Realigning the Azimuth

Developing Within Your Means

When it comes to trying to build something, one of the hardest things to accomplish (at least after actually finishing & releasing the darned thing), is trying to do it within your means.

A large chunk of the visual & audio polish which made Pocket Dogfights was funded by my full-time work at the time. Unlike then, I don’t have that luxury with the development of Pivotus - as this time, whilst I’m still self-funding, I’m in the position of using my remaining savings, and thus, I’m taking up a lot more of the effort - creating my own 3D art instead of hiring an artist, using SFXR for synthesizing sound effects, and working with a much simpler visual style.

Granted, it’s an opportuntiy to teach myself some of those skills, and I’m also a fan of that low-polygon style, which means that a small project is better than a large one to learn this with less pressure than it would be on a jam project, or a larger one.

Which does bring me onto the next point - scoping & larger projects. Compared to many other developers I know, I much prefer to work on smaller games. Why? When it comes to doing something within your means, it’s not just monetary resources, but also time.

I developed Pocket Dogfights as a side project (having a day job & during its development), which of course meant there were moments of heavy activity, along with moments of light activity (as a result of projects with said day job). As a result, I missed several of my internal deadlines for the game - and whilst it meant the final product was better than it would have been otherwise, I can’t shake the feeling that the extra time may have bolstered expectations somewhat as well.

In some regard, I feel like as a result - I need to be significantly more careful about how I publicise Pivotus. I don’t want to get into the situation where there’s fatigue going on, especially as compared to other projects being worked on, I don’t have to room to be throwing wow-filled things at everybody. Right now, I’m actually starting to question whether or not it’s setting in - but that’s just some hunches from the stats I see from posts/videos/etc.

Finally - there’s the capabilities side of things. At the moment, I’m certainly not the best programmer around (and I don’t think I’ll ever be), and there’s still a lot of things I need to learn - about coding in general, about using Unity to its fullest, and in areas such as AI and simulation. Beyond that, there’s the design aspects - I’m still trying to find my chops in that area.

With that many variables in my head, it only makes sense to focus on smaller problems, and smaller games. In turn, smaller games helps reduce the scope, and allows for a much shorter development time (in theory, as Pocket Dogfights’s development shows) - and allows me to focus on differing areas in different games.

I won’t lie - there certainly are larger projects I’d love to work on, but I don’t feel I’m strong enough in the other areas of development to allow me to focus on learning the more specific domain for those types of games. Compared to a lot of other folk, I guess I tend to be a bit more conservative in my development style.

In all? There’s certainly a lot of value in realising what your means are when it comes to a project - even if you’re in the position where you’re being externally funded (crowdfunding, or grants, or loans), you still need to be aware of what it means for your project. Besides, it means that you need to have your expectations on what makes the project successful - which for me is being able to fund the next project easily.