I tried to make a video game by myself and ended up learning a lesson in life

Everything is a work in progress.

I remember the moment I began development on my project. I was bored one night about a year and a half ago sitting alone in my studio apartment messing around in MSPaint. I made something that resembled a cloaked wizard.

“This isn’t half bad.”

Suddenly a flood of imaginative game ideas raced through my head. That was all it took for my runaway project to get underway. I had always wanted to build my own video game, I just never found the right opportunity to begin. I never surrounded myself with people enthusiastic enough to join me in my quest. So one lonely afternoon I decided to go in alone. Making a video game would be hard work. The many components necessary for the video game process would be tough to fill with me alone. The thing is though, just because I had never found the right opportunity, never found the right people, that didn’t mean that I couldn’t give it a try. I think that’s an important part of life. You’re never going to be primed and ready in the best position for anything you want to do. I know I’ve never been.

Going in solo was a hell of a task to undertake, and there was no way of knowing what I was getting myself into until I was already wading through months of solo work. Something I came to realize early on in development was that just because I didn’t have a team to manage didn’t mean project management and organization was any easier. I became the project leader, the design leader, the lead artist, the lead musician, the lead programmer. I learned that while I had to wear many hats, I could only wear one at a time.

  

For instance, I found myself putting on the hat of the art director for months at a time, only to switch off to the lead programmer for another few months. I can remember a particular time when, while programming some of the scripts for the enemy navigation, I noticed some very small imperfections in some of the artwork I had recently ported into the game. The obsessive part of me felt the need to switch off the programmer hat and put on the artist hat, and while I did, in fact, fix those tiny imperfections, as well as add new content in the game, switching hats had pushed my goals back for that week and made me miss a lot of my deadlines.

Speaking of deadlines. I, of course, had to wear the hat of the project leader, which perhaps is the hardest one to wear of all.

The part of me that dreamed of creating the perfect game had to be constantly reigned in by the pragmatic side of me who understood that with each additional feature came additional time and workload, all of which needed to be distributed to the various hats I had to wear. I realized that even though I was in control of the entirety of the project organization, cutting features that I really wanted to be in the game with the understanding that there were not enough resources to cover them was a hard lesson learned. I suppose that was one of the benefits of going in solo though. The ability to be able to say no to features is easier learned when you know you are going to have to eventually put on the corresponding hat that has to deal with the consequences of the additional workload.

 

I’m still a long way off with the production of my game. I make progress every day, and one day soon I’ll be able to finally release it and look back on my work with admiration. So what have I learned from this? To reiterate, everything is a work in progress. There is never a perfect time for anything. I’m a harder worker than I like to give myself credit for. And I can accomplish my goals as long as I apply persistence over time.

Recently I’ve been working with my wife on curiousdisposition.com. I’m certain that all the different hats I had to wear have taught me a wealth of information on how to make this project successful. The thing is, anyone can be successful. The problem is finding a way to see through the fog in the road and continuing forward even when your project doesn’t “seem” to be going anywhere. I say seem in quotes because when you are in it, and working hard, it’s almost impossible to see where you are going. I can say for certain that there were times working on my game when I wanted to give up when I thought everything I had been working on was terrible looking and that no one would appreciate it. I think that’s a commonality in all of us though. There is a part of our brain that doesn’t let us see the end of the road. I think it’s important in times like those to just acknowledge that you are probably wrong about it and move forward.

So here I am, about a year and a half after started my game, hundreds of art and animation resources, several project restarts and revamps later. What have I taken away from it all? Everything is a work in progress, every time I add a little bit to a project it gets a little bit stronger. I tend to think that nothing is a step in the wrong direction as long as you learned something from it. It might sound cliche, but sometimes cliches are cliche for a reason.

2 comments

  • Great article and life lessons. Having followed the same path along many avenues I would say the greatest thing I have learned is never let the outcome of your dreams depend on another. If someone is working with you and is an integral part and moves on, although you may lose time never let your energy for your dream Wayne.

    When a person is truly energized he or she can accomplish anything! Follow your dreams and make it your passion and you will not only accomplish your goals but feel amazingly fulfilled. Each accomplishment fuels the fire of further creativity.

    Wishing you luck on your Ventures

    ~T~

  • What a very inspiring article.

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