Hey friends, I wanted to share an update from my game development journey. I’ve been forming an idea for a different kind of game studio over the past two years, and I’ve been working towards my goal over the course of the past year or so. I’ve had quite a few ups and downs during that time (haven’t we all?), but the important thing is that I’m still here, and I’m still making progress.
My first Game
I intentionally chose a small concept for my first game so I could complete it in a few months instead of they typical multi-year development time. I struggled to make progress over the past six months or so for a few different reasons, some personal and some technical. As I was beginning to recover and make headway again, a friend suggested that I take a break and do a “game jam” (small project typically completed in a month or less). I took him up on the suggestion and started working on Atonement.
During this time, I started using social media again (I had stopped using it altogether back in October), and I found a small but positive reception when I shared my plan. During the second and final week of development, I advertised that my game would go live on Friday. It was a reckless move, but it gave me the motivation to finish. Two different friends mentioned it to me during the week, and their encouragement was enough to keep me going. I worked over 80 hours that week between my job and my game (a stark contrast to the lethargy I was struggling with the week before). In the end, I managed to get it done, but there was an unexpected bug that prevented me from sharing the game right away. I took a third week and polished the rough edges before finally publishing my completed project.
This was a huge milestone for me. The last time I published a complete game was six years ago, and I was honestly beginning to doubt that I was still capable of finishing a project. From stories I’ve read online, this is an extremely common issue among developers. The combination of self-doubt, disillusionment and perfectionism that I went through is often referred to as “development hell”, and is the number one barrier that prevents hobbyists from becoming professional game developers. Many projects slowly die over the course of years or even decades, so I’m very thankful that I caught myself slipping after only a few months.
Community is vital
One thing that I learned through this experience is that community is vital. Two friends checking in on me was all that I needed to push myself beyond my perceived limits. (I don’t plan on pushing myself that hard all the time, I averaged two or three hours of development time per day this week, and I feel confident that this schedule is actually sustainable.) So, going forwards, I’m going to be sharing my progress every two weeks. In the games industry, this is called a dev-log (development log) and it is a great way to slowly build community around a game.
A couple friends recently asked about my blog from a couple years back. I feel like I can make a much larger impact in the games industry than I can through a written blog, but I do plan on using these dev-logs as a platform to share life lessons and theology thoughts as well. So it’s not strictly a dev-log, more of a dev-blog. There may be a little bit of everything here. But I will always share a playable version of my game in whatever state it is in. Feedback is always welcome! I am hoping that sharing my progress biweekly can help me stay motivated to finish my second game in just a few more months!
What’s coming up?
What’s next? Well, I completed Atonement in the Godot game engine, and I overall feel like Godot is a better game engine for my purposes than Unity was. This week, I started re-building Survive the Maze in this new engine. I am giving myself the next two weeks to complete this task. (It seems like a ton of work, but if you’ve ever accidentally deleted an essay and had to re-write it, you’ll know that things are always faster and easier the second time.) At that point, I’ll be deciding between Godot and Unity as my tool of choice going forwards.
I also have a number of topics to share in the coming weeks. I plan on sharing game updates every two weeks, but if I have a lot to say (like I do now), I might post an update on the off weeks as well. Here are a few of the things I hope to share in the near-future: What is SdgGames, and what makes it different than a typical indie games studio? What kinds of games do I plan on making after Survive the Maze is complete? What lessons did I learn during this past year?
As a final piece of the puzzle, I want to use these dev-blogs as a way to advertise in a larger community. I still feel very weird about self-promotion, but I am slowly learning the art of tasteful marketing. I’m going to try to share these things on social media outside of my friend group. I know that the majority of my friends are not gamers, and if I hope to be successful, I will need to transition into a larger and more focused community. With that said, I do want to thank everyone who has supported me through the process of getting this far. If you have any marketing advice for me, or you have friends who would be interested in my game projects, please don’t hesitate to reach out! Thank you to everyone who has already done so!
As I promised above, here’s a link to the game I just finished. In two weeks, I’ll be sharing a link to both the old Survive the Maze and the new one (which will hopefully be playable). I also plan on sharing a more technical look at the mistakes I made in the past year, as well as the solutions I found to them. See you then!
~ Matthew Stoering, S.D.G