This post is part of a short series in which I’m publicly reflecting on where I want to try to be heading as an indie developer. If you happen to be interested in the series, you can read the introductory post at this link.
So, Who Am I? It mightn’t sound like much, but it’s meant to trigger the deep introspection which I’m trying to do for this series, so it honestly felt like the right place to start. In doing so, I at least have a firmer ground of the types of environments I thrive in.
The first thing, where do I feel I fit in? By far, it would easily be as a coder/programmer. I’ve always enjoyed it, and considering it’s my main profession outside of the games, it’s where I can bring the most to the table. Regardless of the project, I enjoy being able to actually learn something new code wise - whether it’s how something is done, or how it can be done better for the next time. So any project I’m going to work on, is going to involve a fair bit of that.
Of course, if I had to pick a specific area of coding, it would lean towards gameplay programming. I’ve never been great on the graphics side, and whilst I’d love to get to grips with it (so I could do some shader trickery in future), it’s a case of trying to find the time to be able to justify a deep investment in learning everything I need to there.
But what about secondary skills? That comes a bit under design, and a bit under sound effects. I’ve had to try & teach myself the various lessons about designing a good game, whether it’s from books or other online sources, simply because games courses weren’t a thing when I was at Uni, and when trying to develop one’s first game on the side - it seems like it’s the best way to learn those things. As for sound effects, perhaps it’s the inspiration from early arcade games (in particular those from Williams like Defender or Robotron: 2084), or early Atari systems (both the 2600 & the 8-bit computer line) which have gotten me interested in the generative side… even if I’m still struggling to understand the basics there.
Art wise, I’m certainly no artist - despite my burgeoning interest in trying to teach myself low-polygon 3D modelling. I guess it’s why my games tend to be about inanimate objects (planes, abstract objects) - as being a coder, I lack the artistic flair of an artist.
As for how I feel I fit in with teams - the truth is, I find that I much prefer to work solo over working in a tight team. I guess it’s always been a reflection of me struggling to be able to learn everything I need to on a project (and from some bad experiences in past jobs). So being responsible for being able to know how an entire project works is my way of covering my behind in the event that something does go wrong on a project. I feel it’s also just to be the opposite of where I find myself with the day jobs of the past (or contracts now) - being on a tight knit team, and having to deal with the ins & outs of corporate life - whereas working solo, I can pretty much make the decision, or work out some way of being able to evaluate it.
Working solo also allows me to have that room for natural experimentation. Being able to just poke around with something, and being able to iterate on it without the need to work to a tight schedule, which is what I’ve found leads to compromises, especially in more commercial environments. I think this is what makes me increasingly wary of the Jam culture in games development as well - the fact that there’s more & more pressure being put on short contents which don’t allow for the room to learn & research things adequately happens to sit wrong with me for a number of reasons.
Plus, working in this way means I don’t have to stress over production issues. When developing Pocket Dogfights, I didn’t run that side as strict as it should have been run - I trusted the people who I was working with to get things done & to be able to update me as things were happening. I felt it was the best approach as a result of me working a stressful day job at the time, and wanting to save my scant nights & weekends to focus on doing the coding, being the lion’s share of the project.
Finally, it’s also a factor of the public side of things. I’m easily an introvert, preferring my personal space where I can, but in this era of development, finding that I’m having to shout out from the roof tops every time I’m working on something to get people interested is a draining experience. The fact is - it’s one of the primary factors behind why I started the shift away a few months ago. Finding that it taking too much of my dwindling energy from working on Pivotus, it served only to generate frustration from the lack of interest, rather than any identifiable means of progress.
Ultimately, I’m not sure how to work through that. Do I just accept that my work’s never really going to click with people, learn to not give a damn, and ship it? I guess the hardest part in doing that is feeling like I’ll never be sustainable in any form - even in a part-time sense, let along a full-time one.