Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Fighting 11 #21: Malaise

Well, this is going poorly.

It's not going poorly because of lack of interest. I'm still interested in what I designed. I think it's interesting, and looks like fun.

Still, though, it's going worse than Gridiron Solitaire went at any point, and this week, I think I figured out why.

I've been struggling for months (years) with the notion that I want to develop games as a career and not a hobby. Lots of people can make one game, working part-time as a hobby. Far fewer can make multiple games and turn those games into a legitimate career.

What I realized this week is that I'm going about it all backwards.

Everything I do starts from ideas that turn into designs. Big, complex designs.

The single most important element of the design, if I want this to be a career, is time. Which is the one aspect I never consider.

Doing a multi-year project to move three thousand units is absolutely not credible in a professional sense. Doing a multi-year project that's a sports game is even worse, because indie sports games have exactly zero traction. That audience isn't going to grow.

So why am I doing it that way?

I think a big part of the answer is comfort. Even though GS was a very unusual design (and extremely niche), I knew I could make it realistic, because I have a fairly deep understanding of sports, particularly the stats aspect. I contributed AI to several projects in the distant past.

In order to succeed, though, I need to stop being myself and become more like Garret.

Garret isn't a one-idea person, and he's not particularly wedded to any of his ideas. They can all be prototyped quickly, he sees what works, and he moves on. What works gets refined and turned into a commercial project. What doesn't work isn't totally discarded--there are usable pieces that can be used in something later.

THAT is the way to be a successful designer and developer. Many ideas. Rapid prototyping.

Expandability, too. I want a modular approach to content so that the game can be expanded as long as it makes financial sense to do so.

Right now, if you release a game on Steam, it disappears almost within minutes. The one-time release approach is usually suicide. There's a much higher chance of success with a game that gets regular content updates and can develop an audience over a period of months or years instead of a few days.

I think Early Access is great for something like this, to develop an audience to shape the game (and promote it) while it's still in development.

To do all this, though, I have to radically change my approach. I know I need to, but that doesn't mean it's any easier.

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