Yep, it’s one of those posts that sometimes pop up on blogs that were once very active. After several years of a lot of activity posting about the development of my games and prototypes, working as an Indie game developer, it’s all suddenly very different. I wanted to write some notes here as I’ve pretty much stopped altogether.
One of the biggest drivers for change in my life has been the birth of my beautiful daughter, Pixel Maya Paton (My wife’s choice of name, and happens to be the same as this blog name!). As of writing this she’s about 3.5 weeks old. Life is suddenly very different, revolving around the needs of our highly dependant little person. It’s a wonderful change and one that I’ve looked forward to for most of my life, a little Paton. Other big driver in what I do has been lack of financial success, burn out and the need for a certain measure of financial security.
A while ago I was blogging about the tower defence game I’d been working on for several months and for most of the time I was enthused about finishing this game and bringing it to life. But then my eyes started to open a little. One of my biggest problems with developing my games has been to develop a relatively straightforward game mechanic and then just pad it out with more levels, not really expanding the gameplay or fun the more you played the game. Some of my games have indeed been quite fun, and even somewhat popular, but for me I’ve really begun to feel that I’m repeating the same mistakes in game development over and over. I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing, and has indeed been a process that I’ve needed to go through. The nature of my skills, being self taught mean that I often get hooked into cycles of doing things until I reach an ‘Aha’ point, then move on to different things.
And so, a few months back I canned the idea of even finishing the tower defence game, it had actually reached about 80% completion for what I originally had in mind, but suddenly the gameplay lost its appeal and I couldn’t see the depth and fun in the gameplay anymore. I love the concept, world and several of the mechanics in the game, but it’s over. I’d even considered scrapping the core gameplay and implementing a TD plugin system had more of the gameplay elements I was looking to add, but then suddenly it was too late and my motivation had moved on. I’ve chalked it up to experience and moved on.
Its easy to hold onto things when they’ve long lost their real appeal, fearing that my motivation, my skills, passion have dried up. But its also easy to get stuck into cycles of bad habit. For me to see my failures more clearly and move on is more important.
So what am I doing now? In the lead up to my daughter being born, I had a couple of false starts with a few companies, trying to find where my skills lie in the employable space. The rejection of Flash as a widely used technology affected my job prospects quite heavily, and I’ve not wanted to go down the HTML5 path if at all possible. Finally my pursuit of Unity3D as my main platform has proved a good choice and I’m now working a 2 days a week for a company (developing games and augmented reality apps using Vuforia) and the other 3 days for a private client (developing a game, probably more after that too).
My passion for making games has changed dramatically, and how could it not after making well over 100. I still love games, still love sketching ideas for them and thinking about how I might make something. But for the short/medium term it’s all about providing for my family, which as an Indie game developer I personally had no chance of doing the way I was working.
On a more positive note, I did get a Ouya recently and this is something that excites me. I’m extremely tired of the touch screen controls and have wanted to make games using a controller for quite a long time, but there;s been no practical way for me to publish anything using a console like control (The bigger consoles have definitely been out of my reach). After some initial hassles with setting things up for publishing I have finally been able to get something running on the Ouya, and it’s exciting stuff for me. I chose to test out a prototype I made a few months ago, which is based around my Deep Sea Diver game idea.
Here’s a video I made recently just after I’d got it working:
Now lets be clear, at present I’ve pretty much given up even considering to make finished games for myself any more, it’s all about client work. BUT I do still really enjoy tinkering with ideas, playing with code and creating little worlds to play in. This gives me a freedom like I haven’t had in a long time, the pressure to finish ‘complete’ games has been immense and really started to ruin the experience for me, where what I want to do for the moment is prototype and play, get some love for my craft back again. I’d like to explore this game engine some more, now that I’ve got a new control scheme and platform to play with … but I’m also saying that I possibly won’t.
Anyway, lets wrap this up. It’s been amazing blogging and sharing my work over the years. I hope people have enjoyed the ride, learned something from me, and even been inspired. I’m starting to move on to other things, wanting to explore new interests in life … before my life runs out. I’m now what I consider about halfway through (expecting to reach to 80) and I’d like to be more.
Some final more philosophical thoughts …
Often times life can be a shitty experience, but through hard work and focus that can change. Trust me it will probably get shitty again, but you’ve got to make it worth it.
Do what you love, even if you don’t have much time. Earlier in life I drew 100 pages of hands, about 5-10 hands per page and it helped me to draw a whole lot better. It took about 10 mins a page per day.
Ignore people who shit on your ideas. People seem to like to criticise what they don’t understand, or what seems strange or confuses them. Often it will be subtle and undermine your confidence. Get away from those people and that kind of influence. Ignore that crap and follow your gut instinct. People say stupid stuff sometimes.