about to attend both GDC and SXSW - what better place to promote a flagging Kickstarter? As it turns out GDC and SXSW were both amazing experiences that benefited Cadence immeasurably, but a miserable result for the Cadence Kickstarter itself. My press strategy of hunting down anyone with a press tag and cornering them until they'd heard about Cadence resulted only in coverage we probably could have secured anyway (thanks RPS)! Perhaps it was merely luck, but the press simply wasn't anywhere that I was. Still, I jumped at every possible chance to recruit allies and many developers and personal heroes soon learned about Cadence and in many cases tweeted about the game. This kept a steady trickle of new eyes coming, but still it was never more than a trickle. As it became clear the campaign was flagging, some of our supporters started to speculate as to what we were doing wrong. In particular we received some "heated" criticism for not including a demo. Originally we decided to omit a demo because we've seen examples of this having a negative effect on sales. But we weren't zealots and were willing to experiment. Curiously, our demo release made almost zero difference to the trajectory of our campaign. Perhaps it would have been different if it was there from start, but I have my doubts. Many aspects of our campaign got picked apart and analysed, from our reward tiers to the video to feedback that our message was confusing and muddled. I believe that all of these criticisms have merit: certainly we could have done a better job of explaining the game, to explain why it's worth a backer's money, to have compelling rewards that let backers feel like they're getting their money's worth. To craft a message that allows backers to feel like they are part of a movement, and something bigger than themselves. I don't blame people for focusing on these factors, indeed they are the very same things we focused on whilst in research mode. The common denominator all these attributes share is that they happen to be the forward facing elements publicly visible on any Kickstarter page. From this it's easy to assume there is a correlation between getting each of these elements right and Kickstarter success. But now I believe this is a dangerous way of thinking that glosses over the most important fact: it's all about eyeballs. At the end of the day only 10 000 odd people ever clicked play on our video - resulting in 526 backers and 37% percent of our funding goal. I imagine that if that number was closer to 30 000 there is every reason to believe that we would have been funded. Clearly, we're not experts on how we could have changed this equation, but we must admit we dropped the ball by not focusing on one obvious area: youtubers. Considering that a single Let's Play by a medium-sized indie-friendly caster could have delivered those views, focusing our efforts elsewhere was a very costly mistake. Of course youtubers can be quite enigmatic in what they choose to cover, but at the very least we messed up some simple basics like giving two week lead-in time before the start of the campaign. This is one of those instances where I felt like it would've been much better for me to be at home, jockeying a keyboard and sending emails, rather than navigating two conferences 10 000 miles away. In many of my discussions at GDC, I heard other developers mention that Kickstarters often work better the second time round, and I think I can see why. Having a captive audience is perhaps the most valuable asset you can have when selling any kind of game. Building this audience however requires painstaking effort, much like a stalagmite growing one drop at a time. Starting from scratch when you launch a Kickstarter campaign is a very tall order. I think this goes a long way to explain why Kickstarters with nostalgia appeal do so well. Looking back it would be easy to say the campaign was a disaster, but given the number of positive reactions we still believe the game deserves to be made. Of course, the money alarm bells were ringing frantically, so we spent the final days of the campaign throwing together our own tongue-in-cheek "Noodlestarter" page to try and capture Kickstarter momentum. It was refreshing to poke a bit of fun at what is essentially a pre-order page. We never had high expectations, but for a couple of days work, the month or two of funding it secured was well worth it. In Part II I'll retell the story, focusing on the view from my seat in the emotional rollercoaster. In particular this highlights how failure undermines your ability to be effective, and looks forward to our launch on Steam Early Access and beyond.
  3. Indie developer Peter Cardwell-Gardner details his experiences of his maiden pilgrimage to game dev Mecca, otherwise known as the Game Developer's Conference (GDC) which takes place over five days in San Francisco. A tale of woe trying to pimp a failing Kickstarter for the music game, Cadence - and finding loving friendships in unexpected places. As an indie developer, there is a single event each year which gradually assimilates my Twitter feed, stoking fears of missing out and doing nothing for my imposter syndrome. There is huge pressure to attend GDC, as it seems that anyone and everyone who matters is there, but the financial implications of doing so can be hard to stomach. Travelling halfway across the globe on a weak third world currency and an indie budget is insanely expensive. I resisted for a long time, but promised myself that I'd make the voyage once I had a game I thought warranted the trouble of emptying my bank account. Enter Cadence, a musical playground of beautiful puzzles! It's been a long, and sometimes rough journey, but it feels worth it when I see how the game is shaping up. The visuals are beautiful, the gameplay is almost there, and we're close to pulling of something not many games do - putting music at the front and centre of the experience. Six months ago attending GDC simply wasn't an option as I'd completely run out of money, and I was forced to take a hiatus from the game to engage with some good old fashioned contract work. Even though it felt grim at the time, it turns out taking a break was a huge blessing. A few months away from Cadence really allowed me to remember what was special about it, and rejuvenate my excitement for the project, not to mention fund upcoming travels. Eying the calendar, GDC seemed to be the perfect stepping stone to launch our Kickstarter campaign and come out all guns blazing. And then out of the clear blue we got a SXSW Gamer's Voice nomination, and selected for the Rezzed Leftfield collection. All fantastic promotion to aid our cause. It seemed the stars were aligning. By the time we launched I was absolutely broken. My brain wasn't capable of thinking a single thought that didn't begin with Cadence. But it seemed like our hard work was paying off! The launch started with just the bang we were hoping for. Our friends and family rallied behind us in incredible fashion. I got so many notifications that my phone at one point stopped working. Less than 48 hours later I dragged my exhausted body to the airport to make the lengthy trip to SF and finally enjoy some sleep. GDC abound! The first thing that will blow your mind about GDC is the sheer scale of it. The Moscone Centre is a massive venue spread across three buildings. In every direction there are literally thousands of devs walking around, denoted by their lanyard name badges. If you're somehow used to game dev being regarded as a backwater non-profession, GDC certainly proves it's anything but. Of course, as any attendees will tell you: it's not so much the talks, expo or any of the other trappings that you're actually there for, it's the people! If you're an indie developer, there's no better place to meet other indies than by staying at the indie hostel (The SF downtown hostel). Literally every single room gets booked out by indie devs from all over the world. Simply by hanging out in the common room you'll meet and connect with loads of developers, from people just starting out to those names you've read about in the press for years. But that's just one of many crazy things that could only happen during GDC. "Food katamaris" are a unique phenomenon where one or two devs start a mission and by the time they get to a restaurant they entire place is literally overflowing with indies. Something I radically underestimated was the toll that GDC would take on your body. The dreaded conference flu is something that regulars seem hyper aware of avoiding (lots of hand sanitizer abound) but even so there is plenty enough to exhaust your body. You will be walking miles each day, having literally hundreds of conversations and then that's before you even attend any of the wall-to-wall parties that are taking place, having even more conversations where you need to fight to be heard. Not surprisingly, my voice died several times during the week, including a throat infection I picked up towards the end. Of course, with so many devs in the mix, there's bound to be some big name personalities around. Some of them may even be personal heroes that you respect and admire, who have unknowingly shaped the games you choose to make. But fame is an odd thing that does weird things to (other) people. Often I felt like a reality distortion field would exist around the "famous" indies, with others hanging on to every word that they say, desperate for any scraps of validation their fame might bestow upon them. Often I'd have to catch myself, and remember famous people are quite ordinary, but for the fact they made or did a thing a lot of people happen to care about. Even so, I had to admit I could still feel the pull of their fame, and cared a lot more about their opinion simply because I knew who they were. Furthermore, I was here to promote a video game! People with a following can be valuable allies, so time and again I'd throw myself into the breach and make myself known to strangers who had no idea who I was. I remember thinking to myself this felt like speaking to the prettiest girl in the room. Mostly you're just happy when you don't embarrass yourself, but when you don't get the outcome you were hoping for it can really sting. Often I'd have to remind myself that I have no rights to others people's attention. I can't know what their emotional state is, and to realise that if everyone was constantly vying for my attention I'd probably be very selective about whom I choose to give it to. The theory goes that repeated exposure makes you tougher, but after a few days of repeatedly making myself vulnerable I just felt emotionally drained. In fact I had a silly fantasy about just locking myself away in a room to play with kittens. There was elephant in the room I haven't mentioned yet - it's normal for Kickstarters to experience a slowdown, but ours had come to a screeching halt. In fact, there was one day we didn't get a single backer. This was definitely a low point. Even though I'd made some amazing connections and impressed a lot of people, without riding the campaign for everything it was worth there was just no traction. It was hard not to feel like running a crowdfunding campaign during GDC was a really dumb idea. But I hung in there, and I'm really glad I did. Lost Levels is one of those cultural phenomena that exist beyond the official roster, but seems to be an integral part of the GDC experience. It's billed as an "unconference", where anyone can speak about any topic for a period of 5 minutes, and everything about it is unconventional. Even getting there was an adventure! Following a marching tuba player, hundreds of indies marched in procession to the designated venue. On arrival we were introduced to one of the most comprehensive safe spaces policies I've ever encountered. Chaos and frenzy reigned supreme, but such is the calling card of unbridled creative expression. It was wonderful to scan the audience and see humans of every single shape and form. Beyond the diversity, I was struck by how these were what I lovingly came to refer to as the Indie Proletariat. They're probably working on games you've never heard of and they probably don't make nearly enough money from those games, but that doesn't dampen the boundless enthusiasm and passion they have for making games. They're not going to let anybody tell them what they can't do and absolutely everyone is welcome. If ever you've wondered about the spirit of what it means to be indie, it can be found here. This is in stark contrast to the main conference, where your lot in life is dictated by how much money you can afford (for reference, an all-access pass started at $1495). But remember, it's about the people! Some of best things happened once I stopped speaking with preconceived outcomes in mind. It's hard to describe the sense of liberty I felt knowing that you can start a conversation with practically anyone and safely assume that you will find common ground. However, a caveat, I'm glad for the identity capital of working on Cadence, as one of the most common questions is "what are you working on?" I sensed this question causing a lot of imposter syndrome in others. What was my biggest takeaway from GDC? It's a fundamental truth of human nature that I consider critical understanding if you hope to be a successful game developer. It affects so much: making friends, getting press, recruiting powerful allies to your cause, getting people to back your Kickstarter and getting people to buy your damn game. It's the simple fact that people form an emotional attachment to what they know. And the only way people get to know you is by being around and having your face seen and your voice heard. It's the reason 26,000+ developers travel from every corner of the globe despite living in the most connected era of human history. By the end of the week there was change so subtle I almost didn't catch it. Not only was I feeling far more comfortable in my own skin, but friendships were starting to germinate - people were taking an interest in who I was and my story (as I had in turn become interested in theirs). This meant that instead of hounding people to play my game, they were asking me if they could play Cadence. Some of them were even those personal heroes I had tried so hard to impress before. And impressed they were! I got a level of laser-focused feedback that I'd struggle to find elsewhere. If ever you're asking yourself if attending GDC is worth it, I think the cost is just something you need to build into the expense of making a video game. Even though it didn't do much for our Kickstarter, I've made scores of friends that will certainly come to my aid in ways that I can't even imagine yet, and probably at a time that I least expect it. The only thing I can say for certain is that if I wasn't here, none of that would have happened! Speaking of the Kickstarter, we're not done yet. We still have SXSW and a few other tricks up our sleeve. But I know now that failure is simply feedback (even if I'm not sure how to interpret it yet). As time comes to pass, I'm certain I'll be glad for the experience.
  4. TheFuntastic

    Making Games is Hard

    Of course the smart developer starts marketing as soon as they start building their game! I agree, marketing is tough! Especially in combination, because it steals so many precious development hours and you're constantly asking the public to evaluate your efforts. It's easy to get hung up on that... I keep on trying to tell myself "it's just a game" ;)      Please don't ever stop making games! Like I said right at the beginning, one of most challenging AND REWARDING projects I've ever undertaken. Nothing worthwhile in life comes easy, it would seem. ;)  Thank you everyone else for you kind words, been wonderful to see my thoughts resonating with so many people! 
  5. TheFuntastic

    Making Games is Hard

    A year and half ago, Cadence was nothing more than a post-it note on my wall. Today, the game that was supposed to take six months still isn't done. The "gentle practice run" into the art of releasing video games has morphed into the most challenging and rewarding project I've ever undertaken. We've reached an interesting point in our journey, so I want to take a moment to reflect on that and let the world know what's up with Cadence. It feels like the number one enemy in any act of creation is time; there's never enough of it. And of course time and money have their own special way with each other, so in fact you get two enemies for the price of one. When you're lucky you manage to put this equation out of mind long enough to get some damn work done, but other times it feels like you're in freefall and the ground is rushing to towards you at a million miles an hour. Being productive under such circumstances can be trying, to say the least. Nevertheless you know that is what you signed up for so you grit your teeth and you hustle and you find a way to miss the ground. Unfortunately, this time the ground didn't miss. From the outside, the story of Cadence is setting up nicely. Among our victories we can count being greenlit, getting positive feedback from players, finally understanding the game we're making, and most of all seeing a fabulous outpour of enthusiasm at local game festivals. I've also been floored and humbled to be contacted by students and aspiring game developers who look up to me and find my work inspirational. That took me by complete surprise, and as much as I don't really believe it I am still truly grateful. One of the things I've been trying to come to terms with throughout my journey is the question: "What does it mean to be successful?" Time and again I hear the message that success won't feed your demons and deliver you to happiness (wonderfully exemplified by Stanley Parable creator's piece Game of the Year). Even though I'm still nowhere near that kind of stratospheric success I think I'm at least starting to appreciate why it might be true. Let me first say that there are some truly wonderful moments of external validation. To watch someone experience the delight and joy of cracking your game for the first time never gets old. Or a friend telling you they overheard a stranger telling someone about your game, that's pretty damn cool too. But the thing is, consumption and production are grossly asymmetric. These moments, gratifying as they might be, are really just a fleeting punctuation set against a landscape of gruelling grind. Day after day, month by month, you find yourself in a wrestling match with the same impermeable adversary, trying to figure out how to get your game made. Sometimes it feels like you have the upper hand. Those tend to be the days when you're in the zone, you can see the matrix. Everything is falling into place as hours slip past in a frenzy of productivity. Most of all it feels like you're making progress and getting somewhere. These days are your raison d'?tre. Without them getting back up and throwing yourself into the ring one more time would be impossible. Other times though it feels like you're going absolutely nowhere and the anxiety is overwhelming and everything is taking way longer than it was ever supposed to. That would be okay if it wasn't for the fact that your money is running out fast and it feels like things are about to explode but you can't go anywhere because you're a year and a half into this and the only way out is to either fail or make it happen. Yeah, those days suck. And that's just it, the overwhelming majority of your time spent birthing a game isn't the quaint picture our minds like to draw: It's not about tweaking a level that final percent so it's just right; it's not about the euphoric high of release, it's not about showing it at festivals and it's definitely not about playing games all day. Rather it's about trying to make those connections that seem painfully obvious in retrospect but until you figure it out you don't have the first clue. The tutorial in Cadence is currently on its fourth iteration, and it's still not quite right. To both the naive developer about to kick off production and the person playing the final version of the game, that journey is invisible. They will only ever see the fully-realised tutorial and assume that's exactly how it always was for anything less simply doesn't make sense. But making sense of things is a difficult process, one which is only conquered by living with something imperfect and broken for a long time. I think the reason we don't hear about this story is because honestly, it's a bit boring: "Developer fails to make game fun. Still no idea why?" Of course each time you hit a dead end you do learn something about what doesn't work, and gradually over time the game does get better. But when you're so close to something the gradual change can be invisible. It only ever appears broken and unfinished. This becomes emotionally dangerous when you start to invest your sense of self in the game. To believe that you, as a person, will be a failure if your game fails. It makes the hard days all the more desperate, a matter of emotional life and death. As much as I've tried to retain a sense of perspective, to tell myself it's just a game, the process remains inevitable. I think the same could be said for any creator who invests so much passion and energy into a single project. It's also very easy to start believing in the corollary: if your game is successful you will be happy. But, as I'm starting to understand, the adulation of eager gamers will never be enough soothe the mountain you had to climb to get there. They are at a distance, mostly just anonymous text on the internet, delivered in euphoric spikes when you hit milestones. They don't know the reality you live with every day and they are not there with you on the days you need support the most. This is certainly not their fault, and they are wonderful human beings for being excited about a thing I made. But nature of the narrative in your head is insidious. It's always possible to wish for more love of your game, and to believe that when you reach this new magical plateau you will finally find happiness and acceptance. This was thrown into sharp relief while I was demoing Cadence at the A MAZE games festival. I had spent so long fixated on trying to make the game "commercially ready" that all I could see were the flaws. In fact I could barely even stand to look at the game anymore. This meant it was very hard for me to believe it whenever someone enthusiastically heaped praise on the game. "Obviously they are mistaken" I would think. Also they couldn't know how dangerously close I was to running out of money. Ultimately A MAZE was a sublime experience. I decided to catch myself poisoning praise and instead start believing it. I decided to be honest about how I felt and what was happening financially and found myself greeted with overwhelming love and support. I was no longer sheepish about the Kickstarter we were planning and most importantly I was fucking excited to make a video game again. I believed. Unfortunately enthusiasm isn't always enough, particularly when dealing with the slow moving world of bureaucracy. And despite the fact we've already done many of the hard yards preparing our Kickstarter campaign, the fact we're in South Africa has made the equation a lot more complicated than it needs to be. Being held ransom by the slow processes of third parties and staring down a pitiful bank balance, we made what I believe is the sensible choice of putting the Kickstarter on hold until we can get everything in order. That also means Cadence is taking a break while we engage in some bank account CPR (ie contract work). In a way I feel like I've let down some people, that I could have done more to keep the dream alive. But, amazingly, as soon as the decision was made I had one of my most productive spells in months. So we're taking a breather, but we're not going anywhere. There is a lot to look forward to: most of all we have a clear vision of where we want to take Cadence, and we can't wait to share that with you. Making games is hard, but so are we. Look out for the Cadence Kickstarter early 2015. Note: This article was originally published on the author's blog "Made With Monster Love", and is republished here with kind permission.
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